Category Archives: Under 30 Minutes

Creamy Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

I used to follow football and some how I’ve drifted away from it in recent years. However, I’m still a bandwagon Superbowl enthusiast.  I don’t even need to watch the game, I usually just come for the food.  What can I say, I just love foods that encourage you to eat with your fingers, and Superbowl parties tend to offer that opportunity.

Right now, I’m basically just using this Sunday’s Superbowl 50 game with the Panthers vs the Broncos as an excuse to finally post a new recipe for spinach and artichoke dip.  This is one that I came up with over Christmas. It was a huge hit at a gathering I hosted so I promised that I would share the recipe. Though the party was filled with all vegan guests, every single one of them said that if they didn’t know the dip was vegan they would have seriously questioned it.

While not as healthy as my other spinach and artichoke dip, this one is super satisfying and very reminiscent of classic cheesy dips. It’s the perfect dip to share with your omnivore friends, on special occasions, of course.

This recipe utilizes some of my favorite non-dairy cheese substitutes, but if you can’t find these particular brands, or have your own favorites, feel free to substitute. For mozzarella, I use Follow Your Heart’s soy free Vegan Gourmet Shreds, which can be found at Whole Foods Markets, Follow Your Heart Market in Canoga Park, CA, as well as other natural foods stores. My favorite vegan cream cheese is Kite Hill, which can found exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach artichoke dip
Serves 8 to 12 people
Ingredients
2 bags spinach, chopped and wilted
2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
½ cup Cashews, soaked
½ cup water
4 Oz vegan cream cheese*
3/4 cup vegan mozzarella shreds, divided
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
Dash cayenne, or more to taste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Directions
1. Rinse spinach under cool water, drain, but leave damp. Add to a pan over medium heat, cover until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Squeeze out as much water as possible with the back of a spoon and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Combine 1/2 cup mozzarella shreds, along with remaining ingredients, except spinach and artichoke, in a blender and process until smooth.
3. Pour mixture over the spinach in the mixing bowl. Add in artichokes and remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Stir well to combine.
4. Transfer to a 8 inch casserole dish, or a bread bowl. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Mixture should thicken slightly.

*If you cannot find vegan cream cheese, or prefer not to use it, sub with an extra 1/4 cup of cashews and 2 Tablespoons water or non-dairy milk.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

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

Easy Weeknight Meals: Curried Chickpea Salad

vegan_curried_chickpea_salad

Chickpeas are most commonly known as the Hummus Bean, but they are so much more versatile than that. I love using chickpeas for everything from breakfast scrambles to tacos, to burgers, to crispy roasted snack alternatives, and in soups. I’ve yet to try them for dessert as Blondies, or a grain free cookie dough dip, though I’ve seen many of those around the internet. More recently, their liquid has even been used as an egg replacer to make meringue.

The versatile legume is high in protein, fiber, iron, folate and manganese. It supports digestion, cardiovascular health and helps regulate blood sugar. Chickpeas are dense and hearty, but at the same time light enough in flavor to absorb whatever seasonings you add to them.

For this Easy Weeknight Meal, I’ve used chickpeas to create a high protein, vegan curried chickpea salad. It is packed with flavor and crunch from fresh vegetables. Lots of color in the chickpea salad means you are eating the rainbow and covering a full scale of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

The vegan chickpea salad can be enjoyed with nothing more than a spoon, or use it to top leafy greens, stuff between slices of sandwich bread or roll in a wrap, lettuce, collard or otherwise. However you eat it, have fun with it!

Curried Chickpea Salad
Makes 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients
1/4 Cup diced red onion (optional, soaked in apple cider vinegar and water)
1 1/2 Cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons coconut milk, or vegan mayo
1/2 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced small
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: bread, collard wrap, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, or other favorite accompaniments

Directions
1. Optional: In a small bowl, submerge diced red onion in 2 parts apple cider vinegar and 1 part water. Let sit for at least half hour; drain and rinse.
2. Using a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind chickpeas until flaky. Transfer to a bowl. You may also use a hand masher instead of food processor for chunkier texture.
2. Add remaining ingredients a mix well with a fork to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.

vegan_curried_chickpea_sandwich

 

What’s your favorite way to eat chickpeas?  Leave a comment below!

Easy Weeknight Meals: Flatbread Pizza

slice-of-pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Growing up in New York, it was probably one of the first solid foods I ate. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if “pizza” was my first word. Okay, I might be exaggerating here, but I certainly do love pizza. When I first went vegan, it was at the top of my list of foods that I miss eating the most.

Then I realized that all I had to do was redefine a little bit what pizza means to me. It doesn’t have to be a chewy, doughy piece of bread smothered in marinara sauce and cholesterol laden, greasy cheese. In fact, cheese is not really necessary at all to make a pizza delicious. It’s really just about having a good sauce spread over a tasty crust and topped with lots of veggies.

The best part, it doesn’t have to be difficult to make or time consuming. Once I realized that a simple pizza can be incredibly satisfying, it became one of my go to easy weeknight meals.  It’s even something that I teach to clients who want to eat healthy but not feel like they are eating healthy. Recently, I received an email from a client who is transitioning to a vegan diet telling me that he’d recreated the pizza we made during a cooking lesson. I was so proud of him because during our cooking lesson, he made it very clear that he generally does not cook for himself. If my client who doesn’t cook and doesn’t have time to cook can make this pizza, you can too!

Flatbread Pizza

Ingredients

The crust

I recommend flatbread, lavash, pita or wrap size (burrito style) tortillas. Or, if you want to get really unfancy, opt for pizza English Muffins like my mama used to make us as kids!

flatbread

The sauce

Select your favorite marinara, store bought pesto (or make a quick one yourself with basil, garlic, olive oil and walnuts or pine nuts), or, get a little out of the box and use hummus.

crust-with-spinach

The toppings

Following the tips laid out in the first post for my Easy Weeknight Meals series, feel free to utilize your favorite pre-prepped veggies. It’s up to you if you want to add vegan cheese, but if you load up on veggies, it’s really not necessary. If you want a cheesy taste without the added fat and processing of vegan cheese, sprinkle your pizza with nutritional yeast after baking.

flatbread-pizza
Flatbread pizza with cheese

Recommendations

2 whole-wheat tortillas or flatbread

1 small ripe tomato, sliced

1/2 onion,finely sliced

handful sliced mushrooms

small handful spinach leaves, or basil (or both)

2 Tablespoons hummus, pesto or marinara

1 Tablespoon chopped olives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place tortillas on baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread sauce smoothly over the tortilla and arrange veggies on top. Bake for 10 minutes, or until tortilla is crisp. Top with fresh basil, if using.

Easy Vegan meals
Flatbread pizza without cheese

Upcoming giveaway

In March, Stephanie of veegmama.com will be guest posting and sharing a recipe for one of her favorite easy week night meals. You won’t want to miss that post because I’ll be doing a giveaway of her new ebook, which offers tips for transitioning to a vegan diet and lifestyle, along with lots of yummy recipes. Be sure to subscribe to my blog and newsletter for updates.

Easy Weeknight Meals: Curry Bowl

At lunch the other day, I was having a discussion with Jacques and his coworker about eating vegan and eating healthy.

As he put down his fork, the coworker said very eagerly “if I could eat like this at home all the time, it would be so much easier to maintain a healthy vegan diet.”  We were eating at Native Foods and he had just finished his Bangkok Curry bowl – “Seared tofu steak atop steamed veggies, kale, brown rice, with lemongrass-ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.”

Of course, I jumped immediately into educator mode and assured him “you can eat like this all the time! It’s really easy. All that bowl is when you break it down is steamed vegetables, brown rice and sauce.”

He thought for a second, then admitted that, yes, this was true, but he and his wife are terrible about actually taking the time to pre-plan their meals, or cook in bulk for the week.

Does this sound familiar?

While I am a big fan of recommending that people batch cook, I acknowledge that in reality this may not be possible for most people.  If you don’t LOOOOOVE cooking, the idea of hanging in the kitchen for half a day so that you don’t have to do it every night of the week, may not sound very appealing. Even if you do love cooking, trying to set aside an entire afternoon to do it, often just isn’t going to happen when the rest of life gets in the way.  Something tells me not everyone is as focused as I am on what they are going to eat at their next meal immediately after they just finished their last one.

In an effort to help you discover ways to easily prepare healthy meals at home, I’m beginning a series of posts entitled “Easy Weeknight Meals” where I’ll feature different simple recipes you can throw together in a matter of minutes.

How will you prepare delicious, easy and healthy meals in a matter of minutes you ask?

