New York, New York Part 2

If you missed part 1 click here.

After an event filled Saturday we took it a little slower on Sunday.

We had a late breakfast at a little diner by my sister’s house. I had a bagel which wasn’t worth photographing but I will say the service was exceptionally good. It made up for Saturday’s brunch and then some.

In the afternoon we met an old co-worker and friend for a walk in Central Park. She is pretty much Eli’s favorite person in the whole world so we couldn’t let the opportunity to meet up pass us by, despite the very cold day.

We walked around in the park for a while as Eli nearly passed out from happiness. He LOVES Christine!

Eli and Christine

After our walk we headed home to meet up with Sarah and discuss dinner.

We knew that after eating out all weekend we would want to cook on Sunday night. I perused the blog-a-sphere and offered up a few options for dinner.

We settled on veggies burgers with fries.

I used this Oh She Glows recipe. They were very tasty but not perfect. They didn’t hold together very well and were missing some seasoning. I’m going to make some adjustments to hopefully perfect them. In the meantime here are a few pictures of the process.

veggie burgersveggie burgers mixingsveggie burgers mixforming veggie burgersveggie burgers on the grillveggie burgers

In full disclosure, Will lit and set up most of the above shots. He was also kind enough to give me an idiot’s photography 101. I haven’t totally master the tutorial. You should see last night’s dinner photos, bleh.

photography tutorial

Please excuse my awesome outfit.

After dinner we decided to play Jenga. Everyone was a little skeptical but it was ridiculously fun and intense, even if I lost…both times.

jenga

Thank you for the lovely weekend NYC. We’ll be back soon.

Times Square

Enjoy and Exhale!

Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry

First let me say that I wish these photos had turned out better. This was such a tasty meal but I was hasty with the photography. What can I say, it was late, there was good TV on and I was hungry!

These photos really don’t do this meal justice. It was so good that it was actually meant to be yesterday’s post but the blueberry muffins stole the show (or post). It will have to settle for second in the posting schedule but not in flavor.

vegetable tofu stir fry

To be honest, l’m actually not a huge fan of stir fries but they are one of Michael’s favorites and I owe it to him to make it from time to time. This recipe was so simple and tasty that it may just have changed my opinion on the lowly stir fry.

I love how incredibly versatile this recipe is, consider this the jumping off point. How you mix and match is totally up to you. I already have a dozen new sauce and veggie combos in my head, one of which will likely become dinner tonight. Lucky Michael!

Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry (vegan, gluten-free)

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 onion, sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced

1 carrot

2 tbsp garlic, minced

pinch of salt

1 package of firm tofu, pressed and sliced into cubes

1 tbsp tamari

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp brown sugar, vegans can omit

dash of cayenne pepper

1/2 tbsp paprika

Toppings:

1 tsp sriracha

2 tbsp slivered almonds

1 tbsp cilantro

———–

Slice onion, pepper and carrot.

onions and peppers

Heat oil in a large wok. Make sure the wok is really hot. Peanut oil is best for stir frying because it has a high smoke point, meaning it can be heated very high before it starts to break down and taste bitter. The hotter the oil and the pan, the better tasting the stir fry.

Once oil is hot, throw in the sliced veggies. Stir fry for about 5 minutes or until veggies start to get soft but still have some crunch to them. Add garlic, cook for another minute.

healthy stir fry

Next add the tofu. I put my tofu in and then immediately added my liquids but next time I’ll give the tofu a few minutes to brown.

Add tamari, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and paprika. I used regular paprika but I think smoked paprika would add an excellent flavor to this.

Stir fry for a few more minutes until veggies and tofu are coated.

tofu stir fry

Serve with sriracha, slivered almonds and cilantro on top.

Michael would have preferred this over brown rice. I’m not the biggest rice fan so I liked it as it was but could also imagine it being tasty over rice noodles.

The perfect, fast, easy weeknight meal.

tofu vegetable stir fry tofu vegetable stir fry

Enjoy and Exhale!

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

I was going through old bookmarked recipes yesterday morning and stumbled on one for blueberry muffins that used all-purpose flour. I’m actually not even sure why it was bookmarked considering I rarely bake non gluten-free baked goods but it must have been meant for inspiration because it got me craving blueberry muffins and I knew I had to give a gluten-free version a shot.

However, after my series of unsuccessful gluten-free baking endeavors over the last few months I had really low expectations for these muffins. Hence why there aren’t a lot of step-by-step pictures; I was feeling doubtful about the outcome and half heartedly took a few photos as I went, just in case.

