May 22, 2014

Recipe: Edamame Jalapeno Soup

Moving across the country presents a number of challenges. One of the biggest (at least for cooks like myself) is realizing you have just a few weeks to use up your perishable food. The well-stocked refrigerator and freezer you've so carefully maintained suddenly go from wonderfully convenient to huge pain in the tuchus. I suppose you could just make peace with things and toss a bunch of food, but the wastefulness of that prospect just kills me.

Instead, I've been dutifully cooking my way through as much food as possible. It's kind of fun, really - like my very own game of Chopped. I imagine Ted Allen saying, "What can you make with frozen edamame, cashews, limes, and a bunch of slightly-shriveled jalapenos?". Well, Ted, I will be making a delicious pureed soup. And no, Scott, it will not involve raw red onions.

I was a little concerned that the firm texture of edamame (young green soybeans) wouldn't blend into a perfectly smooth soup, but a quick Google search turned up a number of examples proving otherwise. Heidi Swanson suggests straining this edamame soup, but I didn't find straining necessary with mine. Simmering the beans in the soup broth softened them nicely, and after that all it took was a couple minutes in my trusty KitchenAid blender to turn out a velvety-smooth soup.

Despite being a spur-of-the-moment recipe, this Edamame Jalapeno Soup is great. The edamame packs 16 grams of protein into each serving, making this an excellent high-protein vegan lunch or dinner. Removing the ribs and seeds from the jalapenos takes the heat level down to a gentle warmth and really lets the flavor of the pepper shine through. A handful of cashews adds richness, a dash of cumin lends a smoky note, and a bit of lime juice wakes up all the flavors. Move or no move, this recipe's a keeper.

Edamame Jalapeno Soup
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces jalapeno peppers (about 4 peppers)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound shelled edamame beans (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 quart vegetable broth (I used 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut the stems from the peppers, then slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs from the interiors. Finely chop the peppers.

In a large pot over medium heat, cook the peppers and onions in oil for 5-7 minutes until beginning to soften, then add the garlic and cumin and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, cashews, and vegetable broth. Cover with lid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until beans are very tender.

Transfer half of soup to blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until completely smooth (remember to remove the center portion of the lid and cover with a towel to allow steam from the hot soup to escape); transfer from blender. Blend remaining half of soup. Return blended soup to pot over low heat and add lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Serve with a dollop of vegan sour cream or plain yogurt if desired. Soup will keep in fridge for 1 week.

May 15, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)

Bodies handle stress differently. When I get stressed, I lose my appetite for healthy foods. This usually results in my falling back on a small number of "comfort foods" that are actually junk food (salty takeout, fatty pizza, all desserts ever) until my stress reduces and the desire for real food returns. As you might have guessed, planning a cross-country move and selling our house in a short number of weeks is making me mighty stressed.

In an attempt to keep my diet on track, I've been starting my mornings with a bowl of oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal, however. I've been making a veganized version of Megan Gordon's steel-cut oatmeal from her wonderful book, Whole Grain Mornings. Oatmeal has always been a breakfast workhorse, one of those unexciting-but-good-for-you dishes you eat because you should, not because you wake up craving it. But Megan's oatmeal is different. Megan's oatmeal is, dare I say it, crave-able.

Sautéing the uncooked oats in a bit of nondairy butter perfumes the oatmeal with a toasty aroma and amplifies the pleasant chew that steel-cut oats are known for. After toasting, the oats are simmered in a 3:1 mixture of water and nondairy milk seasoned with a touch of sugar, vanilla, and salt. What you end up with is perfectly cooked, luxuriously creamy oatmeal (or "porridge", as Megan calls it).

The consistency of this lovely oat porridge is risotto-like, with magical starch-infused "cream" lending an illusion of richness despite the recipe's scant amounts of butter and milk. I make a batch, pop it in the fridge after it's cooled, and reheat servings in the microwave for stress-free, nutrition-filled breakfasts all week long. A bowl of these creamy oats topped with a pile of fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup is just the thing to fuel me through a day of crazed, move-related shenanigans.

Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)
Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings (Megan shared a version of the recipe here)
Serves 4

1 tablespoon non-dairy butter or coconut oil
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt*
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If using nondairy butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt; if using coconut oil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring a good-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once butter is bubbling, add oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes).  Add water, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla to the saucepan and increase heat to medium-high and partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is creamy and oats have a tender bite. Be sure to stir oatmeal occasionally while simmering and keep an eye on the heat as the oatmeal has a tendency to boil over with little notice. Cool for a few minutes before serving as desired (with milk/maple syrup/fruit/nuts); oatmeal can also be refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave with a splash of milk to thin it if needed. 

May 14, 2014

We're moving!!!

Taking our first walk through Central Park

We're 5 months into 2014, and so far it's been a year full of curveballs, milestones, and chapter-endings. We took an amazing last-minute trip to India, I turned thirty, and my wonderful nanny job of 2+ years came to a close when the family relocated to California. The latest development? In two weeks, Daniel and I are moving to New York City.

Last month Daniel was offered a job opportunity he couldn't pass up, so we decided to throw caution to the wind, pick up our lives in Seattle, and move clear across the country. The last few weeks have been…. Well, "insane" is putting it lightly. We flew out to NYC and found an apartment in 48 hours, which, if you know anything about NYC real estate, is the very definition of insanity. But we did it! We found an adorable (read: tiny), sunny apartment on the Upper West Side. Soon I'll be sharing recipes that have been cooked in a kitchen approximately the size of a postage stamp. Hey, if Deb can do it, so can I.

Truth be told, I've wanted to live in New York City since I was a little kid. I don't know when that idea popped into my head, but somewhere along the way I became enamored with NYC.  It's not a unique goal, moving to this iconic American city in pursuit of your dreams. People have done it for generations, with varying degrees of success. And that whole dream-chasing thing? That's exactly what I plan on doing. Pursuing food writing as a career will be difficult, but I'm going all in.

My cynical self is side-eyeing the "follow your dreams" mantra of my wide-eyed youth, but I'm trying to quiet that voice. I've listened to it far too often over the past few years, to no great effect. It's time for me to cultivate the hopeful voice that's been drowned out; to resuscitate my confidence and positivity. So as we close the "Seattle" chapter of our lives, I'm choosing to close the "My life isn't what I'd like it to be" chapter as well.  Because, friends, that chapter was long and rambling and just WENT NOWHERE. What will the next chapter hold? I'm not entirely sure. But I hope you'll stick around for the ride.