Cashew Cauliflower

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We have been taught since early childhood that animal protein is essential to a nutritionally balanced diet, but Dr. Joel Fuhrman of his national best seller Eat To Live argues that the common food pyramid is grossly outdated and misunderstands the nutritional value of vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts. These essential foods provide a more valuable balance of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals by caloric intake that your body needs and craves than animal protein does, and thus are dubbed Nutrient Dense Foods. For instance, you get twice as much protein from 100 calories of broccoli than you would from 100 calories of steak. It also provides your daily needs of Vitamin A, C, K, fiber, and is even rich in kaempferol if you are following a hypoallergenic diet. In addition, 100 calories of broccoli provides more calcium than one glass of whole milk! Dr. Fuhrman does of course leave room for animal protein intake, but the evidence about nutrition in fruits and vegetables is impossible to ignore in today’s modern world if medicine.

Unfortunately, the concept of meat and potatoes as a dinner staple has left a lasting impression on many Americans. I struggle every day to pack substitute lunches for Asher’s preschool lunch, and I cringe at what they consider a balanced meal for children. Apparently these caretakers would prefer that I let my children subsist on fish sticks and Ragin’ Roast Beef Friday than teach them to eat salad!

But enough about broccoli and the failed school food system, it’s time for some cauliflower! Today I’m sharing a Cashew Cauliflower dish that I got from Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas which is mind-blowingly tasty. Even my roofing contractor walked in today to fix a roof leak and remarked how good it smelled!

CASHEW CAULIFLOWER
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped with seeds and veins removed
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup whole roasted and unsalted cashews
1 cup diced pineapple
1⁄3 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, whisk 1⁄4 cup water with the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside. Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat high and add the cauliflower, bell pepper, and soy sauce and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the cornstarch and the cashews and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the florets have softened. Stir in the pineapple and cook about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

This photo of Asher was not staged! He stole my broccoli from the refrigerator. Most likely to get a rise out of me. Proud mama!

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Red Cabbage Slaw Taco Salad

Being a child of the 80’s, I was reminded last night of O’Boises Potato Chips. This memory also conjured up thoughts of a plethora of other food substances completely toxic to our bodies including Squeeze-It, Ecto Cooler, bubble gum cigarettes, and Big League Chew. Asher has recently become obsessed with Dum Dums, you know the lollipops with the mystery flavor that you get for free at the bank. It’s unbelievable the amount of processed foods with zero nutrition that we have unlimited access to at such a young age.

saladWhile I am not vegan, I do constantly get questioned about my vegetarianism and raising my kids vegetarian, which is particularly baffling to people living in the Midwest. So I have made it my mission to share with the world as many vegan recipes as I can come up so I don’t have to hear “What do you eat? Pasta???” There is a world of flavorful and indulgent ethnic foods which embrace vegan ingredients, including Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Central American, all of which I love to cook. Which naturally leads me to my recipe of the day, Red Cabbage Slaw Taco Salad! This is a very clean, refreshing, and filling dish that can be eaten as a side salad or taco stuffing, and still taste good four days later (I’m eating it right now!)

RED CABBAGE SLAW TACO SALAD
1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped into long slivers
1 jicama, peeled and julienned
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 bunch of green onions, trimmed and chopped
1 can of black beans, drained
1 package of meatless ground beef
1 onion, diced
Juice of 5 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, fry onions in olive oil on medium heat about 4-5 minutes, until translucent. Add meatless ground beef and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir until combined, then stir in the drained black beans. Turn off the heat and let cool. In a large salad bowl, add the chopped red cabbage, cilantro, jicama, and green onions. Toss well, then pour the lime juice over the slaw and top with salt and pepper then toss again. Warning: the lime juice causes the red coloring from the cabbage to turn the jicama pink after a day in the fridge as you can see from the photo, but it makes a great first impression when preparing it fresh!

Vegan Spring Rolls, for Type-A Personalities

haircutTwo things happened this week. It snowed. And Asher had his first haircut. Both were unpleasant experiences, but mercifully short-lived and the results were admittedly delightful!

spring roll As a result of the cold weather, I decided to make a Thai coconut soup with fresh spring rolls for dinner and was blown away at how EASY the spring rolls were to make. Seriously. They had a lovely freshness from the mint and basil, balanced with the crunchy colorful vegetables and the flavorful dipping sauces.

I just stocked up on chili garlic sauce ($2), plum sauce ($2), rice paper rolls ($2), extra firm tofu ($1.50) and some crunchy fresh veggies totalling my cost at under $10 for several night’s worth of spring rolls. My only gripe is the prep work in julienning and dicing, but it was a one-time task while Asher and Everett played in their toy kitchen and now my little Virgo heart is singing at all the organized containers in the fridge for the week!

