Kimchi Breakfast Tacos

Kimchi Breakfast Tacos

Make these easy kimchi breakfast tacos! They're loaded with avocado, fried egg, roasted Japanese sweet potatoes and spicy kimchi! The kimchi gives you a dose of gut friendly probiotics. You could enjoy these tacos for breakfast or dinner. If you roast the potatoes in advance, these quick and easy tacos take just minutes to throw together in the morning. 

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Ahi Poke Bowl

Embrace the Hawaiian food trend with this ahi poke bowl, inspired by a trip to the Islands! Try it with tofu for a vegan version! 

When we were in Hawaii this past December, I kid you not, the hubs and I ate ahi poke every single day. We were discussing recently and I think that it might be our new favorite food of all time. I joked that I might rename my blog an ahi poke a day, but seriously, I might.

Almost as soon as I got home, I dreamed of recreating the dish. Luckily I got the chance when Food and Nutrition Magazine's blog said they were on the lookout for Hawaiian recipes and I basically emailed and said "Pick me!! Pick me!!!"

And they did :) So head on over to Stone Soup blog to grab the recipe for my ahi poke bowl!

Sweet & Spicy Tofu Millet Bowl with Garlicky Kale and Citrus Tahini Sauce

This sweet & spicy tofu millet bowl with garlicky kale and citrus tahini dressing makes a perfect lunch! 

You know what I realized I don't have enough of on this blog? Asian inspired grain bowls.

KIDDING! I've posted 11. Just counted.

Buuuut, I still think this one deserves it's own special place on the blog. First, there's the sweet and spicy baked tofu. Make sure you leave plenty of time for it to marinate, so it soaks up all the delicious flavors. If you think you don't like tofu, trust me, this recipe will change you.

Then there's the garlicky kale. Kale and garlic are like peanut butter and bananas. I love how the sweet bite of sauteed garlic permeates the bitter greens.

Of course, avocado is mandatory. Except when you're about to take photographs and slice one open and it's brown inside. Then said avocado becomes optional.

We can't do a grain bowl without crunch. For this bad boy, we've got toasted pumpkin seeds. If you're ever looking for something to fulfill a salty, crunchy craving, try salted toasted pumpkin seeds. The little pocket of air in the middle expands, giving them some major crunch.

Because all grain bowls need some fermented goodness, I added a scoop of fermented sauerkraut. I used an Asian arame and ginger kraut by Wild Brine but any ol' kraut will do.

Last but not least, there's tahini dressing, the king of all dressings. This one is spiked with miso (more probiotics!), citrus and sriracha.

Enjoy!

Sweet & Spicy Tofu Millet Bowl with Garlicky Kale

Serves 4

Inspired by this recipe in Bowl + Spoon, a beautiful cookbook by the lovely people at The Sprouted Kitchen.

Ingredients

Tofu: 

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Bowl:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup millet
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 10 ounce bag of chopped kale, or 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, shaved into ribbons
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup fermented sauerkraut (optional)
  • 1 avocado, sliced

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 large naval orange

Instructions

  1. Wrap tofu in a clean dish towel. Place on a plate and weigh with something heavy, like a cast iron skillet. Let sit to drain water about 30 minutes or longer. The longer it sits, the more water it will drain and the more room to soak up marinade. You can leave it in the fridge to drain if desired. Or, you can drain it quickly using a tofu press. Chop into 1 inch cubes.
  2. In a large plastic container, whisk together sugar, soy sauce, sriracha, vinegar and sesame oil. Place tofu inside, cover and shake to combine and coat. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate at least 30 minutes or all day/overnight.
  3. When ready to make bowl, first whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Set aside until ready to use.
  4. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Drain tofu and spread evenly on a large baking sheet sprayed with olive oil. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes total, flipping halfway, until browned. Set aside until ready to use.
  5. While tofu is cooking, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small pot. Add millet and toast for a couple minutes. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer 15-18 minutes until water is absorbed. Let sit covered a few minutes, then remove lid and fluff millet with a fork.
  6. While millet is cooking, heat olive oil in a large sided pan. Add garlic cloves and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale and 1/2 cup of water. Cook until wilted and tender, about 10-12 minutes total, adding more water as needed. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide millet evenly among four bowls. Top with sauteed kale, tofu, carrots, pumpkin seeds, kraut, avocado and drizzle with dressing.

