Today in my week full of back to school vegetarian lunch options, I’m presenting Tofu Egg Style Salad Sandwich. That’s a good alternative for those of you who are either allergic to eggs, are vegan, watch cholesterol or simply don’t like eggs. Tofu is one of those amazing products that doesn’t have much taste on its own but acquires taste of whatever seasonings are used with it. I used turmeric which adds nice yellow color so the salad looks like an egg sandwich, Dijon mustard which usually is used in egg salad and some garlic powder and low sodium soy sauce for a sharper taste. I also combined it with some diced celery and green onion. That’s my choice but any kind of veggie can be used here. Some people like to add green or red pepper.
It’s back to school time, some kids already started school, some will within the next few days. This week I want to present some healthy vegetarian lunch ideas for kids so they won’t have to be eating junk at school. A lot of parents don’t prepare lunches for their children believing that school provides them with proper nutrition. Unfortunately healthy and school often are as antagonistic as rain and desert. Whoever watched Jamie Oliver’s show “Jamie’s Food Revolution” on ABC knows what I’m talking about. I’m assuming you can still watch the show for free on ABC website. Jamie tried to revolutionize American school food system, he already did the same thing in England and now he’s been trying to make some changes in US. It’s hard to say if the results were spectacular, he was only active in one town in few schools but I believe that with people’s attention to the problem much more can be done. You can support Jamie’s idea by signing the petition to improve school lunches here.
Anyway, knowing how badly they feed our children at school, I would rather be cautious and make school lunches by myself. At least I know what I put inside and I know that my kids (or rather future kids) eat healthy and nutritious meals. By the way, can you believe that schools classify french fries as a vegetable. That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard . So to all the parents that don’t want their young ones to eat junk, it’s a new school year so take charge of your children nutrition and weight and start preparing them healthy lunches for school. It takes just a few minutes and is so much better for them than nuggets and fries few times a week.
Quinoa is a very unusual grain. It actually is a seed, not a grain but since it looks like one and is eaten in the same way, it is considered grain. It comes from South America and used to be one of the main foods of Incas. In the past few years it gained a lot of fame among healthy conscious people because it’s gluten free and has a surprisingly high protein content for a grain. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten allergic people often consider it one of the staple foods in their diet.
My adventure with quinoa started pretty unsatisfactory. I was so excited to finally try it, I always am excited when trying new things, but then when I put my first bite of quinoa into my mouth, I almost spit it out. I took another bite and unfortunately my senses did not deceive me, it was extremely bitter. I had to throw it away to trash and started wondering what’s the big deal with quinoa? It’s awful, how can so many people love it? So I googled ‘why quinoa tastes bitter’ and found my answer. All I had to do was to rinse it under cold running water for a minute or so to get rid of all the bitter taste. Oh how silly, that’s what happens if you try new things but don’t read how to prepare them. I made more quinoa right after and this time my experience was very pleasant. It tasted a bit nutty and all the bitter flavor was gone. Some producers of quinoa rinse it before packaging so there’s no worry that one will have such an unsuccessful beginning with quinoa like me.
Ful Medames is a national Egyptian dish. I would say it is the most famous Egyptian dish since I’ve never heard of any other. It’s made of Fava beans (sometimes called broad beans) and is usually eaten for breakfast or lunch with pita bread. It is very similar to Mexican refried beans although the flavors are slightly different. The dominant taste is lemony and even though plenty of garlic is used, you can barely taste it.
It can be made either with young Fava beans or old ones. I used older ones which have a brown color, young Fava beans are very green in color. If you’ll use young beans you probably won’t have to shell them but honestly I’ve never seen Ful Medames made with green beans that’s why I used older, brown beans. If you’re discouraged by the process of shelling beans don’t worry, it’s not that bad and since beans are really large, it goes pretty fast. Some people prefer to shell Fava beans before cooking but I find it easier to do it after they’ve been simmering for an hour. That way you can just squeeze them and they easily pop out of their shells.
You can always use canned Fava beans and not worry about shelling them. That seems like a good option especially when you’re in a hurry because they will also cook much faster. However lately I try to use dry beans instead of canned ones. Somehow it makes my cooking seem more natural.
By the way, I just read that Bob’s Red Mill Fava Beanshave been naturally blanched to remove the unsavory skins. Whoa, if I only knew before. Next time I’ll buy Bob’s Red Mill brand Fava beans.
Pita bread is usually the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Middle Eastern food. It is always served with shish kabob, shawarma and is inseparable companion of hummus. Today pita actually has many more uses, you can roll it into wrap or stuff it with whatever you want. I like to stuff mine with mixed lettuces, tomatoes, cucumber and feta for a delicious, healthy lunch. It so widely available in any supermarket that no one even thinks about making it at home but trust me it tastes so much better than the generic type that occupies store shelves. I’m sure you easily notice the difference in taste between store brand pita and restaurant quality pita. Homemade pita bread is as good as any pita you can find in an Middle Eastern food spot.
