Farmers Market Finds for October

Fall vegetables may be the ones I have the least experience with. Zucchini, berries, asparagus, sweet corn and peppers are easy to cook and add to various dishes. Beets, turnips and delicata squash are like a foreign language to me. Yet they looked so beautiful at the farmers market this month I just couldn’t say no.

Ever since getting my Ninja I want to try juicing everything. When I saw the garnet red beets at the market I had a vision of a brilliant red post run smoothie. Sometimes the vision is better than the reality. I made a slight variation of this Cranberry Beet Smoothie from Runner’s World, twice. It was not entirely unpleasant, still drinkable, but I wouldn’t call it a win. Failure is how we learn, right? I think beets will be more pleasing to me if I roast them instead of drink them next time. The trick will be how to do it without making my kitchen look like a murder scene. Anyone have tips on how to peel and slice a beet without getting the red everywhere?

The next kitchen experiment was the delicata squash. Squash is more familiar territory but I’ve never tried this particular variety. For over a year I’ve been making a chickpeas salad recipe from Vegetarian Times that shares a page with a recipe for Red Curry Delicata Squash and Tofu. Every time I make the chickpea salad, I tell myself that I am going to try the curry recipe “someday”. No more some day! I thought it was delicious and it passed my husband’s test for flavor (a little spicy, but not curry overload).

The last experiment was with the turnips. I was inspired by another recipe, this one from Health magazine. I’ve been trying to be a good steward of our grocery budget, planning meals around my overstock of pantry staples. I always have most of the ingredients for the Moroccan and Turnip Chickpea Braise on hand. I used quinoa instead of couscous to boost the protein power.  It turned out to be a “maybe”. I tasted okay but it was missing something. I may try it again but add a couple of extras to see if I can bring out the flavor a bit. If you give it a try tell me if you liked it “as is” or if you added a little something.

It wasn’t long ago that the coming of fall meant the end of the farmers market. I am so glad that the Farmers Market of the Ozarks will continue to have a winter market. Several vendors have told me I might be surprised what the market has to offer during the colder months. I’m looking forward to being inspired all winter long.

What about you? How do you feel about beets and turnips? Does your local market stay open year round?

Tired of Pumpkin Spice? Try my Apple Pie Protein Smoothie Recipe!

I don’t get excited for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. For one, I am a tea drinker. Two, I eat pumpkin all year long. I eat pumpkin every morning in my Morning Mug Souffle and every night in my pumpkin pie oatmeal. What really excites me about fall is the apple harvest.

When I found the first gala apples of the season at the Farmers Market I almost jumped for joy. While I eat apples all year long too, nothing tastes better than the first bite of a crisp sweet local apple in September. While everyone else is putting pumpkin or pumpkin spice in everything (pumpkin spice salad dressing anyone?), I am experimenting with new ways to eat my apples.

With the help of my new Ninja Ultima, I turned MY fall favorite into a deliciously decadent protein smoothie. Pick your favorite sweet apple and give it a try.

Apple Pie Protein Smoothie

  • 1 small (2 inches in diameter) apple, cored and chopped
  • 4 pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Praline
  • ¾ unsweetened almond or coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger

Put all ingredients into blend. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Yield: 1 Smoothie
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: NA

Per Serving: Calories 300; Total Fat 4.4g; (Sat Fat 1g, Trans 0g, Poly Fat 0g, Mono Fat 1g); Protein 20g; Carb 49g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 13g; Cholesterol 60mg; Sodium 115mg

If you’re still craving pumpkin, check out this Protein Pumpkin Pie Shake recipe from Designer Whey!

Farmers Market Finds for September

September at the Farmers Market is a perfect mix of summer and fall. There are still plenty of summer favorites like zucchini and peppers with a few tomatoes too. Next to them you will find the beginnings of the fall harvest, which includes two of my favorite vegetables: butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes can be found at the supermarket all year long. While their appearance may be less appealing during the spring and summer, their taste is usually consistent no matter the season. Butternut squash, on the other hand, is a vegetable that only reveals its true nature during its peak season. I’ve tried to make some of my favorite dishes like butternut squash soup or butternut squash bread pudding with store bought squash during the off months. Let’s just say the results were a bit underwhelming.

