Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Easy, Healthy, Green Veggie Curry


I have never actually made a curry before, so I was pretty nervous when I decided to try this. But I have been seeing green curry paste at the store for a while and I decided to make it happen. I went with a fish-sauce free curry paste, so this is completely vegetarian- and actually even fully vegan. Some day soon I will make my own curry paste- I have seen recipes on the interwebs and I think I can piece together one that I like. But it requires many ingredients, and on the day that I made this, I was physically and mentally drained- thus I did not have the capacity to think about the 50 ingredients it would require....

I went with green as it has a more mild flavor than red and I wasn't sure how spicy the paste would be. This one ended up being flavorful with a nice kick, but nothing too extreme. If it isn't spicy enough for you, you may want to toss in some red pepper flakes at the end.

 So- onto the curry...

2 large yams (or some type of combination thereof) approx 1 lb
1/2-3/4 of a red bell pepper
1 large or 2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp green curry paste
1 13.5 oz coconut milk (I used light coconut milk and it was still great, regular will just make a richer broth)
1/2 c veggie stock
Peas- I had to use frozen, but fresh would be much better
Green onions, for garnish

The basic idea is to add whatever veggies you find tasty- I like potatoes with curry, I feel the white potatoes soak up all of the curry flavor, and yams add a nice sweetness to a somewhat spicy curry. So I did all of that. I used 3-4 baby white potatoes I had lying around, one beautiful Japanese yam, and one garnet yam. The Japanese yams are milder than your usual sweet potato, so it was in all a nice contrast across the 3.

Chop the potatoes into half-moon chunks and put them in a pot- cover with water, add a bunch of salt, and bring to a boil. Boil until mostly cooked through, 5-7 mins. 

While that is happening,  chop the  carrots, onions, and bell peppers into nice bite-sized pieces- roughly uniform so they cook at the same pace.Mince the garlic and toss it in the bowl.

Heat 1 tsp coconut oil- yes, coconut oil. I raved about this stuff in my stir-fry post and I'll do it again here. There is no better oil for a stir-fry (well.... toasted sesame oil is pretty darn close...) and it is very good for you.
Anywho- heat the oil in your wok, getting the pan and oil nice and hot. Toss in the carrots, peppers, and onions, add a liberal dose of salt, and cook them until mostly cooked through and they start to smell reeeeeaaaaaaaalllllly good.Don't be afraid of the heat here, especially if you are using a wok. Unless things start to brown too quickly, the rapid heat of the wok is your friend...

Once they're mostly cooked through, add the curry paste- I did it in 1/2 tsp chunks across the mixture and used about 3 tbsp. More= spicier. Also, if you don't like the flavor level when you're done, you can a)mix some curry paste with a bit of veggie broth and stir that into your pot while reducing the broth down to concentrate the flavors or b) add more veggie broth and/or coconut milk if you want to reduce the amount of curry flavor... or even water if you really want to tone things down.

Drain the potatoes when they are done and toss them into the mix in the wok. Add the veggie broth, coconut milk, and whatever peas you are adding, and gently stir. The broth and milk will mix with the curry and turn everything a beautiful creamy green color. Let it all hang out and get all cozy with the flavors for 5-10 mins at around a simmer, making sure it doesn't start to stick to the bottom. As it reduces, taste for salt and add as needed. 

I have a photo for this part but the computer refuses to upload it for reasons unknown to me. Visualize it here:

Serve over brown rice or quinoa. I chose quinoa and it was fantastic. Garnish with fresh green onion and perhaps a squirt of lime juice- light, tasty, spicy, and supremely satisfying.

Black Bean Soup

I found this rich and flavorful black bean soup here. I just about doubled the spices- you will likely want to adjust based on personal tastes. Black beans are full of protein and fiber.While this soup may *taste* decadent (especially if you blend it up), it's pretty much guilt-free.

EVOO (about a tbsp or so)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large-ish carrots, or 3 smaller carrots
2 ribs celery
1 medium onion
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 3.5oz can green diced chiles
4 cups low-sodium beef broth (you can easily use a rich veggie broth here to make it vegetarian)
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspooon dry oregano leaves
1 bay leaf

Pour a round on EVOO into your stockpot. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and saute 4-5 minutes until onions are soft and the veggies start to brown.

Add in the beans, chiles, broth, and spices. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until carrots are soft, remove the bay leaf. 



I would have liked to keep the soup as-is, but with my soft food requirement, I had to blend it up. It was very tasty blended as well, so you could really go either way. I blended it into a smooth puree in batches using my trusty blender. Make sure if you do this that you leave the top loose to allow steam to escape so the blender doesn't blow up on you. That would really ruin the soup. 

