Monday, February 25, 2013

Shepherd's Pie with Amazing Mashed Potatoes

Three Cheers for Potatoes

Potatoes get a bad rap.  Some people have even called them the number one health threat, never mind GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. And don't get started on the glycemic index, if you want to enjoy your potatoes in peace.

Times are not so politically correct when it comes to enjoying the lowly potato. 

But some of us are still fans.

Are they good or bad?

Potatoes are members of the nightshade family (as are tomatoes, peppers and eggplants) and these vegetables have been known to cause reactions in some people. Potatoes have been linked to arhtritis and may trigger pain in joints, but for the majority of people who aren't affected, potatoes can be an essential part of a healthy diet.  

Potatoes contain a wide variety of phytonutrients.  A few the good things about potatoes is they are budget friendly, you can keep them in the pantry for a few weeks, and they can go with just about any meal.  And as for the glycemic index, most people eat potatoes with other foods like beans, which can lower the glycemic index of potatoes.   

The best part (at least for me) is you can do lots of things with potatoes.  They go great in roll-up on-the-go meals, make great layers and are great meal extenders when company is coming.

Olson Farms at the farmers' market sells a wide variety of potatoes 

I love mashed potatoes, but they can be rich and I hate it when people add cream. They don't need it for one thing. Also, I don't buy milk and I rarely have soy, rice or almond milk around, so I decided I'd skip it and mash the potatoes with a sweet potato. A sweet potato gives mashed potatoes a rich flavor and adds moisture, and you don't have to add as much butter or oil.  If the potatoes still need moisture to mash add salsa.

I had a big bowlful of potatoes to use for the week.  They're so good my Cooking Assistant couldn't help himself.  I must learn to snap the picture faster.

I got ideas for what to do with mashed potatoes from this book (my first cookbook).  

FYI: Amazon sellers sometimes ask outrageous prices. Especially if it seems like not enough of some things exist. I recently saw my first book advertised for $133.00. "New hardbound copy," the blub said.  Don't be fooled by Amazon sellers and pay outrageous prices.  This book was never in hardbound, and it's not worth more than $12.00 which is a little over half the original price.  

So if you really want a book that is out of print and the price is too high on Amazon it's best to contact the publisher or the author and find out if they have any copies to sell.  

If you are interested in a book that is out of print, contact the author before purchasing used copies for more than the value of the book.
I digress.  Here is my nondairy recipe:  

Amazing Mashed Potatoes
(Makes about 4 cups)

3 large baking potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 to 4 tablespoons salsa

1. Wash and poke potatoes and sweet potato with a fork.  Bake at 350F. until very tender. Scoop potatoes and sweet potato from their skins into a bowl.  

2. Add Earth Balance and garlic powder.  Mash until smooth and creamy.  Add salsa to taste.  Mash in until salsa is well combined. 

Of course I could use these as a side dish, but more than that I love adding them to one-pot meals.

Shepherd's Pie came to mind since I'm working on a savory chocolate article and I wanted to try chocolate in the recipe.

Also I'm into using shiitake mushrooms in just about everything now because they are so beneficial for your immune system.  I get them from Cascadia Mushrooms at the U-District Farmers Market.  These mushroom cultivators are from Bellingham.  They also sell Lion's Main mushrooms, another immune system booster.  Maybe I'll work those into a dish next week.

From side to main dish

The best thing about Shepherd's Pie is you can add whatever vegetables and flavors you want.  The potatoes are the frosting on the cake.

I wanted green beans but I didn't freeze or can any, so I bought a small bag of organic green beans at the local co-op.  Sure I could substitute kale, spinach or try parsnips instead, but this time of year, I'm tired of the same old offerings.   Carrots, too, can hard to find and expensive at the farmers' market these days.  

There were small bunches of carrots at Willie Green's, but Nash's Organic Produce is done for the season and won't have carrots again until summer.  

You won't find carrots this big at any Northwest market right now.

 Think about color but keep in mind when you add a bit of chocolate to the gravy, it will turn everything dark and delicious. 

Shepherd's Pie Infused with Chocolate
(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 onion, medium dice
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tabespoon chile powder 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, pressed
3 or 4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dark chocolate sauce or cocoa powder
2 cups green beans, frozen
1 cup peas or corn, frozen
15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 or 3 tablespoons whole wheat or spelt flour
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups mashed potatoes
Smoked paprika

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  (Use a skillet that can also be baked.) Add onion and shiitake mushrooms.  Stir and cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft.

