May 27, 2013

Veggie Fact of the Day

Avocados are the fruit of a tree native to Central Mexico. Commonly known as Alligator Pears due to their shape and the texture of their skin, they are an integral part of Mexican and Central American cuisine and historical evidence suggests that Avocados were used by man as far back as 10,000 BC. 

While there are multiple varieties of Avocados available, Hass avocados are perhaps the best known variety that are available in US Grocery stores year-round. Generally served raw, avocados are most often used as a base for the classic Mexican dip Guacamole. The texture is not sweet, but rich and almost creamy. Avocados make an excellent base for smoothies and surprisingly (at least to me) is said to pair really well with chocolate shakes and smoothies. In the US, avocado slices/chunks are often served in sandwiches, burgers and even hot-dogs. Small chunks of avocado in taco salads provide a creaminess which limits the use of oily dressings. 

How to Buy?? Here's how. How to cut it?? Here's how. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed. The skin is thick and leathery that darkens from green to almost black as it ripens. Inside, the flesh is generally a pale green closest to the skin and a creamy yellow closest to the pit. the flesh darkens quickly to a dull brown after exposure to air. To prevent this, lime or lemon juice can be added to avocados after they are peeled. Also, leave the seed with any unused avocado portions which helps slow down the enzymatic browning. 

Nutritionally, avocados are probably have highest fat content of all edible fruits, with the exception of nuts and seeds. Fat content varies with the time of year but typically about 75% of an avocado's energy comes from fat, most of which (67% of total) is monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid). Other good fats include palmitic acid and linoleic acid. In addition, saturated fat content is pretty substantial too (~14% of total fat in a single serving). Compare that to most edible seeds and nuts where only 7% of total fat content is derived from saturated fats. However, that isn't the only thing that avocados have to offer. They carry 35% more potassium (485 mg) than bananas (358 mg) and are super-packed with Vitamins B9 (folic acid) and K. In addition, they are a good dietary source of Vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), C and E and dietary fiber (75% insoluble and 25% soluble). Amongst all these benefits of avocados is also the fact that high avocado intake has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and also reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome, including diabetes. 

Fun Fact of the Day: Did you know that avocados ripen ONLY AFTER the fruit is plucked from the tree. Mature fruit can be left unplucked on the tree for as long as 6 months and does not spoil. Once plucked, most fruits ripen (at room temperature) in 3-6 days. 

Basil, Avocado & Tofu Sandwich

Happy Memorial Day Folks!! Take a minute to remember all those brave men and women who've died for our country and say thank you to all those that have served. We didn't have a BBQ today unlike the rest of the millions of people in the country! We had a quiet lunch at home on this somewhat dreary, cold and rainy day in Ohio.

Before I go further with this post, I've got to 'fess up. I've been a herbivore for 17 months and Mexican food is my first choice in food .. and before this weekend, I've never ever bought an avocado in my life. I've had Guacamole aplenty in restaurants but never actually brought an avocado home. Multiple reasons .. I didn't know how to cut it .. I didn't know how to buy it (is it ripe, or over-ripe, or still too green) ... I didn't know how to use it in my dishes and since I was trying to lose weight, and avocados a high fat food ... I simply avoided buying them!! But this weekend, I threw all caution to the wind .. found this post on Pinterest on how to buy the right kind of avocado and then this post on Simply Recipes on how to cut it ... and just like that I had New Veggie #70

Basil, Avocado & Tofu Steak Sandwich
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients (Serves 2):
  1. 2/3 Block of extra firm tofu (about 9 ounces)
  2. 1 Avocado
  3. 8-10 fresh Basil leaves
  4. 4 tbsp fresh Medium/Mild Salsa
  5. 2 tbsp Hunt's Tomato Paste
  6. Taco Seasoning, to taste
  7. Ground Chipotle Peppers, to taste
  8. Cholula Hot Sauce (optional)
  9. 4 Slices of 12-Grain Bread

Press tofu to remove excess moisture and slice into 6 pieces. Preheat a seasoned cast-iron pan to medium-high and then gently place each individual slice of tofu onto the pan. As it sizzles, each slice will form a skin which will then prevent it from sticking to the skillet. Once the first side is seared, flip each piece gently and sear the other side. As the tofu begin to take on color, brush the tomato paste (unsalted) onto each slice to give it some extra flavor. As the tomato sauce dries up, sprinkle taco seasoning and flip it over. Brush more tomato paste and add taco seasoning to the other side as well. Make sure to flip frequently to prevent burning. Just before removing each piece from the skillet, add chipotle pepper powder, if using. 

