A Day in the Life, Part 2

I typically start my day with a light, nutritious breakfast. When I worked in the afternoon and evening, I would cook first thing in the morning and have a big hearty breakfast and start prepping ingredients for cooking lunch. Now that I work a more standard 9-5 day, I don’t have time in the morning to do that any cooking. But I make my coffee and blend up a green smoothie. It’s easy to prep while the coffee brews and I feed the bunny, and easy to sip while I do my makeup and get dressed. I’ve tried having oatmeal or a sandwich instead, but it’s too messy while I’m rushing around and too heavy in my gut for the two mile walk to work. This week’s smoothies have been more purple than green – steamed beets, banana, blueberries or cherries, flax seeds, and almond milk.

For lunch, I do my best to cook something on the weekend to pack up for at least the first part of the week. Later in the week I will pack up other dinner leftovers. Worst case scenario, I take dry oatmeal with raisins or other fruit and nuts, or sometimes a savory version with peas and greens. This week we’re going out of town on Thursday, so I only need three meals, and I also need to use up some stuff in the fridge. I made tofu scramble with peppers, mushrooms, and peas for Sunday morning breakfast, then packed up the leftovers with some millet. There wasn’t a ton of scramble left, so I stretched it  out with extra peas and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds for each serving. I also packed up a side of raw broccoli and hummus. I have celery and cucumbers to take on the other two days.

Three little bowls: pre-millet, but post-sriracha.

Three little bowls: pre-millet, but post-sriracha.

My dinners can be a little scattered. My manfriend usually gets home much later than I do, so we don’t always have dinner together. That’s just one more reason I try to cram a lot of nutritious food into the first part of the day! After walking home in the heat, I want a snack right when I walk in the door. Depending on my mood, I might have a bowl of popcorn, some chips and salsa, or even just fruit. If I’m really hungry, I eat some leftovers or a bowl of oatmeal. I’ll cook something light later on if we’re hungry, although I do make it a point to cook a proper dinner for two at least once a week.

Today I picked up some whole-wheat pasta and cans of beans at the store on my way home. It’s going to be in the 90’s this week, so I don’t want to have to cook beans from scratch! I have an easy formula for weeknight dinners: whole grain + bean + vegetables. Tonight I went with whole-wheat elbow macaroni, chickpeas, tomatoes, and broccoli. Here’s a “recipe” for tonight’s dinner (I’m using that term loosely, since actual recipes usually include measurements and stuff.)

Pasta With Raw Tomatoes and Broccoli

Ingredients:

Whole grain pasta of your choice (maybe half a pound?)

1 can chickpeas, drained

Small head broccoli, chopped

3 or more cloves garlic, minced

Tomatoes (I used small yellow plum tomatoes and a big red beefsteak), diced

  1. Combine the garlic and tomatoes in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Let them sit while you prep everything else.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. When it’s done cooking, ladle off some pasta water and add it to the tomato-garlic mixture (this warms the tomatoes and makes it easier to toss). Drain the pasta.

    Sometimes there is pasta in the pasta water.

    Sometimes there is pasta in the pasta water.

  3. Toss the chickpeas, pasta and broccoli, and the tomatoes in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add some fresh basil or parsley if you have it! (I didn’t.) Gobble it up!

Not gonna lie: I ate a lot of this.

Not gonna lie: I ate a lot of this.

I followed dinner with a tiny bit of dark chocolate. And that’s my day, folks! I recorded a good one for you, just to be clear. There are plenty that involve eating chips on my way home from work because my job is depressing sometimes, and others that feature wine and take-out Thai food, but I always strive for one like this. Aside from my after-work tortilla chips and salsa, it was pretty low on processed foods, including cooking oil. I’m always amazed at how many calories oil adds to a dish! Every time I cut it out, I drop a few pounds. If you want to learn more about why oil is not great for you, check out Forks Over Knives. The film is eye-opening and they have some super recipes on the website. Anyway, my point as always is that with a little planning, a healthy diet isn’t that hard.

To your health!

