We are in the hottest month of Summer and here it has been humid as hell. The other day it was raining and I felt like I was back in Michigan, when my family would travel out there each August. I would stand outside during the thunderstorms, under the pouring rain, and it would still be almost 90F outside. With such greenery out there, it was a lot more enjoyable, where as here it’s just a light rain and tons of concrete.
Luckily the moisture has taken a break and today we had some nice breezes with the heat, so it wasn’t like walking into a sauna every time you went outside. This is the time of year when eating anything warm just sounds terrible – aside from grilled goodies, of course. Because of this, I have a nice, chilled salad recipe for you today! It’s perfect served as a side, maybe along with that Herbed Tofu Tomato Salad recipe from last week? Which, by the way, was a total hit! I’ve had at least five or six people make it and be very pleased with the outcome.
Anyway, this salad is made with sweet yellow and white corn, mostly for a little extra color, a creamy basil pesto aioli, fresh spinach and some red onion. Super easy to put together and is PACKED with flavor, especially after you chill the dish before serving it. If you want to make it a little healthier, add more spinach to the end product and omit some of the vegan mayo from the aioli, replacing it with plain yogurt.
Oh! I almost forgot, I have some incredibly exciting news! I’ll be a speaker at Vida Vegan Con 2015 in Austin! Eep! I’m super excited and feel very lucky to have been chosen out of the many people who applied to speak, and can’t wait until they announce the rest of the speakers closer to the end of the month. Who all is planning on going? If you’re on the fence, let me say that it was an awesome experience and you should take a look at my 1, 2, 3 part review of the 2013 conference.
There is a wonderful “holiday” this coming Saturday, and I’ve got the perfect recipe for you to celebrate it with. What holiday is that? You may ask. Oh, just VEGAN PIZZA DAY. Last year, I celebrated it by going to Phoney Baloney’s (RIP) with a righteous hangover and eating an amazing Grilled Cheese Pizza Sandwich. I still haven’t decided what exactly I’ll be doing this year; but, you better believe that it will include some awesome vegan pizza.
This pizza came out of having pesto on my mind, for the last week straight. It’s just been hanging out in my brain, saying, “Pesto burger.. Pesto pasta… Pesto.. Pesto Pizza.” Boy, am I glad that I ended up giving this a go! The smell of everything, even before it was baked, was pretty incredible.
Using fresh basil from a plant that I picked up, very little oil, a touch of nutritional yeast and a few more ingredients, made this pesto great. It was thick enough to spread, but not too chunky. It paired perfectly with the salty kalamata olives, sun-ripened tomato slices, and of course, some artichoke hearts. I always forget how awesome homemade pizza can be!
Life has been a little odd lately. There are times of constantly feeling like I’m super busy and occupied, then lulls where I become so overwhelmed that I just sit and do nothing. Now, that doesn’t happen to often, although I know it’s good to take some breaks to relieve stress. But, in the midst of it all, I’ve rekindled my romance with fresh summer produce and the flavor and colors it brings to the table.
I recently went to my local Farmers Market and was greeted with an array of colors and scents. So many beautiful tomatoes and an assortment of stone fruit beckoned me to take them home, I wish I had room for everything! After buying some fresh nectarines, tomatoes, freshly baked Gilroy Garlic Sourdough (!), sprouts and a couple of other things, I headed back home feeling quite satisfied with my purchases.
Food isn’t the only thing that inspires me (contrary to what I may talk about on here ALL of the time ;)). With the great weather that Southern California has been having lately, despite the increasing temperatures and humidity, I’ve been finding myself outdoors more and more; staying active by riding mountain bikes and doing my fair share of hiking. I’m always surprised by the views and scenery that Orange County has to offer, especially considering that I feel like I’m surrounded by concrete most of the time.
When I’m not outside, I’m back in the kitchen playing with new recipes and trying to eat a little healthier. I just bought two huge bunches of Lacinato Kale and was figuring out how to incorporate some more greens into my dinner without getting my hands too dirty. I happen to have some basil on hand as well as some lemons and an assortment of seeds and nuts to choose from. Pesto it was! But, I chose raw pepitas to experiment with. Success!
Sometimes, I find that my senses get the better of me when I’m shopping for food. One example: I enter what I call the “Greens Tent” at my local Farmer’s Market and make a beeline for the arugula. I’ve gotten here before and was not let down, so I decided to see what they had to offer me. I picked up a thick bundle of broad-leafed arugula and inhale deeply to smell the peppery and smooth scent. After that, there was no turning back; I bought two of the large bundles with every intention to use them up almost immediately! The first bundle ended up being a huge salad, which was not bad, but I felt that it didn’t do complete justice.
A week later, I invited my lovely friend Amanda over for a homemade dinner (which seems to happen a lot ;)). The day before I was thinking about what I would make for us and realized that I had a gorgeous spaghetti squash sitting pretty on my counter top just waiting to be used. Naturally, you need a sauce of some kind for the spaghetti squash once it’s baked; this is when my hands delved into my produce drawer and pulled together the perfect ingredients for a pesto sauce. I had made a sauce somewhat like this before, from a recipe off of my Biggest Loser X-Box game (you’d be surprised at some of the tasty stuff on there!), but it wasn’t vegan and there was no arugula.
Besides being a great addition to baby spinach and other mixed greens in salads, arugula packs a nutritional punch! This peppery green is rich in Vitamins A & C, Potassium and is low-calorie. When combined with avocado, the taste becomes more mild and the texture is perfect when contrasted with the slightly crunchy properties of the spaghetti squash pulp.
- 9 Cups Baked Spaghetti Squash, You will need a fairly large squash for this
- 2 1/2 Cups Chopped Arugula
- 1 Cup Avocado
- 1 Cup Walnuts
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 tsp. Dried Basil
- 3/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
- Optional: Additional water to help the blender puree the pesto
- To prepare your spaghetti squash for the meal, cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, and bake (skin up) in a dish with a little water in the bottom at 375°F for 30-40 minutes.
- While the spaghetti squash is baking, prep the rest of the ingredients and throw them into a high-speed blender or food processor. Add in 1/4-1/2 cup of water if your blender needs help to puree the pesto.
- Once the pesto is smooth and of consistent texture taste and add more salt & pepper if you’d like.
- After the squash is done baking, wait 10-15 minutes to scrape out the pulp with a fork into a large bowl. I left the squash and pesto separate so that you could use whatever ratio of pesto:squash that you’d like.
- Serve warm with an additional sprinkle of nooch, salt & pepper.
I love this pesto recipe because you get healthy fats, omegas, protein and creamy texture from the avocados and walnuts, without the use of oil. This dish is extremely filling while still being on the healthy side of things; the spaghetti squash is high in fiber and lots of potassium! It’s a quick and easy dinner that is great for making during the week, when you may not have time on your side.