Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts

Monday, September 23, 2013

Purple produce: roasted purple cauliflower

Maybe you've heard it before, but in case you haven't, it is important to eat a variety of colors. I like to say "a colorful plate is a healthy plate, unless it is a plate of skittles".

I saw this alien looking cauliflower in the grocery store recently for the first time and knew I had to try it!I love trying new things and this crazy looking veggie went straight to the top of the list.

I am hard pressed to think of a roasted veggie that I don't like. This one turned out to be no exception. Simply for the sake of beauty, I think I'd like to make this next time with a mixture of the purple and the usual while, or throw in the orange or green cauliflower.

Roasted Purple Cauliflower
  • 1 head purple cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400. 
  2. Give the cauliflower a quick rinse and remove the leaves and stems. Pull off sections of the cauliflower and then trim into 1-2 bite pieces. Kids are great helpers with this task. Evenly sized pieces = evenly cooked pieces.
  3. Place cauliflower pieces on a cookie sheet or in a glass baking dish. Drizzle with oil, add the garlic and a bit of salt and pepper. Toss with your hands (again, kiddos = excellent helpers) until evenly coated. 
  4. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges and tender when you poke it with a fork. Exact timing will depend on the temperature of the oven and the size of your cauliflower pieces.

Tip: don't overcrowd your pan. To roast well, there needs to be air circulation around the veggies. If they're too crowded, they'll still cook, but they'll be steamed instead of roasted.

Note: you don't have to use a 400 degree oven - you can do hotter or cooler if you want to cook two things at once the other item requires a different temperature. Roasting is flexible!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Splendid Salads: Simple Ginger Carrot Salad

A salad can be so many things - they're a great way to get a mixture of flavors and textures and loads of good nutrition. If you make them yourself, you get to personalize them and ensure that they are actually healthy and not a calorie bomb (no, just because you put a leaf of iceberg lettuce underneath does not make your fried chicken and ranch dressing healthy).

When eating seasonally, you get to enjoy produce at their peak of flavor and nutrition. Now that the weather is turning cold, those delicious baby greens are no longer in season. Of course you can still buy them, but how about mixing things up? One option is to try a different green - Kale Salad is delicious and can be purchased locally very late in the season. Another option is to skip the greens altogether! When my dad was a kid, his mom often just shredded some carrots for a simple sweet salad. I built on that and added some fat for nutrient absoprtion and some seasonings for yummy flavor. Don't be limited my this recipe though, there are a zillion different ways to dress up this simple salad.

Feel free to scale this recipe up for down - if you're cooking for yourself, cut it in half. If feeding a crowd, double or triple it. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, you'll whiz through the carrots in a jiffy. I used a box grater and did it by hand. A box grater is stable enough that your kids can help too (watch your fingers and knuckles!).

Simple Ginger Carrot Salad
  • 4 carrots
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise or yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or freshly grated ginger)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • More raisins and walnut halves, for decoration if you wish
  1. Grate carrots using a hand grater or your food processor
  2. In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together your dressing ingredients. Add carrots, walnuts and raisins and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasons as your taste buds desire. 
No need to peel carrots. Leave on the tops too - they make a great handle when grating by hand and help prevent waste.  Do cut off if using food processor
Delicious, kid friendly and ready in a flash!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Smash it: moving beyond the mashed potato

The vegetable ninja is back! We're using delicious mashed potatoes as a basis for trying (and liking!) new fruits and vegetables. 

I don't think I've met someone who dislikes mashed potatoes. And what's not to like? They're creamy and delicious. Turns out that many vegetables are really delicious mashed. With a variety of vegetables, leafy greens and even fruit, you can make a multitude of tasty side dishes. Do add some fat for flavor and absorption of the fat soluble nutrients (the beta-carotene that makes carrots and pumpkin orange, for example), but don't go overboard. Too much fat can tip the calories too high (and tip the scale!).

There is a pretty big range of calories, sugar and fiber. Notice too, that if you include the skins from you reproduce, the fiber is higher. By skipping the peeler, you need less time to prepare the food and gain better nutrition - great! Also notice that the applesauce is unsweetened. The basic applesauce for most brands is loaded with added sugars and the calories usually double. Check the label!

