Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all of you Canadians and Canada enthusiasts!

July 1st marks a gigantic celebration for our northern neighbors, representing the momentous occasion in 1867 when Canada officially became a country. So happy birthday Canada!

Now personally, I love me some Canada. And one of these days, I'll make it up nawth to celebrate this fine occasion in true Canuck fashion, but for now I'll just have to be there in spirit.

In honor of our delightful continent-mates, I thought I would make a special dish tonight: Poutine!

"Well, what in le monde (the world) is 'poutine'?" you may ask. Think french fries with the comfort-food-o-meter turned WAY up. The fine people of Quebec have combined fries with gravy, and added fresh cheese curds on top for good measure. Now, seriously, who doesn't love Canada?

I also personally love the story that this decadent dish got its name when Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Quebec declared "ça va faire une maudite poutine ("it will make a damn mess")" Now, I don't know if that's true or not, but, don't you want it to be?

Traditional poutine is made with chicken or even veal gravy, and cheese curds so fresh (less than 24 hours old) that they actually squeak when you chew them. Now, you may think to yourself "Sacré bleu!, I thought that this was a vegetarian blog!"...and you'd be right. Tonight, poutine goes animal-friendly.

Poutine (vegan and gluten-free)
adapted from

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 oz (by weight) potato starch; You can use regular flour if gluten is your friend
  • 1 oz (by weight) oil or Earth Balance/margarine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sliced onions (I used half of a medium-sized vidalia onion); optional*
  • 2 button mushrooms, chopped finely with stems removed; optional*

Melt your oil/margarine in a frypan, and add your starch or flour. Mix and cook over low heat for 3-5 mins to make a light roux, which we'll use to thicken our gravy. At the same time, bring your stock to a boil in a small saucepan.

Once your roux is cooked and your stock is boiling, add the roux to your stock and whisk to combine. Turn the heat down to a simmer and then keep stirring until the desired gravy consistency is reached.

Next, use your frypan to sauté your onions and mushrooms in oil until the onions are soft. You can caramelize the onions if you want to, but you don't have to. I did and I really liked the extra flavor. The onions and mushrooms aren't exactly part of the standard recipe, but neither is vegetarian gravy, so I say just go with what you like. When you're done, keep your gravy warm until you are ready to serve it.

Cheese curds
Next, prepare your "cheese." I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella, but Tease brand makes a good cheddar or mozzarella flavor vegan cheese. These come in blocks or logs so you can chop them; Just use something accessible in your area that tastes good and preferably melts at least a little.

Chop your cheez o'choice into little chunks (maybe nickel-sized - Canadian or US!), and place on some parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Broil in your oven until melty and misshapen - for a more authentic look. Truthfully, I might have overdone it a little on the melting, but no harm no foul. There is no need to brown your "curdz", but, if it happens by accident, I won't tell anyone...; Now, leave your "curds" to cool and firm back up while you prepare your fries

French fries
Either bake up some frozen ones according to package directions, or cut and fry some Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes if you're feeling ambitious; If you make your own fries, I am going to submit to your awesome knowledge and not detail the process here.

Now, below I've listed the approximate the ratio of fries to cheese, etc according to You may choose to alter this according to your preference.

On a plate, place 2 cups prepared fries. Layer about 1/2 cup "curds" on top, then cover with about 1 cup gravy. And now, for those of us who do NOT douse their french fries in ketchup, here comes the tricky part...According to legend/purists/some websites I read, you are supposed to let everything "meld" for a few minutes before eating. Dear Lord give me strength to do nothing as my french fries become moistened...

Or alternately, if this sounds totally unappealing to you, put all of your ingredients separately on a plate and use a fork to get all of the components together. Heck, the US is on the eve of its own independence day this weekend, so have at your poutine however you want. Exercise ALL of your constitutional freedoms this weekend!!!

Happy Canada Day everyone, and Happy 4th too!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This makes me SO happy....

