Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Green Bean, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Access to Healthy Foods Summit organized by the Access to Healthy Foods Coalition.  It was really refreshing to see all of the different ways that organizations, institutuions, and individuals are working together to improve access to healthy foods in Washington State.  In Washington state alone, 15% of our residents do not have consistent access to healthy foods.

It's pretty obvious that I think about food a lot... but I also think about how much access I have to food.  In my neighborhood, I am within walking distance to two different grocery stores and within biking distance to about five.  I have a stable income that allows me to purchase fresh foods and I only work one job so I have the time to prepare the majority of my meals myself.  Additionally, I have access to information about healthy cooking  and have the abilty to prepare healthy foods from scratch, understand what healthy foods are, and read nutritional labels. 

Some of these factors could be said to be my personal choice.  For instance, I choose to purchase healthy foods.  It's true, I do make that choice.  But, there are many factors out of my control that influence my decision.  If I had a limited income, relied solely on public transportation, and my corner "grocery store" did not carry fresh produce, and the next closest store was two bus rides away... how much choice would I have in deciding what I eat?

It's been really exciting to see the ways that more people are becoming aware of "food deserts" (an area where healthy and fresh foods are difficult to find) in our country and working to improve everyone's access to fresh foods.  It's also great to see that EBT cards (food stamps) are now being accepted at various farmer's markets in King County.  Super cool!

How much access do you have to fresh and healthy foods?  What barriers have you seen, for yourself or others, to being able to eat healthfully?  What are some of the ways that you or others could (or may already have) make an impact on these challenges?

I'm not really sure how to transition from talking about food access and scarcity to wowing you with this beautiful salad... So, let's just wow you with this beautiful salad. 

My favorite thing about summer foods are all the colors. It's true that we eat first with our eyes and everything always manages to look more appealing and delicious in summertime. This is a beautiful salad that anyone would be proud to serve up at their next dinner or get-together.  The recipe originally called for red onions and feta cheese, but I switched up the feta for kalamata olives and used green onions instead.  Fresh herbs like parsley are a must on this one, but fresh mint leaves would be good as well. 

Green Bean, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad
Slightly adapted from Everyday Food magazine, June 2011 issue
Serves 4

1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed
3 wide strips lemon zest, cut into thin matchstick, plus 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large pot of boiling water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil.  Stir in tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, and lemon zest.  Add olives and parsley and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange green beans on a serving platter and top with tomato mixture.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Black-Eyed Pea and Spelt Berry Salad

Can you believe that next week is July?  Hello, where did June go?

I can't believe that one year ago around this time I was graduating with my Master's degree, freaking out about what to do with the rest of my life, and doing weird things like dying my hair platinum blonde.  At home.  Using a box of 7-year old hair bleach.

Ladies (and lads), let me share a lesson with you that I hope you never have to experience first-hand:  if you are a natural brunette never, ever try to bleach your hair platinum blonde at home.  (Spoiler alert:  it doesn't turn a nice shade of platinum blonde; instead it's a nice mix of bright yellow and orange.)

Or, if you've already completed that step and learned by mistake, then quickly head to a salon and have them fix it.  Definitely don't try to dye it back to brown at home 'cause your stressed out and over-processed hair won't absorb the dye and instead of brown it will become grey.  And then you will spend the first few months after your 25th birthday with hair the color of Richard Gere's.  I'm not kidding.  It was not pretty.

So let's just say I'm really looking forward to summer with my natural brown hair this year.  And if I ever dye it again on my own?  You can be sure that the only thing touching this head is henna.

One of my favorite parts of summer is eating outside and I think a hearty go-to picnic salad is absolutely necessary this time of year.  For the bulk of this salad I chose spelt berries and black eyed peas because they both hold up well and don't get mushy when mixed with the dressing.  This is a very simple salad that can easily be adapted for some fun variations.  I used produce that was all available from my garden, but as the summer heats up some shredded zucchini or fresh corn would be great additions. 

Summer Black-Eyed Pea and Spelt Berry Salad
Serves 4

1 cup black-eyed peas
1 cup spelt berries
5 carrots, shredded
3 radishes, shredded
5 green onions, chopped
1 cup rainbow chard, shredded
1 cup arugula, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from one lemon
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons mint, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons basil, finely chopped
Freshly-ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

The black-eyed peas do not need to be soaked before cooking.  Place them in a large saucepan, cover with about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until peas are soft and easily chewable.  (This can take 20 - 45 minutes depending on your peas.)  Drain and set aside.

