Breakfast Farro with Pear, Pistachio, Almond Milk and Cinnamon

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Breakfast FarroI am recently back from the 2014 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, which is the equivalent of Fashion Week for dietitians when it comes to spotting trends, as well as fresh thinking and breaking science around key nutrition topics. I'll soon be posting my blog on the top trends I observed on my Doctor Oz blog here. However, there was a large focus was on 2 important areas of nutrition science that are holding up against some of the latest misguided diet trends: healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates. Whether your goal is weight loss, a healthy micro biome, turning on genes that drive health (a rapidly evolving field called nutrigenomics) or a thriving cardiovascular system, multiple lines of the latest evidence point to these foods as being some of the best.

As a quick primer, healthiest fats and are found primarily in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and fish. Cold pressed olive oil, canola, peanut and even almond oil are also a rich source of good-for-you fats. And healthy carbohydrates (yes, you read that right) DO exist. Intact, minimally processed whole grains such as steel cut oats, quinoa, farro, Kamut, buckwheat and teff are some delicious examples.

With that in mind, if you want to welcome more incredibly healthy, sustainable and delicious foods into your day, look no further than this dish. Perfect for fall-it includes a shower of cinnamon and drizzle of maple syrup to turn up the flavor. Farro is a rich source of fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants, and the pistachios provide some extra staying power with heart healthy fats and added protein. If you haven't tried it yet, it's easier to find than ever in your local grocery store. Cook up a large batch of farro ahead of time, then you can quickly assemble this delicious breakfast on even the most time-crunched mornings.

Breakfast Farro with Pear, Pistachio, Almond Milk and Cinnamon

Ingredients:

2/3 cup cooked farro

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 Tbsp roasted unsalted pistachios

1/2 ripe pear, chopped

1/2 tsp maple syrup

Cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a breakfast bowl, place cooked faro and top with almond milk. Warm in microwave if desired (about 45 seconds). Alternately, you can warm it in a small saucepan on the before placing it into the bowl.
  2. Top with pistachios, pear, maple syrup and cinnamon. Enjoy immediately.

Spiced Fall Real Pumpkin Smoothie

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Spiced Fall Real Pumpkin SmoothieFall is my favorite season….I love the crisp leaves underfoot, the arrival of those warming hearty comfort foods, and anticipating the tastes of holidays to come in a sumptuous array of spiced, pumpkin-y goodies that show up this time of year. I mean, pumpkin is one of those feel good indulgences we dietitians love to crow about-rich in beta carotene, vitamin A and fiber…with canned pumpkin boasting a shelf life that works for even the most laid back plans to get around to using it.

But here's the catch: if you look closely, you'll discover, to your immense disappointment (and if you're like me, perhaps some slight irritation), that many of the feted "pumpkin" holiday treats actually contain little, if any, actual real pumpkin. To make matters worse, a close look at some of the most popular and prevalent (for instance, those pumpkin spiced lattes or baked breakfast goods) reveals that they can be actually shockingly high in all sorts of added sugars, trans fats, artificial colors, flavors, or other scary ingredients.

So before you before you eat it, sip it, or swirl it into your breakfast this fall in the name of healthy holiday indulgences, be a stickler for the details, read the label, and insist on high quality ingredients that sound like they came from your kitchen.

Or you can simply make it yourself. Here is one of our favorite fall desserts to make at our house…it’s like pumpkin pie in a glass! We serve it for dessert, because…well, who are we kidding? It's sweetness feels like it deserves to be called a dessert. This version is vegan, and I prefer to use Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin from the tetra pack-no BPA concerns that you can have with canned pumpkin.

Spiced Fall Real Pumpkin Smoothie

Organic Pumpkin Pie Mix

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla non-dairy frozen dessert (I used ALMOND DREAM® Vanilla Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert for this recipes)

1/2 cup almond, rice or soy milk (unsweetened), chilled

1/2 cup Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix (I used Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin Pie Mix)

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup ice

 Garnish

pinch of clove

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until combined. Pour equally into 2 glasses.
  2. Top with a pinch of clove. Enjoy immediately.Serves 2

Head Back to School with Vegan and Gluten-Free Energy Bites

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Vegan Gluten-Free Energy Bites RecipeI am always on the hunt for fresh snack ideas that are oh-so-satisfying, but still pass nutritional muster. Here's one that I'm loving right now in my own kitchen.  

Head back to school - or back to your fall routine - with these easy, ultra-delicious energy bites I created for my kiddos. They are  raw, vegan, and gluten free, and whipped up in a single bowl, and can be upgraded with any number of tasty morsels (cocoa nibs, coconut, chopped nuts you name it). The best part? They satisfy any craving for a cookie dough fix.

 

Vegan and Gluten-Free Energy Bites Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup quick cooking oats*

1/2 cup almond flour

1/3 cup unsweetened dried tart cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup smooth all natural peanut butter

1 Tablespoon high quality dark cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons chia, hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds

1 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp local raw honey

 

Directions

Place all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Gently stir until well blended. Scoop into 1" balls and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 16.

 

*Oats are naturally gluten free, but look for oats that are certified gluten-free if you are rigorously avoiding gluten, as some oats may become cross-contaminated with gluten during processing.

