Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

“Chinese Chicken” Salad

This is an old recipe of mine, which I used to do a lot and then forgot about until recently. It’s a bit labor intensive, and slightly evil (if deep-fried tofu qualifies) but it’s a serious crowd-pleaser and gets people into eating heaps of salad so I think it’s worth it.

Vegetarian “Chinese Chicken” Salad for 8Vegetarian "Chinese Chicken" Salad

  • 2 # tofu
  • 1 -2 cups peanut oil (for deep-frying)
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1/4 t. white pepper


  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • high quality salt
  • white pepper


  • 2 romaine heads, cut into 1″ strips
  • 2 cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1/2 green apple, sliced paper-thin
  • 1/2 red pepper, in thin strips
  • 2/3 cups toasted almonds
  • 2/3 packs rice or bean thread noodles (optional)
  • 2/3 cups thinly onions or shallots (optional)

Make the tofu “chicken” by cutting tofu into thin strips –  roughly 1 x 3 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Deep fry in small batches in hot peanut oil, draining well on fresh paper towels as you go. As you fry, combine water, soy sauce, maple syrup, yeast, chili and white pepper in a large deep skillet or braising pan, bring to a boil.  As you fry, add well-drained batches of fried tofu to the simmering liquid, mixing in as you add each new batch. Continue to boil the tofu in sauce, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid in the pan is absorbed and the tofu just begins to caramelize on the bottom of the pan.  Watch it carefully here and pull off just before it browns or starts to burn. There should be a nice slightly thickened glaze coating all the tofu, and some tofu pieces will be a bit crunchier than others – that’s all good. Transfer to a sheet pan or baking sheet and cool completely.

Once the tofu is out, deep fry handfuls of dry rice or bean threads very quickly in the hot oil just until they puff up. Drain on towels. Fry onions or shallots if using.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients to combine. Set aside.

Vegetarian Chinese Chicken Salad and Ginger Carrot SoupSesame BunsWhen ready to assemble, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, topping with cooled tofu and fried noodles, and toss lightly with some of the salad dressing. Serve immediately while the noodles are still crisp, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

For a great almost-Fall meal, I serve this with sesame or scallion buns, and a hot (or chilled, depending on how almost it is) ginger carrot soup…

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Fresh, Recipes, Salads, Vegan Recipes | , , | 4 Comments

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

This is the recipe that made me like quinoa, maybe even love it: fluffy quinoa with asparagus drenched in basil pesto, good enough right there… but then served with fresh ripe tomatoes and warm roasted portobello mushrooms – it’s a knockout combination. I owe thanks to Chef Tracy Morrisette, whom I worked with at the Goddess Garden in Costa Rica earlier this year, who convinced me with this combination that quinoa could be fantastic. If you are (like I was) in the camp that quinoa is no better than glorified bird seed, this recipe will convert you. (Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain – it is gluten-free, very high in magnesium (cardiovascular health) and also has more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than most grains. It’s also naturally high in protein and fiber.)

This can be served nearly raw as a summer salad or lightly baked as a gorgeous entree…

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portobello (serves 4)

  • 4 medium-sized vine ripe tomatoes, (or two large heirloom)
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (for 8 minute recipe, see below*)
  • 6 T  creamy blue-green basil pesto (any version)
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, in 1″ pieces
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 T water
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (opt)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 4 medium portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T well aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t maple syrup, palm sugar or agave (if balsamic is not well aged)
  • Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Prep the tomatoes: Cut the tops off of medium tomatoes, or cut the big heirlooms in half, horizontally.With your fingers, gently scoop out all seeds and inner membranes of each tomato, leaving a hollow cup. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in gently with your hands. Let sit while you prepare the quinoa.

Prep portobello: toss mushrooms with oil and vinegar salt and pepper until well coated all around. Taste and adjust – should be delicious already. Spread out in single layer on heavy baking pan.

Make Pesto-Quinoa Pilaf: Quickly saute asparagus with a small amount of olive oil, water and salt for 1 -2 minutes until slightly tender, toss with squeeze of lemon and zest. Toss in quinoa, nutritional yeast and warm through gently. Add pesto – taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Stuff each tomato or tomato half generously with quinoa pilaf. (If tomatoes are small they can be split into 4 quarters to accommodate more filling, but not necessary.) Organize in baking dish or sheetpan and place both portobello and tomatoes in very hot oven to roast for 10 – 15 minutes or just until tomatoes are hot through and top of pilaf has a touch of brown. Portobellos should be ready in about the same time but keep and eye on them.

