Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Veg Bed

Last weekend Chloe, Marco, and I put together a raised vegetable garden.  We filled it with, what felt like, a ton of soil.  About 1 1/2 cubic yards, actually.  It was a mixture of organic soil and organic compost.  Mixing it all up was quite the workout!  I really wanted to go completely organic, but the plants were sitting right there in front of me at the nursery and I was dying to see something in the dirt, so I just bit the bullet and bought them.  They aren't organic plants, grown from organic seed, but they are in organic soil and I won't be feeding them any chemical fertilizers.  

I have a small bin with soil, dried leaves, and kitchen scraps.  I've mixed it all up and covered it up with plastic so it can "cook" for the winter.  (An experiment complete with gnats!)  The hope is that it will turn into beautiful dark, rich soil I can use in the bed.  Next, a vermiculture!  Oh, I also have carrots, beets, basil, bok choy, and spinach seeds on the window sill.  They should be ready to plant outside in a few weeks.  I plan to have my second raised veg bed ready by then.

I think I overdid it with the plant buying, since we had to takeover a patch by the bedroom backdoor.  The soil has a ton of clay, which we mixed with soil from the bed, so it'll be interesting to see the difference , if any, in size, appearance, and flavor of the veggies.  Now, it's just a matter of keeping them watered, covered for the frost, and protected from the dog.

Oh yes.  Lulu has rediscovered her favorite past-time.  I thought she had past this phase years ago, but I guess you can't teach an old dog... well, you get it.  The veg beds are now covered in a plastic mesh to deter Lulu from digging them up.  So far, so good.  (But this is getting expensive!)

So, the veg should be ready to harvest by January, maybe a few things by Christmas, fingers crossed.  That's when I plan to start some plants from seed, tomato, zucchini, bells, and more.  I'll be trying out some organic seed from Burpee or The Seed Savers Exchange.  I can't wait to taste it all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sun Dried Tomato Puree

I was in the mood for something super savory and full of flavor the other day, so I dug out my mini food processor and experimented with my sun dried tomatoes.  What I ended up with was a flavorful, brilliant red puree.  I spread it on some crackers, but it would also work as a topping for baked potatoes.  You could also toss it into some whole wheat pasta! 

Sun Dried Tomato Puree

a big handful of sun dried tomatoes (not the ones packed in oil)

1/2 to 1 whole garlic clove

2-3 T olive oil

juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt and pepper

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz it up to a chunky consistency.  It’ll only take a few seconds.  Check for seasonings and that’s it!

Give it a try!

Silky Split Pea Soup

During the summer my little brother graduated from college in Santa Barbara... Yeah! Anyway, while we were there, Marco, Chloe, and I went to a little “mom and pop” restaurant and had some fabulous split pea soup. Chloe and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff and we pretty much fought over who would lick the bowl. It has taken me about four months to finally give it a try. If I knew how easy is was to make split pea soup, I would have done it four months ago!

Special equipment:

immersion blender (a regular blender will also work, but you might want to wait for the soup to cool a little so you don’t end up with green walls!)

Silky Split Pea Soup

2 medium white onions, chopped

1 T Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil (a Grub recipe), plus extra for garnish

1/2t salt

1/2 t paprika, plus extra for garnish

1/2 t ground ginger, plus extra for garnish

1 32 oz box veg stock

1 cup water

juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra for garnish

1 16 oz dried split peas

Sauté onions over medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil until tender. Add salt, paprika, and ginger and heat through. If the onions get a bit dry, add a drizzle of veg stock and continue to sauté. When onions are nice and soft, add rest of veg stock, water, lemon juice, and split peas. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until split peas are soft.

Now grab your immersion blender and whiz away! You want your soup to be completely creamy and silky. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and ginger, a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and a douse of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil.

So, there you have it! Grab a big hunk of whole grain bread and there’s dinner. Great for this cool autumn weather.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My new raised veggie garden bed!

This is soooo cool!  Marco finished the garden bed and it looks awesome!  (I helped a little.)  Not including running to the store a couple of times, it ended up being a three-hour job.  Thank goodness it wasn't a hot day.  It can get up into the 100's out here.  

We'll be covering the surrounding dirt with gravel and filling it up with organic soil and compost.  (Next pay check.)  It may take a little hunting around these parts to find a place who sells organic soil.  

This reminds me a little of that show Good Neighbors, from England.  I loved that show!  Watch out Barbara, you may have some competition soon!

