Walnut meat taco salad (with from-scratch catalina!)

vegan taco salad walnut meat

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes make this taco salad of iceberg lettuce with ground beef, cheddar cheese, veggies, and nacho cheese doritos crunched up all over the top.  Then it was all tossed with Kraft Catalina.  It was one of my favorite meals!  Not authentic at all but the sweet dressing + the savory meat, chips and cheese + the crunch of the veggies was heaven.

I had a lot of tomatoes from the garden so I made a pico de gallo, and I had a pot of black beans in the fridge, which inspired me to make this much healthier version of my mom’s classic, complete with homemade catalina.  If youre not a fan of catalina dressing, a simple lime vinaigrette like I used in this post would also be good here.

There are quite a few components to this salad, but it is not hard and doesn’t take too long.  I made it on a day when my husband was home so I didnt have littles hanging all over me while trying to get it all together. 😉  You can also always sub in pre made guac, pico, and dressing for less chopping work!

Vegan Taco Salad (serves about 4)

1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

2c shredded red cabbage

Pico De Gallo:

3 large tomatoes

1/2 medium to large yellow onion

1 lime

1/2 bunch of cilantro

1 jalapeno

Guac:

1 jalapeno

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 green onion

3 avocados

1 lime

Raw Walnut Taco “Meat”

2c walnuts

1T cumin

1t smoked paprika

1.5t chili powder

2T tamari/soy sauce

Catalina Dressing:

1/2c organic ketchup

1/2c coconut sugar

1/2c red wine vinegar

1/2c onion

1t paprika

1/2t (vegan)worcestershire sauce

1c avocado oil

s+p

 

cashew sour cream (optional)

tortilla chips (OMG YOU GUYS I DIDNT HAVE ANY IN THE HOUSE!!!  What is a taco salad without CHIPS!!  I almost sent my husband to the store to get some but I was hungry and the salad was still really good without them.)

 

First make your taco meat.  Whiz the walnuts and spices + tamari in the food processor until it resembles ground beef (smallish crumbly pieces)  Taste a bit and season more to your liking.  Set aside.  Wipe out the food processor.

Then make the pico.  Chop up 1/2 the onion, the tomatoes, 1 jalapeño and 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro.  Mix together and add the juice of 1 lime + salt and pepper.

Now make your catalina.  Blend all ingredients until smooth and season to taste.  I added a squeeze of lemon after tasting it.

Next make your guac.  Scoop out your avocados into the food processor.  Take the other 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro and add that too.  Add in 1 green onion, roughly chopped, the juice of a lime, and a roughly chopped jalapeño.  Pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season to taste with s+p.

To assemble:

Place lettuce in bowl, then on top: cabbage, pico, beans, walnut meat, tortilla chips.  Drizzle with some catalina.  Toss to coat and add more dressing if desired.  Top with the guac, cashew sour cream, sliced jalapenos, and green onions.  Serve immediately- it gets soggy relatively fast.

Much love, A.

P.S.-These are the last of my tomatoes!

homegrown tomatoes

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Black rice and roasted squash salad.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I saw this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit and I had to try it!  It looked so bright and colorful.  Grain salads are so satisfying and keep well in the fridge.  I loved how this turned out, it’s definitely a keeper.  I served this with a quick coconut milk-miso-lime butternut squash soup (made from the other half of the squash from the recipe), and my chili roasted brussels.

microgreen black rice salad pomegranate butternut squash honey

Black rice and roasted squash salad. (adapted from Bon Appetit’s January 2014 issue)

2 cups black rice

½ medium butternut squash (or kabocha, or acorn) peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for roasting squash

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (maple syrup would also work here)

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup microgreens or sprouts (I used some overgrown spicy microgreens, roughly chopped)

½ cup pistachios, chopped (pepitas or hazelnuts would also go well here)

Preheat the oven to 450.  In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, add rice and 2.5c stock or water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, take off lid.  Place kitchen towel (folded in half to fit) over open pot.  Replace lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  (This step ensures fluffy, perfect and NOT SOGGY rice every time without a rice cooker.)  Allow rice to cool a little before assembling salad- warm rice is fine, just not hot as it will wilt the fresh produce.

Meanwhile, toss squash with a few tablespoons of oil, and a little salt and pepper.  Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (for easy cleanup and no sticking) and bake for 30-45 minutes, until squash is  soft, golden and browned around the edges.  Allow squash to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.

While squash is cooling, mix the oil, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl.

Place rice and squash in a large bowl.  Add pistachios, scallions and pom seeds.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the microgreens and vinaigrette; toss gently.  Serve!

Note:  If you will have leftovers, keep the microgreens separate  otherwise they will go soggy in the fridge which is no fun.

