Land of Plenty

Have you ever tasted arugula so crisp, so impeccably fresh, that it could only be described as “juicy”? Voracious salad eater that I am, I was sure I had exhausted every variant of leafy fodder available on the market, until I forked into the baby greens from Plenty.

Before this moment, brand name vegetables or plain packaged produce in general always seemed like a marketing gimmick to me. Wasn’t this the same stuff you could buy in bulk, now dressed up with designer graphics and enhanced pricing to match? Granted, that’s exactly what drew my attention when I first spotted these shapely clam shell boxes, but the quality far exceeds shallow aesthetics.

Vertically grown indoors, using 99% less land and 95% less water than conventional methods, without any pesticides, they’re as sustainable as they are genuinely flavorful. In short, Plenty is making the tastier choice the one that’s more affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly, too. It’s hard to explain how revolutionary this is without it coming off as a sales pitch, but trust me, these aren’t empty promises coming from a far removed PR mill! It’s rare to find a company that really lives up to such high standards without sacrificing in one department or another, which is why I’m proud to partner with them to spread the love of all things leafy, well beyond the salad bowl.

If you struggle to get your greens in, you’re not alone. Raw roughage may be difficult to digest, both literally and figuratively, for the pickiest eaters, but there’s more than one way to get your daily dose.

Believe it or not, even children will beg for a second helping of this verdant Matcha Milkshake, infused with velvety baby kale. Harmonizing with the natural, satisfying bitter edge of ceremonial matcha powder, the concentrated, zero glycemic sweetness of stevia balances out the blend without refined sugars. Cashews are the magical ingredient that makes everything rich and creamy, no milk nor cream needed. This recipe is based on my formula for cashew milkshakes in Real Food, Really Fast, infusing the decadent drink with a virtuous serving of vitamins A, C, and K. To fool a kale critic, you can easily explain the color with the green tea addition.

For those who like a bit of spice in their life, that bold baby arugula has just the right subtle peppery twist, further accentuated by the warm breath of fresh jalapenos in a steamy bowlful of Pozole Very Verde. Tangling amongst tender bites of hominy and pinto beans, this nontraditional broth comes together in mere minutes, bearing the rich flavors of a long-simmered stew. You could very well double up on the leafy quotient, since it melts down so effortlessly into the piquant brew.

When the heat is on and you’re trying to keep your cool, though, I’ve got the perfect all-purpose, all-day kind of meal for you. Avocado toast, the ubiquitous millennial favorite, but with a heartier bite than your basic bread. Meaty portobello slices turn into a shockingly convincing alternative to bacon, crisp and savory, redolent of the earthy, smoky notes you’d expect from cured pork, but made from plants. Refreshing crispy lettuce cradles thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes in a tender embrace typically reserved for starcrossed lovers. Part open-faced sandwich, part tartine, you get more of the good stuff with this BLT Avocado Toast and less carb-heavy filler.

Cheap, greasy Chinese takeout does tempt even the most disciplined healthy foodies, but you can beat those eateries at their own game. Skip the deep frying for this flash-in-the-pan Salt & Pepper Tofu Stir Fry, dazzling with whole peppercorns, including the mouth-numbing Sichuan variety. The more timid of tastes might want to pick around those powerful flavor grenades, though I think those intermittent fiery bites add to the overall experience. As if designed with exactly this dish in mind, the diverse mizuna mix can withstand the blaze, folded in at the very last minute to tenderize the baby bok choy without making any of the more delicate leaves go limp. Switch up the protein with seitan, soy curls, or even tempeh if you’d like to branch out beyond predictable bean curd.

For my final trick, watch as I turn three full boxes of leafy love into one glorious grand finale, wrapped up in flaky phyllo like an edible present. Inspired by layered spanakopita, spinach need not apply for the job in this Arugula Spanakopita Strudel. Baby arugula melts down to an almost buttery filling infused with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic. Downright buttery and stunningly cheesy, you’ve never had greens that taste quite so decadent before. Even the Greek Gods would bow down to this contemporary twist on the classic pie.

