Sunday, July 31, 2011

wrap week

I try to pack my lunch as often as possible, both to save money and calories, and sometimes I feel like I'm just eating the same old stuff day in and day out. Last week, I thought I'd give myself a fun theme, and pack my lunch everyday accordingly. Thus, last week became wrap week! Each lunch had to include a whole what tortilla stuffed with something new and delicious, and it was a total success.
Monday: Whole wheat tortilla with spicy brown mustard, cucumbers, spinach & avocado
Tuesday: Whole wheat tortilla with broccoli slaw & a Boca spicy chik'n patty
Wednesday: Whole wheat tortilla with BBQ tempeh & BBQ onions and bell peppers
Thursday: Whole wheat tortilla with kale, rice, tomatoes, feta cheese & black beans
Friday: Whole wheat tortilla with pesto, spinach, tomatoes and zucchini slices

Look at that! 5 fabulous wraps over a course of 5 days. By creatively mixing my leftovers with the staples in my fridge, I managed to make a handful of really different, and delicious meals on a small budget- what a great challenge! Also, all the fillings were super tasty, and would be equally great stuffed in a bagel, pita, or sandwich of some kind. I must say, it was an excellent wrap week, indeed :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

bbq tempeh & kale

O.M.G. I don't know if it's possible to accurately describe how full and incredibly content I am right now. I don't know if it was sheer genius, or dumb luck, but tonight's dinner was incredible. I'd like to make this introduction better, but let's skip it and get right to the food. BBQ tempeh and kale! *drool*

For the BBQ Tempeh
Stuff you need: 1. 1 block tempeh 2. 1 bell pepper 3. 1/2 onion 4. your favorite BBQ sauce

Start off by bringing approximately 3 cups of water to boil in a saucepan. When the water is boiling, put some salt, and the tempeh brick into the water, and let it simmer on medium for 20 minutes. While your tempeh is boiling, thinly slice your bell pepper and onion into strips and sauté them in in a little olive oil, until they're nice and tender. When the tempeh is done, drain it, and slice it into long thing strips, just like the onion and peppers. Combine the tempeh, veggies, and a healthy helping of BBQ sauce in the skillet or saucepan you already used, and let everything heat together.When you can stand it no longer, dish it up, and dig in!

For the Kale
Stuff you need: 1. 1 garlic clove 2. a bunch of kale 3. 1 can diced tomatoes 4. brown rice

For the kale dish, I was inspired by this recipe from Epicurious, but I altered it according to what I had on hand. I started by making a pot of rice- using leftover rice would be helpful, but it wasn't a problem to prepare everything else while the rice cooked. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, roughly chop the kale, and open and drain the can of diced tomatoes. Sautee the garlic in a little olive oil, and when it's just starting to turn golden, add the tomatoes, kale, and a good sprinkle of salt. Occasionally stir it every few minutes, and when the kale is tender, add the rice, toss everything together, and serve.
Holy shit that was a good meal. The tempeh is just like good ol' fashioned BBQ- a little sweet, and the texture is perfect. Substitute this into a Philly cheese-steak, and you'd never miss the meat! Also, the kale concoction was just the right side to serve with the tempeh. The slightly-sugary BBQ sauce was nicely complimented by the savory, tenderness of the tomatoes, rice, and kale. Omg I just can't say enough good things about this dinner. Tonight's meal = AMAZING!! :D

Monday, July 25, 2011

broccoli slaw

What a lovely Monday evening. I got in a great workout, made an amazing dinner, prepared my lunch for tomorrow, and sat down on my bed and looked through the entire Ikea catalog page by page. Colorado's first Ikea store opens in 2 days, and let me tell you, there is some mad Ikea fever around here. I hear there are already people camping out in front of the store! I'm not
that crazed, but I am excited to pick out some cute new items for my place.

Before fully diving into the Ikea catalog, however, I made myself a giant bowl of broccoli slaw. I have an abundance of broccoli in my house right now, and even though I love steamed broccoli, I thought I'd mix it up with something light, chilled and summery. I modeled my recipe after this one I found on Apartment Therapy, but I adjusted it according to what I found in my kitchen.

