PRINT this recipe

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly and PDF

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chickpean Smash

Have you ever had a moment when you realized how easy it is to make something you never made before and you want to slap your palm up to your forehead?  Making this chickpea smash was one of those recipes.  I cannot believe I never thought of this before. And it happened almost by accident.  I was cooking a batch of chickpeas to make with brown rice and I cooked them down a bit too much until the cooking liquid had nearly evaporated.  When I went to stir the batch, the chickpeas started to get smashed.  It was then that the idea came to me, why not smash them down into a sort of mash/smash, kinda like a "refried" bean consistency?  Voila! My smash was created.

While it is more economical to use dried beans and cook them yourself, I will tell you, cooking garbanzo/ceci/chickpeas from scratch is not that easy.  They are the one bean you absolutely MUST soak overnight.  They take forever to cook too.  So I use canned chickpeas, they generally are always meaty, never mushy.  I prefer the Goya low-sodium variety especially since I tend to use the canned liquid as part of my cooking to create a "gravy" of sorts.  

This recipe comes together with only a handful of ingredients and a minimal amount of time in prep and hands on cooking.  A blend of salt-free Italian seasonings, some roasted garlic if you have it or fresh garlic that you saute.  Olive oil.  2 cans of chickpeas and the secret ingredient, smoked paprika to give it a deep, smokey infused flavor.  A bit of diced sun-dried tomatoes work well in this recipe too, if you like and are allowed to eat them.

Chickpea Smash Ingredients:
  • 2 Tablespoons Best Quality Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves - minced (roasted garlic if you have it made or raw to saute)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Salt-Free Italian Seasonings (or seasonings of choice)
  • 2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika - divided
  • 2- 16 ounce cans chickpeas - with their liquid
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

  1. In a medium (3-4 quart) sauce pot,  heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add in the garlic and saute until it is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  
  2. Add in the seasonings and paprika and saute for 1 minute to bloom the seasonings.
  3. Add in the 2 cans of chickpeas, with the canning liquid and stir to incorporate.  Bring the mixture to a boil the reduce heat down to a simmer and cover the pot.
  4. Check pot occasionally and stir the mixture.  Allow the beans to cook for half an hour to 45 minutes, or until the liquid has nearly evaporated.  You may have to remove or tip the pot lid a bit to allow the steam to evaporate.  
  5. Once the mixture has cooked down and the liquid has absorbed into the beans and evaporated, season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  6. Using the back of a wooden spoon or a hand-held potato masher, smash the beans down until they are smashed but not completely smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, olive oil and smoked paprika as needed.  If you have any roasted garlic on hand, add in a tablespoon of the garlic to enhance the flavor.
  7. Serve hot or warm as a side dish instead of potatoes!  Server over brown rice and top with vegetables. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vegan Cream of Asparagus (and Vegetable) Soup

Making a vegan/vegetarian creamy soup is easy, all you need is a potato to give it that creamy texture.
I have officially completed 4 weeks of my elimination diet.  I feel great! Not quite as achy in the knees; my complexion is glowing; I've lost at least 8 pounds and I can almost fit into pants I haven't worn in three years.  I feel progress.  Had I not been laid up with a kink in my back last week with pain so intense that I sought out a chiropractor, I think I could say this diet has been a success.  It is a success.  I am clean eating in a way that I haven't eaten in over three years.

I love finding ways to incorporate more healthy whole foods into my diet, and with asparagus in season, adding one of my favorite spring vegetables to my meals is a treat.  At this time of year, with plenty local Jersey "Grass" to eat, straight from The Collingswood Farmers' Market to my table, my meals have been superb.  When I purchase the asparagus, typically from Viereck Farms, I know that Les and his team have picked those spears on Thursday or Friday and bring them to the Market with as much love and care as they were grown and picked.  Gotta get your bunches early though, by 11:30, Les' crates are empty.

The bunch I picked were a good size, not too skinny and not to fat, just right.  For this soup, you could use chicken broth or a commercial vegetable broth, but I say, why bother? Use water, add in more veggies and make your own stock as you make this soup.  Prep time is maybe 20 minutes, cooking time, another 20-25.  Cool it bit, then puree and back to the soup pot.  Season, taste, adjust.  It's simple, I promise.