You MUST take advantage of the bright orange and naturally sweet flesh of the butternut squash NOW. I’ve been making my favorites as well as experimenting with new recipes. These Butternut Squash, Kale and Crunchy Pepita tacos are divine!

I’ve also learned that butternut squash can be eaten raw! I made Butternut Squash with Cream Sauce using the Spiralizer. It’s a very fall dish that includes apples and cranberries, slightly sweet and very crunchy. Just be warned: making butternut squash noodles is an arm workout.

Speaking of apples, they made their first appearance at the market in late August. Not only will you find my favorite, Gala, you’ll find other sweet varieties like Honeycrisp, Fuji and Ozark Gold. These apples can help satisfy your sweet tooth and meet the need for something crunchy with your lunchtime sandwich. I’ve been experimenting with a new apple recipe or two but they aren’t quite ready to share. Stay tuned!

Besides my fall favorites I’m also loving the fresh Portobello mushrooms. I keep making these Bistro White Bean Burgers because they are easy  and I have most of the ingredients in my pantry at all times. I keep buying kale too and adding it to my chocolate and peanut butter protein shakes and green monster smoothies.

I’m going to be sad as peak farmers market season starts approaching. I am already morning the loss of the white peaches and blueberries. What seasonal favorite passed too quickly for you this year? What fall produce are you looking forward to?

Garlic and Dill Cucumber Noodle Salad Recipe

I love it when my clients start getting creative in the kitchen. Most of them are much more talented when it comes to creating recipes than I am. When Stephanie started making noodle creations with zucchini and cucumbers I had to ask her for a recipe to share. Thankfully she said yes! Enjoy!
– Pamela

School may be back in session but that doesn’t mean the cool temps of fall have arrived. The generously warm temperatures we can experience the first part of September can be absolutely miserable. When you are miserable from the heat you don’t want to slave away in a hot kitchen to prepare a healthy meal. So how about a fresh, cool and simple dish that is full of flavor?

Ixnay the Astapay (Pig Latin for Nix the Pasta) Pasta Salads are some fun dishes I invented in my kitchen this summer. I am excited to share one of them with you today, Garlic and Dill Cucumber Noodle Salad.

There are only 6 simple ingredients to this dish.

  • Plain Yogurt (I use Greek but feel free to use your favorite)
  • Organic Garlic Paste (If you can’t find this at the store just use some fresh garlic on a mircoplane grater)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Dill
  • 3 or 4 medium to large cucumbers
  • Optional: Red Pepper Flake or Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy Seasoning

In a medium size bowl measure out:

  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 1 TBS Garlic Paste
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dill
  • 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • If you choose, red pepper flake or Mrs. Dash Seasoning to taste.

Mix well.

Julienne your cucumbers via your favorite method. (I personally love the Veggetti.)

Sometimes I peel the cucumbers and sometimes I don’t. Occasionally I will run across a cucumber with a very bitter peel, in which case I peel it. I always test the cucumber by tasting an end piece before I slice it up.

Once your cucumbers have been noodled, just toss them with the yogurt mixture and chill!

Yield: 1 Salad
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour to Chill

Per Serving: Calories 170; Total Fat 1.3g; (Sat Fat 0g, Trans 0g, Poly Fat 0g, Mono Fat 0g); Protein 17g; Carb 24g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 16g; Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 55mg

I hope you enjoy this salad and are inspired to start experimenting in your kitchen!

Review of Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat

Disclaimer: I was provided Neat at no cost by the company. However, I was neither asked to write this review or compensated to do so.

There are many different vegetarian meat substitutes on the market. Many of them have a long list of questionable ingredients. They may also have ingredients that are off limits to those with allergies to soy or gluten. To be honest some of them also taste awful. I’m always interested when I see a new product trying to solve all of these problems. Neat, a shelf stable mix, is trying to fill the “meat gap” for vegetarians and vegans alike in a more natural way.

