Monday, July 28, 2014

Coconut-Lime Herb Salad

SALAD is BACK on the menu!  And so is RAW KALE.  Oh my!  Personally, I find this beautiful leafy green always seems a bit unapproachable if it’s not liquefied (in a green juice).  As a juice I love kale, but in a salad usually not so much.  THIS IS THE EXCEPTION:  A very simple and lovely herb-kale salad!  What really elevates the salad is the exceptionally smooth and creamy coconut-lime vinaigrette.

ShreddedKaleSalad

Here are a few tips for the kale “haters” like myself.  Always remove the tough stem from the leaf.  This part can be unpleasantly chewy, but also quite bitter.  Furthermore, I recommend chopping the kale very finely into ribbons or a small rough chop and then mix in the fresh cilantro and basil leaves in order to give the salad greens a less monotone texture and flavor profile.  The small cuts of kale are much more tender to chew and they also mix better with the other salad goodies. 

The following recipe serves 4-6.  Please feel free to scale up the portion size as needed, or reserve leftovers for another day.

Salad
  • 1 bunch of Curly Kale;  de-stemmed and chopped VERY fine
  • 1-2 packages Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh Cilantro;  de-stemmed
  • 2-3 stems of fresh Basil;  de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 ripe Avocadoes

Vibaigrette
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil of preference
  • 1/3 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Honey (or 4 soaked Dates)
  • 3 Tbsp. low sodium Soy Sauce
  • 2 Limes;  juiced and zested
  • 1 Thai Coconut;  it’s coconut meat + 1 cup of it’s juice

Preparations:
  • Pull or cut the kale away from its stem.  Stack the leaves and slice them into very thin ribbons.  For an even finer texture, give the kale another rough chop.  Place the cut greens into a large bowl. 
  • De-stem the cilantro and place the whole leaves into the bowl with the kale. 
  • De-stem and then chiffonade the basil leaves into fine ribbons.  Stack and roll the leaves before cutting them in order to make this process easier.  Add the basil into the bowl with the other salad greens. 
  • Wash, clean and dry the salad greens.  It’s easiest to use a salad-spinner for this step (if you don’t have one handy in your kitchen, simply wash and dry all fresh produce before cutting them).
  • Prepare the salad dressing:  For ease of use and smoothest texture, I recommend preparing the dressing in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix.  An immersion blender or food processor will work as well, but you have to work in steps and blend thoroughly to achieve a pleasantly smooth consistency.  Add the ingredients for the dressing in the following order:  White Balsamic Vinegar, Honey or soaked Dates, Soy Sauce, Lime Juice and Zest, Thai Coconut meat and 1 cup of its juice.  Blend until smooth and then add the Vegetable oil into the mixture and blend again to incorporate.
  • Pour the dressing over kale salad and toss to coat.  Then, portion the salad greens onto individual plates. 
  • Wash and cut the cherry tomatoes before adding them on top of the salads.
  • Prepare the avocado slices:  cut the avocado in half and slice into the peel in length wises strips before scooping it out with a spoon.  Add the avocado slices on top of each salad.
  • Enjoy!
What’s on the menu for you this week?  Please feel free to leave links to recipes or über-long comments detailing your culinary favorites.  
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       Nina & Spencer

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Edit: Volunteering with SLCgreen Fruit Share

This past week, my husband and I volunteered as fruit harvester with SLCgreen’s Fruit-Share program.  While commuting with our bikes to work, we both noticed how many fruit trees hung ripe with cherries and apricots, but eventually fell to rot on the lawn or got trampled underfoot on the sidewalk. 

FruitShare1

What if there was someone who harvested these trees?
Well, in Salt Lake City there is! 

SLCgreen’s Fruit-Share is a city run non-profit organization that each year harvests thousands of pounds of fresh produce from private backyards and public places across the Salt Lake City valley.  Salt Lake City residents can confidentially register their trees with SLCgreen in order to create a database that connects homeowners, partner organizations such as TreeUtah, Avenues Fruitshare, Green Urban Lunchbox and Salt Lake Community Action Program in order to fully utilize the tree's harvest.  The salvaged fruit is divided three ways, so that some remains with the homeowner, volunteers may take some home and much of the harvest goes to several local food assistant programs.  Blemished produce is made into jams and sold at the local farmer’s markets.

