Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mix and Match Italian Rice Salad

Mix and Match Italian Brown Rice Salad
I love this salad! It is the perfect thing to make for a potluck, a picnic, or for a side dish for dinner at home. It is perfect year-round since it is best served at room temperature, when freshly made.

I believe that I originally found the idea for this recipe in a Donna Klein Cookbook, I think it was Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. Over the years, I have made it SO many times - and it seems that every time I make it, I am out of one or more of the ingredients, and substitute something else. So, it has become a Mix and Match recipe - prepared according to what I have on hand.

I also adapted it for a full pound of rice and the microwave, and added some make ahead tips.

Mix and Match Italian Rice Salad
Microwave 30 minutes in large rice cooker (of course, you can also prepare rice with Bouillon on stove top by your usual method, if you prefer)
2 ½  cups raw brown rice (1# bag) (I've never tried it, but I'm sure Couscous or Quinoa would work here instead of Rice. I've tried White Rice, and it's really not as good - the chewier effect here is best)
4 1/4 cups water
1 large cube bouillon

Meanwhile, toss in bowl
1 cup thawed Frozen Green Peas OR Thawed, Frozen Corn
1 jar Roasted Red Pepper, drained & chopped, OR 1 chopped Fresh Bell Pepper OR 3/4 cup Carrot
1 jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained & sliced
1 bunch Scallions, chopped OR 1/4 Red Onion, minced (or Omit Onion)
2 stalks Celery, diced OR 1 can Water Chestnuts, Diced, OR 1 cup Jicama, diced
½ cup Green Olives, sliced OR 1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, OR 1/2 cup Black Olives OR Additional Capers
2 Tablespoons Caper Buds
1 Tablespoon Dry Basil
1 Tablespoon Dry Parsley (optional)
Add cooked rice and Sprinkle with
1 1/2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar OR 2 to 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice OR 1 1/2  Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Pepper to taste
Top with Optional toasted Slivered almonds OR Pine nuts OR Roasted, Salted Peanuts

Make ahead tip: This salad is best freshly prepared - without refrigerating - since refrigerated rice is, well, not fresh. To make this salad ready to go when you need it, prepare everything except the rice & bouillon mixture in advance and store covered in fridge. When you want to make it, simply microwave the rice and stir together. This keeps well, and I have many times left it at room temperature during Church to serve at a potluck after Church.

This is being shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Gluten Free Fridays, Simple Lives Thursday

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vegan Mock Crab Cakes ( Vegan Zucchini Crab Cakes )

This vegetarian recipe has been around for years. I used to make it years ago, after finding it in a Seventh Day Adventist Cookbook (sorry, I cannot recall which one). When I went Vegan, I jettisoned the recipe because it had eggs. But, I recently surfed by a blog that featured it, and was reminded how tasty it was. And I thought, "Why can't I veganize it? Shouldn't be too tough."

And - I could!

This is a light, summery recipe that isn't too filling. If you'd like something more substantial, it would go well with oven fries (or French Fries, if you eat them) as well as some bread & salad.

Of course, if there's a way that you're accustomed to eating Crab Cakes, these can stand in nicely.

Here it is:

Vegan Mock Crab Cakes
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 Tablespoon finely minced  onion
"Batter" for Vegan Mock Crab Cakes
1/2 cup silken tofu
¼ tsp celery seed
½ tsp Old  Bay Seasoning* (or more if you like)
1 cup bread crumbs

Mix everything together, and form into patties & cook till golden brown in a non-stick skillet lightly sprayed with oil. If they fall apart when you turn them (they are very delicate) just press them down with a pancake turner or spatula and they will stick right back together.
Vegan Mock Crab Cakes Cooking
*A note about Old Bay Seasoning: This seasoning blend is found at or near the seafood counter in most grocery stores (rather than in the spice section) - leading many a shopper to conclude that their grocery doesn't carry it, when it really does.

Years ago, in my pre-vegetarian days, I worked at a well-known seafood restaurant - the kind of place that, while informal, would inspire people to fly in from another state for dinner. They relied heavily on Old Bay Seasoning.  They boiled their seafood in water seasoned with the stuff. One day, I tried to boil seafood at home, but I felt I couldn't afford the Old Bay seasoning (which is quite reasonably priced, really)- so I omitted it. To my shock, the seafood didn't "taste like seafood!" This seasoning blend is what a lot of people associate with the taste of seafood. If you're living abroad and cannot purchase this seasoning, you might try making your own from a recipe like this one, but I cannot vouch for its authenticity.

This is being shared on Simple Living Wednesday and Healthy Vegan Fridays and Clever Chicks and Everyday Entrees for Around $5.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Non-Salad Days for Great Salads!

