Monday, February 28, 2011

Chana Masala

Ashley and I survived a trip to IKEA over the weekend.  And survived is not an exaggeration.  We made it through the entire store without getting into an argument.  I think we deserve a medal.  I don't know what it is about that place, but we somehow usually end up in a squabble - minor or major - by the end of the trip. 

I think IKEA is actually a lab where they study couple compatibility.  In fact, that's probably where John Gottman does his research.  It's a perfect setting.  It's crowded and chaotic.  Couples have to work through problem solving ("No, that won't fit in our place.  Unless we throw out your ugly chair..."), communication ("I really hate that lamp you just put in the basket."), negotiation ("Okay, you can keep the chair if you put back that lamp."), and finances ("Um, how did we just spend $400?!").  If you can make it through that place on good terms, you're good for life.

It also helps to come home to a nice dinner together.  You know, after you lug all that furniture up two flights of stairs into your apartment while not tripping over your cat.  And then assembling everything using only an allen wrench. Even when the directions call for a drill. 

Chana masala is the perfect fix in a situation like this.  It's not only quick and easy to make, but it's delicious, healthy, and very filling.  Plus, who doesn't love garbanzo beans smothered in a spicy tomato sauce?  That's definitely worth a trip to IKEA - fight or no fight.

Chana Masala

Adapted from
Serves 6.

1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 - 12 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth (or water)
4 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
freshly-ground sea salt to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for two more minutes.  Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, ginger, and turmeric.  Stir for a few minutes, then add the can of tomatoes (with liquid). Cook for a few minutes, then add the chickpeas and broth (or water).

Add the paprika, garam masala, sea salt, and lemon juice.  Cover, and let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Rosemary and Garlic

How was your day?  In our house, today was one of those really relaxing Sundays. There were no plans made, no schedules to adhere to, just the flow of the day.  

I spent my morning at the gym, made a quick stop by PCC on the way home, and then spent most of the  afternoon in the kitchen.  Ashley spent the day reading on the couch.  The cat had a great afternoon napping in the sun.  The laundry got done.  And some really beautiful cauliflower even got roasted for dinner.  It was a great day.  

Roasted Cauliflower with Rosemary and Garlic

2 large heads of cauliflower
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
a few springs of fresh rosemary, crushed
freshly-ground course sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Mix the olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice together.  Cut the cauliflower into florets and rub with the olive oil mixture.  Place on a sheet pan in a single layer.

Let roast for 20 - 25 minutes, turning as necessary, until the tops are beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the rosemary, sea salt, and pepper.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Lentil Dahl over Pulao Rice


Have you seen the ads that say "take time for tea"?  I was flipping through a Vegetarian Times magazine the other night scrounging for recipe ideas and came across the ad.  I don't know why, but I became immensely fascinated by it.  Beneath "take time for tea" it has a picture of a woman lounging, reading a book, and holding her cute little cup of tea.

Of course, I mentally began mocking that scenario.  Who has time for reading?  Let alone quietly sipping tea?  The only time I have for tea is when I'm running for the bus and then my travel mug top usually pops open and I spill it on myself...

I came across the ad again this morning and was again consumed by its message.  I'm sure I'm reading more into this than the company intended, but I actually think there is a strong point to the word take.  What would happen if we just took the time for tea?  We already have all the time that we can have in one day.  It is simply up to us how we use each minute of it.

And it's not really about tea. What if I took the time to create more friendships, spend quality time with family, or to practice self care?  How would my life be different if I stopped rushing, chewed more slowly, listened more intently, and took more breaks?  I know I sometimes need a little reminder about how precious my time is and that I need to use it wisely.  And maybe it's not realistic for me to take the time for tea, long walks, and friendships every day, but I can be more present and thankful for the moments when I do.  

If you're not interested in taking the time for tea, maybe you'd rather take the time for dahl?  I have to admit I usually resort to the convenience of a pre-made curry base when I make Indian dishes.  However, it's never as flavorful or as fresh as when I make it from scratch. These two recipes come together in under an hour to form a tasty and comforting dish.  The prep time is pretty minimal and it makes a perfect weeknight dinner.  

The only thing that might make it better?  A good cup of chai tea. 

