Around this time of year I start to get tired of winter and ready for warm days and spending time outdoors on the bike or in the garden. Ok, let’s be honest, I’m not just ready for spring, I’m almost chomping at the bit. I can’t wait!!! But it is still several weeks away and so this is the season when I look for ways to excite my palate and my plate with a sparkle of flavor. I want something new.
My local farmer’s market is open once a month and the organic farmers still have long keeping winter vegetables; it’s a wonderful thing to go to market on a Sunday and come away with several kinds of greens, carrots, and other roots. Alas, this weekend our organic farmer was away on vacation….which he more than deserves, but I admit I was disappointed to not fill my refrigerator with “fresh” stuff.
So back to the grocery to give myself a little winter sunshine. Pictured on the platter are several items that help me “get through the winter” until the greener pastures of spring.
Here is what I have:
Grapefruit: they’re in season and are packed with sunny flavor, very uplifting and energizing.
Dandelion greens: good for detoxing your liver, a nice bitter green that is one of the first greens available in spring (why wait?). Mix with milder greens if you like, add some apple or pear to sweeten, dress with lemon juice and flax oil or EVOO.
Belgian endive and radicchio: they just make the salad more interesting and at this point in the season we need interesting. Different texture than plain lettuce, a little more bitter in taste. I love the colors.
Kiwi: in season and reasonably priced. A burst of bright flavor in your mouth and who can resist their lovely green and black pattern!
Berries: I wouldn’t think if buying non-local berries during summer but at this time of year anything goes. I have plenty of frozen berries too, but this extravagance just helps me feel good.
Fresh herbs: I miss being able to walk to the garden and just pick a sprig of this and that to add zest to foods. Just adding some fresh parsley or cilantro to your salad or sprinkle on your soup can add so much flavor and help those winter doldrums.
Unusual fruits: pictured on the plate are two prickly pear fruits which are just one example of the many options available. The goal here is to try something new to provide that “surprise” affect. Maybe not an expense you want every week but once in a while, buy something exotic that you’ve never tried or don’t get to eat very often like fresh papaya, whole pineapple, pomegranate, mango, fresh coconut, passion fruit, and others.
What foods help you smile while you wait for spring? Send me a comment.
Going from vegetarian to vegan is not a big jump but one of the hardest foods to find a substitute for is cheese. Now, years after making the switch to vegan I find walking through the gourmet cheese aisle at the grocery rather smelly and unpleasant. But cheese adds a certain tangy and creamy flavor to salads and appetizers. I am grateful for the many nut cheese recipes available nowadays. I have tried many different recipes, some from VegNews Magazine, some from Vegetarian Times Magazine, or raw cookbooks. The process generally involves soaking cashews or almonds overnight, blending them with water, lemon juice, and other flavors, and then curing the cheese at room temperature or sometimes adding a probiotic powder to enhance the tangy flavor. If you are feeling cheese-deprived since becoming vegan or omitting dairy foods from your diet for health and food sensitivity reasons, you will love the taste of creamy nut cheeses despite the effort. I would encourage you to start with a very simple recipe and branch out from there. This vegan Brie was made from the recipe in Veg News Magazine Vegan Cheese issue of October 2012. The issue is available for purchase on the Veg News web site. I decorated mine with fresh cranberries and rosemary for the holidays. I especially love serving the vegan goat cheese to unsuspecting (and non-vegan) tasters who love it and can’t figure out what it is made from or why it tastes different but they know it’s good.
So here is a simple first-timer vegan cheese recipes to whet your appetite:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight, then drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Blend (if you have a high speed blender, otherwise use your food processor) the cashews with other ingredients until smooth. Transfer to 3 layers of cheesecloth (use unbleached) and shape into a log. Set aside covered with a towel for 14-16 hours to culture. Press the cheese into a springform pan and refrigerate for a couple hours until firm. Press crushed peppercorns or herbs onto the outside of the cheese. Spread on crackers or crumble over a salad. Enjoy!!
Passover is around the corner and there is the usual buzz in the air about the holiday food. What to make, what new recipes to try, recipe sharing. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of everything matzoh. It doesn’t make me feel good and I’m working at listening to my body more. Sure, I can get nostalgic about holiday food and remember “matzoh and butter”, or my grandmother’s lemon sponge cake, or my mother’s matzoh meal bagels. But my body doesn’t like the total disruption that making everything out of matzoh meal and matzoh cake flour causes. And as a nutrition counselor, I work with many people who can’t eat matzoh because of ingredient restrictions like wheat or gluten intolerance. Passover also causes disruption for people who can’t eat eggs or dairy since everything uses eggs for leavening, and dairy foods seem to make their way into many recipes.
