The Lazy Girl’s DIY Sushi

Do you ever get on kicks where you could eat the same food every day? Given how many times I’ve blogged either curry or oatmeal, it should not be a surprise that this happens to me fairly frequently. Currently, my food addiction is sushi. Specifically, sushi rolls. I know there are plenty of other kinds, which I also like, but give me a couple of maki rolls and I am good to go. The complimentary flavors, the mix of textures, the vast assortment of possibilities. YUM. I’m into it.

The good news is that it could be a lot worse, nutritionally speaking. But as foods go, it’s so elusive. It’s the kind of thing that is really better at a restaurant. A lot of the ingredients can be hard to find and it is a bit of a production to prepare. But then the restaurants have problems too. White rice. Lots of fried ingredients. Lots of sugar. Insane amounts of sodium. In and of itself that wouldn’t be a deal breaker because there are plenty of things on the menu to sustain a fairly healthy meal. The biggest problem is that it is expensive. It’s hard to get enough to eat at a sushi place for less than $25.

So I decided maybe I could figure out a way to make something at home. At first I thought about learning how to make actual rolls, but I ran into a couple of problems before I even got started. First, a lot of the ingredients are not the easiest to find around here. Let alone supplies like a bamboo mat. I’m sure I could find things at Whole Foods or similar places, but the weather is bad this week and it’s a little bit of a drive. Plus, if I’m going for cost-effectiveness, buying all kinds of exotic supplies kind of defeats the purpose. The second problem was that even if I did spend the time and effort getting everything I needed, I’d have to actually do the dicing and shaping and rolling and all that stuff. In the ever eloquent words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not great at dicing, and my touch is not particularly delicate, so I just envision crafting the rolls really poorly.

But then it occurred to me, I probably had nearly all of the necessary basics, or acceptable substitutes, and if it’s really the ingredients I like the best, why not just throw them all into a dish together, burrito bowl style?

The result was a very lovely “sushi salad”.

Sushi Salad OR the Lazy Girl's DIY Sushi Roll
Sushi Salad OR the Lazy Girl’s DIY Sushi Roll in a Bowl

Continue reading “The Lazy Girl’s DIY Sushi”

Picnic Food in the Wintertime…

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted. But that doesn’t mean I have fallen off the wagon, I’ve just been busy! In fact things have been going very well on the health front. I am hoping to post more about that soon.

In the meantime, I have a much less important success story to tell. I have been trying for literally months to make a successful black bean burger. Okay, this was only my third or fourth attempt, but none of them were really up to par until now. I had several goals for these black bean burgers, and you wouldn’t think any of them would be particularly hard to meet and yet, these elements have been elusive.

First, the burgers needed to stick together, like burgers are supposed to do. Second they needed to be healthy. It would have been a lot easier with eggs, cheese and flour but I was really trying to keep it strict. Third, despite the restrictions, they needed to taste good, obviously!

Vegan Black Bean Burger with Avocado Cream
Vegan Black Bean Burger with Avocado Cream

Continue reading “Picnic Food in the Wintertime…”

Life’s Spice

If you read this blog regularly, then it should not surprise you that I sometimes get into ingredient ruts. Oh, she’s on a honey kick. Oh, now it’s Greek yogurt. Just be happy I wasn’t blogging during the great sauce-less stir-fry season of 2008. That was a hyphenated snooze fest. So lately, I’ve been trying to think of new things to make. If I’m hungry for something, instead of just wishing I could go out and then drinking my dissatisfaction down with a smoothie, I’m trying to branch out and expand my culinary wheelhouse. Thus far, there have been successes and …lesser successes. Example: I am determined that I will perfect a black bean burger if I have to make them once a week for a year. (Ok, a year from now I might be over it.)

I’ve found I really like cooking. Just like I love writing, photography and Project Runway, I enjoy cooking because it involves creating something, and in order to have a successful result, you need to be patient and consider different angles. Creating things is the best way I know to combine puzzles and art, two of my favorite things. I have gone through minor cooking phases before, like the previously mentioned stir-fry craze, but the past few months have really been next level. Having this blog doesn’t hurt. Neither does the invention of Pinterest. But the more I learn about nutrition, the more I care about finding the best ways to marry good health and good flavor. Finding, tweaking and creating recipes is an exciting way to be actively involved in my personal health goals. Sure, going to the gym is also a hands-on approach, but that can feel more like a chore sometimes than cooking usually does.

