Monday, June 27, 2011

Peas + Salmon Pasta Salad

I got some fresh shelling peas at the farmer's market this weekend. My almost 9 month old son thinks it's great to smoosh them with his fingers, roll them around in his mouth and throw them from his highchair. And I think that fresh peas taste fabulous with pasta salad and salmon. So, why not whip up a salmon, pea, pasta salad and call it fresh and summery. That is just what this recipe is, a crowd pleaser for mature tastes. Also, this recipe is a great way to start using some of those beautiful and tasty fresh herbs. I have an herb garden and love to prune and pick some daily to use in recipes. I just love how fresh herbs will flavor and nourish all in the same bite. Plus, when cooking gluten and dairy-free you sometimes just need a little something to put some shine and hollar into your dish.
Some people are curious in how to use fresh herbs. Well, let's just say that parsley, basil and cilantro make anything fresh taste even fresher. So experiment with fresh herbs, you really can't go that wrong. You will learn what pairs well with what, and if not.... search around on the internet for a while and I bet you could come up with some yummy fresh herb recipes to try.
In the meantime, I will be shelling my peas to enjoy. They are so cute and sweet. Hm... my favorite way to eat them is out of the pod, but also they taste best and are "cooked" by steaming. Just steam them (or you could boil) for just a few minutes until them become bright green, and then you know they are cooked enough. Something incredible about the pea is that they are packed with protein. A cup of peas has around 5 grams of protein...which is a nice amount for any small green thing. So, if you haven't shelled your own peas before, I suggest you find a local farmer (maybe at a local farmer's market?) and buy some of these sweet thing from them. Try something new. It's fun and its a lot more interesting than buying peas in a can or bag. I can promise you that. ***There are also snow peas and sweet peas that you can buy that can be eaten in the pods they come in and are a bit different than shelling peas.***
And, here I am going on and on about peas. But this salad also contains the great protein source of salmon. I used 2- 6 ounce cans of wild caught (skinless and boneless) salmon in this dish. But you could also use a fresh 10-12 ounce cooked salmon steak. Salmon is one of my favorite proteins because it contains so much rich flavor, and also a great amount of omega 3 fatty acids....which I know my body could use more of being a nursing momma. This salad will keep you moving and does not disappoint! So it seems like I should get to this recipe already and stop blabbing about herbs, peas and salmon. You gotta love fresh food!
Peas+Salmon Pasta Salad Recipe
1 cup of lightly steamed green peas
*may be called sweet peas, but make sure if you buy peas in pods that they are shelling peas
1 cup of finely diced celery
1 cup of finely diced scallions or green onion (also found fresh at market this week)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley (or sub some cilantro as well)
*fresh oregano, basil and thyme could also be added for a touch more flavor
2 TB of fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of organic mayonnaise (or non-egg option of veganaise)
1 TB of curry powder
enough sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix in a large mixing bowl the above green things, seasonings and "salad dressing" together. Mix well and then add the salmon...

2- 6 ounce cans of wild caught salmon (boneless and skinless is less hassle).
*Or use the cooked salmon meat from a 10-12 ounce salmon steak.

Make sure you mix well, and then add the already cooked 16 ounces of gluten-free pasta. It can still be warm from boiling, and in fact the warm pasta will help absorb the flavors as it cools together.

16 ounces of cooked al dente brown rice gluten-free pasta (my favorite is tinkyada pasta)
*I used shells for this salad, but any of the pasta shapes could do.

Add in the pasta and then still all together. Mix well and make sure not to allow pasta breakdown (that means you cooked it too long!) Mix well, and then add fresh herbs and lemon on top to serve. Viola- dinner, or lunch is served!

Some Notes:
*I find this recipe very simple and satisfying. Lots of protein, and easily packed up and brought to cookouts, picnics or in the fridge for lunch for a few days.

*Also, if you are avoiding mayonnaise for any reason, you can omit it, and just add 1/4 cup of olive oil and more lemon juice. It will be less "creamy" but you will still enjoy all of the same flavors.