So glad I did!

vegan gluten-free muffins

These muffins were so tasty. They are not overly sweet, which I really liked. I ended up eating three of them for breakfast and didn’t have that heavy feeling afterward that you often get when you eat butter laden pastries. Of course, you can always add more sugar to the batter if you prefer a sweeter muffin or use sweetened almond milk but I thought they were perfect just the way they came out. I did add a little earth balance to the last muffin I ate just to see how it would taste. Turns out, the earth balance makes it even better. I’m sure that’s a shock. Ha.

For strict vegans you can sub maple syrup for the brown sugar. I haven’t personally tried it but I’m guessing it will turn out well.

Blueberry Muffins (gluten-free, vegan)

2 tbsp flaxseed meal, mixed with 4 tbsp water

3/4 cup gf oat flour

1/4 cup almond meal

1 cup gluten-free AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 bananas, mashed

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, I used unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup blueberries, I used frozen

————

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a small bowl add water to flaxseed meal. Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, almond meal, gluten-free AP flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Once the flaxseed has formed a gel, add brown sugar, melted coconut oil, mashed bananas, vanilla, milk and apple cider vinegar to it. Stir until well incorporated.

dry and wet ingredients

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix in blueberries.

muffin batter

Once well mixed, grease a cupcake tin with cooking spray. Fill each cupcake hole about 3/4 of the way up.

blueberry muffins

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Yields 12 muffins.

gluten free vegan blueberry muffins DSC_0053

Eat with a piping hot cup of coffee or tea for the perfect breakfast.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Happiness Split Pea Soup

I saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday and it made me smile.

Choose happiness.

good day to be happy

The other thing that made me very happy was this recipe. I was coming off of the banana bread fails and we all know how gluten-free baking can squash my cooking self confidence. I needed my next recipe attempt to be rich, hearty and guaranteed not to fail me. Soups tend to be that thing.

I’ve said it before but soups are just so simple and easy to correct when something feels out of whack. This soup needed no correcting. I absolutely loved it. Michael felt it was lacking in lemon but it didn’t really bother me. I did, however, added a big squeeze of it to the recipe instructions right at the end for those who want that bright citrus flavor.

Also, I originally thought I was making a lentil soup but upon further examination realized that I did not use lentils but split peas. I think lentils could easily be substituted but the split peas were a nice change of pace albeit an unplanned one.

Happiness Split Pea Soup (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 carrot

2 stalks celery

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp garlic, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tbsp tomato paste

6 cups vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1.5 cups green and yellow spilt peas

3/4 cup frozen peas

1 can light coconut milk

Big squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)

————

Chop your vegetables into bite size pieces.

chopped vegetables

Heat olive oil on medium high. Add vegetables and salt, saute until veggies start to get tender. Add garlic, cook for another minute until garlic is golden brown.

Next add curry powder, turmeric and tomato paste. Stir to coat vegetables.

Add vegetable stock. Some veggie stocks contain soy and gluten so read the labels carefully when selecting your broth. Drop in one bay leaf.

soup with bay leaf

Rinse and drain your split peas in cold water. Add split peas to broth. I used a mix of green and yellow but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.

DSC_0012

Add frozen peas and coconut milk.

soup with coconut milk

Bring soup up to a boil then reduce to medium heat for 25 minutes or until split peas are soft. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Remove bay leaf before serving. Top with a big squeeze of lemon.

split pea soup split pea soup

Enjoy and Exhale!

Quinoa Smoothies?

Every so often someone searches quinoa smoothies and lands on my site. I had never thought to add this wonderful little food to my drinks before but curiosity got the best of me this morning. I was working to meet my day’s calcium quota with a breakfast smoothie when I spotted a Tupperware of quinoa leftover from yesterday’s lunch. Now seemed like as good a time as any to try it.

I’m sort of on the fence about the results but wanted to at least share the recipe with you so you can decide for yourself. I’ll be honest, the texture was a little funny. For lack of a better word the quinoa made the smoothie a little…chunky. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I use chia seeds in my smoothies all the time so I’m used to a some crunch or bite in my morning beverage and prefer it to super smooth smoothies. This may just have been a little too much bite.

Again, to each their own. Maybe this will be your cup of tea smoothie.

Quinoa Colada Smoothie (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

2 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup almond milk

1/3 cup cooked quinoa, using these cooking directions

————

Thaw your banana slightly in the microwave. 20-30 seconds should do.

