Swiss Chard and Avocado Salad

 

I don’t know how it’s possible that I had never eaten Swiss chard before a couple of weeks ago. I should clarify: I hadn’t knowingly eaten Swiss chard until recently. I was pretty clueless about the foods that I was consuming until a couple of years ago when I finally began cooking and preparing my own food. Before then, I ate mostly pre-packaged food and take-out. If you think I’m joking, you should know that I lived in the same apartment during college for 3 years and never once in those three years did I use the oven. Not once. That’s just pathetic. And disgusting. If something needed heating, I figured that’s why I had a microwave. I couldn’t be bothered wasting time on waiting around for the oven to heat up first and then waiting more for the food to cook; my motto was “It’s not worth the time and effort if it takes longer to make than it does to eat.”

My, how times have changed. Now I spend huge chunks of my day preparing food, but because I enjoy doing so. However, I feel like I lived so long in a food “coma,” so-to-speak–consuming anything and everything with no regard for the foods I would eat or for how those foods might affect my body–and now I’m having to seriously make up for lost time. In the past year I’ve tried countless new foods–many that I’d never even heard of before–and have also been experimenting with different ways of preparing the foods with which I’m familiar.

Swiss chard somehow slipped under my radar until recently. If I ate it when I was younger, then I certainly had no idea what it was that I was eating. And although I’ve seen recipes containing Swiss chard before, I never really had an occasion to purchase Swiss chard nor the inclination to try those recipes. But thanks to my friend Deb, who has Swiss chard growing freely in her garden, I’ve finally been formally introduced to this leafy green vegetable. And I must say, I like love it! I eat a lot of salads made from spinach, Romaine, and kale–I began eating kale about a year ago and have been tirelessly eating it since–and although I love all three, I’m aware that I need to introduce other leafy green veggies into my repertoire. Variety is always a good thing. And Swiss chard has so much to offer: Research shows that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants and they also contain a flavonoid called syringic acid, which has received special attention in recent research due to its blood sugar regulating properties. Swiss chard is also high in Vitamins K, A, C, and E, and is a great source of magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber. Source

20120429-080935.jpg

Swiss chard leaves have a tendency to be somewhat bitter and tough like kale, but the creamy avocado and the massaging process that are part of this recipe are meant to mask these less-than-favorable qualities. It’s amazing how avocado makes everything better, don’t you agree? :) And if you prefer your salad dressings with some sweetness to them, feel free to add a little bit of stevia or honey to the mix. I have tried this salad with and without the added sweetener and I find that it’s amazingly good both ways. I hope you enjoy!

20120430-003325.jpg

Swiss Chard and Avocado Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 (or one very hungry person)
 
Ingredients
  • Large bunch Swiss chard, leaves chopped or torn and stems discarded
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup cucumber, sliced into ½-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 Tbs. hemp seeds
  • ½ large or 1 small avocado
  • small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbs. filtered water
  • 1 Tbs. lemon
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • stevia or honey to sweeten (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the torn or chopped Swiss chard leaves into a large bowl.
  2. Mix together the dressing ingredients (avocado through stevia/honey) in a separate smaller bowl. The stevia and honey are optional and can be used to counter the bitterness of the Swiss chard if you need it, however, I also like the salad without the sweeteners.
  3. Pour the dressing over the Swiss chard leaves and massage the dressing into the leaves with your hands for a minute or two. Don’t be afraid to get messy, this is the fun part!
  4. Next, add the tomatoes, cucumber, basil and hemp seeds and mix everything together using your hands or a spatula.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Adapted from here.

Dairy-Free Almond Butter “Ice Cream” and Chocolate Shell

It happened again last night…

In fact, it happens almost every night…

As soon as I relax after a big dinner and I feel like I’m so full I could burst, this is when it strikes–a sweet tooth so voracious that it refuses to be ignored. I always try to pretend my craving for sweets doesn’t exist, knowing that as soon as I acquiesce to this craving I won’t be able to stop myself. But I cave anyway. I just can’t help myself.

I figure the best thing I can do in this all-too-familiar situation is to whip up a “healthy” dessert: one that contains only natural ingredients with no processed sugar, dairy, or gluten. I know this sounds difficult and perhaps it sounds like it’s not much of a dessert if it contains only healthy ingredients, but there are a lot of easy, healthy and delicious options out there–I promise!

20120427-064722.jpg
This was my dessert last night and man was it good amazing! I used basically the same recipe as the one I shared for my Surprise Sundae. Honestly, I could eat this all the time. It’s as good as real ice cream, but without all the unnatural, processed ingredients that make traditional ice cream so unhealthy. Sometimes I’ll eat this “ice cream” plain, but I usually prefer to add some chocolate. Chocolate just somehow makes everything in life better, right?

