Arugula Salad with Smoked Trout & Peach Preserve Dressing ♥

Arugula Salad with Smoked Trout & Peach Preserve Dressing ♥, simple but special salad supper, makes up in minutes.
graphic button small size size 10 Today's salad supper, perfect for simple summer evenings: Peppery arugula tossed with a sweet fruity-mustard dressing, then topped with bites of smoked trout, fresh fruits and veggies. Totally adaptable, so simple but special. Destined for a go-to dinner! graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2007~
~more recently updated recipes~

Day One: Christine from My Plate or Yours raved about a smoked mullet dip. We bantered back and forth a bit on e-mail.

Day Two 7 am: Arggh. I was, um, hooked. I woke up wanting smoked fish dip NOW. (For breakfast, Alanna?)

Day Two 11am: A client's husband was off to fetch fish from Bob's Seafood, the best (and in my opinion, only) place to buy fresh fish in St. Louis, for their supper. When I asked if he'd mind buying smoked fish for me, he and my client answered, nearly simultaneously, "You need a smoker!" Now he's an accomplished foodie and Anne Cori is chef so I trust their judgments without question. An hour later, he'd picked up the fish from Bob's, he'd picked up a stovetop smoker from her store, the wonderful Kitchen Conservatory – and she gave me a lesson in hot-smoking shrimp, scallops and trout!

And this stuff is heaven! I'm looking forward to learning more about the stovetop smoker – including, with any luck, some vegetables. More on that, later. (Fast Forward Two More Days: My first foray with smoker at home turned out beautifully, just scallops and shrimp and OH SO EASY.)

In the mean time, the sauce the client recommended for the trout turned out to be a delicious oil-free dressing on arugula – snipped fresh from the client's home garden. Yes, indeed, this is a client with "fringe benefits"! Thank you, Anne, thank you, Tom! And Christine, thanks to you, too, for the inspiration that started this odyssey!

UPDATE Eight years passed between Salad One and Salad Two but it wasn't eight weeks before the next one. So simple. So good. So perfect for a sumptuous summer supper. Just look how pretty! I've become partial to smoked whitefish but trout remains wonderful, so does hot-smoked salmon. And scallops!

AN EXTRA PERSONAL NOTE Looking back, I'm wondering if it was this morning that set in motion events that led to being invited to a 4th of July party at the client's home where The Man With the Hands and I first met. Could it be? It just might!

Red Pepper Hummus ♥

Red Pepper Hummus, another easy vegan appetizer ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Today's easy appetizer recipe: A pretty chickpea and roasted red pepper hummus. Such pretty color! Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

After ten days and ten inches of rain and record flooding, on Friday the sun finally made a much-doubted welcome re-appearance here in Missouri. All of a sudden, our kitchen was sunlit again! All of a sudden, twas summer!

... which got me to digging around in the pantry for "summer food," the stuff that's so easy it almost makes itself, the stuff that as easily fuels a quick snack as somehow contributes to supper. Say hello to my latest hummus, this one a pretty pale hue of red, color-wise, as welcome as sunshine compared to my otherwise wonderful signature hummus, the Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus and even the stuff-there's-no-getting-enough-of, the Roasted Eggplant “Hummus" (Eggplant & Chickpea Dip & Spread).

All three versions of hummus are extra-smooth thanks in part to the way I cook chickpeas especially for hummus, How to Cook Dried Chickpeas Especially for Hummus aka "Jerusalem Chickpeas". But this last time I made Red Pepper Hummus? No home-cooked chickpeas were ready to go so I pulled out a can of chickpeas and there was hummus in a few minutes, slightly rougher in texture but equally habit-forming.

So is cooking your own chickpeas recommended? Yes. But can you get away with canned chickpeas. Yes, thank our lucky stars sunshine.

This recipe is so quick and easy that I'm adding it to a growing collection of easy summer recipes published all summer long since 2009 at Kitchen Parade, my food column. With a free Kitchen Parade e-mail subscription, you'll never miss a one!

