Sweet and Sour Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Salad

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I was debating whether or not to name this salad the “Make Me a Vegan” salad, because, that is exactly how I felt after eating this amazing creation.  A few weeks ago, in preparation for the long awaited visit of my aunt and uncle, recent converts to “veganism”, I stumbled along an outstanding vegan blog called ohsheglows.com.  The feature recipe of that day, Roasted Potato, Asparagus and Lentil Salad with a lemon and mustard dressing, looked intriguing and easy, I knew I had to try it.  This recipe was my first attempt off that amazing site and I am feeling so ready to convert. Or at least to try and cook vegan dinners as often as possible…The honest truth is that the guidelines for the SCD diet that Jon is on would make a vegan lifestyle very difficult for us, but eating this way once a week, or a few times a week if possible, feels so great. Turning to lentils as a source for protein is a wonderful change from the same old chicken or fish dinners and leaves you feeling full and satisfied, but in a much lighter way.  I made my own version using butternut squash instead of potatoes (because potatoes are off limits on Jon’s SCD diet) and I thought the sweetness of the squash was a perfect complement to the tart lemon dressing.  I also decided to serve my adapted version over fresh spinach to add a nice crunch.  This dish is truly an easy, healthy, kosher winner, I’ve passed it along many times already and the only complaint is that there is never any leftover!

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Sweet and Sour Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes (cubes can be bigger, just make sure to modify cooking time)

1 bunch asparagus cut into 3 pieces lengthwise

1 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup uncooked green lentils (for easier digestion and for those following SCD, soak lentils overnight and rinse thru before using. The lentils will increase in size)

1/2 purple onion, chopped small

2 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil and spread evenly on one  baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, mixing halfway thru for even cooking. While squash is cooking, prepare asparagus and lentils.  Toss asparagus with remaining olive oil and spread evenly on prepared baking sheet. Place asparagus in the oven with squash and cook for an additional 15-18 minutes or until both squash and asparagus have brown edges. Place one cup of lentils in medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and let cook for 20 minutes or until lentils cooked thru. Mix lentils asparagus, squash and onions with tangy dressing (see below) and then toss in spinach. Dress salad at least 15 minutes before serving to let flavors absorb.

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Dressing:

1 heaping tablespoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

mix well before using.

Yield: 2 entree portions or 4-6 side dish

Birthday Cake

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Although I have baked many grain-free goodies over the years, I have actually never attempted a grain-free birthday cake.  Yes, we keep a gluten-free home, but to buy a birthday cake for my kids from a bakery a couple times a year has been something I was always willing (ok and happy) to do.

This morning I woke up feeling ambitious and energetic. For my daughter Daria’s first birthday, I was determined to make her a home-made, healthy, birthday cake that would satisfy every sweet craving that we all long for in a birthday cake.

I turned to the “Nut Torte With Creamy Frosting” from the cookbook “A Taste of Wellness” by Rochel Weiss (available on amazon.com), the cover picture on the book. Considering all of the steps involved, not just for baking the cake but for the frosting too, I would not consider this cake “easy” and therefore did not plan on including the recipe here, which is why I don’t have pictures of the steps involved… After serving the cake tonight to family, my most honest reviewers, I was told that it was too good not to share.  I will say though, that like most recipes I read, I did adapt the original grain-free “torte” and changed some steps to make my birthday cake easier and even healthier .  My version is a one layer cake, compared to two layers with frosting in between. This reduced the work, time and calories involved in the original.  I also reduced the amount of honey in the cake, by 1/3 and I replaced some of the almond flour that the original recipe calls for with pecan flour to add moistness and a rich but subtle almost chocolaty taste.

I will admit this cake does require more time and patience than most recipes I feature, but if you have an occasion to celebrate, or are just trying to impress your guests with a delicious dessert that is homemade and healthy, this recipe is worth the work.

 

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Tip: this recipe calls for almond flour and pecan meal.  I have tried different types of nut flours and I think the quality of the flour will really affect the consistency and taste of grain-free baked goods.  The absolute BEST BEST BEST nut flours are available on-line at www.digestivewellness.com.  If baking grain-free or gluten-free is something you are really committed to, it is definitely worth it to buy in bulk from this site, you cannot compare the taste (and cost) to any local grocery store variety.

