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Monday, October 28, 2013

Tomato Soup with Wild Rice and Collard Greens

Because I need to nurture myself back to good health!

I know I sound like a broken record, but I have been super busy lately!  It's easy to get caught up in assignments, deadlines, meetings, homework, etc., etc., and as a result, eat like crap.  I feel like I'm constantly eating on the go, or at 9:00 pm, or at school/work.  I rarely get the chance to sit down and just eat, without doing homework or responding to emails or spacing out as a means of a personal vacation, at the same time.

As a result, I've been feeling a little sluggish lately, which is really putting a damper on my levels of productivity.  Also, I've been noticing some weight gain (gaaahhh!!!) and, oh yeah, suffered through a kidney stone the other day.  So, I forced myself to take some time away from studying this weekend, go to the store, and put together something quick, yet comforting and nourishing.  [It's amazing what a medical emergency and a number on a scale can do for motivation!]

I really wanted kale in this soup, but the store didn't have any!  Not that there's anything wrong with collard greens.  In fact, these greens are still light in flavor after cooking, maybe a little more chewy, but are also packed with vitamins and nutrients that my eat-on-the-go diet was lacking.  The soup isn't fancy, but is perfect for dipping bread (culprit of the weight gain?  Quite likely.) and is filling without being too heavy.  Also, leftovers are fantastic.  Which is a good thing, since this yields somewhere around 20 servings.  Hey, I'm not going to have time to cook again for a while.  I have to plan ahead for these things.

                                             [Sorry for the crappy pic, by the way] 

1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
28-oz can tomato sauce
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coriander
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup nutritional yeast, optional
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped (I got about 5-6 cups)
Salt and pepper

In a large pot or pressure cooker, saute onion and garlic on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.  Add rice, veg broth and water and stir to combine.

*If using a pressure cooker:  Attach lid, bring up to pressure, and cook according to manufacturer's directions for 18 minutes.  Allow pressure to release and return pot to stove.

*If using a regular pot:  Cook rice according to directions on package.  Then follow recipe below.

When rice is cooked, return pot to medium heat.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir to combine.  Stir in cumin, cinnamon, coriander, brown sugar, and nutritional yeast, if using.  Toss in greens, and cook until leaves are slightly wilted, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fajita-style Veggies

Because nobody really knows the difference between a taco, burrito, or fajita.  Except maybe Wikipedia...

For shame!  It's been almost two weeks since my last post!  It's not that I haven't cooked, I just haven't had time to write it all out.  Life has become really, really, reeeaalllllyyyy hectic lately.  I can't help it!

I went home this weekend for a family get-together.  My sister, Sara, is expecting her first child, and we had a family dinner to celebrate the big gender reveal!  [Can you guess what she's having?  I mean, we all know it's going to be a baby (spoilers!).  But boy or girl???]

I have a LOT of family, so to make things easy, dinner was a sort of taco bar.  My contribution was this colorful array of fajita-style veggies.  I'm not positive what exactly makes these "fajita-style" except that I've gotten something very similar at Mexican restaurants in the past. So a couple of us made tacos with refried beans (making it more like a burrito) topped with fajita veggies, non-dairy sour cream and shredded cheese, and hot sauce!.  Ta-da!  Taco-burrito-fajita explosion!

A quick note about the recipe:  Really, this isn't a complicated recipe.  It's not even all that awe-worthy.  But I felt it was worth posting, because it was so easy to put together.  See, my sister, Mary, suggested I just season the veggies with a store-bought fajita seasoning mix.  I had considered it until I read the ingredients on the package: sugar, MSG, and several other additives that made me think it wasn't worth it.  My point is, this seasoning mix is so easy to put together, there's no need to buy store-bought!  Delicious and nutritious!

1 large red onion, cut in half and sliced 
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 each summer squash and zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper

Spray a large saute pan with cooking spray and heat on medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for about 4 minutes.  Toss in peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add squash and zucchini and stir in all spices until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes until zucchini and squash are soft.  Serve hot over tacos, fajitas, or in burritos!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thai Noodles with Eggplant and Peanut Sauce

Because ethnic food is just more interesting!

OK, so, remember me telling you about all the goodies I picked up at the market this weekend?  Well, for whatever reason, I decided to get two of everything: 2 eggplants, 2 onions, 2 bell peppers.  And a head of cauliflower, that I'll likely divide in two.  So it looks like today's recipe is just the first of two eggplant/pepper/onion concoctions.  (I'm saving the cauliflower for yet another recipe I have on reserve.  I'll likely chop it and freeze it so I can use it next week.)

Today's recipe is a Thai-inspired dish.  I haven't had Thai food in quite some time, only because Thai cuisine relies heavily on fish or oyster sauce, and it's hard to know if the vegetarian dish you order in a Thai restaurant is really vegetarian.  I took a Thai cooking class through the community college when I was younger (I won't tell you how much younger, but let's just say this was several years ago).  Back then, I really didn't know how to cook.  And I wasn't vegetarian.  But in this class, I learned how to make a peanut sauce, which was fantastic, but definitely included fish sauce, and was poured over chicken and served with rice (I think).

