Aloo Gobi

On July 16, 2017, in Food, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I don’t make enough Indian food at home. Perhaps, it’s because we have some excellent Indian restaurants around Los Angeles.  One of my favorites is Mint Leaf in Altadena.  They make great Indian food that reminds me of place that started my love for Indian food back when we lived in Michigan, Priya in Troy, Michigan.

Now back to my kitchen.

Indian food isn’t a difficult cuisine for the home cook. Sure it uses a couple handfuls of spice jars every time, but if you’re like me you have a hundred spice jars and can pretty much make anything without a long list of spice jars for that one-off recipe.

A favorite dish has become Aloo Gobi. It’s a vegan dish made with potatoes and cauliflower. It’s fairly simple and only took about 30 minutes to prepare.  Add some rice and you have an easy, exotic vegan dish in no time at all. I ran across a recipe on Pinterest from the blog Edible Garden.  I had to adjust some things as the cooking time was way off and the flavors need some adjustment.  You can find the source recipe here.

Aloo Gobi
Serves 4

1/2 head or 2 cups chopped cauliflower
4 medium potatoes, large dice
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp ginger, diced
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2-3/4 tsp red chili powder, adj for taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garma masala
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Heat pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat and place onions, garlic and ginger in pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Cook without burning and then add diced potatoes and chopped cauliflower to the pan.  Stir pan and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat potatoes and cauliflower. Add some salt to taste. Cover and heat stirring every few minutes so the items do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.  Cook covered for about 10 minutes.

Add the spices and tomato paste to the pan and coat all the items to combine.  Cover the pan again and stir every 3 minutes and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Try a potato to check for doneness. When ready, add the chopped cilantro to the pan to coat and serve immediately over rice.

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Skillet Quinoa with Broccoli, Spinach and Parmesan

On May 3, 2017, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Simple vegetarian meals are always excellent options for weekday after work cooking. This dish is a great addition since it only takes about 20 minutes to make with most of the time spent just waiting for the quinoa to cook.

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If you want to save additional time and make this dish in about 10 minutes or less, pre cook your quinoa the night before and add it to the pan to reheat with the vegetables.

Full Recipe: Broccoli, Spinach, Quinoa Skillet.

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Curried Cauliflower Wraps

On September 28, 2016, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I’m always on the lookout for an easy, quick and delicious vegan recipe and this one caught my attention a couple months ago when I found it on Pinterest.  It only takes about 20-30 minutes start to finish.  The only thing that takes some time is roasting the cauliflower in the oven for 20 minutes, but that is pretty easy and definitely the first thing you should do.

There’s a lot of flavor with the lemon and oil dressing and the curry coating on the cauliflower.  I found some excellent pita wrap bread at Trader Joe’s that you can eat in the oven at the last 5 minutes of roasting.

Assembly is easy and prep is super simple.  They also made great leftovers for lunch the next day served cold. I’m definitely adding this to my frequent recipes list.

Enjoy!

Full Recipe: [Curried Cauliflower Wrap at Naturally Ella]

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How Long Can You Store Your Frozen Food?

On August 31, 2016, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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I live with an untrained health food inspector. Really. Or at least that’s how it feels sometimes when my wife and I have conversations around how long has <insert food item> been in the freezer? Plus we have debates about how long after a “best buy” date can you still eat something.

Fortunately, Freezer Labels .Net sent me an easy to use diagram showing recommended freezer storage times so I can pull up this blog post and find the answer faster than I can scrape off freezer burn on the ice cream.

Frozen Food - Recommended Storage Times
freezerlabels.net

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Farro with Cherries and Walnuts

On August 29, 2016, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in the filming of a TV show.  While that was fun and I’m still awaiting to see when it will air, the other positive was meeting some fellow food writers such as Rachel from Little Chef Big Appetite.

I have been following her blog posts for a couple months now and she has some great recipes that you should definitely checkout. I can tell we have some similar food tastes with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit in what she makes too.  I was particularly interested in a recent Instagram post of her’s showing a farro and cherry recipe.

Our family just finished spending sometime on vacation in Northern Michigan where Traverse City is, the Cherry Capital, and we had plenty of great tasting cherries the couple weeks we were there. I was lucky enough when we returned to LA to find some cherries at Bristol Farms from Hood River, Oregon.  They weren’t as great as Michigan cherries, but they were pretty close.

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You might still find some fresh cherries at the market, but hurry fast as the season is at its end.

