Quick Summer Lunch

No picture, I haven’t made it yet for today, on my way to get the ingredients. But here is a real haiku for you about the salad:

summer tomatoes
small green cucumbers, happy
luncheon – tummy smiles.

Summer is here and it is sooooo hot, the average life span of a popsicle is about 15 seconds. Yes, I have air conditioning but I still like to cook as little as I can get by with. Call it a….Vacation away from the kitchen. No children in the house so that makes things simpler.  Actually, I took this to a friend’s and her kids loved it.  Depending on pasta type or optional ingredients added, this can be vegan or vegetarian or gluten free.

Wonderful summer tomatoes and small crisp, sweet cucumbers are also showing up at local markets. I am having to resort to local markets because a line of storms obliterated my garden. And I am envious of you all who have a kitchen garden.

Now, for super simple healthy lunch or, dinner if you like. No quantities are given. It’s a “do your thing” recipe. And, it is a keep it simple salad…nothing elaborate or stylish here, just good tastes. The best kind for summer.

You’ll need:
pasta – fettucine, rotini, elbow, whole grain, gluten free, whatever.
tomatoes – one per serving (depending on size)
cucumbers – one per serving (depending on size)
green onions – to taste
splash of rice wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash of sugar or sweetener
Optional – finely chopped basil, freshly grated parmesan, pine nuts, splash of olive oil.

Instructions:  Cook desired servings of pasta al dente, rinse with cold water and drain. Meanwhile, skin or peel tomatoes and cukes. Very coarsely chop tomatoes and cukes. Add to pasta along with salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar. Toss and let sit about 15 minutes for tomatoes to juice out and flavors to blend. Sprinkle green onion and optional ingredients on top and lightly toss. Serve with some crusty bread if desired. Dig in.  NOTE:  I peel or skin tomatoes or cukes this time of year because the peels can be tough and bitter.

WARNING: This salad will not taste the same if you use those mushy store bought tomatoes or big last season waxed cucumbers. if it’s all you have access to, well, then do your best.

Summer’s Coming – Veggie Quinoa Salad

Good stuff this – lots of protein, veggies, flavor – easy to make and easier to eat. Good to keep in the fridge for munching, a quick meal, or to a cookout or potluck. You can add nuts (cashews, almonds, macadamia), beans (kidney, white), strips of spinach or kale, chopped fresh parsley…you can grate the carrot instead of cubing it. Wonderfully adaptive salad.  There are lots of these salads around.  This has an Asian flair to it.  A friend served it last week and I stole the recipe.

Recipe
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shelled frozen edamame
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/4 chopped scallion (green onion)
1 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Directions
Place the quinoa, water, and salt in a covered pot. Heat on high until it boils, lower the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is soft and the water absorbed. Pour the quinoa into a medium-sized bowl, and mix in the frozen edamame, carrots, peppers, and cabbage. In a small bowl, make the dressing by mixing the sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced ginger, and sesame seeds. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and veggies, and mix thoroughly. Enjoy immediately, or store in a covered container for later.

public domain image

public domain image

Winter’s Coming: Real Homemade Hot Cocoa

On a miserable cold day or evening, few things are as satisfying, flavorful, and aromatic as a cup of hot cocoa. In this day of instant gratification and artificial things like spiced cider powder, it is good to know some things still are best the old fashioned, homemade way. Hot cocoa can be prepared as easily and almost as quickly as ripping open an envelope, pouring out powder, adding water and then nuking in the microwave.

You can use any brand of powdered cocoa – from common to rare, inexpensive to extravagant. I use plain old Hershey’s Cocoa (I am not paid for any endorsement of this product). You can use any milk: whole, skim, half and half, evaporated milk (for a retro take on this classic) milk made from nuts or soy. Sweeteners and how much is up to you: granulated sugar, brown, natural, honey, stevia, agave, honey, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners. If you have never made hot cocoa, taste as you go as to amount of cocoa and sweetner you like.  Additions of some cinnamon or peppermint extract, schnapps, or crème de menthe, crème de cacao, or a bit of rum adds an adventurous adult twist.

This recipe multiplies easily. One cup is as easy as four. Add a dollop or squirt of whipped cream or a marshmallow to the finished deliciousness for a bit of added decadence. Pour into your special mug, kick back, relax, sip, and let the harsh cold outside world drift away in a cloud of fragrant, gentle, chocolate steam.

