Archive for the ‘Cooking For One’ Category

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Moroccan Quinoa Salad Remix

October 3, 2010

Hi all!

Since the fall semester started, I’ve adopted a new cooking strategy: Do a lot of cooking on the weekends, using the leftovers as on-the-go lunches throughout the week, and stick with easy super salads for my dinners. So far, this has been working great! It really helps me manage my time throughout the week, and lets me try out exciting new recipes (or revisit old favorites) on the weekend when I have more time. And so I’m here today to share with you one of the excellent culinary concoctions that emerged from this weekend’s marathon kitchen session.

I took as my starting point this recipe for Moroccan Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Quinoa Salad from Closet Cooking, which Caitlin and I actually made a while ago once and really enjoyed. It’s enhanced by this wonderful Moroccan spice blend (also included on the same recipe page), which finds its way into basically every part of the dish. And as I still had a lot of this spice blend leftover from the last time we made it, I thought that now was a good time to revisit this recipe and put a few new twists on it.

My general idea was to combine the basics of this recipe with pieces from another similar recipe which I absolutely adore, Veganomicon’s Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Figs, featured once previously on this blog here (which was additionally convenient, as I still had several parts of this recipe leftover from the last time I made it a couple of weeks ago). Here’s a close up of my finished product—can you spot all the differences?

Okay, I don’t really expect you to be able to spot all the differences all on your own, so here’s a quick run-down. First, along with quinoa, as Closet Cooking’s original recipe calls for, I added in some Israeli couscous and regular couscous as well, which created an amazing grain combination. And along with the originally called for pine nuts, I threw in a big handful of pistachios, which added both extra flavor and color. And instead of raisins, I used figs, which was a wonderful idea. But my best idea for this recipe was definitely my chosen replacement for chickpeas: beets! Now, beets may not seem like the most logical substitute for something like chickpeas, but I think they actually worked much better alongside the roasted carrots (I roasted the beets as well). With the addition of some lime juice and zest, this hodgepodge grain salad was completed, and quite amazingly delicious. Here’s one more shot:

What surprised me most about this recipe, and what I liked most about it, was how much of a spicy kick it had. (I think I had forgotten how much paprika and cayenne pepper went into the spice blend.) But at the same time, the spiciness was not overwhelming; it was really the perfect amount. In addition, I am proud to say that this is definitely one of the most colorful dishes I’ve ever made, and really a pleasure to look at. But the real pleasure is in the eating, and if you want to experience that, you’ll have to make it for yourself!

But before I leave you today, I wanted to share with you the special baked good I made this weekend for my friend’s potluck dinner party: an absolutely delectable “Can’t Be Beet” Chocolate Cake with Almond Butter Banana Frosting!

Caitlin has made this recipe from Fat Free Vegan for me before, and I really have to say that it’s one of the best vegan cake recipes I’ve tasted. The frosting is (literally, I have to admit) finger-licking good, and the cake really lives it up to its name: it is both incredibly scrumptious (“it can’t be beat!”) and made with one large, yet undetectable, beet (“it can’t be beet!”). If you’re looking for a good time, make this cake for your next dinner party, and try to get the other guests to guess the secret ingredient. If your friends are anything like mine, they will run through the gamut of vegetables and other food items before hitting on the correct answer. Happy eating!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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My Very Own Vegan Tempeh Reuben

September 20, 2010

Over the past year, Caitlin has been slowly but surely turning me on to the wonders of reuben sandwiches. Not normal reubens, of course—vegan reubens! They seem to be fairly common fare at several of the veg*n restaurants in New York, and we’ve documented some of the delicious reubens we’ve tried here, here, and here. It’s safe to say that I am now definitely a reuben fan. I love the combination of flavors, and I find it to be one of the best ways to enjoy tempeh. I find it a little strange, though, since I don’t think I ever ate an actual reuben when I was still not veg, so I don’t really know what taste these vegan versions are trying to recreate. But that’s fine; all the variations I’ve tried have been wonders all in their own right.