RECIPE: [Farro Salad with Cherries and Walnuts]

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Jamie Oliver’s Vegetable Bolognese

On June 30, 2016, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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This has become one of my favorite vegetarian dishes, vegan if you skip the shredded parmesan cheese. There is so much flavor from this rather simple recipe. It only takes about 40 minutes to prepare from start to table. The porcini mushrooms, red wine, fresh herbs and breadcrumbs add so much enjoyment to each bite.

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I discovered this recipe months after I did my review of six meal delivery services. I hadn’t yet tried Hello Fresh, but when I heard that one of my favorite TV chefs, Jamie Oliver, was doing recipes for them I knew it was time to give them a try.

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They offer a vegetarian box option that our family has ordered a few times now. This vegetable bolognese has been the star of everything we have tried. That’s not to say that other recipe have been bad; rather, we’ve had some great success with Hello Fresh.  This has been nice as it has given us another option with meal delivery when wanting to eat less meat.  So now we use Hello Fresh and The Purple Carrot too.

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I hope you get a chance to try some more vegetarian or vegan in your home. We continue to eat more and more this way and recently did 30-days straight. Coming out of the 30-days my wife and I agreed to reduce meat to only 2-3 meals a week. That could be bacon for breakfast one day, maybe a burger another day, and then no more or some tacos for lunch.

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Skip the meat and add some lentils with this excellent dish.

Full Recipe at HelloFresh.com

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Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

On June 6, 2016, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I tend to think of squash in October when front porches are getting filled with pumpkins and gourds and comfort food permeates the desire to stay warm as the weather cools down from the summer heat. While that may be the case through the years, I’m starting to change the behavior each time I enjoy squash outside of the Fall season.  Why relegate this flavorful food to only one season?  Just because it is most associated with comfort food. Isn’t comfort food something relevant all year?

In my challenge to this behavior, I was presented some beautiful acorn squash at the Studio City Farmers’ Market.  I picked one from the box of freshly picked squash and paid my $2.

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Roasting squash gives it such a beautiful color and really makes the ‘meat’ inside come to life. For this recipe, I simply brushed some olive oil and cracked some pepper and salt over each half after cleaning out the seeds.  You can follow what I did here with quinoa stuffing or you can mix it up. Feel free to use couscous or farro instead of quinoa.  Also any diced dried fruit works too.  Cranberries, apricots, go ahead and experiment for your own creation.  Or you can just do what I did if you want to guarantee success.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 2

1 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 tablespoons dried cherries, diced
1 celery stalk, think sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place acorn squash halves on foil and drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper the inside of the squash. Face the inside up on the baking sheet.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Turn the squash over and cook for 10 minutes longer then remove and keep warm.

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Cook your quinoa according the package directions. You’ll need only a 1/2 cup of dried quinoa.  Once cooked set aside and keep warm.

When squash is ready, add the quinoa, celery and cherries a saute pan with a tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Let it cook for a few minutes.  Spoon the mixture into the roast squash.  Add a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and 1 teaspoon of chopped mint on top of each squash. (Note: in my photo above I forgot to add the mint. Mint is optional, but preferred.)

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I am on Day 30 of trying to complete 30 Days of Vegetarian eating. This was lunch. Meaning I only technically have one meal – dinner – and possibly an evening snack to go before I can successfully say I did 30 days with zero meat. So to not bury the lead, that is why I’m eating vegan bacon this lovely Thursday afternoon.

Vegan bacon is an odd thing. It looks like a thick dark brown popsicle stick that is slightly chewy and flavored with liquid smoke and a lot of salt. You know just like real bacon. No seriously, it’s bacon-ish at best. While bacon-ish is the best I can say about the vegan bacon itself, I am happy to share that the B.L.T.A. (Tempeh Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado) I ate it in was pretty good.

You’re probably scratching your head wondering how can a chewy, smoke, salt popsicle shaped substance taste good in anything? It’s a fair thing to wonder, but I swear it really does work in this vegan version of a B.L.T.A. sandwich.

The combination of the fresh ingredients and vegan mayonnaise with the grilled sourdough bread makes it a solid sandwich and one I’d definitely order again, even if I wasn’t doing a no meat personal challenge. Does that mean this sandwich is better than the real thing – a B.L.T.A. with real “B”?  Possibly. I’ve had some poorly executed real B.L.T.A. sandwiches that I’d pass for the vegan alternative. I still prefer real bacon and yes I did miss it in the rest of this perfectly executed sandwich. And that’s okay. I survived vegan bacon and it wasn’t that bad when the rest is right.

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The sandwich comes with a couple choices for sides including mixed green salad, coleslaw or potato salad. I went with the potato salad.  I prefered this vegan version over the typical potato salad with egg whites which is something I pick around, as I’m not much of a fan of eggs. It was a nice compliment to the sandwich as I’m sure the salad or coleslaw would be as well.

