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wild rice and peach saladthere comes a time each summer, when i’ve eaten one too many ice cream cones and had one too many drinks and i just start to feel like a giant blob of unhealthy. such was the case during the week leading up to labor day, when i told myself, after a weekend of somewhat-controlled debauchery on the jersey shore, that i was going to “eat clean” for a week.

that didn’t last. i mean, i tried, really, i did. and i definitely ate healthier, but if there’s one thing i learned about myself, it’s that putting restrictions like “eat clean all week” on myself just make me want pasta even more. whereas, when i just tell myself i’m actively going to try and eat healthily, and swap my ice cream cones for berries, i’m somewhat able to do so.

anyway, during my “eat clean” week, i stumbled across this recipe from the QUEEN of eating clean. seriously, this woman is perfectly happy to eat a giant bowl of vegetables for dinner and call it a day. i mean, i wish i was that sort of human, but i’m just not.

i adapated sarah’s recipe to fit my own tastes, and to make it work-lunch worthy, i served it over arugula, which beefed it up a little (and added some greens, which are always healthy, right?!). it’s delicious. trust me, you want to make this.

what you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice mix
  • 1-2 ripe peaches, sliced
  • 1/3 cup mint, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • juice of one large orange
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • pink himalayan salt or sea salt

what you’ll do

  • cook rice according to package directions. generally speaking, rice is a 2:1 water to rice ratio, with a bit of butter or oil thrown in.
  • stick your rice in the fridge to cool. meanwhile, mince your garlic and shallot, and juice your orange.
  • mix the shallot, garlic, OJ, EVOO, red wine vinegar and a little bit of salt (i used sea salt) into the bowl. stick your fork in and taste it. add more salt (or a little pepper, i did) if you’d like.
  • slice your peaches and roughly chop your mint.
  • in a large bowl, combine rice, peaches, and mint. add dressing and mix well, then stick in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors really seep in. i left mine in there overnight, since i was bringing it to work the next day.
  • when you’re ready to serve, fill a plate with a hearty serving of arugula (spinach or mixed greens would also work nicely here), and top with rice salad. sprinkle with some fresh mint and a little bit of salt and pepper, then toss to combine.

et voila! a healthy, pretty salad that will make everyone else at the office jealous.

 

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Imageon days when it’s ninety million degrees out, there’s little that can possess me to turn on my oven and start cooking. which is why yesterday, when it was at least 90 but the humidity made it feel more like 100, i whipped up an easy version of a salad i learned from my mom, and threw it into a taco. it’s basically some black beans, some corn, some salsa, and some cilantro. and that’s it! can you say EASY? i can.

i’m generally a bit wary of taking recipes from my mom, mostly because she’s kind of a health freak and i’m kind of, well, not. i prefer baking s’mores brownies over eating weight watchers “brownies” (let’s face it, they’re not the real thing). growing up, my house was full of things like rice puffs (cereal) and fruit leathers (snacks) and carrot sticks and apple slices and maybe a slice or two of cheese. we didn’t buy frosted flakes, or captain crunch, or fruit roll ups or shark bites (all things i desperately wanted). here’s the thing: when you’re in elementary school and everyone else is either buying lunch or taking out a PB&J at the table, and you’ve got a series of stacking tupperware containers filled with leftover chicken breast and maybe some brown rice, all you want is to fit in. when everyone else is eating shock tarts at snack time and you’ve got a fruit leather, all you want is to fit in. to the point where you’ll sneak away after piano lessons to the local convenience store and spend the entirety of your $20 allowance on junk food so you can eat it alongside your fellow students in school, and also in your bed at night when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you know a king size package of reese’s cups will make all your problems go away.

i don’t assert that my parents stringent healthiness (which, by the way, eased up as i got older) was what made me turn to junk food – on the contrary, i think most of it was that i was unhappy, and i ate to feed my sadness – but i do think i wanted junk food more simply because i was deprived of it. everyone else got oreos, i got fig newtons (which, to this day, i still believe are disgusting and should be banned from the cookie aisle), and at a time in my life when i desperately wanted to be thin and pretty and cool and popular and instead was chubby and mousy and un-athletic and unpopular, having health food next to all my friend’s “cool” snacks just made things worse. 

that being said, as i’ve gotten older and my self-esteem has developed a bit more (god, you could not pay me to go back to middle school – or elementary school for that matter), my relationship with food has gotten much healthier, and in turn, i’ve come to really enjoy healthy food. which, in my opinion, this recipe is. so long as you don’t eat ten tacos. everything in moderation, folks. 

