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Still feeling like I need soups over salads while it has been chilly lately. Kinda burned out on stews and the slow cooker for awhile, but, the delicate Japanese broth known as miso has been so good for a quick meal.

I’m not crazy about how salty the packets are, but, you can always dilute them with more water, which is what I have been doing. Probably using double the amount of water that the directions recommend. Then, depending how I feel, I’ll add some quick cooking noodles right into the broth (in this case udon) while it’s boiling and whatever vegetables I have on hand. I have REALLY been feeling the bok choy lately. Plus, it comes in all different sizes, so you can make it work in any dish. And 100g of bok choy is only 13 calories! Lots of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A & C and potassium.

Occasionally I will throw in some curry paste because I like spicy food. Finally added in some firm tofu. Probably takes 10-15 minutes altogether to prep and cook. Calorie load is minimal, satisfaction quotient very high.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.43.15 AMI don’t usually pay much attention to the “Food Days” that come up, but, when I saw that today was National Popcorn Day, first thing I thought of was the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. I probably could come up with an excuse to talk about coffee any day of the week, but, this is a unique tradition worth checking out:

Coffee, or Bunna, is taken with plenty of sugar (or in the countryside, salt) but no milk. Often it is complemented by a traditional snack food, such as popcorn, ambasha bread, or cooked barley. In most parts of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day – in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It is the main social event within the village – a time to discuss the community, politics, and life in general. Transformation of the spirit is said to take place during the coffee ceremony through the completion three rounds of drinking: ‘Abol’ (the first round), ‘Tona’ (second round) and ‘Baraka’ (third round). http://bunnaethiopia.net/coffee_ceremony.html

There’s also nice blog post on how to make the the popcorn offered with the above ceremony located here:

http://globaltableadventure.com/recipe/recipe-stovetop-popcorn/

IMG_5940That is the question. Well, not really, but I need a loose recipe goal in mind sometimes, so that’s where I’m at today. Found myself hungry, but also motivated…Leftover whole wheat couscous at my disposal, which in all honesty is dry as sh*t. Had a pretty good set of veggies also, so when all else fails I’m going to make a salad. In this case, a grain salad, which is way more nutritionally complete than just some greens and tomatoes.

I didn’t feel like chopping so I threw every ingredient in the mini food processor separately, which made the salad nice and uniform.

Ingredients:

Whole Wheat Couscous (cooked) – 1 1/2 cups (? more/less)

1/2 red onion

1/2 an orange pepper

1 carrot

Handful of cherry tomatoes

Sunflower seeds

Dried Cranberries

For the dressing:

Red wine vinegar

Toasted sesame oil

Maille mustard

Mint, Chives

Berbere, Ras el Hanout

Method:

In a medium to large bowl, throw in your cooked couscous. Then add in each vegetable one at a time, incorporating them into the salad. Once everything is mixed, mix the dressing into the salad (Yes, I also made the dressing in the food processor). You can pulverize the seeds and berries or throw them in whole, it’s really your preference. I chose to use some chopped Romaine for the base of the salad, but you could use it as a side dish or on its own it’s pretty good and very satisfying.

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I made the fatal mistake of food shopping while hungry yesterday. I know toast is like “a thing” these days, but I did not know that cookie butter cream cheese was! Leave it to Trader Joe’s to come up with such a bad ass spread.

You might be asking yourselves, is that even healthy? I’m not gonna lie, there’s nothing particularly healthy about it. The same can be said for most cream cheeses. It’s basically a fat. There’s nothing wrong with some fat in your diet, especially if you exercise and are consistently a healthy eater.

I put it on some Ezekiel bread and paired it with some berries, and I feel like I just had a pretty decadent breakfast. All told, it amounts to ~300 calories.

My only caution is, similar to anything speculoos cookie butter related, you may be tempted to have more than a serving. Stay strong!

   
This is my set up for breakfast (when kids sleep late, so yeah, not that often.) You could always get the ingredients ready beforehand and have them available. Either way,  just chop it all up and heat up a pan and you are ready to go.

