Friday, August 31, 2012

Super Sandwiches: Avocado egg salad

Are you heading back to school? Or in need of something new in your lunch bag? Try this tex-mex twist on egg salad. The avocado lends interesting flavor and heart-healthy fats.
Avocado Egg Salad
Avocado egg salad
Serves four
  • 4 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 medium hass avocado
  • 2 tbsp fat free plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dash of hot sauce 
  • Cumin (optional)
  1. Cook eggs; directions for hard boiling eggs can be found here.
  2. Chop eggs or smash with a potato masher. If you have kiddos, they would love to help with this step.
  3. Cut avocado around pit and scoop out fruit with a spoon. Add to chopped eggs and stir together.
  4. Add everything else and stir well. 
  5. Serve on bread, with crackers, as a dip for veggies or on top of a bed of lettuce.
Gather your ingredients
Chop (or smash) eggs and add avocado
Add yogurt and seasonings

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

In a pickle: Pickled beets

My sister loves all things pickled. You could say her middle name is pickle. We recently went to my favorite restaurant in DC, Founding Farmers, and got burgers. She asked for an extra side of pickles and almost got mad when I took one slice.

My dad is up to his ears with beets in his garden, so when he came to town recently, he asked how many beets I wanted and I told him to pack the cooler. I was up for the challenge; making and canning pickled beets! 

I am a huge fan of the site Pick Your Own; the author does very detailed instructions and photographs each step.

What are pickles? Pickling is one way to preserve the harvest. Either a salt solution called "brine" or a vinegar solution either prevents or controls growth of bacteria. These pickles are made using a vinegar solution but I am also hoping to try fermented pickles using the brine; these are supposed to be delicious too and are an excellent source of probiotics.

Pickled Beets
  • Giant bowl of fresh beets from the garden or farmers market - about the same size
  • 4 cups white vinegar (5 percent acid- check the label)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons canning or pickling salt - without iodine; iodine clouds the solution
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 large onions, sliced (optional)
  1. Sanitize your jars, new lids and rings in your dishwasher or wash using very hot water. Clean and safe is the name of the game. 
  2. Trim off beet tops, leaving 1 inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color. Wash thoroughly in your sink.
  3. Cover with boiling water and cook until less-than-tender (about 20 minutes). I didn't want the beets to be mushy, so I just cooked them long enough to loosen the skin; some directions suggest cooking  until tender (35 minutes, or so). Up to you. How do you know when the skin is loose? Fish one beet out of the pot and cool under running water; try to massage the skin off. If it doesn't come off easily, toss back in the pot and keep boiling.
  4. While beets are cooking, fill water bath canner with about 6-8 inches of water and bring to boil. I also fill tea kettle with water and bring that to a boil in case I didn't get quite enough water in the canner. The goal is that once you set your filled jars in the water bath canner, the water level will just cover them. This will take some practice :) 
  5. Drain beets and cover with cool water until cool enough to handle. Using your hands and a paring knife, massage off skin and trim any strange spots. Your sink may look like the scene of a crime, so make sure you're wearing an apron and not your favorite white shirt. 
  6. Slice into 1/4-inch slices. I put a plastic cutting board on top of a baking tray (cookie sheet with rim) to catch the red juice. I didn't use a wooden cutting board because I didn't want it to get stained.
  7. Peel and thinly slice onions. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and fresh water in a large sauce pan. Put spices in cheesecloth bag, or mulling spice strainer and add to vinegar mixture. Bring to a boil. Add beets and onions and simmer 5 minutes. Remove spice bag.
  8. Fill jars with beets and onions, leaving 1/2-inch headspace (space between top of food and top of jar). Add hot vinegar solution, allowing 1/2-inch headspace.
  9. Wipe rim of jar with clean cloth and place clean lid on top. Screw ring on loosly, finger tight, and use jar grabber to put into boiling bath canner. 
  10. Start timer once water returns to a boil; for sea level folks using pint jars, process jars (aka boil them) for 30 minutes. If you live at high altitute, you need to process for more time; see table 1 below.
  11. Once pickles are done processing, remove carefully using jar grabber and place on towel away from drafts. If you hear a "pop", you have gotten a good seal. Set cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check seal by pushing top of jar; if it moves, you didn't get a seal. Place that jar in the fridge. All sealed jars are to be labeled with the contents and date and stored in a cool, dark cupboard. 
Table 1. Recommended process time for Pickled Beets in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints or Quarts 30 min 35 40 45