So where is all this rambling headed? To last weekend, when I made my very own vegan reuben sandwich at home! And much to my surprise, it turned out great! I cribbed my recipe together from a couple different internet sources and kept it pretty simple, but this sammie was nonetheless super tasty and flavorful. Here’s what I did, step by step…

Step 1: The Tempeh

For my tempeh, I followed this recipe from Where’s The Revolution. All it was really was a simple marinade made from soy sauce (I used Bragg’s), water, cumin, caraway, mustard, and garlic, in which I baked a tempeh block (cut in four) for about 40 or 50 minutes. Not only was this a solid marinade for my purposes, it could definitely be heartily enjoyed outside of a reuben sandwich as well. Two thumbs up!

Step 2: Russian Dressing & Sauerkraut

To round out my reuben, I decided to make a mix of sauerkraut and Russian dressing to put on top of the tempeh. For the dressing, the recipe I followed most closely came from the Food Network (of all places), but I changed it up in a few places, so here’s a quick rundown of what went into mine:

Russian Dressing & Sauerkraut (for Tempeh Reuben)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Vegannaise
  • 1/2 tbsp gochujang + 1/2 tbsp ketchup
  • dash of hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • 3 tbsp pickles, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup sauerkraut

Instructions

  1. Mix everything except the sauerkraut together until well combined, then fold in the sauerkraut.

The addition of the gochujang (all my idea) definitely kicked this dressing up a notch, both in terms of spice and in terms of all around deliciousness. This dressing/cole slaw also holds up perfectly well on its own, and would probably work just as well on other sandwiches too.

Step 3: The Finished Sandwich

Like I said, I was keeping this sandwich simple, so the tempeh and dressing were all that I put into this easy reuben. But boy, was it good! I really can’t say if it has all the flavors of a reuben right, but regardless, this is an awesome sandwich that I will definitely keep in my active repertoire. And on top of all that, this sammie makes for a great on-the-go lunch, since it’s easily wrapped and packed into a backpack before one leaves in the morning and still tastes fine at room temperature. In other words, you shouldn’t need any more reason—go and make this reuben for yourself!

And before I go, I want to quickly share with you all the cake I baked yesterday. Yes, that’s right: yesterday I baked a cake—no lie. And not just any cake, but a Coconut Cake with Butter Rum Sauce Icing (both recipes came from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan). Baking is not generally my forte, but this one turned out wonderful. Words won’t come close to capturing how mouthwateringly delicious this turned out, so here are the photos.

So good. That’s all I can say.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Phyllo, Phor the Phirst Time

June 20, 2010

While I was back at my parents’ house last weekend, I had an exciting culinary first: my first time cooking with phyllo dough! This was extra exciting for me because over the past year I’ve been falling more and more in love with Greek food, in which phyllo dough is probably most well known (think spanakopita and baklava). Yet for my first phyllo endeavor, I decided to go a little west of Hellas and make Dreena Burton’s Moroccan-Infused Vegetable Phyllo Rolls from her book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Here’s how it went…

First off, before I got to touch any phyllo (but while our store-bought phyllo pastry sheets were defrosting), I had to make the filling for the rolls. Dreena’s recipe calls for a medley of different vegetables and dried fruit, which then all get roasted for about forty-five minutes. What you see above is our huge sheet of chopped vegetables pre-roasting, and below…

Is how they looked post-roast. The assortment you see consisted of red pepper, yellow pepper, zucchini, onion, fennel bulb, dried apricot, and garlic, mixed with some oil, cumin, ginger, paprika, and cinnamon. To see this all a little better, here’s the filling again, with white beans and fresh chopped basil added:

Now we were ready to get working with the phyllo. For those who don’t know (like myself before last weekend), phyllo dough—or at least the phyllo pastry sheets we purchased—come in pre-frozen rolls of about 20 sheets, which you then defrost, unravel, and then carefully peel off to use. The phyllo sheets really are incredibly thin, and thus also pretty fragile.

