Meatless Monday: Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

With addressing wedding invitations, and staying up into the wee hours to finish our wedding website, Sunday night dinner needed to be both quick, and something that would not leave us feeling awful the next day.  I remember nights as busy as this in college where I would go with my closest friends to Dennys and have cheese fries and a root beer floats at 1am.  Very healthy, right? The truth is, the reason so many of us Americans turn to “fast food” is that it is fast, easy, and inexpensive, but quick, healthier dinners are well within our reach at home, and can be just as satisfying. My current, much healthier alternative, to the fast food of my past is soba noodles.

Soba noodles are just like quinoa or pasta: A backdrop for endless possibilities of accompaniments and flavor combinations.  On a night where I need the comfort of carbs, but would like something healthier and faster than traditional spaghetti, soba is my go-to choice.  The mild nutty flavor of soba pairs beautifully with shoyu or a mild vinegar, such as rice or white balsamic.  You can also use a store bought soba sauce, or make your own, some people even love just a little bit of sesame oil.  Last night, I put together a simple citrus, Japanese inspired dressing.

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Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs Shoyu
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Hoisin sauce
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, quartered
  • 2 servings soba noodles, approximately 5 oz
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • A handful of arugula per portion (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Prepare the dressing by combining the first 5 ingredients, and taste.  Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Place soba noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes while you prepare the green onions and cucumber.  Once soba noodles are just under done, drain and rinse in cold water to keep from continuing to cook.  Once noodles are fully drained, combine cucumber, green onion, and soba in a large bowl.  Dress and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Add a small handful of sesame seeds for crunch and arugula as desired.

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This is one of those incredibly easy vegetarian meals that is satisfying and gives all of us the opportunity to be creative.  Next time I may try it with avocado and soy beans, or perhaps even some mango.  I, personally, am grateful for easy, delicious, satisfying dishes like this that I can throw together on a busy night, instead of going to Denny’s at 1am. Until next time, Happy Meatless Monday!

Quick Tip: More Flavorful Pasta

Want more flavorful pasta? Cook it in the same water you used to par-boil (precook) your sausages. Some of the richness of the sausage will seep into your noodles, for an extra flavor kick!

Not making sausage?Throw a slightly-crushed clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme in the pot as you bring it to a boil. Just remember to fish them out before tossing in your spaghetti!

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Meatless Monday: Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

Many of my friends tell me they are too busy to cook, especially during the week. In honor of them, and of people like me, who have found 2012 to be way more busy than they expected, here is a quick and delicious Spring pasta.

For those of you who have not experienced the culinary delight that is Burrata, it’s Mozarella mixed with cream, which creates this rich, soft cheese with a hint of sweetness. It makes a wonderful addition to pastas, salads, roasted vegetables, almost anything, really. In this pasta, I paired it with some steamed asparagus and lemon zest, which complemented the sweetness and richness of the Burrata well.

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Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

1 bunch of asparagus trimmed and cut diagonally into inch long pieces

8 oz of favorite pasta

Zest of 2 meyer lemons

Salt. ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes to taste

2 tablespoons of mint finely chopped

Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

2 spoon fulls of Burrata

Boil pasta water with ample amounts of salt, and prepare the other ingredients. Place a steam basket in another pot and fill approximately 2 inches with water. Place pasta in boiling water and asparagus pieces in steam basket. Cook the asparagus pieces until just tender, depending on thickness, 3-6 minutes. Cook the pasta until al dente, both pasta and asparagus should be slightly under done because they will cook more once combined. Combine cooked pasta, and asparagus in a warm pot (the one you used to cook the pasta) and drizzle with olive oil. Mix in lemon zest, salt, ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes. Lastly mix in mint and desired amount of Parmesan cheese. Once individual portions are served, add a small spoon full of Burrata to each plate.

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If you wanted to do a lighter version of this dish, simply leave off the Burrata. The mint, lemon, and Parmesan make a lovely flavor combination on their own. Me, personally, I would never say no to Burrata, it’s the perfect ingredient to dress up a quick and easy week night dinner.

Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Irish Soda Bread with Currants and Flax

Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread

Almost every Friday, my partner’s architecture firm has a team breakfast, with a rotating schedule of responsibility.  When it’s B’s turn to provide, I try to bake something fresh (often in the wee hours the morning of).  I’ve made fresh popovers, muffins galore… and today, in honor of Saint Patty’s this weekend, Irish soda bread.

This recipe uses the traditional ingredients of black currants and flaxseed.  (Unfortunately, on this occasion there were no currants available at our local co-op, and so I substituted non-traditional raisins for similar sweetness.)

Flax has been grown in Ireland for hundreds of years.  I found a registry of Irish flax growers from 1796, and discovered 11 of my partner’s relatives on the list!  The plant fibers are used to make linen, leaving the seeds for human consumption.  Flax seeds are high in dietary fiber, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great (unobtrusive) addition to baked goods.  Just make sure to drink plenty of water, or you might find yourself a little… um… backed up, for want of a more polite term.

