ETW: Zest, Downtown SLC

I did not intend to review this restaurant. It had good reviews on Yelp. How I wish I’d brought a better camera.

Can I just put this out there? Just because I’m an herbivore DOES NOT mean I need small portions. Contrarily, I need MORE food.

Zest Kitchen & Bar

Zest Kitchen and Bar Eat. Drink. And be healthy. (Emphasis on the drink part.)
Menu
275 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
801-433-0589

mygoodcleanfood.com

Set the scene: I got a babysitter, a miracle in and of itself. I’m paying her by the hour. Located in PF Changs back closet, it’s hard to spot. The only sign is less than a foot in diameter on the glass door. I guess you have to be “in the know” … hard to find joints are hip, right? Fortunately, we’d been to the location when it was a hipster burger joint after I was sworn-in 5 years ago.

Upon Arrival: The space is small and dark. Half is a standing bar with high tables and half is a dining room. We waited about five minutes as all four of the on-floor employees whiled away their time talking to each other. Finally someone greeted us, carded us (that’s weird but cool, I guess) asked us how we found the place, and then ignored our answer. We were abruptly seated with a smile straight off a sitcom. Five minutes later, our hipster waiter with a cartoon character on his shirt, beefy arms and almost no idea what the menu included, asked for our drink order (water) and he left. Five minutes later (or more) he returned with our water – apparently our non-drink buying was a deterrent. His other two tables were getting loaded (read – much better tips).

Upon Ordering: As usual, I asked  for recommendations, and while he couldn’t really tell me, his aloof demeanor was, again, right out of a sitcom. The table to our left (a tipsy older couple on a blind date) just had to tell him during our ordering (because they hadn’t seen him for 20 minutes) that the stir-fry was, “I kid you not, the best I’ve ever had!” So we ordered it. ($7)  He came back 10 minutes later dropped off the stir-fry in cereal sized bowl. After we finished it, he came back to get the rest of our order. Stuffed mushrooms with cashew cheeze ($8), the salad special (7?), and the stuffed avocado w/spicy seasoned walnuts, lettuce salad, salsa & cashew sour cream ($13).

The food took a while to come out. One. Plate. At. A Time. Let’s just say, the service was hilariously bad. It’s like they were trying to be bad because that’s hip.

mygoodcleanfood.comAnd now, the food.

I am not terribly picky, I’m really not, but consider the prices as I give you a rundown.

Stir-fry. $7, probably 1 cup of vegetables. No rice. Tasted like Rumbi teriyaki but with garbanzo beans in it. We kept looking for something to dip in the sauce. DEFINITELY not the best I’d had. In fact it wasn’t as good as the mountain of stir-fry I’d made the night before for the ruffians with the stuff in my fridge.

mygoodcleanfood.comStuffed Mushrooms. $8. Quantity 5. Seriously – five is the worst number for almost any table except one of, well, five. Said served warm, more tepid, and the flavor was uninspiring. And maybe it’s because I make cashew cheeze that I wasn’t blown away by the vegan-ness.

Salad. $7? It was small. The tomato vinaigrette was good. But it was half red onions and to say they were thinly sliced is like that guy at the gym telling you it’s all muscle. Big bites of spicy onion, standard mesclun mix, and three slices of a baby cucumber … three? Really?

mygoodcleanfood.commygoodcleanfood.com

And then, my favorite, the stuffed avocado. $13 Admire the above pictures. There may have been the equivalent of a whole small avocado on the plate. A large tablespoon of walnut stuffing with flavor that didn’t seem to land anywhere. Now, look closely at that awesome avocado. The bottom was cut off and still the big, fat bruise on it was visible. It was cold, always weird for avocado.

And still, after all four dishes, I was starving but unwilling to wait another hour or pay more money for mediocre food. We came home and had dinner.

There is a positive spin … it’s a gluten-free restaurant with raw dishes, and that’s cool, right?

Can I tell you the last part which is actually pretty funny? During the time our waiter took a year an a half drop-off, take and return our check and then return my phone which he’d left by the bar (I still feel uncomfortable with that), the slightly tipsy couple on the blind date  was ALSO waiting for Hipster Waiter guy, so they joined us. Literally, they pulled their chairs up to our table and divided my husband and I – just what I need on my once-every-few-months-date. The lovely woman thought the giant photograph of a cippolini onion looked like, well, it made me uncomfortable. I won’t even hint at her thoughts on the bell pepper.

 

Blossoms and Honey

apricot blossom 2

At our community garden, there are beautiful fruit trees that are loved and treated well and never sprayed. Nothing in our garden is.

apricot blossom 3

And there are bees that visit these beautiful fruit trees.

apricot blossom bee 3

And in August, when one of our local Farmers’ Markets FINALLY opens, you can buy their beautiful honey.

apricot blossom bee 5

The First Spring Honey is pale and lovely and minty and one of the most intensely wonderful things I’ve ever tasted.

apricot blossom 1

Now I know, I KNOW, many of you are strict vegans, and I COMPLETELY respect that, but I have a thing for these little guys and their products.

apricot blossom bee 1

There is something about participating in a very small, small circle of life that feeds us both.

apricot blossom bee 4

This year, in his own small patch of garden, my son is planting flowers.

the big kid

Not so much because he likes honey, but because to him, it is the right thing.

apricot blossom bee 2

Raw Vegan Sour Cream

cute nephew, right?

