Spinach Cashew Spread

I got the idea to do a spinach cashew spread from one of my favorite blogs, Raw Mazing. While I somewhat veered from the original recipe, I tried my best to keep the proportions similar, as I had been having a rough day of trial-and-error with my recipes. A failed strawberry clafoutis. A failed gluten-free bread. A second failed, though edible, gluten-free bread, which you can see pictured above (it made a great vehicle for this spread!). The bread was tasty, but rose no higher than an inch. I did happen to make a really nice cardamom-rhubarb ice cream (I really, really love that flavor combo), though it didn’t turn out to be all that photogenic (the color was kind of blah, and at that point I was too lazy to really style it up). So for my final test recipe, I wanted something that was as close as possible to a sure thing, but that I could still play around with a bit. I had lots of herbs on hand from my trip to the Greenmarket today — with some new potted varieties for my window sill as well. I like bringing a little bit of nature into my dingy, NYC apartment. So I omitted the sun-dried tomatoes from the original recipe and instead threw in some of my favorite fresh herbs, including some of my new window sill basil.

This cashew spread is great on bread (and can even liven up the most failed of gluten-free breads as well, as I can attest). I could also see it being nice over pasta (zucchini pasta for a raw meal, perhaps?) or even sauteed vegetables.

Cashew Spinach Spread:
Adapted from a recipe by Susan Powers at Raw Mazing

1 1/4 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

8 fresh basil leaves

2 handfuls (about 2 cups packed) fresh spinach leaves

1/4 cup minced sweet onion

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup golden flax seed meal

1-2 tablespoons water as needed

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

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Zucchini Pasta

Unless you have the knife skills of a Top Chef Master, you will probably have to get a vegetable spiralizer for this recipe. I got the idea to do zucchini “noodles” from Lexie’s Kitchen, one of my favoite blogs. Of course, this meant adding yet another contraption to our jam-packed tiny kitchen, but it was worth it. I did make sure to get the smallest spiralizer I could find, even though it happened to be the most expensive (ugh). I have to say, though, that so far it’s been worth the purchase, as I’ve made this zucchini pasta every day for a week, in different variations. I’d say something like this is essential for raw, grain-free, and low carb diets.  

I have to confess, I’m not a huge zucchini lover. There’s something about its sliminess when it’s overcooked or its starchiness when it’s slightly under or raw. So I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy raw zucchini pasta, but I figured it was something I could force down every once in awhile when I was craving pasta. You know, for the sake of my health. And my waistline. And my anti-candida diet maintenance — something I haven’t always been diligent about, though I know I should be. But I was pleasantly surprised — shocked, really — to actually enjoy zucchini this way. Which is nice, since zucchini is rich in potassium, which can lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety. You probably won’t fool yourself into thinking it’s actually pasta, but I have to admit, I came close. At the very least, I fooled myself into thinking that my zucchini wasn’t zucchini. The “parmesan cheese” might have helped.

Which brings me to another topic: vegan parmesan cheese. I have a confession. I use it now (this is a recent development in my life). I actually, um, kind of like it. Foodies everywhere should have me blacklisted from the club. At any rate, I’ll own it. If you don’t have a problem with yeast, I’ve heard great things about parma!, which is soy-free and kosher. Since I’m starting to feel like nutritional yeast doesn’t always agree with me, I’ve been using Galaxy vegan topping, which I broke down and bought after three years of doing that thing where I picked it up and put it back on the shelf, not ready to commit to it yet. Of course, if you’re not dairy-free or vegan, you could always go ahead and buy regular parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Pasta Toss:

3 zucchini, stems topped off, put through a spiralizer (I used the medium-sized spiral blade)

1/3 cup kalamata olives, drained and patted dry, halved

1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry and julienned (if tomatoes are not packed in oil, you can julienne regular sun-dried tomatoes and add some oil to the final dish — about a teaspoon, maybe)

3/4 cup fresh vine tomatoes, chopped, or quartered grape tomatoes

1/4 cup parmesan or parmesan substitute

1/3 cup flat-leaf parsely, finely chopped

salt to taste

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Add salt to taste and maybe a little extra drizzle of oil if needed.

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Citrus Jicama Salad

Ironically, while I was in the midst of testing my 4th batch of streusel bars, I actually got hungry. I was craving something light and clean to contrast the sweet and buttery bars. I usually make a jicama salad with mango and mint. But grapefruit is in season and mango is a little harder to find these days. Plus, I just read somewhere (or maybe I saw it on The Dr. Oz Show, though I’m a little ashamed to admit this) that grapefruit can speed up your metabolism. It is also quite low on the glycemic index and is high in fiber. This salad is one of those rare combinations of super-healthy and low calorie while still being sort of addictingly good. You can adjust the dressing according to your taste — more or less agave, more salt, less oil, etc. Be sure to get really juicy lemons and limes for the dressing. I didn’t measure exactly when I made mine, but I know that the lemons and limes I used yielded a lot of juice. If yours are slightly less juicy, just adjust the rest of the ingredients proportionately.

