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Archive for the category “Vegetarian”

Black Eyed Pea & Corn Salad (New Years!)

In the South, New Years Day has food traditions as strong as Thanksgiving or Christmas. For good fortune in the new year, you have to eat corn bread and greens (both symbolizing the literal fortune we hope to earn/win/be anonymously gifted through paypal) and black eyed peas (just for the good luck part, so they say). Generally you make black eyed peas with some kick, some sugar and a good portion of ham hock (or bacon if you can’t find the ever cheap but off the beaten path ham hock). However, this probably isn’t the beacon of health and purification many of us are aiming for in the new year……… enter this salad.

Alright, so I’ve made a bet with a friend to keep us both on our weight loss/health goals this year. This means traditional southern dinners, complete with honey butter and pork bits, are probably not going to be on the menu for awhile. This is, I assure you, very sad. BUT, with challenges come innovation and this salad seriously was an amazing creation, so enjoy it!

What you need:

  • baby spinach
  • 1 can black eyed peas (any kind will do, try to buy some w/o seasoning, but if you can’t find them, that’s ok)
  • 1/2 green pepper (diced)
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 stalks of celery (diced)
  • 2/3 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tomato (diced, optional)
  • cilantro (just a little bit, but makes a difference)
  • chili powder, adobo, cayenne pepper, salt, garlic salt, black pepper (adobo is optional, it’s pretty much salt, garlic powder, onion powder etc… but it is nice to just add a dash)
  • maple syrup (just a little bit)
  • white vinegar & olive oil (dressing)

Step 1: Drain black eyed peas

Yup, that’s it. Drain them, put them in a bowl.

Step 2: Roast the corn

Toss the frozen corn in your cast iron skillet on high. This will both defrost, but also char the corn a bit which tastes delicious. When the corn starts to brown, toss it into the bowl on the black eyed peas.

Step 3: Lightly cook peppers/onions (optional)

I dislike raw bell pepper and raw onions… I don’t know why. But when they’re cooked a little? Nom. Who knows. So while you may want to throw these into the salad mix raw, I prefer to toss them into the hot pan once the corn is done, with a spray of pam if sticking is a problem, and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften them up a little. Toss the onions & peppers, along with the raw diced celery, into the bowl when you’re done.

Step 4: Cilantro & Spices & Syrup

Dice up a few springs of cilantro into small bits and toss them into the bowl. Then dash in the spices. Of course, I didn’t measure, but I’ll say you can go heavy on the garlic powder and chili powder, medium on the adobo, and light on cayenne, salt and black pepper. Then drizzle on a teaspoon maple syrup.

Step 5: Pile it all on the spinach

Yup, just stir and scoop. Pile a large amount of this concoction on a big old plate of spinach (and the tomatoes if you went with those… which I’d suggest because they add some bite to the whole deal). When you have it set up, pour a mix of about 2 teaspoons white vinegar to 1 teaspoon olive oil. I didnt’ really even mix the two, just drizzled across the outside with both. It just adds a little bit of extra bite to the greens, and gives a little liquid to get the juices from the bean mix throughout.

While it may not be jalapeño corn bread and honey butter — this was one of the most yummy salads I’ve ever made. And even with about 3/4 of a cup of the black eyed pea stuff on top, this salad is still around 200 calories all totaled. So, needless to say, I was damn proud, and I hope you like it too! Best of luck in 2013! Enjoy!

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Banana Bites (and holiday food tips)

Alright people, it’s the season of desserts and snacks. As such, you really probably won’t be eating many meals. Seriously, I don’t think anyone eats one full meal between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and if you try, it’s foiled by dips, charcuterie (I love this word), and four types of cheese cake that you try to ‘plan for’ as you eat. So, instead of fighting this, let’s work with it, shall we? Here are my holiday food solutions:

