Upcycled Rice Salad

upcycledgrainsalad 1

Do you ever find yourself starving at lunch time and the peanut butter and jelly you’re making for your kids looks dreadful? Turning to your fridge you find, well, nothing. Nothing but a bunch of randomness that makes no sense in terms of a “normal” meal? Or maybe I’m the only one. This here salad is the result of such an afternoon and a template for future afternoons, when you know you need the energy and stamina that comes from whole foods but can’t seem to put it together.

I love the word Upcycling. Upcycling describes how you and your partner are more than the sum of the two parts, or how that almond milk box was transformed from future trash into a bird-feeder. Sure, you and your milk carton were both functional before the change, but now you’ve become magical. It’s so much more than just reusing.


So, an upcycled salad is just the mixing of ho-hum parts to make beautiful epicurean harmonies in a matter of minutes. Here’s how it works in my house. My fridge usually has a cooked grain and various and sundry vegetables can be found lying around. If you aren’t accustomed to having lots of vegetables around, it’s time for you to give it a try. Buy things you normally wouldn’t when they’re on sale and try them. I generally also have a random salad dressing I experimented with or some sort of leftover sauce. Right now there is a quasi-creamy balsamic and a raw waldorf. And what kind of a hippie would I be without nuts and dried berries stored in the nooks and crannies of my community kitchen (it’s a small community, but a community nevertheless)?

That’s all a grain salad needs to come together. And when you stir it together, the creative genius inside you will sing songs of happiness, the writer’s block that has plagued you for 12 years will lift, and your children will behave. Or, perhaps, you will at least feel better than if you’d had that peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


Upcycled Grain Salad, this incarnation

2 c. cooked grain – brown rice, quinoa, barley, whatevs.
1-2 c. sturdy diced raw vegetables – carrots, onions, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, corn, peas, etc.
2 T. chopped nuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds
1-2 T. chopped dried fruit – cranberries, blueberries, raisins, apples, etc.
½ c. (give or take) Pepita Maple Butter dressing (thinned), or something of your own creation.
*optional: chutney, diced avocado, fresh herbs, random condiments for garnish

Combine everything but your garnish and stir. Garnish, chill (you or your salad, either works) and enjoy.

*You may notice the awesome green stuff on top. It was a rushed, and perhaps failed, attempt to make coconut cilantro chutney from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but on this application, it was AWESOME!

Chef AJ’s “Unprocessed” Book Giveaway and House Dressing Recipe!

It’s Tasty Tuesday. Can you believe it’s been 7 months since I went vegan? Back then, I was a hot mess, in the throes of ulcerative colitis, with pre-cancer in my colon. Read more about that diabolical period of my life here. I had no idea that I could heal myself with my diet. But guess what? I did. I went from Omnivore to Vegan, cold Tofurky! News flash people! I used to take 16 or more expensive pills a day, bleed from my bowels and have other autoimmune issues that drove me bonkers.

Today, I am off all my medications. My quality of life has improved exponentially. It’s like a healing of biblical proportions. My Balm of Gilead IS a vegan diet.

Navigating a plant-based diet in the beginning made me feel like I had moved to Mars. I was completely lost because I USED to plan dinner around what meat I had in my fridge or freezer. Like most Americans, I was completely unaware that what I was eating was damaging my body. I thought meat and dairy were healthy and that they supplied my body with necessary protein and calcium. I was wrong. So I bought lots of books to re-educate myself. There were two that featured the same recipe by Chef AJ: her Outrageous Black Bean Brownies.” I made them and realized baked goods really could be made without eggs, butter or crazy amounts of sugar and still taste delicious. I was so thrilled I shared the recipe here on this blog. Chef AJ responded to me in the comments of that post and offered to send me a copy of her book “Unprocessed” to review. She didn’t chastise me, but kindly opened the plant-based door. I learned quickly that you can’t just go and publish someone’s recipe on your blog without adapting it, or asking for permission. Sorry Chef AJ! I was a new blogger and didn’t understand the rules of blogging etiquette.