OMG I could watch this forever. Snoop even makes an appearance. "Check my jeans I still got greens"!!!!

Call me V-E-double-G!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lotso Matzo

Beyond the concept of not eating animals, and trying to avoid any products that come from them, I really don't have any restrictions on my diet at all. Honestly, the more I have gotten involved in the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, the more adventurous I've become with food.

This is probably why, even though I am not Jewish, and I don't have a lot of experience with traditional Jewish foods, I really ended up liking Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Matzoh Brie (or "brei") recipe from her Vegan Brunch cookbook. You'd kind of be surprised how addictive this dish is, despite how few ingredients it has, and how simple it seems to be. It didn't even fully hit me how good it is though until the next day after I made it, when I really couldn't wait to get home to my leftovers...

The dish is really a veganized version of a recipe typically made with eggs, and, in some cases, fat. In both the vegan and traditional versions, the matzo crackers are softened in some kind of liquid (water or egg), and fried. In the vegan version, blended tofu stands in for the egg.

I truly hope the insanely inventive Ms. Moskowitz does not mind me re-printing my slightly altered version of her recipe here, but seriously, go check out her Vegan Brunch book. I haven't tried every recipe in there, but I've really enjoyed the ones I have, and Isa is some kind of vegan goddess. There I said it.

Matzo(h) Brie

  • 6 matzo(h)s - The book recommends whole wheat, but I kind of like the plain old (I'm sure less healthy) white flour version for flavor; The picture above is the whole wheat version though
  • a few tablespoons of oil for frying (I like Canola myself)
  • 1 chopped onion (medium to large-sized is preferable)
  • 8 oz firm tofu (in the aseptic, virtually water-free packaging; It's just easier)
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp salt - freshly ground sea salt is pretty much heaven in this case
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste; I cannot stress how much of the tasty-ness of this recipe comes from the freshly ground black pepper. You may actually be surprised by how much black pepper you'll want to put on this once you try it. Really.

First, break up your matzo(h)s into 1-2" pieces and put them in a somewhat deepish bowl. Cover with warmish water (you like my technical terminology?) and let sit for 3-5 mins or thereabouts. Don't let them disintegrate, just soften. You can lift one out with a fork every so often to check their progress. They actually kind of look like they have the consistency of a fried egg when they're ready. When they seem properly softened, drain out the water using a colander.

While the matzohs are soaking, blend your tofu until smooth. I used my tiny adorable food processor for this and it worked out beautifully. The tofu should have the consistency and texture almost of a thick sour cream at this point.

Spread a small layer of oil in the bottom of a large frying pan (believe me, go big on the frying pan, you will thank me later). Fry your chopped onions over medium to high heat. You are aiming to caramelize the onions a bit. If your onions aren't getting a little brown around the edges, you may want to turn the heat up for a little while. Keep an eye on them though, you don't want to burn them.

Now add your drained matzohs. Plop the blended tofu on top of the matzohs, and try to spread it around, almost mixing it in with the matzohs. Use a folding/flipping motion, because you don't want to break the matzohs up into really small chunks. They shouldn't look like crumbs. Aim to have a thin layer of tofu surrounding each piece of matzoh, and the onions evenly disbursed in the mixture. Cook until the tofu has dried out a bit, sort of the moisture content you'd see in the scrambled eggs at a buffet.

Now comes the fun part. Plate up some of the delicious matzoh brie, and freshly grind some sea salt and pepper over the top. Again, I insist that if the mixture seems a little bland at first, grind some more fresh black pepper over it. Then send me a postcard from flavor country.

Chag Sameach ("joyous festival"/Happy Passover) everyone, and may all of you celebrating the holiday this week have delicious food and joyous company.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beets me...

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I celebrated our anniversary by taking our own little eating tour of the Boston area. You know, he had me at "Honey, let's go eat for 8 hours straight..." I just knew he was the one for me :-)

One of the more memorable foods we tried that day was the beet potato latke at the Red Lentil in Watertown. These latkes were so delicious that, weeks later, I've been totally craving them. I mean, what's not to like? Fried+root vegetable=guaranteed awesome.