  • Bring it: If you’re going to a party, bring something with fresh fruit/vegetables or healthy nuts etc involved that you can much on without feeling too terrible about yourself
  • (Dis)Own it: Unless at the threat of physical violence, do not bring home food from events. On the flip side, if you’re hosting, demand your guests take home leftovers (I fully endorse this double standard). The only time this should be reversed is with wine. Seriously, keep the wine you gain from hosting – that’s the best way to get through the post-party cleanup. 
  • Try it: Plan to try everything. Don’t load up your plate with one thing thinking that you’ll get full of that healthy option and not be tempted by other treats. You will be, so just try to keep it all balanced. And try a few new things that look weird to you – you can always leave them on your plate and no one will really know.
  • Move it: No, I don’t mean exercise (though clearly this IS a good idea, this is not my point here) I mean, step away from the food table. Everyone loves to hang out in the kitchen right next to the food. It’s inevitable. But when I stand next to the island covered in finger foods chatting away I can easily down 1/2 a plate of sausage and cheese (crackers be damned, I go right for the bad for me delicious parts) and really this is no good for anyone. So move towards the sink area, or even towards the drinks. It’s much easier to continuously eat bite sized snacks than to end up with 5 drinks going.

Alright, now that we’re done with that… a 10 minute (max) yummy desserty snack you can make at home when you have a little craving or to take with you to a party. Quick banana bites (none of that pesky freezing thing) I threw these together last night when I wanted dessert I didn’t really need and they were very satisfying.

What you need:

  • 2 bananas (I just did one last night and bagged up the toppings so I can make another easily tonight if I want… sneaky)
  • peanut butter
  • chocolate chips
  • shaved coconut
  • some type of nut (I used raw almonds but really any kind are good)

Step 1: Slice the Banana

This sounds more violent than I intended but it kind of made me chuckle, so we’ll keep it. You need to first slice the banana in half length wise.

mmm nanners

Then cut each of these halves into 3 or 4 bite sized pieces (depending on the size of the banana). The original recipe I saw for something similar had you cut little troughs in the banana pieces here. I tried it on one half last night… it’s not very easy, especially if you have greener bananas. That being said, if you want to endeavor to cut little troughs lengthwise in your banana peices for your toppings to set into, by all means, get out a mini melon baller or grapefruit spoon (yes, I tried both of these things) and go nuts.

Step 2: Smear Peanut Butter

Pretty easy really. Just take a knife and put a dollop of peanut butter right on the banana bit (if you’ve carved out a little crevice, put it in there)

See? No need to be neat about it. Why bother? Just get it on there.

Step 3: Chop up Chocolate, Coconut & Nuts

Get out your trusty food processor if you have one. If not, you can crush the nuts in a plastic bag (think about like muddling fruit or something – use a tenderizing mallet or a rolling pin to crush). But if you have one, get that out. Toss in 1 to 2 tablespoons of nuts, 2 tablespoons each of coconut and chocolate chips. Pulse until the mix is fine, but not so fine you can’t recognize any of the ingredients.

There is no artistic way to photograph stuff in a food processor…. trust me, I really tried

Step 4: Sprinkle

Yup, that’s it. Just sprinkle the chopped up toppings right onto the peanut butter’d bananas. Press the toppings in a little so they stick, and then plate. You can freeze these if you like your bananas cold/frozen, but I just keep them room temp. You can layer them in a tupperware with wax paper and take them to parties too. Always delicious, not too guilty, snack or dessert.

*Alternate strategy is to melt the chocolate chips & peanut butter together in the microwave, just put the nuts and coconut in the food processor and then blend those together. It doesn’t look as pretty but it sticks to the banana pretty well and gives a bit more chocolate flavor since it’s melted throughout the topping. This does create a slightly more sticky fingers eating adventure however. Your call. Both are delicious obviously.

Butternut Squash & Parmigiano Pasta (a healthier mac & cheese)

So I’m a HUGE fan of mac & cheese. It’s a meal, it’s a side, it’s a life style. And my all-time favorite is Ina Garten’s  Mac & Cheese. I generally leave out the tomatoes, but do lots of add ins. Last Easter I made 3 types of this recipe, one plain, one broccoli & bacon, and one spicy chicken, roasted red pepper & tomato. HUGE hits. But sometimes your brain is annoying and says to you “Hey! A plate of mac & cheese is not that healthy, and eating it for leftovers for a week is REALLY artery clogging, please pick something else.” And in those moments, I suggest Butternut Squash & Parmigiano-Reggiano Mac (you can use good old Parmesan too, I just went  fancy when I did mine).

