Cashew Sour Cream (raw, vegan, gluten free)

Last night was taco night (LOVE taco night!) and my partner literally told me that if I never made this sour cream again, she would “die a little inside”!! This stuff is SO good! Use it on tacos, burritos, chili, baked potatoes, in stroganoff, as a base for veggie dips… you get the idea.

Feel free to use your food processor for this. That’s what I’ve used for the past year and it works just fine, but it won’t be completely creamy. You’ll have minuscule bits of cashews (no biggie, trust me), but they’ll be soft from the soaking, so you won’t notice them when you eat it with a meal.

However… I must say that I noticed a big difference this time when I used my Vitamix! It was ultra smooth and creamy, just like when you buy it in the store. I was going to take a picture, it was so pretty and white, but we inhaled the whole batch and didn’t even miss the guacamole I didn’t make!

Ingredients:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight or during the day while you’re at work
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (use raw unless you’re not concerned with that)
1/4 cup fresh water

Drain the soaking water off the cashews and add them, along with the fresh water and the rest of the ingredients to your food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until creamy and store any leftovers in the fridge.

A note for Vitamix users: You will have somewhat luke-warm sour cream when you’re done blending, so plan to make a day ahead and store it in the fridge if you want it to be cold. If you didn’t plan for that and you need sour cream for immediate consumption (like I did!), place in the freezer for 4-5 minutes and then serve. It’ll do.

25 Healthy Vegan Snack Ideas

Despite the numerous blogs out there that have vegan snack ideas, I always get asked for them! Most people can think of veggies and hummus or plain ol’ fresh fruit, but those can get boring. Here are some ways to spice up your snacking:

1. Apple with peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter
2. Banana with Jason’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (NOT Nutella!!)
3. 1/2 whole wheat English muffin with jam or nut butter (also good for breakfast, but I’d eat a whole one)
4. Coconut, almond, or soy milk-based yogurt with sliced fruit, granola, or chopped nuts
5. Lara bars (chocolate chip brownie, coconut cream pie, ginger snap, and peanut butter cookie are my favs!)
6. Baked organic corn chips with salsa, guacamole, or homemade bean dip
7. Fruit smoothie or green smoothie (spinach and kale are good for beginner green smoothies – you’ll only taste the fruit!)
8. 1/2 my favorite protein shake (1 frozen banana, 1 ½ cups of almond milk, 3 dates, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, and ½ scoop pea protein powder)
9. Multigrain crackers with your favorite nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower seed…)
10. Trail mix (It’s best to make your own, but if you buy a store brand, check the ingredients for unsweetened fruit and avoid the kind with candy in it!)
11. Avocado chocolate pudding (moderate serving – don’t eat the whole batch!)
12. Cinnamon or cocoa-dusted roasted almonds (a decent-sized palm-full, but don’t go crazy!)
13. Whole wheat toast with Jason’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and ½ sliced banana on top
14. Scoop of fresh fruit sorbet (if you have a Vitamix or other high-powdered blender, you can make this yourself with no added sugar and sneak in some spinach!)
15. 1/2 whole grain bagel topped with 1 tablespoon vegan cream cheese and sliced fruit – also good for breakfast
16. Veggies & dip (for healthy dip recipes, try http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/recipes/type/dips_and_spreads/)
17. Ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins on top)
18. Veggie chips (try making your own kale chips http://www.katheats.com/favorite-foods/kale-chips and use nutritional yeast instead of cheese)
19. Organic air-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast and salt (You don’t have to have a fancy air-popper! All you have to do is take ¼ cup popcorn seed and put it in a paper lunch bag, fold the top over twice ((small folds)) and microwave as usual – no oil, nothing! Then, spray lightly with oil and toss with salt and nutritional yeast)
20. Salt & vinegar roasted chickpeas (I love S&V chips, but this is much healthier!)
21. Dried cherries or strawberries with a good quality dark chocolate (go easy on this one and enjoy it slowly – a small handful of berries with 1 square of the chocolate bar is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth)
22. Steamed organic (non-GMO) edamame with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
23. “Cookie dough” (Mix together ½ cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon unsweetened peanut butter, 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Eat it with a spoon straight out of the bowl! I also like to use raisins or chopped dates instead of a sweetener.)
24. Smoothie pops (fresh fruit smoothie poured into popsicle molds and frozen – sneak in some leafy greens like spinach or kale when you blend!)
25. Homemade applesauce or pearsauce (plenty of recipes online, but try this one). Spice it up with a little cinnamon and a very small pinch of cloves or nutmeg.

Fresh Fruit Smoothie Pops (with a hidden ingredient!)

Spring has been peeking its head in and out for the last few weeks, unsure if it wants to stay or not (Please stay!!). It’s been in the 70’s and 80’s for the past week, and we have been craving popsicles. Store-bought vegan popsicles are crazy expensive, so I got a cute set of popsicle molds for $6.99 at TJ Maxx and was excited to try them out. As soon as I got home, I immediately washed them and put my Vitamix to work. I’ve been sneaking greens into everything lately, so I thought why not popsicles?!

smoothie pops

I used 1 can of coconut milk, about 8 fresh strawberries (with the green tops), about a cup of pineapple chunks, 1 banana, and about a cup of baby spinach. Blend until super creamy, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze for 4 hours.

I know it will be hard, but wait the full 4 hours. We took one out at 3 hours and 40 minutes and the popsicle broke in half coming out of the mold and was more of a sorbet consistency. That extra 20 minutes made a difference!

