Day 80 – Recipe: M Cafe’s Chickpea & Dandelion Salad (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

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Let me start off by saying that I really hate bitter greens. There are only a few vegetables that I don’t like – one of them is fennel, and the other is the entire bitter greens family (endive, radicchio, frisée, God I hate frisée). Dandelion greens definitely fall into that bitter green category. If you haven’t tried them, well, they are really bitter and pretty disgusting. So why in the world did I make this dandelion greens salad, you might ask?  I really don’t know. I guess it seemed like a good idea when I found the recipe.

I used to eat this salad when I worked at M Cafe in Los Angeles, and though it wasn’t my absolute favorite, I still liked it and ate it frequently. This is probably the only way you could ever get me to eat dandelion greens. The tahini dressing is really nutty and creamy, and the sweet caramelized onions are a great compliment to the bitter greens. It really is a tasty salad, and if you like bitter greens you will like this dish a lot.

Dandelion, albeit gross, is really good for you. It’s one of those cancer-fighting, antioxidant, calcium-rich superfoods. So I kind of forced myself to eat it… and truthfully I picked some of it out. I like everything in this salad but the damn dandelion. Honestly when I make it again I will probably swap it out for some Tuscan kale.

So since I made this salad sound so good, I’m sure you really want to make it now :). But it’s worth a try, it’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of chopping. I served it with the Eggplant Tabbouleh I wrote about last week and it was the perfect compliment. So if I haven’t scared you away yet, copy, paste and print (someday I will figure out how to make a print button for these recipes, I promise).

M Cafe’s Chickpea & Dandelion Salad

For Tahini-Lemon Dressing:

  • 2 T sesame tahini
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For Frizzled Onions:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into paper-thin half moons

For Salad:

  • 2 15-ounce cans organic chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup red Bhutanese rice (or short grain brown rice), cooked
  • 2 cups celery hearts and inside leaves, sliced thin
  • 3 cups fresh dandelion greens, washed, dried and chopped
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For Tahini-Lemon Dressing:
Combine the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper in the mixing bowl. Adjust dressing with additional sea salt, black pepper or lemon juice, to taste.

For Frizzled Onions:
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the yellow onions. Fry the onions over medium heat until golden brown and “frizzled.” Transfer to absorbent toweling to drain excess oil. Season with sea salt and reserve.

For Salad:
Combine the chickpeas, cooked rice, celery hearts and dandelion greens in a mixing bowl. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of frizzled onions to bowl. Moisten salad with about 1/2 of a cup of the Tahini-Lemon Dressing and mix well to combine. Taste salad, and adjust with additional dressing, sea salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer salad to serving bowl or platter and drizzle additional dressing, if desired. Top with additional frizzled onions to garnish. Serves 8.

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Pictured with Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh.

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Day 74 – Recipe: Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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I’m getting a little confused about which day I’m on but I think it’s day 74. I wish it was day 364. When I’m home or when I’m at a vegan restaurant I don’t mind being on this diet, but whenever I’m out at a restaurant that has amazing smelling meat or pizza or waffles or bacon – you get the picture – I just can’t stand it, I get depressed. I love food so much, and being restrictive in my diet feels so unnatural to me. Sometimes I just want to say screw it and eat some boneless wings. The last couple weeks have been really hard. I’ve definitely eaten some things I shouldn’t have eaten (they were vegan, but processed) and I feel guilty about it. I hate feeling guilty. I wish this diet was easy. It’s not. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing it because I don’t want someone to take a scalpel to my throat and cut me open. God that really sounds horrible.

Anyways, for about 2 months we had fresh basil and mint growing in our kitchen and I rarely used it. About a month and a half into it we started having a severe gnat issue and I couldn’t take it anymore – my boyfriend took the herbs to his parent’s house in Sedona to plant in their garden. Less than a week later I came across this recipe with copious amounts of both fresh mint and basil and was like Damn The Irony! Fortunately we were going to see his parents over the weekend and they brought us a bunch of herbs so I could make the dish. Yay!

