Creating

While every other food blogger was posting their Thanksgiving masterpieces earlier this month, I was busy refreshing my repertoire by digging into my older cookbooks and looking online. I came across an old favorite called, “Whole World Cookbook.” It features international macrobiotic cuisine and the book comes from the editors of the now defunct East West Journal.”

Every Thanksgiving I make the cranberry relish from that book. In my humble opinion, it is perfect.

There is a plethora of recipes out there! One might think there is nothing new that can be created. That is not so. When you make the recipe it is yours. Not talking about copyrights–obviously you can’t copy a recipe and say it is yours now. But originality is closely linked with imagination. When you imagine how you will make a dish, it is your original dish. It is your personal touch, your presentation, your seasoning, your judgment that makes the dish yours.

For me cooking is an art.  It is my outlet for creativity. Even if the recipe came from someone else’s repertoire.

The simplest thing, created by you, can be amazing!

For a Thanksgiving event, I signed up for Maple Glazed Carrots. At the time, I did not know exactly what Maple Glazed Carrots would be. It just sounded good. As it turned out, they were ridiculously simple and came out so so delicious. This was my original.

How will you make it yours?

Maple Glazed Carrots

6 large organic carrots, washed and scrubbed

3 inch piece of kombu seaweed

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of maple syrup

2 Tsps arrowroot mixed in a little cold water

Umeboshi vinegar

1/4 cup rough chopped Italian parsely

Cut the carrots by slicing the carrot on a diagonal to make a chunk about 1 inch long. Rotate the carrot 1/4 around and slice diagonally again. Rotate 1/4 and slice. Keep going. This method allows you to adjust for variations in the size of the root vegetable so all your pieces are about the same size and will cook in the same amount of time.

Brush off a 3-inch piece of kombu seaweed and put it in the bottom of 3 quart pan and add the water. Let the kombu rehydrate and then add the carrots and sprinkle with sea salt. Use a lid on the pan. Heat up over medium heat until the carrots start to steam and then turn the heat down to low and continue cooking until the carrots are tender but not falling apart. Keep an eye on the water and add more if needed.

When the carrots are tender remove them from the pan. Set aside the kombu to use in another dish.

In the pan, there should still be some liquid left. If there isn’t, put about 4 tablespoons of water in it. Add maple syrup. Add arrowroot that was mixed with cold water and heat it up stirring constantly until everything thickens to a nice glaze consistency. You can adjust the amounts of liquid and arrowroot as needed. Turn off the heat and add a splash of umeboshi vinegar into it. A little bit of this brings out all the flavors and cuts the sweetness just a little.

Mix the glaze into the carrots and garnish with parsely.

MGC 3

 

 

 

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What’s Hiding in My Pancakes?

Wait just a minute!

What is hiding in my pancakes this morning?!

They look pretty normal. In fact they look pretty darned good. They tasted really good too. They had something extra—a taste, a texture, an additional je ne sais quoi!

HIDING IN PANCAKES PAINT

What’s hiding in these pancakes? (Hints:  A full serving of veggies but you can’t see them even on the inside. Yellow and stringy but so tender there’s no telltale sign of it. Delicate in taste, but so subtle one might never know.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cup of cooked spaghetti squash mixed into organic, whole grain pancakes.

Cauliflower Cassoulet

Hello!  Spring is here and I have emerged from hibernation. Over the last three months we have been moving our household and getting the new place set up. I am loving my new kitchen that actually has counter space, cabinet space, pantry space and a lot of other great features.

I’ve been inspired, cooking-wise to create some new things! Here is a great dish for transitioning from winter to spring. It has just enough warmth and comfort food quality to satisfy when the air chills at night and just enough lightness and freshness to energize us.