Cirtus Jicama Salad:

1 jicama, peeled and diced

1 grapefruit, segmented (membranes removed using hands)

1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffoned or minced

Dressing:

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)

Directions:

Combine jicama, grapefruit and mint in a salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.

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Vegan Caesar Salad

vegan caesar saladCaesar salad is one of those ubiquitous menu items. It ranges anywhere from a pre-packaged container of stale croutons and wilted lettuce at the airport to the real good stuff that’s tossed tableside, to order, at the best Italian restaurants. As a result, the legitimacy of any given Caesar is sometimes questioned, let alone a vegan Caesar.

I’m always hesitant to put together a recipe that seeks to omit an inherent ingredient in a classic dish. Look at any Caesar recipe. It may be eggless. There may or may not be anchovies. Some include mustard. But there is almost always going to be parmesan cheese. That’s what makes it so good.

I’m sorry to inform anyone that I haven’t found the magical vegan substitute for parmesan. For many vegans, a popular alternative is nutritional yeast, which I used in this recipe. It’s nutty — and, by definition, nutritious — but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re looking for an exact match. That said, I invite you to suspend your notion of what a “Caesar” salad should or should not taste like — or include. This is just a good, creamy, salty, nutty, tangy dressing with the spirit of a classic Caesar and without the eggs or anchovies. Or the parmesan cheese.

In lieu of croutons, I sometimes use chickpeas for a bit of texture and a touch of protein. I also like to use my focaccia recipe for croutons. I toss cubed focaccia in a little bit of olive oil and baking them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Use 1 head of chopped, crisp romaine lettuce for this salad. This will serve about 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as an entree salad. The dressing recipe makes plenty of dressing, so store any remaining dressing in a glass jar in refrigerator. It will definitely keep for a few days, if not longer (it’s never lasted long enough in my fridge for me to find out). 

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

1 clove raw garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 scallion, white part only

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Blend all ingredients  for dressing in a blender until smooth. Toss romaine with just enough dressing to coat lettuce. Serve right away.

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Mango-Papaya Salsa

salsa

Mango-Papaya Salsa:

1/2 cup diced mango

1/3 cup diced papaya

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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Spicy Avocado Dip

Ever play the game where you ask yourself the one food you could never live without? I love that one. I have to admit that while there are several obvious answers that come to mind, somehow I’m always left with one answer that is clearer than others: guacamole. I love it. I would be content eating it by itself, with a spoon. When I go out for Mexican, the chips and guac order to start is obligatory, but I take it a step further and usually order extra guacamole to go with my meal. Yes, I’d have a pretty hard time ever living without the stuff.

The one thing I’ve noticed about guacamole is that while the same basic ingredients go into every recipe — avocado, lime, salt, onion, tomato — it seems like no guacamole is ever alike. Some are lime-y, some are creamy, some are chunky, others smooth. They range in flavor, texture, and heat, and I love them all.

I decided to call this recipe a dip. Despite the wide range of possible guacamole interpretation, the creamy consistency of this recipe really reminds me of a great dip. I made a big batch on Friday and Gennaro and I enjoyed it over fish tacos. I enjoyed the leftovers the next day with a healthy handful of chips.

Avocado Dip:

2 ripe avocados

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoons salt

3 scallions, greens topped off

4 jalapenos, seeded and roughly chopped (add back seeds gradually until dip reaches desired heat)

2 plum tomatoes, seeded, roughly chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

Directions:

1. Puree avocado, lemon juice, salt and scallions in a food processor until smooth and homogenous.

2. Add remaining ingredients and puree until dip is speckled but smooth, with no large chunks of vegetable remaining.

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Raw, Grain-free, Vegan Sushi Rolls

Let me first apologize to those sushi purists out there who object to anything rice-free being called sushi (which literally means “vinegared rice,” not “ground nut and vegetable thing”). I am sincerely sorry. Second, let me apologize to those raw purists for calling this dish “raw” even though the recipe calls for a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and nori, which is lightly toasted as well. I thought I could sneak it past everyone, but in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would just come out with it (any true raw purists out there who know whether either of these ingredients is actually forbidden? I would actually love to know). I have to confess as well that this was not my genius idea, but a treat I have enjoyed several times at the Living Zen Organics Cafe at the Detroit Zen Center — a place I’ve praised here before, and one I’ve included in my “Delectably Free Faves.” Being a frequent visitor of the cafe whenever I am back in Michigan, I have had the privilege of being able to study their raw sushi enough to pay homage to it with a version that is somewhat distinct in flavor and texture, but still quite good. In fact, Gennaro, my harshest taste-tester (by default, really, because he is the only person who samples all the meals I make before posting them here), gave this dish a “very good,” which translates to two thumbs up from him (I’ve learned to decode his comments after years of experience, being that he is un-critical by nature, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse).

