Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: An Homage to a Blue Ribbon Original

October 23, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Raw Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes, and a moment of gratitude for the cheesecake recipe that started it all for Donna and Anne.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: vegan, raw and no refined sugar either.

The first page in my battered and spattered recipe binder is a printout of an email sent to me fifteen years ago, kept safe from the ravages of my cooking habits by a plastic sleeve.

“Hey, we wouldn’t be a family unless we exchanged recipes now and then, would we? So, here’s the cheesecake recipe I was telling you about. It’s pretty good, and I have the ribbon to prove it (somewhere in my attic, okay, trust me!). I have changed the recipe a lot over the years to improve it, and so I feel justified in giving it my name!”

The days are long, the years are short, as the parenting saying goes. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Donna and I first reunited, but the calendars don’t lie – it was in October of 1999 that I was lucky enough to have a reunion that many adopted children only daydream about. After months of anticipatory email, we met face to face in the San Diego airport, only two years before routinely meeting people at the gate would become a thing of the past. My stomach felt positively carbonated as she emerged from the runway. I watched her looking around for just a moment, searching, and then our eyes met and the moment truly arrived. The mother and child reunion really was only a motion away.

Since that first whirlwind San Diego weekend, we have had one adventure after another, slowly integrating each other into our lives, getting to know each other through out Hotmail accounts, introducing one another to our friends and families, traveling together, sharing holidays, and yes, cooking and eating and cooking some more, making up for at least a little of our lost time. Discovering that we had this passion in common was a revelation; in fact, we inspired each other to delve more deeply into culinary creativity than we ever had individually.  Our collaborations eventually moved on to cookbooks, CIA Boot Camp, and finally this very blog – yet I still look forward to the visits where we whip up a feast for our loved ones, just for the sheer joy of it.

When I made that emailed Blue Ribbon Cheesecake for the first time, I felt as though I was tapping into a tangible part of my own ancestral history, but even beyond that, it was like being able to have a hazy glimpse into an alternate universe where my mom (not my birthmom, but simply my mom) taught me to make it herself, in our kitchen, me licking the beaters, all the clichés that go with halcyon kitchen memories. What would that have been like? But despite occasionally wondering about that universe, I’m deeply grateful to have what we have now.

In honor of the recipe that started it all, I made a “daughter” version of her “mother” recipe, using raw ingredients to make an adaptation that lines up with the way I eat most of the time now, having undergone some valuable dietary changes over the last decade. I already love experimenting with raw/vegan/paleo desserts, but if you’ve never given them a shot, they’re well worth it and, as you can see, really quite simple.

Happy Reunion Anniversary to my first mom. May we spend many, MANY more hours in the kitchen together!

Love and eternal gratitude,

Anne

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Raw Beet and Farro Salad

September 16, 2014 in Side Dishes, Vegan Recipes

Yes, they’re raw. Beets in a whole new way.

Raw Beet and Farro Salad

I discovered raw beets about a year ago, and it truly was a revelation.

They are crunchy and delicious, and so pretty on a plate. I paired them here with the ancient grain farro – the flavor of cashews in a grain! This is my first time using the grain that is so popular in Italy, and I loved the results. I bought semi-pearled farro, which just needs to be simmered until soft. If you buy whole grain farro, you will have to give it a soak overnight first. Farro has the texture of wheat berries, but tastes like cashews.

And then, raw beets. I have used them raw before in a Beet and Butternut Slaw, and found out the key: make very thin slices. Paper thin. As thin as you can get. If they are thin, they are crunchy and delicious.

So here I paired them with celery, leaves included, farro, and a lemon vinaigrette.

Happy Fall Y’all!

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Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

August 7, 2014 in Breakfast, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Cheesecake for Breakfast? With this creamy vegan blueberry smoothie, YES.

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

As Donna is an intrepid go-getter who’s always on the move, I’ve never gotten the honor of helping take care of my inspirational blog partner and mentor before. But I recently had the opportunity to help out just a little last month, when she was in need of a non-chewing diet for a thankfully short spell. In my ensuing exploration of the latest in smoothies, from green to protein and everything in between, I encountered this great collection by The Blender Girl.   I only had a few days to fill Donna’s freezer with smoothie-stock (frozen into ice cube trays then cubes stored in ziploc bags) and gazpacho, but I’ll happily come back for another round of TLC someday.

