Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Creamy Beet Borscht with Horseradish Swirl

creamy beet borscht with horseradish creamBorscht is one of those things, like art, that everyone has an opinion about, but really, what is it?  My friend, the artist John Fadeff, who I think is also qualified to speak on this by nature of his fine cooking ability and Russian last name, told me that borscht in his family was anything that started with: 1 onion, 1/2 head of cabbage, and 3 beets, and then they would put all sorts of stuff in it afterwards, greens, beans, even meat. Really, anything goes with borscht –  look it up in Wikipedia – there are a bazillian varieties out there and everybody’s got one (they even make it in China, with tomatoes instead of beets), but anyway, per Mr. Fadeff: 1 onion, 1/2 cabbage and 3 beets is the basic ratio I always start with.

This borscht is the hot, thick and creamy kind – which I was recently told is the Hungarian variety, as opposed to the chunky Russian kind, or the chilled ones with dill and egg, or all the other variations there seem to be out there. The horseradish addition I am crediting to my friend Katherine, from Kosmic Kitchen, who used to do a horseradish sour cream to top a delicious red root soup (also a borscht, I guess: beet soup – with the addition of carrots, parsnips, ginger and all sorts of sweet rooty deliciousness.) I also adopted the ginger from her because I really like the warm spicy complexity it adds. This soup is all about balance of opposites: sweet, sour, spicy, smooth, hot, cold and creamy. It’s a perfect with a loaf of hot whole grain bread and salad.

Creamy Beet Borscht for 8

  • 2 large onions, in 1/2″ slice
  • 1 smallish head of cabbage, cut into 1 – 3″ pieces
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 huge beets or up to 6 medium ones, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 t. white pepper
  • 1 – 2 t. Himalayan or other high mineral salt
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 6 -8 cups water
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 – 2 t. maple syrup
  • 1/2″ fresh ginger, chopped coarsely

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot, saute onions and olive oil with a pinch of salt until sweet and slightly caramelized. About 5 minutes. Add cabbage, salt, pepper and bay leaves and continue to cook over medium flame, with the top half on, until the cabbage softens and also starts to caramelize, about 10 more minutes. Stir occasionally, and add a little water as necessary to deglaze the pan and keep it all cooking away. Add beets to the pot, and then add water (eyeball it) to about an inch or two over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the beets are thoroughly cooked though.

Remove bay leaves and blend with ginger in Vitamix or blender until completely smooth. Return to pot adjust for salt and pepper, then add vinegars and maple syrup, cautiously. The soup should be both sweet and slightly sour, and how much you add will depend on how naturally sweet your veggies are, how patiently you caramelized them, and how acidic your type of vinegar is. In any case – if it is not already “mmm… wow” ad this point, keep adjusting.

(This soup freezes really well – I do a large batch and freeze half of the batch for later).

Serve with a scoop or swirl of Tangy Horseradish Yogurt Sauce or Vegan Horseradish “Sour Cream” in each bowl.

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December 31, 2012 Posted by | Recipes, Sauces, Soups, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tangy Horseradish Sauce (Vegan and Non)

When I was growing up, my Japanese grandmother  – whom we all called “Granny” –  used to make a sauce with Best Foods Mayonnaise with a bit of soy sauce in it and serve this as a salad dressing on sliced tomatoes.  I know – it sounds weird…(Japanese meets 1950’s style middle American food culture!), but actually, you know, it’s a great combination. I ate “Granny’s Best Foods Sauce” on everything when I was growing up – it was my favorite dip for steamed artichokes (still basically is) and its also great with asparagus spears, whole blanched green beans, spears of broccoli or broccolini or broccoli rabe… this sauce totally makes veggies fun!

Over the years I played with adding other flavors like horseradish and capers, and started cutting the mayo with sour cream, then yogurt, and then finally, eliminating it all together in favor of a raw vegan version. At any given time I usually have a couple of versions of this sauce in my refrigerator – maybe one with cumin and lime to drizzle over anything Mexican, and usually a horseradish or caper version for artichokes or any other steamed vegetable. I also float a spoonful of this in my Creamy Beet Borscht soup recipe….

Tangy Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/4 c whole milk yogurt, (or Greek yogurt, or sour cream)
  • 1 T mayonnaise (I grew up with Hellman’s/Best Foods and nothing else tastes right to me)
  • a few drops of soy sauce (really, about 1/8th teaspoon – this makes it, and no one will know)
  • 1 t. horseradish (fresh, grated, if you can get it, or prepared is fine – look for “hot”)

Whisk together well in a small bowl. Serve with anything!

Vegan Horseradish “Sour Cream”

  • 1 c cashews, soaked 4 – 6 hours
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a few drops of soy sauce (really, about 1/8th teaspoon – this makes it, and no one will know)
  • 1 few drops of umeboshi vinegar (optional)
  • 2 t. horseradish (fresh, grated, if you can get it, or prepared is fine – look for “hot”)

Blend all ingredients, except horseradish, in a Vita-Mix until completely smooth. Mix in horseradish. Thin with water if needed to achieve desired consistency.