Cauliflower Cassoulet

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsely
  • 1-2 shallots
  • 2-3 tablespoons sweet white miso
  • 1 umeboshi plum
  • whole wheat bread crumbs (or if you can’t eat wheat, use roughly ground almonds or non-gluten crumbs)
  • herbs of choice–I used oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, crushed anise seeds, celery seeds
  • olive oil
  • (Optional) vegan shredded mozarella

CAULIFLOWER CASSOULET INGREDIENTS

I started out with a head of cauliflower I wanted to use and looked through my refrigerator and pantry for some likely ingredients. I decided on a tofu cream sauce, shallots and parsley. On the left there are umeboshi plums–a Japanese traditional pickled plum that has both a salty and a sour taste. On the right in the little tub is sweet white miso–another traditional Japanese delight made with fermented soybeans.

TOFU CREAM SAUCE

Combine a package of firm tofu with 2-3 tablespoons of sweet white miso and the meat of an umeboshi plum. If you don’t want to try umeboshi plums, you can substitute a bit of red wine vinegar and a little sea salt. Blend these up until you have a creamy sauce. You can add a little water if the mixture seems too thick.

SWEAT THE SHALLOTS

Slice 1 or 2 shallots and put them into a hot pan with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. You just need to sweat them a little. They glisten with the oil but will not be completely limp.

CAULIFLOWER WITH SHALLOT AND PARSLEYBlanch pieces of cauliflower for a minute or two, chop up parsley and add the cooked shallots.  Oil a casserole or baking dish and put the veggies in.

CUSTOM BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

Customize your bread crumb topping. I used whole wheat bread crumbs and seasoned it with salt, pepper and herbs/spices of choice. I prefer seasoning bread crumbs myself so I can control the amount of salt and the taste. Can’t do whole wheat? Try topping with roughly ground almonds or gluten-free bread crumbs.

READY FOR THE OVEN

Pour your tofu cream sauce evenly over the veggies.

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the cassoulet.

You’re ready to bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and everything is all bubbly good.  The last five minutes of baking, I added a sprinkle of vegan shredded mozarella. Vegan cheeses don’t appeal to me a great deal but they look nice as a garnish sometimes and they help when your family is transitioning away from dairy foods. Just know that vegan cheese is basically congealed oil and doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own.

FINISHED

Finished! Very delicious and very satisfying served with a salad.

Simply Green

FRESH COLLARDS

In the cooler months, dark leafy greens start to show some muscle. Just look at these big collard greens! They’re dark, they’re hearty, and their chock full of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K and many other vitamins and minerals.

Remove the stems (save for later) and lightly boil the whole, uncut leaves in water with a pinch of sea salt until they are just tender and still very bright. It is important not to overcook them. I look for them to be pliable but with lots of body,  Al dente!

Spread the leaves out on a flat tray or dish so they can cool without continuing to cook and soften.

READY TO ROLL

Use a sushi mat to roll the leaves. You’ll have to fold the leaves to fit the rectangular shape of the sushi mat.

ROLLED

Squeeze any excess liquid out of the rolls and slice them. Try angle slices as well as straight ones. I like to dot each section with umeboshi plum paste, giving the greens a salty and sour garnish and a punch of beautiful red color!  Power-packed bite-sized deliciousness. Enjoy!

Sweet and Savory Root Vegetable Casserole

When I was driving to my natural food store this afternoon to do my weekly shopping, I was thinking about turnips and cranberries.

You know how it is — you get some stubborn ingredient in your head and you have no idea what you’ll do with it, but nevertheless, there it is waiting to become your latest creation.

Sweet and Savory Root Vegetable Casserole

I don’t usually go for “casseroles,” but I didn’t know what else to call this. It’s not exactly a pie even though it does have a bottom crust.

You can leave out the crust altogether if you want to. I included it because I am busy over here making vegetable dishes more appealing to my Hubbin’ who generally loves the food I make for him. I also included it because I didn’t want a heavy, gooey filling. Instead, the crust kept the dish somewhat together.

As you know, I use organic ingredients whenever possible.

  • Whole wheat single pastry crust of your choice, uncooked
  • 2 Medium turnips
  • 1 Yam
  • 1 Yellow onion diced
  • 1 Cup Cranberries
  • 1 Granny Smith apple diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 Cups toasted Walnuts
  • Fresh thyme

Slice the turnips and yam into half-inch slices. Pre-steam them (just plain – no salt or seasonings) for about 12 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart.

