Monday, April 21, 2014

Lunch on the Go - Greek salad

Feta cheese will truly make anything delicious. It is, of course, high in fat and you don't want to go too crazy, but a little bit goes a long way, flavor-wise. Pretty much any time I add it to a salad and include oregano, I call it a "greek salad" although that should traditionally be just cucumbers, feta, and tomatoes. Below is a nutritious packed one that includes lots of protein thanks to the beans.

Greek Salad for 1
2 tablespoons feta cheese
1/4 cucumber with slices, chopped into 4
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
5 kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup whatever greens you like
1/4 cup garbanzo beans (I was out so I subbed great norther beans for the photo above and they were great!)
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoonful of hummus (optional)
Combine all ingredients and it's ready!

Greek dressing
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Combine all ingredients and stir.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pantry Pickins Dinner - Kimchi Fried Rice

I really hate wasting food. I have had a lot of success in minimizing food waste by being flexible with certain recipes that I can throw together whatever I've got left in my fridge at the end of the grocery week. A stir-fry of any kind is a good way to remedy this, and I've found this kimchi fried rice is a particular forgiving combination of flavors. You can literally throw in whatever vegetables you've got left and it will probably taste great (as long as you like some spice!).

Kimchi Fried Rice
1/2 cup jarred kimchi (I use Sunja's Radish Kimchi)
1.5 cups brown rice - cooked and cooled
1.5 oz extra firm tofu (This is 1/2 a standard container) - feel free to skip this part or substitute any other kind of protein
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons sriracha
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup onion diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
whatever vegetables you've got! I used 1 red bell pepper and 1 small head of broccoli in the photo above. I've used green peppers and cauliflower, kale and spinach, zucchini and yellow squash. I literally mean whatever you want!

Heat coconut oil in the pan until melted and add onions. Saute until translucent before adding ginger and garlic. Add protein (tofu or meat) and  all liquid ingredients (sriracha, fish sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame seed oil) saute stir for 5 minutes. Add all remaining vegetables and cover until vegetables are slightly tender. Add the rice and stir all together. Cook until vegetables are the desired texture and serve.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lunch on the Go - Mushroom Pate with crackers and celery

Are we seeing that I am hugely into dips / spreads? If I can smear something salty on a cracker, I will generally be a fan of it. The challenge with this can often be getting enough protein at lunch to keep me full for the rest of the day. Then I discovered the beauty of cooking with wonderful protein and healthy fat rich nuts! I attended a yoga retreat in which the food was all raw and vegan, armed with granola bars in case I left every meal hungry. The granola bars never saw the light of day. Everything was so delicious and completely satisfying, mostly due to a generous portion of nuts usually blended up into a creamery version of itself. I became semi-obsessed with the way they can be used to add texture to completely transform vegan dishes into hearty comfort food. There are about a million ways to do this with mushrooms and call it a pate. If you don't believe me, try googling it and you will find everything from curried nuts, to buttery french style classics, and even some with a bunch of fresh herbs that look interesting. When I started looking for a recipe, however, I wanted something close to what I had at this yoga retreat. It was sumptuous and creamy with some chunkiness preserved for texture. I picked up hints of thyme and a vinegar of some sort that gave it just the right amount of tang. I noticed some recipes included, tofu, others beans, all mixed with nuts so I decided to go for all three. I know they say a variety of mushrooms is best, but plain old white button mushrooms are pretty flavorful after their flavor is brought out with a saute in coconut oil. Give it a try and I hope you enjoy!

Mushroom Cashew Pate
1/4 cup extra firm tofu
2 cups white button mushrooms
1 teaspoon thyme (fresh, use a full tablespoon if using dry)
1 cup of great northern beans cooked (I used canned)
1 cup cashews (don't soak them first, the harder they are the more texture you'll get)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Give the onions, mushrooms, and garlic a rough chop. It's all going into the food processor anyway, but small enough to cook evenly in the pan. Heat the coconut oil and add the onions first. Let them sit about 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms with some salt,pepper and thyme cooking until the mushrooms release their liquid (10-15 minutes). While that's cooking, add the tofu, beans, and cashews to your blender (I like to put the cashews on the bottom so they hit the blade first). Pour the mushroom mixture on top and blend until it starts to get creamy, but still retains some nut texture. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Dip, crackers, celery, carrots, and anything else you've got to enjoy a full lunch. You'll be surprised at how filling it is!

