Category Archives: main courses

portobello mushroom sliders & roasted red pepper pesto

my weekend
new friends (thanks nick)
sunny san diego: always brings out the BEAST in me
eyes closed, bass pounding, menthol cigs and the heavy weight of a hand on my shoulder
my arms, back, neck, thighs
good vibes
consequences now

this classy recipe makes up for my weekend behavior

Balsamic-Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sliders with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
& Raw Kale Salad

2 large portobello mushrooms, gills scooped out, quartered
good balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
dinner rolls or mini brioche buns, brushed with olive oil (and garlic salt!)
spinach or arugula
asparagus cut in thirds
parmesan cheese
1 large red pepper (or a jar of roasted red peppers in oil)
8 – 9 large fresh basil leaves
1bsp lemon
1 tbsp roasted pinenuts
e.v.olive oil, salt, pepper
kale, stem removed, sliced
dried cranberries
slivered almonds
soy sauce
scallions, sliced 

in a mortar & pestle, crush a few leaves from a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic with about 3 – 4 tbsp of good olive oil. whisk in about 1.5 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. drizzle over portobello mushrooms, toss, and leave alone to marinate. Toss asparagus and arugula, separately, in olive oil, splash of lemon juice, s/p.
meanwhile, in an oven at 350F or over a gas stove, char the red peppers, when cooled, peel. Or take 1 pepper from a jar of roasted peppers and place in a small blender. add basil, pinenuts, lemon juice, and a good drizzle of olive oil (3 tbsp). blend until smooth. add olive oil, salt and pepper as needed. Set aside
roast asparagus at 350F for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan, roast for another 5 minutes.
in a grill pan or over a grill, grill mushrooms and bread

meanwhile, toss kale, cranberries, almonds, avocados and scallions in 2:1 parts olive oil and soy sauce. add pepper as needed.

to assemble, roasted asparagus, arugula, mushrooms, dollop of red-pepper pesto, and a slice of avocado
serve the kale salad on the side


Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Thai-Style Peanut, Red-Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

There are very little Thai options where I live and the place that I go to has some pretty soupy curry that I’m not a fan of (but their pineapple fried rice is off-the-hook). I’m almost positive that they use store-bought, Mae-Ploy brand Red Curry. But because both Thai dishes and curries are so complex in flavor and have an extensive ingredient list, buying pre-made* curry paste is the way to go especially if you can’t find all the ingredients or if you’re a thai-food noob like me.

I’m still learning about the different curries that pop out of Thailand. Apparently, panang curry, while similar in flavor to red curry, sometimes contains ground peanuts. I didn’t know that and added peanuts to this recipe which calls for red curry. Panang curry is also traditionally thicker; using coconut cream, as opposed to coconut milk. Authenticity has taken a leave of absence with this recipe which is why I’ve referred to this recipe as thai-style. baww.

Thai-Style Peanut, Red-Curry with Tofu and Vegetables
2 tbsp thai red-curry paste (MaePloy Yellow Curry is vegetarian)
1/2 8oz can (light) coconut milk or cream
1 heaping tbsp chunky peanut butter
1/2 c. slivered onions or 1 whole shallot, chopped
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into chunks
1 small head of broccoli, chopped

1/2 large bell pepper cut in small strips
1/4 c. defrosted peas or a handful of sugarsnap peas

1 package extra-firm tofu
1/4 c. thai basil, or cilantro– or a combination

First, drain tofu: Place paper towels underneath and over tofu brick (cut in half if you like), and place a heavy weight on top. You may also squeeze liquid out with a cheesecloth. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into small chunks. While the tofu is draining, salt eggplant and let drain if it contains dark, bitter seeds.

Heat a bit of peanut oil or olive oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Toss in tofu and cook half-way to golden-brown. Toss in eggplant and onions, if using. Cook until slightly softened. At this point, toss in shallots and bell-peppers (and sugar snap peas). Scoop out peanut butter and red-curry and toss in pan, to pick up some roasted flavor. At this point, pour in coconut milk and frozen peas, stir, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add more coconut milk or water to change viscosity of your curry. I like mine chunky and thick so 1/2 the can was perfect. Toss with your fresh herbs.

