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German Cucumber Salad + bonus Vegan Ice Cream!

Cucumber salad is one of the flavors of my youth.  My dad made it often in the summers with cucumbers picked straight from his garden.  He sliced the cucumber paper thin and tossed it with salt, tons of pepper and vinegar for this simple and amazing thing.  And just like I could in those days, this stuff is something that I can consume by the bowlful! Similar to pickle, German cucumber salad is really vinegary.  It differs in that it's really quick and not at all sweet.  The fresh vinegar tang and peppery bite make it versatile enough to pair perfectly with a heavy meal or stand on a sweet bed of greens as the superstar.  My dad made it with onion sometimes, sometimes none at all.  Leeks are milder and more palatable to kids, so they are my choice.  If you're not feeding children, go ahead and sub some crisp and juicy onion for a spicier bite.  My kids also tend to like creamy dressings and since we're dairy free, silken tofu is a great way to go creamy without much effort.  Leave it out if you're soy free.  As an alternative try soaking a few tablespoons of raw cashews in water until they're soft and then blend them with the vinegar for a soy free creamy dressing (if you can tolerate nuts, that is!) Feeding the Family: Tonight I made this salad and used it as a topper for my plate of salad greens.  I am still on my high raw kick so the greens, some veg and the cucumber salad did it for me.  I cooked some corn, but after a bite it was unfortunately obvious that spring corn is just not worth it!  This was our 2nd batch of grainy corn.  Yuck.  For the rest of the family the cucumber salad served as a side salad on their plates. I love that my husband and boys are comfortable eating a high raw, nutrient dense diet.  Their dinner plates had salad greens, tomato, carrot, cucumber salad, saucy navy beans and an ear of corn.  For our family of four, I used 1 heart of romaine, 4 cups of baby spinach, 4 carrots, 2 tomato, 1 English cucumber, 1/4 of a leek and 3 cups of cooked beans.  (I'm not going to count the corn because it was really worthless, unfortunately). How nice it was for me to talk with my kids about my memories of my father making this for me... I hope you'll give this a try and think of me when you do! [caption id="attachment_371" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="German Cucumber Salad"]German Cucumber Salad[/caption] German Cucumber Salad (Serves 2 as a main salad on top of green – 4 as an appetizer or side salad) 1 whole cucumber (I use the long English Cucumbers) 2 Tbsp silken tofu or vegan sour cream 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ¼ cup thinly sliced leek, approximately 4 inch piece of leek several generous grinds of pepper good pinch of salt 1 tsp dried dill or 1 Tbsp fresh dill, minced Let’s start with the cucumber:  Peel it.  Thinly slice it using a mandolin or sharp knife.  Place the slices in a bowl and season them with salt, pepper and dill.  Leave this to rest while we get on with the dressing. Mash the silken tofu and vinegar together until the tofu is no longer lumpy and you have a smooth dressing.  If you are using vegan sour cream you can just mix it with the vinegar until everything is creamy.   Either way you’ve started, pour your finished dressing over the cucumber. Toss in the thinly sliced leeks and use a spoon to really mix the dressing with all of the slices.   Give it a taste to see if more seasoning is required (I usually add another grind or two of pepper…) Enjoy! For dessert I made a refreshing fruit "ice cream."  If you get in the habit of buying an extra bunch of bananas when you're at the market, ice cream like this can be your indulgent reality anytime.  Trust me, it's hard to believe that something so easy can taste SO good and be so good for you!  One serving will satisfy you while giving you a full serving of fruit in a totally whole food, non dairy, cholesterol free way! [caption id="attachment_373" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Strawberry Banana Vegan Ice Cream"]Strawberry Banana Vegan Ice Cream[/caption] Strawberry Banana Ice Cream (Serves 4 ) 2 cups frozen strawberries 4 frozen bananas 1/2 cup coconut milk 1 tsp agave or maple syrup (raw honey makes a good vegetarian whole food option) Put everything in the Vitamix or food processor and blitz for about 15 seconds or until everything is blended.  The Vitamix is preferable because you can use the tamper to push the bits down into the blades for a speedy blend.  The faster you blend, the better the ice cream.  Clearly, the longer you need to blend, the more the fruits melt and the more like soft serve or smoothie your concoction will be.

