Archive for November, 2009

Dazzling Red Cabbage Salad

I didn’t name this salad, but it is, in fact, dazzling.  The colors are beautiful and my son, who normally won’t touch raw cabbage, loved it.  This recipe comes from a book called Greens Glorious Greens! by Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers.  I altered it just a bit, but I’ll write the recipe mostly as it was originally offered.  One of the great things about this salad is that I know it will be even better tomorrow after the cabbage really has a chance to soak up the yummy marinade. 

  • 3 cups finely shredded red cabbage (this is about 1/2 a medium head of cabbage) 
  • 1 red pepper (I would omit during the Winter, as bell peppers aren’t in season; also, I would use yellow for a little more color)
  • 1-2 carrots (julienned or shredded)
  • 1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts finely sliced on the diagonal (very finely minced red onion would also be good)

Dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (grate about a tablespoon, then squeeze the juice out; I took the lazy way and just threw in a few slices)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (I used agave)
  • 4 Tablespoons oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon tamari or sea salt to taste (I picked sea salt)

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds

Place the vegetables in a bowl.  Mix the marinade ingredients, toss with the veggie mixture and set aside.  Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until they start to pop and smell delicious.  Sprinkle on the salad just before serving.  Enjoy!

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Simple Split Pea Soup

Simplicity.  Something we need throughout the year, but probably should seek a bit more as the days get colder and the nights get longer.  The holidays are upon us and while they offer so much in terms of warmth, time with family and friends, giving and receiving, they are also incredibly hectic for many of us.  It’s the perfect time for simple recipes that warm us inside and out. 

I have loved split pea soup since I was a child.  Here is a vegetarian version with smoked and herbed salts to provide some depth of flavor, while allowing the simple, hearty taste of the split peas to shine through.  Maybe you can make a big pot to nourish you through the week as you prepare for the Thanks-giving meal…

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup split peas, rinsed
  • 1 strip of kombu, optional
  • 3 bay leaves, optional
  • 3/4 teaspoon Herbamare (herbed salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste if necessary

Heat a large pot to medium and add olive oil and onions.  When onions have started to brown, add shallots and cook 2-3 more minutes until they begin to brown.  Add celery and carrots, cover, and cook 5 minutes.  Add split peas, water, kombu, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on the stove or in a crockpot until peas are very soft.  On the stove, this should take about an hour.  If you use a crockpot, you can leave it for the day (or at least 4-5 hours).  If you have a pressure cooker, it will be done in about 15-20 minutes.  Add salts, taste, and adjust as necessary.  Enjoy!

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Simple Kitchari (mung beans and rice)

I have recently become fascinated with some of the ideas upon which Ayurvedic cooking is based.  For those who are not familiar, Ayurveda (Sanskrit for The Science of Life) is a traditional form of medicine that evolved in India.  It’s practiced in many other parts of the world as well, including in the US, where it’s considered alternative medicine. 

I am not even close to being qualified to delve into the complexities of Ayurveda, but one of the ideas that I think is incredibly valuable and accessible to everyone is that of the six tastes. These are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.  I don’t think there are many who would argue against the notion that the way we eat in our country has become imbalanced.  Thinking of the six tastes while preparing our food is a wonderful way to begin to bring balance, as well as great taste, to our tables. 

A good Ayurvedic cookbook or a browse online can provide much more detailed information, including the benefits of each of the six tastes and their effects on the three doshas.  As a very basic primer, I’ll give some examples of each of the 6 tastes that might help you bring balance to your meal.  It might be helpful to give a little extra attention to bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes, as sweet, salty, and sour tastes are quite dominant in the American diet.  Of course, the correct proportions of the six tastes depend on the individual at a given point and time, but including all of the six tastes is a great start for most of us.  

  • Sweet –  fruits, sweeteners, and milk
  • Sour – fermented foods (pickles, saurkraut, etc), yogurt, sour fruits like lemon
  • Salty – salt:) and sea veggies
  • Bitter – dark leafy greens, turmeric (astringent too), fenugreek, basil and other spices, jicama
  • Astringent – legumes, quinoa, pears, apples, pomengranate (both bitter and astringent), broccoli, cabbage
  • Pungent – onions, garlic, chili peppers

The natural inclination is to associate the six tastes with Indian cooking, because they are so closely interrelated, but I promise you that any meal or cooking style can benefit from being mindful of including each of these six tastes. 

The following recipe clearly has roots in the cuisine of South Asia, but it is very simple and mild and might be a great balancing dish for even the most American palate.  I grew up in the Midwest and ate plenty of casseroles, so I should know…It’s great for any meal and is often used as a fasting food that nourishes the body completely, while giving the digestive system a rest from processing the usual variety of foods. 