Play with it!

  • Add cumin and lime juice – use it alongside salsa and guacamole to top tacos, tostadas and anything else vaguely Mexican.
  • Replace horeradish with chopped capers, ad a bit of garlic and fresh lemon for another nice artichoke sauce.
  • Leave out horseradish and serve plain.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Gluten Free, Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan Recipes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chile Relleno Casserole with Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa

OK, January in NYC and just finally snowed today after a freakishly warm couple of months that were supposed to be winter. And what I am thinking about? Mexico. 2 years ago exactly…laying in a hammock in an amazing little oasis in Tulum called Posada Yum Kin, which is the kind of place that once you discover, you have to work your entire trip around because you don’t want to leave. I have done a lot of tropical traveling in the last couple of years, but when I close my eyes and wish to be teleported off for a week to someplace utterly relaxing… this is where I think of. A hammock …and the watermelon margaritas at Salsalito Taco Shop. Not necessarily in that order.

I also had some of the best chile rellenos I have ever had on that trip, at a place called Wet Wendy’s on Cozumel. It’s a margarita bar right in the middle of tourista-ville which was so tacky I am afraid to link you there, but if you are ever on Cozumel you have to go for their chiles, which are just huge, divine, deep-fried goodness.

Apart from the name, this recipe has nothing to do with what they were doing. This is a hybrid between my mom’s chile rellenos, which she stuffed with a much lighter cheese mixture using fresh ricotta and onions, and my friend Linda Fry’s ingenious recipe which makes the whole thing into a baked casserole and avoids the nastiness of deep frying. Served with a Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa, it is fresh and heavenly.

Baked Chile Relleno Casserole for 4

  • 12 fire-roasted green chiles*
  • 1  1/2 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh, organic, grass-fed if possible)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 3 oz goat gouda, in 1/2″ cubes (or raw milk cheddar, or jack)
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 t Himalayan or sea salt
  • 6 T white whole wheat flour (or unbleached white)
  • 6 T water

Oil a 9 -12″ casserole dish with olive oil or butter. Preheat oven to 400°.

Stuff the Chiles: Mix together ricotta, cheese and red onions in a bowl. Stuff each chile with about 2- 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture. Alternately, you can open and spread half the chiles in a single layer on a plate, top with the entire cheese mixture and layer the rest of the chiles on top, like a chile-cheese-chile sandwich. What is important is that you have the filling stacked up and ready to go before you do the egg batter.

Make the Egg Batter:

Carefully separate eggs into two large metal or glass mixing bowls, making sure to keep whites completely free of any oil or egg yolks. Beat yolks and salt with a whisk (or electric beater) until very light yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add flour and water and whisk lightly just to combine.

With a completely clean whisk, beat egg whites with a small pinch of salt to firm peaks. This should take only 3 -5 minutes, but should not be interrupted by anything once you start. (Ignore the phone. Make the Seventh Day Adventists ringing the doorbell wait.)

Fold whites lightly into egg yolks and spread half this mixture onto the bottom of your prepared casserole. Not missing a beat, top with your stuffed chiles, laying them carefully in a single layer over the eggs. Top this with remaining egg mixture and back for 20 – 25 minutes or until top is golden brown and puffy.

Meanwhile, answer the door, make the salsa…

Warm Tomato-Corriander Salsa:

  • 1 sweet yellow onion
  • 1 can whole organic tomatoes (such as Muir Glen) or 8 fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled.
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t whole coriander seeds
  • pinch salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 t agave syrup, to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro leaves

Slice onion into 2″ strips. Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into a bowl, saving the juice.

Heat oil in a saute pan, and toast whole spices for 10 -15 seconds until fragrant, add onions, salt and red pepper if using, and saute on med-high for 4 -5 minutes until onions are just starting to color at the edges. Add crushed tomatoes and juice and sauté for a few minutes before tasting and adding a touch of agave as needed. (The sauce should be just slightly sweet, but how much to add will depend on your tomatoes). Simmer gently  for 10 -15 minutes to integrate flavors. Serve warm, adding whole cilantro leaves just before serving.

Serve Chile Relleno Casserole drenched with a generous ladle of tomato salsa over the top. Awesome with a few sprouted corn tortillas, guacamole, and a big colorful salad on the side.

¡Buen provecho!

*Roast the Chilies: I roast whole poblanos directly over the gas flame on my stove, turning to blacken all over,  let steam in a covered bowl for at least 10 minutes, then peel and seed them. You can also lightly coat whole peppers in oil and pop them into a 450° oven until they are completely black on the outside, then do the same. Roasted and cleaned chiles freeze really well so do a lot and freeze in batches to enjoy in the winter.  Or, you you can do what my mom always did, which is to use canned whole Ortega green chiles. If you do this, you might as well go totally deviant: use pepper jack cheese and spice up the sauce to give it some inside-out spiciness. Mmmm….

