Strong Arms for Kids

 
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Random Ishigaki Photo - I felt like this post needed, at least one photo
I have been doing quite a bit of cooking since I have been home in NY.  I am back staying with my parents, temporarily, and since they eat meat on a pretty regular basis, I, usually, make my own meals (which I really don't have  a problem doing).  I have made some pretty good recipes, but, unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to digging out my camera before digging into my meal.  Besides, my parents think I am weird enough, as is, if I start documenting all my meals on film before eating I don't know what they would think.  I will ease them in slowly and soon enough start taking photos of all my creations again.  But here are some recipes to enjoy in the meantime.  My apologies for the lack of photos.


Wild Rice and Butternut Squash
    
This was adapted from a recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine.  Its pretty easy to make and so good for you.
  It can be eaten either hot or cold.  I enjoyed it both ways.

Ingredient List

Serves 8

·      2 Tbs. olive oil

·      1 medium-size onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

·      3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)

·      1 16-oz. pkg. cooked wild rice, or 3 cups cooked wild rice

·      1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

·      1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

·      bunch of kale, chopped

·      1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

·      1 Tbs. dried oregano

·      1 tsp. ground cumin

·      1/2 tsp. salt

·      1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

·      pepitas

Directions ·      Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute more, or until fragrant.

·      Stir in wild rice, squash, beans, kale, mustard, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and 11/2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil.

·      Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Add in pepitas.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.




Thai Lemongrass Tofu
        This dish was also adapted from a recipe I found on the Vegetarian Times website.  This came out really well.  It was actually my first time using fresh lemongrass stalks and it made a huge difference, I reckon.  You can use lemon in place of lemongrass but the lemongrass makes it so much tastier.

Ingredient List

Serves 4

·      16 oz. extra-firm tofu

   1 eggplant, diced in 1 inch pieces


·      1 stick lemongrass, peeled and chopped

·      1 shallot, finely chopped

·      2 tsp. minced fresh ginger

·      1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

·      1/3 cup fresh lime juice

·      1/4 cup light brown sugar

·      1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil

·      5 green onions

·      1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves

·      1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions ·      Drain tofu between 2 cutting boards set on angle over sink, 1 hour. Cut into 16 cubes.


    Prepare the eggplants in similar shaped cubes to the tofu.


·      Purée lemongrass, shallot, and ginger to paste in food processor. Whisk together soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, and 2 Tbs. water in bowl. Transfer half of soy sauce mixture to bowl for dipping sauce. Add lemongrass mixture to remaining soy sauce mixture.

·      Toss together tofu, eggplant and lemongrass–soy sauce mixture, and marinate 30 minutes.

·        Heat some oil in a pan, saute the tofu and eggplant until the eggplant is completely cooked and the tofu in brown on both sides.  Plate on top of rice and add some of the extra sauce on top.  Then  top with chopped peanuts, mint and green onions.  You can also make little lettuce wraps by wrapping  all the ingredients in prepared lettuce leaves. 


 
 
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Well, after 10 flights in 5 days, and countless hours sleeping on airport couches I am back home (in NY), safe and sound from my trip to Indonesia.  I am slowly readjusting to life back in America after being gone for a total of a little more than 5 years and finding myself a bit lost and don't really know what to make of everything.  Hopefully this is just the normal reverse culture shock, I mean I did live here for 27 years of my life, even though it does feel like a foreign country to me right now. 

I had some crazy adventures during my time in Indonesia, which makes readjusting to life back in suburbia even more difficult and has left me dreaming of all the wonderful ways they prepared their freshly made tempeh.  Indonesia is a vegetarians paradise.  Some of the best food I ate was in Ubud.  The traditional Indonesian Nasi Campur (Nasi which means rice in Indonesian is accompanied by an assortment of small side dishes) was heavenly.
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This Nasi Campur dish I had in a restaurant in Ubud had a mix of green curry with tofu, fried tempeh, shrimp chips, and greens mixed with fresh shredded coconut.  And washed it all down with a delicious Bintang beer.  Bintang means star in Indonesian and when you go up to a bartender and ask for a Bintang they love to make the joke..."you sure you don't want the moon or the sun?"
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Even though, compared to Japan and the US, Indonesia is a really inexpensive place to travel, the "fancy" restaurants can still weigh on your wallet a bit and, of course, its fun to venture out off the beaten path because you never know what you will end up finding.  We found one amazing restaurant on a side street off of the main drag of Ubud that had the most delicious tempeh, fried to perfection and topped with a fresh tomato sauce.  Simple but so flavorful.  This was one of my favorite meals and only cost $1.00.  It was so good, I have already tried recreating the dish at home. 

