Author Archives: Judi

Simple Lentils

Simple Lentils

Here’s a REALLY easy recipe for delicious lentils that can be used in a variety of ways. Simply gather your ingredients and add them all to the pot. Bring them to a boil, cover the pot and simmer until the lentils are tender. It’s THAT easy! Serve them as they are, over a bed of cooked grain or pasta, over mashed potatoes, as stuffing for tomatoes or cooked winter squash, in a tortilla wrap, or even as a meatless Sloppy Joe filling. Use your imagination!

Below is a video demonstration of how to cook the lentils.  The written recipe is below the video.

Enjoy!
Judi

Simple Lentils
Makes About 6 Servings

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup diced yellow onion
1/3 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup diced carrot
1 (4.5 oz) jar or can of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and drained
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth
1-1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-1/2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a medium size sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Place a lid on the pot, and allow the lentils to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid is gone. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve.

Serving Suggestions: Serve the lentils as they are, over a bed of cooked grain of choice (such as rice, quinoa, couscous, millet, barley, wild rice, etc.), over pasta, over mashed potatoes, as a stuffing for tomatoes or winter squash, wrapped in a tortilla, or used as filling for a meatless Sloppy Joe sandwich. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination!

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash 101 – The Basics

 

About Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a winter squash with orange-flesh and a sweet flavor. It’s commonly treated as a vegetable, but technically, it’s a fruit since it contains seeds. Butternut squash is very versatile with many culinary uses from both sweet to savory dishes. It is a popular winter squash featuring a large bell-shaped bottom section and a slimmer, tapering neck. It’s often recognized by its tannish colored skin.

Butternut squash, like other squash varieties belongs to the Cucurbitaceae plant family. This family contains a lot of foods many people enjoy regularly, such as watermelons and other melons, and even cucumbers.

Winter squashes and related plants appear to be native to Central and South America. Not surprisingly, such foods have been an important part of the diet of the indigenous people for thousands of years. Since they are rich in nutrients and they store well in cooler temperatures, winter squashes were nutrient-rich foods that helped to nourish ancient people through the colder months when such foods were not in season.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is an excellent source of Vitamin A from its carotenoid content. It also provides plenty of Vitamins C, B6, B2, B3, and K, along with fiber, manganese, copper, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and magnesium. Enjoy the seeds for a good supply of Vitamin E. One cup of cooked, mashed butternut squash has a mere 82 calories.

The bright orange color of butternut squash is a clear indication that it is packed with carotenoids, Vitamin A precursors. This makes them powerful antioxidant foods, protecting eye, skin and cardiovascular health, as well as warding off cancer.

Despite the fact that some people consider winter squash to be high-carbohydrate foods, winter squash is considered to be low on the glycemic index, with a rating of 55. Winter squash has been found to steady the release of sugars in the digestive tract, lowering the glycemic response to meals.

How to Select a Butternut Squash
Choose a butternut squash that is free of blemishes or decay, and feels firm and heavy for its size.

How to Store Butternut Squash
Butternut squash will keep well in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal storage temperature is 50 to 68°F. Freshly picked squash have been stored in these conditions for up to 6 months. Most should store well for 1 to 3 months.

If mold appears on your squash, the molded area should be cut away and the remaining parts of the squash that are still good should be used immediately. Sometimes, commercial growers wax the squashes to prolong their shelf life and deter mold. If yours was not waxed and you want to extend the shelf life, you could oil the squash yourself. Wash the squash well to remove any dirt. Dry it well…make sure it is completely dry before proceeding or moisture left on it may invite decay. Place a small amount of food-grade oil of your choice on a paper towel or cloth, and wipe the entire surface of the squash, spreading a thin layer of oil all over. Be sure you get oil in all cracks and crevices of the squash. Buff off any excess oil. The surface should be shiny, but not oily to the touch. Store it in a cool, dry, dark place.

Once your squash has been cut, it should be tightly wrapped or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than a week. Cooked butternut squash should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and used within 3 to 5 days.

Cooked butternut squash may be frozen in an airtight container. It will keep well for 10 to 12 months. Beyond that, the quality may decline, but it will still be safe to eat.

How to Prepare a Butternut Squash
First remove any label that was placed on your squash at the store. Then rinse the squash with water to clean it off. Butternut squash does not need to be peeled before being cooked, but you can peel it, if desired or if a recipe calls for peeling it first. The peel is tough, but they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler or a knife.

When cutting butternut squash, it’s easiest to cut it in half, separating the neck from the bulb end. Then the seeds need to be removed from the bulb end. They can be removed by scooping them out with a spoon, or by first cutting the bulb in half from top to bottom, then scraping the seeds out with a spoon. The stem end can then be cut off the top of the neck end. The neck end can then be stood upright to remove the peel, then the flesh can be cubed. Or the neck end can be cut in half lengthwise for roasting or cooking in another method.

Roasted Butternut Squash. Butternut squash can be roasted different ways. The squash may be cut into four large pieces (cutting the bulb end from the stem end, then cutting both the bulb and stem ends in half lengthwise) and removing the seeds as described above. Place all pieces, peel side up, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roasting it at 375°F or 400°F until a sharp knife can easily be inserted through the pieces. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the squash to cool enough to be handled. Scrape the flesh from the peel with a spoon and use accordingly in your recipe.

This method can be simplified by placing your entire uncut, washed squash on a baking sheet and roasting it until a knife can easily pierce through its thickest part. Remove it from the oven, allow it to cool enough to be handled, then cut it, removing seeds, stem end, and scraping off the flesh to be used as needed.

Butternut cubes can also be roasted by first cutting the squash in half, separating the bulb end from the neck. Then trim off the stem end, stand the squash piece upright and remove the peel with a knife or vegetable peeler. Then slice the flesh into cubes. Most recipes for roasted butternut squash cubes call for placing the cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and coating the cubes with oil, then sprinkling them with salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 400°F or 425°F about 20 to 30 minutes, until fork-tender.

Steamed Butternut Squash. Place medium size chunks of peeled and seeded butternut squash in a steamer basket. Add water to the pot, but not so much that the squash pieces sit in water. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to boil. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the squash pieces are fork-tender. Remove the squash pieces to a bowl and proceed with desired recipe.

