Comfort Food - Refreshed

January 13, 2014

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week, Kelly is diving into the decadence of plant-based fats.

Photo by Phoebe Lapine


Here is something you all should know -- a plant based diet need not be a fat-free diet. I know some folks think just because I don’t pour the olive oil onto everything I cook, means that fat has little place in the kind of cooking I do. Incorrect. In fact, I have a long-going debate in my head about my favorite plant based fat. It’s not a raucous debate, full of shouting and throwing wooden spoons and slamming doors. It’s a gentle, earnest, careful discussion. This is all to say that your New Year’s Resolution, the one to eat better, can and should include plant based fats (collective sigh of relief).

First, there’s avocado. Avocado has been really, really hot lately and I don’t think the avocado trend is slowing down. It also has a good dose of protein and fiber. Avocado is cool, creamy, and rather bland. So, it’s spreadable on toast instead of butter. It’s great creamed up and folded into potato salad (fast forward to the summer for that potato salad idea). You can even add it to your cream of broccoli soup. Seriously.

Then, there’s tahini. This needs not set up shop solely in hummus and stay there for the rest of existence. Tahini, the basis of some of my favorite salad dressings. Tahini, wondrous when combined with miso paste for a spread on cornbread. Tahini, delectable when added to sautéed dark leafy greens for that creamed spinach kind of thing.

And there, there's chia seeds. Chia seeds are adorable. They expand in liquid, taking on whatever flavor they are currently surrounded by. Chia seeds, the great assimilator. Omega 3 and 6, tons of fiber and protein. I added a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds to a classic banana-strawberry smoothie with soy milk a few months back, and things got super creamy in that joint. Buy a couple ounces of chia seeds in bulk sometime, look up some recipes online, and you’ll become a believer.

Then, there is the world of nuts. Peanut butter. Almond butter. Walnuts. Pine nuts. Cashews. I mean, come on. The plant based lifestyle need not lack fat, richness, or unctuousness. Of course, if you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, I don’t recommend excessive handfuls of nuts and the casual eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. But, here are some ways to incorporate whole food fats into your day.

  • African Peanut Stew. Oh boy. Get out a big pot. Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 chopped parsnip, 1 chopped carrot, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 2 inches minced ginger, over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir often. Add a tablespoon of curry powder, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a 28 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, a quart of vegetable stock, 1 pound diced sweet potatoes, 1 pound diced butternut squash, and  1/2 pound diced celery root. Let it come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cook for 15 minutes until veggies are tender, then fold in 1/4 cup non-sweetened peanut butter. Whisk. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with peanuts and fresh cilantro.
  • Creamy Collards and Black Eyed Peas. In a large skillet, sauté 1 chopped onion over high heat. Add 1 bunch julienned collard greens and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth, and 2 cups cooked black eyed peas. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for another 4 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons creamy tahini, 2 teaspoons miso paste, and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar. Mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste.
  • Avocado Pine Nut Dressing. Combine 2 ripe, peeled and pitted avocados, 1/2 cup pine nuts, 1 cup vegetable stock, juice of 1 lemon, 1 small minced shallot, and 2 teaspoons hot sauce in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste liberally with salt and pepper. Thin it out with more vegetable broth if you like. Use on salads, steamed veggies, or cooked grains.

But, Chunky Tex-Mex Cashew Cheese Dip -- oh goodness. Gather up your scoop-shaped tortilla chips, your endive leaves, and your pita chips now, and make this dip. The soaking of cashews in this recipe helps the dip to blend up smoothly. Pureeing the soaked cashews with vegetable stock, lime juice, fresh tomatoes, and seasonings is just the beginning of the dip. The sautéing of green bell pepper, jalapeno, onion, and garlic comes next. Into the sautéed veggies goes the pureed cashew mixture, cooked black beans, and my favorite fabulous frozen product -- 365 Organic Roasted Corn Kernels. Finally, fresh cilantro. Dipping into the Chunky Tex Mex Cashew Cheese Dip with reckless abandon is the final step. And it’s a good one.

And this is my final post. I’m off to explore further blogging and writing adventures. I hope you’ll find me online, dear readers. This has been truly an amazing experience. I’ve really enjoyed writing this Comfort Food – Refreshed column. I’ve put a lot of passion into it, and I hope you’ve gotten a lot out of it. Thank you so much for your support. I’ll see you around!  

Chunky Tex-Mex Cashew Cheese Dip

Serves 12

2 cups raw cashews, covered with boiling water
2 cups vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lime
2 diced roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 small onion, diced 1/4 inch
1 small green pepper, seeded and ribs removed, diced 1/4 inch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed and minced
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup 365 Frozen Organic Corn Kernels (or 1 cup regular corn kernels)
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Water (if needed to thin out dip)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips.

If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Miso Soup with Kale and Chickpeas.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

2 Comments Add a Comment
  • Missing_avatar

    Just Mom says: Thanks for all the delicious and healthy ideas! Good luck in your new adventures. Glad I have a direct line to my terrific daughter! Go Kel.

    3 months ago Reply to this »
  • Kelly_009

    Kelly Jane says: You're welcome, MOm! :)

    2 months ago

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