Savory Oats with Kale, Mushrooms and Walnuts Recipe + other ideas for savory oats

savory oats with kale, mushrooms and walnuts | pamela salzman

I teach a breakfast cooking class once a year and in this past one, savory steel cut oats were on the menu.  That’s right, savory oats, as opposed to the standard oatmeal with sweet toppings like bananas and brown sugar or raisins and peanut butter.  There were quite a few raised eyebrows and comments like “I’m not so sure about this” or “I trust you, but this doesn’t sound good.”  Needless to say, the risky recipe that month was also the surprise hit.  No one could believe how much they enjoyed a savory version of oatmeal.

cleaning shiitake mushrooms

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth which needs no more encouragement than it already gets.  Starting my day on a savory note often helps to keep sweet cravings at bay, at least until late afternoon.  If an egg and veggie scramble or avocado and tomato toast is acceptable for breakfast, why not oatmeal with vegetables?  Oats are so bland, the perfect backdrop for almost anything.  In fact, I like to think of oats like pasta or risotto or polenta — infinitely versatile.  One of my students thought she could easily serve her family these savory oats for Sunday dinner.  Why not?

stem and slice the kale

This post is more about encouraging skeptics to try this, than providing a specific recipe.  Because once you are open-minded about eating oatmeal with veggies, you’ll see that you don’t really need a recipe.  But, I would like to point out that I always try to incorporate high quality fat and protein in my breakfasts so I will have staying power until lunchtime.  Protein can be anything from an egg to nuts and seeds to dairy, like cheese, yogurt or milk.  Good fats are in eggs, nut and seeds, avocado, olive oil, ghee or organic butter.  I’m a texture gal, and since oatmeal is creamy, I do like to add something with crunch, like nuts.  But that’s my personal choice.  I do think oats can accommodate bold flavors in the flavor department, so don’t be shy with garlic, crushed red pepper or ginger, for example.

savory oats with kale, mushrooms and walnuts | pamela salzman

Let me come clean.  Even though I am crazy about savory oats, my kids prefer sweet.  But the beauty of making a pot of oatmeal, whether it’s rolled oats or steel cut, is that you don’t have to commit to sweet or savory.  I leave the pot on the stove and everyone does his or her own thing.  I will do a quick sauté of veggies for myself and anyone else who wants them.  If I have no takers, they know where to find the bananas and pecans.

savory oats witk sautéed kale, mushrooms and walnuts | pamela salzman

I took images of my favorite combo, which is sautéed kale and mushrooms plus gomasio and chopped walnuts.  But I have done many iterations of veggies on oatmeal and I’ve listed a few at the bottom of the recipe.  If it looks like I won’t be eating lunch until late and I won’t have time to take a snack break in the morning, I will add a drizzle of olive oil.  In my June class, I sautéed lots of garlic, crushed red pepper, cherry tomatoes, shredded zucchini and basil in olive oil and served it over the oats with grated Pecorino on the side.  It was absolutely delicious.

savory oats with sautéed kale, mushrooms and walnuts | pamela salzman

What do you have in the fridge from last night?  Roasted cauliflower?  Reheat it and put it over oats with sautéed garlic and shallots, toasted pine nuts and raisins.  In fact, you don’t have to use oats!  You can use your favorite warm porridge, like this gluten-free blend I sometimes make.  You know I probably shouldn’t play this game, because I’ll be here all day coming up with great possibilities for oats.  I would love to hear from you though.  Are savory oats a thing for you yet?  Any combinations you’d like to share?

5.0 from 2 reviews
Savory Oats with Kale, Mushrooms and Walnuts
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups water (use 3 ¾ cups if oats were soaked overnight and drained)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 big bunch kale, stripped and chopped coarsely
  • ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts (or another nut or seed, toasted or raw)
  • gomasio for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. Place the oats, water and sea salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer oats uncovered until oats are tender, about 40 minutes. (Soaked oats only take 30 minutes.)
  2. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add vegetables, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Portion the oats into 4 bowls and top with the vegetable mixture. Add an extra drizzle of olive oil or a different oil like flax, hemp or avocado. Top with walnuts and sprinkle with gomasio.
Notes
Other options I love:
Sauteed cabbage and scallions, sesame oil, shoyu, gomasio or sesame seeds and a poached egg
Shredded zucchini or sautéed asparagus, goat cheese and toasted, salted pistachios
Burst cherry tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, basil and grated Pecorino or Parmesan
Dried chilies, coconut milk, dried unsweetened coconut, toasted cashews, scallions and shoyu

