Creamy Peanut Slaw

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Why is Chili’s at an airport so exciting? The steady flow of travelers, pilots mingling in the coffee line, those airport golf carts whizzing by. The 5-minute meal served in a red plastic basket – out in the real world this is known as “fast food” but in an airport it is simply “efficient”. In an airport it is forgivable that you pay $18 for a sandwich and soda because $18 is STEAL to not be sitting at your gate.

I have been traveling a lot for work lately, which makes my meals at home with the family all the more enjoyable. I am especially thrilled with my new cookbook Thug Kitchen, based on the popular vegan blog. If you don’t know this blog or cookbook, please indulge yourself. This week I made a super Creamy Peanut Slaw which I paired with soba noodles and tofu. My boys adore cold soba noodles more than spaghetti and marinara, more than pizza even. It’s like crack to them. So this recipe worked well for all of us.

CREAMY PEANUT SLAW
3 cups shredded red cabbage
3 cups shredded green cabbage
3 carrots, shredded
3 green onions, chopped

PEANUT SAUCE
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and finely diced

Shred your slaw ingredients in a food processor with a grater setting, or with a knife for larger chunks. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl until you get a thick, creamy consistency. Combine sauce with slaw in a large bowl. I recommend serving on top of buckwheat soba noodles, which only take 3 minutes to cook. One package of soba noodles can be tossed with one tablespoon sesame oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, and one tablespoon of sesame seeds for a flavorful, hearty noodle dish that pairs well with any asian stir fry or cold salad dish. My photo may not be award-winning this week, but I can tell you this made a damn good work lunch.

Spaghetti with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

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My worst nightmare? The kids going to bed happy and early. Why? Because it’s too good to be true. Zonking out dazed and speaking tongues inevitably means that someone will be jarred awake with night terrors in two hours. And that they’ll be up at 4:00am ready to start the day. Let’s go! But I guess I’m willing to take that risk tonight because my husband and I would like one hour together. Without children. One wondrous hour watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine so we can mock the overacting and the spectacularly absurd plot twists. Like Major Kira having O’Brien’s baby because it got zapped from Keiko’s body in some interstellar battle. Whatever.

Tonight we enjoyed this cold zesty zippy pasta dish with whole wheat spaghetti, spicy fresh chopped garlic and a fresh lemon, parsley olive oil marinade. It comes from Vegetarian Times and could easily be made vegan without the Parmesan cheese. This dish paired with a side salad will last us the work week and only cost about $10 – not bad for a healthy dish that even my 4 year old enjoyed!

SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON AND TOASTED WALNUTS
1 cup walnut halves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp. grated organic lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
1 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts on baking sheet 10 minutes. Cool, and coarsely chop. Whisk together cheese, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and pepper in large bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add drained pasta to cheese mixture, and toss to combine. Stir in parsley and walnuts, and season with salt and more pepper.

Hominy Tortilla Soup

IMG_2350.JPG I have often passed cans of hominy on the shelf at the grocery store and wasn’t sure exactly what to do with this simple yet somewhat daunting ingredient! Hominy is essentially dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral lime bath – a process known as nixtamalization. The process softens the kernels and causes them to double in size, which is why hominy looks nothing like corn. It is the main ingredient ground down into corn tortillas, and in Mexico it is even mixed with water and milk to make the sweetened beverage called atol. There are signs of hominy being produced in mesoamerica around 1500 BC so it is a very ancient ingredient that remains unchanged over time — the difference being as the consumer that I don’t have to do anything except use a can opener!

It turns out their chewy puffy texture makes hominy an excellent compliment to beans in a stew. So today I am sharing this flavorful and hearty meatless Hominy Tortilla Soup that is a cinch to make.

MEXICAN TORTILLA SOUP
14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or chunky tomato sauce
1 dried smoked chili pepper or 1 poblano pepper
1 avocado
6 corn tortillas (6-inch, taco-sized)
1 handful cilantro
1 lime
14-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable stock
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Olive oil
Salt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ½-inch-wide, 2-inch-long strips. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, then season with a bit oil and salt. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Remove the seeds and membranes from the dried poblano. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, then the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the hominy and black beans. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve the soup: first, discard the dried chili pepper. Pour into individual bowls then top with some of the diced avocado, tortilla strips, cilantro and a lime wedge. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy!

Cowboy Caviar

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A few weeks ago I found out about Cowboy Caviar after I had made a simple bean salad that was reminiscent to someone of this recipe which they shared with me. Not only do I love the name, but I also love it’s simplicity and subtle different flavors that really make this recipe shine. The spicy base of black-eyed peas, avocado, corn and tomatoes combined with the red wine vinegar hot sauce is simply dynamite on a bed of romaine lettuce with crumbled tortilla chips on top – and it didn’t even need additional dressing.

