Two weekends spent traveling and several side projects has left me distant from this space for a week or two, but never fear, it t’was only temporary! The first weekend was spent back home in Phoenix with our families (I shared more about this in my last post). Warm, sunny, nostalgic days filled our trip and it felt very needed. This past weekend we were lucky enough to tag along with our friends Maggie and Joel (of Joel Bear Studios) to do some adventure modeling for a few new outdoor pieces they had received to shoot. Um, yeah, best kind of modeling I could imagine. Getting to road trip down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado and climb all over huge sand dunes that were at the base of snowy mountain peaks with a river running between them – PINCH ME.
We searched for a place to camp in and around the park with no luck, but then stumbled upon this little lodge right outside the park. It was a thin strip of a building with only a small handful of rooms. Each room opened up to a patio that faced the dunes. It was simple, rustic yet neat, and perfectly matched it’s surroundings. Even though all four of us were itching to set up camp in our tents, this was the best thing that could have happened. I will never forget my morning waking up to that view. It felt odd climbing around on huge sand dunes in the sunshine with jeans and a jacket on, but it was only 50F with a cool breeze. You never got warm, maybe chilly at times, and it was just perfect. The cold river felt so good on your feet when crossing from the mountain side to the dunes side. Then the sun-beaten sand warmed them immediately as you began to hike. I’m not going to lie, I straight up laid down on the sand at times to feel it’s warmth and soak up the rays between climbing it’s peaks. The vastness of the dunes and mountains next to open plains where you could see for miles reminded me of Death Valley. There is a type of peace you feel in the presence of these places that cannot be expressed in words or pictures. You have to be in their midst. I’m excited to share more about our adventure, as well as one of my go-to traveling recipes, over on Herban Journal next month. Definitely give them a follow, I love what they are all about. I also have a few photos from the trip up on our “Adventures by Us” board if you want to see more.
Now onto this crazy deliciousness melting your face as you stare at the screen right now. I teased you with this picture on Instagram a few weeks back, and now I am finally bringing it to you here! This is one of those recipes that was not planned, but craved. I was on my morning long distance run (where most of my recipe ideas come to me, ironically) and I began to crave the flavors in this sandwich. I wanted bread, the rustic spelt kind that my body can handle. A tangy tzatziki filled with fresh cucumber and dill. Roasted golden beets covered in sumac. Plus no veggie sandwich is complete without sprouts and avocado slices. Together, the layers of flavor in this sandwich nearly knocked Scott and I out of our chairs. I have to give a huge shout out to Jodi over at Happy Hearted Kitchen for saving the day when it came to the tzatziki sauce. After my run I continued running all over our neighborhood to the different markets in search of a plane, unsweetened, vegan greek yogurt with zero success. About to throw in the towel on my craving for the day, I began to think… (I should probably start with thinking next time, eh?) What other whole foods, vegan based sauce could I use for the tzatziki in place of the greek yogurt? Then Jodi’s sunflower seed based aioli popped in my head – and hot damn am I glad I never found that yogurt. This sauce is out of this world. I want to bathe in this sauce (metaphorically). I used her sunflower seed + lemon juice + olive oil base and then added some salt, pepper, fresh dill, and diced cucumber to change it from an aioli to a mediterranean tzatziki. Authentic? Heck no. Delicious? You bet. The rest all came together, I layered this baby up, and dug into THE best veggie sandwich I have ever had in my life. No exaggeration. Now it’s your turn to experience this hearty, tasty, veggie magic.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram and tag photos you post of my recipes with #FWmakers so I can see!
Serves 4 hungry persons.
One loaf of rustic spelt bread (recipe here).
Sunflower Seed Tzatziki
Adapted from Jodi’s Aioli
1/2 cup sunflower seeds*
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
few dashes of pepper
2 heaping tablespoons fresh dill
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced cucumber
Roasted Golden Beets
2 golden beets
light drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper
sumac for dusting
2 medium avocados
*I have made this tzatziki with the raw sunflower seeds soaked (in water for four hours) and not soaked. Both turned out great. However, when I did not soak the seeds I did have to add 2 tablespoons of water to the sauce when blending to get the right consistency.
Preheat the oven to 400F to roast the beets. Wash the beets, scrubbing well to ensure any dirt gets removed, and slice off the top and bottom and discard. Slice the beets into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Lightly toss the slices in a drizzle of olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Lay on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until they reach your desired level of crispiness).
While the beets are roasting, make the sunflower tzatziki. Combine the sunflower seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a high speed blender and puree until smooth (I used my stick blender to puree the ingredients in a small mixing bowl). If you did not soak your seeds (see note above) add 2 tablespoons of water at this time. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Slice 1 small julienne cucumber (or 1/3 of a large cucumber) in half and scrape out the seeds using your finger or a spoon. Press the inside of the cucumber with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Slice the cucumber halves into 1/4 inch thick strips. Cut those strips into 1/4 inch cubes. Place cubes on a paper towel and roll up and squeeze to remove any remaining liquid. Add the diced cucumber, and fresh dill, to the sunflower seed sauce and fold in until combined. The sauce can be made ahead and stored in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. Best if consumed within 3 days.
When the beets are finished roasting and your tzatziki is made, its time to assemble the sandwiches! Lay down a slice of bread and spread with a few tablespoons of the sunflower tzatziki. Layer a few roasted golden beet rounds on top next and sprinkle with sumac. Add a few avocado slices, and top with a good handful of broccoli sprouts. Top with another slice of bread, slice the sandwich in half, and dig in. Known side effects include mouth watering and excessive happiness.