10. Vegetable Moussaka

So, I really liked this dish. The overall consensus was that it was not balanced enough and “too eggplanty,” but I thought it was full of interesting flavors and pretty hearty and satisfying. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the final product so I’ll describe it: basically a layer of bulgur mixed with a tasty sauce (onion, tomato, potatoes, garlic, oregano, cinnamon and white wine), a layer of roasted cubed eggplant on top, with a layer of bechamel sauce and fresh basil on top.

Cubing 4 pounds of eggplant is kind of a lot of work, but not TERRIBLE. The eggplant bakes while you prepare the sauce (full of really delicious spices and vegetables, and not a lot of prep time involved).

Cinnamony, garlicky onion with white wine – smells divine!

The bechamel sauce is made from butter, milk, flour, Parmesan and nutmeg and only takes about 5 carefully-monitored minutes to prepare.

After the casserole is put together, it just bakes for about a half hour and comes out needing to set for another 10 minutes. A lot of steps went into this preparation, but none of them were very lengthy or involved.

The casserole before the bechamel and baking — sorry I forgot a final pic! Busy night with the kids I guess!

The bottom line:

Not a ton of work, kind of unusual and lots of vegetables and interesting flavors. Since everyone but me seemed to think it was unbalanced and would have tasted better with a layer of ground beef, vegetarian crumbles, or lamb, if you like that kind of thing, I guess I won’t recommend it unless you’re a huge fan of eggplant or moussaka.

Difficulty: a lot of eggplant to cut up, but nothing else took much effort. 2 chef knives out of 5. 🔪🔪

Kid-friendliness: my kids were willing to taste it but were not too impressed. 2 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋

Time: The eggplant cooks for almost an hour while the sauces are prepared. Then the entire thing has to cook for a half hour and sit for 10 more minutes. I think that’s a bit above average, so 3 snails out of 5. 🐌🐌🐌

Mess: A very average amount of mess. 3 dirty dishes out of 5. 🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👎🏽

Kind of meh. Unless you really love eggplant!

I couldn’t find the recipe online, so maybe try this one instead and let me know what you think (swap out the the meat if you’d like):

9. Rustic Polenta Casserole with Mushrooms and Swiss Chard

Oh man, please, please try this recipe. It is FANTASTIC. You just can’t go wrong with cheesy, creamy grits and tasty tomatoes, mushrooms and greens. It’s also super easy and quick to prepare. This yummy dish just put itself on my go-to weeknight dinners list!

These are the grits I used for the base. Make sure you use course-ground.

Step one is to prepare the polenta base (including milk, Parmesan and butter). I would have been happy eating this for dinner all by itself!

I love grits!

Preparing the vegetables is step two. There is a pound and a half of mushrooms to slice, so it helps to have an egg slicer to get the job done quickly. The onions and mushroom cook for about a half hour, and with the addition of the herbs, tomatoes, and greens, it takes about 45 minutes total.

Get yourself one of these for quick slicing.

Then the casserole bakes for about 15 minutes. Easy peasy and SO good.

The bottom line:

We like this even better than the poblano and black bean enchiladas from last time. This recipe has everything going for it! Enjoy!

Difficulty: Preparing this is a snap. For such a good dish, it doesn’t get any easier. 1 chef knife out of 5. 🔪

Kid-friendliness: This is not buttered pasta, cheese pizza or chicken nuggets. 3 out of 4 of my kids were happy to eat it anyway, and I’m giving it 4 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋😋😋

Time: Total time is about an hour, and I think that’s pretty good. 2 out of 5 snails. 🐌🐌

Mess: Less than the usual amount of mess because you don’t have to use that many prep bowls. The usual sauteing pan, 9×12 baking dish, and a pot to cook the polenta. 3 out of 5 dirty dishes. 🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

Another one for the regular rotation!

Linking to the cookbook again (please get a copy if you haven’t already!): https://shop.americastestkitchen.com/the-america-s-test-kitchen-complete-vegetarian-cookbook.html?sourcekey=CAASDZZA0&ref=new_search_experience_1

8. Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Enchiladas

Beautiful? No. Delicious? YES!

