Saturday, January 28, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

My first attempt at chicken stock worked out so well that I couldn't wait to try it again.

This time, I also used a rotisserie chicken carcass, but I omitted the apple.  I added carrot, onion, celery, and some kale that was soon going to go bad.  We were home all day, so it simmered on low for about five hours.

When the stock was ready, I strained it and then made Italian Wedding Soup with it.  I wanted to make something that was warm, hearty, and had lots of veggies and lots of meat (my carnivorous husband has been putting up with a lot of vegan cooking lately -- he's earned it).

10-12 cups of chicken stock (preferably home-made!)
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 piece of Ezekiel bread
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 egg whites
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup small, uncooked pasta, like ditalini
4 cups chopped dark, leafy greens (I used mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, and spinach)

Rip the Ezekiel bread and put it in the blender to pulse into crumbs.  Put the crumbs, sausage, and egg whites into a bowl and then mush together by hand.  Form into 1-inch meatballs.  Put olive oil into a pan and brown the meatballs in batches.  [They don't have to cook all the way through, but they should be brown on all sides.]

Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside, but leave the oil in the pan.

Put the carrots, celery, and garlic in the same pan and cook for about 3 minutes.  Then put the chicken stock, the veggies, the meatballs, and the pasta in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, add the dark, leafy greens and cook for 15 minutes more.  Serve.

This meal made the whole family happy: veggies for me, meat for my hubby, and soft finger food (cut up meatballs, carrots, celery, and pasta) for the toddler and baby.  A winner!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kale Waldorf Salad

This one was easy and fun.

I threw together some fresh kale, dried figs, raisins, and walnuts in a bowl.  Then I put in about a half a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt and stirred to coat.  I diced up half an apple a put the pieces on top for a delicious Waldorf-style salad!

Violet Smoothie

Tonight's smoothie combination: fresh cranberries, fresh kale, frozen blueberries, and milk.

Try it now.  Thank me later.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegan Cookbook Give-Away!

A few weeks ago, I interviewed vegan cookbook author Lindsay S. Nixon and received some wonderful advice from her on learning to cook with vegetables. 

Today I’m excited not only to have been featured on her blog, but also to offer a give-away of her latest cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore

All you have to do to win a copy of Everyday Happy Herbivore, which includes more than 175 plant-based recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, is to leave a comment below about why you want to cook with fruits and vegetables more often.  Do you want to lose weight?  Get healthy?  Instill good habits in your kids? 

Let me know in the comments and I’ll pick one lucky winner!

Cauliflower, Parsnip, and Potato Mash

My husband is a picky eater, so I have to resort to hiding vegetables in other food to get him a proper allotment of vitamins and minerals.  I know people have been doing this to their kids for generations, but it’s harder to hide things from a grown adult!

Nevertheless, I’ve had some success. 

I made mashed potatoes a few nights ago that were scarfed down by my husband, my toddler, and my infant.  They should have known something was amiss when low-carb Mama ate the mashed potatoes, too.  But they were too busy feeding their faces to notice!

2 potatoes
4 parsnips
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of milk

I started a pot of water for boiling and then set about chopping my veggies into 1-inch pieces.  My husband and the girls were safely downstairs watching a football game…or so I thought!  Just as I started to peel the parsnips, my husband trudged up the stairs with the toddler over his shoulder for a diaper change.  Yikes!  I went about my business, and tried not to look too guilty as I slid the cauliflower behind the pot of water on the stove.

With my husband back downstairs, I finished separating the cauliflower into florets and chopping the parsnips and potatoes (I left the skin on the potatoes).  When the water came to a boil, I dumped everything in and allowed it to cook for ten minutes.  After ten minutes, I drained the veggies and put them in a bowl to mash by hand, adding milk until I got my desired consistency.

When I served the mashed potatoes, my husband looked askance at them.  “What were those long white things I saw you peeling?”

“Parsnips, dear.”  [He likes parsnips.]



“Okay, just TELL me you put parsnips in the potatoes, okay?”

“Okay.  I put parsnips in the potatoes.”

He happily ate his parsnip potatoes, blissfully unaware that he was eating mostly…cauliflower. 


Beef and Greens Masala

Lest I give the impression that I now eat exclusively home-cooked, from-scratch food for every meal, I wanted to share what I eat when I do eat packaged, processed food.  It's increasingly rare for me to eat this way, but we all have our busy weeknights when nothing else will work.

Trader Joe's is my saving grace.  I am a compulsive label reader for processed foods, and I find that Trader Joe's food is cleaner than most.  Their convenience foods are tasty, inexpensive, and -- for the most part -- up to my exacting standards in terms of lack of chemical ingredients and minimal added salt, sugar, fat, etc.

Tonight's dinner came together in one skillet in fifteen minutes.

1 pound Trader Joe's shaved beef
1 bag Trader Joe's "Southern Greens Blend" (mustard, turnip, collards, spinach)
2 jars Masala Simmer Sauce
1 cup of water

Put the beef in the skillet over medium-high heat.  Add as many of the greens as will fit (about half the bag).  When the greens start to wilt and there is more room, add the rest of the greens.  When the beef is just about cooked (5 minutes), add the two jars of sauce and one cup of water.  Simmer for ten minutes.  Serve.

Assuming four servings, you can expect to get the following nutritional value from this "fast food."
About 75 percent of your Vitamin A
About 50 percent of your Vitamin C
About 20 percent of your Calcium
About 30 percent of your Iron

Meanwhile, you will have consumed only:
300 calories (15 percent of a 2,000-calories a day diet)
20 percent of your daily value of fat
30 percent of your daily value of saturated fat
25 percent of your daily value of sodium

Who needs a Lean Cuisine?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Garlicky Sauteed Collard Greens

This standard recipe works with pretty much any dark, leafy green.  I happened to have collard greens in my fridge.

First, I started a pot of water boiling.

Then I cut the stems out of the collard greens.  They're much too thick to eat.  I'd like to say I saved them for a veggie stock, but I didn't.  I still have a lot of chicken soup left over!

I stacked three or four leaves together at a time, rolled them up, and cut them into ribbons.  [Thank you wisdom of the Interwebs for that trick!]

I tossed them in the boiling water for about two minutes and then drained them.  From there, I dried them (not thoroughly, but I didn't want them to be dripping...) and then put them in a skillet with a teaspoon chopped garlic, a teaspoon of olive oil and some red pepper flakes.  I pushed them around with a spoon until they were coated well with the olive oil and the garlic was browned, about three minutes.

Voila!  A fancy and nutritious side that's easy enough to make on a weeknight.

Kale, Clementine, and Almond Salad

There's no magic to this recipe: Just put chopped kale, clementine sections, and raw almonds in a bowl.  No dressing needed!

Simple veggies, fruit, and nut salads are such easy, healthy go-to snacks or sides for me when I'm trying to lose weight.

Sweet Potato and Strawberry Smoothie

Yup, I'm on a smoothie kick!

The in-season veggie plus out-of-season frozen fruit combo is just STELLAR.  I really enjoy it as an "after school snack" when I get home from work.  And it does double-duty as a drink for my toddler to go with her dinner.

This time I used a fresh sweet potato, a fresh clementine, and frozen strawberries. 

A sweet potato?!  Yup! 

I actually used half of a raw sweet potato, cutting it into chunks and putting it straight into the blender.  I added sections of one clementine and topped it off with about a cup of frozen strawberries.  I covered everything with milk and then blended it up.

It came out light, frothy, and sweet!  The sweet potato was a nice stand-in texture-wise for the usual smoothie ingredients of yogurt or a banana (I don't care for bananas).  

This won high marks from my toddler, who didn't want to give up the straw from her "strawberry milk" until she had licked off every drop!

Kale and Blueberry Smoothie

I've gotten so deeply into this seasonal eating adventure that I have to remind myself sometimes that it's still okay to eat out-of-season produce as long as it's been frozen or dried.

Hence this kale and blueberry smoothie.  [It's been unseasonably warm this winter, so it's not THAT weird that I've been in the mood for smoothies!]  This smoothie combines fresh, seasonal produce (kale) with frozen, out-of-season produce (blueberries) for the best of both worlds.

I put about a cup of frozen blueberries, a cup of fresh kale, a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt, and about 1/2 cup of milk into a blender and spun it up.  It tasted fresh and healthy!  Both my toddler and my infant enjoyed it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Indian-Spiced, Parsnip, Apple, and Chicken Soup

I made this soup entirely from scratch.  Yup, I made the stock, too!

After reading Joel Salatin's "Folks, This Ain't Normal," I was inspired to cook with a whole chicken.

A few nights ago, my husband roasted a bird, stuffed with an apple, covered in olive oil and rosemary (in a 400 degree oven for about an hour).  We had the chicken for dinner with vegetable side dishes, including Winter Fruit and Cabbage Side Salad.  That night, I picked through the leftovers, separating the meat from the bones, skin, and sinew.  I put the meat in one bag and the bones, etc. (including the apple!) in another.

Tonight I made the chicken stock.  I put the remains of the chicken (including the apple, but not the meat) in a stock pot along with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, kale, Brussels sprouts, and parsley.

