Farmer’s Market Bounty

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If you ever wondered what $53 dollars could buy for you at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market, here you go! I am terrible at remembering how much of something I got so you’ll just have to eyeball it, but I can certainly list it. The only thing I bought that wasn’t homegrown was some Gilroy, California shallots. Other than that, it is Pure Michigan. From Blandford–always my first stop–I got an enormous head of broccoli, some cauliflower, a celery leaf heavy bunch o’ celery, two bundles of Tuscan kale and some flat-leaf parsley. After that, it was a blur that included red-skinned potatoes, 3 pints of hot peppers (a mix of habanero and cherry bomb) for Roger, two beautiful heirloom tomatoes, tons of peppers to freeze (green, pimento and poblano, tons of apples to perfect my apple pie pizza–Honey Crisp, Zestar and Fuji–and Michigan pears.  This will easily feed the two of us for a week.  Love, love, love my home state!

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A Late Summer Stunner

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There was something so arresting about this beautiful simple dessert brought by Andrea Hensen and her creative collaborative of food arttists to our recent supper club.  When they first skimmed the skin off the long watermelon, someone thought it was a ham!  But oh no!  It was a glorious watermelon cake.  Cut a long seedless watermelon in half and remove the skin.  Shape each half into a cake shape by cutting a smooth bottom and top.  Set it on a serving plate and slather the top in coconut cream.  See a tutorial for that here.

Then, if you are an artist–like Andrea and her friends–you find your inspiration in sliced fresh fruit, coconut and edible flowers.  I could say more, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

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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.

xo chips

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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Trillium Haven’s Tuscan Kale Caesar Salad–Vegan Style

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Okay, so I’ve had the Tuscan kale Caesar salad at Trillium Haven at least five times. I love it! But since, uh, I am a plant-based chef, it was time to put this recipe through the veganizer. Actually, I’ve been trying and failing since I first had it. Then I felt guilty because I was using my VitaMix (if as many Americans owned a VitaMix as a television set…well, we can all dream). But I finally came up with a really lovely, low-fat version that you can make (and shake) in an old jam jar. Wow, I love this!

This dressing is inspired not only by the chefs at Trillium Haven, but primarily by chefs Ken Charney and Miyoko Schinner. I like to think this dressing is what would happen if they got stranded in an elevator and started kissing and ended up exchanging recipes.

You’re going to have to make a few purchases at a well-stocked healthy store but don’t whine about it. You’ll end up with enough to make a winter’s worth of dressing (in fact if you love this as I do, I recommend making a bunch of jam jar batches and freezing them). If you’re a bit of a geek or a hippie-food skeptic, read my notes below.*

The Salad
Let’s start with a big bunch of Tuscan kale (a.k.a. Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale and black kale). Do not substitute regular kale. It is too coarse and bitter for this application. Rinse the leaves and pat dry thoroughly. Remove the tough fibrous stem up to about the top quarter of the leaves. I ‘skin’ the leaves off the stem. Lay them on top of one another and cut into ribbons. Place in a big bowl. Put about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on your palms and rub them together. Sprinkle a small amount, maybe an eighth of a teaspoon, of coarse-grained salt on your palms. The salt will stick. Proceed to massage the kale for a few minutes as if you were giving someone a shoulder rub. If you need a visual of this, check it out here, but ignore what she says about the teaspoon of salt and don’t forego cutting the stems out of the kale. After a short time, the kale will start to break down and release its bitter juices. I don’t think it’s necessary to change bowls, but if you see a bunch of bitter liquid in the bottom, by all means, get rid of it!

THTK Caesar Salad Dressing
2 T almond meal + 1 tsp, divided
2 tsp nori, toasted over a flame and ground in a spice grinder (don’t need this step if you’ve got a VitaMix!)
OR 1 T capers, crushed in garlic press (do the capers before the garlic. Trust me.)
3 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
3 T nutritional yeast flakes
2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T soysauce
4 T plain soy yogurt
2 T water

Put all the ingredients in a smallish jam jar. But you will need enough room to shake it up! Shake like you’re Carmen Miranda. If you need a visual, click here and picture Carmen with jars of salad dressing in her hand. The point is you want to emulsify it. If you have an immersion blender, use that.

