Upcycled Rice Salad

upcycledgrainsalad 1

Do you ever find yourself starving at lunch time and the peanut butter and jelly you’re making for your kids looks dreadful? Turning to your fridge you find, well, nothing. Nothing but a bunch of randomness that makes no sense in terms of a “normal” meal? Or maybe I’m the only one. This here salad is the result of such an afternoon and a template for future afternoons, when you know you need the energy and stamina that comes from whole foods but can’t seem to put it together.

I love the word Upcycling. Upcycling describes how you and your partner are more than the sum of the two parts, or how that almond milk box was transformed from future trash into a bird-feeder. Sure, you and your milk carton were both functional before the change, but now you’ve become magical. It’s so much more than just reusing.


So, an upcycled salad is just the mixing of ho-hum parts to make beautiful epicurean harmonies in a matter of minutes. Here’s how it works in my house. My fridge usually has a cooked grain and various and sundry vegetables can be found lying around. If you aren’t accustomed to having lots of vegetables around, it’s time for you to give it a try. Buy things you normally wouldn’t when they’re on sale and try them. I generally also have a random salad dressing I experimented with or some sort of leftover sauce. Right now there is a quasi-creamy balsamic and a raw waldorf. And what kind of a hippie would I be without nuts and dried berries stored in the nooks and crannies of my community kitchen (it’s a small community, but a community nevertheless)?

That’s all a grain salad needs to come together. And when you stir it together, the creative genius inside you will sing songs of happiness, the writer’s block that has plagued you for 12 years will lift, and your children will behave. Or, perhaps, you will at least feel better than if you’d had that peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


Upcycled Grain Salad, this incarnation

2 c. cooked grain – brown rice, quinoa, barley, whatevs.
1-2 c. sturdy diced raw vegetables – carrots, onions, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, corn, peas, etc.
2 T. chopped nuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds
1-2 T. chopped dried fruit – cranberries, blueberries, raisins, apples, etc.
½ c. (give or take) Pepita Maple Butter dressing (thinned), or something of your own creation.
*optional: chutney, diced avocado, fresh herbs, random condiments for garnish

Combine everything but your garnish and stir. Garnish, chill (you or your salad, either works) and enjoy.

*You may notice the awesome green stuff on top. It was a rushed, and perhaps failed, attempt to make coconut cilantro chutney from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but on this application, it was AWESOME!

ETW: Cafe Supernatural & my copycat Machu Picchu recipe!

The night before my birthday we got a babysitter and hit the town. I sometimes forget how awesome life is with just two until three seems more awesome than five and I wonder what the two of us alone would be like…

I digress. Upon hitting the town, or rather just after we walked out the door, we did as all good married couples do and looked at each other and said, “Huh, what do you want to do?”

“I dunno, leaving the house was a good first step. You hungry?”

“Come to think of it, yeah. Did I eat yet today?” (That was me, if you couldn’t tell – the bottomless pit.)

And then we ended up (after wandering around Trolley Square for 15 minutes) at Cafe Supernatural. Just FYI, so as to spare you the random phone call asking where they are – it’s on the west side, outside of the main building adjoining a yoga studio.  Cafe Supernatural is Chef Ian Brandt’s fourth plant-based venture, following after Sage’s Cafe, Vertical Diner, and Cali’s Natural Foods.

The atmosphere was pleasant, though it made me wish I was going to a yoga class as people came and went. It’s a walk-up and order, sit down and wait kind of place, nice enough without being too pretentious. The menu is relatively small, probably half cooked and half raw, but the brevity didn’t help me decide. So, after telling her I was starving and a nursing mom, upon the recommendation of the girl behind the counter for heartier options, we got the Machu Picchu and the Mesa Azul, and a ginger lemonade. We ordered our Machu Picchu with potatoes AND quinoa (I know, we’re rebels), just so we could try them both. From the menu:

Machu Picchu

Steamed potatoes or quinoa served with steamed seasonal vegetables and roasted chili cashew cream sauce 8.75

Mesa Azul

Two blue corn winter squash tamales with pumpkin seed-tomato mole and baby greens 9.75

Like any good food paparazzi reviewer, we snapped a few shots with the phone. (Why do I always feel so dorky when doing this?) And we were about to eat when the girl behind the counter stopped by our table to mention that I shouldn’t eat the husk on the tamale. Come again? And she was dead serious, and I thought that was hilarious. She was sincerely concerned that I might try to eat the dry papery thing on the outside of sweet succulent goodness. Did it often happen that people tried to eat the husk and she hadn’t warned them and felt bad? Had they been sued? You laugh, but I went to law school and that’s not too far fetched.

