Basil-Miso-Walnut Pesto & Panini

basil-miso-walnut pesto (oil-free)I know it’s been some time since I last posted. I’ve really been making an effort to not push myself too much, since every time I do, I seem to suffer some sort of health setback. I was feeling pretty good, though, until I started a new medication to hopefully wipe out what’s left of my Lyme. I was told by many people that this med (Flagyl), when used for Lyme, is no joke and that I would definitely be feeling its effects. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started taking it and felt fine for a few weeks. I guess that was the honeymoon period, though, because ever since then I’ve been noticing a huge increase in my symptoms — constant stiff necks, night sweats, fatigue and word retrieval problems, to name a few.  Supposedly, this is all good, as it means the medicine is doing its job. But it’s not good for me in terms of living an active life, let alone keeping up the pace of this blog while trying not to be a deadbeat employee at work! Eek.

For the above reasons, this recipe has been sitting in my archives, patiently awaiting some sort of post to go along with it. I swear, when I first made this, basil was actually in season and abundant. But if you live near a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you should be able to still find fresh basil to make this recipe. This pesto has been a staple in my diet recently. Something about the nuts, miso and nutritional yeast combo make this taste so — dare I say? — cheesy that my mind at one point was wondering whether I’d somehow accidentally added Parmesan to my Vitamix. Of course, that would be highly unlikely given that I haven’t bought cheese in several years and never have any in the house. But who knows with these new meds I’m taking….crazy things could happen.

I like to make this pesto thick — almost like the consistency of a chunky hummus– so that I can use it as a dip, spread it on sandwiches, or, of course, serve it on pasta. I find that it sticks much better to pasta, too, the thicker it is. In my experience, it will “melt” a bit into a warm pasta enough to coat everything.

roasted vegetable and pesto panini

Here’s a non-recipe recipe for the roasted veggie and pesto panini I’ve been making with this pesto, followed by the actual pesto recipe, which can be used in so many different ways:

Non-Recipe Pesto Paninis:

You’ll need:

  • Two slices gluten-free bread per sandwich
  • Miso-Basil-Walnut-pesto (recipe below)
  • Eggplant, zucchini and red peppers plus some veggie broth for cooking
  • Vegan cheese (I used Trader Joe’s vegan shreds)
  • A tiny bit of oil to spray on non-stick skillet
  • Another skillet to weigh down the sandwich, or a panini press

What to do:

  • First, you will need to roast the veggies. Since I tried to minimize the added oils in this dish, I roasted the veggies in vegetable broth. I sliced one zucchini and one smaller eggplant very thin and julienned a bell pepper. I tossed it in about 1/3 cup of veggie broth in a large baking dish (so veggies could lay flat) and baked at 350 until the veggies were soft (about 30-40 min). I know this is not technically “roasted”, but the veggies got soft enough to use as a nice panini filling.
  • Spread some pesto onto one side of both bread slices (I am pretty liberal in my pesto usage for these)
  • Top each pesto side with a bit of vegan cheese and then a thin layer of veggies.
  • Carefully put both sides together and place on a nice and hot (pre-heated) skillet that’s been sprayed with a little oil.
  • To make these more “panini”-like, I placed a clean, cast-iron skillet on top of the sandwich and pressed down firmly. I let the cast iron sit on the panini while it cooked on one side for about 4-5 minutes over medium to high heat. Then I flipped the sandwich and did the same with the other side, or until it was golden brown on both sides (or slightly browner than golden-brown, as you can see from the picture…)

Basil-Miso-Walnut Pesto:

Ingredients:

1 bunch basil

2 tablespoons chickpea miso

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 cup raw walnuts

about 1 tablespoon water (plus more as needed)

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender (such as Vitamix) and blend on low-medium intensity until pesto is smooth but still has some green specks.

2. Add more water if necessary until desired consistency is reached (I like mine to be thicker). You can keep this in the refrigerator for a couple days if it’s well covered (I like to use cling wrap and press into the pesto so that it keeps its nice green color).

