Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

No Sleep ’til Stinky Brooklyn

In Lentils, Millet, Rice, Shopping, Vegetables on November 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

After 3 days in a row of hustling, bustling, and food-in-mouth shuffling, Sunday came quicker than I could have hoped for.  It’s amazing how when you have a long weekend ahead it seems to go by even quicker than the regular 2-day deal.  Especially when you spend 4 sleepless nights with a barking dog and wheezing husband.  I literally fell asleep Saturday night while watching the third Transformers movie in my in-laws’ living room.  This was with full-decibel Boss speakers blaring special sound effects.

Sunday morning quickly rolled into Sunday afternoon.  We finally drove back to Brooklyn.  I had made plans with my friend Leigha for a day of Brooklyn fun!  This includes shopping, coffee, marketing, wining, and dining.  It also allows Nick to watch football in peace.  Every time a friend comes to hang out in my hood, it makes me appreciate its charm and abundance of stores and restaurants even more.  The only sad part is that it was Sunday, so we needed to be mindful of 1) early boutique closings, 2) finishing at a reasonable time to prepare for the work week, and 3) making sure the subways were running frequently enough to prevent a 45 minute ride from becoming an hour and 45 minute ride.

While walking along Smith Street, we stumbled in to Stinky Brooklyn’s new location.  I hadn’t been there since the move, so I was excited to see all the changes.  My, oh my. SO. MUCH. CHEESE.  We knew for sure we would be preparing some dinner together, but thought cheese and crackers would be an excellent snack to munch on while preparing.  I think the funnest part of going in to this shop is tasting all the cheeses before deciding.

We decided on 3 kinds (which I don’t remember all the names of).  The one on the left is from Wisconsin and is a hard cow’s milk cheese.  The middle (the group favorite) was an Italian cow/sheep blend.  The one at the end was Old Kentucky Thome (made in Indiana), I think it was goat’s milk.

We continued to walk and look in the boutiques.  I found some really pretty necklaces, but of course the one I loved the most was the most expensive.  Goddamn by exquisite taste!  With our hands empty and wallets full, we went to the health food and regular markets to buy items for dinner.  We figured we’d pick out what looks good and make something up.  Leigha is currently obsessed with winter squash (I wonder why?), so we decided to get some Kabocha squash.  I mentioned this squash when I made my pureed winter squash soup, but had instead used the carnival squash I had from that week’s CSA share.  Kabocha is by far my favorite of the bunch.  It is so sweet, almost like a sweet potato.  We decided we’d use it for a pilaf with whatever grains and lentils I had back home.  We also wanted to make a mushroom and pepper dish, so we picked some baby bellas, red bell pepper, and leeks.  I also picked up some other items, like salad ingredients and leafy greens I would use for the week.

We got back to my place, and before unpacking and clearing space, we had to open a bottle of wine for our cheese.  This was one of the 9 left from the 12 we bought in Italy.  Just writing about it and seeing the picture makes me wish I worked at Stering, Cooper, Draper, Price and that it were acceptable to have a full bar in one’s office.

Once we alchies got our first fix, Nick went back to the couch to watch football, and Leigha and I got to work.  First, I sliced a leek in half lengthwise and then cut across in to half moons.  Then I placed the leek into a bowl of water to allow all the internal dirt to sink to the bottom.

Next, it was time to prepare the veggies for the pilaf.  I scrubbed the squash, since we’d be eating the skin.  Then I cut in half to scoop out the seeds.

Using one half, I sliced into crescents, and then divided up between the two of us to cube.  While I scrubbed and scooped, Leigha peeled and diced up the carrot and garlic.

I started to saute in EVOO.  Then I measured out 1/4 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup brown lentils, and 3/4 cup millet.  I wanted to use millet back when I made black bean patties, but now I am finally able to use it.  Millet is similar to quinoa, but kind of fluffier (when this dish was complete, it reminded me of stuffing).

I rinsed the mixture, and then added it to the saute pan.

After a minute of mixing around, I added the liquid.  Generally, grains are 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid, so I added 3 cups vegetable broth.  I also added a cup of water, since there were a lot of veggies in there that would surely absorb liquid.  Salt and pepper were also added.

I let it get to a boil, covered, and lowered to a simmer for about 35 minutes.  It looked like this when done.

While I sauteed, I had Leigha cut up some mushrooms.  Then I added some leftover broccoli from the prior CSA share, as well as a chopped pepper and the leeks (that I drained and scrubbed with a kitchen towel).

I added some EVOO, vinegar, salt, pepper, and thyme.  I roasted in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.  It looked like this when finished.

Since we had a guest, I actually set the table.

We were already pretty full from cheese, crackers, and wine, so we didn’t eat much of the food.

Luckily, there were enough veggies left for 2 lunches, and enough pilaf left to feed the old lady in the shoe’s crew.  The pilaf was actually super sweet, creamy, and fluffy, all in one!  I’ve had it every day this week so far.  I think I may turn it into a stew towards the end.  I actually had it for breakfast the morning after.  It may sound weird, but whatevs.  I got in an extra serving of veggies in the morning!

What are your favorite leftovers to eat over and over again?


