Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dinner on a Tray: Cauliflower, Tomatoes + Tofu

I almost went out to eat last night. Almost. I had to stop myself and remember that a) my pantry is probably stocked with more food than anyone I know b) I am trying to save for Europe c) you can't watch Buffy at a restaurant. So I pulled myself out of this rut and made myself throw something together.

Due to laziness, this was not going to be anything spectacular or involved, but it ended up being incredibly satisfying. Lemon roasted cauliflower with sweet roasted cherry tomatoes. Paired with salty, baked tofu. I am trying to get into the habit of making more "clean-out-the-fridge" dinners. Feel free to add any random vegetables you have in the fridge that need to be used. I served this with pan-fried, sliced prepared Italian polenta because it was going to expire soon. 
Also, this recipe allows you to watch plenty of Buffy while dinner roasts in the oven (always a plus). 

One Tray Tofu, Cauliflower + Tomatoes
  • 8-15 oz. extra-firm tofu, cubed (I used what I had left, which was 8 oz)
  • 2 T soy sauce*
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar*
  • pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (or 1 head)
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (or more)
  • garlic powder or whole garlic cloves
  • salt
  • oregano

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Make sure that it's big enough to fit how much tofu and cauliflower you're roasting (or use two trays). Put the cauliflower, tomatoes and garlic cloves (if using) on one side of the tray. Toss with a little olive oil, juice of 3/4 of a lemon, garlic powder (if using), oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. On the other side of the tray, lay down tofu in a single layer. Toss with the rest of the lemon juice and a little olive oil. In a small bowl, toss soy sauce and rice vinegar together. Poke holes in tofu with a toothpick. Pour "marinade" over tofu and toss. 
  3. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Toss everything around and flip the tofu. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until cauliflower/tomatoes are tender and tofu is cooked and flavorful. 
  4. I served this with pan-fried Italian polenta but this would also be great with rice, quinoa, or steamed greens. Leftover tofu also makes AMAZING sandwiches with tomato, lettuce, and mustard. Just so you know.
*note: if you are using more tofu, double the amount of "marinade". 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Easy Weeknight Meal: The Taco Salad

Sometimes I really love standing in the kitchen for hours working on something really complicated. What motivates me to put this much effort into a dish is the finished product. Putting a stool in front on your stove, stirring the risotto every 45 seconds, adding broth now and then, inhaling your piece of work, is an experience to relish. 

And then there's school. School makes it hard for me to take any free time out of my day, to do anything, except to cook. But even still, I try to find recipes that take minimal effort from my brain: my brain that is probably trying to transition into reading English and not French.

This taco salad is it. There's something satisfying to me about eating warm beans with cold, crisp romaine lettuce. This can be customized to your liking, too! I used things I always have in my pantry: organic beans, corn chips, salsa, lettuce, vegetables, etc. Make it yours. Just pile a bunch of stuff in a bowl and call it a day. 

Taco Salad
  • 1 can organic refried black or pinto beans (or use regular black/pinto beans)
  • romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • salsa of choice
  • hummus (optional, but adds a nice creamy flavor)
  • pickled jalapenos
  • hot sauce
  • corn chips
  • carrots, chopped
  • celery, chopped
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • leftover cooked rice/quinoa (optional)
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • cilantro
  • optional add-ins: anything! I dont make the same salad every time because it really depends on what I have in the fridge. add vegan cheese, nooch, corn, etc.
  1. Put lettuce in a bowl and top with vegetables. Warm beans in the microwave or over a stove. Spoon beans onto salad. Add salsa, lime juice, jalapenos, hot sauce, and top with hummus. Sprinkle crumbled corn chips on top. DEVOUR! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Black Bean Spaghetti + Garlicky Balsamic Peppers

School is back in session (ugh), so time is short in my little kitchen. I am trying to learn to throw together quick meals and not fall back into the easy habits of processed food. I am also trying my best to not go to the store for just one single thing. Pantry cooking rules! I promise, with a well-stocked one, you can do it too. Here's something I pulled together late last night that is packed with flavor and protein. Black bean spaghetti has a whopping 80g of protein for the entire bag. So next time someone asks you where you get your protein from and you're vegan, just shove a bag of that pasta in their face. Deal? :)

