Category Archives: Dinner

Dinner diary: Black bean and freekeh bowl with vegetables

I mentioned a few posts back that I’m “in training” for my first half marathon. While I’m not doing a crazy high mileage training schedule, I am now having a couple of evenings each week dominated by running. So, no time to cook, but a definite need to do some post-workout recovery eating.

My latest solution to this challenge is to prep ingredients for some kind of dinner bowls on the weekends for reheating and assembly during the week. When a running evening rolls around, it’s just a matter of how fast I get myself through the shower before sitting down to eat. Since we’re in the middle of a drought, the shower part is fast 🙂

This particular bowl was inspired by the beautiful bibimbap bowls you can get at most (okay, probably all) Korean restaurants. My take uses a mix of freekeh, black beans, and sauteed cabbage as the base, which I realize is not at all the same as the usual base of rice. An array of vegetable toppings rounds out the upper layer of the bowl. I like to get in a few different colors and a mix of cooked and raw vegetables to keep things interesting: zucchini and eggplant stir-fried with ginger, garlic, and tamari; blanched broccoli, a little raw carrot, and a few bean sprouts. For some extra protein, I also added a a sliced up egg pancake, but you could also use tempeh or a few fried tofu cubes for vegan alternatives. A handful of scallion slices, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, and a nice dollop of my thai basil sauce finish things off and makes it all look (and in the cast of the pesto, taste) a little less “I threw this together while wearing a towel” and a little more “this is a legitimately awesome dinner, thank you”.

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Shredded zucchini salad

Zucchini noodles. Soooo two thousand…well, something. Back whenever zucchini noodles first burst onto the scene, I was pretty excited about the concept. However, there was a drawback: I didn’t own a spiralizer. Still don’t. Fortunately, I do own a food processor. Enter my take on the zoodle, shredded zucchini, which can be easily made using the grater blade, and is a perfect base for showing off a delicious homemade pesto sauce. Just toss the shredded zucchini in sauce, then add cherry tomatoes and a bit of fresh basil for garnish. Every bit is pure summer. Enjoy as a starter or side, or bulk it up into a meal for one with the addition of one of my favorite (perhaps to the point of near overuse?) add-ins, chickpeas.

Shredded zucchini salad
serves 1-2

Ingredients
2 small zucchini, ends trimmed and shredded using a box grater or the grater blade on a food processor
2 tbsp classic pesto sauce
3 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 c. chickpeas (optional)
3-4 fresh basil leaves, finely sliced, plus additional leaves for garnish
salt, to taste

Method

Mix together the shredded zucchini and pesto until thoroughly combined. Add cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and chickpeas (if using). Garnish with additional basil leaves.

Un-recipe: Chocolate almond milk, with optional banana

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A not uncommon evening exchange in our household:

M: What’s for dessert?
Me: (blank look) uhhhhh…

It’s not that I’m somehow a healthier or more “virtuous” eater (whatever that even means these days), but I tend to overlook the dessert component when putting together the evening meal. There’s always fruit around, and most of the time, that’s plenty. There’s usually a bar of dark chocolate stashed in the kitchen too. But on the evening when neither of those are quite enough, and I haven’t got anything fancier laid in from a weekend baking session, this little concoction is our no-fuss ace in the hole.

We just refer to it as “chocolate almond milk”, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same as anything coming out of a carton of chocolate-flavored almond milk you buy at the store. It’s thicker, creamier, more chocolatey, and generally a little more luxurious on the tongue. If you want it to be, it’s also much lower in sugar. I feel a little silly calling something this simple a recipe (so I’m not), but still, there is some technique involved. The next time you’re craving a chocolate dessert and can’t be bothered with anything involving heat, measurements, mixers, or bowls, try this.

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Ingredients
-Almond milk (we use the unsweetened refrigerated vanilla variety from Trader Joe’s)
-Unsweetened cocoa powder (plan on 2-3 heaping spoonfuls per glass):

Optional ingredients:
-1/2 ripe banana (optional)
-sweetener of your choice to taste (M is hardcore and eschews all sugar in his, regardless of whether or not a banana is involved. I like either banana or a little pinch of sugar, though I’m starting to come around to the totally unsweetened version).
-a few walnut halves, broken into pieces

Method
Spoon cocoa powder into a large glass or mug. Pour in a small amount of almond milk (probably <1/4 c.). Begin stirring, pressing the cocoa into the sides of the glass (or mug) using the back of the spoon. Eventually the cocoa will mix with the milk, keep stirring until a thick paste is formed. Add a little more milk, keep stirring until the mixture is thick and smooth. A few lumps won't kill you, but the fewer the better–your final milk will be more creamy. Fill the glass about halfway with almond milk and stir again. At this point, you can either add more almond milk to make a full glass, or start slicing in that banana. If you are skipping the banana, give the mixture a taste and add sweetener as desired. If you are using the banana, start slicing it in. Stir around every few slices to make sure you're getting in as much banana as possible. When the banana is all sliced up or the glass is full (whichever comes first), stop adding banana (if you have leftover banana, save it and dunk into the glass once the fill level descends to something safe). If you are adding nuts, now's the time for those to go in as well.

