Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Emergency Dinner in Less Than 10 Minutes

The situation: a sick, over-tired baby, in and out of total crying meltdowns coupled with a single, over-hungry adult.  The baby began to be occupied by playing with magnets on the fridge and chasing the cat, so I saw my brief opening.

Here's my emergency dinner, made in about 6 total minutes and cleaned up in about 2.

Veggie Burger with Fruit & Vegetable "Smoothie-Salad"
For one hungry adult and one finicky small human.

Super-fast burger:

  • Veggie burger into the microwave for 1 minute
  • Two pieces of bread into the toaster
  • Grab pre-washed spinach, sliced cheese, mayo and mustard from the fridge
  • Assemble the veggie burger and begin to eat.

Speedy smoothie:
Prep each fruit/vegetable and put right into blender as you go.  Use whatever fruits you have and any leafy green will do and will taste great.

  • Core a pear and cut into large chunks
  • Core an apple and cute into large chunks
  • Peel a kiwi, cut in half
  • Peel an orange, break into a few pieces
  • Large handful of spinach
  • Generous dump of flax seeds
  • About 5 chunks of frozen mango
  • Pour in a generous amount (about 1 cup) of plain, unsweetened coconut or almond milk

Blend like crazy.  

Give the baby some, start drinking yours.  For the one minute the baby is interested in drinking her smoothie you can get the blender clean and put your plate in the dishwasher.  Done & done.  Now you can "relax"-- slowly drink and enjoy the smoothie while you attend to (put to bed) the needy little one.  

Good night moon!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kale & Mushroom Soup and Salad

After spending some time in the South, I wanted a super-veg-heavy dinner.  The kale was tangy and delicious, the soup was savory and delicious, perfection.

Kale Salad
About four servings.

Large bunch of organic kale
3 carrots
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 lemon, juiced (fresh is a must for this)
Coarse salt
Extra virgin olive oil

First, prep the kale by rinsing it thoroughly, de-stemming all the pieces, and chopping into small bite sized pieces.  Put in a large mixing bowl.  Peel the carrots and then grate them, set aside.  Place the pine nuts on a baking sheet in a 350-400 degree oven until they start to brown and become fragrant (a few minutes).  Set aside.

Now, you "massage" the kale which starts to break it down making it more tender and almost like you steamed it.  Pour the lemon juice over the kale and with freshly cleaned hands, plunge your hands into the kale and rub the lemon and kale together, a vegetable massage if you will.  After you do that for a bit, sprinkle a generous amount of salt across the kale and massage that through.  Lastly, drizzle a generous portion of olive oil across the kale and massage that through the kale very thoroughly.  Your kale should have drastically shrunk in size by now.  Toss the carrots and toasted pine nuts in with the kale and serve.

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup
Makes about 8 servings.
I was looking for a bean and mushroom soup and this perfectly fit the bill!  This soup is really wonderful.  I made a smaller quantity by using 1 onion, 1 pint mushrooms, 2 cans of beans and 4 cups of vegetable broth.

Pasted below.  From: http://shewearsmanyhats.com/2011/10/roasted-mushroom-soup/

A satisfying soup, that uses a healthy pureed white bean and broth base instead of cream, so it can be enjoyed often, guilt-free.

16 oz. mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 large sweet onions, quartered
3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt, divided
1½ teaspoon pepper, divided
8-10 fresh sage leaves*
8-10 stems + 1 tablespoon leaves fresh thyme*, divided
48 oz. chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted for a vegetarian version)
3 – 15 oz. cans white beans, not drained (I prefer cannellini beans)
Additional salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 450°F. 

Toss mushrooms, garlic and onion in olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. (You may want to keep mushrooms separate on baking sheet for roasting, because you’ll have to separate later. So, separate now, or later.) Spread on baking sheet. Add sage leaves and stems of thyme. Roast in 450° F oven for 10 minutes, toss and roast for additional 15 minutes. 

While vegetables are roasting, add broth, beans, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves to a large stock pot over medium heat and simmer.
When vegetables are done roasting, let cool slightly. Separate mushrooms from other roasted vegetables (if not already separated).
Retrieve 2 cups of the white beans, and 1 cup of broth from the stock pot, add to a blender along with the roasted onions, garlic and herbs. Cover and blend until smooth.
Add pureed bean mixture back to stock pot, whisking in until smooth. Add roasted mushrooms to soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
Warm over low heat until ready to serve.

