Caulifrittata

So tasty I almost forgot to get a photo before it was gone!

Economy of ingredients has been an important focus for me lately. When you’re eating in restaurants a lot, as I have a tendency to do when my life gets stupid busy, you lose a gauge for how much an appropriate portion size for you is as well as how many of which ingredients comprise the larger portions you’re consuming. It’s easy, then, when you (ostensibly) return to your own kitchen, to go way overboard with ingredients. This can happen even if you’re working from a recipe. For home cooks like me who tend to just start pitching stuff in pots, well, sometimes you end up with a ridiculous amount of food. That can lead quickly to moldy leftovers because, really, who cares to eat ten servings of Quinoa Minestrone or Mama Hummus over the course of five days. I love the stuff, but I’ll be the first to state categorically “NOT ME!” (And, believe me, I can put away some Mama Hummus!) None of us wants to know we’ve wasted not only food, but the money and time required to prepare it, too.

Stand-by recipes, then, become vital go-tos as we near the end of our own unique buying cycles – these are recipes I call upon that are versatile enough to allow for unending variety in the amount of each required element along with the capacity to utilize most any remainder ingredients.

Enter the Almighty Frittata! When it’s almost time to go to the grocery store, but you absolutely need to use up what you have on hand before then, frittatas are a nearly perfect vehicle. I only add the caveat “nearly” because they’ll obviously not be an option if you don’t eat eggs; however, if you do, these meals-in-a-pan are wonderful!

Back to the portion control, frittatas are useful in two ways. First off, the size of your pan largely dictates how much total frittata you can make. I usually use a deep-sided frying pan that has a well-fitting lid. Secondly, you can use just about any leftover ingredient, raw or pre-cooked, in the making of these beauties. I usually find mine filled with onion (there’s ALWAYS an onion around), some variety of peppers, and often enough yellow or zucchini squash. Once upon a day, there was a good portion of cooked hamburger crumbles, though not so much for me anymore. A little cooked, leftover quinoa would be an excellent protein replacement for meat.

Here’s the key: it doesn’t have to be much of anything! An eighth of a cup of diced bell peppers, a quarter of a diced onion, half a cup of meat – really any veggie you can slice, dice, chop or grate!

Perusing my crisper drawer yesterday, I actually found a couple ingredients I’d never used in a frittata before. Et voila! The Caulifrittata was born!

Caulifrittata

1 cup of cauliflower crowns, chopped fairly small
1/8 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced (whatever color you happen to have is fine)
1/8 cup onions, diced (again, whatever type you have on hand)
2-3 organic eggs, lightly beaten
Splash of milk mixed into eggs (optional)
Handful of shredded cheese (optional)
Seasoning blend of your choice

Sauté the veggies in an oil of your choice (I prefer extra virgin coconut oil most of the time) until the cauliflower starting losing their opacity. Using a spatula, move the veggies toward the middle of the pan in an even layer, leaving about an inch around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle on a seasoning blend and add some cheese if you are so inclined (I used Veggie Shreds). Allow the cheese to melt only a little then pour the egg mixture in the center. Turn the pan so the egg gets evenly distributed then push some of the veggies back toward the edges. Turn the heat very low and cover.

Check after about 15-20 minutes – when the edges look set but the center is still “wet”, drain off any excess liquid (mostly water from the cauliflower) using a large spatula to hold the frittata in the pan then continue to cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. When the top looks pretty firm and the edges nice and brown, turn off the heat and allow the frittata to rest on the stove for a few minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Servings: 2-4, depending on your appetite!

This recipe is great as a make-ahead, too, because it travels well and heats very quickly in a microwave. Also, it’s easy to enjoy for ANY meal of the day.

What ingredients do you always find you have on hand prior to a grocery store trip? Would they be good in a frittata? Dare to get funky and give them a try!

Persnickety Eater :: Sweet Potato Pancakes

Mmm… Thanksgiving in a Pancake!

Hmm… What’s a mommy to do when her offspring eschew vegetable matter in almost every form? HIDE IT!

