Preserve Your Peppers Now

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If you live in a spot like Michigan, organic red peppers are plentiful, fresh and reasonably priced just once a year. Since red peppers are frequently sprayed with pesticides and flown from countries I can only hope to someday visit, I like to preserve as much of this harvest as I can for use during the year. I an industrial food preserving technique–IQF (stands for individually quick frozen) to store as many organic red peppers as my freezer will hold.

Here’s how I do it. I rinse the peppers and set them on a towel to dry a few hours before I’m going to slice them. You want them to be as dry as possible when they hit the freezer. Core and seed your peppers, stripping away the pith as well. Cut one pepper into about four sections. Lay it flat and cut it into long strips. Then line all the strips up and dice them.

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Toss them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out in a single layer. Stick them in the freezer and freeze solid. When they come out, I use a pancake turner to detach them from the pan and scoop the diced peppers into a freezer bag. A one quart bag will hold 4-6 medium peppers. The peppers can be used in any dish in which they’ll be cooked–soups and sautes. I recommend using freezer bags over other containers because a little manipulation of the bag will allow you to break off the exact amount you want.

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The Perfect Potluck Dish

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You can never have enough delicious hearty mains to take to potlucks. If you’re eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet and you want to make sure there’s something that will give you every delicious food group, make this salad and bring it along. I promise you, it will be gone very quickly, so go to the head of the line. If you’re are eating oil-free, you can substitute the oil in this recipe with a chia oil replacement (provided at the bottom)

I love looking at old cooking magazines and this was inspired by an advertisement recipe that used a whopping 1/2 cup of olive oil. It’s not necessary. The dish is delish and very filling.

Mediterranean Lentil/Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:
3 cups water
1 beef-flavored bouillon cube (I favor cele-fibr)
1 cup French or du puy lentils
¾ cup dried quinoa
2 T olive oil (or chia oil substitute*)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ T freshly grated ginger
¾ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. dried pepper flakes
½ cup pine nuts
6 cups spinach

Directions
Bring water and bouillon cube to a boil. Add lentils and stir. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 17 minutes. Add quinoa, stir again, and simmer for another 9 minutes. At this time, most of the water will be absorbed. Turn off heat and let sit until cool.

Whisk ingredients from olive oil through pepper flakes thoroughly. Toast pine nuts in an iron skillet and set aside.

Once the lentil/quinoa mixture is completely cool carefully drain off and reserve any cooking water and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add 2 T cooking water to dressing and pour over mixture. Toss carefully to meld flavors. You want to keep the lentils intact. If the salad seems dry, add either a little more olive oil or cooking water.

Place the spinach on a platter, mound the lentils on top and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. You can also decorate with chopped red pepper or heirloom tomatoes or roasted veggies like asparagus or green beans in season.

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*in a small bowl, mix 1/2T chia with 2 T water. Let sit for a few minutes to thicken.

Roger’s Lovely Loaf with Mushroom Gravy

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This delicious gluten-free loaf adorned with mushroom gravy was a gift from my Valentine, Roger Gilles. The photo elicited so many requests for the recipe that I’m posting it now in anticipation of the landslide of requests we’ll get at our supper club this evening. If you’re free, come over and try it!

Walnut Basil Rice Casserole

This came from ExtraVeganZa, by Laura Matthias, p. 106. I wasn’t sure if the 2 cups of rice meant before or after cooking, so I started with 2 cups of uncooked rice and then used about 4 cups of cooked rice, which seemed about right. Also, in place of fresh basil, I used two “cubes” of frozen basil blended with olive oil—which Sue makes in the summer in ice-cube trays and then puts in our freezers. This was very easy to make.

2 c brown basmati rice, cooked
1½ c walnuts
½ c fresh basil
½ medium onion
2 T tamari or soy sauce
5 T rice milk or soy milk

Cook the rice. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until reaching a coarse consistency. Press mixture into an oiled loaf pan. Bake 60 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before turning onto a dish and slicing.

Mushroom Gravy

This came from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, p. 211. I used a blend of shiitake, oyster, and baby bella mushrooms. I also used brown rice flour because Sue wanted the meal gluten-free. After sautéing the onion and mushrooms (but before adding the garlic, etc.), I whirled the mixture in a food processor, even though the recipe didn’t say to. I wanted a smoother gravy.

2 c vegetable broth
1/3 c flour
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t thyme
½ t sage
Salt and pepper
¼ cup white wine

Mix flour into broth and set aside. Sauté onion in oil, then add mushrooms and sauté. Add garlic, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper, and sauté some more. Add wine and bring to simmer. Lower heat and add flour/broth. Stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Bean Can Man to the Rescue!