The answer is to take advantage of all the prep work that has already been done for you.  One of the best resources for prepped veggies is Trader Joe’s, especially since their produce section is ever expanding to offer a wider variety of vegetables, and more organic options as well.  The broccoli and cauliflower are already in florets, the kale is already chopped, the onions are diced, and the carrots are wee babies.  Nothing needs to be washed, de-stemmed or peeled. They even have pre-cooked rice and quinoa, and rice that has been parboiled to cut down cooking time. All the time consuming prep work has already been taken care of so all you have to do is steam and choose a sauce.

I use Trader Joe’s as an example, but just about every grocery store, including Costco, have recognized our growing desire to eat fewer pre-packaged meals and more freshly prepared ones, with the same convenience factor, and are now offering pre-cut vegetables.  You can also find some great “done for you” sauces, or whip up a favorite on your own.

Lately, I have been on a curry making kick, which is probably why I got so excited about coworker enjoying his Bangkok Bowl.  While I do take extra steps when I make my curries, you can just as easily recreate a simple version in 15 minutes on a busy work night. I present to you the first recipe in the Easy Weeknight Meals series.

Quick and Easy Weeknight Curry Bowl

What you Need:

Pre-made curry sauce, or curry paste, soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and a can of coconut milk (do not shake!)

coconut-milk

Pre-chopped vegetables of choice (I recommend broccoli, carrots, zucchini, kale and cauliflower)

chopped-veggies

Brown rice or quinoa (this can be a frozen package, or something you pre-cooked)

bowl-of-rice

Marinated tofu or seitan, optional

Sesame seeds and cilantro, optional for garnish

What you Do:

Fill a pot with a couple of inches of water. Place your vegetables in a steamer basket and put steamer basket in the pot, making sure the vegetables are not submerged in water. If they are, dump out some of the water. Turn on heat to medium, cover and steam for 5-8 minutes until vegetables have reached your desired tenderness.

steamed-veggies

Cook or re-heat rice or quinoa according to package directions.

Heat or make your sauce.  If you are using curry paste, add a couple tablespoons to a small pot over medium heat and cook for a minute or two, until it is very fragrant.  (I like to sauté a little garlic, ginger and onion with my curry paste, but we’re keeping it simple right now. Save that for a night when you have more time to cook.) Scoop out just the white part of the coconut milk and whisk into the pot, along with a teaspoon of soy sauce/Bragg’s/tamari. Simmer over low heat until it is warm.  Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more curry paste or soy sauce as needed.

Get out a big bowl. Scoop half cup to a cup of rice/quinoa into the bowl, top with a cup or two of steamed vegetables, pour about a quarter cup of sauce over everything, top with seitan or tofu, if using.  Devour!  Save the leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

veggie-bowl-with-sauce

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

Forbidden Fried Rice

In honor of Father’s Day, this post goes out to my dad, the first person responsible for building within me a love of cooking.

Having grown up in the Chinatown district of New York City, my dad does not mess around when it comes to stir fry. He still uses the same wok that he’s probably owned since he was young; I know it is definitely older than I am.

Fried rice was one of the first dishes I ever learned to make. Instead of calling it Chinese Food, we affectionally called it “Stevie Food” in my house, seeing as none of us was actually of Chinese decent.

Over the years, I have continued to cook the fried rice my dad taught me, with a far inferior wok, I assure you. It is something that is constantly evolving and a dish that can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.

making fried rice by Christine Oppenheim

Fried rice is one of the key dishes I teach clients to make because it touches upon so many important elements of cooking – how to make perfect rice; knife skills (so many veggies getting chopped!); getting creative with flavor profile and balance; method for evenly cooking vegetables.

It makes a great quick and easy weeknight meal, but flavors are still intense enough to impress guests for a weekend dinner party. For extra flare, I’ve more recently started using forbidden rice for its beautiful purple color and beneficial antioxidants.

Forbidden Fried Rice

¾ Cup forbidden rice

1 ¼ cups water.

Toast rice for a few minutes in a dry pan until it smells toasty. Be careful not to burn. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Check rice after 20 minutes. You may need to add more water. Alternately use 2 cups of day old rice.

Veggies

Select a mix of your favorite veggies. Chop into equal sized pieces.  (Suggestions: snap pea, peas, carrot, asparagus, pepper, broccoli, mushroom.)

Seasoning

minced ginger, minced garlic, sesame oil, coconut aminos or tamari, rice vinegar

Use from one teaspoon to a couple tablespoons of garlic and ginger depending on your tastes. Season with aminos or tamari and vinegar to taste.