Sautéed Butternut Squash. Peeled, seeded butternut squash cubes may be sautéed in oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. First, warm the fat in the skillet, add the squash cubes, then stir frequently and sauté until lightly browned and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Freeze Butternut Squash
Cooked, pureed and frozen butternut squash is ready to be used in pies, soups, baked goods or in any recipe calling for pureed pumpkin or other winter squash. Simply wash the squash, cut it as desired, and cook it in whatever way you prefer…roasted with or without oil, steamed, or boiled. Scrape off the pulp from the peel, and puree the pulp in a food processor. Pureeing the pulp is not mandatory, but makes it much easier to work with when it’s time to use it. Place your pureed pulp in a freezer bag or container (leave about one inch of headspace). Label it with the date and store it in the freezer. Frozen pureed butternut squash will keep for 10 to 12 months. It is safe to use beyond that, but the quality may deteriorate.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Butternut Squash
* To make butternut squash easier to peel before cooking it, microwave it for 2 or 3 minutes first.

* The peel of butternut squash is edible, but tough. If you want to eat the peel, slow roast the squash and the peel will get softer as it roasts.

* For something different, try butternut squash fries instead of potato fries.

* Top salads with cubes of roasted butternut squash.

* Add chunks of butternut squash to stews.

* Stuff a roasted butternut squash half with a mixture of cooked grains and vegetables for a delicious and filling dish.

* Add roasted butternut squash to breakfast for something different.

* Add thin slices of raw butternut squash to salads for added flavor and texture.

* Enjoy roasted butternut squash in place of potatoes, pumpkin, or sweet potato.

* Mash cooked butternut squash with a little milk of choice and cinnamon and serve it instead of mashed potatoes.

* Use pureed butternut squash in place of pumpkin when making pies and tarts.

* Add cooked butternut squash to pasta dishes, or puree it and make an interesting pasta sauce.

* Combine pureed butternut squash with coconut milk for a creamy squash soup.

* Butternut squash seeds are edible! They can be saved and roasted as you would pumpkin seeds. Once scooped out, separate the seeds from the stringy pulp, and rinse them well. Coat the seeds with a little oil, and season them as desired. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and roast them at 225°F for about 15 minutes until the seeds start to pop. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet before serving.

* Do you want to enjoy pureed squash, but are not sure how to flavor it? Try topping pureed butternut squash with cinnamon and maple syrup.

* For an interesting side dish, steam cubes of butternut squash. Then toss with a little olive oil, soy sauce, and ginger. Sprinkle with toasted squash seeds for a little added crunch.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Butternut Squash
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika (smoked)

Foods That Go Well with Butternut Squash
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (i.e. adzuki, lima, pinto, white), chicken, chickpeas, eggs, lamb, nuts (esp. almonds, pecans, walnuts), pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu

Vegetables: Artichokes (Jerusalem), arugula, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chiles, fennel, greens, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, shallots, spinach, tomatoes

Fruits: Apples, berries, coconut, cranberries, dates, lemon, lime, orange, pears, pomegranate seeds, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur (wheat), corn, couscous, farro, millet, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, browned butter, cheese (esp. cheddar, Parmesan, ricotta), coconut milk, cream, milk (dairy and non-dairy), yogurt

Other Foods: Miso, oil, sugar (esp. brown), stock (mushroom), tamari, vinegar (esp. balsamic), wine (esp. dry white)

Butternut squash has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e. muffins), casseroles, gratins, pasta (i.e. gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli), pizza, purees, risottos, soups and bisques, stews, succotash, tarts

Suggested Flavor and Food Combos Using Butternut Squash
Add butternut squash to any of the following combinations…

Allspice + cinnamon + cloves + maple syrup + vanilla
Apples + cinnamon + ginger + maple syrup + walnuts
Apples + cheese + honey
Apples + nuts
Balsamic vinegar + mushrooms + pasta
Browned butter + pine nuts + sage + pasta
Fruit (cranberries, dates) + nuts (pecans, pistachios)
Ginger + tamari + tofu
Orange + sage
Quinoa + walnuts
Rosemary + tomatoes + white beans
Sage + walnuts

Recipe Links
Roasted Butternut Squash (No Oil) (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/rVCS19OnNXY

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/XtuEkykDp08

Roasted Butternut Squash https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-butternut-squash-recipe-1921606

Sautéed Butternut Squash http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/261206/sauteed-butternut-squash/

Side Dish Recipe for Roast Chicken—Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Parmigiano Shards   https://www.thekitchn.com/a-side-dish-recipe-for-roast-chicken-balsamic-butternut-saut-with-parmigiano-shards-pick-a-side-from-tara-mataraza-desmond-195791

Sautéed Butternut Squash with Garlic, Ginger, and Spices https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/side/vegetable/sauteed-butternut-squash-with-garlic-ginger.html

Sautéed Butternut Squash https://tastykitchen.com/recipes/sidedishes/sauteed-butternut-squash/

Caramelized Browned Butter Butternut Squash https://www.onelovelylife.com/caramelized-browned-butter-butternut-squash/

26 Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes to Make This Fall https://www.delish.com/cooking/g3003/butternut-squash/

33 Butternut Squash Recipes We Love https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/squash-gourds/butternut-squash/butternut-squash

55 Best Butternut Squash Recipes Everyone in Your Family will Enjoy https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g2701/butternut-squash-recipes/

10 Things to do With Butternut Squash https://www.thekitchn.com/10-things-to-do-with-butternut-squash-128579

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner on a Sheet Pan https://www.liveeatlearn.com/vegetarian-thanksgiving-dinner-on-a-sheet-pan/

Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats with Butternut Squash https://www.liveeatlearn.com/crockpot-steel-cut-oatmeal-with-butternut-squash/

Roasted Butternut Chickpea Hummus Wraps https://www.liveeatlearn.com/roasted-butternut-chickpea-hummus-wraps/

Golden Squash Soup http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=33

Steamed Butternut Squash with Almond Sauce http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=112

Steamed Butternut Squash with Red Chili Sauce http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=179

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/videos/techniques/how-prepare-butternut-squash

https://www.healthline.com/health/carotenoids#benefits

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257702/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/butternut-squash

https://www.liveeatlearn.com/butternut-squash/

https://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18397

https://www.afamilyfeast.com/butternut-squash-puree/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/preserving-pumpkin-butternut-and-winter-squashes-1327938

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/54873/roasted-winter-squash-seeds/

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

 

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes 101 – The Basics

The following is a comprehensive article all about tomatoes. From what they are to how to select, store, freeze them, and suggested recipes…anything you’re looking for regarding tomatoes should be included in this article. If not, please let me know!

Enjoy!
Judi

Tomatoes 101 – The Basics

About Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the fourth most popular vegetable in the United States, following potatoes, lettuce, and onions. We treat tomatoes as vegetables, but botanically they are fruits since they contain seeds of the plant. But in terms of nutrient content, tomatoes have more in common with vegetables than fruits, so treating them as a vegetable is not far off from the truth.

