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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Garlicky Broccoli and Edamame Stir-Fry

I fry, you fry, we all love to stir-fry!

OK, I'm not going to spend a lot of time rambling on about my inspiration for this recipe.  Mostly because I don't have a good story.  Yesterday was pay-day and I was just excited to buy fresh veggies.  And because I've been feeling a little under-nourished lately, I wanted to make something with tons of veggies in it.  Stir-fry fit the bill, so that's what I went with.

So that's my story.  It wasn't even funny, sorry about that.  However, now I'm going to spend some time teaching you how to make life easier in the kitchen.  Kitchen shortcuts, if you will.

1.  I wanted a strong garlic flavor in this dish, so I used 5 garlic cloves.  But please don't assume I chopped them all!  I don't have time for that nonsense.  Instead, anytime I need minced garlic, I use a garlic press that I got from Pampered Chef a billion years ago.  Honestly, it's one of my favorite kitchen tools, and relatively inexpensive.  But, if you don't have a garlic press, you can buy already chopped garlic in a jar at the grocery store.  Sure, it's more expensive than buying a bulb of garlic, but it lasts a really long time, so it's worth the expense.

2. This was my first time ever using edamame (baby green soybeans).  I'm not sure how to describe it (besides that it tasted like a vegetable???), but I can tell you I really liked it.  I could only find frozen, in-the-pod edamame, so my prep time took longer than expected.  I had to boil the pods, then drain and rinse under cold water, then squeeze the beans out of the pods.  To avoid all that jazz, I would recommend looking for shelled edamame.  You should be able to find it in the produce section, maybe by the tofu and stuff like that.

3. To make this recipe even easier, you could buy prepared orange sauce instead of making your own.  However, I'm too cheap, and I figured I had most of the ingredients at home to make my own sauce.  But check out the ethnic food aisle at your local supermarket.  The San-J brand has lots of yummy flavored sauces to choose from.  Get creative!

Orange sauce:
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp molassas
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch

1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed!)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 lb frozen broccoli and cauliflower
1 1/4 cup fresh edamame (that was my yield from 1 lb of frozen in-the-pod edamame)
Salt and pepper

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients until well combined.  Set aside.
In a large wok or saute pan, cook onion and garlic over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup water to keep veggies from sticking.  Add pepper and cook another 3 minutes.  Add broccoli and cauliflower, cook for about 2 minutes, then pour in the sauce.  Stir to coat all veggies with the sauce and continue cooking in medium-high heat until sauce begins to bubble and thicken, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the edamame, reduce heat to medium, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until broccoli and cauliflower are no longer frozen, but not to the point that they're mushy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Couscous Stir-Fry Salad

Welcome to yet another edition of "Too Broke to Buy Groceries."  (Sort of sounds like a country song...)

What a week!  I worked almost 50 hours, ran my very first 5k, and lost out on an incredible amount of sleep.  But, today was my day off, and I think I'm almost caught up.  Almost.

Anyhow, part of the inspiration for this blog was that Jennie (the Officer) had expressed the need for healthy recipes that were not only quick and easy, but cheap.  Enter Deanna, the starving college student!  I know all about eating on the cheap.  In fact, I haven't bought groceries for weeks now (again) and I'm still coming up with food to eat somehow.  It's all about giving in and working with the stuff hanging out in your pantry that you forgot you had/don't know what to do with/don't actually care for, but you're desperate for nourishment.

The salad is the result of using what I already had on hand.  I used couscous- a small, pearl-shaped pasta- because that's what I had, but this dish would be equally wonderful with macaroni, shells, or other small pasta.  Same goes for the other ingredients.  If you don't have red wine vinegar, use whatever you have on hand (although balsamic vinegar may be too pungent for this dish).  Ditto on the mustard- if you only have regular yellow mustard, use that. It's only a teaspoon, it'll be fine.  Live on the edge!

I do not have a substitute for the hoisin sauce, though.  That's where all the flavor comes from.  And really, it's an excellent investment.  Hoisin sauce is like Chinese barbeque sauce and it's awesome.  I've dipped Gardein chicken strips in it and it was life changing.  Really, it's that good.  And for only a couple of bucks, you can get it at most stores without having to make a special trip to an Asian market.  Just check the ethnic aisle.

So the salad is tangy, smoky, and slightly spicy.  I would have eaten it hot, and you can feel free to, but it was like 85+ in my kitchen at the time I was making this, so I thought it may be more refreshing cold.  Plus, it's officially summer!  What better way to welcome it in than with a (slightly-out-of-the-ordinary) pasta salad?!

5 cups water
1 1/2 cup Israeli couscous (this is bigger than regular couscous; I would recommend using this type)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice*
Pinch of cayenne
1 lb frozen mixed vegetables (I used "stir-fry mix" which had broccoli, carrots, red pepper, water chestnuts, etc.)

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Add couscous and cook at a rolling boil for 8 minutes.     Drain and rinse with cold water.  Return to pan (off heat) and stir in the olive oil.  Set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, garlic, 5-spice, and cayenne, until well blended.  Set aside for a sec.
In a medium or large sauce pan, lightly saute veggies.  It should only take 5-6 minutes.  You want them to not be frozen, but not cooked through so that they're mushy.  Use your best judgement.
When veggies are done, remove from heat and stir in the sauce.  Stir to coat all veggies.  Now add in the couscous and stir to combine well.  Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

*About Chinese 5-spice:  This should be easy to find, also.  It's a blend of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, and white pepper.  Check out your local health food store.  They often have spices in bulk that you can get for super cheap, since you're not paying for packaging and you can buy as much or as little as you want.

