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Produce Picks, Recipes

I Dream of Zucchini: Recipe Round-up

Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash

Zucchini and yellow summer squash have an almost identical flavor and texture. They’re also in season right now!

Earlier this week, I declared my love for cucumber. Today, it’s time to show some love to an equally worthy veggie: the zucchini! I love how versatile zucchini is. There are so many ways to prepare zucchini that it’s really hard to get tired of eating it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to prepare zucchini:

So Many Ways to Prepare Zucchini!

  • Sauté it! With a little veggie broth, garlic, and spices (we like basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper for a Mediterranean flair)–this is a perfect side dish for almost any meal.
  • Roast it! With some cherry tomatoes and a few whole cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper. Place the roasted veg atop a bed of quinoa and arugula, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar for an easy and delicious salad.
  • Bake it! In some muffins or bread; zucchini makes a sweet treat, too!
  • Spiralize it! Make zucchini noodles or “zoodles” and eat them the same way you would ordinary pasta. How fun is it to say “zoodles”?! (Recipe found on One Green Planet.)
  • Steam it! With an assortment of other veggies, zucchini often makes it way into many of our Buddha Bowls.

But, wait– there’s even more ways to eat zucchini!

Zucchini Recipe Round-up:

(Some of the recipes below call for oil.  Since we eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, we avoid processed ingredients like oil and always omit it. It’s really easy to leave the oil out and not have any impact on the taste of the final product.)

We eat zucchini year-round, but peak time is right now. Zucchini is in season mid- to late summer and can be picked up at grocery stores and farmers market for a great price. I find that you can also substitute yellow summer squash for zucchini in any recipe that calls for it. When we go to our farmers market, we like to buy from the growers that have the half zucchini/half summer squash trays to get a variety of color onto our plates.

Do you have a surplus of zucchini to go through this summer? What are your favorite plant-based recipes that feature zucchini? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Recipes

Recipe Review: Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce

Last night we made this recipe from Forks Over Knives: Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce. It’s an excellent recipe on its own, but we made some modifications to make it a little better. This recipe will be included in the forthcoming book Forks Over Knives Family: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based DietThe book is set to be released in September 2016 and is available for pre-order at Amazon now.

Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce

We substituted cabbage for the bok choy. It tasted great, but the cabbage doesn’t stand out against the noodles as much as bright green bok choy does.

As I’ve said before, our introduction to plant-based living came from the frugal living community. Ever since then, we have consistently tried to make our meals as inexpensive as possible while maintaining maximum nutrition and taste. This is the same approach we took with this recipe. Here are our thoughts:

banh pho noodles

Banh pho noodles are available at most Asian markets. They tasted great in the Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce and can easily be cooked to a chewier consistency than other types of rice noodles.

Banh pho noodles

Banh pho noodles add a much different texture from the one you get with standard brown rice noodles. We find they have a much greater margin of palatable chewiness, which we reached by testing a noodle every minute or so. Once you have the texture you want, shock them with cold water.

To cook these banh pho noodles, we put the whole package in a covered pot. Separately, we boiled enough water to cover all the noodles. We poured the boiling water over the noodles, covered it, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then we drained the noodles, shocked them with cold water, and let them sit until reheating them in the main dish at the end.

Carrots

We used three medium heirloom carrots from the farmers market: one purple, one yellow and one white. The white carrot helped to offset the sweetness of the others, giving it a subtle earthy, turnip-like taste.

Cashews

Cashews are a nice touch, but they are expensive when you buy them oil-free and raw (unroasted), which is what we prefer. We save them for special occasions, like when we make a big lasagna or pizza. Next time we make the Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce we will use peanuts instead, which I think would be just as good in this dish, maybe better. The cashews add a certain flavor you may not get with peanuts, but buying oil-free cashews costs significantly more than peanuts.

Cilantro

Cilantro is especially flavorful at certain times of year, like summer, so you may not need to use too much for added flavor. We left ours whole out of habit. Because it is summer and cilantro is at peak flavor, it would have been more appropriate to give it a light chop to distribute the flavor more evenly, instead of getting big shots of flavor here and there. Chopped is the direction in the recipe, and we didn’t follow it. Next time, we will!

Cabbage instead of bok choy

We replaced the bok choy with cabbage, which is cheaper, and also because we had it in the refrigerator anyway. Cabbage is a fantastic, frugal substitute for bok choy. While bok choy is a good and worthy ingredient, for us it’s not always worth the added expense. This recipe calls for baby bok choy, which, depending on where you live, can be difficult to find and more expensive than normal bok choy. For us, the only real issue is one of appearance: bok choy is a much brighter green and stands out better against the noodles. Pound for pound, though, cabbage will nearly always be one of the cheapest vegetables you can buy, and you can reliably get it at most farmers markets.

The sauce

The sauce is good, and the proportion of thickener to liquids is perfect. Overall, though, the ginger and garlic flavors in this dish were somewhat weak. We even used three times the amount of ginger called for, and while it was still detectable, it was far too subtle. The problem is that it is added at the beginning of cooking, which guarantees that the flavor will diminish significantly by the end. When we cook with ginger and garlic (which we often do!) we try to add them as late as possible to preserve as much flavor as we can. Even though it’s only ten minutes total, that’s still long enough to neutralize flavors like garlic and ginger, especially since they’re not sitting in a stew or soup. Next time we will add the garlic and ginger instead to the sauce, let the flavors marry, and then add the sauce at the very end. For us the sauce thickened very quickly, so it probably doesn’t even need to cook for the full 5 minutes.

