Tag Archives: salad

A great Father’s Day weekend!

19 Jun

What a fun day yesterday! We packed up the kids and headed north a few miles into Ida to the pick-your-own berry farm. I have great memories of doing that as a child and was pretty geeked about sharing the experience with my own kids.

We went to Whittaker’s Berry Farm, which I think might be the same place my parents took my sister and me to pick strawberries when we were growing up. It was called Rauch’s Berry Farm back then, but it had a sense of familiarity. Anyway, the kids had a good time and we came home with 20 pounds of strawberries. I got to work washing and hulling and made 10 jars of freezer jam (recipe below). Then I started chopping them up for the freezer so we can enjoy them later in smoothies. For dinner, I made a big salad of mixed greens, sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, red onion and a sprinkle of goat cheese. Since I didn’t have any of that delicious poppy seed dressing mixed up, I drizzled on Newman’s Own Low-fat Sesame Ginger dressing. Delish!

Next on the list is a strawberry pie and some strawberry shortcakes. Now, I’m not a big fan of strawberry pie — the one with fresh berries coated in a strawberry Jell-o sauce in a baked shell. It’s okay, but Jason loves it. And since it’s Father’s Day, I guess I could make one. Personally, I’d rather have strawberry shortcake. The real kind with fresh strawberries layered between a sweet biscuit-like shortcake. That’s the one I loved as a child. We always had it in a bowl and poured milk over it so the shortcake got soft and creamy. I’ll blog a recipe and photos of that after they’re done.

Here’s the recipe for the freezer jam. It’s straight off the package of fruit pectin. I figured that was my safest bet since this is my first attempt at this. It’s sweet, delicious and vegan, so go for it!

Strawberry Freezer Jam
makes 2 half-pint jars

1-2/3 cups smashed fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin

In a medium bowl, whish together the sugar and pectin. Add the strawberries and stir for 3 minutes. Pour into clean jars and let stand for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Happy Father’s Day!
Since it’s Father’s Day, I want to say I hope you get to spend the day celebrating your dad, father-in-law or the father of your kids. If my dad were in town, I’d be making him a big serving of strawberry shortcake, because he deserves it! They don’t get any better than him. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! XXOO

Here’s how my hubby started his Father’s Day — French toast with our homemade freezer jam, pure maple syrup, fresh-picked strawberries and a side of breakfast sausage (Organic Prairie Breakfast Links, made from humanely-raised grass-fed pork). The kids loved it, too!



June 19, 2011

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Logan rocks the fishing derby!

15 Jun

As the school year winds down (today is their last day), things have been crazy busy with field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers and scout activities. We are having so much fun, but are definitely ready for summer vacation to get underway so we can sleep in a little later, float around the pool in the afternoons and clean some closets (Shh! The kids don’t know about the closet-cleaning part!).

Last night was the year-end Cub Scout event. Our Scoutmaster lives on 40 acres and has a small lake on his property, so he hosted a fishing derby. Everyone brought a dish to share and the kids had a blast fishing. But the highlight of the evening was my one-and-only Logan, who not only caught the most fish, he took home the trophy for catching the biggest fish! He caught a 14.5″ bass, but his winning catch was a 17″ bass. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. My animal-loving kids had no problem releasing their fish back into the lake. It was definitely a night to remember.

Logan with his Scoutmaster and his 14.5″ catch; Logan with Dad and his trophy-winning 17″ catch

Because I have two boys in the Cub Scout Pack, we contributed two things to the potluck — super easy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from the Duncan Hines website) made with farm fresh eggs, and a delicious little salad that takes advantage of fresh herbs from the garden (recipe to follow).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but the wild turkeys that have been visiting our property for the last 5 or 6 years decided this year that my garden looked tasty. About 2 weeks after I got the initial seeds in, they stomped their way through all the beds, digging up dirt, tossing seeds everywhere and leaving large holes in areas I had already planted. What a mess. Because many of the seeds had not even sprouted yet, I decided not to weed or try to figure out what was left until I could identify them above ground. So I waited. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m left with half a row of peas and half a row of beans still in place. I’m missing all of my Swiss chard and most of the rainbow chard. Though my zucchini and yellow squash are growing, I have discovered squash plants growing in other areas where I didn’t even plant them. To top it off, the weeds have gone crazy. I’m so disappointed in my mess of a garden that I can’t even bear the thought of pulling all those weeds out.

