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Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

2013 was a year of a lot of over-rated food trends. Cue bacon flavored ice cream in continuation of 2012, fancy-flavored doughnuts, meat-laden paleo philosophy, overly sweet cake pops, almond milk overload, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t hate me if you disagree. I am a healthy, mostly vegetarian food blogger, after all. And I’ve always disliked bacon.

There have been plenty of good 2013 trends, too, however. Like the proliferation of farmer’s markets and local food production, cauliflower everything, red quinoa, gourmet vegan food, and kale salads.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Perhaps kale salads were more of a 2012 phenomenon, but so be it. I still think they’re trendy, and they’ve graced my bowl this year more than any other. 2013 was the year that kale salad really stole my heart.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

I’m going to say this is because it took me awhile, and I think restaurants too, to really get the hang of mastering them. Which is really not a hard thing to do. But if you miss the key step of massaging the leaves, your kale salad will never be trendy, no matter how pretty it is. Every raw kale leaf needs a trip to the spa  before heading to the fork.

Get your (clean) hands in there with a little oil though, and kale can become the perfect slate for a heartier, more long-living version of a salad. This is what I love about it. It stores well, and often becomes even better, after a day left in the fridge. I tend to eat a whole lot healthier during the workweek when I have snacks/dishes already waiting for me, and lately that’s meant a ton of huge bowls of kale salad. I must say, I often feel my best when this is included in my week.

The following recipe was inspired by this lovely picture I came across on the New York Times Well blog. I generally do a ton of tahini-based kale salads, but this purple and green combination caught my eye, and I wanted mine to look like the NYT’s one, with just an oil-based dressing. So I spun off that and went with toasted sesame oil. I liked this so much that after bringing it to a party, I made it again the following day. Sometimes you need a huge bowl of kale salad all to yourself. Following the holiday season is certainly the perfect time for that.

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Curried Tempeh

Mmm, curry powder. The quintessential spice blend that fills much of Indian cooking lends such an astounding aroma to the kitchen. Aside from its riveting taste, sometimes I choose to cook with curry powder purely for its fragrance. The best is homemade curry powder, with cardamom, coriander, cumin, and a variety of other fresh seeds, ground up, and then sealed in your own jar. It becomes your own fairy dust, capable of working its magic on so many different ingredients. Homemade curry powder truly does make a significant difference in terms of flavor, but if you’re quite the busy lady (fella’), store-bought will certainly do.

Here, I use it to season one of my favorite vegetarian proteins—tempeh. Tempeh has such a dense, meaty texture, which of course I love. Plus, its nutrition stats are astounding—20 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 10% DV of potassium, up to 15% DV of iron—and with an ingredient list of five items or less, this is one of those hearty no-guilt ingredients I should be stocking my kitchen with more often.

However, tempeh’s truly not a very tasty ingredient when kept plain. It works best with a marinade of some sort, which is when I call my favorite fragrance of curry powder into the kitchen. I also added a few other ingredients, like ginger for some spice, mirin for a very subtle sweet touch, and cilantro and peppers for a splash of color. Pair it with brown rice, and you’ve got yourself one powerhouse meal.

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Banana Pops: A Fun Summer Snack

I know I’ve iterated this before, but banana and peanut butter is truly a marriage made in heaven.  The two mates will always have a steady relationship in my eyes, which we all know is a rarity these days.

The naturally sweet and nutty duo creates a rather satisfying flavor combo. that can be utilized on everything from PB&J to waffles to crepes.  I personally harness this flavor fusion most frequently as a snack all on it’s own.

But lately with warm-weathered days touching my skin and ice cream filling my mind, I’ve been taking an additional step to transform my favorite snack into an extra special summer treat.  With summer fruit sadly fading out, this treat is the perfect replacement.

A simple freeze can turn the classic banana and peanut butter into a healthy ice-cream-esque pop.  The protein-packed peanut butter (8 grams per serving) and potassium-filled bananas creates a well-balanced snack or after-dinner dessert that leaves me feeling both satisfied and energized.

For a super easy summer pop, stick with Phase 1.  The simple process of freezing the banana and PB adds a surprisingly special touch to the standard snack.

If you’re looking for an even extra special treat, take it to Phase 2 and add some melted chocolate to the mix.  Select whatever variety of chocolate you desire, but if you want to keep it healthy, go for bittersweet chocolate chips, like pictured above.   The dark chocolate will add a boost of antioxidants to your pops.  Spice it up a bit more with any of the optional add-ins, if you desire.

