Sunday, April 29, 2012

Classic Tomato and Cucumber Salad

I saw the first tomatoes at the farmer's market yesterday, so I had to pick some up.  They were perfect and tasted like we were already in the dead heat of summer.  Yum.  I also bought an English cucumber and realized right away how I was going to combine these two finds: into my Classic Tomato and Cucumber Salad.  As far as cucumbers go, I really prefer the English kind; the skin is not waxed and not too thick, and the seeds are not too big.  I find that I peel the other version and scoop out the seeds, but I eat the complete English cucumber.  (I also like little pickling cucumbers.)  Also this salad is perfect with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper, but if you really want a dressing, just add a splash of olive oil and vinegar.  This can be a completely raw recipe, if you leave off the dressing.  If you've never had this simple pairing in a salad, you're in for a treat.

The whole salad in a serving bowl.

My salad plate.  I ate it all up!

Classic Tomato and Cucumber Salad


2 - 3 ripe tomatoes, quartered and wedged
1 English cucumber, ends trimmed and sliced in circles or semi-circles depending on the diameter of the cuke
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Put all ingredients into a serving bowl and toss well.  Eat immediately.  Don't chill; it will ruin the texture of the tomatoes.  So, no leftovers!  You have to eat it all in one night.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tofu with Wild Spinach and Almonds

Once again I found an unusual treat at the farmer's market.  One of the farmer's had on hand some wild spinach.  It was beautiful and not the smooth oval shape as traditional spinach.  It was pointier and had rough edges to the leaves.  When cooked it tasted about eighty percent like traditional spinach but had a bit of a different taste, as well, kind of grassy.  It was very good.  I wanted their flavor to be be pronounced, so I cooked and seasoned them lightly.  I think the dish below presents their color and flavor very well.

Tofu with Wild Spinach and Almonds

Two bunches of wild spinach

Look at their leaves!

Tofu with Wild Spinach and Almonds


2 Tbs. olive oil
2 blocks of water-packed tofu, drained and cut into triangles
2 bunches of wild spinach (or traditional spinach), leaves cut free from their stems, 4 - 6 cups worth
2 - 3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup sliced almonds


Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add tofu, being careful not to get splattered.  Cook over medium high heat until tofu starts to brown, then turn down to medium.  This takes about ten minutes.  Cook for another ten minutes or so, until tofu is browning on all sides.  Add the spinach and soy sauce and stir quickly until spinach just wilts, about two to three minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the almonds and stir.  Delicious, simple and quick.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ding How Restaurant - Davis, CA

In keeping with my attempt at showcasing restaurants during our "travels," I'm reviewing a restaurant a short distance from Sacramento.  My family discovered Ding How in Davis several years ago, but I can't remember now how.  It is a traditional Mandarin Chinese restaurant but offers a separate menu for vegetarians.  Twice a year I take my mom and Blessings to San Francisco to a museum that offers a homeschool day.  When we come home, it's begun to be our tradition to eat dinner at Ding How.  The service has always been prompt and efficient, and this time our server, David, was especially charming.  I highly recommend this restaurant, and if you are ever in Davis, California, take a chance and stop by. 

Their information is; phone: 503-753-3590; address: 640 W. Covell Blvd. They are located in a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Covell and Anderson.

Of course we chose, as usual, from the vegetarian menu.  Along with the dishes pictured, we also ordered tea and steamed rice.  David knew we were vegans and said most of the mock meats were vegan on the menu.  Here is the Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup.  This soup is normally hot with heat and spice, so be careful when you first eat it.  It is good though and is always ordered when we show up.

My mom has a hard time with anything beyond the smallest amount of black pepper, and last time she couldn't eat the soup.  Here she is again giving it a go, brave lady.  She lasted about four spoonfuls this time.  You can see SR and GR with their bowls checking her out.  JK doesn't eat it either, so it's just me and my girls chowing down on the bowls.

This is usually ordered as well - the Vegetarian Sweet and Sour Chicken.  Very good.  Kind of blurry shot.

We enjoyed this dish, the Mandarin Braised Tofu.  JK pretty much eats as much rice and tofu as he can (along with any available baby corn), so we ordered two of this dish.

