Dal, Saag “Paneer”, Raita & Naan

As you know well by now, Alex and I like making different cuisines in our kitchen. Sometimes we try to make it as authentic as possible and sometimes we try to incorporate different ingredients for the sake of experimentation or for using up what we have in the fridge. I think it is important to give yourself flexibility and room to breathe – do not hold yourself to such high standards that you are scared to try cooking the food of other cultures. Having said that, Alex and I are very aware that when we are preparing food from cultures other than our own, we will never be experts and our food will never be authentic. So when we made this feast, we were very conscious of the fact that it is simply Indian-inspired. We did not have all the traditional ingredients, so we have simplified the spices. I hope that makes these recipes accessible to you and that you are encouraged to try making these dishes.

When we go to our favorite local spot for Indian food, Radhika, Alex and I know we are going home with leftovers. It is one of those cuisines where we can’t help but order too much because 1) everything looks amazing and 2) the combinations of various plates is crucial to the experience! Like Thai food, when we go out for Indian we expect to get lots of plates and share. I cannot imagine going to an Indian restaurant and ordering Lamb Vindaloo and then sitting across from someone who ordered Veggie Korma and not getting to taste it. Ah, that would be torture! For me, the meal is made by the combination of the spicy, sweet, creamy, or tangy dishes on top of rice and bread.

With this in mind, Alex and I decided to make a full meal of Indian-inspired dishes. We have experimented with a few dishes in the past but had never made a full homemade feast. We had a great time preparing everything and an even better time eating it. Whether you want to try out just one dish or you want to go big and make the whole meal – enjoy!

Timing your feast:

  1. Prep your naan dough and let it rise 2-4 hours.
  2. In the last hour of dough rising, begin your Dal and let it simmer.
  3. Make your raita and pop it in the fridge so it’s ready when everything else is.
  4. Prep your ingredients for saag paneer and begin cooking the onions.
  5. Form and roll your naan so they’re ready for cooking. Melt butter.
  6. Add the other ingredients for the saag paneer and finish cooking – turn off heat and keep it warm!
  7. With everything else done – it’s time to cook your naan!
  8. Serve dishes and eat! 🙂

 

Naan

Since I’ve been having fun baking bread, we decided to try out Naan for the first time! It was so fun to make and it turned out amazing! It wasn’t quite as thin and crispy as we wanted it, so we’re excited to try it out again – but it bubbled up and had blackened bits just like in the restaurants, so we were thrilled and proud of ourselves.

Here is the naan recipe we used for guidance. Our notes and suggestions:

  • We left out the seeds.
  • Prep your dough earlier and let it rise for 2-4 hours. We didn’t plan in advance so we only let our dough rise 1 hour because we were hungry (it turned out great but we will try longer next time to see the difference).
  • Cook other parts of your meal during the last half hour of the rising process. Then roll your dough before you make your saag paneer and cook your naan last, once your saag is complete. That way it will be piping hot when you get to the table!
  • The hardest part for us was getting the dough to form a “teardrop” shape like they call for in the recipe. It was hard to control the dough and get it narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. We ended up using our hands to kind of push it into that shape but we also just decided it wasn’t our priority and kind of let it be whatever shape it wanted as long as it was thin!
  • Keeping it in the towel lined basket was perfect for keeping our breads piping hot until they were all ready and our dinner was served!

Dal

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin + more to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + more to taste
  • 1 sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes + juice
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • salt + pep to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add diced onion and let cook for a few minutes until softened but not brown. Note: a lot of recipes call for Ghee (clarified butter), I have never used this. You can juse olive oil or vegetable oil just fine.
  2. Add ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper (& japapeño if using), sugar, bay leaf, salt, pepper and lentils to the pot. Stir to ensure the lentils get coated in the oil and spices. Sauteé for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and rice vinegar, then pour in the vegetable stock. Bring it all to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. Let cook while you prep your other dishes!

Raita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (we use a Greek variety)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprinkle of cumin & coriander (optional)

Directions

Combing all the ingredients in a medium bowl (we use a tupperware so if we don’t eat it all we can easily cover it up and pop in fridge). Chill in the refrigerator until other dishes are done!

Saag “Paneer”

This dish of spinach, indian cheese, and spices is a favorite! My sister-in-law Jessica fell in love with Saag Paneer at her longtime favorite restuarant in DC, Masala Art because it is without fail a bright & fresh green color. However, she hates that when she and my bro try to make it at home it turns brownish! Alex and I aren’t as turned off by the brown as she is so it hasn’t bothered us in the past. BUT this time, it stayed green! I think it’s because we used a food processor to get the spinach really finely chopped and then we didn’t cook it for very long at all. We’ll see if using those same methods next time work magic again!

