A brave new world

Posted: March 25, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, quick | 4 Comments »

I don’t wear yoga pants, jog “just to clear my head”, or actually enjoy granola unless is has chocolate in it.  I don’t begrudge women who do all that, but I will never be one of them.  Running pisses me off and yoga pants to me are just really tight sweatpants, which defeats the purpose of sweatpants to begin with.  Sometimes I wish that I could be one of these people.  I feel like life would be easier if I truly enjoyed exercise and health food rather than just putting up with them as a means of not dying by age 40. I try to eat healthy to a certain extent, but there are some things that I am not willing to sacrifice.  Enjoyment of my food is one of those things.  To counterbalance my love of butter and sugar, I try to grab healthy alternatives whenever I can.  Especially for breakfast, because that is a meal that I’m normally grabbing on the go.  Unfortunately I also have an allergy to soy, so I am limited in my ‘quick, healthy’ options.  I would love to be able to grab an energy bar or something like it, but in an effort to be everything to everyone most “health food” stuff has been jam packed with soy products so they can be advertised as “high protein”.  Aside from fruit, one of the only quick and healthy things that I can go for is yogurt.  There is just one little thing….yogurt is DISGUSTING.  Something about the texture mixed with that weird tang just makes me want to vomit until I die.  I can get down the whipped yogurt because the texture is different, but I’m still not a fan. 

They’ve been pounding us with commercials for greek yogurt recently, and they make it look so delicious that I thought I would give it a try.  Its thicker than regular yogurt so I thought it might be good and  I had someone tell me once that it reminded them of cream cheese, but sweet.  Whoever the hell that was, LIED.    Its even more disgusting than I could have ever imagined.  It was tangy to the point of sour, and I couldn’t even get one bite down without getting that whole vomit until I die feeling.  Super disappointing…

So I had pretty much given up on healthy snacks and was coming to terms with my fate to be a non-yoga pant wearing, yogurt hating, butter lover, when I came across a couple of articles online about non-dairy products.  Now, I know that the words non-dairy tend to make people (myself included) cringe, but hear me out.  Coconut Milk Yogurt.

Seriously, try it.  Its the same texture as regular yogurt, but without that gross after taste.  It comes in tons of flavors, I personally, enjoy the chocolate (I know, you’re shocked) but they have the standard fruit flavors too.  It does have a little of that coconut flavor, but its not too strong, and mostly covered up by the flavor of the yogurt.  Honestly it almost tastes like a cross between pudding and yogurt, and you can actually believe me, I’m not like that ‘just like cream cheese’ douche.  A 6oz container has 170 calories, which isn’t too bad for a quick breakfast or snack.  Apparently its relatively new, but most grocery stores are starting to carry it.  I like it so much that I might even try cocnut milk ice cream next.  Who knows…maybe one day I will even decide to put on skin tight sweat pants and pretend they are real pants. 

I think I have found the answer to one of my many conundrums (conundri?). 


Eatin’ With Vegans

Posted: December 2, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: pasta, pumpkin, quick, Rita | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A few times now I’ve referenced a vegan friend of mine who needs to be accommodated at times when it comes to cooking or going out to eat. As someone who’s lived her whole life with dietary restrictions, I’m completely cool with this, even if it’s really not for me! Said friend, despite being a pretty strict vegan and strictly kosher, doesn’t do much cooking for herself and is a little bit clueless when it comes to the kitchen. So, like any good foodie-ish friend, I offered to make her dinner some Sunday and guide her a bit on how to cook.

For her birthday last year, I got my friend Veganomicon, a friendly vegan cookbook with simple but tasty recipes, what I thought would be the perfect gift. But as it turns out, despite being very encouraging to novices and offering lots of tips (“Here’s how you core an apple,” say) my friend, ok I’ll just call her B., barely used it, partially because she was still a little afraid to! That just isn’t right!! Cooking is one of the greatest things one can do for oneself. To be able to feed yourself is to be self-reliant, and making a meal or dish is a great blend of creativity, science, health and timing. You can’t beat that! I resolved to help create a delicious, healthy, vegan meal for B, show her a couple of pointers and just have a good time hanging out with her.

