Simple, Fresh

21 Mon, 2011 § 10 Comments

The bulk food bins & I have bonded deeply the last few years.

You know it’s serious when your husband says,

“I’ll leave you to it – this is like Disneyland for you,”

before he darts off for the meat & cheese counters.

Buying bulk is less expensive & less wasteful, especially if you BYOB [bags].  It offers variety & a chance to try small quantities of something, by buying only what you need; this means your goods are likely fresher.  It also seems fresher to pour my grains, seeds, beans, nuts & dried fruit from glass rather than plastic bags or containers.

We keep a lot of our bulk items in our favorite snap containers from World Market.  I always have more bulk than I have containers for though, so I also store food in mason jars as well as reuse other food jars, which once held oils, pickles, etc.  Food storage does not have to be expensive; in fact, it can be downright cheap.

As long as it stays fresh, I am happy.

Dave is right: the bulk section makes me embarrassingly excited.  Whatever my food mood, I can generally fill it here.

Lately, my Spring [fever] mood has been light & distinct, using only a few ingredients to highlight simple flavors.

Five[or six]-ingredient grain salads.

[I have seen variations of these online but can’t find the links now.  Sorry.]

Lentils & Barley with Cardamom

  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup almond or hemp milk
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cashews, toasted

Combine & rinse barley & lentils.  Combine with water & milk & bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover & simmer 30 – 40 minutes until most of the water is absorbed.  Toward the end of cooking, stir in cardamom, salt & raisins.  Once water is absorbed & grains are cooked, allow to rest a few minutes.  Stir in coconut & garnish individual servings with cashews.

Tarragon Vinaigrette over Quinoa & Roasted Beets

  • 3 T champagne vinegar
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T tarragon [fresh if available; I used ~1 tsp dried]
  • ~6 medium beets, roasted
  • ~2 cups cooked quinoa
  • pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • sea salt & fresh pepper

Combine  vinaigrette ingredients & toss with quinoa & roasted beets.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper & top with roasted pumpkin seeds.  Tarragon is my new favorite combination with beets.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some fresh.

~

Do you shop the bulk section?  What has been your favorite find?

Fresh Winter Greens

23 Thu, 2010 § 2 Comments

Salads are such a simple meal, so why even blog about them?

Because, for me anyway, it is not always easy to get into the mood.  I still have to resist the initial thought of “salad” equating to…a bunch of lettuce.

That is not often what I am in the mood to eat — especially in winter — so the trick is to pile my salad with things I am in the mood to eat…

like

Lentils

&

Pink Ladies

& topping it with my favorite dressing.

If I had felt like quickly toasting nuts or seeds, I would have thrown that in the mix too & made it even tastier.

I am still in love with this baby herb salad & think it is a huge reason why I am loving fresh greens right now.  If you can find one — or are daring enough to make your own — I highly recommend it.

I have to give it to some of my blogger friends for getting me to eat more salads even though it is winter.  I haven’t quite felt like steamed greens lately & am often inspired by the “simple” lunches you foodies throw together.  So I just wanted to share a quick winter salad that hit the spot.  This is especially helpful if you are like me & trying to eat super clean & load up on veggies before holiday festivities.  Obviously this is more of an idea than a recipe, because I am always in need of those myself when it comes to salads.

~

Now you go: what is your current favorite salad combination? (please) 😉

Shades of Grey

21 Tue, 2010 § 8 Comments

I do not naturally love winter.  I have no winter sports that I enjoy that keep me where I prefer [outdoors].  I hate being cold.

I have had to slow down & turn inward — mimic the season in a way — to learn to cherish it…or at least not become horribly depressed when the worst cases of cabin fever hit, usually around January/February.  I have already been feeling down though with the stress of moving & finding work.  The holidays have not even passed — this is supposed to be a festive & joyous time!  I can’t already be sad.

