to health and happy waistlines!

quinoa: /kEEn-wah/

I probably avoided eating, cooking, or ordering quinoa due to the sheer fact that I had no idea how to pronounce it. But I’m proud to say that now I can pronounce it with confidence, and I can’t get enough of it! If you’ve never had quinoa, it’s very similar to couscous but with a firmer texture and slightly nuttier flavor. Quinoa is also packed with protein and hence super-filling– ideal for vegetarians!

Another favorite food of mine is sweet potatoes (Mmm sweet potato fries). This Mark Bittman recipe combines the best of both my quinoa and sweet potato worlds. Plus it’s super healthy… which I need these days after watching many, many episodes of Gossip Girl and realizing how beautiful the clothes are! *curse you Trader Joe Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s*

Lunch on the steps of the Met!

This recipe is very adaptable in that you can pretty much add whatever suits your palette. My favorite additions usually include chickpeas and feta (which I kept out this time to keep it vegan and healthier… remember, the clothes, people!) Feel free to add whatever other goodies, i.e. arugula, crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, etc. suit your taste (and figure).

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
adapted from Mark Bittman

  • 2 ½ cups cooked quinoa  (1 cup uncooked)
  • 1 large or 2 medium (about 1 pound) sweet potatoes
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup chickpeas (about ½ can)
  • ¼ cup minced red onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

(1)  Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, let cool completely.
(2)  While the quinoa is cooking, peel the sweet potatoes and dice into ½-inch cubes. Cook in boiling salted water until fork tender, about 15 minutes; once done, wash in cold water to stop further cooking and drain well.
(3)  In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, sweet potatoes, roasted bell pepper and onion. Add the oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
(4)  Using kitchen sheers, snip in the fresh parsley then toss the salad. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Let the salad sit for at least an hour to allow for all the flavors to blend together.

Makes 4 servings

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Bowl of Homesickness

Scent is the sense most closely linked to memory. To that, I would also like to add taste. Whenever I’m feeling a tinge bit homesick in the midst of this chilly weather, I turn to a nice bowl of something comforting. For some people that may be some good ole chicken ‘n’ dumplings or gumbo.

For me, it’s this taco soup. My mom has made this for years and it’s one of my favorites. While I tend to shy away from recipes that use too many seasoning-packets and other Sandra Lee-like additions, this soup is just SO delicious. And if it comes from Paula Deen you know it has to be good. I’ve turned it into a veggie-friendly version which I swear is just as hearty (and a bit healthier).

Vegetarian Taco Soup
adapted from Paula Deen recipe

  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (15 ½-ounce) can pinto beans
  • 1 (15 ½-ounce) can red kidney beans
  • 1 (15 ½-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (15 ¼-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can Rotel
  • 1 (1 ¼-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix
  • 8 ounces meatless soy crumbles (i.e. Boca), thawed
  • 2 cups water
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream, for garnish
  • grated Cheddar cheese, for garnish
  • chopped green onions, for garnish
  • Pickled jalapenos, for garnish

(1) Rinse and drain all the beans and corn.
(2) Sauté the onions and garlic in a large stockpot until soft and translucent.
(3)  Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.
(4)  Crumble in the soy crumbles and add them as well as 2 cups of water to the soup. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
(5)  To serve, place a few tortilla chips in each bowl and ladle soup over them. Top with sour cream, cheese, green onions and jalapenos.

Makes 12-16 servings

Luckily, I will not be homesick too long for I will be coming home very soon– tonight in fact 🙂 I leave right after work today and will be in Georgia later this evening just in time to be showered by goodies from Mama Choo herself.

I hope everyone else traveling has a safe journey– and a wonderful Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

Edamame Fried Rice

The one thing I’ve realized about living in the City is learning to live on a budget. Which is difficult when there’s so much to do and even more to EAT! While I love indulging in take-out Indian food and sushi, sometimes it’s necessary to buckle down… especially after seeing the long string of restaurant charges on my credit card activity.

One of the easiest things I like to make is hibachi-style fried rice. This is a variation I learned from my mom who makes it very simply with carrots and scallions (sometimes just carrots). I like to add a little extra green with peas or in this case, edamame! I make a ton so I can pack it for lunch or reheat it for dinner for the week to come. Here’s to full bellies and fuller wallets!

Edamame Fried Rice

  • 2 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ¾ cup scallions, greens included, rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups leftover cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked, shelled frozen edamame, thawed (or green peas)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten*
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • freshly cracked pepper

(1)  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet until very hot. Add the garlic, scallions and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened and aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes.
(2)  Add another tablespoon of oil and the rice and cook on medium-high heat, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
(3)  Make a 3-inch well in the center of the rice mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled.
(4)  Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, add the edamame and stir.
(5)  Then add soy sauce, sesame seeds and pepper to taste. Incorporate thoroughly. Serve hot.

*Replace the eggs with extra firm tofu for a vegan meal! 

