Tag Archives: dinners

Fun with Gourmet Greens: Arugula

The produce selection in Michigan these days is a dismal affair: it’s in that in-between stage where boxes brimming with bright berries can only be consumed with longing gazes, but sturdier alternatives like hard winter squashes are nowhere to be found. Perhaps I’m not going to the right places or perhaps I’m just too picky. I am a fairly picky eater, even more so when it comes to produce…I don’t like apples…or oranges…or bananas…or carrots or….

*awkward silence*

And I certainly don’t like  spending a lot of money on fruits and vegetables (all the less for other, more gourmet foods, like nuts!).

Given this, it should come as no surprise that I rarely consume leafy greens other than “standard salad blend,” which, once you’ve had a taste of anything else, becomes boring, mundane and tasteless. This probably explains why it’s the cheapest.

Arugula–is the exact opposite: sharp-cornered, intense green leaves textured with a pattern of small dots that warn of the peppery blast to come. With personality like that, it is no wonder this sharp leaf costs 5X as much (per ounce) as the hospital-wall white bargain in a bag. You may hear from other (less discerning) foodies that spinach and pepper is an acceptable substitute, but this is akin to swapping green peas with lima beans and sugar. I suppose it depends how you define acceptable.

My first experience with arugula was actually in England a few years ago, where I fell in love with the sandwiches sold at the chain pharmacy, Boot’s (not with a z like my cat). The sandwich, which featured a simple paring of carrots, hummus and the accurately named “rocket,” quickly became one of my favorites. It wasn’t until I tried to mimic the arugula-spiced sandwich upon my return that I learned “rocket’s” U.S. translation was “expensive”. I tried the recommended spinach and pepper substitute but found the result so distasteful I preferred to do without. And so ended my affair with arugula….

Until yesterday at Kroger where, out of some inexplicable cosmic irony, I happened upon a (perfectly healthy-looking) box with two labels: one proclaiming the box contained USDA-certified organic baby arugula (a.k.a. rocket, eruca, or “the peppery-est thing your tongue will ever encounter outside of a tiny glass bottle), and the other proclaiming it was 70% off ($1.29).

I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story….


Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Peppers and Mushrooms
makes 1 salad

  • Soft goat cheese (typically sold in a log or crumbles)
  • Frozen 3 pepper and onion blend
  • Sliced mini bella mushrooms (or portabella mushrooms you slice yourself)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Minced garlic (or its lazier cousin, garlic powder)
  • A few pinches each sage and dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • and, of course…..arugula

→In a small/medium saute pan greased with nonstick spray, “saute” the mushrooms, 3 pepper blend and garlic (if using minced). Near the end of cooking, add the vinegar and spices. Set aside.

Put the arugula in a salad bowl. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Toss on the (still slightly warm) peppers and mushrooms. If you want, drizzle with a little extra balsamic to create a “dressing” (for those that don’t like the idea of “dry” salad).

Eat slowly, savoring each peppery bite.


More Uses for Shredded Broccoli Stalks: Microwave Crackers


Ready for the microwave

It is 5:26 pm. Friday, March 25, 2011. Why am I stating these mundane facts, this useless information? It’s the only part of reality I have left. Everything else feels hazy, blurry, wrong somehow….

I have spent the past 4 days sitting inside my apartment, becoming increasingly disassociated from everything that defines normality. I don’t think I ever sleep anymore, just drift in an out of consciousness. But who am I to say? Perhaps I am asleep right now. It makes me wonder how my cat passes the hours. Alone. With nothing more than the waving trees to gaze at through the window.

There is deepening sense of…in the pit of my stomach. It escapes a single-word classification, but if I were forced to pick one it would be, quite simply, wrong. Something’s missing, something bad is about to happen, there’s no future for me, what am I going to do with the rest of my days?

I know it’s no one’s fault but my own. After all, I was the one that wanted this: a semester “off”. I just never realized it would turn into this. This half-life that is becoming increasingly dreamlike.

Worst of all, I think my my hands are changing color!

Broccoli-Carrot Crackers
makes about 7-8 crackers

crackers 2

  • About 1/4c. broccoli stalks, coarsely grated
  • About 1/4c. carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1/4c. pureed fat-free cottage cheese (or mashed)
  • Spices and seasonings to taste (for these, I used Mrs. Dash + a few pinches of garam masala)

→Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Spread thinly on wax paper, parchment paper or, if you’re like me/want to be environmentally-friendly, opened up cereal bags.

Microwave on high for about 5 minutes, checking every minute or two.


Meatless Monday: Vegan Sushi


courtesy of Meatless Monday

I’m sitting in the chemistry lab right now. Not doing any chemistry, but that’s probably for the best.