The Recipe

1 can black beans 

1 cup frozen corn (though fresh corn would be even better)

1 cup chunky salsa (i get mine at trader joe’s)

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

corn tortillas (i get mine at trader joe’s)

shredded mexican cheese

to make, combine corn, beans, salsa and cilantro in a bowl. put a scoop of corn mixture on each tortilla, top with shredded cheese and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. for extra oomph, add some sauteed taco meat. 

 

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guys, i think i’m really on an asian kick. like, i might need to take a trip to asia sometime soon (except that i hear things are cramped and crowded and hot and potentially smelly and just the thought of a place like that makes my OCD-ness kick into high gear…oh wait, i just described most of new york city).

i came across this recipe for general tsp’s tofu on pinterest last week, and figured i might as well try it while i was on my whole “mix sesame oil and soy sauce and ginger and good things will happen” kick. what do you know? this stuff is GOOOD. and would be even better on some deep fried chicken pieces. no offense, tofu, you know i really like you a lot, but i think it’s better that we just be friends. chicken and i are in a serious relationship, and it ain’t complicated.

if you’re a vegetarian, you’re gonna looove this dish. if you’re not, you’ll love it too – just make it with shrimp or chicken. the sauce is made separately, so you can throw it onto whatever you want.

note: the original recipe calls for a good amount of sriracha, and i can’t handle spice – so i cut it down substantially, and just threw in a little squirt to my sauce. if you’re into spice, go for it, but buyer beware! that ish is on FIRE.

The Recipe

tofu:

12 oz extra firm tofu, cut into cubes (i buy mine at trader joe’s)

1 tbsp corn starch2 tsp vegetable oil (i use canola)

sauce:

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp hoisin sauce (warning: this stuff is like crack)

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp sriracha (i used just a squirt, remember)

additionally:

1 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp water

veggies of your choice

1 cup white or brown rice

to make the tofu, preheat your oven to 400 and toss tofu cubes with 1 tbsp of corn starch in a bowl. make sure they’re evenly coated on all sides. cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz with a layer of nonstick spray. spread your tofu cubes out on the baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy to the touch.  

meanwhile, cook your rice. white rice is generally a 2:1 ratio (two cups water to one cup rice). brown rice is too, but it takes longer to cook (usually around 40 minutes), so i prefer white in a pinch.

while you’re baking the tofu, make your sauce. cook your diced ginger and garlic in a medium saucepan for a few minutes, then add the other ingredients listed under “sauce” above and cook for another few minutes. mix the remaining water and corn starch in a tiny bowl, and pour it into the sauce mixture slowly. stir until it’s evenly integrated and your sauce is thick and slightly chunky. i know that’s gross, but that’s what it should look like. see picture. 

take out your tofu from the oven and toss it with your sauce. serve it over rice and top with a bunch of sauteed veggies. i chose zucchini and purple cabbage (i just sauteed them in a few teaspoons of soy sauce and sesame oil). throw some  sesame seeds on top and dig in.

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if you’re one of those people who’s still buying the bulk of your produce at your local grocery store, you are missing out. you need to hit up your local farmer’s market, STAT. remember my yearning for a garden? how jealous i was of that guy’s incredible rooftop planters? well, it should come as no surprise to you that i’m really into the farmer’s market. to me, there’s really no better saturday than one spent perusing the stands of the union square greenmarket, a basket full of fresh fruits and veggies and herbs. preferably, this day also includes some really great homefries (recipe coming up!) and a bloody mary or two, the latter of which contributes to my slight swaying as i walk through the square and stop to smell the flowers. no, i really do that. i’m really bad with the whole drunk shopping thing. note to self: do not drink three bloody marys at brunch and then go to tj maxx “just to look.” you will not just look. you will buy – tons of things you do not need.

