New Reality, New Options

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Hi all! Hope you and your families are well during these difficult times. I know it’s been a while since my last post. So I must say, in this new age amid the Corona virus, I’ve been exploring vegan and vegetarian meal options with the random food shortages. The first week I saw no meat in the multiple stores, I found this vegan gem in Trader Joe’s that made my taste buds rejoice. As a southerner through and through, I love crab cakes. So let me say I was highly skeptical of anything described as a “crab-less crab cake”. Color me surprised that Trader Joe delivered a truly tasty meatless alternative that I quickly went and purchased more of.

In this new age, I will be keeping to my tradition of cooking most of my weekly meals with one “take out option”. Given the pandemic that translates to my girl Sandra’s “semi-homemade” concept.  These frozen “crab cakes” I’ve eaten both with a mixed greens salad and a warmed avocado, cabbage and leek salad. As a part of my path to maintaining healthy, I’m consuming as many prebiotic and probiotic foods as possible. So please note that avocado and leeks, both used in this dish, are probiotic foods which contain the fibers needed to feed the probiotics in your gut which promote good gut health. More than likely, the next few recipes will be focused on this. So amid my home productions of kimchi, kombucha and banana walnut breads (more probiotics :)), I will be sharing other recipes focused on probiotics and probiotics to help keep your body and your gut healthy amid these uncertain times. Stay safe and well and as always let me know your thoughts!

P.S. I’d like to give a shout out to Trader Joe’s and their social distancing practices and the added bonus of the bouquet of flowers they gave each guest in my store!

“Crab cake” salad

Ingredients:

2 jackfruit cakes (trader joes)

Pinch onion powder

Pinch garlic powder

2 cups of mixed greens

1/2 avocado sliced

1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup sliced cucumber

1/4 cup sliced cherry tomato

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Defrost “crab cakes” for 1 hour prior to cooking.
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet. While heating rinse cucumber, greens and tomato.
  3. Add cakes to the oil.
  4. Add washed greens to a bowl. Peel and slice cucumber before seasoning cakes with onion and garlic powder, then flip.
  5. Slice tomatoes in half and add tomato and cucumber to greens.
  6. Slice avocado and season to taste before adding to salad. Top with vinegar then cakes.


“Crab Cake” and Cabbage

Crab cake ingredients:

2 jackfruit cakes (trader joes)

Pinch onion powder

Pinch garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

cabbage ingredients:

2 cups of chopped Napa cabbage

1 cup chopped leeks

1 1/2 tsp. coconut, avocado or olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp. onion powder

1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

1/4 cup of water

Directions:

  1. defrost cakes 1 hr before beginning to cook.
  2. Rinse small Napa cabbage, cut in half and then into fourths. Cut a fourth into strips to “shred”
  3. Rinse leeks, cut off tops and save for stock, then cut thick stem into thin ribbons. In a medium pan, add oil and then leeks. Cook for 2 minutes to soften before adding cabbage. Add seasoning, vinegar and water and stir well before reducing heat.
  4. In a small pan heat oil and brown cakes on both sides. Cut a half of avocado and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.
  5. Plate cabbage mix, top with avocado and then crab cakes.

5-Minute Meal

 

Spinach and Chickpea Salad

Sometimes a 5-minute meal is called for and for those, salads are an easy go-to. The trick is to get creative to prevent food boredom. This salad is easy to pair with any fish or chicken you may have already prepared. I am also a fan of a little help from the store with wine such as smoked or pastrami style salmon, low sodium smoked turkey or boiled shrimp. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

½ cup chopped tomatoes

1 can of drained organic chickpeas

¼ cup of diced onion

2 tbsp. shredded basil

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

The juice of one lemon and orange

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp crumbled feta

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1.       Rinse and chop spinach and tomatoes and add to a medium bowl.

