Mediterranean Cremini Mushroom Tacos with Tahini Sauce {Recipe ReDux Sponsored Post}

Mmm, umami.

What is umami you ask? It’s the fifth, and often unrecognized, type of taste bud. It’s the taste bud that senses savory deliciousness (and my personal favorite of all the tastes). Examples of umami-rich foods include meat/seafood, tomatoes, cheese — especially Parmesan, seaweed, soy, potatoes and of course, MUSHROOMS!

So imagine my excitement when I discovered that the folks at the Mushroom Council were sponsoring this month’s Recipe ReDux. They challenged us to use their “Trend to Blend” technique to either blend chopped, diced or minced mushrooms in place of at least half of the meat in a recipe using their blendability technique (you should seriously check it out, it’s genius!). Or, we had the option to forgo the meat altogether and make a purely vegetarian dish.

After some serious pondering, I took the latter route.

mushroom_tacos1

Side note: if you, too, love mushrooms, you can enter your own recipe in the Mushroom Council’s “Swap It or Top It” contest. Just submit your favorite burger recipe that either uses the blendability technique described above, swaps out meat completely for mushrooms or your favorite burger recipe topped with a delicious mushroom creation. The Mushroom Council is giving some top-notch prizes, like $5,000 cashola to the Grand Prize Winner. Not too shabby!

Besides delicious umami flavor, mushrooms are packed with nutrition. They’re low in calories (20 calories for 5 medium sized shrooms!), fat-free, cholesterol-free (that one’s kind of a no-brainer), low in sodium and also provide important nutrients, mainly selenium, potassium, vitamin D and more.

For vegans and vegetarians, mushrooms are a great way to bring some umami (read: satisfying) flavor back into meals. And for the meat-eaters, myself included, mushrooms can help you switch up your meals a bit (meatless Mondays, anyone?). I promise you won’t even miss the meat on these bad boys.

Recipe: Mediterranean Cremini Mushroom Tacos with Tahini Sauce

The tahini sauce is a perfect complement to lend creamy deliciousness without the use of dairy/animal products. You can find pre-made tahini sauce (Trader Joe’s has a new one that I’m OBSESSED with), or make your own as I did below by blending tahini (sesame paste) with lemon juice and garlic. A third option would be to top with hummus.

Mediterranean_Mushroom_Tacos

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Yield: 4 tacos

Ingredients:

For mushroom blend:

  • 1, 10 oz. package Cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed using a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For tacos:

  • Sauteed mushroom blend (ingredients above)
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 corn tacos

Directions:

For mushroom blend:

  1. Wash mushrooms well and dice using a chef’s knife.
  2. Heat 2 cloves minced garlic in 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil for one minute.
  3. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add turmeric, basil, cumin, pepper and salt to mushrooms and saute an additional 1-2 minutes.

For tacos:

  1. Mix 1 clove minced garlic with lemon juice and tahini to form the tahini sauce.
  2. Heat corn tortillas in microwave for 15-20 seconds, until soft and pliable.
  3. Place 1/4 of the mushroom blend on each tortilla.
  4. Top with tomatoes, cucumbers and 1/4 of tahini sauce mixture.

mushrooms

Mushrooms all diced and ready to go into a saute pan…

diced_mushrooms

Sauteeing away — see how the turmeric gives the blend a gorgeous golden color?!

sauteed_mushrooms

In goes the mushroom blend…

mushrooms_tortillas

Then the tomatoes and cucumbers…

mushroom_tacos

Finish it off with delicious tahini sauce…

Mediterranean_Mushroom_Tacos

Check out more delicious ways that Recipe ReDuxers used mushrooms by following the link below!

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Chai-Chia Seed Coconut Pudding {Recipe ReDux}

There are certainly a lot of chia seed recipes out there, especially for pudding. I have always been a fan of chia seeds — sprinkling them on salads, on top of my oatmeal, in my yogurt and smoothies — but had yet to get on the chia seed pudding bandwagon…

…Until this month’s Recipe ReDux theme was announced: “Tea cups around the world are bubbling up with bold new flavors: From cardamom chai and sencha green to bubble teas and veggie teas. We wish we could attend the World Tea Expo the end of this month – but in lieu of a plane ticket, we’ll be cooking and baking and stirring up tea-inspired healthy dishes.

chai_chia_pudding

Since I constantly type “chia” instead of “chai” or vice versa [seriously, does anyone else have this problem?? #foodbloggerproblems] and since I always have both chai tea and chia seeds on hand, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cute to make a chia-chai recipe?”

chai_chia_puddin

Besides being vegan, gluten-free and full o’ great nutrition, this recipe also whips up in 20 minutes (15 of that is the refrigeration time needed to thicken up the pudding).