My nephew is almost 12 now, (5 in the picture above), but when he was 2 and more than a handful (no, seriously, he was tough), we lived in his basement. Sometimes, to give his parents a break, we’d have him down to visit and he’d help us make dinner. One of our common meals was guacamole and chips – super healthy, I know, in which we used just a “dollop” of sour cream.  My husband had a bit of a love affair with sour cream, so he’d always lick the spoon afterward. One time my cute nephew said, “I wike it, Nutsy!” anticipating a taste too, and so we gave him a little spoonful to try. Cute nephew gleefully took said spoonful into his mouth and immediately thereafter did that kid thing of just letting the food fall out of his mouth and said, “I don’t wike it, Nutsy!”

raw sour cream mimi kirk

We all miss sour cream just a little. I am not saying we’d take a spoonful like we used to, but it’s such a useful and versatile ingredient in baking, cooking, and adding just that little bit of tang to things like baked potatoes and burritos. I haven’t been happy with any of the store-bought ones, nor any of the recipes for tofu ones. So, a couple of weeks ago, I picked up Mimi Kirk’s “Live Raw” at the library (and one day I’ll own it) and flipping through found a recipe for sour cream.

mushroom stroganoff strawberry broken heart cake

So, I made it. And I didn’t soak my cashews because I have a Vita-Mix and that’s its job. And the second batch was better than the first for reasons I couldn’t tell you. And I used it a week and a half later and it was still fantastic – I think the probiotics actually make a big difference in curing it. And I only took a few pictures because I’m lame like that. But I have since used it in mushroom stroganoff (angels singing above), a strawberry coffee cake (I made two in three days and ate both of them), and topped potatoes (so good with chives!), burritos, and tacos happily with it. And Mimi said I could share it – thanks Mimi, you’re beautiful!

Raw Vegan Sour Cream

Ingredients:

1 c. cashews, soaked for 4 hours (optional if you have a power blender)
½ t. probiotics, for curing – I emptied two New Chapter probiotic capsules
1 t. light miso paste
¼ t. salt
3 T. lemon Juice
¾ – 1 c. water

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy, adding more water if necessary. Place in a covered container and store in the refrigerator. Mixture thickens as it chills. To thin, add more water. To thicken add 2 T. Irish moss paste. Use anywhere you would sour cream.

 

FBAH: Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup aka my kids’ FAVORITE meal

lentilsoup3

What a way to launch the new website, eh? I’ve had a rough few weeks realizing that I must be very, very old in technical years (is that like dog years?) since I have no clue what I’m doing. Or maybe I’m technically young? All I know is life has been consumed by the fabrication of this not so fancy website. I don’t know how other people manage, but assume they hire someone much savvier in web skills.

KaleBut today is a big day. I am participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger, a collaborative effort of more than 200 food bloggers attempting to bring awareness to the realities, and perhaps failings, of the American Food System. My head is full of things I want to say, but nothing is quite right, and so I leave you with this.

I believe not just with my intellect, but also my heart, that the Standard American Diet lies at the core of many of our greatest societal problems. The What AND the How. Do we eat as families or standing by the fridge or in our car? Do we have to play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game to get our food to its whole and original state? Are the toxins in our food making us sick – not just the ones we put on, but the ones inherent – sugars, processed fats, animal proteins in excess? Do our children even know where food, REAL FOOD, comes from? Do bugs and dirt make them squeamish, do bees terrify them?

lentilsoup1When my kids publicly eat salad, fresh vegetables, or green smoothies with glee, I am frequently told I’m a lucky mom.

I am not a lucky mom. I work my TAIL off teaching my children.

I have spent countless hours growing, buying, and preparing wholesome food. Our most effective classrooms are our garden and our kitchen table. Smoothies are best when green. Farmers’ markets and produce co-ops are a way of life. I have taught them over and over again the most important truth about food, that our bodies are special and a MAGNIFICENT gift, and treating them poorly is wrong.

If everyone believed they were special enough to take care of, we would demand good food. Especially for our children. Everyone would, and it would make a difference.

my kids

My kids are special. So, so very special. My almost 6YO son’s favorite food is a raw red pepper. My daughter who turns three next week sneaks seaweed to the table. My baby knows the blender means food and eats everything I put on his tray, including the first food he happily ate … Lentil Soup. It is easy, totally affordable, homey, makes a TON, and I want to share it with you.

More information about Food Bloggers Against Hunger is below.