Vegan "Cream" of Asparagus and Vegetable Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil - Best Quality
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Leeks - Cut into small rounds; white and light green parts only; thoroughly wash until there is no sandy grit.  Alternatively, you can use white onions or shallots, shallots being naturally sweeter
  • 1 Large Bunch of Asparagus (about 1 1/2 pounds) - woody ends trimmed, cleaned and cut into small pieces.  Reserve Asparagus tips and set aside
  • 2 Medium Carrots - peeled and shredded or small dice
  • 2 Medium Zucchini - cut into small dice
  • 1 Small-Medium Yellow Squash - cut into small dice
  • 1 Medium-Large Russet (Idaho) Potato - peeled and cut into large dice
  • 5 Cups Cold Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried or Fresh Dill
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried or Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg - freshly grated - or to taste


  1. Wash and prep all the vegetables.  It is imperative you clean the leeks thoroughly, removing all traces of grit and sand.  If possible, wash the cut leeks in a salad spinner, using several changes of cold water until all dirt is removed. When cutting the asparagus into pieces, reserve the tips for garnishing.  Cut the asparagus tips in half lengthwise and set aside.
  2. In a large stock pot heat over medium-high heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can use coconut oil, canola oil or safflower oil) until the oil shimmers.  Lower heat to medium and add in the cut leeks, sauté them until they turn slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the cut carrots and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the zucchini and squash and sweat all the vegetables until they all begin to release their juices, about 5-8 minutes.  The vegetables can and should begin to take on some colour, turning slightly golden, but not browned.
  4. Add in the peeled and diced Russet potato, the 5 cups of water, and the tablespoons of dill weed and thyme leaves. Season with a generous pinch of kosher or sea salt and a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the soup for 20 minutes or until the potato pieces are fork tender - not quite falling apart but tender enough to break apart when pierce with fork tines.
  5. Cool the soup in either a large shallow pan/bowl until it is cool enough to puree.
  6. Working in batches, puree the soup until it is perfectly smooth.  
  7. Pour the puree back into the soup pot and heat through.  Season with a few grates of nutmeg and taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, dill and thyme.  Add in the reserved sliced asparagus tips.  
  8. To serve, heat thoroughly and garnish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil or add a dollop of vegan pesto to the soup.  Makes 6 servings/6 cups soup.  Cool and refrigerate in a tightly covered container.  Keeps for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 2 months. Freeze in small batches.
Notes:  You can use low-sodium chicken broth or a low-sodium vegetable stock. If you can't eat potatoes, omit the Russet potato. If you can have cream/milk or soy, go ahead and add in a bit after the soup is pureed to give it that creamy texture.  Using the Idaho/Russet potato is a trick I learned from my stint cooking at Jill's Vorspeise in the Reading Terminal Market.  It adds a creamy texture without adding in the fat or calories or dairy that I can't at the moment tolerate.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Asparagus 3 Ways: Roasted, Pasta with Asparagus and LemonSauce,Asparagus Chocolate Cupcakes

Since it is asparagus season in New Jersey and we get the best from our local farms, I'm pulling out a few classic asparagus recipes to share as well as one from Viereck Farms.  Most can be adapted to your speific needs - such as my elimination diet.  I'll have a soup recipe to share in a few days too!

First up, a classic roasted or grilled asparagus.  You can use your outdoor grill, an indoor electric grill, a panini press, a stove-top grill pan or you can roast the spears on a sheet pan in the oven at high heat.

All you need for this is four ingredients: 

  • Asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper. 
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit S
  2. Snapped off the woody ends and tossed the stalks onto a sheet tray. 
  3. Drizzled a bit of olive oil over it, a few grinds of black pepper and a dusting of kosher salt. Pop these babies into a preheated oven and roasted them for about 15 minutes. 
  4. Turn them once after about 5 minutes. You want to attain a bit of caramelizing but not a char. 
  5. Come spring and summer, try grilling the spears over  medium heat for an even more wonderful sweet smokey flavor. You will never want to suffer through soggy limpid asparagus spears again. 
  6. Or serve with fresh, finely zested lemon and a few shaves of Parmegiano Reggiano.

Recipe #2 of my Favorite Spring Meal - Home Made Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon Sauce. It's not spring without the bright flavor and vibrant green asparagus that heralds the coming of the new season. This part of the recipe is fast - it takes 20 minutes to make and makes enough sauce to serve 4. To round out the meal, serve it with a spring mix salad with balsamic macerated strawberries and sweet and spicy pecans. Serve a saute of julienne carrots and snow peas as a bright and colorful accompaniment. Or if you wish, seared scallops, sauteed shrimp, poached salmon or thin slices of grilled chicken are nice full proteins to add to your meal. The pasta can be served as either a side or as an appetizer.
The original recipe was found in Gourmet MagazineMay 2000. It contains only 5 Ingredients! adapted from a recipe by Faith Heller Willinger.