Click here for Banana Pops recipe…

Red Banana

As I longingly wait for summer and the plethora of juicy, tree-ripened fruit that comes with the sunny season, I’ve been staying buoyant by experimenting with the fruit that is available. Sure, strawberries and blueberries are available all year around, but are the winter one’s really worth the food miles they must travel? Sour and flavorless, I think not. However, blood oranges, mangoes, and a few other special fruity treats are definitely worthy of landing an occasional spot in my diet.

Lately I’ve been really digging red bananas.  The bananas’ shrimpy, red-headed cousin is actually super tasty and stands superior in nutrition.  Red bananas contain more vitamin C and beta-carotene than the traditional yellow fellows.

The typical red banana contains 15% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C, 20% DV of B6, and four grams of fiber.  Also, don’t think yellow bananas are the only muscle uncramping stars.  Red bananas contain a significant level of potassium (400mg) as well, providing the perfect portable snack for any type of athlete.

Red bananas taste like a fusion of sweet plantain mixed with yellow banana.  They are just as naturally sweet as a ripe yellow banana but are a tad denser and creamier in consistency.

If you haven’t had a red banana and feel like giving one a bite, look for ones that have a deep red, maroonish skin, erring on the side of purple.  This indicates that they are ripe and ready to eat.  If the skin is any lighter, leave them to ripen at room temperature, or stick them in a paper bag if you want to speed up the process.

Once ripe, simply peel away the red shell like you would with a typical yellow banana, and enjoy their sweet, yummy light pink insides.

While I don’t think I could ever get bored of yellow bananas, especially when peanut butter is in the picture, red bananas provide a nice change of pace, allowing my taste buds to relish in the different nuances in flavor and texture.  Have you ever had a red banana?  What do you think of them?  Any special red banana recipes?

Oh, and in case you missed it, there’s 4 days left to enter my nut butter giveaway!

Kathy Freston Leads Oprah and Staff to Go Vegan

Photo credit: Charles Bush


So on the 1st of this month, Oprah dedicated a whole episode to the topic of “veganism.” Um, awesome! The show included special guest Michael Pollan (who holds my dream title of a food expert/journalist), along with New York Times best-selling author Kathy Freston. Also seeing a few minutes of screen time was Lisa Ling, who gave us a stomach-churning peek into Cargrill’s slaughterhouse. (Cargrill is the biggest producer of ground beef in the world, so props to them for allowing Ling to take a look around and report from inside the plant. Also props to them for keeping a comparatively cleanly and non-ruthless environment, although ending the life of millions of cows is an inherently brutal procedure.)

The show centered around a challenge led by Freston who guided Oprah and 378 of her staff members on a one week vegan expedition. In between much discussion about poop and bowel movements (I wish I would’ve counted the # of times busy poop schedules were mentioned), more than a few of the staff members revealed that they will be sticking with the vegan diet, at least for some additonal time. Energy levels, headache cures, regularity, and other positive health benefits were all credited as reasons why many of the staff members will at least be making some kind of changes to their diets. Many also happily saw some weight loss, with a combined total of 444 pounds lost among staff members. Rich, the video editor, alone shed 11 pounds. Just to reiterate that, that’s 11 pounds in one week. Yeah, pretty cool stuff when it’s sourced from a switch to a healthy diet, which is what Freston guided staffers into doing. This certainly wasn’t a week of chips and french fries style of vegan eating, although Freston did show staff members that American classics like pizza don’t have to be thrown out the window. (Simply ditch the cheese for Daiya, and you’ve got yourself a killer vegan pizza.)

Freston has influenced far more people than just Oprah and her staff to increase their awareness of their food choices. After having lunch with the 7-year vegan during a recent interview for Vanity Fair, journalist John Heilpern ended up concluding his article by stating, “I will never become an alfalfa-and-brown-rice man, but since my lunch with Kathy Freston I have decided to give up eating all meat.”

And I’m sure her influence will only continue to spread. Following her last best-selling book, Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness, at the beginning of this month Freston released Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, which has quickly became one of Amazon‘s top sellers.

Freston uses a very friendly, empathetic approach in how she advises people on making the shift to veganism in the Veganist. “I encourage people to lean into a veganist lifestyle, gradually giving up eating one animal at a time,” she told me. She also acknowledges that you have to find what works for you, which I’m a huge advocate of.

Growing up on ribs and fried chicken, she knows that eliminating animal products won’t be easy for everyone. But she also knows the benefits of doing so.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a Q and A I held with Kathy Freston to get to know this vegan-champion a little bit better. In the interview, Freston discusses some of her own obstacles she faced when going vegan. She also sheds light on working with Oprah and divulges some of her favorite vegan treats. Yum.