One more thing on the ingredients..according to Ayurvedic thought, ghee is a balancing food with many health benefits, but if you would prefer to use olive oil, you certainly can.  In addition, Ayurveda embraces white basmati rice, because it’s lighter than brown rice and more easily assimilated by the body.  If you prefer to use brown rice instead, please do.  Personally, though I am an olive oil and brown rice kind of girl, I prefer to go the more traditional route with this dish…I am giving you the most simple version, but you can certainly add more vegetables (I generally stir in chopped greens toward the end of the cooking process).  You can also add more spices, either along with the cumin, or sauteed in ghee and added to the kitchari.   

  • 1 cup white basmati rice, cooked* (sweet)
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped (pungent)
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped (bitter)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander, optional
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped or grated ginger, or to taste (pungent)
  • 1 cup split mung beans (astringent)
  • 4 cups water, or more to taste
  • 1 strip kombu, optional (salty)
  • fresh lemon juice, to serve (sour)
  • Trocamare or sea salt and pepper, to taste

*You can also just add the uncooked rice and 2-3 cups water along with the mung beans.  I like to soak it for 30 minutes, then drain, rinse, and cook the soaked rice with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a bit of ghee. 

Heat a large pot to medium heat and add the ghee and onions.  When the onions have begun to brown, add the celery, cumin, coriander, and ginger and cook for a few more minutes.  While the veggies are cooking, put the mung beans in a colander and rinse well.  Add rinsed mung beans and water to the pot.  If you have kombu, add a strip for increased nutrition and digestibility.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook on the stove or transfer to a crockpot and cook until beans are very soft.  This will take 15 minutes in the pressure cooker or 45 minutes to an hour on the stove.  If using a crockpot, you could cook overnight or all day.  If cooking on the stove, stir regularly and add water as necessary to keep it from burning to the bottom.  When it’s done, it will be very soft and porridge-like.  Combine with cooked rice and add a squeeze of lemon juice, season to taste, and enjoy!

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Immune-Boosting Cabbage and Shiitake Sauté

It’s that time of year, but do not despair!  Though we will all likely get caught off-guard at some point during cold and flu season, take advantage of the many opportunities to empower your body to fight off all of the little germies floating around.  Think of it as a natural vaccination, because everytime you are exposed to a virus, your body builds your immune system by fighting it off, whether you actually get sick or not.

Of course, our lifestyle choices are our first line of defense in staying well and they have a huge impact, regardless of your genetics.  Eating the healthy whole foods that are right for your body, staying active, getting enough rest, drinking enough water, and alleviating stress as much as possible will go a LONG way in keeping you well.  I would argue that if we were able to do all of these things consistently, we would rarely, if ever, get colds and flu.  Of course, this is real life in America, so most of us will slip up in one way or another.  But, even if you succumb, if you are taking care of yourself, your body will have more energy to fight.

This brings me to to the recipe at hand…cabbage gets a bad rap, as it is so often overcooked and bland.  Prepared properly, it is quite versatile and delicious, not to mention a healthy boost to your immune system.  It is extremely high in vitamin C in its raw form and still relatively high once cooked, provided it is not overcooked.  Besides being packed with lots of vitamins, cabbage stores well and is inexpensive, so sign up for a Winter CSA share and prepare to sauté, soup (used as a verb, in this case:), ferment, stuff, and eat lots of cabbage!

Let’s start with a simple preparation that builds on a whole bunch of strong immune boosters – onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, as well as optional additions listed in the variations below…

  • 2 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • one small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, destemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin or other white wine, or water for deglazing the pan
  • 1 small (or half a large) head of cabbage, chopped or shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and onion and cook until the onion is lightly browned.  Make a space in the middle, pour in a little more oil, add garlic, and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.  Stir in the shiitake mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, or until they break down and start to caramelize.  Pour in the wine or water and stir through to deglaze the pan.  Add the cabbage, sprinkle with more salt and pepper, cover, and cook 3-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Season to taste and enjoy!

Variations:

  • Add some chopped or grated ginger and finish with toasted sesame oil; top with white or black sesame seeds
  • Before adding the garlic, brown some cubed and cooked potatoes, then proceed with recipe, adding cooked French lentils at the end.
  • Stir in some cooked black beans and rice, then dress with a pesto made of almonds, basil and/or spinach, olive oil, and garlic.
  • Add vegetables such as carrots, kale, spinach, chard, etc to kick up the flavor and nutrition – great for any of the variations.

