on the menu this week

taco soup via lauren conrad

cheesy zucchini pizza via eat live run

green monsters via oh she glows [coconut, soy milk, almond butter, spinach, grated carrots, flax seed…all in my new magic bullet!]

creative salad mixes via cristina roman [chickpeas, walnuts, feta, corn…]

masala tofu stir fry via cristina roman

balsamic roasted brussel sprouts via cristina roman

the fifth taste: umami

During a recent cookout with friends, we randomly stumbled onto the topic of taste buds. Apparently there is a less well-known fifth taste- along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty- called umami.

The Japanese word for delicious, umami has been described as a “meaty mouth-feel” and refers to the taste that monosodium glutamate (MSG), an amino acid, produces.

So where can you find this magical taste? Seaweed soup, tomatoes, aged cheese, mushrooms, veal stock, pepperoni pizza, fish sauce, and anchovies, to name a few.

There still appears to be confusion over the potential negative health consequences of MSG, but rest assured that glutamate is naturally occurring in many foods.

Anyone other there with more insight on this issue? 

quinoa bowls: rice’s grown up sibling

I just remembered that two summers ago, I used to make myself creative rice bowls for lunch. They were filling, contained ingredients from every essential food group, and offered plenty of variety.

I decided to revive rice bowls with a slightly healthier twist: quinoa bowls! I’ve been on a little quinoa kick lately- as seen here and here.

According to this article, quinoa used to be called “the gold of the Incas” because it contains lysine (one of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies need); it is a complete protein; and it boasts copious amounts of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.

Like tofu, quinoa can easily be dressed up with other ingredients and flavors. I consider it a sort of blank canvas that can be adapted based on your tastes and kitchen contents.

Some ideas (add the following to a bowl of quinoa):

  • Buffalo Bowl: sauteed onions and peppers; baked chicken; buffalo sauce; a dash of ranch dressing; black beans; tomatoes
  • Yellow Curry Bowl: marinated and sauteed tofu; sauteed peppers and zucchini; jarred yellow curry (from Trader Joe’s)
  • Brussel Sprout Bowl: roasted brussel sprouts and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese
  • Fiesta Bowl: black beans, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, olives

Any other ideas for great rice or quinoa bowl combinations? 

————-

Surprised by the time of this post? Me too! I somehow woke up at 6am this morning (a Saturday!!) and can’t go back to sleep. So far, I’ve sipped coffee and cleaned my apartment. Feelin’ very productive 🙂

[photo credit: here]

tofu combos x 100

photo credit: abetterbagofgroceries.com

Tofu is just about the easiest dish to whip up and it’s incredibly versatile.

A carton of extra-firm tofu costs abut $1.50 and makes 3-4 servings (that’s just $.50 for an almost complete meal!)

Here are a few ideas for mixing it up:

  • Marinate with my favorite combo-soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, and rice vinegar. Saute with zucchini, onion, and peppers and sprinkle with feta
  • Marinate in balsamic vinegar, which turns into a crispy glaze when sauteed
  • Toss with Trader Joe’s masala sauce for an Indian feel or Island Soyaki sauce for a Hawaiian feel
  • Throw on top of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend for a hearty meal
  • Marinate with Italian seasoning [marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, basil] and tomato sauce for an Italian spin (duh!)
  • Cut into strips and saute with homemade fajita seasoning [chili powder, salt, paprika,  crushed chicken bouillon cube, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin]. Layer on top of a warmed tortilla with melted cheese for a Mexican meal.
  • Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and bake
  • Saute with Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, coat with ranch dressing, and eat as a spicy “chicken” wrap

recipe: eggplant moussaka in the crockpot

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my first eggplant purchase was a mere 46 days ago. I’m now hooked, so I picked up another one at Trader Joe’s the other day. Originally, I planned to make this Indian Eggplant recipe, but I came across this recipe for Eggplant Moussaka instead.

Despite the less-than-raving reviews, I decided to give it a try- partially because I’m obsessed with my Crockpot. And I loved it (maybe because I don’t know what “real” moussaka tastes like?)!! To my surprise, I especially liked the unique little pop from the cinnamon.

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste,
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces feta cheese with garlic and herbs

Directions

Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 1/2 day

  1. Place peeled and sliced eggplant on the bottom of the Crockpot
  2. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet until there is no pink remaining
  3. Add meat mixture to the crock pot on top of the eggplant
  4. Add the remaining ingredients- except the feta cheese- to the Crockpot
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  6. Sprinkle feta on each serving

recipe: shakshuka

Because I’m having withdrawal from Israel, I decided to bring the culinary goodness to my own kitchen! I found a recipe for a traditional poached egg dish, called shakshuka, on Smitten Kitchen. This is originally meant to be a breakfast dish, but it is still delicious for lunch or dinner. My friend, who’s traveled to Israel many times and had many dishes of shakshuka, loved it!

