Food Feature


Taking Comfort in Warm Food

Winter is a time to take comfort in warm food. The weather outside might be frightful, but winter meals need not be. Three Vegetarian Nutrition members submitted recipes that are sure to become your favorite comfort food for cold weather days.

Smokin' Ground Tempeh Smokin’ Ground Tempeh by Amy Gilman, VN DPG Student Member, is a smoky, spicy dish that our recipe judges compared to a vegetarian version of Sloppy Joes (just add buns).

nutty quinoa

Nutty Quinoa by Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, LD is a quick and easy dish that combines flavorful quinoa with mixed vegetables and cashews.
sweet potato biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits by Melissa Church, MS, RD, LD are especially wonderful right out of the oven.  They would pair well with the Smokin’ Ground Tempeh.

So, if you happen to find yourself stuck in a cold spell, warm up with these great recipes.


How to make Aquafaba

making AquafabaAquafaba is the latest vegan egg-replacer trend used in vegan baking.

I love French macaroons. As a baker, I learned that a typical macaroon recipe consisted of meringue (a mixture of well-beaten egg whites and sugar) mixed with almond flour. In my attempts to find a vegan macaroon recipe, I never imagined there would be a single ingredient that could mimic the same qualities as a meringue made with egg whites.

With a simple search for the perfect vegan macaroon recipe, I discovered Aquafaba or “water bean.” I have used several vegan substitutes for eggs in the past such as flaxseed or egg replacer in baked products, but I’ve never seen something quite like this before. In 2015, an American software engineer named Goose Wohlt, in the search for the ultra-egg replacer, discovered that chickpea brine, when whipped, had all the properties of egg whites. He then invented the name “aquafaba”, based on the Latin words for “water” and “bean.”

Who would have thought that something as simple and inexpensive as the water we end up throwing out from our canned beans would be the most accessible, easy, and convenient vegan egg replacer? This liquid can replace eggs in a meringue including Pavlova, mousse, baked Alaska, buttercream, and more! Because it has a similar consistency to egg whites, this liquid can be whipped up with sugar to form a delicate cloudy-like glossy meringue that can be used in baking recipes.

Want to give it a try? The ratio is 3:1. You will need about 3 tablespoons of aquafaba to replace one egg white.

Aquafaba is not only another excellent vegan egg replacer to add to your ingredient swaps but it is also an easy alternative because it is both accessible and inexpensive. Try the experiment yourself and start with this basic vegan meringue recipe adapted from www.One Green Planet.org.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup aquafaba, the brine from a can of chickpeas
    NOTE: One 15 oz. can of chickpeas can yields approximately ¾ cup.
  • 1/2 cup vegan cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Attach the wire whip and whip until stiff peaks form.

I like to use the Aquafaba as “marshmallow fluff” on top of tarts to give it a decorative touch. If using a hand mixer, blend high for about 10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.


Lemon Quinoa Stir Fry

Lemon Quinoa Stir FryThis stir fry features quinoa in place of rice and has a colorful mix of vegetables with red pepper, kale, and edamame.  It also has a surprisingly lemon flavor thanks to the lemon juice and zest added just prior to serving.  If you prefer a more toned down lemon flavor, add half the lemon juice suggested.

Yield: approximately 8 – ¾ cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups thin, julienne strips of red pepper (1 large red pepper)
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 5 oz. sliced, water chestnuts (1- 8 oz. can, drained)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
  • 1 ½ cups seitan strips (8 oz.)
  • Juice and zest of one lemon

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.
  2. Add quinoa and simmer over medium-low for 25-30 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat canola oil over medium heat.
  4. Add red pepper and chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes or until soft, stirring constantly.
  5. Toss in water chestnuts, edamame, and seitan strips and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes to warm the seitan.
  6. Add cooked quinoa, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. lemon zest.  Cook until juice has been absorbed.
  7. Serve warm.

Time to Harvest

Fresh HerbsAutumn is here and it is time for the harvest. If your garden included herbs — now is the time to reap the harvest before the frost comes. Herbs such as thyme and oregano, which are used for their leaves, are best harvested before they go to flower. Herbs grown for their flowers such as chamomile and borage are best harvested when they are almost in full flower. Herbs grown for their roots such as ginseng and chicory are best harvested after the foliage fades in the fall. Herbs grown for their seed such as dill seed are best harvested when the seeds turn from green to brown (but before they open).

There are several ways to preserve the harvest. If you have some closet space, you can hang the herbs. First, make sure the herbs are clean and dry. Then, tie loose bundles of 5-8 stems together with twine and hang in a warm (70-80°F), dry area away from the sun. Make sure that the herbs are loose enough to allow for good air circulation. To prevent dust from gathering on your herbs, place the bundles in paper bags with holes punched in them. Drying will usually take 2-4 weeks. If you are looking for a quicker method, herbs can be dried in just a few hours in a dehydrator set at its lowest setting (100-110°F), or in a conventional oven set at low heat (180°F) in 3-4 hours (with the door open). In both cases, it is best to remove leaves from their stems so that the herbs dry quickly and evenly. An even faster method to dry herbs is in the microwave. Place 4-5 branches of clean and dry herbs between two paper towels and microwave on high heat setting for 1-3 minutes. If herbs are not dry, continue at 30 second intervals. Allow herbs to cool between heating sessions so they dry completely.

Dried herbs are best stored in dry, air-tight, glass containers; although plastic containers or zip lock bags will also work. Another way to preserve herbs is to chop them, place them in ice cube trays, and fill the trays with water. These herb cubes are best used in cooking. For more great information on preserving your herb harvest try these great resources:


Entertain Them With Beans

Sweet & Spicy Bean DipLooking for a new football viewing recipe? Tired of the same old bean dip? Try Sweet and Spicy Bean Dip featuring Great Northern beans.

Sweet & Spicy Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 ounce can Great Northern beans, drain and wash
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup cooked, sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese alternative
  • 1 – 1.25 oz package taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 – 8 oz. package vegan cream cheese, softened
  • 1 – 8 oz. vegan sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons dried chives
  • Spinach leaves
  • Crackers

Instructions:

  1. Blend the Great Northern beans, almond butter, olive oil, and lemon juice using a food processor or blender. Divide bean dip in half, leaving one half in the processor or blender and placing the other half in a separate bowl.
  2. Blend corn and alternative cheese with the bean dip in the processor. Scrape sweet bean dip into one bowl.
  3. Place the other half of the bean dip back into the processor or blender and blend with taco seasoning and sun dried tomatoes to create a spicy bean dip. Extra olive oil may be required to blend sun dried tomatoes
  4. Combine softened cream cheese, sour cream, and dried chives in a third bowl and stir until well mixed.
  5. Line a dinner plate with spinach leaves.
  6. Spoon sweet, yellow bean dip onto half of the plate and spicy, red bean dip onto the other half. Spoon sour cream and chives dip on top of both bean dips.
  7. Serve with the crackers of your choice.

