Tag Archives: avocado

October Unprocessed: An Update

22 Oct

Time is flying by, and I wanted to do an update of this unprocessed-foods challenge I’m doing for the month of October.

The basics

Overall, it’s going well. For the most part, it’s really not that hard, though it’s making me spend significantly more time in the kitchen. To compensate, I’m often eating much more simply than I normally would. Friday night I took leftover roasted broccoli and sweet potato, added some pinto beans and chopped fresh tomato from the CSA, splashed on my new favorite hot sauce (purchased at Sugarpill Apothecary), topped it with chopped avocado, and that was dinner. No multistage cooking; no custom blend of herbs and spices, freshly ground in a mortar; no multiple dishes–just a melange of stuff heated up and thrown in a bowl. And it was good!

I do miss having so many options of places to eat out–or variety of dishes I can choose from the menus of vegan restaurants–but thanks to Thrive, Chaco Canyon, Veggie Grill and Whole Foods I haven’t had to rely entirely on my own cooking and could have some very tasty food prepared by others now and then. Jud has (as usual!) been quite supportive and flexible with where we eat, and has even forgone some processed foods in my presence in solidarity. And my awesome friends brought lots of unprocessed food to eat at a potluck brunch I hosted, so there was plenty of variety then.

I’ve definitely embraced some routines for the sake of time and simplicity: breakfast is very often a rice cake topped with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, along with an apple or banana. Could I make a rice cake in my kitchen? Absolutely not. But when the only ingredients are whole grain rice and air, I’d say that counts as unprocessed. Lunches are often brown rice + beans + broccoli + oil/vinegar/spices, if I don’t have leftovers from dinner to heat up.

In general, I’m eating far fewer grains because it’s so much less convenient to grab ready-made stuff or make pasta the center of a meal, but since I know grains and grain-like seeds have a lot of valuable nutrients, I’m making a point not to get too skimpy on them. I’m eating a ton of nuts and seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Although I am “allowing” oil in this challenge, I’m being more judicious with it than I normally am, and trying to get my fats from less-processed sources. For example, instead of a standard vinaigrette, I’ve been dressing salads and vegetables with lemon-tahini dressing and sauce.

The low points

For the first two weeks I actually felt pretty lousy. I had a stomach ache almost all the time. I honestly don’t know how much of that–if any–had to do with the dietary change. I’m sure there was some adjustment to the extra fiber I was consuming, but both generally and in this particular case I’m quite skeptical of things like “detoxing,” so I don’t attribute it to that. It’s also fair to say there has been plenty of stress in my life recently, which frequently manifests itself in the form of stomach upset. So there’s that. A bummer, but it’s better now.

Also, it seems I may be more sensitive to soy in certain forms than I’d previously thought, so I’m steering clear of soy milk for now, and when I do eat soy it’s usually as tempeh. I figure that’s one of the least-processed forms of soy anyway.


Freshly made almond milk is fantastically delicious. If you’ve only had the stuff in boxes, I highly recommend trying it freshly made. I’ve been working on a couple experimental recipes to use the pulp from my current batch of milk, and I’ll post soon with the results! I also tried making hazelnut milk–and made hot chocolate with it using roasted-and-ground cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. It was a little more textured than I would have liked, but quite tasty nonetheless. I’d also like to try roasting the hazelnuts first rather than using them raw.

There are some nice chocolate bars out there that arguably fit the unprocessed guidelines–and some that I really don’t like at all. Stirs the Soul makes a line that is not cheap, but in some cases is quite tasty. I particularly recommend the orange goji-berry (even though I’m not particularly fond of goji berries) and the mint. I was much less impressed with the cayenne-cinnamon and the currant-chai flavors, which seemed not sweet enough (all are lightly sweetened only with whole dates) and with poorly balanced flavors. If I’m going to splurge on expensive, raw chocolate, I want it to really satisfy that chocolate craving. Speaking of expensive chocolate, I picked up one of these at Thrive, and it was very, very tasty. This Hibiscus-Ginger chocolate, on the other hand, I didn’t like at all. I might try other flavors from that line, but the tartness of the hibiscus did not work for me in this bar.

