Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

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Sometimes you get a very serious craving and nothing else can get done until it’s satisfied. That happened to me with this Chinese Chick’n salad. Whether you chose to use faux chicken, some sesame baked tofu, or no protein at all, the salad itself also shines bright all on its own. I just love Gardein crispy tenders. They are like crack. Trader Joe’s makes a version of them as well. What can I say, I’m a sucker for vegan junk food.

I swapped out the traditional romaine for lacinato kale to give it some richer color and a formidable CRUNCH! The great thing about this salad as well, is that it holds up in the fridge, even if it’s already been dressed. This makes it a great leftovers-for-lunch-the-next-day meal. It’s also quick to throw together. And since we already have the faux chicken strips, this salad needed some healthy upgrades to off-set the greasy breaded tenders. This updated version of the salad gets a lot of added pizazz with a generous amount of fresh herbs. Gone are the canned syrup-soaked mandarin oranges and deep fried wonton strips. In their place we have fresh tangerine segments and crushed peanuts. Spicy, cool, nutty, crunchy, tangy, sweet, and refreshing, try the flavor explosion for yourself!

Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

Makes about 4 servings

1/2 head of green cabbage, finely shredded

10 leaves of lacinato kale, stems removed and finely shredded

1 cup shredded carrots

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1 bunch mint, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1/2 bell, finely chopped

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

12 gardein crispy tenders, or protein of your choice

1-2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned

Chinese Chick’n Salad Dressing:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2.5 tbs peanut butter

2 tsp hot sesame oil

2.5 tb agave

1 tb coconut oil

Cook the Gardein strips according to the package. I put mine on a foil lined pan in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Taste it and adjust any flavors as needed. Pour the sauce over the salad and toss really well. The salad will shrink a bit in size as you toss so don’t worry if it seems like a huge amount of veggies when you start!

Once cooked, slice up the chicken strips.

To serve, put a big heap of salad on each plate. Top with chicken strips and tangerine segments. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts on top. DIG IN!

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Mini Chimichangas with Ataulfo Mango Salsa

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Hola! it’s Cinco de Mayo! I’m sorry this picture is terrible haha, it just is. But these Chimis were so good!!! (Do I say that too much? I think I might be saying that too much about my own food.) I started out trying to make chorizo chimichangas, and then I realized, soyrizo is pretty gross, and organic corn and black beans are ten times better. That’s not to say I didn’t think this recipe through! The ‘queso’ is the best part, and I’ve been working on it for a while. I live with several dudes, who are very proudly carnivorous. So, sometimes I cook just for the heck of it, not thinking anyone will eat what I make, because ‘Bacon!’ And sometimes, like with these, my roommates DEVOUR every little morsel, knowing full well that they are vegan, and admittedly, loving every bite.  That’s when I know I have a good recipe. The sweetness of the corn really made these sing. And, there is something sweet, mild, and comforting in the cashew sauce.

 

Mini Chimichangas with Ataulfo Mango Salsa

serves 4

1 tsp peanut oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 jalapeno

2 tbs bell pepper, minced

3 cloves garlic

mounded 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup soaked cashews

1 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)

1/4 cup water

8 flour tortillas (about 6″ diameter)

1 can black beans

1 cup organic corn

enough peanut oil to fill a small pan 1/4″ high

 

Salsa:

2 Ataulfo mangos, diced

1/4 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tbs bell pepper, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp coriander

1 sprig cilantro, chopped

 

First, heat the 1 tsp peanut oil in a small pan. Fry the onions, jalapeno, and bell pepper for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

In a food processor, combine the onions mixture, the garlic, salt, cashews, and water and blend until very smooth. About 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat oil in a small pan over medium. Fill your little tortillas with 1 tbs black beans, 1 tbs corn, and 1 tbs onion ‘queso’ mix.

Wrap tortilla into a little burrito, then gently lay in the hot oil, folded side down first.

After about 20-30 seconds, flip, and fry another 20 sec. You want them to be golden brown. Have a paper towel lined plate ready for them.

For the salsa, combine all ingredients. Th salsa will last 1-3 days in the fridge.

Serve everything immediately. Although you can make these chimis the day before and heat them up in a low temp oven.

