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Kale, washing powder, and cactus salad (no, that's not a recipe...)

With the ghosts of Christmas food past now really almost gone (yep, it's taken over two weeks to clear out the last remnants of festive eats!) I'm trying to get back to eating normal, healthy, vegan food. And if there's one thing that smacks of normal, healthy and vegan around here, it's kale chips.

Luckily, the folks who bring my veg box included a forest of kale this week, so I've been giving the dehydrator a workout.

Whenever I make kale chips, I tend to stick to the usual tried-and-tested cashew cheese type recipe - you know, nooch, cashews, lemon juice, miso, bit of onion and garlic powder, and then dehydrate til tasty. I love this recipe, but it tends to involve a bit more planning than my brain can typically cope with ('what was that thing I meant to do last night? Ahhhh, soak the cashews, right. Damn, too late') so I'm alwayson the look out for a cashew free recipe.

I've tried versions with kale wrapped in just a little oil and some spices, and they don't seem to quite hit the spot.  Any other suggestions for how to dress up my kale?

New year, new pantry. Every so often, I like to clear out the store cupboards and take stock of all the weird and wonderful ingredients I have on hand (and, ideally, use a few of them!)

This January's excavation has uncovered a jar of nopales. I love nopales. There's always a jar in the cupboard that I'm saving for some great recipe I never get around to making. This time, I thought I'd just bust open the cactus and enjoy it in whatever way I could think of.

Bit of an imagination failure on my behalf, but I thought I'd make some sort of taco salad - lettuce, tomatoes, pepitas, hot sauce, avocados and lots and lots of nopales. Yum.

Side thought - why does the liquid nopales comes in have a weird slimy texture, like it's made of snail trails? I mean, it's not enough to put me off eating nopales, but still.

Side thought two - has anyone ever dreamt up a vegan recipe for queso fundido with nopales? If not, can they please do so soon?

More Mexican flavours were in evidence in the kitchen with a big batch of chilli making. I think learning how to make chilli is a bit like learning how to play Mah Jong - it takes a little while it learn and a lifetime to master.

I'm always tinkering with chilli flavours, and after seeing the mole recipe in Veganomicon, I tend to add a bit of dark chocolate and a bit of peanut butter for good measure - it seems to give the chilli a nice silky texture and an extra depth of flavour.

Not pictured: Sour Supreme, homemade cashew cheese topping. Love that stuff. (Side note three: does anyone know why Sour Supreme is so hard to come by in London? Is it actually sold anywhere in the capital?)

And, as it's the start of the month, there was a new Vegan Kind box headed my way. Normally the only notable arrivals through my inbox are bills and the odd magazine subscription (hello, London Review of Books!) so it's nice to get something in the mail you're looking forward to.

This month's box was a mixed bag - the usual snacks and treats, soapnuts, fruit in a pouch, and what looks porridge on the go.

That's the fun part of box schemes - you never know what will turn up on your doorstep. Oddly, I was most taken with the fruit pouch of pear puree. I mean, sure, I could use it as a snack or whatever, but I bet it would make a great filling for muffins, or more importantly, a base for pear Bellinis (on a related note, Sainsburys has started making £5 vegan prosecco. It's not going to win any prizes, but at that price, it's a steal.)

It's also good to see non-food items in vegan box schemes. I find it weird that supermarkets that are normally great at labelling vegan food don't take the same care with washing powders, washing up liquid, deodorant, cosmetics and all the rest. The other side of the coin I guess is that I've never had a good experience with soapnuts - they never seem to get my mucky clothes properly clean. Any top tips, soapnut users?

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  1. I've never used soapnuts and had never heard of nopales! I definitely relate to forgetting to soak things though - cashews are my usual culprit but forgetting legumes happens too. So, I'm sorry the simpler kale chips didn't quite work. The only suggestion I can think of is more spices, which is rather vague :P

  2. I know what you mean about preparing in advance - I love my high powered blender that makes soaking cashews less hassle though even getting the blender out can be a hassle. I have made kale chips with smoked paprika - could you try a vegan bacon marinade or if you want to be really adventurous there is a recipe for chocolate kale chips on ricki heller's blog. (pretty sure that is where I saw it).

    I haven't tried soap nuts but we used to make out own laundry detergent in a share house and it never bleached clothes so all my white went grey and I stopped buying white! There is a blog post that I remember at http://cityhippyfarmgirl.com/2011/04/14/soap-nuts/ if that is any help. (Not sure it explains much)

  3. This post makes me want to buy a dehydrator just to make kale chips. I have to say I've never had nopales, they sound intruiging! I'll have to check out that chilli recipe too. I always but dark chocolate in mine but never peanut butter!

  4. Love kale chips but I'm much too lazy to make them myself. I just get them at the farmer's market or Costco. I've made plain ones before and like them. I wonder what they would be like if you just left over the cashews?

    Can't say I've tried nopales before, they sound like a fun ingredient. Chocolate in savory food is awesome, peanut butter in chili sounds good too! :-)

  5. I love nopales! There is a great burrito place around here that makes a nopales burrito, it's so good! Especially with roasted potatoes and guac.
    I haven't used soapnuts, but I heard they make the wash very soft.

  6. You should rinse the nopales! The "slime" is just naturally occuring starches in the plant but still weird. Canned nopales are nothing like fresh though...

    Maybe for the kale chips you can just do a nooch based coating for when you forget to soak cashews...?

  7. Have you tried a bit of tahini or more oil for your dehydrated kale? Perhaps it will combine easily with other spices and nooch? I like spicy kale chips, maybe add dried chili flakes or make a chili-lime dressing all over it and coat it with dry spices. Nopales is yummy! I like nopales & jalapenos & refried beans on homemade corn tortillas. As for canned nopales, they should be rinsed completely prior to using…the fresh ones are so much better…but hard to find though ;(


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