Strong Arms for Kids

 
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I don't know about you, but I love podcasts.  Especially when I lived abroad (and hope to do again someday), I got most of my news and entertainment from podcasts.  Now I get all of my news from the Daily Show, and don't have much time to listen to podcasts but there are still two podcasts I listen to/ watch religiously.  The first one is "Stuff you Should Know".  If you haven't heard of this podcast, seek it out as soon as humanely possible.  The two guys that make the show could be talking about how to unstick gum from the bottom of your shoe and they would still be entertaining.  I am just waiting for them to get their own radio show and become the next "Opie and Anthony" but not as jaded and obnoxious.  The other one is a video podcast called "Delicious TV".  A couple of times a month, she comes out with a short 3-5 minute video on how to make something vegetarian, healthy and delicious (hence the name).  When I watched the video for the polenta casserole, it looked really interesting.  Polenta always sounds like such a good idea and I try really hard to like it, but I usually never do.  And once again, I didn't really enjoy the polenta, but I think if I used only a thin layer of polenta, instead of the inch on the bottom and inch on top that was recommended in the recipe, I would have enjoyed it much more.  Don't skip out on the yogurt sauce when making this recipe.  It is the key ingredient (for me anyway).  Also, I think making a Mexican version of this casserole would be really delicious, as well, with beans, peppers, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro.  

Here is my adapted version of Delicious TV's Eggplant Polenta Casserole:

Ingredients

For the polenta:
6 cups water
2 tsp salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp olive oil

Boil the 6 cups of water.  Add the 2 tsp of salt.  Slowly whisk in the cornmeal.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Once it is done, turn off heat and mix in the 2 tbsp of olive oil. 

1 eggplant
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 can stewed tomatoes
fresh chopped basil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the eggplant into one inch cubes.  Place cubes on baking sheet and place in oven.  Bake the eggplant until the cubes are brown and soft, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in frying pan.  Add the onions, saute a few minutes until onions soften and add garlic.  After a minute, add the mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of more minutes then finally, add the stewed tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are whole, use a spatula to chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Once everything is done, take the eggplant out of the oven and mix all the ingredients in a bowl, with the fresh basil and salt and pepper. 

Now lightly oil a casserole dish.  Place a thin layer of the polenta on the bottom.  On top of the polenta put the eggplant mixture.  Finally add a top layer of polenta over the eggplant mixture.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Once the 20 minutes i up, take of the aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Once the polenta has a nice golden color, take it out of the oven. 

While the casserole is baking, put 1 cup of yogurt in a bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of soymilk, to make a thinner consistency.  Add 1 tsp of granulated garlic, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg and whisk together. Place sauce on top of casserole before serving. 
 
 
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I am always excited to find a new way to cook with my new favorite food item (tempeh) and when its a lot different from a new marinade and it actually comes out as well as it sounds, it makes me even happier.  I adapted this tempeh pie from the website 500 Vegan Recipes.  The pie is packed with flavor and holds together perfectly. 

Tempeh Pie

For the filling:
2 teaspoons orange zest, about 2 oranges
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice, about 2 oranges
1 tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional, to taste
2 teaspoons ground ginger
8 ounces (227 g) tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon (15 ml) peanut oil
2 cups (380 g) frozen chopped spinach

1/2 package frozen peas

For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1 tablespoon unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil
1 tablespoon (75 ml) fresh orange juice


To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk zest, juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, optional red pepper flakes, and ginger.
Stir in tempeh. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Cook marinated tempeh, along with marinade, on medium heat until it browns up, for about 8 minutes. Add spinach and peas and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5).

To make the crust:
To make the crust, spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. 3. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, orange juice and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough.

5. Lightly brush a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with oil. Put the dough in the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.



Yield: 4 servings
 
 
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I adapted this recipe from 101cookbooks.com.  I remember making this quiche a long time ago in Japan.  I followed the directions word for word (well as best as I could) and I don't remember it coming out that well.  I am sure it wasn't the recipes fault.  I am sure I did something wrong, and that is exactly why I wanted to try it again.  It just sounded so delicious and healthy for you, that I had to give it another try.  And I am glad I did.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but only due to the fact that I just wanted to use up what I had in the refrigerator.  It came out soooooo good, that I must say I was quite impressed with myself.  The crust still wasn't perfect (it may have been the flour I used, or my lack of experience) but it didn't seem to effect the quiche at all.  The photo is from heating it up in the oven the second night, hence the big piece missing.  And I can't wait to have it again tonight!

Broccoli Asparagus Tofu Quiche

For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/3 cup unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil plus more for brushing the pan

For the filling:
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds
10 to 12 fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cups broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
1 cup asparagus, lightly steamed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Paprika for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. To make the crust, spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes.

3. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough.

