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The Perfect Sunday Kale Salad

This past weekend, I enjoyed the perfect Sunday.

My friend Tiffany and I started the day at one of my favorite places in the world, the Malibu Farmer’s Market. Drenched in cool Malibu sunshine, we floated from booth to wonderful booth, sampling homegrown-this and freerange-that. I may sound biased since I do a lot of work with the Cornucopia Foundation, which runs the Market, but it really is a special place. Though smaller than many other markets, I have found the prices to be low for the caliber of food, and the atmosphere to be pleasurable. If you live in the area, I wholeheartedly encourage you to come experience it.

After filling our reusable bags with loads of fresh, leafy goodness, we were joined by our other lovely friend, Julia, and drove off to Tiffany’s seaside abode. London Bear, Tiffany’s resident sheep in wolf’s clothing, greeted us and proceeded to act adorable and cuddly (and very hungry, of course), throughout our cooking adventure. He probably enjoyed our sundried tomato croutons the most of us all:

alaskan malamute husky wolf cute dog

Lots of people seem to fear and loathe kale. Indeed, given that this particular cruciferous vegetable is quite bitter and tough in its raw state, I can see where these sentiments originate. However, I encourage even you stringent kale-haters out there to try our Sunday creation. Without compromising any of this “superfood’s” nutritional integrity, this dish is a party for the tastebuds: sweet from the berries, tangy from the balsamic, a little spicy from the pepitas, quite savory, and overall, incredibly satisfying. This is my happy-body soul food.

The Perfect Sunday Kale Salad

raw food kale salad vegetables vegetarian cooking vegetarian recipe strawberry farmers market

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves three hungry girls; adjust accordingly)

-3 cups of fresh, washed kale, loosely torn

-1 cup strawberries, sliced

-1 avocado, sliced

-chili-lemon pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), about 1 tbsp per person (to make your own, toss raw pepitas with lemon juice, chili powder, and a little salt)

-FOR THE CROUTONS

-1 round whole wheat pita bread, torn into bite-size pieces

-a small chunk of Aliki‘s sundried tomato feta cheese for each piece. *I should note here that this recipe is not strictly vegan. Since my personal adherence to a plant-centered diet is morally based, I thought a few bites of free-range goat milk feta cheese would be okay. The vegan police didn’t come get me, at least. (Goat’s milk is lower in lactose, as well, if you experience problems in that department.) If you are a strict vegan, you can, of course, substitute the feta with your favorite vegan cheese.

-FOR THE DRESSING:

-1 cup fresh strawberries, leafy tops removed

-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

-1/4 cup olive oil

-(this dressing was “very berry” and quite acidic; adjust if you prefer more or less vinegar-taste in your food)

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the pieces of torn-up pita bread on an ungreased cooking sheet and place one small bit (about a teaspoon-sized scoop) of the feta atop each pita piece. Bake for about 6 minutes, just enough to get the pita nice and crispy.

Place the berries, balsamic, and olive oil inside a food processor. Liquify. It should be pink. Tiffany’s housemate had an awesome gadget called the Ninja, which put my beloved Magic Bullet to shame.

Toss the kale with the dressing, fresh berries, and pepitas. Top each serving with the croutons and fresh avocado.

Serve with mimosas and good company.

Sunday brunch kale salad mimosas strawberries organic free-range vegetarian

Follow with a trip to the beach, a lovely Sunday drive, or whatever brings you peace and pleasure.

Country-fried Vegan Confessions

🙂

Lately, life has been beautiful. It’s November, but it feels like early June. In this burst of Malibu Indian Summer, the sun blazes so brightly that the Pacific looks a bit like the Caribbean. However, as usual, I’ve been too busy to blog.  However, I’m on here, even though I don’t have time to be, because I volunteered to make cornbread to go with my friend Anna’s chili (yum) for lunch-and-movie day in one of my classes, tomorrow… and I’m pretty excited about it.

My attempts at cornbread-making in the past have yielded interesting results: sometimes dry, sometimes crumbly, usually palatable, and last time I chose a cornmeal so crunchy it felt like I was feeding Michael (boyfriend) ground-up popcorn kernels. He’s such a good sport.

I felt so compelled to write this because… I think I finally got it right, y’all. I don’t like to brag, but I finally figured out how to make cornbread that’s flavorful, fluffy, and moist enough to eat without any spread. I’m cutting it up to bring to class tomorrow because I’m a little embarrassed by how much of it I’ve already eaten. I’ve finally found the satisfaction to this Deep-South Craving. So, here it is, the veganized, slightly spiced-up version of my mama’s skillet cornbread!