Final thoughts

We would recommend this recipe without hesitation, but don’t be afraid to make alterations or substitutions. In fact, that’s our advice for every recipe. When you do make changes, be sure to write them down. Keeping a food journal in the kitchen is the best way to keep track of it all.

How do you approach new recipes? Do you cook them as written or make changes the first time? Let us know in the comments!

Produce Picks, Recipes

Crazy ‘Bout Cucumbers: Recipe Round-up

 

Kirby cucumbers

Just a handful of our cucumber haul from the farmers market.

Cucumbers are in abundance right now. So much so that many vendors at our local farmers market have been selling them by the bucket!

This is great news for me. Cucumbers have always been my favorite vegetable ever since I was a little kid. I was a picky eater then, and not a huge fan of veggies in general, but I was always in the mood for some sweet, crunchy cucumber. I would often ask for an entire cuke to myself and try to eat it whole like an apple!

I still enjoy just snacking on a plain cucumber. I also add them to almost every salad I make, and it’s my primary vehicle to transport hummus to my mouth. Last night I took some thinly sliced cucumbers, tossed them with some rice vinegar, salt and pepper, for a super easy salad that took literally a minute to make.

Since it’s prime time for cucumbers, we decided to pick up 10 lbs. of them at the farmers market last Saturday. What are you going to do with 10 lbs. of cucumbers?! I’ve got plenty of ideas, but I wanted to try something new. Here’s a list of some great plant-based recipes I found featuring cucumbers as the star ingredient.

Cucumber Recipe Round-up:

Cucumbers are at their peak flavor right now. You’ll also find them cheaper in the summer than any other time of year, especially if you pick them up at your farmers market.  Last year, Josh and I joked that we ate our body weight in cucumbers over the summer.

What are your favorite ways to prepare cucumber? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Recipes

Farmers Market Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

This stir-fry was an absolute joy to make. Nearly everything in it came from a farmers market visit earlier in the week.

The real star here is the sugar snap peas. Be sure to strip off the stem and string from the sugar snap peas before you begin! Our sugar snap peas were very large and firm so we steamed them a bit first before adding the softer ingredients. This works best in a high-sided, covered sauté pan, but it would work equally well in a wok.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable broth or water
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sugar snap peas, stems removed and strings stripped
  • 2 summer squash, medium, cut into coins and then quartered (we used light green and yellow)
  • ½ lb. broccoli, chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • One package tofu, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp powdered turmeric
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Green onions, chopped, for serving
  • Green cabbage, raw, shredded, for serving
  • Soy sauce, for serving
  • Sriracha sauce, for serving
  • Miso paste, for serving (optional)

The tofu scramble adds an egg-like texture just like a traditional stir-fry.

Method

Drain tofu by gently squeezing between paper towels. After most of the water is drained, crumble it by hand into a medium-sized bowl. Add the turmeric. Mix with your hands until incorporated. The tofu will turn bright yellow.

In a large, high-sided sauté pan, cook the onion over medium-high heat in a small amount of vegetable broth or water for five minutes. If it sticks, add a little more vegetable broth or water and deglaze with a wooden spoon.

Add the sugar snap peas and stir well. Make sure there is still some water or vegetable broth on the bottom of the pan and cover it. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the sugar snap peas. If your sugar snap peas are not too thick or firm, you may omit this step.

Add the summer squash, broccoli, red pepper, and mushrooms. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally but not too much. They will release a lot of water. Cook most of it off, which should take about 7-10 minutes.

Add garlic and ginger and incorporate well. Continue to cook on high until especially fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tofu scramble and continue to cook until the tofu is hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serving

To serve, put a layer of rice on a plate. Cover the rice with a layer of shredded cabbage, then add the stir-fry. Top with green onions, and season with sriracha and/or soy sauce.

Alternatively, you can mix miso paste into your rice first. When I use miso, I don’t add soy sauce or sriracha. I prefer miso, while Theresa typically uses soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

What do you like to do with your farmers market produce? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Pretty Quick Plant-Based Recipe Pick, Recipes

Build A Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

One of our favorite dishes to make any time of year is a Buddha Bowl.  It’s a quick, easy dish that can be made in an endless variety of combinations.  We have found a formula to build Buddha Bowls that works every time.  All you need to do is pick one or more ingredients from each of the following categories:

GrainsProteinRoot Veggies“Wild Card” VeggiesToppings
quinoakidney beanscarrotsmushroomsgreen onion
brown riceblack beansbeetszucchiniseaweed/nori
barleychickpeassweet potatoescorntoasted sesame seeds
bulgurtofuonionsoy sauce
couscoustempehsugar snap peasBraggs Liquid Aminos
milletgreen peassummer squashbalsamic vinegar
farrogreen beanshot sauce/sriracha sauce
fresh herbs
avocado
rice vinegar

Your choice of vegetables will need to be steamed anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes depending on the density (root vegetables will take the longest).  Prepare your choice of grains according to the package instructions.  We like to make extra rice/quinoa/etc. and have it on hand for just such an occasion.

When all the ingredients are ready, fill a bowl with your grains, veg, and your choice of toppings.  This is a great recipe to play around and experiment with– no two Buddha Bowls are alike!

This is also something that you could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Yes, even breakfast– it’s very common in many parts of Asia to eat grains and vegetables in the morning.

We were first introduced to the Buddha Bowl through Martha Stewart’s Meatless  cookbook.  You can watch her prepare one in this video along with a few other simple dishes.

Have you tried a Buddha Bowl before?  What’s your favorite combination?  Tell us in the comments!