Salads

Life Changing Cashew Ranch Dressing

When I first started eating vegan (as with many people, you'll find) the hardest thing to give up was anything creamy, ooey gooey, cheesy, buttery, anything from the dairy department. Especially in the summer, when you don't necessarily want a hot grilled cheese (actually, anything hot for that matter), but rather, a cooling salad with something extra special on top: like ranch dressing.  Is there anything more perfect than cool ranch with a hint of onion or garlic over, well, anything: greens, veggies, cardboard? It can make anything taste out of this world.

While there are so many vegan ranch dressings out there (some use macadamia nuts, some pine nuts, some a mixture of sorts, add onion, don't add onion, add basil, don't add basil, salt, no salt, sheesh...), the variety and options can give you a headache, for real. 

So I wanted a recipe I can easily remember (since, as some of you know, I never duplicate the same recipe twice and in fact, my husband asks if I can make "that one thing you made the other day" and I frown since, well, I just can't remember what I put in it, so I make another batch and it comes out completely different). I'm that girl. The one who perpetually reinvents her recipes.

Fret no more! This one is the only cashew ranch recipe you'll ever need, and the one you'll remember since: (1) it's life changing and (2) its' all about 1 ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ 1. That's easy.

The "one of everything" idea actually came from my romanian mother and grandmothers, who, when I was a child told me many times: don't follow a recipe. Just do one handful of this, one handful of that. It caught on. 

So...one of everything:

1 cup cashews, soaked (measured before you soak them) and drained

1 cup water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 handful dill (yes, hand sizes are different, but it's about 1/2 cup loose dill)

Combine cashews, water, salt and powders in a vitamix and blend until really creamy. Chop the dill loosely, add to the mix, and just PULSE to incorporate. Enjoy. 

This is literlaly, life changing. I've had it all week, it gets better as it sits, and is just a dreamy, creamy, loveliness you can't help...but....remmeber :) 

Peace and love, y'all!

 

Zippy Lentil & Tomato Salad

When you’re looking for lean & mean plant-based protein, lentil is one of the top winners in my book. It’s so versatile! You can make a stew, a soup, a “mash”, burgers, and today, even a cold salad to satisfy your craving palate! I’m all about “easy cooking” these days, especially that the weather has warmed up, I want to be in the kitchen less and less and more out in the garden, harvesting herbs, veggies, and eating easily assembled meals. More time playing, less time working, I say!

These lentils take about 25 minutes to cook, and you have an easy addition to your meals for about 5 days ~ how easy is that?

You can use green or red lentils, but they’ll turn soupy, so my “go to” for this dish are either French/puy lentils or black lentils. Both retain their shape really well, and are a delicious chewy texture you’ll love. Use it with any veggies that are in season, herbs of your choice, and you’ve got a meal you can make in minutes!

Ingredients:

1 cup black or puy lentils, rinsed, looked over, and boiled with plenty of water until done (about 25 minutes or so).  Drain, set aside and cool.

1 chopped tomato

¼ cup chopped onion

Dressing:

1 tsp your favorite mustard

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Pinch sea salt

As much black pepper as you can tolerate

In a bowl, combine dressing ingredients and mix up with a fork. Add in about ½ cup of your cooked lentils and stir well. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Add in the tomato and onion, mix slightly, and enjoy. 

Tip: This salad is also very good, by the way, with ready made hot lentils also.

My Favorite Kale Salad

One of my favorite places to eat here in town is Seed To Sprout. They have this addictive massaged kale salad that I can't get enough of! I've asked the chefs what they use to make it, and they graciously told me, but I'm not lying.... theirs is still the BEST! 

Still, when it's 9:00 pm and you want this kale salad, here's as close as you're gonna get. If you do have a chance to stop in for lunch, you want to go to the masters!

4 big leaves kale, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

drizzle of olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

few pinches salt

1-2 tablespoons really high quality nutritional yeast

Combine kale, olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a big bowl. Using your hands, massage the kale well until it starts to soften. The oil makes it soft, and the lemon juice and salt will start to break down the cell wall. Lastly, sprinkle with some nutritional yeast and use a fork to fluff up (if you massage it with the nutritional yeast, most of it will remain on your hands). Enjoy! 

October is "Salad A Day" Month

We had so much fun last October 2015 doing this all together, that we're doing it again! 

