avocado

CSA-mazing / miso creamy basil pesto

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DSC_0018So this is my first year as a CSA member. Now before you get excited and envision me as a flight attendant for Czech Airlines or a product tester for Canadian Standards Association, let me explain what I mean. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a locally based food distribution service that connects farmers to consumers without a giant supermarket in the way. Yes, food comes from farms, not florescent lit refrigerated cement boxes with aisles and aisles of food! See my thoughts on grocery stores here.

CSA’s are a fantastic way to support your local farmers while reaping the benefits of eating insanely delicious food that was grown less than an hour away. And the fun part is, you never know what you’re going to get! Each week I arrive at the farm, drooling over baskets of kale, arugula, beets, basil, and tomatoes, and dreaming of the cooking adventures I will embark on with my newly hatched sun-kissed bag of goodies.

If you’re interested in learning more about CSA’s or where to find one, check out Local Harvest. Also check out my sweet CSA provider, Seraphina Says Farm. Tara is a raw vegan farmer with a cat named Seraphina and a passion for holistic, plant based nutrition. How could anyone not get excited about that combination!

if you're lucky, your CSA farmer will look like this.
if you’re lucky, your CSA farmer will look like this.
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this lettuce tasted like sunshine and butter! (and no, I’m not high)

Now that you’ve got a canvas bag full of farm fresh goodness and you feel like singing “The Sound of Music” to everyone in your town, why not whip up a batch miso creamy basil pesto! Between my CSA and garden, I am practically swimming in a sea of basil goodness. I’ve even started adding it to vases as decoration. If this is happening to you too, make pesto.

P.S. The Nutmeg Cookery (that’s me and the unicorns) are going to be the guest chef at the Max Restaurant Group’s farm-to-table dinner on September 27th! If you’re a local nutmegger, come join me under the stars at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury for a five course gourmet vegan meal! For more information, click here.

DSC_0017Miso Creamy Basil Pesto

2 cups packed fresh basil

1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 avocado

2 cloves of garlic, smashed or grated

1 lemon, zested & juiced

1 heaping tablespoon of miso

Large pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked black pepperDSC_0003

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this is best miso on earth. also notice the basil “flower” arrangement in the background.

In a food processor, add all ingredients except oil. Pulse it down a few times, then slowly stream in the olive oil while processor is running. Blend until you have a loose, green paste. Makes 1 1/2 cups or enough to feed 2-3 unicorn farmers who’ve been digging in the earth all day. Toss with brown rice pasta and sauteed onions and peppers, or use as a spread inside of sandwiches or collard wraps with loads of veggies!DSC_0025

babies! / baby spinach salad with creamy cashew dill dressing

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DSC_0227Now 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.

DSC_0233Baby Spinach Salad with Creamy Cashew Dill Dressing

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.

Tip: use extra dressing as a dip for crudité or as a delicious spread on toasted bread and sandwiches!DSC_0223

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seaweed issues / mango avocado rolls

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DSC_0324So I’m not really a fan of seaweed. Translation: I think it tastes and smells like a dead fish. But it’s annoyingly good for you and whenever I tell people that I don’t like it they look at me with shock as if because I’m vegan and advocate for a whole foods plant based diet without refined flours and sweeteners…blah blah blah…that I must be a seaweed lover. Nope, not a chance. And generally speaking, if something doesn’t taste good, I don’t care how amazing it is for you, I’m not going to eat it. I believe that if a food tastes unappetizing, your body is trying to tell you something…and you should always listen to your body.

However, that being said, I don’t mind a little seaweed if it’s really fresh, like I-just-rolled-this-sushi-in-the-last-60-seconds fresh. And believe me, you don’t have to be from Japan to roll sushi. I am far from gifted at food artistry and let me tell you, I can roll me some good looking sushi. Note to the ignorant: sushi doesn’t = raw fish, in the same way that gluten free doesn’t = vegan. Just sayin’…

On a side note, there is a spectacular vegan restaurant called The Ravens in Mendocino California (residing within the walls of the awe-inspiring eco-lodge Stanford Inn By The Sea) that harvests its own sea palm. With this strange looking palm tree wannabe seaweed, the masterful chefs at Ravens make the most amazing entree called sea palm strudel. And I love it. It’s stuffed full of seaweed and I love it. I can’t explain why, but perhaps it’s due to the freshness of this locally harvested gem. So I suppose I should amend my first statement: I kind of like seaweed (a little), but it has to be farm-to-table style seaweed…or more appropriately, ocean-to-table.

