Making Nutritious Delicious: Salad Dressings

When I was pregnant, one of my cravings was for Burger King’s grilled chicken caesar salad. There was something about the slices of parmesan cheese and that lemony caesar dressing that I wanted. Since I fought awful morning sickness my entire pregnancy, any time I had a reasonable craving, I tried hard to make sure I got it. I’d say that a salad is a pretty reasonable craving. When I ordered the salad at our local Burger King, they always gave me two packets of the lemon caesar dressing. Two! For about 1.5 cups of romaine lettuce. It always shocked me. But then, I suppose, it really shouldn’t.

As someone who researches food and how we choose, prepare and eat food through the lense of nutrition, I spend a lot of time observing how people eat. At an all-you-can-eat salad bar restaurant, I like to sit near the salad bar and observe the choices that people make. And what I’ve learned over the years is that we use salad as a vehicle for salad dressing and that’s a problem.

But look, this post isn’t about why you shouldn’t use salad dressing. I WANT you to use salad dressing. Why? Vitamins A, D, K and E are fat soluble vitamins. In order for your body to use them, they have to attach themselves to a fat molecule. In general, it doesn’t take a lot of fat, but it does take some. You also don’t have to eat a fat with a food containing these vitamins in order for your body to get what it needs, BUT it really doesn’t hurt the process either. PLUS I want you to remember that fat is not bad. Too much fat is the problem, but then too much Vitamin A is a problem too. We’re not made to take in any nutrient in excess, right?

But fat-soluble vitamin absorption isn’t the only reason why I want you to use salad dressings. I want you to think that vegetables taste good on their own because they do. But I also know that vegetables can taste even MORE delicious when we add salt, fat and other flavorings. Salad dressing is a flavor enhancer. And that’s cool!

Don’t stop using salad dressing. Instead, do these two thing instead:

  1. Limit salad dressing use to just 2 tablespoons.
  2. Make your own salad dressings.

Rule #1 should be pretty self-explanatory. If you’re eating 2 cups of greens (which equals one 1 cup serving of vegetables because leafy greens are pretty full of water), you don’t need a 1/4 cup of dressing. You don’t need a 1/2 cup of dressing. You don’t need to coat every green thing in a fat-laden white sauce. You just don’t. You want to ENHANCE the flavor of the vegetables, not mask the flavor of the vegetables. Two tablespoons. Trust me, it’s plenty!

Are somewhat concerned about Rule #2? Does the thought of whipping together a salad dressing strike fear (however mild) into your heart? If so, don’t fret. It’s really much easier than it seems and then you get to miss the nutritional nightmares that line your local grocery store’s shelves. The original versions of Ranch, Caesar, Italian, Blue Cheese, French, Thousand Island and all of the myriad permutations that require the better part of 1/2 to 3/4 of an aisle are gut-busting, fat-laden, nutritionally empty options. “But,” you cry, “I only buy the healthy versions.” Au contraire, dear friend, you’re not. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got in our bottles:

  1. Low-fat or Fat-free: the fat has been replaced by sugar to fix the taste issue and starches to address the mouthfeel.
  2. Low-calorie: Fat has been replaced by artificial sweeteners to fix the taste and with starches to address the mouthfeel.

Fake sugars? Starch? Blech? You can make your own salad dressing that tastes good and doesn’t break the nutritional bank. It’s easy. And there is no REAL recipe. It’s a ratio:

Salad Dressing.png

1 part acid. That means ANY acid. Vinegar, juice, wine, beer…the world is your oyster. You can even use purees of fresh fruit! Use ANY acid.

3 parts fat. Use ANY fat. Olive oil? Yup. Canola oil? Sure. Grapeseed oil? Uh-huh. Coconut oil? Why not? Bacon fat? Yum! Pick your fat. Any fat.And then apply the ratio.

So if you were going to make 1 cup of salad dressing, you would take 1/4 cup of acid and whisk in 3/4 cup of fat. It’s seriously that easy. Then you can add whatever seasoning that strikes your fancy. Fresh herbs? Salt and Pepper? Dried Herbs? Garlic? What sounds good to you? Make it happen. You can literally do ANYTHING! You can also add a small amount of sugar. Sugar can come in the form of granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, or whatever other sweetness you desire. Try not to use more than 1 teaspoon per cup of dressing. 1 teaspoon of sugar provides 16 calories. 1 teaspoon of honey will run you 21 calories. Both become negligible in over 8 servings per cup.

As long as you used an vegetarian-based oil (so not, say, bacon fat), you’ll be looking at a dressing that is anywhere from 180-210 calories per 2 tablespoons. The range will depend on what acid you use. Orange juice will have a different calorie impact that

“But I like Ranch,” you say. Me too. Especially on pizza. But the one thing I hate more than anything else? Fat-free Ranch. Blech! So here’s what I do…this is my secret lifehack:

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch packet
1 pint fat-free sour cream (make sure that it’s made from skim milk and isn’t low-fat because it has a bunch of other crap in it).

Voila! Ranch dressing with about 30 calories per two tablespoons! And it tastes like ranch! If it’s a little thick, thin it out with a bit of water, buttermilk, lemon juice, kefir, etc.

You can use the same hack for Blue Cheese. Buy blue cheese crumbles, add to fat free yogurt (regular or Greek) or fat free sour cream. Thin with a bit of lemon juice. Add salt to taste.

Thousand Island? This one requires a few more ingredients, but take 1 pint of yogurt or sour cream, add 4 tablespoons of ketchup, 1 finely chopped egg, 1 tablespoon of sweet pickle relish OR 1 tablespoon of dill pickle relish, 1/2 onion that’s been finely minced, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.

It’s seriously that easy to make your own awesome dressing that contains less fat, fewer calories, less sodium and usually less sugar. That’s HUGE.

Eat your salad. Enjoy your salad dressing. Stick to 2 tablespoons per 2 cups of greens and make your own as much as possible.

 

 

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All Forms Count But What’s in Your Drink?

Delicious, delicious, delicious fruit. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: apples, pineapples, berries of all types, grapes, kiwi, kumquats, mandarins, Uniq fruit, pears…I could go on.

Fruit is delicious. And, of course, it’s super nutritious. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” goes the old adage. And hey, this this study says that women who ate more fruit during pregnancy had babies with enhanced cognitive development at 1 year (err…their babies were “smarter”).

But as Americans, we’re not eating enough fruit. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating enough fruit.

So what is enough fruit?

Kids 2-3                  1 cup
Kids 4-8                 1.5 cups
Girls 9-18              1.5 cups
Boys 9-13              1.5 cups
Boys 14-18           2 cups
Women 19-30     2 cups
Women 31-50+   1.5 cups
Men 19+               2 cups

That’s 1.5-2 cups of fruit every day. And 1 in 10 Americans just aren’t getting that. To make things easier, MyPlate tells us that ALL forms count. If it’s fresh, canned, frozen, dried or juice it counts toward your overall fruit total for the day. And, hey, that makes it easier. And as Americans, we really like easy.

We like easy so much that about 1/3 of the fruit we consume is in juice form. Produce for Better Health Foundation’s 2015 State of the Platfound that the number one consumed fruit in the US is orange juice. 47% of the fruit that children ages 1-3 consume is juice. We’re doing a bang-up job getting in our juice, but juice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It may be time to rethink our drink.

Rethink Your Drink-Today, we picked up lunch by running through a drive-thru. It’s getting much easier to find more nutrient-dense options at fast food outlets these days and for that I am immensely grateful, especially when we’re running short on time. My order was easy, but the kiddo’s order was not. Especially perplexing were the drink choices: fountain soda, milk or apple juice. Since he’s not drinking milk yet, I went ahead and chose the apple juice. Upon returning home, I was confronted by this:

aPPLE juice graphic

It’s 100% fruit juice which is what juice SHOULD be if you want it to count toward your daily fruit totals. This pouch is 6 ounces of 100% apple juice. In that six ounces, you have 20 grams of sugar. Apples are pretty sweet so that’s not surprising. What IS surprising is that this juice is not a significant source of…well…anything except for sugar. Apple

Apples help keep the doctor away, right? Let’s look at how they do that. On the right is the nutrition label for one medium (3″ diameter) apple.

