Excellent “Chicken” Salad

                      20160518_192746 (004)

This is a wonderful vegan “chicken” flavored sandwich spread that is great for school or work lunches. Packed with protein, taste, and crunch it satisfies on every level. Even if you have a nut allergy, you can still enjoy this scrumptious “chicken” salad with no fear– simply substitute raw cauliflower for the nuts.

 

                      20160517_153017

 

Ingredients:

1- 15 oz. can chick peas, rinse and drain

1 handful each of almonds and cashews OR an equal amount of chopped raw cauliflower.

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

4 – 5 Tbsp. Vegenaise

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1/8 – 1/4  tsp. ginger powder

1/8 – 1/4 tsp. Adobo seasoning salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Method:

Chop scallions and celery (and cauliflower if using) — set aside.

Blend remaining ingredients in food processor ( blend only enough to chop — you want it kind of chunky, not creamy).

Place blended ingredients in a bowl and add chopped scallions and celery (and cauliflower). Mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Makes 6 – 8 great sandwiches!

Community Organic Garden Opening Day

Saturday, May 7, was the Opening Day Celebration/ Seedling Sale/ Potluck Lunch at the West Milford, NJ Community Organic Garden. After a full week of rain, threatening clouds did not put a damper on these festivities. Apple Acres was buzzing with gardeners shopping for organic seedlings and sharing delicious food in the beautiful Apple Acres Mill Barn (circa 1809).  A wonderful time was had by all!

20160507_110111 20160507_110203 20160507_111705 (002)

20160507_110214 20160507_110122 

 

Escala Latin Bistro

126 Airport Rd., West Milford, NJ 07480. Phone: 973-506-6096. Fax: 973-506-4563

Escala Latin Bistro

Escala Latin Bistro is a relatively new restaurant in West Milford. Located at the Greenwood Lake Airport in the newly remodeled site of a former eatery, the interior of this restaurant is bright and cheerful with Latin American travel posters on the wall and tabletop graphics that look like airport runways. Just sitting there makes you want to book a flight to somewhere warm and exotic.

We had heard good things about this restaurant, so I really wanted to like this place. I was looking forward to a pleasant first-time lunch there with my husband, but this is an honest review of my personal experience at Escala. My first disappointment was the menu — not one vegetarian entrée! Well, we’ve faced this dilemma before, so I tried my favorite tactic; I ordered the San Pedro Chicken Salad, minus the meat, and requested that grilled vegetables be substituted for the chicken. The waitress consulted the chef and came back with the news that he had only squash as a grilled vegetable. That didn’t sound very appealing, so I settled for the Avocado Salad and Yucca Fries instead. My husband ordered the Caribbean Caesar Salad with green plantain croutons and a Cheese Quesadilla (from the children’s menu). The choices for vegetarians seemed mighty slim. We both ordered iced tea, brewed and unsweetened for me, bottled sweet for him.

When they arrived our salads were large and pleasing to the eye, however, while eating mine I discovered many wilted and yellowed leaves among the baby salad greens. The waitress offered to have the salad remade using only romaine lettuce, but knowing how fast my husband eats and how slow I am, I decided to just keep the salad I had and push the objectionable greens off to the side. The sliced avocado was fresh. Besides that the only other adornments to this salad were a couple of grape tomatoes and a few strips of mild cheese (maybe 4). The oil and vinegar dressing was unseasoned and unremarkable. Honestly, the salad was unimpressive. On the other hand, this was the first time I’d ever had yucca fries and didn’t know what to expect, but they were delicious! (I offered one to my husband and then had  to stop him from eating them all himself!) The home-brewed unsweetened tea was very weak — almost as clear as water. He was satisfied with his bottled sweet tea, so unless you are staying away from sugar that would be the better option.

As underwhelmed as we were with our lunches, we decided to try one more item. Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was the featured dessert on the tiny plastic menu stand on the table , so we ordered one to share. While waiting for our dessert to be served, we turned over the tiny plastic menu stand and lo and behold, there was a list of Empanadas that could be ordered individually… no fewer that 5 were vegetarian! Why weren’t these printed on the main menu? Why didn’t our waitress tell us about them when she knew we were diligently searching for something that didn’t contain meat? Major failure to pay attention to detail on several fronts.

