New Year, New Salad

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Hello from the other side of 2012! And thanks for all of the sweet responses to my best of 2011 post. I was happy to hear that so many of you would like to see more salads! I often think that my salad posts are more for me than for you; the response on sweets and snacks is always so overwhelming that I wonder whether the soups and salads are kind of a drag for you all. It’s nice to be reminded that the CR audience is fanatical about crunchy greens as I am.

This salad is the perfect way to usher in a new year of healthy and delicious eating. It’s a quintessential winter salad: crunchy and fresh, but also full of warmth and comfort in the form of steamed sweet potato and a creamy, dreamy peanut butter dressing. You can simplify and lighten it up by using a simple flax oil and apple cider vinegar dressing instead, or you can add heft and nutrition by throwing in some garbanzo beans or lentils. You can serve it with a cup of soup for yet more warmth, or you can serve it with a side of raw crackers (which is what I did). As with all salads, the possibilities are endless.

It’s worth saying that the inspiration for this salad came from a recent meal at Café Blossom. They have a new salad, which is iceberg, radicchio, watercress, carrot, sweet potato, cashews, pumpkin seeds, cherry tomato, wakame, arame, sunflower sprouts, and peanut dressing. I ordered it half expecting it to be a disaster—way too many cooks spoiling the broth, so to speak—but the odd mix of textures and flavors actually turned out to be fantastic. A really great and meal-sized salad. My version is an extreme simplification, but I enjoyed it every bit as much.

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Radicchio, Butter Lettuce, and Cabbage Salad with Steamed Yam and Peanut Sauce (vegan, gluten free)

Serves 1

For the salad:

2 cups butter lettuce, washed and torn
1 cup radicchio, washed and torn
1 cup red and/or white cabbage, chopped
1 small sweet potato/yam, steamed and cut into cubes

For the dressing:

1/4 cup peanut butter (you can substitute almond butter if you wish)
2-3 tbsp water
1 tbsp reduced sodium tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ginger powder (optional)

1) Mix all salad ingredients together in a salad bowl.

2) Mix dressing ingredients together. I recommend starting with 2 tbsp of the water, and adding more to thin the dressing if you wish. I used 3 tbsp at first and would actually have liked a slightly thicker texture.

3) Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat well. Serve!

This salad is bright and delicious!

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Enjoy it today, as you welcome 2012.

Before I go, a fun announcement! My recipe tab has been completely and totally updated! This means that all of the latest and greatest CR recipes are ready for your perusal (organized by course). I hope you check it out!! And the other fun news is that I’m also in the middle of developing an up-to-date Recipage. Not familiar with Recipage? It’s a wonderful service for bloggers that was developed by the lovely Emily and her husband, Casey. It allows blog readers to search through their favorite blogs’ sometimes intimidating recipe archives in an organized fashion. You can search by course, ingredients, or alphabetically. I hope that it’ll give you all an easy means of sorting through my nearly four years worth of food! My friend Andrea has been instrumental in helping me with this new endeavor, so if you like the results, please visit her blog and thank her Smile

Finally, since we’re all still abuzz about Tara-Parker Pope’s The Fat Trap, I wanted to mention that Slate posted an interesting response to the piece. It’s not a rebuttal or rejoinder, exactly, but it does point out something crucial about the weight loss methods detailed in the article, which is that they are inherently disordered (at least according to most definitions of the term). This doesn’t change the information laid out in the article, exactly, but I think its an important point, and that it expands the ongoing conversation.


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  1. This sounds wonderful! I would have never thought to add sweet potatoes to my raw salads…trying this very soon. Thank you!

  2. I don’t think I ended up commenting on the initial Fat Trap article post here, but I had some thoughts. My biggest issue was that the Fat Trap article talked about quick-loss-diets, not the slow and steady forms of losing weight, which, from my personal experience and relationships, seems to be the best way to keep the weight off. The article did mention that people who lost a small amount did not have the negative physiological effects, so it made me wonder if people lost a little bit, their body accepted it for a while, and then lost a bit more and so on, that would be the most sustainable way scientifically, not just experientially, speaking.

