RECIPES: Celebrate Fourth of July with colorful plant-based menu

Claudine Molson-Sellers, owner and head chef of Strive Foods in Sandy Springs, is shown with several of her dishes: Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake (left), Enchilada Lasagna Burger (front center) and Mango-Zpacho (right). The three condiments are (rear, from left in bowls) Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, Chipotle Mayo, and Pico de Gallo. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Claudine Molson-Sellers, owner and head chef of Strive Foods in Sandy Springs, is shown with several of her dishes: Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake (left), Enchilada Lasagna Burger (front center) and Mango-Zpacho (right). The three condiments are (rear, from left in bowls) Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, Chipotle Mayo, and Pico de Gallo. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

The ideal Fourth of July meal is full of bright, fresh flavors and light enough to be satisfying but not overwhelming on a hot summer day. Claudine Molson-Sellers of Strive Foods suggests a healthy plant-based menu that hits the mark so deliciously even the most dedicated carnivore won’t find anything missing in the meal.

When Molson-Sellers moved to Atlanta 10 years ago, she organized a group of moms from her children’s preschool who were all interested in healthy eating. Within a year, she was prepping foods she would offer to the moms. “It was just an item that would help them eat healthy during the day. A little kale salad, or a wrap.”

What started as one item a day became a list of 10 to 20 items for preorder, and she enlisted friends and clients to help with the prep. “It started snowballing in the best way possible.”

In 2013, she founded Strive Foods, focusing on plant-based, gluten-free prepared food. She found commercial kitchen space and began delivering her food to retail markets and selling at the Marietta and Sandy Springs farmers markets.

In October 2021, she moved into space on Hilderbrand Drive in Sandy Springs, with plenty of room for prep, a large space for retail sales and a few tables for customers to enjoy their food on the spot. Most recently, she’s started serving Sunday brunch, by reservation only.

The coolers are filled with her signature cauliflower crust pizza in six flavors, breakfast items such as Japanese breakfast yams, and bowls like her Dragon Bowl that includes quinoa, roasted sweet potato, tempeh and sprouted lentils. There are baked goods like seasonal scones and raw desserts like “Snickers” bites.

“I love watching people’s eyes light up when they see all this variety of food and learn that everything is plant-based and gluten-free.”

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Claudine Molson-Sellers is the owner and head chef of Strive Foods in Sandy Springs. Her business focuses on plant-based, gluten-free prepared food. (Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Claudine Molson-Sellers is the owner and head chef of Strive Foods in Sandy Springs. Her business focuses on plant-based, gluten-free prepared food. (Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Claudine Molson-Sellers is the owner and head chef of Strive Foods in Sandy Springs. Her business focuses on plant-based, gluten-free prepared food. (Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Molson-Sellers has a degree in physical education and knows the importance of fueling our bodies with good food, specifically good plant-based food. She remembers reading “Slaughterhouse: From Animal to Meat” by Gail Eisnitz when she was 14. “It opened my eyes to the atrocities happening in the factory farming industry and ignited something in me. I knew I wanted to be part of the solution.”

When asked how she creates so many colorful, interesting dishes, she credits childhood memories of her parents entertaining, browsing through two decades worth of Gourmet magazine that lived on the family’s bookshelves, and travel adventures that exposed her to food from around the world.

She has plans for a Strive cookbook and expanding the opportunity to serve people in the shop. “It’s been a dream of mine to have people come to a place where I could serve them something I just made.”

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RECIPES

Everything in this colorful plant-based Fourth of July meal can be prepared at least a day ahead, leaving only the burgers to bake, saute or grill before serving.

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For a refreshing summer dish, you can make Mango-Zpacho, shown here with basil leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

For a refreshing summer dish, you can make Mango-Zpacho, shown here with basil leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
For a refreshing summer dish, you can make Mango-Zpacho, shown here with basil leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Mango-Zpacho

Claudine Molson-Sellers had two inspirations in creating this recipe. First was that she’s always loved gazpacho, dating back from when her mother would make cold soups every summer including traditional gazpacho. Second was that she and her husband were on safari in the Serengeti and Masai Mara back in 2001, and the juices served at the Serena Lodges where they stayed had chopped fruit in them. “It was a simple addition but so satisfying. And since my husband loves mango, I combined those inspirations for this recipe.”

