Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

For our 8th wedding anniversary this week my wonderful in-laws took our two rowdy boys for the night (THANK YOU Mark and Debra!!) and my darling hubby fretted about cooking me the perfect meal. Well guys. Lemme tell you. I have been wanting to make a healthy vegetarian Korean bibimbap for months now, and this. was. amazing.

 Traditionally bibimbap ingredients are served in a heated stone pot with plenty of oil, but we opted for a basic nonstick pan and just a tad of sesame oil where necessary to keep it light. The richness comes from the egg yolk that just melts like liquid gold over the dish after you cut it open. (My husband is the egg cooker in our house so he’ll need to write a guest blog post soon!) We roasted the tofu in the broiler instead of frying it in oil. The sweet jasmine rice also gets a light crispy golden bottom in the pan over low heat like a paella, and the veggies themselves only took a total of 10 minutes to prepare. All in all, from getting home at 6:00pm to sitting down to eat was about an hour. Not too bad… it probably helped that there were no children around to pull us in a million directions!


Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably one day old – we cooked the night before)
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces firm tofu
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 5 cups spinach leaves
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 sheet roasted seaweed (Korean-style kim or Japanese nori), cut into small strips with scissors

Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water. Rinse and drain tofu. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and drain well. Place on a nonstick baking pan under broiler for about 15 minutes, turning very frequently. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir fry until cooked through. Remove from pan. Blanch spinach in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted and bright green. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds. In a large iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to coat. Add the rice and pack it down evenly. Arrange the cucumber, tofu, carrot, and spinach on top. Place the fried egg on top and garnish with sesame seeds and seaweed. Once divided into individual bowls, cut open egg to allow yolk to cover rice. Mix and enjoy!

Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

Three Bean Squash Chili

I’ve been making winter bean chili for years with the same tired ingredients. It was SO refreshing to enjoy a summer chili with white beans and butternut squash! The cornmeal added some mild thickness and texture to the broth. Surprisingly this was not a sweet dish,  and it paired perfectly with some white wine while sitting on the porch. Bam! Summer. 


Ingredients 

  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Add oil to pan and swirl to coat, with pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook 5 minutes. Stir in dry spices and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornmeal and beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with green onions.

Creamy Not-Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Soup in a bread bowl has been calling my name like a banshee at night lately. The problem is that most restaurants like Panera Bread use chicken stock or high-calorie heavy cream, even on some of their seeming vegetarian bowls like the lentil and quinoa stew. My dreams came true when I discovered this vegetarian reinvention of the classic winter dish Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup. It’s not vegan, but by eliminating the dairy altogether this could still be a very soul-satisfying dish.

  
The key ingredients here are real wild rice  for a flavorful, chewy bite (don’t give in to temptation and buy instant wild rice) and Beyond Chicken grilled strips – which I picked up at Target. The soft, meaty texture of the “chicken” pairs perfectly with the earthy mushrooms and thyme. But what really shines is the sour cream and flour base which makes a heavenly thick broth. 

Bread bowl not included in photo below …but it is coming soon!

  

CREAMY CHICKEN WILD RICE SOUP

1 tablespoon  olive oil
1 lb white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 packet Beyond Chicken, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup wild rice
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tabledpoon chopped fresh parsley
In a small sauce pot, combine 1 cup wild rice with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and turndown to a simmer for 45 minutes. In the meantime, heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots, chicken, and onion and cook, stirring often, until softened (5-7 minutes). Stir in thyme, flour, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and bring to a boil. When wild rice is done cooking, add to the broth and simmer additional 5-7 minutes. Then stir in sour cream and parsley.

Barley and Greens Bowl

  I wish I had taken a better picture, but alas I ate this dish so fast the photo staging just wasn’t happening. 


Whole grains are important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are not found in refined or “enriched” grains. One serving of hulled barley is high in protein, low in calories, helps lower your cholesterol and even has 60% of your daily fiber requirement. It also contains iron (for those looking for non-meat sources if iron), and is very high in thiamin – which would have devastating neurological effects if not included in your daily intake. 
This barley and greens bowl is a great way to introduce barley into your diet. The grain and edamame combo are tossed in an Asian-style salad dressing, but the tangy lemon juice and salad greens topped with creamy avocado and tofu definitely takes it up a notch. The recipe stems from from Clean Green Eats by Candice Kumai. It’s simple, satisfying, healthy and clean. So eat away!