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I WISH there was more awareness for the fruit-share program.  With just a little effort and forethought, it is easy to prevent food going to waste.   At the same time, it empowers homeowners to give to a charitable cause while also receiving help to collect their plentiful harvest.  As an added bonus, volunteers not only give their time to a good cause, but they also receive beautiful, unsprayed and sun-ripened produce for their labor.

This is an amazing initiative to reduce food waste by sharing healthy and locally harvested fruit in the community.  Learn more about this awesome program here, and if you like to share your plenty, please register your tree or sign up to harvest!

I’m curious to know if you have a similar program in your city.  Let me know in the comments!

HappySunday♡Nina

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fiesta Potato Crisps

Baked potato crisps, dressed with spiced nuts and a homemade sweet corn salsa is so delicious!  In fact, this might be my new favorite vegan appetizer for summer.  What am I saying?  Appetizer?  I scoop so many juicy vegetables on my crisps, it always turns into a very fulfilling meal on it’s own.

FiestaPotatoCrisps

This recipe is inspired by Angela Liddon’s “Taco Fiesta Potato Crisps”  recipe of page 85 in The Oh She Glows Cookbook.  I really enjoy her approach to cooking plant based meals and I most certainly recommend her cookbook. 

What’s changed in the recipe?

I am seasoning my potatoes prior to baking and I omitted the sour cream and scallions from the list of toppings in order to make the dish vegan and onion/garlic-free.  I did these omissions because I’m not a fan of faux-dairy products and because eating plants from the onion family makes me very ill.  I also changed the recipe of the spiced nut mix.  Finally, I omitted the store bought salsa and replaced it with a homemade salsa that’s bright and fresh with a mix of seasonal vegetables.
I mean, who wouldn't like fresh sweet corn in their summer salsa?  So good!

The following recipe serves two.  Please feel free to scale up the portion size as needed.


PotatoCrisps
  • 2-3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) Cooking Oil (we used Spectrum’s Canola & Coconut Oil Blend)
  • Seasoning Mix (we used Back to the Basik’s in “Original Blend”)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) of Walnuts;  soaked
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) cooking Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 mL) Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 mL) Ground Paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. (0.5 mL) Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) fine-grain Salt (we used red Hawaiian sea salt)

  • 1 large Tomato
  • 1 ear of Corn
  • 1/2 of a Red Bell Pepper
  • 3 inches of English Cucumber;  unpeeled
  • fresh Cilantro;  as much as you like
  • 1/2 Lime;  juiced


  Preparations:
  • Start this recipe by soaking the walnuts for a few hours.  Soaking nuts has many desirable effects, but for this recipe we are mainly soaking the nuts to improve texture.
  • Boil the potatoes for about 30 minutes or until tender.  Let cool and then evenly cut each potato into 1/4-inch (6 mm) round slices.  Next, preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C).  Oil and season the potato slices before placing them onto a large baking sheet.  
  • Sprinkle another baking tray with oil for roasting the corn.  Husk the ear of corn, rinse to clean and then use a large chef’s knife to cut the corn off the cob before placing it on the baking sheet.
  • Roast the potatoes for about 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Flip each slice once to bake both sides evenly.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the potatoes to cool for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings.
  • At the same time, roast the corn for 10-15 minutes and stir at least once to cook the corn evenly.
  • While the potatoes bake is a good time to prepare the nut and veggie toppings.  To make the spiced walnut, drain and then roughly chop the walnuts.  In a small bowl, add oil, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt to the walnuts.  Stir the mixture until all the spices are evenly distributed over the nuts.  Set aside.
  • Wash and clean the tomato, English cucumber, red bell pepper and the cilantro before finely chopping each into small cubes and adding them into a small mixing bowl.  Stir the cut vegetables together and season with lime juice.  The lime juice will brighten and pull together the flavors of the vegetables.
  • To assemble the dish, top each potato slice with 1 Tbsp. of veggie salsa and a good sprinkle of the spiced nuts. 
  • Serve the dish immediately so that the potatoes are still warm and crispy. 
Please let me know what you think of the crisps and if you had the chance to try out the recipe.
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       Nina & Spencer


