Category Archives: Gluten Free

Vegan Eggplant Parm – Healthy Recipe

Eggplant Parmesan has been one of my favorite dishes for as long as I can remember. It has a lot to do with growing up as a vegetarian in New York City where eggplant parm sandwiches are in abundant supply. That ooey, gooey, saucy, cheesy sandwich was often a go to option for me, with it’s oily fried eggplant slices stuffed into a perfectly toasted Italian roll that excelled at its job of soaking up a sweet marinara sauce and holding the lightly charred mozzarella cheese in its place. If I went out for a “fancier” Italian dinner, I ordered the eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. It was also one of my grandma’s go to orders and we’d often end up splitting or taking bites from the other’s plate on the rare occasions either of us ordered something else.

Of course while the taste was above and beyond measure, so were the calories. I couldn’t even fathom eating something as decadent as that now. But, since I like to reminisce about past favorites, and it is eggplant season, I just had to create a healthier version of this New York classic.

For this healthier vegan eggplant parmesan, I ditch the breadcrumbs, making it naturally gluten free, and opt to bake the eggplant instead of frying it. For a little extra oomph factor, I add in a simple basil pistou, but since this is the oiliest part of the dish, it may be omitted.  There are a lot of components that go into making the final dish, but the sauces are actually all very simple to make and each contains only a small handful of ingredients. To make it even simpler, and eliminate one step, you can use a pre-made jarred tomato sauce.

vegan_eggplant_Parm

Eggplant Parm
1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
olive oil for brushing, or spray

Basil pistou
3 packed cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Sundried Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup sundried tomatoes, soaked (liquid reserved)
1 cup tomato puree
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic
reserved soaking water as needed

Nut Cheese Sauce
1/2 Cup cashews and macadamia nuts (or other combo), soaked
3/4 Cup water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how much tang you want
1 teaspoon miso

1. Cut eggplant into rounds about 3/4″ thick. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt to draw out bitterness. Leave for at least 10 minutes. Pat with paper towel. Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with oil. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, flipping half way through. You want them to be easy to cut with a fork, but firm enough to not fall apart.

eggplant

2. While eggplant is cooking, prepare sauces.

Basil Pistou
Pulse garlic, salt and basil in a food processor a few times to chop. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until combined. Adjust seasoning.

Sundried Tomato Sauce
Place everything in a blender, except reserved soaking water and blend until smooth, adding soaking water little by little until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and rinse out blender.

Nut Cheese Sauce
If you have a high speed blender, you only have to soak the nuts for a minimum of 10 minutes, in warm water. For lower speed blenders, soak 8 hours or overnight for a creamier texture. Add all the ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

3. Assemble Eggplant Parm.
Top eggplant slices with tomato sauce, drizzle cheese sauce, bake 5 minutes. Top with pesto.  Layer 3 or 4 on top of each other, if desired. Serve as is with a side of greens or a fresh salad, or layer into a toasty piece of (gluten free) bread.

gluten_free_vegan_Eggplant_Parm

Summer Succotash with Okra

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen corn making its way into the grocery stores and farmers market, and have caught a few glimpses of okra as well.  The okra is a little early as it usually comes into peak season around August or early September, but seeing it alongside corn inspired me to take advantage of this colliding of the seasons.

Succotash isn’t something I regularly eat these days, but I hold a fondness of it from childhood.

If you’ve never had or heard of succotash, it is a traditional Native American dish typically made with corn and lima beans or other shell beans, and may be combined with a variety of other summer ingredients like peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes. The name is derived from the indigenous people from Narragansett (now Rhode Island) who referred to m’sickquatash, meaning “boiled whole ear of corn”, or something along those lines.

succotash_basil

Naturally vegan and gluten free, Succotash is typically a side dish, but may be transformed into a hearty entree with beans.

When making succotash with okra, I find the best flavor and texture comes from pan searing the okra first. This okra cooking technique helps to cut down on the slime you may get if you stir your okra too much or allow it to be exposed to too much moisture while sautéing.

okra

Summer Succotash with Okra

Serves 2 – 4.
Ingredients
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound okra, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 or 2 ears corn, kernels cut off and cobs
8 ounces fresh beans (baby lima beans,
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pint), halved
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Pan sear okra until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in pan and add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn, jalapeno, fresh beans, and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.

