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.

upcycledgrainsalad

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.

upcycledgrainsalad2

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!

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My Farm to My Fork: Herbs – they’re really not that scary (Herby Potato recipes!)

I love my herbs. I love the first tender spikes of chive that sneak up through the snow in the Spring, I love the masses of mint that take over our neighbors side-yard (which we use a few times a week for frosty mint (black/rasp/strawberry limeade), and the huge heads of dill that start tipping too early for my cucumbers that I started too late. This is all awesome, you say, because I have a huge garden, right? I do, but that garden is 2 1/2 miles from my house behind a church. It isn’t so very convenient for herb use unless one is really organized with perfectly planned meals. That, I am not.

But! I have a tiny patch of ground in the front yard of my two-bedroom townhouse (I like to throw that in there to feel like more of a martyr) and three planters with herbs in them. In my tiny space I have marjoram, thyme, sage, peppermint, pineapple mint, lavender, tarragon, coconut thyme, oregano, chives, unrelenting lemon balm, and rosemary – and I use them all the time. I have tried unsuccessfully to grow other edibles out there, but to no avail. It all dies. It’s like it knows I have another garden and gets jealous. But my herbs are content to grow and be and bring me great joy – except for my rosemary which must hate me (or Utah winters – more likely).

But what in the world do I do with my herbs? Everything. And you can too. Because they’re not that scary and unlike spices, they’re really, really hard to screw up using if you use your nose.

How do you know what to use? First, consider what you’re making or what veggies you have are or what you want! Does it hail from the Mediterranean? Asia? Middle East? South America? Think about what herbs you’d find used there. Are you in the mood for potatoes or a salad – or both (I make a killer herbed potato salad)? Can you throw a handful into a loaf of bread or stirred into your quinoa after cooking?

Second, what do you have? Does your neighbor have mint growing like crazy (it’s the only way it grows), or can you dig out a start from your friends thyme or oregano or chives? Most people I know are more than willing to share herbs. Use what you have and it can turn any vegetable into something you’ve never dreamed of.

Third, smell your herbs. They’re most pungent first thing in the morning or if you’re doing a big harvest just as the flowers bloom. If you want to mix herbs, crush a few of them together in your hand – do they smell good? Excellent – use them! If not, try another combo, or just use one. You will quickly learn that lavender and curry plant DO NOT go well together, but that thyme and chives and mint do!

Fourth, don’t be scared to try them!!! I’ve screwed up meals that had perfectly good recipes to follow, so I’m willing to screw some up that don’t too. Odds are good that you won’t be disappointed, but if you are, the loss is usually bearable.

Fifth, and very importantly, don’t add them too early! Spices need to be exposed to high heat to bring out their flavors (blooming them), but herbs just want to be warmed to release their very fragile oils.

If you don’t have herbs growing, now is a good time to find them cheap or to dig out a start from a neighbor’s plant for the perennials (oregano, thyme, dill, tarragon, lavender, rosemary – if it doesn’t die like mine, and mint).  If you don’t get them growing this year, they’ll grow like crazy next year. Dill, cilantro, and parsley still elude my growing skills (I haven’t tried that hard), but they can be pretty cheap (except for the dill) at the store.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with my favorite use of them, especially right now as we’re up to our eyeballs in potatoes. I love the smallest potatoes for this dish cooked whole, and a variety of colors makes it ever tastier. I try to use four or five varieties, last night using chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and mint (which is the most surprising and amazing addition). With leftovers or if you want to make an extra big batch, my Herbed Potato Salad recipe follows.

New Potatoes with Fresh Herbs

(portions are per person – multiply per serving)

¼ – ½ pound baby new potatoes per person, scrubbed

2 T. chopped fresh herbs (mixed is the best way)

1 T olive oil, or butter, or butter substitute

Salt and fresh ground Pepper – to taste

Scrub your potatoes, cutting larger ones into smaller pieces to ensure uniform cooking. Boil or steam until fork tender. While cooking, stem your herbs and roughly chop, tossing into your serving bowl with the oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drain your potatoes and toss with herb mixture. Serve!