*I find this salad to be a one-dish meal. Very satisfying. Yet, if you wanted to spoon some over fresh lettuce or greens, that would just be perfect. No need for bread or any more starch...just add some fresh lettuce.

I have throughly enjoyed this fresh pasta and salmon combo, along with using fresh herbs. It is a perfect summer salad in my opinion and I hope if you like salmon you give this simple recipe a try.

Enjoy and much love to you today!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Veggie Quinoa Casserole (vegan)

Summer is the great time of year to make simple foods with the best fresh ingredients around (from the garden of course). I do not have any tomatoes in the backyard yet, but I did use all of my own garden's kale and fresh herbs. Later this summer I am hoping to have much larger vegetable bounty to create and make fresh meals from your backyard every night. So excited!
Yet, this meal is super simple, and can be made as a cold dish as well, but since I was kinda thinking a bake and crispy breaded topping would be nice and special... I made this into a casserole. I know... crazy, right?! I don't think I have made a "casserole-type" dish in years. Nothing against it all, but I just don't usually think that way. And, because of growing up in canned creamed soup casseroles, I think I try to block them out of my memory and creative wave length. So, this dish is simple, fresh and with some added roasted asparagus, you have the perfect early-summer meal.
Summer Veggie Quinoa Casserole Recipe (vegan)
3 cups of pre-cooked quinoa (about 1 1/2 cup dry, cooked with 3 cups water)
2 roma-tomatoes, washed and diced (about 3/4 cup or so)
1 cup (or more) of washed and finely chopped kale, I used a combo of curly and lactino
3-4 garlic-scapes finely chopped (or 3 minced garlic cloves instead)
1/2 cup of washed and chopped basil
1/4 cup of washed and chopped parsley
a handful of chopped oregano
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (or use lemon juice as a sub here if avoiding vinegars)
4 TB of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above ingredients in a mixing bowl, and season with a little sea salt and pepper. Then pour into a glass Pyrex dish (9inch round or square) and get ready to top with breaded topping...

1 cup of crumbled favorite GF bread or bread crumbs
3 TB of olive oil
1-2 ts of garlic powder

Mix all of the above in a small bowl and then sprinkle over the Pyrex dish, then...

Lastly, add an optional sprinkle-topping of daiya moz cheeze ( my favorite, vegan-soy-free cheeze), or other favorite dairy cheese if you can do dairy. I think Parmesan or Romano would be good.

Then bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then in the last 2-3 minutes broil the top to get some crispy crunchy bread-topping, but make sure not to burn.
Spoon up and serve! I served my dish with some roasted local asparagus. My absolute favorite way to eat asparagus is the basic toss of raw asparagus in olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, and then place on a baking sheet under a broiling-oven to cook for 10 minutes or so and roast the asparagus and get the salt to get a bit crispy on the spears. YUM!!! Seriously, my favorite.
Some notes about the dish:
1.) I have pre-cooked quinoa (or brown rice) in my fridge most weeks, so that is why I created this recipe with the use of pre-cooked quinoa.

2.) You could add other veggies in this dish: summer squash, asparagus, peas, and the list goes on...

3.) This dish resembles a cold couscous salad before baking, so if you want to make a no-bake casserole, go for it!

4.) you can easily add a meat-protein if you want to add canned salmon, cooked salmon, or cooked chicken. Also, garbanzo or black beans could be a nice touch as well (didn't go the bean route for a few reasons)...
There you have it, a simple summer dish that is sure to please the picky eater. The kale and herbs may be green, but they add so much flavor I bet you won't even notice they are green...hehe, ok that may be a stretch, but you always need more green things in your life. I promise. My husband and I enjoyed this fresh meal after a long day of working in the yard. His compliments to me revolved around how quick, tasty and fresh this wonderful dish was. Love him. :)

Much love to you today!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ginger-Lemon Buckwheat Waffles (grain,gluten and dairy-free) + Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce (refined sugar-free)