B. picked the main, which was Pumpkin Ricotta Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Breadcrumbs, except since she has a sensitive stomach, the onions were nixed just in case they’d upset her. But hey, anything pumpkin is totally awesome by me. Even the recipe called for it to be paired with a light salad or veggie, so I also made sauteed swiss chard to go with it. Dessert was medjool dates — mmmm. I freaking love medjool dates, they’re like chewy natural candy.

So, you may be asking, how the heck can ricotta be vegan? I certainly was thinking that there’d be no way to mimic anything to even remotely resemble cheese. But it’s actually super easy and I wouldn’t have known the difference. In a food processor, blend raw cashews (cup and a half?); then one pound firm tofu (= one package), crumbled. Add two cloves garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, two tablespoons olive oil and half a teaspoon of dried basil. Blend in food processor. Done! You’ve got yourself some vegan ricotta. It even looks like it, too. For the pumpkin part, spice up a 15 oz can of it (cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, whatever else you want), mix, then mix it in with the ricotta in a bowl. Done!

While the ziti boils in a pot, make the sage breadcrumb topping. Now, this is key to the whole dish, because the breadcrumbs are pretty effing delicious. In a food processor (Clean it out after the ricotta! Or not, since it’s all going to the same place anyway.) chop up stale bread to make into the crumbs. B. didn’t have any stale bread on hand, so we toasted some for a few minutes then just pulled it apart with our hands into crouton-sized pieces. In a pan that we buttered up with margarine, coat the crumbs, then toss with fresh sage and let it pan-fry for a few minutes longer. No fresh sage was on hand so we just used dried. It worked well regardless.

When the ziti was drained, we mixed it with the pumpkin ricotta, poured into a lasagna pan, covered in breadcrumbs, then baked at 350 for about 35 minutes. Done! How easy is that? And since this dish is especially heavy it was definitely a good idea to accompany this with something light and leafy.

Another vegan friend of ours joined us for dinner, and between the three of us we ate half the pan. This is a damn delicious meal, vegan or not.

I’m glad I got to spend some time with a good friend doing something that I really enjoy, and getting to share that joy with her and showing her the ropes. We plan on doing dinner night another time soon!


Alex Runs, Joh Cooks p. 2

Posted: September 3, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, Johanna, pasta, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 17 Comments »

I return, with another runner-centric post to help my dear dear friend Alex raise funds for her half-marathon to help fund cancer research!!! Once again, or if you’re new to the game, here are the rules:

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!!

Tonight, we also give a shout-out to my amazing friend Laura, as well, because Laura is in training for the NYC Marathon and has mentioned to me that one of her perpetual cravings has been peanut butter.
Peanut Butter Sesame Soba Noodles of JOY!!!!!As you may know, Peanut butter is fabulous. There are restaurants devoted solely to its advancement. It can be used in various ways, as a sauce, as a binder, as a protein. As long as you get the sugar-free kind, you’re not wasting your calories or carbohydrates. In the spirit of peanut butter being long used in Asian cuisine, I made Peanut Butter-Sesame Soba Noodles! You may not know this, but soba noodles are buckwheat noodles that usually also contain whole wheat flour. They contain tons of amino acids, including lysine, as well as many anti-oxidants. 100grams of soba noodles produces more energy and more amino acids than either traditional pasta or bread, while still giving you some carb energy. In general, soba noodles plus peanut butter is a great way to bump up your proteins in the days leading up to a big run, especially if you are a vegetarian, like my girl Alex.
Peanut Butter-Sesame Soba Noodles
4oz./half a package Soba noodles
2 tbs sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbs cumin
1-2 tsp soy sauce (optional, depending on your sodium levels/preferences)
3-4 tbs sesame oil
Optional: Sriracha, other hot sauce, red chili flake, cayenne pepper to taste.
Soba Noodles in Boiling WaterDry-toasted Sesame SeedsThe Usual Suspects

