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Sarah Lawrence

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Red Pepper Puree

Cauliflower is a beautiful, neutral veg.  Eat it raw or steam it and make a great mash or base for pizza crust (what?!!!).  Here, cauliflower creates a luscious, velvety soup base that’s hard to beat especially when you consider how quickly it comes together and how fabulous this cruciferous beauty is for your bod.  Cauliflower supports the body's detox system, antioxidant system, and inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system.  Why is that important?  Well, basically every major disease has roots in one or more of those systems… so, supporting them helps keep everything working properly.  That aside, cauliflower is high in Vitamins C, K and Folate; it is also fiber rich, so you’re in for some great digestive benefits to boot! [caption id="attachment_722" align="alignleft" width="640"]Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Red Pepper Puree Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Red Pepper Puree[/caption]     Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Red Pepper Puree 1 head cauliflower, leaves removed, cleaned and chopped 1 large leek, green top removed, cleaned and sliced 1 medium potato, peeled & cubed 1 cup slivered almonds or raw almonds with skins blanched off 6 cups vegetable broth 1 tsp turmeric (optional) ~ boosts anti-inflammatory benefits Put everything in a soup pot and bring to a simmer.  After 20 minutes, the veg should be soft.  Turn off the heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes.  Carefully transfer the veg and broth to your blender (in batches if necessary), and blend until smooth.  Alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender and blend it in the pot. *If your blender has difficulty making this smooth on the first go, try soaking the almonds for an hour to soften them before adding them to the soup pot next time.  The Vitamix blends them beautifully, but others may leave a grainy texture without soaking. While soup is cooking, you can make the Red Pepper Puree 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained or 3 red peppers, seeded, sliced and roasted until soft 1 tsp olive oil 1 Tbsp maple syrup salt and pepper to taste Put everything in your Vitamix or blender and whiz until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Transfer to a clean jar. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with a swirl or dollop of the red pepper puree.

Sarah Lawrence

Coconut Almond Cookie Dough Bites

Who hasn't snuck a knob of cookie dough at one point or another?  Well, these tasty bites are the perfect thing, really.  I’m not going to suggest that they’re healthy.  No, even I can’t go that far with a sweet.  But, as cookie dough goes, popping one or two of these little gems isn’t a horrible choice.  Coconut oil is a source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids and has multiple health benefits, but of greatest note in 2012 was the research that showed significant improvement in Alzheimers patients who used a coconut oil protocol.  Almond meal is the bulk of the dough so there is nothing overly processed and no gluten to gum up the gut.  If you want to take these bites over the top, you can coat them in chocolate and even add a few mini chips to the dough.  This recipe makes enough for a party.  The dough can also be stored in the freezer wrapped well in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag so you can make a few bites at a time. 006 Coconut Almond Cookie Dough Bites ½ cup coconut oil, room temperature ½ cup coconut sugar 1 tsp vanilla powder 1 ½ cups almond meal 1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, ½ for melting and ½ for dough (optional, but yummy!) In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and coconut sugar with the paddle attachment until the coconut sugar has “melted” into the oil and is no longer grainy.  Add the vanilla powder and almond meal.  Beat again for a few minutes to get the almond meal incorporated.   You will need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  The dough will not make a ball, but should keep together.  Because coconut oil is liquid at room temp, the dough will be soft.  At this point, if you want chocolate chips in the cookie, go ahead and stir in ¼ - ½ cup to suite your taste.  You can omit them and have a lovely treat all the same. Tip the batter into a smaller bowl and pop it into the freezer for about 5-10 minutes to firm up.  If you leave it too long the dough will go quite solid and will need to sit at room temp for a bit to be soft enough to roll.  We are looking to be able to roll smallish, teaspoon size balls of dough.  You can make the dough balls larger, but this size is nice for popping as the occasional sweet treat and it’s also great for potlucks and parties. While the dough is firming up, take the ½ cup of mini chips and put them in a small heat proof bowl.  You need to melt the chips.  If you have a tried and true method, go ahead and get on with your renegade self.  If not, follow the leader… I boil water in the kettle and pour it into a pan that is a bit deeper and bigger than the bowl I chose for the chips.  I set the chip bowl carefully into the water bath, being sure that the water doesn’t get into the chips.  Leave the whole thing to warm for a few minutes, remove and stir the melted chips. Voila! Now back to the dough.  It should be a good temp for rolling so go ahead and scoop out teaspoons-full and roll them.  If your dough is too hard to scoop and roll, just leave it ococonut almond cookie dough bitesn the counter a minute to warm up again.  Place the rolled dough onto a baking sheet or plate.  If the dough balls get too soft, you can pop the plate into the freezer to firm up before enrobing them in chocolate (doesn’t that sound so much sexier than dipping or drizzling?) Heavenly cookie dough balls, meet chocolate bath.  Roll them around in it and then rescue them gently with a spoon.  Place the drenched goodies onto a piece of wax paper or parchment or silpat.  They will need to go back to the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up the coating before serving, so if the whole operation is on a plate, that’s great.  Once the chocolate has set you can serve them or pop them off the plate and store in a freezer safe container.  For freezing, position the bites so they aren’t touching much, and separate layers with wax paper so they don’t stick. At room temp, the chocolate coating is fabulously finger licking good.  We like these best right out of the freezer when the dough is super cold and firm. For a variation, roll the dough balls in finely shredded coconut instead of chocolate… or, (mercy) roll in chocolate and then top with coconut! (You’re totally welcome!)

