Category Archives: vegetables


Summer Vegetable Soup - The Ingredient Guru Recipe

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup

I love my Instant Pot

Ever since I got an Instant Pot® (IP) it has become my favorite appliance. I use it so much that I got tired of dragging it up from the cupboard under the counter and now it lives on my kitchen counter full-time.  It gets used regularly for a wide variety of dishes.  That includes for summer meals. 

Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean that we should not eat soup. And while there are lots of delicious cold summer soups, like this amazing gazpacho, even hot soups can be a wonderful summertime dish because they take advantage of the season and what’s fresh.  Of course just because we want to enjoy summer soups, doesn’t mean we want the heat and humidity in our kitchen that comes along with cooking soup. That’s where the instant pot is such an amazing kitchen tool. it takes so much less time and therefore adds less heat to the kitchen.

This recipe is so quick and easy to put together that it’s sure to become one of your summertime (or anytime) favorites. And one of the best things about it is that it’s actually a pretty flexible recipe. Don’t have green beans? Use lima beans.  Or asparagus. Don’t have zucchini, add mushrooms. You really can add a wide variety of vegetables to this.  (pssst…I’ve sometimes been known to clean out my crisper drawer by simply throwing a bunch of veggies into the instant pot, following the general proportions of this recipe, adding bone broth, herbs, and letting the IP do it’s magic.)

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 4 large stalks celery, chopped
  4. 4 large carrots, sliced
  5. 1 medium red onion, chopped
  6. 1 cup green beans, cut into pieces
  7. 1 cup zucchini or summer squash, diced
  8. 8 cups bone broth
  9. 1 pound red potatoes, quartered
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  11. 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  12. 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  13. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped
  14. 2 cups fresh baby greens such as kale, spinach or arugula
  15. Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  16. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  17. Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved or grated
Instructions
  1. Add olive oil to liner pot and set function to Sauté
  2. Add garlic, celery, carrots, and onion,
  3. Sauté until onion is wilting and golden in color, approximately 4-5 minutes
  4. Add green beans, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper
  5. Add bone broth and stir to combine
  6. Put on lid and lock into place, setting the vent to “Sealing”
  7. Set pot to “Manual” for 3 minutes
  8. When cooking time is finished, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure
  9. Remove lid and add baby greens and lemon juice, stirring to combine well
  10. Serve immediately topped with freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
  11. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

More delicious summer recipes

Here are a few more fabulous summertime recipes

Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Smoothies are a familiar way to get fruit into your diet. But you can take it one step further by adding veggies and healthy fat. This means you’re not simply getting a dessert disguised as a healthy snack, you’re actually getting several nutrient dense servings of fruit and vegetables.

If you’re familiar with the idea of smoothie bowls, then you know that there are a wide variety of bowl types as well as a never-ending list of ingredients to choose from. Smoothie bowls are a great way for you to get a lot of nutrients in an easy to digest dish. So where do you start?

This article provides a smoothie recipe that you are really going to love. The Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl delivers great nutrition that’s easy to prepare and simply delicious.

Why You Should Try It

The reduced sugar in this smoothie is a definite plus. It’s more than just a fruit and fruit juice sugar bomb.  With the addition of leafy green veggies plus avocado for a healthy fat, you’re getting a more nutrient-dense smoothie. And the toppings are booster foods that add a delicious and nutritious extra.

  • Dark leafy greens are always a good choice. Rich in antioxidants and important nutrients they tend to be high in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and more. Due to their bitter nature, they’re also great for heart health and can help stimulate the liver.
  • The bromelain in pineapple aids the digestive function. A fabulous source of vitamin C and manganese, pineapple is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant-rich food. 
  • Avocados are a good source of pantothenic acid and fiber, but they also deliver a nutrient dense punch with vitamin K, copper, and folate. Studies have shown them to be supportive of cardiovascular health as well as helping to balance blood sugar.
  • Known for their phytonutrient dense qualities, blueberries are high in vitamin K, manganese and are a great source of anthocyanins. Research indicates that they are helpful for blood pressure regulation, memory support, and have anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Using green tea instead of juice not only cuts down on the sugar, but it also bumps the antioxidant qualities of this smoothie. Rich in the amino acid theanine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), green tea has been shown to be supportive for brain health, boosting the metabolism, protective of brain function, and it’s anti-carcinogenic.
  • And last but not least are the toppings. The seeds are wonderful sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The cacao is high in both fiber and iron as well as providing antioxidants and magnesium.

