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.

Easier Kale Salad for Lazy Busy People, aka Me

I’ve spent so much time singing the praises of Dreena Burton’s Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing from her wonderful book Let Them Eat Vegan (go buy it now.  NOW.)  I’ve served it at countless parties and never once found someone who doesn’t like it (exception being my family because they are weird.  (I love you)).  Die-hard junk foodies and meat-and-potatoes men have gone for seconds of this green ambrosia.  You should make it!  Really really do.

I was going to make it myself yesterday to counteract my weekend junk food binge, but had trouble mustering the energy because I was missing several dressing ingredients.  Plus I didn’t feel like hauling out the food processor or blender.  So I had a great idea.  Over the weekend I picked up some weird “40 spices” hummus at my local inadequate grocery store.  It was pretty strong and I wasn’t crazy about it on my pretzels, but I thought it might be a good sub for the dressing on my kale.  So I thinned it out with some lemon juice (from a bottle!  Please go buy a real lemon.) and other stuff and voila!  Passable dressing.

So here it is. All amounts are approximate because Penny Parsnip doesn’t measure ever.

Lazy Kale Slaw

Ingredients:

1 big bunch of kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

couple of carrots, thinly sliced or julienned (or buy pre-shredded carrots like a true lazy person)

4 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1/2 of a small onion, thinly sliced (optional)

handful of raisins or craisins

1 apple finely diced or julienned, tossed with some lemon juice

1/2 a small tub of your favorite or least favorite spicy hummus.  I used Tribe 40 Spices hummus.

lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup or honey

assorted dry seasonings like garlic powder, mustard, or dried herbs to jazz it up

1.  Toss the veggies together in a giant bowl.

2.  Whisk the lemon juice or vinegar into the hummus until it is thinned out a bit, adding more to taste.  You want it to still be pretty strong, since it will be clinging to a lot of veggies.  Season to taste, and thin it to about the consistency of a thick bottled ranch dressing, but no thicker than mayonnaise.  Does that make sense?

3.  Pour the dressing over the veg and mix with your hands to distribute it evenly over the greens.  Really massage the leaves so they soften up a bit, and make sure all the small stuff doesn’t sink to the bottom.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you find any interesting combinations.  You could put all kinds of vegetables in; the original recipe calls for fennel.  I often use shredded raw beets.  Some red bell pepper would be good in there, or some nice fresh corn if you can still get it this late in the year.

Warm Bulgur and Chickpea Salad with Broccoli

I can’t take full credit for this concoction.  The mama I work for got me hooked on this simple dish shortly after I began taking care of her two girls almost two (!) years ago.  The kids LOVE it.  The tahini sauce is my own variation, untested on the little ladies, so if you don’t have or like tahini, just leave it out and dress the salad simply with lemon juice.  It’s good either way.

Ingredients:

1 c bulgur, cooked according to package directions (cooks the same as white rice)

1-2 c cooked chickpeas or other bean of your choice

Big bunch of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and steamed to your liking

Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Dressing:

1 1/2 lemons, juiced (more to taste)

1 clove garlic

1-2 Tbsp tahini

pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1.  In a blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blitz until smooth.

2.  Toss everything in a big bowl until well-combined.  Sprinkle with parsley and an extra squeeze of lemon if desired.

Ta-da!  Good while everything is still warm from cooking, or leftover cold the next day.  Don’t hesitate to substitute another grain or bean or vegetable if you don’t care for one of these.  The variations are endless, and because it’s so simple you really can’t screw it up.

Easy Beet Salad

My system is a bit exhausted from eating all those rich, salty Thanksgiving foods.  I woke up this morning craving something fresh, so I figured it was time to make my favorite simple salad.  At least, it’s simple and easy if you have a food processor with a shredding disk.  Those who don’t are going to have to use some serious elbow grease.  I suppose you could finely dice all the ingredients instead of shredding them.  Let me know if you do, and how it turns out!

I used to abhor beets.  In fact, until recently they were practically the only vegetable I refused to eat!  Several years ago, knowing how healthy beets are, I made it my New Year’s resolution to learn to like them.  After roasting them several times and throwing them away because they tasted like dirt, I gave up.  Then this summer, I got stuck with some beets in my fridge (thanks roomie!) and ended up making beet burgers from the recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. They were so tasty that I continued to make them for weeks, and each time I made them I ended up with some leftover shredded raw beets.  Turned out, beets are really good raw!  They don’t taste like dirt that way!  That’s how I discovered this salad, and I’ve been making it ever since.  Low calorie, high nutrient, and costs very little to make.  Beets pack a serious nutritional punch for very little money.

Ingredients:

1 medium to large beet, peeled and cut into chunks that will fit in the feed tube

2 carrots, trimmed and cut into equal-sized chunks

1 apple, cored and quartered

Juice of one lemon, or a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1/4c sunflower seeds or pepitas, or a combination of the two

Shred the beets, carrots, and apple in a food processor fitted with the shredding disk.  I like to alternate veggies as I shred; does some of the mixing for me.  Toss in a large bowl with lemon juice or vinegar and seeds.  Eat it up!

