Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mushroom and Raisin Mujadara

I have an infatuation with the Middle East. Maybe it stems from my fascination with biblical history; maybe it's due to the aura of mystery and exotic culture that I've always associated with the region. I'm pretty sure, though, that a large part of my interest in the area is due to the fact that I love Middle Eastern food. Period. The spices, the beans, the rich flavors...yum!

(somewhat unrelated)...I was studying with a friend this afternoon and decided to cook for us. I looked in my fridge and realized I had the right ingredients to make something that I saw earlier that day when I was browsing through some global food blogs. It was called "mujadara." I admit, I had to look it up to see what it was; it's apparently an Arabic dish popular among Egyptians and Syrians. Arab Christians eat it during Lent, and Middle Eastern Jews traditionally eat it twice a week. It has a couple of odd nicknames: it's called "Esau's favorite" (maybe the Biblical patriarchs ate this dish!!!), and the word "mujadara" apparently means "smallpox"because the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. I'm glad I didn't know that last fact when eating it, because I might have been a bit disturbed.

Anyways, interesting history aside, this was delicious!

I didn't make the traditional mujadara, which consists of just cooked lentils, rice, sautéed onions, and spices... I added a bit more to it :) I definitely liked how it turned out. The extra ingredients add more complexity to the flavors, and the combination and it got the stamp of approval from my friend!

Mushroom and Raisin Mujadara

inspired by this recipe
1/2 a large onion
1 1/2 button mushrooms
a handful of chopped kale
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook the rice and lentils separately. I cheated and used pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe's just because they're so easy and convenient.

2. Slice the onions into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips, then sauté over medium heat with the olive oil.
caramelizing onions always smells delicious :)

 3. Chop up the mushrooms! (Ignore the cilantro...I originally considered adding it to the dish but later decided the flavors were fine without it!)

4. After the mushrooms are about 3/4 of the way cooked through, add in the mushrooms and chopped kale. These veggies aren't in traditional mujadara but I decided to add them in to make the dish healthier...and also because mushrooms and caramelized onions always go together in my book!

Stir-fry until the veggies are done (the mushrooms and kale stems should be soft). You might have to add some water to keep the onions from burning.

5. Fold in the lentils and rice. Add the cinnamon, cumin, salt, and pepper. You can also add the raisins here. I personally really liked the raisins in the dish; it gave it a unique sweetness and pop of flavor! However, if you don't like raisins...go ahead and omit them, I suppose. I recommend them though :)

 6. Spoon out and enjoy while still warm!

 Try it, and eat like Jacob and Isaac.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Applesauce & Oat Pancakes

I woke up this morning with a craving for pancakes. Pancakes! This was weird, considering I hardly ever eat them. But once the word "pancake" entered my mind, it wouldn't get out. And the gears started turning...

I didn't have any type of gluten-free pancake mix or all-purpose flour. I did, however, have gluten-free rolled oats (not all oats are gluten free; check the label to make sure there isn't contamination). Time to be resourceful! I decided to blend up some dry rolled oats to make a flour. 

The flour wasn't as fine or light as store-bought gluten free flour, but it worked for my purposes! The flour taken care of, I now entered experimentation mode. I've heard that cooking is like chemistry lab where you measure and combine to synthesize a product. But I like cooking more. There's a lot risk...what you make probably won't be completely toxic and blow up a room or set something on fire. The worst that can happen is an upset stomach and some wasted ingredients. Much less at stake too.

But don't fear; this experiment had a good outcome! The end result? These applesauce & oat pancakes:

They turned out denser and more hearty than "regular flour" pancakes, but still good! I was pleasantly surprised that they held together; I honestly didn't know what would happen with the oat flour but it worked!

Applesauce & Oat Pancakes
1 1/2 cups ground oatmeal flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sugar 
2 tsp ground flaxseeds
1 egg
1 1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp oil for frying
add-ins: raisins, bananas, blueberries, chocolate, etc

1. Pulse 1 1/2 cups of raw rolled oats in a blender until you get a flour-like consistency

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: the oat flour, baking soda, sugar, flaxseeds. 

3. Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Then stir in 1/4 cup of applesauce.

my countertop of ingredients

4. Add in any extras you want: I started with just raisins but later decided to add mini chocolate chips and bananas!

5. Heat up some oil on a pan on medium heat. Pour out about 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake; cook on each side until golden-brown then flip!

Serve while still warm. 

I'm a bit odd and have always eaten applesauce with my pancakes ever since I was a kid; you can put maple syrup or jam or butter or whatever your heart desires on top!

a cross-section of one: raisins, bananas, and chocolate chips!

Needless to say, my stomach was happy. A successful experiment!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Combine and Dine

I made the salsas in the previous two posts on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Then I made this for dinner on Sunday....
(quinoa with chickpeas, kale, tomatoes, and spices)

and found my refrigerator quite stocked with tupperware filled with food.

