Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Greens

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Greens

This creamy cauliflower pasta bake with mushrooms and greens is a comforting and budget friendly meal for winter! 

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Black-Eyed Pea and Greens Casserole with Cornbread Crust

This Southern black-eyed pea and greens casserole with cornbread crust will ensure plenty of prosperity in the New Year! Enjoy it vegetarian or flavor with a little bacon for luck. 

Wow. In just a few short days, we'll be saying goodbye to 2015 and ringing in a new year. Is it just me, or has this year flown by? Or do I say that every year, completely forgetting the speed at which 365 days passes?

How are you feeling about the New Year? I find most people fall into two camps: excitement or dread. Excited for all the opportunities and experiences that await, or dread for the pressure to come up with an epic, life changing resolution, all while coming off a Christmas cookie (or champagne) hangover.

If you fall in the latter group, be sure to check back here on Wednesday, when I'm sharing my strategy for creating a non-resolution that truly can transform your life over the course of a year. But also, please know I'm a huge fan of starting resolutions/non-resolutions somewhere around January 5th or so. Give yourself some time to breathe after the hectic pace of the holiday season. It's hard to think about what's truly important in life when your brain just wants to focus on post-Christmas sales, which sparkly dress to wear on New Years, and sleep.

Let's save that mental energy and instead think about something a little less exhausting - food. Growing up, I don't know if  we had a traditional New Years food, but since Scott and I started dating 10 (!!!) years ago, I've cooked a Southern New Years feast complete with black-eyed peas, greens, cornbread and pork. Down here, we believe black-eyed peas bring prosperity, greens bring money, pork brings progress (because pigs root forward when foraging, obviously), and cornbread brings gold. Apparently, us Southerners are quite focused on getting rich. Whether the meal actually brings riches or not, who knows, but either way you get a tasty feast.

I like to have fun with the tradition, every year creating a new dish with the same basic elements. Since our tastes lean more plant-centric (and also because I have no clue how to cook a pork roast), I like to use a little bacon for flavoring and greens and black eyed peas as the main ingredients. We've done everything from New Years soups to black-eyed pea patties served over a mess of greens!

Last year I made this casserole to share on the blog, but didn't make enough cornbread to cover the top. Whoops! It was so tasty, I had to attempt again! This is kind of like a Southern version of a tamale pie, with a crispy cornbread topping over a casserole of baked greens, black-eyed peas in a molasses-sweetened tomato sauce. I kept it vegetarian this time, but for New Years, I'd flavor the greens and beans with a couple slices of bacon or stir in a little leftover ham from Christmas.


Black-Eyed Pea and Greens Casserole with Cornbread Crust

Serves 6

Feel free to saute 2 slices of chopped bacon with the onions and garlic to flavor (and for luck!).

Ingredients

Filling: 

  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large bunch collard greens or kale, stemmed and leaves chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 14-ounce can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce

Cornbread Topping:

  • 1½ cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cups buttermilk or kefir
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. First, cook the black-eyed peas. If you remember, soak them in a big bowl of water overnight/all day (I never remember). Place peas in a large pot and cover with a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1 hour until tender, but not falling apart. Taste a couple to ensure doneness. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
  2. When ready to cook casserole, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper. Saute until tender, about 5-7 minuets. Add greens and water. Stir, cover and cook 10 minutes until greens are tender. If starting to dry out, add more water. Add tomatoes, molasses, dijon, hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Add black-eyed peas, stir to combine, and pour into large casserole dish. Let sit while you make cornbread topping.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the cornbread together. In a medium bowl whisk the egg, buttermilk, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Whisk in scallions and parsley. Pour cornbread batter evenly over the casserole, spreading with a spatula to even. Place in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes until topping is browned and cooked through.

More lucky recipes for the new year:

Black Eyed Pea Patties with Hoppin' Collards
Black Eyed Pea Patties with Hoppin' Collards
Collard Green Salad with Beets, Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread Croutons
Collard Green Salad with Beets, Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread Croutons
Cornbread Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing
Cornbread Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

Classic Green Smoothie + Review of The Natural Pregnancy Cookbook

This classic green smoothie is naturally sweetened with mango, watermelon and strawberries. Easily digestible and packed with nutrients to jump start your day! 

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of The Natural Pregnancy Cookbook. I was not compensated to write this review. 

Remember back in the day when your facebook news feed was filled with pictures from going out the night before and slightly un-PC status updates (which have since been deleted because OMG WHAT DO YOU MEAN FACEBOOK ISN'T PRIVATE?!?!?). Sigh. Those were the days...

Now it's babies. Baby announcements, babies being born, babies in oversized onesies, babies growing into toddlers, toddlers throwing tantrums, toddlers making a mess, toddlers growing into kids, kids throwing tantrums, kids saying totally inappropriate yet hilarious things (my personal favorite of the bunch). Yup, at 31, we're at that age.

Babies just aren't in the cards for the hubs and I (so if that's where you thought this was going, sorry to disappoint). While we love our friends and families kids with all our heart (because we love our friends and families with all our heart), we are just not baby people. I can't think of two people who know less about babies than the two of us. Recently, when Scott saw our friends 2 1/2 year old walking and talking, he exclaimed, "I didn't realize they were already functional at that age!" I made fun of him, but secretly, I was surprised as well.

Except for the basics on how it starts, there's just one thing I know about pregnancy. It's scary. Apparently, there are all these awful people who drown pregnant women with unsolicited advice, especially about diet, leaving them feeling completely overwhelmed and fearful that everything they eat will cause their baby to come out with two heads. And then they judge you if you do not accept said advice.

What jerks.

My pregnant or trying to become pregnant friends frequently come to me for nutrition tips or with questions about dubious advice they were given. Being honest, I'm not the expert when it comes to nutrition during pregnancy. There's a lot I learned for the test then promptly forgot!

So when my friend Dr. Sonali Ruder of The Foodie Physician reached out to see if I'd like to check out her new cookbook, The Natural Pregnancy Cookbook, I happily accepted. Clearly my personal knowledge ain't cuttin' it!

The Natural Pregnancy Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It's as comprehensive a resource on nutrition for pregnancy as you can get without being overwhelming. It discusses everything from healthy weight gain, food safety, nutrients of concern, pregnancy cravings and side effects. And of course, there are tasty recipes for pregnancy that are simple enough to make after the little one comes along. I've got my eye on her salmon oreganata, miso roasted brussels sprouts and roasted butternut squash salad with maple dijon vinaigrette ;)

One other thing I know about pregnancy: morning sickness is awful. I shared an office with someone through two pregnancies. I remember the retching. Consider me traumatized.

It can be difficult to get the much needed nutrients in when you're feeling nauseous. Cold and easily digestible smoothies can be helpful since they don't have a strong scent, which can trigger nausea. Throwing some greens in your smoothie is always a good idea, but especially so during pregnancy. Greens are an excellent source of folate and iron, two critical nutrients during pregnancy.

This green smoothie from The Natural Pregnancy Cookbook is pretty fantastic as a basic smoothie recipe. It's nice and light, but you could always dress it up with a scoop of nut butter or even a little plain protein powder. The recipe calls for watermelon which is out of season right now, but luckily I had some frozen cubes leftover from making my Hawaiian fruit freezes. If you can't get your hands on any, just use extra strawberry. If you're feeling nauseous, throw some ginger in this. Not only is it delicious, but it's been shown to be an effective treatment for morning sickness. 

