Baby Greens & Roasted Beet Salad

  
The busier I get, the more simply I find myself eating. I keep certain staples on hand, and, these days (and with the abundance of fresh organic produce Asheville and western NC has to offer) it’s lots of roasted veggies. Beets are one of my favorites, and they star in this super healthy salad. 
Ingredients:

  • organic baby greens (they’re all good, so take your pick)
  • thinly sliced onion
  • roasted beets, chilled and cut in bite sized pieces
  • raw pecans, chopped
  • balsamic vinaigrette (see below)
  • drizzle of sriracha (optional)

Method:

Add all ingredients to the bowl, and use your judgment for how much of each you want. My only recommendation is to make sure you have plenty of greens to balance out the other things. Oh, and don’t overdress the salad! Go slowly and mix gently as to not badly bruise the greens. 

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave (for vegan option)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other tightly lidded vessel and shake, shake, shake. Refrigerate leftovers. (By the way, this dressing is a super marinade.)

See how easy that was? Now you’ll know what to do with those leftover beets. Happy and healthy eating!

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Chopped Kale Salad with Tumeric Basil Vinaigrette & My Much Needed Metamorphosis 

 
I’ll preface this post by saying that if you’re only here for the totally amazing kale salad recipe, go ahead a skip down the page. I won’t be offended. I promise.

For the rest of you, if you don’t remember me, let me reintroduce myself. I’m Jenna. I garden, I cook, I eat, I own a business, and I write about all of it. I’ve been away from blogging for a bit because I’ve been reevaluating things. I’ve decided to quit my job in academia to pursue my business, Happy-Go-Lucky Foods, full-time, we’ve moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, and I’ve been eating a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Because of some “lady issues,” my acupuncturist, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and friend (all the same person) advised me to change my diet (on top of the Chinese herbs I take daily). It’s been about six months and I’m feeling great. My primarily vegan diet has helped me so much, and I wanted to learn to cook all over again. So here I am. I’m back. I’m different, but I’m back. It’s nice to see you. 
I may be a little rusty at this whole food blogging thing, but here goes…

I’ve been eating tons and tons of fresh produce. From squash to tomatoes to beans, corn, grapes, and kale, I’ve been a total veggie glutton. And living in the Asheville area, I’m so fortunate to have it all at my fingertips. Organic, fresh, local produce perfection is all here, and I couldn’t be more excited. Sometimes, I get a little overzealous, though, and buy more than I can chew. This is totally fine, though, because I get to be extra creative. An overstocked fridge with a spectrum of veggies (some cooked) and an unbridled sense of kitchen adventure led me to my new favorite salad. Are you ready?

For this healthy monster, you’ll need:

  • A couple handfuls of kale, chopped into small pieces 
  • Palmful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Small but of purple onion, diced
  • A few fresh green beans of any variety, cut in small bits
  • Corn, cooked and cut from the cob, about two tablespoons
  • A smidgen of fresh or pickled jalapeños (add as much as you like if you’re brave)
  • Several chunks of roasted and cubed sweet potato (I roasted these babies for soup, but couldn’t help myself)
  • Two tablespoons of the dressing that follows
  • Mixed nuts for a crunchy garnish

  
For the dressing, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Several grinds fresh black pepper
  • Pinch dried basil
  1. Place all ingredients in a ball jar and shake like crazy. If you don’t have ball jars falling out of every cabinet like I do, use whatever you have. That’s all there is to it. The turmeric gives the dressing the most gorgeous color and the smell is to die for.

  
Now for the fun part, toss the salad with the dressing, and eat. You’ll have plenty of dressing leftover, but you won’t be able to keep your paws off it. It’s good. It’s really good. 

Kale and turmeric and super foods, and the rest isn’t so shabby either. Food like this makes me forget that I’m eating vegan. I don’t want for anything.

Happy and healthy munching, my friends. I’ll talk to you soon.

