Mashed Potatoes with Avocado and Cilantro Pesto

I often find myself with leftover ingredients after using only a tiny bit in a recipe, particularly when cooking dishes with fresh herbs that only come in bunches (I’m looking at you, cilantro).  After using some  cilantro in my chana masala,  I was looking to make something tasty that would use up the rest of the bunch, and settled on a nice pesto.

Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro pesto











  • 2 cups cilantro leaves, packed
  • a few basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water, if needed


  1. Put everything but the olive oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse a few times; alternate adding olive oil and blending until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Add water if it seems like things aren’t mixing well.

Source: Inspired by SimplyRecipes, but mostly just thrown together in the moment.

Later in the day when I decided to make dinner, I realized that I had half  of a quickly browning avocado in my fridge. Cilantro and avocado are wonderful together (hello guac!) but I was more interested in something that would go with leftover grilled chicken. I poked around in the kitchen and found a fairly large red potato, and decided to make some sort of potato/avocado/pesto dish.

Mashed Potatoes with Avocado and Cilantro Pesto

Pesto potatoes

Makes 1 to 2 servings, depending on your appetite, but can easily be adjusted to make more.


  • One large red potato
  • Half an avocado
  •  2 tsp cilantro pesto
  • Earth Balance
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Cook the potato by either boiling it in a pot of water or wrapping in a wet paper towel and microwaving until tender enough to mash.
  2. Place potato in a bowl and mash slightly. Add Earth Balance, avocado, and pesto.  Mash everything together until desired consistency is achieved –  I like some lumps in my potatoes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

I will admit that these green potatoes look a little weird, but they’re super tasty.

Source: My own culinary genius.


Chana Masala

Though I didn’t eat much Indian food until after I started college, I’ve grown to love it. I remember the first time I ate at Chapati in Northfield, while I was a student at St. Olaf College. The mango lassi was delicious and the entrees were pretty good, too. I’ve been hooked ever since. I just happened to find a pretty simple recipe for chana masala in a book I was reading and decided to give it a shot.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

Makes 4 servings.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander (I ground up coriander seeds, as that’s what I had)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, plus more for serving, if desired
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water
  • one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped; more for serving, if desired
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, with any stray skins removed
  • 1/3 cup yogurt (optional addition at the end; omit to make  recipe vegan)
  • lemon wedges (optional addition at the end)


  1. Heat olive oil in dutch oven or another large pan. Add onion, and cook until caramelized. I am terrible at this – my onions usually end up browned/burnt. I place some of the blame on my stove, that seems to think low heat = medium, and medium heat = burn everything in the pan.  Here’s a helpful slideshow if you too struggle to create perfectly caramelized onions.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, garam masala, cardamom pods, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated.
  4. Pour in the juice from the can of tomatoes, then pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you do so. Beware of squirting tomatoes! I made a bit of a mess when I started breaking up the first tomato. Be sure to get rid of any tough parts, too, like the area near where the stem was attached. I like bigger chunks of tomato, but if you don’t you can always mash them up with a fork or potato masher.
  5. Raise the heat, if needed, to bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat so everything’s a-simmerin’, then add the pepper flakes and cilantro. Cook, stirring as needed, until the mixture starts to thicken.
  6. Add the chickpeas, and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for 5 minutes longer, then add another 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 5 minutes.*
  7. Stir in the yogurt if desired (it got a little weird looking at this point – probably some curdling action going on), or squeeze some lemon juice over the dish. I personally think it tastes fine without any additions, but feel free to do whatever suits your fancy. Top with a bit of cilantro and a sprinkle of garam masala, if desired.

*The original recipe notes that this process of adding water and cooking it off “helps concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome.”

One goal that I have with this cooking blog is to push myself to try cooking new things, particularly more dishes from different cultures (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc). I think the onigiri I made last month and this chana masala are a good start; I’m excited about the possibilities.

Source: Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, the culinary  genius behind the Orangette blog

Yummy Breads

Though it doesn’t feel like it for lots of folks, we’ll officially one week out from the first day of summer.  With summer comes great in-season veggies including beets, sweet corn, summer squash and so much more. Though I think it has a lot of potential, my feelings about summer squash are mixed, particularly because I experienced some not-so-great, mushy, unseasoned stuff when I was in college. Yes, despite St. Olaf’s reputation for great food, even they had trouble with this stuff. I like to eat summer squash in or with other food rather than eating it plain, at least until I find a recipe that I really like.

