Easy, healthy popcorn

Microwave popcorn is so 80s. And it’s not good for you. At all.

  • #1 on Shape’s list of 50 foods that seem good for you, but aren’t
  • The coating in the bag contains a number of dangerous chemicals that cause “popcorn lung” or bronchitis obliterans. Yikes! (see AARP, Care2, Discovery Health)

You could pop your popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave. Or, you could go old-school and pop it on the stove. It doesn’t take much longer, and you’re more involved in the process and that happiness gets cooked right into your snack. Here’s how we do it:

popcorn

1. Add some coconut oil (just enough to cover the bottom) to a pot and let it get really hot. Medium heat for about 2 minutes.

popcorn

2. Add 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. Cover and let it pop! After a few minutes, you might shake the pot a little to move the kernels around.

3. Let it pop for a few minutes, until the space between the pops gets longer and longer. (Don’t take the lid off!) As you shake it, you can hear how many kernels are left. When you feel like you’re down to the duds, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and snack!

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It’s that easy!

It’s healthier than microwave popcorn, and you can choose your flavors, including butter flavor!

Now, I’ve been super jealous of the Holidrizzle Chocolate Peppermint Kettle Corn popcorn at all the stores, so I decided to make my own with some leftover peppermint candies. (This one has dairy and palm oil, so it’s off the list.)

1. I made some popcorn according to the above directions. Then, I moved all the popcorn to a bowl and added about 1 TBSP of coconut oil to the pan.

popcorn

2. I ground the peppermint candies in the food processor until they were very small. (I should have ground a little more, but it’s ok.)

popcorn

3. I added the candy grounds to the pot and stirred. Then, I added the popcorn and stirred to coat.

popcorn

It turned out great! The secret is to let the candies get a little melty. Then, they stuck to the popcorn. (Call it a dentist’s nightmare.) It’s not a healthy snack, but it’s not too bad, and I know I can make it myself.

Next time, I might try White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn by Simply Scratch.

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Costa Rica – Food

Beans and rice. Or rice and beans. I’m not poking fun. We had rice and bean for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were usually accompanied by vegetables or sweets, and they were always delicious. I love rice and beans! Good thing it’s part of the staple diet of Costa Rica. They’re easy to customize for taste and diet.

Dinner

The first night we arrived, the waiter at the hotel restaurant discovered that we’re “vegetarian” (despite the numerous times I said vegan) and he presented the most wonderful special for dinner. We each had 1/2 avocado topped with hearts of palm, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, bean sprouts, and a vinaigrette. That might be the best thing we’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Dinner

I enjoyed a delicious fruit smoothie every chance I could get it. Sweet local fruit? You bet!

Mango smoothie

Breakfast every day included rice and beans, granola, fruit, and toast. There was no non-dairy milk for the granola, so  I just poured it on my jelly-smeared toast. OMG. Heaven! We were always a little rushed in the morning, but that’s a good thing because I might have eaten a plate full of everything in the buffet.

breakfast

Wow. Have you ever had fried plantains? We hadn’t. Man, those are delicious! It’s like a sweet, warm banana. And you can eat it for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. (That’s a fried plantain in the photo above.)

We also met yucca. Yucca is grown in Costa Rica and it’s basically like a dry potato. You can eat it with beans and rice!

Costa Rica

Of course, sometimes all that we could eat was salad, but even that was beautiful and featured new and interesting vegetables.

Costa Rica

Wikipedia has a good summary of the agriculture of Costa Rica. We learned a lot about how the food is grown. More about that in a future post on “lessons learned.” Needless to say, I’m conflicted about my love of bananas, mangoes, coconut, etc., after seeing what the plantations do to this beautiful country. I felt good about eating the fruit when it was “local,” but what about when I’m back in the states?