Very clean jars, lids, rings and jar filling funnel
Cleaning the beets
Easy to peel
Making pickling solution; spices in mulling ball make for easy removal

Slice beets but keep juice from running all over the counter

After boiling beets in brine for 5 minutes, use slotted spoon to fill jars with the vegetable and then a ladle to fill jars with the pickling solution. Clean rims with clean cloth, place clean lid on top and gently screw on ring. Process according your altitude. Don't forget to label your jars once they're cool.


For more information:
  • The National Center for Home Food Preservation: Pickled Beets
  • The Oregon State University Extension Office: Pickling Vegetables
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Splendid Salads: Kale salad with cannellini beans and dried cranberries

Kale salad with cannellini beans, dried cranberries and Parmesan

As a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli and cabbage Kale, is a nutrition power house! Loaded with vitamins A, K and C as well as phytochemicals beta-carotene and lutein that help lower cancer risk. Kale is often eaten cooked but it can also be delicious raw in salads. The trick to a delicious raw kale salad is to balance the slightly bitter greens with sweet and salty flavors. In this salad we partner the bitter greens with tart lemon, sweet cranberries, savory beans and salty, robust parmesan. The results? Divine!

My good friend Sarah, a dietitian and blogger on WhyFoodWorks, shared this delicious salad recipe with me and I am paying it forward to you! The best part about this salad (besides the super flavor and nutrition) is that it holds up for a day or two in the fridge without getting gross. Just about every other leafy green will wilt soon after application of acids such as balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

Kale salad with cannellini beans, parmesan cheese and dried cranberries
  • 1 bunch of beautiful kale (avoid wilted or discolored bunches; probably not too fresh)
  • 1-16oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (also known as white kidney beans; while you may not recognize the name, if you've ever eaten minestrone soup, you've eaten them. If you can't find cannellini beans in your local grocery store, try Navy or Great Northern beans)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice and zest of 1-2 lemons, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (as Parmesan cheese is quite salty, you shouldn't need much additional salt)
  1. Give your kale a rinse under cool running water and remove the tough stems. Chop into thin slivers and place in your salad bowl.
  2. Zest the lemon and add to kale; slice lemon in half and add juice to kale too.
  3. Use your hands to massage the lemon juice and zest into the kale. If you have a kiddo helper, he or she would love to help you with this step.
  4. Add beans, cranberries, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together and serve!

Note: this salad keeps well and travels well; bring it to your next picnic, pack it for lunch or even try it at your next brunch.
Gather your ingredients; the parmesan cheese is hiding :)
Wash and remove tough stems
Chop into small pieces
Zest and juice 1-2 lemons (to taste)
Add zest and juice to kale leaves
    Kale is more tender after being massaged and lemon flavor is on each leaf!
    Add toppings
    Salad to go!
    I use a tool like this to zest the lemon and to grate the parmesan cheese. Do you have one in your kitchen?

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    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Cooking class: how to hard boil eggs

    I like to store boiled eggs in a mini loaf pan b/c it fits nicely in the fridge
    Hard boiled eggs are a fantastic thing to have available in your refrigerator. They can be quickly peeled and sliced onto a sandwich, whipped up into an egg salad or simply dipped into some pepper and snacked on. The protein is very high quality and it is loaded with nutrients like choline and omega-3 fatty acids; both needed for healthy brains, nerves and moods.

    Hard boiling is one (rare) case where we don't want the freshest eggs; fresh eggs are much harder to peel once boiled. Choose older eggs that have been in your fridge for a few days.
    • Place eggs in the bottom of a saucepan and add a splash of white vinegar
    • Cover eggs with water and cover; turn stove to high setting and bring to a boil
    • Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes --or-- if you aren't in a rush, once eggs come to a boil, remove from heat let eggs cool on their own. By the time the water has cooled, eggs will be perfectly cooked
    • Place eggs in a bowl or bread pan and pop in the fridge. Don't put back in the carton because you won't know which eggs are raw and which ones are hard boiled.

