19 December 2011

A lunch to get you through another busy week

Often come Sunday (or Monday on those especially tedious Sundays), I go ahead and make my fixings for lunch for the rest of the week. I try and choose something that gets in more than one of my basic food groups and most importantly, something that I won't get sick of throughout the week. This can mean making something with a flavor or flavor profile that I'm really hankering for at the time or making something with just the basics so that I can season the dish as the week progresses (and my appetite develops).

With a rather unexpectedly busy start to the work week, tonight I decided to make such a lunch base for my mom, since I'm at home and enjoying a break from graduate school. She always hears about how I make these lunch bases and says she's coming over, but jokingly, since we live 8 hours apart, so this seemed like a perfect time to reward her for all of her work and effort and teach her an easy way to get ready for the work week!

I normally wouldn't even write this up as a recipe, since it's very spur of the moment, but so that my mom can recreate a dish like this, here goes nothing!

Week Day Lunch

Yields: 4-5 lunch-sized portions

  • 1 package of Near East Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Quinoa Blend
  • 1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 c carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c mild feta, crumbled
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1/2 c reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder (optional)
  • dried oregano (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Prepare grain of your choice according to the box.
  2. In a side pan, heat up oil on medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the onions are starting to caramelize, crank the heat to medium-high to high and add in a half cup or so of broth. Cover the carrots and onion and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed (or evaporated).
  4. In a storage container that you can refrigerate the entire dish in for the remainder of the week, add your chopped, raw veggies (in this case, pepper) and cheese. To make this dish a little more "Greek" flavored, I added some additional garlic powder and oregano at this point.
  5. Once the carrots have softened, remove carrots and onion from the heat and let them cool a bit before moving them into the storage container.
  6. Remove grain from the heat once cooked and allow it to cool, before transferring to the storage container.
  7. Serve whenever, and however! I don't always reheat this, sometimes I go for eating it like a salad over a bed of arugula or spinach.
This recipe is extremely versatile and meant to be used solely as a base, so feel free to add in whatever flavors and ingredients suit you (or whatever you can find in the fridge). In fact, I've used whole wheat rice, quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, and wheat berry as the grain in the past, so really it's up to you! I could see tortellini or farfalle (bowtie pasta) being delicious options, as well. As for the cheese selection, I tend to stick to strong cheeses (e.g., feta cheese, goat cheese, and grated parm), so that I only need a little, but can still enjoy all of the flavor.

11 December 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011: Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Well folks, this here is not your mother's oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, or at the very least it is certainly not my mom's recipe. Try as I may, I am extremely UNsuccessful at reproducing her recipe. So, I figured this cookie swap was the perfect time to scout out a new oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. Then, I kicked it up a notch, because if you're anything like me, once it's cold out, not only do you want a midday pick me up in the form of a muffin or a cookie (or three, or five) but you want a beverage to warm you up! This cookie embodies this mindset of mine by combining what I consider to be some of the best of what the cookie and warm beverage world have to offer. It's a chewy cookie with an almost sugar cookie-like base, sprinkled with oatmeal, and it has the spices of a traditional black chai tea.

Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(Based on Joanne Chang's Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe found in Flour)

Yields 60 cookies

  • 2 c or 4 sticks unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 c boiling water
  • 1 1/2 - 2 c raisins
  • 1 tea bag chai tea (e.g. Tazo tea)
  • 3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/16 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 c old fashioned rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl off to the side, rehydrate the raisins with the boiling water with the tea bag in it. After fifteen minutes, this will yield nice, large raisins with a hint of chai flavor.
  3. Cream together both sugars with the room temperature butter. (This will require approximately 5-7 minutes of beating on medium speed with a hand or stand mixer with intermittent scraping down the sides of the bowl.)
  4. Add eggs to the creamed butter and sugar one at a time and mix well.
  5. Gently fold flour, baking soda, and spices into the wet ingredients by hand. Do not over mix these ingredients or your cookies will be tough. Only fold until the spices and flour are just incorporated throughout the dough.
  6. Strain raisins from chai tea. Fold the raisins and oatmeal into the dough.
  7. Place flattened dollops of dough that are slightly larger than a tablespoon onto your greased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned and have just begun to set. Remove and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.
In the past week I have had more than my fair share of cookies, as I also received two delicious packages of cookies from my matches in the cookie swap. I enjoyed Butterbeer Cookies from Peace, Love, and Bagels and Peppermint Mocha Cookies from Delectable Baked Goods, and I look forward to recreating these special cookies and all the other cookies that were exchanged for friends and family once the organizers of this event have compiled together the recipes and posted them on one site. (Check back later for that link!)

Wishing you a cookie-filled, spirited holiday!

18 November 2011

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Okay, this post is even more unexpected than the last. While I was a die hard omnivore as a child and known for my penchant for ham and chicken nuggets, those tendencies have since subsided and I have not consumed meat in years. I will, however, admit that meat can be mighty tasty, so occasionally I will make meat-based dishes for my lovely friends.

This here recipe is a classic. There is nothing special to it and it is extremely easy. I originally received the recipe from my cousin, but it appears as if this recipe is floating all over the internet. If you haven't stumbled upon it yet, (my omnivorous friends say) you're missing out! I particularly appreciate this recipe, because while it calls for grilled chicken breast, you can just as easily buy Purdue's Grilled Chicken Strips and use that, which cuts down on cooking and preparation time, as well as time that I have to spend handling the poultry, which currently gives me the heebie jeebies.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • 2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese (Reduced fat cream cheese is a nice option, because it's softer and easy to mix!)
  • 1 c ranch dressing
  • 1/2 c Frank's Red Hot
  • 2 c cooked (roasted or grilled) chicken breast, chopped into small bite sized pieces
  • 8 or 12 oz shredded cheese (I usually use either Colby Jack or sharp cheddar. I also go for 12 oz, because I'm a big fan of serving excessively cheesy dishes.)
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cream cheese, ranch dressing, and hot sauce until well incorporated.
  3. Add the chopped chicken. Fold the chicken in so that it's coated evenly with sauce.
  4. Transfer mixture into a 9 x 13" pan. Smooth it out so that it forms an even layer.
  5. Once even, coat the top with garlic powder. (How much garlic powder depends on your preference, but I typically use a heavy hand, because I love garlic.) After adding the garlic powder, give a light dusting of paprika to the top of it. If your crowd likes things spicy, at this point add a dusting of cayenne pepper. This works much better than trying to up the amount of Frank's Red Hot, which can make the dip overly saucy, in both flavor and consistency, and not actually spicy enough.
  6. Top with cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is to your liking. Serve with your favorite dippers (celery sticks and blue corn chips are recommended).