This came to be because I had a butternut squash and no idea what to do with it. I’ve done roasted acorn squash, but wanted to try something different. And then I found a few recipes I could play off of and started getting super excited. Wanna see the end result now? I don’t blame you… TADA!

Ok, now that you’re convinced this looks amazing, I want to insert a small disclaimer. This recipe can take awhile. BUT it’s worth it and reheats really well so it’ll make a great holiday addition, and leftover favorite. But it’s no 30 minute meal with Rachel Ray (I’m less annoying than her though so that has to count for something).

Things You Need:

Food stuff:

  • A butternut squash
  • Minced garlic
  • Cooking white wine (optional)
  • Onion
  • Butter/Olive oil
  • Mushrooms
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • Milk (I used 1% but it doesn’t matter)
  • Chicken stock (optional)
  • Parmesan or Parmigiano-reggiano (fresh, and grated)
  • Sage (fresh, only a few leaves needed)
  • Box of large shell pasta (really any pasta is fine, but we used shells and it seemed to work well)
  • Salt & pepper (sea salt and fresh ground pepper corns are best, but use whatcha got)

Other stuff

  • Handblender & container to blend in (I use a cylinder pitcher for this as narrow containers seem to work better than wide bowls, and this way it’s easy to poor… but trial and error sometimes is the best strategy for finding a good blending container)

Step 1: Roast the Squash

Alright, real step one is cutting the squash, which is no small feat, but then you roast it. So first, cutting it. Get a sharp knife, sharpest you have. Winter squash are notoriously hard and you really can hurt yourself trying to saw through them with a crappy knife, so sharpen that thing up. Now, lay the squash on its side and cut off the bottom and the top (carefully! Like so…. )

THEN stand it on its now flat bottom and cut down through the middle long ways.

Once you’ve split your squash, scoop out the seeds and stringy parts and either keep them to roast or toss them out. In the bottom of a baking dish (big enough for both sides of squash to fit in fleshy side down) add ¼ cup of white wine and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. Cover the dish lightly in foil and put this in the oven at around 400 degrees for about an hour.

At about 45 minutes in, check the squash to see how soft it is. You want to check a few spots. If a fork doesn’t go in easily, it needs more time. Make sure there is still liquid in the bottom (if not, add 1/8 cup of water or white wine) and return it to the oven. You want the squash to be soft enough to scoop out easily and blend easily.

 

Step 2: Sauté the Onions & Mushrooms

While the squash is cooking, sauté ½ a yellow or white onion in olive oil or butter over medium heat. When the onion is soft and starting to brown just a little, remove from heat and add to the container you’ll use for blending the sauce.

Yes I use mugs as prep bowls, don’t you? They have handles!

When the onions are done, toss 1 package of mushrooms (sliced) into the same pan (adding a bit more oil or butter if needed) with ½ teaspoon of minced garlic. Cook on medium high heat until soft and starting to brown up. Pull the pan from heat when done and set aside.

 

Step 3: Prep the Sauce & Pasta

After cooking the onions (or during if you’re REALLY good at multi-tasking while cooking) grate 1 cup of Parmigiano-reggiano cheese into the sauce blending container. Grate about ½ a cup in a bowl on the side for topping the plates later.

Now add 1/3 teaspoon of sea salt, 5 sage leaves (chopped up into small bits), and 1/2 cup of milk to the blending container too. If you want to use the chicken stock (adds a little salty depth to the sauce) you can use half milk, half broth.

When this is ready to go, put on your water for the pasta. All these moving parts may not be timed perfectly, but that’s ok. If the pasta finishes first, strain it and set it aside. If the sauce is finished first, no big deal, just set the blended stuff aside and wait for the pasta.

 

Step 4: Sauce it up

When the squash is done and soft, take it out of the oven, remove the cover and let it cool a little. You don’t want to burn yourself while scooping out the yummy stuff. When it’s cool enough to handle, use a metal spoon to scoop out the flesh into your blending container on top of the other ingredients.

