Vixen in the Kitchen: Quinoa-stuffed tomatoes

Even though I’ve been doing most of our cooking, it’s been a while since I’ve felt like a vixen in our kitchen.

I’ve been bored and uninspired, falling into the rut of making the same things from my roster over and over. The fella is such an imaginative and inspired cook, so there’s some pretty big shoes to fill, but no matter how many dinners I make, I still get so nervous that I’m going to screw something up.

But I’ve started making a big batch of quinoa during the week to have for my lunches and am kind of quinoa-obsessed right now, so I thought I’d incorporate it into dinner one night. Since I was also craving my tried-and-true parmesan tomatoes, I thought I’d change them up by stuffing with quinoa.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– Figuring two per person, I got six big beefsteak tomatoes. (There’s one hidden under the biggest one on top)
– Quinoa, olive oil, breadcrumbs and shredded mozzarella cheese.

I pre-made the quinoa (according to the box instructions) earlier in the day so it was cool for handling.

I heated the oven to 400 degrees, dug out the tomato stems and used a melon baller to remove most of the the “guts.”

As the oven heated, I mixed a few tablespoons of olive oil into the quinoa, tasting along the way until it was the right amount of saturated, and then added a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs. I mixed the cheese in last, and used about half of the package. I spooned the mixture into the tomatoes and topped it with a small pinch of cheese.

I popped the tomatoes in the oven for 10 minutes as I steamed fresh broccoli in the microwave, which I doused with some balsamic vinegar and dusted with breadcrumbs. The broccoli then went in the oven for 10 minutes, making the total cooking time just 20 minutes!

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Super easy, super fast and super delicious!

What’s your favorite quinoa recipe? I’m dying to try some new ones!

Nikki

Beating weekend temptations

I find it so easy to be good during the week, especially when I’m in an office setting. But even working from home, I tend to make fairly healthy choices Monday through Friday while also managing to get in some lengthy walks or some time on the Air Climber.

But I’ve always struggled with the celebratory nature of weekends.
* At first, it was letting loose with my friends because, well, that’s just what you sometimes do on Fridays and Saturdays.
* Then it was finding weekend traditions with the fella and the Boy and Girl Childs.
* Then there was that year the fella and I did the long-distance thing and crammed all of our time together into two days.
* That was followed by our move to the city and two demanding and exhausting jobs and subway time that amounted into much, much more than 40-hours a week, so a lot of weekends were spent just trying to recharge ourselves inside our tiny railroad apartment that we didn’t get to see too much of during the week.
* After a year of that, we moved to a new place that had ample room for me to spread my exercise wings again, the GC moved in with us, I started freelancing, and the fella got a job he loves. Weekends became his time to be in the apartment we all love so much, but after being at home all week, I was itchy to get out and explore together instead of solo like I do during my off time during the week.

Sure, there were some struggles as I tried to let him have some couch time and he begrudgingly gave in when I’d start saying, “Let’s go for a walk! Wanna take a walk?” in the same voice I’d ask a dog.
You should know it’s also my Talking-to-Children voice.

Since starting this healthier lifestyle together, though, getting exercise in is just something that we now do on autopilot.

Take yesterday, for example. We needed groceries, but instead of just heading to the store four blocks away and coming back, we did a three-mile walk around our neighborhood. And up here in Harlem, that means we walked up more than a few steep hills. And on Saturday, we walked from the restaurant on 41st where we had dinner to our beloved bakery on Bleecker two-plus miles away to share our weekly treat, a lemon gingerbread cookie.

So today, when I stepped on the scale, for the first time in a really, really long time, my weight didn’t go up over the weekend. It stayed where it had been on Friday, and it was empowering. Of course, it would’ve been better if I’d lost weight over the weekend, but I’m not going to knock this maintain one little bit, especially given my indulgent weekends in the past. There will be time for that as we continue on this path.

We’re thinking our food through now, like only stealing a few fries from the kids instead of having our own plates at The Counter burger joint Saturday or making a killer meal of bacon-wrapped scallops and whole wheat pizza with spinach, olives and fresh mozzarella last night or savoring our nightly desserts.

Yes, they were both just as good as they look.

Yes, they were both just as good as they look.

I appreciate food so much more now that I’m not shoveling it in as fast as I can. I don’t eat as much, and it tastes so much better. My mom always accused me of “living to eat” instead of “eating to live,” and I own up to that. I love food, and I will always love food, but I think I’ve melded those two sayings into something good for me at last.

