I made this dip as a snack for my Spring into Balance stress-management workshop on March 7th at Willow Glen Yoga. The photos could be better, but I’ll update them the next time I make it.
The idea for this dip was planted in 2012, during my first visit to Australia to meet my future in-laws. My Aussies have an afternoon ritual called “Cheers Beers.” It’s like afternoon tea, or chai-time; but instead of chai, you have beer; and instead of khari biscuits and chivda, you have chips, dips and cheeses. Instead of musing about the weather and cricket, you muse about the weather and cricket with an Aussie accent.
As you’d expect, I was there for the snacks. In particular, there was a ‘roasted pumpkin, cashew and parmesan cheese dip‘ that checked all the scrumptious boxes for me. It was savory, nutty, slightly cheesy and very addictive. I couldn’t get enough of it!
As I loaded up my cracker with a dollop of this deliciousness for the 37th time, I began to wonder how sustainable this dip addiction was. My time in Australia was running out, and since there was no feasible or legal way to take this dip home with me, I knew I’d have to figure out how to recreate it back in California.
Then, as is often the case (blame it on jet lag), I forgot all about the dip until I went back to Australia two years later.
So, there I was in December 2014, scanning the Queensland supermarket aisles for “Cheers Beers” snacks, when I vaguely remembered a “pumpkin-cashew dip” and became obsessed with finding it. But as luck would have it, they’d stopped selling it. And since I could no longer locate the original ingredients, I had to rely on my memory to piece it together.
So, here it is – my version of “the dip.”
Roasted butternut squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
The combination of flavors makes it comforting, yet dangerously addictive.
But what makes it useful for stress?
First, all winter squash is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C – which are antioxidants and helpful for lowering oxidative stress. Next, most nuts and seeds (particularly pumpkin seeds) are rich in zinc, another key antioxidant beneficial during times of stress, along with magnesium (a relaxant), along with an ideal nutrient profile for blood sugar regulation – namely, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Nutritional yeast (AKA hippie fish food) is not only full of B-vitamins which are helpful for energy production, stress reduction and a healthy nervous and immune system) but also tastes like cheese and what could go wrong with that? Finally, rosemary ranks high on the antioxidant scale (ORAC) and garlic is both anti-viral and anti-microbial (helpful for the immune system).
You can find the seeds and nuts in any health food store, in the bulk bins or packaged snacks section. You’ll also find the nutritional yeast in most health food stores in the seasoning section (although it may not be available in every country). Or you’ll find it in a bulk bin. Either way, you can start with the Bragg’s brand of nutritional yeast (if available).
While this is not quite the Aussie pumpkin-cashew dip I remember, it’s the dip of my dreams and I hope you’ll enjoy it. xo
This dip is a stress-busting, nourishing and highly addictive snack that comes together quickly once you have all the ingredients. I whole-roast a pumpkin/butternut squash for easy meal-prep during the week, but you could use steamed pumpkin instead.
Food processor or hand-chopper
1.5 cupsroasted butternut squash(any winter squash or pumpkin will work)
1/4 cuppumpkin seeds(shell-free)
1/4 cupraw cashews
1tbspfresh rosemary leaves(more if needed)
2tbspextra virgin olive oil
1/4tspsea salt(more if needed)
1tsplemon juice(if needed)
Put all the ingredients into a food processor. If using a hand-chopper, start with the oil, garlic, rosemary and sea salt to make sure it gets mixed in properly.
Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
We’ve all had that one friend from high school or college who’s a bit of a pain the first time you meet them. Annoying, obnoxious, maybe even a bit of a bully. Yeah, you know that person.
But then something crazy happens. You have an unexpected bonding moment. You share a laugh or an inside joke. And this annoying obnoxious person suddenly becomes your closest friend, even decades later.
Well, kale is THAT friend. And this salad is THAT bonding moment.
It’s true! In fact, I will go as far as saying this salad will change the way you look at kale FOREVER.
This kale salad is like the little black dress of salads. Dress it up, dress it down. Treat it like the main event, or a sexy side. Make it for a cocktail party, or a school BBQ. This salad is a classic, and will surprise both the kale-lovers and cynics in your life.
Don’t believe me?
Take it from my kale-hating friend who now texts me pics of her kale salad remains along with the caption “#winning.”
Or the longtime kale fan who found this recipe “life-changing!”
Or the kids who’d clamber to make this salad anytime it was on the menu at their school’s food lab program. BTW, kids LOVE making this salad – you’ll see why below.