This dish also seems like an appropriate continuation of the holiday detox theme. This is a carb-free sushi that provides several health benefits from walnuts, which are high in fiber (a must for any successful detox), vitamin E (good for the brain and the immune system) and omega-3 fatty acids (also good for brain health and immune function, as well as well as beneficial for cardiovascular health). Sunflower seeds, as well, are a great source of vitamin E. They are also high in magnesium (good for bone health and for regulating nerves) and selenium, which contains cancer-fighting and detoxifying properties. Add vegetables and nori, which is rich in potassium and iron, and you have one delicious, super-healthy meal, appetizer or snack. This sushi is also a great way to get a picky eater to eat nuts, I might add, as they are ground up and seasoned, making them virtually unidentifiable in the dish.

Raw Vegan Sushi:

Yield: 4 rolls

4 sheets sushi nori

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup raw walnuts, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon reduced sodium wheat free tamari or coconut amino

3 scallions, chopped, white part only (use rest for garnish)

3 tablespoons – 1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 large carrot, julienned

1/2 large cucumber, julienned

1 avocado, sliced

1 teaspoon wasabi paste, plus more for serving

Directions:

1. In a blender, combine sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame oil, tamari, scallions, water and sea salt until fairly smooth, but with some texture remaining (but not large chunks). This process may take some coaxing with a spoon, and you may add more water as needed.

2. Spread about 1/4 of the nut mixture over 3/4 of the sheet of nori, leaving open space at the end of one side of the sheet. Using your fingers, spread about a 1/4 teaspoon of the wasabi paste about 1/4 inch away from the edge of the clean end, making a thin layer which will be used to seal the end of the nori after the sushi has been rolled. Place some julienned vegetables and sliced avocado on the end with the nut mixture, and, tucking the vegetables in with your fingers, tightly roll the sushi (special sushi tools, I’ve found, are handy for this but not necessary), pressing down on the nori as you go. When rolled, press the end of the nori down slightly with finger to seal.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with remaining nori, nuts and vegetables.

4. Cut sushi into equal-sized pieces using a sharp knife (serrated is best). Serve with additional wasabi, pickled ginger and wheat-free tamari sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

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Jalapeno Salsa

023My aunt made this delicious jalapeno salsa over the weekend. I loved it so much, I asked for permission to share the recipe. This is a wonderful alternative to a traditional green salsa, which is typically made with tomatillos. If you seed the jalapenos, the salsa will be quite mild, though you can always add seeds to suit your tastes and preferences. Even though it seems like the recipe makes a lot of salsa — which it does — trust me, it won’t last long. I suspect this salsa would be really great over fish or chicken, simmered with shrimp, or stirred into rice for a delicious side dish for a Spanish or Mexican meal.

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Aunt Pam!

Jalapeno Salsa:

16 jalapenos, halved, seeded and stems removed

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped

1/2 small white onion, diced

4 roma tomatoes, diced

juice of 2 lemons

salt to taste

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until fairly homogenous — or until salsa reaches desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste.

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Turkish Shepherd’s Salad

This is a healthy — yet addictive — salad that goes great as a side with any Middle Eastern dish, such as mujadarah. A single recipe makes enough to serve 2-4 (depending on how many other items are on your menu), but I like to make a triple recipe and have it on hand over a few days for a healthy meal or snack. I got the idea for this Shepherd’s salad from a wonderful version I enjoyed at the Turkish Kitchen in New York. They serve great Turkish food in a very trendy, nightclubish atmoshpere. The Turkish salad is a must-order there. I love the burst of flavor from the briney kalamata olives, a lovely contrast to the fresh, crunchy vegetables and parsley.

Shepherd’s Salad:

1 1/2 cups diced persian cucumber

1 cup diced roma tomato

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1/3 cup minced red onion

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Toss all ingredients in a medium bowl to combine.

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Carrot Ginger Dressing

I’m busy early in the week this semester. When the days are long and I’m getting tired, I’m always tempted to order in or hit the salad bar at Whole Foods. Just a little Sunday night preparation, however, goes a long way. Last night, for example, I washed and cut up some romaine, roasted some tofu, and sliced some red onion. By adding some sprouts and this dressing I had a simple and healthy lunch and dinner, and one that will last me at least a couple of days. Despite the very low calorie content of this dressing, it’s amazingly flavorful. Prepare a batch for yourself and let it brighten up your busy week as well.

Ingredients:

1 cup diced carrot (about 2 carrots)

1/4 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon wheat free tamari

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

pinch salt to taste

Directions:

Blend everything in a blender until fairly smooth. Dressing will be thick and carrots will still have some texture, but no crunch. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

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