A Second Helping of Holiday Goodness! (Unless, of Course, You’re Still Digesting)

In American, Dessert, Fruit, Holiday, Rice, Vegetables on November 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm

It’s been nearly a week since my last post, but fear not blog followers!  This does not mean I haven’t been slaving away and taking photos for your visual pleasure.  With a four-day weekend nudged in between, it was difficult to find the time (or a working computer) to be so diligent.  I hope you find this post meeting your approval!

Ah, Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday, and I am not alone in this favoritism.  I think the reason why is that it’s all about eating, relaxing, showing off your newest and fiercest fall outfits, and all without the guilt or obligation of religion.  My mother always made a big deal about this holiday, and with every year came more and more dishes and variations.  The tried and true in my family are Empire BBQ Turkey (I know it sounds weird but everyone loves it), potato pie, steamed green beans, corn, and luction kugel (hey, we are Jewish after all).  Last year was really hard for me because I was full-on vegan and I could only eat steamed veggies, but my mom made some yummy apps of guac, hummus, veggies, crostini, etc.  This year I just couldn’t eat the turkey and stuffing, so I had plenty to work with.

Usually, my only contribution is dessert (which until recently I would buy from a bakery).  This is because 1) there is already an abundance of food and 2) there is only one cook allowed in my mother’s kitchen (as I grow older, I realize the apple does not fall far from the tree).  I decided this year to not only bake a dessert, but to also make a side dish.  Last year I made this vegan pumpkin cheese cake with a chocolate cookie crust.  This year, I kept with both the vegan and pumpkin themes, only not so tofu-centric.  In fact, I waited to tell everyone it was vegan after they tasted it.  I wanted some sort of pumpkin swirled brownie, but when the Martha Stewart version came up first in Google, I couldn’t bare to use that much butter and sugar.  Instead I used a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for pumpkin pie brownies.

Just a note, I multitasked this recipe while cooking my side dish, but for the sake of continuity I will post pictures and steps after the dessert.

The first step was to create a double boiler using a regular sauce pan filled with water, covered by a metal bowl.

I measured out the 4 ounces of chocolate chips from the recipe.  I used a scale to make sure it was perfect.  I get very nervous with baking so try to be as accurate as possible.

I poured the chips into the bowl of the boiler and let it slowly melt away while I prepared the rest of the ingredients for the brownie layer.  When it was all melted it looked like this.  I wish I could bathe in it.

Then I combined all the wet ingredients – the pumpkin, sugar, oil, and vanilla  – into a mixing bowl.

I pulled out my pink hand mixer that my mom got me as a bridal shower gift.  She also got me a really cute apron that says “kind of on a diet”, which I was wearing while making this recipe! (Sorry, no photo of myself, as I was not having a good hair day.)

I mixed all the wet ingredients, and then sifted in the dry – flour, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking soda, and salt.

After it was all mixed, I added the melted chocolate, and mixed some more.  I used a rubber spatula to spoon the mixture into the greased pan.  This was what the brownie layer looked like.

Then I prepared the pumpkin pie layer.  I used the rest of the canned pumpkin, some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice blend.  I could have measured out what the recipe asked for, but I figured McCormick does a good enough job on its own.

I cleaned the whisky things on the hand mixer so I could use them again to mix the pumpkin pie layer.  Tada!

I poured the layer on top of the brownie.

I baked according to the recipe directions, then let it cool and topped with mini chocolate chips.

I took a picture of a cut up brownie at the dinner table, but I think my camera had beer goggles on.

Everyone loved it!  Even more than the bakery Peep with a turkey on it!

Okay, so now back to the side dish I talked about earlier in the post.  I had made this dish last year for my in-laws, so figured it was okay to re-purpose for my family this year.  It uses a wild rice blend, but mixed with butternut squash, apples and walnuts.  The original recipe was from the Lundberg website, but I can’t seem to find it.  Here’s a version that I also found on the Kind Life website.  The only additions I made were to throw in some dried cranberries.  I think it’s 1) pretty and 2) very Thanksgiving.

I cooked the rice in the rice cooker while I had been preparing the dessert.  When it was done, it looked like this.

Luckily, I had cut up all the butternut squash the night before, because I was using some for the Thanksgiving pizza the other night.  I had stored the remainder in a tupperware, and I chopped up some apples and diced some onions.

I used red onions instead of yellow/white because it’s more mild and prettier.  I sauteed them for a few minutes in EVOO.

Then I added the squash, apples, and 1 tbsp thyme.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it really works well with this dish.

During the 5-minute saute, I chopped up some parsley to top the dish with before baking.

I deglazed the saute mixture with 1 cup of vegetable broth.  After a minute, I turned the heat off, and added the veggies, rice, and cranberries to a greased baking tin.

After it was mixed up, I reserved some on the side for my grandmother.  She can’t eat nuts, so I wanted to ensure that there was some untainted rice for her.  I know, I’m so nice.

I topped the main portion with some walnut pieces, and then sprinkled some parsley onto both.  I also added salt, because I forgot to add it to the saute pan.

When it was all done, it looked like this.

I love this dish.  Not only is it beautiful and bright, but it tastes really yummy!  I make it all fall/winter long, but whenever I eat it I think of Thanksgiving.  My whole family loved it and requested that all leftovers remain there.  This applies to the dessert, as well (duh).

Thank goodness I ran the Turkey Trot that morning, because I don’t know how I would have been able to eat all the festive food.  Even so, I still managed to fall asleep at 8:30 and not wake up until 9 the next morning.  I’m blaming it on the wine.

