Vegan Food Swap Reveal: July 2012

We're into Month #4 of the US Vegan Food Swap and I'm so pleased to report that it's still going strong! I love bringing together vegans from across the US to share goodies from their necks of the woods. 

This month, I was matched with Mariam of Birdie's Health Chatter. She sent me a nice collection of vegan snack treats: 

I don't think Mariam knew it, but apple chips are one of my favor snacks! 

Vegan jerky. Am I ashamed that I've never tried it? You decide.

I love sesame snacks and seaweed crackers, so I can't wait to try this! 

The icing on the cake. Porcini & truffle oil. I might put this **** on everything.

Mariam did a bang up job putting her box together, and I hope everyone else who participated in July was half as stoked about their goodies as I am. If you haven't signed up yet for August, there's still time! Sign up by Sunday, August 5 at 11:59PM EST in order to participate in August. Be prepared to confirm your participation within 48 hours, and the match list will be sent out on August 8!

For those who participated in July, it's time to link up your reveal posts below...


Fall in Love with Salad: Part 2

This is the second part of a 4-part series on falling in love with salad. To read about adding variety with different salad greens, check out Part 1 of the series here.

When real hunger strikes, many people think that a salad just will not do.

If that salad is a limp, fear-inducing, iceberg-laden monstrosity like I mentioned in my previous post, then those people are right. Luckily, there's a cure. Actually, there are quite a few.

Falafel Salad with Savory Yogurt Sauce
Chunky Southwestern Bean Salad
Designing a hearty, satisfying salad is incredibly simple. How? Add some protein. Whether in the form of legumes, nuts, or protein-packed grains like quinoa, any salad can feel like a meal when you add a little protein. Protein helps tell your body you're full, and can stave off hunger a lot longer than raw veggies. 

Some ideas for adding protein (choose 1-2): 
  • 1/2 cup cooked and cooled chickpeas 
  • 1/2 cup edamame, steamed and cooled (or simply defrosted, if frozen) 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked and cooled quinoa 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cooked and cooled brown rice 
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts 
  • 3 Tbsp chopped raw almonds 
  • 1/4 cup crumbled tempeh bacon 
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds 
Although having protein-rich add-ons on hand can make your salad-making experience easier, some of them do require a little advance prep. But, rest assured, that's pretty easy too.

Here are some tips for my favorites:

Chickpeas and other legumes
Although canned chickpeas can be fine, cooking dry chickpeas is quite a bit cheaper and is very simple. I use a slow cooker to cook them on low overnight. You could also set them to cook in the morning before you leave for work, and enjoy them for dinner. Simply drain and freeze any that you won't be using within the next couple of days. This method applies to almost all legumes, even lentils.

Quinoa, Brown Rice, and other grains
Larger batches of grains can be prepared in advance. This is a great activity for a lazy weekend afternoon, or even a weekday evening. Since most grains don't need a lot of active attention during the cooking process, it's easy to tackle this task while catching up on Mad Men or revisiting old episodes of The West Wing. Or whatever. Cooked grains will keep in the fridge surprisingly long, but I like to bag up smaller portions to toss in the freezer as well. Another tip: cook your grains in vegetable broth to impart more flavor.

Nuts and Seeds 
I keep mine in quart-sized mason jars and try to keep them close to full at all times. I just keep my favorites on hand, which are whole raw almonds, walnuts, pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds), and hemp seeds. Since they are always "in stock" and easy to see in glass jars, I never forget about them.

Ultimately, as you learn to add-on to your green salads, you'll realize that a salad doesn't actually need to consist of any greens at all in order to be called a salad. Pasta and grain salads are a great way to mix up your salad regime, or provide a slightly heartier dish. They're also the best candidates for potlucks and picnics, and pretty much guarantee that you'll bring home an empty bowl.

For instance?

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Grapes
So far in this series, I've covered how to change up your greens to invite non-salad lovers to partake, and given suggestions on add-ins to increase a salad's staying power. In Part 3, I'll share with you some of my favorite homemade salad dressings, including both sweet and savory, as well as tips on creating your own signature salad dressing recipe. Stay tuned!


Fall in Love with Salad: Part 1

I've fed many an omnivore in my time. I never set out to make anyone love salad, but time and again, I've done it. This is me, doing a little victory dance for greenery, right here. 

Since I've learned a thing or two over the years about how to make people fall in love with salad, I thought it was high time I shared my tips with the public. After all, I don't want to take these secrets to the grave. In fact, I think everyone should try them out, regardless of your dietary persuasion. 

Making a "salad hater" into a "salad lover" is no simple task, so I have a lot of tips to share. For ease of reading and better blogging, I'm breaking this into a 4-part series. Here in today's post, it's all about greens.

All About Greens

In my experience, most people who complain about or profess to dislike salad are being completely honest. It's likely that, in their lifetime, they have encountered salads that mostly consisted of iceberg lettuce, pink tomatoes, and slimy cucumbers. Top with dry, flavorless croutons and overly generous portions of Italian or Ranch dressing, and you've got the typical American side salad, right?

They're doing it all wrong.

I've found that it's much easier to introduce someone to salad by using heartier greens. I steer clear of the iceberg entirely, and instead, look to base my salads on one of the following greens, depending on what's in season (and possibly on sale): 

  • Kale (curly or lacinato) 
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach or spring mixes 

Merely substituting one or several of these greens can improve a salad's enjoyability factor by several fold. (Yes, I'm so serious about this that I just made up a word!)

Why do I think this works? 

One of the primary complaints I hear about salad is that it's not filling, or that the person is hungry again soon after eating. Water-heavy greens like iceberg don't really take a lot of work to chew or digest, which leaves people with that "still hungry" feeling. Hearty, darker greens require more chewing, and take a little longer to digest, which help keep you feeling fuller longer. 

If you're wondering, dark greens also offer a wide variety of benefits that old iceberg just doesn't. Although iceberg has slightly fewer calories and is a good source of a few vitamins, it really can't compare to the darker greens. Kale, for example, packs so many vitamins and minerals that I can't keep track. It's like a multivitamin in leaf form, really. See for yourself.

If you have a real skeptic on your hands, try a mixture of greens. Use a 50/50 mix of dark greens with romaine lettuce, which has a satisfying crunch without being quite as boring as iceberg.

Now that you've got a handle on the green situation, you're well on your way to making anyone fall in love with salad. The real trick, of course, is the other ingredients of your salad. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I share some hints about what to mix in with your greens for the most irresistible salads you'll ever taste.

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