(Extra) Green Goddess Dip

Hi there, world!  I haven’t posted anything in quite a bit because I’ve been in graduate school, a completely rewarding and eye-opening experience that also unfortunately ate all of my free time.  I spent an intense year studying public health and more specifically, nutrition and food access. My interests in sustainability, food production, and overconsumption were piqued even more this past year, so I plan to post in the coming months about some of the fascinating topics I researched.

Now that I’m back to real life and have more time to spend in the kitchen, I decided to perfect a dip recipe that would be tasty with fresh vegetables.  I’ve come across many green goddess dip recipes over the years, but wanted to make one that packed in as much greenery as possible, and swapped out much of the mayonnaise for greek yogurt.  It’s easy to make a batch to divide into several small containers to take to work and one larger one to keep at home.  

Ingredients:

½ cup parsley

½ cup chives

½ cup dill

1 cup fresh spinach leaves (or ¾ cup frozen spinach)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp. Lemon juice

1 anchovy (or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)*

5 turns freshly ground pepper

Generous pinch of salt

 

Prepare the herbs by washing them all thoroughly.  A colander and lightly flowing cool water usually works best, but really get in there and move the leaves around because they can be gritty and dirty.  Dry the herbs on a clean kitchen towel. For the parsley and dill, pull off the leaves/fronds and discard the stems.  For the chives, just trim any dingy-looky ends.  Put all of the prepared herbs into a food processor fitted with a regular blade.  Wash and drain the spinach and add that to the food processor.  Pulse to blend into a rough chop.  FInally, add the other ingredients and blend again until smooth.

Serve with fresh vegetables or chips for dipping.  You can also use it as a salad dressing.

 

* Don’t be weirded out –try it!  It won’t taste fishy at all, it simply adds a salty and umami flavor.  And, anchovies are the secret ingredient in delicious foods you love like caesar dressing and puttanesca sauce too, so you might as well keep a tube of it in the fridge!

 

Advertisements

Recipe: Cashew Broccoli Stirfry

I like meat, but sometimes I just don’t feel like I need or crave it in my meal.  And it seems from recent research that skipping meat a few times a week is fine, even healthier (psssst…Americans eat too much protein).

Asian cuisine is one of my favorites, and I’m always tempted by the cashew chicken or the chicken and broccoli dishes on IMG_1183 menus.  But what I really like is the combination of crunchy cashews and tender broccoli in a savory brown sauce.  And anyway I can never get the chicken into those thin slices while cooking at home like the restaurants do.  So I set out to make a go-to recipe with just cashews and broccoli as the main stars.  You can easily add chicken chunks to this recipe and I like to serve it over brown rice but it’s also great with noodles or just on its own.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp natural ketchup (such as Tessemae’s)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger (fresh or jarred)
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups cooked broccoli florets (steam and then run under cold water to stop cooking)
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashews

 

For the rice:

Put the rice and 2 cups water in a small pot and stir together.  Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and stir periodically until the water is absorbed.  Test the rice and add more water if needed until it is tender and cooked-through.

 

For the stirfry:

Heat the sesame oil on medium heat in a large pan. Add the sliced garlic and cooked until golden and fragrant.   With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked garlic to a bowl.  In the same pan, combine the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, minced ginger and rice vinegar.  Stir as the sauce simmers.  Combine the 1 cup of water and the cornstarch in a small pitcher until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Stirring constantly, slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce in the pan.  Stir the sauce slowly as it simmers and thickens.  Add the cooked broccoli and cashews and coat with the sauce.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Serve the cashew-broccoli and sauce on a bed of the brown rice.

Recipe: Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables

This noodle dish is like an Asian version of pasta primavera.  Just whole wheat noodles, fresh veggies, and a slightly IMG_4217tangy and savory dressing.  It’s great for leftovers because it’s meant to be eaten cold, and the flavors continue to meld together after day one.  You can substitute your favorite vegetables or whatever is in season — aim for a colorful mix!

