Perfect Rice

I need to share this trick with you.  I used to spend $4.00 a box of frozen brown rice at Trader Joe’s because it was just so easy:  buy a bag of frozen rice, pop in the microwave for 3 minutes and voila!

But, you don’t have to spend so much money to have frozen rice.  You can make it at home, and its so unbelievably easy I can’t believe no one talks about it.  I like to buy a big bag of brown rice at the store (TJ’s does make a nice brown basmati, or I’ll just get some at Kroger’s), cook it up, and portion it out in 1 cup tupperwares or plastic bags.  Stick it in the freezer and when you’re ready to use it, cook in the microwave for about 3 minutes.  It makes 12 servings, so I usually put 2 servings in 1 freezer container.  Oh, and this works for white rice too, but hey, I’m trying to be healthy!

Perfect Rice

  • 6 cups of brown rice
  • 12 cups of water (I just fill up a big soup pot)

Rinse rice in a strainer under cold water for 30 seconds.  Bring water to a boil.  Add the rice, stir once, and boil uncovered for 30 minutes.   Pour the rice into a strainer in the sink.

Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot.  Cover the pot and set it aside to let the rice steam for 10 minutes or so.

Posted in Pantry Staples | 2 Comments

Gazpacho

My favorite part of summer are all the fresh veggies, and the farmer’s markets that pop up around town.  On a recent farmer’s market trip I picked up some peppers and cucumbers:  perfect for a fresh summer gazpacho!  This is the most basic gazpacho ever.  It’s so simple, but so delicious.  It technically makes 8-10 servings, but I just made a batch last night and I’ve nearly finished the whole thing!

Ok, the picture doesn’t exactly do it justice.  I created this recipe from a mish-mash of gazpacho recipes, including my mom’s and my aunt’s.  Both are delicious, but I like my gazpacho smoother rather than chunky.  You can make it either way, its just a matter of chopping your vegetables rather than pureeing them.

Gazpacho

  • 1 hothouse cucumber
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 c white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • squirt of lemon
  • dash of hot sauce
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 5 c tomato juice

Remove seeds and finely dice cucumber, tomatoes, and pepper.  Finely dice onion.  Run the garlic through a garlic press or finely mince.  Combine vegetables, garlic, vinegar, lemon and salt in a large plastic pitcher or a non-reactive bowl.   (A pitcher makes it super easy to store in the fridge and pour when you’re ready to serve).  Let your vegetable mixture sit for at least 5 minutes, or more.

At this point, decide if you want your gazpacho chunky or smooth.  If you want chunky, add the tomato juice to the pitcher.  If you’re like me, I took half the vegetables and pureed them with the tomato juice using my immersion blender.  A regular blender, cuisinart, or magic bullet would work too.  Then I added the pureed vegetables to the chunky vegetables.  The third option would be pureeing all of the vegetables for a totally smooth gazpacho.

Leave gazpacho in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but the longer it sits the better it gets.

Serve with garnishes:  more chopped fresh vegetables, garlic croutons, cilantro, avocado, or black olives are all good.

Posted in Soups | 1 Comment

Low Fat Banana Bread

Do you do this?  I always buy waaaayyyy too many bananas.  Then they turn brown and spotty.  So, I put them in the freezer.  Then, I have instant bananas for banana bread or banana ice cream (recipe to come!).

I think that defrosted, overripe bananas actually make banana bread taste a lot better than using a fresh banana.  Something about that overripeness makes the banana bread taste more banana-y.  Hmmm, are banana-y and overripeness even words?!?

This version of banana bread has no butter or margarine, and if you made it with a flaxseed “egg” it would be vegan.  200 calories per serving, 10 servings.

Low Fat Banana Bread

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 3 frozen overripe bananas
  • 1/4 c applesauce
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c flour (or 1 c white flour, 3/4 c whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c walnuts (optional)
  • 1/3 c mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the bananas, applesauce, milk, oil, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients.  Fold in optional walnuts or chocolate chips, or both!  Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mmmmm.  I am eating some for breakfast as we speak.

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert | 1 Comment

One Week Wonders: Summer Tuna Salad

First of all, I want to second everything that Sari said below.  The last few weeks have been CRAZY for me with work and travel.  I’ve eaten more meals at the Penn Station Chickpea than I have in my apartment and more chocolate chip cookies than I care to admit.

Things finally slowed down this weekend and I had time to breathe (and cook).  When deciding what to make yesterday I had two requirements – fresh and light.  I found this Summer Tuna Salad recipe in a magazine I bought at the Boston airport, and it was definitely both of those things.  It’s also really versatile, which makes it a PERFECT one-week wonder!

Summer Tuna Salad

Adapted from Food Network magazine

  • 2 tsp honey mustard
  • Grated zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 12 oz can chunk white tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1. Make the dressing first; whisk the mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well blended.  Whisk in the dill, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.

2. Toss the tuna, chickpeas, cucumber, scallions and tomatoes with the dressing in a medium bowl (I’d recommend doing this by taste).