Separately, toast the bread and spread salsa on two pieces. Line two slices with fresh basil leaves and layer 3 pieces of tofu on top. On the other two slices of bread, spread a thin layer of Cholula hot sauce (or use more medium salsa if you prefer a milder taste) and then layer avocado slices. Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper and flip one side over the other!!! Enjoy!! 

My Assessment: Spicy and Creamy!! Loved it! But this sandwich is rich and heavy (thanks to the avocado!). We just ate it by itself, no sides. 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 515 (Fat Calories 217)
Total Fat 24.1 g; Carbohydrates 53.3 g; Fiber 13.4 g; Sugars 9.6 g; Protein 23.5 g

May 26, 2013

Wilted Kale & Peanut Salad

This afternoon, I really wanted some kale and I wanted to try a variation of my usual Wilted Kale and Almond Salad. This is what I came up with on-the-fly and it's a recipe worth sharing. 

Wilted Kale & Peanut Salad
Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients (2 Servings):

  1. 1 large bunch of Kale, stems removed (about 4 cups)
  2. 1 Medium Tomato, Sliced
  3. 1 oz (approximately, a handful) raw Peanuts 
  4. 1 tbsp Naturally More Peanut Butter
  5. 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  6. 1 tbsp Miso (Yellow or Brown)
  7. 2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or Soy Sauce)
  8. Pepper, to taste
  9. Hot Sauce, to taste
Remove stems, tear leaves in bite sized pieces and rinse in a bowl of water to remove all traces of dirt. Line a deep pot with water, on medium-high heat, add peanuts and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add remaining condiments to the water and mix well (the miso and peanut butter will need some coaxing with a rubber spatula). Once all the condiments are mixed in the water, add a small amount of kale and fold the sauce over it. Add remaining kale and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow kale to wilt (2-5 minutes, it will turn bright green). Once wilted, remove cover, increase heat to high for a couple of minutes to allow excess liquid to evaporate while folding the kale into the remaining sauce. Remove from heat, transfer to two serving dishes and top with sliced tomato, freshly cracked black pepper and hot sauce. Enjoy!! 

My Assessment:
I've been on a raw peanut kick lately. Overall, this dish had a wonderful Asian flavor to it. If you don't like raw peanuts, use roasted peanuts instead but bear in mind that those have a lot of salt in them. I labelled this dish as 'no added salt' because the miso and soy sauce/liquid aminos provide enough umami.  Also, I used Cholula for some added flavor, but this salad would pair very well with Sriracha. 

Nutritional Facts (Per Serving): Calories 220 (Fat Calories 99)
Total Fat 11 g; Carbohydrates 123.5 g; Fiber 5.9 g; Sugars 2.0 g; Protein 12.4 g

Ashtami Channa

Ashtami is the 8th Day of a 9 Day period called Navaratri. Celebrated across India these days are dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Durga. Although Navaratri is celebrated five times a year according the lunar calendar, the ones that mark the beginning of spring and the beginning of fall are considered to be the most important ones. On the 8th day, a feast is prepared and prepubescent girls across the country, believed to be the pure and mortal image of the Goddess, are honored with food, toys, new clothes and love. The feast includes Halva (Fine Semolina, Clarified Butter, Sugar and Nuts), Puri (Deep-fried Flatbread) and Channa (this dish). This year's Spring Navaratri is long gone but I felt the urge to make these beans last night. Of course, my version has no butter and is uber-healthy compared to the traditional recipe :)!!

Ashtami Channa
Prep Time: 30 min (with pre-soaked beans)

Ingredients (6 Servings):

  1. 1.5 cups Dry Bengal Gram (also called Kala (Black) Channa (Chickpeas)
  2. 1 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
  3. 1 tbsp MDH Channa Masala*
  4. 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  5. 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  6. 3-4 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  7. 2 tbsp A1 Steak Sauce
  8. 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  9. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Ashtami Channa
Pre-soak the beans for at least 4-6 hours in tap water. Drain and rinse the pre-soaked beans (discard the soaking water as that can cause gas issues). Pressure cook the beans in 2x the quantity of water, with some added salt for 15 min under high pressure. Release steam. Drain the beans (save the water this time for use in this dish and also later as stock). Transfer the drained beans to a skillet with a splash of the saved stock and add all the above spices. Mix well. Add another splash or two of the stock to ensure that all the spices are mixed well. Cook for a couple of minutes to allow spices to blend and cook and release their aroma. Taste test for salt, adding more as needed. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes. 

