Sunday, April 28, 2013

Zucchini Noodle Bowl

Zucchini Noodle Bowl

I was intrigued by the idea of making healthier "noodles" out of vegetables.   I was inspired by Oh She Glows blog post:  How to Spiralize Vegetables (Without a Spiralizer) to make an even lighter version of one of my favorites, Asian Noodle Salad.  I already had a julienne peeler (like this one) languishing mostly unused in my utensil drawer waiting for just this opportunity.  I figured that even if I wasn't sold on using the vegetable noodles to substitute for pasta, cutting vegetables this way this would add a fun twist to some favorite salads.  I found it super easy to julienne the zucchini and even the carrot didn't require much effort but was a little more awkward because of its shape.  Once you get the hang of using the peeler, you'll have a pile of "noodles" in no time.  It will take about 15-20 minutes to put this salad together.

For my first vegetable noodle recipe I made:

Zucchini Noodle Bowl

serves 2

2-3 small-medium zucchini, julienne sliced*
1 large carrot, julienne sliced
1 cup cabbage (red or napa), thinly sliced or shredded
1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 spring onion, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup steamed edamame or peas

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss to combine.
*Larger zuchinni tend to have seeds which don't julienne well.

1 tablepoon lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar (vegan)
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (almond or sunflower butter or sesame tahini can substitute)
1 tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Braggs amino acid, soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
red pepper flakes or your favorite pepper sauce, to taste

Whisk the dressing ingredients to combine.  Pour over the salad vegetables and toss to coat everything.  Serve with optional toppings or garnishes as desired.  If you double the ingredients for the dressing, you can save the other half in the refrigerator for another day to serve over a nice green salad with grilled tofu or other protein of choice.

Optional toppings and garnishes:
1 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts or cashews
lemon or lime wedges

By the way, I ate the entire recipe by myself for dinner - that's right, I mean "all of it".  I was hungry after working out in the fresh air in the garden and all those guilt-free veggie noodles kept calling me from the bowl.  

I can't wait to try making "noodles" out of other vegetables and share the recipes with you.

Thanks for reading!

Peas and onions growing in the garden

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes and cornbread

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes topped with avocado

Working in the garden on cool days really works up an appetite.  I thought I'd make one last hearty stew before the warm weather brings cravings for lighter fare.  This comforting pot of chili can have any mix of beans you prefer or have on hand.  There is a rich mix of herbs and spices and as much heat as you'd like plus added nutrition from greens added at the end.  If you have a spring garden, this is the perfect chance to use your spring onions, leeks and leafy greens and herbs that are ready for an early harvest.

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes

Veggie Chili with Sweet Potatoes

serves 6

1 leek or onion, finely diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups of vegetable broth or water
1 28 oz can or 3 cups of diced tomatoes

jalapeno or red pepper, chopped or red pepper flakes (optional or to taste)
3 cups or 2 15 oz cans of cooked beans (pintos, black, chickpeas, kidney, lentils or a mix), drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder or more to taste
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 cups of chopped greens (spinach, arugula or chard )
salt to taste

Optional toppings:
avocado wedges or chunks
chopped parsley or cilantro
chopped onions
jalapeno rings
shredded cheese
sour cream or pain yogurt

In a large stock pot on high heat, add the olive oil, leek, sweet pepper, carrot and garlic.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add all the rest of the ingredients except the greens and optional toppings and stir well.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the sweet potatoes and carrots are tender, stirring occasionally.  Add salt if desired and additional  jalapeno or red pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped greens.  Let them wilt into the stew a few minutes, stir again and serve with optional toppings and a wedge of cornbread.  

Notes:  For the broth, I used 1 tablespoon of red miso paste dissolved into 2 cups of water.

And what goes better with chili than cornbread?  

Cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet

I have been making this recipe for cornbread for as long as I can remember.  In its original form, it was on the back of the Indian Head brand corn meal sack.  The recipe has, of course, gone through a few changes to make it a bit more healthy (gone are the shortening and bleached flour).  It is just as tasty and quick to pull together.  I love to make this recipe in a cast iron skillet because it makes the edges crunchy while the inside is tender.  You can also bake this batter in a muffin pan.

Tender crumbed cornbread


makes 12 servings

1 1/2  cups yellow corn meal or flour
1 1/2  cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup honey, agave nectar or raw sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups dairy or non dairy milk
2 eggs (or 2 tablespoons flaxmeal mixed with 1/4 cup water)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/218 degrees C.  If you are making this in a cast iron skillet, pour the olive oil in the skillet and put the skillet with the oil into the oven while it is preheating.  

Combine the corn meal/flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, raw sugar (if using) and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add in the the milk, applesauce, eggs and honey or agave nectar (if using).  If you are baking in a muffin pan, add the olive oil here.  Mix lightly until the wet and dry ingredients are just barely incorporated.  Less stirring keeps the finished bread more tender and light.  