What about you? Do you “live to eat,” “eat to live” or a delicious combo of both like me? How do you survive weekend temptations?

Nikki 

Boredetarian

So I’ve been doing the veg thing for a straight month. The fella has been going strong for slightly longer thanks to the grilled-meat dalliance I had while visiting home last month.

I love that we’re doing this together, and I love doing the cooking (most of the time), but my God, we are getting bored with what has become our old standbys. There’s been a lot of sausage + squash, sausage + yellow rice + black beans, crumbles, pasta, rice, wash, rinse, repeat.

I know we’re not eating enough fresh veggies and protein, and I know we’re eating a lot of “white not right stuff,” so I’ve got spaghetti squash on the list for next week to give using that in place of pasta a try. We’re also going to get fish on occasion, and I have a few ideas from other bloggers I’ve seen, so hopefully we’ll be out of this rut in no time.

I’d been craving cold sesame noodles, so I bought some buckwheat soba, baby corn and (cheater alert!) a bottle of spicy peanut sauce for last night’s dinner. For protein, I threw in Soyboy smoked tofu, which is still my favorite tofu, and some shrimp. Not too shabby, actually, and I loved that it could be served hot or cold, which is how I’m now eating the leftovers as I type this.

This is my longest stretch of being veg, and while I feel really proud and happy, I still dream of a nice, big steak, wings and my standby build-a-burger from Counter. Is that normal for a recent convert?? I feel so guilty!

Nikki

PS: If you’ve got any recipe suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Sunday meatless funday

One of the things the fella misses most from Before We Were Vegetarians are wings.


I miss them, too, especially considering that it was just a few months ago that we found the perfect sports bar to get wings. While we can still go to Dalton’s and tip back some Angry Orchard and have some of the bar’s vegetarian fare, none of that food will replace the crispy, sloppy wings we loved so much.

Because of that, I’ve been trying to think of ways to try to replicate wings.
When I made some homemade seitan last week, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with it, especially since it’s something both the fella and the Girl Child have never tried.

I thought that since the fella watches football on Sundays — and yells at the TV and makes sure I watch all the replays so I can see how awesome/shitty each one was — it would be as good a time as any to try out a possible wing substitute. Since he’s much better about frying than I am, the fella took over the kitchen. He breaded the seitan with spicy hot chipotle breadcrumbs (it’s not just a clever name, they were wicked hot!) we happened upon today at Pathmark and fried them in a little bit of oil.

I drizzled our favorite wing sauce and bleu cheese dressing on top, slapped some celery sticks on the side and dinner was amazingly spicy and familiar. The only thing missing was Angry Orchard, but I will surely remedy that the next time around.

Hope your Sunday funday is delicious, too! If you have a good way to make fake wings, I’m all ears!

Nikki

Racquet to me + an amazeballs Vixen in the Kitchen

When the fella and I discovered Riverbank State Park and its paddle ball courts a few weeks back, we immediately went out and bought ourselves some racquets and balls.

I'll have you know that's a racquet made by Maria Sharapova. NBD.

I’ll have you know that’s a racquet made by Maria Sharapova. NBD.

After we finally got to break them (and ourselves) in yesterday, I walked there this morning to play on my own. It is gorgeous here in New York today — if the weather could stay exactly like this, I would be such a happy Nikki. Like yesterday, I spent pretty much most of the time chasing the ball around as opposed to actually hitting it, but by the end of my 45-minute set (can I even call it a set if I couldn’t even beat myself??), I managed to keep the ball in play a bit longer than when I started.
And even if I stink or almost take out a kid playing on a nearby playground as I did yesterday or have to run to the farthest court to retrieve that stupid blue ball, at least I’m moving, right??

Afterward, I came back and made some energy balls I had sampled when I took a vegetarian cooking class a few months back. I had raved about these balls to the fella and the Girl Child when I got back from the class, and the GC has been haunting me to make them for months.

I took the class at Bhagavat Life,  and I honestly thought I wrote about how much I enjoyed it, but alas I didn’t. If you’re in New York, you should definitely check out the website and take one of the classes. Divya, the host, is so friendly and her food was so very good.

