Archive for the ‘Vegan’ Category


My husband is a chips and salsa fiend. One of the biggest challenges I had when we moved in together was finding enough shelf space for his tortilla chips in our limited pantry. He’ll eat them after a run, to tide himself over before dinner is ready, as a midnight snack . . . if we don’t have at least two full bags of tortilla chips on hand, something is seriously wrong.

More often than not, he’s content to scoop up a store-bought variety of salsa, as he did for years before we got together. But when I’ve got the extra time, I love making him a batch of homemade salsa. Usually, it’s my Roasted Tomato and Pepita Salsa, his hands-down favorite.

This recipe is a new contender for the top spot. There’s no cooking required — it’s just a bowlful of lightly dressed diced seasonal fruits and vegetables, perfect for summer days when you don’t want to turn on the heat. Start with a perfectly sweet nectarine (ripe but still firm), a golden yellow pineapple, and crisp red onion and bell pepper and fresh cilantro, then season the mixture with chili paste, agave nectar, and rice vinegar. And that’s it. In as long as it takes you to dice the produce, you’ve made a perfect summer salsa for dipping chips, topping grilled fish and chicken, and spooning onto tacos and tostadas.
Summer Fruit Salsa (printer-friendly version)

Makes about 3 cups

1 cup diced pineapple
1 nectarine, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

In a medium mixing bowl, toss ingredients together to combine evenly. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.


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hummus-california-style When you tell people you write a food blog, one of the first questions they ask you is, “So, have you thought about writing a cookbook?” Why yes, yes I have. My dream cookbook project would be called A Californian Kitchen, wherein I’d showcase my handiest kitchen skill: bastardizing versions of classic dishes to suit my West Coast whims. Someday, my friends. For now, I’ll share my basic, go-to hummus recipe. Since I bogarted my parents’ food processor some months ago, I’ve made many batches and settled on my favorite proportions of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and sea salt. Five ingredients are all it takes. Many recipes include olive oil and cumin as well, but I really like the flavor of the rich and slightly bitter tahini to come through in full force. hummus-california-style-2 As for the Californian twist, I’ve used Meyer lemon juice instead of the regular variety, and pared down the ingredient list to just the necessities. Meyer lemon juice is a lot sweeter than the jucie from Eureka lemons, the variety you’ll usually find in the grocery store. It also has a headier aroma, like lemon with a hint of tangerine. When you see these seasonal beauties in the produce section, snap ‘em up — they’re wonderful for sweet and savory dishes alike. My friend Danielle’s tree is in full production mode, so I’ll be throwing these into everything I can as long as she’s providing them. I like to use dried chickpeas, as they are about a third the cost of the canned variety, taste markedly better, and I can add as much or as little salt as I like during the cooking process. However, this recipe calls for precisely the amount of dried chickpeas as one 15-ounce can, so feel free to substitute if you are short on time.


Hummus, California Style (printer-friendly version)


2/3 cup (1/4 pound) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

juice of 3 large meyer lemons (yields 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup tahini
1 medium-sized clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


1. Place the soaked chickpeas in a medium (2-quart) saucepan, and add enough water to cover by a few inches, along with the 2 teaspoons of sea salt.

2. Bring up to a boil over medium heat, then turn down to low heat and let simmer, covered, until the chickpeas are tender but not falling apart.This will take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on the freshness of your dried beans. If the water gets too low due to long cooking time, simply add more boiling hot water to the pot. After one hour of cooking, taste every 15 minutes or so to check for doneness.

3. Once the chickpeas are finished cooking, drain in a colander and set aside to cool until no longer steaming hot, about 30 minutes.

4. Pour the chickpeas into a food processor and add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Process until very smooth, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the container halfway through processing. Adjust salt to taste, if desired.

5. Transfer to a tightly covered container and store, refrigerated, for up to one week.

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When the kind people at Marukan sent me some product samples a couple weeks ago, I had one dish in mind: Japanese cucumber salad, a.k.a. sunomono. I wanted to use their seasoned rice vinegar to streamline the salad — instead of adding sugar, salt, and vinegar, I’d use one convenient ingredient containing all three.

This salad has only four ingredients, and comes together in about ten minutes, or as fast as you can thinly slice a pound of cucumbers! It’s the perfect first course for a sushi dinner, or as a vegetable side with miso-marinated fish and steamed rice.