Thank you Marco!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Grapes with Rice and Beans

Inspired by a newfound web site, The Garden Girl, I talked Marco into helping me built a really nice raised bed for my future veggie garden.  (Well, I’ve got to give Marco most of the credit; he did all of the “heavy lifting”.)  I can’t wait to fill it with rich organic soil and compost and start growing some great Grub!  Not like I know what I’m doing.  I think I’ll just learn as I go.

After all that hard work we were starving.  By 1:30 it was time for lunch.  I had thrown some butternut squash, baby carrots, and some grapes in the oven to roast around 12:30.  They turned out perfect, and to my surprise, the grapes were delicious!  I then made a complete meal by tossing them with some left over rice and beans.  Here’s what I did...

Roasted Butternut Squash and Grapes with Rice and Beans (E2L friendly)

1 medium butter nut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
a large handful of baby carrots
a large handful of sweet green grapes
1T olive oil 
salt and pepper

1-2 cups of leftover brown rice
1/2 a can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 a can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2T chopped pecans
a drizzle of Citrus Chipotle Sauce (a Grub recipe), or use your favorite vinaigrette
spinach leaves

Toss the squash, carrots, onion, grapes with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, tossing half way through.  Slightly cool on counter.

Now lightly toss the squash mixture with the rice, beans, and pecans.  (Leftover brown rice can be a little hard.  You may want to add a drop of water and microwave for 30 seconds to soften it up.)  Dress with Citrus Chipotle Sauce or your favorite vinaigrette and spoon over a nice big bed of spinach.

Switch out the butternut squash for sweet potato.  Use another salad green in place of the spinach.  If you have something comparable in the fridge or pantry, use that first before you make a special trip to the grocery store.  Keep it simple!

I can’t wait to make these kinds of dishes with my home grown produce.  Then Marco will see it was well worth the effort and maybe I can talk him into expanding the vegetable garden!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Citrus Chipotle Sauce

I’ve read a few books on nutrition. Most of them are off the beaten path, Eat to Live, China Study, Food Matters. I’m really drawn to the whole vegan approach, however, I like to make recipes where it’s easy to incorporate some animal products, if desired. Dr. Fuhrman’s books, Eat to Live, and Eat for Health, are really influencing me at the moment and have inspired a few new recipes.

Here’s a delicious, refreshing sauce you can use to top a big bowl salad greens, raw pumpkin seeds and avocado, or warm roasted sweet potatoes and carrots.

Citrus Chipotle Sauce (E2L friendly)

4 garlic cloves

1T agave nectar

2 cups fresh orange juice

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1-2 chipotle peppers

veg stock... maybe

Blend in all ingredients, except for veg stock, in a blender until smooth. Pour in a pot and simmer on medium heat until the sauce is reduced by half. If too thick, add enough veg stock to get the desired consistency and simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Reducing the sauce will mellow the garlic and make the rest of the flavors more intense. It will also thicken the sauce. Strain in a fine mesh sieve.


Using fresh orange and lime juice instead of the bottled junk will make a HUGE difference in the outcome of this recipe.

When I buy a can of chipotle peppers, which are just roasted jalapeno peppers in adobo sauce, I put the leftovers in a zip sandwich bag, flatten it out, and freeze them for further use.

For more information on Eat to Live, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s web site at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brentwood Farmers Market Veg

Here's some beautiful veg we found mid October at the Brentwood Farmers Market.  The variety is thinning out a little, but it's obvious the vendors only bring their very best.  

I dove right into those mushrooms, sauteing them up in a little Garlic-Chile-Spiked Olive Oil (a Grub recipe!), salt and pepper.  Absolutely wonderful!  Not too mushroomy tasting, but buttery and sweet... mmmmmmmmmmmm. 

Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Basil Pesto

This morning Marco, Chloe, and I walked around the Brentwood Farmers Market.  After making our rounds to each and every stand, I looked into my very heavy bag and saw that we had gone a little crazy.  So much for the list.  I usually try to control my sweet tooth when I go, saying no to so many delicious treats.  We ended up with sweet cinnamon bread from Greenlees, a vegan Lemon Coconut Loaf from Way to Life, and a couple of different chocolate truffles from the Bella Luna Chocolates stand.  Thankfully, the breads will freeze well.  The truffles, however, will have to be eaten within the next couple of days.  Waste not, want not!  

It wasn't all sweet nothings though.  Although the pickings are a little thinner at the market these days than they were a couple of months ago, we managed to come away with some sumptuous veggies, perfect for lunch.  Red bells, a large globe eggplant, cute young green and yellow zucchini, sweet onions, and the most delicious mushrooms I have ever had... ever!

