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.
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.
I am days away from beginning a cleanse to control my asthma and allergies as well as boost my digestion. And it has been cold and rainy. Perhaps that is why I have been craving creamy and grain based food. My counter top was full of winter squash – kabocha, acorn, butternut – and it made me think about a creamy squash risotto. However, I often find that the squash is lost and not as flavorful in a risotto. And squashes are great to stuff. So I decided to stuff kabocha and acorn squash with a flavorful sprouted brown rice risotto made with zucchini, asparagus, sunflower seeds and pine nuts. Creamy but full of texture. Flavorful. Nutritious. Satisfying.
On a cold rainy day I crave warm tasty comfort food. The first thing that comes to mind is a grilled cheese and tomato soup. Oh yeah. And while my taste buds crave the bread and cheese, my digestive system does not. So I decided to soup up my tomato soup so it can stand as a hearty meal on its own. This vegan soup is made with tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, coconut milk and my kale beet green almond walnut pesto. Creamy. Nutritious. Warm. Rich. Satisfying.
There is only one thing that I know when it comes to food – eat fresh, whole real food. But even with whole, fresh, real food, there can be problems. I learned about the FODMAP over the last few weeks through a friend. Some people can’t eat real whole foods that have short chain carbohydrates without seriously upsetting their digestive system. That includes foods like garlic, onions, avocado, cauliflower, nuts, seeds and so much my recipes and diet are dependent on. With a FODMAP, meat is not a problem – but meat is a food that my own digestive system does not process and that I choose not to eat. Does that mean that someone with a diet on a FODMAP and a vegetarian can’t share a flavorful beautiful meal? Of course not – especially when that sparks creativity in me using the ingredients we share in common. I came up with a black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust. Topped with either feta or an almond based “parmesan.” No processed foods, no short chain carbohydrates, no cream or lactose or flour.
Hello again! It’s been six months since my last post. Life, job and motherhood got in the way again. Last year I began this blog to use food and diet as a way to look at my life differently, adjust my habits and patterns and change my life – and I succeeded. This year started on a downward slump and I was not feeling inspired or creative. I knew it was time to shake things up. Again. I tackled the one area of my life I knew I could control – my diet.
I recently completed a 21 day cleanse and now I feel leaner, meaner and cleaner. The last thing I want to do is turn right back into my old habits and overwhelm my system again. I have been making a lot of food I have previously posted here and coming up with new recipes that will help me stay on track and not reach for gut busting foods. One of my old standards for my family is a ravioli salad – rather than surround the ravioli with a rich sauce, incorporate it into a salad. However, I always feel heavy with the pasta and unless the ravioli is fresh made by an amazing chef or Italian nonna, I am usually not satisfied. So I crafted my veg based ravioli, eliminating the gluten, grain and cheese and grilled the veggies to enhance their flavor. Wait till you try this arugula and roasted asparagus, tomato and broccolini salad topped with faux ravioli made with zucchini, stuffed with basil almond ricotta. It will satisfy you at dinner and not weigh you down.
Today is the Chinese new year – year of the monkey. On my way home I smelled mushrooms cooking in some sort of soy sauce and it made me crave something Asian with mushrooms. I have really grown into mushrooms over the last few years. I used to hate them…all the way into adulthood until I finally tried a dish at one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in New York City called Zen Palate. It was called mushroom forest and and was a chopped medley of shiitake, wheat gluten or soy, celery and other goodness that was eaten in a lettuce shell. Since coming to Calfornia, I have been making something similar, but without the wheat gluten or soy, and that is full of nuts and seeds for protein. It is shiitake, kale, carrot, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, pine nut medley served in a lettuce wrap. And it was perfect for a new year celebration.
I need pizza. I really do. But the Whole30 means no pizza for mama on our Friday night pizza night (even though we make the best, fresh from scratch, whole wheat or gluten free home made pizza). What really defines pizza is the crust and the cheese, so really I am SOOL while on Whole30, but I can make something that is compliant and kinda like pizza. Now if you are looking for something that truly tastes like pizza, made from whole ingredients without some fancy machinery and lots of time, please tell me the secret because in my opinion, you can replace the crust or replace the cheese but not both at the same time. When I am giving myself a break from Whole30 and eating dairy or gluten every so often, I place the faux cheese on a real crust or real cheese on faux crust, and voila, healthier pizza that tastes like pizza. This is a very tasty Whole30 compliant oooey gooey dairy-free faux mozz on a flourless, gluten-free, dairy-free cauliflower crust. It is tasty and satisfying and hits the spot on Friday night pizza night.