Also, totally unrelated but I wanted to share pictures from a fun photoshoot I did recently with the lovely Celia of Celia G Photographie. I've been wanting to get professional pictures done for the blog and media work, and I am so so happy with how they turned out! She perfectly captured the joy and easy going attitude I want to convey with my brand. Celia is an absolutely fabulous person and super talented - trust me, I'm much more awkward in real life ;) These pictures are even more special now after the flood. The riverwalk, one of my favorite spots in Columbia where we took most of the pictures, was completely devastated.

Classic Green Smoothie

Serves 2

Feel free to use all spinach or kale if you don't feel like purchasing both.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mango
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cubed watermelon
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, preferably organic
  • 1/2 teaspoon spirulina (optional)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Divide into two glasses and serve.

More smoothie recipes from the archives:

Raspberry Rooibos and Gingery Green Tea Smoothies
Raspberry Rooibos and Gingery Green Tea Smoothies
Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Wild Blueberry and Ginger Smoothie
Wild Blueberry and Ginger Smoothie

Good Mood Food: Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Crispy kale, black rice and coconut salad is a healthy, fiber packed lunch, perfect for topping with seared tofu or roasted salmon. 

Did you happen to catch that article circulating facebook claiming kale is a "silent killer"? I know. Insert eye-rolling emoji.

When I saw it posted on my feed, I immediately dismissed it because, well, duh. Kale is kale. A few days later, I saw the rebuttal, which of course I clicked on. Gotta love a good science takedown! Basically, the research behind the whole 'kale is toxic' claim is flimsy at best, but more accurately, nonexistent. Read it yourself. How such horrific science was spun in a fairly reputable media source will definitely make you look at nutrition headlines differently.

Rest assured, kale is perfectly nutritious, and while theoretically, any food can be dangerous if consumed in excessive quantities, that's pretty low on my list of concerns. So go ahead, throw some kale leaves in your smoothie, saute it, whip up a big ole' kale salad. You'll be eating one of the most nutrient dense foods out there, and you may even feel happier for it! Thats right, because kale is a Good Mood Food!

Kale certainly has a cultish following among the health conscious and food lovers in general. It can be a bit much, but I must say, the reputation is deserved. Kale tops the charts when it comes to nutrient density. As one of the most nutrient dense foods, kale is rich is brain boosting nutrients!

MAGNESIUM // A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD and fatigue. Unfortunately, almost 70% of Americans don't eat enough magnesium. Magnesiums role in psychiatric conditions isn't well understood, partly because magnesium has so many complex roles in the brain - regulating neuronal function, optimizing thyroid function (an underactive thyroid can cause depression), reducing inflammation, as a precursor to neurotransmitters...I could go on. Or you could go eat some kale, which contains a hefty dose of magnesium and is one of the greens lowest in oxalates, a compound in many green leafy vegetables that can interfere with magnesium absorption.

CALCIUM // Calcium does more than build healthy bones! Calcium plays many roles in the regulation of neurotransmitters and the electrical impulses in our brain. There are many plant based sources of calcium, including leafy greens. A serving contains 9% your daily needs.

VITAMIN A & VITAMIN K // Two of those fabulous fat soluble vitamins we were missing out by following the low fat craze of the 90s. Vitamin A plays a role in creating the enzymes that make neurotransmitters while vitamin K makes fats called sphingolipids that make the structure of our brain. A serving of kale contains 200% daily needs of vitamin A and a whopping 600%+ daily needs for vitamin K.

I'm a huge fan of eating kale in salad form. The sturdy kale leaves won't wilt so you can whip up a kale salad that will last all week, dressed and all. To tenderize the leaves so I don't spend my entire lunch break chewing, I massage the dressing in. It can get a little messy and as much as I love to play with food, it's one task I'm happy to skip.

When I first tried this salad from Super Natural Everyday I fell in love, not just with the salad itself, but the ingenious method for softening kale leaves by roasting them with a flavorful dressing. Straight out of the oven, some of the kale leaves are nicely wilted while others get crispy. Basically, it's a kale chip salad. I know! And although you lose the crispiness with leftovers, it's still pretty fantastic.

To boost the brain power, I served this with salmon roasted in sesame oil, soy sauce and spritzed with a little lemon juice, but feel free to make it vegan with baked cubes of tofu or even extra hemp hearts, which are high in protein. You could also swap the black rice for more readily available brown rice, or other whole grains like farro, quinoa, or bulgur.

Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Couple pinches cayenne
  • 2 10-ounce bags of chopped kale or two bunches, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with black rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 50-60 minutes until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, sesame, soy sauce, garlic and cayenne.
  3. Spread chopped kale evenly across two large baking sheets. Toss with coconut. Drizzle with about 3/4ths of the dressing. Place in the oven and bake 12-18 minutes until the coconut is golden and the leaves are slightly crispy around the edges. You may need to swap the pans positions in the oven (from upper to lower rack and visa versa) halfway through cooking.
  4. Remove kale from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add black rice, remaining dressing and toss to combine. Serve warm. Leftovers can be enjoyed cool or reheated slightly.

Spicy Lentil & Mushroom Veggie Burger and Vegan Sausage Hash

This month's theme for Recipe Redux is reworking leftovers. My spicy lentil and mushroom veggie burgers taste like sausage in a sweet potato hash made from the leftover burgers. 

Mushroom and Lentil Veggie Burger

Although I’ve seen and heard it all in my years as a dietitian without judgement, there are a few eating quirks I don’t understand. For example, people who don’t like chocolate. HOW IS THAT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE?? I just don’t get it. Or with the recent popularity of intermittent fasting, people who skip breakfast and say they feel great. Are you sure you’re not homicidal by 10:30 am?

But what confuses me the most are people who don’t like leftovers. I understand it when you make a dish that turns out a little disappointing, but when you create something delicious, don’t you want to eat it for every meal for the rest of your life? Or at least for the next week?

Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Burgers

That’s why this month’s Recipe Redux was such a challenge for me. The theme is reworking leftovers to get two dishes out of one. But what if I like the first one? Why fix something that’s not broken?

But the more I started to think about it, it made sense. Why not make extra portions of something more time intensive, then work the extras into an easy, weeknight meal?

So, I started to think about what I spend the most time on in the kitchen. Veggie burgers immediately came to mind. The frozen ones will do in a pinch, but once you’ve had a homemade veggie burger, its hard to go back. Only problem? Most recipes (or the tasty ones at least) involve cooking beans and/or grains, sauteeing vegetables, blending patties, forming patties, then pan-frying or baking said patties. It's not exactly weeknight friendly.

Vegan Sweet Potato, Sausage and Greens Hash

This first recipe for mushroom and lentil veggie burgers was heavily adapted from My New Roots. Rather than being made with the ingredients left whole then bound together with egg, all the ingredients are blended up in the food processor. The result is somewhat of a wet dough, which I was initially dubious of. But when you bake them in the oven with a quick spray of olive oil, they come out with a crispy crust and tender interior. Oh, and TONS of meaty flavor from the mushrooms and spices. In fact, of all things, the flavor reminded me of sausage, which inspired me to create recipe number 2.

A few years ago, Scott and I had this amazing Southern hash with sweet potatoes, collards and sausage when we were on vacation in Asheville. I decided to recreate it using crumbled veggie burger, added towards the end of cooking. You could top it with a fried egg, but since we were running out the door the play kickball, we enjoyed it plain. Which was anything but plain with all the flavor from the bitter greens, sweet sautéed potatoes and spicy “sausage.”