5. Lightly brush a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with oil. Put the dough in the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.

6. To make the filling, in a wide saute pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and mushroom, raise the heat to high, and saute for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook until dry. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the vegetables into a mixing bowl and set aside.

7. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, oregano, and thyme. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. With a rubber spatula, scrape the garlic oil into the bowl of a food processor.

8. Crumble the tofu into the bowl of the food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and puree until smooth. With a rubber spatula, scrape the puree into the mushroom-onion mixture.

9. Quickly steam the broccoli and asparagus.  Once its done, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.   Chop into small pieces.  Add to mushroom-onion mixture, along with the fresh dill. Mix everything together, and adjust the seasoning.

10. Fill the tart shell with the tofu and vegetable mixture and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Dust with Paprika. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes,until firm.

11.Let the tart cool for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
 
 
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It's been so long since I have posted anything.  Don't really know where time goes but here I am again.  I took these muffin photos so long ago, that I don't even remember what recipes I used to make these muffins, but I liked the photos so I figured I would post them anyway. 
 
 
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After returning from two years of Peace Corps in Nicaragua, I remember searching high and low for cuajada (farmer's cheese) and corn flour to make tortillas.  Luckily there is a large population of Central Americans that live on Long Island and the simple ingredients needed in order to make an authentic Latin feast is not too difficult to find. 

Now that I have recently returned from Japan, I have been doing a lot of Asian cooking.  I feel like my body craves these foods because it has become accustom to eating them for the past two years.  Its very strange having your diet completely change about every two years and it takes my body a while to adjust, even if everything that I am eating is healthy. 

Looking back at how much I knew about food before I left the United States and seeing what I know now...wow! I can't believe how much I have learned.  Now, with ease, I can go into the kitchen, see whats in the refrigerator and make a healthy, creative and delicious meal.  I am so grateful for all the experiences I have hand the culinary education I have received from these adventures. 

While making this miso soup, I was thinking to myself, how I would have never been able to put all these ingredients together on my own, just five years ago.  I wouldn't have even known what some of these ingredients were, five years ago.  And now, I have created a delicious soup just from pulling stuff out what was already in my refrigerator.

Miso Soba Soup

1/2 package buckwheat soba noodles
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms (pretty much any mushroom could be used)
2 tbsp dark miso
2 cup baby bok choy
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
soy sauce, to taste
4 green onions, chopped
fresh mint, chopped

Boil salted water and add in soba noodles.  Let boil until noodles are soft, drain water and rinse noodles under cold water.  Set aside noodles

In a pot, add 4 cups water, ginger and the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  While it is simmering, take out some of the water, put it in a bowl, with the miso.  Mix the miso and hot water until it is well-blended and set aside.  After the 15 minutes, add the tofu and bok choy to the soup.  Let cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the miso to the soup.  Then add soy sauce, to taste.

Split the soba noodles between two bowl.  Pour the soup on top of the noodles.  Sprinkle some mint and green onions on top of both bowls. 

This makes a very big portion of soup, and can be used as an entire meal or split into four servings and used as an appetizer.
 
 
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You know when you are just winging a recipe but you know that its going to turn out so delicious that you don't even taste until you are finished cooking because you are that confident about what you are making.  Well that is how I felt about last nights dinner.  I was day dreaming about what I was going to make on the way home from the city ( I was on the train, not driving).  I knew I wanted to make some sort of orangey couscous thing, so I searched on the internet for an orange couscous recipe just to start me off, and then ended up with this.  It was so enjoyable hot for dinner, and just as enjoyable the next day, cold, for lunch.  

Ingredients

1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup couscous

1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup pepitas
pinch of salt
chopped mint

To make the couscous, boil 1 cup of orange juice and the water. Once its boiling, add the couscous, turn off the heat and put the cover on the pot.  Let sit for, at least, 5 minutes.

Heat the rest of the orange juice in a frying pan.  Add the red onions and the cranberries.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are soft.  Add the almonds and pepitas and cook for another 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the salt and mint.  Add this to the couscous, mix well, and enjoy. 
 
 
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I thought it was kind of weird to post about a sandwich but I couldn't help myself.  Its sandwiches like this that makes me so happy to be a vegetarian.  I think if I wasn't a vegetarian, I would never have taken the time to think about and create such a perfect sandwich.  All the flavors compliment each other so well.  The only problem with the sandwich is that you have to eat it right away, or else the bread gets pretty soggy.  But even then, it still tastes good.

To make the sandwich:  Get yourself some good whole wheat bread, then add cottage cheese, dill, tomatoes, red onions, avocado and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. 

Its so good, you have to try it!
 
