Garden & Farmer’s Harvest Pasta. #vegetarian #local (Taken with Instagram)

Garden & Farmer’s Harvest Pasta. #vegetarian #local (Taken with Instagram)

Grilled Dinner: Tempeh, Cauliflower, Mushroom & Corn #vegetarian  (Taken with Instagram)

Grilled Dinner: Tempeh, Cauliflower, Mushroom & Corn #vegetarian (Taken with Instagram)

Tags: vegetarian

Cold Noodle Salad…hits the spot in today’s heat! #vegetarian (Taken with Instagram)

Cold Noodle Salad…hits the spot in today’s heat! #vegetarian (Taken with Instagram)

Tags: vegetarian

Cookbook Challenge: Wheat Berry Salad

Have you tried Wheat Berries before? I haven’t. Well I hadn’t until today. What’s funny is that as I was checking out my pantry this morning I realized I had a whole jar of Wheat Berries that I never used! I figured i needed to fix that, today. I grabbed my Cookboook Challenge book (Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking) and came across this recipe. I hit up the Lexington Coop for organic greens and citrus (they had Meyer lemons!) and was ready to go.

After my success in cooking Quinoa with my rice cooker I decided to try the Wheat Berries. A quick google search turned up a neat method from Tiny Urban Kitchen. I really liked her idea of toasting the Wheat Berries first to bring out a nutty, roasty flavor. I think it definitely made a difference in the final product.

In addition to toasting and cooking the Wheat Berries in the Rice cooker, I made a couple of changes to Heidi’s recipe.

  • I substituted steamed Lacinto Kale for the spinach. 
  • I used the zest and juice of 2 Meyer Lemons instead of the Orange and Lemon combo she used. 

I have to say that I really enjoyed the Wheat Berries and the salad! The berries are nutty, chewy and packed with nutrition. The lemon dressing adds a citrusy brightness to the dish that is well balanced with the velvety olive oil (use the good stuff here). I love the crunch of the pine nuts and the greens provide a new layer of texture and color. The feta rounds it out with a burst of salt and cream.

I love making lunches that I can look forward to, it really helps me through that mid-day slump. I plan on throwing a nice piece of marinated tofu on top of this salad and will enjoy it all week long.

A Healthy & Versatile Lunch: Quinoa and Kale with…

The only way I can manage bringing satisfying and healthy lunches on weekdays is by planning ahead. On Sunday afternoons I cook and pack up a few days worth of food. I don’t however, like to spend all day in the kitchen. Especially on days like today. Sunny and mid-70s in Buffalo? I’m going outside!

Today I was looking for a recipe that used a neglected grain in my kitchen lately, Quinoa. I remembered reading about cooking Quinoa in a rice cooker on Daily Garnish and found a recipe that also incorporated greens. Jackpot! Emily’s One Pot Quinoa and Greens just made my Sunday a whole lot easier.

I modified the ingredient list a bit to accommodate what I had on hand: Regular Quinoa, Olive Oil, Kale, Salt and Pepper. All I had to do was put it into my rice cooker and set it for White Rice. In about 30 minutes I had 3 heaping portions.

The best part about this recipe is that I can mix in different ingredients to round out the meal. This week I am mixing in baked tofu, oven roasted tomatoes, feta cheese and pine nuts. I also envision a black bean burger, corn, pepitas and avocado. And why not portobello mushroom, spinach, tomato and fresh mozzarella? The possibilities are endless.

What combination would you choose?

Cookbook Challenge: Red Indian Carrot Soup

Hi. My name is Mel and I am a cookbook addict.

It’s true. Every time I travel to a new city I buy a cookbook. Every Christmas I ask for new cookbooks. Each time I read about cookbooks online I add them to my Amazon cart and hover over the buy button, feeling guilty about the shelf full of books that I don’t use enough. Well that stops now. No, I haven’t gone cold turkey on cookbook purchases. I am however, going to cook my way through one of my existing cookbooks before buying any new ones. Or, at least most of it.

The book I chose is one that I open fairly often but don’t end up using enough, Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. I was first inspired by Heidi’s recipes through her blog, 101 Cookbooks, which she started as a way to explore the recipe collection she had amassed. Sounds familiar, huh? One of her cookbooks seemed like the perfect place for me to start.

The recipes in Super Natural Cooking focus on the use of whole grains, healthy oils, natural sugars, and colorful produce. Today’s cold and snowy weather made me crave soup for lunch, so I selected a brightly colored recipe, the Red Indian Carrot Soup

I made a few modifications to her original recipe (only found in her book), which was simply seasoned with salt and honey. Being March in Buffalo, I didn’t have access to Red Indian Carrots nor did I have any super fresh carrots so I added in some earthy spices. I chose a mix of cumin, smoked paprika, black pepper, coriander and cayenne and kept adding a little at a time until I was happy with the flavor (around 1tsp each). Though it already had a kick from the cayenne I also finished it with a bit of Harissa Olive Oil. The spice was nice on this cold, cold day!

