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Winter Lentil Loaf

Winter Lentil Loaf

Hello winter.

I wasn’t quite ready for you. Even after you dragged your feet. And let 60-degree days creep into my December. I am still not prepared for your arrival.

I’m sorry. I wish I liked you. I really do. But for now, I cope with comforting foods. And warm blankets and faces and seven layers of sweaters.

Winter Lentil Loaf

As a vegetarian, sometimes you just need something comforting, and it’s not always as easy to identify those quintessential items as it is in the meat kingdom.

Sure, there is soup. Which I adore.

But sometimes I want mashed potatoes, and gravy, and something hearty. And wholesome, too, of course.

This meal satisfies all of the above.

Winter Lentil Loaf

You could consider lentil loaf akin to meatloaf…that is, if you don’t think meatloaf is yucky.

It looks a little dull, but if prepared right, it’s oozing with herbs and umami flavor and warmth that radiates up from your plate.

It also happens to be packed with some rather superb ingredients, like lentils and walnuts, and in this case, tomatoes and collards, too. Those latter two actually bring some color to this particular lentil loaf recipe.

Winter Lentil Loaf

I like to serve lentil loaf alongside some of my other favorite wintry dishes of comfort. However, the sides for this dish are endless.

It must also be mentioned, my absolute favorite is to sandwich the leftovers between two slices of whole grain bread with a healthy handful of sprouts and good smear of ketchup and/or mustard on top. No reheating needed.

Ketchup isn’t a bad condiment for it when hot, either. I’m always torn between that and a veggie gravy. Try them both out, and decide what appeals most to you.

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Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a simple bowl of pasta.

It’s when I’m really hungry that these words couldn’t feel more true, and this time of year, that means after a long, hot summer run. After one of those, first I want watermelon. And then I want pasta.

Summertime (er, late springtime). It feels so good.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

When the weather is nice, I spend a ton of time outside. More often than not, that means after work, I’m out strolling, cycling, running, or just hanging around until the sun just sets. I could be with my friends. I could be by myself. It doesn’t matter – when it’s warm out, I’m out. And I’m loving every minute of it.

However, this often leaves me locking up my bike at the end of the evening and heading inside with a sudden realization of hunger, and the urge to eat ASAP. Anyone else turn into a monster on occasion, too?

If so, you know that’s when simple recipes like this prove themselves to be rather handy.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Here, a quick saute of some onions, squash and spinach create a light and easy sauce for a meal you can make in under 30 minutes. It’s filling, yet not in the kind of way that will weigh you down on a balmy summer night, and is spruced up with parsley to make it feel extra fresh.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

I don’t cook with a butter a lot, but I find that adding a Tbsp. to this enhances the inherent butteriness of yellow summer squash. Feel free to use all olive oil if that’s your preference. However, a little browned butter goes a long way to enrich the sauce, and pairs well with the lemony tones of the parsley.

Also, be sure to stick with angel hair or spaghettini when choosing your whole wheat pasta. While this sauce is certainly flavorful, it’s delicate, so to truly experience all of its nuances, a thinner pasta works best.

Pasta_SummerSquash_blog

Pair this with a side salad, and a cold beverage of your choice, and you create a no-fuss summer meal for any night of the week.

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Tacos with Refried Beans from Dried Pintos

Soaking dried pinto beans

A lot, a lot of taco nights go down in my house. Tacos are easy. Beans are cheap. And it’s hard to go wrong with a bunch of flavors wrapped up into one. Plus, any excuse to pull out a few avocados is a welcomed one.  The phrase “holy guacamole” didn’t come from nowhere. I mean, we all know guacamole is holy in every sense of its being.

Vegetarian tacos

Generally I make my own guac, but on very rare occasions I’ll just pick some up at the store. However, I always make my beans from scratch, if that is what’s to be at the center of the night’s tacos. (Sometimes I opt for ingredients like butternut and goat cheese instead.) Refried beans are incredibly simple to whip up and are truly better than any pre-made versions at the store. There’s something about the freshness you get from doing it yourself…kind of like most things you do yourself. But with refried beans, it’s particularly noticeable.

If you want to really take the homemade superiority to the next level, start with dried beans.

Soaking dried pintos

As opposed to pre-cooked ones in a can, dried beans let you go through a simmering process that really cooks them down and makes them all creamy inside. Then, you get their juices to pull back into your saute process, which makes the whole refried bean mixture that much creamier. The two steps required for this are painless and are totally worth the bit of waiting time required. (Don’t tell anyone, i.e. my landlord, but I let my beans slowly simmer on the stove while I jetted out for a run. My apartment survived.)

Last weekend I hosted a taco night, which is where this was born. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations looked more like Cinco De Mayo, and I’m 100% okay with that. The sentiment of cooking up a huge pot of beans for a night with friends is always a warm one. And I mean really, what’s better than a taco night with your pals or your family, especially when everyone’s put in charge with crafting their favorite ingredient? Add fresh mint mojitos (not the Tecate that we were surviving off of) and a few board games to the table, and it’s hard to think of a place I’d rather be. I’m already ready for the next one.

Given this was for taco night, the following recipe is designed to serve a crowd. However, it could easily be cut in half for taco nights with less people. Just whatever you do, don’t cut the guacamole from your topping list!

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Winter Squash & Quinoa with Curry Lime Vinaigrette

Winter Squash & Quinoa with Curry Lime Vinaigrette

Sorry, no Super Bowl recipes here. Although, depending on your crowd, I bet you could show up with this and it’d get eaten. Or maybe not. But then lucky for you, you’d have a hell of a Monday lunch already made. Touchdown.

Winter Squash & Quinoa with Curry Lime Vinaigrette

Put anything with a label next to it that says Ginger Curry Lime Vinaigrette, and I’d jump on that faster than any football player moves on the field.

Speaking of fast, did you know the actual time the ball is in play, on average, during a game is 11 minutes? This leaves 174 minutes for everything else. Like walking away from the TV and eating quinoa, yeah?

Winter Squash & Quinoa with Curry Lime Vinaigrette

I’m not football-obsessed. And when the Eagles aren’t in the running, this becomes even more blatant. It reaches the point where I don’t even realize the Super Bowl is  airing until the Tuesday beforehand. So forget planning any game day snacks on Food-Fitness-FreshAir and pretending I’m a fan. In actuality, I’m not really a fan of most Super Bowl snacks, anyway. I’d much rather have a huge bowl of this winter squash and quinoa in front of me. Although, these Cauliflower “Wings” do have me eyeing (and Pinning!) them.

I would love to hear what you’re cooking up this weekend, Super Bowl related or not. Hit me with a curveball so I can get behind all the party food, please.

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