Ingredients (8 pita breads):
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1/4 oz dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
In a glass combine 1 packet active dry yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 1/3 cup warm water. Mix and leave for 15 min for the yeast to start working.
In a bowl mix together 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour with 1/2 Tbsp salt. Make a well in the middle and add yeast mixture. Start drawing flour into the yeast. Very slowly add the rest of the warm water and incorporate with the flour.
When quite uniform transfer to a floured board and start kneading for 10 minutes until it’s elastic, smooth and not sticky anymore. You might have to keep adding a bit more flour on a board while kneading.
Form a ball with your dough, pour some olive oil on your hands and coat the dough. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave for 1.5 to 2 hours to rise.
After that time take out the dough and divide into 8 equal parts. Form balls and put on a floured board , cover with towel and leave for another 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. The oven has to be very very hot before you can bake pita breads. Arrange 2 or 3 on a cookie sheet and bake 6 minutes on a bottom rack. Do not be tempted to open the oven before that time or pita breads might not get puffy.
Note: In the beginning my pita breads weren’t coming out very puffy but I’ve noticed that when I sprayed the walls of the oven with water right before putting breads inside, they we coming out puffier. Also oven should be really hot so preheat it a while before baking pitas, not just right before.
What could possibly be better on a cold, rainy day than a bowl of hot, satisfying soup. Today is that kind of day and I just felt like eating hot bowl of soup with a slice of bread. This soup was actually the first thing I ever cooked after moving in with my boyfriend to our new apartment over 2 years ago. I so wanted to play a housewife and I also wanted my boyfriend to start eating healthy, homemade meals instead of take outs. Of course I don’t always cook and sometimes we do get take outs but I try to cook for him whenever I can.
Mr. B. actually liked that soup so much that I ended up making it almost every week. At the end we got so tired of it that it’s been over a year since I last cooked it. Today however I remembered our former favorite soup and decided to make it. Hopefully Mr. B. will still like it.
By the way, today’s post for the first time has HD movie. Finally, I couldn’t wait to start using HD camera. Now the quality looks so much better.
Ever since I remember I’ve been always wanting to bake my own bread. My first trial, when I was a teenage girl, ended up with a big disaster and even bigger frustration. I had few more trials later on in my life but none of them ended successfully, until yesterday. I told myself that that’s it, now I have my cooking blog and I have to finally learn how to bake bread. It can’t be that hard and like most of the things it just needs some practice. Oh, how anxious I was when the bread was in the oven. It smelled amazing but my experience told me that it doesn’t mean anything, just because it smells nice doesn’t mean that it will taste well and have a proper texture. My last bread also smelled nice but came out hard as a stone, completely inedible. But now I finally know why. The thing is that certain breads like rye bread for example (which was the one that came out hard as a stone) doesn’t grow well with yeast, it needs addition of fermented sour while other breads like simple wheat bread grows fine with yeast. I don’t feel confident enough yet to start making sourdough breads but after making my zucchini bread I feel pretty confident about yeast breads. This one was my first but expect to see more. I’m planning to be baking way way more breads.
So far that was the easiest recipe I’ve made, no thinking and no cooking skills required. I actually started making it yesterday night. I got my evening sugar cravings but did not feel like eating just chocolate. I opened the freezer and took out puff pastry dough but still wasn’t sure what to do with that. Then I remembered that I had poppy seed filling hidden in my pantry. It’s been sitting there for a while waiting for me to come up with some idea to use it. So I did come up with an idea, I combined it with puff pasty and topped with some delicious lemon icing.
Viva la macaroni! I absolutely love pasta, all kinds of pasta, spaghetti, penne, lasagna and all the other types. If I could, I would eat pasta everyday till the end of my life and my favorite restaurants are obviously Italian. I adore the fact that Italian cuisine offers such a variety of vegetable dishes, something that is hard to find in typical American cuisine. Everytime I go to Italian restaurant I find it hard to decide what to eat because there are so many choices for veggie people. If you think of pasta as just regular spaghetti with tomato or alfredo sauce, you probably never went to authentic Italian place. They offer much more than that.
This pasta is great with porcini mushrooms but they might be a little bit pricey so just regular crimini or portobello mushrooms will do fine. Also romano or parmesan cheese is an awesome addition for the dish.
Today I invite you to prepare delicious deep fried zucchini. Deep fried? I know it was supposed to be healthy blog but I just couldn’t resist. I ate similar zucchini not long time ago in a small burger place in South Beach called Beer & Burger Joint. Their zucchini was slightly different, it was cut into large blocks and was covered with much more batter. I cut my zucchini into rings and deep fried with a very thin batter which just added taste rather than adding thick coating. It was delicious, even my boyfriend who usually is reluctant to veggies ate it with a smile on his face (probably because it was fried food)