Bengal Gram (Kala Channa) is a cousin of the Chick pea, or Garbanzo bean. It is very high in protein and has a very low glycemic index. It is also a great source of zinc, phosphorous and folic acid. The dry bean is easily found in Indian grocery stores. Try it, you will fall in love with the taste and unique flavor of this bean.

* Chana Masala is a blend of premixed spices that are ideal for chickpea and bengal gram curries. However, this blend is usually spicy because of the specific mix of spices so use with caution. The MDH brand contains coriander, salt, dry mango, pomegranate seeds, chilli powder, cumin, musk melon, black pepper, black salt, fenugreek leaves, cloves, mint, nutmeg, dry ginger, cinnamon, bay Leaf, cardamom and ammomum (black cardamom) seeds, caraway and mace.

My Assessment: I love this dish. I always have. Although this had some non-traditional ingredients in it, I think I got the taste. The inclusion of nutritional yeast and A1 Steak Sauce (tomato paste, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, raisin paste, crushed orange puree, spices and herbs, dried garlic and onion and caramel color, Its vegan!!) added a creaminess to the dish which isn't always there. The traditional dish is a tad dry and I think inclusion of these 2 ingredients added some extra oompf!! :)   

Nutritional Facts (Per Serving): Calories 98(Fat Calories 8)
Total Fat 0.9 g; Carbohydrates 19.3 g; Fiber 3.3 g; Sugars 0.5 g; Protein 4.7 g

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Normal Yoder is back :) Yup! Our local Amish Farmer's Market is finally open. I stopped by yesterday and picked up 3 fresh aromatic green peppers, a head of cabbage, some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. I decided to make some stuffed peppers for dinner last night. I looked for various recipes online and found quite a few but wanted to make something very simple. So I decided to make a simplified version of all the recipes I read. This one had 6 ingredients total and taste-wise .. it's da bomb in taste and simplicity!

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers
Prep Time: 15 min + 45 min (baking time)

Ingredients (Serves 3 or 6):

  1. 3 Bell Peppers, halved, seeds removed
  2. 3/4 cup Quinoa, prepare according to package instructions
  3. 1 x 15oz can of Bush's Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  4. 1 Medium Onion (I used white)
  5. 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
  6. A few sprigs of fresh cilantro, diced finely
  7. Salt and Pepper, to taste 
The stuffing
Line a skillet with water and add diced onion. Saute until translucent and add drained/rinsed black beans. Allow any excess water to evaporate, leaving the dish moist. Add Cumin seeds and saute for another couple of minutes, adding occasional splashes of water, as needed, to prevent sticking. Once cumin is aromatic, add quinoa, toss well and add finely diced herbs. The final stuffing mix should be moist but not runny. Taste test for salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare each of the peppers by cutting in half and removing seeds with a paring knife. If necessary, shave off a piece at the bottom of each pepper to make sure it sits like a flat boat. I diced the shavings into small pieces and added those to my stuffing as well. Line a casserole dish with parchment paper (or cooking spray) and set aside. Using a small spoon, fill each pepper with the stuffing, over stuffing is good as there is nothing in this stuffing to expand. Set each pepper in the casserole dish and bake uncovered for about 30-45 minutes. Typically when the peppers are done, their aroma is released and the house starts to smell like roasted/grilled peppers. Serve warm, as a side. Serve with hot sauce. 

My Assessment: This dish was really filling and very low-calorie for being so filling. We had it as our entree instead of as a side, so I served 1 whole pepper per person and I could only eat about 3/4 of it, with effort.

Nutrition Facts (Per half-pepper): Calories 162 (Fat Calories 14)
Total Fat 1.6 g; Carbohydrates 31.4 g; Fiber 6.5 g; Sugars 3.8 g; Protein 7.7 g

May 21, 2013

Rassa Aloo

Rassa Aloo simply means Curried Brothy Potatoes. My mom would make something similar to these as a breakfast dish which we would eat with puris (Indian deep fried, whole wheat, flat bread). Although it is derived from a very traditional Indian breakfast dish, my version is a lot higher on protein (in the form of TVP) and has no butter at all. My mom's version was pretty loaded with Ghee - a traditional Indian version of clarified butter. I've used TVP in this recipe because I'm trying to finish up my stock and am moving away from processed soy protein. Feel free to use Seitan or Tempeh, or even extra-firm tofu in this dish. 