The Garlic Breadcrumbs
Put two slices of–hopefully a bit stale–whole grain bread into your toaster and toast lightly. Toss into a food processor and grind it up. Now, to be honest, you can just toss the breadcrumbs in like this. Yes, the dressing is so magical, you don’t have to fry them in oil. That’s what I do. But I’m guessing TH does, soooo in a shallow pan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Drop in another couple of cloves of garlic, crushed in a press and saute until fragrant. Please don’t let the garlic burn. Yuk! Toss the crumbs in the garlic oil.

To Prepare the Salad
If you shook up your dressing, you do not need to add the 1 tsp. almond meal. But if you used a VitaMix or an immersion blender, stir in the last teaspoon now (this will mimic the parmesan…I’m so clever). Pour a glop of dressing in the middle of the bowl and toss it around until the leaves are uniformly coated. Be conservative at first and taste a leaf. Enough dresssing? This is a very assertive dressing; you don’t want to overdress the salad. You might end up on a list in People Magazine.

When the dressing is fully incorporated, toss in the breadcrumbs until they are nicely distributed as well. Save a spoonfull for the top of each salad.

Okay, let’s examine this under a microscope… Dr. we have deliciousness!

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*Okay, so when I am trying to make a recipe plant-based and healthy, I examine all facets of it to try to mimic the texture, taste and aroma of the original dish (I only eat fish rarely, so please don’t ask me to do a steak.) Caesar salad is tough because traditionally it uses egg yolk, parmesan, olive oil and anchovy. So here goes: The almond meal adds the healthy fat component, releasing the need for olive oil and egg yolk. The nori or capers add the briny, ‘fishy’ component. The added teaspoon of almond meal mimics the dry graininess of parmesan while the nutritional yeast provides the cheesy taste.

You can make your own almond meal by grinding it in the spice blender. Just don’t go until you have almond butter. It is best to keep almond meal in the freezer anyway and this helps to prevent that from happening.

I prefer the toasted nori version slightly, but I also want to live in the realm of real people! and not make this recipe too complicated. If you do choose the nori option, do not grind your nori in the coffee grinder. Your roommates will be very angry. You could also try powdered kelp or dulse for the fishy quality. Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that is full of B vitamins. It’s used a lot in vegan cooking to bring a certain cheesiness to the dish. It’s nickname is ‘nooch.’ I don’t want to know why.

Heirloom Veggie Appetizer–the answer to FMO

Are you suffering from a little FMO–my acronym for Farmer’s Market Overload? Those adorable heirloom carrots are now as limp as a week-old bouquet; the chioggia beets that you planned as the centerpiece of a brilliant salad–even incorporating the greens!–are not responding to resuscitation.

Fear not! Simply peel and cut the beets into longish, bite-sized pieces. Do the same with the carrots, but scrub, don’t peel them. Place them on parchment paper, spritz them with olive oil and dust with a little salt and pepper before roasting them at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. I used my convection toaster oven. Now that I think of it, I drizzled a little pomegranate molasses on–just a teaspoon or two. You could use balsamic syrup, too.

Then grab some flat-out bread or tortillas and cut them into triangles. Spread the triangles with a little something. Maybe hummus or even vegan boursin cheese, as I did here.

Next, I put a strip of vegetable next to a strip of slow-roasted tomato. You can just use vegetables OR you can core some roma tomatoes and cut the flesh into slivers or you can use roasted slow-roasted tomatoes. To do this, halve roma tomatoes vertically and scoop out flesh. Put skin side down on parchment paper, spritz with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour and 20-40 minutes in a 275 degree oven. This will carmelize, shrink and sweeten your tomato but not leave it leathery. You’ll know when they’re done and you’ll have a hard time not consuming them all.

