Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Weekly Eats Eleven (3/21 - 3/27)

Post Workout Snack: Toast with Chocolate Peanut Butter + Banana Chips

I was desperate for a banana/chocolate PB toast but was out of banana chips to the rescue! It was actually still delicious and I loved the crunch from the chips. Chocolate peanut butter is one of my favorite snack additions because its a nice little twist on regular PB!

Cooked, leftover rice plus frozen mixed vegetables and eggs, is a one way ticket to the laziest and tastiest dinner. Next time I think I'd like to use Chinese 5-Spice powder instead of the chili powder, which sort of numbed the other spices in this dish. However, for something that took less than 10 minutes, this filling take on fried rice certainly did the trick. To make vegan, simply sub crumbled tofu or edamame instead of eggs.

Feast: Vegan Okonomiyaki Panckes with Tonkatsu sauce, steamed Edamame, and Cold Marinated Tofu

This vegan, Asian-inspired feast was sooo good. Every once in a while, I like to make a few meal components instead of just one main entree. It makes dinner feel like something special, because maybe it took just a tiny more effort than one dish. First, I prepped the cold tofu salad which comes from America's Test Kitchen's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. The tofu is marinated in a mix of seaweeds, mirin (sweetened sake), rice vinegar, and vegan fish sauce. To serve, strain with a slotted spoon and top with crumbled nori and toasted sesame oil. I've never had tofu served like this before, but it was delicious! We had it the next day in cabbage leaves, which was also wonderful. Finally, the main even if you will, were these Japanese vegetable pancakes loaded with vegetables and topped with vegan mayo and a ketchup/tamari sauce. These pancakes were absolutely delicious. The mix of the sauces on top took it over the edge and made them perfect. To round everything out, I served all of this with some simple cucumber sake martinis - equal parts dry sake and vodka, with thinly sliced/mandolined cucumber.

Dinner: Cheater Pad Thai

Step 1: boil noodles. Step 2: make sauce. Step 3: mix noodles with sauce and miscellaneous vegetables. That's really it, and that's why "cheater" is in the name of this recipe. I love traditional versions of pad Thai, but this quick and easy version will satisfy your cravings as well. I've made this recipe many times before, but this time I added sliced cucumber, coleslaw mix (green/red cabbage, carrots), and that's it! To make this last longer/serve more people, I multiplied all of the ingredients by four to make enough for one pound of rice noodles. This is also delicious served hot and cold.

Imbibe: Beetbox at 1618 Wine Lounge

Creamy, vinegary, sharp, and bitter - the Beetbox cocktail at 1618 is absolutely perfect. Besides its Pantone hued color, the bitter tastes of Campari mixed with a sweet/sour beet shrub made the best combination. The mint on top is a nice, bright balance to all things bitter and sour.

Imbibe: Kimchi Gibbler at 1618 Wine Lounge

Kimchi in a cocktail? I know what you're thinking. But let's not forget that I have some sort of inherent duty to try all of the strange cocktails that I can find. So after some (very brief) deliberation, I decided to give it a go. Finely strained kimchi juice, mixed with just a touch more of sriracha, local gin, and lemon make a much lighter riff on a bloody Mary. The balance in this cocktail was surprising, as I was expecting the kimchi to be overpowering, but the flavors together made a wonderfully spicy and sour drink.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weekly Eats Ten (3/14 - 3/20)

Snack: Big Cluster Granola

Granola is one of my favorite things to keep on rotation in my kitchen. Why, you might ask? First of all, it's stupidly overpriced to buy it in the grocery store, especially the gluten-free variety. There are also endless variations on granola, so you will never get bored with it. Lastly, it travels wonderfully, and can be served in many different ways. I enjoy it with just a little coconut milk (I don't like to ruin the beautiful crunch) or almond milk in a bowl, but straight from the bag works too. If I skip breakfast before work, I tote this large bag with me to work and eat it there. You could also top a baked sweet potato or apple with some, or sliced apples/bananas with peanut butter plus granola. The possibilities are endless! My point is, this granola is excellent and comes from Smitten Kitchen's book. It uses a lower temperature than most recipes, plus the addition of a slightly frothed egg white adds a simple little light twist to this snack.

Breakfast: Fried Rice with Spinach, Eggs + Sriracha

When I'm out of things in the fridge, I always turn to things like rice and eggs - or both. I'll make a pot of rice in my rice cooker the night before, and then make fried rice the next day. For this easy breakfast, I made a small batch of brown rice and then placed spinach on top to steam through. The next morning I fried the rice and spinach with some soy sauce, plus two beaten eggs. This makes a great, filling breakfast but also a quick lunch/dinner with minimal effort.