Because of Chef AJ, I rarely use oil in my kitchen, I’ve drastically cut my sugar intake and I’m working on my salt addiction (a girl’s gotta have a vice, right?). We’ve emailed back and forth and she even took the time to share an article with me about why oil consumption can be bad for you. Oils were super hard for me to significantly reduce in my diet, because I didn’t know how to create salad dressings without oil. Her House Dressing (recipe below) changed all that and rocked my world! In short, she was my mentor and a huge help during my transformation. During my Green Smoothie Challenge, she even shared her new Take Five salad dressing and encouraged me to post a link to it. Friends! It’s made without oil, nuts or seeds and is incredible!

She helped me to understand why plant based foods are so much better for us in terms of maintaining a healthy weight. Her passion is helping others discover what I’ve learned, that a whole-foods, plant-based diet is the best thing we can offer our bodies and the planet.

I’ve sampled many of the recipes from her book. Among my favorites are the Disappearing Lasagna, the Hail to the Kale Salad, and her Banana Strawberry Mousse Tart (raw, holy crap it’s good!) But there is one recipe of her’s that I have to have in my fridge at all times. It’s her signature House Dressing I mentioned above. I use it to spruce up salads, but the stuff is versatile! I put in on burritos, in tacos, over steamed veggies, use it as a dip and sometimes drink it straight from the mason jar, so without further ado, here is the Recipe.This time with permission!

Chef AJ’s House Dressing

1/2 cup water
4 Tablespoons tahini
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 Tablespoons low sodium tamari
4 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon date syrup or pure maple syrup

Method: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Chef AJ has been kind enough to offer a copy “Unprocessed” for today’s giveaway! Please read this post here for my full review.

Rules of Engagement:

1- You must be a follower of this blog, if you don’t know how to do that, there is a “Follow blog via email” button at the top column to the right. 

2- You must like this post (click on the title name of this post, then go to the bottom of the post just above comments and push the like button),

3- You must comment below, telling me what led you to eat a more “Unprocessed” diet, or why you need this book to help you start!

Winner to be announced Saturday July 31st, 2012. 

And now for the winner of last Tasty Tuesday’s Vegemite Giveaway…… 

Moon Rivers!

Winner was selected by using the random.org service. Please email your mailing address to me at goodcleanfoodblog@gmail.com and I will mail you your prize!

Until Somer Saturday….

UPDATE FROM CHEF AJ Thank you for your blog. I wish I could give a book to all of your readers but even if they don’t win they can still get many of my recipes for free at my webiste http://www.EatUnprocessed.com or on my Facebook page. I just posted an amazing oil-free dressing today called Quick 6. Love & Kale, Chef AJ

Thin Crust Sriracha BBQ Tofu and Moxerella Pizza

It’s Somer Saturday and I’m really REALLY obsessed with Annie’s Cashew Cheez. Ever since she emailed me a demo recipe, vegan life has changed as I know it. I thought I was over cheese, and was starting to be a little snobby, even shunning the likes of Daiya, Teese and Sheese since they are all refined and made of ….I don’t know what…. vegan garbage?

 I read through Annie’s ingredient list, no artificial anything, no weird fillers, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors or flavors. Then I read her post – oh man, the cheez looked so beautiful.I was pining away after it. I had to make it. I had to eat it.

And now I’m going to share with you the best recipe I have made with it to date.

 Thin Crust Sriracha BBQ Tofu and Moxerella Pizza

1/4 recipe of the Moxeralla Cashew Cheez, grated

1 recipe Whole Wheat Thin Crispy Crust

1 recipe Sriracha BBQ Sauce

1 recipe Sriracha BBQ Tofu

1 recipe Caramelized Onions

2 T. Chopped Cilantro

Recipes Follow….

First do these things the day before: 1- Make the cheez (adaptation below). 2- Drain a block of extra firm tofu, stick it in a ziplock and chuck it in the freezer. Freeze tofu overnight, then defrost on the countertop the next morning.