 

Grain-free Cinnamon Apple Cake Recipe

grain-free cinnamon apple cake | pamela salzman

One of the first desserts I made my boyfriend-now-husband was the Chunky Apple Walnut Cake from The Silver Palate Cookbook.  Do you remember that book?  Even though it’s from 1982, I still have it on the shelf in my kitchen with more current titles.  It was probably the second cookbook I ever bought and still one of my all-time favorites.  That Chicken Marbella is legendary!

mixing it altogether

But I might have won my husband’s heart with that apple walnut cake.  It was dense, sweet and chock full of apples and walnut pieces.  I actually healthified it many years ago with whole wheat flour, coconut oil and sucanat, with delicious, but still decadent results.  But lately I’ve been trying to limit the gluten and indulge in it when it counts (e.g. crusty bread, pizza).  After the wildly successful grain-free chocolate zucchini cake (if you haven’t made that, you must!), I decided to do a twist on that and make a cinnamon apple version.

grain-free cinnamon apple cake | pamela salzman

This apple cake is very different from the Silver Palate one, but my husband has also come around to a lighter, more healthful way of eating, especially since we hit 40. When he and the kids went crazy for this grain-free cake, I knew I had to teach it in my classes.  It was a big hit there, too.

grain-free cinnamon apple cake | pamela salzman

When September rolls around, it’s not only back to school, but apple season and the Jewish new year, too.  This was the perfect week to post this recipe since this Sunday is the first night of Rosh Hashana.  Even if you don’t celebrate the Jewish holidays this cake is a delicious treat in a lunch box or after dinner with a dusting of powdered sugar to make it look a little fancier.  My husband loves pieces of walnuts or pecans in here, but my son preferred a version I tested with raisins.  Either way, this is a more wholesome, clean cake than most out there and who can resist tender chunks of apple enveloped in a sweet and cinnamon-y cake?   And you won’t know this is flour-free or grain-free.  It tastes as good as “normal” cake no matter how you slice it.

grain-free cinnamon apple cake | pamela salzman

It freezes beautifully and I found out that it even tastes great frozen after I tried to tuck some away so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it.  Can someone please explain “self control” to me?  Who eats frozen cake???  I am planning on making at least one of these for my Rosh Hashana luncheon next Monday and I know I won’t have to worry about leftovers.

grain-free cinnamon apple cake | pamela salzman

 

5.0 from 4 reviews
Grain-free Cinnamon Apple Cake Recipe
Author: 
Serves: 1 cake
 
Ingredients
  • unrefined coconut oil or unsalted butter for greasing pan
  • 1 cup creamy, unsweetened, unsalted almond butter, raw or roasted (or use unsweetened sunflower butter for a nut-free cake)
  • ⅓ cup pure Grade A maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon fine ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼” cubes (about 1 ½ cups)*
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or you could use raisins)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch pan or an 8- or 9-inch round pan. If you want to remove the cake from the pan in one piece, line it with unbleached parchment paper as well. You do not have to grease the parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, egg, vanilla, and baking soda until smooth.
  3. Stir in apple pieces and nuts or raisins.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake until just set and a toothpick comes out clean or with dry crumbs. Do not overbake. A 9 x 9 pan will take 35-45 minutes. An 8 x 8 pan will take 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Notes
I like the chunks of apple in the cake, but you can also use 1½ cups of shredded, peeled apples (about 2-3 medium apples.)

Vegan apple spice snacking cake recipe (refined sugar-free)

vegan apple spice snacking cake | pamela salzman

I just took stock of my pantry because baking season has officially begun.  It started slowly with a few batches of cookie dough for back to school lunches.  Then Mr. Picky’s birthday rolled around last week and whoosh it’s Rosh Hashana this Wednesday night already!  I don’t need to tell you what is just around the corner, do I?

grease the cake pan and line with parchment if desired

Thankfully, I share the Jewish holiday cooking with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  We each host a meal and cook whatever we want.  I have the first day of Rosh Hashana lunch, as well as the break fast on Yom Kippur evening.  The break fast is actually one of my favorite holidays to host because people literally starve themselves for 24 hours (no water either!) and then come to my house to eat.  I could basically serve anything and it would be a hit!

