Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vanilla Cranberry Smoothie

I'll keep the prelude short, since I've been writing about smoothies a lot of recent. This smoothie continues to use my cranberry stash, and I added some rolled oats to help make it creamy. I added two leaves of Russian red kale from my CSA, because I could, and because I like adding in veggies whenever possible. In my mind, these additions, along with vanilla soy milk help the smoothie last longer -- and whether that's true or not, I felt less hungry a couple hours after finishing this smoothie, compared to some of my other recent concoctions.

Vanilla Cranberry Smoothie (with kale!!)
2 tablespoon OJ Concentrate
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup GF old fashioned oats
1/2 cup cranberries
2 leaves Red Russian Kale

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth. Add water or more soymilk if you like, to create the consistency you want (or that works for your blender). Serves 1.
Vanilla Cranberry Smoothie with Red Russian Kale

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eating Carrot Tops, plus (another) smoothie recipe

In my CSA box, I got carrots. I love carrots. But when you don't buy them in a pre-packaged bag, they come with greens which most people throw away. There's really no need for this. Any of you who read this moderately regularly will know how much I hate throwing things away (part of the reason I want a few chickens, eventually) if they could be composted or otherwise recycled. Since I don't have a compost heap, this means a lot of creative uses of the parts of veggies a lot of us throw away -- from bases to broths, to things like this lightly sweet recipe guessed it! Another smoothie!

Carrot-top Smoothie
This is one of my favorite smoothies of late, in part because it has such a fresh flavor and because it's a brilliant, bright green. It's not particularly sweet, so if you like sweeter smoothies, add a tablespoon or so of agave, honey, or other sweetener of your choice. Personally, I think the apple juice adds enough sweetness, without adding much flavor -- unlike the vanilla soy milk, which also adds some sweetness, in addition to protein. The oats help thicken it.

Ready to try it? Yes? Carrot fronds (not the stem, that can be woody) work best for this recipe. If you're still wondering why eat carrot tops, here are just a few reasons:
  • a good source of potassium, chlorophyll, and vitamin K
  • brightens flavors in everything from salads to a garlicky pot of beans
  • Americans throw away a ridiculous amount of food waste
Carrot-Top Smoothie
1 cup carrot fronds, lightly packed
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup oats

Add all ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Add more liquid, to reach the desired consistency, if necessary. Serve.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Butternut Squash Quinoa Oat Burgers

Sundays are "family dinner" night with my roommate and several of our friends. The actual number of us any given Sunday is between two and four, with occasional exceptions. I love Sunday dinners because it means

1) I'm actually eating with other people
2) I often get the opportunity to cook for others
3) Everyone's willing to contribute, if asked

When I lived in the Midwest, I ate with people a lot more often than I do now and I miss the social aspect of eating with people I care about -- even if we're not actually eating the same thing (though it's nice when we are). Sundays help fill this gap.

In the skillet
One recent Sunday dinner, there were just going to be two of us and I decided I wanted to make veggie burgers (just fyi, if you're wondering, most store-bought veggie burgers contain gluten). I thought about asking the woman who was coming to bring GF buns, but then decided we could just throw the burgers on corn tortillas since I already had those around and we're both operating on a budget. I thought I had an old can of beans at home, bought in the fall before I decided to stop buying cans of beans in favor of just making my own beans from dried and freezing some for later use. As it turns out, I didn't. And the only beans I had prepped were chickpeas. No thanks, not for this.

What I had instead was a can of butternut squash (bought cheap, organic, and still in date, don't worry). I decided to work with it and this recipe is what resulted. The nice thing about this is that the butternut squash acts as a really good binder, the oats help absorb extra liquid and add a little fiber, and the quinoa provides plenty of protein. I served this with homemade sweet potato fries (oven baked). Play with the spices a bit, if these don't appeal to you.

Butternut Squash Quinoa Oat Burgers
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 14-ounce can organic butternut squash (or equivalent fresh -- baked & pureed)
1/2 cup gluten-free* rolled oats (not quick or instant)

Cook the quinoa in the water, simmering over medium heat about 20 minutes or until tender and water is absorbed. Careful not to scorch the quinoa. Mix in the spices, and then combine with butternut squash and oats. Let rest for 20 minutes, to allow flavors to blend and oats to absorb extra liquid. Form into patties an appropriate size for your bun, and about 1/2-inch thick.

Cook patties on a lightly oiled pan, over medium-high heat, about 3-5 minutes per side (depends on how evenly your pan heats and how moist your squash was), until both sides are brown and firm. Serve.