A lot of latke recipes call for the use of eggs as a binding agent, but I've been trying to go vegan for a while now, and I thought that beet latkes would be just fine without eggs. And I was right! This is where that big box of Ener-G egg replacer that's been chilling in the pantry forever came in seriously handy.

I got my recipe from here, but I changed it up a little to give it just a little more Indian flair. Kind of like a flat pakora. I absolutely LOVE Indian food. Pretty much, if you ask me where I want to go out to eat, I will most likely give you the name of a local Indian restaurant. And if you smell curry, it might be because I am standing next to you....

But without further ado, let's beet it!

Beet (and carrot) rockin' latkes

6 cups coarsely shredded beets/carrots ( I had 2 Godzilla-sized beets, which gave me about 5 cups shredded, and then I threw in 1 cup shredded carrots; your ratio may be different, but just make sure most of your 6 cups vegetables are beets)

6 scallions/green onions, chopped; green and white parts (less is fine if you're not an onion fan; but, as my boyfriend knows, I do like onions :-) )

8 Tbsp Gram/chickpea/besan flour You can find this in Indian food stores, or often on the international foods aisle of your supermarket; If you don't have it, all purpose flour will be just fine

1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Ener-G egg replacer equivalent to 3 eggs
Canola oil, or other frying oil of choice (I wouldn't personally choose olive oil, as it has a low smoke point)

Some kind of chutney or spicy/sweet sauce for serving (the traditional latke condiments of applesauce or (vegan) sour cream might be very nice too

1) Put together your egg replacer mixture. It will mix better if you stir it and let it sit for a little while. Also, using warm water will help the mixture to go into solution more easily than using the cold stuff. The regular ratio per "egg" is 1 1/2 tsp powder to 2 Tbsp water, but I knew my beet mixture would be a bit liquidy, so I left out a little water; For the equivalent of 3 eggs, I used 4.5 tsp powder and 5 Tbsp water; Stir as well as you can (there may be some clumps, it's the nature of the beast), and then leave to sit for at least a few minutes

2) Coarsely shred your beets/carrots, either in a food processor with shredder attachment (definitely quickest) or with a hand grater. I mostly hand-shredded mine, but both methods work fine. Keep in mind though, don't wear your best shirt either way. Beets stain! Next, soak up a good part of the juice from the shredded veggies with paper towels, squeezing the mixture a bit. The veggies don't have to be bone dry. Mine weren't. I definitely don't have the patience for that BS when I'm hungry...Just use your best judgement, but soak through a few paper towels at least. You don't want your latkes to fall apart in the pan.

3) In a second bowl, stir/whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and other spices, then add this to the beets. Add your chopped scallions, and then the egg replacer. Stir carefully to fully combine. The flour is sneaky, so make sure it's all mixed in!

3) Line a baking sheet or some plates with a few layers of paper towel, and then heat a thin layer of oil in a frypan over medium heat. Drop the beet mixture by 1/4 cupfuls into the heated oil. Press them about as flat as a thick-ish pancake with the back of a spoon, and try to make sure they are an even thickness all around. Fry for 4-5 mins, and then flip over and cook 4-5 mins more. Try REALLY hard to resist the urge to flip them early. I know you want to peek underneath, I did too, but give them 4-5 mins. You may want to turn your heat down to the low side of medium now that the oil is hot.

4) Once your latkes are cooked, drain them on the paper towel. If you'd like to reheat them at a a later time, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

5) There was a celery/cilantro relish recipe at the above link, but I really didn't have fresh cilantro, so I kind of tried to make a celery "slaw" with some vegan mayo. I wasn't a huge fan of it actually (as pretty as it looks), so I mostly served the latkes with tamarind chutney, which I always have in my fridge at any given time. You can usually get tamarind, onion, coriander (cilantro) or mango chutney on the international aisle of your grocery store, and all of these would be great on the side of the beet latkes. I had some guacamole in the fridge too, and it wasn't too bad either. The Red Lentil served their latkes with cilantro vinaigrette and apricot marmalade. Some kind of sweetened mustard could be awesome too.

