Category Archives: perfect

Gluten-Free, Apple Cupcakes Taste Divine With Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

You’re going to flip your lid when you bite into one of these moist, tasty apple cupcakes. They contain both applesauce and grated apples, so they’re ultra-dense and rich. Grocery stores carry a variety of different vegan cream cheese products, but our go-to favorite is Kite Hill. It’s a bit spendy compared to other brands, but worth every penny. These muffins are perfect for the holidays, since they contain cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Heavenly!

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS
2 cups gluten-free pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup avocado oil
1 cup grated apple, lightly packed

FROSTING INGREDIENTS

8 ounces vegan cream cheese (such as Kite Hill)
3/4 cup organic powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger (try it fresh for a flavor kick!)
1/3 teaspoon powdered nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Stir them together thoroughly and set the bowl aside. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate, smaller bowl. Slowly pour them into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients, stirring until you’ve formed a nice batter. The texture should be smooth but not runny. Add the grated apple and stir for a little while longer.

Pour batter into cupcake tins. You can either place paper liners in the tin, or grease them with vegan butter or extra avocado oil. If you choose the latter option, don’t use too much oil, because these cupcakes will be dense and moist. Place the tin in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and allow them to cool for approximately 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whip up the frosting by combining all ingredients and whisking them until they’re smooth and creamy. Spread the frosting along the top of each cupcake, swirling until the surface is smooth. If you can restrain yourself, allow the frosting to set for a few more minutes before you dig in.

Makes twelve cupcakes. Try to avoid eating them all at once. The cupcakes won’t rise much while baking, so they’ll be small. Yet they pack a wallop, so be careful! Needless to say, the addition of so much sugar means that these cupcakes are not a great diet food. But it’s the holiday season, so who cares? You can make your resolutions next year.

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Our Vegan, Gluten-Free Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie is a Winter Feast

Brrrrrr! It’s getting cold outside, and we’re craving comfort food! Shepherd’s Pie is an excellent meal for these chilly nights. It’s packed full of lentils and potatoes, combined with mushrooms and spinach, and served on top of gluten-free breadcrumbs. We made this hearty offering as a main dish for our recent Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s also perfect for the December holidays. You’ll feel pleasantly full in no time, ready to brave the cold winds.

INGREDIENTS

8 russet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine, such as Earth Balance
1/2 cup rice milk
Sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a bit of leftover liquid
2 tablespoons dry red wine (optional)
1-2 tablespoons tamari (Don’t use soy sauce, as it contains wheat)
2 tablespoons seasoning blend (We used Bragg, with great results)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup spinach or arugula leaves
1 cup fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs
Dried oregano for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

Boil the potatoes until soft and remove the skins. Mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the rice milk and vegan butter or margarine. Cover your mixture and set aside.

Sauté the onions in olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Cast iron is best. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and mushrooms and continue sautéing until they are golden and the mushrooms are cooked through, but not mushy.

Add the lentils and their liquid and simmer. Stir in the optional wine, tamari, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook for about five minutes on medium heat, then add cornstarch. Toss in spinach and cook until the leaves are just beginning to wilt. Continue stirring until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Scatter the breadcrumbs across the bottom of a two-quart baking dish. Ladle the lentil mixture inside, smoothing it to make sure the surface is even and free from lumps. Spread the potato mixture across the top and sprinkle with a bit of additional thyme and/or oregano.

Bake in a pre-heated, 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. The edges of the potato mixture should be browned and slightly crispy. Cut into wedges and serve! This dish is great with a salad or a variety of other holiday or non-holiday sides. Serves about 8 hungry guests. You can refrigerate any leftovers in a secure container for up to three days. Happy winter, and be sure to stay warm out there!

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Pepper, Peanut, and Potato Sabzi: A Simple But Elegant Meal With an Indian Flair

You’re faced with a dilemma: you want to eat an elegant international meal, but you don’t have much time and/or cash on hand. What’s a hungry gourmet to do? The answer is simple — whip up a platter of our vegan, gluten-free Pepper, Peanut, and Potato Sabzi! Though it looks deceptively like a simple, stir-fried dish of potatoes and peppers, once you experienced your first bite, you’ll know there is something special going on. The exotic flavor comes from the addition of cumin and fennel seeds, spices that are popular staples in Indian cuisine. The peanuts add protein, and the potatoes are hearty and filling. Just perfect for these chilly autumn nights!