I can’t really think, mainly because the Sri Lank-an kid asked me to play Indian music and so now my computer is blasting “Hindi filmi” songs. How am I supposed to think with Shah Rukh Khan music playing in the background?!

For anyone following the trend, today is Meatless Monday, which is the main reason I am posting.

Please excuse the incongruence of the post. Anyone who speaks two languages (or more) might understand the brain confusion that results from writing in one while listening to another. It’s all I can do to not writing in Hindi.

It’s ironic that today’s meatless (vegan and budget-friendly) recipe is from an entirely different country.


It's sushi time!

Easy Vegan Sushi (with and Indian twist)

makes about 6 rolls (depending on how you cut it)

  • Nori sheets (available in some grocery stores and  most ethnic foods stores)
  • Sushi rice, cooked (I cheated and used the sprouted brown sushi rice I had leftover from an Annie Chun’s meal)
  • Baby corn
  • Sliced mini bella mushrooms
  • Vinegar (I went with a mix of apple cider and red wine)
  • Dipping sauce

Dipping Sauce

  • Soy sauce
  • A few pinches garam masala
  • Garlic powder or minced garlic cloves
  • Ginger paste or, even better, fresh grated ginger

→Make the dipping sauce by mixing the ingredients and letting it sit, covered, for at least half an hour or, even better, overnight.

If you have time, marinate the mushrooms in the vinegar overnight. If not, “quick marinate” them by placing them in a bowl with the vinegar and microwaving for about a minute (covered).

Place the nori on a clean, dry surface rough side up. If you have a bamboo mat, that’s great, but I didn’t so I put mine on a cutting board.

Spread the sushi rice evenly over the nori sheet, leaving an inch or two at once end (this will be the “sealing” part). Place the baby corn and “marinated” mushrooms in a thin line across one side of the sushi (the side farthest from the side without rice).

Roll the sushi and slice it. I would try to explain the rolling process but it was my first time, so I’m not sure I’m qualified. For a step-by-step (with pictures!) on rolling sushi, check out Make My Sushi’s illustrated guide.

If you’re brave, attempt chopsticks. Or do it Indian-style and get your hands dirty.

Whoopie Pies for the One I Love

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Slightly Sweet but Always Stringy Spaghetti Squash

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A Veggie Sandwich to Make Hardcore Carnivores Convert

broccoli hummus sandwich

When I first became a vegetarian (way back before it was cool), I had a really hard time finding animal-friendly lunches (especially sandwiches). Dinner was easy because I could cook anything I wanted. But, lunch…lunch had to packable and, preferably, not something that needed to be served hot. (I was never the kind of person who could eat lukewarm spaghetti).

Everything changed the day I discovered hummus. It was exactly what I had asked for and more. Not only was it low calorie enough that I didn’t have to measure every teaspoon as with peanut butter, but it tasted good with everything. And I do mean everything (including things like cheese, that peanut butter couldn’t even touch).

I know I’ve written extensively about my love for hummus, but I simply cannot help doing it again. Yes, peanut butter was my first great love, but I have long since divorced it’s nutty goodness in favor of hummus’ tangy charm that pairs nicely with sweets and sours and savories all at once.

I feel I should stop now and just get on with the recipe. For fear I may remove the hummus from its resting place in my fridge and, lick by lick, devour the whole container.

sandwich 2

You can even toast the wrap and do it as a pizza!

Broccoli, Hummus and Cheddar Cheese–in a Wrap
serves 1

  • Tortilla, wrap, bread, etc of choice
  • Hummus (try my homemade recipe here)
  • Chopped broccoli, steamed, baked or stir-fried
  • Fat-free (or regular) cheddar cheese, shredded

→Lay the wrap on a flat surface.

Spread hummus on top.

Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

Dump the broccoli on. I like lots of broccoli so my sandwich is always overflowing.

See how I tried to make that seem as hard as a real recipe?


“What’s in the Freezer” Veggie Dip

dip and nori

Topped with chopped tomatoes! Mmmm

I was watching a cooking show today while I worked out. It made me kind of happy and kind of sad all at once, because watching the “chef” explain how innovative it is to BAKE onion rings made me feel like I deserve my own cooking show (or at least my own cooking short). Then I got really sad because I realized I never would.

Then I changed the channel, which made me feel a little better, but not really. But I guess that’s just life, isn’t it?

The show, which was about “healthified” fast food, did make me think about dips, which in turn made me come up with this cheesy spinach dip. There was also the fact that I was/am completely out of fresh vegetables and, if I wanted anything other than a peanut butter sandwich or a brownie, I was going to have to go to my freezer.

