Friday, March 9, 2012

The Bowl

It all started with the Chipotle burrito bowl. When I ate meat, I'd get it with chicken. Now, I get it with grilled veggies. I always top it with guacamole rather than cheese, and add black beans and pico de gallo. With the bowl's base of brown cilantro lime rice, it makes for one delicious dinner.

After reading a bunch of vegan cooking blogs and cookbooks, I discovered that the bowl is a versatile and balanced meal, combining whole grains, protein and veggies. Although I'm not vegan, I often eat vegan when I make a bowl. I've just discovered smoked tofu which is a delicious protein to add to a bowl. But today, I'm skipping the vegan part and embracing dairy in my bowl.

Building the bowl
My lunch bowl today consists of quinoa, kale, peas and cottage cheese. I had a similar bowl yesterday, but added a quarter of an avocado on top. It was delicious, but sadly that was the last of my avocados and I haven't had time to go to the store.

This recipe is my basic bowl, but bear in mind that you can use any grain, such as rice, millet or bulgur, any veggie you have on hand, and any protein, whether it's meat, vegetarian or vegan. I chose kale and peas because they are quick-cooking and I don't want to spend too much time making lunch. Usually I use beans or tofu, but today I used cottage cheese because I had some in my fridge and I love it.

The finished bowl
Quinoa, Kale, Peas and Cottage Cheese Bowl

1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups kale, shredded
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cottage cheese

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Meanwhile, steam peas and kale either in a steamer or in the microwave.

Once quinoa is done, top with veggies and dollop your cottage cheese on top. Mix well and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Quinoa for Breakfast

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. Well, apart from lunch and dinner. And snacks. Perhaps it's easier to just say I love all meals, but I'm a firm believer in breakfast.

Usually I make oatmeal on the stove top, using almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla or whatever else I find that looks good. I've used canned pumpkin, cocoa, peppermint extract and even Baileys in my oatmeal. Since I eat it almost every day I need to mix it up sometimes to stop it being boring.

The thought of using a grain other than oats for my breakfast has crossed my mind more than once. There are plenty of grains out there you can sub for oats, like millet, amaranth or quinoa. Since I recently went on a quinoa shopping spree (it was on sale!) I decided to experiment with breakfast quinoa to see if it was something worthy of making again. It was.

It looks a little weird because I used tricolor quinoa, but let me tell you, it was delicious and filling -- exactly what I'm looking for in a breakfast food. You could mix it with anything; I used chia seeds, ground flax, bananas, coconut and raisins. Because the chia and flax absorb liquid I added about another 1/4 cup of milk to the quinoa to stop it drying out. I'm trying to eat less sugar so I didn't use sweetener but it would be delicious with a touch of honey or maple syrup. Once you have the basic recipe down, you can mix and match with whatever toppings you want -- that's the beauty of the breakfast grain!

Breakfast Quinoa

1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Mix ingredients well in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Add toppings and more milk if you like, and enjoy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quick and Easy Enchilada Casserole

So I saw this post on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for microwave enchilada casserole. It sounded like the perfect thing for me to bring to work for lunch some day, but the problem was that I had leftovers coming out of my ears (not literally) and so I had no time to eat a microwave enchilada casserole for lunch! What a dilemma to have. So all last week, I had a craving for something similar. I even went out and bought a nice-looking jar of salsa with which to make said casserole, but before I knew it, Saturday was here and I was casserole-free.

Luckily for my craving, we had a super busy Saturday redecorating our living room and spending too much  money at Ikea, so I needed a quick and easy recipe to make for our dinner. Enter my oven version of the microwave enchilada casserole.

Fresh from the oven
It literally took less than five minutes to put this casserole together, so that left plenty of time to unpack our new furniture and get our new living room in shape while it was cooking. That's my kind of quick weekend meal!

Served with roasted kale
Enchilada Casserole

8 corn tortillas
1 jar salsa
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and diced
1/2 an onion, diced
10 olives, sliced
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spread a thin layer of salsa over the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish. Top with four of the tortillas, cutting them if necessary to almost completely cover the salsa layer. Sprinkle half the corn and beans on top of the tortillas, along with the diced onions and jalapeno. Spread another layer of salsa over the bean mixture, then arrange the remaining beans and corn on top. Finish with the rest of the salsa, then top with shredded cheese and sliced olives. 

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes to allow the cheese to crisp up slightly. 