The term summer squash refers to a number of different squashes, the most well-known being yellow summer squash and zucchini.

Zucchini Bread



  • 1 1/2 cups minus 3 tbsp white whole wheat floue
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Add the egg, sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla and mix.
  4. Add the zucchini and mix with your hands. Add a bit of water if you’re having trouble keeping the dough together.
  5. Put dough in pan and bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, testing with knife to ensure that it’s done.
  6. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then transfer the bread to a cooling rack.

I figured since I had already made one loaf of bread, why not make another? I wanted to make something savory, to balance the sweetness of the zucchini bread, and stumbled upon a recipe in the same cookbook for an herb bread that sounded great.

Harvest Herb Bread



  • 1 1/2 cups minus 3 tbsp white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • pinch of ground thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 3/4 cup lactose-free milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and coat a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Whisk in the marjoram, oregano, basil, and thyme until the spices are pretty evenly distributed throughout.
  4. Add the egg, sugar, oil, vinegar, and milk, mixing just until everything is combined.
  5.   Pour the dough mixture into a loaf pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, testing with knife to ensure that it’s done.
  6. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then transfer the bread to a cooling rack.

This bread turned out just a tad too sweet for my taste, so I’ll probably leave out a bit of the sugar the next time I make it.

Both breads are wonderful for breakfast or as  a mid-afternoon snack, with the spread of your choice on top.

Source: Both recipes adapted from How it All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

Rhubarb Recipes

I have an awesome feminist friend who lives up on a farm in Sandstone, Minnesota. I went to visit her last weekend and returned home with a bag full of rhubarb. I haven’t made anything with rhubarb in it for quite some time, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of taste, but all three of the recipes I found turned out great.

Rhubarb Crumble


Makes 4 to 6 servings Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (see note)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 6 to 7 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 pound rhubarb (about 3 cups), cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Note: I used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour in this recipe, which required me to use less than the 1 1/4 cups. Check the flour bag for substitution advice or go here. Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup (minus two tablespoons) whole wheat flour, light brown sugar, oats and the oil. Mix with your hands until the dough stays together in clumps when squished in your hand.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In another medium bowl, combine the rhubarb with granulated sugar, 1/4 cup flour (minus 1 1/2 teaspoons), orange zest and cinnamon. The mixture won’t really stay together that well, but do the best you can to get it all mixed up. Transfer the rhubarb mixture to an oven proof baking dish and cover with the chilled oat mixture.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until oat mixture is golden and rhubarb is bubbly. If sides are browning but top is not, place under broiler for a bit, but watch carefully so as not to over-brown. Let cool briefly; serve while still warm.

Source: Adapted from Orangette.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars

rhibarb bars 2



  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (or sub in a bit more all-purpose flour)
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable  oil
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance, softened


  • 2 cups coarsely chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • confectioner’s sugar for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ by 9″ baking pan with tin foil and coat foil with cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the crust: In medium bowl, combine flour, confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp salt. Add the oil and butter and blend into mixture using your fingertips. Mixture will be a bit crumbly, but do your best to firmly press it into the baking pan. I found using my thumbs and knuckles worked well. Place in the oven and bake until the edges just start to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Prepare filling: In a medium saucepan combine the strawberries, rhubarb, and water. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the fruit is soft and a good amount of juice is produced. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup; I put my measuring cup in a bowl to catch the overflow. You’ll need 1 cup of strained juice in total. Once you have one cup of juice, add the lemon/lime juice and stir.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1/8 tsp salt. Add the eggs and whisk until combined. Stir in the fruit juice mixture. Pour the filling over the crust.
  5. Place the pan in the oven, being careful not to spill any juice. Bake until just set, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on wire cooling rack for about 1 1/2 hours. I left the bars in the pan after they cooled, and cut them carefully so as not to harm the nonstick pan I baked them in, but you can lift the bars out of the pan using the foil if you’d like. Garnish with powdered sugar and a bit of strawberry just before serving.

Source: Slightly adapted from Eating Well.

Rhubarb Iced Tea

Rhubarb Tea


  • 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • fresh mint or basil for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Strain the liquid, add sugar (more or less, to taste), and stir to dissolve. Allow the tea to cool and serve over ice, with garnish, if desired.

Note: When finished I had about two and a half cups of tea. In the future I will likely double or triple the recipe, or may keep the cover on the pot so less of the moisture evaporates.

Source: Slightly adapted from