Are you having a Cinco de Mayo fiesta? Here are some other Mexican favorites to round out your buffet:

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Cantina Tacos

Perfect Guacamole

Cilantro Jalapeno Chipotle Hummus

 

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Eggplants Around the World: Bagara Baingan

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The second installment of the ‘Eggplants Around the World’ Series comes from Hyderabad, India. I think it’s really fascinating that this recipe dates back to the Mughal Empire, so people have been eating some variation of Bagara Baingan in this region for 500 years! (And it is also popular in Pakistan.)

Some of the challenges and benefits of trying new cuisines from different cultures is trying to find the obscure ingredients. I had to go on a hunt for tamarind paste and lucky me, my local shopping mall has a Seafood City in it. Yes, a fish market in the mall between the Macy’s and the Target, it’s so bizarre. Nestled amongst purple pickled duck eggs, snapper fish balls, and mystery fruits, I was able to find these tiny Indian eggplants and the tamarind. A woman with a thick accent stopped me when I was bagging the eggplants and asked skeptically if I knew how to cook them. I told her I was going to slice them and fry them, to which she seemed to approve, and then she walked away without ceremony. I usually only last about 10 minutes in there before the fish smell drives me out, so I have to know exactly what I want and try to guess which aisle it will be in before I cross the threshold. 

Bagara Baingan is essentially an eggplant curry. You might not have an asian fish market at your shopping mall so even if you can’t find these little Indian eggplants, you can just use whichever kind they carry at your grocery, and cut them into 2” wedges. After researching many different versions of this recipe, this is the one I have settled on. Other versions called for caraway, fenugreek, bay leaves, poppy seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, but every single version was a little bit different. The ingredients below were the ones in common across the board; the only difference being the use of whole seeds, which I didn’t have, and texturally, seemed too risky. 😛 

 

Bagara Baingan

makes 4 servings

1/4 tamarind

1.5 cup water

8 indian eggplants (or 1 regular sized eggplant)

1 tbs salt dissolved in a big bowl of water, enough to cover the eggplants

2 tbs oil

1/4 cup raw peanuts (if you can only find roasted, that’s ok, just skip toasting them with the sesame and coconut)

1 tbs raw sesame seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup water

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2″ ginger, minced

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne, or to your heat preference

salt to taste

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Put the tamarind in a bowl with 1 cup of water to let it soak. 

Cut a giant ‘+’ into the bottom of each eggplant, all the way to the stem but don’t cut the stem off or through it. Heat the oil in a big frying pan over medium high heat, add the eggplants and cover with a lid. Fry them until they are tender and glossy, turning them often to cook them evenly, about 10 minutes. You want them to be about 90% done. Set aside, keeping the leftover oil in the pan.

In a dry frying pan, add the peanuts, sesame seeds, and coconut. VERY lightly toast them, (but don’t burn them!) When they have just begun to show a little color, remove from the heat and put them in a food processor. Grind to form a thick paste, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time as necessary to form the paste. Set aside.

In the frying pan used for cooking the eggplants, add the onion and spices and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and browned, adding another tablespoon of oil if necessary. 

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one more minute. Pour in the tamarind soaking water, but not the tamarind pulp itself. Discard the pulp. Also add the coconut paste. Stir everything to combine and add back the eggplants.

Reduce the heat the low and put a lid on the pan. Allow it to come to a simmer and cook 5-10 more minutes, depending on how done the eggplants are. Test them for softness with a fork, they should give no resistance when poked. Add salt to taste if necessary.

Bagara Baingan is traditionally served with byrani rice or some naan bread. And, maybe a sweet accompaniment like chutney.