Forget the chicken and fish!  This peanut sauce pretty much rocks!  I was concerned about the fat content- peanut sauce is very rich, using peanut butter, oil, and coconut milk as the main ingredients.  There was no way around the peanut butter, but I decreased the amount of oil and, instead of using coconut milk, I used almond milk with coconut extract added to it.  If you're not concerned about the fat content, feel free to use canned coconut milk in place of the almond milk, and omit the coconut extract.  (Also, you will likely only need 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, if any.)

I'm quite pleased with the results, and my roomie just devoured a bowl, exclaiming that it was "Really, really good!!!"  And that's good enough for me.

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp molasses
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 box (14 oz) Thai rice noodles

1 tsp sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped (I got about 3 cups out of this baby!)

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, optional
Salt and pepper

Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until well combined.  Set aside for a sec.
Boil a large pot of water and cook noodles according to directions on package.
In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil on medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add peppers and cook for another minute or two, until veggies are soft.  Add eggplant and sesame seeds, if using, and cook for another 8-ish minutes.  Add sauce to the pan and continue to cook over medium heat until sauce has thickened, stirring frequently.
When noodles are done, drain and return to pot.  Add the saucy veggies and stir to coat all noodles.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with additional soy sauce as desired.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Microwave "Baked" Apples

Because I'm all about convenience.  And 3-ingredient recipes.  Aw yeah.

I ventured down to the farmer's market yesterday morning without a plan of what I wanted to buy.  I figured I would just look around and see what jumped out at me.  I came home with eggplant, onions, peppers, cauliflower, and apples.  After much deliberation (I mean, we're talking several hours of brain-storming here), I finally decided what I wanted to make with the eggplant, however, I don't think I'll get to it today.  I'm feeling pretty wiped out.

So instead, I'll show you how I made the easiest, laziest dessert out of the apples this afternoon.  OK, I only used one of the apples.  Because I'm only one person.  Baked apples are terrific, in theory, but you know me, always looking for a shortcut.  I can't take credit for coming up with microwaving the apples instead of baking (that credit goes to my ex bf/current friend), but who cares?  It's brilliant and I expect microwaving apples to become the next internet craze.

You can get creative with the toppings.  I happened to have ice cream in the freezer, but I don't usually have any on hand.  These apples would also be delicious topped with chopped nuts, a drizzle of maple syrup, raisins, shredded coconut, whipped cream, yogurt.  You could also sprinkle on pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon.  It's your apple- Get creative!

1 apple, any variety, sliced
brown sugar

Place apple slices in a microwave-safe bowl.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, and nuke for 3 minutes.  Apples will be soft- almost mushy- and super hot, so be careful!  Let sit for a minute or two.  Top with ice cream or, you know, whatever you want. 

Alternative to microwaving:  I understand that some people dislike the idea of microwaving their food.  I can tell you that scientific research does not show that any harm will come to you if you eat food that has been cooked in the microwave, however there is an alternative.  I would suggest this method if you're wanting to "bake" more than one apple at a time, or if you would usually bake them for real in the oven, but it's too damn hot to turn bake anything.  You can cook the fruit in a saucepan on medium heat to get the same effect.  You shouldn't need to spray the pan with  cooking spray or add any liquid, as the apples will ooze out their juices as they cook.  Just stir occasionally to prevent the apples from sticking or burning.  I would imagine this method would take about 10 minutes or so, depending on how many apple slices you crammed into the pot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Just Want to Feel Better! Soup

Because being sick sucks.

Well friends, the black plague has returned, this time in the form of bronchitis.  Honestly, I would bet that that's what was ailing me all along, starting in Texas.  But because I'm stubborn and refused to go to the doctor initially, it came back badder than ever.  But no worries- I'm on drugs now!  I should be feeling 100% in no time!

Meanwhile, I've been feeling pretty lousy for the last few weeks.  All I want to do is sleep (naps every day!)!  But I also have to eat (I'm so needy!).  I decided to make soup last night, because soup is the best get-well-soon food ever!

I didn't have any veggie broth, so I just kind of winged it.  Let's get serious- this soup ain't pretty.  But it is pretty delicious, and packed with good-for-you veggies!  Sickness or not, this is a feel good meal that you should definitely try at home.

1 1/2 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 box frozen spinach (10 oz, I think)
3 tsp poultry seasoning
1 cup wild rice
5 cups water
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (I used broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
More water, as needed
Salt and pepper

Spray a pressure cooker or large pot with cooking spray and saute onion, garlic, and frozen spinach over medium heat, until spinach has thawed, about 7 minutes.  Add poultry seasoning and stir to combine.  Add rice and water and stir to mix well.

*If using a pressure cooker:  Attach lid, bring pressure up and cook on medium heat for 18 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to decrease.  Remove lid and return pan to burner.

*If using a soup pot:  Cover pot and cook according to directions on rice package, about 45 minutes.  Remove lid.

Once rice is cooked, if soup seems too thick, add more water as desired.  I added 2 cups to mine.
Stir in mixed veggies, corn, and beans.  Add thyme, Chinese 5-spice, soy sauce, and lemon juice and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook soup on medium heat for about 10 minutes until frozen veggies are no longer frozen.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

**It's that time of year, friends!  Wash hands often to prevent getting sick!  [And do your best to avoid children and other germ monsters, if possible.]