2. Preheat oven to 350F.   Add carrots and  cauliflower.  Stir for a few minutes, then add chile powder, garlic powder, tomato paste and chocolate.  Stir and add green beans, peas, kidney beans, and 2 tablespoons flour.  Mix well before stirring in water.  Simmer for a five minutes.

3. Remove from heat.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Spread mashed potatoes over the top and sprinkle with smoked paprika.  Bake for 45 minutes or until sauce bubbles.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Curried Lentil Salad

I created this Curried Lentil Salad thirteen years ago for an article I wrote for Vegetarian Journal.  I didn't use the recipe for this cookbook or my newer book.  Instead,  I used the exact blend of spices to make a soup.  Sure I had the spice blend, but I wondered if I still had the exact recipe for the salad.

I looked for it and found something even better:  the exact Vegetarian Journal  that the recipe came from.  And although cranberry season is gone, Crazy about Cranberries, in the same issue brought back good food memories.

For the salad, I changed the original recipe a bit because I wanted to emphasize immune building foods  like the dark leafy greens.  These have been reported to contain chemical compounds that help regulate immune cells.

And garlic has been shown to have compounds that give us more protection from viruses and can even help our resistance to cancer.

And walnuts--a great plant source of Omega 3-fatty acids with their anti-inflammatory properties.  The article from Men's Health announced: "Eat walnuts to look younger."

I don't know how that applies to dogs with lots of skin who already look old.

I wrote my current version of my recipe below, but here is the original recipe:

It's helpful to gather the salad ingredients before making it.

I added shiitake mushrooms to the mix.  Shiitakes not only contribute an intriguing texture, these mushrooms are well known for their unique healing properties and are a good plant source of iron.

After everything is gathered, measured or cut and ready to go, don't forget skimp on the high quality oil.   Even my assistant agrees, this is a great Spanish olive oil and a perfect compliment to the lime juice in the dressing.

Curried Lentil Salad
(Serve 4)
This salad uses precooked rice, so be sure to have cooked rice on hand. Serve this salad as a main dish one day and a side dish the next.  It also makes a great filling for roll up sandwiches.

1 cup French lentils
3 cups water
1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, small dice
5 or 6 medium shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced
1 teaspoon each: coriander, turmeric, cumin and chili powder
1/4 teaspoon each: cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne or chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 1/2 cups carrots, grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, about 2 or 3 limes
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup toasted walnuts 

Rinse lentils.  In a medium saucepan, bring water and lentils to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.  Do not overcook.

Meanwhile heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil, red pepper and shiitake mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft.  Add coriander, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves.

When lentils are done, combine mushrooms, brown rice, grated carrots and raisins.  Mix gently.  

Combine line juice, garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Mix in with lentils and rice.  Stir in parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with walnuts.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Sides and Salads Monday

A Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe caught my eye recently because it listed kalamata olives, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and parsley.  I guess it was the parsley that got me.  Curly parsley is one of my favorites.  I just don't get why everyone flocks to the Italian flat leaf when curly parsley is way much better.

It's also super easy to grow (at least in the Northwest).  It takes little care, it's more like a cultivated weed that we harvest it year round. 

Curly parsley is also one of the most nutritious greens around.  It's a rich source of antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and B-complex vitamins.   It also had anti-inflammatory components and had been reported to help with arthritis. And curly parsley doesn't taste as strong or bitter as the popular flat leaf parsley.

Spring parsley

Winter parsley
When you've got this much parsley in your yard, begging to be harvested, it's time to find a recipe.   

High Quality Ingredients

I like to use a good quality olive oil, and I've been using this excellent extra-virgin olive oil from Spain produced by Manuel Molina Munoz e Hijos.  It was sent as a gift, so I'm not sure where you can purchase it in the Northwest, but check the website online because this oil makes a great gift for any chef or foodie.


Winter is the season for citrus, so why not use blood oranges.  The flesh is brilliant in color and the flavor is more complex than a regular orange.

My cooking assistant gives blood oranges four paws up.  The only drawback is they are small so it can  take two oranges to make a quarter of a cup. You can follow conventional directions about how to make a vinaigrette, but these standard recipes usually call for a ratio of 3 to 1--oil to vinegar.  I try to reverse that because the purpose of the oil is so the dressing will cling to the ingredient not to flood the salad with oil.  A good vinaigrette is a balance of five flavors--salty, sweet, sour, spicy and pungent.   (Think garlic or ginger for pungent.)

