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)
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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

A Simple Solution

Sometimes it is hard to decide the best way to eat for the best health with as many different claims out there from different fields of experts: Atkins vs. Vegans, Vegetarians vs. Paleo.  And even still there are some things in the world of health and nutrition that change with the times: margarine being created as a healthier replacement for butter, formula being touted as better for kids than breast milk are the first to pop into my head but I’m sure there are many more.

veggie cartoon

Just as I am sure one thing we can rely on staying constant is that vegetables are good for us.  Especially green vegetables.  Don’t think we can overdose on broccoli…but are any of us really in danger of that?  Well you need to believe me when I say that you might be after this “recipe”.  It will solve any problems you have trying to get your kids to eat more veggies.

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The three items in these two pictures and an oven are all you will need to make some broccoli that you will find yourself and your kids popping like candy (Don’t know if any of you also picked up the Misto Food Grade sprayers when they had them at Costco but they are awesome! I have Olive Oil in one and Canola Oil in the other).

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The “recipe” comes from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook, by Allison Fishman, which my sister was kind enough to give me.  I will simplify it even more.

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Cover large baking sheet or roasting pan with aluminum foil unless you love doing dishes.  Chop one head of broccoli–don’t throw away the stems because they actually taste good this way too!!
  2. Put the broccoli in the pan, drizzle with 1 TBSP of oil, and sprinkle 3/4 tsp of kosher salt.  Toss the broccoli in the oil to be sure it is coated evenly.  (If you have the awesome Misto sprayer, or any food-grade sprayer for that matter, you can simply spray on the oil for an even coating and not even need a whole TBSP.)
  3. Cook in the oven until crispy brown, about 20 minutes, stirring after 12 minutes.  You will want to serve immediately because I have noticed that despite being in such a hot oven, it gets cold quickly after being out.

Fishman has a similar recipe in her cookbook, but for cauliflower.  The only thing different really is the slicing technique. Instead of cutting out the individual florets, slice them into steaks for a new presentation.  Just stand the cauliflower on its stem end, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Cooking temp, time, and additions of salt and olive oil are the same.

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Roasting veggies with oil caramelizes them and brings a richness of flavor that you will never find by steaming, microwaving, or sauteeing.  Grilling comes close…ah…looking forward to summer.   What are your favorite simple ways to prepare vegetables?

Sweet Potato Fries

I am super slow in posting.  I have been busy being putting my feet up to rest from twisting my ankle playing volleyball.  Sadly it was not during some game winning play that makes for a great story or made the pain worth it.  I simply landed wrong after hitting the ball in the net.  At least we did end up winning the game so it wasn’t totally worthless.

I have been wanting to continue highlighting all the great foods in the 150 Top Healthiest Foods that I read on vacation.  The sweet potato is one of my favorite foods and main reason I look forward to fall.  Thanks to Costco though I can eat them pretty much year-round.

So what makes them so good for us?  One has over 700% of our daily recommended value for Vitamin A.  700%!!!  Crazy. Vitamin A promotes eyesight and helps us see in the dark; aids in the differentiation of cells of the skin (lining the outside of the body) and mucous membranes (linings inside of the body); helps the body fight off infection and sustain the immune system; and, supports growth and remodeling of bone. In addition, dietary vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene (an antioxidant), may help reduce your risk for certain cancers.

Then there are the 4 grams of protein (who knew), the 7 grams of fiber, and the 65% of daily Vitamin C.  Failing to get enough vitamin C causes inflammation of the gums, scaly skin, nosebleed, painful joints and other problems associated with scurvy, and we all know what failure to get enough fiber can lead to….

One of our favorite ways to cook them is to make an oven baked fry.  I have been trying for years to figure out how to get them crispier without sacrificing health, when I came across a trick in Clean Eating that I finally had time to try.  I was disappointed to find the results not any crispier than the quicker, more traditional method.  But perhaps it was user error, so feel free to try either and let me know if you get that crispiness.  Or if you have an even better method that works, please let me know!!!

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries 

Ingredients

For Fries
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams
1 egg white
sea salt to taste
herbs or spices to taste (I used smoked paprika but garlic and cilantro or basil would be delicious) \

Directions

1. Peel the potatoes and cut into strips or wedges with even thickness (you choose on how thick you want, just make sure the thickness is the same to ensure even cooking). Soak in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to allow all starch to be removed. Drain and pat completely dry (you don’t want excess moisture!!). Meanwhile prepare dipping sauce (if using). In a small bowl, add all ingredients and set in fridge for flavors to meld.
2. Preheat oven to 425 F (convection is best*). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, add egg white and beat until slightly foamy. Add potatoes, salt and choice of herbs/spices to taste. Toss to coat.
4. Spread potato slices onto baking sheet and make sure they do not overlap and are not crowded or touching.
5. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out  and flip the fries over and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until cooked through. The thinner the fry, the shorter the time, so keep an eye on them! Reduce heat to 200F and let the fries dry for another 15-20 minutes.

*If you do not have a convection oven, occasionally vent the oven the allow the steam to escape. This will help crisp up the fries more.