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Life Is Busy, But We Still Need To Eat

23 Apr

It is too easy to fall into eating the same things everyday, so I’m trying to shake up my routine a little, and give you some inspiration to shake things up, too! Today’s post compiles some snapshots of the food I’ve been eating lately.

Most of the foods pictured are quick to prepare yet still filled with nourishing, colorful ingredients. Life is busy, but we still need to eat.

Have you tried any new or different foods recently?

Breakfasts: A warm bowl of oatmeal with a dab of nut butter usually hits the spot for me in the morning. Below are some other fun breakfast options:

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A variation of a single-serving oatmeal protein pancake. Combine 1/3 c. quick oats, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add some fruit to the batter, i.e. 1/4 cup of frozen berries. Cook on a lightly buttered non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Top with something yummy, like plain, whole milk yogurt with a little drizzle of maple syrup.

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Whole wheat toast with cottage cheese and black pepper. A quick way to get in some protein and whole grains first thing in the morning. Add a side of frozen mango cubes for refreshing brightness.

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Speaking of mango, here’s a classic bowl of plain yogurt with granola, chia seeds, and mango slices. As you can see, my brain is already on “warm, sunny weather” mode.

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Another simple breakfast or snack: CRUMPETS. Like an English muffin, the airy wholes of a crumpet are the perfect vehicle for a slick of salted butter and a little jam (I used guava/apple jam). Nut butter, avocado, or a runny egg also sound like excellent crumpet toppings.

Light lunches and snacks: I usually like to make my own lunch at home. I have to remind myself that simple is often the answer. Last week was Passover, so I tried to get creative with matzo…

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Matzo spread with hummus and topped with boiled egg and cucumber slices. To boil an egg, place it in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Once boiling, shut the heat off and cover the pot for 10-13 minutes, depending if you are using a large or extra-large egg. Place the eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and slice!

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Eating out during Passover is a fun adventure. This matzo was topped with smashed avocado, chili flakes, cumin, and lemon. Can’t go wrong. At The Commons Chelsea. 

Quick, easy weeknight dinners: Keeping some easy staples like frozen/canned vegetables, tofu in the fridge, grains in the pantry, and even fish in tins means a healthy dinner is almost always accessible.

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Whipped up a tofu vegetable curry for dinner one night. With a few apple slices and peanut butter on the side. This is a go-to meal for me, but I changed it up by using a little baby corn. Organic canned baby corn gets drained and rinsed and added to the curry with some fresh broccoli. A different vegetable than I would normally use, and I appreciate the change. Did you know you could “dry sauté” tofu? Slice the tofu and place it in a heated, dry non-stick skillet. The heat takes out all of the excess moisture, and still gives it a nice “crust” because the skillet is non-stick. Now the tofu is ready to soak up all of the yummy curry sauce (a similar effect to “pressing” tofu).

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First time buying a tin of sardines! I made Ellie Krieger’s pasta with sardines. Whole wheat fusilli, broccoli rabe, golden raisins, and pine nuts tossed with sardines. Add Parmesan for a little extra salty goodness.

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Taco night. Corn tortillas toasted on the gas stovetop flame. Smear with refried black beans. Top with leftover chicken, and some sautéed bell peppers and onions. A little salsa or hot sauce for acidity.

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Rainbow Nachos. Blue corn tortilla chips, carrot ribbons, black beans, smoky gouda, spinach. Toast in the oven for ~7-15 minutes. Top with avocado and plain Greek yogurt.

Some noteworthy restaurant eats:

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Carrots | Fluke from The Pines in Gowanus, Brooklyn

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Green Falafel “with everything” from Taim in Nolita

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Rice Bowl with Marinated, Grilled Tofu from Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights

Happy Passover

15 Apr

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Happy Passover. Or if you don’t celebrate, Happy Tuesday.

This year, I made a small dinner for a small crowd. Charoset, a light salad, spatchcocked flat-roasted chicken with carrots and parsnips, maple-roasted sweet potatoes (I used less syrup than the recipe calls for and added in some cinnamon). Complete with matzo sheets and red wine. Dessert was coconut macaroons from the bakery I work at, with a few squares of chocolate and a few more sips of wine.

