Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hidden-Vegetable Fried Rice

The other day a friend whipped up a fabulous fried rice dish with red rice, onion, cabbage, and chili peppers. I wasn’t even planning to eat but when I saw that rice, I couldn’t resist.

Needless to say, I had fried rice on the brain and wanted to make some at home. A couple of days later, as I was shredding vegetables to ferment, it occurred to me that they would be perfect in a fried rice dish because they would sauté instantly and add a crunchy texture to the rice.

More importantly, if you’re trying to get your kids to eat more green or cruciferous vegetables, this is the perfect way to slip them into a dish, because they add a very nice uniform texture to the rice that is perfect for kids little teeth and a mild flavor that’s spread evenly over the rice so it won’t shock their tastebuds.

They’re also great for a quick soup. Today I got home from my yoga class and combined vegetable broth, a handful of mixed, shredded veggies, an egg and some dulse. It was flavorful, thick, had a little bit of a crunch to it, and literally took 5 minutes to make.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. This rice took a little more time than the soup, but if the rice and veggies are prepared ahead of time, it will go quick as well. I actually have a glass bowl filled with the vegetables in the fridge that are ready to use for the next few days. And any rice (except sticky rice) will work here. These days, I like the rich colors of the dark rices.

Hidden-Vegetable Fried Rice

3 – 4 c cooked rice (brown, black, mahogany, etc., cooked in vegetable broth)

2 T grapeseed oil, divided

1 c leeks, chopped crosswise

½ c each green and red cabbage, carrots, and kale, processed in the food processor into small particles

1 - 2 T tamari

3 eggs, scrambled or cooked omelet style then cut into bite-sized pieces

sea salt and pepper to taste

If not prepared ahead of time, cook the rice according to the directions on the package (I also soak my rice several hours before cooking). Meanwhile, heat 1T oil in a large skillet or dutch oven and sauté the leeks on medium heat until tender. Add the processed vegetables and sauté a couple of minutes more. Add the remaining oil, tamari, and the rice, mix well and continue to “fry” the rice for ~5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 20, 2010

You'll Go Nuts for This Sauce

Recently, a girlfriend and I had dinner at the home of some mutual friends. One of them is a master at Thai massage and a phenomenal cook who has an exceptional diet. Everytime I go there I'm treated to something wonderful (like his fried red rice yesterday : )

At dinner, he served us a beautiful platter with egg, fried tofu and sweet potato. Accompanying this was a nut-based satay sauce that is typically served with a very similar Indonesian dish called gado-gado, that paired really well with a beautiful display of veggies that included carrots, cabbage, snow peas, banana flowers, garlic flowers, bamboo shoots, long beans, watercress, and sprouts. It was a divine meal, enjoyed with some wonderful friends in a warm, cozy atmosphere. A perfect combination, I would say.

If you don’t have nut allergies, this sauce would round out a nice vegetarian meal with vegetables and grains and even fruit. And, if you’re having a tough time getting your kids to eat their green beans and broccoli, this is a healthy alternative to dousing them with melted cheese.

Mixed-nuts Sauce

1- 2 T grapeseed or coconut oil
2 cups mixed nuts
8 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
3 fresh/frozen chilli peppers (1/2 tsp chilli powder)
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
450 ml / 16 fl oz / 2 cups water
1 tbsp tamarind water or juice of a lemon
1 cup coconut milk

A thin slice of shrimp paste (optional)

Salt to taste

Stir-fry the mixed nuts for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain in a colander, and leave to cool. Then pound or grind the nuts into a fine powder, using a blender, coffee grinder, or pestle and mortar.

Crush the garlic, shallots and shrimp paste in a mortar with a little salt, and saute in the remaining oil for 1 minute.

Add the chilli powder, sugar, soy sauce, water, and coconut milk. Bring this to the boil, then add the ground peanuts. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick; this should take about 8-10 minutes.

Add the tamarind water or lemon juice and more salt if needed.

When cool, keep in a jar in the fridge. Reheat as required for use with satay or as a dip for lalab crudites or savory snacks. The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Home-spun Version of Bibimbap

The Korean word bibimbap translated literally means mixing (bibim) rice (bap). It is my favorite Korean dish and one that I regard as comfort food. Think, cold, rainy or snowy evening enjoying this meal. To me, it’s a healthy and delicious way to get a variety of vegetables in the winter.

