Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easy Guacamole

This is titled "Easy Guacamole", but the truth is, all guacamole is easy. You can make this up in about 10 minutes or less - depending on how fast you chop :) - and it's totally worth it. 

Guacamole
My made-up recipe

2 ripe avocados
2 small/medium finely chopped tomatoes (about 3/4 cup)
1 small finely chopped onion  - I used yellow usually, but red is good also
1 lime
1/2 a small lemon
Big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (Optional)
salt

I guess I should start with a quick lesson in avocado cutting! First, cut around the outside of the avocado along a vertical axis, cutting in until the knife hits the pit (like you would a peach). Twist the two halves apart (again, like a peach) and you'll have two separate pieces like this:
Remove the pit from one of the halves by scooping it out with a spoon. Next, take the spoon and run it along the edge where the skin meets in the inside of the avocado. If you catch it right, you should be able to simply scoop the insides out all at once. 
Like this...thank you Google images.

There you go, you've got your avocado peeled! Now, mash it up with a fork or potato masher in a bowl. Toss in the tomatoes onions, and cilantro. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt squeeze the juice of the lime into the mixture. mix it well and taste it, then add as much lemon juice as you prefer. Adjust the juice/salt content until your happy with the flavor.

I guarantee this won't take more than ten minutes, and it
is so worth the satisfaction of making it yourself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

I'm not usually into creamy dishes, but this Lasagna is to die for. Instead of classic red sauce - which I have an amazing recipe for as well - it uses a bechamel sauce. It's not winning all the health awards out there but boy does it taste good.

Vegetable Lasagna
The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking


15-18 Sheets of lasagna noodles
1 medium onion, chopped finely
11/4 lb fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
11/2 lbs sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
11/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Bechamel Sauce
4 C milk
5 Tbs Butter
4 Tbs flour
Put a big pot of water on for the noodles and preheat the oven to 400. While the water comes to a boil, start by cooking the onions in olive oil over medium heat, until they are translucent. Add in the tomatoes and cook the mixture for about 7 more minutes, stirring it periodically. Meanwhile, heat about 3 tbs butter in a sauce pan and cook the mushrooms until they start to juice. Add the garlic and lemon and cook the mixture until most of the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are browning.
Cook the lasagna noodles until they are only about half way done - probably about 4 minutes. You want them to still be a little crunchy so that they don't get soggy when the lasagna cooks. Spread the noodles out on a sheet of waxed paper to drain.

To make the bechamel, first put the milk on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a shallow saucepan. Once the butter is ready, slowly stir in the flour to make a roux. It will appear a little gloopy at first, but just keep stirring. It should resemble a thick paste - don't add too much flour that it gets dry. Let it buble for about two minutes then remove it from the heat. Add the boiling milk and stir the mixture vigorously with a whisk to incorporate to roux into the milk. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and then boil it for about two minutes to allow it to thicken. Viola. 

Grease a shallow baking dish and assemble all of your layers: the tomatoes, the mushrooms, the noodles, the bechamel, and the cheese. Start with a thin layer of bechamel, and then place a layer of lasagna noodle on top of it. Spread some of the mushroom mixture on, and then another spoonful of bechamel. Top this layer with a light sprinkling of cheese, and then another batch of noodles. Repeat the process, this time adding tomatoes instead of mushrooms. Keep adding layers until the mixtures run out, and top it off with a layer of noodles, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake it for about 20 minutes and then allow it to cool for at least five. Enjoy!!

Also, I've cut the recipe in half many times and it works fine. The full recipe serves about 6 to 8 people!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quinoa Salad

So, another way to use quinoa is by making a "quinoa salad". This can mean anything from tossing some cooked quinoa into a leafy green salad, to making a tabbouleh-esque grain salad. 
Here's the recipe I use - credited to Kara Sharpe. I made this for lunch yesterday...and with dinner tonight :)

Quinoa Salad
From Kara Sharpe and my brain

2 C cooked quinoa
1 lemon
olive oil
salt n' pepper

First, cook your quinoa. Then, you have endless optional add-ins. Here are some of my favorites:

Cucumber
Tomato
Black beans
Cheese- I use Parmesan or feta, feel free to experiment
Bell pepper

Dice your add-ins so that they are bite size, then toss the quinoa, juice from most or all of the lemon, and a couple swirls of olive oil together.
If you'd like, you can mix in some fresh parsley or other herbs and top it off with as much salt and pepper as your prefer. 

It's quick and easy and can be eaten as a main dish, side dish, or snack. Perfect!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I recently fell in love with quinoa, the tiny grain that not many people know about. It can replace anything from rice to couscous, but it's chop full of nutrients and other yummy things. It's got tons of fiber, all 8 amino acids, and it's a super source of protein! 
Here is an article from the "New York Times" all about quinoa. It's got some good information and a recipe to cook plain, simple quinoa. Click here!

It looks cool too...what's not to love? This is red quinoa and regular quinoa

Cooking quinoa is about as easy as it gets. You just throw some uncooked grains in a sauce pan and add some water. The ratio i usually do is 1 part quinoa to 3/4 parts water, but different people like different methods.  Then, bring it to a soft boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quiona is fluffy. Ta da!