*Remember, some people with gluten-sensitivity don't react well to GF oats either, so be sure to check. If you don't have gluten-sensitivities, you can use regular oats. If you, or the person you're cooking for is sensitive to GF oats, substitute rolled quinoa flakes, if available.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cranberry Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie

As regular readers may have noticed, I've been on a bit of a smoothie kick (thanks, in no small part to my friend Marissa, over at We*Meat*Again, reminding me I liked them). I think it's the warm weather, all the other fresh goodies I've been eating, and the fact that I've been writing in the mornings rather than getting ready for work. Smoothies travel well and are fast to make. This is the next installment.

Yum, smoothie!
Don't ask why I have MinuteMaid Raspberry-Lemonade frozen concentrate in my freezer. It's a kinda long story -- but it's almost gone, because I've been making this smoothie a fair amount (okay, three times). It sweetens the smoothie nicely and allows me to imagine summer when I'm in the office. I like the sweet-tart flavor, the color is beautiful, and best of all, it doesn't use a banana!! It does use cranberries, so if you don't have those on hand (read about why I do), play around. The wonderful thing about smoothies is that they're pretty flexible.

When I take smoothies to work, I tend to also grab some carrots and/or nuts on my way out the door to make sure that I'm getting enough energy for the work day. Consider what your body needs and what will keep it happy, healthy, and functioning the way it should based on your work (or play!) environment.

Cranberry Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie
2 tablespoons frozen raspberry-lemonade concentrate
1/2 -3/4 cup frozen cranberries (I like more, but they are too tart for some people)
1 cup milk or milk alternative of your choice (I use plain almond milk)
1 tablespoon vanilla protein powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garlickly Lambs-quarters with Orange Juice

In my CSA box, I found lambs-quarters, which excited me because I'd read about them in my foraging books, but never tried to pick them (or find them for that matter). Some people apparently don't like them very much because they can have a strong flavor -- though not as strong as spinach, and keeping that in mind, I decided to try putting them together in a way that would hide that strong flavor if I found it unpleasant. I also decided to make only half the lambs-quarters I received so that if I didn't like them I didn't have to eat a lot of them and if I did like them, well, I'd have some leftover.

I should mention that other common names for lambs-quarters include goosefoot (apt, based on leaf-shape) and pigweed (because pigs like to eat it). According to Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, lambs-quarters were brought to the United States from Europe. It usually grows 3-5 feet high, has no odor, and is very common. It does well in poor or disturbed soil, so look for it in overgrown fields, vacant lots, and (unsprayed) urban parks. Apparently it dries well and can be easily reconstituted (something new to try, perhaps).

So, when I prepared my lambs-quarters, the reasonable thing to do, it seemed, was to continue to use the ingredients I received from my CSA share -- plus add a little frozen OJ concentrate that I tend to have in my freezer. This dish turned into just enough for a small side dish and I loved it. I love the rich, green-earthly flavor, the tenderness of the plants, the way they smelled cooking. If you can get your hands on some lambs-quarters, do it. Then try this recipe. If you absolutely can't get your hands on them, you can use spinach. But go find lambs-quarters. Now.

Garlicky Lambs-quarters with Orange Juice
1 teaspoon oil (I used sunflower)
1/2 large garlic scape, chopped
2 tablespoons spring onion, chopped
1 large handful lambs-quarters, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons frozen OJ concentrate
Dash salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, then add the garlic scape and onion.
Garlic Scape & Onion

Saute 1-2 minutes, or until onion becomes translucent. Add the lambsquarters, orange juice, salt, and pepper and saute another 1-2 minutes, until lambsquarters wilt. Serve immediately.
Just before serving

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CSA Pickup 1 - plus CSA Salad with Garlic Scape Dressing

I picked up my first CSA share just the other day and was delighted with my produce -- not only was my produce beautiful, I found way more of it in my bin than I expected! Here's what I got:
First Pickup from my CSA
  • Green Romaine Lettuce
  • Red Butterhead Lettuce
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Carrots
  • Japanese Turnips
  • Kohlrabi
  • Spring Onions
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Lambsquarters (so excited about this)
  • Edible flowers (caledula -- the yellow & orange ones; bachelor buttons)
  • Garlic Scapes
My CSA also sent along a recipe to encourage me to use the garlic scapes (when I joined last week, they gave me a handful for free since they weren't selling this year -- apparently people are hesitant to buy them, which makes me sad because they're one of my favorite things as far as early produce goes!). The credit for that recipe (below -- anything in parentheses are my suggested changes based on dietary restrictions) goes to HappyDirt Veggie Patch (unless, of course, they took it from someone they didn't credit in the letter included with my produce).

The opportunity to support local, chemical free produce farmers excites me because I've wanted to join a CSA for several years, but as I mentioned before, haven't felt stable enough in a place. This year, in part because I'm trying to shift to more conscious living in general, I decided that it was important to me to support local agriculture (especially because I have so little room for my own garden) and to make a real effort toward more creative cooking and eating more whole foods. Plus, there's the opportunity for surprise plants, like the lambsquarters (which is another plant you can forage in many areas) that I'll get to figure out how to use.

