All posts by CloverLush

The carbon, slavery, and deforestation on your toast (and a better way)

Meet: Pesto Toast

I’m so old I remember when avocados were fairly exotic. Pronouncing ‘guacamole’ was a struggle for even the more cultured white person. Nowadays, I see Costco carts loaded with multiple bulk packs of the creamy fruit, destined for smoothies, tacos, and, of course, toast. It’s a very first food for countless babies and the day’s first meal for career hustlers around the country. 

Bottom line: avocado production has a high carbon footprint because of the inputs needed and the land (forests) diverted to make room to grow for the huge demand. The water needed to grow the crop is also substantial and often in areas that don’t have water to spare–California, Mexico, and Chile. (Learn more, here.) Avocados are a seasonal item, so costs involved in providing a steady year-round avocado supply are higher than ensuring constant availability of seasonal items that store well, like potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Then there are the labor issues (not unique to avocado farming, of course), cartel demands, and even the exploited work of the bees.

Avocados aren’t the devil, and there are Fair-Trade options that are certainly a better choice, but here’s an alternative that utilizes whatever you have on hand and provides a way to use all the kale and greens available at the farmers’ markets (and often available year-round thanks to local greenhouses). Get your greens and eat your toast, too. This is a free-form recipe so run with it, experiment and revise based on what you have and what you find you like.

Spread pesto on toast and top with sliced radish, tomatoes, fresh herbs, cucumber, zucchini, edible flowers, sesame seeds, flaky sea salt, and cracked pepper. When the fresh selection is more limited, top with sun-dried tomatoes, pickled radish/vegetables, kimchi, roasted sweet potato, and sliced tofu/tempeh. And if you have a greens glut? Make the pesto ahead and keep it frozen for the winter months!

Favorite pesto base combinations:

  • Roasted sunflower seeds, arugula, grapeseed oil
  • Almonds, kale, extra garlic
  • Sunflower seeds, Basil/kale, olive oil
  • Pumpkin seeds, cilantro/flat-leaf parsley, sunflower oil, red chili flakes
  • Pea shoots or microgreens also make a terrific base for green pesto!



Herby Pesto For Toast

Spread this green pesto on your next piece of toast! Add a little plant milk and it’s a quick pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup nuts or seeds, or mix
  • 1-4 cloves garlic or scapes/green garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 ounces greens, herbs, or a mix about 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup oil, olive or grapeseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt + pepper

Instructions

  • In food processor, pulse nuts/seeds until they are well-ground, but not so much that they turn into butter.
    Add garlic and nutritional yeast and continue to pulse until mixture looks like uniform crumbs.
    Add greens/herbs and pulse until greens are totally chopped and mixture again looks uniform and evenly blended.
    Turn machine on and pour in olive oil, then water. Scrape down the bowl, add salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times.
    Store in refrigerator. Basil pesto will turn brown when exposed to air–pour a layer of oil over pesto then cover with wrap or a lid.

Notes

  • I’ve only made this using a food processor but a strong blender would probably work too.
  • I use sunflower seeds or almonds, salted/roasted are fine, just watch how much salt is added at the end
  • Kale, arugula, Swiss Chard, and pea shoots all make great green pesto
  • Basil is great on its own or mixed with greens; a blend of cilantro + flat-leaf parsley plus some dried red chili flakes is delicious
  • Mix herbs + greens together based on what you have!
 


The NEW New Potatoes

Do your farmer a favor. Eat the radishes!

Ahhhh radishes, those DayGlo roots from the dirt. There is such a satisfying tug as each one is lifted from the soil. Radishes are the vegetable grower’s secret weapon as they are a relatively un-fussy crop and ready in as few as 18 days from planting seeds (new potatoes take around 65). In the past, my average annual radish consumption was probably around 3.7 total–a couple roasted, a few slices on a salad, maybe a couple pickled radish slices alongside Indian food. Mostly, I grew them for a few loyal fans and because they are fun (and adorable). Hold tight though, because the radish revolution is here and now.

