Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fresh Fruit Vanilla Creme Tart with Chocolate Brownie Crust

We are interrupting our regularly scheduled Super Soup Sunday to bring you a festive Memorial Day dessert idea. It's also a departure from my low fat, sugar free and salt free recipes because it's a special occasion and this favorite recipe is really just too luscious not to share. Plus it's better to share so you don't eat it all by yourself. It's a raw dessert (shhhh!) I guarantee your non raw or even non health conscious friends and family will definitely appreciate this fresh fruit tart with a dark chocolatey brownie crust.

It's to live for! 

Plus it's just a beautiful dessert anyway you decorate it.

The Chocolate Brownie Crust

raw, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free


1 1/4 cup medjool dates, soaked about 20 minutes and pitted- soft not soggy
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup cacao or unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt

Process all the ingredients, except vanilla in a food processor until crumbly, scraping down sides as you go to keep it well mixed. Add the vanilla as it's processing. You want the mixture to stick together and hold when pinched between your fingers. Add a little water if necessary until it does. Be careful not to over process. You don't want chocolate almond butter.

When the crust is ready, lightly coat the bottom of a tart pan with a little coconut oil and press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides.

By now you probably have noticed I love kitchen gadgets, even in my tiny kitchen. Just like in interior design and construction, the right tool makes for a better job and these are no exception.

When it comes to raw desserts, these are a couple of life savers:  A tart/quiche pan with a removable bottom. (just be careful- these edges are razor sharp!) Any shape is good. I even have little ones for individual tarts. Also this little wooden tart tamper for getting the crust pressed just right (believe me this little tool really saves your fingers.)

Set the crust pan into the freezer to firm up while making the creme.

Vanilla Creme Filling

raw, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free


1 cup cashews, soaked 1-2 hours and drained
2/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of vanilla

Blend well until nice and creamy.

Pour into crust and spread around in a nice even layer. Return to freezer until well set.  Maybe an hour or so. When set, lift up the bottom plate carefully from the middle center to free the shell from the mold. There will still be a plate underneath just not around the sides- the beauty of the tart pan makes for easy serving.

Then decorate with fresh berries of your choice. In a pattern or….

… randomly. It looks deliciously inviting either way.

You can decorate right before ready to serve but make sure it has thawed a bit. Or decorate ahead of time. If you do it ahead of time, let it thaw about a half hour or so before serving so berries are not frozen. (Even the thought of biting into frozen berries makes my teeth hurt!) Keep in mind that coconut oil turns to liquid at around 75 degrees so it's better served slightly chilled and not left out in the sun.

Keep leftovers, if any, in the freezer.

I hope you try this one. It's pretty easy, always lovely, and better yet always enjoyed.

Please note: I was experimenting with my night lighting when taking these pictures, and some were even taken quite a few months back. So please forgive them not turning out so great. I'm getting there!

I'm going to be sharing this on both Healthy Vegan Fridays as well as Raw Food Thursdays.

If in the states, I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend. If you are elsewhere, why not celebrate anyway and make yourself a delicious tart?

Until next time….

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Quick Black Bean Salad

This is one of those recipes to squirrel away for when you need something quick and amazing to bring out for a get together, potluck or Summer BBQ. It's a crowd pleaser for sure and also handy to keep in the fridge to eat as a salad or pair it up with chips as a salsa. I also like to load these kind of salads up into a romaine or endive leaf as well and skip the chips. So versatile!

Lime and cilantro are two of the key flavors with a simple drizzling of balsamic vinegar over a diced vegetable medley of corn, tomatoes, onions, water chestnuts and black beans. No salt or fats and very easy to like so even those that are not watching their health will enjoy this. Just don't tell them it's good for them.

Quick Black Bean Salad

This recipe is adapted from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Essselstyn, Jr.


2 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 large tomato or 2 medium tomatoes (I added some small heirlooms for color as well.)
1 16 oz package of frozen corn or fresh is even better if you have the chance!
1/2 Vidalia sweet onion, chopped
1 6 ounce can of sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/2 a bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced and zested
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Add all but the lime, cilantro and balsamic to a bowl and mix well.

Add the rest and then mix it all again.

Serve on a bed of lettuce as a salad….

Or pair it up with some salt free organic chips for a dip.

It's one of those things that gets better once the flavors marinade so you can make it ahead and keep in the fridge. Just know that the water chestnuts will turn a little brownish from the balsamic vinegar once it sits together a bit.

So there you have it. A simple versatile recipe to please a crowd or just one. I hope you give this a try.  I have a feeling this will be in our regular salad rotation from now on.

This will be my submission for Healthy Vegan Fridays, which if you haven't checked out by now, is a great assortment of recipes.

I hope you are enjoying some of these simple yet healthy dishes. Drop me a comment and let me know if I'm on the right track. I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time….

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Vegetable Soup

Welcome to another Super Soup Sunday. 

