Monday, April 25, 2011

Kelp Noodle Salad and Other Important Things, Including Rhubarb "Mead"

I was at the store recently, when some kelp noodles caught my eye. As something new and interesting to try, they were calling out to me, but I'll admit that I was a little hesitant as well. I like sea vegetables when they have a mild flavor. I'm down with some arame seaweed or a little wakame. I can even handle a little bit of dulse in small doses, but I'm not an all-out seaweed lover...If the flavor is too strong it literally makes  me gag. So, the first thing that crossed my mind was "what if they turn out really seaweedy?...Gulp!" But, as I read through the package, the words "Neutral Flavor" won me over.

There are  a few recipe ideas on the back of the package. One for a miso/peanut noodle salad sounded especially tempting, and I'll try that next time. But today, I wanted to go for something more low-cal, so decided on a soy-wasabi salad:

For the veggie base, I used green onions, sunburst squash, red pepper, carrot, celery and daikon.

The package just gives the ingredient list for the dressing, not the measurements, so here's what I ended up throwing together: 2 Tablespoons Bragg's Aminos, 1 Tablespoon raw agave, 1 Tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar, a good splash of cider vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste. I went light on the wasabi...a little bit more would have been good though.
You don't have to cook these noodles;  they're ready to eat right out of the bag. Here's what they look like: 

According to the package, these little noodlers have a lot going for them: fat-free, gluten-free, low cal and low carb, and they are a source of many trace minerals including iodine.  

My verdict? The texture is great, a little bit rubbery and toothsome...maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I really like it. The flavor is indeed neutral; the noodles add texture and serve as a vehicle for the dressing, while the core of the salad's flavor comes from the veggies you choose. All in all, I'm glad I gave these a try. They'll be fun to add to salads and switch things up a bit.

Part of the reason I wanted to eat light today was because yesterday (Easter) was quite a feast. We didn't plan on it being quite so just sort of happened that way. For the vegan main course, I made some fettuccine in cashew-basil cream. It was a winner; everyone enjoyed it. 

I didn't measure the sauce when I was making it, but here's roughly what I put in:

Cashew Basil Cream Sauce:
1 generous cup raw cashews, soaked in water for an hour or so
2 generous Tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves minced garlic
1/8-1/4 cup nutritional yeast (to taste, I usually go for 1/4 cup)
6-8 drops ume plum vinegar (because it's quite salty and tangy, I just drizzle a bit'll have to adjust to your tastes)
1 generous/heaping Tablespoon white miso
2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice ( I usually go for more like 3)
1.5 cups water
Generous 2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Drain the cashews and blend in food processor with the rest of the ingredients, except the basil. Add the water gradually until you get the smoothness and consistency you want, I went for a thick consistency that was still "pourable".  For a nice smooth consistency, blend it for several minutes. When you've achieved the consistency you want, toss in the chopped basil leaves and pulse a few times to blend through.

Toss the cashew/basil cream with some drained noodles that are just on the verge of al dente and gently heat through. Serve right away with lightly steamed green beans, and some pine nuts and basil shreds to garnish. Pretty yummy stuff!

In addition to the pasta we had broccoli, pineapple, sweet potatoes, salad, and some rye bread. My mom also made some awesome fresh tomato salsa for hors d'oeuvres:

We had strawberry pie and coconut milk ice cream for dessert...sorry no pics. See, what I mean about the feasting?

Now, for a rhubarb "mead" update for anyone who might be interested. Over the weekend, we broke open the rhubarb mead I posted about here. It's a lovely color, lightly effervescent and has a mild flavor, not terribly rhubarby though. (rhubarby...that sounds funny! :D)

Alessandra suggested that it might be more aptly named rhubarb beer...kind of like ginger beer, and I'm inclined to agree. There is only a trace amount of alcohol in it, which can be either good or bad depending on your perspective. Personally, I was hoping for something wee bit stronger. But, it is refreshing mixed with some sparkling water or other sparkling juice, and we'll certainly enjoy sipping it from time to time as the weather warms up. 

And last but certainly not least, I want to give a big Thank You to Rebecca of Enjoying the Journey blog, who was my seed swap partner. Cassie of Vegan Fox fame hosted a seed swap this month, which I thought was a fun idea. 

Rebecca sent me some kale, lavender, and lemon cucumber seeds, all of which I love. She also included a handy seed-starting guide and some fun animal rights stickers. Thanks Rebecca! I'll plant the kale and lavender now, and the cucumbers I'll start in early June. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lilies, Rhubarb Mead, and a New Cooker

Spring is here in the Pacific Northwest as the showers will attest--we've had a wet Spring so far, which is par for the course around here.  Prompted into bloom by the rain, these Checkered Lilies are delicate beauties that I always forget about until they bloom out. 

Another spring treat, local rhubarb, has arrived in the markets.  I always feel like I want to do something different with rhubarb.  With that in mind, I tried my hand at some rhubarb mead. 

The Stripey Cat directed me to this recipe (scroll down to the third recipe on the page). It calls for rhubarb (I threw in some strawberries too), sugar, yeast and water. Here's what it looks like after fermenting for 24 hours:

Then strained and put into bottles:

It's supposed to sit in a cool place for another three days...I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Always a source of interesting recipes, The Stripey Cat  also posted a recipe for rhubarb tzatziki that I think will be my next foray into rhubarb this season. She also directed to me to a link for rhubarb pickles, which I want to try, but I can't post the link because I've lost it.  I'll need to do some backtracking and find it. 

In other news, we got a new cooker. We've been in the same rental house for the last four years, and the stove was a gem from the 70's. When was the last time you saw a "digital" display like that?

To be fair, it worked great until about six months ago when two of the top burners went out...basically the electrical wires were disintegrating. I cooked on two wonky burners for a few months, but then when the oven went, I finally called the landlord, and he brought us a shiny new cooker. 

On the food front, we've been eating lots of beans and salads...nothing too spectacular, but healthy and satisfying. 

I also bought some kelp noodles that I want to try and hopefully blog about soon. Until then, happy April everyone. 

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