The only thing to truly survive is my area of herbs. I planted these from seedlings I bought at the local greenhouse so they are nice and strong and growing well. They came in handy for this recipe. The Mediterranean flavors of this salad work well with just about anything you grill, but especially with veggie burgers, chicken or fish (ethically raised or wild caught, of course). Though this started as a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005), I have changed it enough that I’m calling it mine. The nice thing about it is that it actually tastes better the next day, so assemble it ahead if you can. Plus, it can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for a potluck or summer barbecue.

Mediterranean Chickpea and Fresh Herb Salad
serves 8

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in fresh herbs. Add the chickpeas, black beans, onion, tomatoes and olives. Stir well to combine and coat everything. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
salt
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

Dressing:
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Salad:
16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

Summer is almost here!

26 May

I can almost feel it. We’ve had quite a few warm sunny days and LOTS of spring rainy days, but I think summer is just around the corner.

Most of my vegetable garden is planted, although the wild turkeys that visit my yard every day have decided this year that my garden is nice place to stop for a snack! About a week ago I went out to check on it and they had walked all over in my raised beds and rooted through the dirt, kicking a lot of it out of the wood frame. I don’t know if they’re eating the seeds I planted or looking for worms, but what a mess. Unfortunately, most of the seeds had been in the ground for only a week, so they hadn’t sprouted yet and I can’t tell if seeds are missing or if they will still be coming up. I’m going to have to wait a little while and then try to determine what’s left. I’m sure I will be replanting many things.

I did notice the lettuce was sprouting, which is a good thing because I have recently turned into the salad queen! For some reason, I’m finding it necessary to have a salad every day. I guess that’s a good thing! I can’t wait for all the delicious fresh veggies coming soon. (See below for my latest salad addiction.)

Because I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few things I’ve enjoyed recently.

On Mother’s Day, we all went to my in-laws for dinner. She, of course, made a wonderful dinner, but — the dessert was insanely simple and insanely satisfying. These were called Berry Dessert Nachos. I don’t have the recipe (which came from a diabetic cookbook of hers), but basically you build nachos out of dessert items. For the base, she took whole wheat flour tortillas and brushed them with melted butter. They were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until they became crispy chips. Those went into the bottom of the bowl. On top of that were all kinds of fresh berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. This was all topped with a sort of sweet sour cream mixture. I’m not sure what was in it, but I think a scoop of vanilla yogurt or vegan ice cream would be just right. And then — just to blow your mind! — she sprinkled on toasted almonds and shaved a bar of dark chocolate over that. Absolutely delicious and not at all bad for you.

One of the people I most refer to for what I should be eating is cookbook author Mark Bittman. I borrowed his latest book from the library — “The Food Matters Cookbook.” (If you haven’t read his book, “Food Matters,” definitely put it on your to-read-soon list!) Last week, I made one of his new recipes, Skillet Tamales. It’s a casserole with all the flavors of tamales. The finished dish was really good and the whole family enjoyed it. I had a little trouble mixing up his corn bread topping, even though I followed the recipe exactly. In the end, it came out okay and I will probably make this again, but I need to work on the topping a little. Anyway, check out this picture of total yumminess. I topped mine with guacamole. Jason and the kids garnished theirs with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Do you ever make something to eat and then you sort of become obsessed with it? Like, you eat it for days and days and days and you keep making it all the time until you get burned out? Um…I do this pretty often. For a long time, my favorite homemade lunch was a whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus and then piled up with any kind of salad ingredients I had. I’d roll it into a wrap and enjoy. I still have those once in a while, but I went for months eating that almost every day! Well, my latest lunch addiction is Taco Salad. I made this up off the top of my head one day and now I eat it pretty often — sometimes with the vegan “chicken” and sometimes with black beans. Sometimes with guacamole and most times without. It’s so satisfying! Plus, it makes a huge plateful and is only about 300 calories.