Raw foods offer an answer for many of us who don’t eat wheat, gluten, dairy or eggs. Raw food desserts use ingredients like dates, nuts, seeds, fruits, spices, agave (or liquid sweetener of choice), coconut, lemons, limes. Raw foods are those that are made without heating above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. No butter, no eggs, no leavening, no wheat or gluten, and actually, they are generally healthy for you unless they contain a huge amount of agave. You can even have chocolate by using the raw cacao powder. Mmmm! Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, there are plenty of recipes that you can make.There is a recipe for a Raw Carrot Cake in Marvelous Meatless Meals.
I love the recipes in Ani Phyo’s Raw Food Desserts including her Raspberry Chocolate Ganache Cake made of dates, raw cacao, agave, avocado, raspberries; and her Pineapple Icebox Cake; and many many more. They all work for Passover and for people with ingredient restrictions (except nuts!!). One year I made a raw apple pie recipe of hers that had an almond and date crust. Or you can make a simple rich and elegant dessert by pureeing soaked cashews with some lemon juice, vanilla, and agave and using this “cream sauce” to top your fruit; better yet, make it into a parfait with layers of the cream and berries then top with nuts.
Are you very fond of Kale Chips? They make a great crunchy non-matzoh snack and can be made in the oven at 250 degrees F if you don’t have the dehydrator. I’m especially fond of kale chips using a cashew cheese sauce instead of the oil. There are plenty of recipes available on line for this.
Here is another idea: a raw zucchini lasagne, using “noodles” made of thin strips of zucchini; a homemade sauce of tomatoes/basil/garlic/sundried tomatoes/olives; a ricotta cheese made from soaked macadamia nuts or cashews, with herbs added.
I’m not saying you have to go all raw for the holiday; you don’t even have to eat all raw desserts. But you will find them easy to make, and easier to digest than matzoh-everything. And if you’re going to eat a lot of food with matzoh, make sure you’re also having plenty of raw fruits and salads to help it along…..
I’ve turned over a new leaf this year. Life is busy and I’m spending less time on cooking up actual recipes and trying to keep it really simple in the kitchen. I’m just loading the fridge with fruits and veggies, whatever looks great at the grocery or farmer’s market, and seeing what inspiration hits me at mealtime. I can’t say I’m leaving all the cooking to the last minute, last-minute isn’t really part of my personality, but by having some simple ingredients on hand like cooked whole grains, canned or cooked beans, tofu, tempeh, and plenty of veggies, the meal prep is a lot quicker than it used to be. And I’m leaving the fancy cooking for weekends when there is more time. This salad came to life the other day because of a small-sized jicama that had to be made into something before it turned into compost. There was also a 1/4 of a fresh pineapple in the fridge. The pineapple adds just the right amount of sweetness to the crunchy jicama, all brought together with tangy lime juice and zest. This is a no-oil salad that goes together with just a little chopping.
1 small to medium sized jicama, peeled and cut into slices and then into matchsticks
1/4 fresh pineapple, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
zest and juice of 1 lime
That’s it! (i sprinkled 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish)
Yesterday I had the great pleasure of being a guest on In the Aisle with Sue, an internet radio show hosted by Flemington Shop Rite registered dietitian extraordinaire Sue Lang-Saponara and we had a great conversation about Meatless Mains and why we love legumes. Anyone who knows Sue, knows that her favorite legume is the red lentil because of its soak-free quick cooking and versatility. She mentioned a delicious-sounding recipe that she makes using 5-min cooked red lentils combined with a dressing of garlic, lemon, olive oil, parsley and……well, I forget if there are any other ingredients but maybe we’ll be lucky and get her to comment on this post and tell us the whole recipe. I’ve only made red lentils into soup so I am excited to try preparing them as a whole lentil that can be used in salads or other dishes.
Speaking of quick cooking and versatility, I must tell you about some of my recent camping meals and these include one meal of red lentils. We recently returned to St John, Virgin Islands National Park, for a second visit, returning to Maho Bay Campground. This is where the cool people stay (or the ones who can’t afford the hotels and resorts). It is 118 steps to Little Maho beach and a short walk to Big Maho or Francis Bay beaches. The campground was started as an eco-resort (resort definitely being the wrong word here) in 1976 “using hand construction methods which left the natural environment virtually undisturbed”. Platform tents are connected by elevated wooden boardwalks with lots and lots and lots of stairs. This is not a place for the luggage-burdened or luxury-expectant traveler.
But check out one of the beaches. It is well worth the effort of the airplane to St. Thomas, taxi to the ferry, ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John, and 45-min island taxi to the campground.
From a food perspective camping works for us. It can be difficult finding gluten free and/or vegan options while traveling to remote places. But you’d be surprised what items you can bring (on a plane in your luggage!) to create a simple meal that meets all the ingredient-restrictions in your family. And I’m always wonderfully surprised at the accommodations some restaurants are willing to make for us, but that’s for later.
