I’m in charge of appetizers for an afternoon birthday party for a good friend of mine.

It’s the dead of winter, but a heavy app doesn’t sound appealing (especially when chicken is the main entree). I wanted to make something interesting without being too fussy. Elegant but not stuffy. Classic over molecular.

Pasta salad was running through my thoughts…but individual appetizers tend to be easier for guests to pick up and enjoy in standing-party situations so portability is key.

Taking the pasta out of the salad and using it as a mini bowl did the trick. Jumbo shells, cooked just al dente, filled with a zippy lemon pea salad is a clever way to serve pasta salad as an appetizer.

The cashew cream is optional as you could substitute in mayonnaise, but I’m avoiding dairy so I turned to a raw food staple for a solution. Soaking raw cashews and then blending them creates a healthy cream that can be used in a variety of ways, including in desserts.

This is an easy way to elevate a boring pasta salad, and there’s no reason to wait until someone’s birthday to enjoy. Start off any meal with these easy Fat and Happy cold stuffed shell appetizers.

Lemon Pea Salad Stuffed Shells with Cashew Cream

  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 Orange pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 of a Jalapeño, mince (use more or less depending your heat preference)
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Salt and pepper
  • Jumbo Shells (about 20)

Place the cashews in a glass bowl, cover with cold water and let soak overnight.

Rinse the cashews, place in a blender along with one cup of cold water, the garlic clove, a dash of onion powder, paprika and cayenne, juice from half of the lemon and salt and pepper. Blend until desired consistency is reached. You may need to add more water. I left mine slightly chunky to give the salad more texture. You can blend until smooth and even strain it for the smoothest option.

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook them. They should be al dente. Strain and rinse with cold water.

Mix together the salad by adding the onion, celery, pepper, peas and jalapeno with the cashew cream. Additional salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the shells with with the salad and enjoy.

Fat and Happy Food Blog Tips and Techniques: The cashews need to soak overnight so begin the process the night before you will make the salad.

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