So out came the bag of frozen cut leaf spinach and then the 3 pepper/onion blend (as always); toss some garlic in there too, why not?; then saute a little and add a bit of fat-free cheese. Seriously, nothing could be easier.

Nori with dip

Toasted Nori with Cheesy Dip

Ooey, Gooey Cheesy Dip That Doubles as a Vegetable Serving
servings variable

  • Frozen chopped leaf spinach
  • Frozen 3 pepper/onion blend
  • Minced garlic cloves
  • Fat-free cream cheese
  • Fat-free mozzarella cheese
  • salt, pepper and spices of choice (garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, etc)
  • Parmesan cheese, optional
  • Veggie Beef-style Crumbles, optional

→Spray a pan with nonstick spray. Dump the veggies and garlic into this pan. Saute them for a little bit until garlic is fragrant and onions are lightly browned.

Put this in a bowl. To this bowl, add a handful (good size pinch?) of fat-free mozzarella cheese and little bit of fat-free cream cheese. Mix it around. Keep adding cream cheese (or mozzarella) and mixing until it reaches the consistency you want. The cream cheese just helps the veggies stick together to form a “dip”.

Add a couple pinches of spices and seasonings of choice. You know what to do now.

Serve with chips, nachos or, as I did, toasted nori (which holds up surprisingly well considering the thinness).

Popeye would be jealous.

The Adventure Continues: Sprouted Wheat Finds it’s Soulmate in the Pistachio

Pistachio and Sprouted Wheat Pita

Truly a match made in heaven

All philosophical musings and deep words have been pried out of me by this miserable excuse of a day. So, in an effort to keep this blog from becoming a complete vehicle for my pointless rants, I’m going to try to avoid saying too much. I think I’ve already said too much.

I don’t know if you remember the pistachio butter I made awhile back or that I said it was insanely strong. I did though and it was. I am happy to report I have found a most perfect of uses for it. Green sprouted wheat berries. Opposites attract and these two are certainly opposites in flavor; but, don’t forget, birds of feather flock together–for that we have the intensity of said flavor.

It’s a match made in heaven.

Pistachio and Sprout Pita

Opposite, yet alike-the definition of perfect


The Back of My Freezer: Seitan

Can you imagine a better salad?

For the record, I’m not exactly sure when I bought this package. Or why, for that matter. Really, I’m not even exactly sure what seitan is. According to the back of the package, it’s made out of wheat gluten and has the “mouth feel” of chicken. I can’t say if that’s true or not because I don’t remember what chicken tastes like but, well, there it is.

All I know is that, when this 2-serving, $5 mass was defrosted, it looked like something my cat hacked up at 2 AM last night. (Unrelated side note: For those of you who’ve never heard the sound coming out of a cat as a hair-ball is viciously expelled from their body, I can only describe it as akin to one you would imagine the boogie man making).

Either way, at $5 for such a small box, I wasn’t about to throw it in the trash. That and my growling stomach made me even more inclined to using it. The taste was actually pretty bland, so I figured it might not be that bad if I could spice it up a bit. Meyer Lemon? Balsamic Vinegar? Garlic? Sure why, not. (Funny thing, I used to hate vinegar but I’ve been obsessed with sniffing it lately…I think it’s probably my horribly clogged sinuses).

For extra kicks, throw in some lettuce.

Close up of seitan

Simple Salad Made Inspiring with Lemon-Balsamic Seitan and Sauteed Mixed Peppers
makes 1 salad

  • Lettuce of choice (“Seven Lettuce” or Mediterranean blends would would nicely for this)
  • Tomatoes, chopped or, even better, sun-dried tomatoes
  • Unseasoned seitan
  • 3 pepper onion blend + mushrooms

For the sauce/dressing:

  • 1-2 meyer lemons, juice, pulp and rind (or just juice)
  • Few squirts balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic powder + onion powder + italian seasoning
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried mint leaves
  • Salt and pepper

→For the sauce/dressing, mix the sauce ingredients together, whisking well. Note that all dry ingredients were measured in pinches (I added about a few pinches of each).

Put the lettuce in a bowl/salad plate. Put the tomatoes on top.

In a small frying pan sprayed with nonstick spray, “saute” the 3 pepper onion blend with the mushrooms. Put this on top of the salad.

In the same frying pan (sprayed with some more spray), saute the seitan. Once it looks a little brown, add about half of the sauce/dressing you made. Put this on top of the lettuce/peppers.

Pour the rest of the dressing over the top of the salad.

Serve with some thinly sliced meyer lemons if you want.

Yet another side note: I just realized how completely disjointed this post sounds (and how much the recipe title resembles a newspaper heading). I blame the sinuses. And the fact that I’m currently sniffing lab fumes.

Uses for Mushy Quinoa: Add Cheese!

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