Warm Bulgur and Chickpea Salad with Broccoli

I can’t take full credit for this concoction.  The mama I work for got me hooked on this simple dish shortly after I began taking care of her two girls almost two (!) years ago.  The kids LOVE it.  The tahini sauce is my own variation, untested on the little ladies, so if you don’t have or like tahini, just leave it out and dress the salad simply with lemon juice.  It’s good either way.

Ingredients:

1 c bulgur, cooked according to package directions (cooks the same as white rice)

1-2 c cooked chickpeas or other bean of your choice

Big bunch of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and steamed to your liking

Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Dressing:

1 1/2 lemons, juiced (more to taste)

1 clove garlic

1-2 Tbsp tahini

pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1.  In a blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blitz until smooth.

2.  Toss everything in a big bowl until well-combined.  Sprinkle with parsley and an extra squeeze of lemon if desired.

Ta-da!  Good while everything is still warm from cooking, or leftover cold the next day.  Don’t hesitate to substitute another grain or bean or vegetable if you don’t care for one of these.  The variations are endless, and because it’s so simple you really can’t screw it up.

Scattered

If you’ve been looking for new recipes lately and been disappointed, I apologize. I’m exhausted and haven’t had much time or energy to innovate in the kitchen. Between taking on a second job and getting back into painting (my other vocation), there has been little thought put into my food. Naturally, this affects how I feel; I know my energy has waned in part because I’ve been eating wacky meals. My brain is scattered and I end up doing things like overcooking beans (see last post), or cooking them and leaving them on the stove all day, only to have to put the whole pot in the fridge before I dash off to work. Then I forget to do something with them, and end up eating a really stupid meal the next day, like chickpeas with hot sauce and a slice of toast, with some carrots because I don’t have any other vegetables.

Thus, I must tell you about all the quick and easy things I am managing to eat! I managed to make some hummus a few days ago, to eat with raw veggies.  (Turns out I like raw broccoli now. Guess you have to keep trying old things as well as new.)  Good start, as hummus can also go on a sandwich, be thinned out and tossed with pasta, or be jazzed up with new seasonings when you get sick of it after a few days. I’m thinking of turning this batch into baba ghanouj later.

Then there’s soup, that ubiquitous star of my diet.  February in New York requires soup. I’ve been feeling home sick, so I made cabbage soup. My mom makes hers with the ham bone from Christmas. I make mine with loads of veggies, mushrooms, and navy beans. Soup is a good choice for busy people, since you can put it on the stove or in a slow cooker and forget it without doing much harm. I’ve also started chopping veggies in my food processor to save time (I ❤ my food processor).  AND it’s a good thing I made a lot of it since I came down with strep this weekend; I don’t feel like eating much and I definitely don’t feel like cooking.

These things, combined with green smoothies (and dark chocolate!), are rounding out my diet for the moment. Not the most exciting fare, but it gets the job done.

Now, since I’m feeling so uninspired (in the kitchen, anyways), tell me what YOU want to see on The Penny Parsnip. Give me some ideas, I’ll come up with something eventually  (like when I’m done with my antibiotics), I promise! I could always come up with a parsnip smoothie, since that phrase is what leads so many people to my blog. But for the record, a parsnip smoothie sounds gross.

Go forth! Inspire me!

Party Planning

I’m cooking for a crowd this week!  What with my recent belly-aching, I was a little nervous about this party… until I realized that most of the food is healthy and shouldn’t bother my stomach!  Here’s the menu:

Spring Rolls (not deep fried, filled with raw veg, served with peanut sauce)

Black Bean Sliders and Guacamole (to make the sliders, form them into small patties or balls and bake them on a parchment lined pan at 425 for about 20mins, until golden.  No need to flip them.)

Crackers topped with pesto spread and cucumbers

Hummus and veggies

Chocolate Chip Blondies

See?  Even the cookies are healthy!  All I have to do is steer clear of the potato chips and try not to drink too much, and my stomach will be fine.  Now, I’ve got to make all this food by Friday night, and still go to work in the mean time.  I learned from the best (thanks Mom!) to make lots of lists and plan around my work schedule when to make what.  Here’s my mission:

You must be wanting some recipes by now.  Since you know all about hummus and black bean burgers, how about that pesto?  More of thick spread than a sauce, it’s oil-free and has no cheese.  I substituted cashews for pine nuts because who can afford those things?  Plus, I stretched my basil by replacing some of it with kale or arugula.

