So Tom is from England. And lucky for him because his ridiculously cute accent is a huge part of why we started dating. And lucky for me, he turned out to be way more than just a cute accent. Yes, we frolic with unicorns, eat tempeh till our stomachs expand past the confines of our pants, and rant about the inadequacies of the dreaded “steamed vegetable plate” at restaurants. “Yes we are vegan, no we don’t eat fish, yes we eat a lot.” So you can imagine my initial fears of dining out in dreary old England. Translation: brownish, meat and potato type dishes with a fear of greens and names that sound more like bands than meals i.e. spotted dick, bangers and mash, toad in a hole, and bubble and squeak. Armed with a stash of granola and Vega bars, I timidly arrived in London, only to find the weather bright and sunny, and the food delicious! Now my stereotypical idea of England has vanished into the Thames as quickly as a cygnet diving for fish, and I am already craving a full english breakfast, vegan style of course. Below are some of the culinary delights we enjoyed during our stay.
Now I will talk about something that I have no business talking about: babies! The reason I don’t? Well, I don’t have a child myself, nor am I expecting one, but they’re an ever increasing familiarity in my life these days. At first, I’ll admit, babies used to scare me. Translation: they are impossibly small, warm, and they smell differently, not to mention they are mostly hairless and may cry out, poop or cry at any given moment; none of which I am equipped to prevent or stop. How is that not terrifying? But lately I have been channeling my inner, mature adult self, urging her to claim bravery in the face of the small human child. I am even brave enough to say that I want my own little hairless being, but it still makes me uneasy to even utter the words. Why? I have no idea, considering that, let’s be honest, our only real purpose on this little planet is to reproduce and secure our continuing existence and domination over other beings, especially furry ones. In fact, when I begin to mull this over I can’t believe how separated we have become from our instinctual natures and basic needs and wants. But don’t worry, I’m not going to get all philosophical on you because all you really want to know is how to make this kick ass recipe for spinach salad with creamy dressing, right?
But before I do, I need to clarify why the word “baby” even popped into my head. A brilliant and talented friend of mine recently started a farm-to-table style gourmet baby food company in Boston called Lovage (that’s an herb if you didn’t know). Her yummy blends are artfully simple and packed full of the natural brilliance of vegetables and fruits – no alterations required to be nutritional powerhouses for your small furless one. If you live in Boston or the Boston area, be sure to check out her company! Feed your baby locally sourced and locally made fresh food! Hooray! You will also find my recipe for spinach and pear salad with cashew dill dressing on her monthly newsletter, along with everything to do with preparing for and raising an eco baby, just the way mother nature intended.
For the salad:
5 handfuls of baby spinach
3 radishes, ends removed & chopped
1 avocado, pitted & chopped
1 pear, cored & sliced
1 handful of raw walnuts, toasted
Freshly cracked black pepper & sea salt to taste
For the dressing:
1 cup raw cashews, preferably soaked overnight or for at least an hour
½ cup water
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 T raw coconut nectar or unrefined sweetener of choice
1 small clove of peeled garlic
2 tsp onion powder
1 small handful of fresh dill
Large pinch of sea salt
Drain and rinse soaked cashews under cold water. In a high speed blender, add all dressing ingredients. Puree on high until velvety smooth. To toast walnuts, crumble them in your hand and toss in a dry skillet over a low flame. Cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. To assemble dish, toss salad ingredients with dressing and top with toasted walnuts. Makes enough salad for 2-4 furry unicorn babes.
So I’m not really a fan of gyms. Translation: a large grey box where humans donning synthetic, dry wick clothing bounce around in place on Star Wars-ish looking machines covered in sanitary spray and old sweat. I’ve signed up at many gyms over the years, each time with a renewed sense of determination that I can and will be like the rest of the world, and find joy at the prospect of running in place inside an overheated, noisy petri dish of human sweat. But I never do. Perhaps it’s the germs, or the potential for crowds, or the sanitary spray that goes on everything, or the big guy who sweats like a beast and then doesn’t clean his machine, and it’s the only one open.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to sweat; I love the burning feeling you get in your chest that simultaneously hurts and satisfies when you reach the height of your endurance. But I can’t do that inside on a lifeless manmade object that tells me how many calories I’ve burned. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, like Sisyphus on his hill, forever compelled to roll that stupid boulder to the top only to watch it fall back down again. There’s no sense of accomplishment, no rush of excitement when the red glowing numbers on my machine flash meaningless data at me or the miniature television plays E! News, and insults women across the globe by its fascination with Kim Kardashian. In a world where we already do almost everything indoors, short of walking from our homes to our cars, how can I stuff myself into another sunless grey box?
