So this is my first year as a CSA member. Now before you get excited and envision me as a flight attendant for Czech Airlines or a product tester for Canadian Standards Association, let me explain what I mean. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a locally based food distribution service that connects farmers to consumers without a giant supermarket in the way. Yes, food comes from farms, not florescent lit refrigerated cement boxes with aisles and aisles of food! See my thoughts on grocery stores here.
CSA’s are a fantastic way to support your local farmers while reaping the benefits of eating insanely delicious food that was grown less than an hour away. And the fun part is, you never know what you’re going to get! Each week I arrive at the farm, drooling over baskets of kale, arugula, beets, basil, and tomatoes, and dreaming of the cooking adventures I will embark on with my newly hatched sun-kissed bag of goodies.
If you’re interested in learning more about CSA’s or where to find one, check out Local Harvest. Also check out my sweet CSA provider, Seraphina Says Farm. Tara is a raw vegan farmer with a cat named Seraphina and a passion for holistic, plant based nutrition. How could anyone not get excited about that combination!
Now that you’ve got a canvas bag full of farm fresh goodness and you feel like singing “The Sound of Music” to everyone in your town, why not whip up a batch miso creamy basil pesto! Between my CSA and garden, I am practically swimming in a sea of basil goodness. I’ve even started adding it to vases as decoration. If this is happening to you too, make pesto.
P.S. The Nutmeg Cookery (that’s me and the unicorns) are going to be the guest chef at the Max Restaurant Group’s farm-to-table dinner on September 27th! If you’re a local nutmegger, come join me under the stars at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury for a five course gourmet vegan meal! For more information, click here.
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, smashed or grated
1 lemon, zested & juiced
1 heaping tablespoon of miso
In a food processor, add all ingredients except oil. Pulse it down a few times, then slowly stream in the olive oil while processor is running. Blend until you have a loose, green paste. Makes 1 1/2 cups or enough to feed 2-3 unicorn farmers who’ve been digging in the earth all day. Toss with brown rice pasta and sauteed onions and peppers, or use as a spread inside of sandwiches or collard wraps with loads of veggies!
these are a few of my favorite things / it’s time for the play-offs herbaceous falafel with tahini sauce
Now that it’s 2013 and you’ve actually gone to the gym, stopped eating dessert, and are feeling moody from a lack of alcohol, I thought it was time for a little support. And since you’re going to try to eat a plant-based diet this year (I hope!), you may be wondering what the hell you’re supposed to eat besides kale chips, soy products, and salads. Trust me, the vegan/vegetarian diet is overflowing with variety and deliciousness.
To help you on your way, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite vegan staples and a divinely spectacular recipe so you can start living your vegan dream! Side effects include: visions of unicorns, faeries and dragons, lightness in body and spirit, clearer skin, less inflammation, higher energy, less illness, a feeling of interconnectedness with all beings, and a bolt of good karma that will lead you to clairvoyance (translation: the unicorns tell me things).
A few of my favorite things (and yes, one of them is definitely The Sound of Music. Luckily, my mother is Julie Andrews, minus the voice and ability to play musical instruments). FYI, all of the items below should be organic because your health and happiness are the most important thing in this life, not to mention you’ll be supporting sustainable farming practices, eliminating pesticides and herbicides from your diet, and saving the environment. Hooray for money well spent!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for 90% of my cooking, this is my oil. Rich in healthy, monounsaturated fats and absolutely delicious. Get rid of your canola, sunflower and safflower oils (which are oftentimes bleached, deodorized and overly processed) and embrace olive oil!
- Coconut Oil – virgin & Refined. Not all saturated fats are bad people! Coconut oil is an amazing source of lauric acid, which has been shown to raise the good HDL cholesterol in the blood, in addition to being anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, good for the skin, and a blood sugar stabilizer to name a few! Refined coconut oil is perfect for higher heat cooking. Virgin coconut oil is great for raw desserts and granola.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – my favorite vinegar. Tangy, fermented, full of probiotic goodness. Use in dishes that need a punch of flavor or drink it in the morning with water for some alkalinizing power!
- Brown Rice Vinegar – another great vinegar, especially in stirfries with toasted sesame oil and tamari.
- Tamari – naturally brewed wheat free soy sauce. Tamari is great in stirfries, soups, salad dressings, everything!
- Miso – I adore miso and use it in soups, salad dressings and anytime I need a salty, umami flavor in a dish. Miso is a fermented soy condiment that contains all the essential amino acids (a complete protein), and restores your system with probiotics and antioxidants. I highly recommend South River Miso. Nothing else compares to this company!
- Tempeh – yes, fermented whole soybeans look like brains, but they taste amazing in burritos and pasta sauce. And tempeh is super high in protein, essential fatty acids and probiotics. Yum!
- Tofu – not all soy is bad…local & organic tofu is a great addition to your diet. Super high in protein and a total chameleon in dishes from ricotta to chicken to eggs! I highly recommend The Bridge (a local CT company!)
- Quinoa – my favorite grain (but it’s actually a seed!) Rich in protein, calcium and iron…even better, it cooks in 15 minutes, and has a nutty delicious taste. Add to any veggie dish or as a topping for salads.