Friday I had a wedding, so no need to cook!  Saturday we had an early bird’s special with the in-laws to recover from 2 straight days of eating and drinking.  The next meal was Sunday, so I’ll be happy to share that with you in the next post!  Let’s just say I got by with a little help from my friends.

“Thanksgiving” Pizza

In American, Beans, Fruit, Italian, Pizza, Vegetables on November 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

When I told Nick I was going to make a Thanksgiving pizza, he was really excited.  I saw this recipe on The Kind Life website (the companion site to The Kind Diet book), and it looked so yummy!  I sent him the link, and he said “it looks good, but it is not very Thanksgiving – there’s no turkey, or mashed potatoes, or stuffing.”  Silly rabbit!  I explained it was from a vegan site, so people who eat that way won’t be eating a traditional turkey dinner anyway.  He was still confused.  Then I explained it could be an appetizer for the meal.  Even more confusing, because shouldn’t a pizza have sauce and/or cheese?  I gave up trying to rationalize and told him not to worry, it would be yummy!

The original recipe included a dough recipe.  Like I’ve mentioned in other posts, I suck at baking and bread-making.  Luckily, I had bought whole wheat pizza dough from TJs a while back.  I love their dough because 1) it uses only whole wheat flour (other brands are a mix of whole and white) and 2) it is only 99 cents.  When it’s just the two of us, I only use half the dough and freeze the rest (because honestly, we don’t need to eat a whole pie of pizza).  I took out some reserved dough from the freezer and while still in the plastic let it defrost in a bowl of water.

Earlier that morning, I had put some white navy beans in a bowl to soak.  I wasn’t sure at that point what I’d be making, but I figured it was a pretty versatile little bean.  It also cooks much quicker because it’s so small!  Luckily this pizza recipe required a white bean puree, so it definitely fit the bill.

When it was time to start dinner, I drained and rinsed the beans, put in a pot with water to cover, added two bay leaves, and you know the rest of the deal.  In case you need a refresher, read this post.

The pizza toppings in the original recipe were butternut squash, caramelized onion, spinach, and apples.  I changed the last two to kale and pears, respectively, because that’s what I had on hand.  I peeled the squash first.

This particular squash was harder than usual to peel because of the uneven shape.  When I picked it out, I was looking for the most dense one available, because its flesh will be the brightest and sweetest.  My instincts did not disappoint.

I only needed about a cup for this recipe, but I knew I’d be using the rest for a Thanksgiving dish.  Since I was chopping anyway I attacked the whole squash and saved the rest for later.

I roasted the 1 cup’s worth with some EVOO.

While that was working, I prepared the onions.  I cut a small onion in half, and then each half into thin crescent slices.

I sauteed the onion with some EVOO on medium-high heat for about 25 minutes.  When it was finished, it looked like this.

While both the onions and squash cooked, I chopped up the kale and sliced the pears.

Afterwards, I made the bean puree.  I decided not to use the food processor and just mash everything up.  I drained the cooked beans of excess water, and then only used a cup’s worth for the puree.  I also used a microplane for the garlic so that there weren’t any big chunks.

I mashed everything up, first with a potato masher, and then just the back of a spoon.

When the squash was done roasting, it was time to pull it out and assemble the pizza!

I took the defrosted dough out of the bag.  It was a lil wet, so I squeezed excess moisture out with a paper towel.  Then, on a greased baking sheet, I started to spread out the dough as thin as possible without leaving any holes.  You really have to work the dough a lot to get it that way, just keep pressing with your fingers for 4 or 5 minutes.

I topped the dough with the bean puree.  It reminded me of a thick bechamel sauce.

Then I arranged the pear slices.  I always try to evenly distribute all toppings!  OCD anyone?

I spread out the squash next.  So bright and cheerful!

Then I scattered the kale.  Chopping it up into fine pieces allows for the greatest surface area coverage.  OMG, loving the purple hues!  I also noticed that all the secondary colors are represented in this pizza!

The finishing touch was the caramelized onion.  I think sandpaper would taste good with caramelized onion.

I baked the pizza at 375 for 20 minutes.  When it was done, it looked like this.

I cut the pie into 4 big slices.  I only ate a half slice though, because I was so hungry while preparing that I ate 10 too many chips with salsa.

When Nick took his first bite, he turned his head away.  I thought maybe he chipped a tooth.  He told me he didn’t want me to analyze his reaction, so he turned away.  I wasn’t sure if I should be mad or happy he was so considerate to not hurt my feelings.  He said he actually really liked it.  His only critique was that he wasn’t a fan of the pears and would prefer it fruitless.  He also added that to hit it out of the park next time I should add some goat cheese.  Maybe next time 🙂

I would definitely make this for a Thanksgiving appetizer if I were hosting.  It’s kind of hard to prepare in advance and throw right in the oven before the meal without getting in the host(ess)’s way.  Maybe next year everyone will crowd into my cramped Brooklyn apartment?

A girl can dream.

What are some Thanksgiving appetizers you’ve made?