Roll your triangles up and secure with a toothpick. Place them on a bed of lettuce or kale, sprinkle a few remaining veggies around for color and you have a lovely appetizer in about twenty minutes! And you didn’t waste a thing! Well, except for the beet greens. Compost them and repeat after me… the earth has to eat, too.

Juice Fast 101

After watching the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” my husband Roger and I decided to embark on a ten-day juice fast. I should mention it was also the day after “Founder’s Fest.” The load you see in my Vibe is about enough for two people for two and a half days. Below, find my ‘down and dirty’ 10 day experience.

The Diary:
Day 1: I hate the world. I’m thinking about eating the dog. I have a headache and there is a seismic murmur in my stomach. Roger suggests a ‘water snack.’
Day 2: I still hate the world. Still headache. Still lots of hunger pangs. Oh, and I hate green juice, too. I learn the word ‘hangry,’ which is a frankenword for hungry and angry.
Day 3: Still headache (was that in the brochure?) I blame Michigan beer and locally roasted coffee—oh, and Himalayan sea salt. When Roger complains about my bad mood, I say, “Am I really that much more bitchy than I am normally?” He concedes that I am not.
Day 4: Roger confesses to having fantasies about English muffins. There are murmurs about not lasting the ten days. I tell him it’s like enlistment. He has no choice but to go the distance. Fortunately, he doesn’t remind me about my near desertion on day one when I begged him to release me from this hell and take me to Bud & Stanley’s. Cabbage juice has been banned from the house. Blissfully, headache goes away.
Day 5: Roger makes it to lunch at which time he agrees not to eat in my presence. I need to stick it out one day longer than him to show our son Walter that ‘Girls win!’ Somewhere in the middle of Day Five (maybe it was discovering the $3.99 skirt at the Salvation Army that was produced by a boutique in Chelsea), I forget that I am on a juice fast. In fact, I realize that I am quite happy. No headache, no pains of any kind.
Day 6: Long rollerblade (my 3rd during the fast). Long dog walk. Wow. I feel great. With lime, horseradish and jalapeno, I think I might even like green juice.
Day 7: Long walk around Pickerel Lake. Inspired morning juice of pineapple, carrot, mint, apple, beet, ginger, raspberry, nectarine and cucumber. The heat is making it easier to do this—who wants to eat, anyway? During these long days of summer, I decide that I miss food more than beer. One of the mysteries of my universe solved.
Day 8: Gained a pound. Excuse me? Put too much jalapeno in my big batch of juice. Drink it anyway. I have double the time that normal humans have between 4 and 8 p.m. Another long roller blade in the intense heat. Not a good idea.
Day 9: I am an astronaut eating pellets. I do not belong to the human race, but hover above it, knowing that someday soon I will rejoin you. All you people do is eat! Do you know that?
Day 10: Happy Fourth of July. I do not want veggie brats, coleslaw, pesto salad, chips, salsa, watermelon, fruit popsicles and killer classic margaritas. I’d rather drink some green juice that looks like it has algae floating on the top. Really!

Want to see a juice being made? My fruit juices might be as simple as carrot, apple and ginger. This much raw material goes into the extractor to make about 20 ounces of juice.

Load it in and let the machine do the chewing for you.

Here you can see the juice separated from the pulp.

We composted our pulp, but if you’re Martha Stewart you might make crackers or dog biscuits out of it.

I encourage you to get creative with your juices–you have to do something to amuse yourself! In the morning, I mixed everything from beets, carrots, apples, ginger, lemongrass, mint, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, mango, peach, nectarine, celery and cucumbers. No bananas. Here’s a pretty morning juice:

Here’s a typical afternoon bowl.

Afternoon juices were possible combinations of lemon, lime, horseradish root, jalapeno, beet, carrot, cucumber, celery, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli stalks, fennel bulb, and tons of green leafies, such as kale, spinach, collard, parsley.