 

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Raw Broccoli Salad

cleansing raw broccoli salad

Cleansing. It’s a word that you hear a lot these days. Depending on who you’re talking to, cleanses are a beneficial — even necessary — component of health maintenance, needed for removing toxins and restoring our inner health. Others might say that cleanses are unnecessary at best, and at times even dangerous.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to either way of thinking. On the one hand, I believe that we put a lot of crap (for lack of a better word) into our bodies — especially when eating the Standard American Diet of meat, cheese and processed foods. Add the environmental toxins that are in some ways unavoidable these days, and we’re not really doing our inner systems any favors. Then again, I don’t necessarily feel that the only answer is an extreme cleanse. To be fair, I know that juice cleanses and even the master cleanse have had mental and physical benefits for many people. And as much as I’ve been tempted at times to experiment myself, it’s just not realistic when I consider that a typical day for me requires meeting with clients, arguing cases in front of judges, responding to phone calls and emails, and then coming home to walk Woodley and tend to a variety of household chores that, unfortunately, can’t always wait.  From what I understand, the process of cleansing and detoxing necessitates a certain level of removal from daily life before the benefits begin to kick in (similar to a drug or alcohol detox). This is simply not a viable option for many people.

Instead, I try to take a more pragmatic approach to the idea of cleansing. I view it as an ongoing process that I try to fit into my daily life, without risking starvation, social alienation or physical and mental anguish. Here are some of the ways I try to incorporate aspects of cleansing into my daily routine:

  • Every morning, I start of my day with either a large class of water with raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, or a mug of hot water with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Both lemon juice and apple cider vinegar boast numerous health benefits, and have long been revered for their cleansing properties. Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, CN, writes in her book The Beauty Detox Foods that raw apple cider vinegar is a strong digestive aid that also has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also known to alkalize the body — keeping ones body pH from becoming too acidic, which is important for maintaining optimum health. Lemon juice, on the other hand, is also a strong detox aid and has been said to have amazing benefits for the skin. It is also great as a liver detox aid and blood purifier. Like raw apple cider vinegar, lemon is also alkaline-forming in the body. Cayenne pepper is also said to help speed up the metabolism and aid in cleansing.
  • I also drink a green smoothie almost every morning. I often add lemon juice to my smoothie for additional cleansing properties, and use raw leafy greens and fresh fruits which are alkaline-forming and easy to digest. Often, I throw in cilantro or parsley for additional cleansing properties. When I first told my doctor about suffering from Lyme detox symptoms (what happens when you start antibiotic treatment and Lyme spirochetes begin to “die off” in the body, releasing lots of toxins), she suggested that I add cilantro to my green smoothies, as cilantro is an excellent detox aid. It is also great for heavy metal detox — something to consider if you use aluminum deodorant or eat lots of fish.
  • I try to eat several raw salads a day, including my favorite kale salad. I also top my salads with raw fermented sauerkraut or kimchi. Sometimes I make my own sauerkraut according to the method from The Beauty Detox Foods, but often, I just buy a locally-produced brand called The Brinery which is sold throughout the metro Detroit area. Raw fermented sauerkraut and kimchi contain many beneficial enzymes and probiotics which help to aid in cleansing and keep gut flora in check.
  • I have recently cut out processed foods from my everyday diet. Not that I was going crazy on processed foods before, but I would periodically have daiya cheese or organic tortilla chips and other more processed vegan foods. Now, I try to snack on whole foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables rather than processed options. I try not to be too extreme or rigid with this approach, but I do save processed foods and snacks for emergencies or very special occasions.
  • I have to admit that I do still drink coffee. It’s something that I gave up for awhile, but then added back in to my diet when I was becoming extremely tired and suffering from the “die-off” Lyme symptoms I described above. Now, though, I try to never go over 2 cups a day, and I try to take breaks periodically from coffee drinking to give my body some rest. I also ONLY drink organic coffee, as non-organic can contain many pesticides and toxins. Because coffee is acidic, I make sure to only drink it after I’ve had my apple cider vinegar or lemon water and my green smoothie — so that I am balancing the acidity with more alkaline foods.
  • Finally, I try to add other cleansing regimens into my routine as much as possible. Massages and chiropractic treatments can help removed trapped toxins (which is why you’re always told to drink lots of water after a massage). I have also done Far Infrared Saunas, which help you sweat out a lot of toxins. I also recently discovered Zeoforce from Healthforce Nutritionals, which is a brand I really like. This product is a great cleansing aid, as it binds to toxins and heavy metals and removes them from the system. I will admit, the taste is a little like you’re drinking clay — but to me it’s a better alternative than not eating for a week!

