Tuesday, February 26, 2013

24 Pancakes and a To-Do List

In case you were wondering... this is what that Whole Oat Flour Pancakes recipe looks like when sextupled.

That photo is a couple of weeks old now, but I thought it was fun and wanted to share. It looks a lot like my things-to-do pile right now, too. Since deadlines and commitments can destroy good habits, my studio is disorganized and chaotic, and I need to get my eating and exercise habits fully back on track as well. So my goal is to have the following done by the end of the week:

  • Clean and organize my art studio
  • Reset my sleep schedule
  • Un-pause the workout routine that got interrupted last week
  • Make and photograph my buddy Aaron's broccoli soup recipe

It's written on the blog now, so it must get done.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vegetarian Golden Lasagna

Since the last time I made a real update, we've celebrated no fewer than five birthdays among close friends, one of those being my husband's 34th birthday yesterday. I had a dreadfully busy work schedule all last week, so our friends Rob and Sarah (who's birthday is today) were nice enough to do dinner and cake at their place.

That's Super Mario World on the TV in the background of this photo. We may get older, but we'll never really grow up.

And here's an apple pie I made the week prior for my friend Sven's birthday.

Anyway, today is the first day I've gotten back into the kitchen after the week of extreme work and celebrating. It felt so relaxing, and I intentionally chose a dish that takes a while to prepare so I could spend some extra time getting back into my culinary groove.

Vegetarian Golden Lasagna

  • 9-12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
------------Spice Blend:
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Pre- Preparation:
You can do these first few steps in advance to skim some time off of preparation closer to meal time.

Bring a pot with approx. 8 cups of water to a boil. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes, add them to the boiling water and cook them until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Boil the lasagna noodles in a pot of salted water for 10-15 minutes until al dente.

Slice the squash as finely as you can— if you have a mandolin slicer, use it! Chop the onions into small (half inch) pieces. Then blend the spices (ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, salt, and pepper) together in a small dish. Set all of the above aside for later.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a bowl, mash the sweet potato and squash with a fork. Add the ricotta cheese, egg, and half of the spice blend. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, cook the chopped onions in olive oil for 8-10 minutes over medium heat, until soft. Add the flour and stir until coated and the onions are slightly brown. Turn the heat to low and add the cream and water, then simmer and stir until the mixture thickens a little bit and becomes creamy. Add the remaining half of the spice blend and stir to combine.

In a 9x13 glass baking dish, layer the different components as follows: First lay down half of the onion-cream mixture and spread evenly along the bottom of the dish, then top that with a layer of noodles. Next, add half of the sweet potato-squash mixture and add a second layer of noodles. Add the remaining onion-cream mixture, then the remaining sweet potato-squash, and a final layer of noodles. Top it all off with the parmesan crumbles.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling and the noodles on top are lightly browned. Let the lasagna cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Makes about 12 servings.

On a final side note, I'm about to embark on a challenging food experiment with Brendan. For the whole month of March he wants to cut out dairy and wheat gluten. While I won't be actively participating in the experiment myself, I've agreed not to buy or keep anything that falls into those categories in the house, and I'll be finding some recipes to accommodate those changes.

I might miss cheese and milk while it's in Food Jail, but I think I can make it fun.

Friday, February 22, 2013

PopChartLab: The Various Varieties of Vegetables

I had nothing to do with the creation of this graphic, but my friend Cassie shared it with me and it's too cool not to repost here:

Get The Various Varieties of Vegetables by PopChartLab as a print via their website. I hadn't heard of some of these varieties of fruits and veg before seeing the chart, and it's given me some new items to look out for as Spring approaches.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Having a Plan

I'm in a deadline frenzy this whole week, and I had this post in the can for just such an occasion. Sometimes it's good to take a break from complicated recipes and look back at the simplest building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Working from home can be extremely convenient, but even when you have more time available to spend in the kitchen there are plenty of obstacles to overcome when you're trying to eat good, clean food all the time. Even we need a strategy.

It's lunchtime and I'm hungry already, but I'm chasing a deadline and don't have time to make a meal.

