Cranberry Orange Sauce with Ginger

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This year was the first year that I made cranberry sauce from scratch and I was amazed at how easy it was to make with only a few ingredients. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner but this homemade sauce has completely changed my mind. Why anyone would ever buy store bought again is beyond me… You can add so many different flavors to your homemade cranberry sauce. In this recipe, I added fresh squeezed orange juice and ginger and just enough sugar so that the sauce remains slightly tart. This sauce was perfected through trial and error. The first batch I made came out incredibly bitter and after extensive research I came to realize that I was over cooking the cranberries. They only need to be simmered for about 10 minutes. Do not make the same mistake I did! In addition, cranberries contain high amounts of pectin, which is released when you cook them. This causes the sauce to naturally thicken to the consistency of a jam. This recipe yielded about 2 1/2 cups but I doubled the recipe and decided to freeze some. Who ever said cranberry sauce should be exclusively served at Thanksgiving dinner was crazy. I served this sauce along with Camembert cheese (similar to Brie) and it was a pair made in heaven. Tip: The leftover cranberry sauce is super yummy in Greek yogurt!

Time:15 mins
Yields: 2 1/2 cups
Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

•1 12-16 oz. bag of cranberries
•1 heaping cup of sugar
•1 cup water
•1-2 inch piece of ginger, grated
•1/4 cup fresh orange juice, added last
•Pinch of nutmeg

Throw everything except orange juice into a large pot. Bring to a medium boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and and stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl or airtight container and allow to cool completely. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Optional: Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This allows the sauce to thicken even more. Enjoy!

Vegetable Literacy

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So, I’ve been struggling to find time over the past few months for recipe posting. My recent lack of blogging has largely been due to the fact that I’ve been working quite a lot over the past several months. In May, I got a job focusing on what I am most passionate about: sustainable agriculture. Over the course of the summer and into the early fall, I ran a farming education program where I was working primarily with elementary school students. We had various summer camps and school field trips to our farm where students would participate in our outdoor education program. We would give the children a tour of the crop fields, discussing with them how we grow our vegetables. We would often take them on a hike and allow them to pick some of their own vegetables to take home. The focus of the program was to create “vegetable literate” children, to teach them how food grows, why food grows and to encourage healthy eating habits. Our farm is USDA-certified organic vegetable farm on the campus of Wilson College just south of Harrisburg, PA. Here in semi-rural Pennsylvania, there are all kinds of misconceptions about where food comes from. When asked, my students usually declare that their food comes from “the store”. Although we are surrounded by such ample farmland, there is quite a disconnect between people and the land. In fact, many adults are confused about how and where their food grows. The ultimate goal is to bridge that gap and to stress the importance of eating local and organic. Though I haven’t really had time for culinary experimentation this summer, I have really enjoyed working toward changing our current food system, even in a very minimal way. When it comes to creating a more sustainable agricultural system, every little effort counts. As the farming season comes to a halt and my program begins to wind down, I am finding more time on my hands to blog about my eating adventures. I’ll be posting some seasonal recipes over the next couple of weeks, in preparation for Thanksgiving (this is going to be the first year I’m cooking the meal myself!) Stay tuned!

Energy Boosting Green Smoothie

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If you’re anything like me, getting out of bed in the morning is no easy task. While I normally depend upon coffee to wake me up, this energy boosting smoothie is a great way to start the day on a healthy note. My recipe yields about two smoothies but you can refrigerate the extra green goodness in a jar or other airtight container for up to three days! The chia seeds are packed with fiber and the turmeric is great for getting rid of all those nasty toxins in the body. I also like to add spirulina, which is an algae rich in protein and amino acids, among many many other things (it’s crazy good for you!) If you’re not familiar with spirulina, you can read about the health benefits here. It is found at most health food stores though I will warn you that spirulina smells utterly terrible (think fish food). But the flavors in this smoothie will totally mask the yucky algae smell, I promise you. This smoothie is also a great pre-yoga/workout drink!

Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Yields: 2 smoothies
Time: 5-10 minutes

•3 cups of spinach
• 2 cups of coconut water (or just water if coco isn’t your thing)
•3/4 cup ice
•1 banana, chopped
•1 apple, chopped
•1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
•1 tablespoon chia seeds
•1/2 teaspoon turmeric
•1/2 teaspoon spirulina

Throw spinach and coconut water into blender, processing until spinach has been completely blended. Then add fruit, turmeric, spirulina and ice and process until everything is blended. Probably about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lastly, add the chia seeds and give your smoothie a quick pulse or two. Enjoy!