dry ingredients

One of the nice traditions of the Jewish new year is eating seasonal foods.  Love that!  Apples are likely the most important food along with honey which symbolize the hope of a sweet year ahead.  I have been loving the new crops of local apples flooding the markets over the past month.  My kids particularly love Honeycrisp, Pink Lady (my personal fave), Granny Smith.  I use apples all over the place at this time of year — turned into applesauce, sautéed on top of pancakes and waffles, cooked into oatmeal, chopped in salads and folded into simple snacking cakes like this one.

wet ingredients

I saw a recipe a few years back for a Depression era chocolate cake called “Wacky Cake.”  The cake didn’t use any “expensive” ingredients like eggs, milk or butter and I think got it’s name “wacky” because somehow the crazy recipe actually produced a moist, delicious cake.  There are a gajillion recipes for the classic chocolate Wacky Cake, but last year I decided to put a twist on the (vegan) recipe and use apples and spices instead.  Delicious!

batter before apples and raisins

 

diced apples and golden raisins

The result was a moist, fragrant and just sweet enough little cake that I think is just perfect for after school snacks, lunch box treats, brunch or anytime you need a seasonal dessert for a fall gathering, like Rosh Hashana!!  I make some sort of apple dessert every year for my luncheon, but I am very fond of this one because it is so darn easy and it freezes amazingly well.  It is also pretty clean: whole grain flour, minimal amount of unrefined coconut sugar, and very little oil (I use unrefined coconut oil.)  My entire family loves it!

add walnuts to the top of the cake

You can do different things with this easy cake.  You can double the recipe and bake the cakes in 9-inch round pans for a 2-layer cake.  I would use this vegan frosting or a classic cream cheese frosting to go between the two cakes and on top.  If you don’t like raisins, leave them out.  Or instead of placing the walnuts halves on the top of the cake, chop them up and fold them into the batter.  Or make this into muffins.  For my do-aheaders, make this today and freeze it for the upcoming holiday (Rosh Hashana, Halloween, Thanksgiving — GASP!)  If you are celebrating the new year this week, may it be a sweet one!
vegan apple spice snacking cake

vegan apple spice snacking cake | pamela salzman

 

Vegan Apple Spice Snacking Cake
Author: 
Serves: makes 1 8 x8 cake or 12 standard muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
  • ½ cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar or cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon cloves (optional)
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil or unsalted butter (not vegan)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup orange juice*
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced, about 1 cup
  • ½ cup unsulphured raisins (optional)
  • 16 raw walnut halves, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You can grease your pan with coconut oil or butter and line it with unbleached parchment paper if you want to remove it from the pan to serve it. Otherwise, no greasing necessary if you will cut pieces from the pan to serve.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Make a well (indentation) in the flour mixture.
  3. Pour the coconut oil, vinegar, vanilla, water and orange juice in the well and stir until everything is just combined. Do not overmix!
  4. Fold in diced apple pieces and raisins.
  5. Pour batter into pan and smooth out top. If you want, evenly space walnut pieces over batter. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes
*Or use all water and up the coconut sugar to ⅔ cup.  You can also add diced dates.

Lentil and grilled eggplant salad recipe

Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad | Pamela Salzman

Do you remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial from the ’80s, where the guy wakes up super early in the morning every day and says, “time to make the donuts” ?  That’s how I felt yesterday morning when I stumbled out of bed as the sun came up because it was “time to make the lunches.”  Oy.  How is it that I love to cook, but I dread making school lunches?

eggplant and onions on the grill

grill the red onions and eggplant and chop

This isn’t a post about school lunches though.   I’ll still post my kids’ lunches once a week on Instagram and Facebook so we can all share ideas.  I just can’t believe it’s the beginning of school and I have not eaten what I think is enough tomatoes!  Or eggplant.  Or peaches.  So now I’m on a mission to eat as much summer produce as I can before it is gone.  And the first day of school is my warning bell.

cooking lentils

I saw a post on Instagram the other day asking who was excited for pumpkin season?  Uh, not me.  What’s the rush?  I would be delighted to eat watermelon and plums for a bit longer thank you.  I want to make more of this Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad.  I taught this salad in a class last year and I became obsessed with it, making it for friends and family all summer long.  It has many of my favorite foods like grilled eggplant, which is much better than eggplant cooked any other way, in my opinion; hearty, protein-rich lentils, which are my favorite vegetarian protein source (Mr. Picky’s, too); and of course, the best of summer, ripe, juicy tomatoes.