And since it’s nearly spring, and the first green shoots of crocus have sprung from the damp, cold earth, I feel even more compelled to run outside and breathe the fresh air. I also feel like eating something crisp and refreshing. Solution? A high protein blast of Greek bean salad with tofu feta! This salad is a cinch to make and will satiate your belly long after that gloriously muddy hike with your pup. This dish would also be perfect as crudite on whole wheat toast, or as a topping for pasta. Here I’ve served the salad over a giant collard leaf, but I recommend trying it tossed with baby arugula or some crisp romaine. Warning, this recipe makes a lot of feta. I suggest only using half of it for the salad, then storing the rest in your fridge for later use as a delicious protein-rich topping or snack!
Greek Bean Salad with Tofu Feta
For the salad:
1 can navy or cannellini beans, rinsed
1 tomato, chopped
1 handful kalamata olives, chopped in half
2 T red onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 handfuls romaine or arugula lettuce *optional
For the feta:
1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled by hand (I highly recommend The Bridge, a local CT company!)
Splash of fresh water
2 T chickpea miso (I recommend South River Miso Company)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1 T dried italian herbs
2 T nutritional yeast
In a mixing bowl, whisk together all feta ingredients except for the tofu. Now gently fold in crumbled tofu and coat with mixture. In a salad bowl, add all salad ingredients and 1/2 of the tofu feta. Season with extra red wine vinegar if needed. Makes enough for 2-4 mud-covered unicorns experiencing post-hike bliss.
these are a few of my favorite things / it’s time for the play-offs herbaceous falafel with tahini sauce
Now that it’s 2013 and you’ve actually gone to the gym, stopped eating dessert, and are feeling moody from a lack of alcohol, I thought it was time for a little support. And since you’re going to try to eat a plant-based diet this year (I hope!), you may be wondering what the hell you’re supposed to eat besides kale chips, soy products, and salads. Trust me, the vegan/vegetarian diet is overflowing with variety and deliciousness.
To help you on your way, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite vegan staples and a divinely spectacular recipe so you can start living your vegan dream! Side effects include: visions of unicorns, faeries and dragons, lightness in body and spirit, clearer skin, less inflammation, higher energy, less illness, a feeling of interconnectedness with all beings, and a bolt of good karma that will lead you to clairvoyance (translation: the unicorns tell me things).
A few of my favorite things (and yes, one of them is definitely The Sound of Music. Luckily, my mother is Julie Andrews, minus the voice and ability to play musical instruments). FYI, all of the items below should be organic because your health and happiness are the most important thing in this life, not to mention you’ll be supporting sustainable farming practices, eliminating pesticides and herbicides from your diet, and saving the environment. Hooray for money well spent!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for 90% of my cooking, this is my oil. Rich in healthy, monounsaturated fats and absolutely delicious. Get rid of your canola, sunflower and safflower oils (which are oftentimes bleached, deodorized and overly processed) and embrace olive oil!
- Coconut Oil – virgin & Refined. Not all saturated fats are bad people! Coconut oil is an amazing source of lauric acid, which has been shown to raise the good HDL cholesterol in the blood, in addition to being anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, good for the skin, and a blood sugar stabilizer to name a few! Refined coconut oil is perfect for higher heat cooking. Virgin coconut oil is great for raw desserts and granola.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – my favorite vinegar. Tangy, fermented, full of probiotic goodness. Use in dishes that need a punch of flavor or drink it in the morning with water for some alkalinizing power!