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large russet potato, chopped
2 medium-sized bell peppers, chopped (red is best, but you can also use yellow, orange, or a combination)
1 teaspoon sea salt (NOT iodized!)
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about half a lime)

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS

chopped cilantro
hot sauce
extra lime juice
tortillas
cooked basmati rice

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat setting (cast iron is best). Add the cumin seeds and cook for a minute or so until they start to turn brown. Stir in the fennel seeds and onion and continue cooking for about 4-6 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently!

Stir in potato and distribute evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften. It’s okay if they’re a bit browned in spots. Stir in the sea salt and bell pepper. Cover the pot again and cook until peppers are cooked through (about 5-7 minutes). Ideally, the peppers should be lightly charred on the bottom, but not burned. You can peek occasionally to make sure.

Stir in the peanuts and lime juice and cook, uncovered, for another couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the burner, and ladle the contents onto several plates. That’s all there is to it! You can garnish with hot sauce, cilantro, extra lime juice, or whatever your heart desires. Also, this mixture can be served over basmati rice or corn tortillas if you want to get really fancy. But it’s perfect all on its own!

Serves 3-4 guests. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and taste great reheated. We guarantee that you’ll love this inexpensive but exotic and delicious meal.

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The Best Pumpkin Cheesecake You’ve Had in Your Life Just Happens to be Vegan and Gluten-Free!

There’s no dessert quite like cheesecake. Smooth, creamy, sweet, decadent — what’s not to love? However, most of the cheesecakes you encounter in restaurants and coffee shops are made with tons of dairy and gluten. Since we love this delectable confection so much, we decided to make our own, using plant-based ingredients. The filling utilizes cashews and coconut milk, blended to perfection. Stunned by our stellar results, we decided to share the secret with you. You can thank us later.

CRUST INGREDIENTS

1 cup packed medjool dates, chopped
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
pinch of sea salt

FILLING INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1 small lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (about 1/3 small can)
pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS

vegan whipping cream
additional chopped walnuts and/or pecans

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour cashews into a container filled with boiling water and let them soak, uncovered for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the dates and place them into a blender or food processor. Blend them until they turn into a thick paste. You may need to add a bit of water for smoothness.

Remove dates from blender or food processor and set aside. Wash and dry the interior, then pour in walnuts. Blend until they achieve a fine consistency. Add dates to the walnut mixture and blend together for a couple of minutes. They will be sticky, so add a little more water if necessary. Be careful — you don’t want your crust to be runny!

Press your mixture into a round cake pan or deep pie pan and spread thoroughly. Use a large spoon to tamp down the surface. Set the pan aside and prepare filling ingredients.

Wash and dry blender or food processor one more time. Drain the cashews, then place them into blender/food processor. Add the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla extract and spices and blend for 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be creamy and frothy. Pour it over the pie crust, making sure it is evenly distributed.

Place the pan in your freezer for 3-4 hours. Remove, thaw slightly, and dig in! You can top your creation with additional chopped walnuts and/or vegan whipping cream if you desire. But this cheesecake tastes heavenly all on its own!

Serves 4-6 people. Guests will be your friends for life. This is the best cheesecake you’ve ever tasted, guaranteed. You’ll want to make it again and again. It’s an excellent Thanksgiving dessert, and we’ve been known to have it for breakfast (but don’t tell anyone). Leftovers can be frozen for several weeks, and keep well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Don’t expect them to last that long.

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Vegan, Gluten-Free Italian Fettucine is So Easy to Make!

