Archive for Vegetable

Recycling Week: Regrow your food scraps

If you bought 10 bags’ worth of groceries, would you chuck four of them out the window on the way home? Unless you were doing some really weird cross-training for upper-arm strength, no, of course you wouldn’t.

But it turns out that most of us are doing something like that, because up to 40% of edible food goes wasted in the United States (NRDC pdf). Some of that is lost on the fields or in transportation before it reaches stores; but we consumers contribute a good share of waste, as well.

One of the oft-mentioned solutions is to compost food scraps – it cuts down on the millions of pounds of food waste piling up in landfills, and returns nutrients to the soil for future crops. But what if we skipped the compost middleman and went right from scraps to food? It turns out, it’s stupidly easy to do.


Pretty much any food that you would buy with its root end (leeks, scallions, bok choy, cabbage, onions, celery, garlic) or that easily sprouts new buds (potatoes, ginger) can be resurrected from its leftover bits with just some water and/or soil plus a little light. Andy Whitely wrote about 16 veggies you can easily regrow on Wake Up World, and you can find little summary charts all over Pinterest.

Bok choy

I recently tried my hand at this with leeks and bok choy, and it really is as easy as Teh Internets say. The leeks sprang up within a mere 24 hours of me putting the hacked-off root ends in water, and the bok choy has re-leafed itself nicely (although, it keeps trying to bolt on me).

So if you start regenerating vegetables, what are you going to do with all those second helpings? Glad you asked, because I’ve found a week’s worth of recipes that use these easy-to-restart veggies:

  • Minty green celery-olive salsa from HuffPost Taste (here)
  • Seared scallops with crispy leeks from Delish (here)
  • Potato, spinach and leeks frittata from Cooking Light (here)
  • Summer coleslaw with snow peas, hazelnuts and scallions from Health (here)
  • Carrot soup with ginger from Our Earth Land (here)
  • Mushroom and cheddar stuffed onions from Eating Well (here)
  • Sesame-shiitake bok choy from Eating Well (here)

Love Your Heart Week – Heart-healthy ingredients

One in four deaths in America. 600,000 deaths each year. The number one killer in the country. Do you know what it is?

It’s heart disease, and February is the month we hope to raise awareness and learn how to our risk of disease. The good news (well, from a food-blogger’s perspective) is that diet is one of the major ways we either help or hurt our hearts. So I’ve pulled together a week’s worth of recipes that feature foods rich in fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats and more, to help keep hearts in tick-tock shape.

Chocolate (the darker, the better). It’s not for nothing that chocolate and heart-themed Valentine’s Day are paired up in our collective consciousness. Full of heart-friendly flavonoids, chocolate can help control blood pressure if you eat the high-cocoa content stuff (70% or more) regularly. And if you try it in my chocolate veggie enchilada recipe, you’ll also get some healthy fats from avocado and a good dose of vegetables.

Nuts. Your heart goes nuts for the mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols in foods like walnuts and almonds. And the little buggers are tasty, too, especially when ground up into creamy nut butters like the simple maple walnut butter from Eating Well With Janel.

Legumes. Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you… reduce your risk of heart disease! Yeah, my version isn’t as melodic (or amusing to first-graders), but it casts these fiber-rich, vitamin-packed legumes as the nutritional powerhouses they are. Give lentils a while in my curried lentil shepherd’s pie, or check out Bean Week for more recipes.

Berries. Blueberries, cranberries, cherries, elderberries, and more – they’re all packed with phytonutrients (flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols) that have been shown to promote cardiovascular health with regular consumption. Work them in easily as a snack or dessert with Cooking Light’s blueberry orange yogurt parfait.

Green vegetables. Well, duh, green vegetables are healthy for you. But foods like broccoli, spinach and others are especially good for the ol’ ticker because they’re rich in carotenoids, fiber, and potassium, among other nutrients. Epicurious has a simple, colorful side-dish recipe for chard with pine nuts and golden raisins that can ease anyone into the green-vegetable habit.

Orange vegetables. Carotenoids give foods like carrots, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes their lovely orange hue, and contribute to their associated with lower risk of heart disease. So orange you glad there’s a recipe like carrot “pasta” with kale parsley pesto from Betacyanin?

Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods. There’s some confusion about unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids’ role in heart health, because supplementation hasn’t conclusively been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there’s ample evidence that eating foods rich in omega-3s does reduce your risk. So if you put down the pill bottle, pick up your fork (or spoon) and try adding fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and other good food sources to your diet. Cooking Light has a pan-seared salmon with jalapeno-pineapple relish recipe that sounds great for fish eaters, and veg-heads like me might want to throw some flaxseeds on their yogurt or into a bowl of oatmeal.