Baba Ganoush ♥ (Recipe for Middle Eastern Eggplant Spread)

Baba Ganoush, another easy vegan appetizer ♥
graphic button small size size 10 Say hello to the traditional Middle Eastern spread that's found on meze platters in Middle Eastern restaurants along with hummus, tabbouleh, olivada and other shareables. This one's homemade, no more than eggplant, garlic, lemon, tahini and a touch of fresh parsley. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. Paleo. Whole30 Friendly. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2008~
~more recently updated recipes~

BACK IN 2008 What's Baba Ganoush, you ask? First, let's just put this out there, that if you like hummus, odds are high that you'll like Baba Ganoush. And if you love hummus but avoid legumes, Baba Ganoush is your new savior, it's like a vegan, low-carb hummus: eggplant substitutes for chickpeas. So what is Baba Ganoush, again? It's a simple purée of grilled or roasted eggplant mixed smooth with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and parsley. It's a healthy Middle Eastern spread or dip that's traditionally served with pita bread but is easy to use up in other ways too. We like it schmeared on burgers!

Before I loved the garlicky, lemony taste of Baba Ganoush, I loved the sound of Baba Ganoush, pronounced [bah-bah gah-NOOSH]. Say it three times, you might love the sound too – but it only takes one taste of baba ganoush to love how it tastes!

ALTERNATE SPELLINGS (These are for you, Word Dancers!) Baba ghanoush; baba bannoujh; baba-ganouj; babaganoush

TAHINI Baba Ganoush calls for tahini, a thick paste of ground sesame seeds. Look for brands that contain only sesame seeds. It comes in a big jar and is expensive so you'll want to be able to use it in something other than Baba Ganoush. The other classic recipes that calls for tahini is hummus, it's a signature ingredient in recipe like mine, Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus but also shows up in places like Armenian Tahini Bread. It's not-quite-everyday ingredients like tahini that inspire me to keep up this list of favorite ingredients. Anyone else you know who knows all their best recipes that call for tahini? Useful, eh? :-)

For the record, I don't recommend Trader Joe's Tahini Sauce product, it is not tahini. Since that product launched, Trader Joe's also sells small-ish jars of tahini, it's not bad but I prefer the imported bottles. Tahini should be stored in the refrigerator. Over time, it will separate, just run it through the food processor to reconstitute the tahini.

2017 I adore recipes that stand up to the test of time. This recipe for Baba Ganoush is especially useful because you can grill or roast the eggplant, either one, whichever works better. And then with a few pantry ingredients, it's a matter of adjusting to taste. Next time, I'll use a bit more parsley, the green color is quite pretty!

Baba Ganoush is easy to make thus easy to add to a regular repertoire. In fact, that's what my notes recommend, "Definitely make more often. Easy, easy."

Thomas the Tank Engine Vegetable Trains ♥

Thomas the Tank Engine Vegetable Trains ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Hosting a Thomas the Tank Engine theme party? Here's a fun addition to kids' birthday parties and family gatherings with a train theme, colorful and healthy! It's just bell-pepper train "cars" with cucumber "wheels" filled with fresh vegetable "cargo". It's easy to make and great fun for a buffet table centerpiece! graphic button small size size 10

So exactly what is it with little boys and trains? And for that matter, big boys grown men and trains? Twin grandsons are eight now so Thomas the Tank Engine has lost some of its allure. What hasn't, however, is the daily challenge of assembling wooden train tracks that cross the living room floor and then u-turn into a bedroom and under the beds. At Christmas, their PopPop (aka The Man With the Hands) built a two-level train platform with several loop-di-loops that dominated the living room for weeks. Young to old, we gathered round the platform, mesmerized by the tiny battery-charged trains circling round and round, holding our breaths each time "Percy" first faltered then chug-chug-chugged his way up a steep mountain track.

And what is it with me and vegetables? :-) I borrowed a few extra wood train tracks to assemble railroad cars from bell peppers and cucumber slices, then stuffed the train cars with other vegetables. Twas fun! Thanks to my sister Adanna for the inspiration!

How To Microwave Asparagus ♥

How to cook asparagus in the microwave ♥
graphic button small size size 10 Today's microwave recipe: How to cook fresh asparagus in the microwave, quick 'n' easy and absolutely delicious. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Cal. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Paleo. Vegetarian. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real". graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published back in 2014~
~cuz everybody should eat asparagus this good!~
~more recently updated recipes~

F-A-I-L. How in bloody h-e-double-toothpicks in nine years of cooking vegetables did I ever miss this most basic way to cook asparagus? These are my explanations feeble excuses for somehow overlooking the microwave for cooking asparagus:

graphic button small size size 10 "Couldn't see for looking," my mother used to say when she couldn't find something and then suddenly, there it was, right before her eyes.
graphic button small size size 10 Some times the most obvious is least expected.
graphic button small size size 10 Some times it's possible to hide in plain sight.