VEGAN TACO SALAD
makes 1 serving

1 vegan “chicken” breast, thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salsa, divided
2 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa (addictive!!!)
1 corn tortilla, baked until crispy

Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and add the oil. Over medium heat, saute the “chicken” pieces until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon of salsa and stir to coat all pieces. Sprinkle with ground cumin, if desired.

Spread out the lettuce on a large plate. Drizzle with lime juice and toss to coat the lettuce. Layer on the corn kernels, grape tomatoes, green onions, and Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa. Top with the “chicken” and the remaining salsa. Crumble the corn tortilla over all and enjoy!

Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.

28 Apr

I am just back from a long Easter weekend in North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for 5 days and had a wonderful time. The warm weather and sunshine were such a welcome change from the cold, rainy days we’ve been dealing with here in Michigan.

I came home refreshed…and inspired.

While in North Carolina, I saw a poster in a store window that said “Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.” I thought it was so perfect. I know it refers to everything consumers spend their money on — not just food. But, of all the things I’ve learned over the last 16 months or so since I started this journey, trying to buy locally-made or locally-grown products as often as possible is the one that’s the easiest for me to incorporate into my daily life. I know it’s not always feasible to buy local goods…hey, I’m on a budget! But when it comes to food, I can’t stress enough how smart it is to really know where your food comes from, know your farmer personally, grow your own vegetables or support your local farmer’s market, and shop at smaller family stores instead of the big box stores whenever you can. Not only does this almost guarantee your food is safer, tastier and healthier, it also provides financial support to your own neighborhood. Now that’s inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my mom is a fantastic chef. I always enjoy her cooking and our discussions about food, cooking and health. My Easter dinner was SO good. While the omnivores in my family dined on grilled pork, I devoured marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms. The side dishes were all vegan –- oven-roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and a wonderful chopped salad with toasted almonds and chai vinaigrette.

While in Asheville on Monday, we had a fabulous lunch at Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant. (I should have taken a picture!) We started with an appetizer of polenta fries with their housemade tomato jam (a sort of chunky sweet catsup). Honestly, I could think of a hundred things to slather that tomato jam onto! It was that good. My meal was a fat little potato cake topped with a green olive tapenade. On one side of this was a fresh arugula salad. On the other side were four thin slices of grilled ahi tuna. Then the whole plate was lightly drizzled with an orange vinaigrette. After lunch, we shopped some more and came home with 3-4 new cookbooks each. That gets me inspired!

Speaking of inspiring…I consider my dad the king of all things house-related. He’s a builder, woodworker, tile layer, painter, wallpaper hanger, upholsterer, deck designer, plumber, and master of just about everything under the sun. Honestly, my dad can do anything! His latest project is a restaurant in downtown Waynesville, NC, where they live. The owner/executive chef bought an existing restaurant building but is basically gutting the whole place and starting fresh — using local products such as reclaimed barn siding, tin panels and other materials. My dad has been working on this project for months. We got to tour the construction site while there and meet the owner/executive chef. His name is Kaighn Raymond and he, too, is an inspiration.

The name of his restaurant is Frogs Leap Public House. It will be a farm-to-table restaurant meaning they will focus on locally-grown, sustainably-farmed organic foods, which will then be transformed into amazing regional dishes. He’s planning to have a seasonal menu that will feature the freshest produce from local farmer’s markets and farms. I got to talk with him as we toured the place and I absolutely cannot wait to eat there! It looks like the grand opening will be in June, but I’m not sure we’ll get back down there before fall.

If you want to know more about Frogs Leap Public House, check out their website at http://frogsleappublichouse.org or “Like” their Facebook page. I left the restaurant…inspired.

So inspired, in fact, that I already have several new recipes on the menu for next week. Recipes and photos to follow, so stay tuned!

Oh, and put your money where your heart is!