Black Bean Spaghetti & Garlicky Balsamic Peppers
  • 1 bag of black bean spaghetti or regular GF pasta
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • dried thyme, red pepper flakes + dried oregano
  • 5-6 baby sweet peppers or 1-2 large bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 C mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 3-4 small tomatoes or 1/2 cherry tomatoes, sliced (do not de-seed)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • balsamic vinegar (note: I eyeballed the measurements for the vinegar, so they aren't accurate) 
  • red wine vinegar (or red wine) 
  • fresh basil

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil for your pasta and cook according to package directions (note: black bean spaghetti cooks on simmer not boil). Heat a skillet over medium high, add about 1 T oil. Add mushrooms, peppers, a few pinches of dried thyme and a pinch of salt to help release water. Saute until almost softened, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add dried oregano and red pepper flakes, and more salt if desired. Stir and turn up to high.
  3. Add about 2 T red wine vinegar to the pan and 1/4 C or more of balsamic vinegar. The fumes will be very "acidic" and could be unpleasant to the eyes, so be careful. Bring to a quick boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally 3-4 minutes, until the "sauce" has reduced in half. 
  4. Plate your spaghetti and top with sauce. Add more red pepper flakes and fresh chiffonaded basil on top. Voila! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 Things I've Learned in 3 Years

As some of you may know, August is my "anniversary" month of being gluten-free. This August it has been 3 years. Being gluten-free is such a big part of my life, and a normality now, that I hardly think to reflect on how much has changed. For 18 years of my life, I was constantly sick and trying to figure out what it could be. Celiac disease hasn't been around that long, or at least not the word. Plenty of people have been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for years now. After constantly being told its just this, or just that, or even nothing at all, I gave up knowing for a while.

Finally, in 2010, my body gave up. I was in Charlottesville for a writing camp and I was eating cafeteria food for every single meal for 3 weeks (i.e. highly processed food). In my 18 years of being sick, not a single person ever suggested to me that I was Celiac. I myself didn't even think that could be it. But while in Virginia, I ended up going to the emergency room. My stomach pain got so bad that the doctors were ready to remove my appendicitis, thinking it was inflamed. I was so scared being away from my parents and about to get this big procedure with out them. I finally said to my doctor that I've had stomach problems since I was a baby, and that I basically can't even digest my food. I was amazed at what my doctor said next: "Have you ever been tested for Celiac disease?"

I replied: "No", thinking about my friends at UVa who were gluten intolerant. My doctor told me to think about it and I went back to camp. I returned home to recover, which took a few weeks, and then I gathered my courage and decided: "Why not? I might as well try." So I stopped eating all wheat, gluten, and dairy products. It's crazy to think this was only three years ago, because I haven't looked back since. My body did a complete 360. I looked different, felt different, I just couldn't believe it. It's like searching for an answer for so long that you try to give up, and suddenly, it just falls in your lap. I can honestly say it was worth being in the ER even if it was just to find out what was wrong. In these three years, I have learned so much about my body, food, and how important your stomach is to your overall well-being. I am sharing them here for anyone who is interested (note: these are just my personal opinions). 

1. Processed foods may be convenient, but they are not worth it.
In my first few months of being gluten-free, I clung to GF products they sold at health food stores. I wasn't cooking much because I still lived with my parents, so I was constantly eating processed GF products. After an incredibly intense episode after eating a frozen GF dinner, I realized that processed foods were just as harsh on my stomach as gluten or dairy. Processed/convenience products are almost always more expensive than cooking yourself too. So after this realization, I started to cook more and my stomach was much happier (and my wallet, too). 

2. Water is a vital component to digestion.
This was something I learned quite recently actually. I am really bad about drinking water. Which is stupid because I am pretty healthy otherwise, right? I have been feeling like crap for the past few months when I realized, oh yeah, I never drink water. I'm an idiot. We all make mistakes, however, and I am now drinking at least 80 oz a day, if not more. I feel so much better and my stomach is very pleased. Water is incredibly important for digestion and your body overall. 

3. Healing takes time.
Even though it has been 3 years since I've eaten wheat, my stomach is still healing. After an intestinal biopsy in 2010, my intestines looked better but still slightly damaged. Avoiding wheat didn't heal my intestines immediately, and they are still healing now. I do have episodes every now and then, but they are 1-2 a year instead of 1-2 a week, which is an incredible difference. I have to remind myself that my body is still catching up to the changes I've made. I cut meat completely out of my diet (except eggs and fish) about a year ago, and my body is still (happily) adjusting to it. Listening to your body is the best way to know what you should and shouldn't do.