 

Energizing Green Smoothie with Fresh Mint, Cucumber and Garbanzo Beans

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Green SmoothieSpring is such a perfect time to reflect on the renewal and regeneration that is possible in your own life by taking one step at a time towards your highest health. And with Earth Day right around the corner, here is a super green, refreshing and energizing new green smoothie I am loving right now, inspired by this innovative Vega recipe. When I first saw said recipe, I did a double take...garbanzo beans? I loved the idea of including an ultra clean protein source to the mix for some added fiber and protein that didn't have to come in a powder. So I invited my good friend over, food visionary chef Jason Kieffer, (former executive chef at Google and former vegetarian executive chef at Microsoft) and we set to tinkering with it. In short, we decided to amp up the herbs and greens, which are packed with bioactive compounds that support detoxification and health, added green grapes and cukes for bold green color and a hint of sweetness, and made a few other changes. The result? Let’s just say after multiple tries, this was the final version my kids wouldn't hand back to me, but guzzled down themselves.

For even more protein (the garbanzo beans add a modest 3 grams), simply add a scoop of your favorite protein powder.

Energizing Green Smoothie with Fresh Mint, Cucumber and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

1/4 cup garbanzo beans (drained, rinsed)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup organic green grapes
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup organic spinach
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or about 1/3 of a lemon)

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Directions:

1. Place all ingredients in a Vitamix or blender and blend, on medium speed, until completely pureed. It’s best to do it on on medium instead of high to preserve the vibrant green colors of the herbs. Pour into glass and enjoy immediately.

Mediterranean Recipe: Quick and Easy Quinoa with Saffron, Fennel, and Artichokes

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Mediterranean RecipeWant a delicious, warming burst of Mediterranean recipe flavors to chase away winter doldrums? Look no further than this super simple dish, made with items already on hand in your pantry, and whipped up in under 30 minutes. The star ingredient is quinoa, an ultra clean protein that is lean, green, incredibly versatile and super tasty.  I am loving this right now!
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Ingredients

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 large fennel bulb, cored and diced
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 pinches saffron threads
1/4 cup Pernod (or dry white wine)
1 quart organic chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I used rainbow, but any color works)
1/2 package of Pomi 26 oz. Tetra pack of chopped tomatoes (I prefer them because they are BPA free...alternately you can use a 12 oz can of chopped tomatoes)
15 oz. can artichokes in water, drained and sliced into 1” pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
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DirectionsMediterranean Recipe

  1. Place the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven or a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, fennel, fennel seeds and saffron threads and cook until softened and clear, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add Pernod  or wine, and stir another 1-2 minutes until it reduces a bit.
  3. Add stock, quinoa and tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover partially with a lid, and cook until quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add artichokes and heat through one minute. Taste and adjust seasonings. Thin with another cup of broth if desired.
  5. To serve: enjoy as a hot soup, as a warming side dish, or as breakfast with an over easy egg.

Winter Barley Risotto with Carmelized Onions and Roasted Mushrooms

Winter Barley RisottoI am always in search of a hearty, filling, warming meal in winter that isn’t chock full of over-the-top rich ingredients that leave me wanting to take a nap. And this Winter Barley Risotto fits the bill beautifully.
Packed with chewy, nutty barley instead of white rice or pasta, this high fiber, low glycemic load supergrain helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. And if you haven’t yet been seduced by mushrooms-their rich, meaty flavor, their stellar nutrition credentials, or their supreme versatility in the kitchen-that’s about to change.

 

Winter Barley Risotto

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2 in dice
1/2 cup (about 1/2 oz) dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp freshly chopped sage (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup diced celery
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 pound sliced white mushrooms
3 tbsp best quality butter
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 Directions:

  1. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add onions, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, raise the heat slightly, and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring, until onions are nicely browned.
  2. Meanwhile, place dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Bring 1 cup of water to boil. and pour over mushrooms. Set aside.
  3. When onions are browned, add tomato paste, rosemary, sage, and stir into onions for 1 minute. Add wine and cook another minute, scraping up any yummy browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add celery, carrots, barley, the broth, and the reserved soaking mushrooms and all the liquid.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, covered, until barley and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. (Note: You can stop here and chill until ready to use).
  5. To serve: melt butter in large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Place mushrooms in a single layer over pan and don’t stir! Let them brown nicely that way (shaking pan every so often) for 2-3 minutes. Flip, and cook another 2 minutes.
  6. Ladle about 1.5 cups barley risotto into serving bowl and top with a handful of roasted mushrooms.

 

Serves: about 6

Roasted Tomato Soup with White Beans & Fresh Basil

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Soup is one of the best secrets for feeling satisfied and well nourished while trimming calories from your day. That's because soup adds significant volume and weight to your meal without adding calories. This Mediterranean-Roasted Tomato Soup with Spinach, White Beans & Fresh Basil inspired roasted tomato soup is my must-have to help balance out all of the inevitable heavy holiday eating. Roasting the tomatoes brings out their sweetness and concentrates the flavor- and I decided to try and turn up the flavor even more by roasting the rest of the veggies, too. The result? Divine.With an added boost of protein and fiber from the cannelini beans, this soup is perfect for adding more healing plant foods to your bowl.

