Tag Archives: what i’m cooking today

Peanut Soba Noodles and a Confession

Well, make that two confessions.

The first: I’m not a great cook. I like food, but I don’t always know what to put together, or have the patience or skill to use the right techniques. I certainly don’t know how to make it look pretty in photographs. But I’m working on it. I’ve made some wonderful foodie friends recently who inspire me to be a better cook, and a better blogger.

But the real confession is this – I’ve been in a rut. I love to write, and I just… haven’t been. I love to work out, and I haven’t been making the time. I’ve been eating weird concoctions of snacks from the market downstairs for dinner, instead of trying new recipes or making old favorites. I live, literally, on top of a wine bar, and I haven’t even been to it. What is that about? I just haven’t felt like me. I have no real good reason for this rut I’ve been in. I have a good job, with people I like, one that sends me to London and allows me to work from home or charming coffee shops quite regularly. I’ve got good friends, really terrific ones. My family is great, cool and quirky, and they live nearby enough that I get to see them a lot. I have a cute apartment in an adorable neighborhood, albeit one that might be just a little too yuppie for me, after all. I live in a fantastic city, and have access to the most amazing food and fresh produce. I have a machine to make my own fizzy water (more on that soon) for Pete’s sake. Life is good, really good.

I think what it comes down to is change. Way too much change. In a very short period of time, I changed jobs, got my own apartment for the first time, moved across the city, and sold my car. For someone who’s never been great with change, it was a lot, all at once. My routine has been thrown off, and I can’t quite get it back. Oh, and did I mention I have a pretty big birthday coming up? Yup, it’s been a lot to take. I like my life, but sometimes don’t know how to process it all.

But, I’m trying to shake it. I’m tired of being in a rut, or using the excuse of being in a rut to stay in a rut. The weather’s getting better, and I have a lot to look forward to – yes, even that big birthday. I had a wonderful weekend, filled with friends and fresh produce and family and yeasted waffles, and it reminded me of how good life is. And how fun it is, when you’re open to it.

I may still not be a great cook, but I’m starting to figure out what I like. Like these peanut soba noodles I threw together tonight. I made Orangette’s recipe a few months back, and loved it, but decided to mix it up (literally!) tonight, not follow a recipe, and see what happened. What happened was good. I was inspired to add asparagus and tofu from this 101 Cookbooks recipe. So, tonight, I threw together:

1/2 cup chunky natural peanut butter
A few splashes of organic soy sauce
The juice of one small lime
The juice of 1/2 a Meyer lemon
A dash of white wine vinegar
A glug or two of olive oil
A generous dash of Sriracha

And whisked them together. Then, I cooked up half an 8 oz package of soba noodles for about 6 minutes, and added some chopped asparagus into the boiling water for another minute or two. I rinsed and drained the noodles and asparagus, added them to the peanut sauce, and threw in some thinly sliced carrots and radishes, strips of yellow and red bell pepper, and Super Firm Wildwood tofu, pan-fried in sesame oil.

It was really tasty, and so easy. Next time, I’d add some whole or chopped peanuts on top, like the 101 Cookbooks recipe suggests. But all in all I was pleased with how it turned out. I’m really thinking of going back for seconds. But I’m wondering if that feeling, like the rut I’ve been in, will pass if I just let it.

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Like Butta

Here’s proof you can reuse anything – four ways to reuse your butter wrappers. I love it! It never even occurred to me, but they are perfect for greasing a pan, separating hamburger patties and more!

Thanks to bestgreenblogs for Tweeting the link!

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I’m actually baking some strawberry-blueberry-oat bran-agave-cookie-muffin hybrids (enough hyphens for ya?) right this very minute, and was about to toss the butter wrapper. Not so fast! I’m totally saving it to grease pans, use in place of cooking spray, etc. Just this morning I was thinking how I really hate using cooking spray. I hardly ever use it, but I have some in the house and totally was guilty of it this morning. No more! To the fridge my wrappers will go.

Here’s a preview of the cookies, baked on my Silpat. Hope they’re good! If they are, you’ll get a recipe soon – plus the delish German champagne vinegar potato salad I just made, chile pea puffs and more!

