Tag Archives: quinoa

Sesame Tofu

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So I’ve been kind of bummed the past few days. It’s nothing major, but it still has me bummed. Due to class schedules of both REB and my sister-in-law, looks like the Vermont trip won’t be happening this year.

My in-laws have their time share every year during the 14th week of the year, which in normal cases would be April 1-5. That’s what we originally planned for. However, the time share folks consider a week to be a full Sunday-to-Sunday week, which in the case of 2013, was Jan 6-13. So long story short, week 14 of 2013 in their eyes is actually April 8-12. That’s REB’s last week of classes for his first term and my sister-in-law’s professor grades based on attendance and that week is a big one for her, too.

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I think REB and I might go some where else the first week of April though, just he and I, so we can still have time together (although we can’t seem to agree on any destination at this point :\). That part doesn’t have me bummed. What mostly had me kind of sad is that I wouldn’t get to see Vermont in the winter or have a full week with my family-in-law since my parents are overseas until mid-April. I’ve seen the place during peak week in the fall, but I’ve heard winters are just as gorgeous. But the great thing about time shares is we can go any year we want.

So the point of this post? I wanted something delicious to eat for dinner after my workout, and I was bored of wallowing, so I decided to make sesame tofu. REB and I have made variations of Asian dishes before, and we usually replace the meat with tofu. So far we’ve been pretty successful; the General’s tofu being the biggest successor.

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I think the sesame tofu either comes in first or ties for first. I see myself making this recipe more. It was slightly sweet, had a hint of spice and that dark smokey taste of the sesame oil really rounded out the whole dish.

The combination of flavors plus the fact I used a pretty new plate I found at Home Goods instantly made me feel better and stop having first world problems. The hug from REB when he got home from class didn’t hurt either.

Sesame Tofu
 
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Slightly sweet, a hint of spice and a dark smokey taste of sesame oil bring this whole dish together.
Author:
Recipe type: vegetarian, main dish, tofu
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 block 14-oz., extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup Lite soy sauce (or you can use tamari)
  • 2 teaspoons Splenda no calorie sweetener (or regular or brown sugar is fine; agave nectar or honey would be good too)
  • 1 tablespoon Mirin (or rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon pure sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons whole sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup scallion, chopped (about 2 or 3 stalks)
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2½ teaspoons grated ginger (use less if ginger isn’t your thing)
  • 1½ cups broccoli florets
  • 2 teaspoons ground chili paste (Sambal Oelek brand or similar)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons of tofu marinade
Instructions
  1. For the tofu:
  2. Whisk soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and mirin in a shallow bowl until combined. Add cubed tofu and stir to coat each piece. Set aside and let marinade for 20-30 minutes.
  3. In a dry pan, add sesame seeds and heat until toasted and aromatic (about 3-5 minutes). Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. When tofu is ready, reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade, drain the rest and lightly pat the tofu to dry.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large deep skillet and wait for it to get hot. Add tofu cubes in batches and brown on all sides. Transfer to bowl of sesame seeds and toss to coat, and set aside.
  6. In the same pan, add the other tablespoon of oil and cook scallion, garlic and ginger until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add the broccoli, chili paste and water and cook another 3-5 minutes.
  8. Toss the tofu back into the pan with the reserved marinade and cook everything together for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately over brown rice or quinoa.
  10. Optional garnish: finely chopped scallion, parsley or sesame seeds

 

Cookbook Challenge #2 – Quinoa Pilaf

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I brought Isa Chandra’s Appetite for Reduction cookbook to work with me and read through it as I had my morning cup of coffee. I ended up looking at her recipe for cranberry-cashew biryani and knew I needed to make it.

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However, as much as I love her recipes and love that in this cookbook everything is 400 calories or less per serving, I wanted to change the recipe to fit my taste buds better.

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My sister and I were emailing each other all day talking about recipes, our mom’s recipes, cooking and planning my visit to Chicago in March (hooray!). I told her about this recipe and how I wanted to change it to fit my dietary needs. She reminded me that “biryani” is actually all spice. It does not usually have dried fruit in it, and I wanted to use some kind of dried fruit. So we both realized what I wanted to make, was really a pulao or pilaf.

The biggest changes I made were the cooking process in general, using quinoa over Basmati rice to help keep it low-carb for me, and using dried apricots instead of cranberries.

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garam masala made fresh

If you didn’t know, apricots and cumin are two of the most yummy flavors when combined. Next time you make a curry dish with cumin, add a little dried apricot in there – your world will change completely.

This dish turned out amazing. How do I know that? When REB got home from class and had it for dinner, he said, and I quote, “Whole Foods should have this in their hot bar.”

