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cashew sour cream… and some thoughts on calcium

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Sour cream made from cashews… sounds cool, right?

But why not just use regular sour cream and save myself the trouble? Why is everyone trying to avoid dairy these days? Milk has been part of our diets forever! This must be another one of those hippie food trends, like avoiding gluten. And if I cut out dairy, where do I get my calcium?

This used to be my train of thought, until a few years ago when I decided to change several areas of my life, my diet being one of them. I’ve always been health conscious, but it never occurred to me to cut animal products from my diet until I began researching plant-based eating, and decided that 1) my body simply didn’t need meat or dairy, and that 2) I would actually be healthier without them. Not to mention, I would also be contributing in a way that was kinder to animals and our environment.

Initially I went vegan, then “downgraded” to vegetarian, and have since decided to drop the labels, which tend to carry a little more judgement than I’m personally comfortable with. On rare occasions, I still eat a turkey sandwich or have one of my step dad’s famous Italian meatballs, but I fully believe that meat and dairy are unnecessary and do more harm than good to our bodies and our impact on the world around us.

I don’t worry about getting enough protein or calcium, and based on my blood work and how I feel, I know that I am. This article explains it well:

“Like iron, magnesium, and copper, calcium is a mineral. It is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. Animals get their calcium by consuming these calcium-rich plants. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium richness is the earth. No wonder that a whole-food, plant-based diet has plenty of calcium.”

It’s also true that the amount of calcium we ingest is not equivalent to how much we absorb. The calcium in plant foods is more bioavailable. For example, we absorb about 30% of the calcium in a cup of milk, but the absorption rate from kale and broccoli is closer to 50-60%. Therefore, a plant-based diet may be lower in total calcium intake, but much higher in absorption due to better quality.

Okay, enough science.

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Cashew sour cream is much easier to make than I anticipated; it’s simple and it tastes great. I’ve used it on veggie chili, tacos, and chips and salsa. And it more than meets the requirements: rich and creamy, slightly tart, and the right consistency for a dollop. It also keeps really well in the fridge for several days.

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3-4 hours, or overnight

1/2 cup water

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Steps:

1. drain cashews and put in high speed blender

2. add water, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to blender

3. blend on high for a few minutes, until fluffy and smooth


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coconut ginger spiced lentils

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If cooking were baseball, there’s no denying what the grand slam of flavors would be: coconut, ginger, garlic, and cumin… with coriander knocking in a solo home run the very next play. It’s certainly not a new discovery, Indian and Thai cuisine have had this figured out since the get-go. The silky savoriness of coconut and the spicy bite of fresh ginger infuse perfectly with cumin’s pungent aroma and subtle sweetness, and with the roasted, nutty fragrance of ground coriander. And garlic, well… garlic speaks for itself. It’s really no wonder I could eat my weight in food at any Thai or Indian restaurant anywhere.

With so much flavor, it’s crucial to have a base that holds it all together. Rice and noodles do a fine job, but I must say, there’s something about lentils that lend that little something extra. Maybe it’s the silky feel and firm bite that provides just the right foundation to help balance the flavors.

In addition to being a party for your taste buds, this dish is also very nutrient-rich and hearty. Toss in some extra vegetables, like tomatoes and green peas, and you’ve got yourself a slam dunk.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp ginger, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups red lentils

1 cup light coconut milk

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup frozen green peas

Steps:

1. heat coconut oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat

2. add garlic, shallot, and ginger, cook about 3 minutes

3. stir in cumin and coriander, cook another 2-3 minutes until fragrant

4. pour in can of tomatoes with juice, add lentils, broth and stir well to combine

5. heat until boiling, then cover, reduce heat and simmer on medium low for 15 minutes

6. when finished, stir in coconut milk and frozen peas, heat through for another 2-3 minutes

I suggest serving with fresh avocado. Simply delish.

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spicy sweet potato and lemon garlic butternut hummus

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butternut squash hummus

Ever make a mistake, but the end result turns out to be better than originally planned? That’s not exactly what happened here… but more on that later. A few Sundays ago, I decided to join in on the Super Bowl food frenzy madness – by the wayAmericans consume about 2,400 calories during the game alone, and 1.25 billion chicken wings… yep, you heard me – and contribute a healthy option: homemade hummus. Having never made hummus before, it seemed like an interesting yet not too challenging task, but leave it to me to complicate things…

I love traditional hummus, in all its chick pea-tahini-garlic glory, but I wanted an ingredient twist. A quick survey of the kitchen revealed a couple of sweet potatoes sitting idly by, right next to a lazy little butternut squash. Seemed like a good place to start, so I searched for some ideas to see which would make a better hummus. Well, as with most internet searches, down the rabbit hole I went into a world of endless hummus possibility. After some narrowing down, and a little inspiration from two of my favorite blogs, the adventurous foodie in me just couldn’t resist, and I knew I had two… um, hummuses? hummai?… two types of hummus to make.