 

humble, brown lentil

Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Yield 4 quarts (or more)

Ingredients:
1-2 T. olive oil (option)
2 Onions, chopped
5 Carrots, sliced
4 stalks Celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 t. dried thyme leaves, or 3-4 sprigs fresh
2 c. brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 quarts broth equivalent:
2-3 T. vegan stock powder
1-2 T. vegetable base (I like Better than Bouillon’s)
1-2 cubes Rapunzel vegetable bouillon
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (substitute: spinach)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Sauté onions, carrots and celery until soft, but not browned, over medium heat using oil or water-sauté method. Add garlic and cook quickly for 30 seconds. Dump the vegetables in your slow cooker, adding your bay leaves, dried thyme, lentils, and broth. Cook on high for 3 hours. Add tomatoes and salt, add more water if needed, and continue cooking for another hour or two until lentils are soft. Twenty minutes before serving, add kale and cook until just barely tender. Adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

Serve with homemade bread and salad.

*Cooking variations:

  • Without sautéing, add everything but the kale and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Add the kale just at the end.
  • After sautéing the vegetables, add everything but the kale to the slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours.
  • Stovetop: follow directions, but allow soup to simmer on the stove for 30-40 minutes instead of in your slow cooker, adding the kale at the last five minutes.

Use this link to send a letter to congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation.

And watch “A Place at the Table” to learn more. Trailer here.

 

Spring Changes

 spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

I’ve been burning the midnight oil lately trying to prepare the next big thing. We’re days (I hope!) away from launching our very own, REAL WEBSITE! I ‘m really quite terrified, especially after a long hiatus and with a busy life, but I’m sort of over waiting around for something awesome, so instead I’m making it. I’m working on branding, designing, and hopefully making it a beautiful and welcoming place for you to visit, to peruse, dream and maybe even decide it’s time for you to dig in. This is hard work for the computer UN-learned.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

We’ve had spring snow the last two days here. Cold and icky, but prior to the icky, we got a good taste of real spring. Buried under a thick blanket of hay, we had some winter survivors. Beautiful, tasty green things. My almost three-year-old little girl thinks she’s sneaking when she tucks away a spinach leaf, and then another, and then another, chewing them up with great delight.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

Our garden is much more than a place to grow food. It is our hard-work training ground, a science experiment, an escape, our favorite picnic spot, the raspberry patch, our compost pile, and place to dig badger holes, get dirty, take out aggressions, and yes, even sneak a spinach leaf or two.

Spring changes

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

Spring always brings changes, and this shifting over to a REAL website (one I’ve invested money in), is a big one. I’m tired, and this is hard. I’m also really quite terrified, especially after a long hiatus and with a busy life, but I’m sort of over this “waiting around for something awesome” thing, so instead I’m making it. I’m working on branding, designing, and hopefully making it a beautiful and welcoming place for you to visit, to peruse, dream and maybe even decide it’s time for you to dig in. This is hard work for the computer UN-learned.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

We’ve had spring snow the last two days here. Cold and icky, but prior to the icky, we got a good taste of real spring. Buried under a thick blanket of hay, we had some winter survivors. Beautiful, tasty green things. My almost three-year-old little girl thinks she’s sneaking when she tucks away a spinach leaf, and then another, and then another, chewing them up with great delight.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

Our garden is much more than a place to grow food. It is our hard-work training ground, a science experiment, an escape, our favorite picnic spot, the raspberry patch, our compost pile, and place to dig badger holes, get dirty, take out aggressions, and yes, even sneak a spinach leaf or two.

“Mexican” Quinoa in the rice cooker? Yes.

Mexican QuinoaI am not an overly scheduled person. I can’t handle a full calendar – that’s what college was for, right? But my son has a reading group at the library on Wednesday afternoons that goes right up to 5pm and my husband has meetings at 6:30. Soooo, if at all possible, I like to have dinner waiting for me when we get home to keep the yelling to a minimum.

I got creative this afternoon. My rice cooker (similar to this one) is very smart and can cook rice 6 different ways. But I don’t understand it very well and the instructions aren’t all that helpful. In fact it came with two special measuring cups for different uses that hold the exact same amount – explain that to me. But I do know how to use the timer (that sings “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to my daughter’s delight) so I wanted to have something ready when we got home.

Nearly every recipe online for Mexican rice in a rice cooker calls for white rice, not what I wanted and besides, this was for our standard burrito/wraps and we like quinoa better anyway. Though this time I wanted something with more heft than plain quinoa.

Knowing that quinoa and white rice take about the same amount of time to cook made this a more universal recipe, meaning any rice cooker should work. All I needed were the ingredients and a plan – I had the former and came up with the latter. And I’d say it worked since all three kids, the Matt, and I loved it.

Mexican Quinoa

Mexican Quinoa in a rice cooker

Ingredients:

2 ¼ c. water
1 c. quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
½ c. frozen corn
½ medium onion, diced
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1-2 t. garlic powder
3 T. tomato paste
1 T. dried green chiles or 2 T. fresh or canned, keeping seeds for more heat
1 T. Veggie powder or 1 t. vegetable Better Than Bouillon
1 – 2 t. salt (or to taste)
1 t. cumin
Juice of one lime
Cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

Add all ingredients except lime juice to the rice cooker and cook (or set the timer on your rice cooker to be done when you get home!). As soon as it’s done, fluff it up and stir in the lime juice. Enjoy as is, or use for topping your burritos or tacos or salads.