April 14, 2014

“Guacamole” from the garden

Posted in cooking, food, gardening, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:20 pm by thecatwho

It is springtime here in Northern California, and that means fava beans showing up at the farmers’ market … and growing in my garden. I planted about 70 fava bean seeds at the end of last October. They all germinated, and now some of the pods are ready for picking.

A friend told me that he mashes his homegrown favas into a bright green purée (thanks, Kimo), which made me think of avocados and, of course, guacamole, one of my favorite foods. I vary what I blend with the fava beans depending on my mood—sometimes garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs or maybe only my favorite hot sauce or salsa. I’d love to hear what you dream up.

Lots of ways to serve the purée—as a dip with chips, rolled in warmed tortillas, spread on rice cakes, as a topping for beans or rice, or in a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and hot sauce.

Fresh fava bean “guacamole”

  • fresh fava beans
  • salt
  • pepper
  • green garlic or garlic cloves (optional)
  • fresh or dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, or basil (optional)
  • hot sauce or salsa (optional)
  1. Remove fava beans from their outer pods. Cover beans with water and microwave, covered, until the beans are just soft and the inner shells begin to wrinkle, about 3 minutes, or blanch in boiling water, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain.
  2. (Optional) Remove each inner shell by making a small tear in it and squeezing out the inner bright green bean. [I don't remove the inner shell.]
  3. Whirl beans in a blender or in a deep bowl with an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. If using green garlic, cut off root end, remove outer layer, and mince white and light green parts only. If using garlic cloves, crush, peel, and mince. Whirl garlic with beans. Add remaining ingredients of your choice and blend.
  5. Serve room temperature or chilled.

April 11, 2014

Savory chickpea flour “toasts”

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:57 pm by thecatwho

I know that savory pancakes show up in several international cuisines. This gluten-free recipe was inspired by whole wheat spinach pancakes served in some Indian restaurants.

I have made a similar recipe (see quinoa “toast”), but this version has more vegetables. I like the slices warmed in the microwave or toasted and spread with almond butter, hummus, or fruit compote or topped with an egg.

Chickpea flour “toasts”

  • chia seeds* or eggs, beaten
  • chickpea flour
  • salt
  • chopped cilantro leaves
  • ground chile powder
  • coriander powder
  • oil
  • cumin seeds
  • caraway seeds
  • sliced mushrooms
  • sliced leeks
  • chopped spinach
  1. If using chia seeds: Mix 1 part chia seeds with 3 parts water and chill for 15 minutes until gelatinous. Set aside.
  2. Mix flour, salt, cilantro, chile powder, and coriander powder in a large bowl. Heat oven or toaster oven to 375º.
  3. Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and caraway seeds and cook for a couple of minutes. Add mushrooms and leeks and cook until just soft. Add spinach and cook until wilted but still bright green.
  4. Transfer vegetable mixture and chia seeds (or eggs) to the bowl. Mix well. Add water, if needed, to make a non-sticky batter.
  5. Pour batter on a parchment-lined baking pan and spread to make one level pancake. Bake until browned and crispy, checking every 15 minutes or so. Cut into pieces and use like toast or eat plain.

* Find chia seeds at well-stocked grocery stores and natural-foods stores (I found them at Trader Joe’s).

April 8, 2014

40 days of kindness

Posted in change, connection, gratitude, meaningful life, motivations tagged , , at 10:40 pm by thecatwho

I did not grow up in a religious household, and I have not experienced Lent personally. But I understand that it is about changing one’s behavior in some way for the 40 days before Easter in order to remember the suffering of Jesus; from my outsider’s perspective, I have heard people mentioning that they gave up a favorite food or activity for that time period.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see the Lenten sign on a church marquee that I drive by regularly:  40 Days of Kindness. That was a different message than I had seen in the past there.

I was happy to see the group deciding to focus on kindness. I can imagine how that focus would positively affect their community in so many ways. First, kind acts benefit the actors, recipients, and witnesses—good for everyone.

Second, when a group takes on a goal together, they are able to relate and share about their process and experiences in the pursuit of their common goal. In this case, their desire to be kind would give a positive focus to their conversations, give individuals a greater awareness of what it is to be kind, and, through their kind acts, strengthen existing ties and create new connections to build a tighter-knit community.

