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Monday, September 24, 2012

Barley with Sweet Rice and Corn

This is a versatile dish you can have any time of day, but is especially good for breakfast. I recommend making large batches of the rice/barley and then sprucing it up as you choose for several days' worth of meals. Sweet rice is just so yummy, complemented by the corn. while barley lends a nice texture to the dish. I also threw in some zucchini and mashed tofu that I had leftover from last night's recipe.

Barley with Sweet Rice and Corn
2/3 cup sweet rice
1/3 cup barley
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
Gomashio (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or scallions (optional)

Place the rice and barley in a fine sieve, and rinse under running water. Transfer the grains to a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 50 minutes. Add the corn, cover again, and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve topped with gomashio and a bit of parsley, cilantro, or scallions, if you like.

Another amazing recipe courtesy of

Ginger Pasta with Zucchini

A few of my favorite things! Paste, zucchini, and ginger all rolled into one delicious the protein power of tofu! This is a really fun twist on classic pasta + olive oil and is just a great mix of flavors.

Ginger Pasta with Zucchini
8 ounces whole wheat penne
2 pinches of fine sea salt
1/4 block firm tofu, cut into bite-size cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Shoyu to taste
1-2 teaspoons ginger juice (grate a 2" piece of ginger and squeeze out the juice with your fingers)

Bring a large pot of water with a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain and set aside.

Mash the tofu with a fork in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to the pan if the onions start to stick. Add the zucchini and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until it softens, then add the mashed tofu and shoyu to the skillet. Saute 2 minutes longer, then stir in the ginger juice and cooked pasta. Toss all the ingredients together over medium heat until the pasta is heated through and all the liquid has been absorbed

Flavors mixing together...mmm! Smells amazing, too.

Bottom Line: This dish is a zesty, exciting twist on regular pasta dishes, and I love that it includes some protein to complete it. No side dishes necessary, but also delicious with a side veggie lightly steamed.

This recipe and more at

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Okay, I apologize...I've been AWOL for a bit. I have been cooking, but haven't been sharing! So today I'm going to do a bit of a round up and post several recipes in a row.
I LOVE sweet potatoes and other sweet vegetables, and have since I was little. This recipe, from The Kind Diet, is one of my go-to delicious side dishes. It requires few ingredients and is very simple to make. It goes well with other similarly-inspired dishes, such as Mexican or South American...but really could go with anything, it's just so good!

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, and toast until they can be pierced easily with a knife but still offer some resistance, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes or so. (*Definitely do not skip the cooling, or they will turn to mush in the next step!)

Transfer the potatoes in a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, lime juice, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Adjust the seasoning the taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per my usual, I skipped the parsley but have at it if you like the flavor =)

Bottom Line:  A yummy combination of sweet and tangy flavors that can be made with little to no brain power!

This recipe and more at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Summer Soba Noodles

Yay! Two nights in a row of A+ recipes, according to Doug! I'm really excited about tonight's recipe as well. I made Soba with Toasted Sesame Seed Sauce, taken from my Vegetarian Planet cookbook. It was really easy and quick to make, although it is recommended that you let it cool 20-30 minutes to room temp (or if you're super hungry like me, you can refrigerate it for less time) before serving as it is wonderfully cooling and refreshing this way.
This dish has a tangy, authentic flavor and the soba noodles are silky and delicious. I opted to add extra veggies to make it a more complete meal; really you could add whatever veggies sound good to you, or add tofu for some protein. It was also really easy to make lots of extra, so now both of us have lunch to take for tomorrow! It's kind of silly how excited I get about that...but really it saves me so much time and effort!

Soba with Toasted Sesame Seed Sauce
1/2 cup hulled white sesame seeds
8 ounces dried soba noodles
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar (I used balsamic)
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil and it was great)
3 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped fine (yay for food processors!)
3 cups small broccoli pieces or 2-inch asparagus pieces, blanced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the sesame seeds onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are a rich brown around the edges.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until they are just tender. Drain them, rinse them well with cold water, and drain them again.

In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and scallions. Add the noodles and the toasted sesame seeds. Stir well, then stir in the broccoli or asparagus. Let the dish sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Bottom Line: You should probably make this! =)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soup & Salad Combo, Please

Okay so I am excited about this one. These recipes, paired together, make a delightful lunch or dinner on a spring or summer day. The tofu salad is very cooling, which balances out the warmth of the soup. The soup would also be great in the winter time, when I usually picture squash in recipes. But I would HIGHLY recommend both of these, taken from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.