Recipe ReDux: A Trend in Every Pot – BBQ tempeh slowcooker chili

Slow-aged meat, raw winter vegetables, barrel-aged hot sauce and artisanal soft serve – the recipe for the weirdest sundae ever? Thankfully, no. These are some of the food trends the New York Times predicted will change up our plates in 2013 (but ideally not all combined together).

For January’s Recipe ReDux, the group was asked to jump on a new-year food trend with an original dish prepared in a single pot, slowcooker, etc. So I skimmed the (meat heavy, foodie-focused) list and found one a nutrition nerd could get behind: fermented foods.

We’ve tackled these in a previous ReDux, where I made pickled-jalapeno-topped sweet potatoes with egg. The trend seems to be gaining steam, fueled by the gut-health benefits of consuming “friendly” microbes.

This time, I’m promoting some probiotics in the new year with tempeh, or fermented soy bean. According to Wikipedia, this firm-textured, whole-bean food originates from Indonesia. The fermentation process binds the beans together and gives it an earthy, nutty flavor that is much heartier than that better-known soybean product, tofu. To play off tempeh’s “meatier” texture, I combined it with butternut squash and some BBQ flavor to make a quick and simple slowcooker chili.

The sweetness of molasses, brown sugar and bell peppers rounds out the tang of the fire-roasted tomatoes and tempeh, while the squash lends a nice hearty chunkiness. Sweeten things up for your GI flora with this easy-to-assemble recipe:

BBQ tempeh and butternut squash chili

4 servings, approx. 315 calories each

1 package tempeh, cubed

1 red onion, chopped

2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 1/12 cups butternut squash (about1 lb), peeled, seeded and diced

2 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes

3 Tbs brown sugar

2 Tbs molasses

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ½ tsp paprika

½ tsp chili powder

2 ½ Tbs apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

3 Tbs ketchup

1 cup water

Combine everything in a slowcooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours. Add small increments of water as necessary to achieve your desired consistency.

Ready to take on some new trends in the new year? Check out the links to more recipes from my fellow ReDuxers:

Re-Chewing Week: Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

The Chew recently asked Cooking Light Blogger’s Connection members to take on a holiday challenge:

“Select one of the tasty recipes or cute craft ideas from The Chew, and make it your own by adding 1-3 different changes to the process.”

We had Edible Ornaments, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, Holiday Apple Brown Betty and more to choose from, but my eye was drawn to Christine’s Shepherd’s Pie. Simple, hearty and tasty, shepherd’s pie has only one drawback from my perspective: the meat. So I decided to tweak the original recipe to make it vegetarian-friendly, and came up with curried lentil shepherd’s pie.

It only took a few simple alterations: 1) de-meat the recipe by swapping in lentils and taking out beef, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce; 2) spice things up with curry and garam masala; and 3) top the whole thing off with sweet potatoes for some added flavor and color.

The result is a sweet-and-savory dish that will welcome vegetarians to your holiday table (or at any time of year a warm hearty meal is in order!).

Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

Adapted from Christine’s Shepherd Pie recipe on The Chew

(6 servings, approx. 340 calories each)

1 cup dry black lentils
4 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbs butter, divided
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 red onion, chopped
½ pound sliced mushrooms
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes. Drain water and set aside.

Cook and mash the sweet potato: Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain the water, then combine potatoes, 2 Tbs butter and garam masala in a large bowl. Mash until smooth.

Sauté the vegetables: Heat 1 Tbs butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the bag of peas and carrots and cook until defrosted. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste.

Put it all together: In a large baking dish, combine the lentils and cooked vegetables. Smooth the mashed sweet potatoes over the top, then rough up the surface with a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If you want a nice browned top, finish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

Junior Week: Feeding 2 kids or 2 thousand? They all need fruits and veggies

“Junior Week” usually focuses on my attempts to feed my son, Miles, something resembling a healthy, balanced diet. In this series, I’ve curated recipes meant for home preparation, and intended for feeding a handful of people. But today I got to see what it means to prepare nutritious food for way more than a handful of kids – more like hundreds, or even thousands – in a culinary training for school food program staff in the Dover-Sherborn school system.

I’ve been lucky recently to work as a graduate assistant for the John Stalker Institute of Food & Nutrition at Framingham State University, creating and managing their social media presence. Usually that means I’m blogging, tweeting or Facebooking on behalf of JSI, but today it meant seeing where the blade meets the cutting board in their Back To Basics – Fruits & Veggies training.

Chef Tracey Burg (an RD) led the group through a workshop that helps school nutrition programs boost the fruit and veggie offerings in their foods, to help meet USDA standards while enticing school-age Produce Phobics to eat what’s on offer. The group chopped, peeled, boiled, baked, pureed and folded several USDA- and kid-approved recipes, all of which incorporate important nutritious fruits or vegetables.

