Gluten-free Vegan Almond Kale Recipe and Calafia Palo Alto Review

February 5th, 2012 yum Posted in Bay Area, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Kale, Nuts, Soy Free, Vegan 11 Comments »


This winter has been a hard one for our family at the house of yum. It seems like every week, Toddler Yum comes down with a new illness. The most recent one resulted in my mom and then me coming down with a miserable case of pneumonia. I would certainly like to give my lungs a piece of my mind. What do they think they are doing, throwing in the towel and inviting buggies in to build a home like that? It did make me think a bit about what I should be doing, rather than what I have been doing, to maintain my health. For example… I have to admit, although I’ve never been that much of a sweets girl, ever since I got pregnant with Toddler Yum, I have developed something of a chocolate habit. I like the dark stuff, mind you, none of that nasty sickeningly sweet candy bar or drugstore chocolate box chocolates for me! But still, even though dark chocolate supposedly has some beneficial properties, it contains sugar that I know very well doesn’t do anything good for me. In fact, when I eat sugar, the crash makes me cranky and feel a little bit like someone is scratching my brain, ever so annoyingly. Do any of you ever get that feeling? Maybe it is just me.

But anyway, getting sick and not having the energy to cook good (or bad) food for myself did make me think about my diet and the things that I know are good for me and make me feel good. I stopped the chocolate habit cold turkey, and turned towards the good stuff. Kale is one of those things that makes me feel good. I like to buy it from Whole Foods because they have organic kale in all kinds of varieties, or even better, from the Farmer’s Market when it is in season. The other day, though, the DH took me to my follow up-checkup on my lungs (because he is a sweetie) and I was feeling so much better that we decided to get lunch out together.


Calafia Cafe

Town & Country Village Suite 130
855 El Camino Real (at Embarcadero Road)
Palo Alto California
(650) 322-9200

I had read about Calafia Palo Alto being a good restaurant with a gluten-free menu, and I’d passed it numerous times in the Palo Alto Town and Country square, but I’d never actually eaten there. Half of the restaurant is a deli, and I’m easily intimidated by delis. However, the other half of the restaurant is a nice, sit-down restaurant with menus, and we decided to get a table. I was happy to see the gluten-free labeml on many of their dishes, but weirdly enough, I was even happier to see that they split the menu in half between vegetarian and omnivore options. They even labeled their vegan dishes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually that hungry because I had eaten a very full and nutritious breakfast (leftover Dal made my the DH the night before, my hero!). But I decided to order their Braised Greens with Almond Butter, which they describe on their menu as: “rainbow swiss chard, sautéed with shallots, glazed with cider vinegar and finished with a vegan turmeric scented almond butter,
dried cranberries and walnuts.” The small dish that arrived wasn’t very dramatic, but when I took a bite I could literally feel my blood being supercharged with nutrition. The funny thing is, I wasn’t completely in love with the balance of flavor. I could taste cayenne more than turmeric in the almond butter, and was a trifle spicy for me after years of cooking for a DH with a sensitive tummy and now a toddler who despises spiciness. At the same time, I felt so good as I ate it and I was ultimately very happy with it. It was also novel because it was both like something I might cook for myself but at the same time not with the exact balance of flavor I would choose. How often can you go out to eat and feel like you’re getting a more nutritious meal than you would have at home? That is why I fell in love with this restaurant and would go back in a heartbeat. They had an intriguing assortment of specialty smoothie beverages, and tons of entrees and other dishes marked gluten-free and vegetarian. The DH was also happy, although he ordered a gluten menu item of what he called a “salad pizza”- a pizza with goat and blue cheese with a gorgeous pile of arugula on top. (They don’t offer gluten-free pizza, but plenty of other places do so I didn’t mind.)

I did some reading and found out that Calafia was started by a chef named Charlie Ayers that was the head chef at Google for six years after being a caterer for the Grateful Dead. Not only that, but he has his own book called Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google. According to the booklist description, “Raw, organic, and fermented is Charlie s mantra, which is reflected in more than 90 easy-to-prepare recipes, whether it s a Kick-start Breakfast, a Power Lunch, or a Light, Bright Dinner. And, following the world-famous formula Charlie used at Google headquarters, the meals and snacks are designed to feed your brain exactly what it needs at different points throughout the workday.” It has been a while since I went to a restaurant that I found as exciting as this one, and after reading more about the chef I can understand why. It isn’t a raw-foods cookbook, and not even a vegetarian cookbook, but I was intrigued enough by the description that I ordered a used copy for myself. I’ll let you know how I like it!

Anyway, their braised green recipe with almond sauce was a delightful restaurant offering and also got me thinking about how I might try my own (very different) version when I brought home some tasty organic kale from the farmer’s market this weekend. Here’s my take on it, which met with approval from my omnivorous dad and allergy-sensitive mother. Toddler Yum found it to be too much green for her, but since she scarfs down raw broccoli, cauliflower, and roasted chickpeas, I think I’ll overlook this temporary disdain for kale. It took me some years to develop a love affair with kale, after all, and now it is my favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu item! I hope you enjoy this recipe for a vegan almond sauce kale recipe as much as we did.

Looking for more kale-almond recipes?
Addictive Vegan Kale Salad
Kale Almond Pesto
Almond Crunch Kale Chips
Chopped Kale Salad with Toasted Almonds
Just Plain Scrumptious Kale Recipes:
Cashew Creamed Kale Recipe
Kale and toor Dal
Kale in Puttanesca Sauce
Gluten-free Cornmeal Dumplings with Red Beans and Kale
Gluten-free Stuffing with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins
Vegetarian Lasagna with Kale and Cheese
Feta Breakfast Kale

Hey, I’m in the running for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Vegan and Vegetarian Mom Blogger Award!