17 November 2011

Green Bean Casserole

Whoa, wait. Caitlin.. eating green beans?

If you know me, you probably know that despite being a longtime vegetarian there are still some vegetables that I won't touch. For a very long time, up until this summer, actually, green beans have been my number one arch nemesis (with olives and gill-y mushrooms following a close second and third, respectively). Since joining a CSA, I have been working diligently on my relationship with green beans and have come to appreciate their flavor. So, when hosting a Thanksgiving party for my fellow first year graduate students, I figured I might as well continue making peace with green beans and tackle the green bean casserole. I had never had it before, so I went with the classic recipe off the back of the French's French Fried Onions container, but of course, edits had to be made.

What can I say? It turned out to be a hit!

Green Bean Casserole
Yields: 9 x 13" casserole

  • 12 oz Pacific's Organic Cream of Mushroom, condensed
  • 1/2 c milk (I used reduced fat milk)
  • 1 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 lb green beans, fresh
  • 6 oz French's French Fried Onion Strings
  • 1/4 c Bel Gioioso's four cheese blend
  • 1/4 c sliced almonds
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/16 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. On the stove top, bring a large pot of water to boil. While water is coming to a boil, snap any woody ends off of the green beans. Afterward, chop green beans into 3" pieces. Once water is boiling, put the green beans in for a quick 2 minute cook. Immediately after two minutes, take the green beans out, strain them, and run cold water over them to stop them from cooking. Then, let them sit in cold water or an ice bath for at least 5 minutes.
  3. In your 9 x 13" pan, combine cream of mushroom, milk, and soy sauce. Add spices to this liquid mixture.
  4. Once the green beans have cooled, toss them and half of the onion strings with the mixture in the pan. Top with cheese and the sliced almonds.
  5. Bake casserole for half an hour. If the cheese topping is becoming crusty, remove the casserole and cover the pan with tin foil and resume cooking until the 30 minutes is up.
  6. After 30 minutes, take the casserole out from the oven. Immediately top with the remaining onion strings and serve!
Expect to see this recipe redone in the future with homemade cream of mushroom soup and onion strings. Last night did not permit trying out these endeavors, but hopefully there will be time in the future for these adventures. Also expect a post on sweet potato blondies coming up shortly!

31 October 2011

A preview of what's to come

Sorry for letting blogging fall by the wayside so quickly and not posting last week, but that's what Snowtober will do to a New England transplant living in Pennsylvania!

As hibernation season sets in, though, I tend to spend more time in the kitchen, so you can expect another post this week (or maybe even a third) to make up for my absence last week. Already on the menu for this week are renditions of the following, so get ready!
Getting into the holiday spirit, I'm also looking forward to recreating some of my favorite comfort foods. So far I know I want to tackle a hearty vegetarian chili and a healthful version of loaded baked potato soup, as well as (vegetarian) pot pie, but surely I'm missing some cold weather classics. Any suggestions?

Also coming up on the calendar is my participation in the first annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! That's right! Come this December, I will be exchanging three dozen cookies with three other food bloggers! Exciting, right? Sign-ups are still open if you are interested. If not, at least stay tuned to see what cookie recipes I test out before finding the perfect one to send out to other food bloggers. You don't want to miss this!

18 October 2011

Secret Ingredient Lasagna

This is a recipe for those days where you want to snuggle up with a big bowl of something warm and hearty, but realize that you don't necessarily want the full-blown food coma that comes after, because maybe you should be productive at some point during the day. Or maybe, it's that you don't want to feel guilty that you didn't go for a jog to balance off all of the scrumptious calories you just consumed, but instead would prefer to remain cocooned under a layer of blankets and your comfiest pajamas. Either way, this is for you.

Secret Ingredient Lasagna
(Based on TheKitchn)

Serves 12-15

  • 1 box (or 1 lb.) of no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 and 1/2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 15-oz package of extra firm tofu
  • 1 c part skim ricotta
  • 2 c 2% shredded mozzarella
  • 3/4 c shredded parmesan
  • 1 15 oz jar of roasted pepper (I used in peppers that were stored in water and they still provided a ton of flavor!)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooking spray
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Ladle
  • 9 x 13" baking dish or 7 x 11" AND 8 x 8" baking dishes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In large mixing bowl, prepare to get messy! Using your hands, combine tofu, ricotta, and mozzarella with the paprika and nutmeg until all are well incorporated.
  3. Spray all sides of baking dish(es) with cooking spray. Line bottom of dish(es) with thin layer of pasta sauce.
  4. Place first layer of lasagna noodle directly on top of pasta sauce.
  5. On top of noodles, assemble thin layer of roasted red peppers.
  6. Create 1/4-1/3" layer of tofu and cheese mixture on top of the red peppers.
  7. Spread layer of pasta sauce over tofu and cheese mixture.
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 until pan is filled high and you have ended with a layer of noodles on top. Now spread final layer of pasta sauce and cover generously with parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake lasagna until cheese is at your desired consistency. It will take roughly 25-30 minutes to get the cheese bubbly and an additional ten minutes or so for the cheese to brown and begin to form a crust. If cheese begins to brown earlier and you are concerned, cover the pan loosely with foil and resume baking!
(Note: Picture of lasagna is to come! Also, please see the side toolbars to the left of this recipe for fun following and sharing options!)

12 October 2011

Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with 'C'!

As promised, here I am posting a week later, my invisible internet friends! This week has certainly had its ups and downs, but so long as at the end of a long day I can find time to spend in the kitchen I can collect my cool and brace myself for the next day just fine.

Today's post has been inspired by finally getting my hands on pumpkin! Alright, yes, it is from a can this time, but my CSA did just provide me with a rather adorable little pumpkin of my own, so I just might try my hand at making that into soup later this week! If not, I have another can of organic pumpkin puree in my cabinet.

Now while I wanted to make some pumpkin-infused molasses cookies, molasses was not something in my cupboard nor was it something I thought to purchase earlier this week. Instead, I bring to you what I can only think to call Autumn's Cookies. I realize now that they have a very similar flavor profile to the muffins I posted about last time, but I hope you can appreciate them nonetheless!