This raw broccoli salad is one example of the raw salads I try to enjoy daily as part of my ongoing “cleansing” process. This is actually based on a recipe my mom has been making for a few years, so I have to give her the credit here. I made a few changes — including adding raw red cabbage for further nutritional benefits. My mom likes to use organic dried, unsweetened cherries instead of raisins, which is also very good. Broccoli is an amazing food that contains so many health and cleansing benefits. Yet often, we’re eating it in its cooked form and removing some beneficial properties. When it is raw, I’ve usually seen it in some sort of salad laden with mayonnaise or oil, or in a veggie tray with a fatty ranch dip. This salad is a healthy alternative to those raw broccoli options. Raw cabbage, celery, almonds, cider vinegar and lemon juice add to the numerous health properties of this salad.

Raw Broccoli Salad:

Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

3 cups broccoli florets

1 cup chopped red cabbage

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup minced red onion

1/2 cup chopped raw almonds

1/4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos*

2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

* Note: for a completely raw salad, raw coconut aminos may be used in place of the liquid aminos. Coconut aminos are also soy free. A pinch of sea salt may be added for taste, as the coconut aminos are less salty than liquid aminos.  

Directions:

1. Toss all ingredients in a medium-large glass salad bowl until well combined.

2. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Toss again before serving to distribute dressing. Salad can be chilled in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

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Sweet Potato-Chocolate Pudding

sweet potato chocolate puddingThis pudding reminds me of a mix between a chocolate pudding and the filling of a sweet potato pie. If that sounds strange to you, let me assure you that it’s surprisingly delicious in some inexplicable way. I first got the idea to do a sweet potato pudding at a seminar I went to at the NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest. I can’t remember how that version was prepared, or whether or not chocolate was added. But over the weekend, I had two large sweet potatoes/yams sitting on my counter and was antsy to get creative. This delicious sweet potato-chocolate fusion pudding was the result.

Since it’s made with really healthy ingredients — whole, plant-based foods with no added oils — this pudding makes not only a guilt-free dessert, but can also be eaten as a healthy snack or even as part of your breakfast. Since I still have to take a number of pills and supplements as part of my ongoing Lyme-related treatment, I do need to eat something in addition to my morning green smoothie that is a bit more substantial to coat my stomach. On the other hand, I try to keep my breakfasts very clean and plant-based, and try to avoid processed or heavy breakfasts that are going to make me feel sluggish in the morning. A sweet potato-based pudding like this one makes a perfect compromise between getting enough substance while still eating very clean.

Not to mention you’re filling your body with amazing vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients while getting your chocolate fix! This pudding will keep you full and fueled while keeping you from craving more processed and unhealthy sweets.

A few notes on this recipe:

  • This is one of those recipes that would be best in a high powered blender such as Vitamix. However, if using a standard blender or even food processor, I think this could work if the chia seeds were replaced with ground chia powder. I have not used this product but have been seeing it recently in stores and imagine it would have the same “thickening” properties as whole chia seeds. So, if anyone wants to experiment with that option, please leave a comment and let me know how it works out!
  • I used stevia in this recipe to keep the sugar content down, but since there is no baking science involved here, I imagine one could play around with different sweeteners. Though more liquid-y sweeteners might make this less “pudding” textured.
  • This recipe refrigerates very well — in fact, the flavors get better after about a day.
  • To cook my sweet potatoes, I used two large yams/sweet potatoes (I can never remember the difference) and placed them on a foil-line baking sheet. I baked for about 45-50 minutes in a 400 degree oven, turning once and piercing with a fork after about 30 minutes. Once they cooled a bit, I removed the skins and mashed in a large glass bowl. This yielded almost exactly 3 cups of cooked sweet potato once mashed (plus a tiny bit extra for Woodley). I would definitely recommend fresh sweet potato over canned for this recipe.
  • Shaved chocolate pieces on top (as seen in the photo) are entirely optional but very delicious.
  • I designate the brand of stevia used in this recipe because, with stevia in particular, I find that different brands yield drastically different levels of sweetness. Plus, I find NuNaturals to be not as bitter as other liquid stevias. Again, I am sure a variety of sweeteners would work well here, but I would use caution in terms of how much you add just to be safe.