*Dried herbs may be substituted for fresh. The rule of thumb is one part dried, to three parts fresh.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Eating Your Fruits and Vegetables

Easy, very nutritious, super-creamy and delicious soup.  This soup is dairy free, full of healthy fats and protein, high in fiber and full of vegetables.  But most importantly this soup is very, very tasty.  After the soup recipes is a delicious juice/smoothie recipe that makes a great healthy dessert or snack.

Creamy Skillet Soup
Makes two large servings.  A great, hearty, tasty lunch or dinner.  Serve with a simple greens salad and your favorite bread.  The kale turns the soup bright green.

1/4 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened boxed coconut milk (I used So Delicious)
Generous amount of Tabasco sauce
About 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or a slice of lemon if using Vitamix, peel and seeds removed)

About 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1/3 of a bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped
About 1/2 pint mushrooms, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt
Fresh pepper

10-15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
About 5 pieces of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
About 1/2 can of great northern beans
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube

Soup base, Vitamix:
Put the first four ingredients into the Vitamix, then proceed making the rest of the recipe.

Soup base, stick/immersion or regular blender:
Chop/crush the cashews and allow to soak in the milk for at least four hours in the refrigerator so that the cashews become soft enough to fully blend.  Once soft, add the lemon juice and Tabasco sauce and set aside.  If you don't have the time for this step, add 1-2 tablespoons of tahini to the milk.

Saute the onion, carrots and bell pepper in a deep pan until they start to soften.  Add the garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper, saute a few minutes more until the onions are browning and the mushrooms are soft.  Add the next five ingredients, raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil, deglaze the pain, press the bouillon cube into the water to help it quickly dissolve, lower the heat and cook just enough to wilt the kale.  Then take the pan off the heat.

Add the pan ingredients into the Vitamix and blend for a few minutes until creamy and piping hot.

If using a convention blender, blend in batches with the soup base, combine it all back into a soup pot on the stove and heat through.

For a stick/immersion blender, combine the soup base and the pan ingredients into a large deep stock pot, blend and heat through.

Once blended, taste the soup and add additional salt, pepper or hot sauce as needed.

This soup is also delicious made with additional or different vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, spinach, chard, cabbage, sweet or regular potatoes.  The beans can be omitted for a lighter soup.  Plain greek or regular yogurt is a great addition.  Plain, unsweetened almond, soy or cows milk can be used instead of the coconut milk.  Full fat canned coconut milk/cream can be used or added.  The quantities of the vegetables need not be precise.  The trick to the deliciousness is the soup base, using a variety of vegetables and keeping the cooking time short so the flavors are fresh.

Citrus Blast Juice Drink
Three servings.  Refreshing, sweet, tangy, complex and delicious.

1/2 grapefruit, peel and seeds removed
2 small nave1 oranges, peeled and halved
About 1 cup of pineapple chunks
1 small apple, cored and in chunks
1 slice ginger
1/2-1 cup water

Blend together until frothy and serve immediately.  If using a conventional blender, cut the fruit into smaller pieces.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Easy Healthy Breakfasts All Week Long

Steel cut oats are better than rolled oats for the following reason:
1)  They taste better
2)  They have a better texture and consistency
3)  You can save the leftovers to eat later, and they don't turn into concrete.

The issue with them is that they take a lot longer to cook.  One of my favorite cooking blogs is thekitchn.com and it has the solution to this: prepare the oats in advance and then eat them all week.  The recipe is below but you should read the full post.  I do this often Sunday night and then have easy breakfasts all week by warming up just the portion I want each morning. I usually mix in frozen or fresh berries, bananas or raisins with some flax seeds before microwaving then top with almond milk and maple syrup before eating.

How To Cook Steel-Cut Oats for Breakfast the Night Before
From www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-steelcut-oats-for-134185

1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
3-fingered pinch salt
1 cup milk (optional)

2-quart saucepan

1. Start this the night before you want to have steel-cut oatmeal. Measure out your oats. This quantity will make about 4 servings.

2. Heat about 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Add the oats and fry them for about 3 minutes, or until they start smelling toasty.

