Many people I know can’t stand mayo, which has helped me explore beyond traditional summer salads. Additionally, I have always been uneasy with mayo drenched salads at BBQs. I have heard that foods with dairy can stay out for four hours, but in the DC summer heat, that just seems wrong. So, the past few years, I have been building an arsenal of dairy-free summer salads. Feel free to try one of these awesome salads for Memorial Day weekend
- Cucumber Salad
- Black Eyed Pea Salad
- Asparagus and White Bean Salad
- Chickpea and Corn Salad
- Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad
- Pantry Bean Salad
The other day, without the ingredients for the salads above, I made a last minute Summer Pasta Salad to our first neighborhood BBQ of the summer. Having old friends across the street, means a summer of walking dishes back and forth with toddler in hand. We may have moved farther from downtown in order for a house with a yard, but it has brought us endless fun outside. Five different toddlers loved this dish, and the adults too. It is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to post it. However, because it had a strong kid-approval rating, I thought it might be good to share.
Summer Pasta Salad
- 1lb Whole Wheat medium shell pasta
- 1 cup of reserved pasta water
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes, mixed variety, sliced
- 1 cup of roasted asparagus, chopped
- 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
- 1/4 cup of vidalia onion, chopped
- 1 can of black olives, chopped
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 4 tb olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil
- 1/4 cup of parsley
- salt/ pepper
1. Place a stockpot on the stove, boil the water, then cook your pasta. Meanwhile prep your veggies.
2. Drain the pasta, save a cup of pasta water to throw back on the pasta, then mix in the vegetables. In a separate bowl, stir together the lemon juice, 2 tb of olive oil, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss. Add more olive oil if it is dry.
This is a simple spring/summer dish. We love risotto, and it really isn’t as hard as people make it. Be sure you keep the heat at medium low, and add in broth every few minutes. This is definitely a kid pleaser!
- 2 cups of Risotto
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup of carrots, diced
- 2 tb olive oil
- 6-8 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 cup of frozen peas, or fresh
- 1 cup of chopped, roasted asparagus (olive oil+salt+pepper@425 degrees for 20 minutes)
- salt/pepper to taste
1. Before you start the risotto, begin roasting your asparagus.
2. In a saucepan, saute the risotto, carrots, garlic, onion, and olive oil over medium heat. When the rice and garlic start to slightly brown, lower the heat, and add 1 cup of broth. Stir the broth in, then add more. Repeat this until you have put in six cups.
2. Add the peas, asparagus, salt and pepper.
3. Stir in more broth, until the risotto is soft. Enjoy warm
Hope you are enjoying Spring! Although things have been a bit busy at work, we have been finding ways to garden and enjoy the Spring weather. Serafina helped me put in our lettuces, herbs, and our early batch of tomatoes. As she gets older, she seems to love the dirt and helping more. A definite bonus. Spring also brings easy meals filled with chopped veggies. Toddlers can love veggies, but it helps to have them fresh and tasty. Luckily, after a long day, this quick meal can satiate Serafina and my concerns over a balanced vegetarian diet. This is fast food in our house:
She followed with a yogurt and banana. However, if I put those on the plate in the beginning, there would be no veggies consumed.
One hallmark of the coming Spring can be firing up the grill. I have spent a good amount of time trying different packaged veggie burgers, but we decided to try making our own with sweet potatoes the other weekend.
With some forethought, this veggie burger can be a simple dish for dinner. We made them the day before, then froze them to help them maintain their shape. The curry may appear to be an unusual addition, but I find that it can be the perfect match with the blander flavors of beans and potatoes. Also, curry is mild enough that children usually love it. In fact, I use recipes like this and my Curry Egg Salad to broaden Serafina’s tastes. Also, the pearled couscous in the photo was a perfect healthy compliment to the burgers. Just add garbanzo beans, frozen veggie mix, and olive oil.
Curry Sweet Potato Burgers
- olive oil
- 2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 can of white beans, drained and cleaned
- 2 tb tahini
- 1 tb maple syrup
- 1/4 cup of dried oats
- 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 2 tb of curry
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ranch dressing (we used the vegan dressing from Organicville)
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Slather the sweet potatoes chunks in olive oil and roast for 40 minutes. Remove and let the potatoes cool a tad.
2. When cooler, add in the beans, tahini and syrup. Mash the ingredients together.
3. Once the majority of the beans are mashed, add the remaining ingredients. Stir together so they mix evenly. Add more or less breadcrumbs based on how dry your mixture is. Add more syrup if it seems to be drying.
4. Take a 1/3 cup of mixture and shape into a round burger shape. Place on freezer paper and layer in a freezer safe container. Place burgers in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
5. When ready, defrost the burgers. We cooked the burgers on our Cuisinart panini press, but they seemed to hold together enough that I might trust them on a grill.
6. Grill until cooked through. Serve with ranch dressing, romaine lettuce, vidalia onion, and tomatoes.
You would think that by my mid-30s, and having been a vegetarian the majority of my life, that I would have tried to make fried tofu before. Alas, it was one of those things that I was scared to make because I had never watched someone make it. One thing I have learned about myself is I tend to do better after watching someone demonstrate, maybe a reason I became a teacher. Although I was intimidated by the task, once doing it, we realized how simple and tasty the dish could be. Kids and adults would love this crispy on the outside and firm on the inside tofu. This is definitely going to be a classic in our house.
I used my Spring Break as an opportunity to research making fried tofu. We quickly decided that it was best to find a vegan recipe, since we would enjoy the recipe with our vegetable stir fry. Of course, no recipe worked with what we tend to keep on hand. I did not want to resort to using eggs, it just seemed silly to introduce dairy to the dish. So, I combined a few recipes for the dish below, and made sure it was consistent with our pantry. Feel free to modify to work with yours!
