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Mucver!

30 Apr

I had lots of cashew yogurt sauce leftover from my Indian feast, and resorted to eating it with a spoon (yes, it’s THAT good).  Clearly, I was in desperate need of another delivery system, so I flipped through “Vegan Eats World” to see if Terry had any other suggestions.  Of course she did!

Mucver

Tonight I made Turkish Zucchini Pancakes, or mucver, and to my absolute delight they were delicious, incredibly healthy, and really easy to make.  I was amazed by how many veggies could be jammed into a pancake!  The whole batch doesn’t even need a cup of flour, and still it binds together really well.

I shredded the veggies with a box grater while watching “The West Wing,” and the rest came together quickly.  My first two were a soggy mess, but once I got the hang of it, the mucver firmed up with a nice crust on the outside.

The only thing that could’ve made it better would’ve been some harissa, just as Terry suggests.  I settled on Sriracha because that’s what I had, and it did the trick.  Turkish/Thai fusion, is there a market for that?

Mucver is a great way to eat a ton of veggies without even realizing it, and an even better way to use up all that cashew yogurt you have sitting in your fridge.  If you never made Turkish food before (like me!), I can’t think of a better, easier way to start.

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My Indian Basics

29 Apr

My Indian fiancé, Sam, has indirectly influenced my style in the kitchen, by introducing me to a whole new cuisine and way of eating. I now love home cooked Indian food – it’s flavorful, hearty, healthy, easy to veganize, and makes great leftovers.  When I picked up Terry Hope Romano’s “Vegan Eats World,” I was delighted that she had recipes for some Indian basics that I was still lacking.  Here are my favorites:

Basmati Rice Pilaf

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Terry taught me how to make rice.  I’m not even kidding.  I will be forever grateful for her breaking down the steps and taking the time to teach her readers how to get it right.  I learned about soaking, toasting, rice to water ratios, and how to add a little something extra to make basmati rice sing.  I toast my basmati in coconut oil and cook it with cardamom and a cinnamon stick.  It makes the best rice I have ever had.

Cashew Yogurt Sauce

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This versatile sauce can be used in a lot of different ways, but I like to serve a little on the side to cool down a spicy curry.  Her recipe turns plain yogurt into something really fantastic.  I plan to experiment and make it more like the raita Sam knows and loves (with cucumber, mint, and cumin), but I am just crazy about this sauce as it is.  I keep inventing new ways to use it!

Green Chutney

green chutney

This stuff is so good, I can’t have Indian food without it.  Make a big batch then freeze your leftovers in a mini muffin tin or ice cube tray.  Once frozen, pop them out, put them in a freezer bag and back into the freezer they go, ready for you whenever your next Indian craving hits.  I defrost them in the refrigerator a couple of hours before I start cooking, and then let them defrost the rest of the way sitting outside while I cook.  They’re ready to go by the time I’m ready to serve!

And now…How to Throw an Indian Family-Style Dinner

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Making a proper Indian family-style meal can be daunting for a new cook.  Because I’m still learning and take some time prepping, I’ll often be in the kitchen for over two hours getting everything ready, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

For the meal above, I started soaking the rice and the cashews (for the sauce) in the afternoon.  I also started defrosting the chutney.  When I came home and was ready to cook, I got the rice ready first and let the rice cooker do it’s thing.  Mine has a “keep warm” setting which is so handy when I’m trying to get everything to the table at the same temperature!  Next, I made the yogurt sauce, since it needed to chill for a bit before serving.  The sauce was super easy and only took a few minutes to make, which was quite a relief.  Once I got it into the refrigerator, I took the chutney out to further defrost it.  Then, I attacked my main course, lobia, which is a Punjabi black-eyed pea curry.  This took some time to prep but it’s actually a pretty easy dish!  To round out the meal, I relied on my secret best friend, Tasty Bite.  When I’m cooking Indian food all by myself, I like to take care of the accouterments, rice/bread, and the main dish, but I have no shame when it comes to heating up some yellow dal and baingan bharta.  You’ll have an impressive spread that you mostly made yourself, and an Indian feast of which to be proud.