3. Return okra to pan stir in vinegar. Remove from heat, add basil, salt, and pepper, and adjust seasonings, to taste. Serve.

okra_succotash

Golden Tomato Sauce

The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market has been brimming lately with vibrant colors of a new season of produce. The sweet and cooling fruits and vegetables of summer are becoming abundant and inviting.

On my last visit to the market, I was drawn in by glowing baskets of sunshine at the Tutti Frutti Farms booth. In late winter, early spring I always stop at this particular farm to stock up on their sweet and flavorful carrots. Come summer, they are the farm I turn to for juicy, heirloom tomatoes, including the Golden Jubilee tomatoes that inspired this recipe.

golden_tomatoes

Golden Jubilee are a beautiful yellow fleshed tomato with a mild flavor and low acidity. They are great for eating raw, juicing or blending. Roasting brings out their delicate flavor in a different way, which makes it a lovely sauce tomato as well.

This Golden Heirloom Tomato Sauce recipe contains only three ingredients and is incredibly simple to make. Thinning out the sauce also turns the recipe into an exquisite soup as well. If you don’t have access to Golden Jubilee tomatoes, use any heirloom variety for best flavor. Non-heirloom varieties will be more acidic and may require an acid neutralizer like baking soda or sweetener.

golden_tomato_Sauce

Golden Tomato Sauce
Ingredients
4 medium golden tomatoes, about 1 pound
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper
small bunch fresh basil, chiffonade (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Chop the tomatoes into large chunks. Coat the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Add tomatoes, onions and garlic to the pan, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

raw_golden_tomatoes

3. Cover and roast for 40 minutes, until onions are very soft and juices release from the tomatoes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes to allow the onions and tomatoes to get a little browned on top.

roasted_gold_tomatoes

4. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a pot and stir in basil, if using. Adjust for seasoning.  Reheat, if necessary. Serve with favorite pasta or vegetables, or add vegetable stock, water or non-dairy milk to thin out a little and serve as a delicious vegan cream of tomato soup.

pasta_golden_sauce

Guest Post: Artichoke Spinach Lasagna and Cookbook Giveaway

Today I am thrilled to have Stephanie Dreyer aka VeegMama as a guest contributor. Even though I don’t have kids of my own yet, her blog is an inspiration for maintaining a fun filled vegan lifestyle, and shows how easy it can be to eat healthy.  The best part about her guest post, is that she is giving away a free copy of her awesome new ebook VeegMama’s Guide to Going Vegan to one lucky winner.  In the book, Stephanie shares tips and provides information on how to transition easily and joyfully to a plant-based lifestyle, with lots of yummy recipes included.

An Italian girl after my own heart, Stephanie shares her recipe for Artichoke and Spinach lasagna, a gluten free and soy free version of one of my childhood favorites.

Enter to win at the bottom of this post!  Giveaway ends Monday, March 16.

Guest Post: VeegMama’s Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna

I am very excited to be on Veggie Fixation today! As a vegan mom of three, I am always looking for new, healthy recipes to delight my family. When I adopted a vegan diet almost 5 years ago, there was a steep learning curve to build a new repertoire of recipes and familiarize myself with vegan products. In my new ebook, VeegMama’s Guide To Going Vegan, I share how to transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle simply and easily, and provide lots of delicious recipes. This one is a nod to my Italian roots, where pasta is a mainstay. This recipe uses De Bole’s Rice Lasagna noodles to make it gluten-free. It also uses a delicious non-dairy, non-soy cheese by Daiya. Both products are available at Whole Foods. I hope you and your family enjoy it!

 

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna

Vegan and Gluten-free Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles

12 oz fresh baby spinach

2 cans of artichokes hearts (in water), drained and coarsely chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz Daiya cheese

2 25 oz jars of marinara sauce

2 14.5 oz cans of chopped tomatoes, drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to the package directions (if using De Bole’s, you don’t have to boil them). Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts to pan and cook 3-4 minutes.

Add spinach to pan in batches. Using tongs, fold in the spinach until slightly wilted, adding more spinach until it is all combined in the pan. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon a ½ cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan.

Add a layer of noodles across the bottom. Spread ½ of the artichoke and spinach mixture over the noodles. Pour the rest of the first jar of sauce over the noodles.

Top with 1 can of the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle half of cheese over the veggies. Repeat with the remaining ingredients for one more layer, ending with cheese on the very top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until done.

Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

About Stephanie Dreyer:

Stephanie Dreyer, is the founder of VeegMama, a lifestyle blog sharing new approaches to healthy living and eating.  She encourages her readers to live their best life every day through food, wellness, and personal fulfillment.  She is also a children’s book writer and mom of three.  Stephanie was most recently featured on KCAL 9 in Los Angeles and Chickpea Magazine.  She is a contributing author in the #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Sexy Fit and Fab Sirens.

Her new ebook, VeegMama’s Guide To Going Vegan is now available. You can visit her at veegmama.com and can connect with her at veegmama@gmail.com, facebook.com/Veegmamatwitter.com/Veegmamainstagram.com/Veegmama and pinterest.com/veegmama.

**UPDATE: Giveaway now closed.  Congrats to Tanay Colon!

veegmama a Rafflecopter giveaway


Easy Chia Pudding

After hitting 3 weeks with no sugar/dessert, my wedding tasting day came up, which, of course, included cake. While it was a little weird for both me and Jacques to stick our forks into decadent rounds of chocolate and carrot cake, we were relieved to find that the cake was not too sweet for our sugarless pallets.  One more reason to be in love with our wedding venue –  fruit juice sweetened cake. It was so good!

I’m not just saying this from the perspective of two people who haven’t had a lavish dessert in three weeks and a year, respectively. Our best man and best woman agreed that they were delicious!

See how much fun we had! (Maybe more to do with the wine than the cake.)
See how much fun we had! (Maybe more to do with the wine than the cake.)

Why do I bring this up? Well, I mention it because many people feel intimidated by the idea of changing their diets or removing sweet treats from their dining tables, ignoring the fact that their are alternatives to processed and refined sugars. Plus, the right healthy alternatives are often more satisfying and satiating than the quick buzz you get from eating a bar of chocolate.

One of my favorite fulfilling treats is Easy Chia Pudding. I try to throw this one into cooking demonstrations as often as I can because people are always wowed by the simplicity of preparation and how gratifying it is to eat.  I am not exaggerating. This pudding is always a huge hit; people go crazy for it.

Chia pudding is an especially great dessert for summer because it’s incredibly hydrating, due to the water absorbing power of chia. While sweetener adds a little extra, it’s not necessary at all because the texture is so interesting and the seeds are tasty on their own. Since chia does have a tendency to make you feel fuller, people often find themselves eating less, which can be a great weight loss tool. It also works well for breakfast.

So, aside from the subject of a catchy early 90s television commercial for an inanimate pet that you can watch grow – “cha cha cha chia” – what exactly is chia?

chia pudding
Chia seeds getting ready to soak

Chia is an edible seed that dates back as far as ancient Mayan and Aztec times. “Chia” translates to strength and is said to have been used as an energy food. Tiny as the seeds may be, they are nutritional powerhouses, chock full of protein, fiber, antioxidants and omega 3. One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals and can be absorbed by the body as a whole seed, especially when soaked.  Conveniently, chia also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, slowing the absorption of sugar in the body.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-chia
http://www.rawreform.com/content/view/345/127/

Sure all those health benefits are great, but what’s really special about Chia Seed Pudding is its versatility. Use your favorite non dairy milk, juice or even coconut water for a unique twist; top it with any of your favorite fruits; play around with extract flavors and spices. The possibilities go as far as your imagination.

Chia Seed Pudding with Blueberries
Makes one serving.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
splash of almond extract
dash of cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/2 maple syrup, optional
2 Tablespoons blueberries

Directions

In a small bowl or jar combine the first four ingredients. Give it a good stir and refrigerate for at least one hour. After the first thirty minutes give the mixture a stir, so it doesn’t clump together. Once you’re ready to eat, stir in sweetener (if using, but I highly recommend trying it without!) and top with your favorite fruit or chopped nuts.

Chia Pudding with Blueberry
Chia Pudding with Blueberry

Sundried Tomato and Wild Mushroom Risotto

It’s been almost a month since getting engaged and Jacques and I are on cloud nine. We’ve gone into full swing of wedding planning.

It’s so much fun having a partner who is as thrilled about the details and planning process as I am. I’ve heard so many horror stories about grooms who just want to show up on the day of and not have an active role in the steps along the way.  I never would have expected Jacques to be one of those grooms, but it’s still a nice relief to know I truly have someone by my side for all the small stuff.

So far, we’ve been able to agree, or at least compromise, on all ideas, which is great.

We’re gearing up for a wedding that is as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. Our ideal venue is an outdoor setting with the possibility for an all vegan and organic menu. We have our eye on the perfect location, made even more so with an entree option that is one of Jacques’ favorite dishes… RISOTTO!

