Sunday, April 24, 2016

Life on the Farm...and Strawberry Salsa!


Ever since I started working at Tanaka Farms, I have wanted to put strawberries on everything!  More on those tacos at the end of the post, but for now, keep reading about this beautiful 30 acres I have been spending a lot of time on lately...


This is my new office! I started working part time at Tanaka Farms in February. And let me tell you, it has been (and continues to be) one of the most rewarding experiences ever! From learning some of the basics about responsible farming techniques, to connecting with people, especially children, helping to educate them about the importance of farming, and eating lots of farm fresh vegetables, I am really thankful to have this unique opportunity.


My official title at the farm in Strawberry Tour Guide. And believe you me, I channel my inner Jungle Boat Cruise voice with each and every tour. It's so much fun to tour the farm with big groups...most of the weekday tours we give are to school groups...and watch the little ones taste farm fresh veggies for the first time. It's also a blast to watch them out in the field picking their own strawberries.


And those strawberries! Before working on the farm, I could give a hoot about strawberries. I'm more of a vegetable girl. But, my goodness, are these the best berries I have ever sunk my teeth into. And lucky for me, I get to eat lots of strawberries while I'm at work! I have become a strawberry snob. If they aren't fresh picked from Tanaka Farms, I am simply not interested. Haha. But seriously, nothing tastes better than a red, juicy, sweet, fresh-picked strawberry warmed by the sun. They literally melt in your mouth.



At the farm, all of the strawberries are grown hydroponically in coconut husk grow bags on raised beds. This keeps the strawberries up off the ground and helps to prevent them from getting spoiled from resting in the soil. It also makes them taste better. The farmers work very hard to keep those berries top notch for the guests, and on every tour I give,  at least one person comments on how these are the best berries they've ever had.


Have you ever wondered why some strawberries have funny shapes? The shape of a strawberry depends on how it gets pollinated.  In the center of each flower on the plant is a baby strawberry waiting to turn into a delicious piece of fruit. Surrounding that center are little hairlike structures known as stamens. If each and every little hair doesn't get pollinated, the strawberry will not grow symmetrically.


I could go on all day about strawberries (there are over 200 seeds on every berry, and technically, strawberries aren't even true berries, rather they are an aggregate accessory fruit, but I digress) but I know you all just want me to get to the recipe, so here you go!

Strawberry Salsa Fresca

2 cups chopped ripe strawberries (from Tanaka Farms)
2 cups diced Maui Onion (from Tanaka Farms)
1 cup chopped green onion (from Tanaka Farms)
1 cup chopped cilantro (from Tanaka Farms)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (from Tanaka Farms)
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt, to taste
optional: chopped fresh jalapeno to taste

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
Should last up to one week in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 6 cups



Gardein Beefless Tacos with Strawberry Salsa and Cilantro Mayo

For the Gardein Beefless taco meat:
1 package Gardein Beefless Strips, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely diced Maui Onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

For the Cilantro Mayo:
1 cup vegan mayo (I use  Follow Your Heart Vegenaise)
1/3 cup cilantro (a fistful)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

shredded cabbage
Strawberry Salsa Fresca (recipe above)
street size corn tortillas, grilled

To make the Gardein Beefless taco meat, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and Gardein Beefless Strips and cook, tossing constantly, until browned and heated all the way through.

To make the Cilantro Mayo, add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until well combined, but still a little bit chunky. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. I like to keep it in a squeezy bottle for easy drizzling.

To assemble the tacos, start with two grilled tortillas, layer on a pinch of cabbage, Gardein Beefless taco meat, a generous drizzle of Cilantro Mayo, and then pile on the Strawberry Salsa Fresca.

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese & A Giveaway!


If you know anything about me, you know I love me some Follow Your Heart. From Vegenaise to Creamy Garlic Dressing, to Vegan Scrambled Eggs, to Provolone Slices...I love it all. So, I was super excited to get a sample of the new Smoked Gouda Slices and the Parmesan Shreds to play around with in the kitchen.

Parmesan is a funny cheese. The dairy version smells like a cross between stinky feet and a musty basement, so I wasn't real sure how the vegan version would turn out.  And since I have been pretty happy with nooch as a parm sub, when I run out of Kelly's Croutons Cheezy Parm, I wanted to do something with it beyond sprinkling it on a salad or pasta.



In my pregan days I used to love going to Rock Bottom Brewery (a chain restaurant known for giant portions and beer) and ordering up what I used to call a "treasure hunt" salad. A tossed salad with all sorts of treasures inside. The salad was served with a parmesan cracker...or what they called a cracker. Basically it was baked or fried parmesan cheese that was then cooled and broken into pieces and served as a cracker. It was my favorite part of the salad. I wanted to recreate that flavor...so rich and buttery, with a little tangy funk...so I decided to use the Follow Your Heart Parmesan Shreds as a crust for my Grown-Up Grilled Cheese.


That rich crust, needed a bit of sweet acidity to balance it out. And while fresh tomatoes are nice, I love the concentrated bold and bright burst of flavor you get with oven roasted tomatoes. I like to make a whole bunch at once, then cool them and keep them in the fridge for easy sandwiches later in the week.

Oven Roasted Roma Tomato Slices

3 ripe roma tomatoes, sliced into rounds about 1/8-inch thick
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
sea salt, to taste
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a reusable baking mat.
Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until dried and wrinkly. Some really thin pieces may get a bit blackened, but that's okay. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container and placing in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4).

