Monday, February 18, 2013

What's cooking: Week 1.

Being an ethical eater requires both cooking and planning. It has become a hobby in my household, one that is fun, cooperative, and can be done with a glass of red wine in one hand. But things weren't always easy. It can take some time to get into the groove of meal-planning. So, to help those of you who are just getting started, or merely looking for some fresh ideas, I'll be posting our weekly menus whenever I have the chance. Each meal is intended to serve two people for 2-3 nights, and they are all gluten and dairy free. As always, your feedback is appreciated. If you'd like to contribute recipes and menus from your household, let me know.

Slow-cooker beef with roasted red and sweet potatoes and a fresh spinach salad.

The cook time on this dish is long, between 4 and 8 hours, but you will only need to prepare things at the beginning and again near the end. Makes about 4 servings.

2.5-3 lb. beef roast
1.5 cups stock (or water)
3-4 carrots
2-3 stalks celery
1 onion
2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
Pepper and salt, to taste

3-5 red potatoes
2 small sweet potatoes
Olive oil
Pepper and salt, to taste
Paprika, rosemary, and thyme, to taste

4 cups raw baby spinach
Raisins, apple, or pear
Sesame seeds or slivered almonds
Balsamic vinegar, to taste

1. Chop the carrots and celery into roughly inch-long pieces. Quarter the onion.

2. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the slow cooker. Add meat and spices. Pour the broth around the meat so as to avoid washing off the spices. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours (depending on your particular slow cooker).

3. When the beef is about 45 min. from done, starting heating the oven to 400°.

4. Wash the red and sweet potatoes and pat dry. Chop into bite-sized pieces, discarding any ugly spots or poky bits.

5. Toss the pieces in olive oil (just enough to lightly coat them), and then spread them out on a lined baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, paprika, rosemary, and thyme, to taste (probably less than ½ tsp each). Place them in the oven for 35 minutes, “stirring” them after about 25 min.

6. Plate roughly a handful of spinach, top with some raisins and sesame seeds (or slivered almonds), and add a little balsamic vinegar as dressing.

7. Add potatoes to the plate. Slice the beef and serve, topped with veggies and drippings from the slow cooker.

Miso-glazed salmon over rice noodles and sesame broccoli.

A quick and tasty dish, based on two recipes from Simple Suppers. Makes 4 servings.

4 portions of salmon (4-6 oz. each)
2 Tbsp light miso
1.5 Tbsp mirin
1.5 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp rice or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Pad Thai style rice noodles
Gluten-free soy sauce (look for Tamari soy sauce)

~1 lb. broccoli
1 tsp rice or cider vinegar
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt

1. Begin boiling water for the noodles. Heat the oven to 450°.

2. Rinse and coarsely chop broccoli and place in a covered, microwave-safe dish with a few drops of water.

3. Rinse the salmon, pat dry, and place skin-side down on a lined baking sheet. Make several slashes through each fillet, but don’t cut all the way through.

4. Bake the salmon for 5 min. While it cooks, combine the miso, mirin, sugar, and vinegar. Slice the scallions. Remember to keep an eye on your pasta water; when it reaches a boil, add the noodles, and begin cooking according to the package directions.

5. After 5 minutes, remove the salmon from the oven. Spoon the miso-mirin sauce over the fillets, and then return it to the oven for another 3-5 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork.

6. During the final stage of cooking the salmon, cook the broccoli in the microwave on high for 3-4 min, until you reach your desired state of mushiness. Mix with the rice vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and salt.

7. Spoon some broccoli into bowls, add rice noodles and a little soy sauce, and top with the salmon. Then, sprinkle the salmon with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Enjoy!

Thai butternut squash soup with tofu over jasmine rice.

This is another great recipe from Simple Suppers, although slightly modified. Use frozen squash and rice for a quick weeknight meal or cook them from scratch when you have more time. Cooking squash is pretty easy. You can even do it in the microwave*. Makes 4 servings.

1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups fresh or 24-oz frozen cooked winter squash (e.g. butternut or acorn)
2 cups baby spinach or other leafy green
Juice of 1 lime and 1 tsp lime zest
Optional: 1 Keiffer lime leaf, chopped cilantro

1/2 cake firm tofu (about 8oz)
1 Tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp coconut oil

0. If you are making rice on the stovetop or rice cooker, start it now.

1. In a soup pot, combine coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, salt, and veggie broth, and mix well. Add the squash and the (optional) lime leaf, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 min, or until the squash is thawed.

2. While the soup is cooking, dice the tofu and toss it in a bowl with the soy sauce and curry paste. Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet. Add the tofu and cook for about 5 min, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Chop some cilantro. Grate the lime peel (avoid the bitter white pith underneath) and then juice the lime. Add the lime zest and juice to the soup. Stir in the spinach and tofu. Cook until the spinach wilts. If you are making frozen rice, cook it while the soup finishes up. 4. Spoon some rice into bowls. Top with the soup, and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.

* - You can learn how to microwave butternut squash here and here. We typically cut ours in half before cooking it, most like the first recipe. Also, microwaving is best for squash that will be used in soups, sauces, etc. If you are going to eat your squash straight, oven roasting is the way to go.

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