I’ve been a dedicated – and admittedly uncool – brown-bagger for as many years as I’ve been working a full time job. More than just the limited food options nearby, I bring my lunch to eat healthy and stretch my paycheck.
This is the sort of dish that makes it easy to bring your lunch to work. Quick to make, packed with toasty sesame and warm chili flavors, and effortlessly vegan. It’s all about making meals play double duty – you know, cook once, eat twice.
I made this soba noodle dish after a Sunday shopping excursion when I returned home ravenous. I whacked it together in a few hasty minutes and gobbled it up even quicker.
I’m not going to tell you that I’ve been too lazy to keep up the blog lately. Or that my daily routine leaves me tired and uninspired sometimes. I’m not going to tell you that I feel just a teensy bit overwhelmed with planning a wedding or that I like to give my brain a rest with an episode of Scandal most weekdays. Because you don’t wanna hear that complain-y crap!
What I am going to tell you is that I’m back to share recipes with you.
While I’ve been away from voracious for a bit, I’ve still been in the kitchen most days cooking nourishing food to keep us going. I’ve even cooked some especially good things. But I’ve mostly been falling back on dishes that are easy for me to make and aren’t deemed “blog-worthy”.
I’m making a promise to work harder to share the dishes that are coming out of my kitchen with you – because I know that we all need a little inspiration for simple healthy food that tastes good. Or at least I do.
And I’m starting out easy with a dip.
This is a new spin on the old can of white beans. Or bulb of fennel, depending on how you look at it. It’s creamy, dip-able, spreadable and great for sharing. I love the fresh rosemary in this but you could use thyme, parsley, basil or any other herb, really. I’d probably use a bit more when using leafy herbs though.
I always seem to be carrying too much stuff.
I take public transport to work, so everything I need to make my day comfortable, I have to carry on my shoulders. I’ve begun to consider a backpack but there’s part of me that’s too vain to do that. It’s the part of me that used to work at a fashion magazine. She feels shame from even thinking about a backpack.
The other part of me is all, girl, get yourself a backpack and stop complaining!
For now, I’m still rocking my awkward too-heavy leather handbag and extra tote bag combo because I still need all of the things every day.
I need entertainment, so there’s usually a book (please don’t start talking tablets – I like my books with tangible and sometimes pre-owned paper pages.) I need to be protected from the elements and office air conditioning, so there’s always a cardigan and/or scarf, sunglasses and sometimes an umbrella. I need to be hydrated during my 50 minute commute, so there’s usually a water bottle an occasionally a coffee thermos.
And, of course, I need to be well-fed. There are a few decent lunch options around the office, but I prefer to bring my own most days. And snacks. I need the snacks.
Sometimes organizing a lunch to bring can be annoying in the evening when all I want to do is plant myself on the couch and eat popcorn by the fist full. But most often, I like to see it as an opportunity to get creative with new spices and combinations of vegetables, grains, cooking methods and textures.
This salad was one of those finer combinations. I made a big batch of it on a Sunday night. We had it as a side dish with baked snapper that evening and I had it for lunch the following two days. It held up perfectly.
Dumplings, gyoza, potstickers. Whatever you want to call little parcels of goodness, I recommend getting involved.
They’re cute, 2-bite-sized and are typically packed with flavor. They’re hard not to like.
I’ve made a sweet potato version before (which I’m going to revisit in the near future) but I usually leave this sort of thing to the professionals.
But if you can find some good pre-made wrappers, making gyoza at home is super easy – and might impress whoever you’re feeding. Once you get the hang of folding the little dough rounds, it’s a pretty soothing activity, too.
You can make the filling a day in advance and let it sit in the fridge. Or you can prep the gyoza a couple of hours before you’re ready to cook them.
I served them piping hot with a simple dipping sauce of a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and a little sriracha here and there. There are plenty of other dipping sauce options, but I tried to keep it simple to let the flavor of the shiitakes shine.
I’m going to go ahead and warn you: these are addictive. I served the two of us about 16 dumplings for dinner with a big salad and I wish I’d made more. Like double more. Just a FYI.
Even in summertime I crave comfort dishes. I’m talking warm, heavily spiced bowls of things that might make you sweat a little when you eat them. I dunno. I’m aware that no one likes to sweat whilst eating, but I’ll take it over eating chilled soup. Gazpacho? I just…can’t. I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)
You know I’m game for a massive minimal-cooking-required salad, but homegirl needs a cooked meal several times a week, regardless of the weather. It’s something about sitting down at night to eat something that has a story. Something that’s been chopped and sautéed and simmered.
I love experimenting with cuisines that I find a little intimidating, it’s like facing your fears in a totally contained and inconsequential way!
Since I’ve been cooking, I’ve found Thai and Indian cuisines to be among my favorites to make at home. Mostly because they involve big vats of stew-like concoctions that can be custom-made to involve heaps of vegetables, tons of flavor and spice, and require being mopped up with rice and/or flatbread. (In general, I enjoy mopping my food up with carbs. It’s satisfying and delicious.)
Plus, a good curry paste can’t really let you down.