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 adorns black bean and avocado bites with a spicy cashew crema.
Photo by Sarah Shatz
So, the deal on this here blog is comfort food, right? That’s the premise: Comfort food with a plant-based edge, using whole foods and fresh ingredients to provide satisfaction as well as nutrition. At times, it’s been a challenge. Not because there’s a lack of delicious ways to use all the nutrient-packed goodies. But because of my ever-evolving relationship with the very concept of "comfort food." It’s complicated. One might say, almost problematic, because, these days, "comfort" for me doesn’t mean attaining that packed-full, lethargic, time-for-a-nap feeling.
But comfort food, traditionally and realistically, is emotional food. It’s the food that you look to eat when you’re having a challenging day. And I have those. But now instead of just looking to eat food to provide emotional comfort for myself (which was often a bit of a gloom-filled, solitary activity in the past), I like to provide healthy comfort food to others. That is comforting to me. Serving the healthiest, most creative, most nutritious fare I can think of to my loved ones. It’s not comfort food; it’s comfort feeding.
I want to reign in the realm of healthy comfort feeding. And now that the holidays are coming (it’s true, they are; the leaves are changing, everything’s coming up pumpkins, there are odd-looking cornucopias everywhere!), I’m thinking about the kind of snacks I’ll want to serve my family between the great big meals. My mom handles the brunt of the cooking over the holidays. But I think that this season, I might just take over in the snack department.
I have my snack cravings. I’m fine with admitting that. I also know what I like. Perfect snacks include these elements: creaminess, crunchiness, deliciousness. It’s not rocket science; they just need to fulfill those criteria. So my Black Bean, Avocado and Cashew Crema Bites jump off from that. You can serve them composed, hors d'oeuvre-style, or just set up little bowls of the black bean mixture, diced avocado, and cashew crema for guests to assemble themselves. Either way, here's how they come together.
For the base, I start off with these great Woven Wheat Crackers from our 365 Everyday Value Brand, which only contain two ingredients, wheat and salt. I mean, it doesn’t get any more basic and "whole" in terms of boxed crackers. (Of course, you can use any whole grain cracker you like.) I then top each cracker with a little dollop of black beans -- my favorite bean, all smooth and rich -- that have been smashed with a bit of lemon juice. Next, I plop down a cube of fresh, ripe avocado atop the black bean element, which is luscious and adds a touch of color. Finally, I finish these guys off with a drizzle of spicy cashew crema. This is the one thing that you actually have to "cook" in this recipe, and it’s so worth it! It’s a sauce that will fool your guests into thinking it’s dairy based, and believe me, it’s smoky and delicious. I actually have a bottle of it in my fridge right now. It’s perfect on tacos, steamed vegetables, or even as a dressing on a sandwich or salad.
The next time you decide to make these bites or another healthy, nourishing snack for guests (or for your kids some cold Saturday afternoon), remember: It’s not just comfort food, not something quite so fleeting -- it’s comfort feeding.
Black Bean, Avocado and Cashew Crema Bites
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (or 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice of two limes, divided
2 cans no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped 1/2 inch pieces
1 box 365 Everyday Value Baked Woven Wheat Crackers
Chopped chives or chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
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. I'll be preparing these black bean and avocado bites this Saturday, October 13, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at our Columbus Circle store.
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: Triple Apple Oatmeal.
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.