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This addictive spiced paneer is an easy appetizer that is ready in 15 minutes. The paneer pieces are nicely browned on the outside and chewy in the center. Enjoy it with my coconut rice!

One of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants is paneer. It is a fresh cheese (i.e., not aged like parmesan) that is common within Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Paneer has a chewy texture and generally doesn’t have much flavor on its own. To add flavor to the paneer, you can dice the paneer into cubes and add it to flavorful sauces or you can pan fry them.

Although I order paneer in restaurants often, I had never tasted fried paneer until I cooked a curried paneer recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India. (By the way, if you enjoy vegetarian Indian cooking, that cookbook is definitely worth flipping through.) When I bit into the fried paneer pieces for the first time, the texture reminded me of fried halloumi. The paneer pieces crisp on the outside but chewy and slightly rubbery in the center. I know the word “rubbery” might not be the most appetizing way to describe a dish, but in this case, it is a lot more pleasant that it seems.

For this recipe, which I adapted from Vegetarian India, I mixed olive oil with the spices before tossing the spiced oil with the paneer. This allows the spices to coat the paneer more evenly. You should serve the paneer as soon as they’re done because the paneer pieces harden once it cools. If you’re looking to serve the paneer with something else, try my coconut rice!

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Spiced Pan-Fried Paneer

This paneer should be served immediately. If you have any leftovers, the best way to reheat them is to pan fry them again. You can double the recipe for a larger batch

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 7 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 4
Ingredients
  • 7 to 8 ounces paneer
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Optional Toppings

  • paprika
  • chopped chives
  • flaky sea salt
Instructions
  1. Cut the paneer into thin slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Then, cut each slice into 1-inch pieces. Transfer the paneer into a mixing bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika, and salt together. Drizzle this spiced oil over the paneer and toss to coat with the spices. You may need to use your hands to rub the spices into the paneer.
  3. Heat a skillet with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the paneer pieces and pan fry for about 3 to 4 minutes, until they are golden brown. Flip the pieces over to pan fry the other side. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the fried paneer to a plate.
  4. Dust the paneer with paprika. Sprinkle with chopped chives and a small pinch of flaky sea salt, if desired. Serve immediately.
Notes

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Amount for 1/4 of Recipe: Calories: 157, Total Fat 15.2g, Saturated Fat: 1.3g,Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 437mg, Total Carbohydrate: 0.4g, Dietary Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 0g, Protein 5.6g

The post Spiced Pan-Fried Paneer appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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This cool cucumber salad is the perfect appetizer. It’s garlicky, tangy, and spicy. They’re great when served with my coconut rice, egg fried rice, or teriyaki noodle stir fry

When I lived in Nanjing nearly 10 years ago, I was introduced to a delicious garlicky cucumber dish known as 涼拌黃瓜 (liang ban hua gua). It was a very simple dish, merely cucumbers tossed with a marinade of garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and salt. What surprised me was how addictive such a simple dish could be. I loved those cucumber chunks in all of its garlicky splendor.

In China, this dish is often prepared with chunks of cucumber that are smashed with a meat cleaver. I decided to slice the cucumbers instead because I like eating them as delicate slivers. Many recipes I’ve seen also use Chinkiang (or Zhenjiang, 鎮江) vinegar, which you can find in Chinese supermarkets. I used rice vinegar here instead because it is much easier to source. The standard rice vinegar you find at supermarkets won’t have the same malty notes as Chinkiang vinegar, but it still works well in this recipe.

In terms of the variety of cucumber, I used Persian cucumbers because they’re thin-skinned, and they don’t have tough seeds like conventional cucumbers. English cucumbers are great substitutes if Persian cucumbers are difficult to find. Because English cucumbers are longer and thicker than Persian cucumbers, you’ll probably need only one of them.

Served this cucumber salad with my coconut rice, egg fried rice, or teriyaki noodle stir fry!

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Garlicky & Spicy Cucumber Salad

To make a larger batch, double the recipe. 

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2 to 3
Ingredients
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 to 5 Persian cucumbers (about 11 to 12 ounces)*
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, stir the garlic, sea salt, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to taste. I used 1 teaspoon of it. Let the marinade sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Trim the edges off the cucumber. Slice the cucumbers in half and slice the cucumber halves into thin slices. Transfer the cucumber slices to a bowl. Drizzle the garlic marinade over the cucumber and toss everything together.
  3. Serve the cucumbers immediately. You can prep the cucumber salad a few hours ahead. I don’t like preparing it overnight because the cucumbers won’t look as fresh.
Notes

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Amount for 1/2 of Recipe: Calories: 51, Total Fat 0.3g, Saturated Fat: 0g,Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 148mg, Total Carbohydrate: 11.6g, Dietary Fiber: 1.1g, Sugar: 6.5g, Protein 1.8g

  • *You can also use English or Japanese cucumbers for this.

The post Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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This simple chili oil belongs in your pantry. You only need several ingredients: oil, pepper flakes, ginger, garlic, and salt. The chili oil is perfect for dumplings, noodles, and pretty much any dish that you think can use a bit of spice.  