Or, from the lady who approached me at a wedding in Ireland last summer – just to share how often she now makes this salad (…ever since I made it at a BBQ six years ago)!
And then there’s my mom who asks me for the recipe once every 6 months, even though, “Hi mom, it’s in your emails! Love you.”
This recipe is for you, if you’ve never had kale before and want to know what the big deal is. It’s for you, if you’ve had kale before and were traumatized by the experience. It’s for you, if you LOVE kale, and can’t get enough of it. And it’s especially for you, mom.
Why I’m hooked on this recipe (and you will be, too!)
Basic: Only needs 4 ingredients (kale, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and lemon) and 10 minutes to throw together. The rest of the ingredients are extra.
Delicious: The secret to life-changing kale? Massage it with your hands! Yup – with olive oil and sea salt, you give your kale the spa treatment it deserves; taking it from tough guy to softie in a matter of minutes. Scientifically, massaging it breaks down the kale’s cell walls, making it tender, flavorful and a dream to eat (massaging is also incredibly therapeutic – which might explain why kids love making it too!).
Timeless: Make it all year long, and dress it up according to season and your preferred toppings. In the summer, I keep it light, with avocado, mango, berries or stone-fruit. In the winter or fall, I add roasted butternut squash, beets, walnuts, pomegranate or cooked quinoa. I’ve included some variations in the recipe notes, but the one in the picture has cooked quinoa, sliced mandarins, and pumpkin seeds.
Plus, it makes kale a rare treat!
Kale is a dark leafy green veggie from the Brassica or cabbage family (also called cruciferous). Like others from this family, kale is excellent for liver health. It not only has significant cholesterol-lowering abilities, but also contains anticancer “glucosinolates” that help break down and excrete toxic metabolites from the body. Kale is also rich in immune-boosting and antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A & C, as well as anti-inflammatory ones like vitamin K.
If you haven’t ventured into the kale camp yet, this recipe will ease you in. Go nuts with it, make it your own, and don’t forget to tag me if you try it! xo
This is my basic recipe for raw kale salad involving 4 ingredients and less than 10 minutes. Check out the variations in the notes for optional toppings. I first discovered the massaging technique in 2011 thanks to this recipe: http://happyfoody.com/2008/02/12/raw-kale-avocado-salad. I've made a few minor tweaks, but you can refer to this recipe for further inspiration.
Keyword: kale, main, raw, salad
Large salad bowl.
1-2tbsp olive oil(extra virgin preferred)
1/4 - 1/2tspcoarse sea salt(not table salt)
1/2lemon or lime(juiced)
Thoroughly wash and dry the kale, then separate the tough stalks from the leaves. I do this by tearing the leaves off. Keep the stalks for another recipe or to use in homemade stock.
Chop the leaves into bite size pieces, then place in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt.
Get your hands in there and massage the leaves for about a minute. By the way, this is great to do with kids!The leaves with reduce (almost by half) when you massage them. You'll notice the kale starting to glisten and break down, and your fingers might even look a little green (due to the chlorophyll). This means it’s working!
Now, add the lemon or lime juice and continue to toss gently with your hands.
Taste it, and add a bit more salt or lemon/lime juice. It should taste pretty good.
Add optional toppings (listed below), or eat immediately (I dare you to stop)! This kale salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Start with 1/4 tsp sea salt and add more if needed (for flavor).If you're adding a lot of toppings, you may need more lemon/lime/other citrus juice for acidity (otherwise the kale can taste a little flat).
Optional topping ideas:
1/2 cup blueberries + 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds + 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup cooked chickpeas + 1 cup grated carrots
1 chopped mango + 1 cup cooked beetroot + 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other seeds)
1 cup cherry tomatoes + 1/2 avocado (mash this in with your hands) + 1/4 cup chopped almonds.
1/2 cup caramelized onions + 1 cup roasted butternut squash + 1/4 cup chopped dates
You’ve heard the expression “the whole is better than the sum of its parts,’ but how often do you associate it with your diet?
Well, a major study published last year might help you connect the dots. Analyzing mortality trends across the globe over a 27-year period, the study found that in 2017, a sub-optimal diet led to 22% of all adult deaths globally and 15% of “disability-adjusted life-years” caused by cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. In particular, the study singled out diets “high in sodium” and “low in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds” as contributing to these diseases.
This might seem like old news to you; but my biggest takeaway was this:
What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat.