Yield: About 32 pieces, depending on the size of your tomatoes


And a grown up grilled cheese needs a fancy spread. I love Vegenaise, and use it up by the gallon, because it works so wonderfully as a base for all sorts of other sauces, dressings, and spreads. Especially aiolis. And this one is really packed full of flavor. It kind of tastes like French onion soup mix dip. Lol. 

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Aioli

1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (120 g) finely diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon (10 g) minced garlic
1/2 cup (112 g) Follow Your Heart Vegenaise

Heat oil over medium heat in a small pot or frying pan. 
Add onions and saute until translucent and fragrant and just beginning to brown.
Add garlic, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until completely caramelized and golden brown.
Remove from heat and cool.
Fold caramelized onion and garlic mixture into the Vegenaise and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: Just shy of 1 cup



Now, I'm ready to make this sandwich. I chose cracked wheat sourdough for my Grown-Up Grilled Cheese because it's my absolute favorite bread...especially for grilling. I also chose a bitter green to to balance the cheeses, plus a surprise sweet crunch with thin slices of Fuji apple.

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese 

featuring Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices, Provolone Slices, Shredded Parmesan, and Vegenaise

For each sandwich you will need:
2 slices of cracked wheat sourdough (I use deli size)
2 slices of Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda
1 slice of Follow Your Heart Provolone
2 tablespoons Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart Shredded Parmesan
2 tablespoons Carmelized Onion and Garlic Aioli (see above recipe)
4 slices of Oven Roasted Roma Tomato Slices (see above recipe)
4 slices of Fuji apple
a handful of wild or baby arugula

Assembly can be a little tricky, so I will just tell you how I do it and you can figure out what works best for you...
Preheat a non-stick griddle or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium low heat.
Have ready a large stainless steel mixing bowl, or a large, deep frying pan with a heat safe handle.
Spread one tablespoon of Vegenaise all over one slice of bread, from crust to crust. Make sure you get a nice, thin, even layer all over the whole piece. Then press about 2 tablespoons worth of Parmesan shreds into the Vegenaise. Set aside.
On the other slice of bread, spread one tablespoon of aioli on one side of the bread.
On top of the aioli place both slices of Smoked Gouda, and the slice of Provolone.
On top of the cheese, layer the arugula, roasted tomatoes, and apple slices. Set aside.
Carefully place the Parmesan crusted slice of bread, parm side down, on the griddle, then quickly spread with aioli. 
Carefully flip the now open faced sandwich onto the facedown piece of bread in the pan and quickly spread the top of the bread with Vegenaise and press shredded parmesan into the top.
Place the stainless steel bowl, or deep frying pan upside-down over the sandwich to trap in the steam and help to melt the cheese without burning the outside of the sandwich. When bottom piece is golden brown, flip and repeat.



Overall, I love these new products! When I can't be bothered to cook everything under the sun from scratch, I really depend on convenience products made companies like Follow Your Heart to make my busy workdays that much easier. Having so many downright delicious choices when it comes to slices of vegan cheese that taste great cold or hot, is really a privilege and a blessing.

The fine folks over at Follow Your Heart were kind enough to offer up a prizepack including one of their beautiful heart shaped cutting boards, and a few of their new cheeses! I am throwing in a copy of my and Celine's newest book, The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions to boot! Please follow the instructions in the widget below to enter. Open to US residents 18 years and older only. Sorry international readers, I'll get you on the next giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Gametime Snacks: Cashew Queso

Only a few more days until the big game! I thought I might take a little break from buffalo flavored snacks and, instead, in my continuing effort to provide you with the best vegan gametime snacks, here is my favorite Queso recipe. It is from my and Celine's new book Vegans Go Nuts! which will be out later this year.

Cashew Queso

*Oil-Free Option *Soy-Free *Gluten-Free
This makes a ton of queso. Perfect for putting in a crock pot to keep warm at a get together. It’s also pretty awesome to stir in a can (or two) of your favorite vegan chili. You can also pack it up in Jars and keep it refrigerated (or frozen) until you are ready to use it. Or…simply cut the recipe in half and you will still have plenty of queso to last for several dip and chip sessions. If you want to save time, you can stir in some of your favorite salsa at the end, instead of chopping up all of those fresh veggies.

1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces, or 681 g) peeled red potatoes, cubed
2 cups (224 g) cashews, soaked overnight or boiled, rinsed and drained
1 cup (235 ml) vegetable broth (for dip, add more for sauce)
1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil, optional
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or cayenne) to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup (252 g) finely diced tomatoes
1/2 cup (50 g) finely diced green onion
1/2 cup (80 g) finely diced red onion
1 whole fresh jalapeno, finely diced (you can leave in, or take out the seeds, your preference)
Salt and pepper to taste

Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
Boil until very tender. Drain.
Add boiled potatoes, and the rest of the ingredients, through the cumin, to a blender and puree until silky smooth. Add additional vegetable broth to get to your desired consistency; Less for dip or more for sauce.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Store in an airtight container until ready to use. (up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer.)
To use, add desired amount to a microwave safe dish and heat on high in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through.
OR
Place in a pot and heat over low heat, constantly stirring, until warmed through.
OR
Add to a crockpot, heat to desired temperature, then switch to low or keep warm.

Yield: about 5 cups (1175 ml)
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2012 Copyright/Permissions/Disclaimers

All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni