Roasted Corn Pasta Salad

We live in Spokane.

Spokane lives in the shadow of comparison to Seattle and Portland. Which isn’t very fair. Spokane is neat in it’s own right, but the diamonds in the rough are a little fewer and farther between than in Seattle, they require a little more digging to discover. But when you do, you can truly claim them as your own. One of the little diamonds we’ve discovered is The Elk, in Browne’s Addition.

The Elk has all the charm of your favorite greasy spoon but with excellent food, it’s a great place to take out of town friends or to grab a brew on a Friday night. Matt and I enjoy splitting their Reuben sandwich with a side of their INCREDIBLE roasted corn pasta salad.

I made this for the 4th, it was a hit, however it was pretty spicy.

I almost followed their recipe exactly, I used 1/3 cup cracked black pepper mayonaise and I only used a half a bunch of cilantro. It was about 3 times spicier than the salad the Elk serves, but everything else was just about right.

To roast the corn I pre-heated my oven to 350F and put the un-husked cobs right on the oven grates, they roasted for about 40 minutes, they were more flavorful than frozen or boiled corn and had a better crunch. Yum!

Roasted Corn Pasta Salad

1/2 onion, chopped and sautéed until translucent

3 corn cobs, roasted in oven and the kernels chopped off, about 2 1/2 cups

4 ½ cups uncooked fusilli

2/3 cups mayo

1/2 cup black pepper mayo

1/2 bunch cilantro roughly stemmed

2 Tablespoons chipotle puree (canned chipotle peppers with adobo sauce pureed in food processor)

Salt to taste

Cook fusilli in salt seasoned water, rinse with cold water, set aside. Mix mayonaise, corn, onions cilantro and chipotle puree together. Toss fusilli together with mayonnaise mixture. Salt to taste and chill overnight.

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Fresh Peach Salsa

They are BACK.

We’ve waited since October. 8 long months for them.

Fresh PEACHES!

Of course you have been able to purchase peaches from Chili, Mexico or California for quite some time. But this is just about the very first of the Washington peaches. They start out small and cling but a month from now they’ll be incredible! These peaches are a teaser of better things to come.

I made up my own recipe based on a few that I read on pinterest.

Fresh Peach Salsa

12 small peaches, washed and chopped (I peeled about 1/2 of them, peel if you want, you don’t have to)

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 jalapeño peppers, diced (toss seeds out if you want less spicy)

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 cobs of corn, roasted and kernels chopped off cob

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 TB salt

Toss everything together gently. I have found salsas to be tastier the next day, drain excess liquid before serving.


Gingersnap Cranberry Balls

Since the raw brownies  I made a few weeks ago were a success I thought I’d try some of the other energy balls I saw on pinterest. But since I cannot follow a recipe verbatim to save my life I drew inspiration from a few recipes and decided to do my own thing.

Gingersnap Cranberry Balls

20 Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger snap cookies

1/2 cup walnuts, ground

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 TB Maple Syrup

8 Medjool Dates (SEEDS REMOVED)

Toss everything in food processor, process unti everything is incorporated, roll into 3/4 inch balls, should make at least 20 balls

Here is your SCHWEET nutrition facts for 1 ball, 90 kcals isn’t too bad.

Bearded men like gingersnap cranberry balls

So do beautiful nurses

Thank you to D.O. and to Laura for being great taste testers and food models.


Vegan Mac and Cheese

Mmmmm, I don’t know why I was drawn to this recipe initially, other than I FREAKIN LOVE MACARONIC AND CHEESE.

I love the 800 calorie a serving Stoffers frozen mac and cheese. I love the fluorescent orange Kraft mac and cheese (however I prefer the “shapes” version the most, dinosaurs, spongebob, etc). A treat is Annie’s brand Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar boxed macaroni, mmmm. Absolutely loved that stuff.

But, as stated, mac and cheese is usually chock full of fat and cholesterol.

This recipe is low on saturated fat, “meh” on protein, and has ZERO cholesterol.

Okay, mild rant on cholesterol . . . it’s not as bad as everyone says it is, so take a chill pill. Breast milk for goodness sake has copious amounts of cholesterol in it. . . actually on second thought I’ll tackle cholesterol another day.

Back to the recipe.

First of all, this is far from original for me. I’ve tried other vegan mac and cheese recipes with nutritional yeast, cashews etc, but my favorite HANDS down is Hannah Kaminsky’s from her blog BitterSweet. I won’t use her pictures (which are GORGEOUS by the way) and I won’t post her recipe either. But you can access it from here.

My changes: Double the tumeric, use 1 cup instant mashed potatoes rather than the 1 cup yukons. I also omit the oil, it’s a texture/consistency thing, add it in if you want the consistency, but I don’t miss it or the caloires.

You really do need a food processor for this recipe. Yum. Seriously my favorite comfort food ever.

