Summer Medley of Sliced Fennel, Beets, Radishes, & Carrots with Orange Vinaigrette

Last summer our family of five traveled to Arizona along the I-5 corridor making a surprise stop in Disneyland.  I still remember the thrill in our daughter's eyes when we woke up in a hotel to reveal our surprise of entering Disneyland that day.  After an "let's cram it all in" sort of day, we hit our pillows hard to welcome a day of relaxation in southern California.  

As an Arizona native, I always felt a duel citizenship with California as we traveled to San Diego every Christmas and various holidays to spend with our extended family.  Since my dad was born and raised, it was only natural a part of me grew up there with the stories I heard and the sights I had experienced.  I still remember the curvature of I-8 when leaving El Cajon and burgeoning San Diego appeared.  The highway signs boasting "Beaches" always foreign, and forever magical to me.  

***

In my freshman year of high school I moved with dad and brothers to one of the adjoining cities in Orange County called Fountain Valley.  The temperature always pleasant, and if you were hot you could literally go upstairs to Willy's room to stand in front of the open window to feel the breeze waft in from the ocean (and we were still 15 minutes away).  With San Diego beaches forever on my mind, I would come to love and appreciate Huntington Beach.  

Our family would bring hot dogs to roast, and my dad's obligatory 'Pork & Beans,' with the lid opened and cooked right over the flames.  I hadn't returned to this little spot in ages.  So, as we traveled to La Lima where our townhouse resided I texted Willy & Andrew a picture asking if they recognized the place.  They both knew.  I showed Ben and the girls my high school, the 711 where I stood aimlessly as Willy played the new Mortal Combat game, and of course, Huntington Beach.  

It's interesting how an image of a place can either be spot on when you return, or completely different.  In this instance it was different with more shops and traffic than I remember.  As we pilled out of the van, the smell of sunscreen and salt filled the air.  Breath in deep and there I was, 14 again.  

***

We walked into a little restaurant, which promised unique flavors, a splash of hipster and a decent drink menu.  Ben and Cadence ordered the burger on a brioche bun, big slabs of bacon & cheddar cheese.  Veronica ordered a variation of a croque-monsieur.  I wanted to stick with a salad, and the one with sliced root vegetables of beets, radishes, carrots, & fennel, topped with gorgonzola and an orange vinaigrette sounded light, yet refreshing.  Plus, I wanted to order their boozy butterscotch milkshake, so priorities in calories--yes?!

The shake arrived and fulfilled all my expectations of rum, vanilla ice cream and butterscotch drizzled around.  Then, the salad in all it's glory piled high with shaved vegetables, walnuts & gorgonzola promised a taste truly divine.  Upon first bite, it fell flat.  Upon second bite, hoping for something, it was evident this salad although gorgeous suffered from lack luster.  This meant one thing, I was determined to recreate this salad at home bursting with flavor.  

The salad at the restaurant.  Looks good right!

The salad at the restaurant.  Looks good right!

And so, this summer medley of sliced fennel, red & golden beets, radishes, and carrots topped with gouda & macadamia nuts serves up a more well-rounded flavor profile.  The macadamia nuts lend a salty buttery fat and the gouda a creaminess, both needed to strengthen the cleanness of the vegetables.  I needed the vinaigrette to punch up the garden flavors, which comes through in the apple cider vinegar & a splash of orange to brighten it up.  After eating this salad your body will thank you.  

Summer Medley: Raw Sliced Root Vegetables (Fennel, Radish, Carrot, Beet with Macadamia Nuts & Gouda)  PRINTABLE RECIPE

You really need a mandoline to make this salad, in order to get perfectly sliced vegetables.  I have this one. If you would like to make this vegan, simply omit the cheese and sub the honey with agave nectar.  

Salad Ingredients:

1 bunch of Radishes

2- Fennel bulbs

3-4 Yellow beets

3-4 Red beets

4 Carrots, medium size

small handful of chives

1/4 cup of macadamia nuts

1/3-1/2 cup gouda 

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I use raw from Bragg's)

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tb raw honey (you can use non-raw honey)

1 orange, fresh squeezed orange juice 2-4 Tb to taste to likeness

Directions:

Prepare all your vegetables, by scrubbing them clean.  Peel your carrots & beets.  When peeling your red beets, be sure to put them in a separate spot to avoid staining everything else.  

Using a mandolin, slice all your veggies.  Begin with radishes, then fennel, carrots, yellow beets and lastly the red beets.  You will want a 1/8 to 1/16th inch slice, depending on how small your mandolin goes.  If it doesn't give you measurements, then simply use the smallest setting.  

