cashews

what you actually need in your kitchen / rawesome sour cream

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DSC_0032When I see dust-laden piles of paper on a desk, random crap pushed into dark corners, or tchotchkes lining a window sill, a feverish desire overcomes me. My pupils dilate, my heart whooshes blood into my eager hands, and I try my best to suppress the urge to tear through it all. Because this typically occurs in other people’s homes…and you can’t just reorganize someone else’s stuff. That would be weird. In my own space, however, I can sort and clean until I fall into a heap on the couch after deciding what to do with my old textbooks. And I can donate knick knacks with maniacal glee. Translation: miniature statues of animals, crocheted pillows with written sentiments, headlamps (really…), stationary with my name etched across in whimsical floral-accented cursive, geodes and other earthen matter, ill fitting too small clothing, key chains or lanyards, and scrub brushes painted to resemble creepy clown-faced women. I do have my fair share of bric-a-brac (aka unicorns of various shapes and sizes, perhaps a wooden cat, and yes, a faery with wire wings), but I arrange these items with an eye for minimalism, and the same holds true for my kitchen…

When you get married, you are allowed to sign up for a registry, and with this right bubbles up an insane need for useless items…because you can, and because your mother said “every wife should have one of these _____(enter unnecessary item here). Translation: a molcajete (because a regular old mixing bowl just ain’t good enough), overpriced formal china (for all those 12 person dinner parties that you never have), silver flatware (because the advent of no need to polish stainless steel is an insult to grandmothers everywhere), 12 piece knife block set (because you need 12 different knives to chop an onion), a tortilla warmer (just.stop.now.), a slate cheese board (negative. and you should stop eating cheese anyway), and a rooster shaped timer (this is also a tchotchke).

So, to help brides and grooms to be with their kitchen registries, and in fact, to anyone wanting advice on what to put in their kitchen, I have compiled a list of necessary items here.

Now that you’re armed with the tools to make you a kick-ass vegan chef, why not wow your friends with rawesome sour cream? Serve with chips and salsa for a Mexican-inspired taste explosion without the nasty dairy.

DSC_0034Rawesome Sour Cream 

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for an hour or overnight

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon onion powder

1-2 shakes of garlic powder

Large pinch of sea salt

Enough fresh water to facilitate blending (less than 1/4 cup)

Drain soaked cashews and rinse with cold water. Add them to your blender along with all of the other ingredients. Start on low variable speed and increase to high, pureeing until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Chill in refrigerator before eating. Serve with chips (I highly recommend these) or add to tacos, burritos, or anything else calling for sour cream. Makes enough for 4 unicorns celebrating cinco de mayo with their molcajete and tortilla warmer. DSC_0031

the unhealthy vegan? / smoky cream of fennel soup

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DSC_0239There are a lot of unhealthy vegans out there. Wait, what? you ask in bewilderment. I thought vegans were plant eating hippie health nuts who eat bark and berries? Well, yeah, in the good ol’ days, but as veganism has become more mainstream, so has the food industry’s development of meat and dairy replacements. According to a recent study, there are over 7 million vegetarians in the US, and of that group, about 1 million are vegan. This means that there are over 7 million people spending their money on plant-based foods, and that number is steadily on the rise. As a result, there’s been a major influx of meat and dairy replacement “convenience” foods, and shopping for vegan and vegetarian food has never been more accessible. Sounds great, right? In theory, yes, and if you’re considering a plant based diet, the transition couldn’t be easier. But the problem is, we plant eaters have become brainwashed by the same marketing propaganda that our meat eating comrades often experience. Grocery stores now market highly processed vegetarian foods, glittering with magical phrases like “all natural meat alternative” (translation: processed soy isolate crap with cane sugar, “natural” i.e. we-don’t-want-to-tell-you flavorings, cornstarch, and maybe some good old MSG (no, not Madison Square Garden…Monosodium Glutamate, otherwise known as the devil’s (sugar’s) right hand man.)

But are these foods really better than the animal products they’re replacing? From an ethical standpoint, yes, but from a nutritional standpoint…I don’t think so. A vegan or vegetarian that consumes a diet high in processed soy meat alternatives and other convenience foods made from refined flours and sugars is in danger of becoming just as unhealthy as someone who follows a standard American diet. The bottom line is, processed foods, whether vegetarian or not, are high in sodium and sugars and low in nutrient density. Over time, eating nutrient poor foods can lead to deficiencies and chronic degenerative diseases. Solution? Eat a mostly WHOLE foods plant-based diet, rich in sprouted whole grains, legumes, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Don’t just go veg for ethical reasons, go veg for your health!

