Thursday, May 29, 2008

No Denying — It's Really Green
This is my version of that red vegetable juice. Mine doesn't boast eight ingredients and it's green, but it tastes like the red stuff.

This smoothie was a bit thick. Many would probably like it with more water, but I found it very satisfying. Thick and creamy with a few itsy bitsy chunks. I could have used the 'liquefy' setting at the end, but I chose to leave it with little bits of dates to chew on. Yes, dates. Taking a page out of the Food Giants' recipe books, I decided that a touch of sweetener would give this juice a nice 'commercial' touch. I also added a dash of hot sauce. That put it right over the top.
Ah, the purist among the raw food community will be aghast, but when I consider all those fresh, raw veggies that I'm consuming and enjoying — a dash of hot sauce, a little date here or there is fine with me. It still beats the stuff from the grocery store. You know, the high sodium stuff I mean.

It's easy to add lots of raw fruit to our diet. There's nothing strange about eating an apple or a banana in its raw form, but we're accustomed to cooking our vegetables. Some folks cook them from frozen packages, some from cans, some overcook them or drown them in rich, fatty sauces. Other than lettuce, learning to eat our vegetables raw is a big departure from the norm, IF, we eat vegetables at all. For some folks, catsup is the vegetable du jour.

I've been experimenting— making my morning smoothie with more vegetables and less fruit. Though I've not given up on fruit and dark green leafy smoothies. Cantaloupe and kale with a frozen banana is still one of my favorite morning drinks. But this green, speckled beauty was absolutely delicious. I'll be having this often. It would make a great lunch, too.
Green Vegetable Juice
2 Kirby cucumbers, cut into hunks
1 large, ripe tomato, cut into hunks
2 hands full of spinach
1 cup of water
1 tsp of fresh bee pollen
3 dates
splash of hot sauce
Makes a full 12 ounce glass

Blend away! I don't have a Vita-Mix or its equivalent. But my Kitchen Aid blender handles these pieces nicely. If desired, add a little more water for a thinner consistency. Liquefy, to remove all chunks. It tastes great!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Salad Days
Sweet or savory, lots of fresh, raw fruit and vegetables deliver both a sensational taste treat but more importantly, a big nutritional boost. Energy level soars, calories are kept low and the tummy is quite content.

The expression 'salad days' was coined by none other than the greatest playwright who ever lived, William Shakespeare. Cleopatra commented on her infatuation with Julius Caesar as: "My salad days, when I was green in judgment." Green refers both to inexperience and to the color of salad.

Green, has taken on a whole new connotation in the 21st century, as we struggle to control the damage civilization, in the name of progress, growth and technology, has inflicted upon the earth. For those of us who are not only eco-friendly, but health conscious, eating green involves eating local, whole foods, preferably in their raw, unadulterated state. Salads are a perfect example of using a variety of raw foods to fill the bill. While at the same time, providing a perfect example of truly fast food!

The salad pictured at the top of the page is predominantely a fruit salad. Blueberries, chopped white peaches, banana, orange segments, raisins, toasted walnuts on a bed of green leaf lettuce, sprinkled with salad sprouts and clover sprouts, dressed lightly with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar.

The bottom salad is corn/black bean salsa with green leaf lettuce and clover sprouts. The lime juice and accumulated vegetable juices from the salsa are all that was needed to moisten the lettuce and give the salad a bit of a kick.

Salad days—with summer on our heels—what better time to start experimenting with tossing together fresh, ripe fruit and vegetables. It's fast, it's easy, no recipes needed and to top it off, it's so very healthy. Make lots of days SALAD DAYS. For more salad ideas, check here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sesame Noodles
Here's a quick, easy, economical little dish when you have a yen for a few noodles with an Asian twist. These are soba noodles, made from organic buckwheat and water, tossed with toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onions and a simple sauce made from rice wine vinegar, tamari, sesame oil and lime juice.

The noodles cook up in 3 - 4 minutes. Sesame seeds toast quickly in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat, then whisking together the sauce ingredients and slicing the onions is a simple task.

When the noodles are cooked, they are rinsed in a colander under cold water, drained, tossed with the sauce, sliced onion and sesame seeds and you're good to go. I like to chill the dish for 20 - 30 minutes before serving. Then give it all another quick toss and a final squirt of lime juice and enjoy. Simple, tasty and very inexpensive.

