This morning I shared my green gazpacho recipe on Good Morning Washington – watch the segment, above, and get the recipe, below!
WhyFoodWorks is dedicated to people who want to understand what is happening to their food and their bodies when they eat. Each blog entry offers a question or concept about why a particular food or food component has an effect on your physiology. When you know better, you make better choices because you understand the value of food on a whole new level.
Because the understanding doesn’t stop at “why,” each entry will also include a recipe to show you how to integrate more of the right stuff into your diet – and hopefully get you excited to try some new things!
This morning I shared my green gazpacho recipe on Good Morning Washington – watch the segment, above, and get the recipe, below!
I’m delighted to be a guest on GMW again this morning – this time to talk about grains and seeds! It was hard to nail down which dishes I’d make this time, since the potential given the topic is endless…and hard, too, to nail down what we consider grains and seeds! In short, grains are seeds – they’re the seeds of plants in the grass family. We also eat the seeds of flowering plants (poppy, chia), legume plants (beans), and trees (nuts). In their whole form, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds all contain protein, fat, and carbohydrate, though the ratios of those nutrients, specific amino acids, and micronutrient vary a lot between them.
Many seeds also contain phytic acid, a naturally occurring chemical that binds to minerals (limiting our absorption of them). Cooking, sprouting, fermenting, and soaking can reduce phytic acid, so it’s not a matter of avoiding foods that contain it, just ensuring that you’re eating a variety of those foods through a variety of cooking methods! Some research even shows beneficial effects from phytic acid, including cancer prevention and improvement of blood cholesterol. So don’t be scared off by the “anti-nutrient” rap you may have heard…try these recipes and enjoy!
All of these recipes are bulk-prep friendly – meaning that you can make batches at the beginning of the week to have a few times, cutting down on time in the kitchen, at the store, and just deciding what to have! I love to have chia pudding as a breakfast base, a nutritious muffin as an afternoon snack, and some sort of bowl or single pot meal that reheats well for weeknight lunches and dinners. If you need a menu planning & prep strategy, check out RealPlans – individualizable, easy and fun to use, and will have you trying lots of new recipes!
For the Mexican Street Corn Quinoa Salad, I skipped the sour cream & mayo dressing in the recipe and made my own: so easy, SO delicious, and featuring a bonus seed: the cashew nut! It’s creamy & protein-rich, just make sure you either soak them for a few hours ahead of time or have a high speed blender.
Puree all ingredients together until smooth – makes enough for 8 servings, so halve it if you don’t need so much!
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I’m back at Potomac Vegetable Farms for a second season, and last weekend we opened at the markets for the first time in 2017! It feels great to get my hands dirty and enjoy the bustle of customers moving among vendors, arms loaded with beautiful flowers and baked goods and greens. I love hearing how customers use our produce, and last week a woman described in detail a dish called “Frankfurter Gruene Sosse” – Frankfurt Green Sauce. She spoke with such a wistful reverence about the German dish with seven herbs, sour cream, and soft new potatoes topped with eggs that I think everyone in our tent wished they had some right then. The dietitian in me was thinking this sounded like a great way to offer a beautiful and nutrient-dense side: herbs have a similar nutrient profile to dark leafy greens – lots of vitamin A, C, and K, and the yogurt, eggs, and ricotta add a good amount of protein for a balanced side dish.
It turns out that several of the seven herbs are not ones I have access to, or have even heard of for that matter! Chervil, borage, pimpernell? Nope, nope, and nein. Being that we aren’t in Germany, I figured the important part was that there were 7 spring herbs represented, so I took some liberties with which ones those were. Renaming it “Virginia Green Sauce” should take care of anyone’s indignation that I went a bit off the books! We have a potluck every Friday at the farm for anyone working, and an actual German person said it was delicious and very close to what she’s had, however, so I will count that as a win.
This month’s Recipe Redux roundup includes recipes that cut down on food waste, and I wanted to share that since I’ve gotten an Instant Pot (a slow cooker and pressure cooker in one!) I’ve been saving my veggie scraps to make broth every month or so. The leftovers from this recipe – lemon rinds and herb stems – made a beautiful fragrant broth that will be a delicious lemony boost to a future soup or cooked grain! I fill the pot with scraps, add water to the max fill line, and pressure cook it for 30 minutes, then strain. The eggshells, peels, and the remnants of a broth infusion get dumped in the compost pile at PVF, but if you don’t have access to a farm (ask around at your local market!), I highly recommend Compost Cab if you’re in DC. Yes, you do have to pay for the service, but not having stinky, decomposing food in your trash can means you’ll fill it less often and maintain a much nicer kitchen environment! Until more cities follow the example of places like Raleigh and Sacramento to make composting easier, vote with your dollars.
