Day 74 – Recipe: Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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I’m getting a little confused about which day I’m on but I think it’s day 74. I wish it was day 364. When I’m home or when I’m at a vegan restaurant I don’t mind being on this diet, but whenever I’m out at a restaurant that has amazing smelling meat or pizza or waffles or bacon – you get the picture – I just can’t stand it, I get depressed. I love food so much, and being restrictive in my diet feels so unnatural to me. Sometimes I just want to say screw it and eat some boneless wings. The last couple weeks have been really hard. I’ve definitely eaten some things I shouldn’t have eaten (they were vegan, but processed) and I feel guilty about it. I hate feeling guilty. I wish this diet was easy. It’s not. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing it because I don’t want someone to take a scalpel to my throat and cut me open. God that really sounds horrible.

Anyways, for about 2 months we had fresh basil and mint growing in our kitchen and I rarely used it. About a month and a half into it we started having a severe gnat issue and I couldn’t take it anymore – my boyfriend took the herbs to his parent’s house in Sedona to plant in their garden. Less than a week later I came across this recipe with copious amounts of both fresh mint and basil and was like Damn The Irony! Fortunately we were going to see his parents over the weekend and they brought us a bunch of herbs so I could make the dish. Yay!

So I found this recipe in Shape magazine, I changed it a lot but the original recipe is from Clotilde Dusoulier’s new vegetarian cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. She used whole wheat couscous in her recipe, to make it gluten-free I opted for quinoa. I think it turned out really good. The herbs kind of overpowered the eggplant, mostly because I used spearmint which is too strong for this recipe, I would suggest using Mojito mint which is much milder. Also her recipe called for harissa, which I couldn’t find anywhere, so I used an Asian chili paste instead, I think it worked just as well. So here is my version:

Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves 8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Lbs small Italian eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1.5 cups white quinoa
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 T harissa or Asian chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mojito mint leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, sliced

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, then toss to coat; let rest 1 hour. Rinse thoroughly. Turn onto a clean kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze gently to absorb liquid.
  2. While eggplant is resting, mince the onion. Place minced onion, quinoa, 1 tsp sea salt, and 3 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. (To cool faster, spread onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place eggplant cubes in skillet and toss well, until coated in oil. When eggplant is hot, cover and let steam in skillet for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant should be very tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk tahini and harissa or chili paste. Whisk in lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding more to prevent curdling. Whisk til smooth.
  5. Pour the dressing over cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Fold in eggplant, mint, basil and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

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I served this dish with another Greek-inspired salad that I will post tomorrow. You can serve it with falafels, dolmas, hummus, pretty much any Mediterranean food, or just eat it by itself.

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It has a hint of spice to it but overall is pretty mild. If you want more spice, add more chili paste.

 

Day 60 – Recipe: Jackfruit Thai Curry with Bell Peppers and Cashews (vegan, gluten-free, corn-free)

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The first (and only time) I’ve ever had Jackfruit was at a little vegan restaurant in Los Angeles called Pure Luck. I read on Yelp that it is now closed, which is unfortunate because that place was such a find. Their entire menu was built around jackfruit, they didn’t have any soy or fake meats, just jackfruit (Just Jack! fruit LOL). I think I had some kind of BBQ jackfruit sandwich… I don’t remember exactly what it was but I know it was delicious.

I started looking for Jackfruit recipes online last week because I’d remembered seeing cans of it at the Asian market. The first recipe to catch my eye came up on about.com, Jackfruit Curry with Bell Peppers, Cashews and Lime Leaf, by Darlene Schmidt. Even though I’m not a huge fan of bell peppers I decided to go for it. I’ve made a few of Darlene’s recipes before and they were all amazing, I figured this one would be too.

