Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thai Soba Noodle Salad with Teriyaki-Sesame Tofu

I've never been a big fan of plain tofu it has a very synthetic flavor to me.  I can't quite describe it actually, but it almost has a "plastic-like" flavor...not that I've eaten any plastic in my life--at least I hope not...:-)  So I'm always looking at ways to change the flavor, as well as the texture of tofu and I definitely nailed it with this preparation.  Some people love the flavor of tofu and soy not so much, but I could eat this anytime!

For the tofu preparation, I pressed the tofu to remove any excess moisture, sliced it thinly and marinaded it in a homemade teriyaki sauce made with tamari, mirin, orange juice, agave, and sesame oil.  I then coated the tofu with flour and toasted sesame seeds and pan-seared in a little olive oil until crispy.  I reduced the marinade to a thick glaze and brushed the tofu just before serving.

For the soba noodles, I tossed them lightly in teriyaki sauce and then topped the noodles with a salad of shaved cabbage and carrots.  I finished off the dish with a spicy curry-lime vinaigrette.  Beautiful and delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Portobello Stroganoff with Fried Capers & Dill

Sometimes all I want on a chilly evening is a big bowl of comfort food and a creamy pasta dish always hits the spot--especially my Portobello Stroganoff.  It's creamy, earthy, tangy, hardy, and really delicious.

When I was a kid my mom used to make stroganoff with cream of mushroom soup, but mine is made with a Madeira cashew cream, portobello mushrooms, leeks, capers, vegan Worcestershire sauce, fresh dill, parsley, lemon, and whole wheat linguine, and it is to die for...seriously!  This dish does not skimp on calories and so I don't make a habit of eating it very often, but it's perfect if you want some serious comfort food! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pickled Beet Salad with Fennel-Orange Vinaigrette

Growing up my mom always had pickled beets in the back of the refrigerator.  Unfortunately she combined them with eggs in a large jar, but I avoided the eggs and went for the beets.  I always felt that it was a strange combination (pickled beets and eggs), but I guess it was her German upbringing. 

Lately, I can't get enough of beets.  I just love their earthly flavor and vibrant color and they go really well with fennel and orange.  Also, when you pickle them it gives them a nice tang, which compliments their earthiness and brings out their natural sweetness.  This salad is beautiful and can be served any time but is a really nice first course to serve to impress your dinner guests.  Normally, I would make this with both red and golden beets and alternate the beets on the plate, but the market only had red at the time.  Whatever color beets you use, it's still a beautiful salad and absolutely delicious!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roasted Beet, Farro & Kale Salad

My father-in-law's name was Valentine but everyone called him Val for short.  I wonder if he was ever teased as a child for having such a unique name.  And I wonder if he knew that his name came from the Latin word Valentinus, derived from Valens, which means "strong and healthy".  

Most of us go though life without ever giving much consideration to our beating hearts, until one day we wake up with clogged arteries and need a triple by-pass.  But by eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, I know that I'm doing everything I can to diminish the possibility of getting heart disease later in life.  But that doesn't mean that on Valentine's Day I won't enjoy a glass of red wine, or a eat piece of dark chocolate because both contain flavonoids, which are considered to be "heart healthy".  But to balance it out, I'll definitely make sure to eat a healthy salad like my Roasted Beet, Farro & Kale Salad and go for a brisk walk.  Remember, Valentine's Day isn't just for that special person in your life--it's also for you and your "heart" and keeping it "strong and healthy"! 


1 cup farro, cooked, rinsed and drained well
2 red beets, cooked until tender, peeled and diced
2 golden beets, cooked until tender, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, shaved thinly on a mandolin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 cups thinly sliced kale leaves
1-2 tbsp minced basil leaves

Maple-Sherry Vinaigrette:

3 tbsp aged sherry vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (more or less to taste)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Add sherry, orange juice, mustard, garlic and chipotle to a blender and blend on high until combined.
  • Slowly drizzle in olive oil until emulsified and then blend in maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste.  
  • Pour over salad to moisten--you may have extra vinaigrette left over.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Saffron Couscous

We are having beautiful spring-like weather in the Bay Area--68 degrees today and 72 tomorrow and I have spring-fever big time!  Spring always reminds me of carrots and so I couldn't pass up getting a bunch of beautiful tri-color (purple, cream and orange) carrots at the market today.