- Brown Rice Vinegar – another great vinegar, especially in stirfries with toasted sesame oil and tamari.
- Tamari – naturally brewed wheat free soy sauce. Tamari is great in stirfries, soups, salad dressings, everything!
- Miso – I adore miso and use it in soups, salad dressings and anytime I need a salty, umami flavor in a dish. Miso is a fermented soy condiment that contains all the essential amino acids (a complete protein), and restores your system with probiotics and antioxidants. I highly recommend South River Miso. Nothing else compares to this company!
- Tempeh – yes, fermented whole soybeans look like brains, but they taste amazing in burritos and pasta sauce. And tempeh is super high in protein, essential fatty acids and probiotics. Yum!
- Tofu – not all soy is bad…local & organic tofu is a great addition to your diet. Super high in protein and a total chameleon in dishes from ricotta to chicken to eggs! I highly recommend The Bridge (a local CT company!)
- Quinoa – my favorite grain (but it’s actually a seed!) Rich in protein, calcium and iron…even better, it cooks in 15 minutes, and has a nutty delicious taste. Add to any veggie dish or as a topping for salads.
- Nuts – specifically raw cashews, pecans, and almonds. I use cashews pretty much everyday whether it’s fermenting into a savory “cheese”, adding a creamy base to a soup, or creating the most decadent cream sauces you’ve ever tasted. Pecans and almonds are great in raw desserts or toasted and topped on salads. I could not live without nuts…and that’s good because they’re full of antioxidants and healthy fats!
- Avocado – literally my favorite food on earth. Rich, creamy taste, full of folate, vitamin E and good fats for a healthy heart and delicious in just about everything: salads, dressings – and great in my raw key lime tart dessert!
- Kale – my other favorite food. This superfood is a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. It will also turn you into an elven warrior princess or prince. I like it raw in salads, sauteed in stirfries, added to soups, and baked into cheesy kale chips. I eat kale pretty much everyday, and yes – I am an elven warrior princess.
- Mushrooms – I’m growing them on my windowsill right now! I love every kind of mushroom, especially maitake and shiitake, for their earthy deliciousness and anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune boosting qualities.
- Ginger – oh, how I love thee. Buy a hunk of ginger root, peel it, and use a microplane grater to add this anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial nutritional powerhouse to soups, dressings, stirfries, tea, and more!
- Garlic – ginger’s good friend, and also anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use them together in a soup for an immune-boosting and flavorful punch to a winter’s day.
- Onions – we have a saying in our house that we’re always “cookin’ onions”. And there’s a good reason too: onions are the most comforting vegetable I know. I put them in all of my soups and stirfries, or raw in salads. Not to mention, they’re full of antioxidant flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, and sulfur (good for your liver!) In fact, I can’t think of anything I don’t put them in, except maybe my coconut milk ice cream…
- Fresh herbs – dried herbs and spices are great, but fresh is always the best. My favorites are cilantro, basil, and thyme. They take any dish to the next level of flavor! Try cilantro in my tempeh burritos or in an asian stirfry!
- Sprouted whole grain breads – ditch the white flour in favor of sprouted whole grain breads. Sprouting whole wheat grains improves digestibility, and eating complex carbohydrates won’t spike your blood sugar as much as white bread, will digest more slowly, and will be more satiating = you’ll need less of it to feel satisfied.
- Tahini – nutty, creamy puree of sesame seeds that is commonly used as the base for a kick-ass hummus recipe. I use it in my Miso Hungry salad dressing, which is tangy and creamy like a healthy blue cheese!
- Nut milks – I prefer Edensoy Original Extra soy milk, which is organic, cane sugar-free, fortified with vitamins, and oh so creamy. There’s also almond, hemp, rice, coconut, and many others. Whichever one you prefer is great, just make sure you read the ingredient labels and avoid milks containing refined sugars!
- Spreads – if you’re craving butter, please don’t eat margarine! Instead, grab some Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread. It tastes just like butter, and although a processed product, it is non-GMO and organic so in moderation a great alternative to butter. You can also use almond butter or fermented cashew cheese as a delicious spread alternative to butter!