Soup for One

In Japanese, Soup, Sweet Potato, Vegetables on November 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I know that title sounds really sad.  It’s actually awesome though, because I could have a whole pot of soup all to myself 🙂

The magic of soup is that it can contain anything!  As long as you’ve got running water, you’ve got soup.  If you’re fortunate enough to have some luxurious ingredients like stock or milk, it will taste even better.  I always stock up on broth (especially when on sale), just for nights like this one.  Nick went to the Giants game, and I had a busy weekend of gallivanting and doing chores, so I wanted something simple.  I decided on a winter squash soup.  Normally I’ll add tons of root veggies, like parsnips and rutabagas, as well as a whole bunch of aromatics and of course winter squash!  However, I am only using the veggies I got from this week’s CSA share.  I had carnival squash, sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrots, and turnips.  The parsley from the prior week’s share would add a nice fresh garnish at the end.

The kabocha version of this soup is actually a very traditional Macrobiotic dish, because it relies on seasonal foods that are very subtle and uses hardly any seasoning. I prefer to make this with either butternut or kabocha, simply because they are easier to peel.  That way you can just dice up and add straight to the pot.  This squash, however, has tons of ridges.  The only solution was to cut up into strips, bake, and peel skin off when finished.  This is the before.

Once it was done, I let it cool and then peeled off the skin.

While the squash baked, I peeled all the peelable veggies.

Then I chopped those and the rest of the veggies up.

I added them to the pot with some veggie broth, salt, pepper, and thyme, and brought to a boil.

After I peeled the squash, I added it to the pot.

I let it incorporate a few minutes more, and then turned the heat off for immersion blending!  I love this gadget.  It saves so much time.

You can puree the soup to be as smooth or chunky as you like.  I prefer it 98% smooth, just so I can see a couple pieces of the other veggies.  Look how bright and cheerful the pot looks!

I topped my soup with some chopped parsley.  Nick had it the next day with bacon.  You could go for a Thai feel and use coconut milk and curry, or a Mexican theme with chili powder or hot sauce.  On days when I’m hungrier, I may pair it with a grilled cheese or vegan BLT.

I’ve already had the leftovers today and yesterday.  Yesterday I added in some black beans and collard greens, which made it a really hearty complete meal.  Today I switched the black beans for chickpeas, which helped to keep the color integrity intact.

How do you makeover your leftovers?

One Last Hippie Hoorah! And Drunch!

In Bread, CSA, Moroccan, Shopping, Vegetables on November 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Friday night I went to a Mexican fiesta.  Needless to say, muchas margaritas were consumed.  I felt so awful the next morning, but I knew it was gonna be a busy day!  It was the last CSA pickup of the season, so I definitely didn’t want to miss out on getting there at 10:00 AM on-the-dot, lest being left with the second-to-best butternut squash!

I’m happy to report that this last week did not disappoint.  I guess the farmer believes in making a lasting impression to garner repeat shareholder’s loyalty.  I took a picture on my mobile’s camera, but I forgot to upload it.  The items were:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 pint turnips
  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb broccoli florets
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 head lettuce (I chose red leafy)
  • 1/4 lb pea shoots
  • 1 lb carrots (7)
  • 1 bunch kale (I chose purple)
  • 4 collard leaves

Wow, even just writing that out seems like a lot.  I’ll try to use the leafy stuff first, because I’d like to avoid produce shopping for at least another 1/2 week after Thanksgiving.  Carrots and potatoes will both last pretty long, as well as squash (although I have a plan for that for a turkey day side).  I have to say, though, that my favorite item that probably won’t last long is the purple kale.  It combines my fave greens with my fave color!

When all was said and done, I had a solid 40 minutes to get dressed and head to drunch.  Normally this would be fine, except the stupid MTA decided to do construction this weekend and no trains were stopping at my station.  This meant either 1)wait for the shuttle bus to the subway, 2) walk 25 minutes to the subway, 3) ride my bike over the BK bridge and run over tourists, or 4) take a cab.  Since we had a solid reservation, I couldn’t afford to risk timing with the first 3 options, so I resorted to be lazy and wasteful.  Besides, what’s 15 bux compared to all the drinking and shopping money I was about to spend?  And for those who don’t already know, we call it drunch because it is drunk + brunch (which is probably redundant because isn’t the point of brunch to eat and drink hangover cocktails?).

We went to this Middle Eastern restaurant in the Union Square/Gramercy  area.  Thank Jebus I didn’t show up in a leggings/sweater combo and actually got dressed, because apparently this was a very scene place.  They had a full bar, as well as an unlimited champagne/mimosa/Bellini option.  The last thing I wanted was something sweet, so I sucked it up and ordered a Bloody Mary.  I love bloodies…they are not only delicious, but healthy!  Anything with vegetables is healthy, especially if you ask U.S. Congress.  Considering I had 2, and these had extra veggies on top, does that mean I had 4 servings of veggies?

No Middle Eastern meal would be complete without some bread product and dip.  We opted for traditional hummus.  It was so creamy and flavorful!  BTW, the guy in the orange on the right is refilling my friend Michele’s mimosa.  They do it without asking!

Soon after they brought out the main courses.  We all got egg dishes.  Michele got green shakshuka, which looking back I wish I had ordered.  The eggs were cooked in a cast iron skillet with spinach and some combo of cheeses. MMMMMM.

Leigha and I both got the Moroccan eggs, which were also baked in a cast iron skillet, but with a spicy tomato sauce.  I love spicy.  It warms the soul and helps detox hangovers.