Needless to say, I got too swept away in my kitchen world to make it in time for kickoff, but I think I enjoyed playing with the recipes more than the game anyway (I’m a real football fan, I promise). I guess when you experiment with something, mistakes can happen. When making the butternut squash hummus, I accidentally picked up the pumpkin spice seasoning bottle instead of the paprika, and dumped in a tablespoon before realizing, and having an oh sh*t moment. But I have to say, it certainly didn’t hurt. The spicy sweetness combined well with the savory squash, after all I suppose pumpkin is a squash. I would probably make the same mistake when making it again, except like, on purpose. Bottom line: when you see pumpkin spice OR paprika in the ingredient list, that’s why, and it’s your moment to decide if you like pumpkin spice enough to see what it tastes like in hummus. I say go for it.

And while things should have stopped there, they certainly didn’t. Heck no, I was on some crazy hummus experiment binge at this point. After I made the sweet potato hummus, and then the butternut squash, I stood there dipping veggies and pita into each, unable to decide which I liked better. The taste and consistency of the sweet potatoes mixed with tahini and everything else was almost like eating peanut butter. Win. The butternut squash came out much more like traditional hummus, mixed with chick peas, garlic, and lemon, plus the secret ingredient… giving it a smooth tangy richness. In the end, I mixed the two together, creating the best hummus I think I’ve ever had, and called it a day.

sweet potato hummus

sweet potato hummus

Ingredients: spicy sweet potato hummus

2 medium sweet potatoes

1/4 cup tahini

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tbsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Steps: (I roasted the sweet potatoes and squash together on the same baking sheet to save time)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and place face down on baking sheet, bake for 35 minutes

3. Let sweet potatoes cool, then remove skins (they should slide right off)

4. Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl with a fork, mix in tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings, stir until smooth

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Ingredients: lemon garlic butternut squash hummus

1 medium butternut squash

1 can low sodium chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 lemon

2 tbsp plain soy milk

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp paprika or pumpkin spice

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, line baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Cut squash lengthwise and scrape out seeds, spray inside with cooking spray or rub in a little olive oil, place halves face down on baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes

3. Remove from oven and let cool, scoop out insides and transfer to a high speed blender

4. Add chick peas, tahini, juice from lemon, soy milk, and minced garlic to blender, blend on high until smooth

5. Add paprika or pumpkin spice, cumin, salt and pepper, and blend

sweet potato and butternut squash hummus on toast

sweet potato and butternut squash hummus on toast

 


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kitchen catch up

I seriously can’t believe how backed up I’ve gotten on posting recipes, it’s really been driving me crazy. So today I’m playing catch up, which means you get six recipes in one post. I mean, what kind of food blogger am I? I wish I had some good reason for blog neglect… traveling? sick dog? busy schedule? Hmm, all possible causes in fact… maybe just laziness? I really hate to think that… Nah, I’m going to blame it on my other love, running. Actually, I’m happy to report that within the past few weeks, I’ve completed a marathon and two half marathons. There, that sounds better. Not only has all the training, planning, preparing, and 4:30am long runs been time consuming, it’s been all consuming. I’ve had to focus a lot of energy, but race season has come to an end, and I’m definitely ready to relax a little. (And stay posted for race reports).

While I may not have been sharing recipes, I have been eating, like a lot. I’ve been making very basic, quick meals full of healthy carbs, fats, and plant-based proteins. I’ve felt strong and energized for activity, experienced quick muscle recovery after workouts, and remained completely injury free despite logging hundreds and hundreds of miles in running this year. All of which I whole-heartedly believe are strongly linked to eating a plant-based, mostly whole foods diet. So, let’s get to it…

#1: roasted red pepper crusted tofu

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package extra firm organic tofu, drained and moisture pressed out
  • roasted red pepper dressing (I used Annie’s Naturals – so, so good)
  • nutritional yeast flakes
  • organic green leaf lettuce, chopped
  • any and every raw vegetable you desire! I used green onion, mushroom, bell pepper, avocado… and pickles ;)… I like so many veggie toppings you can barely see any lettuce, obviously.