Now that your pantry is packed full of plant-powered goodness, why not make some tasty & herbaceous falafel! Falafel is one of my favorite chickpea creations, but it is usually deep-fried and not super healthy. My version is pan-fried in a small amount of oil so you still get a satisfying crunch without the greasiness. Top with tahini, lettuce and cucumber and your body will look like Gisele’s or Tom Brady’s (depending on your preference) and you’ll be ready for the play-offs…Go Patriots!
for the falafel:
- 1 aseptic package (Fig Foods or 365 Organic) or can (Eden) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
- 3 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 T garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp arrowroot powder (find at Whole Foods in spice section – a healthy alternative to cornstarch)
- Pinch of paprika & sea salt
- Fresh black pepper
for the tahini sauce:
- 1/2 cup sesame tahini (Once Again Organics)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh water
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- Pinch of paprika
In a food processor, combine all falafel ingredients and pulse about 20 times, or until mixture comes together but is still chunky. Form into 10-12 flattened discs. Heat 3 T refined coconut oil on medium heat in a large saute pan, then add patties and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. In a high speed blender (VitaMix!) add tahini ingredients, then blend until emulsified and creamy. To plate, place 3 falafel patties on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and drizzle with tahini sauce. Or steam collard greens (remove stems) in a small amount of salted, boiling water, then fill with falafel, veggies and sauce. Serves 2-4 unicorns with ripped Patriots jerseys and deflated footballs (translation: unicorns are football fans, not players).
everyone’s still talking about the election and I’m like “hey, I made fennel & spinach salad with poppy seed dressing!”
Since the election is over, I thought I’d talk politics. Ha! Just kidding. I’m so burned out from all the political mumbo-jumbo that I’m seriously considering living in a hut in the woods somewhere. Except just writing those words conjures images of Cabin Fever and Misery type horror movies. So I’ll stay and tell you something of vital importance: Obama has very large ears and a great smile. Romney always looks like has to pee, but is charming in that smug businessman type of way. There, I said it. Okay fine, do you really want to know my thoughts in a nutshell? Focus on the economy and leave the social issues out of it. Let Americans love and marry who they want, smoke marijuana if they want, speak their minds if they want, wear unitards and walk backwards if they want. I’m vegan and I love you, but don’t tell me what to do. I’ll cook you yummy food and be your friend, but only if you hug unicorns, believe in faeries, and laugh and dance. Name me that party and I’m so in.
And speaking of parties, last night I joined forces with Kathryn from The Inner Space pilates and yoga studio and Kim, owner of The New England Pasta Company for a holiday cooking demo led by yours truly. My good friend Kathryn led an informative discussion on mindful eating during the holiday season and Kim offered up her beautiful kitchen for the demo. The menu was 100% vegan and free of gluten, sugar, and night shades! Hooray!
In addition to the baked apples, I prepared a simple but decadent warm fennel & spinach salad with toasted hazelnuts and rich poppy seed dressing. Cashews and a Vita-Mix play the lead roles in creating a creamy, I-can’t-believe-this-doesn’t-have-dairy-in-it masterpiece dressing.
Warm Fennel & Pear Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing
for the salad:
6 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup raw hazelnuts, toasted in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned
1-2 bulbs of fennel (depending on size), tops discarded and thinly sliced
Pinch of black pepper
for the dressing:
Combine the following ingredients in a high-speed blender…
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked if preferred
1/2 cup water
3 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 T coconut nectar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
Once dressing is creamy and emulsified, remove from blender and pour into a large bowl. Now stir in 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds and toss with the spinach leaves. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add a splash of olive oil and turn the flame to medium heat. Once hot (look for striations in the oil), add sliced fennel. Cook for a few minutes without stirring until it begins to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt, flip, and cook the other side. When the fennel is crispy and brown, turn off flame and allow fennel to cool slightly. To arrange salad, place four or five slices of pear on each salad plate and top with dressed spinach, hazelnuts and warm fennel. Serves 4-6 unicorns who wish they could’ve voted for a vegan president.