Tag Archives: kale

Cheesy Kale Chips

I contemplated calling them “Cheezy” Kale Chips, but I’m so sick of putting names of vegan things into quotations! Anyone else? It’s still REAL food! Yes, cheese generally refers to a substance made from cow’s milk, but it can also be made out of nut milk, or – in this case – blended cashews. So there! “Cheeze” and “mylk” are two words you’ll never hear come out of this vegan’s mouth. Let’s reclaim the language! :)

I had a nice, big bag of raw cashews generously sent to me by Oh! Nuts and I thought a batch (or two) of my favorite raw snack would be the perfect way to make my way through them. I was right, as usual.

There are various renditions of this recipe floating around the internet, but here’s my super cheesy (a.k.a. super noochy) take on it!

Cheesy Kale Chips
(Makes: It doesn’t matter because you’ll eat them all in one day anyways)

1 bunch curly kale
1 cup cashews (soaked for a couple hours)
1 red bell pepper, deseeded
Juice of half a lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Remove the toughest parts of the kale stems (save them for a green smoothie, green juice, or add them to a stir-fry!), and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.

Whenever I’m working with leafy greens – especially for this recipe, where I want the pieces of kale to be as dry as possible so that the coating will stick as well as possible – I find it easier to cut or rip up the leaves first, and wash them afterward by submerging them in a bowl of water. Then I swish them around with my hands a little so any debris can float to the top, drain them, and dry them in a salad spinner!

Place kale pieces in a large bowl (you want enough room so that you can mix the coating in later without having to deal with leaves falling out of the bowl!)

To make the cheesy coating: combine soaked cashews, bell pepper, lemon juice, nutritional yeast (nooch), and sea salt in a blender or food processor (a high-speed blender like the Vitamix is best), and run for a minute or two until smooth.

Add the cheesy coating to your bowl of kale and massage it in with your hands. Don’t worry too much about uneven distribution, as the big globs taste delicious in the final product!

For raw kale chips (my method of choice, as they will retain the nutrients and enzymes of all the healthful ingredients!): place on dehydrator screens and dehydrate at 115 degrees until crispy. The time will vary, but make sure ALL the moisture is gone and they are genuinely crunchy.

Alternatively (if you don’t have a dehydrator), spread kale pieces on parchment paper on baking trays, and bake at 200 degrees until crispy, about 45 minutes (but again, all that matters is that they MUST be crunchy).

Once you’ve tried the basic recipe, feel free to spice things up – literally! Sprinkle some cayenne into the coating mixture for a nice kick, or add some garlic or onion powder, cumin, or dill!

Enjedra

Enjedra is a variation of mujaddara, a  popular Middle Eastern dish. While there may be subtle differences among various cuisines (it’s also known as moujadara, mejadra, mudardara, megadarra, Μουκ̌έντρα, müceddere, مجدرة‎, or מג’דרה, depending on where you are), but, as far as I can tell, they all boil down to the same thing: spiced rice and lentils with caramelized onions. Okay, I’ve got your attention now. Unless you left after the foreign language tutorial, that is.

While the classic mujaddara consists of whole lentils and brown rice tossed together, I’ve always made the lentils separately, as a sort of stew that’s served over brown rice. I usually pair my enjedra with steamed kale or spinach, so I like having a saucier lentil component with which I can drench the greens.

The great thing about this dish (besides the fact that it’s so forking delicious) is that you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry. Lentils, onions, rice, olive oil, a few spices. If you call yourself a vegan and don’t have these ingredients on hand at all times, then you have bigger problems to worry about, and you should probably go deal with them. Just kidding! I’m not that mean.

The sweetness of the caramelized onions and cinnamon pair beautifully with the earthy lentils and cumin, creating a melt-in-your-mouth savory stew that will draw crowds–or in the case of my house, family members armed with spoons eating it cold out of the fridge.

Enjedra
(Adapted from VegWeb)
Serves 4

2 medium-large sweet onions
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 cup brown rice
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water (you may need to add more as lentils cook)

Get your brown rice started (however you normally cook it). For newbies, add 1 cup of rice to 2 cups water.  Bring to boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.