no thanks mom

no thanks mom

Jade Sauce

Jade Sauce

Making sauces is awesome! A good sauce is key in plant based dishes, because it’s all about complementing the natural deliciousness of whole foods with something exciting. Since I love Thai food so much, I decided to make a ‘Flavors of Thailand’ sauce. I’ve made yellow curry sauce and peanut sauce before, but I wanted something that represented the cuisine primarily with herbs. Argentina has their Chimichurri, Italy has their Pesto, so Thailand needs this Jade Sauce. You can use it as a salad dressing, marinade, dipping sauce, or soup base (just add some coconut cream and veggies for a quick green curry.) Maybe even make some Thai inspired pizza! This is made from all vibrantly raw ingredients, and the result is an intensely bright and immune boosting condiment. It’s quite spicy, so you can go down to one chili if desired. Also, I was trying to create a low calorie sauce as an everyday salad dressing, but feel free to add some mild flavored oil or coconut cream to take it to the next level. I tried coconut oil in an earlier test, but I found that the other cool ingredients caused the oil to stiffen up and not blend well. Maybe in the summer it would be easier. Today I used it as a salad dressing on some baby greens, sliced avocado, sliced tangerines, edamame, red onion, and tomato. So much green yumminess!

Jade Sauce

Makes about 6 ounces

Juice of 1 lime

1 bunch basil

1 bunch cilantro

1 bunch mint

3 cloves garlic

1 green onion

1/4 cup raw coconut water

1/4 cup soaked cashews

1 tsp coconut sugar

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp curry

1/2 tsp miso paste

2 green thai chilies (or 1/2 jalapeño)

Combine everything in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and uniform. If you want it a little looser, just add a few more tablespoons of coconut water, one at a time, until desired consistency. To make it thicker, increase the amount of cashews by 1/4 cup. Keeps in the fridge about 5 days.

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Christmas Chili

IMG_1998On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 5 different spices, 4 kinds of beans, 3 secret ingredients, 2 kinds of peppers, and a bowl of spicy white bean chili! (Ok that was a stretch.) Whether you are going to a potluck or just want something easy to heat up during the busy holiday season, this chili hits the spot. It doesn’t even take very long to throw together, and next time I’ll have to try it in the crock pot, for even less work. My secret ingredients (and this goes for a lot of soups, stews, and sauces) are vinegar, sugar and beer (or wine). You can’t taste that they are there, but they make the other flavors really pop. I called this Christmas Chili because of the large amount of red and green peppers, but also because this tasty stuff can help you avoid the dreaded holiday bulge. Each serving is about 215 calories and boasts 9 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein! Yummy, healthy, easy, inexpensive, and festive, woohoo!

Christmas Chili

makes about 10 servings

1 white onion

1 green jalapeno

1 red jalapeno

1 1/2 green bell pepper

1 1/2 red bell pepper

10 cloves garlic

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro plus more for garnish

2 tbs olive oil

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp cayenne (more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)

1/2 cup of beer ( I used a ‘holiday spiced ale’ but any beer on the lighter side will work well)

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

3 pinches of sugar ( I used coconut sugar, because it almost has a salty/savory taste, but brown will work also)

1 16 oz. can navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can black eye peas, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup of fresh or frozen organic corn

Chop the onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook about 5 minutes. Then add the peppers and garlic, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the spices and stir to combine.

As soon as the majority of the liquid has evaporated and you are having to scrape along the bottom of the pot o keep things from sticking, pour in half the beer. Stir and let it evaporate, then pour in the rest.

Cook an additional minute then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a low boil and reduce the heat to low.

Stick an immersion blender in the pot and give it two or three pulses. (Another option is to remove 2/3 cup of the chili, and pulse it in a blender a few times, then return it to the pot. This step gives it a thicker, creamier, stew like texture.)

Let it simmer for about 5-10 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

I love to serve it with fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sriracha, and a big blob or tahini (instead of sour cream. I don’t know if that’s weird, but I think it’s delicious!) You can even use this as a yummy and warm bean dip. If you are into black bean chili instead of white, check out my other Hearty Black Bean Chili recipe.

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Chimichurri Sauce

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I really love sauces. I think everyone in the world could be a happier plant-eater if only they would explore the magic of homemade sauces, dips, marinades, dressings, and spreads. The right sauce can turn a measly little carrot into a succulent morsel of the gods. It makes all the difference. Chimichurri sauce (one of my favorites) is a fantastically aromatic Argentinian sauce that is traditionally used as a marinade for steak. But of course, it is a mind-blowing condiment for veggies as well! Typically, it is bright and green and spicy, but there are also deep red variations with tomato and peppers. Everybody makes it a little differently and it’s the kind of sauce that you just cannot mess up. It’s delicious to sop up with a hunk of crusty bread, or brushed onto some roasted potatoes hot out of the oven. I also love tossing a pile of brightly colored veggies in a bowl of chimichurri, then threading them onto skewers and barbecuing until they reach a fragrant charred perfection.Give them another quick brush of the sauce right when they come off the grill. It even makes a bright and tangy salad dressing.