So I went to Lee Lee’s Market looking for cans of “jackfuit in water or brine” (which I really thought I’d seen there) and all I could find was “jackfruit in syrup”, which wasn’t the right kind. So I went to the frozen section and after 10 minutes of looking I finally found frozen jackfruit (why is it so difficult to find anything at Asian markets?!). But I found both green jackfuit and ripe jackfruit, and unfortunately had a brain fart and couldn’t remember which one I was supposed to buy so I grabbed the ripe jackfruit. Wrong one. This is why I ended up at the store again the next day, to return the ripe jackfruit and get the correct one. This is what I finally ended up with:

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Completely frozen solid. I put it in hot water to defrost and it was fine after 30 minutes. I ended up using 2 packages because it didn’t seem like there was much fruit in one package. So here is the recipe I followed, it is slightly different from Darlene’s only because I couldn’t find vegetarian fish sauce, but nevertheless it turned out absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. I don’t know if it was the brand of jackfuit I used or what but it was different than I’d remembered. This time the texture was more like a canned artichoke heart or hearts of palm, and kind of tasted like that too… but it was still really good.

Jackfruit Curry with Bell Peppers and Cashews

  • 2 packages frozen jackfruit, preferably unripe/green, OR 2 cans prepared jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup), drained

  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 12 wedges

  • 1 large green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped/sliced

  • 1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped/sliced

  • 5 dried black mushrooms, soaked in water for 2 hours to rehydrate then drained, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup dry roasted (unsalted) cashews

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • generous handful of fresh basil for garnish

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil for stir-frying

  • white wine (or white cooking wine) for stir-frying

PASTE:

  • 3 large green onions (or 6 small), sliced thin

  • 2 fresh red chilies (or more if you want it ultra spicy), sliced thin

  • 8 whole lime leaves, fresh or frozen, snipped into tiny strips

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 Tbsp lime juice

  • 2 Tbsp coconut aminos

  • 1 Tbsp dulse, snipped into flakes

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil

  • 4 Tbsp tamari sauce

  • 1 Tbsp coconut sugar

PREPARATION

  1. First, prepare the curry paste. Place all paste ingredients together in a food processor or mini-chopper and process well. Lime Leaf Tip: Prepare the lime leaves using kitchen scissors to cut out (and discard) the hard central stem. If lime leaves are frozen, you can quickly thaw them by running under some hot water. Set paste aside.

  2. Cut jackfruit into desired bite size pieces, either in strips or cubes/chunks (as you would with chicken). Set aside.

  3. Place 2 Tbsp. oil in a wok or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add a little of the wine (1/2 to 1 Tbsp. at a time) instead of more oil whenever wok/pan becomes dry.

  4. Add the bell peppers. Continue stir-frying another 3 minutes, or until peppers have softened and turned bright in color. Again, add a little wine when wok/pan becomes dry to keep ingredients frying nicely.

  5. Add the green jackfuit and black mushrooms. Stir-fry another 3 minutes and add wine for stir-frying if needed.

  6. Add the paste you made earlier, plus the coconut milk. Stir well to combine.

  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, allowing curry to gently simmer 2-3 minutes, or until ingredients are nicely cooked, but not overcooked. Tip: Try not to overcook this curry, or you will lose the fragrance and taste of the paste.

  8. Just before serving, add the cashews, gently stirring them in. Now do a taste-test, looking for a balance of salty, sour, sweet and spicy. If not salty enough, add more tamari, or a little salt. If too salty for your taste, add another squeeze of lime/lemon juice. If not spicy enough, add more fresh chili. If too spicy, add a little more coconut milk. Add a little more sugar if too sour.

  9. To serve, either portion out in bowls or on plates, or ladle the curry into a serving dish. Sprinkle with generous amounts of fresh basil, and serve with brown rice or quinoa. ENJOY!

Serves 4 – 6, depending on how much they like curry!

 

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Day 59 – Eggplant revisited. A much better recipe: Hot & Sour Eggplant Stir-Fry

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Okay I know this looks pretty much the same as yesterday but it’s not, it’s so much better! I don’t usually make the same thing 2 days in a row but circumstances led me back to the Asian market today and for whatever reason I decided to try this again. Yesterday it was good, but the eggplant didn’t cook down enough so it wasn’t really that good. After looking at some other recipes on the internet, I made some adjustments and this time it turned out fantastic. I could eat the entire pan… and I’m not even that hungry! I renamed it Hot & Sour because today it tasted more hot and sour than sweet and spicy… I don’t really know why, I used pretty much the same ingredients.