20120427-065524.jpg

Almond Butter “Ice Cream” and Chocolate Shell
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1-2
 
Ingredients
  • Almond Butter “Ice Cream”:
  • 2 bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1 rounded Tbs. almond butter
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Chocolate Shell:
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp. cacao powder
  • 4 drops liquid stevia
Instructions
  1. For the Almond Butter “Ice Cream”: Place the frozen banana chunks into a food processor and process until it begins to become smooth. Add the almond butter and vanilla extract and process until the “ice cream” is smooth and fully combined. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to reach the right consistency.
  2. For the Chocolate Shell: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until fully combined. Taste to make sure the sauce is as sweet as you like.
  3. Transfer the “ice cream” to a large bowl. Pour the chocolate shell on top and add some cacao nibs or shredded coconut if you like.
  4. Enjoy!!

 

Herbed Rice and Summer Squash Salad

20120425-234216.jpg
I just love this rice dish, and what’s more, my husband does, too! There aren’t many of my vegan dishes that my husband will try, let alone actually admit that he really enjoys. But every time I make this rice, he is eager to try it before it’s even finished and he scarfs it down as soon as it’s been served. In fact, when I made this rice a couple of days ago, he must have asked me ten times when the rice would be ready and he hovered over me while I was preparing it, asking if he could try some. And that night when I went to bed, he stayed up to finish work and in the morning I noticed that the leftovers had vanished.

For me, this rice dish is definitely filling enough to serve as my dinner. My husband and step-son, however, typically prefer this alongside a big slab of meat. Whatever your preference–side or entrée–this rice is sure to satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. I prefer to serve this dish while it’s still warm, but I could also imagine it being served slightly chilled at a barbecue.

Rice is among the few grains that are naturally gluten-free. Overall, this dish is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and nut-free, so you will never have to worry about whether or not your friends, family or guests will be able to eat this dish. And because it’s so good, you will also never have to worry about whether or not they will want to eat this dish :)

I know the recipe instructions seem long and detailed, but the only time you’ll actually be doing any work is when you are preparing and sautéing the veggies. Other than that, this recipe is extremely simple and quite easy to make. You can also double the recipe if you want to have leftovers (if it lasts that long) or if you are serving a crowd. I hope you enjoy!
20120425-234235.jpg

Herbed Rice and Summer Squash Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup brown rice (I used medium-grain)
  • 1½ cups filtered water
  • 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 Tbs. olive oil
  • ½ Tbs. coriander, slightly crushed
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ cup onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. To cook the rice: Soak the rice in filtered water for at least 8 hours; I place mine in the fridge when I leave for work and it’s ready by the time I come home. Rinse the rice well and drain completely. Bring 1½ cups filtered water to a boil. Add the rice and turn the temperature down to Low and allow the rice to simmer, covered, for approximately 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, check the rice to see if it’s ready and when it is fully cooked, remove the pan from heat. Drain excess water if needed. Place the lid back on the pan and allow the rice to sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, prepare all of the other ingredients.
  3. In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over Medium heat. Add the crushed coriander seeds and stir them around until they begin to darken. Next, add the onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the zucchini, yellow squash and cumin and saute for 2-3 minutes more. Finally, add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are cooked, approximately 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour contents into a large bowl.
  4. Add the cooked rice to your sautéed veggies. Next, add the parsley, cilantro, grape tomatoes, lemon juice, walnuts/pecans (if you choose), and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Enjoy!

Adapted from here

Veggie Spring Rolls with Almond Dipping Sauce

There’s a very odd phenomenon occurring: it seems now that when I take even one day away from Almonds & Avocados, I feel as though something is missing. The truth is, I have come to love everything about this blog, from writing and coming up with ideas and topics, to experimenting with recipes and trying out new flavors and dishes. I’ll even admit that I now enjoy taking pictures of the food. I know I’m a complete novice when it comes to photography–besides, there’s only so much I can do with the camera on my iPhone–but I’m no longer rushing through taking pictures of the food so that I can hurry up and eat the food. I’ve also noticed that when I take time away from the blog, I feel overwhelmed when I return because I have so much to share! More than anything, though, I love getting to share with and hear back from you. Please keep the questions and comments coming and let me know how I might improve the site.

So, I’m very sorry, but you’re just going to have to put up with me and my constant posts :)

Which brings me to my amazingly wonderful and amazingly simple dinner from a couple of nights ago: veggie spring rolls with an almond dipping sauce.

20120424-221937.jpg

I absolutely love spring rolls, but I’ve never attempted to make them at home. Now that I know how easy it is to make spring rolls, I’m kicking myself for not trying them sooner. This dish is so easy to throw together that a 4 year-old could make it. Not only that, it’s good. Really good. Like, gone-in-mere-seconds-and-must-make-more good.