    I didn’t like the hopeless tone she had behind her words. It seemed like a rather disheartening article to people who already feel overwhelmed to lose weight. People, especially in the US, like quick fixes and that is probably why crash dieting was the main focus of the studies and the article, but overall, the article kind of broke my heart. And saying that one has to live a life of constant vigilance, is exactly what you and this current article says, a disordered mindset. Gosh, I can still remember those days when I was always thinking about food and portions and calories and weight and exercise. I had lost some weight and felt like my mind could only think about those things. Years of this! It was torturous and I felt so helpless, but I figured this was the only way to keep the weight off, and I would cry wishing I didn’t have to think about it all the time. Why can’t my mind just chill out like so many people who don’t think about it 24/7. To have that freedom now is something I would never give up. It is so liberating to let that go, and it came with a slower weight loss and different mindset about how to keep it off, and it’s staying off, and there is certainly no struggle or obsession going on anymore. I would never recommend that that is the only way to sustain weight loss. I would never will that on anybody.

  3. The salad looks great! The cabbage and the sweet potato seem to stop it being too “summery” for this time of year.

    I’m glad to see the dangers of dieting making it into the news! I hope it helps people. It’s long overdue in my opinion.

    Slightly off topic, but I just wanted to thank you for not including nutritional information with your recipes (browsing through the updated page just reminded me). Sometimes I want to know the calcium or whatever per serving, but I can look that up myself. I know I technically could just scroll past it if you posted it but in practice it’s impossible. So, thank you 🙂

  4. The recipe tab looks great. I just updated mine and now I’m almost ready to begin the daunting task of getting my recipes into Recipage. Good luck! And what a beautiful start to 2012 with this salad. I used to scoff at salads, but they’re quickly becoming my favorite meals.

  5. As a long-time addict to peanut butter (particularly because non-peanut nut butters are not as ubiquitous over here as they are in America), hurrah for a satay-ish delicious salad without the heaviness of satay at a restaurant!

    I’m also looking forward to the Recipage. I love the idea of it but considering I haven’t even figured out how to put a photo of myself in the side bar, I think it’s a little out of my reach, technically 😉

  6. The salad looks delicious…peanut dressings are amazing. I think sometimes sweets get more response than salads not because they are unloved, but because the latter less often requires a recipe. At least for me, a salad is created based on what I have available and gets ‘tweaked’ as I go along and add more things. I personally love your dressing, sauces, pates, etc. the most because it helps me to get out of my vinegar + dijon + olive oil rut I am normally in!

    I loved your interview on Our Hen House. I actually left for my run, then realised I didn’t have it on my iPod and turned back around to get it. I was that excited! Always kind of weird to hear your voice, since I usually just read your words!

  7. This looks like awesomeness. I don’t usually like radicchio, but it seems like it would make a really good flavor contrast with the sweet potato. And it’s hard to go wrong with a peanut sauce! Looks nice and hearty, too. 🙂

  8. Hi Gena, just wanted to tell you that I love your blog! I read it regularly, but have never commented before.
    I wanted to comment on the article that you linked to. My biggest problem with the findings were about how people burned less calories when they had lost weight than they had when they were heavier. When you become fit, you become more efficient, so your caloric needs are not as high. It’s like getting a tune up on your car. You will find that you get better gas mileage. A simple comparison, but essentially the same. Also, people are not carrying around an extra 20-50 pounds, so it does not take as much energy to function. Think about it. If you carry around a backpack that weighs 20 pounds as you go about your day, you are going to burn more calories than you would if you didn’t have that extra weight to carry around. Just something to think about.

  9. I LOVE the Peanut Sauce recipe!! I can’t tell you how much I LOVE your website and what you’re doing for your readers! I can only hope to make my blog as awesome as yours! I am on my journey to lose 90lbs through healthy eating, my wealth of knowledge of the subject & exercise! I invite you and all of your readers to come on over to my blog & help motivate me, subscribe to me, & lose weight with me! I REALLY hope to see you all there!!! 🙂

  10. Mmmm looks délicieux! Happy New Year!
    Quick question: what can I substitute for agave? In this recipe and in general? In your recipes, I notice you use agave often. I’m curious as to why you use it and what you think of all of the anti-agave sentiment out there? My doctor told me to avoid it at all costs, but I’m thinking if you’re using it, maybe it’s not so bad since I know you are so health-conscious and knowledgeable about all of this. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. … and looking forward to many more Choosing Raw recipes à la Gena to feed me well in 2012 !