Well, the veg were all so fresh that I just had to have a little of everything.  So, for lunch I decided to make a grilled veggie sandwich.  And to add a little some'n some'n, I slathered on some basil pesto.  No recipe required!

Here's how you can make your own:

You'll need a grill pan with a press or board that fits inside to weigh down the sandwiches.  Better yet, a panini grill press, but they're expensive and can only do this one job.  If you don't have either, a regular fry pan works just as well.  Just put a plate or board on top of the sandwiches and weigh down with a can of soup.

Slice up your favorite veggies, like zucchini, eggplant, onions, or bell peppers.  (Some big sturdy mushrooms work well here!)  Spray pan with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle sliced veg with salt and pepper and grill for a few minutes until tender.  Set aside.  Get two slices of your favorite bread or a nice soft roll and slap on some mayo, honey-dijon mustard, and basil pesto.  Layer on your grilled veg and place assembled sandwich on the non-stick sprayed grill pan.  Weigh down with board or plate.  Grill both sides until toasty brown.  Slice and devour!  

Marco says it goes great with an ice cold Sierra Nevada and a fresh jalapeno pepper... typical!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

End of Summer Veggie Soup

Today was the first rain of the season and it got me thinking about soup.  Now that the weather is getting colder we’re all craving warm, comforting foods.  Here’s a nice smooth soup that uses those summer veggies still found in the grocery store.  It’s all blended up and topped off with beans and leftover rice.  

End of Summer Veggie Soup

1 fennel, chopped into large chunks

5 roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded

1 red bell pepper, chopped into large chunks

2 medium zucchini, chopped into large chunks

3-4 T tomato paste

3T Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil (Grub recipe) 

juice of one lemon

zest of one lemon

salt & pepper

garlic powder

1t fresh rosemary, chopped 


1 can of white beans (or leftover frozen beans, thawed) 

leftover brown or wild rice (or any grain, for that matter)


Place all cut veggies into a baking dish and toss with rest of ingredients, not including water, rice, and beans.  Roast, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes at 375 degrees.  Toss half way through.  

Let veggies cool slightly and blend with tomato paste in blender until smooth.  Be careful the lid doesn’t pop off due to the heat.  (You may want to cover the lid with a towel just to be safe.) Adjust consistency with a little water.  Adjust the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Top with a generous dollop of warm rice and beans and a drizzle of Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil.   

So, there you have it.  A warm, nourishing way to end a long rainy day.

Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil

Here’s a way to add a little unexpected flavor and flare to your dishes.  Super easy to make and looks great out on the counter. 

Garlic-Chili-Spiked Olive Oil

1 cup olive oil

5 whole garlic cloves

6-8 dried chili de arbol (in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store)

glass bottle with poor spout (Cost Plus has some cute ones to choose from.)

Heat all ingredients in a pot over medium heat until garlic cloves turn slightly golden.  Don’t burn the garlic because it may make the oil turn a bit bitter.  Let oil mixture cool in pot, so the flavors can meld.  Using a funnel, poor spiked oil, garlic, and chilies into a glass bottle.  

I use this on toast when I want something else besides the standard butter.  It’s great over fresh sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with kosher salt; or drizzled over soup or pasta.  It’s spicy and gives a little kick to your dish, and you don’t need much.

And Lulu thought she was the only hot stuff around here!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pasilla Chile and Cinnamon Fruit and Nut Chew

So, I was off to my mom’s house the other day, and wanted to take a little homemade something along with me.  The nut freak that I am, I rummaged around the freezer and cupboard and came up with this little crunchy munchie.  Super flavorful with a little spicy kick.  But, don't share because you won't have any left!

Pasilla Chili and Cinnamon Fruit and Nut Chew

1 cup whole raw cashew nuts

1 cup whole raw pecan halves

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of chopped dried pineapple

1/2 cup of chopped dried papaya

1/2 cup of large raisins (I like the Jumbo Raisin Medley from Trader Joe’s)

1 T pasilla chili powder 

1 T cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup honey

Toast nuts and seeds in a dry pan, watching they don’t burn.  Once you smell them, remove from heat.  Add the dried fruit and toss.  Evenly sprinkle the chili powder, cinnamon and salt and lightly toss - not too much though.  You don't want all the spicy goodness to settle on the bottom of the pan.  

Spray a 1/3 measuring cup with non-stick spray and measure honey.  This will allow the honey to pour right our.  Add honey to granola mixture and stir together, coating everything.  Spread out on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  (a silpat baking mat works nice here too.)  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Break apart and store in old clean jars.