Rassa Aloo
Prep Time: 15 min (with pre-boiled potatoes)

Ingredients (Serves 6-8):
  1. 2 lbs Red Potatoes, boiled and quartered.
  2. 1 x 15oz can of Diced (No Added Salt) Tomatoes
  3. 1 cup presoaked TVP Chunks (I use Nutrela)
  4. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
  5. 1 tbsp Goya Recaito Cilantro Cooking Base
  6. 2 tsp Cumin seeds
  7. 1 tsp Mustard Powder
  8. 1-2 tsp Deggi Chilli Powder
  9. 1-2 tsp Garam Masala
  10. 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  11. 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  12. 1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  13. 4-6 fresh/frozen Curry Leaves
  14. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  15. Lemon/Lime juice, to taste
  16. Hot Sauce, to taste.

Line a pan with water and add ginger-garlic paste and recaito cilantro cooking base. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add diced tomatoes. Saute for a couple more minutes until the tomatoes begin to simmer. Then add 2-3 cups of water (or home-made vegetable broth) to the pan. Bring to a boil and add TVP chunks, remaining spices and potatoes. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot over rice or with slices of whole wheat bread. 

My Assessment: I can eat this dish just by itself, without any rice or bread or pasta because the added potatoes provide the starch. The TVP provides the protein and the tomatoes and curry leaves and spices provide all the flavor you might crave for a meal. Some might call it a chunky potato soup. Its pretty darn filling, I must add!!! 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 210 (Fat Calories 21)
Total Fat 2.4 g; Carbohydrates 36.5 g; Fiber 7.7 g; Sugars 6.7 g; Protein 13.1 g

May 14, 2013

Cauliflower in Cream Sauce

I had about three-quarters of a block of tofu sitting in my fridge along with a head of orange cauliflower. I decided to use them both together in a simple dish that came together in under 15 minutes.

Cauliflower in Cream Sauce
Prep Time: 10-15 min

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  1. 3/4 block (~10oz) of Tofu (Silken would work best, but any texture works). 
  2. 1 Head of Cauliflower (~2 cups)
  3. 1 cube of Knorr Vegetable Bouillon, or 1 tbsp of your favorite seasoning
  4. 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  5. 1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  6. 1 cup Almond Milk
  7. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  8. Sriracha Hot Sauce (optional, to taste)
Cut the head of cauliflower into medium sized florets. Line a pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low and add florets. Sprinkle with a little salt and cover until tender. Mix remaining ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Drain cauliflower and pour cream sauce on top. It is creamiest when served raw. You can pour the sauce over the cauliflower while still on the stove to warm it up. Note that cooking too long will make the soy solids separate and the sauce becomes a little grainy. It is still pretty smooth on the palate like a cream sauce.  Serve over a baked potato, or steamed rice as an entree. Or serve as a side dish with whatever else you might fancy tonight!! I garnished mine with a lot of freshly cracked black pepper and hot sauce. 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 220 (Fat Calories 86)
Total Fat 9.6 g; Carbohydrates 13.3 g; Fiber 6.2 g; Sugars 3.4 g; Protein 20.8 g

New Veggie Resolution ...

So on December 31, 2011, in anticipation of the new year, I made 2 new resolutions - #1 was to go strictly vegetarian (plant based). No meat. No Cheese. No Dairy & #2 was to try as many previously untasted items from the produce section as I could. Since I've started, I've relaxed my rules to include grains, cereals and other products derived from plants. Here's all the new stuff I've tried so far ...  Give plant-based foods a try ... you won't regret it!!

.... you can either click on the links below, or in my whole foods list for recipes associated with each one :) Enjoy!! 