I’ve given classic sunomono a little twist by adding one of my favorite ingredients, hot sesame oil. This roasted sesame oil spiked with hot chili oil is meant to be used sparingly — just a few drops adds wonderful sesame aroma and a hint of heat.

Sesame Cucumber Salad

serves 4


1 pound Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon hot sesame oil


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, allowing cucumbers to lightly pickle in the vinegar dressing.

Marukan rice vinegar was provided to me for review, free of charge. All opinions are my own.

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Happy My Birthday, Dear Readers! Any other January babies out there? Perhaps you can commiserate with me, in that having a birthday right after the holidays is a little strange. My body is, quite frankly, tired of all of the sugar and cookies from last month’s celebrations, so the typical birthday sweets just don’t have much appeal.

And so, I choose to celebrate the last of my 20-something birthdays (aaack!) with a healthy treat. A generous serving of four power bites includes only a teaspoon of honey (and you can easily substitute in agave nectar for an all-vegan recipe). The natural sweetness of pumpkin, cashews, and warm spices more than makes up for any lack of sugar.

Enjoy these as a post-yoga snack, a quick out-the-door breakfast (add a yogurt cup for a meal with a little more staying power), or don your fuzziest robe and nibble a few along with your morning coffee, as I am on this perfectly cozy morning.


Pumpkin Pie Power Bites (printer-friendly version)

makes about 45 bites

1 1/2 C. pumpkin puree
1/4 C. clover honey
1/4 C. virgin coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3 C. cashew meal, divided
2 C. oat bran

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. In a large (11-cup) food processor, combine pumpkin puree, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, spices, baking powder, and salt. Turn on the processor and let mix for about 10 seconds, until the ingredients are fully mixed. Leave the food processor running.

2. Slowly pour 2 cups of the cashew meal into the food processor, processing until incorporated, still leaving the machine running.

3. Slowly pour in the oat bran, process until fully incorporated, and then finally turn off the food processor.

4. Pour the remaining 1 C. of cashew meal into a shallow bowl or onto a plate.

5. Roll the dough into 1-tablespoon balls, then roll in the cashew meal to fully coat. Place the dough balls onto the cookie sheet. Don’t worry about placing them far apart, as the dough will not spread during baking.

6. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before eating, and to room temperature before storing. Power bites will keep in an airtight container for 1 week, or frozen for up to 2 months.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 9.52.21 AM

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salsa-topped beans and rice

I don’t know about you, but nobody ever taught me how to cook with dried chiles. They certainly aren’t programmed into my Eastern European DNA, and my parents didn’t cook much spicy food while I was growing up.

ancho chiles toasting in a cast iron panLuckily, mystery ingredients are easily demystified with a simple internet search these days. Chile neophytes are blessed with an embarrassment of recipes by Rick Bayless, patron saint of seekers of authentic Mexican cooking methods written in English. There’s also the option of googling for recipes in Spanish, then translating pages back into English.

serranos, jalapeños, and tomatillos

In my copious reading, I learned that in order to prepare dried chiles for cooking, one must first toast or fry them in a pan to release their aroma. Next, the chiles need to be hydrated, either by blending into a sauce, or soaking in hot water. Soaked peppers become pliable and soft, and can then added to salsas, stews and marinades.

I chose to go the salsa route with my first foray into dried chile cooking — my tortilla chip-addicted boyfriend was such a fan of my tomato and pepita salsa, I figured I’d try for another win. This one is based on tomatillos and anchos, and also includes toasted pepitas (a.k.a. shelled pumpkin seeds) to offset the chile spice.


We’re big fans of chile heat around here, so I left the seeds in the serrano peppers, and chose to simmer the ancho chiles with their seeds before removing them. Turns out my capsicums weren’t fooling around, and the resulting sauce packed a whole lot of heat. For a more “medium” level of spice, I’d suggest seeding the anchos before toasting, and removing the seeds from all of the fresh peppers before roasting.

salsa in the food processor

This recipe produces about a quart of rich, dark salsa with slightly bitter overtones from the dried chiles. We’ve been eating it with chips, and spooning it onto beans and rice. Mixed with some freshly-squeezed orange juice and a glug or two of chicken broth, it’s a wonderful marinade for chicken thighs and drumsticks, braised slowly and served over rice. It also freezes very well. We’re looking forward to making our way through the rest of this tasty sauce!

salsa over pinto beans and rice

Hot and Spicy Ancho Tomatillo Salsa (printer-friendly version

Makes about 1 quart of salsa

1 lb. tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and halved
4 serrano peppers, halved, seeds left in
4 jalapeño peppers, halved and seeded
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
1/3 C. raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
6 ancho chiles (dried)
1/4 C. olive oil
juice of 2 limes
1/2 C. cilantro leaves

1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 425F.