 

 

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 1/2” dice

3 large celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2” dice

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2” dice

3 plump cloves of garlic, smashed and skin removed

1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

freshly cracked pepper

Roasting the tomatoes concentrates their sweet flavor

1 lb fresh tomatoes (whatever variety is available, or in season near you)

1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

1/4 tsp kosher salt

freshly cracked pepper

1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. 

3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock is fine)

2 cups fresh baby spinach

handful fresh chopped basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Place the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and rosemary on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Place on top rack in oven.
  3. Place the tomatoes on a separate baking sheet. Top with thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Place in oven on rack below carrot and onion mixture.
  4. Roast veggies for 30 minutes-or until tomatoes have some color on top, and until carrots are tender. Remove pans from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Carefully pour contents of each pan into your blender or food processor, scraping up all the delicious bits on the bottom of the pans and putting them in as well. Blend until smooth (if you like a chunkier texture, only partially blend).
  6. Transfer soup into a large saucepan. Add the beans and stock and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer, add the spinach, and cook another 2 minutes until spinach is wilted. If you like a thinner soup, add some more stock.  Serve into bowls, top with a couple of tablespoons of fresh basil and serve immediately.

Yield: about 5 cups

 

Looking for more healthy recipes that are sustainable, simple and delicious? Check Out the legendary Andrew Weil’s True Food , filled with good for body and planet recipes from his popular True Food Kitchen

 

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

There are some times in life when only chocolate will do. At least, in my life...and if you're reading this, I am guessing in yours. I recently stopped by the Meal Makeover Mom's Kitchen to see if they would share their #1 most  searched recipe of their award winning Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen blog - Fudgy Black Bean Brownies.  When they agreed, I gleefully headed back to my own kitchen to get cooking.

My results, in a word? Sublime. I loved how simple they are to make-they take just about three minutes longer to make than a brownie mix. To boot, they are gluten-free, and deliver that essential rich, chocolatey taste I crave, but without a side of snooze that can come from butter-and-flour heavy confections. Plus, each brownie boasts 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein-respectable nutrition creds for a dessert.

For maximum lean and green benefits, I'd recommend using high quality, Organic or Fair Trade dark cocoa power and chocolate chips, made from least 70% cacao.

Enjoy! Happy holiday eating.

Fudgey Black Bean Brownies

Makes 16 Servings

  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed very well
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • .....

Click HERE to get the full recipe and directions, directly from the Meal Makeover Moms.

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Meal Makeover Moms App

I am also loving their stellar new mobile recipe app, MEAL MAKEOVERS-check it out: it includes over 70 mom-tested, kid-approved “makeover” recipes for  breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks-including vegetarian, gluten free, and dessert options. Perfect to help you meet any New Years Resolutions you may have around "eating better".  Available in the iTunes store.

Fudgey Black Bean Brownies
Fudgey Black Bean Brownies

My Favorite Clean Energy Breakfast: Quinoa Swirled with Almond Milk

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Powerful Plant-Based BreakfastI adore quinoa – it’s a versatile, super quick-cooking, high-protein seed (packing 11 grams of protein per cup!). In fact it is so nutritionally complete, NASA has considered growing it on extended space missions. But many of us overlook quinoa in our morning rush. Instead of your usual bowl of ho hum cereal or oatmeal, try something deliciously different with heaps of comfort and flavor-that will provide clean energy to power you through your morning. While you can whip it up in a snap, it's especially easy if you have leftover cooked quinoa in your in the fridge.

This is one of two plant-based breakfasts I posted on The Oz Blog recently that provide plant based protein to bring staying power to your breakfast. See my first pick, Curried Scramble Tofu With Apricot Toast here on The Oz Blog or here among some other amazing soy recipes I posted for Earth Day this year. Let me know what you think!

 

Clean Energy Breakfast: Quick and Comforting, Quinoa Swirled with Almond Milk

Ingredients 1 cup prepared quinoa (according to package directions) 1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk if you prefer) 1/2 cup fresh berries and sliced mango

1/4 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg

(optional) Drizzle of 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup

Directions Place quinoa in a small bowl. You can heat up the quinoa and almond milk first to enjoy it warm, or keep at room temperature.

Top with fresh fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Drizzle honey or maple syrup on top.

 

 

Raw Chocolate Pudding

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Raw Chocolate PuddingOf all the recipes I've done over the years, this is hands down the best:

Raw Chocolate Pudding

Because it's so incredibly simple! And because it is filled with nourishing, energizing superfoods. AND because the final product is so so so much greater than the sum of its parts. Somehow, a delicious alchemy happens when you blend these ingredients together, and the end result will satisfy your craving for something sweet, rich and decadent, but still deliver a dose of health. I personally savor a few spoonfuls in the afternoon with a cup of green tea. Plus, my kids adore it.

Need I say more?
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Check out the recipe below; I made it on The Dr. Oz Show a few years ago and he loved it too!

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.Raw Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:
6 large Medjool Dates, pitted
4 Tbsp good quality dark cocoa powder (unsweetened, at least 70% cacao, preferably Fair Trade)
1/2 ripe avocado
2-3 Tbsp water
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Directions:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice to be sure it's evenly blended. Enjoy immediately or divide into smaller "bites" and chill for a delicious pick me up.