Here’s how I made the energy balls. They are so so easy, so so good, so so filling and vegan. Plus, look at that perfect dusting of coconut!
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1 cup dates
1/4 cup raisins (you can use figs instead if you prefer)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (but you can also use any other tart dried fruit like cherries or blueberries)
1 cup almonds or almond flour
1 cup walnuts (or whatever nuts you prefer)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried coconut

Pour boiling water over the dried fruits, let sit for about 10 minutes (no longer or else they’ll get too watery). While they’re soaking, grind the nuts in a food processor into a fine meal. Divya suggests to bring them separately, but I did them together and it seemed OK.

Wash and drain the fruit the best you can, put them and the vanilla in the processor and blend until it’s a smooth paste. Put in a large bowl, pour the nut mixture on top, and blend with your hands. Roll into 1-inch balls, roll in the coconut, and voila!

The recipe makes about 15 balls.

Let me know if you make them — I promise you they’re … ahem … amazeballs!

Nikki

‘Let’s go vegetarian,’ he said to me

The past few weeks have been madcap to say the least.
The Girl Child officially moved in with us, and we moved to a two-bedroom in the historic (and gorgeous) Sugar Hill section of Harlem, and there’s been some … let’s just call it “life changes” … that have occurred. Though they may cause things to be a bit dodgy here and there, a huge negative force has been lifted from our lives, and I finally feel like myself again.
The “more fun, laid-back and spontaneous” me, to quote the GC.  

Between all these factors, plus the constant motion of moving and unpacking, I’ve lost 10 pounds the past week and a half, which really helped me kickstart my mindset. I’m eating better and taking daily walks again, which I love, especially with a whole new neighborhood to explore.

We have a huge kitchen in the new crib, and I plan to get back into cooking some of the dishes I’ve written about on this blog in the past. I’m looking forward to it, and so is the fella, I think, because that will relieve some of the feeding duties from him. I don’t know if my excitement about doing more cooking is what spawned what I’m about to write, but I’ll take it either way.

Before I say what I am going to say, are you sitting down?
What about now?
OK.

sb10062327o-001The fella looked at me yesterday, ever so pensive (and maybe a little bit sad), and said, “Do you … think we should go vegetarian during the week?”

I almost shat on a turtle and immediately said a resounding yes.
If you’ve been a longtime reader of RNR, you know that I’ve written plenty about going veg during the week, especially when the fella and I were doing the long-distance thing a few years back. 

Since we moved, our family dinners have mostly consisted of making vegetarian versions of our meals for the GC, who has been vegetarian for almost a year, save for a sausage meal we all ate with Tofurky sausage. Well, the fella said that it “just makes more sense” since we it would save us money from not buying two versions of our meals, time from not making two meals and help us (he and I) finally eat healthier — all magic words if you ask me.

Tonight, we’re having stuffed peppers with meatless crumbles, and I’m going to pick up the ingredients to make seitan this week, and we’re going to fill up our new, bigger fridge with lots and lots and lots of veggies and fruit. The fella and I are going to start walking during the day while the GC’s in school, and I started using my yoga mat yesterday to stretch out before my hour-long walk and do some abs for the first time in a year.

I’ve — err, we’ve — got a long way to go, and I know my guy is going to need a steak every now and again, but the fact that he’s ready and willing to take this step now means the world to me.

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives — and it’s going to be a healthy one. And I love that I’ll be living a lifestyle that I’ll be proud to actually talk about here on RNR.

Nikki

Vixen in the Kitchen: My first at-home brunch

I’ve been thinking about kale a lot lately, mostly how much I miss it, so when I happened upon a recipe for kale salad with dates, almonds and Parmesan in the December Self, I promptly ripped it out and vowed to make it ASAP.

Since I knew the fella and I wanted to have an at-home brunch this weekend, I decided to tackle most of the meal myself, so I prepped the kale last night, as per the recipe, to soften the hearty greens.

I thought quiche would be a perfect companion, and since we love us some sun-dried tomatoes, I Googled around and found this recipe for a sun-dried tomato

and spinach quiche. The fella thought a nice fillet of salmon would make a fine addition to the salad, so we picked up a really nice piece on our Whole Foods run yesterday.

I think between prepping the quiche and its 45-minute cooking time and cooking the salmon, which the fella drizzled with honey and dusted with brown sugar, brunch took less than an hour and a half.

To make it a true brunch, at least for us, we made Bloody Marys with a bacon-salt rim that rounded out the meal perfectly.
We got both the mix and the salt at the Whole Foods on Houston Street, and if you like a spicy Mary, you’ll be pleased with this bottle for sure!