So all in all this smoothie is a great choice for real food nutrition. Either as a bowl or a traditional smoothie, it definitely delivers a nutrient-dense punch.

Powehouse Summer Smoothie Bowl
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup organic baby kale or spinach
  2. 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
  3. 3/4 cup green tea
  4. ½ cup pineapple
  5. ½ of an avocado
  6. 1 scoop collagen protein powder
Topping suggestions
  1. ¼ cup granola
  2. 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds or mixed sprouted seeds
  3. 1 Tbsp. flax seeds
  4. 2 Tbsp. cacao nibs
  5. 1-2 Tbsp. blueberries
  6. 1 Tbsp. goji berries
Instructions
  1. Start by blending the blueberries, green tea and leafy greens
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  3. If a thinner consistency is desired (for a smoothie rather than a bowl) add a little more tea
  4. If a thicker consistency is desired then freeze the pineapple before adding to the blender
  5. Pour/scrape into a cup or bowl
  6. Use toppings of choice and garnish the smoothie as desired
  7. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

More delicious summer recipes

Here are a few more fabulous summertime recipes

 

Turnips, The Under Appreciated Root

A different kind of root vegetable

When thinking about root vegetables most people are familiar with carrots, potatoes, and onions. There are, however, a number of other root vegetables. One overlooked vegetable, in particular, is a great addition to the diet; especially when you’re looking to eat a rainbow that has more than green veggies in it. This amazingly healthy choice for root vegetables is turnips. This creamy-purple root vegetable is part of the Brassicaceae family and tends to be grown in temperate climates.  It has a similar look to beetroots; with a bulbous shape and large green leaves. Turnips are easily grown on a small scale in a backyard small garden or they can be planted in containers. All parts of the plant are edible, root, leaves, and sprouts from the seeds.

Nutrition in turnips

Turnips are a must have nutrition-packed vegetable for the diet. A delicious and filling low-calorie root vegetable, they provide dietary fiber plus numerous vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Bs, C, K, folate, magnesium, iron, and calcium, copper and phosphorous. Sprouts made from turnip seeds have been shown to have the second highest level of glucosinolates (mustard sprouts are the highest) which is highly anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.

Not only are these amazing vegetables delicious, but they are also versatile and can be enjoyed in different forms. Turnips can be added to stews, grills, appetizers. They can be steamed, mashed, slightly cooked, or roasted and used in the preparation of a variety of cuisines worldwide. Baby turnips are very tender and can even be eaten raw. Braced by their long shelf life, these veggies ideally should always be included on the grocery list. But you may be wondering how turnips benefit our health?

Health benefits of turnips

In addition to their wonderful flavor and versatility, it turns out there is a wide variety of ways that adding turnips to your diet can support good health

Fight Inflammation

Due to the high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, turnips are a highly anti-inflammatory food. Given the connection of inflammation to chronic health issues, adding anti-inflammatory foods, such as turnips and turnip greens, to the diet is a beneficial way to reduce risk factors for many different diseases.

Reduce the risk of chronic illnesses

Part of the nutritional content of turnips includes high levels of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C provides the body with superior defense against chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer by boosting the immunity of the body. It does this by protecting the cells from free radicals. In addition to Vitamin C, turnips are an excellent source of Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin which has been shown to be beneficial for reducing cancer risk, preventing osteoporosis, helpful against insulin resistance, supportive for cardiovascular health, and it and also be beneficial for supporting brain health in older adults.