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This is how I know this recipe is a keeper. And how I know he’s a keeper too ;)

Quinoa Pilaf
 
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A low-carb twist on classic Vegetable Pulao that uses Indian spices, mixed vegetables and dried fruit. Adapted from Isa Chandra (and my mom)!
Author:
Recipe type: vegan, vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: Indian, vegetarian, vegan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetable blend (my blend has carrots, peas, green beans and corn kernels)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (I make mine fresh, but you can use store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup unsalted whole cashews, toasted
  • Cilantro (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. In a rice cooker or medium pot, cook quinoa according to packaging instructions. I used ¾ cup quinoa, with 1½ cups water in my rice cooker.
  2. Add the chopped dried apricots directly to the quinoa so they cook together — the quinoa took about 20-25 minutes to cook in the cooker. May take longer on stovetop.
  3. When the quinoa is cooked, pour into a bowl and set aside
  4. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.
  5. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover the pot with a lid and let the seeds start to pop.
  6. Next add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for one minute.
  7. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, garam masala, turmeric, salt, red pepper flakes and stir well for one minute.
  8. Add the tomato paste and water and stir.
  9. Cover the dish and let it come to a boil and reduce so the curry is slightly thickened and most of the water is gone- about 3-5 minutes.
  10. While the curry is boiling away, toast the cashews in a small, dry pan until golden
  11. When the curry has reduced, add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir well to combine all the flavors. Give it a taste and adjust your spices if needed.
  12. Toss in the toasted cashews.
  13. Serve immediately with pickle, chutney or additional curry dish.
  14. Optional garnish: chopped cilantro

 

After doing the math, I found that this recipe was only 229 calories per serving, almost 5g of fiber and almost 8g of protein. I think next time I might add some garbanzo beans or mushrooms to up the ante on the protein.

What are some of your favorite cookbook recipes?

Resolutioner No More

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I didn’t make any resolutions for 2013. I have that list of things I want to do before I’m 30 (9 months and counting. I need to step up my game and get crack-a-lacking!) and while some health related items are on there, I think that list is sufficient and as close to resolutions as I’ll get.

I used to be one of those “resolutioners” are the gym. You know, the one who signs up for a membership at big, corporate gym on January 1 and says to themselves, “I’m going to work out every single day, not eat and I’ll lose weight. Hooray!”

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Not so much hooray. It would only last about a month. I have a gym membership now at a much smaller, locally-owned place, sure, but I haven’t been there since the holidays. I’ve been working out at home in our basement gym, attending Russa yoga classes downtown near my work, and trying to change things up to keep the workouts interesting. I am definitely one of those people who gets bored very easily. If I change it up, it actually makes working out tolerable and fun ;)

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I know it’s not easy to get your butt to the gym. One of my friends once told me, “The hardest part is lacing up your shoes.” and once you do that, you’re set. How I feel about working out, especially at a gym now, is a complete 180 from before.

I hated going to the gym back then, and quickly realized that I had signed up for something I wasn’t 100% committed to doing. I wanted to lose the weight, but wasn’t prepared to do anything that comes with wanting that to happen. I wasn’t prepared to up the intensity of my workouts, do both cardio and strength training to get a full body workout, eat healthier, cut out junk, etc. So like a lot of people, I stopped going and then bitched and moaned that they were ripping me off.

A lot of you have read my journey to wanting to be healthy. It wasn’t easy but I’m finally in a place I can appreciate. Do I have bad days? Yes. Do I have great days? Yes. Do I sometimes get too obsessed about caloric intake, lack of protein, fat and carbs consumed and calories burned? Absolutely. BUT! I don’t stop. I work out. I cut out the junk. And I definitely eat better and as a result, feel better. I also know results won’t happen overnight. It took me a LONG time to figure that one out ;)

One way of keeping healthy is one of my favorite things to do: making new recipes that are healthier forms or vegetarian/vegan forms of a classic recipe.

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So now onto the food and real purpose of this post. Stuffed peppers are a classic recipe in my opinion. We have made them before, but we kind of made them blindly and didn’t really measure out ingredients, or think about what kinds of healthy ingredients we could put into them.

I lightened up this newer recipe and it ended up being completely vegan. And delicious.