Sunday, the day where we get a jump on the week by making a luscious soup that will get us through a few meals in the upcoming week. I am really liking this new routine. Even though it sometimes takes some time to prepare, it feels like I am taking the pressure off myself for the next few meals to come and that brings a welcome sense of relief.

Last week's Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup required very little effort and was made from ingredients that could be kept on hand in the pantry and the freezer for a meal and soup in a pinch.  This week, I am doing the opposite.

This Summer Vegetable Soup is made from almost entirely fresh in-season Summer ingredients. It didn't dawn on me until I took the ingredient line up photo that I missed an opportunity here to make it all fresh. I had chosen to use some frozen roasted corn. Darn! While the roasted corn added a different flavor, and saved me some work, fresh corn would have been lovely.

Also this soup uses very little seasoning other than fresh garlic, fresh basil, onion and lemon, pepper and if you choose, salt. It's truly a soup that benefits from farm fresh seasonal ingredients. It just tastes like summer.

We are fortunate that we still have some of the last fresh lemons on the trees as well. One of the benefits of living in the California desert. That and the fact we have summer vegetables already.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Recipe adapted from the cookbook, Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook
It serves approximately 6.


6 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob (about 2 cups)
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth or fresh no salt stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
zest and juice of one lemon
pepper to taste (salt to if you must)


Sautee the onions in a couple of tablespoons of the broth over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes.
Don't let them dry out, add more broth as necessary. Add the garlic and sautee another minute.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, just until tomatoes break down a little.

Add the zucchini, yellow squash, corn and vegetable broth.

Bring the pot to a boil on high, then reduce to medium and cook 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the freshly chopped basil, lemon juice and zest and pepper and salt to taste.

And Enjoy!

Fresh Summer Vegetable Soup
This is another entry for Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Cooking Tip:

About this time, you might notice that you have left over broth. This seems to happen a lot as often 6 cups of broth is required for soup bases and a carton has 4 cups. I make broth cubes with the left overs and keep them in a bag in the freezer to use for sautéing vegetables. Also they come in handy to flavor the dog's dry food. What can I say, my dog is very spoiled. :-)

Left Over Broth Cubes

Personal Note:

I saw this quote over on FB this week, and it's stuck in my mind. It applies to me and this blog. I am definitely starting before I am ready and quite honestly if I waited until I was ready, I probably would never start. This is all a learning curve for me and quite frankly that's the point. 

So please bear with me as I improve my skills as I go along. This refers to camera operation, lighting, writing, cooking, media, graphic design, the list goes on and on. I am by no means a professional blogger, chef, or whatever and nor do I profess to be.
I am someone who is trying to heal myself with nutrition, learning new habits and tastes that I hope will last a lifetime and by sharing this adventure, I hope I can also inspire others in the process.

It's just me doing my thang.

So until next time… just be. (deep breath) ;-)

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Spicy Peanut Zucchini Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots

Slightly spicy peanut and ginger sauce over freshly made zucchini noodles with added broccoli and carrots.  Doesn't that sound good? 

I thought so.

I was perusing through a new book by the producers of the must see film, Forks Over Knives called applicably, Forks Over Knives, the Cook Book, when I ran across this recipe by Julieanna Hever.

First let me say, if you are looking for inspiration with a plant based diet, there are a lot of great looking recipes in this book- 300 to be exact. This one was the first to make me get up out of my chair and actually make a shopping list.

Bonus: This is good hot, cold and even raw. You can't go wrong.

The recipe calls for brown rice noodles but I decided to up the veggie content and go with fresh zucchini instead. I also added some carrot shreds and garnish. You could make this totally raw if you prefer but I did steam the veggies and veggie noodles to lessen the crunch and chewing.

For the raw version, just forget the stove instructions. And of course you can substitute a cooked noodle of your choice for the zucchini.

Spirooli in Action

While you can always use a hand vegetable peeler or even a julienne peeler to make noodles, I decided to use the Spirooli. This is a new toy for me that I instantly loved. It makes long noodles out of lots of different vegetables in minutes. It's easy to clean, dishwasher safe and I like that the three different blade types fit in a little drawer type set up in the machine itself for simple storage. Little suction feet help it to stick to the counter top too so it doesn't move around on you. For someone wanting to move away from gluten, or packaged food this is a great gadget to have around.

Spicy Peanut Zucchini Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots

Adapted from the book Forks Over Knives, the Cookbook

A delicious and refreshing noodle bowl whether served hot or cold. Slightly spicy peanut dressing adds a great flavor to the zucchini, broccoli and carrots. 


5 medium sized zucchini (also called courgettes, and green summer squash) or 8 ounces of noodles
4 cups broccoli florets, about 2 large heads
2 large carrots, julienned (if organic there is no need to peel)
1/2- 1 cup coconut water, fresh or bottled is fine
3 tablespoons peanut butter, or nut butter of choice. (I used some nothing added peanut butter.)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup ( B grade), or liquid sweetener of choice
2 tablespoons of Bragg's Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

Garnish: (optional)

1 chopped green onion, green part only
1 tablespoon chopped cashew pieces
1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds

Start with making your noodles. Figure about 1 zucchini per person but plan for left overs too.

