Sunday, February 23, 2014

Penne with Lemony Greens

Hey, everyone! Today is the last post about getting your greens, so I want to make sure I give you a really good recipe and some really good tips about keeping greens in your diet. Today's recipe serves one to two, so it's perfect when you're home alone and you can only use what you have to make dinner. 

Keeping greens in your diet can be a big challenge. My parents struggle with it a lot for sure. It's not the fact that we dislike greens (we LOVE them!), but it's that we just don't know exactly how to use them. Green smoothies are always a great option, but what else can you do? Cooking with vegetables generally takes at least a little bit of effort, so using your greens can be daunting.

So what do you do? First of all, you need to actually have a variety of green veggies in your fridge. Kale, spinach and lettuce are the most common, and should probably always be in your fridge. Lettuce is great for salads, sandwiches, wraps, cold dishes, lettuce wraps, and more. Kale and spinach work for all of the previously listed items, plus I like them in a stir-fry, soup, pasta dish, pesto sauce, green smoothies, and more. Then, think about how you're going to use the veggies you have. Pick a different method every time; it inspires you to keep using your greens, keeps things interesting, and gives you some creativity. For example, I made Penne with Lemony Greens (recipe below) a few days ago, and then made a pesto with kale and mint the next day. My kale was useful for both of those dishes, and since it had a different use for each dish, I didn't get tired of it at all! 

Look at what you have and how it can make a dish. Remember that you can do any combination of spices to mimic flavors from around the world. Try to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some basic staples, like spices, whole-wheat pasta, whole grains, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemons, nuts, cans of beans, and more. Combine those simple ingredients with some of your greens and your special spices to create an amazing dish! Honestly, some of my best dishes have been created on use-what-you-have days. You just add as you go. It's a very free style of cooking that may take some practice, but you'll get the hang of it!

Want an example? Let's say you have a can of white beans, some kale, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, and other sorts of simple staples in your house. You have NO IDEA what to do with it. My suggestion would be to turn it into a soup! Saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the spices and the beans, then pour in some vegetable/chicken broth. Simmer it for awhile and then add the kale until it wilts. If you so desire, you could add pasta or rice to this too. It's super easy, and the only ingredient that isn't in your food supply every day was the kale. You could also turn this into a pasta sauce (take out the broth). 

Onto the recipe. I came up with this recipe a few nights ago when I was told to fend for myself for dinner. My dad was eating leftovers that were about to go bad, and since they only served one, I had to get creative. We have a ton of green veggies sitting and rotting in our fridge (like kale, chard, broccolini, broccoli, spring mix and heads of lettuce), so I knew I had to make use of what I could salvage. The night before, my dad brought home some mint for me so I could make a Mediterranean dish. How was I going to use the mint and all my green veggies? I solved my problem with this recipe. This was made with things I just happened to have at home, but you may not happen to have them at your house, and that's okay. Every fridge is different. Remember that you can always substitute the ingredients. Use whatever leafy green veggie you like, and supplement any other veggie for the broccolini if you don't have any. Broccoli works too, as do green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, or whatever else you like. You can use basil or parsley instead of mint, or omit the herbs completely. It's all up to you! That's the great thing about cooking. It's an expression of who you are and what you like. The recipe is just a framework for you to cook around, so be creative! 

Penne with Lemony Greens 
Serves 1 - 2 (I ate all of it, but it's a BIG serving!) 

3 oz whole-wheat penne pasta 
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 - 4 large leaves of kale 
1 cup broccolini/broccoli florets
1/2 of a small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 extra-small lemon 
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint 
Salt and pepper, to taste
(Optional) A couple tablespoons of pine nuts (for garnish) 

1. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package (until al dente). Drain in a colander and briefly rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Add it back to the pot. Cover the pot and set it aside on the stove.

2. While the water is boiling, wash the leaves of kale. Using a large knife, remove the thick areas of the stem. Chop the kale as finely or coarsely as you like. I prefer mine on the smaller side. 

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Stir well and let sit until they start to brown slightly. DO NOT TOUCH THEM: this is very important in making them semi-caramelized! Add the garbanzo beans, kale, broccolini/broccoli, salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let steam for about three to five minutes, until the kale and broccolini/broccoli are a vibrant, dark green. Taste-test a veggie if you're unsure. Quickly add the lemon juice and stir well. Remove from heat. 

