To mix things up this term, Claire and I have decided to try different diets every week. This week we were vegetarian. I had a plan to come up with new recipes every day, but when you are cooking for one there are a lot of leftovers and cooking new meals every day ends up being wasteful, expensive, and time consuming. So I only have a few main dishes to share, but I also made several snacks.
Being a vegetarian was a lot easier than I thought it would be because I typically only eat meat for dinner (a serving of fish or chicken). The only times it was difficult was when I needed to buy meals elsewhere (vegetarian options are somewhat limited in the student center) or when I had to resist meat when it was offered to me. That was especially difficult when my housemates decided to grill at the last minute. As someone who would grill every day if given the chance, I had to load up on grilled pineapple to resist the grumbling in my stomach calling out for brats and burgers.
The first dish I tried was spanakopita. Its one of my favorite greek dishes, but I’ve always been afraid to try it because I had heard phyllo dough was really tricky to work with. Turns out the rumors were true and phyllo dough is a little difficult, but it wasn’t so bad. Everything else was really easy and the end result was tasty. I used the recipe in the link (she is one of my favorite food bloggers!), except I omitted the onions and scallions because I don’t like them and added golden raisins because I think those should be in everything. I ended up leaving them in the oven about 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for because they weren’t getting crispy and I would actually have left them in longer in hindsight. The outer-most layer of the dough was brown and crispy, but a lot of other spots were still really soft. Overall, these were great. They were really tasty and they lasted me a few days.
Two days later I volunteered to make the first family meal of the term, so I made some veggie dishes that would be filling for my hungry housemates (and acceptable to the one who doesn’t like vegetables). When I was living in D.C. last spring, my roommates and I made quinoa almost every night. Our favorite go-to dish was quinoa with spinach, feta, and pesto. This time I made the entire box to feed my bros, so I think the proportions ended up being 1 box quinoa (prepare as directed on box), 2-3 cups of spinach (steamed), 1/2 cup of crumbled feta, and 2-3 tbsp pesto. I dumped the spinach in there pretty generously, but added the pesto and feta slowly so that I didn’t end up going overboard. It was a hit.
Then I made quiche because it is delicious and so so easy. I used almond milk instead of half and half and added about 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese because I had a lot left over from the spanakopita. The house loved it, but I should have made two. Big boys, big appetites.
I had another box of quinoa and had been meaning to try making cinnamon quinoa bake. One morning I decided to make it for breakfast, but I messed it up. The recipe calls for “2 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled” which I thought meant cook 2 1/2 cups of quinoa and let it cool before baking it. As I was making it, I thought it seemed like too much and it didn’t fit that nicely in the baking pan, but I went with it. Turns out it meant 2 1/2 cups of quinoa that was already cooked and so I ended up using over twice as much as I was supposed to and as a result the quinoa wasn’t baking all the way through and the bake didn’t stay together like it was supposed to. Liz made the same mistake when she made it, so we are blaming the directions for being unclear.
So my quinoa bake thing didn’t work out, but I was left with a lot of quinoa that tasted like cinnamon. Not a bad place to be. To go with the sweeter taste, I ended up chopping up a sweet potato, boiling it until the pieces were tender, and mixing it in. It was pretty delicious and I actually found a recipe for sweet potato quinoa salad that was essentially the same thing. Takeaway: trust your instincts if you think a recipe isn’t working the way that it should, but if you mess up, you should go ahead and blame the directions and then try to make something tasty out of what you have.
I was disappointed that my quinoa breakfast idea didn’t work out though, so I tried to come up with another way to use it and ended up combining 1 cup of the quinoa with 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt and sprinkling it with pomegranate arils and golden raisins (top left corner). Such a delicious combination, especially if you heat up the quinoa first. The other funky thing I made for breakfast one morning were spinach-protein-chia-seed-pancakes. In a blender, combine 1 banana, 2 eggs, and 1-2 handfuls of spinach. Pour batter in a bowl and mix in a tbsp of chia seeds and a dash of cinnamon. Make on low heat, using about 2 tbsp of batter for each pancake.
The bottom two pictures are some of the fruit-as-dessert experiments I’ve been trying. The default has been some cut up strawberries with whipped cream and honey, but the one on the bottom right is a caramelized pear that I made for the first time earlier today. It was super easy and so delicious. Take a ripe pear, cut it into four pieces and cut out the core, cook for a few minutes on a skillet with a little butter, and then when the pieces are brown, lower the heat and sprinkles each piece with a little bit of brown sugar. The sugar will melt shortly and then you can dump the pieces in a bowl and enjoy.
In the spirit of experimentation, I tried making a peanut butter dip I saw on pinterest (looking for delicious food ideas on pinterest has started to take up too much of my time). Eating this with apple slices is also a good snack/dessert.
Claire sent me two of the recipes she made. The first was a quinoa salad (which I ate) made with “3 c cooked quinoa,1 red bell pepper (diced), about 5 green/spring onions (chopped thinly), and about 1/2-3/4 c each of golden raisins and roasted cashews. I mix all of those things together, and then make a dressing out of olive oil, white vinegar, salt, TONS of tumeric, a little cumin, and a little bit of agave syrup”. It was absolutely delicious. She has also been making this delicious sandwich: baguette, toasted, with sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a double layer of basil leaves, and olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.
We have decided that next week will be pescetarian week. It is going to have to be a bit more proactive, because it would be too easy to just not eat any type of meat besides fish. We could easily just be vegetarian again. So we will actively be making some delicious (probably healthy) fish dishes. I’m excited, but now I have to do micro homework.