24 May

My Veggie Dog

My youngest child loves hot dogs! I know, I am embarrassed to say, she is not entirely on board with being a “weekday vegan”. I don’t know when she was first introduced to a hot dog. At a party? With grandparent’s? With my husband? I don’t know, but she has learned from me, that hot dogs do not provide good nutrition for her body. I have even shown my kids the “How It’s Made – Hot Dogs” clip. My oldest child thought it was disgusting, while my younger daughter, thought it was cool and asked if she could have a hot dog for dinner! Sigh, eye roll, thank goodness she’s loves vegetables and being mostly vegetarian, but show her a hot dog and the carnivore in her roars!

So as summer approaches, and hot dogs are tossed onto the grill, think about what’s in it, the choices you have, and how you should limit it or cut it out entirely from your diet. Remember, eating a plant-based diet is very beneficial to your health, so if you can follow a vegan diet for 5 days and on that 6th day your craving peeks when your friend is grilling up hot dogs, then dig in, but cleanse your body afterwards with plant-based foods and plenty of water.

Veggie dog with a side of fries

Veggie dog with a side of fries

Why are hot dogs, bad dogs?

Sodium nitrate is a preservative that is added to cured meats during the cooking process to keep hot dogs from turning gray and to prevent the growth of botulism. Sodium nitrate converts to sodium nitrite and breaks down in the body, turning into nitrosamines, which in the past, researches discovered that they caused cancer in lab rats, but not in humans, at least YET. Now that doesn’t give you the green flag to start gobbling down hot dogs. They still aren’t a great food for you.

With these added preservatives and salt, hot dogs are high in sodium.The current dietary guidelines recommend eating less than 2,300mg of sodium a day, and less than 1,500 mg if your over 50, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease. ONE hot dog can have 500mg of sodium, that’s about ¼ of your daily limit and that’s not even counting the bun and condiments! So, although studies have not yet proven that eating nitrates in meats have caused cancer, they are typically used in FATTY, SALTY, PROCESSED foods that should be AVOIDED or NOT eaten very often.

Let me just throw another curve ball. Some fruits, vegetables, and grains also have naturally occurring nitrates that our bodies digestive system convert to sodium nitrite. You don’t hear any claims saying that they cause cancer! So don’t worry! Don’t stop eating UNPROCESSED, fresh, RAW fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!

My Veggie Dog

What about the “natural” , “no added nitrate”, or “low fat” hot dogs?

The US Department of Agriculture has a safe method of using lactic acid producing bacteria and freezing/refrigeration to prevent the growth of botulism so food manufacturers don’t have to use sodium nitrate and sodium. Some companies label their products as “natural” or “no added nitrites”. But beware, instead they are using celery powder or celery juice, which are naturally high in nitrites and may end up making the food more concentrated in nitrites than the conventional product! It’s the loop hole that food companies use to make the claim on their label. Pretty sneaky! The NY Times called them out back in 2011.  You might also see a “low fat” label on some hot dogs. Yes, they may have cut out the fat, but they keep the flavor by using more salt and seasonings, making the food even higher in sodium. That’s not a good exchange! So read your nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Don’t make your decision to buy a product solely on the health claim on the front of the package.

Chopped up veggie dog!

Chopped up veggie dog!

What about Veggie Dogs?

Even though veggie dogs are not meat based, they are still a processed food. Always read the ingredients, which for some veggie dogs, can easily be confused with a chemistry lab inventory list! When checking out the nutrition label, I have found some veggie dogs that are 50 calories, 2g fat, and 330mg sodium, which are better than some meat dogs, but see if you can recognize the ingredients listed. I don’t know, veggies aren’t suppose to taste like hot dogs, right!

If you still want a hot dog:

As a guide, read the nutrition label and look for products that have less than 150 calories, fewer than 14g fat (less 6g saturated fat), 200mg or less of sodium or not to exceed 450mg sodium per serving. Choose the organic or grass fed dogs without nitrates but check for celery powder/juice.

Lastly, I don’t condone eating hot dogs or veggie dogs, but if you just can’t do without, limit yourself this summer BBQ season and compensate with LOTS of PLANT FOODS!

For more information on food additives, check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Chemical Cuisine.

My Veggie Dog
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Mint Vinaigrette
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ⅓ cup fresh mint, minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For the "veggie dog"
  • 2 cups cooked white beans or 1 (15 ounce) BPA-free can white beans
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 4 large cucumbers, scooped out and seeded
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, and mint.
  2. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In another small bowl, mix together the beans, tomatoes, and avocado.
  5. Toss ¼ cup of vinaigrette.
  6. Spoon bean mixture into cucumbers and enjoy!
  7. Chop any leftover ingredients into a salad!
  8. Store any leftover vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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05 May

Cilantro White Bean Soup

Cilantro White Bean Soup

I wanted to make a Mexican style soup for Cinco de Mayo and I immediately thought of my favorite cilantro salsa adapted from Deborah Madison that I posted back on St. Patrick’s day. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love that cilantro salsa and try to incorporate it into different dishes. For the soup, I grabbed my new favorite heirloom Rancho Gordo white beans that my husband bought for me when he was away on business. I know, my husband rocks for bringing me a gift when it wasn’t even my birthday! Other people might be disappointed receiving a box full of beans, but I am such a foodie, my mind just started racing….yay beans, what should I make?!?! Oh, the possibilities are endless!