When the first asparagus showed up in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago, Missouri was still a frozen, snowy place. Buying asparagus felt like defying winter, a determined act of spring hope. I threw the first batch in the microwave for lunch one day, grabbing the camera after the first bite: perfect, absolutely perfect. That night, I put another batch in the microwave: again, a hit. I remembered my long-time favorite asparagus steamer and relegated it to the basement storage room year-round. For a fast fresh vegetable, microwave asparagus is terrific!

NOW. I know some people object to microwaves and strongly believe that a microwave removes nutrients from food. I don't share that idea but do respect your viewpoint. If you'd like to comment, do but be polite and respect my viewpoint as well. Impolite comments will be microwaved deleted. For those who appreciate the speed and convenience of microwaves, check out the brand-new page, Microwave Vegetable Recipes.

Carrot Recipes ♥ Alphabet Vegetables

Tired of the same-old boring baby carrots? Find new inspiration in this collection of seasonal Carrot Recipes from, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, sandwiches to smoothies, simple to special. Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, whole30 recipes.
Hello Vegetable Lovers: Every so often, like now! watch for some housekeeping with the Alphabet of Vegetables here on A Veggie Venture. The goal is to separate out our "most favorite" vegetables so their pages will load more quickly, handy for all but especially those of us who check for recipes on our phones on-the-go. Today? Carrots! ~Alanna

PS Facebook & Pinterest users, if you love A Veggie Venture, be sure to "like" and "pin" this page! More and more, search engines and even real-live human beings rely on social media indicators to identify favorite sources of trusted information.

IN A RUSH? Prefer Another Vegetable?
Skip Straight to the CARROT RECIPES or Switch to the A-Z of Vegetables.

Pronounced [KARE-uts].