Lemon zest broccoli

One of the newest and most popular recipes were sweet potato and chickpea “Tasty Tots,” the Popular Choice winner in the recent Recipes for Healthy Kids challenge put on by Let’s Move and USDA. I haven’t tried them out at our house yet, but you better believe those little guys are going to make an appearance on a certain 6-year-old’s plate very soon.

Whether you’re feeding 2 or two thousand kids, these inventive, tasty and nutritious recipes featured in the JSI training are definitely worth a try:

  • Tasty Tots from Bellingham MA Public Schools (here)
  • Roasted vegetable wrap, from NFSMI (here) – page 21 of the pdf
  • Spicy apple topping, from NFSMI (here) – page 23 of the pdf; great for topping pancakes!
  • Seasonal fruit salad with honey mint dressing, from NFSMI (here) – pages 32 and 36 of the pdf
  • Kung Fu carrots, from Millbridge (NC) Elementary School (here)
  • Mandarin salad, from JSI (here)
  • Carrot and raisin salad, from NFSMI/USDA (here)

Now, many of those recipes are scaled for a whole lot of servings, so you may need to bust out the calculator and downsize them a bit. But make sure you’ll still have enough to serve on your own lunch line, because they’re all worth sampling.

Recipe ReDux: Orange you glad it’s fall?

Do you know any nutrition nerds, in particular the card-carrying expert kinds called RDs? When I was doing some informational interviews, trying to decide if I was interested in the profession, I asked one RD how she would characterize the people working in dietetics. Her answer (“We’re all very… organized.”) was an understatement – what she meant is that dietetics is full of whip-smart, ambitious, detail-oriented over achievers.

Since I’m not yet an RD but play one on TV, I followed in those type A footprints for this month’s Recipe ReDux. We were tasked with creating recipes that feature fall’s plentiful, orange-hued, carotenoid-rich foods like pumpkin, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and golden beets.

Butternut squash came right to mind – I love these tasty, versatile gourds, which have something like a billion percent (slightly less) of your vitamin A needs, and a nice chunk of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and more. But why stop a just one orange ingredient, or even two? So I backed those squash and stuffed them full of dried apricots, carrots and lot of other goodies.

The result is a baked stuffed squash with cinnamon-infused barley, tart apricots and cranberries, healthy little legumes and a sweet-tart dressing.

I angled for some extra credit with this triple-orange dish, and if you want to boost your kitchen grades too, have a go at the recipe:

Roasted butternut squash stuffed with cinnamon-infused barley, apricots & carrots

2 servings, approx. 500 calories each

1 cup pearled barley

3 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

1 butternut squash

1 carrot, peeled and diced into very small pieces

1/3 cup dried apricots

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup sliced almonds

½ cup chickpeas

1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

½ Tbs olive oil

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp maple syrup

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Grated cinnamon to taste

Bring barley, cinnamon stick and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45-50 minutes (until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the top off the squash near the stem, then cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and membranes, and use a paring knife, melon baller, or whatever other kitchen wizardry you’ve got going on to make a good-sized “bowl” from each half.

Put the squash cut side down in a large baking dish with ½-1 inch of water, and bake for 30-40 minutes (more for larger, thicker squash).

While the squash is baking, mix ½ cup of the cooked barley, apricots, cranberries, almonds and chickpeas in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and nutmeg. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and toss to coat.

When the squash has finished baking, remove the pan from the oven and turn the heat down to 375 F. Carefully remove the squash from the pan. Empty the water from the pan, line the bottom with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Put the squash back in, cut sides up, and spoon half the barley mixture into each half. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, return the squash to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes or so, and serve.

I’m not the only one orange-minded over-achiever, so check out the links to recipes from my fellow ReDuxers:

Pest Control Week: Beneficial brassicas + Brussels sprouts frittata

If asked, many people would tell you they try to avoid pesticides in their food – by buying organic produce, growing their own food using non-chemical pest control, or eating meat that was raised on low-or-no-chemical feed. But getting ready to make the whaaaaaa face when I say you should deliberately eat some pesticides.

No, not the kind brewed up by Industrial Chemicorp, LLC. I’m talking about the natural pest-resisting compounds in brassicas, better known as the cabbage and mustard family or as cruciferous vegetables.

Cabbage, broccoli, mustard, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi and other members of the plant genus Brassicaceae are chock full of phytochemicals, notably indoles and isothiocyanates. The plants use them to ward off pests, but it turns out those compounds also help humans ward off some other insidious invaders. Research shows that the indoles and isothiocyanates in brassicas can increase DNA repair, and that people who consume more cruciferous vegetables are at lower risk of developing some cancers.

Brussels sprouts frittata

My own research, however, shows that they are not effective at warding off dachshunds (who stole several of my recently harvested Brussels sprouts right out from under my hand).

