Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Five Spiced Sweet Potatoes



This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Spooky Spices.” The idea is to tackle a spice that has been haunting (or intimidating) you. For me, the choice was immediately obvious: Five Spice Powder.

I don’t know what it is about this spice mix, but it’s always intimidated me. It just smells so...unfamiliar. So this month I decided to tackle this spice blend. The Flavor Bible managed to fail me completely (it lists chicken, pork, duck, and stir fries as good flavor pairings) and my initial google searches for recipes turned up chicken or noodle/stir fry dishes. While I’m always game for a good stir fry, I’m also currently living on a student’s budget (refer back to my last post on my tiny room for details), so I decided not to go all out on some big or elaborate recipe. Finally, I stumbled across a simple, beautiful, easy, and best of all, cheap recipe for sweet potatoes with five spice powder. Perfect.


Turns out this dish is fantastic! The lime juice adds a little tang and the five spice powder helps bring out the sweet earthiness of the sweet potatoes. It’s also ridiculously easy to make. I made this in just over half an hour, in my toaster oven. Easy to make, easy to clean up, and definitely easy to eat! Turns out this spice isn’t so spooky after all

What spice scares you?




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Beginnings (And A Tiny Kitchen!)

Tonight is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I think it’s fitting that this year it coincides with the beginning of a very exciting opportunity for me. As you know, about a month and a half ago I moved from a pretty spacious one bedroom to a tiny studio with barely any kitchen. Before the move, I pared down my kitchenware considerably, putting some of the less essential things in storage.

The kitchen I worked with all of August
The big news is that I have since moved again! I had a last minute opportunity to start my Dietetic Internship six months sooner than originally planned, so I once again packed up my life and moved. This time, I’m living in less that 100 square feet, in a dorm room. Which means that I once again had to weed through my kitchen and pick out just a few, absolute, essential pieces to take with me. 

My essential pantry items!


Now, I’ve lived in dorms and apartments with fully functioning kitchens for the last 6 years, and as you might know by now, I very much enjoy cooking food. So you better believe that I’ll be using the communal kitchen regularly, though I also rigged up a small personal kitchen space in my room for daily use. All this means that my kitchen supplies have to be 1) extremely portable and 2) significantly reduced. So I came up with a list of my absolute kitchen essentials:

My new digs!

Knives: Good quality knives make life easier. However, since this is a temporary set up for me, I brought my B-list knives (and will slowly go crazy over the next year using them). Either way, there are only 3 knives that you really need; a paring knife (though if you’re desperate, you could skip this one), a serrated knife, and a chef’s knife (the bigger and the heavier the better, in my opinion, and definitely the most important of the three). Ditch the huge set and just take these.

Cutting Board: I only need one. I love my wood cutting board, which just happens to be small and portable. If I ate meat or fish, I would add a similarly sized plastic cutting board as well. But I don’t, so only the one is necessary.

Pots and Pans: Because I am in a dorm, with limited storage, cooking for one, this list is different than what I would consider essential in a permanent kitchen. I brought with me a small, non-stick pan, and a 4 quart saucepan with a lid. That’s it. I would LOVE to have brought my 10 inch cast iron skillet, which I use ALL THE TIME, but it’s heavy and not particularly portable, so into a box it went along with all my larger scale pots and pans.

Baking: I rarely bake. At most, I roast vegetables in the oven. Since I have a toaster oven anyway, I figured I would keep my baking supplies to things that fit in there. So, I have a square cake pan, the roasting tray that came with the toaster, and tons of tinfoil. That’s it!

Utensils: One wooden spoon, one silicon spatula, and one set of tongs are all I need to accomplish what I want. Oh, and my large strainer, which I can use to drain beans, pasta, or cold brewed coffee.

Appliances: I happen to have a Cuisinart immersion blender with several attachments that cover most of my bases. I’ll be bringing all of those with me, minus the whisk. I also have my aforementioned toaster oven, an electric tea kettle, and a mini fridge. When it gets colder out I’ll probably bring my crockpot back from my parents’ house (but it’s not necessary yet). I might change my mind and bring in my personal blender later, but for now this is all I’ve got.

