Cucumber-Strawberry Salsa

I’ve been making this in my Tupperware Quick-Chef Pro for my parties and it’s been a big hit!  So simple and perfect for this season.  I don’t recommend making it in a food processor; it’s too hard to control and you might end up with soup (tasty, but not what we’re going for).  If you don’t have a Quick-Chef or something similar, just finely chop everything by hand.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb strawberries

1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded (if you get the little persian ones, you can skip peeling it)

1/2 a lime’s juice

handfull of fresh cilantro

a few scallions

Freshly ground black pepper and a dash of salt.

1.  Start by whirring the scallions and cilantro in the Quick-Chef until they are roughly chopped.

2.  Add your cucumber, in 1″-2″ chunks, give it three or four good turns.

3.  Add the strawberries and turn until chopped however finely you like, then gently fold in the lime juice.  Top with fresh black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with tortilla or pita chips.  Yum yum yum.  It’s also really great over a salad of lettuce or baby spinach with a few pepitas.

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Tupperware!

I’m doing my first-ever Tupperware party on Thursday as a new consultant and I couldn’t be more excited. We’ll be making a delicious,  healthy fruit salsa at the party. I’ll post the recipe later this week. If anyone is interested in “attending” the party virtually to put in an order, just let me know! I’ll send you a direct link to the party, or you can look at my new website.

Penny Parsnip in Pittsburgh

Hello Readers! I’ve been on hiatus for a while now, moving to and getting settled in to my new home: Pittsburgh, PA. This hasn’t left much time for fun creative cooking. I’ve been eating old favorites like black bean stew and endless combos of beans, rice, and fresh veggies. All the while, I’ve been wearing the soles of my shoes thin by walking all over this beautiful city. Pittsburgh is a pleasant mix of yesterday and today. Old factories and warehouses and falling down houses dot the landscape, while folded in are new buildings, brightly painted townhouses, hip small businesses and cheery murals.

Gorgeous store in The Strip District

Gorgeous store in The Strip District

Nearly two months later, I’m finally feeling at home:  I’ve got a room in a big old house with some other women and a fluffy cat, complete with a giant kitchen.  My dear friend Dorothy the food processor is out of storage, and as the days cool into crisp autumn weather, I’ll be back to whirring vegetables into little bits and boiling big pots of beans.  I have a job I like, doing fundraising for non-profits, and my neighborhood is very much like Brooklyn.

I spent last weekend with my family in the country, baking pies for our church festival.  Not too many, just four dozen ;).   And since I still had some energy left after baking the pies, I whipped up a birthday cake for my older brother and sister using my grandmother’s recipe.  It has eggs in it, so I won’t share it here, but I used soymilk in place of cow and no one knew the difference.

Silver-white layer cake, topped with fruit because I am terrible at at making icing look good.

Silver-white layer cake, topped with fruit because I am terrible at at making icing look good.

But now that that sugar-rush weekend is done, it’s back to healthy eating again.  I’m making my daily green smoothies again, and cooking stir-fry for lunch.  I’ve got kombucha brewing in hopes of finding some new customers.  Right now I’ve got a big batch of chickpeas bubbling on the stove to make hummus for our house party on Friday (and some for my little brother who is bringing the tahini.)  Plus I’m revamping some chili into a pot of quinoa and spinach laced glop for tonight’s dinner at work.  I’ve also developed a mild obsession with peanut sauce dumped on all of my veggies, so I’ll share with you a loose approximation of how to make it.

Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

big blob of peanut butter (I like all-natural stuff, but Jif and Skippy are fine too)

Soy sauce

Rice vinegar (or whatever you have, apple cider is fine too)

a bit of sugar (maple syrup, honey, agave, etc)

Something hot like red pepper flakes, cayenne, or Sriracha

finely minced ginger and/or garlic 

a little water to thin, if needed

1.  Whisk it all together until combined and season to taste.  Sorry for the lack of measuring here, I just eyeball it and keep adding and tasting until it’s good.

More great recipes to come!  I’ve been challenged to make a healthy hot-pocket, so stay tuned!

Party Planning

I’m cooking for a crowd this week!  What with my recent belly-aching, I was a little nervous about this party… until I realized that most of the food is healthy and shouldn’t bother my stomach!  Here’s the menu:

Spring Rolls (not deep fried, filled with raw veg, served with peanut sauce)

Black Bean Sliders and Guacamole (to make the sliders, form them into small patties or balls and bake them on a parchment lined pan at 425 for about 20mins, until golden.  No need to flip them.)

Crackers topped with pesto spread and cucumbers

Hummus and veggies

Chocolate Chip Blondies

See?  Even the cookies are healthy!  All I have to do is steer clear of the potato chips and try not to drink too much, and my stomach will be fine.  Now, I’ve got to make all this food by Friday night, and still go to work in the mean time.  I learned from the best (thanks Mom!) to make lots of lists and plan around my work schedule when to make what.  Here’s my mission:

You must be wanting some recipes by now.  Since you know all about hummus and black bean burgers, how about that pesto?  More of thick spread than a sauce, it’s oil-free and has no cheese.  I substituted cashews for pine nuts because who can afford those things?  Plus, I stretched my basil by replacing some of it with kale or arugula.