If you’ve never had bibimbap at a Korean restaurant, you don’t know what you’re missing. It is served to you at the table in a sizzling stone pot layered with rice and small piles of vegetables, sprouts, sea vegetables, mushrooms, meat or tofu topped with an egg. It also comes with a side of a sweet and spicy red sauce called Kochujang.

To eat this dish, you begin by literally scrambling the contents with a large spoon, exposing the delicious crunchy crust of rice from the very bottom of the pot. Kochujang sauce is then added into the mixture. It’s hard to believe that something that seems so simple to me can taste so wonderful.

The other night, armed with a fridge full of veggies, I decided to make my home-spun version of this dish – without the stone pot and the crunchy crust. I began with a base of buckwheat and rice (a blend of black and mahogany) and then topped it with veggies, seaweed, tofu, mushrooms, egg, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I finished it off with the Kochujang sauce (recipe below). The result is the pretty dish you see above.

This would work well with leftover vegetables, rice, and even meat if desired. Just reheat, assemble, and add the sauce.

The Dish

Cooked rice or any combination of rice and whole grains;

Any combination of vegetables, cut into strips and quickly sautéed:

- carrots, zucchini, peppers, scallions, mushrooms (or dried mushrooms that have been soaked);

- seaweed that has been soaked and drained – I used arame;

- ground or chopped meat or tofu – I drained some firm tofu, cut it into rectangles, fried it in a little grapeseed oil, then seasoned it with a little pepper, tamari, and sesame oil;

- a sunny side up egg;

To make the dish pretty (for a few minutes anyway : ), spoon hot rice or grain mixture into the bottom of a wide bowl. Arrange the vegetables, meat, and/or tofu in piles around the outer edge of the rice. Place the egg on top in the middle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, add a large spoonful of Kochujang sauce, then get to work mixing it all together and enjoy!

Kochujang Sauce

2 T chili paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T soy sauce or tamari

1 t sesame oil

2 scallions, chopped small

2 t sugar (I used maple syrup)

Mix all the ingredients together well. This makes about 1 – 2 servings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hawaiian Banana Bread

Who doesn’t love banana bread? Or I should say, who doesn’t love good banana bread? I say that because banana bread is one of those foods that require the starring ingredient be as brown and nasty as possible (on the outside, that is, while still being edible on the inside!). The riper the bananas, the better tasting the bread.

So I had bananas sitting for days, and I waited patiently for them to ripen. Finally, I started searching the grocery stores (I even called a couple) and I found the same green bunches of fruit on the shelves.

Finally I looked at my bananas and decided that the recipe I was about to try would be forgiving enough to work with bananas that were now at their peak: perfect sliced on a bowl of granola or atop a pile of pancakes–just the right softness without a speck of brown.

After checking out several recipes for Hawaiian Banana Bread, I went with the recipe below. The original recipe is here. I made a number of substitutions, including replacing half of the oil with *coconut milk (had some left over from the Tomato Soup recipe), using a different sugar and whole grain spelt flour.

The result was fabulous. It got thumbs up from five taste testers. It’s moist, flavorful–yes, the flavor of banana shines through and I can only imagine what it would taste like using super-ripe bananas. I’ll let you know : )

Hawaiian Banana Bread

½ c grapeseed oil

½ c coconut milk

2 c sugar (I used sucanat)

3 eggs, beaten

2 t vanilla

4 very, very ripe bananas, mashed

8 oz crushed pineapple, drained

3 c flour (I used whole grain spelt)

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

½ c shredded unsweetened coconut

1 c chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the oil, coconut milk and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Add the eggs and vanilla, then mix in bananas and pineapple. Combine the dry ingredients and mix slowly into the wet ingredients until combined.

Divide the batter between two 9 x 5 greased loaf pans and bake for ~1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.

*Why do I use coconut milk so often? Besides the fact that it’s versatile and it tastes great, it provides some health benefits that you may not be aware of. The saturated fat in coconut milk is made up of medium and short chain fatty acids which tend to get burned for energy rather than stored. One of the main components is lauric acid, which is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. The milk also contains some important nutrients such as potassium and calcium and it’s dairy free.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Creamy Tomato Kale Soup

It’s soup weather and I’m already thinking about what I’d like to create in a pot this Winter! Growing up, tomato soup was one of my favorites and it came from a can–we just added milk or water. It wasn’t until several years ago that I began making my own tomato soup and realized what I had been missing all those years!