Sweet Potato-Chocolate Pudding:

Serves: about 4

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked mashed sweet potato (skins removed)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals clear liquid stevia (plus 5-10 more drops to taste)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender such as Vitamix and blend well, until very smooth. Taste for sweetness and add more stevia  to liking.

2. Scrape out ingredients into a glass bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 2-3 hours, before serving.

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Summer Squash and Lentil Salad

summer lentil salad (low-fat, oil-free, grain-free)I’m not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. I am not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. I am not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. 

Ok, where were we? Oh, yes. Here’s a refreshing summer lentil salad that only requires minimal stovetop cooking and nothing in the oven. Why would you want to make something like that? Oh, I don’t know…maybe you’re not feeling like doing a lot of cooking one night due to situations out of your control (ahem, “outside conditions”). Maybe you’re feeling like something lite — not hot. I don’t know why you would be, but maybe you are.

Or, in all seriousness, maybe you’ve just braved the heat (oops, I did it) and walked to your local farmer’s market, where there was likely some lovely spinach and probably some colorful summer squash. And maybe you’ve had that squash sitting in your fridge and you’re wondering what to do with it.

summer squash and lentil salad (low-fat, oil-free, grain-free)

Or, maybe you’re in the mood for a salad. Not your typical, boring lettuce salad with only a few tomatoes and some dressing. But a substantial, satisfying, healthy, high-protein, all-in-one salad that incorporates lots of veggies. Simple. Unprocessed. No added oils or fats. Just refreshing, colorful, flavorful summer fare.

In my constant quest to come up with recipes that can double as lunches I can take to work, this is certainly going to become a regular in that rotation. I love bringing healthful fare that I don’t have to reheat, dress or otherwise prepare at the office. For me, coupled with some simple grains on the side, this is the perfect, light meal. Plus, it’s simple and not fussy — most of these ingredients are pantry staples or can be easily found at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.

This recipe can keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Summer Squash and Lentil Salad: 

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

1 cup dry brown lentils

2 1/2 cups water

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 packet stevia*

1 yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and then cut into thin slices

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, sliced

1 large handful baby spinach

Directions:

1. Place lentils and water in a medium to large pot and bring water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through yet retain their shape.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together apple cider vinegar, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and stevia in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Add squash, bell pepper and scallions to a large salad bowl. Once lentils have cooked, add warm lentils to bowl with dressing and spinach and toss until everything is coated. Serve immediately at room temerature, or chilled in the refrigerator prior to serving.

I used Sweetleaf brand stevia. The package indicates that 1 packet is equal in sweetness to two teaspoons of regular granulated sugar, just to give a frame of reference for those looking to substitute who don’t have stevia on hand. If using a different brand of stevia, add slowly, to taste, as brands vary significantly in sweetness. 

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Caribbean Kale Salad

carribean kale saladI mentioned a few posts back that I recently had the opportunity to go to Chicago for a long weekend for a wedding. While I was unable to hit up every single spot on my list due to time constraints and wedding activities, I did manage to eat at my top 3 “must-try” places: Karyn’s, The Chicago Diner and Native Foods Cafe. While Chicago Diner may have been my overall favorite — the Soul Bowl was out of this world (right, Liz? Unlike the stir-fry which was “not coming out well”) — I think Native Foods cafe was a close second and more closely represents how I eat on a regular basis (fresh, whole plant foods). Karyn’s was also very good, but we went for brunch so had somewhat more limited menu options. Though I have to say, I had a tofu scramble with roasted potatoes and polished off my entire plate.

Because Native Foods had the most menu items that were friendly to my diet (i.e. also gluten-free and many whole plant foods), I really, really wanted  to get the chance to go back a second time while I was there. Unfortunately, I never made it back, which was a true shame because I had already picked out the next item I was going to order — the Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad.

The Native Foods original version of this salad is topped with blackened jerk tempeh, and appears from the menu description to have some sort of a creamy dressing. I desperately wanted to try it, so I decided to try to make something similar at home. In an effort to simplify this dish, I made this recipe without the tempeh, though tempeh or tofu with jerk seasoning and some baked sweet potato fries would certainly complete the dish and make an excellent meal (I should know because I made it with these additions recently and posted it to my Instagram feed, @bversical).

