Vegan Ranch Dressing

During the month of January, perhaps a hair beyond that, I am embarking on a dairy-free diet.

Granted, I’m not one of those people that’s, “DIET! DIET! DIET!” I’m sure you’ve seen that on both my Instagram and this blog. I believe in eating healthy. I believe in eating balanced. I believe in eating two Tres Leches cake doughnuts followed by a hot chocolate from Doughnut Plant every so often. The old adage “moderation is key” is SO true, y’all.

My dairy-free diet does have a basis in my own health and not in vanity – regular dairy intake might be contributing to an increase in my body’s production of testosterone. FUN! Not that I’m becoming manly, but it’d rather have my hormones in balance, thankyouveryMUCH. Dairy can affect IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1) into our bodies; too much can lead to an imbalance as, in some females, it causes higher testosterone production. I might be one of those females. 💁

[Mind you, I am not a doctor! I’ve worked at a hospital for almost 9 years, but my background is strictly liberal studies and communications. Ha! Speak with your own medical professional if you think this may be a concern for you.]

Removing dairy is not a huge issue; sure, I miss cheese like WHOA, I’ve had to consciously meal-prep breakfasts more as I can’t easily grab a Siggi’s and fruit on my way out the door, and I damn near keeled over when my department’s Director of Nursing bought our office pizza yesterday, BUT…I’ve got this. I’ve just got to be creative and mindful.

I wanted to see if I could use the creamy power of pulverized cashews to make something insanely tasty. I’ve mixed in lots of things with cashew cream in the past, but as I had to sadly turn down ranch dressing for my salad at dinner the other night – damn near torture for me – I wanted to see if I could take those wonderful ranch flavors and make them into something not mixed into a cow’s utter secretions.

(I know, I made milk sound so lovely, right?)

The result was pretty damn good! I immediately texted my friend Liana – one of my best vegan friends to bounce my food ideas off of – as soon as I tasted it; I figured she’d be the only person immediately as excited as I was. Ha! I miss that quintessential buttermilk tang, but I was very shocked and pleased by what I created. In this case, the dill really saved the day when bringing that good ranch flavor to this dressing.

I can definitely survive any ranch cravings as long as I’ve got this in my back pocket…figuratively, of course. I’m sure it’d last a lot longer in my fridge. 😏

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Vegan Ranch Dressing
(Makes roughly 1 & 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup raw cashews, left whole
– 3 cups of hot water, for soaking cashews
– 3/4 cup water, for inclusion in dressing
– 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
– 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried chives
– 3 teaspoons fresh dill, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Juice of 1/2 lemon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

Before We Get Started…

– Oil of choice can be substituted for avocado oil here. Olive oil works just fine.

Directions:

1.) Add cashews to a large bowl and cover with 3 cups hot water. Allow to stand for at least one hour or up to 8 hours. (NOTE: I always do an hour of soaking with fine results.) Drain cashews and place into food processor or high-speed blender.

2.) Pulse cashews until a fine meal forms. Slowly add in 1/4 cup water and blend until mixture begins to thin out slightly; do this twice more in 1/4 cup water increments. With the final 1/4 cup of water, add in avocado oil. Blend until smooth.

3.) Remove cashew cream and add to large bowl. Gently fold in chives, dill, parsley, garlic powder, and lemon juice until combined. Add salt; add more to taste, if desired.

4.) Refrigerate dressing; will keep in fridge for up to a week.

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rhubarb chia jam

Rhubarb Chia Jam

While I feel I have touched upon quite a few recipes that formally intimidated me yet no longer do – scones, for example – I still have not mastered the art of making and canning jam, no matter how “easy” some of my friends claim it is. Perhaps, on my part, it’s laziness and a matter of money. Do I really want to buy a dozen glass jars and spend time sterilizing them? No. Am I likely overthinking this like I do for every aspect of my life?

Most likely.

That being said, I have been eyeing the chia jam trend for the past year, eager to try. I could have just used some grocery store-bought fruits to make this concoction, but, deep into the month of May, how could I not to utilize the best that my local farmers’ market has to offer?