3. Pour in the water and add the salt. Stir.

4. Bring to a rolling boil.

5. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Leave it on the stove, and go to bed!

6. The next morning, uncover the pan and bring the oatmeal back up to a simmer. If you would like thinner and creamier oatmeal, stir in a cup of milk before reheating.

When the oatmeal is warm, scoop out and enjoy!

Additional Notes:
• Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
• Re-heat leftovers in just the same way: warm up on the stove, or in a bowl in the microwave.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Goods, Canned

Tired and hungry adults combined with a nearly-empty refrigerator and a sick baby meant dinner needed to be simple and easy tonight.  Over the years I've been testing various recipe and methods to get a decent pot of easy veggie chili out of the ingredients I almost always on have (read: canned goods).  There are some amazing chili recipes online that are much more involved -- click here for an amazing and quite involved recipe-- but what we're talking here is convenience that tastes good.

Chili A La Mode
(Greek yogurt is in fashion chez moi)
There's a lot of flexibility in this recipe but the two most important keys are:

1)  Be generous with the onion, garlic and dried spices, and
2)  Let the pot simmer as long as possible (no less than 45 minutes).

Really Easy Vegetarian Chili
About four servings.

About 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
About 1 tablespoon cumin powder
About 1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
About 1 teaspoon salt
Lots of fresh pepper
1/2 cup of salsa
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can pinto (or other) beans, drained
1 can black (or other) beans, drained
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup quinoa (optional)

Saute the onions in the olive oil until they begin to soften, then add the garlic and saute a few minutes more.  Add all the spices, stir and saute a minute or two more.  Then add all of the other ingredients and stir to combine well.  Turn the heat to high and once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer, partially covered.

The minimum it should simmer is 15 minutes-- that's how long the quinoa needs to cook.  But for the best taste, you should let it simmer for at least a half hour and ideally 45 minutes to an hour.  Just be sure to stir the pot regularly and if it starts to get dry at all, add some vegetable stock or water.

Serve by itself or with any or all of the accoutrements:
Greek yogurt
avocado slices
fresh cilantro
hot sauce
lime wedges

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Any Given Wednesday

Morning started off with a blast of goodness: a long weekday run and an awesome smoothie.  I'm calling it the Citrus Blast Smoothie.  And if what they say is true-- that vitamin C prevents colds-- then I'll be immune for the rest of Q1.

Dinner was a giant success today. If you want to try farro or are looking for a good farro 1 pot meal, this is the recipe for you.  The unbiased critics in my house gave it very high marks.  And unlike yesterday's farro dish, this one is good-lookin'. It would be a great pot luck dish.

Breakfast: Citrus Blast Smoothie (and a frozen waffle-- blueberry Kashi)
Two servings.  This tastes like a delicious citrus melange, not at all like leafy greens.  Spinach and flax seeds are in for their purported health benefits.

2 kiwis, peeled and halved
4 naval oranges, peeled and halved
1 cup pineapple chunks
Large handful spinach
Flax seeds

Blend it all up and serve immediately.  A standard blender should do just fine with these ingredients, just chop the fruit up into smaller pieces if you're not using a Vitamix.

Dinner: Farro with Roasted Vegetables and Panache
The panache is the roasted pine nuts and simple dressing-- don't omit either because they make this extra delicious.   A life without panache is full of ennui! I'd recommend a simple side salad for a nice meal with lots of texture variation. This would also make a fantastic side dish.

This makes about 4 main dish servings.  

1 cup of farro*, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
2 parsnips, peeled and diced**
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 large stalk of broccoli, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 can chick peas
1/2 cup or so tomatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
coarse salt & fresh pepper

The longer you soak the farro, the shorter the cooking time.  Drain off the soaking water, and place in a pot, cover the farro generously with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for about 35 minutes, less if you soaked it longer than I did.

