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Tag Archives: vegetarian

Recipe for Kale and Leek Pancakes

Kale and leek pancakes make a perfect lunch or dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kale and leek pancakes make a perfect lunch or dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ways to cook Kale: pancakes

The tumeric topping on the kale pancakes adds depth. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The tumeric topping on the kale pancakes adds depth. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Kale is the IN food when it comes to cooking. So I created two recipes to urge you to buy a bunch of kale and try the bold, deep, green vegetable that most people set aside because it’s used mostly as a garnish. This recipe combines kale and leeks to create a pancake for brunch, lunch or dinner.

Another way to use the rest of your kale bunch is to make a breakfast kale smoothie that is full of Vitamin A, C and K. If you are adventuresome in the dirt, plant kale in your garden. It can grow in the Pacific Northwest during the fall and winter months and is also available at grocery stores. I used the kale and leeks from Oxbow Organic Farm, a 25-acre vegetable garden near Carnation that sells its produce at farmers markets, restaurants and to weekly subscribers.

Hot in the Kitchen – Kale and Leek Pancakes

Finely chop kale

Finely chop kale

Ingredients for Pancake:

1 cup finely chopped kale (dinosaur is best variety with center vein removed)

¼ cup chopped leeks

3 eggs

Combine ingredients for batter

Combine ingredients for batter

1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup peanut oil

Tumeric adds flavor

Turmeric adds flavor


1 tablespoon low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon low-fat yogurt

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Dash of salt

Fry two minutes per side

Fry two minutes per side

Mix kale, leeks, eggs, water, salt, pepper and cheese together in bowl. In a frying pan, heat peanut oil on medium high until pan is hot. Use a half cup measuring tool to gently drop the mixture into the oil. Cook for two minutes on medium high until brown, using a splatter guard if grease starts to jump. Flip and cook another two minutes. Place on paper towel and drop the rest of the batter into the pan and repeat. Mix sour cream, yogurt, turmeric and dash of salt together and add dollop to the top of the pancakes.



Roasted Parsnips with Leeks and Mushrooms Recipe

This quick recipe combines Parsnips, leeks and mushrooms for a great dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This recipe combines parsnips, leeks and mushrooms for a quick dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Cook with Parsnips – the healthy, but forgotten root vegetable

It’s that time of year, when root vegetables like parsnips rule. But maybe you’ve never thought of parsnips or have never cooked with them before. It’s time to give them a try.

Parsnips are a cousin of the carrot and are a fantastic root vegetable full of nutrients and vitamins.

Parsnips are full of fiber and low-fat. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Parsnips are full of fiber and low-fat. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It is a great source of fiber and vitamin C, providing more than 1/3 of your daily needed dose. It also has iron, magnesium and vitamin B-6. Just because it’s a white vegetable doesn’t mean it’s not full of amazing flavor. I think parsnips show their true color when roasted.

This recipe combines the sweetness of parsnips, caramelized leeks, earthy mushrooms and a kick of red pepper.

The leek is a powerful anti-inflammatory food that also contains vitamin A and K. This low-fat vegetarian dinner is easy and satisfying.

While attending the International Food Bloggers Conference, I discovered Oxbow Organic Farm, located in the Snoqualmie Valley. This 25-acre vegetable garden near Carnation sells its produce at farmers markets, restaurants and to weekly subscribers. At the Ballard Farmers Market, I recently picked up a box of vegetables from Oxbow and their parsnips and leeks inspired this recipe.

Hot in the Kitchen: Roasted Parsnips with Leeks and Mushrooms

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks.

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks.


6 parsnips (medium size)

½ of leek diced

1 cup chopped mushrooms (save time by buying pre-sliced mushrooms)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Spread parsnips, leeks and mushrooms on foil-covered baking sheet.

Spread parsnips, leeks and mushrooms on foil-covered baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peal parsnips and cut into one inch by two inch pieces.  Clean leek by slicing it lengthwise from about ½ inch away the root through to the green ends. Rinse the leek under running water to remove dirt. Pat dry and dice ½ leek. Mix parsnips, leek, mushrooms, olive oil, salt, hot pepper flakes and black pepper in bowl. Cover large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pour vegetables onto sheet and spread out as thin as possible. Cook in oven for a total of 22 minutes, stirring and turning vegetables at 11 minutes. Optional: sprinkle a pinch of applewood smoked sea salt on top of dish.