Autumn's Cookies

Yields: 35-40 cookies

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats (I used quick cooking oats)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 - 2 cups finely chopped apple
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare cookie sheet by coating with favorite cooking spray or lining with a silicone mat.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together fluffy.
  3. Add flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt to butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  5. Fold in dried fruits, nuts, and chopped apple.
  6. Drop tablespoon-sized globs of cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets in your desired size. These cookies do not spread out a ton, so if you want them bigger or smaller this is really up to you, but be sure to watch them carefully as their cooking time is bound to change. Also, if you want them flatter, be sure to press them down before you send them into the oven. Otherwise, you will have a fuller, puffy cookie. Either way- delicious and deceptively light and healthy tasting!
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. This may be hard to discern, so feel free to take out the sheet after 13 minutes and insert a toothpick in one and see if it comes out clean. You can also test whether they are done by seeing if the top of the cookie still moist. You do not want this, because it means your cookie is going to stay uncomfortably similar to the texture of the original pumpkin puree.
  8. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes or until they can be transferred safely to a cooling rack without the chance of them crumbling apart during the move.
  9. Enjoy once they're cool enough to consume!

03 October 2011

Carrot Banana Muffins

Well, hello there blog and winter, I mean, fall! I am not sure where time has gone, but I'm pretty sure it slipped away from me as I grasped onto the last bits of freedom before graduate school began and a lot has changed in these few months. I took up running via the Couch 2 5K program and even got serious with portion control. So long as I can still be a foodie and enjoy my favorite flavors, I suppose I can work on portion control. And running? Why, it's not half bad! It's actually empowering, since I never thought I'd be able to jog and enjoy myself during it. I've already completed my first 5K and have registered for two others!

Along with these lifestyle changes I have made has been the readjustment to being in school again! Juggling coursework, studying, and reading journal articles? Say it ain't so! Really, I'm thankful for the new found runner within me and my always stable culinary side during this time of transition, otherwise I might have already lost track of who I am and what matters most to me- happiness! I'm also so very appreciative to be part of a great cohort of first year graduate psychology students and can only imagine where I'd be without them.. Most likely with a kitchen full of freshly baked and cooked goods and not enough empty stomachs and discerning palates to pawn said goods off on!

Since that is not the case, here we are with a new recipe and a new audience to hold me to updating this blog once a week like I so desperately want to do. Oh, and my favorite response I received upon biting into one of these muffins? "Why do I even bother baking with butter!?" Seriously, folks, these are that good!

Carrot Banana Muffins
(adapted from Eating Well)

Yields: 16-20 muffins

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick oats (or whatever oats you may have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used Silk's Light Vanilla Soy Milk and it was a great substitute!)
  • 1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt (my favorite being 0% Fage)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups shredded carrots (a food processor or box grater comes in handy here)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • 2 small bowls
  • Fork
  • Spatula
  • Muffin tin
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit. Insert liners in muffin tin or coat with cooking spray of your choice.
  2. In one of the small bowls, add the raisins and then fill with hot water until raisins are covered. Set aside. This will result in plump, rehydrated raisins.
  3. In large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients, except for the sugar, and the dry spices. Mix together using the spatula.
  4. In the other small bowl, whisk together the egg whites until frothy. Once frothy, mix in the sugar until dissolved. Then add in the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, and vanilla, and stir until they are as well as incorporated as you can get them.
  5. Add wet mixture into the dry mixture using the spatula. Fold these two mixtures together gently until just incorporated, as to not activate the gluten in the flour. If you over mix these mixtures you will yield tough muffins!
  6. Lastly, drain the raisins from the water that has not been absorbed. Fold in the raisins, shredded carrots, and walnuts if being included, to the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the muffin tin until each compartment is filled 3/4 of the way to the top.
  8. Bake until the muffins no longer jiggle when the tin is being moved. For me, this occurred after 15 to 20 minutes and resulted in golden brown tops. If you're desiring a darker and crunchier top, leave in for an additional ten minutes or until the tops are at your preferred color.
  9. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack until no longer piping hot and enjoy!

14 July 2011

Thai-inspired zucchini with lightly fried tofu

Alright, invisible internet friends, I spend hours a day looking up recipes and browsing other blahgs, and so I really do mean to be better about keeping this up to date! I'm actually rather irked when my favorite bloggers don't update theirs on a regular basis. So what gives? I cook fresh meals just about every day for myself, so I really don't know what my problem is. Perhaps, I will try sprucing up the blahg and seeing if that helps with the lack of motivation to post.

Anyway, since I posted last I have tried out a slew of recipes such as zucchini cheddar squares, pesto pasta salad, garlic scape and white bean dip, cold sungold tomato, cucumber, and feta salad, blueberry buckwheat pancakes, glazed lemon pound cake, deep dish chocolate chip cookie, and blueberry boy bait. All of which turned out pretty stellar, which I am quite pleased with since virtually every item I made was modified on the spot by your truly.

Last night I discovered what will surely be a new favorite and it utilizes the summer squash that I am receiving in abundance in my CSA share. Without further ado..
Southeast Asian Coconut Zucchini with Golden Tofu

  • Cubed tofu (however much you'd like!)
  • 4 to 5 cups cubed zucchini (I used yellow and green)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 fresh chili, minced (removing the seeds will supposedly lower the heat)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric, optional
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, or one small white onion, chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 c coconut milk (reduced fat is actually what Moosewood calls for)
  • salt to taste
  1. Set a small skillet onto medium heat, drizzle approximately half a tablespoon of oil. Once oil is heated, add cubed tofu. Let this skillet sit for at least 5 minutes. (Ignore the sizzling sounds going on! Do not touch!)
  2. While tofu is cooking, in a large skillet, sauté the zucchini, garlic, chile, and turmeric if you're using it, in just a tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes or so, flip the tofu cubes around onto another side and start to stir the softening zucchini mixture.
  4. To the zucchini mixture then add the scallions, basil, mint, and the majority of the lime juice. (Confession: I didn't have fresh or dried mint on hand, so I carried on without it.)
  5. Add the remaining lime juice to the tofu.
  6. Once tofu is golden on at least two sides, transfer tofu to the zucchini mixture.
  7. Add the coconut milk at this point and stir until well incorporated. If sticking at this point, feel free to add more lime juice, coconut milk, or water. (I didn't have this problem, so I hope you don't either!)
  8. Add salt to taste. Serve and enjoy!
Overall, I found this recipe to incorporate some really fresh flavors that do well in transporting one away from the summer humidity. I didn't even serve it on a bed of rice, but undoubtedly, that would be a natural pairing. If tofu isn't your thing, I'm sure poached chicken or even panko-crusted white fish would be a delicious protein option. In the future, expect to hear reports about modifications to this recipe by adding peanut butter. I just love the flavor pairing of coconut, lime, and peanut!
Forward march to the weekend for me! I'm hosting a dinner party and eager to entertain!