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Crunchy Apple Celery Sunflower Salad

I've been eating raw this week after a bout of stomach unpleasantry on Monday night and this is the first real meal I've had outside of apples and bananas!  Super quick, crunchy and tasty.  My boys each ate a big bowl and gave all thumbs up!  The fennel bulb is something I bought last weekend and planned to use early in the week... but that plan got foiled by the sickness.  The bulb was very mildly flavored and likely would have been better if I used it closer to purchase, but it was still softly anise scented and very crisp and crunchy.  If you prefer more anise flavor, use more and if anise isn't for you just leave it out. Vary the nut choice, use orange juice instead of lemon, try thyme or oregano or parsley instead of the mint and lemon balm.  Sliced or shredded carrot would also be lovely in this salad.  Use what you have or try something new.  Enjoy! Crunchy Apple Celery Sunflower Salad [caption id="attachment_367" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Crunchy Apple Celery Sunflower Salad"]Crunchy Apple Celery Sunflower Salad[/caption] (Serves 4 as a main salad – 6-8 as an appetizer) This recipe can be doubled or tripled if you’re feeding a crowd.  It will keep in the refrigerator for several days before the veggies lose their crunch.  If you are going to be storing this salad, hold out the nuts and seeds until just before serving.  Choose a green apple variety if you want something particularly tangy, otherwise, go for something sweet and red like a Gala apple for a beautiful pop of color. Dressing fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon, approximately 1/3 cup splash of mirin 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup fresh ground pepper to taste Salad 8 celery stalks with greens, approximately 1 celery heart 3 apples, your choice of variety 1 cup raw fennel/anise, approximately ½ of a bulb 1 cup cucumber, approximately a 5 inch cucumber 1 cup raw cashews 1 cup raw sunflower seeds 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or lemon balm Kale ~ how much you use is up to you and your level of green eating; see note at the end of the recipe.  Let’s start by whisking the dressing ingredients in small bowl until they are combined.  Dip the tip of a clean spoon and either lick it or swipe it with your finger to get a taste.  Adjust your seasoning with pepper or whatever suits your tastes.  Set aside. Moving on, we’re going to tackle the veg and fruit.  Keep the celery heart together and trim the bottom off.  Slice thin pieces from the stalks straight across or on the diagonal.  Put the celery slices in a bowl and cover with cool water.  Swish the pieces around to loosen and remove any debris, then strain and set aside. Slice the apples into quarters.  Thinly slice each quarter so you end up with bite size apple slices. Slice the raw fennel into pieces similar in size to the apple pieces. Slice the cucumber into quarters and slice it too as you’ve done the apple. Tip the apple slices into a large bowl and add the dressing. Toss to combine.  The acid in the vinaigrette will keep the apple from browning, so be sure to coat the pieces.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine all the sliced veg.  If you are serving this within an hour or so, you can add the nuts and seeds.  Otherwise, if you want the nuts and seeds to retain their bite, hold them out until you are ready to serve and then throw them in and give everything a toss. The kale is something that you can use as a bed of greens for your salad.  You can also use large leaves of kales as wrappers to hold a scoop of salad and then roll it up like a burrito to eat.  Alternatively, you can chop or tear the leaves and add them into your salad in whatever amount you and yours enjoy.  This is a great way to introduce kale in a palatable salad in one of many ways… find something that works for you and get more kale into your gut!  Kale does a body good!

