Hot weather in the Rockies calls for cool salad ideas. One of my favorite salads is a simple cucumber made with Fage yogurt. I have made this before with Bulgarian style yogurt but this thick Greek yogurt takes the prize. Seriously thick, there is no sense of depravation with the o% fat. For those of you who haven't tried this style of yogurt, the key differentiator with Greek style yogurt is that it is strained of its water. As a result it is creamier and has a higher protein content.
Thanks to Fage, the interest in this traditional style of yogurt has created a multi-million dollar category at the grocery store. Fage is by far the most prominent (and one of the best in my humble opinion) as it was first to market. But there are lots of brands out there now offering this style yogurt. Just make sure that the ingredient statment doesn't include gums or stabilizers, as these are not true Greek yogurts.
Cool, Creamy Cucumbers
1 large English cucumber, sliced 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal
1/2 bunch chives, snipped, or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 cup Fage 0% yogurt
1 fresh lime, zest from 1/2 the lime, and then juiced (freshly squeezed orange juice works nicely too)
4 or 5 sprigs of cilantro (or fresh mint), chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
salt and pepper or Grains of Paradise
rice wine vinegar to taste, or the juice of 1/2 an orange
1/4 cup Olive oil
Water -to thin out as desired.
salt and pepper
Place the cucumbers into a large bowl. In a separate mixing bowl add the yogurt to your seasonings and stir. Now add the citrus juices and/or rice wine vinegar. Mix well and then slowly add the olive oil. Adjust seasonings and add water if you want it thinner – to your liking.
Pour mixture over the cucumbers. Toss to coat the cukes well. You can place in the refrigerator for a few hours but just before serving mix them again and garnish as you wish. These would be swell with quinoa patties which are posting in a few days.
If you're entertaining and need something green to snack upon, here are some lovely and simple spreads to put out with carrots or crackers of your choice. Radishes offer a gorgeous color contrast to these verdant springtime dips.
Homemade dips and spread are great make-ahead appetizers. Any leftovers are perfect for vegetarian sandwiches. I love how these dips have variations of green color.
Our friend Becky of The Organic Dish in Boulder shared her green pea hummus with us a while back. Kimberly has made Becky's recipe with 1/2 green peas and 1/2 edamame and happily reports that it was super yummy. I have also made it with fresh mint and no tahini with equally refreshing, delicious results.
This lima bean skordalia was inspired by one I bought at Market Hall in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, CA. Like the green pea hummus, it's easy to make and yummy. Fava bean puree takes a bit more time as you need to shell the fava beans.
Lima Bean "Skordalia" with Feta
1 bag frozen lima beans
Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp., more to taste)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp freshly chopped oregano
4 to 6 Tlbs. best quality EVVO
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces Feta cheese (I recommend a French Sheep's Feta), crumbled
Cover the lima beans,and 4 cloves of garlic with water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let limas cool in the water.
Strain off the water, reserving at least 1/2 a cup for adding to the puree later. Place the beans in the bowl of a food processor.
Add the garlic, oregano, lemon juice and the EVVO. Process until smooth, adding some of the hot water to make the puree smooth. Remove to your serving dish and stir in the crumbled feta. Season with salt and pepper.
Fava Beans Puree
This recipe is adapted from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. This puree has always been a harbinger of summer for me. Fava beans are very earthy, do not try and make this with the canned variety. You will be disappointed.
2 lbs. fresh fava beans, parboiled, cooled in iced water and shelled
Splash of dry white wine
1 small leek, white part sliced very thinly
1/4 cup EVVO (preferably a different one from the lima bean skordalia, something fruity like Puget from France.
2 cloves garlic
1/4 of a bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pan under medium to low heat, add the leek and cook until soft. Add the minced garlic and fresh thyme and bay leaf. Now add the shelled fava beans and splash of white wine.
Once you can smash the favas with the back of a spoon easily, remove from heat. You can now either smash the mixture with the implement of your choice or remove the bay leaf and place the beans in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning and serve.
You may say, why bother to eat cauliflower, but really it can be very good. With winter in full swing, fresh produce will continue to become repetitive and very cruciferous so I would like to offer up some creative things to do with cauliflower to get you through the somewhat bleak winter months.
BTW – Look at all the caratenoids in the above photo of the yellow cauliflower! You could make this dish really fabulous by mixing some white with yellow cauliflower.
Flavorista Tracey, my sister-in-law whose photos have often graced this blog, was here recently so I made my favorite – cauliflower couscous and tossed it with a vegan pesto made from spinach, cilantro and ginger. The textures were fantastic. I highly recommend it. This would pair perfectly with roasted vegetables for a Meatless Monday. I served in with grilled ono and ladolemono.