Now the way Dreena suggests using these phyllo sheets is fairly innovative, at least in my opinion. What she has you do is stick two sheets together by brushing on some olive oil in between them, place some of the filling in the center, and then roll them up just like they were burritos. It works surprisingly well! (However, I will admit to being entirely nonplussed by the way Dreena describes this process in her book—both my mother and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the instructions were telling us to do at first.) Here’s our tray of six wrapped phyllo rolls:

After this, all you do is bake them for about twenty minutes and then they’re ready to serve! We topped ours off with some almonds and paired it with a small salad of kale and shredded beets:

The phyllo dough worked really great as a faux wrap, adding a nice crispiness that you don’t get from a tortilla or pita. Here is the wrap cut open:

Overall, I liked these phyllo rolls and definitely had a fun time making them. If there were one thing I’d change about the recipe, though, it’d be the vegetable filling. I think I would prefer to cut out the peppers entirely, perhaps replacing them with butternut squash or something similar, and I would definitely substitute figs for the dried apricots. A green such as spinach would be nice as well, I think. But for a first crack, this recipe was a big hit.

And the phyllo-related excitement did not end there! The next morning, since we still had a few sheets of phyllo leftover, my mom made some homemade baklava! This was the first time I’ve ever had homemade baklava, and I was naturally super excited. Ours was filled with pistachios and generously drizzled with honey:

And a little closer up:

Needless to say, I enjoyed this immensely. And just for reference, I’ll have you know that this small square of baklava (probably no more than 3 inches across) took a whole three sheets of phyllo to make! So just imagine how much phyllo goes into an entire tray’s worth!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back soon with more exciting food adventures to report! See you soon.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Beans and Greens

March 6, 2010

Going to graduate school full time and working two internships can really make it tough to experiment very much in the kitchen. I have found that I really need to have a game plan set for the week by Sunday night, or by Wednesday night I’ll probably end up stuffing my face with stuff like this:

(thanks for the pic wikipedia!)

Recently, the solution to my post-night-class hangry-ness has been greens and beans:

The beans are soaked, cooked and stowed away by Monday evening and, most importantly, ready to be heated up with greens and a tasty sauce. The above bowl is composed of Carribean red beans and braised mustard greens in a Jamaican jerk sauce over quinoa. The jerk sauce is a jar my sister brought back after her last trip to Jamaica, watered down considerably though, because that stuff is intense.

Now, I don’t have any specific measurements, I usually base my proportions on taste and, you know, just how hangry I really am.

To break down the method in some very unscientific terms:

  • I would guess that the bean to green ratio is about 2 cups of tightly packed chopped greens to 1/2 to 3/4 cup beans.
  • dry cook the greens quickly (possibly with garlic and onion, if you’re into that kind of thing)
  • add a little liquid (in the above dish, I added water, braggs and about a tablespoon of jerk sauce). Add the pre-cooked (or canned) beans and simmer until the greens get nice and tender.
  • This process really only takes 10 minutes tops, so if you are going to pair it with a tasty grain, I would suggest you start the grain a little earlier.

These dishes have been a great and quick way to fill me up on nights following days that look like this:

(you really thought I could go without photo-documenting snowpocalypse 2010?)

Another variation that was not quite as spicy, but just as tasty was mustardy white bean bowl:

This bowl was a mix of white beans, black-eyed peas and mustard greens in a braggs-mustard sauce.

Honestly, if you haven’t tried mustard greens go out and do it now. When raw, they have an light peppery taste and, when cooked, they becomes much more mild but much richer. Also, they are currently in season. Yay for seasonal veggies!

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

P.S. By the way blogosphere, I have a new series of review posts that I simply can’t wait to share with you, so stick around if you are so inclined!

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Cooking For One: Veggie Bowls (PLUS a fabulous sauce formula PLUS Romanesco cauliflower photos!)

