Blueberry Cashew Bars

A vegan picnic calls for hummus, pita bread, veggies, sweet potato chips, guacamole, apples and peanut butter — but the missing link is the dessert. To add a sweet something to the menu, I made these blueberry cashew bars that were marketed as cheesecake bars but really take on their own nutty consistency. They are full of flavor and delicious to all, regardless of following a raw or vegan diet.

Blueberry cashew bars

The recipe was adapted from Choosing Raw.

~ 1 1/2 cups walnuts
~ 1 cup raisins
~ 1 cup apricots, cut into bites
~ 1 cup blueberries
~ 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours and drained
~ 1/3 cup maple syrup

1. To make the bottom layer, place the walnuts, raisins and apricots in a food processor and pulse to break the ingredients down. Process until the mixture is ground up and sticking together when you squeeze a little in your hand.

2. Press the bottom layer into a 9 x 9-inch pan that is lined with aluminum foil, and chill.

3. To make the top layer, process the blueberries, cashews and syrup in a food processor until they’re as smooth as possible, about two minutes. Pour the top layer over the bottom layer in the pan. Use a spatular to smooth the top layer evenly.

4. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15-20 bars.

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Farro with Roasted Squash and Kale

As various grains get their five minutes of fame, farro has come into the spotlight — although others such as quinoa and couscous are more popular — and is best known for its nutty texture. This farro salad combines the flavors of winter and features a variety of colors that bring life to the table. The dish can be eaten by itself or as leftovers atop a bed of greens.

Farro with squash and kale

Ingredients:

> 1 kabocha squash, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out, cut into thin slices
> olive oil
> 1 cup farro
> 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
> 3 garlic cloves, chopped
> 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
> roasted cashews
> salt and pepper

Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 4oo°. Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet until browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the farro until tender, about 20 minutes, and drain.

In a large pan, saute the garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil for one minute, and add the kale. Toss until it starts to wilt.

Toss vinegar with farro, and spoon kale and squash over the grains. Serve with roasted cashews.

Adapted from 5 second rule.

Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Hummus is a great snack to bring to work or appetizer to serve at a dinner party — yet often people opt for the store-bought kind when homemade hummus is simple to make and just as flavorful. Different variations can be made by adding subtle flavors to the common chickpea blend. Then the spread can be used on sandwiches or served with raw veggies and toasted pita.

Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, drained
> 2 garlic cloves, chopped
> 2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
> 1/4 cup water
> salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions: 

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, tomatoes and water. Process until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from MyRecipes.com.

Spinach Pesto

Having healthy go-to snacks is the only way to maintain a whole-foods diet when you feel like you’re constantly running to and fro. This spinach pesto is a wonderful snack with crackers or vegetables, and it also makes a great spread on sandwiches.

Spinach Pesto

Ingredients:

> 2 1/2 cups lightly packed spinach
> 1/3 cup walnuts
> 3 tablespoons lemon juice
> salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine spinach, walnuts and lemon juice. Pulse until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Adapted from YumSugar.

Carrot Soup with Crisped Chickpeas and Tahini

Carrot is a neglected vegetable that people often think of in its raw or steamed variety. Yet, carrots can be blended into a veggie juice, roasted and combined with grains, or even made into soup. I decided to try the latter since carrot soup is unique and distinct from the classic chicken noodle soup or tomato bisque.

Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

Soup
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 2 pounds carrots, diced
> 1 large onion, finely chopped
> 5 garlic cloves, peeled
> 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
> 4 cups vegetable broth

Crisped chickpeas
> 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 1/2 teaspoon salt
> 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Lemon-tahini dollop
> 3 tablespoons tahini
> 2 tablespoons lemon juice
>2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, cumin and a dash of salt and pepper. Saute until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. In a small dish, whisk together tahini, lemon juice and water until smooth.

Once the carrot mixture begins to brown, add broth. Cover pot with lid and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender until smooth. Ladle into bowls, and dollop each with lemon-tahini and sprinkle with crisped chickpeas.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Baked Quinoa Casserole with Kale and Chickpeas

Quinoa is a super food that has become loved by not just the health nuts but everyone as a substitute for classic rice. Yet, often times quinoa is prepared the same way — in a salad or with vegetables or grilled chicken. Here’s a twist on quinoa: let’s bake it!

This recipe is a simple crowd-pleaser with tons of flavor. Plus it can be adapted for vegans (by excluding the cheese) and for meat lovers (by including sausage).  Enjoy!

Quinoa Casserole

Ingredients:

8 ounces kale, chopped
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 6 ounces crumbled feta
> 1 cup quinoa
> 1 can chickpeas
> 1 lemon
> salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions: 

Heat oven to 450°. Toss kale with olive oil and spread in an even layer on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until crisp and lightly browned at edges, 6 minutes.

Rinse quinoa and chickpeas and combine with roasted kale in a 8-by-8 baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups boiling water over mixture. Cover dish tightly with double layer of foil.

Bake until quinoa is tender and no liquid remains, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with feta and continue to bake casserole, uncovered, until feta is heated through, about 6 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from YumSugar.

Creamy Curry Cauliflower Soup

On a cold winter day, the most satisfying meal is often a large bowl of soup that warms the body, heart and soul. Besides its warming factor, this curry cauliflower soup has nutritional perks that will keep you healthy all year long. Cauliflower is known to prevent cancer. How? Because it detoxes, provides antioxidants and reduces inflammation. Cauliflower and curry paired together make the perfect disease-fighting combo. Curry helps control blood sugar, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, and remove toxic heavy metals.

Now that we know why we should eat this delicious soup, let’s get on to the recipe.

Curry Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

3 cups unsweetened almond milk
> 3 teaspoons curry powder
> 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
> 3 cloves garlic, chopped
> 5 cups cauliflower florets
> salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Heat 1/2 cup almond milk in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add cauliflower, curry powder and almond milk, cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more curry powder, if desired, and season with salt and pepper.

Puree half of batch in a blender until smooth. Add second half and puree. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Makes 5 cup-sized servings.

Adapted from Whole Foods Market.

Curry Cauliflower