Start Simple, a cookbook review

I know we’re only into February but “Start Simple” by Lukas Volger might end up being my favorite cookbook of 2020.  I know, those are some bold words! But this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve come across a book and I couldn’t find a recipe that I didn’t want to make.

In this book, Volger presents recipes that are realistic for everyday cooking.  Some recipes are for four servings, but there are also a lot of recipes for one serving or two servings to reflect those readers who are not cooking for a family of four.  These recipes are generally great for weeknight cooking. The ingredient list is often 10 ingredients or less, and nothing very exotic.

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

  • Winter squash
  • Tofu
  • Hearty greens
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Tortillas
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower or broccoli
  • Summer squash
  • Dessert (not a primary ingredient but who doesn’t like a little dessert?)

 

Here is a sampling of recipes:

  • Steel-cut oats with squash and tahini
  • Peanut butter and greens sandwich
  • Spicy beans and greens over polenta
  • Grilled eggplant, scallion, and white bean dip
  • Black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette, avocado, and spinach
  • White bean, tomato, and dill salad with charred romaine
  • Cold sweet potatoes with spiced seeds and yogurt
  • Sweet potato and tahini soup
  • Broken pasta with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, walnuts, and pesto’d Ricotta
  • Cauliflower and kimchi sandwiches
  • Roasted broccoli sauce
  • Savory zucchini beer bread
  • Polenta and pine nut biscotti

 

For my preliminary recipe, I went with the kale-cabbage slaw with quinoa and brown sugar-dijon vinaigrette.  The recipe is pretty easy (to reiterate, nothing in the books seems to be complicated as the author promised in the introduction).  You make some quinoa. You salt and massage the kale and cabbage. You make a vinaigrette. Finally, you mix it all together.

The vinaigrette was very sweet.  I know… that’s a really obvious thing to say when it’s got “brown sugar” as part of the name.  But I’d say start with half the amount of brown sugar, and then add as needed. The amount you want is going to depend on the punch of your mustard.  I was using a homemade mustard (my first attempt at mustard so it could have been better) that didn’t have much punch, so I only needed 4 teaspoons instead of the full 2 tablespoons.

I enjoyed this.  It preps ahead really well.  Because kale and cabbage are really sturdy greens, this slaw made for great work lunches.  But as much as I liked it, I didn’t love it. Which is totally ok! It doesn’t mean that I won’t make it again.  It just means that I’ll try out some of the other salad/slaw recipes in this book before I go back to this one.

I felt compelled to make another recipe almost as soon as I finished the slaw.  Since I had some cabbage left from the slaw (and I happened to have cheese in the fridge), I made the cheesy cabbage and white bean soup.  I’m glad I did too. It was another easy recipe to put together, and perfect to eat on a February day in Boston. It was really cozy and had a lot of good flavor.  (To be fair, since I’m not vegetarian, I was using a homemade chicken broth for it.) I like it so much that this soup is definitely going into the regular rotation.  

“Start Simple” is available as of this week.  Definitely pick up this book whether or not you’re vegetarian.  (Yes, the book is vegetarian but it doesn’t feel like the intention of the book is to necessarily espouse vegetarianism.)  The collection of recipes here are just great ideas for incorporating more vegetables in your everyday diet without being overwhelming or complicated.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Harper Wave for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lukasvolger.com/

https://www.lukasvolger.com/books

http://www.harperwave.com/

 

Nüssli118° day tote unboxing and review

First of all, what?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re asking yourself right now.

Nüssli118° is a raw foods store in North Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They sell a variety of snacks, smoothies, and juices.  It’s not fancy shmancy (or is the correct description “celebrity hip”?) like Sakara Life.  Their website isn’t filled with slick sounding product descriptions like Splendid Spoon (which I might try some day because they do make their soups sound very tasty!).

Now, I’m not vegan or a raw foodist (I’m not even vegetarian) in any way, but I do get curious about the raw food culture.   I guess it’s because I do like diversity in my meals, and healthy is always appreciated.

I’ve had a some Nüssli118° products in the past.   There was some sort of ginger round, chocolate pecan squares, and their chocolate cashew smoothie.  All of which were delicious.  So, I’ve been really curious about the Nüssli118° day tote for a few months now.

From their website:

The Nüssli118° Kitchen Share Day Tote is a day’s worth of delicious meals, drinks, and snacks delivered to your home or office once a week.  The products are ready-to-eat right out of the mason jar or to be gently warmed, served, and savored.  Either way, they will nourish, satisfy, and energize you throughout your day.  Each Kitchen Share Day Tote includes 2 drinks, 3 meals, 1 savory, and 2 sweets.  We look at what’s in season, combine fresh, great tasting, high quality ingredients, and create delicious nutrient-dense meals.  They are all organic, plant-based, and ready-to-eat, just enjoy!