    Egg issue
    Egg-cellent solution
    Yolk is green after boiling
    Boil for shorter time next time; green color comes from iron in the egg yolk. Safe to eat, just not very pretty
    Egg is hard to peel
    Eggs were (gasp!) too fresh; older eggs are easier to peel
    Egg cracked during boiling
    ·         Add vinegar to boiling water to slightly soften the egg shells
    ·         Reduce heat to low; rapidly boiling water can jostle eggs too much causing them to hit the bottom of the pan

    Lower heat when boiling to prevent cracking

    Have your hard boiled eggs ready? Try my avocado egg salad. 

    Pop quiz: which eggs are healthier; brown or white?
    Answer: Neither; they just come from different breeds of hens. The nutritional quality of eggs depends on what the hens ate; hens that have a varied diet produce more nutrient dense eggs than those only eating chicken chow.

    Most hens that produce eggs in this country aren't treated very well. Look for eggs at your farmers market so that you know the conditions in which those eggs were produced; you'll be supporting happier hens and get better quality eggs too. Or, raise your own. As Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm would say;  

    "Replace the parakeet. Raise two chickens instead. They won't make as much noise, and they'll lay eggs."

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    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Splendid Salads: shrimp corn and green bean salad

    Your freezer can be your best ally for vegetables.
    • vegetables are already chopped for you
    • they can be more affordable then fresh
    • they are often a blend of colors; what gives vegetables and fruits their colors also gives them some of their nutrition, so a variety of colors is a variety of nutrients
    • vegetables to be frozen are picked when they're ripe; many "fresh" fruits and vegetables are picked before they're ripe so that they don't spoil during shipping around the globe. This means not only were fewer vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals developed during the growth of the fruit or vegetable, more are lost as they degrade while traveling to get to your kitchen.

    This salad is a complete meal. The fresh parsley makes the whole salad seem fresh, even though most ingredients came from the freezer. Keep a pot of fresh parsley in your window and use it year round! Olive oil and almonds provide healthy fats, the shrimp is lean protein and the corn is your whole grain. Complete with lots of veggies from the green beans and tomatoes, lunch is served!

    This quick meal that can come together in five minutes. Really! Pop some green beans in the microwave and by the time they're done, everything else is ready.

    On your mark, get set, go!

    Shrimp corn and green bean salad

    • 1 7.5 ounce box frozen green beans with almonds
    • 3 ounces frozen shrimp, peeled and devained 
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn
    • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
    •  one handful of fresh parsley
    • Olive oil and vinegar
    • Salt and pepper
    1. Remove green beans from plastic packaging and microwave in a glass or ceramic dish for 5 or so minutes (I don't like to microwave in plastic. Ick.)
    2. Thaw shrimp and corn under running warm water in a colendar
    3. Chop tomatoes and parsley
    4. Check microwave. Done yet? You're ready!
    5. Toss green beans with shrimp, corn, tomatoes, parsley and almonds. Use the same dish you microwaved the green beans in, no need to make more dishes. Drizzle on a bit of olive oil and vinegar to taste and add a bit of salt and pepper. Dig in!
    Microwave green beans until tender in glass or ceramic dish
    Thaw corn and cooked shrimp
    Chop parsley and tomatoes
    Drain green beans, add shrimp and corn
    Add everything else and dig in!

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    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Fuel on the move: homemade chocolate & peanut energy bites

    Have you tries Larabars before? They're delicious energy bars that taste like a cookie but only have 3 or so ingredients. Most Larabars are dried fruits and nuts pureed together; the first ingredient is usually dates. I loved using them when I was training for my climate ride, but they're a bit expensive. My deal with myself is that I could only eat them after having ridden 40 miles...not for consumption in the house!

    I found a few recipes online, including this one from Chocolate Covered Katie and made it my own. I liked using raisins for the base of these cookies because they're less expensive, there is no need to pit them and they're slightly higher in potassium than dates. 100 g of dates has 656mg of potassium vs. 749 in 100 g of raisins. Potassium and sodium are the electrolytes you're seeking during physical activity.

    These "cookies" are actually quite healthy; they're basically trail mix masquerading as a cookie. Keep in mind, though, that trail mix is quite high in calories. These cookies are to be eaten on the move, not on the couch!

