Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Big-Ass Salads

I tried to think of a more delicate title to this post, but let's call a spade a spade, shall we? These are some big-ass salads!

Baby romaine, chopped cucumber, celery, and tomato, drizzled with Jalapeno-Tahini Dressing from Ani's Raw Food Essentials. This dressing was kick-ass...fresh jalapeno, fresh garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and Braggs. The jalapeno was making my lips tingle!

This salad accompanied a bowl of Smoked Tomato and Jalapeno Soup, because, you know, I just can't get enough of that soup. This dinner was muy caliente!

This salad happened completely by accident...
It was 5:30 and I had no plan for dinner. Time was ticking away. Desperate, I started rooting around in my pantry and grabbed some canned lentils. I threw them in a pot and added a bunch of seasonings - cumin, chili powder, coriander, pepper, etc...

Then I opened the crisper and grabbed whatever was there. Luckily, I had some cucumber, avocado, and scallions in there, along with a couple of tomatoes from the kitchen counter. Chop, chop, chop!
I had the dregs of some baby romaine in the fridge, as well as an unopened container of Tofutti sour cream that had been sitting there since approximately April :) Aha, I'll make a Mexican salad! I tossed everything - lentils, veggies, sour cream - over the lettuce. It was a little bit lacking in salt, so I ended up crumbling some tortilla chips on top and drizzling it with lots of Cholula Chipotle hot sauce. Much better!

Finally, I was craving some Fig & Pistachio Salad from Choosing Raw and made some big bowls to enjoy. I also baked 4 softball-sized beets that had been lurking in the crisper for about a week. Then I added some cannellini beans, and finally some frozen broccoli for my broccoli-loving son. It was a totally random assortment of stuff, but it was good, and filling!

Summer may be almost over, but that doesn't mean I won't be eating more big-ass salads! I'll eat them even when it's 20 degrees out and snowing. My love for salad knows no season!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kristen Suzanne's Sun-Drenched Sicilian Soup

Seeing as there are only 3 more weeks of summer left, I am determined to make as many raw soups as I can to enjoy the remaining bounty of garden-fresh produce. Not my garden, mind you. I gave up trying to have a veggie garden after 4 years of aphid-chewed crucifers, blighted tomatoes, sunburned basil, woody eggplants, and puny zucchini (hey, that sorta rhymes!) Now I enjoy the fruits of others' garden labors and save myself the agony of watering, mulching, and weeding a garden that fails me time and time again. Green thumb, I do not have. I can just imagine a little garden Yoda shaking his head at me.

As I've stated before, one of my very favorite summer foods is fresh, juicy tomatoes. I keep buying them by the bagful and they get used up in a variety of ways. Last night, I used 2 gigantic beefsteak tomatoes and some fresh basil from my Dad's garden to make Sun-Drenched Sicilian Soup from Kristen Suzanne's Easy Vegan Raw Soups.

This is my favorite kind of raw soup - just dump everything into the Vita-Mix...

And blend away! There are sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, fennel bulb (I subbed celery), EVOO, garlic, fresh basil, dried rosemary, oregano & cinnamon, sea salt & pepper, and apple cider vinegar in there. So fresh and tasty!

On the side, we enjoyed a simple spinach salad with chopped cucumbers, carrots, celery, pine nuts, chopped dates, lime juice, EVOO, and sea salt. I would have used lemon juice, but I only had fresh limes on hand.

We loved the soup! It was super thick and velvety, likely because there is no water added to the ingredients. It was full of fresh summer flavor and made a great meal on a hot night!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer Lovin' Curried Corn and Veggie Chowder

I've been waiting for summer to roll around so I could make the Summer Lovin' Curried Corn and Veggie Chowder from Appetite for Reduction. Unfortunately, I just got the memo that summer is here - and in fact, is almost gone. Ah well, better late than never.

This recipe is just brimming with my favorite ingredients: zucchini, carrots, curry powder, shallots, red bell pepper, ginger, coconut milk, and lime. However, the undisputed star of this dish is the fresh, sweet, just-been-picked corn that only the summer months bring. I bought 3 ears at the local farmer's market, along with my customary tomatoes, peaches, and apples. I couldn't wait to get home and get this soup simmering!

After slicing off the juicy kernels, I broke the cobs in half and added them to the pot. This simple step adds lots of extra corn-y flavor. After cooking for about 30 minutes, the soup was ready. I removed the corn cobs and used my immersion blender to blend about half the soup in the pot, giving the finished product a thick body along with some chunks of veggies.

With some thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt, this was a perfect late-summer meal that was enjoyed by all!

I also used some of my farmer's market bounty to make a yummy dinner of Syrian Bread Salad (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes), Masala Baked Tempeh (from AFR), and steamed zucchini and yellow squash. This meal had such a pleasing contrast of textures and flavors, from the chewy Indian-flavored tempeh, to the juicy Middle Eastern-flavored salad, to the straight up all-American steamed garden veggies.

Finally, for movie night, we wanted to have something delicious and fun, so I made a giant salad with baby lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery. I topped the salad with a mustard vinaigrette, Dr. Praeger's veggie patty, Trader Joe's roasted corn, and some Alexia sweet potato tots. It really satisfied that burger-and-fries craving in a healthy way!