 

Fall Farro Salad with Spiced Apples and Walnuts Plus Secrets to Fall Plant-Powered Eating

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fall farro saladI love fall. The return to comfort food. Crisp air, along with crisp leaves underfoot. But  the fall schedule in my house is definitely busier than those lazy days of summer! Which leads me to a favorite recipe to help you stay well nourished and sane as you shift into a new season, but first, a favorite appliance!

. Hello Dehydrator: Why should canning and pickling have all the fun?

To hang onto the flavors of summer whilst infusing a pop of taste and nutrition into winter months, consider trying a dehydrator. One of the oldest ways to preserve the "peak of the harvest" - they are making a comeback and it's easier than ever with today's crop of modern technology machines.

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To keep your energy and resilience functioning at their best ( a key to warding off cold and flu season),  try this stunning fall recipe that delivers big flavor in a lean and green package, from my friend and fellow plant-passionate dietitian Sharon Palmer, RD.

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Fall Farro Salad with Spiced Apples and Walnuts

Fall Farro Salad with Spiced Apples and Walnuts

Makes About 6 Cups
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Borrowing flavors from a Waldorf salad, this hearty whole grain salad gets a crunchy boost from Fuji apples, celery, and walnuts. The exotic ginger, cinnamon, and caraway seed dressing gives it a spicy kick.

Ingredients:
1 large Fuji apple, unpeeled, cored, and diced
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. apple juice
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. low-sodium herbal seasoning
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2.5 cups cooked farro, cooled
1 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped
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Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, add diced apple.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, low-sodium herbal seasoning, caraway seeds, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon. Pour over apples and toss together.
  3. Fold in farro celery, walnuts, cranberries, and parsley.
  4. Chill until serving time.
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3 Secrets to Enjoying Plant Powered Eating This Fall:

Sharon shared her top 3 tips for keeping plants front and center this fall, without trading an iota of taste or comfort. And we both chimed in on some ideas to help you bring the tips to life.
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1. Fall back on plant-powered comfort foods.
Many of our fall favorite comfort meals can be powered by plants- who wouldn't, for instance, love to curl up with a bowl of smokey red beans and rice, grilled vegetable lasagna with pesto, or black bean and butternut squash chili? It's also easy to take your favorite comfort food meal and whip it into plant-based shape: spaghetti and meatballs can become spaghetti with marinara sauce and faux meatballs (check out this amazing Meatless Meatball recipe made with mushrooms), chicken and dumplings can become a hearty fall vegetable stew with dumplings. Or a tired tuna noodle casserole could transform into a butternut squash, fennel and gruyere cheese casserole-perfect for a chilly evening-and insanely good leftovers.
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2.  Cook up a big pot of vegetable soup. 
Start the week with a big pot of soup, based on fresh, seasonal vegetables, like carrots, celery, and potatoes, frozen vegetables such as zucchini and peas, or canned veggies like canned tomatoes, with lots of added herbs and spices.  Add a handful or lentils or whole grains (farro, barley, wild rice) to add more nutrients.  Now you've got a hearty soup that can be warmed up with meals or for lunch during the week. It's especially simple if you have a slow cooker-just toss in and go. For an easy start, try my Southwest Quinoa Black Bean Soup recipe - I did for Dr. Oz- he loved it!
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3.  Put legumes on the menu a few times a week.  
Economical, easy and delicious, put beans, peas, and lentils on your menu a few times a week to gain health benefits such as better blood sugar control, and a reduced risk of obesity and heart disease.  Toss a hefty handful of beans (that have been simmered with broth, herbs and spices)into your salad or wrap; try cooked lentils in veggie burgers, savor a homemade spicy bean chili, serve a side three bean salad with a handful of fresh chopped herbs at lunch or dinner, or use chickpea flour to make a fabulous, high protein chickpea fritter-delicious as a light meal or a satisfying snack.
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Now that I've thrown the gauntlet down with all of these great ideas, I see that I need to get some more recipes for you to try!  Will do, I promise. In the meantime, I hope you will let me know what you think after you've made Sharon's delicious dish!

Summer Bliss Peach Smoothie Recipe

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Peach SmoothieWhen I lived in Italy the locals had a saying:

"What grows together goes together."

I find it to be a great help when I get back from the farmer's market and am trying to let delicious inspiration strike.

That's essentially how I stumbled on this utterly refreshing yet surprising peach smoothie combination - some of summer's best in a glass, really. Using yellow peaches give this smoothie a warmer color than using white peaches.
Other summer stone fruits like apricots and nectarines are also delicious swaps if that's what's growing near you.
Really ripe fruit is the key to this smoothie-you can add a dash of vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Summer Bliss Peach Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients:

2.5 cups of peeled and cubed ripe yellow peaches (3-4 medium peaches)
1 cup chilled Almond Milk (or other non dairy milk)
1 cup ice
15 Basil Leaves (medium to large)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Need help finding a farmer's market near you? Check out this link! And see you at the market!

Celebrate Summer and Sustainable Seafood with this Grilled Barramundi and Avocado Orange Salsa Recipe

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Grilled Barramundi with Avocado Orange SalsaDive into the summer grilling season and celebrate the warm weather and sustainable seafood with this recipe. Avocado orange salsa dazzles the tastebuds, while grilled barramundi makes this the perfect recipe for holiday cook-outs like the upcoming 4th of July, Labor Day, or even just your everyday, backyard family gathering.