More Asian-inspired grain bowls: 

Brown Rice Bowl with Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens
Brown Rice Bowl with Five Spice Tempeh and Garlicky Greens
Sushi Un-Roll with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Sriracha Sauce
Sushi Un-Roll with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Sriracha Sauce
Crispy Kale, Black Rice & Coconut Salad
Crispy Kale, Black Rice & Coconut Salad

Fermented Carrot Pickles

Fermented carrot pickles are an easy to make and inexpensive source of health promoting probiotics!

Ever since I learned how easy it is to ferment, I’ve been on a bit of a pickling kick. If someone who didn’t know me saw my kitchen, they might suspect I’m practicing witchcraft with all the mysterious bubbling jars on my counter. When I find myself with an excess of produce, I find myself quoting Bryce and Lisa from Portlandia – “We can pickle that!”

My latest victim? Carrots! When I accidentally picked up an extra bag, forgetting that I already had some at home, I knew exactly what to do. Snag the recipe and learn all about the health benefits of fermented foods today on Healthy Aperture! 

Good Mood Food: Kimchi Noodle Salad

Kimchi noodle salad is a delicious way to sneak in mood boosting probiotics, and it takes less than 30 minutes to make. Vegan and gluten free too! 

Happy Friday! I'm excited to share the first post of my new series, Good Mood Food. As you know, I'm a firm believer that food can and should contribute to a healthy and happy life. In this series, I'll be highlighting foods that have a specific impact on brain health, and mood and using it in a tasty new recipe.

For my first post, I want to look in depth at a group of foods essential to mental health - fermented foods. Fermented foods have been preserved or produced by the action of microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts, which digest sugars, turning it into gasses, acids or alcohol...I know, I'm not really selling it. But trust me, fermented foods are much tastier than it sounds, and they've been an essential part of the human diet for thousands of years. And guess what? If you've had yogurt, sourdough bread, sour cream or soy sauce, you've already swallowed a nice little mouthful of bacteria.

Fermented food is important for health because it introduces and replenishes the supply of probiotic bacteria to our gut. Did you know we have more bacteria in our gut than cells in our body? In fact, our gut bacteria outnumbers our cells 10 to 1. So, I guess we kind of are what we eat!

Having a healthy intestinal flora is important for more than digestion. Studies have shown how changes to our intestinal bacteria can effect weight and have an impact on cardiovascular health and bone health. But what I find most notable and fascinating is how fermented foods improve mood.

You probably think of your brain as this intricate and complex organ and your gut as, well, a poop shoot. But you could argue that our gut has almost as much influence over our thoughts and mood as the brain. The gut is home to the enteric nervous system (ENS), the second greatest concentration of nervous system cells outside the brain. Many scientists refer to the gut as "the second brain." While the gut can't think, per se, it does influence thoughts and mood in other ways and one of those ways is through our gut bacteria.

Gut bacteria produces neurotransmitters, including 95% of the bodies serotonin and about half the bodies dopamine. Serotonin is often called the good mood hormone and dopamine is part of the reward system. Gut bacteria also protects against an endotoxin called lipopolysaccharide, which even small increases of can provoke depressive symptoms (and increase blood sugar). Fermented foods also decrease inflammation in the gut. Mild inflammation in the gut has been shown to increase anxiety and and lower levels of brain derived neurotropic factor, a neuropeptide that's known to be low in depression. If you'd like to read more about the science behind it, here's a fascinating journal article that looks into the science of mental health and fermented foods.

Kimchi might be my favorite fermented food. I'm slightly addicted. If you ever catch me hanging out in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open, it's probably because I'm eating kimchi out of the jar (or peanut butter, but that's another post). Kimchi, made by fermenting cabbage in chili paste, is essential to Korean cuisine. It's used to flavor soups, stews and in fried rice or is eaten as a side dish. I know fermented cabbage might not get you excited, but trust me, it's incredible! Think of it as spicy saurkraut!

This dish is a great way to enjoy kimchi in all of it's raw, probiotic filled glory. To make a full meal, add some type of protein. We tossed in pieces of grilled local chicken breast seasoned with 5-spice powder. Or for a vegan version, use edamame, cubes of baked tofu, or sprinkle it with extra peanuts or hemp hearts.

Kimchi Noodle Salad

Serves:

Serves 4

Toss in edamame, cooked chicken or baked tofu for additional protein.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole grain noodles (I used black bean noodles) 
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped into thin half moons
  • 1 cup kimchi, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha or gochujang 
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions. Drain. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to prevent it from clumping. Set aside to cool.
  2. When noodles are room temperature, place cucumber, kimchi, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl. Add noodles and toss to combine. Drizzle remaining sesame oil and sriracha/gochujang over the top. Toss again to combine. Top with toasted peanuts.

 You Might Also Like:

Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu

Buddha Bowl with Marinated Tofu

Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Fried Rice
Vegetarian Ramen Noodle Soup
Vegetarian Ramen Noodle Soup

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

Hummus Smorrebrod

Beet hummus stands in for butter in this recipe for smorrebrod, an open faced Scandinavian sandwich on hearty rye bread. 

It's no secret that travel is my great passion in life. Exploring new cities, soaking up the culture and sights makes me happy beyond words.Every time we travel somewhere new, I come home feeling intensely inspired. Of course, being the dietitian and food lover that I am, much of that inspiration is in the kitchen.

Traditional diets are endlessly fascinating to me. You can learn so much about a culture from what and how they eat. And from a nutritional standpoint, I realize more and more that embracing traditional diets is the key to health. Around the world, there are areas called blue zones, known for low rates of a specific chronic disease. We can learn a lot about what type of eating pattern and foods protect against chronic disease by looking at what people eat in those areas. Think of the Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease. Or the plant-based Japanese diet, linked to low rates of cancer. And then there's the traditional Mexican diet, rich in healthy carbs like corn, squash and beans, which offers protection against diabetes.

Since happiness and wellbeing are the name of my game, I'm particularly interested in cold spots for depression. What does a happy diet look like?

Scandinavia has some of the lowest rates of depression, thanks to a diet rich in fatty fish, whole grains and berries. With the popularity of The New Nordic Diet, some are saying it's poised to be the next Mediterranean diet. I'm all on board with that! Not only is there tons of research showing the Nordic diet promotes weight loss, heart and brain health, but the food is incredible. There's a reason the best restaurant in the world is in Denmark!

Here's a look at the basic tenants of the Nordic diet:

1. Buy local and seasonal produce. The Nordic diet is all about embracing what's fresh and local. Not only is it better for the environment, but fresher produce contains more nutrients.

2. Eat plenty of fatty fish. With plenty of access to fatty, cold water fish, the kind that's richest in omega 3 fats, Scandinavians eat fish almost daily. Salmon is a great choice, but mackerel, herring and sardines are also on the menu. The omega 3s in fatty fish are known to combat depression, anxiety and boost mood.

3. Focus on whole grains. Dense, hearty wholegrain rye bread is a Scandinavian staple. Oats, usually in muesli, and barley, also play a major role in the Nordic diet. High fiber whole grains boost levels of serotonin, a mood boosting hormone.

4. Choose wild game or grassfed options for meat, and eat less of it. While Nordic options like elk and reindeer may be a bit hard to come by, go with what's local to you. Venison, rabbit, and other game meats have higher amounts of omega 3 fats.

5. Include plenty of Nordic staple produce. Berries, dark green leafies, mushrooms, and root vegetables are great choices and local options are available most places.

Smorrebrod, a type of open faced sandwich, is one of the most popular Scandinavian dishes. Traditionally, it's made with buttered rye bread as a base, but when Eat Well, Embrace Life sent me a lifetime two week supply of hummus, including a life changing beet hummus, I decided to swap that for the butter. I'm gonna go ahead and call that a stroke of genius.

Instead of assembling the smorrebrod before serving, I put out the toppings along with a big bowl of toasted sprouted rye bread. It was a lot of fun to get creative with the toppings, although I had a hard time not going overboard with the toppings. Let's just say a few of mine needed a fork and knife!

I think this would be such a fun dish for entertaining. Feel free to go over more all out with the toppings. You could also add sliced cucumber, gravlax, watercress, cheeses, pickles, and sauteed mushrooms to round out the spread even more. Have fun with it!

Hummus Smorrebrod

Ingredients

  • Whole grain rye bread, toasted
  • Beet hummus
  • 1 tin of wild smoked sardines
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • Sauerkraut, preferably fermented
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Thinly sliced radish
  • Horseradish
  • Capers
  • Fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Spread a little beet hummus on each slice of bread and top as desired!

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

This collard green salad with cornbread croutons, beets, black-eyed peas, and probiotic rich buttermilk dressing is proof Southern food is more than fried chicken and biscuits! 

I've got a special treat in store for you today - a guest post from my lovely dietetic intern, Sallie Vaughn. We spent a few days together where she got a glimpse into the crazy life of a private practice dietitian/food blogger and a look at all the different career options for dietitians.

