Vegetable-Packed Miso Soup

Today, I needed to take a break of all the holiday indulgences I’ve been enjoying.  They’ve been impossible to avoid.  I baked my first pie this week, the break room at work has been littered with cookies and candy, and yesterday we got a package in the mail straight from Jeremy’s mom in Georgia with southern-style holiday treats.  I recently heard that the average American gains 1-2 pounds during the holiday season each year.  Which doesn’t sound like a lot…except that most of us never lose it again.  Add that up over the course of a few decades and you’ve got a pretty sizeable problem.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to deprive yourself of all the sweetness that the holiday season brings.  I am the worst (THE WORST!) at staying away from tempting goodies.  For me, the best solution is to load up on healthy foods when I can so that I’m simply not that hungry when I’m faced with items that don’t fit into my healthy eating plan.  Yeah, I’ll still eat them, but I’ll have smaller portions.

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This soup, with its nourishing veggies and umami-filled broth is a good way to step back from the holiday fray…so you’ll be even more ready to fully enjoy that holiday meal.  I used bonito flakes in the broth for a more authentic miso flavor.  You can find them at a well-stocked asian grocery store, but feel free to substitute low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (the miso and soy sauce will add plenty of their own saltiness at the end).

Miso Soup with Vegetables
makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
– 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
– 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
– 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
– 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– 6 cups water
– 2 cups lightly packed bonito flakes
– 3 carrots, halved and sliced
– 2 heads baby bok choy, thinly sliced
– 1 block medium-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
– 3 Tbs miso paste
– soy sauce, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute longer.

2. Add water.  Place bonito flakes in a mesh container (I used a nut-milk bag) and immerse in the water to steep.  You just want to be able to remove the flakes once they’ve imparted their flavor.  Add carrots and white sections of bok choy and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Lower heat and remove bonito flakes.  Add leafy sections of bok choy and stir until wilted.  Add tofu.

4. Ladle some broth into a bowl and add miso paste.  Stir until miso has dissolved and return to stock pot.  Taste and add soy sauce, if desired.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Ok, so my first week of “freedom” from school has been much less productive than I had anticipated.  I am coming to the conclusion that the internet is an evil dementor (Harry Potter reference, sorry) and is sucking my life away.  I love having information and ideas right at my fingertips, but sometimes accessibility cheapens things.  Does that make sense?  My brain has been retrained to flit from one webpage to another, not to quietly enjoy a morning coffee or spend an hour wrapped up in a book.  I’ve only recently come to this realization and have not yet decided what to do (or even if anything must be done).

Do any of you have the same problem?  Have you done anything about it?

Ok, enough with randomness.  On to food!

I made these sloppy joes for my vegetarian boyfriend and we both loved them.  The chipotle peppers and barbecue sauce added a lovely, smoky flavor and the combination of black beans and edamame kept the filling from being too heavy.  I promised Jeremy that I would start repeating some of his favorite recipes (I’m guilty of never doing the same thing twice…possibly a manifestation of internet-induced attention deficit?) and this one is going in the regular rotation.  Enjoy it with seasonal veggies or oven-fries.

Find the recipe here at Vegetarian Times online.  The only change I made was not to bother with low-fat barbecue sauce or cheese.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to another comfort food recipe I’ve been loving this week.  The BEST rice pudding from Gilt Taste.  Don’t do like I did and decide that the 1/4 cup rice to 3 cups milk ratio is wrong.  It’s right.  Next time, I will trust them completely.  :)

* I added this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday.

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese

Hello!  I feel like I should apologize for my long absence.  In the last several weeks, real life has trumped cyber life and I decided it would be best to wait until things settled down before getting back into the kitchen and on dishesanddishes.  There was the wrap-up of my final term in nursing school, graduation(!), a visit from my parents, and a trip up to beautiful Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.

The view from outside our hotel.

The San Juan islands are amazing.

On the ferry to Orcas.

Even Dan got to enjoy his favorite activity.

I’ve been catching up on sleep, reinstating some self-care (hello exercise and yoga!), and working through the process of getting my nursing license and looking for jobs.  I tend to shy away from instability and uncertainty and so I’m sure these next few months of battling it out in a tough job market and seeing what turns up will be a real learning process for me.  The up-side of unemployment?  I have time to cook.  :)

Yay cast-iron!

My mom gave me a cast-iron skillet as a graduation gift and a used it for the first time with this simple sauté of crookneck squash, red onions, spinach, and goat cheese.  It was a delicious side dish and the perfect answer to the end-of-summer’s glut of squash.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

How do you deal with change?  Do you welcome it or dread it? 