Tomatoes come in a variety of shapes from round to oval and pear-shaped, with sizes ranging from tiny grape tomatoes to very large beefsteaks. Their colors vary also with the most common being orange-red. Other colors of tomatoes include yellow, orange, green, pink, purple, brown, and black. All tomatoes belong to the Solenoid family of plants called the Solanaceae. This is also called the nightshade family of plants.

Tomatoes are native to the western side of South America. It appears they were first cultivated in Mexico. The word “tomato” may have originated from the Aztecan word “tomati” which meant “the swelling fruit.” In much later years, tomatoes made their way to Europe on ships from Mexico returning to Europe. From there, tomatoes became a staple in Mediterranean cuisine.

Today, most commercially grown tomatoes are destined for processing into food products like tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and tomato juice. In the United States, most tomatoes are grown in California and Florida, followed by a number of other states from the Midwest to the East coast. About a third of the fresh tomatoes sold in the United States are imported from other countries, most notably Mexico, where they are grown mostly in greenhouses.

Nutrition Tidbits and Health Benefits
Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and Vitamin K. They are also a very good source of many other nutrients including copper, potassium, manganese, fiber and beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor), Vitamin B6, folate, niacin, Vitamin E, and phosphorus. They are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc and iron.  The World’s Healthiest Foods (https://whfoods.com) ranks tomatoes along with kale regarding nutrient content. One cup of fresh tomato slices has 2 grams of fiber with a mere 32 calories.

Lycopene: Lycopene is a type of carotenoid found in some foods that gives them a red color. It is found in tomatoes, watermelon, red oranges, pink grapefruit, apricots, guavas, papayas, and more. Sun-dried tomatoes are a very concentrated source of lycopene. Like other carotenoids, lycopene is fat-soluble, so it is easier to digest and absorb when there is some fat in the same meal as lycopene-containing foods. Because of its fat-soluble properties, lycopene tends to concentrate in blood lipoproteins and fatty tissues such as skin, liver, lungs, and the prostate gland.

Lycopene is not only a color pigment, but also a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from free radical damage. If not controlled, free radicals cause cellular damage that leads to oxidative stress, setting the stage for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Observational studies have found that diets rich in lycopene may be protective against breast, prostate, and lung cancers. The antioxidant properties of lycopene help to balance the free radical activity in the body, which helps to protect us from these conditions. The antioxidant activity of lycopene seems to be enhanced when tomatoes are cooked, especially when cooked with fat. So, feel free to add tomatoes to soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries, and any other dishes you want, especially if there is a little fat in there too!

Cancer: Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants including beta-carotene. These factors help to fight free radicals in the body that are known to cause cancer. Studies have shown that a high intake of beta-carotene aids in the prevention of tumor development in prostate cancer. A study in Japan also demonstrated that beta-carotene may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Heart health: Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant nutrients Vitamins C and E, and lycopene. Antioxidants are critical for cardiovascular health since the system carries oxygen throughout the body. Antioxidants are used to protect the oxygen from damage as it travels in the blood. Lycopene is well known for its benefit of protecting fats lining cell membranes. Without this protection, damaged cell membranes can lead to chronic inflammation which in turn leads to damaged blood vessels and atherosclerosis.

Also, regular tomato intake has been shown to improve lipid profiles, reducing total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and specific markers in the immune system that indicate oxidative stress, a prerequisite for atherosclerosis.

Compounds in tomatoes have also been shown to have anti-clotting effects by helping to prevent excessive clumping of blood platelets. Although platelet clotting is a critical function within our cardiovascular system, excessive clotting is dangerous to our health. This function along with others by compounds in tomatoes makes them an excellent food to consume for cardiovascular health.

Eye Health: Some studies have shown that lycopene may prevent or delay the formation of cataracts, and reduce the risk of macular degeneration in older adults.

All of that combined is plenty of good reason to include tomatoes in your meals whenever you can!

Nightshade Family of Vegetables
Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family of plants, Solanaceae. This family includes over 2,000 species of flowering plants, most of which are not edible. However, some of them, like tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), peppers, tomatillos, and eggplants are all edible. Cayenne and chili peppers are also included in this same family. These foods are rich in nutrients and serve as staples in many cultures. Yet, despite their nutritional components and health benefits, some people find that they do better without these foods. They find that they contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune conditions.

The complaints about tomatoes and other nightshade foods often focus on the alkaloids found in them. Alkaloids are nitrogen-containing compounds found in the leaves, stems, and vines of nightshade foods. Alkaloids are also found in cocoa, coffee, tea, black pepper, and some honey (depending upon the type of flowers the bees used). They are bitter and function as a natural insect repellent.  But those parts of the plants are usually inedible.

The edible portions of nightshade plants also contain alkaloids, but not as much as the inedible parts. Research has found that excessive intake of alkaloids may cause some health issues. “Excessive” is key here, as it may be challenging to ingest a large amount of alkaloids unless you eat inedible parts of the plant. For instance, the amount of alkaloid in a tomato decreases as the tomato ripens. Also, the Food and Drug Administration has set a maximum level of alkaloids in potatoes at 200 mcg per gram. When tested, most potatoes were found to have less than that. Cooking nightshade foods has been shown to reduce their alkaloid content. This is one reason why it is advisable to cook potatoes, rather than eat them raw. Also, removing any sprouting spots, and green areas of potato skin is also advisable since they contain more alkaloids than other areas of potatoes. While the fact that the health conditions of some people (usually arthritis and joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis) improve with the elimination of nightshade foods is indisputable, there is currently little scientific research in this area. Therefore, it’s best to avoid nightshade vegetables IF you are sensitive to them. Otherwise, enjoy!

How to Select Tomatoes
Choose tomatoes with a vibrant color. They should be well shaped with smooth skins. Avoid those with wrinkles, cracks, bruises and soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield when lightly squeezed, and they have a sweet aroma.

How to Store Tomatoes
This is a hotly debated topic. Obviously, if a tomato is not fully ripe when you bring it home, it is best to store it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, until it fully ripens. If you want to speed up ripening of tomatoes, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple. The ethylene gas released by the banana or apple with encourage the tomato to ripen faster.

If your tomatoes are already very ripe when you bring them home, you can slow down further ripening of the fruit by placing it in the refrigerator. That will help to prolong the life of the tomatoes. Remove them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before eating them will help to regain their full flavor and juiciness.

Sun-dried tomatoes should be stored in an airtight container, with or without olive oil, in a cool dry place (and not in the refrigerator, unless recommended to do so on the label).

