Tag Archives: spring

Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip (v, gf)

 

 

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)-8

Lactose intolerants and L.I sympathizers, gather round!  This is the holy grail of creaminess for all who can’t eat dairy yet still crave dip.  Sour cream, oh, how I’ve missed you these past few years!  I came across this recipe for the “best damn vegan sour cream” on Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry, and I thought to myself, we’ll see about that. I felt like I was anticipating a blind date (which is how the Mister and I met, by the way).  Don’t get your hopes up too high.  This could be really good, but it could also end up like all those other train wrecks.  I’ve been holding out hope for a sour cream substitute that a) doesn’t taste like cashews, b) doesn’t taste like plastic, c) has the texture of sour cream, and most importantly, d) Is made with real, whole ingredients, not chemicals.  Is that asking too much?  To say the least, I was very pleasantly surprised (both by the sour cream and the man)!  The Mister and I are celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary on Thursday, and I’ve got my 9th batch of vegan sour cream in the fridge.  I’d say things are going quite well!  

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (11 of 23)

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (13 of 23)

When cashews are soaked, something magical and ethereal happens.  See their halo?   Soaking the cashews softens their flavor, and most importantly, makes them blendable and transformable.  If you read my last post, you know the name of the game for me right now is to eat, eat, eat.   My strategy is to devour as many nutritious, calorie-dense whole foods as possible.  Whether you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain, I am convinced that there is no fad diet or quick fix better than just eating real food.  Enter, delicious herby dip.  

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)-5

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)-3

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (5 of 23)

What is the history of dip?  Is it an american thing?  Or did we just create a blanket term for any kind of thick sauce scooped up by a vehicle such as a veggie or a cracker?  David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria  exhaustively researched the subject, and I can sum it up with the following: the 50’s, the invention of potato chips, the emerging American couch potato class, and the need to deliver food to one’s mouth while watching the glowing box…  Another proud example of American ingenuity.  Americans loved dipping so much that we changed the word from a verb to a noun.  The emergence of the first recipe for crudité also emerged in France around the same time.  Crudité sounds so much more sophisticated than dip, but it’s a means to the same end: Use something delicious and crispy to deliver something saucy and flavorful into your mouth. Repeat if needed. 

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (8 of 23)

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)-6

Luckily, dip doesn’t have to be that packet of processed powder that we have probably all stirred into sour cream and devoured at some point or another.  Although admittedly addictive and tasty, the first three ingredients are maltodextrin, salt and monosodium glutamate.  That doesn’t sound like food to me! I like to whip up a batch of this real food dip to snack on throughout the week (or, let’s be honest–over the course of a few days).  It’s cool and herby with hints of garlic and onion, creamy, and smooth.  The hardest part is remembering to get those cashews soaking.  The rest comes together quite quickly!  I’m looking forward to the tenth year sharing life’s crazy adventures with the Mister, and I’m sure my 10th batch of vegan sour cream will be close to follow!  Enjoy your maiden vegan sour cream voyage!  

Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at Spoonwithme.com (5 of 8)

Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

This cashew sour cream has become a staple in my house.  One of my cookbooks has a rule:  Always be soaking.  I agree, it’s best to be ready to whip up this dip when the craving strikes!  I use my high-powered (Vitamix) blender to achieve an extra- smooth texture.  Any blender will do, but just make sure to scrape down the edges as you go, and add a little extra water if needed.   This dip can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the flavor improves when chilled overnight.  If you would like to make plain sour cream, which has an infinite number of uses, just omit the dip ingredients!  

For the sour cream:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB fresh lemon juice (finely grate and reserve 1/2 tsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup water (plus additional if needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dip:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced dill leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Additional minced herbs to garnish

Make the cashew sour cream:

Drain the soaked cashews, and put them in a blender with the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast and salt.  If it is too thick and won’t blend, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time.  Blend for about 3-5 minutes until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the edges if needed.  Chill for 2 hours or more (or, in a pinch, put in the freezer for 20 minutes until cold and slightly thickened.

In a medium bowl, mix the cashew sour cream with all of the dip ingredients.  Season with salt to taste and garnish with the herbs.

