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More healthy eating!

The weekend was so sunny, warm, and wonderful. I spent a good amount of time outside, hanging in the hammock with Newton. He also (unfortunately for him) got a haircut, nail trimming, and bath, all compliments of yours truly. Needless to say, he wasn’t super into it. Poor guy.

Sundays I’ve been trying to make a big meal that I can eat as leftovers for a few days. Lately, I’ve been seeing tons of recipes for eggplant and/or zucchini “meatballs” on  Pinterest. I read through a bunch of the different recipes, then made up some combination that worked out…

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large eggplant
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Olive oil spray (I use PAM or a Misto)
  • Seasonings: Oregano, basil, salt and pepper – all to taste (1/2-1 tsp each)
  • Marinara sauce (I used a jar of pre-made sauce)
  • Fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped, to garnish
  • 1 spaghetti squash

Directions:

Eggplant Meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Dice onion and peel then dice the eggplant. Dicing size doesn’t really matter because everything will eventually get mashed up.
  3. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Once oil is warm, add onion and saute until translucent. (About 5 minutes)
  4. Mince the garlic and add the garlic and spices to the onions.
  5. Once onions and garlic are aromatic, add in the eggplant pieces. Continue to cook over medium heat until eggplant is soft when pierced with a fork, stirring occasionally. (About 10 minutes). If ingredients start to stick to the pan, you can add a few splashes of warm water or veggie broth.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes – or you might have a blending explosion on your hands. *This would be a good time to start on the spaghetti squash.
  7. Mash all ingredients in the pot together, leaving some small chunks. *I use an immersion blender.
  8. Mix in egg and breadcrumbs, stirring until mixture is thick enough to be formed into balls. If it’s too runny, add in more breadcrumbs.
  9. Roll meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter, and arrange them on a greased baking tray. Spray tops with olive oil.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees – 10 minutes on each side. They should get browned and crispy.
  11. Serve over spaghetti squash , top with warm marinara and fresh herbs (optional).

Spaghetti Squash

  1. Microwave whole spaghetti squash for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Remove squash and cut in half, lengthwise, with a large butcher knife.
  3. Use a spoon to remove all the seeds.
  4. Place halves in a glass pan, skin side down and continue to microwave for another 10 minutes.
  5. Once the squash is cooked, use a fork to remove the spaghetti strings.

**Tips:

  • Dicing the eggplant – it doesn’t really matter what size you make them, as long as they are uniform. The smaller they are, the faster they will cook down.
  • Peeling the eggplant is optional. I just don’t really care for the skin, so I always remove it.

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Hopping back on my blog – so I can keep myself excited to be on the healthy wagon!

After a weekend visiting friends up in Michigan and eating some “cheat” food (read: lots of wine and froyo with cookie dough) I’ve gotta get back on my healthier eating track. In short, I’ve been cutting out eating most processed foods, things with added sugar, and most dairy.

These tacos are made of simple ingredients, but they are oh-so-tasty and make for great leftovers. The “directions” are probably unnecessary, but I think the most important part is the tip – letting the veggies cook way longer than you think at a medium high heat. (see the tip).

Veggie Tacos

Ingredients:

  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 8 oz package of mushrooms, sliced and washed
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • Smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and lime juice, to taste
  • Refried beans (homemade)

Directions:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil at medium heat.
  2. Add sliced onions and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until onions start to soften.
  3. Stir in diced bell pepper and seasonings, and continue to cook at medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Tip: Let the veggies cook way longer than you think you should and don’t skimp on the heat. It’s good if the veggies stick to the bottom a bit. You want it to have a bit of a “blackened” flavor. Total cook time for the veggies should be about 30 minutes. The veggies will taste best if they are totally softened, slightly blackened, and have absorbed all the seasonings!
  4. In a separate frying pan, warm the corn tortillas for 1 minute on each side over medium heat.
  5. Layer beans, veggies, and avocado on the the tortillas and top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Enjoy!

