Easiest Ever Never-the-Same Potluck Salad

I don’t remember where I got the original recipe for this salad, but I remember making a version of it way back in the seventies, using instant white rice (yes- that was the grain of choice back then), and frozen peas (about the only vegetable we used, too).

I’ve revived and updated it this summer and I now have a new old recipe that has become one of my favourites. It is so versatile and easy that you can probably make it right now- the only thing is that I never make it exactly the same way twice. So, I will give you the rough recipe and show you the version I made for the last barbecue/potluck I went to.

1. Start with 4-8 cups of any pre-cooked grain you like (this is great for quinoa, couscous, freekeh, anything. I used an ancient grain mix and leftover rice the last time I made this).

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2. Add in 2-6 cups of chopped veggies. Again- whatever you have on hand will work. For the last salad I chopped and cooked one red pepper and one onion. Then I added those to one package of “Japanese style” frozen veggies (edamame, black beans, barley and broccoli). This made a salad filled with lightly cooked veggies, but I have made it with raw veggies at other times and it is just as good. (Green onion is good, as are different bean mixes, use your imagination or just clean out your fridge).

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3. Mix up the dressing:
-1/3 cup light oil (I used canola)
-1/3 cup lime juice (or mix lemon and lime)
-1/8 to 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or another vinegar of choice)
-1 to 2 Tablespoons of worcestershire sauce (vegan is my choice)
-1 heaping Tablespoon of cumin
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon hot spice mix (I use Cowichan Bay seafood spice or a hot BBQ mix, but try your own favourite mix).
-a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

4. Blend the dressing up well. Taste and adjust spices to taste. Pour it over the salad. Stir.

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It tastes good right away but if you can hold yourself and your family back and let it sit in the fridge for a while, it will be even better. Sadly, it appears that we did not do this since I have no lovely staged pictures of the final salad in a pretty bowl. Just this picture from when I poured the dressing over and started mixing. I guess you’ll just have to make it yourself. You’ll see.

Greek Potato Salad Double Duty Dinner, Part 2. Falafel Pitas

So, part 2 of this double-duty dinner is a cinch. In fact, I’d classify it as a fast-food meal really. All you do is pick up some pita bread, make some falafel (you could even buy them ready-made from the deli counter, but remember the store-bought ones are usually deep fried and don’t taste as good as homemade. If you make them at home, you can virtually dry fry them in a good cast-iron pan), and add some extra greens as filler with yesterday’s Greek(ish) Potato Salad (if there is any left after the family keeps sneaking back for more).

That’s it- you then have a delicious and fast faux Greek falafel. Since this was the easiest recipe post ever, I’ll spend the rest of the post showing how to assemble the falafel and wrap it for lunch the next day so that it looks like you picked it up at one of those fancy fast food pita bars:

Step one:
Cut the pita halfway round and gently pull the sides of the pita apart to make a pocket. Fold the top flap halfway back.  100_5055

Step two:
Fill the pocket- first add some greens (I used baby kale), then pack in the Greek potato salad, add the falafel, and finally top with some black olives.

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Step three:
Lift the pita up and gently shake all the contents down until they are right down filling the whole pocket and (here`s the trick) take the (front) flap that is folded backwards, and roll it forwards over and behind the contents so you have a nice firm roll.

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Step four:
Finally, roll the back flap forward over the whole thing, and wrap it all a piece of parchment paper. Fold the bottom of the paper under to protect against any leaks (I just used plain, but if you want to get fancy you can get the checkered stuff like the restaurants have).

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The paper isn’t really necessary but it makes a nice cone to eat from (especially fun for kids). Make a few extra for lunches the next day, and wrap them in a layer of tin foil. The paper helps to keep them from becoming soggy and the foil seals them.100_5066

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Yum! More, please.

Greek(ish) Potato Salad- Fast and Easy Double Duty Meal

100_5030Here is a super easy recipe that is versatile and easy to adjust depending on how much time you have. Because I just throw it together, all measurements are approximate. Tonight we made up a huge batch and had it as a side with a summer weekend BBQ vegan sausage sandwich. Tomorrow I will be using the rest of it in a different way to make a double-duty meal.

Greek-Style Potato Salad

Ingredients (approximate measures)
100_4961-1 or 2 potatoes (I used new red-skinned gems)
-1 or 2 sweet potatoes or yams
-1 or 2 peppers (I like to use red and green or yellow for color)
-1 onion (I used purple for color and sweetness)
-1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

100_4979-1 whole cucumber
-3-5 cloves of garlic (don’t skimp- you really want the heat of the garlic here)
-1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese or vegan feta replacement
-1/2 to 1 cup tzatziki or creamy cucumber dressing.
-Salt and pepper to taste.

