Thursday, July 23, 2015

4 Tips For a Zero-Waste Picnic

Hot sunny days are made for wandering around and just enjoying the weather. Picnics are an essential part of summer as they combine two guilty pleasures: good food and basking in the sun. However, some ideas are better than others. The concept of zero waste can be a challenge, so here are four tips for a successful zero-waste picnic!

1. Choose Reusable Tableware

Choose rigid, resealable plastic containers that you can use again on your next picnic. Personally, I much prefer to buy one sandwich box than dozens of disposable plastic bags. For utensils, you could bring your usual ones from home or consider some novel items such as sporks, which can be very handy.

If reusable containers are not an option, you may opt for tableware that is recyclable or compostable. In either case, make sure that it is certified as such. You may be surprised to learn that some places recycle polystyrene, so ask around.

2. Be Creative

  • Set yourself a challenge to try out new recipes—who knows, you might find your new favorite dish!
  • Take a flask rather than a bottle of water. I like to bring a big jug of cool fruit-flavored water. It’s incredibly easy: just fill your jug up with water, then add your favorite frozen berries.
  • Buy loose or in bulk! Have a sweet tooth? Buy dark chocolate loose and bring it along for dessert. Prefer savory? Popcorn is a simple, delicious snack that is perfect for summer outings.

3. Communicate and Get Informed

For your zero-waste picnic to be a success, you need everyone’s cooperation. Don’t be shy about assigning tasks—one person can be responsible for bringing all the recyclables home while someone else can take care of the compostables. By combining everyone’s strengths, your meal will be a sustainable, collaborative effort.

Next, find out more about where you will be eating. By being aware of the services available, you can make more informed choices. For example, if the park you are going to doesn’t have facilities for compost, favor reusable or recyclable utensils instead.

4. Leave Nothing Behind

Think about what you are going to do with the leftovers—bring a small pail, which you can empty at home, or a compostable bag. Bring recyclables back in a bag and put them in your bin!

Finally, ask yourself the ultimate question: have you left any visible traces of your day out behind? If the answer is no, your zero-waste picnic has been a success!


7 Homemade Ice Pops That Go Beyond Juice

It's time to break out that ice pop mold!

Do you own an ice pop mold? Maybe you bought it for a special recipe once and now it's just taking up space in your cupboard? Now's the time to pull it out. It's hot out. And nothing beats the heat like something frozen.

I'm guessing that the reason you're not using your ice pop mold very often is because you think you need to follow specific ice pop recipes to use it, and lack of time or lack of ingredients is getting in the way. I get it, I've been there. Epicurious has a lot of crowd-pleasing recipes if you want them, but the great thing about an ice pop mold is that you don't need to follow a recipe to use it.

A lot of ingredients that you probably already have in your fridge or pantry can be frozen into perfectly satisfying ice pops—and they don't necessarily need to be sweet. You also don't need to use every mold at the same time or for the same thing: fill each mold with something different and your freezer will suddenly become more exciting than any variety pack you can buy in the ice cream aisle.

Here's some of my favorite things to pour into my ice pop molds:

Coffee and Tea

Next time you make iced coffee or iced tea, make extra and pour it into an ice pop mold. Add a little milk and maybe even some sweetener, and you'll be able to get your caffeine fix in a totally refreshing and unexpected fun new way.


Turn your favorite breakfast yogurt parfait into an ice pop. Stir together some yogurt and jam or fresh fruit and even granola and pour it into ice pop molds.


Any kind of smoothie will also make a great ice pop. Any morning you're making a smoothie, just pour a little bit off into an ice pop mold and you'll have a healthy frozen treat to enjoy in the afternoon or after dinner.


If you ever find yourself with leftover pudding, spoon it into ice pop molds and freeze it into a decadent frozen dessert on a stick. Or make (or buy) a batch of pudding just for the purpose of turning it into ice pops—rice pudding pops are surprisingly addictive, and chocolate pudding pops will remind you of the Fudgsicles you grew up with.

