Sunday, July 31, 2011

Raw Broccoli Crunch Salad

I can successfully say that I will never again wonder what it's like to ride 50 miles on a bicycle in one day.  This summer it's been great to get back on my bike and I've been pushing myself to do more long rides out of my comfort zone.  Yesterday some friends and I rode the Lake Washington loop and my legs still feel like jelly.

I've decided to sign up for the Cycle the WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere) ride in September.  It's a non-competitive women's ride meant to inspire awareness and hope for domestic violence victims.  This year's proceeds will support the Eastside Domestic Violence Program, DAWN, and New Beginnings.  Before I discovered my passions for food and food justice, I used to do anti-violence awareness and recovery work with women.  This ride feels like a great way to support a cause I feel deeply about and keep myself motived on my bike.

When I was on the trail yesterday and began feeling defeated by a big hill I would picture myself in my apartment sitting on the couch and eating this salad.  That's been the majority of my day today and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  You certainly don't have to go on a long bike ride to enjoy this salad.  It's super healthy, quick and easy to make, and the leftovers make a wonderful lunch.  In fact, I think this tastes even better the next day after the vinegar has had a chance to soften the broccoli a bit.

If broccoli isn't a favorite vegetable of yours, this salad might just change your mind.  I love using broccoli stems because they have a milder flavor than the head, but you could also use broccoli heads if you wish.  This salad is crunchy, tangy, and sweet and is the perfect reward after a long hard day on the trail.

Raw Broccoli Crunch Salad
4 servings

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon raw agave syrup
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 cups broccoli stems, shredded
1.5 cups carrots, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup cashews
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Mix the olive oil, agave, and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside.  Toss the broccoli and carrots together in a medium bowl and top with the dressing.  Work the dressing in with your hands.  Mix in the green onions, cranberries, and cashews and serve.  Top with some freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

If this salad will not be eaten right away, leave the cashews out until just before serving to keep them from getting mushy. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Creamy Carrot Soup with Fresh Basil

I have always been interested in cooking, but it wasn't until I was in college and living on my own that I learned how to actually cook.  Making soups was one of the first things that I learned and it's still one of my favorites.  Soup is amazingly delicious, healthy, easy to make, and hard to mess up.  Can you think of a more perfect food? 

You can eat it for lunch, dinner, and heck, even breakfast if you want.  It can also be eaten cold or hot and adapted based on what's available and in season.  Clearly my love for soup runs deep.

This summer I think I might have broken the record for hot soups.  This time of year I'm usually enjoying some Raw Zippy Summer Gazpacho (my favorite summer soup!) or chilled Cream of Asparagus and Broccoli Soup.  However, our wacky weather has dictated something a bit warmer than normal.

I am currently in love with this carrot soup and have made three separate batches.  It's perfect for a light lunch combined with a muffin or paired with cornbread and a hearty salad for dinner.  I like this soup best with fresh orange carrots because there's something in my brain that tells me that carrot soup should be orange.  When I tried rainbow carrots in a batch, it turned more of a puple-y color and my mind kept trying to convince me it didn't taste the same, even though it did.

I'm also a bit of a soup weirdo (that's totally a term) and always have to include beans in my soup.  I love the extra bit of protein and heartiness that beans add to soups, especially when you're trying to make a meal out of 'em.  But, if the beans aren't your thing feel free to leave them out.

Creamy Carrot Soup with Fresh Basil 
Serves 4

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 cups of carrots, chopped
1 cups of garbanzo beans, cooked
5 cups of vegetable broth
1/4 cup basil, chopped
Freshly-ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Add olive oil to a pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add the garbanzo beans, cover with the vegetable broth, bring to a slight boil, and cook until carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.  

Next, blend the soup (adding more broth or water as necessary) by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off.  I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand). 

Stir in the basil.  Add salt and pepper as desired.  If a thinner consistency is desired, add more broth or water.  Garnish with more basil, edible flowers, or herbs of your choice.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zucchini & Ginger Spelt Muffins

Usually about this time of year I try to eat more raw foods like zucchini pasta with carrot-cashew creme sauce, fresh vegetable juices, and caramel and fudge brownies (my favorite!).  But, this weird foggy, drizzly Seattle weather is confusing my senses.  Could this really be July? Or is it somehow already late September?  All I know is that instead of wanting raw foods and light summer lunches I've been craving sweet potatoes, curries, and greens. 

So then, what to do with all these zucchini if I'm not making raw pasta?  Make muffins, of course!

I tend to shy away from baked goods because they're usually loaded with fat and sugar, but these are definitely some of the heathiest and heartiest muffins I've seen.  I love the taste of the spelt flour and it goes together perfectly with the flavors of ginger and zucchini.  I even cut the amount of agave in half for my last batch and they were still super yummy!  These go perfect with a cup of peppermint tea at breakfast or with soup for lunch.  

