Friday, October 7, 2011

College Staple Spif-up

College students! Tired of that same old Mac and Cheese? I know I am. Even when it's the best of the best (Annie's Shells & Cheese, duh) it still gets boring! For a few minutes extra you can boost flavor, nutrition and excitement in that mid-week meal. While you are boiling the water, saute some diced bell peppers and onions in some olive oil. Prepare the mac and cheese as directed but at the end, add some chili powder and stir in the vegetables. Seriously, it's that easy.

With very little time to spare this week, I tried to come up with the fastest and healthiest meals I could contrive. My favorite ingredient was tofu. It is a great source of protein, requires very little preparation and lends itself to almost any flavor. The first dish was straight forward and rather obvious: tofu, broccoli and onion stirfry served on top of a bed of lettuce. This meal is absurdly easy, low calorie and very tasty. Start by sauteing some diced onions in some oil. Don't salt these because soy sauce provides all the salt it needs. Add in broccoli and any other vegetables you want. Once they start to brown, add in the tofu. Drizzle with soy sauce, rice vinegar and some sesame oil. If you are a peanut butter fan, adding a teaspoon gives a nice creamy quality to the sauce. Once the sauce is reduced a bit, put everything over a bed of mixed greens. Meal one, done.

After getting tired of Asian food, I had to get creative. I had boxed butternut squash soup, carrot-ginger-cashew soup, mushrooms and tofu. I started by sauteing some garlic in olive oil and a bit of butter. Next I browned the sliced mushrooms, then added the tofu and sprinkled in a pinch of salt. I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine. I heated some butternut squash soup in a pan and added a bit of curry powder, put the soup in a bowl and added some of the tofu-mushroom mixture. It turned out quite delicious. An ordinarily boring, smooth soup suddenly had new life.

So, with some extra vegetables and proteins, your same-old same-old weeknight dinners can be something to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall Gourd Overload

Recently, the chapter advisor for my sorority brought her fall garden surplus over to our house. Yes of course, we were thrilled. And yet, the days went on and the supply did not seem to dwindle. The cucumbers were gobbled up in a flash, better than any store bought, water-logged equivalent we had ever tried. The tomatoes went a little slower. Succulent and sweet, they could be used in any salad. And then there were the zucchinis. While absolutely delicious, they required a little more thinking and prep time. As usual, I put my creative cap on and got to work thinking about how to use them. It was much easier than expected. The starchy, rather bland nature of zucchini lends itself well to many flavors and preparations. The quickest and most obvious preparation is in a sauté or stir fry. I've been on an asian kick lately, so I put them in with some onions, broccoli and chicken seasoned with some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and peanut butter and it worked quite well. However, you could just as easily sauté them in some olive oil and garlic and toss with spaghetti.
Another wonderful preparation that takes a bit more time is roasting them. Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Slice the zucchini up into discs, but if it is on the larger side, slice down the middle and then into half discs. Toss with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and spread evenly in a roasting pan or even a cookie sheet would work. Bake until brown and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. This is great eaten plain, thrown in a salad or tossed with quinoa.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The back-of-your-pantry debacle

We all have those days when meal time rolls around and we open the refrigerator to...nothing. Or what seems like a semblance of nothings. You've got some nubs of cheese, salsa, some frozen veggies, nuts, last weeks chicken and maybe a quarter of an old avocado. Or at least, that's what was in my fridge when I went to make lunch this afternoon.
I feared I would be forced to resort to the "snacks for lunch" option. And yet, I took a minute and racked my brain. I came up with an unusual, yet delicious and quick meal which made use of my food just in time before my trip to portland this week. In a hot pan drizzled with olive oil, I sauteed some frozen corn. In a bowl I placed diced avocado, a small dollop of sour cream, some salsa, a few shards of sharp cheddar and a few spashes of tapatio hot sauce. On went the hot corn and I had a perfectly satisfying summer lunch. Had I used some sweet roasted corn it could have been the perfect dish for a potluck. What many don't realize is that those apparent scraps in the back of your refrigerator or pantry often hold lots of potential. The key is to choose a theme and run with it. Today it was mexican, however tomorrow it has the great potential of being southern barbeque given the large quantity of leftover bbq sauce in our fridge that I made last week. Experimenting in the kitchen is not always a bad thing as much as many people seem to believe. Sometimes it doesn't always work out but that's how we learn to adjust and alter until we make it better. Just last week I used leftover coleslaw cabbage mix as a base for a chicken salad. Not sure I would do it again, but it wasn't bad! I have learned to save lots of time and money by using what I formerly thought to be garbage. Heels of cheese as use for soup base, left over grilled vegetables in salad, pesto as salad dressing. Be creative. Expand. Always maintain a theme.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Magical Millet

A hometown friend recently came to visit Walla Walla. We were flipping through a friends cookbook and came across a recipe for millet muffins. I exclaimed, "millet is my favorite grain!" without thinking what the fallout would be. Two weeks later and I still am getting flack for even having a favorite grain, apparently that's not a common thing. In retrospect, it is a completely true statement. Millet is a fantastic grain! It adds a wonderful texture to almost anything, it's cheap and very healthy. It can be puffed, toasted, roasted, used in candy, baked goods, cereal and even savory dishes. It's magical! I happen to have some millet lying around the house and after tasting my friend's millet lemon muffins I thought I'd bring my favorite grain back into the picture. I took an old favorite recipe for peanut butter bread and added millet and oats. These two new textures not only added flavor and texture to the bread they gave a rather boring, yet tasty quick bread a facelift. Not to mention an excuse for me to use my favorite grain. This bread is fast and easy, doesn't require more than one bowl and is great to make if you're lacking eggs, butter or oil.