[It was pretty much a sampling of all the fresh veggies I had in my 'fridge that I had no other immediate plans to use.  You could use whatever veggies and herbs you have on hand.]  Then I covered the ingredients with water and brought them to a boil.  From there, I turned it down to a simmer and allowed it to cook for three hours.

During that three hours, I became ADDICTED to the smell wafting from the pot.  I actually had to tell myself, "just clear out the dishes in the dishwasher and then you can go take another whiff."  Which turned into, "okay, a whiff after I finish the top rack...".

When the three hours were up, I removed the big "stuff" with a spoon, and then strained the remainder over a bowl.  I wasn't picky about the very small bits of chicken and veggies that remained; if you are, you could strain through a cheesecloth.  It seems like such a waste to throw out the veggies used to make a stock, but it's really not.  They've given up their flavor to the stock and would only add unpleasant texture if you kept them.  Think of them like tea leaves.  :-)

I tasted the stock and it was amazing with a sprinkle of salt and pepper!  I couldn't wait to make it into a tasty soup.

I put the stock back into the stock pot, and added 5 chopped parsnips, 2 peeled and chopped apples, 1 chopped onion, and a 1/2 bunch of chopped celery.

I also added the leftover chicken meat.  Then I put about a teaspoon of garam masala in a tea ball and dropped it in.  The tea ball was pretty much superfluous, because the spice got out anyway!

I allowed it to cook for half an hour, until the vegetables were tender.

I served the soup with very light sprinkles of salt, pepper, and more garam masala.  It does need just a touch of salt to make it taste "like a soup."

The result was a fragrant, spicy / sweet soup that was unexpectedly delicious (I had high hopes for this soup, but not this high!).  If you have not had parsnips in soup before, you absolutely must try this recipe.  The parsnips are so sweet!  Sweeter than the apples!  Who needs sugar?!

And my experiment with the whole chicken was a definite success.  The soup made enough food to feed an army, so for a $13 (organic, free-range) chicken, I got countless meals.  That never happens with a package of boneless, skinless breasts!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Beef and Winter Veggie Stir Fry

I love to make stir-fry, but it’s not a dish that I usually associate with winter vegetables. I’m more inclined to reach for peas and bell peppers than for kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. But it turns out that fresh, winter veggies make a delicious and authentic stir-fry!

Sauce ingredients:
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup Tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Stir-fry ingredients:
1 pound shaved beef (pastured and grass fed!)
1 nub of fresh ginger (about the size of a thumb), peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 cup kale, sliced into ribbons
2 cups cabbage, sliced into ribbons
4 Brussels sprouts, sliced into ribbons
1 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup raw cashews

Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients.

Put the beef, ginger, garlic, and onion into a wok. Put two tablespoons of the sauce in the wok and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is just about done.

Add the kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cashews and the rest of the sauce to the wok. Stir together and cook for 2-3 minutes or until veggies are warm, but still crisp, and the beef is done.

Viola. A beef stir fry that keeps veggies at the center, and tastes delicious without tons of sugar, oil, or salt.

I eat this just as it is, but it can also be served over a mix of scrambled eggs and rice.

Scramble two egg whites and one whole egg (I like at least one yolk in there so that the scrambled eggs look a little yellow) in the wok or in a separate pan. Add the scrambled eggs to two cups of cooked brown rice and mix together. This makes a kind of a “fried rice” that cuts down on the carbs (even if you eat the rice) by including protein-packed egg whites in the mix.

I should note that my husband tolerates kale and cabbage, but despises Brussels sprouts. I slipped them into this stir-fry and he cleaned his plate without so much as a question about the ingredients. Score one for me in “putting food in his food”!

Winter Fruit and Cabbage Side Salad

I haven't been big on salad lately, but I need to get back into it if I expect to keep my diet low-carb

I like salads because they are simple and fresh.  All it takes to make a salad is the energy to cut up some veggies and throw them in a bowl.  No complicated preparation; no long cooking times.  Even in winter, it's possible to have a fresh, simple salad.

1 cup of kale, chopped
1/2 cup of green cabbage, chopped
2 dried figs, diced
1 small apple, cored and cut

Throw them in a bowl!

I found that this nutrient-dense salad didn't require any dressing.  As long as I have something sufficiently sweet, or different in texture from lettuce, I often find that my salads are just fine without any dressing at all.

With my low-carb diet, I'm limited to one serving of fruit per day.  This was a great way to use that one fruit!  The apple was small, as were the figs, so I counted the two together as one serving of fruit. 