Eating: I’m bringing plates, bowls, and silverware for 2. I use mason jars as food storage and decided that they can totally double as drinking glasses. Again, I’ll be living in a dorm room, so space for both storage and guests is limited. But this way I can handle having a friend over or a weekend guest. If for some reason I am feeding more people than that, I can always grab paper plates and plastic cups and silverware from any store.

Misc: Can opener, vegetable peeler, scissors, and measuring cups and spoons are all on my must-have list. Also on that list are mixing bowls (minus the largest two of my set) and food storage containers, which for me is the aforementioned jars and also my handy glass tupperware.


That’s it! And, with the exception of the appliances, it all fits rather nicely on this little rolling cart for maximum portability. I plan to take the whole thing, roll it down the hall, cook up a storm, clean up, and roll it back to my room at least once a week. Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see how this next year of tiny living (and blogging!) goes.

Oh, I also moved from this view:


To this one:


Sigh.  It's only one year.

If you had to pare down your kitchen to the absolute bare essentials, what would be on your list?



Wishing everyone has a happy and sweet new year!  Here's to new adventures!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Apple Walnut Salad


Summertime means salad time in my mind. All I want is something light and crisp to eat, none of these heavy meals. Just give me fresh fruits and veggies, and very little else, and I will be one happy camper.



I made this salad for a shabbat dinner I hosted at the beginning of the summer. I made it because all my normal go-to salad ingredients were being used in other dishes in the meal, so I had to think a little out of the box. I had three different kinds of beautiful greens from my CSA box, so I put them all together, chopped up a few apples, sprinkled on the nuts, and tossed it all with my new obsession, my homemade honey mustard vinaigrette. It was so good, that I made it again the next week. And the next. In fact, I’m eating it right now.


The point is, this salad is simple, crisp, refreshing, and delicious. The sweet apple is nicely offset by the tart cherries, and the walnuts add something to crunch on. The honey mustard vinaigrette is light enough that it doesn’t take away from the freshness of the salad. The whole thing is quick to throw together and always comes out well. This is not a salad that can be your entire meal, but it is a lovely accompaniment to a light sandwich or a chilled soup. I highly recommend eating it outside on a warm sunny day or a breezy summer evening.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Brownie Bites


This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Bars and Bites for Brown Bags.” It’s actually very fitting that this comes at a time when I’m running around like crazy (to be fair, when am I not?). You see, for two weeks every summer, my family goes down the shore. This year, I’m back and forth during the week so that I can go to work. This means that my fridge is annoyingly empty yet I have little desire to fill it.


But I still have to make my lunch so that I have anything to eat at work. That’s where these brownie bites come in! These bites are delicious, packed with seedy goodness, feel like a decadent indulgence, and can happily hang out in my fridge or freezer while I ignore them half the week.


Similar to my no bake oatmeal cookies, these brownie bites start with nuts and dates. The dates keep things together while the nuts add some heft. Then I add seeds. Here, I chose a mixture of chia and hemp seeds because, well, they happen to be in front of my face when I made these. Sesame or flax seeds would also work well, or replace the seeds with the equivalent amount of ground walnuts and call it a day. Finally, some cocoa powder and vanilla are added in to round out all the flavors.


Take the mush, roll it into balls, pop them in the fridge, and consider dessert for the week made. For me, I like to eat these as my afternoon indulgence snack. You know, around 3 pm when you’re not really hungry but you need a quick break from work? Yea, that’s when I eat these. It’s like a quick piece of paradise in the middle of the afternoon.


What snacks go into your lunch box?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette



Everyone knows that my go to salad dressing is my balsamic vinaigrette. I’ve used it so much that it totally has its own reputation by now. But a few months ago, I sadly smashed a full, unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar leaving me with too little balsamic and a salad that had to be dressed for dinner in a few hours. So I had to think of something else to use to dress my salad and I decided to try my hand at a honey mustard vinaigrette.


Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff is good. So good, I think I’m ready to replace my usual go to vinaigrette with it. Instead of balsamic, I used white wine vinegar, but I’ve also made a version of this without any vinegar if you don’t have it on hand. I love the sweet mustard flavor that comes through in this dressing. I keep the seasonings minimal so that they don’t overpower the mustardy goodness, and I thinned it out a little with some water because I decided that there was plenty of oil in there already.


Side note: I’ve discovered that by using just a little water in a vinaigrette, you manage to maintain all the flavor, keep the dressing thick enough to really coat your salads, but you get to thin it out slightly, which also helps stretch the use of each batch. The trick is not using too much water, which will make your dressing a thin, runny mess that pools at the bottom of your salad bowl. Nobody wants that.

Anyway, I highly encourage branching out from your usual routine and trying something new every once in a while. You never know when you’re going to come across a new favorite!



Monday, August 4, 2014

Israeli Salad



Last week I moved. It was a little bit traumatic, as all moves are, and incredibly sad for me. My apartment was very much home for the last two years. I loved the little kitchen, I loved the large mirror that made the place feel big and grand, and I loved the backyard that could host dozens of friends at once. I loved the neighborhood; the friends who lived within 5 minutes walking distance, the coffee shop that was my go-to study spot for most of graduate school, the hole in the wall grocery store that always managed to have exactly what I was looking for.

The view from my new place
My bright, but tiny new kitchen
Unfortunately, the building was unable to offer me the lease that I needed, so the apartment has been passed on to a couple who I hope will be able to love and cherish that place as much as I did. In the meantime, I’ll be finishing out my stay in Philadelphia in a small studio that has huge windows, incredible natural light, and little to no kitchen. It is certainly an adjustment for me, to say the least.


In the meantime, my head is full of boxes and mess, and my heart is heavy with news of hate and destruction around the world. It is these times of chaos and sorrow that most often have me turning to the kitchen. There is something comforting and soothing about making food, whether for yourself or others. There is something wonderful about sitting down to eat food that brings back memories from the past. It isn’t just the typical comfort foods that have this effect. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a salad.

Israeli salad goes by many names and has numerous variations in the Middle East. This is the simplest form, something you can throw together in minutes, serve with pride, and eat with pleasure. There is no cooking involved, making it the perfect summer recipe. The only real trick to making this salad authentic is dicing your ingredients finely. Large chunks of tomato and cucumber are equally delicious, but there is something about the fine dice of a traditional Israeli salad that makes it so much more enticing.


This salad is made of tomatoes and cucumbers, both of which are refreshing and hydrating. I like using Persian cucumbers because they tend to be crisp. This is the season for tomatoes, so make sure to get some ripe, juicy ones from your local farmer’s market. Or, if you’re finding that the tomatoes you buy are falling a little flat, sub in cherry tomatoes for the extra flavor. Add a little red onion or scallion for a bite, some parsley for flavor, and olive oil and lemon juice to top it all off. That’s it. Simple, delicious, refreshing, and addictively comforting. 


Now this place is beginning to feel like home.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Bourbon Baked Peaches


It's time for another Recipe ReDux!  It's also time for some celebration!  You see, this week marks The Inventive Vegetarian's third birthday!  I can't believe it's been so long, and I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has stopped by to read, comment, and say hi.  This experience has gone above and beyond anything I could have imagined.



This month's Recipe ReDux theme is all about using spirits in the kitchen, which I think fits in nicely with our birthday festivities.  So for this month, I decided to make us all a little treat - something that is ridiculously easy to prepare, feels decadent, and is small enough that we can keep it all to ourselves.  I made bourbon baked peaches!



I always associate bourbon and peaches and have used them together many times over the years.  They just balance each other so nicely!  So when I wanted to make a "spirited" and celebratory dish, I immediately thought of bourbon and peaches.  But right now my refrigerator is full of leftovers, so I didn't want to make something big.  Instead, I made a single serving that is more satisfying than a pie or a cobbler could ever be. 



We start with one plain peach.  I'm so lazy, I don't even bother peeling it.  Next we mix together some brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and bourbon, and pour it over our peach.  Stick it under the broiler for 8-10 minutes until everything is starting to brown, and add a scoop of your favorite ice cream.  Voila!  Dessert is served!



How do you celebrate?