21 June 2011

Midnight Cooking

I went to bed last night at 11 pm with every intention of going to sleep relatively early in preparation for an early morning. I didn't succeed however. I tossed and turned thinking about things to cook, while my stomach grumbled. By midnight, I was up and in the kitchen with Tchaikovsky keeping me company. I chopped vegetables to be used later in the week, and most importantly for today's lunch since I knew I wouldn't be happy running on such little sleep when I had to wake up, did the dishes, and even marinated and baked tofu! I would have to say I am most excited about my tofu endeavor which was seasoned in a garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar mixture before being baked. Some slices of it are waiting for me in today's lunchtime salad and I anticipate I will experiment more with it in the future.

Another recipe I want to try in the future is this take on a West Coast restaurant's "Yumm Sauce". One of the blogs that I routinely follow has been featuring it nearly every day for the past week, which has admittedly been frustrating me (I want some culinary inspiration!), but it's come to the point where I am going to go ahead and try it. The real sauce is actually vegan, as is that recipe, but when I make it this evening I am going to go ahead and make it vegetarian and more to my liking by replacing the nutritional yeast with some parmesan cheese, and the chickpeas with freshly re-hydrated cannellini beans. I also hope to play around with the flavor profiles by adding lime instead of lemon, but I'll leave that idea for a little later on.

Stay tuned!

28 May 2011

Eating Seasonally

So as I mentioned a few posts ago, I am now a proud member of community supported agriculture! My friend and I split a weekly "full share", which consists of 12 pounds of freshly grown, seasonally available produce and a dozen fresh eggs. Since then, I have also purchased some new cookbooks which are organized by the seasons- getting ideas for meals is so much simpler now! I just flip to the season I'm in (somewhere between spring and summer) and I can find a slew of recipes based around what's being grown! I even find recipes that utilize more than one vegetable I found in my weekly share.

I also read Mark Bittman's Food Matters in the past week and I feel utterly rejuvenated about my decision to stick with vegetarianism. The book as a whole provides a variety of reasons why overall America should look to change how they eat. Bittman isn't asking that we all become vegetarians or vegans, just that maybe one day a week we give up food. It could not only help our own health, but will impact our deteriorating environment greatly and decrease the rate of global warming! What an idea! The book ends with a slew of amazing recipes for all meals of the day, as well as snacks. Really, if there's one book I could recommend right now, it's to go and find a copy of Food Matters, whether from the library or by spending an afternoon in the bookstore, and just give strong consideration to one of his numerous suggestions.

With this said, after spending the past day dealing with airway representatives and the last 8 hours traveling, I came back home to MA only to cook my parents, my grandmother, and myself a healthful meal reflective of the food books I have read recently. I used what vegetables were in the refrigerator and off of the flavor profiles I could construct around them, and it was a success! Do I know what to call it? No, but I hope with time I'll get better with naming my concoctions..

Lemon and Parsley Whole Wheat Pasta with Veggies
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow or white onion, chopped roughly
  • 8 mushrooms, sliced roughly
  • 3 heads of broccoli crowns, chopped into small florets
  • 1-4 to 1-2 c of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-2 tbs of butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk (I used skim and it still added plenty of richness)
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Shredded parmesan (optional)
  • Large pot for boiling water
  • Sauté pan
  1. Heat sauté pan on medium high heat with butter, onions and mushrooms. Allow onions to sweat and mushrooms to cook until aromatic, then turn the heat down to medium low.
  2. Meanwhile, fill the large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add broccoli florets to boiling water and leave there until broccoli is bright green and just barely fork tender (3-4 minutes).
  3. Transfer broccoli to mushroom and onion mixture, but be sure to save the water! There are plenty of nutrients leftover in the water that the pasta can absorb as it cooks.
  4. Boil whole wheat pasta of choice in the leftover water until al dente.
  5. While pasta is boiling, beat together the two eggs with the milk. Save this for later.
  6. Zest the lemon into the vegetables and add half of its juice. Also, season the mixture at this point with a dash of nutmeg (trust me on this one!), salt and pepper to your taste, and with half of the chopped parsley.
  7. When pasta is al dente, toss it with the vegetable mixture. Add the milk and eggs at this point; the heat will cook eggs.
  8. Once the sauce has thickened and is well incorporated (2-3 minutes), top with the remaining parsley and freshly shredded parmesan, if you please.

19 May 2011

Spinach... something!

Alright, I don't really know if what I just made would be best described as a pesto, a spread, or a dip, but it's mighty tasty and I intend on putting it on everything. I just had it on a slice of whole wheat bread, but I bet it would be exceptionally tasty on fresh pasta, some fresh Italian bread, with grilled cheese, and even in egg & cheese sandwiches. In truth, I had intended on making this Spinach Arugula Pesto recipe to use up the last of my CSA produce in a way that would allow me to store it while I'm gone this weekend, but it didn't quite get there.

Spinach "Multitasker"
  • 2.25 oz shelled walnuts
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 3.5 tbs reduced fat parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3-4 cups fresh spinach (baby spinach will work fine)
  • Food processor
  • Spatula
  1. Toast shelled walnuts on a pan for 5 minutes on medium heat or until aromatic.
  2. In food processor, puree the walnuts, beans, garlic, and cheese together until well blended.
  3. Scrape down sides of the processor, add spinach, and stream olive oil in processor while pulsing together the mixture.

17 May 2011

Thai Curry

On gloomy days where there is a nonstop drizzle outside accompanying the sound of my sniffles and cough, I dream of a bowl of piping hot, spicy Thai curry to warm me up on the inside and help clear out all of my congestion. This used to require going to my favorite local Thai restaurant, which has since shut down, but now I have mastered what must be the simplest recipe (if you can even call it that) for Thai curry. And on a side note, what is curry? Is it an entree? Is it soup? Things I ponder in this congested haze..

