Toona sinensis aka Chinese Toon or 香椿 xiang chun

June 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

I’m excited to introduce Chinese Toon. Before this post, I only knew this vegetable/herb by its Chinese name. I have never seen it sold or grown in the U.S. as pictured; only in its dried form and even that is rare. In fact, I didn’t even know what this looked like until a family friend gave us a batch from her garden. It was an exciting day. 🙂

Imagine growing up eating and loving cilantro, but not knowing its name or what it looked like. That’s how I feel about xiang chun.  It has a strong distinct flavor with a similar strength as garlic. It can be a great complement to a dish or overwhelming if you don’t like the taste (similar to onion or chives). I can eat it with everything!

It is predominately used in Asian cuisine, mainly Chinese. I have had it with tofu, eggs, stir-fries, noodles, rice and savory Chinese pancakes. All delicious!

To Prepare:

Step 1: fold the leaves in half and tear them off the branch from the stem (this will leave the root behind)

Step 2: after washing, mince leaves

Step 3: transfer to container, sprinkle salt to bring out juices, mix and seal (the true flavor of xiang chun will not come out till this step)

You can then save this for future use in tofu, stir-fries, noodles, fried rice or pancakes.

Next time you come across Toona sinensis aka Chinese Toon or 香椿 xiang chun, you’ll know how to use it or at least have a new dish to try at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Be sure to ask for it in its Chinese name, xiang chun. Here’s the wiki page to learn more.

Enjoy!

xiang chun with dried tofu (not dry in taste, rather tofu with much less moisture)

Review: Tasty Harmony, Ft. Collins

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I spent Memorial weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado. After my friend picked me up, we were both hungry. I only had an energy bar and some over priced rice crackers from the airport. I needed a good meal. As a lifelong vegetarian, I didn’t know what to expect from Fort Collins. I was excited to find out.

Tasty Harmony is not a pretentious organic vegetarian restaurant that it would be if it was in Los Angeles. It’s inviting and not over the top friendly, which I find creepy. They’re there to serve good food. The menu is diverse and provides a large drink menu, from teas, smoothies to local beers.

I ordered the Kentucky Fried Freedom, $13 “Battered and pan fried mock chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, black eye peas and garlicky greens.” It was delicious! The prices are higher than I expected, but their portions are big enough for two.

My friend ordered the Nachos de Ynez, $10.50 “Layers of our homemade cashew cheese, black beans, guacamole, vegan sour cream and salsa piled on top of corn chips.” They tasted just like nachos, not vegan nachos, which is great!

Then, we proceeded to dessert. My friend and the waiter boasted about their desserts so I was excited to try them.

I ordered the raw strawberry cheesecake, $7.50. It had a strange grainy texture that I expected from a vegan cheesecake. So, I was disappointed after having an amazing non-vegan tasting meal.

My friend ordered the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie, $6.95. I still dream about this pie. It was smooth and creamy with the right amount of everything. I was so close to licking the plate. If you don’t come here for the food, you should come here for this!

Yelp Reviews of Tasty Harmony

Panko Crusted Lentil Loaf

June 7, 2011 § 3 Comments

About the Loaf

I didn’t think that I was a lentil loafy kind of person, but when I tried this recipe; I fell in love.

I adapted this recipe because I knew I could make something more delicious. Actually, I just forgot to buy all the ingredients. I was shocked by the taste because I didn’t notice the difference. I made the original many times before, but I plan on sticking with my own. It’s just as tasty, healthier and has a nice crunchy top.

◊Serves 6

Cookware

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (wt. 17.6 oz.)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium to large zucchinis
  • 1 pack of TJ’s shredded carrots (2.5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup of water or veggie broth for lentils
  • 3/4 cup of water for tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp of dried basil
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • ~1 cup of Panko breadcrumbs (may need more or less to cover surface)

To Make

Step 1: chop onion and zucchini

Step 2: in saute pan on medium heat add olive oil, chopped zucchini, onion and shredded carrots till softened

Step 3: add vegetable broth and lentils then saute till incorporated

Step 4: add garlic powder, oregano, basil, salt and pepper (good time to taste test) turn off heat

Step 5: after desired taste, mix in two beaten eggs

Step 6: transfer to nonstick baking dish and preheat oven to 350°F

Step 7: in a bowl mix tomato paste and water then spread evenly

Step 8: on center rack bake for 35 mins then remove

Step 9: add panko breadcrumbs and return to oven for 15 mins

Crust should look like this

Serve and Enjoy!

Quinoa and Spinach Salad with Berries

June 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

My friend moved to Fort Collins, Colorado last year and I went to visit over the weekend. It was filled with fun and of course, delicious food. (I’ll go into more details later. For now, let’s focus on this salad.) Not only is quinoa delicious, it’s actually nutritious and easy to make.