Helpful for good digestion

The fiber content found in turnips does a great deal for our digestive system. Fiber promotes good bowel movements and is generally supportive of overall bowel health. Regular elimination, due to better fiber content in the diet, is frequently associated with better detoxification. Fiber also provides pre-biotic content, the food for the probiotics living in our gut, and helps to maintain a healthy system overall. A higher fiber diet means a stronger, more supportive microbiome and ultimately a healthier you.

May help support weight Loss

Turnips combine the advantage of high fiber and nutrient dense (lots of nutrients for very little calories) content. The fiber is supportive for gut health and can help contribute to satiety, the feeling of being full after eating which may in turn help with weight loss. This dietary fiber, found primarily in the roots, can help to boost the metabolism as well as controlling sugar levels in the body. This, in turn, can be part of the key to maintaining a healthy weight.

How to eat turnips

No matter how healthy turnips are the best part is how delicious they are. Here are a few ideas on some great ways to include turnips in your diet:

  • Baby turnips are very tender and tasty, these can be sliced and eaten raw or diced into salads
  • Turnip sprouts are a tangy addition to a salad or can be added to other dishes
  • Sauteed with the greens, some onions and a little garlic, turnips are mild and very delicious
  • Roasting turnips is a great way to bring out their flavor, either on their own or in combination with other root vegetables
  • Instead of potatoes consider boiling and then mashing turnips with a little butter, salt, and garlic. Or you can make a medley by combining different root vegetables and mashing them together
  • Turnips are also wonderful in soups and can be a fabulous way to get a little more veggie (and fiber) into your diet

 

Sources

photo courtesy of jackmac34

Replacing The Mighty Avocado

A Journey in Taste and Texture

Whether you have a general aversion to avocados or just an aversion to their cost — the price of avocados increased 125 percent in 2017 — you have plenty of healthy ingredient substitutions that not only save you money but diversify the taste and texture of a variety of dishes, guacamole included.

Guacamole

Don’t let an avocado shortage slow down your guac game. For each avocado used in your guacamole recipe, substitute one cup of steamed, blended spring peas, organic edamame or chopped asparagus. Check out our recipe for Sweet Pea Guacamole below.

Sauces, Dips and Spreads

Avocados give sauces and soups a unique, creamy texture few ingredients can replicate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same consistency without avocados–you just need to apply a little creativity.

  • Create the satisfying freshness of your favorite avocado dressing using Greek yogurt, cilantro, and an optional tablespoon or two of sour cream. For every avocado called for in the dressing recipe, substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves (minced or processed in).
  • Hummus makes a great substitute for avocado dip on its own, but you can add an avocado-esque touch with a few extra ingredients. To every ½ cup of chickpea hummus, add ½ cup steamed organic edamame, ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, ¼ cup basil or cilantro, 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  • Avocado toast went from fad to foodie staple almost overnight. Take the concept a step further with a clever, spreadable substitution, such as a chunky cashew spread. Soak cashews for a few hours and blend until coarse with a little water or stock and your secondary ingredients of choice, such as pesto, steamed squash, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or chipotle peppers.

Salads

With their lush consistency and laid-back taste, avocados complement just about any salad. No avocados, no fear! Try sliced peaches (briefly steamed), seared artichoke hearts or farmers cheese (for creaminess) in your next salad for an exciting new texture.

Southwestern Food

Southwestern-style cuisine and avocados go hand-in-hand–they contrast the spiciness and hearty textures of tacos, salsa, corn salads and other rustic dishes beautifully. Next time you need avos in tacos or other Southwestern dishes but come up short, try roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chayote squash, queso fresco, roasted cauliflower or oven-fried plantains instead.

 

 

Sweet Pea Guacamole
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Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups (1 pound) shelled spring peas, steamed for 2 minutes and cooled to room temperature
  2. • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. • ½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  4. • ¼ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  5. • 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  6. • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  7. • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more, if needed
  8. • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  9. • ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt, plus more to taste
  10. • Pinch of cumin
  11. • Pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  2. Adjust the consistency and seasoning as needed with olive oil and kosher salt.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Seasonal eating

If we choose to eat seasonally (and we should) we need to respect the foods that are available during certain seasons.  That means also paying attention to the needs of our body.  In the cooler months of the year, we are looking for comfort food.  Warming, nourishing foods that are deeply satisfying. Not the lighter, crisper salads and cooling foods of summer. That’s because winter is the settling in and deep, rooted nourishing time of year.  It’s perfect for hearty dishes like Shepherd’s Pie.