These enchiladas were absolutely scrumptious. Definitely give them a try and feed them to your family! The poblano peppers add a bit of zest (but are not overly spicy for the kids), the black bean and Monterey Jack filling made for a satisfying and hearty dish, and the blended tomatillo sauce added a fresh and tangy element.

The hearty bean and vegetable filling.

The preparation of the peppers was probably the most difficult part of the recipe. They are charred under the broiler and then allowed to steam in a covered bowl to make the skins easy to remove. (I had to broil them for at least 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for, and the skins were NOT easy to remove.) I’m sure some pepper skin made it into the final product, but it wasn’t noticeable. I wonder what would happen if you just eliminated the skinning step altogether? Something to try when I do the variation!

Not a lot of chopping involved.

The tomatillo sauce is quite easy to put together, since everything is just blended together in a food processor. The filling is just made with a little chopped onion, garlic and spices and some mashed and whole beans. Overall, pretty simple!

Anything with this much fresh cilantro is going to be yummy.

The bottom line:

Make these enchiladas!!!

Difficulty: Aside from skinning the peppers, this was pretty easy to make. Rolling the tortillas with the filling was not difficult, because the filling is substantial and sticks together nicely. 2 out of 5 chef knives. 🔪🔪

Kid-friendliness: The flavors may be a little intense and complex for some kids’ taste, but the peppers are not overly hot and the sauce gives the dish a mild, fresh flavor. If the kids are able to get past the yucky green factor, they will like it (mine did!). 4 out of 5 yummy faces. 😋😋😋😋

Time: I wouldn’t say this is a quick recipe — pretty standard. It’s well worth the time it takes to make! Maybe give yourself a little extra time to broil the peppers. 3 out of 5 snails. 🐌🐌🐌

Mess: This is a pretty messy recipe. Anytime I have to use the food processor, I consider it an above-average mess. Again, worth it. 4 out of 5 dirty dishes. 🥣🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

I plan to add this to my regular recipe list. Absolutely delicious.

Here’s a link to the recipe: https://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/11389-roasted-poblano-and-black-bean-enchiladas?incode=MASAD00L0&ref=new_search_experience_2

6. and 7. Vegetable Pot Pie (with All-Butter Single-Crust Pie Dough)

This recipe was a lot of fun to make. It was pretty time-consuming , but it made me feel like a hobbit in the Shire or a happy peasant woman out in the French countryside. It provided a choice between using a store-bought pie dough or homemade. I’m all in, so I made the homemade crust and I think it was probably worth it.

The dough was quite easy to prepare, but it has to be done a few hours ahead of time. If you have a food processor, it’s as easy as blending some ingredients and sticking them together into a ball. Then it has to be refrigerated before you roll it out.

My lovely dough after being rolled out.

The vegetables that went into the pie were fairly typical (the long-cooking variety so nothing became mushy or anemic) — mushrooms and onions, sweet potato and turnip, garlic and swiss chard. Lemon, butter, parsley and Parmesan rounded out the flavor of the sauce, which really did taste like a rich gravy without the meat. In fact, the final produce tasted very much like a delicious chicken pot pie without any chicken. I don’t know what could have been added, but it did sort of seem that something was missing. Some potatoes and carrots might have made a nice addition.

I tried my best with the fancy pie crust carving.

Once the vegetables and sauce are prepared and the dough is rolled out, all that’s left is to brush the crust with an egg wash and bake for about a half hour. The pie came out golden brown and even with a flaky crust and rich sauce. Very yummy and worth the time.

The final, golden product.

The bottom line:

Difficulty: I’d say an above-average amount of work for a typical weeknight dinner, especially if you make the crust yourself, which I’d definitely recommend. 4 chef knives out of 5. 🔪🔪🔪🔪

Kid-friendliness: My kids really liked this. Pie crust with a savory sauce and softly-cooked vegetables is a pretty kid-friendly concept. 4 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋😋😋

Time: the crust has to be refrigerated for a a while, though it doesn’t take long to put together. The rolling of the dough, chopping all the vegetables, assembling and baking everything amounts to an above-average amount of prep time. I’d say 4 snails out of 5. 🐌🐌🐌🐌

Mess: an average amount of mess. You can imagine it takes a few bowls, a pie plate, cutting board, pot for cooking the sauce and vegetables, etc. 3 dirty dishes out of 5. 🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

This is a good deal of work, but it’s really delicious. There was the one little issue with it feeling like something was missing, but after all, it is a vegetarian version of a typically meat-centered dish. The kids really liked it and the execution was straightforward. Try it out on a weekend when you feel like spending some time in the kitchen!

