Not Another Model Salad + Creamy Cashew Dressing (Oil Free & Vegan)

Homer and Bart once said to a devoted vegetarian Lisa Simpson that “you don’t win friends with salad.”

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Courtesy of the internet.

Little did they know about this delicious salad recipe. (I like to pretend it’s one of Lisa’s go to favourites!)

A salad so simple, creamy and nutritious, it’s hard not to impress people (or at least your taste buds) with all of its glory.

And if you’re like me and absolutely crave a filling tossed salad, this recipe will become a staple in your cooking routine. Works perfectly as a side dish to a hearty entree or just as its own. This salad is very similar to my popular lemon tahini dressed kale salad. Which by the way, was an absolute hit on Facebook! 😀

In this case, I use cashews as the main base to achieve the creamy-ness and “milk-like” flavour. Cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds are some of my favourite ingredients to use in the kitchen! Chop em, mash em, blend em, bake with em, these tiny yet powerful entities are so versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. (You can even make your own vegan “cheese” with cashews!) However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t familiar with the health benefits of consuming them, and sometimes think twice about eating them because of their “high fat content” (which is mostly the healthy kind of fat). I’ve stressed many times in my blog about the importance of eating good healthy fats and incorporating cashews into your everyday diet is a great way of doing so.

Did you know that cashews come from trees? The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentaleis native to Brazil, where its fruit is considered a delicacy. Technically they’re not even nuts, rather a seed (or fruit) that comes from a tree that thrives in tropical climate. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese introduced them to India and a few African countries, where they now also are grown and produced. What we call the cashew nut is actually the seed of a fruit, very similar looking to a large bell pepper, that hangs off the cashew tree.

They’re typically sold shelled and roasted. If you do buy cashews labeled raw, they are not truly raw but instead gone through a process of steaming, light roasting or otherwise processed to remove its toxic oil. This toxic oil is found in the double shell that encases the raw cashew called anacardic acid, which is a poisonous oily substance that can trigger significant skin rashes, and can be toxic when ingested. Alike to the toxic compound that’s found in poison ivy and poison oak.

Despite its proneness to poison, this potent C shaped ‘nut’ is lauded for its substantial emporium of vitamins and nutrients. They’re deliciously rich in iron, phosphorus, niacin, selenium, zinc, copper and magnesium, you know – all that good stuff our bodies require! And like most nuts, cashews are an excellent source of cancer-fighting phytochemicals, flavanols, antioxidants, vitamin E and protein. Being cholesterol free and high in mono-unsaturated fats helps lower the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases.

So before you crack open that big bag of cashews (for our recipe), please take a moment to value the hard work that went into them and the long expedition those beloved nuts took from the exotic tree to your hands!

And if we don’t win friends with salad, then dang-it…it just means more for us!!

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What you’ll need:

3/4 cup – 1 cup of preferably organic unsalted cashews (Using 1 cup will make your dressing creamier!)

1 cup of filtered water

1 1/2 Tbsp of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

3 Tbsp of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)

1 garlic clove

Optional: 1 Tbsp of All Natural Dijon Mustard (if you like your dressing zesty and tangy!)

1/2 Tsp of black ground pepper

Soak cashews in warm filtered water for about 2-3 hours. If you have a high speed blender, Magic Bullet or Vitamix, then you can skip this step.

Blend all ingredients until you get a smooth and consistent dressing – start with just a 1/4 cup of water and add more as you blend until you reach a consistency that you like. The more water, the more of a dressing it will be. Use less water, you’ll have a thicker sauce like dressing. Adjust to taste.

Coat baby kale, chickpeas, chopped peppers, cucumbers and broccoli (or veggies of choice) in homemade dressing. Serve immediately. x

LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO EAT BAD POPCORN! (So make your own + reasons why!)

Who wants to share a big bowl of popcorn with me?