The versatility of shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie is a great dish because it is so versatile; a “crust”, a vegetable filling and a mashed root vegetable topping.  It makes a delicious meal served with say, a hearty salad, and a simple millet muffin. The crust can be made with ground meat or you can use a legume base, such as lentils. For the topping potatoes tend to be the most common. But sweet potatoes, a carrot and parsnip combination, or even turnips can be a delicious way to top off the pie.

One of my favorite dishes for this time of year is my vegetarian shepherd’s pie using lentils for the crust.  Because only half of my family are vegetarians, I usually make two pies, one with a ground turkey crust and one with a lentil crust.  This means there are plenty of tasty leftovers to keep everyone happy for a couple of days.

About lentils

Lentils, (Lens Esculenta), also known in Indian cuisine as dal, are a legume (as are all dried beans and peas).  While most legumes need to be soaked before cooking, lentils are very quick and easy to prepare. 

They come in different varieties, green, brown, black, yellow, orange, and red, although most of us are familiar with the green kind which is easily available.  Lentils are nutrient-dense powerhouses and their nutrition content includes being very high in fiber, folate, tryptophan, and manganese. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them good for healthy bones, fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, and help stabilize blood sugar among other things.  They are also good sources of protein, iron, and phosphorus, all of which the body needs for bone health.

Cooking with lentils

When cooking lentils it’s important to know that they are often packaged straight from harvest. So they need to be sorted and rinsed before you can cook them. The general ratio for cooking lentils is 1 cup of lentils to three cups of water or nourishing broth.

After cooking it’s best to let them sit for 10 minutes or so to firm up before using in a recipe. Otherwise if you try to use them while they are still warm they tend to get mushy.

If you are using them in a salad, let them cool completely before adding the other ingredients and your dressing.

 

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup lentils
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 1/2 C. chopped onion
  4. 1 T. nutritional yeast
  5. 1 T. dried, Kirkland No Salt seasoning
  6. 1 tsp. sea salt
  7. 2 C. lightly steamed or heated veggies
  8. 1 Tbsp GMO coconut aminos
  9. 2 C. mashed potatoes
  10. paprika
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease pie pan
  2. Preheat Oven to 350F
  3. Bring the water to a boil
  4. Add the lentils and the onion, cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes
  5. Remove the lentils from the heat and let sit 10 minutes
  6. Mash together with nutritional yeast, seasoning, and salt
  7. In a lightly greased pie pan, put in the mixture and shape it into a bottom crust
  8. Fill the crust with veggies
  9. Drizzle with coconut aminos
  10. Top with mashed potatoes
  11. Sprinkle with paprika
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Spicy Millet Muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/4 C gluten free flour baking blend
  2. 1/3 C millet
  3. 1 t baking powder
  4. 1 t baking soda
  5. 1 Tsp fine sea salt
  6. 1 jalapeno seeded and minced fine
  7. 1 T toasted cumin seeds
  8. 2 T toasted pine nuts
  9. 1 C buttermilk
  10. 1/2 C olive oil
  11. 1/2 honey
  12. 1 egg whisked
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Oil a 12 cup muffin tray and line the bottom of each with cut parchment paper
  3. Mix all dry ingredients with the jalapeno, toasted pine nuts and the cumin seed.
  4. Mix all wet ingredients together then fold into the dry ingredients until incorporated well.
  5. Fill each cup 3/4 full and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool and remove from tin.
Notes
  1. You may want to do 2 pans as this recipe makes a little more than a dozen muffins. You can fill the empty muffin tins with water or pie-weights to help make the cooking time a little more even.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Don’t forget to check out these other delicious lentil recipes:

How To Get More Veggies Into Your Diet

Vegetables and whole foods are classic ingredients for a healthy diet. Most of us do not eat nearly enough, leaving us deficient in fiber and important nutrients. Integrating vegetables into daily recipes and menus for a family can be challenging if you’re used to the standard meat-and-potatoes diet. Here’s how to liven up your mealtimes with vegetables and whole foods that everyone will enjoy.