Tempeh w/ Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tsp oregano
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

3 tbsp olive oil
1 block tempeh, sliced down the middle, then in triangles

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onions.  Allow them to saute for 5-7 minutes, until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the spices and tomatoes.  Let them cook on a low flame for about 10 minutes and then add the zucchini (the zucchini wasn't in the dish I had in Indonesia but I thought it made a nice addition).  Let simmer for another 10 minutes.  Then add salt and pepper to taste.

To cook the tempeh, heat oil in a pan.  Let it get super hot, but not smoking.  Add the tempeh to the oil and let cook for about 5-7 min on one side (until a nice golden brown).  Then flip over and cook on the other side for the same amount of time. 

I plated the dish with couscous on the bottom, then put the tempeh on top of the couscous then finally put the tomato sauce on top of the tempeh.  This was absolutely delicious. 

I am now living back at my parents home and have been doing a lot of my own cooking since my parents are not vegetarians, but I haven't gotten around to taking photos of my meals yet.
 
 
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So, I have been enjoying, so much, writing all about my adventures in cooking and keeping track of all my recipes in the RECIPES section of my website, that I want to start an actual food blog.  Everyday, I spend so much time checking out what's new on my favorite food blogs (I have quite a list by now).  I really don't know why I didn't start this sooner...well yeah I do...I really don't enjoy spending so much time working on a computer but what motivated me to start today was this the absolutely delicious Mango and Avocado Quinoa salad I made last night for dinner, which I didn't eat until 9pm last night, because I was riding my bike all over creation looking for a ripe avocado to go with my mangoes that are on the verge of becoming too ripe.  And God forbid, even one mango goes bad at a price of at least, $6 a mango, my heart would be broken for days.  When living on a small island, its seriously a wild goose chase trying to find all the ingredients you need to complete a recipe, so more times than not your final product ends up completely different than the recipe you were prepared to follow.  Sometimes my dinners are an absolute disaster and I eat them as fast as possible, in order not to taste them, and other times they are a masterpiece, like last nights salad.  This Mango Avocado Salad has it all.  Its got tons of protein, good fats, vitamins C, vitamin A...the list goes on.  And of course, it has the flavor to match.  The mango matches nicely with the cumin and turmeric, while the cilantro and lime give it an extra layer of flavor, I love the extra crunch you get from the almonds, while avocado just tastes good in everything.  I was able to enjoy some corn on the cob as a side, which is an absolute luxury in this place.  Literally only about once a year, they have actual corn on the cob in the supermarkets ( I am still too nervous to buy the shrink wrapped corn I see all the time, really what were they thinking.)  Oh so back to my point, the reason I started this blog entry today, was...I thought the best way to get into actual food blogging would be to share this amazing salad with the people in "No Croutons Required", which is a monthly food blogging contest. This month's theme is grains.  I love this contest and have found so many more wonderfully addicting food blogs to follow from it.  So here is my first entry to my food blog and my first entry in the "No Croutons Required" food blog contest hosted by Lisa of http://foodandspice.blogspot.com/

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad

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1 cup quinoa

1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ cup almonds, chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin

cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 lime
1 tbsp cilantro
salt and pepper
green onions

Soak quinoa for 10 minutes in hot water and then drain.  Boil fresh water and once boiling, add quinoa.  Cook until all the water is gone, about 10 minutes.  Let it sit and soak up the water.  Then fluff with a fork.

Dice up avocado, mango, and cucumber and put in a bowl.  Add almonds and pumpkin seeds.  Then heat olive oil in a pan.  Add the nuts, and mango mixture to the pan.  Add turmeric and cumin.  Saute for 30 seconds and return to bowl.  Add the quartered tomatoes to the bowl.  Squeeze the juice from a whole lime onto the mixture.  Then add the cilantro and salt and pepper.  Mix all together.  Then add the quinoa to the mixture and finally add the green onions.

 

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