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Pan Fried Falafel

My kids recently had the pre-made falafels you can buy in a bag at the grocery store and got hooked.  It’s convenient without a doubt, but I am of the philosophy that homemade is surely tastier, more eco-friendly, and more economical than store-bought.  Falafel is quite easy to make, but I’ve always been thrown off by the prospect of deep frying, from the perspectives of health, safety, and mess.  I’ve tried making baked falafel, but it lacked that yummy crisp exterior.  So, I have settled on the middle ground – pan frying. 

You do have to soak the chickpeas ahead of time, but that only takes about 45 seconds of your time.  After that, I think this takes about 15 minutes, and that makes enough for leftovers.  My kids don’t like tahini sauce, but I highly recommend it.  Tahini is a great source of calcium, so use it whenever you can.  You could also stir some tahini sauce into the batter; I’m going to try that the next time… 

By the way, this recipe is from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair.  I have altered the directions a bit. 

  • 3/4 cups dried chickpeas, soaked 10-12 hours and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best, of course)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced   
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or chili powder
  • 1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini sauce to serve

Place chickpeas in a food processer.  Process until broken into small pieces, scraping sides as necessary.  Add lemon juice and continue to process until finely ground, but not paste.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until soft.   Add salt, garlic, coriander, and cumin and saute for a few more minutes.  Add to chickpeas along with pepper, baking soda, hot sauce, and parsley.  

Turn the skillet back to medium and add oil (recipe suggests coconut, but I use olive oil) to cover the pan generously.  Firmly squeeze mixture into balls with your hands and flatten into small patties.  Place on skillet, leaving enough space to flip them easily.  Once browned on one side, flip and brown the other side.  Place on paper towels and continue to cook until all of the patties have been cooked.  Serve with Tahini Sauce* and your choice of garnishes.  Enjoy!

* I find that making a tahini sauce is very individual.  Here is a recipe from Feeding the Whole Family, but add more or less lemon juice, garlic, etc. to suit your taste.  How much water you use will also depend on what you are using it for, adjust salt accordingly.

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 1/2 lemons (more or less)   
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons tamari (or use 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 3/4 cup of water

Taste, adjust seasonings and liquid, and enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

A friend offered me a recipe for her family’s favorite pumpkin cookies using more traditional ingredients and it seemed the perfect oppportunity to try out the sprouted quinoa flour I had recently made and was so anxious to try out.  Before I go on, I know there are many people who will stop right here, because making your own flour sounds a little over the top.  To keep you here for at least a few more minutes, I’ll say that I suspect any flour you generally use and like will work just as well here as anywhere… I haven’t tested that theory, so if you try another flour, please let me know!

BUT, if you have a good blender, Vitamix, grain mill, coffee grinder, or Magic Bullet, give it a try!  Let me tell you that sprouted quinoa flour smells divine and is easy to make and, of course, quite healthy as far as flours go.  It is completely different than regular quinoa flour and I think it will be great in many recipes to come. 

These cookies are lightly sweetened and won the approval of all of the little and big tasters in my house, plus a few guests.  The number of cookies will, of course, depend on the size of cookies, but this will make 2-3 trays of cookies.  You can choose to roll them out and make shapes, as we did.  Or, you can roll them in your hands and press with a fork or a whole pecan, as we also did:)

  • 1/2 cup softened unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup coconut sugar (or other granulated sugar), plus more to decorate
  • 2 1/2 cups sprouted quinoa flour*, or flour of choice
  • 1/4 cup ground flax or chia seeds, optional (helpful if rolling dough)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Oil 2 cookie sheets.  Blend, beat, or whisk together the wet ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Combine the wet and the try.  If rolling and shaping, place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up, then roll out and shape with cookie cutters or a knife.  Otherwise, roll the dough into walnut-sized balls, then flatten with a fork or by pressing a pecan into the middle.  If desired, sprinkle with coconut sugar.  Bake for about 8-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Enjoy!

* To make sprouted quinoa flour, soak quinoa overnight.  I haven’t measured the yield per cup yet, but starting with 2 cups of quinoa should yield enough flour for the recipe.  That said, if you are making it, you might as well make a bunch.  Pour the quinoa into a relatively fine mesh strainer and rinse until the water no longer looks soapy.  Set the strainer aside until the quinoa begins to sprout, 4-12 hours, depending on your timing and how long you like the sprouts.  Spread the sprouted quinoa on a baking tray, or trays, and place in the oven at the lowest setting, which is 300 degrees for me.  Allow to dry out, stirring occasionally.  Don’t worry if it browns a bit, this gives it a yummy toasted flavor.  Grind in blender, coffee grinder, or whatever you have.  If necessary, sift it in a sifter or through the strainer.

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