Here, again, is a link to the cookbook, because the exact recipes are apparently not online:

5. Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

The final gratin! This recipe had simple ingredients, smelled delicious while it was cooking, and was easy to prepare. Unfortunately, the final product was very one-note and a bit of a disappointment. I would recommend it as a sweet potato side dish, but not as a main course.

The recipe called for 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, and again, it’s important to use a mandoline or another kind of slicer to ensure the slices are even. The only other ingredients were a few shallots and garlic cloves, butter and cream, Parmesan, 2 pounds of swiss chard, and some white wine.

Good and simple ingredients.

First, you cook the swiss chard, and it only takes a few minutes for it to wilt down and reduce significantly. This part is kind of fun.

Beautiful greens and healthy af!

After that, you make a little sauce from the cream, water and wine. I used this white wine, which I happened to have on hand:

The main problem I had with the execution of this recipe is that it doesn’t say to reduce or thicken the sauce at all: just bring it to a simmer and then keep it warm. Later, when you’re baking the dish, you have to wait until almost all the liquid is evaporated, which in retrospect would have been much easier had it been cooked down initially. It more or less hung out on the bottom of the dish and didn’t really absorb or evaporate.

After much baking, the sauce is sinking to the bottom and not going away.

Like the other gratins, this one takes a long time to bake – over an hour and a half, and I had to bake it 20 minutes longer than the recipe required. It smelled DELICIOUS while it was baking!

The final product.

When it was finally ready to eat, the dish turned out to be kind of disappointing. It smelled much better than it tasted, which was more or less just like sweet potatoes.

The bottom line:

Difficulty: a lot of slicing of sweet potatoes, but overall, very easy to prepare. 1 chef knife out of 5. 🔪

Kid-friendliness: this isn’t too bad for kids, as long as they like sweet potatoes. But not a dish they would be likely to ask for over and over. 3 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋😋

Time: not a lot of time to prepare, but a while to bake. A little less than for the other gratins, but again, I had to add 20 minutes to the suggested baking time. 3 out of 5 snails. 🐌🐌🐌

Mess: not a messy recipe. A few prep bowls, a dutch oven, knife and cutting board – pretty much the bare minimum. 1 out of 5 dirty dishes. 🥣

Overall: 👍🏽, but not super-enthusiastic.

I’d recommend this as a healthy side dish, but it’s not interesting enough to be a main course. It was easy to make but I would suggest cooking the sauce for a longer time to reduce and thicken it.

I couldn’t find the recipe online, but here is one that looks similar, if you’d like to try it and don’t have the cookbook yet!:


4. Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas

Absolutely YUM.

We’re going a little out of order here, because I was missing a few ingredients for the last gratin and the recipes after that. But you don’t mind, right? Let’s liven things up with some Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas! Spoiler alert: these were GREAT!

The surprise to me was that there’s absolutely no tomato in this recipe. I love tomatoes but they’re in almost everything I make. Usually red sauces call for tomatoes. This red sauce is made completely from vegetable broth, dried chiles, and spices. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare and so flavorful and delicious.

You need to put together a spice blend (always kind of fun, and it involves a spice grinder for the dried chiles),

Beautiful spice blend.

whisk it together with some flour and vegetable broth, and cook it for 5 minutes or so. You season it, and pretty much, that’s your sauce.

A beautiful, confusingly creamy, tasty and flavorful sauce.

You brush the tortillas with a little bit of oil, heat them in the microwave, roll them with cheese inside, and bake for a mere 15 minutes. The recipe calls for sprinkling a little diced onion on top and serving.