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese
makes 6 servings
inspired by Happyolks taco version

Ingredients
– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
– 3 crookneck squash, cubed
– 1 tsp red wine vinegar
– 1 tsp dijon mustard
– a few handfuls of spinach
– 2 oz goat cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add squash, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in red wine vinegar and mustard until well incorporated.  Add spinach and stir for another minute, just until wilting.  Remove pan from heat and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.  Toss a few times and serve warm.

* I shared this post with this week’s Superfood Sunday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My oh my, I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I put up my last recipe.  Between wrapping things up for graduation (I finish in 2 weeks!) and lying in pools my own sweat (ew) in my hot apartment, I’ve been seriously lacking in energy lately.  I tend to believe that there are few problems a good helping of nutrition can’t solve…does anyone have any good tips for breaking out of a low-energy slump?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Because of the recent temperatures and my unfortunate lack of air-conditioning, I’ve been focusing on creating meals that require little, if any, cooking, baking, or boiling.  While this one does not completely fit that mold, it comes pretty close and the leftovers kept me happy for days.  I even ate a few servings for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one from Whipped.  I changed the ingredients based on what I had in my kitchen and I omitted the mozzarella because…well, I was dealing with the discovery that I now have cellulite on my thighs.  I really recommend taking an extra few minutes to make the pickled cherry tomatoes.  They provide amazing little bursts of flavor and are easy to make.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
makes 8 servings
adapted from Whipped

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 large)
– 1 ear corn, kernel removed
– 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
– 2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
– 1 cup pickled tomatoes (see recipe below)
– 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– salt, to taste

Start by pickling the cherry tomatoes.  They will need at least an hour for the flavors to come together.

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss again.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Plate to Plate

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
– 3/4 cup water
– 4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp sugar
– a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 2 garlic cloves, gently crushed
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Mix the halved tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Pack gently into a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over until covered.  Replace the lid, give it a few good shakes, and leave it at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

* I shared this link with this week’s Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesday.

Cherry Tomato Focaccia

Bread-making is something of a tradition in my family.  My grandma, Alice, was famous in her Minnesota town for the making and sharing her perfect loaves of sandwich bread.  We would often spend part of our summer vacations at her lake cabin catching frogs, wakeboarding behind my uncle’s speedboat, and helping Alice make bread.  I still remember how satisfying it was to watch the dough slowly rise and then to punch it back down.  When my grandma passed away, each of the grandchildren were allowed to choose one item from her house (the same one my mom grew up in) to remember her by.  I took the enormous, battered bread pan.

My mom started her own tradition of making bread as a way to remember grandma Alice and she has become quite accomplished at it.  I gave it a few tries in my first post-college kitchens without much success.  I would have trouble getting the dough to rise, it would come out too dry, or after a day of work and care I would burn it.  I decided that perhaps I just wasn’t a baker and gave up for a while.  And then I made this focaccia.

Ok, so I burned it just a little but otherwise it was amazing.  I couldn’t believe that bread with such flavor and such a dense, springy crumb had come out of my kitchen.  On top of that, it was easy!  You make it over two days, which helped me sidestep the problem of bread-making becoming an all day project.  You just put the dough together, set it in the fridge, and forget about it until you have time to bake it the next day.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be tackling (and mastering) grandma Alice’s bread recipe next!

Cherry Tomato Focaccia
makes 1 large loaf
recipe adapted from the August issue of Vegetarian Times

Bread:
– 3 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour, plus more for kneading
– 1 tsp instant yeast (you will need water and sugar to activate it)
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp sugar
– 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the bowl and the pan

Topping:
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp thyme, chopped
– 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 tsp coarse salt

On the first day, activate yeast according to package directions.  Place flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Add activated yeast, olive oil and 1 cup of water.  Use your hands to mix together until a soft, shaggy dough forms.  It should be quite soft and sticky, but still knead-able.  Add a little more flour if it seems too sticky.  Knead gently for a couple of minutes and then pour some olive oil over the dough so that it does not stick to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and set in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

The next day, take the dough out a few hours before you plan to bake it so it can reach room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper and gently stretch the dough into a large rectangle.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes and stretch a little bit more, dimple-ing the top with your fingers.  Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil over the top, sprinkle with salt, and press cherry tomatoes, sliced side up, into the dough.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

* I shared this post with this week’s Foodie FridayMelt In Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, and My Meatless Monday.