One of the things we missed the most after we decided to pursue a vegan, gluten-free diet was Italian food. The cuisine is hearty and delicious, but most restaurants serve it with huge dollops of cheese (not to mention pasta made from whole wheat flour and eggs). What’s an Italian food lover to do? Fortunately, October happens to be mushroom season where we live. Chanterelles were on sale at our local supermarket for an insanely low price, and we had a brainstorm. After some deliberation, we were able to whip up this simple, but elegant dish. It’s inexpensive, a cinch to prepare, and will fill you up on a chilly autumnal evening.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups chopped chanterelle mushrooms
1 cup chopped white mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (not iodized)
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (If you have trouble finding Italian parsley at your supermarket or co-op, try this dish with chopped basil, instead! Yum!)
Pinch or two of hot pepper flakes
Pinch or two of fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup water
3 cups cooked, gluten-free fettucine (we used a brown rice variety that turned out perfectly!)

INSTRUCTIONS

Place the mushrooms, sea salt, olive oil, garlic, parsley, water, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper into a large saucepan and cook at low heat for 15-20 minutes. Do not overcook, or the mushrooms will get mushy. They should retain a slight springiness.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan according to package directions. Add a splash of the cooking water to the mushroom mixture and drain the rest of the pasta. Pour the noodles into the pan with the mushroom mixture and stir gently until everything is thoroughly combined and all the water has evaporated. Turn off the burner, remove your delectable concoction from the stove and toss the mushrooms and the pasta together a couple of times to remove excess moisture. Scoop onto plates and serve! If you have any vegan mozzarella or parmesan cheese, you can sprinkle it on top. Otherwise, you’re going to be just fine without it.

This wonderful dish serves 3-4 people. It’s great by itself as a light dinner. For a more robust meal, add a salad and/or a loaf of gluten-free bread. Maybe some gluten-free beer or red wine? Go wild! Leftovers store well in a covered container in your refrigerator for up to three days and taste great reheated. We’re quite sure they won’t last that long.

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Baba Ghanoush — Naturally Vegan, and a Cinch to Prepare!

You’ve most likely had hummus, but have you tried its sweeter, lighter cousin, baba ghanoush? Baba ghanoush is a lot like hummus, since it has a tahini base. However, instead of adding garbanzo beans, this recipe utilizes roasted eggplant. The result is equally delicious. Our light but zesty meal is easy to make, and perfect for warm summer nights. You can serve it with gluten-free pita bread or with gluten-free toast points sprinkled with thyme, olive oil or vegan butter, and a bit of granulated garlic. We feel confident that you’ll love this dish either way.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium-sized eggplant
2-3 cloves minced garlic
juice of one large lemon
4 tablespoons tahini
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro, parsley or basil (We used basil, yum!)
small amount of water

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS

roasted gluten-free pita bread
regular gluten-free bread
chopped thyme
chopped garlic or garlic salt
olive oil or vegan margarine/butter such as Earth Balance
sliced vegetables such as carrots, celery, zucchini, green or red peppers, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a large, flat pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and olive oil and broil in oven for 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully so the slices don’t burn! They should be pulpy and slightly browned. Peel skin from eggplant and either eat, compost, or discard.

Cut the eggplant pulp into small pieces and place in a blender or food processor. Add the tahini, a dash of sea salt, herbs, lemon juice, and combine thoroughly. If your mixture is too thick, add a bit of water until it becomes creamy and smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Serve with sliced vegetables of your choice, and gluten-free bread or toast points. To make toast points, slather bread with a liberal amount of olive oil or vegan butter/margarine. Sprinkle with chopped thyme and granulated garlic. Broil in oven until the toast is brown and slightly crispy around the edges. Cut the toast in half and serve!

This recipe serves 2-3 people. If you have more guests, feel free to increase ingredient portions accordingly. Great as either a main or a side dish. Get creative! You can add falafels, hummus, or other Middle Eastern cuisine to make a larger meal. Keeps well in your refrigerator for several days. Homemade baba ghanoush is so much more delicious than the store-bought variety! Once you’ve prepared this version, we feel confident you’ll agree.

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Peach Cobbler Tastes Great When It’s Vegan and Gluten-Free!

Is it even summer without peach cobbler? We don’t think so! When temperatures are hot and peaches are ripe, what’s an enterprising chef to do? The traditional recipe calls for large amounts of butter and white sugar, but you won’t miss the rich taste when you bite into our more subtle, but equally delicious version. This cobbler is inexpensive and incredibly easy to make. You can either peel the peaches or leave the peels on. We made our recipe with peels because that’s the way we roll. The peels become soft and pliable during the baking process. Also, they’re packed with vitamins, so it seems a shame to just toss them out. You’re going to love this recipe. We guarantee it!