It's easy to excuse bad eating habits when you're rushed. I used to cave under the pressure of this situation constantly and eat whatever was around- especially if it was made of bread or cheese. Nowadays I take a two-pronged approach to combating this problem: 1- I don't keep bread and cheese-type snacks in the house anymore, or anything I'm likely to eat too much of when I'm not eating consciously. And 2-I have a list of favorite emergency foods that I try to keep stocked at all times:
  • frozen edamame
  • soup (cans are ok, but leftover homemade is better)
  • peanut butter & celery
  • yogurt & homemade granola
  • bananas & other whole fruits
  • whole grain muffins
  • raw nuts

Curse the luck, I actually ran out of my latest batch of raisin muffins yesterday, but I've already had two and a half of those items today. I also ate an avocado salad with some parmesan cheese (hey, quit looking at me funny) and discovered that the combination of those two flavors is really similar to bacon... either that or I'm finally cracking.

I have to be in the car traveling for several hours, and the only food available on the road is fast food.

This one comes up for me a lot during convention season. It's tempting to stop at McDonalds or somewhere equally horrible because fast food chains do an incredible job of making it seem like you'll be starving to death if you don't eat one of their extreme high calorie meals, plus a lot of fresh foods won't keep well in the car. But those aren't good excuses; if you're capable of packing a suitcase, you can pack a bag of delicious food for a car trip. Not to mention that nearly every time I've given in and eaten fast food on the road, I've paid for it later with awful stomach cramps and that should be enough motivation right there.

If you own a cooler, by all means use it to pack perishables, but if you don't, try any of these items that will keep fresh without refrigeration for a few hours:
  • a water bottle for each passenger (it's important to stay hydrated!)
  • trail mix (granola, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, etc.)
  • grapes
  • apples
  • bananas
  • kale chips (or other baked veggie chips)
  • non-messy sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • carrot sticks
  • homemade peanut butter crackers
  • fresh veg or fruit juice in a resealable bottle

Friday, February 15, 2013

Twisted Portabella Burgers pt. 2

I didn't say these were going to be traditional burgers, did I? Certainly not. Because of the particular shape of my home-grown portabellas, I had to make a decision on how to use them. Since they were slightly bigger than my buns, I decided baking them would be a smart move, so they would be tender and shrink up a bit— I had seen that happen a few times when making stuffed mushrooms, and this basically is a stuffed mushroom on a burger bun.

Twisted Portabella Burgers
(makes 2 burgers)
  • 1/2 of a small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh greens
  • 2 tbsp soft goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Hollow out the stem and gills of your mushroom caps with a spoon or your fingers. Don't dig too deeply, just enough to make a small well for the stuffing.

Begin cooking the chopped onions in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the paprika, sage, salt, and pepper and stir well. Continue cooking until the onions are slightly translucent and the spices are giving off a strong fragrance.

Remove the onions from heat, and stir in the goat cheese. Spoon the filling into the mushroom caps and sprinkle them with grated parmesan cheese. Transfer the mushroom caps to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

I ran into a slight difficulty here of which I need to make note. I'm used to cooking with store bought portabella caps, so I dramatically underestimated the water content of these that I grew. There's always a little moisture that bleeds out of a mushroom cap during baking, but mine were weeping like a jilted bride. So I had to remove them and place them on a towel to soak up some of the moisture. The good news is that they shrank exactly as I wanted, still tasted great, and had a good texture after they were dried off. Just be aware that this can happen and use thick caps which have had some time to dry out before baking, or get a towel ready.

The rest is just assembly; I added a bed of baby spinach to my homemade rolls, placed the stuffed mushrooms on top, and that's it— patty, onion, and cheese all in one package. If you're a fan of ketchup and mustard or other burger condiments, you can add those too, though I'd recommend selecting condiments that don't overpower the goat cheese and sage flavors. Go for delicate stone-ground mustard instead of yellow, sliced heirloom tomatoes instead of ketchup, etc. For added richness, you can also brush the sliced rolls with oil and pan toast them over a high heat for a minute before assembly. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Twisted Portabella Burgers pt. 1: The Roll

You know how there are always a disparate number of burger patties to buns at the store? It occurred to me last night that I had two tasty portabella caps left over, and they'd make great burgers— but if I got storebought buns I'd have far too many. So I decided to make my own buns. Why had this never occurred to me before?