 

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Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Sauces, Snacks, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Spring Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Roasted Garlic-Cauliflower Whip

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (18 of 25)

This is comfort food with a surprise nutritional kick!  Bam!  Just when you say, “oh I’d better not eat very much of that”, I say “gotcha!”.  There is NOTHING “bad for you” in there.  B-b-but….where’s the heavy cream?  No buttah?!  And that is where I smugly tell you that you can, rather must, eat more and be comforted, without the cloud of self-inflicted guilt over too much of this or that.  These are vegetables people!  Eat, drink and be merry!  My house, my rules.

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VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (2 of 25)

These little pies would be perfect for a holiday meal,  Sunday dinner with the family, or any other time you want to see a vegetarian turn helplessly giddy.   This recipe is sans the lamb, of course.  If you have the kind of person at your table that doesn’t consider it a meal without meat, you could go one of two routes: First, entrance them with the balanced flavors of the white wine and tarragon vegetable stew and see if they even give a second thought to the “missing” ingredients—I play this game all the time.  If I’m intently staring at you while you take your first bite, it’s usually because I’ve tricked you in one way or another into eating something healthier and better than you ever expected.

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VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (7 of 25)

If you’re really sure your dinner companion isn’t going to be happy without some meat on his or her plate, you could add a little to the mix. Traditional shepherd’s pie is topped with fluffy mashed potatoes.  My version is crowned with a golden whip of roasted cauliflower and garlic.   Have you ever whipped cauliflower?  To me, it tastes like a more flavorful version of garlic mashed potatoes.  I have nothing against potatoes.  I know some would argue with me on this, but I don’t stress excessively over the naturally occurring starches, sugars, etc in fruits and vegetables.  Obviously, I’m not advocating to eat a truckload of potatoes and nothing else.  The key for me is to vary the types of foods I eat throughout the day and week to make sure that I have a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

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VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (8 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (12 of 25)

I’ve been thinking about this because a couple weeks ago, I went to Cancer Con, a young adult cancer conference put on by Stupid Cancer.  I spoke on a panel to 700 people (yikes!) about how I support my mind and body through cancer with nutrition, meditation, yoga and other physical activity.  I also attended a talk with an integrative oncology nutrition specialist.  The speaker, Mark Cohen (a clinical oncology specialist) advocated for eating a diet of a diverse variety of foods that are warm, whole, and cooked.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (13 of 25)

I know some are convinced of the benefit of a raw diet, but I know that my body digests foods better and therefore absorbs nutrients more readily when I cook them.  If you eat real food, you don’t need rules, Michael Pollan explains in his book Food Rules.  This philosophy feels right in my gut (pun intended).  It’s not a new idea, but with so many fad diets, with lists of dos but mostly do-nots, it’s easy to get confused.

Spring is officially here, and when the weather inevitably swings toward the cold and damp, I hereby invite you to “indulge” in this veggie loving shepherd’s pie.

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Spring Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Roasted Garlic-Cauliflower Whip

Stew adapted from Feasting at Home

Makes 4 to 6 Servings (Four two-cup pies or one 8×8 casserole dish)

For the cauliflower whip:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, broken into 1 1/2 inch florets
  • 3 large cloves garlic, in their skins
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2  cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons regular or vegan butter

For the stew:

  • 1 lb diced waxy potatoes (yukon gold, red or fingerling)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion or pearl onions
  • 4 cups any combination of the following: diced carrots, celery, fennel and crimini mushrooms (*see footnote for more details)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons gluten-free (or regular) flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot starch (or use additional flour)
  • 4 cups flavorful vegetable or chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled green peas
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Special Equipment Needed:

Immersion blender, blender, or food processor

2-cup pie dishes or 8×8 casserole

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Cover the potatoes by 1 inch water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add a tablespoon salt to the water.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are on the firmer side of being tender.

Make the Cauliflower Whip:

Toss the cauliflower and garlic in the olive oil, salt and pepper on a large sheet pan.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and deep golden in places.  Pop the garlic out of their skins into a large bowl with the roasted cauliflower (or into a food processor or blender if not using an immersion blender).  While hot, add the vegan butter and stir until melted.  Add the stock and blend using an immersion blender until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Make the stew:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until translucent.  Reduce heat to medium and add the carrot, celery, fennel, mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze, cooking for about 3 minutes until most of it evaporates.  Add the potatoes, nutritional yeast, and arrowroot starch and flour.  Stir to coat.  Add the stock and mustard, and stir until it comes to a boil and thickens.  Add the peas, tarragon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Fill the pie dishes or casserole dish with the stew.  Spread the cauliflower whip in a layer on top.

