“Hollah”!

One of my favorite things about being Jewish is the food. (Hell, food is one of my favorite things about life in general!)

Every holiday has its own delicious foods: Passover is all about charoset; Chanukah has latkes; and Rosh Hashanah has challah.

Rosh Hashanah is the kick-off to the Jewish new year. The foods you eat to celebrate usually involve sweetness and roundness. The sweet foods consumed include honey and apples (usually together) and are supposed to represent “ringing in a sweet new year”. Round foods (apples, and round-shaped challah) are symbolic of how cyclical time is.

I’m not much of a bread-baker, as it tends to take a lot of time. Mixing, kneading, rising, kneading, rising again, kneading, shaping, baking… waiting… cooling… waiting…! I’m too much of a lover of instant gratification for me to do this all the time! But, I suck it up when Rosh Hashanah rolls around!

For those who are like me, you may be nervous to try baking bread for a number of reasons, but believe me when I say that this recipe is idiot-proof! All you have to do is make sure you have all the ingredients and that you have about 3 hours to spare.

Challah, like everything else around this time, is commonly eaten with honey, but it’s delicious by itself, too. Also, challah makes the best french toast. Seriously.

You’ll love challah, I promise!

Beyond Ramen and Udon: Why Soba is King

I’m a proud, proud carb-a-holic. I have no problem having a piece (or two…) of garlic bread alongside macaroni and cheese. I am guilty of eating ice cream for dinner. I’ll eat oatmeal with a super-sweet soy pumpkin spice latte without being fazed. Have no fear! I usually eat a more balanced diet than this, but I also listen to my body (which seems to be desiring grains at the moment) so if carbs is what I want, carbs is what I’ll have. As a back-up, I do have a multivitamin every day. *flexes wannabe muscles*

Our pantry is full of grains in many forms: oats (rolled and steel-cut), rice (basmati, brown, and arborio), cereal grains (amaranth, quinoa, and bulgar wheat), and pasta (the common enriched Italian-style varieties, udon, ramen, soba, and rice noodles). Each has its own purpose, but one is the latest discovery of mine and now reigns supreme in my carb-cooking kitchen: soba.

Soba is a Japanese noodle that is unlike any other. It’s thin and elegant, but sturdy enough that it won’t flop around and fall apart like ramen (another thin noodle) does. Like other Japanese noodles, soba cooks in very little time and requires precisely two neurons to prepare.

I mean… no measuring water? Sweet. I’ve never been one to measure 6 cups of water to boil for macaroni: I just eyeball it. The first step in the soba instructions is to put it into “plenty of [boiling] water”. Awesomely easy, no?

Soba is fabulously vegan and packed full of nutrients because it’s made with the superfood buckwheat. Yes, it’s high in sodium, so I wouldn’t make this an everyday food item, but I think the fiber, iron, and protein it contains (as well as the cholesterol and sugar it doesn’t) outweighs the 40% of your daily intake of sodium!

If this didn’t prove my point, just look at the stuff!

Tell me it’s not packaged in the cutest way ever? (I rarely use the word “cute” but I think this is an occasion that warrants it.) It has a little sash around each bundle so, unlike spaghetti, a serving size is really easy to measure. Yeah, I bet different brands of noodles have different packaging, but I officially love this one!

Previously, I’ve simply tossed freshly-cooked soba noodles in tamari soy sauce, crushed red pepper, and shredded zucchini. This time around, I wanted to do something different.

Orange-Scented Soba and Kale Salad
Makes two generous portions, or four side-dish-sized servings.

  • 4 cups kale, chopped into very thin shreds (about 3-4 large leaves)
  • 120 grams soba noodles (one bundle, if using JFC brand)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if you don’t have tamari on hand)
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro (use fresh if you have it available to you)
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce (optional if you don’t like heat)
  • a couple of dashes of fresh-cracked black pepper

Cook the soba according to directions. Strain, then rinse in cold water until noodles are completely cool. Set aside.

In a medium glass bowl, whisk together all ingredients except soba and kale. When combined, add kale and toss until coated. Add soba noodles and toss again until all ingredients are evenly distributed. (Don’t be scared to use your hands!)