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Method:
-Cube the potatoes and sweet potatoes and put in a pot to boil for 5-8 minutes (don’t overcook or they will be mush). When cooked but still holding together, drain and dunk into cold water to cool them and stop them cooking further.
-As the potatoes cook, chop all the other veggies and the feta into cubes (halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes).
-Dump the cheese and veggies in a big bowl.100_5014
-Crush the garlic into the dressing/tzatziki and stir well. Pour the dressing into the veggie bowl and stir them up until well mixed and coated.
-Add in the cooled potatoes and mix until coated.
-Sprinkle with pepper and salt to taste, chill to let flavours mix.

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With all the veggies and a sub of sweet potatoes, this is a much healthier version of potato salad. If you use fat-free dressing or make a vegan tzatziki and feta (using tofu), it is totally guilt-free, too. Served on a bed of kale, it can be a filling meal salad, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or a handful of black olive slices make a fine garnish. Creamy and pretty enough to serve to guests, it can be whipped up in 20 minutes. And my kids like it even better the next day after the flavours have really melded. Yum.

Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #4. Fat-Free Vegan Chicken “Firecracker” Spicy Rolls

100_4880Here is where the fat-free vegan Chinese theme and my experiments with green jackfruit intersect. Really, I wanted to see what would happen if I baked eggroll wrappers with no fat. I discovered that they are delicious and crispy, and the resulting rolls make excellent appies or lunchbox nibbles.
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Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #3. Fat-free Vegan Chicken Balls

100_4599So here was the challenge: chicken balls as good as the old deep fried ones I used to eat, but- they had to be vegan and fat-free. I planned to use jackfruit as the chicken, so it seemed an easy task- simply find a good batter. And, of course, a way to fry them with no fat- which was where I got stuck. Until I suddenly thought of … Continue reading

Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #2 Bean Sprout and Baby Bok Choy Salad

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Here is a quick and easy salad we had with our 100_4489Chinese New year meal. I used home sprouted mung beans for the freshest flavour, and then I looked for what was freshest at the market. You could do the same thing with any fresh vegetables for an extremely fast Chinese-style side dish.
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Bean Sprout and Baby Bok Choy Salad
  • 4 baby bok choy, washed and chopped
  • 4-5 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms, cleaned, roots removed
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce

Directions:
1) Pour boiling water over bok choy in colander. Rinse immediately with cold water. Drain thoroughly and place in medium serving bowl. repeat process with bean sprouts and place in same bowl. This will brighten the greens and slightly soften the vegetables, allowing them to soak up the flavours.
2) Mix agave, vinegar, soy sauce. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
3) Garnish with the mushrooms.
4) Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #1

100_4704Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Cooking club this time set out with a whole new challenge. Fat-free vegan Chinese celebration food- how’s that for a tall order? I think we did a great job, with some good recipes and some innovative techniques. Check out some of the fun recipes we tried:
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What Do Vegans With Colds Eat?

100_4449I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for this last little while100_4366– fighting off some cold symptoms- so I when the weekend finally hit I decided it was time for a nice “chicken” soup and early to bed night. Instead of using tofu or dried soy chicken, I naturally turned to my newest experiment- green jackfruit. It worked very well cut into small chunks, with looks and texture remarkably like chicken in the soup.

But- chicken soup has been shown to actually help colds, and I wanted to do more than just soothe myself psychologically, so it was time for a little research into why chicken soup in particular helps a cold. According to Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD’s research, chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine that is released when the soup is made. This amino acid thins mucus in the lungs, aiding in the healing process. So I checked the nutrition charts where I discovered that 100g of chicken contains 42% of the RDA of methionine and cysteine (both are listed as interchangeable in charts) and jackfruit only contains 3-8% of the RDA. However, I also discovered that good plant sources of Cysteine include lentils (21% for 100g), miso (12%), and onions, peppers, and garlic.

Also, Dr Rennard notes that onions in chicken soup “contain protein, calcium, and especially sulfur, which decreases swelling and aids in reducing nasal congestion. Another significant ingredient in chicken soup is carrots. Carrots enable our bodies to produce vitamin A, which strengthens our white blood cells and in turn allows us to better fight off infection”, and “hot soups in general help keep nasal passages moist, thin out mucus, prevent dehydation, and soothe a sore throat”, so “the more ingredients in your soup, the better”.

With all of this new information, I was ready to make my own vegan version of healing “chicken” soup. Feel free to change up the vegetables based on what you have on hand.

