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Quick & Easy Weeknight Dinner – Grilled Vegetables & Rice!

1 Sep


Two staples that will pretty much always be found in my kitchen: vegetables and rice. Since we haven’t ventured to the grocery store in far too long, dinner had to be whatever we had on hand! After a rather laborious dinner the other night, I was in no mood for drawn-out dinner shenanigans, so N got some rice cooking while I was on my way home. I whisked together a quick+simple marinade for the vegetables (soy sauce, ginger, sesame seed oil, LOTS of garlic, agave nectar, & chili paste), sliced some zucchini and green bell pepper and let sit for a few minutes while the grill was heating. The awesome thing about vegetarian marinades? They can also be used as sauce after everything is cooked without worrying about contamination from raw meats! Nom nom nom. While the vegetables were grilling and the marinade was looking a little lonely, I sliced up some beefsteak tomatoes and let those soak up the lovely sauce for a bit. No need to grill the tomatoes, these tasted great raw! Once done, everything gets thrown in a bowl to commence devouring.

Notes:

  • Need protein? Use Quinoa instead of rice. Thought of doing this after the rice started cooking, unfortunately…
  • Turn this all into a wrap! Add some beans & cheese and you got yerself a burrito.
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First Time Trying Polenta!

25 Aug

My tastebuds no longer find polenta shrouded in mystery. I’ve seen polenta in so many vegetarian recipes, but have had yet to try it and experiment with it. At its most basic, polenta is just corn grits that is boiled until a thick paste and can pretty much take the form of whatever dish you’re thinking of (sweet or savory!) I just picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill corn grits, googled for some general advice/ideas on what to do with polenta and pretty much just made it to see if I would even like it. This really isn’t a recipe or specific dish per se because I just wanted to use up some veggies I had sitting around. And the avocado was staring deep into my soul, beckoning me to devour it. So it goes. I am loving all the roma tomatoes I keep picking from our garden! They are small, sweet and beefy and I seem to be eating them with every meal. Yay lycopene! Overall, I really enjoyed the polenta! It was creamy and I can see it having much potential to develop into any sort of dish. I baked my polenta because I wasn’t too in the mood for mush! This went well with some roasted veggies on the side.

Basic Polenta

  • 1 cup corn grits / meal/ polenta stuff
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used almond)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Spices of choice (i.e. onion powder, garlic, chili powder, sage, rosemary…depends on the dish you’re looking to make!)
  • 1 cup of shredded vegan cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Tbsp of favorite sweetener (this was an afterthought to the dish–just a hint of sweetness would make this even better)
Bring liquids to a boil in a large pot. Slowly whisk in corn grits and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thick, being sure to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. The polenta can be eaten this way or fried in a pan for a few minutes, spread into a thin layer on a greased baking sheet and cooked for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once during that time. There are also many other ways to prepare polenta! Just do some googling and experimenting. Leftover polenta is awesome. I think I will be slicing some of mine up and grilling it! Yum.


First week of fall semester has been conquered! Just 14 more…eeek! I really think I’m going to enjoy my “Religious Movements of the US” class. I am constantly fascinated by the objective study of religions, their ideologies and effects on society and truly get sucked in by learning about cultural taboos, similarities between all religions and their historical background, whether rooted in fact or fiction. This can be a touchy subject for many people, but I love this sort of controversy and seeing what it stems from. Thank you, anthropology! ๐Ÿ™‚ My professor for the course is definitely a button-pusher–from the moment she made her grand entrance into the classroom, she’s been dropping f-bombs, pushing boundaries and forcing us to think about our own beliefs. I really feel I learn the most from eccentric, critical professors that force your to think outside the box. Classes such as this one make me feel like the amount of money I’m putting toward my education is worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚ But now, it’s late and I have to get up early! Goodnight moon!

Grilled Vegetable Salad & Fruit Smoothie

17 Aug

We have a problem. The significant other and I tend to buy way too many Groupons & Livingsocial deals…and then forget about them until right before they expire. We bought a voucher for $30 worth of organic, local vegetables delivered to our door like three months ago…and got out veggies this morning! The tub was packed full of leafy greens, potatoes, corn, broccoli, eggplant and carrots. Now to find a way to use all this!