Fried Tofu (Vegan)
- 1 package of extra firm tofu
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1 tb nutritional yeast
- t tb minced garlic flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup of oil
1. Slice the tofu loaf in half horizontally. Then, cut it in half vertically. Cut again horizontally four times. This should make tofu pieces about 1 inch deep and 2-3 inches long. Place a paper towel on a tray, then tofu, then paper towel, and finally a plate on top. Let the tofu press for 15 minutes.
2. Stir together the panko, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once the mixture is even, dredge the tofu through and place on a plate. Once you are done with all the tofu, put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to help the breading set.
3. Heat oil in a wok or caste iron pan. Heat medium/high**. When ready, place a few pieces of tofu in, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Don’t shift it around.
Once the bottom has browned, flip. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you need to, keep the tofu warm in your oven at 200, while you finish the batch. Enjoy with fried rice, or any other dish.
*** Please use caution with the hot oil. Some general thoughts, don’t use anything that has touched water when lifting the tofu, or the oil will go nuts. Also, I like woks when frying, because they give depth for the oil, but also give you space to sit back. Turn the oil down if it is splattering.
Here is a fantastic recipe from our neighbor and long time friend KDK. Everyone can use a good bean recipe, and Cuban black beans are even better!
Growing up my mom worked full time as a teacher and got home just in time to get dinner on the table. So there wasn’t a lot of room for originality and we didn’t eat big, elaborate meals. We ate simple food that was easy to fix and good for us. My mom is a huge fan of a healthy, well balanced plate and taught me the importance of a “rainbow of colors” on your plate (I still use it to this day when I make dinner). My mom also didn’t grow up in the U.S., she was born and raised in Cuba. So, while she didn’t cook tons of Cuban food every night (my dad is American and very “meat and potatoes”), black beans were a weekly staple in our house. Over rice, pureed into soup, in dip, you name it, we ate it. To this day, I judge every plate of black beans I eat against my mother’s. Whenever we go home we ask her to make them, and she makes them now for our kids. Occasionally I try my hand at it, and I know it’s not quite as good, but they’ll do when she’s not around. The key to good black beans is time. They’re not hard to make, not ingredient heavy, they just take time and patience. I love to eat them over some brown rice, but they’re great in tacos, as a soup or even under a nice Tuna (sorry, we’re not vegetarians!) with some fresh avocado. Enjoy!
KDK Mama’s Black Beans
- 1lb. dry black beans (I use Goya)
- 6 cups water
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 1 green pepper (diced)
- 8 cloves garlic (diced)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1. Soak the beans overnight. In a pinch, you can use hot water instead of cold, mix with beans, bring to a boil, and then let sit for an hour. But it’s better to just let them soak all night.
2. Cook covered on high until they boil. When boiling, lower heat (keep covered) and cook for 45 minutes.
3. In frying pan saute onion, green pepper and garlic in the olive oil.
4. When beans are done, take out 1 cup and mash (I use a potato masher, but my mom uses a good old-fashioned fork). Then return the to the pot and add in the sauteed vegetables. The add the salt, pepper, oregano, sugar and bay leaf.
A few weeks ago, I decided to delve into my very large recipe archive on Pinterest, and cook a new recipe a night. This was a bit of an ambitious goal, and I have to admit that one night I broke down and just cooked white beans with a jar of masala sauce and called it a night. However, the main point was to introduce new recipes that seemed to be easy, healthy, and most importantly, comprised of ingredients we already keep in our pantry. I wanted to update my weeknight routine, and it needed to fit with my new years resolution of being kind to my body. We enjoyed a delicious Inside-Out Spring Roll Salad, Butternut Squash Wontons, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito, a vegan version of a Pasta Puttanesca, and a few others. Some were delicious, others did not live up to their picture.
What I learned about myself is that I can not, under any circumstances, stick to a recipe. The project was to follow 5 Pinterest recipes, and what do I do? I lighten the dressing on Spring Roll Salad. We cut down on the clean up by compacting the cooking process of the wontons by roasting the butternut squash and garlic together. For the burrito, we removed the cheese, and added salsa and guacamole to give moisture. Finally, the pasta needed major changes. So much so, that I realized I had made a different version of the Italian classic. We loved the results so much that I decided to write it up on the blog
Pasta Puttanesca, meaning “Whore’s Pasta”, is usually cooked with sardines, olives, tomatoes, and capers. The idea is that the recipe is comprised of items people in an lower income economic group could quickly pull together dinner from their pantry. Now, Italian purists have certain convictions about recipe authenticity. Just look at the comments section of the original recipe, where they slammed the author for having cheese and fish together–something that had also struck me odd about the recipe, but I digress. However, Italian food is also fluid based off of seasonal ingredients, much less rigid then say French food. Originally, Puttanesca should have sardines, and well, being vegetarian, that just wasn’t going to happen. Cooked during winter, we had no fresh basil. Plus, I wanted to make this dairy free, so we had to drop the cheese. So, this meant I needed to play with portions and find a happy medium so we wouldn’t miss the ingredients. We added more olives and much more spice, and the result was a dish with a little more complexity. This is definitely an easy, healthy meal to add to your repertoire. Enjoy!
- olive oil
- 1 cup of onions, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (14 oz)
- 1 can of olives, roughly chopped (not pre-chopped)
- 1/4 cup of capers
- 2 tb dried basil
- 1 tb dried oregano
- 1 tb red pepper flakes, crushed
- 1lb of whole wheat cappellini or angel hair
1. In a large saute pan, put in two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic with the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the next 8 ingredients. Let the sauce simmer, and stir occasionally. Simmer for 20 minutes
2. Meanwhile, boil water. Once the sauce seems to have blended together, cook your pasta in the water. Drain, then fold the pasta into the sauce. Serve hot.