While the peas are cooking, add the spelt berries to a separate saucepan and cover with about 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain the berries and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs and set aside.  Add the carrots, radishes, green onions, chard, and arugula to a large bowl. Add the black-eyed peas and spelt berries when ready (they don't have to cool before being mixed together).  Add in the dressing and mix well.  Add black pepper and sea salt to taste.  Refrigerate and serve cold.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shredded Green Beans with Lemon-Lime Zest and Snipped Chives

You know that sore muscle feeling that you get the day after a really intense workout?  That was my day today.  Walking up stairs... painful.  Sitting down in a chair...more pain.  Getting out of the chair to go to the bathroom?  Not worth it; I can hold it.

With the recent sunshine I've been biking to work regularly and continuing my interval-training classes at my gym.  Apparently my muscles think this is a big mistake.  If you see me with ice packs strapped to my legs tomorrow don't be alarmed.

One of the good things about working out a lot is that when you get home all you want to do is eat vegetables. 

Okay, that's a bit of a lie.  It totally makes you want to eat samoa cookies.  But, I somehow managed to find the willpower to make these delicious green beans instead. 
This recipe comes from Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Cooking and I'm can't wait to get my hands on her new cookbook, Super Natural Every DayHeidi is the author of the beautiful blog 101 Cookbooks and is great at creating both healthy and enticing dishes. These green beans are perfect for some quick post-workout fuel.

This recipe comes together easily in under 10 minutes, especially if using a food processor to shred the beans.  She recommends shredding them into very tiny pieces, but I made mine a bit bigger.  Yellow beans would also be a nice addition for color contrast and, if you happen to have some, I really like garnishing this with some chive blossoms.  

Speaking of chive blossoms, if you happen to be growing some chives of your own at the moment I totally recommend letting them go to flower.  Just by the good fortune of me being a lazy gardener I got the chance to experience these adorable and completely edible little buds.  Apparently procrastination pays off.  Who knew?

Shredded Green Beans with Lemon-Lime Zest and Snipped Chives
Serves 4. 
From Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking

3/4 pound green and/or yellow beans, tops and tails trimmed
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
Grated zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the beans on a diagonal into roughly 1/8-inch pieces.  If you are using a food processor, do them a handful at a time.  Either way the result should be tiny, angular zeros.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the beans and stir until coated with oil, then add the water.  Cover and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until the beans are brightly colored and tender; give the pan a good shake midway through to ensure even cooking.  Remove from the heat and stir in the zests and half the chives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with the remaining chives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Raw Radish and Cucumber Salad

If there is one thing that I have grown to appreciate this spring it has to be radishes.  Radishes tend to get a bad rap, but there is a huge difference between fresh radishes and the big, tough radishes that have been siting at the grocery store for a week. 

I was writing an article about radishes for work and became inspired to grow some of my own after learning how easy they are to grow.  They usually sprout in as little as 4 days and they are ready to pick within 3 - 4 weeks.  I started by growing red radishes and a few purple, but now I'm hooked and am filling up my garden with other varieties as well.  Radishes are a great source of Vitamin C, fiber, and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, and folate.  They are best picked when they are young and tender because they tend to become too strong in flavor as they age. 

If even fresh radishes are too much for your taste buds, then you can always cook them, but I recommend eating them shredded and raw.  This salad is sweet and tangy and the sweetness of the agave complements the radish flavor perfectly.  You could easily add in some summer vegetables, like zucchini or fresh corn, or substitute basil for the cilantro. 

Also, don't throw out your radish greens!  Toss a few in salads, green smoothies, or cook them in a stir fry with other vegetables. 

Raw Radish and Cucumber Salad
Serves 2

1 cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
1 medium carrots, shredded
6 medium radishes, shredded
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave
3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Add the cucumber, carrot, and radishes to a medium bowl.  Mix with the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave, and cilantro. Top with salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fresh Marinated Beets

Anyone who lives with their significant other knows the joy of having the place all to yourself for the evening.  This is your chance to do everything that you've been wanting to do... everything that you don't want anyone else to know about.  And, if your evening agenda happens to include making a giant beet salad and eating it all by yourself while watching The Notebook?  Then I think we need to be friends.

If it's true that you are what you eat, then I am a beet right now.  Really.  I'm just a giant walking red beet.  I don't know if I just need extra iron right now or think beet-red teeth have suddenly come into fashion, but I just can't get enough.

The other day my co-worker was telling me about how she likes it when people bribe her with food.  One of the chefs we work with even went so far as to bribe her with a chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven.  Hmm, sure, that sounds okay... but if you really want me to do something for you this week?  Bring me some beet salad.

