STORY BY SANDRA S. SORIA
Undoubtedly, the most common response to a plate of food being put before us is: “Wow. That looks good.” In Alison’s world of food and prop styling, it’s the ultimate compliment—looks really do count. Even in her own kitchen, the meals she creates begin with what’s visually appealing. “I’m hugely inspired by color and interesting produce that catches my eye at the farmers market or grocery store,” says the Portland, Oregan resident. “I usually start with a color theme in mind or a main ingredient I want to showcase and go from there.”
The fact is, even though the dishes Alison prepares often start with color and aesthetics, each one is more than just a pretty plate. Nature has a fascinating way of color-coding foods to help us maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Just consider how beta-carotene turns carrots and sweet potatoes bright orange to improve the immune system, eyesight and skin. Or how the greens that Mom told us to eat get their hue from chlorophyll, an antioxidant that helps create healthy red blood cells. Factor in the psychological lure of color, and no wonder “eat the rainbow” has become a nutritionist’s, well, hue and cry.
Alison’s personal journey to a Technicolor dream diet started in her teens, when she was studying up on being a vegetarian. “I decided to stop eating meat when I was 15,” she says. “ is definitely shaped my diet journey from a young age. I became very interested in health and reading about diet and nutrition. This led to experimenting in the kitchen and ultimately my love for cooking.”
“Not every single meal I make is styled, but most of them are. I believe putting love, attention and energy into creating beautiful food lends itself to the food creating a harmonious relationship with your body.
We are what we eat!”
Eventually, that research returned her to omnivore status, when she tuned in to the way certain foods, such as gluten and dairy, had a direct effect on how she felt. “I started to realize that I’d grown scared or disgusted by meat,” Alison says, “but only because my mind was telling me this story over and over again. I decided that I wanted to start incorporating meat back into my diet—not every day but two or three times a week. I didn’t want to close myself off from a food unless it made me feel bad. Once I started eating meat again, I instantly felt better. I had more energy. I wasn’t cold all the time. There was just an overall feeling of balance in my systems.”
Alison shares her insights and recipes for a diet that is visually and nutritionally in harmony on her web site and blog that bears the same name as her food, fashion and prop styling business—Wu Haus—and through eye-candy food images she shares with an Instagram following that now has upwards of 60,000 loyalists. She’s been dubbed “the smoothie queen” for her lusciously layered concoctions that are almost too artful to slurp. Almost.
We asked her to share a couple of her favorite recipes and images with us. We think you’ll agree that, wow, they look good.
BAKED PISTACHIO-TEMPEH HERBED FALAFEL WITH COLLARD WRAPS
These falafel wraps are light yet super satisfying. I love the collard wraps, but you could serve these with pita or a whole grain wrap instead. A yogurt-based sauce would also be lovely on these in place of the tahini. If you are sensitive or allergic to soy, you can swap the tempeh for 2 cups of chickpeas here. Also, feel free to double the recipe. The falafel will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. It’s nice to have some on hand through the week to add to salads or roasted veggie bowls.
□ 1⁄4 cup parsley
□ 1⁄4 cup mint
□ 1⁄2 cup raw pistachios
□ 6 oz tempeh (about 2cups), crumbled
□ 1⁄2 cup shallot, diced
□ 2 cloves garlic, diced
□ 3 tablespoons olive oil
□ 2 tablespoons nut flour (I used brazil nut, but almond works great)
□ 1 teaspoon cumin
□ 1 teaspoon baking soda
□ 1 teaspoon salt
□ 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
□ A small bunch of collard greens, stems removed to leaf
□ 1 small beet, grated
□ 3 small radishes, sliced paper thin
□ 1 avocado, sliced
□ Micro greens
□ Optional: crumbled fetaor plant-based “cheeze”
□ 4 tablespoons tahini
□ 3 tablespoons olive oil
□ 1 tablespoon warm water
□ 1 teaspoon za’atar
□ 1-2 cloves raw garlic, pressed
□ Salt + pepper, to taste
► Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
► To make falafel mixture pulse parsley, mint and pistachios in food processor until well chopped. Add the tempeh, shallot, garlic, olive oil, cumin, nut flour, baking soda, salt and pepper and blend for about 20-30 seconds until mixture is combined but not smooth. ► Roll falafel dough into 12 balls. Place them on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 18 minutes, turning halfway through. Falafel should be browned on two sides.
► Meanwhile, make the sauce by whisking all ingredients together in small bowl or jar. Prep veggies for wraps.
► Assemble the wraps and enjoy!
SWEET-POTATO NOODLES WITH MISO-CASHEW-LIME DRESSING
I’m pretty obsessed with the idea that you can now make ‘noodles’ out of so many different types of veggies with a “spiralizer.” This meal takes very little time and effort to put together, makes a great lunch and can be eaten warm, at room temp or chilled.
