Category Archives: vegetables

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.


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.


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
  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
  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


Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie


A recent question about eating lentils brought up one of my favorite ways to eat them; in my Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie.  Shepherd’s pie is such a great dish because it is so versatile; a “crust”, a vegetable filling and a mashed potato topping.  It makes a delicious meal served with say, a hearty salad and a tasty millet muffin. 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.  So there are plenty of tasty leftovers to keep everyone happy for a couple of days.

Lentils, (Lens Esculenta), also known in Indian cuisine as dal, are a legume (as are all dried beans and peas) and are very quick and easy to prepare.  Unlike other types of legumes, lentils do not require a long soaking time before you can cook with them.  They come in different varieties, green, brown, black, yellow, orange, and red, although most of us are familiar with the green one which is easily available.  Lentils are powerhouses of nutrition being very high in fiber, folate, tryptophan and manganese  – good for healthy bones, fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, and helping 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.

When cooking with lentils they need to be sorted and rinsed before cooking.  The usual ratio is three cups of water to one cup of lentils.  Bring the water to a boil, add the lentils, cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes (if you like mushy lentils you can cook them longer). Remove the lentils from the heat and let sit 10 minutes, so they settle and firm up a bit before using in a recipe.  If you are using them in a salad, let the lentils cool completely before adding them to your other ingredients and dressing.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Prepare your lentils as mentioned above, but add 1/2 C. chopped onion to the water
After the cooked lentils and onion have rested mash them together with:
     1 T. nutritional yeast
     1 T. dried, minced veggie seasoning
In a lightly greased pie pan, put in the mixture and shape it into a bottom crust
Fill the crust with your choice of lightly steamed or thawed veggies (about 2 C.)
Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos or gmo-free tamari sauce 
Top with mashed potatoes
Sprinkle with paprika
Bake 20 minutes, serve and enjoy

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
  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.
  1. These can be made 3-5 days worth at a time for a quick grab-and-go lunch
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy


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 Is Cholesterol Awareness Month – Part 2

In part one of this series of articles on cholesterol awareness 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.

Before we begin with a list of delicious, and good for you foods, let’s start by remember 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.  Rather than looking for a processed food solution, use real 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 3 fatty acids.  Found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, omega 3s can also be found in walnuts and flax seeds.  Try to have at least one serving per day.
  • 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 pre-biotics, the food that the probiotics in your gut need to live.  Found in foods such as buckwheat, barley, Voatmeal (old fashioned rolled oats, oat groats, or steel cut, NOT instant), oat bran, and beans, this is a delicious way to support your health.  Three to four servings per day (not hard to do, a serving of beans is only 1/2 a cup cooked) is a great addition to your nutritional plan.  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 heart healthy benefits.
  • Vegetables – sadly these days most people thing 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 heart healthy choices include avocados (high in monounsaturated fats), broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts(high in fiber and phytonutrients), tomatoes (lycopene is great for reducing LDL), and sweet potatoes (high in beta-carotene and fiber).  Five or more servings per day.
  • 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, and cocoa products (such as dark chocolate or cocoa powder) are all high in polyphenols.  Obviously due to caffeine and/or sugars these need to be eaten in moderation.


Want to check the numbers you need to know for heart health? I can help with that, contact me for more information.
Stay tuned for some heart healthy recipes.

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.


Five Awesome Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and nutritious. Commonly labeled as yams (although they are not the same), sweet potatoes are a great addition to your diet needs and offer superior benefits to your health and weight control efforts. Here are some of the benefits of sweet potatoes:

Good for the heartSweet potatoes are rich in vitamin B6 which helps the heart by protecting the arteries and blood vessels. Vitamin B6 inhibits the buildup of homocysteine, keeping arteries and blood vessels healthy by allowing the blood to flow freely.

Sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium that helps reduce blood pressure by eliminating excess sodium build up, promoting fluid balance. Your body needs potassium, an electrolyte, to keep natural heart rhythm and promote normal central nervous system function.

Rich in fiberSweet potatoes contain more than twice the fiber content of other types of potatoes. It can contain as much 7 grams of fiber and is a great addition to any meal. High-fiber foods help you control your weight better because they burn more slowly and efficiently compared to low-fiber foods.

Sweet potatoes have both soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fibers form a gel and slow digestion down. It delays the emptying of your stomach which makes you feel full longer. It helps control weight, maintains healthy blood sugar levels, and lowers LDL cholesterol.

Insoluble fibers benefit the digestive system by providing a laxative effect and adding bulk to your diet. They remain relatively intact as they pass through the digestive tract, speeding up the passage of food and waste through the gut.

Rich in Vitamin AAlso known beta carotene, vitamin A is an important antioxidant. A medium-sized sweet potato contains more than enough of your daily vitamin A needs. It helps the body fight off many forms of cancer.

It also protects the skin from sun damage. Eating the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A helps increase the skin’s resistance to harmful UV rays. It helps repair the damage done by excessive sun exposure. It is also excellent for eye health, preventing vision loss and macular degeneration.

Source of ManganeseManganese is an important trace mineral needed for proper carbohydrate metabolism, promoting healthy blood sugar balance. It helps suppress your appetite to prevent you from overeating.

Manganese is also a cofactor in enzymes needed in chemical reactions for energy and antioxidant utilization. It is also used to treat anemia and severe premenstrual symptoms.

