Keeping It Simple

It was a busy and wonderful weekend filled with visits with a dear friends I don’t get to see very often, a fun run, and family Easter celebrations, which doubled as my Birthday celebration.  The weather finally seems to be conceding to spring’s arrival and as the it gets nicer outside I seem to spend less time in the kitchen plotting meals.  A girl’s still gotta eat though!  In spring and summer I seem to rely more on grilled vegetables to form the basis of simple, wholesome and delicious fare without too much fuss or thought put into the planning. 
There is a lot of versatility in a batch of grilled vegetables.  I often will grab an assortment such as zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, peppers, red onion, and portobello mushrooms without too much thought as to how I intend to use them.  For me this is unusual.  Throughout the fall and winter I plan my meals and shopping lists carefully to ensure that I am not wasting food. Once the warmer months come along and perfectly content with big salads, which provide a great canvas for just about anything leaving little to waste.
I typically will prepare a simple marinade of balsamic vinegar, garlic, and some herbs to brush on the vegetables.  For portobello steaks, I find I enjoy the Forks Over Knives recipe, which is a soy based marinade with garlic, ginger and a bit of unrefined liquid sugar.   Grilling 3-5 minutes on each side leaves nice grill marks and tenderness to most vegetables. 
A grilled vegetable sandwich makes a nice light meal.  I like to smear some hummus on fresh bread and add fresh tomato, basil and/or spinach, some banana peppers for acid and crunch, a few kalata olives. 
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Grilled vegetables also lend well to pastas.  Fresh basil, kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, nutritional yeast and fresh squeezed lemon juice makes for a special dish.  I also like to make a sauce of garlic, crushed red pepper and white balsamic vinegar.  The white balsamic has a less harsh flavor than it’s dark counterpart that lends well to sauces and salads, especially when you are not using oil to tone down the flavor.
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Of course there must be grilled vegetable pizza on a homemade whole wheat cauliflower crust.
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And it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a burrito.  A fajita burrito with portobello steak is a personal love.
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Even simpler is grilled vegetables over brown rice or in the aforementioned salads.  
I can’t believe I almost didn’t buy a grill, because what would a vegan need a grill for?!  Nonsense.  I love my grill and the simplicity it adds to meal planning. 
Next week’s post will be a bit late because I’m heading to Portland!  This weekend is the Engine 2 Retreat in Portland, Oregan.  What better excuse to cross a trip to the Pacific Northwest off my bucket list 🙂  Stay tuned for my review of the Retreat and the city.
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Curry Roasted Chickpeas and Cauliflower with Parsley-Cilantro Chutney

I absolutely love roasted cauliflower; particularly Indian spiced roasted cauliflower.  It is the only preparation of cauliflower I like enough to crave other than cauliflower crust pizza.  Since the cauliflower crust pizza uses such a small amount of cauliflower for a single serve crust, I usually end up roasting the remaining head of cauliflower after I’ve made a pizza or two.  At least until I master batch prep of the pizza crust (in testing, stay tuned).  The only problem with my roasted cauliflower over couscous lunches is that it is not very filling and I find myself hungry too soon after eating.  This week’s recipes were an attempt to remedy this by making a more substantial dish inspired by my old stand by.

I took inspiration from the Happy Herbivore Chickpea Tacos, which is a commonly made to-to dish for me.  The recipe is basically roasted chickpeas in a homemade taco seasoning.  I took this concept and tried to come up with a flavorful way to roast the chickpeas that would marry nicely with the cauliflower and create a more complete, substantial dish.

My basic roasted curry cauliflower recipe is inspired by a pinterest find, Roasted Curry and Lemon Cauliflower.  I’ve made some variations over time to omit the oil and spice it up a bit.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

1 small head cauliflower (or in my case, 1 head less the 1 cup needed for pizza crust)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

For the chickpeas, I took the same basic concept but added 1 tablespoon of tahini so the mixture would coat the chickpeas better.  The spice mixture is almost a paste with the addition of the tahini.

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This coats the chickpeas very well.

IMG_6086Roasted Curry Chickpeas

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1, 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  The chickpeas take slightly less time than the cauliflower but you could probably separate the florets smaller and just roast them together.  I did the chickpeas first and by the time I finished breaking down the cauliflower and getting the spices mixed in the chickpeas were done.

I served over a grain mix I’d discovered at Trader Joe’s.

IMG_6087I made 5 servings of the grain per package instructions and added 1/2 cup of peas towards the end of cooking time.  I had parsley to use up so I decided to make a chutney to add interest to the grain.  I added the majority of the chutney directly to the cooked grains, reserving a small bit for plating.  Of course, I forgot to take a post chutney addition picture but here are the cooked grains prior to adding the chutney.