Sarah Lawrence

Christmas Menu - a Gluten Free Vegan Feast

Christmas is such a wonderful holiday... celebrating the gifts of love and friendship... enjoying time with our family and friends.  For me, it's a joyful time.  In the kitchen, I want comfort and cozy... and I want tasty, healthy food that doesn't take all day to make!  I confess that I usually try new recipes at holiday time.  This year is no exception.  I'd love to share the inspiration for my 2 favorite dishes with you and hope that they can be a spark for you too! Okay, the ladies over at PPK are simply brilliant.  With a few modifications of the PPK vegan Macaroon recipe my Gluten Free Vegan version was born.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy coconut and the macaroon is just one of those things that’s eluded me… but no longer!  Now you can enjoy them too!   I played with these a little and my favorite variation was pressing a whole almond into the top of the mound of dough, baking and then drizzling with chocolate instead of dipping the bottom... kind of like an Almond Joy if you're into that!  GFV Macaroons GFV Macaroons 3 oz extra firm silken tofu ¼ cup coconut oil 2 tablespoons coconut milk 1/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons almond extract 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup sorghum flour or ¼ sorghum + ¼ cocoa powder (for a chocolicious version) ¼ cup almond meal ¼ cup arrowroot starch ¾ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 1 ½  cups unsweetened shredded coconut whole almonds, optional ½ cup chocolate chips, melted using a double boiler Variations recommended by PPK: Chipper: Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips to the batter Touch of Orange: Add 2 tsp orange zest and omit almond extract Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheets with parchment. Puree tofu, oil and milk in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Scrape the sides to get everything back into the mix.  Add the remaining ingredients except the coconut.  Pulse to combine.  Tip out into a large bowl and mix in the coconut.  The dough will be stiff. Scoop tablespoons of dough out of the bowl and onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  I use my nifty Pampered Chef medium ice cream scooper to get uniform balls of dough.  These cookies don’t spread, so you can get a TON onto a baking sheet.  But, don’t overcrowd them or they will take longer to bake. 15 minutes in your preheated 350 degree oven should do the trick… golden bottoms and lightly toasted tops. Transfer to a cooling rack while you melt the chocolate (I like the double boiler method where you place your bowl with the chocolate over a pot with a bit of boiling water on the stove… the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water, rather it should be big enough that it rests on the rim of the water pot so the steam and heat from the boiling water will gently melt the chocolate as you stir.) Once the chocolate is melted dip the cooled cookies in and coat their bottoms.  Then set them back onto the parchment lined baking sheet to set. Pop them in the fridge if you need them quickly, otherwise, a while at room temp will also set them up just fine.   The other super stars of our holiday feast were these chickpea almond tart shells.  Green Kitchen Stories is a new blog to me, but I am already in love!  David and Luise created a stellar GFV menu for Bon Appetit and their filled version of these shells was totally inspiring!  The recipe posted here includes my modifications based on our tastes.  I found the original recipe to be a bit too salty so I've cut the salt.  Also, the coconut oil I use is raw and tastes very coconutty, so for our tastes and with the pantry items we use I prefer to use Earth Balance to play off the nuttiness of the almond and chickpea flour without giving the added coconut note (even though I love coconut... it just didn't work for me here).  I added flaxseed meal to bump the nutritive value of the shell and loved the extra nuttiness that the flax gave.  So, try the original version and try my version... then make your own!  The beauty of cooking is that you have the freedom to create things that suite your tastes.    I spread a thin layer of garlicky roasted eggplant puree on the bottom of each baked shell, then added a layer of braised kale (chopped kale, garlic, shallot, parsley, veg broth), and topped with a dollop of herbed mashed potato. GFV Christmas Feast 2011 Served these alongside Quinoa studded with cranberries, pecans and roasted yams; mesculin greens with raspberries; steamed carrots seasoned with cardamon... and the meal was divine. Chickpea Almond Tart Shells Chickpea Almond Tart Shells Makes 6-8 tart shells depending on the size of your pans Tart shells 1 cup chickpea flour (besan) 1/4 cup flaxseed meal ¾  cup almond flour or almond meal 1/3 cup potato starch, tapioca starch, or cornstarch 1/8 tsp sea salt Freshly ground black pepper 3 Tbsp fresh herbs of your choice or 1 ½ Tbsp dried 6 Tbsp Earth Balance + 6-9 Tbsp cold water special equipment: small tart pans Preheat oven to 375°. Combine all ingredients in your food processor and pulse until a nice dough forms. Tip it out onto a lightly floured work surface (using either the chickpea or almond flour).  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and press into your tart shells.  If your pans are non stick there shouldn’t be a need to oil them, but if they’re not then definitely give the pans a quick coating. Take a piece of dough and press it evenly onto the bottom of the 1st tart pan, then work it up the sides.  Use your thumbs to keep the dough from going over the edges while forming a nice uniform thickness on the sides.  Since I don’t know the size of your tart pans, you may need more of less dough to make this work.  The shells that we liked the best had less than ¼ inch thickness to the sides and bottom.  They bake up crisp and are not dense. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and pop into the preheated oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Remove the sheet from the oven and let the shells cool before filling them.  The bottoms will get soggy if you leave a filling in for too long, so be prepared to serve within about 45 minutes from the time you fill these little beauties.