Recipe: Chai-Chia Seed Coconut Pudding

This recipe makes a great breakfast, snack or dessert! While the mixture seems watery at first, it will thicken — a LOT! Chia seeds provide omega-3’s, protein and fiber, among other nutrients. Plus, they work as a binder and can be used in place of eggs in many recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces unsweetened coconut milk (the kind that comes in soymilk-like containers AKA tetra paks, NOT the canned variety)
  • 1 chai tea bag
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Nuts, such as pecans, for garnishing (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut milk in the microwave in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes, until milk is steaming.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (except for nuts) and give a good stir.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the fridge and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the pudding to thicken up.
  4. Top with optional nuts. Enjoy cold.

chia_seed_pudding

Check out the fantastically creative and delicious recipes from other Recipe ReDuxers by following the link below!

 

Vegan Tofu “Feta” + Homemade Lemon Vodka

Feta “cheese” made out of tofu? Blasphemy!

I, too, was skeptical that bland, mushy tofu could be turned into the deliciousness that is feta cheese. Luckily, I was also curious as to what it would taste like. I can’t take credit for the vegan tofu feta — it was of course something I stumbled across on Pinterest. However, I did upgrade the original recipe a bit, which I think made all the difference here. Here’s the original recipe link for reference.

tofu_feta_salad

But really, does anyone actually like tofu? I mean I’ve added the soft version to smoothies — and then gotten grossed out that I was drinking tofu (regardless of whether or not I could taste it) and promptly thrown my smoothie out.

And while I love tofu from Thai restaurants, that’s probably because it’s fried and smothered in curry sauce. Let’s face it, anything that is fried and smothered in sauce — especially curry sauce — is going to be delicious.

Okay, so back to tofu “cheese.” The trick here is to let this baby marinate for at least a day (the longer, the better). Once you’ve squeezed out the lemons and have all of those leftover lemon peels, you should definitely do as I did and make lemon-infused vodka.

Just throw lemon peels into a mason jar (or other lidded jar), add vodka — as much as you’d like, cover and let sit a few days. Let me tell you, that was the most refreshing and tasty vodka soda I’ve ever had.

homemade_lemon_vodka

Annndddd back to tofu…

Recipe: Vegan Tofu Feta

This “feta” is perfect for tossing into a Greek salad, crumbling onto a sandwich, or eating straight. Even better is that it contains no cholesterol and is high in fiber and protein, so you can eat it on everything and feel good about it. You can find white miso paste at Whole Foods or Asian markets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound tofu (one package)
  • Juice of 3 medium-size lemons
  • 2 tablespoons olive juice (I used the juice from my jar of Kalamata olives)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed (left whole)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

tofu

Directions:

  1. Drain water out of tofu by sandwiching block of tofu between paper towels and placing a pot or heavy object on top (see above). *Be very careful when setting up the pot on top of the tofu. I apparently didn’t balance mine very well and the pot came crashing down — very scary.
  2. Cut tofu into sticks (pictured) or cubes. Add to a large zip-top bag.tofu_feta
  3. Squeeze lemons into bag and add remaining ingredients. Zip up the top of the bag and mix everything around, being sure to “mash up” the miso paste so that it is evenly distributed throughout the marinade.
  4. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least one day, and up to four days. When you’re ready to eat, simply remove desired about of tofu “feta” from bag and crumble over your dish.

The feta is delicious over a Greek salad, or skewer it with tomatoes, basil and olives for a tasty and protein-packed Mediterranean treat!

vegan_greek_salad_with_feta

Protein Pasta, Made with Black Beans

Here’s a tip from a foodie dietitian (me!): ALWAYS check out the ethnic food aisle at your grocery store. There are so many amazing, unique products bursting with flavor and often, nutrition. I recently used this advice during a visit to Plum Market, a new grocery store in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. Though Plum Market is smaller than some grocery stores, it is brimming with up-and-coming brands and products that you never knew you couldn’t live without.

