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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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.

brilliant salad

Beet of My Heart Hummus

Beet of My Heart Hummus
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! Ah, the day of love, what could be more appropriate than beets on the day of love? I know you were thinking chocolate, which is also great, but I have some secrets for you about beets that will get your heart pumping!
Beets were used by the Romans as an aphrodisiac, because they expand your arteries and increase blood flow. They also contain large amounts of Boron, which increase the levels of sex hormones in your body. Just one serving of beets can lower your heart rate by 2% after consumption, and I don’t know what you have planned for tonight, but a single small serving of beets can even increase the length of time you can hold your breath! For professional divers, the increase was 11%! They also give you tons of energy, so they really are the perfect food for a day like today. Now the amount of raw garlic in this Beet of My Heart Hummus might make you worry about your breath, but love and mouthwash can overcome any obstacle. Not to mention, garlic is a fiercely powerful heart protector also!

Beet of My Heart Hummus

Makes about 1 cup

1 medium beet

2 tbs olive oil

4 tbs tahini

juice of 1 lemon

8 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp coriander

a few micro mint leaves for garnish, I like the little baby leaves at the tips of the stems, but any mint will do

2 tortillas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the beet till it’s totally clean of debris. (mine was pretty gnarly so I peeled it a little.) Put your beet on a piece of foil on a baking pan and douse it with olive oil, rubbing it all over. Wrap it up in a little foil pocket, this is a very messy recipe. Do not wear white at any point in making this recipe! Roast it for about 25 min, or until fork tender. Once cooled, cut it into quarters.

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the mint and puree until smooth. Serve sprinkled with mint.

I served my hummus with tortillas cut into little hearts. I sprayed them with some coconut oil and a dash of garlic salt. Roast them in the oven next to the beet for about 6 minutes, turning once. Once they were out and the beet was roasted, I rubbed the edges of the tortillas with a little beet juice.

Now go forth and take care of your heart, tomorrow is the big day!

Beet of My Heart Hummus with Micro-Mint

Pineapple Celery Mint Juice

Pineapple Celery Mint Juice

I have been reading a lot of articles lately about how celery juice contains the compound 3-n-butylphtalide, or phthalate, which can reduce high blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscles in the walls of the blood vessels. Some even say that it is so effective that it could one day replace the pharmaceutical remedies that people are using today, which have a lot of nasty side affects. I took my blood pressure the other day, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the athletic number that it was when I was doing a little mo’ cardio. So in addition to squeezing some more exercise into my routine, I decided to attack from all angles and come up with a celery juice that didn’t taste…like celery. This juice was so tasty and fresh! I wish I had made 5 times as much. Pineapple also has great digestive enzymes and mint has a calming affect on the stomach as well, so this made the perfect midnight snack last night. It tasted like green candy!

Pineapple Celery Mint Juice

Makes 2 servings

1/2 Pineapple

4-6 stalks of celery

1 bunch mint leaves (about 1 packed cup)

1/2 a lime

Put each item through the juicer. Give it a stir and drink up, your body will thank you!

Thai Freshy Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Thai Avocado Freshy Rolls

These freshy rolls are full of fresh herbs and avocado, so light and flavorful, they make the kind of meal that won’t put you in a food coma afterwards. These portable little morsels are easier to assemble than I would have thought and the best thing is how surprisingly indestructible they are. They do well at room temp for hours (like if you are bringing them to a picnic or dinner party.) And they also last in the fridge for several days. Basically as long as your chopped veggies can stay fresh, the spring roll wrappers can keep up.

For those of you who have never used these spring roll wrappers before, I found them in the Asian food section at the grocery store, and they are also available on Amazon. They were only about $2.50 for a package with dozens of wrappers.  They are not the same thing as wonton wrappers, which are like an uncooked dough. They come hard and  flat like a big dry sheet of thin pasta. You don’t have to refrigerate them and they need no prep work. All it takes is a one second dip in warm water and they are ready to go. The ones I used were made from rice, and they also come in brown rice and wheat forms.

It was my mother’s birthday on Saturday, and I made a big Thai dinner for my family. These Freshy Rolls were the first course. I even served them at Super Bowl sunday the next day, and they were still great even after sitting on the buffet line for 4 hours.

