SUPER GREEN ENCHILADAS

5.04.2016

Naturally, a great way to start a food blog post is with a weird meat story. But first, it starts with booze.

I'm an Asian with trained alcohol resistance. Meaning, I am not naturally equipped to drink. I get the Asian flush, I popped Pepcid in my twenties and maxed out at one drink for a loooooong time. Then I matured, and look at me now, practically European in nature with my nightly glass(es) of wine. Training and persistence really pays off. 

A while back the training failed me when G and I went wine tasting and I got totally blitzed. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the best Mexican place in Sonoma and destroyed two burritos in hopes it would sop up the booze. We walked into the hotel room and couldn't even look at the free wine on the table. Instead, I looked lovingly up at G when he said, "I have the biggest chunk of carne asada stuck in my teeth. Look." He pulled his lip up and I ran into the bathroom and puked. Pure romance.

It's a miracle I still love Mexican food (and G) as much as I do, but I guess it explains why I rarely, if ever, order carne asada. 




Mexican is survival food in our household. It's easy to throw together weeknight tacos, but in typical Jimin fashion, I was desperate to find a way to make our Mexican meals more veggie centric outside of salads and bowls. And specifically green veggies. Turns out, if I wrap a bunch of vegetables with a tortilla and sprinkle it with cheese, everyone eats everything. Shocker. 

For me, the magic of this recipe is in the pepita pesto. More greens, more seedy protein, more flavor. It's also crazy good on avocado toast. The filling with the pesto doesn't really need the tortilla and cheese, in my opinion. Throw it on top of some quinoa or cauliflower rice with extra salsa and cilantro and you're winning the carb fight.

I promise, some day very soon I will post a recipe with meat or fish of some kind. I'm not staying on the dark side forever. 




SUPER GREEN ENCHILADAS
~makes roughly 12 enchiladas

If you're looking at this ingredient list and thinking to yourself this chic's crazy I'll never make this, I get it. It really is super quick and easy to make if you make the pesto and salsa ahead of time. But if that's still too much, rotisserie chicken with a quick sauté of spinach and store-bought salsa will presumably be delicious, too. Just don't skimp on the pesto. Takes 5 minutes to make and it is essential deliciousness.

Pepita pesto:
1 cup packed cilantro (I use leaves and stems because the stems have tons of flavor, but feel free to use all leaves if you don't want the fibrous stems)
1/4 cup roasted pepitas
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
1 serrano pepper, core and seeds removed, roughly chopped
1 peeled garlic clove
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the enchilada filling:
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 roasted green chiles or 1-4 oz can of diced green chiles
1 serrano pepper, core and seeds removed, finely diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1/2 tsp or so kosher salt
1 cup cooked chickpeas or canned (rinse and drain if using canned)
8 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup or so of pepita pesto 
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)

Enchilada assembly: 
12 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded jack cheese

Garnish:
finely chopped cilantro
crumbled cotija cheese
extra salsa
hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. 

For the pepita pesto: 
Blitz everything in a food processor, or mini if you have one, and season to taste. If it's too thick for your liking, add a tiny bit of water and pulse until the desired consistency is reached. 
Measure out 1/2 cup and refrigerate the rest in a tightly sealed container for future uses.

For the enchilada filling: 
In a large sauté pan, heat veg oil over medium heat. 
Add the onion and cook until translucent. 
Add the zucchini, garlic cloves, chiles and spices and cook until the zucchini is slightly softened. 
Add the chickpeas and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated about 7-10 minutes. 
Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

For assembly: 
Spread 1/4 cup of the salsa on the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan. 
Heat the tortillas slightly so they are pliable. I did this in a small cast iron skillet about 30 seconds on each side. As you fill one tortilla, heat another to keep things moving and the tortillas don't dry out. 
Fill the tortillas with  3-4 Tbs of the mixture, adding chicken if you like, and roll them into fat cigars. Lay on top of the salsa in the pan, seam side down. Repeat until you've used up all the mixture or tortillas, whichever comes first :) 
Top the enchiladas with the remaining salsa, spreading over all the tortillas, and top with the shredded cheese. 
Bake for 25 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbling and browned in spots. 
Before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, crumbled cotija cheese and serve with extra salsa and hot sauce.

CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD SANDWICH

4.13.2016

Veganism is a hot-ass topic.

Who knew turning vegan for a month would be such a conversation starter?? I am not one for small talk, and in fact, I've had to force myself to become a conversationalist in my adult years as it is not a natural virtue I possess. Having this newfound way of eating may be worth keeping around just for the discussions it sparks. It's almost as powerful as me going blonde.

The first question people usually ask is, "what do you eat?" and since it's rude to answer "food", the adult conversationalist skills kick in and I run through the list of what I've been eating. Honestly, as knowledgeable as I am about food, veganism confounded me, too. After spending a couple hours perusing the web and seeing what other vegans are eating, it didn't take much to adapt. And it's true that within a couple days you feel the difference.



But I'm not here to preach, I'm here to share and document good food, vegan or not. And good food that's quick to make is a winner regardless of its meatless existence.

And let's talk about vegan mayo because just the words vegan mayo makes me gag. I don't like regular mayo, let alone vegan mayo. I've always used yogurt or olive oil and vinegar when making any sort of salad sandie. Kenji, my once-a-year-vegan-best-virtual-friend-who-doesn't-know-I-exist, busted out a "mayo" recipe made with chickpeas and aquafaba (the magical liquid that comes in a can of garbanzos) and it's pure magical deliciousness. It's basically hummus, but not. Trust me and try it (in this sandwich, of course) because I'll continue to make it long after my vegan days are gone.



CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD SANDIE
makes enough for 4 sandwiches

1 can low-sodium chickpeas (15.5 oz), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup vegan mayo (read my bit on this up above)
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 tsp celery leaves, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne
1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
8 slices of pumpernickel bread or any bread of your choice
sprouts
sliced avocado
finely sliced radishes

In a medium bowl, smash the chickpeas with the back of a fork or potato masher. Keep them chunky. 
Fold in the rest of the ingredients up to the shallot. Adjust the seasoning to taste. 
This can be made ahead up to two days. Cover well and store in the fridge until you're ready to make the sandwiches. 
Slap some of the mixture in between the bread and pile on the accoutrements. Tomato makes sense and finely sliced cukes would be a great addition, too. 

COCONUT RHUBARB FOOL

4.01.2016

I'm not foolin'....I'm going vegan for the month of April. And before I even officially started, I nearly drove G out of the house.

To prepare myself for deprivation experimentation, I've been doing a lot of research and came across Kenji's Vegan Experience. It's awesome. A treasure trove of delicious-looking recipes, inspiration and wisdom. Kenji's recipes are flawless, so I trust if he says something is outstanding, it's going to be outstanding. One look at the Olive Shake and I thought, damn that looks delicious, and made a batch to prepare myself for a month without cheese.

Apparently, what I think smells amazing makes G want to gag. Literally. I actually saw him gag and lurch. My hopes of him ever liking olives have forever gone out the window.

To make it up to him I'm sweetening him up with vegan dessert. I swear, I've laughed myself to tears with all these vegan proclamations lately.

Seriously, though, I don't prescribe to vegan dessert very often because I sort of don't see the point. I'd rather eat fruit. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with butter and cream every once in a while (that's the important part). In fact, I think the joy it brings most people far outweighs any digestive issues one may face with an onslaught of dairy. But this one is so simple, so delicious and it celebrates the beginning of Spring. More rhubarb is on the list of my top five food resolutions of 2016 and it makes G swoon.

So, if you see vegan recipes for the next month, that means the dessert worked.