If you want to put on the whole show yourself, I suggest making the dal and/or a bean dish ahead of time.  They actually freeze really well, so you can make a big batch when you have time, and defrost when you’re ready.  If you’re serving anything with potato, however, save that to make the day of, since it doesn’t freeze as well.

I hope this helps budding chefs learn how to juggle the different dishes it takes to put on a proper Indian family-style feast!  Do not feel any shame if you need a little help from the restaurant around the corner or Tasty Bite at first.  I look forward to the day I can make everything from scratch, but we all have to start somewhere.

Ani’s Fast Blast, a retrospective

24 Apr

I can hardly believe it myself, but I have survived 17 days of eating nothing but raw, good-for-you food, thanks to Ani Phyo, author of Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast.  I did 17 days because I had a wedding to attend and went off the program, but stuck to eating raw foods.

Orange Vanilla Shake

Orange Vanilla Shake

What inspired me to “fat blast”? I’ve been losing weight for about 9 months at a very slow and steady rate, but hit a plateau that I just couldn’t shake.  I am not one to buy into claims of “get a new body super fast!” but I knew I needed a short change to inspire me and recharge my weight loss.  I only have a month until my wedding so it’s now or never.  Also, I love a good challenge! I tried the plan before and only lasted 4 days, so this time I was in it to win it.

The Program: Raw foods to help you detox and melt the stubborn pounds away. Smoothies, soups, salads, wraps, sushi, and desserts are all yours to be had.  The idea is not to deprive, but nourish, so you get to eat as much as you want of her prescribed foods.  And for the most part, they are delicious.  Everyone has different tastes so follow your gut and make swaps here and there as you see fit.  I know I did!  I was NOT about to blend raw broccoli into a soup (Kreamy Dill Delight), so I just added more spinach.  I also read that people were severely disappointed in the Orange Vanilla Shake, so I made it without spirulina (which is optional anyway) and was totally delighted by the outcome.  It’s that easy.

The Pros: It definitely works!  She claims you can lose up to 15lbs, and I lost 6lbs, which is still a lot for only two and a half weeks.  My jeans fit better, I’m not bloated anymore, and a lot of my cravings have pretty much been extinguished.  I learned a lot of awesome recipes that I will definitely incorporate into my not-so-raw life.  Raw sushi was a revelation!  Collard wraps and zucchini pasta are way tastier than I could’ve ever imagined.

The Cons: I lost a lot of steam near the end.  I still ate raw and used her recipes, but for the last two days, I gravitated towards simpler dishes I already had in my refrigerator instead of whipping up something all together new.  I just couldn’t get it together enough to julienne another carrot.  The detox symptoms are not a lot of fun, either.  Day 3 and Day 17 were the worst.  I felt achey, nauseous, and just exhausted, without any desire to leave the house.  She doesn’t really prepare you for that, just promises boundless energy that I never really got to enjoy fully.

In summary, if you have weight to lose but are not into calorie counting, and you hate restricting how much food you can eat, Ani’s Fat Blast will rock your world.  If you want to follow someone’s journey through the whole program, check out Raw Food Rehab, Living Girl Living Foods, and Jill’s Well.  They have lots of advice and give honest reviews of all the food!

I think vegans will have an easier time with this detox since it incorporates foods we already adore (coconut oil, nutritional yeast, miso, cashews, etc) but a well-rounded and adventurous omnivore could totally make the Fat Blast work for them.

Tonight I’m treating myself to raw pizza at Cafe Gratitude to celebrate the end of my cleanse, and I’m pretty excited! Now it’s just a matter of maintaining what I’ve lost and looking fly on my wedding day.  Smoothies for the win!

Food for Finals

19 Apr

Don’t you love the end of the semester?  Everyone is just so happy and pleasant and definitely not addicted to caffeine….

