When March Gets Confusing: Raw Winter Salad with Maple-Thyme Vinaigrette

The flu is not fun.

After spending literally an entire week incapacitated on the couch with no actual mental activity occuring, the journey drifting back down to lucidity has been long and slow.  Now, two weeks later, I am just beginning to feel normal again.  I can communicate with others, get myself from place to place — I’m even starting to find pleasure in things again!

With the return of consciousness has come a desperate need to delicately rehabilitate my ravaged body.  That nasty bug certainly took a toll on my energy levels and mood.  The answer: an easy to prepare, nutrition-packed power meal to fuel the body without weighing it down.  A foggy trip to the farmer’s market over the weekend meant it was in the cards – but also that it would have to be TOTALLY inappropriate for the coming spring, as my half-conscious self decided to pick up the dregs of winter’s bounty.

So next time you’re so disoriented from a passing illness that you don’t know what season it is, but you’re desperately tired of chicken broth and applesauce, try this on for size: Raw Winter Salad with Maple-Thyme Vinaigrette.

Raw Winter Salad with Maple-Thyme Vinaigrette

gluten free, vegetarian, optionally raw

Serves 2

  • 1 bunch kale (lacinato or red russian are great choices)
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/2 a sweet potato
  • 1/2 pint of mixed mushrooms (oysters are especially great)
  • 1/2 package of tempeh*
  • currants
  • walnuts
  • raw aged cheese (I used a local PA gem, Hillacre’s Arcadia)
  • Maple-Thyme Vinaigrette (see below)
  1. Gather your kale into a bunch and roll long-ways as tightly as you can into a sort of cigar shape. Slice VERY thinly down the cigar so you get very slim slivers.
  2. Using a mandolin (preferably) or a very sharp knife, slice the parsnip into extremely thin rounds.  Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise, and then use the mandolin to slice into very thin half-moons.  Cut the tempeh into similarly thin strips.
  3. Using a very sharp knife, slice mushrooms very thinly.
  4. Mix all of the above with your vinaigrette, top with currants, roughly chopped walnuts and shaved cheese.
  5. Easy peasy no cook yum!
Maple-Thyme Vinaigrette
  • 2 tbs minced shallot
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2-4 tsp maple syrup (the real kind)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • Handful of soaked cashews (if you don’t have a high powered blender, sub yogurt or mayo)
  • dried thyme to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • water or broth as necessary to reach desired texture
  1. Blend or whisk thoroughly together, taste, adjust, use 🙂
*Tempeh’s status as a raw food is contested. It is made of fermented soy beans, and some raw diets include fermented foods, while others do not. Up to you what you want to do!

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Vegetables Make a Great Breakfast Too

The key to a great day is a great breakfast.  Seriously, what better time to make sure you’re well on your way to a satisfied daily quota of fruits, vegetables and fiber than first thing in the morning?

Here’s how I get an easy, vegan and (almost) raw start that makes me feel great no matter what the rest of the day brings:

Grab a pint-sized ball jar (or comparable reused jar). Best way to transport food hands down.

Assemble the mixable components:

  • Something green (e.g. kale, collards, spinach, beet greens, etc)
  • Something sweet (e.g. 1/2 an apple, pear, or orange, etc)
  • Something smooth (e.g. 1/2 a banana, a scoop of nonfat yogurt, etc)
  • Something spicy (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, a pitted date, etc)
  • Something serous (e.g. a heavy splash of almond or soy milk, orange juice, water, etc)
  • Something berry unexpected (I always try to throw something of color into the mix, be it 1/2 a carrot, a handful of frozen blueberries, and/or a couple grapes — whatever is on hand!)
  • Optionally, something strapping (basically protein powder, if you so wish)

Next, summon the high-power blender gods by lighting incense and chanting “Vitaman” while spinning three times in front of your refrigerator.

Keep that going for a minute or two, and assemble the dry:

  • 1 tbs psyllium husks (an amazing supplement that packs a huge insoluble fiber punch, lowers bad cholesterol levels and sops up liquid, making your smoothie into a yummy porridge :))
  • 1/2 tbs oat bran
  • sprinkle of flax seed
  • 1/2 cup high-fiber, low-sugar dry cereal (I prefer a combo of puffed kamut and Kashi Go Lean)

Add the psyllium husks, oat bran and flax seed to the bottom of your jar.  Package the dry cereal in a separate small container or baggie to maintain the crunch-factor for assembly time.

Pour the veggie mixture over the psyllium in your jar and make sure to give ‘er a good shake to get those psyllium husks mixed in and absorbin’!

Pour that sucker out into a bowl, top with the crunchy dry cereal and damn will you be power-packed to take on the rest of your day.  Guaranteed to keep you greened and regular – just the way I like it.

Not to mention, it turns out to be a different color very time!  Make it a game and have your co-workers guess what each day will bring: Green?!  Red?!  Putrid brown?!  What fun!

Goodbye New Mexico, Hello Raw Beet Soup

Hello again, blog.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been away for a while.  It’s true.  I left you.

For this (green chili cheeseburger at Perea’s):

And this (chile rellenos and enchiladas at Padilla’s):

And this (green chili stew at Maria’s):

And a WHOLE lot of this (IPAs at La Cumbre Brewing):

But I’m back now.

Needless to say, New Mexico was quite a marathon.  ABQ eats are certainly friendly going down, but they’re not so friendly afterwards.  After 14 straight days of drinking and irregular eating habits, it’s time to normalize.  Back to a world where people don’t consider melted cheese a food group and tortillas a vegetable.