A lot of recipes give you instructions for how to make your own paneer (Indian cheese) at home but we have not yet attempted it! Instead, we use feta – not authentic but still delicious! We stick to a sheep’s feta that comes in a block and we cut it into small cubes. It has worked well for us but we are excited to make paneer at some point and try that out too!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cups fresh spinach, chopped VERY finely or blended in a food processor
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • sprinkle of cardamom & cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Use a food processor to finely chop the spinach. If you do not have a food processor, chop it as finely as possible with a knife.
  2. Heat a large sauteé pan with olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally so the onion softens and gets aromatic without browning too much. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Add a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.
  3. Add the spinach and stir. Then add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat before the spinach turns brown!
  4. Add the yogurt by the tablespoon, stirring after each one and stop when you achieve the desired creamy green appearance. Then add the feta blocks and stir.
  5. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, or cayenne pepper as needed!

After completing the Saag Paneer, put the top on to keep it warm and continue working on your naan! Once all dishes are done – plate your meal and serve! 🙂

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Have fun! 🙂

Spice Recommendations: We have enjoyed buying different Indian Spice Mixes from a spice store near us. It’s fun to add a bit of these mixes to these dishes. Right now we have Vindaloo VooDoo from SpiceStation. We have also purchased other curry mixes. However, the basic necessities are Cumin, Coriander, a pinch of Cinnamon & Cardamom, a little sugar and a little spice. So stick with those if you don’t have other mixes!

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Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Jumpstart your healthy eating routine with this Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini!

The other day, Alex and I both became aware that our bodies were feeling a little bit sluggish and our pants were fitting a juusssssst a little bit snugger. Recognizing that we had enjoyed ourselves quite a bit the last few months, with brunches, birthday parties, happy hours, homemade cookies & crackers, etc. we made a conscious decision to clean up our act the next few weeks.

I don’t know about you, but when we decide to get serious about eating healthy – we have to make a plan that will actually work for us and not try to limit ourselves so insanely that we can’t sustain it for more than a few days. We’re not paleo people or low carb people – we simply commit to being more conscious of our eating and supporting each other so we make healthy choices together.

Here’s our go-to philosophy for clean eating regimens:

  • conscious of portions – no mindless eating!
  • eat when we’re hungry, not out of boredom
  • no alcohol during the weekdays
  • no baked goods during the weekdays
  • don’t have unhealthy snacks & chips in the house
  • pack healthy lunches & eat dinners at home during the weekdays
  • prep healthy grains, protein and veggies in advance so meals are easy to put together

A few samples of what this looks like in practice:

  • Breakfast: Overnight Oats with raw nuts, seeds & berries (no PB)
  • Lunch:
    • Salad with filling protein & delicious veggies
    • Warm Quinoa Bowls
      • with roasted chicken, chard, tomatoes, and sriracha
      • with chickpeas, roasted kabocha squash, chard, tomatoes, and tahini
      • with chicken sausage, saurkraut, and roasted beets
    • Healthy Wraps (multigrain or flax wraps with lower calories than bread)
      • with roasted chicken, avocado, hummus, cucumbers and sriracha
      • with roasted veggies, avocado, sprouts and balsamic dressing
  • Snacks:
    • Small yogurt or kombucha
    • Cucumber & carrot sticks with 1 tbsp of hummus
    • Hard boiled egg
  • Dinner:
    • Roasted chicken & veggies with green salad
    • Cumin crusted salmon with zoodles and mint yogurt
    • Tofu & Veggie Stirfry with quinoa (or small portion of brown rice)
  • Dessert???
    • Strawberries or mango for a sweet palate cleanser is my go-to when I really need a treat

Out of love for our bodies and compassion for ourselves, we try not to do strict diets where we completely cut out certain food groups or count calories – instead we come up with healthy recipes together that excite us but limit less healthy grains, sugars, and fats. It’s also fun to grocery shop with this in mind – we go crazy in the produce aisle and buy lots of veggies that will hold us through the week.

Over the next few days I will post guides & tips for a few of the meal recommendations above. To get you started though….

Warm Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Ingredients

Meal Prep – quinoa and kabocha

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
  • Spices: cumin, paprika, salt & pep
  • 1/2 can chickpeas
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed
  • Coconut or olive oil for brushing

Lunch Bowl Add Ins

  • 2 chard leaves, chopped into bite sized pieces (or kale or other green veggie)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • sriracha

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Brush the inside of your kabocha squash with coconut or olive oil. Season with paprika, cumin, salt & pep. Optional: brush it with a little red curry paste. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is golden and has some crusty bits on the edges. A fork inserted into the flesh should go in easily. Once done, set aside on the baking sheet and let it cool – it is verrrrrrry hard to handle when it’s hot!
  3. Put 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa in your rice cooker (or pot over medium-low heat on the stove) and cover with 3 cups water. Season with a few shakes of cumin and paprika and with salt & pep. Let it cook for 10 minutes, then add in canned chickpeas and give it a stir. Continue cooking until fluffy and the white ring on the quinoa becomes visible.
  4. At this point, you can store the quinoa and the kabocha in the refrigerator and use them throughout the week for lunches or meals at your convenience.
  5. When prepping your bowl, place about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa/chickpea combo in the bottom of your microwave safe tupperware bowl. Top with raw chard and tomato slices.
  6. Cut a wedge of kabocha squash and remove the skin with a knife or your fingers – careful not to lose a lot of the tasty orange squash along with the skin! Chop the squash into large cubes and place ontop of the bowl.
  7. Combine lemon juice and tahini and drizzle on your bowl, finish with a squeeze of sriracha or hot sauce.
  8. When you’re ready to eat it – microwave with a top on for 1-2 minutes. Leaving the top on will help the quinoa heat up without becoming dry, the steam from the tomato juices will help wilt & soften the chard and the tahini will flavor everything deliciously 🙂

Enjoy and feel good.

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Make this bowl everyday for the week using the quinoa and squash you prepared. OR add quinoa to any green salad to make it more filling. Kabocha can be eaten as a side OR throw it into a stir fry or curry. I love kabocha so much I’ll eat it on its own as a snack – the consistency is buttery and delicious!

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Fresh Spring Rolls

As a kid I had lots of energy and was never quite able to slow down or stop moving- those who know me will say not much has changed in the last 20 years. Dinner was particularly difficult. Our family always sat down to eat together and I was usually so excited and energy-filled that I spent more time chatting away about my day, getting so involved in stories that I would be up out of my chair demonstrating things, than actually eating. At some point this actually became somewhat of a problem because living in a family with two older brothers – if you didn’t eat quick, you didn’t eat at all!

Filled with energy, I fondly remember the meals we got to assemble at the table. Often, my mom and dad would prep different ingredients and toppings for burritos or tacos and then we would each make our own. I enjoyed these dinners, funneling my energy into putting together creative combinations of toppings. It seemed like a dream come true, getting to play with my food and assemble the meal exactly how I wanted it.

Today, DIY meals are still some of my faves. Prepping a lot of ingredients and then allowing each person to make their own wrap, taco, or roll is a great way to have an interactive dinner party. Sushi tacos are one of those meals we like to bust out for fun dinners with friends – see recipe here.

Another DIY meal that is sure to please? Fresh spring rolls! Stuffed with your protein of choice, crunch veggies, and fragrant herbs, dipped in heavenly peanut sauce – these will impress guests OR can make a quick and healthy weeknight meal.

Fresh Spring Rolls

Ingredients

  • Rice paper wrappers (available in most grocery stores with other Asian cuisine ingredients)
  • Tofu (Or protein of choice – ex: shrimp)
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Cucumber, cut into thin spears
  • Carrot, cut into thin spears
  • Avocado
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Hoisin Sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp Sambal Chili Paste
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Sriracha

Directions

  1. Put vermicelli noodles in a pot or bowl. Pour boiling water on top and let soak for 8-10 minutes, until soft but not goopy. Drain and cut with scissors a few times, so the noodles are not too long.
  2. Prepare tofu by cutting it into small rectangles and pan frying them on each side until they’re lightly browned! Set aside. (If not using tofu, prep your protein of choice as desired.)
  3. Mix up the sauce by combining peanut butter, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, lime juice, chili paste, and water together. Taste and add more of whichever ingredient you like the most. It should be nutty, tangy, and a little sweet! Add sesame seeds if you want 🙂
  4. Put hot water in a shallow bowl or pan and place on the table, along with all of your prepared toppings – including herbs, veggies and sauces!
  5. When ready to eat, soak rice wrappers one at a time in the hot water, dipping it on one side and then the other – careful not to leave them soaking for a long time. Once the wrapper has started to soften but is still holding together, place it flat on a plate.
  6. Load with your toppings, but be careful not to over stuff it or the wrapper will break! Tuck in the ends and then roll like a burrito, pulling it tight so it sticks together and makes a dense wrap.
  7. Make a bunch at the beginning of the meal and chow down without interruption, or make wraps one at a time as you eat them. We love making them one at a time – creates a fun dinner activity that is interactive and lets you play with your food!

Shakshuka!

I had never heard of Shakshuka until I started following a bunch of instagram foodies. Then, all of a sudden, it was in my Insta feed…seemingly every day, all of the time, everywhere I looked. At first I was curious what it was, then I was intrigued about making it, then the other day I was like I HAVE TO MAKE THIS NOW!

So…that’s what I did.

However, I was so impatient about trying it that I didn’t want to wait and go to the store to buy all the ingredients. I had a full fridge, so it seemed silly to go buy some additional ingredients to make this one specific dish.

In true Emie fashion, I decided to make some substitutions and just go with the flow. I used a recipe for guidance but then used whatever I had and threw in some ingredients I wanted to use up or thought would be a tasty additional!

If you’re trying to make an authentic Shakshuka? Not the way to go. BUT if you’re trying to make something delicious and convenient – adding and substituting things that you have on hand is perfectly acceptable!

