Author Archives: Lesley

I know, I know, kale is so 2012. We've had Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, kohlrabi and romanesco since then! But I still eat kale. For me, it's an easy way to pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals with very little effort (that is, if you buy the pre-washed kind). I've written about kale salads before (this chopped kale salad is Very Important Salad in my house; it makes frequent appearances) , but with this salad, kale is just the supporting vegetable. The star here is actually this tomato vinaigrette and this whole recipe is built around it. Which is pretty evident from the all the pre-prepared ingredients I used. Nonetheless, convenience foods can still be healthy and this is a great, hearty dinner. Even heartier if you substitute quinoa or brown rice for the white rice.

black_bean_kale_salad_tomato_vinaigrette

Black Bean and Kale Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

For the tomato vinaigrette:
1 can Hunt's Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 ounce red wine vinegar
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon honey (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of already-minced garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil

Measure out 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and reserve the remainder. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until well-blended. Pour into a lidded pint jar and chill.

For the salad:
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; or quinoa)
2 ounces lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans low sodium black beans (I use Bush's)
1 bag microwaveable yellow kernel corn (I used the steam-in-bag corn)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1 bag pre-washed and chopped kale greens
cilantro for garnish (optional)
roasted or fresh tomatoes for garnish (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
finely shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Cook rice or quinoa according to directions to yield 2 cups of cooked rice, replacing 2 ounces of water with 2 ounces of lime juice and adding oil (use slightly less liquid than recommended for rice that is not sticky).

Rinse and drain the black beans and heat in the microwave just long enough to warm and set aside in a medium bowl. Cook corn according to directions and add to the beans. Toss with paprika (or cayenne if you prefer spicier) and cumin. Set aside.

For each salad, use 1-2 cups of kale greens and rub them between your hands, removing thick spines. Place in serving bowls and drizzle with vinaigrette. Top with rice, bean and corn blend, and then garnish with cilantro, the remainder of roasted diced tomatoes (or fresh diced tomatoes), and chunks of avocado. Drizzle on more dressing. Add cheese and sour cream if desired. Note also that you may want to add some salt and black pepper after preparation.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Oh, geez, it's been so long since I've written a blog post, that I now have a ton of stuff in the queue to write about. Twitter and Instagram make it so much easier to share things that I love quickly, but sometimes, I need a little more room to fit all my praises.

bfreebagelFirst up, let me tell you about BFree gluten-free breads. I'm not GF, but I am always interested in breads that have more nutrition and fiber than conventional wheat-based breads. BFree breads do not contain wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts or soy (all the major allergens) and are all vegan. But they do contain other ingredients like pea and buckwheat flours, flaxseeds, and other nutritious and fiber-filled elements. The BFree product line is huge, so there is a little something for everyone, regardless if you're gluten-free or just want breads with a higher dietary fiber level, more protein, or lower glycemic index.

When I expressed some interest (after hearing that they're now carried at Publix), the folks at BFree generously shipped me a box full of products, so I got to try everything! Because there are white and "brown" versions of just about all their products, there are some taste and texture variations. The white breads are definitely better suited for folks who miss traditional white breads. They're all delicious, but not quite as nutritious as the seeded and brown products. It's also worth noting that you need to keep them refrigerated because they are free of synthetic preservatives, so they can mold quickly in a humid kitchen. My favorites are the pita (virtually indistinguishable from wheat pita), bagels (far better than other GF bagels I've tried and very similar to other grocery brands as far as taste and texture), and the rolls (heartier than most dinner rolls, so they're more satisfying and filling). Find out where you can purchase them with their store locator.

Nocciolata-Dairy-FreeNext up is Nocciolata Dairy-Free, an organic hazelnut and cocoa spread. There's a milk version of it, too, but I tried the vegan version. I loved it. Though I must admit that I ate the entire jar (not at once!) with just a spoon. I didn't make anything with it. It was just really satisfying to eat it that way. It's perfectly sweet (not too sweet), so I didn't get a headache from eating it (or a sugar rush); it was just pure hazelnut and cocoa flavor. Insanely delicious. Perfect texture.

