gluten free recipe
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.
I will withhold my urge to shout out my feelings regarding this hallmark holiday of consumer ignorance, and will instead make desserts shaped into hearts. But can I just make one suggestion? Instead of spending your dollars on pesticide-laden roses and sugar-filled chocolates, make this day about telling others how much they mean to you. In my opinion, the best way to show your love for another person is to cook for them (and massage their feet…AFTER dinner, obviously). If however, you still feel the pressure of splurging on material gifts, please support local, greener companies. And hey, who says chocolates need milk in them to taste out of this world amazing? Check out Dee’s One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury or order online from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, NY.
But before I share my scrumptious gingerbread cheesecake recipe, I want to tell you about two lovely restaurants that my husband and I recently visited…and adored. The first is Cafe Evolution in Northampton, MA, a gem of a vegan cafe and bakery with crazy good homemade bread and even crazier tempeh B.L.T.’s. The cafe is located in an old, warehouse a little outside downtown Northampton so it’s easy to park and there’s less of a chance of running over a hipster. The inside smells of wheatgrass, fresh bread and coffee…in a word, heaven! I ordered a housemade chai tea, which was delicately spiced and generously topped with frothy soymilk and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Then I had a bowl of their soup of the day, a partially pureed garbanzo bean and kale delight with subtle hints of curry. It was creamy and had loads of kale = perfection. For my main, I ordered a giant mixed lettuce salad with baked tofu and lemon tahini dressing. It was crisp and delicious, but Tom’s tempeh B.L.T. was the clear winner. Loaded with baked tempeh, creamy aioli, avocado, tomato, and lettuce – not to mention stuffed between two slices of their to die for homemade bread – made for one hell of a vegan sandwich. The best part of our visit, however, was when we were readying ourselves to leave, and came across a book in the children’s play area near the entrance to the restaurant. The book was called That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I had heard of the book before, mostly because it caused quite a stir amongst conservative parenting groups concerned with the honest, no frills message to children on where our food comes from and how loving and intelligent these sentient beings really are. Tom and I read the entire book, which, in addition to being thoughtfully written and conveying the most inspiring message, was beautifully illustrated. I highly recommend picking up a copy!
The second restaurant we dined at was in Cambridge, MA, called Veggie Galaxy. Decorated with old vinyl, Elvis inspired artwork, and a Jetson’s feel, this funky diner was a refreshing find after countless bamboo-new-age-I-love-seaweed-karma type cafes. Don’t get me wrong, I love these places too, but sometimes a good retro hipster joint is just what the vegan nutritionist ordered. And speaking of vegan nutrition, the great thing about this place is the quality of the food. I expected a fast food vegan type of experience, but instead we were surprised by housemade ketchup, a baby arugula side dish, and a mouth watering housemade seitan reuben. I love reubens, but they are typically made with tempeh, so I was excited to try their seitan version. Spiced with fennel seed and homemade vegan cheese, this sandwich literally blew me away.
Now that you’re dreaming of seitan reubens and tempeh B.L.T.’s, why not make some rawesome gingerbread cheesecake hearts! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but hey, it’s Valentines Day! Cashews, dates, lemon juice, and a whole lot of gingerbread spices make this raw wonder a gluten free and vegan dream come true. All you need is a high speed blender (buy a VitaMix already!), a food processor, and heart shaped cookie cutters! Hooray for not having to bake!
Rawesome Gingerbread Cheesecake Hearts
For the crust:
1 cup cashews
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup almond meal
1 cup dates, pitted
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly and moist.
For the filling:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, preferably soaked for an hour or up to overnight
2 T coconut nectar
2 T virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
up to ¼ cup water to facilitate blending
Combine and blend in a vita-mix or high speed blender until creamy. Allow to set in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. With a heart shaped cookie cutter, press crust into mold until it fills it up halfway. Press down firmly. Fill the rest of the mold with the cheesecake filling. While holding the mold, gently press on the bottom side of the cheesecake heart and push it out of the mold. Sprinkle a few crumbs of the crust mixture on top if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in freezer until ready to serve. Makes 10-12 hearts or enough for a small blessing of love sick unicorns. (A blessing is what you call a group of unicorns, in the same way that you call a group of buffalo a herd. Thank you Michael from The Fairy Shop in Boston, MA for that invaluable piece of unicorn knowledge!)
I really am a vegan chef. I studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC after a two year hiatus in Hawaii where I intimately observed the lives of beach bums…so intimately in fact, that I became one. Yes, I had a job; I had many jobs. The longest one lasted 4 months, the shortest one, about 3 weeks. Let’s start at the beginning…
My title? Community Marketing Agent (translation: asshole in aloha shirt who stands on street corners with orchids and pretends to be giving you directions and a free flower, but really intends to sign you up for a tour of a timeshare condo in Waikiki). The effectiveness of this job was entirely based on how good you were at lying, manipulating, and faking a smile. I quit after I realized how good I was at it. My husband was quickly demoted to a “greeter”, which is the idiot holding the flowers who stands next to the CMA. This was, of course, a complement because it meant that he was a decent human being. Our roommate Evan was also a CMA, but instead of signing clueless tourists up for timeshare tours, he signed up clueless girls with his number. They were typically blond and their names almost always started with the letter “A”.