Asparagus Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 lb or 1 bunch fresh asparagus – tough ends trimmed; stems cut into small pieces, tips reserved
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon - finely grate the fresh lemon; use one medium sized lemon – which should yield a tablespoon of zest and 2 tablespoons of juice 
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Fresh pasta of choice – wide noodles work best
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, Peccorino Romano, or Locatelli - Plus more for sprinkling
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    1. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Reserve asparagus tips separately, for garnishing. Bring a large (4-6 quarts) pot of water to a rapid boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the asparagus stems to the pot; cook for about 6 minutes, or until tender. Remove the asparagus stems with a slotted spoon, or small strainer; transfer the asparagus stems to a colander and rinse under cold water. Keep the cooking water for cooking the pasta and the asparagus tips. Drain asparagus stems well and transfer to a food processor or blender.
    2. Cook asparagus tips in same boiling water until just tender - about 3 minutes. Reserve the cooking water to cook pasta. Rinse the asparagus tips under cold water and set the tips aside. In a blender or food processor, puree the asparagus stems with the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup asparagus cooking water. The puree should be smooth and bright green. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of freshly cracked pepper. Adjust your seasonings according to taste. The cheese is salty, so use salt sparingly.
    3. Into the same pot of water you cooked your asparagus, cook the pasta until it is just al dente. Fresh Pasta takes about 3-4 minutes to cook. Before you strain the pasta, reserve 2 cups cooking water. Drain pasta – but do not rinse.
    4.  Using the same pot, add the puree mixture and cook over high heat to re-warm the sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the puree. If the sauce is too thick, use ½ cup of the reserved cooking water at little at a time to thin the sauce.
    5. The sauce should coat the pasta and be a bit loose. Add the asparagus tips to the pasta, stir to incorporate throughout. Serve pasta with a garnish of lemon zest and a sprinkling of the cheese. Serve immediately.

The last asparagus recipe comes courtesy of Viereck Farmes, of Swedesboro and Woolwich Townships, NJ, by way of The Blue Plate in Mullica Hill, Chef Jim Malaby.  That's a whole lot of courtesies!  Les, of Viereck Farms had this recipe as a hand-out flyer on the Collingswood Farmers' Market opening day, last Saturday, May 7th.  I have used zucchini in chocolate breads, cakes and cupcakes, I've even seen recipes using avocado, but I had not thought to use asparagus in a cake before.

Les told me that if you have a basic batter recipe, you could inter-change it with a variety of vegetables; spinach, zucchini or squashes like butternuts or pumpkins.  I've made a few tweaks to the recipe, to make it a tad healthier.

I'd love to experiment further with this recipe, taking the sugar down, swapping out the oil for unsweetened applesauce, maybe even swapping out buttermilk for non-fat Greek yogurt.  If you try any variations, do let me know!

Asparagus Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 Cup - (divided into 1 1/2 cups and 1/4 cup) White Whole Wheat Flour (or All Purpose, UNBLEACHED Flour)
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Quality Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Cup Grated Fresh Asparagus (rinse well before grating and remove the woody stalk ends) or finely chop the asparagus stems and tips if grating them is too difficult
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (or Bittersweet or Vegan Chocolate Chips)
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Low-Fat Buttermilk - Shaken (or to make your own, take 1 tablespoon lemon juice and add it to 1 Cups Milk.  Stir, let the milk sit for 5-10 minutes, until it begins to curdle a bit, then stir again)
  • 1/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspooon Vanilla Extract - best quality
  • 1 Cup Freshly Brewed Hot Coffee
  • Chocolate Fudge Buttercream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill cup cake pans with liners.
  3. Sift the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or into a large mixing bowl.  Mix on low speed until combined
  4. In a separate bowl mix the remains 1/4 cup of flour with the chocolate chips and set aside.
  5. In another bowl mix together the wet ingredients - combining the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.  Mix on low speed until they are incorporated.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and still just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bow with a rubber spatula. 
  7. Add the grated asparagus and the reserved chocolate chips, folding gently to incorporate.
  8. Pour or scoop the batter (using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop) not the cupcake liners and bake for 15017 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  
  9. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  10. Makes 24 Cupcakes.  
  11. Alternatively, you can grease and flour a large (9x5) loaf pan and bake this as a loaf cake. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, rotating the pan after 30 minutes.  Bake in the center of the oven, with the rack fitted into the center slot.
  12. For an easy chocolate frosting, whip one can of chocolate frosting with 1 8 ounce bar of softened creamcheese. 

