Carrot ginger (dressing) potato salad

This sort-of theme of “it’s all about the dressing” is getting a little tired. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to put up this short post. Or maybe I’ve just been waiting for a lightning bolt of whimsy to supply me with something inspired to say. 

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The truth is, I just wanted to share this “dressing” that’s not really dressing exactly and which was in itself rather inspiring. I discovered it recently when I had the happy chance to test some recipes for a local magazine, including a heaping bowl of fresh, crunchy deliciousness. Just 3 ingredients (carrot, not too much sesame oil and pickled ginger) plus water. I was awed by the power of its simplicity, delivering a punch of flavor that is at once sharp and cleansing. One bite and the taste bud nerve connection impishly sent my mind into overdrive trying to come up with a variety of ways to incorporate this exciting new “dressing” into meals just so I could post it on this blog to come back to in case I ever suffer mild amnesia and forget how easy it is.

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OK, so “overdrive” was a little exaggerated. The brainstorming lasted about 5 minutes. But, five minutes fairly well spent, because Easy Carrot Ginger “Dressing” works very well with a light, fresh variation on traditional potato salad; it also fares well in veggie wraps, and is a nice tangy palate cleanser scraped from the bottom of the food processor, too. As long as you like pickled ginger–I do, so added more.

For no particular reason I’m hopeful that this dressing  motif will be phasing itself out soon, though probably not for at least another week. There’s a saucy experiment I have in mind that I’m hoping will work out delectably this week. If you don’t see it within another two weeks, you’ll know it crashed in our kitchen (pssst…it’s sweet and sour). More soon. 🙂

 

Carrot ginger dressed potato salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ pounds small new potatoes
  2. 1 large carrot cut into chunks
  3. 1/4 cup pickled ginger
  4. 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  5. 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
  6. 1 cup snap peas, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  7. 3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a steamer set over boiling water steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just tender, transfer them to a bowl, and let them cool to room temperature, then halve lengthwise (or quarter depending on size).
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot, pickled ginger, oil, and ¼ cup water to create a chunky dressing.
  3. Combine potatoes, dressing, and vegetables in a large salad bowl. Serve room temperature or cold.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Mediterranean quinoa salad with tahini balsamic dressing

May be a trend…another recipe that is all about the dressing. Sort of. That is to say, the dressing is what I most want to remember and share for its uniqueness, at least to me. Until now I didn’t make the tahini-balsamic combo a regular in meal planning. I am definitely going to be making up for lost time moving forward.

 

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There is another beauty of a bonus, too: built-in is a major shortcut if needed. If it’s one of those days when the mere step of whizzing up a dressing has you feeling limp and listless, you can relax and refuel faster knowing this salad is so very forgiving. Just about any dressing will do. Whatever ready-made vinaigrette you wish (just stay away from the sweet ones), Italian,a splash of plain lemon juice and oil, or my personal favorite, the marinade from artichokes. But if you do feel fresh and awake enough to whisk a few ingredients separately in a bowl, or process them till smooth, tahini-balsamic has a simple way of elevating every quinoa seed and spinach leaf with rich, tangy, nuttiness.

 

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Occasionally I have stretches where tahini has a way of breaking me from peanut butter love in a refreshing way. I would almost say the smooth paste could swap in and satisfy every PB craving with the added benefit that I’d never, ever eat it from the jar or have too much. I would lick away each semblance of a pool of tahini dressing on my plate though, and do.  And if I’m feeling twinges of guilt over that, I justify by telling myself “zero waste” and also the reminder that sesame seeds contain more calcium, iron, plus other minerals and phytosterols than peanuts do. But I don’t need this self-talk very often. This dish epitomizes how synonymous healthy and delicious truly are. No justification needed, just readiness to enjoy. 🙂

