spicy noodle bowl with greens and tofu

photo

Lunch is no joke around our office. There are those that brown bag it every day. Those that dine daily with The Chef and those that partake in the Buffeteria lunch special. And then there is Lunch Club.

Designed to ease the stress of lunch and encourage weekday home cooking, each member brings lunch for the other members on a specified day of the week. Fridays are free reign. I’ve participated in Lunch Club in the past, but the stress of not planning my own meals and not sticking to my particular weekday eating rules meant that I didn’t last long as a member.

A few weeks ago another colleague who is also trying to eat as healthfully as possible proposed an Alternative Lunch Club. Same deal, only there were a few ground rules. Lunches had to be mainly plant-based, vegetarian, gluten free — think Gwyneth Paltrow’s version of Lunch Club. And you had to tell the other person what you were planning to make the week before; I was game.

For Thursday’s lunch I had planned to make kale and Brussels sprouts salad tossed with soba noodles, my favourite recipe from Vegetable Literacy. But when Wednesday evening rolled around and it was time to make lunch I was craving something spicy. Heidi Swanson’s otsu, another favourite around here, came to mind. I had a little sprouted tofu left over in the fridge and so this mash-up was born.

Teeming with greens and high in protein this was a pretty perfect lunch. Using gluten free noodles ensured there would be no mid-afternoon carb crash to keep us going through the afternoon. I’m not gluten free by any means, but these days I prefer gluten free noodles to avoid the bloat that comes with regular pasta. My grocery store was out of buckwheat noodles so I tried out a millet brown rice blend instead. The noodles were good but missing the sturdy chew of buckwheat which meant they were a little mushy next to the raw greens. I topped everything with my new favourite garnish, Gomashio, but a few toasted sesame seeds would do just the trick!

Spicy Noodle Bowl with Greens and Tofu

A mash-up from here and here

Ingredients:

For the salad
1 big bunch of lacinato kale (aka black kale or dinosaur kale), shredded
4 Brussels Sprouts, shredded
2 bunches of baby bok choy, shredded
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 oz buckwheat soba noodles (or whatever you want)

For the dressing
Zest of 1 lemon
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon raw honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed, duh)
1/4 cup brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil

To garnish
7 or 8 oz of extra firm, sprouted tofu
3 green onions, sliced white and light green parts only
Gomashio or toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method:

Place all your greens in a big bowl and dress with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Massage with your hands until all of the greens are shiny and glistening (that’s my favourite part of this recipe). Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well and rinse with cold water, draining again. Once the noodles have been drained add to greens mixture.

Meanwhile whiz lemon zest and juice, ginger, honey, cayenne, sea salt, brown rice vinegar, tamari, olive oil and sesame oil in a food processor or blender. Add about 3/4 of the dressing to the greens and noodle mixture. Mix well and let is sit while you make the tofu.

Heat pan over medium. Slice tofu in to thin slabs and then place in a hot pan with no oil or water. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes, and then toss and fry until golden on the other side.

Pile greens and noodles in to your favourite bowl; top with Gomashio, green onions and tofu.

Enjoy!

mango vanilla smoothie

mango vanilla smoothiemango vanilla smoothie
As I try and decipher what a healthy, balanced approach to eating looks like to me one thing is clear: start the day with the best of intentions. Nine days out of ten breakfast includes a smoothie or green juice of some sort.

Smoothies have been a mainstay in our house for years now, and it’s interesting to see how they have evolved from glorified milk shakes to nutrition powerhouses with superfoods like greens, goji berries and protein powder (even though one of us still prefers the glorified milk shakes).

A few weekends agoΒ I woke up craving sunshine and something that was closer to the milkshake side of the smoothie spectrum. To be honest what I really wanted was an Orange Julius. I remember as a kid I didn’t really like an Orange Julius all that much, but the thrill was too much to resist. Frozen orange juice concentrate and milk aren’t really my bag these days but I knew that it would be easy to replicate the cool, tropical creaminess of an Orange Julius.

Frozen mangoes and almond milk are mainstays in our fridge and freezer so I started there and then threw in a couple of dates — my favourite way to sweeten just about anything these days. It was the perfect start to a gloomy Saturday morningΒ and was exactly what I was craving.

Mango Vanilla Smoothie – for two with a second breakfast or one very hungry person

Banana

1 heaping cup frozen mangoes

2 dates, pitted

1 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Water to achieve desired consistency (I used about 1/2 cup)

Put everything in the blend and give it a good whiz!

Sushi Bowl

Sushi bowl

While I consider myself an adventurous eater — I’ll try just about anything once — I do not posses that same sense of adventure when it comes to cooking in my own kitchen. More often than not I find myself drawn to “safe” recipes and ingredients; chilis, pesto, pasta, a whole chicken roasted to perfection in my slow cooker. So these simple, sushi-inspired rice bowls made for an exotic weeknight dinner at our house.

While sushi is not exactly exotic by any stretch of the imagination (in Toronto you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an all-you-can-eat sushi joint or three), these are simply not flavours I’ve ever been drawn to when cooking. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the Asian flavour profile, quite the opposite — but if I’m honest, it probably has more to do with fear. I’m comfortable with pasta and cheese and chicken, so that’s what I find myself cooking time and again.

I bought Super Natural Cooking on a whim. Desperate to find some new kitchen inspiration, I decided to pick-up the Tartine Bread cookbook, thinking I could be inspired by bread. If I wasn’t inspired by the staff of life, I was done for. On my way to the cash I spotted Super Natural Cooking out of the corner of my eye, and when I picked it up the pages fell open to the Sushi Bowl recipe. As it turned out, nori and brown rice vinegar turned out to be just the inspiration I needed. I’ve made this meal way more times than I’ve made bread so far (it’s about 3-0, to date).

These bowls make for a simple, light weeknight dinner and are equally delicious cold from the office fridge the next day. While slicing the avocado and tofu as I have here made for a beautiful photograph, I’ve found that bite-sized chunks are actually easier to eat and enjoy.

Sushi Bowl
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups short-grain brown rice
3 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt (I prefer fine-grain sea salt)
6 ounces extra-firm tofu
zest and juice of one orange
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I like tamari)
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
4 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced or diced as you like it
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Toasted nori, chopped or crumbled, to taste.

Method:

1. Rinse rice until water runs clear. Combine rice, water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently under water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

2. While the rice cooks, toast a sheet of nori in a pre-heated 300F oven. Chop with a sharp knife or crumble between your fingers. Set aside.

3. Drain tofu and pat dry. Cut the block to make four 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick sheets. Cook in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to pick-up some colour, about 4 minutes. Flip, then cook for another 2 minutes until golden. Let cool, then cut into matchsticks or chunks. Set aside.

4. To make the dressing, combine juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, then add the soy sauce and vinegar. Return to a gentle boil and cook another 1 or 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the zests.

5. When the rice is done, stir in dressing. Serve in individual bowls, topped with nori, green onions, tofu, avocado and sesame seeds.