Carrot & Apple Flax Muffins with Cashew Cream Frosting

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While putting my flaxseed meal into mason jars for storage, I noticed a muffin recipe on the back of the flax bag. Well clearly I had to try it!

Since the recipe wasn’t vegan, I changed a few ingredients around and was happily surprised by the result. They were quite a hit at my Friday Night painting party.ūüôā

Carrot & Apple Flax Muffins with Cashew Cream Frosting

Recipe adapted from Bob’s Red Mill’s Bran Flax Muffin Recipe

1. Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 cup oat bran
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp¬†cinnamon
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 medium apples, shredded¬†(I did not peel them)
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 2 tbl chia seed
  • 6 tbl water
  • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (soy, almond, rice, etc.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

What to do: 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, flax, bran, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to incorporate everything.
  • In a food processor shred the carrots and apples. Add them and the chopped almonds to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine.
  • In a small bowl combine the chia seeds and water to create a chia “egg”. This is your eggs replacer. Allow this to sit for about 5 minutes, for the seeds to absorb the water.
  • Add the chia “egg”, milk, and vanilla extract to a medium bowl, and stir. Now you can add the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry.
  • Give the batter a final stir, and start filling some muffin tins!
  • Cook the muffins in the oven for around 20 minutes.¬†While the muffins are baking, prep the frosting recipe as follows.

2. Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
  • 1 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbl¬†coconut oil (room temperature or melted)
  • 1/3 cup liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, or honey (though not vegan))
  • splash of water

What to do:

  • Place all ingredients in a high powdered blender (I use a Vitamix), and blend until smooth. I stuck the frosting in the refrigerator while the muffins finished cooking to let the frosting thicken a bit.

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Protein-Packed Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Slow Food Santa Cruz: Annual Edible Gardens Tour

This past weekend was the annual Slow Food Santa Cruz Edible Gardens Tour. The tour which normally focuses on private gardens, highlighted school gardens this year. We stopped at three different schools to see what they called “gardens”, but were more like small farms! One of the sites had about 30 varieties of apple trees. ¬†Students are out in the gardens learning both during and after school, as the curriculum is highly tied to the gardens. The dedicated staff teaches gardening, nutrition, and cooking utilizing¬†garden ingredients.

The Fitness 4 Life program introduces additional components of health such as biking, dance, and other forms of exercise. The kids made fruit packed bike-powered smoothies at the event, using one of their Rock the Bike bicycles. It was amazing to see the kids pedaling as fast as they could to blend the fruit.

Just to give you an idea of what was in the gardens: figs, avocado, kiwi, apples, rose hips, grapes, persimmons, kale, sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, 5 or so varieties of peppers, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, stevia, mint, verbena, ¬†and I could go on….

To learn more about the Santa Cruz chapter of Slow Food visit our website.

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Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

If you’re ever driving along the One, and passing the Pescadero area (a little south of San Francisco), stop to hike along the ocean and marsh. There’s some good bird-watching to do, and spots to stop for thoughtful¬†contemplation. I sat on a bench and read for nearly an hour, becoming¬†so absorbed in the book¬†that I forgot where I was.

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Pie Ranch

Another jem near Pescadero along the One, is Pie Ranch. As the name implies, they have pie for sale, however the ranch is so much more. While I’d been inside the Pie Ranch shop before, I’d never seen the actual farm. Lucky for me, they offer a self-guided tour of the farm, which is exactly what I did.

I was greeted by goats and a puppy,  fields of greens, fruit trees, and veggies galor.

Learn about their Food Education program here, and their Farm Apprenticeships here.

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And back in Santa Cruz…for anyone that wonders why I love running so much at the crack of dawn…this picture should explain it.

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And now for the food!

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Blanching  loads of organic tomatoes I harvested at Live Earth Farm. Tomato sauce recipe is below!

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Protein-Packed Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 cups dry brown lentils
  • 1 box of pasta ¬†(I used a brown rice and quinoa blend)
  • 1 tbl avocado oil
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below)
  • Few handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped¬†(oregano, rosemary, basil)

What to do: 

  • Rinse the lentils, add to a medium pot with 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender (around 20 minutes).
  • While the lentils are cooking,¬†cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • In a skillet heat the avocado oil, and add the kale. Cook over medium heat for around 5 minutes.
  • Once the lentils and pasta are cooked, drain them both and add them together in one pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and kale.
  • Plate the pasta, top with some herbs, and enjoy!

