Color Splash Chard Salad. BBQ Shiitakes, Tofu & Quesadillas

Get ready for the New Year by making this vibrant chard salad! I think 2013 is going to bring this new trend in my kitchen: raw chard salads. Is chard the new kale? (OK, they both rock as super greens.)

This Color Splash Raw Chard Salad is perky and fresh with ribbons of freshly chopped swiss chard, plunged in ice cold water to re-awaken the leaves. After I tossed the chard salad with a maple-lemon-cider-pepper dressing I added in some veggies like bell pepper and radish. Sweet apple and walnuts too. Diced avocado to line the bowl. Over top the raw greens I added BBQ sauteed shiitake mushrooms all spicy and tender - steaming hot from the pan. Then some tofu triangles and crispy-edged triangles of cheezy quesadillas to garnish the bowl. Dive into deliciousness - fork first! And dive into health for the 2013!..


Vanilla Berry Smoothie + Walnuts and Cayenne. After the holiday..

December 26th. Well, now what? For the last two months it seems like holiday festivities have consumed a large part of my brain. And though New Year's Eve awaits us, today, a large sigh of relief exits my lips.

Today I woke to what feels like the day after a big, joyful party. I feel a little tired. (OK, a lot tired, actually) A bit sad. And a bit blissful, still tipsy on all the happy moments that happened over the past few days.

And yes, I checked off a few things on my 39 Ways to Have the Best Winter Ever list.

So this morning, I started slowly, easing myself into work and made a revitalizing Vanilla-Berry Smoothie. Sweet and creamy, with accents of almond, walnut and a dash of cayenne too. Get my recipe and I share some holiday pics..


39 Ways (And Recipes) to Have the Best Winter Ever!

So you survived the Apocalypse (again!) and now winter has officially swept its frosty fingertips across the sky, ushering in crisp arctic breezes, dancing snowflakes (maybe) and at least a few days where puffy warm scarves are a must. And now we all have no choice but to embrace this season of "Brrrrrrr!"

But guess what, that is nothing to fear at all. In fact this winter is going to be your BEST winter ever! Yup. All you have to do are a few things. Read on to get my 39 Ways to Have the Best Winter Season Ever!..


Sugar 'n Spice Dipped Pumpkin Pretzels. Sweet Orange Glazed.

These Sugar 'n Spice Dipped, Giant Soft Pumpkin Pretzels are just begging to be pulled apart and gobbled up. They are drizzled in sticky-sweet orange glaze too. Accents of citrus and cinnamon in each warm and chewy bite.

This sweet treat is the perfect companion to a tall steamy cup of hot cocoa. If you have never made giant soft pretzels and want to learn how - or maybe you are already a soft pretzel fan - give this recipe a try!..


Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf. "Sugar Plum Fairy Bread"

This moist and fluffy Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf with accents of citrus, spice and sparkly sugar crystals on top gets the nickname of "Sugar Plum Fairy Bread" for the holidays. I call it this because (reason one, I love The Nutcracker Ballet.) And two, because it is just so sweet and lovely - the aroma dances through the air as you bake it.

Instead of "plums" I've included plenty of sweet dried cranberries. And for fairy dust, there is a sprinkling of sparkly raw demerara sugar crystals over top the loaf. This pumpkin-filled bread is perfect paired with some hot soy cocoa or afternoon cup of tea. This recipe would also be lovely baked into pumpkin muffins! Get my recipe!..


Brownie-Peppermint Stick Shake. Dairy-Free. + Salad'tude Winner!!

This vegan, holiday Brownie-Peppermint Stick Shake is pretty dreamy. Creamy, cool peppermint ice cream is blended to a soft texture and layered with thick, rich chunks of vegan brownies. Dig your spoon into this decadent dessert!

Peppermint Stick
ice cream was always my favorite as a kid, so this easy vegan version really makes me glow around the holidays. Get my recipe + find out the winner of my "Show Me Your Salad'tude" Contest!..


Homemade Holiday Granola Recipes. Plus 5 Gifting Tips!