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Oooooh

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Note, you can save money on the delivery fee by picking up the tote yourself.  The tote I picked up was this:

Week of April 10, 2017  Kitchen Share Day Tote:

Pineapple Turmeric Fresca
Vanilla Chai Smoothie
Chia Pudding Topped with Kiwi, Orange, and Apple
Butternut Squash Soup
Taco Salad
Garlic & Herb Crackers
Super Dark Chocolate Rounds
Lemon Ginger Square
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Unboxing

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If you go through my photos, you’ll notice that I didn’t get the taco salad.  That’s because I’m allergic to raw celery and raw carrots.  So, the store provided their mango kale salad as a substitute.

Overall, I liked this salad.  I just wished that there had been a bit more of it.  Besides kale and mango, there was jicama, lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and red pepper flakes.  And since I was still hungry, I went ahead and had the soup.  (Afterward, I remembered that each jar in my tote was technically a meal. Oh well.)

You can have the soup hot or cold.  It was a really nice warm spring day in Boston, so I went for it cold.  I liked this meal too.  The cranberries and parsley helped to jazz up the otherwise plain tasting squash soup.  I might have forgotten that cashews were in the soup and topped it with a tablespoon of hemp seed from my pantry.

Regarding the snacks, this is where Nüssli118° really shines.

No surprise, the super dark chocolate rounds were my favorite from the tote.  The rosemary crackers were a close second.  The lemon ginger squares were my least favorite only because it’s a little too sweet for my personal preference.  But the texture is great.  It’s got crunch from the nuts but it’s not hard on the teeth.  The brightness of the lemon flavor shines through, but I’m not sure I could taste ginger much.  At the end of the day though, I’m always pro-chocolate.  The rounds are quite dense, but the chocolate flavor satisfies quite nicely.

Finally, I had the chia pudding for breakfast the morning after I picked up the tote.  I was unsure if I was going to like it.  Generally, I stay away from chia seeds because they get stuck in my teeth too easily.  Maybe because I had let the chia pudding sit for so long, I didn’t really have an issue.  It would have been boring if it hadn’t been for the fruit topping – apples, kiwi, and oranges – even though the pudding says it was spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg.  I could tell that the pudding wasn’t just chia, cashews, and water.  However, the spices were really muted.

As for the drinks?  The cashew vanilla smoothie was good.  Not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst.  It’s just a basic cashew smoothie.  The tote list says vanilla chai, but the bottle I had was just vanilla.  The ingredients were water, cashews, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and Himalayan salt.  The pineapple turmeric was probably my least favorite thing in the whole tote, and that’s just personal preference.  I found the turmeric flavor to overpower every other flavor.  The ingredient list is pineapple, water, mango, orange, lemon, maple syrup, turmeric, and cayenne.  I could barely taste the pineapple.  I really couldn’t taste any mango or orange.

So, would I do this again?  Quite possibly.  It’s not cheap.  It’s $65 and then there’s a $10 deposit for the tote and the mason jars.  If you return the tote and mason jars, you can get a $10 credit toward your next purchase.  I like that the packaging is reusable, and am not against the deposit.  Overall, the quality of everything is great.  (And it had better be!  Everything is organic, and some ingredients have been sprouted.)  The experience has definitely given me ideas on things to make at home.  It also makes me want to work on snack recipes.  But chances are pretty high that I’ll probably be lazy and swing by Nüssli118° when I’m hankering for healthy crisps and sweets.  (^_^)

Links:
http://nussli118.com/

Disclaimer – This post was not sponsored in any way.  A family member purchased the tote for me as a gift.  I just wanted to share my excitement.

NYE dinner, the Puritan + Co. edition

(The menu below was altered from the published menu to reflect what was available at the time of dining.  I forgot to take a photo of the actual menu, so I bet this isn’t 100% accurate since I’m doing it from memory.)

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2015

First

Kampachi Crudo
fennel, orange, olive, fried quinoa

Duck Confit and Sausage
sweet potato, lentils, pistachio

Grilled Mushroom Salad
potato, marjoram, egg yolk caramel

Seared Foie Gras Skillet ($12 supplement)
black pepper gougeres, gooseberries, whipped honey

Second

Cauliflower and Black Truffle Soup
thyme oil, parmesan, salsify

Salt-Roasted Beets
aged goat cheese, hazelnut, rye cracker

Baby Greens and Chicories
avocado, pinenut, grapefruit

Lobster Bisque ($10 supplement)
crab cake, coconut, basil

Main

Potato and Herb Gnocchi
brown butter, chestnut, parmesan

Seared Scallops
parsnip, brussels, pomegranate

Roasted Duck Breast
fennel, spiced carrots, dried fruit jus

40-day Dry Aged Bone-in Sirloin Steak ($15 supplement)
potato mille fuielle, black trumpets, bordelaise

Dessert

beeramisu

Indian Pudding
port, cornmeal, fig

Chocolate Mousse Trifle
hazelnut, brown butter cream, praline

hot apple cider
armagnac, fig, warm spices

might i?
tiki-style rum cocktail

czech & balance 
slivovitz, lillet blanc, burnt orange

church
gin, aperol, lemon

paper plane
bourbon, nonino amaro, lemon

pisticci cocktail
lucano amaro, privateer rum, sweet vermouth

thaw in the straw
bourbon, honey, lemon, ginger beer

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The crudo.  The person who ate this liked the fried quinoa best.

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