#73 - Kabocha Squash - Jan 06, 2014
#72 - Pomegranate - Dec 22, 2013
#71 - Bulgur - July 18, 2013
#70 - Avocado - May 27, 2013
#69 - Collard Greens - May 13, 2013
#68 - Polenta - April 17, 2013
#67 - Cabbage (Purple) - April 11, 2013
#66 - Cauliflower (Green) - January 12, 2013
#65 - Kohlrabi Greens - January 2, 2013
#64 - Cebollitas - January 2, 2013
#63 - Black-Eyed Peas - January 1, 2013
#62 - Potatoes (Purple) - December 23, 2012 
#61 - Cauliflower (Orange) - December 23, 2012
#60 - Mustard Greens - December 19, 2012
#59 - Chia Seeds - December 17, 2012
#58 - Flax Seeds - December 16, 2012
#57 - Sweet Potato (Purple) - December 15, 2012
#56 - Beet Greens - December 12, 2012
#55 - Beetroots - December 12, 2012
#54 - Cannelini Beans - November 22, 2012
#53 - Navy Beans - November 8, 2012
#52 - Cremini Mushrooms - November 4, 2012
#51 - Turban Squash - November 2, 2012
#50 - Delicata Squash - October 26, 2012
#49 - Hubbard Squash - October 22, 2012
#48 - Haricot Verts - October 9, 2012
#47 - Carnival Squash - October 6, 2012
#46 - Pumpkin - October 1, 2012
#45 - Star Fruit (Carambola) - September 23, 2012
#44 - Belgian Endives - September 20, 2012
#43 - Sweet Potato - September 17, 2012
#42 - Eggplant - September 17, 2012
#41 - Butter Beans - September 15, 2012
#40 - Turnips - September 13, 2012
#39 - Tomatoes (Green) - August 5, 2012
#38 - Cauliflower - July 17, 2012
#37 - Kombu - July 10, 2012
#36 - Seitan - July 10, 2012
#35 - Miso - July 10, 2012
#34 - Rutabaga - June 23, 2012
#33 - Broccolini - June 17, 2012
#32 - Green Beans - June 17, 2012
#31 - Rapini or Broccoli Rabé - June 3, 2012
#30 - Taro (Arbi) - May 25, 2012
#29 - Barley (Jau) - May 17, 2012
#28 - Okra (Bhindi) - May 14, 2012
#27 - Artichokes - May 7, 2012
#26 - Swiss Chard - April 16, 2012
#25 - Quinoa - April 10, 2012
#24 - Cauliflower (Purple) - March 30, 2012
#23 - Kale/Kale (Purple)March 25, 2012
#22 - Crowder Peas - March 24, 2012
#21 - Asparagus - March 23, 2012
#20 - Snow Peas - March 23, 2012
#19 - Soybean Tempeh - March 22, 2012
#18 - Jicama - March 20, 2012
#17 - Kohlrabi (Kadam) - March 18, 2012
#16 - Chanterelle Mushrooms - March 17, 2012
#15 - Radicchio - March 17, 2012
#14 - Oyster Mushrooms - March 4, 2012
#13 - Shiitake Mushrooms - February 28, 2012
#12 - Celeriac - February 27, 2012
#11 - Bok Choy - February 26, 2012
#10 - Porcini Mushrooms - February 23, 2012
#9 - Brussels Sprouts - February 20, 2012
#8 - Leeks - February 19, 2012
#7 - Fennel (Saunf) - February 11, 2012
#6 - Tomatillos - February 11, 2012
#5 - Butternut Squash - January 31, 2012
#4 - Parsnips - January 25, 2012
#3 - Edamame - January 23, 2012 
#2 - Acorn Squash - January 22, 2012
#1 - Spaghetti Squash - January 15, 2012

May 13, 2013

Cheater Boiled Peanuts & Collard Greens

This past weekend I picked up a big sack of Collard Greens at the grocery store in another attempt to incorporate greens into my diet. I want to be at a point where I am consuming some green leafy vegetable on a daily basis. I used to do have Baby Spinach as part of my daily morning Green Smoothie but ever since I changed my breakfast to Steel Cut Oats, that part of my daily routine has fallen by the wayside. So today, I decided to make some Collard Greens - my New Veggie #69.  This recipe combines 2 Southern traditions - Boiled Peanuts and Collard Greens.  

Boiled Peanuts are a traditional snack in the North and South Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Northern Florida. They are an acquired taste but can be totally addictive and can be seen being sold at roadside stands all over the South. Traditionally, these are prepared by boiling un-shelled green/raw peanuts in salty water, over a wood fire. No one knows for sure why Southerners started boiling peanuts but they have been around since the Civil War. I call my version Cheater because it doesn't take nearly as long as the traditional method and because I used shelled peanuts. 