If using grain based noodles, start the water on the stove top and follow package directions. When the noodles are done, add the broccoli and carrots to the water and cook about 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

If steaming your veggies including zucchini noodles, set a large pot and steamer on the stove with enough water to cover the bottom and bring to a boil.  Add individually zucchini noodles, broccoli and carrots until lightly steamed, a couple of minutes. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

For the sauce:

Blend 1/2 cup of coconut water, nut butter, maple syrup, Bragg's Aminos, ginger and red pepper until well combined, adding more coconut water until desired consistency. Serve cold or heat gently in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until warmed through. Note: heating may make the sauce thicker.

Pour sauce over noodles and toss well. Plate and garnish with cashew pieces, green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

So there you have it; a great fresh noodle dish with loads of flavor. Perfect for summer.

This is my entry for Healthy Vegan Fridays  blog party and also for Raw Food Thursdays

So have you made noodles from veggies? or is there another great gluten free noodle that you've discovered? I'd love to hear what people are trying and liking.

Until next time…keep it real, the food that is.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Veggie Wrap with Spicy Asian Hummus

Tired of salads and miss sandwiches? Try a wrap! It's an easy and tasty way to get your veggies in.

The combinations are virtually endless but we are finding that one ingredient makes a big difference- hummus. Lately we have been learning that hummus is a staple we need to have in the fridge at all times. It's a great way to eat raw vegetables as a dip. I can down a whole bag of baby carrots if I have hummus around. It's also a good substitute for mayo and cheese in wraps like above or pitas, bread sandwiches….  the list goes on. 

I have been making all kinds of hummus lately trying to find that favorite combo of flavors that will be the regular star of our fridge.

I have to tell you that I never really liked hummus before I tried some raw versions. And I actually hear this a lot. I also hear that people like hummus but hummus doesn't necessarily like them. I think it's the chickpeas. Some people have trouble digesting them. For me they are kind of gritty in texture and not as smooth as some others. I've been experimenting with tahini based as well as white bean hummus/dip lately. The culprit to avoid in store bought hummus and many recipes is OIL! Some can have 1/2 a cup or more!

That's pure fat and don't be fooled; it isn't a good fat either! Tahini on the other hand is just ground sesame seeds and in limited amounts is actually healthy. I've read reviews where people say this or that recipe is "so light and low fat" because it doesn't have 2 tablespoons of tahini but it has over 1/2 a cup of oil! 

That just won't fly. I try to keep my portion of seeds/ tahini to less than 1 ounce per day, which is doable with a good recipe. But I am way off track because this recipe has neither olive oil or tahini in it.

I adapted this recipe from the creative minds over at White on Rice Couple's blog. For their original recipe check here.  I've made some changes to lower the fat content but the main tasting ingredient here is the Spicy Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. I chose the cannellini white kidney beans due to the creaminess when blended.

Spicy Asian White Bean Hummus/ Dip


1 15-ounce can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed but save the bean water from the can.
1/4 cup of the bean water or water as needed
1-2 tablespoons Sriracha Hot Sauce, per taste
2 teaspoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos or a low salt Tamari/ Soy Sauce
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and pressed, unless using a high speed blender then just peeled
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoons of lime juice

Drain the beans and then rinse well, saving the bean fluid.

Blend all the ingredients starting with 2 tablespoons of the bean water. If you need to thin it to get it going add a little more until desired consistency. Blend until creamy. Hummus is one of those things that gets better with a little time so let sit in the fridge for a bit before serving, if you can wait.

Enjoy this spicy dip with anything you can think of.  Or make…

 A Veggie Wrap

This combination idea came from Dr. Esselstyn and his wife, Ann from the their best selling book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.


tomatoes, chopped
green onions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
carrots, shredded
pea sprouts

I used a gluten free wrap by the Tortilla Factory that uses a whole grain, ivory teff (check it out here.) It was quite good but you do need to heat it a little first to make it pliable. A whole grain wrap such as the Ezekiel brand would be a good choice too if you don't have gluten sensitivities. 

Preheat oven to 450.
Spread the wrap, once pliable with the hummus. The more the better. (I was a little skimpy here.) Then pile up your veggies and roll as tightly as you can. Slice in half and then heat until crispy in the oven, about 10 minutes.


But don't just take my word for it. Check out the happy face of my taste tester, Rich.
He was just reading over my shoulder as I was posting this and said those were really good! When can we make those again? I guess I know what to make for lunch tomorrow. ;-)

So, do you have a favorite hummus recipe or dip that's light on the oil and salt?
What are your favorite ways to eat hummus? or are you like I was and hummus squeamish still?
I'm telling you, step away from the store bought stuff and even the chickpeas if you don't like them and try something new. You may be surprised.

Until next time…

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