THAI VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS
Rice paper rolls
Bean sprouts
English Cucumber, julienned with skin on
Romain lettuce, thickly shredded
1 bag carrots, peeled and julienned
1 bunch cilantro, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch mint, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh Thai basil (or regular basil), washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 container of Extra Firm Tofu (prepared as per my earlier post Roasted Tofu Special Treat)

Lay out a clean dish dowl on the counter. Soak once rice paper roll in a bowl with warm water for 30 seconds, then remove and lay falt on the dish towel to rest for 30 seconds. Evenly distribute a medium pinch of lettuce, mint, basil, and cilantro in the middle of the square. Top with carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu – but don’t overfill! Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed from one end to the other leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the left and right sides inward like a burrito, then fold bottom over and complete rolling the remaining half. I found that the rice paper rolls tend to stick to counter tops, so it was helpful to peel them off the dish towel and try to get a tighter roll. These can also be made a day ahead, just wrap in fridge and cover with a wet paper towel to keep moist overnight.

Also, for those that are following Weight Watchers these are only 2 points each. Can I get an “Oh yeah”

Mexican Quinoa Salad

mexican quinoa saladQuinoa is an amazing and versatile ingredient that is cholestorol-free, fat-free, and high in protein, iron and fiber. It is also a complete protein, which means it provides all of the essential amino acids. I use quinoa as a substitute for pasta and other grains because it is AWESOME. In fact, when Asher was a baby I used to mix cooked spinach with apple sauce and quinoa in a bowl and he literally could not shovel it down his throat fast enough! However, as soon as his fine motor skills developed he learned that this concoction also made a nice splatter of mess all over the walls and floors, and then quinoa became purely an adult entree in our household. This week we enjoyed a delicious Mexican Quinoa Salad that would make a delicious addition to picnics or dinner parties, and also would work nicely as a stuffing in peppers if you want to make something easy to keep in the fridge for the weeek.

MEXICAN QUINOA SALAD

1 cup quinoa
2 ears of corn, “kerneled”
1 green pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 2 limes
Salsa
Queso fresco

Boil 1 1/2 cups water is small sauce pan, then add quinoa and simmer for 20 minutes. In small bowl, combine lime juice, salt, cumin, chili powder and cumin. When quinoa is cooked, let cool for an additional 20 minutes. Combine in mixing bowl with corn kernels, green pepper, black beans, and cilantro. Top with salsa and queso fresco when served. And did I mention this entire dish costs around $10?? Enjoy!

Asian Salad stand-by, and Asher’s 3rd Birthday

birthday Well folks, it happened. Asher turned 3! The day before his birthday party we decided to visit the Kohl Children’s Museum where within the first hour he stumbled off one step from an exhibit, grabbed his leg crying, and screamed all the way downtown to the hospital. Where we strapped him down for x-rays. Where we learned that he had fractured his leg. And bandaged him up amongst a sea of doctors. While my mother stayed in the ER waiting room with our 8-month old, Everett. Then we found out we would need to give him sponge baths for a month. And I cried. And then we debated whether we should continue with the birthday celebrations. When I decided that a $70 pre-ordered cake is reason enough to continue with the partry. And then the next day, despite his pain and exhaustion and our lack of sanity, we celebrated anyway with a glorious Curious George-themed birthday party complete with cake, decor, party favors, and all of Asher’s favorite people in the world at his favorite playroom Kid City. Well it was a huge success, and Asher was so happy!

I will joyfully bookend this story with the fact that they now make water-proof casts.

asian salad When my mother arrived from Los Angeles that weekend I had to throw together a quick post-airport arrival dinner, and I opted for this delicious and easy Asian Salad which can be made up to a day in advance without the dressing. I opted for the Trader Joe’s Asian Dressing but you can also make your own salad dressing.

ASIAN SALAD

1 head Napa cabbage, roughly diced
1 bunch cilantro, roughly diced
1 bunch radishes, quartered
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 bag frozen shelled edamame, thawed

Dressing
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
Pinch of salt

birthday morning Birthday morning snuggles

Vegan Chipotle Lentil Burgers

chipotle lentil burger Asher gets a star on his chalkboard every time he has good behavior, and yesterday’s star featured the phrase “No, thanks!” underneath. We are in the process of teaching him manners, and at the end of the day when he reaches grumpy toddler zombie-exhaustion hour and pulls everything out of his art bin just to get a rise out of me, we quietly review his hard-earned stars for the day and he proudly recalls each story while pointing at the chalkboard. He gets big hugs. It works wonders.

I would like a star for today’s recipe. I can’t remember what wonderful website I found it on, but if you need to kick-up the spice level on your traditional summer veggie burger, this one’s for you! The spicy and smoky chipotle peppers work in harmony with the earthy lentils, and their smooth texture works well with any burger topping.

CHIPOTLE LENTIL BURGERS

1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into medium dice
1/2 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (stems and leaves)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chipotles, seeds removed, with adobe sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Preheat a large, heave-bottomed nonstick pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-hugh heat. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, cilantro, and a pinch of salt, and saute for 7 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini is soft. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a food processor. Add all the other ingredients except for 1/2 cup bread crumbs and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Preheat the pan (the same one you already used to saute in is fine) over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to the burger mixture and use a fork to thoroughly combine. Divide the burger mixture into six equal pieces. An easy way to do this is divide it in half, then divide each half into three basically equal portions. You can do that right in the mixing bowl if it’s large enough. Spray the pan with non stick cooking spray. Form the burger portions into patties and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the burgers often, until they are nicely browned on both sides. Use cooking spray as necessary.