This brings me to the discovery of a true ethnic food gem: black bean pasta (made by Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine) or as I like to call it, PROTEIN PASTA. First off, check out this amazing ingredient list (clean eaters rejoice!):

Black bean pasta ingredients

But more importantly, the nutrition is unheard of. Just goes to show that nature creates foods that are far superior to processed foods. To compare, Barilla Plus Pasta (touted as having protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids) – for the same size portion – has 210 calories, 4 g fiber and 10 g protein. Plus the Barilla has 15 ingredients compared to two ingredients for the black bean pasta – with one being water, which barely counts. Oh, and check out all of those certifications — gluten-free, USDA Organic, Vegan.

Black Bean Pasta Nutrition

So what to do with this glorious protein pasta? Even though it’s made by the company Explore Asian Ethnic Cuisine, when I think black beans, I think Mexican. This pasta dish is loaded with veggies – tomatoes, corn, kale (lots of it all) and topped with salsa instead of tomato sauce. The high fiber and protein content of the pasta makes it extremely filling. IMPORTANT: if you’re not a big bean/lentil eater, you need to start with a small serving of this pasta, or suffer the GI consequences.

Veggies simmering away (just saute with olive oil):

Colorful_Veggies

Add cooked black bean pasta to your plate, drizzle with olive oil, and top with veggie mixture, salsa and avocado (Since I live in Chicago and we don’t have “local avocados,” I like to buy California Avocados since they’re at least farmed in the U.S.). Such a delicious, satisfying meal that took all of 20 minutes to make.

Black_Bean_Pasta_with_Veggies

Stay tuned for another faux veggie pasta, made with squash and the coolest kitchen gadget (the spiral slicer). Though I’ve never been a big pasta lover, I am completely loving these veggie- and bean-based versions.

Quinoa Power Breakfast: Gluten, Dairy and Egg-Free

Quinoa is often praised by dietitians and other health professionals as a super-food. While I find the term “super-food” a little gimmicky, it is mostly true in the case of quinoa. A grain, quinoa (pronounced KENN-wah) is a good source of both fiber (with more than 5 grams/cup) AND protein (more than 8 grams/cup). While we know that whole grains, like quinoa, generally contain fiber, we don’t always get that one-two punch of fiber and protein.

The best part? Quinoa’s amino acid profile is considered complete, meaning it doesn’t lack an amino acid like many other grain products do. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins for our body. Our body can make ten of the 20 amino acids we need to make proteins in our bodies, but the other ten — considered essential amino acids — must be supplied by the foods we eat. Most plant sources of protein don’t provide all of the essential amino acids, so it’s even more impressive that quinoa does.

I find that most people view quinoa as a savory food, often mixed with veggies and beans (and meat/poultry too) to create a quinoa salad. Think about it, though, quinoa is really just a bland-tasting grain when you get down to it. Thus, you can use it in sweeter preparations as well. Alas, Breakfast Quinoa! It’s a terrific option for when you have leftover quinoa from the night before (assuming you didn’t use broth or savory herbs to make it). Just mix with whatever fruit and nuts you have on hand, plus some cinnamon or other sweeter spices. It’s more filling than oatmeal, because it contains more protein and fiber (the satiety dynamic duo, if you will). Check out my delicious Banana Coconut Quinoa below!

Banana Coconut Power Breakfast Quinoa:

Breakfast_Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • One cup quinoa, cooked (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp organic virgin coconut oil
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp)

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions or heat up leftover quinoa. Stir in coconut oil when hot, then top with sliced banana, sunflower seeds and cinnamon.

 

 

Vegan Pesto Made With Farmed Here’s Sweet Basil

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Farmed Here‘s vertical farm – a magical place sprouting with delicious basil and arugula. Their indoor aquaponic and aeroponic growing systems are extremely innovative and I feel truly are the future of farming.

The trip left me craving more basil, especially their delicious Sweet Basil variety. And what better way to honor basil than to make it into pesto. When life gives you basil, make pesto?? For the best pesto recipe, I went to my biggest (and best) cooking influence: my Mom. I tweaked her tried and true recipe just a bit to make it vegan, substituting nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese and adding in the juice of a lemon to freshen it up and counteract the yeasty taste.

Next on my list is to make this recipe using Farmed Here’s Lemon Basil, which has the most amazing and bright lemon flavor.

Vegan Sweet Basil Pesto

Vegan_Pesto

Farmed Here’s box actually keeps the basil extra-fresh. I used it as a house for my jar of pesto.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoon pepitas, toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and consistent.

