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

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Red Bamboo, Part Deux

When my friend asked if I wanted to go to lunch last week, there was no doubt in our minds that we were going back to Red Bamboo, the fabulous vegan restaurant in the Village that I wrote about back in November.

Above is the feast we shared, and it was just as amazing as the first time. We started with popcorn shrimp, which came with a spicy and tasty cocktail sauce. I’d always wondered how the vegan version of fish would taste, and I was delighted to find out that the taste and texture of this shrimp were really dead on.

My friend had roast beef, which was really good and I had the soul chicken sandwich, which, like the shrimp, had the taste and texture of actual chicken. There were four really big chunks of it, and I ended up just eating it without the bun because it was so good on its own.

Like good girls, we just had to split a dessert and we unanimously chose the s’mores cheesecake. When we went last time, we had pumpkin cheesecake, which tasted so much like real cheesecake I couldn’t believe it was vegan. The s’mores version, however, tasted more like fudge than that slightly sour cheesecakeness, and it was decadent and divine.

I was so in heaven after this meal that I ended up walking 80 blocks afterward and made the fella and Girl Child go back with me the very next day. And I cannot tell a lie: The GC and I just got back from having yet another fabulous meal at Red Bamboo.

Nikki

A family on NutriBlast

In this house, we have fallen in love with Sage.

No, not the herb or the color (though I do love that hue now that I think about it), but the NutriBullet, which I just named this very second after trolling a baby names website. Sage means wise and healthy, so it’s pretty much a perfect name, non? (1.) because we’re being wise (finally!) about trying to eat (2.) healthy.
See what I did there?

I’ve made NutriBlasts every single day (sometimes twice!) since I wrote last week, and the Girl Child and fella have kind of become a bit obsessed with having a smoothie. I even got him to eat bananas, something he despises. It’s a win-win, really.

Would you just LOOK at the color of this? So green, so yummy!

Would you just LOOK at the color of this? So green, so yummy!

“P22,” which I wrote about recreating last week from the food truck I used to frequent down in FiDi, is by far my favorite. The mix of spinach, pineapple, mango and banana is just amazing. It’s so clean tasting and green, and I have it pretty much every morning because it’s that good.

Another favorite, for the Girl and I, at least, is carrot, apple, orange and grated ginger. I bought a nice hunk, if that’s the right word, of ginger root and stuck it in the freezer since that what the wise people on the Interweb suggested I do to keep it fresh the longest. I love the zing the root gives to the blend, especially when I use a heavy zesting hand. This smoothie is a bit pulpy, just so you know. I guess I could strain it, if I wasn’t so lazy.

Orange you glad … I don't have a punchline?

Orange you glad … I don’t have a punchline?

One blend I just tried today is sure to become my go-to dessert, which is something I just can’t cut out of my life/diet at all. I always need something sweet post-dinner, and this chocolate-covered cherry smoothie will let me have it with another side of spinach.  I found the recipe (and a bunch of others on the docket to try) on SimpleGreenSmoothies.com. I love this site and can’t wait to work my way through all the recipes. If you’re new to making green smoothies at home as I am, the site might be a great starting point for you.

Some days I have just a smoothie for lunch and a “sensible-ish dinner,” but if I still feel peckish, I’ll snack on hummus with carrots, cucumbers or celery, have an apple with peanut butter or a bowl of Special K. Mixed with getting in a few days of walking and I’m happy to report that I’m down two pounds.

There’s still a long ways to go, and I have a feeling we’re going to be making some more healthy changes in the coming weeks, so hopefully the next two and 10 and 20 pounds won’t be hard. I already know they’ll be delicious!

Nikki

Taking the NutriBullet for a spin

After spending the past week battling a stomach bug (such a great way to ring in a new year!), I finally hauled myself to Whole Foods to stock up on fixings for the NutriBullet. $70 and a four-block rainy walk with three bags heavy with produce and frozen fruits later, I gave the Bullet its first spin with spinach, pineapple and strawberries.


It was very spinachy and most definitely needed a banana to tone down that hearty flavor, but it was still very good, very clean-tasting. I’m going to try to recreate “P22,” my go-to smoothie truck order of spinach, pineapple, banana and mango as soon as the bananas sitting the counter ripen.