Cheater Boiled Peanuts & Collard Greens
Adapted from: Homesick Texan: Not Your Grandma’s Collard Greens

Prep Time: 30-40 min

Ingredients (4 Servings):
  1. 1 lb Collard Greens, pre-washed and cut into bite sized pieces.
  2. 1 large White Onion, diced
  3. 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  4. 2 large Tomatoes, diced
  5. 1 large Red Bell Pepper, diced
  6. 1/3 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
  7. 1/3 cup Raw Peanuts*
  8. 2 cups water or home-made vegetable broth.
  9. 2 tsp Chipotle Pepper powder, optional, to taste
  10. Salt and Pepper, to taste

I used a large bag of pre-washed Collard greens today. But if you're using fresh leaves, remove thick stems and cut each leaf into bite sized pieces. Wash well to remove all traces of soil and dirt. In a large, deep pot, add 1 cup water and add diced onions and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and garlic begins to release its essential oils (about 2-4 min on high). Add tomatoes and red bell pepper. Mix everything well together and add peanut butter and raw peanuts at this time. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer on the stove for 20-25 min. Add another cup of water or vegetable broth half way through this time to prevent the dish from drying out too much. Just a couple of minutes before serving, add Chipotle pepper powder and cover and allow the dish to simmer for another couple of minutes.  Serve as a side dish, or enjoy as I did tonight - over a bed of steamed rice. 

* Raw Peanuts can be easily be bought at Indian Grocery stores, if you can't locate them in your local grocery store. 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)^: Calories 254 (Fat Calories 129)
Total Fat 14.4 g; Carbohydrates 22.2 g; Fiber 9.8 g; Sugars 6.6 g; Protein 13.8 g

^ Nutrition facts are provided for the water option as vegetable broth calorie content can vary a lot.

Skillet Chipotle Tofu

I made a dish with lots of green veggies and rice tonight for dinner. I knew as I was getting ready to serve my plate that I would get hungry really quick because there wasn't much substance (protein) on my plate. So I prepared this quick 10 min tofu dish as a protein-rich side. 

Skillet Chipotle Tofu
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  1. 14 oz pack of Extra-Firm Tofu (cut into 8 slices)
  2. 2-3 tsp Taco Seasoning
  3. 1 tsp Ground Chipotle Peppers
  4. Salt (to taste)
  5. Hot Sauce, optional
Pre-heat a seasoned cast-iron pan to medium-high and then gently place each individual slice of tofu (pressed or unpressed) onto the pan. As it sizzles, each slice will form a skin which will then prevent it from sticking to the skillet. Once the first side is seared, flip each piece gently and sear the other side. As the tofu begin to take on color, sprinkle taco seasoning on each side and continue to cook until both sides are nice and brown, making sure to flip frequently to prevent burning. For the last 2 minutes, also sprinkle chipotle pepper powder. Serve hot, with hot sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves!!

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 100 (Fat Calories 45)
Total Fat 5.0 g; Carbohydrates 2.5 g; Fiber 1.3 g; Sugars 0 g; Protein 10.0 g

Veggie Fact of the Day

New Veggie #69 - Collard Greens
Collard Greens are a large leafy green belonging to the Cruciferous group of vegetables, the same family as cabbage, broccoli and kale. Collards are a headless-cabbage, with taste and texture similar to kale. The leaves are large, rowing paddle-shaped. Dark green in the fleshy parts, the vein stems are  often contrasting in white. Most Americans associate Collards greens with Southern Soul cooking. However, these are commonly used in Asian, Green and Italian cooking as well. In Indian cooking, Collard greens are considered a staple part of the diet in Kashmir - where both the young and mature leaves as well as the roots are consumed (Haak). Historically, cultivation of Collard greens has been dated back to 5000 BC and are believed to have arrive in Africa and Europe via the Asia Minor trade routes around 400 BC. It is believed that by 1600 AD, collards were cultivated globally as a food. 

Collard greens are packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, beta carotene (Vit. A) and other anti-inflammatory Vitamins (C, E and K) are pretty well packed in there as well. In addition, collards have cholesterol-lowering properties common to other members of the family but they leave the other members (kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) in the dust. Collards surpass all of these vegetables in their ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract, allowing for the bile acids to be excreted from the body, thereby lowering overall cholesterol levels. Steamed collards show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw collards.

Due to their somewhat tough leaves, Collard greens are often cooked really slow (often with ham hocks in the American South).  Quick braising allows for full nutritional retention and maximum flavor. Most people don't like collards raw, but some folks do use them in green salads to add flavor and texture.  Traditional complimentary ingredients include garlic, various meats, mushrooms, potatoes, apple cider vinegar, lemon, bay leaves, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, tomatoes and various kinds of hot peppers. According to my research, late winter and early spring provide the sweetest and most tender Collard greens. 