I also recently tried Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk. I really hadn't intended to, but my local store was out of my favorite So Delicious Coconut Milk. I have to say, I'm really impressed. I don't know that I'd love the other almond milks they produce (almond milks are a little too...earthy may be the word...for my taste), but I really loved the toasted coconut version. I like it straight, but I also love it mixed with my tea.

IMG_4450Lastly, I'm all about Nasoya tofu these days. If you're sensing a theme, you guessed it: these are all vegan products. I've gotten less tolerant for dairy recently (cheese and yogurt are fine, but I've been off dairy milk for 15 years and recently phased out dairy-based ice cream). Nasoya's silken tofu is great in a smoothie that really works as a meal replacement since it's packed with protein. It needs some strong fruit flavors (like frozen strawberries) to cover up the soy taste, though. I mix it with coconut milk, too. And I still LOVE the sesame ginger baked tofu. Recently, I made a dinner of steamed broccoli with zucchini and carrot noodles, tossed with Soy Vay toasted sesame dressing and topped with the sesame ginger tofu (cut into cubes) and sprinkled with Eden Foods seaweed gomasio. Truly fantastic dinner.

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Yikes! It's been a long time since my last post! It's just not as easy to get a decent photograph of food any more. I know that's not the most important thing, but the lighting in my kitchen is just so bad. The first floor of my house is more a basement than anything, so good lighting is a challenge. 
common violet

Anyway, violet jelly? Yes, violets! The common violet that many people consider a weed on their lawn. Since I don't have enough sunlight on my shady property to grow much, I'm now foraging--ha! Violet jelly is a rather old-fashioned recipe since it does use foraged plants, but one that should really make a comeback. All of the flowers in the viola family are edible (including pansies) as long as they haven't been treated or sprayed with chemicals. My yard is a weedy wonderland, so all the violets are safe to consume. This past weekend, my daughter and I collected a bowl full of violet blooms to make this jelly. It takes hundreds to do so. The best way to harvest them is to pinch at the base of the bloom because you don't want any greenery (stems or flowers) in your mix. Then, you just wash them, soak them, and make the jelly. It's really simple!

And the result is fantastic. First, the jelly is a beautiful dark purple that you can see right through. Filtering your lemon juice (or using bottled lemon juice) makes it even clearer. The taste is sweet and just a bit tart. It is really delicious and would be great on toast, but particularly accompanying some brie or a thin schmear of goat cheese on a piece of baguette.

violet jelly

Violet Jelly
yield: four or five 8 ounce jars

2 heaping cups freshly-picked wild violet blooms (fully opened)
2 1/2 cups water
the juice of one lemon (or 1/4 cup lemon juice), strained
4 cups sugar
1 package of pectin (I used Certo liquid pectin; use powdered pectin as directed)

Rinse the flowers and place in a large glass bowl. Boil the water and pour it over the flowers and steep for 8 to 24 hours. Strain the flowers and pour the infused liquid into a large sauce pan (strain through a jelly bag or fine cheesecloth if you want to strain out the finest debris or dirt for a super clear jelly). Stir in the lemon juice and pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the sugar and return to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about a minute more. Turn off and remove from heat and skim off the foam. Ladle the hot liquid into prepared (sterilized) canning jars leaving a 1/4 to 1/2 inch at the top. Run a skewer around the edges to let out air bubbles (which are not likely), wipe around the rims (and just inside), and seal. Process in a boiling hot water bath for 5 minutes. (If you have not canned before, follow these canning instructions.)

A few notes:

I tried to reduce the sugar to 2 cups and I don't advise it. Tasted great, but did not jell well. Sugar is also a preservative, so it's necessary for long-term storage.

Don't boil for too long as that will also affect your jelling. Overboiling can break down pectin. Use the jelly test to determine if your mixture is ready to be canned. And be sure to use fresh pectin. Old pectin (more than a year old) will not jell. You can use a jelly test to see if it's ready, but you should be able to tell from a skim of jelly and foam that forms.

Overboiling applies to the hot water bath, too. If you are at 1000 ft altitude or lower, five minutes is plenty.

The foam you skim is still edible and delicious, just  not pretty. Set it aside and eat it later.

Here's another good primer if you've  never made and canned jelly before.