Today, a friend and I came up with this recipe below. We used tomatoes that we roasted in the oven (absolutely worth the effort and described here), sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and coconut milk in place of dairy, but you could easily substitute milk/cream instead. To bulk up on the nutrients, we also added a healthy dose of kale.

Also, if it’s too acidic for you, you can add a teaspoon of sweetener. We used sucanat and it tasted great, but we also liked it before the sugar was added.

We loved this soup and it even got the seal of approval from my girlfriend’s 13-year-old son and his friend. To me, that says it all, because any way you can get your kids to eat unprocessed foods with green vegetables is a good thing!

Tomato Kale Soup

3 lbs tomatoes, roasted, or ~4 c chopped, roasted tomatoes (from a carton or can)

2 c vegetable broth

1 c sundried tomatoes (not in oil)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 c chopped carrots

1 T fresh oregano, chopped

1 T fresh basil, chopped

1 t sweetener, such as cane sugar or sucanat (optional)

3 cloves garlic

2 c kale, leaves removed from stem and chopped

1 c coconut milk

salt and pepper to taste

If using roasted tomatoes, remove the skins and set the tomatoes and juices aside. Heat the vegetable broth to a boil then remove from heat. Add the sundried tomatoes and let them soak for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil to medium in a large pot and add the onion. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the carrot. Mix well and continue to let cook over medium heat for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, and basil. Remove the sundried tomatoes from the broth and coarsely chop, then add them and the broth to the pot. Cover and let simmer until the carrots are cooked, ~10 minutes.

Add the garlic and kale and simmer until the kale turns a bright green color. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot or blend it in small batches in a blender.

Return the soup to the pot and add the coconut milk. Mix well and adjust the taste with salt and pepper and additional coconut milk if desired.

Enjoy with a crusty artisan bread or if you really want to go for the comfort meal, a grilled cheese sandwich (on whole grain bread of course : )) Enjoy!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Get Cultured with Fermented Vegetables

I’ve written before about the benefits of adding probiotics to the diet in the form of cultured dairy products and fermented foods like miso and tempeh. This time of year, especially, it’s important to keep the immune system in top condition to ward off colds, the flu and the myriad of infections that can arise during the cool, dry winter months. Probiotics are an effective way to do just that.

One method I’ve been using to add more probiotics into my diet is culturing vegetables. This time of year, in particular, I believe they’re a great idea because we often skimp on the veggies we consume during the cold months and opt for heavier, cooked foods. This is fine and even preferable for me too because my body naturally wants warmer, heartier meals right now. It’s helpful, though, to balance the diet out a bit with some raw food and the root veggies and heartier winter crops are the perfect varieties for fermenting.

There is also a significant benefit to fermenting vegetables of the Brassica family, including kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. In their raw state, these vegetables have thyroid-suppressing activities because they can interfere with the uptake of iodine by the thyroid. However, fermented vegetables lose this property while still remaining raw. They are also alkaline in nature and therefore detoxifying and a great alternative for people who stay away from dairy products.

It’s easy and inexpensive to make your own cultured vegetables. Here’s what you need (adapted from

- A sealable glass container, one to two quart

- A large bowl

- a cutting board and sharp knife

- blender and/or food processor

- mixture of veggies: cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, sea vegetables,

- fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, seeds like fennel or caraway, pepper, etc.

1. Wash well and chop finely or shred/process a mixture of vegetables of your choice.

2. Mix together in a large bowl. In the blender, add a couple of cups of the mixture and enough water to blend into a thick liquid.

3. Add the liquid slurry to the bowl of veggies and mix well.

4. Pack the vegetables into your glass container, leaving an inch or two at the top.

5. Stuff a couple of rolled-up cabbage leaves at the top of the container and seal the container.

6. Leave undisturbed in a warm place (~70°F) for ~3 - 7 days (Although, I do invert the jar once per day to redistribute the liquid that naturally settles to the bottom. Is this interfering with the fermentation process? I don't know for sure, but my veggies are usually ready within 7 days). Check the taste. They should taste vinegar-y. When they reach the desired flavor, refrigerate to slow the fermentation process.

7. Eat as a side with your meals, in salads, sandwiches or wraps, or as a topping to other foods. They should be eaten raw, though, the preserve the beneficial enzymes and bacteria. Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Brussel Sprouts Please!

