A Little Corny…

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Anybody else ready for summer? Or at least the taste of it? As the never-ending winter continues, there is a need to find foods that provide comfort and a bright, sweet memory of summer.

I can’t think of a better food than corn to do this. And not the type of corn you find in a grocery store (did you know if you melted down the contents of a grocery store, 30% would be corn syrup…?!) – but real kernels of sweet corn. While there is no substitute for fresh corn on the cob, the frozen stuff will do just fine for now.

Corn comes in all different colors, and is full of antioxidants. It’s also a good source of fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C. I’d recommend going with some non-GMO corn, but perhaps you aren’t concerned with your health or the dangers to the environment….I could go on, but I won’t.

So once you’ve got your corn, you just need a few other ingredients, and you can whip up a batch of sweet cornbread – perfect for snacking, dipping into chili, or eating alongside some bbq.

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Or try some corn chowder, with a different flavor spin than you might be used to. But a coconut-y, curry taste that’s perfect for these chilly, gray days.

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Pass the Polenta

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Apparently there’s a lot of negative press surrounding polenta, something about it being a weird texture, something else about having to stir it constantly, and something crazy about lack of flavor.

Well, I’m here to tell you: don’t listen to the haters! They don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. Polenta can have the creamiest texture, its certainly not any fussier than rice or quinoa, and by golly, if it isn’t more flavorful and delicious because it’s grown all over the country!

It’s interesting, so many people are readily jumping on the organic, local, heirloom bandwagon for their fruits & vegetables…but why don’t we think the same way for our grains? Or our beans, nuts, seeds, oils, etc….but that will be for another post!

I bought some locally-grown, freshly-milled polenta at a farmer’s market, though you can also get it online – and gosh darn, if it wasn’t the most flavorful grain dish I’ve ever had! Yes! I’m including ALL grains! Ever!

And simple. Without further adieu:

Creamy Squash Polenta

If you want to try a bit fancier, though not really complicated recipe – try this one. Basically it enables you to make creamy polenta hours before you want to serve it, and then let it sit, undisturbed, becoming creamier & richer. Can’t complain too much about that…

And the really great thing about polenta, is that it makes wonderful leftovers. It’ll harden up in a few hours and then you can serve it cold or fried, or some other creative way that I don’t know yet. For me, I gave it a little pan fry and then made a sun-dried tomato pesto for the top. Yum.

So get on the polenta bandwagon! Support your local grain farmer – and avoid those pesky GMOs! And enjoy some truly delicious, nutritious (dietary fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium and lots of beta-carotene) meals!!

Reporting from the Road…

It’s tough to blog while you are traveling, I’ve discovered. Carrying around a computer is a nuisance, and getting out my camera to take a photo of something I’ve cooked is basically unheard of. Even my cooking has gone on break – which is very upsetting to me and all my diners, I can assure you. No one’s been getting to eat these delicious vegan, gluten-free desserts or meals!

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So, since I’ve been on break, I thought I would share with you a list of my favorite blogs and books. Hopefully they’ll tide you over until I start posting again…

Top 7 Cookbooks

The Complete Tassajara Cookbook – Edward Espe Brown
Recipes arranged seasonally using fresh, whole foods based on tasty pairings instead of exact measurements; filled with inspiration for cooking with joyful intention and attention

Local Flavors – Deborah Madison
How to cook seasonal, regional ingredients in simple, timeless ways; written by a former Chez Panisse chef & San Francisco Zen Center student

The Essential Vegetarian – Diana Shaw
Hundreds of light, fresh recipes with lots of variations, information on ingredients, techniques & nutrition

Veganomicon – Isa Moskowitz & Terry Romano
None of that fake meat or egg replacer crap! Just wonderful ways to eat fruits and vegetables, plus great how-to guides – a true vegan classic

Enchanted Broccoli Forest – Mollie Katzen
Great for ideas on vegetarian meals, improvising, and planning menus; beautifully illustrated

Vegan’s Daily Companion – Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
A full guide on becoming & maintaining a vegan lifestyle, complete with stories, recipes, techniques and informational guides on healthful eating & use of unfamiliar foods

Farmer John’s Cookbook – John Peterson
Recipes from a biodynamic CSA, arranged by crop & season, full of random tips on storage, preservation, and philosophical ramblings.