Hot Cocoa
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it) or other sweetener
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk or any combination of milk, half-and-half, or cream or non-dairy “milk”
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation
Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and about 2 tablespoons milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until cocoa and sugar are dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk and heat it over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until it is hot. Stir in the vanilla and serve. If you like it frothy, blend it in the blender.

public domain vintage clip art

 

Winter’s Coming: Comfort Food

free clip art

free clip art

Nights are getting cooler and cold, drizzly rain or snow, or sleet is going to start gracing our days and nights. These two recipes pack an anti-cancer POW, give you a crazy good dose of winter vegetables, warm your tummy, and makes your house smell beyond wonderful. Be sure to use the dark green leaves on the outside of the cabbage. For some reason, people toss these wonderful leaves of health and goodness out. Remove the large stem part and chop. This adds great flavor and color to the stew. Feel free to add other vegetables to the roasted vegetable dish: cubed sweet potato, butternut squash, broccoli.

Both dishes are vegan, but don’t let that stop you from preparing and enjoying. Something about stews put me in mind of hobbit journeys, semi-lawless olde country taverns and food eaten out of wooden trenchers, and down on the farm, filling comfort food. Add some good bread, a cold glass of apple cider, and you are good to go.

Vegetable Stew
2 large carrots, diagonally sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 large parsnips, diagonally sliced into 2 inch pieces
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
¼ chopped green cabbage
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 – 2 tsp. good Hungarian paprika, smoked or not.

Directions
Combine the carrots, turnips, onion, garlic, tomatoes (with their liquid), cabbage, broth, salt, cumin, and paprika in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours. Add the zucchini and chickpeas and cook 1 hour longer on low. If you are lucky, put into a dutch oven, adding chick peas, cabbage, and zucchini about 30 – 40 minutes before end of cooking and cook in the oven or on top of the stove until veggies are tender and melt in your mouth.

Oven Roasted Winter Vegetables
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 2 tbs olive oil for pan
3 medium carrots (about 3/4 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick circles
1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1/2 pound), halved
4 cups small yellow or red skin potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
3 medium parsnips (about 1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
1 tsp. each basil, oregano, thyme, minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Splash of balsamic vinegar

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place vegetables into a large bowl and season with salt, pepper, herbs, oil, and vinegar, toss well. Grease an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet pan with extra-virgin olive oil (I use parchment paper instead of the extra oil). Place vegetables in baking sheet. Add more oil if the vegetables seem dry. Place pan of vegetables the middle rack in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

 

 

Vegetable Pot Pie

free Wikipedia image

free Wikipedia image

Where’s the meat???? Well, you don’t need any for this recipe. Vegetable Pot Pie is healthy for people and animals. If you must have meat, add some chunks of cooked chicken. But honestly folks, you don’t need it. Lots of veggies in a warm thick sauce nestled between two pie crusts, making the house smell so good and driving away that cold weather outside.

You can add other veggies of course, but this recipe has classic pot pie veggies and what’s so good about it, you can use frozen bagged vegetable mixtures to save time and effort. And if you are really driven for time and want to simplify it even more, add the equivalent liquid amount of cream of mushroom or celery soup. Not as good and considering how easy it is to make a roux and add liquid, it would be a shame to take the canned soup shortcut.

If you have to cross over from vegan, a good extra touch is about 5 minutes before pulling from the oven, sprinkle a nice amount of grated parmesan or cheddar cheese on the top crust and allow to melt. Serve this with a hearty appetite. Get warm and comfy on the inside and smiley on the outside. Yowzer y’all, it’s good.

Vegetable Pot Pie
1 cup thinly sliced carrots*
1 cup frozen green peas*
1 cup small diced potatoes*
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery*
1/2 cup finely chopped onion* OR
*4 cups of comparable frozen vegetables
1/2 cup butter substitute, or heart smart type margarine
1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper – a few good grinds
good pinch of celery seed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (I use the water I cooked the vegetables in)
2/3 cup almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
Two 9-inch unbaked pie crusts, lard free (I use ready made from the dairy case, room temperature and dusted with a little flour when rolling out)

Directions
Preheat the oven to  400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil to place the pie on before cooking; it will keep any filling from dripping into the oven and burning. In a medium saucepan, combine the vegetables. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the onions in the butter substitute until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, seasoned salt, pepper, celery seed and garlic powder. Cook for 2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out. Slowly stir in the broth until smooth and then add the almond milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the drained vegetables. Roll out one of the unbaked crusts to a 13-inch diameter and place in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Pour the mixture into the bottom crust. Roll out the second pie crust and place on top. Seal the edges and cut small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top of the pie becomes too dark, loosely cover with foil and continue cooking. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