To change your radish-despising mind, it’s time to rethink radishes. They are now new potatoes’ cousin. Give them a scrub, trim the ends, and boil until tender. I give them the full treatment with a hefty does of my homemade vegan butter, Maldon sea salt, and fresh cut herbs from the garden. Oh, and they are low carb, if you are into that.

Another secret: radishes are the easiest to grow. Grab a pot or even a plastic storage container, some dirt, and a packet of radish seeds (Easter Egg are multi-colored, French Breakfast are super fast). Keep them watered and you’ll see sprouts within a couple days.


New New Potatoes

Radishes get the full new potato treatment in a low-carb, farmer-friendly, seasonal meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch radishes
  • sea salt
  • oil or vegan butter
  • fresh herbs

Instructions

  • Pull greens off radishes. Scrub radishes with a cloth to remove dirt. Trim off ends if you like. If some radishes are especially large, trim to uniform size for even cooking time.
    Place radishes in a pot and fill two-thirds of the way with cold water. Set on high heat until simmer is reached. Turn down heat and simmer radishes, checking after about five minutes. They may take up to ten minutes, or more, depending on size and age. Test with a fork–radishes should be fork tender.
    Drain and place radishes in bowl along with sea salt, oil/vegan butter, and garnish with freshly chopped herbs!


Bakery Case Blueberry Muffins

In my imaginary world, there exists a cute diner with all kinds of food that all just happens to be gluten-free and vegan. I think the muffins spotted in this food fantasy are actually derived from memories of those giant Sam’s Club or Costco muffins. What can I say, my bar is high and my childhood cuisine memories are strong.

This recipe is adapted from a 2013 Gourmet Magazine (the memories!) article; I’ve been making these (or some variation) since I was 16

Read the recipes notes FIRST + then make these muffins, win friends, and influence people.

Bakery Case Blueberry Muffins

Big, overflowing blueberry muffins that happen to be gluten-free, vegan, and whole-grain. Read the NOTES first!
Author: CloverLush

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup refined coconut oil melted
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil like grapeseed or sunflower
  • cup plant milk room temp (not cold)
  • 1 chia egg 1 Tablespoon ground chia mixed w/ 3 Tablespoons water to create slurry
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract optional
  • 125 grams gluten-free oat flour
  • 65 grams potato starch
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ -2 cups blueberries fresh or frozen
  • Coarse sugar for topping optional

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375F. Line or grease your muffin tin according to how many muffins you plan to make (you’ve read the notes, right?).
  • In a bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, neutral oil, and plant milk until combined. Whisk in chia egg + extract (if using). Set aside.
  • Measure the flour + starch, then add the white sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir together until well-mixed. Add to bowl of wet ingredients and fold together. Gently stir in blueberries.
  • Divide batter among your prepared muffin tin(s). Sprinkle some coarse sugar over the top for a little extra sparkle.
  • Bake until golden, and a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Depending on what size you’ve made the muffins and whether you are using fresh or frozen berries, this will take between 20 minutes (for smaller muffins) to 38-42 minutes (if you make 6 giant). Check after 20 and then check at 5 minute intervals. Cool in pans for 15 minutes before removing. Muffins will be delicate when they are piping hot!
  • Serve with fresh coffee, preferably black, just like you’d get at a bakery!

Notes

This recipe makes 6-8 muffins (or 12 muffins if you are OK with them being on the small size) using a standard-sized muffin tin. The ideal is probably 8 but I usually make 6 and overflow them a bit.
Blasphemy: I prefer frozen wild (or low-bush) blueberries. I use 1.5 cups. If you are going to make 8-12 muffins, use two cups. Frozen are fine, don’t thaw first, but do expect the muffins to take a bit longer to bake as the frozen berries cool the batter.
 

New-Fashioned Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

This post includes affiliate links. Want to skip the commentary? Jump to Recipe.
If you aren’t into a lot of jabber, skip to the recipe–but do read the notes! They are important!

I’m not, for even a second, going to claim these are world’s best or perfect, because my taste in chocolate chip cookies is finicky. Finicky as, yeah. BUT I’ve stuck by these for over three months so we are definitely serious.