Now that I’ve ruined your sugar-laden soy latte and fake sausage breakfast, why not try something more WHOLEsome? Sweet tasting fennel, creamy cashews, smoked sea salt and the refreshing zip of licorice come together in this easy, dreamy, creamy fennel soup.

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DSC_0243Smoky Cream of Fennel Soup

1 T cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 bulb of fennel, green fronds and bulb root removed, then chopped

3 large carrots or 5-6 small carrots, peeled and chopped

3 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped

3 cups stock

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour or up to overnight + 1/2 cup fresh water

1 T unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground with a mortar & pestle

1/2 tsp smoked sea salt (I recommend alder smoked sea salt)

Fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste

IN a soup pot, heat oil over a medium flame and add onion. Sweat for a few minutes until onion begins to soften, then pour in fennel, carrots, and garlic. Stir to combine. Allow to cook for several minutes, then add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce flame to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a high speed blender, add soaked (and rinsed) cashews and water. Blend on high until mixture resembles a thick cream. Pour cashew cream into simmering soup and stir. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. Turn off flame and add vinegar. Pour soup into blender and puree until smooth. Transfer pureed soup back to pot and season with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crushed fennel seed and smoked sea salt. Makes enough soup for 4-6 recovering junk food addict vegan unicorns.

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and now for something completely different / fettuccine with cashew alfredo

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Sometimes I like to write poetry. And since I’m on a cleanse right now (translation: no life), I’m feeling less cynical and more contemplative. I know…boring, boring, boring. But what else am I supposed to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and I can’t drink? Exactly. Poetry is the answer. Here’s one that I wrote about my mom and I.

“I had a thought today,” said my mother to me,
“and it didn’t make me sad or glad. It was just there in front of me
like a wide-eyed creature.”
A sparrow landed on the slate patio and picked up a piece of millet.
I asked her what it was.
“That we are insignificant. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, 
we don’t matter.” 
The sky was ocean blue with white-capped clouds.
“We are dust gathering in a corner, we are blades of grass
hanging onto the earth;
we are the small things that no one ever sees, we are seeds blowing on a wayward sojourn;
we are the raindrops that never reach the ground,
splattered on a bough, a fence, a rooftop—we are nothing.”
The phone was ringing. Mom always answers, but she didn’t get up. 
I guess she didn’t hear it. 
I smiled. She knew that I knew exactly what she meant because I always did. 
I agreed, of course, and asked her how this insignificance made her feel. 
“Like a wet blanket lifting from my shoulders,” she said, “like the first burst of radiant sunlight over a sleeping field—shouting—go on and do it Kim! 
Go on and wear the clothes you want, go on and tell the world how you feel about it, 
because in the end, none of it will matter!”
We shared a maniacal laugh. 
The laundry announced that it was clean. 
Yes, I thought to myself, this is one of those pure moments. 
This is what really matters.   

Now that you’re feeling nostalgic and want to call your mom and tell her you love her, why not indulge in a sinfully rich dish with your unicorn friends and watch Steel Magnolias? This fettuccine alfredo will blow you away with its creaminess without the added nastiness of dairy. In fact, this dish is soy and gluten free too so I can’t think of one person who won’t be able to eat this (unless you’re allergic to cashews in which case, I feel sorry for you because they are the greatest nut on the planet). 

Fettuccine with Cashew Alfredo

for the pasta:
1 box of fettuccine noodles (use whole wheat noodles or brown rice noodles to make it gluten free)
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 box of button mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
A few handfuls of spinach or kale or chard (everything I make has greens in it because I am a dirty hippie…and unicorns love their greens)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

for the sauce:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked preferably for at least an hour
1/2 cup stock or water
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 clove raw garlic OR 2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup unsweetened nut milk of choice (I use EdenSoy Unsweetened Soy Milk)
Handful of nutritional yeast 
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, optional
1 T tamari 

Get out a big pot and fill it up with lots of water and a generous pinch of sea salt. Cover, and bring to a boil, then add noodles and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute your onion in some olive oil until soft, then add mushrooms, stir once or twice, then add the rest of your veggies. Season with salt and pepper. 
In a high speed blender (buy a Vita-Mix! They’re amazing!) add all sauce ingredients and blend on variable speed until combined, then pump it up to highest speed until creamy and smooth. If you’re using a Vita-Mix, leave motor running until sauce is heated up. If you’re using a conventional blender, remove once creamy and smooth, then gently heat in a saucepan until warm. Toss noodles with sauce, fresh black pepper, and a bit of the starchy water from the pot to thin out the sauce, if desired. Add veggies and serve to four nostalgic unicorns who want to feed their emotions.