Vegetables Taste Good Too

Like most people during this quarantine, I have been doing a LOT of cooking.

Now, I did a lot of cooking before COVID-19 struck. But my pre-pandemic cooking was typically just following a recipe from Hello Fresh and chopping up and throwing pre-portioned food into a skillet.

With the difficulties presented by being in lockdown (unreliable food deliveries, fewer options at the grocery stores), I have become a lot more careful about using all of my food in a healthy and responsible way. Which means no more tossing away the green onion roots, or forgetting the leftover carrots in the back of the fridge. Everything gets used and reused.

0 waste takes a lot of creativity, but it has been a really great growing experience for me. I have branched out and tried foods I had never even thought of, and discovered I can eat just about anything if it is prepared properly. Long gone are the days of turning up my nose at beets and celery. I am quit happily eating anything and everything.

One of the biggest and best changes from all of this has been the increase in our fruit and vegetable consumption. I have been able to get Misfits Market produce deliveries most consistently, which means I have a lot more fruits and veggies on hand than meat, dairy, or processed foods.

At first I just chopped all the produce up and tossed it in a salad, but after a while cold salads got pretty boring so I started researching and experimenting, and repurposing my deliveries into really delicious, satisfying, fully vegetarian meals.

Below I have compiled my 5 favorite plant-based meals to come from my quarantine cooking adventures so far:

  1. Fettuccini With Butternut Sauce and Carrot Tops
This is definitely my new favorite pasta sauce. I love the fresh, creamy, nutty flavor. And it was so easy! I roasted butternut squash pieces, a quartered onion, and two whole garlic cloves at 375 for 45 minutes. Then I threw it all in a blender with some vegetable stock, salt, and pepper, and it was good to go! I made a second batch for Dave and used chicken stock, a splash of heavy cream, and some grated Parmesan. I didn’t notice much difference between them, but Dave preferred the second version to the fully vegan one. For the carrot greens I just let them crisp up slightly in a splash of olive oil, and then lightly salted them. They have a briny flavor, a bit like seaweed. I am not a big fan of them alone, but they were fantastic mixed in throughout the pasta. For the pasta itself I just used what I had on hand, which was eggless fettuccini noodles. This sauce would be great on any thick/dense pasta though.

2. Potato, Celery, and Carrot Cream Soup

I was so lucky to stumble across the recipe for this delicious, creamy vegetable soup. Many thanks to Kristianne at My San Francisco Kitchen. Even Dave (Mr. “I Don’t Like Veggies I Only Like Meat”) loved it and went back for multiple servings. It was a perfect way to use up the remaining produce at the bottom of my crisper drawer. I sautéed the diced onion, garlic, and celery down in two tablespoons of butter, then add in the diced carrots and chopped potatoes, salting everything as I went. I poured in 6 cups of chicken broth and seasoned it all with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some chili flakes. Then I boiled it for 20 minutes until the veggies were soft. Then I puréed everything in the blender until it was thick and creamy, and returned it to the pot. I add in some light cream and a pinch of cinnamon (my secret ingredient for cream-based soups) and mix in a generous amount of grated Parmesan. I served it with a side of garlic bread and tomato basil pesto.

3. Roasted Sweet Potato Chips With Goat Cheese and Honey

This isn’t really a full meal, but it is a very tasty and easy snack! I sliced the potatoes into rounds, placed then on a foil lined and sprayed baking sheet, and sprinkled them with cinnamon and salt. I baked them at 400 for 15 minutes, then flipped and baked another 15. While they cooled I mixed crumbled goat cheese with a splash of heavy cream, put a dollop on each round, drizzled honey all over, and sprinkled on some coarse sea salt.

4. Parmesan Baked Eggplant And Cherry Tomato Marinara

I created a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, garlic powder, paprika, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper (primarily using those little pizza delivery packets I was stockpiling for no reason). Then I sliced up an eggplant, let the pieces dry on cooling racks for an hour, dipped the slices in melted butter, then coated each slice in the crumb mixture. I baked the slices at 400 for 15 minutes, then flipped them and let them bake about 7 minutes more. Meanwhile, I sautéed minced garlic down in olive oil, added a container of cherry tomatoes, and when they were hot and starting to blister I mashed them down. I stirred until a sauce formed, added salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of butter, and it was good to go!

5. Bacon Braised Kale and Parmesan Potatoes

I admit this is not a fully vegetarian meal — but it was the only way I could convince Dave to eat that much kale! He has since embraced my love of kale and eats it in all forms, with or without meat. I sliced the fingerlings in half length-wise, seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and roasted them cut side down in the oven. A few minutes before I took them out I sprinkled a layer of parmesan on them. I melted a pat of butter in a pot and sautéed garlic in it. Then I threw in my curly red kale and cooked it down (adding little splashes of water as needed to keep it from burning) until it was soft and tender. Meanwhile, I fried a couple strips of bacon on another pan, and when it was crispy I threw it in with the kale. This was an incredibly filling meal!

I started documenting my creations on Instagram: my foodie account handle is @lydiasquarantinecooking so you can check out even more recipes there!

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