- Nuts – specifically raw cashews, pecans, and almonds. I use cashews pretty much everyday whether it’s fermenting into a savory “cheese”, adding a creamy base to a soup, or creating the most decadent cream sauces you’ve ever tasted. Pecans and almonds are great in raw desserts or toasted and topped on salads. I could not live without nuts…and that’s good because they’re full of antioxidants and healthy fats!
- Avocado – literally my favorite food on earth. Rich, creamy taste, full of folate, vitamin E and good fats for a healthy heart and delicious in just about everything: salads, dressings – and great in my raw key lime tart dessert!
- Kale – my other favorite food. This superfood is a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. It will also turn you into an elven warrior princess or prince. I like it raw in salads, sauteed in stirfries, added to soups, and baked into cheesy kale chips. I eat kale pretty much everyday, and yes – I am an elven warrior princess.
- Mushrooms – I’m growing them on my windowsill right now! I love every kind of mushroom, especially maitake and shiitake, for their earthy deliciousness and anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune boosting qualities.
- Ginger – oh, how I love thee. Buy a hunk of ginger root, peel it, and use a microplane grater to add this anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial nutritional powerhouse to soups, dressings, stirfries, tea, and more!
- Garlic – ginger’s good friend, and also anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use them together in a soup for an immune-boosting and flavorful punch to a winter’s day.
- Onions – we have a saying in our house that we’re always “cookin’ onions”. And there’s a good reason too: onions are the most comforting vegetable I know. I put them in all of my soups and stirfries, or raw in salads. Not to mention, they’re full of antioxidant flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, and sulfur (good for your liver!) In fact, I can’t think of anything I don’t put them in, except maybe my coconut milk ice cream…
- Fresh herbs – dried herbs and spices are great, but fresh is always the best. My favorites are cilantro, basil, and thyme. They take any dish to the next level of flavor! Try cilantro in my tempeh burritos or in an asian stirfry!
- Sprouted whole grain breads – ditch the white flour in favor of sprouted whole grain breads. Sprouting whole wheat grains improves digestibility, and eating complex carbohydrates won’t spike your blood sugar as much as white bread, will digest more slowly, and will be more satiating = you’ll need less of it to feel satisfied.
- Tahini – nutty, creamy puree of sesame seeds that is commonly used as the base for a kick-ass hummus recipe. I use it in my Miso Hungry salad dressing, which is tangy and creamy like a healthy blue cheese!
- Nut milks – I prefer Edensoy Original Extra soy milk, which is organic, cane sugar-free, fortified with vitamins, and oh so creamy. There’s also almond, hemp, rice, coconut, and many others. Whichever one you prefer is great, just make sure you read the ingredient labels and avoid milks containing refined sugars!
- Spreads – if you’re craving butter, please don’t eat margarine! Instead, grab some Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread. It tastes just like butter, and although a processed product, it is non-GMO and organic so in moderation a great alternative to butter. You can also use almond butter or fermented cashew cheese as a delicious spread alternative to butter!
Now that your pantry is packed full of plant-powered goodness, why not make some tasty & herbaceous falafel! Falafel is one of my favorite chickpea creations, but it is usually deep-fried and not super healthy. My version is pan-fried in a small amount of oil so you still get a satisfying crunch without the greasiness. Top with tahini, lettuce and cucumber and your body will look like Gisele’s or Tom Brady’s (depending on your preference) and you’ll be ready for the play-offs…Go Patriots!
for the falafel:
- 1 aseptic package (Fig Foods or 365 Organic) or can (Eden) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
- 3 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 T garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp arrowroot powder (find at Whole Foods in spice section – a healthy alternative to cornstarch)
- Pinch of paprika & sea salt
- Fresh black pepper
for the tahini sauce:
- 1/2 cup sesame tahini (Once Again Organics)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh water
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- Pinch of paprika
In a food processor, combine all falafel ingredients and pulse about 20 times, or until mixture comes together but is still chunky. Form into 10-12 flattened discs. Heat 3 T refined coconut oil on medium heat in a large saute pan, then add patties and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. In a high speed blender (VitaMix!) add tahini ingredients, then blend until emulsified and creamy. To plate, place 3 falafel patties on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and drizzle with tahini sauce. Or steam collard greens (remove stems) in a small amount of salted, boiling water, then fill with falafel, veggies and sauce. Serves 2-4 unicorns with ripped Patriots jerseys and deflated footballs (translation: unicorns are football fans, not players).
Sometimes I like to write poetry. And since I’m on a cleanse right now (translation: no life), I’m feeling less cynical and more contemplative. I know…boring, boring, boring. But what else am I supposed to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and I can’t drink? Exactly. Poetry is the answer. Here’s one that I wrote about my mom and I.
You know how people always tell you that they don’t like drama? They’re lying.