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach and a *Giveaway*!

Ah, resolutions.  They are so easy to make and so hard to keep.  There are the annual New Year’s Resolutions we all make and break.  There’s the inevitable swimsuit season countdown.  And there are the (in some cases daily) promises that this will be the LAST TIME I gorge on Oreo cookies for dessert after my greasy grilled cheese dinner.  Obviously I say none of this from experience.  Obviously.

Regardless of what your health/fitness goals are, it’s hard to make changes last.  Whether it’s cutting down on soda or quitting smoking, it’s always easier to make resolutions than to keep them.   And long-term habits are what ultimately create health or illness.  Which is why I’m sharing a GIVEAWAY today from the health and fitness app/website Slimkicker.  SlimKicker is a website/app that turns your health and diet challenges into a game by giving you the tools to track your progress, reward yourself, and even compete with friends.

To win the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post with a fun and creative health, diet, or fitness challenge.  Slimkicker will pick will pick their favorite entry, add it as a challenge to their site, and give you an Ozeri Professional Kitchen Scale.  I’m seriously jealous of excited for whoever wins this.  (This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.)

source

I will be accepting entries until July 31st and then we’ll be contacting the winner.

I was thinking about what kind of challenge I would create for myself and decided it would definitely be to cook dinner at home more often.  For someone who writes a cooking blog, I do a poor job of feeding myself and my loved ones at the end of a busy day.  Even the simplest dinners cooked at home would save me tons of money and would be much healthier than take-out or (ahem) bar food.  So in honor of today’s giveaway, I’m sharing these Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach.  Fast, healthy, and affordable.  I guess there’s nothing too challenging about that!

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach
serves 2
from Not Without Salt

Note: You can find harissa paste in many well-stocked grocery stores or online.

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp butter
– 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
– 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (= 15oz can)
– 1 tsp harissa paste (add more for more spice)
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
– 2 cups fresh baby spinach
– generous scoop plain greek yogurt

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes, until softened.  Add harissa paste and allow to cook 2 minutes more.

2. Add chickpeas and sauté until warm and softened, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in mint, spinach, and olive oil.

3. Allow the residual heat to soften the spinach and divide into 2 bowls.  Top each bowl with a scoop of greek yogurt and serve with a slice of crusty bread, if you like.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.

Cherry Tomato and Yellow Squash Crumble

Just last week, I noticed the first cherry tomatoes and summer squashes in the farmer’s market.  We had a cool spring and so it seems that everything has been a bit delayed.  Now that summer is in full swing and I’m beginning to wonder just how we are supposed to survive without air conditioning, the local tomatoes and squashes have decided to grace us with their presence.  In another month, we’ll probably have more than we can handle.  For now, they still feel like a treasure.

I baked them into a savory crumble (although the vegetables’ natural sweetness also shone through) and we enjoyed it on our patio with tuna melts.

Later that night we went to a CD release show for a local band, Monarques (they are amazing!), and then met some friends at our favorite late-night spot.  Yup, summer.

What signals the arrival of summer in your world?

Cherry Tomato and Yellow Squash Crumble
makes 6 servings
adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine, July 2012

Ingredients
– 2 Tbsp butter
– 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if you like)
– 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
– 1 small yellow onion, chopped
– 3/4 lb small yellow squash, diced
– 1 generous pint (about 3/4 lb) cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and parsley together.  Melt butter in a skillet over low heat and pour a little more than half of it over the breadcrumbs, leaving enough in the pan to sauté vegetables.  Mix butter into breadcrumbs.

Add onion to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until soft, about 7 minutes.  Stir in squash and cook another 4 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and cook about 2 more minutes.  Season with salt.

Transfer mixture to a 9-inch square or equivalent baking dish.  Sprinkle cheese on top and then evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over everything.  Bake 25-30 minutes until top is lightly browned.  Serve hot.

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I shared this post with this week’s Hearth and Soul Hop, Slightly Indulgent TuesdayMelt in Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, My Meatless Mondays, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Asian Kale Salad with Tofu

It wasn’t until I started using kale in salads that I realized that leafy things could really make a satisfying lunch.  In general, I have to admit to not being in love with raw vegetables.  Sure, I’ll snack on some carrots in order to feel healthy and I’ll choke down a restaurant salad if I’ve been overindulging, but the raw things just don’t really tempt me a whole lot.  But there are a few exceptions.