Sarah Lawrence

Ingredient Adventure: Black Chickpeas

I love trying new ingredients.  This bag of Black Chickpeas has been in my pantry for a little over a month now and I decided that tonight was their opening night in our kitchen!  Most of the recipes I've seen that use black chickpeas describe them as a snack or side dish and use them in a spiced sauce with some gamey meat.  Instead of using these little nuggets in their traditional supporting role, I've used them as the star.  This meal was rounded out with a gorgeous saute of ripped kale, seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and pepper as well as a scoop of steamed quinoa.  I also created a Gingered Coconut Almond Cream to top the Chickpeas, just because... I love ginger and I love a creamy sauce that I can dip into or swirl into a dish.  About 1 Tbsp topped each serving of Chickpeas. The Family Verdict: My 9 year old enjoyed the meal; the 5 year old mixed everything together and ate all but a few bites; my sweet husband left some of the kale and noted that because the black chickpeas look like black beans he expected them to be softer.  I cooked the chickpeas just past al dente, but it would be really easy to cook them a bit more to soften them. Notes: the Black Chickpea soaks and cooks the same as a tan chickpea, though this variety seems much smaller than tan chickpeas.  The taste is also very similar if not the same as the tan variety.  My next 2 experiments will be dry roasting them and trying a Black Chickpea hummus. [caption id="attachment_475" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Black Chickpeas with Kale and Quinoa"]black chickpeas in Spiced Tomato Sauce[/caption] Black Chickpeas in Spiced Tomato Sauce (yields 6-8 servings) Adapted from this Chana-chanp recipe 2 cups dry Black Chickpeas, soaked 1 tsp coconut oil 1 lb Onion, chopped 1 cup coconut milk + 2 Tbsp lemon juice 1 lb Tomato, crushed 1 Tbsp cumin powder 1 tsp turmeric powder 3 Tbsp Garlic, chopped 2 Tbsp Ginger, chopped 1 Tbsp chili powder or a generous squeeze of Sriracha, optional handful fresh Cilantro, chopped Salt, to taste Prep: Rinse the chickpeas in cool water to clean them.  Soak the chickpeas over night; drain. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions until soft.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, ginger, garlic, turmeric powder and cumin and boil until chickpeas are soft, about 45 minutes.  Once the chickpeas are cooked, turn off the heat and add the coconut milk/lemon juice mixture.  Taste.  Season with chili powder or sriracha as desired.  If you are serving children, you may want to reserve a portion before seasoning with the hot pepper options. Top with minced cilantro and serve.   Ripped Kale 1 bunch of kale, ripped or chopped into small pieces 1 tsp coconut oil Heat coconut oil in a wok or saute pan and add the kale.  Saute over high heat for 3-4 minutes until the kale is vibrant green and wilted.  Season with a hint of salt and pepper if desired.   Gingered Coconut Almond Cream (yields 1 1/3 cup) 1 cup coconut milk 1 cup raw almonds 1 tsp ground ginger or 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger Combine all ingredients in the Vitamix or other high powered blender.  Blend until very smooth.  The flavor or the cream intensifies the longer it sits.  Fresh ginger yields a stronger flavor faster.


Creamy Banana Pudding (Raw, GF & vegan)

While I love my green smoothies in the morning, I do like to change things up from time to time.  This is something that I whipped up when we were vacationing in England and I've now figured out that by blitzing it in the Vitamix I can get quite a creamy consistency.  Whether you use just a fork or go for the appliance, you will end up with something yummy.  It reminds me of yogurt and pudding and is as versatile as both of those little wonders.  You can top this pud with fresh berries and/or granola.  Sprinkle on some flax seeds and you'll totally be a super star. Adjust the sweetness as you see fit.  I prefer to use lucuma powder  here when I want the sweet flavor because it is a very mild earthy sweetness and it's raw.   Like any sweetener, lucuma adds calories but has the benefit of being a minimally processed whole food rather than an overprocessed, chemically treated product like white sugar.  Maple syrup is a good substitute if you really need the sweetness.  I challenge you to try this with less sweetener than you think you need (or none at all!)  Bananas are beautifully sweet and really shine if you let them. Creamy Banana Chia Pudding (Serves 1 adult or 2 children) This recipe can be doubled easily.  My suggestion is to use 2 bananas per adult, 1 per child.  Only add ½ tsp increments of sweetener for each additional portion if you are using a sweetener.   [caption id="attachment_380" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Creamy Banana Chia Pudding"]Creamy Banana Chia Pudding[/caption] 2 ripe bananas 2 Tbsp chia seeds 1 tsp lucuma powder or maple syrup (optional) ½ cup almond milk or other alternative milk There are a few ways to prepare this pudding depending on the equipment you have.  The manual way to tackle this is to grab a wide bowl and a fork.  Put your peeled bananas into the bowl and give them a thorough mashing.  If you like things chunkier, leave them chunkier.  If not, keep mashing until the bananas make a paste.  Top with chia and lucuma and mix those in.  Add the almond milk and stir until everything is combined.  Now leave the bowl alone for a few minutes while the chia swells and absorbs the almond milk. If you have a Vitamix, blender or food processor you can put everything in and blend for a few seconds until you get a smooth puree.  Transfer the puree to a bowl and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes while the chia works it’s magic. If you want a smooth pudding and have a coffee or spice grinder you can mill the chia seeds into a powder before adding them to the manually mashed banana.  Still leaves you with an appliance to clean, but it’s not as messy as using a blender, etc. Top with granola and fresh berries for a great breakfast or quick snack.  