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Cherry Carrot Orange Kale Smoothie

Here’s a smoothie that is full of fruits and nutrient dense veggies.  It tastes like oranges and is a pretty purply color.  We have become really comfortable with earth tones and pond tones in our house.  As a result, I don't have to hide the veggies and greens in our green smoothies!  The sneaky chef mentality is excellent if you need to employ those tactics, but I would much rather have kids who know what is in their food and love what is in their food.  Teaching the basics of good nutrition is something that we can do for our children every time we make healthy choices in the kitchen!  My 5 year old happily shares this and many smoothies with me... here we attempted the advanced double straw sharing move: [caption id="attachment_360" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="how to share a smoothie"]how to share a smoothie[/caption]   Cherry Carrot Orange Kale Smoothie (makes about 3 cups which is 1 generous portion or enough for 2 to share) 1 cup frozen cherries 2 oranges, peeled (I only peeled one because we like the bitterness that a little orange skin adds) 3 carrots 2 handfuls of organic kale 2 Tbsp golden flaxseed Put everything in the Vitamix or other high powered blender and whiz until smooth.  Add one cup of water, almond milk or orange juice if you need to thin it out or if you need to stretch for more servings.  If you put the cherries in the bottom of the blender you will see a beautiful red orange mixture form before the kale works down and turns everything purply brown.  It’s a very earthy color... beautiful! 
cherry carrot orange kale smoothie
cherry carrot orange kale smoothie
If you need to sweeten the mix, try adding a date and blending again.  Pour and enjoy!

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Lentil Sloppy Joes v.2

Lentil Sloppy Joes
Simplified and modified from version 1, but just as yummy!  Because I am in love with the new bottle of pomegranate molasses on my shelf, I had to incorporate it in this recipe.  It makes perfect sense because the flavor is both sharp and sweet.  Start to finish about an hour.  Try this if you want a warm, richly layered and flavorful, spice laden meal.  Serves 6-8.  Using you food processor or mad knife skills, mince the following: 1 large onion, minced 4 cloves garlic, minced 8 oz Portobello mushrooms, minced 1 large green pepper, minced (organic if possible)
 
Add the minced veggies to a large stockpot in which you’ve warmed a tsp of olive oil.  Stir the veg while they brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  They will become super fragrant. [caption id="attachment_354" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="minced veg for sloppy joes"]minced veg for sloppy joes[/caption] Blend: 4 medool dates, pitted 1 can diced fire roasted tomato 1/2 cup Annies Organic Tomato Ketchup Blend these ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  Add the mixture into the pot and stir to combine. Add: 1 cup brown lentils (+ 1/2 cup if you don't use the red lentils below) 1/2 cup red lentils (optional, but they thicken the sauce in a way that the brown lentils don't) 3 cups water 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses 1 tsp chipotle chili powder 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 2 Tbsp cumin 1 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp cocoa powder Stir the pot and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are till tender and the liquid is absorbed.  [caption id="attachment_353" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joes v2"]Lentil Sloppy Joes v2[/caption] If you're going old school, split the roll of your choice and toast both sides in a dry skillet.  Then slather some vegan mayo on the toasty pieces, top with a scoop of lentils and a piece of rice cheese or daiya shreds.  You can forego the bun and serve your sloppy lentil ragout on a plate with a side of steamed broccoli and a few big handfuls of fresh greens.  You can also pair a scoop of this goodness with a bowl of nutty brown rice or fluffy herbed quinoa or as a topper for polenta.  I can easily see stretching leftovers with the addition of some smoky black beans and corn on the cob.  Whatever you do, do it with love and enjoy every bite knowing that you are fueling your body well!  Make the meal even better --- don't forget your greens!