Zucchini & Ginger Spelt Muffins
From Babycakes by Erin McKenna
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup agave syrup
3/4 cup rice milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups zucchini, shredded

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line muffin tin with liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the ginger, oil, agave, rice milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  Fold in the zucchini.  Fill the cups evenly with 1/3 cup of batter and bake on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 15 minutes.  

To test the muffins, insert a toothpick into the center.  The muffins are ready when the toothpick comes out clean.  Let stand 15 minutes then transfer and cool.  Store the muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fresh Cantaloupe & Beet Juice

I hate to admit this, but I think I've fallen victim to bad reality television.

It all started about a month ago when I decided it was time to find out more about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  Three different people mentioned it to me within the same week and I figured it was worth checking out.  So I downloaded ABC's media player and began searching for episodes.  But ads for The Bachelorette kept popping up.

I'd heard of The Bachelor before, but The Bachelorette?  This sounded worse... and yet, somehow interesting.  I thought it would be really funny to watch five minutes.  Then five minutes turned into an hour.  I should have gotten out then, but I figured I might as well finish the episode.

And if you watch one episode?  Well, you might as well watch another, right?  That's how they get you.  You've been warned, my friend.

So every Monday night, there I sit on my couch... watching Ashley Hebert in her quest to find her true love and secretly rooting for her to pick JP.

The only thing that redeemed me last night was this juice.  I usually don't put fruit in my juice, but I was in the mood for something sweet and this fit the bill perfectly.  If you think you hate beets, I would definitely encourage you to try this because the sweetness of the melon complements the beet perfectly and gets rid of that "earthy" taste that tends to go along with beets.  If you're really nervous about the beet flavor, you can also leave out the beet greens or use a more mild green like spinach.  And if you're new to juicing, check out Vegetable Juice 101 for some basics.

Fresh Cantaloupe and Beet Juice
Serves 2 (or 1 giant juice just for you!)

3 medium beets
1/2 cup beet greens
1/2 cucumber
1 lemon, peeled
2 large sprigs of basil or 1 sprig of mint
1/4 of a medium cantaloupe, rind removed
1/2 cup watermelon, rind removed

Run the ingredients through your juicer.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Squash Fettuccine with Garlic Scape Pesto

I recently took the plunge and switched from a PC to a Mac.  It's funny how a change in operating systems can completely debilitate a gal.  

My computer finally died on me a few weeks ago and I decided it was time to grow up, empty out the savings account, and get a computer that would actually last.  So far, I have to say that I am really impressed.  And dang, this thing is pretty.  That's all you can really ask for in a computer, right?

That being said, I hope that you can forgive my recent absence as I learned how to do very important things like 1) stop accidentally deleting text 2) find my imported photos and 3) make movie trailers from home videos of my cat.  What can I say?  He's going to be a star.  

Now that we are heading into summer and all sorts of fun produce is popping up I have to ask... Have you met garlic scapes yet?  If not, allow me to introduce you.

Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and they are both edible and delicious.  Garlic scapes, please meet my readers.  In fact, the two of you should have lunch together sometime and get to know each other better.

You can chop up garlic scapes and eat them in everything from scrambles to stir fry to veggie casseroles.  One of the most popular ways to use them is for pesto.  They have a softer flavor than garlic which makes them perfect in a raw pesto spread.  This recipe only uses a bit of the pesto so you will have plenty extra to experiment with.

Summer is also such a fun time to play around with squash.  One of my favorite summer dishes is raw zucchini pasta because it doesn't involve cooking or any gluten like traditional pasta.  This recipe is a fun variation on the squash pasta theme that doesn't involve any fancy equipment - just a vegetable peeler.  If you're cooking for picky eaters, whether they are adults or children, mixing these squash noodles in with traditional pasta is a great way to add in some extra veggies while not making the vegetables a big focus in the meal.

Summer Squash Fettuccine with Garlic Scape Pesto
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal

Garlic Scape Pesto (makes about 1 cup of pesto)
1 cup garlic scapes, chopped
juice from half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add the garlic scapes to a food processor and pulse a few times until scapes are roughly mixed. Add the lemon juice, salt, and, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream until it is well combined and smooth.  Store in the refrigerator or freeze for later use.

Summer Squash Fettuccine: 
4 summer squash
1 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
basil leaves for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Peel the squash into long ribbons (like fettuccine) using a vegetable peeler.  (Don't use the insides with the seeds because it isn't firm enough to hold together well.)

Add 4 tablespoons of pesto (or more to taste) to a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the squash noodles and chickpeas and saute for 1 - 2 minutes, until the noodles are "al dente" and not yet mushy.  Remove from heat, toss in the tomatoes, garnish with basil, and serve.  Add freshly ground pepper as desired.