Fun Fact: Collard greens contain a chemical called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) which ascribes a slight bitterness. The fun fact is that only certain people, who are genetically predisposed to PTC, can taste this bitterness (about 70% of the human population). 

May 11, 2013

Sautéed Kale & Lentil Joe's

Over the last several days, I've seen a few different pictures for Lentil Burgers and Lentil Joe's on Facebook and was craving something 'lentily' tonight. I also had a bunch of Kale that I wanted to use. I also wanted to make a variation of the Mustard Greens & Balsamic Chick Pea recipe I tried earlier in the week. All in all .. I think I was just really hungry from only having had an early brunch and no late lunch. 

Earlier in the week, Eco-Vegan Gal posted a picture of her Lentil Joe's that will be on the Forks Over Knives page. And I was inspired by a Fatfree Vegan Kitchen recipe which I was trying to make variation. Also, I've been a tester for Happy Herbivore recipes and I've tried this excellent recipe from her (which I can't post because it is copyrighted and not published yet!). I've made, in a past life, a recipe by Post Punk Kitchen which is great. And in my search today, I also came across this gem by Tasty Easy Healthy Green. Of course, as luck would have it, I didn't have all the ingredients for any one recipe, so I mixed and matched and improvised and so the credit for my creation goes to all these lovely folks. 

Sautéed Kale & Lentil Joe's
Prep Time: 30 min

Ingredients (Serves 6):
  1. 4 cups of fresh Kale, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
  2. 1 cup raw Green Lentils 
  3. 1 Medium White Onion, diced
  4. 8-10 White Mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  5. 1 large Tomato, diced
  6. 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  7. 2 cups water or home-made vegetable broth
  8. 2 tbsp Tomato ketchup
  9. 2 tbsp Honey
  10. 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  11. 6 tbsp Soy Sauce
  12. 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  13. Salt to taste. 
Remove stems form kale leaves, tear leaves into bite-sized pieces and wash the leaves well to remove any traces of dirt. Allow to sit in a colander to drain. Line a deep pot with half a cup of vegetable broth. Turn heat to medium-high. Add garlic and half the soy sauce. As the water comes to a boil, saute garlic until it begins to release its aroma. Then, add the kale to cover the entire surface of the pan. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and allow the greens to wilt to a bright green (3-5 min). Remove greens from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing them time to drain, and place in a bowl. To the remaining liquid in the pan, add turmeric and diced onion. Allow onion to wilt and then add lentils. If there isn't enough liquid (~1/2 cup) in the pan, add more vegetable broth. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover to allow lentils time to cook (~10-15 min). After about 10 min, check the lentils and if they're about done, add mushrooms and more vegetable broth, if needed. Cover and cook until mushrooms are tender and lentils are done. Once lentils are done, turn heat to medium high to allow excess liquid to evaporate in these last few minutes as you add the final flavorings. Add tomato, mix well, allow to wilt and blend with the lentils. Now add the remaining ingredients  (ketchup, honey, dijon mustard, soy sauce and salt to taste). Cook for a couple more minutes until the consistency is dry, yet sloppy, enough to resemble Joe's. Serve over a bed of Sautéed Kale or assemble the kale and lentils in a Sloppy Joe sandwich.  

My Assessment: I loved it both ways. A great way to get greens! As I predicted a few days ago, the FFVK recipe works great with Kale and the chickpeas were well substituted with lentils.  

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)*: Calories 187 (Fat Calories 5)
Total Fat 0.6 g; Carbohydrates 36.5 g; Fiber 6.9 g; Sugars 10.5 g; Protein 12.2 g

* Nutrition facts are provided for the water option as vegetable broth calorie content can vary a lot.
* Nutrition facts are provided for the 'Bed of Kale' option, without the bun, for the same reason.

May 8, 2013

Mustard Greens w Balsamic-Glazed Chick Peas

In my efforts to consume more green leafy vegetables, I picked up a big bunch of Kale and a big bunch of Curly Mustard Greens at the store this past weekend. Back home in India we only eat mustard greens in one preparation - Sarson ka Saag which I've posted before and I wanted something different this time. A quick Google search revealed a gem of a recipe by FatFeee Vegan Kitchen. I used it almost to a tee, with one slight modification and one substitution. 