Serve over steamed brown rice

*NOTE: Depending on the brand of red-curry or if you make it yourself, it may come with shrimp paste as an ingredient. A Taste of Thai is vegetarian but has some weird ingredients but recommended brands such as MaePloy and Hand brand contain Shrimp Paste except for the Yellow Curry which is good but has a different flavor profile (Star Anise). Check your ingredients!

Tagged , , , ,

Quinoa Spaghetti and Turkey-Pesto Meatballs

It’s fall! Well, sort of because we had two days of hundred-degree weather. Yeah, I love California. Last week, I started keeping a food journal to keep what I was munching on in check and I apparently do a lot of snacking… I’m not overweight or unhealthy by any means. In fact, I’m actually pretty skinny. However, it’s been a goal to get rid of the layer of fat masking the abs that I know I have. I can do it! Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit regardless of your weight or what your health goals are. If it weren’t for my highly active life, I’m sure I’ll have gained a significant amount of weight. Baha.

Anyways, every so often I crave a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I don’t know why. There’s something about a simple bowl of tomato sauce over pasta that makes me so very happy and satisfied even if spaghetti isn’t really the best thing for you. However, I’ve made this lower in fat and in bad-carbs, and upped the veggies and lean-protein. And, seriously, quinoa pasta isn’t like whole-wheat pasta. It has pretty much the same consistency as normal white pasta but is so much better for you (and it’s actually whole-grain). Get it for you, get it for your family and you’ll all benefit.

Quinoa Spaghetti and Turkey-Pesto Meatballs
Serves 4
Tomato Sauce:
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 onion diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 28oz can of tomatoes pref. San Marzano
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
~1 lb spaghetti

1 lb ground turkey (or meat combo)
1/3 c. minced onion
2 tbsp prepared pesto OR 1/4 c. minced parsely
1/4 c. finely grated parmesan
1/3 c. (italian) bread (about 1 – 1.5 slices) soaked in a splash of milk, crumbled, or panko
(1 clove garlic minced)
2 eggwhites or 1 whole egg

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small skillet, saute the 1/3 c. of onions for the meatballs until glossy and slightly translucent. Add garlic, if using, and saute until fragrant. Transfer into a large mixing bowl and mix together rest of the ingredients with your hands. Shape into about golf-ball size balls and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, turning half-way through, if desired.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, take 1/2 – 3/4 of the can, depending on how smooth or chunky you like your sauce, and puree it in a large food processor with parsley (You can add some basil if you like. I didn’t have parsley!) and add dried herbs, slowly. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta. Keep an eye on it!

In a large frying pan, saute onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent burning. When onions are soft and translucent, add two cloves of garlic and saute until fragrant, lightly browned and no longer raw. Add your tomato puree and simmer for 10 minutes. Slowly add the rest of the can that was reserved. Place meatballs in sauce and allow them to simmer with the sauce for 4 – 5 minutes to incorporate some flavor. Spoon sauce and meatballs over al dente pasta. YUM YUM!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Gnocchi with Basil-Pesto, Chicken, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta dishes are my idea of comfort dishes– they’re usually cheesy or herby or tomato-y and are filled with instant carbohydrates waiting to be stored into fat cells until I work them off at the gym.

Alone. But not today!

I’m a lone-wolf at the gym but the boyfriend and I are working on my irrational paranoia of seeing people that I know (including him) at the gym derived from probably low-self esteem from freshman-year weight gain, birth control, and an overall decrease in fitness, health, and happiness last year. I love being at the gym: exercising and getting disgustingly sweaty so I need to at least be able to see someone and be fine with it and not let their opinions affect what I do despite whether or not they exist or not. So I’m lucky to have someone to help me out, stay healthy, busy, and to grow from. Love, love, love it.

Since I’m going to be heading to the gym and today, being the worse day, schedule-wise, to cook, I decided to go with a pasta dish. High in carbohydrates (~40g, 16 – 20% DV) from the gnocchi (in moderation, pasta is great!) and only about 355 – 400 calories per ~ 2 cup serving, this is a great energy source, simple, and is incredibly F L E X I B L E. I love pesto with fresh shrimp and blanched asparagus. Usually, I would make my own basil-pesto to control sodium levels but store-bought pesto (with olive oil) is perfectly fine! I also used shredded rotisserie chicken made with NO SALT and pre-made vacuum-packed gnocchi. I’m what you call a TIME-SAVER.