COCONUT RHUBARB FOOL
~serves 4

1 lb rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
3 Tbs granulated sugar or honey
zest and juice of 1 lemon or orange
pinch of salt
1-14 oz can of coconut cream (the one from TJ's is great)
1-2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium pot, combine the rhubarb, sugar, zest, juice and salt. 
Over medium heat, cook the rhubarb until softened and broken down, roughly 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. 
Once the rhubarb is cooked, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely. Taste and adjust for sweetness, but don't add to much sugar as you want the tartness to offset the sweetness of the cream. This can be done many days ahead of time and stored in the fridge. 
In a mixing bowl or Kitchen aid bowl fitted with the whip attachment, whip the coconut cream, sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form. 
Gently fold in the cooled rhubarb, taking care not to fold too much as you want the streaks of rhubarb to show. 

GARDENER'S PIE (VEGAN SHEPHERD'S PIE)

3.14.2016

You'd think I was turning into a vegan with all of these vegan-esque posts of late. When I hear that people are vegan, I think "well, that sounds terrible," but is it really?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how my body processes food, how it has changed in recent years and how interesting it would be to try something totally plant-based for 22 days. It wouldn't be that far of a stretch since I love salad, don't eat that much meat and want to mix up the menu around here. And 22 days isn't that long at all to go without dairy. I can't get behind faux meat or cheese, so my diet really would be entirely focused around veggies, fruits, grains, nuts and legumes. Sounds kind of nice, doesn't it? 

Or maybe it sounds like your worst nightmare. 


If you're in that camp, try this otherwise traditionally meat-laden recipe. We used to eat a fair amount of cottage pie around here, usually subbing turkey or chicken for beef. It's quick, easy to throw in a lot of veggies and it's so satisfying you feel like you've been sitting around a fire with a giant blanket wrapped around you sipping hot cocoa. 

Lentils are just as satisfying to me and with the again, otherwise traditionally meat-laden holiday that's approaching, I thought instead of corned beef or cottage pie, we'd try lentil pie. I'm practically crying inside it sounds so ridiculous trying to sell someone on that. 

But seriously, it tastes NO DIFFERENT. Truly, no difference at all between this plant-based recipe and it's animal equivalent. I've made it a few times and all three of us go in for second helpings. 

I'll let you know when I pull the trigger on that plant-based diet thing. This is a good start, I think. Maybe for Austerity April that's quickly approaching. 


GARDENER'S PIE (VEGAN SHEPHERD'S PIE)
~serves 6 or so

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium/large zucchini, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked red lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
2 cups packed spinach
1 Tbs cornstarch or arrowroot starch (optional)
3 lbs potatoes, cooked, mashed and seasoned (I prefer Yukons, but used russets for the one above. With Yukons, I leave the skin on if they are organic, russets should be peeled)

Preheat your broiler. 
In a large skillet, heat 1-2 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened - 5-6 minutes. 
Add the zucchini and garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes. 
Add the tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for an additional minute or so. 
Add the lentils, stir to combine. 
If you are using cornstarch or arrowroot starch, whisk with some of the broth before adding to the skillet. 
Add the broth and spinach and cook simmer for 10-15 minutes until the lentils are nicely cooked but not mushy. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You may need to add a little more broth or water as the lentils cook, but don't be tempted to add too much, otherwise your pie will be too loose. 
Place the mixture in a 9" x 13" pan and spread the mashed potatoes on top. I find the best way to do this is to scoop some with my hand and make little patties and plop them on top. 
Place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until browned in spots.

ASIAN BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD

3.02.2016


You know when you say a phrase over and over and over again and it begins to sound like a foreign language? That's how I felt when I tried to come up with a name for this recipe. Something about it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like I'd like it to.

A few weeks ago, it came to my attention that I'm not cooking enough vegetables with dinner (huh, what??!). This came as a shock because I feel like I'm a walking vegetable I eat so many throughout the day (ooh...that doesn't sound so good, but you know what I mean). Turns out I'm eating all the vegetables at breakfast and lunch and in between, saving comfort food for dinner. L always gets at least a couple different veggies at dinner, but G has apparently been left out. Oops.