4. Cooking is worth your time, effort, and money.
Eating out when I first went GF was nothing short of a nightmare. People (sometimes) don't care or understand gluten intolerance. This is not true of all restaurants, but I have been sick many times just from a careless restaurant. I am now trying to avoid eating out at all costs, unless it is an emergency and I'm 100% certain I won't be sick. What's the best way to avoid someone contaminating your food? Don't eat out. I promise you will be happier. It will save you money and you are guaranteed a safe, delicious meal at home. People ask me all the time how I even have time to cook all of my meals. It's not about having time, but I make time. I plan everything a week in advance and cook/shop accordingly. I am so happy cooking in my kitchen every day, and I am saving a lot of money by doing so. My friends like it when I cook for them too :)

5. A happy stomach is a happy body. 
What I didn't realize 3 years ago, or know, is that my damaged stomach was wreaking havoc on my entire body. I didn't even think that was possible, but it is. I have done quite a bit of reading on Celiac disease and the facts are there. It can affect your brain, your joints, your stomach, your immune system, etc. I had things that were unexplained in all of these areas. When I went GF, my stomach didn't just get better, but my whole body changed. I wasn't anxious, I wasn't constantly catching colds, or having creaky knees. And the fact that I wasn't constantly missing out on my life because I was sick made me happier. I never thought I would be doing the things I am today because being how I was, was so debilitating. I am happier and more confident than I ever have been. I look forward to many more years of eating happily and healthily! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Smoky Summer Edamame Succotash

One thing I would like to start doing this semester is getting in the kitchen, once a week, and throwing a recipe together. I had my heart set on making some kind of succotash, but didn't feel like going to the store. I never have lima beans on hand, but I almost always have frozen edamame (in pod and shelled). Edamame makes a great snack, a quick lunch, or even a tasty hummus when paired with coriander. 

I also have a TON of squash, peppers, okra, etc. leftover from a trip my dad took to a local farm. I have never cooked okra before, but I didn't want to just deep fry it. This succotash may not be "traditional" by any means, but it satisfied my craving for something smoky, flavorful, and packed with vegetables. It comes together quickly and can be adjusted to fit whatever is in your fridge. This makes a great weeknight end-of-summer meal! Pair with a good glass of white wine and you'll be in Southern summer heaven.

Smoky Summer Edamame Succotash

  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 green pepper, minced
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C frozen organic corn, thawed*
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C frozen organic edamame, thawed*
  • cajun seasoning, paprika, smoked paprika, pepper, oregano, dried basil
  • 15-20 okra pods, tops removed + sliced
  • hot sauce
  • liquid smoke
  • juice of 2 small limes, or 1 large
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • serving options: cajun rice, quinoa, polenta rounds, cornbread, baked potatoes

  1. Preheat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the oil, then onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften (about 3 minutes). Add the green pepper, squash and zucchini. Cook until they begin to soften, about 3 more minutes.
  2. Turn the pan up to medium-high. Add the corn and edamame, stirring to combine. Then add all the spices (and more salt if needed) to coat the vegetables. You can use different spices, but these are the ones I found fitting for a succotash. Cook a few more minutes to warm the thawed vegetables and slightly brown them.
  3. Add okra, as much hot sauce as you desired (I used about 10 drops), a few drops of liquid smoke, and lime juice. Stir to combine and cook 3 more minutes. A few minutes before serving, stir in the garlic. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.
  4. Serve over whatever you desire (I used quinoa with vegan butter and salt) and enjoy!

**notes: I find the easiest way to thaw frozen vegetables is to briefly run them under hot water in a colander. Feel free to use fresh corn and edamame here if they're available!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pantry Mac & Cheeze

Sometimes when I get food cravings, I get cranky. I tend to crave things I can't really eat (i.e. mac and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese). I have pretty much ditched vegan cheese all together due to its lack of nutrition and high price, so I have had to make substitutes for cheese when one of these cravings come up. And instead of making some complicated vegan cheese recipe, I decided to "find the easy way out" by using pantry ingredients instead.

So after searching the grocery store for boxed vegan GF mac and cheese, I was disappointed. But I went home and declared: This can't be that hard. I threw together things I always have on hand and this is the result. Feel free to use any spices you love or veggies! I definitely would've added kale or zucchini, but I just wanted cheezy noodles. This recipe also uses only ONE pot which is kind of awesome. It takes the same amount of effort as boxed mac and cheeze (except its not!).