It’s Business Time

Moxerella Cashew Cheez

adapted from anunrefinedvegan.com

Ingredients: 1 Package Pamona’s Pectin (you can find it at Whole Foods and other Health Food Stores), 2 C. Ground Raw Cashews, 3 C. Water- divided, 3 T. Lemon Juice, 1/4 C. Nutritional Yeast, 2 t. sea salt and 1 clove minced garlic

Method: Lightly oil a loaf pan or small round casserole dish. In a small lidded jar, mix 1/2 C. of the water with the small calcium packet from the pectin package, set aside. Heat the other 2.5 cups water til nearly boiling. Pour water into power blender. Add pectin, and all other ingredients except calcium water. Blend until smooth. QUICKLY add calcium water and pulse til incorporated. Immediately pour into the prepared pan or dish. Let set uncovered for a minimum of an hour. Remove cheez from the mold and place upside down on a plate. Return to fridge uncovered for a minimum of 4 more hours until firm enough to grate.

Next, make Sriracha BBQ Sauce

Sriracha BBQ Sauce

 Combine: 1/2 C. organic ketchup, 2 T. agave nectar, 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, 1 T. apple cider vinegar, 1 t. molasses, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 t. liquid smoke, 1/2 to 2 t. Sriracha Hot Sauce (to taste) and a few grinds of pepper.

Next make Sriracha BBQ Tofu

Sriracha BBQ Tofu

Half of this recipe never made it to the pizza. It is so good! Method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drain as much water from defrosted block of tofu as possible with paper towels. Slice into pieces and then drain again with paper towels. Put tofu in a bowl and drizzle with 1/4 C. above sauce. Put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and arrange tofu on it. Bake for 10 minutes or until it starts to get lovely little crispy bits.

Next make Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

 Ingredients: 1 jumbo sweet onion, thinly sliced (or 2-3 regular sized onions), 2 t. molasses, 1 t. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Method: Heat a skillet over high heat, add a cup of water and all of the above ingredients, occasionally stir and replenish water if skillet gets dry before the onions are completely translucent. Total cooking time can take 15-20 minutes. This recipe makes about 2.5 to 3 C. caramelized onions.

Next make Whole Wheat Thin Crispy Crust while the onions are caramelizing.

Whole Wheat Thin Crispy Crust

Ingredients: 1.5 C. white whole wheat flour, 3/4 C. warm water, 1 t. active dry yeast, 1 T. vital wheat gluten, 1 t. salt. Method: in your favorite kneading apparatus (perhaps a bowl, and then your hands) combine all the above ingredients. Knead until elastic. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll with a rolling pin into the shape of a baking sheet, crust should be VERY thin. Press crust into lightly oiled baking sheet. Set aside.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush remaining sriracha BBQ sauce over the thin crispy crust, layer caramelized onions over the sauce, next arrange pieces of the BBQ tofu over the onions,  sprinkle the moxerella cashew cheez over the whole pizza, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro. Bake on middle rack for 15 minutes or until cheez starts to brown.

Still following me? Phew, I thought I was getting a little long winded.

Oh, you’re still here and you want that salad dressing recipe too?

Miso Cashew Ranch Dressing 

Ingredients: 1/2 C. Raw Cashews, 1 1/4 C. unsweetened almond milk, 1 heaped T. white or yellow miso, 3 t. chia seeds, 1/2 t. sea salt, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 t. onion powder, 1 t. dried dill, 2 T. fresh parsley 1/2 t. ground black pepper, dash cayenne. Method: Blend all ingredients except dill and parsley until completely smooth. Add dill and parsley and pulse until just mixed in.

My sincerest apologies to Millet

After all your endorsements for the poor grain, I decided I would earnestly, without bias, try it again. At my mom’s suggestion,  I added a little more water to the pan of millet I had just finished “cooking” and cooked it a little more. Guess what?  I. do. not. like. Uncooked Millet. But cooked millet is just dandy. And that is all I have to say about that.

This last week has been crazy at work and at home.So crazy,  I have worn the same outfit everyday for the past seven days (I am not kidding). It is a hippie skirt with a soft cotton top—more comfy than pajamas and required no brain work after the first day of wearing it. It worked out so well for me, I am thinking about implementing a “weekly outfit plan.” Oh yes, same “Amish” hair style everyday too.