Almond, Ginger & Coriander Pesto with Cauliflower Couscous
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 bunches cilantro, leaves picked off
1 1/2 cups spinach (I used the baby spinach which is already pre-washed. It’s far more tender. Do not use frozen)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 cup almonds
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse together. Don’t just run the food processor. The beauty of this pesto is the texture.
Click here for the procedure to make the couscous. Omit the scallions and peppers.
Once the couscous is tender, place the pesto in the pan with heat off and stir all the pesto and cauliflower together. Place on a platter and top with roasted vegetables (like yellow squash, red bell peppers and zucchini), pan-fried tempeh slices or the fish and sauce
If you are weary of all of the holiday overindulgence that is about to ensue, I suggest you continue to read for a recipe that you can feel good about and have your chocolate too.
Chia seeds are becoming the buzz ingredient in many natural foods products. This is a recipe I developed in 2004, it was featured in Eating Well magazine. Alas a search on their site did not reveal that recipe. Back then flax seeds were the rage, and they are still very good but chia has some distinct advantages.
They are high in protein, fiber and unlike flax, you don’t have to grind chia in order to get the benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids and ALA. Chia is also high in calcium, iron and in anti-oxidants. Chia does not contain phtyoestrogens like flax does. This is only a concern for those of you who are trying to reduce the amount of estrogens that you are getting from food. That said I do recommend that you use chia meal in this recipe. Seeds work too but they have a tendency to stick in your teeth.
Unlike flax, chia is not as easy to grind in a coffee grinder because of the small size of the seeds. Cold milled chia seeds are available at good natural foods stores or online. If you can’t find them or don’t want to bother, then use ground flax seeds or replace the seeds with a nut flour. The cake will still be delicious and offer you more stealth health in form of fiber, vitamin e and protein than a regular piece of chocolate cake.
Plum butter, like apple sauce, can be used as a fat replacer in baking. Making dried plum butter is easy. You simply take 1 cup of putted dried plums (aka prunes) and rehydrate in 6 Tbsp. boiled water. Let that sit for a few minutes then puree in a food processor until very smooth. This will make 1 cup of puree. If you don’t want to bother than you can purchase fat replacer.
I chose to use plum butter because the flavor is actually very complimentary to cocoa. I like to say it acts as a potentiator in that it helps to round out and enhance the cocoa flavors in a positive way. It is also a great source of antioxidants.
Bottom line: My kids snarfed the cake and I felt good knowing that their afternoon snack proved them with 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and antioxidants in a 250 calorie piece of cake.
Feel less Guilty Chocolate Bundt Cake
1/2 cup almond or hazelnut flour (hazelnut is especially good here but has more flavor than the almond)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milled chia seeds
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil (you could even use coconut oil as it’s mild in flavor)
1 tsp. vanilla extract plus 1 tsp. vanilla paste
1/2 cup dried plum puree (see note above)
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients, except for the sugars, together. In a mixing bowl blend the sugars with the eggs. Alternate adding the remaining liquids with the dry ingredients until all incorporated.
Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into a prepared bundt pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick come out clean when pushed through the center of the cake. Allow to cool for 10 to 20 minutes before turning out on to a plate and serving.
If you have zucchini coming out of your ears, we have posted some good ideas here and here. This cake is one of my favorite ways to use up bountiful summer zucchini.
The recipe in Saveur magazine a few years back but when I pulled the recipe from my stack of recipes to post, I realized to my horror that there was no date or issue reference on the page! Luckily they have an amazing website and low and behold the recipe was right there.
I added 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips to the recipe which I highly recommend. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries is a great way to enjoy this as a dressed up dessert.
Otherwise it a great snacking cake. A simple glaze of chocolate ganache would also be lovely. My kids snarfed up this cake and had no idea there was zucchini in it.
All of the recipes featured in the article can be made in under 30 minutes, are full of healthy veggies and will keep some dollars in your wallet. Maverick and I LOVE the Moo Shu Tofu while Marco is partial to the Sesame Beef.
If you are really pressed for time, give precooked rice a try along with your stir fry. Chopsticks are optional.
Hannaford offers a really cool, interactive feature with its magazine, click here to thumb through the current issue with the click of a mouse. There are lots of fantastic recipes in this month’s issue, check out flavorista Julie’s Fast & Healthy Broccoli Soup on page 12.
Part of what makes having a food blog so much fun is not only sharing our recipes but also featuring people, businesses and products we love. The Organic Dish is one of my Boulder faves.
When I first heard about Beckie’s business I was really intrigued. Making partially prepared meals that are easy, creative and healthy is not what you might think. Oh, did I mention her business is zero waste? She also features locally grown meat, vegetables and gluten-free pasta from Pasta Bozza. I have been so impressed by Beckie’s creativity as well as her commitment to our community and the environment. We have all enjoyed some outstanding meals from the Organic Dish.