Shakshuka

I used this NYT Recipe for inspiration. It is also a somewhat untraditional rendition of the dish, because it calls for feta crumbles on top. I love feta and had some on hand, so it was a perfect addition!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 zucchini, chopped (wanted to use it up, so I threw it in)
  • 1 tiny clove of garlic (I have a garlic sensitivity and get stomach aches if I eat too much – feel free to add the 3 cloves the recipe calls for)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (didn’t have sweet paprika)
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (we like spicy!)
  • 1 fresh tomato, diced + 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large leaves of chard, chopped finely (wanted to add greens and use them up)
  • salt + pep
  • healthy sprinkling of feta cheese (vegan? ditch the feta, it would still be tasty!)
  • 4 eggs
  • Homegrown chives & oregano for garnish (they use cilantro)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in cast iron pan. We didn’t have an onion so we skipped that step and jumped right in to the bell pepper. We cooked it for 10-15 minutes until soft. Then added zucchini and garlic, sautéing for 2 min and then added the cumin, paprika and cayenne. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Simmer until tomatoes have thickened. NYT says 10 minutes but it took mine a little longer. I add the chard in right near the end to let the leaves soften. Then stir in the feta – we just eyeballed it, stirring in less than the recipe called for but still a healthy amount!
  4. Crack eggs in over the tomatoes, careful to note break the yolks, and season with more salt & pepper.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set. Recipe says 7-10 minutes but our egg whites were still jiggly when we moved the pan. We left it in another 5 minutes, checking periodically. When we removed ours, the yolks were a little harder than we would have liked, so next time we will remove ours a minute or two before we think they are done!
  6. Season with herbs and serve with hot sauce. We served ours with buttered sourdough toast – though pita or challah bread is more traditional!

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Enjoy! We were ooohing and ahhing over every bite. It’s such a fun experiment to try a new recipe and realize you LOVE it. We will probably end up making this on a regular basis now! I encourage you to experiment and throw in what you have in the fridge – who knows, maybe you’ll like it even more than the traditional version of the dish!

Follow me so you never miss a post! Also check out my Instagram @emiesfoodforthought below!

Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos”

Alex grew up making open-faced sushi at home. His mom’s side of the family is Japanese and despite being in the United States for quite a few generations, they enjoyed preparing the cuisine of their ancestry (who wouldn’t…Japanese food is amazing!).  Sadly for me, sushi was not in my family’s cooking repertoire. I did, however, grow up feeling jealous of my friend Annie who brought seaweed rice balls to school for lunch and homemade sushi rolls to potlucks (inspired by her family’s time living in Japan). Her sushi rolls would have simple but delicious ingredients: tuna fish, cucumber, carrot sticks, avocado, sprouts, etc. I remember being so excited each time I got to try some of her homemade rolls, but for some reason I never even thought about making it at home.

About a year ago, Annie came to visit me and Alex in Los Angeles. She had just come back from teaching English in Japan and we had a great time catching up. To repay us for crashing on our couch (like she needed to pay us back – it was a treat to have her), she wanted to make us dinner. Lucky for us, she prepared sushi tacos with lots of different fillings and toppings so we could assemble our own at the table. It was wonderful and seeing it prepared as an adult, I had a realization…it’s not hard! I wish I could go back in time and tell my high school self to give it a try – I spent so many years being envious of Annie’s lunches only to realize now that I could have made it myself.

Since then, Alex and I have made Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos” on a pretty regular basis.  Despite having sushi rolling mats, we like to stick to the open-faced variety – it’s less hassle, easy to do on the fly, and just as tasty. Just hold on to them tight as you dunk it in the sauce (or play it safe and pour the sauce on top) – if you get sloppy with your technique, the toppings tend to pop out!

Vegetarian Sushi “Tacos”

Ingredients

  • Seaweed squares *
  • Half cucumber, cut into spears
  • 2 large carrots, cut into spears
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cube tofu, cut into thin rectangular slices
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 cups white rice (+ 1sp vinegar & sprinkling of sugar to make sticky)
  • Dipping sauce: Soy sauce & rice vinegar mixed.
  • Sriracha

*We buy large ones and then cut them in 4. You can find them in Vons next to the other asian cuisine ingredients. You can buy the seaweed snacks that come in the little boxes too. They will be slightly smaller and there’s more plastic packaging which is why we buy the bigger ones.