October is "Salad A Day" month! Challenge starts on Mon, Oct 3rd and runs through Monday, October 31st!

Ok, I pretty much made that title up. The truth is that I think every month should be "salad a day" month, and October is coming up, and what better way to start? Fall is the perfect time to begin a new habit and invest in some much-needed self care! Summer tends to be all over the place with parties, vacations, places to go, people to see...Fall offers us the opportunity to fall into a new and possibly life-changing routine! And a salad a day will be one of the easiest habits to implement with some of the greatest rewards.  

Greens are at the top of the nutritional food pyramid, and sadly most of us don't get enough ~ kale, collards, romaine, arugula, spinach, even herbs like parsley, cilantro. The darker the green, the better for us and more cancer-fighting phytonutrients. In fact, the more chlorophyl, phytonutrients, fiber and veggie-based vitamins we can get, we can expect better elimination, improved skin, more natural energy, calmer nervous systems, and by default, a slimming waistline. You may even experience a better attitude, better body odor {yes! chlorophyl acts like an internal deodorant}, better sleep, and just overall rockstar status! So who's in?  

But we all know that salads can be just, meh. It really takes a fun add-ins, dressings, textures, colors, and a variety of healthy veggies to doctor them up. If you're interested in new recipes, please consider purchasing our latest Salad Ebook, volume 1! It's 14 recipes to ignite your love for salads (and it's on sale here)!

So what are the guidelines of this challenge?

1. Make a salad every day and shout for joy when you're eating it. Well, internally. Your cells are doing just that. If you'd like some extra credit, include a green smoothie {greens and fruit} or even a blended soup {take those veggies and greens and blend them up with spices, garlic and a little avocado ~ yum!}. 
2. Visit & LIKE our Little Bites of Joy FB Page which will act as a platform for sharing tips, salads, dressings, photos, post questions, and start a dialogue with those working in this challenge together!  
3. Take inventory: collect data on weight, attitude, skin, sleep, overall mood, relationships, etc. At the end of the month, mark down how things have improved {since they will!}, and find ways on what has worked in case you'd like to continue. 
4. Inspire those around you to take on this healthy habit too {after they see how fabulous you look!}

And here are some tips for rocking this challenge:

1. As many colors as possible: a green salad is great, but add in some orange carrots, red or yellow peppers, green broccoli, even blueberries or white cabbage. Go crazy. It's ok, nobody's watching.

2. Alternate your greens: you're not getting AS much nutrition as you could be getting if you're having romaine day after day after day. Switch it up ~ spinach, kale, collards, arugula, red leaf, green leaf, baby lettuces, micro-greens & sprouts, escarole, the sky is the limit! Maybe buy three types, eat those throughout the week, then buy another three types and rotate.

3. Include a good fat, but not too much: you can easily add on olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds, and dressing...but basically you've got a "fat-fest". Many of our vitamins are fat soluble, which means we should be eating our greens with some kind of fat to fully absorb the nutrients, but try to stick to no more than two fats per salad. Love olives and avocado? Then make a no-oil dressing {there are many!} That sort of thing. 

4. Chew, chew, chew. Digestion starts in the mouth, so if you have some digestive issues, perhaps eat in a quiet space {without your laptop or phone} and take time to chew each bite really well. And when you don't feel like chewing or don't have the time, you can even dump your salad into a vitamix and make a blended soup. It's actually ridiculously out of this world delicious and so much more fun when you don't have as much time to sit down to a salad. I've done it and sometimes you can too.  

5. Be prepared: You may want to think about creating your own mini-salad bar. One half hour on a sunday will set you up for the whole week if you just take a long lasagna-shaped pyrex pan and create little sections of cut up peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, etc. And serve yourself when the time comes and create a hassle-free habit to help yourself out when it comes time to eat. 

That's it! You ready to dig in? Here are some pics to feast your eyes on and enjoy the journey! We officially start Monday, October 3rd, 2015, after we all buy some weekend groceries. So keep the pictures coming on social media and reach out with any questions!

 Kraut, olives, sprouts, avocado, peppers, onion, no dressing {just mash it all up!}

Kraut, olives, sprouts, avocado, peppers, onion, no dressing {just mash it all up!}

 Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and dijon {recipe coming up in our  next class! }

Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and dijon {recipe coming up in our next class!}

 Carrots, heirloom tomatoes, romaine, seasoned sunflower seeds. 