Overall, I enjoyed this quick lunch.  The sandwich was reasonably priced at $12 including the side.

I look forward to coming back and trying some more from the menu. The Burrito Fore and some of the vegan tacos sound delicious.

Learn more about Flore Vegan on their website: http://florevegan.com/

Address: 3818 W. Sunset Blvd. Silverlake, CA 90026

Phone: (323) 953-0611

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Cocktails to Stimulate the Mind & Body

On May 16, 2016, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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I have always wanted to up my cocktail game at home, but really haven’t put in any effort. Part of the reason is I’m the sole drinker in our house and mixing a drink alone sounds well…like something an alcoholic would do. I’m far from that. It’s rare for me to even order a drink when dining out and, even when I do, I likely have a glass of wine or a mixed drink.

Fortunately, I was given a book by a coworker of mine when I sparked a conversation with him one afternoon and he had a rather intriguing book in his hand called Dr. Cocktail: 50 Spirited Infusions to Stimulate the Mind & Body. We chatted about it since he held an event with the author Alex Ott.

He give me a signed copy and said try it out. See what you like from it. Which brings me to now, writing this post after making a couple drinks the past couple weeks.

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First of all, I love how the book is sectioned into anti-stress, memory-evoking elixirs and aphrodisiacs to name just a few of the many areas the book explorers using various concoctions. The cocktails feature certain ingredients that serve various homeopathic purposes. Ott is an organic chemist and alchemist, hence the title Dr. Cocktail.

I was personally less interested in the chemistry and more interested in the taste.

So I tried a couple recipes to see how the drinks cured my craving for well-crafted, flavorful cocktails to easily make at home and less about the homeopathic properties they served my mind and body.

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First up was the Ghostbuster. Apparently, this Indian designed cocktail is used to expel the ghosts of indigestion while stimulating appetite. I was mostly into it because it include things I readily had in my kitchen like a lemon, fresh sage, pear nectar and Vodka.

The drink tasted amazing. Seriously, it is one the best cocktails I’ve ever had.  The combination of pear and sage is wonderful and the Tito’s Vodka I used really brought it all together into a drink that ended my evening perfectly.

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Next up, I went with another drink that used pear nectar, there are four total in the book that do. The Tobacco Vanilla used a spice rum. I had only a dark spiced rum so my version is a little bit different than intended, but still was great. Though it looked more like a dark & stormy than the photo in the book. I loved the blend of this drink with its fig jam, honey and lime juice that went along with the rum and pear nectar. Again, the drinks in this book pleasantly surprised my tastebuds.

I still have 48 more to try. There are cocktails that use tea, peanut butter, crushed almonds and chocolate. It truly is a book of exploration for the senses that I highly recommend.

To learn more about the book and where to buy a copy at Running Press Publishers.

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Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa

On May 16, 2016, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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If I’m being honest, this recipe is a bit “kitchen sink.” Meaning, I looked into the refrigerator wondering what to make with all the various vegetables I had after a stop this weekend at the La Canada Farmers Market and Whole Foods.

I then took a look at my pantry to figure out which grain or bean to use. After some back and forth with a bag of tri-color couscous and rainbow quinoa, I went quinoa. The choice was simple, since I barely had any couscous left.

What I like about this recipe is it’s flexibility. If you don’t have parsnips, use some peapods or maybe a potato. Just play around with it and experiment on your own.  You can even add some dried cranberries or almond slices.

Create away! Or not and follow the recipe below exactly as I have it.

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa
Serves 2-3

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 cups water
pinch of saffron
salt

2 cups chopped kale
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced 1/2-inch
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons cumin
pinch of saffron
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Add carrots, parsnip and red onion to a baking tray lined with foil. Toss together with 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon, ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add salt and pepper. Heat for 30 minutes in the oven. Turning every 10 minutes so the vegetables don’t stick or burn to the foil.

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Heat quinoa and water adding saffron and salt to a small pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at boil, reduce to a simmer and keep covered cooking for 15 minutes until the water is all absorbed. Turn off heat and set aside keeping covered to stay warm.

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Once the quinoa is done, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan and add celery and kale along with remaining teaspoon of turmeric, cardamom and cumin.  Toss and saute for 2 minutes. Don’t let the kale get wilted, keep it cooked but still firm. Remove from heat and set aside.

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Assemble dished with a small mound of quinoa and then place kale and celery mixture on quinoa.  Finally, add the roasted vegetables to complete. Optionally, you can add some chopped green onions or scallions.

Enjoy!

 

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