Last week I was on a homemade granola kick! I think I whipped up about ten bags of the blissful stuff to both give as gifts and to enjoy for myself. After my first batch I was addicted to that warm, cozy, spiced aroma that wafted through the house as the granola slowly baked in the oven. And once you realize how easy and delicious homemade granola is to make, it is really hard to stop yourself from making it and experimenting with new flavors every chance you get! The combination possibilities are endless.

Homemade granola is a perfect holiday gift because not only can you customize the flavor to suit whatever ingredients you have on hand or like best, but it is a gift that comes from your own two hands. And that is always something very special.

Dive into my homemade granola recipes and get your house smelling amazing! Skip the crowded shopping malls and stay home and make granola with some Christmas music or movies playing in the background. (Sounds good to me!)..


Citrus & Spice Tea Banana Bread. Bigelow Tea.

This Citrus & Spice Banana Bread is infused with "Constant Comment"® black tea from Bigelow. Warm and cozy, this moist tea bread is perfect to serve around the holiday season. Get the recipe and enter my Bigelow Tea giveaway!..


Spicy BBQ Chick'n Salad. Butternut Cubes. Sizzling Onions. Citrus.

Distracted by a salad. That was my afternoon. But this Vegan BBQ Chick'n Butternut Salad was totally worth the lunchtime pause in my day.

Crispy Gardein tenders are piled over top skillet-hot, black-peppered, sizzling sweet onions, tender cubes of butternut squash, a sprinkle of raw pumpkin seeds, juicy satsuma mandarin orange rings and sweet dried cranberries - all on a crisp bed of freshly chopped romaine lettuce. Then a tangy, spicy-sweet BBQ sauce dressing is drizzled over top, brightening all the flavors and textures to make them pop! Get this recipe and swoon over these BBQ flavors..


Vegan Pigs in a Blanket Party Plate! aka, "I Love Pigs. In a Blanket."

I give you Pigs in a Blanket - traditionally made with buttery crescent rolls, melted cheddar cheese and a warm toasty, savory hot dog bundled inside. Well YES "Pigs in a Blanket" can be made vegan! This is a quickie post with a party recipe you just have to try to believe!..


Mac and Cheeseless Pasta. Baked.

This Mac and Cheeseless Pasta is pretty dreamy. Editing these photos, all I wanted to do was take a dive, face first, into this cheezy deliciousness. Luckily, I had plenty of leftover cheezy mac in my fridge. And lucky for you, if you want to try this bowl for yourself, the recipe is pretty simple. No, it does not taste exactly like real dairy-containing "Mac and Cheese" but maybe even better! Nutritional yeast cravings DO exist!

Today's recipe uses nutritional yeast, sweet potato, butternut squash, olive-oil-roasted garlic, a touch of Earth Balance and more to give it a rich, creamy, buttery, cheezy, savory flavor to crave. Take it one step more and bake your pasta into pure fluffy bliss..


Holiday Smoothie Recipes from the North Pole. Green, Red & Nog.

How in the world does Santa Claus do it? All those presents in one night? And how do those tiny elves make all those presents? And how does a gentle, tiny reindeer like Rudolph (and his friends) hull that giant, heavy, present-carrying sleigh .. even through thick fog or a blizzard-ish snowstorm?

Some call it Christmas magic. But I know the real secret. Juice! Now it all makes perfect sense..

A freshly blended green smoothie for Santa, sweet and spicy nog "elf juice" and even a red blend for the thirsty reindeer named Rudolph. Get these three delicious holiday smoothie recipes (whole food sips made with a blender - thin textured style smoothies) and even a swanky, cinnamon-spiced sip from Mrs. Claus too..


Fudgey Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies.

These Fudgey Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies have two distinct qualities. They are vegan. And they are made with a black bean base. But I dare not call them black bean brownies in my house, since a few of the people who tried them and LOVED them .... hate beans of all kinds. Hopefully my bean-hating husband will still eat these brownies after reading this post :)

So long story short, even if you think black bean brownies sound crazy weird .. give this recipe a try! You may be surprised.

These super fudgey brownies are topped with a generous swirl of velvet-y peanut butter, some crunchy walnuts and vegan chocolate chips. I enjoyed these brownies straight from the oven all gooey and soft. But they also keep quite well in the fridge. Just warm before serving. These would make a perfect chocolate-lovers' addition to your holiday treat table too!..


Allison's Gourmet Review!