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tropical Coconut-Shake

O to the M to the G, another DESSERT!  Today’s treat is a vegan milkshake.   This non-dairy version of a classic milk-shake is fruity, decadent and ice cold.  What more could you want in a summer dessert?  The key ingredients to make a milkshake without dairy ice-cream and without cow’s milk are chilled nut-milks and frozen fruit or berries.  In order to keep the total number of ingredients as short as I can while still achieving a creamy ice-cream texture without adding sugar, I opted to use canned coconut milk instead of adding scoops of vegan ice-cream.  What’s your favorite milkshake flavor combination?

VeganMilkshake

Smoothie
  • 1 Banana;  sliced and frozen
  • 2 cups Pineapple;  sliced and frozen
  • 1 Orange;  juiced
  • 1/2 can unsweetened Coconut Milk;  chilled
  • a dash of Salt

Preparations:
  1. This recipe is as simple as it gets.  Before, you start, I recommend prepping the banana and pineapple by slicing the fresh fruit into small slices or chunks and then freezing them for a couple of hours.  In order to avoid clumping, spread the banana and pineapple pieces onto a baking sheet.
  2. Next, juice the orange.  Before juicing, I like to firmly press and roll the orange on my cutting board, which makes it then much easier to juice.
  3. Add the coconut milk, orange juice, as well as the frozen banana and pineapple pieces into a high powered blender (or food processor).   Blend until the ingredients combine to forms a uniform mixture without chunks.  Add a dash of salt.  I know this sounds really weird, but just this itty little bit of salt works wonders to balance the fruity and decadent flavors of this ice-cream drink.
  4. Pour into a glass and sip with a wide straw.  Enjoy!
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       Nina & Spencer

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Edit: Vegan Group Hike and Picnic

I just returned from a vegan group hike and I am excited to share my favorite images of the day.   It started with a vegan potluck picnic at Silver Lake at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, followed by a hike through beautiful blooming forests to a small lake that’s even higher up on the mountain, Lake Solitude.  All the food was delicious and I enjoyed everyone’s company on the hike.  I love being out in nature, taking in the fresh air, sunshine and beautiful sights.  It was so quite and serene up there on the mountain.  Just lovely!

Silver Lake is located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon at Brighton, Utah.  The lake has a boarded walkway most of the way around so it is easy for people of all ages to enjoy it.

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Starting the hike through aspen and pine tree forests and meadows.

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DSC_0037Lake Solitude is located at an elevation of 9,040 feet and was the hike's destination.    The following pictures show some fun group photographs at Lake Solitude.  Nature is so beautiful and so are smiling faces!  I'm so grateful I got to join the group and meet everyone.  What a fun and happy bunch!

DSC_0031DSC_0033DSC_0032 And then it was time to go back down the mountain, admiring many wildflowers and looking out for wildlife.

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So many gorgeous flowers, but not a critter in sight.  Well, except for a “wild” Nina crossing the path.

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But then, back at Silver Lake, there were lots of critters:  ducks, lots of ducklings and even more, very fat ground squirrels darting across the path.

DSC_0078And finally, MOOSE SIGHTING!  Three male moose waded through the shallow lake and fed on the lush marsh greens.  What an awesome, amazing sight to see.

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Hope everyone had a nice weekend!
HappySunday 

♡Nina

Monday, July 7, 2014

Watermelon Gazpacho

COLD SUMMER SOUP!  Sweet, spicy, and refreshing, this cooling watermelon soup blends an array of hydrating produce, invigorating spices and fresh herbs.  Tomatoes are usually the main ingredient in this Mediterranean-style chilled soup, but in this version the main component is a juicy seedless watermelon. 