3. Do what you want from here!  So far I’ve made a tuna wrap and also used it as a salad topper, with a light lemon dressing.

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One Week Wonders: Smoky Black Bean Chili

Today I made a one week wonder, plus its budget friendly and low calorie!  Here’s the scoop:  we have been traveling A LOT.  Weekend trips, weekday business meetings out of town, essentially lots of driving and lots of eating out.  So, I haven’t made a serious grocery store trip in about 3 weeks, and we’ve been living off cereal and Morningstar buffalo chikn nuggets.

Well, I was sick of eating crap, and whipped up a black bean and corn chili, all with ingredients I had on hand!  This is the first time ever that I’ve created my own recipe without looking at other recipes first!  So proud 🙂

This is such an easy recipe.  It makes 8 servings and each serving is about 215 calories.  Plus, it’s so filling!

Smoky Black Bean and Corn Chili

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel or Trader Joes are good)
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed
  • 12 oz package frozen corn
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced oregano (I used some from my garden!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp ancho chili powder (you can use regular chili powder, but ancho has a great smoky flavor)
  • 2 tbsp chipotle puree* (see below)
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Saute chopped onion in a little vegetable oil until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add oregano, cumin, and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add cinnamon, bay leaves, ancho chili powder and chipotle puree and cook another 30 seconds.  Add vegetable broth and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove bay leaves, add black beans and corn and cook for another 10-20 minutes, until chili has reduced.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, and chips.  (This adds calories)

* Chipotle puree:  buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce.  Puree.  Can be frozen for later uses in other mexican dishes, like my tortilla soup

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Penne a la Caprese

Happy mother’s day, to my amazing mom who inspires me to cook delicious things everyday!

I am almost embarrassed to post this recipe because its sooooooo easy.  But, its really yummy, a crowd pleaser, and great for potlucks, which is why I am sharing it with you today.  We’re going to my aunt’s tonight for a mother’s day potluck.  In my family, a small family gathering is only about 25 people, and it just gets bigger from there.  I love it!  I love being close to my family (both emotionally and geographically) so I can get my fill of love anytime I want.  So, here’s to a family filled with beautiful, caring, compassionate, and strong-willed moms.

Now, for the recipe:

Penne a la caprese (aka Pesto Pasta)

  • 1 box penne pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Start because it has 5 grams of fiber, but doesn’t taste like whole wheat )
  • 1/2 of a 6 oz pesto in a jar*
  • 1 small carton grape tomatoes
  • 1 container boccocini (small fresh mozzarella)

Cook pasta in boiling water for 10-12 minutes.  Rinse under cold water until all penne are cooled, and drain thoroughly.  Slice tomatoes in half.  Slice boccocini in half.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, including pesto to taste.

Serve cold.

*I am currently growing basil, so a pesto recipe will come once I get some growing!

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One Week Wonders: Udon Noodle Salad with Broccolini and Spicy Tofu

Last Sunday, after living my DC dream and attending the White House Correspondent’s Dinner the night before (also known as Nerd Prom in some parts), I was still working through the excitement of being so close to so many celebs and hearing Obama speak (via TV at the hotel bar).  I was also a little hungover, and in the mood for greasy food.  Knowing that whatever I cooked would also be my lunch for the week, I opted to make something that tasted like fast-food Asian, but actually had some healthy elements and wouldn’t put me in a food coma every day after I ate.

Enter Udon Noodle Salad with Broccolini and Spicy Tofu – this was the perfect thing to make.  Not only did it hit the spot on Sunday (and is still going strong on Tuesday), it was easy to make, allowed for lots of intermittent couch time in between each step and helped me get over my fear of blanching broccolini, due to a near-choking incident my mom had a few years ago – the last time I made it.

Udon Noodle Salad with Broccolini and Spicy Tofu (serves 4-6)

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 8 oz water-packed extra-firm tofu
  • 5 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (can substitute tamari)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sriracha, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 oz uncooked dried udon noodles
  • 6 c water
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz broccolini
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 thinly sliced radishes (about 3 medium)
  • 2 tbsp chopped dry-roasted cashews, toasted
Cut tofu into 3/4-inch-thick slices.  Place tofu slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels.  Let tofu stand for 30 minutes or so to drain (I think I waited an hour), pressing down occasionally.  Remove tofu from paper towels, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine 2 tbsp canola oil, soy sauce and 1 tsp Sriracha in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Add tofu cubes to soy sauce mixture, and toss gently to coat.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Remove tofu from bowl with a slotted spoon; reserve tamari mixture in a bowl.  Arrange tofu in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake tofu at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
Cook udon noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well.
Combine 6 c water and salt in a large saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil.  Add Broccolini to pan; cook for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain and plunge Broccolini into ice water; drain well.  Chop Broccolini.
Add remaining 3 tbsp canola oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil to reserved soy sauce mixture in bowl; stir mixture well with a whisk.  Add baked tofu, udon noodles, Broccolini, and 1/2 c thinly sliced radishes to bowl; toss gently to coat.  Sprinkle salad with cashews.
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