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Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad

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Sweet peppers are what you can find at the markets in Austin, Texas right now. Beautiful varieties, colorful, different shapes and sizes. Perhaps one or two sassy ones among the bunch, but mostly they are fleshy, sweet and flavorful.

For me, grilling these kind of sweet peppers bring the best flavors in them. The sweet mild flesh with the charred pieces of skin are what inspired me to make this salad. We love to grill at this time of the year when it does not feel like you are grilling your self over, September its a better Grilling Time for us.

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Grilling-Sweet-peppers

So what to do with all these chard sweet peppers? I combined them with the most handsome Italian grain of them all: Farro, my favorite grain, because of his nutty flavor,  great bite and texture. This gigolo of a grain has to become part of your pantry. I cook farro the same way I cook pasta, in lots of water and a couple of pinches of salt,  for about 20-25 minutes. Once its cooked, I strain the water, air dry it, and while still warm I add a sensible vinaigrette, of green grassy extra virgin olive oil along with a generous splash of red wine vinegar for a bright flavor. Coriander seeds, garlic, salt and pepper where my flavors of choice for this grilled salad.

Last but not least, I added grilled Sweet Peppers, grilled red onions, some fresh celery for crunch and sprinkled some bulgarian feta to add some salty and creamy texture. It is a great hearthy salad.

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Charred-red-onions

This Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad will flirt with lunch or dinner, the perfect match for roasted or grilled, chicken, pork or lamb. If you are feeling not so carnivorous, put an egg on it. This Farro salad best companion was a glass of red wine, we had a good Tempranillo and some Lamb Loin chops on the side. It was a great end of the Summer welcome Fall dinner.

Enjoy!

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Yes,-more-please

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad

Serves 4-6 Italian portions

1-1/2 cup dry Farro
18-20 Sweet peppers any kind, any color, mix and match.
1 large red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh celery, include the leaves

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 to 1  teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsley chrushed
1 small garlic clove finely chopped or smashed through a garlic press.
1 teaspoon honey
1 lemon, grilled and juiced.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a mason jar place all the vinaigrette ingredients, close jar with the lid on tight and shake-shake shake…then ready to use.

Bulgarian Feta crumbs to top.
Chopped Mint or Texas Marigold (optional)

Preparation Method:

1. On a large pot filled with water, and 2 good pinches of salt, add Farro, bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes. Taste for doneness. Drain water and air dry on a colander.

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Cooked-Farro

2. Grill red onion and sweet peppers. Once the peppers have cool enough to handle them, peel them, remove seeds and cut into stripes.

Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Grilled-Sweet-peppers-and-OnionsSweet and Handsome Farro Salad_Chop,-chop,-chop

3. On a large plater or a bowl, combine the cooked farro along with all the vinaigrette, the sweet pepper stripes, grilled onions, celery, mint, salt and pepper. Use your hands, toss well. When ready to serve sprinkle the feta crumbs.

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Sweet and Handsome Farro Salad_a great simple salad_Yes,-more-please

There is nothing like great ingredients, treated with respect, paired and cooked right and you will have a heck of good dinner!
Enjoy.

Music Pairing: I’m Just a Gigolo- Louis Prima

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Hibiscus Mint Fruit Punch

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While growing up, Hibiscus-Jamaica agua fresca was often the drink of choice to refresh on a Summery day.  I remember my mom and grandma buying the dry flowers in bulk. Hibiscus-flor de Jamaica or Roselle should not be confused by the ornamental hibiscus plants, these ruby red flowers come from a different plant scientific name Hibiscus sabdariffa which are dried and used in many preparations, from sweet to savory dishes. The flavor profile of this Hibiscus is highly acidic, almost citrus like. It contains high doses of vitamin C and a unique flowery citrus flavor that is just right for refreshing drinks and tames the thirst on hot summer days. For me, growing up in Mexico, Agua fresca de Jamaica was my “cool”aid.

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With this in mind and thinking of something refreshing and fun to drink, I thought of making a fruit punch, or the good Sister of Sangria. This Hibiscus Mint Fruit Punch  just got loaded with lots of fresh fruit, and SVETIA sweetener which makes this Fruit punch the good sister of Sangria, or the healthiest Agua Fresca!