Chimichurri Sauce

makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup packed flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup packed cilantro

4 cloves garlic

1 cup first cold pressed olive oil

1 tsp fresh oregano

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp red chili flakes

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 small shallot, roughly chopped

Throw everything in a blender and blend until well combined.

Of course eggplants seem to be having a moment in my kitchen this month, so I just had to make some super delicious baked chimichurri eggplant fries. chop an eggplant into thick fry-like sticks and toss them in the chimichurri sauce. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Give them another brush of sauce after you flip them. They should get crispy and charred when they are ready to come out. I seriously just ate an entire eggplant all by myself, it was too good.

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Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

I’m sort of particular about how curry should taste, so I didn’t want to risk buying a curry paste at the store and not like it. Plus I really like making as many things at home and unprocessed as possible. This recipe makes a thick and rich yellow curry paste, and it packs a big umami punch. You can use it to make a traditional vegetable curry, or as a marinade to make satay on the grill. You can also use it as a stir fry sauce, or mix it with noodles. The best part is that it is full of healing herbs and spices. Turmeric for one, has been shown to have amazing anti-inflammatory benefits, and inhibits cancer cell growth. It helps with arthritis, liver function, lowers cholesterol, and protects against Alzheimer’s — that’s a lot of work for one little spice! I used this paste to make a delicious pumpkin curry (recipe below). The pumpkin is actually kabocha squash, which tastes a lot like sweet potato. I do love sweet potatoes, but kabocha has roughly half the calories and carbs per serving, which is a pretty big difference with swim suit season upon us! Kabocha also has great nutritional value, as it contains iron, calcium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Makes approx 1.5 cups

2 small bulbs garlic, cloves peeled

2 shallots, peeled and quartered

1” chunk ginger, peeled

1 tb coconut oil

4 dried peppers (arbol or thai)

1/2 cup cashews

2 dried apricots

1 stalk lemon grass, peeled and chopped

4 tb curry powder

1 tbs turmeric

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tbs chopped cilantro

1 tbs salt pink Himalayan salt

1 tbs coconut sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put the garlic, shallot, and ginger on a square of foil, drizzle with oil, wrap up and bake for 30 min. Meanwhile, soak the dried peppers, cashews, and apricots in 1 cup of hot water for 20 minutes. After the garlic, shallot, and ginger have cooled enough to handle, put all ingredients in a food processor and puree to a thick paste. If the mixture seems too thick to blend properly, add a little of the pepper soaking liquid, 1 tbs at a time. You can keep it in the fridge for a week or two.

Quick note: If you live by a Trader Joe’s grocery store, they have something called dry Thai chili paste, it’s made out of mushrooms and peppers, and it’s really wierd and good. If you can get your hands on some, scoop a tablespoon of it into your curry paste before blending. If you can’t get it, don’t worry, this will still be delicious!

Yellow Thai Curry

Yellow Pumpkin Curry

Serves 4

1 small Kabocha squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin, or you can sub two sweet potatoes)

1/2 red bell pepper

1 carrot

1/2 cup yellow Thai curry paste

I can coconut cream

4 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp mild miso

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs chili garlic paste (find in the asian food section at the grocery store, I like the Huy Fong brand)

Two heads of baby bok choy

1 tbs salt, or to taste

8 sprigs of cilantro

4 cups cooked brown rice

The skin of a kabocha squash is edible (and yummy) so you are welcome to leave it on, but I like to peel the outermost rough part off, leaving a marbled green and orange surface. They are not that easy to peel. Scoop out the seeds and mushy flesh in the cavity. (Save the seeds if you like and roast them with some herbs, just like you would regular pumpkin seeds.) Dice the squash into bite sized pieces. Slice the carrots diagonally, and chop the bell pepper into bite sized pieces, set aside. Pull the bok choy leaves apart from the central stem.