Also, why aren't pants made from towels? Necessity, your daughter would like a word.

I wasn't satisfied making regular burger rolls, so I looked up a few recipes, and eventually decided I wanted a dinner roll-type texture married to a simplified version of the kaiser roll. This is what ensued:

Twisted Burger Rolls
Makes 4 small or 2 large rolls

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Note: This process isn't labor-intense, but it does involve a lot of waiting, so make sure you have about 3 hours worth of things to do around the house while you make these.

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water and gently stir until the yeast dissolves. Combine the milk, one of the eggs, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the yeast mixture and continue mixing, then add the flours and mix with a spoon until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough continuously with your mixer's dough hook attachment on low speed for 8 minutes*. Lightly flour and cover the kneaded dough with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours, until it’s doubled in size. Do not refrigerate.

*If you don't have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand on a lightly-floured work surface.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly flour your work surface or counter top. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll them into balls on your work surface, being careful not to get too much flour on the outside of each ball.

To make the knots: Form each dough ball into a rope, by gently pulling it out from the center— imagine the dough is a tube of toothpaste, and you're trying to squeeze the toothpaste out from the center in each direction, if that makes sense. Once your rope is pulled out to about 12 inches in length, tie it in a simple overhand knot, leaving one loose end longer than the other [see photos below]. Now take the longer end and attach it to the shorter end, and pressing them together with your thumb. You should now have a bread dough trefoil knot.

Transfer the dough knots to a greased baking sheet and let stand for another hour.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a fork. Using a basting brush, coat the risen dough knots with egg. Optional: You can add seeds, grated parmesan, herbs, or other toppings at this point if you desire. They will stick nicely to the egg-coated dough!

Bake the buns for 22-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown on top. Let cool before slicing and serving.

Stay tuned for pt. 2 : The Burgers...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Espresso Chocolate V-Day Cupcakes

Well, I completely forgot tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It's official, I'm a terrible person.

So I'm pulling a Sweets & Treats recipe from my archives to fulfill my holiday posting requirements— You might be spending the day with someone you love, and you might want to make something very special for them. This recipe is quite special and extremely rich, though it flies in the face of my current focus on uncomplicated whole food recipes. But love is a complicated subject, so I think we can let it slide this time.

Espresso Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients for the Cake:
The cake part of the recipe comes from Whisk-Kid.com's Deep Chocolate Cake
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sour cream, room temp
  • 2/3 cup hot prepared espresso

Ingredients for the Frosting:
Ingredients for the Coffee Bean Medallions (optional):
  • 11 oz. white chocolate baking chips
  • approx. 72 coffee beans

For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F

Line your cupcake trays and set aside.

Bowl 1: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

Bowl 2: Cream the butter and sugar. Since this is an adaptation of a Whisk-kid.com recipe, I'll post her baking tips here too, wherein she discusses proper creaming technique. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well until incorporated, then add the vanilla extract. Pour in the dry ingredients from Bowl 1, 1/3 at a time, then add 1/2 of the sour cream and repeat, mixing until all ingredients are just combined.

Add in the hot espresso and gently combine, then pour the batter into your lined cupcake trays. Each liner should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack— let them completely cool before frosting.

For the frosting: In a large bowl, let the butter soften at room temp (do not melt). Add in half of the confectioner's sugar, then the milk and vanilla extract. Beat the ingredients together with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes until the texture is smooth. Add the remaining sugar 1 cup at a time and continue beating after each addition.

Using a double boiler, melt the espresso dark chocolate. Combine with the prepared frosting and fold together with a spatula. Spoon the frosting into an icing bag. With a star icing tip, apply approx. 2 tbsp of frosting to the top of each cupcake— to get the exact effect in the photos, while squeezing the bag, rotate the icing tip in a very small circle at the center of the top of the cupcake. As the icing emerges, it will expand outward, forming a tidy spiral.