Provides Vitamins C and ESweet potatoes are also rich in vitamins C and E. Both are antioxidants that play a vital role in preventing many diseases and contribute to longevity.

Vitamins C and E are important components in skin and hair beauty products. Sweet potatoes, being rich in vitamins A, C, and E help in keeping us healthy inside and outside.

How to prepare sweet potatoesHere are some of the healthy ways you can prepare your sweet potatoes:

  • Bake on a sheet at 400°F oven for 40-60 minutes.
  • Boil or steam, peeled or unpeeled; 5 min for small-sized and 30 min for medium-sized.
  • Add to soups and stews.

Simon Bukai is the President of VISTA Health Solutions, an online health insurance marketplace aimed at finding affordable health care solutions for individuals, small business owners and the self employed.

photo: Albert Cahalan

On My Mind Monday 10.22.12

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Eat your kale – many of us don’t get enough of those dark leafy greens.  This article talks about some of the health benefits and reminds us that, like everything else, there needs to be some moderation in our consumption of dark leafy greens.

Eat more kale – of course the title above is similar to Bo Muller Moore’s Eat More Kale campaign.  (For those of you who don’t know, Bo has been issues a Cease and Desist order in an act of corporate bullying by Chick Fil-a who claims that their consumers would be confused between their Eat Mor Chik’n and his Eat More Kale — I don’t know about you but if I was one of their consumers I’d be insulted by that.)  He happens to have a few friends who love kale and have shared some delicious recipes, check them out.  And while you’re at it, consider buying a t-shirt.

Students Donate Leftovers – There are a lot of things about this story that bother me.  While I’m glad that someone has come up with a way to take unwanted food and give it to those who are hungry, I find it mind-boggling that students are forced to take food they don’t want.  What kind of message does this send?  It encourages waste.  The legislation in school districts that prevent the distribution of whole, clean food once it’s been taken needs to be changed.  The solution seems straightforward, let’s use common sense.

Ugly Fruit and Vegetables – Due to the drought grocery stores in England have been forced to accept less than perfect looking fruits and vegetables.  While it’s not good that there’s a drought and with it a growing food shortage, I think this has some positive aspects.  It will teach people that food doesn’t have to look perfect to be edible.  Hopefully it will also open doors to more locally sourced, less big-agri-business perfection at the grocery store, and by extension on our tables.  The peppers that I pick from my garden are bumpy, lumpy and not so pretty.  But they sure taste good.  The ones at the grocery store are frequently beautiful to look at but less than flavorful.   Hopefully people can learn to accept that it doesn’t have to look like it belongs in a stylized food photo shoot to belong on our table.

Cheese Smuggling – unlike the millions of dollars of maple syrup recently stolen in Canada this theft scheme did not happen as planned.  Apparently involving cross-border sales of cheese the Department of Homeland Security managed to break up the smuggling ring and put a halt to the operation.  Apparently many of the Canadian pizza shops claim they turned down the U.S. cheese because it was inferior (making me wonder just how much better Canadian mozzarella really is).  More importantly the fact that food thefts are increasing highlights the rising costs and increasing food insecurity.

Bleah! doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to this video.

photo: mconnors

Five Fabulous Fall Foods

Summer, that season of fresh salads, greens, berries, and melons all bursting with healthful vitamins and nutrients, has passed. Autumn, however, also please our palates, providing us with different gifts of nature. There are many seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are just as tasty as summer while delivering different health benefits. Here are some fabulous fall foods (depending on your location) and their health benefits.

Tomatoes – This berry provides high lycopene content, that rare plant pigment which imparts their red color to tomatoes and other fruits . According to several studies lycopene can prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, and appears to protect us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In addition to lycopene, tomatoes are high in potassium, fiber and vitamin C, helps to strengthen the immune system before the influenza season.

Cabbage – High in fiber, which supports digestion, can lower cholesterol, and provides cardio-protective benefits, cabbage is also rich in antioxidants which can protect the body against many types of cancer (including breast, prostate and ovarian cancers). Another benefit of this versatile benefit is that cabbage juice has long been known for it’s healing effects on stomach ulcers.

Persimmon – Another berry, persimmons are high in fiber, and antioxidants. They also provide vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and iodine. Persimmons can provide a fair number of health benefits from lowering blood pressure to being cardioprotective to it’s anti-tumor benefits. However, persimmons are also high in glucose and sucrose making them a poor choice for those suffering from diabetes.

Turnips – A root vegetable containing potassium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, sodium, iodine and manganese, turnips are anti-cancerous while their high fiber content make them a great choice to lower cholesterol and support a healthy digestive system. One of the great things about turnips are that you can eat the greens as well as the roots, making them a versatile food to add to your diet. And those greens are just as loaded with nutrients as the roots, containing vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Turnip greens are even high in calcium making them a good choice to support bone health.

Beetroot – Another root vegetable which has edible greens, beets are highly anti-inflammatory and support detoxification in the body. Beetroot is high in folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C while the greens are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytonutrients which are especially supportive of eye health. While almost all products can be found in stores throughout the year, for freshness and higher nutritional content it is important to eat seasonally.

Adding these autumnal foods to your diet is not only tasty and easy, it’s also good for you.

Korah Morrison has been working as a freelance writer for over 2 years. She writes essays on various topics at and loves her work.

photo:  Jean-Pol Grandmont