I can’t praise this recipe enough – it was easy, interestingly flavored, and satisfying. My one suggestion is that adding pico de gallo and maybe some chopped cilantro to the top would have made it more colorful and better.

The bottom line:

Difficulty: Easy-peasy. Minimal chopping, some spice blending and rolling tortillas. You do need a spice grinder. 1 chef knife out of 5. 🔪

Kid-friendliness: Pretty damned kid-friendly. We had a few pre-emptive complaints about “spiciness”, but once the kids actually tried the enchiladas, they happily ate them up. 4 out of 5 yummy faces. 😋😋😋😋

Time: Super quick. Prep time was maybe 10 minutes, and the enchiladas baked for 15. Of all the dinners I’ve made, I can’t think of a decent one that took less time to prepare. 1 out of 5 snails. 🐌

Mess: Again, not a big prep involved, so not a big mess. You do have to have a spice grinder (or a mortar and pestle, I guess?) and a pan and baking dish; minimal prep bowls. 1 out of 5 dirty dishes. 🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

Try this dish for your family! Even if it turns out they’re not that into the flavor of ancho chile peppers, it’s easy to prepare, hearty enough for a main dish, and very tasty. Just add some pico de gallo to the dish to make it feel a little more well-rounded. The recipe is linked below (substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth to make sure it’s vegetarian!):

3. Root Vegetable Gratin

Delicious, curiously sweet gratin!

Another day, another gratin… this one was loaded with root vegetables and turned out very tasty, indeed!

This recipe was basically three pounds of sliced root vegetables, tossed in a rich and tasty bechamel sauce, with a layer of melted Gruyere on top. It would be hard to go wrong with that combination! I’m recommending this recipe (although it took about 2 hours to bake) because it was hearty enough to serve as a main dish, relatively easy to prep for, and just really good.

The most difficult part of the prep was probably the slicing of the vegetables. It called for a pound each of potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, and recommended using a mandoline or food processor for even slices (I used the blade side of a box cheese grater). If you have access to any of these implements, you won’t need to spend much time slicing. (It’s important that the slices are even, or you will end up with some pieces that are too hard and some that turn to mush.)

The sauce was also quick to put together, and there was no tiling necessary when assembling the sliced vegetables in the dish. Again, very easy.

Before baking, the casserole looked kind of like melted candy corn.

The one possible issue I had with the dish is that it is almost a little too sweet. I assume this is because of the carrots and parsnips, and maybe the nutmeg too. If I made this recipe again, I would use 2 pounds of potatoes and a half pound each of carrots and parsnips, instead of 1 pound of each, but this is just due to my personal preference of savory over sweet. The Gruyere did a good job of balancing out the sweetness, too.

My cat likes the smell of Gruyere melting in the oven!

The bottom line:

This gratin was loaded with vegetables, hearty, and very tasty. I would make it again. My husband LOVED it.

Difficulty: Easy and simple prep, especially if you have a mandoline or some kind of slicer. 1 chef knife out of 5. 🔪

Kid-friendliness: This might be the biggest weakness of the recipe. One of my kids was willing to eat a few bites, but none of them was super into it. Gruyere is a pretty strongly flavored cheese. My kids might have been more willing to dig in if I hadn’t been offering leftover spaghetti as another option. 2 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋

Time: prep time was very fast (maybe 20 minutes) including making the sauce, but baking time was 2 hours. 4 snails out of 5. 🐌🐌🐌🐌

Mess: not a big mess! A few prep bowls, cheese grater, one small saucepan and a baking dish. 2 dirty dishes out of 5. 🥣🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

I was unable to find the recipe online, so below is a link to buy the cookbook 😉:

2. Potato-Tomato Gratin

Luckily, it tasted better than it looked.

On to the next gratin! I forgot to mention in my first post that the section we’re doing now is Chapter 1, Hearty Vegetable Mains. This gratin was a lot heartier than the Summer Vegetable version, and it was easier to make. There was no lengthy draining of vegetables involved. It did call for three pounds of plum tomatoes to be cored and sliced, but, full disclosure, I didn’t feel like coring that many tomatoes so I just sliced off the tops and tossed them.

