During my time this winter cooking at a retreat center in Costa Rica I realized how many people don't know how to create a healthy well balanced MEAL (especially one without meat!).
"Meal" meaning not just one dish, but two to three foods that create a well balanced and full meal. Or in other words...side dishes to accompany a main course.
As a retreat chef and nutritionist that plans meals (and a passionate foodie!) I have learned how to take a main course and combine it with sides to make a healthy vibrant meal.
It is not a lot of extra work and makes a plate more nutritious, colorful, and delicious! So if you want to impress your family (or yourself!) here are a few plant based meal ideas for you to try. The recipes are linked from some of my favorite bloggers that I think you will enjoy.
PRO TIP: do a batch cook night so that you have ingredients on hand throughout the week. For example boil sweet potatoes, roast veggies, cook brown rice and quinoa, make your fav salad dressing, and cut up any veggies on hand to make week night prep easier!
PLANT BASED MEAL IDEAS
Creamy carrot soup with vegan Thai salad in peanut sauce and optional brown rice.
Sweet potato black bean quesadillas with mango salsa and cole slaw.
Lentil soup with brown rice or quinoa and Moroccan carrot raisin salad.
Soba noodle bowl with cucumber side salad.
Fattoush salad with Baba Ganoush and toasted pita chips.
And just for fun, here is an incredibly easy dessert that received rave reviews at the retreat center in Costa Rica...
Banana nice cream with cinnamon sugar tortilla chips.
Put the nice cream in a pretty glass dish, top with a drizzle of agave syrup, and then wedge in a cinnamon sugar tortilla triangle. It looks so fancy, but is oh so simple!
Do you have any favorite entree and side ideas? Please comment below!
PHOTO by Stacey Hamblett (me!) at Kindred Spirits in Costa Rica.
Today I went to visit a friend who has a bright green thumb! His garden was filled with plump, purple eggplants that were begging to be devoured.
I left his house with three medium size eggplants and hurried home to try out a new recipe. Since I have been surrounding myself lately with people of Middle Eastern culture, I decided upon a Middle Eastern style dinner.
The menu...Baba Ganoush, Fattoush, and toasted pita chips. Baba Ganoush is a paste made primarily of eggplant and tahini (sesame paste), while Fattoush is a light, refreshing salad made with pita bread chunks.
For the Baba Ganoush, I started by warming up the oven and pricking the eggplant. Next I placed the eggplant on a sheet pan and baked them at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. After they cooled, I cut the tops off, peeled away the skin, and placed the flesh into a food processor and added lots of yummy ingredients. To lessen any bitterness in the eggplant you can add a bit of organic sugar as well.
While the eggplant was baking I toasted the pita chips and began working on the Fattoush. When all was complete, I sat down and enjoyed an aesthetically and physically pleasing meal. And, to top it off, it felt nice knowing that I was enjoying food that was hand grown by my friend.
Between love and pride put in the labor to grow the vegetables to the love and pride put in to the cooking, the meal satiated my body and spirit.
Baba Ganoush - makes about 3 cups
3 medium sized eggplants
1/2 cup tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic (or 1/2 garlic scape)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoon fresh cilantro
Pre-heat oven, prick eggplants with a fork and place whole on a baking sheet. Bake about 30 - 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool. Cut off tops and skin. Place flesh and the rest of ingredients into a food processor and blend well.
You may adjust salt, lemon juice, and garlic to your preferred tastes. Experiment with spices and herbs. Parsley is a very popular ingredient in Baba Ganoush and can be used instead of cilantro. Or you can also try using mint instead. Garnish with olive oil and serve with toasted pita chips.
Fattoush - makes about 3 servings
1 large pita bread toasted and cut into small chunks
1 tomato, diced
a handful of yellow cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/4 red, yellow, or green pepper, diced
2 stalks green onion or chives, sliced
2 leafs of romaine or green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Mix above ingredients together and toss with dressing.
Dressing - 1 clove crushed garlic (or 1/2 garlic scape), 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix ingredients together, adjust flavors to taste, and drizzle on Fattoush.
Fresh basil....mmm, I just can't get enough of it. Its piquant aroma, vivid green color, and Italian roots puts me under its spell.