Pesto Spread

Adapted from Chef AJ’s MVP Stuffed Mushrooms, found in the Forks Over Knives Cookbook

2 c pine nuts or cashews

1 c basil

1 c something else green, like arugula, spinach, or kale, or more basil

4 or more cloves garlic

2 Tbls light miso (I like shiro miso)

Juice of two lemons

1.  Puree all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade, until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Try not to eat it all at once.

Test-Driving My New Baby

Yesterday, I took my jar of pennies to Manhattan and bought my very first grown-up appliance: The Cuisinart Custom 14 Food Processor.  Just about everything else I own has been bought second-hand or a gift, so I felt an immense amount of pride and pleasure handing over the cash I have been carefully saving for the past few months.  I grinned the whole way home on the subway, lugging this heavy box.

Upon arriving home, I immediately unpacked it, washed all the parts, and read the instructions, all the while plotting what to make first.  Burgers?  Hummus?  Cole slaw?  Then while surfing the net, I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Dreena Burton’s Plant Powered Kitchen.  Sold!  A new kind of hummus, and I get to put my new toy to the test.  Since you can read the recipe on Dreena’s site, I’ll take you through the process briefly in pictures, and tell you about the minor adjustments I made.

I subbed apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice because I forgot to buy lemons, and used 2T of tahini instead of the cashew butter.

Getting started!

Next it was time to blend!  Here it is before I added the raisins.  I decided at this point that it wasn’t yellow enough for me and needed more turmeric.  The processor ran so quietly and smoothly!

Almost done!

 

 

Finally I added the raisins.  I used 3T, and I think next time I will use only 2.  It’s just slightly sweeter than I’d prefer.  All in all, completely delicious, and came together in less than 15 minutes!  I’m enjoying it now with fresh raw okra, and excitedly thinking about what to twirl around tomorrow.

Hummus

The heat is on in Brooklyn and all I feel like eating are raw veggies and watermelon.  Sounds like it’s time for some hummus!

The first few times I made it, I measured everything very carefully, following the recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to the letter. These days, I eyeball it, tweaking it to my taste that particular week.  I also completely cut out the olive oil from that recipe with great results. Therefore, feel free to take liberties with these guidelines.

Since the weather is hot this week and I just returned from a lengthy vacation, I used canned chickpeas, but normally I cook them myself. The results are better with home-cooked because you can use the flavorful cooking liquid to thin the hummus out to your desired consistency.

Hummus

2 cups drained well-cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved (or a can of rinsed, drained beans and some water)

1/4 – 1/2 cup tahini, or to taste (You can even leave this out if you don’t have it or are allergic)

2 or more cloves garlic, peeled

juice of one lemon and/or a few tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I like a little of both)

1 tablespoon cumin or more to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender, adding more bean-cooking liquid or water as necessary to keep things running smoothly.

2. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, tahini, garlic or lemon juice/vinegar as desired.

Ideas for Variations (all off which I have tried):  Add lemon zest if you really love lemon (I don’t, but my dad enjoys it).  Roasted garlic instead of raw.  Roasted red peppers (you’ll need a little less liquid).  Fresh herbs.  Sun-dried tomatoes and basil (yumyumyum).  The options are endless.

Tips:  Add liquid very slowly in small amounts so you don’t end up with hummus soup! Taste frequently to figure out what you like.  When in doubt, get a second opinion or let it rest over night to allow the flavors to marry.

A few times when I’ve been overzealous with a certain ingredient and gotten frustrated, I’ve put the result in the freezer for a few weeks until I feel like messing with it again.  It’ll get a little watery after thawing, but over all does pretty well, and allows you to start over.  No messed up hummus can’t be fixed!  You can also freeze it if you make too much hummus.