This week's featured home cook Sara Novak was suggested by her friend and neighbor, Susane Harris of Sullivan's Island.
Sue writes, “I know Sara because she and her husband are my neighbors and I can attest to her good cooking because I often finagle my way over to their house to taste test her creations! She recently posted two recipes that I hope to try to recreate: Hoisin Marinated Tofu Fried Rice and Everything But The Kitchen Sink Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes.
“Her cooking is not only delicious but healthy and will inspire your readers to eat better.”
Name: Sara NovakAge: 31 Occupation: Health and food writer
Family: Married to Justin; two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.
Lives: Sullivan's IslandQ: Can you briefly elaborate on what you do?
A: I'm a health and wellness writer for Discovery Health. I explore popular health and specialize in natural health and holistic wellness topics for their website. I also write about food policy and health for Discovery's TreeHugger.com. I recently launched my own website Serenekitchen.com, where I dabble in plant-based recipes and explore overall wellness topics.
Q: You are a food activist of sorts. Can you crystalize a few of your strongest beliefs?
A: I believe that food is your daily medicine, three times a day, every day. Your diet has by far the largest impact on your overall health, both mentally and physically. By changing your diet, you can alter your life.
Q: Are you vegan or vegetarian?
A: I emphasize a plant-based diet, free of meat and most dairy. But at the same time, a health addiction is like any other addiction. Stick to your ideals, but don't obsess.
I eat fish and dairy once in a while, but for the most part, a vegan diet. My reporting led me to conclude that a meat-heavy diet was the root of so many health problems. A plant-based diet is a simple and natural way to lose weight, keep your arteries flowing strong and eat sustainably.
Q: What are some common misconceptions about such a diet?
A: Hands down, the largest misconception is that you don't get enough protein. Americans in general get far too much protein. On an entirely plant-based diet you can get protein from nuts, seeds, whole soy, Spirulina, quinoa, beans, lentils and even some vegetables.
People also tend to think that a plant-based diet means eating like a bird, but my meat-loving husband can attest to the hearty nature of my cooking.
Q: What is your cooking style?A: When I cook at home, it's mostly plant-based recipes that fall in line with the seasons. I'm a huge fan of all things local whenever possible.
Q: Do you cook on a daily basis? How do you find the time?
A: Yes, we eat in most nights. I wake up before the sun rises and get to work so I can knock off a little earlier than most. It leaves time for me to decompress in the sanctuary that is my kitchen at the end of the day.
Q: Just for fun, what are a few things you've had for dinner this past week?
A: I made a delectable avocado chickpea bruschetta with fresh oregano and basil from the garden and quinoa-stuffed tomatoes with fresh corn and Vidalia onion.
Q: Who do you find inspiring in the food world and why?
A: Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks (a culinary blog) is one of my favorites. Her creativity is second to none and each recipe she comes up with might as well be a work of art.
Q: What's a favorite food indulgence?
A: Without a second thought, it's french fries.
A favorite recipe: Upscale Vegan Nachos
Ingredients2 full-sized whole wheat tortillas, cut in fourths
2 tablespoons sunflower oil1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed
1 avocado, meat removed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh corn1/2 cup organic black beans, cooked
Sea salt to taste1/2 cup pico de gallo relish
1/2 cup shredded soy cheeseOlive oil for drizzling
Cilantro for garnishDirections
Add oil to a medium skillet and turn the heat up to medium high. Add in tortilla pieces, two at a time. Cook until golden brown on each side and set aside.
Turn the broiler in the oven on.
Place each nacho chip on a cookie sheet. Add a layer of onion, jalapeno, avocado, corn and black beans. Season with sea salt.
Top with a layer of pico de gallo and soy cheese. Place under the broiler, watching carefully so as not to burn the chips. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cilantro. Serve as an appetizer.
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When overflowing with zucchini, make fritters
You don't have to travel far to find a zucchini joke. Their abundance, how fast and large they grow, and the misery-loves-company aspect (see joke below) make them an easy target.It's obvious zucchini is an Italian word. Zucca translates as gourd, and with the diminutive suffix “ini,” you're talking about a little squash.I know they're better to eat when small in size but they are hardly petite when left to grow unchecked. So where did the “little” come from? I saw a reference to one that was 2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. That's freaky. Did you hear about the woman who grew the world's largest zucchini? She decided to take it to a friend to show it off. The zucchini was so humongous it stuck out the car window and she couldn't lock the car. Stopping at the supermarket for a few things on the way, she returned to her car to find something awful had happened in her absence. Someone had left her the world's second largest zucchini, too ... Cheryl Townsend of Johns Island has been picking plenty of zucchini from her Johns Island garden. She has fixed it grilled, steamed, stir-fried, in a casserole and made zucchini bread. Her sister Barbara remembered their grandmother's zucchini fritters, and that sent Cheryl in search of a recipe.We heard from two readers with the same recipe, Millie Waite of West Ashley and Kitty Bierling of Summerville.Says Millie, “I have had this recipe for at least 20 years and would call it a fritter. I use it every summer. Yum!”Fried Zucchini CakesMakes 8 to 10 pancakesIngredients1/3 cup buttermilk baking mix1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper2 large eggs, lightly beaten2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 2 medium-sized zucchini)2 tablespoons butter or margarineDirectionsMix baking mix, cheese, salt and pepper in bowl.Stir in eggs until mixture just becomes moist.Fold in zucchini.Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat.Using 2 tablespoons of batter for each, fry about 4 pancakes at a time, 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until brown.Keep cooked pancakes warm while frying the rest.Alma Collier of Harleyville offers a recipe from one of her cookbooks, “America's Favorite Recipes.”Squash FrittersMakes 4 servingsIngredients1/2 cup flour1/2 teaspoon baking powder2 cups cooked mashed squash, cold2 cups milk2 eggs1 teaspoon saltVegetable oil for fryingDirectionsSift flour and baking powder; combine with all remaining ingredients.Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Make 4 cakes from mixture. Fry cakes on both sides until browned.Also thanks to Betty Johnson of Manning.If there's a recipe you've lost, have memories of or a dish you are just wondering about, email food@postand courier or call Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.