Fortunately, today is the winter solstice: the shortest day & longest night of the year.  It is “midwinter”, which means the gradual lengthening of days, & therefor, return of light to the earth.  Last night, I realized I can embrace & mimic this within myself as well.

Dave & I have started a tradition of taking a midnight or night hike during the winter solstice.  Since there was a lunar eclipse last night, we decided to enjoy our hike a night earlier than usual.

We bundled up, anticipating a frigid night, & headed out to the national forest that lies just east of us.  It is only a short walk & the perfect setting for our hike.  Eisley was thrilled.

The wind gusted constantly; we had expected it to be biting, but it was actually refreshing.  I wasn’t cold at all, which was a shock to both of us [I’m known for freezing in 70*F weather].  We found a beautiful meadow, hoping it would be an ideal spot to witness the transformed moon.  Being our first trek into these woods, it was amazing to see it from night’s perspective, surrounded by varying shades of grey.  Even the eclipse glowed only a faint yellowish grey.  Though that was sort of a dud, it was amazing to be out in the night air, walking the network of trails by moonlight & growing anxious to see them by daylight.

I decided that I will not forget or neglect the bits of “light” that bring me happiness & make my life worthwhile.  I also need to acknowledge my own inner light — my beauty & worth — & not let my self esteem [or worth] wane.  I will strive to embrace this & allow it to grow along with the natural light in the world.

~

Now speaking of a different type of light & warmth, we wanted a warm & hardy — but not heavy — meal before heading out.  I had everything needed for one of my favorite truffled whipped bean dishes…except the white beans & leeks.  I did, however, have lentils, & a beautiful white onion calling from the basket to be caramelized.   I love lentils, but often forget this & therefor forget to make them often.  After this meal, I do not think I will be guilty of that again.

French Lentils with Caramelized Onions, Thyme & Truffle Oil

2 servings

Rinse ¾ cup of french lentils [or cook more if you’d like leftovers for something else].  Prepare by simmering in 1.5 cups of water, until water is absorbed & lentils are soft. [Mine took ~50 minutes, which seems long; often it’s closer to 20, so I don’t know what to tell you.  Just watch them closely I suppose.]

When lentils are nearly finished, use a large skillet to saute a small, thinly-sliced sweet onion in olive oil over med to med-high heat for ~5 minutes.

Quarter 10 or so baby bella mushrooms & add to the skillet with a splash of mirin or white wine.  Saute ~5 minutes more.

Stir in 1 – 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme & the juice from ½ a lemon.  Saute about 2 minutes longer.

Fold in 1 cup of cooked lentils, add some fresh-ground pepper & allow to heat through for a minute.

Remove from heat.  Serve in bowls & drizzle with ~1 teaspoon of truffle oil.

The worst part about this meal: I was hoping for leftovers…

While I absolutely love the way truffle oil enhances this dish, don’t stress or rush out to buy some if you don’t have it.  [When you do have a bit to splurge or find it on sale, I highly recommend it.  Only a little goes a long way.]  This dish is still delicious without it, or you could simply drizzle with quality olive oil instead.

~

Did you catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse last night?

Do you have any fun or special traditions that occur before the holidays?

Biscuits & Gravy…sort of

29 Mon, 2010 § 3 Comments

Good morning!

I have been trying to find ways to get in more protein for breakfast, so dinner leftovers have come in handy.

It reminded me of a sort of vegan biscuits & gravy…& it was too simple.

Ezekial english muffins, toasted & buttered with Earth Balance

Leftover lentil stew, warmed

A couple dollops of cashew cream

Lentil Stew

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped [I was out but think it would be a nice addition]

Saute in a small saucepan in EVOO over medium heat until fragrant.

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp pasta toss spice [basil, oregano, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic]
  • dash nutmeg
  • dash sea salt
  • jarred/canned tomatoes, drained [I used a half quart of my mom’s]
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 tsp carob

Combine with garlic & saute ~1 minute.

