Posts Tagged ‘main-dish’
Trying New Things
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The Santa Monica Farmers Market is lousy with “broccoli sprouts” right now. It seems like every third booth has a huge cardboard box of these things. I had never tried them before, but they looked pretty healthy so I decided to go for it. A little internet research revealed that all of these people are liars. What they are selling is something called sprouting broccoli. It’s rich in vitamin C and harvested January-April. It is pretty similar to chinese broccoli, in the sense that the stems are pretty long. I picked some up for a dish, and I was pretty satisfied. The stems were a little tough towards the end, and next time I would probably trim off the bottom 2 inches from each piece. Otherwise, they were perfect with some spinach and basil gnocchi that’s been hanging out in my freezer for a few months. This is an oil-free recipe. Ever since my juice fast, I’ve been on a real healthy eating kick, so I should have some good recipes for you guys in the coming weeks and months. Check out this one after the jump.

Pasta Primavera: An Iteration
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I’m not going to be coy about it. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I blame my upbringing for my love of pasta. In a past life, I enjoyed all sorts of oily and creamy sauces for my pasta, but lately I have been opting to toss it with fresh vegetables instead. Since this is a McDougall-friendly recipe, I also added a bit of vegetable broth to the mix. The recipe for this is so simple that I won’t even post it after the jump. Take a cup of vegetables (I used asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes) and sautee them in half a cup of vegetable broth until tender. Then, toss in one serving of your favorite pasta. You can garnish with a little fresh ground black pepper or perhaps some nutritional yeast. I used this really cute pasta that I found at Jordan Middle Eastern market in Westwood.

Tofu Francaise
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Lately, my boyfriend and I have been focusing our efforts on cultivating our appreciation of the french language. He set us up with Rosetta Stone,which has taught me (among important words like mange) that my 3 semesters of french at USC were practically wasted. For those of you who don’t know, Rosetta Stone uses flash cards and only speaks to you in French, kind of like trial by fire. It also makes you repeat after it and uses voice recognition technology to either build you up or shame you until you get it right. According to the evil lady robot, who I like to call Rosie, my pronunciation is absolutely atrocious. Last night, Rosie took particular offense to my butchering of the word “boit”.  In honor of the french, here is my recipe for tofu francais, which is a vegan take on an italian recipe with a french name. My serving suggestion is to pair it with some lightly steamed haricort vert (that’s green beans for those of you who only speak languages where they pronounce all the letters). I added some whole wheat garlic knots to the mix, which is my new favorite way to deal with leftover pizza dough.

Pumpkin Soup
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a cozy little dinner

As part of my newfound commitment to oil-free living, I whipped up a delicious pumpkin soup the other day. Lately I’ve been all about the pumpkin, and maybe it’s because Trader Joes is helpfully stocking piles and piles of it in every aisle (except for 2 Saturdays ago when the TJs on Pico was sold out of every seasonal item, lame). Having already conquered the pumpkin pie and wrestled with pumpkin muffins(amazing), I had to come up with a way to enjoy my new favorite flavor at dinnertime. While one option was having pancakes for dinner, I decided to go in another direction with this pumpkin soup. I served it with whole wheat toast, which was perfect for dipping, and pumpkin butter, which has replaced regular butter in our house.

It was delicious at dinner, but I will admit that it didn’t taste quite the same the next day at lunch. Part of this may be psychological. Since it’s very difficult to find McDougall-approved food out in the wild, I have been following a pattern of cooking one night and bringing in leftovers the next day for lunch. It works, but it’s been getting a little predictable. I’m going to start popping over to Mrs. Winston’s every few days to mix things up a bit. I’m curious if anyone has any good oil-free lunch ideas, maybe something I can just toss into my lunch tote in the morning without cooking? That would be a godsend.

