Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Break Research

I haven't been able to post for a while because I have actually not had internet access while away on spring break. I was doing thesis research in gorgeous northern Georgia. I've been doing some site set-up for my research on a federally endangered flower.

While it was hard work, the peace and quiet was really great. The scenery didn't hurt any, either. I'll post some pictures about an office with a view!

I managed to break my camera while I was out there! I might attempt to take some pics with my web cam because I really want to get cooking again, but I don't know what the quality will be. Looks like I'll be camera shopping. Since my camera with 6 years old, it should be easy to find a better-quality camera, which means better pictures to post on here!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Balsamic-Orange Baked Tempeh with Portobello Mushrooms and Onions

In an attempt to get more protein in my diet, I've been eating copious amounts of tofu. Well, now I am a little tofued-out, so I decided to make some tempeh for dinner instead. I have never baked tempeh, but baking it made the flavor of the marinade really stick to it. Thyme, balsamic vinegar, and orange came together to make a rich flavor combination in the marinade, and sweetened up the tempeh as it cooked.

Balsamic-Orange Baked Tempeh with Portobello Mushrooms and Onions

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 8-oz package tempeh
2 portobello mushroom caps
1/2 red onion, cut into 4 1/4-inch circles
non-stick cooking spray

1. To make the marinade, blend the first 8 ingredients (through thyme) in a shallow dish.
2. Cut the tempeh into fourths and place in them in the marinade. Marinade at room temperature for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.
3. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and peel the dark brown skin away from the outside by grabbing the bits of skin that are hanging on the edge with your fingertips and peeling the skin away from the edge and toward the top of the mushroom. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13.5/9 non-reactive baking dish with the cooking spray. Place the onion slices down and brush them with a little marinade. Place one piece of tempeh on each onion circle. Fan the mushrooms around the tempeh-onion stacks and brush them with some marinade.
5. Cook for 20 minutes. Flip the tempeh, but do not flip the onions along with it. Lightly toss the mushrooms. Brush all the ingredients with the remaining marinade and cook 10-15 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender and the tempeh is heated through. Optional: broil the dish for a few minutes to add some crispness to the top.
6. To serve, place a layer of mushrooms down, then top with an onion-tempeh stack. Drizzle some of the pan juices on top. You can also stack the whole thing on top of a seasonal vegetable (I used steamed asparagus) or a carb like rice, potatoes, or cooked pasta.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 130
Fat: 6.3
Saturated fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 154 mg
Carbohydrates: 8.9 g
Fiber: 0.8 g
Sugar: 1.6 g
Protein: 11.9 g

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Avocado with Balsamic-Sesame Vinaigrette

Along time ago, my mom got a cookbook from the library that had an amazing spinach and strawberry salad with an incredible sesame and balsamic vinegar dressing. Well, that book went back to the library along with the recipe. That recipe happened to pop into my head this week because I acquired a large amount of gorgeous Florida strawberries from a strawberry sale by one of the sororities on campus in order to raise money for breast cancer research---a very important cause, in my book. Therefore, I decided to whip up my own version of the salad. I added avocado for richness, which was not in the original recipe. I used flax seed oil to get my omega-3's, but extra virgin olive oil is a fine substitute. Feel free to add poppy seeds to the dressing as well for a little extra color contrast in the salad. This is a very easy salad to make; it's perfect for a side dish or a light meal.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Avocado with Balsamic-Sesame Vinaigrette

1 small Haas avocado, cubed
1 cup sliced strawberries
4 cups loosely-packed spinach leaves
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp demerara sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp flax seed oil or extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Arrange the spinach leaves on the serving dishes or in a large bowl. Top them with the strawberries and avocado.
2. Blend the oils, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast them until golden-brown, stirring often. Sprinkle them over the salad and serve.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per serving:
Calories: 217
Fat: 16.2 g
Saturated fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 55 mg
Carbohydrates: 17.6 g
Fiber: 8.5 g
Sugar: 6.4 g
Protein: 4.7 g

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thai Tofu and Vegetable Stir-fry in Coconut-Cashew Curry Sauce

My favorite Thai curry is Tofu Panang curry, which is a type of red curry, but it's not as spicy. It also has some of the same spices that are featured in Indian curries, which I happen to like as well. The problem with making Thai curries at home is that so many ingredients are difficult to find in your regular supermarket. While many supermarkets to carry pre-made curry pastes, I don't like to eat all those preservatives. Tonight I challenged myself to make a Panang-inspired curry using ingredients that I can get from the local store (and, considering how caloric Thai curries tend to be, something that would be reduced in calories!). I substituted lime juice for the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, ginger for the galangal, and since this is a veg*n version, I used cashews for the shrimp paste that is so commonly featured in non-veg*n Panang curry. The cashews add body to the sauce that may be lost from not using the shrimp paste. I also used soy sauce instead of vegetarian fish sauce. This recipe is non-traditional, but if you make substitutions for the traditional ingredients I listed above, you can have the real deal.

