Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
I can't believe it is almost May. May!  April flew by us in a whirlwind and I'm already moving on to thinking and planning for this summer.  Plans are being made for camps, trips, landscaping, and a new deck for the new house.  After moving into our house last year, we took a break from all thoughts of house design, concentrating on the inside.  Well, it's finally time we take it outdoors.

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
I truly treasure my outdoor space.  One of the things I miss most about our old house is our yard.  It took a few years, but I had finally grown a beautiful and peace-filled yard with giant hydrangeas, rose bushes, and flowering trees.  My favorite space was my vegetable and herb garden.  Logan and I worked together to loosen the soil after the cold winter, adding fresh nutrients, and then sowing our seeds.  We had quite the green thumbs.  The rewards were plentiful.  Fresh herbs were at our disposal.   A handful of chives, basil, mint, thyme, or sage could be cut at will for whatever I was cooking.  We had a bounty of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and even melons.  This was the time of year I cleaned out the beds and began anew, looking forward to what the season would bring me.

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love this house.  And, for that reason, the feeling of spinning my wheels is maddening. I know how fantastic our plans will be in the end but I feel frustrated at the slow pace of making it happen.  I am not known as a patient person once I have an idea in my head.  For now, we are building our deck and patio.  For now, we are meeting with landscape designers.  For now, we have to make do with grass that is growing lush in some places and barely covering the dirt in others. We have trees and brush that need to be cleared out, and new trees and plantings to go in the ground.  The vision is there but the execution and finished product is a few years down the road.  Patience, Christy, patience.

This week I waxed nostalgic for our little garden simply because of my love for the fresh herbs.  I get so excited for this time of year because of the endless salad possibilities that come about through the use of fresh herbs and the wider variety of vegetables in the markets.  One of my new favorite types of salads is the crunchy kind.  I have no idea why I didn't care for the crunchy salads in my younger days, preferring lots of greens and leafy stuff.  Maybe the exposure to some tasty crunch in my salads and the more filling portions that often go along with these types of salads changed my mind.  Salads are no longer just about romaine, tomato, cucumber, and carrots.  Now, a salad might mix in beans, peppers, corn, broccoli, or celery.  It might use as its base grains such as quinoa, farro, couscous, or barley.  Even simple oil and vinegar dressings can be more interesting with fresh herbs added to them.  The possibilities are endless.

This week I found myself with a bunch of celery and a husband who asked for them to ALWAYS be in the fridge so that he isn't tempted to snack on chips.  Well, the celery was still there, untouched, and the aforementioned husband was headed out of town for a few days at the end of the week.  Well, why not make a salad with celery.  A celery salad! And, because I love herbs so much, I also had gone a bit overboard with the amount I had in my refrigerator, also on their way to going bad.  Waste not, want not.

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
Using chopped celery, a red pepper, and onion I was on my way to an idea for a refreshing and crunchy salad.  Add in one can of chickpeas, cooked quinoa, and a vinaigrette full of fresh herbs and we suddenly have gone from a salad to a satisfying meal.  The result was all that I anticipated.  The colors were pretty, the meal satisfying, and the crunchy freshness met all of my expectations.  The dried cranberries added a nice tangy sweetness that complemented the taste of the celery and onion.  And, the walnuts simply added an even crunchier bite.  In my opinion, there is just something special about combining the flavors of celery, walnuts, and cranberries.  I'm not sure why but it works but it never fails.

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
I look forward to putting this salad together again throughout the summer months...possibly from the view of our new deck!

print recipe

Crunchy Celery, Chickpea, and Quinoa Salad
A refreshing side salad that combines the crunchiness of celery and the meatiness of the chickpeas with a delicious assortment of freshly chopped herbs.
  • 1 cup, cooked quinoa
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon, chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons, chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tablespoon, chopped fresh mint
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 cup, chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool. (Note: you can make more quinoa than you need for this recipe and freeze the leftover quinoa to use later).Chop the celery, pepper, and onion. Add the chopped veggies to a medium bowl. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add to the bowl of vegetables.Chop the herbs. Add them to the bowl of vegetables. Sprinkle the sumac, salt, and pepper over the ingredients in the bowl. Add 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries to the bowl..Add the olive oil and vinegar. Stir the mixture until it is well-mixed and the oil and vinegar have coated all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zucchini Muffins

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

There used to be a cartoon my older kids watched on Nickelodeon many moons ago called "The Mighty Bee."  It was the creative creation of Amy Poehler and featured one of her many comedic voices.  The star of the show, Bessie Higgenbotham, was a bit on the strange side, maybe eccentric is the better word.  She saw the good in everyone even though she was despised by the head of the Mighty Bees, a girl scout type crew headed by her nemesis's mother.  In one episode, we learn that the Mighty Bee's real enemy is not actually the snooty and bullying Portia but is instead the mighty zucchini.  Bessie vows to rid the world of this despised vegetable, her sworn enemy.  It is the weakness of her alter ego "The Mighty B."  Every superhero has a weakness.  Zucchini happens to be her kryptonite.