No-Hurry Veggie Curry
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One of my biggest food weaknesses is yellow curry. I love the combination of spices and sweet coconut milk, and always rationalize my consumption of it by thinking about all the nutritious vegetables that are floating around inside my bowl. However, I know that restaurant curries can be full of fat and unnecessary calories. I’ve been hitting barre fitness class four times a week lately, and I am not going to waste my time there by coming home and essentially chewing on a big piece of coconut fat. So, I set out to create a curry recipe with no added fat or oils, and I think I did a pretty good job. The coconut milk makes this dish rich enough, and I reason that the added oil is just a result of having to use a pan over high heat. I eliminated the need for any stir frying by converting this over to a crockpot recipe.

Sure, it takes a couple of hours to make, but I discovered that there is nothing more satisfying on a fall morning than waking up to the smell of this delicious curry. I took it to work with some steamed rice, and it was amazing.

Oh No She Didn’t
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Oh yes, yes I did. I know that I should be at least a little embarrassed about whipping up a tater tot casserole, but I have decided that trailer park chic is back in vogue in the family kitchen. Sometimes, when I’m doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I like to peruse their frozen section to see if I’m missing out on any vegan goodness. The other day I discovered that their frozen tater tots are completely vegan friendly, and I decided to get some for breakfast. Then, a brilliant idea dawned on me, the idea of tater tot casserole.

I cannot say for sure when I was exposed to the idea of tater tot casserole. It’s certainly not something that we ever had growing up, so I must have seen it on an episode of Roseanne or something. Anyway, I was so unfamiliar with the concept that I had to do a bit of internet research on this one. A classic tater tot casserole consists of cream of mushroom soup, ground beef, tater tots, and sometimes cheese. What’s so weird is that I didn’t have ANY of those things on hand (except the tater tots). I did a LOT of improvising, but the end result was absolutely delicious, and very low in fat when compared to the traditional preparation.

Where Is My Bloody Risotto?
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Anyone who has ever seen Hell’s Kitchen probably got this post’s headline right away. On Hell’s Kitchen, beloved TV chef Gordon Ramsey gathers a dozen or so aspiring chefs and proceeds to demean, belittle, and yell at them, which is good for about an hour’s worth of entertainment. The show goes on for a couple of weeks, until only two people are tough enough to be left standing. They battle it out head to head and the winner gets to be the new head chef and whatever restaurant Gord-o happens to be opening.
The thing that always strikes me about this show is how trashy the contestants seem compared to other cooking shows. Take Top Chef for example, most of those contestants are down-right classy. They know how to cook with fancy ingredients, and they are well spoken. Another show with good contestants is The Next Food Network Star, where everyone is  intelligent, even if their cooking skills are a little suspect. Hell’s Kitchen’s casting department, on the other hand, seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Season 5 was an especially great cast, starring a 600 pound man, some girl from Detroit, and a guy with a whitesnake haircut and a backwards hat. But I digress.
My favorite thing about shows like Hell’s Kitchen is that I always know when certain things are going to happen. At some point into every dinner service, Gordon will start shouting about his risotto. There is something undeniably sexy about a good-looking, sweaty British man yelling about gourmet food. It gets me going. I’m not sure what it is about risotto that challenges Gordon’s rag-tag bunch of culinary hopefuls. The risotto is always too sticky or too al-dente or cold. Since my first exposure to risotto was through Hell’s Kitchen, I naturally assumed that it must be rocket science. I thought there was some secret window, maybe only 5 seconds, that yielded a perfect risotto and that everything else would produce rubbish.
Well I was wrong.
Risotto is super easy to cook, as long as you’re willing to ladle in broth while stirring the rice. That’s all there is to it. Make sure to serve it hot, and see if you can get whoever you happen to be dining with to do their best Gordon Ramsey impression as you bring it out to the table.
Add broth- stir rice- repeat.
Did I mention that it’s delicious?