*CRASH*

I have consumed more coffee in the past few weeks than I think I have in my entire life.  I cannot wait to get off the junk and back to my tea, but finals is not the time to deal with withdrawal symptoms.  I’ve been making the rounds, and can honestly say, if you want the best latte of your life, head to Bricks & Scones on Larchmont and get “The Norma.”  It’s made with almondmilk, doesn’t taste like diabetes, and digests like a DREAM.  No upset stomach to speak of.  Apparently they serve LAMILL?  Amazing.  The soy latte at Peet’s is also a contender, since it’s not sweet, but it’s still fairly acidic.   Opt for Norma.

Moo Shu Veggies

I haven’t had the energy to play around in the kitchen lately, but I did manage to make Moo Shu Veggies from Chef Chloe‘s new cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen.  She is SO CUTE, I can’t stand it.  The book is filled with a whole range of recipes, from comfort food to light and healthy, from fancypants to weeknight dinners.  I simplified the moo shu by opting not to make my own pancakes, and instead using packaged tortillas.  Not authentic, but still good!  I also used a coleslaw mix to avoid having to chop cabbage and carrots.  With those two cheats, the moo shu came together with ease, and I’ve been enjoying delicious leftovers for a week – it’s been keeping just fine!  It’s so easy to reheat on the skillet and assemble, I’m able to eat a healthy and filling meal between running to class and getting projects finished.  So if you’re in the throes of finals like me, take some time to cook on Sunday, and eat all week without a care in the world.  Pretty good trade off.

So yeah, I’ve been subsisting off moo shu and take-out vegetable curry leftovers for the past week, but the end is in sight.

Fried Udon Noodles

4 Mar

One of my favorite food books is Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.  I remember being 10 years old and totally inspired by her commitment to animals, especially shelter dogs.  Seeing how much she’s done in the past 15 years is truly remarkable, and she continues to inspire me to do better and be kinder.  Her book is the perfect starter’s guide or refresher course to veganism, and it includes some awesome recipes, from decadent peanut butter cups to win over skeptics, to deliciously simple macrobiotic dishes that heal you from the inside out.

I’m decidedly not in the totally health conscious vegan camp at the moment, though I need to work on that as my wedding looms closer.  I still have to pour creamy dressing over greens to get my salad on, and there’s been a sale at Whole Food’s on Coconut Bliss ice cream that I’ve taken advantage of more than once.  Is it better than dairy ranch and dairy ice cream?  Yes!  But I’m no “superhero,” as Silverstone refers to eaters of her macrobiotic recipes.

But there’s one recipe of her’s that’s totally won me over, that’s both decadent AND macrobiotic: fried udon noodles (page 229).  It’s simple to prepare, and it is so delicious you’ll smack yourself.  You’ll have to buy the book to get the recipe, but I can share how I’ve altered it to make it even easier.

Fried Udon Noodles: best of both worlds

1. Instead of dry noodles, I use Annie Chun’s Organic Japanese-Style Udon FreshPak Noodles. You spend a little more time stir frying them to fall apart naturally (do not force them apart!), but you save at least 20 minutes waiting for water to boil and cooking dry noodles.

2. I use 2/3 smoky sweet paprika, 1/3 hungarian paprika, to give it a little more flavor than just straight up sweet paprika.

3. Yellow onions are so freaking yum here.

4. I recently started using Organic Emperor’s Kitchen Chopped Garlic, and I might be a convert. I used to scoff at people who used garlic from a jar, knowing how easy it was just to throw a few cloves into a mini food processor, but since mine’s on the fritz, I’ve traveled to the dark side.  It certainly saves you a prepping step and has this dish come together even faster! Just make sure your jar of garlic isn’t hiding any gross ingredients like high fructose corn syrup – it’s been known to happen.

5. Throw in whatever vegetable bits you have in the fridge to make this dish your own. Not pictured here, but I love using mushrooms when I have them around!

It takes some time for everything to cook, but due to the minimized prep, it feels super easy and doesn’t daunt me even when I’m tired on a weeknight.  If you’re interested in being kinder, whether to yourself, your family, the earth, or the animals, check out The Kind Diet and get inspired.