Neat isn’t completely new to the market, but sometimes it takes awhile for product to filter down to the Midwest. My first encounter with Neat was just a couple of months ago when it caught my eye on the NEW Products shelf at Mama Jean’s. I was excited to encounter them on Twitter and super excited when they agreed to send me a sample pack of their products to experiment with. They included one package of each flavor: Original, Italian, Mexican and Breakfast. Each flavor is very easy to make. You add egg (or egg substitute) and water. You can shape the Breakfast mix into patties or links, the Italian into balls (aka neat Balls) or the Original into burgers.

I decided to start with my favorite meal: brinner (breakfast for dinner). I was making a tofu frittata with my farmers market finds (link to July Finds post) and some “sausage” on the side sounded perfect. I decided to use chia seeds as a vegan egg replacer. I soaked 1 tbsp. of chia seeds in ½ cup water for about 15 minutes. Then I added the chia seeds to the Neat breakfast patty mix. Only after that did I read the realize I needed a quantity equal to TWO eggs. I decided to just wing it and adjust with the added water. My breakfast patties came out a bit dry. Since the flavor was good, I chalked up the dryness to my error in following directions.

The next night I vowed to follow the instructions perfectly. I made the Neat Balls to serve with spaghetti squash. I tossed the spaghetti squash with olive oil, basil, chili flakes, pepper and Parmesan cheese. I made the Neat mixture with whole eggs and followed the Neat Ball recipe on the back of the package. The Neat Balls browned nicely in the oven and Brian made a comment about how good they smelled while cooking. The flavor was great but once again the finished product came out dry. Brian made the comment that when he wrapped the squash around the Neat Ball it changed the texture a great deal. We decided the Neat products needed extra moisture to live up to their true potential.

I tried a little experiment with one of the leftover breakfast patties. Instead of my usual omelet for Sunday lunch, I decided to make a scramble. I sautéed half a green pepper and half of a small red onion. Then I scrambled one whole egg and three egg whites in the same pan. When the eggs were close to being done I crumbled up the breakfast patty into the egg mixture to warm it up. Once on my plate I added some salsa on top. This is how Neat should be used! It gave me a great sausage flavor and lost its dryness when surrounded by other ingredients. Neat may not stand well on it’s own, but IN something it’s great alternative to soy crumbles or a frozen veggie patty.

As with any meat substitute it’s important to note that Neat doesn’t taste like meat. If you expect it too you will be disappointed. It does taste good but you aren’t going to fool a carnivore. It’s just different. If you accept that up front you’ll find this product a useful and tasty tool in creating new meatless Monday dishes or revamping family classics. Also be aware that the products are made with nuts making them inappropriate for those with nut allergies.

Now that I know with Neat “the secret is in the sauce” I can’t wait to make the lettuce wrap recipe from their blog or create my own new taco recipe.

How do you feel about meat substitutes? What’s your favorite way to make a family favorite meatless? Have you tried Neat?

Farmers Market Finds for July 2014

Farmers Market Finds for July 2014Farmers Market Finds for July 2014 by Pamela Hernandez

Where has the summer gone? Don’t let it pass you by without taking advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruits your local farmers market can provide! I feel like I’ve only been able to visit the farmers market a few times, certainly not as often as I have wanted to. When I have been able to visit, it’s always been in a rush. I always get there just before the close of the market or when I am trying to beat the rain. This past Saturday, however, I finally got to have a have slow stroll through the Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

I arrived with a list and a plan. Not only did I need veggies for our normal weekly meals, I also wanted to get fresh fruit and veggies for a Sunday picnic with visiting family. I wanted to show them that the summer produce of Springfield was just as good (or better!) than Central Valley California.

Summer PeachesSummer Peaches by Pamela Hernandez

While I had time to stroll, I was late to the party. I believe the best time to go to the farmers market is right when it opens. You get the best selection and you can get in and out before the crowds hit. I was lucky to get some peaches before they were all gone. The Red Haven peaches made the perfect compliment to our simple Sunday indoor picnic of quinoa salad, hummus, veggies and crackers. I had hoped for raspberries but I guess I was too late because none were to be found. I did find the other ingredients I needed to create a simple but satisfying picnic.

