Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I only recently mastered the art of cooking brown rice. Most of the time it came out too crunchy and sometimes it was too mushy. The culprit was my water to rice ratio. I always used a 2:1 ratio. Recently I actually READ the directions on a bag of brown rice and it advised using a 2.5:1 ratio water to rice. And it worked!

I used this 2.5:1 ratio in my rice cooker for a few months, but I recently tried it on the stovetop and it was so easy I've switched over to this stovetop method exclusively (plus, this method doesn't leave a bunch of rice stuck to the bottom of the pan like my rice cooker does).

So if you've been wanting to eat more brown rice but have had trouble cooking it, try this method. It works flawlessly for me. One cup of brown rice makes enough for me and Pete, but if you have more than two people or you want some leftover, use 5 cups water to 2 cups dry brown rice.

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice:
  1. In a medium saucepan with a fitted lid, boil 2.5 cups water. Add a big pinch salt and a small spoonful coconut oil. Keep covered.
  2. While you wait for water to boil, rinse your 1 cup rice well in a strainer and drain well.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add your rice, stir and cover immediately. Turn heat down to low (I have a gas stove and turn it to the lowest I can without the flame going out).
  4. Let steam 40 minutes.
  5. After 40 minutes, remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove cover. Serve warm.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

i need more time in the day for

sitting with my cats
playing with my dogs
folding laundry
doing the dishes
cleaning the litter box
creating recipes
photographing recipes
posting recipes
talking to peter
doing yoga
talking to my family

but especially

Monday, February 23, 2015

Curried Carrot Bisque

There are some recipes I try and really like but don't ever make again. And then there are some recipes I try and make over and over again, like this Curried Carrot Bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance. It was one of the first recipes I made when I was teaching myself to cook in college. During my junior and senior years my roommates and I took turns making dinner every night. This was one of the dishes I would make for dinner. It was always a hit. So I kept making it even when I didn't live with a house full of roommates. It's easy, slightly creamy, slightly spicy, perfect for a cold winter day, and even more perfect with a loaf of crusty bread.

Curried Carrot Bisque:
I've adapted this recipe a bit since I first made the original five years ago. Here's my version.

1 large yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, micro-grated
3 lbs. carrots, sliced into chunks
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 can coconut milk or 2 cups homemade coconut milk (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Saute onion in coconut oil over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Keep covered and stir occasionally. Add fresh ginger root and curry powder and saute 1 minute more. Add carrots, vegetable broth, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Let cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree using an immersion blender (blend in batches in a blender, allowing steam to escape from the lid). Add coconut milk and maple syrup.

Yield: 6 servings

Homemade Coconut Milk:

1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups just-boiled water

Blend coconut and water in a high-powered blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Easiest Two Ingredient Slaw

This is my go-to salad when easy and fast are my number one priority, which has been this week when I was deciding whether to buy a certain car this week and was spending the majority of my meal preparation time researching cars. I ultimately didn't get the car, but I did realize that squeezing some lime juice on shredded purple cabbage makes a great easy salad. The salad is pictured above in a brown rice bowl with roasted sweet potatoes and black beans, but I also eat it all by itself with a fork, usually as a snack after work while preparing dinner. I also add it to a meal that desperately needs a vegetable, like tonight's mac n cheese & bbq tofu.

Also I would be remiss if I didn't mention how amazingly inexpensive purple cabbage is.* My coworker (a raw vegan and vegetable aficianado) says it is the biggest bang for your buck, in terms of nutrition and price. I believe it was around .99 per lb. at the grocery store near my house, and I believe one cabbage for me was about 1.5 lbs. And I get at least four separate uses out of one cabbage. I shred 1/4 of a cabbage for me and Peter to share and that is plenty per meal.

Two Ingredient Slaw:

1/4 purple cabbage, shredded
Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lime

Squeeze juice onto shredded cabbage and toss. Eat immediately or let marinate in fridge for an hour up to overnight.

Yield: 2 servings

*I buy non-organic cabbage, because it's one of the Clean Fifteen.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Peary Berry Smoothie

This smoothie is Peter's specialty, but in his version he uses grape juice instead of the coconut water I've used here. I find the grape juice too sweet.*

Peary Berry Smoothie:

1 pear
2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 cup coconut water
1 big handful spinach
1 date, pitted

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add a little bit more coconut water, if needed.

Yield: 2 servings

*As a side note, we did a blind taste test of Paul Newman's Grape Juice vs. Kedem Grape Juice. Kedem won by far. It's like a smooth wine. But I might be biased from years of drinking Kedem instead of wine at Passover dinner.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Two Sauce Spinach Lasagna

This is tonight's manifestation of my ever evolving, never the same twice lasagna. I love playing around with this recipe based on my mood and what I have stocked in the house. Serve with plenty of bread to soak up the sauce!