Reduce the oven to 400˚F.  Bake the pies for 20 minutes.  Turn oven on low broil, and cook an additional 5-6 minutes until the top is spotted a deep golden color (watch closely while broiling to avoid burning).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Freezing directions:

Spoon the stew into an oven safe, freezer safe dish and top with potatoes.  Cover with saran wrap and put inside a large freezer bag.  When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator for 2 days.  Bake in a 400˚oven for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.  Broil the top over low for 5 minutes to achieve a speckled golden top.

 

*Note: I used 3 large carrots, 2 large ribs celery, 1 medium fennel bulb and about 3 oz crimini mushrooms.

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Filed under Main Dishes, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Lemon Berry Custard Pies (GF +Vegan, No Added Sugar)

 

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (13 of 15)

I’m quickly becoming a dessert activist.  The little people in my head are marching around with picket signs and chanting Vegans are sweet too!  Dairy-free treats are fun to eat!  Mo dairy, mo problems!  Gluten-free sweets are great for me!  Desserts ain’t just for the iron-clad belly!Sensitive belly?  Oh welly!  Sweets and peace for everyone!  Make vegan bellies happy!  This month, I celebrate 7 years as a cancer warrior.  Cancer has taught me to be creative and adaptable, to live well in the face of challenges.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (2 of 15)

I created this recipe for a fellow cancer survivor who eats a diet completely free of added sugars.  At first, my brain drew a blank.  I love stevia as a sugar free sweetener, but normally use it in combination with another sugar source such as honey, agave or coconut sugar to round out its slight bitterness.  What’s sweet but not processed?  I tossed in a few soaked dates, which added the deep sugary roundness I was looking for.  Even the Mister, a self-proclaimed stevia hater, approved.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (3 of 15)

Within the strict parameters of the sensitive belly’s diet, the sugar cravers get creative!  Just because you can’t indulge in the typical milk, sugar and gluten-laden treats doesn’t mean you have to sit in a corner eating a piece of fruit, or worse, nothing, while everyone else indulges in a creatively and deliciously concocted dessert.  Nobody puts Baby in the corner!

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (4 of 15)

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (5 of 15)

These little desserts come with a salty sweet crust made with toasted coconut, nuts, dates, and sea salt.  This is a versatile crust that can be used with any dessert or pie that doesn’t have to be baked after filling.  The creamy custard-like filling will make you question everything you thought you knew about vegan desserts.   When layered together, it’s salty-sweet, nutty, and creamy, with a lemony zing to wake up the tastebuds from a their long winter’s nap.  On top, a colorful burst of flavor from berries.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (6 of 15)

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (1 of 15)

These little guys would be equally suited to a small informal event such as a dinner party or baby shower, and a fancier event like a wedding.  I always get the most gratification when people who think that the dessert couldn’t possibly fit their dietary needs’  eyes light up when they they discover they can partake along with everyone else.  Eating dessert is such a sensory experience, a way to share something enjoyable with those around us.  When I have the occasion to eat dessert, it’s because I’m with friends.  We’re having fun!  We’re spoiling ourselves, and even the belly-challenged among us need spoiling every now and then.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (7 of 15)

Phew!  Now that we’ve found dessert peace and harmony, we can commence rock-starring our way through life’s other challenges!

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies @Spoonwithme.com (1 of 1)

Lemon Berry Custard Pies   (vegan + Gluten-Free, no added sugar)

Makes 6 quarter-pint mason jar pies

For the “custard”:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in boiling water for an hour, or in cold water overnight
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve the zest to garnish)
  • 1 cup chilled coconut cream (see note)*
  • 3/4 tsp powdered stevia
  • 3-5 pitted dates, soaked in hot water for an hour
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

For the crust: 

  • 1/2 c cup roughly chopped pitted Dates, chopped
  • 3/4 cups cups mixed raw nuts, toasted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toast in dry pan for about 2 min, or until slightly golden and fragrant
  • 1-2 pinches of sea salt, to taste

Garnish:

  • 2 cups berries, sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • zest from 1-2 lemons

Equipment Needed:

  • Quarter pint jars, ramekins or muffin liners for serving
  • Blender
  • Food processor

Blend the filling:

Blend the cashews, lemon juice and chilled coconut cream very thoroughly in a blender, pushing down the sides with a spatula as you go.  If needed, add a very small amount of the coconut liquid to loosen it up if it won’t blend.  Blend in the stevia.  Add the dates, one at a time, tasting after each addition (I used three).  Blend in the vanilla.