The tofu salad is quick and easy, just requiring some chopping of ingredients and a quick steam of the tofu. It would be great on toast or in sandwiches; I put mine on top of the pitas because I didn't have high hopes for the pita standing up to the heavy salad.

The soup is so incredibly simple...if you can just get the squash cut up! Kabocha squash has such a tough skin and is a very hard squash, so I find it very difficult to cut up and peel. Other kinds of squash could be substituted, even bought already cut up (such as butternut)...I just love the taste of the Kabocha so much that it is worth the battle!
A pretty frightening (albeit accurate) picture of Doug and his power saw at war with the Kabocha squash.

Creamy Sweet Kabocha Squash Soup
4 cups kabocha squash, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
2 pinches of fine sea salt (or 1 pinch salt, 1 teaspoon shoyu - this is what I used)
minced fresh parsley

Place the squash in a saucepan with 3 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, and add a small pinch of salt. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the squash is soft. Mash the squash with a potato masher, or blend with a handheld blender, right in the pot. Add another pinch of salt (or 1 teaspoon shoyu) and simmer for 7-10 minutes longer. Serve the soup hot with a sprinkle of parsley on top.

Soup served in a mug, as a side dish to the tofu salad

Tofu Salad
1/4 cup fresh, or frozen and thawed, peas
1/3 (14 oz.) package firm tofu
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
3 olives, chopped
1 tablespoon rinsed capers
2-3 slices kosher dill pickles, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Vegenaise
1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar or 2 tablespoons umeboshi plum paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
whole wheat pitas
green leaf lettuce leaves
1 red radish, thinly sliced (I don't really like radishes, so left this out)

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peas, and blanch for 3 minutes or until the peas are bright green. Drain and set aside.

Wrap the tofu in cheesecloth or a clean dish towel and place on a plate. Place a second plate on top of the tofu, and place a weight on top of it for 10 minutes to press out the liquid. Bring water to a boil in a steamer or pot fitter with a steamer basket. Unwrap the tofu and place it in the steamer basket. Cover the pot and steam the tofu for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the tofu and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a fork to make it crumbly.

To the tofu add the peas, celery, olives, capers, pickles, scallion or chives, parsley, Vegenaise, vinegar, and lemon juice. Taste the mixture. If it is too bland, add more umeboshi vinegar, a little at a time, to taste (I needed to add another splash or two to mine).

Spoon the tofu salad into warmed pitas with the lettuce leaves and sliced radishes, or serve on the lettuce leaves and garnish with the radishes.

As good as it looks...reminiscent of egg or potato salad!

Bottom Line: Two ultra-healthful, Superhero recipes that taste so good yet are so simple to make! Definitely recommend both of them...impress your friends with lunch! =)

For more on Alicia Silverstone and The Kind Diet, visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Risotto and Salad

Tonight I made up a couple of yummy-sounding recipes for the first time out of my Vegetarian Planet cookbook. This cookbook is not vegan, just meat-free, but these recipes were either vegan or were easily made so.
I was very impressed by the salad...even though the tomatoes I used were not fresh (oopsie! bad planning), it was still very flavorful and refreshing. Definitely will be making this really reminds me of spring/summertime. One note: I had coriander seeds, but they were not ground. I used something called a suribachi, basically a mortar and pestle in which the bowl is ceramic and has grooves to assist in grinding. In a few short minutes I was able to grind the seeds. Definitely a handy tool to have around!
The risotto was interesting...a few strange flavor combinations, and it definitely could've used more of something, thought I am having trouble putting my finger on what. It was good, creamy and satisfying, but a bit bland...I'm thinking maybe it needed more garlic, scallions, or spices...a simple fix for an otherwise easy and yummy dish.
I did have extras after dinner for both of these...I think these recipes are intended to serve 4. I don't mind though...lunch is ready for tomorrow! =)

Bistro Avocado Salad
1 ripe Haas avocado, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1 yellow or red medium tomato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch squares
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1 small bibb or Boston lettuce head, broken apart

Put the avocado into a medium bowl and stir in the lime juice. Add the tomato, red onion, red pepper, mustard seeds, coriander, and olive oil. Add the salt and pepper, and toss well. Optional: refrigerate for a few hours for a colder salad.

