The Path To Wicked Healthy Holidays

Try these celebratory recipes from a pair of "plant-pushing" chefs.

By IDEA Authors
Nov 10, 2016

Diet, schmiet. Here’s the deal: We’re chefs and brothers who find common ground in what we like to call the “wicked healthy” culinary arts.

We like them so much we developed our own Wicked Healthy Food brand, which we define as food that’s good for you, but tastes so good you think it must be bad for you. Our diet philosophy is simple: Shoot for 80% healthy and 20% wicked and you’ll be 100% sexy. Maybe that means eating 80% healthy and 20% wicked at every meal, like having a breakfast bowl of oatmeal with cranberries and pecans (all healthy), then topping it with a drizzle of coconut cream and maple syrup (both wicked in the best way).

Or maybe it means eating healthy during the week, then cutting loose on the weekends. You have to figure out what kind of 80/20 approach works best for you. The Wicked Healthy path is not about strict dieting. At least, it’s not about the kind of dieting in which you starve yourself, feel miserable for weeks and then go back to whatever you were eating before. Being wicked healthy is about taking control, having fun in the kitchen and putting real food on your plate every day.

We want you to be healthy because healthy people are full of life. They’re upbeat, confident and energetic. We want you to eat more vegetables—especially the green ones. We’d prefer it if they were organic and maybe even local. And most important, we want your food to taste great.

So, go easy on added sugars, saturated fats and salt. Eat lots of fruit. Make an effort to move around every day. And use your brain. Stay on the Wicked Healthy path, and understand you’re going to wander off the trail and go out to eat every now and then. Maybe just think through what you’re ordering a little more mindfully.

We know from experience that healthy eating is not about starvation or choking down food that tastes terrible. For us, it’s about celebrating what tastes great in the world of plants. How about serving a spread of Beyond Stuffed Avocados at your next holiday party? Yes, please! Or indulging in a slice of Rich Chocolate Torte with black-cherry sorbet for dessert? Now we’re talkin’. Both avocados and chocolate have proven health benefits. Eat them!

We’re all about celebrating what you should be eating, not shunning what you shouldn’t. We’re plant pushers, not meat shamers. Face it, we all indulge on occasion, and that’s just fine. Forget the low-calorie processed foods and frozen “diet” meals. Serve up some satisfying Wicked Healthy dishes this holiday season for your friends, your family and yourself.

Artichoke Spinach Crostini

crostini

So you like creamy, rich spinach artichoke dip? Here it is reimagined, Wicked Healthy—style. We up the spinach and artichokes, skip the fatty mayo and sour cream, and serve it on toast brushed with garlic oil. Creaminess comes from Kite Hill™, our favorite maker of plant-based cream cheese.

8 oz baby spinach leaves

⅓ C olive oil

1 T minced fresh garlic

1 baguette (about 8 oz), preferably whole wheat

coarse sea salt and ground black pepper

1 can (13 oz) quartered artichoke hearts, drained

1 container (8 oz) Kite Hill plain or chive plant-based cream cheese

¼ C small fresh basil leaves

Set up a steam basket over simmering water. Add spinach to basket and steam spinach just until slightly wilted, 1–3 minutes. Remove basket from heat and let spinach cool. When it is cool, use your hands to squeeze out excess water. Set spinach aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small sauté pan or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and heat gently just until the oil is infused with the aroma of garlic, 3–5 minutes. Keep heat low so garlic does not brown. Remove pan from heat and set garlic oil aside.

Use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of garlic oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the baguette on a diagonal into finger-width slices. Arrange bread slices evenly on the baking sheet. Paint the top of each slice with garlic oil, then sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, 8–10 minutes. Keep the toasts a little soft in the center, not hard as crackers; remember that after you pull them out of the oven, the crostini will continue to crisp up a little more.

Meanwhile, put the drained artichokes in a small bowl. Pour in 1 T of garlic oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat the chokes.

With all the components in front of you, begin to build each crostini: Smear a dollop of cream cheese onto the toasted bread; top with a layer of spinach, one artichoke quarter and a garnish of basil. You can leave small basil leaves whole or cut large ones into thin ribbons (chiffonade).