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I leave to go camping with my family tomorrow – 3 days with no computer and hardly any phone service.How will I survive? Wine tasting, that’s how. We know how to camp in style! It’s the perfect warm-up to my summer birthday glamping trip. 🙂

ETA: Just tried the cookies. YUM! Recipe coming soon!

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I Gave Peas a Chance…

And they exploded all over the microwave. Keep reading for the details. 😉

Seriously, though, I got a bunch of fresh peas from my CSA last week, and have made some absolutely delicious meals with them. Despite what some of my friends say (ahem, Jaime C. and Bethany), fresh peas are so delicious, especially with asparagus in a “cream” sauce, or in a walnut “peasto.”

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Image source

Pea and Asparagus Cream Sauce
This was so good, I made it two nights in a row. The second night, I sauteed red and orange bell peppers in with the asparagus. Also a winner. YUM!

You need:
Shallots
Leeks (you could use either/or but I like both)
Asparagus
Peas
Olive oil
Cream cheese
Butter
Milk
Parmesan (optional)

Wash asparagus and trim woody ends. Cut each spear into two or three pieces. Sautee in olive oil until they begin to soften, then add shelled fresh peas, until they begin to soften as well. Do not overcook, as you will be letting them simmer in the sauce later, but make sure they aren’t too raw either.

In another pan, sautee sliced leeks and shallots (to taste – I like a LOT) in a dab of butter until they begin to become translucent. Add a large spoonful or two of cream cheese, stirring or whisking until melted, then add approx. 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%). Whisk until sauce is smooth, then add asparagus & peas and let simmer. Add parmesan if desired. If the sauce starts to thicken while you are waiting for the rest of your meal to be ready, add a little more milk, heat and whisk.

Serve over a chicken breast. I like to sear it for a minute or two on each side, and then stick the whole pan in the oven at 400 degrees, for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. I’m sure it would be delicious over pasta as well. Seriously, the combo of asparagus + cream (or milk, as the case may be) + peas cannot be beat!

Walnut Cream “Peasto”
My friend Jen once watched an episode of Rachael Ray where she made a pea pesto and could not stop saying “peasto.” “It’s like a pesto… with peas! Peasto! Get it?” We get it, Rachael. Anyway, I looked up the recipe and didn’t have any of the basic ingredients on hand, so I just kind of winged it. I wanted to use pecans, but am all out – must have been that last batch of pecan butter. So walnuts it was! I also decided to make this a creamy pesto at the last minute.

You need:
Handful walnuts (could prob sub in pecans or another nut. Pine nuts would be great, too)
Shelled peas (about 1/4 cup)
Olive oil
Leeks/shallots
Cream cheese
Milk

To cook the peas, after shelling, I put them in a little water, and microwaved for a minute. This is where the explosion came in! They were popping like popcorn after only about thirty seconds. So, beware: cover the dish or cook for a shorter period of time!

In food processor, blend until combined but still slightly chunky:
Peas, cooked
Handful walnuts
Glug of olive oil

In a pan, sautee leeks and shallots in olive oil, add a spoonful of cream cheese until melted, then add milk (this is similar to the cream sauce above, but I used oil instead of butter, and smaller portions).

Combine “peasto” and cream sauce.

I enjoyed this over organic garlic-gorgonzola ravioli, but bet it would be delicious over chicken or fresh fish.

As you can see, my recipes are not exact. I like to taste and add – the only problem is when you find that perfect combination, you might not remember exactly what was in it!

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Passover-Inspired Quinoa Porridge

I’m celebrating Passover this week, and it’s been rough! I’m actually not very religious – I consider myself a “cultural Jew,” meaning I enjoy the traditions and celebrating holidays with my family, but I didn’t grow up going to temple or anything. But I always like a challenge, so Passover is perfect! I haven’t been too strict – basically just no bread, wheat (besides whole wheat matzoh) or oatmeal. That one was tough – seeing all the delicious bowls of oatmeal on all the food blogs has nearly killed me! But I’m almost done, so a big bowl of oat bran with almond butter, or peanut butter, or lemon curd, or butter and a poached egg (my favorite) has my name on it tomorrow!

