Hands down, a healthyish spicy margarita is my Cinco de Mayo beverage of choice. A ‘healthyish’ cocktail?! Okay. Perhaps it is more politically correct to say that some margaritas are much more UNHEALTHY than others. How so? Check this out.
While any salad dressing adds a bit of moisture and palatability to a vegetable medley, the right dressing is a game changer. In fact, these four phytonutrient-rich dressings will not only give your salad a distinct flair, they will take the nutrition quotient to 11!
How can phytonutrient-rich dressings make a salad even healthier?
First, fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as many phytonutrients need fat for absorption. So, you’ll get more nutrition out of your carrots and sweet potatoes (vitamin A), mushrooms (vitamin D), nuts and seeds (vitamin E), greens and broccoli (vitamin K). That is why friends don’t let friends use fat-free salad dressing!
Second, adding herbs and spices will significantly increase the antioxidant power of your salad to ward off inflammation-causing free radicals. A little goes a long way. For most herbs, simply go by taste and add the amount that tastes right to you. Consistency is more important than the quantity. Continue reading
We all know that ‘mushroom bacon’ is not really bacon. I’m talking about “bacon”. And while I get annoyed with food marketed as something else (tofurky), nothing communicates quite like a good metaphor in air quotes. So, while I’m not going to fool the pork lovers out there, using the ‘B’ word is aptly descriptive. It infers what you’re going to get; an earthy, dense bite of savory, slightly salty immune-boosting goodness.
No, I won’t bash legit bacon. I have nephews who would never forgive me if I did. But, it’s good to know that these umami bombs are totally unprocessed. And even more important, they are free from the cancer-causing nitrates added to many processed meats. Continue reading
Rich and tangy, even omnivores should give this simple vegan sour cream recipe a try. In about five minutes you’ll have a delicious dairy-free, and luscious condiment for soups, wraps, and of course, mexican food. Yet, this vegan sour cream has only a fraction of the saturated fat you’ll find in dairy sour cream. And, compared to many commercial vegan versions, making your own saves you from a laundry list of stabilizers and preservatives.
If you think tofu is a four letter word, you’ll likely be surprised. Blending the seasonings with extra firm or firm tofu results in a wonderfully smooth and creamy texture. If you’re watching calories, stick with the 2 tablespoon of oil for a lighter version. Otherwise, to get the most sour cream-like mouth feel, use the full 4 tablespoons. For the thickest texture, squeeze out any excess water from the tofu and reserve the liquid. Then, add back only as much of the liquid as needed to thin out the mixture so it will blend to the texture you want.
BASIC VEGAN SOUR CREAM
Yield: about 1 1/4 cup
- 8 ounces organic, firm or extra firm tofu
- 4 green onions, white portion only, roughly chopped (or 1/2 medium shallot)
- 2-4 tablespoons organic canola oil (or other neutral oil)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend all ingredients in a personal or regular blender. Adjust seasoning with sea salt, lemon juice or vinegar as needed. Store covered and refrigerated for three to four days.
- When selecting tofu, be sure to buy organic to avoid genetically modified soy. And, to get extra calcium, be sure to look for it on the ingredient panel, likely listed as ‘calcium sulfate’.
- Extra unused tofu? After opening, place in covered container and submerge the tofu in fresh water; change water daily.
Vegan sour cream on a purple sweet potato…cause that’s how we roll. Mmmm…purple sweet potatoes. I don’t know what I like best, their creamy texture or the almost smoky flavor. Of course, the pigment of purple foods is rich in anthocyanins, potent antioxidants which support the brain and memory.
Dining out should be relaxing. But, if you have Celiac disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) gluten-free dining requires a bit of detective work —and perhaps a bit of skepticism. The typical recommendations (ask for a gluten-free menu and let the server know about one’s dietary restrictions) are a good start, but may give you a false sense of assurance. As a dietitian who has worked in restaurant kitchens, I want to share some realistic tips for gluten-free dining. Continue reading
And, Miso Spice makes 8! In the post, ‘7-Tips for Using Miso,’ I shared some miso basics and a few tips for using miso paste in cooking. Now, here’s one more tip for using this detoxifying, gut-friendly, enzyme-rich fermented food. Sprinkle it on savory dishes, showering them with umami goodness. Sprinkle miso on dishes as a condiment? Continue reading
Last year, on a whim, I entered a vegetarian chili cook-off at my alma mater. It was a festive evening, a great learning experience with my chili won a prize! However, I can’t share the recipe with you, because I didn’t use one. But, read on and check out the guidelines I always use and customize each time -as you should as well.
Turmeric tofu scramble is a quick and savory option for any day. But, with its gorgeous sunshine yellow, this dish is also festive enough for guests. With about 8 grams of plant protein, it provides stable, yet light nourishment to start your day. Serve it with the suggested sides and toppings below, or bundle it up in a whole grain wrap and take it to go.
Not only quick and nutritious, this dish is also what I refer to as ‘a turmeric delivery mechanism’. That’s right, per serving, the scramble gives you a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, the anti-inflammatory ‘spice for life’. Further, it uses all three ways to get the most from curcumin by using the whole turmeric spice and includes both fat and black pepper to maximize bioavailability.
When the farmer’s market has Brussels sprouts on the stalk, one is coming home with me and roasted Brussels sprouts are suddenly on the menu. I can’t resist. There is something so novel and (literally) fresh about pruning the little cabbages from their stem. For an urbanite, it is close as we get to the ‘harvesting’ concept. That is, unless you are one of those people who have actually attempted and succeeded with urban gardening. That’s not me.
According to Rebecca Wood, author of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Brussels sprouts become sweet and tender after a frost. So keep growing region in mind when purchasing. Most Brussel sprouts come from California’s mild coastal area. Deborah Madison, in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, recommends stronger flavors for sprouts harvested without a frost, such as mustard, capers, and lemon.
For the most flavor in Brussels sprouts from any region, select small sprouts with few yellow leaves. For best results, cut the sprouts in half or into quarters for bite-size pieces. They should all be cut about the same size for even cooking.
HONEY DIJON ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
This recipe is the Little Black Dress equivalent of Brussel sprouts recipes. It is classic and simple; a reliable ‘go-to’ recipe for weekdays or special events, which can not only be made in advance and reheat well, but can be dressed up in countless ways. It has just a hint of sweetness. So, you may want to increase the sweetener for some palates.
Try tossing in carmelized onions, roasted and chopped nuts, bacon, soaked current, chopped dried cherries or (of course) cheese to the roasted sprouts. You just might convert a skeptic with your creativity. And little will they know that with Brussels sprout’s glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, they are reducing cancer risk through with every delicious bite.
- 1 trunk prepped (or 1 1/2 pounds) Brussels sprouts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon reserved for after roasting)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fire cider or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons raw honey (or maple syrup)
- Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to the baking sheet.
- Roast the sprouts, stirring half-way through for even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.
- Return roasted brussels sprouts back in the bowl. Combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and honey together and pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Revised 10.22.16. Originally published 12.24.14.
The stringy flesh of spaghetti squash resembles traditional pasta in appearance. But, does it taste like spaghetti? Does it have that unique ‘toothiness’ of an al dente pasta? Of course not. But, with about one-fourth the calories and carbohydrates of traditional wheat pasta, it can be a very satisfying, grain-free alternative —and a novel, creative way to enjoy a carotenoid and antioxidant-rich meal. And, like regular ‘noodles’ the spaghetti squash pulp is like a naked canvas for flavorings. Almost anything goes. Check out these 4 tips for making delicious spaghetti squash dishes and 5 ideas to get you started!
Just like preparing traditional pasta, the process can be as free-form and improvisational as you want. No recipes needed. In fact, think ‘Operation Fridge Clear Out’. Cooking spaghetti squash is as easy as making regular spaghetti noodles. But, you just need to allow for longer cooking time, about 40 minutes at 375° F, either whole or cut in two. (For step-by-step instructions, see above link.)
4 TIPS TO DELICIOUS SPAGHETTI SQUASH DISHES
- Preparation: drain off excess water. For the best and most pasta-like results, place the strands in a strainer and press out as much excess water as you can. This step is optional. But, it’s worth the effort, especially if you are cooking the squash ahead of time and/or are not using a fat-based sauce, such as a marinara.
- Dressing: go fat! Due to the high water content of spaghetti squash, I prefer fat-based sauces. Healthy fats in moderation will help modulate the blood sugar response and increase satiety as will adding in some protein. Or, indulge with a little browned butter. Try these!
- Seasoning: go bold! Like regular pasta noodles, spaghetti squash provides is a neutral vehicle for any variety of flavors. But, unlike regular pasta noodles, the spaghetti squash pulp won’t absorb the sauce and its flavors very well. And, these noodles don’t have much flavor of their own other than a slightly sweet earthiness. So, go a bit more bold with your seasoning than you might with regular pasta.
Try these seasonings!
- Basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Black pepper, Cinnamon, chili flakes, nutmeg
- Garlic, onions, scallions
- Soy sauce or shoyu
- Tomatoes (sun-dried or paste)
- Add contrasting textures. Fold different textures into the strands and on top of the dish. These variations in texture gives makes the dish chewy similar to al dente pasta. Try these additions and toppings!
- sautéed mushrooms
- Toasted, chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
- Bread crumbs or panko (regular or gluten-free).
- Beans, such as adzuki, black, garbanzo or kidney
- Cheese, such as mozzarella, parmesan or Gruyère
Base: Olive oil and garlic
Seasonings: A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, roasted and shopped walnuts
Garnish: Italian parsley and basil
Spaghetti Squash with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Vegan Cream Sauce and Nuts
Base: Cashew cream sauce
Seasonings: Cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, toasted and chopped walnuts.
Garnish: Italian parsley
Indian-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
Base: Store-bought Indian simmer sauce (Maya Kaimal brand)
Additions: Garbanzo beans
Garnish: Cilantro or Thai Basil
Southern Italy-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
Base: Olive oil, garlic and tomato paste
Seasonings: Red chili pepper flakes, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions, chopped or pureed sun-dried tomatoes
Garnish: Italian parsley or Basil
Spaghetti Squash Tossed with Avocado Pesto and Kale
Base: Vegan avocado pesto
Seasonings: Lemon, garlic, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: Wilted kale
Garnish: Basil and roasted, chopped pecans
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- Page, Karen. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2014.
How do you like to prepare spaghetti squash? Share a tip! Leave a comment below.