Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! I have very fond memories of the adorably lame Chia Pets – which apparently you can still purchase in even more creatively-formed sculptures, like Barack Obama and Scooby Doo!
But now, Chia has a more health-related meaning to me, thanks to Chia Seeds, which offer a range of health benefits. I actually don’t know if you can harvest the seeds from the plant shaped like our current president, but you can definitely buy them at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for the awesome benefits.
Chia seeds are known to:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Provide protein – in higher percentages than other seeds and grains
- Contain antioxidants
- Add fiber to your diet
- Provide a heaping portion of Omegas – 1 tbsp of the stuff has 2.9g Omega-3, and 1g Omega-6
- Stabilize blood sugar
Because Chia seeds do not have a strong flavor – they are just slightly nutty tasting – they can be added into meals and snacks you already eat to give you all of the health benefits without major impact to the food. You can sprinkle them in yogurt, add them to smoothies, or top a salad with them.
Here, though, I made the Chia Seeds the main event. This recipe was adapted from the one on the back of my Chia Seed packet, and couldn’t be easier! With this pudding, the Chia seeds soak up the coconut milk, expanding into little bubbles that give the pudding the consistency of tapioca. This can be eaten as a dessert or snack – but to be honest, it’s probably going to be my breakfast tomorrow! Hey, at least it’s not ice cream…
1/4 cup Chia Seeds
1 cup coconut milk
3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsp honey
- Combine all ingredients, stirring well.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until pudding is thick and Chia seeds have expanded.
Resources: What’s Cooking America, EatRight.org
I like to think of Portobello mushrooms as the steak of the vegetarian world. These mushrooms are thick with a meaty texture and, unlike other mushrooms, they can stand on their own as a complete meal. Or, you can serve them as a hearty side dish or slice them up in a serious salad.
Portobellos can seem a bit intimidating because you clean them differently than other vegetables. This is how I prepare them:
- Remove the stem by simply pulling it out with one hand while gently gripping the cap with the other hand.
- Scrape out the gills on the underside of the mushroom with a spoon. The gills are safe to eat, but tend to have a slimier flavor and lead to ‘dirtier’ looking dishes.
- Use a damp paper towel to wipe down the entire mushroom.
There are some great YouTube videos showing the step-by-step process, too. It only takes a few minutes, I promise!
Why you should eat mushrooms: The benefits
- A Portobello mushroom has about as much potassium as a banana.
- They’re chock-full of antioxidants – and don’t lose their cancer-fighting power when cooked, so you can enjoy them however you like them!
- They also don’t lose their minerals and nutrients when cooked – which include niacin, selenium and copper.
- They’re delicious.
Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms & Red Peppers with Feta and Avocado
4 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and gutted as described above
1 red pepper, cut length-ways into four large slices
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp thyme
Crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 avocado, sliced, to garnish
- Marinate the mushrooms and peppers in the olive oil, balsamic, garlic, rosemary and thyme for at least one hour (but no more than six or the mushrooms will break down).
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Place mushrooms and peppers on an oven-proof pan and cook for about 20 minutes. You will notice that the mushrooms bleed out much of their moisture – this is normal.
- Sprinkle feta cheese on each mushroom – I like to put the cheese on the underside of the mushroom to make use of the natural cup shape.
- Once cheese is melted, serve. Place one piece of pepper on the bottom, followed by a Portobello and garnished with avocado slices.
This Sunday, the only thing I’m looking forward to more than the Super Bowl commercials is the Super Bowl food. While wings and beef-covered nachos may be the norm, vegetarians can have some football food fun, too! There are plenty of amazing vegetarian and gluten-free options for celebrating the big game. Here is a list of some of my favorites, with links to recipes:
–Vegetarian Bean Chili
–Mango guacamole with corn chips
-Vegetarian nachos –Just add your favorite ingredients to corn chips. I go with vegetarian refried beans and cheddar cheese (baked in the toaster oven until the cheese melts), with guacamole and salsa for dipping.
-Gluten-free crackers with brie and raspberry jam
–White cheddar cranberry dip –I haven’t actually tried this yet, but it looks amazing!
–Spinach artichoke dip with corn chips
–Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese made with gluten-free pasta
–Seven layer dip
What will you be cooking up this weekend?
Okay folks, here’s a super easy and delicious lunch idea with lots of protein to keep you going all day. I give you: Mango Bean Salad! I put it on a bed of spinach and spring lettuce, but I could see this as a good topping for a veggie burger or as a quick side dish.