The quinoa salad was the main event. Grain based salads are perfect for picnics because they can be made ahead and almost always taste better the second day. They can be eaten warm or cold, making them easy to pack and go.  The recipe I made was one from a holiday cooking class I attended last November. It was a big hit with the family at Thanksgiving so why wait a whole year to make it again? The recipe is from Glow Nutrition but unfortunately it is not on her web site. This spring quinoa salad is very similar, swapping out the asparagus and berries for dried cranberries and chickpeas.

Sweet Basil $1Sweet Basil $1 by Pamela Hernandez

Holy Moly Hummus is my absolute favorite recipe from How it All Vegan. Nothing says summer to me like just-picked crisp cucumbers and hummus. If you love hummus as much as I do just remember to measure out your portion. Hummus has a lot of great things in it but you can sabotage your fat loss be eating too much.

Notice I didn’t prep dessert for the picnic? Fresh fruits like peaches are a perfect summer dessert. You can also do fruit salads or Greek yogurt parfaits instead of cookies or cake.

White Bean BurgerWhite Bean Burger by Pamela Hernandez

Besides the picnic ingredients I also brought home onions, kale, mushrooms and basil for other recipes I wanted make for dinners. I have a recipe from Oxygen Magazine for white bean burgers that tasted extra amazing with fresh Portobello mushrooms. The kale, along with zucchini Brian brought home from work, are for a modified version of the Veggie Frittata from Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats from Around the World cookbook that I plan to make this coming weekend. Fresh basil is perfect for almost any pasta including the baked ziti I’ll be cooking up this week.

I make my meal plans two weeks at a time but I won’t let that stop me from going to the market again if I have time this Saturday. There’s a block party this weekend and I am sure they would love some fresh cucumbers to go with their hummus.

What’s your favorite picnic dish?

What is plentiful at your local farmers market right now?

The Best Cookbooks To Help You Eat Your Veggies

We have been so fortunate in the Ozarks to have a nice balance of rain and sunshine this summer. The temperature so far has also been fairly mild. While I am not an expert, these conditions seem to be perfect for growing produce. I am greeted at the farmers market with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Home gardens are also starting to overflow with cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. The excess is showing up in office break rooms and being gladly shared with neighbors. This boon brings about the enviable question….

What do I do with all these vegetables?

You can of course make a big green salad with dinner every night but that can get old quickly and besides, where is the adventure in that? When you have things like bok choy, mustard greens and spaghetti squash that look so amazing it should inspire you! It should make you want to get creative in the kitchen and try something new. I understand free style cooking can be a little scary so I’m here to help. I’ve got tried and true sources for veggie recipes that will leave your whole family asking for more.

  • How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
    Before Mark Bittman was known for his Vegan/Flexitarian ways, he released a basic primer for those new to the kitchen. I had a first edition of this cookbook and it helped me become less scared of the kitchen. While not every recipe is healthy, it does explain basic cooking terms and lets you browse by food. The chapter on vegetables and fruit will help you create healthy sides or you can explore other chapters for ideas. The sauce chapter will help you out with your bumper crop of tomatoes or the condiment chapter can help you use up those peppers.
  • The Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook by Tosca Reno
    Of course you would expect a vegetarian cookbook to be a good source for vegetable recipes. Just because a vegetarian cookbook, however, doesn’t make it automatically a healthy cookbook. This is the best of both worlds – plant based and clean whole foods. She does include a seafood chapter just in case you’re more flexitarian than vegetarian.
  • The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Mari Newman
    Vegan cooking can provide you with great recipe ideas for mushrooms (burgers and fajitas), butternut squash (for vegan cream sauces) and filling veggie/grain/bean salads. It’s a handy reference too for gluten free recipes.
  • Vegetarian Times Website
    Forget Pinterest for vegetables recipes. The pictures are pretty but unfortunately the results are inconsistent at best. The Vegetarian Times web site has a huge recipe database that you can search by ingredient. The recipes are from past issues of the print publication and many have reader reviews. Type in “eggplant” and you’ll get recipes way beyond Parmesan.

What do you have a bumper crop of this year? How do get creative with the surplus?