Getting hungry yet? Ready to go green? Find Plenty greens at a Bay Area store near you by checking the product locator, and start making space in your fridge. While those shapely boxes contain an incredible volume of green goodness, you’ll quickly find yourself craving more.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Plenty. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Ten Out of Ten for Kanten

Instant noodles, sustenance and comfort to eaters of all ages and walks of life across the globe, will always have a place in my heart, not to mention my pantry. There’s more on those shelves than just cheap wheat bricks, though. Innovative, imaginative new takes on the old standby have flourished in ways that Momofuku Ando could have never dreamed back in 1958 when he invented the first entry to the now vast field.

In a world where cauliflower can be rice and sweet potatoes can be toast, why can’t seaweed be noodles? That’s the idea behind OhSo Tasty, pairing flavorful soup bases with quick-cooking kanten.

The term “kanten” is generally interchangeable with agar; the biggest differences are usually regarding the degree of processing. Long story short, it’s a dried, edible seaweed, typically found in Japanese cuisine, especially as a thickening or gelling agent. More than just a gelatin substitute when powdered, the less refined kanten threads can be cooked and eaten like noodles, which is exactly what OhSo Tasty has done. This format is composed of approximately 80% fiber, and has no taste nor odor like the fishier competition, shirataki. Plus, unlike animal-based gelatin, it won’t melt at higher temperatures, so there’s no risk of accidental overcooking.

Sealed in compact cups reminiscent of conventional ramen, these powerhouse packages are a far cry from those gut-busting sodium bombs. Truly instant, you’re just one minute from mealtime after opening the lid. The “new-dles” quickly soften in hot water, becoming tender and springy while retaining a satisfying bite.

As a miso maniac, the Miso Delicious Soup is the flavor that first drew me in. Absolutely packed with goodies, there isn’t a single watery spoonful to be had here. Tons of wakame, scallions, and tofu cubes make a splash in this comforting brew, alongside the headlining kanten noodles. It’s richly flavorful with a wallop of umami, thanks to the crafty addition of shiitake mushroom powder. This enhances the dashi broth much like bonito flakes would in traditional preparations, without resorting to such fishy ingredients. The overall effect is a taste of restaurant-quality miso, without the takeout price tag.

Sizzlin’ Sesame Soup doesn’t mince words, living up to the title with a definite spicy kick! It’s a nice gentle burn that builds with every subsequent sip, rounded out nicely by the warm, nutty broth. A stunning array of vegetables, sweet corn, diced carrots, and verdant spinach, swim freely between the kanten strands.

OhSo Tasty is available in six different flavors all told, five of which are vegan: Flamin’ Tomato Soup, Miso Delicious Soup, Sizzlin’ Sesame Soup, Soy Satisfying, and VaVa Veggie Soup. Available online for nationwide shipping, there’s never been a better time, or way, to stock your pantry with oodles of healthy noodles.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with OhSo Tasty. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Frequent Fryer

It’s the culinary equivalent of the Tickle Me Elmo craze that swept children into a nationwide temper tantrum in the final late days of the 1990’s. All the cool kids have one, or are getting one, because no other toy can compare. This particular modern marvel is considerably more functional, more respectable, but one could argue, no less frivolous than the furry robotic puppet. I’m talking, of course, about the air fryer.

Leading holiday sales for retailers of small appliances all across the map, these wildly popular contraptions are in no danger of selling out, unlike the door buster deals of yesteryear that would inspire fist fights in minimal parking lots. There’s a different model for every day of the year, and well beyond. Demand hasn’t waned but supply has exploded with such a surplus that prices have fallen to irresistible rates, even without a Black Friday discount. Paralyzed by an overabundance of choices, where does the tentative, newbie fryer begin?

