Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Five Minute Plate, and an Announcement

Well, a Five Minute Plate is an apt post to accompany the announcement that I will be away or infrequently updating the TIP blog in the coming weeks and perhaps months. Readers: THANK YOU for your overwhelming support and encouragement since the Ten Ingredient Project launch at the beginning of the summer.

School starts for me in two days, a double whammy of coursework and teaching that is already diverting my attention from food to books. How lucky I am to have two great loves! But I must budget my time in favor of books for the time being.

Being very busy doesn't mean that I will--or anyone should--sacrifice good nutrition or ten-ingredient eating. I feel strongly that simple meals centered around whole vegetables and fruits are just as important if not MORE so during periods when life is demanding a lot from us. Green smoothies and five minute plates are not glamorous or gourmet, but they have just as much amazing nutrition as exotic or involved culinary inventions.

I've been opting for very simple, clean and light meals lately, like this 100% organic plate of only three ingredients: 1 organic hard boiled egg, 2 organic nectarines, and a big heap of organic steamed spinach.

I hope you've enjoyed this summer of simple plates, and I look forward to coming back to this project when I have more time to devote to the foods that I love. Thanks again to everyone for making the Ten Ingredient Project your own! Happy eating!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Frosty Compost

Ten Ingredient Project eating produces a lot of compost. The "packages" that whole foods come in--the skins, rinds, shells, peels and stems--bear little resemblance to the packages of your average processed food item. At least, I wouldn't dream of piling the latter in my backyard. But those beautiful biodegradable scraps belong close to surface of the soil where insects, microbes and oxygen work to decompose them into rich, fertile soil.

I don't have gardens at the moment, so my compost pile is just kind of hanging out. But even if you're not actively growing anything, composting fruit and vegetable scraps reduces landfill waste, and provides you with a store of good soil in case you do decide to use it.

In case you're wondering if compost makes a real difference in the success of a garden, check out these two kale plants I potted last spring. The one on the left is planted in pure compost, while the one on the right is planted in organic store-bought potting soil. The compost kale was actually the punier plant to start, too.

The most valuable composting trick I've learned comes from my old roommate Alex, who introduced me to the concept of frozen compost. Instead of keeping an open pot on the kitchen counter to attract flies and... interesting aromas, I keep a large plastic bowl in the freezer, and toss in scraps as I produce them. This technique staves off spoilage until the scraps make it into the yard.

At my house, it takes about 3-4 days to produce a heaping bowl's worth of compost, seen above. My dad pointed out recently that if you're eating the right kinds of foods, the compost pot fills up before the contents have time to fester (he's an old-fashioned kitchen counter composter). That's a good point, and maybe even a useful barometer of your eating habits. Do you compost? How long does it take to fill your pot?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Vegan Sushi

Hooray for Sushi Tuesday! Homemade sushi is a lot easier than you'd think... unless you'd think it would be very easy, in which case you're absolutely right. I get by without even a sushi mat. It's so delicious and even with some of the classic accoutrements it has only ten ingredients.

Avocado is a must in vegan sushi because it approximates the fatty consistency of the usual raw fish. Also, try using brown rice. Besides providing B-vitamins and fiber, brown rice stands up better than white to the hot/tangy flavors of soy sauce and wasabi, in my opinion. I know there are some hardcore sushi fans out there who will disagree with me. You wanna fight??

Nori and other sea vegetables deserve a whole post of their own, they are so nutritious. Trace minerals support thyroid function and reproductive health, and half the alphabet is represented in vitamin content.

In short, there's nothing not to love in this classic dish gone veg!

10-Ingredient Easy Vegan Sushi
Total Kitchen Time: 45 minutes. Makes 2 rolls.

1/2 avocado, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 2-inch chunk of cucumber, julienned
2 nori sheets (seaweed)
2/3 cup short grain brown rice
1 Tbls. rice vinegar

soy sauce for dipping (soybeans, alcohol)
pickled ginger garnish (ginger, citric acid)

Rinse and drain rice and set to simmer in a covered saucepan with twice the water.

When rice is cooked, add vinegar and mix well.

Place nori sheets on a flat surface, rough side facing up. Spread rice in a thin layer on the nori, leaving an inch bare on on two opposite sides.

Arrange a line of avocado, carrots and cucumber at one shoreline of the rice. With dry hands, roll nori beginning from the side with the vegetables.

Seal the roll by sticking the nori to itself at the end of the roll. Dampen slightly if necessary.

Slice into bite-sized pieces, dip into soy sauce and rice vinegar and enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Garam Masala Green Beans

I was in the mood for something light and hydrating today, so I put together this grain-free, just-veggies plate starring these amazing garam masala green beans. I first saw the recipe on a creative vegan blog called Soul Food run by G-ville local Lindsey Mills. The original version, from Vegetarian Times, calls for vegetable oil, but Lindsey subbed in coconut oil and I followed suit. Coconut oil is a good choice for frying because it has a high smoke point compared to other unrefined oils like olive oil and butter, so you can really get food sizzling without contributing burnt-oil carcinogens to your dinner. Plus, those sweet eastern spices love a good coconutty note or two.

I had some cucumber spears, a couple grape tomatoes, and the most unbelievably sweet, juicy organic white nectarine on earth for a total of seven ingredients on this fresh and nourishing plate.