1 large yellow onion, diced
For tofu ricotta:
2 packages extra firm tofu (I use The Bridge) crumbled
4 T italian seasoning blend or Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle (not sure why they call it this…weird)
1/4 cup + more nutritional yeast (in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
2 T + stock (I use Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
2 T lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
*a note about making the tofu ricotta…I’ve never really measured out these ingredients before, so I’m estimating for you, but taste as you go and see. It should taste salty, cheesy & herbalicious. If not, adjust accordingly.*
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to open things? So difficult in fact, that sometimes it seems like the manufacturers are purposefully trying to make it a challenge to get into whatever the product is, like a raccoon trying to open the lid to a garbage pail? Take an aseptic carton of soy milk…narrow spout on top of package with even narrower flimsy piece of silver plastic, and you’re supposed to open it by grabbing hold of a 1/2 inch piece of plastic that’s about as wide as a paperclip?!? Unless you have freakishly small hands or a chimpanzee friend, there is almost no way you’ll be successful at opening this container. It will eventually open, of course, just not in the way the manufacturer hoped: a quick and satisfying stab with a knife will split that sucker right open, and even though the milk will pour out the wrong way and end up all over you instead of in your tea, you will have won the battle against the container. Because that’s all that really matters. It’s like opening a jar of pasta sauce. You have to prepare yourself for the exertion, and even though there are hundreds of jars filled with edible things, it’s always the damn pasta sauce jar that doesn’t want to open. You can try the “tap, tap, tap” maneuver on the side of a counter (which apparently allows air to escape the jar or something, but I’m fairly certain someone just made that up), or you can use a grippy thing to prevent your hands from slipping, or you can be mature about it and whack the top of the jar with a knife a thousand times while screaming obscenities, then hand it to your unicorn friend with a sarcastic grin (and feel better about your inability to open the jar as he hopelessly knocks it around between his hooves). And then there are chip bags. This kind of packaging really irks me because it looks so simple: “grab either side of bag and open” or “tear here”. The first one is the worst because when you pull on either side of the bag, the pressure inside builds and you suddenly become nervous and begin to doubt yourself, thinking: is this bag going to explode?. You decide to flip the bag over and try the other end. Same problem. Ultimately, you either wimp out and grab a pair of scissors or pretend to be tough and end up with chips all over you. The “tear here” bag is significantly easier because when you follow the instructions (gasp!) it does actually open, but it usually tears a hole that starts at the top and goes directly down to the bottom of the bag so that all the chips fall out the side. I recommend scissors in both cases.
Let’s move on to my favorite kind of packaging…the old “pull and twist” tab that lies beneath countless screw off lids from lotions to ketchup to shampoo. This devilish packaging never, and I mean never, opens. The smallest film of plastic beckons you to fail as the harmless looking directions simply say “pull and twist”. After you manage to grab hold of the 1/8 inch long tab, you twist with your index finger and thumb, and find yourself holding nothing at all. Again, I recommend the knife solution here. Do you see a pattern forming? When you need to open something, grab a knife or pair of scissors, let out a high-pitched “I’ve completely lost my mind” laugh, and attack!
When I was in middle school, we had to drink milk during lunch (this by itself is bizarre for reasons I will not go into at the moment). They were served in mini paper cartons, and although we had small hands on our sides, we weren’t rocket scientists: peel glued together paper backwards, then somehow push forward into a spout shape and pour. What?!? said the girl with the unicorn trapper-keeper. Our success rate with these little guys was mediocre. I usually opened the wrong end (why does it matter which end you open?) and the milk would splash all over my oshkosh b’gosh jumper (what was my mother thinking?). Or I’d try to open both ends and neither one would miraculously turn into a perfect spout, and I’d end up with a large opening like a trough. The worst part was, when you’re a kid you can’t just pull out a knife and stab your milk carton open (because that will mean that you’re going to become a serial killer). All I can say is, thank god I’m an adult now and can open packages however the hell I want.
I’m giving you a gravy recipe because I love gravy. The reason it’s standing all by itself and not acting as the finishing touch on some vegan masterpiece is because it’s a masterpiece in itself, and I put in on everything from panfried tempeh to sandwiches to crostini to pasta (or I just eat it with a spoon).
1 yellow onion, diced
1 package button mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine or 1/4 cup mirin (if you want a sweeter gravy…I like it both ways)
1/2 cup stock (Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
1 heaping T of freshly minced thyme
1 tsp. arrowroot (this is a thickener like corn starch, but not GMO and processed…you can find it at Whole Foods)
1 T tamari (naturally brewed soy sauce)
black pepper to taste
In a deep saute pan, heat oil and add onions over a medium flame. Allow onions to brown and carmelize (translation: put down the spoon!), then add garlic and mushrooms. Allow to cook until brown and sticking to the bottom of the pan, then deglaze with wine, loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon, and allow the mixture to absorb the liquid until almost dry. Now add stock, thyme, and shoyu and turn down flame to low, and simmer for several minutes. Add arrowroot and stir to incorporate, allowing mixture to thicken. Remove from flame and allow to cool, then place in a blender (I use a Vita-Mix blender = the best blender on the planet) or use an immersion blender to puree briefly, just a few seconds is enough. Gently reheat if necessary and add freshly cracked black pepper. Serve to a few unicorns still hoping to open a jar of pasta sauce.