Tonight I decided to make a pesto from the basil I picked up at the farm stand the other day and serve it on top of zoodles (raw zucchini noodles). Pesto is incredibly easy to make, but seems so gourmet. I beefed up the gourmet factor by using macadamia nuts and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Yessssss...I love you Pesto!
Pesto - makes 2-3 servings
1 bunch of fresh basil, washed and dried
1 clove garlic (or 1/2 garlic scape)
salt to taste
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
(if not vegan, 1/4 cup vegetarian parmigiano reggiano cheese)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
drizzle of white truffle oil
In a small food processor puree basil, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt. Add macadamia nuts and blend. Add optional cheese, olive oil, and truffle oil and blend until a creamy consistency. Adjust olive oil and salt amounts to taste and texture.
If you are vegan and not using the cheese you could try a tablespoon or more of nutritional yeast to get that cheesy umami to the pesto. Toasted sesame seeds also add some interesting flavor.
Serve over zucchini noodles, warm pasta, roasted veggies, with a hot toasty baguette and fresh tomato, or straight from the bowl. Divine.
The day I discovered raw food cuisine, my entire body filled up with passion and excitement. The beauty and creativity of utilizing Mother Nature's raw gifts to create elegant, gourmet, unique dishes had me utterly fascinated.
Now, I did not turn into a raw foodist because of this, but rather started viewing raw foods cuisine as an artist would, using fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as her medium. The vibrant colors of oddly shaped heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs, rainbow chard, or dazzling limes are nature's artistic palette designed for me to create exquisite, delicious works of art.
Gently chopping a handful of garden fresh herbs allows their aromas to be released filling my lungs with their potent and intense smells. Parsley, tarragon, basil, rosemary and thyme, oh my! The culmination of this sensory explosion ends in my taste buds screaming for joy at the pleasure of this live food artistic creation.
Vegan food + creativity = my heaven!!!!
My first experimentation with raw foods cuisine was to make a nut cheese. I was inspired to do this for two reasons...for my inquisitive mind to know what a cheese made out of nuts would taste like and because I know many people who are lactose intolerant and would love to indulge in a cheese like food.
I went to the store, bought some almonds and cheesecloth and decided to experiment. In my research of raw cheeses I learned that many of the specialty vegan cheeses are made with a fermented product known as rejuvalac, but my cheese was not. I went the easy route and was quite pleased with the outcome. If you do want to get fancy, try checking out recipes using rejuvalac and you will be amazed at what types of vegan cheeses you can create.
My first try with nut cheese involved a three day process. The first day I let the nuts soak in a bowl of water overnight. The second day I drained the nuts then placed them in a blender with oil and spices. The result was a pureed nut blend which I wrapped up tightly in cheesecloth and let sit in a bowl overnight to drain. The next day the cheese was drier and similar to a goat cheese consistency. It was delish!!!
My taste testers and I ate it like you would a goat cheese with crackers, but also tried it as a baked topping on stuffed tomatoes. It tasted amazing and eerily like cheese! Of course this way is not raw, but it is still a great alternative to dairy cheese.
Here is my recipe, but as I always say... experiment, have fun, and don't worry about messing it up because this is meant to be an enjoyable and delicious experience. You can add more or less herbs to taste.
Italian Spreadable Nut Cheese
1 cup whole blanched (skins removed) almonds
3 Tablespoons cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove of peeled garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1.) Place almonds in a bowl, cover fully with water, and let soak overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
2.) Place almonds, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices in a high speed blender and puree until a smooth creamy paste forms (about 5 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
3.) You can eat this as is by shaping it into a round or rolling it into a log. You may drizzle more oil and sprinkle more herbs over it, or use it in raw foods creations such as rawsagana or rawvioli's. Or you can forget the raw thing and bake it alone or in dishes. If you want to get more liquid out and make it drier without baking then place mixture into a triple layer of cheesecloth. Tie up into a ball and place over a bowl. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to drain. The next day discard remaining liquid, remove from cheesecloth and place on a serving platter either in a round or roll up in wax paper to make it resemble a goat cheese log.
Add different herbs or no herbs at all if you want. You may also add water to the first stage of blending but then you will definitely have to place the puree in a cheesecloth to drain overnight. Experiment to see what consistency you would like and what flavors you enjoy the most.
Have fun with this amazing culinary art of creating dishes with raw foods. Experience the RAWvolution and enjoy!!!
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.