After the last bites, they quickly gave us the check and asked us to finish up the unlimited drinking in the bar section.  The bar was so crowded and full of douche-bag boys wearing yellow duckie knit hats, it’s probably a tactic to get people out of there.

We stumbled…I mean walked… to Union Square to look at the holiday shops.  I didn’t take any pictures, but they had a ton of really cute gifts for the holidays, as well as chocolates, cookies, and teas to enjoy as you shop.  I of course got a PB&C cookie.  I also bought a new ring that has a lil green froggie in the corner, to match the green in my coat!  (Gosh I wish I had taken a picture).  They also had the regular farmer’s market on the other side of the park.  Last time I went there with Leigha, she got this amazing purple kale.  I took a picture of THAT one!

Later, she sent me a picture of the kale chips she made using the leaves.  What a great snack idea!

Okay, so I digressed.  Back to the story!

After manning through the crowds we felt sleepy.  Sleepy is not good when drunching and shopping!  We got some coffee and went on to Lululemon.  I got a new winter running set, so I am very happy and inspired to train for the upcoming 15k!  I should also be inspired to cook some appropriate training fuel, but we’ll see if that happens 🙂  Got a lot to do this week for Thanksgiving, especially since I won’t be eating anything that gobble-gobbled!

When we finished shopping, it was already dark!  Can you believe how early the sun is setting now?  Or could it be that time flies when you’re having fun?  I love having a girls’ weekend of fun!

What are some of your favorite weekend adventures?

From Morocco, with Love

In Couscous, Lentils, Moroccan, Sweet Potato, Vegetables on November 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Anybody notice that it became winter overnight?  It was 70 on Monday and 40 today; kind of drastic, don’t you think?  The only benefit of this weather is that it warrants cooking mass varieties of soups and stews.  Last night’s dinner was no exception.

I was feeling a little under the weather yesterday (I’m sure Trivia the night before and a weekend of wedding festivities had NOTHING to do with it).  I definitely wanted some comfort food.  Mac ‘n cheese and pizza are all fine and dandy, but they don’t really nourish the soul.  To really mitigate those feelings of nausea and splitting headache, I turned to a yummy Moroccan inspired stew from The Kind Diet.  I know, not really creative to follow a recipe, but it’s just super delish.  It is a lentil and sweet potato stew that has a potent combo of spices and flavors.

In this dish, there isn’t a lot of time between steps, so I found it easiest to prepare all the veggies and spices before turning the pot on.  I believe in culinary terms that’s called mise en place.    I chopped up the onion and tomatoes, then peeled and cubed the sweet potatoes.

As I mentioned, I love this weather because it is conducive to soup making.  What makes it even better is cooking soups in my Caribbean blue french oven.  Not only is it beautiful, but it is the best pot I’ve ever had.  I added some EVOO to the pot to start sauteing the onions.

After about 2 minutes, time to add the tomatoes.

This gave me a solid 3 minutes to measure out the spices.  Cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  Aren’t they so bright and cheerful?

I added them to the pot to cook with the sauted veggies.

Once they were mixed and cooked out a bit, I added the lentils.

I like adding the lentils before the broth because it helps them to absorb more of the flavor.  Then I tossed with the sweet potato.

After a minute or so, I added the vegetable broth, making sure to scrape everything on the bottom and sides as not to miss any of the amazing flavors.

The stew came to a boil, and then I reduced and covered to simmer for about 40 minutes.

While the stew stewed away, I prepared a veggie side dish.  I had 2 kohlrabi bulbs from this weeks share that I thought I ought to use.

These babies are related to radishes and turnips.  They have the sharpness in flavor, and watery yet substantial bite to them.  Let’s just say they are kind of…plain.  I decided I’d roast them.  My favorite way to prepare veggies is roasting.  My other favorite way is grilling, but that’s hard to do with smaller vegetables.  I preheated the oven to 400 and started to get to work.

I cut up the ends and peeled the outer skin, which is very tough and I’m pretty sure not easily edible or digestible.

Then I cubed the kohlrabi and diced some red onion and garlic.  I tossed on a roasting pan with EVOO, vinegar, salt, pepper, and dried thyme.

While that roasted, it was time to prepare the starch for the stew.  I’ve used both brown rice and quinoa to go with it, but Nick’s favorite is couscous, probably because it’s most similar to pasta.  Also, couscous matched the Moroccan theme more than the other two options.  Also, it takes about 6 minutes to make, which is awesome.

Very simply, you boil the liquid (in this case I used broth to add more flavor), turn off the heat, stir in the couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  It will look like this.

To add some visual and flavorful interest, I washed and chopped some parsley to add to the couscous.  I also added some vegan margarine.

Then it was time to plate everything.  I only photographed Nick’s bowl because I didn’t add couscous to mine.  I find that the sweet potato is enough starchiness for me.  I scooped some of the couscous and created a well for the stew.

Then I spooned in the stew and topped with parsley.

The kohlrabi didn’t really belong in that bowl, so I had to use a separate plate.  It still looked nice though, especially with the pop of purple from the red onion.

I love eating meals like this, it makes me feel so exotic and cultured.  I’m sure though that if I ever went to Morocco and made something like this, they’d think it was just American food.

It’s already Friday, and I still have a ton of stuff left from this past Saturday’s pickup.  I was going to make something tonight, but turns out we have dinner plans.  Luckily, what’s left is potatoes and squash, which will last in the fridge for a bit.  Luckily Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I’ll have plenty of people to whom I can pawn off my extra food.  Hooray for holidays!