Slice the onions. You can dice them if you want, but I like to have long caramelized pieces.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high, toss onions into the  pan with cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and salt (I know it seems like a lot of salt–and it is when it’s just onions–but remember that you’re seasoning for the entire pot of lentils!)

Sauté in olive oil until caramelized-ish, about 10-15 minutes.

Add lentils and water to the onion mixture.  Bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until lentils are cooked through, and you have yourself a big, smooshy pot of fragrant deliciousness. When stirred towards the end, the lentils should be fairly smooth.

If serving with greens, steam them now.

Top your rice with greens, and then pile on the lentils! Last but not least, come back here to thank me.

Sometimes, I double the batch because it’s so easy, and you’ll definitely want more when you’re finished. But don’t take my word for it! Go raid your pantry and amaze your loved ones.

Adventures of Nic and Nora Continued…

Sorry I’ve been so slow getting to Part II of the Nic & Nora installment. Considering there are only seven days until I’m officially done with all college work (and eighteen days until I graduate!), things have been pretty hectic around here! Plus, I’m sure you’ve all already read Nicole’s summary of our time together! :)

The second day of her visit, we decided to lay low and chillax at Pomona before making our way back into the city the next day. We went out for a leisurely brunch (well, lunch since we missed tofu scramble hours!) at Full of Life Café in the Claremont village. Then I took Nicole to the village gluten-free shop as well as my favorite local natural foods store, Ecoterra! From there, we headed to Pomona’s organic farm because I obviously had to show off California’s produce-producing prowess (say that five times fast!) to my East-coast friend!

Then, Nicole decided to be completely and totally awesome and take my senior portraits for me! I’ve been shooting a lot of senior portraits for my fellow graduates-to-be in the past month, so it was weird–and fun!–to get on the other side of the lens for a change. I think Nicole appreciated shooting someone who knew what it’s like to have awkward subjects who don’t know how to pose, so it went pretty smoothly! Here’s my favorite one:

Thanks, Nicole! I love them. And don’t worry, fashion-conscious readers, I have since gotten my roots touched up.

After a meal at the dining hall with my friends–hey, I had to give her the full Pomona College experience!–we spent a lazy evening planning out the next phase of our adventures, which began bright and early the next day! We met Alix (of Cute and Delicious), her boyfriend Shawn, and some of their friends at Pure Luck Restaurant in LA for lunch. After being greeted with a Tupperware of gorgeous, fresh-baked cupcakes (Alix, you’re too sweet!), we sat down to experience la comida de LA.

There are many reasons that Pure Luck has always been on my list of must-visit restaurants, but one of them is their insane selection of fried appetizers! I generally avoid fried foods, but I always make exceptions for special items–like, um, let me see, fried pickles and gnocchi?

Fried Dill Pickle Chipssliced dill pickles, dusted with cornmeal and fried in peanut oil–and Potato Palssmall potato dumplings (gnocchi), lightly fried in peanut oil.

Both were served with a special veganaise-based barbecue dipping sauce. Crispy AND cute–who can resist anything called a “potato pal?!”It just wants to be your friend and pop into your mouth.

If fried appetizers are the first reason I’ve always hungered for Pure Luck, jackfruit is definitely the second! Fruit…that’s used as a substitute for meat…what?…

In order to wrap my mind around this concept, I ordered the Tacos, one with jackfruit and one with grilled tofu to hedge my bets. I was served a plate of soft corn tortillas, each with their respective filling, topped with diced onions, cilantro, and fresh tomatillo salsa. Nicole gave me her extra cilantro because she’s one of the unlucky few who think it tastes like soap. Turns out, unripe jackfruit, like tofu, really has no flavor of its own and easily absorbs taco seasonings. In other words, it was delicious, and had a texture that others have described as being similar to “pulled pork” (I wouldn’t know!).

After lunch, we walked across the street to Scoops, then sadly parted ways. Nicole and I decided to spend the rest of our afternoon window shopping on Melrose (and walking off all that fried food!). Okay, so maybe we actually shopped a little. But we mostly just strolled along the iconic street taking photos. I nabbed this shot in a flower shop before the owner kindly told us to stow our cameras:

All of a sudden, it was dinner time! Funny how that happens. Good thing Melrose Ave. was also home to M Café, a macrobiotic, mostly-vegan gem. M Café has a mouth-watering menu, but they also have a wonderful salad bar display, so that’s what I opted for. Kale with Spicy Peanut Dressing? I’ll take it.