Collingswood Farmers' Market Opening Day 2016

The 17th annual Collingswood Farmers' Market opened on Saturday, May 7, 2016.  Despite the over-cast skies and more than occasional drizzle and downpours, the vendors and market goers were out in full force, happy to see each other.  There were returning familiar vendors, such as Springdale Farms; Viereck Farms; DiBartolo's Bakery; Tree House Coffee Shop; Revolution Roasters (with a damn fine cup of decaf!), Charlie's Crepes; The Tortilla Press; The Popcorn Kettle King, and many other wonderful purveyors of fresh foods.
From Top left to right: Dave Hodges, Director of the C'wood Farmers' Mrkt, with Joe Njoroge, and Collingsood Commissioner, Joan Leonard; Les from Viereck Farms; Spingdale Farms; Charlie's Crepes.

Cutting the opening day ribbon were many Friends of the Collingswood Farmers' Market - my neighbors, Bernie and Mary; Dave Hodges, Collingswood Farmers' Market Director; Joe Njoroge, COO of the Food Bank of South Jersey; Joan Leonard, Collingswood Commissioner and her husband, Tom, plus many other friends and market shoppers.

I'm Official!

As an official 2016 Farmers' Market Blogger (one of 6 writers dontcha know!), I arrived to the market well before the official market opening, in time to not only witness the ribbon cutting, I was asked to take the photos of the occasion.  There's such a sense of community and excitement once the Market opens.  It means it's the start of something special for Collingswood.  People you haven't seen in 6 months appear, kids play and dance to the singers and music makers at each end of the Market.  Friends reconnect.  You see folks who you recognize only from the weekends appear with new members of their families, new babies, older children, or new visitors awestruck at this special event happens weekly.
Joan Leonard, Collingwood Commisioner, with her husband, Tom, to her left in the background.
I spoke with Collingswood Commissioner, Joan Leonard, and her husband, Tom, and learned their story of how they came to Collingswood over 20 years ago, first as New Yorkers who crossed the river from NY to Philadelphia, to being "river-crossers" again, moving from Philadelphia to New Jersey.  The told me how the community and the farmers' market came to be.  It wasn't easy at first, they told me.  Skeptics from all of their previous neighborhoods couldn't believe they would move to Collingswood in the early 1990's.  Back then you just didn't move to this area.  But, they saw the potential in the town.  They saw the good bones of the houses and knew that this town could be revitalized.  They asked friends to volunteer their time to help rebuild and renovate houses, and soon a committee was formed.  From there, houses were renovated and a movement had started.
So many great foods, so little time to purchase and photograph it all!
When people move to an area, renovate it, create wonderful homes in which to live, it naturally leads to wanting places to dine and shop.  And if you are shopping, it leads to wanting to eat.  Restaurants began to open. The need for a grocery or local fresh food purveyor was lacking. The idea to bring fresh foods to the community became an integral part of revitalizing Collingswood.  The Farmers' Market was born out of this desire.

Two new fantastic food finds: Jake's Origin Almond Milks and the Food Bank of South Jersey's Just Peachy Salsa.
Having only an hour or so to wander through the Market before I had to head to my day's next event, I was able to chat with a few new vendors and visit with some of my favorite people.  I saw my favorite asparagus, strawberry and tomato vendor, Les, from Viereck Farms in Woolwich Township, NJ;  Andy Satinsky from Weckerly's Spruce Hill Creamery Ice Cream; The folks from Springdale Farms.  I met new vendors (or sort of new) such as Jake, from Origin Almond, who makes hand-crafted, organic plant milks like Almond, Ginger and Turmeric; Rice Milk Horchata; Debra Di Eva Dulin who has Bianca Del Mare hand-made soaps and cosmetics.  I barely scratched the surface of folks to talk to during my quick walk-about.