cooked lentils

I love the earthy, assertive flavors in this salad and especially the delicious, mustard-y vinaigrette.  Dijon and lentils are great pals.  This would be a perfect salad to bring to a Labor Day BBQ, especially if you don’t eat meat and make to ensure a vegetarian option.  Or make this for dinner with something green on the side and you’re done.  I’ve also added some goat cheese or feta for an extra salty bite.  Many of my students like the precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s which would make this even easier to put together.  Because I’m all about easy if it will make me cook something at home instead of getting take out.  Gotta run — it’s already that time of day.  Time to make dinner!

lentil and grilled eggplant salad | pamela salzman lentil and grilled eggplant salad | pamela salzman lentil and grilled eggplant salad | pamela salzman Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad | Pamela Salzman

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup French lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing vegetables (or use melted unrefined coconut oil to grill vegetables)
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, preferably raw
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 medium eggplants (approx. 1- 1 ¼ pound each), sliced lengthwise ½-inch thick
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into whole rings
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ⅓ cup fresh whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the lentils and the wine in a medium saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the wine has been absorbed.
  2. Add the stock or water, onion and garlic to the saucepan with the lentils and bring to a boil over high heat, lower to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
  3. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and reserve.
  4. When the lentils are done, drain and pick out onion and garlic pieces and discard. Place lentils in the serving bowl and pour a tablespoon of the dressing onto the warm lentils and stir gently to combine.  Reserve remaining dressing.
  5. Turn your grill on to medium-high heat. Brush the eggplant and red onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill the eggplant and onion until tender and slightly charred (not burned).
  6. Chop the grilled vegetables into bite-size pieces and add to the lentils. Add the chopped tomato, parsley leaves and walnuts.
  7. Toss the salad with the remainder of the dressing and taste for salt. Serve warm or room temperature.

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal Spice Cookies Recipe (gluten-free)

vegan pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies | pamela salzman

Have you made my vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies?   If you’re new here, do not hesitate.  They are fantastic!  They’re a staple around here and definitely one of the more healthful (less bad for you?) cookies I’ve tried.  I love that recipe so much I decided to tinker with it and make a fall version with pumpkin puree and delicious spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  Amazing!  It’s like pumpkin pie meets an oatmeal cookie.  And as much I love these cookies fresh out of the oven, they are just as delicious raw.  That’s right, as in cookie dough.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.  After I posted my secret pumpkin oatmeal cookie dough addiction on Instagram, my students started stealing the bowl out from under my nose during class and having a taste themselves!  The benefits of a vegan dough.

raw cookie dough

I thought I would sneak this recipe in today before you start baking treats for Halloween.  Of course, these are perfect during the entire season of fall and beyond.  They’re a snap to make and like many cookie recipes, you can prepare the dough in advance and bake as many or as few cookies as you need.  I like these best the day they’re made and even the next day.  Because there’s pumpkin in them, they get a little soft after a day.

pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies | pamela salzman

This recipe ended up being more flexible than I imagined.  I had to try it with a nut other than walnuts one day for a student with a walnut allergy and pecans worked great.  I haven’t tried this recipe with sunflower seeds, but I think it would work if you need to go nut-free.  The sunflower seeds just might react with the baking soda, however, and cause the cookies to have a green-ish color to the them.  Might be kind of cool for Halloween!  I know many of you will want to sub chocolate chips for the raisins and I say go for it!  Pumpkin + chocolate + spices isn’t my thing, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it.  I was serving these in my classes plain and simple, but I found a recipe for a fun sweet potato-cream cheese frosting that was delicious as a filling if you wanted to make a sort of oatmeal cookie whoopie pie.  Just for kicks.

vegan pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies with sweet potato cream cheese frosting | pamela salzman

However, like I always say, just because these cookies are higher quality and not made with junk and chemicals doesn’t mean you can eat them all day long.  Concentrated sweeteners can still raise your blood sugar and will still feed yeast and fungus in your system and will keep you addicted to sugar.  So with the beginning of the season of sweets, which I say starts on Halloween and ends on New Years Day, I try to be conscientious about not going crazy when I am offered candy and treats galore.  But before we start thinking about 2014, we’ve got lots of fun in store.  Thanksgiving is indeed four weeks from Halloween which means you and I are going into planning mode pronto.  See you all back here on Thursday!

