It’s the great pumpkin cheezcake: Spiced lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust

So one of the best parts about being married to an expat is that you get to go visit their family in their home country every so often. Every other year, around Christmas time, we go to France. While the food in France elicits nothing short of a mouthgasm, around the holidays with the multiple family parties and birthdays, it is rich, decadent and overwhelming.  I try to make a meal or a dish here and there to lighten the fare. I don’t speak French so I find sharing experiences and communicating through food a beautiful way to express love. I will make them food they will be pleased with because of simple tastes and aesthetic beauty – like apple roses that I upscale to make them unique. But I am Indian and I like spice and complex flavors full of good healthy ingredients – even for sweets (no flour, no refined sugar, no soy…whole food ingredients). So I came up with a spiced  lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust.
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Let’s taco bout avo-tacos: fried avocado lettuce wrap taco with cabbage and zucchini slaw, sriracha “aioli” and pico de gallo

Living in southern California, all anyone ever wants to eat is a fish taco…and when it is beer battered and fried, there is no doubt that it is the item to order. I recently had a great fried avocado taco in East Nashville (I did not expect to find excellent tex-mex in Nashville) at The Local Taco and decided I had to recreate it at home and to take it to the next level with a beer batter. But of course, I have to do it my way – vegan, gluten-free, dairy free with no refined sugars, adding in as much protein as possible and filling it with whole food goodness.

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If I knew you were comin’ I’d’ve baked a cake, so I made a raw vegan strawberry brownie tart instead

It was 4 PM. My husband called to tell me that he was stuck in traffic and that new neighbors were coming over for dinner at 6 – he thought he planned enough food but was not sure. I unable to host people for dinner and not have enough food – it just goes against my nature. I opened the fridge and strawberries fell out everywhere thanks to our recent strawberry harvest. The first thing that came to mind was chocolate covered strawberries, but I was really craving brownies…so I decided to make a nut-based vegan chocolate brownie tart with strawberry lemon cashew creme – gluten, dairy and soy-free using dates for sweetness.

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You can get with this or you can get with that: Bell peppers stuffed with cauliflower rice OR quinoa, butternut squash, kale, nuts and currants

One of the most important aspects of diet I try to teach my little one is that everyone is different – Diet and what we chose to eat is up to an individual. At home we are vegetarian and at times Whole30-challenged vegetarians. I don’t eat meat but outside of the house, I feed her meat and fish, as long as it is good quality, preferably locally sourced. When she grows up, she can make conscious decisions about her diet, all I can do and lay a foundation, offer her choice and teach her that diets are personal and as a result she may eat differently depending on where she is. I also know that if we are too strict with our diets then we lose interest in food or eat that which is not good for us. As a vegetarian, the Whole30-like diet without legumes and quinoa can be a bit daunting. I have learned a lot about myself and my tendencies with regards to consuming these foods, but that does not mean I buy into Whole30/paleo mantra against it, just like I don’t believe that the amount of meat the diet suggests is environmentally or physiologically (if not sourced well) sustainable in the long-term. Nothing is wholly good and nothing is wholly bad. Everything – even water and oxygen – must be consumed in moderation. I have not eaten quinoa or legumes in months and I thought it was time to offer up a choice when making stuffed peppers – quinoa or riced cauliflower, because, well, why not. Both were tasty – so I suggest both varieties. The choice is yours.

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Sketches of Spain: Vegetarian paella with cauliflower rice

I like cooking classes because they are a great way to connect with people who love food and to learn tips, tricks and techniques. I am lucky to have more than one cooking school within walking distance from my house. I took a class on vegetarian cuisine at the New School of Cooking which encourages a love of crafting food in novice and experienced cooks alike. We made several dishes, including a vegetarian paella – but all that rice made me feel heavy.  So of course I modified it to meet my current dietary needs (and taste buds) – crispy cauliflower “rice” with vegetables, seeds, and spices. As the cooking instructor said, “make the recipe yours.”

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I’m gonna get me some meatless Shepherd’s pie

Saint Patricks’s day was earlier this week.  To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about it other than it is an Irish tradition, you wear green and eat and drink a lot. So I put on a green skirt, cracked open a beer and made a classic Irish dish my way – a gluten-free, dairy-free, meatless, legume-free Shepherd’s pie with veggies, mashed cauliflower and shiitake bacon.

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A taste of home reinvented: saag kaju “paneer” and cauliflower pulao

Food is a source of comfort and memory for me. Certain foods provide me with more than sustenance. They almost feel like a constant – something to return to when I need comfort. Though the biology is still being investigated,  smell has been linked to past memory. I often fry spices for many of my dishes and that smell invokes memories of my family and my childhood.

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C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me

I had a crummy day.

I spent most of the day in the car. 6 hours driving in the rain to and from a meeting that took only 2 hours. I brought my my meals with me knowing I was going to be on the road and in meetings and would likely not make good decisions about food if I did not plan ahead. But I did not think about a snack or treat while driving. And with the traffic I was in a not so great mood. What I really wanted was a cookie.

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Take me home tonight: Veggie lo mein and shiitake bacon

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I was driving home and passed Bulan – a vegan thai joint that I love but rarely have a chance to frequent. My first thought was that I should call my hubby and ask him if I should get some take out for tonight. My second thought was, I am on a whole food challenge – what could I eat that would really be worth it? My favorite dishes are made of wheat gluten, soy and other ingredients I can’t eat. Even if I ordered a coconut curry, I am not sure I would enjoy it without the starches I am used to eating.

Which brought my mind to Chinese take out. Hmmmm, noodles. I could not get them out of my mind.

Do you know what time it is? It’s time for recipe creation. I refuse to deprive myself of the food I want, leaving that craving lingering in me until I give in and eat something that does not make me feel good. (what you resist persists)

How can I make what I want to eat and make it healthy?

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