Salad Composition

Also think about colors when composing salads, since unlike dogs, we tend to eat with our eyes first.  I used a few Mama Lil's peppers,  some sundried tomatoes and of course kalamata olives, which I always keep on hand to add to soups and salads.

I cook millet with quinoa because it adds variety and it's a money saver.  Millet never costs as much as quinoa and it cooks in the same amount of time, so I always use them together.

To finish the salad I like to garnish with toasted nuts because it gives the salad more texture.  For this salad,  I used some Thai roasted cashews for an exotic touch.

A salad like this can be served on the side or as a main dish.  We had spicy marinated tofu with shiitake mushrooms, carrots and cabbage. Which was the main dish and which was the side dish?  We didn't care.  It was a grand night of vegetables at our house.

Quinoa Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette 

(Serves 4)

2 cups water
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup millet, rinsed
5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
4 tablespoons blood orange juice
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 teaspoon veganaise or garlic aiolii
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup toasted nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts)

1. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Place quinoa, millet, tomatoes, garlic powder, sea salt, and cayenne in the boiling water.  Bring to a second boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir in kalamata olives.

2. While mixture cools, prepare dressing.  Combine orange juice, wine vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic and olive oil.  Stir until well blended.  Add Mama Lil's peppers, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Blend in parsley.  Top with toasted nuts, if desired.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Linda's Collard Greens Revisited

We eat kale so often at our house, I sometimes forget about collard greens.  But this weekend when I saw collards at Nash's booth at the farmers' market,  I knew I had my recipe for the week.  Well maybe not the recipe but at least I had the main ingredient.  I just wasn't sure what the remaining ingredients were yet.  I knew I'd wanted something different than the usual standbys if I wanted to break out of my kitchen rut. 

While I was looking through this book that I got at the library, I found the perfect recipe

Product Alerts:

Let me put a plug in for this book.  The recipes are dairy- and meat-free, they're easy-to-make, and many of them have unique twists.  Broccoli Calazones and Hearty Chili Spuds were a couple of my favorites. In fact, I flagged so many recipes in this book with little post-it notes, I had to put this book on my must-buy book list.

You can check out author Jennifer McCann's vegan lunch box blog here for more good lunch recipes. She's a bit behind in posting but the blog and book offer so many delightful ideas for kids, it made me smile thinking I'd gotten the Vegan Lunch Box book for me.  I'm a big sucker for presentation and the cute divisions in the lunch box on the front cover made me pick up this book--I want one of those lunch boxes!

Another product I want to mention here is the fabulous olive oil that I've been using on everything. Spanish olive oils have been winning awards lately so it's about time one of these oils topped the charts.  Unlike some extra-virgin olive oils, you can cook with these oils.  I've used Amarga Y Pica on roasted vegetables in a 375F. oven without any damage to the oil.  And I've also used it in salad dressings.  

The flavor of each oil (below) is slightly different.  The bottle on the left, simply called Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, below that label are the words "cold pressed."  This oil has a stronger flavor than the other oil and I doubt I would cook with this oil since it probably has a lower smoke point.  The two other oils also have superior flavors and you can cook with them.  (Generally if I'm cooking something that requires a higher temperature, I use canola oil, so I'm really excited about an olive oil that I can use on roasted veggies.

There's a use for each oil. Everyone has their favorite.

Somebody knows how to spot the true cold-pressed oil without even opening the bottle!
Got collards?

For this recipe, I slid the leaves off the middle stems and as I was about to toss the stems onto the compost heap, I hesitated.  Americans are guilty of wasting way too much food.  So I tucked those stems into a bag and I'm planning on slicing them for a noodle dish tonight.  I'll let you know how that goes, but I'm determined to buy less and use more of my vegetables this year.

Another thing you can do with a side dish like this is to use it as a filling for tortilla roll-ups, or blend it with rice or quinoa and add chunks of marinated tofu or other protein.

Linda's Collard Greens Revisited
Toast the sunflower seeds in the oven at 350F for about eight minutes or in a frying pan, stirring over medium heat until they brown, about five minutes.
(Serves 4)

1 large bunch of collard greens, rinsed well, hard stems removed
2 to 4 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Wash leaves and remove from middle stem by pushing the leaves off.  Gather leaves and roll in a chiffonade and slice leaves in thin strips.  Turn the cut leaves and chop again.  

Steam the leaves until fork tender--2 to 3 minutes at the most. Drain.  Toss with Italian salad dressing, Mama Lil's Peppers and kalamata olives.  Garnish with sunflower seeds.