1. Heat sesame oil in a wok. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. As you cook each vegetable, push aside the previous and add to center of wok. Add carrots, pepper and mushroom and cook until mushrooms start to brown.  Add remaining vegetables and seasoning, mix all veggies together, add rice, and cook through.

Forbidden Rice Fried Rice by Christine Oppenheim

How to Create the Perfect Vegan Taco

In honor of today being Cinco de Mayo, and Meatless Monday, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do a post on one of my favorite quick meals – Tacos!

Cinco de Mayo, literally translated to 5th of May, is a Mexican American celebration of heritage and pride. It originated as a way to commemorate freedom and democracy in the first years of the American Civil War.

Tacos are believed to originate in the 18th Century by silver miners in Mexico. According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, “the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore.” (To learn more check out his Smithsonian interview.)

How to Create the Perfect Vegan Taco in Five Easy Steps

1. Choose your tortilla.

Crunchy or soft, rice or corn, flour or a big ol’ lettuce leaf for a low carb version, handmade or store bought.

Raw Taco from SunCafe in Studio City
Raw Taco from SunCafe in Studio City

2. Decide on your filling.

This could be beans, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds or a combination. I almost never make the exact same taco twice.

A. Pick your “Meat”: Black beans and lentils are my go to hearty base sources. I’ll add smoky, spicy seasoning to my lentils, whereas my black beans I keep pretty basic. Jackfruit carnitas filling is also delicious. If you’re not avoiding soy or gluten, you may choose to use a meat replacement like seitan, tofu, tempeh.

B. Choose your Veggies: onion, pepper, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus. The possibilities are truly endless. I’ll saute some veggies and mix them in with my beans for the ultimate taco deliciousness.

handmade blue corn soft tortilla, crunchy taco shell
Handmade blue corn soft tortilla, crunchy taco shell

3. Create a killer spice blend.

Sure you could buy a pre-made taco seasoning, but many of them have additives or preservatives for “freshness”, and you have no flexibility over which spices are used or how much of each is in the blend. Mixing your own, you can use your favorite herbs and spices. Keep a jar of your personalized blend in your spice rack and you’re always ready to get cooking!

Here’s my favorite blend (the measurements are for a single recipe of 4 servings of taco filling):

1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Jackfruit taco with mango salsa and pickled onion
Jackfruit taco with mango salsa and pickled onion

4. Pick your toppings.

A. Avocado: Slice a ripe avocado, mash it into guacamole, blend it with lime to create an avocado sauce.

B. Salsa: Fresh Pico de Gallo, roasted tomato, pureed, tomatillo, mango, pineapple, or just straight up hot pepper sauce. The salsa possibilities are far reaching and delicious. I always try to include some form of salsa on my taco, usually tomato based for convenience.

B. Non-Dairy Cheese: Rarely do a put any form of “cheese” on my tacos. They just don’t need it. On the rare occasions I do, I opt for spread, either homemade or bought. If you must have a shredded cheese product on your tacos for nostalgia sake, I recommend Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Shreds in Cheddar or Fiesta Blend.

C. Sour Cream: This is another one I rarely opt for, but that’s just personal preference. When I do choose to add sour cream, I make my own from cashews.

Cashew Sour Cream
Ingredients
½ Cup cashews, soaked at least one hour
¼ Cup non-dairy milk, plus more to adjust consistency
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
lemon juice, optional to taste
salt, to taste

Directions
Combine milk with apple cider vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes. Drain cashews and put  in a blender. Add milk mixture, and a pinch of salt and blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, add more milk until desired consistency is reached. Taste, then adjust flavor by adding lemon for tartness and salt to bring out the flavors.  Can be stored for up to one week.

D. Additional toppings:

This is all up to you and what you like. Get creative. Some suggestions are shredded lettuce or cabbage, diced onion, pickled onion, sauerkraut or curtido, cilantro, radish, lime.

Cauliflower Taco with guacamole
Cauliflower and Seitan Chorizo Taco with guacamole

5. Assemble.

A. Heat your vehicle (aka your tortilla).

B. Pile on your fillings.

C. Load up on toppings.

D. Devour and repeat.

 

Vegan Lentil Taco
Vegan Lentil and Veggie Taco with Roasted Tomato Salsa

 

What are some of your favorite taco fillings and toppings? Let us know in the comments below.

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

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 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?