Hicka-what? And Other Under-Appreciated Vegetables

I recently took a vegetable tray to a church function instead of my usual plate of goodies.  I know…gasp!  What is to become of me.  Who knew what a stir it would cause.  Any of you recognize this little veggie?  Everyone kept asking me what it was and seemed even more confused when I told them.

jicama

It is usually in the part of the grocery store with all the less popular vegetables.  Broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, all get their spotlight out in front but these stay tucked in the corner with turnips, rutabagas, beets, etc.  If you are still clueless, I will just give you the answer.  It’s a jicama!  Pronounced Hick-a-ma, and though people were leery to try it, everyone that did liked it.  It was one of the random foods that we got well acquainted with during Aaron’s cleanse and I just wanted to post about it to encourage all of you to give it a chance.

Just peel it, cut it into matchsticks, and dip it in hummus or ranch or whatever your favorite is.  Or toss it on salads and it will add a nice sweet crunch with minimal calories.  Honestly I even just love it plain for a nighttime snack when I don’t want to eat too much before bed.  Of course there are real recipes you could try it with, but so far that’s all I have done and I’ve loved it.  I’ll report back when I take it to the next level.  Or you could.

parsnip

 

Speaking of parsnips, this is another vegetable you should add into your rotation.  You can use them in place of potatoes for a similar consistency with a sweeter taste but fewer carbs and calories.  They are terrific mashed, as oven baked fries, or roasted as a medley with some other neglected vegetables.

coconut collard greens

The last lucky vegetable for today’s spotlight is Collard Greens.  Even though I am from the South, I can’t say that I have eaten too many of these in my day.  Of course, Aaron says Texas is not really the South, so maybe that is why.  I also can’t say that I love these straight up like I do the last two veggies, but since they are REALLY good for you and this recipe below, from Aaron’s cleanse, took the bitterness out of them and made them yummy, I thought I would share.

What are your favorite random veggies?  Or favorite random ways to cook “normal” veggies?

Coconut Collard Greens

  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ medium onion, diced
  • ½ bunch collard greens, stems removed, cut into ½-inch strips
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 dash Himalayan salt (to taste; optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown and very soft.
  2. Add collard greens and coconut milk; cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until greens are very tender.
  3. Add salt (if desired)

Tastier Tacos

I have heard from several friends lately that tacos are one of their go-to meals.  Mine too!!  I love them and could probably eat them every day.  Well, I know I can actually because that is exactly what I have been doing while Aaron is on his cleanse.  Well, a taco salad actually.  But that is what is great about this meal…you make up a few basic ingredients and you end up with lots of options: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, yum!

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But if you eventually get sick of those tacos, here are a few great ways to spruce them up.

#1 – FRESH Pico de Gallo

I don’t think there is anything that adds a better flavor that homemade salsa.  At least that has so few calories and so many vegetables that is.  I had a pile of tomatoes from the garden that I needed to use up fast so I busted out my college roommate’s recipe and got to work.  You still make this recipe Erika Loveland??

7 large tomatoes
1 onion
1 bunch cilantro
2 green chilies (seeded, unless you are ready for some heat of course!)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp garlic salt
1 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried red chili
1 tsp dried basil

Chop, Mix, Chill, and enjoy!  It also tastes good with eggs or a baked potato; what else do you put your salsa on??

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Peppers are another great add-in, and another healthy vegetable!  Instead of just frying them on the stove, try roasting them or grilling them for more ooomph.  And for an even deeper flavor, ditch your usual bell pepper and go for the poblano.  It is not spicy (unless you leave those seeds in!), but rich and smoky.  Just pop it in the oven at 400, using tongs to rotate it every 5 minutes until ll sides are slightly charred.

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My all-time favorite topping is the caramelized onion.  I could probably eat it on everything.  It and the peppers are a great way to jazz up burgers and homemade pizza.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a pile of butter or oil to get a tasty caramelized onion.  Just get a sweet onion (Walla Walla are the best, in my opinion, but maybe if you are in the south you would argue for the Vidalia)!

  • Set your frying pan on medium heat, spray it with olive oil, then add the onion.
  • Cook until it is starting to get pretty brown on one side.
  • Give it a good stir and then add enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Cook until it is starting to get pretty brown on the other side.
  • Give it a good stir and then add enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Are you getting the picture?  Keep doing this until the onions are as soft and sweet as your taste buds desire.

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For this week I just used ground turkey with the Costco Taco Seasoning.  I like the flavor of that and it doesn’t have any MSG like a lot of packaged seasonings.  Do any of you purists have a good recipe for Taco Seasoning that you like to use?

With all this deliciousness you don’t even need to add cheese or sour cream! My cheese loving family may disagree though.  Of course you may want to toss in some healthier fats like avocado or a dab of greek yogurt.  Yum!  What are your favorite ways to jazz up tacos?