Interested in learning more about barramundi? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's barraumundi factsheet for more info.

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Serves: 6   Prep Time: 2   Cook Time: 10

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Grilled Barramundi and Avocado Orange Salsa

Ingredients:

  • Six, 6oz Barramundi fillets (each should be 2 to 3 inches wide)

  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp per fillet)

  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Avocado Salsa
  • 1 ripe avocado

  • Juice of 1/2 lime

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 orange

  • 1 scallion

  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Prepare the grill: Start by setting the grill up for cooking with direct high heat. Preheat the grill for 15 minutes, then clean the grill grate thoroughly. For my Weber Summit, I turn all the burners to to high and wait fifteen minutes. Then I brush the grate with my grill brush, and wipe the grate with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

  2. Prepare the barramundi: While the grill is preheating, sprinkle the barramundi filets with the salt and pepper, then rub with the vegetable oil.

  3. Prepare the avocado salsa: Cut the avocado into a 1/2" dice, and toss in a small bowl with the lime juice. Cut the red bell pepper into a 1/2" dice, section the orange (directions here), and dice the scallion. Add all these to the bowl with the avocado, and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Grill the barramundi: Place the barramundi on the grill over direct high heat, flesh side down. Grill for three minutes, then gently work a spatula under the barramundi and flip skin side down. Grill for three more minutes, or until the barramundi is just opaque in the thickest part; I check by pushing along the natural seams with a paring knife. It is OK to let it cook longer on this side; the skin will protect the fish from burning. Once it is done, gently work a spatula under the barramundi and move to a platter.

To serve, spoon a heaping tablespoon of avocado salsa over each barramundi filet. Serve, passing any extra salsa at the table.

Eat Like a Roman: The Mediterranean Diet

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While your friends may be pushing Paleo, there’s another “ancient diet” that has been basking in a renaissance of its own, and with good reason. Called the “Gold Standard” of healthy eating, the Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that has been practiced since the dawn of the Roman empire. . A recent flurry of research has brought this style of eating back to the headlines. Earlier this year a groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine  made the Mediterranean Diet new around the world when it found that subjects following a Mediterranean diet (specifically looking at nuts and olive oil) reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  

Score one more for the Mediterranean Diet when a study published in Neurology in April concluded that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil, fish and chicken (as opposed to fatty meats and dairy products typical in the American diet) resulted in a clearer mind – specifically a 19 percent drop in risk for thinking and memory problems. As there aren’t currently well established strategies to successfully treat dementia, delaying it’s onset is key. In this sense, the Mediterranean diet may be a useful tool for aging boomers – “food as medicine” in the truest sense of the word.

Need more good news? It turns out that the “Gold Standard” of eating is also deeply green. Just this month, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition launched their Double Pyramid tool in the U.S. to show consumers how this age old dietary pattern is not just good for you, but good for the planet (see image above). This infographic (developed using life cycle analysis), shows how key foods of the Mediterranean diet – such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil and pasta – are also some of the most eco-friendly foods to produce due to smaller carbon, water, and land footprints. (Full disclosure, I have a relationship with Barilla).

Frankly, as an Italophile and a green eating advocate, I couldn’t be happier with all of this much ado about something.

It’s worth noting that these are large, rigorous studies conducted over longer periods of time and published in peer reviewed journals. They reinforce and fine tune what a growing body of evidence suggests is one of the planet’s most delicious paths to a vibrant, long life. While it may not feel “new” enough to some as to merit a second look, in America’s current chaotic eating landscape, to me it feels like a merging of science and sense. Oh, and taste, too.

This is a bright spot in the sea of constant fad diets (the current crop including Paleo and intermittent fasting).  It reminds us that rather than obsessing over a handful of superfoods, there’s immense, synergistic power in an overall healthy eating pattern, day after day. And I love its key components – from fish, olive oil, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, legumes, and yes, even pasta.

So use the end of May (which happens to be Mediterranean Diet Month) and beyond to freshen up your food routine as seasonal produce begins to hit its glorious stride. Yes, you can slim down, while greening up your diet and bringing your family back to the table. If you’re swayed by the lure of ancient diets, remind yourself that this is the stuff that fueled Roman legions. The best part? Wine, in moderation, is included.

Here are my other two fantastic recipes to get you on a path to vibrant eating!

 

Elbows with Roasted Cauliflower - Kate Geagan and BarillaElbows with Roasted Cauliflower, Lentils and Herbs

A protein-packed dish with elbows pasta and lentils!  This is easy to prepare if you have extra cooked lentils on hand. The leftovers make an absolutely delicious and nourishing lunch!