Spicy Lentil & Mushroom Veggie Burger
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: 8 patties
This recipe makes 8 patties, two more than you'll need to make the hash. I would freeze the leftovers patties and reheat later for a quick meal.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup lentils (I used black lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, halved
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch or two of cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup oats
  • Burger buns
  • Toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mayo, mustard, etc)
Instructions
  1. Place lentils in a medium pot an cover with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large pan on medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and pepper. Saute 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms are golden and have released their liquid. Add cumin, thyme, smoked paprika, cayenne. Stir and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
  4. Place pepitas and oats in the food processor. Pulse until they form a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add sauteed vegetables and lentils with salt and plenty of pepper in the food processor and blend until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil. Form 8 balls and flatten slightly on the baking sheet. Spray again with oil and bake in the oven 40 minutes until golden.
  6. Serve on toasted buns with desired toppings.
Sweet Potato, Greens and Vegan Sausage Hash
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small-medium sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe's Southern greens, or a bunch of greens of choice, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 leftover spicy mushroom and lentil burgers
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet. Add potatoes and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. If using sturdy greens, add the greens along with a couple tablespoons of water to help it wilt. If using tender greens, add them at the end. Continue to cook, stirring, until sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Crumble in veggie burger, stir to combine and cook until heated through, 2 minutes.

 

 

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Brown Rice Bowl With Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens

This brown rice bowl with five spice tempeh, garlicky greens, edamame hummus and pea shoots comes together in less than five minutes when the ingredients are prepped in advance. 

This weekend, I taught two nutrition classes, both focused on making healthy eating easy with meal prep and planning. So naturally, I spent quite a bit of time praising my favorite quick meal - the grain bowl.

Have you hopped on the grain bowl train yet? I wrote an in depth post on it a few months ago, sharing my formula for a perfect grain bowl, but basically it's a hearty salad with whole grains as it's base. Endlessly adaptable, it's a perfect way to use up random leftovers and vegetables hanging around the fridge. It's filling, nutritious, portable, fun to eat...basically it's perfect.

Free idea for any aspiring food bloggers: I think there should be an entire blog devoted to grain bowls. Will someone please do that? If you do, I promise to subscribe and share every post and also love you forever.

I've made a gazillion grain bowls (no exaggeration). Most aren't exactly a recipe, but rather a bunch of random stuff piled on some grains. It's always delicious, but not exactly blog worthy in the looks department. So when I made this picture perfect grain bowl last month, I knew I had to add it to the queue.

With all the ingredients precooked, this took just 5 minutes to throw together. And the prep was hardly intensive either. I cooked brown rice in the pressure cooker (2 minutes hands on time), sauteed baby bok choy and spinach (10 minutes, doing the dishes as it cooked), and baked tempeh (5 minutes hands on). Not too shabby.

A shout out to the star of this dish - the edamame hummus. Big thanks to Eat Well, Embrace Life for the special delivery. I was kind of skeptical, but it actually turned out to be my favorite flavor. If you can't find edamame hummus, simply swap in avocado slices or a drizzle of sesame oil for healthy fat.

Brown Rice Bowl with Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens

Serves 4

If you can't find edamame hummus, swap in sliced avocado. For a spicier version, use kim chi instead of fermented kraut.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby bok choy, sliced
  • 6 ounce bag baby spinach
  • 3 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1/2 cup edamame hummus
  • 1/2 cup fermented sauerkraut
  • Pea shoots, microgreens or sprouts
  • Chili oil, for serving
  • Fermented soy sauce, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut tempeh into 16 slices widthwise. Place on a oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with half the five spice powder, salt and pepper. Flip and season the other side. Spray with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Flip, then bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and cool.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bok choy, saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  4. Place 3/4 cup brown rice in a bowl. Place 4 slices of tempeh, 1/4th of the vegetables, 2 tablespoons of hummus, 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut, and a handful of pea shoots in piles over the brown rice.
  5. Drizzle with chili oil and soy sauce to serve.

You might also love:

Build a Perfect Grain Bowl
Build a Perfect Grain Bowl
Jamaican Jerk Tofu Bowl with Garlicky Greens
Jamaican Jerk Tofu Bowl with Garlicky Greens
Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Kimchi, and Spinach
Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Kimchi, and Spinach

Southern Goat Cheese Grits & Vegetable Bowl

A big bowl of creamy goat cheese grits are topped with braised greens, roasted sweet potato, black-eyed peas and salsa verde in this Southern inspired vegetable bowl. 

My favorite thing about food is how it can instantly transport me to some of my happiest memories.  A chewy everything bagel, layered thick with cream cheese and lox brings me back to childhood. The smell of black bean soup simmering on the stove reminds me of when Atlanta was hit with a freak snowstorm, and a piping hot bowl was the perfect warming dinner after playing outside all day. The simple act of spreading creamy camembert on crusty bread or a crisp apple takes me to France, where I first discovered my love of food and travel.

Working with clients to build a positive relationship with food, food memories are a frequent topic of conversation. I love to learn what foods make people happy! Living in the agricultural South, it's neat to see how often vegetables play a starring role.

I often recreate favorite food memories in the kitchen. This past week Scott and I made it a goal to spend more quality time together after a busy month, so I decided to surprise him with a favorite dish from our travels.

Before we were engaged, we took an anniversary trip to Asheville and ate our way through town. The best kind of trip, don't 'cha think :) On our first day, we stumbled upon Tupelo Honey Cafe, which has since opened locations all over the South. Since Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison is our song, we decided it was a clear sign to eat there for dinner.

After their famous brown butter pecan pie, the highlight of the meal was the veggie bowl - creamy goat cheese grits topped with sauteed greens, crispy fried okra, black-eyed peas and salsa verde. If no one else was there, I totally would have licked the bowl!

For my recreation, I swapped out roasted sweet potato for the fried okra, but when it's in season, I'll definitely make it again with oven fried okra. I'd love to try it with my mushroom gravy too!

Speaking of happy food memories, living in the South, grits are definitely another reoccurring theme with my clients. They're always happy to learn grits are actually a nutritious whole grain, or at least, can be. While instant and quick grits have been refined to remove the germ (where most of the nutrients are found) and the hull (fiber), most stone-ground corn grits are whole grain.

Here in Columbia, we're lucky to have world famous Anson Mills grits sold locally. I buy mine at Rosewood Market, where they always have a great selection of their products. You can also order them online if you don't live in here in Cola. Or, try Bob's Red Mill, a brand sold at most grocery stores.

If you make this bowl, I bet you, PLEASE use stone ground grits. The rich corn flavor and creamy texture makes a world of difference! If you swap anything, try polenta, which is simply Italian grits.

What are your favorite food memories? 


Southern Goat Cheese Grits & Vegetable Bowl

Feel free to swap out seasonal vegetables. In the summer, oven roasted tomatoes could stand in for sweet potatoes, and in the spring, asparagus. You could also use any type of winter squash you like.

Ingredients

Grits:

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk or organic milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 3 ounces goat cheese

Vegetables:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, in 1-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb greens, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup salsa verde, jarred or homemade

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring almond milk and water to a boil in a medium pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and slowly pour in the grits while whisking to prevent clumping. Season with black pepper. Cook while whisking frequently for 30 minutes until thickened and creamy. Crumble in goat cheese and stir until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes total, flipping halfway, until tender and browned.
  4. While grits are cooking and potatoes are roasting, heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook an additional minute until fragrant. Add greens, 1/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium heat until greens are tender, stirring every so often and adding more water if it looks dry. The greens will cook for a total of 15 minutes.
  5. Divide the grits evenly between four bowls. Top with greens, sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas. Drizzle with salsa verde and serve.