Make the crust:

Blend nuts with coconut in a food processor.  Add the non-soaked dates gradually and pulse until they are incorporated.  Blend in the salt to taste.

Press 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into the bottom of each mason jar or muffin liner in a muffin tin.  Spoon some of the cashew custard mixture over top.  Chill in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, or quick chill in freezer for 20-30 minutes (the texture will end up firmer than a pudding but not as firm as cheesecake).

Top with the chopped berries and garnish with lemon zest.

*When using coconut cream to make into pie fillings, whipped cream, etc, it is important to use the white cream and avoid the clear liquid.  If you can’t find coconut cream, you can use 2-3 cans full-fat coconut milk.  The cream should be at the top after chilling.  Just scoop it out and discard or reserve the clear liquid for another use.  I like Trader Joe’s and Thai Kitchen brands.  I have also found good quality coconut cream at Asian grocery stores. 

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Filed under Desserts, Vegetarian and Vegan

Lemony Steam-Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

Steam Roasted Artichokes|Spoonwithme.com

I first saw an artichoke plant while wandering through a botanical garden in Spain.  Have you ever seen one?  Quite a prickly beast, and I do mean beast!  Since then, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of growing my own, even though Colorado isn’t exactly known for artichokes.  I’m cornering off a little–okay–sizable corner of my garden for the beast to expand.  I dream of little shop of horrors style plants, arms reaching out, prickly mouths open wide.

Steam Roasted Artichokes|Spoonwithme-com

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Eating an artichoke is a religious experience.  Don’t talk to me, and don’t give me a napkin.  Just let me pluck and dip and scrape and savor.  They make me so food-protective that I have to make more than anyone in my household could ever eat in a night.  Here’s your artichoke (if you don’t eat it all, I’ll finish it off), and here are my artichokes.  You may have all the aioli you would like (I made an inhuman amount so that you would not eat my share.

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Back in the day, I started making artichokes the way most do, by boiling them in salted water (play disappointing music here).  Why would I want to infuse my artichoke with nothing?  Then, I steamed them in water with lemons and garlic.  Meh.  The first time I roasted an artichoke, I thought, Now we’re talking!.  

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My newest method involves roasting the artichokes face down with a garlicky olive oil mixture, and then pouring enough white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan to steam the artichokes at the same time.  The artichokes become more tender, and in the end, that means more artichoke to eat!  I hope you enjoy luxuriously plucking, dipping, scraping, and savoring as much as I do.

Steam Roasted Artichokes|Spoonwithme.com

 White Wine Steam-Roasted Artichokes With Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (about a cup), halved if large
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine (or dry vermouth, or broth)
  • 1/3 cup additional water or broth
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Prepare the artichokes:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of one of the lemons, about 2 tablespoons.  Cut off the top inch of one artichoke, and the bottom of the stem, leaving an inch or so of the stem intact.  Using kitchen scissors, cut off the tips of the leaves.  Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.  Place one half in the acidulated water while you work with the remaining artichoke.

On a cutting board, smash the garlic and  one teaspoon of the salt into a paste using the side of a chefs knife.  Put the garlic paste into a small bowl.  Juice one of the remaining lemons into the bowl.  Cut off the peel of the remaining lemon (top and bottom first, then cut off the sides in sheets, making sure to remove the white pith).  Chop the peeled lemon, discarding the seeds, and add to the bowl.  Add the olive oil, dried herbs, crushed red pepper, and a few grindings of black pepper.  Whisk everything together.

Rub every surface of each artichoke half with the garlic oil mixture, making sure to push some of it in between the leaves.  Arrange the artichokes face down in a dutch oven (a roasting pan or casserole dish will work too).  Scatter the cherry tomatoes over top, and use your fingers to toss them around, trying to coat them with some of the oil mixture that has settled in the pan.  Pour the white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan along with the additional 1/3 cup broth or water.

Roast, covered, in the oven at 375˚F for 35-45 minutes, or until the outside leaves easily pull away from the artichoke.

Serve with lemon-garlic aioli or your other favorite dipping sauce.