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 40 min, Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Elbows 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small approximately 1 inch florets 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 Tsp salt freshly cracked pepper to taste 1.5 cups dried French green lentils

Sauce 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed 2 Tbsp chopped red onion 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 1/4 Tsp salt fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preparation:

PREHEAT oven to 450ºF.  SPREAD cauliflower on a roasting pan DRIZZLE olive oil on top and SEASON with salt and freshly cracked pepper. ROAST in oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is cooked through and has a nice brown roasted color. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of cold water and lentils. BRING to a boil, REDUCE heat, and SIMMER for 25 minutes until lentils are tender. DRAIN and set aside. PREPARE elbow pasta according to package directions. DRAIN reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor COMBINE parsley, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and PULSE until it becomes a smooth green sauce. In a large mixing bowl combine cauliflower, cooked pasta, lentils and green sauce. ADD reserved cooking liquid and gently mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. SERVE warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 470 calories, 15 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 12 g fiber, 300 mg sodium

Slow Cooked Ratatouille - Kate Geagan and BarillaSlow Cooked Rotini Spring Ratatouille with Basil and Pine Nuts

This is surprisingly simple! Don’t be fooled by the long ingredient list. The magic of this delicious dish is your slow cooker does all the work! The anchovies are the secret to the rich bodied flavor and added health benefits of omega-3 fats, protein, and vitamin D from a sustainable seafood (you can omit them to make this vegetarian).

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 6 hours, Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Rotini 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut 1 inch dice 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 inch dice 1 large red pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 large yellow pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thin 1 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced thin 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 anchovies packed in oil, chopped 1 tsp Italian seasoning, spice mix 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes and juice 1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and rinsed 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted small bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces or julienned

Preparation:

GENTLY mix diced vegetables in slow cooker and COOK LOW for 6 hours overnight or while at work. TASTE and ADJUST seasoning to taste. PREPARE rotini according to package directions. SERVE by placing 2/3-1 cup rotini in a bowl ADD 1 cup ratatouille on top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 410 calories, 12 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 11 g fiber, 720 mg sodium

4 Slimming Pasta Recipes For Mediterranean Diet Month

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Mediterranean Diet Month Pasta RecipesI love the push I’m seeing back to actual cooking as a cornerstone of vibrant health. Across the country, leading nutrition experts are staging “Eat Ins” (like Dr. Mark Hymen’s here)  to bring people back to the table (and the stove). And last month Mark Bittman dished with with Michael Pollan - the godfather of this food movement - about his latest book, Cooked, and updated what has become the rallying cry of food lovers and health enthusiasts alike:

“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. And cook them.” 
"And cook them." Three little words. But for many of us - aye, there’s the rub.
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Are You Cooking?
Hectic lives filled with multiple responsibilities, family and work commitments, and limited budgets can make cooking feel like a drudgery rather than a pleasant daily habit. And let’s be frank, who isn’t strapped for time these days? But cooking is really the fourth pillar of a lean and green diet, right after a diet brimming with whole, minimally processed foods, that features at least 3/4 plants and 1/4 high quality animal products, and with the right portions to avoid both obesity and food waste.
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To celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month, I’m bringing you 4 fresh seasonal pasta recipes that couldn't be easier, or more delicious and healing. I’m sharing 2 of them below, and 2 in my next blog. While one features all the best of spring farmer's markets, the other is an insanely good, omega-3 fatty acid-rich dish you can literally make from ingredients in your pantry. In full disclosure, I developed these pasta recipes for Barilla to help them celebrate their Double Pyramid coming to America to help consumers understand how the Mediterranean Diet is good for you and good for the planet.

Let me know what you think! These are teeming with delicious, good for you ingredients, many of which are just coming into season.

Gorgeously Green Penne Spring Pasta - Mediterranean Diet Month Pasta Recipes

Gorgeously Green Penne Spring Pasta

This is a spring fling with your farmers market! The bold, fresh flavors of spring vegetables are brought to life with lemon zest. The peas and walnuts pack added protein for staying power.

Cook Time: 20 min, Prep Time: 10 min Makes 7 Servings

Ingredients

1 box penne 3/4 cup walnuts 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (or panko) 2 lemons zest 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped Pinch of salt 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 medium leek, thinly sliced 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 1.5 cups) 2 cup fresh spring peas (or frozen) 1 large zucchini, julienned 1/2 Tsp salt 1/4 Tsp fresh cracked pepper 2 Tbsp fresh mint, julienned 2 Tbsp fresh basil, julienned

Preparation

PREHEAT oven to 400ºF. TOAST walnuts in oven for 5 - 8 minutes until the walnuts are lightly toasted.  In a food processor, PULSE together bread crumbs, walnuts and zest from 1 lemon. POUR into a medium dish and TOSS with parsley and a pinch of salt. SET aside.

PREPARE penne according to package directions. DRAIN reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While pasta is cooking, POUR olive oil into a large sauté pan. ADD the leeks and asparagus, and sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes until they start to soften. ADD the peas and the zucchini, salt and pepper, and SAUTE another 5 minutes until all of the vegetables are slightly softened.  ADD zest of SECOND lemon and reserved cooking liquid and STIR gently until combined.  DRAIN pasta when it’s al dente and return to cooking pot. ADD vegetables to pasta and TOSS to combine. GENTLY stir in mint and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  SERVE 1 cup pasta mixture into serving bowls.  Top with 2 tablespoons of the walnut mixture.

 Nutrition Information (per serving): 410 calories, 16g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 8g fiber, 220mg sodium

Zesty Tomato Spaghetti with Tuna and Black Olives

Zesty Tomato Spaghetti with Tuna and Black Olives

This is the ultimate quick cook meal! All of the ingredients are from the pantry, perfect to have as an on-hand/“standby” meal.  The tuna adds protein and is rich in heart healthy omega 3 fats.