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the faro is soaking, chop all the vegetables. Try to get them uniform in size and not much larger than the chick peas.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

Put the vegetables (except the tomatoes), garlic and chick peas into a roasting pan large enough to hold everything in more or less 1 layer.  Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt.  Mix thoroughly and shake the pan so the vegetables aren't stacked on top of each other.  Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes and while the farro is cooking.  Every ten minutes or so, stir.  Halfway through the bake time, stir in the chopped tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, vinegar, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill.  Once the vegetables have reached your desired done-ness remove from the oven.  Spread the pine nuts onto a small baking sheet and put into the warm oven for a few minutes while you assemble the dish.  They won't take long; once they are starting to turn brown and become aromatic, remove them immediately.  Test the farro for done-ness (should still be firm, don't let it get mushy) and combine the vegetables, farro, pine nuts and dressing in a large bowl.  Serve warm.

*Couscous, quinoa, or a small pasta like orzo would also work well.
**Use 2 carrots if you have no parsnips on hand.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Farro First Timer

So you could say I've been into the quinoa foodie fad-- one plank of the "ancient grain" craze.  Quinoa is delicious, nutritious, and versatile  what can I say.  I'm troubled by all the articles talking about how demand for this seed (it's not a grain actually) by rich Americans has caused the price to rise, making this Bolivian staple out of reach now for regular Bolivians.  The politics of food is a complicated thing.  I'll leave it to actual experts to write about that.

But anyways, to Farro, the "original" grain.  Apparently American foodies have recently discovered it and Italians have rediscovered it and it's now appearing on menus (and blogs and all over the inter-web) like crazy.  So earlier this winter I bought a bag of it and then forgot about it until this weekend, when I was unloading groceries and noticed it in the cupboard... so I moved the bag to the counter where it sat until tonight.

So, this grain is delicious.  It's wheaty tasting, slightly nutty with an awesome chewy texture.  I was eating it plain out of the pot.  It would be great warm with just some butter or olive oil and salt.  But I wanted to turn it into a one pot meal for myself, with leftovers for lunches.  Here's my creation that turned out quite good but warning: this dish is NOT pretty.

Creamy Greens Farro
Makes about three main dish servings.

1 cup of farro

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 stalk of broccoli, chopped
1 can of great northern beans
Handful of spinach
About a half cup of tomatoes (I used a handful of grape tomatoes)
Salt & fresh pepper
Vegetable stock or water
Soy sauce
Lemon juice

This is really easy to make-- the only trick is you first need to soak the farro.  Cover it with cold water and soak for 20-30 minutes.  Then drain, cover again with water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  You can cook it longer if you like it softer, but I found this amount of cooking perfect.

While the farro is cooking, saute the onions in the olive oil.  Once they begin to soften add the garlic and broccoli and saute for several minutes.  Once the onions are browning and the broccoli is bright green add the beans, spinach and tomatoes, a generous portion of pepper and some salt, and enough vegetable stock to deglaze the pan (about a 1/2 cup).  Turn the heat up, stir the mixture so that the spinach wilts and everything is heated through.  Then turn the heat off and put the contents of the pan into the blender or food processor.  Add a splash of soy sauce and lemon juice and blend until creamy.  Taste for seasonings and add any additional salt or pepper.

Combine the cooked farro and creamy greens together in a bowl.  Serve this stew-like dish in small bowls.  This is filling as it is very high fiber and high protein.  Perfect for a winter night.

First Post: Sunday in the Kitchen

Cooking is one of my favorite extracurricular activities.  It's a very concrete, tangible activity, and makes for a healthy, happy life.  Cooking has become my creative outlet in my adulthood and I enjoy cooking for friends and family, it's an enjoyable gift to give.  It's fun to search the internet for inspiration, recipes, and ideas.  Often I'm searching for spice and flavor combinations, ideas on using the last two ingredients in the cupboard, and inspiration when I'm lacking motivation to cook.

Some of my friends and family think that cooking healthy and vegetarian is an impossible, burdensome task that is out of reach, or they just don't comprehend how one could survive on vegetables alone.  That, combined with my gratitude for all the blog and online cooking magazine recipes I've read through the years, I thought-- if everyone is doing it then why can't I?  And then, I got a Vitamix blender for Christmas, which has brought me to a new level in the kitchen--  there's nothing like a fancy power tool to supercharge your creativity. So on a dark, cold night in February, I'm going to give it a stab!

Last Sunday was my moment of inspiration for the blog.  I made a lot of different food based solely on my creativity and what we had in the kitchen and everything was really successful-- and my family (including 15 month old foster baby) agreed and showed it by drinking/eating like crazy, which is always the best reward.  So I thought I'd start by sharing my meals and recipes from yesterday.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Strawberries
Two adult servings plus one for a little person.