I ate this almost every day last week and was actually disappointed when I ran out of my ingredients.  The combination of kale, marinated tofu, crunchy spring vegetables, and mildly spicy (is that an oxymoron?) dressing made this salad one I could look forward to.  It came together in very little time, making it perfect for a busy first week of the summer school term.  And unlike salads with more delicate leafy greens, I could make this in the morning and it wouldn’t be soggy at lunch.  Excellent.

Let’s talk just a minute about kale.  Kale is a nutritional powerhouse that belongs to the cruciferous family.  It’s an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C (obligatory nurse-y note: too much Vitamin K can actually be harmful if you’re on an anticoagulant drug like Warfarin…talk to your prescriber before drastically changing you intake of leafy greens) as well as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s been shown to have anti-cancer properties and it can assist in lowering cholesterol.  In other words, you should eat it.

Asian Kale Salad with Tofu
serves 1
adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine

Ingredients
– 1 tsp grape seed oil (olive oil would work, too)
– 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
– 2 tsp rice vinegar
– 1 tsp honey
– 1 tsp soy sauce
– 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce (I used this kind)
– 3-4 leaves of green kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
– 1/2 cup shredded carrots
– a small handful fresh shelled peas
– 1/4 cucumber, diced
– 3 oz. Thai-flavored baked tofu, sliced (Wildwood brand is fantastic)

Make the dressing.  Combine sesame oil, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with grape seed oil.  Using your hands, “massage” the kale for about a minute until it is softened.  Toss with dressing, carrots, peas, and cucumber.

Plate the salad and top with tofu.

* I shared this salad with Melt in Your Mouth Monday and My Meatless Mondays.

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Raisins

One of my favorite bits of kitchen wisdom is that good things can come from mistakes.  My new favorite summer salad began as a failed attempt to make an Indian carrot halwa.  For some reason, I decided that if I was already grating one carrot for the recipe, I might as well grate half a dozen more.  I ended up with about 8 cups of shredded carrots but decided that I hated my halwa (my fault…I did not even remotely follow the recipe!).  What to do with the rest?

This moroccan carrot salad was the perfect solution.  I ended up making a single serving of it every day for about a week.  The pre-shredded carrots stayed fresh in an airtight container and the salad came together in no time.  I highly recommend this for days when it feels too hot to cook.  It is best eaten on a patio in the shade!

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Raisins
makes 2 servings

Ingredients
–  2 cups shredded carrots
–  1 Tbsp olive oil
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– pinch of salt
– 2 Tbsp raisins

Mix everything together and serve.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back FridayPennywise Platter and Wellness Weekend.

Ayurvedic Vata Apple Breakfast Bowl

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with personality quizzes.  You know the kind, they came every month in Seventeen magazine (or Cosmo, if you wanted to be more risqué).  There were entire websites dedicated to helping visitors learn what kind of friends they were, which Jane Austen characters they most closely resembled, and, of course, whether or not their crushes liked them back.  I remember losing hours immersed in these quizzes…talk about wasted youth.

Apparently, I still have a penchant for that kind of entertainment because when I stumbled on a site offering an Ayurvedic dosha quiz, I just couldn’t resist.  Basically, in Ayurveda (an ancient system of medicine originating in India) there are 3 basic body types, or doshas: Vata, Kapha, and Pitta.  I have to admit to knowing very little else and so I encourage you to do a web search if you want to learn more.  HeyMonicaB is a fun site for that.  From my quiz (ok, I took a few) I learned that I am a Vata type, which is wonderful news because Vatas are encouraged to eat plenty of butter or ghee and sweet things.  Woohoo!  On the flip side, a lot of raw produce is discouraged.  :(

This is the breakfast I devised based on what I learned about Vata diet recommendations. I can’t guarantee that it is faithful to Ayurvedic principles, but I can assure you that it is absolutely delicious!

Vata Apple Breakfast Bowl
serves 1

Ingredients:
– 3/4-1 cup water
– 1 apple, cubed
– 1/4 oats or 1/2 cup leftover cooked rice
– 1/2 tsp turmeric
– 1/2 tsp cardamom
– several dashes cinnamon
– a dash each of ground nutmeg and cloves
– 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
– 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
– a generous pat of butter

Heat water over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add apples and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  While the apples are cooking, add remaining ingredients to the skillet and stir occasionally.  The liquid that is not soaked up will form a delicious, flavorful syrup. Serve hot.

* I shared this post on this week’s Simple Lives Thursday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Whole Foods WednesdayGluten Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.