Growing up, I was not a big fan of brussel sprouts. I vaguely remember them being served at dinner, taking one bite and deciding they were not my favorite food. Although, I think it would be rare to find a child that liked them. These days, I love seeing them in the store and immediately reach for a few handfuls because I know that their health benefits are tremendous and that I am equipped with a few recipes that allow me to welcome them on the dinner table. In fact, the last time I made them, they were my dinner!

The recipe below features warm, Autumn colors and a combination of nutty, tangy flavors that go well with the bitterness of the brussel sprouts. If you’ve got the time, you can also roast your own cranberries. They really do add a special touch to this recipe and will also eliminate the excessive sugar that can be found in dried cranberries. This pretty dish would make a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans

½ c pecans

1 T grapeseed oil

1 lb brussel sprouts, washed, stems and outer pieces removed

1 T grated ginger

orange zest and juice from one large orange

½ c dried or roasted cranberries (see below)

1 T butter

Heat a skillet, then add the pecans and lightly toast. Remove them from the pan and chop coarsely. Heat oil in a large skillet. Chop the brussel sprouts in half lengthwise. Add them to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned. Add the grated ginger, orange juice and zest, and cranberries. Cover and let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until sprouts are the desired tenderness. You can also add a bit of water if it needs more liquid. Add the pecans and butter and mix well. Serve warm.

Roasted Cranberries

1 12 oz. bag cranberries, picked through, washed and dried

1 T grapeseed oil

2 – 3 T maple syrup

Heat the oven to 225°F. Using a wire whisk, mix the grapeseed oil and maple syrup in a medium bowl. Add the cranberries and toss well to coat. Transfer into a single layer to a glass or ceramic flat-bottomed baking dish. Bake for ~45 minutes. Stir, then bake for an additional 30 minutes or until they start to shrivel. Let cool then refrigerate in a sealed container.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mustard Greens and Kale Sauce with Sundried Tomatoes

Two of the most powerfully beneficial groups of vegetables that we can eat are leafy greens and cruciferous veggies. This includes foods like lettuces, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and bok choy. They’re low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and a great source vitamins such as A, K, C, and folate, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.

Chlorophyll-containing greens purify and alkalize the blood, and both groups provide anti-oxidants, phyto-nutrients, and are mildly to strongly anti-inflammatory. So any way you can think of to get these veggies into your diet will provide tremendous health benefits to you and your family.

The inspiration for this recipe came from 101 Cookbooks from a pasta recipe calling for kale that sounds fantastic. The recipe sounded good and since I had a bunch of kale and mustard greens in the fridge at the time, I decided to combine the two. Because I was using mustard greens, I thought it would be nice to caramelize the leeks to sweeten them up a bit to balance out the bite of the mustard greens–the same for the balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes give the sauce more of a concentrated flavor as well as body, but I think tomato paste would work here too.

The sauce is good both cold/cool and heated and I’ve had it both ways. First with quinoa pasta (which is actually a blend of rice and quinoa flours), pictured above, and with cooked quinoa. It would also work with rice or other grains, or (I’m thinking!) as a pizza sauce.

Mustard Greens and Kale Sauce with Sundried Tomatoes

1 T grapeseed oil

1 leek, sliced thin crosswise

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c vegetable broth (or more for a thinner sauce), warm

2 T balsamic vinegar

½ c sundried tomatoes, sliced

6 – 8 large leaves each of mustard greens and kale, removed from the stems and broken into large pieces

sea salt and pepper to taste

goat or feta cheese, optional

In a medium skillet, heat the oil to medium and sauté the leek until tender and almost caramelized. Meanwhile, soak the sliced sundried tomatoes in the broth. When the leaks are ready, add them to a blender or food processor. Add the garlic, tomatoes and about ½ cup of the broth, vinegar, the mustard greens and kale leaves, and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Blend or process until the leaves are well processed. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Add more broth if a thinner sauce is desired. Serve over pasta or grains. Top with cheese (or blend in during the processing).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chickpea and Lentil Chili

I wasn’t paying attention to what the weather would be today when I decided to try something different for a vegetarian chili recipe. But the heavy, Autumn rain is a perfect match for a dish like this. I actually had it simmering on the stove by mid morning and the aroma was almost too much to handle!

This recipe is a variation on the vegetarian recipes that often call for pinto, red, and/or black beans. I’ve replaced them with lentils, seen above. I’ve included this picture because I marvel at how pretty they really are! They remind me of the stones that I saw at the edge of the ocean in Northern California. Just thought I’d share that. : )

Back to the chili, I’ve also kept the chickpeas (and I've explained their amazing health benefits here) and added lots of vegetables, including cauliflower, mushrooms, and greens.

