Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Stir-Fry with Quinoa

Thanks to our recent move, Austin and I have had to adapt to a number of things: a different area of town; living in a multi-story home (in my case for the first time ever); everything we own being in a different place than it was a month ago; and the layout of our new supermarket. This last one has proven a bit challenging, since the Kroger where we now do most of our shopping is somewhat weirdly organized. For instance, most of the vegetable broth is located in the health food section, instead of with the soup. This health food section also contains items, such as non-dairy milk, energy bars, and rice cakes usually found throughout the store next to somewhat similar items. Since I find the organization strange and confusing I was rather fearful when Austin suggested we track down a can of mini corn on the cob. Oh no, not a specialty ingredient! Instead of going straight for the canned veggies, I put on my Kroger shelf stocker hat and headed for the Asian foods section. Success!

But, as usual, I digress. Why were we searching for cute little corn cobs anyway? Well, Austin insisted we needed them for that evening’s stir-fry.  I had decided that’s what we were having for dinner because it seemed like the perfect way to make a dent in a seemingly bottomless bag of dried shiitakes and my ever-growing supply of peppers and zucchini. These veggies, along with the corn, made for fresh and summery-tasting stir-fry. For a protein boost, I served the stir-fry over a bed of nutty-tasting quinoa.

Even though it involved a fair amount of chopping, the meal was easy to prepare and came together in about half an hour. So if stir-fry is such a quick, not to mention tasty and versatile, meal why don’t I make it more often? Probably because I’m too busy working my way down a list of new, and usually more complicated, recipe ideas. I’ll try to remind myself that quickie old faithful dishes deserve some love too.

Summer Stir-Fry over Quinoa
Makes 4 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili and garlic paste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into 2.5 inch / 3 cm thin matchsticks
  • 2 Anaheim chilies or 1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can baby corn, cobs drained and halved
  • 1 cup sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Optional: Sliced scallions for garnish
1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until you can smell its nuttiness and starts to brown. Pour in 3 cups of water, sprinkle in the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

2.  Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and chili-garlic paste. Set aside. 

3.  While the quinoa is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes.  Next add the carrots and peppers, cooking for another 3 minutes. Then stir in the baby corn and zucchini and fry for another 3 minutes. Lastly, add the dried mushrooms, stirring to incorporate them into the mixture. Turn the heat off and stir in the sauce. Let the stir-fry sit for about 5 minutes, then serve over the cooked quinoa, garnished with scallions if you'd like. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mocha Tofu Pudding

It's no secret that I have a pretty bad sweet tooth. I find that it generally strikes after meals, especially dinner. A couple days ago I felt a hankering for dessert so I opened my fridge and looked for a quick fix. I didn't find any chocolate bars or anything else I could enjoy immediately but I did spot several packages of Mori-Nu silken tofu (Kroeger was having a sale; I couldn't resist). "Sweet,", I thought, "Pudding time!".

Now some of you may think that tofu pudding sounds pretty unappetizing. Well, it's actually delicious -- even Mark Bittman says so, which obviously makes it a fact. In addition to being tasty, a tofu-based pudding is healthier than it's cream-based counterpart and can easily be made low fat by using lite silken tofu. It's also a versatile quick and dirty dessert: you can enjoy during a lazy movie night or dress up and serve to guests.  Anyway, whether you believe me or not, you need to give this a try. And once you've fallen deeply in love with tofu pudding (you will), you can try this slightly more elaborate recipe. Happy dessert making!

What are some of your favorite quick and/or (relatively) healthy desserts?

Mocha Tofu Pudding
Makes 3 servings
  • 12.3 oz / 350 g silken tofu, drained (I used the shelf stable kind, Mori-Nu, although you could certainly use the refrigerated variety)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond (or other non dairy) milk
  • 1/4 cup espresso or other strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: Macadamia (or other) nuts for garnish
1.  Place all the ingredients in the blender or food processor and whiz until smooth.

2.  Chill for about half an hour, garnish with nuts if you'd like and serve. If you put the tofu, coffee and almond milk in the fridge ahead of time you can skip the chilling step. Not that it's absolutely essential; if you need your chocolate fix stat you can enjoy the pudding at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

As I've mentioned before, Austin isn't a huge eggplant fan. I, on the other hand, love it so much I can’t fathom anyone not feeling the same way. I’ve therefore declared that Austin’s dislike is really silly prejudice and have made it my mission to periodically sneak eggplant onto his plate when he’s not looking. Thankfully, he’s a pretty good sport about it and eats at least one serving of every eggplant-containing dish. My plan to make him taste the goodness in eggplant requires me to always be on the lookout for ways to cook it that I think he may enjoy.

