The Simple Joys of Life

 

Sometimes you have to remember to stop, smell the roses, and count your blessings.  It’s so easy to get caught up with the day to day.

A few things I’m thankful for today…

  1. The hubby.
  2. The family.
  3. Awesome friends.
  4. Having a job.
  5. Having a roof over my head.
  6. My iPhone.
  7. Coke Zero.
  8. Christopher Nolan- I LOVE that man’s ability to direct!

9.  Mochi.  I really love my cat. 

I don’t care if I sound like some crazy cat lady.  I love my cat.

For those of you who have never owned a cat, they are not the evil nemesis of dogs.  They are not plotting to kill you.  And if they could speak, they would not have bad grammar.  Well, maybe some of them would….

 

They are amazing.  They are loyal.  They are loving.  They are clean.  They are smart.  They are the best.

I mean, have you see Maru the Cat?  If not, please go on YouTube now…

*Kelson wants me to preface that I’ve never owned a dog before.  I don’t think that makes any of these statements less valid.

 

10.  Quinoa

I love the weird spelling.  I love saying “keen-WAH!”  I love the nuttiness.  I love that it’s protein filled.  I love the texture and the fact they’re little balls.  I love quinoa!

And to make room for you to just relax, enjoy end ends of summer, and count your blessings… I bring you a quick quinoa vegetarian meal to enjoy.

Quinoa Summer Salad (serving 6-8 people)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

1.  Follow the instructions on the quinoa packaging and cook up the quinoa.  *My instructions ask me to rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer until water runs clear.  Then cook in 4 cups of water and bring to boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed and you’re left with a pot of lovely quinoa- approximately 25 minutes.

2.  Get a large bowl and throw in the quinoa.  Mix in the dried cranberries and golden raisins.  Mix in the bell peppers and cilantro.

3.  Dressing!  Get a small bowl and mix in the extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, mustard, garlic, and salt to taste.  Mix well.

4.  Pour the dressing onto the quinoa mix and toss lightly.  Get ready for some light, fresh, deliciousness for dinner!  Enjoy!

Tangine without the Tangine?

Yes folks, this is possible.

Kelson and I discovered the deliciousness that is tangine last year.  Aside from the political, environmental, and evolutionary arguments about eating meat; sometimes your body just wants a break and is in need of vegetables.  Did I lose some of my readers just now?  🙂

What better way to engage in the tasty delights of veggies, but to make tangine.

Now, let me preface that tagine is known as two things: the dish and the cooking device (both of North African origin).  Tangine, the cooking device, is usually made of clay.  It usually consists of two parts:  a plate and a funnel-shaped top.  Tagines are used to make delectable slow-cooked stews that are braised at low temperatures.  Ironically, Moroccan tangines (the dish) are usually made in a tangine.

Tangines, the dish, can have meats like lamb, but my favorite is a slow-cooked vegetable tangine.  The flavors are complicated, inviting, and great for a warm meal at home.

If you are like me, I hate owning cooking devices that are not utilized in the home for more than one purpose (examples of underutilized, non-utilitarian devices: spring-form pans).  I would like to purchase a tangine, but currently we have not made enough tangine to make it worth the cost.  Therefore, how do you make this delicious dish without the key cooking device for which it’s name derives from?

Say hello to your cast iron friend… The Le Creusat.

I was not a believer until we received one as a wedding gift.  I know.  Hard to tell considering how many times it’s already been photographed in the blog.  BUT these things are amazing!  Everyone should own a cast iron enamal pot!  Whether it’s from Le Creusat, Martha Stewart, The Lodge (Wal-Mart and Amazon), or Ikea… you need this!  I am a firm believer that all you need is a wok, a frying pan, and a cast iron pot to have a complete kitchen of cookware.  Kelson begs to differ… being the ultimate baker and cook that he is.

The cast iron pot, turns out, not only can make Russian boursche or chilli, but can be the home to your delicious tangine.

Vegetable Tangine Recipe

Adapted from CHOW.com’s recipe

Servings: 6

Ingredients

For the tagine:

  • 6 tbl olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

 

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, large dice
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 lemon, seeds removed, finely chopped

To serve:

  • 3 cups dry couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot; add onion, salt and pepper.  Stir the ingredients together until the onions are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).

