09 July 2013

Meals Made Easy #11 - Black Rice with Edemame, Avocado, Radishes, Pomegranate, Mushrooms & Lettuce

Coming back from a week away on vacation I had no idea what was in my fridge other than some avocados I knew I forgot. I needed something nutritious and delicious for lunch today. Scouring the fridge/freezer and cupboards I began to pull stuff out: black rice, avocado, some forgotten radishes, a pomegranate, dried mushrooms, frozen edemame, spinach flour tortilla, colby cheese, red wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt & pepper.

I first started the rice that takes 30 minutes to cook and by far the longest thing in the process, then getting to work on the rest.

I boiled some water to re-hydrate the mushrooms  Thawing some already shelled edemame & a frozen spinach tortilla, I seeded the pomegranate, chopped up some radishes & lettuce and sliced the avocado. Once the rice was done I set it in a bowl to cool. I re-hydrated my mushrooms for about 20 minutes and then chopped & cooked them in sunflower oil & ground flax for about 7-10 minutes until the smelled and tasted delicious.

While the mushrooms were cooking I added the edemame, avocado, radishes, pomegranate seeds, red wine vinegar & sesame oil to the black rice, mixing thoroughly. Once the mushrooms were cooked I put them aside and put the tortilla in the pan over medium low heat turning it every few minutes so it would harden up and cook uniformly. For the last couple minutes I added thinly sliced cheese and covered it to quickly melt.

Once the tortilla was done I added the shredded lettuce, mushrooms and black rice mixture over the top. The results: it was simple, took 30 minutes and tastes fantastic. The best part is I have left over rice mixture and mushrooms!

.5 c black rice
1 c frozen edemame
8 small radishes
1 avocado
1 flour tortilla
few thin slices of cheese
small bunch of lettuce
small handful of pomegranate seeds
handful of dried mushrooms (I had hen of the woods)
dash or two of red wine vinegar
small dash of sesame oil (it's potent!)
salt & pepper to taste

02 April 2013

Meals Made Easy #10 - Curried Lentils and Spinach

Being Spring is taking a long time to really set in with warm temperatures and flora rebirth I am still finding great solace in comfort foods. Lentils have been a high priority lately. I rarely cook with meat at home so am constantly looking for high protein foods to keep the body happy. I got the base recipe from The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet and added a few of my own additions, of course.

This dish is high in protein, flavor and ridiculously easy. I like to eat it with paratha and while it isn't a low cal bread option it is mighty delicious.

3.5-4c broth or water
1c dried lentils (red, green or both)
2-3 stalks of celery, leaves included, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
.25c chopped onion
1 tblsp curry powder (bought or homemade)
1 package frozen spinach
salt & pepper to taste

Rinse your lentils and pick out any bad dudes.

Add the broth, lentils, garlic, onion and curry powder in a suitable saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 25-35 minutes until lentils are tender. Drain the spinach a smidge and add to the lentil - heat through, roughly 5-10 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

It doesn't photograph super well, it is spinach and brown/red legumes after all.

Easy Curry Powder

Curry powder is the shit. It is delicious, can be made as mild or as spicy as you like and is a fantastic addition to many dishes. Use as much or as little as you'd like. Mine is sort of a hybrid take on the standard. Curry is the best thing ever. Like everything I post it is to taste (I'm not a baker, OK?).

1 tblsp cumin
1 tblsp tumeric
.5 tblsp ground ginger powder
.5 tblsp coriander
.25 tblsp nutmeg
3+ ground dried chilis

Mix together. Pretty easy, eh?

06 February 2013

Meals Made Easy #9 - Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer - likely my favorite Indian dish. I love its spicy flavor, the delicious paneer cheese chunks and wonderful base of spinach. It is a dish that has always intimidated me to make, Trader Joe's version PALES in comparison to the real thing; luckily my friend Sai came to the rescue shortly before moving to the West Coast. Sai came over to teach me the ways of the Palak Paneer and then took me shopping at Pooja Grocers. Needless to say, I am all set to now cook with the appropriate spices and decided to try Palak Paneer on my own. I went off my notes from our session and I must say while it's not as delicious as the first go around it is pretty damn tasty. Note: all the spices are approximate and to taste.
Another note: This food does not photograph that well.