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 12-15 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbl oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbl olive oil

What to do:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully add the tomatoes and cook for one minute until the skin begins to split. Transfer the tomatoes into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cooled slightly, peel the tomatoes completely.
  • Add the tomatoes and other ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth
  • You can add the blended sauce back to a large saucepan over medium-low heat, cooking for around 15 minutes. Add some olive oil before adding the tomato sauce to prevent sticking! Stir frequently and allow some of the liquid to evaporate (concentrating the flavors). This extra cooking time also makes the lycopene in the tomatoes more available for your body to absorb.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, let the sauce cool, and divide evenly into glass mason jars. Leave a bit of room at the top of the jars if you plan on freezing them (the liquid will expand as it freezes). You could also can the sauce, however I’m not (yet) familiar with the process.

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Sun-Dried Tomato & Almond Cheese Spinach Sandwich

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Michigan Adventures

Michigan in August is a magical place. Pair the crystal clear water of the lakes with good friends, dancing, and fried avocado tacos from a taco truck, and you’ve got a recipe for a memorable weekend. Oh yes, and an impromptu proposal.ūüėČ

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Unlike the lake I grew up on in New Jersey, Lake Charlevoix in Michigan was unbelievably clear. No seaweed to be found! You could see straight to the rocky bottom, though admittedly not as comfortable on the feet. I found a little slice of heaven in a nearby hammock, while the boys got lost in a Wes Anderson adventure on the water.

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The following two photos don’t do the grand scale of Lake Michigan justice.¬†It’s huge! Rex Beach could easily be mistaken for a beach along the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest. As soon as you enter the water, you quickly realize you are most certainly NOT in the Northwest, as the water is noticeably warmer. My Pacific Ocean adventures in Santa Cruz have consisted of me running in, and promptly out, of the frigid water. There’s a reason why all the surfers are in full body wetsuits!

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Mmmm…sandwiches. This sandwich combines some of my favorite things all in one. Sun-dried tomatoes provide a little sweetness, the almond cheese a savory aspect, and spinach is always a good idea.

Health of the ingredients

Aside from being insanely tasty, the sandwich is also equally healthy. Isn’t it great when that happens?

  1. Almond Cheese – Protein, healthy fat, fiber, and vitamin E from the almonds. More healthy fat from the olive oil.
  2. Spinach – Iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and so much more.
  3. Sun-Dried Tomatoes -Also lots of iron, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Since they’re dried they have higher concentrations of nutrients then fresh tomatoes. Lots more antioxidant lycopene! Fighting cancer one tomato at a time.
  4. Sprouted Bread – Lots of different whole grains in here provide protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Look for a bread variety with several types of grains (like Ezekiel brand), to get the widest variety of amino acids and vitamins/minerals.

Okay let’s eat!

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Sun-Dried Tomato & Almond Cheese Spinach Sandwich

Yield – one sandwich

Ingredients: 

  • 2 slices sprouted bread
  • 2 tbl sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tbl tbl almond cheese (storebought or using the recipe below)
  • 2 big handfuls spinach
  • 1 tsp avocado oil (a good high heat oil)

What to do: 

  • Bring¬†a skillet to medium heat on the stove. Once the pan is warm, add the avocado oil and swirl around to ensure full coverage.
  • Spread the almond cheese on the bread, layer on the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and place your sandwich in the pan.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook your sandwich for about 4 minutes on each side. Check the sandwich periodically to make sure your bread isn’t burning! Keeping the heat lower will allow the inside of the sandwich to warm through, without burning the bread.

Almond Cheese Recipe

Yield – about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight (about 8 hours, longer is fine too)
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp¬†sea salt

What to do: 

  • Soak the almonds in water overnight. Use a container about twice the size, since the almonds will expand as they soak and absorb the water.
  • Drain the almonds after soaking, and place them in a high-power blender. Blend until smooth, then add the oil and salt. Done!

How simple was that?! Yes it takes a little forethought and planning ahead to soak the almonds, but once you’ve got them soaking there’s not much else to do.ūüôā

Sun-dried tomato & spinach sandwich

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Turmeric Ginger Salad

Turmeric Ginger Salad_logoOne of my friends had her birthday party on a catamaran this past weekend. The views from the water were breathtaking. Plus the fog didn’t roll in, so we actually had a beautiful sunset too!

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On a quest to introduce more anti-inflammatory foods into my diet, I made this delicious turmeric packed salad dressing to toss in my daily salads this week. Not only was the dressing tasty, but the salad ended up having so many vibrant colors as well. Green, yellow, red, pink, white, and so many shades in between.ūüôā

The recipe below will make a really big bowl of salad, which I have for lunch throughout the week. It would work really well as a dinner dish to share with your friends and family too.