What are some of your favorite ethnic foods?

Good ol’ Home (not so much) Cooking

In Beans, CSA, Mexican, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad on November 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

This weekend we went to our cousin’s wedding in Connecticut.  It really was a 3-day affair.  Party the day before, wedding the day of, hangover the day after.  Needless to say, I was not thinking about cooking anything until at least Tuesday.  Saturday was really busy.  Anytime I go away for more than 1 night, there is so much to be done, especially when attending a special event.  Gotta get my hair and nails did, pack for myself and my dog, drop off the dog to some “volunteering” relative, and make the traffic-infused drive to the location.

While pampering myself, I reluctantly sent Nick to the CSA pickup location.  I am always forced to go to the CSA’s site to actually figure out what we got (and if we are missing anything) whenever he picks up.  Sometimes they don’t match up, but that is what happens when they harvest right before the delivery.  Unfortunately, no pictures were taken of the whiteboard or boxes, so I had to kind of figure out what was what.  This week included:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carnival squash
  • Garlic
  • Parley
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mixed salad/braising greens (I think they were supposed to be separate, but it all was mixed together)

The only difficult item to use is the kohlrabi, because it requires a lot of preparation (in my experience), so that should be interesting.  Everything else is pretty standard.  Although I am not a huge fan of white potatoes, my hubby LOVES them.  I really love sweet potatoes, and I have the perfect dish to use them for this week 🙂

Yesterday, I made a trip to Fairway after work.  I knew I wanted to stock up on some pantry items, but also knew that I did not want to step into the store any time after this Thursday until after Thanksgiving.  You can’t even park in the back-up parking lot.  This trip, however, was like heaven.  It was the emptiest I’ve ever seen it.  could actually be the deer in the headlight if I so desired.  I got some fresh and dried fruits, beans and oats from the bulk section, broth and almond milk, and some Amy’s burritos.  I try to avoid eating frozen and pre-made food items, but it’s better to eat that in a crunch than whatever you can find at the corner deli.  It’s also great to have it for Nick instead of some less-desirable items.

By the time I was done with the store and got home, the last thing I wanted to do was cook.  Everything seems overwhelming when there are tons of packages to unpack.  Also, we had run out of Cascade, so we were behind on dishes.  Luckily, I remembered to pick up a rotisserie chicken for Nick, and I had all the ingredients for nachos.  I took out some beans and rice from the freezer from last week’s Mexican meal.

While defrosting in the microwave, I shredded some lowfat/reduced sodium organic cheddar.

I also washed some of the mixed greens from this week’s share for a side salad.  Like I mentioned earlier, I was so busy trying to get out of town that I didn’t even have time to prep the veggies.  Everything was shoved last minute into the fridge.  Instead of spending the time to actually clean everything last night, I just focused on this quick meal.  Ironically, yesterday was national clean out your fridge day. Doh!

I mashed an avocado with lemon juice and red onion for a simple guacamole.  Normally I’ll add tomato, cilantro, and jalapeno, but I didn’t have those items.  Then I sent up the assembly line.

I added beans, salsa, and cheese to mine.  The I topped the side salad with salsa and guac.

Nick topped his with everything.  He did not have salad.  What a shock.

And there you have it.  A quick dinner using some convenience foods like salsa and chips, as well as leftover rice and beans from prior meals.  Adding the guac and salad gives it a nice fresh spin.  The rest of the week will be more creative and involve greater culinary skills.

What are some of your quick meal ideas?

Oh, What a Beautiful Mooooorning! Oh, What a Beautiful Daaaaaaaay!

In American, Beans, CSA, Rice, Salad, Vegetables on November 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

That’s the type of song I have to sing to myself at 6:30 in the morning as I prepare for a training run.  That’s right.  I signed up for a 15k on December 17.  G-d help me.

After wearing 6″ heels at my bachelorette party in August and falling numerous times (I’m chalking it up to the marble floors), I’ve been blessed with a mysterious foot/ankle injury.  According to one of my friends, this officially deems me a real runner.  Of course, I am so stubborn, and refused to have it looked at, what with the stress of a wedding, and honeymoon, etc.  However, I finally put on my big girl pants and had my doctor diagnose the condition.  It’s something-something-something-itis.  Basically fluid in my foot, takes about 6 months to heal.  I can still run, thankfully, but I just have to endure the pain.  Lovely.

Yesterday morning, I braved my first run in about a month.  It was only 3 miles, but felt so awesome and awful at the same time.  It really was a beautiful morning – bright, sunny, temperate. It made me want to spend the afternoon in Prospect Park picnicking and drinking pumpkin Ale.  I stretched on my terrace, and noticed how beautiful the fall foliage has become (a tree really does grow in Brooklyn).

Then, the inspiration struck.  Why not create a picnic-style dinner infused with fall hues?  It would be an indoor urban picnic, but that will be our little secret.

When I think of picnics, I think of 2 things: grilling and copious varieties of “salads”.  I use the term salad lightly, because sometimes people will make a KFC Famous Bowl inspired salad that is basically bacon mixed with potatoes mixed with cream and cheese.  Not really my idea of something light and refreshing, especially accompanying bacon cheese burgers and brats.  I’m more of a vegetable salad kind of gal.  You know, the kind that have some green in them?  It doesn’t have to be lettuce and lemon juice, but even an arugula with cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese would pass my test.  I love coleslaws, corn/bean/avocado salads, and even a nice fruit salad.

