Archive for ‘grains’

November 15, 2015

Autumn squash + tofu curry

Autumn squash + tofu curry

If I had to choose a favorite vegetable, it’d be winter squash. This time a year ago I was working at a little pumpkin market in my hometown – the farmer grew over 40 varieties of pumpkin & squash(!) – and right about now I’m missing my daily cucurbita intake and stocking up on my favorite varieties for the year to come.

It didn’t quite feel like squash season here in Austin until the past few nights when it got down to a chilly 55 degrees. Yes, time to leave the windows open and feel the cool breeze through the house at last.

These chilly evenings have also put warm, comforting curry on the mind, and soon after onto the kitchen table.

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November 3, 2014

flavor of fall

winter squash

Working at a pumpkin market down the street this fall, I’ve had a chance to taste my share of different pumpkin and squash varieties (the farmer grows over 30). They range in color – from steel blue to burning hot orange – size, shape, ugliness, skin type – pimply and lumpy to smooth as plastic – and of course the taste and texture of their nutritious flesh. I did a taste test of a few that I had never tried, but my preference still goes back to my all-along favorite: the kabocha type.

Kabocha or Japanese pumpkins have a dense, dry yet silky texture and sweet but mild taste, resembling to me a pumpkin and sweet potato combined. They make the creamiest hearty soups when pureed and melt in your mouth when roasted or baked in chunks. My favorite way to enjoy it remains the simplest: chunks of baked squash drizzled in good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. As simple as possible to let the flavor and texture of the squash shine.

pumpkin varieties

When talking pumpkin recipes with David (the farmer), he said he likes to stuff acorn squash with mac n’ cheese and bake it. Uh, why hadn’t I ever thought of that? Homemade macaroni + cheese is something I allllways look forward to in the fall (but secretly wish included more vegetables :), and I can never get enough of winter squash. So combine the two? Done.

mac n cheese ready for the oven

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January 10, 2014

the best all-purpose yogurt sauce + a warm winter salad

sweet potato-carrot-apple cake with sweet chili cilantro yogurt sauce

You know you’re doing alright with healthy eating when you open the fridge and your leftovers consist of cooked quinoa, chickpeas, and extra batter from these sweet potato-carrot-apple cakes. I’m lucky enough to naturally enjoy eating (and taking the time to cook) all these foods over the processed, fried and fast foods inundating our supermarkets and restaurants. But where I don’t have such an easy time is my unrelenting sweet tooth…. will it ever go away?!

Healthy eating is also much easier when you already have prepared foods on hand – like leftover quinoa, chickpeas, and veggies that are ready to be tossed into a salad the minute you decide you are starving for lunch. Sounds a bit like me today! Sometimes my leftover concoctions turn out to be not as appetizing as I’d hoped, but this was one that magically combined so nicely that I had to write up the recipe to share with you – and so that I can make it again!

a warm winter 'leftovers' salad

Sometimes I find it hard to eat salads as often in the winter. Cold and crunchy just doesn’t do it for me when it’s 14 degrees out! This salad was nice because I put a warm pan-fried veggie cake on top of spinach and arugula (rather than lettuce which does not stand up well under something hot) along with reheated quinoa and chickpeas and some fresh veggies. A warm, hearty and filling wintertime salad – perfect.

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October 17, 2013

green kitchari

green kitchari

This is kitchari. Indian comfort food. A traditional Ayurvedic cleansing dish used for detoxifying and healing.

Grounding, calming, warming, balancing.

kitchari ingredients

Kitchari can be made in infinite ways, but in its basic form is a stew/porridge-like mixture of split mung beans and grain warmed with spices and enhanced by vegetables. Perfect for giving your digestion a break while still providing the body with a nourishing and filling meal. And even more perfect now that it’s fall and the cold is starting to seep into my bones, when I desire nothing more than curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of comfort.

In this specific recipe I use both whole and split mung beans for extra protein and fiber, but adding a grain like brown rice/quinoa/barley etc. to the mix is the traditional way and tastes just as well. Use whatever veggies you’re into or whatever can be found in the fridge; this time I felt like sticking to solid greens.