vegan pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies | pamela salzman

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal Spice Cookies
Author: 
Serves: makes 20 2½-inch cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups oat flour (see Step #2) (use certified gluten-free oat flour if you are gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 ¾ cups raw walnuts or pecans
  • 6 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (it doesn’t need to be melted)
  • ¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup (grade A or B)
  • 10 Tablespoons (½ cup + 2 Tbs.) coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) (anywhere between ½ -1 cup works)
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (use certified gluten-free rolled oats if you are gluten-free)
  • 1 cup unsulphured raisins or chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. If you need to make oat flour, place 1 ¾ cups rolled oats in a food processor and process until powdery.
  3. Place oat flour, baking soda, salt cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
  4. Place walnuts in a food processor and blend into a fine meal. Add oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar and pumpkin and process until mixture has the consistency of natural nut butter.
  5. Stir walnut mixture into flour mixture. Fold in 2 cups rolled oats and the raisins.
  6. Use a 1 ¾ -inch ice cream scooper to form dough into balls, and place on baking sheets. You can fit 12 on a sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with a damp hand. Bake 13-15 minutes or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry.
  7. Cool a few minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Notes
SWEET POTATO-CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
(adapted from "Feeding the Whole Family")

1 cup mashed baked sweet potatoes
¼ cup softened cream cheese or soft tofu (2 ounces)
1 Tablespoon melted unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or orange juice

Cream together all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or with a mixer until smooth and spreadable.

 

Harvest chopped salad

Halloween is tomorrow, but to tell you the truth, I don’t make much of an effort to show my “spirit” with cupcakes that look like spiders or swamp slime green Jell-o.     Do my kids really need marshmallow ghosts on top of the candy  I have not forbidden them to inhale as they trick-or-treat?  Silly question!  Actually, my only food strategy on Halloween is to make a very hearty , filling dinner, like vegetable chili with brown rice, so the kids aren’t starving while they carry around a sack o’chocolate.  Works for me!

If you checked out my post last Thursday, you probably guessed I have bypassed Halloween and gone straight into Thanksgiving mode.   Not only have I already taught two Thanksgiving classes, but I am starting to check tasks off my list.   Invites — out.  Menu — planned.  Turkeys — ordered.  So if you’re like me and you’re daydreaming about maple-glazed root vegetables instead of witch cakes,  let’s get down to business!

The vegetables are really the only part of the menu that I get to have any fun at all.  My family and guests would have a rebellion if I didn’t make roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potato casserole.  So every year I try some new salads and vegetables just to mix it up a bit.   This salad is one of my absolute favorites and not just for Thanksgiving.  I have made this for other holiday dinners and for friends, and I always save a little extra for me for the next day’s lunch.  This salad is the perfect complement to a Thanksgiving meal consisting of lots of cooked food,  much of it soft and beige.  Not only will all of these colors brighten up your holiday buffet table like little jewels, but you’ll be happy to have something juicy, crunchy and (is this a crime?) healthful to eat.  Even though there are apples, pomegranates and dates in the salad, it doesn’t feel too sweet.  It’s more like a tart-sweet, a perfect complement to roast turkey.

This salad is also ideal for Thanksgiving since you can prep almost all of it the day before.  Oh yeah!   No need to squeeze anything into your already monopolized oven or dirty any measuring spoons the day of.  You can blanche the beans the day before, roast the beets two days before, chop fennel the day before and cover with a damp paper towel, seed the pomegranate several days before, chop walnuts whenever you want, and make the salad dressing several days in advance.  The only last minute item is the apples which you can dice a few hours in advance and keep in ice water in the refrigerator.  Just drain and pat dry before adding to the salad.  How’s that for a plan!

Harvest Chopped Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 3 stalks celery or 1 bulb fennel, diced (I prefer fennel.)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 medium pomegranate)
  • 1 large crisp apple (e.g. Fuji or Granny Smith), diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 dates, pitted and diced (easier to cut when they’re cold)
  • 1 cup diced roasted golden beets (can be done the day before)*
  • Vinaigrette: (can be prepared several days in advance)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons walnut oil (or use all olive oil)
Instructions
  1. Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Blanche green beans for 2 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and submerge into ice water. Drain, pat dry and slice on the diagonal into bite sized pieces. (Can be done the day before.)
  2. In a large bowl combine beans, chopped celery, pomegranate, apple, walnuts, dates and beets.
  3. Prepare the vinaigrette: whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour enough vinaigrette over vegetables to coat lightly. Taste for salt and pepper.
Notes
*To roast 1-2 beets, wrap each one in parchment and then foil. Or follow the photos above to roast a pan of several beets. Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Large ones can take about 60 minutes. Allow to cool and then peel off the skins.