Directions

  1. Cook your rice in a rice cooker or on the stove, as you would normally.
  2. While it is cooking, heat up a frying pan with 1tbsp of oil (coconut or veg). Place your tofu in a single layer and let fry. Check the bottoms and once browned, flip them to the other side. Once browned on both sides, remove from pan and place in a bowl.
  3. Scrape out any tofu pieces that are left in the pan, and then heat the pan again. Pour in the scrambled eggs, swirling it around so it’s a thin layer all around. Let cook until firm, and lightly browned on the bottom side, then flip carefully with a spatula. Turn off the burner, let the bottom side cook in the hot pan for a minute and then remove from heat. Cut the egg pancake into rectangular strips. (Note: if your pancake rips and falls apart a little bit, that’s fine. Just make sure it is thin and gets firm on both sides.)
  4. Prepare the dipping sauce with 2 parts soy sauce & 1 part rice vinegar.
  5. When rice is done cooking, stir in 1 tbsp rice vinegar and sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar. Use a piece of paper or an oven mitt to fan the rice while you stir it so it cools slightly and the vinegar/sugar mixture makes it sticky.
  6. Cut your seaweed squares and serve all toppings in the dinner zone – dinner table, kitchen counter, floor in front of TV (no judgement here!)
  7. Assemble your tacos as you eat them, switching up the toppings in each one savoring each bite! I recommend spreading the rice in a thin layer and then layering on the veggies & protein. Top with sriracha, pour a little sauce on top (or try to dip it…just be careful not to lose your toppings!) and enjoy!

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Multigrain Mushroom Risotto

Alex and I went to CostCo yesterday to stock up on some of the ingredients we use all the time. Now, I get overwhelmed in shopping malls & IKEAs like nobody’s business, but when I walk into CostCo, my anxiety melts away and I’m like a kid in a candy shop. Seriously.

We got the most ginormous container of FAGE greek yogurt at half the usual price in the store. We also bought a vat of coconut oil the size of my head for like $20 which is incredible considering the small jars usually cost $8. IT’S AMAZING!

One thing we use a lot of is quinoa, so we like to buy it in bulk at CostCo instead of buying small bags at TJs that we go through in two weeks! This time though, we decided to buy the multigrain mix that has quinoa, millet, and amaranth.

Amaranth is an ancient grain that I had never heard of until I worked in Mexico as a volunteer with Amigos de las Americas. It was cultivated and widely used by the Aztecs but then it stopped being grown (I didn’t know why, but Wikipedia says the conquistadores banned its cultivation during their conquest of the Aztec nation…weird!). It is very nutritious and easy to grow in central america so groups, like Amigos, are working hard to reincorporate it into the local diet to improve health and reduce hunger! Meanwhile, a woman at a grain stand at the Atwater Farmer’s Market, described millet to me as the quinoa of Africa and Asia. It is very easy to digest (and gluten free) so it is often recommended for sensitive stomachs!

Anyways, the multigrain medley looked wonderful and nutritious, as well as cheaper than the pure quinoa, so we went for it. We cooked some up yesterday in a mushroom risotto and it was amazing. Loving it!

Risotto typically calls for arborio rice, but we often use regular rice or quinoa to make it and it works wonderfully. It’s the full flavored taste that is important, and cooking quinoa longer than usual definitely gives it time to soak up the different tastes. Making risotto with quinoa also amps up the protein. You can serve this risotto as a hearty side dish OR as a main course. I love eating the leftovers for lunch, paired with a green salad.

Multigrain Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quinoa/millet/amaranth mix
  • 1 cup chopped white mushrooms (crimini would work too)
  • 1/2 zucchini chopped
  • 2 green onions diced, white part separated from green
  • 3 cups water, veggie or chicken broth + 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 table spoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup grated/shaved parmesan cheese
  • Optional: 1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
  • salt & pep

Note: if you do not use broth, I highly recommend adding some additional herbs and spices. We used sage because our stoop garden is thriving. We also added a sprinkling of celery salt. Add your favorite spices to up the flavor, though the white wine and parm are the stars of the dish.

Directions

  1. Heat up your rice cooker OR medium pot (over medium heat). Add your olive oil and half the butter and stir together. Let the fat get hot, then add the white parts of your green onion and let cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add the grain and the mushrooms to the pot and stir so they get coated in the butter and begin to cook a bit. After a minute or two, add your 3 cups of liquid and stir to combine. Add salt & pep. Then cover and let simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Check occasionally to be sure it isn’t boiling over but try not to keep opening the top and letting out the steam.
  3. Once most of the liquid is absorbed, add another cup of water, the white wine, and the chopped zucchini. Stir and continue simmering until the water is mostly gone.
  4. Add the final cup of water  – stir and then cover to keep simmering.
  5. Once the quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid and is puffed up and soft, add the sage (or other fresh herbs), parmesan cheese and the rest of the butter. Stir to incorporate, letting the cheese melt!
  6. Garnish with the green tips of the onions, salt & cracked pepper. Serve immediately!

We paired our Multigrain Mushroom Risotto with dry rub salmon and spicy green beans stir fried with pepitas!

