Monday, January 25, 2010

chickpea stir fry with spinach and garam masala

Chickpeas are fantastic little legumes that are super high in protein and have more calcium than yogurt. Amazing. And they're so cheap. Of course it's preferable to buy your own dried chickpeas, soak them overnite and then cook for one to two hours, but really, canned is just so much faster/easier. I made a simple stir-fry with them. Just adding spinach and a garam masala mixture that the family I work for brought back from India recently. Garam masala is a combination of black/white peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, bay leaf, star anise and coriander seeds. I'm not sure of this exact mixture, but it's pretty potent. Not spicy, but just full of strong strong spice. So lovely.

chickpea stir fry with spinach and garam masala
1 can of chickpeas
about two cups of spinach
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt

Heat up saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Then chickpeas and garam masala. Saute for about five minutes or until chickpeas look a bit brown. Throw in spinach and let wilt just a little (you really only want it to get coated in some olive oil and spice). Done. Serve it up with a side of rice or whatever grain you wanna mix it with. I just had it by itself. It would also be super good stuffed in a pita. Like a healthier variation of a falafel.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

homemade bouillon

In my last post, I went off about the labor-intensive practices of making your own stock or broth. And then I found this post on Heidi Swanson's blog about making your own bouillon:

She adapted this from another cookbook and it simply seems like an awesome idea. The problem I have with making stock, is I hate straining all the vegetables, therefore loosing all the fiber and having to throw away all the nutrient depleted components. It seems like such a waste. This technique uses a food processor to simply chop up all the veggies until they're basically a paste. You can add cilantro, parsley, dried herbs and spices. Once again, the variations are endless. And you can freeze it!  I love this idea. I'm definitely going to try this out real soon.

mushroom tofu soup

Here's another nourishing soup I had made for my mom when I was home for the holidays. This one consisted of crimini mushrooms, tofu, pinto beans, vegetable stock, onions and chopped chives. That's it. So simple. Many food writers talk about the blandness of store bought broth or stock. Or that it tastes a bit musty. I've never noticed that before. I think I add enough other components that that's never an issue. I usually buy the Trader Joe's organic broth and it tastes pretty good to me. Sure, homemade stock is way more nutritionally valuable and flavorful, but many people are not going to chop onions, carrots and celery and simmer for an hour and then strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. Please. People are lazy and want food fast. That's why I really have no problem with ready made stock or broth. If you can just get people to eat a little healthier, that's a big step. Of course, I wouldn't buy the ones that have MSG in them, high fructose corn syrup or even the ones in cans. Your best bet are the organic ones. The bouillon cubes are pretty good, too. Rapunzel is a good brand for that.

Anyway, back to my soup making technique. All I did was chop some onions and add the different components until the soup was thick and flavorful. There are endless variations on this. Any bean, vegetable, spice or herb you have on hand will totally make this soup awesome. Mushrooms are great because they're really easy to prepare. It's best not to wash them because they soak up water like a sponge. Simply remove the stem and wipe any excess dirt from the caps. And really, what's a little dirt anyway? By the way, never eat raw mushrooms. They're not going to kill you, but they're hard for your body to digest. Cooking them breaks down the fungal cell walls and releases more readily acceptable nutrients anyways. Mushrooms have more potassium than bananas, contain selenium, niacin and riboflavin. All awesome nutrients that help boost your immune system, deter cancer cells and fight infection.

Mushroom Tofu Soup

4 cups mushrooms (any will do, I used crimini)
1 block of tofu (drained of water and pressed dry with tea towel)
1 onion (chopped)
1 can pinto beans (drained)
1 12 oz container of veggie broth or stock
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt

Saute chopped onions in a large stock pot over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are soft and translucent. Add mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have sweated out most of their moisture. Add veggie broth or stock and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. Taste test and see if you need to add more salt. Finally, add can of beans and cook just until beans are warm. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Serves 4 to 6

Monday, January 11, 2010

cranberry crumble

My mom made this amazing cranberry crumble when I was home for the holidays. The recipe called for both fresh cranberries and apples. But we just had frozen cranberries. It turned out pretty tart, but with a little bit of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, it tasted super.

Cranberry Crumble

One package of cranberries, chopped  (12 oz)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
sea salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (a bit more for greasing the pan)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss chopped cranberries into a large bowl with sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch or two of sea salt until evenly coated.

Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar and a pinch of salt until evenly combined. Work into butter with hands until topping is crumbly.

Spread apple mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar topping. Bake until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown. About 25-30 minutes.

Cool before serving.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas Tempeh Coconut Curry with Quinoa

This is the dish I made on Christmas day. So festive, right? Okay, so not the most traditional of christmas  fare, but way more interesting than a ham and potatoes dinner. It's a really simple quick dish to make.
It required no fresh vegetables to wash. My mom is a big supporter of frozen vegetables (which are super convenient and definitely better than canned, yet not as tasty or nutritional as fresh) But for this dish the coconut and tempeh help to offset the slight mushy-ness of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and peas. Obviously fresh is better, but if you're in a hurry, just plain lazy or you live in a tiny town where all the fresh vegetables are overpriced and in bad shape( like where my mom lives), then frozen does a decent job. Quinoa is a great addition because it's super high in protein and faster and easier to cook than rice. And coconut milk is an awesome sweet and rich sauce that brings the dish together nicely.