So I found this recipe in Shape magazine, I changed it a lot but the original recipe is from Clotilde Dusoulier’s new vegetarian cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. She used whole wheat couscous in her recipe, to make it gluten-free I opted for quinoa. I think it turned out really good. The herbs kind of overpowered the eggplant, mostly because I used spearmint which is too strong for this recipe, I would suggest using Mojito mint which is much milder. Also her recipe called for harissa, which I couldn’t find anywhere, so I used an Asian chili paste instead, I think it worked just as well. So here is my version:

Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves 8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Lbs small Italian eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1.5 cups white quinoa
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 T harissa or Asian chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mojito mint leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, sliced

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, then toss to coat; let rest 1 hour. Rinse thoroughly. Turn onto a clean kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze gently to absorb liquid.
  2. While eggplant is resting, mince the onion. Place minced onion, quinoa, 1 tsp sea salt, and 3 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. (To cool faster, spread onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place eggplant cubes in skillet and toss well, until coated in oil. When eggplant is hot, cover and let steam in skillet for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant should be very tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk tahini and harissa or chili paste. Whisk in lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding more to prevent curdling. Whisk til smooth.
  5. Pour the dressing over cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Fold in eggplant, mint, basil and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

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I served this dish with another Greek-inspired salad that I will post tomorrow. You can serve it with falafels, dolmas, hummus, pretty much any Mediterranean food, or just eat it by itself.

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It has a hint of spice to it but overall is pretty mild. If you want more spice, add more chili paste.

 

Day 72 – Recipe: Tanzanian Green Banana and Yam Stew (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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While flipping through a vegetarian cookbook at a restaurant, I came across this recipe for Banana and Yam Stew and instantly was intrigued. At first I thought it sounded really gross but the more I read I became extremely curious. I must’ve read the recipe over at least 4 times, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Bananas in a stew? I decided I had to make it, even though it is not stew weather at all right now, it sounded so interesting – and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

Thankfully it turned out really good. And it took less time than I expected, which is always a bonus. My boyfriend wasn’t as crazy about it as I was – he doesn’t really like cloves (which I didn’t know beforehand), and truthfully the cloves were a bit overpowering. When I make this again I will adjust the spices (this is reflected in the recipe below). I can definitely see eating it when it’s cooler outside, it’s a great winter stew, very hearty, warming, and slightly sweet. The recipe makes enough for about 12 people, I ended up freezing half of it because there was so much. I won’t make my boyfriend eat it again though, Mom and Dad I hope you like cloves!

Green Banana and Yam Stew
Adapted From Linda McCartney on Tour

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

  • 2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped

  • 1 large tomato, chopped roughly

  • 1 large carrot, sliced into thin rounds

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 4 cups vegetable stock

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot mixed with 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 green bananas, sliced

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the yams or sweet potatoes and cook until slightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a plate or bowl. In the same pot, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the jalapeno, cilantro, onion, tomato, carrot, garlic, and spices. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaves and lower the heat to a simmer. Stir in the arrowroot mixture. Add the bananas and yams/sweet potatoes. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve alone or with quinoa or couscous. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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Not the most appetizing color, I promise it tastes better than it looks here.

 

 

 

Day 44 – Recipe: Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Tagine (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

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Oh man. I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since my last post. I do have an excuse though, I was in Northern California over the weekend for a family reunion and was fortunate enough not to have to cook at all. My Aunt Pamela, who is from Thailand, was a wonderful hostess and made amazing Thai food for all of us every day – it was such a treat!

I managed to stay vegan everyday except one, and I cheated very badly. My Dad’s birthday was on Saturday and I failed to resist his birthday cake. I normally don’t even like chocolate cake but this one just looked so ridiculously good – and it was. Once I’d eaten the cake I figured I’d already cheated and proceeded to eat slices from 2 other cakes, and a pie… oh my. Needless to say my stomach hurt like a motherf—er afterwards and I felt guilty as hell. Ah well. At least it was only one day.

I got back late last night and had no idea what I was going to cook today. We had an extra bag of baby carrots in the fridge so I started searching for vegan carrot recipes on Google. I came across this one on about.com and thought it sounded really good, Moroccan Vegetarian Carrot and Chickpea Tagine. I’m happy to say it turned out great, and I will definitely make it again. The most predominant spice is pepper so if you have an aversion to peppery dishes you might want to avoid this one, or add (a lot) less black pepper. I only changed a couple things from the original recipe, including using chopped dried apricots instead of raisins – I’m not a big fan of raisins. I take no credit for this recipe, but here is what I did:

Vegan Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Tagine

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 50 – 60 baby carrots, cut into thin sticks (I cut each into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on size)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, cut in quarters

In the base of a tagine or in a large skillet with a lid, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil over low heat for several minutes, until soft.