When delivered, the Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was beautifully presented with strawberry syrup swirled on the plate and a cloud of whipped cream holding two chocolate cookie sticks on the side. That little treat was enough to make us decide to give this place one more try. We will return to Escala sometime in the future. Hopefully, by then they will have added some vegetarian entrees to the menu. If not, we now know to look behind the dessert menu for the list of vegetarian empanadas!

Turmeric Pickled Cauliflower*

Turmeric, and its active component curcumin, has been used for thousands of years in India, and recent research confirms that its anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful in the treatment of many conditions. Turmeric also gives food a warm golden color.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable. Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Brassica genus and include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels spouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi. These plant powerhouses contain potent antioxidants which may reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Their anti-viral, anti-bacterial effects have been shown to fight illness and inhibit tumor growth.

This simple recipe incorporates both of these natural disease fighters. Tart and tangy, serve it cold as a salad topper or as a colorful addition to a relish tray.

20160318_183658

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower

1 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cups warm water

3 TBS. Sugar (cuts the acid)

2 TBS. Kosher salt

2 tsp. ground turmeric

1 dry bay leaf

1 Mason jar

Disinfect Mason jar before beginning by placing it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.

Cut cauliflower into small florets that are evenly sized. Place florets into Mason jar and set aside.

In a small pot, add turmeric, bay leaf, salt, and sugar. Once dry ingredients are combined, add water and vinegar, creating a brine.

Bring your brine to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes.

Pour boiling brine into your Mason jar to cover cauliflower.

Seal and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

20160321_083322 pickled cauliflower

 

*Courtesy of Ellie Kahlon and Matthew Weisberg, Novo Mediterranean Restaurant, 37 Chestnut St., Ridgewood, NJ. 201-444-4910; novomediterranean.com

 

 

 

Beauty of Sprouts

   It’s been some time since I’ve posted a restaurant review, but while vacationing in Florida we came upon a new restaurant that simply must be recognized. If you try to eat vegan, or even just healthfully, then you know how difficult it is to find a restaurant that meets your needs. Even vegetarian restaurants bury their entrées in cheese. Eating a vegan meal when out on the town can stretch your creativity to the limit.

   Today we were fortunate enough to stumble upon Beauty of Sprouts, 1474 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL; 941-350-8449. Chef  Rano has worked at Rockefeller Center and is an award winning chef in her native Russia. Her menu features all vegan, mostly raw, dishes that are lovingly prepared and artfully presented at reasonable prices. Fresh healthy sprouts are the highlight of each dish.

   As an appetizer, we ordered guacamole with spicy dehydrated crackers. The portion was generous enough for two hungry people to nosh on while we waited for our entrées, and we devoured it all. My husband also ordered the mildly seasoned, sprouted hot mung bean soup, because he eats likes to eat soup whenever he can get it. As an entrée he had the vegan burrito, which was wrapped in a chard leaf instead of a flour tortilla. He liked the filling of fresh veggies and side of salsa, but left the chard leaf on the plate — just his personal preference. I had the raw vegan Pad Thai. It was scrumptious! A mountain of thinly sliced cabbage and carrots, kelp noodles and cashews all served in a tangy sauce. I loved it! Several beverage options are on the menu, including some unique teas and homemade Kombucha, but as we were feeling dehydrated after a day of vacation fun we chose the restaurant’s own purified, ionized, alkalinized water to drink. We topped off our meal with a lovely raw lavender crème brulee for dessert. The serving was deceivingly small but filling, and you don’t want to miss this sweet taste of heaven!

   If you like chatting with the friendly chef, clean bright surroundings, and nutritious food, then you will surely enjoy Beauty of Sprouts. This was definitely the healthiest meal of our entire  vacation. We like to eat nutritionally dense food and also to get the most nutrition for our dollar. Beauty of Sprouts meets both criteria. If you ever want a delicious, guilt-free meal in Sarasota, then this is the place for you!

Dehydrated Green Beans*

Don’t try this at home!

I love the crunchy dried green beans you can find in tiny plastic boxes at our natural food store. At nearly $5.00 a pop though, it’s an occasional splurge we like to take on long road trips to balance out the unhealthy snacks found at most roadstops. With this in mind, I was delighted to find several recipes for dehydrated green beans online at the very time I had about a gallon of organic green beans from my garden just waiting to be used,(how fortunate was that?), and so decided to try dehydrating them myself.

