I received Terry Walters’ “Clean Start” Cookbook” for my birthday & became instantly obsessed! Even though I really didn’t need ANOTHER cookbook, the focus on simple, wholesome, vegan recipes grabbed my attention & on my wish list it went.
I’ve been really trying to clean up my diet. As we all know, being “vegan” doesn’t always equate to being “healthy,” & while I do err on the healthier side, I often fall into the trap of quick fix convenience foods, indulgent sweet treats, & highly processed vegan cheeses & meats. I went through a pretty big transition recently & the stress of it certainly veered me off my healthier course. Lack of time meant less yoga, exercise, & preparing fresh produce rich meals. Wine, vegan pizza, & Amy’s Dairy Free Rice Mac & Cheese became staples. In turn I began feeling sluggish, irritable, & overwhelmed. While life change has a lot to do with it, I also know that my diet played a large part. After I moved & got settled into a new house, rejoined my CSA, & made it a mission to get back on track. With a fresh start in a new space, it was time to refresh my diet..enter “Clean Start.”
In her follow-up to the acclaimed “Clean Food,” with “Clean Start” Walters shares 100 recipes that are that are vegan & gluten free, with an emphasis on farm-fresh, locally grown, & seasonal ingredients. I am a huge proponent of seasonal eating, & the more local & organic, the better! The book begins with some “basic” tips, ingredients & techniques that will be used throughout & jumps right into spring! Perfect timing for me as spring had just sprung!
This first recipe I made from this book, & one of the first meals I cooked in my new little kitchen was this hearty “Kale, Sweet Potato, & White Bean Soup.”
Mind you, this was back in March & we had a couple of storms & a few really cold (for San Diego) nights. My heater was broken for the 1st two weeks I was in the new house. I am renting a nearly 100 year old craftsman, with single pane windows, wood floors & no insulation. And I was COLD. If it weren’t for a warm snuggle Pug & a pot of soup on the stove, who knows how I would’ve survived those first few nights?!
The beauty of this soup is that it is comprised of things I always have on hand – kale, sweet potato, beans, celery, onion, vegetable stock, ginger & nutmeg. And I’d recently begun soaking & cooking my own beans as opposed to buying them canned (***Walters gives a wonderful tutorial for preparing “Basic Legumes” in the book). This wholesome soup is wonderful for that winter-spring transition. Hearty & satisfying while fresh & flavorful. Serve it with a wedge of rustic bread for dipping!
Can you believe that the next recipe I made was also soup?Like I said it was cold back in March, so this “Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Soup” came a calling when cauliflower came blooming into the markets.
Obviously, I love soup, & crazy as it may sound to some, I happen to love cauliflower too. But it wasn’t love at first bite. To me, raw cauliflower tastes like musty socks smell, & steamed it’s just boring & bland. But roasted? That is where the true magic happens. I remember the first time I roasted cauliflower. It was like, whoa! Who knew? Paired with roasted garlic & sea salt & what’s not to love? This soup turned out much thicker than I’d anticipated, almost like a puree, but was still super tasty. I might add just a bit more broth on the next go ‘round for a creamier version. It’s a wonderfully comforting recipe for those spring evenings when the air still has a bit of a frosty bite.
As suggested, I paired the soup with the “Festive Quinoa with Apricots & Orange Zest.” It was vibrant & flavorful featuring red quinoa, sweet dried apricots & fresh bursts of citrus, mint, basil, crisp fennel, & pine nuts.
I love a quinoa salad & often have some sort of variation in my fridge at all times. I made this twice, since I loved it so much! It’s simple to make, keeps well, & pairs nicely as a side to a variety of main dishes. This would make a perfect potluck/picnic salad too!
Next up: “Asparagus with Miso Lemon Dressing & Marcona Almonds.” This dish has me at hello. I love asparagus & it’s abundance at the markets is a sure sign of spring. I jump for joy at the sight of them. I also enjoy the robust flavor of miso, which added so much life to the mild asparagus. What’s more, Marcona almonds are my absolute favorite nut, next to the cashew of course!
Asparagus, miso, & marcona alomds, an unexpected marriage, but the relationship works. I served it over a bed of mixed rice, to give it just a bit more substance. Yum, yum. Simple, fresh & slightly savory.
Since we vegans are known kale enthusiasts, no vegan cookbook would be complete without a kale salad! I have a steady supply of kale on had at all times. A bunch for juicing, a bunch for steaming as a side dish, & a bunch for a crunchy raw kale salad. I usually toss in whatever I have on hand from the CSA – carrots, beets, radish, apples, you name it. This “Raw Kale Confetti Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds” isn’t far off from something would make on my own, but it’s always helpful to have a guide.
Avocado, sea salt, fresh ginger, & a touch of olive oil are used as the dressing/marinade that gets massaged into the salad to tenderize the leaves. Once tender, onion, red pepper, carrots, & sunflower seeds are tossed in. The salad is then drizzled with lemon & lime juices adding a bit of acidity. I also had some red quinoa left over from my previous quinoa salad, so I added that in as well too boost the protein content.
Last, but most certainly not least, are the “Chewy Chocolate Macaroons” that I’ve made at least 1/2 a dozen times. Oh yes, just because this book focuses on “clean eating,” it doesn’t mean you have to always skip dessert, & let me tell you: THESE ARE HEAVEN.
I love chocolate. I love coconut. I love chewy, chocolately coconut macaroons! During my first attempt at making these, I made the mistake of getting a sweetened shredded coconut & lite coconut milk. While they tasted great, they flattened out & were a little too chewy. For the next attempted I used the finely shredded Organic Unsweetened Coconut from Edward & Sons. I was wary about using the super fine coconut shreds, but these worked perfectly. Out of the oven came beautifully round pillows of choco-coconut goodness.
The recipe is oh-so-simple – combine coconut milk, melted chocolate (make sure it’s vegan, & preferably fair trade!) maple syrup, almond extract, & sea salt – mix, scoop, bake, & devour. Seriously, blink & they’re gone. They last maybe 2 days around here (& I live alone) so I only make them for special occasions where they will be shared. Oh, & also…go for the full fat coconut milk. There really is no need to try to spare calories here. Indulge.
So that is just a snippet of what this book has to offer. I made a few other recipes – “Seared Tempeh with Dried Cherries & Pine Nuts over Arugula,” &“Mixed Spring Greens with Currants & Pepitas” which were also wonderful, & wanted to make many more – “Polenta Pizzas,” “Spring Dips,” & “Seared Artichokes with Lemon & Capers,” etc., but time & resources didn’t allow. With summer right around the corner, & a whole new chapter of seasonal recipes to prepare & enjoy, you can bet that I’ll be posting “Clean Start, Summer Edition!”
If you’re looking for inspiration to clean up your diet, & eat simply & seasonally this book is a must!