So, I’m not proud of this, per se, but it has become a bit of a necessary evil. Hopefully it will be a temporrary measure. Besides, these really were delicious, I have to admit, and economical to boot.

While I’ve been avoiding dairy for the past couple months (and truly enjoying the results of this decision), I have found that a limited amount of milk or butter that is cooked or baked into something doesn’t seem to upset my stomach. I won’t drink a glass of milk or spread butter on a piece of bread – I’ll use soy, almond or coconut milk and soy-free, buttery spread from Earth Balance instead. Cheese and yogurt will turn me into a crampy mess if I eat even the tiniest bit, and I haven’t had the nerve to try ice cream.

In order to have the leeway to make a single meal that all of us can enjoy AND that I have the opportunity to add veggies to, I know I can almost alway count on pancakes, even though they usually contain milk and butter. I have to acknowledge that if I try to get “too weird” with the pancakes, altering them to be wholly vegan, I’ll be the only one eating them. So this recipe is a very traditional pancake recipe with the addition of a sweet potato and an adjustment of the milk.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 cups organic milk
  • 1 organic egg
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter, melted
  • 1 sweet potato, baked and mashed with a fork
  • A handful of praline pecans, powdered sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar (optional toppings)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg, butter and sweet potato. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; mix until smooth. Add more milk if needed to thin the batter.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Flip when edges are dry and bubbles begin to form on top. Brown on both sides and serve hot with toppings of your choice.

I think I’d like this just as well with pumpkin in place of sweet potato. Or for a fun treat, use purple sweet potatoes! 

What vegetable would you try adding?

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I am not a huge fan of pasta salads – usually too much mayo (settle down, turning tummy) and the noodles are often overcooked. Plus, for some unfathomable reason, black olives seem to be everyone else’s favorite addition. Even the smallest amount of these sneaky blighters is too much for me – it messes up the flavors of everything else. If you like ’em, be my guest, but none on mine, please and thank you. Oh yeah, and most people go heavy on the pasta, light on the veggies. Wrong ratio, in my humble opinion.

That said, I will get a hankering for pasta salad occasionally, especially when I am reminded how economical and easy they can be to make. In addition, they keep well for a couple days, so you can enjoy a quick, light bite on the run. I like to make it with small pasta, like mini spirals or mini bow ties. Half a box is usually plenty, making it about $0.75 worth of pasta for several servings of salad. Yay!

Salad

½ box mini spirals (I got the Barilla with added fiber)
1T Extra virgin coconut oil
Salt & garlic powder, to taste
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
A couple stalks of celery, sliced or diced
1 large carrot, shredded
¼ red onion, diced
2-3T mayo (barely enough to lightly coat noodles)

Dressing

¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1T apple cider vinegar
1T Jack Daniels “dirty” mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Italian / Pizza Seasoning (I found this in a grinder)

Cook the noodles al dente, drain, return to pot and add coconut oil. Mix thoroughly then add salt and garlic powder to taste. (At this point, try not to munch all the pasta immediately – it’s SO GOOD just plain like this.) Mix in diced veggies then add mayo and stir well. In a separate bowl, mix all dressing ingredients together and stir to blend well. Don’t bother too much with tasting this – it’s very sour from the lemon juice; just trust that it’s really stinkin’ good, especially once chilled. Pour over noodles and veggies and stir well. Serve immediately if you like it warm-ish or refrigerate overnight – Delicious either way!

P.S. Along with black olives, as a general rule, I am no fan of mustard. This “whiskey mustard” (as I’ve nicknamed it) is a rule breaker and makes a really nice addition to this dish. Up soon, a recipe for baked beans with this same mustard!

P.P.S. What? There are garbanzo beans in the picture, you say? Oh yeah… Well, I added them for protein / fiber but I didn’t really care for them after all. Add them if you’d like – about 1/2 a cup should do.

What’s a dish you normally don’t like but have found a way to personalize so that you can enjoy it on occasion?