Let me just say that not every recipe you see online is a good one, not every glowing review is to be trusted, and not every kitchen adventure is a success. Some recipes should NEVER be shared. If it’s a failure, even the best cook should just admit it and move on. In the spirit of full disclosure then, and because it made me laugh, I have to tell you about this experience… because it was a total DISASTER!

Full of anticipation, I washed and lightly blanched the green beans in boiling water, just as the instructions recommended. Then drained them and blotted them dry with paper towels. I had read that slicing the beans French-style( long ways) helped them dry more evenly, so I did that, too. Seasoning in the online recipes varied, so I just used my favorite: a little lemon juice olive oil and sea salt. It all seemed so simple; what could go wrong? When I put the seasoned green beans in the dehydrator they looked like this… beautiful, right?

Dehydrated Green Beans 1

I set the dehydrator to 105 degrees in order to maintain the living enzymes in the vegetables and went to bed. Eight hours later, when I checked their progress I saw this:

Dehydrated Green Beans 2

The bright green beans had turned into brownish leathery strips — not crunchy at all! Hmmm, what to do to salvage these beans? I decided to leave them in the dehydrator for a longer time to see if that would help. Still at 105 degrees, I waited another six hours and checked again. They couldn’t get any worse, could they? Yes!

Dehydrated Green Beans 3

After a total 14 hours in the dehydrator my final product looked like dried brown shoelaces and tasted about the same. One gallon of fresh beans had turned into two loosely filled pint jars. (To be honest a few of those beans did get crispy, but it would take quite a bit of chewing to gnaw through the rest). I think I will save these beans as a reminder that not every recipe you see online is a good one, not every glowing review is to be trusted, and not every kitchen adventure is a success. I share this only for the humor. I hope you laugh as I did, and please, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.

Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Zucchini Tomato Pasta

So, it’s August and every gardener has more zucchini than recipes and more cherry tomatoes than any salad can hold. Here is a simple meal that only takes 15 – 20 minutes to prepare using all your garden abundance. Strikingly beautiful on the plate, I served it as a warm salad on a plate of fresh arugala for even more color and vitamins, but I think any dark leafy greens would work as well.

While you are preparing the vegetables, cook 2 cups small pasta according to package directions (shells, elbow macaroni, or spirals work well). Drain well. Add a few drops of olive oil, and toss to keep pasta from sticking together

. Ingredients:

1 medium size zucchini, cubed

2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole (they will soften as they cook and pop when you chew them — I like that)

2 TBS. Olive oil

1 TBS. Minced garlic (fresh or bottled)

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dry Italian seasoning

Herbamare (seasoned salt) or Himalayan pink salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 – 5 TBS. Marinara sauce

Feta cheese, or cheese substitute for topping (optional)*

Method:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and garlic; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Season with Herbamare and pepper. Add red pepper flakes and dry Italian seasoning. When vegetables are tender add the marinara sauce and heat through. Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables in your skillet and mix gently. Serve warm on a bed of greens.

*If desired, top with feta cheese or feta substitute (There is good recipe for vegan feta,”Betta Feta,” in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, by Jo Stepaniak; Book Publishing Company, Green Press Initiative, 2003).

Vegetable Broth

We’re still in the throes of winter here in the great northeast. Most years I take advantage of a nice cold garage as bonus storage for onions, squash, and root vegetables during the cold winter months. What a surprise I had yesterday when I went to the garage shelf for an onion and discovered that all the vegetables I had stored there had frozen solid.  This is the first time that has ever happened!  Well, I just refused to even think about throwing everything away — what a waste that would be! Instead, I decided to make vegetable broth with my rock-hard stash of fresh frozen, vitamin-packed, organic ice-veggies.  These are the ones I used.WIN_20150303_132932    I’ve made vegetable broth before, and like soup, it never comes out the same way twice.  The flavor depends on the type of vegetables and seasonings you use.  Usually, I make broth when there are more veggies in the fridge than I will be able to use before they die, or when I have collected a varied supply in the freezer from food prep leftovers. This was a rather unusual mixture of flavors, but “waste not want not,” as the saying goes. Some vegetables, namely the cruciferous variety (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), have a strong flavor and will overpower the broth if you use too much.  Fortunately, only the outer inch of the cabbage was frozen, so that and the core are all I used in this broth. I peeled the small pumpkins easily with a regular vegetable peeler, seeded them and cut them into large pieces because I  wanted them stay solid, not cook down to a puree. You should keep all the vegetable chunks rather large — at least over one inch.