So, last night, I was in the mood for something different. I was also in the mood for a challenge. I don’t mind cooking when it is just fixing some food, but I actually get invested in it as a pastime when I am developing the recipe and building it into something. This time, I thought I would try curry. I have used a packaged curry sauce before and added in ingredients, but this time I wanted to make the sauce as well. Especially because I think it is likely that my ingredients are at least marginally healthier than the ones I would find in the take-home foods section of the grocery store, and definitely healthier than in a restaurant. My favorite curry is Thai red curry, and I especially like it with fruit. So tonight, I went for a red mango curry that I am happy to say was a success! I was very proud of myself. I cooked for my parents this evening and my dad said this was his favorite of the things I’ve made for him so far.

Red Mango Curry

Full disclosure: this recipe is not as diet-friendly as most of the things on this blog. It contains a little bit of sugar (like, actual brown sugar) and quite a bit of fat. Additionally, my giant neighborhood supermarket does not carry unsweetened coconut flakes, unless you want to pick up a whole coconut, get out a hammer and shave the flakes out of the shell yourself. So, I used a sweetened Baker’s coconut. However, everything else I used was a fresh ingredient, and it was certainly healthier than it could have been! I used one can of coconut milk and one can of lite coconut milk because I wanted the curry to be a little thicker. However, I think it would work fine with two cans of lite, which I will try in the future. Still, a fourth of the full recipe is only 375 calories, and it’s very filling. Plus it has quite a few fruits and vegetables.

Curry vegetables, ready and waiting!

Red Mango Curry

Serves 4

Prep time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes (approximately)

  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil (or any good oil, really)
  • 1 Mango (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Cup Shallots or Sweet Onion (or both…I ran out of shallots halfway through. oops!)
  • 1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1/2 Cup Matchstick Carrots
  • 3 Tablespoons Red Curry Paste
  • 1 Can Coconut Milk
  • 1 Can Lite Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce**
  • 2 Teaspoons Worcester Sauce (I used an organic one to avoid the high fructose corn syrup)
  • 2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced (or Finely Diced) Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 2 Tablespoons Shaved Coconut
  • 5-6 Basil Leaves, Shredded

**Normal Thai curry calls for fish sauce, but since I don’t plan on making this all the time, I didn’t really want to spend the money on it. Luckily the good ole Internet told me that mixing Soy Sauce and Worcester Sauce would have basically the same effect. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, honestly, but they were good additions to this recipe anyway. Still, if you want to get authentic, you can use two tablespoons of fish sauce.

  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the Curry Paste. Let it cook, stirring a little bit, until it mixes with the oil enough to become less pasty and more saucy, and becomes fragrant. (Just make sure it doesn’t burn.) This should take around 3 minutes.
  3. When the paste is melted down, add the Coconut Milk. Stirring frequently, let the milk and curry simmer together (still on medium-high) for 5 minutes. Throughout the entire process, use a rubber scraper to keep the coconut milk from sticking to the side of the pan.
  4. Add the soy sauce, Worcester, sugar, cumin, curry powder, garlic and ginger. Mix well, so that everything in the pan is one color. Let simmer, stirring pretty much continuously, another 5 minutes.
  5. Squeeze in most, but not all, of the juice of the lime half. (Set the rest aside.)
  6. Add onions, let cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add mango and vegetables, let cook 4 minutes (or until they reach the softness you prefer), stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the basil, shredded coconut and the rest of the lime juice. Mix well so that coconut is dispersed throughout the curry. Let simmer 3 minutes.

I developed this recipe by looking at a variety of red curry, coconut curry and mango curry recipes of both Thai and Indian origins, and took what I liked from them until I had the recipe that I wanted for myself. One of the recipes I found included avocado in the curry. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, so I served avocado slices on the side. They were a phenomenal compliment!

I served the red mango curry over brown basmati rice and baked salmon. (Bake the salmon at 425˚F with a light coat of olive oil, salt and pepper, if interested.) It would be just as good with chicken, tofu, tempeh or on its own, too. I was just in a salmon kind of mood, and I’ve had it with red curry before and always loved it.