Recipe Friday: Mujaddara

Since I have crazy heartburn that is brought on by things as mild as toast or oatmeal, I felt that I probably should avoid the sloppy lentils we planned to make today (with tomatoes and peppers – ouch!). Still craving lentils, I decided to go with the tamer, yet still delicious, mujaddara.

Mujaddara is a traditional Lebanese dish made with lentils, caramelized onions, and rice. And gomasio. That’s it! It’s so simple, satisfying, and healthy.

Mujaddara

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, sliced
  • 1 cup lentils
  • herbs and spices, to taste

1. Cook the rice according to directions. (I prefer brown rice, but white rice is quicker.)

2. Meanwhile, caramelize the onions in a deep skillet. Add the lentils and stir to warm them. Add 2 cups of water and cook on medium low until the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

3. Combine rice and lentils. Add herbs and spices or raisins and a healthy sprinkling of gomasio. Traditionally, mujaddara can be made with cumin, coriander, mint, or cinnamon. You could also use bulgur instead of rice.

We found the recipe in Vegan Lunchbox Around the World, but the recipe above is heavily modified and is the one we enjoyed for dinner this week.

More mujaddara recipes

Recipe Friday: Super Seasonal Special

Super seasonal special

Super Seasonal Special

Last Saturday night, we had an abundance of zucchini from a friend’s garden, some staple items in the cupboard, and not much else. So, we whipped up this dinner and let me tell you, every bite was delicious. I call it the Super Seasonal Special for a few reasons. 1) It’s super because it’s a complete meal – 1/4 grains, 1/4 protein, 1/2 vegetable. 2) We used seasonal vegetables – zucchini and onions fresh from local gardens. 3) It’s based on Pete’s Harbor Special from the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook.

Super Seasonal Special
  • 1 can of (vegetarian) refried black or pinto beans
  • cooked brown rice
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • one onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 can of tomatoes (or 2 fresh, which would have been better)
  • some pepicha (not necessary, but we got it with our City Fresh share, so we thought we’d use it) or cilantro

1. Cook the rice according to directions. About 50 minutes. Or use leftover rice.

2. In a medium/large skillet, saute the onion in olive oil. Put 1/2 the onion in a bowl for salsa.

3. Make the salsa: mix sauteed onion, tomatoes, and cilantro or pepicha. Taste and adjust however you like.

4. Add the zucchini to the onions in the skillet and cook until soft. Heat the refried beans in a saucepan.

5. Spread beans on a plate. Top with rice, zucchini/onion mixture, and salsa. Enjoy!

Mmm…. eat it with tortilla chips. We like unsalted Garden Fresh Gourmet.

Recipe Friday: Toast

Upcoming recipe Friday (a whole week away!)

Toast with onions, greens, avocado, sprouts

Last year, I was really into caramelized onions. And I’m always looking for ways to eat more greens. So, I made this toast for lunch or a quick afternoon snack. You can alter it however you want. The first recipe had caramelized onions with wilted kale on toast. The one pictured has a little more variety:

  • 2 pieces of toast
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 beet green leaves (or whatever green you have)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • lentil sprouts

1. Sprout lentils. (basically, you rinse and drain them twice a day for 3-4 days)

2. Saute the onion for about 20 minutes, until it’s caramelized. Add the greens just so they wilt a little.

3. Spread avocado on your toast. Top it with the greens, onion, and sprouts. Enjoy!

More about sprouts

What do you like on toast?

Recipe Friday: Chocolate Cherry Shake

Recipe Friday sneak peek

A fun way to get your spinach is to hide it in a shake! Here’s my favorite:

Chocolate Cherry Shake

3-4 spinach leaves
8 cherries
1/2 banana (or not)
1 1/2 cup of chocolate almond milk

Blend it in a blender. Pour over ice and enjoy. You won’t even taste the spinach.

You could add some flax or hemp seeds for even more power.

The “dark chocolate” almond milk made by Silk is amazing. Seriously. I make hot cocoa with it and it takes like it has marshmallows. Yum yum yum.