I didn’t cook anything new this week, I relied on my old favorites (black bean soup, African stew, ratatouille, enchiladas—I like them best with option #2 sauce etc). However I did learn something that will come in handy for all of us. Taco Time has an awesome Veggie wrap. That is right I said Taco Time. I know this because every Friday me, my two sisters and mom have lunch. We take turns providing lunch.  The first time my vegetarian sister had to provide, it was sweet, sweet justice to see the look of panic on her face when she realized she was going to have to come up with something for a vegan. She went vegetarian years ago amongst meat eaters and before it was en vogue and feeding her was always stressful, so we usually just gave her the same thing we were eating, minus the meat—not healthy .


Last week it was my youngest sister’s turn and she introduced me to:


Veggie Burrito

A soft whole-wheat tortilla wrapped around refried pinto beans, seasoned rice, cheddar cheese, sour cream, lettuce, salsa fresca and roasted sunflower seeds. Big flavor in a big burrito. (I had it sans sour cream and cheese).

I have found several sources that list Taco Time’s refried beans as vegan, but I have emailed Taco Time for verification. Stand-by for answers from the horse’s mouth. This inspired me to create my own wraps with refried beans for me and grandma the next day for lunch—I think mine were better. But I am so glad to know I can grab something at Taco Time when I am having a “Somer” day.

My mom also gave me my very own jar of her homemade poppy seed dressing, which I love. I am going to experiment with ways to eliminate the oil, but in the meantime it does make my salads oh so delicious, and as chef AJ says, “we want our salads to be delicious.”

Mom’s Poppy seed dressing

(I took pictures of this, but the pic sort of made it look like poo and ‘nobody likes this”)

1 cup olive oil

½ cup sweetener (my mom just uses sugar)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 T poppy seed

1 T grated onion

1 t salt

1 t dry mustard

Method: blend everything together until it is thick.

Somer’s Nutty Forgotten Recipe (Nutty Dijon)

It all started with a phone call. “I’ve got company coming with a super strict diet, what do I do? Any dressing ideas for a broccoli salad?” So right there, I believe she was grocery shopping, Somer whipped up this recipe over the phone.

I have loved it and served it on many occasions since, and every time I was asked for the recipe. Funny thing- this time Amanda asked Somer for the recipe. Her reply? “What dressing is that? I have no idea!”

So here it is , the missing piece of Somer’s recipe making mastermind:

Nutty Dijon Dressing

4 Tbl. Nut butter (almond, peanut)
4 Tbl. Dijon mustard
2 Tbl. Soy Sauce
2 Tbl. Agave nectar
Abt. 1/2 c. water, to desired consistency

Combine ingredients, stir and pour. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Great over a green salad, oriental style salad, or my favorite, broccoli salad: with sliced almonds, cranberries, scallions, carrots, and if you live outside the realm of veganism, add bacon and cheese while your at it. Or fake bacon? Now that I think about it, how about a cold pasta salad for a summer picnic? ***so many options***

Farfalle and Asparagus Spring Pasta Salad

Tasty Tuesday Series:

We had this for lunch on Easter. Some plates were licked clean (not mentioning names). Everyone had second helpings.

1/2 lb (1/2 box) whole wheat farfalle or other pasta shapes

1 bunch tender (baby) asparagus, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

1 C. diced grape tomatoes

1 can artichoke hearts in water (quartered), drained and roughly chopped

1 can black olives, drained and roughly chopped

cashew parmesan for topping (recipe below)

1/2 C. of balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Method: Cook farfalle according to package directions. During the last few minutes of boiling, add the asparagus directly into the pasta pot. Cover and continue to cook until pasta is al dente. Drain in colander and put pasta and asparagus into large salad bowl. Add all of the other chopped vegetables, no need to let it cool. Toss with balsalmic vinaigrette and shake a little cashew parmesan on each individual serving. This salad is good warm or cold!