Chili oil (辣椒油) is a big staple of Chinese cuisine, especially when you are talking about Sichuan food. The combination of oil and red pepper flakes give chili oil that hallmark bright red hue, and it is often used as a condiment for dumpling and noodle dishes. A characteristic of Sichuan-style chili oil is the use of Sichuan peppercorns and dried pepper flakes, which impart mala (麻辣) flavor to the oil. Ma (麻) means “numbing,” and it refers to the tongue-numbing sensation when you bite into a Sichuan peppercorn. La (辣) means “spicy.”

For nearly a year, I have been trying to find a chili oil recipe that I genuinely enjoyed. I have tried recipes where I simply pour hot oil over red pepper flakes, but I thought the chili oil lacked flavor. Then, I tried recipes where I simmered oil with spices (such as cinnamon, star anise, and fennel) before pouring over the pepper flakes. While this method imparted a bit more flavor to the oil, it took a long time to prepare. Finally, taking inspiration from my garlic, ginger, and scallion oil recipe, I came up with a simple chili oil recipe that not only brings the heat but also great flavor.

I minced ginger and garlic finely and added these spices to a bowl that I filled with pepper flakes and some salt. Then, I heated oil for several minutes (until it reached about 325ºF) before pouring the oil over the spices.

As I poured the hot oil into the bowl, I could immediately smell the wonderful fragrance of the spices. That’s when I knew I had a hit. Mincing the garlic and ginger releases much more flavor than simmering whole cloves of garlic and sliced ginger in oil. Another added bonus was that my chili oil took less time to prepare than most of the other recipes I tried.

In my chili oil recipe, I decided to omit other spices that other recipes recommend, such as cinnamon sticks, star anise, and bay leaves. Although you would be able to smell those spices in the oil, you can barely taste them. Plus, I prefer chili oil without those spices anyway. In the interest of keeping the ingredients list short, I think that you can make a great batch of chili oil with just pepper flakes, oil, ginger, garlic, and salt.

COOKING NOTES FOR THE CHILI OIL
  • Use pepper flakes with varying levels of heat: I like my chili oil to be a bit spicy—not so much spice that will make me reach for a glass of milk every few seconds, but some level of heat. That’s why I used hot red pepper flakes, which you should find at any grocery store. The pepper flakes should be spicy when you bite into it. I also like spreading the pepper flake “sediment” in chili oil onto my dishes, which is why I also add mild pepper flakes. I used gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), which gives the chili oil a gentle smoky flavor, and I find it in my natural foods stores and Korean markets. Sichuan chili powder or chili flakes also work for this recipe, and you can usually find it in Asian supermarkets. If either the gochugaru or Sichuan chili powder is difficult for you to find, you can omit it.
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How to Make Chili Oil

This is my basic chili oil recipe. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer.

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes (includes resting time)
  • Yield: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes*
  • 4 tablespoons gochugaru or Sichuan pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola or neutral oil
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients into a large ceramic, porcelain, or glass bowl (basically, anything that is heat proof).
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. The temperature should reach somewhere around 325ºF. When you swirl the oil in the pan, the oil should be like the consistency of water. Turn off the heat.
  3. Carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl with the spices. The oil will sizzle a lot when it first hits the spices and then fizzle as it cools. Let the oil reach room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes). If you are apprehensive about pouring hot oil into a bowl, pour the spices into the saucepan instead. To prevent the spices from burning, make sure to take the saucepan is off the stove before adding the spices. Swirl the spices with a wooden spoon for about a minute.
  4. Give the oil a stir before using. Drizzle the oil with noodles and spoon some of the “sediment” onto your dishes. Store the oil in a jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Notes
  • *The amount of hot pepper flakes you use depend on your taste. I used 4 teaspoons, and it produced an oil that was not too aggressive in spice.
  • Half batches: You can halve the recipe if you want to make a smaller batch. Note that oil may heat up a lot faster in the saucepan.
  • Finding the right amount of spice: I recommend starting off with 1 tablespoon of hot pepper flakes for the recipe to see if that is enough heat for you. It may take you several tries before you figure out the optimal amount of spice.

The post How to Make Chili Oil appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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This vegan teriyaki noodle stir fry is the perfect weeknight meal. It is packed with flavor and ready in less than 30 minutes.

Now that you know how I make my teriyaki sauce, let me show you how I use it in my weeknight stir fries. It should come as no surprise that I often cook noodles for dinner, and stir frying is my favorite way to prepare them. Typically, I start by cooking the aromatics (onions, garlic, ginger, etc.). Then, I’ll add the vegetables, protein, and noodles and season everything with a sauce, like my teriyaki sauce or honey chili sauce. Teriyaki sauce is great because it imparts savory and umami flavors to the noodles.

For this recipe, I used fried tofu, which had already been fully cooked. If you want to cook meat with the dish, I recommend adding the the meat before you add the vegetables to give the meat enough time to cook through.