We tested this recipe with Ataulfo, or honey, mangoes, and it took four mangoes to make 2 cups diced fruit. We also tested it with the commonly available Tommy Atkins mango and needed about 2 1/2 mangoes for the same quantity of fruit.

Mango-Zpacho
  • 2 cups mango nectar, more if desired
  • 2 cups finely diced mango
  • 1/2 cup water, more if desired
  • 3/4 cup diced peeled and seeded English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or basil
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 minced seeded jalapeno, optional
  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, optional
  • Salt
  • Sprig of basil for garnish, if desired
  • In a large pitcher or half gallon jar, combine mango nectar, mango and water. Stir in cucumber, cilantro or basil, red pepper, red onion, jalapeno if using, rice vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, garlic and ginger if using. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Add more mango nectar or water to create a thinner consistency, if desired. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Garnish with a sprig of basil, if desired. Makes 6 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per 1-cup serving: 110 calories (percent of calories from fat, 4), 1 gram protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 7 milligrams sodium.
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An Enchilada Lasagna Burger is served here on a blanched collard leaf, with Pico de Gallo, Chipotle Mayo, and Avocado Tomatillo Salsa garnished with blistered shishito peppers and hemp seeds. A hamburger bun is also a serving option. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

An Enchilada Lasagna Burger is served here on a blanched collard leaf, with Pico de Gallo, Chipotle Mayo, and Avocado Tomatillo Salsa garnished with blistered shishito peppers and hemp seeds. A hamburger bun is also a serving option. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
An Enchilada Lasagna Burger is served here on a blanched collard leaf, with Pico de Gallo, Chipotle Mayo, and Avocado Tomatillo Salsa garnished with blistered shishito peppers and hemp seeds. A hamburger bun is also a serving option. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Enchilada Lasagna Burgers

Molson-Sellers created these burgers as a riff on her best-selling Enchilada Lasagna, which uses corn tortillas in place of pasta. She suggests using any one of three binders (masa harina, oat flour or gluten-free panko), depending on what’s in your pantry, but the masa harina comes closest to reproducing the taste of the corn tortillas.

She likes the soy chorizo from Trader Joe’s for this recipe. The water and flaxseed make the plant-based equivalent of an egg, helping to bind the mixture.

In contrast to many veggie burgers, these hold together perfectly. Our recipe suggests baking them, but you can saute them in a skillet with a little oil, or even grill them.

In our photo, the burger is served on a collard green leaf and garnished with blistered shishito peppers and hemp seeds.