What are some favorite summer dishes that you have to make again before summer ends? I think, for me, it has to be more Smoky Tomato & Jalapeno raw soup, some grilled pizza, and panzanella-style salads. I want to enjoy these flavorful tomatoes while I can!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

California No-Beef Rice Yummy

I'm sure you're wondering about the strange post title. I'll explain. The other day, it was getting really close to dinner time, and I had nothing prepared. Worse yet, I didn't have a lot of stuff to work with. I was stumped. I asked my hubby if he had any ideas. While he was pondering this, I immediately had a flash of brilliance - "What if I make California Beef Rice Skillet?" His reaction? "Oooooooh, yeah!"

What is California Beef Rice Skillet, you ask?

Well, it is one of my hubby's favorite childhood meals. His Mom used to make this all the time, and it was one of the first recipes she handed down to me after we were married. I suspect California Beef Rice Skillet was a recipe that came from a magazine, but I don't know the actual source for certain. But anyway, when we were first married, I used to make this dish all the time. I wanted to give my hubby a little taste of home (we were living in Germany), and it was simple enough to make that even a cooking-challenged person like me could make it. Funnily enough, I remember buying the ground beef at the commissary on base and the meat was vacuum-sealed and sourced from Europe - this was the time of all the mad cow craziness, and beef from the US wasn't allowed to be imported. I don't know why I remember that.

So, California Beef Rice Skillet (or, as my hubby and his siblings fondly called it, California Beef Rice Yuck-it) was a dish comprised of ground beef, onion, white rice, beef bouillon, tomato, green pepper, and cheddar cheese. You cooked everything in one skillet, topped it with the cheese, and let it get all melty. It was kind of like eating a messy cheeseburger. We ate it a lot, since I didn't really know how to cook anything else.

Obviously, since I've been vegan for almost 6 years, it's been a while since I've made or even thought about California Beef Rice Skillet. But it totally popped in my head the other day. I had to dig out my old recipe notebook and find it.

Look how cute I was....

Hmmm....the wheels started a'turnin'.

What if I replaced the beef with tempeh or beans?
What if I replaced the beef bouillon with similar seasonings?
What if I used jasmine rice and Daiya cheddar cheese?
I think I'm on to something here....

Boo-yah! It was just like we remember, but without mad-cow beef. Excellent!

Even though my hubby loved it as-is, I think it would have been even better (and more authentic) with crumbled, sauteed tempeh. Next time. Because there will definitely be a next time!

Ahhh, memories!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eat Raw, Eat Well

To me, nothing tastes better on a hot summer day than a crisp, crunchy salad and a bowl of cool, flavorful soup. I do tend to eat a high-raw diet in the summertime, only because it's what my body craves and what makes me feel the best. The problem is, I eat lots of salad and I tend to make the same few variations. I also love raw soups when they're done right, but I've only had about a 50/50 track record with them. I'm always looking for new ideas and inspiration, so I was psyched when my library got a copy of Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish.

This book has 400 raw recipes (!!) for soups, salads, salad dressings, dips, entrees, desserts, breakfast items, snacks, and everything else you can imagine. What really drew me in was how simple and basic the recipes seemed to be...minimal ingredients, not a lot of fussy prep to be done, and not a ton of recipes requiring a dehydrator. I do have a dehydrator, by the way, but I pretty much loathe using it. It must take me 30 minutes to clean the damn thing every time I use it, so I don't use it very often. No-dehydrator-required raw recipes are always a plus in my book!

Because I love raw soups (but often strike out with them), I immediately turned to the soup chapter. The first recipe that caught my eye was the Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque, which seemed like a  perfect way to use my abundance of yellow tomatoes! It was my kind of recipe: just tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, avocado, sea salt, dried basil, water, and EVOO.

I really liked the clean, simple flavors of the soup. Nothing complicated or fancy, just straight-up delicious! I also made a big arugula salad with cucumbers, celery, and peppers, topped with the luscious Walnut Mustard Vinaigrette from Let Them Eat Vegan! New favorite salad dressing alert!!

Since the first soup turned out so well, I was definitely eager to try another one. I hit up the farmer's market for some fresh produce, including those juicy tomatoes and the two jalapenos you see at the bottom left. I had plans for these babies.

I had to try the Smoked Tomato and Jalapeno Soup. It was just calling my name.

I was intrigued that the recipe called for everything to be blended in a food processor, rather than a blender. Every other raw soup I've made has come out of the Vita-Mix. I was a little skeptical, but I decided to roll with it, and man, am I glad I did. This soup was AWESOME!! Holy moly...this might be my favorite raw soup EVER!! The flavors were so deep and complex, and the texture was thick and a little chunky. If I had used the Vita-Mix, that lovely texture would have been lost. This soup has fresh tomatoes, soaked sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, lemon juice, hemp oil (I used EVOO), smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and sea salt. The smoked paprika brought this soup to another level, I swear. I am going to have to add it to other raw soups! My hubby loved this soup, too, and asked me to make it again (which I did, later that week!)

I served the soup with a big salad on the side...baby spinach, baby arugula, yellow tomatoes, celery, purple pepper, cucumber, and avocado, topped with Detox Vinaigrette from the book. I found the vinaigrette to be a little...timid in flavor. I prefer big, bold flavors for my dressings, so I wasn't that impressed. Still, I liked that it included dulse in the ingredients. I love dulse!

 Overall, this was a very satisfying meal. That soup...to die for!

I think I might need to buy this book!