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.


Raw Lemon Bars

 The cooked lemon bars I made the other day are truly lovely.  They were great with tea and made a nice light dessert.  8 thumbs up from my household... says a lot!  Anyway, I try to keep a good part of my diet raw, so making raw lemon bars helps to keep me in line (as if that's possible!)  These bars are based on my go to recipe for date nut treats.  I play with this recipe a lot by changing the variety of nuts and adding flavors and spices.  It's hard to mess up dates, nut and a flavor.  So it's no surprise to me that lemon and lemon zest make a zippy bar that is bound for my recipe file!  Hope you get a chance to try this one.  Let me know if you do! [caption id="attachment_288" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lemon Bars, the raw, gluten free, vegan way!"]Lemon Bars, the raw, gluten free, vegan way![/caption] Raw Lemon Bars 1/2 cup raw almonds 1/2 cup raw cashews 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut + 1/2 cup more for edging when they are cut zest of 1 organic lemon 1 cup pitted dates ~ 10-12 fresh medjool dates 1/3 cup lemon juice 1 tsp vanilla powder or fresh vanilla bean from a piece about 1" long Pour the lemon juice over the raw almonds and let them soak for an hour or more. [caption id="attachment_290" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Ingredients for the Raw Lemon Bars"]Ingredients for the Raw Lemon Bars[/caption] In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until the mixture comes together.  The dough will look like crumbs at first and then a ball will form… possibly a paste if you continue to process.  Go as far as you like.  If you prefer a bar with some texture to it, then pulse for about 30 seconds.  If you prefer something smooth, pulse until the mixture is sticky and smooth. Press the dough into a 8" x 6" bar pan. I use a stoneware pan from the Pampered Chef.  Refrigerate for an hour or until firm (this will depend on the level of moisture in your mixture and how smooth you made your dough).  [caption id="attachment_289" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="slicing the bars"]slicing the bars[/caption] When firm, cut into bars.  If you want “Larabar” type bars score your pan down the middle and then into 1.5 inch strips for that classic bar shape.  This size batch makes thin bars, but they are good!  Snack sized bites are also yummy.  My kids like little squares and balls of this mixture (search back for my chai yummies recipe for another example).  If you love coconut as I do you'll want to press the bottom and sides of your sliced bars into more shredded coconut before serving.  It makes the bars really pretty and adds that extra coconutty yum to every bite! If your mixture gets stuck in the pan or you have an issue with the texture, all is not lost!  Scrape out spoonfuls of your mixture and roll it in coconut for something that easy to handle and great to snack on.  You can always pop your dough back into your food processor and add more coconut or nuts to firm things up if you need to! Variations:  use different nuts (whatever you have on hand); try orange juice and orange zest instead of lemon; soften the nuts in an alternative milk and add 1 – 2 Tbsp cocoa or cacao for a chocolaty treat; macerate a few raspberries instead of the lemon juice and use that as your liquid component for a berry bar; coconut milk and hazelnuts are a divine combination.  The possibilities are endless!  Play with your food and find something that you love --- then post it and share your ideas with me! Share


Luscious Lemon Bars (feel free to eat the whole pan because you can!)

