Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I know most of you have probably done all your celebrating, but I wanted to wish you all a safe and fun Halloween anyway! 



So, until next year...
Happy Halloween! 

(and no, those aren't real bird feathers!!)

Big Lots Obsession of the Month

Alright guys! It's time for my latest Big Lots find! A couple of weeks ago I ran in there real quick during my between-work-and-school break. I needed something really fast for lunch, that wasn't refrigerated, and I knew that that day was going to be my lucky day! Thank goodness I was right because I only had about $5 and 45 minutes so there wasn't any back up plans in case the Big Lots idea didn't work out...

Anywho, one of the first aisles I walked in had a bunch of different, brightly-colored, cup-o-noodle looking things. I picked one up and I was surprised to find out that it was completely vegan. Even better, there wasn't a whole lot of weird, convenience-food ingredients in there either (there were a few, but not many). Way less than ramen, that's for sure. There were about six flavors and half of them were accidently vegan. The ones that weren't vegan contained eggs, but they were all vegetarian and none of them contained dairy. I bought one of each vegan flavor: Spicy Sesame Paste, Savory Shoyu, and Spicy Tofu. The sesame paste one isn't pictured before. It had already been nommed. Also, two words: A dollar-fifty. It's two words because one is hyphenated. Also, that's what I paid.



So it's basically just a cup of bean-thread (or cellophane) noodles with a dehydrated block of vegetables and spices. The spicy tofu one also has a packet of spiced oil and the sesame paste one has a packet of sesame paste. You just dump everything out, add boiling (or really hot) water to the line, cover it, and let it sit there for like, five minutes. I usually do ten but that's just whatever. 

Dehydrated block of whatchusay?

I didn't like the sesame paste flavor, but that's honestly just a personal preference thing. I like a touch of tahini, but this one had bold flavor. A little too much for me. I LOVE the spicy tofu flavor. It's hot. Hot and spicy. And delicious. If I had more adjectives, I'd throw them out there as well, but alas, it's late and my brain is tired.

And you know me, in order to make my "cup-o-noodle" a little more satisfying, I toss in some leftover tofu cubes (simply pressed and sauteed until golden, then tossed with a touch of Bragg's Liquid Aminos), sprinkle on some sesame seeds, and throw in a green onion or two. This is way better than ramen and it actually rekindled my love of cellophane noodles. I thought I didn't like them, but I guess it's all about preparation and they sure were tasty prepared like this:

Ha-ha! I found black sesame seeds! Yay for contrasting garnish!

I can't guarentee that you'll find them at a Big Lots near you, but they're a California based company so you might be able to find them at a regular old grocery store. They're called "Crystal Noodles". I think I literally went this entire post without mentioning what they were called...

Anyway, that's about all I got for now. I've got six weeks of school left, so bear with me! I promise I'll be a little more regular with my posts since I've finally just gotten over my midterm hump. It's all downhill from here baby!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mmmm... Bibimbap

So, just a couple of days ago, a huge kimche craving hit. There's just something about that spicy, fermented cabbage I've grown to love. I had a small variety of vegetables in my fridge so I decided to get my Korean food fix and make some bibimbap.

I made this in true Korean style... instead of sticking to a rigid recipe, I just used a bunch of different items that I already had. I also used one authentic ingredient: gochujang.


Gochujang is a spicy, fermented soybean and chili paste. It's spicy, but not super spicy (though that bit of information is according to me... it did make my nose run!). The box shows a chili pepper and the number 3, so I assume that means "medium-spicy"... also assuming that's on a scale from one to five! Lol. Anywho, since I live in the ethnic ingredient void that is the Midwest, I had to buy this online from Amazon. It was kind of expensive, since it is an import from South Korean, but one tub will last you quite awhile. Also, I had a gift certificate to Amazon. I just closed my eyes and clicked "add to shopping cart" and pretended I didn't see how much the shipping was... I think the item plus shipping was like, $15. But I needed it. You know how that goes.

Back to the bibimbap. It's a very famous Korean dish and I believe it literally means, "mixed meal". A bowl is filled with rice, then all the ingredients are arranged on top. Before serving, everything gets all mixed together, hence its name. It usually consists of rice, mixed vegetables, sliced meat, and an egg, but my version is much more vegan-friendly!

This can be prepared with any veggies you might have on hand: carrots, daikon or radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, zucchini, spinach, bok choy, etc. For a garnish you could top with sliced green onions, sesame seeds, toasted pine nuts (very popular in Korean cooking), and of course, the gochujang. I like to use both tofu and edamame for protein but you can use whatever you like. It's a mixed meal after all, so feel free to use up any odds and ends you think might work.

The main musthaves for my bibimbap are shiitake mushrooms, kimche, tofu, and a green veggie of some sort. As long as I have those four things, everything else is a bonus! The sauce is a modified recipe from Saveur, but you can just use a dollop of gochujang.

