Monday, April 18, 2011

"Work With What You've Got" Quinoa and Tofu Mash Up

Since it was a solo dinner again tonight, I only had to work with my particular cravings. And tonight, that craving was quinoa. Mmmmm the lovely, good for you grain that pretty much takes on the flavour of whatever you eat or cook it with.

Now, what goes good with quinoa? Well, everything. But what did I have that I could work with and eat with my quinoa? I had the perfect item in my fridge in the form of firm tofu. So with that, I had two versatile items that could take on whatever flavour I wanted. That flavour? A mix of veggies and a nice soy based marinade!! It's like a full grain tofu stir fry!

 This was probably one of the easiest meals that I've made. The ingredients that you use can be changed depending on whatever you have in your fridge. It's actually an awesome thing to put together when you have those vegetables that are on the "must use soon or throw out" list. For me, that was mushrooms and broccoli.

First off, cook the quinoa so that it's ready when everything else is done. Before cooking quinoa, be sure to place it in a strainer and rinse the grain a bit. Then place it in a small pot with double the amount of water (I used 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water, since I wanted some leftovers for a yummy lunch tomorrow). Once the water and quinoa mixture comes to a boil, cover it and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes (the grain seems "clear" once it's done).

While the quinoa is cooking, marinate the tofu. Before using it, dry it off on a paper towel. Cut the tofu up into cubes and place in a bowl. You can marinate it with anything you'd like. I used a mixture of 1tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp rice vinegar, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce. Let that sit for about 15 minutes or so.

Place 2 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil into a pan and let it heat. Saute some chopped onion for a couple of minutes. Throw in the marinated tofu so that it can brown a little before adding the veggies.

Once the tofu seems to be browned, add in whatever veggies you had on hand. For me, that was broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, and green pepper. Saute that mixture for about 4-5 minutes, until the veggies have cooked but they don't totally lose their form. Once done, add some quinoa (I added about 1 1/2 cups) and throw in a handful of raisins for a touch of sweetness. Mix it all together and done! Bon appetite!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carrot, Dill, and White Bean Salad..Thank You 101 Cookbooks

So deciding on what dinner will be is like a daily adventure to me. I stopped eating meat about 8 months ago (for reasons I won't go in to right now), and for someone who was raised in a very traditional Eastern European household (where delicacies consist of roasted pork and lamb) it was somewhat of a challenge to adjust to not thinking of meat as the entree of any meal.

But, so far so good. And part of the reason I've been doing so well is thanks to Heidi Swanson's website 101 Cookbooks. Since I, and I'm assuming the majority of you out there, don't have a Whole Foods store hiding in my kitchen cupboards, working with what I have on hand is a necessity. For me, this on hand item today was some white navy beans that I cooked just yesterday.

And TA-DA, the recipe appeared as I typed in my ingredient: Carrot, Dill, and White Bean Salad.

Again, I couldn't wait to dig in. All that
was left? My leftovers for an awesome lunch!
Carrots...check (well some at least).

Dill...check (had some frozen from the herbs I grew in the garden last summer).

White Beans....uh duh....check.

Even though I have gone "veggie", I do have a husband that I feed as well. A husband who is also of Eastern European decent and cannot fathom a meal with some form of meat. So I do usually have to think of an added meat portion to the meals I make. However, tonight was a loner night for me. Meaning that I only had to make a dinner for one and could forget the meat!
I couldn't put up the recipe without a decent picture.
This one if from the recipe on Swanson's website.

This recipe was quick, easy, and with the addition of leftover quinoa from the night before, broccoli as a filler to help with my lack of carrots, and some kale to add just a little something something, I was filled and even had leftovers for a lunch to look forward to tomorrow.

So, no, I didn't follow the recipe with the exact ingredients. But while still using the overall idea and method, this recipe is definitely a "keeper" and "must do again".

To close, I reiterate, thanks Heidi Swanson for some healthy, easy to make, and extremely tasty recipes!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tutti Frutti...tutti greasy

To go along with this breakfast theme that I have going on here so far, why not try a new place for a late lunchtime breakfast. Tutti Frutti is a very Cora-esque type of breakfast establishment: open kitchen where you can see your food being made behind the counter, a selection of booths and tables, and chicken figurines placed around the restaurant. The only thing that distinguishes Tutti Frutti from being just another Cora's (despite the name) is the lack of cartoony menu item names and pictures on the walls, the cute little pictures adorning Cora's bathroom doors, and the additional grease that Tutti Frutti adds into their menu items. 

The Vegetarian Omelette:  too much cheese?
At first it was refreshing to see a new breakfast place that was close to home with a family friendly atmosphere to it. No line to get in or to get seated. Quick and friendly service. Everything seemed a little refreshing. Except that as I sat in my seat and looked around, "refreshing" turned into "rehashing" as I was reminded of the interior of all of the Cora's restaurants I'd ever been to. Ok, so they look similar, no big deal. But upon perusing the menu, the "Cora's Special" was now the "Celine's Special" and the "Crepe Panini" was not catching my eye in awe as I'd seen it so many times before. Ok, so they have similar menu items and similar pricing, no big deal. Then the deal breaker showed up with the arrival of our meals: the vegetarian omelette topped with melted, grated cheese and, it seemed, a couple of spoonfuls of oil, and the Celine's Special of two eggs alongside some very thin and crisp lacking bacon. All of this came with a side of over buttered toast of your choice.
The "Celine's Special"......sounds familiar.

So did I satisfying my craving for a breakfast like meal with some eggs? Yes. But I also left with an impossible to remove taste of butter from soggy toast and grease lined stomach that was aching for me race home and lie down. 

Would I go their again? Maybe to a different location to see if it makes a difference. Maybe in about 6 months once this new location establishes itself a bit more. But would I really choose Tutti Frutti over something like Cora's? Not a chance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A little bit of everything is a little bit of Heaven

What better to do mid morning on a Saturday than go for brunch? And what better place to go to than Cora's

I woke up craving a satisfying and sweet bite of french toast. I couldn't help but think of the crunchy outer layer covered with the sweet taste of maple, and a warm gooier inside that made it all seem like it would melt in my mouth.  So convincing my husband to make the trip to Cora's was easy enough...I pretty much just had to mention Cora's and he was game.

As we waited in line to be seated (because there is always a line at Cora's on the weekend...but it's fast and so worth it) my mouth watered just thinking of what I would order. As I peeked at the meals that were being served to those who were seated (don't judge, you know you do it too), I saw it: the king of the stack of pancakes! Four huge blueberry pancakes covered with some English cream that could probably feed a family of 4! So it wasn't french toast, but it would be close enough.  

The "after" picture of my devoured meal. I was so hungry and it was too good to wait to try it.  My suggestion? Just order it and you'll get to devour it for yourself too.
However, when it was time to order, I realized I just couldn't do an entire meal of pancakes; I needed more. I needed some egg, some fruit, and the sweet goodness of a french toast like dish. I was torn, confused, and saddened at the thought that I may have to sacrifice one of those options. That was until I saw it. My heart (or more like my stomach) filled with happiness at sight of my solution: the 1990's Harvest. With an egg, fruit, and a cinnamon raisin brioche dipped in french toast batter, my perfect brunch was constructed. Biting into that brioche and satisfying that craving was a moment of utter perfection. 

What did I realize after all of this? Cora's may just be the breakfast/brunch solution to anyone's troubles. And with Cora's restaurants just popping up all over the place, this shouldn't be a problem.