Author: Kitchen Shaman

On the Grill, Nopales Salsa

You may be surprised to learn that cactus is a staple food in certain parts of the world. One variety, Nopales (also know as Prickly Pear or Paddle Cactus) originated in Mexico and is almost synonymous with the Sonoran Desert but has adapted to locales as far reaching as Australia, Tunisia, and the Galapagos Islands.

For years I resisted cooking with this versatile food, preferring to feed it to my iguana (note: iguana LOVE nopales) before I faced my fear of the spiny thorns, thanks to a chef and about ten cases of cactus. You can read about that experience here.  Both the paddles (leaves) and fruit of this plant are tasty. It is easy to try it yourself, just pick a method of preparation: juiced, jammed, brined, canned, sauteed, and, yes, grilled.

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Fearless Cooking with Nopal Cactus

Growing up in the Sonoran Desert I was surrounded by all the spiny, thorny, sharp things called cacti with names like Saguaro, Cholla or Jumping, Organ Pipe, Barrel, and Prickly Pear.

Prickly pear is one of the most prolific of all the cacti and highly adaptable. Like most cacti, once the thorns are removed, it is edible. I knew that cactus could be eaten and, with a grandmother who spent time in Mexico, it would be a natural assumption that I learned how to cook with this plant. As I cooked by her side I was not shown the secrets of how to prepare and cook either prickly pear (the fruit) or Nopal (the leaves).

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Cooking up a Storm: Calabacitas

One of the staple dishes in my kitchen is Calabacitas. The recipe combines squash with chilies and peppers and is not merely delicious, it provides balanced nutrition as well.

Anytime I cook this dish, people in the house -- vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore -- tell me it smells so good.

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Cooking up a Storm:  BBQ Mushrooms

Here's another of the videos of the food I've been cooking for the Spouse and family. In this one I'm making one of our favorite dinners: BBQ mushrooms and caramelized peppers and onions with vegan mashed potatoes. Every time I make this food it's usually gone within a day or two. You might be able to see why when watching the video. So tasty.

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Cooking up a Storm: Onion Pakoras

Now that I'm cooking on a regular basis, I'm capturing some of the action with my smartphone and posting these quick video updates on Facebook. Not to leave you out of the loop, I'll also be sharing them here on the blog.

In this video below I'm cooking onion pakoras, a tasty snack from India.

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An Update from the Heartland

There have been big changes in my life over the last several months. The biggest: the Kitchen Shaman has relocated. After our road trip in late July, where I cooked up a storm at VeggieFest Chicago, we decided to pull up stakes in Arizona and move to the Midwest.

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Vegans on YouTube (Besides Me!)

When I watch YouTube, it is usually vegan food videos. Early on I was looking for ideas of what to cook for dinner. Now, it’s about staying informed and getting a little entertainment. That Big Food channel still hasn’t created a vegan cooking show, let alone hired a vegan chef. That leaves YouTube to pick up the slack – and it has done so with a vengeance.

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World Vegan Month 2016

Did you know that it’s World Vegan Month? World Vegan Day was celebrated on November 1st. I was busy making a vegetable barley soup and cooking portabella mushroom steaks. World Vegan Month was started to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society.

In the last several years there has been an explosion of popularity of veganism. Medical reports continue to prove that eating a plant based diet can actually save your life. Veganism is starting to fight back against the dairy and meat industries.

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Festival Fun at VeggieFest Chicago

Recently I traveled almost 4,000 miles to participate in VeggieFest 2016 in Chicago, which is one of the largest and oldest vegetarian festivals here in the states. My spouse and I drove across the country so I could split open a watermelon and talk about chilies and tofu.

The festival itself was wonderful with so many like-minded people gathered together and the demos went off well. I did Watermelon Three Ways and Red Chili Tofu Taco Salad. You can watch the full watermelon demo in the video below.

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Books by Chef Johnna

  • Delectable Vegan Soups -------------------------------------------------------
  • Things Vegans Fry: Crunchy Comfort Food for Vegans

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