Thursday, May 26, 2011

Farmers market stir-fry

One of my favorite things about living near my office is coming home for lunch every day. It only takes me about five minutes to walk to my apartment from work, so I have 50 minutes of preparation + eating time at my disposal each day. Yes, I know...I am the luckiest person in the world.

Unfortunately, I often underestimate the amount of time it will take me to prepare a dish (tip:  do not lug out your food processor on your lunch break). I have found one method, though, that never takes me over my time limit:  stir-frying. It's quick, can be made healthy quite easily, and is a suitable cooking method for almost any food. Case-in-point: this particular stir-fry took me all of 40 minutes to prepare, photograph, and eat. And it was delicious!

My farmers market loot from last weekend
This recipe incorporates almost all the vegetables I bought at Charleston's farmers market last weekend. You can use any produce that's in season and whatever protein you want. If at all possible, don't omit the pickled vegetables; their sweet acidity contributes an important layer of flavor to the dish. I originally made them as part of this banh mi recipe, which I highly recommend.

farmers market stir-fry
serves one
per serving (as written):  283.6 cal, 7.3g fat, 46.7g carb, 7.4g fiber, 13.5g protein, 8+ weight watchers (unless you enter each ingredient separately...then it's only 6!)

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sliver fresh ginger, minced
kernels from 1 ear of corn
2 radishes, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 scallion, sliced
8 medium shrimp
about 1 tsp soy sauce
about 1 tbsp rice vinegar
sriracha to taste
diced fresh jalapeno to taste
about 1/4 c pickled carrots and radishes (recipe below)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add ingredients from garlic to white part of scallion. If you're using a slower-cooking protein then shrimp, add that as well. Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring and tossing with abandon (that's the fun part, until you toss a little too enthusiastically and send corn kernels flying all over the place).

Add shrimp if using. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sriracha, and stir to coat mixture evenly. Cook a minute or two longer, until all liquid has dissolved. Empty into a large bowl, cover with rest of sliced scallions, jalapenos, and pickled vegetables. Enjoy your lunch (or dinner, or late-night snack, or maybe even breakfast)!

pickled carrots and radishes
adapted from food52
makes about 1.5 c

1/4 lb carrots, julienned
1/4 lb radishes, sliced thin
1/2 c water
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar

Mix all ingredients together. Let sit in refrigerator for at least an hour or as long as overnight. I used mine up in about three days, but they would have kept longer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

vegan chocolate chip cookies

I went to a cookout this weekend with lots of vegetarian/vegan attendees, so I thought I'd try my hand at vegan baking. I'd made a couple of vegan desserts before (brownies, Alton Brown's awesome chocolate pie with a couple of substitutions), but this was the first time I made up the recipe completely my own.

This recipe is an amalgamation of about 6 chocolate chip cookie recipes, some regular and some vegan, taking snippets as I pleased. Surprisingly, the cookies turned out great--crispy crumbly, extra chocolaty, with a hint of coconut from the oil. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to snap a picture of them, so you'll just have to make a batch to see how they look!

vegan chocolate chip cookies
makes about 5 dozen medium-sized cookies
per cookie:  114.3 cal, 6.4g fat, 14.6g carb, 1.0g fiber, 1.4g protein, 3+ weight watchers

1 1/2 c bread flour
2 1/2 c oats, ground (measured pre-grinding, which is optional but easy with a
         food processor)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla
2 c (1 12-oz bag) vegan chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, ground oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat coconut oil with sugar on medium speed for about two minutes. It will not get fluffy like butter but should look creamy. Add flax seed mixture and vanilla, and beat on medium speed for another two minutes.

Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients while mixing on medium-low speed. Mix just until combined, then fold in chocolate chips.

(Optional step:  At this point, I decided to make chocolate chocolate chip cookies by pulsing half of the dough in the food processor, then incorporating it back into the original dough. This yielded a cookie with a chocolaty flavor throughout, plus a good number of chips. Feel free to skip this step if you want a more traditional chocolate chip cookie.)

Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on how crispy you want your cookie. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating, as these are slightly more delicate than their non-vegan counterparts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

tropical pudding

Ah, summer. With the exception of the last few days' unseasonably cool weather (75! And windy!), summer has definitely fallen upon Charleston. This makes me want to eat as many cold, fruity things as possible...sorbet, yogurt, popsicles, pudding.

That's right, pudding. Despite--or perhaps because of--Jell-O's best efforts, when many of us think of pudding, we don't think of a refreshing warm weather treat, we think of a weak substitute for ice cream or something that comes out of a mold. We certainly don't think, "Pudding...refreshing!" I mean, besides Jell-O, the other brand of pudding I see most often in my grocery store is called Kozy Shack; this doesn't exactly conjure up images of sandy beaches and the ocean lapping at your feet.

But if you add coconut and mango...voila! You're transported to a cruise ship with a lei around your neck and ukelele music lulling you to sleep. So that's what I'm going for here. This is pudding, but it's pudding with a tropical twist. I think it's the perfect transitional dessert for springing into summer. 

tropical pudding
makes six 1/2-cup servings of pudding + 1/4 cup fruit
per serving (pudding only):  180.5 cal, 7.6g fat, 24.9g carb, 0.3g fiber, 2.0g protein, 5+ weight watchers 

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c light coconut milk
1 1/2 c plain almond milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 c mango or other fruit of your choice
Zest of one lime (optional) 

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add milks a little at a time (the order doesn't matter), whisking as you go and making sure there aren't lumps of cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.

Cook mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently, until it thickens and begins to form large, lazy-looking bubbles. Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Serve with fruit of your choice; I prefer mango, but pineapple or blueberries would also be delicious. A squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of zest perks it up a bit, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

sweet skillet cornbread

Cornbread. Maybe it's the southerner in me, but I don't think there's another bread out there that can beat it with a stick. (I don't use that phrase often, so it really means something.)

Only recently did I discover the existence of a dividing line, approximate to the Mason-Dixon, that separates northern cornbread from southern. Many say the sweet, cake-like cornbread baked in a casserole hails from the north, while its savory, cast iron skillet-cooked cousin originates the south. Perhaps because I have both New England and southern roots, I prefer a hybrid of the two--enough sugar to make me feel like I'm eating a little dessert with my dinner, but a nice crust around the edges to give the bread some oomph.

So, I sort of hijacked this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, whom I love (or should I say, whose website I love). I substitute butter for shortening and add a little honey plus a lot of fresh sweet corn. I also halve it since there's just me to eat it, and that could be dangerous. (Plus, I accidentally bought a 6-inch cast iron skillet on can't make a whole batch of anything in that.) Hence, this recipe can easily be doubled and cooked in a 10- or 12-inch skillet. 

sweet skillet cornbread 
adapted from The Pioneer Woman 
makes 4 (generous) servings
per serving:  162 cal, 4.1g fat, 28.3g carb, 1.9g fiber, 5.1g protein, 5+ weight watchers

1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c buttermilk
1 egg white
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter, melted and divided
kernels from 1 ear of corn (about 1/2 c) 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk together buttermilk, egg white, and honey. Add buttermilk mixture to cornmeal mixture, and stir to combine. Fold in corn kernels and 1 tbsp melted butter, stirring just until incorporated. Batter will be very thick.

Pour rest of butter into a 6-inch cast iron skillet; set over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, swirl butter to coat it and pour (or rather push) batter into skillet.

Cook on stovetop for about one minute, then transfer to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.