Why it’s nutritious

“When NASA scientists were searching decades ago for an ideal food for long-term human space missions, they came across an Andean plant called quinoa. With an exceptional balance of amino acids, quinoa, they declared, is virtually unrivaled in the plant or animal kingdom for its life-sustaining nutrients.”New York Times (an article about the origins of quinoa and current dilemma in Bolivia)

Quinoa has a chewy texture with a nutty flavor. It’s often mistaken for a grain, but it’s actually related to beets and spinach. The textures and flavors worked well and it’s easy to adapt your favorite nuts and fruits to this dish.  We made it for dinner and savored every bite.

Give quinoa a try! You will be pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • ~2 loose cups of chopped spinach
  • 1/4 cup of cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of currants
  • 1/4 cup of azuki beans (unsweetened)
  • 2 tbsp almond slices
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (~2 tbsp)
  • 2 tsp of maple syrup or agave
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

Step 1: boil quinoa with vegetable broth (your package should come with instructions or follow this great video)

Step 2: in a bowl, add in all your ingredients in order listed and mix

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Corn Soup with Roasted Peppers

May 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

creamy corn soup with roasted peppers and spicy oil

About the Soup

Arugula, corn and roasted peppers make one of my favorite chopped salads. So why not make a soup?

I wanted to try Tal Ronnen’s Cashew Cream recipe from his book, the conscious cook. Supposedly, raw cashews can mimic the texture and replace cream without altering taste. In the past, I’ve used soy, coconut and almond milk as substitutes for milk. I’ve never used them in savory recipes and I wouldn’t want to. They tasted like what they’re supposed to-soy, coconut and almond.

Could cashews be the answer? I needed to try it.

Cashew Cream Recipe by Tal Ronnen

a page from Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook

I followed the recipe as instructed. I have a Vita-Mix blender (pricey, but worth every penny) so it made things a lot easier.

Step 1: Soak raw cashews (I used a 16 oz. bag from Trader Joe’s.)

This is what they look like after being soaked for a few days. The recipe says overnight, but I didn’t get to them till 3 days later.

Step 2: Pour in Vita-Mix and blend until smooth

cashew cream (~5 cups)

The Soup

Serves: ~4-5

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears of sweet corn
  • 3 roasted peppers*
  • 1 loose cup of arugula (garnish)
  • 1 cup of cashew cream
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil (more for frying arugula)
  • spicy olive oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

* I used Trader Joe’s pre-made fire roasted peppers.

Step 1: Shave the kernels (I used a knife or you can buy a fancy gadget.)

Step 2: pour olive oil onto a medium heated pan and saute the kernels with some salt and pepper for 5-7 mins until color changes

Step 3: set 2/3 cup of sautéed kernels aside

Step 4: in your Vita-Mix, add sautéed kernels, roasted peppers, cashew cream, 2 cups of water and blend

Step 5: in a large pot, pour mixture and heat; add 2/3 cup of kernels back in (adjust salt and pepper) and stir; use the remaining cup of water to adjust desired creaminess

Step 6: keep soup on very low heat and prepare to make the garnish

Fried Arugula

Step 1: fill pot with oil 1/2 inch deep

Step 2: after patting dry arugula, drop a few pieces in and fry for 30 seconds each

Step 3: remove and drain on paper towel immediately

fried arugula

Conclusion

This soup was creamy and delicious! There was no after taste. It was a true replacement for cream. I couldn’t believe it! The flavor was amazing!

I encourage you to try this recipe. You will never look at cashews the same.

Enjoy!

Spicy Herb Pasta

May 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Spicy Herb Pasta

There is a bottle of spicy olive oil in the cabinet that has been untouched for weeks. Every time I reach in for something I hear it screaming at me. This recipe is just for you. Though it’s not apparent in the photos, you’re what makes this dish so good.

Serving Size: ~3-4

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2-2 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup of pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • ~1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp of dried herbs*
  • 1 1/2 loose cups of fresh basil
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • Spicy Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

* I used a mix of thyme, rosemary, sage & oregano. Use fresh herbs if available.

To Make:

Step 1: in a large pot, boil spaghetti (follow package instructions), drain and set aside

Trader Joe’s organic whole wheat spaghetti w/o the wheaty taste

Step 2: wash and slice tomatoes

Step 3: slice olives

Step 4: wash and cut basil (chiffonade if you wish)

Step 5: in a lightly oiled pan, saute tomatoes, olives and herbs on medium heat for 3-5 minutes

Step 6: sprinkle sugar, water and saute for 1-2 minutes

Step 7: in the same pan on low heat, mix in spaghetti, drizzle with spicy olive oil, add salt & pepper to taste

Step 8: turn off heat and mix in basil

Enjoy!

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