Sweet Potatoes for Any Meal

Lemony Pepper Sweet Potato FriesOften this vegetable is the star at holiday celebrations when it finds its way into sweet side dishes or baked into pies, but sweet potatoes make a wonderful addition to lunch or dinner throughout the year. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) can be baked, boiled, or even micro-waved as a healthy side dish or added to a main dish at any meal. One baked, medium (5″ length) sweet potato provides approximately

  • 103 Calories
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 24 grams of carbohydrate
  • 22 mg Vitamin C (which is 37% of the Daily Value)
  • 21,909 IU of Vitamin A (which is over 4 times the amount required in a day)

If you are looking for a way to add this colorful vegetable that is packed with Vitamins A and C to your diet, create crispy baked fries for dinner tonight.

Lemony Pepper Sweet Potato Fries

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw sweet potatoes (approx 3-4 medium)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash® lemon pepper seasoning blend or other favorite seasoning

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Spray or rub with cooking oil.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into fries that are approximately ½” thick by 2-3″ long.
  3. Mix lemon juice and lemon pepper seasoning blend in a large bowl.
  4. Add sweet potatoes and toss to coat.
  5. Spread sweet potatoes in a single layer on the two baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the fries have decreased in size by half and are soft in the middle.

Farmers Market Pockets

Farmers Market PocketsSummer is the best time to find fresh vegetables. This crispy pocket recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy a small “bounty” of vegetables. The key to cooking is to finely dice and slice all vegetables so they cook evenly. A tangy baste completes this savory dish that could serve well as an appetizer. Bon appétit!

Yield: 29-30 pockets

Ingredients:

  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ large green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 12 baby carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ Tbsp sea salt
  • 2- 8 oz packets Fillo dough, defrosted
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • Pan spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray baking sheets with pan spray.
  3. Combine potatoes, green onions, bell pepper, carrots, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Unroll packets of Fillo dough. Cut in half, lengthwise.
  5. Place 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp vegetable filling in the corner of one end of a one strip of Fillo dough. Careful fold 3-4 layers over the filling to meet the opposite end of the strip. Keep folding the dough in triangle folds until you reach the end. Use a small amount of pan spray to seal the edge. Repeat 28-29 more times until all Fillo dough is used.
  6. In a small bowl, combine mustard, oil, and white pepper. Baste one side of each pocket. Lay the unbasted side on the baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes or until Fillo dough pockets are golden brown.

Note: These pockets can be frozen and baked for later use. The basting sauce also makes a tangy dipping sauce so make extra!


Breakfast on the Go

Research shows that children who eat breakfast are able to

  • Pay attention in the classroom
  • Follow directions
  • Solve math problems.

But, who has time to sit down and eat breakfast?  Children barely manage to get ready in time to catch the bus in the morning and breakfast is the least of their priorities.

The solution is planning ahead. Create grab and go breakfasts that save time, reduce stress and nourish the morning rush hour. Create one of these breakfasts that will last until lunch time with whole grains and a source of protein.

  1. Muffins: Bake the homemade Blueberry muffin recipe below on a Sunday afternoon.
  2. Wraps/rolls: A handheld breakfast can be eaten on the way to school!
    • Take a whole grain tortilla;
    • spread natural peanut butter or almond butter;
    • Add a banana and roll it like a burrito.
  3. Stuffed sandwich: These can be made the night before and warmed up in the morning.
    • On the weekend prepare scrambled tofu.
    • Use two slices of 100% whole grain/sprouted grain bread and fill it with scrambled tofu.
    • Press in a Panini grill or an electric sandwich maker to make sealed toasted sandwiches.
  4. Smoothies: A perfect breakfast to carry in a cup with a straw. Place in a blender fresh or frozen fruit, soy milk or your choice of yogurt and blend.  For a green smoothie add a handful of spinach or kale.  Avoid sugar overload by making smoothies made with just fruits and vegetables.
  5. Chia Pudding or Yogurt topped with fruit and nuts: Engage your children and prepare individual servings the previous night, then everyone can grab their own container in the morning.
20150512_174547

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup low fat dairy or alternate milk
  • ½ cup maple syrup or molasses
  • 1 egg or equivalent replacement (1 tbsp. ground flax seeds + 3 tbsp. water – Mix and let stand for 10 minutes)
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil or melted butter such as Earth Balance
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F
  2. Use a 12 cup muffin pan or two 6 cup pans and insert paper liners in each cup
  3. In a medium bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together
  4. In a large mixing bowl measure the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and whisk together.
  5. Add the wet ingredients and stir until just mixed.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries and the nuts.
  7. Use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups about ¾ full.
  8. Put in the oven on the center rack and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until center is done. (Check by inserting a toothpick – it should come out clean!)

Grilling Time for Salads

Grilled FruitA recent trip to one of many wonderful, vegetarian friendly restaurants in the Denver, Colorado area inspired this food feature. Although many people are familiar with grilling vegetables, grilled fruit can also add a wonderful flavor to any summer supper. One of the biggest tricks to grilling fruits and vegetables is to make sure that all pieces are approximately the same size so that they grill evenly. Also, if working with “smaller” bites, cover the grill with aluminum foil to preserve your feast from the fire.

Ingredients:

  • 1 -10 oz bag Italian salad mix (romaine and radicchio)
  • ¼ cup cooking wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups watermelon, sliced or balled
  • 2 cups cantaloupe, sliced or balled
  • 2 oz walnut pieces

Instructions:

  1. Cover grill with aluminum foil. Heat on a low temperature setting.
  2. Toss lettuce, cooking wine, and olive oil in a bowl. Let sit 5 minutes at room temperature
  3. In a second bowl combine watermelon and cantaloupe.
  4. Once the grill is hot, spread lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe, and walnuts evenly over the foil. Discard any remaining wine/oil mixture.
  5. Heat for 5 minutes or until salad is a golden brown.
  6. Serve warm. Yields 5 ½ cups of salad.

Appetizing Artichokes

ArtichokeArtichokes are an edible, Mediterranean vegetable that make a great appetizer for two or three people. Half of a medium globe by itself is equivalent to ¼ cup vegetables and 30 Calories. For those who are new to this delectable dish, the edible parts of the artichoke are the bottom of the leaves and the artichoke heart. The tops of the leaves are woody as are the hairy, immature florets or “choke” that sits on top of the artichoke heart. The leaves and artichoke heart can be dipped in a variety of sauces. My husband and I have found this balsamic vinaigrette to be a simple, yet tasty dipping sauce for our favorite appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 1 artichoke*
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Place one medium saucepan of water on stove top. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Prepare the artichoke by cutting off the stem and snipping the tips of the leaves using a pair of kitchen scissors.
  3. Boil artichoke for 15-20 minutes or until the leaves can be easily peeled from the artichoke.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Makes 1/3 cup dipping sauce.
  5. To serve, peel artichoke leaves from the artichoke and dip the bottom of the leaves into the vinaigrette.