Here are my ingredients:

Garlic

Onions

Chives

Fresh thyme, basil

Peppers

Shiitake mushrooms

Asparagus

2 eggs

Cooking spray

Hot sauce (optional)

  
Just sauté the veggies, mushrooms last. From here you can set aside and make an omelette or frittata or a scramble.

I opted to just do a little “Egyptian egg” (or whatever you guys call it) action.

If you cook the egg just right, it’s soooo creamy, you won’t miss the butter and cream cheese.

  
 

I got very inspired late last night reading a beautiful cookbook “The Food of Taiwan” by Cathy Erway. Since it was late and I probably shouldn’t have been eating OR cooking, I picked a pretty quick recipe, Noodles with Minced Pork and Fermented Bean Sauce. Most of the ingredients are common pantry items and things you would find in the refrigerator.

The ingredients waiting to be tossed

The ingredients waiting to be tossed

I made a few intentional and some unintentional substitutions, which I’ll list below. Took about 45 minutes including prep and cooking. Makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp oil (vegetable or peanut) (I forgot this completely)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbsp fried shallots (I used fresh shallots instead)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweet bean sauce (I used hoisin sauce)
  • 2 tsps cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 to 2 tsp dark soy sauce

Noodles

  • 1 pound wheat noodles
  • 1/2 cup fresh or thawed edamame
  • 2 cups packed bok choy or napa cabbage leaves (I used bok choy)

For Serving

  • 1/4 cup black rice vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts (I only had canned and they did not taste good, so skipped these)
  • 1 cup julienned cucumbers

Method for the sauce:Fermented Bean Sauce

Heat the tablespoon of oil in your wok over medium heat and add the pork fat. Sprinkle with salt and sir-fry for about 1 minute. Then add the shallots, garlic and sugar and incorporate together. Stir in the sweet bean sauce. Separately stir together the cornstarch and water. Once the pork mixture is bubbling, add the cornstarch mixture, stirring until it thickens, ~10 seconds. Taste and season accordingly, soy sauce optional.

Method for noodles:

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.  Next bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and also prepare a bowl of ice water and keep to the side. Drop the edamame in and cook for 3-4 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drop the bok choy or cabbage into the boiling water for up to a minute. Remove and transfer to the ice bath to cool. When greens are cooled, shred them.

For serving:

Makes about 4 servings

Makes about 4 servings

Arrange your noodles in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the vinegar around. Ladle the pork sauce on top of the noodles. Then add all of the veggies to the top of the sauce. Toss everything together and serve. According to Ms. Erway, the dish is supposed to be lukewarm.

The dish was extremely tasty, and was a nice mix of protein, fat and carbs. Good dose of vegetables and the is not the star of the dish, but rather plays a supporting role. Definitely left me feeling satisfied. My only comment is that I like my food with a lot more heat, so I added a good dose of sriracha sauce just before serving.

The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway

The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway

Delicious Sumo Citrus fruit

Delicious Sumo Citrus fruit

I did a double take when I saw the name “sumo” as I was perusing the produce section of Whole Foods. Was this another crazy marketing ploy? First the “Paleo” section at the salad bar and now this! But it seems there is a type of mandarin orange called a Sumo Citrus. It looks a lot like those Ugly Fruits I always see but never buy (too ugly). But, any fruit named after a variation of the squat (and dead lift), not to mention a super cool sport where the athletes get to eat 10,000 calories a day is okay by me.

My sumo lunchbox from back when I was too old to be using a lunchbox.

My sumo lunchbox from back when I was too old to be using a lunchbox.

Apparently the sumo citrus (also known as Dekopon) have been in the U.S. for at least a few years and there is only a small window of time when they are available. The nutrition stats are similar to that of any orange, loads of vitamin C and potassium. Calories would be on the higher side than a normal sized mandarin orange due to its enormous size. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this fruit though. They are sweet, but, not cloyingly so and barely any acidic notes.

Best of all, you can tell scurvy to go bye bye!

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