Breakfasting Alone

This semester is going by so quickly – I can’t believe it. Only five weeks left in the semester, including this one, and then it’s finals and then my internship. I’m starting to feel like I haven’t done nearly as much cooking as I wanted to. Well, let me rephrase that. I cook everyday, but usually it’s lazy cooking. Pasta, sandwiches, whatever. I haven’t done as much fun and exciting cooking as I wanted.

I’ve been experimenting with tempeh quite a bit, actually. I like the taste and texture better than tofu, and it’s more versatile too. I have a hard time putting tofu in anything that isn’t Asian. I know how to put it with noodles or rice, but anything else and I just feel like it doesn’t belong! The other day I made fake Spam musubi with tempeh, which was pretty good (and super Asian), but you can definitely do more with it than that. For example, my bbq tempeh, or the really great sandwich I made the other day. I cut the tempeh really small and grilled it with some baby bella mushrooms, then stirred it up with some pesto I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Put that with some spinach and wheat bread, and you’ve got yourself a really great meal.

I have this bizarre obsession with vegan baked goods. I’m not a vegan, of course, but I love baking things and then saying GUESS WHAT THAT’S VEGAN! What I hate, though, is “vegan” recipes that call for “vegan butter” or “vegan cream cheese” or whatever. Taking a regular recipe and subbing in vegan versions of the ingredients doesn’t make a real vegan recipe.

This past weekend my Weekend Breakfast partner in crime was busy, so I decided to go vegan just for fun.

Blueberry Walnut Muffins 
Vegan. Original recipe here. Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients
1 C quick or rolled oats
1 C soy milk
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 2 tbsp water)
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C chopped walnuts
1 1/3 C fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together oats, milk, agave, and almond extract.
3. While the oats are soaking, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, chia, flax, salt, and sugar.
4. Stir in the flax egg, walnuts, and oats. Last, add blueberries.
5. Spoon into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes.

I used frozen blueberries, which was fine I think. As soon as I stirred in the berries, the batter turned a crazy greenish color. They looked like zombie muffins but they tasted great! Not too sweet – perfect for breakfast. Although I will say you have to eat them fast. Since there’s no oil in the batter, by the second day they’re already pretty dried out. I wrapped them in a damp paper towel and zapped them in the microwave for 15 seconds, which helped, but these are definitely meant to be eaten the day of.

Back to the Grind

I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a week now, and it still feels weird. I haven’t been here since May, and it’s surprising how much I’ve forgotten. Not important things of course, but just little things like where certain classrooms are or what street that one restaurant is on. It’s nice to be back with my friends, but I miss Hong Kong. And LA. Mostly just warm weather.

I always say I hate snow. That’s a lie. I mostly just hate cold. I don’t mind snow when it’s like this:

Beautiful. Clean and white and all the sidewalks are nicely shoveled so I don’t have to walk in any of it. What I don’t like is this:

Gross. It’s disgusting and brown and dirty and slushy and you have to walk through it to cross the street and your shoes get all wet and blahblahblah I hate it. Unfortunately the entire walk from my new apartment to campus is gross snow like that.

Speaking of new apartments, my kitchen is tiny. Not that I was expecting anything fancy, but honestly I don’t think I could possibly have any less counter space. We’ve got a decent number of cabinets, but drawers? Try two. TWO DRAWERS IN THE ENTIRE KITCHEN. I wish I could take out the dishwasher and replace it with drawers.

I’m going to share with you my delicious breakfast from this morning. I’ve made it before, but this time I actually took the time to measure out the ingredients. It’s really filling, so I eat it on days when my schedule is weird and I know I won’t get lunch until 2 or 3 o’clock or if I know I’ll need extra energy, like today! Today we had dance auditions, so I needed the extra fuel AND I’d be getting late lunch. So it was a perfect day for this.

Quinoa Oatmeal

Ingredients
1/2 C dry quick oats
1/2 C cooked quinoa*
1 Tbsp brown sugar
dash cinnamon
dried cranberries (as many or as few as you want)
2 tsp flax meal
1 tsp chia seed
2/3 C soy milk

Instructions
Mix together all dry ingredients in a bowl, then pour in soy milk. Microwave for 1:00-1:30.

