Tag Archives: super foods

Designing with Food and Plants

This past Tue I was fortunate enough to meet the force of nature that is Richard Moody, local go-to fashion maven and man about town. I provided a light repast for the monthly meet & greet of the Twin Cities’ chapter of Fashion Group Int’l, a design networking association. Richard serves on its board.

FGI event 4-16-13 at Phillips Garden.

Guests at FGI “Kick Off Your Heels and Come Into the Garden”  4-16-13. I’m way in the back, top left. Richard in green teeshirt is in front of me and Matt is next to him. Photo by Phillips Garden.

He brought the event to the gorgeous tropical-industrial office of Phillips Garden, winner of Minnesota Monthly magazine’s 2012 Best of the Twin Cities – Landscaping award, in the heart of Mpls’ Phillips neighborhood. [Full disclosure: I’ve been a close friend of Matt the general manager at Phillips for decades.]


The brightly colored marinated salads, full of oranges, reds and greens, perfectly complemented Phillips’ incredible table display. Photo by Phillips Garden.

Guests enjoyed some lovely herb-infused wine (courtesy of Phillips) and the gluten-free whole-foods spread I brought:  Kalamata Olive Polenta Squares, Roast Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad in Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette, SuperFood Slaw in Grapefruit Ginger Vinaigrette, roast almonds, gluten-free crackers and fresh organic Pink Lady apples and navel oranges. I chose not to serve sweets or cookies this time. Feel free to use this menu for your next party!

Until I figure out how to snatch pix from Instagram, for close-ups of dishes, see Richard’s http://instagram.com/p/YLyfS8wXNX/  and  http://instagram.com/p/YLs5Q7QXGZ/ .

Incredibly lush, and partially edible table display. See how many edibles you can spot.

Incredibly lush, and partially edible table display. See how many edibles you can spot. Photo by Phillips Garden.

Phillips Garden staff discussed their aesthetic, their design process, and how its business is based on listening carefully to its clients. They also talked about how to bring the garden inside your home with terrariums and using herbs & veggies decoratively indoors, as well as in outdoor landscaping.

In fact, Phillips Garden and I make a great team. We share an aesthetic of ‘clean’, high-contrast and sustainable creations. We’re not into masking with embellishment, which often devolves into kitsch. (Sugar, cheese, and creamy dressings & sauces can all mask flavors & textures).

Tracy presenting at Phillips Garden 4-16-13.

Tracy presenting at Phillips Garden 4-16-13.

When it was my turn to talk about One Dish at A Time, I related my mission to connect people to real food, my whole-foods & 5-senses aesthetic, and how I customize for clients with different needs. Since the theme was a look forward into summer, I recommended marinated salads as the perfect summer meal — fresh, locally available, inexpensive ingredients in endless combinations that are easy to make in bulk for the whole week. (Easy, that is, if you maintain a sharp knife. See below.)

Pretty in Pink: assembled salad of sliced cauliflower, cooked beets, kohlrabi that was marinated with beet, and albacore tuna, on romaine/spinach, with fresh mint vinaigrette. Any vinaigrette will do.

Pretty in Pink: assembled salad of raw cauliflower, sliced cooked beets, kohlrabi marinated with beets and albacore tuna, on bed of romaine & spinach, drizzled with fresh mint vinaigrette (any vinaigrette will do.)

Designing with Food.  Every time you make a meal or a dish, you are designing.  What results depends on your goal and priorities: ease, quickness, comforting vs “new” tastes, nutritional value, and purpose (family dinner vs cocktail party). We’re not on a reality TV show, so don’t worry about being judged harshly.

For FGI, I started with a goal of serving a healthful, light meal that is all gluten-free and mostly vegan, and, not too much work. 


My design tool box consists of 

  1. Whole (unprocessed) foods: beans, grains, tubers, veggies, meats, nuts, fruits and a bit of dairy. Butter & small amounts of good cheese to enhance, but not to take main stage. Same with cream and sugars. (That’s what desserts are for.)
  2. Palette of flavor, texture, color and seasonality. Velvety polenta and a crunchy slaw. Soft sweet potatoes, black beans and crisp bell peppers all spiked with tart lime juice offers sweet and savory in the same bite.  Deep green kale and bright orange carrot.
  3. Nutritional factors: total complementary proteins, complex carbs, fiber, and good fats. Lots and lots of fiber.
Another marinated salad, Broccoli Edamame Salad, paired with Sesame Roasted Eggplant & Black Rice. (my photo)

Another marinated salad, Broccoli Edamame Salad, paired with Sesame Roasted Eggplant & Black Rice. (my photo)

The great thing about whole foods is that which pleases all our 5 senses also happens to be the most nutritious!  So just go for the color and texture and it will be fine.