How to Freeze Tomatoes
Whole tomatoes (with or without their skin), chopped tomatoes, and tomato sauce all freeze well for later use. The simplest way to freeze tomatoes is simply to wash them well, then dry them. Remove the core where the stem was attached. Place the whole tomato in a freezer container and store it in the freezer. They will keep well like this for six months.

When you’re ready to use your tomatoes, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes. When they start to soften up, the skin should be easily removed by pinching it with your fingers and pulling it off the tomato flesh. While still frozen, tomatoes can easily be grated for sauce. When thawed, they can be chopped and added to soups, stews or sauces. Once frozen, tomatoes will need to be cooked. Their texture will not be suitable for use in a fresh salad.

A faster way to remove the skin from your frozen whole tomatoes is to run them under warm water right after removing them from the freezer. As they warm up, the skin will loosen and can easily be removed with your fingers.

Removing tomato skin before freezing: Another way to freeze tomatoes would be to remove their skin before freezing. Simply wash your tomatoes and remove the core from each one. Cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of the tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop a few of the whole, cored tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. When you see the skin start to split, transfer the tomato with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water. Allow it to cool until you can handle it, then gently pinch the skin to remove it with your fingers. The tomatoes can then be frozen whole, chopped, or juiced before being placed in the freezer. Here’s a video on how to remove skin from tomatoes …

How to Prepare Tomatoes
Simply rinse your tomatoes then pat them dry and they’re ready to be used. It is advisable not to cook tomatoes in aluminum cookware because the acid in the tomatoes can cause the aluminum to leach out into the food.

How to remove seeds from tomatoes: To deseed your tomatoes, remove the stem end. Then simply cut them in half around the middle. Hold one half of the tomato in your hand over a bowl. Gently squeeze and the seeds should fall out. Another way would be to remove the seeds from your tomato halves with a spoon. Proceed with your recipe from there.

Quick Tips and Ideas for Using Tomatoes
Tomatoes can add a lot of flavor to many different foods and dishes. Keeping some canned tomatoes in the pantry ensures you always have some available whenever the need arises. Here are some quick tips and ideas for using tomatoes in your foods.

* Add tomatoes to bean and vegetable soups for a classic, well-rounded flavor.

* For a classic tomato salad, top sliced fresh tomatoes with some sliced red onion, a sprinkle of basil, some mozzarella cheese and a little drizzle of olive oil.

* Make an easy salsa with chopped tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers. Add some cilantro for a citrusy flavor.

* Make a cold gazpacho soup by blending tomatoes with cucumbers, bell peppers, scallions, garlic, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

* Add tomato slices to salads and sandwiches for a juicy, sweet and flavorful addition.

* The next time you fire up the grill, cut some tomatoes in half and grill them for a nice addition to your other foods.

* Enjoy stuffed roasted tomatoes by cutting large tomatoes in half and removing the seeds. Stuff them with a mixture of cooked rice and veggies of choice. Roast them in the oven until heated through and enjoy!

* Top a toasted baguette with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion.

* If your tomato dish, sauce or soup seems a little too acidic, add a little sugar (up to a teaspoon, depending on how large your recipe is). That will cut the acidity and bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.

* Are you wondering what to do with extra tomato paste from the opened can? Portion it into ice cube trays in one tablespoon increments. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container and return them to the freezer. Use them within 9 months.

* Never cook tomatoes in an aluminum pot because the acid in the tomatoes will react with the aluminum. The tomatoes will cause the aluminum to pit and discolor, and will even absorb some of the aluminum. Also, the tomatoes may become bitter and fade in color a bit.

* Do you need “stewed tomatoes” and don’t have any? Make your own by combining 2 cups of diced tomatoes (that had the skin removed first) OR one (14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes) with 3 tablespoons of finely chopped celery, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped green pepper, ½ teaspoon of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Use in any dish calling for stewed tomatoes.

* Are you having trouble slicing tomatoes without smashing them? Use a serrated knife rather than a straight-edge knife. Your slices will hold their shape better and will be less runny.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Tomatoes
Basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, capers, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon thyme, lovage, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Other Foods That Go Well with Tomatoes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds:
Almonds, bacon, beans (in general), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, legumes (in general), lentils, snap peas, tofu

Vegetables: Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, cauliflower, celery, chard, chiles, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (summer), zucchini

Fruits: Avocados, lemon, lime, olives, oranges, orange juice, pumpkin, strawberries, tamarind, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, breads and bread crumbs, corn, couscous, grains (in general), bulgur, farro, pasta, polenta, quinoa, rice, seitan, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (esp. feta, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta), cream, sour cream, yogurt

Other: Balsamic vinegar, oil (esp. olive), salt, soy sauce, tamari, vinegar (in general), Worcestershire sauce

Dishes and Cuisines That Often Include Tomatoes
Breads, bruschetta, casseroles, chili, chutneys, enchiladas, French cuisine, gazpacho, gratins, gumbos, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, pesto, pizza, ratatouille, relishes, risottos, salad dressings, salads, salsas, sandwiches, sauces, soups, Spanish cuisine, tabbouleh, tarts, tomatoes (stuffed)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Tomatoes
Combine tomatoes with any of the following combinations…

Avocados + chiles + cilantro + garlic + scallions + vinegar
Balsamic vinegar + basil + garlic + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + basil + mozzarella cheese
Basil + Parmesan cheese
Bell peppers + cucumbers + olive oil + onions + vinegar
Chiles + cilantro + garlic + lime + onions
Cucumbers + garlic + bell peppers
Feta cheese + marjoram
Garlic + oregano
Lemon + mint
Pesto + pine nuts + ricotta

 

Recipe Links

Chickpea Tomato Herb Crackers (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/q2ye5jLxa3Q

Zucchini with Italian Herbs and Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/WjrEHb9Mqds

Lima Beans with Mushrooms and Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/XNADydCwdG4

Green Beans with Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/GvTyb5ixIyE

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad with Dill (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/_LG21xMqsUk

Rice with Vegetables in Tomato Cups (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/yi0ElSTdXQE

Quinoa with Vegetables over Tomatoes (Jud in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/GgngunS8TbM

Mushroom, Tomato, Basil Frittata http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=125

Fresh Tomato Salsa http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=202

Pureed Lima Beans with Rosemary Tomato Broth http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=208

Zucchini with Italian Herbs and Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/WjrEHb9Mqds

Lima Beans with Mushrooms and Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/XNADydCwdG4

Pasta with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Tomato Sauce (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/lBFo7VVX3MM

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad with Dill (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/_LG21xMqsUk

Homemade Tomato Marinara Sauce (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/8LA4-cmHu48

Delicious Eggplant Tomato Sauce (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/J1mPnBIu1OM