Basic Salad Preparation. Slow Cookers preparing beans,
ShreddedVeggies ready to go, and a
Kale Salad being prepared in the forground.
Before I wrote this post, I was thinking of entitling it "Salad Days" because I had this vague feeling that "Salad Days" meant carefree times of fun. A quick internet search showed me how wrong I was! First, the expression is from Shakespeare. Cleopatra used it to refer to her youth when she didn't have wisdom, and didn't plan properly for her future. That's rather the opposite of what I wanted to express! And, apparently the expression has been "done to death" as a cookbook title.

So, note the more accurate but less catchy title!

I find that it is very helpful for me, when I have a bit of time, to do some basic preparation all at once to have salads ready to go for a whole week. I might fill the Slow Cookers with Beans and/or Lentils for summer Bean Salads and put on a pot of Rice or prepare some Bulgur for the Freezer. I pull out the Salad Shooter (a food processor with a shredding/slicing disk does the same job) and shred a couple of pounds of carrots and a head of cabbage. Perhaps I might also chop, wash, and salad-spin some Romaine and/or Kale. A batch or two of Dressing (such as my Slaw Dressing or Simply Greek Dressing (Regular or Oil Free)) complete the picture.

This leaves me ready to quickly construct any of the following salads:
Better than Coleslaw
Black Bean and Corn Salad
Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise
Dinosaur Salad! ( Kale Salad )
Black-eyed Pea Salad
White Bean Salad
Lentil-Rice Salad

As well as several other salads that I plan to feature here soon : )

Then, during the week, I can simply pull out the prepared ingredients I want and mix them together to make an "instant" salad. Couldn't be easier or more convenient!

It's really nice that when I'm hungry (and getting grumpy) I don't have to wait a long time for a grain to cook, plan ahead for beans, waste money on canned goods or pre-chopped veggies, or fuss with cleaning and shredding salad veggies.

Try it! You'll like it! Saves time, frustration and money! : )

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and The Thrifty Home's Penny Pinching Party and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

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Monday, June 17, 2013

White Bean Salad

White Bean Salad
I like to make this salad according to what I have on hand, varying it a bit each time I make it. Here's the basic template. It's a great impromptu summer side dish, or even entree when served with some bread & fresh green salad. It's also a nice, simple contribution to a potluck or picnic. Here's the basic template:

White Bean Salad
2 cans White Beans (or 3 cups Home Prepared) such as Great Northern or Cannelini

Some of the following Veggies - according to what I have on hand- aiming for a variety of flavours & textures:
Finely Minced Red Onion
Diced Scallion (Green Onion)
Sliced Black Olives
Sliced Green Olives
Diced Bell Peppers (any Color)
Diced Fresh Tomatoes (or Halved Grape Tomatoes)
Fresh Parsley
Diced Cucumber
Sliced Celery

Toss with
1/4 Cup Simply Greek Dressing (Regular or Oil Free)
Generous Oregano

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Children's Scented Play Dough Recipe

Pink Lemonade Play Dough
Perhaps you thought that those powdered combinations of artificial colors and artificial flavours sold as children's drink mixes were entirely useless?


They can be made into a great toy!

I adapted this recipe from the Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions - a really fun book for all sorts of homemade toys.

And, if you're like me, and find the scent of the commercial stuff rather nauseating, you'll probably find this one much more pleasant.

You can choose whichever scent and color you like of drink powder. We've used Strawberry, Blue Raspberry & Pink Lemonade with nice results.

My little one considers it a special treat to be able to make this together.

Children's Scented Play Dough Recipe
Choose whatever size scoop you like, and use these proportions:

Mix together
2 Scoops All-Purpose Flour
1 Scoop Salt
Unsweetened drink mix powder - as much as desired (I use Kool-Aid or its Store Brand Equivalent)
1 Scoop cool water
1/4 Scoop cooking oil
stir, then knead briefly, then play

Note: Color will not show up until liquid is added - I use about 1 envelope of drink powder for each cup of Flour, but you can use more for a more intense color.

This is being shared at Kids in the Kitchen

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
This is a perennial favorite at our house. Light, refreshing, yet subtantial enough to make a summer entree - or a side dish with any number of meals. It's great for the lunchbox or taking to a summer picnic or covered-dish diner. It has a comforting combination of flavours that can be enjoyed over and over without getting tiresome.

It's ultra-simple to make, taking only a matter of minutes.

Black-eyed Pea Salad
2 cans Black-eyed Peas, Rinsed & Drained (Or 3 cups home prepared)
2 Fresh Tomatoes, chopped
3 Ribs Celery, Sliced
2 or 3 Scallions (Green Onions), Minced

1/4 cup Simply Greek Dressing (Regular or Oil Free)

1/4 cup Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed (or simply add Garlic Salt to taste in place of Salt & Crushed Garlic)

Friday, June 7, 2013


I love Fattoush! It's a great refreshing, colorful salad, especially good when summer produce is in season - healthful, tasty and a nice break from having a Green, Leafy Salad every day.

The first time I made it, it seemed to take forever. I streamlined a couple of steps, and now I can make it quite quickly while a homemade entree I have on hand is heating.