Peanut Butter Bread remix

2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup raw millet
1/2 cup rolled oats.

Preheat oven to 375
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix in the milk and peanut butter. Add the millet and oats. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'm not one to crave red meat or typically American fare, however last week on the elliptical, watching Joe Realmuto grill skirt steak in homemade bbq sauce awakened the small patriotic bone in my body. I decided to plan dinner for my housemates. The menu consisted of skirt steak with bbq sauce, coleslaw and olive bread with garlic and fresh basil. The rave reviews were worth the hour the sauce took to cook. While it might be a bit labor intensive and have a lot of ingredients, making your own bbq sauce is worth the extra time and makes enough to share with friends for not a lot of money. The best idea was adding chipotle to the sauce. It gives a mysterious smoky flavor and saves you a search for liquid smoke. Living in walla walla, I can't always find exactly what I want, so I substituted thin cut rib eye steaks for skirt and it turned out just fine, still lean and tender. I used a Bobby Flay recipe for the coleslaw dressing which I ended up altering completely. I used about triple the apple cider vinegar he calls for and celery salt will kill two birds with one stone if you're looking to pinch pennies. Good olive bread, split in half and spread with a makeshift pesto and warmed in the oven is always a crowd pleaser and very easy to make as a contribution for a potluck.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Summer Vegetable Fiesta

While Saturday's field trip to farmer's market didn't lead Heather and I to the bounty of grillable vegetables that we had invisioned, we did have an enjoyable outing and an even more wonderful dinner. The Walla Walla farmer's market is mostly composed of prepared foods and lots of seasonal fruits. We did, however, acquire 3 beautiful, large zucchinis for two dollars, enormous sweet onions and a bag of mixed rainbow chard, collard greens and kale. I also got one of the most delicious, fresh squeezed in-front-of-my-face, vegetable juices. A mixture of organic carrots, beets, apples and ginger-the perfect summer snack. Upon returning home I sliced the zucchinis lengthwise, cut up some red bell peppers and cut the onions into discs. In one bag, I marinated the zucchini and peppers in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper. In another bag, I covered the onions in some oil, salt and pepper. In addition, I blanched a sweet potato until just soft, cut it into slices and marinated it in olive oil, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper. Later, after getting into a rather rambunctious tussle with the coals, I threw all of the above onto the grill (well not all at once, we have the teeny, tiniest Weber it took a few rounds). The grilled veggies turned out delicious as usual but the grilled sweet potato fries were a revelation. I got the inspiration from a similar recipe I saw on Grill It with Bobby Flay, though I altered the recipe to fit my preferences. The sweet and spicy with the cinnamon and the caramelized brown sugar?? Genius. These are definitely a new staple. As for the mixed leafy greens? I'm off to cook them for lunch. Details to follow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Becoming a Vegan...or something like that

Upon my return from France, I found my diet to be lack-luster. Unexciting. Boring. Bland. With the leisure of summer and not having a demanding job, I decided to completely revamp what I eat and become, what some consider to be, crazy. In other words I decided to take a shot at being vegan. Having recently read an article on up and coming vegan chef Tal Ronnen, veganism seemed suddenly possibly, even enjoyable. No longer a black hole of bland rabbit food but open to a wide range of possibilities. Tempeh burgers comparable to those of meat, enchiladas, and cupcake war winner Chloe Coscarelli's chocolate cupcakes with strawberries and whipped cream. With offerings like these, what would you be missing? I also liked Ronnen's taken on veganism. For many, being vegan is scary only because of the stigma that accompanies it: opinionated hippies who refuse to accept the views of others. Ronnen on the other hand does not look down on those who are not strict purists i.e. a vegan who eats bacon can still be considered a vegan with that exception. The fact that he eats bacon on occasion does not nullify the fact that he is vegan on all other occasions. With this new view on the practice I decided to come up with my own take on being vegan. And so I am one week into what I have decided to label "customized vegan". Knowing myself and my often lack of will power, I set up a set of fairly flexible rules. I knew if I attempted to go balls-out vegan, I would end up disappointing myself and cheating after a matter of hours. So I gave myself these, for lack of a better term, guidelines:
Addison will be vegan but:
1) Eat fish
2) Milk is still allowed in minimal amounts-say in coffee
3) An absolute and screaming craving is permitted to be indulged in a small quantity

So far these have been working out quite well. I have avoided meat and eggs in all capacities. Who knew that a banana is a wonderful replacement for eggs in a cake mix for a friend's birthday cake? I now much prefer the banana method, it is much more moist and adds wonderful flavor. The cake received rave reviews Conveniently, a new vegan cafe opened this week in Walla Walla. Vegan cooking for a large crowd can go horribly wrong, but much to my delight they have hit it out of the park. It is absolutely fantastic. There wasn't a dish that went by that I didn't want to try. I had an amazing sandwich called a Hummus Amongus. Soft whole grain bread with thick spread of hummus, kalamata olives, tzatziki, arugula, cucumbers and peppers. Amazing and half the price of what it would be in LA. The duration of this challenge? This answer is still unknown...update to come soon.