And A Couple Others…
The New Laurel’s Kitchen – Laurel Robertson
One Dish Vegan – Robin Roberston
Organic Cook’s Bible – Jeff Cox
Jerusalem – Yotam Ottolenghi
Vegetarian Epicure – Anna Thomas

Top 13 Food Blogs
*I use Feedly to read all my blogs – it compiles them on one convenient, easy to use webpage

My New Roots
Oh She Glows
The First Mess
Oh My Veggies
This Rawsome Vegan Life
Healthy Green Kitchen
Love & Lemons
Healthy. Happy. Life.
Rawmazing
101 Cookbooks
Manifest Vegan
Edible Perspective
Wild Roots

Other Websites
find local food:
eatwellguide.org
localharvest.org

travel & work:
helpx.net
workaway.info

travel & farm:
goodfoodjobs.com
wwoof.org

awesome online library on agriculture, health & spirituality
soilandhealth.org

I hope this list brings inspiration for your holiday cooking and gifting needs! And wishing you all many tidings of peace and love during this wonderful season!

Wrapping Up…

As autumn sets in around the farm, everyone and everything is preparing for winter. Tomato stakes are coming down, eggplants & peppers are sending out their last push, and the farm interns are saying their good-byes. This season is ending, and it is time for us to move on to our next adventure.

With that exciting, slightly nerve-racking thought, I’ve found comfort in root vegetables. Wrapped up in many different ways (or served on gluten-free bread, but that didn’t seem appropriate for this post…).

These wraps are not your average vegan/gf wrap, I’d like to think. Restaurants try to “make it work” by throwing on some lettuce, tomato, maybe some sauteed onions & peppers – regardless of the season. I usually have to request some pesto and “any other vegetables you are willing to throw on.” So I make my wraps as complete as possible: legumes, nuts/seeds, and chock-full of vegetables.

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First up: Collard Wrap with Groundnuts and Roots

I chopped up some carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips, and braised them in a little vegetable broth. Then I added a peanut-coconut-ginger sauce, and a huge handful of parsley. That got piled onto a huge collard leaf atop some raw red peppers, and with a big handful of basil cabbage slaw on top of that. Very satisfying.

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Next up: Chard Wrap with Spicy Eggplant & Slaw

This was a collaborative wrap between me and another intern, Jeremy. I made baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon juice), and a quick “slaw” (kohlrabi, carrots, peppers in a lemon vinaigrette). Jeremy made his famous spicy eggplant with dill, and a delightfully hot sauce to pour atop everything. I’ll have to tell him to post his recipe, because I certainly couldn’t do it justice.

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And last but not least, Cabbage Rolls with Moroccan Spiced Roots & Tahini Ginger Dressing

Chop up as many root vegetables as you can get your hands on into thin strips. I used carrots, parsnips, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, white yams and sweet potatoes. Roast them with a little olive oil, salt & pepper until soft. Let cool, and mix with chopped cilantro, parsley and mint. Lots of it.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Mix together tahini, tamari, ginger, garlic, scallions, a hot pepper or two, a bit of sesame oil, some rice wine vinegar and water to achieve your viscosity of choice.

Now get your cabbage ready to roll. Remove outer leaves, cut out the core, and steam until leaves soften, and peel off. Put a handful of root veggies in the center, top with some toasted pumpkin seeds, and roll like a Chipotle burrito. After you’ve got ’em all rolled, steam them for another few minutes to seal and heat through. Serve with dipping sauce, and be prepared for people to want seconds.

And that, my friends, is a wrap.

Food for a Crowd

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A last burst of summer before we head into autumn. The red new potatoes aren’t quite so new anymore. Baby green beans and carrots are showcasing their sweet, tender crunch. And cherry tomatoes are making one last stand before calling it for the season. This was the meal I made for my first foray into catering a couple days ago. Pictured above is actually my lunch the next day – aren’t leftovers amazing? – featuring the full vegan, gluten-free version. Most people ate some salmon instead of my rice & bean salad, what are you gonna do? One day maybe people will realize that vegetables have protein, too! Until then, eat your locally caught fish.

I tried to keep the whole dinner very simple, wanting to showcase the flavor of the vegetables, and making sure everything tasted good together (and with the fish). My recipes all follow:

Dinner Menu

Sungold & Black Cherry Tomato Salad
Lots of cherry tomatoes, halved
Red onion, sliced thin
Basil, chiffonaded
Parsley, finely chopped
Good quality olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Salt & Pepper

Let the red onion marinate in oil and lemon juice while you halve the tomatoes. Then delicately toss the tomatoes, basil and parsley with the marinade. Salt and pepper to taste.