Going from one extreme to another and saying, "hey honey, I made salad for dinner" is generally a tough sell. This was an instant winner which I think was a surprise to the both of us. Not to say I'm the only salad eater, but unlike my dining companions I can eat salad seven days a week three times a day whereas they cannot. And by the way, does anyone of our generation call their significant other "honey"? I don't and don't know anyone who does, but it sounds good in this scenario.

With summer a few short months away, this salad comes at a good time to rev up lighter eating to shed those few extra winter pounds. Even though currently, we're having our "winter" with foggy days and rain in the forecast, but I find this salad filling and comforting enough even for chilly days. If you read to the bottom of the recipe, you can find out how to really warm this dish up :)


ASIAN BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD
serves 6-8 depending on whether it's a main or side salad 

I doubled the salad dressing because it's really good and will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Most salads I like with very little dressing, but this one I like a lot :) It would be prudent to make a larger batch in the event you fall in my camp and need more dressing on your salad. 

For the salad:
1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a sharp knife*
1 large chicken breast (about 8 oz), poached, cooled and shredded
5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves

For the dressing:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp rice wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar or maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black or sansho pepper
2 tsp finely grated ginger
3 Tbs grapeseed oil
1 Tbs sesame oil

Garnish:
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
sansho pepper (optional)

For the salad, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. This will keep for two days in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic.
For the dressing, whisk the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and ginger in medium bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oils to emulsify.
About ten minutes before serving, toss the salad with the dressing. Unlike most salads, this one tastes best with a little time to marinate to soften the sprouts ever so slightly.
Alternatively, you can make both the salad base and dressing a day or two ahead of time and toss together before serving.
Just before serving, garnish with sesame seeds, almonds and a sprinkling of sansho.
This salad, dressing and all, is also amazing quickly sautéed and thrown with some udon or soba, which is how I ate it for a couple days afterwards for lunch.

* I tried using the shredder on my food processor for this and I didn't like the texture at all. It takes some time to shred a pound of brussels sprouts, but not enough to keep you from wanting to make and eat the dish.

COCONUT CHERRY CHIA BARS

2.27.2016

G told me about a food replacement product that is marketed towards people who aren't interested in the taste of food and/or don't have the time to eat but need calories to live. Apparently, it tastes like nothing and it delivers all the nutrients and calories one needs on a daily basis. I get the busy world we live in, but what??! Who doesn't like the taste of food? I'm so confused that people like this exist. I mean, at least drink a chocolate protein shake.

I've been known to eat random meals in a hurry, but it has to be delicious. My in-a-rush meal usually consists of rice and an egg, but since I had a kid portable snacks are the key to living. I never embraced Power Bars when they first emerged because I thought they tasted terrible, but bars have come a long way since then.

My only complaint with store-bought bars is they leave me with sugar mouth. Do you know what I'm talking about? I end up having to eat a bag of chips or pretzels to neutralize my tongue. Defeats the purpose of a healthy snack, ya know? A lot bars are bound with some sort of syrup, which makes sense because you have to be able to cut them. These days, dried dates are used in everything. I love dates, but even those are too sweet for me on a regular basis.

Homemade bars aren't novel, but making a different kind of bar takes some experimenting and thought outside the usual oat and nut realm. I figured if I blended a dried fruit with some sort of nut or seed and some fat it would have decent binding power. It was sort of a shock these worked on the first go, but it worked so well they were gone by the end of the day. Not sure these are that healthy to warrant eating so many, but it's definitely better than a bag of chips or zero-taste meal replacement powder.


NO BAKE COCONUT CHERRY CHIA BARS
~makes roughly 32 bars 

The first time I made this I used cashews, but I wanted to make a nut-free version for L's class. I prefer the cashews because the cherries come through a little more and the color is more vibrant, but both work equally well. I don't see any reason why almonds wouldn't work, but I'd steer away from anything strong like peanuts, hazelnuts or pecans. It's important the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, so if it doesn't you can always add a little honey, blitz more dried fruit or add a little nut/seed butter. Also, the ones pictured here weren't blended as well as the other batches I made. It doesn't really matter in terms of texture or taste, so if yours come out darker red, don't be alarmed! 