2.  Mix in the cumin and cinnamon stick for about 1 minute.  Then mix in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

3.  Mix in the carrots and cook until the carrots are tender.

4.  Mix in the tomatoes (with the juice), vegetable broth, and saffron.  Stir it together and bring it to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about 7 minutes.

5.  Mix in the cauliflower, chickpeas, and lemon.  Cook for about another 10 minutes.  And get ready for some delicious tangine!

6.  For the couscous, I usually trust the box instructions on hand.  Overcooked or couscous in too much water is not fun.  Read carefully!  For the most part… bring another small pot of water to a boil.  Pour in the couscous and turn off the heat.  Cover the pot and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

Tangine is SO DELICIOUS.  It’s great by itself… or if you happened to have made the couscous, pour a big ol’ heaping spoonful of tangine and top it with some greek yogurt and scallions.  Enjoy!

Hey! Hey! What are we going to eat today?

How about some delicious Chapchae?

As this food blog progresses, you will learn that my favorite foods involve potatoes and noodles.  I think it’s due to my upbringing of Chinese food mixed with America’s love of potatoes.

So what was the most amazing discovery that my little 10 year old self came across through trading lunches in the school yard?

Sweet potato noodles.

Dangmyeon, which is the Korean word for sweet potato noodles, is amazing!  In fifth grade, I recall bringing my standard turkey with lettuce and mayo on toasted wheat almost everyday.  One day, I made friends with a student who had just come from South Korea.  She, like myself, was sick of the same old meal and opted to swap.  My nasty sandwich (sorry Mom!) was then traded for a beef and dangmyeon dish with white rice.

Dear God, it was amazing!  These slippery, transparent noodles were like nothing I had had before.  I thought they were vermicelli or some type of glass noodles, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so delicious.  Then again at 10, I’m sure I just gobbled it up without thinking twice.

It wasn’t until I got immersed in the Korean food culture of Los Angeles that I found these noodles in a commonly found dish called Chapchae.

Chapchae is a stir-fried, vegetable-filled noodle dish.  DELICIOUS!  So full of color and so tasty (especially paired with delicious barbequed meats).

After ordering it one too many times and feeling the lightness of my wallet, I opted to make this at home.  First step was to find a recipe and see what exactly this noodle was, which lead to the discovery of the sweet potato noodle.  Also, for those of you who are gluten-free (like my lovely college roommate), this might be a great dish for you!  Just sub in tamarind sauce for soy sauce (Thanks Mary for the tip!).

Sweet potato noodles can be a little tough to find.  I was able to find them at my local Korean markets or Asian-food markets.  It’s cheap (usually a large bag runs you less than $2 bucks) and great to stock up on in the cabinet.

Chap Chae Recipe

Ingredients- Serves 4-6 people

  • 1 package of sweet potato noodles (11 oz)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • Half a white/yellow onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 stalks of green onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms (shitake or woodear)
  • 1/2 lb of spinach
  • 4 tbl soy sauce (tamarind sauce for those gluten-free folks)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (for the sweet potato noodles).

2. Prep work:

  • Thinly slice your onion.
  • Peel and cut the carrots into little matchsticks.
  • Peel the garlic and finely mince.
  • Cut the green onions into about 1 inch lengths.
  • Thinly slice the mushrooms.
  • Separate the spinach leaves from the stems.

3. Once the pot has boiled, cook the sweet potato noodles.  There’s usually instruction as to how long they should be cooked, but it’s usually only about 5-6 minutes.

4. Once cooked, drain and rinse the sweet potato noodles with cold water.

5. Cut the sweet potato noodles with kitchen shears a few times.  Mix in the sesame oil.

6. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and sugar together.

7. Add the olive oil to the wok and heat on high.

8. Once hot, add the onions and carrots for about a minute.

9. Add the garlic, green onions, and mushrooms for about a minute.

10. Add the spinach and then the soy sauce and sugar mix.

11. Add the noodles.  Mix it up.  I tend to add more soy sauce at this point or salt to taste.

12. Once cooked, add the sesame seeds and some more sesame oil.

Get ready to enjoy some delicious chapchae!  This is great on it’s own or accompanied with bulgogi.

[Possibly faced with some blank stares…]

What?  You don’t know what bulgogi is or how to make it?  Hmm… I see a post coming…

Enjoy!

*the photos included don’t include the mushrooms, since my brother in-law is not a fan.