Steps:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. slice tofu in 1″ cubes, in batches coat tofu in dressing, then roll cubes around in nutritional yeast to coat
  3. spread evenly on baking sheet and bake tofu for 20-25 minutes or until browned, flip about half way through
  4. chop salad ingredients and add tofu when done!

 

#2: quinoa veggie super bowl

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch organic kale, removed from stem, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup zucchini chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos all-purpose seasoning
  • pineapple salsa

Steps

  1. heat olive oil in non stick skillet over medium heat
  2. add mushroom, onion and kale, let cook about 5 minutes
  3. add garlic and remaining vegetables, season with Bragg’s, cook another 5-7 minutes
  4. remove from heat, stir in quinoa, top with salsa and enjoy

 

#3: spicy curry butternut hummus sandwich with pan-seared tofu

This sandwich was inspired by the most amazing hummus I’ve ever had, made by an independent local vegan family – owner’s of Rabbit Food and featured weekly at the Athens, GA Farmer’s Market

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 package extra firm tofu, drained and moisture pressed out, sliced into 2 large rectangles
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • your favorite bread and sandwich toppings. I went with steamed kale, sautéed zucchini, orange tomatoes, sliced red bell pepper
  • spicy curry butternut hummus

Steps

  1. heat oil over medium high heat, add tofu and let cook on each side about 5-7 minutes, try not to disturb tofu so it browns well
  2. I won’t insult your intelligence… just assemble your sandwich 😉

 

#4: creamy avocado angel hair with sun-dried tomato, kale, mushroom and brussels sprouts

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Ingredients

  • angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 package mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 10- 12 brussels sprouts, chop off ends and slice in half
  • 2 Tb balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tb olive oil

Sauce: adapted from this recipe on my favorite vegan food blog

  • 1 large avocado (halved and pitted)
  • juice from 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Veganaise
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps

  1. cook desired amount of pasta and drain
  2. sauté onion, mushroom, sundried tomato and garlic about 5-7 minutes, then add kale and stir
  3. sauté brussels sprouts in separate skillet with 2 Tb balsamic vinegar, cook until sprouts are slightly browned, about 15 minutes
  4. meanwhile add all avocado sauce ingredients to high powered blender and blend on high until well combined
  5. stir sauce into mushroom, kale sauté, add to pasta and top with brussels sprouts

 

#5: roasted baby butternut squash

This is great for a quick healthy snack! I picked these up at the farmer’s market and just sliced them in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled on olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. I never knew squash could be finger food… but it shall be from now on. 😉

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#6: crispy quinoa spinach cakes

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tb flour (I used gluten-free, worked great)
  • 2 Tb almond butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out, pat dry
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomato
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped

Steps

  1. preheat oven to 400 degrees, line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. mix together in large bowl: egg, flour, almond butter, white wine vinegar
  3. add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well into flour mixture
  4. scoop out desired amount for patties and pat into shape, place on to baking sheet, makes about 8 patties
  5. Cook for 15 minutes. Flip over, then cook another 10 minutes.

 

I recommend making extra quinoa, adding a couple Tb of olive oil, white wine vinegar and a little salt… this goes great with the leftover quinoa cakes!

 


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homestyle quinoa veggie burgers

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I’m not gonna lie, if there’s one thing I miss since going meat-free, it’s a juicy burger. Especially whenever I encounter the unmistakable, enticingly savory aroma of a good cookout. Thankfully, I’m quickly snapped back into reality by the sobering thought of greasy, saturated fat congealing in my arteries, and the heavy, lethargic feeling that accompanies forcing my body to absorb ground up corn-fed cow flesh. Still hungry?

Well, here is a wonderfully satisfying alternative, complete with a delicious full flavor and slam packed with nutrients. I never imagined that the comfort of a hearty burger could come with so much clean-feeling goodness. I also never thought such an interesting combination of plant based ingredients could blend and bake into such pure burger bliss… so let’s get to it.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 egg (or your favorite vegan egg substitute)
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free baking powder- worked great)
  • 2 Tbs. almond butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup grated sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and dried
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

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Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 400F, coat baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Combine egg, flour, almond butter, and white wine vinegar in bowl.

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2. Stir in all remaining ingredients and mash mixture together until able to hold shape. Scoop out desired amount and pat into cakes with wet hands. (I used 1/4 cup patties which made 8 burgers).

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3. Bake on sheet for 15 minutes. Turn patties once, then bake another 10 minutes, or until browned.

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Enjoy these on a toasted bun with your favorite burger fixins, a pita pocket with hummus, or like I did, straight out of the oven…

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… and just like that, my lingering attachment to the burger fantasy has been cured forever, and replaced with something… well, amazeballs.