I just really wanted a big bowl of something warm with a lot of flavors today, so I decided on quinoa porridge – since quinoa is a seed, it is technically allowed. Yay!

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I’ve made quinoa porridge before from this recipe out of Clean Eating, but I decided to mix things up and make it even more Passover-esque: charoset-inspired quinoa porridge! I’ve been craving charoset since Red Head, Yellow Dog posted about it, and thought it would be awesome to incorporate into this breakfast.

If you haven’t heard of it, charoset represents the mortar used by enslaved Jews in Egypt. It is traditionally made of chopped apples, cinnamon, walnuts and sweet red wine (hello, Manischewitz). Sometimes it contains honey, sometimes lemon, sometimes dried fruit. I decided to incorporate all these things, except the red wine because 1. I don’t have any open and 2. I had to go to work after eating breakfast. 🙂

Here’s what I did. The recipe takes about 30 or so minutes, so it’s great to double it. I usually make this with berries as well, but I don’t have any right now. Can’t wait until the Farmers Market!

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
Milk or yogurt
Chopped apple
Chopped nuts – I usually used pecans but went with walnuts today
Agave nectar or honey (optional)
Toppings of your choice!

Bring water and quinoa to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Be careful to turn the temperature low enough so that it doesn’t burn – mine did, a little bit, but it worked out ok.

Uncover and add a good splash of yogurt. I usually use milk, but I’m out so I used Wallaby Vanilla Bean. I also added a splash more water, and let it simmer 10 min uncovered.

Turn off heat and add chopped apple (I used a small one from my CSA), chopped walnuts (bought in bulk!) and cover for 10 min. Or less if you’re impatient! Add toppings and enjoy!

I mixed in a little bit of honey, and topped my bowl with golden raisins (I like them better on top so they’re still chewy!) and a dollop of lemon curd. Since charoset occasionally calls for lemon, what better use for my delicious, locally-made lemon curd?

With the honey, yogurt, lemon curd and raisins, I must admit this was a very sweet bowl. I think it would have been better if I’d just used milk. Adjust to taste!

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Daylight Savings and Dinner

I am loving the time change! Although I wasn’t too psyched this morning (why can’t they do it on a Friday night so we have time to get used to it?), it was so nice driving home from the gym at 6:30 with the sun still shining bright! As soon as I got home I decided to take a little walk down into my neighborhood to return a book to the library and a movie to our local video store (both The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH from my book club). I unfortunately have to drive to work which I plan on posting about soon, but I try to drive as little as possible when I’m in “The City.” On my walk today, I walked by a cute little corner store run by a Middle Eastern family and I decided to pop in to see if I could buy a container of their hummus. I was totally craving it earlier today, but instead of going to a chain store, I thought it would be nice to support a family-owned business. Especially in this economy, and with so many stores in my neighborhood (and probably yours, too!) going out of business, it’s great to be able to support them. I know I am extraordinarily lucky to live in such a walkable city with so many amazing local businesses, but I encourage you to try to do the same! If you can shop at a smaller mart, even if it’s a little more expensive, do so! Even if it’s just an item or two. Don’t feel like cooking? Try an inexpensive restaurant nearby – or bring your own tupperware for takeout!

I know you all know what a container of hummus looks like, but I wanted to point out that it came in plastic. I should have asked if I could bring my own container. Next time I will either try that or see if they can refill this one if I bring it back in clean. I’m not sure if they are “allowed” to do that, but maybe they will.

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Anyway, after my walk, it was dinner time! I made this yummy Salmon with Orange Pan Sauce the other night, though I adjusted down the sauce for 1 piece of salmon, and added a bunch of minced shallots, because I can’t get enough of them! I loved the sauce, so I decided I’d try it on chicken tonight. I’m not really too into measuring recipes these days, but this is approximately what I used to make sauce for one chicken breast:
1/4 cup white wine (leftover from book club)
2 garlic cloves (from my CSA)
2 pieces of shallot (from my CSA. It was super juicy when I put it in my garlic press, which made me laugh. Shallot juice?)
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
Glug of honey (local)
Shake of red pepper flakes
Couple squeezes of juice from an orange (from my CSA), and about 1/3 or so of the fruit of the orange, diced