Gnocchi with Basil-Pesto, Chicken, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 2
1/2 package freeze-dried potato gnocchi
4 – 5 sun-dried tomatoes
1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
shredded leftover roast chicken (~1/4 c.)
2 shallots, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced

Basil Pesto Sauce:
2 c. packed fresh basil
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/4 c. pecorino or parmesan, grated
1 clove garlic

In a small food processor, blend all ingredients in Basil-Pesto Sauce until smooth. Season as needed. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in simmering water and a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for 4-5 minutes, drain, and chop into slivers or bite-sized pieces. Bring medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook gnocchi until each potato dumpling rises. Remove, drain, and keep warm. Reserve a little cooking water.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil. Sweat chopped shallots then add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until garlic is fragrant, but not burnt. Add shredded chicken, basil-pesto sauce, gnocchi, and a couple tablespoons of reserved pasta water. Cook until everything is warmed through. If desired, until gnocchi shows a little caramelization. Season with pepper, if needed. Spoon 2 cup serving sizes into bowls and garnish with fresh basil and shredded cheese, if desired.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Steak Sandwiches with Spicy Mustard

It’s fall! Time to harvest the only summer squash that grew (but it’s massive). I didn’t know you had to actually fertilize the separate male and female flowers… I will have better luck next year with more “urban farming” experience. yay!

It’s pretty much autumn and I’m still out grilling. Why? Because I live in California and we’ve surprisingly had a very, very mild summer so summer is pretty much rolling in now with some ridiculously hot weather (although, we are cooling off again).  Doesn’t matter because I’m trying to take advantage of the boyfriend’s grill because I generally don’t have access to it. (And grilling is so easy and convenient!)

Steak sandwiches are MAN SANDWICHES. Seriously. Totally felt like a man that day driving around in a fuel-inefficient, made-in-the-USA truck and grilling freaking red-meat. Not really me but I’m making this because I totally dropped Jesse’s entire loaf of sliced bread onto the ground and while doing so asking, “IS THIS OPEN?”…and stood there like an idiot for a few seconds. This is sandwich compensation. So anyways, this sandwich pretty much has everything a man should like: Spicy horseradish, dijon mustard… medium-rare, juicy, sliced steak all topped with peppery arugula and meaty sauteed mushrooms. Love it.

Steak Sandwiches with Spicy Mustard
2 8-ounce tenderloin (filet mignon) or top sirloin steaks
2 tbsp coarsely ground peppercorns
3 tbsp mayonnaise (light or olive oil)!
1 tbsp spicy dijon mustard
1 tbsp horseradish
(2 strips crispy bacon)

~10 crimini mushrooms
2 – 3 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil

Coat steaks with coarsely ground peppercorns and a little salt. Mix together mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and horseradish for sauce. Set aside (can be made ahead of time). Toss mushrooms with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and saute over medium-high heat until soft. Turn grill to medium high heat or in the same pan, sear steaks for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare or to desired doneness. On the grill, close cover between flipping.

Remove from heat and let steaks REST for 5 minutes to allow juices to redistribute properly. If you cut it right away, all the juices will run out and you’ll be left with dry steaks. Lame!

Slice into thin strips and serve with bacon, mushrooms and spicy mustard. We also added grilled onions, sliced tomatoes, and typical lemon-olive oil-s/p arugula salad. So good! Other great sides are grilled local summer squash and zucchini and some sweet potato fries that would have been amazing had we not burned the living crap out of them. Happy grilling!

Tagged , , , , ,

Bulgar Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise

summer summer summer!

Sorry for the hiatus but I’ve been having a busy, busy summer: finishing tough summer classes, work as a barista, study abroad confusion, and a quick visit to the dating scene after ending a 2-year relationship but got scooped up again. Within all that, I feel so much lighter: I’ve been treating my body better– working out and getting out– as well as eating less meat and more sustainably. I feel accomplished for the first time in a long time.

Frozen veggie burgers are always kind of lame— the good ones are expensive and the bad ones taste like cardboard. These burgers are definitely meatless but that doesn’t mean it skimps on flavor and zest. The lime mayo is an absolute addition: the contrasting citrus notes with the spicy, earthy cumin served open-faced on a piece of toast. It’s a fork-and-knife burger and it’s delicious not to mention nutritious! Bulgar is a form of whole-wheat that you just cook like rice and is high in protein which is great for vegetarians. The burgers also have beans which is high in fiber and protein. This is a protein-packed meal. It’s great with HOME-GROWN BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES (yes, I’m totally bragging about those deliciously juicy tomatoes I grew), arugula (tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and s/p), and onion sprouts.