Two Sauce Spinach Lasagna:

12 lasagna noodles

For the tomato sauce:
1 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt, plus a pinch

For the bechamel sauce:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
3 cups water
1 tbsp. miso
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1.5 tsp. Dijon mustard
1.5 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. flour

For the spinach:
10 oz. spinach
1 tsp. olive oil

Make the red sauce:
Preheat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes. Add spices, garlic, and brown sugar and cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and salt and let simmer on low while you make everything else. Blend with an immersion blender or in a blender** before using.

Make the bechamel sauce:
Blend cashews, water, and remaining ingredients EXCEPT olive oil and flour (those will be used to make a roux) until very smooth. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Heat for a few minutes until bubbly. Whisk in cashew milk. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer, while continuing to whisk frequently and making sure the sauce doesn't stick to the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Make spinach:
Preheat oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add spinach and let cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes.

Make noodles:
Boil noodles in a big pot of salted boiling water for 8 minutes. Stir to make sure they don't stick together. Strain and rinse with lots of cold water. (I make my noodles right when everything else is coming together, so they won't have time to sit and stick together. I use them immediately after straining and rinsing with cold water).

Layer lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375. In a 9x13 casserole pan, add 3 tbsp. of red sauce to the bottom of pan. Add 4 noodles. Add 1/3 of bechamel sauce, then 1/4 red sauce, then 1/2 spinach. Add 4 noodles and repeat bechamel, red sauce, then remaining spinach. Add 4 more noodles and remaining bechamel sauce and remaining red sauce. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

**If blending sauce in a blender, let cool first or pulse in blender, letting steam out frequently (so the top doesn't pop off and makes a mess/burns you).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Decadent Raw Brownies

These raw brownies remind me of a dessert I'd pick up at the local food coop in the college town I lived in for eight years before moving back home to St. Louis. The desserts in this coop were my introduction to raw desserts; they also had raw blonde macaroons made with almond butter and mini raw cheesecakes topped with a seasonal fruit. Every time I picked out a raw dessert over the baked oat flour chocolate chip cookies I loved so much, I felt like I was getting away with something, eating a not-quite-so-naughty dessert. I felt a twinge of nostalgia recreating this beloved dessert while reminiscing about my leisurely walks home from the coop, trying to eat my brownie faster than the sun could melt the icing.

Decadent Raw Brownies:

For the base:
1.5 cup pecans
1.5 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
drop of vanilla extract

For the frosting:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
drop of vanilla extract

Process nuts to a meal consistency (don't overprocess so much so that the nuts start to release their oils). Add dates, cacao powder, salt, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture starts to hold together and forms a ball. Press into an 8x8 square baking pan lined with parchment paper on the bottom and partway up two of the sides (for easy removal). Cover brownie with parchment paper and use a rolling pin to smooth it out.

Prepare frosting by whipping coconut oil, maple syrup, cacao powder, salt, and vanilla extract in a food processor. Scrape the sides down with a spatula and process until very smooth. Pour onto brownie and smooth out with a spatula. Let chill for a few hours before eating and serve straight from the refrigerator.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pink Piña Colada Smoothie

Yesterday it was so warm outside that we were able to put up our garden fence. The dogs were getting a little too cozy in what's left of our garden from the fall and we've begun preparing for spring. Sixty degree temperatures like yesterday's really get me dreaming about sunny days, fresh produce, and tropical smoothies like this one.*

Pink Piña Colada Smoothie:

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1.5 cups coconut water
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
juice from 1 lime
1 date, pitted

Blend until smooth. Enjoy cold.

Yield: 1-2 servings

*I don't drink much, but I think this would make a pretty killer alcoholic piña colada. Just add tequila? Rum? I don't drink much!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Vegetable Fried Rice (Or What To Do With Leftover Rice)

I always have leftover rice from the bowl I made the night before. Here's my favorite (and easiest) way to use it up.

Vegetable Fried Rice:

2 tablespoons coconut oil (Note: read benefits of coconut oil in Lagusta's coconut manifesto).
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
2 carrots, shredded or diced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup frozen green peas
2 cups cooled brown rice (Note: doesn't have to be exactly 2 cups; I just use whatever I have leftover from the night before, which usually ends up being about 2 cups).
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon agave (or sugar)
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute onion, carrot, and cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until onions start to brown. Keep pan covered and stir occasionally, making sure onions don't burn.

Add garlic and ginger, cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil, brown rice, peas, and cashews. Stir and cook for about five minutes, until heated through. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, agave and red pepper flakes. Stir through and serve warm.