4. Combine the sauteed veggies with the cooked pasta in the pot. Add the feta and mint and mix well. To serve, if desired, sprinkle with pine nuts. 

There you go! I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you can make a variation of it when you're home alone with nothing to eat. You could also double/triple it and serve it to your family on a weeknight. It may seem like it takes awhile, but if you prep and saute the veggies while the pasta is cooking, you can get it done in 20 - 30 minutes. It only took me about 25 minutes to create this off the top of my head. If you try this out, please share it with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #teenscancooktoo. Make sure you're keeping track of Teens Can Cook, Too by following us on all the social media sites below: 

Twitter: (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: (@teenscancooktoo)


Also, on the Instagram page, I will be asking followers to vote for the theme next month. Please log in and vote for the theme. I want to make sure you guys are seeing what you want to see so I can help you on your journey to being healthier!

Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Personalized Caesar Salad

Hey everyone! Sorry this post is late - I was sick for the majority of the weekend, so I didn't have time to cook until last night and write this post until today. Nevertheless, I'm back with another way to make getting greens easier.

One of the most common ways to get greens is through salads, and one of the most popular salads is a Caesar salad. Caesar salads are not the best health-wise - the calories in the dressing are pretty high, and it's traditionally served with a light-green romaine lettuce. Don't get me wrong, romaine is healthy, but the kind you usually see in a Caesar salad is a light green, which has far fewer phytonutrients than a darker lettuce. I have redesigned the dressing to be much more nutritious and added much healthier veggies into the mix to give this classic a healthy boost. The more veggies you add, the more types of vitamins you'll get, which is why I recommend you turn this into a big family salad. Choose from any veggies you want and add them with some nutritious greens. The best part is that you can make this salad multiple nights in a row with a different combination of veggies while using up all of the dressing, so it's a different experience every night. 

Personalized Caesar Salad
Serves 8 - 10 

6 cups leafy greens of your choice
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Spinach
  • Spring mix
  • Arugula
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Watercress
3 cups diced veggies of your choice
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes (leave them whole or halve them)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Bell peppers (any color) 
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
For dressing:
1 lb (1 average package) of silken tofu
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 large lemon
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tsp high-quality Worcestershire sauce 
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

*You may use more than one leafy green veggie! Combine kale and chard for a super green salad, or lettuce and spring mix for something a little more classic. I used spring mix, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in my salad, but I threw mine together in about five minutes, so I didn't have the time to add a bunch of other veggies. Do whatever you want and have the time for. 

1. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor, blender or Vita-Mix. Blend on a high speed for about one minute, or until the contents reach a smooth and thin consistency. If you want your dressing thinner, add a little bit of water. Adjust the seasonings and set aside. 

2. Combine all of the greens and veggies you chose in a large serving bowl. Mix well. Pour the dressing over the top and serve immediately. If you so choose, you could add a wedge of lemon to each serving for each person to squeeze over their salad.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! I served it to a bunch of my friends the other day, and they approved, so you will too. They said it tasted exactly like caesar dressing, and they couldn't believe that I made it out of tofu! It's a much better choice than store-bought dressing. I HATE store-bought dressing. Hate it, hate it, HATE IT. I'll make my own dressing any day, and I'm so glad I have another homemade dressing recipe in my arsenal so I can avoid store-bought dressings. 

Please make sure you're keeping up with Teens Can Cook, Too on all of the social media sites below:

Twitter: (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: (@teenscancooktoo)

Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Edamame Super-green Salad

Hey, everyone! This is Madeline again. Today I have an amazing recipe for you that is both super healthy and super delicious! As you've probably read already, the theme for this month's blog posts is getting your greens.

Why is eating greens important? You all hear your parents tell you to eat your vegetables because they're healthy, but did you ever wonder why? The reason why we need veggies is because they're packed with phytonutrients. Those phytonutrients are the vitamins and minerals we need to function properly. Most of us are deprived of those vitamins and minerals, unfortunately, because we don't get enough vegetables. The darker the shade of any color of produce, the more phytonutrients it contains, so shop for the darkest veggies you can find in the stores. 