BARLEY AND GREENS BOWL

  • 1 1/2 cups pearl or hulled barley
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled organic edamame
  • 1 cups wild baby arugula
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 2 blocks savory, baked, organic tofu (firm or extra firm), cut into cubes and cooked to your liking
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Combine the barley and the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice, oregano, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the slightly cooled barley and edamame to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the arugula and kale and toss gently to combine. To serve, top with tofu and avocado slices.

Chipotle Spinach Bean Stew

 With the recent turn in the weather, the craving for a hearty stew to offset the grey crisp chill of Chicago fall hit me hard this week. This recipe for one-pot Chipotle Spinach Bean Stew is a super alternative to the typical vegetarian bean chili. Heavy chunks of cooked spinach leaves folded into hearty barley and white beans are enhanced by the smoky chipotle tomato broth, and topped with a refreshing lime juice and cilantro garnish. The flavors marinate well overnight so it’s even better as leftovers!

CHIPOTLE SPINACH BEAN STEW
2 x 14oz oz cans small white beans
9 oz spinach leaves (one bag)
2 x 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup bulgur 
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups water 
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 canned chipolte, diced with its juices added to broth 
Juice of 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro 
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, paprika and cumin and cook until golden and soft. Add diced tomatoes, bulgur, spinach and water. Add oregano and crushed chipolte. Bring to boil. Cook on medium heat until bulgur is cooked and liquid has thickened, anout 15 minutes. Rinse and drain the beans. Add to stew, combine and cook for another 5 mins or so until the beans are hot. Garnish with fresh lime juice squeeze and cilantro. 
Everett and Asher also had their first dentist and eye appointments this weekend to kick off the fall!

   
 

Kung Pao Lentils

 When my 5 year old son is sleep-deprived and hungry, he turns into Wild Child. You know, like that case of the child that was raised by wolves in the 70’s? Only thing is, he was raised in a civilized home with all the teachings, love and amenities that any 5 year old would dream of. 
Getting punched enough times by your son while waiting for a train during morning rush hour that a Chicago Transit Authority officer actually intervenes is not how I wanted to start my week last week. Watching your definitely-too-old-to-crawl-child crawl on hands and knees through a group of gawking construction workers as I juggle my awkward laptop case, purse,  lunch and hot coffee cup is kind of what nightmares are made of. Yet squatting obstinately in the middle of oncoming traffic are his normal responses to exhaustion. Thankfully, they are not mine.
After a traumatic hour of walking alongside this mobile war zone, I finally got him across the threshold of school. And like magic, he’s happy. We manically hug, kiss and high five until the teacher practically peels him off my body. And I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I want to scream. I go home. I take a personal day. I cry. Because let’s face it, kindergarten is hard. And I never wanted to be the mom who couldn’t function because of the stress of momhood. But it was one of those days. 
Luckily I had this week’s heart-warming Lentil Kung Pao from Vegan Richa to cheer me up. It’s sweet and sour, with a hearty bite of crunch that is kind of an outrageous way to enjoy my favorite legume! I think especially great about this recipe is how adaptable it is with other proteins and vegetables. I’m just going to go ahead and copy and paste the recipe because it’s perfect.
KUNG PAO LENTILS
Ingredients: Serves 3 to 4
For the Lentils: 
1/2 cup dry brown lentils, washed and drained
1.5 cups water

For the Sauce:
2 to 3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp dry sherry or rice wine
1 tsp hoisin sauce (or use more soy sauce)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 to 3 tsp raw sugar (or use 1 to 2 Tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener)
a generous dash of lime zest (1/4 tsp)
2 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp water

For the vegetables:
2 tsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
1/2 cup chopped white or red onion
4 dried red chilies like arbol or red chinese, broken into halfs (or use red pepper flakes to taste)
3 Tbsp cashews or peanuts
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch knob of ginger minced
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
Method:

Combine the lentils water and salt in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain excess water. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and chilies and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cashews and mix for a few seconds. Add garlic and ginger and mix in. Add the peppers and celery and mix well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add in sauce and cooked lentils and mix well. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sauce thickens and is absorbed by the lentils. Serve with cooked rice of choice.