And nutritional yeast? It’s a dream. Love that stuff, anytime I’m making something and I want it “cheesy” I just add a few TB of it, does the trick everytime. Kind of challenging to find. I purchase it in the bulk sections of health food stores, Co-Ops, Whole Foods, Main Market . . . how I wish Trader Joe’s would carry it, but it is a little obscure, even for TJs.

When I buy it, I buy a lot, so I don’t have to hunt it down another day. 

At the end of the day is this REALLY all that better for you? Well, I did the calculations following the recipe WITH my changes (omit the oil etc) and this is what I found. Here is one “unit” of Kraft Easy Mac

And here is one LARGE serving of the Vegan Mac and cheese (this is calculated on my own using FDA data for nutrition facts)

Pretty much better all the way around. Of course, bear in mind this is macaroni and cheese, it has tons of sodium and carbs in it. So, still probably not an every day food. But pretty darn reasonable. And not bad on the tummy either. Oh, I forgot to mention it has tons of vitamins in it, since you actually use the water you cook the carrots and onions in, and nutritional yeast has lots of vitamins in it. Here is the rest of the nutrition data.

Dang! Look at that! Pretty great I think.


Black Bean Burgers

My mom went through this fantastic health food phase in the early 90’s, and that is when I was introduced to manufactured “Garden Burgers”, they have greatly improved over the years, my mom and dad still get garden burgers on occasion.

I think it was the Morningstar Farms brand that came out with a spicy black bean burger that was delicious. That was my inspiration for this recipe. I absolutely love black beans. If you took all the bean varieties and rated them by their percent of nutritional awesomeness black beans are right up there with the top 3 in my opinion.

They’ve got loads of protein, iron, calcium, B-vitamins and lets not forget FIBER. Very important for many reasons.

Oh, and yes, this meal does constitute as a COMPLETE PROTEIN, there is egg in the patty. The only fat in addition to the beans is in the egg, so this is an incredibly low-fat, high protein meal. Mmmm yum.

We ate these burgers with spinach, tomato, Dijon mustard and ketchup.

Black Bean Burgers

3 cups black beans

4 slices bread toasted*

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin

2 TB hot sauce

Toast 4 slices of bread (I used stale oatnut bread) tear up and pulse in food processor until desirable size (see above photo, anything works really). Pour bread crumbs into large bowl. Pulse black beans in food processor with eggs, pepper, salt and cumin until smooth (if it all doesn’t fit in processor then blend beans in smaller portions and mix all together in bowl). Mix black bean mixture with bread crumbs (add hot sauce if that’s your thing), roll into 10 balls. Spray small pan with non-stick coating, press a ball into a patty with hands and place on heated pan (medium heat) cook on each side until browned, about 3 minutes on each side.

This recipe made 9 burgers, but could have EASILY made 10, I just wasn’t paying too much attention.

*I suppose you could use bread crumbs, commercially packaged bread crumbs, however, without sounding like a nutritional snoot, I would encourage you to read the ingredients and nutrition facts on a container of . . . let’s say Progresso Bread Crumbs, it’s kind of yucky. Many more ingredients that just a slice of bread and often additional trans fat. One of the few food products STILL on the market with significant amounts of trans-fat. You’ve been warned.

More Bean facts (I LOVE WSU)


Refried Beans, but not

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I grew up with canned vegetarian refried beans. That was the bean product of choice for tacos. I really didn’t like them. Something about how they “slurped” out of the can and how thick they were, even when well heated, just didn’t sit right with me. I remember getting Rosarita’s “vegetarian refried beans with lime”, which was more tolerable, but still mildly dreadful.

I liked the lard laden ones at the local taco joint, those were great, but not really something I would want to eat on a regular basis.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed whole beans in tacos, black beans and kidney beans primarily.

But it wasn’t until I went to my friend Laura’s house  (owner of a white plate that I borrowed for blog photo purposes), that I discovered homemade “refried beans” style mashed pinto beans. She made them from whole dry pinto beans with a few seasonings and mashed them.

Mind blown.

You mean, you can make refried beans from scratch??? (I’ve obviously never considered this)

Last week, while visiting my mom, she gave me some dry beans she didn’t get around to usingImage

Pinto Splits? Good enough.

I found it funny, that the bag said “No Cholesterol”. Well, there better darn well not be any cholesterol in DRIED BEANS. I would be terrified if there was. Made me think of Almost Pizza.

I dumped a half a bag of them in my slow cooker with water, a diced onion, garlic, cumin, hot sauce and black pepper, let it do it’s thing for awhile and then, according to other recipes, I drained the water out, and then mashed the beans up. At that point I added salt, adding it before would have made the beans more difficult to cook. I then re-added additional water to get it to a perfect consistency, and squirted a little lime juice in for flavor.

