Not-So Cheese Sauce

I have been sharing this cheese sauce for about 6 years now. I always make it when we are having Tex-Mex food or having a pot-luck type dinner with friends. Everyone is always amazed at how great it tastes. Pairs wonderfully with crunchy tortilla chips. I don’t miss cheese at all. (Side note: I quit cheese about 8 years ago and haven’t had a cold, the flu or even seasonal allergies ever since then. Loving it!)

The original recipe (and also, the name I believe) comes from Vitamix, but I’ve made a few adjustments. I have tried recipes that use steamed potatoes (in place of potato starch) and carrots and even onions, but this one is my favorite. Here is my go-to recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ TBS lemon juice
  • ¼ cup pimentos , canned or jar OR use 1 roasted red pepper, peeled
  • ½ cup raw cashews (or almonds)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 2 TBS potato starch (or tapioca starch) mixed with 1/4 cup cold water

Notes prior to getting started:

1 – I suggest soaking the cashews and definitely the almonds if you do not think that your blender can thoroughly blend the nuts without leaving crunchy bits in the mixture. I always remove the brown hull/skin when using almonds, or I buy them already removed (blanched almonds).

2 – As an alternative to raw cashews and raw almonds, you could try raw nut nutters. ( I haven’t personally tried this option, just a suggestion.

3 – I have been successful with substituting almond flour in place of using almonds and I was satisfied with the outcome.

4 – I sometimes substitute green chiles for pimentos. This allows the cheese sauce to appear more creamy white instead of being tinted red by the pimentos.

Vitamix Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients except for the boiling water and potato starch mixture into the Vitamix.
  2. Set machine to 1, turn on quickly increasing speed to 10, and then to High.
  3. Blend for 3 – 7 minutes until steam forms and you can see it coming from the lid’s vent.
  4. Meanwhile, boil water on the stove-top
  5. Reduce speed to 7, remove plastic plug from the lid and add boiling water and potato starch mixture.
  6. Continue to blend until thickened, usually no longer than 1 minute.

Blender Plus Stove-top Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients except for the boiling water and potato starch mixture into the blender.
  2. Meanwhile, boil water on the stove-top in a saucepan
  3. Once you have a well-blended “cheese” mixture, add it to the saucepan along with the boiling water, bring back to almost boiling temperature.
  4. Reduce the heat under the saucepan and slowly pour in the potato starch mixture while continuing to stir until thickened.

Polenta with vegetables

Polenta is a corn-meal porridge. You can top polenta with anything you like which makes it a delicious options for breakfast, lunch and even dinner.

Polenta is identified as a yellow corn-meal. The way it’s process produces a more whole form of what many know as grits and contains 6 g of fiber. ( The most popular form of grits only have .7 g – yet I believe there is a white corn that can be used to create white polenta “grits” which reserves the whole kernels.

If cooking on the stove-top it takes about 30 minutes. Use 1 cup of polenta to 6 cups of water.

But I prefer the much easier option of using an Instant Pot. This recipe makes 4 – 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 6 cups water or broth

Vegetable Toppings:  (in photo)

  • `1 bell pepper
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 8 ounces mushrooms
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cups spinach
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions: (for Instant Pot)

  1. Add polenta, water and sprinkle with a little salt (optional) into Instant Pot and stir.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes (manually set or use ‘Rice’ button).
  3. After time is up, Press ‘Cancel’ to switch to ‘Off’ and allow natural pressure release (usually 10/15 minutes).
  4. Stir to combine water and corn-meal. Using a whisk makes this easier.

Cooking Vegetables:

  1. Heat griddle or pan on stove-top.
  2. Add 1 tsp of oil and/or 2 TBS water to the pan.
  3. Add all vegetables except for spinach and stir-fry (stir-steam) until desired tenderness, sprinkle with seasonings of choice.
  4. Remove vegetables to a plate, turn off heat, add spinach and allow to wilt. (Adding a bit of water to create steam will help spinach wilt.)

Serve by adding polenta to a dish and topping with the vegetables.

Juicing FAQs

“The abundance of live, uncooked foods flushes your body of toxins, leaving you feeling refreshed, energized and relaxed all at the same time. The pure foods make your skin glow, your hair shine, your breath fresh [due to a cleaner digestive system]… Colds and flue become fewer and farther between; many people report that arthritic joins loosen with renewed flexibility; and gums and teeth become less pront to bleeding and cavities.” (The Juiceman’s Power of Juicing)

“Juicing vegetables renders their life-giving nutrients “body-active” in about 15 minutes. [Compare this to the 6 or more hours it takes to digest the typical American meal which reduces your energy due and leaves you feeling tired due to the energy needed for digesting the meal.] When the body does not have to work hard to digest, guess what? We have more energy. We feel more alive!” (Live Foods, Live Bodies).

