When I first moved to LA in 2009, a friend of mine told me to keep my eye out for a new “fake meat” called Beyond Meat that was soon to make a debut at Whole Foods. I searched and found it in the prepared foods section. Whole Foods created a tasty curried “chicken” salad with currants and almonds. I was hooked and started to buy all their products once they were available and created my own dishes: everything from chicken tacos to gyros to burgers to meatless lasagna and more. So when my husband, a climate scientist, told me that Beyond Meat had contacted him to give a talk on climate and his research, I asked him to tell them how much I love them and share my blog. Apparently they were inspired and invited me to create a meal to taste for them. Me! Cooking a meal I created for the people at Beyond Meat! My creative juices flowed and I wanted to fill a white space. They have many delectable recipes on their site, but no Indian dishes. After eating Indian food focused on potato, rice, bread, and yogurt with veggies scattered as an after thought, I was determined to make a North Indian dish my way – full of veggies, vegan, grain-free and flavor-forward using the Beyond Meat chicken strips. In the honor of Beyond Meat, I created a vegan chicken tikka masala with a grain-free cauliflower rice pulao. Bold, layers of flavor, tender meat. I am so glad I inserted myself into this climate talk – I was able to craft an amazing recipe steeped in my love and knowledge of the company products and meet the intelligent, engaged and passionate people behind these animal and planet friendly foods.
Those poor girls, always part of a joke having to explain why they cross the road. Why can’t we just let the chickens be? We can. I have been eating a lot of eggs for protein lately but have been questioning whether it is appropriate for me or not. The industrialized farming process in this country is inhumane and it is not always easy to access eggs raised on small ethical farms. I want to limit my egg consumption to those eggs I get from farmers we trust at the farmers market and friends that raise chickens. When I was asked to be vegan for a month for the animals, I jumped on it – it would challenge me to create new recipes and devote my focus on reducing my egg consumption. On Whole30, I was making egg salads with my avocado mayo. I was craving a replacement – something simple, filling, versatile and tasty. When I was young, I was obsessed with chicken salad. Such a simple food that gave you protein, fat and some veggies with a crunch. Using almonds as the base, with some celery, carrot, cabbage and an avocado based mayo enhanced with kelp this is my plant based chicken salad. No soy, no dairy. Tasty goodness.
On January first, I was asked by a friend to join a month long vegan challenge. I have been fascinated by his journey of healthy eating, that began with eating meat but clean food and eventually led him to veganism based on his love of animals. I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years but have thought a lot about factory farming and the horrible conditions animals must endure for us to eat butter, cheese, eggs, etc. I try to buy from small farms with humane practices at farmers market, but many times buy from the grocery store, and even the most humane farms when moving to grocery store sized production levels are not as good as we’d like to believe. So I agreed to his challenge. If you have been reading this blog, you know that create plant based recipes that are vegan, but every so often I used ghee or eggs. I love a challenge – especially one that requires me to come up with a whole food plant based ingredient that replaces an animal product. Last year, as part of my food as protest movement and blog, I created a cauliflower steak (vegan), nut gremolata (vegan) but it was served over a cauliflower puree that was made with heavy cream and butter and lentils made with ghee. So I recreated my own dish to make it vegan. You may have had a cauliflower steak but this one is twice cooked to add a deeper and richer level of flavor. The lentils were the protein in the dish. The pistachio gremolata adds acid and color. The cauliflower puree is the creamy mashed potato of the dish without the starch. Filling. Nutritious. Taaaaasty.
Well swingin’ to the flour swingin’ to the cream
Swingin’ what I crave ’cause that’s my extreme
Swingin’ to the whole food and swingin’ to the lean
If I think about how I feel I prefer to eat clean yeah
I Weird Al Yankovic’d the song because I heard it and now all I think about is pie with Thanksgiving around the corner (yes, I verbed his name). Pie seems to be focus of my thoughts after attending a Twin Peaks RR diner pop up serving Coop’s favorite cherry pie and the endless piles of apple and pumpkin pie at the grocery store. Holiday time is the hardest time of year for me to stay clean. Especially with sweets. So I wanted to make a pie that was tasty and healthy that would not leave me with sugar lows and loads of guilt. Crust of pecan, hazelnut, dates and a dash of rosemary. Filling of fresh pumpkin and sweet potato, sweetened with dates and banana, fattened with cashews, macadamia and coconut. With traditional spices that make up pumpkin pie plus a little Indian spice magic. No gluten, no dairy, no eggs or refined sugar. This is my new holiday pumpkin sweet potato pie.
