Summer BBQ . . .

. . . don’t forget those pesky vegetarian friends. Here is a quick and easy dish to serve with your summer BBQ; it’s vegan, high in protein and DELISH!

Try this easy recipe for salsa or a side dish:

3 c cooked black beans

1 c fresh or frozen organic corn

1 medium ripe tomato

1 medium mango

1 small chili, seeded & minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 avocado

½ bunch cilantro

Salt, lime juice

Rinse the cooked black beans to get rid of the dark cooking liquid until water runs clear. Cut the tomato into small cubes, cut the mango into small cubes, salt, and carefully fold into the drained beans. And here’s a fabulous trick: add the corn while still frozen – it will keep the dish cold for a long time on a hot day! Mince the chili and garlic and fold into the beans. Fold in chopped cilantro and cubed avocado. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

Vegetarian = Healthy???

. . . not necessarily. Novice vegetarians often gravitate toward a diet heavy in pasta, cheese and refined starches – foods that are not bad per se, but need to be complemented with lots of other foods. Did you know that there are vegetarians who don’t like vegetables . . . kind of ironic, don’t you think? Reminds me of a trip to Scotland, some years back, when a fried potato was the vegetable of choice, but not necessarily the one I had in mind.

Food is like Feng Shui – if everything on your plate is beige, there’s no energy. With summer BBQs right around the corner, here is another take on potato salad. This one has a garlicky vinaigrette dressing (instead of mayonnaise), cubed heirloom tomato (they’re here!!), cucumber (try Persian cucumber, very flavorful), lots of dill, green onion and chopped egg. In order to extract maximum flavor from the tomato and cucumber, cut them into small cubes and toss with a little sea salt; refrigerate for a half hour. This releases juices from the tomato and cucumber and adds lots of flavor to your salad.

Make Mine . . .

. . . (no, not mink), but fake meat. People often wonder why vegetarians and vegans choose to eat “fake meats”, in other words, something that resembles what you’re trying to give up. Isn’t that a contradiction? As a chef and caterer specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines, I find that “fake meats” can offer an easy way for people to ease into meatless choices and a more plant-based diet. Making a major dietary shift can be challenging enough, without having to rethink the whole menu plan. To me, it makes perfect sense to ease the transition into a different way of eating by keeping some familiarity while venturing into new territory.

 

“Fake meats” have come a long way in the last couple of decades. You’ll find excellent products in the deli and frozen sections of most markets. Some of my favorite products include Field Roast‘s grain burgers, Beyond Meat’s “chicken strips”, and Lightlife’s “fakin’ bacon” (a smoked tempeh). Any of these products can be chopped up, simmered in a tasty sauce and added to tacos, sloppy Joes or your favorite rice or pasta dish.

Cauliflower Rock!

Here’s a warming side dish for a cold day. Cauliflower can be cut into florets, tossed in a mix of olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and garam masala.

Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes and toss with chopped mint and cilantro for a stunning side dish to complement any creation.

Biscotti–Make Your Own!

Afternoon project: chocolate hazelnut biscotti . . . thank you, Martha Stewart, you’re the best! Biscotti are “twice cooked”: the dough is initially formed into long flat sausages and baked until firm. Once the mass has cooled, the loaves are then sliced into quarter inch slices and baked again, which gives them the crunch. You’ll find many different recipes for biscotti. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and your friends will be wowed. This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s “Baking Handbook”. I love her recipes – they’re easy to follow and always turn out well. Stay tuned for a fabulous gluten-free version . . .

YUMMY COOKINESS . . .

Whatever you call them, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, or your own pet designation — they’re easy to make and always a hit. Here’s the trick.

Mixing the cookies with soft butter is most efficient, but the dough will be sticky. Some recipes suggest refrigerating the dough and then forming the cookies into 1” balls . . . but that’s a pain in the you-know-what.

Do this – form the cookies into 1” balls while the dough is soft, and then place them into the fridge (or freezer) until they’re hard. Place the hard cookies into the pre-heated oven, and the cookies will stay round. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Spice Up Your Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Salsa

12 oz. fresh cranberries
½ c parsley
2 Tb lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
½ jalapeno chili, chopped
1 small red onion
½ c fresh orange juice
2 Tb orange zest
5 Tb honey
1 Tb cilantro

Finely chop the red onion, chili, parsley and cilantro and place it in a bowl.
Coarsely chop the cranberries in the food processor and add to the onion and parsley mixture. Fold in the orange and lime juice, honey, and zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Gluten-free vegan desserts, oh my!

Sugar-laden holidays right around the corner appear to be inspiring my obsession with desserts at the moment! Here is another fab vegan treat, this one made from rice. You may be familiar with kheer, a popular Indian rice pudding, made with milk and flavored with cardamom, saffron and raisins. My favorite rice dessert is Burma Superstar’s fabulous black rice and coconut pudding, which I’ve been able to approximate in my own kitchen. Here’s how:

Start out with sticky Thai black rice, e.g. Lundberg Black Pearl Rice. I usually soak the rice in salted water for a few hours, before draining and cooking according to package directions – but you’ll need to reduce cooking time and cooking liquid. Rice should be soft but not mushy. Drain and place in a heavy bottom pan with coconut milk and simmer until rice is creamy; sweeten, to taste, with organic sugar (try Billington’s dark Muscovado sugar). Toast some unsweetened coconut flakes in a dry pan, until toasty brown and fold into the rice; save a few sprinkles for the top. Serve warm, with fresh raspberries or slices of mango, and a scoop of Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream . . . heavenly!

Making Your Next Holiday Mixer AMAZING!

With corporate Holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds.

Healthy and delicious appetizers.

A great menu is one that delights and surprises – with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration, e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. While many Holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that’s healthy AND delicious? Try it – you’ll like it!