For our first trip to Maho Bay I didn’t know quite what to expect; I am a seasoned camp cook with experience creating meals on even a one-burner propane cookstove.I assumed I could get some fresh veggies at the Maho Bay camp store so I brought the kinds of things I probably couldn’t buy: Suzie’s Thin Rice Cakes, a pre-measured bag of quinoa, Tasty Bite Lentil Magic , Eden brand spicy pumpkin seeds, lots of LaraBars, a bag of gluten-free pasta. There was enough to prepare 3 dinner meals on a 2-burner propane camp stove with the addition of fresh vegetables.
This time I was prepared to do even better, and we had an additional family member so the meals would have to feed more people. Here’s where the red lentils come in! I brought a bag of red lentils (double bagged for packing in luggage in case of bursting), a head of garlic, some dried onion flakes, a baggie with pre-measured spices (1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp turmeric), and 1 GF bouillon cube for my red lentil soup. I cooked the entire bag of lentils with the bouillon and 8 c water. Purchased an onion and lemon from the camp store ($3 lemon!). Sauteed the onion and some garlic in olive oil until brown, added the spices to that and combined this with the cooked red lentils. The juice of the lemon is added to the pot of soup at the very end of cooking. Delicious after a full day of sun and sand, and very quick to prepare in less-than-ideal conditions. Not sure what the other campers thought of the smells coming from our tent cottage but oh well.
On this trip I also brought along sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, quinoa, GF pasta, dried onion flakes, Ruth’s Chia Goodness, plenty of dried fruits to add to the Chia Goodness, several individual-sized almond and soy milks, Vega Shake & Go Smoothie, and pre-measured bags of oatmeal with spices and hemp protein powder.
We also went back to Margarita Phil’s located in Cruz Bay.This time Phil was there and was gracious enough to come out and talk with us in person about all of our ingredient issues (gluten, dairy, vegetarian…). He has a tasty menu but there were all these combinations that had something that didn’t work for us. So he very generously created a new item that met all of our food needs and was quite tasty.It was a cup made of a corn tortilla, filled with steamed vegetables, black beans and rice, homemade salsa & guacamole, and the green sauce was a salsa verde with plenty of lime and cilantro. Everything was dairy free and no gluten ingredients. YUM!
Here is Phil showing off the dish; notice the painting of him on the door in the background!
So we’ve gone from red lentils to St. John, V.I. and back.Consider me your ingredient-restricted camping food consultant.Meanwhile, enjoy some quick cooking red lentils and check back here soon to see if Sue has sent over her yummy red lentil recipe!
||Kale Pear Lime Salad
Lacinto Kale (or Dinosaur Kale) is one variety of that dark green vegetable that everyone is talking about and you know you’re supposed to eat more of. Lacinto kale is a slightly sweeter taste than the curly kale variety.I decided to make a kale salad with a sweet taste and experimented with adding lime zest for a strong lime flavor. This is the ultimate detox-your-liver salad with kale, daikon, lime, red cabbage, juice-sweetened dried cranberries, nuts and pears.
Start with 1 bunch Lacinto kale. Wash well, slice into bite-sized pieces and place in large bowl.
Slice 5 Seckel pears and toss with 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 tsp umeboshi vinegar, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp agave nectar, 1 Tbsp olive oil and lime zest of 1 lime. Set aside.
Toast 2 Tbsp pine nuts or pecans and add to kale along with 1 cup red cabbage ribbons, 1 cup daikon radish julienne and 2 Tbsp juice-sweetened dried cranberries. Add the pear-lime dressing mixture. Let the salad sit for 30 min before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Mmmmm.
Here is my final menu for this year’s vegan Thanksgiving:
Gingered Carrot Soup
Pumpkin Stuffed with Quinoa, Wild Rice & Lentils (recipe posted on this blog)
Kale Salad with Pear, Daikon and Lime (recipe to be posted on this blog)
Roasted Brussels sprouts and shallots (see Marvelous Meatless Meals FB page)
Cranberry Conserve & Chutney (recipe posted on this blog)
Quinoa-quinoa corn bread (recipe by Bryant Terry in his book Vegan Soul Kitchen)
Ginger Dusted Pumpkin Cheezecake (recipe by Robin Robertson)
Here are two recipes using fresh cranberries. They are recipes that my family has been making for years but had quite a bit of sugar. Of course, cranberries don’t have much in the way of natural sugar so you do need to add some, but I wanted to see if I could make them with a less refined sweetener like brown rice syrup. I like my cranberries a little on the tart side; add more sweetener if you like your cranberries sweeter.