 

 

 

 

Thai Red Curry

On nights when Alex and I are lazy and don’t want to cook – we order thai food. It’s become kind of a routine. I’ll text Alex as I’m leaving work at 7:30pm about how I’m starving and exhausted and don’t know what to make for dinner. If he agrees, I immediately call up our go-to Thai spot and place an order for delivery – fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce, pad see ew with veggies, and panang curry with chicken. We spend over $25 so I also remind them to include our complimentary Thai iced tea. I sign off by telling them that no, we do not need rice for our curry, at which point I have Siri text Alex and he starts the rice cooker so it’ll be ready once our food arrives.

By the time I’m home, in comfy clothes, and have a glass of red wine in my hand, the food has arrived and the TV is cued for whichever show we’re currently watching – making it a perfect evening to end a busy and tiring day at work.

In this way, Thai has become a comforting meal for us. And we love this as our Plan B for when we really can’t get it together to make something at home. BUT it has some serious draw backs. Styrofoam containers being at the top of the list, with cost being a secondary concern.

So for those nights when we want something comforting but we’re not ready to throw in the towel and give in to ordering take out, we have learned how to make our own version of Red Thai Curry at home. It’s not too difficult, it’s probably healthier than the authentic Thai curry, there’s usually leftovers for lunches, and there’s no styrofoam involved. Serve with white or brown rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain!

Red Thai Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant sliced in rounds (Chinese variety is our fave – long, thin, and light purple)
  • 1 red bell pepper cut in thin strips
  • 1 small head of broccoli cut into medium sized florets
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1/2 package extra firm tofu cut in cubes  (dried with a towel to get excess moisture out)
  • 2 tsp Red curry paste (available in most grocery stores, with other asian cuisine ingredients)
  • 1 tsp natural peanut butter
  • Optional: 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • approx. 1 cup water
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar or maple syrup
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil OR vegetable oil
  • salt + pep

Directions

  1. Heat a medium or large sized pot over medium heat. Add the coconut oil. Once oil is hot, add the ginger and onion and sautée for a few minutes until fragrant. Be sure the oil is not so hot the ginger and onion burn.
  2. Add the coconut milk, curry paste, and peanut butter to the pot and whisk it well. Add lime juice, fish sauce if using, sugar, some salt and pepper, and continue stirring. We also add some cayenne pepper for spice!
  3. Add eggplant and bell pepper. Add in 1/2 cup water to ensure the veggies are completely covered. Let simmer 10-15 minutes, until eggplant is soft but not falling apart.
  4. During this time, taste the curry (without burning your mouth…) and add whatever it needs. We often end up adding more lime juice or curry paste depending on the size of our veggies and the amount of water we added. It’s an experiment so just taste and add what you think it needs – follow your taste buds!
  5. Once the eggplant is pretty soft, add the tofu, broccoli, and a sprinkling of fresh basil to the curry. Add more water if needed to cover the veggies – keeping in mind you’ll need to add more seasoning so it’s not bland! Simmer for about 5 min – keeping an eye on the broccoli. We try to cook it just enough so its soft but still bright green.
  6. Dish up rice or quinoa into your bowl and top it off with a healthy portion of curry. Garnish with fresh basil (I also like cilantro on mine) and a drizzle of sriracha.

Notes: You could definitely make this recipe with chicken if you prefer. We’ve also done it with tofu, sweet potatoes, and kale – not your traditional panang curry veggies but it’s delicious. It’s also great with carrots in it! I highly recommend making enough to have leftovers for lunch – the veggies continue soaking in the delicious coconut curry and taste even more flavorful the next day. You’ll make all your coworkers so jealous!

Try it out, switch it up, and make it your own 🙂

 

Basil Almond Pesto

We love pesto but don’t love the price of pine nuts. Through experimentation, we have decided that almonds make a great alternative (they are cheaper and healthier!).

Typically, Alex and I will make a batch of pesto, eat some on pasta, and then store the rest in a mason jar. It will last quite awhile and is nice to have on hand because you can use it to *glam* up a lot of simple dishes! Put it on your pasta, sandwiches, pizza, salads, crackers, anything really. The suggestion below is for a relatively small batch but you can definitely make it in larger amounts.

This post is short and sweet, and mostly a reminder to experiment in the kitchen. I have never written down the exact recipe we use for pesto and I’m sure it has ended up a little different each time. That is totally part of the fun. Start with the almonds, determined by how much pesto you want to make, then add your other ingredients based on taste! It doesn’t matter if it ends up being the most authentic pesto or not, what matters is that you like it and it’s enjoyable to make. Have fun!

Basil Amond Pesto

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • Basil (approx. 4 oz)
  • Lemon Juice (approx. 1/2 lemon)
  • Parmesan cheese (vegan? blend in some nutritional yeast flakes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt + pep

Directions

Important: Make sure you have LOTS of basil! We did a whole 4 oz. pack from Trader Joe’s (our plant didn’t have enough to make it from our little herb garden) but could have easily used more…we love it!

