Crouching Basil, Hidden Kale

We can all eat more greens, but naturally, we often don’t want to.  Sometimes, as refreshing as it is, a big ‘ole salad just doesn’t fill us up the same as a bowl of mashed potatoes.  And smoothies are delicious, too, but what if I want something warm?  I could wilt my greens, but then, I’d have a plate of wilted greens (sorry ya’ll—that texture just doesn’t do it for me!).  How am I going to get my greens when I’m in the mood for comfort food?

Pasta to the rescue!  Growing up in an Italian family, pasta was a staple, and to this day, it is the comfort food I seek more than any other.  Pasta is also easy to prepare and extremely versatile.  Sometimes I toss it with my simple marinara, and other times, my creamy vegetable sauce.  You could even use my nacho cheese sauce to create your own mac.  Today, I’m revamping my pesto formula.

Fresh herbs make for one insanely flavorful pesto, but I’ve found that just about any raw greens will yield a bright and complex pasta sauce.  Thus, I’ve readapted my pesto formula to include the option of greens other than herbs.

Today’s rendition uses kale, which Nolan used to eat raw in a salad like a champ but wouldn’t even consider touching now if it isn’t blended up in a smoothie.  🙂  While smoothies remain my go-to for ensuring my toddler gets all of his nutrients on his pickier days, I’ve gotten creative with hiding vegetables.  Of course, hiding veggies in a bacon cheddar cheese omelet makes that effort moot, so I’ve had to work hard to make this game of hide-and-don’t-seek healthy.

If you need a change from hiding veggies in my super food muffins or smoothies, try out this new take on pesto.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: PESTO

Makes about 1 ¾ cups 

  • 1 ½ cups fresh herbs or greens –> I’m using 1 cup kale and ½ cup basil.
  • 1 cup raw nuts –> I’m using cashews
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 cloves raw garlic
  • ½ cup citrus juice or water –> I’m using the juice of two lemons.
  • Additional spices (optional) –> I’m not using any.
  • Water/oil as needed for smoothness –> I’m adding water a tablespoon at a time as needed.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding water and/or oil as needed. The less oil used, the lower in fat the end product will be.  So flavorful, this pesto doesn’t even need salt!

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Is Your Spaghetti Missing Its Meatballs?

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I have met many vegetarians/vegans over the last few years. Although they can be categorized in a number of ways, when it comes to meat, I see only one: those that do not like the flavors and textures of meat and those that do, but don’t eat it for health and/or ethical reasons. Today, I’m offering a homemade meat substitute for those like me that did actually enjoy meat, but couldn’t bring themselves to eat it any longer.

Is this vegan sausage exactly like its pork, beef, or chicken-based counterpart? No. In my opinion, like vegan diary substitutes, it is different, but equally satisfying. In addition, this recipe is one that you can feel good about since it is not processed and prepackaged with excessive salt, preservatives, and other unnatural additives.

I so wish I could take credit for this Walnut “Sausage” recipe, but it belongs to the amazing Sage Kitchen, which I reviewed last month. Remember the “sausage and mozzarella” pizza I tried from owner Kita Centella’s menu? In reading through an issue of Green Living Magazine, I came across the recipe for that very sausage. It kind of felt like the stars aligned for a second, and as if I needed more proof that plant-based living works for me, that was it. 🙂

I am still working on a meat substitute formula, so for now, this is a stand-alone favorite vegan recipe. I was thrilled to see that the base of SK’s sausage is walnuts, which I don’t particularly enjoy raw unless they are mixed into something else. Although they can sometimes taste a bit bitter, I find ways to incorporate these nuts because they are known to fight and prevent many diseases, can assist in weight control, and contain fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

DSC_1837This recipe also contains a number of fresh herbs and spices and a touch of “soy sauce or substitute.” I encourage you to try liquid amino acids as your substitute. My sister Petra, who works for eVitamins and is the author of the expat blog 100 Tacks, got me into these, pictured below. Bragg’s is a combination of soybeans and water, and contains no added salt, genetically modified organisms, or MSG. It is gluten-free and offers sixteen of the twenty amino acids (the building blocks of protein), nine of which cannot be produced in our bodies naturally.