4-Ingredient Garam Masala Green Beans
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 4.

4 cups fresh green beans, rinsed and snapped
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 Tbls. coconut oil
juice from 1 lemon

Free Spice Blend
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

Combine beans, garlic, coconut oil and spices plus 1/4 cup water in a large pan over medium heat. Cover and steam for about five minutes, until beans are tender.

Remove lid from pan and continue frying several minutes until excess water has evaporated and beans begin to brown. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Fusilli

Attention, tomatophobes! Are you tired of feeling left out on spaghetti night? Embarrassed about clumsily pairing red wine with a cream sauce again? Then this is the sauce for you!

Sweet, tangy roasted red peppers, savory onions and mellow carrots blend to make this delicious tomato-free twist on classic red sauce, from the September issue of Vegetarian Times. The fusilli shape provides plenty of cling-friendly crags for the sauce, and of course, I used single-ingredient whole wheat pasta.

As with all my meals, whole plant foods take center stage on this plate. I had the vegetable-rich sauce over whole grains on one half of the plate, and a big pile of lightly steamed broccoli on the other. Total ingredients: 8. Tomatoes: 0. Yum rating: infinity.

7-Ingredient Roasted Red Pepper Fusilli
Total Kitchen Time: 30 minutes. Serves 2.

1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (from the jar: peppers, citric acid)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 sweet or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups uncooked fusilli pasta

In a pan, fry peppers, carrot, onion, olive oil and garlic on med-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup water, cover and simmer on med-low heat 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set fusilli to boil.

After veggies are soft, remove from heat and puree well. I used an immersion blender.

Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chopped Salad with Nuts and Olives

Walnuts look a lot like brains. Coincidence? Probably. But it's still true that the omega-3 fats in these wrinkly cerebral nuts protect and promote cognitive function. Walnuts also provide protection from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and immune dysfunction, while making you cooler and more attractive to the gender of your choice. Geez! I think I'll have some right now.

This simple afternoon salad contains grape tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, walnuts, Kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. A couple of years ago I discovered that walnuts and Kalamata olives are a great match. The brininess of the olives and the fatty protein of the nuts give the combination an almost meaty appeal (they make a great vegan Tapenade).

The curing process for olives adds a couple of extra ingredients, but it's no bother when the rest of the meal is comprised of single-ingredient whole plant foods. The total for this rich yet refreshing plate is nine.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mediterranean Chickpeas

I love it when one of those "there's no food in the house" afternoons yields a surprise as good as these no-cook Mediterranean Chickpeas. The simple lemony dressing, refreshing herbs and sweet sun dried tomatoes dress up the mild, creamy chickpeas without overpowering them.

When the spice blend is as simple as cumin, salt and pepper, it really pays to grind your own. Yes it's an extra step, but one taste of cumin seeds straight from the grinder is enough to make a spice snob out of anyone! A standard coffee grinder will do the trick; just don't ask yours to do double duty. Once French roast stakes its claim on a grinder, it's best to just buy a second one, lest you find yourself crafting coffee-flavored curries.

To make a meal out of these chickpeas, I threw together a mixed steam basket of languishing sweet potato and the last handful of Brussels sprouts from the crisper, and voila: a seven ingredient goat gourmet with plenty of vegetables, plant protein, fiber and heart-healthy oils.

Excuse the ominously lit plate... we were having storms.

6-Ingredient Mediterranean Chickpeas
Total Kitchen Time: 10 minutes. Serves 2.

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 sun dried tomatoes, diced
1 Tbls. chopped parsley
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls. red onion, finely diced (optional)

Free Spice Blend
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
salt* and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

*canned beans tend to be high in sodium; salt sparingly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Five Minute Plate

Long ago in Providence, a roommate introduced me to the simple and satisfying combination of scrambled eggs and carrot sticks. The sweet vegetable crunch alongside fluffy, buttery scrambled eggs tastes so right, I'm surprised the combo isn't commonplace. And I say that as a rehabilitated bacon-lover.

Since scrambled eggs are so quick to prepare, they're a perfect candidate for a five minute plate. I dolled up mine with a handful of fresh dill, and toasted a Toufayan whole wheat pita to complete the plate. With only six ingredients, Toufayan pitas outperform store bought yeast breads big time. High fructose corn syrup and soybean oil? Nope. Convenient and 100% whole grain? Yup. TIP Win!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Whole Wheat Couscous and Vegetables

I'm delighted to be able to bring you a guest blog post today from a dear friend of mine, writer and gourmand Rachel K. Rachel has a reputation around these parts for arriving at social gatherings laden with bowls and platters of the most delicious dips, salads, meats and pastas this side of the Prairie.

Here she brings us a much-valued omnivore's perspective to the Ten Ingredient Project in her whole food re-creation of a highly processed health food imposter: a "Lean Cuisine" entree. Enjoy, and thanks to Rachel for this terrific adaptation!

Lemon Chicken With Whole Wheat Couscous and Vegetables

When it comes to TIP offenders, denizens of the frozen food aisle are among the worst, what with their “natural flavors” and mile-long ingredient lists. Take, for example, “Lemon chicken,” an offering from Lean Cuisine, which, from what I gather, is TV dinners for health-conscious Weight Watchers. It’s “lightly breaded chicken breast with rib meat in a lemon glaze with broccoli, carrots,& whole wheat orzo.”