In a large pot, heat the curry paste and coconut cream over medium flame for 1-2 minutes, until it’s blended and starts to get bubbly and fragrant. Pour in the vegetable broth and turn the heat to high. In a small bowl, mix the miso and soy sauce, this is your fish sauce replacement. Add that to the broth, along with the kabocha and carrots and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the kabocha is fork tender. Add the bok choy leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust salt as necessary. Sometimes I throw in another tablespoon of coconut sugar.

Serve by putting one cup of brown rice in the bottom of each person’s bowl, and ladle the curry over it. Garnish with cilantro.

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, a great day to taste the rainbow! This salad is fun to make, beautiful to look at, chalk full of healthy nutrients, and magically delicious. You can play with your food like me and make it into a rainbow as shown here, or you can just serve it as a traditional bliss bowl, with quinoa at the bottom and veggies tossed with the dressing on top. It’s pretty uncanny how much the maple-mustard dressing resembles a pot of gold isn’t it? I made the fluffy quinoa clouds by just piling up little tablespoons of cooked quinoa, but you could also make this dish completely raw and use cauliflower florets for clouds.

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

Serves 2 

1 cup of cooked quinoa (or raw cauliflower florets)

10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 small avocado, sliced thinly

2 tbs roughly chopped cilantro

2tbs roughly chopped parsley

1/2 cup purple kale, sliced thinly

1/2 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced

3 Tbs maple syrup

3 tbs stone ground mustard

Start by scooping little spoonfuls of your quinoa into a pile to form the clouds, then arrange your veggies in neat rows across the plate. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup and mustard to make the dressing. After marveling at your lovely creation, pour the dressing evenly over the veggies and dig in. Enjoy with a big mug of green beer. Cheers!

Pot of Gold

Perfect Guacamole

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Guacamole is hard to mess up, but it’s also easy to make boring guacamole, which I just cannot tolerate, and neither should you. Of course the following rules are all based on my opinion but you can go ahead and consider it gospel. The key to good guacamole is fresh ripe avocados, lots of heat, and lots of texture. Do not blend it, do not add sour cream, do not forget the lime, these are the basic guidelines. Store bought avocado puree that comes in those little pouches will give you a sour, fermented tasting guacamole, like the kind you get at bad restaurants. Adding sour cream is essentially like watering it down in terms of flavor, you are adding fat to fat and it gets sort of sickening. Pureeing or over mashing your guacamole will give it a baby food texture, not good. So, now that you know what not to do, you are ready to make a huge bowl of salty, creamy, spicy, chunky, flavor-packed, deliciousness!! I like to use bell peppers instead of chips, but guacamole is good on so many things– sandwiches, salads, tacos, toast, or just straight up with a spoon. Guacamole is also a powerhouse of healthy nutrients, isn’t it nice when delicious food is good for you? This whole recipe has 11 grams of protein, 19 grams of fiber, 55% of your daily required vitamin A, 15% of your iron, 10% of your calcium, and a whopping 334% of your vitamin C! If you’re like me, you could easily sit down and eat this whole bowl for lunch… which I did. So go forth and mash some avocados, summer is coming!

Perfect Guacamole

Makes approx. 3 cups

3 large ripe avocados

6 cloves garlic

1 shallot

9 cherry tomatos

1 jalapeño

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 tsp salt

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 bell pepper cut into triangles for dipping (optional)

Cut the avocados in half, pop out the seed, scoop out the meat with a spoon, save the pit.

I have a technique for taking out the pit: after slicing in half, you hold the avocado (the half with the pit stuck in it) in one palm, then whack the blade of a knife into the pit with your other hand, sort of like when you throw an ax at a tree and it sticks, but don’t let go of your knife! You can then twist the knife and the pit pops right out. Then carefully use the tip of the knife to slice the avocado about 3 times in both directions, making sure to get right to the peel, but not slicing through to your palm underneath. From there you can scoop out perfect large chunks with a spoon, scraping along the peel to get maximum avocado meat. Your peel should be perfectly scraped to the black when you throw it out. Waste not want not. Please don’t cut yourselves.