All in all, this recipe is definitely a win. I usually like to have a little more balance, in terms of carbs-fats-proteins, so I am feeling a little guilty about all the coconut, but with fish, brown rice, and veggies, it evens out well enough. Plus, it was delicious, and not terribly difficult. It does require a lot of stirring in the first half, but that’s not so bad. So, now I have a go-to recipe whenever I’m craving Thai food in the future. And I can feel good about myself for finding another fun recipe to make!

-lj

An apple a day…

Like I said in my last post, I decided to get back into hardcore-mode with a new detox. Sadly, it was not as good as the detox I did last spring, even though they were both from Whole Living. This one allowed for lean animal proteins, so it only eliminated sugar, gluten and dairy (plus alcohol and processed foods). I don’t know if it was the recipes I was making or the inclusion of meat but I just didn’t feel the same intense effects as I did last time. I think it was a combination of things, including the fact that I was in a much healthier starting place than I was the first time. The detox was still successful in its main goal, though, which was really to give my mental state a reboot so I could get back into my old health-conscious routine.

The other good thing about this “detox” was that it did open me up to some new recipes, some from the Internet and some of my own. My favorite detox-friendly recipe was Apple Spice Quinoa. A few weeks ago I tried this Coconut Breakfast Quinoa I found on Pinterest, and it was fantastic. Since then, I’ve been coming up with new ways to make sweet, fruity quinoa, and I think this newest one was my most successful to date.

In my experience, apples are the best food to eat while detoxing. They are filling, and there’s something about them that gives my body a really clean feeling. Plus they are delicious, which is something that cannot be said of everything on the detox diet, so it’s a plus. Thus, the other afternoon I got home from my latest in what seems like an infinite number of trips to home organization stores, getting ready to start the work day, and I realized I had pretty much burnt out on kale and smoothies. I wanted something more than just an apple though, and I was out of almond butter. So I looked in all the cupboards and the quinoa inspired me.

This is 1.5 large gala apples.

Quinoa has a nutty, earthy, robust sort of flavor, which I thought would go well with apples, since they both have an autumnal kind of vibe. I added some other ingredients that are crazy-healthy and detox-friendly, and was so pleased with the result.

Apple Spiced Quinoa

Serves 3-4

  • 1 cup dry Quinoa (washed)
  • 2 Apples, sliced (any kind will do, I like Galas because they are a little sweet)
  • 1 1/4 cup Light Coconut Milk (I use 365 Organic. The would work with any kind of milk, though like almond or skim)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Shaved Almonds
  • 1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Clove
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon Honey (OR you could use brown sugar)

In a medium saucepan mix together quinoa, apples, milk, water and spices (& salt). Bring to a rapid boil. Stir again, add in honey and almonds, stir again. Cover. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add chia seeds, stir until seeds seem evenly mixed in and re-cover. Continue simmering another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. It’s done when the liquid is mostly evaporated, but the quinoa is a little gooey.  When it looks done, remove from heat and let sit a couple of minutes to settle and cool.

Serve with apple slices. You can also add a little more sweetener (I added a teaspoon of honey), and/or more coconut milk (or whatever kind of milk) to make it more like a cereal.

FYI if you are really detoxing I am not positive that honey is detox-friendly (it probably isn’t). But by the end of my 4 days I wasn’t being too strict because I didn’t feel like my body was really getting a good cleanse, but the challenge had gotten me back into healthy mode anyway. I am trying to listen to the advice that moderation is key! I don’t want to get burnt out (again?).

Apple Spice Quinoa

I am feeling pretty good about being back on the heathy, clean living bandwagon. I definitely have more energy today than I did a week ago before I got started. This non-detoxifying detox was actually really helpful, because it served as a great reminder that what is really most important in this process is that I do what’s best for my body. I can’t starve myself, or completely and universally eliminate things I enjoy, or I will never be able to maintain the changes long term. Even though I don’t think the week’s meal plan was good for cleansing specifically, I do feel pretty great after a week of eating super healthy and being conscious of everything I put in my system. So I am still going to count it as a victory!

Another Recipe Post (Still About Black Beans)

Over the weekend I posted about the giant pot of black beans I made. I also made a big pot of quinoa but the process is infinitely less exciting. Anyway, turns out that when you make food, you are supposed to actually eat it! Thus this week I have been trying to think up/find some delicious healthy recipes for black beans and quinoa.

