The tomatillo is an odd little fruit. When I tell people that I planted a tomatillo plant in a pot in my front yard, they usually say, “Toma-what-what?”. I actually never knew what a tomatillo was either, until last summer. I like to try new foods… sometimes I’ll just buy something I see in the store or at the farmers market because it looks different. Often times I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into.
Once, I purchased a bitter melon. Had there been a sign near this curious-looking vegetable that said ‘bitter melon,’ I might have had a clue about it’s overpowering, awful, bitter flavor. But no, there was no sign. It was anonymous… and I just couldn’t keep my hands off of it. It looked a bit like a funky cucumber so I expected it to be similar. And oh boy, was I wrong. Really wrong. Let’s just say there is a very good reason it is called bitter melon.
But I digress. This article is about the amazing, nearly indescribable tomatillo— which is a relative of the tomato plant. It is not, as some people think, a green tomato. Without it’s papery husk, it does resemble a green tomato from the outside, but once you cut into it, you’ll know it’s different. It’s not at all watery like its tomato cousin. It has small seeds that are nested in a sort of crispy, green-apple-ish looking interior. And the flavor— hard to describe. It’s tart, tangy, and sweet all at the same time.
In the store or at the farmer’s market, they look like this:
I became so enamored with this crazy little fruit last summer that I decided to try growing my own this summer. The bush itself shot up quickly— its gangly dark stems reaching towards the sky. The flowers were sweet little yellow things. My favorite part the tomatillo plant are the tiny little lantern-like fruits that magically appear and over time, transform into delicious little firm spheres of tomatillo yumminess.
Although my yard doesn’t get a full day’s worth of direct sunlight, my tomatillo plant did ok. I didn’t have a bumper crop this year, but I managed to harvest enough tomatillos to garnish a few dishes— and they were absolutely divine. I had purchased a purple variety of the plant and as you can see from the top photo, where the husks split open and the fruits were exposed to the sun, they turned a beautiful shade of purple.
Unfortunately my plant didn’t yield enough to make my own salsa this year, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying some amazing tomatillo salsa. I have recently discovered a fabulous tomatillo salsa made by a company here in Colorado called White Girl Salsa. I met the founder, Julie, a.k.a. White Girl, this summer when she was offering free samples at Whole Foods. (I just love it when people who make delicious food offer free samples!) Julie is a cool gal, with an awesome cowboy hat, and it’s her fault that I now have a unyielding addiction to her tomatillo salsa.
She calls it Cranberry Mango salsa, and as you might imagine, tomatillos go fabulously well with cranberries and mangoes. Check out her site— you can order her delicious salsa online! Seriously, this is good stuff. I eat it on chips, spoon it over beans and rice, and it always goes on my healthy nachos!
I know that probably sounds odd— beets in chili. I hadn’t planned on putting beets in my chili, it just happened. And am I glad it did.
As a member of local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year, we’ve been getting a bounty of locally-grown vegetables every week. Well, now that Fall has come and gone, it seems our weekly goodie baskets have been overflowing with beets and winter squash. I like beets. I usually chop them in to small cubes, roast them in the oven with olive oil and sea salt, and enjoy them just like that. Sometime I add the roasted beets to my salads. Sometimes I add raw shredded beets to my salads. Sometime I juice the beets and drink them up.
After several weeks of getting beets in our CSA basket, I was feeling a bit uninspired by them. Nearly ready to give them away to my beet-loving friends, I was suddenly struck with the idea of adding them to my chili. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a good idea or not, but not wanting the beets to get the best of me at the end of the CSA season, I decided to give it a try. Chili is one of my favorite winter dishes. It’s easy. It’s filling. It’s delicious. And what I love the most about chili is that my vegetarian versions are super healthy—low in fat, high in fiber, with tons of veggie goodness in every spoonful. My vegetarian chili often has a bit of whatever veggie is in my fridge— sometimes its kale, or carrots. Other times I reach for the lesser known root vegetables like celeriac or rutabaga. With chili, I find that you can put almost any veggie into the pot. It’s flavors will merge with the others, and yet still retain a hint of their natural essence.
For this version of chili, it tasted like chili, and yet it tasted like beets and butternut squash at the same time. The beets and squash imparted some sweeter notes to the dish, with the lovely earthiness of the beets shining through.
I like to make chili in a slow cooker because it just doesn’t get any easier. The most time you’ll spend on this recipe will be chopping a few veggies.
1 can cooked kidney beans (or black beans, or pinto beans, or whatever bean you like)
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
2 to 3 medium beets, scrubbed clean, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of medium or hot chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sea salt (to taste)
black pepper, to taste
2 cups water, or vegetable stock (more if you like a wetter chili)
Place everything in the slow cooker. Put the lid on and cook until the beets and butternut squash are soft.