Risotto has been playing a prominent role in our lives, of late.

It started with our anniversary dinner at Crossroads Kitchen. The risotto of the day was fresh pea and morel mushrooms (my weakness). It was perfection. So perfect, that it led to Jacques getting on one knee to propose to me.

Okay, that probably had nothing to do with the risotto specifically, but it was magical, nonetheless.

Engagement Dinner Risotto at Crossroads
Engagement dinner risotto at Crossroads

On my birthday a couple weeks later, we went to a nice Italian restaurant and, of course, one of the few already vegan items on the menu was their a spring veggie risotto.

After our special risotto dinner, I went on a risotto making kick and have been creating it for clients to much acclaim.

Yesterday, I decided that despite the 90 degree temperature and lack of air conditioning in my apartment, that I’d whip up some risotto for my loving fiancé (still getting used to that!).  Not the best decision I’ve ever made to stand over a hot stove while I was already uncomfortably hot, but it was worth it.

Anyhow, I posted a pic on instagram a couple weeks ago of a wild mushroom risotto that I’d made, along with a promise that a recipe would follow. Well, here’s that recipe.  I recommend getting friends to assist whenever making risotto. It’s always more fun with a group, especially in sweltering heat. 🙂

 

Vegan Wild Mushroom Risotto
Vegan Wild Mushroom Risotto

 

Sundried Tomato and Wild Mushroom Risotto
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked until rehydrated, liquid reserved, sliced
  • 8 oz dried wild mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 min, liquid reserved, sliced
  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, mix of crimini, shiitake and/or other wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup red onion, leek or shallot, diced
  • 3 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1½ cups Arborio Rice or short grain brown rice (if using brown, parboil for 10 minutes first)
  • ¼ cup red wine, optional
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • couple handfuls spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 - 3 sprigs each, fresh thyme and rosemary
  • drizzle of truffle oil, optional, but adds such an added depth of yumminess!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Coat mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until slightly crispy around the edges. (If it's too hot for the oven, saute instead.) Set aside while you prepare the rest of the risotto.
  3. In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, then add onion and saute until golden brown. Add rice and stir until well coated and translucent. Stir in red wine, if using, and allow to absorb.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of hot stock, add a pinch of salt, and simmer gently.
  5. When the stock has absorbed, add another cup, and continue this process until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 - 25 minutes. Add a small pinch of salt with each addition of liquid.
  6. Fold in herbs and spinach, continue to cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with truffle oil just before serving.

 

Want to learn hands-on how to make risotto? Contact me for a private cooking lesson, or join me on Friday, July 18 for a Vegan Italiano class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica.

vegan potato pancakes for St. Patrick's Day

Spinach Potato Pancakes

As far as I know, I am not even a little bit Irish. However, I did go to college in Boston (Emerson represent!), which is quite possibly the capital of Ireland. I’m making this assumption based on the number of college friends I have that are of Irish descent, and the number of Irish pubs per capita throughout the city. I do not have actual statistics on how many Irish pubs are in and around the city of Boston, but I’m barely exaggerating when I say that every other bar has a name that starts O’ something.

And the Purple Shamrock. We must not forget the Purple Shamrock, a dank, sticky floored restaurant and bar that was a Boston staple for over three decades until its closing in September 2012; a bar, most referenced in college stories as the place we unintentionally abandoned our spirited, innocent, doe eyed, blonde haired friend after two drunken Irish men got into a fist fight over who got to buy her a drink. (Said friend recently started an awesome and hilarious blog called Stuffed Dates chronicling stories of life, love, dating and recipes. Perhaps this store will make an appearance…)

But I digress.

Despite not being Irish, celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day has long been engrained into my personal culture. All things Ireland seem to follow me around. I remember having a crush on an Irish exchange student who was visiting one summer during high school, and subsequent crushes on every cute guy I encountered with an Irish accent.  When I moved in with Jacques (not Irish), it didn’t take long to discover that everyone working at the dive bar right next to our apartment all hailed originally from Ireland. Although they are all older women who have lived here for many years, they still hang on tightly to their accents. We love popping in there just to listen to them talk.

Since I will not be whipping out a green beer this time around (because, really, who knows what kind of nasty chemicals are in those things!), I wanted to celebrate in my own special way. Of course, that means I am celebrating through food. I decided to take a little bit less of a traditional approach, with potatoes, a traditional Irish staple.  With spinach on hand, I had a vision for spinach potato pancakes, mixing a bit of my Jewish roots with my Irish longings. Passover is around the corner, after all.