3 oz soba noodles
1/4 cup sesame seeds
4-6 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
6 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons raw honey
juice from one lime

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet, shaking often, until golden; remove from heat and set aside.
2. Whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, and honey.

3. Cook the noodles according to the package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Shake the colander to remove excess water and place the noodles in a serving bowl. Toss with sauce and green onions. Add the sesame seeds and toss again, then add a generous squeeze of lime juice. Chill for 30 - 60 minutes to allow flavors to marry.

4. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary - an extra dash of tamari or a little squeeze of lime juice will enliven the flavor. Serve cold.

When you want a little something more than just vegetables — think whole food noodles with a light dressing and a few raw veggies to accompany. This dish would be nice garnished with seeded cucumber pieces, too.

We're only limited by our imaginations. Not our finances. Eating well and eating inexpensively is not an oxymoron. It just takes a bit of exploring, experimenting and willingness to try something different.

Go ahead, nosh some noodles. I found the idea for this easy recipe in the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Leaf Wrap
Snack time is a good time to be a little innovative. I've found that using a big crisp, green leaf as a wrap makes for a tasty, low calorie, quick snack that provides a good mid-morning energy boost.

Wrapping half a banana with a bit of almond butter in a big Romaine leaf is one of my favorites. I make two wraps — not to waste the other half of the banana. Sprinkling a little crushed toasted walnuts over the banana and nut butter before wrapping or including a few raisins, adds another layer of flavor, energy and nutrition.

This wrap, done in a big leaf of organic, Florida grown, red leaf lettuce, is stuffed with slim spears of Kirby cuke and home-made hummus.

Using crisp green lettuce leaves as a wrap, isn't a new idea. It's one we forget about, constantly reaching for the whole wheat pita or tortilla -style wrap. Cut out the grains and we cut out a lot of calories while adding a big energy boost from the live leaf.

The protein from the almond butter or chickpea hummus coupled with the live, fresh fruit or vegetables makes a super snack, providing another way to add a few extra servings of raw food to our daily meal plan. The combinations to wrap are endless. A big green leaf, some protein substance to smear over and then a live food filling. Fruit or veggies, nuts and seeds, all work well. And they're fun.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


A trip to the farmers market this morning yielded some lovely, just picked, yellow squash and zucchini, from Jonathan and Amy's farm in Okeechobee. Three little yellow ones and two green. Cost: $2.00.

Once home, I washed the produce and sliced up both yellow and green squash. I put a good handful of each away in a plastic bag in the fridge for later and tossed the remainder with some Vidalia onion that was lightly sautéed in a little olive oil. While the squash softened up a bit, I put on a 1/2 cup of jasmine rice to cook. *

When the squash and onion were tender yet still a bit crisp, I removed them from the pan to a large bowl to wait while I prepared the curry sauce. This is a simple process if you have some Asian staples in the pantry. Coconut milk and canned curry paste will turn a simple veggie stir-fry into an exotic meal, with very little effort on the cook's part.

In the same 12" sauté pan that I used for the squash and onions, I added a bit more olive oil and added about 2 ounces, approximately 2 tablespoons, of Prik Khing Curry Paste, purchased from the Asian Market in a little 4 oz. can. I use Maesri brand from Thailand. The more paste you use, the hotter the dish will be. One tablespoon is mild, two is medium-hot, three is hot and the entire can, four tablespoons / 4 ounces, is extra hot, but for those in the know, I wouldn't call that 'Thai Hot', to achieve that level, you would have to add more chilis. The curry paste consists of: dried red chilis, garlic, shallot, lemon grass, sugar, salt, kaffir lime, galangal, coriander sees, cumin, cardamon and bay leaves.

Devoted, authentic Thai cooks would perhaps make their own curry paste. Their kitchens would undoubtedly be well stocked with the necessary ingredients. But American cooks may not always stock everything necessary to achieve that delicate, complex balance of sweet, savory and hot. I like to keep an assortment of canned curry pastes on hand, along with canned coconut milk to conveniently whip up a tasty sauce on the spur of the moment. It's amazing how easy it is to produce an impressive bowl of rice and veggies with this fragrant sauce, rich with flavors.

Stir the curry paste into the oil and let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes then you can simply stir in a can of coconut milk, or go the extra step that makes it more of an authentic technique, by separating the coconut milk and adding it in two additions. To do this, do not shake the can prior to opening. The top portion of the milk will be thick. Scoop it out into a little bowl leaving the watery bottom in the can. Add the thick coconut milk to the paste in the pan and stir to combine. Let the mixture cook slowly (watch the heat) until little oily bubbles appear all over the top, then stir in the remainder of the coconut milk from the can. Allow this to simmer gently until the little oil bubbles dot the surface again. Now it's ready to receive the previously sautéed vegetables.

