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Asian Tempeh and Sugar Snaps

Sugar snaps are the jackpot of the pea family. They’re as sweet as fresh spring peas, but their entire pod is edible. If you’ve ever spent some time shelling peas, you know this is a godsend. Sugar snaps’ pods also pack them with an extra boost of nutrition, for instance 150% more vitamin C than regular garden peas. They’re comparable to snow peas, only far more sugary and delicious. I.e., the golden jackpot of the pea family, especially when it comes to stir-fry.

Here, I’ve spruced them up with some of the classic flavors of Asian cuisine – soy sauce, hoison sauce, and sesame oil. Tempeh takes to these flavors well, too, generating an almost “meaty” consistency for this vegetarian dish.

For the spring season, sugar snaps generally peak around June, so be on the lookout at your local farmer’s markets in the upcoming weeks. I know I’ll be looking to purchase more of these perfect pods.

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Free-Form Herbed Pea and Quinoa Pilaf

If you’ve ever had a taste of fresh peas, you know they’re well-worth all the monotonous shelling effort they require.  I’ve done hours of this kind of pea drudgery for my parents, yet I still look forward to when they come in season every year.  The little balls are bursting with a super sweetness that can’t be matched, needing just a little butter/olive oil and S&P to create a satisfying snack.

At the last farmer’s market I helped work, I noticed many of the customers passing over the regular peas for snow peas.  Often, they’d tell me, I want the ones that don’t require any of that prep.  I would’ve convinced them otherwise, but that meant more for me, so I passed on the pea persuasion.

Really, if you sit down and watch a little TV before dinner, and shell some peas while you’re at it, the whole pea prep. isn’t that bad.  I ended up taking advantage of some slow time I had at the farmer’s markets to start freeing a few peas from their pod for myself.  By the end of the day, I had a whole bag at my disposal.

I added them to this free-formed quinoa salad, along with some fresh herbs from the garden.  I love light, summery salads like these, especially when creamy avocado is thrown in the mix too.  And as light as this salad is, it’s packed with protein.  Peas have 5 grams per cup, and quinoa has 8 grams per cup, making this a great meat-free, protein-filled dish. Use whatever amount of each ingredient you desire.  You really can’t go wrong when you are utilizing fresh ingredients.

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Indian Rice

The following rice is so simple, but filled with such wonderful flavor. The peas add a touch of natural sweetness and a wonderful pop of color to the staple grain. Sometimes I find myself wanting to make this recipe even when I’m not eating Indian food alongside it. And why not, right? For an Indian feast though, rice is an absolute must.  It’s the perfect instrument to sop up all of the flavors in many of the traditional creamy, stew-like dishes so that they don’t escape to the bottom of your plate. While this recipe can certainly stand on its own, the flavors are subtle in comparison to all of those full-bodied curries and won’t seem overpowering when paired with other dishes.

Up the nutritional value by swapping the white basmati for whole grain basmati if available. To make the switch, all you’ll need to do is add a little more water and increase the cooking time.

Indian Rice

Serves 6

-2 Cups white basmati rice
-Green cardamon pods, cracked open to give 1 1/2 tsp. seeds
-1 tsp. whole cumin seed
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1 3/4 C water
-3/4 tsp. turmeric
-1 Cup frozen or fresh peas
Heat the oil in medium sauce pan and add cardamon & cumin seeds. Saute until seeds begin to pop.  Then add the rice and stir and saute until rice is fragrant (a minute or so).  Add salt and stir. Add water, and cover pan with lid.  When rice comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Then add turmeric and stir rice a little with a fork. Add the peas, cover and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, stir peas into rice, place in serving bowl and enjoy.

Garlic Shitake Kale Soup with Wheat Berries and Peas

With an array of different varieties of kale in the garden and more than enough leaves of each type waiting to be picked, it was time to start utilizing this green powerhouse in some recipes.

In my household, kale is eaten nearly everyday, sometimes even more than once a day if it’s the green of choice in the morning’s smoothie.  Typically we simply steam the vegetable and add a little olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper once it’s plated.  But sometimes this can just get plain old boring, and right about the time those thoughts started entering my head, I came across a kale soup recipe in one of my favorite go-to magazines, Vegetarian Times.

Including kale and ten cloves of garlic (yum), I knew this was a recipe I wanted to try.  I modified the magazine’s version and threw in a few extra ingredients I had on-hand.  The soup turned out wonderful, and served as a perfect light accompaniment to a half sandwich and later as a pre-dinner appetizer.

As the magazine mentions, in addition to antioxidant-fiber-filled greens, the recipe is composed of nothing but other nutrient-loaded ingredients as well.  Fibrous wheat berries as well as shitake mushrooms, containing eritadenine, “an amino acid that speeds up processing of cholesterol in the liver”, combine with the kale to make a tasty and super healthful treat.

Garlic and Kale Soup

Note:  Wheat berries need to be soaked overnight prior to making the following recipe.  If soaked and not used right away, simply drain and store in fridge.  They will last several days this way.

-1/2 cup of wheat berries
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-5 oz. shitake mushrooms
-10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
-1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
-15 0z. kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
-1 cup fresh peas-2 cups water – (These are coming in season, so look for these in your garden or local farmer’s market.  The shelling is definitely worth the extra work!)
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-Tabasco sauce, to taste

Soak wheat berries in bowl of cold water overnight, filling bowl at least one inch above berries.  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Saute 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.  Add sliced garlic and saute two minutes more.  Stir in vinegar, using it to scrape any brown bits stuck to the pan.  Simmer until vinegar is nearly evaporated.  Ddrain wheat berries and add to pan, along with vegetable broth and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes.  Add kale and cook for 5 minutes.  Add peas to pan and cook another 5 minutes, or until peas and kale are tender.  Stir in tabasco sauce to taste, and additional salt if needed.