But anyways if you’re looking at this now and craving eggplant, don’t make yesterday’s recipe make this one! It took a little longer but it was worth it. Oh and “mushroom broth” isn’t really a broth, it’s the liquid leftover from soaking dried black mushrooms. I only used it because I had some leftover in the fridge and I wanted more sauce. You can substitute vegetable broth or water, or just omit it completely if you want less sauce.

Hot & Sour Eggplant Stir-Fry

  • 1.5 lbs Japanese Eggplant (about 3 medium)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4.5 T tamari
  • 3 T coconut sugar
  • 3 T brown rice vinegar
  • 3 T mushroom broth (or vegetable broth or water)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh red Thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 1 T filtered water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed eggplant in a colander and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Toss. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and drain on paper towels.

Heat 2 T coconut oil in a wok over medium high heat til hot. Add half of the eggplant cubes and stir-fry until eggplant becomes very soft and turns semi-translucent and green-ish in color, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked eggplant and set aside. Add more oil to the wok and repeat with the rest of the eggplant. Remove and set aside.

While the eggplant is cooking, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, mushroom broth and sesame oil. This is the sauce. Set aside.

Add a little more oil to the wok and throw in the red pepper slices. Stir-fry 5 minutes til slightly carmelized and remove.

Add a little more oil to the wok and toss in garlic, ginger, red chilies and green onion. Stir-fry 1 minute until fragrant, then pour the sauce into the wok. Stir well. Carefully mix in eggplant and peppers and stir well.

Turn the heat up to high and bring the sauce to a boil. While the sauce is heating, whisk the arrowroot powder with 1 T filtered water in a small bowl. Pour the arrowroot slurry into the boiling sauce and stir well to combine. Immediately turn heat to low once the sauce has thickened (it will thicken very quickly) and stir to coat vegetables evenly in the thickened sauce. Throw in half of the basil leaves and stir to combine.

Remove from heat and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with sesame seeds and the rest of the basil. Enjoy!

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So it’s kind of the same recipe but the technique is different. I think cooking the eggplant in 2 batches really helps to ensure it will end up tender. I also felt that the peppers tasted better when stir-fried separately. All in all, this is the better recipe. See for yourself!

 

 

Day 58 – Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry (Vegan, Gluten-free, Corn-free)

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I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written a post! Woops, it really didn’t seem like that long. I do have an excuse though, I went to visit my parents in Sedona for 10 days and took a break. I did cook a lot, but I didn’t make anything new. I don’t mind trying new recipes for my boyfriend and I in my own home but for whatever reason I didn’t want to make anything new for my parents that might have potentially sucked. So I made a few of my favorite dishes from the past couples months, including M Cafe’s Kale Salad, M Cafe’s Quinoa Salad, Indian Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes, and the Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Tagine I made a couple weeks ago. I added some fresh apricots to the Tagine this time and it was so good, I’m doing that from now on.

Now I’m back home and back to experimenting. As the weeks have gone by I’m finding it harder to stay excited about this diet, so I’m constantly looking for recipes that excite me. While I was away I found a bunch of great looking new recipes, including this one from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, Sweet and Sour Eggplant. I changed a few things and the sauce turned out amazing, however I cooked the eggplant according to her recipe and it just didn’t cook down enough. Next time I make this I will cut the eggplant smaller and cook it in the wok a lot longer. So this is what I did and also what I will do in the future to make this dish perfect:

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Eggplant Stir Fry

  • 1.5 lbs Chinese or Japanese Eggplant (about 2 large)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4.5 T Tamari
  • 3 T coconut sugar
  • 3 T brown rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh red Thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 2 T filtered water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed eggplant in a single layer on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Thoroughly rinse salt off eggplant in a colander, then pat dry.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, garlic, ginger, red chilies, and sesame oil. Reserve.