Shredded zucchini and pureed silken tofu
My kids used to love that show.  I don't know why they don't play it anymore.  It's Spongebob with a wacky female in the lead and often had me laughing out loud at her adventures and her poor dog Happy.  They especially loved her hatred of zucchini.  It was an identifiable moment for them and nearly ten years later they still quote the episode.  Personally, I love zucchini.  I love all types of squash in many different forms.  Yet, my entire family supports the Mighty B and have a personal understanding of her disgust with this summer vegetable.

Because I have a sick sense of humor, I decided to create a snack that would fool even the smallest of the haters.  My smallest hater has a penchant for muffins.  He can smell a muffin baking from down the driveway on his way home from school.  If you aren't watching he will devour four in a quick 10-minute span.  He is my muffin man.  Well, what if I create a muffin that sneaks in some veggies?  I'll put in all of his favorite muffin spices.  I'll veganize it to appeal to my oldest snacker.  And, I'll sneak in the dreaded zucchini, keeping my fingers crossed that he won't scoff at the green stuff.

Do you see the green flecks?
One by one, the little snackers made it home from school.  Each one took a bite.  Each one ate two.  I got a "they're soooo good that I can't stop at one".  That's when I broke the news about the zucchini.

Vegan Zucchini Muffins
"Do you notice anything special in the muffin?"
"Take a look.  Do you see something green?"
"Yes, what did you put in them?"
"What?" asked with a sour look.
"Oh, well.  They're good.  I didn't even notice."
Little fingers grab another muffin.

Vegan Zucchini Muffins
And, good they are! To veganize them, I used silken tofu instead of eggs and oil instead of melted butter.  You can use an oil of your choice but pick a mild one without much flavor such as vegetable, grapeseed, or coconut.  I chose vegetable.

Vegan Zucchini Muffins
The muffins are soft, moist, and flavorful.  They keep well in an airtight container and can be stored up to 3 days.  If you love the zucchini, you'll enjoy finding a new way to use it.  If you don't love zucchini, it won't matter.  You will love this muffin.

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

print recipe

Zucchini Muffins
A moist and spicy muffin that brings together fall flavors, summer vegetables, and zucchini haters in peaceful harmony. Dairy-free and Vegan.
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded (1 large zucchini) zucchini
  • 3/4 cup silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • turbinado sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pans with cooking spray and set aside.In a food processor, grate the zucchini using the grater disk. Set aside in a separate bowl. Using the blade attachment of the food processor, give the silken tofu a spin until it looks like sour cream. Set aside.In a medium bowl, combine the oil, sugar, orange zest, salt, and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add in the silken tofu and whisk until the mixture has combined and the graininess of the sugar has disappeared.In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Whisk the dry ingredients to combine and remove any lumpiness.Add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking to remove all lumps. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin containers 3/4 full. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center of the muffin springs back when touched.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16 muffins

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chocolate Tahini Crispy Treats (Vegan)

Last week I told you about my new love affair with Tahini.  Actually, the tahini love affair isn't anything new but my discovery of Soom Foods tahini is new.  Love them!  Well, expand your minds a bit and get ready for a tahini like no other you've tasted and get ready to find every means possible to use said tahini:  Chocolate Tahini.  That's right, people...chocolate tahini.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas over Quinoa with Lemon-Tahini Dressing (vegan)

I have many reasons for enjoying our new vegan lifestyle.  Two of my favorite reasons are that many of the meals are super easy and quick to make. My second reason is the flavors found in many of the recipes.  One ingredient that frequently comes up is tahini.  And, as I was told one day by a friend of mine who had spent a lot of time in Israel, something as good as falafel can be ruined if the tahini isn't good.  In other words, falafel is only as good as the quality of the tahini drizzled over it.  Wise words to live by, my friends. Wise words.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Flaky Blueberry Scones (Vegan)

Flaky Blueberry Scones (Vegan)
One of our favorite treats to eat at any time of day are scones.  I pride myself on making the flakiest, melt-in-your-mouth scones you can imagine.  You can practically taste the butter and creamy flakiness in each bite.  I like to make my scones with bits of candied ginger, cranberries, or the lovely blueberry depending on my mood, not to mention what I have in the refrigerator.