Tips - 

Clean up immediately so the leftover honey and spices don't harden on the pan and spoon.

I found pasilla chili powder from the local Mexican market.  It’s usually used in sweet recipes, so it goes perfectly with cinnamon in this.  It's not super spicy, good for those who don't like things too hot.  The course granules of the kosher salt make a nice contrast too.  It’s totally addictive!

Variations - 

If you prefer different nuts or dried fruit, switch it up.  Sesame seeds would be a great substitute for the sunflower seeds.  A big jar of this tied with a huge bow would make a great gift.  (Think Christmas!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Basil Pesto

Ok, so I’m not going to tweek this one much. It's a pretty classic dish. There are so few ingredients, but they're all needed to make this rich, delicious, and versatile sauce.

Basil Pesto

3 cups fresh basil leaves

4T nutritional yeast

1-3 raw garlic clove (depending on how “garlicy” you like it)

juice of 1/2 lemon

olive oil (this is where you use the good, yummy stuff)

In a food processor, blend clean, spun-dry basil leaves, nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon juice. When blended to a chunky consistency, add olive oil and continue to process until it becomes spread-like. The amount of oil depends on the desired consistency. I've never really measured it, but I imagine it's about 1/2 to 1 cup.

Easy and super versatile, basil pesto is delicious on pasta, a spread on thinly sliced toast, or mixed in with warm, boiled red potatoes. If you don’t care for the basil flavor, try arugala, cilantro, parsley, or a mixture of these greens.

I put some leftovers in an ice cube tray to freeze. Usually, it all gets eaten up, but I made so much this time. Once completely frozen, pop out of tray and store in a zip-top bag. You can also put it in the fridge and poor a layer of olive oil over the top to preserve the color. It tends to turn a darker green after a while when exposed to the air.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pear Walnut Butter Salad

Easy, quick, light. Need I say more?

Pear Walnut Butter Salad

1 head of butter lettuce

1/4 cup raw walnuts, toasted

1T shallots, chopped

1/4 cup and 1t olive oil, divided

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1T dijon mustard

salt and pepper

1 pear

lemon juice

Chop lettuce into bite-sized pieces, wash and dry. Toast walnuts in a dry pan and remove from heat when they start to brown. Watch they don’t burn. Finely chop shallots and saute in the 1t olive oil until tender. In a bowl, add shallots to vinegar, oil, and mustard. Whisk to combine. (The mustard acts as an emulsifier, so it shouldn't separate.) Season with salt and pepper. Slice pear and drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning.

To serve, place lettuce on a plate. Top with pear and nuts. Drizzle with vinaigrette. (You won’t need to use all the dressing.)

Like I said, easy, quick, and light. Goes great with Zucchini Pesto Pasta!

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

So, we just got together with the hubby’s family this weekend.  Always a huge event,  loads of fun with tons of food, kids running through the house, and us grown-ups chatting and having a good old time.  To my surprise, we have a couple of gardeners amongst us.  Apparently they’ve grown some beautiful veggies and have an abundance of zucchini.  Well, that got me thinking of some zucchini recipes.   This is what I’ve come up with so far.

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

whole wheat pasta, penne or fusilli

1t olive oil

2T shallot, chopped fine

4-6 zucchini (I’m assuming they’re about the size of the ones you find in the grocery store)

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

1/3 cup basil pesto (store bought or home made)

veg stock

1/4 pine nuts, toasted

parmesan cheese (use a block of cheese, not that god-awful stuff from a container)

salt and pepper (although you probably won’t need additional salt)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  (Don't forget to add a good sprinkling of salt to the boiling water.  It makes a big difference.) I prefer more veg than pasta, so I only cook up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bag.  

Remove the ends of the zucchini and slice into quarters lengthwise, then chop into dice-sized pieces.  Add oil to pan and sauté chopped shallot until it becomes translucent.  Add zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes until tender.  

Meanwhile, in a small pan toast pine nuts, tossing a lot.  Once they start to brown, turn off the heat.  Watch these little buggers, because they burn very easily.  (I always toast extra for future use.)

Add peas to zucchini, mix and cook for an additional minute or two.  Stir in pesto and pasta.  Add enough veg stock for desired consistency.  Adjust s&p and serve up.  Top with pine nuts and shavings of parmesan cheese.  (try using a veg peeler for the cheese.)

Ok, so this one does involve a bit of cooking, but it’ll take 20 minutes, tops!  This one's nice with the Pear Walnut Butter Salad.

