Texas Caviar Goes Local

My girlfriends and I have recently started doing potluck dinners/wine nights. Is it a sign that I’m getting older that I would rather do that than go out?

Now, even though I am a dietitian, I love, love, love sweets. In fact, most dietitians I know feel the same way. So naturally, I volunteered to bring cupcakes.

Swirlz Cupcakes

How could you not want to share these works of art? Cupcakes from Swirlz Cupcakes in Chicago.

To balance things out, though, I wanted to make something a bit healthier. Lucky for me, the Green City Market is brimming with amazing veggies right now. Tons of varieties of tomatoes and peppers plus delicious sweet corn. Yum!

I wanted to also incorporate some pinto beans as I had a big bag to use up. Hmm, what could I make? Then I realized…Texas caviar! Even though the traditional recipe uses black eyed peas (cue “Boom, Boom, Pow”), I could easily replace them with pinto beans. I found this amazingly quick method from the Paupered Chef (only 90 minutes start to finish) to cook dried beans. Check out the dried beans below – so pretty, and a nutritional powerhouse. Per 1/2 cup of pinto beans, you’ll get 8 grams of protein, 7.7 grams fiber, 2 grams Iron, loads of potassium, and a slew of other vitamins and minerals. All for approximately 120 calories. Not too shabby.

Pinto BeansTexas Caviar (inspired by this recipe I found on allrecipes.com):

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 1.5 cans, rinsed)
  • 1 cup minced bell pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced (I used amazing black cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 ear of corn, cut off cobb (or about 1 cup frozen/thawed corn)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, minced ) (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small jalepeno, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  • Heat de-cobbed corn for about 90 seconds in the microwave.
  • Mix all ingredients together

Serve on top of tacos or salad, or as a dip with tortilla chips.

Texas Caviar

Farmers Market WTF: Week 2 – Purslane

Okay, so technically this is the third week, but last week I took off since it was the 4th of July. Therefore, I am calling this week two.

This week’s item: an edible weed known as purslane.

You are probably thinking that I’m nuts trying to tell you to eat weeds. Just hear me out, though. I promise I’m not [really] some crazy hippie dietitian.

It’s pretty, right? I am tempted to put some sprigs in vases around my apartment.

Also, a little background on purslane: a “weed,” it grows very easily and its seeds are quite resilient. So it is pretty much inevitable that it will find its way into a garden. And if it’s going to grow anyway, you might as well eat it.

Purslane is popular in certain Indian states and Latin American countries. It is even used by the French as a salad green, and is occasionally referred to as “Mexican parsley.” The entire plant – leaves and stems – are edible.

Purslane has a mild taste, similar to spinach or watercress with just a hint of tang and bitterness (not nearly as bitter as kale, Swiss chard or many other greens).

As far as nutrition goes, 1.5 cups of fresh purslane (you would use at least that much in a salad) contain:

  • Only 10 calories!
  • 25% daily value for vitamin C
  • 15% daily value for vitamin A
  • Vitamin K, calcium, iron and magnesium, among other nutrients

Though purslane can be cooked, I chose to eat it raw as the base of my salad. I had some canned crab meat from Trader Joe’s (real crab for a great price!) and decided to make some crab cakes to put on top of the salad. I figured that purslane’s fresh, crisp flavor would go well with a savory & rich (rich tasting, not rich in calories) crab cake. In about 20 minutes, my crab cakes were mixed, pan-fried and served as a delicious topper for the purslane!

Crab Cakes on a Bed of Purslane & Spinach

Crab cakes:

Crab cake ingredients. And yes, I used the store-bought lime juice. Sometimes you just have to improvise…

  • 2, 6 oz. cans crab meat, drained (about 8-10 oz. total, drained)
  • 1 egg (not pictured)
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs would also work), plus 1/3 cup
  • 1 Tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (I didn’t have any, hence the lime juice, also works)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (for pan-frying)

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients, except for 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs and olive oil, in a bowl and form into 6 patties.
  • Sprinkle tops with half of the remaining bread crumbs.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan. You’ll know the oil is ready when you splash a [very small] drop of water into the pan and it sizzles (I just run my fingers under the tap and flick some water into the pan to check).
  • Place patties, bread crumb side down, into pan, then sprinkle remaining bread crumbs on top.
  • Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side.

Purslane & Spinach Salad:

Mix 1 tsp grainy mustard with 1 Tbsp olive oil in small bowl. Place about 2 cups purslane and 1 cup spinach on a plate and drizzle with mustard/oil mixture.

Finished Product:

Top the salad with crab cakes and a little smoked paprika “aioli”  (1/4 cup nonfat Green yogurt, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika), and voila!