DIY Imbibe: Blood Orangecello

Limoncello is one of my favorite things to make during Christmas. It doesn't take too long but it also "steeps" while I can spend time working on other homemade gifts. However, after trying this blood orangecello (which takes much less time), I might be hooked. I have a slight obsession with blood oranges, as I may or may not have mentioned, and to combine them with vodka and sugar to make one of my favorite things, was nothing short of an epiphany. So far, I've had it on its own (which my friends think I'm crazy for doing) but I also mixed it with dry hopped cider, which was amazing. I might post a recipe soon using this in a cocktail so stay tuned!

Dinner: Smoky Tofu Sandwiches

Tofu sandwiches are one of my favorite things ever. I really liked this recipe, but next time I will definitely marinate the tofu for an hour instead of 30 minutes. For the pickled vegetables I used smoky fermented kale kraut, which perfectly complemented the smokiness of the tofu. I also added tomato, which is a must for all tofu sandwiches, and served it with some potato chips. Although there's not much to say about these sandwiches, they were still very very tasty and highly recommended. 

Dinner: Rainbow Rotini Pasta Salad

Usually I like to make something "festive" for St. Patricks Day, but this year I opted for this rainbow pasta salad, which I suppose is still festive (it's a stretch, I know). This recipe comes from Quick Fix Vegan, which is great for exactly what the title is. I loved all of the flavors of this recipe - the bright crunch from the peppers, salty brine from the olives, sweet dried cranberries, fresh parsley, plus a ton of dried herbs that I added. Pasta salads are also great for lunches as they pack/travel well. I can't wait to eat a ton of pasta salad come summertime!

Dinner: 1-pot Red Lentil Chili

It was very cold again this past weekend for the first time in a while, so I changed around my plans to make chili instead of something not as warming. Chili is one of my favorite Sunday meals because I am usually cooking for more than just us, plus it leaves a ton of leftovers to get us through Monday. Dana's recipes lately (but really, always) have been incredible, simple, fast, and tangible. I have quite a few of hers on my back burner right now to make soon. Anyways, this chili was stellar, and will definitely be made again. It's super simple to make, but was a hit with all of the non vegetarians in the household! I'd like to make a batch of this and freeze it for future meals too.

Imbibe: Jenever Cocktail with Pine Cone syrup

That is not a typo - pine cone syrup is a real thing. Most of the time when I go to the Marshall Free House, my favorite bar in town, one of the bartenders will rattle off something they've created recently and suggest that I try it. Luckily I know these bartenders rather well, and certainly do trust them. After listening to an intriguing, yet mysterious, introduction to this drink, I bit my tongue from asking "what's in it?" and just trusted him. He comes back with a glass of golden liquid, topped with basil. I absolutely love the first sip of a new drink. First thing I do, as snobby as it may seem, is to smell, paying attention to any aromas I can note and possibly match in the drink. Then, obviously, you sip, which I try to do slowly. And for me, there's always a little moment of anticipation between smelling and sipping. All I could say after this was "Wow" and then "What is in this?!". Jenever is the main ingredient here, which is a Dutch style (also called Holland gin), that I've been hankering to try for some time now. Plus the pine cone syrup, which that alone is insane but awesome and how have I never heard of that before?! Plus the basil on top, with its aromas released into the drink. This one is hard to describe - smooth, yellow chartreuse and slightly maple-esque. I will definitely be trying this again!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Favorites

1. now you can create the "perfect cocktail" at home - thanks to an app partnership with Absolut Vodka. It even times how long you should pour your shots for. I can't wait to try this!
2. all you need to know about Irish whiskey in 60 seconds
3. and here are some drinks to make with your new knowledge that you learned from above
4. these buddha doodles are so calming to read
5. since I'm trying not to go out for drinks too much, here's a great list of cocktails that requires only two ingredients
6. someone may have finally convinced me that making kimchi at home is a lot easier than it looks, and I swear this will be the summer than I can things (finally)
7. I know we aren't even close to blueberry season, but I will be making this galette as soon as it is
8. there's nothing I love more than taking a simple recipe and trying it in a different, much-more-complicated way to see which is best - as is the case with this stunning Israeli hummus recipe
9. here's an interesting piece on the dark history of eating green foods on St. Patricks Day
10. Thug Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites - and this rice noodle salad with peanut pesto looks tops

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekly Eats Nine (3/7 - 3/13)

Sick Remedy: Red Cabbage and Green Lentil Soup

As soon as I feel like I'm getting sick, I usually do a few things: rest, take vitamin C gummies, drink lots of tea, and make soup. I had most of a head of red cabbage in my fridge, so I decided to try this new soup to cure myself. In addition to what the recipe calls for, I added a ton of dried herbs: herbes de Provence, basil, dill, oregano, Italian herbs, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Plus I topped each bowl with a heavy drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which nicely complemented the red wine laden broth. This soup was a hit! Plus I'm convinced it drove my sore throat and fever away. I will definitely be making this simple, peasant style soup again.