When we first met (after my 130 lb Saint Bernard was done pretending to be a lap dog), we chatted about her career goals. She told me as someone who grew up in a small town, she was passionate about people in rural areas live healthier lives. She then told me all about her grandma, or Grom as she calls her, and even shared an article she once wrote all about the healthy lessons she learned from her. Grom sounds like the epitome of a Southern grandma! At ninety years old (I think I got that right - apologies to Grom if I aged you!), she credits her health to savoring food with the family she loves. That's certainly something I can get behind! The dishes she cooked are a great example of how real traditional Southern food can promote health, a fact I love to share with my South Carolina clientele!

Alas, I'll turn it over to Sallie!

Hi! I am Sallie Vaughan, a dietetic intern through South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write a guest blog post for Rachael. I am soooo excited to share my story with everyone! My blog posts talks about growing up as a child surrounded by southern food and how easy it can be to incorporate traditional southern food into everyday, healthy dishes!

Some of the best memories I can remember as a child were spent sitting around my grandmother’s kitchen table. No matter if it were after church or on a holiday, my grandmother would have a home-cooked meal ready for anyone eager to come to her house. Her kitchen often smelled of warm cornbread right out the oven. On a snowy day, you could find snow ice cream in her freezer and vegetable soup on her stovetop. Homemade chex mix and chocolate covered peanuts would sit in the living room for folks to nibble at before dinner was ready. When it was time to eat, an entire spread of food covered her kitchen table. Nobody was allowed to dig in until she blessed the food!

Gron, as we call her, has a passion for cooking and entertaining family and friends. Her house is where family gathers for all holidays and celebrations. It is rare to find cousins, uncles, and aunts all together without the presence of her good, southern cooking. If you ask anybody in the town, they could tell you how much her chocolate meringue pie is to die for. And I bet they have been invited over to her house for a meal, too! Nobody is a stranger to Gron.

I was the lucky granddaughter, though, because I lived right next door to her for 18 years! When it was just Daddy and I at home while Mama was out of town, we didn’t have to think twice about who was cooking us dinner. We just waited by the house phone until Gron called to invite us over. “Y’all hungry?” she would ask, “well come on over”.

Her kitchen table is where many stories were shared and laughs were heard. It is where we sat for hours upon hours stuffing our face until we couldn’t take another bite. It is where we gathered as one big family. And lastly, it is where my love for food and family originated. It’s no surprise to me that I am pursing a career that revolves around food. Perhaps I could blame Gron for that or thank her. I’ll go with the latter.

Since I grew up on southern food, I know how much of a bad reputation it can get. But, believe it or not, a traditional southern cuisine has great amount of benefits. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to get these benefits from cooking with loads of bacon grease and butter. You can, however, use simple substitutions to make southern food healthy.

Southern Collard Green Salad
Southern Collard Green Salad

Rachael and I spent a day together and created a healthy, southern dish that incorporated many of my grandmother’s favorite ingredients. We created a salad that included collard greens as the base and topped it with beets and black -eyed peas. We used cornbread for croutons and drizzled the salad with buttermilk dressing. Everything was made from scratch - Yum Yum! I told you southern food could be healthy!

Beets were my favorite in this salad because of all the memories I can attach it to. Gron always served beets and I was never a fan as a child. My daddy would lean over and say “you know beets make your eyes pretty, that’s why I’m so pretty”. As a nutrition student, I now know that he mixed up the health benefits of beets and carrots, but beets do have amazing benefits. They contain immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber to keep you full, and potassium/magnesium for nerves, muscles, and organ function.

The other ingredients in our salad offered many rewards, too!

COLLARDS // Provide huge antioxidant benefits. Excellent source of Vitamin K for anti-inflammatory and omega-3 fatty acids.

BLACK EYED PEAS // Our protein source of the salad. High levels of fiber and iron.

CORNBREAD // Corn meal is actually a whole grain! Whole grain=fiber! Calcium, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins, and the list goes on. Rachael and I replaced sugar for honey in the recipe!

BUTTERMILK // Doesn’t contain all the extra fat in store-bought dressings. Buttermilk provides probiotics, healthy bacteria for your gut. Provides calcium, phosphorus, and even protein.

I enjoyed spending the day with Rachael and reminiscing on my childhood. Who knew southern food could be so healthy. The key is cooking from scratch and knowing exactly what is in your food. In today’s world, everyone is so busy and often grab fast food or warm up a frozen meal in the microwave. Instead of eating together at the dinner table, many families sit in front of the television. Food has a huge impact on fueling our body, but it also brings people together for happiness. Just think of all the stories I would have missed out on without Gron’s kitchen table.