Vegan confections like peanut butter cups and elegant gourmet truffles are a delicious idea for a holiday gift - for just about anyone .. vegan or not! Check out my review of Allison's Gourmet and enter to win a $25 gift card good towards any purchase in Allison's online store. See why Allison holds the title: "Maven of Mmmmmmm..."


My Salad'tude Contest: 15 Finalists! VOTE on a Winner!

This was hard. Really, really hard! I received an inbox filled with amazing, creative, inspiring, hilarious and clever "Show Me Your Salad'tude" Contest entries this past month. I don't know how I did it, but I somehow narrowed it down to fifteen finalists. And now I need your help! Help me vote on a winner!!

This is like the X Factor, the American Idol, The Voice, Dancing with the .. Salads? of SALAD contests. Your vote helps decide who will be the very lucky grand prize winner of a Napa Valley Culinary Adventure Getaway - from the wonderful folks at Dole Salads. This grand prize is worth over $6,000..

So please take a minute to check out these beautiful finalists and help me out by voting on your favorite entry! The 15 finalists are...


Christmas Tree Salad. Pomegranate. Pecans. Raw Chard.

I had no intentions of making this raw chard ribbon salad a "Christmas Tree" Salad. It was just going to be a holiday salad. Until I piled it into my bowl and watched as it formed a peaked tower that resembled a decked out holiday tree.

Complete with shiny red pomegranate "lights" - glossy grape bulbs - twinkly satsuma ornaments - and then I needed a star on top...

..sprouted grain toast star it was!

So my holiday salad turned into an edible tree..

This Christmas Tree Holiday Salad will fill your holiday season table with cheer! And healthy-deliciousness too. Dive in. Twinkly lights not needed for this shiny-fabulous tree..

Shopping Tip. Make sure you buy organic, super fresh chard since it is your main ingredient! Look for perky green leaves with plenty of "bounce" in their movement. Wash and pat dry your chard leaves very well.

Nutrition Bonus!
This salad is filled with healthy things. Those pomegranate seeds are loaded with antioxidants. The pecans are rich in healthy fats and minerals. The chard is loaded with vitamins and minerals - including even more free radical fighting antioxidants. The citrus is rich in vitamin C. The dried fruit and pretty much all of the ingredients are rich in fiber.

And in case you didn't notice, this salad is DELICIOUS even though it has no oil added. The only fat comes built in from those crunchy raw pecans.

Christmas Tree Salad - aka Raw Chard Pecan Pom Salad
makes about 6-7 cups

1 bunch organic swiss chard (red or green will work) - rinsed well + sliced into thin ribbons
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (about the amount from from 1 medium pomegranate)
3/4 cup frozen red globe grapes, sliced*
2 satsuma mandarin oranges, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/4-1/2 cup chopped pecans, raw
2 Tbsp dried cranberries (or another dried fruit like dried golden raisins or even chopped dates!) - organic
1 small honeycrisp apple, organic - chopped

*tip: those frozen grapes help to keep the salad nice and cool for you and your holiday guests! I simply freeze the grapes, then right before I slice and toss with the salad, I run them under warm to hot water to quickly "thaw" the outside layer. This washes off any ice crystals too. It also seems to easily release lots of sweet grape flavor!

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B
1/3 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp fine black pepper
1/8 tsp coriander
a pinch of cayenne (optional, but warms up things nicely)
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
a few pinches of satsuma orange zest

(feel free to use your own seasonings as desired as well - or use your own favorite dressing.)

star topper: 1 slice of toast (I used sprouted grain)

Other optional ingredients that would be fabulous: pear, avocado, dates, bell pepper, corn, grains like quinoa or brown rice, beans, tomatoes, diced roasted squash or sweet potato ...... gosh, pretty much anything yummy would be beautiful in this salad!

Directions: Simply prep all your ingredients and toss them with the dressing/spices in a large bowl. Toss and mix very well since this will help to distribute the flavors and infuse the chard with flavor. You can serve right away or chill in the fridge for up to 12 hours in advance before serving. Any longer and your chard will begin to get a bit soft. Serve raw and chilled. Top it! For the "star" tree topper, simply toast any slice of bread and using either your knife (free-hand) or a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out a toast star to top the tree salad.