Amaranth and quinoa porridge

Every PhD student’s life is marked by a bit of academically sanctioned torture that’s known as a “qualifying exam.”  In my case, the qualifying exam is a month long written test followed by a 3 hour oral exam.  It’s a scary test, but preparing for it is even scarier — my desk is currently hidden under teetering piles of papers and books.  Thankfully, the prep is almost over.  I start my exams in 10 days.

Because of this exam situation, I haven’t left my desk as often as I’d like over the past month.  That also means I’ve been eating less fresh fruits and veggies and more stuff from the pantry (or the proverbial pantry, as our tiny kitchen definitely does not have a real pantry).  One of the dishes that’s become a new staple over the last month — and one I absolutely adore! — is a multigrain porridge.

I’ve always liked a warm breakfast cereal.  I started veering away from the usual flaked grains one day when I laid my eyes on a bag of amaranth that had been sitting around the house for a while.  I cooked a bit of it.  Then I mixed it with some other grains.  At points I was stirring together some combination of amaranth, quinoa, short grained brown rice, jasmine rice and millet, seeking a lightly sweet and creamy breakfast porridge.  I also added different types of milks, spices, fruits and nuts.

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Corn, cucumber and tomato salad

It’s high time for a salad post to balance out the booze and baked goods.  Especially since it’s that corn and tomato time of year.  So, here’s a simple salad I made the other day for a friend.  Mid-bite she said, “See, this is the kind of stuff you should be putting on your blog!  It’s so easy.”  Or something like that.  I agree.

In this recipe I use white balsamic vinegar, which my step-mom introduced me to a little while back.  It’s really nice on corn, since it conveys a sweet flavor without discoloring the salad.  It used to be pretty hard to find, but now Trader Joe’s stocks it and I’d imagine Whole Foods has it, too.  If you don’t own a bottle, I think it’s worth adding to your vinegar collection.  Just don’t show it to your cultured Italian friends, who will stare and say, “There is no such thing as white balsamic in Italy.”  (Hi, Christina!)

I also used some neat-o lemon cucumbers I happened upon at the farmer’s market.  They’re kind of funny looking, but a cute little kid behind the stand assured me that they were good.  I’m glad I took his word for it.  I really liked them.  But, this recipe will work with whatever cucumbers you have around.

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Barbecue tempeh burgers topped with jalapeno slaw

When I first became vegetarian, it seemed like there were only two food options out in the restaurant world: variants of marinated and grilled zucchini/eggplant/peppers and veggie burgers (both of which were especially present at barbecues).  About 10 years ago I finally reached my absolute fill — no more!  So, I started to look around for other grilling options.  I mean, grilling is fun!  And chowing down on a burger off the grill (whatever that burger is made of) is such a part of American culture.  I like joining in.

Recently I’ve really been on the tempeh wagon.  Not only do I like the way it tastes, it’s a great mechanism for eating barbecue sauce, which I definitely don’t get enough of.  This recipe can be made the night before your barbecue (in fact, it’s best if it is) and then slapped on the grill when you’re ready. Continue reading

Thai green curry

While I was in the middle of writing about the best vegetarian green curry of all time, Alex and I boarded a plane and then a ferry, trading Bangkok for Koh Phi Phi.

In Koh Phi Phi, my blog plans were thwarted.  Our hotel didn’t really have internet.  So, we focused on SCUBA diving, hiking  and a bit of lounging on the beach…

One of the fun things about going to the beach in Thailand is that the beach-side restaurants sell Thai food (shocker!).  After a snorkel, we’d crawl out of the water, land on some chairs in the sand, and order up soups and curries. Continue reading

Smoothies

After a couple weeks on the road eating and drinking a bit too much, we’re trying to make this week extra healthy.  So far, there’s been lots of salad, roasted veggies, hummus and lentils (…and a couple ice cream sundaes…oops).  Now we’re moving into smoothies, our go-to when we want to put ourselves on a healthy path.  I love, love, love our smoothies for packing a big vitamin and fiber punch.  We also mix in enough veggies that they’re substantial, while reasonably low in calories.

To make a smoothie, I start with the same base every time (with a little variation here and there):

  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 – 1/2 banana (I like just a touch for creaminess and potassium, without giving the smoothie too strong of a banana flavor)

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Quick meals with a winter squash

Yesterday for lunch I wanted something quick, healthy and filling.  I’ve been busy this week and spending time in the kitchen wasn’t high on my priority list.  The perfect solution?  Winter squash.

I love to keep squash around the house for impromptu meals.  They are healthy, filling, a breeze to prepare and super versatile.  They also last for forever and are beautiful, so I can proudly display them in our little kitchen for months.

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Lucky Hoppin’ John


As far as I know, eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a tradition across the South.  I’m not sure why, but they supposedly bring luck for the whole year (I should have eaten an extra dose before our trip to Vegas last week).

Since my parents are from Texas, I grew up eating black eyed peas every January 1.   When I first left home, my mom would send me a bag of dried peas each December among Christmas presents, making sure she did her part in passing on some New Year’s luck.  I typically took the bag and shoved it to the very back of my kitchen cabinet, right next to the bag from the year before.  To be fair, though, the dried black eyed peas went uncooked mostly because I was spending my winters in the mountains of Colorado, where the altitude makes cooking beans just about impossible without a pressure cooker.  I’m back at sea level these days, so I’m returning to my black eyed pea roots.  Since they taste great and are healthy, why buck tradition?

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