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained (in the summer you can use corn from the cob)
1 red bell pepper, cut up into small pieces
2 medium avocados, sliced into small pieces
1 large mango, cut into small chunks
1 tsp olive oil
dash of salt to taste
Mix all ingredients. That’s it!
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with going gluten-free is finding good bread – which is why I’m so psyched to have discovered a bread that makes a good grilled cheese! I like Udi’s Whole Grain Bread – it seems dense and heavy when it’s in the package, but don’t be fooled… Once grilled or toasted, the texture becomes soft and light, and, as you can tell from this picture, gets the perfect crunchy toasted deliciousness on the outside.
For this version, I used brie (my favorite is St. Andre’s) and Trader Joe’s Fig Butter. I also plan on making this using real fruit slices – apples? pears? yum!
How do you make your grilled cheese gourmet? I’ll be looking for new options with my new bread!
The most important meal of the day is also my most boring, meaning I have eggs almost every single day. (I’m really banking that the recent research showing eggs don’t raise cholesterol is true! I can’t get enough of them.) So, I am trying to switch it up at least once a week, and this breakfast quinoa is a good way to get protein – plus, you can make a big batch and save it for future breakfasts. When you warm it up again, add a bit of extra milk and you’re good to go.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings):
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s tri color quinoa, because it’s pretty!)
1 cup coconut almond milk (or any milk)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 apple, chopped into small pieces and covered in a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning
1/4 cup dried cranberries
- Combine quinoa and coconut almond milk in saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the cinnamon and sugar and combine. Simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the apple pieces and dried cranberries and combine.
The recent juicing craze hasn’t appealled to me very much. In fact, I have taken my “I’ll-have-my-fruit-with-the-fiber-please” stance very seriously.
…But a gal can change.
The flip-flop happened on my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, when I was served a bright green juice with my breakfast. The waiter told me it was a traditional Mexican juice, so, holding my breathe, I decided to give it a try…
And I loved it. I asked for the recipe, and it turns out the green color comes from cactus (not kale or spinach, as I had fearfully suspected).
Cactus, though fairly uncommon in food in the U.S., is packed with vitamins and minerals, and studies cite its ability to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and prevent diabetes.
Where can you find cactus? Farmer’s Markets and speciality food stores like Whole Foods often keeps it in stock (and they slice it up for you — no cactus-related injuries necessary!)
I still won’t be purchasing my own juicer anytime soon, but this recipe will have me pulling out the blender now and then!
4 sprigs of parsley
1 nopal cactus
the juice of 1 grapefruit
60 grams (or a little over 2 ounces) natural pineapple
1/2 piece of celery
the juice of 3 oranges
Place all ingredients in the blender and mix it up. Then enjoy!
Looking for a way to spice up your breakfast routine? Try this version of Huevos Rancheros. I was inspired by a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and thought I’d create my own version.
Ingredients (to make 1 serving):
1 corn tortilla
2 tbsp vegetarian refried beans (I use them right out of the can)
2 tbsp Mexican shredded cheese mix
cooking spray or olive oil
Salsa, salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small skillet, heat up the cooking spray or olive oil with a low flame. When heated, brown one side of the tortilla and flip it over.
2. Spread the beans evenly over the tortilla, and then cover with cheese. Cover the pan to allow the cheese to melt. Remove the tortilla and place on a plate.
3. Fry the two eggs to your desired consistency. Place on tortilla.
4. Garnish with salt, pepper and salsa.
Hurricane Sandy swept through New Jersey this week – which meant it was time to use up anything perishable in the refrigerator while we still had power. I had almost two pounds of carrots in my fridge, because every time I go to the supermarket I convince myself that carrots could become my favorite afternoon snack… which it never does. This soup, on the other hand, is much more appealing – the ginger, cumin and thyme add a depth in flavor that makes boring old carrots more exciting. And it’s a warm, hearty soup for a cold, rainy day. Stay safe, everyone!
1 3/4 pounds carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 small sweet onion, chopped into small pieces
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Place carrots and half the olive oil in pan, mix, and place in the oven. Broil for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
3. While the carrots are cooking, bring the broth to boil. Add the ginger, thyme and cumin and simmer.
4. While the broth is heating up, brown the onions in the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic and brown.
5. When the carrots are ready, combine the carrots, onion and garlic and broth mixture.
6. Use an immersion blender to combine the mixture until smooth.
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
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
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.