 

Tasted scrumptious on roasted cauliflower…

Roasted_Cauliflower_with_Pesto

 

 

Tandoori Tempeh Kabobs with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Tempeh is hands-down my favorite soy product. Pronounced temp-ay, tempeh is a fermented soybean product that also contains whole grains (I love the Organic 3 Grain Tempeh from Trader Joe’s, which includes millet, barley and brown rice), giving it a nice texture and crunchiness. High in protein and fiber and with mostly unsaturated fat, tempeh is a wonderful vegan/vegetarian protein.

What I like most about tempeh, however, is its versatility. I can cut it into strips, cube it, halve it and even mash it to incorporate it into various recipes. Tempeh originated in Indonesia and naturally pairs well with Asian flavors, however, I love using it for other types of cuisine: rustic, with carrots and onions and earthy herbs like rosemary, “down-home,” with BBQ sauce, corn and greens and even sweetened up with roasted acorn squash, nuts and dried fruit. Here’s my latest concoction: tempeh skewers (who doesn’t love food on a stick??) with peanut dipping sauce. You can also see some of my other tempeh creations below (blog posts to follow).

Tandoori Tempeh Kabobs with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:

Tandoori_Tempeh_Kabobs

Ingredients:

Tempeh Kabobs:

  • 1/2 block of tempeh (I used the aforementioned TJ Organic 3 Grain Tempeh), cubed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots, preferable organic
  • 1 Tbsp tandoori spice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sriracha sauce, to taste
  • 2 skewers (can you tell I used chopsticks??)

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp low sodium teriyaki sauce (I like the Island Teriyaki version from TJ, which contains yummy sesame seeds)
  • Sriracha, to taste

Directions:

In medium saute pan, heat olive oil for 1 minute. Add carrots and saute 5 minutes. While carrots are cooking, toss tempeh with tandoori spice (or if you’re lazy, sprinkle tandoori over tempeh) and skewer. When carrots are done, transfer from pan to plate and add tandoori tempeh skewers to pan. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until you get a nice sear on all sides of tempeh. Serve skewers over cooked carrots and garnish with Sriracha sauce.

For dipping sauce, heat peanut butter for 20-30 seconds in microwave, or until the peanut butter is nice and melty. Add teriyaki sauce and Sriracha to taste.

 

More tempeh favorites:

Tempeh and Eggplant “Ratatouille:”

Tempeh_Eggplant_Ratatouille

 

Tempeh-Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Tempeh_Stuffed_Acorn_Squash

 

New Year’s Resolution to Eat Better

Happy New Year! Does this ^^ sound familiar? At the beginning of every new year we all make promises to ourselves to eat better, exercise more, etc. The real problem with these resolutions (and the reason why they ultimately fail) is that they are extremely vague. “Eating better” and “exercising more” leave lots of room for creativity and excuses.

As a dietitian, I am always working with my clients to help them define what it means to “eat better.” One of my biggest suggestions is to eat more fruits and vegetables and to determine how much is “more.” The USDA recommends around 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day (for most adults). A better way to think about it, though, is to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables. This will ensure that a) you are eating enough produce and b) you are replacing the higher calorie, higher fat, higher carb, etc. foods with lower calorie fruits and veggies.

Don’t let the five cup recommendation scare you. There are LOTS of delicious and different ways to prepare vegetables! Enter Tandoori Cauliflower from Sarah B of My New Roots. Wow! Looks amazing plus made with Tandoori which has a slew of good-for-you spices: tumuric (anti-inflammatory and promotes cognition and improved blood flow), chili powder (boosts metabolism, promotes heart health), paprika (anti-inflammatory, promotes heart health) and cumin (boosts immune functioning) among many others.

I made this twice: once with Greek yogurt and once with almond milk yogurt (needed it to be dairy-free). Both were delicious and the latter, which I made for a party, was a hit. The first time I made it (with Greek yogurt), I single-handedly devoured the whole thing in two sittings – and I don’t even like cauliflower!

Don’t let the color (white) of cauliflower fool you – it’s FULL of great nutrition. Only 25 calories for 1/6 of the cauliflower with 2 grams of fiber and 100% your daily needs for vitamin C plus close to 20% your daily need for folate.

Tandoori Cauliflower with Mint and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce (see link above for recipe).