Get bowls for each sliced veggie to store them while you make the vinaigrette.  

In a measuring cup, add the oil, ACV, salt & honey and whisk together with a fork.  Taste, then add the orange juice tablespoon by tablespoon for taste.  Set aside.

Once you are done with the vinaigrette, fill the bowls with ice cold water.  You will immerse them into the cold water to keep them crisp.   Keep the veggies in the water for about one minute.  

Dump out the ice cold water from each veggie bowl.  Place each veggie in a salad spinner to remove excess water.  Do this in order of light colored veggies to darker ones (fennel, radishes, carrots, yellow beets, red beets).  Put the veggies back in their separate bowls.  Now, add 1 - 1 1/2 Tb of vinaigrette to each bowl of vegetables.  With your hands, lightly coat the vegetables. Allow the vegetables to sit while you cut the gouda into 1/4 inch cubes.

Layer the vegetables in a large shallow bowl beginning with the red beets, then yellow beets, then carrots, then radishes and lastly fennel.  Add the rest of the vinaigrette to the vegetables.  With light hands, gently toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette.  Add the cubed gouda around the salad along with macadamia nuts.  Using kitchen shears, or a chef knife, snip/cut the chives into 1/8 inches and garnish the salad.  

Serve right away, or allow to sit to further absorb the flavor into the vegetables.  This will store just fine in the fridge for a couple days.  The only thing is the red beets will also bleed it's color turning the salad more pink.  

You could prepare this in advance and store in fridge, just keep red beets separately and wait till serving to add nuts, cheese, and chives.

 

 

Whole 30 Approved Kale, Apple, & Carrot Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing

Two fried eggs served alongside buttered toast with their drippy yolks.  Just enough salt and pepper atop inviting me for another taste.  My first meal after returning home from the hospital with my firstborn.

Bean and bacon soup with far too much sodium gingerly biting down.  Sitting in my bed watching tv, and being nursed after the removal of my wisdom teeth.  

Whole wheat bread lightly toasted.  Mayonnaise spread over with a generous amount of pepper and slices of avocados.  Sitting at the table with my dad, and reveling over this simple meal; yet, one of my most favorite. 

****

This fall and early winter felt their pain in my kitchen.  I had forgotten these tastes.  My knife beckoned me often like an old friend; but, all I could say, "Not now, I can't."  Taste buds on hiatus, seemingly like a permanent hiatus. I shuddered.  Food, my companion, my artist palette...depleted.  Grief set in deep, and what was my place of creating and providing I cursed.  

When you lose a beloved brother so suddenly, so tragically, you don't care about food.  You can't taste it's vibrancy like you once could.  Nothing came alive and I resolved to not being able to sing again to the tune of chop, sizzle, sprinkle.  In my belly, deep in the trenches of my gut, there served a hopeless plate of overcooked canned peas and carrots floating in salt ridden wretchedness.  

****

I stood on the scale, assessed my jeans, and the way of the family dinner table being far from what I wanted and what I deserved.  But, sometimes when you're neck deep in the life of swimming peas and carrots, you don't know how to free yourself.  Despair, anxiety, and stress creeps it's head in the form of arsenic chocolate.  Looks delicious but kills you.

Slowly, I'm beginning to remember those yolky eggs.  The joy of simmered shallots mixed with farm fresh eggs, sprinkled with fresh tarragon and black truffle salt is rising.  My chef knife has come out from hiding and happily skating across my board.  

The only reason is choosing life amidst death.  

So, I have chosen a Whole 30 to restart my taste buds, my body, my life, because I want my life.  

Picking up my kale and washing it under clean water, as it collects a pool on the counter.  Slicing out the rib, leaf by leaf.  Quartering my apples, slicing them and swooshing with the blade to create little batons.  Peeling carrots to show off their clean side creates newness in me.  "Oh old friend, it's good to be back," I whisper.  And as I slice through a lemon and garlic, it becomes apparent how habits with my sweet friend have never been forgotten.

Creating a kale salad with such vibrancy and health gives life to me and my family.  It signifies hope worth believing in, one I am humbled to share with you.  

                           Lacinto kale  

                           Lacinto kale

 

                           Chef knife in the ready with one leaf of kale before we remove the rib.

                           Chef knife in the ready with one leaf of kale before we remove the rib.

     Fold the leaf in half to expose the rib.  Since I didn't have my knife right there while cutting I had my thumb exposed.  This is a "no No" when cutting.  Tuck that thumb behind your fingers.  