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Teriyaki Noodle Stir Fry (Vegan)
  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces wide rice noodles
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 4 to 5 ounces baby bok choy (see notes for how to prep bok choy)
  • 10 ounces fried tofu, sliced (can sub with extra firm tofu)
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • salt
  • 4 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, add more to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring about 6 to 7 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add the rice noodles and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often to break the noodles apart. The cooking time will be less if you are using very thin rice noodles. Darin and rinse the noodles under cold water. Transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss with the sesame oil. This will keep the noodles from sticking together.
  2. Heat a large wok or sauté pan with the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions start to soften. Add the carrots and bok choy and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes more. Next, add the tofu, sliced scallions, and a pinch of salt and stir everything together. Cook until the tofu is heated though. Finally, add the noodles and teriyaki sauce and toss to combine everything with the sauce. Taste and add more teriyaki sauce or salt as necessary.
  3. Serve the noodles immediately.
Notes
  • The way I prepare my baby bok choy is to trim off the bottom of a head of bok choy. A lot of dirt gets trapped down there, so I like to slice the bottoms off. Peel off the larger leaves that are still attached to the center stem. Once you reach the center where there are about 4 or 5 smaller leaves attached to the stem, stop peeling. This part is known as the choy sum (菜心), or the heart fo the vegetable. Slice the choy sum down the middle. Rinse the baby bok choy thoroughly in water before cooking.
  • You can add more vegetables or tofu to this dish if you like. You may need to adjust the amount of sauce and salt in the dish.
  • I usually purchase my fried tofu from the Asian markets. Packaged baked tofu is a great substitute for the fried tofu.

The post Teriyaki Noodle Stir Fry (Vegan) appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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I finally cracked the code on making the flakiest scallion pancakes! They’re thin and crisp on the outside, and when you rip them open, you’ll see all the wonderful layers. Serve them as an appetizer or for dinner!

Scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) is one of those traditional Chinese dishes that will please a crowd. In general, they are pan fried so that they get nice and crispy on the outside. The sign of a good scallion pancake are the flaky layers of dough you find on the inside of the pancake. When I say flaky, I don’t mean buttery pie crust kind of flaky. Rather, when you rip open a scallion pancake, you should see thin, overlapping layers of dough. It gives the pancakes a light airy quality in the center so that it doesn’t feel as if you’re biting into a dense cake.

It took me a while to figure out the best method for making scallion pancakes. In the past, I rolled out small balls of dough into a relatively thin circle, rolled that circle up into a tight log, and curled that circle into a snail-like shape. Then, I would roll out that curled dough into a thin circle again, and pan fried the pancakes (see my post here for the full recipe). Although the pancakes tasted fine, I still believed that I could come up with a better recipe. After watching many, many YouTube videos, I finally developed a better method for the recipe!

KEYS TO MAKING EXTRA FLAKY SCALLION PANCAKES
  • Roll out the dough as thinly as possible: When you first roll the dough, you want to make sure to roll it out as thinly as possible. You almost want to be able to see through the dough to the board (or countertop) underneath the dough. This helps create the thin, airy layers inside the pancake when you rip it open.
  • Oil your work surface: Most recipes call for rolling out the dough on a floured surface, and that’s what I had done as well. However, I found that I can roll out the dough more thinly on an oiled surface because the dough doesn’t retract to the center as often. As you roll out the dough, you’ll find that the dough is quite elastic and constantly shrinks back when you. I found that the oil helps the dough grip onto the work surface, allowing you to roll out a thinner pancake.
  • Gather the rolled out dough into a rope versus rolling it into a tight log: Many, many recipes that I’ve seen (including the one I previously created) direct readers to roll up the dough into a tight log after the initial rolling. I actually think this creates pancakes with a denser center. In this recipe, I want you to gently fold the dough into thirds, lengthwise, and then fold everything over again once more. You don’t need to be too precise with this. Then you gather all the dough as if it was a long rope that you then curl into a snail-like shape. You don’t need to curl the dough tightly either.
  • The final rollout: Right before cooking the pancakes, you’ll take the curled-up dough and roll it out into a big thin pancake. Again, I find that rolling this out on an oiled surface will yield thinner pancakes.

ADDITIONAL COOKING NOTES FOR THE SCALLION PANCAKES
  • Making the dough ahead: I usually prep the dough a day ahead. I place the kneaded ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl with 2 layers of plastic wrap: one layer that sits snugly right above the dough and another layer that covers the bowl on the top. This helps keep condensation from developing around the dough. You can keep the dough in your fridge for 1 to 2 days before you make the pancakes.
  • Rolling the dough on a marble pastry board vs wooden board: I get that not everyone has both of these things at home, but because I’ve tried both methods, I thought I’d share my notes. I like rolling the dough out on a marble pastry board slightly more because I can get the thinnest layers. However, it can get VERY slippery, especially if you greased the board generously. It is much easier to roll out the dough on a wooden board because the dough grips onto the board more. I haven’t tried rolling it out on my countertop, but I imagine that it would be similar to my marble slab.
  • Do not transfer the cooked pancakes to paper towel-lined plates: I know it’s customary to transferred fried foods to plates lined with paper towels, but don’t do it here. If possible, transfer them to a wire cooling rack or a plate. Paper towels will cause the scallion pancakes to soften faster.