15-Minute Salmon with Tomato Salsa http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=138

79 Tomato Recipes for the Height of the Season https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/tomato-recipes-slideshow

47 Ways with Fresh Tomatoes https://www.southernliving.com/food/holidays-occasions/fresh-tomato-recipes?

Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Tomatoes and Microgreens https://producemadesimple.ca/gourmet-grilled-cheese-with-tomatoes-and-microgreens/

Fresh Ontario Greenhouse Tomato-Basil Soup https://producemadesimple.ca/fresh-ontario-greenhouse-tomato-basil-soup/

Oven Dried Tomatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/oven-dried-tomatoes/

28 Things to do with Too Many Tomatoes https://www.mamanatural.com/too-many-tomatoes/

Cream of Tomato Soup https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-cream-of-tomato-soup-156693


Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=44

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031.php#benefits

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nightshade-vegetables

https://paleoleap.com/nightshades/

https://producemadesimple.ca/what-goes-well-with-tomatoes/

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-freeze-and-thaw-tomatoes-234388

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/raw-potatoes#bottom-line

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/top-tips-for-using-fresh-tomatoes/

https://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–829/all-about-tomatoes.asp

https://www.foodandwine.com/chefs/4-essential-tips-cooking-tomatoes

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-tomato-paste-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-206853

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-554/lycopene

https://foodinsight.org/what-is-lycopene-antioxidant-carotenoid-health-nutrition/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lycopene#antioxidant

https://www.nutri-facts.org/en_US/nutrients/carotenoids/lycopene.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020422073341.htm

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lycopene#other-benefits

https://www.allaboutvision.com/teens/nutrition.htm

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Easy Succotash

Easy Succotash (Oil Free)

Here’s a REALLY easy recipe to put together and it’s delicious too! You can use canned lima beans, or frozen or dried lima beans that you’re already cooked. Any way you go, this is a winner! The succotash can be served any temperature you want, from cold to hot. It can be eaten as it is, or served over a hot cooked grain or pasta. It can even be included in a salad. So, it’s as versatile as your imagination! The recipe is below along with a video demonstration of how to make the dish.

Enjoy!
Judi

Easy Succotash
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
½ cup diced bell pepper
½ cup diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp dried parsley
1-1/2 tsp dried thyme
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
2 cups cooked lima beans, or 1 (15.25 oz) can lima beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can organic corn, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cooked hot grain or pasta of choice, optional

Place a strainer over a medium to large saucepan that has a lid. Empty the can of diced tomatoes into the strainer and allow the juice to drain into the pan. Transfer the strainer to rest on a bowl so it can collect any remaining juice. Bring the strained juice to boil and add the diced bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Sauté the vegetables and herbs in the tomato juice until the vegetables start to soften and most of the juice is gone. Add the cooked lima beans, corn, strained tomatoes (including any remaining juice that strained into the bowl), and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to heat through, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Remove from heat and drizzle with apple cider vinegar; stir to combine.

This may be served cold, room temperature, warm or hot. It can be enjoyed as it is, or served over a hot cooked grain of your choice, or even pasta. It could even be used as part of a salad. Enjoy!

Easier Chickpea Salad

Easier Chickpea Salad (Mock Tuna)

If you’re looking for a very simple chickpea salad (mock tuna) recipe that’s fast and easy to put together, you found it! This skips using any prepared mayonnaise, has no added oil, and is vegan. Below is a video demonstration of how to make the salad. The written recipe follows the video link.

Enjoy!
Judi

Easier Chickpea Salad (Mock Tuna)
Makes 1 or 2 Servings

½ cup cooked (or canned, drained) chickpeas
2 Tbsp to ¼ cup diced celery
2 Tbsp diced onion of choice
¼ avocado, diced
1-1/2 to 2 tsp white wine vinegar
1-1/2 to 2 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
Dash of black pepper, or to taste

Place all ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped and somewhat creamy. Enjoy!

This is excellent by itself, served on a bed of salad greens, used as a sandwich filling, wrapped in a tortilla, or wrapped in large leaves of greens such as kale, collards, cabbage or lettuce leaves. Use this salad any way you would enjoy a tuna or chicken salad.

2 to 4 Servings…
1 cup cooked (or canned, drained) chickpeas
¼ to ½ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced onion of choice
½ avocado, diced
1 Tbsp (+1 tsp if more tang is desired) white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp (+1 tsp if more tang is desired) prepared Dijon mustard
Black pepper to taste

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad (Mock Tuna) (Vegan, No Added Oil)

Here’s a simple salad made with chickpeas, vegan mayonnaise and sweet mustard dressing for a little tang. It can be served with a green salad, on a sandwich, in pita bread, as a dip with tortilla chips, on its own, or in any way you might include something like a tuna salad with your meal. It’s good no matter how you enjoy it! Below are video links showing how to make all the components, and the written recipes follow the videos. If you need a short cut, simply use your favorite mayonnaise and mustard dressing that you have on-hand.

Enjoy!
Judi

Sweet Mustard Dressing

Vegan Mayonnaise

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad (Mock Tuna)
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed OR 1-3/4 cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup sweet mustard dressing, of choice*
1/3 cup mayonnaise, of choice**
1/3 cup diced celery, more or less as desired
2 Tbsp small diced onion of choice, more or less as desired
Black pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in a food processor and pulse very briefly to coarsely chop them up. Transfer the chopped chickpeas to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Chef’s Note: This salad is delicious on a bed of salad greens, used as sandwich filling, wrapped in a tortilla or pita bread, or served with tortilla chips as a dip. It may be used any way you would use a tuna salad.

* For an oil-free sweet mustard dressing, try my Sweet Mustard Dressing (recipe below).
** For a vegan mayonnaise option, try my Vegan Mayonnaise (recipe below).

Sweet Mustard Dressing (Oil-Free, Vegan Option) Makes About 3 Cups
1 cup of cooked or canned (and drained) white beans of choice
1 avocado, diced
½ cup water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup or honey

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Enjoy! Store extra in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within 4 days.

Vegan Mayonnaise (White Bean and Avocado Mayo) Makes About 2 Cups
1 (15 oz) can of white beans of choice OR 1-3/4 cups cooked white beans of choice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Avocado, diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp water or aquafaba (reserved bean juice from the can)

Rinse and drain the canned beans, reserving the liquid from the can, if opting to use it. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Use as you would any mayonnaise. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within 5 days.

Cook’s Note: Since this is made with avocado, it will have a pale green tint, which is unlike traditional mayonnaise. However, the flavor is very similar to that of traditional mayonnaise.