Stuff you need: 1. 1 head broccoli 2. 1/2 small onion 3. 1 carrot 4. 1/4 cup raisins 5. 1/4 cup sliced almonds 6. a heaping 1/4 cup Vegenaise 6. 2 tablespoons lemon juice 7. 1/2 tablespoon stone ground mustard 8. a pinch of salt

Start by chopping/shredding your broccoli, carrot and onion. If you are lucky enough to own a food processor, you should totally use it. If you are poor like me, roll up your sleeves and get to cutting! When your veggies are ready, place them into a large bowl, and add the raisins and almonds.

In another bowl, combine the Vegenaise, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Vigorously stir the concoction together and then adjust the flavor accordingly. The original recipe uses vinegar, which would have been a nice addition, but I didn't have any in my cabinets, so I just used more lemon juice. Combine the liquid mixture to the shredded vegetables and toss well. The flavors will blend better if you let it sit in the fridge a while, but let's be honest, this slaw is ridiculously delicious, and there's no way in hell it could possibly stay out of my belly for more than 5 minutes.
Isn't it beautiful? The colors are so nice with the orange carrot, purple raisins, and green broccoli, but let me tell you, it is even more tasty than it is attractive. It may have turned out a little overly-lemony, but for a hot, summer night, the bold, citrus taste was perfect. The chopped vegetables and crunchy almonds also give this dish a really great texture, that would be nice in a variety of recipes. Tonight I threw it in a black bean and corn burrito, and I'll definitely take the slaw for lunch the next few days. In fact, I might even make a second batch with my other head of broccoli and eat it all week! Yes. It's that good. Ikea may be premiering in Colorado, but this broccoli slaw is pretty exciting too :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

harry potter & the deathly hallows cookies

I love Harry Potter. Yep, I said it. I'm a total Harry Potter NERD. Binge-book reading, midnight movie openings, and collecting various wizarding paraphernalia- I've done it all, and now I can't believe the final movie in the series is here so soon. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, officially hit theaters today, which meant that it was definitely an occasion to celebrate. Since Julie and I snagged tickets to the midnight showing, we properly celebrated yesterday with themed t-shirts, and a big batch of deathly hallows cookies.

For the cookie, I used the vanilla almond sugar cookie recipe from Bake at 350, and for the icing, I prepared a basic buttercream from an old-school Betty Crocker recipe I found in my parents' house.

I collected my recipes and ingredients, and when I was ready, I cut the cookie dough into triangle shapes using a cardboard template that I made. After baking and cooling, I frosted each triangle with the buttercream frosting, and then added the detail with black icing that I purchased at Michaels. I tried putting a decorating tip directly on the tube, but of course, the coupler didn't fit, and I had a giant black icing explosion all over the counter. I also tried putting the icing directly onto the cookie, but it was way too much black, and it looked horrendous. Finally, I put the black icing into a squeeze bottle with a little water, and that was perfect! Easy to handle, the right consistency, and just the ideal thickness for the black lines I wanted.

I have A LOT to learn about dessert decorating, but more than anything, I was just excited to do something special for the big day.
They're not perfect, but they tasted great, and everyone at the office loved them! It was just the thing to get everyone in the wizarding spirit :)

After a full day at the office getting completely cracked out on sugar cookies, it was finally time to grab some dinner and get in line at the theater. Julie and I arrived at 9:30 pm, and there were already TONS of people there!

The feeling in the theater was astounding. There were great costumes everywhere, and you could feel the positive, anxious, energy floating in the air. Someone told me that at our theater alone, there were supposed to be over 4500 people in attendance! It was phenomenal. Finally, after much waiting and great anticipation, we filed into our seats and the movie began! Yayyy!
It was a fantastic night, and even though I was completely exhausted today, it was totally worth it. A great movie, and an even better book- it's truly been a magical journey. If you're a Harry Potter fan like me, I highly recommend you read this beautiful article from NPR, it elegantly sums up so much of how I'm feeling right now. The movies may be over, but it's definitely not the end. Whatever comes next, you better believe I'm making cookies for it! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

a quick fix picnic

For those of you who survived the Colorado monsoon of 2011, congrats! This last week primarily consisted of working, gymming, and trying to stay dry through the daily, torrential downpour. Luckily, Colorado weather is as sporadic as it is fabulous, and there was still plenty of sunshine to go around- there was just enough blue sky to fit in some kayaking today, and a lovely picnic yesterday.