Make Superb Soups

Soup is cheap and very easy to make. When made with bone broth it’s even better because the broth adds vitamins and minerals to the soup. Blending in a variety of vegetables is an ideal way to get more vitamins into your diet. Soups are great for using up old vegetables, and they also freeze well. Mix in a few extra lentils to bulk out the soup, and you have a hearty meal full of goodness on a cold day.

One-Pot Wonders

A one-pot meal is perfect for a supper dish, and adding vegetables is an excellent way of getting more fiber and vitamins in the diet. Try a tasty stew or curry which are simple to put together. Or, go for a Moroccan tagine, which is bursting with flavors and has dried fruits as well as vegetables within the dish. Don’t forget to make double portions so you can freeze the surplus, saving you time in the kitchen.

Make a Colorful Plate

One of the great things about vegetables is the color. Instead of a meat and potato-colored plate of food, go for a variety of colors in the meal. You can even get kids to eat as many different colors as they can. Salads also look great with colorful vegetables, such as red radishes and tomatoes, yellow pepper and orange carrot. Add quinoa as a protein accompaniment, and you have a nutritious meal.

Get Organized with Packed Lunches

Being prepared with packed lunches saves money and avoids snacking on sugary food. Store lunches in the refrigerator overnight and take them to work or school the next day.  Pack the portions into lunch boxes and you have a cheap lunch full of vegetables to enjoy. Alternatively, chop some celery, carrot, and pepper the evening before and use them in a hummus dip for lunchtime. You can add grated carrot or chopped celery to a sandwich and take some vegetable sticks to work as a snack to enjoy on a break. If you take a salad to work, consider making a salad in a jar for a quick and easy delicious lunch that’s got a lot of veggies.

Salad In A Jar
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Ingredients
  1. 1-4 T. dressing (lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil plus herbs is great)
  2. Then firm veggies (carrots, celery, jicama, etc)
  3. Then proteins (tuna, cooked egg, diced leftover chicken, etc)
  4. Then soft veggies (zucchini, avocado, cucumbers, etc)
  5. Then nuts and seeds salad greens (add a lot, stuff them in there)
  6. To serve the salad turn it over back and empty it onto a plate or into a bowl
  7. Dressing will wind up on top, coating your salad.
Instructions
  1. These can be made 3-5 days worth at a time for a quick grab-and-go lunch
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Have a Meat-Free Day

Going at least one day a week without eating meat allows you to be creative with using a variety of vegetables and whole foods. A vegetable curry can be made with carrot, eggplant, and other vegetables but can be bulked out with chickpeas or lentils. Try a stir-fry with corn, mushrooms, and peppers or create a tasty salad with whole grains and a variety of vegetables.

Create Some Juices

Vegetables in juices can taste surprisingly good and are an excellent way to increase your vitamin uptake. They can be mixed with fruits or combined with other vegetables to make a variety of drinks. Try mixing kale or carrots to create a range of colorful juices to enjoy with breakfast. While there is some controversy over the juicing versus smoothies issue I believe there’s room for both. Juicing can add a lot of enzymes and nutrients to the diet, especially beneficial when you’ve been eating away from home or “off plan.” 

Grow Your Own

One of the best ways to get kids and fussy eaters to eat more vegetables is to get them to grown their own. Salads, tomatoes, beans and many other vegetables can be grown in just a few square feet of dirt. Many can even be grown in a pot for container gardening. Adding a few herbs gives you a choice of flavors for salads and cooking. Anything homegrown is sure to look good on a plate and taste even better.

By taking a few simple steps your vegetable intake will increase with very little effort and you’ll enjoy some fabulous flavors.