Pesto Spread

Adapted from Chef AJ’s MVP Stuffed Mushrooms, found in the Forks Over Knives Cookbook

2 c pine nuts or cashews

1 c basil

1 c something else green, like arugula, spinach, or kale, or more basil

4 or more cloves garlic

2 Tbls light miso (I like shiro miso)

Juice of two lemons

1.  Puree all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade, until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Try not to eat it all at once.

Test-Driving My New Baby

Yesterday, I took my jar of pennies to Manhattan and bought my very first grown-up appliance: The Cuisinart Custom 14 Food Processor.  Just about everything else I own has been bought second-hand or a gift, so I felt an immense amount of pride and pleasure handing over the cash I have been carefully saving for the past few months.  I grinned the whole way home on the subway, lugging this heavy box.

Upon arriving home, I immediately unpacked it, washed all the parts, and read the instructions, all the while plotting what to make first.  Burgers?  Hummus?  Cole slaw?  Then while surfing the net, I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Dreena Burton’s Plant Powered Kitchen.  Sold!  A new kind of hummus, and I get to put my new toy to the test.  Since you can read the recipe on Dreena’s site, I’ll take you through the process briefly in pictures, and tell you about the minor adjustments I made.

I subbed apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice because I forgot to buy lemons, and used 2T of tahini instead of the cashew butter.

Getting started!

Next it was time to blend!  Here it is before I added the raisins.  I decided at this point that it wasn’t yellow enough for me and needed more turmeric.  The processor ran so quietly and smoothly!

Almost done!

 

 

Finally I added the raisins.  I used 3T, and I think next time I will use only 2.  It’s just slightly sweeter than I’d prefer.  All in all, completely delicious, and came together in less than 15 minutes!  I’m enjoying it now with fresh raw okra, and excitedly thinking about what to twirl around tomorrow.

Hummus

The heat is on in Brooklyn and all I feel like eating are raw veggies and watermelon.  Sounds like it’s time for some hummus!

The first few times I made it, I measured everything very carefully, following the recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to the letter. These days, I eyeball it, tweaking it to my taste that particular week.  I also completely cut out the olive oil from that recipe with great results. Therefore, feel free to take liberties with these guidelines.

Since the weather is hot this week and I just returned from a lengthy vacation, I used canned chickpeas, but normally I cook them myself. The results are better with home-cooked because you can use the flavorful cooking liquid to thin the hummus out to your desired consistency.

Hummus

2 cups drained well-cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved (or a can of rinsed, drained beans and some water)

1/4 – 1/2 cup tahini, or to taste (You can even leave this out if you don’t have it or are allergic)

2 or more cloves garlic, peeled

juice of one lemon and/or a few tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I like a little of both)

1 tablespoon cumin or more to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender, adding more bean-cooking liquid or water as necessary to keep things running smoothly.

2. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, tahini, garlic or lemon juice/vinegar as desired.

Ideas for Variations (all off which I have tried):  Add lemon zest if you really love lemon (I don’t, but my dad enjoys it).  Roasted garlic instead of raw.  Roasted red peppers (you’ll need a little less liquid).  Fresh herbs.  Sun-dried tomatoes and basil (yumyumyum).  The options are endless.

Tips:  Add liquid very slowly in small amounts so you don’t end up with hummus soup! Taste frequently to figure out what you like.  When in doubt, get a second opinion or let it rest over night to allow the flavors to marry.

A few times when I’ve been overzealous with a certain ingredient and gotten frustrated, I’ve put the result in the freezer for a few weeks until I feel like messing with it again.  It’ll get a little watery after thawing, but over all does pretty well, and allows you to start over.  No messed up hummus can’t be fixed!  You can also freeze it if you make too much hummus.

Pineapple Salsa

Remember that pineapple salsa I accidentally stole from my roommate?  It was good, but I thought I could do better.  I read some recipes, then made up my own.  Pretty darn good served on Salsa Burgers.  Use as much and whatever kind of hot pepper you like.  I used a few of my mother’s home-canned pickled hot peppers (we don’t exactly know the variety, but they are hot!)  When I made Mango Salsa a while back, both habaneros and scotch bonnets were suggested.  I’ve tried neither, but you should, and tell me how it is!  And you’ll just have to trust me on the mint.  It really makes it.

Pineapple Salsa

1 can pineapple tidbits or rings, well-drained, juice reserved

1 onion, sliced 1/4″ thick

1/2 a green pepper, sliced 1/4″ thick

1-2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 c frozen corn, thawed

juice of one lime (2-3 Tbls)

1 Tbls apple cider vinegar

1 Tbls fresh mint, finely minced

diced hot pepper, to taste

Slap Ya Mama, to taste

1.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high.  Sear the onion slices on each side for a few minutes until they are nice and brown, but not blackened.  Do the same with the bell pepper, then the pineapple.  If you use tidbits like I did, you will save yourself some chopping, but you’ll have to stir them around a bit more in this step.

2.  When they are cool enough to handle, dice the onion and pepper and pineapple rings.

3.  Mix all ingredients in a big bowl.  Add reserved pineapple juice to taste.  Let it rest over night; taste again and adjust seasonings as desired.

Serve with Salsa Burgers, Black Bean Burgers, or scoop it up with chips!  This delicious dish was photographed, but the person who did so hasn’t uploaded yet.  I’ll update ASAP, but don’t let that stop you from making this!  Happy cooking!