November 11, 2009

To all our lovely readers,

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a “Cooking For One” post, even though I’ve been spending the last several months doing precisely that—cooking for one (namely me). Part of the reason is that I’m still not that good at. But I’m learning, and today I want to share with y’all what has become one my stand-by dinners. It’s simple, nutritious, and tasty! I call it a veggie bowl.

Veggie bowls, for me, consist of three parts, or levels if you will. You’ve got your bottom level grain, your middle level veggies, and your top level sauce. There’s lots of choices within these categories—that’s why veggie bowls are so much fun! Today I’m going to share with you just one example, step by step.

Step 1: The Grain

The grain is typically the first place you should start, as it will take the longest to cook. There are lots of grains that make for good veggie bowls; some of my favorites are couscous, quinoa, and amaranth. I’m looking forward to trying some other grains like bulgar and buckwheat in the future, and you should just use whatever you like and feel comfortable making. Whichever grain you choose, I recommend using about 1/2 cup dry; this seems to make the perfect amount when cooked, at least if you’re a hungry boy like me!

So, the short story: Cook 1/2 cup grain of your choice (dry) according to grain’s cooking instructions.

Step 2: The Veggies

While your grain is cooking, you have time to cook up your vegetables. Now really any vegetable is fair game for a veggie bowl, but as far as cooking goes, I like to break my vegetables into two categories: steaming vegetables and sauteing vegetables. Steaming veggies include things like broccoli, green beans, and cauliflower; sauteing vegetables include things like onions, greens, and so on. The choice is up to you!

As for cooking your veggies, I like to start with the steaming vegetables. Here’s my super easy guide to cooking your veggies.

1. Cut your vegetables into bite sized pieces.

2. Fill a large pan with approximately 1/4″ of water and bring to a boil.

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3. Toss in your veggies and cover the pan.

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4. Let cook for one or two minutes, turning vegetables over once or twice if needed, until vegetables look done and can be readily pierced by a fork.

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5. Empty vegetables into a strainer and run over a little bit of cold water, to stop any further cooking.

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6. Return your emptied pan back to the stove, add some oil, and saute your sauteing vegetables (this time I used baby bok choy!).

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And that’s all there is to cooking your vegetables! If done right, this whole process can take less than five minutes (maybe a little more depending on how long it takes you to cut up your veggies).

Step 3: The Sauce

Last but not least, a good veggie bowl needs a good sauce. There are many options here as well. I’m particularly fond of a certain Spicy Garlic Sauce in Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard’s How It All Vegan! (an excellent cookbook), but today I want to share with you a nut butter sauce inspired by a recipe in 3 Bowls (another, perhaps even more excellent cookbook). The great thing about this sauce is that it only involves three ingredients, requires no cooking, and thus takes all of a minute to prepare. Oh, and it’s also delicious. Now normally I would be loathe to post a recipe from a published book on this blog, but (a) I have changed the proportions and overall amount of the recipe, and (b) this is nowhere near complicated enough to count as a bona fide recipe in my opinion.

MAN (Miso-Agave-Nutbutter) Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (white) miso
  • 2 tbsp nut butter (your choice)
  • 1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
  • 3 tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth
  2. That’s the only step.

So there you go! A super simple and—if you make, you’ll see—super delicious sauce!

Step 4: The Combination

You now have all you need to put together your veggie bowl. I like to take the biggest bowl I can find, put all my grain on the bottom, cover that with all my veggies, and then lather my sauce on top. Here’s my final product:

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You, of course, can mix it up. That’s the beauty of veggie bowls—it’s a simple formula that’s easily adaptable to whatever is in your fridge/available at your grocer and that’s always a breeze to make, however you do it. And this makes a perfect meal for someone cooking for one—and especially for people with busy schedules like me.

One final thing to share: Today I had the pleasure of picking up a Romanesco cauliflower to use in the night’s veggie bowl. Now, I have to admit, my pleasure was mostly aesthetic—but how can you blame me when a vegetable contains so much fractal-y goodness? So in closing, I leave you with some photos to admire. (Click for larger versions.)

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Ah, the simple joys of nature.