When I saw Eric Growe’s miso-glazed eggplant recipe in Yoga Journal, I quickly ripped out the page and stuck it on my fridge, deeming it a perfect candidate for a (not so) stealthy attack. I've since served Austin a modified version of the dish several times. Not surprisingly, I think it’s delicious. But Austin has even gone so far as to describe it as “good” and have seconds. That's about as glowing an endorsement as I could hope for.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Adapted from the Eric Gower recipe published in the May 2011 issue of Yoga Journal
Makes 4 servings
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 lbs Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and scored about 1/2 inch / 1 cm deep on the fleshy side
  • 1/3 cup yellow (or other type of) miso
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine or sake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon maple or agave syrup
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • A couple pinches red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon chili and garlic paste 
1.  Preheat your oven's broiler. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add about 1/3 of the eggplant halves cut-side down. Flip the halves after about 4 minutes or once they've browned. Cook them for another 3 minutes or so on the other side and then transfer them to a foiled-lined or greased baking sheet, cut-side up. Repeat for the rest of the eggplant.

2.  While the eggplant is cooking, whisk together the miso, wine, maple syrup, garlic, chili flakes, and garlic chili paste, if using. Brush the eggplant generously with the miso mixture. Place under the broiler for about 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. (As you can see, mine got a bit too brown but it was still delicious).

3.  Sprinkle the eggplant with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Veggies For Real on Meatless Mondays

Austin and I spent the last week on vacation on Cape Cod, MA. We had no computers and no internet, hence the lack of posts. I'd love to say I spent a lot time on the beach sunning myself, but the truth is that for the second consecutive year the weather did not cooperate. I might of only gotten one good beach day but I at least I got to catch up on my pleasure reading. It could be worse.

I wish I could have figured out how to write this post on my phone, so that I could have posted the exciting news when it was fresh. Oh well, better late than ever. My Pesto Pasta with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrots is the suggested dinner of the week (until tomorrow, I think) over at Meatless Mondays! Check it out!  It's one of the most popular recipes on the blog, so I hope the Meatless Mondays readers enjoy it as well.

Time for me to get back to unpacking. There's nothing like coming back from vacation to a house full of boxes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie

On Saturday, Austin and I left the only apartment complex we've lived in in North Carolina (Pinnacle Ridge, it's been real) and moved into a townhome complex on the other side of Durham. We hired TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) to do our moving and they were absolutely fantastic and very affordable. As my mother would say, "Luxury is being able to hire movers".

While all our stuff is in our new place, most hasn't found its way out of the boxes. The only rooms I would say are fully set up are our two and a half bathrooms and the kitchen. Even though I tried prioritize putting the kitchen together, we just finished setting up it  up a couple days ago. After about five days of eating out (I'm always surprised by how old that can get), I cooked my first meal in our new home yesterday (black bean tacos with guacamole and salsa verde, in case you're wondering). I like our new kitchen a lot, but I'm still getting used to everything being in a different place, so much so that I find myself opening several cabinets to find a single utensil. Foreshadowing of my future senile self? I hope not!

Since I haven't gotten back into creative cooking mode yet, I'd like to share another recipe (although it's so simple it barely qualifies as such) I've been hoarding. This slushie was born out of necessity, really; I needed to make a dent in our CSA cantaloupe before the move and relief from the super humid heat. I added some lime juice, mango and ice to the cantaloupe and the result was summer in a glass. For an even more exciting drink (more exciting than mango, cantaloupe and lime? Imposible!) use your favorite spirit in place of the water.

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie
Makes about 4 cups
  • 2 1/2 cups cold chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup frozen chopped mango
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cold water (you could also substitute a spirit of your choice; I think vodka would be quite good)
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately, garnished with a lime for a bit of flair.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quinoa and Blue Potato Salad

Sorry for the lack of posts, but the past couple of weeks have been insane. Last week I was at a conference in California, which was hugely informative and inspiring but also tiring. When I wasn't attending talks and poster sessions I was sleeping to prepare my brain for more learning. As soon as I got home it was time for Austin and I to start packing for our move this coming Saturday. As pretty much anyone who's moving says, you don't realize how much stuff you have until you're forced to deal with it all at once. Ugh! Thank goodness we've hired movers.

Needless to say, I haven't been cooking a lot lately. Fortunately, I had a few posts saved (which I'd intended to share while I was at the conference -- so much for good intentions) so I'll be able to keep posting during this crazy time. Because my last few recipes required using an oven (which even I cringe at in this triple digit weather), I decided to focus on more summery foods for a bit.

This salad was inspired by two of our finds at the farmers market: blue potatoes and cherry tomatoes. The potatoes were labeled as "all blue", which I thought meant blue-fleshed, when really they were just tie-dye-ish on the inside. They were still pretty and really tasty, especially when paired with another local favorite, sweet cherry tomatoes, crunchy pepitas, and toothsome quinoa. The salad was light enough for a summer night but hearty enough to be a meal in it's own right.

Quinoa and Blue Potato Salad
Makes 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 lb / 565 g new blue potatoes (other new potatoes would work just as well), scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you'd like
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: Pepitas or pumpkin seeds for garnish
1.  In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa, cooking for about 5-7 minutes or until it's toasted and fragrant. Pour in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or however long the package indicates) or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water and add the potatoes. Cook them for 8-12 minutes or until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

2.  While the quinoa and the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. Add the oil, lime juice, jalapeño, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a mini food processor (or a regular sized one, if that's what you've got) and blend until smooth.

3.  Once the quinoa and potatoes are done, add them to a large bowl along with the bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes and cilantro. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve chilled or room temperature, garnished with some pepitas if you'd like.