I've made it twice so far, both times served on a bed of instant brown rice, and in the time it took for the curry and rice to cook, I managed to do all of the dirty dishes that were waiting for me in the sink, while the second time I unloaded all of the groceries in that same time. On both occasions it was outstanding, although when I made it with green curry it was actually too spicy for me to handle, so I had to add more liquid.. and it was still too spicy. The key then is having good coconut milk. While I am all in favor of using low fat options, this recipe really calls for full fat, full flavor coconut milk. So if you're going to try and lighten it up, only go so far as to use one can of low fat or fat free coconut milk.

Thai Curry
Yields: 8 servings

  • 4 oz can of Maesri curry paste, use whatever type of curry you fancy! I found them at the local Asian grocery store, but they might be sold in larger "regular" grocery stores in the international section. For reference, they look like the following.
  • 2-3 13.5 oz cans of good coconut milk, depending on your spice tolerance
  • 2 bags of frozen "Asian medley" vegetables
  • 1 block of tofu of choice.. extra firm, soft, fried, whatever you desire!
  • Lime
  1. Place large pot onto burner set to Medium.
  2. Add curry, coconut milk, and vegetables to pot.
  3. Cut tofu into bite-sized pieces. Add to pot.
  4. Allow pot to heat until it comes to a boil.
  5. Dish out curry into a bowl, squeeze fresh lime over it, and an enjoy!
I know, I know, this recipe is a joke. In truth, it produces a really hearty and perfectly flavored curry. It's pretty close to what you order at your favorite Thai restaurant, but right at home!

12 May 2011

Big news!

Alright, blahg readers, get ready! I just went through with a friend and registered for a full share CSA (community supported agriculture) membership for 28 weeks. Starting next week, I will be receiving 12 pounds of locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as a dozen eggs from humanely and locally raised chickens to split between myself and a friend each week from May 17th through the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Until then, with then only being Tuesday (so close!), I fully plan on raiding the local farmer's market tomorrow. Oh, how my vegetarian-self is squealing with excitement inside!

30 April 2011

The elusive quest for healthy banana bread

With a bunch of bananas browning at a rapid rate this past week, there was no better time but the present to tackle the ongoing and elusive quest for perfect a healthy and delicious banana bread. I have been fond of this treat since introduced to it by my mom and now having gone through a slew of recipes, I've discovered I like my banana bread rather simple. I want the rich, but clean flavors of vanilla and banana shining through, and the texture just right, with a surprise of raisin in the occasional bite. And guess what? I achieved just that with two great low fat recipes! Of course, if you prefer a more dolled up banana bread with spices and the addition of nuts, please customize this bread to your preference!

Banana Bread

  • 1 and 1/2 c of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c of sugar
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c of fat free greek yogurt OR 1/2 c of softened butter and 1/2 c of unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3 bananas
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Spatula
  • Greased loaf pan (I used an olive oil cooking spray to get the job done)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Mash bananas up with a fork and mix well with eggs.
  3. Stir in remaining wet ingredients.
  4. Fold in dry ingredients to the banana mixture until well incorporated.
  5. Pour into loaf pan evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is cooked. If at 35 or 40 minutes the top is as brown as you would like and is at the texture you prefer, but the the bread still jiggles and does not come up clean, cover the the loaf pan loosely with tin foil and continue baking for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes and then allow to cool completely on a rack. Do not attempt to cover the bread in any way for at least 3 hours, or the moist bread will stick and get, well, icky, on whatever you have covered it with.
  7. As you can see, my breads came out as two different colors and slightly different heights. The one made with greek yogurt is the lighter looking bread, which to me appears untraditional, however I find the two have the same texture inside. The one made with a mixture of apple sauce and butter is the browner of the two then, and has a slightly harder and crunchier top, but for me isn't reason enough to bake it again with butter. Enjoy!
p.s. Cleaning out your fridge can produce extremely colorful dinners!

28 April 2011

A crap load of cookies

How do you like them alliteration? Nice, right?

Well, let me start off by apologizing if I left someone actually in suspense. Last week's innovative flashlight use in the kitchen was so that I could break up the mini cadbury eggs and add them to some cookie dough. These eggs hands down constitute my favorite candy (I scoured 3 stores before I could find them last week) and I simply had to take advantage of them!

I incorporated my little pretties into two different cookie recipes I found online that had received rave reviews, with one being vanilla, the other chocolate. While, my dad stated it best later that weekend upon trying one of each type with, "You are certainly not afraid of using sugar", I must warn that the chocolate cookies are truly only for those craving chocolate in a concentrated form, not for pseudo-chocolate lovers. (Actually, perhaps Andy said it best when he said I could an enabler for adult onset diabetes.) Anyways, I highly recommend trying out these recipes when you have the opportunity. I might actually play around the the vanilla recipe as a base for other cookies, because the addition of instant pudding mix makes a cookie just so decadently soft. Either that, or I need to figure out the magical properties of the contents of instant pudding mix. And now, without further ado, links to these two magnificent recipes!

Chocolate Pudding Cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Vanilla Pudding (Chocolate Chip) Cookies from Two Peas and their Pod

This week's batch went back to a childhood favorite: peanut butter cookies. Okay, the decision to make peanut butter cookies might have had something to do with the fact that I had been staring at pictures of the cookies all day at work. Anyways, since I also received a camera over the weekend, I was even able to take some pictures along the way! The recipe was flavorful and extremely simple, however I should have listened to the original directions when they said to pull the cookies out of the oven after 10-12 minutes, even if they still look undone. I instead put them on the top rack for an additional 5-8 minutes, which gave them a beautiful golden brown color to them, but also dried them out. (Truth be told, they were very soft and tender when they first came out, but they hardened in the cooling process.) In the future, I hope to modify this recipe with some of that magical instant vanilla pudding mix in order to achieve texture perfection!

Peanut Butter Cookies (from smitten kitchen with slight adjustments)

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1 c peanut butter, room temperature (I used half creamy, half chunky)
  • 3/4 c (white) sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c peanut butter or semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Hand or stand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper or silicone sheets (like Silpat)
Instructions (please mind the numbered pictures, they aren't steps so much as reference points!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butters until smooth.
  3. Once smooth, add in sugars until fluffy and creamy.
  4. Mix in eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
  5. Add dry ingredients and combine with peanut butter mixture until well combined.
  6. Fold in chips by hand.
  7. 7. Make 12 tablespoon-sized drops of dough evenly spaced across lined cookie sheets (so that 2 sheets would produce 24 cookies). If desired, at this point, lightly press drops of dough with a fork in order to produce criss-cross markings.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and definitely, no longer than 15 minutes.
  9. Cool cookies on sheet until able to transfer onto a wire cooling rack without them losing form, then allow them to cool completely on rack.