For the medallions (optional): I make these using a petit fours tray with round indentations, but you could also use an ice cube tray if you don't mind oblong medallions. Using the double boiler again, melt the white chocolate baking chips. Pour into the tray molds, and add three coffee beans to each before the chocolate hardens up again. Place medallions in the fridge to set.

When the medallions are set, add one to the top of each frosted cupcake, and voila! You have a really special treat for someone you love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brussels Sprout Wand

My foodie side recognizes these as sprouts and wants to cook them... however my fantasy artist side thinks this is some kind of goblin club.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Relaxing Spa Day & Sesame Long Beans

I took a mini-break from posting (and cooking) to finish up some work, then on Saturday I went on a relaxing excursion to Spa World with a few good friends.

Image from Yelp.com

Spa World is a Korean-style bath house and sauna, with optional extras like massage services, access to fitness equipment, a Korean restaurant, and so on.

I love it there.

Relaxation is a vital part of one's health, and the spa provides some unique opportunities to relax and clear the mind. One of the most relaxing aspects of Spa World (to me) is that full nudity is required in the pool area. It might seem counterintuitive to a shy person, but among real natural bodies it's easy to let go of any negative thoughts you might have about your body. And being unencumbered by clothing means you can focus your whole attention on the calming physical sensations available to you in the pool.

On this visit, one woman broke the rule and entered the pool area in a bright yellow bikini. I couldn't stop staring at her. It was un-relaxing. First I felt bad for her, thinking it was awful that she couldn't let go of whatever reservations she was having about showing her body. Then I was mad. How dare she come into this peaceful place, and remind everyone that body issues exist? I eventually switched sides in the hot tub and faced the other direction, so I could stop thinking about it and re-quiet my mind. Let that be a lesson, though— when nudity is the norm, the best way to call attention to yourself is to cover up.

On Friday night I got into the Korean mood in advance with some sesame flavor. This recipe is similar to the eggplant dish I made last week, but with enough subtle differences to deserve its own post.

Sesame Long Beans

  • 1/2 lb Chinese long beans, chopped & steamed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup red cabbage, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chili paste
  • a handful of whole basil leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste

Steam the beans for 20-30 minutes in advance.

In a frying pan over medium heat, add 1/2 of the olive oil and toss in the chopped red cabbage. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the remainder of the oil and the diced onions. Continue cooking until the onions are becoming translucent and the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Once that's ready, add the sauce ingredients— the water, garlic, soy sauce, chili paste, basil leaves, ginger, and sugar. Stir the sauce well, then add the long beans.

Continue cooking the beans until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are tender. Stir frequently to keep the beans evenly cooked. Finally, remove from heat and add the sesame oil and salt. Give it one last stir and serve with rice.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Artisan Bread with Spent Grains

Yesterday was another one of those insane days where I had to spend about 14 consecutive hours working on art to meet a deadline. And that's fine— it happens. Normally those exhausting days balance out with less stressful ones. So as not to completely ignore my health and sanity, we made quick whole wheat pita pizzas and Brendan had the kitchen free to finish a batch of spent grain bread.

Brendan got into homebrewing last year, and he's quite good at it. Sometimes I help out on brew day, so I know the basics now, but it's mostly his domain. We didn't brew during the holidays to save money, but we got back into it last weekend and brewed 5 gallons of rich stout. For this style we had some sweet and dark specialty grains left over, perfect for baking. You can do a number of things with spent grain such as adding it to compost, making granola, pizza crust, cookies, dog biscuits or other animal treats, and of course... bread!

Artisan Bread with Spent Grains

Ingredients (makes three 9-inch-long loaves):

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cup filtered water (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup spent grain
  • 1/2 tsp active yeast
  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup beer (or filtered water)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt

Making the Bread Starter (Pre-ferment)
**Note: You'll want to do this step the night before you want to bake the bread, or at least 8 hours in advance.

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the flour to the spent grain (it’s best to do this right after brewing so the grain is still moist), then stir in the yeast solution. Mix everything together with a spatula until combined into a wet dough, then cover the bowl with lightly oiled plastic wrap and leave it out on the counter overnight to ferment.