Curried Tempeh Salad? Sure, why not!

Kale, peanut butter, and tempeh are pretty much the three keys to my heart, so M Café had me at hello. If they’d had kabocha squash, I might have gone into foodie shock–close call!

I also tried one of the Inari Sushi. I hate nori seaweed, so sushi made with dried tofu skins (a.k.a. inari) is an exciting alternative that I didn’t want to pass up. Stuffed with brown rice and topped with lotus root, this little bundle was good looking, but a little bit dry. Still, it was fun to try.

Bellies full, we schlepped off to our downtown LA hotel that my darling mother was generous enough to book for us, watched Saturday Night Live, and fell asleep with visions of babycakes dancing in our heads…

Better Life Cuisine

Better life, better food, better portion sizes, better prices, better…enzyme activity? Why hadn’t I been here yet?!

That’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking as I left Better Life Cuisine in Santa Monica a few nights ago after finishing a lovely raw meal that pretty much satisfied all of the above criteria. Of course, part of the answer to that question is that it’s a relatively new restaurant, and another part is that it’s an hour away (or more with traffic!). But theoretically, it’s a good question.

The name of the restaurant is on a forward-facing sign–but trust me, this is indeed a photo of Better Life!

Better Life is an all-vegan, all-organic, all-raw café, juice/smoothie bar, and restaurant (complete with a vast and well-stocked pastry case!). I know, it sounds too good to be true. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble deciding what to order at a restaurant! I eventually settled on the Fiesta Platter. I love mezze platter type things (like The Voracious Vegan and her love for “snacky” meals!), and it meant I didn’t have to choose between trying different things.

The Fiesta Platter consists of Tuna, salmon, fried beans, guacamole, ricotta, bruschetta, pico de gallo, and flax crackers. As you can see, Better Life labels all their menu items as what they’re supposed to resemble, without really telling you what each one actually is. It makes ordering a little more interesting than it would otherwise be, but I think it’s cute.

The bruschetta (in front) was easily the best thing on the platter. After my first bite, I definitely wished I had just ordered the straight-up bruschetta plate! It’s Better Life’s “breadbar” topped with creamy pesto sauce, tomatoes, basil, and their parmesan. The breadbar was perfectly chewy, and the pesto sauce was out of this world!

Then, there were the five patés/salads (four of them nut-based): salmon, tuna, guacamole, fried beans, and ricotta, all of which were drenched in a delicious yet unnamed sauce. Gotta love the element of mystery. In fact, it was a mystery to me which lump was which until I asked my server! :)

The salmon and tuna were sweet and not too fish-like, but since I’ve never had fish and the smell grosses me out, something about them being named “salmon” and “tuna” salads put me off. I can’t even eat veggie sushi because the fishy taste of the nori makes me gag–it’s a problem, people! Considering that visceral hesitation, the fact that I still kind of enjoyed them says a lot!

I didn’t love any of the patés on their own, but piled together on the flax crackers with some “rawmesan” they made for a super satisfying meal! And that’s not to mention the perfect salad I had on the side…

Yes, that’s a kale salad! Possibly coated in cashews and nutritional yeast? Whatever it was, me likey. By the way, every entrée at Better Life comes with a side salad, and as you can see, they don’t skimp on the portions!

Speaking of salad’s, this is Better Life’s “Egg” Salad! I know–unbelievable. I got another meal to go (so I could have one less mediocre dining hall meal the next day!) and I chose this salad to go with it. I think it’s enough of a triumph to make vegan egg salad, let alone raw vegan egg salad! This wonderful dish consists of veggies (chives?) and shredded coconut meat in a dreamy, creamy yellow cashew-based sauce! It might not have tasted exactly like egg salad, but that’s only because it was better. Plus, it leaves you feeling glowing, not heavy. :)

The actual entrée I got to go was the Lasagna (we’ve all heard “rawsagna” one too many times, haven’t we?).

