Homemade ginger tea and solace tea

Sometimes a person just needs the simple comfort of a warm mug of tea. And so I'll keep it simple: Here are two of my favorite herbal teas (tisanes, really) that are easy to make and lovely to drink. I hope you'll try them for yourself!

Homemade ginger tea (4 servings): This one is perfect for chilly, gray days since the ginger is so warming and invigorating. It's also a helpful remedy for belly troubles, which is the main reason I started making it. Two to three cups a day really makes a difference! To brew it, I use a one-quart mason jar and this mesh infuser, although you can always just strain out the ginger bits after you've steeped them for the required time if you don't have an infuser. The nice thing about the mesh strainer is that it keeps any bits of peel I missed out of the tea. Feel free to adjust the lime and sweetener to your taste. This will keep in the fridge for several days and can be consumed hot or cold, although I prefer it hot (at least during this time of year).

You will need:

  • A three- to four-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced into tiny pieces (Use a teaspoon to peel it!)
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or your favorite sweetener
  • Juice of half a lime

Steps

  1. Place the ginger pieces in a mason jar, teapot, or whatever vessel you want to use for brewing. Pour the boiling water over the ginger and allow it to steep for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Remove the strainer or pour the tea through a sieve to remove the ginger pieces. Add sweetener of your choice and lime juice; stir gently.

 

Solace tea (Several dozen servings): This blend is based on the Comforting Tea that's sometimes served at Aveda salons, although it's WAY less expensive per cup. I like to give credit where credit is due, but I've been making this tea so long that I can't even remember where I found the original recipe. Some of the ingredients can be tough to find, admittedly, but your best bet is either an online retailer or the bulk spices section of a grocery store like Whole Foods. The herbs are expensive by the pound, but you won't be buying close to a pound of any one item. This tea is probably my all-time favorite herbal tisane; the licorice root is deliciously smooth, and the fennel, mint, and basil smell so gorgeous and fresh. By the way, if you're not a licorice candy fan, don't worry! This doesn't taste like black licorice at all. It's herbal and naturally sweet and unbelievably silky. It's great for irritated throats and those "blah" days that make you want to stay in bed. It's one of my favorite things ever, and I keep a jar of it in the cabinet year-round.

You will need:  (Please note that all the ingredients are in dried form)

  • 1  1/4 cups licorice root
  • 1 cup peppermint leaves
  • 1/8  cup fennel seeds
  • 1/8 cup basil leaves

Steps:

  1. Mix all ingredients in an airtight storage container.
  2. To make the tea, heat water to about 180°, or close to boiling but not quite there. (It's a forgiving method, so don't feel like you have to be super exact.) Measure out 1/2 Tbsp of the tea mixture and place it in a strainer or paper filter bag.
  3. When the water is hot, pour it over the tea mixture; steep for 5-7 minutes. Sweeten if desired, although it's pretty sweet on its own!

Pizza quinoa bowls (5-6 servings)

Every home cook should have a handful of go-to recipes that are quick and easy to put together on a busy night. Some of my reliable favorites include rice and beans, crispy tofu wraps, black bean and toasted corn tacos, mini pizzas, and, more recently, pizza quinoa from GirlMakesFood. Cheesy, tangy, and hearty, it's comforting in its simplicity and powerful in its nutritional content. Plus, it all comes together in about 30 minutes! I first started making this recipe about three years ago, but I've recently tweaked it to fit the bowl format that's oh so trendy right now. You can easily customize it to include your favorite pizza toppings. I want to try it with vegetarian sausage and roasted garlic next time! And if I can fix this the night before school starts when my teacher brain is in a million places simultaneously, you can have it on your table this week for sure!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • 2 cups spaghetti, marinara, or pizza sauce 
  • 1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese cheese (I used crumbled goat cheese)
  • your favorite pizza toppings (We used chopped cherry tomatoes and bell pepper, sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, and jarred grilled artichokes)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • Italian herb blend 

Steps:

  1. Once the quinoa has been rinsed and rubbed to remove its bitter coating, add it to a medium stockpot, along with the water or broth. Bring the quinoa to a boil, reduce to low, and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed.
  2. Fold in the sauce and cheese. If you used water to cook the quinoa, you might need to add a little salt to give it some flavor, but keep in mind that your toppings might be salty, so don't overload it. Spoon the quinoa into bowls.
  3. Load up each bowl with your toppings of choice. Sprinkle with parmesan and Italian herbs and serve.

