Archive for the ‘Single Serving Dinners’ Category

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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: An Introduction

August 20, 2009

Dear Caitlin (and all other possible readers),

Sunflower Lentil Pate Close Up

Now that I have arrived in my new home of Toronto, I want to introduce a new series to this blog, what I’m calling “Cooking For One.” This new series is basically a way for me to respond to the new cooking situation I find myself in: suddenly living without anyone else to cook for on a regular basis, thus becoming both a solo cook and a solo diner. I think this situation presents new difficulties for even a semi-experienced cook like me, and I think it’s one that many others face as well. It means meals must be smaller, simpler to prepare, and, in whatever way they can be, cheaper. These concerns are what I hope to address with “Cooking For One,” providing guidelines and tips for those of us out there who are only ever preparing a single plate, who have to do so on a grad student’s budget, and who want whatever they do to remain healthy and good for them.

Right now, I envision this series as consisting of three smaller mini-series:

  • Single Serving Dinners that are easy and cheap to prepare yet still healthy and satisfying
  • Week-long Dinners that can be made in advance and keep well throughout the week
  • On The Go Lunches that are ideal for the traveling professional and student

Of course, this is as much a learning experience for me as it is something I’m doing to help others. Like I said before, this is a new way of cooking for me, but it’s also really exciting, and I think it’s going to allow me to take a lot of the lessons I’ve learned from the food-blogging community in the last few months and put them into action towards a new, healthy lifestyle. I hope others will join me for the ride!

That being said, I want to jump right into tonight’s dinner. As the evening hours approached today, I realized that I would soon need to feed myself something soon. Given the horrible humidity and stickiness of Toronto today, I knew that I needed something cool-ish—definitely nothing spicy or heated up on the stove. What I ended up with was something perfect for the weather and very satisfying: Sunflower Seed & Lentil Pate.

This dish, I must admit, had many sources of inspiration. First and foremost was the excellent Sunflower Lentil Pate at the Sacred Chow in NYC, where Caitlin and I just ate earlier this week (I hope Caitlin is still going to post about that). Next was the coincidental blog post all about pates (and specifically sunflower seed pates) on Choosing Raw this week. Armed with one recipe guideline, I decided to do a little more internet searching to round out my research and found this recipe on RecipeZaar, which also helped me reach my final concoction.

I then needed to do some quick grocery shopping, since I did not have all I needed for my recipe. Since I didn’t need much and didn’t want to spend too much time getting everything, I decided to go and test out the grocery store that is literally right around the corner from my place, Sobey’s:

Sobey's

This being my first time there I didn’t know what to expect, but I was generally happy with what I saw. This is no grand supermarket extravaganza, just your basic store with a decent enough selection of everything you need. I definitely will not be doing most of my shopping here, but it’s nice to know that there is a place like this right around the block open 24 hours for when I’m in a fix.

After I picked up my groceries, I went back to my house and started pate preparations. I knew the sunflower seeds would need to soak for at least an hour, so I set that up and then went on to take care of the other stuff. Now although the recipe I ended up with (and have included below) does not take long to make, I moseyed my way along when I did it. Tonight was definitely a night where my desire to remain laid back and relaxed was greater than my desire to eat right away. I like nights like this; they make cooking so much more enjoyable I find. But rather than walk you through each leisurely step I took in making this pate, I’ll just put up the recipe, and you can mosey along through it as you wish.

Sunflower Seed & Lentil Pate

Sunflower Lentil Pate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup (cooked) brown lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)
  • 1/2 cup (cooked) red lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (I used brown rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil
  • water, about 1/8 cup or as needed
  • plenty of fresh or dried dill
  • extra sunflower seeds for topping

Preparation:

  1. Soak sunflower seeds in water, for 1 hour or more.
  2. While sunflower seeds are soaking, cook the lentils in simmering water, either in separate pots or together, until soft.
  3. Combine soaked sunflower seeds, lentils, garlic, Bragg’s, and rice wine vinegar in a food processor and pulse until it starts reaching a hummus-like consistency.
  4. Drizzle in the oil to thin out mixture. Drizzle in water as needed until you reach desired consistency.
  5. At the very end, add the dill (I used about 1/2 tsp) and pulse it quickly to incorporate.
  6. Remove mixture from food processor and put in container. Refrigerate for about an hour, if you like.
  7. Serve with extra sunflower seeds and dill on top.

Some notes on this recipe: While I found this mixture very satisfying, it can be done differently in many ways, several of which would probably improve it. I hope to be able to tweak with the ingredients some in the future and try out new combinations, but for now I think this is a good guideline for anyone who is curious to try out something new and amazing. (Also, I’m not really sure how necessary having both brown and red lentils is; it was something I just wanted to try, but, as the pictures show, there’s nothing red about the final product, and I couldn’t really taste any redness in there. I probably won’t know what difference they make until I try it again without them.)

There are many ways one can enjoy this pate; I chose to have mine with some baby carrots and some whole wheat Pita Alwatan:

Pitas

Along with this, I finished off the leftover lentils from the recipe and enjoyed a pink lady apple and an Ontario peach, which doesn’t seem to me too much different from a regular, non-Ontario peach. All in all, a very tasty, healthy, cheap, and satisfying meal! Which is exactly what I’m hoping I can continue making.

Also, for reading all the way to the bottom of this post, you can a bonus gift: the “setlist” from tonight’s dinner (since I’m such a rock star). It includes my original grocery store list, along with my original recipe guidelines:

Setlist

Until we eat again,

Willie

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