2.       Drain and rinse chickpeas if not low sodium.

3.       Finely dice onion and chop herbs. Add to the bowl.

4.       Juice citrus over bowl and add seasoning and feta. Mix well and enjoy.

Salad Inspiration

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This tasty salad was inspired by the beautiful Brussel sprouts that are in season at the Red Stick Farmers market. You just can’t go wrong with feta and balsamic in a salad! Grilled chicken or shrimp or really any protein of your choice would be a great addition to this salad. You can also add other seasonal fruit and vegetables such as lettuce, strawberries or peppers for some added nutrients and flavors. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

 

Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups shaved Brussels Sprouts

2 cups chopped asparagus

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ cup sliced onion

2 tbsp. chopped nuts (optional

2 tbsp. feta cheese

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ tbsp. honey

3 cloves of garlic

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse vegetables. Peel and slice onion. Peel garlic.
  2. In a large bowl, add vinegar and honey and mix well to dissolve honey. Press in garlic or mince and add. Add sliced onion.
  3. Using a mandolin, thinly slice Brussel sprouts. If you do not have a mandolin, use a box grater. You want to break the sprouts down so that they are easier to eat.
  4. Add sprouts to the bowl. Trim asparagus by using one stalk and bending it to where it breaks naturally and trim the others the same length. This will help you avoid adding woody stems. Add to the bowl.
  5. Add cranberries, feta and nuts. Drizzle with olive oil, mix well.
  6. Enjoy.

 

 

Growing Greens

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Happy 2019; I hope your year is off to a great start! I said I would do a couple of post on gardening in the New Year and thought it best to start off with one. Growing your own food doesn’t have to be scary and is certainly rewarding. I actually began growing by attending a fundraiser and participating in a ticket pull. While my goal was to win a bottle of wine, I instead won a few herb plants and my first tomato plant. After my first tomato came in, I was hooked and have been growing since then.

I’d like to start with lettuce since this is perfect weather to grow them in Louisiana and similar climates with temperatures at a low of 40 and high of 75 degrees. It’s important to note, soil PH is different in different areas and can even be different in your backyard. So finding the right spot to grow your crops is part of the discovery. You can always add compost and plant food with dirt when planting to create more PH balance.  I learned through trial and error that I do best growing in planters for crops like lettuce rather than in ground. Lettuce needs good drainage, sun with shade for part of the day and regular water. Once I found the right spot, the greens mostly took care of themselves.

I brought a rectangular planter and drilled holes in the bottom to support drainage. With a mix of potting mix, organic compost and organic chicken manure, I had a great growing environment. The fun came in adding rows of different seeds for a pretty interesting salad mix. I included red and green lettuce, arugula and mesclun seeds in the bed for my salad. With rain every few days, I have not had to water the planters. It’s important to make sure the box remains moist. Once they start to sprout, it takes three to four weeks to grow into tasty salad greens. *Note: Growing herbs like parsley and cilantro is not only easy, but make great salad additions.

Considering squirrels are frequent backyard visitors, I covered my greens with mesh netting to prevent nibbles. I have not had any problems with nibbles nor other pest impacting the greens; however if you do, there are organic sprays that can be used such as Garden Safe, which I did need for tomatoes this past summer.

I’d recommend only cutting what you need for a meal to get the most fresh and best tasting greens. Rinse them well! I clipped them down to the base stem and added them to a sink of water to get off any extra dirt. Check out images of the stages of growth below.

Just starting to sprout (they do not all come out at the same time):

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Gaining traction (about 2 weeks later):

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Be patient. It’s worth it! (2-3 weeks later)

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Back to Normalacy

 

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After thanksgiving and being in two weddings in the past 3 weeks, I’m getting back to my healthy. That means more soups/gumbos and salads to combat the wonderful indulgences that the holidays and weddings provide. 

Since I knew what was coming, I had already planted my winter crops and am excited to cook my first mustard green harvest. I’ve also already stocked my freezer with different soups and stews over the past several months, so the work is already done.