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Stress. We all have it. The reasons, circumstances, or situations may vary, but everyone encounters times when they just sort of slide. Right. Over. The Edge.

Times like that call for an infusion of fun. It doesn’t have to be the “Oh-my-gawd-best-time-of-my-life” kind of fun, just something that brings joy to you in the midst of not-so-much.

One of my favorite ways to find joy is in creating a simple food dish that really delights both my visual senses and taste buds – okay, if it fits in the little “dietary plan” I’ve been concocting lately, well, so much the better.

My offering is simple and a bit like a little piece of Thanksgiving in the middle of the summer. Baked sweet potato cubes, crushed praline pecans, dried cranberries, a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt on a bed of Romaine lettuce. Not too much of any one ingredient – about five leaves of lettuce and a quarter cup of each topping – and you have a perfect little plate of happiness.

What’s your favorite way to reinfuse your life with fun?

The summer’s bounty is in full effect and I’m greeting it with a new perspective! The blogworld has been a challenging playground for me since I first wandered in as a newbie circa, um, 2003-ish? Heck, I don’t really recall, but it’s at least getting close to a decade. Lots of other bloggers have been ultra productive during that time and I have aspirations of creating a more permanent and personlized niche for myself than what I can get through the free blogs. Though they’ve been really quite good to me, I feel a growing need to have more control. (What? Who? ME?!?) Plans are in the offing, including a domain my sweet hubby was kind enough to procure for me. Until then, I figured, why not post a couple more articles here? I can always grandfather them over to my new site. Someday.

About that perspective shift I alluded to… I’ve successfully reduced my dairy and meat intake over the past two-and-a-half months, which has resulted in a 14-pound (6.35-kilogram) weight reduction. Yay me!! I’m not eating cheese, cow milk, sour cream, yogurt or butter for the most part (exceptions being if it’s baked into bread or crackers, though I’m exercising caution there, too). Gone, too, is chicken and red meat. I’ve had a little pork, in the form of bacon, to the tune of about 1-2 servings per week, but that is slowly going away, too. I have decided to continue eating fish. For me, that mostly means some tilapia I cook at home with lime juice, coconut water and seasonings. (I don’t really like fish that much, so it seemed safe enough to keep it at 2-3 servings per week.) Eggs are on the menu, too, but in a reduced capacity and only of a good quality. A lot of vegan recipes call to me and I’ve learned a lot more than I could cram into one little post. Suffice it to say that it seems to be sticking – I actually saw an uber-cheesy dish on Pinterest the other day and had to stifle a gag! Once upon a time, I would have been drooling… The concept at the core of my changes has been to increase the quantity of veggies, legumes and grains I consume, focusing on those which have anti-inflammatory properties.

 So I saw this post over at Healthful Pursuit (http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2012/07/madly-organic/)* the other day and fell in love with the photos of the vegan chili. I thought, hey, I could do a vegan minestrone! To make it a little more descriptive, I’m going with quinoa minestrone. And, let’s face it, a lot of people still freak out a little when you use the word “vegan”. Because it’s so, like, scary. Or something.

Quinoa Minestrone

1/2 c. quinoa of your preference, rinsed if not already
1 c. diced tomatoes (I cheated and used canned, diced, herbed tomatoes.)
1 c. cooked garbanzo beans
1 stalk celery, diced large
Half a sweet onion, diced medium
1 ear’s worth of corn kernels, sliced from the cob
Generous helping of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. Nutritional Yeast
Salt/Pepper/Cayenne and other seasonings to taste
water to cover (about 2-3 cups)

This was an exercise in restraint for me – I tend to make gargantuan quantities of soup / stew / stewp but RARELY see them finished. As I was examining the concept of creating a “soup”, it dawned on me that I really didn’t need to put a lot of ingredients in since soup is often largely broth! (Huge, world-changing epiphany, I know.)

Basically, pitch the tomatoes, beans, celery and onions into a pot with enough water to cover a couple inches. Get it to a low boil then dump the quinoa in. Make sure you stir it regularly for the first 5 minutes after adding the quinoa. Add some seasoning and let it simmer for a while. I wanted the corn to remain crisp so I put it in once the quinoa was mostly done. I tasted this a lot more frequently than I normally do, which allowed me to adjust the seasonings the way I wanted to. After the corn had had a few minutes to simmer, I turned off the heat and added the parsley. Man! It was WAY stronger than I thought it would be! Glad to report that it mingled and mellowed overnight so it wasn’t so in-your-face when I had some for lunch the following day. The nutritional yeast I added as an afterthought, because the soup didn’t seem quite “complete”. A very little goes a long way, so start off on the modest side and add more only if you’re up for it.

Sorry there are no photos (yet) – I’m having difficulty getting my iPhone to communicate with any other device in the absence of wi-fi… How dependent we’ve become, eh?

What healthful changes have you been making lately? How did you go about choosing to make those particular changes?

*Excuse the crappy linking – my browser is apparently no longer supported by wordpress. Will address that soon. 😉

If you’ve never encountered the art of Bento Boxes, you really must take a quick peek over here at Anna the Red’s amazing art. Her “My Neighbor Totoro”-inspired series is the best. I’ve loved that movie since I first saw it in Japanese at a friend’s house around 1989 or so. Our VHS copy is among those few that remain since converting most of our other movies to DVD.

One of my favorite Anna the Red creations.

So I’ve decided that this is the next food project I want to tackle… And I’ve made a few tentative forays so far. A few nights ago, I designed little pictures on my boys plates for dinner and, between the two of them, they ate every crumb on both plates. (Sure, there was a little food-swapping going on, but hey, whatever!)

I didn’t get any pictures of those two plates, but I did another for my little guy this evening and, while it certainly wasn’t any kind of proper Bento, I really liked the way it looked.

Hummus, Goldfish, Cheese, Blueberries and Edamame - Yum!

He gobbled up the crackers, hummus, cheese and blueberries but made a face at the edamame (though he did try it twice and didn’t throw any on the floor – yay!).

Inspired by my meager “success”, I decided I could do a little box of tuna-egg salad for my lunch for tomorrow. Here’s what was born:

My very first Bento - A Baby Bento, if you will.

This feels like the beginning of a very enjoyable creative endeavor… As if I needed another hobby! However, this one, at least, did not require any investment in special equipment. Thankfully. Certainly, I could have spent oodles and oodles on the amazing variety of beautiful Bento boxes and assorted paraphernalia. But my collection of plastic storage boxes is epic (thanks, in part, to my dear spouse who’s probably the most prolific lunch-packer I’ve ever known… Save maybe my mom…) so I’ll be using those for now and getting crazy creative later.

Wish me luck!!

Right out of the gate I will warn you: I’m a chia novice, but playing with this stuff makes for some serious, “test kitchen” fun.

I do wish I had some pictures for this post. However, hydrated chia looks more than a bit sketchy (mucilaginous is how some other sites describe it – Ew!), so until I have this recipe perfected, I’ll hold off on the photo shoot. It’s just that I can’t wait that long to at least share the basics.

To start off, I added 1/3 cup of chia seed to 2 cups of water. This is just a proportion I stole from a random website; I’m pretty sure you could use just about any proportions you need to get a “gel” consistency that you like. It seems like a 1:3 ratio of seed to water is about the minimum, but, hey, have fun trying out different things!

I stirred the chia in the water pretty continuously for several minutes, playing with it, watching the gel begin to form. What my [15-minute, Google-based] research told me was that I could use this gel after about 10 minutes or put any remaining gel in the fridge in a sealed container for a long time. Suffice it to say, they suggested times far longer than I would be willing to attempt at this stage of the game.

My original idea was to do a “pudding” of some sort and as I began hunting around the kitchen for likely victims ingredients, I found my bottle of Barlean’s Total Omega Vegan Swirl. It’s fruity (blueberry and pomegranate) and a vegan source of Omega 3-6-9… And it cost a small fortune so it behooves me to use it up prior to its “Best By” date.

