Saturday, August 30, 2014

Walnut Basil Paté

Walnut Basil Paté (a savory, plant-based, pesto-like spread)

It's the last weekend in August. My boyfriend is going away. And at his house, a slightly wilty bunch of sweet basil that won't wait 'til Tuesday.

Naturally, I took it for my own.

Not a lot of basil—maybe a half a cup of leaves, loosely speaking. Surely enough for a little pesto of sorts, and what better time for pesto than now, Labor Day Weekend, when summer bows to harvest with September rolling in...

Sigh. Even though Fall has the best weather, I'm always a little sorry to see Summer go. Then again, the fresh produce is so abundant this time of year, I can't help but love it!

Anyway, here’s what happened. I got back home and tossed my little bunch of basil leaves into the Cuisinart with a clove of garlic (peeled and chopped) and about two big handfuls (a scant cup) of premium California walnut halves. I quickly pulse-processed these three ingredients—garlic, nuts and basil—into a green meal. Then, I added some seasonings—a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt, two teaspoons of nutritional yeast—and started processing again, this time while slowly fine-streaming, through the feeder tube, just enough extra virgin olive oil into the whirling mix to bind it together. (I haven’t quite eliminated solid fats and liquid oils altogether from my diet but I’m working on it, so I always use the minimum.) The moment the pesto bound together, I stopped the machine because I never like to over-process anything.*

What I ended up with is not so much a pesto as a Walnut Basil Paté that is so chewy and buttery and rich and DELICIOUS that I just want to eat the whole thing with a spoon RIGHT NOW.

But I won’t. I’ll save some for later. (But not TOO too later, because fresh is best.)

*Juicing, blending and food processing are marvelous inventions but they come with a price. Grinding up any whole food exposes all that was protected and volatile beneath the skin to damaging elements like oxygen and light. That’s why apples and avocadoes turn brown when you cut them: oxidation. So once you press, grind or cut into any whole food, best to eat it quick! I’d say this here pesto-like spread will be good for about three days…if it makes it that long. Enjoy it on whole grain toast, flax crackers, salad, soba or raw zucchini noodles. Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup - 100% Plant-Based
I've made a lot of split pea soup in my time but this one came out extra chunky and delicious, thanks to that sad yellow head of wilted celery in my refrigerator. I pretty much had to do something with it this weekend, or else. A handful of fresh bolted oregano, rescued from my leggy herb garden, also made a winning contribution. Not to mention those last three, slightly hairy carrots at the bottom of the bin.

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with things...and you start to feel overwhelmed... but then inspiration strikes! Proving once again that necessity is the mother of fine cooking.

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup

1/2 tsp coconut oil (you could also use olive oil, but coconut is more heat stable)
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thick
2-4 small cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 head celery, washed and chopped in 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped in chunky rounds
1&1/2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
5 cups water
2 tsp Seitenbacher's Vegetable Broth Powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs minced fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried
sea salt to taste (optional)

Melt coconut oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add garlic, celery and carrots, reduce heat and saute veggies for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add split peas, water, Seitenbacher's, cayenne and oregano. Bring to just below boiling on high heat, cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for one and a half to two hours, until peas are very soft. (Check soup every 45 minutes or so and add more water if needed - you want this to come out thick but still brothy.) When peas are cooked, taste and add additional salt if desired. Bon appetit!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

(Secretly Green) Blueberry Almond Smoothie

I just tried something new: adding almond butter to my smoothie. Pleased to report it's really good! So I'm sharing. Turns out almond butter makes your smoothies creamy in a rich way that nicely complements the fruit, while adding a little protein, too. Double win.

The reason this drink is secretly green is because blueberries are so purple, they cover up the parsley...if that makes sense. ;-)

To make, blend the following ingredients until well combined:

1 orange
1/2 ripe banana
1 large handful blueberries
1 tsp lime juice
1 Tbs raw almond butter (I use Trader Joe's)
3 stalks Italian parsley (stems and leaves)
a dash of cayenne pepper

That's it! Yum!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Daniel Fast: "and the old shall become new again..."

A simple salad: lettuce, beets, olives, avocado.
Multitasking can be a beautiful thing.  Last night, for example, while I was studying for my Certificate in a Plant-Based Nutrition, I also simmered up a bunch of beets on the stove (results pictured above) and started learning about The Daniel Fast, a whole food plant-based cleanse that takes it's name from the Old Testament Jewish prophet who employed prayer and fasting as a means of growing closer to God.

Turns out there are a couple versions of Daniel fasts out there. And some critics. Seeking to turn a 2600 year old, Biblical story of divine inspiration into a modern weight loss program for profitable gain (some websites make you buy the book or pay to see the details of the diet) might not seem the most Christian of acts. 

But of course, intention is everything. Personally, I like this quote from Susan Gregory, author of The Daniel Fast Cookbook (which I downloaded for free online):

"Biblical fasting was always about restricting food and always for the purpose of drawing closer to the Lord, observing spiritual laws, or seeking God in prayer."

I don't see a whole lot to argue with there. 

In addition to drawing closer to God, another reason to fast or cleanse in modern times is to draw closer to our own true needs, to reconnect with simplicity. Highly seasoned, stimulating and addictive foods (think ice cream, pizza, corn chips, cookies) when consumed on a regular basis can pervert the taste buds to a degree where simple food no longer appeals.

The Daniel Fast is basically a way to "stop the insanity" and reset your brain-mouth connection. Here's my version, with a few modern additions. This program can be safely followed for 3, 10, or 21 days—if not a lifetime, as it essentially consists of a healthy, low fat whole food plant-based diet. Learn more at

The Daniel Fast - Basic Allowed Foods List:



All WHOLE GRAINS in their whole form.

All LEGUMES in their whole form.

All NUTS and SEEDS in their whole form. (2 Tbs/day)

Natural seasonings: sea salt, black pepper, dried and fresh herbs, lemon juice, curry, cayenne, kelp powder

In addition:

100% natural nut butters (almond, peanut, tahini; 2 Tbs/day), tofu/tempeh, organic brown rice cakes, tamari, nutritional yeast, spirulina and chlorella, herbal teas, raw honey, stevia.

(Note: teas and natural sweeteners are not 'officially' allowed on The Daniel Fast but I think it makes sense to include them; a broad stroke is used to define "vegetables" and tea is a plant food, as is stevia, whereas raw honey comes from flowers.)


Biblical Passages upon which The Daniel Fast is based include:

"In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks." Daniel 10:2,3

"Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank....[So he requested of the steward] 'Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.' ... At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables."  Daniel 1:8-16