 

Ingredients:
(4 servings)

8 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 cups broccoli, washed and chopped
1 cup bell peppers, washed and chopped
1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 cup summer squash, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and rough-chopped


Dressing:

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce

Directions:

Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain, toss with olive oil (so that it doesn’t stick together in a clump) and cool. In a large pan or dutch oven, heat sesame oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and vegetables.  Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat and let cool.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl or pitcher, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together.  Mix noodles together with the vegetables, add the cilantro, and pour the dressing over all the ingredients. Toss together until the noodles are well coated.

Recipe: Cous Cous with Collard Greens & Squash

One of my favorite stalls to visit at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market every Sunday is New Morning Farm.  The organic farm in south-central Pennsylvania produces fruit, vegetables, and herbs that are always colorful and flavorful.  The other week, I received a Twitter message from the farm challenging me and some other local bloggers to create new recipes for the collard greens that are often overlooked at the market.  Kale and spinach are now trendy, leaving collard greens behind in the dust.  I was excited to get my creative (green) juices flowing.  I’ve eaten collard greens before, but only in its most common southern-style form — slow cooked with a salty ham hock.  I decided not to overcook it into a grayish-green oblivion, but instead keep the vibrant green color by wilting it with fluffy whole-wheat cous cous, tender chunks of acorn squash, and tart dried cranberries.  The result was a flavorful dish for early autumn.

Ingredients

1 small acorn squash
*3 cups cooked whole wheat cous cous
*vegetable bouillon
1 bunch collard greens
1 medium sweet onion
1 cup dried cranberries
1 + ½ tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
salt to taste

Peel the squash and cut off the stem.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Cut the two halves into small bite-sized pieces.  Prepare the collard greens by washing them thoroughly, cutting out the stems and then rolling them into a bunch lengthwise and chopping them into 1-inch strips. Dice the onion.  Heat ½ tbsp. of the ghee in a large pan over a medium flame.  Add the onions and stir until they become a golden-translucent.  Transfer the onions to a bowl and add 1 tablespoon ghee to the pan and melt before adding the cubed squash.  Lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender when stabbed with a fork. Add the greens a stir until they just start to wilt.  Remove from the heat and add the cous cous, onions and dried cranberries.  Gently fold all the ingredient together to combine.  Add salt to taste (but remember the bouillon already added some salty flavor).

*Follow the instructions on the box to prepare your cous cous, but instead of plain water, add the appropriate amount of vegetable bouillon for flavor.

Recipe: Kale Caesar Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing

In the past few years it seems to be hail to the kale in grocery stores and on restaurant menus.  Kale salads are available everywhere from the trendy DC restaurant Lincoln to the WaWa before the Bay Bridge. And now kale chips are much more widely available than just at health food stores.  Maybe someday we’ll even see kale on the dollar menu at McDonalds!

My favorite way to enjoy kale is in a caesar salad.  Caesar salad is pretty standard on restaurant menus, and the traditional version with romaine lettuce is tasty, but kale has more health benefits than lettuce (it has more iron than even beef!).  I make kale caesars with lacinato kale — also sometimes called dinosaur or tuscan kale.   It is flat and smooth and I find it a lot easier to eat than curly kale which is completely unruly on your fork and makes you feel like a slob.  Kale is definitely tougher than lettuce but that’s why I think it’s complemented so well by caesar dressing, which is really creamy and flavorful.  I generously dress this salad, even though I’m usually a light-on-the-dressing girl, so that the flavor balances out the vegetal toughness of naked kale.  This dressing does not contain raw eggs, like a lot of caesar dressings.  It’s also made with greek yogurt to boost protein.  Don’t be intimidated by the anchovy paste.  They sell it in squeeze tubes in most grocery stores and it DOES NOT make the dressing fishy.  You won’t even know it’s in there.  Spoiler Alert: It’s the secret ingredient in every real caesar dressing.  Go crazy with toppings like radish slices, homemade croutons, hard-boiled eggs, or anything else!