Stuffed Peppers with Curry-Spiced Quinoa
 
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A healthy twist on a classic recipe using quinoa, meatless crumbles and spices! This can easily be made into a meat dish or just vegetarian with the addition of cheese.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish, Entree
Cuisine: vegetarian, vegan, main dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 whole medium-sized red bell peppers, halved lengthwise
  • Non-stick spray
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups vegan meatless crumbles (I used Boca brand)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup frozen corn kernels, warmed or thawed
  • ¾ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons vegan worchestershire sauce (I use Wizards brand found at Whole Foods)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 dashes Franks red hot sauce (or Tobasco if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Parlsey (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. Cook the quinoa according to instructions on package (I cooked mine the night before) and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 350°
  3. Fill a large pot with water and let it come to a boil
  4. Stand the bell peppers up and cut down the middle, lengthwise so they are halved. Take out the seeds and membranes. Arrange all 8 halves in a 9 x 13 baking dish
  5. Once the water is boiling add the bell pepper halves (4 at a time) into the water and blanch for 3-5 minutes. Remove, drain the water out and arrange back in the dish. Set aside.
  6. In a large skillet, spray the non-stick spray and let it heat over medium heat.
  7. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly tender.
  8. Next add the meatless crumbles and let them warm through in the pan.
  9. Add the water and stir. Let the whole thing cook away for 3-4 minutes.
  10. Add the tomatoes and corn, followed by the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and all the spices.
  11. Lastly, add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine.
  12. If the mixture gets too dried out, you can add a little more water.
  13. When everything is well mixed, give it a taste and adjust your spices and add salt and pepper accordingly (if needed).
  14. Remove from heat and distribute evenly among the halved bell pepper boats
  15. Bake the dish at 350°F for 20 minutes then heat under the broiler for 2 minutes or until the tops are slightly browned and crisped.

The best thing about this dish is that it’s under 300 calories per bell pepper. You really can’t beat that! So if you are a resolutioner, start the year off right with this healthy, low calorie recipes that is incredibly filling!

And while I’m not quite the “resolutioner” now as I was way back when, I do still set goals for myself. I just know I can’t expect them to be achieved, or see the results overnight. What I do know is that I plan to make 2013 rock as much as 2012 did!


Do/Did you set any resolutions or goals for yourself for 2013?

Cookbook Challenge #1 – Isa’s Quinoa Salad

Remember that list of 31 things I want to do before I turn 30? The 31 Before 30 list? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it, too. I always do this to myself. I make an awesome list, set of goals, or even resolutions and usually only get 75% done.

So I happened to take a peek at the list, scrolled through it, and came to number #25 and literally said, “Oh shit.”

Read it and weep, Aparna:

Prepare and cook at least two recipes from each cookbook I own.

Now for any normal person, this is not a big deal. This is actually something very easy to accomplish for most. But for someone like me, who constantly forgets she owns cookbooks because she either alters recipes she finds online, puts a twist on her mom’s recipes, or creates new recipes all together, this is a problem.

I don’t even own a lot of cookbooks. I own, like….[counting] 11 cookbooks. So this should be easy. That’s 22 recipes I need to get done in a year. Well, at least 22 recipes (damn technicalities).

The only one I’m kind of pissed and/or worried about is cooking from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook aka ALL MEAT, BUTTER, FAT AND CARBS RAWR. Quite frankly, I’m not as big a fan of hers as I used to be, and I don’t even know why I have this cookbook or ever wanted it. Her demeanor, her show and her overall premise is not very appealing to me nor do I relate to it in any way. [Pause for gasps and people leaving blog]

But I digress…

So as I was perusing through this cookbook, and on the phone with REB as he was driving home from work, we were playing the “what should we make for dinner?” game. It’s a game we hate and one we play almost every night. I mentioned I was reading Isa Chandra’s cookbook to him and maybe an idea for dinner would come from it. He seemed intrigued. Actually, he didn’t, but he did say, ” Yeah, that sounds good.” I’ll take that as intrigue and interest.

I love Isa Chandra. I love that I relate to her food aesthetic and I love her recipes. I looked through her cookbook and post-it’ed the hell out of it with recipes I want to try. And while on the phone with REB, came across this recipe, which we happened to have almost all the ingredients for in the kitchen.

Isa’s Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds was perfect. Everything in the Appetite for Reduction cookbook is 400 calories or less per serving, uses fresh ingredients and is full of proteinalicious recipes! REB and I are newbs to quinoa, and we can’t get enough of it. It’s easily becoming our favorite substitute for pasta or rice. Plus, anything with cumin seeds? Duh. Has my name all over it.

So one recipe down, 21 (excuse me, at least 21) to go!

Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds
 
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Our twist on a low-cal, full-of-protein, fresh-ingredient salad! Adapted from Isa Chandra
Author:
Recipe type: main dish, vegetarian, quinoa
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 4 on-the-vine tomatoes (it’s all we had. I would prefer Roma), finely diced (remove some excess liquid if you can)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup scallion, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (more if you need it – we didn’t)
  • Juice of two limes
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package. Once cooked, put into a mixing bowl, and let it cool.
  2. In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds until aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, add chopped tomatoes, lime juice, honey, olive oil and cumin seeds and mix.
  4. Stir in the cooled quinoa, add the salt, scallion and black beans.
  5. Enjoy at room temperature or cold!
  6. Optional garnish: chopped scallion or cilantro
  7. Vegan option: use agave nectar instead of honey