DSC_0314Mango Avocado Rolls

4 sheets nori seaweed

1 cup short grain brown rice + 2 cups water + 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 avocado, pitted and sliced

1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 mango, hedgehogged

2 scallions, sliced thin

1/2 cucumber, cut into matchsticks

for the dipping sauce, mix together the following:

1/4 cup tamari

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Splash of mirin

Optional toppings: wasabi (you can buy horseradish powder and add water to make wasabi) & pickled ginger

In a small saucepan, add rice and water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce flame to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked. Pour cooked rice into a bowl or half sheet pan and toss with the brown rice vinegar. Set aside while you prep the veggies and fruit. To roll, place a nori sheet, shiny side down, on a clean table. Lay brown rice over top 1/3 of sheet (dip your fingers in warm water to keep rice from sticking to your fingers). Now add the filling ingredients over the rice in a tight pile. Roll the sheet away from you, taking time to tighten the roll as you continue. When you’ve reached the end of the sheet, dab it with a little warm water and seal by gently rolling back and forth. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut sushi into six to eight rolls per sheet. Repeat until you’ve run out of ingredients. To serve, pour tamari dipping sauce into a shallow dish and use chopsticks (or your fingers!) to dip rolls. Top with wasabi and pickled ginger, if desired. Makes enough for 2-4 Japanese-wannabe unicorns.

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concerning the dentist / roasted beet & chickpea salad

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So I’m not a big fan of going to the dentist. It’s nothing in particular, just the general atmosphere and post-cleaning stomach ache from swallowing the electric blue mouthwash in miniature paper cups and recovering from the embarrassment of not being able to figure out which button fills the cup and which button cleans the bowl. The waiting room isn’t so bad except the magazines have that used quality about them that tempts my germophobia to come out in full form (translation: inability to open magazines followed by fixation on other frequently touched objects: doorknobs, pens, seats that have recently become available and are still warm, etc). As soon as they call my name and whisk me through the milk toast colored door, I can smell the mouthwash and latex gloves. The chairs are comfortable, but then they shine that unearthly looking spaceship lamp into your mouth while asking you how your family is. You have to time when you’re going to answer because the tools keep going in and out of your mouth and you inevitably have one of those awkward moments when you speak just as their about to put the mirror back in. They wait for you to finish telling them about your dog’s weight problem and you resume your vacant stare at the popcorn ceiling. Why don’t they hang some artwork or a crossword puzzle or a flatscreen on the ceiling instead of forcing you to stare at the air vent while listening to soft rock? The chair comes down and it’s time to rinse. I catch a view of the pastel print of a white chair in a garden and become sidetracked by my preoccupation with judging people who love crappy art. I hit the wrong button and my blue mouthwash overflows into the ceramic bowl. I swish it around and spit, managing to dribble on my stiff paper bib. After the dentist polishes my teeth with bubblegum flavored grit (half of which I end up swallowing), Mr. Thirsty comes out. Mr. Thirsty is the miniature vacuum cleaner that slurps up all the liquid in your mouth before you choke on it. When I was little they used to try to pump me up with excitement by smiling and saying: “Here comes Mr. Thirsty!” I was more traumatized than excited, for by that point I had already discovered that when adults get overly excited about something in a hospital setting, it means you’re not going to like it. I end my appointment with a visit from the big man himself, the head dentist. I’ve been going to the same dentist since I was little, so when he recently retired I didn’t know what to do. A new dentist came in and they said I should go to him. I said fine. My old dentist was a hippie type with a vegan daughter and we got along great, so when the new guy walked in with a crew cut and hungry looking eyes, I became anxious. He’s about six years old and shakes my hand so hard that my bib unhooks. His teeth are blazing white and he looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in a decade. The mirror and the pick come out and he examines my teeth with exuberance. I’ve never had a cavity before and I’ve never had any work done. After he pokes around, he tells me that I have a cavity and need a filling. “Really?” I ask. I wonder what I’ve been doing wrong. He says it’s no big deal. So I get the filling and a few hundred uninsured dollars later, I’m back at the office for another cleaning, and guess what? This time I need a few hundred dollars worth of x-rays and two more fillings. Now I’m getting suspicious. I ask to see the x-rays, but all he shows me is a bunch of light areas and dark areas around my teeth. When he points out the “bad” areas, I lightheartedly mention that he could be showing me a picture of space and I wouldn’t know the difference. He laughs uncomfortably behind a set of magnifying spectacles that actually make him look like he’s from space. I make the appointment for more fillings, then make the mistake of telling my dad (translation: my dad thinks everyone is always after your money and you can’t trust anyone, especially young dentists and car dealers). He tells me what I want to hear. “Your teeth are fine…he’s just trying to make more money off of you.” Solution? I’m switching dentists, and may or may not be suffering from two life threatening cavities.