Or as CNN so eloquently put it: “What we aren’t eating is killing us.” So, while you might avoid junk, trans-fats, refined carbs or sugar, my question (and I ask this with love) is: What do you eat instead?
Your body is designed to be a well-oiled machine, running with the help of a balanced and diverse diet, water, exercise and sleep (physiologically speaking) – and every piece of the puzzle is as critical as the next.
Think of your body like your car. You might pump premium gas into it so it runs smoothly, but if you stopped filling it up with coolant, you’d see the warning lights come on pretty quick. And if you don’t fix it, your car will eventually overheat, suffer permanent engine damage, and break down.
Similarly, here are the types of warning signs your body might send if it’s missing something critical:
High blood pressure – a sign you may be low in potassium (found in leafy greens and most veggies).
Excess cholesterol – a sign of low fiber(found in whole grains, beans and vegetables). It could also mean your liver needs more TLC with antioxidant-rich colorful foods, bitter greens and anti-inflammatory spices.
Anxiety, irritability or depression – possible signs of insufficient protein or an amino acid imbalance.
Being prone to allergies or illness – could mean an imbalance of gut flora, or in particular, having insufficient good gut bacteria to ward off pathogens.
One missing link can affect everything from how your body digests food, to how it absorbs nutrients, to how it produces energy, gets rid of toxins and regulates inflammation.
So the first step to address this is to ask yourself:
“What am I missing out on?”
That’s right, put your FOMO hat on. Because I guarantee – regardless of how well we think we’re eating, we could all do better. It’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns – eat the same breakfast – reach for the same cups of coffee or herbal tea – buy the same vegetables – I get it.
Here are 6 simple questions to help you identify potential gaps:
1. Am I eating all major food groups?
Does your diet include a balance of high-quality protein sources (meat/fish/eggs/lentils/beans), healthy fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and herbs & spices?
For vegans or vegetarians, this could mean – am I getting the right amount of protein and fats (anti-inflammatory omega-3s) that are typically more accessible in animal protein?
For those on low/no-carb, high-protein or high-fatdiets, this could translate to – am I getting enough fiber, antioxidants and enzymes to keep my motor running, pooper clean and liver happy?
If you’re new to veggies (or partial to a select few…cough cough fries), you could ask – am I getting a good mix of the crunchy, dark leafy and starchy?
2. Am I including a diversity of colors?
A diverse range of colorful fruits, vegetables, herbs & spices = different antioxidants = broader protective mechanisms = stronger immune system = more excitement in your life!
3. Am I getting a good mix of raw and cooked foods?
Raw fruits and veggies provide enzymes and antioxidants needed for various metabolic actions in your body, including energy production and minimizing oxidative stress. Similarly, cooking certain foods can make their nutrients more available (for example the lycopene and beta-carotene in tomatoes becomes more potent when they’re cooked in olive oil).
4. Am I eating fermented foods?
Foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha and kefir are not some new-agey fad but have been around for centuries! Fermenting is how raw foods, along with their vitamins, minerals and enzymes were preserved back in the day. As they ferment, these foods become more digestible and in turn help your body absorb other nutrients more efficiently. Did I mention they’re also fantastic for gut health?
5. Am I reaching for real whole foods 90% of the time?
This is opposed to processed foods which includes anything from bread and pasta to salami, burgers, meat substitutes, muffins, chips and crackers, and yes – even supplements. Real foods are the real deal and your body knows this too. See my post on real foodfor more.
6. Am I drinking enough water?
That’s right – water is a major blind spot when it comes to diet. Since 70% of your body is made up of water, your cellular health depends on it! Drinking water helps your body absorb nutrients, process and eliminate waste, relieve stress, regulate your body temps and more.
How much water to drink? A good rule of thumb is to divide your weight (lbs) in half and drink that many fluid ounces of water (so if you weigh 150 lbs, you’d be guzzling roughly 75 fluid oz/day) – and more if you’re physically active. Does that sound like too much? Well, the good news is: you could drink less if you eat lots of fresh fruits and crunchy veggies! Even better, drinking your greens (smoothies and juices) and herbal teas totally count.
So, how did it go?
If you answered “Yes” to all the questions above, BOOM. You’re doing great – toss that FOMO hat aside.
But if you answered “No,” to any, it’s time to take inventory. Don’t over-analyze. Remember, it’snever too late to introduce diversity and balance into your daily routine. Start slow with one food group, one new colorful fruit or vegetable, or one type of fermented food. If you’re missing any, just add it to your grocery list for next week.