First, we need to talk about what an air fryer really is. Purportedly an alternative to deep frying, without any mandatory fat, hyperactive home shopping network hosts would like to shout from the rooftops that it’s a miracle device guaranteed to change your life. Imagine: all the mozzarella sticks, tater tots, and corn dogs you can eat! Welcome back to childhood and Merry Christmas to all! …If only it really worked like that.

It would be more accurate to describe the device as a super-heated countertop oven. Convection heating circulates air at scorching temperatures and breakneck speed, allowing food to cook faster than in a conventional built-in appliance. It works more efficiently because it’s also smaller, although that brings us to our first drawback: The size can be a limiting factor if you want to cook for more than two or three. Larger models are now available, but you will never be able to fit as much food into one as a full-sized kitchen appliance as a simple matter of physics.

The “frying” effect is most successful with prepared, frozen snacks, which have already been at least partially cooked with a fairly generous amount of fat. French fries are the clearest example of this phenomenon, especially since they’re hands-down the most popular order for this short cook to tackle. Crinkle-cut, curly, waffle, skinny, or home style wedges all come out golden brown and impeccably crisp, fluffy on the inside, glistening with the sheen of success- And oil. If you tried the same set-it-and-forget-it approach with raw potatoes sticks, it would a sad, starchy story, with a real limp ending. Set your expectations accurately and understand how to harness the unique abilities of the machine, however, and this toy starts to regain some of the initial shine.

If you’re still craving a healthier alternative to cool satisfying meals from scratch, there’s hope for this crazy contraption yet! I relying on mine primarily as a toaster alternative, since I don’t have space on my counter for both. Set to low temperatures, it can also function quite efficiently as a dehydrator, to preserve fruits, vegetables, and herbs, or make some tasty snacks with minimal effort. Best of all, and especially critical as we enter the sweltering summer months, it keeps the kitchen cool, as opposed to the full-sized oven that radiates heat like a genuine furnace. As a general guideline for converting existing recipes, reduce the temperature by 25 – 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the baking time by 25%. It will take a bit of trial and error if starting from scratch, but plenty of resources and general guidelines are already out there to make the process painless. You can also find handy charts for best practices regarding specific produce picks.

For your initial voyage on the SS Air Fryer, it will be much smoother sailing if you let the experts pilot the ship. Start with recipes specifically designed for complexities and eccentricities of the machine to turn out hits right from the beginning. My favorite cookbooks are The Vegan Air Fryer by JL Fields, Vegan Cooking in Your Air Fryer by Kathy Hester, and The Essential Vegan Air Fryer Cookbook by Tess Challis, in no particular order. These three highly respected authors also have many other tips and tricks folded into the mix, so you’ll be well educated on the capabilities of your shiny new gadget by the time you read them cover to cover.

Okay, so what about the air fryer itself? Of all the colors, shapes, and sizes, how could you possibly choose the perfect model? I can’t claim to have tried them all, but over the course of two years, I have gone through three different unique types: The Philips GoWISE 3.7-Quart, the Power Air Fryer XL 5.3 Quart, and the Power Air Fryer XL Pro 6 Quart. Which did I ultimately chose to keep?

Presenting, the winner of this round, the Power Air Fryer Pro (previously named the “Oven Elite” at the time of purchase)! Shaped like a miniature, traditional oven with moveable racks, it’s simply more versatile and easier to use than models that only provide a solid basket receptacle. This one provides that too, along with a rotisserie spit, rotating metal skewer attachment, and wire mesh basket. Furthermore, it’s a bit more spacious than the aforementioned options, and the separate racks allow you to cook multiple foods at once. Breaking down all the finer points to consider:

Pros:

  • Much more space! Wire racks allow you to separately cook different foods at the same time.
  • Rotating mesh basket means no more stopping and shaking food halfway through the cooking process to ensure more even browning.
  • Works brilliantly as a dehydrator; minimum temperature of 90 degrees.
  • Excellent and seamless toaster oven replacement. Creates a consistently golden crust on bread, bagels, and beyond. There’s even a dedicated pizza button for reheating leftovers.
  • Removable and non-stick drip tray makes for easy cleanup afterwards.

