Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheezy Vegan Kale Chips

I think I discovered kale chips about a year ago and I'm officially addicted. I've been buying them an average of once a week and they can cost around $7 for a few ounces at the health food store. Kale grows easily in New England and is available at farmers markets for around $2 a bunch. I got mine from Parker Farm at the Union Square Farmers Market in Somerville.
fresh kale is cheap, healthy, and great for the planet
I know people who make their own kale chips, so I set out to make my own. You don't need a food dehydrator if you're not raw, but a lot of the recipes I found online did call for dehydrating rather than baking. I didn't have the patience to wait (a sign of addiction?) and none of the books in my library had a recipe for kale chips, so I improvised!

Step 1: make the Cashew Cream.  (Note that the cashews have to soak for a while, so best to do this ahead of time)

Step 2: season the Cashew Cream. I added about a teaspoon each of garlic powder, cayenne pepper, freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt, but you can season however you want. A few tablespoons of nutritional yeast add the "cheezy" flavor. Pay a visit to your local health food store for nutritional yeast if you have no idea what I'm talking about. (You can often buy it in the bulk section by the scoop and it makes a great popcorn topping!) I noticed that a lot of recipes called for bell pepper, which would add some great nutrition and flavor, but I didn't have one handy. 

Step 3: Rinse the kale and tear it into smaller (but not too small because it will shrink a good deal when you bake it) pieces. Pat or spin it dry so the "cheeze" sticks. 

Step 4: Coat the kale with the cashew cream mixture. Just pour it on top and toss it with your hands in a large bowl. 
coat the kale in your "cheezy" cashew cream
Step 5: Spread the kale thin on a parchment lined cookie sheet (2 sheets should be enough for 1 bunch of kale). Bake at 375 until crispy. (I forget exactly how long this took, so keep an eye. My gut is telling me 15 minutes, then flip with a pair of tongs and bake for another 10-15, but it depends on how your cheeze to kale ratio, which I'm still perfecting (hence no measurements here)
spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment
I got really impatient at the end and cranked the heat up and then got distracted and forgot about my precious kale chips, so they were a bit tooooo crispy, but hey... lesson learned! Will try again soon! Kale is SO easy to find and to grow, especially here in the Northeast!
bake until crispy with a little golden, but don't overcook

Full Disclosure: I volunteer for the Union Square Farmers Market by helping with their social media strategy and tactics.

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The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seasonal Stir Fry

This is the BEST time of year to be a vegetarian! I can't get enough fresh fruits and veggies and lucky for me, there are some amazing farmers markets in my neighborhood, including the Union Square Farmers Market in Somerville. Pay a visit to your local farmers market this week to pick up fresh zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots, scallions, green and wax beans, garlic, and onions. I got all of the produce for this recipe from the Parker Farm, Drumlin Farm, and Kimball Farm stands at the Union Square Farmers Market. Your market should have a similar selection of fresh, gorgeous produce!

All ingredients are from the Union Square Farmers Market except the zucchini, which I grew
Pick up some tofu, soy sauce, sesame oil, braggs liquid aminos, and ginger on your way home and you'll have all the ingredients needed for this insanely delicious stir fry. Best part? You can use whatever veggies are fresh in your area right now.
sneak peak of dinner! keep reading for the recipe!
Start by draining the liquid off your chunk of firm tofu. Slice in half, wrap the slabs in paper towel, place between 2 plates, and place a bag of flour or a few cans of beans on the top plate to squeeze the water out of the tofu while you slice and chop.
I don't LOVE tofu, but I really like this one! The 2 packs are perfect.
Slice1/2 a white or yellow onion (or the whole thing if you love onions). Throw that in a pan heated over medium heat with a light coating (1-2 tb) of sesame oil (peanut oil or canola oil work, too).

