a plant-powered pizza party: cauliflower pizza crust, kale salad, avo choco mousse, coconut milk whipped cream

Pizza is my world.

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The only thing that prompted giving cauliflower pizza crust a go was Robert and I were doing a Whole30 (30 days w/o grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc, etc) and I happened to be hosting a movie night/pizza party right in the middle. Google delivered all kinds of options.

I chose this one because there was only 1/3 cup goat cheese (not Whole 30 perfect, but come on… it’s a pizza with only 1/3 cup goat cheese… + goat cheese can be easier to digest for the dairy intolerant.)

Many out there had lots of mozzarella, even bacon (yikes) in it. Totally unnecessary.

I topped it with Heidi Swanson’s 5 minute tomato sauce (but you could use any w/o sugar), sauteed spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, jalapeno, olives and a Brazil Nut “parmesan” (pulse 1/2 cup brazil nuts in a food processor. add garlic powder, nutritional yeast and salt to taste. perfect for caesar salads or wherever you prefer your parmesan.)

I liked everything about Detoxinista’s crust, but I might try the method, not the ingredients, in this recipe to see if it comes out a bit crispier.

Party planning tip:

Give yourself some time to put this together. maybe make the crust in the morning, or at least “rice” the cauliflower the night before or earlier in the day.  If you use a mini chopper/food processor like me, it will be messy and you’ll have to do the cauliflower in small bits. No big deal, just takes a bit longer than a grown-up food processor.

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It took 3 heads of cauliflower for a crust that would fit this 9 x 13 pan, which was plenty of pizza for eight.

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I also served this kale salad,
store-bought sweet potato chips + guacamole from Costco,
Giada’s avocado chocolate mousse (minus the chocolate chips… nice, but not necessary)
topped with Danielle Walker’s coconut milk whipped cream and berries. (note: I agree with her brand reco’s but I would add So Delicious culinary coconut milk to the faves and not even try Trader Joe’s coconut cream. It tastes “off” to me.

One thing I’ve noticed, as tasty as it is, I’m not tempted to over-eat this pizza. Like two small pieces is plenty… very unlike me. Did I mention, pizza is my world?

When you eat pure nutrition, your body knows what to do with it and will tell you when it has had enough, so you don’t eat as much food.

When you have empty-calorie, low-nutrient foods, your body keeps you hungry, hoping you’ll send something of substance its way… resulting in over-eating.

My point? You don’t need a ton of pizza for a plant-powered party. One big pan was plenty for eight.

 

 

 

 

 

wedding kale salad

We wanted a simple, festive menu for our at-home wedding reception, without a lot of fuss going on in the kitchen. So we jumped on the food truck wagon and hired Vero Amore and their renovated fire-truck equipped with an italian pizza oven to whip up pizzas in our driveway. They were great to work with, even making gluten-free, dairy free and lots of  veggie variety.

To balance the pizza and cupcake situation, (when I say simple, I mean simple. that’s all we had… pizza. cupcakes. salad.) I  wanted a super-chopped, super-nutritious, full of flavor salad. I knew just who to go to…my friend and The Organic Kitchen cooking school founder, Rachel Yaseen.

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And did she ever deliver.

I am still getting emails and texts asking for the recipe for the kale salad she created for our special day. For some reason, men are particularly fond of it. I made it for a family Easter gathering and several men commented on how they normally don’t like kale (or salad) and they loved this recipe!

This is a party crowd pleaser and a perfect make-ahead-keep-in-the-fridge-for-a-few-days salad.

I highly recommend checking out Rachel’s other recipes here. She is a salad and sauce master.

Oh, and a special shout out to Cup Quequitos for the over-the-top amazing  cupcakes. Vegan, naturally sweetened, pretty, even some gluten-free, made special for me and my daddy, who has celiac disease.

 

Rachel’s Wedding Kale Salad

 

as many raw, unsalted almonds + raw, unsalted sunflower seeds as you’d like.

take one egg white and beat until fluffy, add just a bit of coconut sugar or maple syrup. coat the almonds and the sunflower seeds in a bowl. bake at 375 or 400 until they’re kinda crispy.

as much kale as you’d like, ribs removed, chopped super fine.

in a bowl, massage the kale with about a quarter of an avocado. (you can use as much avocado as you want, but for the whole batch of wedding salad she only used 3/4 of one huge avocado.) do this with your hands, really massaging the avocado into the kale until it softens.

finely chop celery, radish, carrot and jicama. i use my all-time favorite chopper .

she added goji berries for the wedding salad but also recommended pomegranate seeds which I used for the Easter version. Both are great.

add some black sesame seeds and black Hawaiian salt (I get this at AJ’s) – to taste. she uses a very tiny amount. she swears by this salt and the black sesame seeds, so try to find/use them… but if you can’t, sea salt works too.

add unsweetened shredded coconut if you’d like. (not in the wedding version, but she recommended it.)

dressing is 1/2 citrus to 1/2 maple syrup grade b, organic if possible. for citrus, she mixed fresh squeezed orange juice and lemon juice. whisk together.

toss all of the above with the dressing…

here’s her web site for more recipes if you’d like :)

and here’s to you, as you enjoy this salad. may you feel loved, light, happy and free!

toast and laughing

 

surrender. and suck it up. words of wisdom from my music teacher and 5-yr old niece

After a particularly poor performance on an Aural Perception test – where we listen to the teacher play melodies and rhythms on the piano, then dictate what she plays … crazy hard, for me  – the teacher asked us to raise our hand if we did not like Aural Perception. My hand crept upward. I was not alone.

She looked around the room and said,

“Okay, we’ve acknowledged it.
Now surrender.
And do it anyway.”

