Easy Coconut Mango Rice for Dessert or Breakfast

I figured you deserved a rice recipe after that rambling 1600 word essay on small appliances and sushi.  So here’s something easy and effing delicious.  I made this for the first time last night.  It’s inspired by a dessert that one of the Thai restaurants in Duluth serves.  It’s not exactly the same . . . and I like mine better . . .

Coconut Mango rice Dessert/Breakfast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk from a can (I suppose you could use light coconut milk if you really wanted to, but that’s less fun)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cooked sushi rice either fresh and warm or leftover and cold (or other rice, I just like sushi rice best)
  • about 1/2 a mango, skin removed, either sliced or chopped
  • extra sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Method

This is so easy.  I’m kind of embarrassed to even tell you how to do this.

Pour the coconut milk into a 2-cup cereal bowl.  Add the 2 tablespoons sugar and the pinch of salt.  Stir this until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the rice on top in a nice mound.  Arrange the sliced or copped mango pieces on top of it.  I just slice the mango right off the skin onto the rice.  Since it’s the dead of winter here in Minnesota, it’s not exactly peak mango season.  If your mango is not quite sweet enough for you, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar on top.  This could probably serve 2 people as a dessert.  But I eat it by myself.  I can very easily imagine this as breakfast, too.  It’s not too sweet and it’s full of good stuff.  (It’s mango and coconut and rice! It’s good for you, right?)

See? Easy.

And so good.  I was too distracted by eating it to take a good picture.  So . . . here’s an aftermath picture.  Enjoy!

Too busy eating to take a pretty picture.

Advertisements

The small appliances of our lives

There are the standard small appliances that we all have –blender, toaster, coffee maker, microwave– that we use every day or at least several times a week.  You rarely see a kitchen that doesn’t have a microwave anymore.  I hate microwaves, but I have one anyway.  It’s from 1986 and it’s been in this apartment longer than I have.  The same is true of toasters, blenders, and coffee makers, with few exceptions almost every kitchen in the western world has them.

And then there are the specialized appliances that food people own.  Like my bread machine, I got it a year ago and I can’t imagine living without it now.  Making vegan bread is A LOT cheaper than buying it.  Not only that, but it’s fresher, you know exactly what’s in it, and you have the added benefit of your house periodically smelling like baking bread.  Another example is a food processor.  They’re not totally necessary, and they’re on the expensive side, but once you have one you wonder how you went without it for so long.  It dices, it slices, it grates, it purees . . . it does lots of cool things.  Things that take forfreakingever by hand will be done in a few seconds with your friendly little food processor.

This brings me to my new toy.

Aroma 6-cup rice cooker from Amazon

I bought a rice cooker.  I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing I’ve gotten in the last year.

See, I have this problem with rice.  I can cook one cup of it on the stove just fine.  But if I try to do more than that, it utterly fails.  I end up with mushy exteriors and still hard, crunchy interiors and somehow simultaneously manage to burn it.  I’m really good in the kitchen –really, I am!– just not at cooking more than one cup of rice at a time.  So I’d sort of given up on feeding rice to more than two people at once.

I don’t really remember why I bought the rice cooker.  My parents have one and I always use it when I’m at their house.  I don’t think they use it at all . . . but they wouldn’t let me have it because it was a wedding present.  Anyway… So that’s probably how the idea was planted in my head.  I love rice cooker rice.  It’s all perfect and chewy and delicious.

I don’t know how the things work at all.  All I know is you put the rice in, you put the water in, and no matter how much you make (so long as you don’t over fill the pot), it’s perfect every time.  They’re friggin’ magic as far as I can tell.  You don’t set a timer, you don’t enter how much rice you put in to a little computer, you just press one button AND THE THING KNOWS WHAT TO DO! The button pops up when the rice is done.  And no matter what kind of rice you make, no matter how much, it’s perfect. Every. Time.  Rice cookers are either made of magic or possessed by really helpful daemons.

The best thing about my rice cooker is that it came with a steaming tray, so I can steam food while I cook rice.  It’s actually fairly brilliant.  Put some rice in, put some tofu in the steamer basket, turn it on, wait a while (make some sauce while waiting), add some veggies in the last few minutes of cooking and ta da! Dinner!