It’s Shake n’ Bake, and I helped!
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The other day, my always resourceful boyfriend came across a list of ready-made vegan foods. It was a perfect list of vegan items that you can find in any American grocery store, even non-gourmet ones like Kroger, Shop-Rite, and Ralph’s. It’s the perfect list to have on hand if you are going to visit omnivores. I always dread it when I know I’m going to have to answer the question “so what do you eat?”. I often find myself giving a list of the things I won’t eat. There are the usual suspects: meat, eggs, milk, and cheese, but it’s a lot harder when I have to get down into things like casein and whey. Now I have a handy list that I can forward along ahead of me, and it even lists which brands are vegan-friendly.
Amazingly enough, you will notice that Shake n’ Bake is on the list of vegan foods. I was very surprised, but I guess that it makes sense. After all, it is only breadcrumbs. It’s the stuff most people put it on that’s gross. I, on the other hand, made some delicious chik’n flavored seitan last weekend, and proceeded to shake n’ bake it to delicious, golden-brown perfection. I served it alongside red-skinned mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed green beans. I found the easiest vegan gravy recipe ever at Sweet Bean and Green. I did add a dash of celery salt to the gravy to enhance it’s flavor. This was one of those dinners that reminds me of something I would have eaten growing up, but it was still sophisticated enough and kind enough to suit my new lifestyle. Even though it seems pretty self-explanatory, I’ve included my method (and my Seitan recipe)after the jump.

M-M-M Eye-talian
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The above is a quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper of the show Big Bang Theory. I saw him at a play last week and refrained from gushing and running over for a picture. Instead, I took some secret ones on my i-phone.
Anyway, I used to love ravioli. My freezer was always stocked with a bag of frozen ravioli, which could be turned into a wonderful meal with tomato sauce or sometimes just butter and garlic. Since I’ve already got tofu ricotta down to an art, I decided to mess around with some wonton wrappers and see what I could come up with.
My first tango with vegan ravioli did not end so well. I stuffed them with tofu ricotta and spinach, and then submerged them in boiling water for 3 minutes. The result was pretty good, but they stuck together in this weird way. The second time, i was met with more success. I used two wonton wrappers for each ravioli and only cooked them 2 at a time. Then, I let them dry in a single layer before layering them together with tomato sauce. The result was a delicious baked ravioli.

Spring Rolls
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I really was super-excited to make spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce. The main reason why I was so excited was that I got to make a trip to Mitsuwa, Mitsuwa is none other than the largest Japanese supermarket in the West, and it is also right down the street from my new house. Walking into Mitsuwa, I imagined finding tons of hidden vegan jewels and walking out with a full cart. Instead, I left shell-shocked, bewildered, and generally shaken, but with spring roll wrappers.
It was very, very strange to be in a store where I literally could not read the labels. Most of them had english on the back, but it was so tiny and indecipherabl, that I was not really sure of what went in anything. I perused the produce section, which had so many umeboshi products that a macrobiotatian would have thought they had died and gone to heaven. On the other hand, I do not much care for umeboshi after a particularly nasty incident with a weight-loss tea consisting of umeboshi, daikon, carrot, and (wait for it) soy sauce. Surprisingly, it was not as good as it sounds.
Back to my trip. I wandered shell-shocked up and down the aisles, occasionally picking up funny-looking boxes and straining to read the ingredients. Definitely NOT vegan-friendly. Even the breads seemed to all have either milk or butter in them. I’m sure I would have had more luck if I had gone with someone more familiar with the cuisine or the language. Fortunately, I did make it out in one piece and with my spring roll wrappers. I got home and was very excited to make my peanut dipping sauce with fresh peanut butter from the Whole Foods. Unfortunately, the peanut butter had some hard, grainy substance in it. Now, I was never emo enough to eat broken glass (I just walk on it), but if I had, this is what I imagine it would have been like.  I was very much into these spring rolls when we had them for dinner, and very much not into them the next day. So the lesson there is that they do not keep well. The other lesson is that Whole Foods puts plastic or something in their fresh-ground peanut butter, or at least they did that day.

Summer Spring Rolls

  • 6 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 bunch cellophane noodles (a.k.a glass noodles)
  • 1 c. Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw

Prepare the spring rolls according to the package instructions and layer with cellophane noodles and broccoli mixture.
Fold up like a burrito.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP. lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP. soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP soy milk
  • water as needed

Heat the peanut butter, lemon juice, and soy sauce over a medium flame. As it heats, it will be easier to mix.
Stir in the soy milk and let the mixture come up to a very low boil.
Reduce heat and stir in as much water as you need to reach your desired consistency.
You can season with fresh ginger if you like.