Saucy, Saucy, You Know You Are a Cute Little Gut Pleaser: Spicy Almond Butter, Collard, Kale and Sweet Potato Sauce with Sweet Potato Noodles

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.

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Pump up the yams: Dairy or dairy-free crispy sweet potato skins with spinach and shiitake bacon

So if you know me you know that I don’t care about football (cue shock and horror). But I can get behind anything associated with food. I love that watching football requires an array of tasty eats. Tasty not so good for you eats. With the Super Bowl is coming up, some friends on the Whole 30 or just watching what they eat have asked me for ideas. That was all the incentive I needed to post a creation I made for last year’s Super Bowl. Stay away from the tasty but not so gut friendly potato skins and opt instead of crispy sweet potato skins stuffed with spinach and cashew cheese and topped with shiitake bacon. For those of you who want more protein and don’t care about the inclusion of dairy or processed foods – I have a cottage cheese alternative (you would never know it was cottage cheese) that you can top with tempeh/seitan bacon. Crispy, gooey, savory good for you snack food.

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Give quiche a chance: Black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust

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.

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Nacho your typical nacho: Baked sweet potato chips with gooey vegan cashew cheez

I blame everyone else’s talk of football – I don’t pay attention to the sport nor does anyone in my household, but I can’t help but pay attention to what people are making for game day snacks (they are talking about food, how can I not pay attention?) As a result, I end up with cravings for food like nachos. But I try to avoid corn chips, tortilla or cheese in my diet, which pretty much eliminates the main components of nachos. Anyone who knows me knows that I refuse to be limited. Each limitation is an open door to creating something new – something, as my daughter says is “same same but different.” So I made baked sweet potato chips topped with a vegan gooey cashew based cheez, salsa, guacamole, purple cabbage, purple kale, tomato, avocado, cilantro, jalepeno and scallion.

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The squash look very different today: Gluten-free butternut squash, zucchini and sweet potato patties with a vegan zucchini, avocado, cashew aioli

I have been a bit homesick in the last few weeks. Maybe it was thinking about all the fun my cousins and brothers had over the holiday and missing the time spent together in 2015. Maybe it was missing my NYC friends and that community I had. Maybe it was missing the streets of NYC and my old apartment after seeing the building I lived in for 11 years in a scene in Mozart in the Jungle. On top of that, it was cold and I wanted to stay under the covers. Whatever it was, I wanted something comforting. But this whole food challenge does force me to think about how I can achieve comfort without relapsing into my old food habits. So I had to think about how I could make something that was tasty and veggieful with protein that could satisfy my craving and my body at the same time. And so a tasty snack and appetizer was born: Dairy and gluten-free butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potato patties with an avocado, zucchini and cashew aioli.

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Saag it to me: Indian fusion breakfast with chard-spinach-almond veg, sweet potato hash, eggs and raw almond parmesan

I have had a fix on saag lately. It all came about while in France. I was asked to make a an Indian green side dish for Christmas dinner that would complement everyone else’s fish main course. Saag seemed to be the simplest dish for me to make last minute and that did not require me to purchase unusual spices that would require a specialty store – and Indian/Pakastani restaurants or stores for products are not common in France as they are in many states and cities in the US. In fact, to my surprise, much of what I saw listed or heard as being referred to as an Indian dish – such as a samosa – did not contain a single ingredient that is found in traditional Indian cuisine, but rather North African/Middle Eastern cuisine. So I knew I could make something simple and Indian inspired. And unlike traditional saag, I added a boost of protein and texture with almonds. It was so good – I put it on everything I ate. But the best application was brunch – in a dish of sweet potato hash, saag and an egg over easy with a raw almond parmesan.

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Sometimes you just feel like an impasta: sweet potato pasta with zucchini ribbons, arugula, baby spinach, almond slices and walnuts topped with nut power green pesto

Who needs real pasta when there are so many veggieful imposters out there: sweet potato, zucchini, rutabaga, yellow squash and so much more. I love the real slim shady – that fiberless, refined, calorically dense carbohydrate that loves to wreak havoc on my body, but as I always say,if I am going to eat it I want it to be the best. So I’ll wait until I have an opportunity to consume the perfect handmade al dente pasta which is few and far between. In the meantime I would rather an impasta. I usually use a spiralizer to make noddles, but lately I have been craving a flater wider noodle – like pappardelle or even fettuccine would do. On a recent trip through an airport, I saw a beautiful picture on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine of pappadelle with pesto, arugula and walnuts and wanted to make it my way. Sweet potato noodles with zucchini, baby spinach, arugula, almond slices and walnuts and topped with a power pesto made of leafy greens, basil and nuts and a cashew nut based parmesan. Not as pretty as the front cover, but very very tasty.

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