Cashew Parmesan

2 C. raw cashews

1/2  – 1 t. garlic salt (depends on your salt preference)

Method: Process cashews and garlic salt in food processor until fine. Don’t do it too long or it will turn into nut butter! Put in a pint mason jar. You can use an old parmesan shaker lid (if you have one) it fits a mason jar! Store in the fridge

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is adapted from my copy of Eat to Live. He says not to consume oil, but the oil was in the dressing recipe in the book, this makes about 1.5 cups of dressing so 2 T. oil is quite reasonable!

1/2 C. water

1/4 C. pomegranate infused red wine vinegar (regular red wine vinegar will do)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C. balsamic vinegar

1/4 whole fruit no sugar added apricot preserves (not the kind with splenda, gross)

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t. dried oregano

1 t. dried basil

1/2 t. onion powder

1 t. salt

1/2 t. ground black pepper

Method: Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. This is super low fat and low calorie but super delicious. You only need to use 1/2 C. for the pasta salad. Put the rest in the fridge to put on your greens for later!

Cafe Rio Dressing Knock off (Vegan) and Accidental Overnight Chocolate Pudding

So Cafe Rio is probably my favorite place to eat. I could eat there two or three times a week and not get sick of it. Their fresh ingredients and made from scratch recipes totally win me over. Not to mention that a plant-based fool like me can go crazy there and not break the calorie bank (If you order a pork, chicken or beef salad there with all the fixins, you will be somewhere in the ballpark for 1,200 calories for a salad!).

Their website is pretty cool because it has this page with information for vegetarians and vegans!

Here is how I order: Tostada with small whole wheat tortilla instead of fried corn shell, black and pinto beans, no rice (it’s not brown, and it’s converted rice, ew), a scoop of mild enchilada sauce, no cheese, extra shredded lettuce, extra limes, no tortilla strips, extra salsa fresca (I like a little spice!), guacamole, no sour cream, no cojita (cheese) and NO DRESSING (Their Cilantro lime dressing is vegan, but is basically cilantro in a pool of oil and not tasty).

I used to just be pleased to eat it that way with the enchilada sauce, limes and salsa fresca being plentiful instead of dressing.

No more. I now bring my own dressing, yes it’s a bit ridiculous, but I can’t help myself! I love their creamy dressing and have been so sad that I can’t have it.

Of course like most things vegan, it’s not a perfect flavor substitution, but it’s pretty dang good and has all the elements you need to make a Cafe Rio fan like myself really, really happy. Oh and I made 2 versions. One is oil free and the other is made with vegenaise (based on Amanda’s Vegan Ranch)  and probably tastes a little more like the real deal.

Knock off Cafe Rio Creamy Dressing 1 (Oil Free)

3 chopped tomatillos

1/3 C. raw cashews

1 1/4 C. unsweetened soymilk

1 T. chia seeds

2 T. lime juice

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 t. ground black pepper

2 diced scallions

1/2 C. packed chopped cilantro

1 t. salt

1 t. spike seasoning

Blend till combined.

Knock off Cafe Rio Creamy Dressing 2

1 cup vegan mayonnaise (original vegenaise is best)

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 T. fresh lime juice

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 scallion, chopped

1 large handful fresh chopped cilantro

3 diced tomatillos

2 T. raw cashews

Toss all in blender, and whizz up until chopped and mixed.

Yield: 1.5 Cups

Of course either dressing is delicious on your own Cafe Rio type creation at home. Enjoy!

Accidental Overnight Dark Chocolate Vegan Pudding

I originally made this as a chocolate banana smoothie for an after school snack for my daughter. (I drank half, makes 2 servings). She left it on the counter-top, so I stuck it in the fridge and forgot it was there. The next morning, I found it in the fridge and was going to chuck it, but she wanted it. It had turned solid somehow. It was thick creamy and spoon-able and even tastier then when I made it the day before.

1 1/2 C. vanilla almond milk

2 bananas

2 heaping T. cocoa powder

2 heaping T. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (has replaced nutella at our house and is divine)

splash of pure maple syrup

Blend. Refrigerate overnight, serve.