Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Intro + What You Really Want (Recipes!)

Ok, so I believe veggies are #1. Grains taste good--but are for the side, or just on occasion. Its veggies that are my staple food, and fruit of course. So most of my recipes will focus on veggies, though I'm going to make an effort to include more recipes with grains, beans, and tofu since that seems to be what people like.

In this post I include some info on picking produce, some recipes, and some nutritional tidbits of information in red under the recipes that contain the veggie I'm talking about. Happy eating!



BEFORE YOU PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH: PICKING AND CLEANING YOUR PRODUCE

Pesticides: Buy Organic and Wash!
One thing I'd like to say before we start cooking is that almost everything I cook with is organic, and I strongly suggest you do the same. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists off the most and least contaminated foods, and I strongly suggest looking at their site and using the information they provide to make an informed decision about what you're buying. I understand organic is more expensive (though, vegetables are significantly cheaper than meat, so you're really saving anyway) but what could you possibly be saving those pennies for that is worth more than your health? I personally like to use veggie wash to get rid of any pesticides on my inorganic produce, and often will wash the organic in it as well: there is such a thing as organic pesticides and they are used, so don't bite into that apple before you wash it!

For your convenience, I've listed the top 12 most contaminated foods and the 12 least. It is good to read the way these were chosen etc. so I still suggest visiting the site.

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Veggies (Pesticide load in parenthesis): "The Dirty Dozen"
Peaches (100), Apples (96), Sweet Bell Peppers (86), Celery (85), Nectarines (84), Strawberries (83), Cherries (75), Lettuce (69), Grapes--Imported (68), Pears (65), Spinach (60), Potatoes (58)

12 Least Contaminated Fruits and Veggies (Pesticide load in parenthesis): "Consistantly Clean"
Eggplant (19), Broccoli (18), Cabbage (17), Bananas (16), Kiwi (14), Asparagus (11), Sweet Peas--Frozen (11), Mango (9), Pineapples (7), Sweet Corn--Frozen (2), Avocado (1), Onions (1)

I wonder if the fact that most of the cleanest are also fruits that have thicker skins or veggies that have its outer layers removed before cooking usually?



Locally Grown Produce: Save the planet, delight your tastebuds
I know not everyone is lucky enough to have an organic farmers market just down the street. (It just so happens I do!) however I know for a fact that finding fresh local produce is far from impossible in most of North America and Western Europe--I've travelled quite a bit. So whenever possible, I strongly suggest getting locally grown produce. Why? Well, let me tell you a few of the great things about local fruits and veggies!


  • It's more eco-friendly! Since the fruit has to travel less to get to you, the transportation emissions are much less: the last thing this planet needs is more pollution: believe you me!

  • It's more fresh! The produce you're eating came off the vine sometime within the past few days, rather than the past few months! That's a HUGE difference and you'll really notice it when you taste it. Fruits and veggies that ripen on the plant taste so much better.

  • It's more nutritious! Since the farmers who pick it know that it's not going to have to last months before its consumed, they pick it when its right at its peak. That means the produce has the maximum amount of time to absorb nutrients before it shows up on your plate.


THE GOOD STUFF: RECIPES

So here are some really basic, really fast, really easy recipes. I'll edit photos in as I make them again.


Braised Mushrooms
These Mushrooms are cooked up asian style, really quick to make!
  • 1/2 lb button mushrooms (10ish)
  • 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms (8ish--if you buy them dehydrated remember to soak overnight)
  • 1/4 lb oyster mushrooms12oz straw mushrooms (can come from a can)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil (or grapeseed, safflower--ones with mild tastes.)
  • 1 tsp butter replacement, or just an extra tsp of oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (i like extra garlic usually so more like 4, but to each their own)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pinch black pepper

1. Brush your mushrooms, or rinse them: personally I dont think the 0.5oz of water mushrooms will soak up is worth caring about. Just don't wash them with soap as that wont taste great. Trim stems of the mushrooms and drain the straw mushrooms and give them a quick rinse if they were canned.

2. Place stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Any skillet that's a little deep will do. Add oil and butter replacement and allow it to heat until the surface of the oil is dancing. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add everything else. Cover and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 8 min.

Great to serve over some rice.