Tempeh Coconut Curry with Quinoa and Veggies

One large white onion (sliced)
Three cloves of garlic (minced)
One  lb bag frozen vegetables (any variation will do)
One cup dry quinoa
One can of coconut milk
One package of tempeh
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika, cayenne, cumin or any variation on curry spices
chives (for garnish)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tempeh into one inch strips and place on oiled baking sheet. Drench with olive oil and salt. (Tempeh really absorbs the olive oil and we all know that the more oil, the tastier food becomes...well, usually). Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Heat a saute pan on medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and saute til they're a bit caramelized and translucent. Add spices and garlic. Saute until the spices are super fragrant, about five minutes.

Meanwhile, add one cup of dry quinoa to a pot. Add 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt and let simmer until all the water has been absorbed. About 20 minutes.

Back to the veggies. Add the frozen bag of various cruciferous items to the garlic/onion/spice mixture. Saute until vegetables are warmed up (but not too much, because frozen tend to get mushy pretty fast!) Add can of coconut milk and cook for about 5 minutes more. Finally, add tempeh slices and quinoa and you got a well balanced one dish meal. Garnish with chopped chives for an extra green kick.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

sugar and the immune system

After I found out about my mom's cancer, I realized that I really want to crack down on eating and cooking healthier. I mean, I know I already eat pretty healthy and most of the recipes I've posted thus far, are heavily plant-based and super nutritious. But I want to take it a step further. I definitely eat too many sweets and I've learned that cancer cells feed on sugar. That's right. Too much sugar and you're really fucking up your system. Sugar raises the bodies insulin level, which in turn messes with the pancreas to release more insulin to level out the blood sugar levels. Stressing out your pancreas is not good. This lowers your bodies ability to ward off diseases. And simple sugars also raise the release of growth-promoting hormones. Research shows that high levels of these hormones can increase the growth of cancer cells. Therefore it's important to eat complex carbohydrates that provide nutrients, unlike simple sugars that are just crappy empty calories that give you a rush of energy and then a major crash. No good.

I used to think I wanted to open a bakery. An endless supply of sweets and confections. Cakes covered in simple sugar fondants, tarts glazed with refined cane sugar and cookies loaded with corn syrup chocolate chips. Not healthy. However, having a bakery that serves nutrient rich treats flavored with natural sugars like unrefined can sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar or fruit juices is more my style now. I don't know if I'll ever actually open a bakery, but I can at least start perfecting my more health conscious desserts and keeping them in moderation. Damn, moderation. What a difficult concept!

Monday, January 4, 2010

holiday season

I haven't written on my blog in almost a month. I was in Nashville for a bit consuming way too many deep fried delights, honky tonkin and checking out Johnny Cash's infamous all black suit and Elvis' solid gold cadillac at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Then it was on to Pennsylvania to see my folks. Sadly, I was hit with the horrible news that my mom has been diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer. Of course, this was a shock. My mom used to smoke twenty five years ago, but the reasons could be more than cigarettes. Air pollution, radon emitting from the earth, the oil refinery near where my parents live... the list goes on. The environmental factors are truly disturbing and I could go on about the effects air pollution have on cancer. But I digress.

My mom is responding well to treatment. And one of the most important things is eating well during this difficult time. The first thing I did when I found out the news, was cook up some nourishing soup. The doctors told her she's not allowed to eat too many raw foods (in case of bacteria and her compromised immune system) Cancer patients should also eat foods that are antimicrobial, like garlic. Eating the colors of the rainbow. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Taking that advice to heart, this is the soup I made:

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

1 large butternut squash (peeled and cut into one inch chunks)
2 medium sized sweet onions (chopped into small dice)
6 or 7 med. sized carrots (sliced into 1/2 inch rounds)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
5 cups water or veggie stock
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the peeled and cut butternut squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Roast in oven for about 40 minutes or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat a stock pot, add olive oil and then the chopped onions. Add a pinch of salt. Saute on low heat until the onions become translucent and slightly caramelized. Add garlic, cinnamon and carrots. Saute until the carrots are soft. Add butternut squash and veggie stock/water. Add another pinch of salt. Cook for about 20 more minutes. *

*I used a traditional dutch potato masher to mash the soup a bit. You could conversely use a blender to make a smooth soup, but that requires cooling the soup, transferring it to a blender, transferring it back to soup pot. Too much work. Mashing makes it rustic and hearty. Also, I didn't have a chance to take a photo of the soup because the timing was a little bad. But here's a picture of the some carrots I had gotten at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago:

Oh, and here's the potato masher I used: