Everyone loves to grill it up. Grilling is incredibly easy, quick, fun and can be one of the healthiest ways to get a meal on your plate —if done correctly. The good news is that no matter what food you are putting on the grill, simple changes in what you do before, during and after it hits the grill, as well as the side dishes, can make a very significant difference in the health of your meal. Fire it up!
What Makes Grilling Unhealthy?
Caution, carnivores! Yes, science can be a killjoy at times. But, meat eaters simply need to use a bit more caution than vegetarians when getting their grill or BBQ on. This is not an opinion. It’s basic chemistry. Cook meat at a high temperature and carcinogenic compounds will form. Grill it, and they will come. In fact, the higher the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the more of these compounds will form in the food. The result when you eat these foods? Damaged DNA and increased risk of cancer and many other chronic diseases. 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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Cacio y Pepe-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
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.
Fudgsicles were one of my favorite summer cool treats. There was something about the way they slowly morphed from a frozen solid into creamy, chocolate pudding. Unfortunately, three of the top six ingredients in those fudgsicles are sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Keep reading the label and you will find other goodies, such as cellulose gum and polysorbate 80. No thank you.
The good news is that it is incredibly easy to make fudgsicles that are actually healthy. These fudgiscles also have the rich, creamy texture, which makes a fudgsicle a fudgsicle. No dairy. No gluten. No cooking. No kidding! Continue reading →
September through May, good quality, freshly ground coffee and my French press are all I need when I’m in a coffee state of mind. But in the summer, my efforts failed to satisfy the inner coffee snob inherent in all Seattle natives. My DIY iced coffee attempts (serving a concentrated brew over ice cubes, regular strength brew over coffee ice cubes) proved less than satisfying; watery and sometimes leaning towards bitter. The horrors. Continue reading →
This antioxidant-rich and healthy cranberry compote deserves a place at the table year-round. Because cranberries bring a lot more to the table than just tradition and a dash of ruby-red. That favorite holiday condiment is actually a potent anti-microbial. In fact, cranberries could help keep you feeling festive all year-round.
Originally, the protective effect of cranberries was attributed to their acidity. This has long since been disproved. We now know that cranberry’s anti-microbial properties are due its high levels of a chemical compound called proanthocyanidins (PACs).
In plants, PACs provide protection against pathogens and predators. In humans, a unique structure of the PACs in cranberries essentially renders whatever bacteria it comes in contact with a non-stick surface. So, cranberry’s PACs help prevent an overall bacterial invasion that can result in an outright infection. If bacteria can’t stick to our cell walls —it can’t infect. And, if it does stick, it will have less chance of spreading.
Research shows that the PACs in cranberries inhibit bacteria (especially E. coli) from sticking to bladder walls, reducing urinary tract infections and may help prevent ulcers by suppressing H. Pylori infections. They may also prevent cavities by inhibiting unhealthy oral bacteria. This same non-stick ability may also lower the risk of atherosclerosis by inhibiting platelet aggregation and adhesion and by reducing cholesterol. Clearly, cranberries have a place on the table the other ten months of the year!
HEALTHY CRANBERRY COMPOTE
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
This quick, easy and healthy cranberry compote recipe uses fresh cranberries, rather than canned. Citrus, apple, pomegranate and cinnamon create a much more interesting and healthful flavor profile than a bunch of sugar ever could. This sauce is only slightly sweet, providing a nice contrast to the overall richness of holiday dinners.
If you don’t care for (or don’t have) pineapple, leave it out. However, you may want to adjust the sweetener. The arrowroot thickens the sauce, but is also optional as the pectin from apples acts as a thickener as well. Alternatively, thicken the sauce by either adding in a few tablespoons of chia seeds before cooking or cook it longer to reduce the liquid further.
Get creative in how you use this sauce. Surprisingly versatile, it’s not just for turkey! Try it with other savory items, such as sweet potatoes, as a topping on pancakes or even as a condiment for sweet dishes.
2 12 ounce bags of fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
Juice and zest (reserved) of 2 organic oranges
2 organic red apples, cored and coarsely chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or raw honey) or to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup of filtered water
1 tablespoon arrowroot (optional)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
Place cranberries, pineapple, apples, cinnamon stick in a sauce pan.
Combine the water and arrowroot, blending well to make a slurry, then add to the cranberry mixture.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Stir constantly until the cranberries start to burst (about 10-15 minutes) and the mixture is thick and smooth.
Cool completely, adjust sweetener as needed, then mix in the pomegranate seeds.
The most festive and celebrated of gourds, pumpkins, enjoy a near celebrity-status in our apartment. By late September, the scouting begins, first for prospective jack-o-lanterns, then centerpieces and window adornments. Sadly, by early November, the carved ones have been decommissioned and the uncarved ones start giving hints that our time together is coming to a close. Their skin, once bright orange, leathery and taut, begins to dull and wrinkle. Their bodies soften, losing their denseness and familiar “thump” when tapped. Clearly, none of them will make it to Thanksgiving. Soup must be made. Continue reading →
Apple chips don’t require special equipment. Dehydrator? Mandolin? Nope. While both are nice to have, they aren’t necessary. A low-temperature stove, a sharp knife and some time are all you need. Healthy, full of fiber, sugar-free and just two ingredients; apple chips might be the perfect whole foods baked treat. Caution: the aroma of cinnamon apples wafting from your oven is almost as addicting as the chips. Continue reading →
This dish is all about the creamy chipotle avocado dressing. Combine silky avocado, zesty lemon and the smoky kick of chipotle pepper. You won’t miss the mayo!
Customize the vegetable and fruit blend to make it your own. Savoy cabbage is particularly good for slaw salads. Savoy cabbage is more tender and less bitter than the green or red cabbage typically used for coleslaw. As such, there’s no need to salt it before serving it uncooked. Dice, grate, slice…it really doesn’t matter much. But, keep the produce sections thin to ease even dressing coverage. Customize the volume as you like. But, who doesn’t like having a salad ready to go in the fridge? Chop now and be veggie-ready for days!