January 22, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Sauces | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh Cilantro-Coconut Chutney

Fresh cilantro is a blood purifier and excellent chelator, known for removing heavy metals from your body such as mercury, lead and aluminum. Like many herbs, it is also high in minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also very high in antioxidants (cancer fighting) and and one of the highest natural sources for vitamin K (good for bones).  This recipe is super easy to make and so delicious that I sometimes eat it out of the bowl with a spoon after I run out of things to spread it on… try it with the Baked Samosas for sure.

  • 1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped (stems ok)
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 whole lime, juiced (or whole, just peel lightly and add in chunks)
  • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
  • 4 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 t salt

Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender, adding in cilantro and coconut last. Adjust the spice and salt to taste.

Make it your own – there are infinite variations!

  • Mix a 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves in with cilantro
  • Replace cucumber with fresh green bell pepper
  • Add hot Indian chili peppers instead of jalapenos for more heat, or leave out chilies completely
  • Add a bit of ginger, garlic or both

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan, too)

Pesto, like chocolate, is one of those wonderfully strong-flavored things that you can slip all sorts of healthy stuff into without anyone guessing. My most favorite surreptitious ingredients in basil pesto are hemp seeds and blue green algae. Hemp seeds are full of complete and easily digestible protein, have the highest essential fatty acids of any plant food on the planet – a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid, which is good for for your heart and immune system – and best of all, they taste a bit like pine nuts. (They can completely replace the nuts in your pesto recipe without anyone noticing, but I usually do a mix of hemp and raw cashews because I really like the sweet creaminess the cashews add.) The blue-green algae is full of chlorophyll and phytonutrients, plus adds some trace minerals and vitamins, and can also go undetected, even by the pickiest of (12 year old) eaters. My boyfriend’s son Kai generally does not eat “foods of color” but curiously loves pesto, which is what motivated me to try to slip as much other healthy green stuff in as I could. The last time I made it we did it together, but I slipped in the blue-green algae at the end when he wasn’t looking. Can’t reveal everything to everyone all the time…

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan)

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and picked (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 t umeboshi vineger (optional)
  • 1/2 t fresh black pepper
  • 4 capsules Crystal Manna Blue Green Algae

Save out a handful or basil leaves, and then blend all remaining ingredients well in blender or Vitamix until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for salt – this should be well salted and fairly intensely flavored, as a little goes a long way. Add remaining basil leaves and blend briefly, maintain a little texture. (You can add in a few more nuts here too, if you want a little crunch). Use at once or keep in glass jar with a puddle of olive oil on the top to keep it from going brown. Will keep 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge.

Play with your pesto!

Pesto can be made with really anything so please get creative with what is in the fridge.

  • Add a little parsley to the blender to up the green intensity
  • Add a bit of nutritional yeast to make it richer and slightly cheesy
  • Use any other type of nut here, pine nuts are traditional, but I have had great pesto made with pistachios, walnuts and even sesame seeds. Or make it with all hemp.

Also, I just want to say that the amounts of everything are extremely flexible – I have make a 10 minute pasta with a  “chunky pesto” sauce using about 10 basil leaves from a withering basil plant who’s day had come… in this case it went into a mortar and pestle with 1/2 clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and got chopped toasted pine nuts mixed in later. Just proving that 10 fresh leaves are infinitely superior to any pre-fab pesto sauce you could ever buy from anywhere!

Pesto is not just for pasta- its great on steamed potatoes and vegetables, and is fantastic mixed with quinoa. If, like me, you never thought “fantastic” and “quinoa” should appear in the same sentence, check out Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Rosemary “Cream” Sauce (Raw)

This recipe is a slight modification from the one in Sarma Melngalis’ new cookbook Living Raw Food. Get this book – its awesome.

Blend everything up in a high-speed blender until completely smooth and creamy. Use to make Parsnip Pasta with Marinated Mushrooms.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan Recipes | , , , | Leave a comment

Cashew and Macadamia Nut “Boursin Cheese” (Raw)

This is a great vegan “cheese” which also becomes the base for some delicious creamy sauces. You can use pinenuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, or play with any combo of the three. This makes about 4 cups of cheese.

  • 4 cups soft nuts, soaked for 2 -4 hours (cashews, pine nuts, or macadamia nuts)
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 t. nutritional yeast
  • 2 t. salt

Blend together in a food processor or blender until smooth, let chill 2 hours for flavors to mellow.

Serve as a spread on raw crackers or thin as a dip for vegetables.

For flavored cheese spreads, add any of the following to a cup of the cheese recipe:

  • 1Tbs finely minced fresh herbs and garlic
  • 1/4 c Finely diced sweet red pepper and scallions
  • Zest of one lemon
  • …or come up with your own!

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Snacks/Crackers, Vegan Recipes | , , , | Leave a comment