When you’re worried about cavities, what should you make yourself to eat? A huge crunchy salad of course! This salad is a perfect Big Love style marriage of creamy, sweet, tangy, and salty.

Roasted Beet & Chickpea Salad

2 red beets, scrubbed & ends removed
1 cup cooked chickpeas
small handful of fresh dill, minced
1 avocado, pitted and chopped

for the dressing:
1 T dijon mustard
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 T olive oil + more for baking beets
sea salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place beets in baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and cover with foil. Bake for an hour, or until a knife easily pierces the beets. Allow to cool, then remove skins and chop. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, then toss with salad and enjoy! Feeds two unicorns with post-traumatic dental stress.

beets ready for roasting!

buying a new car / key lime & coconut tarts

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DSC_0285My husband and I recently bought a subaru.
Go ahead. Tell me that I’m a liberal, a lesbian or a homeschooling mother of three because to you I will simply say Ha! I am destroying that stereotype, one granola bar at a time. But let’s be honest, stereotypes develop for a reason…
Take my car buying experience. As soon as I walked through the door, I was royalty; the most beautiful and interesting person they had ever met (translation: ignorant car buyer going to slaughter). Everything I said warranted a light chuckle and a nod of the head. I could do no wrong in this fantasy world of shiny cars and shinier smiles; all they wanted to do was help me. Or so I thought. Now I’m not so ignorant as to be fooled by these kinds of sales tactics, and fake niceness is right at the top of my list of least favorite things. Believe me, I’ve been there, on the other side, handing out orchids to tourists and pretending to care about their Hawaiian vacation when I’ll I really wanted to do was con them into buying timeshares. And I did. Again and again with the slyness of a used car salesman. All they wanted was directions to the Cheesecake Factory and now they are going to a free luau with orchids behind their ears after buying a timeshare they don’t want = Job done (I quit that job to save myself from becoming the slime of the earth). But I digress…
So I’m buying a new car and I don’t know about you, but in my estimation there can only be so much conning going on. I know the msrp is a joke and I can work with that. I just have to play their game, hem and haw over everything and scrunch up my face so that I appear to be in deep contemplation. Lie and tell them I’ll come back later after I’ve thought about it some more (even though I already know I’m going to buy the car). I know what I’m doing…
The sales guy I’m working with keeps disappearing with a line like “I don’t have those numbers in front of me, in fact I’m not privy to them, but I can check with my manager and see if he can work something out for you”. Because I’m special, right? Wrong, they say the same bs to every poor slob who walks in, and you know what, most of them probably eat that crap right up.
I finally get the numbers in front of me after negotiating with the guy for an hour (translation: I ask for a deal, he theatrically sighs and carries on, then talks to the manager, then comes back, then sighs and tell me that they don’t normally do this, but he wants me to be happy, etc…bs, bs, bs).
Then it gets interesting…I buy the stupid car so they should be happy, right? Well they are, but not until I’ve bought all of the extra crap that I don’t need. The extended warranty I understand, but why doesn’t it include everything? I have to buy tire and wheel coverage separately, dings and dents separately, and the worst of all? A little extra called glasscoat. This is a poly-based paint that bonds to the paint job on the car and apparently protects it (translation: covers it with an extra coat of paint that it doesn’t need so the dealership can make more money off of you). As I write this, I’m embarrassed/pissed that I fell for it. The salesman that sold me the car hands me off to the king of slime balls, the dreaded “manager”. He’s a greasy, baldheaded guy stuffed into a wrinkled shirt, who’s about to see how stupid I am. A few stories and two framed photos of his family later, we’re big buddies and he’s let me in on a little secret: this glasscoat