 

Ingredients

1 large bunch Lacinato kale

Dressing:

¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice/juice from a large lemon wedge
1 tsp.anchovy paste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove

Wash kale leaves thoroughly in a colander.  Especially organic kale can often contain little buggers, obviously, because it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticide.  But no thank you to eating those little guys.  Dry the kale thoroughly and tear out the stems.  Tear or chop the kale into bite-size pieces and put into a large bowl.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a mini-blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  spoon desired amount of dressing onto the kale and toss until fully combined.  It’s best to let the salad sit for a while after dressing it.  With most salads, the greens get soggy and wilted, but with tough kale you want the dressing to somewhat saturate the greens.

Note — You can keep the dressing in a container in the fridge for up to a week and a half and use it as needed on individual-size salads — these are great to take to work for lunch.

Recipe: Farro with Sautéed Leeks and Mushrooms

The other day I had one of those moments in the grocery store where I stared blankly at the produce shelves thinking, “Why did I not plan what I’m going to make dinner next week before coming into the store?”  Because that’s the thing, if I don’t go in with a game plan, I come out with 17 random things that can’t possibly be put together into a sensible/edible meal.  Then I had a small epiphany right there next to the bananas, realizing that a favorite and easy meal favorite of mine are vegetables sautéed with some kind of grain.  I knew I had something in the barley/risotto/rice family at home, so I bought two vegetables that I thought would make a yummy meal: leeks and mushrooms.  I’ve met a lot of people who have a lifelong aversion to mushrooms.  I plead with you — give them another shot!  They are tender, filling, flavorful and they make so many dishes really tasty.  If you aren’t familiar with leeks, they look like scallions that have been roid raging.  They similarly have an oniony flavor, although not an overpowering one.  When I got home, I decided the leeks and mushrooms would be best with farro, an “ancient” Roman grain — props to my Italian ancestors for cultivating this wonderful food.  Yes, this is a vegetarian recipe, but the hearty farro and mushrooms easily make it a main dish.  Hope you enjoy it!

 Ingredients

2-3 medium leeks (or 1 ½ REALLY BIG ones)
3 large portobello mushrooms or 1 pint button mushrooms
1 cup farro
2 cups vegetable broth (you can use  vegetable bouillon cubes and water)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt (if desired) 

Put the vegetable broth and farro into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until the grain is tender and the liquid is almost all absorbed.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, slice leeks crosswise into ⅛ inch slices. Rinse in a colander (leeks grow in sandy dirt and often bring the outside in with them when they are harvested).  Clean the mushrooms by wiping them gently with a dampened paper towel.  Cut mushrooms into ½ in pieces.  On medium heat, melt butter and olive oil together in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  Just as the butter starts to become golden and bubbly, add the leeks and mushrooms.  Add the salt.  Stir to coat with the butter and oil and stir every few minutes until the vegetables are tender. Mix the vegetables with the cooked farro, and serve warm.

 

Vegan Food Diary

I thought that going vegan one day a month during Lent would be a breeze because meat is not an everyday must for me.  But the sacrifice made me realize how much I rely on non-meat animal products for protein in my diet.  I often add cheese or hard boiled eggs to a salad, or make veggie quesadillas or pasta salads with cheese. Without being able to rely on those ingredients each Monday, I had to more thoughtfully plan my meals every week.  Here’s the lowdown on what I ate each Monday for 6 weeks:

Monday #1

IMG_0293

Breakfast – Ezekiel bread toasted with peanut butter and blood orange slices; Lunch – Roasted Brussels sprouts and lentil soup; Dinner – Roasted tomatoes and barley risotto with broccolini and mushrooms; Snack & Dessert – Tortilla chips with guacamole, salsa and black bean dip, white wine and vegan brownies

To prepare for these vegan Mondays, I pored over recipes for a few days and put together a list of foods I could eat over the next few weeks.  However, I quickly learned that choosing Mondays as my day of the week to eat vegan was an extra challenge because with my weekends being so busy, I often lacked the time on a Sunday evening to prepare the next day’s meal.  Case in point was the first Monday, when I did not have time to prepare a lunch, so I had to grab something from the deli near my office.  I guess I can’t be 100% sure that no animal products (like butter) were used in these, but I tried my absolute best.  After dinner, I went to my friend’s apartment to watch The Bachelor (don’t judge).  My kind friend knew about my Lenten goal and bought a bunch of vegan snacks for us.