    • Rebecca,

      Do you see an MD or a naturopath? It would surprise me if an MD suggested you avoid it at all costs. You can substitute date paste or maple syrup for the agave, if you like.

      I do use agave, though you’ll notice that I typically use it in small amounts (a tablespoon or less, unless I’m baking something, in which case it still usually won’t amount to more than a tbsp per serving). Yes, it’s a sugar, like any other sugar, but I think that it’s a good vegan alternative to honey, and it’s cheaper than maple syrup. The idea that it is somehow inherently evil, and much *worse* for you than honey or maple syrup, is one I don’t agree with. Like all concentrated syrups, it should be used in moderation, but small amounts should be acceptable unless you are diabetic, or have another diagnosed health condition that prohibits sugar. You can see my response to this question, by the way, under my FAQ tab!


      • Great answer, thanks Gena! It’s funny how an ingredient can be the love child of the health world one minute then its enemy the next. I agree that anything in moderation is fine. I try to use dates (which are also quite high in sugar I know) and maple syrup, but good to know I don’t need to be so afraid of agave. Have you used coconut sugar at all? I’m curious to see how to use it in recipes myself, though I’ve enjoyed it at a few places in NY that have started to use it instead of agave. Oh and my doctor is an MD, but uses “integrative” and holistic treatments so sort of a mix of the west and the east. He treats the underlying cause of the problem instead of just throwing medicine around to treat the symptoms which is what you are doing through your healthy eating/lifestyle and I am trying to do as well. So again, thanks for your insights and your recipes – choosingraw has really been making this difficult time much less difficult (and more delicious!)

  11. Love the sound of this salad! And yes, please, more salads! 🙂

    I actually mentioned Parker-Pope’s piece (try saying that fast 3 times) in my blog post today. As someone who has, more than once, regained vast amounts of lost weight, it really resonated with me. I can’t wait to go and look at the rejoinder!

    And lastly, just wanted to sneak in a little “thank you” for your sweet comment on my blog, and for all that you bring to your blog and all your readers (myself at the top of the list). So glad I know you. xo

  12. If 2011 was the year of the big salad, 2012 will…. ALSO be the year of the big salad!

  13. I _love_ that you keep posting salads. I can’t understand why some people complain that salads aren’t worth posting: they’re one of the places with the most scope for inventiveness.

    Radicchio and iceberg with sea veggies sounds pretty heavenly to me.

  14. Peanut butter is basically my favorite thing, so I am definitely looking forward to this salad. It looks great!

  15. Radicchio is definitely something I’d like to start using more. Your salad creation sounds delicious, while toning down the uber ingredient list of Blossom’s dish. I am interested in eating more sea veggies but maybe I’ll leave that to the pros. So excited about the recipage!

  16. The salad looks beautiful and I love peanut sauce.

    I love the lighting in the photos, especially the first one, and the food styling. Something about it is very Heidi/101cookbooks and I hope you take that as a huge compliment because I think her photography is stunning 🙂

    Happy New Year, Gena!

  17. Thanks Gena! Frankly, I found the Tara-Parker Pope piece massively triggering, and I wish I hadn’t read it, although I also found it fascinating and very important. Combined with holiday over-eating I got into a panic about the extreme ups and downs I’ve had with weight in my life, and whether I can prevent another big rise, whether my body is desperately trying to pack on pounds, etc. It is so scary to think of ones body as fighting against oneself. In reality I’ve been able to maintain most of the portion of my weight loss that was actually healthy, but with ups and downs and great effort some of the time. It is a reminder in a period of indulgence that my body does gain so easily, and that I need to stick mostly to the healthiest foods to avoid a slow upward slide (that always starts with the holidays). I agree that the methods described in the article tend towards the extreme styles of weight-loss, and also don’t address the issue of certain types of food having physiologically addictive properties. I wonder whether many people find it easier to maintain weight loss on a minimally processed plant-focussed diet, as I certainly have. It would be wonderful if our anecdotal evidence were really true and could rescue people from the fear and restriction that seem to characterize most of those tortured-sounding “success” stories.