Red Lentil Dahl
Slightly adapted from The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein

Serves 6

8 cups water
2 cups red lentils
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs freshly grated ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp sea salt
Lemon juice from 1 lemon (or to taste)
Cilantro for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sift through the lentils for rocks.  Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Stir in the lentils, garlic, ginger, cumin, cumin seeds, coriander, tumeric, cardamom, and salt, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender and beginning to break down.  

Stir frequently toward the end of the cooking time, and add more stock or water as needed if the dahl gets too thick.  Stir in the lemon juice, garnish with some fresh cilantro and pepper to taste; serve hot. 

Pulao Rice
From The Veg-Feasting Cookbook by Vegetarians of Washington

Serves 6

2 cups basmati rice
3 Tbs canola oil
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
1/2 tsp saffron

Let the rice soak for 5-10 minutes.  Add the oil to a large saucepan.  Add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, and cumin.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes.  Add the water, rice, salt, and green peas.  Bring to a boil, then cook, covered over medium heat until the water has been absorbed.  

Add the saffron, and reduce the heat to low.  Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel and lid.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then remove from the heat, keeping the pan covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spicy Tofu and Spelt Berries

I guess it's about time we talk about it.  I mean, it's right around the corner and those red hearts everywhere are pretty hard to miss.  Valentine's Day, anyone?

There's the crowd that celebrates it all crazy-like.  Sending roses to their loved ones, themselves, and their dog.  Then there's the group that gets angry about this holiday.  You know, the ones who listen to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughtta Know" on repeat and burn photos.  Not that I would know, or anything.

In recent years though I've met more people that celebrate Valentine's Day in moderation.  Doing small, sweet gestures for others or themselves.  I like the simplicity in that.

Speaking of simplicity, I've been trying to incorporate different grains into my diet lately.  Spelt berries are one of my favorites and they seem to be popping up everywhere. They're a little hard to describe to someone who's never had them before.  The best I can say is they're similar to brown rice, but with a nuttier taste and and chewier texture. You can find them in the bulk section of most health food stores. 

This salad is inspired by the one that's served in the deli at PCC Natural Markets and it's curbed my hunger many times.  This recipe makes a batch for 6 which always leaves me with plenty of leftovers for lunch.  If all goes as planned, this might even end up as my Valentine's Day dinner.  Delicious, healthy, and super simple.  Just the way I like it. 

 Spicy Tofu and Spelt Berries
From PCC Natural Markets and adapted from the Veg-Feasting Cookbook

Serves 6.

1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 blocks of firm tofu, cut into cubes
1.5 cups spelt berries
1/4 head of purple cabbage, shredded
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 carrots, grated
3 green onions, chopped
3 Tbs fresh parsley
cayenne pepper to taste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

I like to press the tofu beforehand to make it firmer and drain some of the watery liquid.  I usually place it on a plate and put another plate on top of it with some weight on it (a few cookbooks stacked up always seem to work nicely).  Let the tofu drain for about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari, sesame oil, olive oil, rice vinegar, cayenne, ginger, and garlic to make a sauce.  Place the tofu cubes in a 9x13-inch casserole dish, pour half the sauce over the tofu, and bake for 20 minutes, then let cool.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the spelt berries, stir, cover, and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain the berries, then place them in a large bowl and toss with the remaining sauce.  Add the cooled tofu, then add the cabbage, carrot, parsley, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One-Year Anniversary Greens

It's crazy to think about me starting this blog a year ago today.  A year ago I was attending my graduate program at Antioch University and was taking an independent study on food systems and eating.  I had been a vegan health nut for quite some time, but during my independent study I began to see how disconnected I was to what I was eating.  I already cooked all of my own meals from scratch, but I focused more on nutritional content than taste.  I also didn't eat as much local, seasonal produce.

My hope with this blog was to become reconnected to my food, the seasons, and learn some new recipes along the way. I had no idea that in the self-reflective, humbling process of becoming reconnected to what I eat, I would:
  • try over 250 new recipes and post 140 of them
  • buy a digital SLR camera (which is worth more than anything else I own!)
  • learn to love my body just the way it is
  • join my first CSA
  • find my true passion in food justice work
  • land my dream job of helping to bring healthy, nutritious meals to children and people in need
  • become confident enough to be an assistant for PCC Cooks
  • and find an amazing community -- online and in-person -- that encouraged and supported me all along the way 
This blog has made me accountable to doing so many important things in my life and I thank each of you for being a part of it.

