If You Must…

. . . go for the fast food joint, here are some recommendations from Dr. Andrew Weil:

Go for the salad bar; with any luck, it will include beans, cheeses or nuts

Avoid fried foods (haha, I know!)

Skip dessert

Skip the soda

Grabbing a quick meal in unfamiliar surroundings can be a challenge. Whenever possible, you’re better off at a grocery store than a fast food restaurant. For a quick pick-me-up, grab some nuts, yogurt, protein smoothie, fresh fruit . . . you get the point. As they say, it’s not rocket science.

All that Summer Squash

If you planted summer squash in your garden, chances are, the harvest always exceeds your capacity for consumption. Best policy is to pick the squash when they’re small and tasty, instead of trying for immortalization in the Guinness Book of World Records. So what can you do with all that excess produce? In addition to freezing them or foisting them on your neighbors, summer squash also make excellent pickles. Just go online and find a recipe to your liking. Fill them in jars and give them away as Holiday gifts.

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.

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!