Place all ingredients in a blender or measuring cup if you’re using an immersion blender.

quinoa colada smoothie DSC_0069

Blend for a minute.

Add extra pineapple and quinoa to the top.

As I type this I am just now thinking a couple of tablespoons of shredded coconut would have been a nice addition to this as well.

Serve in a pretty glass for no reason other than that you can. (Excuse the windows reflection in the glass 🙂 )

quinoa colada smoothie quinoa colada smoothieQuinoa smoothie

Enjoy and Exhale!

Recipe Testing and the Weekend

How was your weekend? Mine was very low key. Besides teaching, which I did on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I was out of the house very little this weekend. I blame it on the weather. I think it’s starting to get me down. I find myself daydreaming about running along Chrissy Field in the SF sunshine, having brunch out on the back patio at Zasie’s in Cole Valley and walking to the 24th Street Farmer’s Market year round in Noe. I’m homesick and I’m tired of being cold! I also realize I’m having a serious pity party that isn’t be warranted for at least another month. We’re planning a trip home in the next couple of months but until the tickets are booked I’ll just keep on daydreaming.

Besides daydreaming, the weekend consisted of a couple of logs in the fireplace, starting the Dexter series and trying to get Eli and Guy to sit still so we could play with the new camera. He’s so unimpressed.

Eli

Kitty playing nice.

Guy

Followed by kitty playing mean. He’s pissed!

Eli and Guy

The weekend also included of a little baking.

I tried and failed again with trial number two of gluten-free vegan banana bread. I admit, I’m getting closer. This time it was actually bread and not bar. It was light and airy which is an accomplishment. But it was also dry and not banana-y enough. I’ve been sort of stingy with the coconut butter so maybe I’ll add more to the next batch and another banana. In my head I can see the bread I want to make. It has those little pieces of banana swirled around throughout and a golden brown top.  Who knew banana bread could be so difficult?

Here are a few shots of round two. See, actual bread!

vegan gluten-free banana bread vegan gluten-free banana bread

I also need to coat the chocolate chips in cornstarch or gf flour to keep them all from falling to the bottom of the batter. That poor left corner got seriously left out!

It’s not too bad with a little earth balance on top and my mind is now wondering if it would make a good bread pudding. I don’t know how to make bread pudding but it can’t be that hard right…says the girl with two failed recipe attempts under her belt.

Hope you’re weekend was wonderful. If you’re somewhere warm maybe you can stand with your face to the sun and think about me?

Too weird? I get it.

Off to yoga, please let the room be hot!

Enjoy and Exhale!

Tofu Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash)

Holy cold. Someone remind me why we moved away from sunny, warm California to Boston where it was 5 degrees this morning? 5 degrees but feels like -11! Yesterday I googled ‘how cold is too cold to take a dog running?’ If you’re curious there’s no definitive answer. I put a running coat on Eli (yes he has a coat) bundled up in 5 layers and went anyway. Once we got going it wasn’t too horrible but we still came back after only 2 miles. It was the wind, not the cold that finally did me in.

When we got home I made a quinoa beet recipe that I wanted to share today but the photos are currently being held hostage on my new camera. I need to download some software  before I can access the pics which hasn’t happened yet for a variety of reasons.

So instead of quinoa you get spaghetti. Actually spaghetti squash.

I made this recipe last week when we were trying to use up the last of our groceries. This squash was the lone hold out.

Tofu Vegetable Spaghetti Squash (vegan, gluten-free)

1 spaghetti squash, roasted

2 tbsp garlic infused olive oil

10 cremini mushrooms

1 head of broccoli

10 asparagus spears

1 cup broccoli/carrot slaw

2 tbsp garlic, minced

1 tsp red chili flakes

1 package of extra firm tofu, pressed

1 jar of tomato sauce or 1 28 ounce can of roasted tomatoes

2 tsp oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tsp garlic salt

————-

Preheat oven to 375.

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a sprayed cookie sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes. When a fork can pierce the skin without resistance it’s done.

While the squash is cooking heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan. Saute chopped mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, broccoli slaw, garlic and red chili flakes until veggies starts to soften.

sauteed veggies

IMG_3606

Remove tofu from package and place between 2 paper towels. Press out as much moisture as you can. Once tofu is dry-ish (it doesn’t need to be super dry) heat remaining olive oil and place tofu in pan. Using a potato masher break apart the tofu. You can use a fork but I find the potato masher much easier. Cook tofu until it begins to brown.

