Happy October! An apology, and a challenge

Hi friends! I have been silent on this blog for a while, and I apologize — sometimes life just gets in the way, ya know?

One of the things that kept me busy this month was participating the Susan G. Komen 3-day, 60-mile walk for breast cancer research. As breast cancer awareness month wraps up, I wanted to share a photo of my sister and I at the finish line:

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With the flood of information we’ve received about breast cancer prevention this month, we may be paralyzed by the plethora of advice to do everything from getting a mammogram and exercising daily, to completing self-examinations and eliminating BPA from our diet… and we end up doing nothing at all! So my challenge to you is to pick one goal, and make it a habit. Mine? Less processed foods! What’s yours?

Start Up to Watch: Good Eggs brings local food to local people

Good Eggs - Screenshot of homepage

Good Eggs’ Home Page

As if I needed another reason to want to live in the San Fransisco Bay area… A brilliant new start up, Good Eggs, just set up shop in the area. This website serves as “a hub to bring people and food closer together.” The site features local farmers and small businesses that bring local, real food to the people in the area, making eating fresh, local produce easeir than ever!

If you live nearby, check out the site: www.goodeggs.com. For the rest of us, let’s hope they expand soon! In the mean time, we can take advantage of their blog, The Eater’s Digest, (https://www.goodeggs.com/digest), which already has some great content including information on seasonal foods, infographics and recipes.

Food Attitudes and Perceptions – An Infographic

This is an interesting infographic about the Americans’ attitudes toward food. Looks like it’s time to make some changes.

fueled by vegetables

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Garlic Almond Pesto

I’m not a big fan of condiments like ketchup or mustard, but I love sauces – particularly pesto, which you can use on sandwiches, pastas, roasted potatoes, with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, even on scrambled eggs. I decided to whip up a batch of my own, but didn’t want to splurge on expensive pine nuts. This recipe uses almonds instead, and doesn’t taste very different from the pine nut version. This is a smooth, garlicky pesto sauce adapted from this version posted by the Food Network.

Garlic Almond Pesto

Garlic Almond Pesto

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almonds
8 cloves of garlic
5 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Mince garlic cloves in food processor. Sautee in 1/2 tsp olive oil until browned.
2. Put the almonds and garlic into the foot processor and blend until chopped (20 seconds).
3. Add the basil, salt and pepper and chop for 15 more seconds.
4. Pour in the olive oil slowly until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. (You may not need all of the olive oil.)
5. Add the Parmesan and blend for 60 seconds.

You can use it right away, or store it in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top.

Southwestern Quinoa – Vegetarian and Gluten-free

I love, love Mexican food. Beans? Good. Peppers? Yum. Avocados? Pile ’em on! Rice? …Eh… can kinda take it or leave it. Today I decided to leave it behind by substituting quinoa for the rice in the typical burrito bowl. Deliciosa! 

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Southwestern Quinoa
Makes 4 servings 

1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 red peppers, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 small onions, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 ripe avocados, sliced into bite-size pieces
1 can of black beans, mostly drained (leave a small amount of liquid for flavor)
1 tbsp. olive oil  
Optional: salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, cayenne, chili powder.

 

  1. Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. While quinoa cooks, heat the olive oil for 1-2 minutes in large frying pan. 
  3. Add peppers and onions to frying pan. Stir consistently, and cook until the vegetables reach your desired consistency and begin to brown.  
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  4. Add beans to quinoa and mix; cook for 1-2 minutes until heated through. (If you like a bit of heat to your food, add some cayenne or chili powder at this point.)
  5. Combine vegetables, quinoa & beans and avocado pieces.
  6. Top with desired garnishes – I definitely recommend the cheese! 

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese – Gluten Free

I must admit something to you, blogworld: Despite my love for fine food, my favorite meal is still the same as most four-year olds’. To say I love macaroni and cheese is an understatement. For my entire first grade year, I refused to eat anything but macaroni and cheese for both breakfast and lunch. My more mature second-grade self made the sacrifice of adding PB&J into the mix now and then (in the name of nutritional balance, of course) but I have never tired of this delicious comfort food. This recipe uses three types of cheese, including one that is infused with French Onion flavor to give it a unique and savory taste.