I also talked about my literal tool box: sharp knives and wide wok spatulas (to toss those marinated salads). Brandishing my $5 Asian chef’s knife, I sliced a raw beet very thinly and peeled a grapefruit. Then, I told everybody to take those cheap coarse-grained tubular sharpeners that come in the block sets and STICK ’em… in the ground as stakes for straggly seedlings. Or tents. More about knives and sharpener recommendations in my post “Tools Make the Man (Person)”.

Aunty Oxidant and friends at Moving Planet 9-24-11

Demoing slaw at Moving Planet event 9-24-11

To see these me in action with knives, sharpeners and boldly colored vegetables, come to the Brooklyn Center EarthFest this Sat, 1-4pm, at Brooklyn Center High School; and at East-Side St Paul Neighborhood Green Fair on April 27, 12-4pm outside City Academy school.  I’ll be demoing and handing out samples of my famous superfood Firecracker Slaw (see recipe). More on my community demos.

Thanks again to Richard Moody & Hazel Matthys of FGI-Mpls and to Phillips Garden for a lovely evening. That greenery is balm for the soul — especially now that it’s snowing again.


Start Fresh: New Year’s and January Menus

Hoppin' John, a traditional Southern dish served on New Year's Day.

Hoppin’ John, a traditional Southern dish served on New Year’s Day. Photo from Lanascooking.com. See her recipe/instructions.

Of course, being a fan of Black-eyed Peas the legume (not the band), I’m dishing up Hoppin’ John for New Year’s. This will be a vegan version of the ‘john’ traditionally served throughout the American South. It’s good luck to eat BEP on the first day of the New Year, therefore any kind of BEP is a MUST on New Year’s tables, from BEP salsa, “Texas caviar” or whatever. I’ll be making chef Bryant Terry’s take, from his fab book “Vegan Soul Kitchen” (his first book is The Inspired Vegan).

It’s also de rigueur to serve greens with BEP on New Year’s — and for me, on any day. [Search previous posts on Beans & Greens.] Instead of my favorite standard Sauteed Collards with Red Peppers & Raisins, I’ve decided to do a Lacinato Kale & Pomegranate Salad, a very simple dish from SuperFood Kitchen” by Julie Morris. Why? Simply because I was able to order a lot of organic Lacinato Kale and pomegranates and want to take advantage of the texture of fresh Lacinato. I’ll serve the collards another day, very soon.

These two cookbooks provide inspiration for my upcoming winter menus, along with “Appetite for Reduction” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (The Post-punk Kitchen, Veganomicon) and Everyday Paleo Family”by Sarah Fragoso (Everyday Paleo book and blog).

 Lots and lots of wonderful dishes and beautiful photos. For instance, from Amazon.com blurb on Vegan Soul Kitchen: “Reinterpreting popular dishes from African and Caribbean countries as well as his favorite childhood dishes, Terry reinvents African-American and Southern cuisine—capitalizing on the complex flavors of the tradition…”.

So without further ado, here are Delivered Dish of the Week (DDoW) menus for the next several weeks.

DEC 31:
1) Hoppin’ John (vegan, GF, soy-free)
2) Lacinato Kale & Pomegranate Salad 
(vegan, GF, soy-free)

1) Super Green Split Pea Soup 
(vegan, GF, soy-free). Includes collards and a secret ingredient, nori, which lends a savoriness that replaces traditional ham hock.

2) Roast Celeriac, Beets and Cabbage Salad w/ Borscht Dressing (vegan, GF; dressing contains tofu). Let me know if you wish a soy-free dressing.

Gado-gado salad with peanut dressing (photo from http://www.minaina.com)

Gado-gado salad with peanut dressing (photo from http://www.minaina.com)

JAN 14:
1) Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) with or without tofu. 
(vegan, GF)
2) Gado Gado. Indonesian steamed vegetable salad with peanut dressing (vegan, GF, soy-free)

JAN 21:
1) Millet with Roast Rutabaga & Sweet Potatoes (vegan, GF, soy-free). Tinged with cinnamon so you can eat it for breakfast or whatever. And you should cuz it will fuel you for the day.
2) Chipotle Red Beans (vegan, GF, soy-free). Thick and hearty.