As a side note, I learned that steamed tofu is legitimately food.  I had no idea that this was the case.  Just throw a bunch of garlic sauce on top of it and it’s delicious.  Steaming extra firm tofu changes the texture, so it gets to be fairly firm and chewy.  Before I made it, I had no idea that it was actually a method of cooking tofu.  I looked it up while things were cooking and found out that it’s actually a Korean dish, steamed tofu with sauce.

So then, after discovering all the goodness of my new toy, I decided to make some Japanese food.  I’d been craving sushi for a week or two at this point.  But here’s the thing with me a sushi, I had vowed never to learn to make it.

Sushi and I have a long history, not all of it good.  I was in high school the first time I tried it, I nearly threw up.  The taste of the nori is what got me.  I couldn’t handle that very strong, distinct oceany flavor.  So I went years claiming that I hated sushi.  Cut to seven years later, I’m in school at UMD, it’s a nice spring day and I decide to walk to the grocery store to pick up some lunch.  The grocery store closest to campus is actually pretty upscale.  Arguably the most upscale grocery store in Duluth if you don’t count the Co Op.  There’s a Caribou coffee inside, a full service deli, a salad bar, a cheese monger, and a cute Asian lady making sushi at a little kiosk.

I’m walking around deciding what to eat when I see the adorable, slightly older Asian lady and her sushi.  Now one has to admit, whether or not they like the taste of sushi, that it has a very distinct visual appeal to it.  Most Japanese food does, as far as I’ve seen (I really don’t think I’ve ever seen ugly Japanese food).  I have always been one for aesthetics.  So I walk up to the little cold case where the pre-made sushi is.  I see little raw tuna and salmon pieces strapped to blocks of rice with nori; I see bright green steamed and salted edemame in a little plastic box; I see rainbow rolls artfully arranged on the tin tray with the transparent lid; and then I see vegetable rolls.  Little, rice-side out veggie rolls made of carrots and cucumber and scallion and avocado with toasted black sesame seeds on the outside . . . and I’m curious.

I will try anything vegan once.  And I know that taste buds change with age, so I was willing to give sushi one more try.  I picked up the 12 pieces of veggie sushi, some chopsticks, and a few extra soy sauce packets.  I grabbed a bottle of Naked juice from the produce section and then went and grabbed something else to eat, just in case I hated the sushi and gave it away (I think it was pop tarts . . .).

When I got back to campus and went to the philosophy department seminar room, the whole core group of my friends were there.  They knew I hated sushi –all of them loved the stuff– and waited ever so patiently for me to try a piece.  I squeezed the soy sauce out on to the lid of the tray, dipped the little roll in and lifted it to my mouth.  I chewed.  And chewed.  Slowly, waiting for the gag response that usually accompanied me putting nori in my mouth.  But it didn’t come.  Dear god, I think I like this stuff.  I ate the rest with gay abandon, savoring the salty soy sauce and chewy rice with the crisp fresh vegetables.  Well, I ate most of the rest, Hugh and Claire were jealous, so I gave them some, too.

Since then I’ve grown to love the stuff.  I have vegetable maki rolls, mostly.  Occasionally I get the deep fried tofu stuffed with sushi rice … the name of which is escaping me just now.  My absolute favorite kind is tempura sweet potato sushi.  It’s sooooooo goooooood.  The crispy, slightly sweet, oily texture of the potato paired with the astringent rice and delicate nori flavor when topped with teriaki sauce is just . . . aaak, I hate to put it this way, but an orgasm in my mouth.

carrot, scallion, avocado, red pepper, and mango

Anyway . . . since I started liking sushi, I had always refused to learn how to make it.  It was magic to me:  A sushi chef could take that awful, disgusting nori and turn it into something I longed to taste (I do, still, hate nori).  And I wanted it to stay magic.

But then I got bored over winter break.  And when I get bored, I teach myself some new cooking thing.  Sushi was the last food, which I love dearly, that I didn’t know how to make.  Then there was the fact that I had just gotten a rice cooker, so . . . yeah.

