Vegan Panzanella Salad

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Summer is the best time of year in Chicago! We have a multitude of parks that host free movies and live music all summer long. One of my favorite summer activities is packing a picnic and sitting on the lawn of Grant Park. The backdrop of the city skyline combined with fresh air, the sounds of a full orchestra, friends and family, and delicious food makes for a perfect evening! Panzanella is one of my favorite summer salads to bring on a picnic. I love French bread, fresh herbs, and really good olive oil. All of the fresh ingredients along with the red wine vinaigrette make this salad really tasty. You can use 1 day old, crusty French bread or toast fresh bread in the oven to make sure it doesn’t get too soggy once it’s in the salad. The bread should have a chewy (not soggy) consistency once it absorbs the dressing. I used vegan mozzarella by Follow Your Heart that I found at Whole Foods but you could also use extra firm tofu as a substitute. The capers add salty flavor and the bright, multi-colored heirloom tomatoes are just bursting with sweet flavor. There are several variations of this salad. You could add red and yellow peppers for tangy crispness. There’s also a version that adds arugula for a spicy kick. I think this dish is really satisfying and often have it as a light meal. It goes really well with most white wines or even rose. This recipe is so simple and super easy to assemble. If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Tag your picture with @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram and Facebook or Pin It on Pinterest!

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Fresh, simple ingredients!

Vegan Panzanella Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 (6oz) French demi baguette, cut into 1.5 inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 lb grape heirloom tomoatoes, halved
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 (10oz) package vegan mozzarella cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces (such as Follow Your Heart brand)
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs capers
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • For the dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 300F. Cut bread into 1.5 inch cubes and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for about 13-15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and set aside to cool. Next, make the dressing: whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl toss bread with dressing and combine well. Let bread absorb dressing for about 5 minutes. Next, add tomatoes, cucumbers, vegan mozzarella, onion, capers, basil, and oregano and combine well. Salad is best if consumed within 24 hours.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/6 of Vegan Panzanella: 307 cal

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Coconut Forbidden Rice

Spring is finally here and I just started training for a 100 mile bike ride in June for the American Lung Association. The Fight For Air Ride takes place yearly with the goal of raising money and awareness for lung diseases. As an asthma doctor, this cause is near and dear to my heart. This will be my second ride and I’m hoping that this year, we can raise even more money to fight lung disease in adults and kids. My training involves at least two long rides a week and carbo loading. I was inspired to make this recipe in order to avoid eating pasta and bread every day. Forbidden rice is a whole grain much like brown rice or wild rice. It’s higher in fiber than white rice. It also contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are, in part, what give many fruits and vegetables their color. It’s also what gives Forbidden rice its black color. Anthocyanins are thought to be high in antioxidants. Antioxidants in food are thought to help prevent illnesses such as cancer. This is why eating dark colored fruits and foods like Forbidden rice on a daily basis is so important for our long term health. I also love Forbidden rice because it has a delicious, nutty flavor and chewy texture. The texture is almost like al dente pasta. This rice is colorful and only takes 30 minutes to cook on the stovetop. This recipe is also oil free. I used edible flowers as a garnish but coconut chips would also be a great garnish. This rice pairs well with avocado. It also goes well with white wine. You can substitute quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice instead of Forbidden rice in this recipe. Forbidden rice typically comes from China. It’s named “Forbidden” because it was only eaten by royalty in China around the 14th to 16th centuries. Luckily for us, it’s available at most grocery stores for royals and non-royals alike! (I found mine at Whole Foods) Make sure you tag @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram and Facebook if you make it!


Coconut Forbidden Rice

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked Forbidden Rice
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cashew halves
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste

Directions


Rinse rice with water and place in a medium sized saucepan. Add water and coconut milk to rice and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Stir in lime juice, cayenne pepper, ginger powder, garlic powder, turmeric, and salt. Remove from heat and cover for about five minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and add more salt to taste. Top with cashews and chopped cilantro right before serving. May store in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2 days. Makes about 3 cups of cooked rice.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories per Cup: 303 cal

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Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage

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It’s mid-March and still snowing in Chicago! This type of weather is perfect for comfort food. Polenta is easy to make from scratch and is hearty and satisfying. It’s an often overlooked vegan ingredient which is very versatile. It can also be used to make corn grits. Polenta seems to be making a comeback in 2017… We even have a new, all polenta restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago that serves up hot polenta with various sauces (including a vegan option!). You can buy polenta that is already cooked, but I prefer to make mine from scratch because the flavor is unbeatable. You can actually skip baking the polenta to make a creamy, decadent side dish. Baking allows for a firmer, chewy texture that can be cut into squares. I like to serve the baked version as an appetizer because it’s easier to eat and serve. This recipe has endless variations… you could add fresh diced tomatoes instead of sun dried and chopped basil instead of sage to give it a more traditional Italian flavor. Truffle oil is also delicious in polenta! If you’re gluten free, look for gluten free polenta – Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten free version. This dish is creamy, delicious, and filling but still low in calories. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor and go well with tart, sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes. The fresh sage adds fresh flavor and fragrance. Remember to take a picture and tag @thefriendlyepicurean if you make it!

Colorful, whole ingredients!

Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup corn polenta (uncooked)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 tbs vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease an 8″ x 13″ baking dish with olive oil spray and set aside. Cook garlic 2-3 minutes in olive oil on medium heat in a medium sized sauté pan. Add sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Next, bring 3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly add polenta to boiling water, stirring frequently with a spatula or whisk. Reduce heat to low and cook polenta for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Polenta will thicken and bubble (be careful as polenta may splatter and burn skin!). Add butte, salt, and pepper and stir well. Next, gently fold mushroom mixture into polenta. Spread polenta evenly onto greased baking dish and bake for 18-20 minutes. Polenta should be firm, turn golden-brown, and start to separate from the sides of the dish. Cut into squares and serve warm. May store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories per 1/6 of polenta: 137.5 cal

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