Enchilada Lasagna Burgers
  • 2 (15.25-ounce) cans low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
  • 2 leaves kale, stems removed
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 (12-ounce) package soy chorizo
  • 1 1/2 cups masa harina, oat flour or gluten-free panko
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • Salt
  • Hamburger buns or blanched collard green leaves, for serving
  • Pico de Gallo (see recipe)
  • Chipotle Mayo (see recipe)
  • Avocado Tomatillo Salsa (see recipe)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, pulse black beans until they just begin to break up. Transfer beans to a large bowl. Do not rinse bowl of food processor. Add sweet potato chunks and pulse until potatoes are finely minced and look like rice. Add sweet potatoes to bowl of black beans. Do not rinse bowl of food processor. Add kale and cilantro and pulse until kale is finely chopped. Add kale and cilantro to bowl of black beans and sweet potatoes.
  • Stir in soy chorizo, masa harina, onion, nutritional yeast, chili powder, garlic, cumin, oregano and chipotle.
  • In a small bowl, stir together water and flaxseed. Stir into black bean mixture and taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed. Form mixture into 10 patties and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes, then flip and cook 12 minutes more. Serve on hamburger buns or blanched collard green leaves, garnishing with Pico de Gallo, Chipotle Mayo and Avocado Tomatillo Salsa. Makes 10 burgers.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per burger (including a collard green leaf, not including condiments): 270 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 13 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 414 milligrams sodium. Per burger (including a hamburger bun, not including condiments): 394 calories (percent of calories from fat, 19), 18 grams protein, 65 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams fiber, 9 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 629 milligrams sodium.
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Pico de Gallo is among the recommended toppings for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, but, of course, it has many uses. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Pico de Gallo is among the recommended toppings for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, but, of course, it has many uses. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Pico de Gallo is among the recommended toppings for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, but, of course, it has many uses. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Pico de Gallo
  • 1/2 cup slivered white onion
  • 1/2 medium jalapeno, finely chopped and seeded, optional
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional, if needed
  • 3 cups slivered tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • In a medium bowl, combine onion, jalapeno if using, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Combine tomatoes and cilantro in a large bowl. Stir in onion mixture and taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice or salt as needed. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 5 calories (percent of calories from fat, 7), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 42 milligrams sodium.
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Use Chipotle Mayo for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, or to spice up other burgers. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Use Chipotle Mayo for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, or to spice up other burgers. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Use Chipotle Mayo for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, or to spice up other burgers. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Chipotle Mayo
  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
  • In a medium bowl, stir together mayonnaise, chipotle and lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more chipotle or lime juice as needed. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 76 calories (percent of calories from fat, 84), trace protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 50 milligrams sodium.
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Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, a recommended topping for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, can step up your salsa game in general. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, a recommended topping for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, can step up your salsa game in general. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, a recommended topping for Enchilada Lasagna Burgers, can step up your salsa game in general. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
  • 1 (14-ounce) can tomatillos, drained
  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, or to taste
  • Sea salt
  • In the jar of a blender, combine tomatillos, flesh of avocados, cilantro, onion, lime juice and garlic. Process until smooth, then taste for seasoning and add salt and more lime juice or garlic if desired. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 56 calories (percent of calories from fat, 65), 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 11 milligrams sodium.
Combined ShapeCaption
Start a new summer tradition with Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, shown here with lemon zest and mint leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Start a new summer tradition with Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, shown here with lemon zest and mint leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Combined ShapeCaption
Start a new summer tradition with Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, shown here with lemon zest and mint leaf garnish. (Styling by Claudine Molson-Sellers / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

This brightly flavored “cheesecake” combines two favorite summer flavors in a creamy, satisfying dessert. For the smoothest textured filling, Molson-Sellers recommends a high-powered blender like a Vitamix. Made in a regular blender, the mixture will not be quite as smooth, but will still set just fine.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces
  • 4 soft, large, pitted medjool dates, more if needed
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, divided
  • Pinch of cinnamon, optional
  • Sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Mint sprig, for garnish (optional)
  • Line an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang on all sides.
  • Put cashews in a medium bowl and cover with water. Set aside at least 30 minutes. When ready to use, drain and discard water.
  • Make crust: In the bowl of a food processor, process rolled oats until finely ground. Add walnuts, dates, 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, cinnamon if using and a pinch of salt. Process until mixture just holds together. If needed, add 1 or 2 additional dates to achieve the right texture. Press mixture into prepared baking dish and set aside.
  • Make filling: Cut lemon in half. Seed one half and put seeded half in the jar of a high-powered blender. Remove zest of second half and reserve for garnish. Juice the second half and add the juice to the blender along with drained cashews, remaining 1/3 cup coconut oil, maple syrup, water, vanilla, almond extract and a pinch of salt. Blend until completely creamy and smooth. Pour over crust in prepared baking dish, then top with blueberries, pressing them into the filling but leaving some on top. Cover pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, garnish with reserved lemon zest and mint sprig, if desired. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 472 calories (percent of calories from fat, 65), 11 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 36 grams total fat (12 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 71 milligrams sodium.
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