• Vegan paradise

    Vegan paradise

Spring is here
The grass is GREEN; the sun is shining; the birds are chirping.  It is FINALLY spring!  And my taste buds are craving spring flavors!  As a result, one of my all-time favorite warm-weather salads appeared on my private chef table this week.  This salad bursts with the delicious, juicy goodness of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.  Topped with some feta cheese and sweetened almonds and then drizzled with a homemade strawberry vinaigrette, it is truly divine.

This salad is super easy to put together.  Besides slicing and dicing, there are really only two steps.  First, which is optional, is  to sweeten the almonds.  If you don’t want the added sugar, just toast them.

Speaking of sugar, while doing a cooking demonstration for a wellness program sponsored by a local yoga studio, I learned a new word:  ahimsa.  It means no harm done.  The dynamic speaker was discussing health and diet or, more specifically, making healthy choices but allowing oneself the occasional treat as well.  Ahimsa.  No harm done if one indulges in the occasional treat; harm is done if one feels deprived.  I like the sound of this and need to ponder it more.

Sweet Almonds
What does this have to do with my sweetened almonds?  Well, I pulled out this oldie but goodie recipe and was reminded that the recipe contains sugar.  I have been very good this year as far as making sure I’m not adding any refined sugar to my diet (it’s good for the taste buds — more on this in next week’s post).  And, I admit, I was a little sad at the thought of not sweetening my almonds.  I LOVE this salad with the sweetened almonds.  And then I thought, “Ahimsa!”  I feel deprived at the thought of not having these almonds; so I WILL sweetened them.

Actually, by sweetening them myself, I’m pretty sure I’m ingesting far less sugar than if I purchased a bag of sugared almonds.  So it’s still good.

But if you don’t want to sweeten your almonds, you don’t have to.  Maybe I won’t next time either.  I had my fix.  Next time, I’ll prepare them by simply toasting the almonds, and save the sweetened ones for dinner parties.

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Almonds & Strawberries
So it’s pretty easy to sweeten the almonds, and by doing it yourself (as opposed to buying a bag) you control the amount of sugar in the dish.  Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar in a small skillet over medium heat.  Watch it carefully and stir almost constantly.  Once the sugar begins to melt, stir constantly and lower the heat slightly.  As soon as the sugar is melted, quickly add the almonds and toss to coat them as much as possible.  They’ll stick together.  That’s OK.  Remove them from the pan onto a cutting board or plate to cool.  Once cool, break them apart.

The second step is to make the homemade strawberry vinaigrette like a private chef does.  Just put all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a blender and give it a buzz.  Done.

Now assemble your beautiful, colorful, juicy, wholesome, oh-so-good salad by piling the greens on individual plates or bowls or on a serving platter.  Top with mixed berries prepared by a private chef in NYC, crumbled feta cheese, almonds and chiffonaded basil (rolled and sliced into thin threads).  Serve the dressing on the side.  Most importantly, relax and enjoy!

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Why Beets & Fruits Together?
Beet, orange and goat cheese salad with spiced pecans — what a combination!  Add homemade citrus vinaigrette, and you’ve got a dinner-party worthy salad that was both quick and easy to put together.

While you’re making the beet, orange and goat cheese salad with spiced pecans, you get to use my favorite kitchen gadget — the Paderno spiralizer — again!  I used the spiralizer in my recent post on the sautéed zucchini noodles that I serve with my eggplant “meat” balls, and my new favorite gadget generated some interest.  So let me answer a couple of questions that came up.  The Paderno spiralizer may look intimidating, but it isn’t.

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Trust me.  It comes in the box in four pieces, and even I did not need the directions to put it together (Those of you that do not know me, assembling things, reading step-by-step directions — not my thing).  Once together, you gently push it down on your counter top so the little suction cups on the legs adhere, creating stability while you spiral. You put in your vegetable and turn the handle.

How to Make this Salad
From box to spiralizer veggie, it takes two minutes. And it looks so … fancy!  And fancy makes me feel … happy!  So that was one raw peeled beet.  Yes, raw.  The strands are so thin; it doesn’t need to be cooked.  I was just in Toronto, and the hubby and I went to a raw vegan restaurant for lunch one day.  My brother-in-law asked, “What do they serve. Let me tell you, if someone put a plate of this food in front of you and said “Try this”, you’d never guess you were eating raw vegan food — that’s how delicious it was.  And how varied the menu was.  It was so good that we returned the next day to sample some other dishes on the menu.  I bought their cookbook as well, and one of the things they write is that raw foods contain beneficial enzymes that are killed with heat.  The enzymes help fight disease.  It’s an interesting theory that I’d like to read up on a bit more.  But for now, just know that you don’t have to cook that beet.  Just peel it.  Does it get any easier than that?

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Once the beet is spiralized, put it in a small bowl with ice cold water for about ten minutes, while you prepare everything else.  I’m not sure why this works — but letting the beet sit in the cold water for a little bit helps prevent it from bleeding over the rest of the ingredients.  If the goat cheese turns pink, it’s not going to look as pretty.  It’ll still taste good, I’m sure, but we’re going for food that’s not only delicious and healthy, but nice to present as well, right?

Serve it right!
So while that’s sitting, you can toast your pecans with some spices to make them super yummy.  Wash your greens, open your can of orange segments, and make the vinaigrette.  Then all you have to do is assemble your salad and finally, the best part, sit down and enjoy it.

Beet, Orange & Goat Cheese Salad with Spiced Pecans Beets, oranges and goat cheese — what a combination! Add some spiced pecans and homemade citrus vinaigrette, and you’ve got a dinner-party worthy salad that was both quick and easy to put together.

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