Makes 4-8 cups of salad, depending on the size of the vegetables.  Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

Tummy Troubles

Confession:  I don’t always eat as well as I know I should.  Every now and then, I have a rough week and end up eating out too much, or drinking too much coffee (or alcohol, to be honest), or just forgetting the rules of nourishing my body.  I have a super sensitive stomach because of a medication I took in college, so I really do have to be careful what I put in it.

Last week was harrowing.  With an altered work schedule due to a hurricane followed by a snow storm, I didn’t make time to cook much and ended up drinking gallons of coffee and tea.  At work I ended up eating loads of the nasty “kid foods” I try so hard to avoid– white pasta, a wedge of a grilled cheese sandwich, crackers, scrambled eggs, buttery toast.  Add to that some celebratory wine (Obama!), and party food (potato chips!), and my stomach was getting very grumbly by Wednesday.  To top it all off, when I finally got to cooking, I was so stressed out about a personal problem that I turned to my favorite comfort food: cabbage and onions fried in butter, served with pierogis.  All of this combined with overindulgence Friday night at the bar left my poor tummy in tatters.

I spent Saturday napping, watching Mean Girls, and hoping I’d be able to keep food down (I did, but it was a struggle) while sipping ginger tea and broth.  Sometime in the evening, I realized I needed something stronger so I called on my brother, who is something of an amateur herbalist.  He suggested baking soda and lot of water to neutralize the acid, and chewing cardamom and fennel seeds after eating.  I downed a half teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water (blech!) and went to bed early.

Upon waking today I still had the tummy rumbles, but I was determined to eat properly to heal it.  I breakfasted on 1/4 cup of oatmeal with raw honey, ground cardamom, fennel, ginger and cinnamon   When I was sure that that was going to stay put, I made a smoothie out of a big hunk of raw ginger, banana, and soymilk.

Lunch was a bit heartier, but still simple, easily digestable, plant-based fare.  I made mashed potatoes (no oil, I subbed a bit of tahini) and this Kale Slaw (holy delicious Batman!).  I used shredded raw beets in place of the fennel.  So far, so good!  I’m still a tiny bit nauseous, but I feel ten times better and more energetic.  Nothing like plants for what ails you!

I consulted Dr. McDougall today as well (online of course).  He agrees with me on the source of my troubles: “Fatty foods with low fiber content, alcohol, caffeinated and decaffeinated beverages, and irritating foods…and medications are the leading causes of stomach distress.”  Not many people realize that fatty foods can irritate your stomach, but it’s certainly my experience that they do.  Solution?  “Frequent meals focusing primarily on starches will bring quick relief to people with esophagitis, gastritis, and ulcers.”  So that’s it for me:  No coffee, no alcohol, no chocolate, no oil, no dairy, no fruit juice or fizzy drinks.  Definitely no processed kid foods or potato chips!

I’ll keep you all posted on what’s cooking this week.  It’s going to be a busy one, since I’m cooking for a big party on Friday, but I’ll do my best!  Staying healthy is a journey we should share.

Wheat Berry Salad

Recently, my mother took a class at the local community college about cooking with whole grains. One of her favorite new recipes was a wheat berry salad which I had the opportunity to try when I was home for a weekend last month. Reaction: Wheat berries are YUMMY! Hearty, chewy texture, nutty flavor, fills the belly. However, I thought the dressing left much to be desired. Too oily and too sweet for my palate. Thus, I created my own, sans oil and sugar.

Oh, one more great thing about wheat berries: They are super cheap! I got mine from the bulk bins at my local natural food store for $1.49/lb. Thus, this recipe cost me about a dollar to make. Just my style.  But if you really can’t find them, you could make something similar with brown rice or bulgar wheat.

Forgive me, I didn’t measure much.

Wheat Berry Salad

1 c hard red winter wheat berries

1 carrot, grated

Handful of raisins or dried cranberries

small handfull of chopped walnuts

salt and pepper

dash of cumin and marjoram

Vinegar, maybe 2-3 tbls? I used apple cider vinegar, but I think red wine vinegar  or malt vinegar would be really lovely. Lemon juice would also be good.

1. Cook the wheat in 3 c water for 40-60 mins, much like you’d cook brown rice. When they are the right amount of chewiness for you, drain off any excess water.

2. Toss all the other ingredients with the warm wheat and taste. Adjust seasonings and eat up!

If you wanted to bulk this up a bit, I think some baby spinach leaves and chickpeas would be a great addition!  I’ll let you know how it looks in leftovers.

Spicy Tomato Salad

It’s tomato season! The best part of the summer. I threw together this simple salad over the weekend after getting a great big sack of juicy tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4 of an onion, minced
1 tbls minced jalapeno
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of one lemon, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk the turmeric into the lemon juice. Add all the other ingredients and gently mix. Let it set for about 30mins to allow the flavors to marry. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Delicious as a side for your veggie burgers!