Crab Cakes on a Bed of Purslane & Spinach

Farmers Market WTF: Week 1 – Kohlrabi

As a volunteer at the Green City Market in Chicago, I am surrounded by amazingly fresh, delicious, colorful produce every week. It’s heaven for me.

However, even with my love of fruits, veggies and cooking/eating delicious foods, the farmer’s market can sometimes evoke a “WTF” moment. What is that?? How do I make it?? Is it even edible?

What is that??? (Fabulous picture, I know)

Thus, I have decided to start a series of “Farmer’s Market: WTF?” posts. I will discuss what the food is, the nutritional benefit and my experience trying to eat and cook it.

First up: Kohlrabi

No, that’s not an alien-baby. It’s Kohlrabi!

Kohlrabi, which got it’s name from a German term for “cabbage-turnip,” is actually packed with nutrition. For just 50 calories, a whole [medium-sized] bulb provides 6 grams fiber, no fat/cholesterol, little carbs/sugar and a whopping 180% daily value for Vitamin C.

Fabulous! But how do you get all of that nutrition into your body? How to eat it?

First off, when in doubt at the farmer’s market, ask the farmers. They can always provide tips for how to use a fruit or vegetable. However, it’s good to do a little experimenting as well.

In my case, the farmer told me that I could either peel it and eat it raw (think jicama), or roast it. Now, I’m all about eating raw veggies, but I wanted to have a backup plan just in case.

FRITTERS! You can pretty much grate any veggie and turn it into a delicious fritter.

Kohlrabi & Yellow Squash Fritters

Side note:

  • You can sort of tell in the picture above (top left corner), but I was able to cook the kohlrabi leaves (tastes and looks like Swiss chard). I just rinsed them, cut them up and sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Yum! And I love being able to use the whole plant.
  • Raw kohlrabi: not as yum as I had hoped. It tastes sort of like a radish or the stem of broccoli (which is absolutely edible!). Would have been better with a little hummus or even with the Greek yogurt dip I used to top the fritters.

Kohlrabi & Yellow Squash Fritters:

Step one:

  • Wash & peel kohlrabi
  • Wash one yellow squash (you could also use zucchini) and cut off both ends (no need to peel)

Sadly, the kohlrabi is white underneath it’s skin

Step two:

  • Grate kohlrabi & yellow squash
  • Blot between paper towels to get rid of excess liquid (note: you’ll need a lot of paper towels)
  • Sprinkle with salt to help draw more moisture out

Grated kohlrabi & yellow squash. Would’ve been much easier with a food processor/grater attachment.

Step three:

Add:

  • 2 Tbsp almond meal (used this to lend a little sweetness, but you can certainly use bread crumbs or even flour)1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (+/- depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp smoke paprika.

Step four:

  • Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet pan and also spray with cooking spray
  • Form patties (I made five out of my mixture)
  • Cook for ~3-4 minutes on each side. Be careful when flipping (use two spatulas) because they are very fragile.

Topping:

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt (1/2 cup)
  • Juice from jar of kalamata olives (2 tsp)
  • Mix them together. This was a super-simple way to make a tzatziki-like sauce!
  • Top with a kalamata olive and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

FARMER’S MARKET WTF: CONQUERED!

Get Sprouted

I have long been a fan of sprouted grains – specifically, sprouted grain bread. My absolute favorites are Trader Joe’s Sprouted 7-Grain and Whole Wheat breads (bags with purple and yellow design, respectively): 60 calories, 5 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber, all for one slice. That’s half the calories and carbs and double the protein and fiber of most slices of bread. Plus a delicious, almost cheesy taste. Sold!

Seriously this bread is great for everyone, but especially beneficial for diabetics (lower in carbs), those high blood pressure, cholesterol or heart disease (whole grains/fiber), those trying to lose weight (lower in calories) or athletes (protein). So, like I said, this bread is great for everyone.

Check out the nutrition facts/ingredient list (see caption for easier-to-read ingredient list):

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Ingredients: sprouted wheat grains, oats, rye, barley, corn, rice, millet, wheat flour, water, honey, vital wheat gluten, yeast, molasses, salt.

While I am clearly a big fan of sprouted grain bread, a recent discovery of “Sprouted Chick Pea Spread” from Tiny Greens at the Green City Market got me thinking about sprouted foods in general. The spread is similar to hummus but much thicker and with an almost whole-grainy taste (very technical term):

Image

Sprouted hummus from Tiny Greens Organic (Urbana, IL)

So what are the benefits of sprouted foods over regular, non-sprouted foods??