Grain-Free Birthday Cake

recipes adapted from A Taste of Wellness: “Nut Torte With Creamy Frosting” (page 42 and 45)

Ingredients:

12 large eggs, whites and yolks separated

pinch of salt

1 cup of honey

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup apple sauce

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoon baking soda

5 cups almond flour

2.5 cups pecan flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300.  Using the largest bowl of a standing mixer, beat egg whites on low for about a minute and add pinch of salt.  turn mixer to high and beat until soft peaks form.  Watch that the peaks do not become too stiff.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add yolks one at a time, allowing them to become mixed in before adding the next.  Slowly add in oil, applesauce, honey and vanilla.  Make sure all ingredients are completely blended.  Use a wooden or rubber spatula to gently and evenly fold in the nut flours and baking soda.  Lightly grease the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch cake pan and line (bottom only) with parchment paper.  Pour batter into pan, filled to about half the height of the pan, leaving room for the cake to rise.  Smooth batter gently with spatula. I used extra batter for cupcakes.  Bake cake approximately 40 minutes or until light brown on top and toothpick inserted in middle comes out dry (cupcakes take about 18-20 minutes).  After cake cools completely, use a knife along the sides to remove cake.  It should slide upside down onto a baking sheet easily, because of the parchment paper on the bottom.  Place in freezer to harden before frosting about an hour/ hour and a half.

Honey Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

2 cups coconut oil (solid form)

1 cup honey

2 Tablespoon vanilla extract.

Directions:

Blend egg yolks and coconut oil in food processor about 5 minutes. Add honey and vanilla and mix until smooth.  The original recipe tells you to refrigerate for 2 hours for frosting to thicken.  After one hour, I noticed that the top layer of mine was completely hard, but the inside was extremely runny.  I threw the frosting pack in the food processor for a few minutes and it reached the perfect creamy thick consistency.

Keep cake in fridge after icing because the frosting will melt if out for too long.

Tip: cake tastes really delicious with fresh fruit garnishings.

Warning: frosting does contain raw eggs and honey so do not serve to anyone that may have issues with these foods

Cauliflower Baked Ziti

     Cauliflower Baked Ziti

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I was making one of our new favorite dinners, grain-free pizza with a cauliflower crust, when, out of nowhere, my beloved dairy hand-immersion blender gave up on me.  In a panic, with only about an hour until I knew everyone would be at the table, hungry mouths expectantly waiting for dinner, I had to think quickly.  With all of the ingredients in front of me for the pizza– cauliflower, eggs, sauce, cheese, I saw the dish right in front of my eyes, “cauliflower ziti!”

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freshly grated cheddar

My cauliflower, which had already been roasted, in preparation for the pizza recipe, was thrown into a bowl with all of the other ingredients (plus some frozen peas for added fiber and flavor). As I put everything in the baking dish and covered it with a final round of sauce and cheese, I prayed that this last minute creation  would be a success.  An hour later I was thrilled to see we had a delicious new EASY HEALTHY KOSHER dinner, ready just in time!

Cauliflower Ziti

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower chopped into small florets

  • I used fresh cauliflower but I think frozen would work well too

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup frozen peas

2.5 cups tomato sauce (I use “Vilma Lusardi’s see below), divided

1 egg

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for topping

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, freshly grated, plus more for topping

Directions:

preheat oven to 375.  Mix cauliflower pieces evenly with oil and roast for 15-20 minutes.

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Remove from oven when soft and only starting to brown.  Mix cauliflower with frozen peas, cheese, egg and 1.5 cups tomato sauce. Place 1/2 cup sauce at the bottom of baking dish (I used an oval 10 inch, but a square, 8 inch casserole dish would be good too). Pour in cauliflower mixture. Top with remaining 1/2 cup sauce and cheese to your liking. Cover and bake for 40 minutes, uncover for 20-25 more minutes (until desired amount of browning).

Tip: Feel free to play around with ingredients; add another egg to make more casserole-like, add any variety of frozen veggies to the mix

Tip: Any marinara sauce would work, but I like Vilma Lusardi’s  because of the limited and natural ingredients.  Most other kosher tomato sauce products have unnecessary added sugars and preservatives. Like many other products that I like to buy in bulk, I order this sauce from digestivewellness.com, an amazing source for SCD items.