I found SVETIA by chance at the grocery store, I gave it a try and I think is a good option to naturally sweeten up drinks and beverages. It is Stevia based and it has a minimal amount of real sugar just to cut the edge of the natural bitterness of Stevia.
I think its a good naturally derived alternative. Check their website for more information click here SVETIA

We are almost on the last weekend of Summer, what a great way to refresh with a refreshing not-too- sweet Fruit Punch. Combined with fresh fruit its almost an afternoon snack itself.  Chunks of crisp apples, juicy slices of orange, Frozen grapes and plum cuts, or plums that you nibble as you drink are refreshing and fun to eat. I freeze some of the fruit, so your drink stays cool longer with out watering down the flavor. Other great additions of fruit could be strawberries or blackberries. I just stick to the ones I use in Sangria.

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To make this Punch will need…

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Cucumber Avocado Pico de Gallo Salsa

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Hello friends, a quick recipe for your weekend. This is a great fresh salsa-guac! It is not a guacamole, it is not your usual Pico de Gallo, its both! The cucumber adds crunch and extra freshness and the avocado adds a bit of creamy goodness. What else could you ask for?… It is a quicky to make just what you need on a long weekend, something fresh to snack on along with some refreshing drinks, perhaps like this fabulous Texas Caipirinha… ehehm…

Besides the recipe which is so easy to make, I would love to share with you a few of my tips when making Fresh chopped Salsa fresca, mostly known here in USA as “Pico de Gallo”. Enjoy!

Sharp knife:
Everything has to begin with a sharp knife. Nothing ruins good salsa more than a dull knife. Mushy cuts do not make a salsa very appealing and ruins the texture. So, sharpen those blades, baby!
Tomatoes:
Mix them up! Juliet, Cherry tomatoes, Sun golds, Lemon Boy, Roma, Heirloom, right now is the right season were there is plenty tomato goodness to choose from. 
My favorite Tomatoes in Austin, TX are the ones that Boggy Creek Farms produce. Click here to visit this beutiful Austin Urban Farm is one of the best.
Cucumbers:
English cucumber, or Jade are my favorite since they don’t have to many seeds, thin skin, they keep their crispy texture when marinated.
Red Onions:
Red onions  are  sharp in flavor. My advice is after dicing the onions give them a quick rinse, drain them and add them to your salsa. Rinsing them will make them milder by washing away that milky pungent liquid. You, your loved ones and your guests will appreciate the little extra care!
Avocado Hass:
This kind is the creamiest of all avocados. They have a fleshier inside and small oval pit. Choose the ones that are firmer to the touch it should feel like well done steak. These level of ripeness will hold better in this kind of salsa-guac, creamy, not mushy.
Dicing Jalapeños:
Rub a bit of cooking oil in your hands before cutting a jalapeño, this will protect your hands from the spicy burn.
Remove seeds and vein or leave them up to how spicy you want it!
 A good way to know when a pepper is spicy, is to smell the pepper. Cut the pepper length wise. Smell it. If it smells like fresh-cut grass it will be very mild. But, if it smells like fresh cracked black pepper you hit the jack pot is a spicy one. Watch out! maybe you just one one jalapeño in your salsa…
Limes:
Use limes, instead of lemons. They have a sharper acidity that balances great with the sweetness from the tomatoes.
Sea salt:
Why Sea salt instead of Kosher? It tastes fresher and the salt crystals brighten up the salsa flavor.
Fruit:
You can add other fresh fruit if you feel adventurous like Mangos, Strawberries, Green papaya, Pinneapple, Jicama, Peaches, the world is your canvas!

I hope these simple tips help you to get inspired and give a refresh spin to your salsa. Do you have any tips when making salsa? I will love to read about them.
Share them here and shoot us a comment!

Relax and have a great weekend!

Cucumber-avocado-Pico-de-Gallo-and-Salsa-tips-chips

Cucumber Avocado Pico de Gallo Salsa

Makes 1, 2, 3 or 4 people dance!

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes of your choice, check out my tips above.
2 cups finely chopped cucumbers
½ cup finely dice white onion
1 medium size avocado Hass chopped in small cubes
1-2  jalapeños small diced one with seeds one with out.
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
2 large juicy limes
2 good pinches of dry mexican oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt

Corn Chips… lots of them!