Vegetarian Lemon Chicken.  Very good.  I wish I could figure out how they do the glaze.  We went to another restaurant, now closed, that had a very similar dish, and I tried and tried to recreate it, but I just couldn't. 

Here is the Ding How Special Vegetarian Chow Fun.  First time we ordered the chow fun this way, and it was very good, like all of their dishes.

Leftovers were brought home to G, who readily enjoyed them!  All of the dishes are reasonably priced, and the food never disappoints.  Give them a try, especially if you are local!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Raw Sweet Potato, Beet and Coconut Salad

Do you ever nibble on vegetables that you've only experienced in cooked form - roots or otherwise - to see how they taste?  I've been doing that more and more the last year or so, and I've discovered some wonders!  Raw sweet potato and beets are very good!  I've known this for a few months but didn't know what to do with that information, until I thought of pairing them together.  Adding some sweetened coconut adds just the right amount of sweetness to make this a delicious salad with no dressing at all.  I grated them to make it easier to chew and to be more appealing to my Blessings.  Also, with the coconut, it makes for a nice, uniform appearance.  I knew my girls would eat it because it was dinner, but the big test would be JK.  I put some on a spoon, and he gingerly stuck his top lip out to take the minutest taste.  Then he came back for more and more.  I served him some with dinner, and he ate it all up.  Everyone was surprised that they liked this (except for me: I knew I would), and this will definitely stay on my list of salads to make.

Raw Sweet Potato, Beet and Coconut Salad


2 cups grated sweet potato (approximately one medium sweet potato)
2 cups grated beet (about two medium ones or one large one)
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, packed


Make sure you trim the ends and peel the sweet potato and beet before grating.  I used my grater blade in the food processor; it made for a quick job.  Rinse the sweet potato shreds in a colander to get rid of any starch that might brown them.  Rinse the beet shreds in a colander to get rid of any loose juice, so the whole salad doesn't turn beet color.  You won't be able to get rid of all the beet juice, but you want to be able to enjoy this colorful salad's beauty.  Add the sweet potato shreds, the beet shreds and the coconut in a large bowl and stir.  Can chill or serve right away.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter, 2012 - An animal sanctuary and an old favorite

Alert, alert: this post has many photos, so put on your caption reading attitude and let's go!  My family had a lot of fun over the Easter weekend.  On Saturday, we went to  Animal Place , a farmed animal sanctuary, for their Easter egg hunt.  We went to one of their hunts a few years ago, and I was really glad to make it back for another one.  They are located in Grass Valley, California and have been at this location about two years, after moving from Vacaville.  Their Vacaville location still has animals for adoption and is called Rescue Ranch.  The new location in Grass Valley is strictly a sanctuary and has over 600 acres!  We've been coming to Animal Place for tours since SR, my oldest, was still in her front baby carrier and couldn't walk.  We are so thankful to have a sanctuary like this relatively close to our home. Living in Sacramento, we are about halfway between Vacaville and Grass Valley, so the move didn't affect our driving time to get to it.

Here is JK holding his Easter basket after the hunt.  There were more children than they expected to have, which is a good thing, but the eggs for each child had to be restricted, so everyone could enjoy the fun. Inside were stickers, little toys, tattoos and hard candy.

Here is Marji Beach, Education Manager, and Kim Sturla, Animal Place founder.  I'm always impressed by the memories of these two ladies - they always remember my family and always make us feel very welcome.  They are just as nice as they appear to be in this photo.

After the hunt and a picnic, we were taken on a tour of their sanctuary.  We've been on many tours, but it's nice to see the same animal friends with which we've become familiar and also to meet new ones.  Here is a shot of the sanctuary as we head down the path.

At this new location, they've begun to grow a vegan garden.  They use no bone meal or other animal products in their garden mix.  If they have a successful bounty, they are thinking of opening a produce stand.

Here are a couple of their bunnies inside their enclosure.  This is the outside part, but they also have an inside shelter, as well.  We brought greens and other treats for them to enjoy.

This three-legged sheep is Carmen.  She looks like a goat but isn't.  They do have goats, but we didn't see them this time.  Anyhow, Carmen was saved when a farmer's neighbor noticed her suffering with an infected leg. The farmer wasn't interested in paying vet bills, and was just going to let her die...painfully.  The neighbor contacted Animal Place, and the farmer allowed her to be rescued.

