Thursday, July 19, 2012

A guide to greens

The most important thing to remember about greens is the darker leaves have more vitamins and nutrients. Another tidbit is that greens have flavor and a variety at that so choose something that will complement the other food on your plate. Also, try to avoid boiling greens unless it is for a few seconds only. Boiling destroys the vitamins in the leaves and makes a mushy side dish.

The green family line-up

Iceberg is the worst lettuce and the most consumed. Don't eat it period. Sure it has some dietary fiber but it lacks everything else and is a carrier of sugars. Plus, it has little to no taste. Boring.

Romaine is my go-to green because you can find it everywhere and usually an organic option is available too (though I still wash it because who knows if it's truly 'organic'). This leafy bundle is packed with vitamins A and C making it a heart-healthy green along with a good dose of potassium and folic acid. Romaine leaves are crispy and its mild taste makes it a great condiment in vegan burgers.

Green leaf and red leaf are softer than romaine. They are a good source of vitamin A with some folate on the side and have a pleasant taste that could be paired with anything. The red leaf is slightly healthier than the green with its darker leaves but both taste the same and can be found in most grocery stores with organic options.

Bibb/Boston/Butter lettuce is not as nutritious as its greener brethren but it has a fair amount of vitamin A and calcium and excels in vitamin K. The leaves are soft with a 'buttery' flavor and it smells good. I have never tried this lettuce because of its lighter green leaves but it would be a good starter in getting friends and children adjusted to the more nutrition-packed greens.

Spinach is a vitamin packed bunch of awesomeness. It provides far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and almost half of your magnesium requirement. Spinach is a great source of 20 different measurable nutrients including: dietary fiber, calcium, and protein. It also holds the record for having the lowest calories per cup with 40 calories. This green is a superhero fighting several different cancers including: skin, breast, stomach, ovarian and prostate, and it also helps your cardiovascular health, improves brain function and protects against aging. Superhero to the core.

Kale is my favorite green even though I don't eat it as much as romaine (trust me, I'm working on this). It comes in a variety of looks and textures from frilly to straight leaves and green, purple and black coloring. All taste great and are loaded with vitamin A, C and K along with calcium, folate and potassium. I recommend thoroughly cleaning kale under water before using because it's known to be a dirty green.

Collards are unappreciated as a healthy green. Their kale and spinach brothers take the spotlight while collards stand aside. However, this broad-leaf, great tasting green has amazing health benefits. It is your protagonist in cancer prevention providing detox, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Mustard leaves add a robust peppery flavor to dishes and the assortment are leaf shapes and colors makes this green a fabulous addition to any meal. Like collards, this green is a cancer fighter and is amazing at lowering your cholesterol. Mustard also has one of the highest folate ratings making it a hero in cardiovascular health.
Swiss chard has a beet-like taste and soft texture. It is full of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, manganese and zinc. It helps regulate blood sugar and it brimming with calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. I have not tried this green yet but I heard it's great sauteed!

Endive/Chicory is something I have yet to try because its not as green as its brothers. However, after reading up on it this green has impressed me with its overwhelming health benefits. It's loaded with vitamins B and C, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and selenium. It's a good source of beta-carotene and potassium, aids digestion and helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. The only downside to endive is its bitter flavor so pair it with something robust (like mustard greens!) and BAM! you have an extremely healthy lunch that will make your friends envious.

Arugula is yummy! I'm not a huge salad eater (a weird vegetarian trait I know) but I love arugula salad. Just a heap of this green with some all-natural dressing and some fruit and I'm a happy camper. It's a great source of protein and is rich in dietary fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, zinc, potassium, folate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and vitamins B6, A, C and K. That's quite a hefty list for a green! My grocery store only sells arugula in prepacked containers but just wash whatever you buy and it'll be fine.

Dandelion is a new green to me. I always thought people bought this for their rabbits (though veggies are said to only eat 'rabbit food' right?) so I never considered eating it. This green packs a punch as it provides relief from liver and urinary disorders, acne, cancer and anemia. Dandelion also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and weight loss. Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium all inhabit this green making it a healthy contribution to any meal.

Rapini, like most greens, is high in vitamins A, C and K. I had never heard of this green before working at a grocery store but it doesn't disappoint. It carries a good dose of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron, and it's a good source of fiber. It has a strong and bitter flavor and is usually used in Italian and Chinese dishes.

Escarole is your go-to green for fiber and is a perfect addition to any low-fat diet. Like most greens, escarole is high in vitamins A, C and K, folate, and carries an adequate dose of iron and calcium. It's not as bitter tasting as its endive cousin and it complements most food dishes.

Kale Salad
My mom made this last time I visited and it was amazing!

1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. thyme, dried
½ cup sunflower seeds, soak for a few hours, drain and rinse
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-3 tsp. sea salt
2 bunches lacinato kale, washed well, stemmed, rolled into a bunch and sliced thinly
  1. Puree everything together except for the kale to make the dressing.
  2. Toss kale in marinade and refrigerate overnight. You can eat it fresh but it should be eaten the next day to allow the flavors to blend together.   

Monday, July 9, 2012


Poem I did at work...not sure where it came from exactly.

Into the ice box
hold me close.
I want you near
to escape the cold.

The pressure drops
my breathe soars.
You catch it and hold it
making me yours.