Monday #2

IMG_0611

Breakfast – Breakfast “cookies” with jam and a peanut butter drizzle; Lunch – Quinoa tabbouleh; Dinner – Veggie burger, sweet potato fries, and kale salad with pecans, cranberries, & homemade vinaigrette dressing

I came across the recipe for these breakfast cookies on Pinterest and they are filling with just a few ingredients like banana, oats, flaxseed and jam.  The sweet and tart plum jam I used was perfect.  I also came across this refreshing tabbouleh recipe online — it was touted as Jennifer Aniston’s favorite.  No idea if it’s true, but if I can look like her in 15 years by eating this salad, bring it on!  For the veggie burger, I had to read the package carefully because some veggies burgers contain egg.  I give this one an unenthusiastic 5 out of 10.  Like most store-bought veggie burgers, it was underwhelming.  I’d like to make my own in the future especially because I could leave out the soy.

Monday #3

IMG_0319

Breakfast – Lemon-Blueberry oatmeal with almond milk and toasted pecans; Snack – Homemade chex mix, Lunch – Kale salad with apples, walnuts and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and hummus with bell pepper strips; Dinner – Coconut curried lentils over brown rice; Dessert – Coconut milk ice cream

I was more prepared for the second week and prepared a delicious oatmeal recipe for breakfast.  The real recipe includes a dollop of mascarpone cheese which I left out on Monday but added the rest of the week.  I have to say the mascarpone made it bomb dot com, but I guess that’s what made my vegan Mondays a sacrifice.  Salads are easy for a lunch at the office and the walnuts added some protein.  The coconut curried lentils were delicious and creamy and didn’t really contain actual curry so check out the recipe even if you aren’t a curry person.  Coconut milk ice cream is a wonderful non-dairy alternative and the So Delicious brand has a wide flavor selection at most grocery stores.

 Monday #4

IMG_0320

Breakfast – Ezekiel toast with apricot jam, and apple slices with peanut butter; Snack – Pamela’s cranberry almond bar, Lunch – “Niçoise” salad with chickpeas, golden beets, olives, potatoes and green beans; Dinner – Udon noodle and veggie lo mein; Dessert – Apricot jam tart

Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted grains and is actually a great source of protein which you might not expect from bread.  It’s not the most delicious bread ever but I never eat naked bread anyway so once I spoon on the jam or nut butter it’s as good as regular wheat toast.  I love niçoise salads and the hard-boiled egg and the tuna/salmon is usually the best part.  but I got creative with chickpeas and veggies and it made a very hearty, filling salad.  Many noodles contain egg, but udon noodles are just wheat and water, while remaining a normal and delicious consistency, so the lo mein was yummy.  Here’s the recipe.  I made the rustic tart with a bit of dough leftover from a pie I’d made for Pi Day.  Throw any kind of jam into some pie dough and you have a delicious dessert.

Monday #5

IMG_0612

Breakfast – Ezekiel bread toast with avocados, tomatoes and balsamic reduction; Snacks – Cherry fruit leather; Lunch – Mixed greens salad with artichoke hearts and hummus with sliced cucumbers; Dinner – Cuban black beans and rice; Dessert – Coconut milk ice cream bar

Toast with avocados and tomatoes may not seam like breakfast food, but I’m all about savory food in the morning.  It was hearty and filling and the sprouted grain bread provided protein.  It was a busy day so lunch was basic.   For dinner, the beans and rice was delicious and also one of the cheapest and healthiest meals you can prepare.  Check out the recipe I used.  The brand So Delicious makes the ice cream bars and they are so good — they pretty much taste like the real thing you bought from the ice cream man as a kid.

