Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting in the vegetables: Be sneaky

Sometimes the only way to get the vegetables in is to SNEAK them into whatever you are craving. I feel I am almost an expert in the art of sneakery. Those veggies are stealth veggies at my house!

I find four veggies really easy to 'sneak' into my regular meals. These are cauliflower, tomatoes, pumpkin, and spinach.


 Cauliflower is low calorie and high fiber. It also tastes amazing with cheese, so I like to make it into cheesey cauliflower and add it into macaroni & cheese. You can also mash it with potatoes to incorporate a little more fiber into your side dishes. I love cauliflower!

Here's a fun idea that mixes comfort food and  veggies: Healthy Nachos.

Take cheesey cauliflower (link to recipe) and your favorite chili recipe (I like turkey). Fill the bottom of the bowl with the cheesey cauliflower and top with some chili. Add more veggies, sour cream, chips, whatever you like. It's also awesome on a turkey sausage like a chili-cheese dog.


Tomatoes are really easy.

In the summer, I like them fresh, ripe, and with basil....
 In the winter, I prefer a tomato + cheese panini....warm, gooey, soft, crunchy...yum!

 For a snack, 1/2 cup of salsa counts. Remember that when you're getting ready for the upcoming college bowl games!

 Probably the best use of tomatoes in the winter is in a red clam sauce. Try this recipe:

Spaghetti with red clam sauce

1/2 lb linguini, angel hair, or other long pasta
2-3 small cans chopped clams
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, finely diced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp good olive oil
Grated hard cheese, such as parmesan. 

Heavily salt and boil water for noodles. In another large pan, saute minced garlic and onion until translucent. Add clam juice, but RESERVE CLAMS. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. Stir over high heat, allow to concentrate until 1/3 of liquid has boiled off. Add clams, and salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes for a nice zing!

Boil the noodles until al dente. Do not over cook. Transfer the noodles to the sauce pan with a slotted spoon or noodle spoon. Allow to finish cooking in the pasta sauce. They will soak up much of the sauce and become delicious. 

Serve garnished with parmesan. 


...and other squashes....

Pumpkin can be baked into breads and stirred into yogurt...
It is a classic pairing with sage in ravioli....

It makes a great base for soups and stews...

But would you ever pair it with shrimp and sour cream and make an amazing pasta dish? I would. I did.
'Cleaning out the Freezer' Pasta

1 lb shrimps, peeled and de-tailed
1/2 c canned pumpkin
1 lb linguini
2 c frozen broccoli florets
3 tbsp cream cheese, light 
2 tbsp light sour cream
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp basil
1 onion, minced
salt & pepper

Saute onion and garlic in basil and a pinch of salt and pepper until cooked Add pumpkin and 1 cup water, and stir until smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream. Boil linguini in salted water until al dente. Add noodles with pasta fork to sauce, 1 spoonful at a time. Stir in between additions to prevent sticking. Add 1 c pasta water to mixture and stir thoroughly. Sauce should be smooth, but not water. Defrost broccoli and stir in gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. 


 In the summer, I'd tell you that my favorite way to eat spinach is in a smoothie.
Actually, a salad. A really awesome salad.

Neither of those statements would be true in the months of October to March. It's too cold to eat anything cold.

One of my favorite ways to get in the vegetables is to just add one handful to whatever I'm eating. Grilled cheese sandwich? Add a cup of spinach.

Taco meat? On a bed of spinach!
Homemade Lo Mein? On some spinach, topped with jicama and green onions!

So, if you can't do anything else, make some scrambled eggs and add in spinach. You'll get in the veggies with almost no effort.

What is your favorite vegetable-rich recipe?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

My family is the Christmas-y type, but no matter your holiday celebrations (even if you just celebrate having a day off of work or awesome sales!) I hope you and your families have a great day!

I have a new post with NEW RECIPES to put up after I get back to Iowa. Keep an eye out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Cheer!

'Tis the season! The holidays are fun, exciting, and sometimes exhausting!

I'm no Grinch, but this holiday season has been marred by exhaustion: I've been sick, my boss has been hounding me for just-barely-possible projects, and I'm on the job market. I haven't been the most holiday-spirited, if you know what i mean.

I have tried to get involved in a few ways. I got holiday candy for our candy drawer at work. I've been dutifully eating one candy cane a day for the last week.

I hosted a holiday party a couple weekends ago. We made and decorated cookies...had some cider and snacks, and played holiday music.

While cookies aren't the healthiest, we did have some healthy snacks...


BBQ Tofu (in bowl), Salami, Smoked Turkey, Roast Beef, and Ham
 Crackers and cheese - brie, derby sage, and beemster.

Then, we rolled out three kinds of dough - shortbread, gingerbread, and sugar:

We decorated with a variety of colored frostings and tips:

We did an awesome job - the finished products:

Today I finished wrapping my presents for my family. We are going to spend Christmas with my family in northern Minnesota. I went a little overboard and my car is going to be filled with presents. I actually got the tape measure out to make sure the big present would fit in my backseat.

The fiance's arm is in there for scale and to cover the nametag. That package took five entire paper bags to wrap. I actually took the dimensions and calculated the number of bags I'd need to wrap it up. I got it just right - we used every last scrap!

Finally, I got some nog. I love the taste of eggnog, but it has a weird texture. I was very excited to find this at the store:

Not any thicker than soymilk. 90 calories. Tastes like eggnog. Win! I put it into my coffee and called it a day!