The original site recommended several toppings such as crushed tortilla chips, cheese, etc. It also added lime at the end. I preferred adding a squeeze of lime juice to each individual serving and  topping each serving with a dollop of sour cream or unsweetened fat free greek yogurt- sometimes with a bit of chopped cilantro. I think this recipe would be great in the summer as well- maybe paired with a little avocado or mango salsa....
Not my best photo- I was reallllly in a hurry to start eating this....

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

I have been craving fried rice, but I quickly dismissed it, thinking it was just too carb-heavy. Even if I were to use healthy brown rice, it would just feel like too big an indulgence. Theeeeennnn I thought, "Hey, Self- what if we were to use quinoa instead of rice? It's chock full of protein and it's not even officially a grain."  I made a quick trip to the Google machine and it turns out I was not the first one to have this flash of brilliance. Whatever. I don't need that kind of press anyway. 

I had some sesame tofu from the ready-prep area of Whole Foods. I'm not a tofu fan, but if you're there when they have this stuff, try it. (I'm going to try to re-create it  soon, so stay posted.) I decided to use that as my "meat". Other than that, my plan was to use a ton of veggies and a combo of egg and egg whites. This whole process took maybe 20 mins because I had a bowl of leftover plain quinoa already cooked. But cooking quinoa only takes about 12-14 mins, so even if you have to do that first, this is a ~30 minute filling and satisfying recipe. 

The amounts I have below are what I used to make this giant bowl. I planned to eat all of it, but was pretty full after half, so I'll say it's good for 2 people or 1 really hungry person. It would also be good with the Asian Cucumber Salad recipe I posted under the Stir Fry recipe here. I chose the veggies because, well, they were what was in my fridge. Get creative and put in whatever you like. Bell peppers not your thing? Toss in some broccoli! It's your fake fried rice, do what you want!


What I used:
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 c dry)
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil, divided in half (SO much better than reg sesame oil. You need this in your home)
- Ginger- I have the jarred ginger, but fresh would be better if you have it on hand
- 1 large carrot
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 medium zucchini
- 3 stalks of ramps (they're in season right now, got some great fresh ones at the farmers' market...)
- 1 egg + 3 tbsp egg whites (equivalent of one egg)
- ~ 1/3- 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted (fresh peas would be great if you can get 'em)
- One 8 oz container sesame tofu
- Bragg's liquid amino
- about a tsp of teriyaki sauce (I could  take or leave this addition... up to you)
- toasted sesame seeds and scallions for garnish

I wanted everything to cook evenly and I didn't want huge chunks in the quinoa- I was going for a more uniform dish. So I put the carrot, bell pepper, and zucchini in the food processor and gave it a good rough chop- not so much that it was in little bits, more like bite-sized. I did the carrot first by itself, then the zucchini and bell pepper together.

Scramble the egg and the egg white together and chop the ramp, using both the white and the green parts.

Heat your wok on a fairly high heat and added 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil. Here is a good time to mention that a good wok is a smart investment and can and will be used more than enough to justify the purchase :)

Once it gets good and hot, add in the bowl of veggies ( but not the peas). Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still crisp, about 5 mins. Add the quinoa and pour the Bragg's 2-3 rounds around the pan- about 1-2 tbsp. Also add the other 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil and the teriyaki sauce (if using). You could also potentially use fish sauce here instead- if you're into that kind of thing.

Create a well in the middle of the quinoa and add the egg. Stir constantly until curds start to form. Mix the egg into the rest of the concoction until cooked through. Toss in the peas and add more Bragg's to taste. At this point, you will also want to test for salt. If the flavors don't pop, add salt. It doesn't only make things taste "salty", it accentuates the flavors that already exist...

At this point, I added in my tofu. If you were using any other type of protein that needed cooking, I would suggest using a tad more oil and cooking that just about all the way before adding  the veggies. You may also want to marinade your protein prior to cooking to develop the best possible flavor. Then follow the recipe as-is.

Final step: Plate it up and try not to burn your mouth as you shovel it all in. AND feel no guilt... the recipe above has about 590 cals if you eat the entire thing, plus it's chock full of clean, highly nutritious foods. You can also save a few cals if you take out the whole egg and use egg whites only.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

I love eggs.
Seriously, I love eggs in all forms- poached, fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, whites only, all of it.
I especially love an egg with a runny yolk that comes pouring out like some magnificent rich creamy sauce. The eggs in that recipe totally do that. And it's super fast and easy. And it rocks.

