Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sesame Ginger Tempeh with Soba Noodles

Adapted from: Spa Cuisine at Home, Chef Nadine, BCAE class

This Asian-inspired meal is a nice change from the ordinary, and packs healthy protein from both the soba noodles and the tempeh. Tempeh comes in a number of different flavors- I think I used a 5-grain version here, which worked well. The important thing is marinating the tempeh, since on it's on, tempeh's flavor is not really my favorite. But together, this makes for a yummy dish. I love the soba noodles. Grab your chopsticks and enjoy!

  • 1/4- 1/2 cup light soy sauce (go for low-sodium too)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (for cucumber) + 3 Tbs (for noodles)
  • 1/4 cup of sesame oil + 1 tsp (for brushing pan)
  • 3 tsp sucanat (I used plain-old brown sugar, and that works fine - 2 tsp for cucumber, 1 for tempeh)
  • 1 ounce of wakame seaweed (can't find it? no worries, the dish doesn't lose much by leaving it out)
  • 2 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 5 green onions, diagonally sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbs minced ginger root
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 10 ounces Soba noodles, dry
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 shaved carrot (if desired)
  1. Steam the tempeh whole for 5-10 minutes. Cut into wedges.
  2. Combine ginger root, soy sauce, sucanat, and sesame oil and pour over steamed tempeh. Let marinade for 1-2 hours, turning at least once.
  3. Place the seaweed in a bowl and pour enough hot water over to cover it. Leave for 30min, then drain. Squeeze out any excess liquid and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Combine with cilantro and set aside.
  4. Julienne the cucumber and place in separate bowl with 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 2 tsp of sucanat/brown sugar.
  5. Prepare soba noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles in a colander and run under cold water. When they are cold, toss with the 3 Tbs of rice vinegar, the green onions, and salt.
  6. After marinating the tempeh, heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush baking pan with small amount of oil and place tempeh wedges in pan. Pour any remaining marinade over the tempeh and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and sauce is bubbly.
  7. Add the seaweed & cilantro mix to the soba noodles.
  8. To serve, place noodles on plate/bowl, garnish with cucumber salad mix and shaved carrots and add tempeh wedges.
Notes: The original recipe suggests marinating the tempeh for 2 or more hours. Not necessary! I marinated for 35min and the tempeh had plenty of flavor- actually, too much soy sauce in my mind. I'd suggest using 1/4 cup of soy sauce instead, and marinating for about 30 minutes. I'd also suggest playing around with the other sauce amounts- you want to marinate the tempeh but not drown it, so go according to your taste. Also, there are a number of places here where you can cut corners and not really sacrifice much flavor- the seaweed step, in particular, can be cut if you can't find seaweed or don't want to add an extra 30min to the preparation process. Also, I added shaved carrots to the dish; you could also slice them finely and cook them- either way, I think carrots are a good addition.

What Veg?

Following my last post, I ALSO often get asked what I usually eat as a vegetarian, and how I get my protein. Well, again, this site has (or will have in future postings!) a lot of my favorite dishes, but I thought I'd also list some of my favorite ingredients and products. Of course, a lot of it depends on the season and/or where you live (fresh is ALWAYS best!), but here are some of my staples:

  • Beans, beans, and more beans: Northern beans, Cannellini beans, Whole Foods refried beans with chile and lime, Bush's vegetarian baked beans
  • Edamame (soybeans- you can find shelled frozen ones in most grocery stores. My new thing is adding them to salads or as a pre-dinner snack with some sea salt on them)
  • Asparagus (fresh!)
  • Artichokes (I've re-discovered these- I really only like them fresh, not canned or frozen- fun to eat and yummy! When steaming them whole, try adding the juice of 1/2 a lemon to the water, and forgo the traditional butter dip- if they are fresh, they don't need it!)
  • Corn (fresh or frozen, NEVER canned)
  • Orange tomatoes (a nice change to the regular red, and a great pop of color to any salad)
  • Parsnips (OMG, I love Parsnips. Peel 'em, steam 'em, eat 'em).
  • Spinach
  • Snow peas (so crunchy, they make for a good chip substitute as an app with dips, or in your salad)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (they add a great flavor to almost any dish)
  • Avocado (yep, it's a fruit; my husband inaccurately calls it "the butter of vegetables"- at least the 'butter of' part is right. Rich in omega-3's, avocados are a healthy indulgence)
  • Mango (interesting side note: Did you know the inner peel of the mango contains an oil related to that found in poison ivy? I found this out one summer after sticking my face in a mango peel to suck the juice out. I woke up the next morning to Angelina Jolie-sized lips, which would have been great, except that the swelling was caused by tons of tiny itchy painful bumps that were not only all over my lips but also surrounded them and were all over my hands. Now I can only have mango that has been cut for me.... earning me "princess" status in the mango department)
Grains & starches:
Dairy & spreads:
  • Greek yogurt (Fage Total brand, 0% - try it mixed with some fresh or dried fruit and a few walnuts- a great breakfast or snack since it's so low in sugar. It might take a little while to get used to the tangy flavor and whipped consistency, but most yogurt is loaded with way too much sugar so this is a much healthier option)
  • Cottage cheese, either non-fat or low-fat (excellent source of protein if you eat dairy. My favorite brand: Cabot!)
  • Sabra brand hummus (it's the smoothest, creamiest, best hummus!)
Herbs & Spices:
  • Basil (just about everything basil touches tastes good. Don't know what it goes with? Find the book Culinary Artistry- it is the ingredient bible to figuring out what flavors go together).
  • Dill- I also like dill a lot, but it's a tricky thing for me. I usually end up adding too much, and dill can go on a power trip, over taking your dish. Be forewarned!
  • Spike seasoning- a good addition to any veggie household- easy to add flavor to tofu, broccoli, or other veggies.
That's just a sampling. I love big salads filled with as many veggies as you can pile in, and dried fruit too (cranberries, figs, dates, golden and regular raisins- all good additions to a salad). I'm not gonna lie, there are more than a few times a month we have something like frozen pizza or your basic mac & cheese, but it's always good to add peas, broccoli, and/or spinach to get the green in. I also eat my fair share of protein & power bars (new fav: Power Bar's Smoothie flavor) as a filling fast breakfast or sometimes as a snack. And, I could probably eat cereal (has to be 2 types mixed, and with Silk light vanilla soymilk) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I try to stay away from that :-)

Finally, I have a new favorite dessert:
Mochi icecream (Find it at Whole Foods (Bubbles brand) or Trader Joe's. It ain't cheap, but it's different and yummy).

Now that we're through with that, we'll get back to the recipes!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Veg?

I often get asked why I went vegetarian. I usually tell people that I don't like the taste of meat, which is accurate, but not the full story. For me, it was not a difficult struggle, where I went through meat cravings or felt like I was missing something by not eating meat. But it was a little bit of a journey to get to being a "real" vegetarian. There was one turning point that helped begin the process for me: when I was around 12 years old, I remember going to a fancy grocery store with my mom; when we walked by the meat counter and I saw the entire raw leg of some fairly large animal, that was it. I was like, aaaaaand, I'm done. Combined with my love of animals, the visual of the leg was enough to set me over the edge. However, I did continue to eat chicken for a few years after that through my teens, if for no other reason than to keep my mother sane while I was still living at home. But after going off to college, and reading the book "Skinny Bitch," I decided I couldn't stomach chicken either.

For a while after that, I was pescetarian- meaning I ate fish- although technically, I only ate "non-fishy tasting" fish, and rarely (I've never really fit into neat little categories!). I ended up cutting out all fish as well, and became full vegetarian (meaning no fish, chicken, or other meat whatsoever). I have also experimented with a vegan diet (additional thoughts on that here), and while currently dairy is part of my diet, I can't say for sure it always will be. I have a lot of respect for the vegan lifestyle (meaning no animal products whatsoever); but I also believe in balanced, healthy eating, and that that can be carved out in different ways for different people.

There are as many different variations to the vegetarian diet- including vegan, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian- as there are reasons people become vegetarian.

Over the years I'm finding it is getting much, much easier to be vegetarian; it's more common, there are more options, and non-veggie people are more willing to believe that it's not all about just eating tofu, as I'll hope you'll find on recipes on this site...

For more thoughts on vegetarian eating, click here. Also see posts labeled "food/life."

Thursday, July 29, 2010


From Bon Appetit culinary series, Sur La Table "Vegetarian Feast" cooking class

I was surprised to find out Sur La Table offers cooking classes; after taking one, I came home satisfied from a great night of delicious food, new techniques, fun people, and with a number of good recipes in hand. I was also surprised to realize I like succotash! Don't be afraid of lima beans!! They can be yummy, I promise!!! This dish is delish, healthy, filling, and quick & easy to make- the triple threat of cooking- more accurately, the quintuple threat!

