Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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.

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