Lentil Bites with Broccoli Pesto and Rice

close-up of a cream bowl with green broccoli pesto with lentil bites and rice.

As I continue to work within more of the meal plans, I’m finding ways to use old favorites to create new, delicious meals. These lentils bites have long been a solid staple in my repertoire. The same could be said for the broccoli pesto. So what happens when you combine the two? You get this delicious bowl!

The pesto

I’ll forever add and swap different greens into the pesto. I love broccoli because you get a small bit of the broccoli flavor but it’s not overwhelming. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce the amount of basil during the cooler months (or as I call it, the non-basil growing season).

Play around with the amount of the herbs. I sometimes go parsley only if I don’t want to buy basil. Chives and/or dill all work as well.

Make it vegan

There’s only one thing you need to swap out and it’s actually something I’ve yet to decide the recipe even really needs: the egg in the lentil bite. Use a flax egg or leave the egg out entirely. The lentil bites still hold together fairly well without it.

Prep Ahead

I’ll be honest, there are a few moving parts in this recipe but it’s one that makes for a wonderful prep ahead recipe. The pesto, lentil bites, and the rice can all be prepped ahead of time and assembled the day of. I like to make extra bites and freeze for quick meals in the future as well.

[tasty-recipe id=”38772″]

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If pressed, I could tell you how to make good guacamole in one sentence. It goes something like this. Mash ripe avocados with finely chopped white onions, a minced garlic clove, a squeeze of lime juice, then salt to taste. But to make great guacamole, it’s the little decisions going between those commas that make all the difference. If you were standing next to me throughout the process, you’d pick up on the dozens of choices and considerations that actually matter. So, I thought I might try to go longer-form with you on this one – walk you through my thought process, step-by-step here, related to one of my favorite things to eat.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

Good Shopping is Key

Like most things that end up on the table, your success or failure depends on how you do at the market. The most important step in this entire process is procuring the perfect avocados. Ripe. But not too ripe. Beautiful, buttery, green-fleshed decadence – that’s what you’re after. Sometimes easier said than done.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

Choosing the Right Avocados

I spend more time choosing the avocados for guacamole than actually preparing it. You want avocados that are ripe and the only way to figure out whether they’re at their peak is to evaluate them one at a time. To decipher whether or not an avocado is ripe enough, hold it in your palm, and give it a gentle squeeze with the pads of your fingers. There should be some give, like butter that has been out of the refrigerator for an hour in an average-temp kitchen. The give should be uniform across the surface of the fruit. Try to imagine whether that amount of give would translate to good mash-ability. Avocados tend to be more ripe toward the surface, less ripe toward the seed. Keep that in mind as you’re evaluating them.

Look at the color as well. Over-ripe avocados (depending on the varietal) tend to be black with pockets of unstructured softness. I don’t typically use the trick where you wiggle the stem button – if it’s loose, the avocado is ripe (but possible too ripe!), but that is another tactic to decipher whether an avocado is in the zone.

If you buy under-ripe avocados and have a few days before using them they’ll continue to ripen over time. If you’re in a rush – avocados ripen more quickly sealed in a paper bag. To slow down the ripening process, place them in the refrigerator (but bring back to room-temperature before using).

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

The Right Temperature is Key

Temperature matters here, and you’re going to want to use room-temperature avocados. Because avocados have such a high percentage of fat, imagine trying to mash cold butter versus room temperature. Once is going to be much creamier than the other. So, don’t try to make guacamole with cold avocados. Also, serve at room temperature, not chilled.

The Concept of Guacamole “Stretching”

Avocados can be pricey, so a lot of restaurants will “stretch” or bulk out their guacamole with things like chopped tomatoes. I’m not a fan of this. The tomato addition in particular. I don’t love the way watery tomatoes bump up against fatty avocado – it’s literally oil and water. I like guacamole to be about the avocado, and unless I’m throwing some wildcards in the mix (like the one in my last book), I typically keep it as clean and simple as possible.


Beyond this – trust your taste buds to balance things out. If you like a bit of spicy kick, add some minced serrano pepper. Use salt and lime juice, adjusting little by little, until things taste just right.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

If you want to take your guacamole up another notch, try this favorite Indian-spiced guacamole, and inspired by a Julie Sahni recipe. I also love to use this guacamole on these Vegan Nachos – so good!

Continue reading Guacamole on 101 Cookbooks

Easy Chinese Chicken Salad (GF/Soy-Free)

Easy Chinese Chicken Salad (GF/Soy-Free)

A friend recently requested a recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad on the blog. The rest is history. Plus, look at those colors and that crunch!

Introducing our fresh and flavorful 30-minute Chinese Chicken Salad made with seriously simple ingredients.