Beautiful, un-cored, sliced plum tomatoes.

I had two main problems with this recipe. The first is that it took FOREVER to make. 20 minutes cooking onions, an hour and half baking time, and another half hour of cooling time. Two and a half hours just felt like a little too much time to spend on a weeknight dinner that frankly, tasted a little strange, which brings me to the second problem. The flavors were just an odd combination. Ordinarily, I’d really enjoy a casserole with two cups of melted cheese on top, but the combination of potatoes, tomatoes, olives and thyme just didn’t really gel for me.

The bottom line:

For a reasonably tasty but kind of strange dish, not worth the time involved.

Difficulty: not much chopping involved, some peeling and grating, and pretty easy slicing. 2 chef knives out of 5. 🔪🔪

Kid-friendliness: no consensus between my kids. One of them loved it, one hated it, and two wouldn’t try it. 2 yummy faces out of 5? 😋😋

Time: this just took way too long to bake and cool. 6 snails out of 5, because I can. 🐌🐌🐌🐌🐌🐌

Mess: an average amount of mess. prep bowls, baking dish, frying pan, cheese grater. 3 dirty dishes out of 5. 🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👎🏽

Here’s a link to the recipe if you still want to try it!:

1. Summer Vegetable Gratin

The final product.

Hello, readers! Welcome to my cooking blog. I’m so pleased that you’ll be joining me on my journey through America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Vegetarian Cookbook! It’s a big undertaking, but I plan to go through the cookbook cover to cover and share my experiences with each recipe.

Dinnertime at my house is a big challenge. I’m feeding a family of six, and my oldest child is an EXTREMELY picky eater. It’s important to me to serve nutritious meals, but I also like to try to keep things quick and easy without a lot of mess to clean up afterwards. My skills in the kitchen are okay, but I’m no master chef. I’ve always had good experiences with America’s Test Kitchen recipes, and our family likes to eat vegetarian a lot of the time, so I thought this cookbook would be a good one to use for this project. I’ll be rating each recipe based on its difficulty, kid-friendliness, and amount of time and mess involved, and then give an overall thumbs up or thumbs down.

The very first recipe, which I tried out last Wednesday, was the colorful and tasty Summer Vegetable Gratin. My project was not off to a great start when, right away, I was slicing my lovely organic zucchini from Whole Foods and out popped a little worm. Luckily, I had an extra zucchini and that was the one and only mishap that took place.

Not what you want to see when slicing up a vegetable…

This recipe turned out to be relatively easy and quite tasty. The squash and zucchini made a nice mild base, and the fresh tomatoes and Parmesan added a little savory zing. It wasn’t quite substantial enough to be a dinner by itself, so I served it with garlic bread (seasoned with a little Parmesan as well). 

The time factor for this recipe wasn’t great, though. You have to let the sliced vegetables sit and drain for a while so they aren’t too wet, and cooking the onions takes 20-25 minutes (and several tablespoons of water to keep them from burning and sticking). 

Look at those gorgeous tomatoes!

The bottom line:

This would be a good recipe for a laid-back summer day, when you have a lot of time and access to really good vegetables. It was definitely delicious.

Difficulty: Not a whole lot of chopping involved, simple ingredients and process. I give it 2 chef knives out of 5. 🔪🔪

Kid-friendliness: My kids have three basic modes: love it, hate it, and willing to eat a reasonable number of bites of it. This one fell in the third category. 3 yummy faces out of 5. 😋😋😋

Time: This took a pretty long time for a relatively simple recipe, what with the draining, slow cooking of the onions, and baking time of 45 minutes or so. 5 snails out of 5. 🐌🐌🐌🐌🐌

Mess: A little on the messy side (prep bowls, lots of paper towels, colander, baking sheets, frying pan, baking dish — the works). 4 dirty dishes out of 5. 🥣🥣🥣🥣

Overall: 👍🏽

Here’s a link to the recipe if you don’t have the cookbook: (sign up for a subscription– it’s well worth it!): https://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/4313-summer-vegetable-gratin?incode=MASAD00L0&ref=new_search_experience_2