Totally Awesome Asian Swiss Chard Salad

I love any salad that can be tossed with a cold cup of pasta for a hearty, fresh and easy meal either on-the-go or at home with kids. This Asian Swiss Chard salad recipe relies only on your basic knife skills and a quick assembly time, making it a versatile and vitamin-packed addition to your typical work lunch repertoire. The Brianna’s Home Style Ginger Mandarin dressing was on sale for $2.99 this week and is going to a fridge staple in our house as it packs a punch with its zingy creamy gingery flavor. This dish has potential for a great vegan Buddha bowl and can be combined with other key ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, or nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli cole slaw
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch rainbow Chard, stemmed and roughly diced
  • 2 cups edamame
  • Chilled cooked pasta

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Barley and Greens Bowl

  I wish I had taken a better picture, but alas I ate this dish so fast the photo staging just wasn’t happening. 


Whole grains are important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are not found in refined or “enriched” grains. One serving of hulled barley is high in protein, low in calories, helps lower your cholesterol and even has 60% of your daily fiber requirement. It also contains iron (for those looking for non-meat sources if iron), and is very high in thiamin – which would have devastating neurological effects if not included in your daily intake. 
This barley and greens bowl is a great way to introduce barley into your diet. The grain and edamame combo are tossed in an Asian-style salad dressing, but the tangy lemon juice and salad greens topped with creamy avocado and tofu definitely takes it up a notch. The recipe stems from from Clean Green Eats by Candice Kumai. It’s simple, satisfying, healthy and clean. So eat away!

BARLEY AND GREENS BOWL

  • 1 1/2 cups pearl or hulled barley
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled organic edamame
  • 1 cups wild baby arugula
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 2 blocks savory, baked, organic tofu (firm or extra firm), cut into cubes and cooked to your liking
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Combine the barley and the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice, oregano, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the slightly cooled barley and edamame to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the arugula and kale and toss gently to combine. To serve, top with tofu and avocado slices.

Indian Baked Veggie Squares



Anybody that knows how to make great Indian food is a hero of mine. I recently had the pleasure of meeting renowned cookbook author and journalist Anupy Singla at a book signing, and I’m ashamed at what I thought was “traditional” Indian food. I vow to never think that naan or curry powder are considered part of the Indian home cook’s repertoire again! I also vow to share with the world that there are a plethora of traditional recipes that can be made without cream or meat that will satisfy the mind, body and soul. I admit the recipes featured in her cookbook Vegan Indian Cooking require some advance planning – soaking fresh beans overnight, using a slow cooker or food processor, or prepping your spice blends. But these recipes pack a punch, are unbelievably cheap, and can be made in batches so they are perfect to keep in the fridge all week!

This week’s dish for Baked Veggie Squares is a baked vegan version of the traditional fried snack Tukri Pakora. It features an unconventional combination of ingredients and may seem daunting at first, but I am so thrilled with the outcome it has already been established as a remake in our house. I made my version without the Thai chiles, but if you opt to try the original spicy version you will need to remove the stems and simply add them to your vegetable mix in the food processor.

BAKED VEGGIE SQUARES

2 cups white cabbage, grated (1/2 small head)
1 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 potato, peeled and grated
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger root, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
3 cups chickpea flour
12-ounce package silken tofu
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder 
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch square baking pan. Using the grater attachment on your food processor, grate all your vegetable ingredients. In a deep bowl, combine the cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, potato, onion, ginger, and cilantro. Add the flour and mix slowly until well combined using your hands. Using the large blade on your food processor, purée the silken tofu. Then add the tofu, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, baking powder, and oil to the vegetable mixture. Mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with your favorite chutney.





Moroccan Butternut Squash and Creamy Coconut Soup

IMG_3286-0Another week of freezing temperatures in Chicago sent me scouring for new soup recipes this week. I was looking for bold flavor but creamy in texture, the kind of soup you might savor in a steamy oversized mug and feel inspired by. My search led me to this unexpected butternut squash recipe posted on www.halfbakedharvest.com. Enveloped in the deep Moroccan flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and curry, then swirled with creamy coconut milk, this impressive recipe did not fail to impress and was easily adapted to a soul-satisfying one-pot vegan wonder.

MOROCCAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CREAMY COCONUT SOUP
1 head garlic, for roasting (or you may sub 2 cloves garlic, not roasted)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon spicy curry powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth
salt and pepper, to taste
roughly chopped cilantro and pistachios, for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves, pour one teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil then roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool five minutes. Squeeze garlic out of the paper skin. Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat, then add the red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add the cubed butternut squash, spicy curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes then pour in the coconut milk and veggie broth, reserving just a few spoonfuls of coconut milk. Bring the soup to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender. Once the butternut squash is tender, then add the roasted garlic. Use a hand blender to puree the soup, then let simmer for additional 5 minutes. Top with freshly chopped cilantro and pistachio, and drizzle with a splash of coconut milk.