I use dried mint, but if you have fresh on hand -by all means use it!

Several of the ingredients are optional, allowing you to customize it according to what you have on hand.

Chop and place in large Salad Bowl:
4 large tomatoes, cut in bite-sized cubes
1 cucumber, cut in bite-sized cubes
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut in bite-sized cubes
2-3 scallions, minced (Optional)
A couple of handsful of Lettuce, torn in bite-sized pieces (optional)
1/3  cup cilantro, minced (one handful) (Optional)
1 Tablespoon dried Mint
1-2 teaspoons dried parsley (Optional)
1 teaspoon Sumac
Immediately before serving:
Throw in a couple of handsful of broken Pita Chips**
**If you are on a very lowfat diet, instead of pita chips, slice a pita around the edge into two circles and slowly toast it till golden-brown. Cool & break into pieces. This is the traditional way to make this salad, but it's not quite as quick and easy.
Tip for dining with Omnivores: This salad is a particularly good accompaniment for grilled meat, such as Slouvakia or Kabobs. It also goes well with fish.

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Monday, June 3, 2013

Simply Greek Dressing ( and Fat Free Greek Dressing )

Traditional Greek Dressing made with
Less Oil.
When I first became a Greek Orthodox Christian, and was somewhat new to the Greek culture, I remember many times tasting a delicious dish and saying, "Wow! This is GREAT - what's your recipe?" Quite often the response would be the same, "Oh, it's just Lemon Juice & Olive Oil, with Salt & Pepper!" (and sometimes Garlic & Herbs)

After hearing this same response 1,572,368 times, I caught on! ; )

And, in addition to its use in the Greek Culture, this sort of dressing is widely used in Middle-Eastern Cuisines.

Oil Substitute
This basic dressing is great to have on hand to make nearly instant Bean Salads, Grain Salads, Vegetable plates, etc. The traditional variety is also a great marinade for all sorts of grilled things (Vegan and Otherwise).
It's simple to make, and having it made in advance really streamlines the preparation of food throughout the week - despite the fact that it's quite simple to prepare.

Look for lots of future posts utilizing this dressing!

Traditional Greek Dressing
1/2 cup Olive Oil (good quality, Extra Virgin)
1/2 cup Lemon Juice
1 to 2 teaspoons Garlic*
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
(some people even prefer 2 parts Olive Oil to 1 Part Lemon Juice)
(1 teaspoon Oregano - optional- may be added, but makes dressing less versatile)
Fat Free Greek Dressing
But, of course, I'm a Vegan, and try to minimize my oil intake. So, using the traditional variety isn't an everyday thing. Sometimes I just reduce the oil to a couple of Tablespoons, but otherwise make it the same way. That works pretty well. But, in a recipe like this, Olive Oil tempers the sharp acid flavour of the Lemon Juice - muting it a bit. And, reducing the Olive Oil produces a much sharper tasting dressing. And, the Oil also makes the dressing thicker and less runny, so it sticks to the food better, and simply reducing the oil produces a runny dressing.

I've been very unhappy with the "Fat Free" dressings available from the grocery. Most of them have some sort of sugar added instead of the oil - and in our house we don't often want a sweet salad. And, they have this strange bitter aftertaste that I can't quite place my finger on. And, they're overpriced.

So, I created this Fat Free Simple Greek Dressing. It uses my Oil Substitute to make it thicker so it stays on the food instead of running off. And, I added Soy Sauce along with additional Garlic & Salt to temper the sharp acid. Soy Sauce adds a complex flavour (sometimes called Umame) to diffuse the sharpness of the acid. This isn't an exact replica of the traditional stuff, but if you want to reduce your oil or fat intake for health reasons, and don't want a sweet salad, this is the best dressing I've found.

First, make Oil Substitute:
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Tapioca Starch
Bring to a boil in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds
OR bring to a boil on stovetop, stirring constantly.

Fat Free Greek Dressing
1/2 cup Oil Substitute (above)
1/2 cup Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman exclusively)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Garlic (I use the jarred kind, which is mild)*
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
(1 teaspoon Oregano - optional- may be added, but makes dressing less versatile)
Mix well. Chill before using if possible. Shake before using.

*Garlic & Oil combinations pose a slight risk of food poisoning if stored without additional acid in the mix. This dressing has additional acid, so I have had good experience with storing it. And, I use jarred Garlic which is specially treated with toxin-killing acid. If you use fresh or homegrown garlic, you may want to use more caution.

If you're wanting a dressing that imitates American Greek Restaurant dressing - this isn't it. Here's an American Recipe for Restaurant Greek Dressing. You may be able to add the flavours that are used on this link to the fat-free dressing to get something more Greek-American Restaurant-y, if that is your desire.

If you want a traditional blend of herbs to add for a Salad, a blend like this should work:
Greek Spice Blend

When we eat Greek Salad at home (The Green, Leafy kind), we use homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette - which is an entirely different matter : )