Bulgar Burgers with Lime Mayo
adapted from Gourmet Mag ’08
1/2 c. chopped onions, divided
1/2 c. bulgur wheat (fine – medium ground)

1 c. water
1 c. black beans (or pinto), rinsed and drained
1.5 tbsp (low-sodium) soy sauce
1/2 – 3/4 c. crushed walnuts (I used 1/2, but the recipe calls for 3/4)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. packed cilantro springs (you can use parsley if you’re anti-cilantro, you freaks)
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 egg
1/8 c. bread crumbs, more if needed
(1/2 slice crumbled bread, if needed)
1/4 c. light mayo
1/4 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp lime juice
makes 4, 3.5 inch diameter patties

In a sauce pan, heat olive oil and cook 1/4 c. onion over medium heat until golden. Add bulgur and toast for a minute before adding water. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 – 18 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Mix in soy sauce and beans. In a large food processor, combine the bulgar mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro (add more if desired– same goes for spices), cumin, cayenne, egg, breadcrumbs and ~1/2 tsp pepper. Add salt, if needed, but I doubt it. Patties will be soft and if needed add more bread crumbs or freshly crumbled bread keeping in mind that they will chill in the freezer. Form rounded 1/2 c. scoops of patties. The best way is to form a ball in your palms and slap ’em until they’re like patties.

Chill for a minimum of 15 minutes. I froze mine overnight.

While the patties are chillin’, combine mayo, zest, and juice. Add more juice or zest to taste.

Brush patties with olive oil and grill patties, over medium-high heat, for 4 – 5 minutes per side. If you’ve only chilled the burgers for 15 minutes, you might need a perforated grill sheet to keep the patties from falling apart but mine held together on the grill perfectly. You can also cook them in a fry-pan or grill-pan if you don’t have a grill. RESIST THE URGE TO FLIP THEM! RESIST! That is why I didn’t do the grilling.

Toast yo’ bread. Smother tons of freaking delicious mayo on the bread and top with your favorite burger fixings.

Another option a lot of people are taking is making them into mini-burgs. They wrap it up in a pita with Mediterranean fixings and treat the patties like falafel as opposed to a burger. (Try it with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, crumbled goat cheese, and Tzatziki).

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Asparagus and Oyster Mushroom Gratin with Spinach Chiffonade

I love baked eggs. If you’re vegetarian, eggs and egg whites are like, the perfect source of protein– especially whites, with lower cholesterol, fat, and calories. This is a recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times that incorporates bitter asparagus, creamy eggs, and unami oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms apparently have the same taste as oysters but I can never find it anywhere. I bought King Oyster Mushrooms or King Trumpet Mushrooms that have a huge, fat stalk and a tiny head which can be found in most Asian Markets (maybe Whole Foods).

Asparagus and Oyster Mushroom Gratin with Spinach Chiffonade
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
2 lbs thin asparagus
2 cups sliced Oyster Mushrooms
3 eggs
1/4 cup non-fat or low-fat milk
1/2 cup Gruy
ère or Swiss Cheese, grated
fresh spinach leaves, rolled, sliced thinly
splash of lemon juice
Olive Oil, S & P, 4 – 6 oz. ramekins

Preheat oven to 500F. On a baking pan, toss asparagus with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Bake for 5 – 7 minutes until ends are slightly wilted but the stem is green. Remove and, when cool, chop into 1/2 inch pieces, reserving the tips. Reduce heat to 375F.

Slice oyster mushrooms and heat olive oil in a pan. Evenly spread out mushrooms and let it cook, without disturbing, for about 5 minutes. Stir and repeat until mushrooms are browned. Remove and set aside.

Place asparagus stems (reserve tips) into a food processor. Add milk and process for about a minute until pureed. Lightly beat eggs and whisk into milk-asparagus puree. Slowly add cheese and a splash of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Brush ramekins with oil and fill 3/4th of the way with mixture. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes until tops are browned. Sprinkle with cheese 20 minutes through and allow to set.

Top with sliced spinach leaves and a sprinkling of lemon-infused olive oil.

Tagged , , , , , , ,