Today is a day that you are going to be glad you're reading my blog.  Yes-sir-ee!  Good day in the kitchen!  The Meyer Lemons in my fridge have been begging me to use them, so I went for the lemon bar.  Having tried a sweet lemon bar recipe a while back from Isa C. (who is a phenom in the vegan kitch world), I had a plan.  I am also pretty particular with my sweets.  I don't like anything too sweet... so there's that!  I like my lemon bars lemony rather than super sweet and I need a base that's gluten free... it's a bit of a departure from a normal lemon bar recipe!  I need something worthy of a cuppa tea.   Right, the result of my crust experiment is nothing short of buttery, amazingly flaky shortbread that you totally should write home to mom about.  Actually, I suggest you make a batch and bring some to mom and have an afternoon of tea and biscuits!  If she's not close, mail them!  If she's no longer with us, grab your bestie and share!  So much potential for this shortbread biscuit crust.  I can't wait to experiment with it and share more ideas with you! The lemon layer is akin to jelled lemon curd.  Getting the right level of jell is the tricky part.  You don't want something that's wiggly like unset jello, but you don't want something with no give at all.  Enter agar agar and arrowroot!  These guys are like a dream team when it comes to vegan jelling.  If you haven't worked with agar agar before, know that it's a great thing.  It has jelling properties that rival gelatin but it's seaweed based rather than animal based.  Eden Foods brand of agar agar is what I use.  [caption id="attachment_271" align="alignright" width="300" caption="GFV Lemon Bars"]GFV Lemon Bars[/caption]    GFV Lemon Bars Crust 1 cup amaranth flour 1 cup almond meal ½ cup powdered sugar ½ cup arrowroot powder 1 cup vegan margarine, like Earth Balance
 Filling 1 1/3 cups water 3 Tbsp agar agar flakes 1/3 cup sugar + 4 packets stevia or 2/3 cup sugar 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (gives the brilliant yellow color while not adding any flavor) 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I used meyer lemons ~ yum!) 3 Tbsp arrowroot powder 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from two large ORGANIC lemons)* OR 1 tsp lemon extract if your lemons are not organic 1/2 cup almond milk 
 *I only zest my citrus if I can find organic because of the high level of pesticide use on non organic citrus fruits.  Do what makes you comfortable. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. [caption id="attachment_275" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="the flours"]the flours[/caption] 
 To prepare the crust: Pulse the flours, sugar, arrowroot and Earth Balance in your food processor. The dough is not crumbly, it is moist but not pourable.  You will need to scoop the dough out of the food processor and scrape the sides to get it all out!  Moisten your hands and press the dough into the corners of your prepared baking dish.  Then try to get an even layer that covers the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool. [caption id="attachment_272" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="shortbread crust dough"]shortbread crust dough[/caption] [caption id="attachment_273" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="dough in the pan"]dough in the pan[/caption] 