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Extra Flaky Scallion Pancakes with Shallots

I love eating these pancakes as they are without any type of sauce because the five-spice powder on the inside provides the right amount of seasoning. If you like sauces, however, you can dip the pancakes in a soy sauce and vinegar dip (recipe here) or you can try my honey chili sauce!

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 Pancakes
Ingredients
  • 300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 185g (3/4 cup + 2 tbs) water at room temperature
  • canola oil for rolling dough and frying
  • 1/2 cup finely diced shallots
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (dark green part only)
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
Instructions

Make the Dough

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Gradually pour in the water, stirring the flour with a wooden spoon or chopsticks as you pour the flour.
  2. Once the water is all absorbed by the flour, start kneading the dough together with your hands. When you have incorporated all the loose flour into the dough, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for another 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should be elastic and quite smooth on the top. To see if the dough has been kneaded enough, rip out a golf ball-sized piece of dough, and pull it apart gently, as if you are tugging the dough at 4 corners. You should be able to stretch the dough out enough so that the center is translucent without the dough ripping apart. One or two minor tears around your fingers is okay. Shape the dough into a ball.
  3. Lightly grease a bowl with oil and place the ball of dough inside. Cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, which is what I prefer (see notes below for instructions).

Prepare the Shallots

  1. Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes, until they start to soften.
  2. Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked shallots into a bowl.

Shape the Pancakes (use photos above for reference)

  1. Take the rested dough out of the bowl and divide it into 4 pieces, about 120g to 125g each. Shape each piece into a ball. Cover the balls of dough with a dry towel or piece of plastic wrap.
  2. Lightly grease your work surface with oil (can be a large wooden board or marble slab. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. The dough should be thin enough that you can almost see the surface underneath. I never roll out a perfectly shaped rectangle, so do not worry if yours look lopsided. Also don’t sweat about any small tears you might create when rolling out the dough.
  3. Pour about 2 teaspoons of oil over the rolled out dough and use your hands to rub over the surface. Lightly dust the dough with about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder (I used this dusting wand). Sprinkle a quarter of the cooked shallots and sliced scallions over the dough. Fold the dough into thirds: grab the bottom length of the dough and fold it over the center of the dough, leaving a third of the dough unfolded. Next, grab the top third of the dough and fold it down over the center. Give everything one more fold. Don’t fold the dough too tightly—a little bit of air in between the folds is perfectly fine. Gather the dough together and give it a little tug on the ends to stretch out the dough just a little.
  4. Starting from one end, start curling the dough, creating a snail-like shape. You can either tuck the other end underneath the curled up dough or lay it on top. Repeat for the other remaining balls of dough, making sure to grease the work surface again if necessary.

Cook the Pancakes

  1. Lightly grease the work surface again. Take one of the curled up balls of dough and roll it out into a thin circle. The rolling might force out some of the shallots and scallions, and that’s okay. It happens to me all the time.
  2. Heat a 12-inch skillet with 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Transfer the pancake to the pan and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes, until the pancakes are golden brown, flipping about halfway through. Transfer the pancakes to a wire cooling rack. If you don’t have a rack, transfer the cooked pancakes to an plate.
  3. While one pancake is cooking, roll out the next one. Add more oil to the pan and cook the remaining pancakes. These scallion pancakes are best consumed while they’re still warm. You can tear them apart or cut them into small wedges. Serve on their own or with your favorite dipping sauce.
Notes
  • I often make this dough with my standing mixer. I usually use my dough hook attachment for mixing and let the mixer run on low for about 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Not all five-spice powders are created equal. My favorite is the Taiwanese Wu Hsing brand, which I find only in Asian supermarkets. You can use another brand that you prefer.

The post Flaky Scallion Pancakes with Shallots appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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This simple teriyaki sauce comes together in less than 10 minutes. It is great for stir fries, marinating, or even as a dip!

My pantry isn’t complete without a good teriyaki sauce. I love tossing it with pan-fried tofu or using it as a stir-fry sauce. However, I can’t bring myself to buy it at the store because those sauces usually contain too much sugar. Whenever I cook with the pre-made sauces, I end up adding much more salt to my food to balance out the sweetness. That’s why I started making my own teriyaki sauce.

Besides soy sauce and sugar, one important ingredient that gives teriyaki sauce its deep, rich flavor is mirin. Mirin is a Japanese rice-based cooking wine that has a lower alcohol content than sake and is usually lightly sweetened. It gives teriyaki sauces that characteristic rich umami flavor. I see many teriyaki sauce recipes online that omit mirin, and I can’t help but be skeptical of them. Without mirin, all you really have is sweetened soy sauce. You can usually find mirin in the Asian section of your grocery store or at your local Asian supermarket.

One thing to note, you might find bottles of “aji-mirin” at your local store. Aji mirin translates to “mirin-flavored.” They taste just like mirin but contains slightly more sugar. It works just fine for this recipe.

Some teriyaki sauce recipes call for equal parts of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Because I don’t typically keep sake around the house, I used water instead. I think the sauce still has great flavor without the sake.

WAYS TO USE THE TERIYAKI SAUCE

You can pan fry tofu and toss the cooked tofu with teriyaki sauce for flavor.

