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.
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 officially became a vegetarian when I was about 22 years old. In those 22 years I had never heard of chicken and waffles – it wasn’t a thing in New York. I moved out to LA when I was 33 and everyone wanted to meet at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles before drinks. I showed up later for drinks. The closest I ever came to Roscoe’s in LA was rewatching Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Being a New Yorker, I like to watch sporting events (the few I do watch) and election debates in bars – so during the 2012 election, I watched the debates from a bar on Pico located very close to a Roscoe’s. Turns out the person I was talking to next to me was Herb Hudson – the founder of Roscoe’s. He is a Harlem native and we talked a lot about NYC vs LA. He suggested I visit Roscoe’s noting that Obama had made a stop at a Roscoe’s, but once I told him I was vegetarian the conversation came to an abrupt halt. I have often been curious about the appeal of chicken and waffles. So I created a chicken-fried mushroom with a gluten-free and dairy-free nut crust. And put it on top of a gluten-free dairy free waffle. And topped it with sweet fruit toppings, green veggieful toppings, savory toppings, spicy toppings. Savory. Sweet. Soft and Crunchy. Chicken and waffles. I get it now.
During the holidays, as a vegetarian, I refuse to settle for side dishes or a store bought mock turkey as my meal. I need a tasty impressive main meal – so my centerpiece is a stuffed pumpkin – typically stuffed with cheese and cream. As tasty as the dish is, I knew this could be made without any dairy and remain tasty. A hint of cayenne and hickory smoke, cream from cashews and coconut milk, almonds for a crunch and veggies for nutrition – this dairy-free gluten-free stuffed pumpkin has been a hit over the holidays.