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Kale Power Salad

 Kale Power Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing

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Craving a hot salad with my dinner, different from my usual go-to mixture of romaine lettuce and fresh vegetables, I decided to use kale, my favorite “superfood” as the base.  After raiding my fridge for other disease fighting ingredients, I was so excited with what I found: variety of mushrooms, red onion and purple cabbage; I could tell this was gonna be good!

IMG_3603Kale: A fully loaded nutrition power-house; a leading source of antioxidants, fiber and cancer-fighting vitamins (source).

Mushrooms: Besides for their meaty texture and low calorie benefits, mushrooms are a leading source of antioxidants, and help strengthen the immune system (source).

Red Onion: Loaded with nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and good for the heart (source).

Purple cabbage: High in fiber, this vegetable adds tremendous health benefits raw or cooked.  The deeper the colour of the leaves, the greater the levels of anthocyanins–these help to lower risk of many diseases including cancer and heart disease (source).

After sautéing all of the vegetables with a little salt, pepper, and turmeric, I thought the salad could use a little sweetness to counter-balance the slight bitterness of the kale, and so the “Creamy Cashew Dressing” was born.

Kale Power Salad

Ingredients:

2 tablespoon canola oil

1 bunch kale (5-6 cups)

1/2 medium red onion chopped small (1/2 cup)

8 ounce button mushrooms, sliced thin

8 ounce cremini mushrooms, sliced thin

5 leaves purple cabbage chopped small (3 cups)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

Directions:

I like to use a wok, but any large sauté pan will work.  Heat pan for a few minutes on medium heat. Heat oil then add onions and cabbage. After the onions and cabbage start to get soft and tender (about 5 minutes) add mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes longer, until mushrooms are cooked but not soggy.  Mix in salt, pepper and turmeric if using.  Add kale, sauté another 2-3 minutes.  I like the kale to keep some of its crisp flavour and not be fully cooked.

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yield: 4-6 portions

 

Creamy Cashew Butter Dressing:

Ingredients:

1/3 cup tightly packed fresh basil

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon cashew butter

3-4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup water

Directions:

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Dressing will thicken overnight, so I would recommend adding lemon juice or water to thin it.

yield: 1 cup, but 1/2 cup is enough for this salad portion

Spaghetti Squash…The Preferred Pasta

What if there was a way to replace the ultimate comfort food, pasta, with a natural, low calorie, high-fiber alternative?

Meet Spaghetti Squash

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A constant staple in my kitchen, spaghetti squash is a filling, grain alternative, that can be adapted to most pasta recipes for a lighter healthier option.  According to livestrong.com, spaghetti squash contains “almost every essential vitamin” and has only 42 calories per cup.  With a neutral but slightly sweet taste, this vegetable tastes great with pasta toppings, minus the “carb coma” effect of regular wheat noodles.

There are two methods I use to cook a spaghetti squash:

1. Cook in two halves: Cut Squash in half length-wise.  Scrape out seeds with spoon.  Lay two halves cut side down onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until peel feels soft to touch.  Let cool and gently peel out spaghetti strands with fork or spoon.

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2. Cook whole: Pierce with fork in several spots. Place in any baking dish and bake at 350 for one hour or until peel feels soft to touch.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Cut in half length-wise, and remove seeds (plus some of the very stringy, darker yellow part) with a spoon. Gently scrape out spaghetti squash with a fork or spoon, trying to maintain spaghetti-like strands.

*If the squash is not too hard to cut, and you have the proper knives, I recommend cutting in half length-wise before baking because I find it easier to take out the seeds that way.

Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and melted cheese is my personal favorite, but being that Jon and I are on a new “vegan-kick” and attempting vegan meals when possible…I just tried my spaghetti squash with Angela Liddon’s recipe for “15 Minute Creamy Avocado Dressing” from www.ohsheglows.com

Spaghetti Squash with “Creamy Avocado Dressing” 

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All you need is an avocado, some lemon juice, a few garlic cloves, basil, a touch of olive oil and a food processor.

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Use about one spoonful of dressing per bowl of spaghetti squash, mix and enjoy!

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