korean-inspired lettuce wraps

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Clockwise from the top: lettuce, kimchee (fermented cabbage), sukju namul (bean sprout salad), seasoned soy bean paste, maple-glazed tofu, marinated shiitake

My grocery store carries kimchee in the produce section alongside tofu and spring roll wrappers. If you can’t find kimchee, you could maybe add some hot peppers or something else spicy with a bit of crunch. I got the recipe for the sukju namul here at Maangchi, a great Korean food blog. I used Japanese cucumbers from my garden and bean sprouts that I grew in my kitchen! The seasoned soy bean paste is a Korean brand I found in the Asian section of my grocery store. The recipe for Maple-Glazed Tofu can be found at Fried Dandelions, a vegan food blog with a lot of great recipes. The recipe for the marinated mushrooms is below. This is really a simple dinner to make — each element only takes 5 to 10 minutes to make and can all be made in advance.  I made extra of everything so I could take it to work for lunch tomorrow and Wednesday.

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marinated shiitake mushrooms

ingredients

  • 7 to 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

directions

Clean the shiitake and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (If using dried shiitake, rehydrate them in 2 cups of hot water (enough water to cover) for at least an hour. Reserve the soaking liquid and use 2/3 cup of it in place of the water).

grown up bento, part 1

School started last week which means it’s back to either packing lunches or running across the street to Wendy’s or McDonald’s. I’m trying to stick with the former so I bought myself some cute bento boxes in the hopes that this will help me be creative and excited about packing a lunch, even when my schedule begins to get really crazy. Since I’m following the Vegan Before 6 plan, each lunch needs to be vegan also. So far, I’ve made it a whole week, so that’s progress!

Here is what I packed this week:

Day One 

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1 – Corn salad – fresh corn, cooked edamame (soybeans), cucumber, peach, and tomato. Chop everything up and dress with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. (Could also add fresh cilantro or basil, fresh mozzarella or feta if non-vegan, experiment with the spices. Get creative!)

2 – Leftover fried tofu from Mad Mex (that’s a bit of vegan sour cream you see in the picture), and honey dew melon

Day Two

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1 – Maple Glazed Tofu with homemade guacamole and refrigerator pickles. There’s a multigrain tortilla hiding under the wax paper below the tofu. I put the guac, tofu and pickles in the tortilla at lunch time. (For guacamole – combine one avocado, juice of one lime, and 1-2 garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Can also add red onion, cilantro, tomato, tomatillo, etc. For refrigerator pickles — recipe is here on my blog) 

2 – leftover corn and edamame salad from yesterday, and mango and cantaloupe chunks.

Day Three

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1 – leftover guacamole from day two. Under the guac is a multigrain tortilla. The greens are leftover from dinner at a Japanese restaurant the previous night. They’re dressed with sesame oil.

2 – leftover maple-glazed tofu from day two and chunks of cantaloupe. I made a wrap again with the tortilla, greens, guac, and tofu.

Day Four

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1 – cantaloupe chunks and cucumber sticks (I grow Japanese cucumbers in my garden — they’re long and slender, have no seeds, the skin is thin and tasty, and they are burpless. Much crisper and tastier than your average cucumber. Very similar to Persian cucumbers, only about twice as long.)

2 – leftovers from the Japanese restaurant two days earlier – fried rice and zucchini, and seaweed salad (I ordered the seaweed salad appetizer specifically so I could have leftovers for lunch. I knew that it would be too much food with my entrée but I was trying to be proactive).

My bento boxes are made by Bentgo. Each container has a lid and they stack on top of each other. There’s a plastic fork, knife, and spoon that fits in between the two containers and there’s an elastic strap to hold everything together. I got a great deal on Groupon for them, and I love the colors!

japanese potato salad

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I’ve been doing a lot of food blog surfing lately and stumbled upon a number of great Japanese home-cooking blogs. These are the foods that I miss the most — not sushi and the basic American-friendly foods you might find in the Japanese restaurants around here. The foods I miss are the ones that my friends’ mothers would serve us when they had us over for dinner. The mother in one household that my sisters and I visited often was a wonderful cook — I have great memories of the amazing dishes she would serve us. Before my parents moved away from Japan permanently, they had us all over for a farewell meal and she prepared all of my favorite dishes, included potato salad bread. I know, it’s starch on starch, but it was absolutely amazing.  Continue reading

summer gazpacho

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Summer gazpacho inspired by this recipe. I used what I had on hand, and added a few more ingredients just because. I also cut the recipe down since I didn’t want a week’s worth of leftovers!  Continue reading

cyprus village salad, with a twist

My favorite salad used to be a Cyprus-style cabbage salad. I now tend to steer towards lettuce salads with lemon, balsamic, etc., but I still really enjoy this one. It’s very simple to make and there are endless variations. You need shredded cabbage and some other veggies of your choice–I usually use tomato, cucumber, and celery. Today I added green peppers, sweet peppers from my garden, shredded carrot, and parsley. The dressing is very basic, but bright and fresh: olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and salt. For a single serving salad, I’d use at least half a lemon. The more lemon, the better! Again, for variety today, I made it Ajmer-style by adding a dash of cumin. Ajmer was my favorite Indian restaurant in Japan and they’d always bring out a cabbage salad with some cumin as a starter.

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my nana’s refrigerator pickles

I used these pickles in last night’s summer burger, so I thought I’d post the recipe (sorry, no lemons here today). My Nana used to make these every summer, and they were always one of my favorites. In fact, when I was younger, they were the only pickles I liked, other than Japanese pickles. A fond memory of my Nana was when I was trying to force myself to like dill pickles. She told me that pickles weren’t good for you anyway, so if I didn’t like them, I didn’t have to eat them. 🙂

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nana’s refrigerator pickles

1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. celery seed

Mix together thoroughly. Do not heat.

Add:
6 cups sliced unpeeled cucumbers
1 cup thinly sliced onions

Refrigerate and enjoy! They’re good to eat in a few hours, but they’re even better days and weeks later.

red quinoa with cucumbers and grapes

Tonight’s salad was made by my mother, although it’s very similar to salads I’ve made. Surprisingly, for being a full-blooded Cypriot, she didn’t put even close to the amount of lemon I would have used. In her defense, she did run out of lemons, which is a dire emergency in my book, and only put two in the salad. For the size of the salad, I probably would have used three or four lemons.

This is my first time trying red quinoa. Not only is it a beautiful color when cooked, it has a nutty flavor, and has a slightly harder texture than regular quinoa. It can be hard to find in the stores–I found it hiding on the back of a shelf in the pasta/grain aisle at Market District in Robinson. I haven’t seen it anywhere else. If you happen to find it, buy it up right away! And if you’re not so lucky, the salad will taste just fine with good old regular quinoa.

There are no measurements because my mother and I don’t measure when making salads like this. Basically, you want just enough oil to coat the salad, not so much that it’s swimming in oil–you can always add more, but it’s hard to take out if you add too much. The lemon, vinegar, and seasonings, add to your taste.

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ingredients

  • red quinoa, prepared according to package directions
  • seedless cucumber, diced
  • red grapes, halved
  • red onion, diced
  • scallions, thinly sliced
  • dried cranberries
  • grated lemon zest
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • red wine vinegar, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste

directions

Mix together the quinoa, cucumbers, red onion, grapes, scallions, cranberries, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Coat lightly with olive oil and toss. Add lemon juice and vinegar, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.