2 bags frozen spinach (can use fresh but I was feeling lazy)
1 block of paneer
2.5 tblsp Kasoori Methi (crushed fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tblsp cumin (seeds but powder will do)
.5 tblsp tumeric
4 dried chilis
1.5 c onion
5 cloves garlic - minced
2 roma tomatoes (or .5-1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes - also optional)
3ish tblsp of oil (sunflower or olive)

chili powder

Heat 1/4 inch of water to boiling; over medium low heat blanch spinach for a few minutes. Add half of garlic, some salt and fenugreek leaves and cook for 10-20 minutes, looking for leaves to become dark green and flavors to meld. Blend if desired and set aside.

Cut paneer into cubes and set aside.

Heat oil. chilis, fenugreek seeds, onion, tumeric and rest of garlic over low heat. Key: keep adding salt as cooking to help with flavor and absorb moisture. Cook down for 10-20 minutes. Add to spinach, add a bit more fenugreek leaves and cook for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and cook down for 10 minutes (less if canned). Add paneer (can be raw paneer, no need to bake/fry) and cook down for another 10 minutes or so. Add some salt and chili power (if not spicy enough). Cook to taste.

That's it. Super easy. Eat it with Naan or Paratha and it is simply delightful.

spinach melding & cooking down

onions with spices
final product in all its prettiness

31 October 2012


Reimagine everything. The theme our keynote speaker, Ron Johnson, CEO of jcp, creator of Apple Stores
and the Genius Bar, idea man behind designers creating specific brands and products for Target, reiterated throughout his presentation. Reimagine everything. His words sinking in as he continued to speak. Use your imagination. Embrace imagination. Don’t believe the skeptics. Believe in yourself, your ideas, your convictions.

Ron spoke passionately to these topics at the CitizensLeague 2012 Civic Celebration. His father, Verne Johnson, has been involved with the organization since before its inception 60 years ago – his passion for engagement clearly passed from father to son, a successful business man and a man who filled me with motivation and excitement – feelings a speaker hasn't invoked in a while. Ron - a person who took risks, huge risks, when Apple was a floundering company, when Target wasn't a common household name and couldn't differentiate itself from the other big box stores, now tackling jcp to turn it into America's favorite store. Ron spoke to the successes through what his father embodied, what made him a successful and wonderful person and what he passed along; he touched on the qualities of clarity, courage, creativity and kindness.

I sat there taking it all in. Clarity. Courage. Creativity. Kindness. Simple concepts with deep and profound implications. I wrote a bit about creativity the other day, finding my creativity, working with it, through the roadblocks and my own hang ups, discovering outlets and proceeding. Throughout the presentation and in the following days, I now ponder these additional concepts; about how all revolve around one another – opening a process for me, (re)imagination: a key to life and living.

Ron brought the presentation to a close stating the worst thing you can do when things are going well is rest on your laurels. He then quoted Maryann Williamson saying, “"We're all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life — our relationships, our homes, our work, our current circumstances — exactly as they are.” I left that presentation discussing the impact of his words, his battle cry to get uncomfortable. What makes a person memorable, makes them important, gives them a sense of purpose, of fulfillment in life and provides a legacy is clarity, courage, creativity and kindness.

 Get moving and reimagine what is in front of you. 

25 October 2012

The process

Creativity [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee] n. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

 A glorious and frustrating concept.

 I contain a lot of creativity; many ideas: standard, complex, normal, abstract. Self-discipline is my own worst enemy. I fight it, I resign myself against it, I eventually and occasionally embrace output in spurts - a vicious cycle of self-loving and loathing.

 I make stuff. I like it, love it even. Cards, images, stitching, writing. I have an extensive ‘to create’ list full of ideas I want to make and articulate. Some of these things I am actually pretty good at doing.

 I am told I have a 'good eye'. This eye is the core of it but not a sustaining feature - the discipline, the ability to overcome fear must be present – so difficult, I am forever reaching and beating myself up when I can’t find it quickly enough, easily enough. It is hard. I don't write this to garner sympathy but to explore why so many creative people (and I'm guessing most of us are), namely ME, don't ever get outside of our own heads, our own fears, our own damn laziness.