*Note: One medium artichoke comfortably feeds two people.


Peach and Raspberry Slush

Peach and Raspberry SlushSummer is the time to celebrate the bountiful harvests of the bush berry and tree fruit seasons. This combination is a refreshing drink that has a little zing to it because of the ginger. So kick back, relax, and enjoy this cool and healthy summer beverage.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups skinned, diced peaches (2-3 medium peaches)
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 ½ cups club soda
  • 4 cups crushed ice

Instructions:

  1. Place peaches, raspberries, lemon juice, honey, ginger and ½ cup club soda in blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed.
  2. For each one cup serving, place ¼ cup of peach-raspberry mix, ½ cup crushed ice, and ¼ cup club soda into a cocktail shaker.* Shake until well blended.
  3. Garnish with raspberries.

Yield: 8 – one cup servings

*Note: If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, a covered coffee mug that can be completely sealed will also work well.


Beat the Heat with a Frozen Fruit Treat

Frozen Fruit TreatFrozen fruit such as grapes, blueberries, and strawberries make a delicious and nutritious treat during the warm, summer months. They are an excellent replacement to sugary popsicles and the flavor is all natural! Preparation is the key to properly freezing foods. When preparing most whole frozen fruits, use the following techniques.

  • Only freeze fruits that are at their peak of flavor — if you don’t grow it yourself then purchase the fruit when it is in season.
  • Do not try to freeze too much at one time! An average home freezer can only adequately freeze 2-3 cubic feet of food at one time.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry all fruit before freezing — a salad spinner works well with whole items such as grapes, blueberries, and whole strawberries.
  • Spread fruit on a rimmed baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Freeze for 1-2 hours or until frozen solid.
  • Place items in a freezer grade glass or plastic container.
  • Remove as much air from the container as possible.
  • Frozen fruits can keep for about 8-12 months.

For more information on freezing specific fruits and vegetables visit the following websites:


Picatta without the Chicken

Hungry for a bit of chicken picatta, but don’t want to “ruffle the feathers” by using poultry? Seitan is a vegan protein source made from wheat gluten. Seitan is more chewy and springy than other meat alternatives, making it a wonderful substitute in dishes that call for poultry.

Vegan Chicken Picatta Picatta without the Chicken (recipe) by Patricia Sheehan perfectly balances salt and lemon flavors to create a wonderful dish for a summer evening that spares all animal products. Now that is something we can all toast.

Baked Bean Couscous Salad

Baked Bean CouscousWhen summertime rolls around and everybody is pulling out their favorite BBQ side dishes I like to reach back to one of my favorite comfort foods from college days – baked beans and couscous. Over time I’ve added a few cups of produce to the recipe to add more texture, color, and of course, flavor. Best of all, this recipe can be easily prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup diced, green peppers
  • 1 cup chopped, red onion
  • 28 oz. can baked beans
  • ¾ cup dry couscous
  • ½ cup minced, red onion (optional for garnish)

 Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan heat canola oil over medium heat.
  2. Add green peppers and chopped onion and cook approximately five minutes, stirring occasionally until they soften.
  3. Add baked beans and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir in couscous and reduce heat to low. Cover and allow couscous to cook for 7-8 minutes.
  5. Fluff with a fork and serve garnished with minced red onion.

Yield: Approximately 5 cups


Summertime is Bean Time

Pinto bean saladBeans can make up a good part of a vegetarian’s diet yet now that it’s summer, we often forget about them. Typically we allocate beans as the protein in soups, chili and creamy, hardy dips, and lose sight of how delicious they are chilled in hot weather dishes.

Take into account the fiber-filled bean salad. Beans offer protein (repair damaged tissue, transport nutrients through your blood stream, and build strong muscles), market-fresh vegetables add vitamins and antioxidants (that improve immune function and assist in high quality absorption of beneficial nutrients), and a delicious olive oil dressing for much needed dietary fat (to carry the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K to muscle cells and for insulation).

And, summertime bean salads are fast and easy.  You’ll have a filling and flavorful meal the whole family will enjoy in no time!

Summertime Bean Salad

Serves 4

This fresh summer salad is filling yet leaves you light on your feet. Add more or reduce ingredients according to personal choice. If a hardier meal is desired, add in a cup of cooked farro.

Bean Salad

  • Arugula, mesclun or spring mix greens of choice
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups frozen corn, thawed (or equivalent of 2 fresh cobs of corn)
  • 1 can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ small purple onion, finely diced
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 5-inch piece English cucumber, diced
  • ½ fresh mango, diced
  • Grape tomatoes, cut in half, as garnish

Chili Lime Vinaigrette

  •  2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  •  1/2 teaspoon cumin
  •  1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Place a handful or two of arugula on 4 medium-sized salad plates or bowls.
  2. Mix together the remaining salad ingredients from corn to mango in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl or pulse in a small blender or food processor until well combined.
  4. Stir vinaigrette into the bean salad mixture and place a few spoonfuls on top of the arugula.
  5. Top salad with grape tomatoes and additional cilantro if desired.

Nutritional analysis (per serving using pinto beans): 297 calories, 33 g carbs, 7.4 g protein, 18 g fat

Exchanges: 2 starches/grains, 1 oz protein, 3 fat servings


Chocolate Velvet

A VChocolate Velvetegetarian World Tour: Canada

Recipe contributed by: Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
Food Photo by: Meredith Hink, MS, RD

This sensuous and creamy dessert comes from “The Raw Food Revolution Diet” by expert raw chef Cherie Soria and registered dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina (The Book Publishing Company, 2008). It will feed the soul of every chocolate lover and can be served as a sauce or pudding. The secret ingredient, avocado, makes it thick and rich, yet avocado cannot be detected in the flavor, so you can play a guessing game with tasters.

Chocolate Velvet

Makes 1 1/2 cups (6-8 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened raw cocoa powder or carob powder
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons water plus 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Combine the avocado, cocoa powder, agave syrup, evaporated cane juice, 2 tablespoons of the water, and all of the vanilla extract and cinnamon in a food processor fitted with the S blade and process until smooth.
  2. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water and process again until well blended. The more water you add, the thinner the sauce will be. (If you prefer to use a blender rather than a food processor, be careful not to process the mixture too long. If too much air is beaten into the sauce it will become too fluffy.)
  3. Stored in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator, Chocolate Velvet will keep for up to 1 week.

Variations

Chocolate Frosting or Filling: Use only 2 tablespoons of the water and omit the remaining 1/2 cup.

Chocolate Mousse: Use a blender instead of a food processor and use only 1/4 cup of the water to create a fluffy consistency similar to a classic mousse.

Frozen Fudge Bars: Freeze the mixture in popsicle trays.


Celebrate Spring with a Spicy Mexican Salad

Celebrate the growth of new, green shoots of life in gardens across the country.

