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

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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
Chili
Chickpeas
Rosemary-infused oil
Tortillas (optional)
Baked Potatoes or Baked Sweet Potatoes (optional)

featured ingredients

Chickpeas
Kale/Arugula
Lentils
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.

Greens

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.

Vegan-it

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″]

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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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Roasted Broccoli Pasta Salad with Hemp Pesto (V/GF)

Roasted Broccoli Pasta Salad with Hemp Pesto (V/GF)

We recently realized that our favorite pasta salad had only been featured in a video and not as a recipe on the blog. That obviously needed to change. The people need this recipe.

Not only is it delicious, it’s also gluten-free and vegan and comes together in just 30 minutes with 10 ingredients!

It starts with roasting broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper until browned and tender.

Roasted Broccoli Pasta Salad with Hemp Pesto (V/GF) from Minimalist Baker →

Heirloom Bean and Mushroom “Carnitas” Casserole

What you see here is an excellent, hearty, winter-spirited casserole. It’s simple to pull together, and once in the oven the smell of garlic and herbs baking alongside the heirloom beans, simmering tomatoes, and golden mushrooms will bring neighbors in off the sidewalk. You should make it a.s.a.p!

I found the recipe deep in back of Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook – (Rancho Gordo forever around here). The technique for cooking the mushrooms is part of what caught my attention. You cook the mushrooms in quite a bit of liquid and then allow them to cook in the residual fat (olive oil) after the liquid evaporates. The technique is like carnitas, the classic Mexican pork dish. Hence the recipe title. But, of course, unlike the traditional preparation, cooking this with mushrooms makes it a vegetarian casserole.  Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Carnitas Casserole

Choosing the Right Beans

The recipe falls into the Dark & Hearty Beans chapter of the book, and Eye of the Goat beans, or other brown beans are what’s recommended. That said, many, many types of beans could work here. I went a bit rogue and used some beautiful Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye Beans. They’re creamy, melty, and mild. They took on the bubbling casserole juices beautifully. I also love the way those beans in particular hold their markings. Beyond those suggestions, I imagine using any creamy white bean would be nice here too – for example, the Alubia Blanca, or Marcella. And, if you only have canned beans on hand – it’s ok! Drain them, rinse them, use them!
Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Carnitas Casserole

Cooking the Mushrooms

I just wanted to leave a visual reference here. This is how the mushrooms looked (above) when I take them off the heat. And now that I’m looking, I could have even gone a bit longer. Do you see how there’s nice browning on the edges? That’s what you’re after. Then, you add all the other ingredients to the same pan (below), give it all a good stir, add a bit of cheese and pop it in the oven. I’ve tweaked the original recipe a bit to allow you to go from stovetop to oven in one skillet (reflected below), and bumped the quantity up by half, because this casserole is popular and goes fast.

Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Carnitas Casserole

Variations

Here are a couple ways you might build on this idea!

With Breadcrumbs: Toss 1 cup of chunky breadcrumbs with a glut of olive oil and sprinkle across the top of the bean mixture before baking.

Breakfast Casserole: Make three divots in the bean-mushroom mixture prior to baking, crack an egg into each of the depressions & bake until eggs are set, and bean mixture is bubbling.

Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Carnitas Casserole

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Midwinter II Meal Plan

two black bowls of noodles in broth topped with arugula and cut-open soft-boiled eggs.

When I first started planning meals, I found I would over plan and buy too much. I’d schedule every weeknight dinner, but inevitably, something would come up, and I’d have to shift things around. In return, I’d feel some emotion towards that, and it was usually negative.

This feeling led to now, where I keep things loose. I plan to make four recipes and wing the other three nights. Each week we often have a leftover night, a whatever we have left night, and a wild card night. It keeps me agile in the kitchen, which also helps with my ability to use what I have on hand instead of relying on a strict recipe.

For this particular week, I’m back with another vegetable puree (this happens in the winter months). It’s a hearty week with enchiladas, noodle bowls, and a nudge to explore breakfast for dinner.

january: midwinter ii meal plan

weekend prep

Sweet Potato Puree
Harissa
Farro
Hummus
Pinto Beans
Spaghetti Squash
Vegetable broth

featured ingredients

Sweet Potatoes
Noodles
Farro
Pinto Beans
Cauliflower
Spaghetti Squash

Black bowl filled with noodles, orange broth, arugula, and an egg sliced in half on a light grey background

Recipe 1: Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls

I think noodle bowls are the best of all worlds. It’s soup. It’s noodles. It’s protein adaptable. How can you possibly go wrong? This version has a silky broth with help from a sweet potato puree. If you

Make it vegan: I love these noodle bowls because it’s easily vegan. Simply swap out the jammy egg for your favorite tofu recipe. I recommend using one like this or like this.

Make it Gluten-free: Instead of using ramen or udon, look for gluten-free ramen (it exists!) or use 100% buckwheat soba noodles.

Sweet Potato Swaps: As I mention in the post, I’ve made this noodle bowl with many different types of purees. Try a carrot, butternut squash, or even acorn squash puree.

Recipe 2: Sweet Potato Pinto Enchiladas (+ salad with farro)

This is, hands down, one of my favorite ways to make enchiladas. The recipe uses my spiced pinto beans and sweet potato puree. This combination is creamy, which means I typically use less cheese in the filling.

In terms of the filling, you could easily swap out the pinto beans for black beans or lentils. For the sweet potato puree, swap out from another vegetable puree or roasted vegetables. Options include roasted squash, summer squash, sweet corn, or shredded greens.

I like to serve this recipe with a simple side salad. If I have enough leftover farro, I’ll toss it in the salad with nuts and a simple lemon vinaigrette.

A grey plate with brown rim topped with hummus, spaghetti squash, and farro.

Recipe 3: Harissa Spaghetti Squash with Farro and Hummus

This is the type of recipe built on making everything ahead of time, which also means, it’s the type of recipe that can be altered the most. Take this bowl as a guide and less as a strict recipe.

Harissa swaps: The harissa really brings everything together, but you can use something similar and still get the same result. Toss the warm farro in a compound butter, use romesco, or simply toss the farro with a bit of olive oil, fresh herbs, and salty cheese.

Make it gluten-free: I mention this in the original post, but I like to keep the chewiness of the farro the same. To make this gluten-free, I do a switch for sorghum.

Serve it with: I think this dish could easily be paired with cooked greens or a light salad.

Turmeric Cauliflower Egg Skillet with Apple Chutney | http://naturallyella.com

Recipe 4: Harissa Cauliflower Egg Skillet with Toast

I love the idea of breakfast for dinner because, more often than not, they are quicker and just as tasty as something I’d make for dinner. This egg skillet is a riff on this turmeric egg skillet, except instead of the turmeric/lime/ginger, use ⅓ cup or so of the harissa.

Obviously, this idea is not vegan-friendly. You could, however, make this cauliflower and harissa dinner instead (if a cauliflower ‘steak’ is your kind of thing!)

Recipe 5 (the leftover meal): Cheesy Bean Bowls

Finally, I’m giving you a bonus idea for the week. It’s something we often eat with the help of any leftover vegetables and beans. I like to mash the pinto beans and heat them along with a bit of cheese. Load the bowls with any roasted vegetables, hot sauce, sour cream, and/or greens you might have hanging around. Serve with chips, and you have your own bean-dip meal.

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