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Meatless Monday: Easy Mini Quiche Recipe

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

This weekend, I was privileged enough to celebrate Gabrielle’s upcoming nuptials with a fantastic group of ladies. Now, what happens at a bachelorette party stays at the party, but one thing I can speak to is the food — because I made it. Okay, not all of it. For dinner proper, we had a beautiful prix-fixe designed especially for us by the friendly folks at First Crush, but there was a good stretch of activity before dinner, for which we needed fuel. And I spent all day Friday (and Saturday morning) making sure we had that fuel, in the most delicious and convenient packages possible.

These mini quiches are ideal for party finger food, as I served them, or simply as a handy on-the-go breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (You all know from my passion for muffins how much I love food you can easily grab and go.) They’re also a great source of protein for those of us who choose to intentionally eat vegetarian regularly — whether it be Meatless Monday or not!

The fact that they’re incredible easy to make, as well as transport, is not to be undervalued either. When you’ve got several dishes to knock out, a simple but elegant appetizer like this is a godsend. Whereas I would normally make my own crust, cut out circles, prebake, and so on, I cut corners (but not flavor) by using the organic herbed ciabatta rolls found in my local co-op’s small frozen section. You can customize the recipe by using whatever rolls you prefer, along with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.

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Quick Mini Quiche Recipe

Makes 16 muffin-sized quiches.

  • 1 package small frozen rolls (at least 8 rolls)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • small bunch rainbow chard, or other wilt-able greens
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 cup low-fat or skim milk
  • 4 large eggs (free range/organic, if possible!)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bake your frozen rolls according to the package’s instructions, and set aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 375°F for the baking of the finished quiches. Then, prep your veggie ingredients. Chop and lightly sauté the onion garlic in olive oil with fennel seeds. Add your greens and as they wilt, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until all excess vinegar is evaporated. I also made fire-roasted bell peppers (click for how-to), but you could easily throw them (or almost anything else) into the sauté pan with your onion and greens.

Next, mix your quiche filling. Whisk together milk, eggs, paprika, mustard, salt, pepper, and thyme.

To assemble your quiches, spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray. (If you want to present your quiches in cupcake papers as I did, you will do that after baking, when they are already holding their shapes.) Cut your rolls in half and place one half in the bottom of each muffin cup. Sprinkle half of your Parmesan over each “crust,” then distribute your vegetables evenly over that. Pour egg mixture over each, and bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Let cool, then transfer each quiche into the festive cupcake papers of your choice!

dividerPretty easy for a fancy party appetizer, right? The best part of it all is, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. No more excuses for letting that spinach go bad in the fridge. No more ordering in because you think you don’t have a vehicle for the ingredients on hand. I give you: the Quiche That Cures Many (If Not All) Ills.

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quiches

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quichesSpecial Preview...

 

Special Preview…

Coming this week on Foodies: Gourmet lemon drop jello shots in lemon rind wedges!  They look just like lemon slices, but taste just like your favorite citrus cocktail!

Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

With the warm weather we have been enjoying in the last few days, I have been on a salad kick.  I love salads, they are a wonderful backdrop for a variety of ingredients and allow for culinary creativity. The trick with salads as main courses is packing in some protein so that you get full and have enough nutrients.

This particular salad was derived from one of my favorite Bruschetta recipes, which I originally found on Epicurious. The Bruschetta is made of up a fava bean dip, spread on toasted bread, and a blood orange salad on top.  Last night, I decided to put baby lima beans in a salad with blood orange slices and dressing, and topped with avocado and sourdough baguette pieces.

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Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

  • 1 1/4 cups frozen double-peeled lima beans (about one 14-ounce bag), thawed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces Arugula
  • 1 Avocado
  • 6-8 Slices of Sourdough Bread (optional)

If not already thawed, soak frozen lima beans in warm water. Prepare blood oranges: Grate the zest from one orange, juice enough to get 3 tbs, and cut the rind and white pieces off of two, to get several small sections of the fruit itself.  Combine the juice, zest, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add the white balsamic and olive oil, and whisk together until fully combined.

Once beans are fully thawed, heat them and 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan on high heat until water is bowling. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender, approximately 10 minutes total. Drain beans and place them in a separate container to cool. Meanwhile, toss the arugula in the prepared dressing. Slice avocado into long, thin pieces, and prepare baguette into 1 inch slices.  Once beans are room temperature, add them to the arugula mixture and toss. Add orange pieces.

Serve with avocado on top and bread on the plate.

dividerShay and I both found this salad a delicious balance of flavors with the blood orange and the garlic, but also filling with the avocado and the beans.  While I will admit that it has similarities to my last salad post, just try the combination of white balsamic, blood orange juice, and garlic, I bet you’ll want to use it in everything too. Happy Meatless Monday!

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