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The Mexican Menu + New Recipes

T minus 1 day until Shavuot started, my Mexican feast totally planned and shopped for…then I realized that I’d invited someone to lunch who happens to be from Mexico. By then I couldn’t make a whole new menu. Besides, I love Mexican food and I wanted to eat it! My guest was quite gracious in insisting that I did just fine but he did inform me that in Mexico tacos are actually made with soft tortillas. The closest thing they have to what we consider a taco is a tostada. The good news is that I was just trying to make a delicious menu and not a completely authentic one!

Here is the complete menu, for your copying pleasure, along with the recipes, resources and shortcuts that I used. The point is healthy and delicious, not to kill yourself in the kitchen.

Soup

  • Gazpacho (Super fresh and tasted homemade, but purchased from Goldberg’s Bagels in Potomac)

Salads

  • Roasted Corn, Pineapple and Black Bean Salad (Click for link to cooking.com recipe)
  • Jicama Mango salad. I got the idea from a Kimberly Snyder recipe from The Beauty Detox Foods that called for papaya, basil and dill. See my recipe at the bottom of this post.

Main Dish

  • Taco “meat” made with walnuts. I used the recipe from Kimberly Snyder’sThe Beauty Detox Foods” book. I don’t have permission to reprint her exact recipe. However, if you grind raw walnuts in the food processor (to the consistency of ground meat) and add taco seasoning (make your own or buy a pre-made spice mix without additives or too much salt), you’ll get a pretty similar result. My guests loved it and they are not people who normally skip red meat! It’s actually kind of creepy how similar it tastes and feels to ground beef (minus the gross parts anyway).
  • Taco fixings: Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn taco shells with Wholly Guacamole taco bean dip and guacamole, Wholly Salsa regular mild salsa and roasted tomato medium salsa. Tofutti and regular sour cream (If I’d had more time I could have made a healthier alternative to the processed store-bought non-dairy sour cream. Alas, I did not.) Shredded lettuce (purchased already shredded!).

Dessert

  • Freshly cut watermelon (When desperate, feel free to buy overpriced already cut watermelon. Better yet, ask a guest to bring it already cut up).
  • Non-dairy cheesecake. I used an organic graham cracker crust. Because it only made enough filling to fill it half way, I took the top of the crust and used it to dust the top of the cheesecake and served it with fresh blueberries, raspberries and non-dairy whip. Here is the filling recipe by Paul Jarvis that I found on Kris Carr’s website: Blend 2 cups raw cashews (soaked, rinsed and drained), juice of 1.5 lemons, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Pour into crust and freeze for at least 1 hour. Was that easy or what?

Jicama Mango Salad Recipe

(Image courtesy of www.bulldogbistro.com)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium jicama

1 avocado

1 mango

3 small kirby cucumbers

1 organic lime, juice and zest

Directions

Peel and dice jicama, avocado, mango and cucumber. Add zest and juice of 1 lime and mix.

Easy, right? Let me know how it turns out!

Healthy Spanish Rice & Fajitas for the Family!

Healthy Spanish Rice Recipe & Fajitas for the Family!

I don’t know about you, but I love meals where everyone can choose what they want to add to their own dish. Last week I saw a recipe for “Anything Goes Fajitas” on www.JewishFoodExperience.com and decided that was the feast I was going to make for my peeps that evening. We ended up with so many leftovers I didn’t need to cook the next two nights. The recipe was supposed to feed a big crowd and I didn’t have one. However, I did have a happy me when I didn’t have to cook for the next couple nights!

There are several parts to this recipe, so it isn’t a five minute prep. However, like most things, you can simplify or make it bigger/fancier and more of an effort. There are also several steps that can be done ahead of time. It’s really a great recipe when you are having a lot of people and only want to make one dish. I mean, one dish with 5 parts…. Still, it’s all mental. This still feels easier than coming up with ideas for and cooking multiple dishes.

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The parts of the feast included:

1. The Marinade (Majorly simplified if you buy fajita spice mix in the store, which, of course, I did not).

2. The Protein (The recipe calls for chicken, beef and tofu. I made the beef for my hubby because I’m just occasionally awesome like that. I made the tofu of course and he also loved that.)

3. The Fajita Vegetables (Onions, peppers, etc….I happened to already have roasted red onion so I didn’t take time to saute yellow onion as the recipe suggested. I also roasted the peppers instead of sauteing which cut down on active cooking time. I’d just bought sliced portabella caps and roasted those too).

4. For Serving (Little-prep necessary items like tortillas, Tofutti sour cream, lettuce, cucumbers, guacamole, tomatoes and salsa). I also “mandolined” sweet potatoes and roasted those to serve on the side.

