Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sid’s Everyday Pancakes – Kid in the Kitch!

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Today my son woke up early and wanted to help make the pancakes. He absolutely loves cooking and helping in the kitchen. As an eight year old, there are certain things he can’t do or that I’m nervous about him doing safely. However, he listens well, he’s calm and follows directions. That makes it easier to teach him how to cook.

We make pancakes almost everyday. But we make fast and easy pancakes. I use a mix from Trader Joe’s – it’s one of the few convenience foods that I rely on (btw, it has buttermilk in the mix so it isn’t vegan). My kids love it and I think it’s healthier than most other mixes I’ve looked at. Of course, you can make your own mix (which I aspire to, but it’s low on my list at this point)!

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Since we don’t  do eggs in our house, I use sourdough starter for leavening the pancake batter. It works great and doesn’t give much of a sour flavor when it’s used right away. If you aren’t familiar with sourdough starter and you like to bake, you should check it out! It’s awesome but kind of like having a pet. It has to be fed and nurtured. You can’t stick it in the cupboard and forget about it for a month or it will die. There are places to get the starter mix (King Arthur Flour is a great source), but I think it’s best to get it from someone you know. If you don’t have sourdough starter, you can sub a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water).

Without further delay, here’s Sid’s blog debut…

Sid’s Everyday Pancakes (makes enough pancakes for 1 or 2 kids)

2 tbsp sourdough starter or flax egg
1 cup Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix
approx. 1/2 cup almond milk or other milk

Place the sourdough starter or flax egg in a mixing bowl. (Then feed your sourdough – here is Sid feeding it with more flour and water.)

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Add the pancake mix and stir a bit.

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Slowly add the almond milk and continue to mix and add milk until the mix is pourable but not too liquid.

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Now pour the batter by the spoonful onto a heated cast iron griddle or other skillet (action shot):

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Flip the pancakes over when they start to get bubbles on the top (great job, Sid!):

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Mushroom “Bacon” and Avocado Sandwich

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Hello! This is a super quick post for a super quick sandwich. I have been racing the clock all morning trying to get errands and chores done. My friend S and I are meeting for a lunch run and I had to eat properly before heading out. This sandwich is quick, light and satisfying. The main thing that takes a bit of time to prepare is the “bacon”. With my quick version, it takes only 10 minutes (no marinating this time). I hope you try it out!

Mushroom “Bacon” and Avocado Sandwich

1 lb. mushrooms, crimini or button or portabella
a few pinches salt
1 tbsp oil (grape seed, olive, etc.)
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
dash or two of garlic powder
dash or two smoked seasoning or liquid smoke
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 slices bread
1 tbsp vegenaise or mayo or your choice
2 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Place the 1 tbsp oil and half the mushrooms in a heated cast iron skillet in a single layer, sprinkling with a pinch of salt:

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Let the mushrooms cook until lightly browned on the first side. Scoop them to the side and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms. When these are brown on the bottom, stir together and sauté for a minute or two until they are cooked and a bit dry. Sprinkle over the mushrooms: tamari, garlic powder, smoke ingredient and maple syrup. Stir and turn off heat.

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Toast the bread, if you like. Slather some mayo of your choice on one slice and top with the tomato. On the other slice layer the avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top with lettuce and “bacon”. Press slices together and eat. Enjoy!

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Salad of Muscat Orange Champagne Vinaigrette and Falafel Croquettes

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Hello! Another salad day…I started out making one kind of salad but ended up in a different direction. I thought it turned out great, though I wasted time by not thinking things through. You should always have a plan (but not be too rigid where you can’t make improvements!). I don’t think my pictures do this salad justice as they are a bit busy looking. There is actually gorgeous fresh spinach at the bottom of the bowl. The spinach was great as the canvas for the orange flavor, the parsley, tahini and falafel. Spinach salad is classically paired with red onion and orange. There is a reason for this – it’s darn good!!!