Carrageenan, it turns out, is a vegan/vegetarian alternative to gelatin that is derived from red seaweed. Which, OK, doesn’t sound so terrible. But salted milkfat blend? Dextrin and dextrose? What could possibly be the difference between the ingredient “flavor” and the ingredient “natural flavors”? And what is “chicken powder”? Is it ground up chicken nuggets?

The good news is, it’s not only possible but downright easy to avoid scary chicken powder (and up the nutritional ante!) when you’re cooking your own “lean cuisine” using fresh vegetables and homemade stock. Simmering chicken bones results in something so nourishing, it’s no wonder the stuff is nicknamed (aptly) “Jewish penicillin.” The process of simmering draws out the minerals in the bones, cartilage, and marrow, which become available in the easily assimilated form of electrolytes. If you’ve ever made stock and refrigerated it to later find meat jello, that’s a job well done. The gelatin in stock is so important: it aids digestion and treats intestinal disorders, fights cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Most immediately and perhaps most importantly, stock is tasty, and takes plain grains and pastas into another, better dimension. It’s proof that the most delicious things are the best for you, too.

Lean Cuisine’s frozen offering features “lightly breaded” chicken breast cutlets, but because that has the appeal of a chewy dish sponge, the recipe here is for a whole skin-on chicken. Why “lightly bread” when you can forgo the lame jacket of flour, and roast your chicken instead? Chicken skin (and fat in general) helps your body absorb nutrients from food. (Did you know that if you eat a salad with fat free dressing, you won’t be able to properly reap the benefits of alpha- and beta-carotene and lycopene?) Not only does fat bring joy and happiness, your body also needs it (see also “rabbit starvation”; it’s possible to starve when subsisting on only lean meat). Plus, by using the whole chicken, you’ll wind up with another carcass for stock-making.

Busy people cite convenience as a reason to turn to TV dinners, and I get that, I really do. But I promise this recipe is nearly as simple and foolproof as shutting the microwave door, and more gratifying by a landslide. Couscous cooks in five minutes, less time than a Lean Cuisine spends being, well, radiated. The peppers basically roast themselves, and the aroma of stock simmering is, swear to God, one of the best smells to study to (rivaled only by the smell of baking bread). Omit the stock and peppers to save time if you like; you’ll still have spared yourself from the evils of maltodextrin, potassium chloride, and calcium lactate, to name just a few.

Lemon Chicken with Whole Wheat Couscous and Vegetables
Serves four (or more, if you’re not counting any 16-year-old boys. I was.)

Chicken, 2.5 to 3 pounds
(Optional) lemon

2 cups whole wheat couscous (because there was no orzo in the bulk bin!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Four or five scallions, chopped
2 cups water or broth*
Two cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
One roasted red pepper, cut into strips
Broccoli, to taste (I used two crowns; I like broccoli a lot)
Carrots, to taste (I used three; I like carrots a lot)
Lemon zest (the lemon slices went into the chicken cavity, remember?)
Free Spice Blend
Salt, pepper, cumin

The key is to procure a small chicken about 2.5 to 3 pounds, with lots of skin. The eve before you plan to roast, salt and pepper the chicken liberally. If you’re opting for the optional lemon, zest a lemon and set zest aside for the couscous; cut the zested lemon into slices and stuff them into the cavity. Loosely wrap in plastic wrap or a clean plastic bag and put it in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to roast, preheat the oven to 475. If you own a cast iron pan and like to live dangerously, let the pan preheat inside the oven. When both the oven and pan are nice and hot, place the chicken on the pan, breast side up. It should sizzle. If you are without a cast iron pan, or if danger is not your particular cup of tea, putting the chicken on any oven-safe shallow roasting pan works, too. The high temperature will make the skin crispy and awesome (if it starts to burn or smoke, reduce by 25 degrees). After about thirty minutes, flip it to crisp the other side. Continue cooking another ten to twenty minutes, then flip it once more if you are a fiend about crispy skin (and you should be!), and want to recrisp that first side. That’s another five to ten minutes. After pulling the bird from the oven, let it rest before cutting into it, at least 15 minutes.

While the chicken is resting, roast the vegetables:
Break broccoli into smallish florets, slice carrots on a bias, and toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. The peppers can be sliced and prepared similarly, or—if you aren’t in a hurry, and you want something truly magical—you can slow-roast them for about an hour. This can be done in advance. They are worth it, and so transcendent this way. Put them on a sheet pan and roast in a 375 oven, turning by the stem every twenty minutes until all sides are evenly cooked. The skins will slip right off. I keep roasted peppers around stored in their juices, because they get so sweet and silky and fragrant and wonderful, and are better than anything you can purchase in a jar (which needs preservatives! Gross!).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. When it is shimmery, add the scallions, salt, and a big pinch of cumin. Once the scallions have softened a little, add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the couscous to the pot, and push it around to get it toasty. Add two cups of your ultra-nourishing chicken jello/broth (water works too, if you don’t have any broth on hand), and the minute it comes to a boil, give it a stir, cover the pot, and turn the heat off. In five minutes, the couscous ready to fluff with a fork.
Combine with the roasted vegetables, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken on top of the couscous so the grains can soak up the juice from the meat. Or, because cold roast chicken on a hot summer day is one of the best things on earth, chill everything in the fridge, and pack it up for a picnic later. If I were to take the couscous on a picnic I’d season it a little extra (cold foods need a little extra to coax flavors out), squeeze more lemon juice in there and give everything another glug of olive oil, so it’s less “pilaf” and more “refreshing grain salad.”

