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!!