Ice Cream

Make your own ice cream bars by softening any kind of ice cream you like, mixing in some fruit, candy, nuts, cookie chunks, jam, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, or what have you, and spooning it into ice pop molds. Be sure to pack them in firmly so they re-freezes in a solid form. Once they're frozen, you can get even more crazy and unmold them, dip them in melted chocolate and re-freeze for chocolate-coated ice cream bars.

Cocktails and Wine

On the hottest summer evening, wouldn't it be nice to nibble a frozen cocktail rather than drink one? Your favorite cocktails can easily turn into ice pops, so long as there is enough water or juice or non-alcoholic liquid in the mix to help them freeze. Wine ice pops are amazing too, and a great way to preserve any wine remaining in a bottle you opened but can't finish. Just mix that wine with some juice or water (use at least equal parts wine and non-alcoholic liquid) and maybe some fresh fruit and freeze it in your ice pop molds.


An ice pop mold is basically a huge ice cube tray that you can put sticks in. But you don't have to put sticks in it. These extra-large ice cubes are especially good for serving a cocktails in pitchers or punch bowls. For an eye-catching touch, tuck a few sprigs of fresh herbs or edible flower petals into each mold before you fill it with water, or add whole berries or slices of fruit.

[via Epicurious]

Friday, June 5, 2015

21 Vegan Barbecue Dishes

Just because you don't eat meat products doesn't mean you have to suffer through a vacuous frozen veggie burger while everyone else at the summer barbecue chows down on hot, delicious grill food.

You, dear vegan, deserve the very best. And, as it happens, the very best cookout foods are often vegan. Just see the alluring assortment of meat-free options below for proof, then prepare to cook up a veggie-packed storm all summer long.

1. BBQ Tempeh Bowl

Smoky-sweet, blackened tempeh triangles, sweet citrus, caramelized skillet sweet onions, buttery diced avocado, tender sweet potato cubes and a few crunchy California-style sprouts on a bed of baby greens. All that yumminess is drizzled in a super easy vegan ranch dressing. Dinner is done. And delicious! Get the BBQ Tempeh Bowl recipe from Healthy Happy Life.

2. Vegan Jackfruit Pulled 'Pork' Sandwiches

Jackfruit is a nice, meatless meaty substitute for pulled pork and since nothing tops BBQ better than a nice creamy slaw, you can whip up a vegan version, serve it all on a nice artisan sandwich roll. And of course, everything tastes better with tater tots. Proudly serve this recipe to any of your meatlover friends.

3. Vegan Macaroni Salad

Just as much as it’s not summer without pool days, it’s not summer without a good pasta salad. Usually the things are laden with heavy dairy products, but not this one! This recipe from Minimalist Baker is completely dairy-free and loaded with the perfect combo of crispy veg. Pasta heaven in a bowl.

4. Brown Sugar Baked Beans

A staple of nearly every backyard barbecue growing up was baked beans. This recipe from The Veg Life has adapted the traditional recipe into a vegan-friendly dish and while it takes a long while to bake, it's so worth it.

5. BBQ Charred Vegan Hot Dog

Hot Dogs are a classic, social, American food. Hot dogs are eaten at sporting events, from sidewalk food vendor carts and at summer beach BBQ's. Swap out those unhealthy traditional ingredients for organic, vegan, premium ones and we are in the beach barbecue business. Here's the Healthy, Happy Life recipe for those perfect beach hot dogs!

6. Colorful Veggie Slaw

The Superman Cooks Colorful Veggie Slaw recipe (otherwise known as “kitchen sink slaw”) was inspired by a couple of chefs -- whenever they had vegetables in the cooler that were quickly approaching the end of their shelf life, they smartly diced and shredded as many of them as they could, added a simple vinaigrette, and voilà! A great tasting, crunchy salad.

7. Vegan Dijon Fingerling Potato Salad

This dijon-veganaise potato salad recipe is a perfect lunch side, pack it for a picnic or for a weekday lunch and you're set.

8. Smoky Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro & Lime

Sweet potatoes on the grill? Heck yes! Thin-sliced sweet potato slabs grill up tender and perfect on the BBQ. Rub 'em with spices and top with cilantro and lime for the side of the summer. Grab the recipe here from Kitchen Treaty.