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August 8, 2013

Quinoa + mung bean tabbouleh

quinoa + mung bean tabbouleh

DSC_4008

This time of year I desperately look for any and every way to take advantage of our abundant garden, namely the tomatoes who are currently on a serious ripening rampage. It’s painful to watch an unused tomato go rotten on the counter, when in just a few months I’ll be dying to have one so juicy and fresh. Gazpacho, tomato sauce, salsa, more gazpacho, BLT’s, tomato-basil-mozzarella salads for lunch and dinner daily…… Not that I get tired of it, I just wish the tomato good-ness could be spread more evenly throughout the year!

While brainstorming other lunch-worthy uses for tomatoes, I thought of tabbouleh, and then I thought of the tabbouleh I had at a recent potluck (well, in June… Is it really August already?!) This light and refreshing herbal salad swapped out the traditional bulgur wheat for quinoa plus a good dose of mung beans, all together making one protein-packed, fiber-full, and vitamin-rich hearty salad.

Tabbouleh is easy because there’s no right and wrong ratios of herbs to grains or veggies, so it’s really just up to your taste. This recipe’s a keeper in my book, especially when it comes to putting all these summer garden veggies to use.

garden tomatoes!

parsley, mint, quinoa, mung beans.

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November 5, 2012

southwestern polenta bowl

This time last year (strangely, this exact day), I discovered and posted about my newfound love for polenta. The obsession lasted a good while, as it was an easy ‘cooking-for-one’ meal while I was in school and always comforting during the colder months. Then springtime cravings for salads and fresh veggies took over my attention, and my bag of corn grits was left to its lonesome in the back of the pantry.

Until now! The moment I whisked up these grits today and heaped them with some southwestern-inspired fridge finds, it all came back to me. Deliciousness. A warm, nourishing, well-balanced, fuel-filled meal that’s anything but bland. A comfort food, but one without the post-indulgence guilt.

In this one-bowl meal, polenta [or corn grits] serve as the base as lettuce does for your springtime salad, and you get to be the creative genius to toss whatever your tummy desires on top.  Possibilities are endless, of course, but this one deserved to be documented and made again and again in exactly the same way…..

:]

southwestern-inspired polenta bowl

  • 1/2 cup yellow corn grits
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • onion
  • ground veggie sausage
  • black beans
  • roasted cubed pumpkin
  • chopped kale
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh spicy salsa / pico de gallo

Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a pot. Add oil. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

While polenta is cooking, in a pan sauté some onions with crumbled/ground veggie sausage and sprinkle with a little s+p. I then added in some black beans, leftover roasted cubed pumpkin and chopped kale. Once the sausage is cooked through, you may want to pour in some vegetable broth to help wilt the kale and keep everything from sticking.

When polenta is thick and creamy, spoon into a bowl and pile on your sautéed medley. Top with fresh cilantro and spicy salsa and devour!

Enjoy! -m

June 25, 2012

why I love summer mornings at home, and happy birthday blog!

Summer mornings at our quiet country home are perhaps the most serene and savored moments of my days.

All is still except the yellow sunlight slowly slipping further through the windows.

And silence is broken only by the voices of chirpy birds and occasional snores of a sleepy dog.

It’s a brief calm before the heat storm that is to come…

I take my time with a good long stretch, a homemade latte, and a slow breakfast including wild black raspberries picked from a neighbor’s farm and sweet, fat blueberries from a friend’s backyard. And my newly discovered favorite granola.

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April 3, 2012

the bowl.

I think at least 80% of the meals I make for myself end up piled into a bowl. I like it that way – the different flavors and textures blend together in each bite, and the combinations of veggies, grains, proteins, herbs, sauces and spices are endless…

I’m also often cooking for one, so it’s a convenient way to control my portions and season it just the way I like it. Then I take a big spoon, collapse on my comfy couch, and savor every bite :)

My creations typically involve some kind of grain (quinoa, polenta, or brown rice), steamed or sautéed greens, sautéed or roasted seasonal veggies, and either beans, eggs, lentils, tofu, veggie sausage or chicken. Then comes the endless flavor combinations concocted of herbs, cheeses, spices, and sauces, which I change up every time. The bowl concept is great because I always end up with a well-balanced meal, and it makes for easy eating whether at home, on the go, or leftover for tomorrow’s lunch!