I am part of a meditation group where we have asked to be filled with loving-kindness for ourselves and others many times over the years. Doing so has helped us be more aware of kind actions in our everyday lives. I believe that if we each had loving-kindness as a daily goal, the world couldn’t help but be a better place.



April 4, 2014

Quinoa “toast”

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:24 pm by thecatwho

What a flop. I was expecting a main course of quinoa patties, but the mixture just crumbled when I tried to shape it. My fix was to flatten all of it into one big pancake in the baking pan. The end product held together and was crunchy, but was bland for an entrée, so there were lots of leftover slices.

Over the next few days, I toasted or microwaved the leftover pieces and slathered them with almond butter or sweet pepper and sunflower seed spread for a weekday breakfast. On the weekend, I topped a warmed slice with sautéed mushrooms, herbs, leeks, peppers, and a poached egg for brunch. The quinoa pieces remained crunchy and were a good complement to the toppings.

Quinoa “toast”

This recipe allows you lots of flexibility: You can add any combination of herbs and spices or finely chopped vegetables.

  • red or tan quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • ground cumin
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • minced cilantro
  • finely chopped green onions
  • finely chopped spinach or kale
  • almond meal and/or corn meal
  • eggs*
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Toast the quinoa in a dry pan until it turns a shade darker. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl, add boiling water to cover, and soak until you see the little quinoa curlicues (you can also bring the quinoa and water to a boil on the stove until you see the curlicues). Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the ground cumin, turmeric, and curry powder until just fragrant.
  3. Heat oven or toaster oven to 375º. Transfer the toasted spices and quinoa to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour contents into a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Spread evenly. Bake until it forms one solid, crispy piece.

* For a vegan egg substitute: Mix 1 part chia seeds with 3 parts water and chill for 15 minutes until gelatinous.


March 26, 2014

Cauliflower with a hint of Egypt

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 8:56 am by thecatwho

I was looking for a way to enliven my cooking when I happened to look at the ingredients list on a bottle of dukkah, a seasoning blend from Egypt. A light bulb went on in my head: I had fennel seeds, sesame seeds, and sliced almonds at home just waiting for a new taste adventure.

Dukkah-inspired mashed cauliflower

Cauliflower came to mind because it is mild and sweet, it’s what I had in my fridge, and it mashes well. But this seasoning combination could enhance any vegetable (including mashed carrots, potatoes, or yams or sautéed greens) or rice, bean, or lentil dish. Sky’s the limit!

  • fennel seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sliced almonds
  • cauliflower
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Crush the fennel seeds with a rolling pin or jar. Toast the fennel seeds, sesame seeds, and sliced almonds in a dry pan until just golden.
  2. Separate the cauliflower into florets. Steam or microwave until soft. Chop and mash.
  3. Stir in seeds and almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

March 23, 2014

Sweet split peas sure do please

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , at 5:48 pm by thecatwho

For some reason, kik alicha, a yellow split pea dish from Ethiopia, has a natural sweetness that is addicting and comforting. From the first time I ate it at Massawa Restaurant in San Francisco (now closed), I was hooked, and you will be too.

Serve with garlicky kale or collards, mashed cauliflower, steamed broccoli, or a green salad, with brown or wild rice and soft corn tortillas.

Yellow split pea stew (kik alicha)

  • dried yellow split peas
  • oil
  • onion, chopped
  • jalapeño or serrano chile, chopped (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • ground turmeric
  • ground cardamom
  • fresh lemon juice (optional)
  1. Soak the split peas in hot water for 2 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a deep pan or heavy enamel pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add chile if using and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add peas, salt, pepper, and water (peas to water ratio is 1:3; if using 1 cup peas, add 3 cups water). Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom and cook until peas have softened completely. Adjust seasonings and add lemon juice if using. Mash or blend the peas if you like. 

March 22, 2014

A zesty idea for leftover rice

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 11:55 am by thecatwho

I feel rich when I have cooked rice in the fridge because I have a head start on a great meal. Borrowing from a lemon rice recipe from Divya’s Indian Cookbook blog, I created a tangy side dish using limequats (a cross between a lime and a kumquat) from our tree—and gained a trip to Thailand instead. Fresh lime juice works too.