Next time I am going to try to roast the carrots before adding to the soup. I think it will help bring out the carrot’s natural sugars and add a deeper, richer flavor to the soup. Though I liked the spice combo I added today, I might also experiment with some different ones next time like thyme or even a ginger/lemongrass combo. 

The Hubby does not like carrot soup. He did humor me and try it though, partially mostly out of sheer starvation. It’s still not his favorite but I think I did win him over a little bit with the addition of some of his favorite spices. He even went back for a second bowl!

A Veggie Review: Cantina Loco

A few weeks ago, both the Hubby and I were super tired after work and in one of those “But I don’t wanna cook dinner tonight!" kind of moods. It didn’t take us long to decide to head down to Cantina Loco. We’d both been dying to try out the city’s newest Mexican fare. We arrived a little after 8pm and the place was packed! Not having reservations we were told that we could wait for one of their walk-in tables or eat at the bar if a spot opened up. Though we were really hungry, we decided to grab a drink and wait. And boy, I am glad we did. We loved it so much that we’ve already gone back. Several times.

Cantina Loco has a fun drink menu that includes margaritas, rum cocktails, and a long list of quality tequilas. I am always a fan of margaritas ($6) with homemade mixes and have tried three of the four so far. My favorite is the Spicy; it’s a mix of ginger, jalapeno and agave syrup that is served in a smoky salt-rimmed glass. The heat of the ginger and jalapeno is well-balanced by the agave syrup. The smoky salt gives a nice flavor punch and reminds me of summer dinners featuring grilled flavors and spicy seasonings. Oh summer, how I miss you…

Anytime we visit a Mexican Restaurant the Hubby and I order chips and salsa. Or guacamole. Or both. The guacamole still has some nice chunks of avocado and is topped with pico de gallo ($5). The salsa is simple and light with tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro ($3.50). We’ve been served two different types of tortilla chips on our visits, one being a coarser white corn and the other a super thin style chip. I liked the flavor and texture of the thin chips better but the heartier ones (see picture below) didn’t break when scooping salsa or guacamole. 

For vegetarian main course options Cantina Loca has a quesadilla, a taco and a burrito. I’ve tried both the quesadilla and the taco. I haven’t tried the burrito yet because I love the taco so much that I now order it every time! The Vegetarian Taco ($5) is a flour tortilla filled with tofu, lettuce, tomato and a cilantro pesto. The tofu is my favorite part - it’s fried with a light cornmeal crust and always comes out hot and crispy. The cilantro pesto is fresh, flavorful, and adds a layer of creaminess that complements the crunch of the tofu and lettuce. 

Though I speak highly of the taco, the Cheese and Veggie Quesadilla should not be overlooked. Between two flour tortillas are onions, peppers and one of the tastiest cheeses I’ve ever had in a quesadilla. It is almost like a warmed Brie - buttery, creamy, melty and delicious. Topped with jalapenos and cilantro (?) cream, these quesadillas are a steal at $4.

The Hubby gives the meat-side of the menu two thumbs up. He’s tried all of the tacos (more than once) and declares the Koreatown his favorite. No doubt we will be back to Cantina Loco, sooner than later. I will definitely take a break from the taco to try the burrito. I would also like to ask if veggie modifications could be made to other dishes. Sub tofu in the Koreatown taco? Yes, please!

A little late, but yesterday’s Christmas dinner. Cheesy Polenta with Vegetables and a Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.

A little late, but yesterday’s Christmas dinner. Cheesy Polenta with Vegetables and a Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.

Tags: vegetarian

Vegetarian Pho

The hubby has had a cold this weekend, so I’ve been trying to make him lots of healthy, spicy foods. As I was flipping through my December issue of Bon Appetit I came across their Faux Pho recipe and thought it would make the perfect addition to the menu. 

I pretty much stuck to their recipe with the exception of the meat. Their recipe called for beef so I subbed strips of pan-fried tofu instead. Rather than store bought broth, which tends to have a lot of salt and an off flavor to me, I used a salt-free veggie powder. Using the powder allows me to control the salt, adding only the amount I need to get the taste I want. For the Pho, I used a pinch of regular salt and added a couple of glugs of low-sodium soy sauce. This gave the broth more depth and balanced nicely with the star anise and cinnamon. I simmered the broth for about 45 minutes, rather than the recommended 10. When I have the time I’ll always simmer soups for as long as I can so all the flavors can really come together.

I’ve never made Pho before but I will definitely make it again. I love that you can add any veggies (or meat) you like. Pho is a little like those ramen noodles we all ate in college, only it has lots of healthy toppings and no MSG!

Vacation Day Lunch: Mushroom & Onion Quesadillas with Roasted Broccoli & Kale (Taken with instagram)

Vacation Day Lunch: Mushroom & Onion Quesadillas with Roasted Broccoli & Kale (Taken with instagram)