I had to hold the popsicle mold in my hands to warm it for a minute or so before the popsicle would pull out, but you can also run it under warm water for a few seconds.

Another idea I’m going to try out soon is my favorite chocolate banana peanut butter smoothie (1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 4 dates, and 1/4 cup cocoa) made into popsicles!

Mostly Raw Vegan “Tuna” Salad

savethetuna

Faux tuna salad made from raw nuts? Whodathunkit? This was pretty awesome (and mercury free)! I think I liked it even better with nuts as the protein than with chickpeas!

This makes enough for 5-6 sandwiches.

1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked overnight
2 celery stalks, very finely chopped (minced)
¼ cup red onion, very finely chopped (minced)
1 carrot, very finely chopped (minced)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons kelp granules (this really helps give it a tuna taste)
1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup dill relish
¼ cup vegan mayo
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Drain the soaked almonds and sunflower seeds and place in a food processor. Process until very finely chopped. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and serve!

Serve with lettuce and tomato slices on whole grain bread as a sandwich, on a bed of lettuce with fruit as a salad, or with crackers as a snack. I imagine this would make a great tuna melt with the addition of some Daiya cheese!

Lentil Chard Ragout – Healthy Comfort Food!

Everyone has a different idea of what comfort food is, but there’s a special breed of comfort food in the South. Comfort food = as much cheese, butter, cream, fat, and cholesterol as you can muster into one recipe, then, top it with bacon!

Too bad most people think a plant-based diet is boring and unappetizing. They really don’t know what they’re missing! I think we can all agree the comfort food should be full of flavor, stick-to-your-ribs food that’s cooked with love.

That’s exactly what this recipe is for me. It’s another great one taken from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I doubled the amount of swiss chard since I love chard and I knew it would cook down. The lemon zest really brightens everything up and when it’s done, it’s more of a hearty stew. The lentils sort of melt into everything and create a rich, creamy texture. The flavor from the nutritional yeast, wine, and fresh herbs is really remarkable. I could eat this every week!

Kris suggests serving it over brown rice or another grain, but this is so filling, I didn’t need anything extra on the plate.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup shallots, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups dried green lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup sherry or marsala cooking wine
4 cups chard, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeas
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup bunch fresh Parsley, shopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter (I actually forgot to add this and didn’t miss it)

Sauté the garlic and shallots in the olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes. De-glaze the pan with the wine and add the lentils. Bring just to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and cook another 3 minutes or so, until the peas are heated through and the chard is wilted.

This is even better the next day!

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

I keep hearing bakers on Cupcake Wars (I *heart* that show) say that red velvet cake is “Southern.” I’ve never attributed a regional quality to red velvet cake, but according to my research (reading 1/8th of a Wikipedia article), the original recipe, colored red with beet root, was made popular by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In 1989, the film Steel Magnolias revived the cake’s popularity. Apparently in the movie, someone makes a red velvet groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo?! I see plenty of those here in Alabama!

Animal-shaped cakes and regional origins of sugary foodstuffs aside, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like red velvet cake. To be honest, I can’t understand why it was ever made red in the first place (perhaps I should have read the whole Wiki article!). And what’s up with the negligible amount of cocoa powder? If you’re going to make a chocolate cake, make it CHOCOLATE! Two tablespoons feels like a lazy chocolate cake. Or maybe the original baker ran out of cocoa?

Nevertheless, my sister adores this dessert, so I made her red velvet cupcakes for her birthday and died the cream cheese frosting lavender (or should I say “lazy purple”?). This is a slightly adapted version from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
2 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons chocolate extract

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with paper liners (I always end up with 14 cupcakes when I use this recipe, so I line an entire cupcake pan and then line an additional 2 cups of a second pan.)

Mix the milk and vinegar together and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the rest of the wet ingredients together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients (including the milk mixture) and mix until just combined and most of the lumps are gone.

Fill your cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
¼ cup Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
¼ cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE: Do not microwave vegan butter or cream cheese to soften it! The easiest, quickest way I’ve found is to place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl on top of the stove and let it soften from the heat of the oven while the cupcakes bake. You don’t want the butter to start melting though, so just check it every few minutes.

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating well in between each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl as you mix.

Once you’ve added the last bit of powdered sugar, your mixture will be very thick. Add the vanilla and beat until it’s incorporated and your frosting is creamy and smooth. Fill a pastry bag and pipe the frosting in pretty swirls onto completely cooled cupcakes.

Or… if you’re like me and can’t wait, slap a bit of frosting on a cupcake with a butter knife and cram it into your face while it’s still warm…. Then, proceed calmly and make the rest of them pretty for other folks to enjoy. : )

cupcakes

cupcake

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

pudding
So apparently yesterday was National Chocolate Mousse Day? It sounded like an awesome excuse to make my first dessert in my Vitamix. This turned out so thick, rich, and creamy! It was way better than the stuff sold in plastic cups in the grocery store (plus way healthier!) and it didn’t taste like avocado at all.

This makes 2 generous servings.

Ingredients:
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup almond milk
1 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, then drained
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put everything into the blender or food processor and blend until creamy. Chill for 1 hour and then enjoy. Top with chopped nuts, sliced strawberries, or coconut whipped cream, if desired.

PS – If you’re using a Vitamix, you can probably skip soaking the dates, but if you are using a food processor or another blender, you definitely want to soak them to ensure your final result is completely creamy. I soaked mine for 30 minutes even though I used a Vitamix.