Sorry for being MIA lately. My sister got married last week, my baby has been sick, and the garden's weeds have been overtaking the yard. So, needless to say, I haven't been doing much cooking besides baby-food making. So unless you want to see my wonderful pureed kale, sweet potatoes and quinoa, I haven't been spending much time on new recipes. Until today.
It rained today. Summer solstice was a few days ago. And strawberry season is quickly coming to an end. So, naturally, I wanted to make something with my freshly picked strawberries. A scrumptious strawberry-rhubarb sauce to cover a week of busy-ness. And...waffles. Waffles are my new favorite food. Especially when made with all nourishing ingredients and why not eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
If you do not have a Belgium waffle maker, then you can make pancakes with this recipe on the griddle. They are my most favorite pancake/waffle recipe and the freshly ground buckwheat flour makes them great. Buckwheat is a seed, and is related to rhubarb and sorrel. I find this fascinating, and if you are trying to go grain-free, then this recipe is for you! Buckwheat is very high in minerals like magnesium and iron. It also contains many disease fighting phytonutrients. And, if you haven't tried it, you should make it your new best friend. Many people do not know how to eat buckwheat, and do not particularly like to eat it like rice because of the earthy flavor. This recipe, along with making freshly ground buckwheat flour into porridge are my most favorite ways to use buckwheat groats.
Buckwheat also contains a stretchy component. So there is no need for gum-type ingredients in this recipe. Buckwheat is gluten-free, a seed, so technically grain-free, and is most commonly considered a "whole-grain" even though it is not really a grain. I love using this flour. I like to grind my own best by buying whole, raw buckwheat groats and then grinding them on high in a high-powdered blender (like my magic bullet). So fresh and perfect for any sort of gluten-free baking or waffle making. The batter is quite simple, and you will have breakfast (or dinner) in no time at all...

Ginger-Lemon Buckwheat Waffle (or Pancake) Recipe
1 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour
1 TB + 1 ts. of baking powder (aluminum free is best)
1/2 ts. of sea salt
2 TB of flaxmeal (or chia seed meal)
1 ts. of ground ginger powder
1-2 TB of coconut palm sugar 
1 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut milk beverage)
1 TB of olive oil
2 farm fresh large eggs
1 TB of fresh lemon juice with 1 ts or so of freshly grated lemon zest
1 ts. of pure vanilla (optional)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first, then add the wet and whisk well together. You know your batter is doing well, when you start to see the batter-bubbles appear and the batter thickens a touch up on its own. This is from the buckwheat absorbing the liquid and everything mixing well together. Then, warm either your waffle maker or your griddle and use some coconut oil to grease up the frying area. Then use a 1/3 measuring cup to make your waffle (or 1/4 cup measuring for a good sized pancake). Let cook for about 2 minutes in the waffle maker and viola they are done and ready to eat. If you are making pancakes, then wait till you see bubbles forming on the one side of the pancake and then flip to cook the other side. This is usually around 2 minutes each side. Make sure you keep the heat on low to medium so avoid burning!

You are going to want to top these wonders with some fresh fruit or in this case some freshly made...

Strawberry- Rhubarb Sauce Recipe
4 cups of washed and diced strawberries
2 cups of freshly washed and diced rhubarb pieces
1/2 cup of local honey
2-3 ts. of ground stevia white powder
squeeze of lemon juice
3 TB of corn starch (or arrowroot powder)

Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, honey and stevia in a medium sauce pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Then when the berries and rhubarb break down and start to cook into a sauce, add the lemon juice and starch to thicken the sauce up. And, then cool just a bit to help thicken and not burn your tongue before eating. Pour this sauce generously over waffles, pancakes, or porridge and then store the rest in an airtight container for later use. This sauce is good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Just look at that rich red color! Those strawberries were soooo ripe and ready to eat. So sweet and tart and yummy in every way. As you can see, it didn't take me too long to finish up my plate of fresh goodness.... I think I may have even licked the plate clean.

So friends, I hope you find some rest and enjoyment in this busy season. Take deep breaths, and enjoy all the beauty around you. Summer is a season of much giving. So take your rest and enjoy it.