Spicy Mexican Salad Spicy Mexican Salad by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, is a wonderful, raw salad that features delicious sprouted lentils. If you have never sprouted lentils before, don’t worry, they don’t take a lot of work, just a willingness to try something new. The sprouts are a delicious and healthy reminder that spring is here.

Entertaining with Avocado

Fall Coleslaw and Open Face SandwichWhen it comes to dressing up your dishes this holiday season, go green (use avocados)! This fruit, also known as the butter pear and the alligator pear, is native to the New World and can be used in everything from appetizers to desserts. Its mild flavor and high fat content help to balance out highly flavored dishes. Although 82% of the avocado’s Caloric content is derived from fat, the majority of that fat is monounsaturated. The avocado is also a good source of potassium and vitamin C. A 100 gram serving provides 160 Calories, 485 mg potassium, and 10 mg vitamin C. To get you started on your holiday planning, try these recipes:

Fall Coleslaw

Yield: 2 cups coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado, mashed – 1/3 cup
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp sodium free lemon pepper
  • 2 cups coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, vinegar, and lemon pepper. Stir until well mixed.
  2. In a medium size bowl, place coleslaw mix. Add avocado dressing and stir to coat.
  3. Add dried cranberries. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  4. When ready to serve, top with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Open Face Sandwich

Ingredients

  • Cocktail pumpernickel bread
  • Extra sharp white cheddar
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Avocado, sliced thinly

Instructions

  1. Place one piece of thinly sliced cheddar cheese on pumpernickel slices.
  2. Decorate with mandarin oranges and avocado slices.

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup

Sweet & Spicy Peanut SoupWhen the weather starts to turn cool, it’s time to “turn up the heat.” This spicy twist on a traditional soup adds a kick to an otherwise sweet soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks celery, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced (1 cup)
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (2 ¼ -2 ½ cups)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 qt vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup light, unflavored soy milk
  • Chopped, unsalted, roasted peanuts (for garnish)
  • Cilantro leaves (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Combine diced celery, green pepper, and yellow onion in a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually add celery, green pepper, and yellow onion to oil and heat until soft.
  3. Microwave sweet potatoes* until soft. Peel away skin and cut into big chunks.
  4. Add to celery, green pepper, and onion.
  5. Add sliced jalapeno pepper, vegetable broth, natural peanut butter, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaves and add lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Stir to mix, then transfer soup to food processor and process soup to smooth consistency.
  7. Return to saucepan or Dutch oven. Add soymilk and stir until mixed.
  8. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Yield: approximately 6 ½ – 7 cups

*Prep sweet potatoes by washing them thoroughly, cutting slits in them with a knife, and wrapping them in wet paper towel. Some microwaves have special settings for baking potatoes. If your microwave does not, set the sweet potatoes to heat on high for about 5 ½ minutes.


Share the Harvest

butternut squashOctober in the upper Midwest is usually the time for final fall harvests from the garden.  The last of the tomatoes are gathered and processed.  Herbs are cut and dried.  Apples of all varieties are picked for snacking enjoyment.  Annual trips to corn mazes are planned and taken and golden trophies are carefully chosen and carried or carted from the pumpkin patch.

I am fortunate to have grown up in and continue to live in an area that is rich in agriculture.  I can attend a farmer’s market almost any day of the week from May through October.   Although I have not always considered myself as such, I feel blessed knowing that I have a connection to the land and to its bounty, one than many Americans who live in literal “food deserts” are not able to enjoy.  Even worse, some don’t even know that they are missing this connection.

But I also have hope and a sense of responsibility to share the harvest with others.  There are many opportunities out there.  In my hometown our farmer’s market has a collection table where extra produce can be purchased and donated so that people who many not be able to afford it can enjoy fresh produce.  We have several local gardens located in inner-city neighborhoods where people of all walks of life are welcome to work and eat from the land.  Local nurseries, garden centers, master gardener groups, libraries, and technical colleges offer a variety of classes on gardening from container gardening to straw bale gardening, composting to seed saving.  Even at work, people bring in grocery bags full of fresh produce from apples to zucchini.  We share recipes on turning green tomatoes into mock raspberry jam, swap heirloom seeds, and talk about what the deer and rabbits got away with this season.  Even in October we plan ahead with the eternal optimism of micro-farmers, looking ahead to what is possible next season.

As lovers of the earth and its bounty I encourage us to “share our harvest.”  It might be a recipe for using a seasonal fruit or vegetable.  Or perhaps it is saving and sharing seeds with friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  It could even be just talking about our experiences with a garden, no matter how big or small that garden is.  Talking about the fruits of our labors is a wonderful way to spread our passion for plant based living.


Crunch into Crispy Collard Chips

Tired of snacking on potato chips? Need something to munch on during the day without adding a lot of Calories to your diet? Try Crispy Collard Green Chips by Megann Harris, RD, LD! This crunchy recipe is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. A dehydrator is recommended to help completely dry these super-thin chips to just the right crispness. Store in an airtight container when done to help chips stay crunchy and enjoy!

Crispy-Collard-Chips
Crispy Collard Green Chips
by Megann Harris, RD, LD

Pina Colada Grilled Dessert

Pina Colada Grilled DessertPineapple has been a symbol of welcome in many cultures for centuries. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. So fire up your grills and welcome spring with this tasty dessert. Please note temperature may vary depending on the type of grill used.

Ingredients

  • 6 slices fresh pineapple, ½” thick
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup agave syrup
  • 2 Tbsp lime zest
  • ¼ cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 425°F.*
  2. In a small bowl, combine lime juice and agave syrup.
  3. In a second bowl, combine lime zest and flaked coconut.
  4. Baste pineapple slices with lime juice and agave syrup mixture using a basting brush. Place pineapple slices basted side down directly on grill. Cover and grill for five minutes.
  5. Baste pineapple slices with lime syrup mixture and carefully flip. Cover and grill for another five minutes.
  6. Baste slices a final time and flip. Top slices with lime zest and coconut mixture.
  7. Cover and grill for five minutes or until the coconut has toasted. Serve warm.

Yield: 6 slices

*Please note: grill temperature was based on a gas grill.


Be Like the Squirrels and Go Nuts!

NutsLet’s take a lesson from the squirrels and save some room for nuts in your diet. Nuts are considered a healthy addition to the diet in moderation. According to MyPlate.gov, a recommended serving for nuts is a one-ounce serving, which is equivalent to 23 almonds, 13 cashews, or 9 walnut halves. Although many nut lovers tend to favor a few particular kinds of nuts, eating a variety of nuts can help to maximize the benefits that this group can provide.