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Parsley-Cilantro Chutney

1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 small bunch cilantro
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of water

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, reserve about 1/4 cup of the chutney for serving and mix the remainder into the cooked grain.

To plate, I placed the grain in a dish, topped with the cauliflower then the chickpeas so the chickpeas would keep their texture.  I topped with some additional fresh cilantro and served with a spoonful of the reserved chutney.

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The dish was everything I hoped. The chickpeas have a nice firm texture from roasting with the curry spices.

IMG_6095The chutney adds a lot of dimension and freshness to the dish.  The dish makes 5 servings and provides an excellent lunch.

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Life After the Engine 2 Challenge

There were no new recipes this week but plenty of home cooking so I thought I’d give an update on staying whole food plant based post the Engine 2 Challenge.  The Challenge ended a little over a month ago, 3 March.  In general, I’ve done pretty well maintaining a mostly whole food plant based no oil diet.  I’ve slipped into old bagel habits with breakfasts when I don’t plan ahead and have a batch of steel cut oats or breakfast hash ready to grab and go on the way out the door.  I am much better at lunch preparations; the lack of appetizing choices at the work cafeteria is good incentive.  At this point I’m a pro with dinners.  Snacks get tricky, but I find myself making better choices since the Challenge and when I do make an unhealthy choice it’s a cognizant decision.  This week’s dishes came together pretty easily.

I loved Isa Chandra’s Falafel Burgers from Isa Does It so much I was craving them again.  I make the chickpeas in the pressure cooker (Note to Self:  1 cup dry beans, unsoaked and 2-1/2 cups water in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes with natural pressure release cooks a perfect garbanzo bean).  I served the burger topped with kalamata olive hummus, cucumber, red onion, tomato and spinach in a pita.  Oven baked sweet potatoes and a side salad completed the dinner.  The remainder of the week I had this for lunch;  for lunches I skipped the sweet potato and had the burger and a side salad.

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Left-over Thai dressing from the Sweet & Sour Brown Rice Salad and an impulse buy of Thai Black Rice from Trader Joe’s inspired a Thai stir-fry dish for dinner.  I had never had Black (forbidden) Rice before so was intrigued to give it a try.  It is similar in texture and flavor to brown rice and adds visual interest to the dish (if you can see it peaking through under the pile of veggies).  The stir-fry had no recipe, but was a simple sauté of veggies on hand, adding in the leftover dressing, additional ginger, garlic and chili sauce to taste.

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I had made more veggies than rice and didn’t want to wait the 45 minutes for rice to cook after work so made some Udon Noodles quickly and mixed in the remaining Thai veggies, topped with chopped peanuts, scallion and cilantro.

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I discovered Wasa crackers during the challenge.  These low calorie, no oil crackers don’t really have much flavor in my opinion, however, they have great texture and are excellent vehicles to deliver more flavorful components to one’s mouth.  My favorite is a smear of avocado, thinly sliced tomato, scallion, cilantro, fresh ground pepper, a tiny bit of salt and a squirt of fresh lime juice.  It may take a few minutes to prepare compared to grabbing a bag of chips but it’s delicious.

IMG_6061It’s less than one month until I make my way to Portland for the E2 Retreat!  I’m so excited to see this city and go to the retreat.

Sweet & Sour Brown Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs

I’ve become a bit bored with soup and salad lunches and in my search for an alternative I found Sweet & Sour Brown Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs in Isa Does It.  OK fine, technically it is called a “salad” and it lives in the Salad chapter of the cookbook, but I prefer to think of it as a fried rice.  Since it is technically a salad, you can make the rice ahead of time (or use leftover brown rice) and simply add in the remaining ingredients for a quick meal.

The dish calls for bean sprouts, scallions, roasted peanuts, mint and cilantro with some beans and a chili lime dressing.  I added some baby corn to mine and used a Thai chili garlic sauce that is fairly spicy, in place of the sweet chili sauce the recipe suggested (recipes are really just suggestions after all, right?);  I served with steamed broccoli.

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This made for a satisfying lunch and was a nice change of pace from my usual of late.  The dish could be eaten warm or cold, but I preferred it warm.  The dressing of chili sauce, lime, miso and ginger adds a lot of dimension to the dish while crushed peanuts add texture and makes this reminiscent of a pad Thai flavor profile.

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I foresee more rice dishes in my future lunches!  Perhaps I’ll give Isa’s Brussels Sprout Fried Rice a try soon…

Isa Does It Recipes: 15