*For stock, use a leftover roast chicken carcass or a fresh chicken, add water, and simmer gently, over the lowest possible flame, for 4+ hours. You can add peppercorns, bay leaves or thyme, any vegetables you like for added nourishment. I keep a freezer bag of vegetable scraps: carrot ends, onion peels, less-than-perfect celery for stock making purposes. Feed the bag and watch it feed you!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Buffalo Tempeh

This recipe could qualify as a local specialty, because as far as I know, Gainesville, Florida has the best tempeh on Earth. Two equally matched local tempeh makers, Artie and Jose, compete for the the veggie-crunchy hearts of townies and restaurant-owners alike. In fact, I designed this recipe in an attempt to duplicate an appetizer I once ordered at a restaurant downtown. Mission accomplished! I loved digging into these buttery, spicy, tangy, messy "wings". No bones about it! Har har.

Fermented soy products like tempeh are easy to digest and packed with protein. I had mine with fried onions, celery sticks and grape tomatoes for a total of seven ingredients on this plate! The tempeh is also fantastic with blue cheese.

4-Ingredient Buffalo Tempeh
Total Kitchen Time: 20 minutes. Serves 1.

3 tempeh strips (soybeans, culture)
3 Tbls. butter
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot (vinegar, spices)

Melt butter by the method of your choice and whisk together with Frank's Red Hot.

Fry tempeh strips over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until browned on both sides. Toss with buffalo sauce and serve.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Magic Shell" Mango

Ever tried the ice cream topping called "Magic Shell"? It's a chocolate sauce that hardens upon contact with frosty cold ice cream to make a shell. Fun! But bad. Two tablespoons of the commercial version of Magic Shell, made by Smuckers, feature almost as much sugar as half a can of Coke. Blech. Also depending on which flavor you choose, you could be getting hydrogenated oil, bleached flour and even the infamous red #40. Double blech.

At the core of the product is one good, pure ingredient that's responsible for its unique hardening properties: coconut oil. This stuff is a health food superstar. Cold pressed, nonhydrogenated coconut oil is an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal food. Nutrition science continues to unearth the surprising benefits of this medium-chain saturated fat in areas of heart health, diabetes and cancer. (Click here for links to abstracts of some of these peer-reviewed studies).

But enough of my health-conscious prattling! Coconut oil tastes tropical, buttery and all-around decadent. Mixed with dark chocolate and drizzled over cold ripe mango slices, it creates that irresistible shell that begs for a spoon to crack through it. And mango is such a sweet fruit that the shell requires zero added sugar to make this a perfectly rich and indulgent dessert. Try it. TRY IT. Just trust me on this one.

3-Ingredient Magic Shell Mango
Total Kitchen Time: 5 minutes. Serves 1.

1 ripe mango, well-chilled
2 Tbls. unrefined coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp. raw cacao or regular cocoa powder

Slice mango in strips or chunks.

If the coconut oil is solid, nuke it for a few seconds until just liquified, but not warm.

Whisk together coconut oil and cacao, then drizzle over cold sliced mango and enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Field Report: TIP Party!

Hoorah! Last night's TIP party and potluck went swimmingly. The culinary wizardry and curious palates of the guests provided a rich gastronomic experience for all. Notable delights not pictured included a delicious South Indian Eggplant Curry with brown rice, a Key Lime Pie, a Whole Wheat Cheese Bread, and a Strawberry Basil Rum n' Lemonade. Thanks to everyone who came and brought amazing food!

Harry salts the pot.

Wes's Ten Ingredient Tomato Tartin (homemade whipped cream out of frame)

James, Laura and Jessica snack on raw veggies dipped in spicy peanut butter. Also in frame: a platter of my Lazy Falafel.

Gathered round the coffee table with fruit salad and guacamole.

Phillip's Nicoise salad

James' s Tomato, Nectarine and Red Onion Salad

Nicoise Salad with tuna, green and red beans and new potatoes. I didn't eat this because I'm a veggie, but this dish is exactly in the spirit of the TIP!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sweet Minty Carrots

Well, we've had a computer crash here at the TIP living-room headquarters, and my photo editing software is out of commission for an indeterminate length of time, possible weeks. Have no fear! I will do my best to continue posting simple and delicious meals in these hard times, even if it means mooching off Scott's access to the University art department computer labs. There's lots to look forward to, including sweet Thai cucumbers, magic shell mango, and a report from the upcoming TIP party and potluck!

For today, I bring you a ridiculously fast recipe I discovered years ago to jazz up plain carrots. The raisins bring out the carrot's natural sweetness and the citrus and mint liven up this fancy-flavored raw food snack. Enjoy!

4-Ingredient Minty Carrots
Total Kitchen Time: 5 minutes. Serves 1.