I’m not about to try to explain how to make sushi.  I’m a novice, and I’m probably making huuuuuuge mistakes somewhere.  But it looks alright and it tastes good.  I taught myself after watching the first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s (of Vegan with a Vengeance and Veganomicon fame) old open source cooking show.  Their first episode was about sushi and cupcakes.  And learning to make sushi is definitely the kind of thing you need video, if not personal, instruction for.  So definitely watch that, it will help you learn sushi!

I’m also becoming obsessed with making Japanese food.  I found this adorable/fantastic show on you tube called Cooking with Dog.  Frances the dog narrates while a cute Japanese lady makes really pretty food!  I’m in love.  I’m also in the market for a bento box or two in the near future . . . I just haven’t decided which style to get.  I apologize in advance for the inevitable influx of pictures of Japanese food that may happen on this blog in the near future.  I’m not one of those weird american girls obsessed with everything Japan, I promise.  I just really like Japanese food.  And I swear to god I will never ever say “kawaii” without reference to something that can’t be referenced without saying ‘kawaii.’

Sushi carnage!

 

The Goddamn Healthiest Thing I Have Ever Made

Seriously, guys.  I’ve done it this time.  I have cracked the code for making a really satisfying, really (really, REALLY) tasty meal that is not only low in fat and calories and high in protein but so chock full of nutrition that I’m about to have vitamins and minerals pouring out of my eyeballs.  Not to mention fiber . . . there is a literal shit ton of fiber in every deliciously saucy serving of this beauty.

What am I talking about?  The newest casserole I have added to my library of vegan food.  It’s actually inspired a frozen food item my mom buys for me when I’m at my parents’ house.  Kashi makes some frozen meals and a few of them are vegan (and even say so right on the package).  One of them is called a “Mayan Harvest Bake.”  And it’s definitely my favorite.  It has Kashi’s patented (I assume) blend of grains with black beans, kale, sweet potato hunks, and plantains all covered in this smoky, spicy sauce.  It’s actually a really good for a frozen vegan meal.  So I wondered if I could make something like that myself.

The fact is, I just got back from spending a week and a half at my parents’ house for Christmas/New Years/My Birthday et cetera.  My parents eat a lot of processed food.  So when I’m there, it’s basically MorningStar Farms riblets and sweet potato fries for me.  I do cook when I’m there, but not nearly to the extent that I do when I’m at home.  Hell, when I’m there, I cook more fresh food than my parents do.  Anyway, I’ve gotten back here and I’m craving ridiculously healthy food.  I haven’t gotten to the store yet, so mostly I have the dry food left in my cupboards from two weeks ago and whatever groceries my mom decided I needed to bring back to Duluth with me.  Even so, I wanted nothing more than to make something to kind of detox my system from the week and a half of surviving on super market vegan food.

So what I came up with, considering the limitations of my refrigerator, I think to be truly inspired.

Healthy MoFo Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato in 3/4 inch chunks
  • 1 10 oz package frozen spinach (Thaw this a bit, just enough to get it out of the package easily.  If you have the kind in a plastic pouch you can run some hot water over it in the sink)
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4 inch thick coins
  • Salt and Pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or faux chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Start by boiling the 1 cup of water in a small sauce pan, rinse your quinoa in a sieve and dump it in the pan with the water (it doesn’t actually have to be boiling before you put the quinoa in) and cover.  When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.  This should take around 10 minutes to cook, remember to give it a stir or two.  Meanwhile, heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Then lightly spray an 8×8 inch or 9×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

Next, in a medium sauce pan place the 2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of veggie bullion).  Put this on the stove to boil.  Now, rinse your lentils.  I used french lentils, but you can get away with the plain green ones if you like.  Just don’t use split red lentils or everything will go all wrong.  When the broth is boiling add the lentils and the bay leaf.  Cover everything up and turn the stove down to a simmer.  This one will take around 20 minutes, be sure to stir this pot a couple times, too.

By now your oven should be hot.  Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray.  You can spray right on to the cookie sheet if you want, but I find that cooking spray turns into a gross sticky mess when you do that.  Also, the foil saves you from washing the pan.  Spread the sweet potato chunks on the pan and season them with some salt and pepper. A couple pinches of salt and like 10 grinds of pepper should do it.  Put this into the oven.  I didn’t time this part, I’m sorry.  You’ll want to cook these until they’re soft when you poke a fork into them.  They were done right before my sauce was done . . . so . . . probably around 20 minutes.