9. Vegan Barbecue 'Ribs'

This vegan spin on BBQ ribs is made from seitan for a hearty and wholesome addition to your next cookout. Try it for yourself....and impress those omnivores at your next cookout!

10. Jamaican Grilled Corn

Simply shove a few of these on the barbie or under the grill and you have yourself a perfect summery treat. This simple dish is quick to make and will make any mouth happy with its bursts of Caribbean flavor! Serve it up for the family with dinner, at your next BBQ or just to have on their own as a snack - you really can't go wrong!

11. BBQ Portobello Sliders

These perfectly proportioned sliders will be the highlight of any barbeque this summer. This Love and Lemons recipe can be adapted with a variety of toppings to suit any mushy-fan.

12. Vegan Skewers With Tofu And Pineapple

Among the vegetables and tofu is sizzling sweet pineapple, which is extremely enriching in taste. This recipe combines the salty tofu and gives extraordinary sweetness and freshness to the whole bit. When paired with an easy-to-make creamy avocado sauce, becomes a delicious meal, which we can also tuck in the house when the weather is nice not to grill outdoors.

13. Italian-Style Eggplant Sausages

What better to make a vegetarian sausage out of than a vegetable that has a meaty texture and is already pretty much shaped like a sausage! I'm talking about the Japanese eggplant, of course. This recipe flavors the Japanese eggplants using the same spice blend you'd find in almost any Italian sausage. It's a savory mix of sage, fennel, and spice.

14. Grilled Artichokes & Polenta With Blistered Tomatoes And Pesto

This rustic, family style Italian recipe is a feast for the senses. Fresh artichokes are blanched, then grilled to perfection giving them a delicious earthy, smokey char. Polenta is grilled and cherry tomatoes are blistered. Drizzled with pesto, sprinkled with capers and strewn with basil leaves, this meal can be kept vegan and gluten free!

15. Vegan Grilled Vegetable Pesto Pizza

Combining that fabulous smoky flavor from the grill and a household! Welcome Summer with this classic, delicious recipe from Leslie Durso, the Veggie Dreamgirl.

16. Grilled Avocado

Avocados are spectacular fruits that lend themselves to all kinds of savory dishes (and sweet ones too!). But it’s not often we think of enjoying them grilled. This recipe is a fast and easy low-carb grilling option for the vegetarians in your household – no longer will they feel left out of all the smoky goodness that barbecuing brings.

17. Grilled Peaches With Coconut Ginger Caramel

When you grill a peach, or any fruit really, you want the exact right amount of caramelization. Too much and there’s bitterness, too little and it’s just kind of like eating a warm peach. The method in this recipe, simply sprinkles the peach with a little lemon juice and oil. Not adding sugar lessens the danger of over-caramelization, an epidemic that studies show affects 4 out of 5 peaches at every barbeque. Instead rely on the ginger coconut caramel sauce for sweetness!

18. Black Bean Burger

With the addition of chia gel (chia seeds mixed with water and left to sit), this gluten-free vegan recipe makes a great burger that actually holds together on a gas grill with flipping! Not dry or crumbly, not mushy or bland. Nailed it.

19. The World's Juiciest Veggie Burger

The secret is oh so simple – beets! They make the patty moist, and give it a more realistic color. And the slider size? No secret there – it’s more diet friendly!  These veggie burgers are a great go-to for those days when you just really want a burger – but want to be healthier. All you need is a food processor and you are good to go!

20. Grilled Miso Glazed Japanese Eggplant

This is a great example of how simple modern Asian cooking can be. It's a traditional Japanese recipe, with thickened sauce to use it as a glaze and cooked it on the outdoor grill. It is so easy and fast, but the flavors will knock your socks off. Miso and eggplant is a gorgeous combination of flavors, and by caramelizing the glaze it really takes this to another level.

21. Vegan Biscuits

Hats off to the Minimalist Baker for creating these super-simple, gotta-have-just-one-more, please vegan biscuits.  Fill’em with vegan butter and jam, smother them with gravy or paired with vegan BBQ.

  1. [via Huffington Post]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

11 Healthiest Cooking Oils

Olive oil isn't your only option. From coconut to sesame, learn how to take advantage of the flavor, nutrition, and cooking profiles of the many healthy oils available at your natural foods store.