A few more old favorite Passover recipes:

Matzo Lasagna

Kiss n’ Swirl Meringues (use Kosher for Passover vanilla, or omit altogether, if you do not consume vanilla on the holiday)

xo

Stephanie

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(Vegan) Lasagna with Tofu “Garden Ricotta”

11 Mar

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Spring is around the corner, it is almost, almost here, but I still feel the slam of the cold on my face and hands every time I walk outside.

This lasagna is a transition from heavy, cheesy winter comforts to lighter, colorful spring fare. By using a tofu “ricotta” instead of actual ricotta, this pasta dish gets a lighter makeover so that we won’t have to undo the top button on our pants after eating.

I used to make tofu “ricotta” back when I was cooking for 60 students in the Berkeley co-ops. Pulse some firm tofu in a blender or food processor, add some aromatics and spices, and it turns from rubbery soy product to magical cheese-like goodness in seconds! I really like the addition of white miso paste to this version.

…and because I am flexible, I added a little grated Parmesan cheese to top off my vegan lasagna. Hey, it’s a transition, remember? A little Parmesan offers a nice salty punch without weighing down the pasta, but if you are vegan, just omit.

I also love my carbs, so a little toast with olive oil and salt is a nice crunch contrast to the lasagna.

Now, bring on the warm sunshine!

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I love lasagna, and I believe there should be a lasagna for every occasion. Check out this summer version with zucchini here. And check out this Passover matzo lasagna here.

Vegan Lasagna

adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen

Serves 6-8

**Make ahead: you can prepare the unbaked lasagna and keep it in the fridge for about 2 days before baking. 

Garden Ricotta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 14-oz package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon white miso paste

3 cups fresh basil

Sauce & Assembly

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 24-oz jar marinara sauce

1/4 milk of your choice *I used cow’s milk, but to keep things truly vegan use soy, almond, or rice milk

1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (you can also use spinach or another green)

1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a 9 x 13 inch-pan.

To make the Garden Ricotta: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Remove from heat.

In the food processor, combine onions, garlic, tofu, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso paste. Pulse until the mixture is almost smooth but still has some texture. Add basil and pulse a few more times to incorporate it.

To make the sauce: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (just use the same skillet you used to saute the onions). Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add marinara and milk. The milk should soften the acidity of the tomatoes (you can also add a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup here, but I just omitted it).

To assemble and bake the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles across the pan. Spread half of the Garden Ricotta over the noodles. Layer half of the kale over the Garden Ricotta. Arrange 4 more noodles on top. Spread another layer of sauce over the noodles, then arrange 4 more noodles on top. Top with another layer of sauce, the remaining Garden Ricotta, and the remaining kale.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked and the sauce is hot and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Optional: If you are not vegan, I enjoyed the lasagna with a little grated Parmesan on top before serving.

Overnight Steel Cut Oats Method

5 Mar

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Steel-cut oats can take 20-30 minutes to cook, so I usually save them for the weekend or for a lazy morning when I have a lot of time.

Last night, though, I stumbled upon The Kitchn’s method for making creamy steel-cut oats overnight. Starting the oats the night before make them virtually instant the next morning! Just heat, eat, and run off to wherever you have to go.

I made enough for two servings, but you could certainly make a batch that will serve four. Steel-cut oats reheat well as leftovers.

I ran out of milk, so I added a hefty scoop of pumpkin puree and accompanying spices upon simmering my oats after their overnight stay. For serving, a drizzle of maple syrup, a small splash of cream, and a swoosh of sunflower seed butter. A perfect breakfast with black coffee on yet another COLD day in New York City.