  • Soy nuts, which are a legume, contain 11 grams of protein, 1.12 mg (6% DV) of iron, 387 mg (11% DV) of potassium, and 2.3 grams (9% DV) of fiber per ounce.
  • Peanuts, which are also a legume, contain 1.30 mg (7% DV) of iron, 2.4 grams (10% DV) of fiber, and 3.4 mg (17% DV) of niacin per ounce.
  • Almonds contain 1.05 mg (6% DV) of iron, 3.5 grams (14% DV) of fiber, and 200 mg (6% DV) of potassium per ounce.
  • Cashews contain 1.89 mg (11% DV) of iron, 187 mg (5% DV) of potassium, and 1.64 mg (11% DV) of zinc.
  • Walnuts are well known for their omega-3 fatty acid content.

These are just a few nutritional highlights that this flavorful group provides. In addition, because of their higher fat content, nuts can help with satiety and are an easy to carry snack. To keep sodium intake down, skip the salted nuts and instead opt for dry roasted nuts or purchase raw nuts and toast them yourself in a skillet over medium heat.

So, when you are looking for a healthy, portable snack this holiday season, remember the squirrels and grab a small handful of nuts.


Cranapple Fruit Soup

Cranapple Fruit SoupTired of the same old winter soup? Missing fruit this winter season? Try fruit soup.

Fruit soup, which is attributed to Scandinavian, Baltic, and Eastern European cultures, is mainly composed of fruit juice and dried fruit with the addition of spices and sometimes tapioca. It can be served warm or cold and takes less than an hour to prepare. Here is one variation on an old favorite.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups white cranberry juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup tapioca pearls
  • ½ cup dried apples, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Place cranberry juice, water, and tapioca pearls in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until tapioca pearls are translucent.
  2. Add dried apples, dried cranberries, and cinnamon stick and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove cinnamon stick (if desired, leave in for a stronger cinnamon flavor).
  4. Serve warm.

Boost Your Fall Palate with Colorful Dishes

Bring some color to your table with two savory dishes from Frances Arnold and Gita Patel.

Carrots, Cabbage, Chard and Cumin Extravaganza Carrots, Cabbage, Chard and Cumin Extravaganza by Frances Arnold, RD combines vibrant carrots, Swiss Chard, and purple cabbage to create a true extravaganza of colors and flavors.
Stir Fried Savoy Cabbage Salad Stir Fried Savoy Cabbage Salad by Gita Patel, MS, RD, CDE, LD combines Savoy cabbage and red peppers with cumin and red chili peppers to help provide a warm, colorful dish perfect for any cool autumn night.

Don’t disappoint your palate – excite your taste buds with these colorful and flavorful plates.


Beat the Heat with a Frozen Fruit Treat

Frozen Fruit TreatFrozen fruit such as grapes, blueberries, and strawberries make a delicious and nutritious treat during the warm, summer months. They are an excellent replacement to sugary popsicles and the flavor is all natural! Preparation is the key to properly freezing foods. When preparing most whole frozen fruits, use the following techniques.

  • Only freeze fruits that are at their peak of flavor — if you don’t grow it yourself then purchase the fruit when it is in season.
  • Do not try to freeze too much at one time! An average home freezer can only adequately freeze 2-3 cubic feet of food at one time.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry all fruit before freezing — a salad spinner works well with whole items such as grapes, blueberries, and whole strawberries.
  • Spread fruit on a rimmed baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Freeze for 1-2 hours or until frozen solid.
  • Place items in a freezer grade glass or plastic container.
  • Remove as much air from the container as possible.
  • Frozen fruits can keep for about 8-12 months.

For more information on freezing specific fruits and vegetables try the following websites:

  • http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_freeze_fruit.pdf
  • http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09331.html

Triple Your Fruit, Triple Your Benefits

Triple BerryCelebrate berries and indulge in the fruits of the season. This triple berry recipe is a family favorite from my mother in law and is packed full of vitamin C, potassium, phytochemicals, and of course, flavor! So this summer, triple your benefits by combining the fruits of this season.

Ingredients

  • 1- 32 oz (2 lb) pkg strawberry – cut in quarters or in sixths (if large)
  • 1- 12 oz pkg blueberry -fresh or frozen
  • 1- 12 oz. pkg blackberry
  • 1- 0.14 oz pkg Splenda®

Instructions

  • Wash strawberries. Remove the hull and cut into quarters or in six pieces if the berry is large.
  • Mix strawberries with blueberries, blackberries, and Splenda® or sweetener of your choice.
  • Enjoy.

Yield: 10 ½ cups or 21 – ½ cup portions


Healthy vegetarian travels

Dialing up our weekly call, Suzy client laments, “I’m on a plane so much this week, how am I supposed to feel good about my body?”  Having more frequent flyer miles than a pilot, she knows full well the effects of flying:  bloating, water weight gain, stiffness and lethargy.

And it makes her incredibly anxious to feel a victim to fall prey to high fat, high sodium and sugar options.  What to do?

Having a plan is key. Suzy and I talked about deciding beforehand what is the best flying fare so she can figure out where to get those foods – from home, a pre-packed breakfast or lunch is a take-on to be grateful for when you’re doing an OJ Simpson through the terminal headed for a long flight.

After designing a breakfast at home that included fruit and peanut or almond butter on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, we logged onto the website of her airport.  Suzy gleefully shouted out when she saw the list of restaurants in her terminal. And she beat me to their menu – there, she made a sound choice for lunch on board.

For example, UFood is popping up in many airports and sports a fresh and filling veggie burger.  Wholesome Tofusion, a blend of brown rice, veggies and sauteed tofu carries on well as do their multiple salads and hi-protein shakes.  Even Starbucks’ oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts can be carried on – boarding time is enough for the dried fruit to soften.

If you have time for a sit-down meal, check out chain restaurants, they often sound like huts dishing out mongo portions of salt, carbs and fat, but if you look closely, they have sides of steamed veggies, multiple salads (with dressing on the side and fat-filled salty toppings like croutons and cheese left off), and a spicy black bean burger (no grilled butter on the bun please).  Ask for grilled options without high fat sauces – and be prepared to be surprised by a Yes, we can do that!

Choose a low-fat, low-sugar protein bar, add soy yogurt or almond milk and fresh fruit for morning meals. Pack your favorite cold cereal in a quart-sized freezer bag and buy soymilk at the airport. When ready to eat, simply pour your milk alternate into the baggie, and when finished, the plastic spoon tucks into the bag and is zipped to the trash.  Carry shelled nuts always ready to eat and keep you full.

Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and watch out for salty snacks like chips, pretzels and crackers.  Avoid sugary high-fat treats like brownies and cookies and opt for something you bring on board. Sit back now and enjoy the flight.


Sorbet

SorbetLooking for a fun and refreshing way to cool down your menu? Why not try a sorbet! Sorbets are fun and easy to make. Unlike ice cream, sorbets do not require a special piece of equipment, just a good blender or food processor. Sorbets can be made using one type of fruit or several types of fruit

A recommended combination is 8 oz of frozen fruit to 1 cup of juice. Just blend and freeze until mixture is firm. This makes about 2 cups of sorbet so invite a few friends over to try your latest concoction. Featured in the photo are kiwi limeade, strawberry guava, and peach mango sorbets.


