Archive for June, 2008

Orange Cilantro Vinaigrette

Two weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for an orange vinaigrette at one of my favorite food blogs, Eggs on Sunday.  The idea instantly appealed to me, especially as the author pictured it — drizzled over greens, caramelized walnuts, and fresh strawberries.  Heavenly.

I still had the recipe in the back of my mind when I was asked to bring a green salad to a Mexican-themed dinner party.  Wanting to put a south-of-the-border spin on whatever I contributed, I decided to use the orange vinaigrette with some modifications.  I substituted cilantro for the basil and used apple cider vinegar for its health properties.  Then, I tossed it with mixed baby greens, thinly sliced red onions, chunks of avocado, and pieces of fresh oranges.  It was wonderful!  Since I received a couple of requests for the recipe, I agree to post in on my blog.  I wish I could include a photograph, as it was truly a beautiful salad.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time in my rush to get out the door on time for the event.  I hope to make this again soon, and when I do, I’ll try to snap a pic.

One quick note before you get to the recipe: The oranges I used were very sweet, so if your oranges are more acidic or if you use bottled orange juice, you might want to start with less vinegar and adjust to taste.


Orange Cilantro Vinaigrette

(slightly adapted from a recipe by Amy of Eggs on Sunday, a great food blog)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (e.g., Bragg)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch high quality sea salt (e.g., Real Salt or Celtic Sea Salt)
freshly ground black pepper

Using a whisk or stick blender, combine all ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

One batch yields a little over 1/2 cup of dressing.


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We’re in crisis mode this week, so don’t look for glamor on the menu below.  Fast, easy, and simple are key words at the moment.  The end of the week is especially leftover-heavy since my husband will be out of town.

Monday: Rotisserie chicken, green salad with oranges, red onion, avocado, and orange vinaigrette (recipe forthcoming), leftover baked squash, cultured veggies

Tuesday: Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa, green salad, cultured veggies

Wednesday: Busy Day Mexican Chicken Soup (yup, we just had it last week, but like I said, crisis mode), salad, cultured veggies

Thursday: Leftovers (J will be gone for the rest of the week)

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Chicken Caruso (described here)

Sunday: Leftovers

All lunches will consist of leftovers plus extra raw veggies.  Snacks will be veggies and nuts/seeds or kefir and fruit.  We’ll have eggs with veggies for breakfast each day.  For more menu planning, visit Heavenly Homemakers this week (though Organizing Junkie usually hosts the MPM event).

That’s all, folks! 

FYI: The blog will be a little quiet this week, but I’ll be back soon.  Papers, group projects, and finals can’t keep me down forever.

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Discouraged by rising grocery costs?  Trying to eat healthfully without breaking the bank?  Then join in the Nourishing Frugal Foods Carnival, taking place on Friday, July 11 and Friday, July 18.  Two of my favorite blogs, Keeper of the Home and The Nourishing Gourmet, are co-hosting this timely carnival.  Start thinking now about your favorite healthy, inexpensive recipes and gather them together. 

On Friday, July 11, head over to The Nourishing Gourmet and use Mr. Linky to add a link to your blog post on your favorite healthy, frugal main dishes.  If you don’t have a blog, you can leave your recipes and other meal ideas in the comments section.

Then, the following week, on Friday, July 18, visit Keeper of the Home and use Mr. Linky to link back to your blog post on your best easy-on-the-wallet, nourishing sides, salads, and desserts.  Again, feel free to leave your thoughts and recipes in the comment section if you don’t have a blog.

If you’ve never participated in a carnival before, now is the time to join the fun!  You will get to read lots of posts all at once on nourishing and frugal meal ideas, plus you’ll get to share your own brilliant thoughts.  The more people participate, the more we all benefit. 

I’ll post another reminder next Friday, just so no one forgets.  I think this is going to be a great event!

Now I just need to start brainstorming…

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Ladies and gentleman, I would like to introduce my dear friend, Bernard.

We met at the Bayou City Farmers’ Market two weeks ago.  This unassuming, unidentified squash is something of a country bumpkin, so he’s a little shy around the camera.  Fortunately, I convinced him to share his good side with you.

Then I sneaked this shot of his bad side when he wasn’t looking.  Shhhh…don’t tell.

Now, you might be thinking, “Gee, this Bernard guy doesn’t look like the brightest gourd in the garden.”

Three days ago, I would have agreed with you. 

But not anymore. 

This is one sneaky squash.  I mentioned before that he is unidentified (stupid me forgot to ask the farmer what kind of vegetable I was buying!).  If you had to take a stab at the answer, though, what would you guess?  Some kind of winter squash?  Maybe with flesh something like a butternut squash?  Yeah, that’s what I thought too..