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, and drop the soba noodles in. You don’t need to rinse the noodles before you cook them, although you WILL need to rinse them after, because buckwheat is gummy/sticky occasionally. 6-8 minutes should do it. When they’re done, drain them, rinse them with warm water, drain, and rinse a second time.
2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (to taste) in a dry skillet until they start to smell nice, then remove them to a bowl.
3. In the skillet that you toasted the sesame seeds in, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the 2 crushed garlic cloves. If using, this is the time to drop in some crushed red pepper flake, and stir a lot. This should be about medium heat, you don’t want to burn anything. You’re trying to infuse the flavor of the garlic into the oil, as well as the spice of the red pepper flake. When you pull the Soba out of the water, take the garlic out of the skillet, add the peanut butter, and drop the heat.
4. As the peanut butter melts and begins to thin, whisk in the soy sauce if you’re using it, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and the cumin. If you’re using hot sauce, now’s the time as well. Let this get warm, and if it starts to get too thick, add some warm water. If you use cold water, the peanut butter will seize up, get grainy, and just generally refuse to play anymore.

5.When the sauce is heated through, creamy and pretty thin, pull it off the heat, and add the noodles to a big bowl. Drizzle another tablespoon of sesame oil onto the noodles, then pour on the sauce. Turn turn turn the noodles in the sauce, taste, adjust the seasonings, and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

While this meal is delicious and amazing, we did not eat it alone. In fact, we paired it with gazpacho. While it was a little weird in the sense that we were eating a cold soup, and lukewarm noodles, it’s a good pairing from a nutrition standpoint. To make the simplest gazpacho, take any vegetables you like, (we used cucumber, a quarter of a red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 bell pepper, 1 fryer pepper, and 6-7 tomatoes) chop them into chunks, and put them in your blender. Dash in some red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and if you have it, some tomato juice. If you don’t, that’s totally fine – it’ll work. Blend it until you like the texture, and eat immediately, after an hour, a few days later, whenever. Gazpacho loves you back.

Now remember!! Comment Comment Comment so I can give Alex money!! She deserves it, and she’s working hard!!!


Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, p.1

Posted: August 18, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 18 Comments »

I threw a dinner party on Saturday – Jesse and I threw one. In honor of Julia Child’s 97th birthday. I will post about it as soon as I’ve processed it. There are not many food photos, because the food disappeared, although one of my friends apparently took a few more. Until I can sort out the post, here is something to tide you over.

Think of it as an hors d’oeuvre.

This is a new facet of this blog, something I’m incredibly happy to be a part of. It’s for a good cause and it’s promoting something that’s important to me.
My college roommate, and dear friend, Alex, is running a half-marathon (my apologies to those I told a full marathon) as part of a charity team, to raise money for cancer research. This is a cause close to both my heart, since my Grampa lost the fight to lymphoma in 2006, and Alex’s since she has lost both her cousin and her father to blood cancers(in whose honor she’s running and raising funds). Please check out her site and support her.

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!! These recipes will be largely vegetarian (because Al is a vegetarian), lots of veggies, lots of protein, lots of energy and fuel. They will not be difficult.
You can do this.  She can do this. Help me help her, and everybody else!!

Seared Tofu with Lentil Salad and Spicy-Sesame DressingThis, my friends, is tasty and easy.

Seared Tofu, Lentil Salad with Spicy-Sesame Dressing

1/2 container Extra-firm Tofu
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 red onion
1/2 carrot
1 stalk celery.
Sriracha, Sesame Oil, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Cider Vinegar (if you like)
Assorted veggies, any type you choose. I used a green bell pepper, half a zucchini, and a crap-ton of heirloom tiny tomatoes.

1. Put lentils, 1/2 of the onion (so 1/4 of the TOTAL onion), carrots, and celery in a pot. Cut the onion, carrot and celery into large chunks. Cover by 2 inches with water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. If the water boils off, add more. Keep them covered for the first 10 minutes. Taste a lentil, and check every 2-3 minutes until the lentils are soft on the outside, but still have some bite. Maybe 10 more minutes, tops.
Lentils and veggies2. While the lentils cook, cut up into small dice the vegetables – pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and the rest of the red onion. Put them in a big bowl.
3. When the lentils are done, drain them, pull out the big chunks of celery, onion and carrot, and rinse the lentils under cold water. Drain and rinse a second time to really cool them down, then put them in the bowl with the veggies. Season the veggies a little with salt and pepper. Taste, and make sure they taste good on their own. This is very important.