Black Bean Corn Salsa

You know when you go to a pot luck or bbq and the host asks you to bring that delicious dish you brought last time, and you know exactly what they’re talking about?  Well, this is one of mine that always gets hit on.  It’s super easy and keeps for a long time, not like those mayo ladened, fattening dishes.  It’s super refreshing and there’s NO COOKING INVOLVED!  

Black Bean Corn Salsa

2 cans of whole black beans

3 cups of frozen corn (no need to thaw if not eating right away)

red bell pepper, chopped (chop to the same size of corn and beans)

1-2 pickled jalapeno pepper, chopped, seeds removed

2-4T pickled jalapeno juice

juice of 1-2 limes

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4t ground cumin


Put all ingredients into a bowl and gently mix.  If it’s not spicy enough, adjust jalapeno and juice.  If you have cucumber, green bells instead of red, or some beautiful tomatoes, use them!  And, if you're like my mom and can't stand the flavor of cilantro, use fresh flat leaf parsley, or leave it out completely.  It will still knock your socks off!

So, there you have it.  A no-cook, easy-peasy recipe that travels well and goes wonderfully with chips or over the top of a fresh green salad!  You can do this one with your eyes closed!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Recipes with Leftover Crock Pot Black Beans

After making the Crock Pot Black Beans the other day, I had tons of left overs.  I started to think of ways to use them up.  Here are a few easy meal which use these delicious beans.

Black Bean Soup

crock pot black beans

veg stock

Tapatio, or your favorite hot sauce

sprinkling of fresh scallions

sprinkling of chopped fresh radish

sprinkling of chopped fresh cabbage

sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro

Just add enough veg stock to the beans to make a soupy consistency.  The amount depends upon how much bean mixture you start out with.  Heat on a medium flame or in the microwave.  Top with Tapatio, fresh scallions, radishes, cabbage, and cilantro.

Stupid easy!


How about burritos?!?  The thick, creamy consistency of these beans makes for some awesome veggie burritos.

Italian Inspired Black Bean and Veg Burritos

whole wheat tortillas 

generous scoop of crock pot black beans

handful of arugula

1T store bought balsamic vinaigrette (I like Paul Newman’s brand.)

1T pesto (Store bought or from GFYG recipe below.)

small handful of alfalfa sprouts

a sprinkling of thawed frozen corn

a couple of kalamata olives, chopped

Heat up the black beans on medium heat.  You can also heat them up in the microwave on high for about 20-30 seconds.  Be sure to cover them.  Stir.  Heat tortilla in a skillet until pliable.  Not for too long or it will get crispy and crack when you fold it.  Mix arugula with balsamic vinaigrette and set aside.  Spread pesto in the middle of the tortilla and add beans.  Top with dressed arugula, sprouts, corn, and olives.  Fold up and enjoy!  

If you’re looking for extra flavor you can add some Trader Joe’s corn salsa.


So, there you have it.  Two easy-peasy recipes great for those evenings you don’t want to get out the big guns.  Oh, and Marco went crazy over them!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crock Pot Black Beans

I’ve always been afraid of making beans from scratch.  For some reason the whole process of soaking and cooking puts me off.  I’ve always been a “beans in a can” kind of gal.  Well, after paying a visit to Dr. McDougall’s web site and checking out a couple of his utube videos this morning, I decided to dig out the old crock pot and give it a try.  I mean, really, what could go wrong?  Worst case scenario, I’d end up tossing a bag of $2 beans. 

Crock Pot Black Beans

Dried black beans

drinking water

1/2 chopped onion

2 dried bay leaves

1t dried, ground cumin

1t dried oregano

3 whole garlic cloves

1 can veg stock


This is sooooo easy!  Rinse the beans and check for little pebbles.  Dump the beans in a crock pot and cover with water.  You want the water to be about 2 inches above the beans, and you want the total contents to only fill the crock pot half way to give them room to expand.  Add onion, bay leaves, cumin, dried oregano, and garlic.  Give it a good stir, cover, set on high, and forget it for about 6 hours.  When it’s done, stir it up.  If it ends up being too dry, add some veg stock.  Salt to taste at the very end.  You can eat them whole or mash them up a bit to make a more creamy mixture.  

So, there you have it!  You can use them as a side dish, put in a burrito, or serve them in a bowl with a little hot sauce for dip!  Soooooo good!

Mamacita Chula Soyriso and Veggies

This afternoon I was taking inventory of my fridge and found some leftover Soyriso in the freezer.  It’s such good stuff, but very intense in flavor, so I never use up a whole package at once.  Not wanting to lose it to freezer burn, I came up with this really easy, quick dish.  Full of Mexican flavors and lots of spice.  