The Secret to Easy Indian Food - Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Onion, Garlic, Ginger

Red kidney bean curry with cauliflower

For years, I found Asian food way too intimidating to experiment with at home. I have always loved going out for Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, and especially Thai food, but my palette never has been able to identify all of the flavors so I wouldn't know where to begin. I was inspired by my absolute favorite food blogger Deb of Smitten Kitchen and noticed a common theme in all of her and most other approachable Indian recipes. They all start with sauteing the herbs first along with the garlic, onion, and ginger to maximize their flavor before adding additional ingredients. These 6 simple things make for the foundation of so many delicious healthy and plant based dishes you wouldn't believe what you can do. Deb has a page dedicated to recipes from a cumin junkie and they are all wonderful. The indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes is remarkably filling for an all vegetable dish and I find meat-eaters never complain when it's served as a main course. I made one of my all time favorites last night, the red kidney bean curry that I love to add any vegetables I have on hand to. It calls for cumin seed in addition to cumin, but I've never had it on hand and the dish always comes out delicious. You'll notice it involves sauteing the spices right away when the tomato sauce is added and yum yum is that a fragrant wonderful experience! I made it last night with cauliflower and jalapeno as a sub for the green chilies, poured it over rice, and it re-heats into perfect hot lunch the next day. Remember to use glass travel containers whenever lunch is being heated to avoid chemicals leeching into the food!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lunch on the Go - Cilantro Lime Sardine Salad and Avocado

This is one of my favorite quick lunches that I throw together especially if I have a lot of cilantro that is getting close to turning. I obviously didn't put it together as beautifully as Anjali does, but smearing some avocado on an Ak Mak cracker and topping it with the salad makes for an excellent bite and an easy meal with great crunch that can be eaten anywhere. I found it several months ago on the Kitchn blog and it's become a solid go-to. The author's blog Eat Your Greens is also a great place for healthy veg heavy lunch and dinner dishes.

Washington Post asks, "Is organic better for your health?"

image via 

Today's Washington Post includes an article posing the question Is organic better for your health? A look at milk, meat, eggs, produce and fish. The first couple of lines place two of the most compelling reasons to buy organic to the side: whether organic agriculture is better for the environment and whether organic livestock live better lives. I found it hard to keep reading with a pin in those major issues, especially considering that impacts on the environment have a direct link on our health.

The article goes on to compare organic and conventional by category starting with milk. I was impressed they mentioned the higher levels of IGF-I in non-organic milk and its links to cancer. It also addresses the presence of the bovine growth hormone rBGH, but concludes simply the FDA has deemed it safe. This is the same FDA that allows a host of products to be sold in the United States for consumption that are banned in most of the rest of the world. Their seal of approval gives me confidence that I won't be noticeably ill or dead within a day of consumption, but that's about it.

In its comparison of produce, the conclusion is that pesticides are more frequently present on the conventionally grown, but those levels do not have a universally agreed upon level risk. My question is, if there is some evidence that it may be a risk, shouldn't we avoid it until it's proven safe? Why is the responsibility of the scientific community to prove something is dangerous before we ban it from the food supply?

The Post's bottom line on meat is that risks are limited to bacteria and that the difference is that conventionally raised meat is more likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria, but organic meat is more likely to contain non-resistant bacteria. It even goes as far as to say, "There doesn’t seem to be much difference, health-wise, between organic or conventional meats." It fails to mention that conventionally raised beef is often so rife with E.coli that it has to be treated with ammonia before it can be served to humans. The conclusion on eggs is almost identical although with meat, milk, and eggs it concedes that there are slightly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids they deem negligible. There is no mention of the contribution that all of the antibiotics used on farm animals is making to drug-resistant bacteria and the huge danger this poses to our society.

We rely on the media and journalists to hold organizations such as the FDA accountable and investigate potential corruption. Where are the hard-hitting questions to this agency that has been rife with conflicts of interest? Not a single mention of the many high-ranking officials of the FDA ties to monsanto and other leaders of agribusiness. The first two lines leaving aside the impacts corporate farming has on the environment was insulting enough, but if the focus is on health, at least give us the full story on who is supposed to be looking out for ours. I'm disappointed in my local paper today.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lunch on the Go - Taco Salad with a twist

Let's face it. Lunch salads packed in tupperware can get real boring, real fast. Yes the idea of eating a variety of raw vegetables at lunch every day is a health conscious ideal, but we've got to keep it interesting. If you're like me, that craving for crunch will lead me straight to something I'll regret in the potato chip aisle if I can't really enjoy my lunch. A great option to keep salads really creative and interesting is to add a sweet taste with some kind of fruit. There are standard favorites like a roquefort salad that has grapes or pears with dark greens, walnuts, and cheese, but this concept can be applied to all different styles of salads. When I was in Mexico City, I discovered the amazing treat that is diced pineapple sprinkled on tacos. It's usually paired with a lot of cilantro and onions and the sweetness pairs beautifully with the fat of a rich meat. This same concept can be applied to a basic taco salad for a sweet and spicy kick that will keep your palette interested and satisfied.

Pineapple Taco Salad
For 2 large lunch time salads:
4 cups salad greens of your choice
1/2 lime
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed
1 medium avocado, diced
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/4 orange/red/yellow pepper, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons onion, diced
1/4 cup pineapple, diced (canned works fine!)
1 tablespoon greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)

Wash greens with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and water. Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss. Split into two travel containers. Slice 1/2 into 2 quarter size wedges and place one in each container. Add optional greek yogurt if desired (I find it's best to mix this in right before eating). Squeeze 1/4 lime over the whole salad before you enjoy.
Add a handful of tortilla chips if you aren't counting the calories and want more crunch!