healthy

A Tebouleh Night

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After eating Tabouleh with a friend the other day, my mind was set on making it. So, I made it on my dad’s last night in town. He had never heard of it, and I  like surprising people with exotic foods they have not tried before. We were both smiling from ear to ear, closing our eyes in enjoyment as we tasted  the freshness of the herb and vegetable blend balanced with the nuttiness of the quinoa.

Tabouleh is a salad originally found in Lebanon and Syria, as the mountains in these areas were rich with a wheat variety that was suitable for making bulgar. It is traditionally made with bulgar, parsley, mint,  lemon juice, olive oil, tomatoes, cucumber, and onions. I try to play around with gluten free grains, so I substituted the bulgar with quinoa, a high protein seed/pseudo-grain that the Incas considered holy and referred to it as the “mother of all grains”.  Strangely, 2013 has been declared the “International Year of Quinoa”  in order to bring attention to the role it plays in nutrition, poverty eradication, sustainable farming and also to the Andean indigenous peoples’ role in preserving the crop over thousands of years. So, eat some quinoa in 2013….and forever!

Tabouleh will be in my fridge at all times now. My only regret is not making some pita bread to go with it. There will clearly be a next time.

Quinoa Tebouleh

I started with my quinoa to save time.

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I will never bore of seeing all of my vegetables and herbs chopped together. All of the different colors remind me of the importance of variety in healthy living.

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The mixing part was my favorite. I could smell the parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil working their way into the nutty quinoa.

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I change my mind. The eating part was my favorite. Pretty delicious!

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The Goods:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of green onions (stems and bulb)
  • 2 cups of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • feta cheese (I only sprinkled a bit on top)

Let’s Do It

  1. Clean the quinoa thoroughly. Add 2 cups of water to a small pot and add the quinoa. Bring to boil and turn to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.  (For more information on cooking quinoa, go to this awesome blog, The Kitchn. 
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, chop your tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley.
  3. Let the quinoa sit for a few minutes to cool. Then, add your lemon juice and oil and stir.
  4. Add all the veggies and herbs.
  5. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. The longer it sits, the better the flavor.
  7. Serve chilled and top with feta.

Half & Half

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The soup salad combo has always been a favorite of mine. While I do not identify as a vegetarian anymore, my diet consists mostly of vegetables. With this being said, sometimes I want something hearty without eating a massive sandwich or a chicken breast. Plus, this is in line with my weekly goal to fatten my dad up!

So, tonight I cooked a hearty black bean soup with a citrus kale salad. Kale is my new favorite green. I had a kale salad at Olio,  St. Louis’ new best restaurant  where my brother works. I could not get over the texture of the salad! It was not the bitter, tough kale that I was accustomed to having, but rather this nicely textured earthy green.

After falling short of making the kale salad that I was looking for (the one from Olio), I finally found the trick online. You have to massage the kale leaves! More on that later though. Here are the recipes!

Hearty Black Bean Vegan Soup

*** Things to note before starting. Adding salt too early will increase cooking time. Adding baking soda will decrease cooking time, but be careful with how much you add! You might get a chemical taste. 

This started with me soaking 1.5 lbs. of black beans in water overnight.

I diced my onion, green and orange bell pepper, and green onion bulbs. Living and cooking in China taught me to never discard the bulbs of green onions. They hold the most flavor. My Chinese cooking mentor (aka Qiong Qiong–my colleague and friend in Liu He) would die if she saw them go unused.

the leg work

I added oil to my pot with the aromatic vegetables. After sauteing for 5 minutes  the vegetables were fragrant and onion translucent.

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Then, I added the soaked black beans, cumin, and chili powder.

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In went the 6 cups of vegetable broth!  When it came to a boil, I turned the  heat to low and simmered for 2.5 hours. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would.
******This time varies depending on how long you soak the beans, your stove, and your desired consistency.

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When my beans were cooked through enough to smash them, it was where I wanted it. I wanted a thicker soup, so I transferred a few ladles full of beans and smashed them in a bowl and transferred them back afterward.  I added the cilantro last and stirred.

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It was served warm with some fresh cilantro on top

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The goods:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup of orange and green pepper
  • 1/4 cup of the white bottom of green onion
  • 1/4 chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1.5 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 4 cups of already soaked and sorted black beans
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. of fresh thyme
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Let’s Do It

  1. Chop the onion, green onion bulb and stems, orange and green pepper.
  2. Heat pot, add olive oil, add all aromatic vegetables except green onion stems. Cook 5 minutes or until aromatic.
  3. Add garlic, remainder of green onion stems, cumin, chili powder, and soaked black beans.
  4. Add 6 cups of vegetable broth. Stir. Bring to a boil. Turn to low heat and simmer for 2.5 hours. This will differ depending on your stove, how long you soaked the beans, and your desired consistency.
  5. When beans are cooked enough to mash, remove a few ladles full and smash beans in a small bowl. Transfer back to pot and stir. This will thicken soup. Do this as much or as little as you want.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of cilantro to pot and stir.
  7. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Eat and smile!