shopping at the farmer’s market after brunch, however, is no biggie d. because the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll come home with a big bag of maple sugar candy or some root veggies that you’ve never tried before – and neither of those things are really that terrible. everyone loves maple sugar candy, and root veggies are great – just throw ’em in a pan with some fresh rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and cook at 425 for a hot second (20 mins).

it’s really quite funny that i’ve come to be so enamored with farmer’s markets, mostly because as a child, i DESPISED gardening. in fact, i despised any and all chores that involved being outdoors and getting dirty. i was the kid who said things like, “can’t you give me an indoor job?!” “I can clean!” “does the dishwasher need emptying?” it’s not even that i’m a priss, really, it’s more that i’m OCD clean and can’t stand getting dirt all over my clothes and body. i hate having grime under my nails, and i’m not that into sweating. but you know what? somehow, moving to new york has made me really appreciate nature. now, it’s not like i want to go all earthy crunchy on you and go hiking and camping and eating trail mix. no thanks, not for me. but i savor the thought of green space, of grass that flattens softly when you step on it, of the smell of freshly dug up dirt, of carrots sprouting their little green heads and of those fresh from the garden snap peas that offer the perfect sweet crunch when you pop one into your mouth. i want a garden, you guys! i want to pluck fresh thyme for my risotto and fresh basil for my pasta dishes. i want to step outside and pop teeny juicy cherry tomatoes into my mouth like candy. and since i can’t do any of those things without a garden, i seek solace in the farmer’s market.

of course, there’s plenty to be said about supporting local farmers and organic produce and all that jazz – but that’s a schpiel you’ve probably heard before. but seriously – get thee to the farmer’s market near you. it’s better for you. it’s better for the world. and it’s nice to support the underdog. justin bieber says so, and he’s god – so you should obey.

anywho, last weekend, i was walking through the farmer’s market that my lovely “suburbia in NYC” apartment complex offers on sunday afternoons, and my friends and i came across a woman who was selling gluten-free rye bread. it looked sort of like a rock – a really, really flat rock – but surprise, when she piled some butter and cheddar and sliced cucumbers on it, it turned into a really delicious rock! okay, so it wasn’t a rock. it was bread. it just looked a little rock-like, what with its flat and brownish gray nature. no offense, gluten-free rye, but i’ll take some yeast any day. while the bread wasn’t anything remarkable, the sandwich acoutrements got me thinking: what a classy lil’ sandwich! wouldn’t this guy be perfect for lunch?

so i went out and i bought some cheddar and some cucumbers (and i usually am not a huge fan of cukes – hate all those seeds!) and paired them with sliced peppercorn turkey breast and some avocado to give the sandwich a bit more heft and protein power. i put mine on whole wheat sourdough, and it was DELISH. and so pretty and fancy pants looking, hence the title. man, open-faced sandwiches make you look like a CLASSY gal.

there’s no real recipe for this baby. just choose your bread, thinly slice some avocado, cheddar and cukes, and assemble. put a layer of avocado on first (you could also mash it up and spread it like buttah if you wanted to), then top with turkey, cheese and finally, cucumbers. now eat, and enjoy your twenty minutes of looking like the coolest, classiest, most creative office lunch-eater around.

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i got you right there, didn’t i? you know what that’s called? a hook, folks. i hooked you in with the special sauce, and you’re not going to regret that i did, because let me tell you, special sauce is like crack. crack that you smother on hamburger buns and dip french fries in. i mean, who doesn’t like crack, right? at least it’s not LSD (which is rumored to be the drug that hannibal lector wannabe was on when he got caught eating a man’s face off in miami on memorial day). anyWHO, case in point: special sauce is delicious. after you eat, you’ll never eat a burger with plain ol’ ketchup again. no offense to heinz, but there are other fish in the sea.  

memorial day weekend marks the official start of summer. the days of bare legs and tan lines and sunburnt shoulders and spiked lemonade and all that other goodness that comes with the season of sunshine. here in the northeast, there’s a moment where the seasons simply switch. one day, you wake up, and there’s a weight in the air, a heft that wasn’t there before. the phrase, “air so thick you could cut it with a knife” comes to mind. the sun will be shining and the birds will be chirping, and you’ll look out your window and see streets riddled with pretty young things in cut off shorts and tank tops, sunglasses perched noses and stuck behind ears like headbands. if you’re in new york like i am, you’ll also smell the faint scent of garbage, awaiting pickup and baking in the sun. glorious, isn’t it?