     Fold the leaf in half to expose the rib.  Since I didn't have my knife right there while cutting I had my thumb exposed.  This is a "no No" when cutting.  Tuck that thumb behind your fingers.  

  You can see where the knife begins and then cut along the rib as close as possible to keep as much of the leaf.

  You can see where the knife begins and then cut along the rib as close as possible to keep as much of the leaf.

                            The rib has been removed and we are left with....

                            The rib has been removed and we are left with....

                           ...what looks like a pair of legs.

                           ...what looks like a pair of legs.

                            Now cut down the middle making two leaves.

                            Now cut down the middle making two leaves.

                            Put one on top of another like so.

                            Put one on top of another like so.

                           Take your chef knife and cut in 1/2 inch slices.

                           Take your chef knife and cut in 1/2 inch slices.

   Quarter and core your apple.  I used Orion apples, which are nothing like Granny smith.  They are slightly tart, but also sweet.

   Quarter and core your apple.  I used Orion apples, which are nothing like Granny smith.  They are slightly tart, but also sweet.

         Using your chef knife, cut each quartered apple into slices, about 1/4 in thick.

         Using your chef knife, cut each quartered apple into slices, about 1/4 in thick.

        Take two of the apple slices and put them on top of one another and cut them into Batons, which is what you see.  These are 1/4 inch

        Take two of the apple slices and put them on top of one another and cut them into Batons, which is what you see.  These are 1/4 inch

                           Different angle, same idea.

                           Different angle, same idea.

  For the dressing, you will need Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, jalapeno, Garlic (not shown) salt, cashews, & apple cider vinegar.

  For the dressing, you will need Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, jalapeno, Garlic (not shown) salt, cashews, & apple cider vinegar.

  I use chopped cashews, because they are infinitely cheaper to buy from Azure Standard.  So when they are chopped up I use 1/2 cup.  If you were using whole cashews, I would only do 1/4-1/3 cup.

  I use chopped cashews, because they are infinitely cheaper to buy from Azure Standard.  So when they are chopped up I use 1/2 cup.  If you were using whole cashews, I would only do 1/4-1/3 cup.

 Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, aCV into a high powered blender and blend to emulsify.  Then after 10 seconds or so, add the cashews and jalapeno and blend more.  It should look like this.

 Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, aCV into a high powered blender and blend to emulsify.  Then after 10 seconds or so, add the cashews and jalapeno and blend more.  It should look like this.

 Put all that chopped up Kale into a bowl, add the dressing and mix it into the kale.  I use my clean hands to  massage it into it.  Take a peeled carrot and shred it on a cheese grater, put it on top of kale. take your apple batons and put those on top as well.

 Put all that chopped up Kale into a bowl, add the dressing and mix it into the kale.  I use my clean hands to  massage it into it.  Take a peeled carrot and shred it on a cheese grater, put it on top of kale. take your apple batons and put those on top as well.

Mix it all together, take toasted hazelnuts and chop them up and pour them over the salad.  Zest some lemon if you'd like. 

Mix it all together, take toasted hazelnuts and chop them up and pour them over the salad.  Zest some lemon if you'd like. 

Kale, Apple & Carrot Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing (Whole 30 friendly & Vegan) (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients

2 heads of Lacinto kale (or whatever kale you like)

2 carrots

2 Orion apples, or one which is sweet & tart

1 lemon

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp jalapeno, minced

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup chopped cashews

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, then chop afterwards

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350, place your hazelnuts on a pan lined with parchment.  Toast for about 7-9 minutes.  Truth, I never time them.  I use my olfactory on them.  They should begin to release a toasty smell and when you open the oven, the skins will turn a darker brown, while the inside will become light brown.  Once they are done, put them on a clean kitchen towel and wrap them up.  Allow them to sit in the covered towel for about 5 minutes.  Then, begin vigorously rubbing the hazelnuts while in the towel to rub off the skins.  

Separate the nuts from the rubbed off skins and set aside.

Wash your kale.  With a chopping board and a chef knife, take one leaf and place it right side up.  Now, fold the leaf in half where you can see the exposed rib.  The rib is the thick middle running lengthwise of the kale leaf.  Take your knife and put the point end, place it at the base of the leaf and rib (where the rib is the thickest).  Begin to slice along the rib and leaf to remove the rib, while leaving 1/3 of the top in tact.  