As far as ingredients are concerned, you could try almost any ingredients you like in any combination and I can guarantee you that your rolls with be delicious. I used ingredients that I constantly use in combination and always have on hand: avocado, cucumber, red bell pepper, bean sprouts and Romaine lettuce.
The only ingredient that I didn’t have just lying around my home was the rice paper needed for wrapping the rolls. Fortunately, the rice paper was fairly inexpensive and easy to locate–I picked up a package from the “Ethnic Food” aisle at Whole Foods. Not to mention, there were plenty of rice paper wrappers left over which means that I can make this dish again soon–very soon :)

Last but not least, I must not forget about the almond dipping sauce! Spring rolls are typically served with a peanut dipping sauce, but I (obviously) prefer almonds. I also find it’s best not to consume peanuts due to their susceptibility to molds and fungal invasions (Source). What’s more, the Food Allergy Network ranks peanuts as the leading cause of severe food allergic reactions. Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, and pecans) are also among the top food types classified as major allergens, but almonds appear to cause the fewest allergic reactions of all the tree nuts (Source).

So, I used some of my homemade almond butter and combined it with a few other ingredients to whip up the sauce. When my first rolls were gone and I had some almond dipping sauce remaining, I decided to make a couple more rolls. And when the second round of rolls were gone and there was still some sauce remaining, I decided to finish the sauce with a spoon. There was absolutely no way I was going to let any of that dipping sauce go to waste!

Do you like spring rolls? If so, what are your favorite fillings?

20120424-215918.jpg

 

5.0 from 1 reviews

Veggie Spring Rolls with Almond Dipping Sauce
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Makes approximately 4 large spring rolls, or 8 halves
 
Ingredients
  • Spring Rolls:
  • 1 cup cucumber, sliced into matchstick-thin strips
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced thin
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ avocado, sliced thin
  • 1-2 Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and torn into pieces
  • Almond Dipping Sauce:
  • 1 rounded Tbs. almond butter
  • ½ Tbs. Braggs Liquid Aminos (or gluten-free Tamari soy sauce)
  • 1 clove garlic, pushed through a press
  • pinch of red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. filtered water (use as needed to thin the sauce)
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the dipping sauce ingredients except for the filtered water in a bowl and whisk together until fully combined. Pour the filtered water into the dipping sauce in ½ Tbs. increments and whisk until combined. Continue to add the filtered water until you reach your preferred consistency.
  2. Prepare all of your spring roll filling ingredients and set aside.
  3. Fill a shallow plate or pie pan with warm water. Dip the rice paper into the warm water for no more than 5 seconds, then place it on a plate. Add the filling ingredients to the side of the rice paper closest to you and begin to roll. *Although the rice paper is quite flexible, be careful not to tug too much or it will tear. Fold the sides in as you are rolling. Don’t be concerned with sealing the wrapper as it will seal itself.
  4. You can serve the spring rolls as-is or cut them in half with a sharp knife.
  5. Serve with dipping sauce and Enjoy!

Earth Day and a Pomegranate and Walnut Spinach Salad

I hope everyone had a fabulous Earth Day yesterday!! It was gorgeous here in Dallas so I spent most of the day outdoors just taking in the beautiful weather. After going to check on the herbs and veggies that my dad and I planted in his backyard–which are growing so quickly–I went home and spent most of the day on my back patio just reading and eating–two of my favorite things :) It was absolutely perfect and it’s days like yesterday that remind me of how fortunate I am and how much beauty there is in nature. I just listened to the leaves rustling in the wind and the birds chirping their songs and was overcome with an overwhelming sense of peace.

This was my view for much of the day:
20120422-131951.jpg
Doesn’t get much better :)

It was especially nice to be able to sit on the patio and enjoy my lunch. I’m usually rushing to finish lunch and get back to work, but yesterday I just took my time and relaxed. I had a bunch of fruit, a salad and a veggie sandwich on gluten-free millet bread; the sandwich and the fruit were good, but the salad was amazing.

20120422-132842.jpg
It’s such a simple salad, so easy to make, but with wonderful flavors. Since I still have tons of loquats just lying around I thought I would continue on my loquat kick and toss them into the salad as well. I’m so glad I did! The pomegranates and loquats added a tartness that balanced out the sweet and spicy dressing perfectly.

Pomegranate and Walnut Spinach Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 (or 1 very large salad)
 
Ingredients
  • 4-5 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
  • ⅓ cup loquats, rinsed, deseeded and sliced*
  • ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • For the dressing:
  • 1-2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. flax oil**
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 drops liquid stevia
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the spinach leaves. Mix until the spinach is completely coated.
  3. Toss the loquats, pomegranates, and walnuts in with the spinach and mix well.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
*If you don’t have access to fresh loquats, sub with sliced apple or pear **You can also sub with additional olive oil. I like to add flax oil when I can because it is a wonderful source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

I hope you got to enjoy Earth Day, too!