Even better: Replace the canned artichoke hearts with 13 ounces of freshly steamed and quartered artichoke hearts.

Makes 16–20 pieces.

Beyond Stuffed Avocados

avocados

Now here’s some satisfying party food. Fill avocado halves with creamy Wicked Healthy Cheez Sauce, bake them just until the sauce is hot and gooey, then top each serving with shredded plant-based Beyond Chicken® and a topping of fresh pico de gallo salsa. Set it all out and your party guests will be wicked happy! To get a jump on prep, make the cheese sauce up to a week ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. If you’re in a real rush, you could even replace the pico de gallo with some fresh salsa from the cold case at your market. And if you’re having a smaller gathering, just cut the entire recipe in half.

2 packages (18 oz total) frozen Beyond

Meat Beyond Chicken® Grilled Strips

1 T chili powder

1 T ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

2½ t flake salt such as Maldon®, divided

1 t ground black pepper

3 limes, juiced

4 large tomatoes, diced small

1 small red onion (or ½ large), diced small

1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1½ bunches cilantro leaves

10 avocados, halved lengthwise, seed removed and scored

2 C cold Wicked Healthy Cheez Sauce (recipe below)

¼ C Ninja Squirrel Sriracha or other Sriracha sauce

Microwave the Beyond Chicken for 1 minute to warm it up, which makes shredding it easier. When warm, pull it with your fingers or a fork into thin shreds. Chopping won’t give you the same texture. When pulled, set aside.

Heat a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic, 1 t of salt and all the black pepper. Cook for 1 minute, shaking pan once or twice. Add pulled Beyond Chicken and press into pan with spatula, stirring and pressing often to get a good crispy char on it. When charred, squeeze in the juice of ½ lime and scrape the pan bottom to collect all that good flavor. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now, prep the pico de gallo salsa: In a small bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and the juice of the remaining 2½ limes. Chop 1 bunch of the cilantro leaves and stir into the salsa along with 1 t of salt.

Halve the avocados lengthwise, remove the pits and score the flesh in a crosshatch pattern down to the peel. Assemble the scored avocado halves on a sheet pan.

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Spoon the cold sauce into each avocado, spreading the avocados gently to ease the sauce into the cuts (try not to drip any over the edges). Bake until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully spoon 1–2 T of charred Beyond Chicken onto each avocado, then spoon on 1–2 T of salsa.

Top with a squirt of Sriracha (as much as you want) and a few fresh cilantro leaves. Garnish with remaining salt flakes.

Makes 20 stuffed avocado halves.

Wicked Healthy Cheez Sauce

cheezsauce

This is it: the plant-based sauce to rule them all. Mix it with elbow pasta for a plant-based take on macaroni and cheese. Spoon it over roasted broccoli; or add cumin, chili powder, jalapeños and cilantro to make a Mexican queso dip for tortilla chips. Look for nutritional yeast in health food stores. It adds a ton of umami taste to the sauce.

1 C raw cashews

1 C chopped carrots

1 C whole garlic cloves

1 T rice vinegar

2 C unsweetened soymilk

2 T white miso

2 T nutritional yeast

1 T kosher salt

1 t finely ground black pepper

½ t ground white pepper

½ t smoked paprika

¼ t cayenne pepper

Cover cashews in water and soak overnight. Drain.

Put soaked cashews, carrots, garlic and vinegar in a medium sauce pan. Add water to cover (4–5 C), and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until everything is super soft and “smushable,” 10–15 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain and rinse (yes, rinse!). Pour solid ingredients into a high-speed blender, and start blending low and slow. Increase the speed and gradually add soymilk. When soymilk is fully incorporated, add remaining ingredients and blend on high until super smooth, 3–5 minutes. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Makes 2 quarts.

Dirty Carrots

dirtycarrots

One day, we got this idea of serving carrots on something that looked like dirt. After sipping some morning coffee, we realized that spent coffee grounds were just the thing. The earthy taste of coffee perfectly complements the sweet taste of carrots. Just save about 3 days’ worth of spent coffee grounds and store them in the fridge for this tasty side dish. You can even use decaf.