Spinach Potato Pancakes 

Makes 6 pancakes 3″ in diameter

2 medium potatoes, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Cups packed spinach, blanched, squeezed and chopped
1/4 Cup onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons chives, minced (optional)
1 flax egg*
1/2 Cup brown rice flour
2 Tablespoons potato starch
1/4 Cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
few dashes black pepper

 

grated potato vegan potato pancakes

Squeeze excess water out of potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with lemon juice to prevent oxidation.

 

chopped spinach

Add spinach, onion and chives, if using, and mix to combine.

 

egg alternative flax egg
Whisk together 1 tablespoon ground flax and 3 tablespoons water to create flax egg.

Add flax egg, flour and starch and stir to coat. Drizzle in almond milk and season with salt and pepper. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold everything together until well incorporated.

 

vegan potato pancakes

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a heavy skillet. Drop potato batter in 1/4 cup portions into the hot oil and flatten lightly with a spatula.

 

vegan potato spinach pancakes

Brown on the first side for about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and brown on the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes. They may need to be flipped again if they have not browned well enough.

 

vegan potato pancakes for St. Patrick's Day
Transfer to a plate and serve immediately with a dollop of vegan sour cream or hot sauce, if desired.

 

 

Spinach Potato Pancakes
Author: 
Cuisine: Irish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 3" patties
 
Ingredients
  • 2 medium potatoes, grated (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Cups packed spinach, blanched, squeezed and chopped
  • ¼ Cup onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons chives, minced (optional)
  • 1 flax egg*
  • ½ Cup brown rice flour
  • 2 Tablespoons potato starch
  • ¼ Cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • few dashes black pepper
Instructions
  1. Squeeze excess water out of potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Add spinach, onion and chives, if using, and mix to combine.
  2. Add flax egg, flour and starch and stir to coat. Drizzle in almond milk and season with salt and pepper. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold everything together until well incorporated.
  3. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a heavy skillet. Drop potato batter in ¼ cup portions into the hot oil and flatten lightly with a spatula. Brown on the first side for about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and brown on the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes. They may need to be flipped again if they have not browned well enough.
  4. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately with a dollop of vegan sour cream or hot sauce, if desired.

 

 

raw watermelon radish ravioli

Raw Watermelon Radish Ravioli

When I was in culinary school at Bauman College, we didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on raw foods, but the few uncooking sessions we did do really left an impression. It was during my raw foods class that I learned the true magic of food manipulation; the way you could take a vegetable and transform it into something different and special.

Thinking about recipes for Valentine’s Day, I knew I wanted to share something different. I was drawn to the idea of watermelon radish because of its elegant pink hue, perfect to be showcased on a plate intended for love.

watermelon radish

But if you’d rather not buy into all that hokey, commercial V-Day *rap, the inside of a watermelon radish is visually stunning, and they are loaded with health benefits. Radish have been used medicinally since as far back as Ancient China and are chock full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants to combat those free radicals roaming around your body trying to get you sick or diseased.

I came across this popular Chinese proverb that I love –  “Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knees.”

What’s especially great about watermelon radish, aside from many of them coming in the perfect size to make ravioli, is that they are less pungent and peppery than other radish varieties. The milder flavor allows for the taste of your filling to shine through and really be enjoyed. In this case, I used an amazingly decadent pine nut and macadamia raw ricotta.

Should you not be convinced that radish can be somewhat sweet and delicious, or you’re just not a big fan, you can substitute. Beets and turnips are the best replacements. You would give them the same treatment as the radish.

Prep the Raw “Pasta”

DSC_2477

To prep the radish for ravioli, thinly slice into rounds using a mandoline or V-slicer to create your “pasta”. You’ll want the slices to be as thin as possible. Place slices in a medium bowl and coat with a few sprinkles of sea salt and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I like to give each slice a little rub to make sure it is fully covered. Allow them to soak while you prepare your filling.

 

Make the Cheese Filling

Nuts_in_processor

Nut Cheese Ricotta

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon pine nuts

1/4 Cup macadamia nuts

1/8 tsp sea salt

1 – 2 cloves garlic

lemon juice, to taste

1/4 cup water, if needed

1 Tablespoon minced parsley, plus more for garnish

Directions

Add nuts, salt and garlic to a food processor or blender. Pulse until fairly smooth, adding water a little at a time, if needed to keep blades moving. You want it to be thick and creamy, not runny. Add lemon juice to taste (I use just a splash, but if you like it tarter, add more) and stir in parsley.