You can also use the sauce to flavor stir-fried noodles.

RECIPE INSPIRATION Print
How to Make Teriyaki Sauce

If you think 3 tablespoons of sugar is too much, feel free to reduce the amount to 2 tablespoons of sugar. If you are not vegan, consider using honey! It adds great flavor to the sauce. I also like my teriyaki sauce to be slightly thick, which is why I included cornstarch. Feel free to omit it. 

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons mirin
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Add the soy sauce, mirin, 5 tablespoons of water, sugar, garlic and ginger to a saucepan. Use the remaining tablespoon of water to dilute the cornstarch. Set the cornstarch slurry aside.
  2. Mix everything in the saucepan and bring it to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Give the cornstarch slurry a quick stir and pour it into the saucepan. Stir to combine. Let the sauce cook for another 1 to 2 minutes so that the sauce thickens slightly. Turn off the heat.
  3. Let the teriyaki sauce cool to room temperature before pouring it into a jar. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Notes

If you want to make a smaller batch of sauce, halve the recipe.

The post How to Make Teriyaki Sauce appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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Braising artichokes is one of the easiest ways to prepare the vegetable. These simple braised artichokes are served with a spicy and tangy mandarin chili sauce. 

Thank you Safeway for sponsoring this post!

The first time I ever really thought about artichokes was my freshman year of college, when I was meeting people in the dorms. One of my now good friends from college grew up in Castroville, and I had never heard of the town. He went on to say that Castroville was the artichoke capital of the world and that it hosted an annual artichoke festival. I thought to myself, “Artichokes?? Interesting.” Little did I know that over 10 years later, artichokes would become one of my favorite vegetables and that I would visit an artichoke farm based in Castroville!

Over the next year, I will be participating in several blogger tours and events with Safeway to learn more about their Northern California-based vendors. Our first tour included a visit to Ocean Mist Farms, the largest grower of artichokes in the U.S. I had never seen artichoke plants before the farm tour. When we arrived at Ocean Mist Farms, I was blown away by the vast fields of green plants with artichoke buds peeking through the top.

The artichokes are hand harvested and packed right on the field to retain its freshness. Farm workers walk up and down the fields, cutting off artichokes from the stalk. Then, they’ll toss the artichokes into canastas, or large lightweight baskets, that they carry on their backs. It wasn’t until I witnessed this harvesting process that I fully realized how much labor goes into producing artichokes. It made me appreciate all the hard work that the farming community does in order to produce the fruits and vegetables that I find at the grocery store.

Another thing I learned during the tour was that each artichoke plant has one primary stalk, which produces the largest artichokes we see on the market. Shooting off of the primary stalk are secondary and tertiary stalks, which produce medium-sized and baby artichokes, respectively. Canned artichokes usually come from tertiary stalks. Artichokes are also have a lot of antioxidants, and a medium bud can contain up to 6 grams of fiber!

Towards the end of the tour, Safeway treated all of us to a catered lunch in the artichoke fields. The lunch featured dishes made from a selection of Ocean Mist Farms produce, Sun Pacific Cuties, and Safeway O Organics, as well as bubbles from Chandon. It was a beautiful meal, and we all got goodie bags filled with artichokes, Cuties, and some sparkling rosé to inspire our next recipes.

I didn’t grow up eating artichokes, so for the longest time, I was intimidated by the thought of cooking them. Having cooked them for a few years now, I realized that the preparation is not as daunting as I once thought. There’s just a few things that you need to keep in mind when cooking artichokes.

PREPARING THE BRAISED ARTICHOKES
  • Cut off the top portion of the artichoke: There is virtually no flesh on the tips of the leaves at the top, so trim off the top 1/4 or 1/3 of the artichoke.
  • Use scissors to trim off thorns: After removing the tops of the artichokes, use kitchen shears to cut off the tips of all the remaining leaves. There’s often prickly thorns on the tops of the leaves, especially when you’re working with larger artichokes.
  • Peel the skin on the stem: Using a paring knife or peeler, peel off the outer skin of the stem. The inner portion of the stem is edible but the outer skin is bitter, so peel it off.
  • Remove the choke: Slice the artichoke in half and remove the fuzzy portion of the artichoke, also known as the “choke.” If you are working with larger artichokes, the leaves (often purple in color) in the center may be very thorny. I usually cut off those thorny leaves as well. They don’t soften completely once cooked.
  • Coat opened artichokes with lemon juice: Much like potatoes and apples, artichokes oxidize very quickly once you slice them open. Covering the stem and cut side of the artichoke with lemon juice will keep it from browning.

For this recipe, I paired braised artichokes with a mandarin chili sauce made with the juice from the Cuties. The sweet citrus flavor of the Cuties paired with the heat from the chili flakes made a wonderful sauce and dip for the artichokes. Honestly, I ate all the artichokes you see in the photos in one sitting. Sipping on a glass of Chandon sparkling rosé was just the perfect touch for me weeknight dinner.

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Braised Artichokes with Mandarin Chili Sauce

This recipe works with 2 to 3 medium artichokes. I could only fit 2 in my pan, which is why I listed 2 artichokes in the ingredients. 

