Easter Evolution and the Pollan Family Salad

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One of my favorite Easter activities is egg dying.  So that will certainly happen.  And although I like to do the natural dyes (see past blog for recipes and photo on right), we’ll likely do some not so natural too (photo on left).  This is an area as my kids get older that they like to experience both the organic, healthy way and the colorful less eco friendly way as well.  I figure the majority of our days we practice an eco friendly lifestyle of eating mostly healthy organic foods, reducing our meat intake, limiting processed foods and recycling, but sometimes the holidays have to have some leeway.  The chemical dyes are one way I’m giving in.

 

My other give in is a Cadbury egg (my teeth ache just thinking about it).  My son is 11 and has never had one and is curious (ok, begging) to try one.  So in his Easter basket of rabbit glasses, a book, recycle “grass” and sugar free jelly beans will also be his surprise egg.  My daughter’s basket will also include real eggs from the chicken’s down the street.  Since she’s discovered the egg box in our neighborhood that shares eggs from adopted chickens, she’s enamored (and only wants to eat those – not store bought).

 

I’m not hosting Easter this year but were going to spend the afternoon with family.  There will be a festive egg hunt, followed by early supper.  It’s all ages (from 1 – 70+) so there’s lots of land mines when planning dinner.  I’ve been asked to bring a salad.  At first I was thinking it should be “special” and “holiday worthy” but then I came across this lovely and simple one from Michael Pollan, which is sure to please all diets and tastes (I’ll likely serve my cheese and nuts on the side).  I figure if it’s good enough for his family, it’s good for mine too.  (Although I still may add some edible flowers).

pollansalad

Pollan Signature Salad
6 servings

We serve this salad at all our large family gatherings. Light, crisp, both vinegary and sweet, our signature salad is a delicious addition to any meal.

For the dressing:
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

5 to 7 ounces mesclun or mixed baby greens
½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
½ Bosc pear (cut lengthwise), cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

For the dressing: In a glass jar with a lid or in a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegars, mustard, grapeseed oil, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Shake the jar vigorously or whisk in the bowl to emulsify.

For the salad: Place the mesclun in a large salad bowl. Pour on half the dressing and toss the greens to coat. Add the walnuts, pear, and more dressing to taste (taking care not to overdress) and toss again. Top with the Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.

Food for thought: Walnuts are the healthiest tree nuts around—they have close to twice as much antioxidants as other nuts! What’s more, they are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is great news for people who don’t eat heart-healthy fish.

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A Tale of Two “Egg” Salads

My family came over for brunch a few weeks ago.  I was feeling a springtime menu and decided to make vegan lemon muffins and chocolate zucchini bread, bagels with lox and all the trimmings, a fruit salad and egg salads.  My kids are always up for egg face sandwiches (a work of art below) but I forgot about my old favorite, my Sunny Tofu Salad.  This was great because my vegan sister would appreciate this eggless salad.  However I realized my recipe is not actually vegan, just vegetarian because I use yogurt.  I thought about soy or coconut yogurt but wouldn’t have the neutral taste.  Instead I discovered Vegenaise.  There’s a whole cold section at Whole Foods with vegan products, which I find very helpful (vegan sausages, cheeses, tofu, seitan).  I decided to try Vegenaise, but which one to buy?  There’s original, low-fat, grapeseed, soy free and I can’t even remember what else.  I was overwhelmed for a moment and then just decided original was the best bet.  O.K. I am not a spokesperson and no one gave me a coupon, but let me tell you I am definately a fan.  I’m not big on mayonaise, but somehow I like this.  It’s not greasy and seems a bit sweeter than mayonaise, and now I have found plenty of uses – cooking vegan and otherwise.  It’s lower in fat than mayonaise, but this still isn’t a diet product.

The egg and nonegg salads were a hit with my family, and completely finished.  I highly suggest the two “egg” salad options to try to please all kinds of diets at your next brunch (maybe Easter this week) or sandwich face party anytime.  The eggless salad is below.  You’ll find my Egg and Olive Salad as well as some hard boiled egg tips on a past Easter blog – click here.

Sunny Tofu Salad

(page 72 from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry)

This was inspired by a sandwich I had from Whole Foods Market. It’s the same idea as egg salad but uses tofu in place of egg. The mustard still gives the sunny color of egg yolks. Stuffed into pita bread or rolled into lettuce leaves this is a tasty vegetarian option for those not eating eggs. It is also is a nice addition to a party platter.

 

Makes about 1½ cups

 

8 ounces organic extra-firm tofu, drained

1 tablespoon organic whole-milk yogurt (or Vegenaise for Vegans)

1 tablespoon chopped green onion (optional)

1½ teaspoons prepared mustard

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Place tofu on a cutting board lined with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Gently squeeze tofu between towels to remove excess liquid.

Put tofu in a medium bowl and crumble apart using a fork. Add yogurt or Vegenaise, green onion (if using), mustard, lemon juice, dill, and salt and mix to combine.

 

Go Green!  Be sure to buy organic tofu.  Non-organic tofu is more than 84 percent likely to be genetically modified.