    • Gena & Laura,
      After reading your comments I understood a little more why I felt so unsettled after reading that article. It had some good info regarding genetics and calorie restriction, but the diets represented left much to be desired. And the panic that you described, Laura, definitely struck a nerve with me as well.

      • I too find these types of warning articles unsettling…a bag of mixed emotions. I read them with my guard up fully expecting discomfort, compare the “findings” to my own experiences, and try to discard the rest as “noise” (to borrow Gena’s term.) Then, I just keep on doing my thing…

    • Laura,

      I certainly understand why it hit a nerve, or a lot of nerves. I think it did that for anyone who has a history of weight fluctuations. But I would also say that the article did not include any testimonials from people who have tried Eat to Live, Raw, Pritikin, or any of the plant-based eating styles that seem to have transformed the lives of so many people in our community, and actually kept the weight off. So while I can’t exactly say that the information presented isn’t persuasive, I also can’t say that it’s complete. Know what I mean?


    • PS The “Thanks Gena” was for the updated recipes, not a sarcastic thing!”

  18. I think pb sauce and yam are amazing together, so it is no surprise to me that this salad is a winner! I think you should also know, that while snacks and sweets are easy to make good, coming up with unique and creative salads is a little harder. Your talent is amazing!

  19. Hi Gena-just wanted to say that I’ve been enjoying many of your wonderful recipes recently, so I’m excited for the updated recipe tab. 🙂

    Also I read the Parker-Pope’s article and had similar thoughts. To me, the story seemed to highlight many people who adopted borderline obsessiveness with food instead of aiming to become more healthful. And I have read about hormonal regulation of hunger signals and the body’s desire to maintain homeostasis that may make weight loss difficult, I still believe that it’s possible to eat a plant based diet without counting calories and to lose weight…because I’ve seen that happen for many people. Not that I think that genetics don’t play a role, but if everyone ate healthfully to begin with, would it matter if some were predisposed to gain weight faster than others?

    • An important question. What I ultimately took away from this is a greater of understanding of how our bodies respond to caloric restriction (as an ED veteran, I know this firsthand), so it’s a good cautionary tale for people who try to lose weight when they don’t need to, and a helpful acknowledgment of challenge for people who do need to. That said, it didn’t at all address plant-based diets, which means that it’s somewhat incomplete, if compelling.


  20. Peanut butter is the bomb. Can’t get enough of the stuff. To ring in the new year, I made banana soft serve this morning with peanut butter and chocolate powder! It was a delicious and healthy way to celebrate a new year.

  21. Agreed, anything with peanut sauce is amazing! Almond butter is yummy, and healthier I know, but nothing can really take the place of good ole’ PB. Don’t think I’ve ever tried it on a salad though, interesting!

  22. Yum! Definitely trying this. I made a bowl once with brown rice, kale, sweet potatoes, and peanut sauce, and it was delicious. I don’t know why I don’t make this combo more often!

    For the record, the salads / savory foods / “this is what I eat on a typical busy day” posts are my favorites. 🙂

  23. Yum. We do love salads! The sweet potato and peanut butter combo sounds great.

    I’m glad that The Fat Trap talks about the damage of calorie restriction. It’s unfortunate that people don’t understand that the eat less/burn more calories weight loss method just isn’t sustainable. Hopefully more information can get into the mainstream about healthy long term lifestyle choices and eating real plant based food.

  24. The PB dressing looks delicious — think I’ll give it a try tonight. Thanks for sharing, and a happy new year to you!

  25. I love the recipage idea! Super convenient for figuring out what to do with random leftover veggies. This salad also looks amazing too, but I love anything to do with peanut sauce.