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not a summer person, i much prefer autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet. i can’t stand the heat, i hate feeling sticky, and i’m not particularly partial to summer’s sartorial options. but that being said, even i can appreciate a good picnic, a great day at the beach. i love a good dunk in the ocean, salt water stinging your eyes and rendering your hair a mess of tangled waves. i love that feeling you get when your skin starts to crisp, love the slightly coconut-y scent of sunscreen. and of course, there’s the food. the bbq-ed chicken and the corn on the cob, the potato salads and the watermelon mojitos. there’s little i like more than packing a cooler full of goodies for a day at the beach. standing there in my galley kitchen as the morning sun beats on in, molding ice packs around my sandwich meats and fruit salad, i feel like a mini martha stewart, except without the jail time or the naturally blonde hair. 

one of my favorite summer eats is beautiful in its simplicity: the burger. dressed up, dressed down, cheese or no cheese, fillings or no fillings, burgers are hard to screw up. don’t have a grill? there’s a grill pan for that. don’t have a garden? take it to the streets, to the park. there’s something about the juxtaposition of crisp lettuce and juicy tomato alongside the substance of a great, meaty burger. it melts in your mouth. and then when you add special sauce…WHAM KABAM. explosion of goodness in your mouth, i tell you.

let’s get cooking, shall we?


The Recipe (adapted from Brian Boitano’s West Coast Burgers)

1/2 lb of lean red meat  (enough to form 2 patties)

1/4 cup of chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup of chopped mushrooms

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 slices swiss cheese

2 slices of tomato

2 green lettuce leaves (i used spring mix instead of iceberg)

2 burger rolls (i like mine with sesame seeds)

For the Special Sauce (adapted from 

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp ketchup

1 tbsp yellow mustard

1 tbsp hot sauce (optional – i use sriracha) 

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika 

to make, saute the onions and mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil over low heat until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the special sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Image

when onions and mushrooms are softened, add mustard, season with salt and pepper and stir another minute, until evenly incorporated. remove from heat and let cool a few minutes. while the mixture is cooling, heat up your grill pan with nonstick spray. 

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to make the burgers, separate your meat into two equal sized patties. make a hole inside each pattie and fill it with about a teaspoon of the mushroom and onion mixture. squish your patties around until the mushroom and onion mixture is evenly incorporated into the meat. reserve the rest of the mixture for toppings. 

place your burgers on the heated grill pan and cook, about four minutes. while they’re cooking, toast your buns slightly, either in your oven or on the other side of your grill pan.  flip, and cook another few minutes, until you can press on them with a spatula and no red juices leak out. top each burger with a slice of swiss and cook another minute or so, until the cheese has melted. Image

to assemble, split your toasted buns and top with special sauce. place lettuce and tomato on one side and burger on the other, then top the burger with your extra mushroom/onion mixture. Serve with thin cut french fries and a bit more special sauce on the side. 

[original recipe]

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i know many people think tofu is the pits – a weird, slightly gelatinous, unflavored blob of boring – but over the years, i’ve really come to love my good friend bean curd. on nights when i can’t bear to cook much of anything, i love to whip up a quick stir fry, and having tofu on hand ensures that i’m always getting protein in there with my veggies. eating tofu makes me feel like a healthy person. you know, something to make up for all the sweets i’ve constantly got sitting on my counter, taunting me, like this: “EAT ME, SARAH. I AM A TOFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BAR AND I AM SOOO GOOOD.”

tofu, on the other hand, is made from soy. which means it’s healthy. and yes, it’s unflavored, and yes, it looks extremely weird in its basic state. but the fun thing about unflavored things? you get to add the flavor. the world is your oyster when you’re cooking with tofu, because you can manipulate it any which way you damn please. it’s freeing, really, when you think about it.