Citrus Kale Salad

I do not have many pictures for this one. When massaging the Kale, my hands, along with my towels, kept getting covered with green from the leaves. This was not conducive to using a camera. I will show you the final product though! This is my new favorite salad. The flavors blend perfectly together. Kale will be my green of choice for a while.

This is from a different website, but you can see the difference in the leaves before and after the massage.
This is from a different website, but you can see the difference in the leaves before and after the massage.
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Final product

The Goods:

  • a bunch of kale leaves
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    **My brother just surprised me with high quality balsamic vinegar, and I don’t think I can go back. Try Masserie di Sant’eramo Balsamic Vinegar.
  • 2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 3 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • A dash or two of chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/3 cup of diced red onion
    **Red onion and Kale are a new favorite combination of mine.
  • 1/4 diced green pepper
  • 3 tbsp. of ground parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Let’s do it

  1. Wash kale leaves. Massage them for 2 minutes in your hands. They should shrink in size by almost half. They will also become more fragrant. Pat them dry.
  2. Add olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, sale, pepper, and basil leaves to bowl and stir. Let sit for 30 minutes, so the oil can soak up the flavors.
  3. Toss kale leaves in dressing. Cover and set in fridge for 20-30 minutes. Kale leaves take longer to absorb dressing flavor.
  4. Remove from fridge and add cucumber, red onion, green pepper, and parmesan. Toss.
  5. Add chili pepper. You should only need a few dashes. Toss.
  6. Smile and eat!

Yummy!

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Living in rural China pushed my food limits. I was a vegetarian for two and half years before moving to China. I quickly learned that meatless was not an option in my village–too many pig killings, to much “多吃多吃“(eat more). I tried my best to cook my own meals, but class times often did not allow it. Apparently, excess oil and MSG leads to chronic heart burn, bloating and la duzi. Additionally, I never really got the hand of using the Chinese hot plates (electric portable stove)  that we had. They get so damn hot. It often felt like the high setting on an American stove was the low setting of a Chinese stove. I was always burning my garlic, making me perpetually unsatisfied with my dishes. Burnt garlic is the worst. In the US, I cooked every meal of the day, so this was an undesired lifestyle change.

Since I returned to the United States , my passion for cooking has exploded. I read recipes online for at least an hour a day. I can barely finish one meal without thinking about what I want to make next. Johan is forced to listen to every ingredient I use in all of my recipes.  I would feel bad for him if I didn’t think he would benefit from this passion later on. My student loans are probably the only thing stopping me from going to cooking school. So, I forge ahead with this obsession.

Food blogging has been an interest of mine for far too long for me to put it off any longer. Food is holy to me, truly. In this overworked world, food is one of the few ways for me to connect with my environment. When I wake up in the morning, I try to make this connection a positive one.

The food/body connection is a nice little cycle. When I eat well, my body rewards me with energy and says, “Thanks biotch. That was super cool of you.” When I don’t eat well, it bitches and says, “Thanks a-hole. Good luck with that heart burn today.” With a few exceptions, before deciding what I want to cook, I ask myself two questions: 1) What can I eat that ensures that my body is happy and healthy? 2) How can I eat healthy and not sacrifice flavor?

So, this is my perspective when I eat and when I post recipes. Enjoy!

My dad is in town right now. He retired last Friday, so this is a celebratory visit. For years, he has said things like, “I don’t have time to eat breakfast or lunch.” It drives me freaking insane. So, every time I see him, I am on a mission to put some healthy weight on him.

This morning I cooked him this power breakfast.

Recipe #1

Egg & Leek Corn Tortilla Wrap with Salsa and Feta

Yum Yum
Yum Yum

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup  chopped  leeks (I used the bottom portion)
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup of almond milk
  • sprouted corn tortillas (these are healthier than regular corn tortillas)
  • goat’s milk feta (use as much as you like)
  • salsa (use as much as you like–I like it spicy)

Let’s do it:

  1. Heat a small skillet on med-high heat. While the pan is heating chop up those leeks. 
  2. Add the oil to the pan. When it starts slightly sizzling add your leeks and turn down the heat to medium. Cook leeks for 7-10 minutes. They should be translucent and fragrant.
  3. Whisk the eggs. Add almond milk. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Add the eggs to the pan with the leeks. Keep heat on medium.
  4. Occasionally shake the pan so some of the still liquid egg falls underneath on the sides.
  5. When just the center has liquid, flip the eggs over. Let cook for another minute.
  6. Warm tortillas in microwave for about 10-15 seconds.
  7. Cut the cooked egg leek patty in half and divide them between the two tortillas.
  8. Top with a tbsp. of salsa and sprinkle feta on top.
  9. Smile and eat.

I paired this with a nice mango, banana, and peach smoothie.

smoothie and wrap
smoothie and wrap