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!