Carribean kale salad top view

This salad is a little sweet with just a hint of spice from the cumin. It’s definitely a nice change from my usual kale salad, though I am not sure I will ever tire of that one.

So, native Chicago folk, did I miss any go-to vegan spots? Let me know what your favorite Chicago vegan restaurants are, so I can be sure to try them out then next time I’m in town (if I can pry myself away from Chicago Diner, that is).

Caribbean Kale Salad: 

1 large bunch curly kale, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for massaging kale

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted until golden brown*

2/3 cup diced fresh mango

1/2 large avocado, diced

1/4 cup red onion, minced

1/3 cup diced red pepper (optional – I omitted it from mine because I didn’t have any)

Directions:

1. Place kale in a bowl. Add teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and massage kale between hands until it begins to break down.

2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients: remaining olive oil, salt, lime juice, cider vinegar and cumin.

3. Top massaged kale with remaining ingredients and add dressing slowly until reaching desired amount (may vary depending on amount of kale). Toss and serve.

I toast mine in a non-stick skillet. Add dry coconut and heat over medium-high for about 4-5 minutes or until coconut just begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat. 

 

 

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Chickpea-Collard Wraps

In my view, the world can be divided up into 3 kinds of people: those who love tuna salad, those who hate it, and those who used to love it before going vegan. I am in that last category — the kind of tuna salad lover who enjoyed it hot, cold, in casseroles and all of the other gross-sounding yet nostalgic concoctions one could imagine. Tuna melts made me swoon with pleasure, while I could have eaten cold tuna salad over crackers, salad, bread — you name it!*

* Incidentally, I have a theory that there is a direct correlation between tuna lovers and mayo lovers, as I happened to love mayo as well (and still consider Vegenaise a staple in my diet). My dad, on the other hand, always found both of these food items gag-worthy — and I can say with all of the confidence in the world that the thing he misses the LEAST since going vegan is ever having to worry about someone trying to serve him tuna salad with mayo ever again.

Anyways, not only does the whole idea of tuna salad not comport in any way ethically with my diet now, but it’s pretty nasty when one thinks about the health implications of what I was eating. Mercury is the first, and obvious, health pitfall to come to mind. But even when one thinks about the canning process and amount of other toxins in fish in general, tuna was probably the least healthy choice when it came to creatures of the sea. Then there was the white bread it was usually served with, and the gobs of cheese if that tuna was made into a melt. Ick!

packaged collard wraps

This refreshing salad-collard combo was designed to satisfy my nostalgia for tuna salads while not making me feel too full or giving me that “ick” factor that comes with eating fatty and unhealthy meals, however satisfying they may be in the moment. This one is satisfying, yet will allow you to go on with your day without needing a post-meal digestion nap (i.e. food coma). It is a great lunch idea, as these can easily be wrapped in cling wrap or foil or packed in tupperware, as they hold together nicely and do not risk getting soggy like bread or a normal wrap would. In fact, collard wraps of a various nature are my go-to lunch source (I also love collard hummus wraps with veggies).

While this chickpea salad is not exactly like tuna, that’s the point! It’s supposed to taste fresh and healthy, while still satisfying those lingering cravings for all you former tuna salad lovers out there who have either given up animal products, or those of you who are trying something much more healthy, low-carb or lighter in general. I love that collards are one of nature’s foods that are “accidentally” gluten-free. So often we’re spending time or money trying to make or buy gluten-free foods with all sorts of ingredients, while collards are so easy and simple. It’s easy to forget about them!

Note: for a more burrito-like wrap, add more filling and fold one side first, then fold the leafy end in, and roll. There’s really no wrong way to roll a collard. OK, maybe there is. But depending on the amount of filling I’m using, and the size and texture of my collards, I go between a more “flat” wrap, a burrito wrap, or more of an open-faced lettuce wrap type concoction. You can also add additions like as sprouts, spinach, avocado other other veggies of choice.

rolled wraps

Burrito-style wrap with more dulse added to taste. Tomato omitted.