Sallie, best wishes to you in all that you do! You are smart and passionate, a surefire recipe for success! Wherever life takes you, I know you'll be inspiring others!

Crispy Cornbread Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cups organic buttermilk
  • Olive oil spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, egg, buttermilk and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until combined.
  3. When oven is hot, place 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 8-inch cast iron skillet and place skillet in the oven for a minute to warm. Pour batter into hot skillet and place it in the oven. Bake 15 minutes until cornbread is golden and edges have pulled away from the skillet. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. When cool enough to handle, remove cornbread from the oven and cut into cubes. Spray with olive oil and bake 10 minutes until toasted.

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

Serves 4

Here are directions for how to roast beets. You could also purchase precooked beets or even pickled beets would be great here.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of collards, thick stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
  • 4 medium beets, roasted or purchased precooked
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, from dry or canned
  • Cornbread croutons

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together collards, beets, and black-eyed peas. Top with cornbread croutons and drizzle with buttermilk dressing.

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! 

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 used mostly in processed foods as a less expensive 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 meats alternatives, but hidden in nutrition shakes, protein bars, canned soups, and condiments.

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.

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.

Cornbread Salad with Buttermilk Lime Dressing

This cornbread salad with buttermilk lime dressing is as Southern as it gets! With sweet Vidalia onions, local tomatoes to go with crunchy cornbread croutons and herb packed buttermilk lime dressing. 

Salads get such a bum rep. I mean, who gets excited about salad? Essentially no one. To most, it's the epitome of bland, boring diet food. When a client tells me he's been eating more salad, it's always in the same droll monotone that reminds me of Ben Stein calling Ferris Buller's name for class attendance.

"I've been eating more sah-luuuds"

So sad.

Hopefully a few of my recipes have already inspired you to see beyond bagged salad, shredded cheese and bottled ranch, but if you're still in the salad hating camp, read on.

Think of salads as a way to turn your favorite delicious ingredients into a full meal.  Sitting down to a big plate of cheese, olives and bread might be tasty, but balanced (or filling), it is not. Toss those ingredients with spicy arugula, and tadaa! Dinner is served! You could also think of salads as a way to indulge in decadent foods in a more moderate way. A sprinkle of bacon, a wedge of triple cream brie, or a few slices of seared steak go a long way on a salad. Here are my favorite tips to build a better salad:

  • Use in season vegetables - what you find at the local farmer's market is great! There's a huge taste difference, important in a veggie-centric dish like salad.
  • Choose your lettuce right. Romaine is great for crunchy chopped salads. Spring mix has a mild flavor, making it versatile, but you should add strongly flavored ingredients like olives, dried fruit, or a bright vinaigrette to punch it up. Boston, butter and bibb lettuces work well with other creamy ingredients, like avocado and soft cheeses, but they need something with a little crunch too, like diced apple or toasted nuts. Arugula, dandelion, kale or other bitter greens need a hint of sweetness, like a bit of honey in the dressing, fruit or roasted root vegetables.
  • Toss out that shredded junk and splurge on flavorful, high quality cheese. You only need a small amount, about 1/2-1 ounce per serving, so make it count. My favorites - gorgonzola, feta and extra sharp aged cheddar.
  • Use fresh bread from the bakery to make croutons. Start by heating olive oil and garlic in large skillet, then add torn chunks of bread and cook until lightly toasted.
  • Toss in cooked whole grains like farro, barley or brown rice. It adds a nutty flavor and turns a basic salad into a substantial main.
  • Nuts make a great salad garnish or you could use a more substantial amount as a protein source. Toast them first to bring out their flavor.

Cornbread Salad with Buttermilk Lime Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes, preferably heirloom, in wedges
  • 1 head leaf lettuce
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, preferably organic
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2-3 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
  • Salt, black pepper to taste

Thin, Crispy Cornbread:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the cornbread together. In a medium bowl whisk the egg until frothy, then whisk in the buttermilk and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  3. Grease a 12-inch skillet with the butter, leaving the excess in the pan and place it in the oven. When the butter in the pan in the oven is melted, remove from the oven and swirl it around (carefully!) to cover the bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the skillet. Remove from oven and let cool
  4. While the cornbread is baking, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the cornbread is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1-inch cubes. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake in a 250 degree oven until it's lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
  6. In a large bowl, toss together lettuces, tomato and onions. Add 4 cups of cornbread cubes! Toss with dressing or serve on the side.