This is the same woman who said the first week of class,

“Listen, if I can put pantyhose on at 5 am to be here, you can throw on some sweats and be here by 8.”

I just love her.

She continued…

“In high school, you may have been able to show up occasionally, not take notes, cram and pull off decent grades.”

(I’m in community college, surrounded by 18 year olds and 20-somethings.)

“You are smart people. I get it. But, at some point in your education, classes start requiring serious effort. As you go deeper into your specialty, you’ll discover areas that do not “come natural.” You’ll have to study or practice. A lot. There’s no getting around it.

“To become a pro, ya gotta know this stuff. At this point, just to move forward in your education… ya gotta get past me…with a C. So, figure out what mastering Aural Perception looks like in your world…AND DO IT.”

I don’t know about everyone else in the room, but I had a lump in my throat, the one I get when I’m “scolded” for not doing my best, especially from someone I respect and has my best interest at heart.

What I heard was a mixture of :

“quit whining and be a grown-up,”

with a dash of Dr. Denis Waitley’s ,  “winners do what losers don’t want to do,”

and my 5-year old super-discplined-trained-not-to-cry-gymnast-niece telling me to “suck it up,” after she found me crying while packing her bag when it  was time for her to go home after staying with me.

So, as Gretchen Rubin suggests in “The Happiness Project,”

I decided to Identify the Problem.

In a nutshell:

While I am blocking out big parts of my day to study, (that rules out not having time) after about an hour in, I get frustrated and feel an incredible pull to do anything but study. I take a few breaths and make myself sit there…until I get up and go to the pantry for some chocolate chips. Okay, sometimes I’m lucky to make it 30 minutes before making that 30-second trek.

Back at my desk, I might eek out another 30 minutes of study…

Before I’m pantry bound again. and again. and again.

Coming off the sugar crash, I grab Bisbee and a bean bag for a nap.

Now it’s time to make dinner.

And, I’m not even hungry.

I eat it anyway.

Now, I’m really tired.

And way too brain dead to study.

I go to bed feeling guilty.

And go to class unprepared.

This could be the problem.

Maybe it’s the big 5-0 pending…I’m finding myself less patient with my excuses and general laziness for not doing the things I know make me feel good.

Maybe it’s time to grow up or, “suck it up” as my niece says, and just do them.

(Note: This isn’t me being hard on myself. This is me being honest with myself.)

I do not want to spend the second half of my life bloated, haggard and disappointed that I don’t have the energy to do the things I want to do.

One of which, is play the piano.

The beauty of 50-ish is that I have a pretty good idea of  the daily formula that works for me:

Eat three meals: some protein + healthy fat (i.e. a lot of avocado) + A LOT of veggies = focus, energy, a flatter belly, ease around sugar. BONUS: if I’m eating this way, Robert is eating this way, so he feels better too.

Move my body: at least 20 minutes of cardio + 20 minutes of yoga + the occasional hike and swim = feeling grounded and light in my body.

Meditate: Morning Pages, a bath, legs up the wall or sitting for 20 minutes. The form it takes doesn’t really matter. All of it = magic.

Sleep: a bath and not eating right before bed (especially sugar) works wonders, and totally removes haggardness from the equation. This is important.

Play the piano: 20 minutes of practice a day keeps discouragement and overwhelm away. And somehow that 20 minutes always turns into 40.

Connect. Writing, encouraging, cooking, sharing, listening, capturing moments, posting them on Instagram…the output of these is directly related to all of the above.

If they’re not getting done,
no one is getting any love.
And, that does not feel good.

I remember an article from a Glamour-type magazine, something like “Your Body at 20, 30, 40, 50 and Beyond” saying, in your 20’s and 30’s you pretty much have the body God created. In your 40’s and 50-‘s, you’ve got the body you’ve created.  

The good news is that if it’s not what you want, there’s time to turn it around.

While I don’t think it’s ALL about food, I know that the life I want definitely STARTS with food. It affects everything. No matter how old I am.

I took another tidbit from “The Happiness Project,” and decided to:

Do what ought to be done.

I re-read “It Starts with Food,”  one of my favorite books on how food affects hormones, thyroid, immunity, energy, digestion, belly issues, allergies, sleep…

The more I understand how the body works, the more I’m able to make peace with changes I need to make.

I’m 8 days into their Whole30 Challenge of 3 meals a day, consisting of simple, whole foods, without grains, dairy, and sugar and I am already sleeping better, my belly isn’t bloated, my appetite is healthy, I have all-day energy and best of all – there have been no pantry trips for chocolate chips!

I don’t do a lot of food challenges or cleanses, but sometimes the structure they provide can be comforting. Following a plan when you are unsure or don’t have the energy to figure it out on your own can be just what you need to get back on track and experience how good food can make you can feel.

This book also offers one of the easiest menu / meal planning guides I’ve seen. Basic dishes such as one-skillet-meals, curries, soups and more are offered with a variety of ways to make each one, so what is essentially an elimination diet doesn’t feel so limiting.

If you are looking to get your groove back in the kitchen, or are searching for easy grain-sugar-dairy free meals that taste really good, give this one a go.

Healthy eating is a process. It will never be “perfect” because our bodies, tastes, environments change, but a guide such as this can bring us a little bit closer to knowing what feels best in our bodies.

And, maybe the next time we get off track (because there will be a next time), instead of giving up, we simply grab the book, or whatever works, and get re-inspired to get our groove back.

That’s the key.
Coming back.
However you get there.
This is essential.
The world needs your best self.

What is your heart telling you to come back to?  What could you accomplish if you simply did it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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