Mind you, this was just a test run, so I mixed 1T of Barlean’s with 4T of the chia gel because it seemed about right. The mixture is very runny and I suspect (after more reading) that I probably could have just put the chia seed straight into the Barlean’s. But that’s not how I roll. Er… Actually, I just didn’t think of it until after I’d started hydrating the seed in water.

Since it wasn’t yet a consistency I could convince my 2-year-old to try, I scanned around the kitchen again and my gaze fell on… Bananas! They mush up nicely, right? Yup, that’ll do.

So I mashed a banana, mixed in the chia-Barlean’s mixture and gave some to the munchkin. He “mmmmm’d” through the first couple bites then decided “not so much” and just played with it instead. I suspect texture was a culprit here because I wasn’t so keen on it (though I did try a bite, too). What to do, what to do?

A-ha – FREEZE IT!

This step, I approached with some trepidation. I don’t actually have a proper source saying, absolutely yes, you may freeze this without unintended side effects.* So I gave it a shot. I know, it doesn’t sound like me – too risky, right?

Well, after about 20 minutes or so, the edges had frozen into a nice, almost fro-yo texture. The chill on the gel made it less slimy, which was also nice. I put it back in the freezer for a while longer, more of it began to freeze over and I liked it even better.

Some observations:

—  It thaws rather quickly when it’s not fully frozen
—  As it thaws, it get slimy
—  Slimy is not a texture I prefer
—  The next batch will be frozen MUCH longer
—  I think I may skip the water in a future batch and just hydrate with the Barlean’s to increase the thickness
—  Whatever the hydrating medium, I will soak the seeds longer before freezing to get most of the “crunchy” of the seeds out
—  I will also try adding soaked, ground almonds in a future batch, just because that sounds good to me

There you have it. I’ll revisit the infamous chia forthwith once, betwixt the twain of us, we have had many more adventures!

*In the several hours that it’s taken me to write this post amidst bedtime for my boys and TV show clips my husband had DVR’d that he just HAD to show me so he can get them “cleaned off”, I had the lovely raw chef Victoria Moon, proprietor of Permission to Heal, verify for me that, yes, “chia is sturdy” and can be frozen. Yay!! Thank you.

Mmm... So fresh and tasty!

Since it’s summertime and that’s the time for T-O-M-A-T-O-E-S, I have a fully summer dish, almost entirely prepared from purchases I made this morning at our local Suwanee Farmers Market. (Some extra virgin Australian olive oil is the only ingredient I acquired elsewhere.)

Colorful and Lovely

First, I had to refrain from eating all the tomatoes. Seriously. They are so perfectly ripe and delicious, I almost couldn’t help myself. I think I did eat close to a third of these plain before I was finished with the salsa!

I have culled you, my pretties!

I decided to go with the larger, green tomatoes and the medium-sized dark purplish tomatoes because they seemed to jump out at me. The other little ones are easy to pop in my mouth, but these larger ones? Not so much. Too much of a squirty-texture issue for me, if you’ll kindly forgive my oddities.

The ingredients, gathered and ready to go.

 The onion was just a small, sweet, white one that I diced then halved – part for the processor, the other to give the final product chunkiness. I’d never tried these lovely peppers before but went on the advice of the growers that they are mild. At only $2 for a dozen or so, I knew I couldn’t go wrong at least giving them a try. The garlic is from last week’s market trip – a luscious variety so very different from grocery store commodities as to be an almost wholly other species.

They're so green, they look like little melons.

 These just made me smile – practically perfect, bright green – I might be in love.

Sure wish I knew what variety these are...

 So very juicy I had to slice them carefully over top of the food processor’s bowl so I didn’t lose even a drop of their goodness.

Think I diced it finely enough?

 Not wanting to take a chance that I’d get this salsa hotter than I could handle, I removed the seeds and diced the little green pepper finely.

Almost ready for go-time!

 Full food processor – time to add a splash of olive oil (probably about 2 tablespoons or so) and fire that puppy up!