4. Put a big skillet or grill pan on the heat, and get it SCREAMIN’ hot. Combine a teaspoon of Sriracha, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Whisk together and adjust to your flavor preferences. Cut your tofu brick into strips and brush one side of each strip with the marinade.

5. Put the tofu marinade side down on your pan. You don’t need any additional oil. Sear for about 2 minutes on one side, brush the side that’s up with the marinade, and flip. This flip is why we need extra-firm tofu.

6. Bring it all together. Take the tofu off, and let it cool a bit. Take whatever marinade you may have left, and add more of all the elements: More sriracha, more soy sauce (but not too much, let’s not be crazy) more sesame oil, and probably some regular oil to thin it out. You’re going to need between a third and half of a cup total.
Assembly: pour the dressing over the veggies. stir, gently, to combine. Taste, and dish out. Put a tofu slice on top of the salad, and call it dinner. 

Tofu, side 1Tofu, side 2The usual suspects

Enjoy, and help me help Alex!! I cook, she runs, we all win!!!!


Dipali's Dinners

Posted: August 9, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, vegetarian | Tags: | 10 Comments »

Hello friends! Yesterday, something strange happened. Other people cooked……for ME!!! It’s a rarity, and I enjoyed it immensely. :)   To make sure that she get her due credit, last night for dinner I hung out with my fantastic friend Marla, who is a fashion student and an all-around hell of a gal. She made me spaghetti with sauce that I swear had…. magic in it. Maybe it was the parmesan. Maybe it was the tomatoes. I’ll never know, until I go home and hang out with her mother and stalk her spaghetti-sauce making. But mmmm. And the brownies!! Marla made brownies that had cherries, and walnuts in them. I’ll let that sink in.

Cherries (freshones, real ones) and walnuts.
They may have looked a little fugly, fallen apart a little, but believe me, I am not one to turn down chocolate, and who ever said brownies needed to LOOK nice??? These were delicious. Delish!!!

Dipali's DinnersYesterday afternoon, my friend from work, Dipali, came over to do the first of a series of guest-cooking posts, called Dipali’s Dinners. Dipali is Indian, and since I alerted her to the site, she has graciously offered to come over and teach me authentic Indian dishes, from her mom’s recipes. I was really excited about this, because any curries that I’d made from scratch had always taken lots of steps, and lots of pots and pans, and I couldn’t find a respectable curry paste in my grocery store, and I was reduced to Thai Yellow Curry Paste which is HOT and not as delicious as what I’m looking for, and finally, I was fed up.

Dipali promised there wasn’t that much to worry about. I trust her. She’s sweet and pretty. Always trust the sweet and pretty. They will not steer you wrong.
So yesterday, Dipali came over, armed with her lovely, fragrant little spice tin, and taught me how to prepare two different vegetable dishes from her repetoire: Channa Masala Shaak, and Eggplant & Spinach Shaak.

I was immediately heartened, because Dipali said that a lot of Indian cooking uses those three words I love so much, “Season to Taste” — there isn’t really measurements, it’s about the flavor you’re looking for. She also laid out the basic theory or principle behind the cooking: Get the oil really hot, add your aromatics (usually onion and/or garlic), add the spices, and get the spices really hot so that they infuse the oil with their flavor. This, I can do.

EggplantWe started with the eggplant-spinach Shaak.
1 medium eggplant, cut into small cubes or chunks.
4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole corriander seeds.
1 teaspoon each: Tumeric, Ground Cumin, Cayenne powder, Salt
1 package frozen spinach (defrosted)
4 tbs. oil, 1 c. Water.