Lemon-Garlic (Cheater’s) Aioli

Sometimes (okay, rarely), I go through the extra effort to make real aioli.  Most of the time, I start with a good quality mayo and go from there.  This is just one of my go-to combinations for artichokes.  If you like spicy aioli,  chile-garlic paste.   If you just want a little spice, garnish the top with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (use vegan mayo if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced and smashed into a paste (or finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (chile garlic paste)*, or 1/8 tsp-1/2 tsp ground cayenne

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cayenne if desired.

*Sambal Oelek can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores

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Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Rhubarb-Mint Soda and Coincidental Jam

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It’s about time for some summer drinks up in here, don’t you think?  I don’t know about where you live, but here in Denver, it’s hot!  Most of my days lately have been spent in the garden.  This year’s garden has epic potential.  So far I’ve planted 20 tomatoes, mostly heirlooms, in every color of the rainbow.  We’ll have winter squash growing up a trellis, pickling cucumbers, peas growing up a tepee I fashioned out of bamboo poles and twine, and many other vegetables.

Rhubarb-Mint Sodas|Spoonwithme-com

 

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I’m always looking for different ways to preserve and showcase what’s in season.  I’ve had my eye on this rhubarb soda since I found it in Organic Gardening.  I used deep red rhubarb, and the syrup turned out to be a beautiful fuschia color, the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Worry not if you don’t have a rhubarb plant (I don’t either).  Well-established rhubarb plants are gigantic, and if you ask around, someone’s bound to be giving some away!

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This is just the first infusion of the summer (well, besides the chive blossom vinegar I’ve got steeping in the cabinet).  I’ve got grand plans of berry vinegars, such as this strawberry-infused vinegar by Jayme at Holly and Flora.  I think it would go perfectly with this rhubarb simple syrup to make a strawberry-rhubarb soda!

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Are you having visions of epic gardening or canning for the summer?  Do share!

Rhubarb-Mint Soda (and Coincidental Jam)

Adapted from Organic Gardening Magazine

Makes 1 cup syrup

New to rhubarb?  Discard the leaves–they’re poisonous!  What is coincidental jam, you ask?  Well, it’s when you set out to make a rhubarb syrup, and just so happen to accidentally make a delightful jam!  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, packed
  • mint sprigs, for garnish
  • sparkling water

Stir the rhubarb and sugar together in a medium saucepan.  Allow to sit for about 45 minutes to macerate, stirring a couple times–the juices will release and much of the sugar will dissolve.

Add the water, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart.  Remove from heat.  Add the mint and allow to cool to room temperature.

Pour the mixture into a fine-meshed strainer, pushing against the solids with a wooden spoon.  Pour the syrup into a clean jar or bottle.  Store the jam (rhubarb solids) in a jar.  The syrup and jam will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

To make the rhubarb soda, pour 2-3 TB syrup into a glass with ice (or to taste).  Pour in the sparkling water, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Rhubarb Jam|Spoonwithme.com

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Filed under Drinks

Veggie Crunch Wraps with Black Bean Hummus

First of all, thank you for all of the thoughtful and uplifting responses to my last post!  I was afraid to put it out there, but was comforted to be met by such an open-armed audience.  Now, without further ado, back to the food!

It’s time to get personal.  Today, I’d like to talk about a subject that often gets lost in the shuffle of everyday work, errands, chores, and even fun.  Let’s talk about lunch, ba-by.  Let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…and so on and so forth.  What do you eat for lunch?  If your lunch had a name, what would it be?  Ethel?  Or Lo-la???  Frank?  Or Fran-ci-sco?  Does your lunch say “meh,” or is it more like ooh la la?

I think all our lives could stand to have a little more ooh la la in them, so why not start with the forgotten land of lunch?  My kayaking trip got me thinking about lunches.  Each day, our chef and camp moms packed all of us “campers” a wrap, sandwich or pita each day, always with some sort of inventive spread.  One day, we had tortilla wraps with crunchy vegetables with red pepper-bean spread.  Another day, it was baba ghanoush with grilled vegetables.  Simple, but healthy and interesting–a nice change from the usual “leftover” lunches, repeats from the previous night’s dinner.

Here is my version of a smooth and crunchy little lunch wrap inspired by a creation by the chef on my kayaking trip.  In my opinion, every good wrap starts with a good spread.  I began mine with spiced black bean and chickpea hummus.  It really goes without saying that really any kind of fresh vegetables will do here.  I used carrot, kohlrabi, and purple cabbage, tossed in a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, to wake up the flavors.  Last, I tucked in some roasted red pepper and avocado slices to add a smooth contrast in texture and wrapped it all up in a soft whole wheat tortilla.

