When I first started dating K, I found myself making her elaborate cocktails, tapas and canapés. It was so much fun coming up with delectable, relatively healthy, bite-sized, fanciful dishes for us to nibble on over candlelight and jazz. Four seasons later, and we’re still nibbling.
For me, the key to producing cute, delish appetizers is working creatively with whatever you have on hand while also paying attention to color, taste and presentation. What are some of your favorite healthy(ish) small-plates?
One of those nights where I’m too tired to cook anything complicated. Still in the final throes of grading. Craving ribs due to some tweet I saw about BBQ joints on Long Island but couldn’t actually work up the desire to eat meat, though. Had just enough energy to make this simple, delicious and vegan meal instead. The Calvados – a gift from my lady – transformed the simple yam into a sophisticated accompaniment / dessert / nightcap in one fell swoop.
BBQ Brussels Sprouts & Baked Yam
1/4 cup ketchup or tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
5 dashes worcester sauce
Preheat oven to 400. Wash yam. Poke with fork. Bake for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil Brussels sprouts until tender. Set aside.
Combine all ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a small sauce pan. Cook for about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Toss the Brussels sprouts in the sauce. Cut the baked yam down the middle and garnish with spices and, if you’re adventurous, a bit if Calvados or brandy.
Part of my self care regimen on the tenure track is scheduling time to cook healthy, nutrutious vegan meals on Sundays. During the week, I regularly work between 9-12 hours a day on research and writing projects, which means I have very little energy left over to cook .. and getting takeout every night isn’t an option unless I want to gain a million pounds.
So…. Here’s one of two delicious meals I made today:
Take a yam. Peel it. Chop it up and boil it.
Meanwhile: bring 1 cup of rainbow quinoa to boil in 2 cups of water. I toss in a cube of vegetable buillion. Reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside.
When the yam is tender, strain and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon of EVOO with 1/4 cup of almond milk. Stir in yams, drizzle with agave and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in 3 large handfuls of spinach and a dash of salt. Optional: sautee the spinach with fresh garlic before adding to the yams.
Spoon the yam/spinach mixture over the quinoa. Savor.
Trying to remember to eat these days has been challenging. Working ridiculous hours, losing track of time & trying to get tenure.. Writing. Reading. Analyzing data. Trying to remain sane. A familiar story.
Last week, I spent the entire day working only to realize, around 5 pm, that I’d yet to consume a single meal. And I didn’t get that meal until 7.
It is possible that I might have had half a glass of red wine on an empty stomach, nonetheless..
Anyway. It was a big wakeup call that as I try to make headway with my writing, I have to make a concerted effort to reinforce my self care. Take breaks. Drink water. Breathe. Stretch. EAT.
Given that I don’t have much time, or much of an appetite these days, self care takes planning. So this weekend I set aside some of my Sunday afternoon to cook a few meals for noshing during the week
One of the best things I made was this salad. It was super easy and delicious. Chopped up half a red onions and half a melon. Threw into a bowl. Drizzled with apple cider vinegar and added a touch of sea salt. Tossed in some corn, bell pepper, chipotle and cilantro … Voila! An amazing summer salad. Vegan, organic and raw.
I haven’t really been in the cooking mood lately. In fact, my vegan-ish eating experiment took an unexpected turn about a month ago when I decided to start eating a little bit of meat again, after a 120 day hiatus. I will blog about that decision another time, but for now I will simply note that my experiment taught me that I feel much more aligned and balanced with a plant-based lifestyle, which is why I am still about 90% vegan, despite the occasional foray into meat and dairy.
That said, for the past few weeks, I haven’t had it in my to spend much time cooking. I had a big conference in Amsterdam at the end of June and focused my energy on work, writing, household projects and exploring New York City. In the interim, I started doing something very unusual — eating at restaurants and ordering takeout!
Anyway, today I finally got back in the kitchen and whipped up this fab meal up for lunch.
Kale, Tofu & Pinenuts in Tomato Basil Peanut Sauce
Serves 2 hungry people
1/2 cup of tofu – chopped
1/4 sliced red onion
2 cloves of garlic – sliced
a handful of pinenuts
2-3 cups chopped kale
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup vinegar
herbes de provence
2 cups Jasmine rice
Cook jasmine rice according to instructions. Set aside.
In a large sauce pan, warm EVOO on medium heat. Add onions, garlic and a squeeze of lemon. After a few minutes, pour in about 1/4 bottle of peanut sauce. Add a little filtered water and vinegar. Add pinenuts, tomato, tofu and a touch of almond milk. Layer on the basil and sprinkle sea salt and herbes de provence to taste. Stir continuously and reduce heat.
While the sauce is cooking up, chop and rinse the kale. Pour 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a medium sauce pan and add the kale. Squeeze with lemon juice and add a little sea salt. Add the kale to the sauce, then add the sauce to the rice.
I complemented this with Trader Joe’s vegan falafel – which really made the dish amazing.
I’ve never thought of myself as a soup person, but my veganish experiment has afforded me ample opportunities to step up my soup game and find combinations of flavors that tickle my fancy. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly how I made this masterpiece, but it was amazing. What I know for sure is that it involved cooking up some split peas the old fashioned way — in a pot — then blending it down in the Vitamix with cilantro and some liquid (maybe almond milk? water? I have no idea). Next, I poured the mixture back into a pot and stirred in black beans, marinated tomatoes, apple cider vinegar and an assortment of spices. Grilled a spelt tortilla in EVOO and nutritional yeast, then sprinkled with herbes de provence.
Made this delectable dish the other night. Grilled onions in EVOO and added a few scoops of my homemade cashew cheese. Poured in about a half cup of rice milk and spiced the mixture up with a touch of nutmeg and sea salt. Tossed in a few handfuls of fresh spinach and garnished with pepper. Served over jasmine rice. It was so good, I almost cried.