(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!

 

Friday Favorite: Tolerant Lentil Pasta

I love me some pasta.  Picture the Cookie Monster going to town on some chocolate chip cookies, and that’s pretty much me every time I’m around macaroni and cheese or spaghetti pomodoro.  It’s delicious, filling, and works with all kinds of sauces as well as in soups and in casseroles.  So what’s a girl to do when trying to cut back on refined white flour?

There are a lot of gluten-free pasta options available.  Always read the ingredients on the back of the box so that you know exactly what it’s made from.  I was too naive the first few times I bought gluten-free pasta, only to get home and see that the pasta I had bought was made with corn or rice flour.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with those ingredients, but the rice pasta sat in my stomach like a rock, and the corn pasta came apart into a mushy mess when cooked.  I also tried a few brands of lentil pasta but it didn’t hold its shape and created a slimy foam when I cooked it.

Then one day I walked down the pasta aisle at the grocery store and a light from heaven shone down over a box of Tolerant brand red lentil penne.  Actually, it wasn’t that dramatic — my best friend recommended the brand to me.  But it did end up being a game changer.  NOTHING can really be a substitute for real pasta, so I recommend saving that for your favorite recipes. But for a quick and healthy (Lentils provide protein!) mid-week meal, throw together some Tolerant red lentil penne with marinara, or their green lentil elbow macaroni with pesto.  You can find it at most natural food grocery stores, or on Vitacost.com.  And skip the spiral shape kind which is too dense and hard.

 

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: 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.

 

40 Days of Meatless Mondays

Fat Tuesday has come and gone, and now the season of Lent is here for the next 40 days.  As a product of many years of Catholic school, I was immersed in the tradition growing up and it has caught on in my adult years.  I like a healthy challenge and the idea of making a conscious effort over 6 weeks to make a personal sacrifice.  It’s like a new year’s resolution but a much shorter commitment and at the end you get Cadbury eggs and sweet religious greeting cards from elderly relatives.  This year, I’ve decided to do a version of Meatless Mondays during Lent.  Yes, it’s only one day a week over the forty days, but I’m going to eliminate all animal products on those days instead of just meat so I figure the extra sacrifice sort of evens out.  I thought that eating vegan would be a breeze for me, because I’m not a huge meat eater.  Don’t get me wrong, I could never be fully vegetarian in my real life — I love cheeseburgers and bacon and prosciutto too much. But I can easily eat more than half my meals in a week without meat without and not bat an eye by sticking to my normal routine of salads with nuts and cheese, soups and tacos with beans, and rice and pasta dishes with vegetables.  But committing to one day of complete vegan-eating each week makes me realize how many animal products I actually rely on  for my food: deviled eggs for a pre-workout snack, cheese on vegetarian tacos and on salads, yogurt for breakfast or in dressings and sauces, even some pasta is made with eggs and my half-Italian self will never give that up completely.  So while my vegan days won’t be impossible, they will certainly require a conscious effort.

People go vegan for many reasons ranging from issues with animal cruelty to lower-cholesterol diets to food allergies to Vegan Mondays pictextsustainability.  For me, it’s the sustainability factor that convinced me to give it a try.  Even if we aren’t eating huge slabs of meat for every meal, non-meat dairy products take a toll on the environment too.  Take cheese.  Seems completely harmless, right?  No animal had to die to make your brie en croute, true.  But the cow that produced the milk to make that cheese had to be fed, and was most likely given corn and soybean meal — most cows grown in the U.S. for milk are given this kind of feed rather than being grass-fed, as cows would do left to their own devices.  Well, that corn and soy had to be grown, probably on another farm which required a lot of land and water, and then had to be harvested and trucked over to the dairy cow farm.  The cows had to be given a lot of water (think hundreds of gallons) only to produce a relatively small amount of milk.  Then after the cow was milked, the milk had to be shipped in a refrigerated truck maybe as far as 7 states away.  If that doesn’t sound so bad, think of this process for every jug of milk, container of yogurt, slice of cheese, pint of ice cream all 320 million Americans eat in a week.

Livevegan.org suggests that “switching just two meals per week from animal products to vegan products reduces greenhouse gases more than buying all locally-sourced food.”  This speaks to the heart of my little test.  Will I give up all meat and dairy forever?  No.  But having just a couple more meals centered around whole grains, vegetables, beans or nuts rather than meat and eggs and cheese could make a small impact on the water usage, pollution and other problems that come with raising animals for food.

I’ll post at the end of my Vegan Monday Lenten journey, but I’m predicting a lot of whole grains and veggies in my future over the next month or so.  Stay tuned…

 

The end result: My Vegan Food Diary