Carrots, heirloom tomatoes, romaine, seasoned sunflower seeds. 

 Raw vegan Taco salad with chipotle salsa fresca.  Find the recipe HERE!

Raw vegan Taco salad with chipotle salsa fresca. Find the recipe HERE!

 Chopped salad with pizza crackers and caesar dressing. 

Chopped salad with pizza crackers and caesar dressing. 

Mexican Zoodle Bowl

Spiralized zucchini are one of the easiest summer foods (especially when you have them growing in your garden). It’s not their season just yet, but this sets you up for success when they’re on sale in the stores or you’re growing so many, you can’t keep up with them {enter the 1.5 food bohemith we grew last summer!?!?}

One of the things that I have to watch out for (and probably many of us) is how glycemic foods can be, especially pasta, breads, baked goods. Zucchini noodles low glycemic, raw, huge in fiber, and taste “al dente”, almost like the real thing. Of course, you can spruce them up with red sauce or pesto, but my favorite is chipotle garlic salsa. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s delicious. A little cilantro, even some avocado, you’ve got a meal!

I use the following spiralizer for zucchini when I'm just making this dish for myself or for two: it really just makes angel hair, which is great for me. But when I want to get really fancy, and require additional thicknesses, like udon or spaghetti, this is the gadget you’re looking for. I really just pull this one out when we have company over.

So, let’s get ready to eat!

Ingredients:

1 medium spiralized zucchini (keep the peel on - it's prettier that way)

½ cup chipotle garlic salsa (I get mine fresh from whole foods, or you can make your own)

So, get yourself a nice bowl, place your “zoodles” at the bottom and pour the salsa on top. Yum!

That’s it! In the past, I’ve added in some coconut bacon, avocado, even some pumpkin seeds and cilantro, and it’s all delicious. But most days, it’s just these two ingredients and it hits the spot!

BLT Zoodle Salad

This is a super simplified BLT, in all of its glory, with all the nutritive qualities you'd want and none of the bad stuff! We've got coconut bacon, fresh ripe tomatoes, and the spiralized zucchini stands in for the lettuce. Super easy to put together, incredibly tasty and filling. Just make sure you have enough coconut bacon on hand, as you'll want to make this again and again!

1 zucchini, spiralized

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup sliced red onions

drizzle of olive oil

drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar

sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons coconut bacon (recipe found here)

Combine zucchini, tomato, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together and taste for seasoning. Serve with a  sprinkle of coconut bacon on top and devour. 

Marinated Collard Greens Salad

What do you do with overwintered collard greens in the spring? Use them up and love them dearly. The collards and kale we planted late summer to last us through the fall are still happy as can be, and we're enjoying their come back. This is why I love gardening so much, you never know what you're going to get, and you learn the natural season for things. Coming into summer, these collards won't last since it's not their season ~ their immune systems weaken and they often get white flies. Spring is one of the best times to use them up (you can also freeze them to use whenever), but this refreshing, slimming salad fits the bill right about now. It also comes with a story....

Years ago, before this house, we lived next to our wonderful neighbor, Mr. Jackson. He was in his late 80's, loved collard greens and daffodils, and told me stories about what the neighborhood was really like in the "olden days". He worked as a bartender for select private parties, and everyone knew and loved him. I'd bring him daffodils when they were in bloom, and I'd share collard greens from the garden and we would talk and enjoy simple moments together. One day, he took me by the arm and said almost in a whisper, "I love my food raw!" He didn't know I was a chef, and he didn't know I loved raw food either...how was this possible? I knew we had a special connection. 

Mr. Jackson passed away in his early 90's. I became very close to him and my whole family loved him dearly. Most especially, our young son was also close to him...when he was 7 or 8, he'd sit on Mr. Jackson's couch next to hime,  watching TV together....decades between them, and happy as clams. I'll never forget the picture that makes in my mind, and I'm eternally grateful for the kindness and care he showed us. 

This is actually his recipe, and I write it here in memory of him, and of that phrase he whispered which melted my heart. He told me he likes to slice the collards very thin (showing me how through hand gestures), and adds in garlic, and olive oil, and tomatoes and just lets them marinade until they're ready. I'm telling you...it's my favorite way to eat collards now. Thank you Mr. Jackson for your good taste in food and for your deep heart. 