stuff really works, and it’s only $7.99 per month. With horror in his eyes he recalls to me the dangers of tree sap and road salt. How could my precious new baby subaru handle it? So I sign up, then realize three days later (thanks to my father’s brilliant opinion: “that’s *$%^!”) that I don’t want it anymore. Now upon signing, my “new best friend” had told me that I could easily alter anything if I changed my mind. Yea, right. I called them up and told them I didn’t want it anymore. They were shocked! stunned! stupified! and told me I had to bring in my contract and that it was going to be very complicated. Great. So I went in and my same bff tried to sell me on it again with the premise: “I’m not going to try to change your mind, but…(enter sales pitch here)”. After he ranted on for several minutes, I told him that I didn’t understand why a brand new car needed another coat of paint. He brought up the tree sap again and I started getting antsy.
“I don’t want it, period”, I finally said. And that was the end. No more glittering smiles and fake chuckles; I had become the dreaded customer with an opinion. He grumbled and started punching keys on his computer, all the while telling me that no one had ever canceled glasscoat before, so he wasn’t even sure if he could cancel it. Now I really hate this guy. Not only is he blatantly lying to me, he’s making me feel like I’m the problem. I want to say “I’m on to you, you money grubbing snake!” but instead I say, “you expect me to believe that this is the first time a customer has ever canceled glasscoat?” He looks at me with beady eyes and lies to my face again. Then he says he can’t change the contract because it’s already “in” (in where? a secret vault of untouchable contracts?), so he’ll have to write me a check for the amount.
“Does this mean that I’m going to be paying interest on it?” I ask. In a nutshell, yes. Then he asks me if I want the tax back. Um…duh, I think to myself. He says he might not be able to get it back. I am ready to scream at this point and my unicorn friend has decided to test drive the new outback while waiting for me. I whisper to him to park under a pine tree and wait for sap. Then I look back at my enemy, the stuffed turkey of a manager, and ask “if I return something to a store, do they give me my money back and keep the tax? No, because that would be illegal.” He smiles and says he totally understands, but somehow this is different, more complicated (translation: he wants to keep the tax because he’s a thieving bastard). He calls someone named Debra who must have all the answers, but alas she’s unavailable. He’s going to have to get back to me on that. Oh, but he’ll take my credit card number and call me once he finds out. I look at him square in the face before I leave and say, “you’re on my side, right?” His sweaty palm grabs my hand and I want to say so many horrible things to him, but my unicorn friend anxiously flags me down. I go outside and we get into my shiny new subaru, and my unicorn friend tells me that he accidentally stabbed his horn through the sunroof of the outback he was test driving. “Great”, I say, “there goes my tax.”

our new subaru impreza sport!

It’s the middle of winter and you’ve just gotten screwed over by a car dealership. Solution? Indulge in some velvety smooth key lime tarts to lift your spirit! This recipe is raw, free of refined sugars, gluten free, soy free, and guilt free because it’s made from healthy ingredients like avocado! Hooray!

DSC_0275Key Lime & Coconut Tarts

Crust:
1/2 cup almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup dates, pitted
pinch of sea salt

Filling:
2 avocados, pitted and removed from skins
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I use Dr. Bronner’s)
2 T coconut nectar (you can substitute agave nectar or honey)

Topping:
Handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut (I use Let’s Do Organic)
Zest of one lime

Add crust ingredients to a food processor and blend until crumbly and moist. Press mixture into six ramekins or muffin tins or vessel of your choosing. Now blend the filling ingredients in a high-speed blender (like a Vita-Mix) until smooth and fluffy. Add a dollop of the filling to each ramekin and spread over crust. Top with a sprinkle of zest and coconut flakes. Chill in the frig for at least an hour before serving. Makes 6 ramekin-sized tarts, enough for 6 unicorns seeking revenge.DSC_0276