So, here’s what these have going for ’em:

Made from 100% whole-grain oat flour, they are probably as healthy as you are going to get and still be left with a bona fide chocolate chip cookie. They are dairy-free, egg-free, annnnnd even gluten-free (be sure to use gluten-free oat flour).

They also have options: I like the thin + chewy pairing (today, at least) but they can certainly be thick + chewy, just follow the tips in the directions.

Flaky sea salt is option but highly, highly recommended.

I’d love to take credit for this recipe, and I sort of can, only because I totally misread the original recipe, but I still want to give it a shout-out or we wouldn’t be here today. Kind of like when I worked as a baker and nobody could understand why my scones were THE BEST EVER until I had to admit I’d misread the recipe and added double the amount of butter. And I’d been doing it for months. I mean, WORSE MISTAKES HAVE BEEN MADE.

To make the cookies a thicker–just give them some extra mixing time to incorporate more air + body into the dough.

Pet peeve: having to flatten cookies before baking. No need here! Scoop and go. Strategically place a few chocolate chips on top to ensure picture-perfect beauties, and add a pinch of flaky salt.

Key ingredients:

Take it from me (and see above), I am not a big fan of following recipes…but to ensure the best results, I wouldn’t stray too far unless you are in the mood for adventure. Chia-egg naysayers, I am looking at you: the chia egg gave the best texture as oat flour can be crumbly. None of the other egg substitutes trialed yielded the same chewiness.

For this recipe I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oat flour (I buy the 25 lb bag to save money, just $2.35ish/lb), Maldon flaky sea salt (which I’m pretty sure I could eat by the spoon), and these chia seeds (which I ground in a coffee grinder).*

The above are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy one of the items, I will get a small cut. Basically a little change to pay for web-hosting and the pounds of chocolate I go through developing recipes (and in general). This is at no extra cost to you–you are presented with Amazon’s current price, affiliate link or otherwise. Read more here.

New-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies

100% whole-grain + plant-based, yet still authentic
Author: CloverLush

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil refined
  • 1.5 Tablespoons water room temp
  • 3.5 Tablespoons neutral oil like sunflower or grapeseed
  • 1 cup brown sugar light preferred
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 chia eggs 2 Tablespoons ground chia mixed with 6 Tablespoons warm water, let stand two minutes
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 265 grams oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda scant
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Extra chocolate chips
  • Flaky sea salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Combine coconut oil, water, neutral oil, and sugars in bowl of stand mixer. Mix together with paddle attachment for 1 minute for thin cookies, or 3 minutes for thicker cookies. It should gain body and look much like creamed butter/sugar. Add chia egg to mixture and beat another 1 minute, or 2 more minutes if you are going for thicker cookies. Add vanilla and incorporate.
  • Pour in oat flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix briefly to thoroughly blend, or mix for 1 minute for thick cookies. Stir in chocolate chips with spatula. If dough seems thin, let stand 5-10 minutes as oat flour will absorb liquid.
  • Divide dough by tablespoons or 2-3 tablespoon scoop for big cookies. Space cookies about 3 inches apart, or 4 inches for larger. Arrange a few extra chocolate chips atop mounds of dough and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake for 10-11 minutes for tablespoon-size cookies, or about 13-14 for larger cookies. Cookies will puff in the oven, but fall as they cool. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before transferring from pan.
  • These cookies are whole-grain and will dry out so store in air-tight container; they stay fresh about 3-4 days.

Notes

I don’t recommend making your own oat flour in a blender for this recipe–texture won’t be right. Grind chia to semi-fine powder in coffee grinder before making your chia eggs. Measurement of chia is once it’s ground. Dough may be refrigerated before baking–this tends to result in thinner cookies.

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Menu Planning Mash-Up

This post includes affiliate links.

I feel like the ‘plight’ of having to figure out what’s for dinner is an oddly developed-world privilege thing, and yet, I totally get it. So, take at least part of the guesswork out of what to make; plan ahead so you don’t buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need; recognize how lucky we all are to complain about this task of deciding what the heck to eat.