I purchased some Muscat Orange Champagne Vinegar at Trader Joe’s a few weeks back in anticipation of making a salad dressing. When I finally opened the bottle of vinegar it wasn’t quite what I pictured. It was a bit musky and not too orange-y. While making my dressing, I thankfully had saved the innards of the orange I segmented and added the lovely squeezed juice. If you don’t have the fancy Muscat Vinegar, just use what you have on hand and add orange juice. I have done this many times before and will do it many more times. I also used the TJ frozen falafel. I keep them in the freezer along with some pita bread  or lavash for last-minute meals. I hope you are inspired to try this dressing!

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Salad of Muscat Orange Champagne Vinaigrette and Falafel Croquettes (Serves 2 – 4)

For the dressing:

4 tbsp Muscat Orange Champagne Vinegar or other vinegar (see notes above)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 or 2 oranges or up to 4 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp tahini
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, adding more orange juice as needed for flavor. Set aside.

1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves, washed thoroughly and spun dry
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup of grape tomatoes or other small tomatoes
1 large juicing orange
1 small red onion
2 small Persian cucumbers or 1 hothouse duke
Salt & pepper to taste
6 frozen or pre-made falafel
4 tbsp tahini
1 small lemon

Cook the falafel as directed on the package. In the meantime, roughly chop the spinach and place in a bowl. Toss in the parsley and tomatoes and set aside (I cut my in half to make it easier to chew – do as you please). Segment the orange and cut the segments into bite-sized pieces, then add to the salad. Here is a tutorial on how to segment citrus. It’s really easy to do and it’s a useful skill! Slice 1/2 of the red onion finely and toss in the bowl. Chop up the cucumbers into bite-sized pieces and add to the party. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper to taste over the salad and toss gently. Divide the salad into portions. Dress each salad with the vinaigrette to taste.

Top each salad with 2 to 4 falafel croquettes. I cut them in half since they were pretty big. Now mix the tahini and the juice of the lemon or 2 tbsp lemon juice until it’s a thick sauce. Add water as necessary if it’s too thick. Top each falafel with a few spoons of tahini sauce. Enjoy!

Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad – My 6 year old Guest Blogger

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Our guest blogger for this post is my 6 year-old daughter. She loves to make fruit salads and has become quite good at it! She says her salad is “Famous, but it’s not really famous”. My son worked as the photographer and did a wonderful job. Thanks to both of them for helping out!

Salads are a great way to get the kids in the kitchen and involved with cooking. They can learn to prep veggies and fruits (great for you later when they can serve as sous chef!), how to use a knife safely, wash foods properly and learn math (fractions, multiplication and division). My daughter is very artistic and enjoys making food look pretty by arranging things just so on the perfect dish. Both of my kids love to help out with any cooking. They like to try the foods that they are working with which broadens their food choices. While making this salad, we taste-tested pomegranate seeds, pomegranate vinegar and pomegranate molasses while I was teaching them how to open up a pomegranate. Of course, you can sub whatever fruits you like in this dish. But try to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce or reintroduce foods that your kids say they don’t like… you never know if they will change their minds! The more variety we eat, the more nutrients we get. But don’t tell them that, just say it tastes good!

Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad 

3 clementine or mandarin oranges
1 banana
1 apple
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple, optional)

Peel the oranges and divide the segments. Add to a plate or bowl.

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Cut the apple and banana into bite size pieces. Add to the plate or bowl.

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Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and sweetener (agave or maple syrup, etc.). Eat.

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Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (and How to Cook Brown Lentils)

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Hello! Continuing on with the Salad Project theme, here is a quick recipe that features those lowly brown lentils. I feel almost guilty blogging about such an easy recipe! However, I love this salad and lentils in particular: they are tasty, extremely healthy and the dry beans last a long time in the pantry. They cook quickly (no need for a pressure cooker or pre-soaking) and are very economical. I bought a huge bag of them at my local Middle Eastern market last week. I have been craving lentil soup lately so made a two-for-one batch of lentils. If you cook 1 1/2 cups dried lentils you will get approximately 5 cups of cooked lentils! Eat ’em, freeze ’em, share ’em… I will post the soup recipe later this week. BTW, sorry for the terrible photo! It was nearly impossible to get anything good with this winter lighting. We have summer weather but winter sun.