Another exciting installment in the life of Bean Can Man

I came home from the gym…starving. BUT I wanted exactly what I wanted, which was a taco salad. I wanted crunchy, creamy, chewy. Anyway. I started with Vertical Paradise baby greens.

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Talk about Paradise! It’s February in Michigan and I can get my hands on this stuff. We’re working on YOU getting your hands on this stuff. Come to next week’s supper club and lobby Tim Sharer, owner of Vertical Paradise Farms. Here’s Tim (holding his stash).

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Back to the salad. I chopped up peppers and onions, heated a little water in a non-stick pan and sauteed them. After a couple of minutes, I sprinkled on some chili pepper and cumin. Another minute went by and I tossed in two small zucchini (diced), some frozen corn and a half a cup of salsa. I gave it all a stir, turned the pan to low and my attention to the dressing. Into my blender went a half a box of tofu (silken lite firm tofu), 1/2 of a big–ripe, people!–avocado, juice of one half lime, 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (you could use water) and whir away until it is perfectly smooth. I wanted to add just a little salt, but when I tipped my jar of himalayan sea salt, a big chunk fell out into the blender. Drat! I tasted it. Like the rim of a margarita. What to do?

As I was sitting there, fretting, apron over my head, a can of Eden Organic No Salt Black Beans fell into my lap.

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

“Trouble, young lady?”
“Oh Bean Can Man, I am so SO sad. I just put too much salt in my creamy dressing.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head. Why not offset too much salt with my salt-free black beans? I assume I was destined to make it into your salad anyway.”

Yes, he was. So I mixed the dressing with the beans, which I had rinsed and drained. I chopped the lettuce and put on a layer of creamy beans, topped that with some sauteed veggies, another dollop of creamy beans and salsa. Looked like this:

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How do you say Yum! in Spanish? Add some super-thin and crispy Xochitli chips and you are fueled to save the world–one can at a time! Thank you Bean Can Man.

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Can’t Stop the Chop!

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Okay, I am in love with chopped salads. I have dabbled before, but this time I’ve fallen hard. These are the salads for people who don’t think salads are hearty enough to be the centerpiece of the meal (a.k.a. the former me). These are salads that seem gourmet and take minutes, miraculously transform your leftovers and make your life easier. They might even pay your bills if you let them.

You need a few simple tools: a large tree stump (or a v. big cutting board); a sharp knife and a pancake turner. I will provide you with my very favorite and oft-requested dressing recipe, the technique and some suggestions to set the salad artiste in you free. You must go boldly beyond and send me photographs for my facebook page (stirthepotgr…of course).

Chopped Salad with Peppercorn Dijon Dressing

Mixed greens to equal 10 cups, washed, dried and roughly chopped
Roughly chopped vegetables to equal 6 cups (celery, carrots, broccoli)
½ can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Fun add-ins, to include: sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios, hearts of palm, tart apple, jicama, leftover grains or vegetables or beans or seeds or nuts–nothing too mushy. Use your imagination!

Using the biggest cutting board surface you can find, begin chopping the greens and vegetables together. Continue to toss the ingredients from the outer edges into the center. Your goal is to fully incorporate the ingredients and chop the vegetables into small pieces. But not to make a mash! After a few minutes, add blobs of dressing onto your pile and begin to incorporate. Add the chickpeas and other add-ins. Keep chopping and rearranging until your salad is of uniform consistency.

There’s something about all this chopping that gets the men to volunteer. Here, Brian Doane demonstrates technique at a recent dinner party.

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Peppercorn Dijon Dressing
(serves 2, double for a party)

1/3 cup plain unsweetened soymilk
1 T lemon juice
1 T nutritional yeast
¼ cup almond meal, pre-ground or make your own by whirling whole nuts in a spice grinder
½ tsp. coarse salt
several grinds of pepper
1 T chia seeds
1 T whole grain mustard

Curdle the soymilk by combining with the lemon juice. Let rest for about five minutes. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Let rest another five minutes to meld and thicken. Best to put this in a jelly jar and shake it until your arm starts to vibrate on its own–this will ensure that the almond meal is fully incorporated. it will really thicken if you can put it in the fridge for a half hour or so.

At a recent cooking class, Joe and Gary took over and were very proud of their results.

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Sadly, we didn’t have enough dressing for this 24 person salad. That is a shame, because it’s just not good without a lot of delicious dressing…and the dressing doesn’t have to be caloric, either.