Mamacita Chula Soyriso and Veggies

6 medium red potatoes

about 1/4 to 1/3 of a Soyriso sausage

2 zucchini, chopped into 1/2  inch cubes

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces 

3 scallions, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces 

8 oz sliced mushrooms

a generous sprinkle of garlic powder

2 huge handfuls of chopped fresh spinach, more if you like

1 handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Tapatio, or your favorite hot sauce

Cut the potatoes into about 1 inch cubes and boil until tender, but still firm.  Meanwhile, crumble the Soyriso in a heavy skillet for a few minutes.  You don’t need much  since it’s so spicy and hot.  Add the zucchini and cook for a few minutes.  Add the bell, scallions, mushrooms, and garlic powder.  Cook until all the veg are tender.  Drain the potatoes when done and toss them in the veggie mixture until completely coated with all the spicy goodness.  Turn off heat, add the spinach, and cover .  When the spinach is wilted, toss in the chopped cilantro, and it’s done!  Top with Tapatio hot sauce.  

You can change out the potatoes for sweet potato or butternut squash.  Plate it up with refried beans and a green salad and your set!  Oh, don’t forget the XX with lime.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Santa Cruz Quinoa and Greens

A few months back Chloe and I spent a weekend in Santa Cruz with my sister.  Walking around Down Town, I stopped in New Leaf, a grocery store stocked full of whole natural foods and organic packaged goods, for some lunch.  I decided to take a gander at their ready made delights in the deli case and ended up choosing a quinoa concoction made with Kale and sun dried tomatoes.  It was so good that when I returned home, I did my best to recreate the dish.  As the months have gone by I’ve put my own twist on it and have come up with an inspired version.  Here it is!

Santa Cruz Quinoa and Greens

2 cups quinoa, rinsed

3 1/2 + 1/4 cups veg stock, separate

1 whole head of red swiss chard

1T olive oil

1 large shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

1t dried thyme

1t dried basil

salt and pepper

1-2T red wine vinegar

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Rinse the quinoa.  Put in a pot with veg stock and bring to a boil on medium high heat.  Cover and reduce heat to very low.  Simmer for 20 minutes, just like you would white rice.

While the quinoa is cooking, remove the red ribs of the swiss chard and put aside.  Chop the leafy part into bite-sized pieces and rinse several times to clean.  Spin to dry well in a salad spinner.  

The swiss chard ribs are edible and can be rinsed and chopped up into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.  (If I’m pressed for time, I skip this part and only use the leafy part of the chard.  It’s still just as tasty.)  Heat olive oil in a pan and add shallot.  Saute for a few minutes until tender and add ribs, if using.  Cook a few more minutes and add garlic.  Toss in the sun dried tomatoes, thyme, basil, and salt and pepper.  Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Add leafy parts of the swiss chard and the 1/4 cup veg stock, cover with lid, and steam for a few minutes to wilt the greens.  

In a small saute pan toast the pine nuts on medium heat.  You have to watch them closely because once the start to darken, they can burn very quickly.  Turn off the heat, once they start to change color, and continue to toss to evenly toast.  This only takes about 4-5 minutes.

By now the quinoa should be cooked.  Toss it in with the red swiss chard mixture and pine nuts.  Sprinkle with the red wine vinegar.  And you're done!

So, there you have it!   Eat it warm or cold, for dinner, or leftovers the next day.  Better yet, pack it in a picnic and head for the beach!  

If you don't like sun dried tomatoes, substitute chopped kalamata olives.  Any sturdy green will work well, but red swiss chard makes a beautiful, colorful dish that's nutritious and tasty.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kick-Ass Orange Chipotle Sauce

I really enjoy seeing what other people cook, especially when it’s healthy. One good place to get great inspiration and lots of nutritional facts is Nutrition Action Health Letter.

Browsing around their sight, I stumbled upon a video the other day and tried out the sauce from their Shrimp Tostada Salad recipe. OMG! It was awesome! Always wanting to give it my own little twist, I wanted to switch it up a bit. But how could I improve this delicious, savory, yet sweet sauce? Well, I replaced the oil with veg stock and added a little plain soy yogurt for richness, and voila, perfection!

Kick-Ass Orange Chipotle Sauce

4 garlic cloves

1/2t salt

3t honey or agave syrup, to keep it vegan

juice of 3 oranges

1-2 chipotle peppers

3T veg stock

3-4 T plain soy yogurt (more if you want a thicker, richer sauce)

Put all ingredients, except for the yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour in a small pot and heat on medium until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture reduces by 1/3, about 10 minutes. You need to cook it or the pungent garlic flavor will over power the sauce. Skim off any froth that accumulates on the top with a large spoon. Cool slightly and add yogurt, whisking it in to combine.