Marinara sauce, zucchini, mushroom, grilled onion, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese.

Three different raw vegan cheeses in one lasagna? Yes, please! The ricotta was awesome in this lasagna–much better than it was on its own in the platter. I asked for a side of that heavenly pesto sauce to go with it too…

It rounded out all the flavors so well, that I’m almost ready to call Better Life to tell them they should permanently incorporate it into the dish!

If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Better Life Cuisine. Not only was the food a veritable party in the mouth (or is that just because I had the fiesta platter?), but there was so much of it! Raw restaurants are known for tiny portions, and Better Life spits in the face of that stereotype. And to get that giant, raw, organic entrée with a salad for only 10-12 bucks total? Now that‘s the way to bring raw into the mainstream!

Holy Yum Yum

It’s about time I give a shout out to one of my new favorite cookbooks, which I finally got a chance to cook from over winter break. The funny thing is, this book is so beautiful and its recipes so inventive, that it became one of my favorites from the moment I bought it, months before I could actually whip up any of its crave-worthy recipes. If it’s not obvious from the title, I’m talking about Vegan Yum Yum (I’m linking to it so you can buy it right now! It’s that good…) by Lauren Ulm, author of the beloved Vegan Yum Yum blog.

As I flipped through the book, I quickly realized that my usual post-it note system for marking “must make” recipes was not going to fly. My post-it notes were running low, and what’s the point of marking every single page anyways? With a beautiful color photo (taken by Lauren herself!) for every single recipe – recipes that are not only mouthwatering, but healthful and easy – can you blame me? Plus, sweet potatoes and chickpeas abound in Yum Yum’s recipes, which pretty much sealed the deal.

My first venture into the book was before I even had the book. Let me explain: the Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta has been on Lauren’s blog for more than a year, and one chilly frigid night in Scotland, I decided it was the only thing that could warm me up, heart and soul. Incredibly simple and “super quick” indeed, this recipe has become a staple for both lazy nights and dinner parties. It’s that darn good.
The first recipe we tried from the book once it was actually released were the Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Cream, a.k.a the cutest appetizers in the world, which my mom assembled for a good friend’s birthday party. If you don’t have the book, the recipe’s here.

With preparing the eggplant, cutting all the veggies-to-be-roasted into uniform circles, and stacking everything up, these are superrr labor intensive (hehe, good thing it wasn’t me doing the labor!), but totally worth it. We had to tweak the eggplant cream a little (I think we added extra cashews, lemon juice, and salt), but once it was tweaked, it was damn good. :) These were a huge hit at the party, so make ’em if you’re looking to impress and have some free time.

This is the Golden Chickpea and Artichoke Salad atop some romaine lettuce. This salad was bursting with fresh, simple flavors, and the crushed toasted almonds gave it a nice crunch. I think it’d be better on its own though, but it was my decision to serve it on romaine, so can’t fault the book there. And, yes, that is an artichoke bowl.

Another recipe that really caught my eye was the Delicata Squash Stuffed with Cherry Apple Almond Couscous. Obviously, a beautiful presentation…

I used this roasted brown rice couscous from Whole Foods, and I really liked its earthiness paired with the sweetness of the apples, cherries, and squash. A drizzle of agave-mustard sauce brings it all together. Since I prepared this meal with my good friends Allison and Vince, it was all the more special!

Okay, so the next two meals may not be quite as beautiful as the former (though they’re still pretty nice looking), but they were hands down two of the best meals I’ve ever made. So just prepare yourself.

I’m serious. Are you preparing?


Italian Rice and Beans. A modest name for a scandalously good dish. This is why having a photo for every recipe in a cookbook is valuable–if I hadn’t seen the wonderful burst of color and texture in Lauren’s photo, I may have skipped this recipe!

It’s just brown rice, spinach, Great Northern beans, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon zest with a few seasonings, but, holy yum, is this good. Let’s just say I fully attribute my half marathon performance the next morning to this carbo-loaded dish’s excellence. I know everyone hates this expression (and I do too!), but this was a party in your mouth.

Aren’t the colors gorgeous? Nature is an artist.

Another colorful and unbelievably delicious recipe in Vegan Yum Yum is the Creamy Sweet Potato Bake.

