Ah, spring. The time of year when the earth thaws, becomes a mud-luscious wonderland, and bursts with an infinitely varied and beautiful bounty of flowers and food. Oh, yeah…and I have to shave my legs again. Shaving is an odd sort of thing to do. I’ve spent hours debating with fellow earthlings the absurdities of razoring off thousands of little hairs every day for the sake of being feminine or accepted or female or whatever. Newsflash to the male population: women have hair…LIKE ALL OVER THEIR BODY. Crazy, right? We aren’t hairless chihuahuas with pink nails and floral aromas wafting from every orifice like you may have previously believed. The whole advent of shaving was more to do with preventing the spread of disease than aesthetics. But now that we all bathe like crazy and spray the earth with poisons, we are more likely to contract a form of cancer than an infestation of lice. I’m not saying that I never shave, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. And I think we should start a revolution and all be furry beasts together. Amen.
So instead of shaving your legs today, why not use that extra ten minutes to whip up this lovely recipe for rawesome lemon bars? Bursting with lemony goodness and a creamy filling that tastes downright sinful, you will be happy to indulge in this treat while wearing a very long skirt. Hippie.
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup melted refined coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
Large pinch of sea salt
For the filling:
1 1/4 cups raw pine nuts, soaked for at least an hour but preferably several
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Gently toast almonds or almond flour in a dry skillet over a low flame until fragrant. Combine crust ingredients in a mixing bowl, then press into square cake pan or pan of choosing. Add the filling ingredients to a high speed blender and puree on high until smooth and whipped. Chill filling in the fridge for 30 minutes, then pour into square pan. Top with more zest, then cover and place in fridge. Tastes best when allowed to chill for an hour or so. Makes enough for 8 unicorns with shaving nicks down their legs.
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.
why plants don’t have feelings / sprouted wheat bagel with cashew cream cheese & maitake mushroom bacon
Whether you’re vegan (VEE-gan not VAY-gan, which sounds like we’re from another planet) or not, chances are you’ve probably heard some wild accusations about it. Translation: we only eat hummus, we are from white, wealthy families, we all have tattoos, we are skinny and pale, we don’t eat carbs, we are angry at everyone who isn’t vegan, we only ride bicycles, we love animals more than people, we are hipsters, and we are self righteous liberals. While some vegans may fall into these categories, this is a gross generalization of a growing demographic that in my experience, are a diverse and wonderful group of individuals.
So why all the judgement?
Like religion and politics, food is very personal. Your plate is as powerful as slapping a blue elephant sticker on your car or wearing a cross around your neck. People notice and sometimes, take offense. This is the reality of our world, and there’s no reason to flip out because someone disagrees with your diet choices. If the goal of veganism is compassion and respect for all living things, then we must embrace and accept our own species first! But sometimes, this can happen…
After noticing the tempeh reuben on my plate, a seemingly innocent diner observes: “You’re a vegan?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“But what about plants?” cries the diner with a shocking amount of passion. “Plants can feel pain too!”
“*$%&#!@&$^%#@!” <– exclamation inside my head.
What I actually say –> “Plants don’t have a central nervous system, which means they cannot feel pain in the same way that sentient beings can.”
This is a generally accepted principle, however, there are still some people who argue that plants do feel something when harvested. But even if that is true, it still leaves us with the same options: eat plants & animals (who definitely feel pain and suffer needlessly), or just eat plants. For me, the choice was easy.
Now that you’re feeling moody and want to throw hummus at everyone, why not blow their minds with a creamy, fluffy, and indulgently thick cream cheese that will make you feel like you’re in a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial from the nineties! Cashews play the leading role in making this oh-so-dreamy spread, along with my good friend, the bagel. I adore Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted whole grain onion & poppyseed bagels. Seriously, buy these bagels and let them change your life for the better. Toasted and topped with a huge dollop of herbed cream cheese and crispy maitake mushroom bacon and you are in for a serious taste bud explosion!
Sprouted Wheat Bagels with Cashew Cream Cheese & Maitake Mushroom Bacon
1 bagel, sliced & toasted (I recommend Alvarado Street Bakery Onion & Poppyseed Bagels)
2 cups raw cashews, covered with at least 4 cups of water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 tsp probiotic powder (you can buy a jar of probiotics in capsule form at many natural foods stores; just open capsules and pour out powder)
1/2 cup fresh water
1 T dried herb blend (I recommend Penzey’s Fox Point Blend) or 1 T fresh chives, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 container or 2 loosely filled cups of maitake mushrooms, split apart by hand
1 tsp olive oil or refined coconut oil for sauteing mushrooms
pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
After the cashews have been soaked in water overnight, drain and rinse, then place them in a high speed blender. Add the water and probiotics and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Pour into a small mixing bowl and cover with a piece of cheesecloth. Leave in a cool, dark place overnight.
Remove cheesecloth from fermented cashew mixture, and stir in the seasoning blend and salt. Set aside. In a saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame and add mushrooms. Allow them to brown for a few minutes before stirring with a wooden spoon. Once they are crispy, turn off flame and place on a paper towel to drain.
To serve, spread a generous dollop of cream cheese on a toasted bagel and top with maitake mushroom bacon. Makes about 2 cups of cream cheese, or enough to serve 4 merciless plant eating unicorns.
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).