Sunday, June 27, 2010

Arugula & Bean Salad

When life gives you lemons... make salad dressing.

I've been carrying some big cash around in my wallet since graduation and have been paranoid about losing it for the past week. Yesterday I went to Costco and was planning to spend some of it. However, when I opened my wallet, it was gone. I completely lost it in the middle of the store. Instant panic, followed by a car ride home of crying. Way to go me. Turns out, I'd left it at home anyway. What a great use of emotional energy, huh?

It made me think about all the times in my life that I've freaked out over something so small. Even in that moment I knew it was just money. It wasn't my health, my loved ones, or another oil spill. It was just a piece of paper. I'll work harder at believing that the next time something like this rolls around...

Last night I went to a friend's going away party. The funny thing is that my friend lost her wallet with some big money earlier this week too. I guess it really isn't funny because she never found her money. Hey Universe, when you decide to pay her back, don't forget that she'll be in the Southern California desert. It sucks when the Universe forgets your address.

As me and Ashley were leaving the party, she said that I must be pretty sad now with school being over and friends moving away. What I realized in that moment is that as much as I will miss the people leaving my life, I have enjoyed them being in my life so much that it is okay. If friends didn't move, we'd never have going away parties. And those, are pretty dang fun.

So, when you have a bad day, or maybe you're just hungry, help yourself to a salad with some lemon dressing. It may not make everything better, but at least your tummy will feel good.

Makes 2 salads

4 cups arugula
1/2 cup cooked beans, cooled (I used baby lima beans)
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 Tbs Italian seasoning (If you don't have this handy, just use a mix of thyme, oregano, and basil)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive Oil

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Wait about a minute then add the onion slices and turn the heat to low-medium. Make sure that all the onions are covered in oil and add more if needed. Turn the onions with a spatula every 5 minutes or so. If they start to stick to the pan, add more oil. Add your Italian seasoning after about 15 minutes. The onions should caramelize in about 20-25 minutes.

While the onions are going, mix the lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss with your greens. Add the greens to two plates and top with the beans. (I always have a stash of cooked beans on hand, but if you don't have any or don't want to cook them yourself, grab a can.)

When the onions have caramelized, or when you get tired of waiting, let them sit for a moment and then add to your salad. Garnish with some tomato slices and serve.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cream of Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

I'm usually not a "creamy soup" person, but today called for something light yet hearty. I recently fell in love with a new cookbook: Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source by Terry Walters. I was intrigued by the Cream of Asparagus soup and decided to give it a try. I didn't have enough asparagus on hand, so I threw in some broccoli too.

The directions recommend putting this back in the fridge and letting it sit for a few hours before serving to let the flavors meld together. The flavors do get stronger the longer it sits, but it's perfectly acceptable to serve right off the stove. If it's warm outside, you can also serve it chilled. If you don't have any miso on hand, you can substitute some veggie broth or a bouillon cube for a little extra flavor. This soup goes great with some toasted whole-wheat naan or any bread of your choice.

Serves 6.
2 bunches asparagus (3 cups chopped)
2 heads broccoli (3 cups chopped)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 leeks, white parts only, chopped
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 cups rice milk
1/2 tsp dried dill
sea salt and pepper
1 tsp mellow white miso per serving

Bend each piece of asparagus near the tough dried end until it snaps off at its natural breaking point. Discard ends, wash remaining asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside. Wash and chop broccoli and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, saute garlic and leeks in olive oil until soft (2-3 minutes). Add asparagus, broccoli, oats, milk, and dill, then add enough water just to cover asparagus and broccoli. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until asparagus and broccoli are soft (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Puree soup using a blender. Add water if a thinner soup is desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dissolve miso in just enough water to make it a liquid. Stir into each serving. Garnish with dried dill and serve.

Note: Miso is added to individual servings rather than to the full pot so you can reheat leftover soup without destroying miso's living enzymes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Birthday Fajita Salad

Today is Ashley's birthday. I asked what she would like for her birthday meal and I told her that I would make anything she wanted (of course, I would find some way to make it vegan). I had anticipated that she would ask for a cake and had already bought some powdered sugar for the occasion. However, she did not ask for a cake. Or cookies. Or dessert of any kind.

She asked for quinoa salad and fajita salad. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is correct. My vegetable-hating, vegan-fearing partner asked for two salads on her birthday. This is truly a moment to celebrate! If you or anyone you know are trying to incorporate more vegetables and/or healthy foods into your diet, I hope this story inspires you. :)

When Ashley and I were first dating she made me Fajita Salad for the first time. Of course, that version was loaded with chicken and cheese, but it is a delicious salad that is incredibly easy to transform into a vegan favorite. If you happen to already be a vegetable lover, feel free to add in some spinach or extra vegetables. If you want a low-fat version, use less vegenaise in the dressing or leave it out entirely.