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Oh my. Delish.

The beans were so good, we just wanted to eat them plain with chips or tortillas. We were out of tortilla chips so we made some with leftover corn tortillas.

But then we burnt them, smelled the whole house up, practically caught the oven on fire (not the first time we’ve done that). We threw up the white flag and ran to Rosauer’s instead.

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Refried Beans, un-fried

2 lbs Pinto Splits

8 cups of water

1 TB ground cumin

1 onion, chopped

3 TB fresh garlic, chopped

3 TB Valentina Hot Sauce (I think this is in every recipe I’ve made, lol)

1 lime

4 tsp salt (to taste)

Toss beans, water, cumin, onion, garlic and hot sauce in slow cooker for 6 hours on high (or over night), drain liquid from beans and reserve. Mash beans with masher or puree in food processor if you desire a more uniform texture. Add salt and the juice of one lime.

Eat as a side dish, as a dip with chips (ideally not burnt ones)


Soba noodles with tofu and veggies

To be quite honest, the jury is still out for me on soy.

Soy is in EVERYTHING these days, modified soy protein in so many processed foods.

Soy contains phytoestrogens, chemicals that imitate the hormone estrogen. That doesn’t even sound good, right?

Soy also has phytates in it which can slow absorption of minerals. Quite a few foods when eaten with other foods inhibit or increase absorption, so it’s something to be aware of but probably not freak out about.

I don’t want to write off soy products completely. It is a bean afterall. I tend to think that soy becomes a danger when it’s the majority food product in your diet. Soy cheese, soy milk or tofu at every meal. That is why I question a strict vegan diet, especially if you are just “replacing” dairy and meat with soy products. I understand loving animals, that’s great. I love them too. But that doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself with soy in an effort to avoid eating them.

BUT on the other hand, soy beans have a lot of great benefits as well, low fat, high protein, associated with reduced risk of hypertension, high levels of isoflavones, the list goes on and on.

Well, as LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow and what he now tweets all the time #BYDHTTMWFI

“But you don’t have to take my word for it. . .”

Neonatal Phytoestrogen Exposure

Soy protein and triglycerides 

Soy Protein and reducing reoccurrence of Breast Cancer

Soy and Sperm (because you always wondered, right?)

Uh oh. I just got a little opinionated there, better be careful. Ahem, back to the meal.

I had picked up some Soba noodles for some variety, traditional Japanese buckwheat noodles.

I just got home from a weekend in Vancouver/Portland visiting my family. So, I didn’t have time to grocery shopping, I thought I’d just throw together a meal with the veggies I had on hand, red onions, fresh green beans and broccoli.

I like my tofu to not taste like tofu, obviously, right? So I “dry fried” it, pretty much just chopping up your tofu and  pan frying it (sans oil) to get the extra moisuture out so it will easily soak up the marinade.

I chopped the tofu up, that wasn’t a great idea, it would have been easier to dry it out if I had left them in slices. Just cooked them on medium low heat for 5 minutes, pressing down with a spatula and flipping periodically.

I then made a marinade poured it into a ziplock and tossed the tofu in there to hang out for 2 hours

Then cooked the veggies, carmelized the onions, boiled the noodles and then heated everything up. It was yummy.

Totally a chopsticks food.

I’m a little bit of a chopsticks snob, I’ll admit it. I actually think some foods taste better when consumed with chopsticks. And I picked up some bamboo ones recently I was excited to try out.

Soba noodles with Tofu and Veggies

1 lb Super Firm Tofu, chopped (or sliced, then chopped like I mentioned above)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp Sriracha sauce (add more if you want more heat)

2 TB honey

1 TB Fish Sauce (omit if you want vegan)

Slice up tofu, dry fry for 10 minutes, flipping from side to side until tofu darkens slightly and is dry to the touch, mix up marinade of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sriacha, honey and fish sauce, pour over tofu and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour (I did 2). Overnight would be ideal!

1 red onion, sliced

1/2 lb broccoli, chopped

2 cups fresh green beans, ends chopped off

1 package Soba noodles

Caramelize onions on a covered pan for 10-15 minutes, pour onions into a bowl, set pan aside. Using onion pan add 1/2 cup water, broccoli and green beans, heat to medium heat and cook covered 5 minutes or until broccoli turns bright green. Remove broccoli, allow green beans to cook another 5 minutes or until tender, drain excess water. Add broccoli, onions, green beans and tofu with marinade to pan, heat on low heat while cooking the noodles.

Boil soba noodles (they take significantly shorter time than wheat pasta noodles, follow package directions, but usually 4-5 minutes). Drain and add noodles to pan. Toss until noodles are covered in marinade.

Serves 4 easily.

Matt and I added more sriacha sauce, I would have LOVED to top it with chopped peanuts and cilantro!