I’ve spent the last few weeks meandering though Mimi Kirk’s 200-plus page book, Live Raw. Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty. As you might recall, about this time last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mimi, who had recently been voted the “Sexiest vegetarian over the age of 50″ by Peta. My conversation with her is posted here. Since then, I’ve been anticipating her first book and I’m pleased to say that it delivers great recipes, and captured Mimi’s take-on-the-world personality at the same time. This weighty paperback— which has traveled with me from nightstand to kitchen to couch and back to nightstand nearly every day— can be opened to any random page and reveal something inspiring. While the book offers hundreds of delicious recipes and raw food techniques, I found it to be a delightful smorgasbord of really good advice about health, beauty, and nutrition, and of course, food.
Food. There’s no shortage of food in this book. Let me tell you about some of my favorite recipes:
Basic Green Smoothie. It should not come as a surprise that I’m a big fan of green vegetables. What I love most about the raw food movement is it has popularized the idea of putting highly nutritious, leafy green vegetables into a smoothie. Parents note: kids will like these drinks too! Mimi’s recipe for a Basic Green Smoothie is right on target: not bitter, not too sweet, simple, and nourishing. And if you like smoothies, Mimi has included dozens of other creative recipes for liquid concoctions. From nut milks to Mojito in the Raw, there is no shortage of delicious, healthy drinks to choose from.
Bagels and Cream Cheese. This really is a delightful recipe and while they won’t fool anyone who is a die hard bagel fan, it’s a fun recipe that offers the perfect crunch. And of course, Mimi has given us a delicious raw cream cheese recipe too. Raw cream cheese is a wonderful non-dairy spread made from cashews. Yum!
Lettuce Wrap Salad with Cilantro Sauce. This was delicious and so easy to make. I found it to be a perfect light lunch on a hot summer day. Using a combination of crunchy, cool summer vegetables like jicama, peppers and peas, this wrap is entirely nutritious. And the cilantro sauce is a perfect complement.
Corn Tortillas. This recipe gets my star of approval for innovation. I own quite a few raw food cookbooks and have never seen a raw corn tortilla recipe before. This is easy to make and a delicious alternative to cooked tortillas. I’ve included the recipe below so give it a try and let me know what you think.
These are just a few of the great things you’ll find in Mimi’s book. The section on condiments is fantastic with wonderful recipes for everyday staples like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. And then there are chapters on desserts, soups, salads, and main courses, all delivered with Mimi’s wisdom and passion for raw foods. Whether you are fully embracing a raw foods life-style or just want to explore some healthy plant-based recipes, I promise Live Raw will be an excellent addition to you cookbook collection.
Reprinted with permission from Skyhorse Publishing.
Blend all ingredients except flax meal in a high-powered blender until smooth, adding water if needed to make a smooth texture. Add flax meal and adjust liquid if necessary. Blend into a smooth, thick, but pourable consistency. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Pour 2-3 tablespoons on a nonstick dehydrator sheet and shape into rounds with a spatula or back of a tablespoon. Dehydrate for 5-6 hours or until tortilla is dry yet still pliable. Be careful not to overdehydrate. Store in ziplock bag in refrigerator. Will last three days.
Beets and goat cheese are a classic pairing so it’s no wonder this sandwich is nothing short of outrageous. This simplified gourmet feast is a beautiful homage to the early spring garden.
Makes two sandwiches
I woke up filled with gratitude this morning. As most of us do this time of year, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one. Although nothing in my life this last year unfolded as I had expected, I am filled with gratitude for everything— mostly for still being a conscious being in a body that moves and breathes. Life is a gift.
I’m not a big fan of resolutions. The word itself connotes failure for so many people. We can be so hard on ourselves. We make promises— resolutions— to change something in our lives, and then we jump off the deep end without knowing how to swim. The problem with resolutions is that we’re rarely prepared and we have goals that are way too big without having the resources to get there. Usually, we haven’t done our homework when we make these resolutions. We want to go from A to D, but we have no idea how to even get from A to B.
Rather than declaring resolutions tonight as the bell tolls, I invite you to sit down in a quiet place and ask yourself what’s important to you and what you really want in the new year. I invite you to make intentions instead of resolutions. In my life, I have found that the act of setting intentions has almost magically made things happen. Intentions are not goals, but rather living, dynamic, authentic projections of the things that are truly important to us.
Here’s an example. A resolution might look like this: “I resolve to stop spending and put $10,000 in savings.” An intention, on the other hand might be this: “I intend to become more aware of my spending patterns, with the goal of always having enough money.”
Do you see the difference? Intentions reflect the most authentic, basic need. In the above example, the need is not to have a specific amount of money in the savings account, it’s to have the comfort of knowing you have enough.
I encourage you to explore the idea of setting a few intentions. Be kind to yourself. Look at where you are in your life right now, and ask yourself what’s truly important. From there, the intention of your life will become clear.
More yoga. Less desk chair.
More family and friends. Less meaningless TV.
More biking, hiking, swimming, and frolicking in the outdoors. Less “exercise”.
More gratitude. Less worry about how the future will unfold.
More long walks. Less long sits.
More simple. Less stuff.
For all my loyal subscribers and casual readers, I appreciate that you have tagged along with me during this freshman year of my blogging adventure. Thank you.
May you all you have a year filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. First for yourself, and then for others.