Power Tabbouleh – and yes, it’s GF

Don’t know about you all, but here in Mid Maryland the weather is SPECTACULAR.  It feels like fall – the great part of fall when the humidity drops, the temps are still in the low 80s and the sky is bright blue and features fluffy white clouds.  Whoever loaned us their weather, I thank you and regret to inform you that we would like to keep it, thank you very much. I almost don’t care that the infant tomatoes that were emerging post deer invasion have also been eaten.  Shame on me for going out of town for 36 hours.  Apparently creating a urine barrier as deterrent is a daily requirement.

While the deer (or the squirrels, I don’t even care any more who the perp is anymore) were eating my tomatoes, we took a short trip to my hometown, Silver Spring, MD.  Mr. Little Sis had some work to tend to there over the weekend and we tagged along so we could do a little “get to know your Mom” touring. We returned thoroughly exhausted, in part from incredibly awesome park experiences, but mostly because the folks on the other side of our locked adjoining room door were reunioning with their family and a lot of bourbon until 4 in the morning.  I digress…

Our superb park experiences over the weekend inspired me to take the kids a little farther afield for some adventures today.  After swim class we played tag, restaurant (with robbers and everything, my children like exciting dining), and fed a whole mess of turtles in the quarry.  We found some bugs (and fed them to the fish – sorry bugs), watched some geese and played on some great playground equipment.  After leaving there and scoring a whole slew of deals on perennials at the hardware store, we all returned home pretty wiped out.  I decided it was time to give a summer standard from my past a go. Tired hungry kids are sometimes the most willing to try new foods.

IMG_9539Standard tabbouleh has tons of parsley (which is great for you in a variety of ways and covers a multitude of garlic breath sins), bulgur, tomatoes, garlic and some kind of acid mixed with olive oil.  Well… I hain’t got no maters, I say almost weeping.  Well, okay I have one that I plucked early before the real invasion began.  It was just coming ripe on the windowsill.  In honor of Mr. Bigg Sis and all those for whom gluten is verboten, I decided to make good use of the leftover quinoa in the fridge. Following Deborah Madison‘s lead (which is always a good idea), I combined green lentils and chickpeas to power that salad up even more.  Plenty of protein, fiber, and tons o’ flavor.  Yep, power tabbouleh.

Power Tabbouleh – adapted from Deborah Madison’s Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

  • 2 c chopped fresh parsleyIMG_9553
  • 2 c cooked quinoa (or whatever grain you have on hand)
  • 1 1/2 c cooked French lentils (I’m sure brown would be fine too, but I do like the green here)
  • 1 c cooked or canned garbanzo beans (drain and rinse if canned)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, made very small however you like
  • 4 scallions or spring onions, chopped small, including some green
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 6-8 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9543Looks like a lot of ingredients, but this was so ridiculously easy – one of those times where having some leftover cooked grains in the fridge makes dinner a snap.  I cooked my lentils specifically for this meal as I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I cooked two cups of French lentils in boiling water with a bit of salt and a bay leaf.  I can’t recommend this bay leaf maneuver enough – made the beans so flavorful and delish.  I had way more than I needed for the salad, but I knew my little lentil fan (Miss Picky Pants – you go figure that out) would want some plain.

IMG_9544While the lentils cooked I did all of my chopping and combined all of the cold solid ingredients.  I drained the lentils and let them cool for about half an hour. You could absolutely make this warm, but I was going for room temp or cooler. When I was done assembling a green salad and making dressing, I added the lentils to the other ingredients, combined the lemon juice, oil and paprika and poured it on.  Tossed everything to mix.  Salted and peppered to taste.  Lovely. Then I chopped my sole tomato and added it.  The added tomato was nice, but honestly, unnecessary (blasphemy). This salad knocked my socks off and is super flexible.  What do you like in your tabbouleh? As for me, beans are where it’s at.

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Cashew Butter

It’s been a while. I haven’t shared a pancake recipe in ages and we’ve been happily munching along, eating all the varieties I’ve already shared, but it occurred to me that we had a challenge that I really wanted to face where pancakes are concerned.  It’s the syrup thing and the non-filling thing. I love pancakes, but I can’t say that I love them for the nutrition that they provide me or that I love them without syrup or jam.  I’ve also found that we all get hungry again a couple of hours later, and this happens whether you have two (me) or four (my monsters).  So, I decided that the topping was the place to try to take on these problems.

IMG_9525Part of the problem with syrup is its liquid nature – it runs everywhere or simply sinks in on the spot and even the most reasonable children (or health conscious adults) might be convinced that more syrup is required.  So, I wanted to thicken it up. To find a way to get that syrup to stay put. It occurred to me that adding nuts would also address problem number two, the fleeting satisfaction of pancakes for breakfast. And so the notion of maple cashew butter began stirring about in the noggin.  I started putting together what I thought would be a good maple cashew topping and let the food processor churn on that for a while. I whipped up some pancake batter, with the help of an always willing pancake assistant, and while it was resting, checked back in on the sweet spread, added a bit more water and let it churn, baby, churn.  I’ll give you the details in the order that I did things, just in case you’re not the type who reads through the whole recipe twice before starting… If you’ve not heated pans ahead of time, do it now. Here’s a primer on pancake perfection in a cast iron pan.

Maple Cashew ButterIMG_9510

  • 1 1/2 c raw cashews
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 4 T water

I threw all this in my food processor
and just turned that baby on. Checked back periodically and scraped down the sides.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes (V)

  • 3 c white whole wheat flourIMG_9520
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T coconut sugar (or whatever dry kind you use)
  • fresh ground nutmeg (love my Microplane) to taste
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 3.5 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)

Mix dry ingredients (through sugar). Add wet ingredients except for the milk, use a fork or a pastry cutter to blend in.  Add milk and stir to combine. Let rest for 10 minutes. While it rests, check back on your spread – consistency is entirely your call on this one.  Mine was a little on the thick side.  If you want it thinner, add a little more water. Next time I may squeeze in a little lemon and add just a pinch of salt.

When your resting time (10 minutes) is up, pour batter into warm-hot pans.  Add fresh blueberries by plopping them onto the pancakes in whatever ratio works for you. Wait for bubbles and flip. Serve. Shmear with maple cashew butter awesomeness. Less sweet, more filling, stays put. Delish.

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Daggone Bambi. Get Out Of My Patch!

IMG_9504So I thought I had her licked, and then I forgot. I completely FORGOT the first rule of varmint repelling.  NEVER assume that the one method you’ve been using will continue to work.  As much as they found that measure compelling at first, one day, one of those critters figures your crap out.  And then know what happens? Well, I’ll tell you.  As soon as that rogue deer figures out that the Ivory soap hanging all around the garden just smells bad, but won’t actually hurt them, you will come out to find that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the green tomatoes you’ve been eyeing with glee will be gone. And it won’t just be the tomatoes, it will be the branch the tomato was on.

And while she’s in there she’ll knock off a few branches of happily producing pepper plants. THEN she’ll eat some more of the strawberry plants that stopped producing a while ago, walk all through the bit you’ve been preparing for planting, rough up the cucumber plants, and step on the potatoes on her way out the other side.  Bulls in china shops got nothing on the deer.

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So, I went commercial.  I got some critter repellent to scatter that smells weird.  I sprinkled it heavily around the periphery of the garden. The soap is still out there, just in case that continues to be convincing to any of these giant pests. Tomorrow I intend to apply the age old, totally free, and at least effective for rabbits remedy.  Bigg Sis and I don’t share this information with just anybody… but seems to me that the good of the garden is a worthy cause, so I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna pee in a jar.

Yep, that’s what I said. I’m gonna pee in a jar and then pour it around the periphery of the garden. Yep, pee. And no, I’m not going to pour it on the garden itself or the veggies, so you don’t have to be icked out. I am going to find out if the trick that has ALWAYS worked for rabbits will do anything about these daggone deer. If my own supply proves inadequate, I guess I’ll have to buy some of the stuff with the gosh awful coyote pee everybody uses to protect their flowers around here… enjoying the garden, except for that heinous smell.  I’m trying not to be discouraged. I really am, but it’s hard.

A Maryland garden is empty without tomatoes and I’m on year 4 of looking like I might not get any for one reason or another. I talk it over with people who know what they’re doing, my garden guru at the garden center, I read, and my plants do great. And then SOMETHING goes wrong.  A few years ago the squirrels stole just about everything. The last two years stinkbugs did the plants in. This year things were looking pretty good, and then she came. And I’ve had to share (and by share I mean I get nothing). When I share from my garden, I like it to be because of my bounty, not because my repellent measures have become obsolete.

I will remember the first rule of critter control. I will stop assuming anything is working and just introduce new stinks every two weeks and see how that goes.  As for my long term plans, I think we’d darn well better have a dog by next sumer or I’m buying all my tomatoes at the farmers’ market. Soap, egg solids, pee… whatever, none of it works like a dog who really likes to chase deer. Miss you little buddy.

Baby Step 13: Saving on Produce

BabyStep13Last Baby Step we talked about taking a look at what we really spend on food – including all those last minute purchases and take out bits. Today I want to focus on saving money on some of the healthiest food around, produce. Saving on produce tends to fall into two basic categories: 1) spending less and 2) using more (or wasting less if you’re into complete grammatical parallels). Both approaches are obviously valid, but the greatest savings (and satisfaction if you’re a cheap freak like me) comes from employing methods from both categories to maximize the nutrish for the dinero, moolah, green, whatev.

Some of these are obvious, but if you’re anything like me you tend to get real good about focusing on one and then forget some of the others. Let’s run through the possibilities. Healthy food, which for most folks means adding more produce, is affordable because  it satisfies you and prevents spending money on chronic illness. Healthy food is more affordable if you get good at finding it cheap and using it all. Continue reading

Hot As… Cold Salads for Beastly Weather

I’m sure there are places in the United States that are hotter than Mid-Maryland right now, but I’m willing to bet there aren’t as many of them as you think.  For those of you who live in arid regions, we have this nifty thing here called the “heat index.” The heat index says: “The thermometer only reads 85, but yes, it actually does feel like 812 degrees.”  Whenever we hit this part of the summer I like to play a little game.  I think of a place that I’d expect to be hotter and I check.

Tonight in mid-Maryland it’s 88 degrees, but feels like 95.  Just in case you’re wondering, the sun has gone down.  Yeah.  Yum-O.  In New Orleans, the tropics of the United States, it’s 78 with a heat index of 81. Tallahassee: 82 feels like 87. Mobile: 81 feels like 86. Closest I’ve seen so far tonight is Vicksburg, Mississippi: 86 feels like 92. How is this possible? I can be tough about a lot of things, but I have to confess that since central air came into my life, our charming armpit summer is not one of them. I tend to get a little strategic and Strategy #1 is not to use heat creating devices, which makes cooking difficult. Continue reading