A “Green” Christmas

Veggies not money!

Holiday dinners like Christmas can be so full of heavy, rich dishes that I decided to take a really “light” approach with the salad course. Just fresh shaved greens – 3 kinds, all raw and lots of them! Plus some fresh grated raw turnip for a sweet-spicy crunch and some dried cranberries for a little color and sweetness.

Green Number one….

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts.

Green number two plus some orange…

sliced celery and shredded raw turnip

Sliced raw celery and shredded raw turnip – Celery is like “beginners fennel”

Green Number three…

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my cusinart

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my Cuisinart – I used “Curly kale” and took out the stems first!

All together now…

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

Dress this with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh start to a holiday feast!

Squash Salad

We’re not talking roasted and we’re not talking about zucchini.

We are talking about raw butternut squash.

Yep – raw.

And no, I have not converted to an all raw, vegan diet. Thanks to Lydia I was inspired to just simply try something new. And I like to make new and interesting things for my mom, who does happen to enjoy eating very healthy.

I decided to make a salad rather than a “slaw” as Lydia did based on the fact that the spinach in the store looked really good. I added walnuts because they were already in the house. I kept my salad simple for mom but the addition of your favorite crumbly cheese would put it over the top I think. The real star here was the dressing which I modified a bit from Lydia’s.

Don’t knock the raw squash until you try it. Even my red-meat loving, Irish-American guy appeared to eat some. I served it as part of a Mother’s day brunch with french toast and watermelon at the world’s most beautiful dining room.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.


Production Notes:

The dressing is adapted from Lydia’s recipe because my mom likes things a little sweeter.

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Too Much Quinoa!

“Wait! There can never be too much quinoa!”  That was just what you were thinking, right?

Well I love this new darling of the culinary world as much as the next person, but sometimes you just get tired of eating the same leftovers again and again – even if it is a super food!

It started out innocently enough with plans for a quinoa salad that I could munch on for a couple of days this week. I got my rice cooker out because that is how I cook my quinoa – it’s perfect every time.

I also had some leftover carrot and celery sticks, and some extra fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes in the fridge.

So I started a mirepoix:

mire poix

When the veggies were softened, off  the heat, I added: a pint of split cherry tomatoes, 2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, 1  jar of capers, (3.5oz -drained) 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley, the juice and zest of 1 large lemon and 1 tablespoon of Herb de Provence seasoning.

Looks good just as it is right?

delicious on it's own!

I mean personally I could stop right there and eat this by the spoonful. Or on toasted bread or mixed with pasta. Or with a can of white beans. Which is exactly what I added because I thought that might really give some “heft” to this salad. Again, at this point with the beans added, you had a complete meal all done. You could just stop there.

But I decided it would be terrific with my cooked and cooled quinoa.

All 6+ cups of it!!!

Why 6 cups??   Because as I was pouring out a dry cup of uncooked quinoa, I thought.. “why don’t I double it because it is great to have in the fridge to throw in stuff. Right?” So two cups of dry quinoa went into the rice cooker with 4 cups of water. Math not really being my strong point, I didn’t think about the fact that this would yield at least 6 cups of cooked quinoa.

So I ended up with a giant party-sized bowl of salad. It needed a little seasoning adjustment, salt, pepper-more lemon at the end because although the initial mix was super flavorful, it got a little diluted in the “sea of quinoa.”

quinoa salad

My advice is next time use half as much quinoa or double the amount of the other stuff and invite 12 people over.

Check out a “winter salad” version here.

Green Bling

Most girls would consider “bling” something along the lines of diamonds. Maybe even just some really nice costume jewelry.

But for me “bling” comes in the form of food.  “Food bling” is one those items that wasn’t on your grocery list. You weren’t even thinking about it when you walked in. But there from across the aisle, hiding behind some stacked bulk sale items, it catches your eye. Suddenly you have forgotten what you even came in for. Because all you can think about is rationalizing this “bling” purchase that you can’t live without!

My "green bling"

My “green bling”

When I saw this gorgeous asparagus, so fresh and healthy looking, everything else just faded away. I disregarded any seasonality, had no idea if it was organic, I just knew I had to have it. (Okay I admit, it was on sale too – that helped.)

But how would I use it?

With something equally glamorous of course….

"red rice"

“red rice”

My mom discovered this lovely colored, nutritional wonder on a recent trip. Upon returning home she has incorporated it into her diet and was nice enough to give me some extra cooked rice last time I was visiting. I was waiting for just the right partner to use it with.

Behold the red rice salad…

rice and asparagus salad

First I  jazzed things up by sauteing a small diced onion, minced garlic, and a pinch of red chili flakes in some olive oil. Than I added my freshly washed and cut asparagus. ( no pre-blanching for me – just let the water from washing them add a little “steam action” to your pan.) Once those were on their way, I added in my cooked rice – really just to heat it through and marry the flavors. Keep an eye on it – if it seems dry add some more olive oil or just a little water if you want to keep the fat/calories down. Salt and pepper to taste. ( don’t be shy with this – it is a simple dish)  At the end I splashed in a little rice vinegar to perk things up. (That easily could have been lemon juice instead.)  Topped it with a little crumbled feta. (low fat even!) Serve warm, serve room temperature, serve chilled. (but not cold) But whichever way you choose, you will be able to fully justify this “bling” once you taste it.

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day!

Thank You TJ’s

That is “Trader Joe’s” for the uninitiated.  I like this store for certain things – organic frozen items, unusual but healthy snack things, and prepared things like: already cooked beets or in this case already cooked lentils. Yup admitting it right here and now. I purchased precooked lentils. And I can justify the under $3 price for like 10 servings of lentils. (I already threw the box out, but it was a lot, like enough-for-a-party-lot.)

And by the time I truck over to “whole paycheck” and buy in bulk, bring them home and inevitably over cook them, I already have enjoyed a quick nutritious lunch. For several days.

It couldn’t have been simpler: A chopped sweet red pepper, some finely diced red onion, some cubed bits of cucumber, some crumbled feta and a quick dressing of oil, vinegar and Italian seasoning. What could be easier. That is why I thank TJ’s – for making my healthy eating just a little bit more convenient.

lentil salad

P.S. for some fun reading check out the raging debate over these very lentils at chowhound. Jeez these people ought to lighten up!

P.P.S. I did not receive any promotional considerations for this product review but TJ’s if you are listening.. feel free to send free stuff!