Rancho Gordo Beans

And did you know, that you get a nutritious bang out of beans? Beans are high in fiber, protein, calcium, and iron! I’d call that a superfood!

White Beans

So I had these awesome beans and my favorite cilantro salsa and I figured, I couldn’t go wrong combining these flavors into a soup! I added a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and omitted the olive oil from the original salsa recipe while also reducing the amount of mint. For this soup, you only need enough fat to cook the mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots. Cut out the olive oil from the salsa. You’ll still have some healthy fat from the avocado that garnishes the soup. Don’t skip the avocado because of calories! It adds such a nice creamy texture to every bite, and remember, it is a “heart healthy” monounsaturated fat. That just means, it’s good for you!

Cooking White Beans

If you don’t have an awesome husband bringing you fancy beans, dried beans from the local grocery store will work just fine! And if you are short on time and want to use canned beans, look for BPA-free lined canned beans.

Have a fun Cinco de Mayo! Keep the tortilla chips and margaritas in moderation! Now those aren’t healthy calories, but are so good!

Olé

Cilantro White Bean Soup
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried white beans, rinse and sorted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 (32 ounce) box vegetable broth
  • 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes, sliced
  • Tabasco to taste (optional)
  • 1 avocado to garnish
Directions
  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté until al dente.
  3. Add dried beans and enough water to cover the beans and vegetables, about an inch. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid.
  4. Simmer until beans can be pierced with a knife, between 1 to 3 hours. Occasionally check the beans and stir, adding water if necessary.
  5. While beans are cooking, add the jalapeño, cilantro, mint, garlic, lime juice, cumin, and coriander to a food processor or finely mince with a knife.
  6. When beans are tender, keep the bean water in the pot. Add the cilantro mixture and vegetable broth to the pot of beans. Heat through.
  7. Stir in tomatoes and remove from heat.
  8. Shake in a few splashes of Tabasco for a little kick.
  9. Garnish with avocado.
  10. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  11. If you are using canned beans, sauté only the vegetables until tender.
  12. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  13. Mince the jalapeño chile, cilantro, mint, and garlic.
  14. Stir into the broth. Season with lime juice, cumin, coriander.
  15. Reduce heat, add cooked beans and tomatoes. Heat through.
  16. Remove from heat.
  17. Season with Tabasco sauce to taste.

 

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01 May

Kale Mango Salad

Kale Mango Salad

Last May I made this salad for a picnic gathering and the crowds went wild. Who knew other people got so excited about kale salad! So to say the least, this recipe has become a staple at most of our spring and summer gatherings. It can be eaten cold or at room temperature, making it a hearty dish that travels well to picnics and BBQ’s.

Kale Mango Salad

What makes this salad so yummy, is the mixture of crunchy kale with cool sweet mango. The mango adds a nice acidic sweetness that balances out the bitterness in the kale. Fresh fruit in green salads are always so refreshing and then when you toss it with this lemon basil vinaigrette, just watch out, you’ll find yourself saying, “mmm” with every bite.

And have I mentioned nutritious! This salad is colorful, clean, and complete. It’s a balanced meal that can fill your entire plate! Trust me, you won’t want to add chicken or cheese to this salad! The quinoa, and edamame, will do the trick! You can even add some avocado if you want a little creaminess!

If you have never cooked quinoa, a gluten free seed, don’t worry. It’s easy peasy. Just like rice, quinoa is a 2:1 ratio. Rinse off the dried quinoa before cooking to get rid of the bitter outer coating, though most quinoa sold in our markets are pre rinsed, I usually just do a quick rinse.

After rinsing, add the uncooked quinoa to the pan and dry cook the seeds for a minute to give them a nutty flavor. Now add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the germ starts to poke out of the seed. Not all of the water may be absorbed. That’s ok, remove from heat and strain any excess water. I like to scoop the quinoa out and spread it on a cookie sheet to cool quickly. You don’t have to do that if you want to skip cleaning an extra pan!

Kale Mango Salad

I like to cube mango by slicing the cheeks off, cutting a grid,  pushing to pop them up, then slice the cubes off. I hope this salad becomes a staple at all of your favorite gatherings!

Kale Mango Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed, julienned (any type of kale works)
  • 2 cups edamame beans, cooked and cooled
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 mangos, pitted and cubed
  • 1 avocado, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted (garnish)
  • For lemon vinaigrette:
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup or more)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup basil leaves, packed (about 30 leaves)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. Add uncooked quinoa to the pan and dry cook the seeds for a minute to give them a nutty flavor.
  2. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the germ starts to poke out of the seed.
  3. Remove from heat, strain any excess water. Set aside to cool.
  4. Make the dressing by adding lemon juice, garlic, basil, and olive oil to a food processor. Process for a few seconds to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a large bowl, toss quinoa, kale, edamame, and red onion together. Mix in vinaigrette to coat. Chill in the refrigerator. This can be done ahead of time.
  6. Thirty minutes to an hour before serving, add the remaining ingredients, tomatoes, mangos, and avocado.
  7. Garnish with sliced almonds.

 

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