□ 3 jewel yams
□ 1 package ready-to-eat tofu
□ 4 oz shiitake mushrooms, cut however desired
□ 3 radishes, thinly sliced using a mandolin if possible
□ 3 scallions, thinly sliced
□ 2 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil + 1 teaspoon (for shiitakes)
□ 2 teaspoons liquid aminos or tamari
□ 1⁄4 cup cilantro, chopped
□ 1⁄4 cup basil, chopped
□ 1 jalapeño, diced
□ To garnish: black sesame seeds, extra lime slices
□ 2 tablespoons olive oil
□ 1 tablespoon white miso
□ 1 tablespoon raw cashew butter
□ 1 teaspoon sesame oil
□ 1 teaspoon liquid amigos or tamari
□ 1 tablespoon water
□ 1 garlic clove, minced
□ Juice from 1 lime
► Blend all dressing ingredients in high-speed blender for about a minute or until very smooth. Set aside. ► “Spiralize” the yams and set aside. In a large skillet, heat
2 tablespoons of avocado or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the yam noodles and sauté for 8-10 minutes.
► While the noodles are cooking, sauté the shiitakes in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat. After about 5 minutes, add 1 teaspoon avocado/coconut oil and liquid aminos/tamari and cook until finished, about another 3-5 minutes.
► Once the noodles are tender-crisp, add the tofu and shiitakes and cook another minute or two. Remove from heat, add the radishes, scallions, cilantro, basil and jalapeño. Toss with dressing and garnish with black sesame seeds. Enjoy!
FRESH SALAD ROLLS WITH SPICY GINGER-PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE
MAKES 15-20 ROLLS
Salad rolls are fun to make and so delicious to eat. The spicy peanut sauce is the perfect match for the fresh, crisp veggies in the salad rolls. I love the addition of mango for a touch of sweetness.
FRESH SALAD ROLLS
□ 1 pkg rice paper wrappers
□ 1 pkg thin brown rice noodles (vermicelli)
□ 10 oz pkg of super firm vacuum-sealed tofu, julienned
□ 1 avocado, thinly sliced
□ 1 cucumber, julienned
□ 1 kiwi, sliced in rounds
□ 1⁄2 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
□ 1 mango, julienned
□ 1 carrot, julienned
□ Fresh mint, Thai or regular basil and cilantro
□ Gomasio or black sesame seeds
□ Tamari or liquid aminos
SPICY GINGER-PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE
□ 1⁄2 tablespoon coconut oil
□ 1⁄2 cup peanut butter
□ 2 to 3-inch piece of ginger cut into round slices
□ 3 garlic cloves cut into round slices
□ 1 jalapeño (may not use the whole thing)
□ Juice from 1 lime
□ 1-2 teaspoons coconut sugar
□ 2-3 tablespoons warm water
□ Salt to taste
► Prep all the veggies and put into small bowls for easy assembly. After cutting the tofu, toss to coat with tamari or liquid aminos.
► Soak the thin brown rice noodles in warm-hot water until tender. Once they are done, drain from water then toss in a large bowl with tamari or liquid aminos.
► In a small skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the garlic and ginger until both start to brown. At the end of cooking, add the peanut butter to soften. Pour mixture into a high-speed blender or food processor. Add any amount of jalapeño (remember, you can always add more!), lime juice, coconut sugar and warm water. Blend until smooth. You may need to adjust the water measurement depending on the consistency of peanut sauce you prefer. Add salt to taste.
►Once you are ready to assemble the salad rolls, fill a glass pie pan (or similar size pan) with very hot water. Place one rice paper wrapper into the pie pan and allow it to soften in the hot water (about 1-2 minutes). Slowly remove the rice paper from the water, being careful not to let it overlap on itself as best you can. [Note: I usually hold the paper over the pie pan of water to allow the excess water to drip off.] Place the softened rice paper on a plate or at surface for rolling. ► Pile the whole mint, basil and/or cilantro leaves, noodles, tofu, avocado, cucumber, mango or kiwi, cabbage and carrot in the center of the rice paper. Be sure not to over fill the salad roll. It’s best to leave about
an inch on either side of the wrapper, and about two inches on the top and bottom. To roll, pull up the bottom of the paper over the filling to secure tightly. Holding this in place with one hand, fold each of the sides in with your other hand. Roll to the end and use your hands to tuck the filling in as you go, trying to keep as tight a roll as possible. Sometimes I cut off any excess of the paper at the end with a pair of kitchen shears, but this is not necessary. Repeat steps 3-4 until all the rolls are made. You will likely have to change out the water in the pie pan a couple times as it begins to cool.
► Garnish the finished rolls with gomasio or black sesame seeds and serve with spicy ginger-peanut dipping sauce. Rolls will keep in the fridge
for 2-3 days, but the rolls are best served fresh the day they are made. If storing, be sure to either wrap in plastic wrap, or use a damp paper towel to separate each roll. The rolls will stick together if they are touching.