Heat 4 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet with high sides. Add the garlic and the cumin and corriander seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the eggplant, tumeric, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and water. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it all simmer for about 10 minutes, until the eggplant has softened.  You can cover it if you want, to make sure that the flavors have nowhere to go but into the eggplant. After about 10 minutes, add the spinach, stir well, and cover again. Let everything get friendly on low heat for as long as you need to. This food will not rush you. It will not make demands on your time. In fact, it’s happy whenever you’re happy.
After simmeringAdjust To Taste
Look at all that yum. Dipali decided after the simmering (left) that it needed some more tumeric (right). Like I said, since she’s sweet and pretty I trust her. Plus, I can definitely get behind any cuisine that says “Stick your finger in the pot, lick the finger, and decide what else to pour in”. That is my kind of cuisine.

Channa Masala, everyoneWe accompanied our eggplant and spinach with some channa masala.
1/2 Red Onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon Corriander seeds
1 teaspoon each: Cumin, Cayenne pepper, Tumeric
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups (1 can) chickpeas. (If you’re using a can, drain and rinse them)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and garam masala (spice blend, you can buy it at Whole Foods)
Once again, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, and all the spices (except the 1/2 teaspoon garam masala) and cook until they start smelling delicious and amazing. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a lovely sludgy tomato-sauce esque consistency. Add the chickpeas, and up to half a cup of water. You may only need 1/4 cup, depending on your tomatoes. If you add too much, you can always boil it off until the liquid reduces. No worries here. Bring the channa masala to a simmer, add in the garam masala and salt, and simmer for 10 minutes or until your willpower gives out. Try for at least 10 minutes. Taste this too at the end, and adjust the seasonings to what you’d like. You’ll probably end up adding more of at least one of the spices, since this is a very malleable dish.

The spreadOur lovely lunch spread, which fed 3 people and gave leftovers. I love indian cooking!!! I also love it because it’s yummy and warm and lovely and …. sigh.

Try these. And we’ll be back soon with a second installment of Dipali’s Dinners. :) YAY!!!


Just for you:

Posted: April 13, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: beans, burgers, cheap, delish, quick, vegetarian | 3 Comments »

Have you found yourself lately thinking, “Y’know, I wish that Joh would post some fun, delicious, progressive recipes for us vegetarians” ?? Have you wondered what in heck you’d eat were you to come to a cookout at my place and not be able to stomach a burger, hotdog, or steak? Are you just hoping that I’ve finally updated this stinkin’ thing, so you can comment on my fabulosity once again??

You’re in LUCK!!!

Tonight, through a convergence of circumstances that can most accurately be described as “shite”, we had a delicious, nutritious, vegetarian dinner! BlackBean Burgers, with mango chutney!!
THey were delish. Seriously. And so easy!!
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 tablespoon onion flake reconstituted, or some chopped onion/shallot. Basically by 1 tablespoon, I mean a handful, thrown in a prep bowl with some water to get all fresh again.
cumin
chili powder
breadcrumbs
garlic powder
Salsita
dried parsley

Everything after the onion should be added to taste. Except the breadcrumbs, which should be a shallow palmful. Less, if you have big palms. You’ll have to come measure my palms to get something exact, suckas!!!!!
For those who’ve been reading along, this is a LOT like my falafel procedure. Smash up or food process the black beans, then add the seasonings and breadcrumbs and process again. Or smash again.

I dusted the patties with a little flour, and pan-fried them in a little vegetable oil (strained from my latest fried pickle exploits….nomnomNOM) until they were crispy on the outside and warm through. I put them on toasted Sandwich Thins, which are by far the most amazing inventions of mankind since fork-split English Muffins. I smeared the bottom of the bun with Mango Chutney that I had in the fridge, and it was heavenly.
These are really good. I’d post a picture, but right now Jesse is using the USB cable to help him build the site for our SuperSecretSideProject, which will be awesome. :) I promise.

For now, consider making black bean burgers. They’re delish. And cheap. very cheap. And when you’ve just smashed your lovely French Press by knocking it over in an attempt to not break anything else on your countertop….. cheap, tasty, healthy dinner is always for the win. :)



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.