Since finding a little dry weather was rare, the picnic was planned, prepared, and devoured quickly. Regardless of the time crunch, the food was fantastic, and the company was even better.

Here is the menu for some speedy picnic prep in under 30 minutes or less:
Appetizer: Raw vegetables and pita chips with hummus
Main: Pesto bowties with cherry tomatoes and feta
Side: Watermelon slices
Dessert: Strawberries and whipped cream over angel food cake
Everything was very semi-homemade, but I'm most proud of the pesto bowtie dish. It was inspired by one my friend's mom who made it for a party, and it was to die for! The flavors are outstanding, it looks elegant, and if you use all pre-prepared ingredients, it comes together crazy fast.

Stuff you need: 1. Bow-tie pasta 2. Pesto- homemade or store bought 3. Cherry tomatoes 4. Feta cheese

While the bowtie pasta is boiling, chop up all the veggies and fruits for the rest of the meal- carrots, celery and red bell pepper for hummus dipping, little cherry tomatoes for the pasta, watermelon for the side, and strawberries for dessert.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, rinse it, and then toss it with the pesto, tomatoes, and feta in a large bowl. Pop the dish into the fridge and let all the flavors mix up to one hour. Once you have everything else prepped, packed, and ready to go, grab your pasta, your picnic blanket, and head to the park!
It would taste even better with homemade pesto, but I was in a time crunch, and this worked out perfectly. For a vegan version, all you'd have to do, is use a pesto without parmesan, and substitute dairy feta, for tofu feta crumbles.

It was brief, but delicious. Just as we were digging into some strawberries and angel food cake, the storm rolled in, and we all scarfed down our desserts. It was quickly made, and quickly consumed, but the memories will last much longer- no? Too cheesy? Yeah, I know. Anyway. Great pasta! Great picnic! :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

baked tofu part 2

Ah, what a July 4th weekend. Rockies games, BBQs, surprise birthday parties, and lunches with good friends kept me outrageously busy! When Tuesday rolled around, and I was feeling like a big, fat, slob, I knew it was time to get my exercise and eating habits back on track. After a big produce shop on Tuesday night, and a couple of healthy, home-cooked meals, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting back to normal :)

Tonight I made a second attempt at baked tofu, except this time I called the expert- my mom! She has this amazing recipe that I had to get my hands on, and I must say, it turned out exactly like I remember it. The inspiration comes from a PETA cookbook, with a little help from my mom, and a dash or two of my cooking recklessness.

Stuff you need: 1. block firm or extra firm tofu 2. soy sauce 3. lemon juice 4. garlic powder

Start by pressing the liquid out of your tofu, while you prepare your marinade. For the marinade, combine 3 tablespoons soy sauce with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and a shake or two of garlic powder. Hint: it helps to prepare the sauce in a large bowl to make tossing the tofu easier- definitely should've thought of that before I used the cereal bowl. Ha!

Take the tofu, chop it into bite-sized cubes, and toss it in the marinade until all the pieces are thoroughly coated. Let the tofu soak for as long as you can. During this time, preheat your oven to 375 F, prepare anything else you need for your meal, and take a second to change out of your work clothes and relax.

When the oven is preheated, oil a baking sheet, and place the tofu on top. Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, flip the tofu over, and then cook it for another 10. DONE! Omg look at that golden baked deliciousness.
I used half of the tofu in an asparagus and mushroom stir fry, and I saved the other half for a future meal.

Damn, this recipe is great. The tofu is tender in the middle, with a slightly crispy, perfectly baked outside that's just a little salty. It's great in stir fries, it's good in hearty soups, and it might be a fun addition to a fully loaded salad. Let's be honest, this baked tofu is good in everything. I'm feeling healthy, and very, very full. I'm definitely writing this one down for next time. Thanks Mom!