Here's one of my favorite Quinoa recipes. More to come though, don't despair...
Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
from "Vegetarian Times" September, 2011

1 egg
2 tbs. flour
1 1/2 tbs tahini or nut butter*
1 1/2 tsp. wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup finely grated sweet potato
1/2 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry**
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese, optional
2 Tbs. finely diced onion
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. salt

*I used peanut butter my first time making this because I was out of tahini...it gave the cakes such good flavor that I have yet to try tahini.
**I have always used fresh spinach. Just be sure to bump up the amount and chop it finely

Stir together the egg, flour, tahini, and vinegar. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Form the mixture into patties, about 1/4 C each, and put them on a pre-sprayed cookie sheet. Bake them at 400 for about 20-25 minutes till they're golden brown and crispy

FOR THE ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE: 
Combine 1 1/2 C drained roasted red peppers, 1/2 C toasted almonds, 1 clove of garlic, and about a teaspoon of red wine vinegar in a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth. Dollop a little on each cake. Mmmmm.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Easy Curried Lentils

This is a really great meal for a weeknight. It's quick, delicious, and has really simple ingredients. It'll only take about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Serve it with naan or over rice and with a nice leafy salad.


Curried Lentils
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook 

1 C red lentils
2 C vegetable stock
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbs butter (or ghee if you can find it!)
1 chopped onion (about a 11/2 C)
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 large green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp each: ground cumin and ground coriander

2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C coconut milk

Put the lentils, water, and turmeric into a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer for about ten minutes, until the lentils are almost cooked. 
Meanwhile, saute the onions in the butter for about five minutes, until the begin to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, and spices and sautee the mixture a little while longer.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir in the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for about five minutes. When you are ready to serve it, stir in the coconut milk and reheat it a little if necessary.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kale!


A lot of people are turned off by kale. I'm not sure if it's the color, the scent, or just the reputation, but you really should give it a try. It definitely has a specific - sometimes bitter - taste, but I really like it. Plus, kale is extremely nutritious. It's high in vitamins and minerals, it has a moderate amount of protein, and it's PACKED with fiber!

There are millions of ways to incorporate kale into your meals, but here is a really simple one that I came up with the other night when I was cooking for just myself:

Kale N' Raisins
One bunch of kale
Handful of raisins
Handful of slivered almonds
~2 tbs Red wine vinegar

Start by cutting the kale into bitesize pieces. Steam it in a shallow pan over medium-high heat for only about 3 minutes. When it starts to wilt and lose brightness, add the raisins, nuts, and the vinegar. Let it simmer for about a minute more, allowing the vinegar to be absorbed and the raisins to plump up a bit.

That's it! Enjoy this as a delicious side to pretty much anything

**Remember this is the amount I made for myself...adjust the amounts of each ingredients based upon the number of people and your taste. Also try experiementing with other add-ins!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Veggie Mu Shoo...Plus Homemade Wrappers!

We all love some good Mu Shoo, but if you're like me the thought of trying to make it for yourself seems daunting. Luckily, Seeing a recipe in last month's issue of "Vegetarian Times" convinced me too give it a shot, and guess what - it was easy as pie. (no cooking pun intended...) Believe it or not, I made the wrappers also and they turned out spot-on. 
Here's the recipe. Try it and you'll be impressed with yourself. 


Mu Shoo Wrappers

2 C flour
3/4 C boiling water
sesame oil

Mix the flour and water together. Let it cool a bit, and then knead it until it is smooth. Divide it into 8 balls and flatten each ball into a patty with your palms. Take one patty and brush the top with sesame oil, then place another patty on top. Roll the pair as one into a thin round about 8 inches wide - or about the size of "professional" mu shoo wrappers ;) Do this with the rest of the patties, making four pairs.
Heat a skillet on low. Throw a patty-pair right into the pan.- don't peel them apart and no, no greasing necessary. Cook it about a minute each side, until it looks like it has cooked a bit and perhaps bubbles a little. Let it cool for a few minutes and then peel them apart - IT WORKS, TRUST ME! Keep them warm while you make the remaining pairs.


Vegetable Mu Shoo  
Vegetarian Times: September 2011

Sauce:
1/2 C vegetable broth or water
2 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. sesame oil
1 tbs. lime juice
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey

Shake it up...

Filling:
3 eggs
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1 small red onion, sliced
2 tbs fresh grated ginger
1 c stemmed shiitake mushrooms, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 C shredded cabbage
1 1/2 C snow peas, cut lengthwise into strips
1 1/2 C shredded carrots

*4 oz tofu - optional. I added this, gives it some extra protein!

First, heat your preferred type of oil in a wok, and cook the onion and ginger on medium until the onion begins to get soft. Next add the mushrooms and garlic, and cook about 5 more minutes or until the mushrooms seem to have cooked a bit and turn brown. 
While all this is happening, whisk the eggs with the little bit of soy sauce and sesame oil. Cook the egg as one flat patty in a pan. When it's done, cut it into strips and save it for later.
Go back to the veggies. When the mushrooms are ready, toss in the cabbage, peas, and carrots and keep it cooking for a couple more minutes. *If you want tofu, cut it into strips and add it at this point also.
Add the sauce and let it simmer - or as I like to say, "fester" - for about 3 minutes until it thickens.
Viola! Serve it with your homemade wrappers and hoisin sauce.