Nutrition Blurb: Mushrooms have been used medicinally for ages and have huge health benefits. They're great at absorbing toxins, they're antioxidants, they're suspected to be metabolic enchancers, and they're loaded with nutrients. Shiitake mushrooms have all eight essential amino acids (something us Vegans/Vegetarians have to pay extra attention to getting). They produce lentinan which is used to prolong survival of cancer patients (it actually fights the damage from anti-cancer drugs, rather than the cancer itself). Button mushrooms contain significant amounts (50% to around 10% of recommended Daily Values, in decreasing order) selenium, riboflavin, copper, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, zinc manganese and thiamin. [Information in this blurb relies heavily on The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden, a book I highly recommend reading, as well as other sources which have been linked.]


Turnip Mash
I made this up the other night and love it to bits. By made up I mean there was no recipe: of course this has been done time and time again.

  • 1 medium/large turnip (or rutabaga)
  • 1 garlic head
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of rosemary (1 tsp for those who need to measure)
  • pinch of salt (to taste.)
  • 2/3 cup soy milk


1. Peel the waxy skin off of the turnip and then chop up into even pieces. The smaller, the faster it will cook obviously. Boil in water until soft. For rough 1-inch pieces this should take about 20 min. Meanwhile, place the garlic on some aluminum foil or on a tray and in the oven at about 400F. Leave it for about 10 to 15 min, until the flesh is soft and golden: you'll have to actually check as the skin wont give it away.


2. Take the roasted garlic and pull out all the flesh, discard the skin. Put it in the oil with the rosemary and let the oil really soak up the flavor.

3. Once the turnip is soft, drain the water. Pour in the oil mixture and the milk and mash. I use a hand held blender but by hand works too of course. Add in salt as you like, and feel free to experiment with other spices like paprika, black pepper, tumeric...

Nutritional Blurb: Those of you who are trying to lose weight will be happy to know that turnips, like melons and summer squash, are "high volume" foods--that is, they fill you up for less calories. A cup of cooked turnips is about 35 calories and has lots of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and calcium.



Sweet Potato Chips
Here's another quick one I just made up. Again: By made up I mean there was no recipe: of course this has been done time and time again.

  • sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt


1.Slice your sweet potatoes nice and thin: use a mandolin, cheese grater, or just a sharp knife. Try and make them even, as the thinner they are the higher the heat you want to cook them at to get the skin nice and crispy and the insides just soft enough. When the potato is thicker it needs longer for the insides to soften, and you don't want the skin to burn.


2. Drizzle some oil into the skillet and turn the element to somewhere between medium and near max. I like to slice mine thin so for me I keep it pretty near max. Once the oil is dancing on the surface it's hot enough. Make sure you dont let the oil smoke--that means your nice cis-unsaturated fats are turning into trans-fats. Yuck!

3. Lay the potato chips down individually, and just let them cook, once the edges are golden, flip them and let the other side cook. I like them done when I can bend them in half without breaking them with tongs, but if you want them more of a 'chip' let them fry a bit longer. Place them on a few paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Salt while still hot!

Nutritional Blurb: Sweet potato is definately a starchy treat, but what a treat at that. I absolutely love the taste of sweet potato in all its form, and it is high in fiber, rich in antioxidants, has vitamin A, potassium, a bit of calcium and they're thought to be anticarcinogenic.


Grilled Zucchini
Really easy, and I love it. My aunt has more zucchini in her backyard than she knows what to do with, so I've had zucchini in almost every way shape and form.

  • Zucchini (1 large per serving, or 3 baby zucchini)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (About a teaspoon per serving)

1. Slice your zucchini evenly. Using a mandolin really is best for this. If you have baby zucchini, just slice them in half lengthwise--they're soft and tender enough that they can cook through even when thick.


2. Get your griddle (or the largest frying pan you have, if you dont have a griddle)really, really hot. If its not nonstick you'll have to quickly brush on some oil. Lay your zucchini down on the griddle and let it sit, about 10 minutes.

3. For the sliced zucchini you know its ready to be flipped when it "sweats"--beads of water will form on the side facing you. For the baby zucchini you want the skin to be soft and dark to about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up. When you flip your zucchini the side that has just been cooked should be a nice golden brown color--if you've got a lot of white or pale gold, quickly turn it back and let it cook for a bit longer (don't keep flipping back and forth, each side should just cook once).

4. Cook until both sides are golden brown and then put it in a dish you can cover to let it keep warm while you cook your next batch. Once you've cooked all your zucchini, drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste and serve.


Nutritional Blurb: Zucchini is a summer squash and is stuffed full of potassium, folate, vitamin A and manganese. They're thought to be good for your eyesight and are most definately high volume foods, weighing in at about 28 calories per cooked cup!

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