“Vegan Penicillin Soup”

Ingredients:
– One onion.
– Two carrots.
– One green pepper.
– 1/2 red pepper, chopped (what I had in the fridge, I’d add more if I had it but I wasn’t feeling like a grocery trip)
– One stalk of celery
– 1/2 cup of snap peas.
– 1/2 cup of pasta noodles- whatever you have.
– 1 cup/1 can of cooked lentils.
– 1/2 can of jackfruit, chopped (again, this is what I had leftover from the last recipe, so feel free to use the whole can and make a larger batch- adjust amounts of ingredients using your culinary discretion and preferences).
– 6-8 cups of vegetable broth.
– 2-4 tablespoons of miso (adjust type and amount to your taste).
– Lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Directions:
– Chop vegetables and jackfruit.100_4401
– Pre-soften the vegetables in the frying pan for a few minutes.
– Put the vegetable broth in a pot, add the miso and vegetables.
– Add the jackfruit, lentils, and pasta, and simmer for at least 1/2 hour- the longer the better to blend the flavours.
– Enjoy hot with some warm bread or a bit of salad.

I found this to be soothing and satisfying, the babying I needed to start feeling better almost immediately.
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What the Heck is Jackfruit? (A Fruit You Can Use as a Meat!)

100_4392I am committed to a plant-based diet now. I have passed the point of no return, as the thought of eating real meat now makes me feel quite squeamish. That is sometimes a problem, as I grew up in Alberta- definitely meat country- and I loved meat. I really get the bacon-flavoured everything craze. So, I am always on the hunt for new ways to satisfy an old craving. I have already posted about meat substitutes, and this week I finally sourced one that I have been wanting to try for a long time. Believe it or not, it is actually a tropical fruit. When ripe I have read that it is sweet and deliciously addictive. In fact some sources said ripe jackfruit was the inspiration for the flavour of Juicy Fruit gum.

Green jackfruit, however, has very little flavour of its own, and it can be shredded and cut to resemble mild-flavoured meats like chicken, pork, and even tuna. Most vegan recipes 100_4366using jackfruit call for jackfruit packed in brine. The fruit I found, however, was packed in water. Better for heart-health anyway, but I suspect I will need to experiment a bit more with seasonings to find the perfect fit. In the meantime, expect quite a few jackfruit recipes as I try out ways to use it. If you are looking for green jackfruit yourself (and it does not grow where you live), try stores that carry Asian or Indian foods.

It cost about $1.50 (Cdn) per can and the nutritional info per 280g (a little over 1 cup) is:
Calories 60                                       Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g                                 Sodium 1260 mg
Carbohydrate 14g                             Fibre 6g
Protein 2g                                         Sugar 0g
Calcium 4% RDA                             Iron 12% RDA

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I wanted to make a quick lunch with no cooking, so the first thing I did with the jackfruit was to use it in a mock tuna salad. It really does not require a recipe- you can just use your regular tuna salad recipe and substitute the jackfruit for the meat, but I will outline the steps I took and give a few hints about modifications you might want to try. It would work exactly the same if you wanted to make it as a chicken salad- you would just change the seasonings that you use.

Jackfruit Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:
– Canned jackfruit100_4353
– Mayonnaise or vegan substitute
– Veggies. I used green onion, celery, mini tomatoes in the salad, and lettuce and cucumber in the sandwich. Shredded radish, carrots, peas, even green apple would be good too. If you were to make a curried “chicken” salad, you might add green grapes.
– Chick peas or mild-flavoured beans (I used them whole. To make the salad stick together more, you could mash them before adding. They add protein and body)
– Pickles (I like pickles in my tuna salad, and the vinegar also helps to add some flavour to the jackfruit. You could also try pre-soaking the jackfruit in a teaspoon or so of vinegar and leaving out the pickle if you don’t like it in the salad).
– Pepper, spices, and extras as desired (sometimes I like chicken salad with cumin, other times I like it with a bit of chili powder. Experiment. This time I just added pepper for flavour and some hemp hearts for texture and extra omegas. Flax seed would be good for that too).
– Bread, pita pockets or lettuce for holding and delivering the salad to your eager mouth.

Directions:
– Shred the jackfruit with two forks to 100_4376give it the look of tuna or shredded chicken (It shreds naturally into strings). Soak in vinegar if desired (this would make it more tuna-like. When I made it plain it was more like chicken)
– Chop up veggies, pickles and extras to add to salad, and slice the ones for in the sandwich.
– Mix jackfruit, chopped veggies and extras, and add a Tablespoon or two 100_4390of mayo (to taste). Add pepper and spices (to taste) and stir.
– Pile it all up in your bread and add lettuce and other sliced veggies (you could use sprouts, too).
– Serve with a pickle slice. This was as good as tuna salad any day, and I imagine (like real tuna salad) it would get even better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two so flavours can mix.

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Cooking Club- New Year, New Ingredient (Part 3). Farro and Kale Salad

Ready to start cooking club

Ready to start cooking club

At our first cooking club meeting of the year, we made two curry recipes to take home for our families’ dinners, but we decided to eat Sarah’s recipe right there. After all- we had earned a good lunch after our hike and all our cooking and cleaning. It was an excellent idea because, let me tell you, this salad is top of my new favourites list! Continue reading