-Diced tomatoes- for a full meal (I usually have this for dinner), I will make this for myself with 3 eggs, and I use about 1/3 can of tomatoes.
-Fresh basil, chopped- if you have a can of those awesome tomatoes with basil and garlic already added, just do that. Or even add more basil. If you're into  that kind of thing (I am).
-A clove of garlic, minced (not necessary if already in tomatoes, but you can always add more. You can also just use some garlic powder if you want.)
- Eggs
-Polenta, about 1/3 c dry/person
-Maybe some melty cheese such as fontina for the polenta
-Some fresh grated parm

Ok-if you're using fresh garlic, put just a bit of EVOO in your saute pan and let the garlic cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and basil or whatever seasonings you're feeling that day. Add some salt and pepper and let everything just hang out and get friendly on low heat for a bit.

While that's happening, get a pan going with water for the polenta. You want a 4:1 water to polenta ratio. I use Bob's Red Mill polenta which says it is the slow cook kind, but it always cooks in about 3 minutes. I would make sure you know which kind you have before you get started or you will have very cold eggs....

Bring the water to a boil. Once it starts to boil, you will whisk in the polenta and lower the heat to a simmer. It will start to thicken very quickly and probably be done in about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and this is when you can toss in a handful of cheese if you're feeling frisky. I like fontina here, but do whatever you want.Go crazy.

Once you have the polenta in the pan, make some little indents in your sauce and crack the eggs into your pan. Toss some S&P on top of the eggs. Cover the pan and let them cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. You want the yolks runny and the whites firm. Covering the pan allows the steam to cook the tops of the eggs.

Once the whites are cooked through, slide the eggs and sauce on top of the polenta.

Top with a sprinkle of fresh grated parm and enjoy. It's hearty and flavorful, and the gooey yolk feels like you're eating a creamy cheese sauce- you don't have to remind yourself that you're actually eating healthy.

**If you're in a rush, this whole thing can be made even faster- cook the eggs separately either sunny side up or over easy while you're making the 3 minute polenta. Use the basil and garlic canned tomatoes, warm them up in a pan or in the microwave. Plate the polenta, top with tomatoes, and slide the eggs on top. Add some parm and bam- dinner. You just crushed it.

Moroccan Veggie Stew

  I love love love this stew. I stumbled upon it in the fall and it is chock full of veggies and bold spices. I was fairly ambivalent about raisins, but in  this recipe, they get all plump and add a great little pop of sweetness in this flavorful concoction. It makes a giant pot and freezes fairly well- the sweet potatoes can get a little mealy when defrosted, but it holds up well overall. I got the original recipe here.

I have adjusted the spice levels and some of the veggie ratios. This recipe will need to be adjusted based on your personal tastes- I like it with a good hit of spice and just about a medium level of heat.

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 butternut squash (about 3 lbs), cut into cubes
3 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain- and you may need a 2nd can, see below)
About 1/2 cup golden raisins

S&P to taste

Pour a round of EVOO in the pan, sauteeing onions and garlic until soft and onions are slightly browned. Add the spices, cook for a few minutes. Add the potatoes, squash, carrots, and broth.

 Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chick peas, tomatoes, and raisins. At this point, you may want to add a little extra liquid if you want a saucier stew. You can add either a cup of broth or a can of tomatoes- up to you. I like mine more tomato-y, so I usually toss in a second can of tomatoes (the fire-roasted tomatoes are pretty tasty here, too.) If you like a thicker stew, leave as-is. Simmer for about 30 minutes, covered, until the veggies are soft.

I really like serving this over a small scoop of quinoa, with a hit of fresh lemon juice and a bit of lemon zest. The acid of the lemon, the sweet pop of the raisins, and the flavorful spice of the stew make for a perfectly balanced combination.

Tuscan Kale and Squash Minestra

I found this recipe  on Food & Wine's site here and it is pure fall  in a bowl. Super tasty, super satisfying, and super healthy. The soup trifecta.

1 large onion, finely chopped
One ~2-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 pound Tuscan kale, chopped (make sure to remove the stems! They are chewy and can make your soup taste like dirt...)
4 cups chicken stock (I used my usual Better than Bouillon)
1 cup canned navy beans, drained

Give the pan a good go-round with a couple of glugs of EVOO, somewhere between 1-2 tbsp. Cook the onions over medium heat until soft and just slightly browned. Add the squash and cook for about 5 minutes  until it is also slightly browned. Give the pan a couple go-rounds of salt. If you are not using a low-sodium broth, you may want to go easy on the salt in this step, and wait until you taste everything all together later.