Making the Dough
Transfer the starter (which should have increased in size overnight) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine the flour, beer or water, honey, and salt with the starter. Using the dough hook attachment on low speed, mix the dough for 10-12 minutes. If it’s sticking to the sides, or has a gluey consistency, add more flour 2 tbsp at a time until it stops sticking.

After mixing, set the dough aside in a bowl that’s been lightly oiled, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it for 2-3 hours more.

Preheat oven to 450° F, and place a metal baking tray or pan on the lowest rack (this needs to get really hot for steaming, which I'll get to in a moment).

Now that the dough has increased in size again, remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured counter top or flat work surface. Roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin (it's good to put some flour on your hands as well) and divide it into three equal sections.

Re-flour your work surface and flatten out each section into an approximate rectangle about ½ inch thick. Roll up each of the rectangular dough sections into cylinders, pinching together the ends and the seam (the seam will be the bottom of the loaf), and make three scores (slashes) across the tops with a knife. Lightly grease 3 loaf pans -or a baking sheet or stone- and place in the rolled dough.

In order to get soft bread, you'll want to introduce steam into your oven during the baking process. Here's a short video on some different steaming methods. We use the simple metal pan + water method. The pan that's been getting heated with the oven should be ready to go, so keep a pitcher of water on hand and pour it on the hot pan when you need the oven to get steamy— we do it as we're putting the bread into the oven and again when we rotate the pans during the baking process.

Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then rotate the pans, add more steam, and bake for another 15 minutes. A finished loaf should be golden-to-dark brown on top. If you’re new to baking bread, you may want to cut one of the loaves open to check that the middle has baked through (to be honest, we usually still do this).

Let the loaves cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and serve!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pasture-Raised Eggs & Whole Oat Pancakes

We took our first trip to MOM's Organic Market last weekend. Despite Brendan half-jokingly doing impressions of Ron Swanson the whole time, I really enjoyed the experience. They had a surprisingly large selection of foods, seasonal produce, all organic, and a very friendly staff.

My biggest interest was in their egg and dairy selection. In searching for answers to some of the ethical questions about being an ovo lacto vegetarian, I found that major dairy and egg producers were also complicit in the same kinds of cruelty found in the meat industry, but there are alternatives. So far, pasture-raised seems to be the least objectionable label. MOM's had both eggs and dairy from pasture-raised animals. I bought a dozen eggs and we tried them three ways (over easy, in pad thai, and in a veggie omelette) before deciding that they do taste richer than the conventional eggs we've always bought.

The toughest part was figuring out what to do with them for the blog. I know how to make scrambled eggs taste really good, but that didn't translate well in pictures. So I ended up going with a food that has eggs in it, and also goes with eggs— the ubiquitous pancake, with whole oats.

Whole Oat Flour Pancakes

Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill Oat Pancakes.

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave, and transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add the rolled oats, then the remaining dry ingredients, stir, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Separate the egg yolks and whites, and beat the yolks well. Add the egg yolks and whites, olive oil, and vanilla extract to the batter, and combine with a wire whisk.

To prepare the pan: Saturate a rag or wadded paper towel with about a tbsp of olive and wipe the cook surface of the pan between each pancake, so there’s a very light coat of new oil, and any crumbs from the previous pancake are removed.

Over a medium heat, spoon the batter into your pan 1/4 at a time. Let cook for about one minute (or until bottom is golden brown and the liquid on top no longer flows freely) then flip and cook on the other side for 40-60 seconds. This recipe yields 4 large pancakes.

With butter and pure maple syrup, this is technically dessert.

How do they stack up (ha, get it?) to standard buttermilk pancakes? Beautifully, in my opinion. Density-wise, they’re not quite as fluffy, but they’re also not hard. They’ve got a bit of texture to them because of the whole oats, and personally I prefer that to smooth bready mush. Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Herb and Mushroom Update

I'm really busy with art today, but here's a tiny gardening update:

I've finally needed to cut back the basil in the Aerogarden because it's outgrowing everything else. The cilantro and dill are a little puny (probably because the basil was stealing their light) but everything seems healthy overall.