Mix the diced onions, cranberries and apple with olive oil, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and spread them on a baking dish in a single layer. Roast them in an oven at 350 degrees, turning them every so often so they are evenly done, about half an hour.

Roast the diced onions and green apple and the cranberries in olive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 30 minutes.

Roast the diced onions, green apple and the cranberries in olive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 30 minutes.

Grind the toasted walnuts to a rough crumble – about 3 pulses in a processor or 10 seconds on a low speed in the Vitamix. Or just chop them up. Mix the ground walnuts into the roasted onion/apple/cranberry mixture.

Layer the turnips onto the crust, then a layer of the onion/fruit/walnut mix. A layer of yams next and then the rest of the onion/fruit/walnut mix. Sprinkle fresh thyme on top. All seasonings are according to your taste! Some of you know what you like and the rest of you will become much better cooks if you start using your own intuition and knowingness and find out what you like.  😉

You can also use other kinds of root vegetables. As you know, I had turnips on the brain today.

Bake the casserole for 15 – 18 minutes until the crust is done. That’s the advantage of pre-steaming the root veggies—it doesn’t have to bake for long. Let the casserole sit for a few minutes before slicing it.

The result? Very satisfying yet not heavy and overly filling. Loved the tart accent from the cranberries!

The result? Very satisfying yet not heavy and overly filling. Loved the tart accent from the cranberries!

I served mine with Brown Rice and Hokkaido Azuki Beans, Very Lightly Boiled Kale and a side of Sauerkraut. Perfect Sunday Supper!.

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Now that cooler weather is here, the Brussels Sprout crop is in and these cute little cabbage-like vegetables are at their peak. I know a lot of people don’t like Brussels Sprouts but I am convinced the reason is mostly because not much went into the preparation. I wanted to create something savory that had some sweetness but that still had some freshness. Overcooked Brussels Sprouts are not very appetizing.

A warm vegetable salad is just right!

BEAUTIFUL WARM BRUSSELS SPROT SALAD

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Crushed garlic
  • Red pepper
  • Olives
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pepper

It is important when using Brussels sprouts that you cut them in such a way that the pieces will cook evenly. I washed about a pound and cut them in half and then split the exposed core. You will have half pieces of Brussels sprouts but the core will be cut in two so it will be tender when the rest of the half is. That way you don’t overcook your Brussels sprouts trying to get the core softened.

Slice one red onion into half moons, dice a red pepper, peel the garlic. Use as much or as little as you wish—I used 3 cloves.  Slice 6-8 pitted olives of choice—I used green Cerignolas. (If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that I’m going to invite you to click on the word and learn to say it like our Italian friends do!)

Begin sauteing the red onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until you see the onions begin to sweat. Add the Brussels sprouts and some more salt and saute for a minute or two. Add the crushed garlic and some spring water and put on a lid. Steam these for about 15 minutes so they are just tender but haven’t lost their freshness. Add the red pepper and olives and let them cook a moment. Add the fresh basil at the very end. I shredded mine (chiffonade).

Immediately remove from the heat and dress with balsamic vinegar. I used a basil-raspberry white balsamic. There are many choices of balsamic so please pick one that is available and that you like. Adjust with a bit more olive oil if you want and also pepper. Serve warm.

This became my main course for dinner. Sweet and satisfying!

In a Pickle

If I were the type of person who posted photographs of cute things on Facebook, would I post comical little kittens doing cute things? No. Puppies looking adorable and being mischievous? Nope. Precious babies? Not until I have grandchildren.

I’d post the cutest little vegetable ever . . . the Kirby Cucumber! Who can resist those plump little cukes? Just look at them! They make you want to just pick them up and take them right home with you!

Aren't they the cutest?

Aren’t they the cutest?

