Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vegan Vixen

My friend Emily inspires me. Not only is she at the top of her game mentally, physically and spiritually in her early twenties and seemingly wise beyond her years, she has always been a role model to me in the way she cares for her body as a temple. When we met we shared a common love of food and would spend lunch hours at our place of work scouring local  menus to find the most interesting and tasty things. Our favorite place for lunch at the time was a small natural cafe/store in Palm Desert called Health Nutz where we could order earthy sandwiches and soups to go full of nuts, seeds, hummus, sprouts and avocado. We mutually fell in love with Native Foods when we discovered their amazing way with tempeh and peanut sauce.We were also on a perpetual search for the best sushi and agreed that when it came to fusion food, we loved Tropicale in Palm Springs. Always on the search for new foods, we formed a relationship based on taste.

A few months ago, Emily went entirely vegan and I feared that I would lose my friend to the annals of raw vegetables and rabbit food. I feared that the character of her palate would lose its adventure. Boy, did she prove me wrong when mere weeks after her non-meat ways took hold, she started to send me photos of the creative and exquisite meals she was making for herself nightly that rivaled all steak and chicken entrees in both their heartiness and flavor mixtures.

She explained to me that she is conscientious of what she eats, ensuring that everything she consumes will be positive for her body, her environment, and her soul. Making thoughtful, delicious meals gives her something special that she can do for herself everyday.

She explains, "Being vegan, forces me to be more creative, finding ways to spice up each meal while getting all of the necessary nutrition. Finding a satisfactory substitute for meat is an especially fun challenge, but something you can always turn to is squash. It is a simple, but hearty, substitute that works exceptionally well in the Fall and Winter months. In this recipe, it pairs well with the rustic flavors of brussels sprouts, nuts and figs to creates a sweet yet organic taste that, though an unlikely combination, is truly delicious."

I will be turning to Emily for delicious vegan meals in this column every once in a while, curious to see how her dive into the fire and her innate creativity will produce delicious and healthy meatless meals that are not only fortifying, but pieces on artwork on the plate!

Brussels Sprout stuffed Butternut Squash with Tomato Herb Cous Cous
Serves 2

1 whole Butternut squash, halved length-wise and seeded
3 cups Brussels sprouts
1 cup Cashews
1 1/2 cup figs
4 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tsp Garlic Salt
1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1 cup Cous cous
5 Basil Leaves, finely chopped
4 Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp Garlic Powder

Preheat oven to 400°F

First, Get that cous cous ready! Follow package directions to prepare cous cous. Approximately halfway through cooking time, sprinkle with garlic powder. With 2 minutes left in cook time, mix in cherry tomatoes in Basil to give them a little heat. Keep the lid off.
Meanwhile, drizzle cut-sides of squash with 1 Tbsp of olive oil each and sprinkle with Cinnamon. Lay cut-side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Once the squash is in the oven, steam or boil the brussel sprouts in a medium pot lightly, just to soften. Once soft, cut the brussels sprouts into quarters and figs into quarters. Heat 2 Tbsp Olive oil in a sautee pan. Add brussels sprouts and figs. Lightly season lightly with red chili pepper flakes, garlic salt, and nutritional yeast. Pan fry until brussels sprouts are a nice golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Remove the squash from the oven, but do not turn the oven off. Flip the squash halves over and stuff the cores with your brussels sprout, fig and cashew goodness. Put the filled squash back into the oven until both are crispy and browned. The squash is done when the flesh is fork tender and easily pulled away from the skin.
Garnish plate with slices of avocado and voilĂ !

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