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One of my favourite snacks of ALL TIME is popcorn! Alright, alright. I admit – I’m a little bit obsessed. Alright, alright – I can be ADDICTED. While I try to maintain a “in between” carb diet (this means I don’t deprive myself of carbs on a low carb diet but stick to eating only complex and low GI carbs as much as possible), popcorn has a special place in my stomach….er, I mean heart. For me, it’s a simple yet filling snack and can be relatively nutritious. Whole grain, high in fiber and anti oxidants and low in calories, it can be an ideal healthy snack option.

But not all popcorn is made healthy! Unfortunately, consuming microwave popcorn and movie theatre popcorn (sorry folks!) definitely don’t fall under the healthy snack status which we all believed them to be. Believe it or not, conventional highly processed non organic popcorn is considered to be one of the most contaminated foods with harsh pesticides and chemicals.

Corn kernels and butter aren’t the only ingredients in microwave popcorn! Ever wonder why “natural and artificial flavors” are listed on the package as so called ingredients? Because companies don’t want to tell you what chemicals they’re actually using. It’s been said that the when the bags lining (teflon coating particularly) goes through cooking process in the microwave, it causes an unwanted harmful chemical to form called perfluorooctanoic (aka PFOA). This has been identified to likely be a type of carcinogen which has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, infertility and thyroid problems, and other potential health risks. And it’s not even a real ingredient!

Another issue is that it contains an artificially added chemical called diacetyl. Diacetyl is used to enhance the butter flavorings most commonly found in microwave popcorn bags. Apparently, factory workers that worked in manufacturing this product became ill from with scarring of the lungs that the condition was named ‘popcorn lung’. So inhaling a bag of popped popcorn means inhaling this additive. Plus, the labels in popcorn don’t generally include all of the many other chemicals (including diacetyl) that go into the flavorings. So the combination of the microwave (which I’ve ditched now for almost 6 years) and the chemicals in the bags, these alone make it a surprising health risk to be concerned about and definitely worth ditching.

Now what about those big bags of warm, aromatic popcorn that you can’t avoid at the movie theaters? You simply can’t watch a movie without it, right? While popcorn may seem like the snack that may be the only thing that’s not bad for you, well…..hold your butter! The calories specifically in movie theater popcorn have extremely high calorie counts. A large bag from AMC, without butter, comes at a whopping 1030 calories plus 41 grams of unnecessary trans fat! However, don’t forget, most people get butter on their popcorn, and that strange greasy liquid that vaguely tastes like butter actually contains non hydrogenated soybean oil that’s been artificially colored and flavored. Regardless if you ask for no butter, the popcorn is still coated with an artificial buttery flavoring that gives it that vibrant yellow color and heavily cooked in unhealthy trans fat like canola oil and salt. So all of the excess fat could add up and have detrimental effects on your waistline and more importantly – your health!

But it doesn’t just stop there!

To my surprise, some movie theaters apparently buy pre-popped popcorn which are warmed up under heat light lamps as a tactic to cut down equipment costs and time. This increases the theater’s productivity and in turn make more profit. Pre popcorn is also typically made in trans fat oils and flavored and colored with artificial ingredients, often containing MSG. It’s also worth questioning the unknown amount of time the popcorn have been stored for which could only mean that preservatives and additives have been added to increase shelf life.

So what’s a person to munch on while watching the latest flick? How does one avoid the “popcorn mist” and manage temptation?

Smuggle your own. 

The key to healthy and better popcorn is popping it yourself. I pretty much think this is the key to everything, really. It’s super easy to make and you’ll find just as delicious. Since corn is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods in the market with a wealth of health concerns, it’s best to always choose 100% whole organic popcorn kernels. Organic popping corn will be free of pesticides, additives and toxic residues commonly found in conventionally grown corn.

So with that, the more nourishing way to make your own is by air popping it in a really cool popcorn maker or using a stove top oven. What’s the best cooking oil to make it with? Organic extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil of course! And just like the popcorn, you’ll want to make your own toppings. Season it with cracked black pepper, raw extra virgin olive oil drizzle, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, a little bit of turmeric, Himalayan salt, nutritional yeast and my absolute favorite – chili powder.

Happy healthy snacking! x

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