Monday, January 31, 2011

Brown Rice to the Rescue

Ah, it's good to be back.  Not that I really went anywhere.

These past couple weeks were overwhelming.  I was super busy at work (tons of outreach work, plus hiring someone new!), Mike was injured while sledding and couldn't walk for a week, the St. Paul Winter Medallion Hunt started and then we all got colds.  That meant we ordered pizza 3 times in one week.  And picked up burritos at Mississippi Market.  And ordered Chinese.  I wasn't doing too much scratch cooking.

But I did manage to cook a big pot of brown rice and beans each week.  I think that's the only thing that saved us from ordering pizza FIVE times in one week.  Thank goodness for brown rice.  It goes with everything and is so filling it's practically a meal in itself.

One night I paired the leftover (planned-over) brown rice with cannellini beans, home-canned tomatoes and home-canned pickled red peppers for a unexpectedly popular dinner.  I sauteed some onions and garlic in lots of olive oil and then added dried thyme, ground fennel seed and dried basil from last year's garden.  Then I added the beans, rice, peppers and tomatoes and simmered until all the tomato juice was absorbed and it looked almost like a risotto.  Then I stirred in fresh basil (a real treat this time of year).  I'll definitely be repeating this dish-  Maybe next time I'll even write down the recipe!

Another night I had some leftover red beans, but no grains.  So I heated the beans up in a little bit of barbecue sauce, whipped up some ranch dressing and used both to top a fresh green salad with lots of red pepper strips (red peppers have been on sale at the co-op, so we're eating LOTS of them).  This reminded me of when I used to order baked potatoes at barbecue joints in Texas and eat them swimming in butter, barbecue sauce and ranch.  I like to think this is just a touch healthier.  

Another favorite leftover rice dish here, but this one I usually make for breakfast.  I like to heat up my griddle and throw on some mushrooms and Field Roast sausage slices (usually the apple sage ones).  Then I top them with leftover rice so that the rice basically steams over the browning mushrooms and sausage.  Just before serving, I mix it all together and sprinkle with lots of black pepper and a little sea salt.  Oh, yes.  Delightful.   I love savory breakfasts!

So there you have it.  Those are some of my favorite uses for leftover beans and rice.

This week is bound to be more relaxing and allow for some real cooking.  The Medallion Hunt is over (sad, but that means I'll sleep at night instead of tromping through snowy parks).  Mike is on the mend (he's able to walk and sit, trying to build his strength back up for work).  And me?  I'm still on vacation!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bloggy Vaycay

I'm taking a short vacation from blog world this week while things are a bit stressful in my world.  I'll be back real soon.  Maybe even this weekend.  But maybe not for a week or so.  Luckily, I have a work vacay coming up next I should get some more free time then.

In the meantime, be entertained by photos of my cats with captions, LOLcats style.  These are from a book I made for my stepsons for Christmas.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dining with My Self

Tonight I'm treating myself to Orange "Chicken" with brown rice at Bravo on Grand Ave.

I love a restaurant that offers brown rice!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Favorite Water

I'm super excited that today my new reverse osmosis water filter is installed and ready to use!

I'm a big fan of tasteless water and water without pharmaceuticals in it. I like to choose which drugs I take, thank you very much. And I'm so sick of hauling 3 gallon plastic jugs from the co-op. So, hooray!!! I hope this leads to drinking more water!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Quick and Simple

Meals have been pretty simple the past couple weeks.  And we have plans for more of that.  Mike has a great NY resolution to learn to make super yummy sauces to pair with staples like beans and rice.  I'm in favor of that!!!  

Tonight's dinner was bright green with this past summer's basil pesto.  I think I used an entire cup of this emerald sauce, plus 3 heads of broccoli.  I think I'll embrace a new philosophy that the quantity of vegetables should equal the quantity of pasta in a dish like this.  So simple, yet so delicious.  Pasta.  Pesto.  Broccoli.  

This next meal we enjoyed right after New Years Day (leftover black eyed peas) and then again the next night!  The black eyed peas, rice and spinach were super good, of course. I doused mine in plenty of tabasco vinegar that's still going from the bumper crop of tabasco chiles in 2009.  The waffle fries were the big star, though.  I got some of the frozen Alexia brand waffle fries that are seasoned up somethin' crazy.  I usually don't get these since they're not organic, but what the heck?  Live a little.  The kids used them to scoop up black eyed peas and greens and, I must say, that was a fabulous idea.  They then suggested that we have these for dinner every night.  Or every hour.  Or every minute.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seitan Noodle Soup

There's really only one thing I want to eat when I have a cold.  Seitan Noodle Soup.