Add the avocado to a deep mixing bowl. Mince the garlic, shallot, tomatoes, and jalapeño and add to the bowl. You might only need one lime, depending on how big and juicy it is, it’s your call. I have had limes that release 1/4 cup of juice, and some that only release a tablespoon. Aim for 1/4 cup total.  Combine everything in the bowl and mash with the back of a fork. Try not to over mash! Guacamole should be eaten immediately, but if you need to store it in the fridge, put the pits you saved back in, which keeps it fresh longer. Cover with plastic wrap and make sure the plastic actually comes in to contact with the surface of the guacamole wherever possible, you want to prevent it from oxidizing, which turns it brown and sour. One last note, I added a tsp of hot sauce to mine as well, because I have a really lovely raw hot sauce and I wanted it to be extra spicy. You can use Sriracha here, but it’s not necessary. Can you tell avocados are very serious business for me?

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Cantina Style Tacos With Chipotle Crema

butternut squash and black bean cantina tacosI have been wanting to make these for a long time, because it dawned on me that this combination of ingredients would make great tacos, without trying to fake any meat or cheese. I love the combination of sweet, savory, spicy, smoky, and citrusy that you get with these, they are bursting with flavor! As with a lot of my recipes these days, they are a great thing to make on your day off and eat for the rest of the week, as the components all hold up quite well and make great leftovers. I really love the tiny organic corn cantina tortillas if you can find them, it’s usually the only size used by the Mexican food trucks here in Los Angeles, so it feels more authentic. I had been looking forward to the opening of this restaurant called Gracias Madre here in town for weeks, and in the meantime, I decided to try my hand at some fresh and flavorful plant based tacos. I actually made these the night before we went to try out Gracias Madre for my birthday, so I could get ideas and see if I wanted to change anything based on the experience. The food at the restaurant was fantastic! Nonetheless I think these tacos turned out great without any tweaks, if I do say so myself, Ole!

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Cantina Style Tacos With Chipotle Crema

1 serving of 4 mini tacos, easy to scale to your needs

1/2 cup butternut squash, cut into 1/4″ cubes

1.5 tbs organic raw sugar

1 tsp cumin

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Sprinkle of salt

2 tbs olive oil, divided

1 cup of cashews, soaked overnight in water on the counter or boiled in water for 20 min.

Juice of 1 lime plus 1 lime cut into wedges

1 tbs dried chipotle powder (or 2 whole chipotle peppers!)

1/2 tbs agave nectar

1/2 tsp sea salt (might need more after you taste it

1/2 cup water

4 mini organic corn tortillas, (4″ diameter)

1/2 cup cooked black beans

1 shallot

2 tbs olive oil

1 sprig cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 large avocado, cut into thin slices

Hot sauce as desired

Preheat oven to 400. Cube the butternut squash and put into a small bowl with the sugar, cumin, nutmeg, and salt, drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil, and toss to coat. Drizzle the 2nd tbs of olive oil onto the pan and spread it around, then throw the squash on there. Spread the squash out evenly, the farther apart the pieces are from each other, the better-  they will roast instead of steam this way. Cook this for 10-15 minutes, tossing about half way through. Keep an eye that they don’t burn with this tiny dice!

In the meantime, add the cashews, chipotle, lime juice, agave, and salt to a food processor and blend, slowly adding in the water a little splash at a time and allowing it to integrate. Keep adding the water until you get a saucy consistency; you want it to be thick, but you should be able to drizzle it off a spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Slice the shallot very thinly, as thin as you can. Heat up the 2 tbs olive oil in a small pan and throw the shallots in there over medium heat and give the pan a few shakes. Allow them to just sit there for about 30 sec., then  scrape a stir them gently until they are caramelized and golden.

I think tortillas are best if you microwave them in a stack for about 15 sec, they get warm and soft.

Lay out each tortilla and add two tbs of the butternut squash and two tbs of black beans to each. Next lay a slice of avocado on each taco. Sprinkle on a few slices of the crispy shallots and a sprinkle of cilantro. Drizzle on a tablespoon of the Chipotle Crema and a splash of hot sauce if you like.

Serve with the lime wedges on the side and enjoy a tall cerveza while you are at it.

butternut squash and black bean tacos