Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Fennel

I have a confession.  I think this is only the second time I've eaten cauliflower in the last five years.  (And for someone who is obsessed with eating veggies, that is a big deal.)

Here's the issue... I don't really like cauliflower.  I don't think it tastes bad, but I just don't like the texture.  Plus, if I am going to be eating florets of something, I'd rather it be broccoli.  Maybe I'm just weird.

However, this week I learned that I actually really like cauliflower when it's combined with onions, vinegar, fennel, and a bit of dill.  The nice thing about this recipe is that it's not truly pickled.  There is no canning or intensive preserving process here.

Instead, the cauliflower is quickly simmered with vinegar and then chilled so it takes on a sweet, tangy pickled taste.  It's perfect finger food for picnics, long car rides, or just as a fun side at dinner.  Who knows, maybe it might change your mind about cauliflower as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Creamy Fennel & Broccoli Soup

I can usually tell when life starts to feel a bit hectic and unpredictable because I start craving soup.  Soup was the first thing I ever learned how to cook and it has been a longtime standby in my kitchen.  It doesn't matter if it is the middle of summer... soup can be an incredible comfort food any time of the year.  

This soup is decadently creamy, which comes from blending raw cashews.  With the healthy fats and protein from the nuts, it doesn't take much to make this a full meal.  Just add your favorite summer salad (of course, I highly recommend this one) and maybe a good loaf of bread.  And if you don't share my warm soup craving in the middle of July, just know this can be served cold instead of warm.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spicy Carrots

Every year for the past five years I have promised myself that I would make a raw cashew cheesecake for my birthday.  And every year I have failed.  Apparently this year is no different. 

Somehow I really thought things would be different this time around.  But, apparently if given the choice between dessert and vegetables, I am the one person in a million that will choose vegetables every single time.  So today you get spicy carrots.  The cheesecake will just have to wait.

Friday, July 20, 2012

CSA: Community Supported Agriculture

By now you all know that I am a big advocate of eating locally and seasonally as much as possible.  And if I haven't gotten you to shop at the farmers market already, then I just don't know what to do...  Except, maybe, introduce you to a CSA?  (wink, wink)

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it is an amazing option for busy people who want to eat healthier and need a more convenient option than vising the local market.  Many farms are now offering CSA "shares" to the public.  When you purchase a CSA share, you partner with that particular farm to receive fresh produce each week during the growing season. Usually the CSA share is delivered to a local drop point (not necessarily your house) so you simply stop by and pick it up on your designated day. 

The wonderful things about buying a CSA is that it provides you and your family with incredibly fresh, delicious, and varied produce during the growing season while supporting a local farm.  Since you are subscribing and purchasing a "share," you will usually receive 5 - 10 % more produce than you could buy at the market for the same cost.  Partnering with one farm also gives you the chance to really know the people who grow your food and develop a relationship with that farmer.  Pretty cool, huh?

There are many different types of "produce delivery" services out there, which is different from a CSA.  Usually in a CSA, all of the produce is coming locally from one farm (e.g. you won't see any oranges in your Washington box) and you receive the produce that is ripe for harvest this week.  This means that you will have to be a bit flexible as you won't be able to pick and choose what you receive from week to week.  But, this also means that you will be exposed to trying new vegetables that you might not see otherwise!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mizuna Salad with Roasted Cherries and Balsamic Glaze

Once in awhile a recipe comes along that changes my world.  This happened a few months ago when I discovered the beauty that is pineapple fried quinoa.  As a result of this discovery I think I ate enough pineapples over the winter to feed a small island.  And then there was this tahini broccoli salad with cashews.    After this my fridge has always been stocked with tahini, broccoli, and red onions.  Always.

But then I recently discovered that you can roast cherries.  And when cherries are roasted, their juices condense into the most intensely flavorful, sweet, cherry goodness that you can possibly imagine.  It is utterly indescribable.  If you are not a cherry person, I don't know what to tell you to convince you otherwise. But if you are?  This recipe is mandatory.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Simple Sun Tea

In our neighborhood we have seven different cats that roam around being adorable and causing trouble.  Lucky for me, my desk sits right next to our kitchen window where 24/7 I have a live show of sleeping cats and feline mischief happening in the neighbor's yard.  Today, that mischief involved a squirrel.

This crazy little squirrel kept jumping from rooftop to rooftop, and made his way to the roof where our neighbor throws old loaves of bread for the birds.  And as he sat, happily munching away, one of the neighboring cats, snuck up right behind him.  I had already seen a close-call chase go down this morning  and was horrified because the squirrel wasn't turning around to notice the feline behind him.

In a situation like this, you have a couple of options.  You can keep watching and hope for the best.  Or, you can look away if you expect the worst.  Well, unless, you are me, that is...  because if you are me, your solution would be to open your window and begin yelling for the squirrel to run. Yes, at 10 am on a Sunday, I opened my kitchen window and yelled at a squirrel like a crazy person.  (And, yes, this really happened.  Who would make this up?)

Sure enough, the cat quickly made its move and that badass squirrel made a break for it -- bread and all.  Impressive little guy.  I guess when it comes to wild animals, they really don't need anyone looking out for them.

Luckily the rest of my day was not as eventful.  I stuck some fresh herbs in a pitcher of water, let it sit out in the sunlight, and then stayed away from my window.  I think my neighbors appreciated it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Southwest Salad with Jalapeno Avocado Lime Dressing

It's time to kick off summer.  It's time to put your hair in a ponytail, pull out the beach towels, and get out in the sun.  It's time for watermelon slices, corn on the cob, and picnics.  I think this also means it's time for picnic foods... easy dishes that you can share with friends and family and quick go-to meals that you can pack for yourself regardless of where you are headed.  No matter what you are up to this summer, this salad fits the bill.  

We start with a hearty bed of fresh greens and top it with corn, ripe tomatoes, black beans, bell peppers, and a spicy-sweet jalapeno avocado lime dressing.  Flax seed crackers are completely optional, but they add a fun crunch and are perfect for easy and healthy snacks (goodbye tortilla chips!).  What are you waiting for?  Make this salad and get out there!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Teriyaki Tempeh & Veggies

I think it's time that we talked tempeh.  Have you tried tempeh before?  In case you haven't or in case you have no idea what I am talking about, let me clue you in.  Tempeh is cooked and fermented soy beans that have had a bacteria starter added to them and then were held at 86 degrees for 24 - 36 hours.  Tempeh is a very digestible form of soy and is full of protein - making it a perfect entree in a vegetarian or vegan meal.  Tempeh has a very unique taste and I have often heard it described as "nutty," "earthy," or similar to the flavor of mushrooms.

Tempeh is best when marinated in a sauce to give it some flavor, especially if you are trying tempeh for the first time.  You can also steam tempeh before cooking and this will help cut down on the bitterness.  Most health food stores will carry tempeh ranging from plain to flavored and some brands even have tempeh with a mix of grains.  Tempeh will have a white layer and often dark spots as well.  This is completely normal and is part of the culturing process.  Since tempeh is made with soy, I highly recommend choosing organic because it ensures the soybeans were not genetically-modified.  Tempeh will most often come as a solid block and then you will be able to slice, chop, or grate it depending on your recipe.