Now blend this A LOT. Use a spatula or spoon to make sure the stuff on the bottom is getting included and blend again – you really can’t over blend this, so when in doubt, give it another surge. If it’s VERY thick, add milk 1 tablespoon or so at a time. Remember you still have sour cream to add though, so don’t make it too thin.

Bare with the awkward picture, it’s hard to take pictures of this process!

Step 5: Putting it all Together

Drop your pasta back in the pan it cooked in on the stove. Add 1 cup of sour cream/plain yogurt, and pour in the blended squash mixture. You may not need all of the blended squash stuff, so put in ½ or so, stir and add more if needed. This depends a lot on the size of your squash, so it’s hard to get the perfect amount each time. If you have extra, make some more pasta and keep for left overs (or freeze the sauce alone for later to reheat, add sour cream to and eat over pasta at another date).

Doesn’t it look like mac & cheese?

Heat this mixture on low until everything is to your preferred temperature. Add salt and pepper to taste (we liked it a bit saltier to balance out the sweetness of the squash, but it’s definitely a preference thing)

When your creamy deliciousness coats the shells and is hot enough, dish it out. Lay a spoonful of mushrooms on top and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese. You can serve smaller portions with a side caesar salad too which is healthier and delicious.

This is a great fall dish, one great for large groups too if you want to make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It reheats well (just add a sprinkle of milk or water before reheating) and is delicious for lunch throughout the week, so I found. We’ll definitely make again.

Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Seeds (3 Ways)

Ok, so I know Halloween was like 2 weeks ago. But between a hurricane, travel and other distractions we didn’t even carve our pumpkins until the day of anyway so there was no way to get up the pumpkin seed making ‘in time’ to be super useful to you. LUCKILY, pumpkins are still in season and perhaps you have some pumpkin pies or soups coming up in your recipe book yet that you can use fresh (instead of canned… though it’s pretty good too) pumpkin for and get some seeds. Alternatively, you can buy raw pumpkin seeds (called ‘pepitas’ for some reason) a lot of places, including Trader Joes.

Anyway, all that aside, I made 3 types of seeds this year:

  • Mexican cocoa (aka spicy chocolate)
  • Traditional (which for us is salty, slightly garlicy, paprika’d deliciousness)
  • Rosemary apple (totally because we had these items… but they turned out pretty damn good)

So first a few things about pumpkin seed making:

  1. They burn easily, so using slightly lower heat for longer helps prevent you from doing this. I like to go with 300 degrees Fahrenheit. I leave them in for 10 minutes, and then test them every 2 after that. It can take awhile, especially if they’re super fresh (right out of the pumpkin) or for things like cocoa that hold moisture rather than salt that wicks out moisture. You want to get the seeds to a point where they are crunchy, not chewy.
  2. You can either leave some pumpkin goop residue on the seeds to get flavors to stick OR wash and dry your seeds to get the goop off and then toss them in a teeny bit of egg white before adding spices etc. Either way is fine. This year I went with egg white, previously I’ve gone with goop. I don’t think it makes one bit of difference.
  3. Seeds don’t keep super long. Even in plastic bags they tend to get a little chewy after a day or so. You can re-roast them for a few minutes at 300 to recrisp them.

Ok, now to the flavors!!! First, the seeds came out of these two awesome pumpkins (kitty didn’t help, she’s just looking fierce here)

The first, and my favorite:

Mexican Cocoa

What you need:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Cayenne pepper (the ground powdery kind)
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar (the really fine stuff if you have it)
  • Salt

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 tsp of cayenne, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (or more, if you’re pro-cinnamon), 1 tablespoon of sugar and  1/3 tsp of salt. Stir these together.Then toss 1 cup of seeds (either with the pumpkin goop intact or tossed in 1 tablespoon of whisked egg whites) into the mix.

Here comes the fun part. Grease a cookie sheet. Now try to spread these out in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Most likely you’ll end up coated in fudgy goo while doing this (the egg white and the sugar and the cocoa make a delicious enemy). If you’re feeling like a risk taker, lick your fingers when you’re done though, it’s yummy!

At 325 these will take around 20 minutes, but start testing after 15 or so just in case. Mine took a good bit longer b/c I put in too much egg white… it’s a delicate thing. But it’s worth it – these were AMAZING. As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after 24 hours or so in a baggy, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp pretty well.