20 April 2011

Mini Cadbury Eggs and a Flashlight

I won't say quite yet what I'm doing with a flashlight in my baking, but be excited!

More to come later..

18 April 2011

Cheese Featured 3 Ways

This past Friday an impromptu surprise birthday party was thrown for one of my friends. I was given 24 hours notice, which included my allotted hours for sleep (my love for sleep rivals my love for food, and that's saying something) and the following work day, but I up for the challenge. After considering what I had in cupboards and fridge and what ingredients I could buy downtown, I settled on providing some appetizers. Now while I tend to eat and cook with healthy, natural ingredients accompanied by spices and strong flavors, there are occasions that call for going all out, such as this party! Unfortunately, I appeared to have a lapse of memory and failed to consider that my healthy diet is also driven by a medical condition which prohibits me from indulging in fatty foods. Whoops. If you are like me, please be warned! These appetizers, while tasty and convenient to prepare, are anything but easy on the stomach!

First up was a taco dip that has been a staple at pretty much every family gathering on my mom's side for as long as I can remember. It's nothing fancy, but it's simple and delicious. I also went with an easy spinach and artichoke dip that I found on Closet Cooking. (Might I note that the artichoke bread from this blog is absolutely brilliant? You don't even have to go through the dipping motions, the dip is served pre-slathered on bread!) Lastly, I was reminded by the puff pastry dish filled with jam and brie at the party of another childhood favorite.

Taco Dip
  • 1 pint of sour cream
  • 12 oz of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • Taco seasoning mix, to taste
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tomato (optional)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 8 oz of sharp cheddar or "Mexican" blend cheese, shredded
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Casserole dish
  1. Mix sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning in large bowl.
  2. Transfer mixture into serving dish, such as a 9 x 13" casserole dish, and spread out evenly.
  3. Chop peppers and onion into 1/4" wedges or smaller. Remove seed and pulp from tomato, then chop tomato into similar sized pieces as the other vegetables. (If preparing the day before, stop here and continue assembly right before serving to avoid the vegetables' juices from leaking.)
  4. Add chopped vegetables in an even layer to the serving dish.
  5. Sprinkle cheese evenly over vegetables.
  6. Keep refrigerated until party time, then serve with chips and/or dipping vegetables of choice.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip (from Closet Cooking with slight adjustments)
  • 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped finely
  • 4 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 c of sour cream
  • 1/4 c of fat free plain greek yogurt
  • 1 - 2 tbs of minced garlic
  • 1 tbs of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c of parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c of mozzarella cheese, shredded

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  1. Preheat oven at 425 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, and greek yogurt.
  3. Stir in spinach and artichoke.
  4. Add minced garlic, half of the chili flakes, and half of the grated parmesan to mixture.
  5. Smooth out mixture and then top with garlic powder, remaining chili flakes, and and remaining cheese.
  6. Bake dip for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown around the edges. Serve with dipping utensils of choice! (I highly recommend pita chips!)

Baked Brie with Applies and Cranberries (from Pampered Chef)
  • 8 oz round of brie
  • 1 tbs of butter, melted
  • 1/2 c of apple, chopped
  • 1/4 c of sliced almond
  • 1/4 c of dried cranberries
  • 1 tbs of packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine chopped apple, sliced almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. Mix gently with melted butter.
  3. Cut brie cheese in half horizontally, or the long way. (Envision the brie like a hamburger bun at this point.)
  4. Spoon half of apple mixture into the middle of the cut brie. (Following the hamburger analogy, the apple mixture should be placed where the hamburger is placed in a bun.) Spoon remaining mixture over top of the brie (or on top of the imaginary top half of the bun).
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cheese has softened and is beginning to melt. Serve with crackers and bread.

14 April 2011

Apple & Craisin Whole Wheat Muffins

So it turns out the muffins I experimented with last night turned out to be a success! I even gave some little miniature muffins to three of my friends, each having their own palate, in order to get more feedback on the muffin. While I wanted to try the recipe for whole wheat apple muffins from smitten kitchen, I just couldn't justify having a stick of butter and a cup of sugar go into my future breakfast treats. So my goal then was to make something that would be easy to grab on the go as breakfast, but that is equally nutritious as it is convenient. In truth, I did so by using a lot of whatever was in the kitchen (thus the craisins for some added sweetness), so feel free to continue making adjustments to the recipe!

Apple & Craisin Whole Wheat Muffins (based on Deborah Madison's basic buttermilk muffin recipe)

Yield: 12-15 muffins

  • 2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c instant oatmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/3 c buttermilk
  • 1/3 c fat free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large apples, diced thinly
  • 1/4 c craisins
  • spatula
  • large mixing bowl
  • small mixing bowl
  • muffin tin
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tin with method of choice (I sprayed my tin with an olive oil spray).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in the large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the liquid ingredients to the small mixing bowl and gently mix.
  4. Fold liquid ingredients into dry mixture.
  5. Fill tins to top with batter.
  6. Bake in muffins in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes has elapsed, move tin to the top rack for 5 additional minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are evenly golden brown and no longer jiggle when tin is moving.
  8. Remove from heat and turn out muffins.
I found these muffins to be incredibly moist (perhaps too moist?) but with great, almost nutty, texture as every bite is filled with tender muffin, small apple chunks, and the occasional craisin. In the future, I'd try this recipe again, but with less buttermilk and maybe even more oatmeal. (Taste testers, comments? Suggestions?) Overall, though, it was a success and kept me satiated at work for a good 4 hours!

13 April 2011

I'm alive, I swear!

I really need to get better at this blogging thing. I'm great at READING them and even trying out new recipes, but not so great at posting these endeavors. To buy me some leeway from whatever loyal fans I may have, I've added a blog roll to the side so that you all can enjoy in the primarily blogs that inspire me! And a testimony to demonstrate that I've been staying true to spending lots of quality time in my tiny kitchen, I give you this!