What I had for dinner: Homemade pizza and strawberry rhubarb pie

Making pizza has always been my go-to vegan meal because the dough is easy to make and you can put whatever toppings you want on it. Pie is another story. I have never made a pie before this dinner but I was on a quest to use the berries I got on sale last week. A coworker mentioned strawberry rhubarb pie and I thought it was a bizarre combination and it peaked my curiosity. The pictures were taken by my boyfriend who also helped with the pizza construction. These directions are intended for beginners and so I go in-depth on explanations and directions. I like to learn from clear and concise recipes and that is how I present them. So no hard feelings if you are a pizza or pie wizard (lucky you). I got the pizza dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and the pie recipe is adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky.
Pizza dough ingredients: 2 ¾ cups warm water ¼ cup oil (I've used both olive and canola oil with little difference in the results) 1 tbsp and 1 ½ tsp yeast (I use quick-rise or bread yeast) 1 tbsp and 1 ½ tsp salt (fine or coarse both work) 1 tbsp sugar (fine or raw both work) 6 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute half the white flour for wheat if you want a healthier crust. I haven't tried this yet but that's usually the rule about wheat flour) Directions: Mix water, oil, yeast, salt and sugar together in a stand mixer (or by hand with a dough whisk) until blended. Add flour and mix on low setting for 5-6 minutes or until dough forms into an elastic ball. Mixing by hand will take around 10-15 minutes but it's great exercise! Once the dough is done put it in a container with a lid but don't lock it in place in case the dough spills out. Place the container somewhere warm for an hour and a half. I usually put it above my fridge or in my closed off laundry room. The dough will rise and will at least double in size.
Pie crust: 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour 2 tbsp sugar ½ tsp salt ½ cup cold margarine (I like to use Earth Balance) 4 tbsp ice water 2 tsp apple cider vinegar Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands) cut in margarine. The dough should begin to form in crumbles. In a glass measuring cup, stir together ice water and vinegar, then drizzle about a tablespoon of the mixture into the flour. Mix lightly to moisten. Repeat by adding a second tablespoon of the liquid and mixing. Add the final bit of the mixture and mix until a ball of dough forms. Add a little more ice water if the dough does not come together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Pie filling: 3 large stalks rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick 4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced ⅔ cup sugar 4 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour 1 tbsp lemon juice (about half a large lemon) pinch salt Mix all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl (that was easy).
Crumble topping: 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour ⅓ cup light brown sugar 2 tbsp sugar ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp cinnamon ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted In a small mixing bowl, combine all powdered ingredients. Drizzle in coconut oil. Using your fingers, swirl the mixture around until small crumbs begin to form. You should have mostly large crumbs, but some of the mixture will be finer grains as well. When the crust is completely chilled, preheat oven to 425F. With your pie pan ready, roll out the crust with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface. The dough should be about a foot in diameter and 1/4 of an inch thick. Using a pizza cutter (or something of the sort), trim the edges so the dough makes a (somewhat) perfect circle. Carefully lift the pie crust and place it in the pie pan with about an inch to 1-1/2 inches excess crust hanging over the edges. Or a nifty trick is to roll the dough around your rolling pin and carefully unroll it on to the pie pan. Press the dough down into the center of the pan and using your fingers, seal the edges. With the excess dough hanging over the edges, you can crimp the edges, or roll it in. Once the crust is assembled, fill the pie with the filling. Spread evenly.
Top with the topping mixture and spread evenly. Cover with foil and cut 3 slits in the foil to allow the pie to ventilate. Cook for 20 minutes on the center rack of the oven. On the bottom rack, place a pizza pan or cookie sheet to catch any dripping filling. Reduce heat to 350F. Remove foil. Continue baking for 35 minutes. Once pie is finished cooking, allow to cool 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and serve cold. By this point the pizza dough is ready.
From glob to pizza awesomeness: For this construction you will need: flour, cornmeal, rolling pin, pizza pan (or pizza stone), pizza peel (or deft hands), a desired sauce and toppings. For my sauce I used an olive oil base because I'm not a fan of a load of red sauce, and the toppings consist of a half bag of Daiya mozzarella cheese, sliced vine tomatoes, Yves pepperoni, and chopped fresh basil. Obviously the possibilities are endless so experiment!
Place baking stone on middle rack if using and preheat oven to 550F. Flour a large surface and sprinkle flour on the dough in the bin. Grab a glob with floured hands and plop it on your surface. Flour is your friend here so don't be stingy! You'll have to gauge how much dough to use by rolling it out and seeing how big a pizza it makes with how big a crust you want. The pizza I made is a thin crust and 14 diameters across. Make sure to flour your rolling pin and just roll the heck out of this dough keeping it circular. Once the dough is rolled out either move it to a cornmeal-dusted pizza pan with your hands or a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Spread the dough out a little with your fingers and build your crust if you want one. Drizzle oil or sauce over the dough and add your cheese and toppings. As an extra little surprise I like to sprinkle some raw sugar on the crust.
Once the oven is preheated place the pizza pan on the middle rack or gently shake the pizza off your pizza peel. I would test this beforehand to make sure the dough slides off easily. Some sauce might've spilled over and you'll need to add a little flour to the 'infected' area before continuing. Bake pizza for 8 minutes and enjoy!