Finely mince or pulse herbs in a food processor until well chopped; reserve a few Tbsp for garnishing at the end. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the lemon juice, salt, ricotta, yogurt, sour cream, and dijon, stirring to combine. Peel and chop hard boiled eggs. Serve the sauce over potatoes in a shallow bowl, top with eggs and reserved herbs. (Tip: if not serving immediately, keep sauce in a separate bowl as some water will separate out – just stir to recombine!)
There’s a saying that if you want high quality, you can only choose two of the three: fast, easy & cheap. Homemade ferments definitely take time, but they are actually fabulously easy and very inexpensive! With store bought kombuchas costing north of $4, the homemade version for less than 50 cents makes your daily drink totally affordable.
I started making my own about a year ago with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) or “mother” that I got from Gracy. Because these probiotic (ie healthy bacteria) cultures grow continuously, you can break them off to share. They’re available to buy online, if you don’t know anyone who’s already brewing! After you have that, it’s basically just making a big batch of sweet tea, adding the mother, and covering for a week. You can add flavors with fruit, juices, or herbs during a “second ferment” – just remove the mother and add in your flavor, leaving it for another 1-2 days.
You might be thinking: that’s a ton of sugar! And it is – but that’s food for the SCOBY, and as it ferments, will become acetic acid (giving that delightfully sour punch) and CO2, which is how it becomes fizzy. By the end of the process, you are likely having less than a teaspoon of sugar per 8oz serving. And the benefits of ferments far outweigh a tiny amount of sugar, including:
Here are some more in-depth resources if all of this is sounding fascinating to you – or if you need to save some bank from your store-bought kombucha habit!
Another category of ferments create lactic acid instead of acetic acid, and includes foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, kefir, and fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh. Same health benefits, very different flavors! Again, it’s time consuming but very straightforward. Most recipes just require vegetables, spices, and salt (though kefir also requires a starter culture – you can use milk or water grains to make drinkable ferments that aren’t sour!).
Sauerkraut is the easiest to start with – here are the simplest, clearest guides I recommend:
So what are you waiting for? Pick a fermentable and get started! Let me know how it goes 🙂 If you’re looking for a probiotic supplement, check out this review for more info!
No time to run to the store, not much in the way of fresh veggies on hand, and dinner approaching by the minute. That scenario is precisely why I recommend keeping a stocked pantry of versatile staples and a Pinterest account at the ready! A pantry should take you way past spices and dried herbs – think canned foods, dried foods, and yes even frozen and refrigerator foods that have a long shelf life. I used a combo of all of the above to make a delicious pumpkin chickpea curry, and served it over some leftover bulk-cooked quinoa I’d prepared on the weekend.
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Or a soup, or casserole – all are fantastic with a grain, canned veggies, and long-lasting onions and garlic. I had defrosted some pumpkin I pureed and froze last fall and needed to use it up (part of it went into bread and scones), and had an open can of coconut milk from a batch of muffins I’d popped in earlier that morning…leftovers everywhere! Pumpkin and coconut are the base ingredients for a delicious Thai curry I’ve made before, so I scrounged a few other necessities up and had a full dinner with some leftover for lunch the next day in no time.
Preheat the oven to 400F; toast the chickpeas on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil for 10-15 minutes (you could just add them in, but I wanted mine to have more texture). Heat the remaining oil to medium high in a large pot on the stove, add the onions and cook until translucent, then add garlic and spices and stir while cooking for 2-3 minutes, until spices are fragrant and toasted. Add coconut milk, pumpkin, tomato, and broth and stir to combine; reduce heat to low and put a lid on to allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Add toasted chickpeas. Serve warm over rice or quinoa, garnish with cashews and cilantro.
This month’s RecipeRedux roundup is full of meals we made with what was on hand – be sure to check out other posts for ideas and inspiration to Iron Chef it up in your kitchen tonight!
This month’s RecipeRedux theme is tacos! Use this roundup to try a different taco every week for over 2 years, each recipe created to be nutritious and easy to make. The perfect taco is a combo of flavors, textures, and the humble tortilla shell is a great vehicle for all kinds of culinary spins on the Mexican classic. My version is more Asian-fusion than traditional, but a step above fried fish – coconut crusted ahi tuna makes a delicious and impressive addition! Cooking it is easy and fast, and I highly recommend setting up your ingredients family-style so that people can build their own to make the process even easier.
Growing up, there was a crocheted sign hanging in our kitchen that said “No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.” And I think that’s true of most homes – the kitchen is a hub, a place to visit with the host, or do homework while mom’s cooking, or steal tastes from dishes in progress. With all of that joyful use, the kitchen also tends to attract…stuff. Already-crowded counters cluttered with utensils and appliances become second homes for cds, phones, hats, mail, class projects, and the little odds and ends that just don’t seem to have a home anywhere else.