Hmm... Doesn't look terribly appetizing, does it?

 There really wouldn’t have been anything wrong with leaving the salsa like this. After I processed it, I mixed in the diced onions that I’d reserved, but it was just so watery that it didn’t seem “finished”. What else did I buy today, what else could fill this out? Hmm…

FRESH, RAW SWEET CORN – YES!!!

Salsa finished - ready to hang out in the fridge and "mingle".

 So much better and perfectly acceptable to eat as-is. So I did. Eat some. Then tried to figure out what else I could slather it over. Then remembered that I’d only finished breakfast about 30 minutes earlier. Not to mention the half pint or so of tomatoes I ate while I was fixing it. Yeah.

So it’s hanging out in my refrigerator, flavors getting good and matured together. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with it, but guaranteed I’ll enjoy the fool out of it!

I just can’t resist – I have at least three recipes hanging out in the wings, replete with photos, but summer seems to hold a premium on my time that just won’t allow for sit-down-and-type-a-proper-blog-post. A shrug of the shoulders follows and I figure I’ll catch up over the winter.

HOW.E.VER

I can’t resist throwing out a teaser of things to come, like a Zucchini Raw Pasta that was tested and found more-than-passable by raw foodies and those not so into that lifestyle alike. I’m also scheming an alternate version of my friend’s luscious mac and cheese recipe, probably with black beans because my littlest child loves his “bees” (we’re working on getting the “n” in there).

The Farmer’s Market near my home has yielded some wonderful food, including my first ever brush with garlic from somewhere other than the grocery store. W-O-W!! I couldn’t believe the difference – the soft, velvety texture and gentler aroma of the fresh garlic was just another reminder of why I’m trying to learn more about fresh, whole foods. Exquisite!

So. Teaser for you, my Dear Reader, and motivation for me to follow-up later! Happy Eating!!

Have window sill, can grow.

This could possibly be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. No, really. I think it might even beat out the time when I was 18 and talked two elderly, retired gentlemen I’d never met before to motor me around Lake Lanier (in North Georgia) to find some friends who were out on a sailboat I’d never seen before and that had no working radio on board.

I. Am. Growing. Something. Edible.

Beans + Water + Time = Sprouts

Purposely. For the very first time. Ever.

They were shrivelled before they went into the cold water. I promise.

So, yeah, you can get technical with me if you really must and point out that I’m only sprouting them, not actually growing them into full and proper plants that will produce more of the same.

Bah, I say – These suckers are G-R-O-W-I-N-G!

Look at these lovely little sprouts!

Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about actually eating them once they’re grown. Especially since I missed a rinse cycle this morning. The instructions for sprouting all have a ring of absolute authority to them and I have no previous experience, even as a bystander, so I’m wary. I’ve rinsed them well to try and get the slightly slippery feeling mostly gone. There’s also a portion of the batch that’s grown more than the rest so I’ve separated them out. The “less grown” have gone back into my sprouting jar and the “more grown” (I’m tempted to call them “horny”) are in the process of drying out so I can seal them and refrigerate them until tomorrow.

It's horny... Like a unicorn!

Upcoming: Sprouted Raw Almond Hummus – Because I’m soaking some almonds now, too. Wheee!

Wow... Now I want ANOTHER!

There’s a lot of stuff in this one besides chicken, so I’m tempted to come up with another name for it. Honestly, though? I’m doing well enough as it is to be sitting at the computer writing a blog post. Not that I haven’t been at the computer enough already today (read: “real” work from 6:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) (yes, those times are correct) (no, I don’t intend to repeat that again tomorrow as I have already logged similar hours the first three days this week), it’s just that I really liked my thrown-together version and wanted to share it. Immediately. As in, without waiting for the Creativity Genie to show up and give me a good name for this concoction.

For the record, I categorized this as “Convenient & Conscious”, but truth be told, it’s closer to the former and rather far from the latter in most respects. Still, I made it myself which meant I had control of the constituent elements. Always a good thing in my book!