How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad

  • Cabbage – we went with a mix of napa and red cabbage. Napa cabbage for a more classic touch and red cabbage for a pop of color and nice crunch.

Easy Chinese Chicken Salad (GF/Soy-Free) from Minimalist Baker →

Super Swiss Meringue

Let’s make beautiful, billowy meringues! Few treats are more charming or versatile. The first order of business is deciding which method to use – there are a number of options. More often than not, I go the Swiss meringue route, which I’ll explain below. A lot of people like to use the French method – where you whisk eggs until they are nice and frothy, adding granulated sugar, a bit at a time. I wouldn’t disagree that it’s the simplest method, but I like the Swiss meringue approach instead, for a number of reasons.How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Swiss Meringue Technique

To make Swiss meringue, you basically combine all your ingredients in a mixing bowl. Heat it over a pan of simmering water until smooth, and then pop that mixing bowl back into your mixer. Whisk until you have a beautiful, bright, glossy meringue. It’s quite straight-forward. I think cooking sugar always freaks people out, and to do it right, you should use a thermometer, but don’t let that deter you.How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Why Swiss Meringue?

Reason number one, you don’t have to remember to bring your eggs to room temperature. This is major. I always forget to pull my eggs from the refrigerator. You don’t have to worry about this if you’re using the Swiss approach. The second thing, I like to be able to pipe my meringue into somewhat intricate shapes (see photos). I have much better luck with Swiss meringue. It’s stiffer, and holds ridges, dollops, and flourishes better. If you’re trying to avoid blobby meringue, start here.
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Keys to Success

1) Use a completely clean, dry  bowl, whisk, spatula, etc. to get the most volume of meringue. Any residual oils will hamper your efforts.

2) Adjust your baking time based on whether you’re like a chewier or crisper meringue. Leave them to bake longer for crisper. Up to a few hours even!

3) If you do leave your meringues to bake longer, just be sure they aren’t taking on any/too much color. Ways to counter coloring: gently rotate pans, propping over door open with a wooden spoon, moving baking sheets either up or down in oven.

4) To maintain a glossy sheen and texture, try not to slam your oven door or baking sheet while baking. They might collapse a bit and end up with a crackled texture.
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Favorite Add-ins

The recipe below is a nice base recipe. Once you get the hang of it play around with different add-ins. I love to stir in cacao nibs, toasted coconut flakes, saffron bloomed in the almond extract, dried rose petals + rose extract, lots of mixed sesame seeds, or toasted pistachios.
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Continue reading Super Swiss Meringue on 101 Cookbooks

Midwinter III Meal Plan

Chipotle Lentil Tacos with Lettuce

While winter started awhile ago, I feel it most in January. The holidays are over and the sense of the long winter starts to set in. My penchant for cozy meals really comes out. Soups, stews, and pasta are nearly a weekly occurrence.

This week’s plan really shows that. There’s a chili recipe and a soup-like pasta recipe. It might feel a bit heavy but what I love is that everything is easily vegan, with the help of a few swaps. Best of all, most the meals are quick and don’t require a ton of prep.

january: midwinter iii meal plan

Weekend Prep

Chipotle Lentils
Rosemary-infused oil
Tortillas (optional)
Baked Potatoes or Baked Sweet Potatoes (optional)

featured ingredients

Sweet Potatoes

Recipe 1: Pasta e Ceci

I actually didn’t have plans to include this on the meal plan for the week but I absolutely fell in love with this recipe over the past week. It’s hearty and the flavors of the tomatoes with the rosemary have me wanting to make this every week. Best of all, it’s a fairly quick meal from start to finish (which means very little prep).

Greens: I added arugula to the top to help balance the rich acidity from the tomatoes. Feel free to mix it up though and by one type of greens for this dish and the tacos. Kale and arugula both work great.

Get the recipe >

Chipotle Lentil Tacos with Lettuce

Recipe 2: Chipotle Lentil Tacos

These tacos are some of my favorite and I think help to balance the richness of the rest of the recipes for this week. I find when I fill the tacos, they are about ¼ lentil mix and ¾ greens. It’s fresh and light with a bit of kick from the lentils.

Add some cheese: If you’re not looking to keep these tacos vegan, add a sprinkle of feta or even a dollop of sour cream (a good option to balance the heat).

Use greens from the pasta: As mentioned, I like doubling up on greens so kale or arugula would work well on these tacos.

If it’s too many legumes: I realize this week’s list of recipes is really legume heavy. Swap out these tacos for my favorite garlicky halloumi tacos.

Get the recipe >

Vegan chili in a grey bowl with a small grey bowl filled with cilantro and pumpkin seeds on a white background.