Colleen and Amelia, two of my best friends and labmates, came running into the office yesterday looking for cookies. I've been making them weekly, so people have come to expect them at this point. Anyways, at the request of Colleen I made another batch of brown sugar cookies. I found the recipe at Baking Bites last week and made it for those who are less chocolate inclined, but apparently both chocolate and non-chocolate aficionados alike appreciate this recipe! They came out EVEN better since I made sure to really cream the butter and sugar for a good 5 or so minutes. Then I also baked a recipe from the Flour cookbook for "Chunky Lolas", but I made some adjustments to the recipe. Overall, they might be my new favorite recipe, as they are loaded with raisins, choco chips, oatmeal, and coconut flakes. It calls for pecans, which I would have loved to add, but I don't have a wholesale club membership yet, so I'll save off on buying nuts for baking since they're so darn expensive. Anyways, they came out PERFECTLY!

Then today I continued the kitchen mayhem. I practically sprinted home from work in order to try my hand at the creamed spinach recipe from smitten kitchen that I had been oogling. I had never had creamed spinach as far as I can recall, but man, I have not had such delicious savory scents filling up my kitchen in I don't even know how long! I made the dish to my likings, so with smaller portions, especially with respect to the roux it calls for. I also loved the idea of an over easy egg dribbling over the creamed spinach, so I went ahead and included that, but because I lacked a baguette in my kitchen, I included some potatoes in the creamed spinach. But really, just make it now! Stop reading and make it!

Still reading? Okay, I just played around with Deborah Madison's basic buttermilk muffin recipe from her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone book. If the apple muffins come out well, which I will test tomorrow for breakfast, I will be sure to come back and post the recipe I used! I will also try and create some sort of tasty picture to go with it, since this post right here is a whole lot of text.

Happy eating, folks!

23 March 2011

A Hard Day's Work

Well, let me start off by saying I had a somewhat poignantly written post that I spent an hour on, but I just deleted it. Somehow. So this post might not be as good as intended, but I promise it's due to sheer frustration with what this dreary Wednesday keeps throwing at me rather a wavering love with food. (Note: I don't know if it is still dreary in State College since I work in a basement with no windows, but considering State College's overall tendencies to be grey, I'll assume it's still gross out.)

Prompting this post was a request from Liron post a family-Style Sunday dinner that I whipped up for friends. Specifically, I had made some pretty healthy and tasty asparagus with cannellini beans that she would like to get her hands on, so here goes!

Asparagus with Cannellini Beans

  • 1 bunch (bushel? what are they called?!) of asparagus
  • 1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • Minced garlic or garlic powder
  • Red chili pepper flakes
  • Basil (I usually use dried basil flakes, since I always have it on hand)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 small (2-4 quart) saucepan
  • 1 small sauté pan
  • Colander
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  1. Put saucepan with water onto high heat.
  2. Clean the asparagus with running water. After, hold the bottom quarter of the asparagus spears in your two hands and allow it to snap at its natural breaking point. This point will vary moderately throughout bunch of asparagus. Discard broken off ends.
  3. Cut remaining asparagus into 2-3" pieces.
  4. When water is boiling, add asparagus pieces. Allow pieces to cook for 3-4 minutes or until they just turn bright green.
  5. While asparagus is being cooked, heat olive oil and chili flakes on medium high in sauté pan. If using minced garlic, add it now. Otherwise, add the garlic powder after the asparagus and beans have entered the mix. With respect to amount of seasoning, this is a personal preference, where I usually use a dash or two of pepper flakes and a heaping tablespoon or two of minced garlic.
  6. Once asparagus is bright green, drain it from the boiling water and add to the olive oil mixture. Add drained cannellini beans at this point, as well, until they are warm (roughly 2-3 minutes).
  7. Season entire mixture with basil, salt, and pepper to your liking.
That's it! Another simple and healthy, but really flavorful recipe! I personally eat this by itself all the time, but it's also delicious on top of some hearty whole wheat pasta. Since it is such a simple recipe, I encourage you to experiment with it! In the past I've added mozzarella and parmesan cheese to it (separately) and been very pleased with the results. I'd bet that fontina in here would work beautifully, too. I also have wilted baby spinach and added halved cherry tomatoes to the recipe. Also, can someone do this with toasted pine nuts and tell me how delicious it is? My budget doesn't exactly afford me pine nuts, but I'm sure it's an amazing add!

So while I have not posted nearly as much as I had intended to this month (seriously, where did March go?), let this stand as proof that I have been spending time in the kitchen. I also have done some serious food blog checking and discovering in the past month, which I highly recommend you all do. A recipe I just found today which I'm sure will be of great use in the coming days, if not for the future to come, is www.foodblogsearch.com. This website allows you to search for a recipe by title, as well as ingredient, and then further restrict the results by browsing only through vegetarian or gluten-free blogs.

02 March 2011

Black Beans with Tofu

Every Monday, without fail, I leave work ready to indulge in black bean and tofu burritos at a local restaurant that starts off the week with $5 all you can eat mini-burritos. Doesn't matter who I'm with or how long I have to wait for whatever friend(s) that can join me that week, Monday is black bean and tofu day. Now why it took until today for me to attempt making my own version, I do not know, but it certainly will not be the last. Mad Mex, I'm sorry, but you've met your match!

Black Beans with Tofu

15 oz can of black blacks, drained and rinsed
1/3 of a block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/3 cup of diced onion
2 cups of baby spinach
2-3 tbs of plain fat free greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil
1 (okay, I used 2) tbs of minced garlic
cayenne pepper

  1. Heat pan with oil at medium high heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Toss in cubed tofu. A good shake of the pan and flick of the rest should keep them hopping around without sticking until at least 3 of the 6 sides are golden brown.
  3. Add black beans, onion and garlic, and stir ingredients around.
  4. Flavor black bean and tofu mix to your liking. (I added about 1/2 tsp of cumin, a couple of hearty shakes of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.) After, stir in greek yogurt to give mixture some creaminess.
  5. Wilt baby spinach on top and then stir into the mixture.
Viola! A delicious and hearty dinner will have been created in about 15 minutes! I happened to serve it on a bed of the red curry quinoa I made last week and topped with a little extra sharp cheddar cheese, but it could be served as a side or all by itself, too!

28 February 2011

Reinventing Vegetables

So for the entirety of January and a good part of February I ate salads practically every day. Now, however, I fear that I am reaching my breaking point with salads. I keep trying new dressings, but to no avail. I am no longer craving the crunch of a fresh salad and it is definitely not satiating me the way it used to.

This startling revelation is giving my little vegetarian soul heart palpitations. I think I have some solutions to this dilemma, though. First, I'm going to try creating my own dressings that based on flavors I know I like, such as peanut and (Italian) basil. Secondly, I'm going to give frozen veggies more attention. Steamed, sauteed, or roasted, they really deserve more credit since they are both an affordable and nutritious way to go! Lastly, I'm going to take my current aversion to most salads as an opportunity to focus on creating recipes for healthy spreads and dips that are packed with flavor for fresh veggies. Wish me luck!