Well, okay, I also wanted popcorn and Purely Decadent ice cream.  And a gazillion glasses of lemon ginger Prometheus Springs drink and lemon ginger Yogi Tea.  But I really love noodle soup the best when I'm sick.

And it's pretty awesome that this soup is easy to make, since I usually want it when I have zero energy.  But my cold that was steadily getting worse yesterday is steadily getting better today.  So here's the recipe.

Seitan Noodle Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 package seitan (Upton's original is good)
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2-3 inch hunk of ginger, finely grated
2 quarts water
2 Rapunzel bouillon cubes- herbed variety
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Handful fresh parsley, minced
Couple handfuls of pasta (I like fusilli)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onion, carrot and celery and saute a couple minutes, until onions are beginning to get translucent.  Add seitan and continue cooking until it begins to brown.  Add garlic, ginger, water, bouillon, yeast and parsley.  Bring to a simmer and cook until carrots are tender.

Add pasta and continue to cook until it's tender (don't overcook- the pasta will cook more when you go back for leftovers all day).  Add salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Enjoy while watching a gazillion episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Persian Stuffed Grape Leaves

When a coworker loaned me his old copy of Food of Life: A book of ancient Persian and modern Iranian cooking and ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij, I made a few copies of the recipes before I returned the book- And I'm so glad I did!  Turns out the book has been out of print for a while, but now is being republished in Feb 2011.  Judging from this recipe, I think it'll be a winner.  

Of course, there aren't too many vegan recipes in the book (except the pickles!).  But most are easily vegan-izable, like these stuffed grape leaves.  I LOVE Greek dolmas, the simple rice and dill stuffed grape leaves usually served cold with lots of lemon.  These are similar in that they use dill and lemon, but are much more filling because they have split peas or lentils in them, too.  I think these would be lovely with a tomato sauce on top, but I also enjoyed the unusual lemon and sugar coating.  

A recipe isn't totally necessary here, since nearly anything would taste good in grape leaves, in my opinion.  But here it is, with all of my modifications.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

1 cup white rice 
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup red wine
1 "Not Beef" bouillon cube
1/2 cup dried tomatoes (chopped if large)(dried apricots would also be good)
1/2 cup split peas or lentils
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 3 lemons
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 (approx.) jarred grape leaves, rinsed
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar

Start by cooking up some white rice and some split peas or lentils.  For the rice, combine rice, water, red wine, bouillon and dried tomatoes in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until rice is tender- very slightly underdone is okay.  Meanwhile, cover the split peas or lentils with water and simmer until tender.  I used chora dal (split white lentils) and they were done about when the rice was.  But depending on the legume you choose, it could take longer.  Drain the lentils if needed.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice and lentils, salt, onions, fresh herbs, the juice of 2 of the lemons reserve one), pepper and cinnamon.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed before stuffing leaves.  

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a 9 x11 inch glass baking dish by oiling lightly and placing 2 layers of flat grape leaves in the bottom.  

Then take 2 grape leaves, overlapping, and place about 1-2 Tbsp. of filling on one end.  Tuck in the sides of the leaves and roll towards you until the filling is sealed inside.  Place stuffed leaves in the baking dish, seam down.   

Once all the leaves are stuffed, dot the top with bits of Earth Balance or sprinkle with olive oil.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of water over the leaves and cover with foil (or an oven safe lid, if you have one).  Bake for 45 minutes at 350F.  

Meanwhile, mix together the remaining lemon's juice with the sugar until dissolved.  I know it sounds weird, but it's super good!  The final dish doesn't taste sweet, the sugar just cuts the acid of the lemon slightly.  Pull the grape leaves out of the oven after 45 min. and pour the sugar-lemon mixture over the top.  Cover and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.  Then the leaves should be tender and the liquid mostly absorbed.  

I recommend serving with something.  I didn't really plan out what to have as a side dish until I put these on the plate and realized how naked and boring it looked.  I threw together a mildly Middle Eastern salad with olives and herbs.  This would have been great with a really fun salad with pomegranate seeds and walnuts or something.  Or some bread.  

But for a quick snack, the leftovers are fantastic!  I've eaten them cold out of the fridge for a very satisfying mini-meal.  They've got grains, protein and greens all in one little package- pretty perfect.  Also, I'm confident that you could prepare everything in advance and just do the baking later in the week for an easy meal.  

On an altogether different note: 
The pantry challenge of 2010 is over.  I refilled my bulk jars (or at least many of them) today.  I'm proud to say that I was able to empty nearly all of them and get them washed- so this end-of-year pantry eating is pretty practical for a fresh start in the new year.  Now I'm pretty excited to have enough flours and nuts to do all the baking I want!!!