I used a standard vegetable broth for braising my artichokes, but if you have another broth you enjoy, use it to cook the artichokes! The artichokes will soak up the flavors from the broth.

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 2 braised artichokes
Ingredients
  • water for soaking the artichokes
  • 3 large lemons, sliced into wedges
  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice
  • zest from 1 mandarin orange
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar works also)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
Instructions
  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the bowl of water and toss the lemon wedges into the bowl of water. Set the bowl aside.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top 1/3 portion of an artichoke. Then, using kitchen sheers, trim off the tips of the remaining leaves to remove the thorns. Squeeze the juice from a lemon wedge over the cut side to keep the artichoke from browning.
  3. If your artichoke comes with the stems attached, trim the stem so that you have about 1 1/2 inches of stem remaining. Peel off any small leaves on the stem and around the base of the artichoke. With a paring knife or vegetable peeler, peel off the outer skin of the stem. Squeeze lemon juice on the stem and rub it around.
  4. Place the artichoke on the cutting board, cut side down, so that the stem is sticking up. Slice the artichoke down the middle. Squeeze lemon juice all over each half. You can also rub the lemon wedges on the artichokes.
  5. Use a knife or spoon to scoop out the fuzzy choke. Be careful because the leaves right above the choke may be thorny. If they are, use kitchen shears to cut them off. Squeeze more lemon juice into the cavity where the choke once was. Place the artichokes into the bowl of water. Repeat with the other artichoke.
  6. Heat a large pan with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the artichokes to the pan, cut side down. Cook the artichokes for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the vegetable broth into the pan. There should be enough broth in the pan so that it goes up the sides of the artichoke by about 1/2 inch.
  7. Bring the broth to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and let the artichokes cook for 20 to 25 minutes. The artichokes are done when a knife easily slices down the base of the artichoke, an indication that the artichoke heart is tender. Transfer the artichokes to a plate.
  8. Pour the broth into a bowl. Return 1/3 cup of broth to the pan. Add the mandarin orange juice, mandarin orange zest, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and black pepper to the pan. Stir to combine the ingredients. Heat the sauce over medium-high heat. Once the liquids start to boil, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Pour the slurry into the pan and stir. The cornstarch helps thicken the sauce. Let the sauce cook for another 1 to 2 minutes and turn off the heat.
  9. Drizzle some of the sauce over the artichokes and save the rest for dipping.
  10. The tender flesh on the insides of the artichoke are edible! The outermost leaves of the artichoke aren’t too fleshy, so you may have to peel off one or two layers of artichoke leaves before you reach the fleshier ones. Use your teeth to scrape off the flesh from the leaves. Dip the leaves in the mandarin chili sauce for more flavor.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Safeway. You can find all the ingredients for this recipe at your local Safeway or purchase them through Safeway Home Delivery (powered by Instacart). Use the promo code TENFREE to receive $10 off + FREE delivery on your first online order when you spend $35 or more. Service through and subject to the terms and conditions of the third-party delivery provider, Instacart. An Instacart account is required in order to use the promo code. Special pricing and fees may apply. Service available in select areas. Enter your zip code online to find if service is available in your location. Offer limited to first-time Instacart users and must be used within 7 days of signup. Minimum order of $35 before taxes, fees, discounts, deposits required. Offer expires 6/30/2018. See additional terms at https://bit.ly/instacartterms. Other delivery options available. For pricing, fees and terms, see shop.safeway.com.

The post Braised Artichokes with Mandarin Chili Sauce appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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Ever wondered how to cook the perfect quinoa? Here is a guide on how to cook quinoa three ways: stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot. 

I cook quinoa often, and I never seem to remember how much water I need to use to cook it. If you look at my online search history, “how to cook quinoa” is probably right up there at the top. Rather than continue this ongoing cycle of typing in the same search query every month, I decided it was finally time to develop my own spreadsheet of cooking times for quinoa (along with other grains and legumes). It is so handy!

As I prepared for this post, I found that a lot of existing recipes for cooking quinoa in the slow cooker and Instant Pot use too much water. As a result, the quinoa is too soft and mushy for my taste. I think that the amount of water you use to cook quinoa should vary depending on the cooking method. Cooking on the stovetop requires the most water and the Instant Pot method the least amount. Feel free to play around with the amount of water to get the quinoa to be the texture you prefer.

COOKING NOTES FOR THE QUINOA
  • Finding the right cooking time for the slow cooker. I have an All-Clad slow cooker with a ceramic bowl, and the quinoa cooked relatively quickly. The quinoa around the edges browned at around 2 1/2 hours, so I turned off the slow cooker. The quinoa was already cooked through. Do a test batch in your slow cooker and see if 2 1/2 hours is enough time for you.
HOW TO USE YOUR COOKED QUINOA: A FEW RECIPES TOOLS I USED Print
How to Cook Quinoa 3 Ways: Stovetop, Slow Cooker & Instant Pot
  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Yield: About 4 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse the quinoa.
  2. STOVETOP METHOD: Add 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring the water to boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cover the saucepan with a lid. Cook for another 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered for another 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and serve.
  3. SLOW COOKER METHOD: Add 1 cup of quinoa, 1 3/4 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the slow cooker. Cook the quinoa on low for about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. One important thing to note here is that a different brand of slow cooker may take a longer time. Do a test on your slow cooker first to figure out the appropriate time. Once the quinoa is ready, fluffy it with a fork and serve.
  4. INSTANT POT METHOD: Add 1 cup of quinoa, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the instant pot. Set the Instant Pot manual mode and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off, let it rest for 10 minutes. Release any remaining pressure and remove the lid. Fluff up the quinoa and serve.