 

Gingery sesame-soy vinaigrette + a simple salad to serve it on.

asian carrot romaine apple salad sesame gingerI have been craving salad after salad this winter.  I think it is because I crave the vibrant colors and raw textures of summer produce.  Bright and colorful salads are a sweet spot in winter.  Packed with color and therefore nutrition, they are a great way to get your family’s veggies in!  Serve with a simple soup, baked sweet potatoes, or a quinoa dish and you have a complete meal.  This is a simple and quick salad to put together as a side yet it looks beautiful and it is so good!

The dressing is a sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette that keeps well in the fridge.  A few years ago I started making my own salad dressings and I’ve never looked back.  They are SO much more delicious than any store-bought dressing and you know exactly what goes in them!  Pictured below is the leftover dressing I had after using it on 2 adult salads and 1 kid salad.  Probably about a cup leftover.  You could easily double the recipe so you could keep it on hand for future salad-eating.

s

Sesame-ginger vinaigrette:

1/3c rice vinegar (unseasoned)

1T sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

small piece of ginger, minced (about 1/2-1t, depending on your taste)

1T toasted sesame seeds

2 1/2T soy sauce

1/4c brown sugar

1/3c oil, I used avocado oil

1 thinly sliced green onion

1T fresh orange or tangerine juice (optional-if you dont have any on hand, dont sweat it)

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a mason jar to store.  Oil will separate so make sure to give it a good shake before you use it otherwise you’ll only be getting oil.

I served this over a simple salad of romaine, sliced rainbow carrots, chopped pink lady apple, and a little thinly sliced red onion.  It would also play well with Napa cabbage, asian pear, tangerines/oranges, cucumber, avocado, or spinach.  Use whatever you have on hand!  The beauty of cooking is in experimenting and making the recipe your own.  Enjoy!

Love, A.

Mexican style chopped salad (raw vegan)

vegan mexican radish chopped salad

I love chopped salads.  There is something wonderful about the differences of textures and flavors between the ingredients.  This one is Mexican style with cilantro, pepitas, radish, avocado, and a lime vinaigrette.  I’ve made it twice already-once for me and once for family and it is a favorite with all.  Watermelon radish is a mild radish with a green skin and a white and hot pink flesh, hence the name.

watermelon radish

I’ve grown them in my garden this year and they are super easy, just like other radishes.  They only take about 4 weeks to mature and they are a great cover crop.  Easy to grow in pots too!

Radish and orange chopped salad
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 avocado, pitted peeled and diced

large handful cilantro, roughly chopped

2 watermelon radishes or 5 red radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced (use less if you don’t care for onion)

1 cucumber, quartered and chopped

1/2 a small jicama, peeled and cut into match sticks

3 small to medium oranges, peeled and pith cut away, then cut crosswise into thin slices (take care to remove seeds)

1 small head romaine lettuce, washed dried and chopped

1/4c pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), toasted or kept raw if preferred

juice of 2-3 limes

3T avocado oil or other neutral tasting oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4t salt

Combine lime juice, oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and mix well.  Let sit at least 5 minutes while combining all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the salad, mix well, and serve immediately.  I served this with black bean soup and it was perfect together!

Since its Saturday, I’m making my meal plan for the coming week, which includes 5 easy healthy dinners:

1.Tempeh walnut meatballs with zucchini noodles and sautéed thyme mushrooms

2. Sweet and sour pineapple and red bell with cashews and sugar snap peas over coconut rice

3. Burrito bowls: Black beans, rice, guacamole, Pico de gallo, sautéed fajita veggies (red and green bells, red onion), lettuce.

4. Spicy Thai coconut soup with mushrooms and edamame

5. Black eyed pea succotash and sautéed kale.

Love, A.

Creamy Mandarin sesame ginger dressing. (oil free, salt free, raw vegan)

creamy raw vegan citrus cashew dressing low fat oil free salt free

Today is day 7/21 of the low-fat raw vegan challenge I’m participating in.  Its been pretty easy so far, not even one craving until today actually!  For some reason I’ve been dreaming of sushi and ramen and pizza and pho [all vegan of course] all day.  But, I digress.