Lunch was easy to throw together. I salted and let eggplants slices sweat for about 30 minutes. I sliced some zucchini squash and heirloom beefsteak tomatoes and let those marinate in garlic powder, salt+pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil while the eggplant was sweating. The grill was then fired up and everything thrown on for about 10 minutes. Grilled Vegetable Salad!ย  The great thing about marinating vegetables is that the leftover marinade doesn’t go to waste, unlike when you marinate meat stuffs. Leftover marinade = lazy man’s salad dressing. The salad was gorgeous and bright BUT unfortunately, the eggplant was SO BITTER! Such a bummer. I know salting/sweating helps with the bitterness, but wow, it was pretty much inedible. It made my mouth hurt so much! Oh well! I devoured the rest of the salad and ended up pitching the eggplant. Not sure what went wrong, maybe just a bad aubergine?

I also made a fruit smoothie to add a bit of sweetness + daily serving of fruits to the meal. LOVE smoothies, especially on hot summer days! We try to buy and use fresh fruit as much as possible, but sometimes it’s too expensive or not available! When fruit is on sale, we buy a lot of it and freeze it. Perfect for smoothie making because you don’t need to add any ice. This smoothie consisted of: pineapple slices, strawberries (with the greens still on top), blueberries, and orange juice. Simple, but so sweet and refreshing!

 

Super excited to be seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Incubus, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre tonight! Just hoping the thunderstorms roll right on past us ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Aloo Gobi & Sada Paratha

15 Aug

Indian food truly is a vegetarian’s best friend. It has distinctive, flavorful dishes, many of which are already veggie-friendly or are easily made so! If you’ve never experienced any sort of Indian food, this dish is a great way to get your feet wet and see what you think. ย Aloo Gobi, or Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes, is one of my favorites and I had to try and remake my Indian restaurantย staple. The recipe comes out of the great cookbook “Entice with Spice – Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People” by Shubhra Ramineni. I highly recommend this cookbook because it explains a lot about Indian cuisine and the methods behind their preparation. The author brings in personal experience from growing up surrounded by the food and breaks down a seemingly complex dish into feasible steps. I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by preparing Indian food, but with the right spices, it’s pretty simple! I grabbed this book off the shelf at the library ๐Ÿ™‚

As a side to this dish, I quickly made some Flaky Wheat Breads (or, Sada Paratha). So easy! Basically, they’re just pan-fried flatbreads that are great to balance the spiciness of Indian food. Though, naan is far superior, but I don’t have a wood oven to make them in…yet…

Since I can’t post the recipe from the book I used, I recommend this Aloo Gobi recipe from Food.com. Pretty similar to the one I followed, but I did add whole garlic cloves, used FRESH heirloom beefsteak tomatoes (amazing) and ginger powder. To cut down on cooking time, I recommend boiling the potatoes a bit before throwing them in the skillet with everything else. It takes much longer for them to cook in the skillet. Also, fresh coriander = CILANTRO! Yum.

My next move into Indian cuisine will be Chana Saag! I had some at the Blues & Brews Festival this weekend and oh, it was soooo goooooood. A mixture of spicy, creamy spinach and garbanzo beans! Might have to make some chapati too…I’m hungry again.

Seitan (Carne) Asada & Spanish Rice

10 Aug

I always forget to put an apron on. I have a perfectly awesome apron that my mother made just for me! BUT I ALWAYS FORGET TO WEAR IT. My vigorous stirring of Arborio rice left me with tomato splatter all over my shirt. The things I do for good food!

Seitan is definitely my favorite out of all the meat-alternatives out there. It’s chewy and flavorful, but isn’t soggy and strangely textured like some of those “others” out there (*ahem* tofu). I’ve made it a few times before, but always find it to be an annoying process even though there’s only a few steps involved. There are so many different ways to prepare it and I decided to use the Bible of all the vegan cookbooks: Veganomicon. It’s a basic seitan recipe that you can shape to your own tastes or to match whatever recipe you’ll be using it for. Definitely better than store-bought!