One of my favorite vegan plant based restaurants in LA, Gracias Madre, makes the most amazing egg-less foams for cocktails traditionally made with egg whites (like a pisco sour) and flans. No matter how stuffed I am, I order a flan for myself (and refuse to share it). I have been in a bit of a rut lately and haven’t been inspired to create as much, but we were invited to dinner party at our neighbors and I volunteered to bring dessert. It was a family style at home chill evening, but we knew they would step it up a notch because our neighbors are similar in nature to us. So I had to step up my dessert game. I finally decided it was time to try to create a plant based vegan flan at home that was not based in soy. I used a seaweed as my base. Yes you read that right, seaweed. And no it is not agar agar. Mixed it with some macadamia nuts, coconut fat and spices. Then let it set with a caramel sauce I made out of honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Inverted it. Topped it with zest of a lemon and touch of salt. O.M.G. Delicious. Silky. Creamy. Light. Flan. No eggs, no dairy, no refined sugars or soy.
I love everything chocolate and am constantly craving chocolate – which is why you see so many chocolate creations. My little one inherited my love of this seratonin releaser. My husband who typically does not like desserts will eat anything chocolate. I was trying to satisfy two birthday needs – one was to make something chocolaty that we could take camping to celebrate my husband’s birthday. And something that I could use for goodie bags for my daughter’s birthday. I am tired of all the candy and unhealthy snacks which only makes her crave more, so I wanted to include something that was chocolate and filling yet healthy. And my husband is not a cake eater. So using black beans and cocoa powder as a base made two different flourless vegan creations that will knock your tastebuds away: a chocolate brownie and a fudgy chocolate pop.
Like many American families, we are a multicultural family. He’s from France, born and raised. I am a first generation American of Indian immigrants (often referred to an ABCD – an American born confused Desi with Desi being a term referring to people of the Indian subcontinent). We solidified our relationship in California, which in some respects seems like its own country (much like NYC, where I am from). This has introduced a blend of cultures that has found its way into my food. Just this past week, my husband was sworn in as an American citizen – well a dual American French citizen (yes he is dual AF) and I wanted to celebrate with a feast. I chose to center this feast around the Cali Mex cuisine with a twist. Lettuce taco bout plant based cuisine: lettuce wrap tacos with plant based taco meat. The meat was re-purposed into a collard wrap burrito. And there was was also a cashew based queso because chips and dip please.
I have the chemical symbol for capsaicin, the active ingredient for a chili pepper, tattooed on my arm because I think spice adds to life. Since moving to Cali, I have been noticing hatch peppers – a large spicy chili from New Mexico – at the beginning of fall. I was feeling the need for some spice to shake up my life. Rather than just add the flavor of the hatch to a dish, I decided to stuff them with a plant-based meat made of mushrooms, veggies, nuts and seeds and top it with a plant based “crema” made from cashews, lime, nutritional yeast and cilantro. The filling was robust, light yet rich and satisfying and the “crema” provided the perfect sauce with acid to cut through the richness. The hatch…well the hatch was spicy spicy spicy. Beware the hatch – the spice did not leave my fingertips for days even with multiple washings and milk soakings. If they are too spicy for you, stuff a jalapeno or a bell pepper. We tried them all and they were all equally amazing.
There is so much to talk about with this mousse. It started off as two separate culinary experiments – one with mousse made with seaweed as a thickener (yes, seaweed and no, it’s not agar) and another with a savory vegan shortbread. Each was really amazing on its own, but the cookie was not the cookie I wanted. I did not want to waste the dough. The creative kitchen witch came out and I combined the two. O. M. G. Bob Ross once said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” This was a magnificent accident. The two together form the perfect bite. The mousse is chocolatey, creamy, rich, yet light with a subtle hint of mint. There is a crunch with cacao nibs. The crust is textured, salted with subtle hints of rosemary and citrus. The whole dessert is sweetened only with dates. My mouth waters as I write this. I think I will have a slice while I type.
Whenever I want to give to someone or the world in some way, I usually provide homemade food. A while back, a friend could not eat solid food due to a car accident and was tired of the liquids she was forced to eat. I wanted to provide her with something nourishing, filling and interesting. I created a version of a ground nut stew from West Africa – a stew of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, hearty greens, and peanuts. A surprising combination of foods and flavors that work well together. Rather than leave it chunky as a stew, I blended it into a drinkable soup. It was rich, tasty, and filling. I was dreaming about this stew the other night and wanted to recreate it with almond butter. The stew is typically served over rice with chicken. I decided to serve it as a sauce with sweet potato noodles and broccoli along with sesame seeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds for texture a bit of protein. This dish is nourishing, full of texture and depth and satisfying hot or cold with or without the broccoli.