IMG_3609

Then add the veggies and tofu together.

IMG_3612

I forgot to take a photo of the next part. Pour tomato sauce over the veggie/tofu mixture. Add oregano, basil and garlic salt. Cook until tomato sauce warms up. If you don’t want to use pre-made sauce you can use a can of tomatoes but you’ll need to add more salt, basil and oregano. You may even want to add a little tomato paste and sugar for a hint of sweetness.

When the sauce is ready, take a fork and run it down the flesh side of the cooled squash. The fork will create spaghetti like ribbons. You can make ribbons all the way to the skin. Place squash ribbons in a bowl and cover with sauce.

IMG_3615 IMG_3621

This dish is deceptively filling, your eyes may be bigger than your stomach. Squash baby anyone?

Enjoy and Exhale!

Potato Leek Soup

I made this soup when it was 50 degrees out two days ago, it was really good then but would probably have been better today with the snow coming down, making Boston a winter wonderland. Because we’ve only had snow a few times this winter it’s still really fun for me to experience. I love those first couple hours when it’s all white fluff that coats the trees and lightly swirls around you making it seem like you’re in a movie. Tomorrow I’ll be annoyed by the remnants of salt and gray slushy piles of old snow on the sidewalk. But I’m practicing staying in the present so today, hooray for snow!

Columbus Street in the snow

Snow covered trees outside Crossfit after this morning’s yoga class. I’m teaching another one tomorrow morning at 6:45am, you should get up with me. 🙂

Boston winter

Downtown Boston in the snow.

Anyway, back to soup.

When we went shopping last weekend I bought two leeks. We also bought a ton of other veggies at the time and the leeks were pushed to the bottom of the crisper. As we made our way through the kale and carrots I spotted the leeks and knew just what to use them for. Soup of course. Potato leek soup to be exact.

I love soup for its ease and simplicity. You just dump a bunch of vegetables in a pot for an hour and call it dinner. Who wouldn’t want to cook like that?

Potato Leek Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

2 tablespoons earth balance or whichever butter you prefer

1 tbsp canola oil

1/4 onion, diced

3 stalks celery with leaves, diced

2 leaks, white and pale green parts only, chopped

2 tbsp garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

8 new potatoes, cut into dice sized cubes

1 russet potato, cut into dice sized cubes

8 cups vegetable broth

2 broccoli stalks, whole (optional)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1.5 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

————

Cut white and light green part of leeks into 1/2 inch pieces.

chopped leeks

Discard the green tops. Put leek pieces into a bowl of cold water.

soaking leeks

Leeks can be very sandy. Make sure to let them soak for a few minutes. The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl and you can then drain the clean leeks.

Chop onion and celery.

veggie prep

Heat oil and butter. Add leeks, onion and celery. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

sauteed veggies

Add garlic and red chili flakes. Cook another minute.

While veggies are sauteing, chop potatoes. Add potatoes to leek/onion mixture.

Next add veggie broth. One note on veggie broth. I strongly suggested buying vegetarian bouillon cubes. They are much cheaper than veggie stock. I use one cube per 4 cups of water (the package says 1 cube per 2 cups but it always works out well for me with the extra water).

Add broccoli stalks to broth. I happen to have stalks lying around waiting to be juiced and I thought they’d add a nice flavor to the broth, which they did. Feel free to omit. If you do use them, remove before serving, but feel free to snack on them while getting the rest of dinner together.

Add nutmeg, bay leaf, salt and rosemary. Bring soup up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. I didn’t chop my rosemary as fine as I wish I did, as seen below. Make sure it’s finely minced, I found the bigger pieces to be a little annoying.

potato leek soup

I let the soup simmer for about an hour then turned off the heat and covered the pot. I reheated the soup a couple of hours later when we were ready for dinner.

potato leek soup potato leek soup

Served with toast and earth balance.

I thought about blending this but according to Michael there is something heartier and more filling about the chunks of potato and leek.

Perfect for today’s snow-filled day.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Lentils and Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Sauce

I had the leek post all ready to go for today then last night I made this dish and it was so delicious that I had to share it right away. I made it once before when we were still living in SF but with the move and a million other distractions it got lost in my mind’s recipe file. Thank goodness I found it again.

This dish also fulfills a request I got a few weeks ago from my sister’s friend Nisha, from work. She asked if I could do a quick tutorial on lentils and offer up a few dishes that includes them.