I always get a bit nervous using any sort of kitchen gadget, thanks to standing dripping in strawberry daiquiri because my mom didn’t put the lid on the food processor down right not once but three times in the span of five minutes and the countless messes I made and calamities I’ve had when trying something in the kitchen for the first time, but the NutriBullet was so easy even I could do it. It takes up absolutely no room on the counter, and it pulverized all my ingredients in about 20 seconds with not an explosion or leak in sight.

Welcome to the family, NutriBullet. I feel like I should give you a name because I think we’re going to be besties from here on out.

Nikki

54 days + the best vegan meal ever

It’s been almost two months since I’ve been a full-on vegetarian.
It’s been 54 days or 1,296 hours since I last ate meat, to be exact.

It has become easier to seek out the vegetable or fish dishes at restaurants, and I’ve stopped drooling over meat pictures from the foodies I follow on Instagram (for the most part), though I still suffer from occasional bouts of “boredetarian” when it comes to cooking for the fella, Girl Child and myself.

So when my former coworker (and forever “work wife”) suggested that we hit a vegan restaurant she loved in the West Village on our date night, I was more than game. And after stalking the menu beforehand, I couldn’t wait to get to Red Bamboo.
In my excitement, I even read the entire menu, separately, to the fella and GC, and now they can’t wait to go there, either.

Red Bamboo is a quaint little restaurant below street level, and there’s not a lot of tables, so it has a very cozy vibe. The music selection was fantastic, MGMT, my beloved Flaming Lips and similar added to the chill atmosphere. The service was attentive and friendly, and the prices are really fantastic compared to some of the other vegan restaurants in town.

So, what about the food, Nikki?
Oh, yeah, then there’s that. He he.


How many ways can one say amazing??

It was hard to pick an appetizer because they all sounded amazing, but we did agree immediately on the wings, which were marinated in spiced citrus barbecue sauce and came with a side of sesame garlic dressing. The wing sauce was so flavorful, and while they weren’t crispy like those wings I’d loved in The Time Before, they hit the spot.

We also got the almond coconut chicken as a starter, and those were the balls and gave me that crispy, crunchy deliciousness I had so been craving. Because they were so yummy on their own, I hardly needed the sweet chili sauce they came with, even though it, too, was tasty.

For dinner, she went with the BLT, which tasted exactly like a real BLT and might be what I get next time (which may be a lot soon than later, like next week!), and the fries were top-notch. I ordered Dante’s cuisine, which was black pepper soy beef medallions sautéed in Red Bamboo’s fresh mushroom gravy. It came with a simple side of steamed asparagus spears, yellow squash and zucchini and sweet corn mashed potatoes. Thanks to its smattering of biting peppercorns, the sauce reminded me of au poivre, which had always been my go-to steak accompaniment in The Time Before. Though the medallions tasted like the wings in a different shape and sauce, the sauce did provide a beefy flavor.

For dessert, since I dubbed our date “Friendsgiving,” we split a slice of pumpkin cheesecake, and I don’t know how Red Bamboo did it, but it tasted exactly like the real creamy, dreamy pumpkiny deal. Even the two big dollops of whipped cream were heavenly.

I can’t wait to have my leftovers for lunch in a little bit — in fact, I cannot tell a lie: Having them was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning.

Red Bamboo, I have a feeling we’re going to be very, very good friends.

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!
2013-09-23 14.11.48

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

Winner winner chik’n dinner

The fella and I have been doing swimmingly with our vegetarian eating the past few days.

Well, I cannot tell a lie: I had a tiny slip up at Dunkin Donuts yesterday morning following our ginormous walk. I, on complete autopilot, ordered my usual egg white flatbread with turkey sausage. In my defense, it’s healthier than the other breaky sandwiches I really wanted and not a sugar-laden donut, which is too much sweet for breakfast for me. But still. I own up to my flub and vow to not let it happen again.

As for dinner, the fella made chicken parm using MorningStar’s Italian Herb Chik Patties and, as you can see in the pic below, IT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

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Today, I’m off for a walk with a friend then popping into Whole Foods to hunt down some vital wheat gluten to make the seitan the fella and Girl Child are kind of sick of hearing me talk about. It’s damn hard to find VWG at a regular store, which is super annoying.

Have a tremendous day!

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