4 cups / 8 oz / 237 grams unsweetened dried coconut (shreds or flakes)
1-1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 cup unsalted, raw sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1/4 cup chia seeds

Spray and line a 9 x 13" sheet pan with parchment. It helps to have overhanging sides of parchment, but it's not necessary. Set aside.
In a food processor with the blade attachment, blitz the 4 cups of dried coconut for 5-8 minutes until it turns into coconut butter. You may have to stop and scrape the sides down once or twice. It should look liquidy like nut butter.
Scrape into a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the dried cherries and sunflower seeds in the food processor (no need to clean the bowl) and blitz for 5-6 minutes until the mixture is very finely chopped and the seeds release their oils. It should clump together when you squeeze the mixture and look shiny.
Place the coconut butter back into the bowl, along with the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pulse a few times until the mixture is well combined.
Fold in the 1 cup of shredded coconut and chia seeds.
Dump the mixture into the prepped pan and press down firmly with the back of another sheet pan or measuring cup.
Place the mixture in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up before cutting.
These bars will keep well in the fridge for a couple weeks (maybe longer, but they never make it that long). They are best consumed when slightly warmed to room temp for a few minutes.

ANCHO CHILE SALSA aka THE BEST SALSA EVER

2.04.2016

Sometimes I wonder what prehistoric people thought of food without seasoning. They obviously craved food for sustenance, but I really can't imagine it being the least bit enjoyable. I'm so thankful to be a modern woman - ha.

On an everyday basis, most people reach for the same seasonings over and over. When you get a wild hair and want to cook Indian, Thai or African you go out of your way (or dig through the spices you haven't used forever) and reap the rewards of dishes that are intensely flavored. On an average weekday though, it's hard to get past fatigue and cook outside your usual flavor profile. 

When I want to add something really special to a dish, I lean on my favorite sauces rather than an exhaustive list of spices. Or I just throw some kimchi on top. My fav sauces are super quick to make and they last a few days to a week, so I can throw crazy flavor on top of anything (or everything) in seconds.



One my favorite things on the planet is this recent discovery. Seriously, this salsa will BLOW YOUR MIND. G made it for the first time a couple months ago and I lost it. It was mind and body-altering because it's so unlike a conventional salsa and it makes everything, I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, taste good. So far I've had it with tacos, meat, dumplings, eggs, rice, sandwiches, pasta, chips of course, and soups from all different cuisines and it immediately transforms what I'm eating.

I mentioned my other two "mother sauces" here and beyond your basics like soy and hot sauce, these sauces are really the only things I need to make food taste delicious. And two bonuses: 1) it's super cheap to make (score for Frugal February) and 2) hiiiii, perfect Super Bowl food! 'Round here, we're having friends over and I'm making empanadas with a side of this here salsa. Heaven.


ANCHO CHILE SALSA 
~yields roughly a cup and a half

This recipe is adapted from Rancho Gordo's Scissor Salsa, which got it's name from the way you chop the chiles. Since dried chiles are used here and they aren't soaked ahead of time, it's the only practical way to chop them. 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
8 whole, dried Ancho chiles
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (RG's Indio oregano is THE BEST!)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar

In a small pot or pan, heat the oil and garlic over low heat for 3-4 minutes just to take the edge off the garlic. Be careful not to brown the garlic.
Meanwhile, over low heat in a cast iron skillet, toast the chiles being careful not to burn them. This is mostly to soften the chiles, rather than toast them.
Remove from the pan and with a pair of scissors, remove the stem, seeds and large veins from the peppers.
In a medium bowl, cut the peppers into small bite-size pieces.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it marinate for at least two hours. Place in the fridge if you are not planning to eat it right away.
This salsa will keep for at least a week in the fridge, if it lasts that long! 
 

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