2. Place the tomatillos, serrano and jalapeño peppers, and onion on the lined baking sheet, skin side up. Bake for 25 minutes.

3. While the vegetables are roasting, heat a medium (10-inch) cast-iron pan over a medium flame. Add the pepitas and toast for a few minutes, just until browned and beginning to pop. Set aside.

4. In the same cast-iron pan over medium heat, toast the ancho chiles until they begin to become aromatic and lighten in color a bit, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ancho chiles from the water. Split open, remove seeds, and cut the peppers into 1-inch strips. Set aside.

6. Remove the pan of roasted vegetables from the oven, then turn the heat up to broil. Place the baking sheet in the broiler (or at the top of your oven, wherever the heating element or flame is located) and broil for 5 minutes, until all of the pepper and tomatillo skins are well browned but not blackened. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are still warm but no longer boiling hot.

7. Place the roasted vegetables, toasted pepitas, and seeded, hydrated ancho chilis in a medium (12-cup) food processor. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro. Process for about 1 minute, until all of the ingredients are blended into a smooth salsa.

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tomato-soup-with-farro-and-spinach-2Dear Readers,

I hope you all had a great Thanksgivnukkah! And Black Friday. And Cyber Monday.

And supposedly we’re calling this Cyber Week now? Good grief.

If you can tear yourself away from the online deals and get back into the kitchen, you’ll find that this is the perfect lunch or dinner for the next couple weeks. As we’re given a short break from indulgent holiday meals, it’s a great time to reset and get back to healthy eating for a little while, without going completely down the detox rabbit hole.

There’s no cream or dairy in this tomato soup, so it won’t leave you feeling weighed down. It’s still a filling meal due to additions of chewy farro, wilted spinach, and a topping of toasty cubes of bread — I was happy with a big bowl of this for dinner, followed by some sliced cheese and fruit for dessert.


Tomato Soup with Farro and Spinach (Printer-friendly version

Serves 2

2 Tbsp. Garlic Gold Oil
bottom (white) halves of a bunch of green onions, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 C. (one 24-ounce jar) tomato puree
1 C. water
1/4 C. quick-cooking farro
3 oz. (half a small bag) baby spinach

To Garnish:

2 slices sandwich bread, cut into cubes and toasted
chopped parsley
green onion tops
Garlic Gold Italian Nuggets

1. Heat the oil in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over a medium flame. Add the sliced green onion bottoms and salt, stir to combine, then cover and let sweat for about 3 minutes. Remove lid and sauté for 3 more minutes, until liquid has evaporated but the onions have not begun to brown.

2. Add the tomato puree, water, and quick-cooking farro. Bring up to a simmer, turn down to low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the lid, turn heat back up to medium, and add the baby spinach. Stir to combine — the spinach will wilt immediately. Once the soup has come up to a simmer again (just a minute or two), it is ready to serve.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with croutons, chopped parsley and green onions, and Garlic Gold Italian Nuggets.

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It’s been a while since I’ve made a smoothie, and I’m not sure why! They’re one of my favorite mid-morning pick-me-up snacks, and I’m definitely going to include this one in regular rotation. It’s packed with nutritions ingredients, including a couple sources of healthy fats to keep you energized long after you’re done sipping. Thanks to Linwoods for sending the sample of hemp seeds – they’re mild in taste and blend easily, adding lots of protein, magnesium and iron.


Berry Hemp Smoothie

Serves 2

3 C. loosely packed baby greens (I use a mix of chard, spinach and kale)
½ C. frozen pineapple chunks
2/3 C. frozen wild blueberries
½ medium avocado
2 Tbsp. shelled hemp seeds
1 C. unsweetened cranberry juice
3 Tbsp. agave nectar

1. Place ingredients in blender in order listed.

2. Blend until smooth, stopping and using a spoon to agitate the ingredients a couple times if necessary.

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