One new aspect to this year's Market is the Collingswood Bag-Lending Project.  Lindsay Thivierge, who is helping Tricia Burrough and The Friends of the Farmers' Market (FOFM) head up the Collingswood Farmers' Market bag-lending project spoke to me about what FOFM are doing this year.  To encourage market goers to use less, or no plastic bags, FOFM have taken on the challenge to make or lend recycled/reusable/renewable bags.  The all-volunteer run organization has a sewing machine set up to turn old tee-shirts into shopping totes. One can either make an easy to create no-sew bag, or stitch the bag's bottom.  Tee-shirts will be collected and lessons are freely given.  Bags will be lent, plastic bags accepted to share with other market goers who may have forgotten a bag. Feel free to bring your bags, your old tee-shirts and if you have know how to sew, lend your skills on the sewing machine!

All locally made and sourced peach salsa. Waste not, want not.
Another exciting food development for this year is the sale of the Food Bank of South Jersey's Peach  Salsa.  This salsa is not only deliciously good, it's good for the environment.  New Jersey peaches that were deemed not quite good enough for sale in supermarkets or farmers' markets would normally be taken to be dumped in landfills.  Over 200 tons of food that could have been used was being wasted.  The economic and environmental impact of this waste was averted by The Food Bank of South Jersey.  Partnering with Campbells Soup Company (another local business, with headquarters two miles away in Camden, New Jersey), The FBSJ created a peach and jalapeño salsa that will be sold at the C'Wood Farmers' Market and local grocery stores all over the area.  Sales of the salsa benefit the food bank, keep food waste out of the landfills, and create jobs for farmers, pickers, and the FBSJ.  It's a win-win business.

With so many things to buy, foods to eat, people to meet, I can tell I'm going to have full and lively Saturdays all season long.  Spring is here! Fun is here! Come here to Collingswood, It's Where You Want to Be!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Elimination Diet Update - Week 3

Prepared meals for lunch and dinner: rice cakes with sunbutter, sliced apples and cinnamon; quinoa porridge; rice, beans and veggies; grilled chicken with roasted garlic marinade; roasted sweet potatoes loaded with veggies; roasted veggies over brown rice with coconut milk. 
Entering into week three of the elimination diet.  This is the week when I can start adding back in the restricted foods.  I decided I need another week of super clean eating. Mostly because I didn't realize this was the week to do it and also because I ate some forbidden stuff - a few french fries; a handful of potato chips; the turkey lunch meat out of a hoagie; sushi.  I am doing most okay.  Better than okay.  It's when I get into my head and start reading about other meal plans, diet cleanses, detox diets, that I start to doubt myself and my progress.  Tuesday was a terrible day for me as I felt that I was doing this all wrong.  There are a few elimination diet recommendations floating about the internet that conflict with the plan my doctor gave me. Should I eat beans? Can I eat potatoes? Are strawberries truly verboten?  Are desserts from the gluten-free, dairy-free,nut-free, processed sugar-free a treat or a cheat?  Never before have I read every ingredient so carefully, nor have I wanted a bigger cup of coffee than I did on Tuesday!

The wee bit of crap food I ate made me feel emotionally bad about myself.  The sushi I ate actually made me feel physically sick. Unless I make it myself, I don't think I can eat any sushi out, brown rice or not.  I absolutely cannot have white rice.  Between the white rice and the sugar in the seasoning of the rice, I felt lousy.

Now that I"m rounding the corner of a full three weeks of the cleanest eating I've ever done, I do feel better.  I'm starting to feel that clarity that I recall from my Weight Watchers days.  I don't feel quite as tired and logy.  My co-worker tells me my skin looks fantastic - that I have a wonderful glow and a healthy ruddiness to my complexion.  I think any puffiness in my face is down from all the water I've been drinking.  I am down almost 6 pounds too!

Meal planning has been intense and wonderful.  I did the most efficient 3 hour cooking this past Sunday that I've ever done at home.  Quinoa and Red Rice; baked sweet and Russet potatoes; roasted cauliflower "steaks"; roasted Brussel sprouts; roast chicken with a roasted garlic sauce puree; salmon; turkey vegetable meatballs (the next day I made a flour and butter-free "gravy" for them!); steamed brocoli and stringbeans; sauteed mushrooms and onions; Cuban style vegan black beans.  It makes my mix and match meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner a breeze.

 I pre-pack my lunches for work, making all four or five meals at once.  It helps to have your containers at the ready.  Breakfasts are either a variation of quinoa poridge with fruit, almond milk and or coconut milk.  Sometimes I add in sunbutter and/or pure applebutter.  I toss in almonds or sunflower or pumpkin seeds.  It's hearty and filling.  I also make power smoothies with frozen fruit, spinach, almond or coconut milk, flax seeds. Sometimes I toss in sunbutter or avocado.