That said, I think a lot of us can agree that if we aren’t intentional about eating well, it doesn’t always happen. Or maybe this comes naturally to everyone else, but according to research, it’s not just me!

A 2014 study by Faunalytics found that 84% of vegans/vegetarians abandon their diet; reasons given included: unsatisfied with food (293), health (237), social issues (120), inconvenience (115), cost (56), lack of motivation (56), and other (228).

And then you have me. I am committed to my plants-only diet, BUT that diet doesn’t always include enough, well, FRESH PLANTS + VEGETABLES, in general. We live in a world of conveniently packaged boxes and cans and bags and did I mention potato chips?

So do something for your health, for the environment, for the animals, and put a little more thought into what you eat. Maybe this thing I made will help; it is in color but it prints just fine in black + white. Think of it as a ‘cheat sheet’ (from someone who hates that phrase) when you are thinking of what to make + eat. It’s a framework, a starting point. Put it on your fridge or your planner or wherever you are when you contemplate what to eat (Maybe the inside door of your pantry? A shelf in your fridge?).

Are you interested in taking part in a plants/vegan menu planning group? If so, comment below or send me a DM.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite cookbooks, the ones I use again and again, the ones worth having on your shelf:

Jack Bishop’s ‘A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen‘, which is out of print, but that means you can grab a used copy for a few dollars on Amazon. Yes, it’s ‘vegetarian’ but has vegan options and is the book that changed my thinking about what constitutes a meat-free ‘meal’. Favorites: Soft Corn Tacos with Garlicky Greens, Root Vegetable Tarts with Rosemary, Black Bean Chilaquiles (no egg!), Spiced Red Lentils (Dal), Drunken Pinto Beans with Charred Onions and Chiles (FAVORITE!). You’ll learn a lot about combining flavors and fresh produce and how to create ‘meals’ from vegetables. A little fancy but still surprisingly simple.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz + Terry Hope Romero’s ‘Veganomicon’. It’s pretty much a tour of vegan cooking, ranging from basic to gourmet, but written in an accessible style; an essential primer on living without animal products. Favorites: Snobby Joes, Lemony Roasted Potatoes, Midsummer Corn Chowder, Potato + Kale Enchiladas, Southwestern Corn Pudding, Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions, Cholent (stew), and Peanut Ginger Sesame Cookies. Plus, there is a whole section on sauces + staples.

Madhu Gadia’s ‘The Indian Vegan Kitchen’. Other cultures are so much better at eating well without meat as a main dish. Even if you are knew to Indian cooking, this book will guide you to making some incredible dishes. Did I mention most of the dishes are ‘quick’, like under 30 minutes? Most of the spices can be found at grocery stores; there are a few specialty items, but she offers alternatives. Favorites: Potato Stew, Creamy Mushroom Curry, Quick Kidney Beans, and Creamy Vegetable Stew.

Last but not least, Heidi Swanson’s ‘Super Natural Cooking’. Another book that is vegetarian, but offers vegan options and introduces a whole new way of looking at grains, vegetables, and meatless lifestyle. Plus, the photography + writing are beautiful and calming and all things inspired/inspiring. Favorites: Cashew Cream, Chile de Arbol Sauce (ESSENTIAL–sub cashew milk for cream), Dairyless Chocolate Mousse (Otherworldly). Her philosophy and aesthetic will change the way you look at food and eating.

Grab my printable Menu Plan PDF here.

The above are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy one of the items, I will get a small cut. Basically a little change to pay for web-hosting and the pounds of chocolate I go through developing recipes (and in general). This is at no extra cost to you–you are presented with Amazon’s current price, affiliate link or otherwise. Read more here.

Pomodoro al Riso–the Italian street food you need to meet

AKA baked, stuffed tomatoes with potatoes. A staple in Italian bakeries and apparently a traditional street food in Rome, but equally at home in Iowa with our luscious summer tomatoes, fresh basil, and various kinds of potatoes. This dish takes a bit of planning, but otherwise it’s pretty easy, and a ‘one dish’ meal!

