World Vegetarian Day
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to celebrate World Vegetarian Day. Take part by going meat-free for the day with any of the following recipes:
Soup and salad always makes for a great lunch. Try some Apple Butternut Soup, Ginger Peanut Soup or Mushroom Soup. In a hurry? Throw together a Kale and Avocado Salad, Vegetarian Waldorf Salad, Pear and Blue Cheese Salad or a Nori Wrap.
Last by not least, don’t forget dessert!
Okay, we aren’t talking about those cute little “furry” chia pets today, but I do want to talk about chia seeds. Turns out, chia seeds are actually a teeny, tiny nutritional powerhouse! Because of it’s hydrating and energizing characteristics, this ancient wonder food is said to have been used by Aztec warriors during conquests and by Indians in the Southwest and Mexico as an energy food to keep them nourished during long trading treks.
So, what do you get by eating them (rather than watching them grow on a clay animal figure)? Chia seeds are packed with those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, protein and so much fiber that they have a unique ability to absorb up to nine times their weight in water. In fact, mixing the seeds with a liquid actually causes a gelatinous reaction (in less than 15 minutes) which produces a thicker substance that can be mixed into things like sauces, soups, and smoothies to increase the volume of the food without increasing the calories.
Just one to two tablespoons per day is plenty, and since it is easily digested and has such a mild flavor, you can easily add the raw seeds to your diet by eating them plain; tossing into salads, yogurt, puddings or smoothies; or even adding them to baked goods. Just a warning though, DO NOT eat the seeds that come with a chia pet (they may have been grown with pesticides), instead buy them in bulk inexpensively at a local health food store like a co-op or order them online here or here.
By the way, Dr. Oz also gives chia seeds his stamp of approval on Oprah, check out the Pumpkin-Chia Seed Muffins that he presented on the show. You can find some more interesting recipes and information here.
It seems as though spring has finally sprung here in upstate NY (thankfully!) and so marks the coming of asparagus season. Since it’s available seemingly year round in some of our big-box groceries these days it may be easy to forget that the freshest, most tasty, asparagus shows up right about now if you are getting it locally. But it’s only available for a relatively short period, usually only around 6 weeks in most parts of of the U.S.
Aside from its delicious flavor and versatility in many dishes(see the recipe links below for some simple dishes and downright daring ways to try asparagus), there are many nutritional benefits to these beautiful spears. Asparagus is an excellent source of Folate and Vitamins A, C, and K, just to name a few.
To pick up some of your own, look for bright green stalks with plump, tightly closed, tips. To store, before sticking them in the refrigerator, rinse with cold water, pat dry and wrap the base with the damp paper towel or store standing up in about an inch of water. Eat within 2-3 days for the best flavor and nutritional value.
As I already mentioned, asparagus lends itself to many types of dishes; you can eat it raw, boil it, steam it, stir-fry it, the possibilities are endless. I like to toss some chopped spears in with scrambled eggs or serve the whole spears as a side dish by roasting them in the oven (about 10 mins. at 450) with a touch of olive oil and seasonings like thyme and rosemary.
Here are few other suggestions to help you take advantage of asparagus season this year:
- Cream of Asparagus Soup
- Penne Pasta with Asparagus
- Morel Bread Pudding
- Aspargus Ribbon Salad
- Asparagus Risotto
- Asparagus and Wild Rice Salad
- Asparagus Bread
- Asparagus Cookies (yes, asparagus cookies!)
Nori – The Easy Way
Nori is probably most commonly known as that little black wrapper that holds sushi rolls together. But it’s not just a handy wrapper for your sushi, it’s actually another sea vegetable that is packed with all kinds of good stuff like iodine, vitamin K, a wide range of minerals, protein and lignans (cancer protecting plant compounds).
I do like sushi, but have been slightly intimidated to try it at home, and now thanks to some inspiration from this recipe at Domino Magazine, I have found a quick and easy way to get a little more sea veggies into my diet.
Instead of using a sheet of nori to roll everything up into a neat, little, cylinder shape, this method uses a big leaf of romaine to hold everything together and puts the nori on the inside. The nori is first smeared with a miso paste and then used to line the romaine before piling on lots of other veggies and sprouts, so you end up with more of a wrap (or a taco depending on how full you make it) than the traditional roll. In the wrap pictured above I used a favorite Sweet White Miso with carrots, sprouts, avocado, scallions, and a dash of cayenne pepper. It was not only quick, but delicious and satisfying too.
Sea veggies like nori can also make a great addition to salads and soups boosting the nutritional value and adding a natural salty flavor. To learn more about other sea vegetables check out this great primer from a co-op in California.
What Kind of Green Are You Having Today?
Would you believe that I put the entire pile of swiss chard and kale pictured above in a smoothie this morning for breakfast? Yep, just that, blended with a little water, a banana and a half, and some fresh mint leaves for a delicious “green smoothie” breakfast. Why? Well, while many people will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, I decided to do a different kind of green this year – a 3 day Green Smoothie Queen Challenge.
The Green Smoothie Queen Challenge is the brainchild of two wildly creative ladies who call themselves the Raw Divas. The purpose is to get into the habit of eating more leafy greens by incorporating them into smoothies. Because who doesn’t like a smoothie? Greens are fairly absent in most people’s diets but are actually an amazing source of not only vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals such as Calcium, but fiber and even protein too. And, according to the Divas, they are wonderfully energizing. The rules are simple: commit to just 3 days and replace just breakfast with smoothie or go all day.