Monday #6

IMG_0610

Breakfast – Handful of raisins and a banana; Lunch – Tabbouleh salad; Dinner – (not pictured) Salad of mixed lettuces and roasted tomatoes with vinaigrette dressing, tomato stuffed with quinoa and nuts; Dessert – Mandarin orange and peach confit with coconut shavings

This was a weird day for me because I was traveling for work.  Because I was nervous for work, some raisins and an airport banana were all I needed for breakfast.  Lunch was at a small bistro in Houston and to my delight, they had tabbouleh on the menu.  I double-checked with the cashier that it was vegan and after looking at me like I had two heads, he had to go in the back and check with the chef.  It was vegan and it was delicious.  Dinner was a catered event that I attended for work, so I couldn’t take pictures of my meal because it would be unprofessional and creepy.  The kitchen did a fairly good job with an alternative menu, although they added a chocolate straw to my dessert, making me question whether they knew the difference between vegan and vegetarian…

 

Overall, I was pretty happy with my vegan trial.  It made me aware of the amount of cheese, eggs, and butter I eat on a regular basis. And cheese is the #1 source of saturated fat in the American diet! (Read more here).  Echoing my original post on the subject, I am going to continue to make small sacrifices when I can to eliminate animal products in some meals.  I feel that it is doing my part to help with the environmental cost of raising livestock for food.  It also makes me more aware of the foods I do put into my body — not just the end-product meal but the ingredients that go into it.  The next time you reach for some cheese crumbles for your salad, consider nuts or beans instead.  It can help your body and your planet!

Recipe: Greeña Colada Smoothie

It’s 5 o’clock and 85 degrees somewhere… and because it is, I ignored the snowstorm outside yesterday and whipped up a green piña colada smoothie (virgin, because it was a pre-workout snack and nobody wants to be that girl who falls off the back of the treadmill).  This smoothie brings together the typical piña colada flavors with coconut oil (no, it doesn’t make the smoothie greasy, just adds to the taste), frozen pineapple chunks, banana to add creaminess and a squeeze of lime.  The greeña comes from kale — you can taste no hint of it and it’s a great way to add calcium and fiber to a smoothie.  Many tropical cocktail mixes are made with high fructose corn syrup, so this easy homemade alternative skips the over-processed additives in lieu of fresh, whole ingredients.

Ingredients:
½ frozen banana, cut into chunked
½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 ½ tsp. coconut oil
⅛ cup pineapple shavings (or coconut milk for a smoother drink)
1 large leaf of kale, stripped of the stem and torn into pieces
½ cup almond milk
squeeze of fresh lime

Put banana, pineapple, coconut oil and shavings, and kale into a blender and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the almond milk and blend until smooth.

P.S. – I totally thought that I came up with the name Greeña Colada, until I googled it and saw it’s already a thing.  Is this how Al Gore felt when the internet happened?

Cleaning House

A dear friend of mine gave me a really thoughtful gift the other week — a book called The Naturally Clean Home.  It’sHomemade non-toxic cleaning text-pic a neat little book containing basic homemade recipes for easy concoctions to clean anything in your home from wood furniture to bathtub tile to carpet.

I already liked the idea of homemade, natural cleaners because conventional cleaning products often contain harsh and toxic chemicals.  The smell of bleach makes me dry-heave.  But so far I had only tried a vinegar and baking soda mix to clean pans with burnt-on food (which works well!).  This little book has many variations of cleaners, but it seems that castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice are the main stars.  Surprised that so many cooking ingredients can be used for cleaning?  Vinegar and lemon juice have antibacterial properties.  And baking soda is a great alternative to toxic chemicals in household cleaning scrubs.  The other benefit of these homemade cleaning formulas is that they are very economical.  You can buy huge containers of white vinegar and baking soda from Costco and use those for several different cleaners rather than separately spending $9 on bathroom cleaner, $8 for counter spray, $7 for wood cleaner, and so on.  Check out this great little book or do some online research about homemade non-toxic cleaners.

In the meantime, here’s a little recipe of my own that works well to clean things around the house that can get grimy, like an electric facial cleanser brush head, razor handle or make-up brushes.

Hilary’s Cleaning Concoction

Fill a glass with two teaspoons of baking soda, ½ cup of white vinegar, and ½ cup warm water.  Sink the item into the glass — it may float, so to keep it immersed in the cleaning fluid you can hold it in place with a clean butter knife or something similar.  Keep it submerged for a few hours or overnight.  For makeup brushes, rinse with cold water and lay out on a clean washcloth to dry.  For plastic or rubber items, you may need to lightly scrub with a clean toothbrush to remove grime or mildew before rinsing and drying.