Serves: 6

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups of chopped red tomatoes (about 1 and 1/2 lbs- the fresher the better!)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 10-11 ounces frozen lima beans and/or baby butter beans, thawed (you can substitute canned navy beans, cannellini beans, or northern beans here too)
  • 3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt. Saute until soft and translucent, about 5min.
  2. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1min.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes, corn, and thawed beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in the sliced fresh basil just prior to serving.
Notes: If you are using canned beans, these can be added 5-10 minutes later through the cooking process. Also, steps 1-4 can be done ahead- either the day before or a few hours before- just re-heat prior to serving. Finally, I like adding BOTH lima beans and canned white beans- it adds more color, more protein, and more punch to the dish. The fresh basil really pulls everything together and makes it yummy. This is great for leftovers too- I like it cold for lunch!

Looking for a cooking class in your area? I was pleased with the Sur La Table options, and also found some interesting ones at Williams Sonoma. That's a good start, although they aren't cheap. Centers for adult education also often have them; I took a great one through Boston's BCAE when I was living there. Cooking classes are a fun way to get new ideas, meet new people, and enjoy a delicious, hands-on treat while learning something new!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Adapted from: Spa Cuisine at Home, Chef Nadine

If you haven't ever heard of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), go out and buy some now. It's awesome. Quinoa is so healthy, full of fiber and protein, and is not like any other grain. It's not quite cous-cous, not quite rice... it's better. It lends itself well to being the base for many recipes, and is very filling but still very healthy. Most grocery stores today should have it, but Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are a sure bet. I was first introduced to this wonder-grain in a cooking class I took through the Boston Center for Adult Education, called "Spa Cuisine at Home." Not sure if they still offer this class, but it was wonderful and I got so many great recipes and techniques. I've edited the original recipe a bit over time, but no matter how you vary your quinoa dish it's easy to work with.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Optional; can use vegan Parm. for vegan, although I haven't tried)
  • 1-2 cups of broccoli
  • 1-2 cups of cauliflower (or full head of cauliflower)
  • 1/2 cup of yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into small pieces and spread over a cookie sheet greased with olive oil. To avoid florets getting over crisped, you can loosely cover the pan with tin foil for the first 15-20min of cooking. Set timer to 45 minutes to roast the veggies.
  2. Chop the onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in a pot and add the onion, saute for about 1-2 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for about 1 more minute.
  3. Add the quinoa, water, and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 14 minutes- you will see a white line in the quinoa grains - until the liquid is gone.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, mixing, and then add the roasted veggies. Serve hot.
Notes: There are TONS of variations of this dish! Sometimes I add fresh chopped spinach to it too. The original recipe calls for arugula, shitake mushrooms, and carrots instead of broccoli & cauliflower (also good, but I love the flavor the roasted broccoli and cauliflower gives to the quinoa). Another good variation is to serve cold and add peas, olives, chopped fresh asparagus, and some dill & parsley for a summer version (leave out the Parm cheese though).

Also note that you can use 2 and 1/4 cups of vegetable stock (as opposed to part water); I just prefer to water down the stock as they are often chock full of sodium. Also, note that it's a good idea to rinse the quinoa before use.

*See my post of other grains for more healthy dishes like this!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fresh Corn Salad

From: Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and Food

It doesn't get much easier than this quick salad/side dish. I first tried it at my friend Amy's house, and was amazed when she gave me the recipe that it was so simple. I think the secret is fresh ingredients.

  • 5 ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 3 Tbsp of good olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp of cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped juilenne style
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Serves: 4-6

  1. Shuck and steam the ears of corn in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from pot and run under cold water to cool.
  2. Using a large knife, cut the corn from the cob when it is cool, cutting close to the cob. Put into a large bowl. Add the olive oil & vinegar and toss. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Just before serving, cut basil and add to the dish, mix gently.
Notes: I like to add tomatoes (any kind work, but vine-ripe cut into bite-sized triangles) to this recipe. Also, it is really just as good with 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil only, if you don't have the vinegar and want to cut back on the dressing.

See also: My friend Paula's variation on this dish, with avocado and slightly different dressing, or my variation adding avocado & black beans.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Broccoli, Chickpea, and Tomato Salad

From: Great Food Fast


  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • Coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (note: grape tomatoes also work, but the cherry ones taste better!)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar (note: Apple cider vinegar works here too!)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalk. Steam in large pot until crisp but tender, about 5 minutes (the book recommends using a steamer basket with 1 inch of water beneath). Rinse with cold water in a strainer after cooking to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and onion. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and broccoli. Toss to coat ingredients with the dressing. May be served at room temp or chilled.