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese

2 servings quinoa pasta shells (or any pasta will do)
2 ounces swiss gruyere, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp cream cheese (gluten-free)
1 wedge Light French Onion Laughing Cow cheese
3 tbsp half and half
1 tsp butter

  1. Cook pasta as directed and drain.
  2. Place pasta back in pot.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pasta and cook on low, stirring continuously until all ingredients are melted and evenly distributed. If your sauce is too thick, add more half and half as needed.

You can also add some great mix-ins to this classic mac: caramelized onions, broccoli, peas, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. What’s your favorite mix in?

Gluten-free mac and cheese

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

It’s not very often that I am inspired by a meal I have during a meeting at work, but today was an exception. An outside caterer brought us a salad in a cilantro cumin dressing, and it was such a great combination that I had to make my own version. Here is a southwestern spin on the classic potato salad, made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to save some calories and add protein.

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

2 sweet potatoes, cubed
6 red potatoes, cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 avocados, cubed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved long ways (I also squeezed the juices out)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Dressing Ingredients
1 5.3 ounce container of Greek yogurt
2 tbsp half and half cream
1/4 tsp cumin
5 tbsps fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp minced garlic (you may want more, but start with this)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp white vinegar
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro Cumin Lime Potato Salad

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Put the red potatoes and sweet potatoes in a roasting pan. Cover with the olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and slightly brown on the edges.
  3. While the potatoes are roasting, make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients and whisking until smooth.
  4. When potatoes are done, combine all ingredients, cover with dressing, and mix until evenly distributed.
  5. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, which means it’s time for the beach, flip flops and barbeques. This is one of my favorite, Greek-inspired recipes that takes a summer staple and makes a unique and refreshing side dish for an outdoor party.

The combination of ingredients may seem a bit unusual, but the sweet and salty flavors of the fruit and cheese blend naturally, while the mint adds a subtle, refreshing finish to each bite.

I recently served this to my Yia-Yia, who looked surprised and told me, “You know, this looks really odd, but it’s so delicious!” I hope you think so, too.

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad
1/4 watermelon, cubed
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
6-8 leaves fresh mint, cut into small pieces

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Food for Thought: Produce Labeling

produce labelsYou know those little stickers on fruits and vegetables ? Well, as it turns out, the numbers printed on them have a meaning beyond price. Here’s a trick I just learned:

If the sticker has…

four digits, it is a conventionally grown product, meaning that it is grown with all the pesticides and fertilizers that organic produce lack
five digits and begins with an eight, it is a genetically modified food
five digits and begins with a nine, it is organic

I think this is especially useful for the genetically modified food groups, since grocers don’t put up signs for that the way they do for organic produce. You will also be able to tell if some produce is mislabeled as organic.  Be aware that there are some grocers who don’t follow these guidelines – but it’s a good rule of thumb!

Food for Thought: Vegetarian Seeking Protein

When I tell people I’m a vegetarian, the typical response is, “But how do you get enough protein?!” – and the answer, really, is that I get it everywhere: vegetables, whole wheat pastas, eggs, beans, cheese, milk, yogurt.

Most vegetarians don’t have a problem fitting enough protein into their diet as long as they are varying the foods they eat. But it is difficult to find good, vegetarian sources of complete protein. A complete source of protein has all nine amino acids that our bodies need, packed together in one food item.

Before you start to worry about what you’re missing as a vegetarian, you should know that the human body is pretty amazing and combines different types of amino acids from different foods you have throughout the day, so that it’s not necessary to always have a complete protein. (Another good source of complete protein is quinoa.)

Protein PowderBut, to make it easy on yourself, one great source of a complete protein is whey protein powder. It is high in protein (about 16-23 g per scoop) but low in fat and cholesterol. It is also what is considered a “fast” protein, meaning that it is easily soluble and easily digested, so that it is absorbed quickly for fast energy. A protein shake for breakfast can even replace your morning coffee.

The trick with protein powder is to disguise the taste – because let’s be honest, no one really likes the taste – with other ingredients. I’ve found that peanut butter covers it up nicely in shakes, and you can also put some protein powder in baked goods – get creative! Try this recipe for a Peanut Butter Banana shake.