Until we eat again,

Willie

P.S. I was not very impressed by the taste of this Romanesco cauliflower, unfortunately. But I still love looking at it.

P.P.S. Did I mention that I’m leaving for NYC Wednesday night?? Expect an exciting blog post in a few days!

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Cooking For One: Magical Loafs

September 7, 2009

Dear Caitlin et al.,

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When one is cooking primarily for oneself, sometimes it helps to plan in advance and keep your fridge stocked with some quick ‘n’ easy options for those times when you’re just too busy or exhausted to make a meal from scratch. But when eating healthy is also a concern, microwave or pre-made meals are not an acceptable option. So what, then, is one to do? One great option is the magical loaf!

To me, Sunday is the day for loafs. It’s really the perfect time; the simplicity and ease of preparing a loaf seems to coincide perfectly with the idleness of any proper Sunday. Plus, and this is the real advantage, loafs are the perfect way to use up all the leftover groceries and foodstuffs you have sitting in your fridge and pantry.

So what do you do? Well, first, go to this website: The Magical Loaf Studio. Currently, this amazing web resource is not exactly what it used to be (due to the lack of CGI-support on its new webhost), but it still has all you need to know to make yourself a tasty—and totally original—vegan loaf. It’s simple! Just combine your choice of protein, carbohydrate, nuts & seeds, veggies, liquid, binder, and seasonings, mix ‘em all together, and bake!

The loaf I made this past Sunday was an interesting combination, unlike anything I’d ever made before. Here’s my list of ingredients:

  • PROTEIN: Red lentils
  • CARBOHYDRATE: Red quinoa
  • NUTS & SEEDS: Ground almonds, sunflower seeds, and pepitas
  • VEGGIES: Onions and mushrooms
  • LIQUID: None required
  • BINDER: Flaxseed meal
  • HERBS & SEASONINGS: Basil, thyme, sage, oregano

This turned out very interesting; not the best loaf I ever made, but with some Tonkatsu Vegetable Sauce squirted on top, it made for a tasty and protein-rich meal. Here’s the obligatory close-up:

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The one bad thing about this loaf was that it didn’t keep shape very well, although with loafs this isn’t a big deal, especially if you’re not serving them to someone else and thus worried about presentation. Mine kind of just feel apart on my plate:

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The best part about this loaf was that I’ll still probably be able to get another three or four servings from it throughout the week, making it perfect for me as I begin my first week of classes!

I hope you all enjoy making your own magical loafs, and I’m sure I’ll have more magical loafs to share as the semester continues!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Cooking For One: On The Go Lunches

September 5, 2009

Dear Caitlin and all others,

Thursday this week felt like my first real day of school, mostly because I spent almost all day at school. First, I needed to get in relatively early in the morning to use the department computers, then in the afternoon I had mandatory TA training, and then in the evening I was going out to the ballpark with some of the other students, as I previously posted about. Long story short: I knew I should plan to basically spend the whole day at the department. Only one small problem… What was I going to eat?

Today, busy lifestyles lead many people to eat their daytime meals out at restaurants, cafes, or sidewalk vendors, but this is one aspect of my eating habits that I’ve been consciously trying to cut out since the beginning of this year. In my opinion, it just makes sense on so many levels: Eating out is almost always less healthy than making meals for myself (whether because of the ingredients added, the preparation methods used, or the portions offered), eating out is often less tasty and satisfying than eating the meals I make, and if these first two things aren’t true, then eating out is inevitably more expensive than making my own meals (and this is often true even when the food one gets isn’t healthy or tasty).

So I think the choice is simple—who wouldn’t choose healthier, tastier, and cheaper food? Well, lazy people I guess, since making one’s own lunches is rarely easier than just buying food at the closest shop around the block. The point of this blog post (and future posts in the “Cooking For One” series) is to make the better option of making your own lunches seem a little easier—and, of course, more delicious.

