Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tortas with Chorizo Scrambled Eggs

Cinco de Mayo is on Sunday, which means you should make Cinco de Mayo brunch. You'll probably wake up hungover on Sunday anyway, a bit hazy from all those margaritas and Coronas the night before. And tequila shots. 

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I'm here for you. I've got your back. And I've got tortas! You're in luck, because the best thing for a hangover is Mexican food. And bread, to soak up all that booze. A torta—a Mexican sandwich—is the best of both worlds. Basically a burrito, in bready sandwich form. 

You gotta start out with the bread. If you can find bolillo or telera rolls, use those. If not, you can use soft-ish French rolls, like I did. You can press the whole sandwich, panini style, but I like to just grill or toast the bread instead. 

Since this is a breakfast torta, we're using eggs. Eggs that are scrambled with chorizo (the raw ground kind, not the smoked link kind). That's all this is. Cook the chorizo, add the eggs, scramble it up. You also have to add beans. That's really what makes this a torta, in my opinion. I like refried black beans, with a splash of vinegar for some zing. You can buy the canned kind, or make your own. 

To balance out the rich beans, eggs, and chorizo, you need something fresh. Tomatoes and cilantro. You also need avocado. Because, well, it's avocado. You just need it. 

I like to add a little creamy kick with spicy mayo. This is just a bit of mayo and sour cream, mixed with hot sauce. You can use whatever hot sauce you're into right now. I went with Tapatio, it has a good flavor for Mexican food. 

Oh yeah. I almost forgot about the cheese! Use any cheese you want. I like to melt a little shredded cheddar and jack in with the eggs, and then add some crumbled cotija to the sandwich. If you're going panini-press style, you could use slices of cheese so that it gets all melty and holds everything together. 

To assemble, just layer it on! Spicy mayo and beans go directly on the bread, followed up the chorizo scrambled eggs, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado and cheese. It's so good you could almost go for another round of PatrĂ³n. Or not. 

PS. The awesome font on these photos is courtesy of www.mawns.com/wordpress

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spicy Sesame Soba Salad with Tofu

Let's talk about salad bars for a minute. 

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My family has always steered clear of salad bars. Of course there's the whole gross-out factor of everyone being able to touch the food with grubby unwashed hands. There's that. But there's more, too. The town where my sister and I were born was the location of a giant bioterrorism attack… and it happened the summer before I was born, when Amanda was a baby. Several salad bars in town were deliberately contaminated with salmonella. Over 700 people were harmed, in an attempt to control an election. You can read about it here… and you should, the whole thing is really interesting. It's also crazy to hear my parents talk about what it was like living there at that time, how no one wore the same colors as the group responsible, the Rajneeshees, for fear of being associated with them. And how everyone was scared and on edge and basically preparing for battle. 

But anyway, salad bars. My parents weren't harmed by the attack, but it did make them very anti salad bar. So, needless to say, I grew up fearing salad bars, buffets, potlucks, and most self-serve public eateries. Even though I'm still a bit wary, I've become more lax in my old age (speaking of age… Evan just turned 28! We're nearing 30, folks!). I occasionally visit the salad bar near my office for lunch. John and Mel would be appalled. 

My typical salad bar salad is a weird combo of spring greens, cold sesame noodles, cold fried tofu, purple cabbage, and sesame-soy dressing. Ok, that combo doesn't sound very weird. The weird part is that I usually add a dollop of bleu cheese dressing too. Seriously, try it. This soba noodle salad here, fresh and lightly dressed, full of cabbage, carrots, green onions, noodles, and baked tofu is inspired by my go-to salad bar creation and another salad bar favorite, the spelt berry and tofu salad from PCC. And, since you make it yourself, you can avoid all salad bar threats, grubby hands or otherwise. 

Spicy Sesame Soba Salad with Tofu
Adapted from this recipe

Serves 2-4 as a meal, 4-6 as a side

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne 
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package extra firm tofu
3 ounces soba noodles
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 325°

Stir together soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, cayenne, sesame oil, and olive oil. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes, and add to a baking dish. Pour half of sauce over tofu and bake for 15 minutes. Gently stir and cook another 10-15 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, boil soba noodles until al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water. 

Gently toss cold noodles, cooked, cooled tofu (with any sauce still in baking dish), cabbage, carrot, green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, and remaining half of sauce until combined. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dark Chocolate, Almond Butter, & Coconut Muddy Buddies

So, it’s super sunny outside this week and I have a bowl full of gorgeous meyer lemons I picked off my Oma’s tree in southern California a week ago. All things to point to bright, fresh, springy, lemony. Yet staring at that those lemons, I was racking my brain trying to come up with something to make. Cake, scones, cookies, muffins… I just couldn’t get behind any of that. I thought I was in a slump.
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug But then I realized I’m not in a slump, after all. I’m just craving something totally opposite of what I was trying to make. Chocolate. Coconut. That’s where my head is right now. So, I made muddy buddies. Or puppy chow. You can call it that if you want…but I prefer muddy buddies, because, well...they aren't named after dog food. I also prefer them with almond butter, dark chocolate, coconut, and a sprinkle of sea salt. I mean, c’mon, we’re grownups here. 

