Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Turn Over a New Leaf, or, How to eat a bunch of kale every day.

Our mother & stepfather live in the charming beachside town of Half Moon Bay, California. I love to visit them for so many reasons (they are fabulous, the beach is nearby and the pelicans fly right along the waves if you sit on the beach early enough in the morning, they live much nearer to my siblings and the all-important nephew), and one of them is the coastal farms all around and the Californian ecological ethos that makes it possible to get good, fresh, local, healthy food.

A fairly recent addition to the area, and the list of places I like to visit when I'm out there, is a local chain of grocery stores (pardon me--community markets) called The New Leaf. The store seems kind of like Whole Foods at first, and it is, but if Whole Foods weren't evil and corporate, but actually what they present themselves to be: committed to sustainable agriculture, commerce and community. They source as much as they can locally, produce-wise, and tell you where stuff comes from and the staff is super friendly and like to let you taste things and make conversation. It's probably a lot like what Whole Foods was like when it was a whippersnapper.

Last time we were out there, my mom pointed out, in the deli case, a kale salad that she & Mike had been enjoying a lot lately, and knowing how I feel about kale (and worried that vegan me will starve if she doesn't get tons of special food for me), she got two big containers of it. You guys, I lived on that stuff for the week I was there, and I never ever got sick of it even a little bit. It was good on its own, and it was good with avocado on top and it was good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We ended up going back to get more, I ate so much of it. So of course when I left, I wrote down the ingredients listed on the label and promised myself that I would try to duplicate it at home because I really need to eat more green leafies.

Here's the list:
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
sesame seeds
red onion
liquid aminos (Bragg's)
lemon juice
olive oil

So here's what I did tonight, when I finally made this salad at home, and it turned out to be just as good as the New Leaf's version:
  • Wash and stem two bunches of farmer's market kale, then tear or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  • Put the kale in a mixing bowl with a half teaspoon of salt and massage the kale until it wilted down and turned emerald green and was stewing in its own sweet juices.
  • Chop half a red onion into dicey pieces, add to bowl.
  • Add a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Mine were raw, but you could toast them, I suppose.
  • Add another big handful of sunflower seeds. Again, mine were raw, but this is optional.
  • Add a generous pile of sesame seeds. These were toasted, because that's what I've got and that's how I like them.
  • Squeeze the juice of one lemon into small bowl.
  • Add a generous squirt of Bragg's Liquid Aminos. (Maybe I'll measure next time, but I think it would be hard to go wrong here.)
  • Add a couple of generous squirts of flax oil. (I know it's not on the list, but if you're going to eat healthy, you might as well go all the way. Also, flax oil has a really lovely nutty flavor that I have grown quite fond of.)
  • Add a little olive oil, because you can't go wrong with olive oil. Probably not necessary, what with the flax oil, but it was on the list, so I added some.
  • Whisk to emulsify and pour into the salad bowl.
  • Toss that salad up and you're ready to eat!
This is a recipe that will keep in the fridge for a while. Make a whole bunch and take it for lunch every day! Mix it up by adding apple slices and raisins, or topping it with baked tofu, or tempeh cooked in some delicious manner, or add home made croutons just before eating or eat it over rice or other cooked grains. It's great in the summer, because you don't cook anything, and great in the winter because there's only kale and onions at the farmer's market in the winter. It's great nutritionally because between the kale and the seeds you get a ton of calcium and proteins and other good stuff. It's cheap, too, and it feels like a real meal. I'm full right now. So full. And I have lunch for tomorrow. Did I mention that the whole thing only took me about half an hour?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


As we all know, Pete loves potatoes. No brunch is complete without some kind of home fries. Since making the Lemon Roasted Potatoes (minus lemons) from Veganomicon for dinner with Reed & Courtney, he'd decided that this dish is It. The Potatoes. So we had them again for brunch this morning.
Along with the Tofu Rancheros from the September issue of Vegetarian Times. The recipe is pretty quick, and the ingredients are simple. The potatoes take forever, though, so we started those first, and everything was done almost exactly on time.

It's too bad I didn't notice that the recipe made enough for 6 people. We were starving by the time everything was ready, so our eyes may have been a bit bigger than our tummies.
But we have leftovers to last us pretty much the whole week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chickpea Fried Rice: Fast, Furious

We got home from a weekend of fresh, delicious food with the Porters at the Cape (about which more later) to a home devoid of fresh vegetables. And we were tired. And it was hot. The solution? A quick, cheap, easy and nutritious meal of fried rice with chickpeas. It's not ideal, but we had all the ingredients, and it was fast. Plus, it made enough that we don't have to worry about lunch for tomorrow!
Start 1 & a half c. rice cooking in stock or broth. When it's about halfway done, start the chickpeas frying in the wok/pan. Add frozen corn & peas to the rice when it's nearly finished, stirring it all together. When the chickpeas are beginning to brown, and the rice is finished, mix it all together and stir fry in a wok or large pan.

I added a squirt of liquid aminos right at the end. A touch of soy or tamari sauce would also be good. I also topped this with hoisin sauce because I love that on everything, and we have a jar of it from our Pet Cemetary dinners/band practices.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Costa Rica Tacos

While staying at the hostel in San Jose in my first week, I bought groceries to save some money and made food in the hostel kitchen. It was nice also to be able to cook while on vacation. There's definitely something to being in charge of your own food.