Serves 4

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 avocado
2 tomatoes, diced
1 bag tortilla chips (there will be extra)

1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup Catalina dressing
1/4 cup vegenaise

The dressing is made from combining equal parts salsa, Catalina dressing, and vegenaise. 1/4 cup of each of these should make enough for the salad. Combine these together to make the dressing and mix this with the lettuce.

Next, mix in the beans, corn, tomato, and some broken up tortilla chips. Garnish with more tortilla chips and avocado.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lessons From My Kitchen...

For the past two years I have been a student at Antioch University earning my Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology. Yesterday I graduated. I figured I had to acknowledge this here because this blog was inspired by my experience in this program. Today I don't have a recipe for you. Instead, I want to take a moment to share with you some of the lessons I have learned in my kitchen and in life.

Seasons change. I could write a paper for you about change, but I will spare you today. Instead, what I think is important to say here is that even though we may fear change and times of transition, our entire lives are about change. You see this in the world around you as the days slowly get longer, shorter, colder, warmer... as the different foods cross your plate with the various seasons... as beautiful people come into your life and some stay while others go.

What are you letting go of today? What are you letting in? On our last day of class we did a closing activity and each shared what we were letting go of and what we were letting in. I think this a wonderful question to ponder at any moment in your life, but on the eve of summer, I think it is especially important to say goodbye to our bittersweet, rainy spring and welcome the new season.

Trust the process. You have no way of knowing what lies ahead of you in your life. Life is all about the unexpected turns and moments that change our path forever. I believe that all we can do in the here and now is focus on the beauty there is around us and trust that we are all heading in the right direction: "Whatever you are meant to do, move toward it and it will come to you." - Gloria Dunn

I have mentioned here before that I do not consider myself to be "a baker." Baking, for me, is about measuring all the ingredients and then hoping, praying, and crossing my fingers that the cake is going to rise. Every time I bake, I have to trust the process. I have to trust that I did the best I could and believe that when I put the cake in the oven it is going to turn out fine. Most of the time, it's a success. But, I have had my share of failed cakes. That's life.

Recipes aren't always right. There have been many times when I have followed a recipe completely only to find the end result rather disappointing. I have learned that the best cooking method, at least for me, is to look at recipes as needed, but trust my own instincts to modify them. You can't rely on a book for everything. Cookbooks and recipes are amazing and helpful, but they can't teach you how to make food. That comes from experience. I believe that the greatest lessons we learn come from our own lives, not books. And if you disagree with a recipe, change it.

Be present. Where is the fun in cooking if you aren't fully present while eating the food? Any time I have ever injured myself in my kitchen, it is because I was not fully present. There are so many distractions today for all of us, but sometimes it is necessary to turn off the phone, the computer, and our internal chatter just to focus on the moment at hand. From my experience, food always tastes better when we slow down, take small bites, and just eat.

Use it or lose it. You cannot hold on to produce forever because it will eventually go bad. I don't know about you, but I know there have been many times when I have wasted food that I love because I was waiting for the "right time" to use it or eat it. Wasted food is a bummer. And wasted opportunities? Big bummer. The lesson here is that there never is a "right time" to do something - there is just that moment. So, use up that favorite food you have been saving, take that vacation you have been putting off, or make that leap in your life that scares you. The time is now.

Food is about community. The best meals I have had are ones that I have shared with others. In our fast-paced world, we often forget about building community or taking the time to focus on our relationships with others. Food is a beautiful way to build community, whether that means designating Wednesdays as "family dinner night", meeting your neighbors in a community kitchen, or volunteering at a local food bank. People need connection with others and good connections often happen over good food.

It's just food. Have fun. And finally, cooking should be fun. Food is about enjoyment and pleasure. Don't take it too seriously and remember that even the worst situations get better with a good sense of humor. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Green Bean Salad

It's time to slooow down. Slow down for some fresh, spring air and green beans. I was at the spa recently and sat down for a long lunch. When was the last time you took a "long lunch"? I couldn't remember.

I was so fortunate to be able to slow down for a delicious meal and take the time to nourish my body. When my food was ready, the server brought me two metal chopsticks. They were absolutely beautiful.

I sat there looking at these chopsticks and thinking about how chopsticks inspire me to slow down. To take smaller bites. To chew fully. To breathe. I don't know about you, but I could use more chopsticks and long lunches in my life.