Being a serious Indian-foodie, I made a coconut milk yogurt and champagne-mango lassi to drink alongside my latkes. Champagne mangos are basically like the best mangos I've ever had in my life. They are also called Ataulfo mangos, and I got mine at Whole Foods. Suffice to say, yeah, they're awesome. I could eat one for dessert, and I do not say that at all lightly.

But back to the point...

Lassis are really great, cooling, yogurt-based drinks that are wonderful to have with spicy Indian foods. Using coconut milk yogurt instead of the dairy version is a really great way to veganize a lassi without feeling like you've lost anything. Blend a cup of ice, then add a couple of chopped mangos and 1/2-1 cup of plain coconut milk yogurt to taste. Add a little more ice if you like a little more liquidy-ness. As you can tell, I actually liked my lassi so much that I drank half of it before I remembered to take the picture. Vote of confidence right there...

Anyway, enjoy guys.

And Happy spring!

Monday, March 14, 2011

3.14 Happy Pi Day!

Ah 3.14.

A day when we can at last pay proper tribute to the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.......

.......A day when geeks, nerds, and theoretical mathematicians may skip happily hand in hand, unabashedly celebrating their love for everyone's favorite infinite number.

I hope you don't think me too "irrational" (sorry, pi joke), but since this day comes but once a year, I thought it best to show my respect for this humble but transcendent(al) number in the best way I know how: eating.

I made these black and white cookies according to the recipe in the freaking awesome book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I piped on the pi symbols freehand with a bit of parchment paper I rigged up, Wilton style.

Fun fact: Did you know that computers have calculated pi to over 1 trillion decimal places?

I wish I could say that the first batch of these cookies came out as perfectly round as the circles for which pi exists, but the reality was more like this:

In several layers of irony, I put the incorrect "ratio" of baking soda to, well, everything else in the batter - because I wasn't paying enough attention. And, because I used too much baking soda, the cookies melted all over the bottom of the oven, necessitating more baking soda to be poured over the burned bits to get rid of the odiferousness. Yes, I am a master of irony².

But anyway, I hope that you and yours have an "infinitely" enjoyable Pi Day. If you do not celebrate in the traditional sense (i.e. by eating pi(e) and walking around in a circle), I hope that you take a few minutes to read about this beautiful and curvaceous symbol at some point today, or even send a Pi e-card to those who you love like a mathematical constant.

Big ups to physicist Larry Shaw for inventing this holiday back in '89, and making everyone's life at least 3.14 times more enjoyable.

From my circle to yours happy March 14th!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Try a little maple, Sugar...

photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt, flickr

Growing up here in New England, it's sometimes easy to forget just how much history this place has. From the early Native American tribes who made their lives here, to the first settlements of the New England colonies, there are reminders everywhere about what it must have been like to live here hundreds of years ago.

This weekend, I took to the woods for a somewhat impromptu look at the process of maple sugaring. The Rhode Island Audubon Society offers a little weekend tour this time of year, and I'm sure you could find something comparable in just about every state in the Northeast.

During this quick and informative tour, I found out just how easy it can be to make this sweet treat right in your own back yard (or close to it). I promise that once you've tasted real, lovingly-made maple syrup, you'll be hard pressed to return to the mass-produced brands at the supermarket.

It turns out that this is pretty much the only time of year you can tap maple trees for their sweet, pancake-loving nectar. The freezing temperatures of mid-winter keep the internal moisture content of the trees down too low for liquid to move. When it gets warmer in the late spring and summer, the liquid coming from the trees will be too bitter. For the proper running of the sap to take place, a tree needs below freezing temperatures at night, and above freezing temperatures during the day. Interesting, huh?