Simple is sometimes better when it comes to food

Building a salad is about tantalizing the eyes with colors from fresh vegetables and fruits. Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated, just be creative with your ingredients.

There are times, after several long days of reporting and writing at the Seattle Times, that I just want a simple and easy dish to eat that doesn’t destroy my clean kitchen. In my younger years that meant grabbing a burger or tacos at a fast-food joint, just to kill the hunger pangs. Since then I’ve learned a few things about single cooking along the way and I hope you can take a few of my ideas into your kitchen.

There are days I’m jazzed about tackling complicated, multi-step recipes, realizing I have the time and patience. But often times we all are in a rush or getting home late from errands or a fun happy hour with friends and we still need to nibble.

If you don’t have the time to cook something elaborate, don’t worry about it. The reason some dinners and snacks are so great is because they are simple and fresh – and that typically means healthy too.

My garden produced golden sweet tomatoes and purple carrots

Visit your farmer’s market or local store and grab fruits and vegetables that are in season. Those fresh foods are the foundation of a flavorful, simple dish. So when I’m in a hurry, salads are my go-to meal. Chopping the vegetables, greens and toppings take only a couple minutes and you can create your salad.

I grabbed fresh greens, tomatoes and purple carrots from my garden. The purple carrots catch your eye with the color and surprise the palate with a spicy, sweet flavor.

Hot in the Kitchen

Mixed Green Salad with Plum Vinaigrette:


Three cups chopped or torn fresh mixed greens, including any combination of mesclun, spinach and arugula if available

Two carrots sliced into coins

Four cherry tomatoes quartered

Two tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Cabrales

One tablespoon fresh herbs like thyme, cilantro, oregano and parsley if available

Any other ingredients from your pantry or kitchen that inspire you

Plum Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, August 2012)

2 black plums, pitted, chopped and halved

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Dash of salt and pepper

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring plums and ¾ cup water to boil in small saucepan and then simmer on medium-high heat, stirring and mashing plums for about 15 minutes until they are broken down. Pour plum mixture through fine-mesh sieve, pressing solids through to make a puree. Let cool. Then add oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper and whisk. Add hot pepper flakes, if you like a little kick. This can be made ahead of time and will last for at least one week in frig.

Toss salad ingredients and drizzle dressing on top.

A plum vinaigrette adds a sweet tanginess to this mixed green salad with blue cheese.

Tailor a salad for your palate

Another great thing about making salads is that you literally can open up the refrigerator and use leftovers or extras from a previous dish. Maybe you grilled salmon the night before and you can add some bites to your salad. When I grill a chicken breast for dinner, I make sure I either buy an extra large one to grill so that I have chunks to add to the next day’s lunch.

Also see what mood you are in that day. Are you craving protein? Then add tofu, salmon or shrimp. If you are craving something sweet, add fruit like strawberries, nectarines or apples. Are you yearning for some salt? Add some olives, pecans, pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts. Be creative by topping your salad with something different. My favorite additions to a simple salad are any of the following: edamame, avocado, hard-boiled egg, peas and dried cranberries. You can also add caramelized onions or crispy fried shallots. If you are like me, I also love cheese as part of my salad, so I usually sprinkle feta or goat cheese on top.

What are your favorite foods to add to your salad? Let the Solo Cook know.



Bold nutty flavor of arugula makes a great healthy salad

Arugula is a fantastic, spicy green to grow in the garden. Arugula has a unique nutty, white pepper flavor that packs a punch.

Arugula fresh from my garden is ready for sandwiches, pasta and my new salad recipe. Grow it or pick it up at a farmer’s market.

In fact, I’ve tossed seeds in the garden and been surprised to see it growing like a weed and then turn into a bush. Just be sure to snip off the buds to prevent bolting, but if it flowers don’t be afraid to eat them too. This healthy green-leafed plant from the Mediterranean is part of the Brassicaceae family and is loaded with tons of vitamins. It’s a cool season crop, also known as rocket, that can grow for months in the Pacific Northwest.