Last week, I shared my favorite recipe for almond milk. She’s simple, quick and nourishing AF. Yes, my homemade almond milk recipe goes by “she.” My obsession is real, people. She’s outlasted all my romantic relationships, and will always have a soft spot in my heart.
So it was a surprise when homemade cashew milk came along. A dear friend casually mentioned it five years ago over WhatsApp, and I was like, “what is this crazy talk?”
And yet, there it was – homemade cashew milk. Even simpler than almond milk, quicker, and dare I say, creamier too. A cashew milk that I now make once a week as a base for smoothies, cereals, pasta sauces, chia puddings, or straight up drink plain.
Because of how straightforward this recipe is, you don’t need a lot of advanced planning.
All you need is:
a blender (high-speed is preferable, but optional).
30 minutes of soaking and 1 minute of blending.
You don’t need to peel or strain anything either – it’s the ultimate low-maintenance recipe!
Plus, cashews come in a pretty sweet package nutritionally. Check it out in the table below.
Nutrition in 1/4 cup of raw cashews:
A reasonable range of amino acids.
A good balance of unsaturated and saturated fats.
A soluble fiber that helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity
A good balance of copper and zinc, Vitamin K and B vitamins.
In addition, raw cashews like other raw nuts and seeds contain essential enzymes that are only activated when you soak them. Heating (roasting/boiling) will damage the enzymes, so keeping them raw increases the nutritional value.
And sure, you can buy cashew milk at the store, but I have my reservations about all store-bought nut milks (you can read about it in my almond milk recipe).
So, what are you waiting for? Time to make some cashew milk!
Soak the raw cashews in filtered water for at least 30 minutes (overnight is fine too).
Rinse the cashews thoroughly, then add to a blender with 1 cup filtered water. Add more water to make it thinner if you like.
Blend for 30-60 seconds until creamy.
Drink, use immediately in your favorite recipe, or store for up to 3 days in an air-tight jar in the fridge.
If you plan on heating this milk, do so at a low temperature - otherwise it may separate. For a cool chocolate drink - Blend with a pitted date, 1 tsp raw cacao and a vanilla bean (or drop of vanilla extract).For a cool turmeric latte - Blend with a pitted date, 1/2 tsp turmeric and a dash of black pepper.
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know below, and tag me @muxcooks on Instagram or Facebook if you try it! As always, share with your friends too. xo
I’ll go ahead and say it. The world doesn’t need another homemade almond milk recipe. A quick Google search brings up 149 millionhits (which, granted – is a lot less than a search for ‘Brad and Jen’. Seriously, why is this still a thing, people?).
And yet, I still get loads of questions (and perplexed looks) when I talk about my homemade almond milk. Don’t get me wrong, I love going on about almond milk: how I first started making it 10 years ago without a high speed blender. How I got hooked when I found it could taste like kheer (hint: add cardamom and a date!). How it’s soo much better than store-bought…
This is probably why I don’t get invited to parties.
But that’s okay, I’m about to gate-crash your party to tell you ALL about it. Listen up – homemade almond milk is one of the simplest luxuries that you will make in your own kitchen. It’s also a nourishing substitute for dairy, especially if you’re lactose-intolerant or trying to go dairy-free.
All you need is:
raw almonds (soaked overnight)
a blender (a high-speed one like a Vitamix, Blendtec or Nutribullet is helpful for this)
a clean, air-tight jar or bottle to store it in.
optional: a nut-milk bag, cheesecloth or clean t-shirt/pantyhose (I’ll explain why this is optional).
So, what’s up with store-bought?
While I’m all about convenience, and get that homemade almond milk can be a pain to make every few days, here are my gripes with store-bought almond milk:
Gripe #1: Store-bought is full of junk (but there are exceptions).
Where to begin? First, there’s carrageenan (admittedly a type of seaweed) – a filler ingredient used to emulsify and thicken the milk. As early as the 80s, carrageenan was observed to suppress the immune system, later shown to trigger symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in sensitive digestive tracts and even suspected to be potentially carcinogenic. Some almond milk brands now pride themselves on being “carrageenan-free!” for that reason (but know that carrageenan is also in some brands of ice-cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, and deli-meats, so read the labels!).
Then there are gums like xanthan, guar, gellan and locust bean that are used as thickeners. To be fair, these gums are also used in gluten-free cooking, but what are they doing in my almond milk? No.