2 mint leaves, minced
1 large carrot, grated or julienned
juice from 1/3 lemon
small handful raisins

Toss and eat! No sharing!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Parmesan Quinoa

I had a dream that Mel Gibson was pursuing me in a calculating, murderous fashion, and it was my duty as a staunch opponent of racial slurs and misogyny and a valuer of my own life to slay him. The problem was, I was too squeamish to deliver a fatal blow! In waking life, the steak knife in the eye would have probably done the trick. But in my dream he twitched and stirred back to consciousness like the Terminator while I hung back, too horrified to go in for the kill.

Eventually I did cleave him in two with a pair of swords at about the horizon line one would choose were one carving a marble bust of Mel Gibson. He collapsed in two lifeless heaps and I woke up in a sweat.

After that I really needed some comfort food. This quinoa dish is fast, hot, high protein and whole grain, and it tastes like fettuccine Alfredo. Even when I'm not recovering from murdering Mel Gibson, I whip it up about once a week. It's good plain or with any vegetable or herb that suits you. It's best not to skimp on the butter or the cheese, however.

I had a steam basket full of sweet potatoes (Vitamin A, fiber) and Brussels sprouts (DNA-protecting sulfur compounds) plus some fresh cherries (antioxidants) with my Parmesan quinoa for a filling and soothing nine ingredient meal.

6-Ingredient Parmesan Quinoa
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 1+.

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
3 sun dried tomatoes (optional)
1-2 Tbls. butter
grated Parmesan cheese (cheese, cultures, enzymes)

Rinse quinoa well, drain and set to simmer in a covered saucepan with twice the water.

Meanwhile, slice sun dried tomatoes into small pieces with a knife while banishing memories of stabbing Mel Gibson in the eye.

When grains have absorbed their water and turned translucent, stir remaining ingredients into the pot and serve hot.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Five Minute Plate

Today's five minute plate is a 9-ingredient spinach salad with avocado, red bell pepper, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries (cranberries, sunflower oil, apple juice concentrate) extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lime juice. So vibrant and refreshing! I don't hold back on the healthy mono-saturated fats.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Full disclosure: I haven't had a real sloppy joe in probably fifteen years. Does that make me a less credible judge of how amazing and delicious these lentil sloppy joes are? I don't care! If you don't trust my endorsement, that's just more sloppy joe for me. I've made this recipe three times since discovering it a few weeks ago on VegWeb. My version is a bit different from the original, which calls for fewer veggies, less chili powder and canned paste instead of fresh tomatoes. Thankful as I am to the genius who invented this recipe, I consider my version an upgrade.

Lentils are packed with protein and fiber and the fresh cooked tomatoes add a boost of lycopene without the dose of BPA in the canned fruit. Savory garlic and onions ward off cancer and vampires.

I was in the mood for a big, unadorned plate of sloppy joe today, so my meal had only the seven ingredients from the recipe. But the slop is also excellent over brown rice or in a whole wheat bun.

7-Ingredient Lentil Sloppy Joes
Total Kitchen Time: 35 minutes. Serves 2-3.

2/3 cup uncooked lentils
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 a vidalia onion, diced
1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 Tbls. butter or extra virgin olive oil.

Free Spice Blend
1 tsp. chili powder
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Rinse and drain lentils, then set to simmer in a covered saucepan with twice the water.

Meanwhile, fry onions and bell pepper in a large pan on med-high heat until soft, about seven minutes.

Add tomatoes and fry few more minutes until tomatoes have broken down and become saucy. It helps to cover the pain from now on to keep the juices in.

Add mustard, chili powder and garlic, simmer few more minutes.

Combine cooked lentils with vegetables, stir and serve!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunflower Salad

Scott just shipped off to New York for a few days, which means I'll be throwing nightly raucous keggers complete with male strippers, naked limbo contests, and a cocaine bar. It also means I'll be cooking for one until Monday. Despite how sad the phrase "cooking for one" sounds, I kind of like preparing food for myself. Moping and nuking TV dinners is not my style.

Single-serving meals are especially gratifying when the food turns out as tasty as this sunflower salad. The parsley and garlic give it a fresh and zesty kick and the seeds contribute the perfect crunch and a hefty dose of Vitamins E and B1.

I had some quick-broiled zucchini on the side for a light eight-ingredient lunch.

7-Ingredient Sunflower Salad
Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook Time: 25 minutes. Serves 1+.

2 medium red potatoes
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbls. raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic, grated.

Boil potatoes whole until tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool until you can handle them.

Slice potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss with remaining ingredients, salt and pepper.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spicy Peanut Celery

TIP snack attack!

In some ways, ten ingredient snacks are harder to come by than entire meals. In my sordid past as a junk food fiend, I'd consume the worst, packaged crap between meals. Even years after developing more conscientious eating habits, I sabotaged my efforts regularly with stacks of Keebler Fudge cookies or half boxes of Cheez-It. I basically borrowed my nutrition mentality from a Mitch Hedberg joke:

That would be cool if you could eat a good food with a bad food and the good food would cover for the bad food when it got to your stomach. Like you could eat a carrot with an onion ring and they would travel down to your stomach, then they would get there, and the carrot would say, "It's cool, he's with me."