    Homemade Chocolate & Peanut Energy Bites
    Makes 4 servings
    • 1/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
    • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons raisins
    • 2 tablespoons salted peanuts (or add a pinch of salt if using unsalted)
    • few drops of vanilla
    • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

    1. Add your ingredients to a food processor and blend until a soft dough forms
    2. Use your hands to form the dough into bars, balls or cookie shapes. Garnish with peanuts if you'd like the ambiance 

    If you're also interested in trying to make your own sports drinks, here is a recipe to try. 

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    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Breakfast of Champions: Baked oatmeal with strawberries and peaches

    Baked oatmeal is the happy love child of a bowl of thick oatmeal and fruit cobbler. Many recipes are loaded with butter so they lean more towards dessert; this recipe has all of the warm-in-your-tummy goodness of cobbler without the calories. Try baking this on the weekend and starting your morning with a quick breakfast before work or school; this reheats quickly in the microwave and is delicious with a splash of milk on top.

    Ready to dig in!
    Strawberry-Peach Baked Oatmeal

    • 2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen are both fine)
    • 1-2 peaches
    • 2 cups old fashioned oats - the 5-minute kind, not instant
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup nuts
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
    • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 2 cups low-fat milk
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    2. Spray a square baking pan or deep pie plate with non-stick cooking spray
    3. Pour berries into bottom of prepared square pan; top with diced peaches (no need to peel). Save the fruit scraps for your compost.
    4. In a 4 cup measuring cup, mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, nuts, cinnamon and flax. Cover fruit with dry mixture and even out surface.
    5. Reuse your measuring cup to melt butter in microwave (let's not create more dishes than necessary!). Add eggs, milk and vanilla and whisk together until smooth. Pour liquid mixture over oats evenly.
    6. Pop into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until fruit layer is bubbling and edges are browned. This may take a bit longer if your fruit was still frozen. 
    This reheats well in the microwave. I make this on the weekend when I have more time and then enjoy throughout the week for a fast and healthy breakfast. Enjoy!
    Cut strawberries and peaches
    Chopped fruit
    Dry ingredients
    Mixing the liquid ingredients
    Pour over the dry ingredients and garnish with some pecans if you wish
    Ready to dig in!

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    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Scrumptious soups: Curried carrot soup

    I love carrots; I really do!

    This simple soup really lets the carrots shine as there are very few ingredients.

    For more complex and developed flavor, I like to first roast the carrots. If you don't feel like fussing with roasting the carrots, don't worry about it; the soup will be brighter flavored, and that is just fine too!

    The proportions are really flexible; if you're cooking for yourself or a smaller group, use fewer carrots. If you're feeding a crowd, keep chopping!

    Curried Carrot Soup

    • 6 large carrots (or more, or less)
    • Low-sodium vegetable stock, low-sodium chicken stock or water
    • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon curry powder (or more, or less)
    • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • dash of hot sauce or pinch or crushed red pepper flakes
    1. Roast carrots; directions found here
    2. Place carrots in sauce pan or stock pot and barely cover with stock or water. Add garlic and pepper. Cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender. 
    3. Add olive oil, hot sauce and puree using an immersion blender (also called a stick blender). Or, blend in batches using a blender (be careful not to burn yourself on the steam; remove small insert from the lid to allow steam to escape and cover with a clean kitchen towel). A food processor isn't a good choice for pureeing soups because thin liquids may leak out the top and burn you; some close with a rubber gasket, but most do not. If you don't have any fun kitchen toys, use a potato masher to smooth out the soup a bit and call it rustic :)
    4. Taste your seasoning and add a little of this or a little of that as needed. 
    Nutrition note: This soup would be really easy to do without the oil. So, why do I add it anyway? Our nutrients in our food (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) are either water soluble or fat soluble. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene and is fat soluble. If you didn't add a touch of healthy fats, you would be missing out on this nutritional powerhouse because you body couldn't absorb it! This is the same thinking behind the recommendation to have a healthy fat on salads; whether it is a small bit of avocado, some nuts or seeds or a drizzle olive oil, you want something to help your body absorb all the good stuff. The trick is to keep the portion reasonable; 1/4 avocado per person, 1/4 cup of nuts or a tablespoon of oil.

    Wash and chop your carrots; no need to peel

    Roast them to develop flavor
    Barely cover with stock or water and add garlic
    Add seasonings and puree until smooth; add more water or stock if too thick

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