Liquid Gold Dressing

Dressing
Recently the VN Food Feature articles went globe-trekking, visiting our international members to ask them for their favorite recipes.

One visit is to a member in Canada. This dressing is from dietitian Vesanto Melina and the nutrition classics she has co-authored with Brenda Davis, “The New Becoming Vegetarian” and “Becoming Vegan” and also from “Raising Vegetarian Children”. It is delicious on baked potatoes, rice, steamed vegetables, and pasta, as well as salad. Two tablespoons provides your days’ supply of omega-3 fatty acids, along with 80 percent of your vitamin B12. For a thicker dressing, use more ground flaxseed; for a thinner dressing use less. The dressing thickens over time.
www.nutrispeak.com ».

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flaxseed oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast powder or flakes
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp or more ground flaxseed (optional)

Makes 1-1/2 cups – 2 cups

Recipe contributed by: Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
Food Photo by: Meredith Hink, MS, RD


Hints on Herbs

HerbsTired of boring, tasteless meals? Pining for fresh summer flavors?  Try herbs!

Whether fresh or dried, herbs are a wonderful and healthy way to add flavor to many dishes. The following are some tips to make the most of your herbs.

  • Keep it fresh. Throw out old herb and herb seasoning blends.  Spice Advice recommends these tips for an annual freshness check:

1. Open and visually check if the spice or herb looks fresh. Green, leafy herbs will fade upon aging. Be aware; however, that different herbs naturally vary in color  and should not always be compared against each other.

For example, tarragon is naturally greener in color than rosemary. Additionally, some dill products contain the flower portion, giving them a more yellow color than those without the flowers.  Red colored spices, such as paprika, red pepper and chili powder will turn from red to brown in color.

2.  Crush a small amount of the spice or herb in your hand and smell it. If the aroma is not rich, full and immediate, the spice or herb has probably lost much of its potency. (Exception: Whole spices, such as peppercorns and cinnamon stick, have a protective outer coating and will not release its full fragrance until broken or crushed.)

3.  Compare the aroma (Be aware, however, that subtle changes may also occur with each new crop.) of a freshly purchased spice or herb to that which you’ve stored for a year or more to see the difference.

  • Store it well. Herbs, whether home dried or store bought, should be kept in cool, dry places away from sunlight and in containers with tight-fitting lids. Some fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme should be stored at 32°F; while other herbs such as basil are cold sensitive and should be stored at 50°F. For more information on herb storage visit Spice Advice.
  • Cook it, Don’t Kill It. To get the most flavor out of your herbs, add them at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning. If multiplying a recipe for a party, multiply your herbal additions as follows. If increasing the recipe by 100%, increase the amount of herbs by 100%. After the first 100%, only increase the herbs by 50% as much as the original amount.

For more tips on cooking with herbs and a history of herbs check out Spice Advice.


Food Art for your Palate

We are often told that we “eat with our eyes.” Some recipes are enticing just looking at them. This was certainly the case with Zucchini Crepes by Amanda Scanlan and Black Bean Saute with Jicama/Avocado Salad and Mango Coulis by Shannon Doran, RD. Both recipes contain at least two separate components that, when combined, work together to make these dishes appealing.

black bean saute Black Bean Saute with Jicama/Avocado Salad and Mango Coulis by Shannon Doran, RD includes three separate components that can be featured separate, but must be combined when eating to fully enjoy the flavor of this dish.

zucchini crepes

Zucchini Crepes by Amanda Scanlan involve the preparation of crepes, a thin French pancake, as well as a creamy filling. The filling can also be used as a garnish (see picture).

Both recipes are also a great way to try your artistic skills at food styling and wow your family and friends.  So grab your aprons and start cooking!


Fruity Rice

Fruity RiceRice is a staple for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the world. This simple, easy to prepare dish is a flavorful way to get your day started and allows for many different variations. Garnish with yogurt and a dash of cinnamon (as pictured) or other fun toppings such as wheat germ, nuts, dried fruit, and/or spices for extra flavor.
Ingredients:

1 cup dry, short-grain rice
2 ¼ cups prepared fruit juice (flavor of choice)

Instructions:

Place 2 ¼ cups of fruit juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Stir in 1 cup of short-grain rice, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and cover tightly for 10 minutes.
Serve.

Yield: approx. 3 cups of fruity rice


It’s a fruit…it’s a vegetable…it’s a fungus!

mushrooms

Although people don’t often associate the word “fungus” with gourmet cooking, mushrooms can make a wonderful, tasty, and healthy contribution to one’s daily diet. Mushrooms range in size and flavor from the delicate enoki to the robust, meaty portabella. They can be delightful add-ins to soups, salads, or stews; or stand alone entrees such as portabella burgers. In addition to flavor, mushrooms are low Calorie (15-44 Calories/cup) and nutrient rich. Mushrooms can be a good source of potassium, copper, selenium, and B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. In addition, mushrooms are a rare plant source of vitamin D. Interestingly, the vitamin D content may further increase if the mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light prior to harvest. For more information mushrooms check out the Mushrooms: Taste of the Earth on the Food and Nutrition Blog.


Incredible, Edible Garlic

GarlicIt may be one of the most pungent flavors in the culinary world, but garlic plays a major flavoring role in many cuisines around the world from Asia, to Africa, to the Middle East, to Europe, and the Americas. Garlic is a member of the family Alliaceae along with onions, chives, and leeks. It has been in use for well over 4000 years.

The garlic plant consists of five major parts: the roots, the bulb which is comprised of multiple sections called cloves, the leaves, stems called scapes, and small bulbs that form on the tops of the scapes called bulbils. Although most people commonly consume the cloves, the scapes and bulbils are also edible. Garlic that has not yet formed bulbs called green garlic can also be harvested and consumed. There are two main types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a milder flavor and can withstand hardier weather conditions than softnecks.

Garlic has been used as a medicinal herb for many years and has received some attention in the past as a possible functional food for lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, although much research still needs to be done to prove this. Garlic pairs with many foods including beans, eggplant, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini. So next time you are looking to add a little zing to a dish, consider the pungent, yet incredible, edible garlic.


Buckwheat Molasses Cookies

Buckwheat Molasses CookiesSmells of sugar and spice and everything nice wafting from the oven brings children of all ages to the kitchen.  Make baking even more flavorful by substituting some of the all-purpose flour in your recipes with other flours. This recipe calls for the use of buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is a gluten-free, pseudo cereal which adds a rich and bold flavor to any recipe. Because it does not contain gluten, only part of the flour could be substituted in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 3/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream margarine and 1 cup of granulated sugar in a medium bowl.
  3. Using a blender, blend the flaxseed and water together. Stir into creamed mixture.
  4. Add molasses, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to creamed mixture.
  5. In a small bowl, combine all-purpose and buckwheat flours. Stir slowly into the creamed mixture.
  6. In a small bowl or plate spread out the 1/8 cup granulated sugar. Using a spoon, scoop golf ball-size balls of cookie dough onto the bowl or plate, and roll in the sugar.
  7. Place balls of sugar-coated cookie dough on ungreased cookie sheets, do not flatten.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool at least 2 minutes on sheet pan until firm. Remove and continue to cool on a cooling rack.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies


Spice Up Your Meals

Tired of bland, boring food? Spice up your meals this month with two great recipes.

balsamic tofu cranberry and apple stir-fry Balsamic Tofu, Cranberry, and Apple Stir-Fry by Marni Rakes, MS is a wonderful recipe that combines several different food groups into one complete dish and adds a little zip with balsamic vinegar as a flavoring agent.

spicy kale slaw

Spicy Kale Slaw by Alicia Simpson is a deceivingly spicy salad that made a few of our judges’ eyes water.