Have I mentioned Cecile Andrews before? If you aren't familiar with her work, she is absolutely amazing. I have been making my way through her book, Slow is Beautiful, for several months now and she is absolutely inspiring. If you are in need of a little nourishment for the soul, sit down with her book and this green bean salad. Don't forget the chopsticks.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

1/2 pound green beans
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 red onion, sliced
juice from 1/2 lemon
handful of chopped walnuts
handful of sliced almonds
handful of golden raisins
pepper to taste
olive oil

Place the green beans in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Slice them in half (lengthwise). Set aside.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices, walnuts, and almonds. Saute for about 2 minutes until nuts are brown and fragrant. Add this to the green beans. Add rice vinegar, lemon juice, a bit more olive oil. Mix and garnish with golden raisins. Sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes you just have to give in. Give in to putting that alarm to sleep for five more minutes. Give in to going for a walk outside just to feel the sun on your face. And give in to yourself and that nagging little voice inside of you that says, "I don't feel like going to the gym today... I feel like making cookies." How I both love and despise that little voice.

I have been reading about organizing your time and your life lately and it's been some interesting research. I'm one of those people that's always got a to-do list going. Every day starts with creating the list and every day ends with an evaluation of how much got done. What I have realized is that I never specifically put fun things on the to-do list. The to-do lists are always about work or chores... writing papers, cleaning the apartment, running errands. As a result, fun things tend to get pushed aside for more "productive" endeavors.

I have never put "make cookies" on my to-do list. But, that certainly changed today. Cookies are an important part of life that often get forgotten in my world. I have decided it is time to bring them back -- along with all my other forgotten treasures like spending more time with friends, creating art, and traveling. And besides, making cookies isn't all about me. There are many people in my life in need of cookies: Ashley, youth at Lambert House, fellow graduate students... I bet if you try real hard you can find some people in your life too.

What's at the top of your to-do list today? What can you throw out and replace with "make cookies"? Or, better yet, make an entire afternoon out of "eating cookies." I think that's on my list for tomorrow.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup Earth Balance, softened
3/4 cup granulated vegan sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Egg replacer for 2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) vegan chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl
2. Beat Earth Balance, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large mixer bowl
3. Add egg replacer one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture.
4. Stir in chips and nuts
5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets
6. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown
7. Let stand for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Springtime Asparagus

You wouldn't know it these days, but it is springtime in Seattle - and spring means one thing... Asparagus! How do you like your asparagus? (or do you like asparagus?) I love it sauteed in a frying pan with a bit of Earth Balance. Or grilled on a barbeque with a little olive oil. Yum!

On Saturday I went over to Bastyr's Food & Herb fest at their campus in Kenmore. For anyone interested in learning more about alternative medicine, nutrition, or herbs, I highly recommend you check this out next year! This was my first time, but I was very impressed with the different workshops -- everything from making fermented foods to aromatherapy to mindfulness. They also had great food, music, and some interesting vendors. Their session on food from the Farmer's Market inspired me to make a quick stop at one on my way home. And that is how this asparagus came to be...

This fresh asparagus tasted so good that it didn't need a lot of extra flavor. A little salt and pepper and lemon juice was just enough.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and saute for about 3-5 minutes, until it has just a bit of crunch left (depending on how you like it!) Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Brown Rice Farina

Ah, another rainy morning in Seattle. Hello June. I've really been looking forward to June this year. Not only because I graduate, but because my life is ready to be filled with the beautiful vegetables soon to arrive in my CSA.

It sounds like farms around Washington are having a rainy season too. I was supposed to help out on a farm in Duvall last week, but with all the rain and mud, the trip got canceled. I was also notified the other day that my CSA wouldn't arrive until late June because of the cold weather this season. I guess the vegetables just need a little more time. Hmm, don't we all.

Well, what could be better on a dreary morning than a warm bowl of brown rice farina. What are your thoughts on brown rice farina? Love it? Hate it? Have no clue what I'm talking about? I came to know brown rice farina a couple of years ago when I was on an elimination diet trying figure out if I had food allergies. For anyone unfamiliar with an elimination diet, it typically involves cutting out dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, caffeine, and any processed foods. Depending on your body and the purpose of the diet, you might also have to cut out fruit, especially citrus.

Brown rice farina quickly became one of my favorite breakfast foods. Brown rice farina is simply ground up brown rice. When it's cooked, it becomes similar in texture to oatmeal or any other hot cereal. It's perfect for those with food sensitivities, allergies, or anyone simply looking for a healthy breakfast. Its neutral flavor is perfect because you can add whatever you like to it: milk of your choice (rice and almond are delicious), fresh fruit, dried berries, ground up flax seeds, nuts, or a drizzle of agave. If you cannot have sugar, you might be able to get away with a sprinkle of stevia. Regardless of your toppings, it's a delicious way to start your day!

1 cup brown rice farina
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add 1 cup brown rice farina and turn heat down. Cook for about 5 - 8 minutes stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overcook. Serve with the toppings of your choice. I added in rice milk, chopped almonds, blueberries, raisins, and dried gogi berries.