Yeah, anyway. I eventually admitted that it doesn't work that way, and my snacks look a lot different now. This spicy peanut and celery snack is one of my favorites. It needs no recipe; just stir some Frank's Red Hot into a few Tbls. of Smucker's Natural peanut butter and spread the love on a stalk of celery. The flavor reminds me of buffalo wings, and also Asian peanut noodles. It's really, really tasty!

My little snack plate of spicy peanut celery and fresh raspberries contained four ingredients.

Note: some brands of hot sauce, like some brands of mustard, are single-ingredient foods according to the way I count. Frank's Red Hot is a brand I like. It contains vinegar, salt and spices, the latter two of which are "free".

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Powerhouse Dal

Hellooo, dal face! Years ago this dish was my first foray into Indian cooking, and it's still my favorite Indian recipe. I just love this stuff! It makes me feel like a fancy cook without having to work too hard.

Garlic, ginger and turmeric are like the holy trinity of anti-inflammatory foods, and this recipe has got all three. The curry spices also aid in digestion and help prevent overeating, something worth striving for even if you're not trying to lose weight. Then there are the onions, which fight cancer, and the tomatoes, which deliver extra lycopene after cooking. There's just so much going on in this dish nutritionally, it makes my head spin. In a happy way! Though it's hard to aim a fork at a spinning head.

My whole plate today had only eight ingredients, including red quinoa and cool cucumber slices. I sometimes enjoy this dal with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, some unsweetened dried coconut, or cilantro leaves. Below is the basic recipe.

6-Ingredient Powerhouse Dal
Total Kitchen Time: 25 minutes. Serves 4.

1 cup uncooked red lentils
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
2 Tbls. butter or unrefined coconut oil.
1-2 tsp. grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed

Free Spice Blend
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
dash cayenne

Rinse and drain lentils and set to simmer in covered saucepan with twice the water.

Meanwhile, fry onions, garlic and ginger in butter until soft, about five minutes.

Add spices and fry few more minutes.

Add tomatoes and fry five more minutes until soft.

When lentils have cooked into a coarse mash, combine with vegetables and spices, stir and serve with salt to taste!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Isabel's Cilantro Sauce

I can garnish my heart out and still not get through a whole bunch of cilantro before it starts spoiling. Pesky cilantro and its short shelf life! I find myself composting bunches far more often than such a flavorful herb deserves. But since discovering this zesty and delicious cilantro sauce (which uses a substantial half cup of the stuff) I no longer have an excuse to be such a wastrel.

The recipe comes from a cookbook called Isabel's Cantina that I bought as a souvenir when I moved away from San Diego. The author wrote the recipes for the restaurant where I used to work, and while my motivations for purchase were sentimental, the book has become quite practical in the kitchen.

I altered Isabel's recipe a little by doubling the garlic and using a mellower apple cider vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar she calls for. The sauce turned out SO good this way, rich yet bright and spicy all at once.

I drizzled the sauce around a plate of brown rice, black beans and cheese with some fresh cherry tomatoes for a meal of exactly ten ingredients. Totally Killer.

Isabel's 4-Ingredient Cilantro Sauce
Total Kitchen Time: 5 minutes. Makes 1 cup.

1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Free Spice Blend
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and salt in a food processor or blender and puree until mostly smooth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


French cooking is not usually my forte or my favorite, but I'm really into stewing my own tomatoes. Canned tomatoes contain more BPA than any other canned good and, predictably, homemade just tastes better anyway. Summer is the best time to stew, while big juicy organic tomatoes are cheap cheap cheap. This ratatouille made a yummy main course comprised entirely of fresh vegetables.

I also had fun dabbling with eggplant, a vegetable that normally kind of scares me. All those tales of bitter seeds, salting and rinsing and tough skin make me balk at baba ghanoush. I suppose I'll tackle it sometime for that very reason. At any rate, I used two small Italian eggplants with tender skin for this ratatouille so as not to necessitate the salting and hullabaloo.

This meal had a total of ten ingredients, including brown rice, a plum and some almonds.

7-Ingredient Ratatouille

Total Kitchen Time: 30 Minutes. Serves 4.

1 onion
1 green bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 small to medium eggplant
2 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 Tbls. butter or extra virgin olive oil

Free Spice Blend
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
salt and pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in a pot with spices and butter.

Stew covered on med-high heat 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Black And Blue Nachos

When you use fresh produce, real cheese and whole-corn tortilla chips, nachos make for a surprisingly balanced meal. These black and blue nachos beat the crap out of nachos that rely on jarred salsa and gluey "cheeze sauce" for flavor. The bruise hues indicate plentiful antioxidants, with black beans leading the pack compared with other legumes.

I also love that these nachos are ready to eat in fifteen minutes, and if you're reasonably dexterous, you can broil them on aluminum foil and save yourself from dish-duty later. Who says you can't embrace your inner lazy person and still eat well?

10-Ingredient Black and Blue Nachos
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 2.

2 large handfuls blue corn chips (corn, sunflower oil)
1/2 a can black beans, drained
1/3 cup hand-shredded jack or cheddar cheese (milk, cultures, enzymes)
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 an avocado, sliced
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, diced
1 Tbls. fresh cilantro

Arrange chips on aluminum foil and top with tomato, pepper, beans and cheese.