Confused by all the processing methods and terms? Here's your cheat sheet:
  • Expeller-pressed: Oil is mechanically extracted by squeezing nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, or grains under very high pressure, without using solvents.
  • Cold-pressed: Oil is expeller-pressed, but friction is reduced so the temperature is kept below 120 degrees during processing.
  • Refined: Tiny particles may remain in extracted oils; to make refined oils, particles are filtered out. Refined oils may also be bleached and deodorized to create a neutral flavor and color.
  • Unrefined: Tiny particles remain in the oil, enhancing flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Because particulate matter lowers an oil’s smoke point, unrefined oils should only be used unheated or for very low-heat applications.
  • Heat extraction: Pressed oils may also be heated during the extraction process to break down the material and allow greater quantities of oil to be extracted.
  • Chemical extraction: Solvents like hexane are used to break down plant walls and allow oils to be more easily extracted.

Almond Oil

Made by expeller pressing the oil in ground almonds; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Increases healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering harmful LDL, supports immune function and liver health, alleviates irritable bowel syndrome, and may reduce colon cancer risk.

Smoke point: 420 degrees

Flavor: Light, clean, and mildly sweet; unrefined has a nutty, toasty flavor with buttery undertones.

Uses: Refined‘s high smoke point makes it best for stir-frying, roasting, grilling, and other high-heat applications. Use unrefined for salad dressings, in dips, and to drizzle on cooked dishes.

Price: $8 to $10 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 70% mono, 17% poly, 8% sat

Avocado Oil

Made by grinding and then expeller pressing avocado flesh; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Decreases inflammation and improves cholesterol balance; may increase absorption of antioxidant carotenoids.

Smoke point: 520 degrees

Flavor: Rich, clean taste and lush mouthfeel. Unrefined is emerald green, with a buttery flavor and grassy undertones. Refined has a mild, neutral flavor with the slightest hint of avocado taste.

Uses: Refined is best for high-heat grilling, frying, or roasting. Use unrefined for salad dressing, in pesto, or as a dip for bread. Refrigerate.

Price: $10 to $12 for 8 ounces

Fats breakdown: 71% mono, 14% poly, 12% sat

Canola Oil

Made from rapeseed, a mustard-family plant; usually chemically extracted using solvents, but also expeller-pressed. To avoid GMOs, buy organic; 80 percent of canola is genetically modified.

Benefits: Lowers total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; improves insulin sensitivity.

Smoke point: 400 degrees

Flavor: Extremely neutral but provides a dense mouthfeel; pale color.

Uses: Good for high-heat roasting, broiling, baking, and stir-frying, or as a blank canvas for creating mayonnaise or salad dressings.

Price: $8 to $10 for 1 liter

Fats breakdown: 63% mono, 28% poly, 7% sat

Coconut Oil

White and solid at room temperature; clear and liquid when warmed. Virgin coconut oil is expeller-pressed; also available refined.

Benefits: Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral; may reduce total and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol.

Smoke point: 350 degrees (unrefined); 400 degrees (refined)

Flavor: Unrefined has a creamy, oily texture, caramel-buttery flavor, and rich scent and taste. Refined is more neutral.

Uses: Refined works great for sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, and grilling. Use unrefined in baked goods, Asian-inspired dishes, or as a spread.

Price: $7 to $14 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 6% mono, 2% poly, 87% sat

Flaxseed Oil

Made by pressing crushed brown flaxseeds, a process that removes healthy lignans. Some brands add lignans back to make "high-lignan" flaxseed oil.

Benefits: High in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); may reduce risk of diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune and neurological disorders.

Smoke point: Do not heat

Flavor: Warm and nutty with bitter undertones and an aggressive, but not unpleasant, aroma.

Uses: Drizzle on oatmeal or cooked vegetables, use in salad dressings, and toss with quinoa or other grains. Refrigerate.

Price: $8 to $9 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 19% mono, 68% poly, 9% sat

Grape Seed Oil

Extracted from grape seeds (generally from wine grapes), typically via chemical solvents; to avoid solvents, choose expeller-pressed.