PEACH INGREDIENTS

5 large peaches, cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

DRY INGREDIENTS

1 cup gluten-free flour blend (We used Bob’s Red Mill, excellent!)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of sea salt (not the iodized variety)

WET INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup plant-based milk (coconut or almond work best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Arrange the sliced peaches in a square baking pan. Sprinkle them with the two tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon, and fresh lemon juice. Allow the mixture to marinate for a few moments as you prepare the other ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients together until they’re thoroughly combined. Add vanilla extract and plant-based milk gradually, stirring continuously to make sure no lumps form. Batter should be smooth and creamy.

Pour the batter over the top of the peaches, spreading evenly. Don’t worry if the peaches aren’t completely covered. Bake in pre-heated, 375 degree oven for 35-45 minutes. The batter should form a nice crust that will attain a lovely golden brown color. Remove from oven and set on your counter to cool. But don’t let it cool too much — this dessert is best served hot!

Serves 4-6 people with ease. Your peach cobbler is sure to be a hit. You can serve it as is, or with a scoop (or two, or three) of vegan ice cream such as Coconut Bliss. (Our personal favorite is the coconut flavor. It’s perfect for this dessert). This dish keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. We have been known to enjoy leftover cobbler for breakfast. Shhhhhhhh — don’t tell anyone! You’re just going to have to try this dessert for yourself, and then you’ll know why we love it so much. Happy summer!

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Celebrate Warm Spring Nights With Grilled Millet/Buffalo Sauce/Ranch Sandwiches!

Usually, when we think of millet, we envision birdseed. However, this crunchy, high-protein grain is delicious as a sandwich spread when it’s combined with spicy buffalo sauce and creamy vegan ranch dressing. The consistency is slightly cheese-like, and the flavor is out of this world! You can make the buffalo sauce as mild or spicy as your heart desires. It takes only about 20 minutes to whip up this dish. A perfect choice if you’re in a hurry! The ingredients are inexpensive, if you’re on a budget, your meal won’t break the bank.

BUFFALO MILLET INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup uncooked millet
1 cup water
1 tablespoon hot sauce (we used Aardvark Sauce, our favorite)
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vegan butter (we used Earth Balance) or olive oil
pinch or two of sea salt and garlic powder

BUFFALO SAUCE
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1-2 teaspoons melted vegan butter or olive oil

RANCH SAUCE
1 1/2 cups vegan mayonnaise
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (we used almond, but coconut is great as well)
1 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

ADDITIONAL SANDWICH INGREDIENTS
Red pepper strips
chopped cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine millet ingredients in medium-sized saucepan and cook for 15-20 minutes until all water is absorbed. Meanwhile, prepare your sauces in separate bowls. Mix together buffalo sauce ingredients, adjusting spice levels to your taste. Prepare ranch dressing by mixing together all ingredients, adding extra milk if mixture is too thick. You’ll most likely have some left over after you’ve made your sandwiches, so it will double as an excellent salad dressing.

Take a piece of gluten-free bread and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Pack cooked millet mixture on top, and then sprinkle with a liberal helping of buffalo sauce. Layer on red pepper slices, and cover with a generous amount of ranch dressing. Press another piece of bread on top to make a sandwich.

Fry sandwich in olive oil on stovetop on medium heat setting until golden brown on both sides. Remove from burner and serve hot. Cut sandwich in half if it’s too messy to grasp. You’ll love the creamy texture and surprising heartiness of this delicious meal.

Serves 2-3 hungry people. This dish pairs well with a small salad (use some more of that ranch dressing!) and, of course, gluten-free, vegan beer or wine. You’ll be surprised and delighted to discover how much you like eating millet. Bon appetit!