 [caption id="attachment_274" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="golden crust"]golden crust[/caption] To prepare the luscious lemon filling: Start by soaking your agar agar flakes in the water for 10 minutes. I sprinkle mine over the top of the water and walk away.  Get your lemons zested and juiced.  Measure out 2/3 cup of the fresh lemon juice and mix your arrowroot powder until it dissolves.
 When the agar has been soaking for 10 minutes go ahead and put the pot on the burner.  We are looking to boil this mixture so the softened agar dissolves.  This usually takes me 10, sometimes 15 minutes.   When the agar is dissolved, add the turmeric and your sugar/stevia or whatever combo you’ve chosen to use.  Stir this wildly yellow mixture until everything is dissolved and there are no lumps.   Now it’s time to lower the heat so we’re just barely bubbling... anything more than a light bubble and we’re going to end up with a mess!   Add the arrowroot/lemon juice mixture and whisk.  Raise the heat a hair and keep whisking.  You will feel the mixture start to thicken as it comes to a low boil. Again, AND I STRESS, we are not aiming for a bubbling cauldron here!  Do that and the arrowroot will lose its gelling power.  Exercise a little restraint with the heat… go slow and your labor will pay off!  Otherwise, you will have a super tasty lemon sauce that you can drizzle over berries and such, but you won’t have anything that will thicken worth a dime!  Okay.  Back to business:  Add your zest or lemon extract and the almond milk. Whisk these into the thickened mixture.  You may want to taste this now.  The safe way to do it is to get a clean spoon and dip it into the hot lemon liquid, then take it out, blow on it for a moment and then swipe your finger over the spoon… then lick your finger.  You should have cooled your sample enough that you won’t burn yourself.  If you need to adjust the sweetness, go ahead.  You know your tastes.  I like my lemon bars lemony with a bit of a kick.
 Remove your pan with the cooked lemon mixture from the burner.  It’s time to cool this a bit.  Give it about 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature.  Cooling happens quicker when we’re not near the residual heat of the stove.  I put mine on a metal trivet on the counter in the coolest part of my kitchen. Pour the cooled lemon mixture over the cooled crust, refrigerate.  We’re aiming for 2 hours of chill time minimum to ensure that the filling sets.  If you can leave it for a bit longer that will be better.  Also, if you used a smaller baking dish than 9 x 13 you will have to chill longer to accommodate the thicker lemon layer. [caption id="attachment_276" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="lemon layer"]lemon layer[/caption] If you want to make the tops of these bars look fancy you can sprinkle powdered sugar over top through a fine mesh strainer.  You just tip in about 3 Tbsp of powdered sugar and then tap the side of the sifter to get a snow like dusting.  Not necessary by any stretch, but it sure does look pretty! You’ve done well and are in the home stretch… it’s time to slice the bars into squares and serve them.  Size is your choice.  Sometimes I go the dainty one bite square root.  Today I am slicing tea worthy bars.  You should make them the size that makes you smile.   (Heck, if you just took a fork to the pan and scooped out a bite I won’t tell!) [caption id="attachment_277" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Luscious lemon goodness!"]Luscious lemon goodness![/caption]