This is a really simple recipe involving a little vinegar and oil.  I personally like simple beet salads without a lot of fuss or added sugar, but you can easily adapt this one to suit your tastes.  Adding in some fresh herbs like basil, parsley, and any kind of mint really brings out the flavors of the beets.  You can also use edible flowers (like those pictured above) as a garnish or to add a bit of spice to the salad.

Fresh Marinated Beets
Serves: 4

6 medium beets
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
freshly-ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
some fresh herbs for garnish

Place the beets in a medium pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil.  Cook on medium heat for 45 - 60 minutes, or until the skins can be rubbed off with your fingers.  (To test one, fish it out of the pot with a pair of tongs and run it under cold water until it's cool enough to handle.)  When the beets are ready, give them a few minutes to cool, then peel the beets using your fingers and cut them into bite-size pieces.

Toss beets with the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.  Top with pepper, salt, and herbs if desired.  Serve warm or chilled.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

If I was ever entered into a vegan "hot dog" eating contest I would lose.  I would probably make it through one hot dog.  Then maybe half another.  Then I'd get a stomach ache and be voted out.

But, a salad eating contest?  Now that's a different story.
A few months ago I came up with this weird idea that I was going to eat a salad every day.  It was the beginning of spring and eating a salad just seemed like an easy way to get more raw, fresh veggies into my diet.  Now three months later, I'm hooked.

Every weekday I eat a salad for lunch and on the weekends, I eat a salad for dinner.  There have definitely been a few days where I missed my daily salad and I felt the difference.

Now, when I say "salad" I'm not talking about the kind of salad that has more fat than a Big Mac.  But, I'm also not talking about the weird "diet" salads with just lettuce and non-fat dressing.  In fact, I think those freak me out more. 

If you're really aiming to make a salad a meal I think it needs to have a few components.  I always make sure that mine have a good balance of fat and protein.  You want your salad dressing to have some fat in there so that you can absorb all of the good nutrients from the greens and vegetables you are eating.  Fat, in moderation, is a friend.

And you can't forget the protein.  I always make sure my salad has a couple of different kinds of beans and on occasion I'll add tempeh or tofu.  This is what will really turn your salad from a side dish to an entree.

For my salad dressing, I usually make a mix of vinegar and olive oil with fresh herbs, but I've been craving something a little creamier and different lately so I decided it was time to make some green goddess dressing.  I've seen lots of different versions of this dressing and it always seems to have a mix of herbs, oil, and lemon juice.  I added some avocado for a creamy texture and played around with different fresh herbs from my garden.  You can easily adapt this to your own version based on the herbs you have on hand.  

Green Goddess Dressing
Serves 2 - 4

1 avocado, skin removed and pitted
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
10 basil leaves
1 small sprig of  mint
2 green onions
2 Tablespoons agave
1/4 cup oil
freshly ground black pepper & sea salt to taste

Add the avocado, apple cider vinegar, water, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, onions, and agave to a food processor or blender.  While the blender or food processor is running, add the oil in a thin stream.  Blend until thoroughly mixed.  Add in salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kimchee Fried Rice

I am definitely an animal lover.  I am the kind of person that will help a lost dog find its owner, cry over roadkill, and talk about cats for hours on end.  I am also vegan and although initially this decision was not based on my love for animals, I now think it's an important factor.

It took me many years to decide that I was ready for a cat because I wanted to be responsible and take that animal's life very seriously.  I did everything right... I rescued it from a shelter.  I play with it every day.  I feed it only the best cat food recommended by the vet.  Heck, that cat eats more organic and healthier food than I do most days.

I love my cat... even though he is extremely needy.  So needy that he cries. Constantly.  He cries when he's alone, he cries when I'm home, and he cries all through the night.  I have not had a full night's sleep since bringing him home.  But I still love him. Clearly, too much.

The funny thing is that when I first got him, I was so excited.  I was so happy to have a pet to call my own and I thought that spending quality time with him would make me feel more content and present in my life.

Well, let me tell you, there is nothing that will make you feel more present than walking in the door after an extremely long day at work only to discover that  your little pet has vomited on every single surface in your apartment.  That is a zen moment right there.

But, being the amazing animal lover that you are you immediately check the cat and call the vet after, of course, accidentally stepping in vomit.  Your vet then informs you that this is only the latest incident in your cat's needy behavior because being away from you causes stress, which causes excessive grooming, which causes hairballs, which (yes, you guessed it) causes vomiting.