If you're using a good heavy-bottomed pan, don't be afraid to let some brown bits start accumulating on the bottom of the pan- you'll get those back up into the broth in a bit. Add the garlic and rosemary and let it cook for a minute. Add the kale. It will look huge, but let it cook for a few minutes and it will wilt.

Add the chicken stock. You should get a nice sizzle- take a second to make sure you scrape up any of those brown bits and get them working together with the broth. You don't want to miss those flavor bits.... Cover and simmer the mixture until the kale and squash are tender- it shouldn't take long, approx 10 minutes.  Add the beans and cook for 5 more minutes, uncovered. Taste and add S&P as needed (depending on what stock you use, you may not need any salt at all).

At this point, you could add a small pasta such as ditalini, tortellini, or any other cute mini pastas Barilla has on the market these days. I'm more of a quinoa fan- it's tasty and chock full of protein. I serve the soup over a small scoop for a complete meal, topped with a fair bit of freshly shaved parm. Yum. 

Healthy, Hearty, and Kinda Creamy Mushroom Soup

I recently discovered's soup recipes. I had some dental work done and was only able to eat very soft foods for a loooooong time. Once I got tired of scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes, I decided I was going on a mission for actual tasty soft food recipes. 
 I have now tried quite a few of the Skinnytaste soup recipes. This mushroom soup and the Curried Squash soup (to be posted shortly) have been my favorites.

This soup clocks in with a meager 65 cals/ serving (1 1/4 cup). I ended up reducing some of it down even further and using it as a nice low-cal gravy for my fluffy mashed potatoes (use a food mill/ricer!!)

3 tbsp flour (white or wheat)
4 cups water
4 tsp Better than Bouillon Chicken dissolved in 1 cup water
5 oz shiitake mushrooms (the meatiness of these mushrooms makes the splurge worth it)
8 oz baby bellas
1 celery stalk, cut in half

Chop up your mushrooms- do not throw away your shiitake stems! Gather them in a little bundle and toss them in with the rest of the 'shrooms:

They add a valuable earthy flavor to the broth- you will remove them at the end when the soup is done cooking.
 Blend the flour and water in a blender until completely mixed. I  used a whole wheat flour with no problems. Pour the mixture into a soup pot over medium heat. Add the broth, mushrooms, and celery, and a fair amount of salt (based on your personal preferences).  Cook until the veggies are soft- about 20 mins.

Place the celery stalk and two ladles of soup in the blender. Blend until smooth and add back into  the soup as a thickener, add S&P to taste. If you want it a bit thicker, you can add cornstarch mixed with cold water while the soup is still hot. You can also continue to cook it over low-medium heat, uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes. When I reduced it down to a gravy-like consistency, I only used about 1 1/2 cups that I had added a bit of cornstarch to. This recipe doesn't make a giant pot, maybe enough for 4-5 servings.

I somehow managed to not take a pic of the finished product- do not expect a white, creamy mushroom soup. This is more of a meaty, slightly creamy broth soup- but it is richer and thicker, so you will still get the satisfaction of the full texture and flavor. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Quick and Easy Bulgur Salad

I came across a version of this recipe some time ago somewhere on the Real Simple website. It makes a huge batch and can be a great side dish for a group get-together with some grilled chicken or a fatty fish like salmon. It can also be used as a tasty vegetarian main course- the bulgur is filling and the tangy notes of the olives make for a great balance of flavor. 

Here's what you will need:
1 cup uncooked bulgur
1 contained of grape tomatoes- chop in half if they are larger than bite-size
1/2 c kalamata olives, chopped
About 1/3 cup chopped scallions
Chopped fresh parsley & oregano. 
S&P to taste
A splash of  EVOO (1-2 tablespoons to taste)
A splash of red wine vinegar (to taste)

Cook the bulgur as directed- try not to overcook it, it will become too mushy for this recipe. Toss in the solid ingredients and add EVOO as needed to loosen up the wheat and lightly coat the ingredients. If you have a tasty olive oil, this is the type of recipe you would want to use it for. Taste and season as you go along. I like the splash of red wine vinegar at the end to balance out the dense flavor of the wheat. Again, this is where personal tastes really come in to play. 

This recipe can be served warm, cold, or at room temp. I actually preferred it cold after it had had a few hours for all of the flavors to really marinate...which makes it great for a late-night snack or lunch leftovers :)