Cons:

  • Not exactly plug-and-play. Had a hell of a time figuring out how to install the skewers, and still couldn’t stop them from falling out eventually, regardless of the configuration.
  • The window is nice, but it would be more helpful if the light inside the unit stayed on after you closed the door. Doesn’t it defeat the purpose if you can’t see when the food is done?
  • Maximum temperature of 400 degrees. I’d wager that’s enough for 90% of all cooking needs, and most foods could just be cooked for a little bit longer to compensate, but it can be limiting for more precise, high-heat preparations.

Ready to embark on your exciting journey towards extra crispy, perfectly tender, and simply easier homemade meals? With expectations appropriately set and temperatures properly dialed in, the much lauded air fryer is a handy little helper that can make it happen. Naturally, all those years of testing and tasting have built up a considerable backlog of my own recipes to share, so stay tuned for much more!

Quick Picks

Inundated by the staggering volume and variety of summer’s bounty, even the veteran gardener, cook, and farm stand enthusiast can easily become overwhelmed. The sudden flood of fresh produce can shift from blessing to burden overnight. That extra pound of cucumbers, so crisp and refreshing, the impulsive addition of pinata-striped sweet bell peppers, the peppery little bundle of Easter egg radishes, didn’t seem like much in the shopping basket, but add up in a big way back at home.

Now those prime, promising assets transform into ticking time bombs, turning brown and limp with every passing day. Use it or lose it! they cry, languishing in the back of the fridge. Delay the inevitable and freeze what you can, but don’t forget, there’s an even better method of preservation that’s served our forefathers and mothers well before the invention of the ice box.

Yes, we can. Canning and pickling, stocking up while enhancing natural flavor, is the only way to go. To the uninitiated, there are four barriers to entry into the pickling game. Old fashioned techniques sound too hard, too time consuming, too confusing, and require a bunch of equipment. On the contrary, anyone, young or old, seasoned or inexperienced, can make pickles in 10 minutes or less.

Allow me to introduce Aunt Pearl and Uncle Johnny, the inspiring figures behind Pearl and Johnny. Guided by the motto that “real food is beautiful,” their all-inclusive pickle mixes have nothing to hide, and a whole lot to share. Complete with reusable glass jars to showcase your perfect pickles, all you need to do is supply the vegetables and vinegar. Seasoning blends are as unique and diverse as the fans eating them up, from classic dill to piquant jalapeƱo-horseradish. Only organic, non-GMO ingredients make the cut, showcasing simple, honest foods at their finest.

The only limit is your imagination. Beyond the standard cucumber, there’s nothing on earth that doesn’t benefit from a bit of brine. Green beans, okra, cauliflower, and zucchini were my picks for this first shot, but far more creative opportunities are at your fingertips. Have you ever eaten pickled avocado? What about whole cloves of garlic? Have you even heard of pickled peaches before?

Consider these easy kits as pickling with training wheels. If you’ve never had the joy of reveling in a root cellar fully stocked with homemade preserves, Pearl and Johnny are here to hold your hand for a proper guided tour.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with Pearl and Johnny. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Join the Club

In the vast, diverse, daunting world of wine, where does one begin? Easy to appreciate but difficult to discern, simply finding the best bottles is a full-time job. That’s why the best restaurants hire skilled sommeliers, after all! If you’re overwhelmed by the abundance of options, going well beyond the basic choice of red or white, you’re not alone. In fact, you could literally join the club.

WineAccess, my go-to resource for the best bottles shipped from every major wine-growing region in the world, straight to your door, now offers quarterly shipments that promise hand-selected labels that include small-lot gems, impossible-to-obtain rarities, and unbeatable values. These aren’t just top shelf picks; they’re treasures you won’t find on any shelf.