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free Frosting Recipe

I was married almost 17 years ago, so I guess it’s not crazy that my husband would have forgotten what flavor our wedding cake was.  I’m just surprised, because he was very involved in all decisions.  I know you’re thinking that it sounds sweet to have your fiance interested enough in your wedding to have a say in everything, but trust me, kind of annoying.  Regardless, we were talking about our wedding cake the other day and my husband remembers it as carrot cake, which it was certainly not.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with carrot cake for a wedding cake, but ours was a simple white cake with chocolate chocolate-chip buttercream filling.

He probably thinks it was carrot cake because we both love it so much.  And we both agree that carrot cake should be moist and dense and chock full of carrots and raisins and walnuts.  I remember many a date when we shared a large slice of carrot cake for dessert.  You know the kind.  Two or three layers of sweet, nubby cake sandwiched between even sweeter, creamy, tangy icing.  Sounds great until you learn that a huge piece of bakery or restaurant carrot cake contains about a entire day’s worth of calories.  And don’t think they’re using natural sweeteners, friends.  If I were 22 again and doing two hours of step aerobics every day, I could probably get away with it.  But not no more!

Fast forward two decades later when at least one of us is trying to consume desserts in moderation and bake them with less refined ingredients so we can make it to our 50th wedding anniversary and beyond.  Yes, that’s why I make carrot cake in a 13 x9-inch baking dish instead of as a layer cake.  I think it’s super delicious too, but for me at least, one square is plenty.  And before you think I’m no fun at all, don’t think I’m skimping on flavor here.  This carrot cake delivers the same sweet, spiced goodness that you would expect from the traditional.  Ok, maybe not the same sweetness.  When I got motivated to come up with a higher quality carrot cake, I went to my trusty Ina, who uses a whopping 2 cups of sugar in her cake.  Although in her defense, so does everyone else.  In my recipe I use coconut palm sugar and much less of it.  Listen, there’s a whole pound of carrots in this cake and carrots are sweet.  There are also raisins and even diced pineapple if you choose to use it.  And even if you don’t frost this cake, it’s plenty sweet.  Personally, I was happy as a clam with this cake unfrosted, but I knew my students would be expecting something more.  Of course I couldn’t go with a typical cream cheese frosting, because they don’t come to my kitchen for that.   So I am also offering you something very alternative, but perfectly yummy and thick and creamy and won’t make you sick to your stomach after you eat it.  And it’s vegan!

I’m thinking with Father’s Day coming up, this would be a fun dessert to make.  You can even do it in a muffin tin for individual cupcakes.  There are lots of ways you can adapt this recipe to make everyone happy.  Drop the pineapple if you wish.  Use pecans instead of walnuts.  Add some nutmeg or cloves.  Make Ina Garten’s cream cheese frosting if you don’t believe me that this one is great.  Just don’t ask me if you can make this cake without carrots because that question was already asked in my class last month and my answer is “no.”  Instead you have my blessing to go make the white butter cake with chocolate chocolate-chip buttercream filling that you really want.

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free Frosting
Author: 
Serves: makes a 13x9-inch or 2 9-inch round pans
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cups coconut palm sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼-1 ½ cups unrefined oil (I use melted coconut oil, but olive or high-oleic safflower is fine, too)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup unsulphured golden raisins (or dark raisins if you prefer)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped (or frozen, thawed)
  • Raw Cashew Frosting (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 13”x 9” pan.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until thick and sugar has dissolved a bit. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together 2 ½ cups flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the raisins and walnuts with 1 Tablespoon of flour and add to batter. Fold in the carrots and pineapple and mix well.
  5. Pour batter into pan. It should be super thick. Bake for 45–55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in pan over a wire wrack.
Notes
If you like things very sweet, you can increase the sugar to 1½ cups and the recipe will work fine. I also give a range for the oil. Use 1¼ cup if you plan to eat it all the same day it's made and if you like a lighter cake. Use 1½ cups if you like it a little heavier and if you want it to cake to stay moist for several days. I used 1½ cups in these photos and 1¼ cups in my classes.

Raw Cashew Frosting:

This is a lovely, just-sweet-enough frosting which you can use for lots of cakes and cupcakes. It is dairy-free and if you use maple or agave, it is also vegan. You cannot substitute another oil for the coconut oil, since that’s what helps the frosting become firm and spreadable once it has been refrigerated. I use Grade A maple syrup here, which is less mapley than Grade B.