Benefits: High in vitamin E; however, contains high levels of omega-6s and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a result of the extraction process.

Smoke point: Do not heat.

Flavor: Neutral in flavor and aroma, with a rich, heavy texture.

Uses: Good for moisture-rich baking, dressings, and mayonnaise, where a neutral flavor is needed.

Price: $8 to $12 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 17% mono, 71% poly, 12% sat

Hemp Oil

Made by cold-pressing Cannabis sativa seeds (part of the marijuana family but with no THC, the psychoactive component).

Benefits: Contains chlorophyll and toco-pherols, antioxidants that support immune function and protect the heart.

Smoke point: Do not heat.

Flavor: Earthy, grassy flavor with mushroom undertones; deep green color.

Uses: Use in dips, dressings, and pesto, or drizzle on steamed kale or sweet potatoes. Refrigerate.

Price: $12 to $16 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 14% mono, 77% poly, 6% sat

Olive Oil

Extra-virgin is cold-pressed from the first olive pressing; "virgin" or "pure" is heat-extracted. Organic or California Olive Oil Council (COOC) labels signal no adulteration with cheap oils.

Benefits: Increases heart-protective HDL cholesterol; polyphenol antioxidants promote bone growth and reduce cancer risk; rich in vitamin K.

Smoke point: 420 degrees

Flavor: Extra-virgin, from the first pressing, has leafy, herbal, peppery under-tones. All varieties offer robust flavor, rich texture, and a green-gold hue.

Uses: Grilling, baking, and sautéing. Drizzle extra-virgin on tomatoes and steamed greens. Use any kind in salad dressings.

Price: $9 to $15 for 1 liter (pure); $12 to $20 for 1 liter (extra-virgin)

Fats breakdown: 73% mono, 11% poly, 14% sat

Rice Bran Oil

Extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice grains; most kinds are chemically extracted. Look for cold-pressed varieties, which are not heated during extraction.

Benefits: Contains vitamin E tocotrienols that lower LDL cholesterol, stem inflammation, and reduce cancer risk; rich in vitamin K.

Smoke point: 490 degrees

Flavor: Light and clean, with a fresh, neutral flavor and delicate aroma.

Uses: High-heat stir-frying, grilling, roasting or sautéing, or in dressings or mayonnaise when a neutral flavor is desired.

Price: $7 to $9 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 39% mono, 35% poly, 20% sat

Sesame Oil

Made by expeller-pressing or chemically extracting oil from sesame seeds; available refined or unrefined. Seeds roasted before pressing yield fragrant, toasted sesame oil.

Benefits: Rich in anti-oxidants and abundant in lignans and phenols, which may ease diabetes symptoms.

Smoke point: 410 degrees

Flavor: Light and nutty; toasted sesame oil is dark brown, with a distinctive roasted scent.

Uses: Ideal for broiling and high-temperature stir-frying. Unrefined works well for light sautées, tossed with grains, or in salad dressings. Lightly drizzle toasted oil over finished dishes.

Price: $8 to $10 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 40% mono, 42% poly, 14% sat

Walnut Oil

Made from dried and expeller-pressed walnuts; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Contains omega-3 fats that protect against prostate cancer and diabetes, reduce inflammation, promote heart health, and stave off bone loss.

Smoke point: 400 degrees

Flavor: Bold and pleasantly heavy, with a decadent nut flavor and earthy notes.

Uses: Refined is good for moderate-heat sautéeing and baking. Use unrefined as a finishing oil: Toss with cooked beets, add to salad dressings, and drizzle over cream soups. Refrigerate.

Price: $10 to $14 for 8 ounces

Fats breakdown: 23% mono, 63% poly, 9% sat

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cooking With Vegetables From Root to Stem

Ever hear about something that is a new trend and all the rage and think, “I’ve always done that?” One of the food trends for this year is for chefs to put the focus on vegetables. Similar to the whole “nose-to-tail” practice used in cooking meat, there is now a “root-to-stem” practice where no part of a vegetable or fruit goes to waste. Well, it may be a new trend in the culinary world but I’ve been cooking that way for years. Other people may lop off the tops of carrots, beets and radishes, throw away the fronds from a bulb of fennel, and discard the stalks from a head of broccoli, but I cook with all of it. With the price of food rising and the increased amount of food waste, it only makes sense to get the most out of the food we buy. The leaves, stems, stalks and skins of vegetables have their own unique tastes and textures so it’s like getting multiple veggies in one package. Here are some ways you can start cooking from root to stem.

