Thursday, June 26, 2014

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

Recently I got a request asking if I might be interested in writing an article about main dish summer salads, easy to put together recipes, I thought, what fabulous luck.  I love being creative and recipe articles keep me experimenting in the kitchen. 

This timely request arrived at almost the exact moment that I'd started thinking what a rut we were in at dinner.  I was wonding how to add some variety.  It was a great invitation to be more creative with dinner, in fact, if I hadn't gotten this request, I would have done it anyway.  

What a great way to perk up our home cuisine.

I asked a few friends for ideas for this article. One friend likes to toast chunks of gluten-free focaccia as croutons for green salads.  She adds chickpeas, sunflower seeds and sweet cherry tomatoes.  Another friend adds edamame and quinoa.  Quinoa?  

On that bit of inspiration I made a simple quinoa salad with red quinoa, balsamic vinegar, sauted shallots and peppers.  I added chopped parsley and topped it with toasted cashews. Salads are so easy you can whip them up in minutes and they are different all the time.

Salads should be a staple in everyones' menu.  One day we'll even have salads for breakfast.

This one is all about potatoes.  Who doesn't love potato salad?

New potatoes are the best because they're so sweet and tender, but you can choose everyday white or red potatoes from the grocery store, if you want.  The potatoes from the farmers market tend to cost more, but the flavor makes all the difference.

The same goes for vinegar.  Rockridge Orchards is always my first choice.

My Cooking Assistant has other ideas.  He's too distracted by strawberries this season.  I think he can sniff them a block away.

He's quick. You might want to go check your berries.

He's quick with the photo op, too.  One minute he is sound asleep.  The next, he's got his nose in the picture and won't remove it until he gets a sample.

Too spoiled, I think.

Sorry this was a bit late this week.  I've been too busy enjoying spring.  Hope you like this salad as much as we did.

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad
(Serves 6)

2 pounds red, white and blue (purple) potatoes, small dice
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
2 cherry peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh sweet onions, small dice
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons aioli spread, or vegan mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (optional) 
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley

Steam potatoes until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.  Rinse under cold water. Drain.  In a medium mixing bowl, add drained potatoes, kidney beans, peppers, and onions.

Combine raspberry vinegar, mustard, olive oil, aioli spread, agave nectar and white pepper.  Blend until creamy. Combine dressing and potatoes, peppers and onions. Blend in olives, if desired, and parsley.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blueberry Crisp

I've been busy writing and I wanted something easy.  I was thinking comfort and sweet flavors.  I wanted crispy and juicy, something hot and cold.  Had to be a fruit crisp with coconut sorbet.  I like this sorbet the best of all.  If you can't get coconut, lemon will do.

My Cooking Assistant loves fruit crisp, too.  He likes fruit, especially berries.  It's useless telling him to leave the berries alone in the garden.  He heads for the strawberries and raspberries first thing.  He pulls a sad face every time I go out to the garden. Sometimes I give in.  

He's got quite a sense of entitlement. But in an odd way that's what I really like about him.  I'm a sucker for a sad face.

It's nearly time to head to Oregon.  I know I could do U-pick, go to the farmers' market here, but I love Oregon berries, and it's a good excuse to go to Portland.

Berry season is the best time of year in the Northwest.  I like anything with berries, and crisps are easy to make.  You don't need much sugar with fresh Northwest berries.

You can make this with brown sugar or maple syrup.  Use less if you want this for breakfast.  And why not a breakfast crisp?  I could eat it anytime of day.  I hope you like it too.

Blueberry Crisp
(Serves 6)

1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup  Earth Balance or butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon tapioca flour

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, oats and baking soda, blending well.  In another bowl combine butter or Earth Balance, and vanilla extract, mixing until the shortening or butter is well blended.  Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Place berries in a casserole dish.  Mix in grated orange zest and tapioca flour. Spread the oat-maple mixture over the top of the berries. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Serve with coconut sorbet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Broccoli and Carrot Slaw

I've been busy writing and when I'm not writing, I'm in the garden, trying to arrange more plants for the hummingbirds.  Who doesn't want more hummingbirds around?

Sure they like the feeders, but I'm sure they prefer fresh flowers blooming.  In fact, I saw one hummingbird checking out our hanging baskets, like she was sizing up the possibilities. 