1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups of unsweetened almond milk
1 cup water
Flax seeds
Lots of fresh strawberries, diced
Maple syrup, honey or brown sugar

Combine the oats, water and milk, bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer for about 15 minutes, add strawberries and flax and cook for 5-10 minutes more.  Stir in sweetener to taste and serve.  

Orange, Apple, Ginger Juice
Two servings

5 naval oranges, peeled & halved
1 small apple, cored & in chunks
Slice of ginger
1 cup water

Blend in Vitamix.  Serve immediately.

Smoothie Snack: Kale & Fruit
Two servings.  This tastes really good.  The baby drank hers up in one giant, prolonged suck.  

1 cup fresh strawberries, stems pulled off
1/2 frozen or fresh banana
2 large kale leaves, stems removed
1 kiwi, peeled & in chunks
1 orange, peeled & halved
1/2-1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (such as So Delicious)
Flax seeds

Blend in Vitamix.  Serve immediately.

Lunch: Easy Speedy Vitamix Soup For One
This was my super-fast lunch for myself.  Normally I saute and cook my soups before blending but when you're rushed it's possible to make a tasty soup from raw ingredients right in the Vitamix.

A few slices of onion
1 clove of garlic, skin removed
Large handful of cleaned spinach
2 carrots, peeled & in chunks
1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (such as So Delicious)
Small handful raw cashews
A few drops of Tabasco
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend in Vitamix for several minutes until steaming hot.  Serve immediately.  

Dinner: Quinoa Pinto Bean Vegetable Casserole
Makes 6-7 large portions.  Made this for family dinner with a simple side salad and then had enough leftovers for 4 lunches!  This dish is hearty, filling, tasty and full of protein and fiber.  You can make it as spicy as you like.  I imagine sour cream, salsa, avocado and/or guacamole would make good toppings, but we just had it as-is and we loved it.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Vegetable bouillon cube

Large head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces & microwaved for 2 mins

1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large portobello mushroom, diced, or similar portion of small mushrooms
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup salsa
Hot sauce (I used Tabasco)

1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare quinoa: put all ingredients into pot, bring to boil, lower heat to a slow simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes.  Once the quinoa is done, pour into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, microwave (or steam) broccoli so that it still has a crunch but has begun to cook.  Saute the onion in a little olive oil.  Add garlic and mushrooms once onions have begun to brown.  Add salt, pepper and cumin.  Saute until mushrooms soften.  Add beans, cooked broccoli,  tomatoes, and salsa.  Stir and bring mixture to boil.  Lower heat and let simmer for a few minutes.  Add hot sauce to taste.  

Pour the bean and vegetable saute into the bowl with the quinoa.  Add the egg and stir the mixture well so that everything is incorporated.  Spread evenly into an 8 by 8 or 9 by 9 baking pan.  Sprinkle the cheese across the top.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cheese just barely is starting to brown.  Let the pan cool for a few minutes before scooping out the servings.

Easy Coconut (Vegan) Ice Cream 
This and the quinoa-- both totally made up by me-- were my final two dishes that convinced me I was ready to start the blog.  The rum and three kinds of sweetener give this ice cream a nutty, complex flavor.  The rum and cornstarch give the ice cream a nice consistency and ensures that it freezes correctly.  

1 can of coconut milk (full fat version!)
About 1 cup boxed unsweetened coconut milk (such as So Delicious)
1 date, pitted & chopped
About 3 tablespoons maple syrup
About 2 tablespoons sugar
Small handful of ice cubes
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoons dark rum (other kinds of booze work too)
Large handful unsweetened coconut flakes

Put all the ingredients except for the coconut flakes into the blender and blend at high speed until smooth.  Taste the liquid-- add additional sweetener (syrup and/or sugar) if needed.  (Remember that when it freezes it will taste less sweet.)  Blend again for a few seconds.  Add in the coconut flakes and blend BRIEFLY at medium speed-- this will chop these into fine, small bits that add nice bites to your ice cream.

Pour this very cold mixture immediately the ice cream maker and follow the instructions.

I didn't sweeten mine a lot and then used a little bit of maple syrup as a topping, which was really fantastic.