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The food was super filling and definitely ultra-healthy, which I’m stoked about (sadly, I can’t say that about some of our normal brunch choices). During the whole meal, the fella could not stop raving about brunch, and that made me really happy!

I can’t wait to make these dishes again … and enjoy the leftovers, of course!

What are your go-to at-home brunch dishes?

Nikki

Vixen in the Kitchen: Craving curry

Stop the presses: I cooked.
I honest to goodness cooked.
And it wasn’t my trusty tomatoes parmesan recipe.
I know, right?

Nope, from the moment I saw the Thai chicken curry recipe in the latest Bon Appetit, I was mad-craving curry, and finally just up and made it last night.

Ingredients for last night's curry.

Ingredients for last night’s curry.

I had every intention of making the recipe as is with chicken thighs (minus the onions, of course), but once I got to the store, I thought tofu would be a really good substitution, so I got that instead. I also decided to throw in some chick peas because I’ve had a hankering for them lately, too, and could always use the extra protein.
Ever since I got the flu over Christmas, I’ve been seriously craving healthy food – and I love it and have been sticking with it as I’ve been convalescing.

I started cooking (which smelled amazing, by the way), and found another can of chick peas, so I made the executive chef decision to just use them and not the tofu.

It was incredible.

Up close and delicious.

Up close and delicious.

Since it was yellow curry paste, there was a subtle heat that played on the tongue, but it wasn’t a “holy shit” heat. I am so excited to have another recipe to add to the repertoire, especially another vegetarian one that the fella really liked, too!
In fact, I’m pretty sure that my version was vegan, which is an added bonus. 

Next up on my cooking docket is a kale salad recipe I can’t wait to try from Self, so stay tuned for that one!

Nikki

Nom nom naan

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I think I could honestly eat pizza every day of the week.
I mean really, what’s not to love about the ooey, gooey, cheesy, bready wonderment that is pizza??

It’s no big secret that the fella wears the (proverbial) apron ’round here. He’s a truly amazing cook, and many of our family’s favorite – and best-tasting – meals are dishes he just dreamed up from a craving.

The other night one of his cravings happened to be some flatbread pizzas using the uneaten fresh mozzarella and brie we bought for New Year’s Eve. Off we went to the store, where we bought two packages of naan, some pears and fresh tomatoes.

On two pieces of naan, he spread a small can of tomato paste, then topped it with tomato and thick slices of the fresh mozzarella. On the other two went the brie topped with thinly sliced pears and a hearty drizzle of yummy Modena balsamic vinegar.

Both went into the oven, and about 20 minutes later, out came their bubbling goodness. The brie was my favorite, while the fella loved the mozzarella. As I write this, I’m seriously dreaming about the brie one, mmm.
Party bonus: Both are vegetarian!

Talk about making a dream a reality: The fella just came in to ask what I’m writing about, and after I told him, guess what we’re having for dinner again??  Yay!

I want to concoct a recipe using fresh arugula, but don’t know how yet … maybe I’ll mull it over during brunch … I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, do you have a favorite flatbread recipe? I’d love to try it out!

Nikki

Miso a Vixen in the Kitchen!

After buying mellow white miso paste a few weeks back, I came home from work tonight with the intent to make, you guessed it, miso soup.

I’d been craving miso soup like all get out lately, so before last night’s visit to my local grocer, I consulted Robin Robertson’s “Vegan Planet” cookbook that a former coworker had kindly sent my way when I started this wanting-to-go-veg journey. In it, right there on p. 76, was a recipe for miso soup with tofu and baby spinach I’d been meaning to make since the book entered my possession.

Armed with all my needed ingredients, I set out to make the soup, expecting some sort of catastrophe like the first time I made quinoa the other night (don’t you dare ask!), but just about 20 minutes later, dinner was served!

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And it was so. damn. good! And filling to boot! Plus, I got to use my fancy Chinese soup spoons!
Because I was craving them, too, I added part of a bundle of buckwheat noodles to my bowl before putting the soup in, but they really weren’t necessary.

There was so much to love about this recipe, how the mushrooms added such a hearty quality to the broth, that I was eating tofu but it wasn’t my old stir-fry standby, the wilted spinach which is always yummy and then there was that taste of the miso, mmm.
Its smell was very much like beer to me, by the way. Weird – or isn’t it?

I plan on having the soup for breakfast tomorrow and have enough leftover for lunch and dinner as well. It was so simple that it’s definitely going to become a standby in my fridge for just in case.

If you have “Vegan Planet,” what should I make next??

Nikki