Since we are preparing to move in about a month or so, I'm really cutting down on my food budget and trying to reuse scraps as much as possible. I like being on a budget because it forces me to be creative when I recipe plan and think of ways to re-use produce/scraps. Plus there is something very comforting about simple food - it almost takes me back to the great vegetarian food my mom made for me growing up. I grew up with her cooking tofu and tempeh every week, and I definitely have her to thank for my interest/knowledge of vegetarian food. These BBQ tempeh wraps take no effort or time at all, but rest assured they are amazing. Instead of a "typical" thick, tomato paste thickened BBQ sauce, I used a local Eastern NC BBQ sauce which has a lot of vinegar. I loved this version, but am excited to try it with regular BBQ sauce too. I added hot sauce plus some dried basil/oregano to each wrap, which was an excellent addition! I'm sure these would also be lovely for a picnic.

I finally got to put my Dutch oven to use when I made this amazing recipe for dirty rice and beans. This recipe originally comes from Quick Fix Vegan, by one of my favorite authors, but luckily I found the recipe online as well (link above) for anyone who wants to try it! Although it needs to bake in the oven for about an hour, the prep is minimal and the flavor is super authentic. I've never made dirty rice, and I must say that the vegan variety tastes just like the real thing! Next time I think I'll add some sauteed vegan chorizo to bulk up the protein. Note: I used basmati rice instead of quick cooking rice, so I had to increase my cooking time to about 90 minutes. 

Imbibe: El Chupacabra

Sometimes I know exactly what kind of cocktail I want, and other times I don't. When the latter scenario occurs, I usually flip through my Drinks board on Pinterest until I find something that looks good. So I (thankfully) decided on this drink last night, El Chupacabra, which might just be one of the best ones I've had in a while. From what I can tell, it's a sort of riff on a Pimm's Cup, with the addition of white tequila and a float of Cynar on top. The outcome is an incredibly cucumber infused cocktail that will be perfect for summer. The combination of sour, sweet, fruity Pimms, and bitter Cynar is absolutely perfect. I don't know if I've mentioned that Cynar (artichoke liqueur) is my latest boozy crush, but I can't get enough of it. It's bitter like my best friend Campari, but it has a much deeper, darker flavor. 

Breakfast: Buttered Toast with 6-minute egg, kale sauerkraut + hot sauce

Getting up for work at 5 AM can be a struggle, but it's getting a lot better. I rediscovered my love for 6 minute eggs this weekend when I made a couple for a quick snack in between meals. This smoky kale kraut is my new favorite thing too. It reminds me of smoky, slow-cooked collard greens, which is taken even further when you add hot sauce on top. These eggs might be my new early morning go to because you can put the water on to boil while you get ready! By the time it's boiled - you're ready and just waiting to eat!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Favorites

1. huge heart eyes for these breakfast waffle nachos
2. vegan pizza needs to happen more often in my kitchen
3. I feel like I've waited my entire life for side by side comparisons of films and their re-makes
4. how funky cool are these psychedelic spring rolls?
5. matcha can go on anything - even dusted with sugar over churros
6. the ultimate supercut of the fourth wall being broken
7. bourbon plus girl scout cookies - need I say more?
8. here's what's next for cocktails in 2016
9. cereal milk, chia, and Lucky Charms are the healthiest/least healtgy breakfast combo that I would totally justify if I could
10. how did my beloved negroni become today's favorite cocktail?
11. so much love for black sesame thumbprint cookies
12. one of my absolutely favorite drinks - in frozen form!
13. literally the only shamrock shake I care about - she had me at peppermint and matcha!
14. in honor of International Women's Day, here is my favorite round-up of the badass women of Greensboro (my hometown and current stomping grounds)
15. I thought this cake would be my gateway excuse to buying culinary grade matcha, but it turns out it's my excuse to buy a ridiculous amount of fancy marshmallows (earl grey?!!)