1 cup mashed
White potato
(no skin)
White potato
(with skin)
Sweet potato
Applesauce, Unsweetened
Fiber (g)
Carbohydrates (g)
Sugar (g)

Next time you are planning mashed potatoes, try something new. Maybe you skip peeling and get dinner on the table faster - you're doing better in the fiber category. Maybe you mix your white potatoes with cauliflower - you save on calories big time! Perhaps you want to try half carrot, half sweet potato; I'll bet you like it.

Mashed veggies are also a good way to get more greens - the Irish staple Colcannon is delicious and filling, not to mention cheap! 

I've written about this before, but cooking fruit vegetable purees or mashes is a great way to introduce new flavors. When someone is having a new food for the first few times, they're experiencing both a new flavor AND a new texture. When you remove the texture part of the equation, the reluctant eater is only focused on the flavor. Build from there. Sneaking in vegetables and fruits into foods is sometimes controversial amongst my peers. I think that they are one tool to improve intake of fruits and vegetables, but they aren't the whole solution. Get your household on board with new flavors and then build upon that with the vegetables and fruits in other forms.

Reader poll: Do you have a favorite mashed fruit or vegetable?

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dinner tonight: cashew tofu stir fry

Dinner tonight: cashew tofu stir fry 

I am a huge fan of any cookbook written by Mollie Katzen. She has written many and they all have the sense that you're cooking with her in the kitchen; the pages are all hand written, the directions are clear as a bell and she draws pictures and doodles to keep you entertained. The recipes are also delicious!

This cashew stir fry is inspired from a recipe found in The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest. You marinate the tofu in a flavorful sauce and then saute the veggies with the tofu and serve the whole delicious dish over some rice, topped with cashews. To save time, you could marinate the tofu the day before and even cook the rice too. 

1 pound firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp freshly minced ginger
4 medium cloves garlic
black pepper
2 teaspoons peanut oil
8 scallions, minced (whites and greens)
bell peppers, in strips
1 cup julienned carrots
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup toastes cashew pieces

1. Mix together marinade ingredients; lemon juice through black pepper. Add cubed tofu and let marinate for a few hours or overnight. You can also cook your brown rice the night before.
2. Preheat wok or heavy skillit over high heat. Add peanut oil and veggies. Saute veggies saute for a few minutes. Add tofu and all of themarinade and cook over medium until everything is hot and bubbly; total cooking time is not to exceed ten minutes
3. Serve stir fry over cooked rice and top with cashews
Chopping the veggies!

Marinating the tofu cubes

Saute the veggies

Did you know cooking in cast iron increases the iron content of your food?
Dig in!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Splendid Salads: blackberries and goat cheese on baby greens

Splendid Salads: blackberries and goat cheese on baby greens

Sometimes the most delicious dishes are the simplest; choose the best ingredients when they are most fresh and not much else is needed.

I recently picked blackberries from Butlers Orchard in Germantown Maryland. I have whizzed through a few projects with the delicious fruit (stay tuned for a super jam recipe!) and for lunch today just kept it simple. I dressed a few baby greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a touch of salt and pepper and then topped it all with some fresh blackberries and goat cheese from the farmers market. The goat cheese was from Spriggs Delight Farm in Sharpsburg, Maryland. So simple, but so tasty!

Blackberries and Goat Cheese on Baby Greens 

  • Baby greens
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Fresh goat cheese
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and pepper

This would make a lovely salad to have at your next dinner party!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Cooking class: Roasted brussels sprouts and carrots!

Roasted brussels sprouts and carrots

Roasting is an excellent way to develop the natural sweet flavors in vegetables. It is simple, but sophisticated! The best part is that it is also flexible; you can roast in a range of oven temperatures, so if you're cooking something else, pop in a tray of veggies and roast them too!