Lime rice

  • olive oil
  • mustard seeds
  • curry powder
  • small dried red chiles
  • sliced onion
  • roasted cashews
  • ground turmeric
  • fresh lime juice
  • cooked brown rice
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, curry powder, and chiles. Stir, cover, and cook until the spluttering stops.
  2. Add onion and cook, covered, until translucent. Add cashews and cook another minute.
  3. Stir in turmeric and remove from heat. Add lime juice, rice, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

March 15, 2014

Yummy almond meal pancakes

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegetarian tagged , , , , , at 9:03 am by thecatwho

Almond meal has become a star in our kitchen because it is tasty and versatile—it works in both savory and sweet recipes as a replacement for flour. This dish, inspired by a fitsugar.com recipe, makes a nice switch from eggs for weekend brunch, and any leftover cakes can be reheated for weekday breakfasts.

Almond meal coconut pancakes

We added shredded coconut to the batter to enhance the coconut flavor of the coconut oil we used in the recipe and on the griddle. Serve with your favorite pancake toppings (mine is my homemade fruit compote, with or without almond butter).

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds (optional)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • sea salt
  • ½ tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, soy, etc.)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil, or melted butter
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together almond meal, flax seeds if using, coconut, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and oil. Gradually whisk the almond meal mixture into the egg mixture, adding more milk as necessary to reach the consistency of pancake batter.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Pour on ¼ cup batter and cook until bubbles form. Turn over and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a 150º toaster oven or wrapped in foil or cloth napkins.

March 10, 2014

A salute to a super sandwich spread

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , at 11:13 am by thecatwho

Here I share another inspiration (see my previous inspiration) from Vegetarian Everyday, published by the Swedish couple who bring us the Green Kitchen Stories blog. Use on toast, corn tortillas, or steamed vegetables; as a topping for a bowl of soup, chili, or stew; or as a dip with chips.

Sweet pepper & sunflower seed spread with rosemary

I took a shortcut and used a jar of fire-roasted red and yellow peppers, but you can substitute 3 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled, as in the original recipe. To unify the flavors and make the spread creamier, I added avocado.

  • sunflower seeds
  • New Mexico chile powder or cayenne
  • kosher salt
  • roasted red and yellow peppers from a jar, drained and rinsed
  • fresh lemon juice
  • fresh rosemary leaves from a couple of sprigs
  • avocado
  1. Lightly toast sunflower seeds with chile powder and salt in a dry pan over medium heat.
  2. Whirl peppers with sunflower seeds, lemon juice, and rosemary until smooth. Add avocado and adjust seasonings to taste. Store chilled in an airtight glass jar.

March 9, 2014

Fresh veggie spring rolls with a flair

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 11:18 pm by thecatwho

If you haven’t made fresh spring rolls, you’re in for a treat and a great no-cook, DIY party idea. A rice paper wrapper becomes pliable and a bit sticky when dipped in hot water, which makes it easy to wrap around your favorite springtime ingredients.

Veggie spring roll with nori

What makes this spring roll special is adding nori (the toasted seaweed wrapper used in sushi rolls) inside the rice paper rollup. You can dip your rolls in sauces, like peanut and sweetened vinegar, but I just add my favorite sauces (Sriracha and Sontava hot sauces) inside my rolls.

  • bean thread noodles
  • vegetables: daikon, carrot, mushrooms, green onion, spring garlic, snow peas, sugar snap peas, steamed asparagus, etc.
  • lettuce leaves
  • fresh basil, cilantro, and mint leaves
  • avocado, sliced
  • seasoned tofu or tofu burgers, sliced
  • cashew pieces, sunflower seeds, and/or slivered almonds
  • rice paper wrappers
  • toasted nori, cut into strips
  • hot sauce and dipping sauces
  1. Hydrate bean thread noodles in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small serving bowl.
  2. Slice raw vegetables into thin strips or matchsticks and transfer to a large serving plate. Add asparagus, lettuce, herbs, avocado, and tofu or tofu burgers to the plate. Set nuts in a small serving bowl. Put several cups of hot water in a large bowl.
  3. Dip one wrapper in the hot water about halfway and quickly rotate it once clockwise until the wrapper is completely wet. Immediately remove it from the water and spread it out on a plate (it becomes translucent and sticky). Add a strip of nori along the middle of the wrapper and top with fillings and sauces. Fold one edge of the wrapper over the ingredients, tuck in the wrapper sides, and roll until the opposite wrapper edge sticks to the roll. Repeat.

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