Our guide shows us how to identify the various species of maple trees, referencing both their leaves and their branches.

Both the Native American tribes and the New England colonists found an important foodstuff in the sap of maple trees. With a shortage of refined foods, especially sugars, the native population of New England was pretty healthy. Not only did they tend to have longer life-spans than Europeans of this period, but they were also taller too. Early "old world" accounts of native peoples mentioned notably "tall" individuals. Our guide mentioned that it was not uncommon for both native women and men of this area to be 6 feet tall or more. Native peoples did, of course, consume meat protein, but they also had a rich and varied plant-food component to their diet. And, as all of us veggie-people know, plant foods can make you plenty big and strong!

Through trade with native peoples, the colonists were introduced to maple sugar. It was much more easily produced than common table sugar, and much cheaper too. So the colonists used it happily, and incorporated it into their recipes. Even today, maple-flavored (and maple-friendly) foods are quite associated with New England. Johnny cakes anyone? Maybe some hasty pudding?

Funnily enough though, maple sap doesn't taste like much right out of the tree. One of our Audubon guides encouraged us to taste the fresh stuff from of one of the taps. It really just tastes like very slightly sweet water. To give you an idea why, it takes about 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to boil down to one gallon of maple syrup.

But boy is it worth it!

I am really hoping that I'll be able to make maple syrup from my own tree someday. But I better start now, because, from what I remember from the tour, it could take 25 years for a maple tree to grow large enough to be able to be tapped to make syrup. So plan ahead guys!

To see more of my adventures in sugaring, please continue reading below.

Happy eating all!

The boiling down process should only be attempted outside, unless you want to turn your living room into a sauna; Note: turkey friers can be put to better use without the turkey!

Note to self (and others): Choose proper footwear for tramping around damp woodland as the snow melts. Just saying, these are supposed to be very light gray faux suede shoes...

A note to vegan and vegetarian maple-sugar enthusiasts: I've done a little online reading about maple syrup, and it turns out that some commercial syrup producers may use de-foaming agents in their boiling-down process. Sometimes, this may include an animal fat such as butter. If you are able to get your maple syrup from a local producer, I am sure that they would be more than happy to tell you if animal products are part of their production process. A phone call or an email might be all you need. And, once you find a producer you feel comfortable with, you are all set. Otherwise, online buying might be an option. Or hey, why not come see us up here in New England? We'd be happy to have you! Or if you want to try your hand at making your own syrup, so much the better.

If you do plan to tap your trees to make maple syrup, it is advisable to read up on it first. Trees have to be a certain width around in order to be safely tapped. Tapping trees that are too small could kill or injure the tree and end your sugaring adventure too soon. Your local hardware or garden store might be able to give you some tips on this process if you ask. Your local library might also have books on the subject. And God knows there's always the internet!

I hope you've enjoyed this taste of nature's bounty, and here's hoping that organizations like the Audubon society keep doing such an awesome job of preserving information like this. We all know that the supermarket isn't the only place food comes from after all....

Happy sugaring all, and see you for breakfast!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

El Desayuno de Campeones (Breakfast of Champions)

I studied abroad in the south of Spain during college, and I still remember my experiences of food in that country quite vividly. Certain flavors will always transport me instantly back to that time, and this is especially true of the following dish.

As with many Mediterranean-style recipes, this one is simple, but you'd be surprised how satisfying it is. I ate this for breakfast just about every morning when I was in Spain, and I still crave it every so often now.

Pan con tomate
  • At least one fresh red tomato (more if you're hungry or serving several people)
  • Vegan margarine/Earth Balance (or, for the traditionalists, extra virgin olive oil - preferably Spanish)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh soft rolls (try those from a Spanish or Portuguese bakery; the kind coated in flour with a soft tender center are the best for this by FAR, but you can substitute the par-baked frozen dinner roll of your choice if you can't find the fresh ones. Bake according to package directions first if you go that route)
To prepare, take a fresh, ripe tomato (of course, these are best in summer, but you make due), wash it, chop it roughly, put it into a food processor or blender, and pulse until no large chunks remain. It will still have some texture or substance to it, so it's not quite a true puree, but it's still somewhat smooth. I actually over-pureed the ones above. The consistency is supposed to be more like a smashed tomato than a blended one. If you like, try smashing the tomatoes without the blender. You may get even more satisfactory results.