Steamed Red Norland Potatoes
Lots of small new potatoes (or chopped large)
Garlic, minced
Juice of a few lemons
Good quality olive oil
Dill, chopped fine
Salt & Pepper

Blend the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix in the dill.

Bring water to a rolling boil underneath a steaming basket. Add the potatoes to the basket, and seal the pot well. Depending on the size of the potatoes, they’ll be soft and buttery in 20-30 minutes. Toss in the garlic-dill dressing and serve warm.

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Roasted Green Beans & Carrots

Lots of green beans, topped & tailed
Lots of baby carrots, topped
Shallots, minced
Garlic, minced
Mustard seed
Good quality olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper

Make the dressing by blending together a few shallots, garlic cloves, mustard seed, oil, lemon juice and fresh thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the green beans and carrots in a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, until brightly colored, and just starting to crisp. Toss in the dressing and serve warm or room temperature.

Tongue of Fire Beans & Rice 
Brown rice, soaked overnight & cooked
Beans, soaked overnight & cooked
Huge handful parsley, chopped
Sweet peppers, finely diced
Red onion, finely diced
Juice of a few lemons
Good quality olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Simply toss all the ingredients together in the ratios of your choosing, and let marinate overnight. Serve at room temperature.

And apparently no catered meal is complete without dessert…so I gave it to ’em raw, vegan and gluten free. Surprise, surprise – no leftovers of this baby, but there were plenty of store-bought cookies and pies untouched.

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Blackberry Tart with Caramel-Almond Filling
2 cups walnuts
1 cup cashews
3 cups raisins

1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup date pastesprinkle of cinnamon
pinch of salt

Blackberries (or any in season fruit)

Blend the walnuts and cashews into a fine powder. Add the raisins, and blend until it reaches a sticky consistency. Press into a tart pan, and let set in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Soak 3/4 cup dates in hot water, and blend together to make a date paste. Add in the almond butter, coconut oil, cinnamon & salt, and blend until smooth. Pour over the “crust” and let set for another half hour.

Top with berries, and serve!

I made another version of this pie a few days ago, and I have to say I think my artistic side came out a bit more. But when you’ve got Indian Blood Peaches & fresh raspberries…there’s just not a lot of competition.

Nothing To Get Hung About…

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It’s strawberry season!!! These lovely ladies started flowering a few weeks ago, and their fruit has arrived at last. There’s not much better than popping a few fresh strawberries before, during, after work and basically any time of the day. I think at least half of them end up in my belly instead of my basket during harvest time. Oh well, they’re a fantastic source of antioxidant boosting Vitamin C (more than any other fruit) and manganese, and they’ve got plenty of phytonutrients, potassium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re great for the heart and helping to regulate blood sugar.

These highly perishable fruits (not berries, but who really cares about these silly labels) should be eaten as soon as possible upon harvest! Within 2 days of being picked, their Vitamin C and phytonutrient content is greatly diminished, no matter how well you try and store them. Find a farm near you and get pickin’! I guarantee it’ll taste better than any Driscoll strawberry you find in a grocery store.

They’re great on their own, in a salad, in a dressing, or served atop your favorite breakfast.

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Three-Grain Porridge
1 cup quinoa
1 cup millet
1/2 cup amaranth

Soak your grains overnight.
In the morning, pour the grains & water into a pan, bring it to a boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes until you reach your desired consistency. I start adding almond/coconut milk after the water is absorbed about 15 minutes in.
Mix in a dab of coconut oil, a pinch of salt and top with strawberries, or anything else that you fancy!

Oh! And stop throwing away those strawberry stems and leaves! You can eat them with the rest of the fruit if you’re fine with the texture, or save them to make strawberry leaf tea. It’s full of trace minerals like vitamin C, calcium, and iron. And it’s often used to improve digestion and balance the alkalinity of your digestive tract.

You can even use the juices of strawberries applied externally to protect your skin, hair and nails – anthocyanins keep the structure of collagen in tact, and copper keeps your hair healthy and growing. And you’ll smell so fresh and sweet, what’s to lose?