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Three Delicious Vegan Wine and Beer Varieties For Your Winter Celebrations

The beginning of winter is often a time of celebration, as we chase away the gloom with eating, drinking, and socializing. Some of us opt for a more “hygge” approach and like to cuddle up by the fire alone, or with someone we love, wrapped in a cozy blanket. A good vegan beer or wine is perfect for either scenario.

two heartedMany people assume that all beer and wine is vegan, if they even give it a thought. They’re made from fermented grains or grapes, right? We were dismayed to discover that many companies utilize animal products in the manufacturing process. When drinks are filtered before bottling, they often use such substances as isinglass (made from fish bladders), gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells. Unfortunately, vegan beer and wine companies don’t label their products to show they’re safe for consumption by folks who eschew animal products. However, a quick perusal of the internet can help. If you need a few suggestions to help you get started, here’s a handy list.

Deschutes Brewery, www.deschutesbrewery.com. This Bend, Oregon-based brewery is almost completely vegan, with the exception of a few specialty brews. Its beer is available in 28 different states, so you should have an easy time finding it, especially if you live on the west coast. According to their FAQ section: “We do not use animal products in the cellaring or brewing process. The clarifying agent we use in our brewhouse is made from Irish Moss, a red algae. However, experimental beers brewed at our pubs sometimes use lactose, isinglass, honey or other specialty ingredients, but we call it out in the description listed on the menu.” Their popular Jubelale is great for your holiday festivities. Available from October through December, this robust, vegan brew boasts notes of cocoa, dried fruit, and toffee. You and your guests will love it!

Frey Winery, www.freywine.com. Mendocino-based Frey makes the claim of being “America’s first biodynamic winery.” They hold 90 percent of their land as a natural habitat for plants and animals. Since 1980, they have produced vegan, gluten-free wines with no added sulfites. Their 2015 Biodynamic Syrah utilizes the flavors of layered fig, anise, briar and bay leaf. It’s a delicious, elegant accompaniment to any holiday meal.

Bell’s Brewery, www.bellsbeer.com. The Kalamazoo-based brewery is constantly rolling out new varieties of beer, and almost all of them are vegan. Their popular Two-Hearted Ale is a smooth, vegan IPA, dark and not too hoppy. It’s available all year but is perfect for winter consumption. Brewed with 100 percent Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest and named after a river in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this brew never disappoints. You can enjoy it with almost every meal. Unfortunately, if you live west of the Mississippi, you’ll have a hard time locating it, and Michigan state law forbids shipping beer to other states. But it’s ubiquitous in the Midwest and East Coast, so check your favorite store or pub.

All of these offerings are available at stores. If you’re at your local supermarket and can’t find any of them, www.barnivore.com is a great resource for determining which alcoholic beverages are vegan. Just tap a product name into Barnivore’s handy search bar, and the site will let you know if it’s vegan-friendly. There are nearly 43,000 companies in their database. Enjoy responsibly!

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Review of the Conscious Cleanse and Sherpa Spinach Dip Recipe

We’ve been excited to get our hands on the Conscious Cleanse book ever since we heard about it. The Conscious Cleanse isn’t the kind you may be used to, where you feel deprived, and end up hungry and miserable. What it does do is take certain foods out of your diet that you may not even realize you are reacting to, so that you have a full picture as to how your body reacts to those foods.

Forbidden foods on the list may surprise you, such as oranges, strawberries and tomatoes. Many people react to foods like these without even realizing it. The good news is that there are a ton of options on the foods that are allowed.

Before you start thinking that this is going to be a book that just tells you what you can and can’t eat, worry not – it is so much more than that. The Conscious Cleanse gives you a rounded way to take care of yourself in every way, body and mind. It is a commitment to build up to slow change, and includes ways to slowly remove foods and beverages from your diet, rather than shock your system.

Full disclosure, we were a little daunted at the thought of giving up caffeine while on the cleanse, but we transitioned slowly off of it. We were surprised at the difference we saw just from reducing caffeine: *more* energy, more calm, less stress and less stress eating.

Here is a recipe that is the perfect example of the delicious dishes that fit within the cleanse.

Sherpa Spinach Dip

4 cups spinach
1 large avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon curry
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon fresh peeled and chopped ginger
A dash of cayenne
Sea salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Serve immediately with carrot sticks.

Get your own copy of the Conscious Cleanse, and let us know what you think!

conscious cleanse

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