So, you suck it up.  You clean up the vomit.  You wash your hands.  You play with your cat.  And then you go out to your garden.

Ah, the garden.  It's such a happy place.  A place to get away from it all, to relax, to feel connected to the earth, and to take in a deep breath of... um, what is that smell? 

You have got to be kidding me.

Ah, the garden.  It's such a happy place for the neighbor's cats.  A place for them to get away from it all, to relax, and to feel connected to the earth by digging up your seedlings and taking a giant... ahem. I'll leave that to the imagination.

So, that was my day.  How was yours?

I'm sure after that lovely story all you want to think about right now is food.  And especially, food from my garden.  But, let's continue.  Maybe I can take both of our minds off of it by talking about kimchee. 

Kimchee is a traditional Korean dish made by fermenting vegetables and adding gochu garu (spicy red pepper flakes).  One of these days I will get around to posting a tutorial on how to make your own kimchee.  Until then, if you're buying it from the store just double check that it doesn't contain any fish sauce (assuming that you are desiring an entirely vegan/vegetarian dish).  If you haven't tried kimchee before, expect some spice, a little tang, and lots of deliciousness.

Kimchee fried rice is so flavorful, yet, quick and easy to make that you will wonder why you haven't been making this all week.  Plus, the only labor involved after dicing is standing over the stove and stirring.  Super easy.  You can substitute any vegetables you desire so feel free to be creative.  This is great for any weeknight dinner and you can make it a complete meal by serving it with tempeh, tofu, or beans.  It's the perfect meal to ease your hunger pains and take your mind off of your crazy day.

Kimchee Fried Rice
Serves 2
Inspired by Orangette

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
3 green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup broccoli florets, diced
1/2 cup sugar peas, diced
1 1/2 cups rice, cooked and cooled
1/2 cup kimchee
1 Tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the carrot and saute in the oil for about 3 minutes.  Next, add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for about 1 minute.  Then add the bell pepper, broccoli, and sugar peas and saute for about 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the rice, kimchee, and soy sauce and saute for 3 - 5 minutes.  Add any freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Samoa Cookies

Somewhere in between a vacation with my partner, a gigantic plumbing failure in our apartment, and baking these cookies... it's suddenly June.  Hello sunshine.

I've appreciated the down time of the last few weeks more than I can possibly explain.  Taking a vacation and focusing on being present, relaxing, and taking care of myself was exactly what I needed.  Thank you for all of your support in the process.  I've missed you. 

And since I've been away from my computer, Blogger seems to have lost my last post and my Feedburner service keeps emailing you folks posts from January.  It's good to be back. 

Now, let's get to these cookies.  If you're one of those people staying away from sugar right now I commend you.  And I'd hate to be the person to spoil that so, please, stop reading and look away.

These are some dangerous ones.  I made these to indulge in my post-vacation sugar cravings and now I can't get enough of 'em.  Some of you may be wondering why there is only one cookie pictured below when this recipe makes two dozen.  Ahem, ahem.  Guilty face.

It wasn't all me, I swear!  They just go fast.

These cookies involve coconut, chocolate, more coconut, more chocolate... you get where I'm going with this.  These are perfect for late-night snacking, picnics, chocoholics, and it doesn't get any better than eating these on your front porch in the sunshine while drinking iced tea.  

Samoa Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from The Baking Stone

2 cups grated unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup almond milk (or another nondairy milk)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour (I've used both whole wheat and spelt and either works great)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate layer: 1 heaping cup vegan chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot or skillet, pour in the coconut and toast over medium low heat for 5 – 10 minutes, until the coconut turns golden brown. Be careful not to burn it, and stir occasionally. Once the coconut is toasted, remove it from the heat to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, brown rice syrup, almond milk, flaxseeds, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt and stir until the batter is thick. Fold in the cooled, toasted coconut.

Drop tablespoons of dough on a parchment lined pan. Using a measuring cup, press down the dough balls until they are flat discs. Bake the cookies for about eight minutes, just until the edges start to turn golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on the pan and then cool completely on wire racks.

To make the chocolate glaze: Using a double broiler, melt the chocolate chips and stir in the coconut oil. Allow the mixture to cool for five minutes to allow it to thicken a bit. Once the cookies are completely cooled, dip the bottom in the chocolate mixture and place on a pan lined in parchment paper. Repeat with all the cookies. Use the remaining chocolate to drizzle glaze over the top of each cookie.

To allow the chocolate to cool, place the cookies in the fridge for half an hour, then enjoy!  They are also great frozen and eaten straight from the freezer.