The good news is that black-eyed peas are cheap, high in protein, and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. They also have a good amount of potassium and iron. If you are concerned about iron intake on a vegetarian diet, beans and dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) will more than compensate what you don’t get from red meat. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin C will actually increase iron absorption in the body. So enjoy this salad with a handful of dried fruit for a healthy, nutritious meal!

COWBOY CAVIAR
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 10 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt

In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Cut avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to vinegar mixture and mix gently to coat.
Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado; mix gently to coat. Add salt to taste.

Putta-A-Fork-In-It Puttanesca

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It’s been two months of major changes in our household: two new jobs, new school, potty training, no more baby bottles, toddler bed to queen size, new nanny, first airplane ride with the kids. Change is hard. So this weekend was the beginning of a recommitment to my mind and body, and therefore my family. On Friday I finally joined the gym and reactivated my Weight Watchers app, and today I spent a majority of the day solo parenting to give my husband – who is my soldier in the trenches of the night – a much deserved break. These things may seem so simple and even carefree to most people, but the truth is these tasks seem insurmountable when you’re in a lousy state of mind.

When the membership director asked me what my fitness goal was I joked “To get here.” But what IS my goal here? I have a few. To not loudly sigh in annoyance at 4:30am when the baby screams through the monitor, to not slam the fridge door a bit too hard just to make a point, to go to bed tired in a good way and wake up refreshed (that’s one’s crazy!) and most importantly to find a meaningful getaway that gets me out of the house in a bad moment and do something good for my body. I will tell you jumping into a pool for water aerobics while listening to Lord of the Dance made me smile! So I guess you could say my ultimate goal here is to improve my attitude.

The nice thing about Weight Watchers is that nothing is “off limits”, just unashamedly tracked. So I don’t mind sharing today’s recipe for a vegan Puttanesca that is out of this world.

PUTTA-FORK-IN-IT PUTTANESCA

1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil
1 red onion, slivered into thin moon shapes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
6 garlic cloves, diced
Olive oil

Boil pasta “al dente” according to package instructions, typically 10 minutes. While cooking, add a dollop of olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add capers and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Finally, throw in tomatoes, olives and basil and cook 5 more minutes. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil to pasta then mix in puttanesca topping. Salt and pepper to taste.

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A good night…

Tostada Mexican Pizza

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There’s nothing like the jarring sound of a screaming toddler at 4:55am. For the past few months, our 18-month old son Everett has been waking up like clockwork, no matter what time we put him down the night before. We’ve tried 8:00pm, 7:00pm, and 6:30pm. And what makes it worse is that he doesn’t want to nap longer than 40 minutes during the day. We used to do two naps, now he’s down to one shimmering moment of time after lunch. I hate parenting books. And now Asher has started napping at preschool. Long, refreshing naps that keep him running around until 9:30pm.

What I’m trying to say is that we’ve implemented family dinner at 6:00pm and we needed something quick and easy. These Tostada Mexican Pizzas are deliciously satisfying, and the components stemming from the standard “7-layer dip” cross over as toddler finger foods! Obviously you need a beer pairing to get through the kids post-dinner bath time, we opted for Revolution Anti-Hero.

TOSTADA MEXICAN PIZZA
Whole wheat enchilada wraps
Sliced black olives
Grape tomatoes
15-oz can refried pinto beans
1 avocado, mashed
Green onions, chopped
Salsa

Turn on broiler and place wraps on baking sheet on top shelf in oven for 2-3 minutes per side. You want them crunchy and a bit charred, but watch they don’t smoke and burn! Smear layer of refried pinto beans, followed by smashed avocado. Top with veggie toppings and salsa. Better than nachos!

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General Tso Cauliflower

Today’s recipe is not going to win any beauty contest. But then again, neither will I — unless it’s a leg contest. I think I could win that. But like me, this General Tso Tofu dish is authentic and unexpectedly flavorful, even with a bleak “resting face”.

This dish comes from Bakeaholic Mama and has that wonderful thick and creamy Chinese sauce with gingery garlicy flavors. A few things to note on where I went wrong – make it in small batches rather than all at once to ensure the cauliflower florets cooks thoroughly and still get that crispy outside. Mine was more “steamed” than “fried”. Also, use a wide and deep pan, not a wok. I did add a package of diced Chinese smoked tofu which added a kick of protein. cauliflower

GENERAL TSO CAULIFLOWER
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 tbs soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs peanut oil
Brown rice for serving
Green onions for garnish

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg until a you form a batter. Toss cauliflower in batter until evenly coated, then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a heavy bottomed fry pan, add 2 tbs of peanut oil and heat until the pan is hot. Toss in cauliflower florets and fry over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Once cauliflower is prepared, start your sauce. In a separate sauce pan, add sesame oil and peanut oil with your garlic and ginger and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk constantly over medium high heat, until it comes to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened, add to the fry pan you cooked your cauliflower in and toss with fried cauliflower. Over medium low heat, toss the cauliflower until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.