Mediterranean quinoa salad with tahini balsamic dressing
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 1 (5 oz) package washed baby spinach, kale, or mixed greens
  3. 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  4. 1 medium cucumber, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  6. 1 (14 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
  7. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  8. 1/3 cup tahini
  9. 1/2 cup water
  10. 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  11. 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  12. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  13. Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa: add 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and summer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
  2. Add greens, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, artichokes and chickpeas to quinoa in bowl.
  3. Prepare the dressing: place tahini, water, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss quinoa mixture with dressing prior to serving.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Breakfast with Bhakti part 1: Sweet and spicy vegan chai chip muffins

This week, this post almost didn’t happen. It would have eventually, but there would have been an inner letdown, a sense of dragging of feet. I am being melodramatic in saying so, albeit in a muted way…meaning, feeling a little let down is hardly the churning emotions of despair, and besides it’s only a blog post. But I wanted to relay some of the energetic buzz I came away with following an inspirational blogger event this week hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market at the Bhakti Chai brewing headquarters. Not only did we lucky attendees get to tour a pristine facility and home to some truly superb products, we got to meet the incredibly talented and driven founder, Brook Eddy, and came away with delicious samples I felt primed and eager to experiment with.

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The problem was the usual–finding time. Lately the trend of  squeezing more productivity into increasingly less time has built to a sort of tipping point where I find myself weighing options (e.g. sleep vs X) in terms of number of potential gray hairs that might be encouraged or spared. This week I’ve been especially focused in an attempt to stay on top of tasks and get ahead of work priorities where possible because in days Little F and I are visiting our precious new baby cousin/niece. Struggling to fit everything in, an obvious cut to the to-do list would be a verbose addition to personal blog, particularly as I wouldn’t feel right posting without having a recipe or two to share incorporating awesome Bhakti product.

For a change, the rational me almost won out in scrapping blog post focus for the week.

But.

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Bhakti Chai founder Brook Eddy was a single mother of baby TWINS, going through a divorce, when she founded her company, which happens to be zero-waste, vegan, socially responsible, compassionate and health conscious. Eddy began brewing her own recipes for the beloved spicy tea after a trip to Mumbai, India. When she hit upon a recipe that was undeniably striking and delicious, she decided to start a company.

Ms. Eddy is a vibrant, charismatic entrepreneur. But even the most energized individuals need sleep here and there. How she grew her grassroots business into the successful, innovative company it is today, working full-time by day, brewing at night, raising twins… is simply astounding. Bhakti Chai merges its founder’s background in social policy with her passion for good food and flavor. A B-Corps, the company has made social action a part of its mission. Early on, it began donating to nonprofits, primarily those serving women and girls, and continues to do so. Just thinking about the origins and evolution of this company is pretty breathtaking… certainly enough of a dose of perspective to stir up a kitchen frenzy in small pockets of time over a couple of days. Besides all that, what is more simultaneously soothing and the fragrant aromas and complex spice notes of chai?

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The first round of experiments was too hasty. I had a vision for a healty, vegan coconut pistachio chai tea (er, coffee but actually tea) cake. I turned out something almost yummy, which is to say in fact yucky. Lovely looking, except for the sloppy way I drizzled cashew cream glaze. I tried to convince myself it was blog-worthy, and came close to succeeding, but inside I knew. This secret knowledge was confirmed when at breakfast the next day I presented little F with a wedge of pretty breakfast “cake”. His eyes went wide with delight. “Ooooh, CAKE!” he exclaimed. Upon taking one bite, he pushed the plate away and chose to chomp down on an apple instead. Not to say the idea is dead, however. I’ll keep you posted.

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Second try, though, went soooo much better, and successfully good-for-you too (OK, there is some chopped up crystallized ginger and the decidedly important inclusion of dark chocolate chips). I was hesitant about it at first. Because, muffins. Too easy? Too obvious? It doesn’t matter. I love them. They’re sweetened with mashed banana, but the banana isn’t overpowering. In fact, it blends so beautifully with the chai flavor that the result doesn’t actually taste banana and thus, the exclusion of that yellow goodness out of the recipe name. The chocolate chips are a must-have, but I think that tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger is really what gives this easy recipe the edge.