Putta-A-Fork-In-It Puttanesca

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It’s been two months of major changes in our household: two new jobs, new school, potty training, no more baby bottles, toddler bed to queen size, new nanny, first airplane ride with the kids. Change is hard. So this weekend was the beginning of a recommitment to my mind and body, and therefore my family. On Friday I finally joined the gym and reactivated my Weight Watchers app, and today I spent a majority of the day solo parenting to give my husband – who is my soldier in the trenches of the night – a much deserved break. These things may seem so simple and even carefree to most people, but the truth is these tasks seem insurmountable when you’re in a lousy state of mind.

When the membership director asked me what my fitness goal was I joked “To get here.” But what IS my goal here? I have a few. To not loudly sigh in annoyance at 4:30am when the baby screams through the monitor, to not slam the fridge door a bit too hard just to make a point, to go to bed tired in a good way and wake up refreshed (that’s one’s crazy!) and most importantly to find a meaningful getaway that gets me out of the house in a bad moment and do something good for my body. I will tell you jumping into a pool for water aerobics while listening to Lord of the Dance made me smile! So I guess you could say my ultimate goal here is to improve my attitude.

The nice thing about Weight Watchers is that nothing is “off limits”, just unashamedly tracked. So I don’t mind sharing today’s recipe for a vegan Puttanesca that is out of this world.

PUTTA-FORK-IN-IT PUTTANESCA

1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil
1 red onion, slivered into thin moon shapes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
6 garlic cloves, diced
Olive oil

Boil pasta “al dente” according to package instructions, typically 10 minutes. While cooking, add a dollop of olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add capers and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Finally, throw in tomatoes, olives and basil and cook 5 more minutes. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil to pasta then mix in puttanesca topping. Salt and pepper to taste.

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A good night…

General Tso Cauliflower

Today’s recipe is not going to win any beauty contest. But then again, neither will I — unless it’s a leg contest. I think I could win that. But like me, this General Tso Tofu dish is authentic and unexpectedly flavorful, even with a bleak “resting face”.

This dish comes from Bakeaholic Mama and has that wonderful thick and creamy Chinese sauce with gingery garlicy flavors. A few things to note on where I went wrong – make it in small batches rather than all at once to ensure the cauliflower florets cooks thoroughly and still get that crispy outside. Mine was more “steamed” than “fried”. Also, use a wide and deep pan, not a wok. I did add a package of diced Chinese smoked tofu which added a kick of protein. cauliflower

GENERAL TSO CAULIFLOWER
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 tbs soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs peanut oil
Brown rice for serving
Green onions for garnish

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg until a you form a batter. Toss cauliflower in batter until evenly coated, then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a heavy bottomed fry pan, add 2 tbs of peanut oil and heat until the pan is hot. Toss in cauliflower florets and fry over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Once cauliflower is prepared, start your sauce. In a separate sauce pan, add sesame oil and peanut oil with your garlic and ginger and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk constantly over medium high heat, until it comes to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened, add to the fry pan you cooked your cauliflower in and toss with fried cauliflower. Over medium low heat, toss the cauliflower until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Cashew Tomato Basil Soup

Cashew Tomato Basil SoupI’m all jazzed up this week because I just purchased the Breville JE98XL and am delving into the wonderful messy world of juicing. My goal is to increase my family’s nutrition intake, beat off the winter blues, and fight off this plague that has kept me on antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler for the first time since I was in grade school.

Weeeeell this morning I made the mistake of making beet juice for my 3-year-old. At the same time that the bright red substance projected through Asher’s straw onto the floor, Everett fell backwards while pushing his plastic shopping cart, biting his tongue hard enough that blood poured out of his mouth. At that precise moment our house alarm went off. Our unfortunate nanny had opened the front door, unbeknownst that we had changed the alarm setting to the “silent for 10 seconds then all hell breaks loose”, which then caused the fattest of our three cats to jump the baby gate onto the stair landing, knocking over almost everything within a two-mile radius.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m kind of digging soups and juices this week. I am especially proud of this Cashew Tomato Basil Soup I created based on a simpler recipe that called for cream and chicken stock. Boo! The rich creamy cashew puree and the fresh pop of thyme combined with the roasted tomato basil base is simply put – spectacular. Spectacular enough to take my mind off the beet stain. For now.

CASHEW TOMATO BASIL SOUP
1 1/2 cups whole raw, unsalted cashews
3 lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (or any tomatoes you find on sale!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced (approximately one bunch)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a bowl of water and soak for at least 12 hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread tomato halves onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast tomatoes for about 1 hour. During the last 3 to 4 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to get a bit of roasted char on the tomatoes. While tomatoes are in the oven, add a generous dollop of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basils, then season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Pour 2 cups of water and then roasted tomatoes into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cashews from their water and add to the soup. Using a hand blender, puree the soup for 5 or 6 minutes until a rich creamy consistency.