Pantry Mac & Cheeze

  • 1 box GF elbows
  • 1/2-3/4 C almond milk
  • 1/4-1/3 C nutritional yeast
  • 2 T earth balance vegan butter
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • dried thyme
  • Italian seasoning
  • garlic powder or minced garlic cloves
  • onion powder or minced onion
  • optional add-ins: vegan cheese, minced jalapenos, chopped kale/other vegetables, etc.
  1. Put on a pot of water to boil for your noodles. Cook according to package directions, then drain. If you're going to steam vegetables for your mac and cheese, add them in the last few minutes of cooking the noodles and drain everything together.
  2. Put your noodle pot back on the stove on medium-high heat. Add vegan milk (less for thicker sauce, more for a thinner sauce), nutritional yeast (same option as vegan milk), butter, spices, and any other add-ins (minus vegetables) that you want. Whisk everything together.
  3. Bring to a slight boil, taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. 
  4. Add your noodles (and vegetables if you cooked some) to the pot with the sauce. Toss together and heat through. 
  5. Enjoy your cheaper, easier mac and cheese!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Peppery Sweet Potato Pinto Hash

Do you have dishes from certain restaurants that you crave? I definitely do. Sometimes I just want fresh spring rolls, or a big bowl of pho...or this "whole grain hash" from Iron Hen. But since I'm trying not to eat out, I decided to make it myself! It's not exactly like their dish, but it has everything I love about it: peppery sweet potatoes stir-fried with pinto beans, garlicky quinoa and bright green kale. Doused in hot sauce, this dish really hit the spot. 

Peppery Sweet Potato Pinto Hash

  • 1 C quinoa, rinsed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 C water
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 C kale, chopped + de-stemmed (do not dry) or spinach
  • 1-2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled + diced
  • 1 can of pinto beans, rinsed + drained
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic powder

  1. Heat a small saucepan on medium heat. Add a small amount of oil, then the minced garlic and quinoa. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and the quinoa is lightly browned. Add the water and bring to a boil. Turn down to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes. When done, set aside for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. 
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, steam your sweet potatoes in another saucepan. (OR: you can steam the sweet potatoes first and cook quinoa in the same pot to save you a pan). Cook until just tender, then strain. 
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add about 1 T of oil. Add the beans and any spices you want, but go heavy on the black pepper (the other spices I used are listed above). Cook for 2 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and a little more pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes more, until the sweet potatoes are browning a bit and everything is warm/fragrant.
  4. In the last few minutes of cooking, add the kale (add a little water if your kale is drier) and stir until wilted and bright green, 1-2 minutes. Taste for seasonings and add more pepper if needed. I really like the black pepper to stand out here because it works with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. 
  5. Plate the quinoa and top with the hash mixture. Top with lots of hot sauce (yes) and whatever toppings you want. This would also be great topped with a fried egg. Enjoy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rainbow Market Tofu Scramble

The farmer's market is a great place to get inspiration for the kitchen. It has somehow taken me all summer to finally get out there, but I really enjoyed it! The prices were incredibly reasonable, like most farmer's markets, and the selection was good. I have been going to this year-round market on Yanceyville Street because it's closer than the one off the highway. 

I found tomatoes, zucchini, squash, beautiful heirloom peppers, okra, german butter potatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, russet potatoes, and even more vegetables! I always find myself ready to cook and inspired after I leave, so I decided to make a tofu scramble out of my market produce. The result was a spicy, nourishing scramble loaded with vegetables. Feel free to substitute whatever you have here, but this is what I used. This would be great served with roasted baby potatoes (which is what we did) or even quinoa. Go to your local farmers market and explore!

Rainbow Market Tofu Scramble
  • 1 (16 oz) block of extra-firm tofu, not pressed
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 1/2-1 onion, diced
  • 2 heirloom bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, de-seeded + diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • GF soy sauce
  • any combination of herbs works but I used these: (tumeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, etc.)
  • optional add-ins: any other vegetables you have from the market, smashed garlic cloves, greens (swiss chard or kale would be great here)
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add about 1 T oil, then the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook 3 mins then add squashes and peppers. Add all the herbs you are using. Cook for 3 mins more.
  2. Add tofu and smash until your desired consistency is reached. The water that you didn't press from the tofu will actually cook it and prevent you from having to use oil. If you're adding tumeric for color, add it only after you add the tofu. Add a splash of soy sauce to help deglaze the pan. 
  3. Cook 5 more minutes, until tofu and vegetables are cooked to your desired consistency. Then add your tomatoes, another splash of soy sauce, and salt/pepper. If you are adding greens, add them in the last 5 minutes of cooking and do not dry them. 
  4. Remove from heat and enjoy! The spices I used actually worked incredibly well together so it was very flavorful. I topped mine with hot sauce + avocado. Feel free to add whatever toppings.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July Favorites

I'm trying to do some new things with the blog lately to keep it interesting! Monthly favorites is something a lot of my favorite blogs do (see here). So here's a roundup of my favorite things I made in July! I hope I can still post a lot even with school and other various activities. 