the other day, i was really craving this amazing tahini dressing that they serve at haymarket cafe in my hometown, and I decided to get crafty and make my own. I wanted mine a bit more lemon-y, so I adapted Mollie Katzen’s recipe. if molly’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the brains behind the new moosewood cookbook. growing up, my parents loved that book. my mom’s a big fan of healthy people food items such as lentils and chickpeas and what have you, and was always turning to moosewood for recipes. it’s one of the first cookbooks i remember seeing on our counter on a regular basis, so i was excited to rework Katzen’s recipe to make it my own. it was almost like delving back into my childhood, except without the lentils. Image

there are a million and one recipes out there for lemon tahini sauce. some people add miso, some don’t. some people like lots of lemon juice, others react like this when the word lemon comes up. i for one love me some lemons, especially in the spring, so my recipe was verrry lemon-y. i also added soy sauce instead of salt, mostly because i didn’t have miso and i love soy sauce on just about everything. luckily, it added just the kick i was looking for, instead of ruining the entire recipe.

SO – let’s start at the very beginning, which sister maria tells us is a very good place to start. 

The Recipe

Serves 2. Double the tofu and broccoli portion if you’d like to feed a family of four. 

1/2 container of extra firm tofu (the firmer it is, the less gross it is, in my opinion)

1 head of broccoli

3 tsps oil (i use canola since it can withstand high heats)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

To make the tahini sauce:

3/4 cup sesame tahini (you can generally find this in health food stores)

6 lemons, juiced 

1 clove of garlic, minced (add more if you like things really garlicky)

2 tsps soy sauce or tamari

3/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups water

start with the dressing. place the tahini, garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender and whizz until combined. start to drizzle in the water slowly, mixing as you do. add water until you’ve reached your desired consistency. i like mine somewhere in between sauce and dressing – like goldilocks, not too thick and not too thin – but you do your thing. once you’ve reached your desired consistency, transfer to bowl if using immediately, or a container if you’re going to save it. i put mine in a small ball jar and refrigerated it for two days before i took it out for use. it can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks, and you can always add more water at a later date to thin it out a little.

next, heat your oil in a skillet. while it’s heating up, cut your tofu into bite-sized cubes. once the pan is hot, throw the tofu cubes on the skillet. appreciate the sizzle, you’re on your way to becoming a master chef. cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until the tofu is browned nicely. while it’s cooking, cut up your broccoli and dice your garlic. again, you want bite sized piece. of course, feel free to use bigger ones, but don’t call me crying when you can’t fit that baby in your mouth. once your tofu is a nice toasted golden brown, throw the broccoli and garlic into the skillet. if you need to, add a tiny bit more oil. cook until the broccoli is slightly crisp and bright green. 

remove from heat, serve either alone or on top of a bed of the grain of your choice (i like brown rice, but quinoa would be yummy too), and drizzle with your tahini sauce. voila, a healthy meal! look at you, you healthy eater! i can’t believe you’re eating tofu! 

note: you’ll have plenty of lemon tahini sauce left over. stick it on salads, dip pita bread into it, or drizzle it over wheatberries. this sauce pulls double duty, so use it liberally as you see fit. 

 

 

is there anything better than a 10 minute meal that doesn’t involve the words “microwave” “lean cuisine” or “frozen food”? i think not. this meal falls into that category, coming together in under 10 minutes if you’re a fast food chopper. pineapple fried rice is one of my favorite things to order when i go out for thai food, but until recently, it was another one of those “i don’t dare attempt at home” sort of meals. that is, until i stumbled upon this recipe. 

there’s something about the smell of soy sauce, curry, and sautéed garlic that makes a kitchen feel warm and cozy, isn’t there? it’s like the spicy, takeout version of a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies.

i followed brooke’s recipe pretty much to a tee - but i used chicken broth instead of vegetable, and added way more curry powder than her recipe called for. i also omitted the coconut (i hate coconut). other than that, her recipe is pretty much foolproof. you can’t go wrong.