I like arugula in sandwiches, wraps, mixed in with other greens to add zip or thrown in pasta. If you aren’t growing it in your garden, pick up a bunch from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store to make this fast, easy recipe that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. This recipe I created is an explosion of flavors in each bite with the spicy arugula, creamy avocado and crunchy cucumber.

Hot in the Kitchen

Arugula Avocado Salad 

2 packed cups of arugula

Arugula with simple ingredients makes a great spicy salad with a tangy dressing.

½ avocado diced

1/2 of tomato diced

¼ of cucumber diced

wedge of lemon

Dressing: combine the following ingredients thoroughly

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

Dash of salt and pepper

Lightly toss arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber with dressing and squeeze a wedge of lemon juice on top. To add protein to the salad just add diced firm tofu.

Arugula Avocado Salad is a great lunch or dinner for one person.



Flat-leaf parsley is the best herb to grow and cook

What’s the No. 1 herb you should grow and have readily available as a single person? Pot and pan drum roll please… it’s flat-leaf parsley.

Parsley is the must-have herb to plant for a person with a busy lifestyle for several reasons. It’s my top pick because it’s low maintenance, can be used in multiple dishes and grows almost all year in the ground or a pot.

After chatting with friends about fresh herbs over the weekend I could tell this was a hot topic for cooks and foodies. It was like we were talking about family relatives, quickly spitting out the personality traits and quirks of each herb. Some people thought the best herb to grow and cook should be basil and another friend was adamant that rosemary was the queen of herbs. I had no idea herbs could be so…well controversial. And I love it.

While curly parsley is considered the ugly stepchild herb because of its lowly delegation as a plate garnish, its cousin – flat-leaf parsley – can complement just about any protein dish. Stay away from the meek curly parsley because of the rough mouth feel. But flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, adds punch and dimension to a dish with strong, deep flavor.

Parsley can be sprinkling on just about anything – like roasted vegetables, broiled white fish, grilled chicken and more. Gone are the days of buying a parsley bunch at the store and later finding half of it shriveled and rotting in your frig. If you are growing it, you only pick the amount you need from the garden and none of it will go to waste. It’s really an herb that keeps on giving.

In the garden:

The parsley in my garden looks like a small bush

In the Pacific Northwest our climate zone allows parsley to grow nearly all year.  I’ve been able to harvest fresh parsley from my garden to add to cold winter soups and summer salads. It even remained hearty after one or two small snowstorms in Seattle.

Parsley is also a low-maintenance and a high-yielding herb. Just make sure you cut off the inedible flowers/buds. Just think of it as an herb haircut that keeps the energy of the plant focused in the leaves not the buds.

Also when harvesting parsley, use a scissor to cut the leaves from the base of the stem where they originate from the main stalk or the ground. Don’t just cut off leaves as this will prevent it from generating new growth.

Here is a recipe I created for one serving. You won’t regret making this mouth-watering steak.

Hot in the kitchen: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri (vegetarian option below)

4 to 6 oz. filet mignon of other steak

½ cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves from the garden

2 tablespoon fresh oregano

3 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Dash of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and hot pepper flakes

Before preparing the chimichurri, turn the grill on to high heat and seasoning steak with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, lightly pulse fresh parsley, oregano and garlic in food processor or let your fingers do the work and finely chop the ingredients. In a small bowl combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Taste and add more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes depending on your palate.

Brush the grill with oil, then place filet on super hot grill. Flip steak after 4 minutes. After another 4-5 minutes of cooking, remove the meat from the grill and loosely place aluminum foil over steak on a plate for several minutes for a medium rare steak.

Drizzle chimichurri on the steak of your choice.

Vegetarian option: Gently clean a Portobello mushroom and thickly cut, on a horizontal slant, one zucchini and one eggplant. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill over medium high heat for five minutes each side or until grill marks appear. Plate vegetables and drizzle chimichurri sauce over the top.

I chose one herb for one person, but don’t limit yourself. Plant a trio of herbs this summer if you have the space. I have several herbs growing in my garden and in pots. My runner-up herb is basil and rounding out my top three is thyme.

It’s fun to snip herbs from your garden and add them to a dish to give it a flavor boost.