My salad crops of arugula, mixed greens and mustards are also nearing harvest. Growing is pretty easy and you can pretty much harvest any young greens for quick salads. 

I’ve been trying my hand at growing everything from tomatoes and peppers this spring and summer to now garlic and turmeric. If you are interested in growing some of your own food, I’d encourage you to start with herbs or indoor micro greens. Both were great starts for me and after conversations with my local farmers, I’ve since expanded to other things and built simple boxes for my crops. Growing can be work depending on how much you are doing, but it’s been so rewarding to eat things I’ve grown myself.

To prepare these greens, I just rinsed, chopped and sautéed them in olive oil with garlic for 5 minutes; simple and tasty.

I’m considering a short spring growing series. What do you think? 🙂

Thanksgiving Sides

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Thanksgiving brings together family with food and fun and also brings the opportunity to share gratitude. In addition to time with family we all look forward to our favorite dishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I am certainly looking forward to mirliton dressing, I will also prepare a healthy side to share my gratitude for health in this season. 

I fell in love with the oyster mushrooms from the Red Stick Farmers Market and wanted to share this tasty idea a side option. With multiple varieties of kale in season, I selected the tender Dino kale  and sautéed them with garlic and the mushrooms for a quick and easy side dish. You can always substitute any other mushroom of choice. Check out the recipe below.

In addition to this recipe, the savory sweet potato dishes in my last post would also make great seasonal sides. I challenge you to make a healthy dish and add it to the mix this Thanksgiving. Be sure to share your creations!

Sautéed Kale and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

4 cups of Kale

2 cups of oyster mushrooms diced

6-8 cloves of garlic minced

1 tbsp. Olive oil

1/2 cup of water

1 tsp. Red pepper flakes or cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse kale and slice leaves in half longwise before chopping. 
  2. Heat oil over medium heat. Peel and mince garlic  and add to oil. Add red pepper flakes.
  3. Chop mushrooms and add to garlic. Add in kale and stir well for one minute.
  4. Add water, top and reduce heat to low for 3-5 minutes or until tender.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Seasonal Sweet Potatoes

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Every fall, we are lucky to have the delicious sweet potato crop produce in abundance. Sweet potatoes, like all potatoes, have their share of nutrients and vitamins such as high fiber, iron, calcium, B vitamins (energy) and Vitamin C (immune boost). Of course by name alone, this starchy vegetable lends itself more to desserts; however sweet potatoes are a great addition to many savory creations. After purchasing a couple of sweet potatoes from the Chenier Farm at my local farmers market, I used the potatoes to make two sides: rosemary and garlic chive roasted vegetable medley and savory mashed sweet potato. These are great side dishes for any protein of choice. If you want to keep things simple, bake chicken, which you can season 2 to 3 ways on one baking sheet, and steam the leafy green veggie of your choice. Check out the recipes below.

 

Mashed Sweet Potato

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1 large sweet Potato (2 -2 ½ cups)

1 tbsp. butter

½ cup of milk

3 tbsp. green onion

½ tbsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Rinse and peel sweet potato.  Cut in half then slice.
  3. Boil for 12-15 minutes or until tender.
  4. Strain water. Add butter and mash potatoes with a fork.
  5. Add milk, green onion and seasoning. Mix well.
  6. Enjoy.

 

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato (2 cups)

6 medium turnips (2-2 ½ cups)

1 tbsp. avocado or olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary

2 tbsp. garlic or regular chives

½ tbsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tsp. smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse and peel potatoes and turnips.
  3. Cut off both ends of turnips but leave stems to stabilize the root while cutting. Cut it in half, then slices. Dice the sliced turnips. Repeat with second half, remaining turnips and potatoes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and chop herbs.
  5. Add vegetables, oil, herbs and seasoning and mix until evenly coated with your hands or a spoon.
  6. Spread vegetables into an even layer on parchment paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. (Test with a fork. Fork should slide easily into and out of the diced veggies.)
  7. Enjoy.