Traditional (Salty)

What you need:

  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Ok, so same idea here. 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (if you don’t want them garlicy, but just salty, just use no garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon of salt) and 1/4 tsp (a dash or two really) of black pepper. These are really salty, so if you’re not keen on that, cut back the salty items and up the paprika or pepper. Just a preference.
Toss a cup of seeds (with goop or egg whites) in this mixture and spread in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. This should be easier than with the chocolate ones, no worries.

Check these after 12 minutes. They cook up fast with all the salt, and are yummy fresh out of the oven! And they stay crispy crunchy longer than the other 2 flavors, so great for taking to work the next day or giving as a gift (within a few days)


Rosemary Apple

Ok, the invented flavor. What you need:

  • 1/2 an apple (any type, I used gala I think) diced into small pieces
  • Fresh rosemary (the leaves off one good sprig) chopped to the smallest bits you can muster
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

You know the drill. Mix the spices (fresh rosemary chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon of salt) and the apples in a bowl. Then drop in the seeds. These actually probably need less egg white to them because of the moisture from the apple bits. I didn’t reduce the egg white and they took quite awhile, but really were tasty.

Put them on a greased baking sheet and toss them in. At 325 these take at least 20 minutes if not more. Depends on how juicy the apple was, really. Also, there will be some sticky browned apple juice on the pan this time, not much you can do about that. But these taste pretty yummy and look super festive and holiday-ish. Could be a great appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas for sure.

As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after a day in a ziplock, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp well.

Let me know what flavors of pumpkin seeds you made this year. Any plans to make more? I think I may buy some raw pepitas tonight to make up for a snack. Hmmm… which to make… ENJOY!

Wild Rice Pilaf Stuffed Acorn Squash

Oh my – time flies when you get sick and don’t blog! Sorry for the delays!

I bought an acorn squash over a week ago and finally got to cooking it. I will admit – I’m not a huge squash fan. I find the texture a little weird, and the flavor mostly nonexistent. But it’s fall, and so squash cheaply abounds in all it’s takes-an-eternity-to-go-bad glory, which is enough for me to buy and cook it. USUALLY I’d roast an acorn squash open faced with lots of butter, brown sugar/maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. BUT dessert squash defeats a little bit of the point. So I tried something else to some success.

Things you need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • Cup of wild rice (actually I use a ‘brown rice medley’ from Trader Joe’s that I particularly like for it’s mixed texture… but really you could use any rice. I’d suggest a hearty rice though for sure)
  • Chicken broth (enough to make your rice, usually double the amount of dry rice you make, more or less)
  • Carrots, onions, celery (more = more flavor), any other veggies you wish (I threw in a few mushrooms too and some frozen peas for good measure because I love them)
  • Garlic, salt & black pepper, olive oil (always unless you’re making dessert)
  • Almond slivers (optional, but like in the other greens recipe, they worked well in the pilaf. Could sub pine nuts or sunflower seeds too)
  • Savory herbs of your choosing (thyme, rosemary, celery seed, oregano, parsley, tarragon… I used the first three, about a pinch each… could have used more)
  • Butter (of faux butter like Earth Balance)

As an aside, we also made some sauteed spinach (with bacon, worcestershire sauce and mustard) on the side… but that’ll be another blog sometime…

Ok, Step 1: Cook the wild rice. Wild rice is tough and resilient, so no worries about over cooking it really by cooking it in the broth on the stove top and then piling it in the acorn squash to roast up. If you’re nervous about mushy rice (clearly you have some anxiety issues, but that’s ok, we all have our things) you can cook it about 30 minutes and then pull it off of heat.

Step 2: Chop. Chop some more. Chop the onions and carrots and celery, and any fresh herbs (put any fresh herbs chopped to the side, away from the veggies which we’re gonna saute)

Step 3: While you have the knife and cutting board out, cut through that acorn squash too. Be careful – they’re hard vegetables and you don’t want to push so hard you slip and cut your fingers. A tip – cut a small slit in the squash with the tip of a knife and then use that slot to press into to cut all the way through. You can cut an acorn squash up and down along a ridge or right across the middle more horizontally… no matter.