I have been making a variation of this Lentil Salad for at least 15 years. I think people are surprised that a bean salad can be so good. Maybe they are expecting a typical American-style salad with heavy dressing. If you add a bunch of veggies chopped up or shredded finely, it makes for a lighter salad. The addition of a citrus or other fruit lightens it up too but isn’t necessary. Of course, you can add any veggies or fruits that you like or have on hand. Today was the first time I have used cabbage but it turned out great. I even got a thumbs up from my 6-year-old! This would be a great side salad to a burger, piled on top of a lettuce salad or a potluck dish at a barbecue. Serve at room temp or chilled.

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (Serves 4)

2 cups brown lentils (cooked but not mushy) (see notes below on cooking lentils)
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup parsley, leaves chopped finely
2 green onions, finely chopped
4 radishes, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Combine the lentils and veggies in a bowl. Pour over the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Stir well, then taste for seasoning. You are done!

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Bonus recipe: How to Cook Whole Brown Lentils (or other small whole lentils)

As I said above, dry lentils expand a lot once they are cooked. If you cook too much for your meal, just freeze them. Wash about 1 cup of lentils in a medium-sized sauce pan, rinsing a few times and removing the floaters. Sometimes there may be little clods of dirt or stones. Do a quick pick-through to make sure you get all debris out. I rarely find anything but once I missed a rock and thankfully I was the one to find it!

The total cooking time will depend on how tender you want the final product. For salads, cook until just done but not split open or mushy. For soups or lentil loaf or burgers, you may want to cook them longer. I cooked lentils for a few years before I realized that I didn’t have to cook them to a mush (I was always making soup, so it didn’t matter). But the difference between just cooked and mush is a world apart. Once you are debris-free and well-rinsed, add at least three times as much water as lentils to cover. Place on medium-high heat and cover. Bring it to a boil. Do not add salt! Now you can continue using the fast method or the slower method:

Fast method – once the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for approximately 25 minutes (less if using smaller lentils). Check for the water level after about 15 minutes, you may need to add more water. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to the desired tenderness and drain the excess water.

Slower method – once the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Let it sit for 1/2 hour up to a couple of hours. When you are ready to move on, drain the water (notice how much they have plumped up), taste a lentil for tenderness and cover the lentils with more water (twice a much water as lentils). Return to the stove, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook to desired tenderness. This cooking time will depend on how long you let them soak earlier (and how old your beans are, etc.). Remove from the heat and drain excess water. (I drain the initial soaking water to get rid of some of the scum and gas-making compounds – but it isn’t necessary.)

Enjoy!

Roasted Golden Beets & ArugulaWalnut Pesto Salad

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Hello! Welcome to The Salad Project! Our weather is unseasonably warm here in S. California so I’m having a burst of summer-type salads. I actually harvested a fresh red tomato from my garden today. I was not too hopeful about the taste since the texture seemed extra-firm. But what an explosion of summer flavor! It’s unexpected but appreciated!

Today I roasted some small golden beets with olive oil and salt. They came out of the oven crispy but soft – perfect for a salad! I also had a bag of arugula on hand from Trader Joe’s. I don’t often buy bagged greens but I haven’t made it to the Farmers’ Market in a few weeks. If you have never tried arugula, please do asap! It’s a slightly peppery green that is perfect in salads, cooked with pasta or made into pesto.  You can throw it into some soup at the end of cooking for a burst of pretty green color. I think it’s perfect for pesto because it is so flavorful but also holds its bright green color. I sometimes add some fresh spinach too, just to amp up the nutrients. Today I made a batch of arugula pesto that I used for my dressing. Instead of my usual sunflower seeds, I added chopped walnuts and used walnut oil in place of olive oil. The combination of walnuts and arugula is fantastic! You just have to try it! I have about 1 cup left of this yummy sauce. The rest will be used with pasta salad tomorrow or maybe on sandwiches or in lasagna…Love, love, love pesto!