For the cook, that’s extremely frustrating. No one wants to cook around and in between piles of things. Visions of perfect, clean kitchens taunt you on Pinterest; why don’t you have all those miles of sparkling countertop?! Well, the truth is that most people don’t have magazine photograph-ready kitchens, so you can take a certain amount of that self-blaming away right there. But there are a few ways that you can improve storage, utility, and space. All of the pictures in this post are from my kitchen, and to answer your first question – yes, it was that bad! When I moved last April I finally had a kitchen of my own (ok, of our own!) to fill, and it took a few months to figure out the flow of the space. It’s still not perfect, but ever since my deep clean/purge/organization in the fall it has been SO much easier to cook in! And my theory is that when you have a beautiful, functional kitchen space, you’ll want to cook more (which is my ultimate goal for you!). So start your spring cleaning early: here we go!
You’ll have to take everything out – yes everything! – and evaluate what you have. You can go cabinet by cabinet, or pull everything out together and really think about what you want where…categorize:
To the right here is my baking cabinet – now all the sugars are in the sliding bin bottom left, the baking powders/sodas/chocolates bottom right, and nuts/oats above that. That Before – wow! How would you get to anything in the back without creating an avalanche?
Here’s another one – you can see that some of the things from the top Before picture actually fit better in this cabinet; all my flours are now living together right next door to where the rest of the baking supplies are. The tall pitchers and containers have the height they need, the messy bagged items have a basket, and some of those little half-used packets of things were inevitably thrown away. Order from chaos!
Again – take it all out! Evaluate what you use, what you need, and what is just taking up space. Donate the things you use less than annually or have duplicates of, then store the things you use frequently in a convenient way. Using stick-on hooks inside my cabinet doors changed the functionality of my storage here, because lids weren’t constantly clanking around and falling every time I grabbed my go-to skillet.
They also work well for hanging things (like these mesh strainers) that are too bulky to keep in drawers and utensil holders – just loop a rubber band through the end and make sure you place the hook so that the length of the item doesn’t extend past the bottom, or hit right at a shelf level:
If you don’t already have some food-themed art (or other art!) in your kitchen, check out Marcella Kriebel, a DC-based watercolorist who has beautiful prints for sale in lots of different sizes. I have her “Curcubitaceae” and “Allium” prints, and I love the color and feel they add to my kitchen.
Think about shelving – this simple wall unit holds knives, spices, a towel, and even heavy cast iron pans. I used the hooks to dry herbs hanging from rubber bands for a huge boost in flavor quality to my store bought spice collection. If you’re lacking space (I had roommates for 7+ years, I know the space scarcity plight well!) then every little nook and cranny has potential. As you can see from our kitchen layout, that giant wall is totally open, but the floor space is too small to support adding a standing shelf or hutch. Wall mounting to the rescue!
Most fridges suffer from a lack of system – food tucked anywhere it fits! By implementing a few rules of thumb, you can avoid the “rotting in the back” phenomenon and keep things organized.
And don’t forget the rotational powers of a turn table for dark corners in cabinets, pantries, and even the fridge! There are many of those on my Pinterest board on just this topic:
Even the most pristine homes have an “everything” drawer – it’s a very handy kitchen space! But most of your drawers could probably do with a good going-through at the very least (mine, left), and some easy, inexpensive partitions to create and keep order for little odds and ends.
Look here for more ideas on how to organize drawers, use dollar store boxes or separators, and don’t forget the DIY option – just use some nice gift wrap to cover a mailing box! Amazon’s A1 size is small enough to fit in most drawers, but measure first, and either cut off or fold down the flaps to get them out of the way. This tutorial also shows you how to use office supplies to custom-build partitions.
My goal was to inspire you to get your kitchen in order and be excited about the process – so that ultimately you cook more often and with fewer headaches! Feel free to link to any of your favorite resources for kitchen organization in the comments below…my favorite thing in the world is a good before & after picture!
Bulk cooking (also known as batch processing or food prep) is the secret for almost all people I know who eat well and have mostly homemade food. When I hear “I’m too busy to cook” – it’s usually the truth. Most people don’t have time to shop, prep, and cook all their meals fresh daily with the hour+ that entails. But even though food doesn’t have to be your first priority every day, by making it a top priority on one day a week, you can stock and prepare enough food to get you through most meals.