I use Pinterest for these kinds of things a lot. It’s a great medium for finding recipe recommendations, so it is a go to for new ideas. When I thought of black beans & quinoa I automatically thought of a recipe that was all over the place on Pinterest a few weeks ago. The Superfood Salad. It was one I’d wanted to try for a while so I was happy to finally give myself the opportunity.

The thing is, I had been thinking about making this for so long that I thought I had the recipe memorized. I was wrong. First of all, I used mango instead of oranges. I left out the shrimp and corn. There were probably some other differences too. So basically I only remembered 4 ingredients and went with them!

Still, it turned out deliciously and was easy to make.

Quinoa Mango Salad

The recipe (my version!) was absurdly easy:

Quinoa Mango Salad

  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Black Beans (see previous post)
  • 1 Small Avocado
  • 1 Cup Diced Mango
  • 1/4 Pomegranate Arils
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Vinaigrette

Dressing:

  • Lemon Juice from 1 Lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons EEOV
  • 1/2 inch Ginger
  • Pinch Salt
  • Pinch Pepper
  • Put in small mason jar, shake, refrigerate extra

First, to cook the quinoa, you can either cook a whole bunch to store away or just make the amount for this recipe. Add the quinoa, 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and then water at a 2:1 ratio. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook until there is no water left (about 15 minutes). Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set aside to let it cool while you chop everything else.

Chop avocado and mango, and prepare dressing. I buy the pomegranate arils at Trader Joe’s already pulled from the fruit, but if you buy the whole fruit, extract the arils.

Put all ingredients in a bowl. Mix if you want. Cover with 1 tablespoon dressing. Eat. Enjoy!

Note: This is a very large helping and was almost too much for me. Also if you haven’t noticed yet I love avocado so you could put in less if you want!

Another recipe I wanted to try, came from my imagination. Lately I have been really missing my beloved Mexican food. So, I decided to try and make something reminiscent, using the ingredients that are allowed in my diet and are already in my fridge. The result was a combination of taco salad and the superfood mix listed above.

Mexican-Style Power Salad

This salad was really good and insanely filling. The mix of quinoa, black beans and corn provides a a perfect protein, meaning it contains all of the necessary amino acids the body needs. Normally it is difficult to get all of these at once in a vegan diet. In my Mexican craving I broke down and added some reduced fat shredded cheese to the salad, but honestly I think it was unnecessary and I would probably keep it off next time. That’s right, I’d rather NOT have the cheese next time. This is what we call personal growth, ladies and gentleman!!

Mexican-Style Power Salad

  • 2 Handfuls Romaine Lettuce, chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Quinoa
  • 1/2 Cup Black Beans
  • 1/2 Cup Corn
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded “Mexican Mix” Reduced Fat Cheese (Optional)
  • 1/2 Medium Tomato, chopped
  • 1 small Avocado (or 1/2 a large one)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Red Onion
  • Couple dashes of cayenne pepper (optional)

I thought about adding a lime vinaigrette (olive oil, lime juice, cayenne, salt) but I honestly think this salad worked better without it. These flavors are strong and blend together well, and if your avocado is ripe enough, it should be creamy and oily enough to seem like dressing, especially mixed with juice from the beans and the tomato.

I’ll be honest. Despite the fact that I could have done without the cheese on this salad, it didn’t take away my craving for some creamy saturated fat filled cheese sauce over a deep fried chimichanga. But now that I really think about it, even imagining eating that makes me feel tired and greasy, which is not a feeling I enjoy too much. So I think if I can just work past the cravings, and keep finding ways to substitute and compromise, I should be in good shape! (Pun definitely intended.)

-lj

Adventures in Unprocessed Cooking (A recipe for homemade black beans)

As part of this goal to get healthy and lose dangerous weight, I’ve given myself a lot of restrictions. I’m using a nutritionist’s pyramid, basically. One that I thought looked good was in the movie I reviewed yesterday, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead. That pyramid looked like this

Most people know, at this point, that fresh food from the Earth is better than food produced more or less in a chem lab. But, I was surprised to see it all the way at the top as something to eat only rarely. I guess I thought it would be off the map, more of an aside, like: BTW spinach in your Hot Pocket does not count as a leafy vegetable serving.

