YOUR PERSONAL SALAD BAR

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You want to eat a healthy meal, but when you arrive home famished the last thing you want to do is spend the next 20 – 30 minutes preparing a fresh salad. You want to eat now! All that washing, chopping, slicing, and dicing veggies each time for a salad is time consuming. All home cooking takes time, but it’s time well spent for your health, and you are worth it — even if you’re cooking for just one person. So, before you give in to the temptation to pop some kind of prepared fast food into the microwave or open yet another can of soup, STOP! There is a more excellent way!

You probably already know that it is wise to cook once to eat twice. This smart idea can be applied to preparing fresh salads, too. You simply need a plan — a specific block of time for food preparation. It is just as easy to prepare veggies for six salads as for one. Your chosen block of time can be any time that is convenient for you, when you are not hungry — before or after work, when the kids are napping or while watching evening TV. And, don’t just stand in the kitchen in silence while you slice and dice (unless you are using this time for prayer or meditation, too). Put on some music, listen to a podcast, practice your French — make it fun!

I have seen those huge salad boxes that people make up once a week for their various salad ingredients, but honestly, most people don’t have that much space in their refrigerator — I know I don’t. I do however, have a couple of plastic relish trays with eight sections each. Each tray has a lid, so they are stackable — what a space saver! When you have your favorite salad ingredients already prepared and waiting to be thrown on top of a heaping handful of triple-washed ready-to-eat greens, eating healthy fresh salads will no longer be a chore you dread. You will be your very own raw chef at a gourmet salad bar featuring only your personal favorites (none of those icky raw onions). It’s all about you, and you are worth it!

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Excellent “Chicken” Salad

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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.

 

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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!

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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

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).

Crunchy Garden Salad

Do you ever get tired of leafy green salads?  With gardens producing just about every vegetable imaginable right now you might want to throw together a colorful vegetable salad that contains no lettuce at all.  The ingredients in this crunchy salad can be altered to accommodate whatever vegetables you have on hand; for a surprising burst of flavor throw in your choice of olives (I like kalamata olives), pickles, banana peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes.

It will be more flavorful if you steam the heavier, more dense vegetables for a few minutes — not too long, just until the color brightens but they still retain some crispiness. Any Italian salad dressing will work well, and it always tastes better the next day after flavors have had time to marinate. Makes a great lunch!

Ingredients:

1/2 head cauliflower florets

1 stalk broccoli florets

2 carrots, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 red radishes, thinly sliced

1 pint halved cherry tomatoes

1 ear fresh corn kernels (sliced off the cob)

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Optional: (any or all) olives, dill pickles, banana peppers, sun-dried tomatoes

Lightly steam cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots until just crisp tender (they will be easier to chew and absorb more flavor if steamed). Cool quickly in very cold water and drain.  Place in a large bowl, add other ingredients and your favorite Italian dressing. Toss to coat everything with dressing and allow to marinate for best flavor (good to make the day before). Serve cold.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

Vegetarian Food Prep: Make it Easy

One of the comments I often hear is that vegetarian cooking takes so long and is so inconvenient.  I agree. All that chopping, slicing, and dicing is time consuming, but YOU ARE WORTH IT, so take all the time you need to be healthy. Better health for you and your family starts in the kitchen.

I would like to share some things I’ve learned that make preparing healthy foods a little quicker and easier:

–First of all, PLEASE, don’t cook for only one meal.  It is just as easy to make 10 cups of brown rice as it is to prepare 2 cups, so make a big pot and save the leftovers for future meals.  If you won’t use it all this week you can easily freeze leftovers to use next week or even next month.

–The same goes for dried beans; make more than you need and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze two cup portions in plastic freezer bags for use later.

–Cleaning and peeling vegetables is best done when you have a big chunk of time, but I like to peel a 5 lb. bag of organic carrots as soon as I bring it home so that fresh carrots are always available for juicing and recipes.

–Romaine lettuce also gets washed as soon as it hits the kitchen; separate the leaves and let them soak in the sink with cold water and a little vinegar while you put the rest of your groceries away.  After draining, roll the leaves in a clean dishtowel, put it in a plastic bag, and store in the frig until you’re ready to make a salad or sandwich.  You’ll be surprised how fresh and crisp it stays this way!

–Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk.  Raw tomatoes (whole, cored), raw peppers and onions (chopped), and raw peas and berries (whole, washed) can be frozen with little preparation, and can make individual meal preparation go faster if you have them on hand.

–Finally, considering how mind-numbing a task chopping, slicing, and dicing is, consider multi-tasking.  You can put the phone on speaker and still have both hands free.  Or, USE that wasted time in front of the TV — chop the vegetables you will need for tomorrow’s supper tonight while watching your favorite show.  You’ll be so glad you did this when you get home tomorrow after work, and all that meal prep is already done!

I hope these ideas to make eating for better health faster and easier are helpful to you.  If you have any other time- saving ideas, please share them!