In the meantime, cut your roll in half, and broil or toast until it has reached a nice golden tan color. It is best if the outside of the roll has a slight just-baked crackly-ness to it, and the white inside of the bread is still soft and hot, with just a slight layer of toasted-ness on the surface (p.s. oh my God am I hungry writing this...).
¡This is the Tulipán!

Spread a little margarine/Earth Balance on the inside of the roll if you are using it. Truthfully, olive oil is way more traditional, but I got used to using the little tub of Tulipán spread that was always out on the table in the dining room in the morning. If you are using olive oil, please follow the next instruction before applying it.

Spoon some of your tomato mixture onto your toasted roll, and then grind some fresh sea salt coarsely over the top. Now, if you are using olive oil, drizzle some over the roll in a back and forth motion to taste.

Now, devour this like you've never seen food before in your life. I always did.

In fact, I kind of got a reputation amongst the Spanish teenagers living in the residence I stayed in for "eating like a man" in the morning. I would put away maybe 3 or 4 of the split rolls every day, while the more demure Spanish girls (who, honestly, all seemed to wake up looking like Penélope Cruz in the morning, much to my haggard AM chagrin) only ate one or two apiece. I think I out-ate the young men of the house on a regular basis too actually...But then again, I also walked maybe 2 hours every day back and forth from school and to extracurriculars....

Anyhoo, sad to say, when I first had this tomato mixture put in front of me, I was kind of hesitant. I have never been an "eats-tomatoes-right-off-the-vine" kind of girl, and I don't always love a raw tomato.

But I LOVE this.

I actually used to think there was some sort of secret ingredient to the mixture, like onions or garlic, or some secret spice, but there are really just layers of flavor to the pureed tomato. I think it has something to do with the jelly part mixing with the flesh of the tomato, and just the blending in of the air, but I also really have no idea why it tastes so good for real. Maybe the Spanish sunshine?

But the food itself was really just part of a delightful group of memories. I still remember the house cook, a very memorable raspy-voiced older woman, who I will forever picture in slippers, a nightgown, and pink curlers in her gray hair. She used to wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for us. She would purchase those delightful rolls for us by the bagful from the panedería (bread bakery) down the street, fresh ones every morning. And I remember the tiny rotating toaster oven, which always had a big cluster of us around it, jostling for space to fit in our rolls, and to catch them without burning ourselves - only with some degree of success. I remember the law students living in the house who used to forgo the tomato mixture for some extremely strong-smelling paté they brought from home. Truthfully, even if I wasn't vegetarian then, I think I would have stuck with the tomatoes...
And though it may not be wholly traditional, instant coffee and Tulipán will always remain a memorable part of my daily Spanish experience.

But when you bite into the delectable food above, and you hear the subtle crackle of the toasted bread, and taste the buttery sweetness of the crust, followed by the rich, savory tomatoes, and the subtle tang of sea salt, I think you may suddenly be transported to Spain too...sitting in a central courtyard garden, close to a babbling fountain, hearing birds chirping happily, and eating like a king.

¡Buen provecho everyone! And happy culinary travels!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vegan Ninja Society

Are you like me?

Do you like to:

1) Make really delicious vegan or vegetarian meals

2) Share them lovingly with family and friends

3) Wait till the end of the meal and then oh-so-smugly spring on everyone that the meal they so enjoyed was vegan or vegetarian?

If you answered yes to all 3 of these questions, then you may be part of the Vegan Ninja Society, a clan so secretive (and mildly irritating) that I didn't even realize I was a part of it until years after I joined.