If your interest is still piqued and you would like to try this yourself, read on!
I want to give you the benefit of what I’ve learned and what I would do differently. Let’s start with the latter. If I were to do this over again, I would put more time into prep work. Here’s what I would do:

One week before the fast, I would at least give up caffeine. You do not need a caffeine withdrawal headache during the first few days of your juice fast. You have other areas of your body to focus on. Ideally, cut out alcohol and processed foods and reduce sodium, meat and dairy consumption (if you eat those things).

Study up a little about ‘true hunger.’ There is a great chapter in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” that discusses the stomach rumblings, mild headache and low blood sugar stuff we’ve all read about for years. He makes a convincing argument that this is what the body will experience when the digestive system is empty and the body is undergoing cellular repair. It really helped me to think of those symptoms not as ones to be avoided at all costs—as I have all my life…I hate being hungry—but as part of a natural cycle. Here’s Dr. Fuhrman explaining true hunger.

Learn a little something about juices. Primarily, how will green juices be palatable for you? Many of the reboot recipes (jointhereboot.com is the companion website to the documentary we watched) pair sweet fruits with leafy greens. Apparently that’s what the documentary subjects liked. I did not. I like savory green juices with tomatoes, beets, horseradish, ginger, cilantro, jalapeno. On your juice fast, you don’t need to be pinching your nose to drink the stuff. To be frank, I never loved the juice, but I got to where it was really palatable.

Get really clear about why you are doing this. If the only reason is to lose weight, there are easier ways, believe me. Since this is SO different from normal eating, you are not likely to maintain whatever loss you experience without changing your eating habits. So why not just address those? There are lots of plans on the reboot website that involve juicing and eating. That might be a better place to start for you. Here was my list: 1) Experience a juice fast firsthand so I can advise others who are interested, 2) break my two beer a day habit (or at least temporarily disconnect it), 3) learn more about juices, 4) okay, okay, lose the 5 pounds I packed on over the winter, 5) experience true hunger.

This is not a strong list, in my opinion, and that’s evidence of my wanting to bale on day one.

What do I consider good reasons for juice fasting? You have a significant amount of weight to lose, and/or you have additional health complications: adult-onset diabetes, autoimmune disorders, severe allergies, asthma, heart disease. Do your own research and consult your doctor. There are lots of websites sponsored by doctors and dieticians to help you research how high-quality nutrition can address your symptoms: jointhereboot.com, diseaseproof.com, drfuhrman.com. You will need to do this under the care of a medical doctor.

Build a support system. If this is really right for you, put a system in place so that you will be supported, especially in the first few days. Plan to begin on a long weekend when you have few demands on your time. Enlist the help of your spouse, kids and friends. Give someone you trust the list of reasons you are doing the fast and promise to call them before you break it. (It is then their job to gently remind you of why you did this in the first place). Go to the reboot website and sign up for the forums. People are on call 24/7 to give you encouraging support. You can even go there to get buddies from around the world to experience it right along with you.

Draw upon an earlier time when you achieved a difficult goal: finishing a term paper, planning a big event, running your first 5K. Reflect on the moments when you thought you would never pull that off, either, and then relive the fact that you did! Most of this juice fast is mental.

Make the juice fast your own. The reboot site suggests a morning fruit juice and then vegetable juices the rest of the day. I broke my morning juice in half and drank half in the morning. I then saved half of what was left in the fridge and froze the other half in ice cubes. My before dinner drink became a fruit slush I whirled up in my blender. Oh, and when the vegetable juices were too pulpy for my taste, I whirled those in the blender, too.

The upside of drinking nothing but high-nutrient juices for ten days? I lost eight pounds (three of which leapt back on the next day). After the first four days, I felt great. I had energy. I bore the heat better and I didn’t feel any hunger pangs at all. I achieved all my goals, but one–I never experienced true hunger. Alas. I can let it go to be back in the land of eaters and drinkers again!