Category Archives: Vegetables

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins

There are two kinds of people: the ones who love carrot cake and the ones who don’t. I’m decidedly the former, as evidenced by posting two carrot recipes in a row. To those of the latter persuasion, let me say this: sorry, not sorry.

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins

Where last week’s carrot cake was vegan and gluten-free, this week’s muffins are quite the opposite. Made with a carrot-flecked batter and filled with a little well of sweetened cream cheese, these Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins are a delightful addition to your Easter repertoire.

If these look familiar, it’s because they are…kind of. They’re inspired by some cream cheese-filled muffins Starbucks used to have (and maybe still does) that looked cute, but didn’t taste very good. These muffins, however, look cute *and* taste great. I should know—it took eight batches to get them just right!

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins are simple to make, but require some special assembly. Once you’ve whisked up the carrot muffin batter, put 3 tablespoons in each well of a standard muffin pan. Next, pipe some sweetened cream cheese into the center of each well of batter. It’s about a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese per muffin, but since that’s impossible to measure while piping, I have a little trick. The wells are about 3/4 full before the cream cheese, so when I pipe it in, I watch for the batter to juuuuust reach the top of the well. It’s the perfect amount every time.

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins

These muffins bake up in just about 20 minutes, getting some lift from a 425F start, then baking to perfection at 375F. The cream cheese will rise to the upper third of the muffins and expand a bit, which is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned. If you’d like a well that goes further into your muffins, bake them at 350F for 20 minutes. You should know, though, that if you go for the lower temperature, you’ll have flatter muffins.

That said, they’re delicious both ways. There’s no wrong way to get your carrot cake on, after all.

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins
makes 12 muffins

Carrot Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups shredded carrots, not packed (about 3 medium carrots)

Cream Cheese:
1 8-ounce brick full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.

Make the carrot batter. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil and water. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Set aside.

Fold shredded carrots into the dry ingredients. Add liquid in two installments, stirring to combine. Batter will be thick. Let batter sit 5 minutes while you prepare the cream cheese.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until it’s fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar until combined. Load mixture into a piping bag, twist to close and snip off a corner.

Assemble muffins. Put 3 tablespoons of the carrot batter into each well of the prepared muffin tin. They will be about 2/3-3/4 full. Tap pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Pipe cream cheese into the center of each well until the batter reaches the top of each well (or within 1/8-inch of the top). Wet your finger and smooth down any peaks on the cream cheese to prevent burning. Tap pan 5 times on the counter again to help the cream cheese settle.

Bake muffins 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 375F for another 15-16 minutes. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the non-cream cheese section comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings

It has been super cold in NYC these last several days—perfect weather for Chicken & Dumplings.

This is a bowl of pure comfort: creamy chicken stew with plenty of nourishing vegetables and fluffy, parsley-flecked dumplings. Yum! It’s the best kind of stick-to-your-ribs meal to have in your culinary arsenal during the winter, alongside its spiritual sibling, Chicken Pot Pie, of course.

Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings starts with a stew which, in this case, is nothing more than a slightly-enhanced chicken soup. To that end, I follow a similar method to my Sopa de Pollo recipe, cutting the vegetables into larger chunks and simmering them with bone-in skin-on chicken until cooked through. The chicken gets shredded and returned to the pot, and then it’s time to thicken the stew and simmer the dumplings.

Most chicken & dumplings recipes I have seen rely on a roux of flour and butter for thickening, but I decided to go with a slurry here because I am somewhat averse to creamy savory things and didn’t want to cook the milk in this recipe for very long (but very much wanted Chicken & Dumplings).

Like a roux, a slurry is a way of thickening a liquid by adding something starchy, usually cornstarch or flour. Where the roux involves cooking the starch with fat (like butter) at the beginning of the recipe before adding liquid, a slurry is a paste of starch and a small amount of liquid that is added at least part-way through through. Each has its strong points and I regularly use both methods, but since I based the recipe off Sopa de Pollo and am decidedly squicky about dairy, I went with a slurry here. A mixture of flour, milk and dijon mustard is added right before the dumplings go into the pot, adding flavor and a velvety, creamy texture to the broth.

But that’s enough about the stew—the dumplings are the stars of this show! They’re basically a biscuit dough that gets dropped into the pot, then covered and simmered in all that chicken-y goodness until fluffy and light and wonderful. Though they start as a sticky dough, they expand dramatically in the closed pot. Don’t be tempted to open it and check on them—you’ll release all the steam and end up with leaden results. Yuck. The dumplings only take fifteen or so minutes to cook up into buttery little pillows, so just trust the process. It will be worth the wait!

Once the dumplings are done, stir some frozen peas and parsley into the pot, set the table and serve yourself some Chicken & Dumplings! Between the creamy, vegetable-heavy chicken stew and fluffy dumplings, it’s easy to understand why this recipe is a cold weather comfort food classic.

Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings
makes 6-8 servings

3 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (I used a mix of white and dark)
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt + more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper + more to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
6 cups chicken stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
4 medium carrots, peeled & trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 stalks celery, cleaned & trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium or 2 small turnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large white or Spanish onion, large-diced
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole milk (or half-and-half or heavy cream)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Dumplings:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup whole milk

Use paper towels to pat chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add oil and butter to a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes per side. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnip, onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Once the stock returns to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the dumplings. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and parsley. Combine butter and milk in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup, then microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until butter is melted (90 seconds in my microwave). Set wet and dry aside.

Once the soup has simmered 30 minutes, turn it down to the lowest heat. Use tongs to fish out the chicken and remove it to a heatproof plate. Fish out and discard bay leaf.

When the chicken has cooled enough that you can handle it, remove and discard skin and bones. Shred or slice chicken into bite-sized pieces, then return it to the soup.

Make a slurry to thicken the stew. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour, mustard and milk until smooth (or very close to smooth). Stir the mixture into the soup and return it to a simmer over medium-low. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Mix the dumplings. Stir wet ingredients into dry just until combined. The dough will be sticky and shaggy; don’t overmix. Use a medium cookie scoop or a pair of spoons to scoop dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon dumplings and drop them in a single layer on the surface of the soup. Put the lid on the pan and keep covered for 15-18 minutes. Do not peek until 15 minutes have passed. Remove one dumpling, and slice it open to determine if it is done to your liking. If not, return the lid to the pot for another 3 minutes.

When dumplings are done, remove the pot from the heat. Gently stir in peas and parsley. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving with additional parsley if desired.

Leftover chicken and dumplings will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

Lentil Chili

Lentil​ Chili

Being from Texas, I was raised to believe that beans have no place in chili, but that is not something I ascribe to as an adult. For one thing, I don’t want to make both a main and a vegetable side dish if I don’t have to, and for another, I happen to like beans in chili. So there.

Lentil​ Chili

Now, I do have a go-to beanless meat-based chili recipe on here, but as of today, I have two vegan variations. What can I say? I like vegetables.

The secrets to great vegetable-based chili are the same as anything else: heat, seasoning and time. The ingredients are added with intention:

First the onion, then the garlic. Caramelize the tomato paste a bit, then stir in the spices, a splash of soy sauce for depth, and most of a pound of lentils. Simmer everything in vegetable stock until the lentils are tender, then scoop some out, purée and add it back for texture. Taste for seasoning and, well, that’s it. As far as chili goes, this is simplicity itself.

Lentil​ Chili

Lentil Chili is good right out of the pot, but give it a few hours (or days) in the fridge and it’s truly spectacular. Rich and hearty and meaty in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a meatless recipe. It’s particularly good after a long day, when reheated and topped with heaps of shredded cheddar, avocado, corn muffins, and anything else you like. Because, make no mistake, cooking at home is almost entirely about making what you like.

Chili “rules” be damned. This is comfort in a bowl.

Lentil​ Chili
Lentil Chili
makes about 6 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed and picked over
7 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed 4-6 quart pot over medium heat. Add diced onion and sauté until it begins to take on color, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to take on color (about 7-10 minutes). Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa and cayenne, followed by lentils. Stir in soy sauce and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Turn heat to low. Remove 2 cups of cooked lentils to a heatproof bowl. Let cool 5-10 minutes before pureeing with an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. Return purée to the pot. Stir and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed.

Lentil Chili will taste good immediately after it is made, but is best after a few hours or a day in the refrigerator. Serve it up with cheese, avocado, scallions and/or any other toppings of choice.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Crispy Chickpeas

Crispy Chickpeas​

I first tried making Crispy Chickpeas when I moved to NYC back in 2007. They were weirdly trendy at the time, so I decided to brave the tiny kitchen I shared with five people and give them a shot. Following a recipe written by a former Food Network personality who I won’t name, I drained a can of chickpeas, patted off as much of the moisture as I could, and then roasted them at a high temperature for a short period of time. I was very excited to see what all the fuss was about, but my efforts were for nothing. The resulting chickpeas weren’t crispy at all, just vaguely dry and mushy on the outside and steamy on the inside. It may have been the recipe or user error—I don’t know. I ate them because I don’t like to waste food, but needless to say, I never attempted them again after that.

Crispy Chickpeas​

Or at least I didn’t until the last day of our trip to Maine in the fall of 2020, when I needed to do something with the large amount of chickpeas I had on my hands after using their aquafaba (cooking/canning liquid) in a multitude of vegan bakes. With limited time and groceries, I decided to try Crispy Chickpeas again. If they didn’t work, I’d just blame it on the faulty oven and call it a day.

But they did work. They worked *well.* By roasting them at a lower heat for a longer time and tossing them frequently, I ended up with a perfect crispy, crunchy snack. After that, there was no turning back. I’m a Crispy Chickpea machine, y’all.

The big secret to homemade Crispy Chickpeas is no secret at all: you just need heat and time. In 35 minutes and a few shakes of a pan, the chickpeas go from damp and soft to crispy and light-textured, perfect for a snack or garnish for soup or salad.

You can make Crispy Chickpeas in any flavor you like. Get fancy by combining miso & maple or sriracha & lime zest, or use pre-mixed blends from your spice cabinet; garam masala, taco seasoning, za’atar, and everything bagel seasoning would all be great. Oh, and Spicy Chili Crisp is perfect on them, too. Of course, you can also just mix and match whatever is in your spice cabinet or your condiment collection—you’ll need 2-4 teaspoons of flavorings total per can of beans. The chickpeas pictured are flavored with chipotle and maple. Whatever you choose, taste as you go!

Crispy Chickpeas​

Crispy Chickpeas are incredibly cheap to make, clocking in at just a couple of dollars per batch. Though they shrink a bit as they roast, one can’s-worth still makes enough for at least a couple of people to nibble on. That said, if you’re quarantining or maybe just don’t like to share, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble putting these away on your own.

Crispy Chickpeas
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
2-4 teaspoons spices or flavorings of choice

Preheat oven to 400F.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Scatter them onto a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and blot well to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes. Add spices of choice (taste and adjust as you go).

If using only ground spices/flavorings, you may eat the crispy chickpeas immediately. If using hot sauces or syrups, I recommend returning them to the oven for up to 5-10 minutes to set, if you prefer (I do!). Do not burn. Let chickpeas cool for at least a few minutes before serving.

Crispy Chickpeas will keep covered at room temperature for up to 2 days. They may soften very slightly over time.

Easy Cumin Roasted Beets

Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsI have never been a particularly picky eater, but I have spent the majority of my 35+ years hating beets. Hating them. My mom used to serve pickled beets at least once a week, which meant I had to choke down (and I do mean “choke”) one or two with some regularity until I grew up, moved out, and lived a blissfully beetless existence until three years ago. I’d still be beet-free today if it weren’t for a request for them for a birthday dinner.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsAs I prepared for this party (remember parties?), I looked online for beet roasting methods and mostly saw the same one: wrap beets in foil, roast them whole, let them cool, rub off the skins with your hands, and slice. It seemed like a lot of time and work for something I couldn’t stand. Instead, I took a gamble and did things the easy way: giving my beets a really good scrub, lopping off the root and tip, slicing them into thick wedges, and roasting them with olive oil, cumin and salt until caramelized.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsBeing a careful cook, I had to taste the finished beets for seasoning regardless of personal preference, so I scrunched my nose, closed my eyes (?), took a tiny bite and…they were delicious. Earthy and sweet, yes, but also salty, smoky and crisp-edged. I couldn’t believe it—one of my top five all-time least favorite foods! Delicious! Sometimes it just takes the right preparation to change someone’s life (er, palate).Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsNow, I don’t know if I’ve actually changed—you won’t find me eating pickled beets out of the jar anytime soon. But these? I’ve made them at least once a week for the last three years and I freaking love them. They’re so easy and so good, the perfect low-maintenance side dish. I’ll throw a pan of Easy Cumin Roasted Beets in the oven alongside a chicken, serve them with fresh hummus on a casual night in, or pair them with feta and greens for a killer beet salad.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsDid I just say “killer beet salad”? Maybe I’ve changed after all.Easy Cumin Roasted Beets

Easy Cumin Roasted Beets
makes 6 or so servings

4-5 large beets or 6-7 small-medium beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scrub beets and dry. Some may have a matte brown portion of their skin–wiping them dry with paper towel or lighter-colored towel is best for differentiating between this and remaining dirt. Do not peel.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to trim off the roots and tips. Slice them into wedges (I did 8 each on large beets). Pile on a prepared pan and top with olive oil, cumin and salt. Toss with your hands until everything is evenly coated, then scatter them evenly across the pan, taking care to keep them apart. Wash your hands.

Roast 20 minutes. Use a thin spatula to flip the beets over before roasting for 20-25 minutes more. Remove them to a serving dish. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley, if desired. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted Beets