Healthy Eats on Vacation in DC

Eric and I went on vacation this past week. We haven’t seen his parents since our wedding, plus our 1-year anniversary is coming up this month. I was lucky enough to eat Eric’s mom’s homemade food, which consisted of many Korean foods like duk mandu guk, japchae, dukboki, and fresh, organic veggies straight from her garden!

Halmuni in the garden

Grandma (Halmuni) in the garden

We also decided to visit Washington, D.C. during our stay. We toured several museums, the botanic gardens, and the Library of Congress. (Did you guys know all Smithsonian museums are free to visit?) However, we had a difficult time finding decent, healthy places to eat there. We indulged for some Indian food at Rasika in downtown DC, but we really wanted to focus on eating healthfully and not gaining weight during vacation!

Luckily we found Hawwi Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant. We had never tried Ethiopian food before, and we had no idea there were so many Ethiopian restaurants in DC. I tried the vegan sampler, and it was delicious! The food came on a bed of injera, or spongy sourdough flatbread, and consisted of red lentils, collard greens, cabbage, potatoes, and green beans and carrots. The lentils tasted slightly tangy and the injera sour, balanced by the smooth, buttery potatoes and hearty veggies.

Hawwi Ethiopian food

Veggie sampler at Hawwi (plus Eric’s meat plate in the back… boo)

Within a wealth of steakhouses, chain restaurants, and delis, it was so nice to find this gem of a place! What are some healthy options to eat when you guys are on vacation?

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Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Fried rice. Simple, quick, and easy – as long as you’ve cooked your rice ahead of time, that is! I like to make it in the morning before work, so its ready to go when I come home. Then just fry up your egg or tofu, add veggies, and you’re golden.


Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Some recipe notes: I fry my eggs in coconut oil or butter. It doesn’t seem to affect the taste, and its healthier too. Coconut oil also has a high temperature point, which browns the egg nicely.  I use Bragg’s liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and I find it tastes just as good. For the veggies, I use frozen mixed vegetables from Meijer, which work really nicely. Alternatively, you could throw mushrooms or onions. You can add broccoli, but remember that it’ll take longer to cook.

fried rice

This recipe is great for a weeknight dinner! What do you guys like to put in your fried rice?

Fiesta Soup with Garbanzo Beans, Corn, and Tomatoes

Fiesta soup is a super quick and easy meal, perfect for when you don’t really feel like cooking. I’ve been baking challah bread all day, thanks to an abundance of eggs, and I was getting hungry! This soup, perfect for a cooler summer day, was ready in less than 30 minutes!


fiesta soup recipe card

For this recipe, I used colorful vegetables (red onion, yellow corn, tomatoes, green onion) to make the dish bright and festive. Tomatoes, lemon, and feta gave it a slightly acidic taste, while cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes added a bright, zesty flair.

fiesta soup

Colorful fiesta soup – plant-based and gluten-free!

We just had to eat it with the freshly baked challah bread. It went together surprisingly well – the milky, egg-y bread balancing out the acidity.

fiesta soup with challah bread

Mixing Jewish and Mexican tastes and cuisines

This soup is so flexible – if you don’t have an ingredient on hand, its easy to substitute. For example, kidney beans instead of garbanzos, white instead of red onion, cayenne instead of red pepper flakes, and any type of cheese would probably work. In fact, you could remove the cheese altogether to make it vegan and add Fage Total 0% yogurt instead.

What recipes do you guys make when you don’t feel like cooking?

Hearty Buddha Bowls with Quinoa, Garbanzos, and Roasted Vegetables

For last night’s dinner, I was inspired by a few blog posts (here and here) to create my own version of a Buddha bowl, or health bowl. You start with a grain (like brown rice, quinoa, or barley), add veggies, perhaps some greens and seeds, a protein (beans, chicken, or fish), and a simple dressing.  I read online that the name may originate from Buddhist monks going from door to door to ask for food. Whatever the origin, I am a fan.

The building blocks: Quinoa + garbanzo beans + roasted veggies + olive oil, rosemary, thyme = Buddha bowl!


I started by soaking 3/4 cup of garbanzo beans overnight (they expanded to make a little over a cup). I threw them in the pot, brought it to a boil, and reduced the heat. It only took about 20 minutes for them to soften, and they had a great texture that popped right when I bit into one. I set them aside for later.

garbanzo beans

Garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas

After the garbanzos were done, I used the same pot to make quinoa. I added two cups of water for one cup of quinoa, brought it to a boil, and reduced the heat. I covered the pot, and in 15 minutes, I had light and fluffy quinoa! I did let it sit for a few minutes to absorb excess moisture.

quinoa cooked

Quinoa, cooked and fluffed

In the meantime, I had been cutting up veggies to roast in the oven: white onion, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, and brussel sprouts. I cut the veggies evenly and at an angle to allow for more surface area, and consequently, more flavor. Then I minced up a few cloves of garlic and added cherry tomatoes. I drizzled olive oil on top, sprinkled thyme and rosemary into the mix, gently mixed everything together in a roasting pan, and stuck it in the oven at 375 degrees for one hour. (Inspiration for roasted veggies found here.)

veggies, pre-roasted

Veggies, pre-roasted

During that hour, the house smelled amazing – of garlic, caramelizing onions and carrots, and aromatic herbs. When I took it out, the veggies had cooked perfectly. (Notice how they shrank just a bit.)

veggies, post-roast

Veggies, after they roasted. I love these colors.