Create a bed of lettuce leaves on your plate. Spoon the salad onto them and serve.

Using my suribachi

Salad finished product

Wild Risotto
1 cup water
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
4 cups vegetable stock (or water)
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I know basically nothing about wine, so just picked up a $1.99 bottle of white at Whole Foods)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup fresh, or frozen and thawed, peas

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the wild rice, cover the pan, and reduce the heat. Simmer 25 minutes. Drain the rice.

In a saucepan, bring the 4 cups stock or water to a simmer and keep it hot.

In a large skillet. heat the olive oil. Saute the scallions and garlic over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the Arborio rice and stir it for 2 minutes. Add the wine, the wild rice, and the tarragon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup of the heated stock or water. Stir frequently until liquid is absorbed, then add 1/2 cup more stock or water. Continue adding the stock or water in this manner, waiting between additions until the liquid is absorbed and stirring frequently. After about 18-20 minutes, most of the liquid should be used, and the rice should be tender but still slightly chewy.

 Sauteing the Arborio rice and scallions

When all of the stock or water is used, add the tomatoes, coconut milk, and peas. Stir the mixture and simmer it, stirring often, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve at once.

Finished risotto. The yellow color comes from the vegetable stock I used.

Dinner is served!

Bottom Line: Both tasty, surprising dishes that I would make again. Only changes would be fresh tomatoes for the salad, and more "oomph" by way of some more spices in the risotto. I think the coconut milk might have been responsible for muting the flavor a bit.

Recipes both taken from Vegetarian Planet, written by Didi Emmons.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gone Bananas

Growing up, I always loved when my mom baked banana bread. It was one of my favorite things she made, and she always did so when we had overripe bananas that we couldn't use for anything else. So today, when I found myself with a whole bunch of overripe bananas, I decided to bake some banana bread! I have used her recipe before, but of course this time needed to find a vegan one.
To the rescue comes Post Punk Kitchen, a fun vegan recipe website with some interesting posts. I found a simple recipe for banana bread for which I had all the ingredients already so I was off to baking right away!

Banana Bread
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature (I use Earth Balance)
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond milk, the original calls for vanilla soy milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat 8 x 4 bread/loaf pan with margarine or cooking spray.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl - flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Cream together the margarine and sugars. Add bananas, milk and vanilla extract.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. (Confession: I also added chopped walnuts and some semi-sweet [still vegan] chocolate chips to the my book chocolate only improves things!!)
Pour batter into pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (mine was done right at one hour).

Fresh out of the oven!

The bread sliced and served well, even while warm. Not too crumbly but not too sticky! The loaf had a nice, slightly crisp top but soft underside.

Bottom Line: A quick and easy banana bread recipe that can be dressed up if desired. In my opinion the banana flavor was a little understated and it could have used a bit more moisture (probably due to the kind of banana bread I am used to), so perhaps could use another banana or some oil. But overall a delicious recipe worth trying! Would love to try it with some alternative sugars and flours to improve the health of the bread as well.

Original recipe found here on Post Punk Kitchen.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wrap It Up

While I typically take leftovers from the previous night's dinner for lunch each day, I knew yesterday that I wouldn't have anything to take for lunch today. So I made a quick run to Trader Joe's and picked up some goodies to make wraps with!
These are a great, quick, customizable and refreshing meal idea that utilize lots of fresh veggies and can incorporate any flavors that you like! They are also mostly raw, making them all the more nutritious. I thoroughly enjoyed my wrap and am looking forward to further experimentation!

Garlic Hummus Veggie Wraps
1 wrap tortilla (Trader Joe's sells vegan whole wheat tortillas made with olive oil that are soft, moldable but still sturdy, and delicious)
1/2 bell pepper, sliced (I like the sweeter colors, but you can use any you like)
1 handful fresh greens (spinach, lettuce,'s all good!)
1 Persian cucumber, sliced (you can use English cucumbers all the same, but I like Persians because they are so small...perfect size for folding up in a wrap)
1 avocado (I fully intended to put this in my wrap but ran out of room, so had it on the side. I  love them too much to leave them out!)
2 tbsp garlic hummus

Open tortilla on a plate. Spread hummus in center of tortilla. Place greens on top of hummus, followed by cucumbers and bell peppers. Fold up burrito style. You can hold it together with a toothpick or two if needed.

So much freshness and color!

Happy lunching!