(if using rosemary, chop it finer since it’s a bit tougher than others, and be careful with some of the stronger flavors, like sage)

Herbed Potato Salad

Unlike most potato salads that have a lot of other “things” in them, I keep this one simple so the herbs can show off.

1 4-person batch of New Potatoes with Herbs

or

2 lbs cooked new potatoes (yukons, reds, blues, whites – just not russets)

½ to 1 c. chopped herbs – mix it up

3-4 stalks celery, sliced thin

¼ to 1/3 c. chopped red onion, if you have it

Dressing:
¼ – ½ c. vegan mayonnaise

2-4 T non-dairy milk, I like almond milk best

1-2 T balsamic vinegar

1-2 T dijon or spicy brown mustard

1-2 T lemon juice

Salt and fresh ground Pepper (so much better fresh, especially in simple dishes like this)

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk them up. Use your blender if you like, I usually just toss it all in a bowl cause I’m lazy like that. Adjust seasonings to your liking – does it taste yummy and is it strong enough to flavor the potatoes without overpowering them?

Toss ALL the ingredients together, and chill until ready to eat – that means the salad AND you.

Veggie Grill Recipe

I tried a delicious salad at the Veggie Grill and needed it again, I scoured the internet, found some recipes, modified a little and this one is VERY close!

My Version of Veggie Grill’s “All Hail Kale Salad”

INGREDIENTS – (serves 4)

Gardein Crispy tenders (I can buy these at Smith’s in my area, check the internet to find them in yours. These are the BEST, you can trick carnivores with these babies)

16 cups Kale (about 3 big bunches)

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups corn salsa (recipe below)

2 cups red cabbage

10-16 Tbs chopped walnuts (just depends on how many you like)

3 cups Ginger Papaya dressing

Ginger Papaya Vinaigrette (1  1/4 quarts this is so yummy)

1 oz fresh ginger root or (1 T gound)

1 cup lime juice

1 ½ cups fresh papaya  (about one large Papaya)

½ cup rice vinegar

1 Tbs. sea salt

2 cups canola oil

1 cup water

1 ¼ cups evaporated cane juice

Corn Salsa (1 quart)

8 cups Roma tomatoes

1 cup red onion

½ cup cilantro

1 cup roasted corn (I used Costco frozen corn, spread on a cookie sheet and toasted in the oven for about 5 minutes on broil)

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 oz. lime juice

Method:

Kale:

Remove spines from kale chop, rinse and dry. Place kale in large bowl add 3 cups ginger dressing and Quinoa, toss thoroughly, make sure all kale  is coated. Refrigerate overnight (this step infuses the kale with the ginger papaya dressing and makes it a lot yummier)

Ginger Papaya Vinaigrette:

Peel ginger root and papaya, combine with all ingredients to blender (except oil) blend until

smooth. Slowly drizzle oil while continuing to blend until dressing emulsifies, add to container and

refrigerate

Corn Salsa:

Chop cilantro, in large bowl combine all ingredients and mix well

Final Salad:

Mix 4 cups marinated kale to plate, swirl ¼ cup raw chopped cabbage around

kale, topped with ¼ cup corn salsa, 2 Tbs walnuts 4 crispy tenders

 

 

Quinoa Salad where the quinoa doesn’t taste like dirt

I am hot and hungry. I love all the soups that have been filling my belly, but it’s time for something a little lighter, so I turn to a variation of a favorite from my friend Cody Sanders, she is nutritionist, tri-athlete and the owner of The Lab, the gym where I train and teach yoga (yup I am an instructor, I have been practicing for 9 years and teaching for 5).

Quinoa Salad (2 servings) variation from Cody Sanders

2 C cooked Quinoa

½  c diced celery

½-1  c diced cucumbers (I like it on the more side)

¼ – ½ c chopped green onion

½  c diced carrot

2 T fresh chopped basil (or try whatever you have in your garden, the basil was ready to be pinched and it sounded good)

¼ c minced cilantro

1 T olive oil

1 ½ t lemon juice

1 t lime juice

¼ c pine nuts (these make it irresistible)

Mix it all together and salt to taste. If you have just cooked the Quinoa add it to everything while it is still warm, it brings out the flavors fast. This salad is even better after it has sat for a few hours.