Cook Time: 15 min, Prep Time: 10 min Makes 7 Servings

Ingredients

1 box spaghetti 1 jar marinara sauce 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into lengthwise slivers 1/8 Tsp red pepper flakes (more to taste if you like spice) 2 cloves garlic, sliced 2 Tsp capers, drained and rinsed 1 cup pitted black olives, sliced in half (about 2/3 of a 6 oz. can) 1 jar/can sustainable tuna * packed in olive oil, drained (use 2 jars if you want heartier tuna portions) Handful of arugula for garnish (optional)

*Sustainability in seafood depends on where you live: visit here to see which type of tuna is the best choice for you.

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Preparation

BRING a large stockpot of water to a boil, and COOK spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, ADD olive oil, onions and red pepper flakes, sauté over medium heat until onions are softened, about 5-8 minutes. ADD garlic and sauté 1 minute more.  ADD a jar of marinara sauce, capers, olives and 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water and STIR to mix well. DRAIN the pasta, and ADD to saucepan with marinara sauce. Use tongs to gently toss together until combined.  SERVE by placing 1 cup of the pasta in a bowl. TOP with a couple pieces of tuna, and a handful of arugula.

 Nutrition Information (per serving): 400 calories, 14g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 7g fiber, 690mg sodium

 

Looking for more Mediterranean cuisine inspiration? Check out my post, Eat Like a Roman, for other recipes, including Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Lentils and Fresh Herbs, and more!

5 Ways to Green Your Grilling and Thai Soy Sliders

The summer sun is almost here, which means grills across America are about to be fired into high gear. I love grilling - for me, there's an almost primitive pleasure I derive from stepping outdoors and bidding adieu to the oven for a few months: the smoke. The smells. The sounds. And in our family, the consensus is that practically every food tastes better grilled-slices of crusty bread from the farmers market, fish or poultry with a snip of summer herbs, garden vegetables, even stone fruit like apricots and peaches.
You grill can not only be good for you, but it's good for the planet. Here are 4 of my favorite tips to keep your diet a cool shade of green during grilling season:
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Green Grilling Ideas:
1.Cook once, eat twice. When you fire up the grill, use all the available space to cook dinner tonight, plus enough for extra leftovers to take to work or school tomorrow. Like I said, practically everything tastes better grilled. And maximizing the food you grill means cooking with less energy per calorie of food.
 2. Marinate meaty mushrooms. Drizzle portabellos with a generous amount of olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes. Grill until soft and smoky on each side- as a side dish, a "mushroom burger" or in an omelet or salad, these are divine. With just 40 calories per cup, it's also a great way to also slash calories and saturated fat while still delivering bold flavor.
. 3. Grill an outdoor veggie pizza. The act of grilling utterly transforms pizza. The real flames and high temp create a deliciously crispy crust, with a fantastically smoked flavor. Simply buy some pre-made whole grain dough for your crust, and top with your favorite veggies and fresh sliced tomatoes (or your favorite sauce) and a small amount of good mozzarella for a fun dinner treat. Bonus points if you put on basil or oregano from your garden.
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4. Grilled veggies make excellent sandwich toppings. The grill can also help you shake off a lunch rut: Try roasting your favorite veggies on the grill (lightly brushed with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper) and wrapping them with a whole grain tortilla and some hummus. Grilled sliced eggplant (like mushrooms) is another fantastic "meat like" alternatives.
5. Fire up Shrimp or Chicken Kabobs. Kabobs are a fun, easy way to serve smaller portions of animal protein-in a way that most people don't even notice. You can round out kebobs with  a side of whole wheat cousous and a yogurt dressing, or on top of summer salad greens.
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Want more ideas? Here's one of my all time favorite creations- my Thai Inspired Soy Sliders.  You can prep the elements in advance and then people can build their own (which kids especially love to do). These savory, smoky  bite-sized sliders have a refreshing contrast-the crisp, pickled vegetables with creamy sauce. Even carnivores will crave one.
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Have any more green grilling ideas? I would love to hear them! Please drop me a line.
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thai slidersThai Inspired Soy Sliders

Yield: 5 Tofu Sliders
Inspired by the popular bahn mi Thai sandwiches that many Thai food trucks sell, these tofu sliders are a delicious twist on the typical slider, and are packed with fresh flavors.

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Burgers: 5 whole grain dinner rolls 1 cup bean sprouts 1 small handful fresh cilantro sprigs 1 small handful fresh mint sprigs 1/2 hothouse cucumber, peeled and julienned 1 small jalapeño, seeded and julienned (or with seeds, if you prefer more heat)

Directions: 1. The night before, slice the tofu into 5 equal slices (about 3/4 inch thick). Cover with paper towels, place in a bowl, and drain overnight. 2. Place the drained tofu in a marinating dish. Place remaining marinade ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients together into a paste. 3. Cover both sides of tofu with the paste, and marinate for at least 1 hour. 4. Preheat oven to 400°F, and preheat your grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat. 6. Grill the tofu 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through (and with grill marks). 7. While tofu is grilling, place dinner rolls directly onto the upper rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until toasted and slightly golden on top. Remove. 8. To assemble: Slice heated dinner roll in half. Spread 1/2-1 tsp of burger dressing on each side of the roll. Stack grilled tofu with some bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and pickled vegetables. Top with other half of dinner roll and enjoy immediately.