When that’s all done, you gotta take out the inside. Like a pumpkin, the inside is a little mushy and weird and full of seed (you can roast these later if you wish like pumpkin seeds too). I use a grapefruit spoon for scraping out all the weird slippery strings and that works great.

Step 4: When your rice is about 10 minutes from being done cooking (either fully or to your desired partial cooking if you have that rice anxiety), turn your oven to 400 degrees, and turn a burner on medium with your trusty cast iron (or less trusty other pan if you must). In the pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, teaspoon (1 clove) minced garlic,  your chopped veggies and your almonds if they’re raw (like ours were… seriously, raw almonds… silly). Saute them until the onions start to get clear and then turn off the burner.

Step 5: Mix up that wild rice pilaf. Add the cooked rice, sauteed veggies, and herbs to a bowl and fold together. Taste test. If it needs more herbs, salt, pepper, a dash of worcestershire or soy sauce, some Mrs. Dash, a hug, whatever – add it. You know what tastes good in your mouth, own that. You want your pilaf to be scrumptious. When you’re at a loss for what it might need, I rely (guiltily I assure you) on chicken bouillon and add it teeny bit by teeny bit. A little salty (often MSG laden) powder goes a LONG WAY.

Step 6: Place your acorn squash halves on a baking dish (so you know, acorn squash are fat and hard to fit in normal pans… silly nature). Add a tablespoon or so of butter (or non-butter)  in each half as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper and maybe some dried herbs for good measure. I was running out of butter, so I used less butter and a little olive oil with the dried herbs and rubbed that into the squash. It didn’t make much a difference in flavor to do this though so it’s probably easier to just add all the unnecessary herbs to the pilaf and skip all that olive oil rub stuffs.  Pile rice pilaf on top of that, pressing in a bit so you can get a good portion in the squash.

Step 7: Cover lightly with foil, pop in the oven for about 45 minutes. Some other recipes have you make the acorn squash, then fill it with pilaf… either way. I like that they all cook together. Seems right to me.

Step 8: Remove from the oven, plate (we sprinkles some chia seeds on top for fun) and enjoy! TADA – fancy looking dinner with normal ingredients and SUPER good for you. I’d suggest drinking some wine with it to balance out all those vitamins… no need to be extreme.

Happy fall eating!

Glorious Veggie Sandwich

I’ve never been much for sandwiches really. In elementary school I even refused PBJ and for over a year alternated between cheese sandwiches (yup, just a slice or two of cheese…. sometimes even kraft ‘cheese’ folded into a piece of bread) or butter sandwiches (which was really just Country Crock pseudo-butter on a folded piece of bread). God forbid my mom try to make me a ham and cheddar or turkey and swiss. Ew ew ew. And while I’ve grown up a bit in my tastes, I did figure out in college why I didn’t like sandwiches — they were so boring and mono-textured! Soft deli meat, soft cheese, soft bread made softer by mayo or mustard — blah. But add cucumbers or sweet pickles? WOW! Who knew I liked sandwiches?

So, though still not my favorite meal, I’ve endeavored to learn to make sandwiches I enjoy eating. And sometimes, my custom veggie sandwich is everything I’ve ever wanted in a food. Here’s how I (usually) do it…

Ingredients: 

Some decent whole grain bread… I like this one, the boyfriend prefers the oat kind… but some tasty nutty bread is best. If you can make your own, even better.

Fresh tomato and cucumber

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (or whatever flavor you prefer, but this one is the best so pick it)

Plain greek yogurt (totally a stolen photo from http://www.jessicashealthblog.com), mix in a teaspoon of cream cheese if you wish for increased deliciousness, and herbs/seasonings. I go with a little bit of cayenne pepper, garlic salt, cumin or whatever suits my whimsy that day. But really this invented ‘spread’ is the key to sandwich flavor variety.

So spread on that hummus and creamy cheesy herb stuff, and pile on some sprouts (I added yet more after this photo). They add crunch and if you get something like onion sprouts it can add some oomph too.

Then those ripe yummy summer tomatoes…

And then the sliced cukes and a piece of lettuce if you have it around (though it doesn’t add much to the deal honestly)

And TADA…. Veggie Sandwich of Glory!