This salad is a meal you will crave, I eat it a couple of times a week in the summer. I don’t like quinoa plain because it tastes like dirt, but in this salad it is delicious!

Mouth Watering Watermelon Salad

Mouth Watering Watermelon Salad

1/2 large seedless watermelon, about 5 lbs.
1/2 sweet onion, cut into rings
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Handful walnuts, broken up
Mint Sprigs for garnish

Combine the vinegar, salt, pepper in a small bowl and whisk until salt is dissolves. Slowly add in coconut oil. Add chopped mint.  Adjust flavors.

On small individual plates, place onion rings and watermelon cubes.  Sprinkle walnuts and drizzle dressing.  The dressing will solidify a bit which is quite pretty and delicious.  Garnish with mint sprigs.

That’s it!  Tasty, beautiful and so very simple.  A win, win, win.

Tasty Tuesday Series Part III – The Vegan Mother’s Day Feast

It’s still Tasty Tuesday, sick of me yet? Well you won’t be when I give you the recipes from our Mother’s Day Feast at the end of this post 😉

Vegan Mother’s Day Feast

Frosty Blackberry Lemonade with Mint

Green Salad with Roasted Beets, Sweet Potatoes, Avocado and Slivered Almonds (Inspired by this dish at the VVP)

Handmade Artisan Boule

Baked Millet Risotto

Sauteed Green Beans with Radishes (not pictured)

Maple Glazed Seitan Almond Neat Loaf

Orange Infused Chocolate Truffle Tart

Sounds good doesn’t it? This Mother’s Day I wanted to treat myself a special celebration feast. Not just a celebration for being a mother, which is notable on its own, but a celebration of self. You see, I switched my family to a whole-foods-plant-based diet in January, 129 days ago. My first post describes why I went plant-based. Here is a short re-cap. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an Autoimmune Inflammatory Bowel Disease 6 years ago. Since that point I have been sick, sometimes so sick that I would have 30 or more bloody bowel movements a day. I couldn’t leave the house without an adult diaper or make it to a bathroom in the house on time. I had constant stomach pain, it would hurt so bad I would often cry.  I was on all kinds of medications, many of which were very damaging to my body and had horrible side effects, including a 100 lb weight gain. In addition to that I also had developed some auto-immune skin conditions including facial swelling called angioedema.

Now for the good part of the story. Since switching to a 100% vegan diet, I have completely resolved all my health issues. I am not currently taking any prescription drugs of any kind and my disease is in complete remission. I was only reminded that I even had an autoimmune disease last week when I didn’t sleep enough and had way too much stress going on. My stomach rebelled a little, but nothing at all like it used to.  Diapers and prescriptions did not get involved! There is an important health trio of eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress in check.

My quality of life has drastically improved. I had forgotten what it felt like to feel well, it’s a wonderful feeling. So I wanted to celebrate that, cause I’m pretty dang proud of myself for making myself well.  Here is the plant-based feast I created for myself. (My husband usually prepares the Mother’s Day meal, but was a bit daunted by a plant-based feast, so he watched the children while I spent the afternoon cooking. It was divine (really). The reason some of the photos are in the back of a car is that when we were about to sit down to eat (and I was about to take some photos of said feast) is that I found out there was someone who needed a little mother’s day feast on their table too, so I split our meal in half and did a delivery. Good thing I always make too much food!

Frosty Blackberry Lemonade: from my post for the VVP, using fresh blackberries that were blended with water then strained to remove seeds) instead of strawberries, recipe here

Green Salad with Roasted Beets, Sweet Potatoes, Avocado and Slivered Almonds

2 Sweet Potatoes

2 Beets, tops removed

1 Diced Avocado

Beet greens from above beets

4 C. Romaine or baby lettuces

Red Wine Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt  & Pepper

Garlic Clove

1/4 C. Slivered Almonds

Method: rinse and scrub sweet potatoes and beets. Leave skins on, Bake on a tray lined with parchment paper in 350 degree oven for 60 minutes or until soft. Let cool. Cut garlic clove in half and rub clove all over the inside of your salad bowl, save clove for another use. Pull skin from sweet potato (it will fall right off), dice sweet potatoes and beets into 1/2 inch cubes. Place lettuce, beet greens, beets, sweet potato, avocado and slivered almonds in salad bowl. Drizzle with a quick drizzle of the olive oil and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and serve.

