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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie an/or get her cooking advice, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.


Seventy-eighth in a series of articles


Howdy there Darlin's,

I'm jes tickled pink shoppin' at the farm stand this month with all them purty veggies lookin' fresh as a daisy an' tastin' mighty fine, too. Why, they's as handsome as can be 'cause they was picked the day before, an' that's what makes 'em crisp an' crunchy--mighty speshul!

Lots o' folks askin' how I kin tell when a vegetable is really fresh when they's at the store shoppin', so this is how I judge 'em. My best advice is ta buy yer fruits an' veggies at the farm stand or farmer's market if'n y'all got one nearby. The grocery store is my second choice.

First, ya gotta really look at them veggies with a stern eye --they oughter look sassy an' not all tuckered out. If'n the color is shiny, why they's usually purty good, but if'n they's lookin' dull an' tired, they certainly cain't be fresh.

Next, ya gotta feel 'em. Jes pick up a zucchini an' give it a l'il ole squeeze. If'n it feels soft or limp as a dishrag, just walk away an' leave it behind. A really fresh zucchini squash gotta be nice an' firm from end ta end an' it's gonna have a nice cheery color.

An' finally, hold that veggie up to yer nose an' take a whiff. I know y'all might feel self-conscious walkin' 'round the market smellin' the veggies, but I tell ya true, yer nose kin tell whether they's fresh or not. There's a nice satisfying' smell 'bout a honest-ta-goodness fresh veggie. If the grocery store veggies been refrigerated, why then it's next ta impossible ta smell anything at all.

Well, I brought home my veggies and got right ta work fixin' up a deeeelicious salad with a nice big cauliflower I done chopped up with some cukes an' red peppers. Oh, my! It looks mighty good--an' I'm gonna a give it a squeeze or two from them fresh lemons in my bag. Now this salad looks like it oughter have some Asian flavorin' with some sesame seeds an' dried coconut.

I surely hope y'all enjoy it--I know my family will.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Here's an easy side salad that features the flavors of Southeast Asia and makes a tasty addition to the buffet any time of year. With its colorful good looks and tasty sweet, sour, salty flavors, this salad is also a welcome addition to a potluck, a light lunch, or a picnic.

Asian Cauliflower Salad


Yield: about 5 to 6 servings

    1/2 small cauliflower, trimmed and finely chopped
    1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water

    1/2 (5-ounce/141g) can sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
    1 Persian cucumber, diced
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins plus 1/4 cup (120 ml) extra for garnish
    1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    1 green onion, minced
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    1 teaspoon rice vinegar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

    1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce
    2 tablespoons minced cilantro

  1. Put the cauliflower and carrot slices in a large, deep skillet. Add the water and cook and stir over high heat for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.
  2. Add the water chestnuts, cucumber, bell pepper, the 1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins, coconut, green onion, lemon juice, sesame oil, sesame seeds, vinegar, salt, and cayenne. Mix well to coat all the vegetables and distribute seasonings evenly.
  3. Line a serving bowl or platter with lettuce leaves and spoon the salad into the center.
  4. For the finishing touch, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup raisins over the top and sprinkle with the cilantro.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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