Freakin’ 5-star Restaurant: Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Soup

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It’s almost March. Where has the time gone? I swear it was only yesterday when there were trick-or-treaters at my door rifling through the bowl of candy for the last Snickers. But, alas, time goes on, and it always speeds up throughout the holiday season. So what happened to January? What happened to February. Valentine’s Day isn’t enough of a time suck to count as a holiday. Needless to say, I suppose I’m short on time. And what happens when we’re short on time? We (I definitely mean me) eat whatever bits of food are left around the kitchen. Brownies? Sure. Cheese? OK. Monumental amounts of carbohydrates? Absolutely. I exercise less and eat more.

But, (thank goodness there’s a “but” in all this) I did decide to dedicate a cool-ish day to making some soul-warming, vitamin-packed soups…for my mother. She recently had a hip replacement and couldn’t drive her car, go to work, or exercise the way she’d like for six weeks. I wanted her to have some yummy meals that she could just pop in the microwave when her tummy starts a’rumbling.

I will say that I didn’t set out to make a sweet potato soup. I’ve never had sweet potato soup before. I wasn’t even craving it. The potatoes just looked so good at the store…and they were on sale. Really, my goal was to make different veggie soups. But this gem, THIS ABSOLUTE GEM, happened. Sometimes my kitchen is overtaken by the dancing pots and pans of Fantasia. I don’t know what happened or how we got to this place known as perfection, but nonetheless…

I’m going to share with you the soup that my aunt called “a trip to a freakin’ five-star restaraunt.” I hope you experience the same magic.

Ingredients:

  • five sweet potatoes, cut into 1: cubes
  • mild-tasting oil (canola, grapeseed, light olive oil)
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • quart veggie stock (homemade is always best)
  • tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method:

Coat the cubed potatoes with one to two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle about a teaspoon’s worth of each sea salt and cracked pepper.

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Place in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. until everything is soft and a nice golden brown.

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In your favorite soup pot (mine is a great enameled cast iron Le Creuset knock-off from World Market), add the roasted sweet potatoes and veggie stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

IMG_3427Turn the heat down to low. Now add the coconut milk and, using an immersion blender (or transferring to a traditional blender if you don’t have one), blend until totally smooth.

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Once silky smooth, add the curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir and add the salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Because the sweet potatoes add a lot of sweetness, I added quite a bit of salt to balance it out a bit. Altogether, I used approximately a tablespoon’s worth of sea salt.

IMG_3428Stir again and let simmer for 15 minutes on low.

IMG_3429Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m so glad I took a chance and snapped some photos.

Happy soup slurping, everyone! Stay toasty warm,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

The Art of Winging it (and Creamed Corn)

I swore this wouldn’t work out. But something (well, my boyfriend, really) told me to take photos anyway. I shrugged and said “what the heck.” A couple of nights ago, I looked at three ears of perfectly cooked corn on the cob and knew I had to do something with it. I’d been slathering butter and garlic all over those perfect ears for days now, and I (Don’t even think I’m going to say that I got sick of it, because that could never happen.) felt compelled to try something different. I didn’t want to mess with perfection, but, against my better judgement…

“Creamed corn,” he said. I’d never made it before. The concept was simple enough, and if being a southerner has taught me anything (I’m barely a southerner. I’m from Ft. Lauderdale.), it’s that I know how to do corn. And, I’ll tell you, I’d save a couple of ears again to make this easy peasy creamed corn…with garlic. (I had to work the garlic in there. I had to.) That business came out soooooooo gooooooooood.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 ears cooked ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Melt butter in your favorite skillet over low-medium and add the minced garlic to the pan before it starts to bubble.

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Add the corn to the pan and toss. Keep the heat at low-medium. Meanwhile, make a slurry by adding the pinch of cornstarch to a small amount of the milk and whisking. The goal is to just get the clumps out.

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Add the milk, half and half, and slurry to the pan with the corn and bring to a slight simmer.

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 In a food processor or blender, take out about half of the corn mixture and blend. It’s up to you how pulverized you like your corn to be. (I’d actually blend less next time because I’d like more texture.) Add the blended bits back to the pan. Simmer over low-medium heat for about five minutes until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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 There. Creamed corn. With garlic. Yum.