JAN 28:
1) Basil Quinoa w/ Sun-dried Tomatoes & Spinach (vegan, GF, soy-free)
2) Puttanesca Portabello & Lentils (vegan, GF, soy-free)

FEB 4:
1) Coconut Red Lentil Soup w/ Cardamom (vegan, GF, soy-free)
2) Cumin Kasha w/ Cabbage and Spiced Walnuts (vegan, GF, soy-free). Kasha is another name for Buckwheat Groats (berries). One of my favorite GF grain dishes.

FEB 11 (Chinese New Year):
1) Sesame Eggplant & Rice (vegan, GF, soy-free)
2) Spicy Broccoli & Edamame Salad (vegan, GF, contains soy)


You order, I deliver. I’ll be posting links to the online forms in the next couple days. See DDoW page. Btw, you can freeze all these dishes to “bank” up meals for later.

Green Eggs & Ham-less Soup

This week’s Ham-less vegan Super Green Split Pea soup nevertheless has a nice “meaty” flavor, due to my favorite smoked paprika and also to shredded nori (dried seaweed). Nori is packed w/ Vitamins C & A, potassium and fiber, while boasting no fat, carbs or calories.  Plenty of chopped super-food collards makes it Super Green.

In the West, we say there are only 4 basic flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty. The Japanese claim there are 5. Their word umami describes this 5th savory, earthy taste, such as that of miso and mushrooms. Umami also means “delicious”!  All these ingredients add a wonderful depth of flavor to vegetarian dishes.

You have undoubtedly noticed that I put vegetables in everything. EVERYTHING. That’s the key to eating more of them, instead of serving only typical vegetable ‘side dishes’ that can be ignored. Orphaned on the plate, a ward of the state. Perhaps these come to be appreciated by your dogs. Dogs need greens too but, frankly, their kibble comes all pumped up with inextricable nutritious ingredients  — while our go-to cheesy burrito dinner does not.

Yes, I realize some children & adults will protest by not eating a dish that has green things in it — horrors — but,  a) they should try it first, thank you;  b) they can pick out the offending pieces; c) they can go get themselves a cup of cottage cheese.

The Super Green Split Pea Soup this week cannot be deconstructed that way but, the greens aren’t perhaps so flagrant and hopefully these veg-aphobes will not realize or not mind.  If you have serious veg-aphobes in your home (my sympathies) and want to trick them, puree the soup. A nice touch is to add a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and squeeze of lemon juice. This tastes good, and it might just distract them!

The recipe for this soup is on my Recipe page. Nori is a new addition and isn’t reflected in that, yet. As for Green Eggs, see the previous post & photo.

Success and Gratitude

Cabbage Pineapple & Cilantro Slaw in Lime Vinaigrette, Pureed Carrot Ginger Spread, Roast Plantains. (Photo by Sharon Ramirez)

The big Auction Dinner on Sat went well and I am so thankful to the 20 volunteer cooks and servers who helped me pull it off!  They chopped, stirred, sauteed, baked and blended with aplomb, good humor and minimal direction. Susan made the collard dish from start to finish, and she’d never even tried collards before! And now she knows a terrific recipe.

(top to bottom) Rice Pilaf with Lentils & Caramelized Onions, Jerk Chicken Stew with Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Collards with Red Bell Peppers & Raisins. Photo by Sharon Ramirez.

I am quite proud of the fact the menu was again gluten- and dairy-free (vegan). (See previous post for full menu.)

It means a lot to me when guests with food issues can enjoy a meal with their family or community. Plus, I like the challenge of designing these menus.

On the nutritional side, this meal got an A. Lots of Vitamin A, too. Super Food count was 3 : collards, cabbage, sweet potatoes. Nearly all the starches were complex carbs — plantains, sweet potatoes, brown rice & lentils.  The only processed sugar was the brown sugar in the pineapple upside-down cake. Fats were minimal, esp if you didn’t take a lot of chicken sauce.

Roast Plantains w/ spicy Sriracha sauce (photo by Sharon Ramirez).

Turning to ethnic cuisines is the key to designing tasty gluten-free and dairy-free meals. Although actually (as noted here last year), a traditional British/American Sunday roast dinner of meat & potatoes is gluten-free, too. Thanksgiving or Christmas type meals can be too if you revise the bread-based stuffing and make a crust-less pie. So get over it, people.