Next week as I start to do the add in, I'll see how I do with eggs, some dairy, a bit of wheat, again.  I can truly see that I may have bigger issues with dairy than anything else. I'll keep us all posted. I'll also post a few more recipes.  Chickpea smash and the most mind-blowing roasted garlic marinade sauce that I've ever eaten!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Vegan Pesto

Here's the deal, as I'm doing an Elimination Diet, I have to find ways to make all of my food wholesome and healthy.  This diet eliminates all wheat, corn, sugar, dairy, eggs, red meats, caffeine, and many gluten type grains.  As a trained chef who likes to cook lighter, fresher and healthier, this is not a problem for me but rather a challenge to mix up recipes and to find new ways to make previous recipes work withing the confines of my diet's needs.

Pesto is one of those luxe type of sauces that you should always have in your spring and summer repertoire.  Simple to whip together and you can use a wide variety of herbs and spices to make this work for rice, potatoes, pasta, fish, chicken, vegetables, or beans.  It's good with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (when I can go back to eating such things!) 

I usually whip up a vegan style pesto to have on hand when I make a batch of my basil infused olive oil each summer.  The "pesto" is the by-product of the process.  I strain off the oil and keep the pureed basil to add to soups, sauces and whatever meals need a summer spice boost.  To make a truer pesto - a paste traditionally made with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 

I can't have the cheese so I improvised.  You can use whatever nuts or seeds you want.  One batch I made with almonds, another with pine nuts.  I either blanch the garlic or roast it - partly to tame the bitter garlic bite as well as bring out a nuttier flavor.  Good olive oil is a must.  I like to use a combination of basil, mint and parsley.  Instead of cheese, I used dry mustard powder as the thickener/binder.

If I am making small batches, I just toss everything into my Magic Bullet Blender.  Larger batches I blanch the basil to liven up the green and keep the basil from turning grey-green.  To stretch the pesto even further and make it an even more vibrant green, you can toss in freshly washed spinach leaves - a great way to add in your iron and minerals too!

My idea is to just toss handfuls of ingredients together, taste and adjust the seasonings as you go along. There's no wrong way to do this.  Use a blender, food processor, mini-chopper, Magic Bullet, Ninja Bullet Blender or Vitamix.  

Vegan Pesto Ingredients: - Makes about 6 ounces
  • 1 Bunch Cleaned Basil Leaves - about 2 Cups lightly packed
  • 1/4 Cup Mint Leaves - cleaned
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley - cleaned and de-stemmed
  • 3 or 4 Large Garlic Cloves - Peeled and roasted or blanched (*see note below)
  • 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts - Toasted (or use roasted almonds, pistachio, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard Powder - such as Coleman's
  • 1/5 Cup Olive Oil
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

  1. Clean all the herb leaves - wash and dry thoroughly.
  2. Put the herbs into your blender and pulse a few times to start pulverizing the leaves.
  3. Add in the blanched or roasted garlic cloves, pine nuts, mustard powder, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pulse the blender again, on and off until the mixture is thoroughly blended.  If needed, stop the blender and hand-stir the mixture with a spatula, scrapping down the sides of your machine.
  4. Pulse again until the mixture is smooth and bright green.  It might be a bit thin, but not too thin that it's like green water.  If the mixture is too thick, thin it with a bit more olive oil.  If it's too thin, add in a bit more mustard powder.  Taste the mixture and adjust your seasonings.
  5. Makes about 6-8 ounces.  Put into a clean container, cover and refrigerate.  Use within 10 days.
* To blanch garlic cloves- add peeled cloves to a small saucepot of water, about enough cold water to cover it by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 3 minutes.  Garlic is done when it is knife tender.  
**Quick Roasted Garlic - Make a bigger batch by adding a whole bulb of peeled garlic clobes to a small sauce pot of olive oil, enough to cover by 1 inch.  Bring the oil to a boil then reduce down to a bare simmer.  Let the garlic cloves cook in the oil until they are roasted, golden brown and smell nutty.  The garlic cloves should be tender enough to smash or puree easily with a fork.  This takes about 20 minutes. 

I found pre-peeled and individually packed garlic cloves at Wegmans in a big bag.  Inside the bag were little packets of garlic cloves that held about a bulb or half a bulb's worth of garlic.  You can easily freeze peeled garlic cloves and use what you need when you need it later.