Tackling the “to do” list

Do you like to keep to do lists? I do…and my cooking/health food list of things to do and try has been growing. I realized I have been adding to it and not getting much done. I really dislike the idea of wasting things that I have purchased…so time to get cracking!

This was the list I started the weekend off with. It includes various items to try which I have picked up at Kroger (local grocery), Whole Foods (I never miss a stop there when on the other side of our city), Trader Joe’s, etc. It also includes recipes and ideas. I’ll admit, it’s a randomly bizarre list!

I am happy to say I checked a few items off. I made a vegan cheese sauce recipe with the non-dairy/vegan “cheese” Daiya and Earth Balance vegan “butter” and plain coconut milk. I served it over tortilla chips as a snack as my family was again watching Euro Cup soccer. Let’s be honest, nothing is going to fully replace cheese–but this was pretty good and a viable choice if you really don’t want or choose dairy products. I enjoy vegan cookbooks, which sometimes replace cheese with nut-based concoctions. Cashews seem popular. If you have a potentially life-threatening nut allergy in the house (especially cashews here), these nut recipes, while healthy and yummy for most, are not an option.

Item 2 checked off: Brown basmati rice. We like regular basmati quite a bit. I wanted to try the more healthy version. I made it in the rice cooker and then only had a few minutes to try it before I had to leave the house. (Wow, my rice cooker is s-l-o-w with brown rice!!). Tasted fine warm and as a leftover–I really like brown rice. Basmati seems a little lighter and less filling than the short grain and should work well with many recipes. I have not served it to the family yet.

Item 3: Goji berries-also known as wolfberries. I had read about them as a very power-packed source of anti-oxidants. I purchased a small amount in bulk at Whole Foods. When I checked on recipes, many people recommended brewing them into a tea. I don’t have an ongoing interest in tea…can’t get into it. I read that you can just eat them plain–I popped a few–not bad, but not awesome either. I am going to try them in  oatmeal, where the heat will soften them up a bit and I can cover the slight bitterness with other toppings.

Goji berries and some other fun items: (More on lara bars to come in the future–so simple and good!)

Number 4: Roasted sunflower seeds-I picked up a small container of plain, raw seeds in bulk at Whole Foods last week. I have been reading The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and she recommends roasting them and storing for quick additions to food (might as well just snack on some too!). This is an interesting book by the way, if one wants to read a perspective on why we should cut out animal products from our diet. I personally think she has exaggerated some evidence in her passion for the cause, but I have no doubt most of it is quite accurate. I have a library copy that I just keep renewing. I love the fact that sunflower seeds have iron. Like all plant sources of iron, the iron is absorbed better with vitamin C. I need to remember to have a little orange juice with my veggies and seeds.

These are the sunflower seeds after dry roasting in a skillet and adding a little shoyu (type of soy sauce) that Alicia recommended.

I finished off the weekend by finally ordering a tofu press!! Can’t wait! I guess I will have more posts on tofu–hold the excitement, people!!

Farmers’ Market leads to another kale experiment

I’ve been writing about this for some time…I finally got to a local farmers’ market on Thursday afternoon. I had not been to this particular market before, and it was much smaller than I expected. I strolled around (it did not take long with about 8 booths!), purchased some veggies, and tried some iced coffee. I was expecting organic vegetables–based on three other markets I have visited over the years–but none were advertised as organic. Darn. No fruits to speak of either. Definitely need to check back later for strawberries, blueberries, and anything else.

Here is what I bought:

Fresh mint, kale, and Bibb lettuce.

One night I made salad with the Bibb lettuce and (store-bought) romaine hearts chopped, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta cheese. It was great! So much tastier with the addition of fresh Bibb lettuce.

Another night I made a simple kale salad.

Here is my quick recipe:

Quick Kale Salad

Makes 4 small salads

1. Start with about two small kale stalks for each salad. (Total of 8 stalks for this recipe). Wash and dry the kale at least most of the way. Tear leaves off the main “stem” and tear into bite sized pieces.

2. Place kale in a large bowl and massage (with your hands) a homemade or premade dressing into the kale, making sure to cover every piece. My dressing was Marzetti brand (picture below). No need to measure-just add slowly to get the amount you like.

3. Cover and chill the salad about 30 minutes if you have time. I chilled mine about 10 minutes because I was in a rush.

3. Prior to serving, pour 3 Tbsp sliced almonds over salad. Add other optional toppings based on your dressing.

Here is the dressing I chose, thinking a stronger flavor might be best since kale is a stronger-flavored green! It is Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Ginger Sesame-I love that it’s made with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt!