I started with a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken from our friendly, neighborhood Publix. I’d had a thought that I might just pick up some pre-made chicken salad from their deli but what I found in the case was far too “wet” for my preference. Yuck-o to mayo! Okay, most mayo, most of the time, the way most people wield it.

The chicken contributed the better part of one breast. Yes, I could have picked the carcass clean, but I had been hungry when I left work, driven to Publix, navigated the after-work crowds, and finished my drive home. I diced it up pretty small because I’m opposed to getting a huge chunk in my mouth. Textural issues, mm-hm.

Then I diced two celery ribs into small cubes, about the same size as the chicken. Good for crunch! Next I added about half a bag of – don’t shoot me – SunMaid Fruit Bits. I liked the variety: apples, raisins, peaches, prunes, apricots. Who could resist?

I contemplated adding nuts and settled on pinenuts. I don’t think they’re real nuts (seeds, maybe?) but they’re the sort of crunchy I was hoping to get. A sprinkle of pepitas (a.k.a. hulled, roasted, salted pumkin seeds) followed, then a very obnoxious generous helping of hempseeds. At the end of it all, I mixed in some Smart Balance mayo – the smallest amount I felt like I could get by with and have it seem close enough to something I could reasonably call “chicken salad”. I don’t know why it needed to fit under that umbrella, it just did. Deal.

It stinks that my husband is probably going to finish off the rest of it that I didn’t have for dinner but I suppose he’s entitled to eat, too. Drat!

Oh! And the wrap was a brand I’d never tried before but really enjoyed: La Tortilla Factory’s Smart & Delicious Whole Grain White Soft Wraps made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Each tortilla wrap is only 100 calories and has 13 grams of FIBER – that’s 52% of the RDA. Wheeee! They’re just a little stretchy rather than the dry, brittle standard flour tortillas you get grocery-marketing. I’m not brave enough to try making my own tortillas – okay, well, I really just don’t want to get the whole counter all flour-y – so these will do just fine.

What do you put in YOUR chicken salad?

Scrumptious!

Wondering how to make your tuna salad better than the slop they serve at the diner on the corner? There are lots of simple ways to improve on the standard tuna-mayo-relish-bread that many of us grew up eating. I must confess, though; I never ate tuna salad before I met my husband. It’s true: Never. I don’t like mayonnaise, fish has never been a favorite, and eating COLD fish always just seemed so ew!

Nevertheless, the hubby convinced me [shocker] to try it out. On Ritz crackers, of course. And I really enjoyed his version! Pretty standard alternate combo: tuna-hard boiled egg-mayo-salt-pepper. I’d never eaten egg salad before either so it was a totally new thing altogether.

There are several small ways to turn this into a conscious, while still convenient, meal that’s delicious to boot. Encorporate them all together for the most impact or simply choose the ones that you are most comfortable using.

Tuna: go for a wild-caught tuna that has a low mercury content, like Oregon’s Choice.

Eggs: Locally-sourced, organic, pastured chicken eggs provide the highest quality but may not be readily available in your area. Check your local supermarket, farmers market or CSAs to find ethically produced eggs.

Mayonnaise: If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can certainly make your own. Or there are plenty of organic, vegetarian and vegan options in the average grocery store. We usually have one made with canola or olive oil hanging around our refrigerator.

Celery: Since you’ll be eating all of the stalk (i.e. there’s no peel to remove), it’s best to go for organic to minimize your exposure to unwanted pesticide residue. If that’s not an option, wash well with a fruit & vegetable wash. I like to diced mine into small squares to maximize their CRUNCH potential!

Salt: A good quality celtic sea salt or other salt that hasn’t been stripped of its naturally occuring minerals, like Himalayan pink sea salt really enhances both the flavor and the nutrient profile. Conventional table salt that’s been treated with caustic chemicals is a wholly different, non-nutritional additive that can contribute to a host of maladies, including high blood pressure. Not. Good.

Pepper: Get out your grinders! Use any variety of whole peppercorn you prefer, grinding it fresh into your tuna salad as the final ingredient. Such a wonderful flavor that really contributes depth to the taste profile of the whole dish.

Finally, get creative with your presentation. Sure, you can always dig out some stale crackers, but why not give it a gorgeous green gown? I piled mine on crisp green leaf lettuce and baby spinach leaves then sprinkled hempseeds on top. Roll into a wrap and voila!

Patience Required to Photograph before Enjoying

Borrowed from Atlanta Rawks

Even the best of cooks draw inspiration from other lovers of cuisine. Personally, I am perpetually in need of a food muse. Oftentimes, food itself arouses my creativity, getting my juices flowing when their, erm, juices start flowing.

One of my favorite, newfound sources of influence is an Atlanta-based group of vegan and raw food enthusiasts who organize weekly potlucks. These dinners provide true “soul food”; they invite you to push yourself to find the purest ingredients and draw out the foods’ natural flavors. It’s exciting to try new foods when you know that they were created with a genuine sense of integrity and open-minded exploration, utilizing unconventional means, innovative techniques and sometimes ancient methods.

Blogger (and all-around groovy chick) Sarah Ku posted this entry about our adventure a couple weekends ago. She graciously linked to my recipe for Raw Asparagus Quinoa that I whipped up (read: spent several hours creating) special for the event. It was the first fully raw vegan dish I had ever created with the intent of making a nutritious, raw, vegan main course. Sure, I’ve made fruit salads before or regular veggie salads and those would certainly abide by the spirit of the gatherings, but I really wanted to get outside my comfort zone, stretch my ever-expanding abilities and really present the group something I was proud to share. It was received enthusiastically and has given me a much-needed boost of confidence.

Not to mention a solid helping of inspiration!

*This post has been entered into the category of Confessions for two reasons: 1) it was one of the only ones that made sense to put it in and 2) it’s challenging to remain conscious enough to acknowledge your source material and, as such, revealing the source of my inspiration is a “confession” of sorts.

I do so adore the color green.

Whenever the kitchen beckons to me all the way home from work, even forcing a $30 sidetrip to Kroger for specific ingredients, it’s a call I must heed. It’s also probably not the time to be nearby unless you don’t mind being a guinea pig trying out my sometimes-unusual creations. If your palette is limited (as mine was for the first three decades of my life), you’d better high-tail it before I harangue you – in a congenial way, of course – about being “a picky wuss”. Or something more colorful if I know you well enough.

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What's in this little dish?

 

A small post about a small meal for a very small, little person. Sometimes it’s easy to take forgranted that these little people in our lives (alternately known as children, kids, offspring, monsters munchkins or wee bebes) get good nutrition when they’re good eaters like my two-year-old is. He loves him some ‘nanas, grapes (a.k.a. “Ball, ball!”), pears, pineapple, melon, tomatoes, sweet potato, rice, beans and pepitas. He’s not so keen on meat, which doesn’t bother me in the least… most of the time.

Occasionally, though, I’ll be trying to cobble together a small meal for said small fellow and what do I have on hand? Some leftover grass-fed ground beef crumbles from Friday night’s dinner. The Dad, The Big Brother and The Mom all had some in their quesadillas (wheat tortillas, thank you) but that’s a meal the little one just doesn’t care for in the least. Enter steamed sushi rice. Okay, so now I have something to mix the meat into but that seems kind of… dull.

What else, what else? Ah! Extra virgin coconut oil (which, I find when I extract it from the pantry, is already liquified due to ridiculously warm Spring days in Georgia and therefore perfect for drizzling). Good, that’s good for its health and sensory benefits. Oh! And hempseed because what CAN’T you sprinkle hempseed on?!? One more thing, I think… Cashews! We are blessedly free of nut allergies (Yay!) so this adds a brilliant, softish crunch.

It only required a little time, a little thought, some little additions but the result is a mindful dish fit for my lil’ bit!

Mountain Rose Herbs

Mountain Rose Herbs