Little Ham having his daily brushing session.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Weekly Eats Eight (2/29 - 3/6)

Travel: Potato Bhajji Dosa at Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill, NC

We took a tiny little trip to Chapel Hill with our friend last week and discovered some new spots that we will definitely be returning to! First stop was an appetizer, in liquid form, at the Lantern Restaurant - the perfect house sake martini with thinly mandolined cucumber in the midst of a well-lit red-lanterned bar. The atmosphere reminded me of a scene in Only God Forgives and from what I can tell, this restaurant left much more of a good impression. The restaurant's creator has also written a cookbook for those of you interested - Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes.

Next stop was Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe, tucked away in a sultry alley off the beloved Franklin Street. We walked into the "bar entrance", which consisted of some taps, bottles, and desserts, and one of my most coveted gluten-free beers caught my eyes high up on a shelf (thank god) - Omission IPA. I've never seen this beer in NC and was only lucky enough to receive one in a free prize bundle from them last summer, so I was certainly thrilled about this! Curryblossom has a note on their menu that everything is GF (minus samosas and breads like naan, of course) and that anything vegetarian can be made vegan. That being said, I had a ton of options, but I opted for this potato bhajji dosa that was basically the size of my forearm. I couldn't tell you the last time I had Indian food, mostly because I always prefer making it at home, but I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy dining experience. Plus this dosa was tops. I absolutely can't wait to return and try something new!

Travel: Vieux Carre at The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, NC

Truth time: I have quite a few books. Something in the ballpark of 200+ if we include cookbooks. A fair amount of these also happen to be booze related - historical writings, recipe books, and all around guides to having/tending to a bar. This is my excuse for knowing about weird drinks that aren't on your common drink list. I'm still stuck on/in love with The Bar Book - an A-Z compendium of spirits, brief bits of their histories and how they're made, plus recipes sneaked in between. Plus I love anything in alphabetical order. So somewhere in the "B" section I stumbled upon Benedictine and snuggled next door was a recipe for the Vieux Carre. This herbal French liqueur was created by monks many moons ago, and creates a perfectly balanced cocktail when combined with rye, cognac, vermouth, and two types of bitters. Enough ranting - I was beyond thrilled to find this on the menu at the Crunkleton, which might be the coolest bar I've ever had the pleasure of being at. With over 500 spirits, the possibilities are endless, but I decided to go for my coveted Benedictine twice - the second in a Rye Monk cocktail featuring Green Chartreuse, Apple Brandy, as well as bitters. The atmosphere has the cozy feel of a library, the kind where you'd like to stay all night. We had such a great time there that I'm already plotting my return, and exactly what drinks I'll try next!

So I sort of failed at cooking last week and ate out far more than I'd ever like to allow again. But after an unexpected nine hour work day, I still managed/forced myself to break out a cauliflower pizza with my leftover cauli. I've had this type of crust before, made by some friends, but have never actually tried it myself. It was so dead simple to make, much easier than a traditional GF yeasted dough, but I think next time I will make the crust much thinner. It was cooked all the way through, but still a tad mealy for my tastes. Then again, I'll never turn down homemade pizza like this. We topped ours with good store-bought pizza sauce with no crazy ingredients, peppers and mushrooms which were pre-cooked slightly before baking, and a ton of the best dried herbs. My favorite pizza herbs are basil, oregano, pinch of thyme, fennel seeds (this is key), Italian herbs, and crushed red pepper flakes. I honestly just might need to invest in Penzey's pizza seasoning, which seems to have a lot of fennel in it, so they know how to do it well.

I've been craving this healthy salad since I saw it on this lovely blog, and it did not disappoint. You could change up the greens on this, or make it with all cabbage for a tangy slaw. I used half romaine and half red cabbage, but I think this would make a great kale salad if you massaged the dressing in. The crunch of the sweet peppers and red cabbage are a great addition, plus super healthy edamame and peanuts. Now onto this dressing...this dressing that tastes like peanut sauce but is most definitely not that, at all. Instead there's tahini paste, red curry paste, some tamari, rice vinegar, etc. that all make up this incredible power house salad. I might have to use this sauce again as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or to glaze tofu with. This will make a great lunch too - just pack the dressing separate - and I might add some cold quinoa too next time!