23 February 2011

Weekday Cooking

First, let me just get out there that I hate doing the dishes. There is almost always a pile in my sink no matter how much I try to avoid leaving cleaning for another day, so I understand that my sudden surge of cooking and baking may tire you just thinking about it, but hear me out! The dinner I made yesterday took no time at all (maybe 20 minutes?) and now not only do I have leftovers, but I can avoid making more dishes for a few days!

My red curry quinoa from yesterday turned out well. I simply boiled one cup of quinoa with a 15 oz. can of lite coconut milk and a tablespoon of red curry paste. The paste was one of those pre-made Thai Kitchen concoctions and overall had great flavor. In the future I hope to experiment with some fresh flavors in the rice, like with Thai basil and lemongrass, to get more control. I also want to try using whole coconut milk, but in smaller quantity, with fat free Greek yogurt for creaminess.

While the quinoa was cooking (it's ready when it has opened up from its initial seed-like form and its little curly-Qs have been released), I made sure to have some protein and veggies alongside the quinoa. I fried some extra-firm Organic tofu that had been drained and cubed. Out of the entire package of tofu, I used probably a third of it for dinner, and so "frying it" only required a good non-stick pan and maybe half of a tablespoon of veggie oil. While it was browning, I tossed on a fair amount of ginger and garlic powder, as well as salt. I found that to be enough, but I like tofu plain, so I would say that play around with spices here. On the greener side of things, I steamed a medley of frozen veggies and then tossed in a tablespoon of peanut satay sauce I had in the fridge. I also have full intentions of experimenting with recipes until I get my own Thai-inspired peanut sauce down pat. Can't wait for that taste-testing extravaganza!

Today, since dinner was leftovers and I still had the itch to create some new yummies, I went ahead and made both pumpkin and banana bread. Both recipes were heavily modified from their original recipes, which I found on www.allrecipes.com, to be healthier. Some of the changes I made included Eggbeaters, whole wheat flour, applesauce for oil, and reducing the amount of sugar called and adding a little more vanilla extract, since it's so flavorful, yet potent. I hope to have some feedback on how the two turned out shortly and if it's positive then expect the recipes to be posted soon after!

While making the quick breads, I was struck by the notion of how much our society allows us to indulge our cravings to the extreme, whether it be salty, sweet, or spicy. Personally, I have a huge sweet tooth and so this is something that will be hard to overcome, but I'm hoping to try other more condensed and natural forms of sugar in the future in order to overall cut back on the amount of sugar in a recipe. One idea I have is adding some dried, not candied, fruits to breads for some sweetness, but not sure how versatile that option is. Maybe some day I'll even find dark chocolate to be just as satisfying as milk chocolate, but I'll be okay with leaving that as my vice, too.

And with another successful night in the kitchen and on the blog, I'm off to deliver the breads to Liron who is slaving away at lab. Oh, and Mike? Pumpkin bread is coming your way! You aren't just "the boyfriend'!

22 February 2011

Substitutions in Recipes

A new year, a new me? Maybe! Like I said, I'm going to try harder this year at making healthy substitutions when possible. Egg whites or Egg Beaters for eggs, apple sauce or yogurt for oil, etc., but also I think that I will try employing Greek yogurt as a substitution shortly, because of its versatility affords it to be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It's difficult, though, especially life gets busy and the kitchen is neglected. How long do these ingredients keep for? Are there better ways to extend their shelf life?

A trip to the grocery store should happen within the next few days, so I hope to report back shortly detailing my adventures with these items and more. For now I will tackle throwing together some red curry quinoa with steamed veggies!

21 February 2011

Late Night Rambles

I should have warned all of you imaginary readers that the majority of my posts will come late at night when just about the only thing I think of is food. Hello, second post of 2011!

While I promise to practice my photography skills and entice you all with pictures in the posts to come, I currently have an extremely depressing fridge and don't want to discourage anyone. (I also have to work out the whole camera situation, but that's not the point!) Instead, I would like to preview some topics, which are sure to be discussed often in the upcoming year.

To begin, I should note that I am a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian. I have recently decided to try and reduce consumption of "fake meat" products in order to limit my intake of processed food. As a result, I have been incorporating beans a lot more into my diet. Thus far, my cannellini beans are my favorite type. They are tasty on their own and so they are often sitting atop my salads, as well adorning any pasta that I create. I have also started to dabble with heating them up in red chili pepper and garlic oil as a side, as well as puree them and put them in pasta sauces to add some heartiness and creaminess.

Then there is quinoa, a super "grain" of sorts, which is full of fiber and protein. I don't have much to say about it yet, though, except that it's easy to cook (similar to rice), but definitely needs to be rinsed with water thoroughly ahead of time!

At the same time, I find myself somewhat tempted away from my vegetarianism for the first time in a while, or perhaps, ever. It's not even that I want to really eat meat, besides that I could really go for a huge salad, plumped up with chicken or turkey, because the prospect of actually handling and cooking meat makes me a little squeamish. So high on my list of things to tackle in the very near future is mock chicken salad. I'm hoping that with time I can come up with a successful recipe substituting in tofu, because my hankering for chicken salad is rather bewildering to me.

I also want to spend a fair amount of time working on revamping classic baked goods recipes to be healthy. First up will be banana bread, because I cannot seem to stay on top of eating my bananas before fair number of them turn brown and am always making it. However, it has already been determined that this particular round of banana bread will be given to my friend since I have had banana-related products for the past 3 weeks, so the reviews will be coming from her! Moreover, since this bread is for Liron, who just might be, no definitely is, more neurotic than I am with eating healthy, and her boyfriend who understandably prefers for his food to be full of flavor, this will be quite the challenge! Specifically, I'll be attempting to make a moist and sweet, but healthful banana bread that isn't loaded with fats and sugar. We shall see, though.

And last in tonight's post, I should note that I will definitely be tackling homemade renditions of Thai food. I discovered last week that favorite Thai eatery in town has closed down unexpectedly and so now, more than ever, I need to designate a weekend to spend in the kitchen pouring over different Pad thai, curry, and peanut sauce recipes.

Of course, if there is anything you would like to see me address, just comment and let me know! I promise to give it my best shot!