Incidentally, I found the figs at Trader Joe's and they are decidedly not local (imported from Turkey).  I do eat non-local produce, but I try to limit it to food that a) does not grow near my house in any season and b) is dry or dried so that I'm not incurring environmental costs just to move water from one place to another.

That said, I'm a huge hypocrite because I drink bottled water.  Bottled water is the epitome of moving water from one place to another, not to mention a huge use of plastic, and I know that. 

I have a hyper-local source of water (a well in my front yard), but the truth is that the water from it is disgusting.  We invested more than $4,000 in a filtration system and the water is still slightly discolored and sulfuric/metallic tasting (though it no longer ruins loads of white laundry with rust stains or stinks up the house when a faucet runs).  We do use our well water for washing food, cooking food, and making beverages like coffee and tea (because the water is perfectly potable), but it just doesn't taste good enough to drink it straight.  Ever since I started this local eating adventure, I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to solve my local water problem.  And I haven't yet.

So, in the meantime, I'm eating dried figs, happy that I haven't imported from Turkey a product that is mostly water, even as I wash them down with a tall bottle of non-local water.  We can only do our best.

And, back to the salad, I think I'll be coming up with more winter greens plus dried-fruit combos!

Low-Carb Challenge

This is a blog about healthy eating.

And yet, in the last month, I have blogged about pizza, French fries, pie, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and chips.

Healthy versions of these things – yes -- but pizza, French fries, pie, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and chips nonetheless.

I stepped on the scale yesterday to discover that I had gained four pounds over the holidays.

Yikes. Time to reign it in.

January’s challenge will be to make my meals lower in carbs.

Yes, there are good carbs and bad carbs. I already use whole grains and avoid refined sugar (I challenge you to find a speck of white flour or a single grain of refined sugar in any of the above-mentioned recipes). But having recently lost 40 pounds on a low-carb diet, I know that my body needs more protein and less carbs (of any type) in order to lose weight. It may be different for everyone, but low-carb is what works for me.

When I say low-carb, I’m also talking about relatively low-fat. I don’t eat bacon as part of a low-carb diet. My low-carb diet involves two servings of whole-grains or complex carbs (for example, a slice of Ezekiel bread and half of a large baked potato) per day, and one serving of fruit per day. I also allow myself up to two servings of beans/nuts/legumes, which supply protein along with some carbs. The rest of my diet consists of pretty much unlimited quantities of vegetables, lean proteins (egg whites, chicken, fish, beef, pork, etc.), and low-fat or non-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.). I consider this a healthy and balanced way to eat, rather than an extreme or faddish low-carb diet.

In addition to my low-carb challenge, I’ve also re-committed to my exercise regimen. I am doing the P90X program again (I am already a P90X graduate, having completed the program once already) and have committed with friends to run the Saint Patrick’s Day 8K race in Washington DC on March 11th.

Vegetables and exercise – I’m planning to lose weight the old fashioned way!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pasta with Kale and Cashew Cream Sauce

If it sounds to good to be true...

...It's probably just really delicious whole food.

I threw together this whole-wheat pasta and kale with garlicky cashew cream sauce as a quick lunch this afternoon.

I set the cashews in water to soak just before my workout (which lasted 90 minutes).

When my workout was over, the cashews were ready to go and I was able to put a gourmet lunch on the table in the time it took to boil and cook a pot of pasta.  Bonus for it being a pasta dish with plenty of protein, healthy fat, and dark leafy greens!

1 pound whole-wheat pasta
2 cups whole, raw cashews, soaked in water for at least an hour
1 teaspoon of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large bunch of kale, chopped

Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Add pasta and cook.  About five minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the chopped kale to the water.  Drain pasta and kale together and put into a large bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a skillet over medium heat.

Place the soaked cashews in a blender with enough water to make them smooth when blended.  It's best to start with a little water and add as you go so that the cashew cream does not become too watery.  After about a minute in the blender, it comes out looking like this.

Add the cashew cream to the skillet with the garlic and olive oil.  Mix and allow to warm through.

Add sauce to the drained pasta and kale and then mix well.

Serve with a light sprinkle of salt (it really does need it) and some cracked black pepper.

This made an INCREDIBLE lunch.  Restaurant quality.  I would never have known this was vegan unless you told me.

My carnivorous and highly-skeptical husband even enjoyed this.  He went back for seconds, and then asked if I could please (please, PLEASE) make all "cream" sauces from this recipe in the future, foregoing all attempts based on skim milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Now THAT'S a stellar endorsement.

I thought cashew cream sauce would be too good to be true -- Now I know it's just too good not make again!
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