Well, sprouting is essentially allowing a seed (such as wheat) to germinate (i.e. sprout) rather than processing it before it reaches that point. Technology has made it easier for companies to sprout foods in large batches under controlled conditions (the proper amount of light, moisture and time), rather than letting it sprout in a haphazard manner out in the fields. Hence, we are starting to see many more sprouted foods at our grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Sprouting breaks down some of the grain’s starch, making it easier to digest (great for those who may not do so well with high-fiber foods). Sprouting may also make certain nutrients, like protein, B vitamins, vitamin C, folate and fiber, more readily available. That means that your body can better absorb the vitamins and minerals and that sprouted foods have a higher nutrient content than non-sprouted varieties.

All of these are pluses in my book. Like I said earlier, I love, love, love Trader Joe’s sprouted grain breads, but Food for Life has an entire line of sprouted grain products (English muffins, buns, tortillas and a variety of breads including cinnamon raisin and low sodium). You can generally find a good variety of sprouted grain products at Whole Foods as well. And check out your local farmer’s market, which is where I found the sprouted hummus (Tiny Greens Organic). Tiny Greens also had a great sprouted grain tortilla. If you don’t find sprouted grains at the farmer’s market, you will surely find loads of other great, local, in-season foods.

For more information about sprouting, check out the Whole Grains Council website.

Spotted at the Green City Farmer’s Market: Carrots

Branch out of the carrot and dip rut!

After finding some great carrots at the Green City Market, I wanted to experiment with this Vitamins A- and C-packed veggie. You really can’t go wrong with carrots: bake/roast, grill, saute, steam, raw: they are all delicious. While carrots have a natural sweetness, they are low in calories and sugar/carbs (30 calories, 7 grams of carbs and 5 grams of sugar per large carrot or ~1/2 cup). Below, you’ll see two of the winning creations: Sage Carrot Chips and Carrot-Ginger Salad (with scallop “sushi”). Enjoy!

SAGE CARROT CHIPS

After falling in love with kale chips, I wondered what else I could turn into a chip and carrot chips seemed to be a great idea. So, I scrubbed the carrots, cut them on the bias (diagonally) and tossed with olive oil, sage (from a friend’s garden), garlic powder and black pepper. I baked at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Depending on how crispy you like them, you can bake for more or less time. The result was delicious!! Note: the carrots do shrink up quite a bit after baking (see before and after pictures below).

Before baking. This was about 4 medium-sized carrots worth.

Carrot chips after baking. See how much smaller they got?

Makes about 1 cup carrot chips

Ingredients

4-5 carrots: organic carrots recommended

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp crushed dried sage

1 tsp garlic powder

Black pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse carrots and peel if desired (I used organic carrots and scrubbed them well, so I left them unpeeled). Slice carrots diagonally across, so that you get large “coins.” In a medium bowl, toss carrots with remaining ingredients, transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until desired crispness.

Great compliment to grilled chicken, pork or as a side for your sandwich.

CARROT-GINGER SALAD

I have been on a major ginger kick…for the last six months. So, I decided it was time to buy ginger root and use the fresh stuff. Ginger is an excellent compliment to carrots (just think of sushi). I wanted to combine the two into a salad and also play around with the shape of the carrots. Thus, carrot strings were born! Looks dramatic on your plate, but super easy to make! If you don’t have fresh ginger, I have found a great stand-in: jarred ginger. Just like you find minced, jarred garlic, there are jars of minced ginger (I use the brand Christopher Ranch).

Makes about 3 cups salad

Ingredients

4 medium-large carrots

1 cup shelled edamame (didn’t have it, so I used Trader Joe’s frozen Soycutash blend)

1 cup rice wine vinegar (no sugar or salt added)

2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp peeled, grated ginger (or used minced jarred ginger)

Directions

Cut off the ends of the carrots. Using a vegetable peeler, create carrot “stings” by continuously peeling the carrots until you reach the core. You can use the leftover end bits to munch on or throw them into a veggie stir-fry. Mix carrot strings with remaining ingredients, mix and let refrigerate at least one hour (the longer the better).

To go along with the carrot-ginger salad, I made seaweed-wrapped scallop “sushi” using thawed frozen scallops from Trader Joe’s. I took TJ’s roasted seaweed snack, soaked it in a bit of water (just a dunk in water should do) so that it was soft and then wrapped it around the scallops (it stuck on its own). I sprinkled each side of the scallops with black pepper and broiled for ~3 minutes on each side. I served them over a bed of tri-color quinoa (also from TJ’s) with the carrot-ginger salad on the side. Literally took me 15 minutes total for the salad and scallops and was truly delicious and packed with flavor!

Scallops wrapped in seaweed atop a bed of tricolor quinoa with a carrot-ginger salad.