Eating Well On A Tight Schedule: Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

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In the last several months, I have had little time do anything else but work on my startup. It’s a really exciting and busy time for Glamour Games, which means I have very little time for Club Dine In. Though, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been eating well. My health is a priority, so I still try to squeeze in 3-4 workouts per week, grocery shop, and cook. I don’t devote my free time for elaborate meals, but stick to the basics. I still cook and eat fresh, unprocessed food that take 30 minutes or less to make. I am also becoming an expert on making large batches of food, so I only have to cook about 3 nights a week. I mostly make Indian curries, sauteed vegetables over soba noodles or quinoa, and hearty salads.

One of my go-to recipes is the One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf I found on the Food 52 website. It has a nice balance of protein (quinoa, pine nuts), healthy fats (walnut oil, pine nuts), carbohydrates (quinoa, pine nuts), vitamins and fiber (kale, chives, quinoa). Good quality walnut oil can be expensive, but it’s worth the investment. Walnut oil is delicious and a little really goes a long way. You can also just use a good quality olive oil, but I really do love the flavor the walnut oil lends to this dish. In this recipe, I substitute chives for scallions often. It really is about what I can find at the farmer’s market. When we are tired of kale, I add in arugula (without steaming it) or spinach. I’ve even added a few sprigs of fresh mint to the mix. It’s easy to make this recipe vegan, by nixing the goat cheese altogether. The texture and taste is lighter without the goat cheese and the walnut flavor really comes thru.

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I refuse to eat takeout food near our office, so I bring in food for us everyday. With this dish, I introduced one of our engineers to quinoa and kale. After that, I decided to bring this dish in every Monday for the team. The pilaf also costs a lot less per serving than fast food. A little prep and planning does go a long way for your budget, time and health!

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Grilled Asparagus with Lavender Salt

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One of my favorite things about Spring is asparagus. Actually, I think I have already overdid it with the asparagus. I won 8 bunches of asparagus from a recipe contest on the Fort Mason’s Farmers Market Facebook page and I’ve really tried eating it all. Though, asparagus are relatively low-maintenance. I don’t need to do much with them and they cook rather fast. This is one of my most basic recipes for asparagus, that I probably make once a week. It’s fast. And, sometimes, I eat the whole bunch by myself. They are that good. Fresh asparagus, that haven’t been doused in pesticides or altered by biotech companies (want to have this discussion?), are healthy. I don’t question it.

Lavender is my secret ingredient. I discovered cooking with lavender when one of my college roommates brought home a bottle of Herbs de Provence (a mixture of dried herbs which include lavender). I was amazed that you could cook with lavender as I had always thought of it as a nice smelling flower. It turns out that lavender in food is magical and has many, many healing properties. It really is magical and most people cannot pinpoint what “that” flavor is, making you a culinary star. Like all other herbs, I only get organic lavender.

Often times, I eat the grilled asparagus with a fried egg for complete meal. It’s breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner. It’s also very satiating. Try it with a runny, pasture-raised egg. You will be amazed.

Ingredients
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 tablespoon olive oil or organic butter
lavender salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1-2 pasture-raised eggs (optional)

Method
Heat a cast iron pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil or butter and coat the pan well. Add in the asparagus a handful at a time. You do not want to overcrowd the pan. Let the asparagus cook for a couple of minutes before turning them with a wooden spatula. Cook for a couple of minutes more or until they are tender. Sprinkle lavender salt over the asparagus and transfer to a plate. Repeat this procedure until all of the asparagus is cooked.

In the same pan or a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter. Wash the eggs and crack one egg into the pan. Cook until the whites appear solid, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately over the bed of cooked asparagus.

You can use a cast-iron grill pan or a regular heavy bottomed pan to cook the asparagus. I like using this pan because it creates beautiful grill marks on the asparagus.

A regular (cast-iron) pan works just as well.

Asparagus are easy yet elegant enough for potlucks. I took this dish to a potluck brunch a couple of weeks ago.

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Traditional Meatless Greek Dolma (Recipe)

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Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. A friend, Carina Ost, made a new year’s resolution to learn how to make dolma and set up a learning session at Mezes Greek Kitchen. Carina invited a few other blogger friends, including myself, … Continue reading

Chana Chai Masala

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In my quest for eating mostly only seasonal and local produce, I have avoided making Indian food that requires a tomato based gravy this winter. Mainly because I have not seen any tomatoes at the Farmers Market in the last couple of months. Though, I was craving Indian food last week- in particular Chole Bathura. Chole Bathura is a dish that originates in the Northern Indian state  of Punjab. Punjab is known for their decadent dishes like Chicken Makhani, Saag Paneer, and Chole Bathura. Chole Bathura is an ultimate comfort food, perfect for a chilly, winter’s day. Chole are spicy chickpeas/garbanzo bean and bathura is deep fried bread. Since, I am not eating any fried food this month (Rule #3 of January Rules), I decided to make my own version of bread and garbanzo beans that would hit the spot. I also realized that I could make an exception and use canned tomatoes to substitute the fresh, ripe tomatoes. As long as the ingredient list of the canned tomatoes only reads tomatoes and no other processed ingredients.**