 1. garden corn chowder with basil + chives//the PPK
     I'm mildly obsessed with corn chowder and the many variations that exist on it, so this obviously had to be made. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the lime juice and coconut milk paired with the corn/potato mix. I'll still be dreaming about this one when fall rolls around.

 2. Foil-packet soy lime salmon with green beans, cajun corn salad + herb potato salad
     //J + SBudget Bytes + Thug Kitchen
      I made salmon for the first time (finally)! All three of these meal components are incredibly easy to pull together. I made an easier version of the corn salad by just using what I had on add and adding a LOT of hot sauce. The potato salad was a refreshing and incredibly garlicky twist on the mayo-laden side we all eat in the South. The salmon can be made on any weeknight since it takes little prep. 

 3. The 5-Minute Cajun Grit Bowl//here!
      I have been making this grit bowl since I learned how to make polenta grits and microwave eggs. Together, they make an easy, hearty, and spicy breakfast. I can be half awake and still be able to pull this together. 

 4. Summer Squash Soup with Tofu Croutons//Super Natural Every Day
     I'm pretty sure I have mentioned this book a few times. Heidi Swanson is the first cookbook author I discovered when I was 17 or so, and her recipes have really impacted how I cook food. I highly recommend her book to anyone who wants to experience more with vegetables, grains, beans, and eat more vegetarian food. This soup is exquisite. It's the only word I know that fits. You make a coconut oil/curry paste mash to cook potatoes and squash in, then make a coconut milk broth, finished off with crispy pan-fried tofu croutons. All of the recipes in both of her books are just as amazing.

 5. Blueberry-Raspberry Cobbler with Oat Biscuit Topping//Sprouted Kitchen
     My first cobbler! July seemed to be filled with a lot of 'firsts' for Infinite Zest! I had fresh, local, organic blueberries from a farm that my parents have been going to for years here in the Triad, and I wanted to make something special. I also had some raspberries to throw in. The oat biscuit topping pairs perfectly with the berries and lemon juice/zest. 
[For substitutions: 1/2 C oat flour, 1/4 C sorghum flour, 1/4 C tapioca starch, 1 tsp xanthan gum, 1/2 C GF rolled oats, 5 T Earth Balance baking sticks, 1/2 C plain coconut milk yogurt]

 6. The Balm 57 Cocktail//here!
      It's pretty obvious that I love cocktails. I mean, next to food, I really love reading blogs like The Boys Club that post extensive info on liquor and classic drinks. This is also my first cocktail creation, recreated from a drink I had at Sticks & Stones! Dreamy blackberry whiskey pairs with agave, lemon juice, and mint for a refreshing summer drink. Bottoms up!

 7. Peach Arugula Salad with Lentils, Avocado + Roasted Jalapeno Vinaigrette//Sprouted Kitchen
     I'm trying to be better about making lunches for myself. Sometimes the day just gets away from me, then 4 rolls around, and suddenly I'm starting dinner with out having eaten since breakfast. Whoops! It's horrible. But I have SO many recipes saved that it makes no sense for me to just skip lunch. This decadent, perfect salad is everything I want for lunch. NC peaches, arugula from Guilford College's farm, French lentils, avocados, and the best roasted jalapeno shallot vinaigrette. The dressing will burn your nostrils a bit, but what's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Go make this pronto!

8. Zucchini Fritters//Smitten Kitchen
    Perfection in the kitchen is not easily reached, but when it is, it creates quite a sensation. You labor over something for so long: shredding the zucchini, pressing just the right amount of water out, cleaning your cast iron skillet for the first time JUST for these perfect little fritters, watching them like first-time parents to make sure they don't burn too much. It may seem tedious, like, who cares that much about some damn fritters? Well, when you take all of these extra precautions and treat it carefully, you are rewarded with this: the perfect fritter. Golden brown, puffy, and to-die-for with a cashew sour cream. Sometimes the extra effort really is worth it.