20140730-112513-41113028.jpg And, yes, I’m eating it out of a ramekin. I’m eating it as I type. Don’t judge me. 😉

 Happy creamy corn, everyone!

Jenna

Homemade Local Blueberry Jam

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What does one do with a massive bag of freshly picked summer blueberries? Sorbet? Sure. Frozen and dropped into a glass of Champagne? Absolutely. Blended into a fancy schmancy BBQ sauce? Sign me up. Cooked into  the perfect jam? YES. Today, I vote for jam!

This is the second post in the “It’s UnCANny…” series, and making homemade fruit jams are a fantastic and simple way to break free from the store-bought stuff.

To make this summery-sweet blueberry jam, you’ll need:

  • 6 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and picked of stems
  • 3 cups sugar

I realize I use a lot less sugar than a lot of jam recipes out there, but perfectly ripe berries are sweet enough on their own. Feel free to up the sugar ante if you’d like.

Method:

Using your favorite heavy saucepan or enameled cast iron pot (my personal preference), place the berries first and then the sugar. 

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Over a low heat and while stirring, cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

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In about five minutes, it should look like this.

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Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.

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Boil until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This batch took about 10 minutes.

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Enjoy the taste of summer.

Until next time…

Jenna

 

It’s UnCANny: Vegan Refried Black Beans

We’ve been working toward eliminating canned goods from our pantry for quite some time, and last night, we finally said adios to canned refried beans. Honestly, refried beans from the grocery store shelf are fairly disappointing. First, we don’t love pinto beans. Second, finding organic refried beans is difficult. Third, they’re salty. Fourth, they’re not worth the money. Fifth, we like to have control over what we eat. Making these organic, vegan refried black beans from scratch was incredibly simple and very inexpensive. You’ll never go back again. I promise.
You’ll need:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Method:
In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the diced onion until soft and translucent.
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Add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds.
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Add the cooked black beans, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
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Begin mashing with the back of a large wooden spoon or a potato masher. Mash until your heart’s content. I prefer mine smoother rather than chunkier, but it’s up to you.
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Give the beans a taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
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I made an amazing quesadilla with these beans, but the possibilities are endless. You could serve them along side enchiladas, have them on a vegan taco salad, or eat them with saffron-scented rice. Regardless, be proud that you’ve said goodbye to a canned pantry staple.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be re-creating more unCANny favorites, and I hope you’ll join me as I work toward reducing our household waste.
Until next time…

Angel Hair with Lemony Kale, Caramelized Onions, & Ricotta Salata

Kale is the new little black dress. Sautéed, baked, raw, braised, or fried, it all works. And I’m so fortunate to have oodles of the stuff from my favorite local farm. We’re always coming up with new ways to infuse the leafy lovelies into our meals, and this pasta dish may be my new favorite.

For this dish, you’ll need…

  • approximately 50 leaves of curly kale, stripped from the spines, washed and dried (use your salad spinner)
  • four tablespoons of EVOO
  • two yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • five cloves of garlic, minced
  • half fresh lemon, juice and zest
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces Angel hair cooked al dente

Optional:

  • Balsamic vinegar reduction
  • Ricotta Salata cheese, crumbled

To begin, heat two tablespoons of EVOO in your favorite, very large, skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a small pinch of sea salt.

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Keep the onions moving so they don’t burn until they start to soften. Reduce the heat to low-medium and let them caramelize. This should take about five minutes. Once they’re done, transfer them to a separate vessel.

Add one more tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and add the kale.

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Using tongs, toss the kale a lot as this will help it wilt. You’ll want it all in the pan, but it takes patience. Cooked kale, like any other green, cooks down to a minuscule portion of its original size once the water content is gone. The result is concentrated, amazing flavor.

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Add the lemon juice and a large pinch of sea salt. Give it another good toss. Put the lid on the pan. The kale will really start to break down because of the steam. After about a minute, remove the lid and check the progress. If it’s not soft, put the lid back on and wait another minute.

Remove the lid and make a well in the center of the kale. Add the minced garlic and give it a good stir. Add a bit of olive oil to help the sautéing if you desire.

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Add the lemon zest and stir again. Have cute boy help in the kitchen.

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Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and toss.

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Add the cooked pasta, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, and add salt and pepper to taste. There, you’re done!

photo 4But, if you’re like me, you’ll want to garnish this dish with crumbled ricotta salata cheese and a hefty balsamic reduction drizzle (yes, we always have this on hand). If you don’t have ricotta salata, feta cheese would be a great substitute.

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Until next time, my friends, happy eating!

 

Fresh Jalapeños: We can pickle that!

I’ve never looked at a basket of garden-fresh organic jalapeños and thought “Mmmm…I’d love to gnaw on those!” So when I was gifted with some uber-spicy jalapeños from my friend at the farmers market, there was only one option: pickling. These are great for perking up a sandwich, sprinkling on nachos, or serving on top of a steaming bowl of chili.

This is such a simple process as this isn’t a proper canning. But it’s great and so very quick!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut one pound of fresh, washed jalapeños in rings.

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Soak the rings in a bowl of cold water. Swish around with a long-handled utensil every now and then as this will help some of the seeds fall to the bottom. Please don’t do this with your hands and then touch your eyes! Gently scoop out the pepper rings without getting the seeds that have fallen to the bottom and transfer to another vessel.

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In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar together and bring to a boil. Add the drained jalapeños to the pot.

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Cover with a lid and let sit for 15 minutes off the heat.

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Transfer to your favorite jar and keep in the refrigerator. They’ll last for quite some time even though they’re not properly canned.

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Spicy Indian Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Turmeric

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This is the long overdue part two of the nobody-knows-what-to-do with-this-cabbage post. If you have the memory of an elephant, you may remember the Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw recipe that I posted in February. This, friends, is what I did with the other half of that gorgeous head of crunchy purple leaves.

Inspired by this Girl Cooks World recipe, I made a little spicy sautéed cabbage of my own.

Ingredients:

  • Half head of purple cabbage, cut in chunks and leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method:

Heat the oil over medium-high in your favorite heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet and add the mustard seeds. They should start popping in just a few seconds. HINT: a splatter guard is your best friend in times like these.

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Once the seeds stop popping, remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne.

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Add the pan back to the burner, add the cabbage and salt, and toss to coat with the oil and spice mixture.

20140324-183430.jpgSauté for two to three minutes if you like the cabbage to still have a considerable crunch. I like mine cooked a bit longer, so I go for about four minutes. After it’s cooked to the texture you prefer, add the balsamic vinegar, toss to coat, cook for another 30 seconds, and that’s it! Serve at any temperature you like.

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Happy healthy eating, everyone!

 

“…gonna kick it root down!”

It’s Fiesta Friday, and The Novice Gardener throws a wicked party! I’m wearing a leopard baby doll dress, hot pink jelly shoes, three slap bracelets, and the biggest Aqua Net bang wave you’ve ever seen. And what’s more is that the Beastie Boys “Root Down” is bumping in the background. I’m partying like it’s 1994. And, my friends, this song is the inspiration for these roasted, locally-grown golden beets. I hope my bangs don’t catch on fire.

Look, there’s a party goin’ on, and I don’t want to waste this outfit in the kitchen. This recipe is a quick and dirty one, so I’ll be flirting with the cute boy in one-strapped overalls and a Kangol bucket hat in no time. See him over there drinking a Zima? He’s all mine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound golden beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large pinch of sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and quarter the beets.

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Toss all ingredients in a non-stick oven-safe vessel.

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Roast for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven until the beets start caramelizing.

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That’s it! Sweet, tender, earthy, sexy beets. These root veggies have my heart, and the simpler they’re prepared, the better.

Now where’s that cutie? Oh no, really?!? He left with the girl in the cropped velour blazer and high-waisted Bongo jeans? Seriously? Oh, I get it. She drives a Miata.

Who wants the next dance? The Beastie Boys are on again, and it’s totally my song!