Yield: 2 servings

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lemon Garlic Cauliflower Pasta

GRAIN: 3/4 lb. cooked small pasta (like casarecce or gemelli)
VEGETABLE: roasted cauliflower (1 head) + 1 tbsp. olive oil + 1/4 tsp. salt + black pepper, to taste
BEAN: 1 cup frozen peas
SAUCE: warm lemon garlic vinaigrette (recipe below)
HEALTHY FAT: 1/3 toasted almonds, chopped

I'm posting this recipe again--a variation--because Peter keeps requesting it. Our food preferences don't always collide (mine being a little too light for him), but they meet perfectly in this dish. The pasta, nuts, and lemon garlic vinaigrette are heavy enough for Peter and the veggies and peas make it healthy and balanced enough for me.

Lemon Garlic Cauliflower Pasta:

Prepare pasta:
Boil pasta according to package directions.

Roast cauliflower:
Preheat oven to 425 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut cauliflower in half down the middle. You can then remove the florets with your hand. Cut especially big pieces into smaller florets. On prepared baking sheet, toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil. 1/4 tsp. salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Toast nuts:
Meanwhile, toast nuts. Place on baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. When cool, slice into pieces.

Make vinaigrette by whisking the following ingredients:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from 2 lemons)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
black pepper (to taste)
1.5 tsp. agave nectar (or sugar/your preferred sweetener)
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil

Put it all together:
When pasta is cooked, add back to the pot and toss with cauliflower, peas, almonds, and lemon garlic vinaigrette.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sweet Potato Enchilada Bowl

This bowl combines some of my favorite things: roasted sweet potato, crunchy purple cabbage, cashew cream, and brown rice. Add to that the black beans, which add a great contrasting texture, you've got a well-balanced, colorful, nutrient-packed bowl.

Sweet Potato Enchilada Bowl:

GRAIN: brown rice
VEGETABLE: roasted sweet potato and thinly sliced purple cabbage
BEAN: black beans (1 can, drained and rinsed)
HEALTHY FAT: cashew cream

Steam brown rice:
Rinse and drain rice. Combine 2 cups water with 4 1/2 cups water and cook in rice cooker or on stovetop according to package directions.

Roast sweet potato:
Preheat oven to 400 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel sweet potato and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Combine sweet potato with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 10 more minutes. (You could also steam 1/2-inch chunks for 7 minutes).

Make cashew cream:
1/2 cup raw cashews + 1/2 cup vegetable broth + 1/8 tsp. salt; blend in high-speed blender until silky smooth. If you don't have a blender, sub cashew cream with guacamole or diced avocado.

Put bowl together:
Layer brown rice, enchilada sauce, sweet potatoes, purple cabbage, and cashew cream in a bowl.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Enchilada Tofu Scramble

For years, I made pancakes or waffles for breakfast on the weekends, but I started to dislike how they made me feel sluggish the rest of the day (especially when I started my first garden last year and needed to spend most of my weekends working in the yard). All that white flour, sugar, and oil didn't lend a good start to my day. I started replacing the sugar with a savory breakfast, usually tofu scramble with roasted potatoes and toast (with coconut oil and a pinch of salt instead of butter).

This time I replaced the toast with brown rice and replaced the roasted potatoes with veggies cooked directly in the tofu scramble in order to save a step and a pan to clean. I served the scramble bowl with my easiest guacamole (recipe below).

I made brown rice instead of toast because we didn't have any bread in the house. I've stopped buying bread recently because I noticed we weren't eating it fast enough before it went bad. Brown rice is more shelf stable, cheaper, and a more whole, less processed grain.

I used cauliflower and carrots in the scramble, but use whatever veggies you have in the house.

Enchilada Tofu Scramble:
Serve with brown rice and guacamole

For the scramble:
2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided
1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu, pressed (wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and place some heavy books on top for 30 minutes; you can this step, but you'll need to cook tofu a little longer).
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 carrots, shredded or diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce

For the enchilada sauce:
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 (28) oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar (or sugar)
juice from 1/2 lime

For the guacamole:
1 avocado
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Make the enchilada sauce:
Preheat heavy-bottomed saucepan to medium heat. Add cumin seeds and toast for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add olive oil, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add oregano, tomatoes, salt, and agave. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat to a simmer, and let cook until scramble is ready, about 20 minutes. Add lime juice.

Make the guacamole:
Mash avocado really well with a fork or potato masher. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Make the scramble:
Preheat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower and carrots. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining teaspoon of oil. Crumble in tofu, add spices and soy sauce. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring tofu occasionally, using a thin metal spatula. Scrape the bottom of the pan when you stir and make sure the tofu doesn't stick to the pan. Add enchilada sauce and cook about 10 more minutes, until you have a "scramble" consistency, instead of a "saucy" consistency. Serve with brown rice and guacamole (or diced avocado).