Don’t miss

4 ways to pit a cherry

Recipe Friday: Ice cream!

Making your own vegetarian  or vegan ice cream is so easy!

To make delicious, healthy, cheap ice cream, peel some bananas and freeze them. The next day, mash them up with a fork and you’ve got ice cream. Don’t knock it till you try it… it’s soooo gooood!!!

P.S. Add cocoa powder or carob for homemade chocolate ice cream. Mmmmm…. with strawberries on top. Ok. I gotta go. I’m getting hungry.

Update: Make your own ice cream bars. I bet you could make banana ice cream and top it with chocolate (instead of dipping it in chocolate, which might be tricky).

Recipe Friday: Impromptu Pesto

Upcoming Recipe Friday

Impromptu Pesto: carrot greens, basil, spinach

We recently switched from baby carrots to whole carrots and at Krieger, they sell them with the greens on top. Whenever they sell the veggies with the greens on top (beets, radishes, etc), I kinda figure the greens are edible. Sure enough, I looked online and found plenty of recipes for carrot greens. Then, …

On Sunday night, we wanted some pesto, but we didn’t have a lot of basil. We did have spinach and carrot tops. So, we altered this recipe a little. We toasted some pine nuts and sautéed the garlic cloves (I don’t like the strong garlicy taste, so I sauté the garlic just a little to calm it down). Then, we added 2 cups of greens – basil, carrot tops, and spinach – to the food processor. A little olive oil … a pinch of salt … Tada ~ Pesto!

This pesto is so yummy! The basil flavor really carries through, and the carrot tops add just a little “green” flavor, but not too much. Next time you have a craving for pesto, find some greens and improvise.

Recipe Friday: *easy* vegetable broth

make broth

Save those scraps

I usually make rice with water instead of broth (just in case I want to make rice pudding – yum!), but some recipes really are tastier with vegetable broth. I resist adding broth to my grocery list because it’s so expensive, and who knows what’s really in there. So, we’ve tried to make our own. We tried keeping a pot on the stove to throw our weekly vegetable cuttings into, but it got a little funky and we ended up composting those veggies and having soup without the broth. Then, the aha! moment… freeze the vegetable cuttings!

Here’s how it works…

As you cut your veggies and peel your carrots, or whenever you find some not-so-fresh but not-quite-bad celery in your fridge, throw the scraps into a freezer-safe container. Then, the next time you cut veggies, get the container out of the freezer and add more veggies. By the end of the week, you have enough scraps to make a great broth.

Recipe

Throw the frozen veggies into the bottom of a stock pot (this is why it’s called a stock pot) and cover it with water. I think I use about 2-3 cups of frozen veggies and 6-8 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. I usually add some seaweed or dried mushrooms and maybe some soy sauce, if it needs more flavor. Then, strain it into another pot and toss the soggy veggies into the compost. You can even freeze the broth if you don’t use it all!

What vegetables to use

  • Onion – keep the top layer or two for your stock
  • Carrot – save the peels, or throw 2-3 baby carrots in the stock
  • Herbs
  • Garlic – when you cut off the ends, throw them in the container for stock
  • Mushroom stems
  • Any other shavings (potato, turnip, parsnip)
  • Celery

What not to use

  • Broccoli, cauliflower
  • Leafy greens
  • Beets (unless you want to be funny and make red pasta)

Enjoy!

My spring garden

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Tomatoes, basil, and rosemary, oh my!

We have had unusually cold and wet weather from, oh, about October through last Saturday, so when the skies cleared up and we got a peek at the sun, I knew just what to do… plant gardens! I usually start seeds for herbs and tomatoes indoors, but for a variety of reasons, I didn’t do that this year. So, we bought some little basil, rosemary, and tomato plants for our front porch garden. I’ll try to get a picture towards the end of the season, so you can see how they turn out.

It’s a small garden, but it’s fun. Maybe someday we’ll branch out to cucumbers and green beans.

How does your garden grow?