Category: Condiments

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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Time to Make the Guacamole

One of the staple condiments around this house is guacamole. Our close proximity to California and Mexico, where the largest crops of avocado trees are grown make having this sauce handy convenient.

There is much talk in the healthy eating circles on whether avocados are good for you or not. The argument is the good vs. the bad fat. Personally, I don't care. I love avocados. If you are like me, and absolutely love avocados, then you'll truly enjoy this short video that shows you how easy it is to make.

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Pickling Jalapenos

There is some mystique around pickling. It’s what your grandmother or great grandmother did. Walking into the kitchen and smelling the vinegar, sugar, and spices, watching in wonder a few weeks later when the pickled vegetables were pulled out of the jar; it was a process that seemed both magical and delightful. I always loved tasting the spring flavors in winter, looking at the perfectly preserved colors. My child brain really didn’t understand the chemical transformation that was taking place but it didn’t need to. Grandma made good food.

Alas, I did not retain the information that she was passing on to me. I’ve had to recreate that child-like wonder through working in professional kitchens and practicing the techniques that I re-learned. There really is nothing mystical about pickling. It just requires time and patience.

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Make Your Own Vegan Mayo

Mayonnaise is a well-loved spread for sandwiches and a base for many salads and salad dressings. It is made through an emulsification process that involves animal product. As a vegan, I was unwilling to give up this thick and creamy spread for sandwiches and as a dip. So I went looking for a way to make this dressing without the eggs.

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The Month of Salsa: Salsas Frescas

May is the month of salsas, and Cinco de Mayo. In order to celebrate, I’ve put together several recipes that you can serve at various fiestas, parties, or soirees. With summer fast approaching, several of these will work pool-side, especially the watermelon salsa fresca.

What is the difference between salsa and salsa fresca? Salsa means “spicy tomato sauce.” It involves tomatoes and chilies that have been cooked and then blended together. Salsa frescas are more of a fruit salad combination.

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Say Yes to Spicy Strawberries: Strawberry Salsa Fresca

strawberry salsa frescaAs we continue to celebrate the National Strawberry Month – and since it’s also National Salsa Month! – below is my latest creation: a recipe for Strawberry Salsa Fresca.

If you are lucky enough to live where strawberries grow, today (May 20th) is National Pick Your Own Strawberry Day. I live in the low desert, so strawberries aren’t grown here. Up in the mountains of Arizona there is a town called Strawberry and its neighbor Pine, AZ. If you live in Arizona, that’s the place to go to get fresh berries so you can make compotes, jams, and syrups. And then partake of their goodness all year long. The towns are also celebrating the 25th annual Strawberry Festival, held June 6-7th, 2015.

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In Season this Month: Blueberry Jam

blueberry jamThis month we are celebrating blueberries. I don’t need to expound on the virtues of this most wonderful berry. It is full of antioxidants and vitamins to help your immune system stay strong. Oh, and they are tasty. One of my favorite ways to use blueberries is to make jam.

I can hear it now, “Oh no! The sugar!” Yes, jam-making requires an immense amount of sugar. In order for the jam to set it is almost an equal portion of berries to sugar. There are hacks.

You can use pectin, available at most grocery stores. Using pectin means using less sugar in the jam, and less cooking time. I personally don’t like pectin. I am really not sure what it is made of. Most packages say “fruit,” but pectin is clear, if in sheets, and white if powdered. Most pectin has “dextrose” which is usually a corn product. I am allergic to corn. The pectin method is out for me. Also, I prefer the old-fashioned way, the way my grandmother taught me: sugar, some sort of citrus, and time on the stove.

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Grilling 4th of July, Vegan-Style

This week hails America’s Birthday. The Fourth of July is just around the corner and with it comes barbeques, lemonade, potato salad, coleslaw, and pounds of marinated proteins on the grill.

What if you are vegan? What if you don’t participate in the yearly ritual of slapping a slab of meat on the grill and charring it til it’s done? I’ve got some answers for you. I’ve done this for years and have found that folks are really receptive to the dairy-free salads and tofu hot dogs that I bring to grill. I’ve also hosted cookouts where it’s veggie burgers, tofu hot dogs, and loads of sides that are made with unconventional ingredients.

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Sometimes, All You Need is Comfort Food

I spied big, fat, scrumptious looking portabella mushrooms. Then, the mini sweet peppers leaped out at me. After consulting the partner, we decided on a dinner with roasted portabella mushrooms and asparagus, mashed potatoes, and caramelized sweet peppers and onions. A meal that contains comfort food at it's finest.

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