Sweet Mustard Dressing

Sweet Mustard Dressing (Oil-Free, Vegan Option)

Here’s a yummy sweet mustard dressing, made without added oils. It can be vegan, if desired, by using maple syrup in place of honey. Either option will lend a different flavor, but either way is delicious and works well on any green salad or in any food calling for a honey mustard dressing. Below is a video demonstration of how to make the dressing. The written recipe follows the video.

Enjoy!
Judi

Sweet Mustard Dressing (Oil-Free, Vegan Option)
Makes About 3 Cups

1 cup of cooked or canned (and drained) white beans of choice
1 avocado, diced
½ cup water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup or honey

One-Half of the Recipe (Makes 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup of cooked or canned (and drained) white beans of choice
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Enjoy! Store extra in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within 4 days.

Fruits and Vegetables

Easy Ways to Add More Fruits and Veggies to Your Day

We all know we need to eat more plant foods…more fruits and vegetables, in particular. Most Americans don’t eat the recommended number of servings of these important foods yet they know they should. If you’re among that crowd and are looking for ways to include more plant foods into your day, I have some easy ideas for you to try.

Effective Way to Make Changes
First, remember that long-time habits cannot all be changed overnight (at least not permanently). The easiest way to make permanent change is to do it a little at a time. (Remember the saying, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch; yard by yard, it’s hard.”) Pick something that’s do-able for you (such as always adding some type of fruit to your breakfast), make the change, and stick with it until it becomes second-nature to you…until you do it without thinking about it, and then you’re there! You’ve achieved that goal!

Next, keep that new habit and find something else to change in a positive way. Maybe find another way to add a vegetable to your lunch or to a snack food. Repeat the same process. Keep moving forward with this tactic, adding new changes when the others become a habit to you and they are “automatic.” Over time you’ll find that you’ve transformed your life (or at least your diet) for the good. Here are some ideas for adding more fruits and vegetables to your foods…

Breakfast
* Add fruit to cereal.

* Add fruit to yogurt and make it part of your breakfast.

* Add vegetables to an omelet. Mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, shredded carrots, greens (like kale), and tomatoes all blend well with eggs.

* Add fruit and greens (such as spinach) to a breakfast smoothie.

* Try a savory vegetable pancake. Sauté onions, carrots, spinach, and even mushrooms, then add them to a savory (not sweet) pancake batter. Cook as usual and enjoy (without the maple syrup). If you really want a topping, try unsweetened applesauce.

* Add diced apple to hot oatmeal or other porridge.

* Make a 100% fruit puree in advance to have available in the refrigerator. Top morning oatmeal with it.

* Is your morning time short? Try overnight oats with added berries. Add other fruits in the morning and you’ll have breakfast in no time.

* Try a loaded sweet potato for breakfast. Bake or boil it in advance, then warm it on the stove or in the microwave. Or, if time allows, pierce it and microwave it until it’s soft. Split it and fill the cavity with chopped nuts or your favorite nut butter and chopped fruit.

* Or fill a cooked sweet potato with scrambled eggs cooked with veggies such as sautéed onions, carrots, and chopped spinach.

* Sauté assorted vegetables such as kale, carrots, broccoli florets, mushrooms, and butternut squash. Add some beans, or top them with a soft-boiled egg. Have some toast, a side of cooked grain or even oatmeal.

* Add some sautéed vegetables to a breakfast burrito.

Lunch or Supper
* Enjoy a vegetable salad with your lunch (or supper), or as the whole meal. Add some fruit for sweetness, flavor and variety.

* Add as many vegetables as you can to a lunchtime sandwich. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, avocado, and spinach would all work well.

* Have some veggie sticks with or without dip on the side. Jicama, carrots, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, radishes, and even sugar snap peas and snow peas. Most offer great crunch and chewing experience while the dip can add variety in flavors. This is a healthful alternative to chips.

* Enjoy a piece of fresh fruit for dessert.

* Top meat, chicken or fish with a salsa of choice.

* Add shredded carrots, zucchini, or yellow squash to meatloaf, casseroles, and burgers (both meat and meatless).

* Add shredded vegetables to pasta sauce as it cooks. Carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash all blend well in tomato sauce.

* Add vegetables as toppings to your pizza.

* If you’re a meat eater, plan a meatless meal for one or two days a week. Plan a meal around a vegetable-based soup, stir-fry, or casserole. Add beans or legumes of choice for added protein.

* Use fresh vegetable or fruit slices as a garnish on your plate. Make a point of eating them rather than just enjoying their looks next to other foods.

* Stuff acorn (or other) squash, bell peppers, hollowed out zucchini, or spaghetti squash with a vegetable-bean mixture and enjoy that for supper. Be sure to eat the “bowl” along with the stuffing!

* Add vegetables to lasagna layers. Fresh spinach, finely shredded carrot, thinly sliced yellow squash or zucchini, and finely chopped steamed kale would all work well.

* When cooking rice or another grain for a side dish, add some frozen peas and even finely shredded carrots during the last few minutes of cooking time. Your grain will be embellished with vegetables for added color, nutrition and flavor. Not a fan of peas? Try finely shredded kale or spinach or something else that sounds good to you.

* Need a meal in a hurry? Make a quick quesadilla by stir-steaming or stir-frying some veggies (use a pack of assorted frozen (and thawed in a colander under running water) vegetables to make it even faster). Add in a handful of cooked beans, if desired. Place them on a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese of choice. Fold the tortilla, heat the tortilla on a frying pan to crisp it up some, and enjoy!

* Try cauliflower rice as a way to add more veggies to your meal. We’re not knocking rice here, just adding veggies. If you want the real thing (rice, that is), you could make a mixture of half rice and half cauliflower rice.

* Add finely chopped vegetables to polenta.

* If you’re not a huge fan of vegetables, yet want to add more to your meals, try dressing them up with your favorite salsa, glaze or sauce.

* Add pureed cauliflower, winter squash, sweet potato, or even bell peppers into sauces, mashed potatoes and even pot pies for added flavor, nutrition, and color.

* Try thickening soups and stews with vegetables instead of cornstarch. Okra will thicken, as will starchy vegetables like potatoes. Blended corn, mashed white or sweet potatoes, and pureed cooked root vegetables such as carrots may also do the trick. Although not “vegetables,” pureed beans in liquid can also be used to thicken soups. Blend equal parts of beans and soup broth. Add the slurry back to the pot and your soup should thicken.

* Try adding mashed, roasted cauliflower to mashed potatoes. This will make the potatoes healthier and creamier.

* Try a lettuce wrap. Make your usual taco, tortilla, or sandwich filling (but of course, with added veggies), then wrap it in a stack of lettuce leaves instead. Or take it one step further and try large collard green leaves, turnip green leaves, or flat-leaf kale leaves. Yet another way to add more veggies to your meal!

* Try a fish-less sushi. Use mushrooms, cucumbers, and avocado along with the sticky rice.

* Add some finely chopped spinach to your favorite risotto. Add it toward the end of cooking time since spinach cooks really fast.

* On a cold winter day, start your meal with a small warm bowl of vegetable soup as an appetizer. You’ll get veggies in and also curb your appetite so you don’t overeat.

* On a warm summer day, start your meal with a side salad or veggies and dip. Like with the soup, you’ll get more veggies in and curb your appetite a bit.

Salads
* Add vegetables to tuna, chicken, meat, or bean salads. Tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, onions, would all work well. Serve on a bed of lettuce or spinach (and EAT the greens!).

* Include a green salad as a side dish with lunch and/or supper. Eat this, in addition to your “side” vegetable.

* Add variety to green salads by adding other vegetables such as red or green cabbage, spinach, carrots, green peas (frozen, thawed), mushrooms, celery, radishes, cucumbers, yellow squash or zucchini, broccoli and/or cauliflower, sprouts, sugar snap peas, snow peas, bell peppers, cooked green beans, scallions, tomatoes, radicchio, or any other vegetable you want.

* For a little sweetness, add some fruit to your green salads, such as pineapple, orange slices, grapes, berries of any sort, diced apples, diced pears, diced peaches, or mango cubes.

* Embrace “slaws.” Cole slaw doesn’t have to be limited to cabbage and mayonnaise. Red cabbage, green cabbage, shredded Brussels sprouts, grated kohlrabi, grated carrots, pineapple tidbits, grated apple, peanuts, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, celery root, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, and even citrus fruits can all be incorporated into assorted vegetable slaws. Experiment and get creative with this one!

* Don’t get stuck in a rut with your salads. Vary your greens. There are plenty to choose from: iceberg, romaine, green leafy lettuce, red leaf lettuce, specialty lettuces, spring mix, baby green mixes, spinach, kale, shredded cabbage, even shredded collard greens…explore what’s available in your local store or farm market!

* Don’t just vary your bed of greens, but vary your toppings too! There are lots of possibilities including tomatoes, shredded carrots, celery, bell peppers, broccoli pieces, cauliflower pieces, cucumbers, cooked green beans, frozen (and thawed) green peas, sliced olives, raw yellow squash or zucchini slices, beet slices (pickled, steamed, or raw), asparagus (raw, steamed or sautéed), parsnips (raw, steamed or sautéed), roasted Brussels sprouts (or even raw), corn (canned, raw, frozen and thawed, steamed or boiled), shaved kohlrabi, jicama, shaved celery root, natural sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables (homemade is mild tasting and less pungent than the canned variety), onions (all varieties), butternut squash (raw, cubed and roasted, steamed, or sautéed).

* Don’t toss the broccoli stems! They’re perfectly edible. If the outer layer is too tough for you, shave it off with a vegetable peeler and save it for vegetable broth. Slice the remaining stalk into your salad for an added vegetable. They are crunchy but not tough, and taste like broccoli. Why toss them???

* Try making a vegetable salad without the greens, just for something different. Load it with tomatoes, shredded carrots, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas for sweetness, and any other veggies you want. Top it with your favorite dressing and enjoy!

Snacks and Other Foods
* Have some fruits and/or vegetable pieces available to snack on whenever you have a hunger urge. Sliced bell peppers, carrot and celery sticks, sliced radishes, sliced jicama, broccoli or cauliflower florets, whole cherry or grape tomatoes, raw sugar snap peas, raw snow peas, and sliced yellow squash or zucchini would all work well. Include some whole baby cucumbers for an easy grab and go, crunchy snack. For fruit, peeled Clementine oranges, grapes, apples, pears, sliced kiwi, cubed mango, diced pineapple, strawberries, plums, peaches, cherries (when they’re in season), and bananas would all work well for a quick and handy snack. On the run? Pack them in a to-go bag and you’ll have them whenever your “snack-attack” hits you.

* Boil a whole sweet potato with the peel on. Allow it to cool then store it in the refrigerator. When hungry, cut off a slice or two and enjoy it just as it is…plain and simple. When you get used to eating foods without added sugars, a boiled sweet potato will actually taste sweet to you.

* Add shredded fruits and vegetables to baked goods like quick breads and muffins. Shredded apples, carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini would all work well.

* Use a fruit puree as a dip on a fruit and cheese tray. Pureed raspberries and/or pineapple would be good.

* Use a vegetable puree as a dip on a vegetable tray. (Example: Roasted red bell peppers blended with a little balsamic vinegar.)

* Spread your favorite nut butter on apple or pear slices for a delicious, satisfying snack.

* Add mixed berries to some vanilla yogurt for a filling snack.

* Stuff celery sticks with your favorite nut butter.

* Enjoy a slice of cantaloupe topped with cashew cream or yogurt.

* Try spreading a tortilla or flatbread with your favorite nut butter, top it with thinly sliced banana and a few raisins. Roll it up and enjoy it right away, or wrap it for a to-go snack.

* Add fresh vegetable/fruit juice to your day, not as a meal replacer, but as a supplement.

Desserts
* Instead of making overly sweetened desserts like pie, cake and cookies, enjoy a piece of fresh fruit for dessert. When your taste buds get used to not being overrun with excess sugars, a piece of fruit will actually be refreshing and taste sweet.

* Puree fresh fruit to use as a dressing over another dessert such as cake, pie, pudding, and ice cream.

* Include fruit pieces or fruit puree into desserts like parfaits and puddings.

* Stew or poach pears with a little sweetener (sugar, honey, or maple syrup) and spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise) for an elegant dessert.

* Try banana “nice cream” by blending a frozen (peeled) banana. Period. It’s delicious as it is, but can be embellished any way you want. When blending, add in a little vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or another fruit. It can be sweetened with whatever you want, if desired. Top it with chopped nuts, dried coconut, chocolate chips or your favorite fruit puree and you have a delicious, healthy, fruity dessert ready in very little time.

* For a refreshing dessert on a hot day, swirl a freshly made fruit puree of your choice into your favorite yogurt. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

* Make a parfait layering pudding or yogurt with 100% fruit puree, chopped fresh fruit of choice, and granola.

* Top your favorite pudding with a fruit puree (unsweetened, of course!), or small chunks of fresh fruit of choice.

* Make a refreshing fruit salad with whatever fruit you have available. Add a topping of 100% fruit puree, or stir in some pineapple tidbits with juice, then sprinkle with unsweetened coconut.