Preparation:

In a large bowl combine all the chopped ingredients, season with salt and add the oregano by rubbing between your fingers like if you where to snap the oregano at it. This warms up the herb and makes it into smaller pieces which flavors the salsa better. Add the lime juice 
toss and serve with corn chips and your fabulous Texas Caipirinha like this on the side…Enjoy!

Cucumber-avocado-Pico-de-Gallo-and-Salsa-tips-make-salsaYes,-more-please!

Make your Salsa dance…

Music Pairing: Salsa – Tito Puente

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Creamy Basil-Zucchini Noodle Soup

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Welcome Spring! and its amazing crazy weather, hehehe… here in Austin, Tx its rainy, cloudy and around 60 degrees that feels like 50 degrees. So I think a vegetable noodle soup, with a bright green hue, light, creamy and bright will lift up any cloudy weather… If you live in a part of the world where the weather feels accordingly with the Spring season, hey! this Creamy Basil-Zucchini Noodle Soup it’s also for you since it can be served warm or cold.

Describing this soup is a dreamy pleasure,it is creamy, fragrant, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, green, calorie friendly and easy to make. The basil, ginger,  and coconut give this soup an aromatic spring flare. The raw zucchini noodles add bite and texture to the soup. For me, it always has been interesting to enhance one flavor by combining different cooking variations of it. Raw, steamed, roasted, sautéed, two or three variations in one dish with the same ingredient. I believe that by maximizing one subtle ingredient like zucchini you can achieve maximus dept of flavor, textures, temperatures and add lots of character to the dish by focusing on “the” one ingredient.

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Six ingredients joining one pot, and the fun task of making zucchini noodles. By the way, have you made Zucchini noodles before? It is awesome. This little apparatus, called the vegetable spiralizer it is the bomb!. As you know, I’m not very fond of uni-taskers in the kitchen, the only uni-tasker gadget I owned and loved was the Julienne peeler, until now. (which by the way you can use if you do not own a spiralizer) This vegetable spiralizer belongs into the FUN category, it transforms any meaty root vegetable or fruit into the most beautiful curly noodles. I’ve used, zucchini, carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cucumbers, rutabagas, green papaya, apples, pears, uff! you name it. It’s really easy to use and clean up. If you have heard of it, yes it is awesome! (No, I’m not getting paid to say this, what you are reading it is my honest opinion, in fact I did not even bought this beautiful red spiralizer ha! It was a Christmas present from my friend Andrea…Thank you Drea! I love it! Hehehe.)

So, dear friends, whether you are experiencing a warm or cold Spring; Begin by make this delicious soup and enjoy the Spring ride!

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Let’s cook! …for the recipe you will need…

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Matcha Date and Almond Smoothie

Matcha-Date-and-Almond-Smoothie,-Yes,-more-please!

Loong time no see my friends! We apologize for the post delay, we have been dealing with some household chaos. I’ve been out of order for about 10 days, rough times I’ll tell you Back issues can be really painful I heart for people who have chronic pain. Thanks to Ian and his caring I’m feeling much better these days. In the meantime I hope you had time to make all the soup and all those recipes that you wanted to make last year , but you didn’t, because you can’t, but you want to, and you will and today is a good day to start. I hear you…. all this time in bed and I wanted to cook so bad, and I couldn’t. I made an awesome 3 1/2 minute soup that tasted just like it 3 1/2 minutes of big effort and glory! For me it tasted like if it had been simmering for hours. I guess when you are sick you just want some warm comfort. Any way this smoothie made my morning one of these sicky days it just put a smile on my face it felt like I was having a healthy dessert in a glass.

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Let me tell you all about this green creamy smoothie. The matcha and dates are a combination made in heaven; the sweet caramel dates play so well with the bright intense green tea flavor. The supporting cast: the almond milk, a couple of tablespoons of almonds and of course for texture and body a frozen banana. A small squeeze of lemon to brighten all those flavors, all goes to the blender….bleeeehhtzzz, blitzzzz, a little more blitzzz blitzzz …then pour it in a chilled glass and add a straw or two if you are willing to share… Enjoy!