Now that I'm done being sappy, how do you want to celebrate?

I, of course, want to celebrate with greens.  Kale is one of the most nutritious foods and I love the way that it is prepared in this dish.  If you're not a fan of kale, you can always use collard greens, chard, or a mix.  The garlic and leeks really shine in this recipe and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper ties it all together. 

One-Year Anniversary Greens
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of leafy greens (kale, chard, collards, or a mix), chopped 
ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
a few tablespoons of water or stock

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onion, shallots, and leeks.  Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the leeks and onions are soft.

Add the greens, a few handfuls at a time.  Stir them frequently and add more greens as the batch cooks down.  If you're cooking tough greens like collards or kale, I would add some water or vegetable stock a few tablespoons at a time to help it cook down.  

Let them cook for about 20-30 minutes until the greens are soft.  Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Millet and Aduki Bean Salad for Tara

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend Tara.  Tara and I met when we were sophomores in college.  We instantly bonded over our love for Women's Studies classes, late-night workouts, and large cups of tea.  Tara taught me so much about food, art, and life; she helped me sort out all of that stuff that you need to sort out in your early twenties. 

Awhile back she asked me to post some recipes with millet.   I have to say that she is one of the few people for whom I would fulfill this request because... well, I don't actually like millet.  I tried it once in a not-so-great recipe and then gave it up.  I know that's the worst excuse ever.  This is exactly why I knew it was time to get back in the millet game.

I've now experimented with several different millet dishes and this is my favorite.   In fact, I've kinda fallen in love with millet.  It's full of magnesium and other nutrients, rich in insoluble fiber, easily digestible, delicious, and quick to prepare. What's not to love?

This salad can be served warm or cold, but I definitely prefer it heated up.  It calls for two cups of cooked aduki beans which is about the equivalent of 1 can or 1 cup uncooked beans.  This salad is lemony and hearty, perfect for winter evenings. 

Millet and Aduki Bean Salad for Tara
From Clean Food by Terry Walters

Serves 6 

1 cup millet
2 cups water
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups cooked aduki beans, rinsed well
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup corn kernals
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Place millet, water, and pinch of salt in a pot over high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until all water is absorbed (about 25 minutes).  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.

Fluff millet and add aduki beans, onion, corn, and parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the millet.  Fold to combine and serve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beet Salad with Leeks and Parsley

I recently became a volunteer assistant for PCC Cooks.  PCC Natural Markets is an amazing co-op here in Seattle and they have their own cooking classes.  Assistants volunteer their time doing prep work for the chefs and cleaning and in return they get the information from the class for free.  It's a pretty good deal if you ask me. 

A couple of weeks ago I got the pleasure of working with Devra Gartenstein, author of The Accidental Vegan and Local Bounty (one of my favorite cookbooks!).  She also owns Patty Pan Grill which is Seattle's oldest farmers' market concession.  Their vegetable quesadillas are amazing and I never seem to leave the market without 'em.

Devra's class inspired me to start using leeks in more dishes and get back to the basics with my vegetables.  This recipe originally comes from Local Bounty and has been a favorite of mine for quite some time.  It's quick and easy to prepare and always looks beautiful (especially if you use different types of beets).

This salad may be served hot or cold, although I prefer it cold after chilling in the refrigerator for several hours to let the flavors meld together (this also resulted in my gold beets picking up a little color). For myself, after my long and hectic day, it was exactly what I needed to add some beauty to my dinner and my evening.

Beet Salad with Leeks and Parsley
Adapted from Local Bounty by Devra Gartenstein

1 pound beets (I used a mix of gold and red)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium leek, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned well, and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Place the beets in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil.  Cook on medium heat for 45 - 60 minutes, or until the skins can be rubbed off with your fingers.  (To test one, fish it out of the pot with a pair of tongs and run it under cold water until it's cool enough to handle.)

While the beets are cooking, heat the oil in a small saucepan.  Add the leek, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the leek is soft.  Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.  Peel the beets using your fingers and cut them into bite-size pieces.  Add the beets to the leek mixture and toss well until combined.