Archive for the ‘On The Go Lunches’ 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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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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