Matcha-Date-and-Almond-Smoothie_ingredients

 

Matcha Date and Almond Smoothie

Makes 1 large non-sharable smoothie or two skinny glasses for a little afternoon snack.

1 cup almond milk
1 medium frozen banana peeled.
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 1/2 teaspoon matcha green tea powder cooking grade
2-3 medjool dates / remove the pits. Start with 2 dates and from there decide if you want it more sweet, add another date.
1 small squeeze of lemon
4-5 ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients on a blender, bleeeeeeeeehhtzzz.
Pause then pulse Blitzzzz, blitzzzz just to make sure the dates are completely blend in.

Serve on chilled glasses with a straw.

Enjoy!

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Cauliflower Chowder

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After enjoying these days of caloric ecstasy and extravagances, it’s hard to immediately switch to the light and healthier road. It feels like you are giving a kid a candy and 5 minutes later you change that to a cucumber… it is just plain hard. All my taste buds are still in frantic mode and my serotonin levels are a roll a coaster. But Nature is wise, and perhaps knows these facts by sprouting a great Winter abundance of greens, root vegetables, cabbages and cauliflowers among other vegetables.

These are my saviors for this caloric transitional period. I need soup to warm me up and fill up my belly with out the extra filling out of my pants.. ahem.

Last weekend at my farmers market I ran into these beauties, a warm yellow and a purple cauliflower, rainbow carrots, sweet potatoes and fresh dill. How can you not be inspired when you see all this colors? Soup it is, I was craving the creamy textures and luxurious caloric meals, but with no guilt. So I decided to make an all vegetable chowder using all these winter bounty.

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Cauliflower has a delicate flavor. When it is cooked and pureed it resembles potatoes. You would be surprised how close you can prepare it to mimic the potato. I’m sure you’ve heard of cauliflower mashed, cauliflower rice or cauliflower mac & cheese in which this humble Brassica acts like a carb-chameleon. With this premise I started my vegetable chowder by cooking and pureeing part of the cauliflower as the soup base to give that rich starchy like consistency that characterizes a chowder. I reserved some of the cauliflower into little florets which are added latter to the soup to add texture and enhance the cauliflower flavor. The extra creamy chowderiness comes from unsweetened coconut milk which gives this soup the luxurious velvety chowder texture and it adds lots of good healthy fats that are well needed at this point of the healthy road transition. Do not fear about the coconut over taking the flavor on the soup, you barely can tell is here. Carrots, sweet potatoes and onions add sweetness, texture and light flavor. Fresh dill adds a great herbal aroma to the soup and complements the cauliflower flavor in a very delicate way.

I recommend organically grown vegetables if possible. I know that’s not easy, but increasingly supermarkets are adding those options if you don’t have access to a farmer’s market. In my opinion the flavor is better and I think with a lightly seasoned dish like this one, those flavors are going to shine through.

This Cauliflower chowder will warm you up, fulfill your starchy desires, and settle down your taste buds. I would say this soup is the ticket to redemption road.  Time to tame the growling carb lions…

You also might like this recipes:

 Grilled Cauliflower with Garlic and Cumin rub or My favorite Cauliflower Ceviche …check them out!

If you want to know more about the wonderful benefits of Cauliflower, please check out this unique and complete article, written by Helen Nichols, 28 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Cauliflower  Enjoy!

Cauliflower-Chowder_how-to-cut-Florets

Cauliflower Chowder

Serves 4 or 2 hungry Vegans.

2 small or 1 medium Cauliflower heads. Any color is great about 6-7 cups of small cauliflower florets total, use organic if possible they have the best flavor.
6-7 small carrots, diced or sliced into rounds.
I used red, yellow, and orange, use what ever is freshest available at your market.
1 medium sweet potato peeled and diced.
1/2 large sweet onion
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups vegetable stock
1 – 14oz can unsweetened coconut milk/cream
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 sprig fresh dill, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon if using dry and upon your taste.
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or 2 sundry tomatoes**
6-8 good cranks of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon Sea salt

Garnish with:

Fresh dill/not fan of dill?… Basil, Thyme, Chives, Tarragon are great substitutions.
smoked paprika
(Crostini or toast drizzled with olive oil and Parmesan cheese optional)

*I used water instead of vegetable stock, because I wanted the cauliflower flavor to come through. The first time I made this soup I used vegetable stock and I felt it masked the cauliflower flavor to much. Feel free to use whatever you prefer.
** Recently I made this soup adding 2 sundry tomatoes. It was a delicious variation, it gave the chowder a slight tint of color and deep of flavor.If using sundry tomatoes add them on step four so they can soften up before pureeing the chowder.