As it was a communal kitchen, I didn't end up taking photos of the process, but got a couple good ones of the final product. It was a very simple meal, starting with yellow saffron rice, topped with sauteed onions, tomatoes, and avocado. It was almost perfectly vegan on corn tortillas when I ruined it with cheese! But it was a delightful dinner and the onions were fantastic. I found some seasoning here that is a nice complete blend. I'm taking it back home with me to experiment with some more.
While cooking, another hostel resident struck up a conversation with me. He was a Canadian who was cooking some Ramen noodles beside me. When I was telling him how great my tacos were going to be and described the different parts, he said all I needed was some chicken or steak to make them complete. I shook my head and said, "Nah, I don't need meat." I realized that I totally and completely meant this statement. Maybe there will be a day that comes when I don't need cheese or eggs or yogurt, too. Who knows. But I think my life as a vegetarian is going to start very soon. I feel ready to live the lack of need on an everyday basis.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jicama & Radish Salad

Okay, enough with the wrap-up. This is a recipe deserving of its own post, mostly because it came out of nowhere and I really like it.

We had our friends Reed & Courtney over for dinner tonight, and I'd been wracking my brains all week to figure out what to make. I had half of a giant jicama left that Mom had sent me (the package came to my office, and one of my coworkers said: "Your mom knows that we have jicama here, too, right?"), and some limes that were on the verge, and then I thought some more, and then I came up with this recipe. I didn't take a picture of the finished product, but I got some nice ones along the way.

The Dressing

Squeeze one lime, hard, and get all the juice out. If you have two limes, squeeze them both. But maybe, like me, you discover that one of the limes is old and hard. That's okay. One will work. You want to squeeze the juice into a medium-sized jar.

Add 2 Tbsp. Sesame oil and 2 Tbsp. Flax oil (or 4 Tbsp. sesame oil. I added the flax for nutritional value). Add 1 tsp. Tamari. Put the lid on the jar and shake it. Emulsify!

Add a generous pinch of black pepper. If you have a pepper grinder, you should grind some fresh pepper in here. Shake the jar again. Yum.

You could use lemons, but you should probably make lemonade with those. Add basil or mint to the lemonade, and a couple squeezes of agave nectar. Later, before dinner, spike this lemonade with gin and add a splash of tonic. Then remember that you have blueberries in the fridge. Add some blueberries and muddle. This drink is so totally refreshing it almost makes you forget the stupid humidity.

The Salad

This salad is way too much of a hassle unless you have a food processor with a grating element. Or if you love grating things, or cutting them into matchsticks. I have a food processor with a grating element, which is why this recipe was born.

Grate your jicama.

Mine was really giant, which is why it filled the entire bowl of my food processor. That was only HALF of the jicama! I know. I hardly believe it myself.

Then grate a bunch of radishes from the farmer's market. Toss the two together in a bowl with the dressing (shake the dressing again first! emulsify!). I didn't get a photo of this, but it turns a little pink.

You can set this aside for as long as you want. Prepare ahead and assemble the salad later, like this:

Get out your nice salad bowl and line it with a mixture of baby arugula and baby spinach. The spinach is optional, but the arugula is kind of necessary. I suppose you could sub with watercress. Both have a little bite, which is nice here.

Put the jicama and radish mixture on top and toss together.

Wash and quarter some fresh cherry tomatoes. If you have a garden, I hope these come from it. Otherwise, farmer's market. Or, okay, wherever you can find them. There is a blight and all. Add them to the salad.

Dry roast some pepitas on the stovetop. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds, the shelled kind. They're green and cute and puff up when you toast them. Just put them in a dry skillet over medium heat and shake them around every now and then until they get toasty on their bellies. Top the salad with these.

You could probably double the dressing recipe, if you wanted to dress the salad some more, but I liked it a little subtle. I imagine this would be tasty if you added some cayenne to the dressing too.

We served this salad with two items from Veganomicon: The old standby, chickpea cutlets, and the new favorite, lemon roasted potatoes. Except Pete forgot to add the lemon. That's fine, though, because I want to make more of that lemonade, and they were still perhaps the best, creamiest, most sublimely tasty potatoes I have ever eaten.

We also made some vanilla ice cream based on this recipe from Vegan Dad, to which I added NM red chile powder (just a smidgie) and some cinnamon-vanilla spiced sugar. I used hemp milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Decadent! We have big plans for our ice cream maker based on this experience. Next on the docket: Peanut butter, carob & chile ice cream! (I really think I could have used more chile powder on this batch.)

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Even though I haven't been posting, I've been cooking. Part of the problem is that I always forget to take pictures, or don't take pictures of the whole project. I have the best intentions, though. I really do.

Anyway, here's a roundup:

Picnic at the Park

We made limeade, which was cool and refreshing

and sandwiches, equally delicious

and packed it all up and ate at the park, watching cargo boats go by. A lovely early summer day.

Homemade Ravioli

Mostly fell apart in the water, but we froze the leftover dough and will give it another shot.

I had a birthday party

I had probably the best birthday yet this year. With a cherry on top.

More sandwiches!

Sandwiches are a great summertime meal because you don't have to heat up the dang kitchen and it's fast, so you can get to the beach quicker.

These ones had roasted garlic, avocado, some seaweed flake stuff, cukes, mustard, and sprouts.

Pete doesn't like cukes, so I had a side of cucumber "chips" too. His sandwich was cheese & avocado, but I couldn't get a good picture.

Summertime Stir-fry

I love the farmer's market in our neighborhood, mostly because it's convenient to bike down there on a Saturday morning.

Stir fries are also great in the summer because you can just grab whatever at the market and throw it together. Easy! Quick! Healthy! Pow!


Sushi is surprisingly simple and fast. I honestly don't know why we don't make it more often.

If you don't have a sushi mat, invest the $5 and get one, and a bit more for a small bag of sushi rice and some nori wraps. Then fill the sushi with whatever you have handy. We were pretty conventional here: cucumber, avocado and radishes! If you get a really spicy radish, you don't even need the wasabi.