The cauliflower, lentils, and mushrooms give this dish a texture that is surprisingly like a meat-based chili and you won’t even miss the meat! I think almost any vegetable you have on hand will work well in this dish. I also feel that good quality spices are really important. I used a smoked, Hungarian paprika here and a nice chili powder. Start off on the low side when adding the spices then add more to taste.

In addition, because I try to use canned foods as little as possible, when not using fresh tomatoes, I’ve switched to tomato products in tetra-pak containers. I’ve seen them at many of the major grocers in this area.

This would make a very hearty meal over brown rice or quinoa and can be garnished with traditional sour cream, chives, and cheese, or even cashews.

Chickpea and Lentil Chili

1 – 2 T grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped small
2 stalks celery, sliced lengthwise and chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
½ head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t dried oregano
2-4 T chili powder
2 T paprika
1 T cumin
½ t cayenne pepper
1 t black pepper
1 t sea salt
~2 c vegetable broth, simmering
1 12 oz. bottle dark beer, at room temperature (optional)
1 c lentils, soaked overnight and rinsed
3 c chickpeas, soaked overnight and rinsed, divided
2 large tomatoes, chopped small
3 c tomato puree or strained tomatoes
2 c chopped fresh green, such as spinach or kale
cooked brown rice
shredded Monterey jack, cheddar, or other cheese, or

1. Heat the oil on medium in a large pot. Add the onion and saute until they become translucent.

2. Add the peppers and celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms and spices and cook briefly.

4. Add the hot vegetable broth, beer, lentils, 2 cups of chickpeas, tomatoes, and puree.

5. In a blender, blend the remaining 1-cup of chickpeas with just enough water or vegetable broth to cover. Add the puree to the pot.

6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes cook down.

7. A few minutes before the end of cooking, add the chopped greens. If adding spinach, add about 5 minutes before serving. If adding kale, allow a few more minutes for it to wilt.

8. Serve over brown rice and garnish as desired.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Mighty Chickpea in a Twist on Hummus

Hummus. You’ve probably had it as a savory, garlicky dip with veggies or pita bread, or maybe on a sandwich. I recently discovered some different recipes for hummus that put a whole new twist on ground chickpeas. For example, would you ever think of them as a desert food? I never did but I would certainly enjoy the Chocolate Hummus below with fruit as an after dinner treat or snack.

The foundation of traditional hummus is the mighty chickpea. It’s high in fiber, protein, complex carbs and even provides omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. It’s also a good source of folate, thiamin and vitamin B6 and is chock full of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. As I’m reading this nutrition data, I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, I need to eat more of these!!” Other great ways to get them into your diet is roasted, in soups, and in salads.

The original recipes called for canned chickpeas and pumpkin. I soaked raw chickpeas in fresh water for several hours, then changed the water and simmered them on the stove for about 30 minutes. While this was going, I roasted a sugar pumpkin in the oven. I describe how to do it here. I also added pumpkin seeds to this recipe, replaced sugar with honey or maple syrup in the first recipe, used chai or hemp milk as liquids, and added dark chocolate to the third recipe. In short, I tried to add to the nutritional value while not sacrificing on taste.

The recipes below are healthy ideas for after-school snacks, lunch, and even appetizers or desert for the upcoming holiday gatherings. They can be paired with fruit, veggies, pita bread or crackers. Apples or banana slices dipped in chocolate hummus would make a great after-school snack. This would also make a great filling for buckwheat crepes. Apple pie or pumpkin hummus would make a nice spread for veggie wraps as well or on whole grain toast. And then of course, there’s always the spoon… : )

Apple Pie Hummus (adapted from this recipe)

1.5 c cooked chickpeas

1 large or two small-med, sweet apples, peeled, seeded and chopped

¼ c fresh lemon juice

¼ c tahini or nut butter

1 T sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc.)

½ t sea salt

½ t apple pie spice or a combination of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc.)

~3 T water (I actually used chai tea that I had brewing)

Pumpkin Hummus (adapted from this recipe)

1.5 c cooked chickpeas

1 c fresh roasted pumpkin

¼ c hulled pumpkin seeds (soaked and drained beforehand)

¼ c tahini

1 T cumin

¼ c lemon juice

½ t sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

water (or juice from the roasted pumpkin!)