Spring is here…even though it’s still below 40 every day!

27 Mar

As usual, my “full plate” has been overflowing! We received a Home Depot gift card from my parents this past Christmas and I decided to update both of our bathrooms the last week of February. We painted, laid tile, installed new baseboards in one bathroom, and just gave them both an all-around new look. It had been almost 10 years for the one bathroom, so it was time. They look fantastic…thanks mom and dad!

Just a few days after we finished up, I got slammed with the flu. I mean slammed. I can’t even remember the last time I was that sick. I actually could barely get out of bed 2 of the days. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Two weeks later, I’m still battling the cough occasionally, but at least I’m back to functioning.

Now that spring is here, I’m looking forward to fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market and planting our garden. My mom sent me a seed catalog and I’m excited to get a new plan in place for my raised beds.

Even though it will be a few months before I can harvest anything, I’m in the mood for the taste of crisp salads and beautiful veggie combinations. I decided to make a quinoa salad last weekend and it turned out to be something you’d want on a warm summer day. It has a light flavor and plenty of vegetables. I will definitely be serving this up at a few backyard gatherings.

If you haven’t had quinoa before, you are missing out! Quinoa is a grain-like seed that has a nice chewy texture. It’s gluten free and is a nutritional powerhouse. Full of vitamins and minerals, it is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and zinc — which are good for blood pressure control and diabetes. Quinoa has just 220 calories per one-cup serving and provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The protein in quinoa provides all eight of the essential amino acids we need, making it an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians.

Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice, but you have to remember to rinse quinoa in cool water before starting your recipe. If you don’t, it has a bitter taste. So rinse it well in a fine mesh strainer or colander with tiny holes. Then cook per package directions.

I made this salad only an hour or so before dinner, but the flavors were much more developed the next day when I ate the leftovers. I would highly recommend chilling this overnight before serving. It does not get soggy. It’s delish!

Spring Quinoa Salad
serves 6

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 English cucumber, chopped
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
salt and pepper

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Chill for about 1 hour.

In a blender, combine lemon juice, vinegars, dijon mustard and garlic. Puree. Slowly drizzle olive oil into running blender until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion and olives. Add dressing and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Chill overnight. Enjoy!

Sub-zero temperatures mean it’s time to make SOUP!

9 Feb

If you live in the Midwest, you know what I’m talking about. This weather is absolutely ridiculous! Today’s high was 13. The low overnight tonight will be -7 and the high tomorrow is 7 with wind chills at -15 to -25. I mean…brrrr!

We’ve also been pounded with a crazy amount of snow in the last month. So far this winter, my kids have had 7 snow days and I’m expecting a snow day or delay tomorrow morning because of the extreme temperature. Every day when I pull into my driveway, I almost cry because I know the piles of snow will be here for a while. I don’t even know if it will melt before May!

On the little side porch on the left, there’s a cafe table and two chairs but you can’t see them because the snow is so deep!

There’s nothing better during weather like this than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Honestly, I could eat soup every single day, but it really hits the spot on bitter cold days like today. Yesterday I decided to veganize one of my favorite soup recipes. The original recipe is my sister’s and it appeared in my mom’s first cookbook, Of Peaches and Pansies. It’s a thick, creamy soup loaded with good stuff — Corn & Potato Chowder. A couple of easy substitutions made this meat free and dairy free, and equally as yummy as the original.

The original recipe called for diced ham. I used vegan bacon (Smart Bacon) because that’s what I had in the freezer. Next time, I’ll try a little vegan sausage. I think it will give more of that smoky, saltiness of ham that works so well with potatoes and corn.

Serve this with a salad and my gluten-free, vegan cornbread muffins (see November 5 post).

Vegan Corn & Potato Chowder
serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 strips vegan bacon or 4 ounces vegan sausage
1 onion, diced
2 cups diced potatoes (peeled)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 can vegan creamed corn (no salt added, if you can find it)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute bacon and onions until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes, red pepper and thyme and saute for a minute or two.

Add milk and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Add cream corn and frozen corn and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.