Plan Ahead
* If you know your time will be short during the work week, take some time on the weekend or one evening to prepare some fruits and veggies in advance. For instance, salad greens can be washed, spun dry, chopped, and stored in the refrigerator, ready for fast salad assembly any time you need it. Other salad vegetables may also be chopped in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for faster salad making.

* On a day off, make a large pot of soup that’s loaded with assorted vegetables. In fact, double the veggies (or at least increase the amount) called for in the recipe (if possible). This will increase the “hearty factor” of the soup along with the nutritional punch. Divide it into containers for grab-and-go lunches for the week, or for quick suppers when time is short.

* “Ditto” the above suggestion for making a large casserole with extra veggies on a day off. You’ll have lunches (or easy suppers) ready to go for the week.

* If you’re cooking something in the oven and have space, add some sweet potatoes wherever there’s room so they can bake at the same time. Enjoy them with meals during the week, or save them for special, sweet and satisfying snacks when needed.

* Keep frozen vegetables in the freezer. They can be ready at a moment’s notice to be used in a number of ways. Add them to soups, casseroles, stir-fries, quiches, pasta dishes, and rice or grain dishes. Thaw frozen vegetables like peas and carrots and add them to a green salad for extra nutrients, flavor, and variety.

* When grocery shopping, look for something new that you haven’t tried before in the produce isle. Make a point of including that in at least one dish during the coming week.

* Keep frozen assorted fruit in the freezer. This is handy especially when they’re out of season or you don’t have time to get to the store. They can be included in smoothies, blended into desserts, or thawed and used in whatever way needed.

* If you’ll be going off somewhere for the day, pack ready-to-go snack bags of easy to munch on veggies, like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices or baby whole cucumbers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, and maybe some easy to eat fruit like grapes, a plum, or a banana.

With all the suggestions above, I hope this gives you some ideas as to what will work for you in adding more fruits and vegetables to your day. If you have suggestions not mentioned above, please feel free to share them below! I’d love to hear from you!

Judi

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Vegan Mayonnaise

Vegan Mayonnaise (Oil Free)

Here’s a great substitute for traditional mayonnaise, if you’re looking for something that’s vegan and free of added oils. It’s easy to make and blends up quickly. Below is a video demonstration of how to make the mayo. The written recipe is below.

Enjoy!
Judi

Vegan Mayonnaise
(White Bean and Avocado Mayo)
Makes About 2 Cups

1 (15 oz) can of white beans of choice OR 1-3/4 cups cooked white beans of choice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Avocado, diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp water or aquafaba (reserved bean juice from the can)

One-Half of the Recipe (Makes about 1 cup)
1/2 (15 oz) can of white beans of choice OR ½ cup + 3/8 cup cooked white beans of choice
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 Avocado, diced
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp water or aquafaba (reserved bean juice from the can)

One-Fourth of the Recipe (Makes about ½ cup)
1/4 (15 oz) can of white beans of choice OR Scant ½ cup cooked white beans of choice
¾ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ Avocado, diced
¾ tsp lemon juice
¾ tsp white wine vinegar
½ Tbsp water or aquafaba (reserved bean juice from the can)

Rinse and drain the canned beans, reserving the liquid from the can, if opting to use it. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Use as you would any mayonnaise. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within 5 days.

Cook’s Note: Since this is made with avocado, it will have a pale green tint, which is unlike traditional mayonnaise. However, the flavor is very similar to that of traditional mayonnaise.

Mango-Raspberry Fruit Dressing

Mango-Raspberry Fruit Dressing (3 Ingredients)

Here’s a really simple fruit dressing to make in no time. It blends up with a similar texture as applesauce, but the flavor is far better than the typical applesauce. It is naturally sweet-tart and has a greater depth of flavor than applesauce. Yet, it can be used in place of applesauce in most applications. If you need it a little thicker, simply add the optional ground flax seed and that will naturally thicken it. Below is the recipe along with ideas on how to use this simple fruit dressing. Videos are included so you can see how it’s made and how to use it.

Enjoy!
Judi

Mango-Raspberry Fruit Dressing
Makes About 1 Cup

1 cup mango cubes, fresh or frozen and thawed (About 1 medium mango)
1/4 cup raspberries (fresh, or frozen and thawed)
1 Clementine orange
1 Tbsp ground golden flax seed (optional)*

Peel and cube one fresh mango (if using frozen mango cubes, allow them to thaw before blending). Peel the Clementine orange and remove the pith that is in the center of the orange. Slice the orange pieces in half. Combine all ingredients in a small blender or food processor, and process until smooth. If you need more dressing, simply double or triple the recipe, as needed. Use immediately. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days. This may also be frozen.

*(Note: If you prefer a sweeter dressing, feel free to add sweetener of your choice. If you need a thicker dressing, add 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds when blending ingredients.)

Easy Ideas for Using this Dressing…
* Drizzle it over a fruit salad using any fruit of your choice. Fruit that would go especially well with this dressing includes: apples, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, grapes, mango, melons, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerines, and watermelon.

* Swirl it into yogurt.

* Add it to a smoothie.

* Use it as an ice cream topping.

* Eat it as-is for a dessert or snack.

* Use it in place of applesauce.

* Partially freeze it into a sorbet.

* Drizzle it on cake.

* Top pancakes or waffles with this dressing.

* Use it as a cheesecake topping.

* Serve it chunky or smooth, slightly warmed or chilled.

* Serve it slightly warm over pork, poultry or fish.

* Swirl it into softened cream cheese or nut butter and spread the mixture on toast, a bagel, or into a sandwich.

* Serve it as a dip on a fruit and cheese tray. If desired, thicken it by adding up to 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds when blending the ingredients.

* Use it as a topping for pudding.

* Top porridge (like cooked oatmeal) with this dressing to add a fruity flavor to your hot breakfast.

* Add it to a parfait, layering yogurt or pudding with this dressing, assorted fruit, and even granola.

* Here a video on a simple fruit salad made with this dressing…

Fruit Salad with Mango-Raspberry Fruit Dressing

Fruit options that go well with this dressing:
Apples, bananas, berries of all types, citrus fruits, grapes, mango, melons, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerines, and watermelon

Mango-Raspberry Fruit Dressing (Makes about 1 cup):
See the recipe above

To make the salad:
Make the fruit dressing. For drizzling over a fruit salad, the optional added ground flax seed is not needed. Cut up as much fruit as you need and arrange it on a platter or in a serving bowl. With a spoon, drizzle the prepared dressing over the salad. Extra dressing can also be served on the side. Enjoy!

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.