I'd love to try this with leftover roasted vegetables folded in with the quinoa. This recipe is a great excuse to use up ingredients from your fridge or garden!

Salted peanut butter cookies

If you test out enough recipes from the same blog, cookbook, or chef, you'll start to pick up on patterns from that particular source. For example -- according to my taste anyway -- Rachael Ray's pasta-to-sauce-and-veggies ratio is way off. Jack Bishop's salads always call for the ideal amount of dressing. And Deb Perelman's recipes are guaranteed to be delicious with precisely-measured ingredients and perfect seasoning. I'm not sure there's another food blogger whose recipes I trust so automatically.

So when I saw these caramel-hued, salt-flecked beauties reposted on Smitten Kitchen's Facebook page a few days ago, I knew I had to have them. I made no changes to the original recipe, and, as always, they turned out better than I could have imagined. I don't think I'll ever need another peanut butter cookie recipe after trying out this one.

You will need:

  • 1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups smooth peanut butter (A standard 16-ish ounce jar contains almost exactly 1 3/4 cups, so just use the whole jar)
  • coarse sea salt

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350• F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until the batter is smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and the peanut butter and whisk until the batter is smooth and consistently-colored. (I eventually had to switch to a wooden spoon because the whisk was getting overloaded with peanut butter.)
  3. Use a cookie scoop to measure out the batter into even domes, placing them on the cookie sheet about two inches apart. Sprinkle each ball lightly with coarse sea salt.
  4. Bake cookies 14-15 minutes for smaller cookies and 18-20 for larger ones. (My cookie scoop holds about a tablespoon and a half, and my cookies needed 18 minutes in the oven.) They're done when your kitchen is redolent with the heavenly smell of peanut butter and the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.
  5. Remove the sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Try to convince your husband to wait until they're cool enough to eat safely.

I loved how these held their shape in the oven. Deb says you can briefly chill the dough to produce a more visually-appealing texture, but I was too impatient to wait, and I was thrilled with how they turned out anyway. The outside of the cookie is crisp, but then inside is soft without being gooey or crumbly. This recipe is plenty sweet but not at all cloying. They're perfect!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes roundup

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and if you're still looking for some tasty, meat-free side dishes, I've got you covered, friends. Below is a collection of some of my favorite side dishes, just in time for the holidays. It just so happens that all are gluten-free, unless otherwise noted!

Vegan

Vegetarian

Won't you give thanks by liking the MainlyVeggie Facebook page?

Quinoa, kale, and parsley salad with lentils, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts (4 servings)

Wait. Wait a second. Was the Vegan Month of Food (affectionately known as Vegan MoFo) always in September? I thought it was October! I swear it was always October. It doesn't matter much either way, seeing as I totally forgot about it until a couple days ago. Two out-of-state weddings plus a new job have made the last six weeks very, very busy for this humble food blogger. But it's great to be back, whether this is the vegans' month for celebrating or not!

I'm not vegan myself, but I do cook vegan meals anywhere from two to five times a week and I'm always searching for new recipes to test out. When I saw this audaciously-hued salad on Kale Me Maybe last week, I knew I had to have it. The ruby red and emerald green colors sold me first, but then I read the list of show-stopping superfoods and was absolutely convinced I had to prioritize this one. What's not to like?

I kept all of Carina's original ingredients but doubled the recipe, although I changed up some of the ingredients' proportions. I tend to like my salads dressed lightly, so I used a lot less dressing than the original recipe suggested. Of course, it's all up to personal preference! If you're a fan of tangy-sweet flavor combinations and chewy-crunchy texture pairings, you will not be disappointed by this one -- I promise!

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry brown lentils
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon

Steps:

  1. In separate saucepans, cook the quinoa and lentils in broth or water, according to package directions. Be sure to not overcook either. Once they're each just tender (my quinoa took about 20 minutes and the lentils took 40), set them aside to cool.
  2. In the meantime, rinse, de-stem, and dry the kale and parsley. Measure out 2 cups of kale and 1 cup of parsley leaves and place them in a large serving bowl. Use a pair of kitchen shears to finely mince both the kale and parsley. 
  3. Once the quinoa has cooled, toss it with the kale and parsley. Then, add in the lentils, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, oil, and lemon juice, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or side.