 

Assemble Ravioli 

Raw Ravioli Filling

Remove radish slices from their marinade and lay on a flat surface – a cutting board works great. Add about a teaspoon of cheese to the center of each radish slice.

Now you have two options:

1. You can fold your ravioli over the cheese to create half moons.

folded_ravioli

2. You can layer another slice of radish over the top for full circle ravioli.

I usually opt for the latter.

Arrange ravioli onto individual plates for serving, drizzle with a little olive oil, and a sprinkle of parsley. You may also choose to use a sundried tomato sauce, cashew sauce, or reduced balsamic, if desired. I find the flavors to be complex enough that I like to enjoy it as simply as possible.

Plated_ravioli_2 copy

 

 

Do you plan to make this ravioli? Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What are you planning to prepare or enjoy with someone you love this weekend? 

Leave a comment below! 

Sweet Potato Nachos

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to food. Am I right? The weakness is usually the one food that you know you shouldn’t be eating, but find oh so irresistible, that you just can’t say no. It’s the food that every now and then, even though you know you may pay for it later, you will indulge in for that moment of sensory pleasure. Heck, you may even have more than one food that makes you feel this way.

My number one weakness has always been nachos.  There’s just something about the gooeyness of the cheese, the spice of the salsa, the cool creaminess of the avocado, and the crunchy saltiness of the chips that make my tastebuds flutter. Just reading about nachos on a menu gets me salivating like no other food can do.

When my overall desire to eat healthier got in the way of indulgences like this, my occasional foray into a plate of nachos became less and less frequent. (And trust me! Corn chips are harsh enough on a normal digestive system that they can be brutal for anyone suffering from IBD or IBS. Just think about scraping your knee and instead of rubbing aloe on it to heal, you use sandpaper.)

Of course, it’d be inhuman to think that I don’t give in every now and then. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I am eating perfectly healthy 100% of the time. Anyone who has seen my instagram feed knows that I like to enjoy what I eat, within reason. It did get me a while to get to this point, but these days as long as I am eating clean 80-90% of the time, it allows me that extra 10-20% to satisfy a craving, without too much physical (or emotional) repercussion.

Whenever I can enjoy a healthier version of a favorite “treat food”, I nearly dance with joy.

With Super Bowl just a day away and the thought of all the fried, greasy, salty, spicy foods that tend to come along with it, it’s peaked my desire for nachos even more. After seeing Jackie of veganyackattack.com post a recipe for Buffalo Chickpea Nachos, I was done for!

I knew I needed to create a healthy vegan nacho version of my own that would be game day friendly. I had sweet potatoes on hand and thus I was inspired. You can be healthy and have your nachos too!

Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

sweetPotatoNachosCloseup_013114

 What You’ll Need for Toppings 

1 medium avocado or guacamole

Salsa (recipe follows or use your favorite)

Vegan Sour Cream (recipe follows)

Vegan cheese (use your favorite, or make a cashew cheese using recipe below)

Black or pinto beans (seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon cumin, onion powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, coriander, a dash of salt and cayenne and a splash of lime juice)

Fresh jalapeno

Green onion

For the “chips” 

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato or yam, thinly sliced

1/2 Tablespoon oil

1/4 teaspoon each – ground cumin, onion powder, smoked paprika

dash cayenne

large pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450.

Combine everything in a bowl and toss to coat potato slices. Lay in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, until crisp, watching so that they do not burn around the edges. I recommend checking every 5 minutes or so and rotating the baking sheet.

Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

To Assemble 

Arrange sweet potato chips on a plate, or an oven safe dish.

Sprinkle shredded vegan cheese, or pour cheese sauce over chips.  If you are using a cheese that requires melting, place in oven for 5 to 10 minutes until melted.

Remove from oven. Scatter black beans over the plate, spoon some salsa on as well. Finish it off with sour cream and avocado or guacamole, then garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Cashew Sour Cream and Cheese Sauce 

Makes about 1 Cup

Ingredients

1/2 Cup cashews, soaked at least 30 minutes

1/2 Cup non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine milk and vinegar let sit for about five minutes.  Add milk mixture, nuts and salt to a blender and blend until smooth. Add more milk if needed for a thinner consistency.