Ironically, the mister and I noshed on these wraps for dinner, which I then saved for lunch the next day.   Go figure!

Veggie Crunch Wraps with Black Bean Hummus

Serves 4-6

These wraps are perfect for when the blazing summer heat makes cranking up the oven unthinkable–they’re cool and crunchy, perfect for a day by the pool or a low-key dinner.  The black bean hummus also makes a great appetizer or snack served with veggies or pita.  

For the wraps:

  • 4 cups julienned or thinly sliced vegetables, such as carrots, kohlrabi, cabbage, or bell pepper
  • 2 avocados, pitted and sliced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
  • salt to taste
  • black bean hummus (see recipe below)
  • large whole wheat tortillas or pita pockets

Combine the julienned vegetables in a medium bowl.  Add lime juice and salt to taste, and toss until coated.  Spread each tortilla with black bean hummus, and layer with julienned vegetables, avocado slices, and roasted red peppers.  Fold the side ends of the tortillas over the filling, and roll it up, burrito-style.

For the Hummus:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup tahini

Using a food processor, pulse together the chickpeas, black beans, garlic, water, olive oil, lemon juice, chile powder, cumin and kosher salt until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.  Add the tahini, and blend for an additional 2 minutes until very smooth.  Taste, and add salt to taste if needed.

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Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Things are beginning to look up.  I spent the entire day last Sunday working on the garden; turning the soil, working in compost, and planting my spring seeds while Luca tore around the garden like a little hellion, leaping across raised beds and over tomato cages, jumping through hose water, and finally, lounging in the shade with her tongue hanging out.   I got a bit carried away this year, as I already planted onions, shallots, radishes, spinach, romaine, kale, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas–and that is just the spring crop!  Every year around this time, I feel like the world is waking up again.  We’re peeling off our winter layers, airing out our houses, and getting some much needed sunshine.

Well, here in Colorado, the first blossoms just arrived on the trees, random crocuses and tulips are appearing everywhere, and my chives have returned in full force.  Sugar snaps won’t be ready until May or June, but planting inevitably got me anticipating my spring crops.  When I went grocery shopping later that day, impatience trumped local, seasonal eating (oops).  I couldn’t help but buy a handful of sugar snap peas to hold me over until the time arrives to pick my own.

I welcome the switchover to each season.  At the first hint of spring weather, I immediately crave more delicate, brighter flavored foods as opposed to the heavier fare of winter.  I mean, come on.  Eating a belly-warming vegetable or meat braise when the sun is shining and the trees are blossoming is like wearing a cable knit sweater and mittens on a tropical vacation.  It just doesn’t balance out.

One of my favorite foods in any season is quinoa (think “keen-wa”).  During the summer,  it’s my Southwest Quinoa Salad, laden with peppers, tomatoes, and farmers market corn, tossed with chile-lime vinaigrette.  In this springy version, I toss quinoa with sugar snaps, chopped mint and toasted almonds, and coat with a gingery yogurt dressing.  The flavors are fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, hinted with lemon and laced with ginger and garlic.  The sesame oil is almost imperceptible, except that it adds a rounded depth to the dressing.  This salad makes a great light lunch on its own, or would pair nicely with some grilled salmon.

I can’t wait until I can make this with peas straight from the garden, although I’ll have to have a little self control; most of my sugar snaps never actually make it into the house since I consider them gardening snacks and eat them straight from the vine.  Colorado is always a little late on the warm-weather front.  I’m curious to know what sorts of spring signs are popping up around you…do tell!

 Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Makes 4 servings

Use this recipe as a starting point, and feel free to improvise additions or substitutions using the vegetables you have available.  I imagine julienned carrot and green onion would be a nice addition to the sugar snaps, and chopped broccoli might be a good substitution.  

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa, drain well and place in a small saucepan.  Add a scant two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and a what looks like a white thread spirals around each grain. Transfer to a plate to cool.  If the quinoa appears to be cooked, but there is excess water in the pan, uncover, increase heat to medium, and cook for an additional minute or two, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sesame oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.

3. Place the cooled quinoa, sugar snap peas, almonds and mint in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add the yogurt dressing and gently toss to coat.  Garnish with additional almonds and mint if desired.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Filed under Salads, Side Dishes