  1. Blend up the almonds a bit to get them started – it will be really loud and take awhile but eventually it will start moving! If it is really not blending up, add a little olive oil.
  2. Add some basil and blend! (save some back so you can taste and then add more later depending on how strong a basil taste you want!)
  3. Begin adding everything else in little bits, tasting as you go. Have fun using your taste buds to steer you in the right direction of proportions. Tip? Don’t go crazy on any one ingredient before you add a little of all of them. Once you add a whole bunch of salt, you can’t take it back – so go little by little until you hit the perfect combo!

Meal recommendation

We sautéed chicken thighs (cut into bite sized pieces) in a cast iron pan with olive oil. Once cooked through, we removed the chicken and cooked mushrooms, chopped red bell pepper, and zucchini in the same pan, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Once everything was done, we loaded up our plates with as much pasta, pesto, and toppings as we could eat, seasoning everything with some red pepper flakes and extra parmesan cheese!

It definitely hit the spot!

Stir Fry with Basil & Coconut Rice

We typically stir fry once a week (at least) but switch it up each time so it doesn’t get old! This recipe calls for eggplant, broccoli, and bell pepper but you can easily switch it up with any vegetables you are craving or have on hand. Green beans, zucchini and carrots are some of our other go-to stir fry veggies, so get creative and add whatever you like.

One of our recent faves? Stir fried chicken or tofu with basil and veggies, on top of steaming hot coconut rice! The coconut makes it taste decadent, the basil makes it fresh, and veggies & protein make it a filling and healthy meal!

Substitution Tips: Don’t want rice? Quinoa is a wonderful and healthy substitute! Coconut quinoa is amazingly delicious so I actually highly recommend switching out rice every once in awhile with this nutrient and flavor packed seed!

Stir Fry with Basil & Coconut Rice

Prep Time: 10 Minutes, Cook Time: 20-40 minutes (depending on rice!)
Serves: 2

Ingredients

Stir Fry with Basil

  • Extra Firm tofu OR
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Vegetable or coconut oil
  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh or dried ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Chili Sauce (we use Sambal & Sriracha)
  • Black pepper
  • Sugar

Coconut Rice

  • Rice (White or Brown or Quinoa!)
  • 1 can coconut milk (tip: look for one that is JUST coconut milk + water, try to steer clear of other ingredients or unnatural flavoring)

Directions

  1. If you plan ahead, marinate your chicken or tofu! Cut the protein up into bite size pieces and put it in a tupperware. Make an easy marinade – mostly soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, as much chili sauce as you want, some cracked black pepper, some ginger (finely chopped or ginger powder) and a small amount of chopped up basil. Shake it around so the protein is coated in this mixture and put it in the fridge. I often do this in the morning so it marinates all day 🙂
  2. Begin to cook your rice as you normally would. We use a rice cooker but you can easily do it on the stove top. We usually make 2 cups of dry rice, which means we have left overs to use in lunches!
  3. While your rice begins cooking, chop your veggies into bite size pieces. Tip: keep them mostly the same size so they cook at the same pace!
  4. Mix up a stir fry sauce: Soy sauce, chili paste, a little rice vinegar, and a tiny bit of sugar to sweeten it up. I don’t include exact amounts – just sample it as you go adding more of what you like. Its part of the fun! Once you’re satisfied, set this sauce aside.
  5. Heat up a wok or sautee pan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Once its hot, add the onion and ginger. Watch to be sure they don’t cook too fast, turn down the burner if necessary.
  6. After a few minutes add your chicken or tofu in one layer so each piece is touching the hot pan. Wait a few minutes and then turn the pieces over so they are browned on both sides. If using chicken, be sure to cook it long enough that it is no longer pink and each surface has been cooked. Once cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.
  7. Heat up a little more oil in the same pan and add the eggplant (in a single layer if possible). Flip the pieces after a few minutes.
  8. Once the eggplant has cooked a little, add your bell pepper and broccoli, stirring it every once in awhile so all veggies get some time on the pan and preventing any pieces from getting too cooked/burnt!
  9. Once the veggies are mostly cooked (tip: broccoli is softening up but still bright green!), slowly pour your sauce on top, stirring as you go so all veggies get coated in it – be careful not to put TOO much sauce, or you’ll have a soup instead of a fry.
  10. Add your protein back into the pan and mix it up well. Turn off the heat and cover so it stays warm and it all steeps in the sauce to soak up flavor!
  11. Once your rice is almost completely cooked and only has a minute or two left – stir in 1/2 of the can of coconut milk. Doesn’t seem like enough? Add more if you like! Close the rice lid and let it soak up the milk for a minute or two while you get out your plates and get ready to serve up your food!
  12. Serve a healthy portion of hot coconut rice and then top it with your stir fry. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

 

Homemade Pizza Dough

I think pizza gets a bad reputation because we typically picture New York Style ginormous pieces the size of your head, with pepperonis swimming on greasy  cheese. While I can get down with that every once in awhile, I much prefer the homemade variety so you can control what goes in and on your slices!

