formats

Berry “Feta” Salad

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Have you ever eaten something that was so good you found yourself thinking about it later? Daydreaming about it? Considering leaving work early just so you could eat it? This happened to me recently. But it didn’t have anything to do with chocolate (believe it or not). It was salad. I know it doesn’t make sense. But this salad is REALLY good.

It all started on a recent trip to Florida with friends. We took turns cooking a meal in the evening to save money. One of the ladies prepared a wonderful salad made with berries, feta cheese, and chicken. It was hands down one of the best salads I’ve ever had. So when I got home I decided I needed to make a vegan version of this salad so I could continue to enjoy it. While the chicken was a nice addition, I knew I could live without that, especially because there are nuts on the salad (which I will get to in a minute). But the feta cheese…that was a whole other thing.

I’ve only had feta a few other times in my life, so I can’t say I’m a huge feta fan, but it definitely is the shining star of this salad. I started scouring recipe sites looking for a vegan feta cheese recipe. I found one with great reviews and decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed at all! This vegan feta recipe is from Happy Herbivore. It’s a tofu-based, low fat recipe. I followed the recipe exactly except used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar (it’s all I had on hand), and I used a basic Italian seasoning blend because I didn’t have all of the spices on hand individually. The recipe makes a nice amount; I ended up getting six large servings out of mine. Here’s a look at the finished feta by itself.

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Now on to the other star of this salad: honey nuts. The original salad I ate had honey roasted peanuts on it — the kind you buy in a jar. And you could certainly do that on this salad. But I wanted something a little more healthy so I created my own version. I simply chopped almonds and cashews in a food processor. Then I added a tablespoon of honey and a bit of salt and stirred it well. I put the mixture in the skillet and let it brown up, stirring regularly. Woah! Seriously good stuff. These honey nuts make an excellent addition to salad and I’m sure would be great on other things, like ice cream! And of course they’re great to munch on all by themselves.

This salad really is simple, but it’s amazing how the flavors work together. We’re now getting fresh, local strawberries here in Michigan and this salad is a great way to highlight them. I used to think it was so weird when people put fruit on salad, but sometimes you just have to be open to trying something new to realize how good it is!

There is no dressing for this salad, only a squeeze of fresh lemon. And yes, I think it needs to be fresh. The taste is just so much better. If you wanted to add a drizzle of olive oil, you could, but I liked it just fine without it.

I made this salad two nights in a row it was so good (and my official taste testers agreed). I don’t use tofu a lot, but I just bought more over the weekend so I can make the feta cheese again. I’m already dreaming about the next salad…

 

Berry "Feta" Salad
Author: 
 
A fresh salad made with berries, vegan feta cheese, and honey nuts. Delicious, healthy, vegan, and gluten-free!
Ingredients
  • Lettuce (I used spring mix)
  • Berries (can use one kind or an assortment - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Vegan feta cheese
  • Honey nuts (see instructions)
  • Fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. There are no measurements here because it really depends on how much salad you want to make. Simply layer the ingredients together. I did lettuce, berries, nuts, and cheese, then added the fresh lemon (I used one lemon for three large salads).
  2. To make the honey nuts, coarsely chop ⅔ cup almonds and ⅓ cup cashews in a food processor (you can use any variety of nuts you want). Put the nuts in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of honey and a scant ⅛ tsp. salt (or less), and mix well. You want to make sure the nuts are all coated. Transfer to a small skillet over medium heat. Allow them to brown slightly, stirring regularly (don't let them burn). You could also roast them in the oven; I chose to do it on the stove because it was faster. This is enough nuts for several salads...and for snacking, too!

 

formats

Catching Up

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Summer is here…or at least it’s really close. I’ve had some wonderful, fresh berries recently. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the fruit salad above. It was so perfect! The other day I saw a similar photo on Facebook with the caption, “Nature’s Skittles.” Way better than Skittles if you ask me!

I must admit I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. As you know, life has a way of keeping us busy (and occasionally throwing us a curve ball). A little distraction and our good intentions go right down the drain. I haven’t experimented in the kitchen in weeks. I haven’t been eating all that great either. One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep myself on track with my personal health and weight loss goals. So here I am, taking a step back in the right direction.

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Here’s one of those steps. A simple veggie stir fry I made the other night. So easy and very satisfying. Peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms. I didn’t use any oil and just seasoned them with a little cumin, paprika, chili powder, and an all-purpose vegetable seasoning. Yum! As I was putting everything in the pan, I just knew I had to share it. Look at those beautiful colors!

I’m working on getting back in the swing of things. I haven’t weighed myself in at least three weeks. I’m a little nervous to get on the scale to be honest. My clothes still fit, so it can’t be too bad, right?

I hope to have some new recipes to post very soon. With everything green and growing around me and the promise of warm breezes and summer sunshine, I can’t help but feel inspired!

formats

Kiwi Cream Crumble (Raw)


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First things first…technically this recipe may not be raw. I used dried coconut. I don’t know what temperature the coconut was dried at so it might not actually be raw. And there are a couple other minor ingredients I’m not 100% sure about. However, it’s close enough for me!

Now on to the good stuff.  As in the wonderful, fresh flavor of kiwi mixed with light cream and topped off with a coconut crumble. If you’re not a fan of kiwi, you can use any fruit in this recipe. But who’s not a fan of kiwi? This is seriously yummy stuff. And this is a very easy recipe, so I hope you’ll give it a try!