To make cashew cheese sauce, divide the sour cream and set some aside. Keep remaining cream in blender and add a couple tablespoons more milk, 1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, another 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle and a dash of cayenne and blend until smooth.

Easy Roasted Tomato Salsa 

Makes about 1/2 Cup

Ingredients

2 medium roma tomatoes

1 clove garlic

juice for 1/2 a lime

1/2 jalapeno, or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (adjust to your heat level)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut tomatoes into quarters and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in oven while roasting the sweet potatoes, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until softened and browned on bottom. Transfer to food processor or blender, along with remaining ingredients and blend until desired consistency is reached. I like mine smooth, but you may choose to pulse instead of blend to keep it chunky.

 

What are some of your food weaknesses? Do you have a healthy go to alternative?

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

I have a confession to make.

This is not easy to admit, but I think the time is right to come clean.

 

My name is Christine; and I am a chocoholic.

Raise your hand if you’re with me!

 

Today, December 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Yeah, apparently that’s a thing. I was surprised as you are when I first got wind of it. To be honest, though, chocolate usually gets a bad rap, so it’s nice to have a day nationally devoted to the awesomeness of chocolate.

Of course, because I am a natural foods chef and also a certified holistic health coach, I’m going to ruin this chocolate buzz a little by getting into the health stuff. But let’s look at it more as justifying. How’s that?

Cacao itself can be good for you. The little innocent cacao bean in its purest form comes with a ton of health benefits.

Why you should feel good about eating raw chocolate:

Alertness – chocolate contains a chemical called Anandamide, which causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, leading to feelings of excitement. This along with low doses of caffeine, has been shown to stimulate alertness and improve mental performance.

Lower Blood Pressure –  the flavanol properties in dark chocolate soften the artery walls allowing expansion and a freer blood flow. This will in turn also lower the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Antioxidants – the antioxidants in cacao help to stabilize free radicals that roam your body and stop them from doing damage. If a free radical is formed in a cell and it is not neutralized, it can damage the DNA of the cell. Damaged cells lead to cancer and pretty much all other illness.

Antidepressant effects – cacao triggers neurotransmitters and may have the ability to boost endorphins and serotonin, the natural happy chemicals in your brain. For that reason, it may act as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant. Which, of course, most likely explains why chocolate is often one of the first things women gravitate towards when they are on their cycle or having a bad day; and one of the most common gifts given by men. 😉

 

However, once you start heating, processing, adding all sorts of chemicals, including refined sugar, and calling cacao chocolate that it starts to lose its value.

That’s not to say all chocolate is bad. Organic dark chocolate, preferably with no added sugar, maintains some of its health benefits, as compared to commercially refined chocolate (think Hershey’s bar), which has none.

While organic dark chocolate is a better option than a commercial chocolate bar, the best option is raw cacao. This is chocolate in all its bitter glory. Enjoying raw cacao is the perfect way to feel good about eating chocolate – and not just because it’s triggering your neurotransmitters to release a feeling of utter joy and euphoria.

Some of my favorite dark chocolate and raw cacao products are Fearless Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Righteously Raw, Rawkin Raw and Choco Vivo, an LA based bean to bar company with an adorable store front where you can watch the chocolate get made. My favorite raw cacao powder is Navitas Naturals.

The raw chocolate bars are much pricier than the standard commercial bars, but the taste, texture and, of course the nutritional value, is far superior that it’s worth it. Plus, since it’s so rich, you’re likely to eat it a little slower and it will last longer.

If you’re transitioning from milk chocolate or processed chocolate, your palate will be used to high sugar content. I recommend starting at 55% cacao purity and working your way up until your taste buds have adjusted to the lack of sugar.  At this point, 55% is way too sweet for me and I’m going for 80% and up!

 

Since it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, here are a handful of recipes for atypical things that are surprisingly delicious covered (or more accurately, combined) with chocolate.

 

Black Bean Brownies

Gluten Free Black Bean Fudge Brownies
Gluten Free Black Bean Fudge Brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

photo credit http://theveganpact.com/
Chocolate Avocado Mousse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower Seed Truffles

Raw Chocolate Truffles
Raw Chocolate Sunflower Seed Truffles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source (mousse): http://theveganpact.com/2013/06/raw-chocolate-avocado-mousse/

(cacao beans): https://blog.santabarbarachocolate.com

All other photos belong to Veggie Fixation.