Sweet and Sour Slaw

This is a Hallelujah Acres recipe.  (You can find more of their delicious recipes at http://www.hacres.com).  It is so healthy, fresh, and tasty!  The combination of apples and onions with the veggies is outstanding.  I appreciate the dressing — it’s much lighter than traditional cole slaw dressings that rely on mayonnaise or sour cream as a base.  If  you use a food processor the prep time is much lower than chopping and shredding everything by hand.  Be warned: this recipe makes a HUGE amount.  I used fairly small cabbages and it made over a gallon of slaw — make it for a crowd!

Ingredients:

1/2 green cabbage, finely chopped

1/2 red cabbage, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 carrots, shredded

1 onion, finely chopped

2 apples, finely chopped

Dressing:

1/ cup raw honey

1/2 cup lemon juice or Bragg’s vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbsp. celery seed

Blend raw honey, lemon juice or vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt until smooth.  Stir in celery seed.  Pour dressing over prepared vegetables and apple.  Toss lightly to distribute dressing and set in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Serve cold.

Vegan Seafood Salad

This recipe makes a great summer, picnic, or a take to work lunch.  The flavor is better if made ahead, so make it the night before and packing your lunch the next day will be simple. (The secret ingredient is the nori — for real seafood taste that makes all the difference in the world!)  Remember, organic ingredients are always best.

Ingredients:

1 parsnip, finely shredded

1 carrot, finely shredded

1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped

3 – 4 stalks celery, diced (I like a lot of crunch — it adds interest to this salad)

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

1 sheet sushi nori, crumbled or folded several times and snipped into tiny bits with kitchen shears (This is the quickest and easiest way)

1 tsp. nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp. pink sea salt (or to taste)

1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1/4 – 1/3 c. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)

Method:

Toss to mix all ingredients.  Adjust spices to your preference.  Let chill for at least 1 hr. to allow flavors to blend.

Serve cold on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.  Also delicious as a sandwich spread on toasted whole grain bread.

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, 401 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611. Phone 610-685-6677

Aladdin is a wonderful Mideastern restaurant that offers a variety of delectable foods for the health conscious.  They have an extensive vegetarian menu to eat in or take out, and always use the finest fresh ingredients.  It is one of our favorite restaurants in Berks County — we have never been disappointed by the food or the service.  The atmosphere is very ethnic — almost like eating in a desert nomad’s tent or a Mideastern marketplace, complete with music. To add to the fun, Friday night usually features a live bellydancer.

Last night I ordered the Aladdin Makaleh which consisted of grilled cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant along with falafel topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and tahini sauce.  It was delicious (and huge)! My husband had the Falafel Salad, which is a very generous serving of falafel, hummus, tabouleh, and tahini sauce.  At only $7.50 it is a bargain.  I have ordered the Falafel Salad in the past and can tell you that their tabouleh is the best!  Don’t let the word “salad” make you think this dish will leave you feeling hungry; it is definitely large enough for a satisfying entrée.  We had fountain drinks (free refills), and did not order dessert because it was a friend’s birthday,  and we had brought our own cake.  Aladdin supplied plates and silverware with a smile.  If you are looking for excellent vegetarian food in Berks County, then you won’t be disappointed with Aladdin.  If you don’t see exactly what you want on the menu, you can make your own combination platter or ask them to alter any item to suit your preference, and they will oblige.

Aladdin is truly a gem — a wonderful compliment to the Main Street revitalization program in West Reading.  Their prices are reasonable and parking is convenient.  Oh, they do serve meat dishes and have a Kids Menu, too 🙂

For more information online:  DineIndie.com/Aladdin

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ZOUP! Woodland Rd. in The Shoppes at Wyomissing, PA 19610, 610 372-6717

Zoup! is a new franchise restaurant in town.  If you follow Woodland Rd. east past the Berkshire Mall you will end up in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Wyomissing, an upscale strip mall where you will find Zoup! situated more or less in the middle of the strip.

My first impression of Zoup! was that is very clean and the staff was very helpful and answered all our questions — even offering free samples of the soup before we ordered. In appearance Zoup! is reminiscent of a scaled down version of Panera Bread; scaled down because they don’t have a bakery (or any desserts) on the premises.  Zoup! offers soups, salads, and sandwiches freshly made at reasonable prices.  They had four vegetarian soups on the menu the night we were there: vegetarian split pea, tomato basil, wild mushroom barley, and butternut squash (that is a larger selection than Panera, which usually only offers one, sometimes two). Any salad can be made into a wrap. Sandwiches can be ordered deli-style or grilled.

My partner and I both decided on the vegetarian split pea soup (large) and a “cali veg sandwich”, which we split (whole sandwiches are quite large). For an extra $1.99 any soup can be served in a bread bowl. We each had freshly brewed iced tea (free refills).  Everything we had was delicious.  With the soup you get a good-sized complimentary fresh roll (three choices: white, wheat, or multigrain), so there really is no need to purchase the bread bowl unless you really love bread.

Zoup! occasionally publishes coupons, and we had one that night for “buy one get one free soup.”  That was worth about $5.50 — what a deal!  With our coupon our entire bill for two, including tax, came to only $15.08.  We will definitely go back to Zoup!  It’s a nice place to go for a healthy lunch or casual dinner while shopping.  They also have free wi-fi. See them on the web @www.zoup.com

I thought Zoup! was a great value for the money. Plus, they have free internet!