You can vote once per blog every 24 hours until February 14th at 8pm EST. I’d love to make it to the final count!

Almond Butter Kale Recipe
Ingredients
2 tsp. grapeseed or olive oil
1 small to medium bunch of kale, rinsed and dried with spine cut out, chopped
3 tbsp. diced onion

sauce:
1/4 cup roasted almond butter
2 tbsp. hot water or more for desired texture
1 tsp. agave nectar, maple syrup, honey (look for neutral flavored honey), or simple syrup
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice
herbamare or your favorite salt blend
dash cayenne pepper or paprika

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet on medium high and add your chopped kale leaves. I like to pan fry them until they get browned and dry in patches, but you can cook them to your preference. When almost done, add your diced onion to the pan and saute until translucent.

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Add more hot water if needed to have a sauce you can pour.

When kale and onions are done, put into an attractive bowl and drizzle generously with sauce. Fold sauce into the kale until evenly distributed and serve.

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Gluten-free Dairy-free Soy-free Mushroom Alfredo Pasta Recipe

December 14th, 2011 yum Posted in Dairy Free, Pasta, Soy Free, Vegan 7 Comments »

Have you ever found a recipe so tasty and interesting that you want to make it all the time, and when you can’t make that exact recipe, you want to make recipes inspired by it? I had that experience some time back with By the Bay’s potato knish using Chebe crust as the pastry for knish. I liked it so much I started using Chebe for pastry for everything- spinach pie tartlets, samosas, cranberry apple turnovers. I took it so far that I got a reputation as “that Chebe girl” and the company approached me to develop some recipes and do a photo for their cinnamon mix packaging. True story!

I styled and photographed the photo on their last soft package mix for cinnamon Chebe. Of course, just recently they got entirely new packaging in fancy new boxes. I guess I’ll have to frame the remaining package in my pantry! But I digress.

So, about those recipes. I think you all know my friend Ali Segersten with the blog at Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, and a new cookbook coming out soon. I adopted her some time ago for Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger. Way back in July she had this amazing recipe for Dairy-free Creamed Kale that I could eat like candy, I swear. Instead of using those tasteless packaged dairy-free milks, Ali used all fresh, real ingredients and make the creamy sauce with cashews. I just loved this recipe, and started thinking about other ways to use cashews as a creamy sauce in recipes.* I tried a creamed broccoli/cauliflower recipe, and it was good but not spectacular. But then the other night I was staring at my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and I was trying to think of how to make pasta interesting but not so interesting that Toddler Yum would snub it. We also had this huge container of mushrooms from Costco staring glossily back at me in the refrigerator, and it occurred to me that a cashew, dairy-free cream sauce would make a great mushroom alfredo. I seared some mushrooms and chard from our garden and added grated zucchini for bulk and sneaky mama veggie quotient and reduced the heck out of that cashew cream sauce. I also popped some white sweet potato “fries” in the oven to roast as a side dish.

At first I was going to make some plain pasta for the dear toddler, who can be relied on to ask for “plain, mama, plain pasta”. But then I thought that since she has never met a cashew dish she didn’t like, I’d try serving her the alfredo. The mushrooms were picked out immediately, and she eyed the chard very suspiciously, but she slurped down the pasta in sauce like a starving puppy and asked for more. My girl had four helpings before the night was out! And before you get worried, she had skipped the (disgusting) lunch at her daycare and had recently recovered from a tummy bug, so I think she was ready for a serious calorie infusion. The picky DH, who can be very skeptical of dairy-free sauces, dove in with gusto, and it goes without saying that I ate more than my fair share. Success!

I would definitely make this recipe again, and might just have to try this cashew sauce in some other classic creamy recipes. If you have a vitamix, I think the creamy sauce will be even more creamy, but the texture with my (pathetically weak) blender reminded me of the texture of melted parmesan regianno bits, so it worked well for us. These photos were taken the following day when the greedy pasta had drank up a lot of the sauce. It tasted good reheated but was most spectacular freshly made. Also, I used the new Trader Joe’s gluten-free corn spaghetti, and thought it worked well. A brown rice (Tinkyada) or my all time my favorite gluten-free pasta by Le Veneziane might make it even better!



*This recipe posting is Ali-approved… I love my fellow bloggers and always like to ask them when I use a blogged recipe as serious inspiration when developing a new recipe.

Dairy-free Soy-fre Mushroom Alfredo Pasta Sauce Recipe
Ingredients
The Sauce:
2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 cups water
1 teaspoon raw cider vinegar
1 teaspoon herbamare or your favorite herbed salt

The Pasta:
1 lb. gluten-free spaghetti

The Veggies:
1 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil (if needed)
3/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
freshly ground pepper and additional herbamare to taste
large handful of chard, cleaned and cut into slivers
2 small zucchini or 1 regular zucchini, cleaned and grated

Directions
Heat oil on medium-high in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet. Saute your onion until translucent. Then combine translucent onion, soaked and drained cashews, nutritional yeast, water, vinegar and herbamare in a blender. Blend until you have a creamy sauce. Reserve.

Boil pasta until al dente.

Heat additional oil (if needed) in your pan on medium-high and add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer on the pan. Season with freshly grated black pepper and herbamare. You may have to do several batches. Brown one side and then turn over to brown the other side. Remove from pan and reserve while you brown the remaining mushrooms. Add your slivered chard to the last batch of mushrooms and sautee them until they wilt and start to brown. Sprinkle on your grated zucchini and let it soften slightly. Pour on your sauce and let it thicken.

Mix pasta into the sauce and serve topped with fresh basil if desired.

Notes
Best the first night it is made, but can be reheated too. I think I might save any uneaten pasta separate from the sauce for the next day and combine them right before heating so that the pasta doesn’t absorb too much of the sauce and you get more creamy liquid for leftovers.
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