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Beets with Arugula “Cheese” and Orange

Beets with Arugula “Cheese” and Orange (recipe follows post)

An  Easy Elegant Appetizer and a Story

I exhaled on Tuesday for the first time in 5 months. Not your normal exhale but a long  breath from deep down inside. As the air escaped from my lips, months of pent up stress traveled with it. Finally, a feeling of pure joy and delightful expectation started to overcome me, along with complete exhaustion. 


Raw Beet with Arugula "Cheese" and Orange

Many of you know that I moved to California from Minnesota 2 years ago. It was a big move and many adjustments had to be made. About a year ago, with the blessing of my partner, Peter, I started looking for a new house. We wanted a home that reflected our life together, and how we wanted to live. Peter’s house was a bit too big and formal and I desperately missed having land. 

Looking for a home in the Bay Area is not an easy task. Soaring real estate prices, and limited availability are two tricky obstacles that needed to be overcome. Add into that a desire for multiple garages (Peter) and land (me) and the term, “looking for a needle in a hay stack” comes to mind. 

My other biggest challenge was finding a kitchen that I loved. I write this blog, write cookbooks, and am a professional food photographer. I spend hours in the kitchen daily. It is not only the place I prepare food, it is my office and my inspiration place.

All of the houses we looked at had beautiful kitchens. The problem was they were someone else’s idea of a beautiful kitchen.

 My kitchen is completely plant based. I need a great flow. Having to make extra movements takes time and frustrates me. None of the kitchens would work the way I needed them to work. And redoing new, lovely kitchens was out of the question. 

Then one rainy day, my realtor, Pat told me she had found a property that she thought we should look at.

I had already seen this home online and ruled it out. The turquoise and black bathroom, the 1970’s kitchen, and an exterior that was, shall we say, less than attractive? But she insisted (mostly because it had a huge garage for my car-building sweetie) and it also had a little land. 

The drive up to the house was an adventure. We were only minutes from a major highway, smack dab in the middle of civilization and all of a sudden we were on a tiny road, climbing, twisting, and turning. And the views…oh the views! Both jaw dropping and stomach dropping all at the same time. 

We emerged at the top of the ridge, and houses started appearing. As we pulled into the driveway, I took one look and thought, “No way, this house is not for us.” But the beautiful acre and a half had caught my attention with it’s twenty plus heritage oaks. And the views off the front were amazing. 

Then we walked through the front door. Two story windows greeted us with a stunning view of Mt. Diablo in the distance. “Holy cow, I thought, “This is amazing.”

A quick walk through revealed a home that was well loved but looked like it hadn’t been updated since it was built in the early 70’s. It needed help. A lot of help. 

But at the same time, it had potential. Amazing potential. 

I will save you all the details, but it took over a month just to determine if we would buy it. Meeting with the builder, numerous inspections to make sure it was still sound and a lot of tricky negotiating to get it to a price that would accommodate the entire renovation that was needed. 

While all of this was going on, I found myself driving up the windy road a couple times a week. There was something magical about this place that was calling out to me. Needless to say, I was falling completely in love with what at that point was only a dream and I had no idea if it could become reality.

The second part of the story was getting our house ready for the market. That is what has been keeping me away from the blog. Day after day of cleaning, clearing out, painting, fixing up, staging. It was exhausting work but in the end, with a lot of help from my daughter, Kaia, it all paid off. On Monday, the last major hurtle was cleared and I exhaled. 

So, now you know what I have been up to, and I apologize for my absence.  To celebrate being back in the kitchen, I put together a beautiful and easy appetizer I know you will simply love. 

Beets, a light and fluffy arugula “cheese spread”, oranges and walnuts create a tasty and balanced flavor profile. Make this for your family or when entertaining. The only advance preparation is throwing the cashews in water the night before you want to make it. Cheers and enjoy!

Raw, Vegan Beets with Arugula "Cheese" and Oranges at

Beets with Orange, Arugula "Cheese" and Walnuts

Arugula Cheese

  • 2 cups cashews, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juice from
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups arugula
  1. In a high-speed blender, blend cashews with water until thick and smooth. Start with 1/3 cup water and add the rest if you need.
  2. Add the lemon juice, garlic and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth.
  3. Transfer to food processor and add arugula a handful at a time, pulsing between additions. You want the leaves to be chopped in the mixture. Alternatively, finely chop the arugula and hand-stir into mixture.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.


  • 2 medium beets, sliced about 1/8th inch
  • 2 oranges, supremed (for instructions on how to supremed, click here: Oranges)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • extra arugula leaves for decorating
  • fresh cracked pepper
  1. Place beets on dish.
  2. Top with arugula “cheese”, a slice of orange and walnuts. Add fresh ground pepper if you wish.
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  1. Monica wrote on October 14, 2015

    Your recipe looks amazing and taste delicious. I already made it a while ago :) Could you please tell me for how many people is this amount? Thank you

    • Susan wrote on October 14, 2015

      The recipe makes about 32-40 individual appetizers. Cheers!

  2. Ashlee wrote on December 3, 2014

    I’ve been looking for more beet recipes! I’ll definitely be trying this one out.

  3. patricia wrote on August 9, 2014

    oh I think this will be one of favs lol

    • Susan wrote on August 21, 2014

      Hi, Patricia, It’s a good one, no? Cheers!

  4. Nya wrote on June 12, 2014

    in my not so far away future, i am looking for the perfect home also. i felt your strife in finding the property you seeked and it made me feel that when i begin my search, that perfection will be waiting for me! Happy your happy!

  5. Nya wrote on June 12, 2014

    is yeast an important part of this recipe and if so, is there a substitute or can i just cancel out the yeast?

    • Susan wrote on June 12, 2014

      You can leave it out. It adds to the flavor and you will lose a little flavor depth. Nutritional yeast is not a live yeast. Cheers!

  6. Romi wrote on June 9, 2014

    Hi Susan,

    I made this last week and ate almost all of it by myself, it is OUTRAGEOUS! I am having a pot luck tomorrow night and doubled the recipe so there will be enough to share…. haha! I ALWAYS make your recipes for my pot lucks and people are always blown away by how good they are…. Even the non Vegans just love them! You make me look good as a cook ( or non cook as it is)!

    I may be out there this fall…… lets talk about the landscaping!

    Much love,


  7. Lyn Perry wrote on June 5, 2014

    This looks amazing but I am allergic to yeast. Is there an alternative?? Thank you

  8. Susan wrote on June 1, 2014

    Thank you, Barbara! CA real estate can be daunting. But gems are out there!! So fun to hear about your projects.

  9. Susan wrote on June 1, 2014

    Thank you, Romi! Wish you were here to help me with the 1 1/2 acres that hasn’t been touched for about 20 years!

  10. Heather wrote on May 31, 2014

    this sounds very tasty. Thanks.

    • Susan wrote on June 1, 2014

      Thank you, Heather!


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