Of all the fantastic, ridiculously healthy recipes in Blender Girl’s book, my personal favorite was the luscious Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake. The innovation, used here and in several other smoothies, is using soaked raw cashews for the creamy texture. Brilliant! I’ve made it for myself at several times since getting back hope, and experimented with variations, my favorite of which is the blueberry version here (in no small part thanks to it being berry-picking-with-kiddos-season in Portland). As with any smoothie, add probiotics, flax, or any other supplements you like.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Kale Apple and Toasted Walnut Salad

June 8, 2014 in Appetizers, Healthy Fare, Side Dishes, Vegan Recipes

Kale, Apples and Walnuts in a (creamless) creamy walnut dressing.

Kale Apple Walnut Salad

Make it ’cause it’s healthy. Eat it ’cause it’s YUM.

Walnuts? In June? I know, walnuts are often thought of as a fall ingredient, but they are available year round and add an amazing toasted taste and crunch to a salad. So. They can be a summer food, too.

We are joining the California Walnut Vistual Salad Party with other bloggers this week, so be sure to check out the other recipes at walnut.org

I have been a huge walnut fan for the last 12 years. Walnuts are one of the healthiest things you can put in your mouth, especially with heart health. Since my husband had a severe heart attack in 2002, I have made an effort to get lots of walnuts into our diet. We even make walnut butter, and yes, I know, a little over the top – but it’s YUMMY, and easy to do in your handy food processor. Just toast and then whirl with a little oil.

I fell in love with Aida Mollencamp’s Kale, Apple and Walnut Salad. I was especially intrigued with the [creamless] Creamy Walnut Dressing. It is so delicious you will want to eat the dressing with a spoon. I left out the pancetta and made the salad vegan. Another change I made was to toast the walnuts to give them a more intense flavor. NOTE: Do not skip the toasting of the walnuts – this totally transforms their taste and their texture. Just spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they are fragrant and browned.

– posted by Donna 

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Melon Slices with Lemon Walnut Gremolata

June 3, 2014 in Side Dishes, Vegan Recipes

Melon slices just got a whole lot more interesting.

Melon Slices with Lemon Walnut Gremolata

Melon slices with a lemony walnut gremolata topping.

Summer brings delicious sweet juicy melon, which can be a little boring at times. But then, I saw a brilliant idea to make plain old melon slices a little more sophisticated on one of my favorite food blogs, The Perfect Pantry. Lydia’s Melon with a Peanut topping looked so intriguing, I had to try my own spin.

This topping with walnuts, lemon zest and mint is so delicious you will be tempted to just skip the melon and eat the topping out of a bowl with a spoon. It has crunch, it has zip and it has tang – a perfect match for the sweet soft melon goodness.

Classic Italian gremolata has three ingredients: parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Italians use it to add zip to most any savory dish. The same concept is used with this sweet walnut gremolata – it adds zip and texture to the melon slices. Or pretty much any fruit salad you can dream up.

Happy Melon Season, everyone!

– posted by Donna

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Sunbutter Surprise Cookies for Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

May 15, 2014 in Desserts, Gluten Free, Vegan Recipes

  Delectable Grain Free, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies – with a surprise inside. 

Sunbutter Surprise Chocolate Chip Cookies

To be filed under “Like You Need An Excuse: May 15th is Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. I thought I’d share my favorite heath-packed (AND delicious) chocolate chip cookies. Look at that lovely plate above. Just what you think of when “Chocolate Chip Cookies” comes to mind, yes?

And then, just below the surface, lurks THIS:

What? How did this get inside my chocolate chip cookie? And why is it still unsettlingly delicious?!

Do not adjust your monitor. Those cookies really are deep emerald green in the middle. With zero artificial dyes or any other such ingredients.

Here’s the history. Read the rest of this entry →

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Hearty Russian Borscht Recipe

February 10, 2014 in Soups and Stews, Vegan Recipes

Russian style borscht – an Olympic celebration for your taste buds.

Russian Borscht

This amazing hearty borscht recipe by co-blogger Anne will be served at least every four years in February at my house. That is because every four years in February I become a hermit . I love, love, LOVE watching the Olympics, and there is no dish that fits the Olympics this year more than this flavorful naturally vegan Russian stew. We made this the other night before the Olympics started and I was reminded of how stunningly delicious this soup is. The Hubs ate 3 bowls!

Borscht comes in endless variations – as proof, take a look at the 4 fabulous borschts by Natasha  at Natasha’s Kitchen.