Chickpea-Collard Wraps:

A few notes: I am not sure how many this would typically serve, as it probably depends on how much filling you use and what else you’re eating with these. Using large collards, the filling, divided among 4 wraps, makes wraps the size of the top picture. Also, I designed this recipe to be light on the salt content, as the dulse, scallion and aminos add a salty flavor without tons of sodium. However, if you wish to add more salt, adjust to taste. You can also easily add more dulse to taste, as I did in the last picture. 

4 collard greens, thick stems on end removed

sliced tomato

Filling:

1 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons reduced-fat Vegenaise (or soy-free Vegenaise to make this soy-free)

1 teaspoon Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s

1 teaspoon dulse flakes (found in sea vegetable section of most health food stores)

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/4 cup pickle, drained and minced (I always use Bubbie’s brand, which is raw fermented)

sea salt to taste (optional)

Directions:

1. Divide filling among 4 collard wraps and spread around the rib of the collard. Place 3 tomato slices over filling of each wrap.

2. Fold leaves of collard over the rib, and then fold over leafy end, leaving other end open. Place fold down on plate to serve.

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Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup

In my last post, I discussed the power of food in healing. This post is centered around the healing power of spices, which have long been considered medical powerhouses in their own right. This soup utilizes several Indian spices, including the powerful Turmeric. Turmeric has been widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties — I have even taken its active ingredient, Curcumin, in capsule form to help deal with the muscle spasms and neck stiffness associated with Lyme. Similarly, Turmeric is also a good choice for those suffering from other inflammatory conditions and diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is also believed to have anti-cancer and detoxifying effects.

Combine the power of turmeric with the antioxidant-heavy cumin and the cardiovascular (and other) benefits of cayenne, and you have one spicy, healing soup. I also happen to believe that the warming, comforting act of eating a bowl of spicy soup is healing in itself. One cannot eat a hot bowl of soup hurriedly. The necessary slowing down to sip and savor is food meditation at its core.

I got the idea for this soup from this recipe on Food 52, which is equally delicious, albeit much more subtly flavored (i.e. no spice mix — just cauliflower, olive oil, onions, water and salt). When Gennaro’s cousin made the original version for a family Christmas Eve dinner, I lapped up several helpings (hey, benefits of being vegan – we can do stuff like that) and begged for the recipe. Over time, that soup evolved into this one as I worked on creating ways to incorporate more healing spices into my diet. This soup is spicy, indeed, so be sure to adjust to taste if you’re spice-adverse. In our house, we’re spice lovers, so I actually add several dashes of cayenne to the finished product for a spicy finish.

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup:
Adapted from Food 52

Yield: 4-6 Servings

Note: you will need an immersion blender for this dish. If you do not have an immersion blender, you may try to blend small batches in a regular blender, but be very careful not to blend too much at a time using this method and try to let the soup cool first.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped

5 cups water, divided

Spice Mix:

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 dash cayenne pepper, or to taste

Directions:

1. Add olive oil and onions to a large soup pot/Dutch Oven and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until browned and very soft. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the garlic and ginger and saute with the onions.

2. Once onions have softened, add spice mixture and sea salt. Stir to coat. Add cauliflower and 1 cup water and mix well. Cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and stew cauliflower and onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is beginning to fall apart.

3. Add remaining 4 cups water. Stir. Increase to medium heat and heat until water just begins to simmer. Reduce heat and puree soup in an immersion blender until smooth. Heat on low for another five minutes, or until soup reaches desired consistency (it will thicken the longer it cooks. If the soup becomes too thick, you may add another 1/2 cup of water).

4. Serve soup as is, or with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper or sprinkle of cayenne pepper on top.

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My Favorite Kale Salad

new kale saladLet me tell you, nothing quite awakens your health and consciousness like going through a year of Lyme disease treatment. At least, that’s what it did to me. I could now scoff at what I once considered (and what many would still consider) a “healthy” breakfast of soy yogurt and granola. These days, going two days without a green smoothie for breakfast (a lapse I endured while traveling over the weekend) is a long time for me. And a dinner without kale salad to start is almost unheard of.

I won’t rehash the details of my last post (nearly a year ago!), which went into the health issues I’d been having leading up to my Lyme diagnosis. Nor will I go into quite as much detail about how my treatment has been since. But suffice it to say that a year-long course of antibiotics and Malaria fighting drugs for Lyme’s common co-infections can wreak havoc on one’s system — while also proving essential in the overall treatment of the disease.