I’ve become pretty well hooked on Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar (overlooking the agar, it’s remarkably unprocessed), and today I tried an herb-cashew cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, which was just as delicious as it was expensive ($10 for a 5-oz. tin–ouch!). At the same time I picked up the smoked cashew variety, which I haven’t yet tried. At that price, I can’t see those cheeses becoming a regular item in my fridge, but they sure would be nice for an occasional splurge.

Some things I’ve been eating for dinner

Tabbouli with homegrown parsley and mint, plus homemade hummus and carrots (yes, they’re supposed to be yellow rather than orange!)

A small-plate-style dinner after a late lunch: Rice cake and Triscuit-type crackers with Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar, pickled asparagus and pepper, and an heirloom-tomato-avocado salad with smoked salt

Mexican-inspired dinner of polenta, pinto beans cooked with zucchini and tomato, raw heirloom tomatoes, avocado, pepitas and cilantro

Roasted beet salad with avocado, hazelnuts and smoked salt

9 Dec

I recently discovered smoked salt, and it’s been even more revelatory than smoked paprika (Seattleites, you know you can get both in bulk at Big John’s PFI, right?). I’m pretty sure that there are few things in life that aren’t improved when you add a little (or a lot) of smoked salt to them.

If you’re looking for an excuse to buy or use some, you could make this salad.

Roasted beet salad with avocado, hazelnuts and smoked salt

On a bed of lettuce or mixed greens (frisee would be pretty with this, if you want to be one of those people who force others to try to eat frisee without making a mess of their faces and clothes. It is a hardy, winter salad green), arrange roasted, peeled beets, cut in 1/4″ slices. If you use cylindrical beets (easy to find at farmers’ markets now) you’ll get lots of consistently sized discs from each beet. Top with a sprinkling of shallot, cut in very thin rings*, and a small mound of perfectly ripe avocado cubes. Drizzle with high-quality olive oil and a light-colored, sweet vinegar (I used an oak-aged, apple-based “Rocksalmic” vinegar I got recently from Rockridge Orchards, but a golden balsamic would be just as good.) Sprinkle with a generous pinch of smoked salt and a few grinds of fresh black or white pepper. Toast and skin some hazelnuts (or use toasted pecans or walnuts), and chop them coarsely. Sprinkle on top. Serve immediately.

* Some people might find the dark grey color of smoked salt on fresh avocado unappealing, since it winds up looking a lot like the spots that show on overripe avocado. If you want to avoid that, you could add the salt to the beet-and-shallot layer, before adding the rest of the ingredients. I didn’t think to do that, so judge for yourself from the photos whether it’s a problem.

Autumn salad with apple and avocado

6 Nov

After a weekend of super-delicious food that was not super-big on fresh fruits or vegetables, I decided tonight called for a dinner centered around salad.


Red leaf lettuce
1/4 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
Several shavings from a small bulb of fennel
Several very thin slices of white onion
1/4 avocado, sliced
Handful raw pecans, coarsely chopped


2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. canola oil
1-2 Tbsp. agave nectar, to taste
1/2 tsp. finely ground golden flax seed (optional; you can also use some flax or nut oil with the canola)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
1/8 tsp. powdered ginger (or use fresh if you have it)
1/8 tsp. white pepper, ground
pinch salt

Whiz the dressing ingredients together in a mini blender/food processor until homogenized, and taste to adjust for sweetness and spices.

Obviously, salads are the ultimate improv food, so change this up any way you like. Try adding or substituting raw or cooked beets, different nuts, pears or dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds or orange segments, different greens for the lettuce, etc. A little lemon juice or zest in the dressing would be great.


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