1. Asparagus Stems

Whenever I cook asparagus, I trim the tough, woodsy ends off. Then they go in a storage bag into the freezer until it’s time to make stock. Add the stems to the pot with the celery, onions, and water. Season with herbs and spices, bring to a boil and simmer for at least half an hour. Strain and store in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. Or use the whole asparagus right away to make this delicious and refreshing Raw Asparagus Soup.

2. Beet Greens

Beets are delicious and so are the greens that come attached to them. Use them to make Beet Greens Pesto or sauté them as in these Beet Greens with Garlic and Toasted Almonds and Sautéed Beet Red Greens. I love to use them to make a salad to go along with my Borscht soup. See more ways to use beet greens in Beet and Carrot Greens: How to Use Them Instead of Toss Them.

3. Broccoli Stalks and Leaves

There was a time when I preferred to buy broccoli crowns because I thought I was getting more edible food for my money. Then I realized that the broccoli stalks are delicious and really filling. Now I get upset if my broccoli doesn’t come with the stalks attached. When I cook broccoli, I cut off the florets and then get to work on the stalks. They can be peeled to remove the outer peel but I usually just chop them up and add them with the florets to whatever I’m cooking. Use the stalks in stir-fries and salads like this Broccoli Salad with Quinoa, Scallions and Roasted Cashews. Another way to use the stalks is to use a julienne peeler to make broccoli “noodles” or a regular peeler to shave the stalk into thin ribbons. Use these noodles raw or cooked in lighter pasta dishes like this Tomato Basil Broccoli Noodle and White Bean Salad and this Tofu Scramble with Broccoli Noodles. The leaves are edible as well. Add them to salads and stir-fries just as you would any other dark, leafy greens.

4. Carrot Tops

When I was a kid, we fed the carrot tops to our parakeets. Today, I use them in lots of dishes. Carrot greens can be bitter so blanch them first. Use them to make pesto, vegetable stock, and salads. Add them to sautés, stir-fries and smoothies. Running low on parsley or cilantro? No problem! Carrot greens can stand in for them in recipes or as a garnish. See all the ways to use carrot tops in Beet and Carrot Greens: How to Use Them Instead of Toss Them.

5. Cauliflower Stems and Leaves

Cauliflower is hot right now. You knew that but did you know you can eat the stem and the leaves? Every time we read a cauliflower recipe, it tells us how to remove the leaves and cut the florets off the stem. When I cook cauliflower, I cut off the florets and then I chop up the stem and cook it with florets. It takes just as long to get tender as the florets do. You can also leave the stems attached when you cut the head of cauliflower into steaks as in this Cauliflower Piccata. The next time you make Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower Bites, leave the stems attached to the florets so you have a “handle” to hold each piece by. Use the leaves by adding them to the dish towards the end of cooking so they slightly wilt.

6. Celery Stalks and Leaves

Celery is an under-appreciated vegetable as it is; don’t make it feel even worse by throwing away its outer stalks and pretty, tender leaves. Every bit of the celery is edible. Use all the stalks, inner and outer, in your dishes. You can peel the stalks to make them less “stringy.” Make celery the main attraction as in this Braised Celery dish. Celery is very healthy, so add it to your smoothies and juices turn it into soup and enjoy it in this Onion, Celery and Mushroom Stuffing. Use the celery leaves in soups and salads or as a garnish instead of parsley.

7. Chard Stems

Whenever I get rainbow chard, I make sure that I use the stems. They are too pretty to throw away! They can be blanched until tender and used to make pickled relishes. I like to chop them up and saute them before adding the greens in dishes like this yummy Swiss Chard with Onions, Currants and Pine Nuts and Gluten-Free Lemon Swiss Chard Pasta.