When I was a young college coed, I would frequent the campus Lubavitch and Hillel dinners.  There were always lots of different kinds of salads at those meals.  Olive, pickle, cucumber, cabbage.  It was nice to have some vegetables in there (even if there was more mayo than I’d prefer).  One of my favorites was this broccoli, cashew, and red onion salad.  Yes, there was A LOT of dressing, but most of it sinks to the bottom so you kind of have to deliberately pour it on.  I decided I’d make something similar to this recipe, only a little more…lean.  They would also serve a carrot salad, but more sweet style with raisins in it.  I had all this dill at home, so I figured I’d make my own Jewish-style dill carrot salad; every good Jew loves dill [pickles].

Since the salads would need time to marinate, I started working on those first.  For the broccoli, the original recipe used frozen/thawed broccoli florets.  I had fresh broccoli.  This meant blanching was in order.

I filled a large pot with water to boil.  While that was working, I chopped up the broccoli , and included some of the stems, too.

When the water was boiling, I dropped in the broccoli and cooked only for 1.5-2 minutes.

While boiling, I prepared a bowl of ice water to put the broccoli in after boiling.  This helps stop the internal cooking process.

Then I prepared the dressing.  Just a tbsp each of vegan mayo and champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper.  I diced up the red onion, and added some cashews.  Then I used a strainer to add the broccoli to the rest of the ingredients.

I mixed everything together.  It looked so pretty.

Once that was in the fridge, I started to prepare the carrot salad.  Just carrots, dill, a scallion, champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper.

I could have gone the lazy way and used the food processor.  In the spirit of home cooking, I decided to use the box grater.  Also, I feel like a jerk using a food processor for 2 carrots.

5 hard-working minutes later, the vegetables of my labor…

I used half of the dill bunch, half of that (so a 1/4 for all you mathletes) for the salad, and half for some dill mayo dressing I’d use for my “burger” (which I know I didn’t even mention yet, but I will discuss shortly).  Look at how green the dill still is, and this is 5 days after I took it home!

I mixed all the ingredients together.  Another masterpiece.

Okay, so now I will discuss the burgers.  I’m not a big fan of “veggie” burgers.  That is also a loose term.  Usually, veggie burgers contain no veggies, AT ALL.  They are usually soy burgers.  And are so processed and genetically modified to resemble a beef burger that it’s disgusting. I have actually made veggie burgers from scratch.  They’ve contained peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, you name it.  However, my burger tonight is actually a bean burger.  Or as I like to call it black bean falafel (because who am I kidding, a bean patty is NOT a burger).

Remember last week when I made my enchiladas with mole sauce?  I made all those black beans in the slow cooker.  These did not go to waste.  I froze them into individual freezer bags (about 1/2 cup each).  I used 4 bags for this recipe.  I took them from the freezer and let them soak in the bags in water while I had prepped all those salads.

The patties only take about 5 minutes per side to cook, so I got my cornbread ready and in the oven before attacking the bean batter.

I love cornbread.  It’s an excuse to eat dessert with your dinner.  It is also one recipe in my repertoire that involves baking.  I don’t really bake, I kind of actually suck at it.  This recipe is a smidge “healthier” than the kind I’d order from Jake’s BBQ.  It uses whole grain corn, whole wheat pastry flour, low calorie almond milk, and maple syrup as the sweetening agent.

Usually I make this recipe in muffin tins, but I wanted to make them more flat as to create more surface area for the size of the patties.  I mixed the dry ingredients, and then the wet ingredients in separate bowls.

I added dry to wet, poured into a greased pan, and let the bread bake in the oven.

Now it was time to assemble the burgers.  In a bowl, I combined the beans, some brown rice, minced garlic, and cumin.  I really wanted to use millet for this recipe, but I still had leftover rice from Monday’s meal.  Guess the millet would be saved for a later date.

Using a potato masher, I mashed everything together until it looked like this:

Adding some EVOO to a saute pan, I divided the batter in 4, rolled each portion into a ball, and then played a little patty-cake with myself.  I browned the first side for 5 minutes, and then flipped.

After flipping, I prepared the dill mayo.  I used just a tbsp of mayo, a splash of vinegar, TONS of dill, and some minced garlic.  I finished with salt and pepper.  So delish.

I decided in the end to not use the cornbread as a bun for the burgers, but rather as a side.  I placed the burger on a bed of the red lettuce that was left from my CSA share.  I topped with the mayo and some organic ketchup (it’s still Heinz, but no corn syrup – the closest I can find to the real thing).

Everything was so flavorful.  It really reminded me of a summer picnic in flavors, but autumnal in colors.  The dark red, the robust orange, the yellowish green.  Even some brown for those leaves that have fallen from the trees and float around with the wind to knock you in the face while you run to escape the blows from the East River.

In this meal, I used up the rest of the broccoli, all the carrots, half the dill, and the rest of the lettuce.  The dill seems to have some more life her, so I should be able to use that next week.  I still have a handful of braising greens left, so will try to add it to my breakfast tomorrow.  Week one = success!  Can’t wait to see what this Saturday’s bounty brings me.