I’ve gone off on a tangent. The point is that I am trying to avoid processed foods. And now finally we have gotten to the point of this blog post! The point is I was very proud of myself today because I did some actual slow cooking today that would have made my Texan ancestors proud. I made black beans! It was definitely the longest cooking process I have ever taken on. There are a lot of steps!

Steps to Preparing & Cooking Black Beans

1. You buy the beans either in a bulk bin or in a bag. The market on my street only had the bag, which was fine because it was still organic.

2. Once home, sort through all the beans and sift out any seeds, stones or other weird looking things. I love this part because it really is a reminder that these beans are coming from the ground, not the assembly line.

3. After you’ve sifted through them, wash them. I am a weirdo about water so I sprayed them with the shower head function on the kitchen sink (no idea what the technical term for that thing is!) and then dumped a whole brita pitcher on top of them to make sure they were clean.

4. Once they are cleaned and sorted, they need to soak. Put the beans in a big bowl, then cover with water at a ratio of 3 cups water to 1 cup beans. The bag I bought was 2.5 cups so I put in 8 cups of water, just to be sure. The soaking part takes a long time. It’s best to just let them sit overnight. No worries about covering the big bowl, it doesn’t matter.

5. The fun part starts! Put the beans in a big cooking pot. Out of four sizes, I used our second biggest one.

Clean beans, big pot.

Then you can add some flavor! The spices can vary depending on your taste.  My mom makes some amazing tacos, so I used her seasoning recipe as a guide, and tweaked it since these are beans instead of chicken. Here is my recipe:

Spicy Black Beans

  • 1 Bag of Black Beans (2.5 Cups)
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, chopped*
  • 1/2 an Onion, chopped**
  • 1 Small-Medium Tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (or a little more even)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth (1 box)
  • 6 Cups Water

* I love garlic and it is a very cleansing food, but you can use less if you want. 3 or 4 would be fine.

** I was running low on onion, and used leftover scraps from a red and a white. I wished there was more onion, which is why I’m predicting a half of one would be better. Either color really, but white might be a little better.

Even though there are a trillion ingredients, the directions are really simple.

5. Add all the spices and the other ingredients to the pot.

Garlic, Onions and Spices...look at all those colors!

6. Cover ingredients with liquids. I did half the water then the stock, then the rest of the water but I am sure it doesn’t really matter.

7. Bring it all to a boil.

8. Once at big, rolling boil, cover the pot, turn down heat and let simmer. Somewhere in the medium-low range is good. Let it simmer like that for about 1.5 hours.

–I’ve seen other similar recipes say as low as 45 minutes, but I wanted mine to be really soft, and they were still crunchy and grainy at 45 minutes on my stove. I recommend you begin checking them at 45 or 50 minutes, and if they are not ready, stir them up and let simmer at 10 or 15 minute intervals until you like the consistency. An hour and a half for me was perfect.

9. Turn off burner. Let the beans sit for a couple more minutes, just to let them soak in a little more moisture and also cool down.

10. Drain the liquid. There will probably be a lot of it. (A lot of liquid is important to avoid burning.) Drain until there is still a little water left as a sort of juice for the beans, but no free standing water left. This is obviously a matter of taste, but I would guess I left 1 or 1.5 cups of water at the bottom of the pot.

11. Use the beans! Eat them however you want! I put them in a completely delicious black bean and hummus “burrito” (really the world’s largest soft taco):

Black Bean & Hummus "Burrito": Organic Flour Tortilla (soften with 1/4 tsp EVOO and 2-3 minutes in oven at 250˚F), Spicy Hummus, 1/3 Cup Black Beans, 1/2 Avocado, tomato, onion, carrots & arugula (however much you want!)

12. Put the rest in a sealable container and save for next time! They should last about a week.

The final product

This was probably my biggest foray into the world of clean cooking (is that a term?) so far. It covers a lot of hours, but the actual work time is completely manageable.

I’ve been really enjoying cooking. Eating these clean recipes, using only organic, fresh products makes me feel energized and accomplished. Plus, the only way to trust what’s in it is to make it at home! Now I just have to decide what to make next…

-lj