Here is the basic method:

Overnight Steel-Cut Oats Method

method adapted from The Kitchn

makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon of butter or olive oil

1/2 cup steel-cut oats

1 1/2 cups water

small pinch of salt

For the next morning: 1/2 cup pumpkin puree +spices (1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 pinch each nutmeg, ginger, cloves) + 1 teaspoon vanilla + 2 tablespoons maple syrup + splash of cream + sunbutter

(you could also just add in 1/2 cup of milk in the morning instead of the above pumpkiny accouterments)

Tools

2-quart saucepan

Method

1. Start this the night before. You want to have steel-cut oatmeal. Measure out your oats. This quantity will make about 2 servings.

2. Heat about 1/2 teaspoon butter or olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Add the oats and fry them for about 3 minutes, or until they start smelling toasty.

3. Pour in the water and add the salt. Stir.

4. Bring to a rolling boil.

5. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Leave it on the stove, and go to bed!

6. The next morning, uncover the pan and bring the oatmeal back up to a simmer. If you would like creamier oatmeal, stir in the pumpkin puree and spices before reheating. Add a splash of vanilla.

When the oatmeal is warm, scoop out and enjoy with maple syrup, a splash of cream, and sunbutter!

Additional Notes:

• Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
• Re-heat leftovers in just the same way: warm up on the stove, or in a bowl in the microwave.

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Easy Chocolate “Wartime” Cake

4 Mar

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Raise your hand if you don’t like mayo?! There’s always someone who has a weird, jiggly story to kill the mayo buzz. When you think about it though, mayo is just egg yolk, oil and vinegar. No bigs.

Over the years, I have learned to get along with mayo (especially when you add garlic and call it aioli). If you are still not ready to commit to slathering your sandwich with mayo, maybe a taste of this awesome chocolate cake will get you past your fear…

Mayonnaise is the secret weapon in this cake. It replaces the butter and all but one egg.

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This recipe hails from Cooks Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking cookbook. It is a “wartime” cake because ingredients like butter and fresh eggs were scarce during World War II, so cooks came up with cakes that worked without them–often using mayonnaise.

Ready for some science?! Mayonnaise contains lecithin, an emulsifier that helps keep the oil in the mayonnaise suspended in micro-droplets. These small droplets aid the oil’s ability to coat the flour’s protein particles, leading to a supremely tender cake. The test kitchen even tried replacing the mayonnaise with butter and an egg, and oil and an egg, but those cakes were less moist and the crumb less velvety than the mayo cake. The final recipe calls for an extra egg paired with the mayonnaise to give the cake an even richer flavor and springier texture. Now thats my kind of science.

Just a little more tasty science: To deepen the chocolate flavor of the cake, the recipe calls for “blooming” the cocoa powder and a touch of chocolate in hot coffee. Cocoa powder contains solid particles of fat and protein with tiny flavor molecules (!) trapped inside. Dissolving the cocoa in hot water causes these flavor molecules, which would otherwise remain imprisoned, to burst forth, amplifying overall flavor. The roasted notes of the coffee reinforce the nutty, roasted notes in the chocolate.

Are you on board yet?

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If you get bogged down with the science, just remember that this is an “Easy Chocolate Cake.” It’s one of those dump-and-stir cakes: mix the dry, mix the wet, dump and stir.

Whether it’s the mayo, the coffee, the cocoa or the science, this is the darn best chocolate cake I have had in a long time, if ever. There’s a magical top layer that forms after baking that I just wanted to cut off and call my own.

If you have any birthdays, occasions, celebrations or cravings, this is the cake you should make. And by gosh, get over your fear of mayo!

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Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar, dollop it with whipped cream, or drizzle it with yogurt (Greek vanilla works nicely!). My new favorite crunch-tastic topping? Rainbow sprinkles!

Easy Chocolate Cake

from The Science of Good Cooking cookbook

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 cup brewed coffee, hot

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream or yogurt (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350. Grease 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine cocoa and chocolate. Pour hot coffee over cocoa mixture and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently whisk mixture until smooth, let cool slightly, then whisk in mayonnaise, egg, and vanilla. Stir mayonnaise mixture into flour mixture until combined.

3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into squares or rectangles and serve either straight from the pan or out of a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, dollop with whipped cream or yogurt, or enjoy as is.

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