I haven’t been to Italy but now that I am learning about all the food that is naturally meat-free/vegan, Italy is suddenly nearing the top of my travel list. I credit Rachel Roddy’s recipe for educating me about this dish. The only specialty item, that is optional, is the Carnaroli rice. Many recipes use Arborio (risotto), which can generally be found at a grocery store. But, if you happen upon a gourmet store or feel like an Amazon order, the delicately plump texture of Carnaroli is worthwhile! Plus, you only use a little for this recipe, so a bag will last a long time. I use this brand (not an affiliate link).

Pomodoro al Riso

Your new favorite Italian street food, made at home!
Author: CloverLush

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of tomatoes–I used 4 large
  • 2 large Italian garlic cloves minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves cut into small ribbons
  • 6 Tablespoons rice Carnaroli rice is traditional, but Risotto or any other white rice can be used (brown rice may not work in this recipe, haven’t tried)
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil divided + more for pan
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes of your choice
  • Salt + pepper

Instructions

  • First, cut the tops off the tomatoes, set aside. Using a metal spoon, scoop the insides of the tomatoes into a bowl. Seeds and all. Then, lightly salt the inside of the tomato ‘shells’ and place upside down on a plate to drain.
  • Using your hands, mash the tomato insides until no large pieces remain. Remove any hard pieces of core. Add uncooked rice, chopped garlic, and basil ribbons. Also add 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil and a bit of salt + pepper. Let rice mixture sit for 45 minutes.
  • In the meantime, peel the potatoes and cut into fries. Toss potatoes with remaining 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and some salt + pepper.
  • Prepare for baking. Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a pan–sheet pan or 12 inch cast iron skillet work well. Use something metal, not glass. Place the tomatoes upright, and fill just about to the brim with spoonfuls of the rice mixture. You’ll probably have some of the rice mixture remaining. Place the tomato tops on the tomatoes as ‘lids’. Scatter the potato fries around the tomatoes.
  • Bake for about 45-60 minutes. The rice should expand and might overflow the tomatoes a bit. The potatoes should start to have some golden and crisp spots. Test a potato for doneness. Remove from oven and let cool, at least 30 minutes. Then serve with extra salt + pepper.

Notes

Any white rice should substitute fine for the Carnaroli/Risotti, however, brown rice may not cook–I’ve not tested it. Letting the dish cool is optional but does result in deeper flavor.

I Can’t Believe it’s Dairy-Free Butter

Make your own spreadable dairy-free ‘butter’ with a few simple ingredients. There are so many butter substitutes available these days, but they aren’t always accessible (Hi, rural America), and often expensive and sometimes full of unnecessary additions.

Caveat: this is meant more for toast, vegetables, and as a topping. It’s not really meant as a substitute for butter in cooking or baking recipes. The ratio of saturated fat to fat will most likely throw your recipe off. If you experiment though, I’d love to hear!

It’s time to churn, folks! And with no cost to the cows. Take this recipe and run with it–add herbs, spices, fancy salts, and believe in the power of homemade.

Dairy-Free Butter Spread

A spreadable dairy-free/vegan butter sub made with just a handful of ingredients. Be sure to read Notes for tips!
Author: CloverLush

Ingredients

  • 5 Tablespoons Refined coconut oil Solid state
  • 1.25 Tablespoons Water Room temp
  • 1/3 Cup Neutral oil Sunflower or Grapeseed are great
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sea salt More/less to taste
  • OPTIONAL: 1/8 Teaspoon Turmeric For color

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. With whisk attachment, beat on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes, until it looks like custard.
  • Pour into container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until firm but spreadable.
  • Store leftovers in refrigerator. Butter will remain spreadable, even after chilled.

Notes

Be sure to use *refined* coconut oil (jar will say so); if coconut oil is in liquid state, refrigerate until solid state before proceeding with recipe.
Turmeric adds color but is optional.
Start with a small amount of salt and add more based on taste!
Do not use this as a substitute for butter in recipes as the ratio of total fat to saturated fat will not sub well.
 

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