You might also like: 

Kale & Mushroom Stroganoff over Crispy Roasted Potatoes 

Kale & Mushroom Stroganoff over Crispy Roasted Potatoes 

Shredded Sweet Potatoes with Cheddar, Eggs, Chimichurri and Fresh Salsa
Shredded Sweet Potatoes with Cheddar, Eggs, Chimichurri and Fresh Salsa
Black Eyed Pea Patties with Collard Green Hoppin' John 

Black Eyed Pea Patties with Collard Green Hoppin' John 

Kabocha, Kale & Roasted Garlic Soup

A simple winter soup made with the most delicious of all the winter squash - kabocha. Roast a head of garlic along with the squash for a rich, caramelized flavor and stir in sauteed kale for a hit of fresh green. 

Kobocha Kale and Roasted Garlic Soup

Remember when I first met kabocha and quickly fell in love? Well guess what? We're still going strong! In fact, I've left Scott and kabocha and I are moving in together ;-)

Okay, that last part was weird...

But in all seriousness, kabocha and I have been having quite the love affair this winter. I can't get enough of it's dense, creamy texture and rich sweetness! I've been throwing roast cubes of it into everything I eat...and sometimes snacking on caramelized cubes of it between meals. But mostly, I've been making soup. Lots and lots of soup.

I tend to get sick of pureed soups pretty quickly, but I remain enamored with this basic one, even after multiple batches. You can use this recipe as a template and add different flavors and spices as you like. Give it a Middle Eastern flair with a sprinkle of za'atar, swirl of olive oil and dollop of plain yogurt. Stir in sweet rice cake balls to make a traditional Korean soup called danhobak juk. Stir in curry and turmeric for an Indian spiced soup. Or, go all Paula Dean with it and cook the kale in rendered bacon fat then garnishing with crumbled bacon. Kale cancels out bacon, or something like that.

Vegan Winter Squash, Garlic and Kale Soup

For a topping, I saved the kabocha squash seeds and roasted them as I whipped up the soup. One thing I love about winter squash is you get a meal and a snack out of one piece of produce. Squash seeds are packed with nutrition - healthy fats, fiber, zinc, and copper to name a few. I've seen many recipes that call for meticulously soaking and cleaning the seeds, but I say pfffttt to that! The squash "guts," if you will, may not be as pretty, but it adds flavor and that's the important thing.

This is one of those recipes that speaks for itself, so I'll just get to it. But first, tell me your go-to winter soups in the comments below. The temperature is dropping and I need some inspiration!

Kabocha, Kale & Roasted Garlic Soup
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: serves 4-6
You could certainly make this with any other winter squash, it's just that kabocha is the best, so why would you :) Other greens, like chard or collards, work in this as well, just adjust your cooking times accordingly so the greens are wilted, not crunchy.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium kabocha squash
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Carefully cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and guts using a spoon, reserving only the seeds in a small bowl. Cut each half in half so you have four sections. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a large baking sheet.
  3. Peel away the paper outer layers of the garlic. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap with a square of aluminum foil. Place alongside the squash.
  4. Place pan with garlic and squash in the oven and roast about 45 minutes until tender. Check the squash after about 30 minutes with a fork to see if it's tender. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. While cooling, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add kale, salt and pepper and saute until wilted, adding a couple tablespoons of water to help it steam.
  6. While the kale is wilting, scoop squash flesh and roasted garlic (just squeeze the individual cloves out of it's paper) into a blender. Add vegetable broth, turmeric and caynne and blend until pureed. Pour into the pot with the kale. Add 2 cups water to the blender to help rinse out the remaining squash puree and pour that into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bring soup to a simmer then cook 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  8. Reduce oven temp to 375. While the soup is simmering, toss the seeds with 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet (can use the same one you roasted the squash on). Roast for 10-15 minutes until crispy and crunchy, but not browned.
  9. Serve soup garnished with toasted seeds.

Cauliflower Mash Bowls on The Lean Green Bean

 A big bowl of vegan comfort! Cheesy cauliflower mash is topped with garlicky greens and white beans then served with a rich mushroom and red wine gravy. 

Blogging has enriched my life in so many ways I never imagined when I clicked "publish" on my first post. It's forced me to learn and grow as a dietitian, cementing my personal food philosophy while expanding my knowledge of the field. It inspired me to follow my dreams and start my own private practice. It's brought incredible opportunities to my life both professionally and personally.

However, the greatest part of starting this blog has been becoming a part of a wonderful, caring and collaborative community of dietitian bloggers. I've seen, and sadly, been a part of so many workplaces where people compete for success, putting others down so they can get ahead. This beautiful community of health minded women (and men!) is exactly the opposite. If there is one thing I learned at Blog Brulee, community is the key to success and we definitely have a powerful and supportive community!
If RD bloggers are a community, then Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean is our model citizen! She is always sharing and promoting other peoples work to her massive following. She's the first to congratulate on successes. Lindsay even took time out of her busy schedule to give me advice on starting my practice way back when.

If you haven't checked out her blog, you definitely need to. She shares tons of simple, healthy recipes (including my personal favorite, blueberry cashew bars), workout tips, and tons of inspiration for Sunday meal prep. Lindsay is a pro at keeping things simple and efficient, so I know my mom or soon to be mom readers will gets tons of helpful info on raising healthy kids.

So when she asked if I'd like to guest post for her blog while she enjoys her time as a new mom to Baby Bean  patiently waits for a fashionably late little boy, I was ecstatic! Of course I'd help a sister out!

I went all out in creating this cheesy cauliflower mash bowl, topped with garlicky kale, white beans and a rich mushroom gravy. Vegan comfort food to the max! Although in hindsight, I probably should have created a spicy eggplant dish.

Now, before I have you head on over to The Lean Green Bean, a bit of sad news. Well, sad news for you, not really for me :) In light of spending a bit more time nourishing my soul as well as I nourish my body, I'm taking a little break from blogging next week as I travel with my family. We'll be going to the Dordogne region of France, basically recreating my first trip out of the country when I was six (hopefully minus the chicken pox and episode when I sat on a chocolate cookie and cried for an hour cause it looked like I pooped my pants). In hindsight, that first trip is a big part of the reason I'm a dietitian today - it's where I fell in love with food! Although I won't be blogging, I'll be staying active on the tweeter and instagram. Be sure to share all your soul nourishing pictures with me using the hashtag #nourishyoursoul.

Now, check out The Lean Green Bean for the recipe!

 

Beans & Greens Burrito with Cashew Queso

My favorite thing about Chipotle? Packing in ALL the fillings! This homemade, vegan burrito is packed with goodies - sauteed greens and meaty mushrooms, black beans, brown rice and a cheesy cashew queso! 

As you know, I'm not a fan of fast food. I could get on my soapbox, but - oh wait, it's my blog, so I will!

Fast food is absurdly overprocessed. Think over 72 ingredients in a burger, at least 30 in a simple biscuit, and a whopping 63 in hot wings. Harmful ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils, carrageenan, and sodium nitrate seem to be in everything. Sugar, salt, and processed fats are the main flavoring ingredients. Workers are paid horribly. They shamelessly market unhealthy food to children and engage in shady politics, fostering a food system that's destructive to the environment.

But most of all, it tastes awful.