Oh, how wrong I was!  Would you believe that Bernard turned out to be . . .


In what universe does a spaghetti squash look like this?

It may sound like I was upset by this turn of events.  Not at all!  In fact, I adore spaghetti squash and was thrilled beyond belief.  But, I’ll be honest, the revelation threw me for a loop.  I didn’t realize what I had on my hands until the squash was cooked.  I had cut the head and neck off, then sliced the body in half lengthwise.  I placed one half in the oven whole, and the other half I cut into thick slices before baking.  When we sat down for dinner and I took a chunk out of a slice with my fork — only then did I perceive the truth.

Since this puppy made a lot of spaghetti, I had plenty leftover for the next night’s dinner when I prepared my favorite vegetable marinara sauce.  I thought I’d share it with you here.  Although we ate the dish vegetarian-style, it tastes wonderful with some sliced grilled chicken breast on top.  Of course, you could also serve the marinara over real pasta or gluten-free pasta.  But I’m stickin’ to the spaghetti squash.  It really is one of my favorite meals.  Ah, spaghetti squash bliss. 



Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Vegetable Marinara Sauce

(my recipe)

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, butter, ghee, or olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 large carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
4 medium stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 regular can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (10 oz) mild or regular Rotel tomatoes (diced tomatoes with green chilies)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 heaping tablespoon fresh, chopped basil OR 1 rounded teaspoon dried basil
1 heaping tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano OR 1 rounded teaspoon dried oregano

1 large spaghetti squash, baked OR whole wheat or gluten-free pasta
Grilled, sliced chicken breast (optional)

Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the oil.  When hot, stir in the garlic and onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 or 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the fresh herbs.  If using dried herbs, add them now.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are very soft.  If using fresh herbs, add them now.

Process the sauce in batches in a blender until smooth.  Reheat in the pot if necessary, then serve over spaghetti squash or pasta.  Add the grilled chicken on top, if desired, and garnish with fresh basil.


NOTE: If you prefer a non-spicy sauce, simply use 2 large cans of diced tomatoes (28 oz each). 

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I came home from my workout hungry today, and since I promised yesterday to share my recipe for miso tahini dip, I thought, Why not just whip up a batch?  It took me less than 5 minutes, and in all its cool, creamy, savory goodness, really hit the spot!  Even better, it was nutritious and kept me away from the dried fruit in the pantry. 

In addition to regular consumption of kefir, kombucha, cultured vegetables, raw apple cider vinegar, and probiotic supplements, I try to incorporate unpasteurized miso into my diet as a delicious source of beneficial bacteria.  Although I generally avoid soy products because of soy’s goitrogenic and anti-nutrient properties, I make an exception for fermented soy foods.  Long, slow fermentation breaks down soy’s phytic acid, makes its protein easy to digest, and brings out its life-giving benefits.  

Donna Gates, founder of the Body Ecology Diet, writes, “While it was once thought that soy was the reason for the low rates of heart disease, breast and prostate cancer in Asia, more evidence is now showing us that it is the consumption of traditional fermented soy products (usually eaten every day) that are providing the real benefits.”  I have read several other nutrition experts who agree. 

So, if you want to get some of those health benefits imputed to soy, and you want to add more good bacteria to your body, you might consider adding miso to your diet.  There are several varieties of miso, some made completely of soybean paste, and some made with rice and/or barley.  (If you’re allergic to gluten, like me, avoid those made from barley.)  The pastes vary in color — white, yellow, red, black — each with a unique flavor, though I’ve only experienced with red miso so far.  I really like its pungency.  Always buy organic, unpasteurized miso to make sure that you’re getting all of the probiotics and none of the negative health effects of GM foods.  Miso Master organic miso is a great choice. 

I realize that, to many westerners, the thought of consuming fermented soybean paste can be unappealing, to say the least.  I do encourage you to give it a try anyway, and this veggie dip is the perfect way to ease into miso.  It is flavorful, delicious, and very healthy.  I love to dip carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, and especially lightly steamed (and chilled) broccoli into this dip.  If you can eat crackers, this makes a great topping.

To read more about miso’s health benefits, check out this article.  For information about Miso Master miso or to order some online, go here.  You can also check for unpasteurized miso in your local health food store, most likely in a refrigerated section.


Magic Miso Veggie Dip

(recipe by Amy Steeves, who distributed it at a raw food demonstration)

2 tablespoons unpasteurized red miso
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
chopped chives (optional)

Use a wire whisk or a fork to blend the miso paste into the water until completely dissolved.  Then add the lemon juice and tahini.  If you wish, top with chives.  Simple, right?

