If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the look-out for healthy, delicious, vegetable-based side dishes that come together quickly and can be on hand for almost any meal. Ta da! Here’s a recipe that doesn’t even involve any cooking, just some pantry ingredients (well, they’re in my pantry — you might need to buy them, but then you’ll have them) mixed up in the Magic Bullet for a delicious, and indeed authentically Chinese, side dish. The use of Chinese black (Chinkiang) vinegar here gives a distinctive, vaguely smoky tang, and you can mix up as many or as few other Chinese ingredients to provide as simple or more complex a dish as you like. My version is spicy with sweetness from sugar, depth of flavor from sesame oil and soy, and a good bit of bite from fresh garlic.
Plus, if you have a flair for the dramatic, you can smash these cucumbers with a side of a cleaver (the smashing apparently helps them soak up the dressing) to really impress your friends. Or you can just smoosh them down on the cutting board, like I did. Up to you, really.
Smashed Cucumbers with Chinese Black Vinegar Recipe
- 1 cucumber, peeled if you like, smashed on the counter then cut roughly into 1 inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tbl Chinese black (Chinkiang) vinegar
- 1 tbl roasted peanuts
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp hot chili oil (optional)
- Blend peanuts in the Magic Bullet until roughly chopped. Remove to bowl.
- Blend garlic in the Magic Bullet. Add vinegar, oils, sugar, and soy sauce and blend just slightly.
- Toss cucumbers with vinegar blend in a big bowl. Serve, garnishing with peanuts.
Years ago, before I had children, I went through a vegan phase. Still to this day, I love my vegan and vegetarian dishes even though I don’t fully eat that way any more. I remember often craving creamy pasta dishes made with heavy cream and loads of parmesan cheese! This was a dish I’ve made for years to satisfy that craving. I’ve made it for many non-vegans as well, and they have all loved it! You won’t even notice there isn’t a drop of heavy cream! You can add parmesan cheese if you would like and even switch up the vegetable from sweet potato to butternut squash. Whichever way you make this, I guarantee you will love it!
Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce Recipe
- 3 cup penne pasta
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and steamed
- 2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tb. butter, or olive oil
- ½ onion diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 tb. fresh sage, plus more for topping
- Lots of pepper, to taste
- Salt to taste
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- Optional, ½ c. fresh parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. In the larger Magic Bullet Blender, add the sweet potato and vegetable broth. Puree until creamy and fully blended. Set aside.
- In a pan on low/medium heat add the butter and melt. Next add in the onions and garlic. Stir and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Next add in the sage and toss for 1 minutes.
- Pour in the blended sweet potato. Stir and then sprinkle in the spices. Adjust until desired taste has been reached. Top with extra chopped fresh sage and fresh parmesan.
Chickpeas are often overlooked as a salad topping or smaller component of a larger dish… but they’re so much more versatile than that! This recipe combines a can of chickpeas with household spices to blend up a hearty vegetarian-friendly burrito that you’ll find yourself making over and over again.
Chickpea Burrito Recipe
- 1 can of chickpeas, not drained
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- Small amount of salt & pepper
- Soft tortillas
- Combine all ingredients in Magic Bullet and blend.
- Add to heated skillet, stirring occasionally. The mixture will begin to thicken as the liquid burns off. Cook and stir it as you would scrambled eggs, until the mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes.
Top it with some avocado slices and dried cilantro, and you’ve got yourself a happy little burrito!
Do you know mapo tofu? This classic Chinese meal uses an unusual (to the American palette) combo of ground beef and tofu for an incredibly interesting effect. The combination of the meaty beef and the silken tofu creates a fascinating textural contrast, and the beef combined with fermented ingredients creates an incredibly savory mouthfeel. Plus, the famous Sichuan peppercorns are used to generate a distinctive, spicy-but-vaguely-numbing effect.
This recipe requires a few unusual ingredients that you may need to go online to purchase, but once you do it’s totally worth it: my version comes together in a matter of minutes for an incredibly flavorful, unusual weeknight dinner. You can even add some hearty greens for what is truly a one-pot meal.
Mapo Tofu Recipe
- 1 lb silken tofu
- ¼ lb ground pork or beef
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 2 tbl preserved Chinese vegetable or fermented black beans
- 1 bunch hearty greens, sliced (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 2 tbl Sichuan peppercorns (half ground, half not)
- 2 dried red chilis
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp water
- 4 tsp fermented Chinese bean paste
- 4 tsp Chinese rice wine
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 4 tsp chili oil
- 1 tbl brown sugar
- Blend the garlic, ginger and preserved vegetable (or black beans) in the Magic Bullet.
- Add vegetable oil, chilis and whole Sichuan peppercorns to pan over medium-high heat. Cook two minutes until sizzling, maybe beginning to brown. Drain peppercorns and discard.
- Raise heat to high until oil lightly smokes. Add ground meat and cook, stirring, for one minute.
- Add garlic, ginger, scallion whites, and yucai and cook until fragrant.
- Add chili-bean paste, wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium. If using the hearty greens, add them and cook until wilted, about four minutes.
- Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogenous. Pour in cornstarch mixture and cook for 30 seconds until thickened.
- Lower heat to medium, add tofu and carefully fold in, being careful not to break it up too much. Let tofu get hot for a few minutes.
- Stir in chili oil, scallion greens, and ground peppercorns and serve.
Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables to cook with, because it is incredibly flavorful. It also adds wonderful flavor to soups. In this soup recipe, I combine chopped fennel with onion, tomatoes, broccoli, kale and white beans. By blending half of the soup and adding it back in, you create a nice, creamy texture. Chop off the fronds and add on top of the soup for an elegant presentation!
Fennel Bean Soup Recipe
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can white beans, drained
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Add the oil to a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and fennel.