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These muffins won’t last long (if they’re not already gone), and will definitely be filling our house with their heady but healthy, tempting aroma again very soon, along with some other treats and repeats. The next day, with dear friend Melissa, Little F and I we made some scrummy and deceptively light oatmeal chai blender pancakes and that famous whipped frozen banana ice cream all of us health foodies know and love elevated with a blissful Bhakti kick. Those recipes will have to wait, though. The second, probably forever (because you already know it really), and the former just for now. Not because of fretfulness over time constraints and fatigue. Just because there’s a limit to how long even an openly rambling post should be, and here I am. Happy weekend! 🙂

Sweet and spicy vegan chai chip muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sprouted wheat flour (I used One Degree Organics Khorasan) or gluten-free blend
  2. 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon orange zest
  5. 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  6. 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  7. 1/2 cup Bhakti original chai concentrate
  8. 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  11. 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax meal whisked in 5 T water and allowed to sit a minute)
  12. 1/2 cup dark chocolate/vegan chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix first five ingredients, flour through ginger, in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.
  4. Pour batter two-thirds of the way up each muffin cup in prepared tin. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Easy vegan black bean burgers

You may not think these combined ingredients earn the title of “burger”, with good reason. You may say they’re more fittingly called ‘patties’, as they probably are. The difference is often subtle but we all recognize it intuitively. And actually, the original source of this recipe refers to them as ‘cakes’. But never mind. They may be little more than zesty, healthy homemade refried beans held together with a light, almost crispy coating, but what respectable fan of refried beans wouldn’t devour that in burger form?

Sometimes I feel twinges of guilt that little F has not experienced meat in his three years and three quarters life. Despite the fact that I am wholeheartedly behind our family’s reasons for our plant-based kitchen, there are moments I feel like I’m somehow misleading him. Food is as full of nostalgia as it is fuel.

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The other week, while grocery shopping, I heard a startled gasp as little F suddenly pointed at a package of red meat. “Red worms, ewwww!” he cried. Later that same day, we had a new sitter come to the house while I worked upstairs, and I got to listen in on the giddy fun of their engaging conversations. Little F had taken to her immediately, resulting in the sort of giddy, wild “showing off” that is funny, silly, and borderline overly rambunctious. They were playing kitchen, and I heard the sitter (who happens to be vegan) ask, “Do you like burgers?” as she picked up the plastic replica. “Sometimes,” little F answered. “Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re yucky, like poo poo yucky.” 

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It was fun eavesdropping just a bit, and a little thought-provoking, too. I wondered, why didn’t little F treat Ms. Andrea to the same lecture-style response he has given both his grandmothers (e.g., “we don’t eat cow’s milk, Ammy”, or “maybe butter is kind of gross, Nanny”)? And then I thought, oh yeah…he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what a typical burger, hot dog, or even pizza is. He even makes a point of clarifying during imaginative play that his misbehaving animal friends are eating “tofu poo poo” when they indulge in excrement. 

I don’t want our sweet boy growing up feeling like he is missing out, or developing issues around diet, forbidden foods, and power of choice. Hopefully we will keep on figuring out ways that feel right for sharing different ideas and options, showing respect for his evolving choices and keeping the conversation going. It does ease those creeping anxious moments when I can remind myself how satisfying and yummy the burgers we do make are. 

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This recipe came from the amazing Dr. Neal Barnard’s Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook; the only changes I made were to add some walnuts and swap out some of the bread crumbs (which I’m assuming could easily be gluten-free) with quinoa flakes for the coating. As shared in the cookbook, these pair beautifully with a simple mango salsa (even better, with mango and pineapple salsa that combines a little finely chopped red pepper and scallions with a splash of lime juice, honey, and a pinch of cayenne). They’re also a superb match for most of your favorite traditional burger toppings. Almost as easy to prepare as a portobello mushroom burger too, and completely free of tofu, poo poo, red words, or anything sometimes yucky or maybe kind of gross. 😉