Makes 4 servings

 

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Some things seem just too good to be true… like free used mattresses or CD’s that help you master a new language in 30 days. That’s because they usually are. This is how I felt when I first saw this brownie recipe. Delicious fudgy brownies made with no oil, no eggs, and no dairy?? How is this possible?!

I was skeptical but intrigued for the secret ingredient in these vegan brownies is… BLACK BEANS. I know, seems too good to be true, right?

one of these things is not like the other...

Well, I’m happy to tell you that in this case, my doubts have been cast aside. As far as brownies go, I like the kind that are a bit crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside with that slight crinkly layer on top (corner pieces are my favorite!). These Black Bean Brownies, however, are more the moist-and-fudgy type, and yet I still ate 4 of them so… there you go. Plus it was so fun surprising my co-workers who seemed truly amazed that there were actual legumes in their chocolate treat. Make them for your vegan friends, or make them if, like me, you want to have your suspisions subdued.

At this point, there's no going back

Vegan Black Bean Brownies
adapted from nomeatathelete.com

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (if you like that kinda thing)

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.
(2)  In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cocoa powder and coffee; whisk together. 
(3)  Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Return the black beans back to the can and fill with cold water.  In a blender, puree the beans and water until completely smooth. 
(4)  Add the black bean puree to the dry mix along with the vanilla and extra cup of water.  Stir to combine.
(5)  Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through.  When the brownies are finished they should be firm in the center and the edges will be slightly puffy and starting to pull away from the sides.  It’s important not to overbake in the oven because they will keep baking once you take them out.
(6)  Let brownies cool completely then cut into about 35 small squares.

Olé y’all!

My sister Christine is the Queen of Mexican food. When we’re both home, we usually have Fiesta night at least once a week. To be honest, I never really craved Mexican food until recently (I’m more like the Queen of Sushi) 🙂 But this Tofu Taco recipe courtesy of my friend Alyssa is one of my all-time favorites. It will have everyone, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, screaming ‘Olé!’

Watch as something pale and bland like tofu transforms…

into an incredibly flavorful entree. Mmm-mm… muy bueno!

Tofu Tacos

  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 15 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled (about 2 cups)
  • ½ large white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I use pasta sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 10 tortillas (corn or flour)
  • toppings (i.e. lettuce, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream)

(1) Sauté the tofu in oil for 4-5 minutes until browned, then add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until slightly softened. 
(2) Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and soy sauce. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and water; simmer over low heat.
(3) Heat tortillas in a heavy, ungreased skillet, turning each from side to side until soft and pliable. Take the tortilla off the heat and place a small amount of the tofu mixture in the center of each then fold the tortilla in half.
(4) Garnish with whatever toppings you desire.

Makes 10 tacos

I’m also incredibly excited because Christine shipped me my cowboy boots, which I received today! NYC is about to get some southern style y’all.

kale, it’s what’s for dinner.

the first week i was home, i ate nothing but junk. junk junk. like rice krispy treats and gummy worms and cheesy nachos, junk. it’s hard when you shift from my rather meager pantry to Mama Choo’s overflowing, snack-stocked one to not over-indulge. every time i come home, i open the pantry door and exclaim ‘CORNUCOPIA!’ before devouring such goodies as mentioned above (think charlotte’s web, when templeton goes to the carnival). afterwards, i feel so happy… for about 30 minutes.

then i feel as though someone has just punched me in my stomach’s face and realize i’m getting too old to treat my body this way. so to reprimand for that week of ickiness, i made this dish which incorporates whole grain spaghetti, sautéed kale and cannellini beans. yes, it’s meant to be healthy but it’s also super delicious! if you’re vegan, the recipe can easily be adapted with the omission of the parmesan cheese but i kept it cause, a little indulgence now and then never hurt anybody.

Spaghetti with Braised Kale
adapted from Bon Appétit

  • 1 pound kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut
  • crosswise into ½-inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • ½ pound spaghetti (I use whole grain)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese

(1)  Rinse and drain kale.
(2)  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
(3)  Add sliced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and pinch of salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
(4)  Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.
(5)  Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid.
(6)  Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pan. Add cannellini beans, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry.
(7)  Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Makes 4 servings

do you have a go-to, feel good meal?? share it with me!

guacamole

when you think about it, it’s kinda freaky how our tastebuds change so much from childhood. i would say 90% of the foods i eat today would have been utterly deplorable to my 6 year-old tastebuds. some of the foods on this hit-list would have been: any kind of leafy green, beans, whole wheat and most definitely avocados. which is a shame cause you can’t make a guacamole without good avocados.

well i must be grown up now cause i’ve been making and eating this homemade guacamole morning, noon, and night. GUACAMOLE for DINNER?! yes. and if you haven’t done so, your tastebuds obviously haven’t lived.

Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

(1) Cut each avocado in half and remove the pits. Score each half a couple times horizontally and vertically then scoop the flesh into a medium bowl using a spoon.
(2) Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the avocado chunks then toss gently with a spoon, making sure the lime juice evenly coats all the avocado.
(3) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Chill for at least an hour before serving with tortilla chips, pita chips, tacos, on a shoe…

Makes 4 servings