Refried Beans

I cheated a bit on the refried beans and used cans of pinto and black beans, whereas normally I make them in a crockpot all day from dried beans. But here is today’s faster alternative:

Ingredients:

  • Two 15 oz cans of pinto beans (rinsed)
  • One 15 oz can of black beans (rinsed)
  • Veggie broth (I use Edward & Sons “Not Chick’n bullion cubes plus 2 cups boiling water)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1-2 tbsp taco seasoning

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. You want the onion to be completely cooked through.
  3. Drain out most of the liquid (leave about 1 cup of liquid still with the beans).
  4. Blend until smooth.

 

curry

This cooking adventure started with an old bag of frozen cauliflower. I knew it had been in the freezer way too long, so I decided veggie curry was the way to go. After getting the onions, potatoes and carrots started, I opened the cauliflower only to discover it had gone bad. Oops. So I had to venture out to the store despite my plans of having a lazy day at home. Oh well. It turned out for the best.

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 medium potatoes, diced into small pieces (1 cm cubed)
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup carrots (chopped into small pieces)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (large or small is fine)
  • 16 oz bag of cauliflower
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Diced tomatoes, 14 oz can, (optional)
  • Curry powder – 2-3 tbsp
  • Smoked paprika – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1 tsp
  • Garlic salt – 1 tbsp
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Coconut milk (14 oz can)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Directions:

  1. Cook onions, minced garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat until onions start to clarify. (Use a large pot)
  2. Stir in all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the coconut milk and cauliflower.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until potatoes and carrots are soft. (30-40 minutes)
  4. Add cauliflower and continue to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add coconut milk, stirring in completely, before serving.
  6. ** Alternatively, put all ingredients (EXCEPT coconut milk) in a crock pot on high for 2-4 hours (until potatoes and carrots are soft). Stir in coconut milk before serving. Note: The cauliflower will get a bit mushy this way.
  7. Serve over basmati rice or with naan.

pasta

This is a recipe I tried a while back. Verdict: It’s delicious!

Because it was a cold pasta salad, it was also really great to take in my lunches to work. If I’m being honest, though, it rarely made it all the way until lunch time…

Ingredients:

  • 1 8oz box of gemelli pasta
  • 3/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup fresh green beans (cut)
  • 1/2 onion, finely minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon, squeezed over the top
  • Garlic salt, black pepper, and thyme to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (de-seeded, without juice) *Optional

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta as directed on box, then set aside in a large bowl
  2. Finely mince the onion and garlic.
  3. Cut green beens into bite sized pieces
  4. *Optional: de-seed, de-juice, and finely chop the tomato
  5. In a small frying pan, saute 1 tbsp olive oil, the minced onion, and the minced garlic over medium heat until the onions are translucent
  6. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the pistachios and green beans until they are lightly seared. (*Optional: add the tomatoes at this point)
  7. Combine the nuts and veggies with the pasta and add the remaining olive oil, vinegar, and the spices to taste.
  8. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
  9. Optional: sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  • I used salted, roasted pistachios. They were quite salty, so unless you really like really salty foods (as I do), I would recommend that you use unsalted pistachios.

Mandarin Salad

 

Summer is for eating healthy, right? Easier said than done. Between fairs, food trucks and cookouts, I’ve been loading up on all the wrong foods. Wouldn’t it be nice if people brought salads to potlucks that were actually healthy? (read: NOT 60% bacon and/or ranch, likely both).

Here’s a good, simple alternative to try out.  🙂 Enjoy!

Mandarin Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag spring mix greens (or spinach)
  • 1 15 oz can mandarin oranges, rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Red wine vinaigrette

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon dijon mustard or 1 clove minced garlic

Directions:

  1. To toast almonds: heat almonds and sugar over medium high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugar is melted.
  2. Lay almonds out to cool on wax paper.
  3. Make salad dressing by whisking red wine vinegar, oil, sugar and mustard together in a bowl.
  4. Toss greens and onions, then add mandarin oranges and almonds. Drizzle lightly with dressing.

smoothie

I’ve been gone a long time. But I’ve missed having an outlet for non-work creativity, so I’m back. I’m now working for a university and loving my job. Newton and I have been keeping busy, but there’s still been time for some great food.

In the past 6 months, I had the pleasure of eating at some delicious restaurants I’d recommend:

  • The Chicago Diner (in Chicago, where else?). An all vegetarian cafe. Highly recommend the seitan Reuben!
  • The Electric Cheetah (Grand Rapids, MI). I’ve been multiple times and always get The Jimmy Wah Salad with spicy tofu. They also have amazing freshmade vinegar chips and hand cut fries. Best part: If you order a cookie – they’ll bake it fresh while you eat your meal!
  • BruBurger (Indianapolis, Indiana). House made ketchup. I would eat it on anything.

I’m sure there were other amazing places – but those were my top three!

Anyway, I hope you are all keeping cool this summer. Here’s a favorite smoothie of mine… for those days when I feel like indulging, without indulging my muffin top!

Vegan Chocolate Smoothie

Blend until smooth:

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 fresh banana
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)
  • Almond milk

Tips:

  • I add enough almond milk to cover all the solid bits… but less will make it creamier and more like a milkshake.
  • I keep bags of peeled and cut banana pieces in my freezer at all times. I use them for smoothies almost daily. I try to wait til they start to brown to chop and freeze them, that way they are sweeter.
  • Be liberal with the cocoa powder! Mmmm… chocolate.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

When I was growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with mushrooms. At some point in my early childhood I really liked them until my older brother told me the dark lines inside of them were leftover from dead worms. Even though my mom assured me this was a lie, I wasn’t able to trust those little fungi for a while. In fact, I kept getting very mixed messages from my family for years about mushrooms. My mother loved them and ate them all the time, but my father hated them. The only time I can ever recall him using a curse word was the one day at the dinner table when I asked him why he didn’t like mushrooms and he said they were “from the pits of hell.”

Fortunately for me, I gave them a second chance and now I love mushrooms of all kinds. (Except shitake, because they make my tongue feel funny).

Here’s a lovely recipe for cold days like today. Inspired from another blogger. http://skinnyjns4me.blogspot.com/2011/05/vegan-mushroom-soup.html

My variation makes about 4 servings.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms)
  • 15 oz garbanzo beans (softened)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 vegetable bullion cubes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other unsweetened, unflavored milk substitute)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with goat cheese, chives and sauteed mushrooms, to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop onion and garlic and sautee in a large pot with olive oil.
  2. In a separate sauce pan, rehydrate the dried mushrooms with 2 cups boiling water for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice the white mushrooms, setting aside a handful to use as a garnish.
  4. Once onions are clear, add the white mushrooms and salt & pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the dried mushrooms and liquid to the soup.
  6. Add the almond milk, garbanzo beans, vegetable bullion and vegetable stock.
  7. Cook until fully heated.
  8. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then blend soup in blender or food processor until creamy.
  9. Sautee extra mushrooms with olive oil and garlic salt over medium high heat. Use as a garnish with chopped chives and goat cheese. Serve soup hot.

Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Bites

Well, I haven’t been cooking much these last few months, as I’ve been busy with a very demanding and strenuous job. In the end, I decided the position I was in wasn’t a good fit for me, so I’m in a transitional stage, working part time with a previous employer and searching for something new. The upside of all of this is now I have plenty of time to be back in the kitchen, and I’m loving every minute of it.

This week, my roommate is busy studying for law school finals, and in the midst of all the stress, we figured it would be good to try to eat some healthier dishes. This is a recipe I found on Pinterest and immediately fell in love with. http://distractify.com/fun/humor/scout-is-the-single-most-composed-dog-on-the-planet/
They are light, fresh, savory and the perfect snack or holiday party appetizer. Warning – it is a little annoying to make.

Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Bites

Ingredients:

  • 3 small zucchinis, sliced
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 2 oz sundried tomatoes
  • fresh chives, chopped
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Slice the zucchini
  2. Top with a layer of goat cheese
  3. Sprinkle with chopped chives
  4. Add small chunks of sundried tomatoes
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. salt and pepper, to taste

Greek Spinach and Feta Pastry

I just moved in to a new apartment with a lovely roommate and 2 hilarious cats. My dog Newton is slowly adjusting. The terrier in him is definitely being put on trial, but things are gradually calming down.

In the meanwhile, I am loving the new kitchen with way more counter space, and having someone with whom to share my kitchen creations so I don’t gobble them all up myself! Tonight I had a late dinner of some of my favorite Greek inspired dishes (including Greek Lemon Potatoes, which I will post soon). For now, enjoy this savory and delicious filo pastry.

Greek Spinach and Feta Pastry

Ingredients:

  • Filo dough
  • 2 cups (cooked) spinach
  • 1/4 cup feta crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • onion powder, pepper, lemon juice and salt to taste
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Place about 4 sheets of filo dough in a round cake pan, letting the edges hang over the side. Brush each sheet with olive oil.
  2. Lightly saute the spinach in olive oil.
  3. Beat the 2 eggs.
  4. Add spinach, seasonings, lemon juice, sundried tomatoes (finely chopped) and feta cheese to the egg mixture. The mixture should be pretty firm.
  5. Scoop spinach mixture into the cake pan over the filo dough.
  6. Fold the sides of the filo dough over the spinach mixture so that it is covered.
  7. Brush the top with olive oil, or spray with pam.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until gold brown.

**For better results, after you have sauted the spinach, wring out excess liquid between cheesecloth.

Crispy Sesame Tofu

This recipe was a long time coming, but there have been numerous reasons I was putting off making crispy tofu. First, there is a local restaurant that has crispy tofu in a ginger sauce that is so incredible, I didn’t want to try my own hand and be disappointed. Second, deep frying still kind of scares me (even after the battered eggplant from several months ago). And third, I’ve never cooked with tofu before.

How could I be a vegetarian and never use tofu at home? Or better question, why? Honestly, tofu kind of freaks me out. I think because it comes in a package with water and has to be pressed. But tonight, I decided to be brave. I’m moving in about a week, and I wanted to make a large batch of rice before I packed my rice cooker. I had some of store-bought sesame garlic sauce I needed to use, and this was the perfect solution.

All in all, it turned out very well, though I need to tweak the frying time on the tofu pieces a bit. I did two rounds, and the first was over done, the second under done. I also used “lite” tofu because I figured since I’d never cooked with it before I wouldn’t know the difference. And I didn’t!
Here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Crispy Sesame Tofu
Makes 3-4 servings
(Serve over white rice)

Ingredients:

  • 14oz package of Lite Firm Tofu (I used Nasoya brand).
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • vegetable oil for deep frying
  • green onion
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup Iron Chef “Sesame Garlic Sauce & Glaze”
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. Remove tofu from water, and “press” between paper towels and 2 plates for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Pat tofu dry with paper towel, then slice into pieces, whatever size you desire.
  3. In a bowl, toss the tofu in the cornstarch until lightly covered.
  4. Heat about 1 inch vegetable oil over medium high heat (350 degrees). When it’s ready, the oil will sizzle if you flick water drops over it.
  5. Drop pieces of tofu into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes.
  6. In a separate pan, toast the sesame seeds over high heat, then add the minced garlic and sesame oil.
  7. Then pour in the Iron Chef Sesame Sauce and the 1/4 cup of water. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Once tofu is done frying, add it to the sesame sauce, then serve over rice and enjoy!

** I add water to the sesame sauce because I think some of the flavors in this brand are a bit overpowering. This is also why I add the sesame seeds, sesame oil and garlic.

** Now the only problem is what to do with my leftover oil?