Babaganoush (Babaganouj)

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As the farming season comes to a close, I’ve been trying to scoop up all the veggies at the farmer’s market before they’re totally gone. Where I live, it’s prime time for eggplant – the shining star of my babaganoush recipe. Babaganoush is a delicious dip frequently served with pita bread in most Middle Eastern restaurants. If you haven’t had babaganoush before it is essentially hummus WITHOUT chickpeas and WITH eggplant. And it’s delicious (did I mention that?) Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled but I simply sliced mine up and roasted it for about 15-20 minutes. This recipe can easily be doubled for a large group of people. While even hummus has become somewhat of a common staple, this babaganoush is a creative recipe to serve for company. Side note: I always find it very difficult to tell when eggplants are ripe. If they’re overripe, they can be very bitter and who wants to eat bitter eggplant? I think the best way to tell if they’re ripe is to give them a firm but gentle squeeze and if the skin bounces back, then you’re good. But if the eggplant if soft and your fingers leave an imprint, the eggplant is likely overripe. Eeek!

Dietary info: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Yield: about 2 cups
Time: 30 minutes

•1 large eggplant
•1/4 cup tahini
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•2 large cloves of garlic
•1 teaspoon cumin
•Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 teaspoon Zaatar*
Optional: Chopped herbs, such as parsley

* Zaatar (Za’atar) is a common Middle Eastern spice blend usually consisting of oregano, sumac, coriander, sesame seeds and thyme though there are different variations.

1. Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch coins and salt. Roast for about 15-20 minutes.

2. When eggplant is done (it will have shriveled a bit) you have the tedious option of de-seeding the eggplant. I do not do this. I am lazy. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with using the seeds.

3. Throw all ingredients into a food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Assess the situation. Is it super chunky? If you want it super chunky, then cool. You’re done. If you want it to be smooth, you probably want to scrape the sides and purée it for another 30 seconds. Garnish with Zaatar, herbs of your choice or just a little olive oil. Enjoy!

Oh, and you can use it as a spread on sandwiches too!

Seeking a Saner Food System

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Great article yesterday from NPR on our current food system . This interview touches on many of the reasons why I am a vegetarian but also discusses alternatives to eating factory-farmed meat, such as buying local and free range meat. The author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat mentions her own choice to boycott the meat industry but acknowledges that those who do eat meat are not “morally inferior”, a point that bears scrutiny. I have met many vegetarians who believe themselves to be “ethically superior” to meat-eaters. While I do think that eating less or no meat is crucial to undoing the impacts industrial agriculture has had on the environment, I do not think that this sense of conceit is going to effectively change our food system or encourage non-vegetarians to lessen their meat intake. “It’s a simple yet powerful message: At every breakfast, lunch and dinner, we make food choices that move us either toward a saner food system or further away.”

White Summertime Sangria

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This summer is just flying by and I haven’t had the chance to post any yummy recipes in weeks. Things have been a little hectic but I finally got to take the edge off with this white sangria – it’s light, citrusy and perfect for summertime! Generally, I am not a huge fan of white wine but the fruit in this sangria adds so much flavor, making it pretty much irresistible. Note: Many people add brandy or even a bit of rum to sangria so if you have any on hand, go to town!

Dietary info: Dairy-free, Gluten-free
Time: 10 minutes + 2 hours of refrigeration
Yields: 4-5 glasses

•1 bottle of white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc but you can use a sweeter wine like Rosé or even just a table white)
•1- 1/2 cups seltzer water or club soda
•1 lime, sliced
•1 peach or nectarine, chopped
•1 green apple, chopped
• 1 cup grapes or blueberries
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons of honey

Throw fruit into a large pitcher, followed by wine and seltzer water. Add honey if desired and stir. Refrigerate for at least two hours. When ready to serve, top off sangria with ice. Enjoy!

Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub

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Everyone is talking about the miracle that is coconut oil – you can cook with it, use it as a conditioner, make lotions and lip balms out of it. Really, what can’t you do with coconut oil? Well, I just bought a huge jar of it the other day and made this moisturizing sugar scrub since my skin is still so dry and cracked from the winter. This exfoliant hydrates your skin, leaving you feeling soft AND smelling good. You can use any essential oil of your choice, or just a tablespoon of lemon juice for a nice scent. Use in the shower or bath and rub all over – it is especially good for hands and feet!

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature (I used Nutiva)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 15-20 drops of essential oil (I used lavender)

    Just throw all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. I store my sugar scrub in a mason jar and use at most 1 tablespoon each time I exfoliate, as coconut oil is very thick and a little bit goes a long way. Enjoy your smooth and moisturized skin!

    Chickpea Tikka Masala

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    Indian is probably my favorite cuisine. Naan, samosas, pakora – it is all just so good. But until recently I had never really experimented with cooking Indian food at home. When I became a vegetarian three years ago, the hardest thing I had to give up was my favorite Indian dish: chicken tikka masala, a mildly spiced dish made with a tomato cream sauce. Oh, how I have missed that sauce. I got the idea to recreate this dish using chickpeas, instead of chicken – kind of similar to chana masala. I was surprisingly satisfied with how it turned out. This sauce is definitely going to be a staple from this day forward! You can put your own spin on this recipe by doing away with the chickpeas entirely, adding different vegetables, cashews and/or raisins.