The Season. The carrot season is "summer to early fall" but carrots are a staple vegetables easily and inexpensively found year-round. The Carrot Family. The carrot family includes parsnips, parsley root and a South American root called arracha. Special Diets. Carrots are gluten-free, paleo approved, South Beach diet approved (Phase 2), Weight Watchers friendly and Whole30 approved. Naturally, specific preparations matter to each of these eating regimens. Are Carrots Starchy Vegetables? They're not! Like turnips and beets, carrots contain little to no starch. Baby Carrots? NOT!!! AVOID!!! For convenience, bags of "baby" carrots require no peeling and no cutting. For taste, so long as they're eaten raw, baby carrots are not great but fine. Trouble is, so-called "baby" carrots aren't young, tender carrots at all. Instead, they are machine-processed into identical carrot bullets drilled from huge industrial-size carrots, a practice that goes back only to 1989 and is credited with a nearly 2x increase in carrot consumption. Great marketing but once cooked, flat lifeless taste! So for cooking, choose whole carrots and invest a couple of minutes to wash and trim them yourself. If you've only eaten these baby carrots, experience a taste revelation by cooking whole carrots! Are Carrots Always Orange? In fact, no! Dating back to what are now Afghanistan and Iran, the earliest carrots were purple! (No surprise, then, that the traditional Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole (Kabeli Palau) is topped with buttery grated carrot.) Orange carrots were first cultivated in the Netherlands about 400 years ago. In the last year or so, Trader Joe's has been selling bags of multi-color carrots, some orange, some yellow, some white and some a dramatic purple on the inside and orange in the center. They're beautiful! To my taste, however, they're not so good, even roasted which should draw out sweetness. All good looks, not good taste, slightly better raw than cooked. Are There Carrot Flowers? There are! Wild carrots grow with abundance in meadows at our country place but their flowers were already familiar to me. You see, my grandmother's garden was filled with the old-fashioned flower called Queen Anne's Lace. The tiny white blossoms array in flat lacey heads with a "prick" of purple flower in the center. Story goes, that center is a pinprick of blood from Queen Anne, who pricked her finger while sewing lace. Are Carrot Tops Edible? The leaves of carrots are indeed safe to eat. But once you bring home carrots with their "tops" on, cut them off so they don't leach moisture from the carrots themselves. But even if you're not going to cook the carrot tops, watch for these just-from-the-ground carrots at a farmers market, even Whole Foods. They're more expensive but taste completely different from the bags of commercial carrots at the supermarket, so so good! Should Carrots Be Peeled? The skins of just-pulled carrots from gardens, farmstands and CSAs are often so tender, there's no need to peel the carrots. During certain times of the year, even grocery store carrots in cellophane bags are quite fresh and tender, other times, the skins are pretty gnarly and bitter in taste. To peel or not to peel? I let appearance be the guide. Growing Carrots at Home. Carrots were a staple in World War II victory gardens. Last year, we planted carrots seeds and were rewarded by wonderful-tasting but stunted and deformed carrots. Turns out, our raised beds aren't deep enough: when the carrot tap roots ran out of soft dirt, they quit growing. Carrots in World War II. Eat your carrots, my mom admonished. "Carrots help us see in the dark!" Thanks to an abundance of Vitamin A, carrots are indeed good for eye health. But in World War II, a British dis-information campaign claimed that carrots were the reason an ace pilot was able to shoot down twenty enemy planes, nineteen at night. (The real reason? A new technology we now know as "radar".) Street posters promised that carrots would give Britons better eyesight during night-time blackouts. During the war years, sugar was rationed so innovative cooks used the sweetness of carrots in the likes of carrot pudding, carrot cake, carrot marmalade and carrot flan, encouraged by a cartoon carrot, Doctor Carrot. Carrot Capital of the World. The small town of Holtville in southern California is the self-proclaimed Carrot Capital of the World and hosts an annual carrot festival. Carrots for Word Dancers. The "carrot and stick" approach was first applied to mules! French Mirepoix. The "trinity" of vegetables in France is called mirepoix [pronounced MEER-PWAH], a mix of diced onion, celery and carrot, traditionally in a 2:1:1 ratio measured by weight. Start Carrots in Cold Water! For firmer cooked carrots (and potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and beans), immerse the carrots in cold water before turning on the heat. Why? This lets the outer areas and inner areas cook more evenly. Natural Pairings. Carrots have a natural affinity with these flavors: ginger, lemon, lime and orange; butter and cream; parsley, cinnamon, cumin (my favorite!), dill, tarragon, thyme and mint; maple syrup, honey and other sugars. Sources. Personal experience and accumulated learning, also the most-wonderful On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, the Carrot Museum and most recently, The Carrot Purple (And Other Curious Stories of the Food We Eat by Joel S. Denker.

Blue Apron: How It Works for Someone Who Wants Real Food But Doesn’t Like to Cook

A Blue Apron review, Warm Sunny Day by
graphic button small size size 10 How does Blue Apron work for someone who doesn't like to cook but wants to eat real food? A non-foodie's perspective! graphic button small size size 10

Please welcome Minnesota nature photographer Barb Kellogg to A Veggie Venture! Barb is a talented, creative photographer. Flowers and treescapes make up the majority of her work. That's her image "Warm Sunny Day," doesn't it have have a soft, dreamy feel? Much of her work does. In fact, you won't be alone to mistake Barb's fine-art nature photographs for paintings! (And yes, we're related! Cousins!)

Barb also does portrait work. Last spring, she did a photo shoot of me with my dog Lady. I was so happy with her work! Two favorite shots have been been on my personal Facebook page ever since. I can't bear to take them down!

Anyway, Blue Apron! When Barb mentioned on Facebook that she and her husband had signed up for the subscription meal-kit service Blue Apron, right away, I had the idea that after a few months, others might be interested in her experience. Truth be told? When I asked her about sharing her experience, I didn't even know if she would offer thumbs up or thumbs down!

You see, cooking is just not Barb's thing. She's a photographer, not a foodie. We laugh how cooking-wise, we have so little in common. In fact, I'm laughing again now, putting together this post, because all Barb says about Blue Apron's food is that "it's good" – that's compared to my fellow food bloggers who go on and on about quality ingredients and good cooking techniques.

Spoiler Alert? Barb's experience is overall positive! And for anyone who's wondering? This is NOT a sponsored post.