The salad was yummy, but I will admit the kale was not better or worse than kale I have purchased at Whole Foods, which is fresh with most things. What I liked the most was the greens “held up”–no soggy, icky salad for lunch at work the next day– and I had a truly healthy lunch addition.

Tomorrow, I plan to try some kale in a smoothie to use it up. I hear it’s good that way !?

Have a great, green week!

Tofu is NOT easy (Part 2)

Part 2 of the short series on one of my (ex-) favorite topics, Tofu, can be considered pretty much a failure. It consisted of 4 batches of tofu (both regular extra-firm and sprouted tofu) being pressed, cubed, and then stir fried in canola oil in various non-stick pans. These attempts included varying levels of heat, varying methods of preheating pans and oil, and one very smoky disaster. I’m stubborn like that.

I am trying to not use non-stick cookware (there seems to be agreement out there that the coatings are not healthy). Despite all the variations and time spent googling “tofu and non-stick pans” and many other apparently never-used combination of words, I could not get around a certain layer of tofu sticking to the bottom of the pan. I decided that oily fried tofu cubes are not worth all the work at this point. I think baking makes the most sense for health reasons and will be much less oily and easier to clean up.

Here are some pictures of the process (warning-none are going to make you jump up and want to try this. If you are trying to evolve to like tofu…stop here and read part 1 of this earth-shattering series. Or have a beer first!)

(Note layer of tofu on bottom becoming stubbornly attached to bottom of pan. The cubes did mostly hold together however). This happened every time.

This was the pan at end of the most successful batch. The cubes were slightly browned. I think they would only taste great if mixed into a stir fry with a sauce.

Lessons learned: 1. Baked tofu seems healthier 2. You have to use enough oil to absolutely prevent a dry bottom of the pan (so more oil means less healthy…)  3. Just above medium seemed to be the best level of heat in my 2 stainless steel pans with a smooth-top stove. 4. In reading about tofu, the opinion seems to be that sprouted tofu is slightly better because it is easier to digest and has a slightly better nutritional profile. They seemed to cook the same from what I saw.

Have a great second half of the week and may your cooking ventures be successful…As always, tofu tips are appreciated!

Sweet Victory ?! and Cheese Sauce for Veggies

I had the most fun surprise today! Shocking, actually. If you have known me for a while, you know I cannot run as fast as I used to. Today I went to a small, very small, local 5K road race, which raises money for a ministry to provide diapers and baby supplies to low-income mothers. I did not have expectations of any sort except to enjoy a wonderfully cool morning (about 55 degrees-amazing for June). When I finished I learned I was the first female! I won the race! I never found out my time, but that’s ok with me:) They handed me a race shirt immediately and later I was given a good quality pint glass with the race logo with a 25.00 gift card to a sporting goods store. I have never been the first female in a road race, ever. It was too fun!

My goal for this week has been to experiment with cheese sauces until I found one I liked, and could see myself making quickly and regularly to increase the vegetable intake of all of us around here. I hit the jackpot and found one on the first attempt! In the future, I have a vegan/dairy-free version I want to try, but I need to get across town to buy Daiya cheese first.

In general, my boys do not like vegetables. They each have 1-2 vegetables that I serve over and over to them. Embarrassing given the name of this blog, but true. As a child, I remember liking broccoli much better when it was served with Velveeta cheese sauce. Here is the one I found, minus the Velveeta! Ha, did I scare you there for a moment?

Adapted with a few changes from recipe by Sue Lau, the original is posted on food.com, titled Microwave Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour

1 cup warm milk (I used 1% milk)

1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp shredded cheddar)

Note: I left out salt, recipe lists 1/2 tsp salt is optional

Directions:

1. In a large microwave safe glass bowl, heat butter for 50 seconds on high or until the butter is melted.

2. Whisk together the butter, flour, and milk.

3. Add 1.5 shredded cheddar cheese and stir

4. Place bowl in microwave and cook on hight for 1 and 1/2-2 minutes (2:10 worked for me), whisking every 30 seconds or so, until the sauce is thick and heated through.

5. Season with salt if desired (I did not think it was needed).

Three out of 4 family members loved it. One was just 14-year old boy grumpy that day…so I have not given up on him yet.

Just curious, do you have any easy sauces to enhance veggie intake? Please share!