Tofu Marinade:tofu marinade 1 carton extra firm tofu 2 cloves garlic 1/2 a large white onion 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp canola oil

Burger Dressing: 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise Juice from 1/2 lime 1 tsp sriracha

Pickled Vegetables - Kate GeaganPickled Vegetables: 1 tsp soy sauce 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar 3 tsp sugar or honey 1/2 tsp salt 1 bunch small Daikon or other radish, julienned 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned

Pickled Vegetables Directions: Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Add carrots and radishes. Marinate 30 minutes - 1 hour (can be made the night before). Drain well before use.

Burger Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Taste and add more sriracha if you prefer more heat. Set aside.

Soy Recipes: The Perfect Earth Day Plant Food

Earth DayEven up here in the mountains, spring has begun: tiny green shoots are poking out boldly from snow, our skis are being traded in for bikes, and my kids are pestering me for later bedtimes now that daylight stretches longer into the evening. While many health experts anoint New Year as the pivotal time to make changes to your diet or routine- I think spring is actually the perfect partner for the following reasons:

 

- With warmer days comes lighter clothing, a powerful motivator to slim down and tone up what's underneath.

- Farmers markets dotted with fragrant spring fruits and vegetables make healthy eating delicious, inspiring and easy.

- Days are longer (just ask my kids), so it's easier to get out side into the sunshine for some activity-for a natural serotonin boost- a neuro-transmitter that's directly linked to happiness.

Which brings me to soy. The perfect food to think about this time of year. Whether your goal is to spring clean your diet, lose weight, add more vegetarian meals to your life, do something green for  Earth Day  or get your family's diet back on track after all the heavy eating of winter, freshen your routine by adding these 2 delicious soy recipes I created below.

Why soy? Whole soy foods (as opposed to refined, processed soy isolates) are nutrient rich plant proteins which contain all 9 essential amino acids. And soy plant protein is a lean and green superfood- low in calories and with a smaller carbon footprint than meat, poultry or fish -especially if you choose USA grown, non GMO soy.  Want to go a deeper shade of green for Earth Day? Go vegetarian 1 day a week (check out  the Pinterest Meatless Mondays board for some serious mouth watering inspiration LINK). Science suggests that going vegetarian just one day a week creates a greater environmental saving for the planet than switching to an all local diet -that's good new for folks like me who still have snow in their yards, and some of the shortest growing seasons of anywhere in the country.

I hope you'll wake up your tastebuds with these delicious recipes that my whole family loved! Let me know what you think.

Roast Edamame with DukkahRoast Edamame with Dukkah

Yield: About 1 ½ cups

A great snack or appetizer, this protein-packed finger food features dukkah, an Egyptian mix of good-for-you ground roasted nuts and spices.

Ingredients: 1 14 oz. package frozen edamame in pods 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil 4 tbsp. dukkah (recipe below)

Directions: 1)      Preheat oven to 375°F. 2)      Place frozen edamame on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and 3 tbsp. dukkah, and mix to combine. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. dukkah on top. 3)      Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edamame are roasted and fragrant. 4)      Remove from oven and pour into serving dish. Enjoy immediately.

Dukkah Recipe: Makes about 1 ½ cups

Ingredients: 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts 1/2 cup sesame seeds 2 tbsp. cumin seeds 2 tbsp. coriander seeds 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds 1 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions: 1)      Preheat oven to 375°F. 2)      Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and slightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. 3)      Using a spice grinder, grind hazelnuts into a powder (in batches if necessary). Pour in a medium bowl and set aside. 4)      Place sesame seeds in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat and toast until golden, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes. Add to ground hazelnuts. 5)      Add cumin, coriander and fennel seeds to cast iron skillet and warm, stirring until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. 6)      Using the spice grinder, grind cumin, coriander and fennel. Add to ground hazelnut mixture. 7)      Add salt and pepper and stir until combined.

Tofu ScrambleCurried Scrambled Tofu with Apricot Toast

Yield: 2 servings

Inspired by Indian flavors, this easy breakfast is a fun protein-rich, vegan twist on scrambled eggs.

Ingredients: 1 carton silken tofu 2 scallions, finely chopped 1 tbsp. Canola oil 2 tsp. curry powder 1/8 tsp. onion powder 1/8 tsp. kosher salt 1 slice whole wheat bread 1 tsp. apricot preserves

Directions: 1)      Gently break up tofu into large chunks, and place in a strainer over a bowl to drain. Place 2 paper towels on top, and weigh tofu down with a heavy item (such as a bowl). Allow to drain for 25 minutes. 2)      Heat canola oil over medium heat in a medium-sized nonstick pan or cast iron skillet. Add scallions and sauté for 2 minutes. 3)      Add curry powder and continue to sauté for 2 minutes, until well combined. 4)      Add tofu, and gently fold the scallions into the tofu using a rubber spatula. Add onion powder and salt. 5)      Heat mixture over medium heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. To stir, gently shake the pan and fold tofu with a spatula. 6)      Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. 7)      Toast bread and spread with apricot preserves. Slice into 2 triangles. 8)      To serve: Place 1/2 of the tofu on a plate with one of the apricot toast triangles.

For more info:  Follow hashtag #FaceofClimate for Earth Day.