Roasted Nuts and Olives

I live in Playa Del Rey, a small beach community on the edge of Los Angeles. My husband and I love our town and the little gems in it. One of our favorite places is called The Tripel, started by Brooke and Nick Roberts, it is an amazing gastro pub with a friendly vibe and delicious food. Being a vegan, the menu is not so friendly, but it’s ok, because my favorite snack is their Nuts and Olives. A mixed bowl of juicy olives, roasted nuts, dried cherries, and some fresh parsley. Often times I will get two orders because they are so tasty, packed with zesty protein! Recently I recreated this delicious appetizer.  It was so tasty and very easy! Luckily for the Tripel, we will keep coming back because my husband is hooked on their Squid Ink Spaghetti, Chicken Waterzooi and great craft beer selection (and their self titled burger).

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What you will need:

1/4 lb Raw Cashews

1/4 lb Raw Almonds

2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Sprigs Rosemary

Sea Salt

1/4 lb dried sour cherries

1 jar pitted Kalamata Olives

1 can pitted green olives (mild)

1 Cup fresh pitted green olives (tangy)- Found in Olive Bar

Handful of chopped Parsley

1 Lemon

Heat oven to 350 Degrees. In a bowl, mix together Cashews and Almonds with 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper (or tin foil).                                                                                Spread nuts out into one layer on baking sheet.

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IMG_0086Sprinkle with salt. Strip leaves off of 2 sprigs of Rosemary and place evenly throughout nuts. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking to ensure the nuts do not over cook.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix olives, cherries, and chopped parsley together. I usually save 1 or 2 tablespoons of Kalamata Olive juice for the marinade. Add 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil and the juice of one lemon. Add a pinch of course sea salt.

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When the nuts are roasted to perfection, toss in with olive mixture and voila, delicious Nuts and Olives.

Enjoy as a snack, appetizer, meal accompaniment, or perfect potluck dish.     IMG_0087

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Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu and Peanut Sauce

In the heart of this mildly cold winter in LA, it is nice to be able to hunker down and make a nice home cooked meal. There are always delicious take out or delivery options for Thai food or Chinese food, but I prefer to recreate my favorite dishes using healthy, fresh ingredients. Restaurant food always uses an excess of salt, sugar and oil in their food. I try to cook with healthy oils like Coconut Oil, Organic Sesame Oil or Organic Olive oil and I use Tamari instead of sodium ladened Soy Sauce. Tonight I am making Paul’s favorite, Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu and Peanut sauce, to go along with my standard stir fry vegetables and quinoa. You can find the recipes for the Stir Fried(Steamed) Vegetables and Peanut Sauce on my most recent post.
You will need to go to the grocery Store to pick up a few special ingredients for this including Spring Roll Skins(found in a clear plastic, frisbee like container), Rice Stick noodles (I used Maifun brand), and some kind of marinated pressed tofu (I used Wildwood Teriyaki flavor). Other than these three, the rest of the ingredients are pretty straight forward.

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You will need:

1 Pack Spring Roll Skins- Use however many you desire
1 Package Rice Stick Noodles
1 Package Pressed, Marinated Tofu- Cut in long slender rectangles.
1/2 Cup Cilantro
2 Carrots Carrots (Grated)
3 Scallions- Cut in strips the long way
Handful of Mint Leaves
Handful of Basil(preferably Thai Basil, can be found at Asian grocery stores)
1 Cup Mung Bean Sprouts
1 Cup Butter Lettuce or Romaine- Washed and Dried
Optional- Serrano Pepper sliced thinly without seeds (I didn’t use peppers, because my Peanut Sauce was extra spicy)

Measurements are dependent on how many rolls you are making and how thick you want them. Prepare all your fixings and place in individual bowls, easy for grabbing and placing on your spring roll.

First you will want to prepare your noodles, simply follow the instructions and let cool for a few minutes.

Next, make sure you have a good, clean area to work. Clear off counter space and place all your bowls filled with fixings close together.

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IMG_0051IMG_0055 IMG_0061 IMG_0058For the Spring Roll skins you will need a deep plate or serving dish, just deep enough for a small amount of water. Get a clean, dry dish towel and place it on the counter near your fixings. Warm some water, place on plate, take one skin and submerge it with your hands, make sure all the surface area is under water. Hold under for approximately 10-15 seconds. The skin will become extremely malleable and completely translucent. Pick it up with two hands and lay it flat on to the dry dish towel. Smooth out any wrinkles and voila you are ready to roll.

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There is no perfect way to fill a spring roll. If you are a big fan of basil, load it on, if you hate sprouts, leave them out, if you are an uber healthy no carb fiend, the leave the noodles off (although I don’t recommend that because they are delicious). Just start with a fixing and start piling it in, just remember that the skins are fragile so you can’t pack too much in.

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Once you have filled your roll, very gentle mash all the ingredients with your thumb and other fingers. Take one side of the skin and roll away, while pushing the filling in simultaneously, think rolling a burrito, enchilada or Bouche De Noel.

Slice in half, serve with Peanut Sauce or your favorite dipping sauce. I always put out the Sambal (Chili Sauce) just in case anyone wants an extra kick. This is an excellent appetizer or entree lunch. Enjoy!

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Our delicious Asian Feast, complete with Asian Bowls (Quinoa, stir fried vegetables and Spring Roll Fixings) and one of my favorite green teas, UCC! Such a delicious, satisfying and healthy Vegan meal.

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Summer Cheese Plate

Mid Summer’s Night Cheese Plate

 Summer marks a wonderful time of year for farmers and diners alike. Nature provides an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables for us to enjoy. What goes better with fruits and vegetable you may ask, but of course, cheese! Sliced, cubed, smeared… cheese is delightful. Cheese is my reason for not being vegan. Explore new cheese, go blue, go hard, go French! Enjoy your cheese with vegetables, fruit, crackers, bread. Arrange neatly and carefully. Presentation pays off.

Appetizers

For this mid summer’s night cheese plate I chose two cheeses; Humboldt Fog Chèvre and mozzarella balls. I spread the Humboldt fog on some Crunch Masters Gluten Free Crackers and put a dollop of Blackberry Sweet Heat Jelly on top.  Both Humboldt Fog and Sweet Heat are local products from my hometown of Arcata, California. Find a friend who lives there and have them send you Sweet Heat, it’s the most delicious condiment with so many uses; toast, meat/tofu marinade, served over cheese or yogurt, the possibilities are infinite!

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Mini Caprese Skewers. Very easy and oh so elegant. Simply skewer a cherry tomato, mozzarella ball and basil leaf with a toothpick. Repeat. Arrange so they look pretty and then drizzle with balsamic glaze.

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I sliced fresh, ripe figs in half and laid them in the middle of the plate. They are delicious on their own, but also divine added to the Humboldt Fog Crackers.

For a punch of protein I served green hummus and regular organic hummus with rosemary crisps and more Crunch masters. Hummus is a great addition to any meal, packing protein and flavor into every bite.

The moral of this story is there is no wrong way to make a cheese plate, even if you hold the cheese and just chop of vegetables and add dip, it’s all about getting creative and making the food into art. There is something delightful about arranged food that will make your taste buds happy and communal food is a lovely way to chat and socialize with friends and family.

Happy Summer!