As a result of this, I have taken a profound interest in how food can play a key role in healing and health. After all, at the time I was diagnosed, I strongly attributed my already gluten-free, vegan and refined sugar-free diet to my relatively high level of functioning given the number of tick-borne infections I had been carrying for several years. If these changes could have had an effect on my immunity, as my doctor also surmised, wouldn’t additional dietary changes prove even more beneficial?

In the last year, I’ve shifted a lot of my diet toward a cleaner way of eating. I have always considered my diet to be on the healthy end of the spectrum, but my research suggested that there was much more room for improvement. While I am not one to ever be extreme — I still enjoy gluten-free pasta, organic tofu and tortilla chips and salsa — I have moved away from processed foods significantly and begun adding more raw, green meals into my diet than ever before. I studied the principles of Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution and adopted many into my own practices. I now eat raw fermented sauerkraut with many meals and kale salad before nearly every dinner, as I alluded to before. I also make it a practice to drink a detoxing green smoothie similar to this one almost every morning, sometimes adding lemon juice, parsley or romaine or substituting pears or strawberries.

While there is probably no way of measuring the exact impact my diet has had during the last year of treatment, I do know that what I eat makes a difference in how I feel overall. There is also a lot of research indicating that anti-inflammatory foods and detoxing is very important in overall healing, and I have made sure to incorporate these types of foods into my daily intake. Of course, I do have to supplement more than the average person, vegan or otherwise. Lyme tends to deplete vital nutrients and minerals, so even with a balanced and healthy vegan diet, I do supplement with high doses of magnesium, B12 and folate daily, among other vitamins and medications in my regimen (including lots of chlorella and lemon juice for detox).

Now that kale salad has become a staple of my diet, I certainly have discovered a few favorites, and this is on the top of that list. I rarely make this recipe the same way twice. In fact, the first time I actually measured any ingredients was when I was making the version for this post. I encourage you to play around with amounts and different ingredients, and to come up with your own favorite version of this salad.

Raw Kale Salad:

Yield: 2-4 servings

Note: this salad can keep in the refrigerator for about a day. It is best served fresh, but kale is quite sturdy and will stand up to dressing and refrigeration, even if the texture of the salad may change somewhat as it sits.

1 bunch lacinato or curly kale, thick stems removed and torn into small pieces

1/8 teaspoon sea salt (1 small pinch)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 head raddichio, shredded (or 1/2 cup of shredded red cabbage)

1 scallion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon raw cider vinegar (or other raw vinegar of choice)

3 tablespoons raw sauerkraut juice*

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

dash of cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Directions:

1. Make sure kale pieces are washed/rinsed and fairly dry. Add to salad bowl. Add sea salt and olive oil and massage well. I like to rub handfuls of kale between both palms to really break it down and soften it.

2. Once kale has been massaged, add raddichio and scallions. Add lemon juice, vinegar and sauerkraut juice and toss. Add nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper and toss until kale is well-coated. You may wish to add additional lemon juice/vinegar/sauerkraut juice/nutritional yeast or even salt to taste depending on saltiness of your sauerkraut. Once seasoning is adjusted, serve.

*This is my secret ingredient for this salad. It makes the flavors pop. You can buy raw sauerkraut usually in the refrigerated section of your health food store and in some supermarkets. I like to use a local brand from Michigan, but Bubbies raw sauerkraut is a good choice as well.

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The Right Salad

Having lived in New York for the last four years, Gennaro and I have spent many a Saturday and Sunday hanging out at local bars to watch our hometown football teams play. For those who are wondering: no, Detroit Lions games are not generally nationally broadcast. Shocker. And when Michigan football games are broadcast on the Big Ten Network, we’ve been relegated to the bar for those games as well.

Anyways, long story short, it doesn’t take much perusing on this site to figure out that my diet and bar food don’t generally mix. Same goes for the pitchers of beer that are often free-flowing at these sport bars — the drink of choice for seemingly every patron but myself. I often feel like a fish out of water, desperately searching the menu for one item — any item — I can eat. If nothing else, it’s an attempt to avoid annoying the waiter/waitress by being “that person” at the table, even though whatever I do end up ordering quite possible ends up annoying him/her just as much. Hence, I have developed some distaste for watching games at sports bars.

