Dragon Fruit, Arugula, and Avocado Salad

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This salad is a delicious combination of tastes and textures: fresh and creamy, bright and peppery.  It’s super easy and quick to make, with just a few ingredients!  Plus, it looks impressive and is perfect for serving guests; dragonfruit has a mild taste (I find it similar to kiwi) and shouldn’t scare off those who haven’t tried it before.

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Yield: 2 large or 4 side servings

  • 1 large dragon fruit
  • 1 package baby arugula
  • 2 avocados, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more, if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or less, if you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar

To prepare the dragon fruit, first cut it in half lengthwise.  Using a large spoon, separate the flesh from the rind.  Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes.

Combine the arugula, dragon fruit, and diced avocado.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and agave nectar.  Taste and adjust with more lemon juice if desired.  Pour the dressing over the salad, gently toss to coat, and serve immediately.  *If you aren’t ready to serve the salad, hold off on adding the dressing until just before serving.*  Enjoy!

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Baked Panko-Beer Onion Rings

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Onion rings! So delicious, but depending on how they’re prepared, they may also be so greasy, unhealthy, and regret-inducing.  These crispy rings are the perfect solution: oil-free, baked, and with a light coating that gives a great crunch while allowing the sweet, delicious onion flavour to shine through.  And despite the various bowls and possible minor mess involved, they are actually pretty quick to prepare.

When I was a kid, I hated onions.  The first time I encountered onion rings was at Harvey’s when I was around ten, and they smelled so good.  My ingenious solution to this yummy-smelling but oniony dilemma was to break each ring in half, pull out the tiny string of onion and cast it aside, and eat just the batter shell.  Wow, eh?  I’ve come a long way since then.

These rings would make a great appetizer or side for a veggie burger, or you can just eat a whole bunch of them for dinner (like I did).  You’ll feel great; no pangs of regret!

  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax
  • 5 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup beer (or nondairy milk of choice)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups panko
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large Vidalia/sweet onion (about the size of a baseball)

Preheat oven to 450 and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the ground flax and water and stir well, then let it sit for a few minutes to gel (this is about 2 flax eggs).

Combine the flour, salt and pepper, and place in a shallow bowl.   Combine the panko, garlic powder and paprika and place in another shallow bowl. Once the flax eggs have gelled, add the beer (or milk) and stir, and place in yet another shallow bowl.

Set up the assembly line: flour bowl, flax/beer bowl, panko bowl, baking sheets.

Now you can cut your onion crosswise into very thick slices – mine were about an inch thick.  Pop the rings apart.

(I suggest cutting the onion after getting everything else is ready to minimize onion-related eyeball suffering.  You might want to light a couple of tealights or other unscented candles on the counter to help burn off the onion fumes.  You can also cover the cut onion with a towel to contain the fumes and just reach under to grab rings as you go.)

Make the rings: dredge a ring in flour, dip in flax/beer mixture, then dredge in panko.  Place on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining onion rings.  To save space on the sheets, you can place teeny little nubby rings inside big ones.

Bake for about 20-24 minutes, turning the rings over gently about halfway through.  They should be browned along the edges and soft on the inside.

Serve with leafy celery sticks and dip of choice!  I suggest ketchup, hot sauce, or fancy mustard.  Mega yum.

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Wheatberry Salad with Cranberries and Parsley

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This is my go-to salad to bring to potlucks and barbeques.  It always gets the same response from people, gradually moving from “What is this?” to “This is so weird….” to “I love it!”

This salad is really intended to be a vehicle to showcase wheatberries, which are my current grain obsession.  All of the listed quantities are suggestions and can vary a lot depending on your preference.

If you aren’t familiar with wheatberries, beyond whatever google says, they are kinda like extra-chewy bulgar. At No Frills they are inexplicably located in the baking aisle, in bags, labeled ‘soft wheat.’ I cook them like pasta – boil them in lots of salted water for about 15 mins, then start checking until the texture is firm and chewy but without a hard centre.  No need to pre-soak!

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Makes about 3-4 cups

  • 1 cup (uncooked measure) soft wheatberries – cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (variation: dried currants)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or whatever seeds)
  • 3-5 green onions, sliced
  • A large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon (maybe one and a half)
  • Olive oil – a big glug
  • Salt and pepper

Mix it all up and add more of whatever.  This salad keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge.

Variation: Sometimes I add diced English cucumber if I know the whole salad will be eaten at once; it won’t keep as long in fridge if you include the cucumber.

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Vegan Raita

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I love Indian food and curries.  Before I gave up dairy and eggs, I was a maniac for yogurt with curry.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I used eat up to half a tub of yogurt with a curry meal.  Sometimes I’d step it up a notch and make raita, a yogurt-based side often served with Indian curry.  But whether it was plain yogurt or raita, I was addicted to that cool creamy side with my spicy curry.

Since yogurt became off-limits, I have virtually ceased making curry at home.  I actually just noticed this a few days ago when I was trying to figure out what to make for a quick dinner and thought of curry.  My next thought: I can’t remember the last time I made curry!  I suspect this is because without the yogurt side, curry lost some of its appeal, and the idea of eating it without my beloved yogurt/raita made me feel a bit deprived.

I recently decided to make my first dhal and chose this recipe from The Taste Space (it was fantastic!).  This provided a perfect opportunity to experiment with a vegan raita.  I decided to use a tofu base because I thought it would really give some room for the mint and cucumber flavours to shine.  It turned out so beautifully that I feel like my life with curry can now begin anew, perfectly balanced with delicious raita.  Plus, it whips up in a just a couple of minutes.

Yields about 2 cups

  • 1 cup silken tofu
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped cucumber + 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Place all ingredients except the finely-chopped cucumber in a food processor or blender and blend until very smooth.  Fold in the finely-chopped cucumber.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, with Indian food of all kinds, samosas, veggies, or pita chips.