Ingredients:

4 large collard leaves, de-stemmed and made into chiffonnade ribbons like this:

1 tomato, chopped

1 clove garlic, microplaned

drizzle of olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinade at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Enjoy! 

Parsley Arugula Pesto over Zoodles

Who doesn't love pesto? Everyone loves pesto. It's so fun to say, even. A Seinfeld episode even began touting the wonders of just saying "pesto.....pesto.....pesto". Exquisite in every way, it can be used as a dip, a spread, a smear on a piece of bread, in a sandwich, over noodles....I wanted to kick it up a notch and use the bounty from our garden. The basil was dwindling but in these cooler months, the arugula and parsley were popping! So I got to work. Using mostly whole fats such as pine nuts, not as much olive oil, but loaded with lemon and garlic, this pesto is sure to please everyone. No need for cheese of any kind, since it's loaded with flavor! 

2 big handfuls of parsley

one big handful of arugula

1/2 cup basil

juice from 1/2 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup raw pine nuts

a few pinches of sea salt

Several turns of fresh ground black pepper

olive oil, to thin

In a food processor, process the herbs and lemon juice until everything is roughly chopped. Add in the pine nuts, salt & pepper, and garlic and pulse briefly (garlic turns bitter if processed too much).  Drizzle a little olive oil, just enough to thin, and process again briefly. Taste for seasonings. Dress your favorite noodles (mine are raw zucchini noodles, spiralized, using this or this tool). Enjoy! 

Taco Salad With Chipotle Salsa Fresca

It's amazing what you can do with a little seasoning and some really delicious whole ingredients. Really amazing. I have this HUGE love for any latin-influenced food ~ it really comes down to tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, onions and a good dose of spice, and this salad has it all! 

Taco Meat:

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds {soaked in water 4 hours, rinsed and drained}

1 cup raw sunflower seeds {soaked in water 4 hours, rinsed and drained}

1 heaping tablespoon taco seasoning

Salt to taste

Combine the seeds and seasoning in a food processor, and scrape the sides a few times while processing. You may add some onion powder or coconut aminos if you wish, but I find that this didn't need much of anything. I say "salt to taste" since some taco seasonings already come salted, some not salted - add enough so that the delicate flavors come out, but start with just a little. I think I added about 1/2 tsp total. Store the taco meat separately in its own air-tight container and it should last a good 4-5 days or so in the refrigerator. 

Chipotle Salsa Fresca:

2 cups seeded and diced heirloom tomatoes {best to strain out the juice too}

1.5 green onions, sliced

1 clove garlic, microplaned

a few pinches of chipotle powder {or more if you can tolerate it!}

few pinches of good salt

a pinch of cumin

1/3 cup chopped mango {optional but delicious}

small handful of cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients {except for cilantro} in a food processor and pulse briefly to incorporate. Add in the cilantro and pulse again to incorporate, but not too much {overprocessing herbs makes them bitter} 

 

TO ASSEMBLE SALAD:

Layer Romaine and other leafy greens with the salsa, avocado and a generous scoop of the taco meat. Enjoy!

 

Arugula Salad with Tarragon & Mushrooms

Are you itching for spring like I am? We've been covered in snow since December and I'm eager to get my fingers dirty in the beautiful soil underneath, grow some great grub, make some delicious recipes happen. In honor of this vision, I wanted to celebrate with fresh herbs, pungent arugula and savory meaty morsels of mushrooms, tossed simply in a light vinagrette. Enjoy spring, enjoy what is to come, and seek out new flavors and combos...

2 cups mixture of: baby portabellas, shitake, oyster, maitake, or other mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 large handful baby arugula leaves

Meat from 1 avocado, chopped medium

1/2 cup loose tarragon

olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar

sea salt

Heat up a skillet over medium and drizzle a little olive oil (or coconut oil). Add in garlic and a few pinches of sea salt and watch so it doesn't burn, but sizzles just a little. Add in the mushrooms and sautee until they soften a bit. The sea salt should help them release some juices. Taste for seasoning (I like to add fresh crushed black pepper and a few pinches of hot pepper flakes).  Set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine arugula, a small splash of olive oil (you don't need much) and two splashes of raw apple cider vinegar. Add in a few pinches sea salt. Toss to combine. On two plates, serve the arugula, topped with avocado and mushrooms. Lastly, chiffonade the tarragon and add to each plate. This dish serves two.