Much love to you today as always!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Muffins (gluten, dairy & nut-free)

Hello Friends! Lovely day here in Michigan. It is partly cloudy, yes...but, the rain has been watering my beautiful garden and there are fresh strawberries to be eaten! My family and I got out of bed early (entirely because my son likes to wake before the sun), but we had a great outing to the bustling farmer's market this morning. There were a few new items: sweet peas, more fresh greens, and strawberries. If you are from Michigan, then you don't mind me bragging about our strawberries do you? Well, let me just say....perfection. These little sweet berries will win you over just with a whiff of them. Fresh, sweet juicy, gushingly red and fresh. A good way to start the day. Of course, these berries are a treat on their own. I could eat the whole quart in just one sitting, but I must control myself! They just have a way with you. They control you, and that is why with all this swooning I was inspired to make some fresh whole grain muffins. Yes, totally whipped by strawberries.
I have to be honest, earlier this week I was feeling a little down. Down on food, down on creativity, and down on myself. More than anything, I was just tired. Then, with a little extra sleep last night, and fresh strawberries today, I feel myself waking back up again. Waking up to beautiful color and scent of fresh berries. It's the little things, love. Beauty and rest (and beauty-rest) will restore a weary soul. Fresh foods and a touch of sweetness is the trick. Don't be down on yourself today...get up, go out and find something to celebrate and enjoy!

Why strawberry-lemon you ask? Well, with a touch of lemon- there is no better way to describe these babies. Sweet little cakes ready to be eaten. And, I do love a strawberry and lemon combo...

Strawberry Lemon Muffin Recipe (gluten, dairy and nut-free)
1 cup of fresh buckwheat flour (I grind my own out of groats)
1 cup of fresh millet flour (I grind my own out of millet seed)
1 cup of tapioca flour
1 TB of flaxmeal
2 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/4 cup of coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1 ts. of pure vanilla
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Coconut milk)
2 farm fresh eggs (or flax eggs could replace here for vegan option)
zest of one lemon (about 1 heaping TB)
juice of one lemon (about 2 TB of juice)

1 cup of freshly washed, diced strawberries + 1/2 cup more for topping muffins

Mix all of the dry ingredients first with a whisk in a large mixing bowl. Then add the wet ingredients and mix well. Lastly add the fresh strawberry pieces and fold in softly. Pour batter into muffin tins or a greased and prepared muffin pan. Pour batter up to the rim of the tins and then top with a few more visible strawberries pieces for some beauty. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. This recipe will make 12 large muffins. Pull from oven, let cool and then enjoy warm!
Some baking/recipe tips:
* Fresh ground buckwheat and millet flour make this recipe. The flour that is freshly ground has a great texture of oils and powder freshness. I think it what makes this recipe good. I grind my whole groats and millet in a magic bullet 1 cup at a time and you can do this same thing in a high powered blender, vitamix, or even food processor.

*This recipe does not contain any gums, and for a GF recipe that is pretty good. Using gums in GF baking is a debatable topic and many choose to do without because of cost and even health concerns. I am happy this muffins turned out perfectly without it.

*The lemon zest and and lemon juice can be easily taken away if avoid citrus, and can be subbed with some more milk and even cinnamon or nutmeg.
This recipe was inspired by the strawberries :) but also some recent postings and recipes by one of my favorite GF bloggers, none other than Ms. Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess. I couldn't agree more with her strawberry-love and wish I was more poetic and full of words of grace to describe this stepping stone into summer.
And for all of my non-baking friends, I swear this recipe is easy. It really is, and if you choose to just eat your fresh berries with some yummy vegan ice cream or smoothies, then you will certainly be lost in love with these berries too. But I must say, you may just be missing out on some strawberry goodness if you pass these muffins up. I personally love getting messy in the kitchen...elbow deep in flour and a heap of goodness. Today my little babe even helped by watching and talking to me on the floor by my feet. What a sweet babe he is! Too bad he still is too young to enjoy these lovely berries and muffins... I can't wait to share these with him some day (along with all of the excitement of summer!)

Now, I finish my muffin and enjoy the day. Maybe more weed-pulling and lemonade-drinking....I think so. Hope you have a relaxing weekend and find peace and grace in the simple joys if life.