I also had a really nice mushroom harvest this morning! Five big caps that will be making an appearance in a lot of meals this week.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Super Bowl... of Noodles

My friends are awesome. It turns out a lot of us (sometimes unbeknownst to one another) have been making great strides with our cooking skills and overall health lately. I've discovered that a handful of people in my wide social circle have begun eating organic, some have cut down on or quit eating meat— I even found out today that my parents have gone pescetarian. How cool is that?

One such example is my dear friend Vasara, who started her own food and health blog recently, The Naked Diet. She loves colorful dishes too, and created the recipe I'm featuring today. I mentioned in her comments section that I was going to give it a try this weekend, and I did. Spoiler: it was really good.

Get the recipe: Asian Noodle Rainbow Salad via The Naked Diet

It's also an excuse to photograph colorful veg...

I did a pretty good job getting together all of the ingredients, though I did make a couple very minor substitutions of convenience; I used a Cubanelle instead of yellow or green peppers, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar, etc. Because it was what I had, not because of any fault in the recipe. You know how it goes.

The sweet Asian style dressing is delicious and unifies the dish, while not interfering with the color of the veg. I won't lie- I experimented with a sweet peanut sauce too, but it was too opaque and coated everything in peanut color, thus destroying the spirit of the dish.

Thanks again to Vasara for the wonderful meal inspiration!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Gathering of Friends, with Chinese Eggplants

Yes, I spend a lot of time alone, but I mean human friends, not fruit and veg friends— I swear.

After last Friday's dinner was snowed out, I wasn't sure what I was going to make as a side for the rain date until the last minute. I knew it had to be Asian-themed to compliment Brendan's Pad Thai, so we went to H-Mart, and he Chinese eggplants at H-Mart were deep and luscious. They handily won out over the competition.

Chinese Eggplants in Chili Basil Sauce

  • 3 Chinese eggplants
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili basil paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp raw sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped (for garnish)

Chop Chinese eggplants into 3/4-inch pieces. Chop onion into slivers. Sauté the onion in oil until slightly translucent and fragrant, then add the eggplant and continue cooking until soft and slightly browned. Set onions and eggplant aside.

Over a medium heat, cook the garlic, ginger, and chili basil paste, then add the sugar, soy sauce and water. Add the onions and eggplant back into the frying pan, and continue cooking them in the sauce for 8-10 minutes.

When everything is cooked (and do taste pieces as you go), remove it from heat, add the sesame oil and continue stirring everything together. Garnish with basil and green onions and serve over rice. Makes 6 servings as a side dish.

If you really need to thicken the sauce, you can break the corn starch out of Food Prison, mix 1 tbsp corn starch with 2 tbsp of warm water, and add to the sauce.

My friend Jeannine gave me a good tip for eggplant, too: coat the pieces in salt to wick out some of the bitterness (which is apparently more present in eggplants with brown in the middle), then rinsing and drying them before cooking.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekly Veg & Roasting Peanuts

We did our grocery shopping a little later in the week than usual, but we did a lot of shopping all at once, at three different stores. I'm happy to report after yesterday's post that I found the closest MOM's Organic Market, and we got our first pasture-raised eggs tonight. More on that later.

Everyone knows buying organic or farm-fresh food is expensive. With certain foods, there's plenty of value to justify the extra cost, but you may have to make cuts elsewhere to make it work. Sometimes those savings come from buying raw products and doing just a little more prep work yourself. I got one of those bargains like that today at the Korean grocery— raw peanuts. They were cheaper than buying dry roasted ones, and it's really easy to roast them yourself.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spread out the raw peanuts on a baking sheet and bake them for 9-10 minutes. 10 minutes in my oven was exactly long enough— I think if I'd left them in any longer they might have burned, so be vigilant since no two ovens are the same.

They might make a faint crackling sound when they're done (it's the crispy shells separating from the nutmeats). The red shells come right off, and are easy to separate from the nuts with just a little effort by hand. I pulverized this batch for Brendan to add to a batch of Pad Thai.