Broil 5 minutes or until cheese has melted and tomatoes are soft.

Transfer nachos to plate (or don't!) and top with avocado and torn cilantro.

Monday, July 5, 2010

TIP is now on Facebook!

Greetings TIPers! Your friendly neighborhood techno-challenged food blogger has just set up a Ten Ingredient Project Faceboook Page! Stop by and show your support for the project by "liking" it and receive updated feeds and photos from new posts, plus perhaps occasional whimsical remarks from yours truly.

Also, if you are a Facebook aficionado with tips on taming the unwieldy beast of social networking, please don't hesitate to share them with me! I'm still learning. Thanks and be well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sweet Balsamic Brussels

I bow down to these Brussels sprouts! They have everything I love in a recipe: ample veggies, ease of preparation, and uncommonly good flavor. I plucked these beautiful Brussels out of the bargain bin at my local grocer, not yet knowing they were destined for marinated, caramelized greatness.

I sliced a pink lady apple and made a pot of lightly curried brown rice and lentils to have on the side of these sprouts. Only seven ingredients to this perfect meal!

I modified the recipe from the original found here. Enjoy!

4-Ingredient Sweet Balsamic Brussels
Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. Serves 2.

~15 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls. balsamic vinegar.
5-10 whole peeled garlic cloves.

Free Spice Blend
dash of paprika (optional)
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and marinate at room temperature at least 15 minutes.

Spread cloves and sprouts cut side down onto a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until marinade has caramelized and sprouts are fork tender.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Five Minute Plate

In this uber-tasty installment of the five minute plate, I tossed the remains of yesterday's chili lime corn (sans cilantro) with black beans, then added sliced avocado and red grapes on the side for a total of eight ingredients.

With it's whole grains (corn), protein (beans), heart-healthy fats (avocado), antioxidants (grapes) and fiber (everything), this is one hard-working five minute plate. My kind of fast food!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chili Lime Corn

I have a problem with this corn: I like it so much that I never make any other corn recipes. I know I should branch out, but every time I shuck an ear in the kitchen, it's like I enter into some kind of fugue. By the time I come to my senses, I've got corn silk in my hair and yet another batch of chili lime corn to eat.

There's an interesting article in the current issue of Vegetarian Times claiming that the sweet corn we eat by the earful is unrelated to the "field corn" responsible for the various corn-born evils we hear about like genetic modification, corn syrup refining and mono crop agriculture. I should still probably work on my corn problem, for personal if not environmental reasons. In the meantime, I'm passing my affliction on to you with this recipe. Beware/enjoy.

I ate a spinach salad on the side with shredded carrots and cucumber for a total of nine ingredients.

6-Ingredient Chili Lime Corn
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 2.

2 ears fresh corn
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 sweet onion
1 Tbls. butter
chopped cilantro to garnish
juice from 1/2 a lime or more.

Free Spice Blend
1/2 tsp. chili powder
black pepper

Fry onions in butter on med-high heat until just translucent. Add corn and bell pepper and fry few more minutes, stirring regularly.

Add chili powder; fry one minute more.

Plate with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro for garnish.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Veggies Than Pasta Salad

When I do pasta salad, I do it garlicky and with plenty of vegetables. There's nothing wrong with whole wheat pasta, but there's so much right with fresh vegetables that I like to skew the grain-veg ratio in favor of the green (and orange!) stuff.

Like all pasta salad, this one is friendly fare in hot weather. Does it seem like I've been preoccupied with the temperature lately? I'm enduring my first full Floridian summer and still adjusting to the sweat sandwich that forms between my shirt and backpack after an innocent ride to the supermarket. Sexy sexy.

On that note, have some pasta salad! I served mine dusted with a little extra Parmesan cheese.

10-Ingredient More Veggies Than Pasta Salad
Total Kitchen Time: 25 minutes. Serves 4.

1 1/2 cups dry whole wheat pasta
2 carrots, diced
4 celery hearts, diced
1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 heaping Tbls. parmesan cheese (milk, cultures, enzymes)
3 cloves garlic, grated

Free Spice Blend
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (optional)

Set pasta to boil. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, cheese, garlic and optional spices.

Blanch and drain broccoli florets and toss with celery and carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Drain pasta and combine with vegetables. Add dressing, stir well and serve.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spicy Almond Sweet Potato Fries

I know I said I don't turn on the oven in June, but I lied, sort of. I'm definitely not one to plan a long summertime roast, but these fries are cut small enough that they cook through in minutes. Also they're so toasty and satisfying I'm willing to compromise my integrity for a plateful.

My nine-ingredient meal included the spicy fries plus a cold cucumber salad with sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese. Like a couple of Jane Austen protagonists in the final chapter, they made a surprisingly suitable match.

I should mention that these fries are FORK fries. Frankly, I've never been able to get the almond meal to hang on too tight. The upside is, there are usually some perfectly toasted almond bits left behind on the baking tray. Munch munch munch.

3-Ingredient Spicy Almond Sweet Potato Fries
Total Kitchen Time: 20 minutes. Serves 2.

1 large sweet potato, cut into fries
1/3 cup raw almonds
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Free Spice Blend
cayenne pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss sweet potato pieces in olive oil to coat.