  • juice from jarred tomatoes + water = 2 cups

Add liquid & bring to boil.  Reduce heat & simmer until lentils are soft & cooked, ~50 minutes.

This thick stew was tasty & warming after bouldering in the cold, but it was missing a little something.  I stirred in a couple dollops of cashew cream.  Mmm.

I loved it even more the next morning.

~

I am rediscovering lentils.  What is your favorite way to make them?

Bad Bad Good

3 Wed, 2010 § 7 Comments

Today Dave came to me with some “bad news — actually two lots of bad news — & one of good”.

It mirrored my own morning, filled with two bits of bad & one good — really good.

I will give you mine in the order I opted to get it from Dave.

Bad:

I do not love chocolate in my oats.  I ruined what was going to be a lovely bowl of Gingerbread Tea`d Oats [made with fragrant & flavorful gingerbread rooibos tea from SLC’s Tea Grotto] because I was tempted by the “chocolate brownie oats” fetish I have seen from time to time.  I added just a tiny spoonful of cacao powder to my cooking oats.  No thanks.  If I want a little chocolate in the morning, I just want a little & might consider tossing in a few bits of cacao nibs or dark chocolate pieces. My oats need not drowned in chocolate muck.

Not one to waste food that’s still “ok”, I finished it.  The chocolate left me feeling a bit heavy & the flavor, unsatisfied.  😦  Oh well, now I know.

~

Bad:

I have a delicious recipe for you.  I even took a couple prep photos while cooking…but…

All of the photos were accidentally deleted due to miscommunication.  He didn’t mean to; he just thought I already had them.  😦  boo

Red Lentil Enchiladas with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

  • ½ C Red Lentils

Simmer in 1 C water ~20 – 30 minutes until cooked.

In a separate skillet, heat EVOO on medium heat.

  • 1 small red Onion, thinly sliced

Add to skillet & cook until soft, ~2 minutes.

  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced

Add & cook until fragrant.

  • 2 small Jalapenos, diced

Add & cook until Jalapenos are just tender.

Now, remember that delicious roasted red pepper cream sauce Christine used for the ravioli?  You can find Vegan Dad’s original recipe here.  I tweaked it a bit, adding

  • a touch of sea Salt
  • 1 – 2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • a dash of Mirin cooking wine
  • 1 – 2 tsp Pasta Toss herb blend [oregano, basil, sun-dried tomatoes & garlic]

I thinned out ~½ cup of the sauce with a little water & added a couple spoonfuls to the bottom of a rectangular, lightly-oiled baking dish.

Mix the cooked lentils into the vegetable skillet & lower the heat.

Add most of the sauce to the lentil mixture & stir — reserving enough to top the enchiladas — allowing it to heat through for a couple minutes on low heat.

Meanwhile prep 3 – 4 tortillas.  I use Ezekiel brand sprouted tortillas, which aren’t as soft & malleable.  The trick: zap them in a microwave for ~30 seconds to soften them right up.

Spoon roasted pepper-lentil mixture into each tortilla, roll up & lay in prepared baking dish.

Top with remaining sauce & choice of cheese [we used some of our leftover vegan parmesan].

Bake in a preheated 350*F oven ~10 – 15 minutes, just long enough to toast the tortillas & melt the cheese.

Flavorful & delicious.  I wish I had photos.

Sorry.

~

Finally,

the Good.

Dave’s news went like this:

“so…the first isn’t really bad news…but a confession:

I got you a present.”

Excitement

&

Guilt

Which should I go with?

“Second: I don’t have all of your present today.”

You mean I get more presents tomorrow?  So far, his “bad” isn’t all that bad.  😉

Now

for

the

Good:

No more miscommunications leading to deleted photos.

Dave bought me my own SLR 🙂

The Nikon D60 to be precise.

Isn’t he the best?

I am absolutely spoiled,

a little guilt-ridden,

but

OH.SO.EXCITED

The lens will be here tomorrow…& that means bonding time with my new camera. 🙂

~

Do you ever feel a little guilty when someone gives you a very nice gift…just because?

Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

30 Thu, 2010 § 3 Comments

As promised,

one nutrient-dense dish.

Traditionally “Cottage” or “Shepherd’s” Pie was made with minced [also known as ground] beef or lamb with a crust of mashed potatoes.  Throw in a few veggies, ample amounts of cream, sour cream & butter, & you have a simple & rich greasy modern version.

Nothing about traditional shepherd’s pie appeals to me, but after my grandma passed along a version using lentils, I knew I could make it even tastier & healthier.

By using lentils instead of the traditional ground meat, we still get a good dose of protein but without all the disease-causing, saturated fat.  The fat that is present in my pie is primarily “healthy fats” from sauteing the vegetables in olive oil.

Swapping out white potato for sweet potato means your blood sugar will rise about 30 percent less during digestion.  Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A & have more vitamin C, calcium & soluble fiber [& they taste better].

I was given two different caloric totals per serving when I tried calculating the nutritional information on two different online sources.  252 or 450.  Honestly, when you are eating whole foods & listening to your body, you really don’t have to count calories like a mad person.  Eat slowly & mindfully until you are satisfied.

This pie packs nearly 8g of protein per serving.

18.4% DV Iron

Nearly 9% DV Calcium

Loads of Vitamin A & Potassium

Vitamins C, E & B6

Zinc, Manganese & several other key nutrients

Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat oven to 350*F

  • ½ C dried whole French Lentils
  • 3 medium Sweet Potatoes, washed & cut into small cubes [I left the skins on, but feel free to peel.]
  • 3 large sections of Shallot, peeled & chopped
  • 3 small Carrots, I found it easier to cut length-wise slices [rather than rounds] to chopchopped
  • 1 large Tomato, chopped
  • 1 C Kale, chopped
  • ½ tsp dried Basil
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ T Braggs Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
  • ¼ C Rice or Almond Milk
  • 1T Earth Balance Butter
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt

Simmer Lentils in a pot with 1 C of water until liquid cooks out, ~45-50 min.

Mash with a fork.

Meanwhile, boil Sweet Potatoes in a pot of water until they can be easily pierced with a fork, ~30 min.

Once Lentils are cooked,

  • On medium heat, saute Shallots in 2T EVOO until soft & translucent, 1-2 min.
  • Add Carrots & Tomato, cooking until carrots are almost tender.
  • Add Kale.
  • Once Carrots are tender, add the mashed Lentils, salt, basil & Braggs.
  • Stir & simmer, uncovered, until the liquid cooks off.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash [or food process] the cooked Sweet Potatoes, salt, milk & butter with a fork or potato masher.

Pour the vegetable-lentil mixture into a lightly-oiled pie pan.

Layer mashed Sweet Potatoes over the top.

Bake 15-20 minutes until heated through & slightly browned on top.

~

*Our pie was a bit “over-the-top” because the sweet potatoes were larger than medium & really towered over the lentils [see first photo].  No complaints here; we love our sweet potatoes.  I may use more lentils in the future.

*This is a great recipe for “late” work days, because it can be prepared & assembled beforehand & kept in the refrigerate until you are ready to bake it.

*I like the simplicity of the basil, but next time I will try substituting cumin, coriander — maybe even red pepper flakes.  Use whatever you have on hand or suits your taste — including other vegetables!

*Not a fan of Kale?  This is a great way to “hide” it from Dave ;).  He really enjoys this dish.  I started with ½ cup, then added more & still would have liked more.  Feel free to add even more kale or use spinach instead.

*This dish nearly has it all: ample vegetables, a protein; the only thing missing is a whole grain.  You could add cooked brown rice or another grain to the “filling”; or do like I sometimes do & enjoy an evening snack made up of whole grains.

~

What are your favorite make-ahead dishes?  What nutrient-dense meals do you love?

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