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I have read that you can make your own coconut butter by simply processing the heck out of shredded coconut in a food processor or blender. So that’s how I started the base of the crumble. I dumped in some coconut and let that baby process for a good long while. Okay, so it wasn’t that long because I’m not that patient, but I’m guessing it was at least five minutes. I didn’t get full on coconut butter, but it was definitely starting to get some creaminess to it. Then I added in some almonds and raisins (great for natural sweetening) and let it go for awhile again. It was beginning to get a nut butter texture but still had a fine crumble to it (see pic above). I think there could be enough moistness in the crumble that you could press it into a dish and use it as a crust if you wanted to (but I haven’t tried that, so I don’t know for sure…just an idea).

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The cream is very simple to make with raw cashews. I made three servings of this little dessert and had some cream left over for another recipe…of course mine didn’t make it to another recipe. It’s yummy all by itself or as a dip for any fruit.

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I remembered I had some fresh pomegranate in the fridge, so I topped off this serving with a few seeds. Isn’t it so pretty? The pomegranate was a nice addition, both in color and flavor, so I highly recommend it! And let’s not forget pomegranate is super healthy for you. I’ve been adding a bit of juice to all my smoothies lately. So good!

Kiwi Cream Crumble (Raw)
Author: 
Serves: 3
 
A light dessert made with fresh kiwi, cashew cream, and a crumble made with coconut, almonds, and raisins. Vegan, gluten free, grain free, raw.
Ingredients
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • ¼ c. almonds
  • ¼ c. raisins
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • dash salt
  • 1 c. raw cashews
  • ½ c. water
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • scant ⅛ tsp. stevia powder
  • 2-3 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • fresh pomegranate (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put the coconut in a food processor and process for several minutes until you see the first signs of it becoming "butter."
  2. Add in the almonds, raisins, cinnamon, and salt. Continue to process several more minutes until creaminess develops but you still have a fine crumble.
  3. In a strong blender (I use a Vitamix), add cashews, water, vanilla, and stevia. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  4. In serving dishes, layer kiwi, cream, and crumble.
  5. Top with fresh pomegranate seeds if desired.

 

 

formats

Orange Cream Salad

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Have you ever had that jello salad made with cool whip, cottage cheese, and some type of fruit like pineapple or oranges? We call it “the green stuff” because we often make it with lime jello, but we’ve used orange many times, too. It is one of my all-time favorites for family gatherings.

I decided to try my hand at creating a healthier version, and the result thus far is this creamy orange salad. No, it is not exactly the same. It’s not quite as thick and lacks some of the texture the cottage cheese brings, but it is still very good in its own right.

 

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I’ve made this recipe twice, and it makes enough to serve at a gathering, which is what I did the second time around.  The orange color comes from the secret ingredient: carrot! Yes, I’ve been finding all sorts of uses for carrots as of late. The second time I made this recipe, I used a larger carrot than I should have and the result was an orange color that was a little more orange than I wanted (as you can see in the photo above). To be quite honest, it made me think of nacho cheese, which is really not what I was going for. But it still tasted great. So if you try this recipe, just be sure you don’t put in too much carrot!

 

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The thickness comes in part from the coconut butter (note this is coconut butter not coconut oil, and in my opinion there’s a big difference), but the addition of xanthan and guar gum is what really thickens it up. I’ve been experimenting with using these gums in ice cream, so that’s how they ended up in this recipe. Actually, I’m pretty sure you could put this recipe in your ice cream freezer with good results. Mmmm… I’m having visions of orange creamsicles…

While I have been experimenting with xanthan and guar gum, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about them as ingredients yet. When I try this recipe again, I think I’m going to start with an agar base and see how that turns out. I’ve also thought about adding in some chunky tofu in place of the cottage cheese. If it turns out good, I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it!

 

Orange Cream Salad
Author: 
 
A rich, dessert-like salad made with almond milk, coconut butter, carrot, and clementines or mandarin oranges. Vegan, grain-free, gluten-free.
Ingredients
  • 3 c. almond milk
  • ½ + ⅛ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ + ⅛ tsp. guar gum
  • ⅛ tsp. stevia powder**
  • 3 T. xylitol (I used it in powdered sugar form)**
  • ¼ tsp. orange flavor*
  • 1 small to medium carrot (not too big!)
  • ⅓ c. coconut butter
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 5 clementines or mandarin oranges, peeled, seeded & cut in chunks
Instructions
  1. Put everything except the clementines in the blender and blend until smooth. It will thicken right away.
  2. If you don't have a high-powered blender, I'd suggest adding the xanthan and guar gum last and then blending right away so they don't have time to get clumpy.
  3. Stir in the clementines into the blended mixture and then keep the salad chilled until you're ready to serve it.
  4. I suggest chilling it for at least a couple hours before serving.
Notes
*There is a difference between orange flavorings, and I've discovered a big difference between orange flavoring or extract and orange oil. The strength of the flavor can vary a lot depending on the variety you have. I suggest testing it out and starting with a very small amount and increasing the flavor as needed. You may need more or less than what this recipe calls for.
**You could definitely experiment with sweeteners in this recipe. I used stevia and xylitol to keep it as low glycemic as possible, but certainly there are other options.