The Alabama Herbivore: Vegan Skillet Cornbread

INGREDIENTS:

dry:

-1 cup whole wheat flour

-1 cup cornmeal (the more finely ground, the better)

-2 tsp baking soda

-2 tbsp Tony Chachere’s (optional, if you’re a weenie about spicy stuff)

wet:

-1 and 1/2 cups soy milk + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, whisked and let set to curdle for about 5 minutes

-1/3 cup of canola oil

-about another tbsp to grease the skillet

-1/3 cup Smart Balance Lite, melted

-1 tbsp maple syrup

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease up your skillet, and put it in the oven to get nice and hot.

Sift the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients in, and whisk until thoroughly blended; the batter should be bubbly and fluffy.

Now, very carefully and using either a nice, thick oven mitt or a folded up towel, pull the skillet out of the oven…

(I have to warn y’all, this isn’t the safest recipe to make at home by yourself if you have weak little spaghetti arms like mine. I’m not even Catholic, but I caught myself saying the rosary in my head every time I lifted my painfully heavy, hot-as-hades cast-iron skillet in and out of the oven. If you have some muscles, awesome, but if not try and find someone nice and strong to help you!)

Place it on a heat-safe surface, and pour the batter in. It’ll sizzle a little, which is how we get that delicious crispity golden brown bottom layer.

Place the skillet back in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes, and then using those muscles again, flip the cornbread onto a plate so the crispity side is up.

a skillet full of cornbread is like a flattened-out pot of gold... but tasty

Enjoy with chili, soup, or straight-up for breakfast.

I hope my friends in Literary Theory enjoy it, tomorrow.

Happy chowing, y’all!

Simplification.

I’m a month into my Senior Year of college. Collegiate society dictates that Senior Year is supposed to be an easy, breezy time of hedonism, of abundant legal drinking, of carefree and careless living, where the student sucks the marrow out of life as the shadow of the Real World looms ever-closer.

Maybe Senior Year is like that for some people, but my experience has been far from it. I’m well-aware of why this is; I studied abroad for two solid semesters, took a bunch of classes just to learn about things I found interesting (entrepreneurship, film studies, computer science, batik, etc.). I changed my major five times within my first year. As such, one could say I’m paying my academic dues now. Adding to my sleeplessness and perpetual motion, I’m involved in a lot of different, wonderful organizations. All are rewarding, but eat away at my time like hungry little Pac-Mans (Pac-Men?). On top of it all, I’m trying to get my ducks in a row for graduate school. Planning for the future is a burden no matter what, but quite the hefty one when the present has been weighing down on me. I’m not saying that I have any desire to drink buckets of cheap beer at fraternity parties; really, it would just be nice to have a social outing or two without an angry cloud of obligation hissing in the back of my head.

I’m really not trying to be whiny here; I appreciate my life, and acknowledge that I did sign on for all of this. I hope I’m not boring you. I’m just trying to explain why I haven’t written in nearly two months.

Yesterday, a sleepy Monday after a weekend of constant studying, I decided that things needed to change. I’ve been stretched too thin, and as such, haven’t been truly happy. So, without going into a lot of detail, I streamlined things.

And today, for the first time in quite a while, I had time to cook my own lunch. This is a very simple, quick, warm-you-up sort of meal… perfect for a busy, cloudy day (which is what we’ve been enjoying here in southern California). Kale is one of those foods that just makes me feel so calm and energized after I eat it. This fabulous leafy green is ridiculously healthy, and makes for a nice meal paired with toasted pistachios and good rice.

a simplification celebration in a bowl

Sauteed Kale and Pistachio Yummy Bowl

INGREDIENTS:

-one hefty bunch kale, enough to cook down to about a cup; I got a huge bunch (there’s still a lot in my fridge!) from the Malibu Farmer’s Market, and it was only $1!