- Cook for 10 minutes, then add the broth, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, thyme and pepper.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 25 minutes.
- Cool to room temperature and transfer half of the soup to a Magic Bullet pitcher and blend.
- Add back into the soup, stir and reheat before serving.
Makes 4 servings
Okay, my love for Sichuan Chinese food may be getting a little out of control, but here’s a recipe for a healthy, delicious side dish that packs a TON of flavor and is extremely easy to make. You will need Chinese preserved vegetables, which can be bought online very easily or from any decent Asian grocery store. (Once you pop open the can, the vegetable will keep for months in the fridge.) For deep fermented flavor with truly minimal effort, it’s worth a little shopping. A touch of sugar and the classics of ginger and garlic add layers of flavor and sweetness, and a handful of dried red peppers (available in the “Latino” section of most supermarkets) add heat and a hint of smoke.
With the Magic Bullet this dish all comes together in no time at all. Sichuan peppercorns get blended up into that distinctive, vaguely anise-like, mouth-tingling powder. The fermented vegetable goes in as big pieces and comes out perfectly sized for cooking. Finally, I use my “best green beans ever” technique for perfectly al dente green beans in no time flat.
Sichuan Green Bean Recipe
- 1 lb green beans, ends trimmed, cut into three inch pieces if necessary
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 piece of preserved Sichuan vegetable (about two tablespoons when diced)
- Handful of dried red peppers, or to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled.
- 1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 scallions, sliced
- Vegetable oil
- Add peppercorns to Magic Bullet and blend. Remove to small bowl. Add vegetable to Magic Bullet and blend. Remove to bowl. Add the garlic to the Magic Bullet, blend, and move to bowl. Add the ginger to the Magic Bullet, blend, and move to bowl.
- Add green beans to skillet on high heat with dash of vegetable oil. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until green beans are thoroughly browned.
- Add ¼ cup water. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow green beans to steam for 2 minutes, until cooked through but still a touch al dente.
- Raise heat to high. Add blended mixture, the scallions, and the red peppers to the pan. Cook until garlic is mellowed and flavors meld, another two to three minutes. Add the sugar, stir everything up, and serve.
There is something about sparkling drinks that make them more sophisticated than other drinks. If you add sparkling water to any plain juice, it magically transforms into a fancy drink. In this non-alcoholic spritzer, sparkling water is mixed with pomegranate juice and lime juice in the Magic Bullet blender, and infused with mint, lime wedges and fresh pomegranate seeds. These flavors combined with carbonation create a refreshing drink suitable for any special occasion.
Pomegranate Mint Spritzer Recipe
- 2 cups sparkling water
- 4 cups pomegranate juice
- 3 limes, quartered
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
- Add the sparkling water, pomegranate juice, and juice from 2 limes to a Magic Bullet cup and blend.
- Divide into 6 glasses and drop 1/4 lime, a few mint leaves and 1-2 tbsp pomegranate seeds.
Makes 6 drinks
Most store-bought carrot juices are full of sugar and flavors that compete with the carrot’s natural health benefits and taste – the flavor of which is strong and delicious enough to stand alone in a simple juice.
With help from the Magic Bullet, this recipe blends a handful of chopped or baby carrots with water to make a light and extraordinarily healthy drink that’ll pack your body with vitamins and energy. I’ve used a nut milk bag to filter the shredded pulp out of the juice, but feel free to add some of that in if you like the texture!
Simple Carrot Juice Recipe
- 2 Cups Chopped or Baby Carrots
- 1 Cup Water
- Blend carrots and water together.
- Pour mash into bowl through nut milk bag or cheese cloth. Squeeze all liquid out and into bowl.
No added sugars to negate the natural health benefits of the carrots: just simple delight!
Is there anything more delicious than pesto? Or anything better suited to the Magic Bullet? If there is, I don’t know it.
I like to change up the pesto sauces I make and this time I swapped the traditional basil pesto with fresh arugula pesto. Subtle, yet delicious: the arugula is peppery and vaguely woody, giving it a nice but none-too-bold flavor. I picked up some fresh pasta at the farmer’s market here in DC, as well as some delicious in-season tomatoes.
Arugula Pesto Pasta Sauce Recipe
- 1 pound pasta
- 8 oz. arugula
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tbl. walnuts, toasted in the microwave in a bit of oil
- Parmesan cheese
- Bring a pot of water to boil with some salt and add the arugula for fifteen seconds, then remove and run under cold water. Squeeze dry in a strainer.
- Add the pasta to the water and cook according to the package instructions.
- Blend the parmesan in the Magic Bullet until all the big pieces are gone. Add the arugula, garlic, olive oil, salt, and walnuts, then blend until you have a paste.
- Mix pesto with pasta and serve, passing additional parmesan, with a runny egg if you like.
I have been making this butternut squash quesadilla almost daily for the past few weeks because it is just that good. Just like I do with my kiddos, I try my best to incorporate a vegetable at least 2 out of the 3 meals that we eat each day. Sometimes I don’t have the time to sit and cook a full lunch for myself, which is why I love this recipe. To make it simpler, I make a huge batch of butternut squash at the beginning of the week and prepare it so it’s ready to add to my lunch quesadilla. Saves me time and sanity.
Butternut Squash Quesadilla Recipe
- 1 c. cooked butternut squash
- ¼ tsp. each of cumin, paprika, chili powder, and pepper
- ¼-½ tsp. salt
- Tortillas and cheese for quesadilla
- Add squash and spices to the Magic Bullet blender. Blend until completely creamy. Add a few tsp. of water if needed to blend.
- To assemble your quesadilla, spread a nice layer of butternut squash on one side of the tortilla. Top with cheese and another tortilla. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until tortillas are golden brown.
- Serve with your favorite toppings. I love cilantro, salsa, and taco sauce.