I can attest to every benefit in the above quotes. I was first introduced to juicing almost 30 years ago, and I have been an avid juicer  (drinking juice almost daily) for the last 10 years.

Yet, I know many people have questions and concerns about juicing and I’d like to address the top three in this document. So let’s begin.

Can’t I make juice in my NutriBullet or blender?

Juice is the liquid nutrient form of fruits and vegetables without the fiber. Juicing requires the use of a special appliance called a juicer.  Appliances such as NutriBullets and blenders create smoothies. Of course, to be sure you are getting as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible, smoothies make a good addition to your diet just as much as adding juices.

The main difference is that juices contain more nutrients than smoothies when compared ounce for ounce. For instance, an 8 ounce of juice contains liquid nutrients extracted from 1  1/4 pound of fresh produce. Whereas, using 1 1/4 pounds of fresh produce to make a smoothie would result in way more than 8 ounces and way more fiber than one could probably drink due to the need to add enough liquid to create the smoothie when using so much produce.

Therefore, ounce for ounce, you get more vegetable nutrients in juices than in smoothies.

Juices don’t satisfy my hunger

The purpose of juices is to get more nutrients. It’s not to serve as a meal replacement unless you are juice fasting or on a specific diet to lose weight. Adding juices in these two situations can make sure that you are receiving the necessary nutrients to fuel your cells. Yet, juicing should be added to your regular meal plans.

What about fiber?

But the elimination of fiber from juices allows the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables to enter your body’s cells more rapidly, practically without digestion.

We need fiber, so it’s important that you are eating additional foods to meet your fiber requirements that are found in whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, fruits and plenty of vegetables.

To learn about “two more” concerns that people often express, learn juicing tips and the top three reasons why my favorite juice is carrot juice – watch this video.

Pasta, Meatballs and Leafy Greens

The dish in the actual photo uses brown rice and flax seed noodles, but just about any gluten free noodle should work. Yet, I’m not sure if bean-based noodles, such as chickpea noodles, would be ideal. Noodles with a mixture of quinoa, corn, and rice are make good possibilities.

Ingredients:

  • gluten free pasta, 12 – 16 oz 
  • dark leafy green vegetable such as spinach, kale or chard, about 2 cups packed
  • shredded carrots and/or red bell pepper, 1/2 cup total
  • ground turkey (or other ground meat), 1 lb
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or according to taste)
  • black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried chives or green part of green onion, finely diced (optional) 
  • olive oil (garlic infused olive oil is a good option) for drizzling
  • feta cheese (optional)
  • Oil (coconut or avocado oil) or butter for cooking meatballs

Directions:

  1. Prepare gluten free pasta following its written directions. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2.  Mix ground meat, sea salt, pepper and chives/green onion tops (if using) and form into meatballs.
  3. Add cooking oil/butter of choice to pan, heat to medium heat and cook meatballs on the stove top turning occasionally to brown all sides. 
  4. Turn heat to low, add carrots and/or red bell pepper and cover for an additional 2 minutes or so to cook thoroughly. You can add a few tablespoons of water to prevent burning. (Alternatively, you can cook meatballs in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes.)
  5. Once the meatballs are ready, add leafy greens to the pan and allow to wilt.
  6. Finally, add the pasta to the pan to re-warm.
  7. When serving you might enjoy a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of Feta cheese.

 

Fermented jalapenos

Fermented jalapenos are my husband’s favorite. They taste just like what you typically find in the jar on the grocery store shelves, but are made without using distilled vinegar and have no preservatives.

These are easy to make. If you have never tried to ferment any food. This recipe would be a great place to begin, providing you like jalapenos. Just slice, add to a jar with salt water brine and leave on counter top for a couple of days.

Left (Ready to eat.) / Right (First day prep and using an airlock system.)

Ingredients: (This recipe will make a 16 ounce jar. The recipe can be doubled or increased as you wish. )

  • 4-6 large jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • sea salt water brine (2 TBS sea salt/32 ounces of filtered water)

Directions:

  1. Add sliced jalapeno peppers to a clean jar. (A Mason type jar with a plastic lid is recommended.)
  2. Fill jar with the sea salt water brine up to at minimum 1 inch from the top of the jar.
  3. Add cap and leave on counter top or place in a cabinet, out of direct sunlight, for at least two days. You may want to sit the jar inside of a bowl to catch any juices that may escape.