Recipe 3: Tempeh Chili

Every few weeks I make a big pot of chili and freeze about half for in-a-hurry meals. I love this bulgur chili but this new tempeh chili recipe is delightful. I use the smokey tempeh which really boosts the flavor.

There’s not much I swap in this recipe besides which beans I feel like using. This is a good recipe to prep if you managed to make too many pinto beans from last week.

Get the recipe >

Chili Baked Potato with Cheese

Recipe 4: Chili Loaded Potatoes

Finally, probably my favorite kind of dinner: one that uses leftovers in new and delicious ways. This loaded potato is the ultimate comfort food. There’s just something magical about the cheese and the chili with a baked potato.

Potatoes or Sweet Potato: This concept works well with potatoes or sweet potatoes. I like to bake the potatoes ahead of time and reheat the day of (makes the whole thing quicker). Or, if I’m baking the potatoes day-of, I tend to cut them in half and roast them with a bit of olive oil.

Cheese or Vegan Cheese: I use the cheese from the recipe I’m linking to but a good vegan cheese would easily make this whole dish vegan. I love this butternut queso.

Get the recipe >

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Pasta and Chickpeas (Pasta e Ceci)

Close-up photo of a greyish bowl filled with pasta, chickpea, and tomato soup with arugula on top.

During a recipe testing and dinner one night, my son decided his tomato soup was boring and starting adding cooked pasta I had made for a different recipe. We ended up talking about spaghetti-os (something I didn’t eat as a kid but knew about).

All of this led me down the rabbit hole of making something my son that resembled his soup/noodles and spaghetti-o’s. Which is when I landed on this brothy pasta and chickpeas from Bon Appetit. But, as I read through comments, I quickly went down the rabbit hole of researching recipes.

This version of pasta and chickpeas is riffed from Smitten Kitchen. I changed up the aromatics a bit and added tomato sauce to make the sauce feel a bit more soup-like.


Obviously, this recipe is a classic, and there aren’t greens in it. But I can’t help myself. I love the arugula because it lightens the tomato base up a bit. However, I think cooked kale or collards would be wonderful cooked into the dish.


I also couldn’t help myself when it came to adding parmesan, but you could easily leave it out. If you want some of the salty goodness, stir in a bit of miso or nutritional yeast.

Finish strong

Finally, don’t skip the finishing oil. The rosemary is everything to this recipe. If you’re avoiding heat- just leave the chili flakes out. If you don’t want to make the oil, stir a bit of rosemary into the dish instead.

[tasty-recipe id=”38748″]

Yellowish marble background with a grey bowl filled with tomato, pasta, and chickpeas.continue reading

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Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies (V/GF)

Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies (V/GF)

While attempting to create a more nutrient-rich brownie, we ended up creating our new favorite brownie recipe! It’s happening.

Introducing super fudgy, naturally-sweetened, whole grain, healthier brownies made with just 10 ingredients. Let’s bake!

First, we make sweet potato purée by baking a sweet potato, removing the skin, and mashing in a bowl or food processor.

The sweet potato purée is then mixed with maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla, and avocado oil.

Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies (V/GF) from Minimalist Baker →

Vegan Tempeh Chili with Beans

Close-up photo of tempeh chili smothered a piece of cornbread in a grey bowl.

It might be my midwestern upbringing, but I’m a chili fan. It’s warming and filling- you can’t ask for much more. This chili is using one of my favorite tempeh products, and it comes together in about 30 minutes. Serve with cornbread (or peanut butter sandwiches if you’re like my husband).

The Tempeh

When my husband decided to join me in eating mostly vegetarian, I knew I had to bulk up the protein we were eating on a day to day basis. I’m still skeptical about many of the ‘faux’ meat products on the market, so I tend to stick to tofu and tempeh.

For this chili, I went with using this smoky tempeh. I like the flavor it brings to the dish. However, you could easily use any tempeh. I’d recommend upping the smoked paprika another ½ teaspoon or adding a bit of smoked salt.

Vegetable Add

While non-traditional, I like to add vegetables and greens to my chili. Try kale, chard, or collards for greens or add sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or even root vegetables into the mix. I like to sautee the vegetables with my onions before I add everything else.

Meld two recipes

While I love this recipe, occasionally I will meld my favorite chili recipe with this tempeh recipe. It’s pretty simple: just add about ¼ cup of bulgur to the recipe and up the water by 3/4 cup or so. The bulgur helps add a bit more of the ‘meaty’ texture.

[tasty-recipe id=”38741″]

Vegan chili in a grey bowl with a small grey bowl filled with cilantro and pumpkin seeds on a white background.continue reading

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