There has been a system created to rank the nutritional value of many different foods. This system is called the ANDI scores, and it ranks foods on a scale of 0 - 1000 (1000 being the healthiest). Leafy greens have the highest scores by far, but you need to remember to eat all the colors you can get. Also, even if a nut or seed has a much lower score than kale, that doesn't mean it's unhealthy! You need a balance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, good fats, protein, and grains every day. Take a look at this link to see what the ANDI scores of your favorite foods are: 

Onto the recipe! This has to be one of my favorite recipes that I've made in awhile. It only takes about half an hour to prepare, and it's super versatile. You can have it as a side dish, a main dish (recommended), take it in your lunchbox for school, serve it at a large dinner with friends, or bring it on a picnic. I use a wide variety of my favorite greens, from kale to cucumber, but you can always substitute the veggies with lower ANDI scores for veggies of a different color. Do whatever you like; food should be fun, so personalize it!
Edamame Super-green Salad
Serves 7 - 8

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
1 (12 oz) package frozen edamame (shelled) 
3 - 4 large leaves rainbow chard, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 - 4 large leaves kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, diced
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 medium-sized English cucumber, peeled and diced
1/3 cup sesame oil
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce 
1 tbsp Braggs liquid aminos* (optional)
Pepper, to taste

*If you don't have liquid aminos, then you can substitute with more soy sauce or fish sauce. Just be mindful of the sodium content! 

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the quinoa and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 15 - 17 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

2. Combine the rainbow chard, kale, bell pepper, avocado, green onions and cucumber in a large serving bowl. Add the cooked quinoa and mix well.

3. Rinse the saucepan used for the quinoa thoroughly. Fill it with a large quantity of salted water and bring the water to a boil. Add the frozen edamame and cook according to the directions on the package (mine said to wait for reboil and then cook for five minutes). Remove from heat and drain in a colander. 

4. Add the edamame, sesame oil, soy sauce, liquid aminos, and pepper to the serving bowl and mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasonings if needed and serve. 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Please share this with all your friends and follow Teens Can Cook, Too at all the social media profiles listed below: 

Twitter: (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: (@teenscancooktoo)


One more thing: I have an Instagram contest going on! If you have an Instagram page related to food, nutrition, health, fitness, vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, or something along those lines, you are eligible to enter my contest! Find a recipe on here that is made with a green vegetable, recreate it, and share your recreation using #teenscancooktoo (tag me as well). Those who enter will be recognized on my account AND I will promote your page on this blog! I'd love to get you all more involved, so I thought this would be a fun way to do it. You have until the end of the month.

Thanks, and stay healthy!

- Madeline

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Green Smoothie

Hey everyone! This is Isaac, one of the team members. This month, the theme on the blog is getting your greens. 

One of the most important aspects of any person’s diet is vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all three of which come from daily consumption of greens. I'll admit, I'm not always in the mood for a salad or stir-fried veggies. Sometimes I just want something that's less work, or simply something different. There are entire books written on sneaking vegetables into foods that don't taste like those vegetables. Most however require lots of prep work, and aren't always practical for a quick meal. That's where this recipe, which seamlessly integrates servings of vegetables into a delicious and timeless smoothie, comes into play:

1 Banana
1 Cup Blueberries
1/2-1 Cup Milk or yogurt (purposefully vague, I used coconut milk for an allergy, but it can be anything in this category)*
1/2 Avocado
Half of 1 Small Lemon squeezed 3/4 of the way or to taste
1 1/2 Cups Kale (Compressed for measurement)**

*Use less milk if the fruit is frozen for thickness (Ex: 0 frozen fruits: 1/2 cup milk, 1 Frozen fruit: 3/4 cup milk, 2 frozen: 1 cup milk)
**This was pretty much 3 hand-fulls torn off a large bunch of kale

An easy mistake to make with green smoothies is making them too heavy with all of the greens, which also cuts some of the tartness that makes smoothies so good, and is why people avoid greens in smoothies. That's the reason for the lemon; it brings out the flavor of the blueberries which gets lost with the kale.

The reason for avocado is that it gives the smoothie a nice creaminess, and filling quality with some natural fats and protein, without adding a lot of water.
The reason behind kale is that its the highest nutritional value of any green, it is absolutely packed with vitamins, minerals, and great natural fibers. For experimenting, kale is also the strongest in flavor of all of the greens, which comes from all of those minerals/vitamins. Make sure there are big flavors in the smoothie that you put it in.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Make sure you keep up with Teens Can Cook, Too on all the social media sites below:

Twitter: (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: (@teenscancooktoo)


Stay healthy!
- Isaac