There is, however, one fast food I unapologetically love - Chipotle. Calories be damned, all 1,3000 of them, those burritos are mighty delicious! Not only that, Chipotle actually displays pretty decent corporate ethics. Certainly, lunch at Chipotle isn't the same thing as shopping at a local, organic farm, but they show big business can support environmentally sustainable farming and more humane treatment of animals and still thrive. You could even order a fairly nutritious meal, like the salad or burrito bowl on brown rice - although lets be real, if you're at Chipotle, you're getting a burrito with extra cheese and chips.

With a hankering for Mexican, I wanted to create a vegan burrito that felt like Chipotle's (i.e. over-stuffed and cheesy). The first swap was easy - a much smaller, 100% whole wheat tortilla for their massive 300 calorie wrapper, equivalent to 3 slices of bread. I kept the beans and rice, because it's basically essential. For a meat substitute, I used mushrooms, which have the same meaty flavor yet are packed with nutrients like copper, selenium, ergothioneine, and conjugated linoleic acid. Then I threw in some greens, because you can never have enough greens!

But what about the best part, the cheese? Yet again, it's cashews to the rescue! I know I'm probably driving you nuts with my current obsession with cashew cheese, but I just can't stop myself. If you've been following my blog for longer than, oh, a week, then you know cheese is my absolute favorite. Not quite to this level, but close. So if I'm telling you cashew cheese is legit, you can take my word on it!

This version was inspired by a recipe from the queen of vegan blogging, Isa from Post Punk Kitchen. It's cheesy, melty, and just a little bit spicy - everything a good cheese sauce should be. Even after loading up my burritos with cheese sauce, I still had plenty leftover. Paired with tortilla chips, it made a perfect snack for a much deserved movie break.

Beans & Greens Burrito with Cashew Queso

Serves 4, with leftover queso

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 bunch chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 14 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Cashew Queso (see recipe below)
  • 5 100% whole wheat flour tortillas

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add onion, mushrooms and garlic. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring heat cashew cheese sauce in a medium pot on medium heat until warm. Lower heat to low until ready to use.
  3. While vegetables are cooking, mix brown rice and beans in a large bowl. Heat a couple minutes in the microwave. Stir in cumin and chili powder.
  4. Heat tortillas 15-20 seconds in the microwave. Divide the rice and bean mixture among them, top with sauteed vegetables then drizzle with cashew cheese sauce. Wrap and secure with a toothpick if needed. Serve with a side salad and salsa.

Cashew Queso

Makes 2 cups

Adapted from The PPK

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cashews soaked in water at least 2 hours
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder (or other mild chili powder)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or blender, add drained, soaked cashews, vegetable broth, and miso. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium high heat in a small pan. Add onion, garlic and red pepper and saute until tender, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add sauteed vegetables to food processor along with cumin, chili powder, nutrition yeast and salt. Blend another minute until smooth, longer if needed.

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Soy-Miso Dressing

This salad is packed with healthy fats, and flavor! Ginger and orange roasted carrots pair perfectly with a soy-miso dressing, nutty quinoa and creamy avocado. 

Dietary fat is unfortunately named. It’s easy to draw a parallel between the fat on our plate and the fat around our midsection.  Unfortunately, the importance of (healthy) fats in our diet is often overlooked. Here are my favorite reasons not to overlook fat: 

1. It's delicious. Fat contributes a distinct mouthfeel, helps caramelize natural sugars in foods and adds another dimension of flavor.  Think a bit of cream swirled into tomato soup, sweet potatoes roasted with coconut oil or a salad dressing whisked with an herbaceous, fruity olive oil.  2. It's filling. Fat slows down the release of food from your stomach into your small intestines, which increases satiety. This is a big reason low fat diets tend not to work. 3. You need fat to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamin A is needed for visual health, immune function and healthy skin. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a multitude of chronic disease including depression, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and many types of cancer. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, powerfully protective against heart disease and vitamin K plays a vital role in blood clotting a bone health.

4. Your head is fat. No seriously. Your brain is made of about 60% fats.  Since we are what we eat, dietary fat is eventually incorporated into your brain. That's probably part of the reason why a diet high in healthy fats is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. 5. As fat slows the release of food from the stomach and into the small intestine, it also slows the rise in blood glucose after eating.  The fact that a low fat diet is still recommended for diabetics is particularly worrisome.  6. A low fat diet for high cholesterol was commonly recommended, and unfortunately still is.  Some high fat foods, like olive oil, nuts and avocado are well known for their cholesterol-lowering effect. 

If I see a food advertised as "fat free," to me,

that's a sign to put it back on the shelf

.  When you remove fat from a food that is supposed to have fat in it, like salad dressing or cheese, it means there's something else taking it's place, namely sugar, emulsifiers and starches.  Instead of looking at grams of fat or even the type of fat, ask yourself where the fat is coming from.  You'll find the answer to that question on the ingredients list.

My favorite fats?

Healthy fats

Extra-virgin olive oil

Nuts & seeds

Nut butters (look for ones made with nuts and salt)

Avocado

Tahini

Fatty fish

Coconut oil

Sesame oil

Walnut oil

(and other nut oils)

Flaxseed oil

Peanut oil (preferably organic)

Canola oil (preferably organic)

Healthy-ish fats

Organic dairy

Pastured eggs

Pastured, organic animal proteins

Grassfed, organic butter

I refer to these foods as healthy-ish because they do contain a significant amount of omega 3 fats and are more sustainable and humane options compared to their conventional counterparts.  These foods are nutritious when used in moderation.

When you think of a "fatty" salad, you're probably thinking fried chicken strips, blue cheese and bacon bits.  But this salad is fatty in a good way, packed with healthy fats from coconut oil, sesame oil and avocado.  The miso dressing is to die for...I maybe, possibly, kinda sorta ate the rest with a spoon...then licked the bowl.  Lets keep that one to ourselves ; )

 

Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Soy-Miso Dressing

Serves:

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 lb carrots
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste (I used red miso)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Microgreens (I used arugula)
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with water until it runs clear. This removes bitter tasting saponins, which naturally coat quinoa. Add quinoa and 2 cups water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, while covered, for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature, or in the refrigerator/freezer to speed up the process - just give it a stir every so often to allow it to cool evenly.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tops off the carrots. Cut in half lengthwise, then half or quarter lenthwise, depending on the thickness. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with orange juice, zest, coconut oil, ginger and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until crisp-tender.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together miso paste, sesame oil, soy sauce and 1/4 cup water. Set aside.
  4. Divide microgreens among 4 plates. Top each with a scoop of quinoa, roasted carrots, 1/2 avocado and drizzle with dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Vegan Southwestern Tempeh Hash

Tempeh, a fermented soy food, is one of the most nutritious vegan sources of protein. If you've never tried it, this vegan Southwestern tempeh hash with sweet potatoes and kale is a great place to start! 

Vegan Southwestern Tempeh Hash
Vegan Southwestern Tempeh Hash

When I started my undergraduate degree in nutrition, it was pretty much accepted that soy protein was a good thing. In 1999, the FDA had approved a health claim stating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol including soy protein is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. There was plenty of research to back it up – one meta-analysis of 34 studies found a 13% decrease in unhealthy LDL cholesterol associated with soy protein consumption.

But by the time I graduated in 2007, a full blown nutrition controversy was brewing.  That same year, a group of scientists petitioned the FDA to reverse this claim, so the FDA agreed to reevaluate. A  year earlier, the American Heart Association reversed it’s position on soy protein and cholesterol lowering (although they still endorsed soy products as a low saturated fat protein source). Most argued that soy protein did not significantly lower cholesterol enough to warrant a claim. Others claimed

soy itself is unhealthy

, linking it to food allergies, breast cancer, weight gain and thyroid disease.