4 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup Sucanat
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 large orange, juiced and zest of rind
1 lemon, juiced and zest of rind
1 cup chopped nuts ***would be great with walnuts or pecans; I make it with almonds as we have allergies in my family to the others
1 cup raisins or juice-sweetened cranberries or half of each
1/2 cup water
NOTE on the sugar:this amount of sweetener will make the conserve slightly tart. Taste it after you add the sugars and if it isn’t sweet enough for your taste then add additional Sucanat. You may substitute any dry sugar for the Sucanat such as maple sugar, date sugar, coconut sugar, Rapadura sugar.
Place cranberries and water in saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cranberries begin to burst. Add the Sucanat and brown rice syrup, the juice from the orange and lemon, the zest from the orange and lemon, and the raisins.
Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the nuts.
Pour into a mold or bowl to set.
It usually sets well enough to be unmolded onto a decorative plate.
In a saucepan simmer 1/2 cup sliced onions with 1/2 cup brown rice syrup, 2 Tbsp agave, and 2 Tbsp water, for about 10 min.
Add 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, 2 small apples (peeled, seeded & diced), pinch sea salt, 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger, 1/4 tsp each mace & curry, and grated rind of 1 orange.Simmer another 10 min.
Add 2 cups fresh cranberries, 1/4 cup currants, and the juice of 1 orange.
Taste for sweetness and add any additional sweetener now. Remember it is a savory flavor, not as sweet as cranberry sauce.
Simmer slowly for about 10 min until all the cranberries have burst.
Last year was my family’s 3rd annual vegan Thanksgiving. Each year we try a new dish or two and also make some family favorites. The sides are never an issue, but deciding on a main dish has had me stumped. We are definitely NOT fake turkey people, and since my husband can’t eat any gluten we are not able to consider anything with seitan or any pot pie type dishes. My goal with the main dish, and the whole meal for that matter,is to present food that is festive,which highlights the flavors of autumn and celebrates the bounty of the harvest season. Last year I stuffed two kabocha squashes with a mixture of quinoa, wild rice and lentils, with leeks and mushrooms. It was delicious and festive and we are making it again this year.
Start by cooking the pumpkin.Cut the top out the way you would if you were making a Jack-O-Lantern. Scoop out the seeds and rub the inside with olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a smashed garlic clove. Place the squash in a large roasting pan with about 1/2 inch water in the bottom and cover with foil. Bake 375 for about 45 min or until it can be pierced with a fork.
The filling (enough to fill 2 kabocha squashes or small pumpkins):
Cook 1/2 c wild rice in 1½ cups water.
In a separate pot cook 1/2 c quinoa in 1 cup water or broth.
In a separate pot cook 1/2 c French lentils (black beluga lentils can be substituted) in 1½ cups water or broth, until tender.Drain any extra liquid.
In 1-2 Tbsp olive oil saute 1 cup thinly sliced leek (or onion), 1 stalk chopped celery, 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms, 1 clove minced garlic, and 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage until vegetables are softened.
Toast 2 Tbsp pine nuts (or more if you love them and can afford them at about $16/lb).
In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, cooked wild rice, cooked lentils, sauteed vegetables and toasted pine nuts.
Stuff this mixture into the baked kabocha shell, place in a roasting pan,cover with foil so it doesn’t burn, and bake 1/2 hour or longer. Bake with the squash top NEXT to the shell, not on top….the squash will change shape as it bakes and you may lose your top inside the pumpkin. Any extra stuffing can be baked in a separate dish.
|stuffed squash sliced for serving
Sometime in early October the shadows fall over my vegetable garden and I know that any tomatoes still on the vine will never turn red. A friend taught me to put the unripe tomatoes in a brown bag and wait. Eventually most of them will turn reddish
; nothing like a ripe summer tomato but good enough to turn into salsa or roasted tomato soup.
I ended up with a bunch of ugly, blemished, not-so-ripe tomatoes from the garden and was thinking of making the roasted tomato soup. But then I also had a lovely butternut squash and kind of felt like making that into soup. So I decided to roast both together and make a roasted tomato-butternut soup. The result was delicious.
Peel and cube a butternut squash; place in roasting pan.
Quarter a bunch of plum tomatoes or any tomato you have that is blemished, ugly, or about to become compost; place in roasting pan.
Add garlic cloves, shallots or onions, or any combination.
Add a fresh herb; basil or rosemary or sage.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and a few pinches sea salt.
Roast at 400 degrees for 20 min, stir and roast another 20 min or until squash is tender enough to pierce with a fork.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Once the vegetables are cool, puree in blender then add to soup pot. At this point you can thin the thick puree with veg broth or water or add some coconut milk. Season further with additional herbs. Add some white wine if desired. Reheat until desired temp is reached. Serve garnished with freshly chopped herbs if you have them (parsley, basil, cilantro etc).