In college, when I lived in a big house with 5 other girls, we made this treat all the time for late-night study sessions. So, it’s only fitting that I give you muddy buddies on Tasha’s birthday. Tasha lived with me in that big house, is one of my very best friends in the whole world, and is celebrating her birthday far away in her new home—the windy land of Chicago.
Sorry lemons… you’ll have your day soon enough.
Dark Chocolate, Almond Butter, Coconut Muddy Buddies
4 cups Wheat Chex
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
1/4 cup crunchy almond butter (unsalted)
2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla  
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Put Chex in a big bowl, and set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, add chocolate, almond butter, and vanilla, and microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat (in 30 second intervals) until smooth, melty, and creamy. Stir in coconut, vanilla, and sea salt (taste, and add more salt if needed, to your liking). Pour chocolate mixture over Chex, and gently stir until the cereal is all coated. Pour into a big freezer bag, add powdered sugar, (seal) and shake until all the pieces are coated.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wheat Berry Salad with Avocado, Strawberries, and Caramelized Shallots

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Mel made this yeast-soy dressing when I was visiting last weekend, and I'm obsessed with it. Oh mama, umami! I immediately made a batch when I got back to Seattle, and have been dreaming up this salad all week. 
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Nutty, chewy wheat berries, creamy avocado, tangy feta, and caramelized shallots were always part of the plan. I didn't decide to add the strawberries until the very last minute, and I honestly think this salad would be nothing without them. Please trust me on this one guys, you gotta do it!   

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The wheat berries take about an hour to cook, but overall the effort here is pretty minimal. I mean, aside from finding the yeast flakes for the dressing, which took me about an hour at the grocery store. My store had it in a super random place. PS. You can also sprinkle yeast flakes on popcorn, it's amazing. 

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Avocado, Strawberry, and Wheat Berry Salad 
Serves 1-2 as an entree, 2-4 as a side

Halved from this recipe
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons teaspoon water
1 tablespoon tahini
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup oil (I used half olive/half vegetable)

Combine everything except the oil in a blender, and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly stream in the oil, and blend until combined and creamy smooth. This will make more dressing than you need, but it's good on pretty much everything…including a spoon. 

1/2 cup dry hard wheat berries
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon coconut oil 
1 avocado, diced
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup feta

Cook wheat berries: Combine rinsed wheat berries, 1 3/4 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about an hour, until tender but still toothsome and chewy. Drain if all the water isn't absorbed, and rinse under cold water to cool. 

Meanwhile, caramelize the shallots. Heat coconut oil in a small skillet over medium, and add the shallots. Turn the heat to medium low, and cook for several minutes. Watch closely, as they can quickly go from caramelized to burnt. Remove when golden and not quite crunchy, and drain on a paper towel. Let cool.

Toss everything together, and drizzle with dressing. Add more dressing, per your taste. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Food Bloggers Against Hunger

This is a long one, folks, but stay with me...it’s an important one. Oh, and there’s a recipe at the end. Nothing fancy, just an affordable, simple, feel-good recipe.

You probably know that obesity numbers in the US are through the roof. But you may not think about how closely obesity is tied to hunger. Millions of Americans live in food deserts—areas without access to healthy ingredients. The foods we should be eating—fruits and vegetables—are more expensive (and often less available) than fast food and processed food. People who participate in food assistance programs are limited to an average of $4 per person each day to supplement their food budget. That's not very much.

Here’s something else you might not know or think about. Those people on food assistance programs….a lot of them have jobs and still can’t afford to feed their families. Hardworking people doing their best to make ends meet. Families doing their best to make sure that their kids have dinner on the table and don’t go to school hungry. Families like mine.

When I was little, my family participated in a Commodity Supplemental Food Program—a government program that provides food staples to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, children up to age six, and elderly people. I wasn’t even school-aged yet, but remember going to the commodity pick up with my mom (the old ladies who handed out the boxes of food always gave me a cookie). Even though my parents worked, they still needed a little help.

I’m lucky that my parents are both great cooks, because I grew up learning how to prepare healthy, low budget meals at home, and I grew up in an area with access to a lot of nature’s edible bounty—advantages that a lot of people don’t have.

That’s why I’m donating this post to Food Bloggers against Hunger—to help people prepare healthy, low budget meals, and to help spread the word about hunger in America. The Food Bloggers Against Hunger campaign is a response to the documentary A Place at the Table, about hunger in America. You can get involved too:

So, what would you eat if you had only $4 per day? If Evan and I each had $4 per day to eat, I’d make a big pot of black beans (be sure to plan ahead to soak them first). Dried beans are more affordable than canned and you can control the sodium. Then, I’d make a bunch of meals using those beans and other accessible, healthy ingredients.

Ever had a big bowl of saucy homemade black beans topped with a fried egg? It’s cheap and insanely satisfying. Want to get some green in your diet? Frozen spinach—scramble it in eggs, and make black bean breakfast burritos that you can freeze for later. You can even make your own tortillas with a few additional ingredients. I managed to get a bunch of ingredients that are available at most stores, for under $8, but it wasn't easy.

1 pound dried beans (about 6 cups cooked): $1.79
1 dozen eggs: $1.69
12 oz bag frozen spinach: $1.00
1 onion: $.50
1 Roma tomatoe: $.31
1 package of flour tortillas (10 count): $2.69
Simple Spinach and Black Bean Breakfast Burritos for Two
A splash of olive oil (or vegetable) for cooking
½ onion, diced
½ cup chopped, frozen spinach (or fresh, if available)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked black beans
4 flour tortillas
1 tomato, diced and lightly mashed
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium in a large skillet, and add the diced onion. Cook until just turning golden, about 10 minutes. Be sure to watch and stir so they don’t burn. Add the frozen spinach, and cook a few more minutes, until spinach is cooked through and no longer frozen. Add the eggs, and let cook for a minute, then stir to scramble and continue to cook until the eggs are cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat 4 tortillas, and fill with eggs, beans, and tomatoes. Roll and enjoy immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Unwrap and microwave to eat. 

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