First CSA Salad
For my first dish with these lovely veggies, I decided to make a large salad using the butterhead lettuce because from past experience, I know that won't last as long. On top of that, I added some thinly sliced carrot (1), thinly sliced Japanese turnip (1) and chopped turnip greens, and then sprinkled some edible flowers over it all. My friend Caitlin joined me for dinner and brought tempeh for protein, which made this a lovely meal.

I made the dressing basically as directed, except subbing in agave for honey (since I was out of honey) and reducing the amount of oil by a fair amount. I can't stand salad dressings that leave my lips feeling greasy even though I know the chemistry behind salad dressings does actually dictate a certain amount (not sure that that is) of oil to the rest of the base. Those changes are not reflected in the recipe below, which is supposed to prepare about 1 cup of dressing -- enough for several salads!

Garlic Scape Dressing
2 garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
Equivalent amount spring onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon honey (or agave)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or similar brown mustard
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
dash salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a blender, combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, and blend until smooth. With blender on low, slowly add the olive oil until well blended.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Road Food: Trail Mix

As a food-conscious (ethics, food-as-fuel) gluten-free vegetarian, road travel can be a bit of a pain especially if the trip is long enough that I'll want food more than once. I've learned not to rely on the usual roadside places to stop for something resembling a meal. There are a few exceptions I've come across over the years, including SeQuential, Tally's Silver Spoon (a restaurant), Planet Ozone and others depending on where I'm driving and how long I'm mentally allowing for stops, detours, and anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

I've learned to pack trail mixes (often hand-mixed) and fresh fruits and veggies (as long as I'm not driving into California, where I have to prove my produce's citizenship). I've learned to buy tofu jerky (I need to try making this still) if I think I'm going to be short on protein and want something besides nuts. A friend of mine packs hard-boiled eggs -- I might do this if I didn't hate how eggs make me feel. Another friend swears by peanut butter, on pretty much anything. These are all good solutions, and if there's space, I'm in favor of packing yogurt in a cooler for stomach-calming calcium and plenty of protein.

But back to trail mixes: I like to select trail mixes for road trips because I don't buy them on a regular basis. They feel special. I can include chocolate if I want (always a nice treat, and quick sugar), dried fruits, nuts & seeds, or a variety of other options. They can -- and probably should -- consist of complex & simple carbs, plus protein and fats. GORP is a nice standby, except I haven't been buying peanuts recently because I'm tired of them. Instead, I've been using sunflower seeds or soynuts -- salted varieties of both, if you were wondering.

For an upcoming road trip, I decided to indulge in a trail mix with a variety of dried fruits (but primarily cranberries & raisins) and almonds. I'm going to throw in a handful of chocolate and call it good, then pack a couple of grown in the USA apples with stickers attached, corn tortillas + nut butter, and a couple of small containers of yogurt. And then  I'm going to hope that's enough food for a several-day-total trip to a nearbyish city that will involve a lot of hiking and time outdoors. It's not as though I can't also opt into buying food there -- I'm sure I will, in fact (an avocado, some carrots)  -- but in case that doesn't make sense for my schedule I want a back-up.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Way Better Simply Sunny Multigrain Chips

Oh, how I love my local grocer. For no particular reason, every so often, they drastically reduce prices on certain items. Sometimes, I think it's just overstock. Other times, it appears to be a product they're trying to clear. Sometimes it seems that it's on super-sale because they're introducing it. That's how I tried the Way Better Simply Sunny Multigrain Tortilla Chips.

The company claims it sprouts the grains and seeds that compose its products, which allows our bodies to better absorb nutrients. While that's nice, I'm really interested in the fact that these chips have broccoli and radish sprouts in them -- and they still taste really good. The ingredients in these chips are:

Stone Ground Corn, High Oleic Sunflower Oil and/or Safflower Oil, Organic Sprouted Flax Seeds, Organic Sprouted Quinoa, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Flour, Organic Sprouted Daikon Radish Seeds, Organic Sprouted Chia Seeds, Sprouted Broccoli Seeds, Pure Sea Salt
I can't help but notice the definite lack of "organic" in front of the first two ingredients, however, and I find that problematic, especially given the push to label GMO foods. Guess what can be GMO. Nonorganic corn. Yep.

But, that aside, the rest of the review:

These gluten-free chips have a tasty (though definitely multi-grain) flavor, in that's complex and there's not too much -- or too little -- salt. They're pretty sturdy, and conveniently square (nice for putting hummus or something on, especially if you're gluten-free).  I'd love to say that because they're multigrain I feel more wholesome or something, but let's face it, I'm eating chips. The second ingredient is oil. True, there's more complexity, and the website claims that a serving of these chips contains 420 mg of omega-3s. Great, I guess, but it's still a chip.