The following recipe serves two.  Please feel free to scale up the portion size as needed.

Soup
  • 1/2 small Seedless Watermelon
  • about 12 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh Mint leaves;  minced
  • 1 Lemon;  juiced 
  • 1/3 English Cucumber 
  • 1 tsp. Ginger;  minced
  • 1 tsp. Ground Coriander
  • dash of Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Jalapeño Pepper;  chopped
  • a drizzle of olive oil;  to taste

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean all fresh produce.
  • Remove the rind of the watermelon and cut it into cubes.  Also, rough cut the English cucumber.  Please know there is no need to peel the cucumber. 
  • Finely mince the ginger and the mint.
  • Combine all the fresh ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients—lemon juice, coriander, cumin and jalapeño pepper—and pulse to incorporate.  This is a good point to taste the dish to adjust the seasoning to your preference.  Depending on how sweet your watermelon is, and how acidic or sweet your tomatoes are, you may need to add more lemon juice or salt to the gazpacho until you reached a balance you like.  Caution, the jalapeño pepper in the soup will increase their heat with time and might not taste as spicy at this point.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for about one hour and then ladle into soup bowls.  Add a drizzle of olive oil.
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       Nina & Spencer

Thursday, July 3, 2014

☆ ☆ ☆ 4th OF JULY PIE ☆ ☆ ☆

It’s America’s birthday this week and we decided to make some celebratory pie.  A good looking pie, a vegan and gluten-free pie that’s delicious.  Trust me, the finished product tastes as fresh and as good as it looks!  We’ve never attempted vegan and gluten-free baking before, and the upcoming summer holiday offered the perfect opportunity.  So, there you have it, fourth of July pie and a picture with my cutie-pie.

I am looking forward to all the celebration & fireworks and I wish everyone a fun holiday weekend!

4thofJulyPie

4thofJulyPie1

4thofJulyPie2

Pie
  • 1 cup Walnuts;  soaked
  • 1 cup Pecan Nuts;  soaked
  • 1/2 cup Dates
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1/4 tsp. of Cinnamon
  • dash of Salt
  • 1 pint of Coconut Milk Ice-Cream (we used CoconutBliss in Naked Coconut)
  • fresh Strawberries
  • fresh Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • optional:  fresh Raspberries (we picked ours from the garden and they were extra, extra tasty)

Preparations:
  • Soak the nuts in water for a couple of hours; ideally over night.
  • Drain the nuts after soaking.
  • In a food processor, combine the nuts, dates and honey with the cinnamon and salt.  Run the machine until the mixture resembles a fine moist crumb but still retains some texture.  The dough should stick together slightly when you press it together with your fingers, however it shouldn’t be super sticky either.
  • Evenly crumble the dough over the base of your pie dish.  Starting from the middle, press the mixture evenly but firmly into the pie form, moving outward and upward along the side of the pie dish.  Due to the oils in the nuts, it’s not necessary to grease the baking pan.
  • Bake the crust, uncovered for 10 minutes at 350° F or until lightly golden brown at the edges.  After baking set the pie crust into the freezer to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the ice cream by letting it thaw a bit and whipping it in a food processor. 
  • Pour the ice-cream filling into the prepared crust, scooping every last bit out of the blender.  Make sure to smooth out the top evenly.
  • Garnish the pie with fruit!  Be as fancy or creative with it as you like.
  • First, wash and clean the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
  • Cut the fruit to fit your design.  We left the blueberries and raspberries whole, quartered the strawberries and first thickly sliced the banana, then cut these slices in half.
  • We lined the outside edge of the pie with 1 ring of raspberries and then arranged the blueberries into the upper left hand corner of the pie.  With the rest of the fruit, create alternating stripes of strawberry-red and banana-white.
  • Place the pie on an even surface in the freezer until the ice cream in the pie sets or until you’re ready to serve.  Cover the dish with foil if you’re looking to freeze the pie overnight.
  • Voila, there you have it, the most American pie I’ve ever made.  Enjoy!
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       Nina & Spencer