Where was I going with this?
Oh right, next job. Waitress. Let’s just say that I might have been the worst waitress of all time. The fast pace of a restaurant instantly made me feel sluggish, as though my heinous, black work shoes were covered in tar and stuck to the floor. The idea of “turning my tables” quickly was not particularly appealing, even though it meant more tips. I found myself content with making the least amount of tips, while leisurely enjoying my tables and encouraging them to stick around. My boss eventually gave me the small outside section (which overlooks the ocean and was notorious for slow tables). I really enjoyed this until we all had to start sharing the “sushi bar” section. This stressed me out: all single customers, lined up in a row. They want their sushi fast and their drinks faster. This is about the time I started my involuntarily eye roll. Everybody does this, right? Sure, but not like me. When I roll my eyes it’s horribly obvious and I have no control over it. Needless to say, a few forgotten beers later, an impatient customer got the full wrath of my eyes. My boss was unhappy with me, and there were a few other incidences too (example: kid asked me for milk. “Um, it’s a Japanese restaurant buddy, we don’t have milk”. I asked my boss what to do. He told me to go to the restaurant next door and borrow some. You’re joking, right? I had a better idea: coffee creamer mixed with fresh tap water. Perfect; the kid freaking loved it, and asked for more).
So I moved on to retail: slower pace, encouraged to partake in my favorite activity (staring off into space and succumbing to wildly entertaining daydreams), and I didn’t smell like dead fish anymore. Nope, instead I smelled like hand sanitizer and cotton, and my daydreaming became so invasive that when a customer actually addressed me, I looked at them as though they were in the dreamworld and my reality was Neverland. That was the job that lasted 3 weeks. Then we moved back to the mainland, and I realized that I wanted to become a chef. Do you see how my story perfectly sets up that connection? Don’t over think it.
Onward to the recipes!
It’s muggy and hot outside, so even though it’s fall I don’t feel inclined to make a batch of cozy “let’s make a fire” autumn stew. Instead, I’m sweating and fending off a mass of nearly dead mosquitos with nothing left to lose. Solution? Spicy burritos made with a wondrously healthy and scrumptious food called tempeh. Tempeh is my favorite soy miracle, made from whole soybeans and fermented into a scary looking (think brains) but delicious and protein packed package of love. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish so it’s a great meal to have when you don’t feel like cooking.
*Note: all of the ingredients below can be purchased at Whole Foods or another natural foods store. Yes, I know, “Whole Paycheck” is expensive, but remember this: what is the one thing you do three times a day (maybe more, hopefully not less) for your entire life? Yup, you guessed it…eat! Your body is counting on you to fill it up with yummy and healthy food, a little bit everyday. So do yourself a favor and spend a few extra bucks on organic, minimally processed food. It will make you happy and you will start seeing unicorns everywhere.
1 package Tempeh, crumbled (I use SoyBoy brand)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 T mexican seasoning blend (I love Penzey’s Adobo blend, but any mexican blend will work…or you can just use a mixture of cumin, cayenne, and garlic)
3/4 jar prepared salsa (I use 365 organic mild or medium salsa, but you can use any kind)
1 T shoyu or tamari (shoyu is naturally brewed soy sauce without the preservatives and oftentimes corn syrup (gasp!) in conventional brands. Tamari is brewed without wheat = gluten free)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 bunch collard greens, stems removed
In a large saute pan, turn flame on high, add oil and heat. Add onions (this is about the time when you will grab a wooden spoon and feel the urge to vigorously stir the onions. Do not give in to this temptation. When you stir, it produces steam, and all your crispy veggies will turn to mush. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t stir at all, just don’t go crazy). Now add the crumbled tempeh and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add peppers, tamari/shoyu, and seasoning and continue to cook. Pour in salsa and turn down flame. Using your wooden spoon, deglaze the crispy bits on the bottom of the pan with the salsa. Turn off flame and toss with cilantro. Lightly steam collards in a pot fitted with a steamer basket for 5 minutes or just lay collards over the burrito filling towards the end of cooking to soften. Serve with guacamole, salsa, romaine lettuce, and hot sauce. Makes about 4 burritos or enough for 4 corona sipping unicorns.
Homemade guacamole and salsa are so easy to make and taste so much better than the stuff from the store. Grab a mixing bowl for each, add ingredients, mix & serve!
3 avocados, pitted & scooped out of skins
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion, diced
small handful cilantro, finely chopped
1 T jalapeno pepper, deveined, seeded & minced (wear rubber gloves if you’re sensitive to heat)
sea salt to taste
1 mango, peeled, pitted & diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded & diced
1 T jalapeno, seeded & diced
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1 T lime juice
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
sea salt & black pepper to taste