Hellllllooooo, rhubarb!

rhubarb chia jam

I am a fan of sour fruits – my mother can attest that I used to drink lemon juice as a child, another undoubtedly odd quirk of mine – so rhubarb is right up my alley. It’s not overwhelmingly sour, does does make my mouth pucker ever so slightly when I have it on its own. While rhubarb and strawberries are a quintessential match, don’t discount rhubarb on its own. It’s quite delightful!

rhubarb chia jam

It thickens as it cools, creating a surprisingly lush and filling jam. It also makes a piece of Ezekiel bread look super sexy.

All hail chia seeds and their awesome gelling power!

rhubarb chia jam

Rhubarb Chia Jam
(Makes 2 & 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

– 3 & 1/2 cups rhubarb, rinsed, dried, and cut into small pieces
– 1/2 cup water
– 3 tablespoons honey (or sweetener of choice)
– 3 tablespoons chia seeds
– Juice of 1/2 lemon

Before We Get Started…

– Four large stalks of rhubarb should equate to in or around 3 & 1/2 cups of rhubarb.

– The amount of water may not seem like enough when mixed with the rhubarb, but the rhubarb will release liquid as it cooks down. Do not exceed 1/2 cup of water.

– Substitute another sweetener of choice for honey to keep recipe vegan-friendly.

Directions:

1.) Add rhubarb and water to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Once mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally. The rhubarb will start to break down quickly as the cooking continues.

2.) Add honey and chia seeds; stir to evenly incorporate. Cook mixture for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and stir. Let sit for 15 minutes to thicken.

3.) Add to clean glass container and store in refrigerator. Jam will last in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

baba ganoush eggplant dip

Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip)

I have never made Baba Ganoush in my life prior to the day I made it for this recipe. It’s a dip, admittedly, I don’t have to often – I am a roasted garlic hummus lover, through and through – but a sale on Italian eggplants at my local CTown sparked a desire within me to give it a try. Plus, I got a new bottle of tahini that I was itching to break into.

baba ganoush eggplant dip

I do have to laugh: On the day I made it, I commented to someone I know that I was diving in deep for my first attempt at making it, my enthusiasm cautiously shining. They give me a response, complete with a bit of an eye roll, that threw me off: “Baba Ganoush? That…that is so hard to make right. It always turns out wrong. Good luck with that…” Dumbfounded, with a crestfallen face, I peeled the skin from the meat of my freshly roasted eggplant slices, put it into my food processor with a fresh squeeze of lemon, some tahini, and a lot of raw garlic, and pulsed away. For a moment, I may have lost my confidence.

Boy oh boy, I found that confidence again once I took a bite of it! It was some of the best baba ganoush I’ve had, and I’m not just trying to toot my own horn here. The eggplant was perfectly roasted – not too much and not too little, with just the slightest hint of a char – which I believe resulted in that perfect flavor.

baba ganoush eggplant dip

Still not quite sure why that person decided to be less than encouraging, but maybe I should text her and tell her to have some faith. It’s so easy to make, and it’s easy to make correctly while bursting with flavor. 😉

Baba Ganoush
(Adapted from the Epicurious recipe for Eggplant Dip [Baba Ganoush])
(Makes roughly 2 cups)

– 2 medium eggplants, sliced to roughly 1/8″ slices (you can purple or Italian)
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/3 cup tahini (I used Brad’s Organic Sesame Tahini)
– 2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled
– Juice of one lemon
– Salt and pepper, to taste.

Directions:

1.) Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2.) Place eggplant slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil then toss to coat slices evenly. Lay slices flat on sheet; some may slightly overlap, and that is okay. Roast the eggplant for 15 to 20 minutes; the skins should be crisp and interiors should be tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes.

3.) Peel and seed the cooled eggplant, roughly chop the flesh, and then transfer it to the bowl of a food processor.

4.) Into the processor bowl add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, some salt and pepper to taste, and a few teaspoons of cold water. Process the mixture to a coarse paste, adding a bit more water as needed to allow the mixture to blend.

