Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dessert for Dinner

Food is such a pleasure and a joy, and sometimes I want to succumb to my cravings and just enjoy whatever it is that sounds good to me. Tonight I was craving something sweet, and rather than create a traditional dinner entree followed by a dessert, I gave into my cravings and skipped dinner and went straight for the sweet. Dessert for dinner! However, I recently started reading Colin Campbell's book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and I was thinking about the health benefits of whole foods and how sometimes when you crave something, then maybe it's because there's something in that food experience that your body needs.

So how could I indulge in my cravings for sweets and also supply my body with the nutrition it needed? By using whole food ingredients for both. Hence, my dessert-dinner this evening--a lovely fresh peach, a banana, and some blueberries, together in a bowl, dusted with a hazelnut sesame seed coconut topping.

Simple can be good and tasty and refreshing, and sometimes "cooking" is as simple as washing and cutting some fruit. So the moral of this story is: sometimes it's good to succumb to your food cravings. And also, sometimes you don't need to do much with your ingredients other than put them together in a bowl and call it good!

Also I wanted to say thanks to everyone who sent me beet recipes last week! I got a lot of good ones I look forward to trying out--I always learn so much from what you all share with me. This week I'm asking you to share with me your simple whole-foods based recipes. What are some of the quick and easy things you like to make for snacks, dinner, or dessert?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Balsamic Beets Salad

I have the very very good fortune of working with someone who not only has an amazing garden, but who also happens to be kind and generous and often shares the fruits (or veggies!) of her labor with me. Last week she gave me the most beautiful bok choy, which I ate later that same day in a stir fry,  followed later in the week by some gorgeous beets, fresh from the ground, lovely greens and all.

Which brings me to yesterday when I came home from a nice hike up to Fragrance Lake and decided I was in the mood for a feast! Thankful for a break from the warmer temperatures we have been having lately that had sort of killed my cooking motivation, I was hungry for something delicious and looked forward to making it myself. I whipped up some pesto pasta, some broccoli slaw with cranberries and sunflower seeds, and last but most definitely not least, a lovely kale, beet green, and beet salad, topped with slivered almonds and mixed in a balsamic dressing. It was a truly satisfying meal and perfect after a nice hike and a good day.

It's really quite easy to make a good beet salad, especially if you use the beet greens that come with your beets! I usually just boil my beets, skins still on, for about 45 minutes on the stove top in a pan of water with a little balsamic vinegar. Once the beets are cooked, just rinse them under cold water while sliding the skin off with your fingers--you'll see it just glides right off and really couldn't be simpler. Cut the beets into bite-sized pieces and mix with the dressing of your choice over your bed of greens. Sprinkle with slivered almonds, and voila! Simple and delicious! While I frequently make my own salad dressing, I happened to have a bottle of Drew's Aged Basalmic Salad Dressing and decided to use some of it. Turned out the flavor was just what I needed.

Do you have any great beet recipes? If you do, please send them my way! (   And if you are interested in another great beet salad recipe, check out my "Inspired by Tal Ronnen Beet, Apple, & Arugula" post. I can't believe I spent a number of years thinking I didn't like beets--I must've been crazy! Now they are truly one of my favorite things.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bellingham Summer and Watermelon

Having grown up in West Texas, I know how good we have it here in the summer. I am not one who enjoys the heat. In fact, I hate it and it makes me cranky, which is one of the many many reasons why I like the PNW so much. That being said, most places in Bellingham,(including my own place), do not have air conditioning. And so as the temperature inside begins to creep into the 80s, my creativity and desire to blog about something new and wonderful, to explore some unique culinary experience and share it with you all, dissipates, to the point of almost disappearing completely.

However, there is one thing about the summer that I love, that takes me back to my childhood, that always makes me happy. And that is watermelon. So that is now the subject of today's post. How I love watermelon!

Not only is watermelon satisfying, tasty, and refreshing on a hot summer day, it's also surprisingly good for you, with many health benefits including being rich in lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that's especially important for cardiovascular health, and has been thought to have cancer-fighting properties. But most importantly, for me, it cools me off when my place starts to feel too warm and I know I need to eat something but nothing sounds good, and I can't bring myself to go anywhere near the stove. And it makes me happy when I start to feel cranky because it tastes sooo good.

So YAY for watermelon! I hope I made you want to go and get  a watermelon of your own. :)  If you have any tips for staying cool, or ideas for what some of your own summer favorite foods are, send them my way! And when things cool down a bit, I promise to try and wow you with something more creative and new. In the meantime, I am thankful for watermelon!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

REMINDER: Vegan Picnic in the Park TOMORROW, July 6th!

Sounds like these monthly picnics are still happening, and now that I am finished with grad school, I hope to make it myself this time! Here's the info that was given to me by the person organizing the event:

Bellingham's Monthly Vegan Potluck Picnic
Enjoy vegan noms, share recipes, 
meet fellow veggiephiles, have fun. 
Every first Sunday at Boulevard Park, April thru September, starting at 2 pm.

Bring your own plates and utensils.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

White Bean, Chickpea, & Kale Minestrone

I am usually more in the mood for soups during the fall and winter months, but I am also occasionally partial to a nice minestrone in the summer. I am sharing with you now my quick and easy recipe for a nice light minestrone that is both tasty to eat and inexpensive to make.

2 cans chickpeas
2 cans white beans
1 can tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
2 large carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 cups baby kale leaves or regular kale torn into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
 handful of fresh basil leaves, if you happen to have some--you can add a teaspoon of dried basil if not.

Saute onions, garlic, celery, carrots, with salt and crushed red pepper in olive oil over low to medium heat until softened, for about 10 to 20 minutes. Then add broth, drained and rinsed canned beans, and tomatoes. Cover pot and simmer on low for 40 - 50 minutes.

Once cooked, remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in kale and basil, and serve. This is also one of those soups that tastes even better the next day, and works really well to bring to work for lunches if you need something tasty to get you through the week.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Aslan Brewery: 1330 N. Forest St.

Admittedly, my criteria for what makes a brewery is not that of a beer-drinker--generally speaking, it consists of: 1)Do they serve wine? 2)Do they offer vegan food? 3)Is the space comfortable for socializing? 4)Is the staff friendly and nice? Yes, I am aware I said nothing at all about the beer. I am afraid I am just not much of a beer drinker. However, a number of my friend are, and so chances are if I am going to a brewery, it's because of them, which means the beer should also be good.

All of that being said, Aslan Brewery is quickly becoming one of my favorite places for socializing. They offer all of the things I look for and want. I have only tried one food option so far, the terrific kale salad with lemon, golden raisins and a dusting of panko, but they have a number of other choices that also look fabulous. A friend of mine recently tried the vegan yam enchiladas, and from what I could see, they looked mighty tasty. They also have a veganize-able burger and vegan fries with mushroom gravy.

The space itself is awesome--high ceilings, nice natural lighting, big windows, great airy feel. Yes, it gets a little loud, but it's also a fun place to bring a big group of friends. And if you want to know more about the personality of the place, check out their website with this terrific video.

Final verdict: Aslan Brewery gets two thumbs up from this vegan!

(And on a side-note, finally finished with grad school, so more regular blog posts to follow!)