One batch serves 2 hungry snackers. 

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Maybe you know that you need to eat more vegetables every day, but you don’t know where to start.  Or, perhaps, you already eat plenty of vegetation but find yourself getting bored.  I know how it feels to be in both positions.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  Even though I’ve always loved vegetables, high-level, enjoyable vegetable consumption doesn’t just happen to you.  It requires work and a plan. 

At least, that’s what I’ve discovered over the past year and a half.  My health journey has taught me to rely on vegetables in a way I never have before.  With the diagnosis of candidiasis and a number of food allergies and intolerances a year and a half ago, I was forced to turn to vegetables for the bulk of my diet.  Often, I was restricted to eating only vegetables.  For the first time in my life, I went without animal foods for extended periods of time.  I eschewed grains and starches.  Vegetables filled my days completely.  

Although I do regularly eat animal foods now (and am very healthy again!), this experience has drastically overhauled my eating patterns.  I typically eat at least 12 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, sometimes more.  These days, at least every other trip to the grocery store will end with the checker commenting on how much produce I put on the conveyor belt.  “No one eats like this.”  “Are you vegetarian?”  “I’ve never seen anyone buy this many vegetables.”  “You must be really healthy.”  Etc.  I find it really sad that a load of vegetables is an uncommon sight.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  With the right strategy and recipes, all of us can eat more vegetables every day. 

In honor of Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by RocksInMyDryer, here are some of my ideas on this topic:


  • If you have a problem with your vegetables spoiling in the fridge after you have so virtuously piled them onto your grocery cart, I highly recommend keeping a magnetic dry erase board on your refrigerator.  As soon as you arrive home from the store, list all of the produce you just purchased on the board.  Doing this keeps the vegetables and fruits in your field of vision at all times, rather than hidden away in crisper drawers and such.  It also reminds you of the healthful options available when you’re feeling munchy.  As you finish an item, cross it off the list.  This has helped me so much!  (I have written about it before here.)


  • Menu plan!  This is a sure-fire way to use those vegetables.  Writing down when you plan to consume what keeps you accountable and gives you a daily guideline.  I use this in tandem with the dry-erase board.  I often shop at farmers’ markets, and, not knowing what will be there from week to week, I can’t menu plan before I go.  I just find beautiful produce, then come home and write it down.  Then, I sit down with my dry-erase board at the computer and hammer out a plan for using each item.


  • Try organizing your meals around the vegetables you want to prepare.  Let vegetables star on your table.  Once upon a time, I always to decided, first, what kind of meat dish I wanted to make, and then tossed in vegetables almost as an afterthought.  Now, I often start with a particularly flavorful vegetable recipe, like Fattoush or Kale with Aduki Beans or Sauteed Cabbage, then add extra vegetables, and, finally, add the meat (if applicable at that meal).  It may help to view meat as a side dish.  Over time, I have turned to more complex vegetable recipes and simpler meat recipes.


  • Eat less meat.  I’m a big fan of keeping a food scale handy.  Try measuring your protein portions, keeping them to 2 to 4 ounces.  This is one of the single, most effective ways to increase your vegetable consumption!  As long as you don’t make up the difference with grains and starches, you’ll find that you consume many more vegetables to fill your tummy.  If you’re used to eating a lot more meat than this, you may want to taper off slowly.  It can be a big adjustment.  After a while, you may want to completely eliminate animal protein at some meals and fill up mostly on vegetables with a side of grains or legumes.


  • Shop at farmers’ markets.  If you want to get inspired and motivated, I can’t think of a better way to do it!  It’s a perfect opportunity to learn about new vegetables, discover what’s in season in your area, and talk directly to farmers and other shoppers about how to prepare the goods in new ways.  You also can’t beat the quality, freshness, and flavor of farmers’ market produce.  To find a farmers’ market near you, visit the Local Harvest website.


  • Seek out new vegetables to combat boredom and keep things interesting.  Ever tried kohlrabi?  How about daikon radish?  Asian mustard greens?  Galeux d’Eysines squash (shown above)?  Find these beauties at your farmers’ market or at a great grocery store, then look up ways to use them.  The internet is a wonderful resource for learning how to prepare unusual vegetables.  Just use Google to search for your vegetable of choice or visit A Veggie Venture.