Tandoori Cauliflower

The yogurt marinade forms a delicious golden crust. Looks dramatic but it’s super-easy!

 

Tandoori Cauliflower with Mint Chutney

Spicy, herbacious mint and cilantro chutney on top.

 

Extra mint chutney? Stay tuned for my next post – I found a delicious new recipe in which to use it.

Carrots with Red Wine Reduction + New Website

First off, thank you for stopping by and reading my blog! Shop, Eat, Live Well is getting a new name and moving to a new address, danaartinyan.com, so please check out both my new website as well as the many nutrition services I offer.

Now, onto the food…

The other day, I got a present from my coworker: a whole bag full of colorful baby carrots just picked from her garden. Clearly, she knows the way to my heart!

I absolutely love the look of a baby carrot and wanted to keep them whole and intact to highlight their beauty. Besides being pretty, carrots are an excellent source – 110% of your daily needs in just one carrot – of vitamin A (immune functioning, eye health, anti-oxidant properties) and a good source – 10% of your daily needs – of vitamin C (another powerful anti-oxidant, plus it promotes better skin and improved cardiovascular functioning). Carrots are also low in calories (only 30 calories for a large carrot) and surprisingly low in sugar, despite their natural sweetness.

I wanted to bring this sweetness and also lend a bit of earthiness to the carrots with a red wine reduction sauce over the carrots. I paired with some garbanzo beans to give some protein and fiber, and had quite a delicious and filling (thanks to all that fiber!) meal.

Red Wine-Glazed Carrots

Red Wine-Glazed Baby Carrots:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baby carrots with stems intact (I used multi-colored), rinsed/scrubbed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt

Directions:

Heat olive oil and minced garlic for about 1 minute. Add carrots and saute for 10 minutes (on medium-high heat). Add wine and remaining ingredients and cook until the red wine has reduced to about 2 Tbsp (will also be thicker).

Serve over grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat or along with beans (garbanzo, pinto, kidney). Would also make a great side dish to white fish, chicken or pork tenderloin.

See you at danaartinyan.com!

When Life Gives You Celery Root

I like to think of myself as a fruit and veggie expert. I have used lots of interesting, unique produce (see my farmer’s market wtf series) and I am generally good at identifying out-there foods. It all went down the drain, though, yesterday at Whole Foods.

I wanted parsnips because my Grandma used to always make chicken soup with them, and I wanted to see what else they’d be good in.

But alas, I didn’t get parsnips. I got celery root, or celeriac. I won’t lie – I am not that big a fan of celery. I can bear it at times but celery root, which basically tastes just like celery, was not my first choice for vegetables. I’m not even sure how I mixed them up…I know what parsnips look like, dammit, and these were clearly not parsnips (see comparison below).

Celery Root

Celery Root

Parsnips

Parsnips

Well kids, when life hands you celery root, you make…

What do you make? I had to explore. First I found a recipe for celery root remoulade from the blog Wrightfood. This recipe was a creamy, mayo-based salad, however, I wanted something a little lighter. I did like the idea of some sort of celery root slaw, though.

There is one area where I do enjoy the taste of celery: in a stir-fry, when there’s a little teriyaki sauce to offset some of the celery flavor. So I decided to make an Asian celery root slaw. Had some English breakfast radishes to use up, so those had to be a part of the recipe too.

Asian Celery Root Slaw

Asian Celery Root Slaw

Ingredients:

  • Shredded celery root (about 1.5 cups shredded)
  • 1 cup English breakfast radishes, sliced into thin coins
  • 1/4 cup no-salt, no-sugar rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Island Teriyaki (has pineapple juice in it) or standard teriyaki sauce.
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp minced cilantro
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour before eating.

The slaw has a nice crunch and surprisingly didn’t have an overwhelming “celery taste” – a plus in my book! With the sweetness of the Island Teriyaki sauce plus honey, it was the perfect balance of sweet, fresh (celery root), tangy (vinegar) and spicy (radishes/Sriracha). Quite a serendipitous event, mixing up parsnips and celery root, if you ask me.

Plus, one can’t complain about the nutritional perks of celery root (1 cup): only 70 calories, excellent source of vitamins C & K, good source of potassium, fiber, phosphorous and several other nutrients and no cholesterol or fat! AKA celery root is good for eye and bone health, immunity, can help improve blood pressure and will make you feel full with all that fiber.

Hmm what else can I make out of celery root? I’m thinking celery root chips…stay tuned.