Anyway, back to the food. It was fantastical, delicioso, and marvelous – the kind of food that just feels good to eat. But, it had the same problem that Omar’s had, that I was still very, VERY hungry afterward. Two small tamales and a salad (both extremely delicious, mind you, and I would eat them again in a heartbeat) did not a sufficient meal make. Nor did a bit of quinoa, veggies, potatoes and a luscious cream sauce. I wish my meal had been 50% bigger. So, again, we found ourselves elsewhere – Whole Foods this time – looking for a second dinner.

I’ve heard that as we get older, our need to eat reduces (my neighbor told me that today), or maybe we’re supposed to order an appetizer and dessert too, or maybe I’m just so accustomed to “other” restaurant’s meals that I want MORE! Either way, I’ll still probably go back and order those tamales with that amazing mole again. I think about them in my sleep.

But, after what I did tonight, I probably won’t go back for the Machu Picchu, because I recreated it for a fraction of the price and I can eat until I’m full.  And it made enough to feed our new plant-based neighbors (score!). And it will go into the regular rotation because, even with my kids, I think it took me just over 30 minutes to make (plus cashew soaking time), everyone ate it and loved it, and it felt so, so good to eat.

The Machu Picchu Knockoff

  • Assorted Seasonal Vegetables, steamed
    • I used 4 carrots, 1 summer squash, half a bunch of broccoli
  • Thinly sliced potatoes, steamed (I used those ever-present garden ones, probably 10 or so, not quite 1/4″ thick)
  • 3 + c. cooked Quinoa (I started with 1 1/2 c. uncooked and used the open pan-1/2 to 1″ of water above-simmer until cooked method)

Cashew Chili Cream Sauce

  • 1 to 1 ½ c. raw cashews, soaked in water for at least a few hours
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1 ½ c. veggie broth (I used 1 t. vegetable base + 1 ½ c. water)
  • Salt, to taste

Drain the cashews, tossing out the water. Place all ingredients in blender and rip until smooth. Cook over medium heat to thicken for a few minutes, stirring regularly or it will burn. Taste, adjust seasonings, and try to not to eat it all. I found that enough salt was the key to making it ever so amazing.

To serve: top cooked quinoa, vegetables and potatoes with cashew chili cream sauce and eat. And eat. And then as you’re putting it away, lick the spoon, scrape the bowl, etc. And you’ll still have enough for lots of leftovers.  Or for the neighbor that just moved here from another continent whose stuff hasn’t arrived yet and is hardcore plant-based. I am SO excited to get to know them.

From my farm to my fork: Gingered Greens & Tofu

My husband went to school in upstate New York a few years back, long before I entered his life. He remembers distinctly the two times he went to Moosewood Restaurant. We have only been back there once together and it was before we were even married and I was still clueless about food – I made fancy spaghetti by adding veggies and sausage, but that might have been it. He was even more clueless – by the end of the week his individual meals would constituted an entire meal, corn one night, bacon another, salad yet another. So, suffice to say, we didn’t make it to Moosewood.

A couple few years ago, I got my first Moosewood cookbook from my mother and acquired yet another a few years after that. I want all of them now, well at least the ones I can use for everyday cooking and not so much the ones for Sunday meals and stuff since I’m not ready to fight that battle. But I love these books.

One night a few weeks back we got home late from our garden, fed the kids PB&J, and put them to bed. I was starving. Pancho was only a few weeks old and I wanted to eat something delicious. On my counter I had a bag full of stir-fry greens (quite honestly I don’t know what’s in them besides kale and chard, but probably mustards and stuff) and a pile of garlic scapes. So, I pulled out the handy Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home and made this in a jiffy. And can I just say how AWESOME it was to cook without distractions? I didn’t care that I was eating dinner at 10:30 – I was just happy to be eating dinner 25 minutes after starting with Matt and nobody else!!

And yes, I used white rice – GUILTY! But it was quick and like I said, a nursing mama’s gotta do what she can to stuff her face! AND, another and, I know, I apologize for posting a recipe that uses ingredients that you can’t necessarily find in a grocery store. It’s terribly mean, and I hate it when people do it to me, but if you get your hands on greens (which is tough this time of year, but give it a few months!) and some garlic, you’re good to go.