SEE? Doesn’t it look tasty? (it is trust me)

Though, I do have a warning… it is hard to eat and hard to travel with. This is due to it’s size and amount of uncompromising awesomeness. See? It doesn’t even fit in a normal baggie. It’s a plus-sized sandwich. Even better.

You can also fix this up with various mustards (though they aren’t my favorite personally) or add a slice of cheese (muenster works particularly well here) or even add a meat to the mix. The important part is to get some tasty pestos and spreads in there for a variety of flavors and textures and to make a it mostly a pile of interesting veggies. Use that CSA or garden to your advantage!

Let us know what you like to pile onto your specialty sandwich in the comments! I love to try new combinations.

Chia Seeds: Sesame Seeds or Bubble Tea Tapioca Balls? Both?

I was cruising facebook a few weeks ago, seeing what my ‘friends’ were up to (we really need a special word  for facebook friends… frienooks? faciends?). Anyway, one friend had posted a fruit parfait thing she’d made. But where I expected there to be yogurt there were weird gray blobs in it. See?

It reminded me a lot of bubble tea by appearance (which never was my cup of tea… pun intended), but it wasn’t tapioca. I was intrigued. She’d described it as a ‘chia seed parfait.’ So I looked into chia seeds some more. And ya know what? They’re definitely the new hip superfood we should all be eating that Myans and Aztecs ate all the time and we’ve ignored for a few thousand years. Now, while the Mayans and Aztecs didn’t fair so well, from all out accounts it’s not because of Chia.

According to health food experts, we should be eating this. Flax seeds? Meh – has to be shucked to get to the Omega-3 fatty acids. Not so with Chia seeds. Additionally, Chia has a plethora of anti-oxidants, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper (who knew my body could use this?), iron, B3, and zinc. As a bonus Chia can be stored dry for a long time without losing it’s oomph. All pretty excellent news, so I decided to give this stuff a try.  But two questions remained — where can I get it and how do I eat it?

I searched the local health food section at the generic grocery store – no luck. I could have driven out to a whole foods or something I’m sure, but instead I decided Amazon was my friend. So I ordered a pound of chia seeds. They arrived a few days later in a small box, and inside was a zippered bag like I was buying health food drugs (or at least what I imagine that might be like from watching The Wire, I’m too squeaky clean to know personally). Though I bought a different ‘brand’ of seeds, they all look about the same I think.

Ok, now onto eating!!! How do I eat these things? Two ways:

1)   Sprinkle them a tablespoon at a time onto anything right before eating. It adds a little crunch like sesame or poppy seeds. This is great with stir fry (even tofu stir fry if you go with the CreativEating blog thing). Also good on sauteed veggies if you throw them on as you serve, or tossed in with the granola you top yogurt with. See how chiaseedme.com shows these cute things on stir fry.

But be aware, when these little buggers soak in ANY liquid for about 20 or 30 minutes they morph like transformers from crunchy bits to gelatinous monsters.

2) Ok, not monsters. But they would be weird in stir fry or sauteed veggies. I did try this gelled method though and it was kind of fun (I bet kids would love this weird gooey transformation)!

I soaked about 6 tbsp of seeds in some orange/peach juice in cup overnight in the fridge. Then in the morning I scooped this weird seed-laden jello on top of some cut up bananas and strawberries. My friend’s parfait up top used almond milk (I believe) in place of the juice. A few other places out on the interwebs use soy milk or almond milk, fruit, AND greek yogurt for a breakfast cup. All in all, I bet they’re all good. My juice/chia seed goo was scrumptious though visually unappealing. See?

I will say that if you can, stir it a few times over the first 20 minutes so it doesn’t get set in clumps. But if not, it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened – you can pick them out if you want. You don’t notice them too much if you have a good balance of fruit.

I’m not sure how much I’ll use chia seeds as a normal part of the diet – as flavorless texture transformers they seem a bit risky. But I do have a pound to go through so I may be won over. I’ve heard chia pudding and chia muffins are pretty yummy and their gel can be a good egg substitute. Stay tuned for my explorations.

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