Those of you whose only experience with borscht is as a cold magenta liquid, perhaps served with a single boiled potato, think again!This version of borscht (there are many variations) hails from Russia & the Ukraine (the former is more the Polish/Yiddish variety), and is more like a hearty stew than a sort of beet-based gazpacho. It’s still very much peasant food, though: immensely nutritious, satisfying, and seasonal. Perfect for snowy winter nights!

It’s also effortlessly vegetarian, and even vegan if you skip the dollop of sour cream at the end, or use a non-dairy version of the sour cream.

In a nod to our fabulously frugal roots, I recommend that you resourcefully save the beet greens, saute them in a little olive oil, and serve them with a dash of sherry vinegar alongside the steaming bowls of borscht. A recipe (if you could even call it that, it’s so simple) follows the borscht recipe.

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Kicking Off 2014: A Roundup of Veggie-Centric Dishes

January 2, 2014 in Healthy Fare, Vegan Recipes, Vegetarian Entrees

Veggie-Centric Recipes to Kick Off 2014!

Raw Beet and Butternut Slaw

‘Tis the season to renew commitments to health and self. There are hundreds of possible approaches out there, so far be it from us to suggest which one is right for YOU as an individual, as every person has unique needs, but the one thing ANY health centered plan has in common? VEGGIES. Lots and lots and lots of veggies! Whether low-carb or vegan or paleo or vegetarian or primal or flexatarian or Weight Watchers or Dukan or primal or or what-have-you, increasing the amount of nutrient-dense vegetables is just a given.

So rather than zero in one one particular approach, we thought we’d share a collection of veggie-centered (as in made only or primarily from vegetables, with other ingredients as accompaniment only) recipes that would be great for just about any plan, either as-is or with only minor modifications. You’re bound to find something that works for you. Hope some of these find their way into your menu regardless of your chosen approach – or even independent of any “approach”.

Cheers for a healthful New Year!

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Cinnamon Almond Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

December 16, 2013 in Side Dishes, Vegan Recipes

 Hasselback sweet potatoes for your holiday table. Minimum fuss. Maximum impressiveness.

Sweet Potatoes - Hasselback Style

Sweet Potatoes – Hasselback Style

Hasselback style of cooking potatoes is genius – you get the perfect blend of crispy edges and creamy potato goodness. Kudos to the Swedes for creating this genius recipe!

Hasselback potatoes are really simple to make – just slice, brush with butter and bake in a hot oven.

I decided to attempt a version with yams – just upping this recipe to make it a little more festive for the holidays. And, I am happy to report success! Sweet potatoes work perfectly in this version. And the bonus is that they take only a few minutes of prep and then you shove them in the oven and ignore them while you get the rest of the holiday meal together. I love the almond flavor in this recipe with the almond extract added – and the almond slices help with the “fan” effect.

There is really only one tricky part to this recipe: getting the “accordian”  or fan effect to these potatoes – so I solved this by inserting a sliced almond into each cut – separating the slices and holding them apart while baking. I also used coconut oil spiked with a little cinnamon instead of butter – with very tasty results.

Highly, highly recommend this as a side dish for your holiday table – Minimum fuss. Maximum impressiveness.

– posted by Donna

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Green Goddess Cauliflower Rice: Two Flavor Editions!

November 7, 2013 in Dairy-Free, Healthy Fare, Side Dishes, Vegan Recipes

Green Goddess Cauliflower Rice

The first time I had cauliflower used as a carb substitute, it was in the now-classic form of “South Beach Mashed Potatoes”. As a recovering starch addict, it sometimes did the trick, but I must say, it never exactly became my favorite new comfort food. Fast forward to years later, and the discovery of cauliflower RICE, via both Elana’s Pantry and Kalyn’s Kitchen. This adaptation definitely DID hit the spot for me. I’ve been making variations on this for a while now, and adding it just about anywhere you might use rice (save for, perhaps, sushi).

My recent rainstorm was to apply the cauliflower rice magic to my my intrepid co-blogger’s Green Goddess Rice recipe, which was featured both in our recent cookbook and on her other blog, Everyday Southwest. It worked beautifully with the original flavors, and I liked it so much that I decided to try a variation that would make it harmonious with other cuisines, this one with a touch of Italian influence. Both are creamy, flavor-packed, and the perfect accompaniment to so many dishes.

Or, in my case today, lunch in and of itself, period.  Read the rest of this entry →

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