Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Taraxacum officinale

Has this ever happened to you?  You're in the grocery store or farmer's market, and you spot something.  "Hmm..", you think to yourself, "I've never had that before, I wonder what I could make with it!" This time, that something was dandelion greens.  As a biologist, I knew that the latin name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, and any plant with the species name officinale, officinalis, or officinarum indicates that it is a medicinal plant.  I figured that there must be something special about dandelion greens to have afforded it such a long-standing medicinal status.  Although often viewed as a pesky weed, it is undeniably a tenacious survivor, a quality that is indeed admirable.

After returning home with my greenery, a quick internet search revealed that dandelions are an incredible herb.  Traditionally they are used as a diuretic, improve kidney and liver function, aid digestion, stimulate appetite, act as a mild laxative, and the list goes on.  Recent research indicates dandelion can be used for weight loss, normalizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and as a disinfectant. [1, 2, 3].  Nutritionally, they are an excellent source of calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, vitamins A, B3, B6, C, E, K, thiamine, riboflavin, and folate [4, 5].  That only scratches the surface.  Take home message: eat more dandelions!

Problem being, dandelion greens are really quite bitter.  Young greens aren't so bad, and are often found in "spring mix" salad greens.  The greens I bought were older, and when I sauteed them up with some garlic salt &  pepper like I would normally do with spinach, kale, or collards, they were much more bitter than I would like.  I figured to make them more palatable, they would need to be paired with something sweet.  Tonight's dinner was an overwhelming success!

Sweet Potato and Dandelion Saute
1 sweet potato
1 tsp rosemary
1 cup dandelion greens
1 cup other greens (I used beet greens)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic

Roast the sweet potato with the rosemary in the oven until soft.
Saute onion for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds.  Add greens and cooked sweet potatoes, toss until greens have wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vegan Easter Awesome

I always remember Easter as being a pretty fun time when I was a kid.  Easter meant egg hunts, chocolate, and decorating eggs.  This year, with my niece about to turn two, the fun times can start again.  My mom and I orchestrated her first egg hunt, which she was super good at!  We figured two was a little young for egg decorating, and let's face it, it isn't exactly a vegan tradition.  So I came up with a better idea.  A way better idea.  Let's decorate egg-shaped cookies!  Not only are they vegan and less fragile, but once you're done decorating, you get to eat them!

I made the sugar cookie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, some simple icing, and I had purchased a whole lot of fun sprinkles from bulk barn.  I taped some parchment paper to the coffee table, and handed her some freshly iced cookies for her to sprinkle at will - and sprinkle she did!  As you can see, they are masterpieces! :)  The cookies were delicious (albeit crunchy with the copious amounts of sprinkles), and I think I've just found myself a new Easter tradition.

My family had our celebration on Good Friday, and we discovered at the last minute that my sister-in-law, who is catholic, cannot eat meat on Good Friday.  Good thing there's a vegan at the table!  I made the vegan quiche from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, and put green onion, red pepper, and broccoli in it instead, and topped it with cheddar style Daiya shreds.  It was super yummy, and my sister-in-law thought so too (she even asked for seconds!).  Definitely omnivore approved! This quiche tasted just as good (possibly better?!) the next morning for breakfast, and I am going to start making it regularly as an easy make-ahead breakfast that is fast and nutritious for busy mornings.

What holiday would be complete without cupcakes?  These cute easter cupcakes are super easy to make.  First you take your basic vanilla (or chocolate if you prefer!) cupcake and fluffy buttercream icing from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  Then you colour some shredded coconut the spring colour of your choice, and roll the cupcakes in the coconut to form a "nest" around the outside (leaving the middle un-coconuted).  Then stick some mini-eggs in the middle, and ta-da!  Bird Nest Cupcakes! I know mini-eggs aren't vegan, but they make the perfect decoration (I gave mine to my mom to eat).  If anyone know of any vegan mini-eggs or something that would take their place, let me know so that next year they can be truly vegan, decor and all!