Avocado Carbonara

Veganism is gaining more popularity as a nutritional plan and certainly is getting a lot more attention in the mainstream press. With a large number of celebrities who follow a vegan diet and even a new book, Mark Bittman’s VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good, some people are turning to this way of eating as a way to lose weight.  (Technically I would consider the VB6 philosophy a nutritional plan that is more flexitarian since it does not rely specifically on vegan principles.)

Veganism is a part of the Vegetarianism although it is more restrictive.  Sometimes this choice is due to health reasons, most often it is due to philosophical leanings about how animals are treated.   Veganism is actually more than a diet, and for most followers is a lifestyle.  It excludes any animal products or by-products; including things such as honey, white sugar (which is often processed through bone char), anything with cochineal or carmine in it (this is made from crushed beetles — side note this colorant is frequently found in lipstick), etc.  Most vegans also swear off processed foods, do not wear animal products and avoid products that use animals for testing.

Whether you are an adherent of the vegan lifestyle or not, it does offer many delicious recipes without the use of animal protein.  This recipe is a fabulous way to add the healthy monounsaturated fat found in avocados to create a tasty, creamy sauce.  Full of vegetables and providing some protein from the nuts and mushrooms it can be a satisfying, healthy meal.

Avocado Carbonara

1 medium sized ripe Avocado
1/2 cup of lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of parsley
1/4 cup of basil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned, sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (optional)
Ground pepper
Pasta (gluten free if needed for dietary reasons)
1 small zucchini, shredded

Cook the pasta
Place zucchini into colander and drain pasta into zucchini
Rinse and set aside
In a separate pan saute mushroom slices in olive oil
When done take off heat and set aside

Place lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or blender, blend until smooth
Add avocado, parsley and basil, process until smooth
Gently fold together sauce, pasta and zucchini
Garnish with mushrooms, pepitas, and pomegranate

Serve and enjoy!

Linda Rosario is a food enthusiast from Chef Needs “The Kitchen that Every Chef Needs”. Linda loves crafting, home designing and works as an Architect.. Aside from blogging and cooking, Linda works for 24 hours, seven days a week as a mom of two bright and awesome kids.

photo: Dittaeva

Oven Dried Tomatoes

oven dried tomatoes

Sam writes and asks, “We have a bunch of beefsteak tomatoes that my sister wants dried. We have a gas oven but no dehydrator. What is the best way to do this?

You can dry or dehydrate foods in the oven and tomatoes do very well when preserved this way.  The first thing to do is figure out if you want your oven dried tomatoes in slices or in sections (i.e., slicing into quarters or eighths).

Start by washing the fruit well and discarding any that is over-ripe or bruised.  An easy way to wash it is to put the tomatoes in the sink, fill it with water and add approximately 1/2 cup of vinegar plus the juice of 1/2 lemon per gallon.

Drain the fruit well and core it before slicing.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.

Prep your “drying tray” by placing cooling racks (fine mesh ones work best but the others will still work) on top of cookie sheets.  This will allow maximum air circulation around the tomatoes and help them to dry faster.  In case you’re interested this is also how I cook bacon in order to avoid bacon grease splatter all over the stovetop [20 minutes at 325].

Slice your tomatoes.  Note: If you are going to dry your tomatoes in sections you’ll need to pierce the skin in a few places to make sure all of the moisture can get out during the drying process.

I find that when dehydrating tomatoes it goes faster and works better if I remove most of the seeds and the pulp.  That’s a personal choice though, some people like the seeds in it.  If you’re removing the seeds this is the time to do so.

After the tomatoes have been sliced and de-seeded gently toss them with a little bit of olive oil and then arrange on the cooling racks.  Lightly sprinkle with sea salt or minced herbs if desired.  Then bake.

This is where it gets a bit tricky. How long to cook them for.  Well, that depends.  On how thickly they are cut, on how juicy they are, on the ambient humidity, and how dry you want them.  If you’re looking for serious long term storage it will probably take at least 8 hours.  You want the tomatoes to be very reduced in size, with curled up edges and almost leathery looking.  They need to still be a bit flexible, you don’t want to dehydrate them until they are brittle.