Lots of leftovers.

It actually worked out wonderfully, because I had a final exam and paper the next week. What a great time to embrace (and be creative with) leftovers!

Monday dinner: corn tortilla tacos filled with this salsa, with the leftover quinoa dish on the side.

write write write!!!

 Tuesday midmorning snack: leftover quinoa & chickpeas with steamed broccoli and blueberries

Tuesday lunch: lentils from the fridge with spinach, combined with that same tomato salsa and some of this corn salsa topped with avocado...really flavorful!

Wednesday lunch: leftover quinoa dish + lentils +  that corn salsa + steamed broccoli + avocado. AHHH yummy!!

And that was the last of the leftovers! Perfect, because I finished my final Wednesday morning and then went home for the weekend. Leftovers don't have to be mundane, just make sure you have a variety of dishes with complementary flavors (in this case I was able to pair flavorful salsas with basic grains) that you can easily combine!

Another Salsa...Corn + Blueberries!

Keeping with my random infatuation with summertime salsas...

I was perusing through my food "pins" and came across this amazing looking blueberry corn salsa. I first saw this recipe during Winter Quarter, when I didn't have access to a kitchen or fresh blueberries. I remembered a few weeks ago and had to try it out.

Unfortunately I didn't have all the ingredients that Tara used, so I modified and simplified the recipe to fit what I had in the kitchen!

Pan-fried a can of corn with chopped sweet onions,

added about a cup of fresh blueberries (probably less because I kept popping them in my mouth along the way),

then seasoned the salad with chopped cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice. I mixed it all together then stuck it in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors combine.

It turned out pretty good! Just the corn and blueberries alone would be too sweet, but the onion and lime balanced it out. You can eat it by the spoonful (I did at first!) or serve it over a bed of greens, rice, or in tacos!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cherry Tomato and Avocado Summer Salsa - Freshness to the Max!

This summer salsa is GOOD. It's so flavorful and fresh and literally every bite was an explosion of deliciousness in my mouth!!

Seriously. And it was easy to make. I was bored on a Saturday morning so I decided to throw together all these simple flavors and it turned out phenomenal. 

Cherry Tomato & Avocado Summer Salsa

2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 large avocado (firm enough to hold its own in the salsa)
juice from 1/2 a lime (to taste)

Because this salsa is so simple, the key is to start out with good, fresh ingredients. If the individual flavors are good, it makes for just that much of a better dish.

Aren't the colors of these cherry tomatoes (from Trader Joe's!) beautiful? And this avocado...absolute perfection!

1. Chop, chop chop up the tomatoes into small pieces, dice the onions, finely chop the cilantro, and cut the avocado into bite-sized cubes.

2. Combine. It's that simple.

3. Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa; season with salt to taste. I found that it was flavorful enough to forgo the salt! Gently mix the salsa so you don't crush the tomatoes or avocado.

You're done! Easy enough, right?

I have to admit...I ate a good amount of this salsa by itself by the spoonful. I couldn't get enough of it! Then I decided to make more of a "complete meal" with it: 

A good way to start off my Saturday!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kick Your Food Up A Notch!

Catchy title? Or lame? :) 

Regardless, check out the new issue of Total Wellness Magazine: Kick Your Food Up a Notch!
I'm a contributing writer for this publication that comes out twice a quarter here at UCLA. We're a division of the Student Government, which allows us to distribute print versions to students for free! Here is a link to the online version that everyone can have access to. 

I wrote two articles in this issue:

 The first is about Stair Climbing in Los Angeles--it first addresses some of the benefits of stair climbing as exercise, then lists some cool places stair-filled workouts and hikes around the city. I actually want to try a few of them out! Writing about this topic was really educational for me; although I always get tired and sore if I have to climb a bunch of stairs, I never went out of my way to use them for the purpose of exercise. I definitely want to incorporate them more into workouts!
a quick screenshot; click on the magazine link to read an electronic version!

 My second article is about different types of whole grains--Amaranth, Kamut, Teff, etc. I tried to focus on lesser-known types of grains, so hopefully people will find this one educational as well! I talk about the origins of each type of grain, popular uses, and specific nutritional benefits. Check it out!! :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fresh Rainbow Chard

I couldn't resist these at the farmer's market. Just couldn't.
Aren't they just the most beautiful color?!?

First I cut off the tough stems from each piece:

Then stir-fried them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder!
they kind of turned out dark and not appetizing-looking...but I can attest that this was really tasty! Pan-frying the chard results in a somewhat crispy yet tender dish, and I definitely like it more than steaming the vegetable.

Round 2: with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and colorful cherry tomatoes

 served atop a bed of lettuce and lentils. Healthiest and tastiest dinner I've had in a while!