 Ira Glass has a quote (thanks to a friend who posted a .jpeg on the interwebs) that oscillates in my head, taunting me, encouraging me, "Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through."

 Creativity, like anything, is a process. It is not immediate; creativity takes time, it takes dedication, it takes heart, most of all, it takes self-acceptance. I am here to accept my abilities, my talent and to grow it instead of stifling myself through fear or the unknown.

 These past few days I have been in an output mode, self-love instead of self-loathe, my heart goes into my creative output the goal of self-discipline and self-loving to follow. As the creative output ramps up, hell, I am even writing about it.

 Sealing up a new, completely original card to a friend I smile; realizing this is as much for her as it is for me. The quote I chose, a Chinese proverb, reads: The journey is the reward.

23 August 2012

Soups Made easy - Melon, peach, mango chilled number

My CSA from Tangletown is in full effect and holy food. I only did a half share and I seriously have enough veggies for a family. Every. Week. My fridge and freezer are chock full of delicious.

Basil has been overwhelming but even more than that I have been getting so much cantaloupe! What does one even do with all this cantaloupe? Get creative. Melon infused vodka? Check. Diced melon? Check. I still have three large melons. I went to a good source: Clean Food by Terry Walters. This has a recipe for Carrot Fruit Soup. The base recipe seemed pretty good but I didn't have carrot juice and did not feel like juicing carrots and, of course, I love modifications. Below is base recipe and my modifications. It is good. Very fresh, delicious and makes me think summer. I garnished with both mint and basil and it offsets it wonderfully. Due to the sweetness of the fruit it tastes phenomenal all hours of the day. Thinking it will freeze well too when I want that delicious taste of summer in the throes of winter.

1 cantaloupe
1 mango
2 peaches
1.5 c carrot juice (I used 1 c orange juice)
.25 tsp ground cloves
1 tblsp lemon juice (omitted due to orange juice)
handful of mini carrots (my add-on)
sprig of mint (my add-on)
.5 cucumber (my add-on)
pinch of sea salt
blueberries, mint or basil for garnish

Peel, cut and cube cantaloupe. Same for the mango. Cut peaches. Put fruit into pot, adding juice, cucumber, carrots, cloves and salt. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes. Take off heat, add mint. Use immersion blender or stand blender to puree. Let cool at least one hour. Enjoy!

18 May 2012

Dessert Made Easy #1 - Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Cashew Cream

Oh the delights of seasonal offerings. While at the Minneapolis Farmers Market I picked up a huge bunch of beautifully, deep red rhubarb. Being completely naive on how to cook the rhubarbs I went to my new favorite cook book: Clean Food which outlines recipes by season (side note: I received this cookbook for beta testing a really amazing tool: No Plan Meal Plan).

ANYWAY, one of two rhubarb recipes was this wonderfully delicious and easy recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Cashew Cream. This is technically a 'summer' recipe but with the rhubarb dominating the farmers market I had to try it out.

Strawberry Compote with Cashew Creme
 I will note where I made substitutions, but did the cooking slightly outside of the recipe so will just list that. 

Cashew Cream
2 c. apple juice (I used 1.5 c. apple juice)
2 c. lightly roasted cashews (I used 1.5 c. raw cashews that I pan roasted over low heat)
3 tblsp. maple syrup (I used 1 tblsp of maple syrup, 1 tblsp agave)

In small pot, bring apple juice to a boil and remove from heat. Place cashews and syrup in food processor (I used a Vitamix; the food processor left it quite chunky, not smooth). Turn on and add juice. Blend until you have desired consistency, in my opinion the smoother the better. Refrigerate covered for at least an hour.

2 c. chopped rhubarb
.5 c. apple juice
3 tblsp. arrowroot or kudzu (both can be found at a co-op, natural foods store)
1 tsp. agar powder (vegan gelatin substitute - can be found at a co-op, natural foods store)
4 c. de-stemmed and halved strawberries (I substituted 16 oz. bag frozen mixed berries)

In saucepan over medium heat, combine apple juice and rhubarb. Simmer until rhubarb starts to fall apart, about 7 minutes. Because my berries were frozen I added after a couple minutes and had it simmer all together so they'd defrost. Add mixture to blender. Add arrowroot (or kudzu) and agar and blend until mixture begins to thicken and is fully blended. Set aside and cool slightly.