Much love to you!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rhubarb Crumble (vegan, nut-free)

You can't escape late spring without a rhubarb recipe. It is a crowning first fruit (or vegetable) of the season and it would be wrong of me not to share. Seriously though, if you have not tried a rhubarb recipe, you must see if you still have local fresh rhubarb available and buy it. It is the first week of June and there is still plenty to be found here in Michigan, and if you are lucky you may even have some growing expectantly in your backyard. It may look mean and scary....and it may be tart if you bite into it, but with a little lovin' and care it can turn into a great treat. I love how real food is so nutrient dense and can be a dessert.

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable, but is most of the time thought to be a fruit because of it's use in pies. It nickname is the 'pie plant' because that is what it seems to be used for best. It is much like the tartness of cranberries and with a little added fruit juices, honey or 'sweeteners' it is a yummy sweet/sour combo. A few years ago I was buying vegetables that I have not tried before and rhubarb was one of them. I think I may have tried it before as a kid not really knowing, but as an adult I had to buy some, and experiment. It seems like the best (most common) way to use it is to first turn it unto a stewed sauce and then use it as a pie/crisp filling, muffin filling or even in a pudding dessert. It can also just be chopped up and used like apples in a pie as well. The farmer I bought my rhubarb from at the market told me she had been gnawing on it for a few days and she likes to eat it raw. And I have also hard of others chopping it up and freezing it and adding it to smoothies. So, like most vegetables you can do a lot with it if you get creative.
This weekend I made a simple, traditional crisp recipe with some stewed rhubarb and used some added stevia to sweeten and some coconut ice cream to top. Yummy goodness if you ask me... :)
Rhubarb Crumble Recipe (gluten-free, vegan, nut-free)
This simple recipe can be made with lots of substitutions, so I hope you don't mind, but I mention them so that if you have one in your kitchen and not the other you can still see how you can make this recipe.

Rhubarb Filling:
2 pounds of fresh, washed, and chopped rhubarb (about 6 cups chopped)
3/4 cup of fruit juice (apple, orange, grapefruit or pomegranate)
3/4 cup of pure water
1/2 cup of honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup
2 TB of corn starch (or arrowroot or tapioca starch)
dash of cinnamon
(optional additions: chopped sorrel leaf, orange extract, or more cinnamon and nutmeg)
Put the rhubarb pieces, juice and water in a medium pot on medium heat. It will start to warm and the rhubarb will break down and become almost like a sauce (10-15 minutes). Then add the sweetener, stevia, starch and spice, and continue to stir and it will continue to thicken and breakdown. Then let cool on the stove and then pour warm into a 9x13 glass pan. It should cover the whole pan and be about 2-3 inches thick along the bottom. Continue to let cool and make crumble topping...

Crumble Topping:
3/4 cup of quinoa flour (you can make your own by grinding in food processor)
3/4 cup of ground raw sunflower seeds meal ground in food processor (if you want to add nuts, almond meal would work here too)
1 1/2 cup of rolled gluten-free oats (quinoa flakes could be a good sub here)
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/3 cup of coconut palm sugar 
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil (other subs here would be vegan butter options or real butter)
2-3 TB of coconut milk beverage (or other non-dairy milk)
1 ts. of pure vanilla

In a mixing bowl, mix the flours and oats and all dry ingredients, then add in the slightly melted or soft coconut oil. Mix well, and then add the milk and vanilla to keep it soft. This will be like a very well biscuit batter and then you will be ready to crumble over the rhubarb filling. Crumble the topping with your hands over the rhubarb filling in the 9x13 pan. Crumble evenly all over. Then to add a crispy top sprinkle the following...

Sprinkle on top:
cinnamon and coconut palm sugar (or sucanat)
raw whole sunflower seeds

Then you are ready to bake. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour to really get a crispy and bubbly dish. Serve warm with your favorite ice cream. My favorite is no secret...So Delicious Coconut Vanilla ice cream hits the spot with this one.

Well, friends, that is your mandate for the weekend. Find, forage or buy some fresh rhubarb and make a recipe. This one or another one. It will usher you into summer with the excitement for the coming fresh produce, promise of lazy summer days and stevia-sweetened lemonade. I will be enjoying this dish with friends, and praying over my seedlings in the garden.

Much love to you today!