I can pronounce everything on the label, always a plus, and I've seen all the ingredients in their whole form--and you can still see some of them in a whole (germinated) form in the chips. I appreciate that. I also like the simple, uncluttered design of the bag and the way that it doesn't really look like a bag of chips, or at least it doesn't look like the bags of chips I buy with half-guilt. The bag isn't shiny and doesn't use bold colors. There's a pretty sunflower, so that I can feel more connected to nature as I eat my processed food. In other words, the package screams wholesomeness, which is good since a serving of these chips contains 11% of my daily fat intake.

But, they're good enough that I bought a second bag. It helps that my grocery store has them on sale for $0.48 a bag. That's beyond practically giving them away, especially as we move into summer, and especially on my very small budget. These products are also gluten-free and kosher, if you're wondering (but you can find out those details on the way better website).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Marionberry-Cranberry Smoothie

One of the lovely things about the PNW is that we've got a ready supply of marionberries -- at this time of year, in the freezer section of my local grocer. I love marionberries, which are a hybrid berry developed by Oregon State University between two berries I'd never heard of (and which are already crosses of other berries). If you're not familiar with it, the link above is to Wikipedia (and if you're like me, you can get lost for ages strolling through links and learning fun facts) -- but basically it's blackberry-like in shape and taste.

This smoothie recipe was inspired by a "Oh god, I've been writing too long and it's time to go to work!" moment the other morning. As always, measurements are approximate, so adjust as you see fit. I like this smoothie because it's sweeter than the spinach-mint smoothie I posted the other day without having to add additional sugars. However, if you like your smoothies sweeter, definitely add a bit of sweetener of your choice.

Notice this smoothie contains protein powder (because I have some I'd like to use up, rather than just toss since I never use it), but I don't think that's a requirement. If you want to increase the protein, use a tablespoon or two of nut/seed butter, or a spoonful of Greek yogurt.

Marionberry-Cranberry Smoothie
This has cranberries because I always have them around (or at least 6 months+ a year -- I stocked up when they were in the grocery store -- I finally, thankfully, live in a place where they're not in the freezer section year round and then threw them in my freezer). If you don't have cranberries lying around (and why would you at this time of year??) toss in a handful of blueberries or extra marionberries. The result will be a little sweeter, and a little purpler.

Confession: I always make too much smoothie. For this recipe, I essentially filled two 16-ounce glass jars with smoothie (whew, because I wound up writing too long the next morning also. That and feeling upset by police brutality--at what point does force become brutality?--in Occupy Homes MN -- watch a video here). Anyway, I stuck the extra jar (sealed of course!) in my refrigerator and grabbed it when I headed out the door the next morning. It worked out beautifully and there was only a little bit of separation -- a problem easily solved by a quick shake.

Marionberry-Cranberry Smoothie
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup frozen marionberries (or fresh, if you have them)
1 large banana, frozen (and half thawed, if your don't have one of the fancy blenders)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk, or milk of your choice
2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder, optional (I used soy)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve chilled.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wild Fennel!

Just before I left for a trip back to the Midwest near the beginning of May, I discovered wild fennel growing near my apartment. How could I resist digging this up (once I got back)? Free fennel? Yes please.

Last summer, my friend Rachael and I ate fennel a lot. We sauteed it with orange juice and onions. We created thin slices for salad -- I don't remember what else we did. I was pretty happy to eat it raw (and this despite me not liking the taste of licorice, go figure).
Fennel among Ivy

Mostly, with the case of this fennel, I'm excited for the opportunity to "forage" someone's forgotten fennel. It's growing up in a narrow strip of dirt, mostly overtaken by some sort of ivy, in my alley, and near where the garbage cans (in theory -- I've never actually seen them there) are stored to protect them from deer. Fennel's pretty easy to recognize because of its lacy top, and the distinctive flavor of its greens (and bulb, once you've got it out of the ground).

Some fun facts about this plant that perhaps you already knew:
  • Fennel is a primary ingredient in absinthe
  • Prometheus used fennel stalks to steal fire from the gods (yes, I'm calling this a fact)
  • It may help improve vision
In other words, cook your carrots & fennel together, or toss back a handful of dried fennel seeds as a breath freshener--and eyesight improver!

With this fennel, I opted for chopping it into a salad (or, rather, several salads -- this recipe will provide the ingredient quantities for 1 salad, but I had leftover fennel):

Fennel & Apple Salads with Raisins
1/4 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon raisins
1/4 cup plain yogurt (more or less, to taste)

Mix all ingredients together and let marinate for 10-15 minutes so flavors will mingle. Eat outside.