Luckily today I came across this little bugger to the right from Harvard (a non-bureaucratic smart person attempt at the food pyramid known as the Healthy Eating Plate) to remind me that even through there’s still a whole basket full of Christmas candy and a dump trucks worth of nuts n’ bolts at home, it’s time to start actually using my brain when it comes to what I’m putting in my body.

To kick things off strong, I started with a meal that could cleanse the bowels of a two ton rhino — Raw Beet Soup with Sauerkraut Shitake Seitan Hash:

Raw Beet Soup with Sauerkraut Shitake Seitan Hash

Serves 2

FOR SOUP:

  • 2 whole red beets, unpeeled
  • 1 carrot, unpeeled
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (with seeds)
  • vegetable stock/broth as needed
  • dill (fresh, preferably, or dried) to taste
  • fennel seeds to taste
  • agave nectar (or honey) to taste
  • dash apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • VITAMIX, BLENDTEC, OR OTHER HIGHPOWER BLENDER ESSENTIAL!

FOR HASH:

  • lacto-fermented sauerkraut (good, simple recipe here – my recipe will follow, sometime)
  • handful of mushrooms
  • seitan (omit for gluten free version)
  1. To make soup, put everything in the blender and BLEND. Seriously. That’s it.  But blend for long time.  Like 4 minutes. Adjust seasonings/add stock/broth as needed to achieve desired texture.
  2. To make hash, chop all ingredients thinly and mix.
  3. Pile hash, pour soup, serve with water-thinned greek yogurt (if not vegan), cashew cream (if vegan), or nothing (if lazy).
  4. CLEANSE AWAY!

Dijon Maple-Seared Tofallops Over Raw Marinated Brussels Sprout and Oyster Mushroom Salad

Following a week of unexpected indulgence that included an impromptu splurge at the brand new vegan spot from the Horizons folks, Vedge, and a last minute invitation to The Farm and the Fisherman‘s Pork and Beer dinner featuring pork from Wyebrook Farm and Lew Bryson to navigate pairings from Spring House Brewing in Lancaster, PA I needed a major cleanse meal.  Thankfully, somewhere between the vegan cocktails and shots of 41% ABV beers (needless to say I am referring to Brewdog’s unforgettable Sink the Bismark) I found time to get my hands on this beautiful stalk of brussels sprouts from Culton Organics:

With this bad boy on hand, there was definitely a cleanse meal in the cards.  With their powerful anticancer properties (thanks to high levels of glucosinolates and sulforaphane), brussels sprouts provide unparalleled support to the body’s detox system.  Plus they are full of antioxidants AND can help lower your cholesterol!  Now that’s what I call a power vegetable.

Need even more convincing that brussels sprouts might be the best veg ever?  Those leaves up top?  Delicious raw or stewed.  The stalk?  Matchstick it up and saute with some olive oil.  Side dish of champions.  This is a true snout-to-tail-type of plant – my favorite.

What really pulled this meal together, though, was a 1/4 pound stem of ethereal gray oyster mushrooms just begging for attention in my refrigerator.  Not wanting to do anything to compromise the delicate, pillowy cream-colored flesh of the mushrooms, or, for that matter, the nutritional content of the brussels sprouts I opted for a raw salad.

The phrase “raw brussels sprouts” likely elicits a sneer from most folks.  But what most folks don’t realize is that it’s cooking your brussels sprouts that puts you at risk of releasing those danky sulfuric compounds that have so wrongly criminalized this lovely little brassica.  When sliced thinly and marinated, the raw brussels is a refreshing treat.

Inspired by a great little blog called Warm Kitchenette, I realized that scallops would be a great pairing for a light raw brussels sprout and mushroom salad.  In the minutes following, I then realized that Ippolitos had just closed.  Scallops were quite clearly not an option.  So I got creative.  “Tofallops” it was.  And you know what?  You ALMOST couldn’t tell the difference.

Dijon Maple-Seared Tofallops Over Raw Marinated Brussels Sprout and Oyster Mushroom Salad

Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Serves 2

  • 1/2 block of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 pint brussels sprouts (I used about 1/3 from the whole stalk)
  • 1/2 pound (roughly) oyster mushrooms
  • slivered almonds
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • S&P
  1. With a paring knife, cut scallop-sized circles out of your tofu block.  Arrange “tofallops” on a towel and press firmly on all sides repeatedly until all the surfaces of each one are dry to the touch (this helps them sear!).  Leave them on a towel to continue to dry while you prepare salad.
  2. Mix marinade of juice from 1/2 lemon, honey, olive oil, and S&P to taste.
  3. Preferably with a mandoline (you can use a very sharp knife, but with small handheld mandolines available for under $15, like this one from OXO, I suggest you invest!) slice the brussels sprouts thinly and rinse clean.
  4. Shave mushrooms very thin with sharp knife.
  5. Toss brussels and mushrooms with marinade and let sit.
  6. Using a spatula or spoon, coat the top sides of each “tofallop” with dijon mustard.
  7. Heat a saute pan over med/high flame.  Coat generously with nonstick spray.  Add 1 tsp maple syrup.
  8. Once hot, place “tofallops” dijon side down in the pan.  Let sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until you can smell the syrup caramelizing and the dijon becoming fragrant.  Quickly coat the other side of the “tofallops” with dijon, and then gently flip to the other side.  Allow to sear for another 4-5 minutes or so.
  9. While the “tofallops” are searing, add a handful or two of slivered almonds to the brussels and mushroom and toss.  Distribute salad between two plates.
  10. Once “tofallops” are nice and lightly brown on both sides, place on top of your plated salad.  Voila!  Dinner is served.