Now is the time to try new recipes to spice up your meal routine.


A Feast for Two

Valentine's Day Mini Hummus PizzasTired of going to restaurants? Looking for a less expensive and healthier way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Why not go Mediterranean?! Celebrate Valentine’s day by going back to its Greek and Roman roots. For a new twist on a familiar vegetarian recipe, try Valentine’s Day Mini Hummus Pizzas. Accompany the mini pizzas with a spinach salad tossed with red wine vinaigrette and some fresh fruit and you have a convenient and healthy meal for two or more.

Valentine’s Day Mini Hummus Pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 1 package whole wheat flat bread
  • 1 – 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 2 ounce jar sliced, red pimentos
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup tahini or natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 tsp. chili powder (of choice)
  • 3/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1 large or 1/2 cup roma tomato – deseeded and chopped
  • 2 medium stalks or 1/2 cup celery – chopped

Equipment needed:

  • heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • blender or food processor

Instructions:

  1. Using the cookie cutter, cut-out several heart-shaped pieces of flat bread.
  2. In the blender or food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, pimentos, chopped garlic, tahini, chili powder, and lemon juice. Blend the mixture until smooth.
  3. Spread desired amount of hummus on flat bread hearts.
  4. Top with chopped roma tomatoes and celery.

Layered with Love

layered with loveThis Valentine’s Day treat the ones you love with a little Mexican style parfait.  This dish includes three layers – a savory bean and mushroom layer, a smoky red pepper and corn layer, and a refreshing tomatillo-avocado salsa.  Not into the parfait look?  This dish can also be “wrapped” with love in a tortilla.

Ingredients

Savory Layer (makes approximately 3 1/3 cup)

  • 1 ½ cup, chopped, mini portabella mushrooms (4 oz)
  • 1 – 15 oz. can no salt added black beans
  • 2 cups cooked, brown rice
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder

Smoky Layer (makes approximately 1 1/3 cup)

  • 1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
  • ¾ cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Refreshing Layer (makes approximately 1 ½ cups)

  • 1 cup chopped tomatillos
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. For savory layer combine chopped mushrooms, black beans, and cooked rice in medium size saucepan and cook over medium heat until mushrooms are soft, approximately 10 minutes.  Add chili powder.
  2. For smoky layer cook onion in a frying pan over medium-low heat for five minutes.  Add corn, red peppers, and water.  Cook for an additional five minutes until water has evaporated.  Add liquid smoke.
  3. For refreshing layer gently toss tomatillos, cilantro, avocado, lime juice, salt and pepper to mix in a medium bowl.
  4. To assemble, layer approximately ¾ cup savory beans and mushrooms, 1/3 cup smoky red pepper and corn, and a heaping 1/3 cup refreshing salsa in a 1 cup glass.

Serves four one-cup servings.


Fruit of the Season

Dried FruitLooking for a way to bring more fruit to the table this winter? Consider dried fruit. Although some dried fruit looks different from the fruit from which it is derived, dried fruit is still rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Two dried fruit options are dehydrated and freeze dried. Both processes involve the removal of water to lengthen shelf life. Dehydration involves the application of heat to remove water by evaporation. Sometimes different agents such as sugar, sulfur dioxide, oil, and citric acid are applied to maintain flavor and/or color. Freeze drying involves the removal of heat and application of pressure to cause water molecules within the fruit to change from a solid to a gas phase. Freeze dried fruit tends to maintain its shape much better than dehydrated fruit.

Dried fruit makes healthy snacks and gifts. It can be added to granola, popcorn mixtures, dipped in chocolate, and added to quick bread mixes to add flavor. If giving dried fruit as a gift be careful to watch for preservatives in the dried fruit. As mentioned earlier, dehydrated fruit may contain extra sugar which may not be desirable for those watching their simple sugar intake or sulfur which may cause an allergic type reaction in some people. Dried fruit is a wonderful way to bring back the flavors of the fruit of another season.


Above All, Keep Food Safe

Fruits and VegetablesSeptember is National Food Safety Education Month. Food safety affects all diets and is a crucial, though often overlooked part of a healthy diet. Although many potentially hazardous foods (PHF) are of animal origin, any food can be implicated in a food borne illness outbreak if mishandled. To help prevent a food borne illness outbreak with foods of plant origin remember these simple rules.

  1. Check for and avoid purchasing damaged produce. Damaged produce is more likely to be contaminated.
  2. Clean produce immediately before preparing or serving and keep food preparation surfaces clean.
  3. Separate produce from other potentially hazardous foods (such as raw meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, etc.)when shopping, storing, or preparing.
  4. Cook or throw out any produce that touches certain potentially hazardous foods.
  5. Chill any cut and prepared produce within two hours.
  6. Throw out any unrefrigerated, cut produce; damaged or decaying produce; or produce that has touched potentially hazardous foods and cannot be cooked or cleaned.

Banana Split Waffles

Banana Split WafflesCreate a special, healthy treat fit for just two or the whole family with this spin on an old soda fountain favorite.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 11 fl. oz vanilla soy milk
  • 1/8 cup cooking oil

Toppings

  • 20 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 6 strawberries, sliced
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Dried cherries

Instructions

  1. Prep and heat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine and then form a well.
  3. In the middle of the well, place vanilla, mashed bananas, soy milk, and cooking oil.
  4. With a large spoon, combine the mixture but do not over mix. There should still be lumps in the batter.
  5. Cook batter in waffle iron according to directions.
  6. Top with crushed pineapple, strawberries, chocolate syrup, and dried cherries.

Yield: Makes 1-2 waffles per person, depending on waffle iron size.


When It Comes to Corn, You Get An Earful!

CornCorn is making headlines these days, and not always in a positive light. From bioengineered corn to biofuels to high fructose corn syrup, corn has come under heavy scrutiny. But to be fair, corn has played a major role in American history. Corn was first domesticated by Mesoamerican natives from a wild grass called teosinte. It was considered one of the “three sisters” crops along with beans and squash and played a crucial role in the survival of the first European settlers.