There were many firsts when I attempted to make this dish. It was my first time cooking with dried garbanzo beans and using canned tomatoes. After inquiring on Twitter and asking my mom on how to cook garbanzo beans, I decided that soaking and boiling them would probably produce the best results. This  cooking method is longer than opening a can of beans, but canned beans are slimy and often have added salt and preservatives. It also happens to be national tea month, so I added a little flavor of my own. I used a Masala Chai blend from Samovar, but you can easily make your own mix or use a Masala Chai tea bag. Carefully read the ingredients list on the tea bag, and avoid using tea that has added sugars or artificial flavors. Higher quality, fair-trade loose leaf tea will yield the best results.

Chana Chai Masala

Ingredients
Serves 4-6
1 cup dry Garbanzo beans
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
plenty of water to soak and boil the beans
1 tablespoon Masala Chai mixture or 1 Chai tea bag
3/4 cup boiling hot water
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, more or less for your tolerance
2 tsp ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces canned tomatoes**
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
One lemon, juiced and zested

Masala Chai Mixture
1 tablespoon black tea
1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
2-3 whole cloves
1-2 peppercorns, whole
2-3 cardamom pods, cracked open

1. Soak Garbanzo beans in plenty of water overnight (at least 8 hours). Rinse the soaked Garbanzo beans. Bring 3 cups of water in a large stock pot to a boil. Add the Garbanzo beans, baking soda, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until they are soft but not mushy.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large pan on medium heat. Once pan is heated add oil and let it heat up for 30 seconds. Add onions and saute them until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Stir frequently. If the onions start to brown, add 1 tablespoon of water. Add spices and mix well. The spices will stick to the onion and become aromatic in about 45 seconds. Mix in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.

3. While the onions are cooking, steep tea mixture in 3/4 cup boiling hot water in a cup and cover. The tea should steep for about 20 minutes.

3. Slowly add in the tomatoes with their liquid to the pan. Stir well to incorporate spice mixture. Add the salt. After 2 minutes, reduce temperature to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add in the Garbanzo beans. Strain tea leaves or remove tea bag from water, and pour the tea water into the pan. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off heat and mix in lemon juice and zest.

5. Garnish with cilantro or marigold petals. Serve with Basmati rice or roti.

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Farmer’s Market Find: Brussels Sprouts

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I debated going to the market today, since I have a fridge full of leftovers from Thanksgiving. Satish and I both want to keep our meals fairly light this week since we are still digesting our Thanksgiving dinner. I doubted the market would have been busy like last week, so opted on going and enjoying the quietness. There were less farmers today too; perhaps they were gone for rest of the season or just today. I bought a lot of Brussels sprouts. I never was a fan of Brussels sprouts or at least I thought I wasn’t. I actually never even encountered Brussels sprouts until my early 20’s, but I knew I didn’t like them because the kids on TV always hated them. So like broccoli, I thought it was another gross vegetable that no kid on the planet would want to eat. Then I saw just how cute they were at the farmer’s market a couple of years ago and started to cook with them. They are sooo good! I can’t understand why Brussels sprouts have such a bad rap. Anyway, they are super easy and quick to cook too. My favorite way to eat them is cutting them in half, cooking them on a skillet for 5 minutes, then tossing them with lemon juice, olive oil,  pecans, salt and pepper. I like to add shaved Parmesan cheese or dried cranberries when craving a heavier meal.  Cooking Brussels sprouts involve minimal patience and culinary skill. Brussels sprouts are related to the cabbage family and are best when in season. Try picking them in the same size so they cook at the same time. Smaller ones that are tightly closed are best. At the farmer’s markets and some grocery stores, you can buy them with their stalks still intact. This will keep them fresher longer, but storing loose Brussels sprouts in an air tight container will work too.

Brussels Sprouts on their stalk

Weekly Dinner Menu
Sunday: Stuffed Peppers (turkey and gravy), Arugula Salad (pomegranates, goat cheese, pine nuts)
Monday: Squash and Pistachio Quinoa, Kale Salad
Tuesday: Mixed Lentil Pilaf, Brussels Sprouts Salad, Roasted Beets and Persimmons
Wednesday: Turkey Tartine with Cranberry Sauce
Thursday: Sip, Snack and Shop on Chestnut Street
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Dinner at a friend’s place

How was your Thanksgiving?

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Thanksgiving Side Dish: Potatoes Mashed or Not

Follow me on Twitter Mashed potatoes are delicious, but they do take some (messy) prep work  and time which may make you resort the the instant stuff for your side-dish. Instant potatoes have been an American staple for decades. They … Continue reading