I served with a lightly dressed arugula salad (arugula and a squeeze of lemon in the unwashed mushroom marinade bowl… ).

~~~~~~~~Other Versions: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Stuffed Tomato Salad – just don’t roast:  serve room temp pilaf in the fresh tomato shells over arugula, with un-roasted marinated portobellos on the side.

Un-stuffed Salad: Forget the whole stuffing thing, and just serve a big  scoop of warm or room temp pilaf over a plate or bowl of gorgeous sliced summer tomatoes.

Pesto Quinoa with Garlic Scapes: replace asparagus with fresh garlic scapes in above recipe.


*Tracy’s 8-minute Fluffy Quinoa:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch sea salt

Wash quinoa several times to get rid of soapy taste. Cover in fresh water and let soak 1 hour or over night to activate enzymes (skip this if you are in a rush). Rinse one more time drain. Boil quinoa gently in small pot for 8 minutes only in salted water. (Yes, it’s really only 8 minutes and a 1:1 ratio- even a bit less if you are making a very large pot of 8 cups or more). Fluff with fork, cover tightly and let rest for 5-10 minutes more to totally fluff up and expand.

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 7 Comments

Raw Pad Thai with Young Coconut “Noodles”

The Farmer's Market in Limon

Like the Raw Lasagna, my Raw Pad Thai recipe is also an adaptation from Russell James’ original recipe. (If you haven’t already – sign up for his email list to get the original emailed to you). This recipe is extremely flexible so use what you have on hand. I made this one with tahini because for some reason that is available here but also have made it with almonds, almond butter, and peanuts and it’s great. I used raw bok choy which I was lucky to find in the farmer’s market in Limon and love the combination of that with the arugula, but napa cabbage is great too, and of course if you can get mung bean sprouts (I can’t) then that would add a more Pad Thai touch to the recipe.

Young coconuts and tamarind are easily available in this part of Costa Rica, but you may have to do a bit of sleuthing to find them in your home town. Look for Tamarind Paste in your local Hispanic market (ask for Tamarindo) and both tamarind paste and young coconuts, or “white coconuts” can often be found in the produce section of Chinese or Southeast Asian markets, and in some high-end markets like Whole Foods.  You can also ask your local health food store to order you a case of young coconuts – they come 9 to a box – and then cut them all open and freeze the meat and juice to have on hand all the time. I love young coconuts! This is just one of the many ways you can use them.

Raw Pad Thai “Noodles” and Vegetables – Serves 4

Young Coconuts

  • 2 – 3 young coconuts
  • 1 ½ cups arugula, torn into 3′ pieces
  • 2 carrots, ribboned with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 cups young bok choy, sliced thin on diagonal
  • 1 spring onions, sliced thin on diagonal
  • 8 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped

Pad Thai Sauce

  • 1 oz tamarind paste (or 2 dried apricots, one date, plus 1 T lemon juice)
  • 3 T palm sugar, or coconut crystals, or sucanat
  • 1 T red miso
  • 1 t sesame oil (leave out if using nuts instead of tahini)
  • 4 sundried tomato halves, soaked
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 t dulse flakes or kelp powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, seeded and minced
  • 6 T tahini

Make Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a Vitamix or other high speed blender and blend until smooth.

Prepare Noodles: Cut open the top of the coconuts with a large sturdy cleaver over a large bowl, being careful to capture the juice. (Use juice for another purpose… like drinking!) With the back of a spoon, gently work out large pieces of the white flesh from the inner shell. (If you are new to this, Dr Ralph gives a thorough video intro to coconut whacking here). Slice the meat of the coconut in to long, fettuccine-like pieces.

Assemble Pad Thai: In a large bowl, toss together all vegetables, reserving a pinch of basil and cilantro for garnish. Pour 1/2 sauce over vegetables and massage gently with your hands to coat well and soften vegetables. Add coconut noodles and toss gently, adding some or all of the remaining sauce to taste. Allow to sit for 1/2 – 1 hour to allow flavors to combine and serve with a sprinkle of herbs and a slice of lime.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Pasta, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ariana Salad (Vegan Caesar Salad)

Named after a vegan friend of mine who doesn’t like cashews, which I normally use as a base for vegan Caesar salad dressing, this dressing was made with Brazil nuts.  Brazil nuts are incredibly high in selenium, a trace mineral and powerful antioxidant which has been shown to strengthen the immune system, help prevent cancer, be great for your heart, and also be a mood enhancer…! 1 – 2 nuts a day will do the trick.  Since this recipe was originally adapted from a  vegetarian Caesar dressing recipe using a base of feta cheese, obviously you can switch out the Brazil nuts with raw tofu, cashews, feta cheese, or any combination you have on hand. Don’t tell Ariana but I did hers with half cashews and half Brazil nuts, and she loved it! 😉

Vegan Cesar Salad

  • 3/4 c cashews, Brazil nuts, tofu (or feta if not Vegan)
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic
  • juice of one lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 c olive oil (light is best)
  • 1 T umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 T capers
  • Salt, black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender or vita-mix and blend. Adjust for salt (use less if doing the feta version).Toss over washed and dried romaine lettuce. Top with freshly toasted garlic croutons and serve immediately. Makes 2 cups.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Salads, Vegan Recipes | Leave a comment