  • Find new ways to prepare old staples.  If you usually eat a particular vegetable cooked, try it raw.  If you usually eat it raw, try it cooked.  Experiment with steaming, baking, roasting, grilling, sauteing, and pureeing.  Use new seasonings and sauces.  Do you always eat your broccoli steamed with only salt for flavor?  Try roasting it, tossing it with lemon juice and olive oil, stir-frying it with ginger and garlic, or adding it to a vegetable soup.  What about carrots?  They work beautifully when shredded and mixed with a basil vinaigrette (pictured below) or when pureed into a satisfying soup.  After blanching green beans, drizzle with a vinaigrette dressing and allow them to marinate for a few hours in the fridge.  For hundreds of ideas on preparing vegetables from A to Z in new and exciting ways, visit the recipe box at A Veggie Venture, where you can search by featured vegetable or by course.  Also try 101 Cookbooks.


  • Consider eating vegetables for breakfast.  Omelets or egg-and-veggie scrambles are the two easiest and most traditional ways to fit in vegetables for breakfast.  I also happen to enjoy soup for breakfast.  I find it soothing, and it’s a great way to rehydrate after a long night sleeping.  This Tarragon Carrot-Cauliflower Soup is one of my favorite breakfast soups, though Garden Green Vegetable is a close contender.  A third way to eat vegetables for breakfast is to saute or stir-fry a mixture of them (I like a combo of leeks, kale, bell pepper, broccoli, and green beans) and serve alongside some homemade turkey breakfast sausage.  Finally, you could forgo semi-normal breakfast food altogether and simply eat last night’s dinner leftovers. 


  • Learn to prepare interesting salads.  Don’t settle for a giant mass of lettuce with a tiny sprinkle of cucumbers and some dressing.  Try bell peppers (of all colors), celery, chopped up green beans, jicama, kohlrabi, shredded summer squash, green onions, tomatoes, avocado, shredded or chopped carrots, radish or daikon radish, chopped raw asparagus, shredded red cabbage, diced broccoli or cauliflower, and even fresh herbs.  Make your salad more chunky, less fluffy.  Legumes, nuts, seeds, cheeses, fruit, fish, or meat are other great (non-veggie) additions.  Experiment with homemade salad dressings.  They are far healthier and more flavorful than what you can buy at the store.  They are also much less expensive, especially when compared to the higher-quality brands.  I have some of my favorite salad dressing recipes listed here and here.  For a series of blog posts on lovely salads in progress right now, visit The Nourishing Gourmet.


  • Snack on vegetables.  I find it helpful to prep veggies for snacking soon after I return from the farmers’ market or grocery store.  That way, they’re always ready when I’m hungry.  I carry them in little baggies when I leave the home, and they work quite well as a popcorn replacement during movies.  There’s no need to limit yourself to only carrots and celery for this.  Bell peppers (particularly red, yellow, and orange varieties), green beans, asparagus, cucumbers, sticks of jicama sprinkled with lime, and cherry tomatoes taste great raw too.  I’m not a fan of raw broccoli, but I enjoy snacking on it when it has been lightly steamed.  Some healthy dips for your vegetable snacks include hummus, refreshing cilantro avocado dip, chunky guacamole, and miso tahini dip.  I also briefly posted on veggie snacks here.


  • Experiment with grain and vegetable pilafs.  I especially like quinoa, but millet, rice, bulgar, and many other grains work just as well.  After preparing the grains (preferably by soaking them overnight before cooking), fold in sauteed, blanched, or raw veggies and add seasoning or a light dressing for lots of flavor.  This is my favorite quinoa pilaf. 


Well, that’s all I have for tonight!  I’m exhausted and need to hit the hay.  Now it’s your turn.  What are your ideas?  How do you incorporate more vegetables into your daily diet?


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Menu Plan Monday, June 23


It’s menu planning time again, and, boy, do I need it!  Last week was hectic, and this week will likely be even more so.  Trying to be realistic, I’ve scheduled easy meals, and I’m prepping lots of raw vegetables for random munching and snacking.  I’m a stress eater, so it’s important for me to keep healthy snacks ready and immediately available.  I love vegetables, so I’m perfectly happy to crunch on bell peppers, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, and celery.  But, if those veggies aren’t already prepped, I’m more likely to reach for something, shall we say, less desirable.

Monday: Deepak Chopra’s Cuban Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup (made with butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes, leeks instead of onions, no tomatoes, and no chicken), green salad with homemade dressing, cultured veggies

Tuesday: Grilled Basil-Garlic Turkey Burgers, baked mystery squash, green salad, cultured veggies

Wednesday: Busy Day Mexican Chicken Soup, green salad, cultured veggies

Thursday: leftover soups, Carrot Salad in Basil Vinaigrette, and Ratatouille (didn’t get to the ratatouille last week), cultured veggies

Friday (Date Night): Taco Salads — fajita beef (cooked in homemade GF taco seasoning), black beans, lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, green onions, shredded carrots, avocado, and homemade salsa

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa, green salad, cultured veggies

For more menu planning fun, visit Organizing Junkie.

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