“Don’t you want to take that out of there?” My husband looked concerned.
“Nope, it’s good for you!” I assured him.
This is not uncommon – my husband looks over my shoulder while I’m cooking and questions certain ingredients, while I tell him it’s healthy and we should give it a try! I am lucky; he really doesn’t put up a fight. He and I are on the same page when it comes to doing our best to put good things into our bodies. That being said, it is hard in this world where the store is full of all kinds of processed, synthetic, chemical-laden, food-like delicious-ness. We aren’t always perfect, but if we fall off track, we get up again. The only way we lose, is if we quit – and we get multiple times to try each day. Any time we make a choice on what to eat, is an opportunity to take a step towards health, or not. We try not to look at those opportunities as an overwhelming need to make each choice perfect, but as a chance for experimentation and curiosity – a chance to see what works and what makes us feel our best. It really can be an adventure!
So, this time, my husband was concerned that I had left onion peel in the pan along with the onions and garlic. But it was no mistake! I had learned that onion peel has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and that maybe we should reconsider the onion peel as “waste”! I decided to go ahead and cook with onion peel and added some from my discard pile to the pan. I used some of the outer skin that was a layer or two inside, so it was clean, yet full of nutrition. So what was I making?
I love this recipe from thevegan8.com – Vegan Garlic Alfredo Sauce (link here). All of the recipes on her site have around 8 ingredients, which to me sounds like: simple. And since her recipes are at minimum vegan (some are also gluten free, raw, no-bake, etc.), I love a resource that helps me feel like I can actually make a healthy meal and not feel overwhelmed by some complicated recipe. And this one is SO GOOD. The alfredo sauce is made mainly with cashews, onion and garlic, so I enjoyed the rich flavor without the heavy, loaded, blah feeling the original kind tends to give me. It does call for Nutritional Yeast – but don’t let that scare you away! They did not give it a very good name… not very appealing sounding. My husband says it looks like fish food flakes. Ha! BUT it is good for you! I love how this blog explains it: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2011/10/what-the-heck-is-nutritional-yeast.html You can find it at your local health food store (I like to get it in bulk at Whole Foods), and if you can keep an open mind about it, it’s really not that weird. If you want to experiment with vegan recipes, Nutritional Yeast will allow you to give your food a cheesy flavor without the dairy. Here’s the recipe –
- 1 medium white onion, chopped (make sure to measure out 1½ cups (200 g) of chopped onion)
- 1-2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, separated (240-480 mL)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ heaping cup raw whole cashews (75 g, 2.6 oz) (soaked for overnight in hot water if you don't have a high powered blender)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more to your taste, I added a little more, do not omit!)
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (25 g, use less if preferred)
- NOTE: It is not recommended to sub or eliminate any of these ingredients, as I cannot vouch for the results if any are changed. The lemon juice is crucial, as it eliminates any cashew flavor.
- Also, if you don't have a high powered blender like a Vitamix, it is crucial to pre-soak the cashews so they soften and the sauce ends up smooth and creamy, and not gritty. Drain them and rinse after soaking.
- Add the onion and ONLY 1 cup of the broth to a large pan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 8 minutes until the onion is very tender. (Add a tiny bit more broth if it is cooking too fast or turn the heat down, so the onions don't burn) After several minutes, add the garlic and cook a couple of minutes more. All of the broth should have evaporated by now. If not, keep letting it cook until the broth has evaporated. You don't want any more liquid once it's done cooking, so the end result is thick and creamy.
- Add the cooked veggies (the onion and garlic) to a blender. Start out by just adding ¾ cup more of the remaining broth and add the remaining ingredients (salt, pepper, cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast). Blend on high for a couple of minutes until very creamy and smooth. Add any more broth to reach desired consistency, if necessary. Taste and add any more salt & pepper, if desired. If you're feeling adventurous, you can add in a tablespoon of vegan butter.
- Serve over preferred pasta. Garnish with parsley, lemon zest and salt & pepper, if desired. Add any veggies you like. I like to add roasted bell peppers and broccoli or even peas. Store leftovers in the fridge. The sauce will thicken up even more overnight, which you can thin out a little with a touch of broth when reheating, if desired.
My only variation was adding a few onion peels to the pan while cooking the onions and garlic – then I decided to go ahead and leave them in since I’d be blending everything up anyway. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, if the peels would blend well enough or not. I figured, hey, how will I ever know if I don’t give it a try? I was happy to find out: it turned out great! The peels blended smoothly in with the cashews (which I boiled since I didn’t have time to soak them), onions and garlic – nothing tasted any different, you couldn’t tell they were there! But knowing we got a little extra kick of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory benefit from the onion peel was a wonderful bonus… and my husband loves this sauce! Strange ingredients and all. We used our sauce on some Butternut Squash Ravioli with some tomatoes on top – what will you try this healthy alfredo sauce with?