You can serve them with any dipping sauce you want, but I think they were made for Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce. And certainly don’t serve them without any sauce, it’s the best part! One of the things that makes these rolls so durable is the balance of moisture. The vegetables are just naturally moist enough to keep the wrappers from reverting back to their dried pasta-like state, but if you incorporate the sauce into the rolls, they will likely get mushy and fall apart, hence the dipping.

Thai Freshy Rolls

Servings vary depending on how much you stuff into each roll, about 5 servings

1 avocado

1/2 cucumber (or about 4.5″ length)

3/4 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup fresh  basil leaves

5  leaves butter lettuce, washed and dried

5 spring roll rice wrappers, 8.5″ diameter

3 large dinner plates

Getting your roll making station all set up is key here. So first prepare the vegetables. When slicing your vegetables, the idea is to have pieces that are tiny and delicate matchsticks that span the length of the Freshy Roll, so that when you slice it, it looks pretty and neat (think sushi.)

Cut the avocado in half, scoop out each entire half with a spoon, then slice it into long thin pieces, roughly 1/2″ W x 1/2″ W.

Next peel the cucumber and slice it the same way, so that you have long sticks, about 1/8″ W x 1/8″ W.

If you want, you can buy a whole carrot and cut it just like the cucumber, it will look much prettier, but they really need to be 1/16″W x 1/16″W matchsticks, so if you aren’t a ninja and do not have OCD, I’d just go with the pre shredded bag of carrots.

Finely chop the basil and mint and combine them in a small bowl.

Wash and separate the leaves of the butter lettuce. Rip the leaves in half, removing the tough central stems.

Now you will need 1 large dinner plate with a little depth to it. Fill it with warm water. Also have ready a 2nd plate or cutting board to do the wrapping upon, and a 3rd plate to put the finished rolls.

Get ready to wrap and roll:

Take your first sheet of spring roll wrapper  and dip it into the plate of warm water, fully submerging it, for only 1 to 2 seconds. Lift it out, give it a little shake, and lay it down on your second plate.

You will probably think, ‘hey, this thing is still rock hard, I won’t be able to roll this up!” But in the time it takes you to pile up the veggies, it will have softened perfectly.

Start with the lettuce and arrange it at the bottom half of the wrapper, closest to you. It should take up roughly the bottom half of the spring roll. Make sure that will all your filling ingredients, you leave 1″ to 2″ of uncovered wrapper on the left and the right, so that you can fold in these edges like a burrito. You may have to rip your leaves and layer them to make them fit this space.

Next put a few slices of avocado, a few strips of cucumber, a few strips of carrot, and pinch of the herbs on top of the lettuce. You want the overall diameter of your rolls to be about 2.5″ and about 4″ long, so divvy up your veggies accordingly. (look at the photo for reference.)

Now starting at the bottom, roll the wrapper up over the vegetables, tucking it and trying to pack it nice and tightly. Once you get 1 full rotation, fold the left and right edges in (again, like a burrito.) The you will probably roll it a little more, fold the edges in a little more, and roll again to seal it up.

If at any point the wrapper feels hard and not pliable enough, just dip your fingers in the water and rub the wrapper a little.

If you aren’t going to serve them right away, just put them in an airtight container or plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you are going to serve, wait about 15 minutes for the wrapper to congeal on itself, then slice them in half.

Now for the sauce!

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

makes about 1/2 cup

1 tb raw almond butter (you can use peanut butter, but this actually tastes just as good! I promise.)

1 tb raw agave nectar

1 tbs soy sauce

3 tbs chili garlic sauce (this is in the asian food section, the brand is Huy Fong, the same company that makes Sriracha.)

2 tbs full fat coconut milk (optional)

1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar or lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Lasts in the fridge at least one week!

Now every time I make this, I combine everything, taste it, then keep adjusting depending on what it needs. Everyone has a different preference for peanut sauce; whether it’s sweeter, spicier, creamier, this is a good base to adjust to your preferences. I hope you will like it just the way it is, but if not, you really can’t ‘ruin’ it, just keep adjusting.  🙂