Chocolate Hummus (adapted from this recipe)

1.5 c cooked chickpeas

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 oz dark chocolate, chopped

¼ c honey or other natural sweetener

2 T tahini or nut butter

2 T vanilla

~ 3 T hemp milk or water

For each recipe above, add all ingredients except the liquid (last ingredient) into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add liquid a little at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Adjust the spices, sweetener and/or salt to taste. You may also want more lemon juice in the Pumpkin or Apple Pie recipes. I tend to go for more versus less.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Get Your Orange On - A Smoothie and Soup Made with Pumpkin or Squash

I’ve already mentioned how much I love squash, especially the sweet varieties this time of year, which is why I get very excited by all the wonderful recipes available using squash and sugar pumpkins. There are recipes for pies, soups, cookies, muffins, breads and pancakes flying all over the internet right now and thankfully we have a few months to try them out!

Over the last two weeks, I roasted a couple of sugar pumpkins and Kabocha squashes that I’ve either eaten plain, or used in the two recipes below. It’s well worth the little amount of work that goes into roasting your own veggies–the oven does all the work for you and the roasting adds a depth of flavor compared absent from simply steaming or boiling. Both the pumpkin and the squash have their own unique flavors that come out beautifully after roasting. In addition, the flavors are much fresher–something that canned varieties cannot live up to.

To me, Kabocha squash has more of a nuttier, earthier flavor than pumpkin yet is as sweet as pumpkin. It went equally well in both the smoothie and the soup. In fact, this is the first time that I’ve tried the smoothie recipe below and I was astonished at how good it was! It tasted like it couldn’t possibly be good for me, but if you scan over the ingredients, you’ll see that it’s high in protein and is naturally sweetened from the fruit and pumpkin/squash. This makes it a great remedy for any sweet tooth that may creep up on you.

In addition, both the pumpkin and squash low in calories and are rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamin C and potassium and fiber. At the risk of turning into a pumpkin yourself, try the recipes below this season for hearty and delicious ways to prepare your body for the coming colder weather.

To roast the pumpkin or squash, simply cut them in half length-wise, then place them cut side down in a baking dish. Bake at 350°F (~177°C) until a sharp knife can be easily inserted through the skin, ~1 hour. Let cool slightly, scoop out the seeds and set aside, then scoop out the flesh using a spoon. If desired, place the meat into a colander for a few hours to drain some of the water, then mash. Use in any recipe that calls for canned or fresh pumpkin or squash puree.

Pumpkin Smoothie

1 cup hemp milk

1/3 c pumpkin or squash

1 scoop protein powder

½ frozen banana

1 T raisins

sprinkle of cinnamon or whatever spices you like

Whip up the ingredients in a blender and enjoy immediately.

Pumpkin Soup

1 T grapeseed or coconut oil

1 small onion, chopped

4 cups vegetable stock, heated to almost boiling

Flesh from 1 medium roasted sugar pumpkin, mashed

1 t finely minced ginger

1 medium cloves garlic, chopped

1 - 2 t curry powder

1 – 2 t finely chopped thyme leaves and/or chives

1.5 – 2 c coconut milk

Saute the onion in the oil in a medium pot on medium heat until translucent. Add the pumpkin, vegetable stock, and spices. To avoid getting burned, carefully blend the soup in small batches in a blender then pour back into the pot. Or better yet, blend the soup directly in the pot using an immersion blender. Add the coconut milk and heat through.

To make Australian Pumpkin Soup, replace the coconut milk with ~1/2 block of firm tofu and add 2 T miso paste. This recipe also omits the cooking of the onion beforehand and cooks the pumpkin or squash in chunks directly in the broth with the rest of the ingredients.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Egg-ceptional Food

Maybe you remember the jingle, “The incredible, edible egg.” Well, it’s not an exaggeration. Eggs are incredible and are an economical choice for only a few calories and pennies per egg.

For a while now, the word has been that eggs are bad because they can raise cholesterol. Yet, it’s been shown that healthy people can safely eat one or two eggs/day. At one point last year, I was including one egg with my breakfast every morning, and I felt great!. It helped to keep my blood sugar levels even, so I wasn’t getting hungry, tired, or weak as the day went on. And it helped me eat less even later in the day. This is a wonderful benefit for those of you who may want to lose weight.

