Pasta Goes Rogue: Vegan Avocado Pesto

vegan avocado pesto
Every once in awhile, you come across a dish that changes everything. Something that radically alters the way you think about food. Much like the thrill of discovering the sneaky substitution of quinoa pasta for regular, or gluten-free, sugar-free black bean brownies, this vegan, avocado-based pesto has rocked my world. I’ve made it countless times since I discovered the original version, tweaking it each time.

Avocado, a dear friend of anyone looking for a creamy texture sans the dairy, is the star of the show. Even the most critical, picky eaters in our household have yet to suspect it’s anything less than a cheese-laden, straight-up basil pesto. This isn’t some funky-tasting Tex-Mex pasta masquerading as Italian food. This is honest, decadent-tasting vegan cooking at its absolute best!
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The Art of Strategic Rebellion: Toasted Quinoa Salad with Pears, Cherries, Almonds & Goat Cheese

DSC_2881 - Version 2
I love you, quinoa. You never do me wrong. I dress you up, I dress you down. I have you for breakfast, I have you for dinner. When I’m in the mood to be naughty and blatantly ignore the concept of a “recommended serving size” (my own special form of rebellion), I can safely do so with you. Overdosing on protein, fiber, antioxidants and amino acids has never hurt anyone, as far as I know.

Oh, and if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, I know you know that quinoa is a protein superstar. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a highly coveted non-animal product complete protein. Hot damn! Not to mention, it’s dirt cheap, particularly when you go crazy with those fun little scoopers in the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and leave with several pounds of it for just few dollars. Are you seeing a theme here? You can overdo it with quinoa without hurting your stomach or your wallet. Because isn’t overdoing it once in a while just fun? Don’t we all want to feel like we’re getting away with something? Choose quinoa as your accomplice in the art of strategic rebellion.
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How to Forget the Hostile Climate You Live In (Sans Alcohol): Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet

Sweet Potato & Enchilada Skillet
People. I pray you are not in Chicago. It is barricade-yourself-in-your-home-and-drink-red-wine-to-stay-warm kind of cold here. The reality of the Midwestern winter was put into brutal perspective for me after this weekend, which I spent in sunny, happy, these-people-must-be-on-meds-they-smile-so-much Austin, TX. This is a land where the weather hung out in the indisputably blissful 70s throughout the entirety of my visit. Then, I boarded a plane. Then, a mere two hours later, I landed in Chicago aka Iceland. As soon as the plane doors were opened to release us into Iceland, the savage air pushed its way in and we could all see our breath. WHILE WE WERE STILL ON THE PLANE. This has never happened to me.

It was 7 degrees. That’s over a 60 degree drop! Are you getting the picture? Are you understanding my need for drug-like foods so hot, steamy and yummy they just might make you forget about the next few months of pain that lie ahead? Ok, good. This brings me to my latest concoction, which I have made not one, but three times in the past month. It’s crave-inducing, a snap to make and uber healthy. It will make you forget the snow piling up outside your door. Especially if you pair it with margaritas, as we did during its latest showing at a dear friend’s dinner party.
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Don’t Judge A Dish By Its Color: Edamame & Pea Hummus

edamame and pea hummus

Consider the cracker. How versatile it is! How much freedom you wield with that (preferably whole wheat, flax, chia, or vegetable) crispy square with which you can scoop up all sorts of delights. Healthy delights. What once was considered the epitome of naughty – chips n’ dip – can now easily be transmuted into the healthiest part of your day. With this recipe, it undoubtedly will be. Full of protein and antioxidants from a surprisingly hearty concoction of edamame, peas, lemon juice, garlic and several healing spices and herbs, you may just find this to be the ideal vehicle for shelving your post-celebratory guilt and repenting upon your most ghastly of holiday gastronomical sins.

Full disclosure – this ain’t pretty to the untrained eye. My little sisters compared it to vomit with great gusto, while my mother swooned for its striking greenery.
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Resurrection: Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash & Quinoa

Why hello there. Remember me? The whisk-wielding habitually hungry gal who used to ramble on about the allure of raw brownies and the sex appeal of kale? Yes, I remember her too. She’s back, baby. After high-tailing it into the shadowy hills of corporate America (the updating of this blog oh-so-coincidentally ceasing upon Day One of being a REAL adult aka being a gainfully employed college graduate), I am back. My last update… August of 2011. Yikes. How I wish there was a WordPress feature allowing me to switch off publication dates, thus allowing me to cover my deserter tracks.

I have been around the world and back this past year and a half. Both figuratively and literally. I have been blessed with an astoundingly exciting, creative job which I slipped into mere days after receiving my Bachelor’s degree. Since then, I have wandered the streets of Shanghai, Beijing, Wuxi, Guangzhou, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Rome and London, after wrapping up my meetings for the day. Habitually hungry. Habitually curious. Always missing my kitchen but never being home in Chicago long enough to justify the leftovers a full-sized recipe would garner. But enough excuses. It’s time to get back into the kitchen!
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The Proof Is In the Rice: Brown Rice Crispy Treats

Virtuous desserts are in high demand these days, folks. Sugar, increasingly portrayed as the satanic bearer of everything that ails us, from premature aging to cancer, is on the outs while an intriguing variety of alternative (read: “hip”) sweeteners have descended upon your organic food aisle. This does not mean that we will collectively shun the sweet stuff, the one taste that humans are born craving, oh no, how could we deny an evolutionary impulse so strong that it has the power to cause even the most devout kale crunchers to polish off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one go? Rather than deny an evolutionary impulse, suffice to say I’m more than willing to try a few alternatives.
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Making Kale Sexy: Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut & Sesame Oil

Kale. You know kale, that thick, leafy green that all of the spandex-sporting hotties at Whole Foods frantically fill their shopping carts with as though it were the elixir of life. NEWSFLASH! It kinda is. Though its bulbous leaves and overall aggressive nature make it look like it belongs more in the Jurassic period than on your dinner plate, fear not! Kale’s bad rap has dissipated as modern chefs find sexy new ways to use it. Kale’s strong flavor is tempered in this truly fantastic recipe by the delightful and unexpected addition of toasted coconut and sesame oil. A big thanks to Heidi Swanson and her incredible new book, Super Natural Everyday, for being the bearer of such an awesome flavor combination.
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