So what’s the truth about soy?  Weeding through the many conflicting studies is complicated, but most of the inconsistency in research results can be explained by the difference in the way soy is consumed in Asia versus the United States. Most of the initial research indicating a benefit from soy was conducted in Asia, where soy is consumed in an unprocessed or minimally processed form.  It's often fermented, a process that makes the nutrients more absorbable. Here in the states, despite being a country of tofu-phobics, we actually consume a huge quantity of soy, usually in a highly processed form.  Soybean oil is ubiquitous with processed, junk foods, a cheap alternative to the butter, olive oil and other fats used in home cooking.  Soy proteins, like textured vegetable protein and soy protein isolate are found not just in fake meats, but hidden in nutrition shakes, protein bars, canned soups, and condiments.

Sweet potato, kale, and tempeh hash with chipotle
Sweet potato, kale, and tempeh hash with chipotle

 

The soybean itself is a nutrient rich food. Soybeans contain vitamins like vitamin K and B vitamins. Soybeans are mineral rich, with iron, phosphorus, copper and potassium. They even have a pretty decent dose of omega 3 fats. And there's plenty of research showing soy can be of benefit in the prevention of chronic disease.

 

Heart Disease

Most heart healthy benefits of soy are the result of being a plant-based substitute for meat and other animal foods. But soy also contains a phytonutrient called soyasaponin, which helps prevent lipid oxidation in blood vessels and reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.

 

Cancer Prevention

Soy and cancer prevention is controversial topic.  Most of the confusion has to do with the estrogen-like effect of isoflavones, a compound found in high quantities in soy.  Excess estrogen has been linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, so on the surface, you would think something similar to estrogen would have similar, cancer-promoting effects. But estrogen is about 1,000 times stronger than the isoflavones found in soy. Isoflavones may actually 

reduce

the risk of estrogen dependent cancers by blocking estrogen receptors in cells. The anticancer benefit of soy seems to be especially powerful in fermented soy foods, like tempeh, which are more concentrated in genistein, a substance that kills cancer cells.

Probiotics When soy is consumed in a fermented form, as in tempeh, miso and natto, soy is an excellent source of probiotics, healthy bacteria that aid in digestion, promote nutrient absorption and enhance immunity. Recent studies have also linked a healthy intestinal flora to a reduced risk of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and even obesity.

The key with soy is to choose the least processed versions, preferably fermented.  The more processed a soy product it is, the less beneficial compounds it contains. Look for organic soy, since the vast majority of conventional soy is grown from genetically modified seeds, a practice that's incredibly harmful for the environment.

Vegan Southwestern Tempeh Hash with Kale
Vegan Southwestern Tempeh Hash with Kale

Unsure of what soy foods are best?  Let's look at common soy foods.

Best Choices:

TEMPEH // Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans that are pressed into a cake.  It has a crumbly texture and a stronger flavor than tofu.  Personally, tempeh is my favorite soy product, for taste, nutrition and versatility.

TOFU // Made from soy milk in a process similar to how mozzarella cheese is made. It's minimally processed, high in calcium, and soaks up the flavor of whatever delicious sauce you cook it in.

MISO // A Japanese condiment made by fermenting salted soybeans, rice and/or barley, resulting in a thick paste used to make soup, sauces and marinades.

NATTO // So, I've never tried natto, whole fermented soybeans, but it looks disgusting. It's described as having a slimy texture and strong flavor - not the most appealing description. But it's really good for you, so feel free to give it a try if you're feeling adventurous!

Be careful:

SOY SAUCE // Soy sauce is a condiment traditionally made by fermenting a paste of soybeans and grains in a brine.  The resulting liquid is soy sauce. Unfortunately, some producers make it from hydrolyzed soy protein, rather than fermentation. In fact, some of these mass produced soy sauces imported from Asia were found to be contaminated with a carcinogenic chemical called 1,3-DCP.  Look for fermented soy sauce which is labeled naturally brewed or naturally fermented.

SOY MILK //  Fresh soy milk is made by blending soybeans and water and filtering out the solids. A lot of the soy milk found in stores isn't fresh soy milk, but is made from processed soy protein rather than whole soybeans.  Soy milk often contains large quantities of added sugar and the controversial ingredient careegnan.  If you're going for a non-dairy milk, go for unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk, which I think tastes much better too.

Avoid

SOY PROTEIN // Soy protein, in the form of textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein and soy protein isolate, is a heavily processed form of soy. Look for these ingredients in meat substitutes (i.e. soy dogs, soy burgers, soy bacon), foods marketed as high protein, like protein shakes, and hidden in many (and sadly most) other processed foods.

SOYBEAN OIL // Being high in unsaturated fat, you would think soybean oil is a heart healthy choice.  However, most of the fat in soybean oil is polyunsaturated, with very little omega 3s. Although polyunsaturated fat does not seem to negatively affect cholesterol, recent research has linked it to an increased risk of heart disease.

Vegan Southwestern Hash

Serves:

4

Adapted from Martha Stewart Meatless

Ingredients

  • 4 small sweet potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoons coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 handfuls of chopped, stemmed kale
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 lime, sliced

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and boil until mostly tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Toss together crumbled tempeh and adobo sauce, set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add potatoes. Cook without moving for a few minutes, then flip with a spatula. Continue to cook, flipping with a spatula every few minutes or so, until browned and tender. Stir in garlic and cumin and cook an additional 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Add kale. Cook 2 minutes until mostly wilted. Add tomatoes and scallions. Cook another 2 minutes until tender. Stir in black beans, reserved marinated tempeh and cook until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in nutrition yeast and avocado.
  5. Serve with lime slices if desired.

Jamaican Jerk Tofu Bowl at The Vegan Wannabe

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I'm guest posting today over at The Vegan Wannabe. Check out my spicy jerk tofu bowl with garlicky collards, brown rice and avocado!

Reconnecting with old friends has been one of the surprising benefits of starting this blog.  Soon after starting Avocado, Alison, a friend of mine from high school who I had lost touch with since I moving from Georgia 13 years ago, shared with me her fantastic blog, The Vegan Wannabe.  On her blog, Alison documents her journey as a new vegan and writes about animal rights in a very open, nonjudgemental way.  If you're looking for inspiration to move towards plant based diet, I definitely recommend you subscribe to her blog!

I was so excited when Alison asked me to contribute a guest post for her blog.  She has been so incredibly helpful to me as I've moved from borderline computer illiteracy to blogger, so I'm incredibly happy to contribute to her blog!

Head on over to The Vegan Wannabe to check out my recipe for Jamaican jerk tofu bowl and learn about the health benefits of all the spices used in my recipe.  This recipe is perfect for you tofu haters - I'm willing to bet you it'll convert you!

Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers

These stuffed peppers are filled with a vegan mix of quinoa, kale and Middle Eastern spices.
 These vegan stuffed peppers are filled with a flavorful blend of quinoa, kale and Middle Eastern spices!

