When I found Cadry’s blog towards the end of VeganMofo this past October, I instantly fell in love with all of her zany videos (a complete love connection, really). Ever since then, I have become a faithful follower. She is articulate, *hilarious,*  and super creative in the kitchen–without a doubt this girl can keep you entertained {so start following the woman yourself and see what I mean}! Now, if only she would move back to Los Angeles…

A big thank you to Cara for inviting me to do a post on her entertaining and lively blog.  One of my favorite things about Fork and Beans is how Cara takes a plant-based and gluten-free diet, which some people might perceive as limiting, and instead uses it as a launching pad for creativity and joy.  There’s a sense of fun in all of her creations and a sincerity in her posts that keep me coming back.  Plus, she’s just so darned likeable!  Cara has done many posts about favorite childhood foods, and in the spirit of that idea, I’m reaching back to my own childhood…

If I had to pin down the most memorable and magical Christmas of my childhood, I would definitely point to one that happened in the early eighties.  It was the height of the Cabbage Patch Kid craze, and every young girl that I knew was hoping that doll with yarn hair and an Xavier Roberts tattoo on her derriere would land under her tree.  Of course, the odds weren’t in our favor.  With the fervent clamoring for the doll, all of us had been warned by our parents not to pin our hopes too tightly on that toy.

My own mother took me aside and told me that they’d tried to get a Cabbage Patch doll for me – my number one Christmas present – but it just wasn’t a possibility.  Every Sears and Younkers in town had been raided with parents foaming at the mouth for the year’s most coveted “it” item.  I’d have to enjoy the many other goodies under the tree awaiting me – like a make your own perfume kit and Polly Pocket dolls in fruit-shaped cases.  I took it in stride, but of course, the heart wants what it wants…  That Christmas morning, true to my mother’s word, there was no Cabbage Patch Kid under the tree.  I enjoyed and played with the presents I received and hoped that in July around the time of my birthday, my chances for vegetable-based adoption would improve.

That night my favorite aunt came over to celebrate in the festivities and had my beloved cousin in tow.

“Guess what?” my cousin gushed.  “I got a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas!”

This wasn’t even right.  My cousin was five years older than me, nearly to the stage of trading lipstick for dolls, and hadn’t invested nearly the amount of hours necessary longing for a cloth doll grown from a head of cabbage.  Still, I mustered what happiness for her that I could, and my aunt attempted to ease my prickles of jealousy by pressing her Christmas gift to me into my hands.  The wave of hope that it might be a Cabbage Patch doll of my own quickly faded as I realized the box in my hands was not in the right iconic shape.  The usual box had a definite slant in the front, while this wrapped present was in a more standard cardboard box, straight up and down, and slightly smaller.  I sat down in the living room, ripped off the paper and gasped when I saw the box with the words Cabbage Patch Doll printed onto it.

“Oh,” my cousin muttered, “we wrapped your present in my box.  Sorry.”

Thwarted again.  I opened the top, and lo and behold, there she was – a blonde haired, green-eyed Cabbage Patch Doll with a birth certificate and a smell like baby powder all wonderfully, totally mine.  I couldn’t believe it.  That feeling of elation and the wonderful overpowering of total surprise (and quick thinking on the part of my cousin, keeping me guessing at every turn) was something that you don’t get many times in your life.  I made all of the “legal” changes necessary to rename my doll after my dear aunt who gave me such a delicious surprise, popped it in the mail, and made it official.

As adults the things that we want and the things that we desire are saved for, fantasized about, or put to the backburner because they are so out of reach (like an around the world vacation or summer home in Bali) that it would take a lottery to attain it.  It takes a fair amount of saving and justifying for toys that are mostly there to bring pleasure to our every day.  Enter the Vitamix Blender or as I like to call it, the cooking-enthusiast adult’s Cabbage Patch Kid.  For probably five or six years I’ve wanted a Vitamix.  Sure, it’s just a blender, but it can pulverize fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds into a creamy substance unmatched by ordinary blenders.  It can make a blended soup until it’s hot.  It can grind nuts into butter.  I’ve pored over many a raw cookbook only to be turned away by the words, “blend in a high speed blender.”  But the price tag has kept me from taking that final step.  Still, that desire was always there, lingering.  When I’d see that yet another person got a Vitamix, it was the 1980’s all over again.

“Oh, man.  They just started cooking, and they got a Vitamix already.  I’ve wanted one for so long!”

Finally, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day this year, my husband said those magical words.  (No, not “Pack your bags, we’re moving to Bali!”)  He said, “Why don’t we buy a Vitamix as our Valentine’s Day gift to each other?”  (This follows perfectly in line with last year’s gift of a juicer.  I don’t care what advice columns say about not giving kitchen gadgets as romantic gifts.  They don’t understand my sense of romance at all.  Roses and perfume?  Please.  I’d rather have a green smoothie.)

A few days later there was a ringing at the door.  The delivery person was already driving away when I got there, but sitting on the doorstep was a box emblazoned with Vitamix.  I gasped.  Literally.  I opened the box and pulled out the pieces and couldn’t believe it was finally mine.  I saw the word Vitamix tattooed on its base, filled out the warranty and made it official.

In honor of these two much pined after items, I bring you Nearly Raw Reuben Bites. These tangy, salty and sweet bites work wonderfully as an eye-catching lunch or as appetizers at a gathering.  Pastrami-inspired walnuts and raw sauerkraut are cupped in cabbage leaves.  (I think Xavier would approve.)  The recipe utilizes a high speed blender for the Cashew Thousand Island Dressing, but an ordinary blender would also do just fine.  (In that case you may want to soak the cashews a little longer and perhaps leave the capers as a topping instead of a dressing ingredient.)

For the sauerkraut aspect of the bites, I highly recommend picking up raw sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  The taste is so much fresher and more vibrant than shelf-stable canned or jarred varieties.  Plus, you can’t beat the fantastic crunch in the refrigerated versions.  My favorite brand is Gold Mine.  (Their garlic kraut is phenomenal.)  However, outside of mail ordering, it’s not available in the Midwest.  For Midwesterners a good regional brand is Spirit Creek Farm.  Bubbies is also a good, widely available, refrigerated option.

Nearly Raw Reuben Bites

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

  • Pastrami-inspired walnut meat
  • Cabbage leaves from head of cabbage
  • Sauerkraut, raw and/or refrigerated is best
  • Cashew Thousand Island Dressing
  • Raw beet, shredded (Optional garnish)

Separate several leaves from the head of cabbage.  Remove the thick rib on each cabbage leaf.  Leave only the thin, soft part of each leaf as the base.  Put a dollop of pastrami-inspired walnut meat and sauerkraut into each leaf.  Top with a drizzling or dollop of Cashew Thousand Island Dressing.  Finish it with a sprinkling of shredded raw beet (optional).

Pastrami-inspired Walnut Meat

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 ½ tsp low-sodium tamari
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp caraway seeds
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, julienne or chopped

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until small and crumbly.  Stop occasionally to scrape down sides, if necessary.

Cashew Thousand Island Dressing

  • 1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked (30 minutes – 12 hours.  The longer they soak, the creamier they will be.)
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp + ¼ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp low-sodium tamari
  • 1 heaping Tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp pickles, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, julienne or chopped
  • ½ tsp capers

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until fairly smooth.  Stop and scrape down sides occasionally until fully combined.