Add the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook a few minutes to reheat and allow the sauce to coat each surface. Serve over jasmine rice with a bit of fresh basil or cilantro.

The sliced squash that I cooked would serve two generously - cook all 5 squash to serve four. As I'm cooking for one, I have leftovers of the cooked squash - certainly enough for another meal. Meanwhile, the sliced raw squash that I set aside makes a wonderful addition to a raw veggie salad plate with hummus for a dip. Another fast, easy, nutritious meal - from the same $2.00 purchase.

*Tip: Easy rice preparation. Wash rice in strainer. Use 1/2 cup rice for two servings; one cup rice for 4 servings. Place washed rice in saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover rice by about 3/4" - 1". Bring rice and water to boil, stir to combine and then lower heat allowing rice to boil gently UNCOVERED, until water above rice has disappeared. Then remove pan from heat. Cover the top of the pot with a folded linen towel or cloth napkin, then add the cover. Allow to rest undisturbed for 12 - 14 minutes. The rice will continue to steam and finish cooking, producing lovely, separate grains. Uncover, perfectly cooked rice, fluff with fork.

With fresh produce at the farm stands, farmers markets and grocery stores, quick, easy meals are a snap. And with garden fresh produce, the simpler the preparation, the better to enjoy the fresh flavors.

Prepare a feast with two zucchini, three small yellow squash,

one medium Vidalia onion, a little rice and a simple curry sauce.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Citrus and Avocado Salad
Here's a great refreshing salad combination that was inspired by a need to use a couple of ripe, juicy California navel oranges. I also decided to try my hand at Parmesan crisps. The salty, rich cheese was the perfect foil for the sweet salad ingredients. Though I did give the salad a hint of heat with a little minced jalepeño in the dressing and a few sliced garden fresh radishes.
Salad: Green leaf lettuce, orange segments, avocado, sliced radishes, sweet onion, sprout snacks and toasted walnuts. Dressing: 3 TBS olive oil; 2 TBS lemon juice, 2 TBS minced cilantro and 2 slices of pickled jalepeño, minced with salt and pepper to taste. (all placed in a small jar and shaken to blend.)
Parmesan Crisp

Kind of looks like a flat Rice Krispy treat, doesn't it? I've frequently read about cooking up some freshly grated Parmesan cheese as a quick hors d'oeuvre, which is particularly good with a glass of dry red wine, but I've never tried it.

I proceeded from what I could remember: I grated a little pile of Parmesan onto a piece of waxed paper (maybe a generous 1/2 cup), heated a non-stick saute pan over medium heat, and then carefully placed the grated cheese in the pan in two little flattened piles using my fingers, so they resembled small pancakes. While that was cooking, I proceeded with preparing the salad ingredients. You have to be patient with the cheese. At first it melts - don't mess with it. But after a bit, the bottom browns and is firm enough to turn over. Then let the second side firm up. The second side goes much faster than the first. When both sides were golden, I carefully lifted each out onto a cooling rack. Within a few minutes they had crisped up and were fragrantly calling my name. One per person, is really more than enough, bearing in mind the salt and calorie content. But it was just the right foil for the orange and avocado salad.

Bean Burrito

I had about 3/4 of a cup of refried beans leftover in the fridge - not enough to use for bean dip but enough to make a nice bottom layer on a burrito. I sauteed half an onion, a red cubanella pepper and a small jalepeno in some olive oil along with a minced clove of garlic. When the veggies were tender crisp, I pushed them to one side of the pan and carefully added the little mound of beans in the clear spot, to reheat. Once the beans had softened up a bit so they were easily spreadable, I placed them on the bottom third of a large whole wheat wrap (a tortilla would be fine, too). I covered the beans with a few thin slices of Monterrey Jack cheese and then covered the cheese with the onions and peppers. I rolled the wrap burrito style, and placed it in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat. Turn the burrito over several times so the tortilla or wrap browns evenly and the contents heat through and the cheese melts...this only takes 5 - 6 minutes.

Using a few odds and ends and a little imagination, it's easy to prepare some fast, tasty, inexpensive meals, especially when you're cooking for one or two.