Set the rib aside (or if you have chickens gather them up and feed them the scraps), which leaves you with a half in tact kale leaf minus the fibrous rib.  Slice right down the middle, in order to leave you with two smaller kale leaves.  Put one leave on top of another.  With your knife, begin to cut 1/2 inch slices crosswise.  Repeat till all the kale is cut into 1/2 inch crosswise slices.  Put into a large salad bowl.

Cut your apples into quarters.  Remove the cores.  With your knife, slice your apples into 1/4 inch slices.  Stack two apple slices on top of one another.  Begin to cut 1/4 inch batons from those slices.  Set aside.

Peel two carrots and cut off both ends.  With a cheese grater, shred the carrots.  Set aside.

In a high powered blender (or whatever you have).  Add juice from one lemon, 1/2 cup olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic cloves and salt.  Begin to blend until it has emulsified.  On my Vitamix this takes 10-15 seconds.  Add the cashews and jalapeno to blend for 45 seconds or so.  You are wanting to create a creamy dressing, which might resemble a watered down hummus.

Pour all of the dressing onto the kale and massage it into the leaves, ensuring you have evenly distributed it.  Put the shredded carrots and apple batons on top.  Toss it together.  Take your toasted hazelnuts and chop them.  Or do what I do and put them into a bag, use the bottom of a canning far and pound them so they're roughly chopped.  Sprinkle them on top.  If you want, add some lemon zest.  In order to get the lemon zest, be sure to zest your lemon before you slice it to get the juice out.  Serves an army.
 

 

One Bowl Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Many, many years ago I baked some peanut butter cookies for my dad.  My mom would always make chocolate chip cookies; but, I somehow thought peanut butter was more fitting.  Upon eating them he mentions to my mom how peanut butter cookies were his favorite.  Much to my mother's chagrin, as she was always told chocolate chip was his favorite, she replied, "You said chocolate chip was your favorite?!"  

"Well, yes, I like chocolate chip cookies; but, peanut butter cookies are my favorite," my dad replied.  

Come to find out he passed this peanut butter gene onto my brothers, both of whom did not care for chocolate; hence, chocolate chip cookies became a mute point.  I would bake some grain-free peanut butter cookies for my brother and have Ben bring them down to Arizona with him years ago while on a business trip.  

Sidenote on peanut butter cookies and while we're at it, snickerdoodles.  I have never been a huge fan of either for the sheer crunch factor.  I am not a fan of crunchy cookies unless it's sandwich cookie in the form of an Oreo.  Most peanut butter cookies are crunchy and crumbly.  No thank you!  

Fast forward, I made my peanut butter cookies soft for my brother, and then I added chocolate for me.  Oh heavens, it took me back to my junior high days eating peanut butter blossom cookies at Christmas time (you know the peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's Kiss in the center--they're soft).  

Those ones used regular ole Jif peanut butter, which really did enhance the "wow" factor.  However, I buy this relatively cheap organic peanut butter at Costco without any added sugar.  And they taste just as good in my opinion.  This recipe could easily be turned into cookies.  Adjust the baking time to 12-14 minutes and drop tablespoons of dough onto a pan.  Press them down with a fork to make the traditional crisscross design.  

But, since we know I prefer soft cookies, and typically don't have a whole bunch of time, I prefer the bar cookies.  You get the softness factor and the ease factor in one batch.  Adding the chocolate in my mind sends it over the top; because, if you don't see how peanut butter and chocolate marry more than peanut butter and jelly...well, I feel bad for you.  

Grain-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (printable recipe)

Ingredients: 

1 cup peanut butter, no sugar added kind

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cup blanched almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup to 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  

Get an 8x11 pan out and set it aside, no need to grease the pan if using a glass pan.

In a large bowl, add peanut butter, butter, and sugar and mix together until they are fairly combined.  Add the egg & vanilla and mix it throughout, but it doesn't have to be perfectly mixed in.  

Add the almond flour, baking soda, & salt and mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed into the wet ingredients.  You are trying to achieve the wonderful consistency of playdoh.  Once you have achieved this, put the dough into your 8x11 pan and press it into the pan, corners and sides.  It will look rather shallow in depth; but, it will rise.  

Take your chocolate chips and sprinkle them on top and lightly press them into the dough.  

Bake for 25-28 minutes.  Bake depending on how soft or not you like your bar cookies.  At about 25 minutes you will have nice browned edges with a soft center.  At 28 minutes it will still be soft, just a bit more firm.  

Allow it to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before slicing into them.  The longer you allow them to cool the better they will taste, which also allows them to firm up without chocolate chips being melted.