Here’s an example of where you can take this. I used peppery baby greens, leftover falafel and tahini dressing (that will be another post…promise!) It looked like this in the beginning…

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Don’t forget the dressing (and plenty of it).

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Two minutes later… I call it lunch.

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Happy Healthy 2013

Our supper club kicked off the new year with a big healthy bang! Below, find some of your most-requested recipes from our creative cooks. In addition to amazing food, we welcomed Jennifer Pohlmann and her husband, Tom. Jennifer is the owner of Sip Organic Juice Bar and was on hand to answer questions about juicing, detoxing, Sip’s new locations in Eastown and more.

Our fellow supper club attendee, Medha Rode, has launched an Etsy site, featuring her beautiful new jewelry line. You must check it out. Medha brought necklaces for us to model. Below, see how perfectly Morgan’s necklace fits her outfit.

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The food was delicious, of course. I only got a few pictures up close, but you can see the table is loaded with offerings; the crockpots with soup and chili lined the kitchen counters.

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So, here are the recipes you coveted:

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Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet and Sour Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit, this one was a winner at my Meijer Garden “Healthy New Year, Healthy You” cooking class. The true winner, of course, was the Tuscan baby kale, from my friend Tim Sharer of Vertical Paradise Farms. If you visit the website or facebook page, you can find out how you can enjoy this local-fresh-delicious-nutritious green.

2 T dried cranberries
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 T toasted pine nuts
3 T white balsamic vinegar, divided
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
1 T olive oil
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
2 bunches kale (preferably baby kale or Tuscan or dinosaur kale)

Remove leaves from stems and chop into ribbons. Place in salad bowl. Drizzle olive oil, 1 T balsamic vinegar and salt over kale and work the ingredients in with your hands. Think of kneading someone’s shoulders. Set aside.

Place cranberries in a small dish with orange juice. Microwave for 40 seconds at half power. Set aside. Toast pine nuts in a dry, heavy-bottomed pan. Don’t walk away! This should only take a few minutes and you don’t want to burn them. Toss them in the pan over medium-high heat until browned and aromatic.

Whisk together remaining liquid ingredients and toss with kale. After they are fully incorporated, toss nuts and cranberries into mix.

This salad is best made an hour or two ahead to let flavors meld and kale break down.

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When Kathy Harwood arrived with this dish, I thought I was going to have to give her a primer on the ‘rules’ as they looked so much like deviled eggs. However, she was just having one over on me. The creamy, chickpea puree centers of this appetizer, do remind me of deviled eggs. But the red potatoes are what give them their new name:

Red-Devil ‘Eggs’

Dash of black salt (I don’t have black salt. Just used a dash of sea salt)
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup hummus
6 small red potatoes
dash of paprika
dash of hot pepper sauce (optional)
¼ tsp. Dijon mustard

Boil potatoes until fork-tender, then let cool completely. Meanwhile, mix hummus, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt together (and hot pepper sauce, if using). Taste and add more of any of these to suit your taste. I pressed a small clove of fresh garlic into the mix when I did it, I love fresh garlic! Once potatoes are cool, slice in half and use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out a small circle of potato. Mix the scooped out bits into your hummus mixture, mashing it all together well. Spoon mixture into the scooped out holes and garnish with paprika. These taste best when allowed to chill awhile before serving.

There’s more to come…. Check back for one of Medha’s popular dishes!

The food is just one reason we come together, of course. In this picture, you see the ski lodge fireplaces and Roger’s amazing music mix make the evening pleasurable. There’s good wine and good company.

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New people come every week and so there is always someone interesting to meet. I would be remiss if I didn’t add how touching it was for Roger and me to get so much help with the clean-up. Because we try to make our party a zero waste affair, there are a lot of dishes to wash. A team of organized people–Kathy Harwood, Diane Cisler and Trish English–came early last Wednesday to come up with a plan for getting all the dishes clean. Roger and I would not have initiated it. As it turned out, Trish volunteered to oversee the clean-up that evening. Yes, she looks sweet, but she has nerves of steel and she informed the group if she didn’t get volunteers, she would volunteer individuals herself.

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Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary. The boys took over their own kitchen and raced the girls to the clean-up finish line. Yes, that’s another of our famous cooks, Geoff Fields, proving he is equally adept at wielding a nozzle sprayer.

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Dave and I got caught up during this period–not everyone can fit in the kitchen! Notice my mobile necklace. You have to visit Medha’s shop. Thank you, one and all, for another great evening. Special thanks to Melissa Koski for the pictures!

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