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Archive for December, 2010

Fried Rice

With the craziness of December in full swing, I’ve been cooking only quick meals for Husband and I. This year, especially, I’ve been feeling the time crunch and, when I finally do get home late at night, I am starving and want something really healthy and super quick for dinner. Usually, we’ll have pasta or tomato sandwiches. Sometimes, Husband will whip up some coconut rice with edamame and we’ll sit on the couch together and spend a few precious minutes before bed catching up over our quick meal.

Something I don’t make often is fried rice. I guess with a name like fried rice, I stay away because I’m assuming “fried” means lots of grease; but, that doesn’t need to be the case. As long as you use very cold cooked rice, you can get away with using very little oil-maybe a teaspoon or so to sauté the veggies in. And how delicious is fried rice!? It’s one of the few dishes that I don’t pick the peas out of.

I like mine with peppers, onions, peas, and pickled ginger (totally mixing cultures here but I think it’s wonderful this way) and I always stir in a little rice wine vinegar and sesame oil at the very end. When I sit down to enjoy it, it’s aromatic and the colours are so enticing. As long as you make your rice ahead of time (I try to make mine in the morning before I leave for work so it has all day to chill), the dish comes together in mere minutes and you can change it up a million different ways: how about shredded carrot, tofu, and green onion? The possibilities are truly endless-there are absolutely no rules. I like a meal with no rules.

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For Your Heart

Just a quick little post today. I wanted to share this photo with you. I thought it was so adorable (and fitting) that my steamed sweet potato from a couple days ago resembled a heart (an organ it helps to keep very healthy) after I sliced it; so, I snapped a quick photo of it before digging in. How cute is that?!

In case you’re interested, here’s a really great article about the health benefits of sweet potatoes.

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Although this meal may be considered a little indulgent…there is quite a lot of olive oil and Earth Balance involved…it is so worth it! Before going vegan, I made this recipe in a slightly more traditional fashion, following the sauce recipe exactly and changing only the vessel for the sauce-I used tofu slices instead of the fish the recipe called for. Since going vegan, I’ve thought about the recipe from time to time; but, always pushed it out of mind assuming it would be too much of a pain to try to veganize.

Well, I finally decided it was worth any pain I might go through to try it vegan-style and I’m sooo glad I did. The meal was a joy to eat! The “egg” batter coating on the tofu was such a nice texture and, because of the inherent nature of the tofu itself, the slices absorbed so much of the lemon-y, briny sauce that was dousing it. The dish was texturally exciting with the crunch of toasted almonds, the chew of the tofu, the smoothness of the sauce and the bite of the capers. Accompanied with some sautéed, garlicky Swiss chard and whole wheat couscous, the dish turns any weeknight into a celebration.

Tofu Francaise

-2 T. good quality olive oil

-2 T. + 1 tsp. Earth Balance

-1 package firm tofu, drained and sliced into 8 thick slices

-1/4 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

-3/4 cup plain soymilk

-1 T. cornstarch

-1 T. nutritional yeast

-1/8 tsp. turmeric

-1/4 cup + 2 T. vegetable stock

-2 T. white wine vinegar

-zest and juice of 1 lemon

-1 T. dried parsley (1/4 cup fresh if you have it)

-2 T. capers, drained

-1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Preheat the olive oil and 2 T. Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Whisk together the soymilk, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, and turmeric. Dredge the tofu slices in the flour and then dip in the soymilk mixture to coat. Fry the tofu slices for 3 minutes per side, just until the batter starts to brown and crisp. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the stock to the hot pan and let it reduce down by about half and then add the vinegar and 1 tsp. Earth Balance. Once the Earth Balance is melted, add the lemon juice and zest, parsley and capers. Stir for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Pour the sauce over the tofu slices. Top with the almonds. Serve immediately.

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To some, left-overs are a necessary evil. To me, they’re a real blessing. What better way to have a quick, cheap, healthy, and delicious meal than to warm up a serving of last night’s dinner?! I’m a huge fan of what I like to call “combo bowls”: I take all the small amounts of what’s left in the fridge and try to combine them into one bowl of well-developed flavour! It may sound like a disgusting concept; but, more often than not, you end up with a filling and totally new meal experience.

Case in point, earlier this week I happened to be clearing room in my fridge for this week’s produce and noticed I was feeling peckish. I looked at the containers I had put  on the counter and realized that they would probably make a pretty tasty combo bowl: steamed corn, lemony mashed potatoes, and some left-over roasted cauliflower and chickpea stew (recipe below). I layered them in a nice big bowl, warmed them to my desired (scalding hot) temperature, and happily dug right in!

Okay, so it may not be the prettiest meal I ever prepared but, boy, if it wasn’t one of the tastiest! The lemony potatoes were a nice compliment to the richly flavoured stew. The lemon added a “freshness” to the dish that was really appealing and the corn and chickpeas added textural contrast to an otherwise consistently smooth dish. Yum!

The stew was my sister, ‘Rene’s, creation and Husband and I loved it! She served it for dinner last Sunday and we liked it so much that I made my own version of it two days later. She graciously allowed me to post the recipe here.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew

-1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces

-1 T. olive oil

-salt and pepper, to taste

-1/4 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut

-1 stalk celery, chopped

-1 large carrot, peeled and sliced

-1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped

-1 medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped

-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

-2 cups mushroom stock

-1 T. garam masala

-1 tsp. coriander

-1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

-2 cups chickpeas, cooked and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast approximately 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and browned. Set aside. Meanwhile, preheat a small pan over medium heat. Add the coconut to the pan and toast till browned, stirring occasionally and keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the celery, carrot, sweet potato, onion and garlic in 2 T. water till the liquid evaporates and the veggies are soft. Transfer the veggies to a blender and blend till smooth with the stock. Add the cauliflower, coconut, garam masala, coriander and peanut butter. Blend till smooth. Add a little water, if necessary. Put the entire mixture into a large pot and stir in the chickpeas. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes to let the flavours meld.

As a note, you may also pre-roast the cauliflower and pre-toast the coconut and then just dump everything but the chickpeas into a slow cooker and cook on low for five hours. Afterwards, use an immersion blender to blend the stew and stir in the chickpeas last minute. Both ways are equally delicious.

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