Snacks: Salmon Sushi Rolls with Peanut Sauce

I think it's so funny how food cravings work for people. For me, sometimes I can be dead set on getting my hands on the new vegan Ben & Jerry's (still haven't seen it) or getting a basket of my favorite fries outside. Other times, I daydream fondly of something but am honestly too lazy to go get it or make it. Sunday, the man got a craving for sushi after he peeped the new sushi burrito trend that's going on right now. And there was no silence of this until we had the sashimi in the basket, alongside some toasted nori, avocado, and peanut sauce. I thought it was pretty cute to be honest. Luckily I still had a bag of sushi rice, so he whipped up some amazing rolls. He didn't use a recipe but it's essentially - cooked/cooled sushi rice, sashimi, avocado, cucumber, sriracha, black/white sesame seeds, some peanut sauce. Roll and cut! I was amazed that I could still roll sushi even though I've only made it once - and I think this was a sign that it certainly needs to happen more often.

Looking ahead: my budget will be fairly tight this week, so I'll be trying not to cook anything frivolous until I can afford to. I'm looking forward to simple meals based on things like pantry ingredients, such as rice and beans. I felt a little uninspired this past week, so I'm hoping that going back to basic things will reinvigorate me this week. I have some new cookbooks too that I hope to be cooking from very soon! I can't wait to write some more about my little food and booze travels. Thanks for reading :) 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Weekly Eats Seven (2/22 - 2/28)

Dinner: Pasta with improvised Vegan Bolognese Sauce

I've been trying to make the most of my leftover produce/odds and ends lately, so I decided to make a quick vegan bolognese sauce to top pasta with! My roommate had some leftover cooked tomatoes with herbs and spices, to which I added some onion and bell pepper I had cut up in the fridge. I sauteed the vegetables while I "steamed" meatless chickn tenders in the microwave. When the tenders were done, I mashed them with a potato masher, then added to the vegetables along with a little tamari/vegan Worcestershire/herbs/spices. Once this cooked down, I added the tomato sauce and let it boil on medium heat until the pasta was ready. The sauce turned out wonderfully and it was incredibly filling! 

Snacks: Chewy Almond Coconut Granola Bars

I've had this wonderful book by Joy the Baker for a couple of years now, but have never made a recipe from it until now (somehow)! These granola bars contain only pantry ingredients, so I had to try them out. I made them GF/DF by using vegan butter (to which I added dried orange peel), GF rolled oats, and GF oat flour. These granola bars were perfect in comparison to the last ones I made. They held up wonderfully and stayed chewy for a full week after I wrapped them in plastic wrap, plus their flavor never dulled. This might be my new go-to granola bar recipe. 

There are some nights when it gets too late and I have zero interest in cooking anything. But most of the time, I try to power through and just make something simple. When I tell you that these peanut noodles took as much effort as soaking rice noodles and making a sauce, that is seriously all it takes. And obviously I didn't regret making the effort by that point! Peanut noodles are my favorite and these were simply delicious, especially with the addition of snow peas, sambal, and lime.

Let me just say...these burgers are EVERYTHING! Perfect texture, flavor profile, and mouth feel somewhat akin to a real burger. There is a vegan burger in town that I like to order that also contains cauliflower, so I'm starting to wonder if this is the secret ingredient to a great veggie burger. Plus I love Old Bay, and it complemented the flavors of the chives and cauliflower beautifully. We served these on GF bread with vegan mayo, tomato, and lettuce, with a side of homemade oven fries as well. Doesn't get any better than this!

Night Out: Los Gordos Tex-Mex Cafe, Greensboro NC

We went out this past weekend and tried a Tex Mex place in town for the first time. It was the first restaurant with this cuisine that actually had GF options and was very accommodating for my dairy/gluten allergies. Finally we landed on these veggie fajitas - complete with Mexican rice, vegan refried beans (no lard!), guacamole, and pico. The best part, hands down, were the homemade corn tortillas. It was so different from a regular Mexican place. Los Gordos is tiny, but cozy, and everything tastes so fresh, so flavorful. The tortillas were the kicker because I can't stop thinking about them, which struck a conversation about why haven't we made tortillas yet? This has to be the best Mexican/Tex Mex food I've had, and I can't wait to go back!

BIG NEWS: I am moving in two months! Well, okay, not that far from where I live now...but I will have a real, new (as in not built in the 1950s) kitchen, which I am so excited about. I am sharing this news for a couple of reasons: I'm looking for suggestions/ideas on how to eat down my fridge/freezer/pantry for easier moving, but also good ideas for "starting meals" during our first week at the new place - which will involve quite a bit of unpacking/re-arranging. I am SO excited to move, but also a tiny sad to leave my quaint little neighborhood which I've grown to love. Luckily we won't be too far away. Any tips or suggestions you all have would be much appreciated!