In order to use your oven dried tomatoes you’ll need to rehydrate them for about 20-30 minutes in liquid. You can use either warm water, broth, wine, or even olive oil.  These amazing veggie treasures can be used in soups, chopped for salad topping, added to meatloaf, used to create an intense flavor in sauces, the variety of uses is only limited by your palate and your imagination.

photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis

September - cholesterol awareness month

September Is Cholesterol Awareness Month – Part 2

More about cholesterol

In part one of this series of articles for Cholesterol Awareness Month, we learned some of the important facts that we need to know about cholesterol and how it can affect our health.  In part two we’re going to learn about some healthy foods to add to the diet which can help to reduce cholesterol and support better overall health.

Good for you food choices

Let’s start by remembering that if a label says the product is low-fat or fat-free this often means it’s been adulterated with chemicals that are probably not good for your health.  For optimal health it’s important to avoid a highly processed SAD (Standard American Diet) plan and instead eat real, whole foods which are delicious as well as nutritious.

Omega 3 fatty acids

These are excellent for heart health.  Unfortunately our modern diet tends to be very high in omega 6s and does not include nearly enough omega 3s 

  • cold water fatty fish – such as salmon, tuna, and sardines,
  • walnuts
  • flax seeds

Fiber

Adding fiber to your diet is a great idea not only for cardiac health but also for gut health.  Helping to form bulk for your stools it also provides prebiotics, the food that the probiotics in your gut need to live.  

  • Whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, oatmeal (old fashioned rolled oats, oat groats, or steel-cut, NOT instant)
  • Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas

Note: if you’re not used to eating fiber start slow as too much can cause intestinal distress.  

Olive oil 

A delicious way to cook, dress salads, or create a dipping sauce, olive oil is a heart-healthy food that you want to make sure is part of your pantry.  Be sure to choose extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil as many “light” olive oils are highly processed and don’t have the same benefits.

Vegetables

Sadly these days most people think that salad counts as a vegetable.  But what they’re really eating is nutritionally deficient iceberg lettuce with a few pieces of other vegetables, croutons, candy-coated nuts or dried fruit, and drowned in chemically laden, high-calorie dressing.  

If you’re going to have some vegetables why not have a real vegetable packed with nutrients.   Colorful, tasty, and good-for-you.

  • avocados (high in monounsaturated fats)
  • brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts(high in fiber and phytonutrients)
  • tomatoes (lycopene is great for reducing LDL)
  • sweet potatoes (high in beta-carotene and fiber)

Polyphenols

Found in a number of delicious foods this category of antioxidants is highly supportive of heart health and a very delicious way to support lowering your cholesterol.  

  • Green tea
  • red wine
  • grape juice
  • cocoa products (such as dark chocolate or cocoa powder) – due to caffeine and/or sugars these need to be eaten in moderation

How much to eat

The following are appropriate serving sizes for the foods referenced above. Food journaling is a good way to monitor how much and when you are eating so you can build your nutritional plan to incorporate more of these foods:

Protein – 6-8 ounces of animal protein / 12-24 ounces of vegetable protein
Leafy Greens – 3-4 cups per day
Colorful veggies – 2-3 cups per day
Complex Carbs – .5-1.5 whole grains / 2-3 medium root vegetables
Fruit – .5-1.5 cups
Booster foods – 2-4 tablespoons (seaweeds, greens powders, nutritional yeast, seeds, spices, and herbs)
Liquids – 1-3 cups per day (nourishing broth, green tea)

note: 3 tablespoons = 1 teaspoon

Check out Part Three – heart-healthy recipes.

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What’s In Season

We’re about to shift seasons again.  That means a whole new influx of fresh fruits and vegetables that are typically grown at this time of year.  While many of us are able to afford to eat whatever we want whenever we want it, we miss out by not eating seasonally.  By choosing to eat produce when it grows we are often able to get food that is more nutritious, that tastes better, and potentially is grown closer to home.

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