A Saucy Makeover

I have to approach most recipes with makeovers in mind.  Most makeovers seem to take something plain and fancy it up almost to the point of making the original something that it's not.  But when I look at a recipe I think about how to simplify it and bring it back to something that is closer to the raw ingredients than anything else.  My makeovers also seem to be big time savers... but I'll show you what I mean when we get to the recipe in a minute.

After a serving of french fries and a little dabbling in the cotton candy bag at a sporting event this weekend I really felt the need to focus on raw foods to get my system back on track.  What I wanted today was a sauce that I could use to top a raw kale salad.  One of my favorite ways to eat kale is to simply rub it with minced garlic and a bit of olive oil.  I wanted to do something along the same line, but with a bit more sauce and spice.  After pulling out my favorite Indian cookbook, The Noon Book of Authentic Indian Cooking, I flipped to page 45 and read about a tomato based sauce that is traditionally used to bathe a batch of kofta (lamb meatballs) for 20 minutes until they cook to a soft perfection.  Lamb isn't to my liking as a plant based eater, but the kofta sauce definitely is!

The original calls for flaked toasted almonds, ghee, cardamon pods, cinnamon sticks, pureed onion, fresh tomato, turmeric, chili powder, garlic paste, ginger paste, green chili paste, sugar and cream.  So, here's what I did to makeover the recipe:

Raw and Spicy Tomato Sauce
(makes 5 cups)
8 plum tomatoes
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic
1 medium size onion (about 1.5 cups if diced)
3 pieces of fresh ginger, each about 1 inch long, peeled
1/2 cup raw almonds

Put all ingredients in the Vitamix/high powered blender or food processor and blend until everything is smooth.  The sauce will seem to get light in color.  It is the kind of fragrant that will make you go "Whoo!" when you remove the cover from the blender! The raw onion stings the nose a little (but it's nice!)
Now, talking about saving time -- the original gets set to simmer for no less than 20 minutes while my makeover take all of 3-5 minutes from start to finish.  If you have a Vitamix you can throw in all of the ingredients without chopping or prepping.  If you are using another blender or food processor you may have to chop your veg to make the processing easier.  All the same, we're talking about saving many precious minutes at a time of the day that is usually crazy!

This is the kind of sauce that will taste good right away, but even better if it has a few hours to sit and get comfortable.

Spicy Kale Salad
(serves 1)
3 cups torn raw kale
3 Tbsp raw and spicy tomato sauce
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped

Spoon the sauce onto the torn kale.  With clean hands, massage the sauce onto leaves.  You want to coat the kale and bruise it a bit as well.  Sounds weird, I know, but it feels good and bruising the raw kale somehow makes it taste much better than if you don't rough it up.  Plus, it's a great excuse to play with your food!  Top with the cilantro leaves and almonds and go to town.  You will enjoy a meal that is colorful, flavorful and nutrient rich.