Turmeric Ginger Salad

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup¬†extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup¬†apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbl lemon juice
  • 2 tbl agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 inch chunk fresh¬†ginger

Salad:

  • 2 large heads lettuce (green, romaine, red, etc)
  • 2 barlett pears, chopped
  • 6 deglet dates, finely chopped
  • 5 small beets, thinnly sliced (I used a setting on my food processor to get them really thin)
  • 3 lemon cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped

What to do: 

  • Blend all the dressing ingredients together in a blender until smooth (I use a Vitamix).
  • Combine the salad ingredients together in a big bowl.
  • Drizzle the dressing on top, and toss to ensure everything is nicely coated.

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Snack Attack: Cacao nib bites

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It was a weekend with some incredible nighttime views…

The harbor was spectacularly stunning with sailboats passing by, the lighthouse in the near distance, and setting sun painting the sky a myriad of colors. To top it all off, there was live music and the most refreshing libations.

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The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary hosted an informative First Friday event at the Sanctuary Exploration Center, staying open until 8pm for visitors to peruse displays of wildlife living just across the street in the Monterey Bay. There just wasn’t enough time to see all the center has to offer. Another trip is most certainly in my future.

Most of the time at the event was spent talking to the¬†Whale Entanglement Team (WET), who had a table at the event. It was fascinating to hear about team members going out into the water to rescue whales caught in nets. I learned that the underside of a whale’s tail (the fluke) acts as a critical identifier unique to each whale (much like a human fingerprint).

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Cacao Nib Bites

This recipe was adapted from Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run “Xocolatl Energy Balls”. I swapped out some ingredients I didn’t have, for ones that I did. Personally I think they taste absolutely delicious, with a pleasant crunch from the cacao nibs. These are great for an afternoon snack, dessert, and for hiking (no mess!).
Yield about 10 bites

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 10 small dates, pitted
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp coconut oil, softened or melted

What to do: 

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor (except coconut oil) until consistency is fine and will stick together.
  • Add the coconut oil and blend again.
  • Roll the mixture into about 10 balls, and refrigerate. Once chilled for about an hour, enjoy!

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Big Dreaming in California

While coming back from an afternoon run along West Cliff yesterday, I came upon a scene that I still don’t know what to make of. Two firetrucks and several police cars blocked the road, while lifeguards sprang into action toward the ocean.

What was going on here, you may be wondering. My best guess is that someone got a little too close to the edge of the cliffs and fell down into the water, unable to get back out. Why am I writing about this on a food & travel blog? Well I thought it was about time I write about my new life in California. To take a moment and share the observations I’ve made in the environment that now surrounds me.

California is amazing, in every sense of the word and I don’t know if I’ll ever leave. That being said, it isn’t perfect, as no place is. I believe it’s the imperfections and therefore possibilities for improvement which make it so alluring (and of course all the natural beautyūüôā ).

The people I’ve met, in Santa Cruz particularly, have a true passion for creating positive change. There’s a lot going on here to get involved with, no matter what you’re passionate about. The community is as environmentally conscious as they come, with a large bike commuting scene, farmers markets in numerous locations throughout the week, and even a¬†compost collection service via. bike. Whoa.

It seems that the community is all on the same page. We need to protect the environment, start reversing climate change, and build healthier communities. Now. I can’t say I’ve ever lived somewhere like this. There are always the naysayers on the other side pushing against change, progress, the good people are trying to do. Perhaps it’s because the community seems so in sync that projects are actually completed in a timely manner. Imagine that!

I think that’s the really inspirational part. Not only can one see the possibility for change, but your community supports you in making that change. It’s realistic to dream big in California. Wilder Ranch Tours17.jpg

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Sunflower Date Energy Balls

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Big Basin Redwood State Park has some amazing microclimates, from open forest with sandstone paths, to dense heavy forest shaded by redwood trees hundreds of feet high. This trip included hiking eleven miles around trip to Berry Creek Falls. The falls are actually three falls (lower, silver, and gold). We stopped for a picnic lunch at the last fall.

Along the way to the falls, our docent pointed out numerous edible plants including California Violet, huckleberry, and more sorrel than you could imagine.

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And a (brief) visit to Castle Rock State Park. If you want to go hiking here…go early! What was planned to be a day of hiking in the park, turned into a short although still pretty 45 minute walk. Due to some serious lack of parking anywhere near the main park entrance, we ended up hopping on another trail a few miles down the road. The Skyline Trail had some nice intermittent views of the south bay, and a nearby overlook gave us a glimpse of the distant ocean.

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Back at home I spent some much needed time in my kitchen, creating some delicious meals and snacks for the week. These no-bake sunflower date balls come together in about 5 minutes. It doesn’t get much easier to create such a tasty snack. I will add that these would be perfect for taking on a hike as well!

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Sunflower Date Energy Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

What to do:

  • Blend ingredients in a food processor until the mixture sticks together. Form the dough into about 10-12 tablespoon size balls.