So, there you have it! A savory sauce with a kick, fantastic over brown rice, sautéed zucchini and garbanzo beans. The whole grain mops up all the yumminess. Oh, could you imagine it drizzled over a baked potato with avocado chunks, cilantro and toasted walnuts? Mmmmmmm. Also, a great dressing for salad. Oh, the options are endless! Keep it covered in the fridge up to a week... if it lasts that long.


A little note on chipotle peppers:

These are smoked jalapeno peppers in adobo sauce. They are deep red in color and rich in flavor, adding quite a kick to your dish. There’s nothing else quite like them. Look for them with the other canned items in the Mexican food isle of your favorite grocery store.

I have never used a whole can at once, so freeze whatever’s leftover in a zip sandwich bag. Squish the contents flat in the bag so when you need one or two peppers, they’ll be easy to break apart.

Orange Wheat Berries with Pecans and Cranberries

I love bread!  I love pasta!  I love crackers!  But I don’t like the way they make me feel.  Besides the feeling of guilt, I feel bloated.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with whole grains so I can still satisfy the carbohydrate craving with none of the guilt.

First, it was brown rice and wild rice.  Then millet and quinoa.  Now, it’s wheat berries.  They’re cheap and easy to cook, and they’re really good for you.  Their firm nutty texture goes well with all kinds of veggies and make an interesting meal that will keep you satisfied for hours, and, to top it off, they make great leftovers.   Whenever I cook with wheat berries I make extra to make different variations of this salad, swapping out the pecans and cranberries for almonds and dried apricots, or butternut squash and chopped zucchini for the bells and carrots.  The choices are endless. 

Orange Wheat Berries with Pecans and Cranberries

wheat berries:

1 cup wheat berries


veggie mixture:

1T olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

a large handful of raw pecans, coarsely chopped

a large handful of dried cranberries

about 1t dried basil

1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt and pepper, to taste


2 oranges, peeled and segmented (save all the juice for dressing)

2T balsamic vinegar

2-4T veg stock

1T of Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

Preparing and cooking the wheat berries:

So, the wheat berries are slightly more labor intensive than, let’s say, white rice, but well worth the effort.  Put the 1 cup of wheat berries in a bowl and cover about 1-2 inches with boiling water.  Cover let sit for 1 hour.  After soaking, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add drained wheat berries.  Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 55-60 minutes.  There may still be some water left over in the pot.  That’s OK.  Just drain them and set aside on the counter to cool a bit. 

About the veggies:  

You’ll want to make sure they are all cut up to be the same size, about 1/4" to 1/2".  In a large skillet, sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil.  After a few minutes, add the bell peppers, pecans, cranberries, dried basil, and rosemary.  If veggies become too dry, add a little water or veg stock to loosen up and prevent burning.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  

For the vinaigrette:

You need orange segments.  I’m assuming you know how to do this.  Do it over a bowl to catch the juice and then squeeze all the excess juice from the leftovers.  Cut the orange segments in half and add to the veggie mixture.  Add the balsamic vinegar, veg stock, and Dijon mustard to the OJ and whisk.  The mustard will thicken the dressing and give it a nice tangy flavor that goes well with the sweet orange juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If it’s too vinegary or sweet, just adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.

Now toss the veggies with the wheat berries and vinaigrette.  Taste to check.  If it’s a bit dry, add more veg stock.

So, there you have it.  This is a delicious meal and can be eaten at room temperature or cold right out of the fridge.  Awesome for brown-bag lunches, but take extra because your coworkers will want some! 


A little note on tasting your food:  

Always taste your food during the cooking process.  Check to see if veggies are tender enough, sauces are flavorful enough, spices are hot enough.  I love to see someone lap up one of my meals without having to douse it with salt.  If it’s flavored well with herbs, you don’t need that much salt.  To me, that’s a successful meal.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

White Beans and Tomato on Toast

Trying to keep Chloe busy and entertained during the summer can make for a busy day. Recently, on the days I don’t feel like cooking a big meal, I’ve been making white beans and tomato on toast. It’s super easy, taking about 10 minutes, but full of flavor and very comforting. And, not a fast food meal in sight. Here goes!