From there you can prepare a few ways. I found my cashew cream was not layering very nicely so I did a large layer of compote and then dolloped the cream on top, mixing it through with a knife which gave it a sorta pretty marbled look.

The final product was visually appealing (thought not so photo friendly) and delicious. Get yourself some rhubarb and try this out, I promise your friends will love it!

07 March 2012

Things aren't so random

Last night, biking home from the river front on the Stone Arch Bridge, stopping to take photos and observe, I listened to my intuition and took a right instead of a left, heading towards the Guthrie, towards the glowing, unobtrusive yet beckoning lights.

This right turn led me to the 35W bridge memorial. Something I guess I knew was there yet had not experienced myself. Coming up to it I saw someone else crossing the street towards the memorial. My fight v. flight momentarily kicked in and then realized it was a woman into her 70s give or take, I figured I was safe.

We initially kept our space yet were close and eventually spoke. Lil, a wonderfully warm older woman, with her coiffed hair, glasses and sweater, asked me where I was from, mentioned she was visiting the cities from Albert Lea, joking about the distance and the small town atmosphere. She having to come to the cities to 'see' anything, me having to travel to Northern Minnesota to 'get away'. She had spent her evening at the Guthrie, observing the view from the lookout and could not leave the cities without physically coming down to the memorial.

We talked about the beauty of the memorial. We talked about the people that died. The fact that these people were fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, grandpas, grandmas. Much like the war memorials and the soldiers that have passed these people meant something to someone and gave/lost their lives and such a tribute is a wonderful expression of appreciation.

We then digressed, or rather, segueing into talking about seeing grown men cry and the stoicism of the past. Observing people, specifically grown men, touch those walls in DC and break down in unobstructed tears. She shared the first time seeing her father cry was on a birthday many a year ago. She was at the age where you stop sending your father the funny cards and instead start expressing your love and appreciation. When he read that card he started to cry and she instantly wished she could take it all back. I expressed the only time I can recall my father crying, receiving the news of his own father passing and how it affects you and you can never forget that moment.

We talked for a few more moments, me introducing myself and learning her name. Her wishing me a safe ride home and me wishing her a safe long drive home late at night. And then we left each other to digest the memorial in our own ways. Me going out onto a lookout to write down my notes of meeting her, to snap a few more photos; Lil reading and thinking who knows what. I biked away observing her moving through the pillars and feeling so appreciative I was able to meet her, talk to her and share in the beauty and wonder together.

29 February 2012

Cooking on an empty cupboard - Meals Made Easy #8 - Black-eyed Peas & Rice

Due to travel and such my cupboard has been sorely neglected, like my fridge has a couple beers and carrots in it, all dry goods in the cupboards and let's face it one cannot survive off of girl scout cookies and almonds (although I may try).

Inspiration: Needed to cook something delicious, easy and filling til I can make it to the store.

Food Obtained from: Seward Co-op

I made enough for 4-6 servings so cut your recipes accordingly

List of Ingredients:
1 c. dried black-eyed peas
1/2. c. red rice (can use any rice)
1 small yellow pepper
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves
salt & pepper
pad of vegan butter
some olive oil

Chop onion, garlic and pepper.

In a large sauce pan full of cold water, add black-eyed peas, bring to a boil and simmer for roughly 45 minutes, or until tender. Strain (I like to rinse to cool down) and set aside.

In the meantime, in a smaller sauce pan boil water or broth (I used black-eyed pea water for some flavor as I made ahead of time) to a boil, add rice and simmer on very low for roughly 45 minutes or until tender.

In the saucepan used to make the beans, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat, add the onion and saute for 7 minutes until it begins to get tender, add garlic and pepper and saute for a few more minutes. Over low heat, add a bit of water (or leftover bean water), the black-eyed peas, rice, salt & pepper; stirring to mix it all together.

From there just eat it. It's good.
p.s. I was just thinking as I write this - add celery, that would enhance the flavor. Maybe some dried cranberries too. I love dried cranberries in stuff.