This is a great starter recipe for those that are just beginning to cook with lentils. It’s simple, quick and flavorful. Plus you can use whatever vegetables you’d like. I particularly love peas with coconut milk so that is my only non-negotiable in this dish, but, there really are no rules.

First up…

How To Cook Lentils:

The best thing about lentils is that they don’t need to be soaked like dry beans do. From start to finish they take about 20 minutes.

1 cup lentils, rinsed

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon salt

————

Rinse lentils and pick out any twigs or little pieces that don’t look quite right. Once the lentils are rinsed, place them in a pot.

Cover with water and add salt.

Bring lentils to a boil then reduce to medium heat for 20 minutes.

Cooking Lentils

Stir a few times during the cooking process. When the water has evaporated taste your lentils. They should be soft but not mushy. If they are still a little hard, add another 1/2 cup of water and let the lentils cook for a few more minutes. Lentils are very forgiving so don’t worry too much about them. Although overcooked lentils don’t keep their shape well, they still taste amazing.

Now that we’ve mastered lentil cooking let’s move on to the main event.

Lentils and Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Sauce (vegan, gluten-free)

1 tbsp garlic infused olive oil or regular olive oil

1 carrot, chopped

1 zucchini, diced

1 bunch bok choy, chopped

1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets

8 asparagus spears, cut into fourths

8 brussel sprouts, cut into fourths

2 big handfuls of broccoli slaw, optional

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 can light coconut milk

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp tandoori masala spice mix

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon garlic salt

2 tbsp white miso paste

————

Make lentils according to the above recipe.

Chop all your vegetables.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.

Add vegetables and saute for a 2-3 minutes making sure not to let the vegetables brown.

vegetables

Add coconut milk, water, garlic, tandoori masala, cayenne pepper and garlic salt. Stir to coat vegetables.

vegetables in coconut milk

Cover veggies with lid for 8 minutes or so until vegetables are soft but still have a little bite left.

Covered vegetables

Stir miso paste into vegetables.

vegetables in coconut sauce

Serve over a big pile of lentils.

Lentils and Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Sauce

I added a little hot sauce for extra spice or you can always increase the cayenne pepper if you want it spicier.

This meal will serve 3 big helpings.

Hope this helps answer your lentil questions. If you’d like more lentil recipes try my Lentil Sloppy Joes, Healthy Lentil Dinner Bowls or Red Lentil Chickpea Hummus.

And as always, if you have questions on how to cook specific foods or have recipes you’d like me to develop please let me know.

Back with the leek recipe tomorrow.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Kale Salad with Tahini Cashew Dressing

When I’m sick I can’t muster up the will to eat my normal plethora of vegetables. I want nothing to do with dinner bowls or sweet potatoes or broccoli. The best I could do over the past few days was my morning smoothie and a bowl of frozen peas. So I knew things were looking up when I was craving a salad this afternoon.

I’ve mentioned before but I’m not a huge fan of raw kale. I much rather prefer it lightly steamed but everyone keeps raving about it raw so I thought I’d give it one more shot. This time I used Tuscan kale instead of curly as it’s said to have a milder flavor and wilts a little better when massaged with dressing.

Verdict, the dressing was delicious but I still prefer my kale steamed. Oh well, next time and of course, there’s always a next time with kale!

Massaged Kale Salad with Tahini Cashew Dressing (vegan, gluten-free)

1/2 cup soaked cashews with 2 tablespoons reserved soaking water

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon garlic infused olive oil

1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 cups Tuscan kale

1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

1/2 apple, thinly sliced

2 tablespoon sesame seeds

————

Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Drain most of the water but reserve a few tablespoons. Place cashews and reserved liquid into a food processor. Add all ingredients through cayenne pepper.

Processes for 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Tahini Cashew Dressing

Adjust flavoring to taste.

Put kale in a large bowl and massage dressing into kale until it begins to wilt. Use your hands to really work it in.

Massaged Kale

Slice pepper, avocado and apple. Add to kale. Top with sesame seeds.

The dressing has a little heat from the cayenne that I loved with the kale and the mix of crunch from the pepper and apple with the smooth avocado was perfect.

This salad is also calcium rich. I ate 3 cups of the salad with about a 1/4 of a cup of dressing and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds which offered up about 45% of my daily intake. Not bad for a little salad.

Kale Salad with Tahini Cashew DressingKale Salad with Tahini Cashew Dressing

Enjoy and Exhale!