-three cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped

-two tablespoons good-quality soy sauce

-one tablespoon oil of your choice (I like olive oil, but not everyone does)

-1/4 cup crushed pistachios, toasted

-about a cup of prepared sticky brown rice (I don’t own a rice cooker or have a lot of time, so I use these)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in the bottom of a large pan or wok; once it is sizzle-ready add the garlic, sautee for about two minutes, and add half of the soy sauce. Cook until the garlic is clearish-brown (it will have absorbed some of the soy, which is what we want), and add the kale, mixing around so that it’s evenly coated with oil and soy. Add the rest of the soy sauce, cover with the lid to a large pot, turn down the heat to low, and let cook for about 6-8 minutes. The process is similar to cooking spinach, but kale is much tougher. Once the kale has wilted, mix in the toasted pistachios. Serve mixed in with sticky brown rice.

For optimal soul-soothing effects, serve alongside a cup of echinacea-elderflower tea sweetened with agave nectar. That’s what I did, and for the first time in a while, I’ve felt wonderful all day.

A public display of affection

Dear Summertime,

I love you, for so many delicious reasons. I love your rainbowlike bounty, as seen on this plate… The perfect summertime dinner. I love the blackberries, the corn, the tomatoes so plentiful but so tangy and scrumptious that I never tire of them. I love cool-crackle fresh green beans sauteed simply, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and a darling shallot, absorbing too some luscious earthiness from the portabellas with whom they shared their pan. I especially love that summertime soup whose recipe I cannot share with a clean conscience; some family recipes are meant to stay with their families.. I will disclose only that I love okra, too, and am a firm believer in the juicy, harmonious marriage it creates with my beloved tomato.

Most of all, summertime, I love you for giving me extended time with my family.. Namely my mom, the person who has most inspired my love of food and of life, who prepared this perfect meal for me. I am so blessed to have a loving, encouraging family to come home to for parts of every summer. It’s so surreal to think that, as I am about to enter my last year of college, this will be my last true summer; the ‘real world,’ with its unfortunate lack of monthlong vacations, is trying to sneak up on me, and as I pause now, I can hear it shuffling about in the near future. It’s all right, though. Every rainy summer afternoon I’ve spent with my wonderful family has been a gift. I’m lucky I’ve enjoyed so many.

Thank you summertime and thank you Mom; I love you both very much.

Sincerely,
The “Hungry Herbivore”

LUNCH:

pardon the floating crumbs, I got a bit eager with the bread-dunking

mmm...

Gazpacho and a Black Bean Tartine from yummy Le Pain Quotidien.

DINNER:

“Mojito Curry.” It’s really just my usual curry, amped up with purple basil from Eastern Market and a squeeze of lime. The result: tangy, kicky and still delicious.

and MY NEW SWEET OBSESSION:

Double Rainbow chocolate sorbet. These brilliant San Franciscans  seem to have taken chocolate ice cream, eliminated all of the unnecessary junk (the dairy and egg yolks, and as such about 200 of the calories found in “normal” chocolate ice cream), and created the dreamiest, most velvety chocolate treat.

Successful day, overall.

As friendly as the wonderful people of the South are, traditional Southern food isn’t exactly herbivore-friendly. Trust me, I know; every time I visit my family in Alabama, I leave with stories. Sometimes, these stories are kind of funny, like the time when I asked an extremely pregnant waitress at Country’s BBQ in Auburn about what on the menu I could actually eat… she returned to our table visibly flustered, and breathlessly declared, “I’m so sorry ma’am, but all of our vegetables are cooked with meat!” Other times, these stories are frustrating, especially when they involve social events made uncomfortable because there is nothing I can eat, and thus hurting my host or hostess’ feelings… but even then, those stories are usually at least a little amusing. As a kid at Camp Mac, I remember being the only vegetarian there, to the amusement of the cafeteria ladies, and one day inventing the gnarly-but-sort of-edible “Ketchup, Pickle and Raw Onion Sandwich.”

Though my young life was largely spent outside of the Deep South, a lot of the food my born-and-raised-in-Alabama Mama fed me was thoroughly Southern. Sure, I now spend most of my time in decidedly Yankee places, consuming things like avocado sushi and komboucha, but I do occasionally yearn for tasty treats like fried okra, butterbeans, cheesy potato casserole, and (salty, not sweet) skillet cornbread. There is one fairly common Southern dish that my immediate family doesn’t usually make, though, and for good reason. I hope this doesn’t offend any collard fanatics out there, but the way these greens are “traditionally” prepared, boiled with weird porcine body parts until they become something like bacon-flavored baby food… Rank.

This little sweetie prefers vegan collards, too.

Here is where Alicia Silverstone comes in.