The most important thing to keep in mind while making a Thai curry is to keep all of the flavors balanced: sweet, sour, savory, bitter. Therefore, feel free to adjust the ingredients according to your palette.

Also, while it may seem ridiculous to chop up items that are going into a blender, please do so. Otherwise, the ingredients won't blend consistently and you'll end up having to chase a few random chunks of garlic around for a while in the blender.

Oh, by the way, here is a cool fact you can say at your next cocktail party to impress people: ginger and galangal are not actually roots. They're modified stems called rhizomes which basically store nutrients for a plant underground. So, instead of saying "ginger root" you should say "ginger rhizome." There's always room to make something as geeky as possible...

Thai Tofu and Vegetable Stir-fry in Coconut-Cashew
Curry Sauce

For the curry sauce:

3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cashew pieces
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
1 15-oz can lite coconut milk, well-shaken

1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until liquefied. Set aside.

For the tofu and vegetables:

1 lb firm tofu, cut into 1" chunks
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
16 oz canned bamboo shoots, drained
16 oz canned water chestnuts, drained
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces on the bias (Chinese long beans may be substituted)

non-stick cooking spray

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the tofu. Cook the tofu on all sides until it is golden-brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
2. Wipe the pan clean with paper towel, re-spray with cooking spray, and add the vegetables. Cook them until the onions are translucent and the green beans are tender-crisp. Pour the curry sauce over the vegetables and add the tofu back in. Drop the heat back to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Serving suggestion: serve with cooked jasmine rice and garnish with chopped cashews and cilantro sprigs.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 308
Fat: 10.4 g
Saturated fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 197 mg
Carbohydrates: 46.1 mg
Fiber: 5.6 g
Sugar: 7.3 g
Protein: 13.4 g

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nearly Springtime Miso Soup

I was trying to find a use for the white miso paste I purchased on my last trip to Savannah, GA, when I came across a great website that focuses on all things soy. Two particular recipes caught my eye: Miso Soup with Asparagus, and Mushroom and Miso Soup. I thought they sounded delicious on their own, but would be perfect if the recipes were combined. By combining them, it would be a sort of salute to almost everyone's favorite winter vegetable (the humble potato) and a big nod at some of my spring favorites (asparagus and mushrooms). Therefore, I present to you Nearly Springtime Miso Soup, with all the heartiness of a winter soup but the freshness of spring. This is a great alternative to the caloric creamy potato soup. Actually, this is very low in calories!

Because broth and miso pastes can have varying sodium contents, be sure to taste check for sodium before adding the soy sauce. The soy sauce adds great flavor, but the salt can really catch up with you. My broth happened to not have very much salt in it, so 1 tbsp of soy sauce tasted like the right amount to me.

Nearly Springtime Miso Soup

1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, sliced on the bias
2 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion, any color
1 cup sliced mushrooms, any variety
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
black pepper, to taste
2 cups red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp white miso paste
non-stick cooking spray

Garnish: sliced scallions

1. Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the first five ingredients (through the mushrooms). Allow them to cook until the onion is transluscent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the broth, potatoes, and soy sauce. Bring the heat to high and allow the mixture to boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and cook 15 minutes.
3. Next, add the asparagus. Bring the heat to high again, allow the mixture to boil, then reduce the heat back to medium and cover the pot and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove about 1 cup of broth to a small bowl and blend the miso paste into the broth. Add this broth back into the rest of the soup and let it heat through, about one minute more.
5. Garnish with sliced scallion.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 125
Fat: 1 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 819 mg
Carbohydrates: 21.7
Fiber: 3.4 g
Sugar: 3.3 g
Protein: 7.9 g

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Adventures in Savannah, Georgia

I can honestly say that Savannah, Georgia is in the list for my top ten favorite cities that I have ever visited. The combination of the architecture of the buildings and trees full of Spanish moss captivates me every time I visit. If you appreciate art, unique shops, and fine food, it's definitely the place to go.

The beautiful Forsyth Park Fountain

My favorite thing to do in Savannah is grocery shop for things I can't get in the town I live in. My favorite store, which I have mentioned before, is Brighter Day. Right next door to it is a coffee shop I like to visit once I finish shopping to get a caffeine jolt. It's called "The Sentient Bean" (pretty cute name, isn't it?). Both are right next to beautiful Forsyth Park. Today, we got to the store before it was open, so my friend and I had lunch there. I had what they call a "Dilla Sin Queso" (pictured at the right) which is a large tortilla with tomatoes and spinach inside, along with hummus replacing the cheese. It's then grilled in a panini press, which makes pretty grill marks on the outside. It was the perfect lunch. If you're ever in Savannah, I suggest you check both places out!

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