Okay, so now your quinoa is probably done cooking.  The grains should be a bit toothsome, but soft and all of the liquid should be absorbed.  Spread this in the bottom of your square pan.  The layer will look a bit thin, but trust me, any more and this casserole would overflow the pan.  Now rinse out the small sauce pan and put about 1/2 an inch of water in it.  Put this on the stove and bring it to a simmer.  Add the spinach and the carrot.  Once the spinach is thawed and the pan comes back to a simmer, cook this, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the carrot is soft, but not mushy.  When this is done, pour it into a large sieve and press out the extra water.  Press out about 75% of the water or your casserole will be wet and soupy.  Ick.  Spread the carrot and spinach out over the quinoa.  Dont worry about getting it too even, it’s totally cool if you can see the quinoa through the spinach layer in parts.

After all this, the lentils ought to be done.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the lentils should be soft.  Fish out the bay leaf, shake the lentils off of it and set it aside (we’re going to use it in the sauce).  If there’s a lot of liquid left in the pan, you can drain them, but I didn’t have to, a little bit of liquid is okay.  Pour the lentils over the spinach and spread them out evenly.

On to the sauce.  Rinse out the small saucepan again and dry it well.  Put it on the stove over medium heat.  Add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and get it nice and hot.  Add the finely chopped onion and saute it until it starts to turn translucent.  Add the garlic and cook that for about one minute more.  Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander.  Cook this, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds to give the spices a nice toast.  Add the vegetable/faux chicken broth (or 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of bullion like me), and the bay leaf you fished out of the lentils, bring this to a simmer.  While this is coming up to temperature, check on your sweet potatoes.  if they’re nice and soft when you stick a fork into them, get them out of the oven and set them aside.  If not, let them go for about another five minutes or until they’re done.  Once the contents of the saucepan are simmering, add the cocoa powder and stir well.  Simmer this for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Now add the tomato paste and the agave nectar.  The sauce should thicken up a bit.  You don’t want it too thick or it won’t seep down into the goodies in the casserole.  You also don’t want it too thin or it won’t coat the top nicely.  You want it roughly the thickness of a thin gravy.  Let this simmer another 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

If your sweet potatoes weren’t done before, they’re probably done now.  Get those out of the oven and scatter them on top of the lentils in the baking pan.  Now pour the sauce over the top of everything, making an effort to spread it around so everything gets evenly sauced.  Cover the square pan with aluminum foil and put it in the 375 degree oven.  Bake for 45 minutes.

This will serve 4 people very nicely, 3 people if they’re REALLY hungry.

Now . . . Nutrition facts!

This is the data for a serving of 1/4 of the dish.  I analyzed this on the Calorie Count Recipe Analysis thing.  It’s a totally useful tool.  Though, it didn’t have agave nectar in it’s library of ingredients, so add about 15 calories for each serving.  Instead of 419 calories, it’s 434.  See what I said about vitamins and minerals pouring out of my eyeballs?  This dish is literally packed to the brim with nutrition and is absolutely New-Years-resolution diet friendly.  One caveat:  there’s a lot of sodium in this recipe.  I’m guessing it’s from all that broth I used.  Use low sodium varieties if this concerns you.  I have freaky low blood pressure, so I salt things liberally . . . don’t do that.  Unless of course you, too, have freaky low blood pressure or you just don’t care.  Then do whatever you want. (Disclaimer:  Kate B., The Classy Vegan, is not a doctor and really barely knows a damn thing about the relation of the sodium content of one’s diet and one’s blood pressure levels other than the TV says there’s a positive correlation.)

Notes:

You can use fresh baby spinach or chopped fresh kale instead of the frozen spinach.  Just steam roughly the same amount by weight with the carrots.  The Kashi thing I referenced earlier has pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) on top of it.  Totally do that if you want.  Put about 1/4 cup on before the casserole goes in the oven.  They’ll add a great crunch and smidge more protein.  I would have, but I didn’t have any in my cupboard.  Also, you can blend the sauce with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender) if you want a smoother consistency.  I like mine a bit more rustic.  Also, I’m lazy.