**By the way, if I had actually bought all the ingredients I needed for this today, I would guess that this salad cost $10 or less (if you use regular pasta instead of couscous).  And it looks like it could feed about 6 people.  That's a good deal!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farewell Tacos!

Because saying good-bye should be tasty.

My roomie is leaving tomorrow on an epic journey.  She'll be spending 7 weeks in a slum in Egypt, doing some kind of volunteer social work, mentoring children.  I know she's going to enjoy the experience and she'll be brilliant over there, but man, I'm gonna miss that kid.

So, to give her a proper send-off, I decided to make what I assumed would be her last, truly delicious home-cooked meal.  In an earlier post, I promised to make something with tempeh.  So, here it is.  You're welcome.

A little about tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake.  Sounds delicious, huh?  I actually prefer it over tofu.  It is denser than tofu and has a better mouth feel (translation: it's not squishy and weird).  It's also sturdier, so you can grill with it, pan fry it, or bake it.  Tempeh naturally has a kind of nutty flavor to it, but it's a little dry if you don't marinate it before cooking.  So, that being said, this is one of those pesky "plan-ahead" meals.  But really, let's get serious.  I could have soaked the tempeh overnight, but as it turns out, 20 minutes was plenty.

The tempeh mixed with the pecans gave a "meaty" component to the tacos.  The veggies were hot and spicy, whereas the avocado-ranch was cool and refreshing.  All in all, I'm super proud of this one.  And the roomie approved, which makes it an automatic success.  :)

Tempeh and Pecan Tacos with Avocado Ranch
1 cup vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 oz tempeh
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion,cut into slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into slices
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 cup non-dairy ranch dressing
8 corn shells

Marinade:  In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine broth, garlic, crushed red pepper, cumin, liquid smoke, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar, and whisk to mix well.  Cut up the tempeh into about 1/2 inch thick slices and place in a shallow dish, preferably not overlapping.  Pour the marinade over the tempeh and let sit for 20.

Veggies:  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and onions over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Add peppers and stir, heating for another 2 minutes.  Toss in the mushrooms and stir to combine.  Add the chile powder and stir to mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  REduce heat to medium and cook for 5-6 minutes, until veggies are soft but not overdone.

Taco "meat":  Remove the tempeh from the marinade, but reserve the liquid.  We'll be using that in a sec.
To chop the tempeh, the easiest method would be to pulse it a few times in a food processor.  The trick is, you want smallish pieces similar to ground beef, but not blended so much that it gets pureed.
Combine the chopped tempeh and pecans in a medium sized sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Start stirring in the leftover marinade, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.  Cook for about 10 minutes, continually adding the marinade until it's gone and the tempeh mixture is cooked through.

Avocado-ranch:  If your avocado is really ripe, you should be able to mash it with a fork until all large lumps are gone.  However, mine was not quite ripe, so I had to run it through the food processor.  Anyhow, however you do it, mix the mashed avocado with the ranch, and stir to combine.

Putting it all together:  Top your shell with the tempeh mix, some veggies, and a dollop of avo-ranch.  Serves 4 (2 tacos per person.  I love math!).

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Red Lentil and Tomato Soup

Because sometimes I second guess myself.

It's been kind of a crazy week.  I finally landed a second job, I've been working on research for a grad student, I celebrated my birthday (shenanigans!), and reconnected with a friend.  Yay productivity!

I actually made this soup on Wednesday, but I didn't post it because, at the time, I didn't love love it.  I was going for a flavor similar to this amazing tomato sauce I had at a Persian restaurant.  It's been a while since I've been there, but I remember the sauce being slightly sweet with hints of cinnamon and cumin.  And then I just made the rest of it up.

Well, as it is, the soup doesn't actually taste much like what I was going for, so I kind of thought of this one as a bust.  But that doesn't mean that it doesn't taste good.  In fact, it's delicious!  I do think it tastes better a day or two after it's first made.  And, while I usually enjoy a hearty, chunky soup, I think I would like this better if I pureed it.  I might do that next time. 

*Also, it wasn't until I had already started prepping the ingredients when I remembered that I was out of ground cinnamon.  Lucky for me, I had a few cinnamon sticks left over from who-knows-what.  So I used one cinnamon stick, but the google machine told me that you could use 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon instead.

If you have a pressure cooker, this soup comes together in just minutes.  If you don't have a pressure cooker, the lentils should be cooked through in 30-45 minutes.  So either way, you'll have an easy, delicious meal in no time.  Success!

1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cinnamon stick OR 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp black pepper
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a large pot or pressure cooker, saute onion and celery over medium-high heat, with about a tablespoon of water, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the water and lentils.  Add cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper, and stir to combine.

*If using a pressure cooker:  Close and lock lid and bring lentils up to pressure.  Cook on high for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow pressure to come down.
*If using a regular ol' pot:      Cover the pot with a lid, slightly cocked so as to let some steam out.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until lentils are soft.
**The longer you cook the lentils, the more they break down, making a creamier, less chunky soup.  Go ahead and cook them to your liking.

Remove the lid and bring heat up to medium.  Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, brown sugar, and vinegar.  Cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.