(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!

 

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Recipe: Homemade Chocolate Candies

Valentine’s day is on Saturday and Russell Stover is hoping that you stock up on its candies made with corn syrup and “natural flavor.”  But why not give your special someone a homemade treat that says ‘I made an effort for you and here’s something homemade without questionable ingredients’?  Man, I should be a greeting card author…

I came up with this recipe for chocolate candies because every day after lunch at work I crave a little something sweet. A palette cleanser if you will. And yeah, I will, because I like to be fancy. But seriously, if I don’t bring a little sweet treat with me I end up going to CVS and buying those little homemade chocolate candies text graphicHershey’s nuggets and 3 other things I really didn’t need. So one day I thought, why not make my own chocolate candies?  I like dark chocolate, but most “dark” chocolate is still so sugary sweet, ick.  On the other side of the spectrum, unsweetened chocolate is also pretty gross.  It’s a bit of a Goldilocks dilemma.  I figured if I made my own candies, I could combine the two to make the chocolate as semisweet/dark as I want.  (Hint: look at the percentage of cacao in your chocolate.  If it’s less than 65-70%, it’s going to  be pretty sweet and sugary.)  And let’s face it sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you feel like 3 nuts and Almond Joy isn’t almond-y enough.  With my own candies, I can choose the filling I want and make them extra nutty and crunchy.

When you make these, you can use whatever filling you like best! Try: pecans, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, coconut flakes, dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried pineapple, or any other fruit or nut. It’s pretty much as easy as melt, drop, harden, and eat.  Have a happy Valentine’s Day!


Ingredients:

6 oz. unsweetened chocolate (easiest to buy a bar of this kind of chocolate)
1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips (semi-sweet has more sugar than bittersweet)
1 cup filling (nut, dried fruits or both) 

Recipe:

Fit a baking sheet with a Silpat liner or wax paper.  Fill the bottom of a double boiler* with water and bring to a boil.  In the top part of the double boiler, melt both the semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate together, stirring constantly until smooth.  In the meantime, on the lined baking sheet,  form small clusters of nuts/dried fruits 2 inches apart.  For a 12 x 16 baking sheet, I can fit 24 clusters.  With a spoon or small spatula, drop about a tablespoon of melted chocolate on each cluster, being careful to let the melted chocolate get in all the nooks and crannies to bind the filling together. With any extra melted chocolate, add an additional drizzle to each cluster so that all the nuts and fruits are fully encased in the chocolate.  Put the baking sheet in the fridge for 2 hours or until the chocolate is hard.  Transfer the candies to an airtight container. Enjoy for many weeks!


*I WISH I had a double boiler.  For now in my tiny apartment, I boil water in a large saucepan, with a glass mixing bowl settled on top. Tiny kitchens require creativity!

Recipe: Crock-Pot Granola

Who knew that you could make granola in the crockpot?  Well, you can and it’s changed my breakfast routine.   I used to buy granola in the health food section of the grocery store, but there is so much sugar in most store-bought granola.  And a box of organic granola is not cheap.  Also, how frustrating is it to buy some “nutty crunch” cereal that has maybe one measly nut per every few spoonfuls?  Lame.  The best part of making granola at home, besides how easy and inexpensive it is, is that you can add as many nuts or fruits as you want.  Me, I like a little oats with my nuts and dried fruit but you can customize this recipe to your tastes by eliminating or reducing some off the add-ons.  This original recipe came from my sister on a trusty little 3×5 card that I’ve lovingly spilled on and wrinkled over the years.  That recipe only specified “oil” so canola oil or most others will work.  But I like coconut oil because of the taste and the great health benefits.  You have to be close by to stir it often so it doesn’t burn, so it’s a good recipe for a Sunday afternoon, or when you work from home.  Your kitchen will smell delicious while it cooks.

Ingredients

6 cups rolled oats
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger

 

Add-ons

½ cup each of the following — feel free to substitute and be creative:
dried cranberries
raisins
golden raisins
dried apple pieces
coconut flakes
pecan pieces
walnut pieces
pumpkin seeds

Put the first seven ingredients is a crock-pot and stir together.  Set the crock-pot on low for 2 hours.  Stir after the first 30 minutes, and then stir every 15 minutes after that, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.  Cool completely, then stir in the add-on ingredients.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.

 

 

The Sweetest Thing

A few months ago in an ongoing quest for perfect, supermodel skin I tried cutting sugar from my diet.  I did some research which showed that the androgen hormone, which is linked to insulin, can cause breakouts.

Unfortunately, the only true fact I’ve learned in my 15+ year quest for skin like the Noxema girl’s  is that apparentlysugar me being me is what causes breakouts and no limitation of sugar is going to be a magic cure. However, giving up sugar for about 8 weeks did open my eyes to how much of it was in the foods I was regularly eating, from fruit to processed foods and everything in between.  And after eliminating it I felt more energetic and less thirsty.  My clothes fit better and I didn’t crave sweet foods the way I once had.  So while I don’t avoid it entirely anymore, I am much more discerning about the sugar I do eat.  For example, I’m just gonna say it…once in a while I like to eat a whole bag of Twizzlers.  Or a doughnut. Like a frosting-drenched, sprinkle-topped doughnut.  So to balance out those sporadic cravings, and because those foods have approximately 0 health benefits, I avoid sugar in other ways that aren’t as much of a sacrifice for me like:

  • Reading the ingredients of my groceries and avoiding foods with added sugar, corn syrup, sucralose, etc.  Even “savory” foods like crackers and chips sometimes contain sugar.  So sneaky!
  • Making my own granola. Cereal is often very high in sugar, even most granolas which are marketed as “healthy”, “natural” or “with a HINT of sweetness”.  When I make my own, I add just a small amount of honey and lots of dried fruits.  If i’m going to consume sugar, I want it to be from natural sweeteners as much as possible! Here’s my recipe!
  • Making my own salad dressing.  Most bottled dressings from the grocery store have really nasty ingredients like corn syrup.  Have you ever seen a yummy homemade dressing recipe say, “slowly whisk in the high fructose corn syrup and xanthum gum”? Ew.
  • Making my own chocolate candies.  Many popular candy bars are overloaded with high fructose corn syrup or sugar.  I like making my own dark chocolate that’s actually dark and bittersweet. Here’s my recipe!
  • Fulfilling my ice cream cravings with coconut or almond milk ice cream with no added sugar.  Don’t be weirded out!  There are some delicious brands and flavors and they still taste sweet while eliminating the processed sugars.
  • Using agave syrup as an alternative to processed, white sugar when baking.  It has a lower glycemic index and you only need about half the amount when compared to sugar.

I’m always looking for other ways to eliminate processed sugar from my diet.  But for now, I think this is a good start!