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Chocolate Cherry Berry Smoothie

Ah, it's a good morning!  The leaves are bursting from the trees, the grass is greening and the air carries the heady scent of waking soil.  It's an overcast morning here in NH, a beautiful grey morning.  My morning smoothie reminds me of the rich brown mulch that so many gardeners are spreading out these days.  The color is deep purply brown and the taste is very chocolately with a cool cherry tone.  The blueberries really fade into the background, but they add great nutrition.  And the spinach, well, you won't even know it's there.  This is a great intro smoothie for anyone leery of the green smoothie.  This smoothie is also a great cloak for probiotic powder, fish oil and flax seed.  Get all your goodies in one sip without the ick factor. [caption id="attachment_344" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Chocolate CherryBerry Smoothie Poured"]Chocolate CherryBerry Smoothie Poured[/caption] Chocolate Cherry Berry Smoothie (Yields about 3 cups of smoothie ~ enough for 2 to share or 1 to savor) 1 cup frozen cherries 1 cup frozen blueberries 2 Tbsp cocoa powder or 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder* 1 cup almond milk or alternative milk of your choice or water 3 big handfuls of baby spinach, about 2 cups Additions: 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal or 1 Tbsp chia seeds, any powdered supplements you use, etc
*Cacao contains caffeine and is a stimulant so I don't use it if I am sharing my smoothie with my children.  However, if I need a little pick up in the morning, 1 Tbsp of cacao in a smoothie works just like a cup of coffee.
Put everything in your Vitamix or other blender and whiz on low speed for a few seconds until the spinach starts to work into the mix.  Use the tamper to push down the spianch as needed.  Increase speed to high and blitz the mix to a smooth and luscious smoothie! [caption id="attachment_343" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Chocolate CherryBerry Spinach Smoothie in the blender"]Chocolate CherryBerry Spinach Smoothie[/caption] If the smoothie is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with more almond milk.  You can also thin it out if you need more servings, but I would suggest adding more berries and a bit more cocoa powder if you're going that route.  My general rule is at least one serving of fruit and one serving of veg per person being served.

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Cashew Chickpea "Burgers"

I don't have a ton of time to write tonight, but this was SOOOO good!  Baseball practice ran an hour later than expected tonight, so I needed a quick dinner.  With a bit of leftover white beans, some garbanzo flour and a healthy handful of parsley the humble cashew is again a kitchen favorite. 
Cashew Chickpea Burger
Cashew Chickpea Burger
 
Cashew Chickpea Burger
 
1 cup raw cashews 1 onion 2 cloves garlic 1 bunch parsley ¾ cup cooked white beans (this is a great way to use leftover beans!) 1 cup garbanzo bean flour ¼ cup braggs amino acids or gluten free soy sauce juice of 1 lemon ¼ cup water Place cashews, onion and garlic in the food processor and pulse until you have a coarsely ground mixture.  Add in the parsley and beans and pulse the mixture again.  We don’t want a paste, but we are looking for everything to be combined with no large chunks. Go ahead and add the garbanzo bean flour into the food processor and give it a pulse or two.  Stream in the liquids and add up to ½ cup of water if needed to make a smooth batter.  The batter will thicken over the next 10 minutes, so don’t worry if it seems liquidy.  [caption id="attachment_335" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Cashew Chickpea Batter"]Cashew Chickpea Batter[/caption] Once blended, transfer the batter to a bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  If the batter seems very liquidy after sitting for 10 minutes add another ¼ cup of garbanzo bean flour and stir it thoroughly to combine.  This should thicken the batter.   Now, start prepping your cook surface.  You can use a skillet, grill pan, griddle… whatever you choose.  When your batter is set, get your cook surface lightly oiled and hot over medium heat.  Scoop out a few portions of batter at a time and spread it out to about ¼ inch thick patty shape.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes per side.  The patties will get crisp and golden.  Set on paper towel to absorb any excess oil while you continue to scoop batter and cook the remainder of the batch. Serve over mixed greens with minted veg on the side or pop a few little patties into pita if you can do gluten.  Yummy hot, warm or cold!  The patties firm up as they cool and make a great finger food for little ones. Variations:  use black beans instead of white (navy or cannellini beans); try adding 1 TBSP rosemary or sage with the parsley; substitute cilantro for the parsley and serve with salsa; season with a tsp or two of cumin or curry powder; use cooked lentils instead of beans.

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