After only signing up last Thursday the Raw Divas have already sent me a few encouraging emails complete with tips, recipes and a shopping list to get me prepped. Similar to my Banana Fudgie Sludgie, these smoothies incorporate fruits (to assist in the flavor department) with a big bunch of any of the typical leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, celery and even parsley. The smoothies make a wonderful vehicle for getting all the benefits of leafy greens with little digestive work, which leaves you with leftover energy and lots of fresh little nutrients going to work in your body.
Get on the Raw Divas’ mailing list if you want to participate in the next challenge. Until then, try the Banana Fudgie Sludgie or some of these green smoothie ideas. Play with different greens and fruits and adjust the ratios to suit your liking, as it’s really just a concoction of a little bit of water, fruit and lots of leafy greens. I’d love to hear about what you come up with!
I had never heard of Kombucha until Maya from A Recipe For Wellness recommended it to me. Always interested in trying new things (but not yet ready to try to make my own), I picked up a bottle of GT’s Original 100% Raw, 100% Organic Kombucha at Whole Foods.
This effervescent drink is cultured for 30 days, and like yogurt (or sauerkraut) is fermented and “alive” with active enzymes. People have been making and drinking Kombucha since the B.C. years, and there are some phenomenal health claims surrounding it. Nobel Prize winner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that drinking Kombucha helped him survive the Siberian slave camps and the maker of GT’s Kombucha was inspired to share it after he and his mother believe it helped prevent the spread of her breast cancer.
In addition to these amazing stories, Kombucha is also claims to help regulate digestion, metabolism, immune system, liver function, cell integrity and healthy skin and hair. Although, they do include an asterisk on the label that does clarify that these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. (However, that doesn’t mean that these health benefits don’t exist.) As usual, it is always best to do your research, and consult your doctor or nutritionist if you want to try the natural healing powers of something like Kombucha.
Personally speaking, I will continue to drink it because I love the taste! (I think it tastes a bit like carbonated apple cider.) I loved the original flavor, and am excited to try the Multi-Green which actually has algae in it. Liz gets her Kombucha at the Co-op, and recommends Strawberry and Grape.
Have you tried this wonderful little seed yet? It’s a hulled hemp seed. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, packed with all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and with a balanced source of essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, & 9), just a couple tablespoons delivers around 10 grams of protein and a healthy dose of these “good fats.”
I’ve been adding it to my post-workout morning smoothie and it’s also a must have for this tasty dressing. But you can also try it sprinkled into salads, cereals or as a non-dairy milk-like beverage when blended with water and dates. You can even get pretty creative with these healthy hemp recipes.
Eat Your Brussels Sprouts!
Believe it or not, this past fall was the first time I have ever had brussels sprouts! Just the mention of them usually evokes strong feelings one way or the other for most people, they either love them or, most likely, hate them.
I grew up having a balanced, home-cooked meal almost every night with everyone in the family at the table together, but I think that someone must have disliked them as we never had brussels sprouts that I can recall. In fact, it was last fall when my Mom was visiting that inspired me to give them a try.
We first tried them boiled and plain, which I’ll admit was pretty boring. But I’ve since tried several different recipes and my two favorites are this one and this one (pictured above). My husband actually asks me to buy brussel sprouts now!
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous veggie similar to cabbage, high in vitamins C and K, and full of fiber. But one of the most valuable nutrients from these little cabbage-like heads is sulforaphane, a phytonutrient that helps boost the body’s ability to protect against diseases like cancer. And they are usually in season this time of year, so don’t shy away, find some local brussels sprouts and and try one of the recipes above.
I love local fruits and veggies, but I like to use the winter months (when local veggies are a bit harder to find) to experiment with non-local veggies, such as jicama and kohlrabi.
My friend Susie was the first to tell me about Kohlrabi (until then I had never heard of it) and I took her advice of just eating it raw. To do this, you have to first cut off the long leafy stalks (which are in fact, edible) and cut away the outer skin. Unlike jicama, which is thirst-quenching and sweet, kohlrabi in crunchy with a flavorful kick (similar to a radish).
Despite their different tastes, Kohlrabi is also a common ingredient in slaw but can also be roasted. Another common trait that Kohlrabi shares with jicama is that it is low in calories and is also a good source of fiber and vitamin C (One cup of raw kohlrabi contains 140% of the RDA of vitamin C.)
So if you are looking for something unique, try some jicama or kohlrabi. Or if you are looking for a veggie that is more common but tends to get a bad rap, check back tomorrow when Liz will cover the vegetable that everyone loves to hate (until they try it!).
It may look like a potato, but the jicama (pronounced HEE-ca-ma) is far from your average spud, and unless you live near the southern border, it is not likely you will find one at your local farmers market.
Jicama (also known as the Mexican Turnip or Yam Bean) is a tuberous root vegetable native to Mexico and Central America. It also is a great snack that is low in calories (approximately 50 calories per 1 cup serving) and high in fiber (6 grams per serving) and vitamin C.
This vegetable is thirst-quenching and slightly sweet. I like it plain or lightly salted, and also use it as a healthy tortilla chip alternative that tastes great dipped in salsa or guacamole. You can spice it up by adding a little lime juice and chili powder or can eat them as raw-food-friendly fries. Jicama is also commonly used in cole slaw recipes.
So next time you are in the produce section of your market, don’t pass by this root veggie just because of it’s rough and rugged exterior. If you do, you’ll be missing out on the sweet and healthy treat waiting on the inside.