Eric and I combined the quinoa, garbanzos, and roasted veggies into a bowl for our dinner. We both had seconds, and there was enough Eric’s lunch the next day.

I love Buddha bowls because they’re super easy, readily customizable, and very forgiving – its hard to go wrong roasting vegetables. This combination of ingredients had a heartier flavor, and would definitely hit the spot during winter time. For a more summer-time feel, I might add kale or wilted spinach, avocado, and take away the potatoes. There are so many possibilities when it comes to Buddha bowls!

buddha bowls

Dinner’s ready! I definitely love tomatoes more than Eric does.

Have you ever made a Buddha bowl? What ingredients did you use?

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese from The Guilt-Free Gourmet

As a bridal shower gift, my mom gave me a series of cookbooks called The Guilt-free Gourmet by Vicki Griffin. There are some great vegan recipes in these books, although it was hard for a beginner like me to follow the recipes, especially with no pictures or detailed instructions. I decided to try an old favorite: mac and cheese, but with a twist. Since the book includes only vegan recipes, this recipe replaces the cheese with cashews.

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I started by cooking small shell pasta. I kept a close eye on it because I didn’t want it to get too water-logged, since the recipe bakes in the oven later.

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Small shell pasta, drained

In the meantime, I gathered the ingredients for the cheese sauce: raw cashews from the freezer, sesame tahini, lemon juice and water, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic cloves, and a small jar of pimientos (not pictured).

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Ingredients for the “cheese” sauce – except I forgot the pimientos

I blended it all together in the food processor, and this is what I got.

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Vegan cheese sauce. I can’t believe I got this from cashews and tahini.

I poured the “cheese” sauce into a baking dish, then added the shells. I topped it with Panko breadcrumbs and frozen peas, and stuck it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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Vegan mac and cheese, pre-baked

This is what I got!

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Vegan mac and cheese, out of the oven!

Eric said it tasted like Korean Shin Ramyun, I think because of the pimientos. Not exactly typical macaroni and cheese, but a much healthier and tasty substitute!

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Have you guys ever tried vegan cashew cheese?

Easy Vegetarian Pad Thai from Veggie Belly

My post yesterday included a screenshot from my Evernote recipe folder for pad thai. Pad thai is one of Eric’s and my absolute favorite dishes, but it can be difficult to make because of the ingredients. Inspired, I found a vegetarian recipe that didn’t call for fish sauce, tamarind, or any other hard-to-find ingredients. Thank you Veggie Belly! I added this recipe to our menu for this week, and I tried it out for lunch today.

The recipe calls for some traditional Asian ingredients that might not be in your pantry: rice noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts. I live in a rural community, with no ethnic grocery stores, but I found these at the local Meijer (our big grocer in the Midwest). According to Veggie Belly, the noodles may also be labeled “Bahn Pho” or “XL” and should only contain rice flour and water. I do wish I had better rice noodles, but these served their purpose.

thai kitchen rice noodles      nasoya tofu extra firm blue bean sprouts


I began by soaking the noodles in hot water. While I waited, I cut the tofu into 1/8 inch thick slices and used a large pan to fry them in coconut oil. (Of course, you could always use canola or vegetable oil.) After the tofu fried up, I took the slices out of the pan and combined the sauce ingredients in the same pan – brown sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, Bragg’s aminos (or soy sauce), and water – and brought it a boil, then lowered the heat. This caramelizes the sugar a bit, deepens the flavor, and may thicken the sauce (it didn’t for me). After a few minutes, I poured it into a measuring cup to save for later.

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Ready to go: bean sprouts, fried tofu, sauce, and cooked noodles.

While I waited for the sauce to thicken, I had minced the garlic and chopped the broccoli and carrots. I threw them into the same pan. (I love one-pot meals!) As they warmed, the garlic became fragrant and the broccoli became more green and vibrant.

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Garlic, broccoli, and carrots in the pan. I love these colors!

That was the sign to add the noodles, sauce, and cooked tofu and stir it all together. After the broccoli and carrots softened up, I added bean sprouts and took the pan off the heat. (I chose not to add green onion or peanuts.)

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Almost ready to eat! Plus a stray noodle.

I topped the dish with cilantro and a lime wedge. I personally like strong citrus flavors, but I understand that not everyone does – there are so many versions of pad thai! I decided to keep the sauce pretty neutral – sweet and salty with the brown sugar and Bragg’s aminos – and saved part of the lime to add more sour flavors later.

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My lunch today. I most definitely had seconds, mmm.

There you have it! Pad Thai for lunch today, courtesy of Veggie Belly. Plus tons of leftovers for Eric. 🙂