Shakshuka

photo credit: smittenkitchen.com

1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

tex-mex chicken & antsiness

Recipe

I was looking for a recipe to use up the chicken drumsticks that were in my fridge. My sister forwarded me a recipe from her friend’s blog, BlissfulMindWellness, so I decided to adapt it and make it in my slow-cooker.

Tex-Mex Chicken

  • 5 drumsticks- $1.80
  • 1 can of corn- $1.00
  • 1 can of black beans- $1.09
  • 1/2 onion- $.74
  • 1 orange pepper- $1.39
  • 1/2 yellow pepper- $.70
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup- $1.69
  • homemade fajita seasoning [minus cornstarch]- approx $1.00

Combine all ingredients in Crockpot and heat on low for 6-9 hours.

Total: $9.41

$9.41 would be about the cost of a to-go lunch at a local restaurant like Nando Peri Peri.

But this recipe yields about 5 servings, so each serving only costs $1.70! That’s $1.70 for a delicious meal full of vegetables, protein, & seasoning. Pour it over a tortilla or rice and you have an even better meal- for only about $.50 more.

Antsiness

I feel antsy this week/weekend for a few reasons. I’m still adapting to my new job. I’m exhausted at the end of the day and have been going to bed around 9pm. I feel like I’m getting sick. My friends are all out of town or busy. I have so many things I’ve been neglecting to do. I feel frustrated when I feel like I’m not living up senior year. I haven’t been able to work out because of my hurt tailbone.

So my plan to combat all this: Know I’ll be adapted to my new job soon- I’m only in the second week. Go to bed early if I need to. Drink less coffee [free coffee has been readily available to me- not good haha]. Appreciate my free time [recognize that I lament it when I don’t have any]. Reach out to other friends I don’t usually hang out with. Get slowly back into working out. Do fun things that I enjoy- browsing books at the library, plan a fun trip, read, watch a quality movie, etc. Slowly tackle my to do list.

Tip of the Week

Establish a fun tradition with friends. Freshman year my friends and I established two traditions, one which we still do as seniors. We call it “Destress Dinner.” We get together on Sunday night and either order in from Mei-Wah [Chinese] or throw together the contents of everyone’s fridge and make a stir fry. We then sit in a circle; first, everyone shares one thing they’re stressed about. Then, everyone shares something they are excited about for the week. We’ve found it helps us go into the week with a healthy outlook. And from experience, I recommend keeping the group small because having too many people takes away the intimate feeling.

Other ideas:

  • Form a “Sunday brunch club”
  • Rotate hosting a Friday night potluck
  • Coordinate a Saturday morning coffee date
  • Visit Eastern Market every Saturday or Sunday
  • Form A food co-op (a friend of mine does this. Every Friday, he and his friends meet to exchange food. Each person brings 4 or 5 containers of a recipe they’ve made and walks away with 1 dish from each friend]
  • Visit a different museum each week


asian cabbage salad

After making slow-cooker minestrone last week, I had leftover cabbage I wanted to use up. My friend is obsessed with China, so I decided to make us an Asian-inspired cabbage salad. I found a recipe for Napa Cabbage Salad on AllRecipes.com but made a few adjustments because of what I had on hand.

Ingredients 

Photo credit: kalynskitchen.blogspot.com

  • 1 head of cabbage [Napa or otherwise]
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 (3 ounce) package chow mein noodles, broken
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

  1. Finely shred the head of cabbage
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, oil, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, let boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and let cool
  4. Pour dressing over cabbage and store in fridge
  5. Make the crunchies: Melt the butter in a pot. Mix the chow mein noodles, sesame seeds and almonds into the pot with the melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake the crunchies in the preheated 350 degrees oven, turning often to make sure they do not burn. When they are browned, remove them from the oven.
  6. Combine dressing, crunchies, and cabbage immediately before serving.

My other friend came over and soon enough, it was all gone!

Moroccan Chicken and Potato Stew

January 16: Moroccan Chicken and Potato Stew

Photo credit: simplypotatoes.com

Two girls and I got together for a small potluck dinner last night. It was the best meal: green beans with almonds, roasted pepper and white bean dip, spinach salad, basmati rice, and my contribution, slow-cooked Moroccan Chicken and Potato Stew, based off this recipe.

As usual, I made several changes, which are below:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts [despite the warning not to use them, they turned out great]
  • 1 potato, cut into big chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups cut carrots [cheaper than baby carrots!]
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 ounces) stewed tomatoes, un-drained
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. In 10-inch skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic. Cook, turning chicken occasionally, until browned. Drain grease.

2. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery. Top with browned chicken and garlic. In small bowl stir cumin, ginger, ground red pepper and crushed red pepper until well blended. Sprinkle over chicken and vegetables. Add chicken broth. Cover; cook on LOW heat for 6 to 7 hours.

3. Stir in tomatoes. Increase heat to HIGH. Cover; cook for 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice just before serving.

[Cross-posted to GW Bites]