Beckie’s green pea "hummus" is the perfect schmootz for spring and summer but now I make it whenever I entertain as it’s easy to adapt to other flavors and it is so beautiful.
Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Stacy’s Pita Crips, Triscuit Thin Crisps, Mary Gone Crackers or sliced red bell peppers and cucumbers and celery.
As we are in seasonal transition, it is decidedly colder here in Colorado. My tastes have been for heartier fare. Here is a recipe to excite you about broccoli. As luck would have it, broccoli is the one vegetable that my most finicky eater likes. Of course the other two only "tolerate" it. This dinner was a huge hit with all three!
I highly recommend that you serve this on a ridged pasta, like rotini. We enjoyed it on wide fettuccine egg noodles. My favorite boxed pasta, Barilla Plus, adds to the "stealth health" appeal that this dinner has for moms.
This pesto could also be easily worked into a warm pasta salad with some white beans, lots of freshly chopped parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar.
Pasta with Broccoli "Pesto"
1 (14.5-oz.) box Barilla Plus Pasta
1 lb. steamed broccoli
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup pasta cooking water
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 large lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese (or Parmesan)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, more to taste
Put your pasta water on to boil. Set up your steamer and steam the broccoli.
Saute the diced onion in a little olive oil until soft. Place the still warm, steamed broccoli in the bowl of a food processor with the garlic clove and onion. Pulse until evenly chopped. Add the pasta water, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to combine. Transfer this mixture to a small mixing bowl. Stir cheese and olive oil into the mixture until evenly blended.
Once the pasta is cooked, place it in a warmed bowl and add the "pesto" and stir well. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan. Offer additional ground pepper and salt.
Recipe Note: To make this dinner gluten-free, substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta or toss the pesto with 1 lb. of oven roasted potatoes.
I will openly say that there are few bottled salad dressings that I like. The whole category of bottled salad dressings happens to be a pet peeve. Most are too sweet and just not well balanced. The ones I do like are far too expensive and are sold in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle. So why bother buying them?
In any event, I will share some of my most loved vinaigrettes over the next few months. Make these and you will not want to buy pre-made dressing again. If we haven’t given you enough reasons to buy an immersion blender, they are also great for making vinaigrettes like this!
1 medium sized beet (yellow beets work well too), diced
1 cup water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (use white wine, or white balsamic vinegar if using yellow beets)
1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed is best
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. minced shallots (or 1 small clove of garlic)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the first 3 ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup (watch the pan carefully after about 10 minutes.) Allow to cool.
Add the remaining ingredients and then with the immersion blender, puree. This dressing is very good at room temperature but will last in the refrigerator for a week. It’s wonderful on mache, arugala and baby mixed greens.
The salad pictured was made with mache, cucumbers, shaved fennel, some left over chicken meat and feta cheese. It was restaurant-quality: crunchy, salty, balanced and brightly flavored!
Chia seeds are one of my favorite stealth health ingredients. Also known asSalvia hispanica, it has a great nutritional profile and is flavor neutral. Unlike flax, it does not oxidize and you don’t have to grind it to reap its nutritional benefits. Keep your eyes out for chia as I predict you will be seeing it in many new product introductions this year.
Brown Rice Syrup is a low glycemic sweetener meaning that it is a great source of energy as it is released slowly into the body providing prolonged energy instead of a spike and crash which is what pure sucrose does. You could also use agave syrup and get similar results.
By all means try this recipe and when you feel comfortable, make up your own variations. Get your kids involved too!
These happen to be gluten-free but oats would be a logical addition. Just lower the amount of brown rice crisps by 1/2 a cup and add oats. As you get more comfortable making granola bars, try using sunflower butter, almond butter and even hazelnut butter. There is no limit to the combinations that you can create.
One final note: I use my food processor to get the dried fruits and nuts chopped. I start with the fruits and pulse it together, then add the nuts.
Chocolate Chip Cherry Yummy Bars
1 1/2 cups brown rice crisps
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup currants or raisins (I used currants because they are smaller)
3/4 cup chia seeds (or flax seeds)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (I like Lundberg’s)
Place all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips into a bowl and mix with your hands until well blended. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan and spray lightly with a pan coating. Add the brown rice syrup and bring up almost to a boil. Add the peanut butter and stir well until evenly blended. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are well coated.
Now add the mini chips and quickly place onto prepared cookie sheet. Place another piece of parchment on top and roll or press with your hands until the mixture fits into the pan and is evenly distributed.
Allow to cool for 30 minutes to an hour. Using the parchment, lift the whole mixture out of the baking pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into your desired size. This recipe should make 12 bars depending on how big or small you make them.