Alex and I make pizza frequently – mostly because its my favorite food ever and its never far from my brain so when planning meals, its one of my first suggestions 🙂 But also because pizza is totally customizable! Whether we are planning ahead and purchasing our favorite toppings OR we’re using it as a way to clean out our fridge and eat up leftover veggies, pizza is delicious!

We used to buy Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough. Its delicious, healthier than the white pizza dough equivalent, and is easy to use. Tip: whatever you do, do not try to make it into a ball and then stretch it out. Take it out of the bag in whatever shape it is and let it sit for a little while on a baking sheet (that is greased or floured/cornmealed so it doesn’t stick) After 15 min, stretch the dough gently in all directions, careful not to make holes in it. Its not forgiving if you try to start over (it gets really tough if you try to ball it up and start again) so you gotta just work with it carefully the first time around!

If you’re short on time, this is a totally delicious and easy way to make pizza. But, if you have time and want to experiment, I highly recommend making your own dough. We started trying this out when I was put on a super strict diet  by a GI doctor (FODMAP diet- for those of you who have sensitive stomachs, its worth researching). While super limited on this diet, I started making spelt pizza dough. We love it so much we continue to use spelt flour even though I’m no longer on the diet. Its our go-to flour for breads, biscuits, scones, and doughs!

Disclaimer: You do need to let dough sit for at least an hour after mixing the ingredients – make sure to plan ahead so you have the time to do this! Another option? Mix it up before work and let it sit all day to rise – put the whole bowl in a plastic bag so its covered!

Dough Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 cups flour *
  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

​*I use Spelt flour but this recipe originally called for gluten free flour (I recommend Pamela’s Bread Flour), and you can definitely also use regular whole wheat or white flour too!

Dough Directions

  1. In a large measuring cup, add the active dry yeast to the warm water and let sit for a few minutes. It will probably get frothy — that’s good!
  2. Put 3 cups flour in a large mixing bowl (reserve the rest for flouring your hands and work surface). Whisk in the salt so its distributed throughout.
  3. Use your hands or a a spatula (I use a round rice spatula but you can really use anything) to mix in the water/yeast mixture. If it seems really wet/sticky, add some more of the flour.
  4. Once its pretty mixed, add your olive oil. I like to add this after the other stuff because it helps make the dough easier to knead and less sticky.
  5. Using your hands or spatula, fold the dough onto itself, kneading it, to make sure the ingredients get well mixed and you get some air in the dough to help it rise! Do this for a few minutes.
  6. Leave your dough alone for awhile — I usually let it sit for an hour or so but I also sometimes make the dough before work and then leave it to rise while I’m gone! Its best if left somewhere warm.
  7. After it rises for an hour, punch the dough down. Preheat oven to375 degrees and let the dough sit again while the oven heats up.
  8. Grease a baking sheet, and put some flour on it and on your hands. Ease your dough away from the edges of the bowl and slide it onto the sheet.
  9. Carefully push the dough towards the edges of the sheet, stretching it and flattening it into your preferred shape. Be gentle and patient, patting it to the thickness you want.
  10. Put the dough in the oven for 15 minutes, keeping an eye that it doesn’t get too brown!
  11. Take it out – it’s ready for toppings! Have fun 🙂

Toppings

When it comes to toppings, its really a matter of preference. I urge you to get creative.
Our favorites?

  • Sauce
    • Super simple tomato sauce recipe coming later 🙂
    • Store bought tip: make sure to check ingredients because a lot of sauces contain high levels of sugar. While a little sweetness is necessary, steer clear of the ones that have sugar high up on the ingredient list!
    • We also love homemade pesto – almonds or cashews (pine nuts are so expensive) blended with heaps of fresh basil, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and salt+pep+garlic to taste!
  •  Cheese
    • Quattro Formagio mix from TJs
    • Dollops of goat cheese
    • Feta cheese
    • Fresh mozzerella rounds
    • Vegan? Blend up cashews or almonds with salt+pep, some lemon juice, and lots of fresh basil, oregano, or sage and make an herb nut cheese! Put large dollops OR a thin layer in place of sauce
  • Veggies
    • Tomato slices
    • Bell pepper
    • Roasted butternut squash
    • Caramelized onions
    • Eggplant
    • Spinach (hidden under the cheese so it doesn’t get crispy)
    • Fresh arugula piled on top (don’t cook it!)
  • Meat
    • Ground turkey cooked into the homemade tomato sauce (yum!)
    • Chicken sausage – our fave? Sweet Italian chicken sausage from TJs (not pre-cooked)
    • Pepperoni/salami (not healthy or environmentally friendly, but its a rare treat!)
    • Pancetta
  • Fresh Herbs
    • Sage
    • Basil
    • Oregano

Either pile on the veggies so the pizza stands on its own OR make a simple green salad to eat on the side 🙂 Enjoy!