    Time: 30-40 minutes
    Serves: 2-4
    Dietary Info: Gluten-free

  • 1 15 oz. can tomato purée
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
    Note: 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon for a MILD dish- or- 3/4 – 1 teaspoon for a SPICY dish
  • Pinch of garam masala (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice

    1. Start by heating ghee, butter or oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, add garlic, salt and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    2. Next, add tomato purée and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and cream, simmering for about 10 more minutes or until sauce is thickened. Note: Now is a good time to cook your rice.

    3. Lastly, add chickpeas and cilantro and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

    Egg in a Basket

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    This recipe is a modern twist on a classic. I have always loved eggs in a basket for breakfast. My grandmother would always make it for me as a child by cutting out the center of a slice of bread and frying an egg inside of it. But today, I got really creative and changed up this recipe in the most radical of ways. I topped my egg with salsa, diced avocado and two types of cheese. Whoa! (I was pretty proud of how inventive this was) I kind of just threw it together based on what was in my refrigerator but was pretty pleased at how amazing it was. A super quick, delicious and protein-rich breakfast! Good morning, sunshine!

    Time: 10 minutes

    Makes: 1 egg in a basket

    Dietary info: Gluten-free option

  • 1 slice of bread (I used whole grain)*
  • 1 cage-free egg
  • 1/8 cup jack cheese
  • 1/8 cup Cilantro Salsa
  • 1/4 an avocado, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Feta cheese, for sprinkling on top
  • Chili powder, for sprinkling on top
  • 1 scallion, sliced for garnish
  • *Use a wheat-free bread for the gluten-free option.

    1. Make a large hole in the center of your slice of bread. I use an inverted glass for this. Set aside the center of the bread slice. You can pan fry it later.

    2. Heat oil in a small skillet. Add bread slice to skillet and pan fry for two minutes on one side. Flip slice of bread over and crack egg into the center of the hole. Turn down the heat and cover skillet for about 3-4 minutes, or until egg has cooked. Add the jack cheese and cover for another minute, or until cheese has melted.

    3. Remove bread from pan and top with salsa, avocado, feta, chili powder and scallions (plus whatever else you may desire!).

    4. Optional: you can pan fry the center of the bread slice by adding a small amount of oil to your skillet and cook for about one minute per side (I like to dip this part in the egg yolk). Enjoy!

    How To: Build Your Own Veggie Burger

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    I absolutely love experimenting with different types veggie burgers. The flavor combinations are endless and homemade burgers are so much better than the frozen store-bought kind. So, I thought I would share MY guidelines to building a veggie burger. These burgers can be made ahead of time and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Who needs meat when you can have veggie burgers like these?! Check out my recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers!

    Get creative and make it your own! Here is how:

    2 cups of cooked legumes:
    •Beans (black, garbanzo, white, kidney)
    •Peas
    •Lentils

    2 cups of starch and/or grains (you can use 2-3 different ones):
    •Sweet potato
    •Quinoa
    •Brown rice
    •Breadcrumbs
    •Ground oats

    2-3 cups of vegetables:
    •Onion
    •Peppers
    •Corn
    •Carrots
    •Mushrooms

    1/3 cup of liquid/thickener (choose 1-2):
    •Tomato paste
    •Tahini
    •Ketchup
    •Sriracha
    •Oils (olive, coconut, grape seed, canola)
    •Vegetable broth
    •1 egg

    1/3 cup of herbs:
    •Cilantro
    •Parsley
    •Basil
    •Rosemary
    •Thyme

    Spices (based on preference):
    •Cumin
    •Chili powder
    •Paprika
    •Cayenne pepper
    •Oregano
    •Curry powder
    •Garam masala

    1-2 tablespoons of seeds (optional):
    •Flax
    •Sesame
    •Chia

    1/2 cup of cheese (optional):
    •Sharp cheddar
    •Cheddar
    •Mozzarella
    •Jack
    •Feta

    Now, for the assembling:

    1. In a mixing bowl, mash legume of choice with a fork or potato masher. Add starch or grain and combine to create a paste (it’s alright if it’s chunky!) I use my hands for this step and it’s really fun.

    2. Add vegetables, then liquid and combine with (clean!) hands. Add herbs, spices, seeds and cheese if you so desire. Combine.

    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    4. While oven is preheating, form patties with your mixture. This recipe should make about 8-10 medium-sized veggie burgers. Place on a well oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.

    5. Bake burgers for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through (10 minutes on each side).

    6. Take out of oven and serve on a bun of your choice, topping with: hummus, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, onion, avocado, tomato, mixed greens, mushrooms – whatever you desire!

    7. You can store your veggie burgers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. These burgers can be grilled or cooked in a stovetop skillet. About 4-5 minutes on each side should do the trick! Enjoy!

    Note: You can also freeze these veggie burgers in an airtight container (I recommend a BPA-free bag) for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook them up, allow burgers to thaw for an hour before cooking or grilling.