The post How to Cook Quinoa 3 Ways: Stovetop, Slow Cooker & Instant Pot appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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This vegan green papaya salad is a delicious light appetizer. It is dressed with a tangy and mildly sweet dressing made of rice vinegar, garlic, shallots, soy sauce and maple syrup.

One of my favorite dishes in Southeast Asian cuisine is green papaya salad. It’s tangy and light, and it does exactly what it is supposed to do: prepare our appetite for the main meal.

This papaya salad is made from green papaya. It comes from the same fruit as orange papaya, but the harvesting of the fruit at an earlier stage of development leads to its green color. Green papaya is crisp (but not juicy) and it has a very mild flavor, even more mild than cucumbers. It reminds me a lot of kohlrabi.

Green papaya salads are often flavored with lime, chilies, garlic, fish sauce, dried seafood, and sugar. In this vegan version, I substituted the fish sauce with soy sauce and used maple syrup to sweeten the dressing. If you like the bright flavors of lime juice, feel free to substitute of few tablespoons of the rice vinegar with lime juice.

It is more common to top the salad with toasted peanuts, but I’m using toasted sunflower seeds instead. Sunflower seeds are inexpensive, and I don’t think we use it enough!

COOKING NOTES FOR THE GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
  • Shredding the papaya: In the recipe, I explain a method which involves constantly tapping at the papaya with a knife and carefully slicing of layers of shredded papaya. This process can be quite tiring on the wrist and forearm. For a video of the shredding technique, watch this video. Another way to shred the papaya is to slice it in half lengthwise. Then, use a spoon to remove the seeds and strings. After removing the seeds, from the papaya, slice each half into quarters. Next, make very thin slices of papaya using a mandoline. Gather up the sliced papaya and julienne them into thin strips. A third method is to grate the papaya with a box grater, though I haven’t tested this method myself.
  • Using a julienne peeler: I’ve tried shredding the green papaya with a julienne peeler and the cross blade of my mandoline, but neither option worked well. I simply couldn’t push the papaya through the cross blade, and the julienne peeler just scraped the surface of the papaya without making any shreds.

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Green Papaya Salad (Vegan)

This salad is great for making ahead. It will keep for 1 to 2 days in the fridge. Wait until you are ready to serve the salad to mix in the chopped mint and toasted sunflower seeds. 

Recipe adapted from the Green Papaya Salad in Cameron Stauch’s Vegetarian Viet Nam.

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6
Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots (optional)
  • 1 to 2 bird’s eye chili pepper (Thai chili pepper), sliced*

Salad

  • 1 medium green papaya (you’ll need about 4 1/2 cups shredded green papaya)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 to 2 persian cucumbers, julienned
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed mint leaves, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
Instructions
  1. Prepare the dressing: Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare the papaya: Slice off the ends of the green papaya. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outer skin. Hold the peeled papaya with one hand and tap the papaya with a sharp knife with the other other. You should see shallow knife marks on the papaya. Carefully slice off a layer of the papaya (where you have been tapping), creating green papaya shreds. Watch this video for the technique. If this method seems a bit dangerous or tiring to you, see the notes above for an alternative shredding method. You only need about 4 1/2 cups of shredded green papaya.
  3. Toss the salad: In a large bowl, mix the green papaya, carrots, cucumber, mint and sunflower seeds. Pour in the dressing that’s been marinating and toss to coat the vegetables with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Notes

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Amount for 1/6 of Recipe: Calories: 110, Total Fat 3.6g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g,Cholesterol: 00mg, Sodium: 489mg, Total Carbohydrate: 17.3g, Dietary Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 10.7g, Protein 2.6g

  • *These chiles are quite spicy, so 1 is usually good enough for me. Feel free to go for 2 if you love the spice!
  • You’ll probably have a lot of dressing settling at the bottom of the mixing bowl. I usually drain the dressing and save it for another salad.
  • You can also add other vegetables to this dressing, such as tomatoes and bell peppers.

The post Green Papaya Salad (Vegan) appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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These red curry tofu dumplings are great for parties or dinner! The dumplings are made with a braided pleat for a fun presentation (here is a video on how I pleated the dumplings). If the pleating seems complicated, there is nothing wrong with folding the dumplings in half and cooking them that way. They will still taste amazing! Plus, I’m giving away a $100 gift card to Nugget Markets. Scroll down for the details.

Thank you to Nugget Markets for sponsoring this post and the giveaway!

I don’t always have a game plan when I go to the grocery store. Sure, I may have a list of items to buy, but I love the process of meandering through the aisles to see if anything piques my interest. My penchant for wandering around is the precise reason why my husband hates grocery shopping with me. I can’t help myself.