saute onion
While the onions saute, mince 2 cloves of garlic and an equal amount of ginger (tip: freeze ginger if you're not going to use it all at once and you'll always have fresh frozen ginger!)
mince ginger and garlic
Add ginger and garlic in to the pan with the onion, stir, and brown. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure things don't start to burn! Saute over medium heat, adjusting if necessary.
add ginger and garlic when onions start to brown
Unwrap your tofu and slice it into cubes. Add to the pan with a splash of low sodium soy sauce and some braggs liquid aminos. Stir, but be careful. Tofu is delicate.
add cubed tofu and a splash each of soy sauce and braggs
You want to brown the tofu but don't burn the garlic and onions. This is the tricky part. Some recipes say to use separate pans, but who wants to clean two pans after a long day of work, an hour at the gym, and errands! Keep it simple!
Brown the tofu, but don't burn the garlic and onions! 
As soon as the tofu is browned, add your veggies. If the pan has dried out, add some more braggs and maybe a splash of water and some more soy sauce.
Sliced stir fry veggies ready to go!
Stir gently to combine ingredients. Try to get the veggies toward the bottom of the pan and the tofu towards the top. Cover and reduce heat to medium low.
Gorgeous, right?
You're sauteing your stir fry now, but covering it speeds things along and adds a steaming effect. The veggies will soften but should keep their form. Stir gently every couple minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary. Taste a veggie here or there to see if you need more garlic or soy sauce as these things really depend on individual taste!
this is what you're shooting for :)
In the last minute or two of cooking, add some chopped scallions for an extra burst of flavor. Serve the finished product over some brown basmati rice for a delicious, nutricious, fresh, local, colorful, protein and vitamin packed dinner. I used 1/2 of that 2-pack of tofu, 1/2 an onion,  2 large cloves of garlic (and an equal amount of ginger), 1 zucchini, 1 yellow summer squash, a handful of mixed green and wax beans, 1 purple carrot, and 4 small scallions. Only other ingredients were sesame oil, braggs liquid aminos, and low sodium soy sauce. Makes enough for 2 and we had enough leftover to pack lunch! Took about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Dig in and enjoy!
Tip on the rice: Rinse it (I used 1 cup) cook it in a rice cooker with a small piece of kombu, which will help unlock some of the rice's nutritional value while making the grain easier to digest (and adding a bit of flavor). I used 2 cups of water and added some vegetable better than bouillon for added flavor.

Full Disclosure: I volunteer for Union Square Farmers Market, helping out with their online marketing and social medai. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

String Bean Potato Salad

String Bean Potato Salad!
I spotted some beautiful string beans at the Parker Farm booth at the Union Square Farmers Market on Saturday and picked up about a pound envisioning one of my favorite summer salads. I have such vivid memories of sitting on my grandma's back patio snapping the ends off string beans on a hot summer day and then enjoying the simple salad, so I called grandma a couple summers ago to find out her secret recipe! Silly me. Anyone out there with an Italian grandma knows there no such thing as a recipe. Just a little of that and a little of this and not too much of that and somehow, through the years of experience in the kitchen, grandma could create the most delicious dishes (but god help you if you tried to write down a recipe with measurements!). So, here's a how-to (we won't call it a recipe) on how to try to create this delicious summer salad:


  • about a pound of fresh string beans, ends removed 
    • They're in season now in the Northeast! SO much better than frozen!
  • about a pound of potatoes 
    • New potatoes are in season right now
    • I like red potatoes for their color in this summer dish and they have a great texture 
    • I still had blue potatoes left from last fall's harvest that needed to be eaten!
    • Tip: Yukon gold are also great salad potatoes. They keep their shape better than softer potatoes like russets, which can get mealy in salads.
  • 1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
    • picked this up from the farmers market, too!
  • 1 -2 cloves of garlic, minced 
    • ?: do you know where your garlic comes from? I've been buying pre-peeled garlic for years and recently realized it could be from ANYWHERE! Then I saw some at the farmers market! Maybe next year, I'll try growing some of my own. Gotta shorten that distance From Seed to Stomach after all!!
  • 1 small cucumber, skin on, shredded
    • Cucumbers are mostly water, and shredding one in to a salad adds a ton of moisture and fresh flavor, allowing you to cut back on the oil and salt!
    • Tip: Just use a cheese grater to shred the cucumber.
  • Handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped
    • You can use practically anything you have on hand, but I chose:
      • Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, and Chives
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper and a sprinkle of Kosher Salt to taste
  • Scrub the potatoes. Leave the skins on for added color, texture, and nutrition, so make sure you clean them well. 
    • Tip: Rinse them under cold running water then soak them for a few minutes in a cold water bath with a tablespoon of baking soda before scrubbing with a vegetable brush.
    • Did you know that most potatoes are covered in chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) because it's hard to get that stuff out of the soil they grow in, even if a farmer shifts from traditional to organic methods? Look for them at the farmers market where you can ask the farmer how they're grown.
  • Cut the potatoes into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes and put them in a pot of water on the stove. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until fork tender. Drain and let cool.
    • Tip: If you have a pressure cooker, this is a great time to use it! You can cook those potatoes in less than 8 minutes. Just reference the directions that came with your cooker.
  • While the potatoes are boiling, steam the string beans, but just until they're cooked. You want them to still crunch and snap a bit. Mushy string beans don't have as much flavor or nutritional value.
    • Tip: Use a stove-top veggie steamer basket. Cover, but go in there every so often to mix up the beans with a pair of tongs, rotating the top ones with the bottom ones so they cook evenly.
    • Tip: When they're perfectly cooked but still crunchy, throw them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and keep their color bright.
  • Combine the potatoes and string beans in a large bowl with the shredded cucumber. 
  • Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil to lightly coat the potatoes and string beans.
  • Add the fresh herbs and the salt and pepper to taste.
  • DIG IN! 
This how-to should yield just enough salad to bring to your next BBQ or pot luck or just enough for dinner and leftovers for a couple days. It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days and makes a great lunch on hot days! 


Full Disclosure: I volunteer for the Union Square Farmers Market by helping with their social media strategy and tactics.

This post was shared on:
Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday