Saturday, February 9, 2013

Baked in Brooklyn

I can't believe it's been more than six months since I've posted here, but that just goes to show how time can get away from you. A few things have happened in those six months. I moved to a different part of Brooklyn and am loving it. I've been ordering from Seamless a lot more. I've also gotten back into baking.

I hope now I will also be back into this blog. For now, I'll start with a simple post of my second successful go at this chocolate oat cake recipe. It is great for dessert or breakfast, paired with earl grey or English Breakfast tea.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Healthy food at home: giving whole wheat pasta a second chance

For a vegetarian, I have a strange aversion to "healthy" recipes. I think, what a nice idea, but will it taste bland, unappetizing? In most instances I'd say I eat pretty healthy food on the regular but for some reason I often assume the healthy stuff will taste better if someone else has made it. Sometimes this is true, particularly for some of the textured veggie protein etc. that I am not yet familiar with how to season/prepare nicely, but you know what, a majority of the food I make is tasty, dammit, and I should have more faith in making "healthy" recipes that taste just as good.

I've also long had an aversion to whole wheat or multigrain pasta, coming to the premature conclusion that I'd rather have regular pasta but just eat less of it. I may have been too hasty in this decision. It really isn't so bad when you flavor it properly. Case in point, a linguine with cherry tomato and white wine recipe I found on Earth 911's website. I made this on Monday, using most of the same ingredients (except I switched oregano for parsley) and I'm still eating from the batch today (and they'll probably still be leftovers for tomorrow!) Suprisingly this simple concotion of whole wheat linguine, tomatoes, asparagus and parmesan cheese even tastes good when reheated in the microwave (and I hate warming up pasta in the microwave). The asparagus is pleasingly crunchy and the sauce feels flavorful without being heavy. I would definitely add this dish to my summer kitchen repertoire.

Sidenote: I took a knife skills class at Brooklyn Kitchen last night which taught me all the things I've been doing wrong and also inspired me to start making my own veggie stock. I'm hoping this whole cooking-my-own healthy-stuff kick is something that'll last.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Christmas in July: Chickpea Stew without the Chicken

Smells of cinnamon wafting through the kitchen remind you of Christmas, right? Add cumin, cilantro, chickpeas, zucchini, and tomatoes for a fun and flavorful, wonderfully beany delight for Christmas in July. recipes can be pretty hit or miss--they're all centered on being healthy, which doesn't always translate to tasting good. But this chickpea stew recipe is the third of my successful attempts at recipes from the site and probably the most repeatable.

It's simple, especially since you don't need to add the chicken if you're a veggie like me.  Pretty much use everything else and swap the chicken for veggie broth and you're good to go.

The flavors in this dish are very Middle Eastern, mild and tongue-pleasing: all characteristics which determine how often I'm likely to re-make a dish.

I actually made it two nights ago but didn't end up eating it for lunch yesterday. It tastes just as good two days later.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Being a Health Nut...Sort Of

Groupon/LivingSocial/Bloomspot/GoogleOffers/other-similiar-sites-I-have-not-yet-learned-about can be great sources for getting you hooked on a particular place or service...right? I've read how Groupon ruins relationships, how people are obsessed with getting a deal for some activity they never before wanted to try. As it becomes increasingly easier to be a consumer, I'm sure all this buying leads to waste, disappointment when a purchased deal goes unused and expires, and perhaps, arguments between friends and loved ones.

I certainly am not immune to the sway of a good deal, though I can pretty easily talk myself out of a 3/5/7-course meal that I wouldn't have had in the first place. After all, I can eat enough on my own without being encouraged to eat MORE. My obsession with these sites mainly lies in snatching up the gym/fitness/yoga-related deals. Recently it's gotten to the point where I had enough deals going at once that I needed to create a spreadsheet to keep track of all of my classes and when they would expire.

This has my coworkers and friends thinking I'm really dedicated to exercise. Well, maybe. I definitely am a little obsessive/compulsive about planning and what better to plan than something you can do on your own without worrying about other people's scheduling? Looking back now, I haven't actually gotten hooked on any of these places I've bought deals to. They were ok. Tolerable. Sometimes even entertaining. But my favorite dance classes and new favorite yoga studio are places I found out about through internet searches, past experiences in D.C., and word of mouth.

I think this means I'm done with purchasing random deals for awhile. I'm quite satisfied with my Zumba and Hip Hop Fitness classes with Carly Mayo at M Dance Fitness, any of the FIT, basics or techniques classes at Dhoonya, and so far all of the yoga classes I've taken at Kula.

But then again, I just received an email about a new site called GoRecess that lets you search for workout types by what you're in the mood for, location, and day. I think I'm sticking to my guns for awhile but because I'm evil, it's your turn to go nuts. Happy exercising!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Middle Eastern Cooking at Home

"It's all in the presentation" is a phrase that oft comes to mind when thinking of a great meal out or an elaborate meal prepared at home. For me, this is true even before the food hits the plate. There's something about certain containers that get me especially in the mood to cook. Perhaps being able to see the potential for food inside and being able to gauge its freshness at a glance is the quality that most draws me to the mason and pickling jars.

This past weekend I finally fulfilled my months-long goal of acquiring some jars of my own thanks to an afternoon stop in ps coffee tea n spices post brunch at Juventino.

My new collection of 2 baby jars, a medium-size mason jar, and a large metal tin with snappy closure is just the beginning of what I hope to be a beautiful friendship with food preservation/storage. The first occupant of the two baby jars was an Afghan cilantro chutney I prepared from a not-too-involved recipe in a new cookbook that is all Middle Eastern, all vegetarian (in other words, the best thing ever). The cookbook promised this stash would keep for 2 weeks, but I'm already 1.5 bottles in so I'm not able to confirm this timeline at this juncture, but what a great first foray into the use of these wonderfully cute devices!

This next part doesn't have so much to do with containers so much as the wonderful surprise of an elaborate, slightly time-consuming meal actually turning out really good. I'm not sure I've been this surprised at such a feat since my early years as a vegetarian attempting to make elaborate Indian and Thai dishes for holidays and family member's birthdays.

If you're a tomato lover, you will love this dish...sundried and fresh tomatoes (cherry, beefsteak, Roma--you choose), basil, scallions, and some other stuff rolled into balls or kufteh in a tomato pastey sauce. I thought I'd defy the recipe's suggestion and serve over couscous but Campanelle pasta was definitely the better choice. This foray turned out to be one of those dishes with the potential of being light yet filling. It only turned out to be heavy and filling because it was so surprisingly tasty, I had trouble putting my fork down.

The best lesson from this experience was actually something Ms. Frizzle told me many moons ago (my fellow former Magic School Bus fans, you know what I'm talking about): "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" What a motto to live by in the kitchen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vegan Food Made with Love (the Loving Hut)

Amidst the hubbub along the Midtown stretch of Seventh Ave., it would be easy to walk on by the small vegan enclave Loving Hut without realizing you missed it. Don't let its size fool you. Their food packs a punch. And with vegan and vegetarian celebs staring down at you from the wall, you may very well nod your head and ask yourself the same question that appears on the wall, "these smart, beautiful, talented people are vegetarian. Why aren't you?"

There's not much to the decor otherwise and the TV is set to a channel with multiple language translations of English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic (to name a few), sometimes with something cultish on air...something about smiling or happiness. But none of this matters. The fare will truly make you smile.

At the Loving Hut, Latin, Asian, and American vegan goodies converge on a menu prepared to satisfy your palate. On my first two trips, I delved into the Latin-inspired section of the menu. Both the protein quesadilla (stuffed with soy protein, sweet peppers, Daiya cheese and chile pasilla) and the veggie burrito (a mix of veggies, rice and beans) satiated my hunger. If the quesadilla and burrito were to go head-to-head in the metaphorical boxing ring, I'd definitely be in the corner of the protein quesadilla.

Round two: curry burger vs. mac n cheese burger. This one isn't a fair fight since the latter isn't actually a burger. The former is reminiscent of those Indian-spiced patties you can buy at Trader Joe's but this edition is made of a veggie/oatmeal union topped with what you may have guessed by now is my favorite topping: guacamole.

The latter is not a burger at all as I initially expected when I ordered it for lunch pickup during the work week. Once I delved into the creamy goodness of tapioca cheese, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, soy protein, and sauteed onions topped with Daiya cheese, I soon forgot all about my ambitions for mac n cheese in sandwich form. Saying this dish is delish is an understatement. (Not having eaten meat in 15 years, I try to guess what veg dishes would send my non-veg friends over the moon and the mac n cheese burger, I think, could be a strong contender).

A close second might be the BBQ soy sandwich which I've had a handful of times. It's saucy, melty goodness that has comforted me many an evening post workout.

And last but not least, I finally delved into the Asian section of the menu with the vegan delight, a medley of stew protein, sweet peppers, scallion and cabbage in a sweet barbecue sauce). Vegan Asian dishes are usually last on my exploration list just because there are a wide variety of places that offer tofu-based dishes. Loving Hut shattered this notion because there's a lot more you can do than just steam or fry tofu. The flavors in this plate are just as delicious as those that appear in sandwich form.

In short, if you're looking for an excellent and quick vegan meal and you happen to be in Midtown (and aren't scrambling like the dickens to get the hell out), Loving Hut is the spot to stop in to satiate your veggie needs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Scrambled tofu makes an excellent egg alternative

Either I've been really lazy lately or busy with other things...Who am I kidding? It's usually a combination of the two.

About a month ago I posted about sort of trying out a diet. It only lasted for a week and I didn't follow it to a T but I was inspired by some of the suggested recipes. In addition to the veggie lentil soup I reviewed last time, I also recommend the breakfast tofu scramble--a nice alternative to eggs. I only followed the recipe loosely as I lacked some of the spices, but it turned out pretty great. All you need is tofu--I suppose soft tofu would work best for crumbling purposes, but I used the extra firm I had in the fridge and it worked just as well-- mushrooms, spinach, salt, and pepper. And as is in my nature, I topped it off with Sriracha.

It's so light and quick to make that even a lazy person such as myself doesn't mind making it in the mornings before work. For extra fun, have some tortilla on the side. Heat it up in a pan and serve alongside or make yourself a breakfast taco.

Semi-related anecdote: I got the spinach for this faux omelette scramble from this Caribbean market in my neighborhood that has a stellar vegetable selection that is much more affordable than neighboring grocery stores. The last time I went I walked away with a full head of spinach (can I call it that?), scallions, kale, carrots, celery, poblano peppers, oregano, rosemary, parsley, lentils, and an onion all for less than $12! I chuckle to myself whenever I pass it because it's called The Meat Barn even though they mostly sell vegetables, fruits, beans, and Caribbean spices.