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A Quick 2-Day Pickled Zucchini Recipe

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Happy belated Fourth of July!

How did you spend your 3 day weekend? I spent mine hiking, picnicking, and watching fireworks.

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AND I made some quick zucchini pickles. Since I’m new to pickling…I started with a quick pickle recipe. I made these on Thursday last week, and was snacking on them Saturday afternoon.

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Quick Zucchini Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups boiling water (for sterilizing jars)
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tbl garlic powder
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil (for pickling)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown¬†sugar
  • 1 tbl sea salt

Needed Equipment:

  • 2 wide mouth quart mason jars
  • Medium mixing bowl

What to do: 

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, and carefully pour 1 cup into each mason jar. Place the lid on the jars and swirl water around (wearing an oven mitt is best, to avoid burning your hand). Allow the jars to rest with the water inside for a minute or so.
  2. While the jars rest, slice the zucchini into thin rounds.
  3. Dump the water out of the jars, and start layering in the zucchini. You’ll want to pack the zucchini in tightly.¬†Add in some fresh chopped dill and garlic powder after every few layers of zucchini.
  4. Once you’ve added all your zucchini to the jars, make your pickling liquid. In a medium bowl mix together 3 cups of boiling water, olive oil, white vinegar, brown sugar, and sea salt. Whisk this mixture together until the salt and sugar are¬†dissolved.
  5. Now pour the mixture into your zucchini filled mason jars, dividing it evenly. Tamp down the zucchini to ensure all air bubbles are released. Cover jars with lids and allow them to cool on the counter until room temperature.
  6. Screw the lids on the jars and place in the refrigerator. The pickles will be ready in a day or two.

I’ve read the zucchini¬†should last for around a week, although my pickles might be gone before then.ūüėČ My officemates are excited to taste these pickles, as I’ve been talking about making them for weeks with the promise of bringing some in to share!

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Flowers in Ma Salad: Bachelor Buttons

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Talk about a colorful salad! My bachelor button flowers are finally blooming, just in time for me to add them to some lovely salads. I also acquired the greens, cilantro, and strawberries locally. I bet if I looked a little harder, I could find the other ingredients from a local source as well. Yes, I should do that. 

In an effort to get some more plant-based probiotics in my diet, I’ve made a miso (fermented paste i.e. probiotics) dressing. White miso doesn’t have too strong of a taste, which is good here as I really want to taste all my yummy salad ingredients. The apple cider vinegar also gets you some serious added health points here.

You will have dressing left over from the simple recipe below, to try on a variety of other dishes. Think stirfrys, steamed vegetables, over quinoa, beans, and lentils. Oh the possibilities!

Please note that the pictures on this page are of my lunch….the recipe makes much more than this!

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Bachelor Button & Strawberry Salad with Miso Dressing 

Ingredients: 

Salad

  • 1 medium head each green & red lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked yellow split peas (white beans or chickpeas would also work well here)
  • 3 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • bachelor button flowers (or other edible flower), for sprinkling on top

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup white¬†miso
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup/agave)

What to do: 

  • Layer all the salad ingredients in a large bowl in the order stated above. This way 1. you’ll have a beautiful bowl to admire before digging in, and 2. you won’t smush the flowers.ūüôā
  • Whisk (or blend) the dressing ingredients together. After portioning out the salad into bowls, drizzle a tablespoon or so of dressing over each bowl. The remaining dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for future salad use or some other dishes mentioned above.

Enjoy my plant-loving friends!

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CSA box inspired Refreshing Red Beet & Quinoa Salad

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This past weekend I got my zen on at the 14th annual Land of Medicine Buddha festival. The festival was a magical experience in the redwoods, filled with Tibetan food, music, a lecture on ancient medicine, buddhist prayer, henna, much more.

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After the festival, I was craving some refreshing food similar to the Tibetan food at the event. With a CSA box’s worth of food in my refrigerator, I was ready to cook!

This refreshing salad combines the best local organic ingredients of beets, cabbage, and parsley, with protein-packed quinoa. It’s served cold, making it the perfect summertime meal for lunch or dinner. The short preparation time and number of ingredients, makes this dish wonderful for beginner chefs as well.

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Refreshing Red Beet and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from Route 1 Farms’ CSA box recipe! Thanks for the inspiration guys.ūüôā

Ingredients: 

  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 3 medium beets, shredded
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa, about 1 cup dry
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

What to do: 

  • Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and allow it to cool completely.
  • In a food processor, shred the cabbage and beets.
  • Chop the parsley.
  • In a large bowl combine the cabbage, beets, parsley, and quinoa, tossing until well mixed.
  • Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss once more.
  • Place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, allowing¬†the flavors to come together. The longer it sits, the more time the vinegar has to soft the cabbage and beets.

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