Heavenly Yum-Hummus

Heavenly hummus? Really? I make my own and it is excellent. However, some time ago, I went to a new restaurant in town and had their hummus. Oh my, oh my. It tasted great but what blew me away was the texture. It was so silky smooth and not as grainy as most hummuses (hummi?) I have had or made. It was….heavenly – smooth, fluffy. I asked the waitress how it was made. She was clueless. She asked the chef in the back. He said no way was he giving it up. So, me being me and me being an excellent food sleuth, I determined to reverse engineer his hummus. Chick peas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, good virgin olive oil….basic. But the method was what lifted this hummus from ho-hummus to Yum-Yummus.

I used canned chickpeas which is perfectly acceptable and in my various experiments, there was no difference in the long way of cooking your own as opposed to dumping out of the can. I did however discover there is an expensive organic brand that is bland and tends toward mush. Regular store brand worked just fine.

I mashed the chickpeas and sieved them and mixed with ingredients. Still grainy and dense. I put in a blender and then strained the pureed beans and mixed. Nope. Not that either.

I put the beans and some extra liquid in my food processor and then mixed. Smoother, but my tongue said, Girlfriend, you still have work to do. I continued. I ate enough hummus in a couple of weeks to mortar a brick wall around our property. Made my family crazy as well.

Reliving the texture in my mind, I had an epiphany – Eureka! Emulsion! Like mayonnaise – mixing together elements that normally do not mix such as an oil and a liquid to make a creamy smooth something else: Emulsion. I learned it as a pharmacy tech and I learned it in culinary school. I was about to make hummus history.

So—-below are the instructions for method. Add more or less seasonings to your taste, but do the emulsion thing. After a couple of tries, I hit on the right method. I dug in with a spoon to test the texture and taste. Oh be still my heart! Heavenly Hummus was now available at my house.

RECIPE
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
¼ c. water
6 tsp. tahini, well stirred
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, good quality
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cumin
Pinch or two of cayenne
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
4 tsp. pine nuts
Additional olive oil for garnish (Optional)

Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Whisk together tahini and olive oil in another small bowl until smooth and blended. Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground. Scrape down bowl. Then with machine running, add lemon juice/water in a steady stream through feed tube. Scrape down bowl again and continue to process for a minute. With machine running, add oil/tahini mixture in a slow steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds.

Transfer hummus to serving bowl. Stir in pine nuts reserving a few for garnish. Sprinkle minced herbs over surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend and develop. Remove plastic wrap, drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle on reserved pine nuts, and serve.

hummus1

(free public domain image)

Japanese Cabbage Salad

Hot and sticky summer is here. I usually keep Japanese pickled veggies in my fridge all year, but this time of year, in addition to the pickles, there are usually several containers of salads – American, potato, pasta, layered, congealed, vegetable and of course, always a Japanese salad. This cabbage salad is a favorite and super easy. the miso adds a tasty variation on the flavor and is good for you too! This salad sounds a lot like cole slaw and indeed, some shredded carrots are good added to this for color, flavor, and nutrition.  Of course, you can make a smaller version.  It keeps well and I like it better the second day.  This was given to me by a friend in my past and is from the Hakone area.  Good with meats, as part of an all salad meal, or I like as a lunch with steamed rice.  NOTE:  I use chopsticks to toss and mix food items to keep vegetables from bruising.

There was a yakinuku (grilled meats) restaurant near where I was staying at the time in Japan.  I ate there with regularity.  With great courtesy, this recipe was shared with me by one of the chefs shortly before I returned to the US.    I think he was charmed by my Southern American accent!

どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare  y’all!)  Eat well said by the cook to the eaters…

Cabbage Salad
1 tbs. white or yellow miso paste
2 tbs. soy sauce
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tesp. Rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 c. safflower or other neutral vegetable oil
6 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
3 thinly sliced green onions
Toasted sesame seeds

In large non-reactive bowl, whisk together miso paste, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and vegetable oil. Toss cabbage in ingredients and let chill for about 1 hours, tossing several times. Garnish with sesame seeds when serving.  OPTIONAL:  Can add thinly sliced fresh snow peas, red cabbage, shredded carrots

cabbage salad 2

 

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