Grind almonds into a medium meal and combine with potatoes. Toss to coat and sprinkle with cayenne.

Arrange fries on a tray and bake at 400 degrees ten minutes or until tender and crispy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Curry Kettlecorn

Is anyone besides me terrified of that orange grease that gets pumped into movie theater popcorn? Even the store-bought "butter flavor" variety is adulterated with refined soybean oil, excess salt and other nasties.

On it's own, popcorn is a whole grain, single-ingredient food that's surprisingly high in disease-preventing polyphenols. Adding pure melted butter tastes delicious and saves you from the toxic orange doom-slick.

I eat popcorn a lot more often now that I know that the kernels pop in the microwave without oil. Either this is the popcorn business's best-kept secret, or everyone I know is just pretending they don't believe me so I'll nuke a batch to prove it.

Either way, I'm addicted to the buttery, sweet-curry flavor of this popcorn! It's the only thing I use my microwave for. Enjoy.

3-Ingredient Curry Kettlecorn
Total Kitchen Time: 5 minutes! Serves 2.

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 Tbls. butter
1 tsp. sugar

Free Spice Blend
1/2 tsp. curry powder
sea salt to taste

Pour dry kernels into microwave-safe bowl and cover with a slightly damp paper towel.

Microwave on high 4 minutes or until popping becomes infrequent.

Use potholders to remove the HOT bowl.

Toss kernels with melted butter, sugar, salt and curry powder.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Broiled Summer Vegetables

Who wants to turn on the oven in late June? I believe it's important to respect and honor the hard work of my air conditioner in this most demanding of months by not baking or roasting my food.

That said, I love eating crispy-soft and sweet roasted vegetables, and my taste buds don't know June from December.

To get around preheating and long roasting times, I wanted to try popping some classic summer vegetables under the broiler. I wasn't sure it was going to work, but to my somewhat overblown excitement, the broiler softened the vegetables perfectly (no turning necessary) and barely charred the tops. Best of all, I had the oven off again before the AC had time to contemplate revenge.

I piled the broiled veggies on top of whole wheat couscous with some feta cheese and basil, then sprinkled raw almonds around the plate for extra crunch and protein. Scott skipped the almonds and used his last ingredient on a splash of balsamic vinegar, which was awesome.

9-Ingredient Broiled Summer Vegetables
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 2.

4 yellow squashes
20ish green beans
6 cherry tomatoes
1 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry whole wheat couscous
1/3 cup feta cheese* (milk, enzymes, rennet)
5 fresh basil leaves.

Snap ends off beans and cut squashes in thirds lengthwise. Toss both in olive oil and arrange on a cookie sheet with halved cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika if desired.

Place vegetables under the broiler (a low broil if your oven has the option.)

Set couscous to simmer with twice the water.

Check both the couscous and the vegetables often! Remove vegetables when tops are brown but not burnt, about 5 minutes.

Serve vegetables over couscous and top with feta cheese and torn basil leaves.

*I bought block feta for this recipe instead of crumbled feta, because the crumbled kind has anti-caking agents and mold-inhibitors.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dijon Ginger Bok Choy

Bok choy is my dad's favorite green and it's probably my favorite cooked green. Even so I rarely make it, because I get so much raw leafage in my belly at breakfast.

Bok choy for lunch was a nice change of pace, but now I am so full of greens! Will I turn mean like the Hulk? Or benevolent like the Jolly Green Giant? It's too soon to tell, but leaf-hued skin is surely in my future.

The tangy marinade in this recipe gets a kick from garlic and ginger, both powerful anti-inflammatory foods. Combined with the iron- and phytonutrient-rich greens, this bok choy is truly the darling of the dance.

I paired my greens with some purgatory eggs. They've just got a dollop of dijon mustard on top. Get it? A grated carrot with some toasted sesame seeds topped off the meal for a total of ten ingredients. Yum!

The recipe is modified from one I found on VegWeb.

8-Ingredient Dijon Ginger Bok Choy
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 2

1 lb baby bok choy
1 Tbls. rice vinegar
2 tsp. dijon mustard (vinegar, spices)
2 tsp. tamari (soybeans, alcohol)
1 clove garlic, grated
1 coin of ginger, grated.
toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Roughly chop and rinse bok choy; steam covered until tender, about seven minutes.

Whisk remaining ingredients together.

Toss marinade with cooked greens, top with sesame seeds and serve.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Global Grocery Haul

I'm one of those people who furtively peers into strangers' shopping carts at the supermarket. Charged with chilling the wine at a dinner party, I linger a bit too long in the cold plume of the open fridge, scanning the shelves. I get a big kick out of seeing what other people buy and eat. Weirdo! I know. But I am what I am.

A section of my own pantry. Starvin' the moths. *uppercut*

So when I stumbled across this NPR piece yesterday about a book called Hungry Planet, I was rapt. In what amounts to a global grocery haul, photographer Peter Menzel documents 30 families around the world posing in their homes with a week's worth of food.

Here's a slide show of some of the photographs, and here's another. If you haven't seen the images already (the book came out in '05), I hope you enjoy this titillating, unembarrassed and thought-provoking gander at global food traditions as much as I did.