For example, by cooking a batch of oatmeal on the weekend, and stocking up on berries and nuts, you can have breakfast ready every day in under 5 minutes. Spending some time to buy salad supplies and pre-packing containers (dressing on the side, of course – no soggy salads here!) could be lunch. My friend and fellow dietitian Amaris is the prep-ahead lunch salad queen, and makes a new round every week:
But when you want something savory, warm, and hearty, there’s no second to the slow cooker. This set-it-and-forget-it miracle of modern life is one of the most important (and yet often least expensive) appliances you can have in your kitchen, and it makes both bulk prep and weekday prep a breeze. Load it up, turn it on and in 5-7 hours you can fully cook a tender roast, a flavor-rich stew, or even a baked pasta dish.
Most people think of chili or other stews when they think about what they could make in a crock pot. But it can do so much more! Bone broth (or veggie broth) – sure! Lasagna? Done! Fajitas sans frying pan – so easy! Fresh bread, crunchy granola, and even snack mix? Absolutely. Your slow cooker should be in rotation to make something at least once a week.
If you’re still not convinced that you need to get some slow cooking action into your routine, here are the some inspirational roundups to get your mouth watering and your menu plan rolling:
As the story goes, French onion soup came to be in the kitchen of King Louis XV, on a day that there was nothing but butter, onions, and champagne to be found in the pantry – an early “Chopped” episode, of sorts! The humble onion, which even peasants had access to, had been elevated to French cuisine. Whatever its beginnings, I’m glad this soup survived time and distance to end up on my mom’s recipe rotations during my childhood. Sweet, caramelized onions, savory broth, and a fun crust of cheesy bread to break through…just the sight and smell feel cozy and nostalgic to me!
Many recipes call for worcestershire sauce as a savory, umami addition, but the late renown Chef Michel Richard used soy sauce, “because it gives it a meaty flavor.” Sounds great to me! Because soy sauce is high in sodium, I don’t call for any salt in this recipe – one study even found that sodium could be reduced by half without compromising flavor if soy sauce was used instead! Many soy sauces contain gluten, so look for certified gluten free versions if you need to – there are also low sodium versions available. Kikkoman is available at nearly any grocery store you’d go to, and have versions of both. Be sure to check out all the other RecipeRedux entries to their contest to see other sneaky ways to use it!
Heat the oil or butter in a soup pot over medium high. Add the onions and cook down, stirring frequently until translucent (about 5-10 minutes) and then reduce heat to low and cook for another 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When caramelized, add the wine, soy sauce, broth, and herbs and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut bread to a size that will fit into the ramekin (regular bowls work too; it just has to be able to go under a broiler) and toast them – drier is better, since you’ll be submerging it into the broth. Scoop soup into ramekins (remove bay leaf), place bread on top, then layer on mozzarella (other cheeses that melt work well for this too!) and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly in places – putting ramekins on a baking sheet makes transferring to the oven much easier! Enjoy as a soup course, or as a mini-meal…after all, it contains a vegetable, protein, and whole grain all by itself!
I received a free sample of Kikkoman soy sauce mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Kikkoman and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.
This month the theme is 2-0-1-6. A year that will live in infamy. A year that saw big changes in my life (moving in with David, starting work at PVF, getting used to showing up on TV now and then), and a lot of learning. So in a nod to closing out this roller coaster ride around the sun, Reduxers are picking recipes from cookbooks on pages that have the numbers 2, 0, 1 and 6 to remake. I am busy making some last-minute gifts, and my aunt loves dark chocolate, so I thought truffles would be perfect. I’m actually following the recipe exactly, but “reduxing” the size – truffle minis! The beautiful, tantalizing book “Chocolate” has a recipe on page 126 and I’m sharing it here – very few (very rich) ingredients, but I love the idea of a crunch outer shell to contrast the creamy truffle inside.
I’m also adding a special twist: custom M&M’s! I had one of their family pictures printed onto mini packs of M&M’s, and even though they’re tiny the clarity is pretty darn good! You can try it out yourself here.
Melt 6 ounces of chocolate over a double boiler. Bring the cream to boil in a separate small saucepan, then remove from heat and allow to cool. When the cream has cooled to about 115F (I just waited until the pan wasn’t too hot to touch!), slowly pour the chocolate into the cream. As you pour, stir with a spatula, thoroughly mixing the chocolate into the cream. The mixture will thicken and should be smooth and shiny. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered. That’s the ganache for the center – while it’s cooling, melt the rest of the chocolate over the double boiler, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or tinfoil, and grab a spoon. Scoop out a small amount (I used roughly the size of a large marble) and roll it into a sphere (or whatever shape it wants to be…getting them perfect is tricky!). Immediately coat the cold ganache ball with the melted chocolate, using a fork to toss it in the bowl to coat. Drop it into the cocoa nibs and continue to roll to coat. (Alternatively, you could chill before the cocoa nibs and then coat in cocoa powder.) Place on the cookie sheet. When you are out of dipping chocolate, pop the prepared truffles into the fridge to store.