In another small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together arrowroot powder and 2 T filtered water. Pour into reserved sauce and whisk til well combined.

Heat coconut oil in a wok over medium high heat til hot. Add eggplant cubes and stir fry until eggplant gets very soft and begins to fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the red pepper slices and continue to stir fry 5 more minutes.

Pour the reserved sauce over the eggplant and peppers, and stir until veggies are evenly coated. Mix in half of the basil leaves. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat and continue to stir until sauce thickens, about a minute.

Remove from heat and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with sesame seeds and the rest of the basil. Enjoy!

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Yum! Better for you than at your local Chinese restaurant. And much less oily.

 

 

 

Day 17 – Vegan Thai Green Curry, with fresh curry paste

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A couple months ago I was looking for a Thai Curry recipe that included an authentic paste from scratch. I found this recipe by Darlene Schmidt at About.com, here ,  it took quite a bit of time but it was fantastic. I doubled the recipe and we ate it for a week.

I decided to make it again because I finally came across some fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves at the Asian market. Last time I went to 3 different stores, driving myself crazy cause I couldn’t find them anywhere, fresh or frozen. It was a little ridiculous. I ended up using fresh lime juice instead and it worked just as well.

Last time I made it with fish sauce, but this time I wanted to make it vegan so I used a mix of Coconut Aminos and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. It didn’t turn out as sweet, but it was still really good. I put 3 chilis in it too so it was reeeeeaaaaaalllly spicy, next time I will probably only use 2.

These are the changes I made, I don’t take any credit for this recipe though. I also changed the prep and cook times, cause it literally took me 2 hours to make this (I might be a slow chopper, who knows). I also found that it takes much longer to cook the yams than she says:

Vegetarian Thai Green Curry (Vegan/Gluten-free)

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: SERVES 3-4

Ingredients:

  • GREEN CURRY PASTE:
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, sliced finely and minced
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3.5 T Coconut Aminos
  • 2 – 3 tsp. coconut sugar (to taste)
  • 1 – 3 green chilies, minced (to taste, 1=mild, 2=medium, 3=spicy)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, sliced
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen), snipped into thin strips with scissors, OR substitute 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 loose cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1 T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

OTHER:

  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, OR substitute 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can good-quality coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can unsalted garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 small yam or sweet potato, cut into small cubes
  • 10 baby carrots, each cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 crown broccoli
  • large handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 T coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. To make the green curry paste, place all paste ingredients in a food processor. Process well.

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  1. Place coconut oil in wok or deep frying pan. Turn heat on medium-high and add paste. Stir-fry until fragrant (about 1 minute), then add the coconut milk. Add Garbanzo Beans and stir to combine.
  2. Add lime leaves then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yam/sweet potato and carrots. Add up to vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 25 min, or until yam is soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Add Broccoli. Cover again and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Add Spinach, stir and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
  6. Do a taste test for salt and spice. If not salty enough, add up to 2 Tbsp. more Bragg’s, soy sauce, or sea salt. If too salty, add a little fresh lime or lemon juice. If too spicy, add more coconut milk until desired taste is reached.
  7. To serve, transfer to a large serving bowl or plate up individual portions. Sprinkle generously with fresh basil. Accompany your curry with Brown rice or quinoa. Enjoy!

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I know the numbers got kind of messed up but I couldn’t fix it once I put the photo in. Ah well. Above I threw in 1/2 of a red bell pepper and 1/2 of a green bell pepper, just cause I had them laying around and didn’t want them to go bad. There ended up being so many vegetables in it that I didn’t have room to put in the spinach, but I included the spinach in the recipe cause I made it with spinach last time and really liked it. You can change up the vegetables to whatever you like too, this is just what we like. You also don’t have to throw in the vegetable broth, but I like lots of sauce so that’s why I used it. I ate mine with quinoa but I also made brown rice for my boyfriend, as pictured – just making more work for myself, as usual.

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Note: Woops just realized I used coconut sugar, not brown sugar. If you haven’t tried coconut sugar, it’s granulated and just as rich as brown sugar, but way better for you!