There is an exception, however, and a big one. “The Wright Salad” at Brother Jimmy’s was so surprisingly fresh, unique and flavorful that it had me actually hoping for more non-locally televised games on the horizon. The lettuce is actually fresh, crisp romaine with possibly even other heirloom varieties thrown in. It’s tossed with fresh toasted pecans, dried cherries, wild rice, roasted sweet potatoes and poblano peppers in an herb vinaigrette. If you read that description out of context, you would probably not believe anyone who tries to tell you that this salad is actually offered at a sports bar, and moreover, that it’s actually good. Surprisingly, now that I’m leaving New York for good, it’s right up there on my list of “New York” food items that I will really, really miss (along with Caracas arepas, Stogo Ice Cream and Viva Herbal Pizza).

Luckily, I’ve created a knock-off. Mine might not be as hearty (I didn’t have wild rice on hand when I was creating this version). And I’ve added kale for an extra nutritional boost (what can I say, that’s kind of how I roll). But for the most part, it captures the complexity of flavors and the excitement of the original that got me hooked on “The Wright Salad” (no idea about the name, really) in the first place. In other words, I think I got it “right.”

This salad takes a bit of work, especially for a salad. There are a few different components, but they are really all important to the overall taste and balance of the dish. Sure, it might be easier to hop on a plane (or bus, or train) and actually eat-in at Brother Jimmy’s. But if you’re going to hop on a plane to New York for food, I’m sure a sports bar is not the first place that comes to mind, let’s be real. Plus, if you make this salad for guests, it usually garners a lot of interest, as it was certainly the first time I had seen sweet potatoes, dried cherries and poblanos in a single salad.

Salad Ingredients:

1 head good, fresh romaine, washed and chopped

1/2 bunch kale, finely chopped

1/3 cup dried fruit-sweetened cranberries or cherries

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced (as described here)

1/3 cup pecans, dry toasted in a pan until lightly browned, cooled

Herb Dressing:

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup grapeseed oil/light olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teasooon dried thyme

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Toss diced sweet potato with oil and a tiny pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon). Lay flat on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and soft, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.

3. Assemble dressing: briskly whisk or shake all ingredients. Set aside.

4. Assemble salad: toss all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add enough dressing to coat lettuce leaves and toss until coated, adding more if desired. Serve immediately.

 

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Toasted Coconut Macaroons

Hey, everyone. I feel like it’s been forever, though in reality it’s not even been a week since my last post. There have been so many developments and changes in my life, I don’t know where to start! As far as news goes, I did manage to get a job that I really love. The bad news is that it might take us out of New York… But, more on that later; we’re still working out some of the details. Although I should clarify that I’m not necessarily looking at it as “bad” news — it’s more of a bittersweet feeling. A bright future; a bright city to leave behind.

Well, as you might imagine, I’ve been a bit busier in the past week than I was when I was unemployed. Remember my whole rant about being a “night owl/morning person” a few weeks back? Well, I’m no longer either. I both go to bed early and hate waking up to an alarm clock in the mornings. Other than that, though, (and again, I will provide more details in the months ahead), I have the opportunity to do something I’ve only dreamed was possible: feeling wholly fulfilled in my career. The downside (aside from my alarm clock in the morning) is that all of my energy goes into doing well at work, and I have little left over when I get home to cook anything, let alone write posts.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still thinking about recipes all the time, though. I actually made these coocnut macaroons last week. My mom has implored me not to make them again because she liked them “too much” (oh, yeah, I’m living with my parents temporarily, too. But more on that later as well. Don’t worry; all is well with the hubs! …I told you there were a lot of changes going on!) I wanted to make a lower-carb, grain-free recipe for awhile and this one certainly fits that description (plus, they’re vegan, obviously). Although these are not low in fat, if you make them into small clusters as I did, you won’t have to feel too guilty about enjoying one or two (if you have the willpower to resist going for more).

Coconut Macaroons:

1 ½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder/flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

¼ cup light coconut milk

½ cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until combined and sticky. Form into small mounds using a rounded tablespoon measure and lay flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet (if mixture is too dry and falls apart, add a bit more coconut milk. If it’s too wet add a bit more coconut).

2. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

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