Today many varieties of edible corn exist including sweet corn, popcorn, and flour corn. According to the USDA corn and popcorn can contribute to both daily vegetable and whole grain intake. Three cups of popcorn is considered 1 ounce of whole grains, while ½ cup of corn is considered a ½ cup serving of starchy vegetable.

Even though some corn products may be receiving a bad rap from the media, it is still important to promote corn in its lesser processed forms as a valuable, starchy vegetable.


Get if Fresh!

Fresh Fruits and VegetablesNothing says summer like fresh fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of the season by feasting on local, fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t like to garden? Not a problem! Many communities in the United States offer at least one of the following options:

  1. Farmers markets offer fresh picked produce grown by local farmers. Produce availability will depend on the season and what grows best in your area. Depending on the ethnic diversity of your community, you may even be able to sample produce you have never heard of before.
  2. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an opportunity to buy into a farm without actually running it. Shareholders usually pay in advance or through monthly installments and are provided with a box of produce on a weekly or every other week basis which is dropped off at a designated site. Some CSAs offer reduced prices if you volunteer to work on the farm. Many CSAs also offer extra perks like half-boxes for busy people or couples, newsletters and recipe ideas that use the produce grown on the farm, and special events like picnics or berry picking outings.
  3. Pick-Your-Own Farms are a great way to get some exercise while you pick your own food straight off the farm. It is best to call the farm ahead of time to find out whether they have enough crops to pick that day. Also, remember to bring your sunscreen, a hat, and some water so you don’t get sunburned.

If you wind up with too much produce, never fear! Buying food when it is fresh and then canning or freezing it for later use is a great way to help bring memories of warm, sunny days to cold, winter nights.


Zucchini — Abundant in Production and Culinary Options

ZucchiniSummer months are a time of abundant growth — blooming flowers, rows of corn, berries on the bush, and zucchini. Every time I buy a zucchini at the local farmer’s market I am either given one the size of a small boat or given enough to fill a small boat. In the Midwest some people even joke that extra zucchinis are left anonymously on doorsteps. Zucchinis are from the family Cucurbita pepo. Although traditionally thought of as the “yellow or green bat,” zucchinis also can come in ball shapes as well. The flower of the zucchini plant is edible and can be picked to help curb overproduction. Zucchini is low in Calories (only 36 Calories per cup) and provides more than 15% of the daily value for manganese and vitamin C and more than 10% of the daily value for magnesium, vitamin A, and dietary fiber in a 1 cup serving. If you find yourself with an abundance of zucchini this year try some of the following ways to keep your zucchini “stash” in check:

  1. Wash, shred, and freeze zucchini for later use in soups, quick breads, and veggie burger fillings.
  2. Use zucchini as “cups” or “boats” for serving cooked vegetables by slicing the zucchini in half or in sections and hollowing out the center.
  3. Slice the zucchini in thin slices lengthwise and grill on the barbecue.
  4. Try zucchini tempura or zucchini flower tempura.

For more information on zucchini check out the following websites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zucchini »


A Drink to Your Good Health!

Mango LassisFestive drinks need not be restricted to the holiday season. These three, easy-to-make beverages can turn any meal into a festive occasion!

Mango Lassis

Ingredients:

  • 11.3-ounce can mango nectar
  • 11 ounces fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Instructions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve. Makes approximately 2 – 12.5 fluid ounce servings.

Lime Spritzer

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup lime juice (5 small limes)
  • 1 1/2 cups club soda
  • 3 Tbsp sugar

Instructions:

Stir all ingredients together and serve. Makes approximately 2 – 8 fluid ounce servings.

Cinnamon Spiced Cider

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces unsweetened apple cider
  • 2 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Instructions:

Heat unsweetened apple cider to desired temperature. Stir in cinnamon extract. Divide into two glasses and add an orange slice and cinnamon stick to each glass. Makes approximately 2 – 8 fluid ounce servings.


The Many Edible Faces of Eggplant

EggplantWhile strolling down the aisles of the farmer’s market lately I was surprised by the variety of eggplant that I could find. Eggplant comes in a variety of colors from the deep purple, ovoid fruit which is typically cultivated in Europe and North America to the elongated, white, green, or bi-colored varieties found in Asia. Eggplant also goes by many names including aubergine, brinjal, and Chinese or Japanese eggplant. Eggplant is used in a variety of dishes around the globe from French ratatouille, to Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, to stuffed Indian brinjal. A 100 gram serving of cooked eggplant provides just 35 Calories, 8.73 grams of total carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of dietary fiber, and 0.23 grams of fat. If you love eggplant dips, give this recipe a try.

Eggplant Hummus

Yield: 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 small eggplants or 1-2 medium eggplants (3/4 cup cooked)
  • 15 oz can garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice eggplant in half and place on an oiled baking sheet, cut side down. Cook for 30-40 minutes until fruit is soft. Allow to cool. Scoop out into a blender or food processor.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until smooth and refrigerate. Prepare 1 day ahead to allow flavor to develop.
  4. Serve with chips, crackers, or slices of pita bread.

Want Cool, Want Crisp? Get Kohlrabi!

Kohlrabi Salad with Raspberry VinaigretteTo the uninformed eye kohlrabi looks like a large, green turnip. In fact another name for this member of the Brassica family is German turnip. Kohlrabi can be eaten cooked or raw. It comes in a variety of colors from light green to dark purple, although in both varieties the flesh is white beneath the skin. Kohlrabi is best consumed when it is young and tender. The taste is milder than other Brassicas and the flesh is crisp and juicy. Except for a few Gigante cultivar, kohlrabi is best harvested when it is the size of a tennis ball. Kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C with a 100 gram (3.5 oz) serving providing 62 mg of vitamin C. Never tried kohlrabi before? Give the following recipe a try.

Kohlrabi Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Yields: 2 – 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized kohlrabi, peeled and julienned
  • 1/3 cup white, distilled vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup raspberries

Place peeled and julienned kohlrabi in a bowl. Blend vinegar, honey, and raspberries in a blender. Add to kohlrabi. Cover, shake to mix, and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!


Let it Grow!

TomatoesThis little shoot may not look like much, but it is the beginning of something big for my family. This little shoot will bear a bountiful, summer harvest of juicy, ripe tomatoes right on my back stoop. Container gardens are becoming a popular way for people to microgarden, especially in urban areas where growing space is practically non-existent. When planting a container garden several elements need to be considered, such as the size of the container, exposure to sun, and watering. For larger plants like beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes, 2 to 5-gallon containers are necessary. Plants that grow well in smaller containers (4-6 inch size) include chives, sage, thyme, parsley, leaf lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and onions. Sun exposure is also important Although most plants prefer full sun, some may survive and produce at least a small crop in partial shade. These include leaf lettuce, radish, spinach, and many types of herbs. Watering is also important. Container plants dry out more quickly than plants in garden plots so they must be watered on a daily basis. For more information on successful container gardening, check out your state extension office websites (such as Container Gardening » by H.C. Harrison on the University of Wisconsin Extension website) or a master gardener website.