Slice into 6 pieces and enjoy with guacamole, sour cream or any other sides you have on hand (I roasted some kale because I love kale with everything!)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kitchen Makeover and Falafel

Last week, I went a little overboard. For months now I've been talking about getting new kitchen appliances. My original plan was to buy good quality items, one at a time to save money. However, this was before the shopping gods delivered a 30% off voucher for Kohl's to my door. For those who don't know, Kohl's is the most awesome department store, where everything is on sale and store card holders always get either 15%, 20% or 30% off everything. Plus, for every $50 spent, you get $10 back to spend on anything in-store.

I ended up with a Cuisinart food processor, a Cuisinart waffle iron and a Kitchen Aid hand mixer. I figure if you're going to go crazy, it's best to do so with quality brands that should last a while.

Blueberry waffles

So, last weekend I tested out my new toys. I made waffles in the waffle iron (using the hand mixer to mix the batter), then I brought out the king of all food processors. I made homemade vegan nutella (see recipe here), then I made some falafel for dinner. The verdict? I love all my new kitchen gadgets and want to use them every day!

Better than the original... although the photo looks quite disgusting

Last but not least, I had $40 Kohl's cash to spend, so I went back and got a Cuisinart griddle/grill/panini press dealy that is also most awesome. Not looking forward to that credit card bill!

Recipe from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot
1/4 cup dried parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit.

Process chickpeas and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Add shallot, parsley, olive oil and hot sauce. Process until smooth, then decant chickpea mixture into a separate bowl. Add the spices and flour, and mix well to combine. Form into 12 balls, then squish to make patties.

(If you don't have a food processor, chop onion small and mince garlic, and smoosh chickpeas and other ingredients in a bowl. The mixture shouldn't have any chickpea lumps in. Then proceed as usual, or go buy a food processor because they are awesome).

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil. Flip, then bake another 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, use a skillet or grill to cook the falafel. Enjoy with pita bread, tzatziki, spinach, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quiche Delight

I know it's Valentine's day next week, so technically I shod be planning cards, gifts and romantic surprises for my hubby. But I honestly don't really care for Valentine's day. I'm just not the romantic type, nor did I marry Mr. Romantic... Thank God! So rather than planning some ridiculously over-the-top evening of luuuurve for me and the man, I decided to just cook something nice and have a night in. Which, come to think of it, is what we do most Saturdays. Fine with me!

I decided to make a quiche tonight. I had a leftover whole wheat pie crust in the freezer from when I made pumpkin pie over Christmas, so it was begging to be used up. The hubby is a huge quiche fan so he was just fine with this plan. He suggested using cheese and tomatoes as a filling. I had grape tomatoes on-hand, and we took a trip to Trader Joe's to purchase some good cheese. We ended up buying gruyere, a personal favorite of mine. This means we can have French onion soup with the leftover gruyere, yum!

What could taste bad with these ingredients? :)
I didn't really follow a recipe for the quiche, except to figure out how much liquid to use. The recipe I looked at used heavy cream and ricotta, but I had neither so I made some slightly healthier replacements with what I had on-hand -- plain Greek yogurt and skim milk.

Before baking
We had a salad on the side, which was yummy but had some slightly odd ingredients. Ben requested grated carrots and olives, and I wanted mushrooms. With the addition of some Greek dressing, we had ourselves a weirdly wonderful side salad.

After baking -- deliciously golden
All in all, a successful meal, no doubt finished off by something Ben sneakily picked up at Trader Joe's... not that I put much effort into stopping him!

Trader Joe's, you've done it again!
Tomato and Gruyere Quiche

Pie crust, either homemade of store-bought
1 shallot, sliced
4 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup gruyere or other cheese, grated, plus some for the top
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Approx. 15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halves and the seeds squeezed out

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Sprinkle the sliced shallots into the bottom of the pie crust. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then add the milk and yogurt. Beat until well-mixed. Add the salt, pepper, cheese, basil and oregano and mix to combine.

Pour the mixture over the shallots, then place the tomatoes, one by one, cut-side down, into the mixture, pressing down slightly on each one to ensure it's nicely emerged in yumminess. Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the quiche is golden and set. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 mins before cutting.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl? What Superbowl?