Earlier this year, my husband and I cancelled cable and started streaming shows instead. It was a pretty fantastic decision. Besides saving money, we have the freedom to watch any season of all our favorite shows at any time of the day. If I want to watch seasons 1-7 of 30 Rock, I can. If I want to watch that episode of the X-Files where the parasitic Siamese twin of a circus act can detach from his body and eat other people, I can. And if I feel like watching nothing but documentaries and TED talks for a week, I can do that too. Technology is awesome.
The only thing I miss about cable? The commercials. Err, the good ones at least.
It was just the other day that I finally saw the Bud Light quinoa commercial and I just about fell off my chair laughing.  The look on that guys face as he proudly pronounces “it’s a qween-o” is classic!
Despite the funny name, quinoa isn't as weird as as it sounds. 'KEEN-wah' is an ancient South American grain whose cultivation can be dated back to 3000 BC. It was a staple crop of the Incas, along with potatoes and corn. At one point, they were growing over 250 different varieties, but after the Spanish conquest, quinoa all but disappeared. You see, the Spanish, shocked at the Inca’s ability to put up a good fight, despite the fact that they had no guns or horses, assumed it was quinoa that gave them their strength. Fearful of an Inca coup, they banished its cultivation. Maybe they were on to something! It certainly is a nutrition powerhouse!
Although we eat quinoa as a grain, it’s technically a seed of a plant in the same family as spinach, chard, and beets. Being a seed, it contains more fat and protein than other grains.  Half a cup of quinoa contains 12 grams of protein, making it perfect for meatless meals.  Because quinoa is higher in fat, it's also a rich source of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E and even contains small amounts of omega 3 fats. It contains a hefty dose of phytonutrients – quercetin,  kaemphferol, vanillic acid, coumaric, two of which (flavonoids quercetin and kaemphferol in case you were wondering) are so concentrated in quinoa, some varieties actually contain more than berries, a food usually touted as the top source of flavonoids.
At first, I wasn’t crazy about quinoa, having only tried it as a pilaf-style side dish. It wasn’t until I traveled to Peru and saw versatile it is that I fell in love. I enjoyed it in rich potato soups, whipped into a soufflé, stuffed into eggplant rolls – it was all delicious! Now we cook quinoa about once a week. Looking to break out of the box of flavored quinoa mix? Here are some of my favorite quinoa uses:
  • Mix cooked quinoa into veggie patties where it adds a meaty texture. My favorite was a black-eyed pea and quinoa cake I made for New Years, but I just pinned this recipe and I have a feeling it might come out on top!
  • If you’re bored of your standard oatmeal, make quinoa porridge for breakfast.  If you’re cooking a dish with quinoa, make a little extra then heat it up in a pot with almond milk and drizzle with honey or pure maple syrup. Garnish with toasted nuts, chopped fresh fruit and cinnamon.
  • Quinoa, with it’s satiating protein and fat and chewy texture, makes it a perfect salad topping.
  • Quinoa is a perfect stand-in for rice in comfort food casseroles. Broccoli and cheddar quinoa casserole? Chicken enchilada quinoa bake? Yes please!
  • My favorite simple, no fail, always satisfying weeknight dinner - sauté veggies in a flavorful sauce and serve over a bed of quinoa. Top with toasted walnuts and feta or goat cheese. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!
Quinoa and Kale Stuffed Peppers
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: serves 4
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Ingredients
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried currants or golden raisins
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat, or pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder with the red pepper flakes. Process until powdered then stir in cinnamon.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Mix in the spices and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa to the pot. Stir to coat. Pour in 1 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook about 10-12 minutes. Add kale. Stir and cook until wilted about 2-4 minutes. While the quinoa is cooking, place the currants or raisins in a small bowl with the orange juice and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. After the quinoa has cooked, stir in the soaked currants or raisins, juice and nuts. Season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Place the pepper halves in a large baking dish. Divide the quinoa mixture between each half, mounding slightly. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the peppers are tender, 40-50 minutes, and serve.

 

Fig and Proscuitto Salad

Fig and Proscuitto Salad

Celebrate seasonal figs with this simple fig and prosciutto salad with goat cheese and an easy sherry vinaigrette! My mom has a couple big fig trees in her front year, which is good motivation to visit in the summer when they're free for the picking. You'll love the combination of sweet, jammy figs and salty prosciutto in this salad. 

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Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole

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 Whole grain pasta casserole with roasted squash, feta, olives and a creamy Greek yogurt sauce. 

If you've ever talked food with me before, then you're aware of my not-so-minor obsession with cheese.  So it may be disconcerting to see something advertised as "almost cheeseless" on my site, as if that were a good thing.

There are few things in life I love more than a good cheese plate.  Or my favorite macaroni and cheese.  Mmm...and now that you've got me thinking, lasagna with a gooey, cheesy top is pretty fantastic too. But these rich dishes are best left for holidays and special occasions...and sometimes Tuesday night.

Despite the lightened ingredients, this pasta casserole is just as hearty and satisfying as any of the aforementioned cheesy classics.  The sauce is made from 2% Greek yogurt.  Sounds odd, and I certainly had my doubts, but it actually turns into a ricotta cheese-like consistency after baking.  Roasted butternut squash ups the creaminess and gives the dish a hint of sweetness.  Toasted almonds add crunch and play off the nuttiness of whole grain pasta, while olives and feta pack a punch of briny, salty flavor. 

Heidi from 101 Cookbooks (I've been following her blog so long I feel like we're on first name basis), suggests using this recipe as a template and swapping out the veggies for what's in season.  I love her idea for using asparagus and dill in the spring, but I think next time I'll try a caprese inspired version with oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, basil and mozzarella.

Winter Squash

One cup of winter squash contains 200% daily value of vitamin A and about 30% daily value for vitamin C.  Considering squash is a low fat food, I was surprised to learn the same size serving provides 8% daily needs for omega-3 fats.  We tend to think of omega-3s as a nutrient only found in fatty fish, but there are small amounts in many plant based foods that can add up over the course of the day.  Good to know for vegetarians, vegans and those who are concerned about mercury, like pregnant women and parents of small children. Squash may be a starchy vegetable, but studies have shown the main type of starch in squash can help our body use insulin more effectively.

Almonds

Many people needlessly avoid nuts over concerns about calorie content, yet studies consistently show nuts can actually help you lose weight. Full of fiber and healthy fats, nuts are satiating, so a little goes a long way.  Nuts are a fantastic addition to your diet to promote heart health, as they effective at lowering LDL, or bad cholesterol and contain many anti-inflammatory antioxidants.  Compared to other nuts, almonds are by far richest source of vitamin E with 33% daily value, compared to 1-5% in most other nuts!  They also contain more calcium than any other nut.

Olives

One of my absolute favorites! Just like olive oil, olives are considered a superfood.  But the olive itself contains unique nutrient compounds, like hydroxytyrolsol, which is linked to cancer protection and bone health, and oleupurin, an antioxidant which inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.  Olives are also known to have one of the most diverse ranges of phytonutrients - terpenes, phenols, hydroxycinnamic acids, and flavanoids are all found in olives. 

 

 

Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: serves 4
Adapted from[url href="http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/almost-cheeseless-pasta-casserole-recipe.html" target="_blank"] 101 Cookbooks [/url]
Ingredients
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces whole grain pasta (I used a whole wheat penne)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups winter squash,in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 bunch of kale, spinach or chard, cut into ribbons
  • 2 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives or other oil-cured black olive, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until tender and browned.
  2. Meanwhile, rub an 8 x 12 inch baking dish with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with lemon zest and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. A few seconds before you stop cooking the pasta, add the kale. Drain and run through cold water to stop the cooking process.
  4. While the pasta cooks, mix the yogurt, eggs, garlic and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Once the pasta-kale mixture and squash are cooked, add to the yogurt sauce along with half of the almonds. Mix to coat the pasta evenly with sauce. Scoop into the baking dish. Top with olives and feta.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle fresh mint and remaining almonds over the top.