Anyway, I'm trying to think up easy and budget worthy recipes.  I peruse delis and salad bars to see what they've got, then I go home and make my own.  Seriously, some of the delis are up to $8.99 for things like pickled beets. Take out food is clearly a budget breaker.

One way to save money each week is to use the entire vegetable.   Carrot tops are still a bit of a stretch for me.  I guess I just haven't found a decent recipe for them yet, but broccoli stems--I see broccoli slaw made with grated stems in mainstream delis now.

Baby carrots are in at the market but for grating, get a bigger carrot.  Save the baby carrots for the grill or roast them.  That's a recipe for another time.

Surprisingly these big carrots can be just as sweet or even sweeter than the tiniest baby carrots.

I can't hide these from my Cooking Assistant.  He loves them.

I can't keep him away from the broccoli either.  What can I say, he's a veggie fanatic and he's living in the right house for his obsession.

With this broccoli slaw recipe, I don't even have to look for just the crowns anymore.

If you want to take some liberties with this salad and add, subract or change produce or add nuts or dried fruit, go for it.  Of course I used my favorite raspberry vinegar from Rockridge Orchards.

Broccoli and Carrot Slaw
(Serves 4)

3 cups shredded broccoli stems (about 4 or 5 big stems)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely sliced green onons
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons garlic aioli spread (or dairy-free mayonnaise)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons chopped Mama Lil's peppers or 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup raisins or currants
Sea salt to taste

Combine broccoli stems, carrots and green onions.  Set aside. In a small bowl combine apple cider, garlic aioli spread, garlic, Mama Lil's, mustard, and honey.  Blend with broccoli and carrots.  Stir in raisins.  Add sea salt to taste.

I think my Cooking Assistant had enough of the "wait" command.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gluten-Free Vegan Apple Cider Muffins

I wanted to experiment with non-gluten grains more, so I decided to go gluten-free for a few weeks. 

Here's what I learned:

1.  Get ready to spend more money because many gluten-free options are more expensive than wheat based foods.  It could be because wheat is a subsidized crop.

2. Wheat is in most processed foods, making label-reading a priority when shopping.

3. I became more aware of what I was eating.  For substitutes, I opted for more fruit and vegetables which also cost more than commodity crops.  

4. Living on $100 or less is hard if you need to be gluten free.

5.  Living without wheat gave me a much more varied diet.

This recipe was inspired by an old chocolate vegan cake recipe that listed baking soda and vinegar to make the batter rise.

I made it once and replaced the cold water with apple cider. For flour I used rice, oat bran, tapioca flour and xantham gum.  I added pecans for texture, and they were good, but I felt like something was missing.

The next time I made the recipe I used a sweet tart apple, diced.  For more flavor, I added cinnamon and nutmeg.

My favorite apple cider and apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchards.

Any time is a good time for muffins.

These muffins will stay fresh for days.  To reheat simply place in the oven and the outside caramelizes, while the inside is soft and cake-like.

When the two weeks came to an end, I discovered wheat doesn't really seem to affect my digestion much, but I liked my new diet so much, I decided to reduce my wheat consumption to a few times a week, no more than rice or quinoa.

If you eat wheat more than once a day, maybe these muffins will inspire you to give up wheat for a week or more to see what you're missing.

Wheat, Egg and Dairy-Free Apple Cider Muffins
(Makes 6 to 8 muffins)
Use your favorite apples for this sweet muffin recipe. I like Pink Lady or Honey Crisp for these muffins and if I cut them early, I toss them with a little lemon juice to preserve the color.

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat bran
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xantham gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup cold apple cider
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 sweet-tart apple, core removed, small dice
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine rice flour, oat bran, tapioca flour, xantham gum, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together in a large mixing bowl.  Sift them together if you want for better mixing. Blend in the brown sugar.

Oil muffin tins.  Combine apple cider, apple cider vinegar and canola oil.  Blend the wet with the dry ingredients. Fold in apples and nuts last.  

Spoon into muffin tins, about 3/4 full.  Add about 2 tablespoons water to every empty tin.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.   Loosen the muffins by cutting around them, and let the muffins sit for 5 minutes before removing from tins. These muffins are best eaten warm with just a hint of butter or Earth Balance spread.