*I usually keep a big container of quinoa in the fridge since I go through it so quickly, so I just have it on hand in the morning for breakfast. It cooks 2:1 with water in a rice cooker, or you can do it on the stovetop.

What Month Is It?

I’ve been back in sunny Southern California for about two weeks now, loving this weather and absolutely dreading my return to Pittsburgh and the snow. It’s “cooled off” a bit here, down to about 75 everyday, but it was high 80s last week. Feels like summer. I hate snow.

I’ve got a couple recipes for you. It’s been so hot that I’ve been making smoothies almost everyday for lunch. This one has hidden veggies in it, but unlike my Tropical Green Monster it doesn’t have a scary color.

Berry Green Smoothie

Ingredients
1 C frozen mixed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1/4 – 1/3 C milk, as needed (I used soy but any milk would be fine)
1 Tbsp chia seed
1 Tbsp flax meal
soy protein powder
1 large handful fresh spinach leaves
agave nectar, to taste

Instructions
Blend until smooth and serve.

Then the other day, my mom and I tried out a new recipe for vegetarian chili. It was really delicious but it took a lot of work. It wasn’t difficult but just cutting the vegetables took forever because there was so much. I must say, though, this is a pretty substantial chili. Some of my meat-eating friends seem to think there’s no such thing as vegetarian chili – I think they should try a bowl of this. It’s got some really interesting ingredients – coffee and chocolate – that give it a really unique flavor.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Original recipe from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp adobo seasoning
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
1/2 C brewed coffee
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 head cauliflower, grated
1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, onions, corn, etc. for topping

Instructions
1.
 In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, carrots, and salt, stirring frequently for 8 minutes or until carrots are soft.
2. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, chipotle, adobo, tomato paste, and tortillas. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick.
4. Add coffee and let simmer 30 seconds until almost completely reduced.
5. Reduce to low heat. Add tomatoes, cocoa powder, beans, and 2 1/2 C water, and let simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Stir in cauliflower and let cook an additional 10 minutes.
7. Dig in!

How do you eat chili? Just in a bowl? My mom puts it over rice, or sometimes we put it on baked potatoes, but my first choice will always be the Frito Pie. How do you make a Frito Pie, you ask?

Just like that. Asian noodle bowl is optional.

Zucchini Bread

I really bake too much. I think I could definitely benefit from actually cooking, not just baking. That’s something I need to work on.

I had some zucchini in my fridge that really needed to be eaten, so I decided on bread. I absolutely LOVE zucchini bread, and I’ve never baked any type of bread before. I also wanted something I could take in to work and be that intern.

The original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/4 C oil (I used grapeseed but olive or canola would be fine)
1/4 C applesauce, preferably unsweetened
1 C brown sugar
2 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 cups grated)
~1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 self rising flour (I used regular flour plus 2 tsp baking powder instead)
1/4 C flax meal
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Special Tools:
8×4” loaf pan

Instructions:
1.
 Preheat your oven to 350 F.
2. Lightly spray and flour your loaf pan (or line it with wax paper, which is probably the smarter thing to do, but I didn’t have any).
3. Grate your zucchini… It’s a good arm workout, I promise. My kitchen came with this handy grater that collected everything into a little drawer, but you can always just grate it into a measuring cup.

4. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. One at a time, mix in the oil, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini.

5. In larger bowl, combine the flour, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and nuts.

6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture to combine. It will be very wet! Don’t worry.
7. Pour batter into your loaf pan and bake for 50-60 min, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This came out so great. Super moist and just the right amount of sweetness.

I think my fellow interns liked it too!

Strawberry Raspberry Muffins

Yesterday morning was unbelievably productive. I woke up at 9, went for a run, and made muffins all before my roommate woke up. Ha.

These are so summery! And not too sweet, which is a problem I have with a lot of muffins…

Makes 12 muffins. The original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup raspberries

Instructions
1.
 Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, flax, oats, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar.
4. Beat the egg, milk, and vanilla into the butter/sugar mixture.

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until a batter forms.

6. Stir in the fruit.

7. Evenly distribute in muffin pan and bake for 17-25 minutes. (Mine took closer to 25.)

I love these silicone liners! You just put them onto a cookie sheet when you bake. Super easy.