 

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Red Rice & Collards

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Local, organic smoked bacon adds flavor to slowly braised collards and garlicky whole grain brown rice. 

Yeah, you read that right.  My name is Rachael Hartley.  I am a registered dietitian and I love bacon. 

It's been four days since I gave into the temption for salty, fatty goodness.  Before that, I was abstinent for a good month or two.  I suppose you could say I relapsed?  When the bacon smell permeated my parents house this weekend, I was powerless to resist!  

Now, before you get your hopes up, this isn’t a post about new science revealing bacon's superfood status.  It’s not.  And if you read my

last post

, you know I haven’t gone all Atkins on you.  Healthwise, bacon has no redeeming qualities.   But man, it is delicious.

This may surprise you, but I think bacon can help you eat an overall healthier diet.  Because bacon is so flavorful, when used in moderation, it can pack a ton of flavor into an otherwise healthy dish.  Living down south, where a mason jar of bacon grease is found in most kitchens, my clients are basically elated to hear my liberal stance on bacon.  Health care providers nag them to stop cooking with fatback and bacon grease, which makes sense, given all we know about the dangers of animal fats.  But how bad is it really?  Let's put it in numbers.  Once slice of bacon is only 40 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat.  One teaspoon of bacon grease is also 40 calories, with 1.5 grams of saturated fat.  So while including bacon as a breakfast staple or frying foods in liberal amounts of bacon fat is certainly not a good idea, a little ain't gonna kill ya.  

There's other "bad" foods you can include to enrich the flavor of healthy dishes. For example, a homemade

blue cheese dressing

 can keep a salad from feeling too diet food-ish.  A teaspoon of brown sugar in a bowl of oatmeal adds just 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar, but is enough to make it palatable.  Even a little cream (or

half and half

if you're that worried) adds richness to a sauce without changing it's nutrition that drastically. 

I encourage you to purchase bacon from a local farm raising pastured pork.  If you can't find it near you, look for organic bacon, which they sell at most grocery stores.  At the very least, make sure it is nitrate free. I keep extra bacon in the freezer, so I don't feel the need to go through huge amounts before it goes bad. To conclude, a quote:"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon." ~ Doug Larson

Well, in this case they do!

Red Rice

Author:

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE

Serves:

Serves 6

Adapted from Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook. 

Ingredients

  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Lee Bros suggest 1 teaspoon, but I was worried it would be too spicy. I found 1/2 teaspoon to be just right, but you can increase it if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large, 12-in ovenproof skillet, fry the bacon until slightly crisped. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and transfer to paper towel lined plate. Add the onion and garlic to bacon fat and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth.
  3. Add the red pepper, smoked paprika, salt, peppper and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer about 40 minutes until the rice is tender but soupy. Add more broth if needed.
  4. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Serve garnished with the bacon crumbles.

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Tuesday Collards

Author:

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE

Serves:

Serves 6

Adapted from [url href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/039305781X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=039305781X&linkCode=as2&tag=anavada-20&linkId=OYM6R36BB5XZIZDT"]Lee Bros Southern Cook book[/url]

Ingredients

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in lardons
  • 2-3 lb collards (about 2 large bunches), stemmed, washed and cut into 1/4-in strips
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon in a 12-in skillet on medium-high heat until browned and firm, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add a few handfuls of collards to the skillet. Using a slotted spoon, toss the collards in the bacon fat and allow them to wilt slightly. Add more collards, a few handfuls at a time, until all the collards are in the pan.
  2. Add the broth and pepper flakes. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and cook until the broth comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 5 minutes until the greens turn very dark green.
  3. Add the vinegar and sugar to the greens. Toss to combine. Cook, uncovered, about 5 more minutes, to allow the broth to reduce. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Greek Greens Pie

This vegetarian recipe for Greek greens pie, with a layer of leafy greens and feta cheese sandwiched between a polenta crust, is inspired by one of the healthiest (and tastiest!) cuisines in the world. 

Green Greens, Polenta and Feta Pie
Green Greens, Polenta and Feta Pie

Crete, an island off the coast of Greece, is

synonymous with health and longevity

. It's also the scene of one of my favorite moments in nutrition history. I know, I actually have favorite moments in nutrition history. #NerdAlert

After WWII, war-torn Europe was in a major economic depression, Crete, already impoverished before the war, was in especially dire straits. Greece begged the Rockefeller Foundation to come and provide humanitarian aid and provide recommendations for improving the Cretan diet, thought to be inadequate due to extreme poverty. The Rockefeller Foundation obliged.

Crete Polenta and Greens Casserole
Crete Polenta and Greens Casserole

Researchers found the Cretan diet was plant-based, with most of the bulk coming from whole grains, like barley and wheat, and wild greens, often picked from their backyard. Crete is covered with more than 80 types of wild greens! Their diet was high in fat from local olive oil, Meat and dairy were consumed in limited amounts and typically used to flavor food rather than as a main course. Initially, researchers were extremely concerned about the inadequacy of their "spartan," mainly vegetarian diet, but they soon realized there was little malnutrition. In fact, the Cretans were much healthier than the researchers themselves!

Rather than learning something, the researchers wrote back with a detailed report on how to get more animal food into the Cretan diet. Sigh. Luckily, the study wasn't a complete waste. A researcher named Ancel Keys stumbled across the study, which inspired him to use Crete in the Seven Countries Study, the first to scientifically look at the relationship between diet, lifestyle and rate of heart disease among populations. The results showing an extremely low rate of heart disease in Crete in Crete are now the basis for the modern day Mediterranean diet, one of the most well studied (and healthiest!) eating patterns.

Vegetarian Spinach Feta and Polenta Pie
Vegetarian Spinach Feta and Polenta Pie

This recipe is a perfect example of the Cretan diet - lots of greens, whole grains and just a little bit of cheese to flavor. If you want to get hard core Cretan, I suppose you could gather some wild greens from your backyard. Dandelion greens are edible! However, if your backyard is covered in dog pee like mine, you best go to the farmer's market and choose whatever is fresh and seasonal.

To save money, use frozen greens. I've made this with a combination of frozen kale and spinach and it was quite delicious!

Greek Greens Pie

Author:

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE

Serves:

4 to 6

To bulk this up, feel free to add humanely raised, organic ground beef. Or to keep it vegetarian, add chopped mushrooms for a meaty flavor. Adapted from New York Times. 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs spinach, chard, kale or combination of greens, stemmed and rinsed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups 2% milk or almond milk
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 cup water, as needed

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for another minute. Stir in the greens and chopped herbs. If using a tougher green (i.e. chard or kale), add before the herbs, since it will take longer to cook, and add a little water before covering to help it steam. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes for a tender green and 10-15 minutes for a tougher green.
  2. Once cooked, season with salt and pepper. Place greens in a large bowl, add feta and stir together.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 10-in round baking dish or cake pan.
  4. Combine the milk and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add cornmeal in a fine stream and whisk while pouring to break up any clumps.Lower the heat to medium-low. Stir and cook until the mixture is thick, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and place half the mixture in the pan. Spread in an even layer with your spoon or wet fingers. Spread the greens over the bottom crust.
  6. Dilute the remaining cornmeal with water until it has the consistency of wet sand, using about 1/3 cup water. Mix in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread over polenta over the greens.
  7. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned. Remove from heat and allow to sit 30 minutes before slicing. Or dig right in and have ugly slices.

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