Baking in a Cast Iron Skillet
Remove the skillet and olive oil from the oven being careful of the hot oil.  Pour the batter into the hot oil in the preheated skillet being careful not to splash.  The batter will start to sizzle right away helping create that crunchy outer crust.   Immediately return the skillet with the batter to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the center is done.  Cool for 5 minutes and cut into wedges and serve.

Baking in a Muffin Pan
Oil or spray the pan and fill the cups 3/4 full with the batter.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the center is done.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

Leftover cornbread is delicious split in half, toasted and topped with butter and jam or a special treat topped with sliced fruit and yogurt or cashew cream.  

Thanks for reading!
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Tree in bloom

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Garden and Inspirational Garden Talk

Pea shoots

Spring is finally here to stay!  Between dodging slushy snowfall a couple of weeks ago and below freezing nights to our over 90F/32C weather this week, the raised beds are finally prepped and the spring seedlings and seeds are finally planted.  Fingers crossed that we have a few weeks of regular spring temperatures to get everything growing nicely.  I'm happy to be planting some favorites including:  tomatoes of every kind, peas, limas, long beans, herbs, peppers, greens galore and eggplant to name a few.  I'm also really looking forward to some new additions to the garden this year:  figs, garlic (some from my neighbor's really flavorful stock), rhubarb and a few new rose varieties.

Here are a few pictures of the start of this year's garden.

New rhubarb plants

Raspberry bushes sending out new leaves

A happy cilantro plant that overwintered in a garden tunnel

For a little extra garden inspiration, watch the 10 minute video below from a presentation about guerrilla produce gardening from  (NOTE:  I'd give this a PG for a few expletives towards the end of the segment.)  If you haven't checked out before, you will find amazing presentations and lectures on all kinds of topics for free.

I hope you are inspired to plant something - no matter if it's in a pot on a sunny window sill or in your local community garden plot.

Thanks for reading!

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Cherry blossoms in our front yard

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Movie night

Pesto popcorn

I recently watched The Intouchables and I highly recommend this funny, French subtitled film.  It is based on a true story about a wealthy quadriplegic who hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver.  It will inspire you to do your best no matter how bad the odds may seem.

The Intouchables (2011) Poster

If you haven't seen Joe Cross' documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, it is available for free for a limited time.  It will give you an informative look at the food industry and an inspirational look at how several people improved their health through diet.

Product Details

Make a bowl of pesto popcorn and juice a glass of carrot-ginger lemonade, then sit back and enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Smoky Split and Fresh Pea Soup

Smoky Split and Fresh Pea Soup

This is a perfect meal for the cool weather of spring.   This comforting soup contains the heartiness of dried split peas but with a nod to the lightness of spring by including fresh peas in season if you can get them.  Smoked paprika adds a comforting warmth and lovely color.  This soup was inspired recipes in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen which is one of my favorite soup cookbooks.  

Ingredients for soup including a leek picked fresh from the garden

Smoky Split and Fresh Pea Soup

serves 6

1 1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed and soaked (see note below)
2 tablespoons olive oil  (omit if cooking in the crockpot)
1 large onion or leek, diced
2 carrots, diced 
1 stalk celery diced or 1 teaspoon celery seed
2 med potatoes, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red miso paste*
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups of fresh shelled or frozen peas
1 cup (dairy or non-dairy) milk or cream 
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
sea salt and pepper to taste

* substitute 2 cups of prepared vegetable broth or plain water

NOTE:  Before starting the rest of the preparation, put the split peas in a large bowl and add hot water to cover them completely.  While you are chopping the vegetables and gathering your ingredients, let the peas soak in the hot water.  When you are ready to add the split peas to the pot, drain off the soaking water before adding them to the pot using one of the following cooking methods.

Crockpot method:
Put all the ingredients except the fresh peas, milk, nutritional yeast (if using), salt and pepper into the crockpot.  Add enough water to cover everything.  Cover with the lid and cook until the split peas are tender for approximately 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.  Stir in the fresh peas, milk or cream and nutritional yeast and heat about 5 minutes until the fresh peas are heated through.  Remove the bay leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Stovetop method:
In a large stock pot on medium high heat, saute the chopped leek or onion until translucent.  Add in the carrots, celery and potato and saute a few minutes more.  Add in all the rest of the ingredients except the fresh peas, milk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper into the stock pot and add water to cover all the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Then turn down to a simmer and cover the a lid.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the split peas are broken down and the potatoes and carrots are tender, approximately 1 hour.  Stir in the fresh peas, milk or cream and nutritional yeast and heat about 5 minutes until the fresh peas are heated through.  Remove the bay leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Tulip poplar in bloom