Nugget Markets is designed for shoppers like me who like to peruse. I particularly love their produce section because every time I walk through, I feel as if I’m greeted by a sea of bright colors. Everything looks so inviting and fresh, and I can’t help but load up my cart with fruits and vegetables. I kid you not, I spend at least 15 minutes in that corner of the market every time I shop.

I recently met with the Director of Produce at Nugget Markets, Adam, who was kind enough to sit with me and talk more about how they source and stock their produce. First and foremost, Nugget Markets strives to provide fresh, quality, seasonal produce for its customers. They receive shipments at least several times a week to ensure fresh produce in the stores. Every single time I walk into Nugget, I’ll see one or two associates replenishing the stock. To reduce waste, blemished produce are set aside in large compost bins that will be picked up and repurposed for agricultural use. Adam also shared that he is constantly looking for new produce to feature in his stores. That’s great for food enthusiasts like me. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the wide range of produce I can find, including fresh turmeric, napa cabbage, tomatillos, and asian eggplant.

Nugget Markets even carries the ingredients I need to make dumplings! You can find all the items you need to make these red curry tofu dumplings at Nugget.

To celebrate the return of spring, I’m giving away a $100 gift card to Nugget Markets! Entering the giveaway is easy. Each person can submit up to 5 entries. You can comment on this blog post, subscribe to my YouTube channel, or visit my Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest pages for a chance to win. After you complete each entry, be sure to come back to the widget and hit “Continue” to make sure that it records your entry properly. That’s it! The contest ends on May 5, 2018 at 11:59pm PST. Good luck!

$100 Nugget Gift Card April 2018

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Red Curry Tofu Dumplings

You can freeze these dumplings! Line the finished dumplings on plates or a baking sheet and stick them right into the freezer. After the dumplings harden, transfer them to freezer bags. When you are ready to cook the dumplings, stick them directly onto the pan. There is no need to defrost the dumplings

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 40 to 50 dumplings
Ingredients
  • 14-ounce package of firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, plus more for frying dumplings
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups finely sliced napa cabbage
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 40 to 50 round dumpling wrappers
  • water for wrapping dumplings, plus more for cooking

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
Instructions
  1. Press the tofu: Drain the tofu from the package and wrap the tofu with a layer of paper towels. Place the block of tofu on top of a plate and place a small stack of plates over the tofu. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Unwrap the tofu block and divide it into 2 pieces. Crumble the tofu by squeezing it in your hands. Set the crumbled tofu aside.
  2. Cook the filling: Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook a minute more. Next, add the cabbage and scallions and cook until the cabbage starts to wilt, about 2 minutes. Transfer the tofu to the pan. Add the red curry paste, coconut milk, and salt to the pan, and stir to coat the tofu and vegetables. Turn off the heat. Transfer the filling to a large bowl and let it cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the dipping sauce: Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together, until the sugar dissolves. Set the dipping sauce aside.
  4. Prep the dumpling-making station: Fill a small bowl with water for wrapping the dumplings. Grab a baking sheet for the finished dumplings and a towel to cover the dumplings to prevent them from drying out. Get a spoon for scooping the dumpling filling.
  5. Wrap the dumplings: Dip the dumpling wrapper into the bowl of water. Rotate the wrapper so that the entire rim of the wrapper is wet, creating a wet border about 1/2-inch wide. Place the wrapper on your left hand. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the wrapper. Pinch the right side of the wrapper. Using your index fingers, create a pleat and fold it to the right to seal. Create another peat and fold it to the right to seal it. Hold on to the finished pleats and drag everything toward the center of the dumpling. Create pleats to the left and right of the initial pleats and seal. Hold onto the pleats you just created and drag them toward the center of the dumpling. Create pleats to the left and right of the finished pleats and seal. Keep doing this until you reach the end. Pinch the end together to create a pointed “tail” for the dumplings. I highly recommend referring to the photos above or watch this video to get a visual of the folding technique.
  6. Cook the dumplings: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the dumplings to the pan. Let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom of the dumplings are lightly golden brown. While holding onto the lid of the pan (to use as a shield), pour 1/2 cup of water into the pan. The water will sputter everywhere, so use the pan to keep the water from hitting you. Cover the pan with the lid and let the dumplings cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and check to see if the bottoms of the dumpling are deep golden brown. If the color is still pretty light, let them cook for a minute more. Transfer the dumplings to a plate. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and cook the remaining dumplings.
  7. Serve the dumplings with the dipping sauce.
Notes

Typically, I like cooking pan-fried dumplings in my cast iron pan because it blisters the dumpling wrapper the best, creating an extra crispy skin. However, if you use thinner wrappers, the dumplings won’t lift off from the pan too well, so you’ll get a lot of dumpling wrapper stuck onto the pan. For these dumplings, I used wrappers of medium thickness and used a non-stick pan to cook the dumplings.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Nugget Markets. Visit their website for more information or follow them on Facebook or TwitterClick here find a location near you

The post Red Curry Tofu Dumplings + GIVEAWAY appeared first on Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

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