Notes:

  • Jalapeno peppers are ready when the color seems to have faded from deep green to a lighter shade
  • Leave (or take away) membranes and seeds to adjust the HOT level
  • Use a wide-mouth jar and glass weight to guarantee that peppers stay submerged underneath the salt water brine. Or, simply open the jar on day two/three and press jalapenos under the salt water brine.
  • Use an air-lock system to prevent air-bubbles (created during fermentation process) from pushing the juices out of the jar.

Purchase a Fermentation Kit to make fermenting easy!

Creamy Cumin Ranch Dressing

I finally got around to making this salad dressing and I’m happy that I did. I added to a Tex-Mex salad and…..YES! Yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (soak 1 – 2 hours if you do not have a high-speed blender)
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 TBS)
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp snipped chives (or the top green part of green onions)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender for a very smooth dressing.

Note: This recipe contains 50-70 calories per TBS. (50 calories if you only use 1/2 cup cashews)

Buckwheat and Millet Pancakes

This is my go-to recipe for breakfast (in addition to a morning smoothie which I usually have while cooking pancakes). Notice there aren’t any sweeteners, gums or extra fillers in this gluten-free recipe. Just the basic ingredients and I enjoy them with unsulphured molasses, a touch of maple syrup and cold-pressed flax seed oil (an optional boost of Omega-3’s).

Ingredients:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup millet flour
2 TBS ground flax seeds (can add up to 4 TBS)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 cups nut milk (or water will work just as well)
2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Heat a hot griddle or skillet over low to medium heat.
  2. Mix all ingredients together well, except for the baking powder
  3. Allow to sit about 2 – 3 minutes for the flax seeds to help bind the mixture. (The ground flax seeds is a plant-based substitution for eggs.)
  4. Add a bit more nut milk or water to attain the consistency needed to pour the pancake batter onto a griddle.
  5. Add baking powder and mix slightly. ( You can add another tablespoon of water to help the powder dissolve easily.)
  6. Add just a touch of oil if needed(I prefer coconut oil when needed) to your griddle or skillet.
  7. Cook the pancakes. (They should be easy to pour from the bowl and form round circles on the cooking surface. If not, you can use a spoon to spread a bit or add more liquid).

Note: I make my own buckwheat and millet flours using a Vitamix grain container that has a specific blade for grinding grains.

Suggestion: Mix all the dry ingredients together and store in an airtight container. To use, add liquid of choice in 1:1 ratio of dry mix. Allow to sit for 1 minute. Then, if using, add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Cook on hot griddle.

Guacamole – Quick and Easy

Add all of the following ingredients to a food processor and give it a whirl!

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 lemon or lime or both, juiced
  • 1 green onion stalk
  • 1/2 – 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 of jalapeno (I usually remove most of the seeds for a milder version.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of “tightly packed” cilantro (I usually add a bit of parsley too)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of sea salt, optional
Before
After

Chili Fritos

I found this recipe at the Minimalist Baker’s blog. It is definitely a good alternative to those brand name chips. (Hey, I hear ya….I was addicted to those chili Fritos too, but….hear me out.) Here is my personal review:

I give these 3.5 out of 5 stars. Knowing that the reason they didn’t score higher is likely because this was the first time I tried making these. The seasoning was SPOT ON! (Confirmed by another family member.) Yet, the texture or crunch was not quite right. I intend to try various tortillas to get the desired outcome I’m looking for.

Ingredients:

  • 6 yellow corn tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s corn tortillas)
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive or avocado oil (I used a blend of these)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder (I used taco seasoning instead, didn’t have any chili powder)
  • 1 tsp each cumin, onion powder, garlic powder*
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, for a chili-cheese flavor)
 
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use convection setting if available.
  2. Add all seasonings to a large bowl and mix/whisk well. Set aside.
  3. Use a pizza cutter or kitchen scissors to cut the tortillas into Frito-sized strips. To accomplish this I cut the tortillas first into three parts using two horizontal cuts. Then I made the vertical cuts which resulted into the perfectly sized strips.
  4. Place corn strips onto a baking sheet. I covered the baking sheet with parchment paper. Add oil and toss the strips around to get them thoroughly coated in oil.
  5. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until crispy and be careful not to burn during the last couple of baking minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and immediately toss the tortilla strips into the bowl with seasonings.
Something to consider: I think the next time I make these I will toss in the seasonings before baking. I season my sweet potato bites prior to baking and I think these will turn out just fine too. This way, I believe the seasonings will stick to the chips much better (without the need to add any additional oil). I will report back to you on this in the near future.
If you try it, let me know what tortillas you used for this recipe. Happy crunching!