Seitan Recipe (in Veganomicon & The PPK)

The only changes I made to the recipe were spices, in order to complement the carna asada marinade that I would be using for the seitan. I added lots of garlic powder, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and omitted the lemon juice. Prepared as the recipes states, except I just left my hunk of gluten in one blob instead of dividing into two.ย  I wanted something that I could make slices out of and felt this was a good approach.

Carne Asada Marinade

Seeing that I was missing quite a few vital ingredients to the carne asada marinade and didn’t feel like meandering to the grocery store, I winged it. I combined elements from recipes on AllRecipes and Simply Recipesย to come up with a quasi-carne asada marinade. If you have a reliable and authentic recipe, use that. The marinade I whipped up was great, but needed a bit more spice to it (jalapenos would have solved this problem). Also, I was only able to marinade the seitan, zucchini and bell peppers for an hour. The longer the better! Two very essential ingredients to the marinade (in my humble opinion): fresh garlic cloves and fresh cilantro!

Slice the seitan into long strips and place in non-reactive bowl with sliced zucchini and bell peppers. Pour marinade over and let sit for at least a couple of hours. Fire up the ol’ grill and cook until desired crunchiness in vegetables. Roll in a whole wheat tortilla, drizzle with some leftover marinade and serve with fresh avocado, pico de gallo or spanish rice!

Spanish Rice

When I learned that one of the best ways to prepare rice is to saute it in some garlic and oil before adding water, rice became a whole lot more exciting. For spanish rice, I prepared some arborio rice (the stuff you use for risotto) using a can of unsalted diced tomatoes and low sodium vegetable stock. Towards the end I stirred in more garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and chili powder. Easy! Not particularly authentic, but delicious.

 

Wednesday already? Hard to believe that my classes start in 12 days…and I’m running the Warrior Dash in 11 days…eek! This also means that the kids that incessantly loiter at the library will also be back in school very soon…yeeeeeessssss…! Happy Hump Day, everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚ The weekend will be here soon!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

29 Jul

Happy Friday everyone! Another week gone, another week closer to school beginning (the library will be much less rowdy once the kids have something to occupy their time!) I have three butternut squash that have been staring at me from the dark corners of my kitchen counter for a week…and now there’s two. It’s always a daunting task to get the squash ready to go and cook because it’s such a pain to cut! I’ve made this soup before by chopping (and fighting with) the squash before roasting, but I recently read this great article on butternut squash that said that roasting the squash when just cut in half keeps more of the flavor in! How brilliant. If you want to learn more about this great, versatile squash, I do highly recommend the article. Onto the recipe!

Yum! Loving the smooth, lightly sweet texture of this thick soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise
  • A couple handfuls of baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
  • Canola oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Vegetable stock (low sodium so you can control the taste of your dish!) ๐Ÿ™‚

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare your vegetables by rubbing them (or tossing them) with some canola oil (a few tablespoons should be fine) and your favorite spices! When coated well, place veggies on a roasting pan or baking sheet and pop into the oven…for awhile. Be sure to watch the carrots since they will probably be done before the squash. My squash took about 45+ minutes to get nice and soft. Just poke at them every so often until a fork can easily pierce their flesh (how morbid!)

Get thee to the blender! Place the nicely roasted veggies in the blender and slowly add vegetable stock until desired consistency (thick and smooth!) Taste! Good? EAT.

Notes:

  • I definitely would like to make an even CREAMIER version of this (if that’s even possible) using cashew milk…I’m just so fascinated by the many uses of soaked raw nuts!
  • Roast some other tasty root vegetables with the butternut squash in order to get richer flavors (i.e. elephant garlic, squash, sweet potatoes, etc)
  • For a sweet instead of savory soup, use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a couple tablespoons of your favorite sweetener (agave nectar, maple syrup, etc).

So much to be looking forward to this weekend! Tomorrow is a trip to the zoo with my dear sister and then off to the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. I really hope it’s as amazing as it sounds! I’ll be taking lots of pictures, of course. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Grilled Bruschetta / Spinach Pesto Pizza with Fresh Basil!

27 Jul

This turned out. so. good. So many rich flavors coming together!