One important aspect of On The Go Lunches is transportability. For people that are walking, driving, or taking public transportation to their place of work, school, or business, this maybe is not such an issue, but I ride my bike to school everyday, and so whatever food I bring needs to fit snugly in my backpack and be able to withstand some potholes and bumpy stretches of pavement. This is something that non-bikers should also think about too, though: You want your food to stay safe while you’re moving it. Currently, I have an assortment of tupperware containers with snap-on lids that I find work very well—they’re light, solid, and microwave safe. Glass containers are also an option, but they are significantly heavier. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil can also be appropriate for certain foods (sandwiches, wraps, etc.), but they do run the risk of getting smushed in a bag. So although I think tupperware is all around the best option, my advice is to do whatever works for you and your food.

The next issue is perishability. Most of the time, this isn’t much of an issue, unless you’re trying to bring ice cream for lunch (which, I’ll add, isn’t a very appropriate meal!). Having a refrigerator at wherever you’re going is always a plus, but if you’re bringing a meal in the morning to eat at noon, it’ll most likely be fine as it is. If you’re planning to eat later in the day, you may want to consider bringing something for which refrigeration is not so important.

The last issue is eatability. This doesn’t mean bringing foods that are indeed edible—this should always be the case!—but rather, bringing foods that can be easily eaten at your workspace or wherever you go to eat. Think ahead: make sure you have the necessary utensils for your meal, and maybe pack a napkin if you think you’ll need it. Think about how messy what you’re bringing might be and whether that’s an issue, and think about what you’ll do with whatever waste is left over at the end.

But enough of these abstract issues—let’s get to some food! What did I end up bringing with me to school on Thursday? Three things in fact, all with varying levels of success. We’ll start with my first meal for the day, a delicious “anything goes” salad!

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This salad was filled with goodies: mixed salad greens, kale, sunburst tomatoes, “El Surpremo” sprouts, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and Raw Green Goddess Dressing. Salads are great for On The Go Lunches, in my opinion. First, they are delicious. Second, they provide lots of great nutrition for a midday meal, and they can be quite filling. Lastly, they are very resilient, since it doesn’t really matter if they get knocked around some in my backpack while I’m biking to school. So, the verdict is that this salad was a huge success, and I think I will brining many more with me to school this year!

Next up was a sweet and spicy tofu sandwich, which I neglected to take a picture of, but it wasn’t really necessary anyway, since it was basically the same as this other sandwich I made earlier in the week, except with lettuce instead of sprouts:

I transported my sandwich in a tupperware container as well, so as to prevent it for getting smushed in my bag. It got knocked around a little, but overall survived the trip well. However, it was a little disappointing once I got around to eating it. Part of this was my fault: for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to refrigerate the sandwich (probably thinking that I’d eat it later in the afternoon and not at lunch time). Unfortunately, this made the bread too cold and awkward for a proper sandwich. Still, it was totally delish and I think if I’m more careful next time I can make a sandwich a workable lunch.

Last but not least, in the later afternoon I munched on a little container of Red Quinoa Pesto!

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Unfortunately, this meal also suffered from its refrigeration, although in this case I think refrigeration was a little more necessary. I think what I should’ve done was microwave this a little before eating, since it is really supposed to be served warm. Of course, I have no idea how quinoa microwaves. So I’m not so sure if I’ll be trying this again any time soon.

So for the moment, it looks like salads are going to my On The Go Lunch of choice. There will be plenty of opportunity for more experimentation throughout the year, though, and I’ll be sure to report on any new great discoveries (and failures) I come upon!

Last but not least, I thought I’d show you my carrel room and de facto eating space. I share the room with 5 other grad students, but it’s very spacious and I have a big desk and cabinet all to myself. But let me just show you:

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I forgot to photograph the best part of the room, though: the mini-fridge and hot water heater! It’s great—I have plenty of space to store my lunches and a quick and easy way to make tea. I remember being very impressed by these graduate student spaces when I came to visit the department, but I’m even happier with them now that I’m here!

And that’s all I’ve got. I’ll hopefully have some new food adventures to report back on later this weekend.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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