I don’t know if it was eating this without children that made it especially good, or if it was just really that good, but I made it again three days later, and then another week after that. I can’t wait until fall when my greens aren’t bolting at the first sign of sunshine to make it again, but this time with the beautiful bulbs of garlic I just finished tying and are ready to hang and cure.

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Gingered Greens and Tofu:
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

Tofu Marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry or mirin
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs brown sugar or agave nectar

1-2 cakes of extra firm tofu

2 Tbs coconut or safflower oil, divided
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
5-6 garlic scapes, chopped
6 cups coarsely chopped stir-fry greens (bok choy, Chinese cabbage, or Swiss Chard)
Juice of one lime
Splash of chili oil

Optional toppings: toasted cashews
Put on a pot of long grain brown rice.
Cut the tofu into 1/2″ slices, then ~1″ squares.
In a small saucepan, bring the marinade ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat.
Place the squares of tofu in a non-reactive heatproof pan – a half sheet pan was big enough for two cakes of tofu.
Pour the marinade over the tofu squares, sprinkle with one Tablespoon of oil, and set aside for ~10-40 minutes.
Preheat the broiler on high.
Broil the tofu for 7-8 minutes, until lightly browned; then turn it over with a spatula and brown the other side. (This is the most tedious part.)
While the tofu broils, heat 1 Tbs of canola oil in a wok or large skillet.
Stir in the ginger and garlic scapes stirring until fragrant (~1 minute).
Add the greens, stirring constantly over high heat until the greens are wilted. When the greens are just tender, add the lime juice, and chili oil, and remove from heat.
When the tofu is browned, gently toss it with the marinade and the cooked greens, and reheat if necessary. Top with toasted nuts if you like and serve immediately over white brown rice.

Week-long Green Smoothie Challenge Day 5

So it’s snowing and it’s cold and I really, really just wanted to eat something warm. Don’t worry, I didn’t bail. I just put room temperature fruit into the smoothies today instead of frozen fruit today and got room temperature smoothies, which was weird I know, but better than freezing my keister off while drinking cold smoothies all day. I also had stir fry (warm) veggies today instead of cold with hummus dip. Ahhh, I’m holding on!


Here is what I ate for day 5:

Breakfast: Green Smoothie (room temperature) with 5 C. packed spinach, 2 bananas , 2 small diced mangoes, 5 strawberries, 1 orange, 2 T. ground flax and stevia to taste. This made 2 quarts.  I saved one quart for later in the day.

Lunch: Bok Choy stir fry. Recipe below.

Bok Choy Stir Fry

 1 giant head of bok choy, green parts only chopped, saved the white parts for another use

2 carrots julliened

10 button mushrooms

2 diced green onions

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 T. organic heinz ketchup

1 T. low sodium soy sauce

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/2 t. ground ginger

1/4 t. ground black pepper

stevia to taste

Combine all ingredients in large saute pan. Do not add oil, it’s not necessary. Saute all until bok choy is wilted.

This recipe made 3 cups of stir fry. I planned to eat the whole recipe myself, but my husband decided to join the challenge at the last minute, so we split it. It was a WHOPPING 60 CALORIES PER SERVING. Holy crap plant based diet!

Afternoon Snack: This is where the diet gets interesting, my husband and I each had a our second quart of green smoothie in the afternoon and neither of us was hungry come dinnertime- He said, why am I so full!?! Ha Ha.

Dinner: Long story short, I thought it would be ridiculous to only consume 600 calories for the day and we started to get hungry around 9pm so I busted out the amazing cheezy-smokey-spicy black bean soup recipe here. Love it!

Here are the stats for the day:



under 1,400


under 245 g
203 g 75%x


under 63 g
39 g 15%x


under 19 g
13 g 10%x


over 8 glasses
9-2/3 glassesx

Dietary Fiber

over 25 g
44 gx

Saturated Fat

under 16 g
1 gx

Trans Fat

under 2 g
0 gx


under 300 mg
0 mgx


under 1,500 mg
1109 mgx


under 100 g
91 gx

Vitamin A

over 2,333 IU
4307 IUx

Vitamin C

over 75 mg
369 mgx


over 1,000 mg
548 mgx


over 18 mg
13 mgx

Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry

This meal was a delightful hit with all five members of our family, 20 months to 34 years.  Good quality, healthy meal, great for the winter months where fresh produce is more scarce.  All ingredients minus fresh spinach are readily stored in the pantry for a quick, easy last minute meal.  And it’s even more delicious day two.

Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups home cooked- easily done in the crockpot ahead of time and doubled to make a round of hummus for later)
1 can organic diced tomatoes
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes and parboiled (or left over baked potatoes!  We used sweet potatoes this time and it was super delish.)
2-3 cups torn up spinach leaves
5 cloves- pretty strong flavor, use a little less if you aren’t a clove fan
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 can coconut milk
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

Combine everything in a saucepan and simmer 30 minutes.  We served it over Quinoa cooked in organic chicken broth (gasp!  yes, I am still an occasional meat eater unlike the other more amazingly hardcore gals on this blog- veggie broth would do of course).  Brown rice would be tasty too.

Week 2: Chronicles from Jan 15, 2012

Cuban Black-Bean Stew with Rice (again from Martha Stewart – simple but remarkably good and totally satisfying)
*Used brown basmati cooked in 2 water:1 coconut milk
Green Salad with Vegan Ranch
Dessert! Vegan Chocolate Cake & homemade chocolate coconut ice cream

Tacos – yes, just tacos. It must have been a bad day, but everyone ate it WITHOUT complaining. Miraculous.
WF Organic Blue Corn Taco shells
Toppings: homemade refried black beans, Smart Ground crumbles with Frontier taco seasoning (first try for the crumbles, and eh, not sure I’m a fan), homemade salsa, guacamole, cilantro, onions, lettuce, and cheese for the littles.

Big Curry Noodle Pot as found on Dana Treat’s Blog
Her’s looks tastier than mine did, and probably was, since mine seemed EXTRA saucy (I know, it’s only fitting). This was tasty, lacking a bit on strong flavors, but the kids both ate it well and Z actually wanted “more” (I put it in quotes because she has this saucy way of saying it as she puckers her lips that’s very cute). To boost the meal factor a bit, added a sliced red pepper when sauteing the onions and added a head of steamed cauliflower when adding the tofu. In hindsight, adding the cauliflower then was too early and overcooked it, so I’d probably add just a few minutes before the noodles. I didn’t much care for the shallots, but did like the addition of lime wedges. For a GF option, rice sticks could easily replace the udon. And if, like us, you usually have leftovers, I might keep the noodles separate from the rest of it.
And a smoothie, a really green one to finish off some spinach.

Matt was out of town tonight and we had an HOA meeting and I was cranky. So, we did breakfast.
Oven baked hashbrowns that were not tasty
Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage
Sauteed onions, orange pepper, mushrooms, broccoli & tomatoes
Scrambled eggs with cheese for the munchkins
Smoothie – spinach, strawberries, pineapple, banana, clementines

Stir-fry night (this is one of my son’s all-time favorite dishes), recipe below
Brown Rice

Date Night! Thai food and am I ever sick of tofu? Okay, give me a week to recover, but I think soup is definitely on the menu for the next few days. Too bad the kids won’t eat it …

Dare I admit? Peanut Butter toast and a smoothie. Yowsers.

Our Stir-fry recipe
Serves 4-6
2 T chopped fresh ginger
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c water or veggie broth
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t sugar, honey or agave nectar (I’ve used all three)
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t black pepper
vegetable oil
1 package extra-firm tofu
lots chopped of vegetables (tonight: 3 carrots, 2 stalks celery, half package mushrooms, bunch broccoli (including peeled stalks), 1 bunch bok choy)
Other good ones: peppers, onions, any Asian green or cabbage, green beans, baby corn, larger sprouts)
big handful of cashews
In a blender or small food processor, process ginger, garlic, water or broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, salt, sweetener, red pepper, black pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Saute tofu and things like celery, peppers, mushrooms, onions until water has evaporated and vegetables begin to soften. Meanwhile, steam harder vegetables, like carrots and broccoli until just shy of cooked, and add to tofu mixture and continue cooking. Add greens – bok choy, cabbage, kale – or sprouts and cashews, and pour sauce over the top, cooking until greens begin to soften and sauce thickens, but not too long – just a few minutes. Serve over brown rice.