The best way to eat this dessert is with a spoon, fishing out pieces of chocolate coated banana, or just slurping up mouthfuls of thick chocolate milk. Be sure to scrape out all that extra-thick chocolate sludge at the bottom too, it's the best part:

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Chocolate chili (vegan, gluten free)

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This past week, our weather’s taken a serious turn for fall. I’m no longer shedding clothes walking home from the train station–I’m speedwalking with my hands in my pockets and arriving in the door with my lungs invigorated from all that crisp fall air. So when a message about Kim Place-Gateau’show to make vegetarian chili” on Food52 hit my inbox, it was just the right timing to get me hauling out the crockpot and making my own batch of that quintessential fall food.

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As the recipe name suggests, the “secret” ingredient here is chocolate, in the form of some unsweetened cocoa powder. It adds a darkness and depth to the chili that makes it even more seasonally appropriate (not to mention tasty). This is a good dish to prepare on the weekend, as the long simmering time really is necessary for getting the flavors to blend together. Eating the leftovers throughout the week, you’ll probably find that the taste develops and improves with each eating. You can use either the crockpot or the stovetop, depending on your available time and preferences–I go back and forth about which option is my favorite. I like to serve this over spanish cauliflower rice, preferably topped with some avocado, and maybe a bit of grated cheese (dairy or daiya, depending on your preference.

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Chocolate Chili
Makes 8-12 servings, depending on your appetite and accompaniments

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chili peppers, ribs and seed removed, flesh minced
3 T chili powder
1 heaping T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano

4 c. vegetables, cut into 1/2 to 3/4″ dice (I used a mix of carrots, summer squash, and bell pepper here. Some other good options include sweet potato, celery, or corn. Use a mix of starchy and non-starchy vegetables for the best results. The starchy vegetables will break down and thicken the chili, the non-starchy ones will keep things from getting too heavy)

6 c. beans (I used a mix of pinto and black beans for this batch, but you can also use red kidney beans).
28-oz can diced tomatoes
salt to taste

Method

1. In a medium sized skillet (if planning to use a crockpot) or large saucepan (if you’re going all stovetop), heat the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring periodically, until beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano.

2a. If you’re going the crockpot route, transfer the onion, garlic, and spice mixture to the crock and add the vegetables, beans, and tomatoes. Add a few dashes of salt. Turn the crockpot to low and allow to cook for 8-10 hours, the vegetables will be soft but starchy ones like carrots should still have some integrity (if you’re in a bit of a hurry, put the heat on high and you can have decent chili in 3-4 hours). Taste and add additional salt as needed. Remove from heat and serve.

2b. If you’re going the stovetop route, add the vegetables to the pan and cook for about five minutes, until everything is heated through. Add the beans and tomatoes and cover the pot until everything starts getting bubbly (5-10 minutes usually). Turn the heat to low and allow the chili to cook for another 45 minutes or an hour. Remove from heat and serve.

What we ate: out in the woods

This past weekend, we packed up our backpacks and made a break for the Sierras, where we spent the weekend in a rustic old cabin next to this little lake:

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The weekend was full of good times, with lots of hiking, card games, lounging around reading, and of course, eating some good food. Continue reading What we ate: out in the woods

Recipe: Tom Kha soup (vegan)

Tom Kha soup

My first experience of Tom Kha soup was at a potluck I held while briefly living in Washington, DC. One guest brought a pot of this soup and it was so good that I begged the recipe from her. Since then, we’ve made a few adjustments to suit our tastes and it’s become a favorite. If you’re feeling under the weather, the bright citrus notes of this soup can really give you a boost.
Continue reading Recipe: Tom Kha soup (vegan)

What we ate: Peanuty Kale Salad and Tom Kha soup

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Dinner in five: minimalist salad + freezer soup

After getting off to a cool start, August slowly heated up. It’s only a few days in, but September seems to be maintaining the trend. One result? We’re both less inclined to want a big meal in the evenings (it just feels too heavy). Fortunately, we have a nice little stash of soups still squirreled away in the freezer, so dinners most nights involve throwing together something vegetable-y and reheating whatever our soup of the moment happens to be.
Continue reading What we ate: Peanuty Kale Salad and Tom Kha soup