More holiday cheer coming soon. Have a great week!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting in the vegetables: Stew!

 Winterizing vegetable dishes can be tough. Cold weather does not make me want to eat cold vegetables or salads. It leaves me craving rich, heavy foods...unfortunately those aren't always high in fiber and nutrients. In this series, I unveil some of my family secrets for happy winter vegetable mooses.

If you missed the first installment, I made PIZZALAD - which is an awesome homemade pizza that is filled with vegetable power.

In this post, I'll share my winter vegetable stew recipe with you. This stew, of course, comes with a story. 

When the fiance and I started dating, we were poor graduate students, and we would make each other dinner pretty often. He actually made me "Engagement Chicken" on one of our early dates, which left me a little afraid and skeptical. Obviously he had no idea about the urban legend that is engagement chicken - he just thought I'd be REALLY impressed that he could cook a chicken. I am. He now cooks all the chickens. I'm happy not to touch them. 

....but I digress. He came over for dinner one day and he found me stirring a soup on the stove. I said 'I made vegetable stew' and he said 'and what else....?'. Evidently vegetable stew did not seem like a tasty or filling meal for him.  

I told him that if he wanted something else when we were done, we could go find some more food, and I presented my soup.

Two bowls later, he shut up and was stuffed to the brim. Now, he requests this very versatile soup. I'll tell you ALL of my secrets for making this healthy and satisfying meal.

Vegetable Stew

1 medium onion, red or white
4 zucchini (or two yellow squash + two zucchini, or 4 yellow squash)
1 32 oz can diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained
1 14.5 oz can white beans, drained
1/4 c minced garlic
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp sugar (to taste)
1 tbsp good olive oil
salt to taste

 Directions: In large pot, heat oil. Roughly chop one onion and start to saute. Roughly chop squashes and add HALF to onion in pot. Saute until the onion and zucchini begin to brown. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Add rosemary, paprika, and black pepper.  Add tomato products and beans + 2 cans of water. Taste, then add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Bring to boil, then add remaining squash. Cook until the sauteed zucchini start to break down and the soup begins to thicken. The squash added later should be tender, but not falling apart. This usually is about an hour process for me. Add salt at the end, to taste. 


Adding the zucchini in stages allows some of the zucchini to break down and release their starches, giving you a thicker soup with some good mouthfeel from the zucchini you added later.

Browning the initial vegetables is SUPER IMPORTANT. So much of the taste happens there. Yum.

You add the salt last because cooking beans with salt tends to make them tough and granule-y. If you don't like the starchy, gritty texture of beans, try cooking them without salt and adding the salt in later. I swear it makes a much creamier product.

I add vegetables dependent on how they look at the market. We added asparagus into the batch pictured above. Mushrooms, peppers, and cauliflower have also made appearances. If you don't like zucchini, I'd recommend using cauliflower and potatoes to get the same starchy feel. 

This freezes AMAZINGly. Stick it in 1 cup servings into freezer bags and have an awesome lunch any day.

What is your favorite winter vegetable?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Teeny Tiny Little Rant

Right now it is 1 degree outside. The heat in my apartment has been out for over 6 hours. I am wearing a lot of clothing. And I feel this deserves a teeeeny, tiny little rant.

First of all, it's winter in Iowa. Iowa gets cold. We recently had a small blizzard (the bottom of the same one that took out the metrodome in Minneapolis). It's quite cold out - actually the coldest day we've had yet this winter. Tonight it's going to be colder. I normally keep our thermostat at 62 in the winter. I'm not one of those highly sensitive girls who can't put on more clothes when it's cold. But right now it is 52 degrees in my house and I have a space heater running full blast.

I woke up this morning to rapping on my door. The furnace people were here to replace our FUNCTIONAL furnace, which is a beautiful functional thing that reliably holds 62 degrees and costs me very little to do so. We were not warned by our landlords that they were coming today. In fact, they had told me that they might come replace our furnace on the 17th. Friday. Not today.

Now, I've been sick, as I told you recently. And applying for jobs. I've been stressed and tired and was sleeping in and taking it slow, lest I stress my body out to the point that I never recover. The fiance had some important meetings today, and the landlords are lucky that I wasn't gone already when the furnace people showed up. This morning they took 2 hours and four guys to remove the old furnace, and at the end of that endeavor they nicely imformed me that they had to go 'make some parts up in the shop and would be back later'. At that point I called in to work and let them know that today wasn't happening for me. Two hours after that they returned and started installing the new furnace. Two hours later, I hear swearing and confusion coming from the furnace room. If this gets installed by 6pm, I'll be surprised.

This is not the furnace people's fault. They are doing their best to do the job that they were hired to do. They have been mostly professional. I am just questioning the judgment of the people who decided to replace our furnace in December in Iowa with no notice.

Ok. Rant complete. I'll return to my normal, vegetable loving, science spouting self as soon as the heat comes back on. Until then, I hope you are having a warmer Monday than I am.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Update and Apology

Sorry for the delay in posting - I have some great winter vegetable posts to get in!

I am really, really very sick and have been sick for over a week. My whole lab seems to have the same illness. Consistent low-grade fever, progressing to unproductive cough, progressing to productive cough...ugh. There is also some snot involved if you really wanted to know. Maybe we can call it the Iowa Flu?

I hope to be back next week and have some posts about my holiday activities, some fun science, and vegetables. Hang in there and I hope you are healthier than I am. I'm certainly not living up to my name right now!