I wanted to share a few of my favorite quinoa bowls as of late:

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January 27, 2012

stir fried quinoa with chicken + veggies

Mm mmm…I almost never order Chinese takeout, but some days I just get that craving for chicken and rice drenched in salty, sweet n’ sticky “brown sauce,” or so they call it. So flavorful, so full of MSG. Oh so unfortunate.

The top reason I’d say I cook for myself is so I know exactly what goes into my food. No MSG hiding in this kitchen. Fortunately it’s very simple to make your own Chinese-style fried rice,  and after I saw this variation made with couscous I thought why not use my favorite (and super nutritious) grain: quinoa!

Rather than keeping the numerous ingredients to make Asian-style sauces and marinades, I recently found a store-bought version that I love and is versatile enough to be used for any purpose! Salad dressing, marinade, veggie dip, sauce for rice—pretty much anything you want to have that delicious soy-sesame-garlic-ginger flavor. The brand is called Soy Vay, and I buy either the Veri Veri teriyaki or Island Teriyaki. Both consist of soy sauce, sugar, pineapple juice (in the Island Teriyaki), sesame seeds, fresh garlic + ginger, dried onion, and soy + sesame oils. Basically what I would put in my own marinade if I made it. No preservatives or hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Awesome.

The teriyaki works perfectly as a marinade for the chicken in this dish, as well as a drizzled topping for some extra flavor and moisture.

stir fried quinoa with chicken + veggies, inspired by this

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with salt + pepper
  • 1-2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa (preferably leftovers)
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2/3 cup broccoli slaw (this is an estimate – use however much you want)
  • ½ cup broccoli florets
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 t minced fresh ginger
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • teriyaki sauce, for marinating and serving

Chop chicken breasts into small pieces and marinate in teriyaki sauce for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add beaten eggs and stir with a spatula until scrambled, fluffy and cooked through. Remove to a small plate.

Add 1 T sesame oil to skillet, increase heat to medium-high and add chicken. Let cook for a couple minutes and turn over several times until almost cooked through. Add ginger, scallion whites and broccoli to skillet, sautéing until slightly softened and fragrant. Add broccoli slaw and cooked quinoa, 2 T soy sauce and sauté until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Stir in scrambled eggs, top with scallion greens and serve drizzled with more teriyaki or soy sauce.

Enjoy! –mich

December 28, 2011

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid

This bread was so good we made it twice within 3 days and gobbled up every last crumb.

My sister Tara is a bread baker wannabe and her first attempt over our Thanksgiving break was good but not what she wanted. The whole wheat dough was wet and didn’t exactly rise. So when our other sister brought home this recipe for a butternut squash braid [Tara’s pretty obsessed with squash :], she decided to go for round II.

It smelled delicious, looked incredible, definitely doubled—maybe tripled—in size, and tasted… divine. Perfection, with the exception of being slightly undercooked and doughy, which didn’t bother our family of dough-lovers. We ripped off wads of it like challah and let it melt in our mouths, sinking into a ball of dough in the pit of our stomachs that stayed there all night. Quite filling, but it was impossible to have just one piece!

So after the successful test run my sisters decided to make it again for Christmas dinner. We let it bake all the way through this time, the crust turning a shiny golden brown. The inside texture was airy and soft—the way it’s meant to be—but we actually preferred the dense, doughy loaf :]

Moral of the story: we’re not master bread bakers, so this loaf should be fairly simple and  fool-proof for beginners if you follow the directions. The butternut gives it a richness and makes it soft and moist, and the texture reminds me of challah. This is definitely a keeper in the bread recipe files!

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid, from taste of home

Prep time: 45 min + rising, Bake: 20 min. Yields 18 servings.

  • 2-3/4 cups uncooked cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels (we didn’t use)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (we used Earth Balance)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels

Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash squash (you will need 2 cups); cool to 110°-115°.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk and water. In a largebowl, combine the pepitas, butter, egg, brown sugar, salt, cooked squash, yeast mixture and 2 cups flour; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a 26-in. rope; braid ropes. Transfer to a greased baking sheet; form into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place
until doubled, about 45 minutes.

For topping, beat egg and water; brush over braid. Sprinkle with pepitas. Bake at 350° for 18-23 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (18 slices). Per slice: 192 calories, 7 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

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