And that’s exactly what I did! Kirby’s are not usually sold for more than a few weeks in the summer where I live, so when I see them I adopt buy them.  Then I get them pickled right quick so I can enjoy their yummy cuteness for a little while longer.

With just two of us at home and no garden space, I don’t go in for a lot of time-consuming food preservation. I like to make quick pickles which can easily be ready in just a few days. You can take this basic recipe and then add spices.  You are welcome to add such things as mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, celery seeds, garlic or whatever your pickle-lovin’ heart desires. You can also slice the cukes into about 1/2 inch slices and they will be ready to eat in a few hours.

Do make sure you start with a clean jar and lid and add the recommended amount of salt to ensure your pickles will last until you have eaten them all (which is never a problem for me since I love me some pickles!)

Easy Lemon Dill Pickles

  • 10 Kirby cucumbers, washed and dried (orgainic if you can find them)
  • 2 Tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 2 cups Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups Spring water
  • Sprigs of Dill
  • Lemon peel shavings from one organic lemon
  • Clean glass jar with lid—I had a 2-quart jar but you can use a smaller jar or two different jars, or whatever you’ve got on hand.
These babies are in a pickle!

These babies are in a pickle!

Wash and dry the cukes and slice them if desired—I like spears.  I read somewhere that if you trim off the flower end of the cucumber (opposite the stem end) the pickles will be firmer and I’ve found this to be true.  Put the sea salt, water and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and then let it cool down a bit. Stuff your cucumbers into the jar so they are packed in really well.  You want them tight enough that they won’t float to the top when you add the brine and get exposed to air. Pack the sprigs of dill and the lemon shavings in there too.  Pour your brine into the jar to thoroughly cover the cucumbers.  Tap the jar on the counter to get rid of air bubbles. When the brine is completely cool, close the lid and put the pickles in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in a day or two and they will “evolve” as they continue pickling in the refrigerator.  Eat them within about a month.

You can use this type of brine for pickling other veggies too!

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you may know that I’m going to recommend my favorite pickle dish, peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Nothing could be more delicious!

Roasted Cauliflower

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

We experienced a little remnant of cooler weather last night so I prepared a slightly more warming dish along with a lighter one.

It was cool enough to turn the oven on for a Roasted Cauliflower dish I’ve been wanting to make. I saw one version of it in the newspaper last month and I took the idea and created my own version and served it with a lighter dish—steamed kale and shiitake mushrooms with tofu.

Roasted Cauliflower (Serves 4-6)

  • One large head of organic cauliflower (about 2 pounds) washed and cut into florets.
  • 1/2 large onion cut in half and each layer separated
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • sea salt
  • spices of your choice. Tonight I used paprika, coriander, cumin and garlic.
  • fresh ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spread the cauliflower and onions onto a roasting pan. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, sea salt and spices to suite your tastes. Drizzle the seasoning mixture over the cauliflower and stir to get each piece coated. Sprinkle with pepper.

Roast the cauliflower until it’s tender, about 35 minutes. Stir occasionally while it’s cooking.

Simply Radishing

Today’s Daily Prompt: Turn, Turn, Turn asks, For many of us, winter is blooming into spring, or fall hardening into winter. Which season do you most look forward to?

Though I wouldn’t have a problem living in any climate whether hot or cold or dry or humid, I think I am like most folks as far as seasons go. I rejoice in whatever is coming next!

I have lived in places where winter consists of a few weeks of rain and cooler temps and where decorating the palm tree for Christmas is common. I’ve also lived where winter thrives well into the “springtime” months and begins again before the official end of “summer.”

Maybe I should call myself a “fair weather friend!” Because I love the promise of the changing season more than the season itself. I love the broader viewpoint that comes from observing the daily nuances—sometimes hardly perceptible—that reflect bigger planetary motions which give us a changing season and the illusion of the passing of time.

April is no exception.

This is the time of year when I crave much lighter food including a LOT more vegetables. The weather gets hot very quickly here in New Mexico and actually I’ve been adjusting my menu choices for over a month now to prepare for it.