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You will LOVE this sausage recipe! I’ve included the ingredients and directions exactly as published in GL, with a few of my notes alongside. Enjoy!

SAGE KITCHEN’S WALNUT “SAUSAGE”

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups walnuts
  • 1 ½ tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (found at specialty markets) –> To learn more about “nooch,” check out my pesto formula!
  • ¼ tbsp soy sauce or substitute –>  I’m using Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.
  • ½ tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/8 tsp Chakra 4 cayenne powder, 35K –>  Chakra 4 is the brand from the tea shop next to SK.  If you don’t have this brand on hand, you could substitute another.
  • ¼ tsp Chakra 4 ground caraway seed
  • 1 tsp Chakra 4 ground fennel seed
  • 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp mineral salt –>  I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 2 ½ tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • ½ tsp fresh oregano, minced
  • ¼ tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • ½ tbsp. fresh sage, minced

Directions

Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. –>  I followed these directions exactly, but next time, I would process the nuts until they are paste-like.

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Combine all other ingredients together in a mixing bowl. –>  Use a mortar and pestle to grind down your seeds before adding to the other ingredients.

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Slowly fold in chopped walnuts until fully incorporated.

For a raw vegan dish, serve this blend fresh.

It can also be heated to serve as crumbles, or formed into “meatballs.” –>  SK served it sliced in discs atop pizza when I tried it.  Look for my pizza formula using this sausage next week.  🙂

Store in refrigerator for up to seven days or freeze for up to six months.

DIY Trail Mix

Trail Mix II

Trail mix is one of my favorite snacks.  I prefer to make my own for both nutritional and monetary reasons.  Many premixed trail mixes are high in added sugars and oils, or include products like milk chocolate that I no longer eat, or raisins that I will never eat (I loved dried fruit, except raisins…I have no idea why!).  I also find that all too often premade mixes do not contain a ratio of sweet to savory that works for me, usually being either too sweet, too salty, or sometimes, too spicy.  Finally, while the premixed trail mixes boast clever names and yummy flavor combinations, they have a price tag to match.

The key to DIY trail mix is finding what you like, buying sale items in bulk, and combining them on your own, which takes very little time.  I am logging the trail mix that I made for this post under More Recipes because for the life of me, I couldn’t decide on a formula.  This is mainly because what I put in my trail mix in a given week depends on what is on sale in bulk at my local grocer.

Nuts, seeds, chocolate, and dried fruits are expensive, so I never go into making a trail mix with set ingredients in mind; I build a trail mix based on what is on sale.  I typically seek out mostly nuts and seeds, as they are a primary protein and fat source for me.  Chocolate and dried fruits are less of a priority (I eat tons of raw fruit), but I grab them when the price is right.

Whenever possible, all of the nuts and seeds I purchase are raw, as to avoid excess fat and salt.  Today’s mix includes all raw nuts with the exception of roasted, unsalted cashew pieces that were so incredibly marked down, I couldn’t pass them up!

Additionally, whenever possible, the dried fruits I purchase are free of added sugars, oils, and preservatives.  Sulfur dioxide, which is often added to dried fruit to preserve color, is known to cause allergic reactions, so I never buy dried fruit with it listed in the ingredients.  Today’s fruits include dried cranberries that have a touch of added sunflower oil to prevent sticking together and dried pineapple that has no added oil, but does have a little added sugar to balance the tartness.

Trail mix is quite often the only dessert-like item I consume in a day, week, or sometimes, even month, so I add dark chocolate when it’s on sale.  With the decadent milk variety available everywhere, I was never a fan of dark chocolate growing up.  Now that I’ve gotten used to the flavor, I eat it here and there for its antioxidants, and truthfully, don’t much care for ultra-rich, super sweet milk chocolate anymore.

I eat ¼-½ cup of homemade trail mix every day.  It’s filling, delicious, and nutritious (mostly!  🙂 ), and satisfies my sweet tooth with less fat and sugar than a traditional dessert.  Enjoy!

SWEET AND SAVORY TRAIL MIX

  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup raw red walnuts
  • ½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup dried pineapple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (these were flavored with 100% blueberry juice)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered peanuts
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered edamame

Combine all ingredients and store in your pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  If you anticipate going through your trail mix more slowly, store in the fridge as the oils in nuts can spoil.

Trail Mix