5. For me, the piece de resistance, was my accidental invention: Healthy Spanish Rice!

I made a microwave steam bag of brown rice. (Yes, of course it is healthier to use your rice cooker instead of microwaving in plastic, but I used what I had and it was so easy!). Then I made and mixed in my own recipe for homemade vegan nacho cheese sauce. A little diced red pepper and tomatoes and there you have it: creamy and healthy Spanish rice). I love Spanish rice, but have never been able to make it myself, so this was thrilling.

Recipe

Healthy Spanish Rice

Ingredients

Approximately 3 cups cooked brown rice (the amount depends on how large your crowd is)

1 Red pepper, diced

1 pint Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Optional: 1 can black beans

Cheese Sauce Ingredients

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least an hour

1 roasted red pepper (can be from a jar!)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup almond milk

Cheese Sauce Directions

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend. Done! The recipe makes approximately 2 cups.

Rice directions
Mix cheese sauce into rice and vegetables, a quarter cup at a time, until desired creaminess is achieved.
Optional: Add black beans (and maybe even corn?) to make a main dish. Add salad and you’re done!

 

Celebrate Passover like Mayim Bialik!

Oh, Mayim Bialik, you are responsible for my downfall! The vegan Chocolate Truffle Pie of yours that I linked to in my Healthy Passover post was total crack! The sugar, the chocolate, the fattening horrible for you Passover margarine… It was a bliss point trifecta! That being said, it was such a hit I had to make another one two days later. Um…I didn’t say the Chocolate Truffle Pie was healthy, did I? But, damn, was it good!

By the way, if you haven’t heard me say this before, vegan doesn’t always mean healthy and that you miss out on eating anything enjoyable. Sometimes the good involves sugar-filled desserts and other times it is raw “caramels” made with dates and pine nuts (they are so good!). It’s not just about vegan, it’s about healthy. And healthy can be delicious too. But, very occasionally, I just need an unhealthy treat.

I spent the rest of the week gorging on vegetables, so I almost have a clear conscience. I mean, I would if I hadn’t gone ahead and made the second pie, two days later :)

Seriously, though, folks… I was surprised at how easy the week actually was. Well, by easy I mean completely doable and manageable. However, I did have to manage it, plan ahead and do A LOT of cooking. I spent at least 3 whole days in the kitchen throughout the holiday. Considering the number of formal meals I was cooking for (8?), that actually isn’t too bad. If I was cooking for just my own nuclear family, it never would have taken so long.

In an effort to help others trying to have a healthy Passover (or any other holiday), especially if they’re eating differently than others around them, let me tell you what can work.

1. Take responsibility for whatever it is you want to eat. There were meals when I wanted to enjoy dessert and others when I cared most about having three servings of salad. I was willing to work hard to make whatever I wanted to eat and to help others enjoy the holiday in the healthiest way possible (um…with the exception of the Truffle Pie of course…). In fact, my family was joking that I worked so hard and did such a great job on all the vegetables it must be an attempt to turn them all vegan. I responded that I had no such delusions, but if all of my healthy vegetables crowded out some other choices on the table, that was okay by me.

2. Be perfectly happy when it feels like you can only eat a couple of the dishes at a meal. Caveat: …As long as those items are healthy and will satisfy you. For instance, there were meals at which I knew I would be eating salad, soup (my mother in law was super considerate and had veggie soup for me while everyone else enjoyed her famous homemade chicken soup), a quinoa salad, one veggie side dish, and fruit for dessert. Only in a Thanksgiving type atmosphere is that NOT a perfectly satisfactory meal. I love not feeling disgusting at the end of a long meal with family and friends. I especially don’t mind my (self-imposed) dietary limitations, when I know it means I’ll feel well and that I was there for the company, not the food.

3. Involve your friends and family in the menu planning, but make it easy for them. I was happy to hear from friends that I’m not the only crazy one who keeps spreadsheets with grocery lists from year to year and menus for holidays going back to when I was single. For this year, I prepared a document divided into categories like salad, side dishes, vegetarian main meals and desserts. I listed all the recipes I’d found that I thought could work and where to find them. The where could be a link, a cookbook with a page number or a saved document.

4. Ask for the help you need! There was no way I could cook this amount and watch the kids at the same time. Sure, this can be paid help, but it can also just be making sure that you have family or friends who can juggle family responsibilities with you.

What’s next, peeps? You got it! Mother’s Day Brunch. Stay tuned for a great menu! (I welcome your suggestions too!)

 

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