 
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You should all be proud of me...I am branching out on my squashes.  If the world was a perfect place, I would eat kabocha everyday of my life (and a mango, as well).  But the world isn't perfect and so it allows me to try out all different types of squashes and pumpkins.  This bread uses acorn squash.  I find this recipe on the most imaginative bread recipe blog out there...even the name is really cute The Knead for Bread.  This bread has a perfect texture, slightly moist, with a touch of sweetness.  I copied the recipe almost exactly, except I didn't have whole flax seeds (my mom didn't have any because they are no use nutritionally in their whole form, can't blame her for not buying them), so I put some oats on top, instead.

Ingredients Squash Ingredients
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
Day before:
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • "Day of"
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup mashed squash ( above )
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 2 tablespoon flax seeds
Method Take your acorn squash and cut in half ( length wise ). Take a fork and poke holes all around the inside of the squash. Spread butter all around the inside of both halves. Pour equal amounts of brown surgar and maple syrup between both halves. Place the squash into a baking dish and add enough water to fill the dish about 1 to 2 inches. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour or till the squash is soft when poking with a fork. After baked, remove the inside of the squash and mash with a fork. Reserve one cup of the mashed squash and eat the rest. ( You can do all this the day before ). Take the "day before" ingredients and mix together in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 12 - 16 hours. In a large bowl pour out the " day before" mixture. It should have grown and bubbled. Add in the mashed squash, water, salt and instant yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon till the mixture is smooth. Add in the flax meal and the flax seeds. Mix till well blended. Add in half the whole wheat flour and mix till smooth. Slowly add the rest of the flour a little at a time, about a heaping tablespoon. When it becomes to hard to mix, pour out onto a flat surface and knead the dough for about 8 minutes. You may need a little more flour, but you want the dough to be a little on the sticky side. After kneading, add a little oil to a large bowl. Place kneaded dough and flip over a few times to lightly coat all sides of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 1/2 hours or till double in bulk. Remove dough from bowl and press to release the gas. Cut into 2 equal parts. Shape into 2 round balls and place onto a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal ( optional). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour or till double in bulk. Remove the plastic wrap. Take an egg white and beat till foamy. Brush the tops of the dough with the foam and sprinkle a little flax seeds on top. Score the top of the breads with a sharp knife. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven with a baking stone or on a cookie sheet. Create some steam by placing a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven the same time that you turn on the oven. Once you place the breads into the oven pour about a cup of boiling water into the hot pan and close the door. Bake for 30 minutes or till when tapped on the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow.


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Squash Sweet Potato Soup

I have made this soup countless times, and have never once seen a disappointed look on anyone's face.  I have gotten a number of astonishing compliments including "This is the best soup I have EVER eaten" and a "delicious" from my mother, which means a lot (she is a very tough critic).  As much as I don't want people to know how easy and simple it is to make this soup (I like having people think that I am an amazing cook, who slaves away in the kitchen all day just to please them), I also want my friends and family to know how easy it is to cook delicious healthy food.  For this reason, I am giving up my secret and posting this recipe.  I am even entering the recipe in the food blogging contest "No Croutons Required" for this month hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.  The challenge of this month is the store cupboard.  Squash and sweet potatoes and ginger can be stored for a long time, and easily forgotten about.  This way, whenever you have them just sitting around, here is an easy satisfying way to use them.

Recipe
   Adapted from a recipe on nytimes.com

1 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes or kabocha, steamed (both work well)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
3/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

If you are using kabocha, you have to steam it first, in order to remove the skin.  To make the soup faster, you can steam the sweet potato with the kabocha, and then the actual soup making process will go much faster.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a big pot.  When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and the ginger.  Saute for another couple of minutes, until the garlic and ginger just begin to brown. Add the squash and sweet potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes.  Now add just enough water to cover all the squash and potato (about 4 cups).  Bring to a boil, then lower the flame and let it simmer, until the squash and potatoes are really soft, almost mushy, about 20-30 minutes.  The time depends on whether you are using the steamed kabocha or the butternut squash.  Once the squash and potatoes are completely soft, turn of the heat and add the soy milk, and the soy sauce.  Using a hand blender, blend the soup until its completely smooth.  Finally, add salt and pepper, to taste. 

This soup could definitely be made a day or two ahead of time.  It actually tastes better the next day. 
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Okay, again, I didn't bring out my camera for this recipe, mostly because I didn't think I was going to post this recipe.  But this was a recipe that I totally just came up with on the fly, and it came out really good.  I was so proud of myself, that I had to post the recipe, even if I didn't have a photo.  How well does kale photograph anyway.

Kale w/ red onions and walnuts

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 lb chopped kale
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in frying pan.  When hot, add the garlic and saute until golden brown.  Add the onions and salt, and saute until onions are soft.  Once they are soft add the vinegar and cook until vinegar has mostly evaporated.  Add the kale and water.  Cook until the kale is cooked to your liking, then add the walnuts.  Turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
 

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