Vegan Bibimbap:
Bibimbap vegetables:
2 c. shredded green cabbage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 med. carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 pkg. shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3-4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
9 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into small cubes
1 Tb. oil
3/4 c. frozen edamame
1/2 tsp. walnut or sesame oil
a few drops toasted sesame oil
Bibimbap sauce:
1/4 c. gochujang
2 Tb. lemon-lime soda
1 Tb. miso
2 tsp. liquid sweetener
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. ginger

hot cooked brown rice (short-grain is good here if you have it)
kimche (check to make sure it's vegan before you buy it)
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the gochujang, soda, miso, liquid sweetener, sesame oil, vinegar, and ginger until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

2. Sauté the tofu over medium-high in the oil until golden brown on all sides. Set aside. Meanwhile, boil the frozen edamame (only takes three minutes). Drain it, and place it in a small bowl and toss with the walnut oil and toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

3. In a skillet, sauté the minced garlic and the cabbage for three minutes over medium-high. Place on a plate and set aside.

4. In the same skillet, sauté the carrots for about three minutes or until crisp-tender. Feel free to add some nonstick spray or oil if you need to. Set aside on the same plate as the cabbage.

5. In the same skillet (wipe out and respray with cooking spray if necessary), sauté the shiitake mushrooms and the button mushrooms until they are softened and browned, about three minutes. Set aside on the same place as everything else.

6. To serve, fill a bowl with hot (or room temperature) cooked rice. Around the edge of the bowl, arrange the tofu, edamame, sautéed cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and lots and lots of kimche. Garnish with green onions and 1-2 tablespoons of the gochujang sauce.

OR

Sauté all the vegetables (mushrooms, carrot, cabbage, garlic) all together for 3-5 minutes. This will save time, since the separate cooking of all the vegetable parts is mostly for presentation anyway! For other (raw) vegetables, like daikon, radishes, shredded lettuce, and cucumber, just cut them into slices or matchsticks and arrange them on top of the cooked vegetables.

 Needs more kimche.

Another bonus: leftovers can be served cold! Talk about easy!

This recipe makes about four servings. When made just like the recipe above, each serving (not including the rice, kimche, or sauce), you get 141 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 8.8 grams of protein. It's also got half your daily Vitamin A and about 18% of your daily calcium.

Dishes like this are the reason why I love Korean food. They're usually pretty quick to make, flexible with the ingredients (for the most part), full of flavor and fresh veggies, and are easily adapted to the vegan lifestyle. I also like spicy foods and Korean dishes can usually be made hot... or not. I hope y'all like it as much as I do!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Indian-Spiced Detox Soup

The other day I decided that I needed to make a big ol' pot of soup so that I could have something to take to work for the next few nights. I glanced around my kitchen and I had quite a medley of ingredients to work with: carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, split peas... So after thinking about the kind of flavor I wanted to create, I decided that a cauliflower-based Indian soup was the direction I wanted to head.

As I started compiling my ingredients, I went ahead and threw in some millet to make it a complete protein. I also decided to include sweet potato, but leave out regular potato.

After simmering for awhile on the stove, I looked into my pot and decided it didn't look too appetizing, what with the little bits of cauliflower, green peas, and the bright yellow color from the turmeric. This soup had to be a blended soup! There was no way to get around it!

Then, as I was enjoying a soothing bowl of hot soup, I started to think about all the goodness that was in it: whole grains, organic vegetables, legumes, and anti-inflammatory spices... I also pondered what wasn't in it and I realized that this was a perfect food for those who have decided to embark on a detox diet, or for those who just wanted to ease back into a healthy diet after eating too much junk food or too little whole foods.

This soup is perfect. It is full of Indian spice (but isn't hot), is thick and satisfying, low in fat, and high in nutrition!

It's also completely free of: wheat, gluten, nightshades, dairy, eggs, and soy. Though keep in mind that some store-bought vegetable broths may contain gluten/wheat/soy. Just remember to check the labels.

If you're not on a detox, or if you're not on a very strict one you can top the soup with a little plain soy yogurt and chopped, toasted cashews. Delicious!

Also, since the water and vegetable broth are estimates based on how much I used, you may have to use more or less, depending on how large your vegetables are. 

Indian-Spiced Detox Soup:
1/2 c. green split peas, washed and picked through
1/4 c. millet, washed
1 smallish head of cauliflower, chopped up into small pieces
1 small to medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 small, whole carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tb. olive oil
2-3 tsp. mild curry powder
1tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and white pepper to taste

1. Place the split peas in a medium soup pot and cover with an inch or so of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let boil 3 minutes. Keep covered, and allow the peas to stand for an hour.

2. Once the peas are done soaking, drain and rinse them, then add the vegetable broth, 1 1/2 cups of water, millet, cauliflower, sweet potato, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer.

3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until softened and golden, about 5-7 minutes. If they start to go a little dry, you can add about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth to finish sautéing them instead of adding more olive oil (or you can omit the oil altogether and just add broth).

4. Add the curry powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric to the vegetables and continue to sauté another 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the vegetables to the soup pot, return to a simmer, and allow the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until everything is nice and soft.

5. Using a blender, blend the soup in batches until completely smooth. You might have to add a little broth or water if you blender is having a tough time. Mine is just a regular old Oster blender and it was no trouble, so I'm sure your blenders will do just fine. No need for a Vitamix here! Reheat to serve if necessary. You can also use an immersion blender, but I don't have one of those yet. Lol.

This golden fall soup was just what I needed to bring me back to life. Have a great evening.