Easy vegan black bean burgers
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup mild salsa
  2. 2 tsp ground cumin
  3. 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  4. 1 cup bread crumbs
  5. ¼ cup ground walnuts, optional
  6. 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  7. ¾ cup quinoa flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 F. COmbine the salsa, cumin, black beans and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add bread crumbs, scallions, salt and pepper.
  2. Divide mixture into small patties, roughly ¼ cup each. Dredge patties in quinoa flakes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (alternatively, you can chill mixture in bowl and form into patties later.
  3. Heat a nonstick large skillet over medium heat. Using cooking spray saute approximately 3 minutes per side, gently turning. Place on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until all patties are prepared. Great served with mango and pineapple salsa or your favorite burger fixings.
Adapted from Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook by Dr. Neal Barnard
Adapted from Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook by Dr. Neal Barnard
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Gluten-free dairy-free, naturally sweetened/low sugar PB & J Bars

It’s May Day tomorrow, which makes me about a month late. Meaning, I missed out on sharing these for National PB & J Day April 2nd. Then again, while I may not blasted any well wishes for the occasion on social media or otherwise, I’m pretty sure I celebrated, possibly too heartily.
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Preceding National PB & J Day, National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day took place March 1st this year. I’m awfully certain I subconsciously celebrated that one, too. Since I’ve known him, Dave has always marveled at Americans’ love for peanut butter. I can’t say I know where that stereotype came from, but I do know I’ve only reinforced it. Lately though, peanut butter love has been markedly full-blown. I’ve been craving it on celery, on apple slices, in oatmeal, and straight from the jar. In fact, those first three may really be mostly compromise to keep the urge to indulge in that last one at bay. 

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There are always food phases that come and go, mostly with the seasons, and holidays. Like right now, when we’re all easing out weekly soup nights and transitioning to staple salad dinners. And who doesn’t swoon a little bit at the heady scent of a pumpkin spice latte in October? But peanut butter…really I’ve been a little crazy (ok, nutty) for all nuts recently, and I think that’s an offshoot of experimental vegan purity for the past month or so. Except for honey, which is still a weekly feature including in this recipe, I’ve been much more strict, and it feels good. I don’t really have any way to measure any impact nor a baseline to compare. Our scale is broken, and I wasn’t feeling bad/excessively tired without explanation/grumpy before. I can’t say I’m gliding on new enriched energy, but I definitely don’t feel worse; I felt good before this trial and I still do. Mentally and emotionally, though, it does feel gratifying to do something delicious that happens to reduce my carbon footprint compassionately.

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As for these bars: they are everything they should be. Chewy and jammy centers, and crumbly and nutty all around. They’d be great actually crumbled, in fact–over oatmeal or (vegan) ice cream. This recipe has a whole lot of “ORs” in it. Like, 3 cups quinoa flakes OR 1 1/2 cups oats with 1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes OR 3 cups oats. You can get away with 2 T honey OR 1/4 cup honey OR even no honey OR maple syrup.Originally I made these for Ancient Harvest, using quinoa flakes only instead of oats, and 2 eggs. I can say I think I do prefer the egg-less version, and using Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer over flax eggs. Since my little sis gave me a bag as a stocking stuffer, I really have become very fond of that pea protein concoction.  Overall, however, you really can’t go too very far astray when it comes to what is basically a just crunchy ball of peanut butter and jam.

Obviously, a recipe is always a guide and all those options are to be intuited or inferred, but in this case I’ve tried each little variation and approve so well I couldn’t cut back. Because, nuttiness lately…tell me what you change…or even would like to try out one day. I can promise there is a very good chance I will test the idea out for you. 😉

 

PB & J Bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  2. 1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes
  3. 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  4. 2 tablesoons Bob's Red Mill egg replacer mixed in 4 T water OR 2 flax eggs OR 2 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 2 tablespoons OR ¼ cup honey
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt (unless using salted peanut butter)
  9. ⅔ cup fruit only jam or jelly of choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine oats, quinoa flakes, peanut butter, egg substitute, baking soda, vanilla, and salt and mix well.
  3. Press a little over half of the batter into an 8 X 8 baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Use a rubber spatula to spread jam over mixture. (Soften jam as needed in a saucepan or microwave to help with spreading.) Crumble remaining mixture over jam layer as topping.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, until topping is browned and jam layer is bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

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