And, then we have BS like rapeseed oil, once again, an emulsifier, typically found in almond milk creamers. WHY, why why why! Finally, don’t get me started on the added sugar, natural flavors, etc, etc.
Here’s the thing. Almond milk is already mostly water (as it should be: almonds+water). Does it really need all the other fillers to increase its shelf-life and make it thick like milk? You tell me.
(Exceptions: check out Malk and Elmhurst, as of 1/22/20, the only brands that seem to have minimal ingredients).
Gripe #2: Store-bought is mostly water.
So is home-made almond milk. But bear with me a sec.
Almonds by themselves are nutritional powerhouses. 1/4 cup almonds contains 7g protein, 4g fiber (with prebiotic benefits), 16g healthy fats (of which 10g are monounsaturated, 4g are polyunsaturated and 1.2g is saturated), a stellar vitamin E profile (8mg or 75% of your daily required intake), a good range of B-vitamins (needed for energy production), and reasonable amounts of copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Almonds are a nutritionally balanced food.
But almonds ≠ almond milk. Let’s compare the above to the nutritional facts of a few store-bought almond milk brands.
The problem is not the added minerals – it’s that your body may not know how to process them, when they’re consumed in an isolated form (i.e., not as a whole food).
(Exceptions: check out Malk and Elmhurst, as of 1/22/20, the only brands that seem to retain a lot more protein, fats and fiber. They’re also more expensive than other brands.)
Which begs the question – what are you paying for? Water mixed with a multivitamin? Oh, right…the packaging.
Gripe #3: Store-bought involves packaging.
That means more plastic or Tetra pak packaging that not only require resources (some sustainable, some not) to be produced, but also more packaging that you now have to recycle, reuse or discard in a way that minimizes your carbon footprint.
Tetra pak, by the way is not fully recyclable – it’s made of paper, aluminum and polythene, and only 75% (the paper portion) rebirths as a new Tetra pak, the rest goes into a polyaluminum compound that eventually ends up as a single-use plastic. And we now know that not all plastics are recycled either.
See, I told you I’d talk your ear off. Let’s get back to this recipe already!
So, what makes my homemade almond milk different?
Well, most almond milk recipes involve 5 steps: 1) soaking the almonds overnight, 2) rinsing the almonds, 3) slipping the peels off, 4) blending with water – with sea salt and yummy additions like vanilla bean, dates and more, 5) straining the milk of all the almond meal before drinking.
My recipe involves 3 steps. That’s right, the key element differentiating my recipe from the others is (my) laziness. I’ve found ways to make my homemade almond milk more convenient and a breeze to make. Will it be as creamy as the other recipes? Probably not – but it will be more nutritious, and that works for me.
Here are my 3 steps:
1. Soak the almonds overnight. This is a critical step to activate the enzymes in the almonds.
2. Rinse the almonds. Peeling the skins is optional; the skin containspotent flavonoids (antioxidants) that are bioavailable when combined with vitamin C&E. Although, some claim that the skin contains tannic acids that are nutrient inhibitors, I haven’t found specific evidence to confirm this (shh, I never peel #lazy).
3. Blend! Straining the milk using a nut milk bag is optional, and will make the milk creamier. Not straining (as shown in the photo below) allows you to retain all the lovely fiber (and prebiotic benefits) and almond goodness, such as protein, healthy fats, and powerful antioxidants. Bonus – your body knows how to use them!
You can now store your almond milk in the fridge in an air-tight container for 2-3 days. Use it for smoothies, chia puddings, overnight oats and dairy-free pasta sauces. Heating this almond milk will make it separate, so heat at low temps if you must!
No-waste hack: Almond milk goes bad if stored for longer than 3 days. So to avoid the risk of waste, I now prefer to blend almond milk on-the-go. To do this:
Soak a bigger batch overnight – say 1 cup of almonds for 4 days.
Rinse and blend up what you need (usually 1/4 cup for 1 smoothie.
Rinse the rest and thoroughly dry them (air-drying is fine).
Store the remainder in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week.
This way, you can have fresh almond milk on demand all week!
Soak the almonds in cool, filtered water overnight or for 8 hours.
Rinse the almonds thoroughly. (Optional: slip off the skins)
Place in a high-speed blender with 1 cup of filtered water, and blend for about 30 -60 seconds until smooth. (Optional: strain using a nut-milk bag and use the remaining almond meal in baking, or add to soups/stews/pasta sauces for more fiber.)
Use immediately, or store in an air-tight jar in the fridge for 2-3 days.