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 5 hours

½ cup unsweetened almond milk or water (water is just as good)

¼ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted

3 Tablespoons raw honey, Grade A maple syrup or agave

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch or 2 of fine grain sea salt



Process all ingredients in a food processor, scraping down the sides if necessary, until perfectly smooth. This can take 5-6 minutes. Or use a high powered blender like a Vitamix for about 45 seconds. Refrigerate to allow it to firm up enough to a spreadable consistency. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

 

Kale Pesto Recipe

When I was a child, my family ate pesto all the time in the summer and early fall.  In fact, to me the smell of basil, garlic and cheese in the food processor is synonymous with warm, lazy days at the beach or on my parents’ hammock under a big, breezy tree.  It was one of the few things my mom made without a recipe because she made it so often and could likely do it in her sleep.  Also, my father always planted way too much basil so Mom was forced to use it  up more quickly than it grew.  Traditional basil pesto is the only pesto that I ever knew until I started over-planting my favorite herb, parsley, and mixing it with basil for an ever better (in my opinion) pesto.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard about the huge spectrum of pestos out there not made from basil but from all sorts of herbs like cilantro and mint to leafy greens such as spinach and arugula and even peas or sun dried tomatoes.  The result is a brave new world of pesto-adorned dishes beyond pasta in the summertime.  The good news is that all pestos are super simple to make and help me make my boring meals more exciting.  “Another turkey sandwich?”  No, a turkey sandwich with pesto!  Oooh, ahhh.  “Grilled fish” doesn’t have the same appeal as “grilled salmon with cilantro pesto!”  Although when I introduced kale pesto to my family, they were skeptical.

Kale, which is my absolute favorite superfood, is more nutrient-dense than most any food on the planet, so I try to incorporate it into our meals however I can.  I love how hearty and flavorful kale is, but it can be a little bitter for the kids if I don’t try to work around that.  My standard pesto is made with pine nuts or pine nuts and walnuts.  Both are soft nuts that get ground very easily, but can be also be a tad bitter.  So I subbed blanched almonds to keep the pesto from getting too harsh and loved it, even though almonds don’t grind up quite as finely.  The only other change I made was to add a touch of lemon juice which brightens the whole thing up and again, cuts any bitterness.

I made kale pesto in two different ways.  The first with all kale and the second with mostly kale plus basil.  All kale pesto tastes reminiscent of broccoli which makes sense since they’re both in the cruciferous family.  It’s so totally yummy with a hearty whole wheat or spelt pasta, stirred into soups like lentil, mushroom-barley or minestrone or slathered on a quesadilla with leftover roasted veggies and cheese.  I imagine it would be great on a baked potato with veggies or in an omelet with goat cheese and mushrooms.  Then I made another version with mostly kale and some basil and it tastes much more like the version you’re used to, but more substantial and maybe with a little more bite.  So many people in my classes this month thought it was even better than an all-basil pesto.  In class we ate it poured on a grilled chicken paillard.  Sunday, I took some pasta with kale-basil pesto and chickpeas in Chinese takeout containers for a beach picnic and then used the leftovers yesterday on a grilled whole wheat pizza with ricotta, sauteed garlic spinach and fresh mozzarella.  Insane.

Feel free to use whatever kale you can find, but the curly green variety tends to get processed more finely in the food processor if that matters.  Although in these photos I did use the Dinosaur (Tuscan) variety because I typically have that on hand for salad and juicing.  However you try it, and I hope you do, pesto is a busy cook’s good friend anytime of year.  Tell me your favorite ways to enjoy it!

Kale Pesto
Author: 
Serves: makes just under 2 cups
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup blanched almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or a combination (use sunflower seeds for a nut-free pesto)
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups kale (dinosaur or curly green), stemmed and torn into large pieces (so it’s easier to measure)
  • 2 cups basil leaves (or use all kale)
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Toast nuts, stirring frequently, in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly golden. If you are a “nut-burner,” just skip this step and put them in the food processor raw. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If you're using sunflower seeds, just use those raw.
  2. Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until very finely chopped.
  3. Add kale, basil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and pulse until chopped.
  4. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until you achieve a smooth texture. Add cheese and process until well combined.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add additional olive oil to make a looser pesto.
Notes
*Pesto freezes really well!