Yes, your non-vegetarian friends and family may recoil in horror when you offer them a tempeh sandwich, but not when you suggest, "Hey, try this tasty cookie I just made. It has chocolate chips and coconut!" But such is the basis of your ninja-like skills. By the time they know that this was indeed a vegan cookie with vegan chocolate chips, it is already too late.

They have already revealed that they enjoyed it, and they can never again say that they didn't with any degree of sincerity.

So yes, while your victorious na-na-na-na-nah happy dance after you reveal the truth may begin to annoy your loved ones, this just means that you may have to resort to even stealthier ninja strategies the next time you plan a surprise attack.

You may just have to say nothing at all as your vegan penne pink vodka sauce is happily devoured before you, and then throw down a little ball of smoke and be suddenly, and mysteriously...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Delicious, nutritious, and expeditious: fast food vegetarian-style

So I admit I have been a little absent over the holidays, but I know that we can all relate to the "not-enough-hours-in the day" phenomenon.

Truth is, it's really tough to get everything done that you'd like to every day, and time after work just seems to evaporate. That's why I own so many cookbooks featuring 30 minute recipes. But sometimes, I'm too hungry to be bothered to leaf through books and measure quantities. And I want something tasty, not hit or miss. I really do love food after all...

So this is my go-to recipe for a satisfying meal that's quick, simple, and nutritious. It's super helpful if you've got the tendency to turn into a hunger monster if you go too long between meals (like I do). You can have this meal on the table in 15-20 mins starting from scratch. And you might even be able to cut that time almost in half if you already have pre-cooked pasta or cooked broccoli/other veggies in the fridge. The ratios are finagle-able, and pretty easy to remember:

Saves-my-life pasta
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil (I like grapeseed or canola; your fave oil ought to be fine though, and you can add more or less to suit your preference);
  • 1 med to large onion, chopped into dime-sized pieces
  • a garlic clove or two, minced or pressed through a garlic press (optional*)
  • salt and pepper to taste (freshly ground is preferable)
  • a can of beans of your choice, drained and rinsed; (I like butter beans, or kidney beans, but your favorite kind will do; I always buy lots of cans of beans when they're on sale)
  • a couple of cups of broccoli (you can use other veggies, but this is my tried and true favorite); You can also use more or less than 2 cups depending on what you've got in the house; You'll need the broccoli to be frozen or steamed to make the recipe fast; If pressed for time, I steam my broccoli for a few minutes in the microwave in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water added; Cooking broccoli with the microwave can diminish antioxidant content though, and frozen broccoli is often already chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • a couple of cups of pasta of your choice; I like spaghetti for this recipe, but anything works
Start off by chopping your onion into dime-sized pieces. Put your oil in a fry pan, add the onions, and sauté for few minutes over medium heat. The onions will start to become soft and translucent. Mince or press your garlic and add it to the onions, turning down the heat. Garlic can burn easily. Grind some fresh salt and pepper over this mixture and stir around for a few minutes.

While your onions and garlic are cooking, put the water on for your pasta. When the water boils, put in your desired amount of pasta.

Now, open your can of beans, drain the liquid, and rinse the beans in a colander or strainer. Add the beans to your onion mixture in the fry pan. Mix and let cook for a few more minutes. If you choose to add frozen veggies (e.g. broccoli), add them along with the beans. They'll need to defrost. You may even want to cover your pan to let the steam circulate and cook the vegetables more effectively. If you already have cooked broccoli/veggies, add them to the mixture closer to the end of the cooking time. You don't want them to overcook, you just want them to warm up. When your veggies and beans seem to be soft, (not "mushy") they are ready.

When your pasta is finished cooking, drain it, and put it back in the pot with a bit more oil. Stir in your onion mixture and voilá: a meal with veggies, healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. And it tastes good. You can always mess with the quantities or ingredients to suit yourself better of course, but this is my old stand-by, and has served me well over the years...

Enjoy all, and eat in good health! Happy New Year!