Inspiration hit me at 9:30 this morning and I just HAD to start making something! I quickly threw together a simple pizza crust recipe (adapted from the recipe book that came with my handy Zojirushi bread machine), pushed a couple buttons and had 45 minutes before it would be ready. In those 45 minutes, I walked to the grocery store down the street, picked up $30 worth of goodies and fresh produce and made it back with 6 minutes to go on the dough timer!

I stuffed the Vitamix full of the spinach pesto ingredients, but didn’t blend until I really was ready to use it (after the crust was cooked!)

Grillin'.

While the grill was preheating, I lobbed off a portion of the large amount of pizza dough (the rest ended up in the freezer for a future recipe) and created a rectangular shape (about 12″ x 8″) that wasn’t as thick as a normal pizza, but not thin-crust either. I had subbed Whole Wheat Pastry Flour for the majority of the all-purpose flour in the recipe and noticed it was a little harder to work with (see Notes). Once prepared, I grabbed a brush and a small bowl of canola oil and generously covered one side of the crust with it (so it doesn’t stick to the grill!) The crust doesn’t need to fully cook while it’s on the grill this first time–it will have some more time to finish after the topping are put on. Left it there for a few minutes, brushed more oil on the uncooked side and flipped. Take off the grill and bring it back inside!

I quickly chopped some Roma tomatoes up, removed most of the seeds and mixed them with some Olive Oil, minced garlic, salt/pepper and balsamic vinegar. Blended the pesto until paste-like and was ready to make the pizza! WAIT. Forgot a very tasty ingredient! I picked some fresh basil from my little indoor garden (6 basil plants really give you a lot) and using scissors, cut the leaves in strips. Assembling the pizza goes as follows: dump pesto paste onto pre-grilled crust. spread around the green gloriousness. spoon the bruschetta on top (don’t worry about the balsamic vinegar, it won’t make it mushy). dramatically drape the strips of fresh basil over the bruschetta. done! Now head all this back over to the grill to heat it up a little bit longer and then you’re ready to eat! Delicious! So many fresh flavors coming together with the tangy balsamic vinegar and creaminess of the pesto. Who needs cheese? ๐Ÿ™‚

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (Adapted from Zojirushi Bread Machine Recipe Book)

  • 1 1/4 cups Water (I add a couple tablespoons more just because I’m at higher altitude…and using whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (Used garlic-infused OO)
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour (Used 2 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry dough and 1 c. all-purpose. See Notes)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar (Used honey! Agave nectar would work well too)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or 2 tsp rapid rise yeast)
  • A few dashes of any spices you think would add lots of flavor (i.e. oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, etc)

I used a bread machine so I took the easy way out on this one. Pretty much just set it and didn’t have to worry about it. Any basic pizza dough recipe (like this one) will walk you through how to do it the harder traditional way ๐Ÿ™‚

Spinach Pesto

  • A couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves (or make a more traditional pesto with basil!)
  • Minced Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts or Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor. I recommend blending this into a thick paste, rather than leaving it chunkier. It spreads much nicer this way!

Bruschetta

  • 5-6 Roma tomatoes (depending on how large your pizza is!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Minced Garlic
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar

Roughly chop the tomatoes and toss in a bowl with olive oil (just enough to coat, not soak), minced garlic, salt&pepper. Add in balsamic vinegar slowly, to taste. I love the strong flavor of it, so I probably used 1/8+ cup. The longer this stuff sits, the more the flavors blend and start to taste amazing! If you actually use this as an appetizer, add the fresh basil directly to it and put it on some crusty bread! Yum.

Notes:

  • My whole wheat crust didn’t hold up quite as well as I’d hoped. Tasted great, but easily fell apart on the grill. I might lessen the ratio of whole wheat flour to all-purpose and see if that works better. Also might try adding a bit more oil or some gluten to it. Very tasty, little too fragile.
  • This meal was a little heavy for mid-day, since now all I want to do is nap. Might be better suited for dinner or make a lighter crust!
  • A balsamic reduction drizzled over the top of this would have been a superb addition, as it would have contrasted nicely with the fresh colors and added a bit of tangy sweetness.

This pizza was gobbled up quickly! None left! I’ll just have to make it again sometime soon…