Handmade Artisan Boule: recipe here

Baked Millet Risotto: click here for my recipe

Sauteed Green Beans with Radishes

1 lb fresh green beans, washed and trimmed

1 red onion, cut into slivers

1 bunch radishes, washed with greens removed

1 garlic clove minced – from above salad, saved for another use 😉

Method: Water saute onion and green beans over high heat, adding a couple of tablespoons of water as needed, add radishes and garlic, cook until for a few more minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste

Maple Glazed Seitan Almond Neat Loaf: click here for my recipe

Orange Infused Dark or “Milk” Chocolate Truffle Tart

1 bag (or 2 cups) dairy free dark chocolate chips

1 cup canned coconut milk, warmed till steaming

1-2 packages shelf stable mori-nu lite silken tofu

1 drop wild orange essential oil or 1/2 t. orange extract

6 graham cracker sheets (omit or use substitute for gluten-free version)

2 T. tahini

Method: Process graham cracker sheets with tahini in food processor. Press into bottom of 8 inch springform pan. May be a bit dry and crumbly, that’s okay! The moist filling will adhere to it nicely! Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Pour steaming coconut milk over chocolate chips. Stir until melted. In the blender, put 1 or 2 blocks of mori-nu silken tofu depending on your chocolate intensity level, 1 block makes a super intense dark chocolate truffle dessert. 2 blocks makes a more mild “milk” chocolate truffle dessert. Pour melted chocolate over tofu, add 1 drop orange essential oil or the orange extract. Blend until thoroughly combined. Pour over graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before serving. Remove from springform pan and garnish with chocolate shavings and orange zest strips if desired. Makes 8-16 servings depending on your tolerance for an ultra-rich dessert.

Farfalle and Asparagus Spring Pasta Salad

Tasty Tuesday Series:

We had this for lunch on Easter. Some plates were licked clean (not mentioning names). Everyone had second helpings.

1/2 lb (1/2 box) whole wheat farfalle or other pasta shapes

1 bunch tender (baby) asparagus, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

1 C. diced grape tomatoes

1 can artichoke hearts in water (quartered), drained and roughly chopped

1 can black olives, drained and roughly chopped

cashew parmesan for topping (recipe below)

1/2 C. of balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Method: Cook farfalle according to package directions. During the last few minutes of boiling, add the asparagus directly into the pasta pot. Cover and continue to cook until pasta is al dente. Drain in colander and put pasta and asparagus into large salad bowl. Add all of the other chopped vegetables, no need to let it cool. Toss with balsalmic vinaigrette and shake a little cashew parmesan on each individual serving. This salad is good warm or cold!

Cashew Parmesan

2 C. raw cashews

1/2  – 1 t. garlic salt (depends on your salt preference)

Method: Process cashews and garlic salt in food processor until fine. Don’t do it too long or it will turn into nut butter! Put in a pint mason jar. You can use an old parmesan shaker lid (if you have one) it fits a mason jar! Store in the fridge

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is adapted from my copy of Eat to Live. He says not to consume oil, but the oil was in the dressing recipe in the book, this makes about 1.5 cups of dressing so 2 T. oil is quite reasonable!

1/2 C. water

1/4 C. pomegranate infused red wine vinegar (regular red wine vinegar will do)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C. balsamic vinegar

1/4 whole fruit no sugar added apricot preserves (not the kind with splenda, gross)

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t. dried oregano

1 t. dried basil

1/2 t. onion powder

1 t. salt

1/2 t. ground black pepper

Method: Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. This is super low fat and low calorie but super delicious. You only need to use 1/2 C. for the pasta salad. Put the rest in the fridge to put on your greens for later!