A few general guidelines for successful roasting:
  • Chop your vegetables so that they're about the same size
  • Some vegetables roast faster than others; bell peppers and summer squash will be cooked much sooner than carrot and potatoes; choose vegetables that will be done at about the same time. Or, start the longer-cooking veggies and then add the quicker-cooking veggies part way through
  • Allow for air circulation around your veggies; if they're touching, the steam released from the vegetables will cook the vegetables and you won't get the nice browning and flavor we're looking for
  • Stir the vegetables around part way through cooking to ensure even cooking and browning
  • Just a tiny bit of olive oil allows your herbs, garlic and spices to stick to your vegetables nicely
  • If you don't want to wash another pan, simply line your baking tray with parchment paper
Good choices for roasted vegetables:
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Bell pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Potato
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Winter squash (i.e. pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, etc)
  • Many more...the sky is the limit!
General method; I had a bag of enormous brussels sprouts and one bag of old-ish baby carrots. I cleaned up the brussels sprouts, tossed the veggies with a touch of olive oil and seasonings and popped them into an oven set at 400. Anythwere from 350-450 is fine, match whatever else you're cooking. My vegetables took about 40 minutes to cook, if the sprouts had been smaller, or the oven hotter, it wouldn't have taken quite so long. Just keep an eye on your veggies and you'll get it right!

After the veggies are good, they are delicious tossed with balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, lemon juice or slivered almonds. Or all of the above :) You can even toss the nuts onto the tray for the last minute to develop their flavor a bit...but they will burn quickly, so don't walk away from the oven!
Happy roasting!

Trimming the ends and removing discolored leaves

Try to get all of the pieces about the same size

These carrots are a bit old for eating raw but are ready for a second life roasted!

Toss with a touch of olive oil, pepper, herbs de Provence and cayenne pepper

Quick stir half-way through; you can see the brussels sprouts turning bright green!

Perfect! Tender when pierced with a fork, crispy edges all around!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday to My Plate!

Happy 1st Birthday to My Plate!

It has been one year now since the USDA updated their nutrition recommendations, moving away from a pyramid to a plate. MyPyramid, released in 2005, had many good intentions, but turned out to be too abstract for most folks. I think MyPlate is more user friendly.

What are the main ideas? First of all, we need to use smaller plates. Fifty years ago, dinner plates were the size of our salad plates today! If your dinner plate more closely resemble serving trays, it is time to rearrange your cupboards to make those huge plates hard to get to. Use plates that are about nine or ten inches across. Smaller plates, bowls, cups and serving utensils can all contribute to reasonable portion sizes and a healthy weight.

We need to base our meals on produce; loads of fruits and vegetables! We can probably get away with not having vegetables at breakfast, but they need to be the star of the show at lunch and dinner. Go for a variety; a lot of what gives fruits and vegetables their color, also gives them their nutrition. Vary your color for a healthy meal! White onions, green broccoli and orange carrots all have different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to offer and have great flavor to boot!

Vegetable rainbow!

More fruit? All forms count (fresh, frozen canned, dried and 100% juice), but try to minimize your intake as juice. From the website, here are some tips for including more fruits throughout the day:
  • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later.
  • Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
  • Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
  • Consider convenience when shopping. Try pre-cut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.

Protein foods include red meat, chicken, pork and fish, but also beans and peas, processed soy foods like tofu tempeh and veggie burgers, seafood nuts and seeds. Proteins provide the amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle tissue, our red blood cells and immune system and more. Proteins also provide many minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as some B-vitamins. If you're selecting fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon and sardines, you're also getting the benefit of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Protein foods!

Most of us eat plenty of grain foods, (bread, bagels, cereal, rice, tortillas) but many of us could improve our level of whole grains. A grain is the seed of the plant and has three parts; the germ (food for the seed; loaded with nutrients), the bran (the hard outer coating; loaded with fiber) and the endosperm, what is left after refining a whole grain. Look for breads and crackers that have "100% whole grain" on the package, whole grain cereals and oatmeal for breakfast, and brown rice and quinoa with dinner. You can do it!

Lastly, on the side of the plate is a circle of dairy to represent a glass of milk, yogurt or cheese. Dairy is a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium, all important for bone health. Dairy is also fortified with vitamins A and D. If you don't tolerate milk well, or chose a non-dairy alternative, that is a good choice too; just make sure that the soy or rice milk is fortified with these nutrients so that you're diet is well balanced!

On the website, I also really like their 10 Tips series for action oriented advice on various subjects like cutting back on sugary treats and adding more vegetables. Check them out!
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