Each shipment comes with six bottles, with exclusive videos highlighting each wine and the story behind it. You’ll get to know the growers, understand their inspiration, and literally taste the fruits of their labor. This connection creates an even greater appreciation for the craft. For anyone who’s ever relished the opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes and see how it’s made, this is the next best thing to visiting the vineyards in person.

Specific themes unite each bundle of bottles, covering many different regions and styles to help deepen an understanding of the wonderful, wild world of wine. My sample box was focused on “Wine Making Techniques,” and how they impact the final style of the wines. Grape variety and quality are obvious factors, but post-harvest intricacies such as maceration, fermentation, extraction, and aging have an influence on the resulting flavors.

For example, the 2016 De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault Itata Valley Chile is notable for its boldly unfiltered approach. De-stemmed but uncrushed grapes are allowed to macerate naturally, without any added yeasts or sulfur. The wine hibernates all winter, undisturbed, to be bottled in the spring, clean and simple. It should come as no surprise that the taste is rich and full-bodied, deeply fruity with notes of dark berries and a hint of savory herbs. That robust character makes a lot of sense, and is even more rewarding to recognize, when you know how it came to be.

On the lighter side of the spectrum, the 2018 Adegas Galegas D. Pedro Soutomaior Albarino Rias Baixas retains the bright, crisp, freshness of the grapes by storing them in stainless steel barrels, rather than oak. Vivid flaxen hues light up the glass, bearing the essence of green apple, citrus zest, and a cool sea breeze.

On top of that extraordinary curated experience, when you join, you’ll get 10% off all purchases at WineAccess.com. In stark contrast to most exclusive clubs, everyone is welcome here. There’s no secret password, no initiation rites, nor silly handshakes. All you need is a thirst for adventure and a love of wine. Once reserved for only the fanciest folk, these worldly wines have never been more accessible. So go ahead, join the club!

Awesome Sauce

This is not an industrial experiment in food science, jealously guarded mystery ingredients bubbling right below the surface, but there is an extraordinary story in the mix.

Hudson Green, named for the fertile Hudson Valley region, is truly a homegrown operation. Founded by chef Marie Rama and her son, Will Reiter, two Italian classics take shape from some unexpected sources. The heart and soul that goes into every bottle is every bit as important as the vegetables and herbs.

After a lifetime in the food industry, Marie draws from experience as a pastry chef, a cookbook author, and a spokesperson for national food companies, to bring the boldest, truest flavors to the table, but there’s more to it than that. After her husband nearly suffered a heart attack, the whole family was forced to reevaluate their plates. Plant-based, nutrient-rich, and flavorful, the invention of a Meatless Bolognese that could rival that of any loving Nonna’s was nothing short of a personal revelation. Recognizing the unmet need for rich flavors without compromise, all it took was a carefully calibrated formula of caramelized onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, and walnuts to satisfy the craving for comestible comfort.

From that resounding success, a vegan version of luscious Velvet Vodka sauce was a natural sequel hit. Coconut milk, rather than butter or cream, creates that silky, sumptuous texture, with a measured dose of nutritional yeast for irresistible umami taste.

With every bottle, chef Rama reasserts her commitment to making plant-based sauces without adding sugar, chemicals, or preservatives. She explains: “We use only real food, and we source the finest ingredients, regardless of price. Those deliberate choices make us a premium sauce. We don’t compare or compete with common, watery marinaras. There are plenty of those!”

You’d know from the first bite that this is no mere red sauce with a pretty label. Long-simmered tomatoes, concentrated down to their pure sweet, savory essence are just the start. Easily rivaling anything on the menu at a high-end trattoria or osteria, it’s a recipe that even your grandmother would approve of. Just twirl your fork around another undulating tangle of noodles, nod your head, and savor the moment.

Locally produced, universally beloved. You can get your fix nationwide through Amazon.com, too.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with Hudson Green. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!