5.) Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

avocado kale sauce

Avocado Kale Sauce

WOW. Funny story, and by funny, I mean devastating: I had this recipe posted with a great back story. The photos were gorgeous. The commentary was hilarious (as always). It all came together beautifully. As I hit “Publish”, went to the page, and said, “Oops! I forgot to add my Featured Image!” I went back to edit it and add it in. As I hit “Update”, I was brought to my newly updated page, which had the Featured Photo…but, inexplicably, deleted ALL OF MY TEXT AND PHOTOS.

*deep breath*

So, here are the photos of this luscious and delicious sauce (which can be made vegan-friendly!) served with sweet potato noodles, here are the ingredients, here are the directions, and I promise that my next post will have more humor and substance to it. Ha! I realize that this recipe riffs on a few prior avocado sauce recipes I’ve made for this blog, but, eh, I still post a third one proudly. 😉

avocado kale sauce

avocado kale sauce

avocado kale sauce

Avocado Kale Sauce
(Makes roughly 2 – 2 & 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
– 1 ripe avocado
– 3 – 4 kale leaves, washed, de-ribbed, and roughly torn
– 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or skyr or non-dairy yogurt or cashew cream (for vegan version)
– 1/4 cup room temperature water
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
– Salt, to taste.

Directions:

1.) In a blender, add avocado, yogurt of choice or cashew cream, olive oil, and garlic. Blend until smooth; if mixture is too thick, slowly more add water and blend until desired consistency is reached. Add salt to taste. Store in refrigerator if not using immediately; will keep fresh for up to 4 days.

Ramp Pesto

Ramp Pesto

“EVERYONE! GO GET YOUR RAMPS NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!”

This was the battle cry I heard at the Inwood Greenmarket this past Saturday as dozens of people elbowed and punched their way through the crowds to get the freshest bunch. After courageously leaping over three women that were beating each other with stalks of rhubarb, I saw the last bunch of ramps. A strong and virile-looking young man tried to grab them from my clutches, but I was able to fwap him in the face with a bunch of organic kale leaves that were within my reach. I came prepared to battle with three crisp dollar bills in my pocket, so I leaped triumphantly towards the cashier, made my transaction, and took home my prized ramps, those fighting for it still dazed and confused as the dust settled.

ramp pesto

 VICTORY!

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(The above story is a slight dramatization of actual events. Though, I’d like to think this scenario plays out during the spring at SOME farmers’ market. *sigh* A girl can fantasize…)

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In slightly more seriousness, ramps, also known as wild leeks, are well-known for their limited season, so if you are reading this in April or May, you may seem them in abundance at your local farmers’ market. If you are reading this at any other time of the year, be sure to keep this recipe in your back pocket until next spring. You’ll be glad that you did.

ramp pesto

It goes surprisingly well with a nice brown rice bowl with tomatoes, avocado, and a fried egg, if you need some non-pasta inspiration.

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Ramp Pesto
(Adapted from Food52’s recipe for Wild Ramp Pesto)
(Makes roughly 1 & 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

– 1 bunch ramps, cleaned (bunch sizes range, but I use 8 – 10 ramps)
– 1/2 Parmesan cheese, grated (Please see Before We Get Started… for vegan version)
– 1/2 walnuts, toasted
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– Juice of half a lemon
– Salt, to taste (optional)

Before We Get Started…

– As the Parmesan is already very salty, salt can be omitted. I find the flavor of this pesto to be so bold already.

– Omit Parmesan for a vegan version of this recipe; increase walnuts to 2/3 of a cup for more bulk.

Directions:

1.) Separate the leaves from the bulbs of the ramps; set bulbs aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, blanch leaves for 15 seconds, then immediately transfer leaves to a bowl of iced water. Drain ramps and gently squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.

2.) In a small pan, toast walnuts over medium-high heat, approximately 2 – 3 minutes, until golden; do not let them burn! Remove from heat, allow to cool for a few moments, then roughly chop.

3. Add ramp bulbs, blanched ramp leaves, and walnuts to food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add cheese and lemon juice; pulse to combine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and continue to combine until pesto is formed; it should not be fully puréed, but a thick paste. Scrape down sides of food processor, if necessary.

4.) Refrigerate to store, or use right away! Serving suggestions include using with pasta, grains, bread, vegetables, or chicken.