1 lb carrots, scrubbed, not peeled

1 T olive oil

about 3 C spent coffee grounds

½ C coarse sea salt

10–12 large fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Heat oven to 450ºF.

Put whole carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Massage in the oil until the carrots are well coated.

In a small bowl, mix coffee grounds and salt. Scatter this “coffee dirt” all over the carrots until they are completely covered.

Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250ºF, then continue roasting until the carrots are cooked through but still a little crunchy, another 30–45 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let cool until warm. Wipe off most of the coffee dirt, leaving some on for a dirty look. Garnish with parsley leaves to look like carrot tops. To plate these, you can put some coffee dirt on the bottom of the plates or on a big platter so it looks like you just pulled the carrots from the dirt.

Makes 6–8 servings.

Option: For an additional blast of flavor and a little heat, add 2–3 T of your favorite diced chili peppers. We like to use the power punch from Thai chili peppers.

Italian Escarole Soup

escarole

We grew up in an Italian family, and this soup was served at almost every holiday and wedding. It screams Celebration! If you like this traditional dish, you’ll love our plant-based version. And if you’ve never had it before, welcome to some amazing Italian comfort food, Wicked Healthy–style. Two secrets to success here: Better Than Bouillon® Vegetarian No Chicken Base and Beyond Meat Beyond Beef® Italian Meatballs. Look for them both in health food stores.

1 package (9 oz) Beyond Beef Italian
Meatballs

3 T good olive oil, plus some for garnish

½ C diced white onion

½ C diced carrots

½ C diced celery

1 head escarole, rinsed and rough-chopped (about 6 cups)

3 qts plant-based chicken broth (such as Better Than Bouillon) or vegetable broth

6–8 oz stelline (star-shaped pasta), acini de pepe or other small pasta

1 can (14 oz) small white beans, drained and rinsed

sea salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375ºF. Put meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet, coat with cooking spray, and shake pan to coat evenly. Bake until browned all over, 15–20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool, halve each meatball.

Warm the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery, and sauté until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in escarole and cook until wilted, 3–4 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium high, and pour in the stock. Bring to a simmer. Add the pasta, return to a simmer and cook until the pasta is tender, 5–7 minutes.

Add the beans and halved meatballs, and simmer for a few minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and drizzle some good olive oil over each serving.

Makes 8–10 servings.

Rich Chocolate Torte

chocolatetorte

We’re chocoholics. And why not? The stuff is full of healthy antioxidants. And it’s the perfect way to finish a meal. This chocolate torte is for fans of seriously rich, decadent, sexy, intensely flavored desserts. We love it with a scoop of black-cherry sorbet and raspberry sauce—or simply a glass of port.

Crust:

1½ C raw pecans

¼ C maple sugar or other dark

granulated sugar

¼ t fine sea salt

½ t ground cinnamon

¼ t chipotle powder

Filling:

½ C raw (not roasted) almond butter

½ C date paste (see Note below)

½ C agave nectar or maple syrup

3 T coconut butter (solid coconut oil)

1½ T tamari

1 C cocoa powder, plus some for dusting

1 t vanilla extract

about 1 C filtered water

For crust: Put all crust ingredients into a food processor, and process until very finely chopped but not puréed into a paste. The pecans can turn into nut butter, so use short pulses to process the mixture to a consistency similar to a graham cracker crust.
Press the crust mixture into a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Use your palm and fingers to make sure it’s pressed in well, especially around the edges. Set aside.

For filling: Put all filling ingredients into a food processor or high-speed blender. Process or blend until very smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Mixture should be thick, but if it’s too thick to blend, add a touch more water. Blend until smooth.

Pour and scrape chocolate filling into crust, smoothing the top with a spatula.
Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes, or refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut the tart into 12 wedges. Dust plates with cocoa powder and top with a torte wedge.

Note: To make ½ cup date paste, blend ½ cup pitted Medjool or other dates with enough water to make an almost pourable, thick, honey-like consistency. You’ll need roughly ½ cup water, depending on the moisture content of your dates.

Makes 12 servings.

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