Strong Arms for Kids

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.  


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. 
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!
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.

   Adapted from a recipe on

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. 
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.
Well turned out to be mission impossible because my family made it a Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah dinner with a brisket and a chicken.  But I did get to introduce them to some new ingredients and dishes they have never tried before, and everyone seemed to enjoy everything.  So all in all, even though it wasn't a fully vegetarian meal, it was still a success.

This time I really did mean to bring my camera and take photos, but, of course, I forgot.  Also, I would not have had time anyway, there were some very hungry people, and some hyperactive kids, so I don't think I would have had the opportunity anyway.  Soon though, back to the photographs, really, but for now, you will just have to use your imaginations.  

The Menu

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Eggplant Caviar

Roasted Butternut Squash, Corn, Cashew Soup

Bulgur Pomegranate Celery Salad

Pasta with Swiss Chard

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

And the winner of the night was the Eggplant Caviar.  I got this recipe from the Food and Wine website.  Everyone loved it, and I am sure to make it again soon.

Eggplant Caviar

·      1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise

·      1 tablespoon olive oil

·      1 small French baguette (about 6 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick

·      Vegetable cooking spray

·      1 medium red bell pepper, cut into1/8 -inch dice

·      1 small onion, minced

·      2 garlic cloves, minced

·      1 large tomato--peeled, seeded and cut into1/8 -inch dice

·      3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

·      Salt and freshly ground pepper

·      2 tablespoons minced chives

·      1 tablespoon minced fresh basil


Directions ·      Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the cut sides of the eggplant with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Set the eggplant, cut sides down, on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until tender and collapsed. Let cool.

·      Arrange the bread slices on another baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden and crisp. 

·      Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the red pepper, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. 

·      Using a spoon, scrape the eggplant flesh from the skin; discard the skin. Finely chop the flesh and add the eggplant to the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the tomato, lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until slightly chilled. Stir the chives and basil into the eggplant caviar and serve with the croutons.

I also really love the Pasta with Swiss Chard.  I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found while watching Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie.  They made this recipe with beet greens, but I couldn't find any quality beet greens, so I substituted them for swiss chard and it came out delicious.  The bitterness of the chard, the sweetness of the golden raisins and the saltiness of the olives all compliment each other so well.

Pasta w/ Swiss Chard

  1/4 cup olive oil

·      1/3 cup pine nuts

·      3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

·      2 medium red onions (1 lb), halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

·      3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

·      1 1/2 lb swiss chard, leaves cut crosswise into 3-inch-wide pieces, divided

·      1 cup water, divided

·      3/4 lb penne

·      1/3 cup golden raisins

·      1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives, coarsely chopped

·       Accompaniment: ·      Toasted bread-crumb topping for pasta

·      Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add pine nuts and toast, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

·      Add garlic to oil remaining in skillet and cook, stirring, until golden. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, until most is evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add beet stems, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until stems begin to soften, about 12 minutes.

·      Cook penne in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 Tbsp salt for 6 qt water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta.

·      Meanwhile, add raisins, then beet leaves to onion mixture in handfuls, turning each handful with tongs until beet leaves are wilted before adding next batch. Add remaining 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add olives, then add pasta and cook, tossing and moistening with some of the cooking water as necessary, just until liquid has thickened slightly. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

And I love to shock non-foodies with the Vegan Chocolate Mousse.  People can never ever guess what goes into this mousse but they all absolutely love it.  And I love telling them that it is actually really good for you.  I found this recipe on the Vegetarian Times website.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

      * 1 large mango, diced (1 1/2 cups)

    * 1 medium avocado, diced (3/4 cup)

    * 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

    * 1 Tbs. brewed espresso or strong black coffee

    * 1 Tbs. rum, optional

    * 1 tsp. vanilla extract

    * 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

  1. To make Chocolate Mousse: Blend mango, avocado, cocoa powder, coffee, rum, if using, and vanilla in food processor until smooth. Add melted chocolate, and blend until smooth. Chill 2 to 3 hours.

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. 

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.
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?"
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.

$5 for a mango!!! What a deal!!! Ishigaki is exploding with mangoes this year.  And now that I have lived here for two years, I honestly believe that $5 is super cheap for mangoes (yes, that is the price for just one mango).  But luckily, I also have great friends, and was gifted a bunch of mangoes.  So now with a surplus of mangoes, I can't let them go bad, so I tried out a few different recipe ideas using mangoes.  Normally, I feel like mangoes are a perfect food, and are only ruined by changing them in any way, but honestly, most of the mangoes here lack flavor (don't get me wrong they are still delicious) but I don't feel as bad putting them in recipes.  Here are two different mango desserts, I have made in the past week.  Both are good for you, but once I start eating them, I have a problem stopping and unfortunately, even though they are healthy for you, they both have a lot of calories.

Avocado Mango Mousse w/ chopped Pistachios

Next time I would use less avocado and more mango.  But besides that, this was a really delicious dessert.

1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 block silken tofu
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla

Add all the ingredients to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Put in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.  Serve with chopped pistachios.

Chocolate Mousse with Avocado and Mango

For this mousse, I probably would have not added any tofu, and only used the mango and avocado, but since I had some tofu to use up, I had no choice but to add it.  Its still good and gives it some extra protein, but I would have liked a stronger mango flavor in the mousse.  So the choice is yours.

1 large mango
1 small avocado
1 block silken tofu (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Let chill for at least 30 minutes.

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

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad

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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