White Beans and Tomato on Toast

1 garlic clove, chopped

olive oil

1 can of whole stewed tomatoes

1 can of white or cannelloni beans drained and rinsed (S&W make a great product)

a sprig of fresh rosemary

a few pinches of dried basil

salt and pepper

whole grain toast

Over medium heat, in a small to medium pot, gently sauté garlic in olive oil. Don’t burn it or it will get bitter and you’ll have to start over. About 30 seconds later, drop in the tomatoes and break them apart with a potato masher. Add beans, rosemary, basil, and warm through. Add salt and pepper to taste. As it heats up the flavor of the rosemary will perfume the tomatoes and beans. So, the longer you leave the rosemary in, the stronger the flavor.

Meanwhile, toast your bread.

Remove the rosemary sprig and spoon your fragrant bean/tomato mixture over your toast. Now, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Very Jamie Oliver!

And there you have it. For those days when you don’t feel like cooking or just don’t have the time, a quick and easy, yet comforting meal. And you can even super-size it without any guilt!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Green Brown Rice

You know when you get a bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander, for the Brits!) to make salsa and all you have left are the stalks?  Well, I’ve come up with a recipe that uses those leftovers.  So, save them from the fait of the garbage bin and try out this recipe!

Green Brown Rice

1 T olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic

1/2 jalapeno pepper (more if you like it hot!)

1/4 large white onion

1/2 california pepper (this is a mild, long, light-green pepper)

a couple of pinches of dried oregano

salt and pepper

leftover cilantro stalks/leaves

juice of 1/2 a lime

1 can of veg stock


2 cups of brown rice

2 dried bay leaves 

Chop up the peppers and onion into medium pieces.  It’s all going to get blended up, so don’t worry if they’re all different sizes.  Sauté the garlic, jalapeno, onion, california pepper in olive oil.  Add oregano and salt and pepper.  Cook until everything is soft and slightly browned.  This will make the garlic sweeter and mellow the heat of the peppers.  

Put sautéed pepper mix in the food processor and add the cilantro, lime juice and veg stock.  Whiz it all up in the food processor until very smooth.  It will be very watery.  You may not have enough liquid, 4 cups, for the 2 cups of brown rice, so add enough water to make up the difference.  

Now combine the 2 cups of rice with the 4 cups of pepper/water liquid and drop in 2 dried bay leaves.  Bring to a boil on high, then reduce heat to very low.  Cover and simmer 40 minutes.  Don’t open that lid!  

When it’s done, you may have a little liquid left over in the bottom of the pot.  If so, just simmer for a few more minutes with the lid off and this will evaporate most of that leftover liquid.  Take out the bay leaves and fluff the rice with a fork.  Be careful, it’s hot!

So, there you have it.  A great savory grain dish you can eat with a nice delicate white fish, like tilapia or large sautéed shrimp and a simple side salad.  Mmmmmmm.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spring Peas and Potatoes in Basil Pesto

I live in Brentwood, in the East Bay.  I didn’t realize it 12 years ago, but there are tons of fruit and vegetable stands out here.  A farmer’s market popped up a few years ago, and it’s turning out to be a great place to spend my Saturday mornings.  I just hope at some point it goes year round.  

This morning I perused the stalls for my veggies and weekly basil focaccia bread, which is my daughter’s favorite thing under the sun.  After picking up some tiny baby white potatoes (Yukon Gold, I think), some fresh spring peas, basil, and a loaf of Greenlee’s sinfully delicious Best Cinnamon Bread, which is sliced way too thin, in my opinion, we finally headed home to make way for the Corn Fest goers.

Lunch time was here before I knew it, so I shelled my beautiful spring peas while watching Royal Pains on  (I love the internet!)  Anyway, I cut up the potatoes and boiled them with the peas for about ten minutes and then tossed them with my version of basil pesto.  It was delicious.  There’s nothing like eating a meal with veggies that have been harvested within the last couple of days.

Here’s my basil pesto recipe:

a big bunch of washed basil, stems removed

1 very small garlic clove (more if you like the raw garlic flavor)

a big handful of toasted pine nuts

a couple of heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast

salt and pepper

olive oil and veggie stock, equal amounts

So, put all the dry ingredients into a food processor and, as it’s doing it’s thing, add the oil and stock, alternating between the two.  The consistency depends on the amount of liquid you add.  If you want a spread, add less liquid.  If you want a dressing, add more.  

If you don’t have basil, you can really use any green leafy veg, although basil has a very distinct flavor that I just love.  A peppery arugula would work well and so would fresh spinach.  You could use a blender if you don’t have a food processor.

So, there you have it.  A fast meal that’s good for you and super easy to make with fresh local ingredients from Brentwood’s finest!  Scrum-diddly!