Summer’s End

I figured this kind of sentiment was in order after my last post.  Saying hello to wonderful things like pears and pumpkins means saying goodbye to equally wonderful things like peaches and corn.  Of course in the global world we live in today we can get all of them all year round, but the mouth-watering freshness can sadly not be duplicated.  We have been getting some AMAZING fresh peaches from the farmstand by our house and I really can’t get enough of them.

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This isn’t a recipe so much as it is an ode to my favorite summer snack.  The basic premise is plain Greek Yogurt topped with fresh fresh fruit topped with just a touch of Nature’s Path Granola (I am currently loving the new Coconut Chia–have you tried it yet??).  Early summer the fruit is Spooner’s amazing strawberries, then raspberries, then blackberries, and now this delicious peach.  Frozen blueberries are a nice alternative for the long rainy season here in the northwest.

As pictured the nutrition is: Calories 244 / Carb 33 / Fat 6 / Protein 16 / Sugar 17

It seems so much easier to eat healthy in the summer with all the produce.  We were having salads every day when our lettuce was at its peak!  How do you keep up a healthy lifestyle instead of hibernating?  What are your favorite summer snacks?

peach ice cream

If you want another great way to enjoy some “peaches and cream” just toss in the Vitamix:

4 peaches
2 cups Greek Yogurt
Sweetener to taste (numbers below are with 1 TBSP Agave)

Then pour in your ice cream maker and voila!  Some super yummy super easy super healthy frozen yogurt.

Calories for 4 servings: 124 / Carb 19 / Fat 0 / Protein 13 / Sugar 16

Feeling Fall

Today’s deliciousness happened by pure accident.  Well I shouldn’t say accident really.  More like two inconveniences that led to desperation that led to discovery.  The first inconvenience: all-day downpour leading to crazy cooped up kids.  Baking is always a good distraction on such days because these two little ones love to help.  But the one on the left is a little ipod obsessed and Aaron had taken it away from him earlier and gone to work with it, along with all the recipes on my mental list of things to bake soon.

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We still have gobs of zucchini, so I thought some of the Clean Eating Zucchini bread would be good…recipe on the ipod.  I had a pile of dried figs that I bought on a whim and a craving the other day at Winco, but my clean fig newton recipe??? On the ipod.  So I went to the kitchen feeling resigned to simply modify some less healthy recipe and for some reason reached for my least healthy, but most yummy baking cookbook.

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I looked up figs in the index and came across Oatmeal Breakfast Bread.  You know from my last post that I am a fan of oats…you can prob tell from my posts over time that I am a fan of breakfast breads!  But you probably didn’t know that I am a fan of Figs.  Figs are a great source of potassium, which helps lower high blood pressure, and dietary fiber, which aids in weight loss.  And they taste delicious!   I love the teeny tiny crunch in your mouth when you eat them.

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I was a big fan of Fig Newtons too until I started to detest packaged baked goods, first for taste reasons, but now for health reasons obviously as well.   This bread does not taste like a Fig Newton of course, but it does have a great Fall Figgy Flavor.  Let me know if you are interested and I can post a great healthy Fig Newton recipe too.  If for some reason you do not like figs, feel free to substitute apples, apricots, raisins, or dates.  I decided to go ahead and throw in the shredded zucchini I had leftover in my fridge, but feel free to replace that with some canola oil if you don’t have the overabundance that I have been dealing with!

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Oatmeal Breakfast Bread
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking From my Home to Yours”
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup dried fruit figs, apples, apricots or raisins
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 9×5 loaf pan by buttering and dusting with flour. Put pan on baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together eggs, applesauce, zucchini, and buttermilk until well blended.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Remove ½ tsp of the mix and toss it with the fruit, just to coat; set aside. Stir the oats into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and, using a large rubber spatula, stir just until everything is evenly moistened. Scatter the dried fruit over the batter and stir to blend.
  5. Chop 1/2 cup walnuts and
  6. Scrape the batter into the pan and sprinkle over the topping, patting it down very lightly with your finger so it sticks.
  7. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread is beautifully browned and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the bread to a rack to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

Calories 187 / Carb 32 / Fat 5 / Protein 5 / Sugar 17

Serve it with some greek yogurt to add an extra protein punch.

Overnight Oats

I thought I would share another favorite recipe that I have been eating for awhile without sharing.  Don’t hate me…I had so many months of no blogging that I am sure there will be a lot more of them to come!

I love oatmeal and usually eat it every other day, so it is nice to have a lot of options on ways to prepare it.  It probably goes without saying that Oatmeal is really good for you, but here are some of the reasons why.  They have been linked with:

  • reducing cholesterol levels
  • balancing blood sugar
  • helping to lower blood pressure
  • encouraging regular bowel movements
  • providing a valuable source of carbohydrates for athletic performance
  • promoting nerve health
  • assisting with weight management
  • and even as an important food for longevity

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There are tons of different versions out there, but the basic one I use is from Kath Eats Real Food…a great site you should check out if you haven’t already.  She has a lot of other versions on there you can try as well as tastier looking photography than my own.  And not to mention an interesting debate in the comment section on whether or not this counts as true muesli (which is what it reminded me of when I first had it).