While dinner guests definitely liked the whole meal, the Jerk Chicken & Sweet Potato entree received the most comments and requests for the recipe. It is super easy. I just used Frontier’s Jamaican Jerk seasoning blend from the co-op. I have made jerk sauce from scratch but for a 150-person dinner, I needed to save time.

Jerk Chicken w/ Sweet Potatoes feeds a crowd on a chilly night. (photo by Sharon Ramirez)

Here are general instructions:

~ Mince lots of fresh green onions and garlic in a food processor. [if you have extra, make a vinaigrette or dip with it, or save for another marinade, pasta sauce etc.]
~ Cut chicken thighs into chunks (or leave them whole if you are having a sit-down dinner). Put in a large baking pan.
~ Liberally sprinkle Jamaican Jerk seasoning blend, dried thyme and salt onto chicken. Add the onion-garlic mixture and some olive oil, and toss well with your clean hands to evenly coat chicken. Set chicken aside to marinate for 30 min if you have time.
~ Cover with foil and bake chicken for 30 min at 425 F. (Chunks cook faster than whole thighs.)
~ While it’s baking, dice sweet potatoes and boil til soft. Scoop out of pot and set aside. Use the hot water for blanching a green vegetable such as collard greens.
~ Pull chicken out. It will be moist b/c of the foil covering. Pour the juice into a large pot, bring to a boil, and add some more seasoning blend & salt to taste. Simmer to reduce and concentrate flavors. (At this point you could add any fresh or frozen green vegetable.)
~ Add back the chicken and the sweet potatoes. Taste again, add salt if you like (since you diluted it with potatoes).

Serve over rice or other whole grain like spelt, kamut, wheatberry, kasha, millet or quinoa. Or, you could make it into a pot pie! (yum).  I like to serve spicy food with a tart citrusy salad — in Sat’s case, a pineapple & cilantro cabbage slaw in lime vinaigrette — to cool one’s tongue.

Red Bell Peppers & raisins sweeten sauteed fresh collards, and make a beautiful dish. (Photo by Sharon Ramirez)

DDoW Menus and Cooking Class details

I’m offering a series of cooking classes at Inver Grove Hts Community Center. They are scheduled on three consecutive Thursdays from mid-Sept, to coincide with the mini- Farmers’ Market held in the center’s parking lot. Here are the topics & dates:

  1. Mobile Meals, Thur, Sept. 22, afternoon and eve sessions
  2. Heart-Healthy Whole Grains, Thu, Oct. 16, afternoon and eve sessions
  3. Power Up with Super Foods, Thu, Sept. 29, afternoon and eve sessions
  4. Gluten-Free Meals, Thu, Oct. 6, afternoon and eve sessions

    For descriptions, fees and how to sign up, see IGH’s Fall Brochure.



1) Channa Chaat (Garbanzo Bean Salad). Vegan & gluten-free. A hearty entree salad with Indian-style seasoning and cukes, tomatoes, kohlrabi and green bell peppers from the farmers’ market, lime juice. Hungarian peppers give a little kick.
2) Kasha Pilaf w/ Walnuts, Cabbage & Celery. Vegan & gluten-free. Flavorful Indian-style pilaf that I’ve improved upon since making it repeatedly for a client with extensive food allergies. You can eat this room-temp or hot. Kasha is the common name for whole grain Buckwheat Groats. Buckwheat – a misnomer — is not related to wheat at all. See blogpost about Buckwheat.

SEP 5 – 11
1) Ensaladilla. Vegan & gluten-free. A repeat from June that I really like, this is an exuberant red potato salad w/ blanched green beans, red bell peppers, carrots, chopped pickles and capers in a mustardy vinaigrette. Basically a variation of Salade Nicoise.

2) Quinoa Gazpacho. Vegan & gluten-free. Gazpacho, a refreshing raw tomato soup, is an answer to the “over” abundance of tomatoes, cukes and peppers. I thought quinoa would be nice, too. It might be a soup or it might be more like salad — I haven’t decided. Please note, gazpacho and any raw tomato dish does not keep as long as my other salads, most likely b/c of the fruit’s high amount of sugars.

SEP 12 – 18 
1) Zucchini, Green Bean & Lima Bean Cassoulet w/ Basil. Vegan & gluten-free. 
2) Cabbage Salad with Roast Beets & Creamy Borscht Dressing. Vegan & gluten-free.

Coming up: Eggplant Casserole, possibly Moussaka which was a big hit last winter.