What caught my eye recently are these vibrant-looking radishes!

radishing

I like to make a very light pressed salad with radishes and greens when the greens are this fresh and wonderful.

Pressed radish salad

  1. Wash the greens and radishes thoroughly (they can have quite a bit of sand and dirt) then separate the greens from the roots. Slice the roots thinly. The quickest and easiest way to do that is to cut them in half lengthwise and then slice vertically. A good, sharp knife makes all the difference!
  2. Roughly chop the greens including the stems and put them in a bowl with the sliced radishes
  3. Sprinkle it all with sea salt and mix it around until the greens start to glisten. The salt draws some of the moisture out of the vegetables. 
  4. Find a small plate that fits into the bowl and place it on top of the radishes and greens. Then find a heavy can or jar or rock and put that on top of the plate. The weight will help to “press” the salad.
  5. Press the salad at least a half hour. You can press it for as long as you like, but the longer you press it, the more “pickled” the veggies will be. I like them just lightly pressed myself. This takes a little of the raw taste out of the radishes but maintains its fresh, light character.
  6. Rinse excess salt off of the salad and spin or pat it dry. You can dress this if you want to but I don’t. Keep in mind that if you add vinegar or citrus it will turn the greens dark. So add that just before serving.
I don't trim off the green stub from the stem if it looks fresh. I will trim the little dark blemish on that half-sliced radish.

I don’t trim off the green stub from the stem if it looks fresh. I will trim the little dark blemish on that half-sliced radish.

Leafy Green for Springtime Clean

Whew! After all those red beets and red beans, I’m ready for a little green food, aren’t you? Spring has just about sprung where I live and I like to step up the green leafy vegetables around this time of year.

I eat green leafies year-round. Love kale, collards, turnip greens and watercress among others. But this time of year calls for some spring cleaning liver-wise and blood-wise. By that I mean it is time to ingest some foods that will help you clean up any gunk you collected last winter.

There is so much to say about eating greens! They’re full of chlorophyl, minerals and phytonutrients! Do you know what those are?  I like this definition from about.com::

“Definition: Compounds in plants (apart from vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients) that have a beneficial effect the body. There are over 10,000 of them, and they have effects such as antioxidant, boosting the immune system, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and cellular repair. Highly colored vegetables and fruits tend to be highest in these chemicals, but tea, chocolate, nuts, flax seeds, and olive oil are all excellent sources as well. Various families of plants tend towards certain families of phytonutrients, for example, orange foods tend to have the caretenoid group.”

Wow! Over 10,000? That’s right. And there’s no way you are going to know all of them and get them through some kind of vitamin pill.

What I’m here to tell you about today is that eating dark leafy greens every day will give your system a cleansing and besides, they are deeeelicious! Now I’m not talking about lettuce. I know for some people “greens” means lettuce. No, I’m talking about the dark leafy ones.

If you aren’t used to dark leafy greens I would suggest starting with the sweeter tasting ones like kale or collard greens. If you want to be more adventurous, get into the slightly bitter tasting ones such as watercress, turnip greens and rapini. Or, for a whole hog springtime cleanse-o-rama, get yourself some spring season young dandelion greens!

You can steam ’em, you can boil ’em, you can do all sorts of things to ’em. My favorite way to prepare the more bitter variety is to saute them with olive oil and garlic. Mama Mia!

Start with washed greens, olive oil, garlic and sea salt.

Start with washed greens, olive oil, garlic and sea salt. These happen to be called “rapini” greens.  Cut the greens, heat up some oil, add some garlic and then add the greens and sea salt. Saute these until they are all shiny and slightly wilted but still retain their bright green color.

I like a little lemon zest with my garlic and greens . . uh . . .I mean greens and garlic!

I like a little lemon zest with my garlic and greens . . uh . . .I mean greens and garlic!

Combine eating those greens with some other light grain and vegetable based meals, cut back or eliminate animal foods, and watch the caffeine and alcohol and you’ll be clean and green in no time!