And if that isn’t enough reason for you to eat them, here’s some more information that may convince you:

1. At about 68 calories per egg, they’re a great soure of protein, selenium, iodine, B vitamins, phosphorus, vitamin D, and lutein, which is believed to be more bioavailable from eggs than from plant sources, like spinach!

2. Another important nutrient in eggs is choline which:

- helps to reduce inflammation in the body that can lead to heart disease, type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis;

- helps maintain levels of folic acid in the body;

- is a key component of the fats that form our cell membranes;

- is a building block of two major brain lipids – phosphatidylcholine and spingomyelin, which is part of the myelin sheath that surrounds axons;

- is used to make aetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that functions at neuromuscular junctions (helps the nerves to stimulate muscles);

- is involved in a gene regulatory/epigenetic process referred to as methylation

You probably realize too, that except for the protein, this wealth of nutrients is found in the yolk­–yes, the yellow part that everyone likes to leave out of their omelettes. The lecithin in the yolk is also an important emulsifier (it helps to mix water soluble and fat soluble substances together). So if you want the full benefits from your eggs, eat the yolks!!

And if you really want to eat the best possible eggs and are confused by all the labeling, check out this great blog by Eve Fox. She put together a nice summary of where to shop for eggs. Not surprisingly, it’s from local farms that pasture-raise their chickens. If you can find one around, take advantage of it. You’ll see an obvious difference in the color of the yolk–from a dull light orange/yellow from eggs in the store to a bright, rich-colored yolk in the pasture-raised eggs.

Now that you’re hopefully convinced that eggs can be a healthy part of your diet (unless you’re allergic to them of course!), here are a few suggestions on how to eat them:

1. Hard- or soft-boiled – I like these for taking to work; they travel well and can be easily sliced or scooped into a salad. As an aside here, I’ve also read that preparing eggs in this way helps to protect the valuable nutrients in the yolk.

2. Scrambled or as an omelette with avocado and salsa. I adore my eggs this way and often will use a salsa verde in this dish.

3. Chopped up with dressing as an egg salad or stuffed as in deviled eggs.

4. Dropped into soup during the last few minutes. You’ve probably heard of egg drop soup. Well, I drop eggs into soups of all kinds at the end to add the extra nutrients and bulk or meatiness. I’ll even do this with saucy pasta dishes.

5. In a frittata. This is one of my favorite ways to make eggs for several reasons.

- Just about anything can be added into a frittata: vegetables, herbs, cheese, meats, fish, etc.;

- They’re easy to prepare and look fancy. Unlike omelettes, there’s no flipping or folding and the usually come out of the pan very nicely;

- They travel well – I made one earlier this week and took it to work for lunch;

- Particularly if you’re adding vegetables (including green veggies), it makes a perfect meal.

Here’s the frittata I made this week. What you add is totally up to you but hopefully this one will inspire some great ideas!!

Vegetable Frittata

1 T butter

1 T grapeseed oil

6 eggs, beaten, with 1 t water added

½ c sautéed mushrooms – I used beech and shitakes. Above are beech mushrooms. These delicate little fungi come attached to a base which I've already chopped off here. Both these and the shitakes sauteed nicely in only a couple of minutes.

8-10 stalks of asparagus, steamed until crisp tender, chopped into 1” pieces – I tried white asparagus for the first time here! They're a little more work to prepare. The tough, outer layer must be removed; which I did with a vegetable peeler and then steamed briefly.

½ c of a leafy green (sautéed if tougher like dandelion or kale or raw if tender like baby spinach) – I used sautéed dandelion greens with garlic

1 T capers

A few anchovies – smoked salmon would work well here too

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Chopped scallions and fresh parsley for a garnish

Put the oven on broil with the rack on the second shelf from the top. Melt the butter with the oil in an oven-ready skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the eggs.

Spread the mushrooms, asparagus, greens, capers, and anchovies evenly over the eggs. Let the eggs cook undisturbed for a few minutes, until the edges begin to set. Be careful not to burn the bottom.

Transfer the skillet to the oven until the eggs are cooked through and the edges begin to brown slightly. Remove the skillet and let the frittata cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.

Notice how this frittata looks as if it's got cheese. It's actually egg white that is not completely beaten into the yolk. I think it adds character : ) I haven't even gone into detail here about the wonderful health benefits of asparagus, mushrooms, scallions, and fresh herbs. Suffice it to say that this is a nutrient-dense, high-mileage dish that won't leave your body saying, "But I'm still hungry, feed me!!" It will thank you immensely after a meal like this... : )