FFVKs Mustard Greens w Balsamic-Glazed Chick peas

Prep Time: 30 min

Ingredients (2 Big Servings): 

  1. 4 cups Mustard Greens
  2. 1 medium Red onion, julienned
  3. 2 x 15 oz cans of Chickpeas 
  4. 2 tsp Garlic powder
  5. 1 tsp Deggi Chilli Powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt (Optional, I didn't use any)
  7. 4 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  8. 4 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy sauce (this is a lot more than the original recipe)
  9. 1 tbsp Honey (my substitute for Agave Syrup)
  10. 1 tbsp Vegetarian Oyster Sauce (my addition)
I pretty much followed the original recipe. Remove stems form mustard greens, tear leaves into bite-sized pieces and wash the leaves well to remove any traces of dirt. Allow to sit in a colander while you prepare the onions. Line a deep pot with water and add garlic powder and deggi chili powder along with julienned onions. Sauté the onion until translucent and then cover with drained mustard greens and cover for 2-5 minutes to allow the greens to wilt to a bright green (do not overcook). Remove greens and onions from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing them time to drain, and place in a bowl. To the remaining liquid in the pan, add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oyster sauce. If there isn't enough liquid (~1/8 cup) in the pan, add more water. Mix ingredients into the broth and add chickpeas. Cook, with occasional stirring, over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost gone and the chickpeas have a nice glaze over them. Once done, remove from heat, spoon the greens into serving plates and top with glazed chickpeas. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and serve warm. The original recipe suggested offering additional balsamic vinegar at the table. 

My Assessment: Loved it!! The chickpeas were great with the balsamic glaze. I think this recipe would go well with any robust greens (kale, collards) but with a more tender green, like baby spinach I think you wouldn't even need to wilt the greens. These could be served over a bed of raw baby spinach. 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 474 (Fat Calories 57)
Total Fat 6.3 g; Carbohydrates 84.3 g; Fiber 22.5 g; Sugars 26.1 g; Protein 25.4 g

May 5, 2013

No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bites

Recently, I've noted that I crave an occasional bite of chocolate or something sweet in the evenings, or on weekend afternoons at home. Usually, I've been able to curb those cravings with a Medjool Date. The ooey-gooey-caramely taste of dates works (almost) every time. Today I decided to try one of the various no-bake energy recipes I'd been pinning to by Plant-Based Desserts board on Pinterest. This one was one of the first to catch my eye several months ago. Today, it didn't disappoint at all. 

Prep Time: 20-30 min (mostly for rolling the individual bites)

Ingredients (30 Servings):
  1. 1 cup Oatmeal* 
  2. 1/2 cup Shredded (unsweetened) Dry Coconut 
  3. 1/4 cup Sliced Almonds*
  4. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp* Ground Flax Seed Meal  
  5. 1/2 cup Non-Dairy (Ghirardelli) Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips
  6. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  7. 1/2 cup "Naturally More" Smooth Peanut Butter (with Flax seeds)
  8. 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
  9. 2 tbsp Honey*
  10. 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. and then add the wet ingredients and mix well with a rubber spatula so that the peanut butter is evenly distributed. The original recipe calls for 30 min of chilling in the refrigerator but I didn't have the patience and I used rolled the mixture into small balls (~1" in diameter). I got 30 balls out of this recipe. The original recipe calls for refrigerated storage for up to 1 week. I decided to freeze my batch in individual paper truffle cups. That way I won't eat them all at once and I can thaw only what I want when I'm craving a sweet something.

My Assessment: Love these!! The coconut and almonds add chewiness and the chocolate does its own thing. These tasted like a really chewy Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie! Next time I might even consider adding raisins to this recipe. A+++

My Modifications*:
  • I used Instant Oats because I'm trying to get rid of a big box. The original recipe calls for Old Fashioned oats, but allows for a bunch of different grains.
  • I swapped 1/4 cup coconut with almonds, just because!! :) 
  • I added 2 extra tbsp of Flax Seed because that's all I had remaining after adding 1/2 cup. 
  • I added 2 tbsp of honey because the mixture still felt dry after adding maple syrup and peanut butter. I used honey instead of more maple syrup as I figured it would add an extra flavor and it is also stickier. 
  • I didn't refrigerate as the recipe called for, but it might be a good idea as they do tend to get really messy while rolling. 
  • One option for making them less messy would be to roll each ball in shredded/ground coconut or sesame seeds before placing it in its individual candy cup.  
Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 76 (Fat Calories 36)
Total Fat 4.0 g; Carbohydrates 8.3 g; Fiber 1.8 g; Sugars 4.2 g; Protein 2.4 g