Add the spices, cilantro, the carrots and the vegetable. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are cooked to desired tenderness. In a skillet about 25 minutes; in a tagine a bit longer.

When the carrots are cooked, stir in the honey and add the chickpeas and apricots. Continue simmering until the chickpeas are heated through and the sauce is reduced and thick, about 10 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if desired, and serve. Serve hot with cous cous, quinoa, or bread.

Serves 4

I used a skillet and served it over quinoa. Really, really yummy! Plus this took me less than an hour from start to finish. Awesome.

 

Day 39 – Recipe: Vietnamese Lemongrass Curry (vegan, gluten-free and soy-free!)

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I have no idea why I decided to make this today. I had a million things to do and I knew this was probably going to take awhile – but I had (almost) all of the ingredients on hand and I just couldn’t think of anything else to make so I made it. And I’m glad I did because it turned out really really good.

I saw this recipe for Chicken Lemongrass Curry on seriouseats.com the other day and figured I would try and make it with vegetables. I had a sweet potato, some yukon gold potatoes, and a zucchini laying around so that’s what I ended up using, but you could use pretty much any vegetables that are good with curry and they would work (i.e. carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas). I didn’t really change much from the original recipe so I can’t really take credit for this, but this is what I did. Oh and it took a little over an hour.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Curry

  • 3 to 4 hefty lemongrass stalks, outside layer removed, trimmed and chopped (about 2/3 cup total)
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 T Madras Curry Powder (I didn’t have Madras so I just used regular curry powder)
  • 1 Thai red chili, thinly sliced (or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • One 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 large yam or sweet potato, cut into small cubes
  • 1 lbs yukon gold potatoes (I used about 5 small), cut into small cubes
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4″ half moons
  • lime wedges for garnish
  • cilantro leaves or green onions for garnish

Toss the chopped lemongrass into a food processor. Process until it turns into a “fine, fluffy mass,” scraping the sides with a spatula occasionally, about three minutes. Add the ginger, and pulse until it is chopped finely. Then add the onion. Process, scraping the sides with a spatula occasionally, until it is a paste.

Pour the oil into a wok or large saucepan set over medium heat. When shimmering, add the lemongrass paste. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until very fragrant, about two minutes. Add the curry powder and red chili flakes, stir well, and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, and coconut milk. Stir well with the wooden spoon, and then add chopped yam and potatoes. If the liquid does not cover the potatoes add a little bit of water to do so (I added about 1/2 cup). Once liquid starts to boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Simmer covered, for 35 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add the zucchini, stir well, and turn heat up again to bring to a strong simmer. Then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer, and cook, covered, until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve hot with the lime wedges, cilantro/green onions, and quinoa or brown rice. Serves 4

 

Don’t leave out the lime wedges, they add a lot of flavor!

Whatever vegetables you decide to use, you will need about 2 lbs total.

I didn’t include this in the recipe but I threw in some broccoli and cauliflower stems into mine at the end (at the same time as the zucchini) for an added crunch. Yum!

 

 

Day 36 – Recipe: Thai Spiced Roasted Potatoes

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Since I’m (thankfully) allowed to eat potatoes, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to keep them interesting. I had some Thai red curry powder in my cabinet and thought I’d try and attempt to roast some potatoes with Thai spices. I really liked the way the Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes turned out so I adapted that recipe and came up with this. It turned out really good! Similar to the Aloo Gobi but different. And it only took me 30 minutes. I will definitely be making this again.

Thai Spiced Roasted Potatoes***

  • 1 large yam or sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 lb (about 5 medium) red new potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I left the skin on)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1.5 teaspoons Thai red curry powder
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

Put oven rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss yam and new potatoes together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread onto a shallow baking pan (covered in parchment paper for easy clean-up) and roast, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are just tender, about 25 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, lemongrass, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add red curry powder and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted potatoes. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

***Adapted from Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes at Epicurious.com

This will serve 4 as a side dish but my hungry mouth ate 3/4 of the pan in one sitting. Woops.