Roasted Golden Beets & Arugula Walnut Pesto Salad (Serves 2-4)

For the Roasted Beets:

5 small or 3 large Golden Beets (or other beets)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Use about 1 tbsp of oil to coat a baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the beets thoroughly and trim any leaves. Cut in quarters or eighths, depending on size, and place on the baking sheet. Drizzle the remaining oil over the beets, coating all sides. Sprinkle the salt over the beets and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then if they aren’t soft enough, cover with foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Now make the Arugula Walnut Pesto:

2 packed cups arugula leaves, washed
1 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 1 cup of walnut oil

Place arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in a blender in that order. Pour in 1/4 cup of oil and turn on to blend. As it’s blending, slowly add more oil through the top (or stop the blender and add a bit of oil at a time) and continue to blend until the mixture flows freely and loosely in the blender. This is the best way I can think of to explain this! 🙂 The pesto will be a smooth, thick sauce (rather than the usual chunky pesto though you can leave it chunky if you like). Here’s a close up of the pesto (not the greatest shot – the sun is so low that it makes winter photography almost impossible!):

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Assemble the salad:

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 of a lemon
2 cups of arugula leaves, washed and dry
2 pinches salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
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Squeeze the lemon over the quinoa and mix well. Divide the arugula leaves amongst your plates and top with divided quinoa. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper over each salad. Divide the beets over each salad and top with a few walnuts. Now drizzle the pesto over each salad to taste. Enjoy!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos

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Hello! Today I opened a fridge packed with bits of leftovers from this past week. What to do with that leftover lettuce and cabbage salad? I have been eating salads almost everyday since the new year, so no salad today. With some leftover brown basmati rice and tortillas, I made up a very quick and satisfying (and healthy) lunch. I also used up the last of the leftover salad! I did save a few bites for our composting worms  – they get hungry too.

This looks like a lot of ingredients but it’s very fast to make. While the beans are heating up, you can prep the tortillas and cut up the garnishes. I don’t usually use canned beans because it’s so easy to make them from dry. Normally I get a bag of dry beans, cook the whole bag and freeze them in portions. Today I resorted to the can since I didn’t have any black beans in the freezer. For this quick bean recipe, I used prepared salsa (Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa) to give good flavor. It’s smart to keep a few things like this on hand for quick meals and for your emergency bin. I listed sour cream and cheese though I didn’t use them in my burritos and here you could obviously use a vegan option or a non-vegan option. There are a lot of great flavors going on already, so you really won’t miss the dairy or dairy-sub and the accompanying calories. FYI, in the picture you will see what looks like sour cream but it’s actually veganaise mixed with hot sauce. I thought it would be good since sometimes I use this as a dip for veggie-chicken nuggets, but it wasn’t that great. I don’t recommend it!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos (Serves 2)

For the Bean & Rice Mixture:
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can of black beans (or 1 cup of cooked black beans)
1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (or rice of your choice)
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup of salsa

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and after a minute add the onion and salt. Stir until the onion is translucent and cooked. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and cayenne and stir around for a minute. Once the garlic starts cooking, add the black beans, rice, hot sauce and salsa. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Mash the beans a little bit with the back of your spoon to get the mixture incorporated. Leave whole beans too. Once everything is heated thoroughly, remove from heat. Taste for salt and salsa and add if necessary. Set aside. Here’s a close up shot of the beans and rice (on the right side):

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Now you can start assembling the burritos:

2 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups of lettuce or mixed salad (I had romaine lettuce, purple cabbage and carrots)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
additional salsa or hot sauce to garnish
1/4 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 tbsp of hot sauce  (optional)
1/2 cup of cheese (optional)

Heat the tortillas a bit on a griddle or big frying pan. Once heated, remove to a plate. Pile on the black bean mixture, then top with your salad, avocado slices, green onions and salsa. Top with the sour cream and cheese if using. Roll up and enjoy!

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