With carrots this sweet and tender I didn't want to cook them and so I shaved them into thin ribbons and tossed them with a Moroccan Vinaigrette made with freshly squeezed orange juice, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, garlic, cilantro and olive oil.  I then made a whole wheat couscous with saffron, dried apricots, almonds, pistachios, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and chickpeas.  So easy, fresh and delicious--perfect for a day like today!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Green Tea Soba Noodle Soup

The health benefits of green tea have been proven to reduce the risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer.  Green tea contains catechins, an antioxidant that helps remove free-radicals from the body that can damage DNA and potentially increase your risk of getting cancer.  Other foods that contain catechins are grapes, berries, red wine and chocolate.  Green tea is also minimally processed--it is withered and steamed and therefore the catechins are more concentrated.  Now, I do not have a medical background and I'm not a registered dietitian, but I can tell that just by looking at this soup and even better eating it--that the health benefits are pretty amazing!   

When looking for green tea noodles, read the back of the package carefully.  Some products may contain green food coloring to obtain a bright green color.  Food coloring does not belong in any food product so stay clear of it.  Also, some noodles contain white wheat flour instead of buckwheat flour, which will result in a brighter green color.  For this soup I used the buckwheat version, but I have both in my pantry.

Broth Soup Base:
(Serves 2)

6 cups filtered water
1 3" piece of dried kombu (kelp seaweed found in Asian markets)
2 star anise pods
1" piece of peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp low-sodium tamari sauce
1-2 tsp miso paste
  • Place water, kombu, star anise, ginger and porcini mushrooms in a large sauce pan, bring up to a boil and immediately remove pan from heat.  Cover the pan and let the ingredients steep for 30 minutes, or more to extract the flavors.
  • Strain the broth and return the liquid to the pan and add tamari sauce and miso paste.  Bring broth to a slight simmer, making sure that the miso paste has dissolved and then add ingredients of choice.
I used only organic ingredients in the soup--green onions, carrots, enoki mushrooms, baby bok choy, freshly made soybean cake (tofu found in Asian markets), ChaSoba green tea noodles and fresh mint.  But you can add whatever ingredients you like such as edamame, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, or spinach.
I also add the vegetables to the hot soup just before serving and only cook them for a minute or so because I like them to be vibrant and crisp tender.  Also, I cook the noodles separately and then rinse them in hot water to remove any starch and then add them to the soup, just before serving.
Finally, I garnished the soup with fresh mint, but Thai basil would also be good.    

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus Sandwich

This is definitely my favorite sandwich (and my sister's too).  Every time I go back for a visit she always asks me to make my hummus and avocado sandwich.  How can something so easy be so delicious and healthy!  You can use a store bought hummus, but you might want to try making a batch of your own if you have a food processor or a high-speed blender.  Also the bread is key as well.  I used a dense whole wheat/grain bread and I sliced it thin.  When the bread is lightly toasted it provides just enough crunch against the creamy hummus and avocado.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus:

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (reserve liquid), patted dry with a paper towel
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skin removed
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
2-3 tbsp tahini sauce/paste
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp, or more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp bean cooking liquid if needed to thin hummus

  • Soak 3/4 cup chickpeas overnight, drain and cook in fresh filtered water until tender.  Let cool in liquid and chill until ready to use.
  • Preheat broiler to 500 degrees and roast bell pepper until charred, turning frequently for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Remove skin and seeks and pat dry with a paper towel.  
  • Add chickpeas, bell pepper, garlic clove, spices, tahini and lemon to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth.  If too thick add additional bean cooking liquid 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper and additional lemon juice if needed.
  • You can also add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for additional flavor but I decided not to add it.
Other ingredients that I like to use on the sandwich are:  sliced cucumber, avocado, tomato, roasted bell pepper, sprouts, and baby spinach.