8. Fennel Stalks and Fronds

Fennel can be used from bulb to fronds. The bulbs have overlapping layers of fennel, sort of like a cabbage. The stalks are similar to celery in both texture and crunch. The feathery fronds look like fresh dill but taste like anise and make a beautiful garnish. Fennel seeds can be bought whole or ground and add a bright note to dishes. Check out 10 Ways to Cook with Fennel Tonight and then try this Orange Fennel Salad with Agave-Mustard Dressing, Mizuna, Fennel, and Mulberry Salad and Roasted Fennel.

9. Jackfruit Cores

When I first cooked with jackfruit, recipe instructions said to cut the outer part of the sliced jackfruit away from the core and discard the core. That would have meant throwing away about half of the jackfruit that came in the can. I didn’t understand that since the core is really tender so I just cut up the entire slice and cooked it. Read Have You Tried Cooking With Jackfruit Yet? Get Started With These Recipes! Then use the meat and the core to make Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteaks, Jackfruit Ropa Vieja, and BBQ Jackfruit.

10. Leek Greens

Leeks are relatives of onions and garlic, but they have a milder taste than either of them. They are most often used as an aromatic for soups and stews, but they can also be the main ingredient of dishes. Leeks can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed until tender, braised to make them soft and sweet or grilled until charred. Most recipes tell you to cut the green leaves off and discard them but they are edible and delicious. Cook them along with the rest of the leeks or cook them as you would other leafy greens. Use them to make this Pureed Lentil Dip with Caramelized Leeks, Sweet Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup, Cheesy Leek and Potato Gratin, and Mushroom and Leek Risotto With ‘Parmesan’ Tempeh.

11. Potato Skins

Like so many of my other vegetables, I don’t peel potatoes before cooking with them. I just scrub them clean and cook. If you do peel your potatoes, don’t throw the peels away. Cook them the same way you cook fries. You can fry them or you can bake them in the oven. Simply toss the peels with a bit of olive oil and seasonings – my choices are garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper. Then cook them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees. When they are browned and crispy, sprinkle with kosher salt and munch away. They make a great snack or use them as a crunchy garnish as you would crispy fried onions. It’s like having Potato Skins or French Fries without the actual potato.

12. Radish Leaves

One year I had a ton of radishes. The green leaves on radishes do not last long so you have to use them right away. I used the radishes to make my Caramelized Radishes and the leaves to make Radish Leaf Pesto that became an amazing pasta sauce. To make it: combine 4 cups fresh chopped radish leaves, ½ cup chopped walnuts, 3 cloves garlic, the zest and juice of half a lemon and 2 Tbs. vegan parmesan in a food processor. Stream in up to ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil while processing the ingredients. When the pesto is smooth, season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and add it, little by little, to the pesto to loosen it up a bit. Toss the pasta in the pesto sauce and serve hot. Radish leaves can also be used in salads but they can be bitter so you might want to blanch them first.

Learning how to use all the parts of a vegetable is like trying new foods. When we cook from root to stem, we not only lessen the amount of food we waste but we gain a larger variety of healthy and delicious dishes we can make. Try it and let us know how it goes.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple, All-Natural Homemade Toothpaste

We all know about eating healthy and as organically as we can, but now I am concerned about a new issue. It seems some studies claim fluoride, when taken daily, can be toxic. Since most of us receive fluoride unwillingly and unknowingly in our water supply, having it in our toothpastes can lead to overexposure. It is not a nutrient, therefore our bodies do not require it.  Dr. Joseph Mercola has found that too much fluoride affects children's IQ, causes thyroid issues, and can even cause cancer. Most of Europe -- 97% -- has banned it from their water supply, and the claims that it fights tooth decay are also being questioned.

These concerns led me to create my own toothpaste, which tastes just as good as the commercial brands. I make the paste with coconut oil, which is known to be antibacterial and helps guard against tooth decay. If you want more of a whitening paste, add a drop of hydrogen peroxide.

Here is the recipe. It's great fun to make with the sprites!

  • 3 tbs Organic Baking Soda
  • 3 tbs Coconut Oil
  • 20 drops of peppermint or cinnamon oil
  • 2 tsp glycerin
  • a few drops of stevia or one packet of xylitol (which also fights tooth decay)