Preparation method:

1. Chop and diced your vegetables. With a small paring knife cut the cauliflower into small florets. Reserve about 2 cups of the little florets to add to the soup at last. For this soup I used the yellow cauliflower for the soup base and the purple florets to add whole to the soup, it adds eye appeal.

Cauliflower-Chowder_Carrots-and-sweetpotatoes_cooked
2. In a small pot, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Pre-cook the diced carrots and sweet potatoes for 4-5 minutes, until al-dente, rinse with cold water. Set aside.
3. Over medium-low heat in a medium size pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and sauté the chopped onions and garlic until translucent, season with salt and pepper.
4. Once the onions are translucent, add ¾ of the cauliflower florets. Toss and add 2 cups of vegetable stock or just enough to cover the florets. Add bay leaf, thyme, fresh sprig of dill/or dry,  salt, and pepper, cover with a lid and let them cook for 7-8 minutes or until very soft and tender. Once cooked, purée them in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender until smooth.
5. Place this cauliflower purée back into the pot, add the coconut milk and stir well until blended. Season with celery salt, salt, paprika and black pepper. Add a bit more vegetable stock if the consistency is too thick.
6. Add the reserved mini cauliflower florets, and the pre-cooked carrots and sweet potatoes. Cover with a lid and bring to a slow simmer cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Check for doneness on the vegetables; I like my vegetables on the al-dente side, not hard but not mushy. Taste them and decide if you like them softer keep cooking them for another 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately into warm bowls, sprinkle fresh dill, a little drizzle of olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.  One or two whole wheat crostinis won’t hurt right?… Enjoy!

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Cauliflower Chowder

Course Soup
Cuisine wholesome
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 small Cauliflower heads, Any color is great about 6-7 cups of small cauliflower florets total, use organic if possible they have the best flavor.
  • 6-7 small Carrots, diced or sliced into rounds.
  • 1 medium Sweet potato, peeled and diced.
  • 1/2 large Sweet onion diced
  • 2 medium Garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups Vegetable stock*
  • 1 14-0z can Unsweetened coconut milk/cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme, dry or fresh
  • 1 sprig fresh dill, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon if using dry upon your taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika or 2 sundry tomatoes
  • 6-8 cranks Fresh Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt, or more upon your taste

Instructions

  1. 1. Chop and diced your vegetables. With a small pairing knife cut the cauliflower into small florets. Reserve about 2 cups of the little florets to add to the soup at last. For this soup I used the yellow cauliflower for the soup base and the purple florets to add whole to the soup, it adds eye appeal.

    2. In a small pot, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Pre-cook the diced carrots and sweet potatoes for 4-5 minutes, until al-dente, rinse with cold water. Set aside.

    3. Over medium low heat in a medium size pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and sauté the chopped onions and garlic until translucent, season with salt and pepper.  

    4. Once the onions are translucent, add ¾ of the cauliflower florets. Toss and add 2 cups of vegetable stock or just enough to cover the florets. Add bay leaf, thyme, fresh sprig of dill or dry, salt and pepper, cover with a lid and let them cook for 7-8 minutes or until very soft and tender. Once cooked, purée them in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender until smooth.

    5. Place this cauliflower purée back into the pot, add the coconut milk and stir well until blended. Season with celery salt, salt, paprika and black pepper. Add a bit more vegetable stock if the consistency is to thick.

    6. Add the reserved mini cauliflower florets, and the pre cooked carrots and sweet potatoes. Cover with a lid and bring to a slow simmer cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Check for doneness on the vegetables; I like my vegetables on the al-dente side, not hard but not mushy. Taste them and decide if you like them softer keep cooking them for another 2-3 minutes.

    *If using sundry tomatoes add them on step 4 so they can soften before pureeing the chowder.

Music Pairing:Paris Combo- Je te vois partout”

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