She’s fabulous. She’s vegan. She wrote a fabulous vegan cookbook. (And, she’s the star of two of my favorite feel-good films of the nineties, “Clueless” and “Blast from the Past!”)

I haven’t loved every herbivorous manifesto I’ve read (ahem, Skinny Bitch), but The Kind Diet is just great. Miss Silverstone packed this little gem with solid research, but crafted it so that it reads in a cute, non-bossy way. For example, after presenting a chunk of nutritional information, she’ll interject something totally silly like, “Yay detox!” Love it! While I can’t recommend The Kind Diet to everyone I know— I’m excited to try out some of the macrobiotic “sea vegetable” recipes once I’m back on the West Coast, but am probably alone in that sentiment— I definitely owe Miss Silverstone some major vegan snaps for inspiring me to try the dreaded collards… and oh buddy. I am so glad I did.

I should note beforehand that I modified Alicia’s recipe a good bit. The original she lists in The Kind Diet uses raisins, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. However, she mentions in the fine print that “superheroes” (intense followers of a macrobiotic regimen) that eat the dish frequently should substitute shoyu (fancypants word for high-quality soy sauce) for the balsamic and pumpkin seeds for the pine nuts. I figured—hey. Go big or go home. As such, I went straight for the shoyu and pumpkin seeds, added garlic (because I love it) and eliminated the raisins (because I don’t love them). As always, I encourage you to figure out what your taste buds are craving, and go with it.

Soulful Collard Greens with *Cheesy* Grits

Serves two, roughly

INGREDIENTS:

For the greens:

-Four fresh collard leaves

-1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted (in the toaster oven or on a frying pan)

-1 tbsp crushed garlic paste, or 3-4 cloves minced garlic.

-1 tbsp olive oil, plus about another tbsp for drizzling

-2 tbsp good soy sauce (“shoyu”)

For the grits:

-1/2 cup yellow grits

-2 cups water

-2 soy “Kraft singles” (there’s that cheese again)

Tony Chachere’s; season to your heart’s desire

DIRECTIONS:

For each collard, cut each side of the leaf free from the stem, and then cut that into smaller pieces, each about 2 inches by 2 inches. Place these in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Shake off some, but not all, of the water; you’ll want these little leaves to retain some of their moisture. The stems of collards are quite tough, so you’ll want to discard the bottommost part; the rest of the stem is very healthy, though (according to Alicia Silverstone, at least), so cut your stems into small pieces, each about a centimeter long, rinse, and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, gently sauté the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for about two minutes. When that rich, fabulous smell of sautéed garlic begins to flow through your kitchen, add the collard stem pieces, lower the heat slightly, and cook, moving the stem bits frequently, until they’ve visibly softened. This should take about 5 minutes.

pardon the blurriness... it tends to happen with cell phone pictures

Then, plop the damp collards right onto the pan! Cook for about two minutes, periodically nudging them around, until they’ve all begun to wilt. Drizzle the extra olive oil and soy sauce, cover with the lid of a pot or saucepan, and let cook, nudging occasionally, for about another five minutes. Now, I know I usually say that a vegetable is “done” when it’s flushed gorgeous, bright green… but collards are naturally a bit tough (hence why they’re traditionally turned into porky slop) so here, wait for them to turn earthy green.

Add the pumpkin seeds, mix together, and savor.

As the flavor of these greens isn’t particularly “southern” (I guess it would be vaguely Asian if we had to geographically label it), they’ll be great paired with almost any grain… farro, quinoa, or brown rice would all be great. However, the night I made these, I’d been craving grits in a huge way.

For those of y’all (<3) not from the south, grits are basically scrumptious little dots of ground up corn. Grits are often served for breakfast, but I like them at every meal. This is a very, very basic “cheesy grits” recipe made vegan.

GRITS:

Boil the water. Add the grits. Turn the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently (be especially careful, as grits tend to stick to the bottom of the pan). When the grits have just about fully absorbed the water, melt in the “cheese” and Tony Chachere’s. Keep in mind when shopping that grits double in size when cooked.

I know, the grits look a little funny and egg-like on the plate... yellow grits + yellowish "cheese" = really yellow. But really, they tasted great. Perfect comfort food.

This meal was truly body-powering and soul-warming. I invite you to try it at home.

Tofurkey Dog from a stand by Union Station: $1

Yesssssssss.

Maybe this has something to do with PETA being based here; maybe not. But whoever’s idea this was, many tasty mustard-slathered thank yous!