Recipe

1/3 cup rolled oats (if you are a strong man like my husband, change all these 1/3 to 1/2)

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek for the protein…but do I even need to say that these days??)

1/2 banana

1/2 tbsp chia seeds

Directions

Stir everything together in a bowl (I usually use a mason jar to keep it nice and fresh).  Place in fridge overnight. In the morning top with something crunchy and something with healthy fats – like nut butter or nuts.  Personally I like to add shredded apple or diced berries or some cocoa powder, but I have cheated and added these things the night before too to really simplify my morning.

What are your favorite ways to eat oats?

If you think you don’t like beets…

I used to think that myself.  But remember when I was reading this book and I learned about all the “superstar” foods??  Well that book reminded me of a recipe from a cookbook of my dads that I first made last summer and we absolutely loved it.  When we made it again this summer, I was reminded I never shared it with you.  If I shared all the reasons it was good for you, we would be here all day, so let’s just focus on the beets.

beets1

 

Here are a few reasons to love them:

  1. They lower cholesterol
  2. Increase exercise endurance
  3. Anti-imflammatory
  4. Anti-cancer Effects
  5. Immunity Booster
  6. Reduce the risk of birth defects
  7. Rich in essential minerals
  8. Oh yeah, and they taste delicious!!!

So try this salad while the beets and kale are still fresh and your farmer’s market.  Or share with us YOUR favorite way to eat beets.

Beet Kale Walnut Salad

Ingredients

Salad
3 to 4 beets, peeled and cubed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, lightly roasted
½ cup organic feta cheese (optional)

Dressing
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, optional
1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari or ¼ teaspoon sea salt


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the cubed beets into a steamer basket. Steam for about 15 to 20 minutes or until tender*, place into a bowl to cool. Place chopped kale into the steamer basket and steam for 5 to 10 minutes until tender but still bright green. Place into bowl with beets.

Place walnuts into a small glass baking dish and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely. Place into the bowl with beets and kale.

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Pour** over beets, kale, walnuts, and toss. Top with feta cheese and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

*Don’t know if it’s me, my beets, or my steamer basket, but usually this takes twice as long for them to get tender.

**I didn’t need to use all of the dressing on this one, so start sparingly and get it to the consistency you like!

Zucchini Overload

Ever since we got married, we have talked about growing a garden.  The benefits of it go without saying, and I think the labor involved goes without saying as well.  So I don’t need to give you all our excuses for it taking five years to finally do it.  When we redid our backyard, my mom plotted out a little garden space, complete with really nice, fertilized soil, so we decided to finally get rid of our excuses and just do it.

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I shouldn’t really say we though.  This has been 95% Aaron and the kids.  Yes, I bought the seeds, and yes I harvest some lettuce when we are going to have salad for dinner, but otherwise they have been the ones putting in the work and doing an awesome job.

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Since we are such newbies, we didn’t know that one little packets of a few tiny seeds would produce so many zucchini.  This was just a couple of days worth.  We have had a few stacks like that on our counter over the last few weeks.  Not having enough mouths or enough stamina to eat it plain, of course I turned to Pinterest to find some other good ways to put it to use.

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With sliced zucchini, we grilled them up and made some yummy zucchini pizzas.  Keeping with the Italian theme, with shredded zucchini we made spaghetti.  Except I didn’t have one of those fancy tools, so I just did it in my food processor.  I think I am going to try this zucchini bread recipe tomorrow because so far, the sugarless ones I have tried haven’t been the tastiest.  I will let you know.

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My favorite trick of all actually didn’t come from Pinterest, but from an idea my sister in law gave me.  She said what she did last year with all her zucchini was puree it and use it in place of oil/butter for recipes.  So I took our favorite waffle recipe and tried it out…it was a little on the runny side so we turned them into pancakes and they were so yummy I made them again on Saturday and figured I needed to share the recipe with you.  And yes, my kids loved them too…they don’t turn out green or scary or anything.

Zucchini Puree

Zucchini Pancakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup pureed zucchini
  • ½ cup VERY finely chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS

  1. Puree zucchini in a strong mixer like a Vitamix.  Set over a fine mesh strainer to drain most of the liquid while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid, but the batter would not be difficult to simply whisk).
  3. If you feel like mixing all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl like most recipes love you to do, feel free.  Personally I am lazy, especially in the morning, so I just dump all wet ingredients in at once, then mix.  Then add the pecans.
  4. A good trick to great pancakes or waffles is letting the batter rest for 5 minutes before cooking.  This helps the dry ingredients soak up the wet for a fluffier final result.
  5. I’m pretty sure you know what to do next.  Nutrition information is based on making 16 pancakes, 2 pancakes per serving size.

NUTRITION: Calories 199 / Fat 7 g / Carbs 25g / Protein 10 g / Sugar 2 g