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

If I had other veggies in my fridge, I would have used them! Maybe next time I’ll shred carrots, zucchini, and summer squash and include these in the recipe. Regardless, I plan on eating this for lunch the next few days, topping it with some tofu and/or kimchee, or maybe I’ll be weird and add some falafel!

But leaving it just as-is would be fine, too. Nom.

What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW)

I follow a lot of awesome food blogs, health/wellness blogs, and other web sites and enjoy when they do “What I Ate Wednesday” posts. So, here’s my first!

On Wednesday 9/14/11 I enjoyed…

Fall officially begins when Pumpkin Spice Lattes return!
Starbucks soy pumpkin spice latte + “Two Moms in the Raw” blueberry granola bar (not pictured because I forgot!).

Soba noodles are amazing!
Lunch was cold soba noodles that I cooked last night and let marinate in the fridge all night and all morning in tamari soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil. I topped it with some fresh basil.

Almond love!
Raw almonds for my afternoon snack, alongside a cup of coffee (not pictured because, again, I forgot!).

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Creamy polenta with fresh basil (served with sautéed garlic spinach, not shown).

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From-scratch vegan hot chocolate… check out this recipe I randomly thought of (because we are out of both dairy milk and non-dairy milk… whoops)!

Vegan Hot Chocolate
Serves two.

  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup raw or turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (Ghirardelli semisweet bars are vegan)

Combine water, coconut milk, and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and add chocolate, whisking until completely melted.

Pour in two mugs of your choosing, but beware: this stuff is molten hot and we needed to let ours cool for about 8 minutes before it was drinkable!

New Food Story: Sweet Potatoes

I think the best way to showcase my trial-and-error experiences with food is to write about my history, my attempt, and my success or failure upon trying it. First up: sweet potatoes.

My first memory of sweet potatoes is probably that of many Americans.

Sweet potatoes... made sweeter...??

Sweet potato casserole: sweet potatoes usually cubed or mashed, mixed with syrup or sweetener of some kind, topped with marshmallows. Broiled to a golden brown, most children go ga-ga over this stuff every Thanksgiving.

In that respect, I was a weird child: I absolutely hated it. I would eat the marshmallows off of the top of my mom’s serving, but if even a speck of orange was on my marshmallows… so help me!!! it would ruin my meal. Yuck!

Fast forward a couple of decades: I was 23 and living in gorgeous California.

Oh, how I miss living in CA!

The town in which I lived was Fremont, and it was the home to the Bay Area’s largest farmer’s market. I had just started what would become an epic 35-pound weight-loss journey so during this time I would visit the farmer’s market every Saturday morning to get some fresh produce (and the occasional hand-formed loaf of sourdough or wedge of local cheese). Every time I’d visit, I’d go as far as to pick up and investigate things I’d never tried before: asparagus, pluots, and… sweet potatoes.

Look at them... always judging!

My arch nemesis for so long… it would taunt me from afar every Saturday as I made my rounds. One day I caved and purchased one.

I recall exactly what I did with it: I made sweet potato fries.

GO-TO SWEET POTATO FRIES
Makes roughly two large servings of fries.

  • Two sweet potatoes, cleaned thoroughly, peeled, and cut into strips roughly 1cm thick.
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on the level of spice you want)
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • Dash of sea salt
  • A few dashes of garlic powder

Combine everything in a zip-loc bag or in a bowl with a lid. Shake and toss around until all of the wedges are evenly coated in toppings. Spread on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, making sure they are in just one layer. Sprinkle garlic powder on top and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, flipping fries after 20 minutes. You will know they are ready when the thinner ones are getting dark and the edges of the larger ones are mostly golden. Let cool for 5 minutes unless you want to burn your mouth!

Lo and behold, I loved them!!! After such a raging success, I now continue to love sweet potatoes as long as they are savory – not sweetened. I continue to dislike sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, but give me a cubed sweet potato topped with spinach, black beans, salsa, and vegan “cheez” sauce and you have a happy, happy girl.