The sprouts that survived the Dog-Shaming-worthy onslaught went into a new recipe I worked up for lunch – Brussels sprouts frittata with capers, parsley and parmesan cheese. With a splash of balsamic vinegar on top, it has a taste that is savory, nutty, slightly sweet and a smidge bitter all at once.

The frittata recipe follows, but you should also take a tour through the other beneficial brassicas with this week’s worth of recipes from around Teh Interwebs:

  • Brussels sprout and shallot hash from Epicurious (here)
  • Roasted kohlrabi from AllRecipes (here)
  • Roasted broccoli and garlic soup from Not Eating Out in New York (here)
  • Rigatoni with roasted cauliflower and spicy tomato sauce from Herbavoracious (here)
  • Thyme-roasted root vegetables from Eating The Week (here)
  • Sweet potato sandwich with cabbage slaw from Dorm Room Dinner/Big Girls Small Kitchen (here)
  • Roasted brussels sprouts with cranberry and barley from Cookie + Kate (here)

Brussels sprout frittata

Two servings, approx. 285 calories each

½ red onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup Brussels sprouts
½ cup water
4 whole eggs + 1 egg white
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs capers
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar, to taste

Cut the stem ends off the Brussels sprouts and cut them into halves or quarters, so that you have leaves and roughly ½-inch size pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are turning translucent.

Add the Brussels sprouts and a pinch of salt; cook another 3-4 minutes, until the leaf edges are turning brown. Pour in the water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the water has evaporated.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, mustard and parsley. Grate in some black pepper, then pour the mixture over the onions and Brussels sprouts in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes.

Heat the broiler to high. When the frittata is done cooking on the stove, remove it from heat and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Put the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cut into four wedges (two per serving). Top with a little balsamic vinegar, if you like.

Garden Week: Eating from the Lynch Farm

It’s that time of year: the temps are ever hotter, it’s juuuuust noticeable that daylight hours are getting shorter, and Lynch Farm is starting to yield a few edible crops.

Last year, every chipmunk and squirrel within a 75-mile radius seemed to have heard about our vegetable garden, and they were merciless about eating seeds, sprouts, and anything that wasn’t nailed down. But (I think) thanks to a milder winter that left more wild food sources for the critters, the fava beans, chard, tomatoes and more are all ours for the picking in 2012.

Maybe these “guards” did the trick?

Leaving us to wonder – what the heck are we going to do with the bazillion heirloom tomatoes, piles of brussel sprouts, waves of rainbow chard, and an army of fresh mint? Well, the earliest edibles (fava beans) made for a simple dinner with zucchini and pasta in a recipe I’ve posted previously. Then the big lumpy “black” tomato that came off the vine first went into gazpacho (without bread, as my husband has a fearsome wet-bread phobia). When the next ones are red and ready, this “evolution tomato salad” with beans, basil and tuna from Jamie Oliver sounds like a tasty use for them.

For more garden-centric recipes, head past the jump.

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Lettuce Week: Salads are great, but…

Lettuce  just get the pun out the way up front, so we can jump right in and make good use of the leafy green bounty in the spring garden.

From the Lynch Farm

I’m pretty thrilled that our little lettuce crop survived the bizarre hot-and-dry-then-rainy-and-cold spring, and didn’t end up as groundhog food. But now there’s the question of how to use all of it. We’ve been eating plenty of simple green salads, and tried a strawberry and goat cheese salad from Eating Well that was very tasty. Some of our lettuce also has ended up in tacos when we had make-your-own taco bar recently.

From there, though, I ran out of lettuce ideas besides just eating green salads for 27 days in a row. Thankfully, Teh Internets provided a week’s worth of recipes that make creative use of the leafy green stuff. Head past the jump for the list & a recent award.

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Stalking the Week: Waving the magical celery wand

Maybe it’s the wand-like shape of a celery stalk which suggests it is imbued with magical, “negative calorie” powers. Let’s just get this out of the way up front: it’s a myth that you burn more calories digesting celery than are actually in the celery itself. And nutritionally, it’s not really a big standout – there’s a reasonable amount of water and vitamin K in each stalk, but mostly it’s just a fiber delivery system.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this relative of carrots and parsley for its other merits, like the crunchy texture and clean, distinctive flavor. Those firm green ribs stand up great to all sorts of dips and schmears, making celery a perennial favorite on the veggie-and-dip tray at parties. But there are several other ways to enjoy it, especially in crunchy salads with fruit or other veggies.

The recipe that got this all started for me was a vegan creamy celery soup in the recent issue of Vegetarian Times. But that recipe isn’t yet posted on their site, and I’m not a big fan of copyright infringement, so I can’t share it with you here. I did manage to find a very similar recipe from Pamela Goes Primal, however, linked in the recipe list at the end of this post.

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