What are some ways that fall inspires your cooking?  Do you have a favorite/go-to dish or drink?

Non Parlo Italiano, Ma Mangio Italiano

In Beans, Italian, Pasta, Vegetables on November 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

My broken-Italian headline states that I don’t speak Italian, but I eat Italian 🙂

After nearly 2 weeks back, it was due time to make some cibo Italiano.  Every region in Italy has their own flair when it comes to cuisine.  Of course, everywhere you go you can get pasta.  However, eating pasta every day, at every meal, can not only get boring, but will make those kgs or lbs rise on the scale.  Funny, at every hotel we stayed there was a bathroom scale measuring weight in kilos, which contributed to my blissful ignorance.  Then we got to Milan, and the scale had both kilos and pounds.  The mathematician in me quickly calculated the exchange rate, and it was not pretty.

My favorite cuisine was in Tuscany.  Probably because it is very rustic, and integrates a lot of veggies, grains like farro and orzo (barley), and beans.  Tuscans are super into beans.  Probably because they are cheap and filling.  At every restaurant you could order a side of beans;  usually cannellini.  The texture is so creamy, but with a really good bite.  I decided for this meal I would have to feature them.

I soaked the beans overnight, and then rinsed them and put in a pot with fresh water and 2 small bay leaves.  I let the pot get to a boil, and skimmed some of the foam.  These beans were super foamy, so you can see there was a lot of work to be done.  After 5 minutes, I lowered the heat and covered to simmer for about 90 minutes.

When the beans were done, they looked so creamy and delish!

Like I said, pasta is really big in Italy.  Usually it is served as a first course before the main meat or fish dish.  Since there were none such dishes in this dinner, I decided to serve it as another contorno.  My husband loves pasta, about as equally as he loves potatoes.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re half Italian and half Irish.  However,  I am perfectly happy to go starch-less for dinner.

Here is where the compromise comes in – Spaghetti Squash.  It is an amazing vegetable that if prepared the right way mimics the appearance of angel hair pasta.  Luckily I found one in my share this week, so it was the perfect opportunity to use it.  For myself, I would just eat the squash, but for Nick I will do a combo of whole wheat spaghetti and spaghetti squash.

To prepare the squash, you can either first cut in half to remove seeds and bake, or just pierce holes, bake, and then cut, clean, etc.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of undesirable spots on my squash, so I had to do some dissection to recover the edible potion.

While the squash roasted, it was time to prepare the vegetable dish.  I decided to make a Sicilian collard greens recipe from The Kind Diet, because it a)used up my collards and b)fit my Italian theme.  The ingredients include collards (chopped very fine in this case), garlic, raisins, pine nuts, EVOO, and balsamic.  Pretty standard pantry items.  If you don’t have pine nuts, you could omit or sub with some pumpkin seeds.

First I sauteed garlic in EVOO.

After about a minute, I added the collards, covered to cook a couple minutes, then added the pine nuts and raisins to cook a couple minutes more.  At the end, I deglazed with balsamic, and then it was done.

Now it was time to finish up the “spaghetti”.  I took the squash out of the oven, and while letting it cool I boiled some water and added some whole wheat spaghetti to a small pot.

To strand out the squash, I used a fork and combed out the flesh until there was flesh-no-more.  Doesn’t it look so much like spaghetti?

Luckily, I had some sauce leftover from Sunday’s Pizza.  It had a chance to marinate some more, so it was really flavorful for this dinner.

Luckily, I ALSO had a bottle of vino roso to accompany our feast.  What Italian meal is complete senza vino?

I love how this meal represents Italia not only in cuisine, but in color.  Red, White, and Green!  Nick’s plate, squash mixed with pasta.

Mine was just squash, but equally as pretty and delish!

The only problem with this meal was that the pine nuts were stale.  I thought I had bought them rather recently, but I suppose I was wrong.  Mind you, this past year was kind of a hectic blur 🙂

For this meal, I was able to use 2 of the veggies from the share: collards and squash.  I still have some dill, carrots, a smidge of broccoli, and a lil bit of lettuce left.  I also have been using the braising greens in my lunches, so that should be done by Friday.

I have some great ideas for the next dinner.  Can you bear the anticipation?

Breakfast of Champions

In Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Oats on November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Last night I did not cook.  I was just so exhausted.  I slept a good 12 hours.  When I woke up, I needed something nourishing to provide me with the energy to make it through my day.

My newest breakfast obsession is oatmeal with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, diced pears, and cinnamon.

I’ll put it all into a bowl, and either let it soak a few minutes,


or I’ll use the microwave and nuke 2 minutes, stir, another 2, and maybe 1 more.  It is so yummy and sweet, no need for any sugar or sweeteners.  It is also super cheap to make, probably about 75ish cents.  It also keeps me full until lunch time (well, that, and coffee).

This morning, however, I didn’t even have 5 minutes to nuke, so I took a slice of Ezekiel bread, spread some raw almond butter, and placed some sliced pears on it.  I didn’t even have time for a photo!  It’s basically the same flavor palate, only the bread is slightly more processed, and it has wheat in it.  I try not to eat too much wheat, but sometimes a sister’s gotta grab something quick!  I also like to top toast with smashed beans, avocado, tomato, and lettuce.

What are your go-to breakfasts?