The main 2 challenges I have experienced thus far have been: (1) Not being able to get as creative or varied in the kitchen.  I LOVE cooking, baking, presentation, and eating food.  I love seeing food in restaurants, magazines, online, or on Instagram and then recreating it at home.  Its been hard being so limited with dinner, and cooking a seperate dinner for my 5 year old.  (2) The amount of time involved in eating this way.  Planning how much food I will need, buying all the food, preparing the meals, and just the sheer volume of eating has been tough, especially with the kids.  My salad at night (I split 3 HUGE heads of lettuce with my husband) takes me about an hour to eat….but at least I have found this great recipe (adapted from Low Fat Raw Vegan Chef) for dressing that makes it enjoyable.  I posted about it a few weeks ago on Instagram but never got around to blogging about it.  This dressing is technically not great food combining (acid+sweet fruit=no no, also fruit+fat is generally a no too) but its delicious and makes eating a pound and a half of greens enjoyable.  Baby steps, right?

Creamy mandarin sesame ginger dressing. (yields about 2c)

1/3 c raw cashews, soaked for a few hours and then drained

3/4c fresh squeezed mandarin, tangerine, or orange juice

3 medjool dates, pitted

1 small pinky of ginger (add more if you desire)

1T raw sesame tahini, or 2T of raw sesame seeds

Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender.  If you have a regular blender, I recommend soaking the cashews overnight and soaking the dates for an hour, as well as finely mincing the ginger with a knife before adding it to the blender to ensure smooth creamy results.

I’ve been loving this combo with romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, and jicama.  Crunchy and savory.  Yum!

Personally, I have not felt too many differences during this week of 80/10/10 low-fat raw vegan than my normal diet of fruit for breakfast, mostly raw for lunch, and a cooked vegan meal for dinner.  I probably will not continue to eat 100% low-fat raw vegan after this challenge as it is: expensive, time-consuming, and makes me think about food all the time (ie inputting what I ate into Cronometer and weighing stuff to make sure I’m getting enough calories).  I don’t know…thinking so much about food seems counterintuitive to me.  Mostly I listen to my body and decide what to eat based on that, which works well for me!  Nothing against the diet itself, I think its great and applaud the people who are successfully following it.  It’s just not fully compatible with my life at this point in time…just food for thought.

Tangy apple-herb vinaigrette and citrus salad (raw vegan)

citrus salad raw cucumber rolls

Its winter here.  ITS FREEZING COLD.  I was finding myself quite sad as I scrolled (on Instagram) through lots of beautiful pictures of tropical fruit and watermelon from all the people I follow in Australia and Hawaii.  At the moment, we in California are experiencing a cold snap that is out of character for these parts.  My baby grapefruit tree that I planted this summer is dead, along with almost all my lettuces, ginger, snap peas, and most everything else in my winter garden.  So bummed.  I need to figure out some indoor gardening.  Anyways, I was just really needing some vibrant color in my food.

I came across a recipe in an old Bon Appetit for a Granny Smith apple vinaigrette that looked interesting.  I made it, but decided it definitely needed a little punch to it.  Enter herbs!  Parsley, cilantro, tarragon, thyme-any herb you desire would probably be good with this.  I chose to use cilantro because of the salad I used it on.  Herbs also offer TONS of health benefits.  They are loaded with minerals and micro-nutrients, anti-oxidants and detoxing qualities.  Cilantro chelates and binds with heavy metals in your body and carries them out of your digestive tract.

My salad was everything colorful- orange slices (pith cut away and oranges cut crosswise), watermelon radishes from the garden (or your local farmers market), pomegranate arils, and cilantro.  Sometimes I forget just how much colorful produce is in the winter.  I am a huge believer in making food look beautiful.  If its beautiful, it will get eaten, especially by children.  I’m pretty sure that’s why both my children love almost all fruits and veggies.

apple cider vinaigrette herb

Anyways, the dressing recipe!  Makes about 1 and 1/4 cups.

1 chopped Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled

1/4c raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1T fresh lime juice + 1t lime zest

1/4 parsley, cilantro, or combination of whatever herb you desire

1T minced shallot

1/2t raw sugar (omit if desired)

1/4c avocado* or other oil, adjust to how oily you like it (you could probably omit it too if you follow a low-fat diet)

salt +pepper

Purée apple, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice + zest in a blender, occasionally scraping down sides of blender with a spatula, until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing down on solids with spatula to extract all juice; discard solids. Return to blender and pulse with herbs, shallot and sugar. Whisk in oil until well blended. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Some of my ombre watermelon radishes that I used in the salad: (aren’t they just gorgeous!)

ombre watermelon radish

I used this as a dressing on my citrus salad, to dip my cucumber rolls in, and also on my green salad later that night.  It was fresh and simple and didn’t overpower any of the flavors in the salad.  Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Love, A.

*I get my avocado oil at Costco and i love it!  It has a totally neutral taste, is cold-pressed, and it withstands high temps without oxidizing and burning unlike olive and other oils.  Coconut oil does the same thing too but it has a decidedly coconutty tropical taste which is great but not in this dressing.