Carmen lives with these sheep in a beautiful pasture.  Look at those sheep tails!  Did you know sheep have tails like that?  Apparently, they are cut off when they are a few days old, but not at Animal Place.

Howie, the big steer here, is one of our old friends.  That's G and SR petting him.  He's enjoying a good rub down - his loose fur was flying off.  JK is having a blast.  GR is petting Elsa, and on the side of the picture, you can barely make out black and white Sadie.  These are their geriatric cows; they have another field for their younger cows.

This is a pot-bellied pig that got too big for someone to keep as a pet.  I love this picture, but it reminds me a bit of the pigs in the movie, Hannibal.  I only saw him eating roots though!

These two pigs literally came running out at us as if they were a couple of dogs.  They ran right up and demanded to be petted.  Everyone had their hands full with these two.

GR and SR petting some beautiful tom turkeys.  During Thanksgiving of last year, they were dropped off in boxes at Animal Place, rescued from being dinner.  I noticed that they were making huffing noises and asked if these were warning sounds for us to stay away.  Marji explained that in fact they were showing off and puffing up to impress us.  They loved being petted and kept strutting around fluffing out.  So funny!  They had lots of turkeys and chickens there.

Okay, so if you want to find out more about Animal Place, follow the link above.  Now, on to Easter dinner.  I was feeling really under the weather, so I didn't make nearly as much as I'd hoped for the family potluck.  When we got back from Animal Place on Saturday, I made my Kids Love It! Potato Salad , and that was all I could do.  I subbed the baco bits for LightLife Smart Bacon, sauteed and chopped.  Sunday I was worse, so we just popped over to Whole Foods and picked up some lemon capellini to bring along.  I was so impressed with the vegan options that my relatives brought this time. Take a look!

This is my actual dinner plate - quite full, don't you think?  My potato salad is in the left upper corner of the plate, a vegan roll, my mom's pickles and garlic, the lemon capellini from Whole Foods, an amazing salad from my aunt, my mom got us Chik patties and make an apricot sauce to go on top, and steamed asparagus.  There was only cole slaw and chicken on the table that wasn't vegan.  As a matter of fact...

...there was also this fruit salad that my other aunt made, and I forgot to put on my original plate - not that there would have been any room., anyways.  Truthfully, this was the best vegan feast we've had with my family...ever.

For dessert, my mom made vegan strawberry shortcake and bought soy whip, and my "fruit salad" aunt made vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.  Hello!!!

I definitely wasn't feeling well, but I'm really glad I went 'cause I would have missed out on all this amazing food!  Hope everyone else had a great Easter, too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Red Beans over Barley

I made a slight variation on the classic dish of red beans over rice.  I've discovered that barley is not just for soups.  It can also work very well on its own.  It's chewy, tasty and filling - a nice alternative to rice.  Anyhow, we eat a lot of beans in my home...a lot, and I've been making simple red beans over rice for a very long time.  It's an easy recipe that is nutritious, as well.  Served over barley with a nice veggie on the side, it makes a complete meal.  This time we had jumbo artichokes from the farmer's market with which to pair it.  Yum!

Red Beans over Barley


1 pound dried red beans
Water to cover
1 - 32 oz. box of vegetable broth
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

2 cups barley
4 cups water 


 Sort beans for grit.  You can either soak them the night before, or if your digestion is used to beans, just make them the same day without soaking.  If you soak, be sure to rinse the water out and put fresh water in the pot in the morning.  Put beans in a pot with enough water to cover them about two inches over the top of them.  Bring to a boil, and boil for five minutes.  Turn heat down to medium, and cook for two hours.  While cooking, when water is below the top of the beans, add the broth, and stir.  As the broth cooks down, add just enough water to cover just the top of the beans by a half an inch or so.  You are not making a soup.  Test the beans after two hours; if they are almost tender, add the spices.  In a separate pot, combine the barley and water, and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low.  Cook for twenty minutes.  Beans should be done by the time the barley is.  Serve beans over the barley, spooning any of the bean gravy over the top.  Serve with a nice vegetable to round out the meal.  Feeds five hungry vegans.