In a large stockpot, to these vegetables I added 3 stalks of celery, 6 sliced cloves of garlic and these spices: 1 Tbsp. parsley, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper and one bay leaf. You may use whatever seasonings you prefer and adjust the amount to your liking (this isn’t a precise science), but I have found that you can’t go wrong with these basic seasonings.    WIN_20150303_141051

Add enough water to cover the vegetables (I used about a gallon), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Cool and strain. Discard vegetables. You may freeze the stock in  small batches or refrigerate up to one week.

This homemade organic vegetable stock will add delicious flavor to soups, stews, or rice and other grains.  If you’ve been buying  vegetable broth then you know what a money-saver it is to make your own, and what a wise way to use what otherwise would just be thrown away. Waste not, want not!

 

Dehydrating

This is the coldest winter I can remember. I thought I just felt it more because we’ve relocated farther north (from southern Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey), but the locals tell us that this is the coldest winter on record for these parts. So while the heat runs constantly and everything in the garage freezes solid, I have discovered that keeping the dehydrator running and the kitchen cupboard doors open, our under-the-sink water pipes won’t freeze shut again (as they did a couple of days ago). So, I am dehydrating everything within reach. That appliance is running almost constantly!                                                                       Dehydrating

Dehydrating is so easy to do. Much more convenient than canning, in my opinion, and if you do it at a low temperature (I usually dehydrate at 105 – 107 degrees) the fruits and vegetables retain all the living enzymes of raw food. This is important if you want to get maximum nutrition for your effort. My Excalibur Dehydrator has a fan in the back that constantly blows warm air over all the trays, so I don’t need to babysit it and shuffle the trays around to get even air distribution as you would with a round stacked dehydrator with the fan at the top or bottom. Many times I load the dehydrator at night and in the morning everything is done to perfection. (I would highly recommend an Excalibur to anyone considering such a purchase). At this low temperature, it takes awhile longer to properly dehydrate, but I like things to be thoroughly dehydrated.  When I make chips I want them to be thin and crispy, not tough and chewy like leather. The secret is to slice the fruit and vegetables very thin using a mandolin or a very sharp knife if you have the patience — 1/8 inch thick or less is perfect.

In the photo you can see some of the things I’ve done so far. You can experiment with the seasonings you like, but I will tell you what I used and you can improvise from there.  I only use thoroughly washed organic produce because when dehydrating any chemicals in or on the food will be concentrated. Flavor is also concentrated when foods are dehydrated.  Notice that I did not use any sugar at all.  The natural sweetness of the fruit and vegetables is all you need.

The APPLE CHIPS were easy. Just thinly slice each apple, cut slices in half, remove core parts and any seeds, and lay slices in a single layer on the mesh dehydrator tray. You will get a lot of apple chips from one apple! Some people brush the apple slices with lemon to keep them white, but I don’t think it makes that much difference. Sometimes I sprinkle slices with cinnamon before dehydrating. This time I didn’t.

BANANA CHIPS were peeled, sliced very thin and laid in a single layer on the mesh tray. These I did sprinkle with cinnamon and they tasted great!

RED BEET CHIPS were a first for me. Once again I sliced the beets very thin. I made a marinade of 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. In a large bowl I gently tossed the slices in the marinade until they were evenly coated and let them sit for about a half hour, tossing a couple of times just to make sure each slice was flavored. Each beet, single layer not touching, made a full tray of chips!

SWEET POTATO CHIPS…so yummy! I scrubbed, but did not peel, the sweet potatoes. I cut off about 1/2 inch from each end, thinly sliced them, and placed the slices in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. I gently tossed the slices until each one was coated and placed them in a single layer on a mesh tray.

That’s it. When the dehydrator was full I turned it on at 105 degrees and went to bed. No timer, no turning or repositioning trays, no worries. In the morning everything was dried to a perfect crisp chip. No, the flavors did not transfer, and the house smelled wonderful. We have a supply of healthy chips for snacking, AND with the dehydrator fan blowing 105 degrees all night and the cabinet doors open, our kitchen pipes didn’t freeze!