Notes: This is very easy to make! I usually don't add the full amount of dressing, as I prefer it very light, but the recipe is not heavy as is, so just add slowly to your preference. And if you are looking for a good cookbook, I highly recommend Great Food Fast- it is filled with simple, quick recipes that don't require a lot of ingredients but that still taste great. But it's not a vegetarian cookbook, so if you are veggie, be prepared to pick through or do some substitutes.

Pictures and a variation: here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sweet Potato Salad with Apple and Avocado

From Vegetarian Times

Last year I subscribed to Vegetarian Times and was inspired to try lots of new dishes. While I can't say that all (or even most) of the recipes I tried I liked, this was a keeper. (To be fair, I did make a few mistakes, such as using barley when I should have used bulgar, and barley has about twice the cooking time... making for an unpleasantly crunchy dish...)

In any case, here it is, the yummy, filling "salad" that could be used as a side but I've considered more of a main course. It is good the next day as well as lunch!

Serves: 6

  • 1lb sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • 1 medium red apple, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 avocado, finely diced (note: the Veg Times recipe calls for 1/2 an avocado, but hey, you might as well use the whole thing, right? I always did and it balances well, especially if you are using it as a main. Plus, avocados are rich in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids- one of the good kinds of fat!)
  1. Put sweet potatoes in large pan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.
  2. Add corn to the pan w/ the potatoes and cook 1-2 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender. Drain in colander and rinse under cold water to cool (and make sure the veggies don't overcook); drain well. Set aside.
  3. Toast pumpkin seeds or pepitas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, about 3-4min or until they start to pop. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  4. Combine chopped apple, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a large bowl. Stir in sweet potatoes, corn, and oil, and season with some salt & pepper.
  5. Just before serving, gently stir in the avocado and pumpkin seeds.

Tips: I may have liked this dish more than my husband, who thought it got too "mushy" - this is a good reminder to make sure you don't overcook the sweet potatoes, and you don't add the avocado too soon (ie, let the potatoes cool first, and don't mix too much!) More than a few times, I've just been lazy and stirred in the last 2 ingredients right after cooking everything, and then stored it in the fridge until dinner (hence the "mushy"). If you want to prep early, just leave the seeds out and store the avocado in a separate container in the fridge until you're ready to mix in, or better yet, cut the avocado just before serving (since it can discolor with time- one way to combat this is to use some lime juice though).

Nutrition information: (per 3/4 cup serving- note that adding the full avocado will increase this slightly): 179 calories, 3g protein, 9g fat (1g saturated fat), 23g carbs, 0mg cholesterol, 4g fiber, 8g sugar.
Here is the link to this recipe on Vegetarian Times.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chickpea and Spinach Saute

This recipe comes from my friend Lindsay, who got it from a Kronos class. It is yummy and filling, easy to make, and healthy too! Very good if you need to make a good-for-you meal quickly.

Ingredients: (serves: 2)
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes - finely chopped (buy the olive-oil pack)
  • 4 tsp oil - can use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup onion or shallot - finely chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 cup (canned) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups spinach - coarsely chopped (fresh spinach is best)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts or chopped blanched almonds (optional)
  1. Increase heat to medium and add oil. Cook the onion and garlic about 4 or 5 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, dried tomatoes, 2 tbsp. water and pepper. Heat through.
  2. Add spinach; cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until spinach is just wilted.
  3. If adding nuts: Toast nuts in ungreased skillet over low heat one minute, stirring to avoid over browning. Remove and set aside, add to dish when finished and ready to serve.

Nutrition information (per serving):
344 calories, 14g protein, 17g fat (7g polyunsaturated- the good kind of fat!; 6g monounsaturated; 3g saturated fat; 0g trans fat- the really bad kind of fat!), 41g carbohydrates.

Online recipes

A few years ago for Christmas I made my family a cookbook, a compilation of our family favorites, complete with the funny family photos to go along with the recipes. The challenging part, though, is that for the most part recipes, and food tastes in particular, aren't really a static thing. Ingredients get altered, or the compilation itself- the group of those favorites- gets added to or edited as time goes on. For example, I adopted a vegetarian diet during my early teens, so those sloppy joes and other meaty items I used to like would not be in my favorites today. Recently I got all gung-ho to make another, updated cookbook, adding some new favorites from my friends and various cooking classes I've taken, when I realized- the last thing I want is another book on my shelf! Most of the time these days, I go online to sites like those listed to the right under 'links' to find a new recipe or inspiration for something to make. I was also happy to find out, in enjoying a new recipe from a friend, that she had a food blog to share her dishes. Why not have my own blog to document my favorites and share them with others? So here we go!