I cooked the (organic) chicken my favorite way – heated up olive oil in a pan, salted and peppered the breast and seared it about 2 minutes on each side, then threw it in a 450 degree oven for about 18 minutes. Meanwhile, I boiled/simmered the sauce until it reduced. That’s it! I served it with a small amount of leftover sweet potato, mashed up with part of one of my CSA giant red potatoes. I expected to add butter or salt but it didn’t need it at all. Plus, some steamed broc. Yum! The sauce was equally delicious on the chicken as it was on the salmon. Pictured here: tap water in a wine glass. Yeah, I’m fancy.

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Other random thoughts:

*Loving Tina’s 31-Days of Yoga Challenge! I’ve done it every day so far – either hour-long classes at the gym, Comcast On Demand programs, or free 20-minute YogaDownload podcasts

*The weather has been really nice here lately, and I went on a great 7-mile-run on Saturday, I think subconsciously inspired by Sarah, who knocked out an awesome 9.4 miles that day! I haven’t been running much outside (or, like at all) since my last half-marathon (I did one last August and one last October). I’ve been sticking to my usual gym classes and treadmill, but I figured this saves energy (no need to plug anything in) and got me outside! Win-win.

*I need to do a post about the homemade hot fudge and whipped cream and local ice cream we had last night. Amazing! There is NO need to ever buy whipped cream from a spray can or tub if you have a mixer. Nothing beats fresh whipped cream. I’m even saving what’s left to put in my coffee or chocolate almond milk this week.

*I way overuse parenthesis (but hey, I like them).

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What I’m Cooking Today: Homemade Chocolate Brownie ZBars

I love Clif Zbars, especially the fact that they are organic and use natural ingredients, are low in calories, and are – for me – local, but hate the fact that they are individually packaged. Tres wasteful! So I thought I’d attempt to make something similar on my own.

The batter for this was great and tasted a lot like what I wanted it to, but they came out a bit cakey after they were baked. I think I should have avoided the egg white. Any great bakers out there have any suggestions for a chewier, less-cakey product that better replicates a delicious Zbar? I’ve never baked from scratch without a recipe, so any suggestions on the chemistry would be much appreciated! They were still good, but a lot more like a muffin.

Here’s my recipe. I kind of threw things into a bowl, but weighed them so I’d have the measurements in case it came out well.
Roman Meal (34g)
Rolled oats (46g)
Medjool dates (48g)
Unsweetened cocoa (20g)
Milk (1.5 oz)
Egg white (1)
Agave nectar (6g)

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I threw the Roman Meal, oats and dates in the food processor and blended that up for a bit, then mixed in the rest of the ingredients. Using this teeny tiny loaf pan and smooshing the rest into the edge of another regular size loaf pan (the batter was thick enough that it stayed in place), I baked the batter for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Here’s how they came out:

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It actually made about 4 bars total, about the size of Zbars (hard to tell from this picture). Here’s the nutritional info, if you’re interested! This could obviously be adjusted if you made it into 3 slightly larger bars, etc.
Calories: 129
Fat: 2.025
Sat fat: 0.225
Carbs: 27.25
Fiber: 5
Sugar: 10.05
Protein: 5.975

Pretty great nutritionals, actually! Again, not quite what I was going for, texture-wise, but still a nice treat or pre/post-gym snack! Bakers – any tips??

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What I’m Cooking Today: Eggs with Chanterelles and Leeks

I was starving after my trip to the Farmers Market this morning, but decided I could make something delicious at home as opposed to spending $10 for breakfast at the Market (though I’m sure it would have been delicious).

On the menu:
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Leeks and chanterelle mushrooms sauteed in a little butter, then scrambled with 2 eggs
Sliced strawberries (organic and from CA! I picked them up at Bi-Rite yesterday)
Sliced pear, from the Farmers Market
Grapes from the Farmers Market
Whole wheat toast, from bread bought at a local bakery (Noe Valley Bakery), with real butter

If anyone’s curious, I calculated out the nutritional info for this meal: there are 371 calories and 18 grams of protein. Not bad for a filling breakfast made with real butter and other “real” ingredients!

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