Sweet potatoes, kale, and pasta (I used TJ’s brown rice fusilli), drenched in a tangy, cashew-based alfredo sauce, topped with bread crumbs (I used brown rice ones–noticing a trend here?), and baked until crispy on the outside. Comfort food at its finest.

I would make this dish again, and again, and again. And maybe again.

Sick Days

As it often happens, my rainy day was followed by a sick day, or two (maybe three–we’ll see how I feel tomorrow). Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that my current bout of sickness has a lot more to do with my sick–yet wonderful!–suitemate and extreme levels of stress than it does the rain, but I like having a natural sequence to my posts. :)

I have a super sore throat, and last night I was running a bit of a fever, as far as I could tell. I hate, hate, hate taking conventional medicine unless it’s absolutely necessary, so I’ve been doing what any antibiotic-weary, holistically-minded vegan would do: loading up on vitamins and stuffing my face with ridiculously healthy food.

When I first woke up yesterday morning, I knew I’d need a fresh veggie juice. I basically asked for everything except for fruit, and ended up with kale/spinach/dandelion/parsley/garlic/ginger/lemon/bell pepper/cucumber/carrot juice! Whoa! Lotsa great cold/virus-fighting ingredients in there–especially the garlic, ginger, and lemon!

I followed that up with a Raw Greens Salad, to go.

It’s almost like my juice, deconstructed! Dandelion, kale, collard greens, cucumber, green onion, carrot, lemon, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt. Fresh and invigorating.

I really miss not having my leafy greens in the dining halls, so every once in a while, it’s nice to splurge on an overpriced salad like this.

I also picked up some Amy’s Split Pea Soup, because who wants anything but liquefied food when it feels like your throat is being shredded from the inside out? Even my raw salad was a bit hard to get down.

Anddd, more garlic and ginger. I’ve been taking garlic in the form of minced raw cloves for its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, and making lots of fresh ginger tea for its anti-inflammatory properties. Wow, can you tell I worked for Dr. Weil much? I’ve also been drinking more than my fair share of coconut water (vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes!) and hot water with lemon.

Finally, I couldn’t resist buying a kabocha squash at the health food store. Besides soup, roasted squash has to be the perfect sick day food. Comforting, warm, and filling, but still light and easy to digest.

I sliced it up, slathered it in coconut oil, sprinkled it with sea salt, and popped it into a 400 F oven for exactly 40 minutes. It came out perfectly.

And yeah, the only thing better than roasted vegetables is roasted vegetables with hummus! (Well, peanut butter is better than everything, but that’s besides the point).

I just puréed some chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon, cumin, sea salt, and a splash of water in my Magic Bullet, and voilà! Fresh hummus! (I stopped eating the hummus in the dining hall when I found out from my friend who did a “Real Food” assessment of our school for her thesis that its ingredients include a ton of weird additives and modified food starches–blech!)

If you haven’t tried roasted vegetables (especially squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes) with hummus, you’re seriously missing out. It’s one of those food combinations that I wouldn’t mind living off of. I just love the contrast of the warm, chewy veggies and the cool, creamy hummus. Broccoli and cauliflower also rock with hummus because the florets soak it all up!

The last delicious bite.

Sesame Scrambled Tempeh and Greens with Yams

I made the Sesame Scrambled Tempeh with Greens and Yams from Vegan Brunch (I subbed tempeh for the ‘fu the recipe calls for). Three of my favorite foods! Anyhow, it was absolutely delicious. It’s a pretty simple recipe – besides the ingredients in the title, the recipe just includes some garlic, ginger, red pepper, and soy sauce, but that’s about it!

This dish was rich and flavorful, sweet and salty, but still simple and down to earth (and quite easy to prepare). I’m sure I’ll try the recipe with the intended tofu at some point, but given that tempeh’s my favorite out of the holy trinity of vegan proteins – tofu/tempeh/seitan – I was definitely happy with it this way! I just used the cooking method that Isa gives for Basic Scrambled Tempeh a few pages before.

I’ve kind of dropped off the Vegan Brunch radar since my initial kick, but this recipe reminded me that I need to get back in there! So you have that to look forward to.