I am a self-confessed football hater (American football of course). I hate that there are commercials every two seconds and that a one hour game takes about six hours to complete. I hate that it's called "football" when it has very little to do with feet, meaning that football as I know it has to go by the name "soccer." I hate the commentators (although that is true of every sport). I hate the drawings they do on the TV to show you exactly what they're talking about. I especially hate the fact that it's on every Sunday for months on end, resulting in my DVR recording the wrong shows. So today is a celebration for me -- the end of football season for at least a few months!

Another reason I like Superbowl Sunday is that we always eat chili, which is one of my favorite things to do. Usually we make a chicken taco chili in the crockpot which is to die for, but that was out since I don't eat meat anymore. So Ben found a recipe for veggie chili that sounded delicious. The addition of chocolate and beer to chili? Score! We followed the recipe to a T, and I made some cornbread and guacamole to go on the side. And you know what? It was good! The tempeh gave it a meaty texture, although we couldn't really taste the mushrooms. Next time I'd either omit the mushrooms or use more, and I'd add corn to the chili, which is a personal favorite of mine.

We got the recipe from Slate so I won't reprint here, but click on the link if you want to check it out... which you should.

Apart from "football," today was about making beer (for Ben) and making hummus (for me).

Tomato Herb Hummus

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon powdered chile
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Handful sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, or a mixture of basil, oregano or whatever your tastebuds tell you
1/2 cup water

Dump all ingredients into a food processor and blend. Add water a bit at a time until you get the desired creamy consistency. Eat!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Birthday Eats

Today is the hubby's birthday. On any given year, you can find us celebrating quietly, at home, perhaps with a nice bottle of wine and a home-cooked meal. This is in direct contrast to my birthday, which I start to look forward to at least two months in advance. Ben thinks birthdays are stupid, and wants them to be over as quickly as possible. So I decided we needed to do something fun to celebrate this year for a change.

Since Ben travels so much for work that he has about a squillion hotel points. We took advantage of this by booking a room at the Hilton Netherland Plaza in downtown Cincinnati for a night on the town. Ok, I know it's only Cincinnati and not somewhere exciting like New York, but it's infinitely more interesting than Dayton. Our room was free because of the points (yay!) so we splurged on an awesome meal and way too many cocktails.

We went to a really nice restaurant called Local 127. To start, Ben had French onion soup and I had potato and celeriac soup. Unfortunately, the soup was eaten before I even thought to take a photo. Moving on, Ben had a pork-intensive dish which he claims was delicious, with sausage, bacon and cheesy foam!

There weren't any vegetarian options on the menu, so I went with the scallops. I've never been a fan before but these babies changed my mind. They were huge, not tough at all, and they came on a bed of lentils with crispy rice on top! 

I insisted we have dessert, of course, and this is why.

Deconstructed sour cream cheesecake! It was orgasmic. The crust was buttery, the filling was creamy yet light, and caramel sauce was out of this world. And it came with a maraschino cherry made by the original makers of the maraschino cherry (according to our server, who was most excited about this fact). When it was over, I cried. Well, not really, but I definitely was sad that it was over so soon. 

Today we decided to go by Cincinnati's Findlay Market on the way home for some breakfast. We got Belgian waffles with chocolate syrup and blueberries which made my morning.

Post-breakfast, we wandered around for a couple of hours and got some chews for the pups, some handmade beeswax soap and some honeycomb. After experiencing my first vanilla chai tea, which might be my new favourite drink, we decided to grab a light lunch at a Vietnamese cafe. Light lunch my butt! I had the vegan pho with mushrooms and bamboo shoots, and it had so many rice noodles that I was stuffed afterwards. It was delicious though!

After lunch, we stopped back into the market to grab some whole grain bread, paprika salami for Ben, and double Gloucester with onions and chives for me. This is, without a doubt, the best cheese in the entire world. That might be a bold statement, but it's true, and it's also true that I never buy it because I literally cannot keep out of it. But for the occasional treat, I'll buy a small chunk to tide me over.

Cheese heaven!
We headed home late afternoon and presented the pups with their chews, which consisted of a kneecap and a knuckle, ick! They spent most of the rest of the night chewing obsessively.

For dinner I used our newly bought bread, cheese, salami, plus some hummus and veggies I had on hand to make a Ploughman's of sorts. It was delicious, especially with the addition of some Branston's pickle, the best invention ever.

Mission: Enjoy Ben's birthday was complete. We both had an awesome weekend and I'm sure I won't have trouble convincing Ben that we need to celebrate his birthday properly each year from here on out!