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Which Came First…The Dye or the Stickers? With Deviled Egg Recipe

Last year I dyed Easter eggs with natural dyes.  I was so excited and felt so green, as I boiled onion skins, tumeric, greens and blueberry juice for my hard boiled eggs.  The thing was I was lonely.  This is because it takes so long for the color to appear (some over 30 minutes) and needs to be done over a hot stove.  I thought the eggs came out lovely and like real hen eggs (pastel yellow, purple and green), but my kids lost patience and interest.  Most families are used to the plopping the egg into the fake dye and getting instant color…bright color.  My kids were dissappointed last year and the grandparents answered their call for “the fast, bright colors” this year by sending a princess dye kit and a star wars dye kit.  The farthest thing from natural you could get.  Luckily the kids arranged the dyed eggs in my real nests for photos, and skipped the yoda and tiara stickers.  So the eggs weren’t “natural and green”, but my family had fun and they still became yummy delived eggs.

I decided to try a new deviled egg recipe which incorporated fresh crab.  I’ve had the recipe cut out for some time and never made it (I do that a lot).  My husband and I loved them, but my kids not so much.  They wanted the “regular” ones.  I guess you never know how your crowd will react when messing with a holiday.  Oh well, there were more for my husband and I.  Happy Easter.

Crab Deviled Eggs, Inspired by MarketBar Restaurant in San Francisco

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled

2 cups spinach leaves, well rinsed

4 ounces fresh lump crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon white ine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon suagr

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Place wet spinach in a small saute pan and saute over medium heat until wilted.  Press out liquid with a tea towel and chop.  Set aside.

Cut hardboiled eggs lenghtwise and keeping white intact, carefully remove the yolk with a small spoon.  Mash the yolks in a bowl with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients (including spinach) to egg yolks and mix well.  Adjust seasoning.

Spoon heaping teasoonfuls of egg/crab mixture into hollowed egg whites.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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The Vegan Weekend – Part II, Brunch

Easter Pie ready for the oven

I enjoy entertaining for brunch on the weekends.  I think it’s a great time to visit, without worrying about getting the kids to bed on time, like hosting a dinner party.  We’ve been hosting lots of brunches lately with other families.  It’s a chance for the kids to play as well as have some adult leisure time.  Brunch is more casual.  No need to dress up or even bring a bottle of wine (although I never turn away some sparkling wine and orange juice for mimosas).  

Brunch is also great for menu planning.  There are many dishes that can be made ahead so you can enjoy your company.  There’s also a wide variety of foods, looking at both breakfast and lunch options, that appeal to all ages.  When having kids at brunch (or really any meal) I like to have something they can put together themselves.  Whether it’s spreading bagels with cream cheese, making a yogurt parfait, or decorating fruit faces on pancakes, kids like to be creative and involved.  And if the kids are not already familiar with everyone at the table, it’s a fun ice breaker to get to know and laugh with each other.

We’ve been fine tuning the brunch menu, and here;s kind of our set menu (with first time guests) and our favorites right now.  As you’ll notice these are all great menu items for any time of day.  And most of these ingredients are pantry and refrigerator staples (eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, bagels) to prepare quickly and easily:

  • · Savory Bread Pudding if making ahead, or a simple egg and vegetable scramble made just before eating.
  • · Platter of smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers, with a basket of mini bagels and English muffins.
  • · Arugula salad with avocado and toasted almonds with balsamic vinaigrette.
  • · Maple yogurt over mixed seasonal fruit, and topped with granola or Energy Bark (recipe follows).
  • · Juice sparklers (bubble water with a splash of juice) for kids, and mimosas for adults.

However I was hosting brunch with family for 14, while my sister was in town.  Remember she’s vegan and I can’t just make my usual brunch and hand her a plate of raw veggies.  Plus she wanted to help and we were hoping to discover some new tasty vegan brunch options together.  I printed off quite a few recipes from poppy seed muffins to  eggless scrambles.  However I was intriqued by an Easter Pie recipe.  My sister wasn’t too sure, and really didn’t want to be responsible for “ruining my brunch”.  

It’s so funny how people think all will be lost if the meal doesn’t succeed.  I’m cooking for family, not for paying customers.  If it doesn’t come out well, can’t we just all laugh over a bowl of granola?  Or just order something at a deli and visit in the park?  No one wants good food more than I do, especially when hosting, but let’s be kinder to each other and give our hosting families a break.   

Anyways the Easter Pie was great and I will make it again, for vegans and omnivores.  There’s lots of ways you could change it as well – adding roasted veggies, changing spices, etc.  There were plenty of other things to eat at the table, including food brought by other guests, but the pie was gone.  And nope my sister didn’t eat it all.

Here’s the recipe….You may even want to make it for Easter.

Easter Pie

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegan “butter” sticks 
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 lb. vegetarian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 lb. organic firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup soy Parmesan cheese (I used daiya brand) 
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground fennel seeds 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine the flour, margarine, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. With the machine still running, add the water to form a dough ball. Divide the dough into two balls and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the vegetarian sausage, tofu, soy Parmesan, parsley, remaining salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and fennel seeds.

Roll out the dough into two 11-inch circles. Place one circle in a 10-inch pie plate and spread the filling mixture over it. Cover with the other dough, pinch the edges, and prick the center with a fork.

Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and cooked in the center.

Easter Pie, going fast
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