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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. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

Well, we been enjoyin' some mighty fine sunny skies an' warm spring days--jes right fer a Happy Easter celebration comin' soon accordin' ta my calendar.

An' what kin be better then a deeeelicious salad o' spring green kale all dressed up with somethin' yer gonna love ta pieces, jes like I do. When I spent some years in the South, why I was eatin' my share o' them nice fresh roasted peanuts growin' mighty close ta my home.

Well, you kin imagine the mighty fine fixin's I was makin' with all them peanuts--if'n you'd come a-visitin', you'd be tastin' peanut soup, peanut sauce, peanut desserts, an' peanut ever'thing!

So, it's mighty fittin' that yer gonna be tastin' this fresh spring kale salad with one o' my fav'rite salad dressin's--my Bangkok Peanut Salad Dressin'. Now, this salad is more then kale an' peanut dressin'--yes siree, yer gonna be packin' this salad with wedges o' fresh tangerines that's right in season, along with some red bell pepper an' cucumbers, too.

An' don't ferget ta give that kale a nice massage with the peanut dressin'--that's what makes it so purfect fer a nice Easter dinner salad.

Happy Easter ever'one!

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Peanut lovers like me, who never tire of those crunchy, nutty-tasting wonders, always gravitate toward recipes that include them in any form. I'm also an avid fan of kale, raw or cooked. So I thought why not combine peanuts and kale. Slowly, a delicious kale salad was beginning to take shape, but I hadn't decided what the dominant flavor would be. It could be sweet, tart, savory, or a pungent kaleidoscope of all those flavors.

The decision ultimately fell onto my taste buds. They were craving a kale salad with a taste-popping dressing that could be defined as sweet and sour, but also contained pungent ingredients with a strong umami edge. That magical blend of flavors spoke to me from far-away places like Thailand or possibly Indonesia, where sweet and sour sauces are king and crafted so tastefully.

I learned a little secret from a raw chef who makes heavenly kale salad. In working with raw kale to make it a little softer to the palate and to best infuse the dressing throughout, he lovingly and patiently massages the dressing into the kale pieces before adding other ingredients. The results are unmatched! The pampered kale salad becomes a divine symphony, rich with flavor and innovatively embellished with a chorus of sweet fruits and crunchy veggies. Keep in mind the dressing will thicken once refrigerated.

Enjoy the recipe along with the great health benefits from two highly nutritious gifts of nature--kale and peanuts.

Bangkok Kale Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

    1 large bunch kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces

    1 recipe Bangkok Peanut Dressing

    1 1/4 cups (300 ml) chopped or whole tangerine segments, about 4 to 5 small tangerines
    1 cup (240 ml) sliced hearts of palm quartered, or water-packed artichoke hearts
    2 Persian or pickling cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and chopped
    1 red bell pepper, diced, or 3 to 4 mini red peppers, sliced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) coarsely ground unsalted peanuts, plus 1 or 2 tablespoons for garnish

  1. Put the prepared kale into a large, deep bowl. Measure 3/4 cup of the Bangkok Peanut Dressing and pour it over the torn kale. Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale, coating all the leaves completely.
  2. Wash your hands and add the tangerines, hearts of palm, cucumbers, 2/3 of the red bell pepper, and the peanuts. Use salad tongs to toss the salad.
  3. Garnish with a few bits of diced or sliced bell pepper and a sprinkle of the reserved peanuts.
  4. Alternatively, divide the salad into 4 to 6 salad plates and garnish with the diced red bell peppers and peanuts.

During summer, when tangerines have long left the produce bins, I cut slices of fresh, unpeeled peaches, nectarines, or apricots into the salad. Chopped or sliced yellow summer squash also adds a touch of bright summer sparkle and pleasing texture.


Yield: 2 cups (480 ml)

    1/2 to 3/4 cup (120 to 160 ml) crunchy or creamy, unsalted peanut butter
    1/2 cup (120 ml) low-fat coconut milk or vanilla soymilk
    1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice
    1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for 1 full minute or until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
  2. Using a funnel, pour the dressing into a bottle for easy serving. Alternatively, pour the dressing into an attractive bowl and serve at the table with a ladle. Use immediately or chill until ready to use.
  3. Put leftovers in a covered container and keep refrigerated. Shake well before using. Refrigerated, the dressing will keep for 6 days.
Note: If you prefer not to use the blender, measure the ingredients into a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a whisk until creamy and well blended.

If you plan to make the dressing and serve it right away, use the thicker, 3/4-cup measurement for its ability to cling so well to the greens and provide great flavor. If you are making the dressing to chill and serve at a later time, the 1/2-cup measurement is ideal because the dressing will thicken when refrigerated.

Leftover Peanut Dressing

This dressing is so tasty you won't need to wonder what to do with the leftovers. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pour it over a variety of steamed veggies to create your own version of Gado Gado, an Indonesian cold salad served over rice.
  • Dress another salad.
  • Use it as a dressing over a pita sandwich filled with bean burgers and raw veggies.
  • Pour it over coleslaw and toss well.
  • Prepare an Asian style stir-fry and season to taste with the dressing.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes 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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