You’ll notice that this medium apple is a pretty good source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber, but it’s also got potassium and some Vitamin A, as well as a host of other nutrients on the extended nutrient label. Of course, the fiber is what REALLY keeps the doctor away because fiber acts like nature’s scrub brush…scrubbing your intestines AND helping to keep your blood vessels scrubbed too so cholesterol can’t build up. That’s why foods like Cheerios are heart-healthy. It’s not because they’re some magic food…it’s because they’re full of fiber. Just like an apple. Fiber may be the quarterback of this old saying, but Vitamin C is no bench warmer. Vitamin C certainly helps support a healthy immune system which is a definite plus if you want to minimize your trips to the doctor.

But when we juice that really awesome apple, we strip away the fiber, the Vitamin C and all of those other super awesome nutrients and all we are left with is 20 grams of sugar in 6 ounces of juice. That’s five teaspoons of sugar. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that we limit ADDED sugar to no more than 10% of our total caloric intake. In this case, the sugar isn’t added, but it’s 25% of the total calories. I’d argue maybe that when you strip everything else away and all you’re left with is sugar, there’s not a whole lot of difference between sugar and added sugar. 

But let’s have a little perspective. Here’s how much sugar 12 ounces of these popular sodas contain:

Sprite                          38 grams
Coke Classic             39 grams
Mountain Dew        46 grams

12 ounces of 100% apple juice? It would have more sugar than a Coke. And the same lack of other nutrients. You should be appalled by that. Offering kids apple juice INSTEAD of a fountain drink feels like the “healthier” option. But it’s not.

So what about America’s favorite fruit, Orange Juice?

Orange comp

The orange fares better in juice form. But there is still a marked decrease in nutrition and, of course, you totally lose the fiber. The sugar content remains the same…it’s still five teaspoons. And five teaspoons of sugar without the backbone that fiber provides can cause blood sugar spikes that can lead to a host of issues even for a non-diabetic or pre-diabetic person.

So look, I’m NOT saying don’t drink juice. I AM saying that 1/3 of our fruit consumption shouldn’t be in the form of juice. Juice should be a rare treat. A once in a long while taste. And the juice that you choose matters. Apple juice? You might as well drink a Coke. Orange juice might be a better choice, but you should still rein in your juice-drinking habit.

All forms DO count. But not all forms SHOULD always count. Fresh, frozen, dried and canned (when canned in juice or water and NOT syrup) are clearly better options. They may not always be the easier option, but they are the more nutrient dense option.

So check your labels. If you think juice is the lesser of the drink evils, consider just choosing water or, at the very least, cutting your juice with water. Because juice is made from fruit, it has a health halo around it. But, clearly, from our apple juice experiment, we know that halo is not always well-deserved. You don’t have to stop drinking juice ever, just drink less juice. Make good choices by making wise choices: read labels, think critically.

 

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Making Nutritious Delicious: Cold Asian Noodle Salad with Tuna

So this is another one of those quick recipes that uses something a little odd (Korean Glass Noodles) and something a little convenient (frozen vegetables). It’s easy! It’s delicious! And it’s good for you! That’s the trifecta, friends!

As Americans, we need to eat more fish. This recipe uses tuna steaks which are a great source of Omega-3s. You can safely eat up to 6 ounces of tuna on a weekly basis, but if you’re pregnant you may want to choose a lower mercury fish like salmon or you can choose to use shrimp, scallops or even chicken in this dish. It’s your choice.

This recipe uses Korean Glass Noodles. This is an awesome ingredients that can be a little harder to find. Some grocers carry these noodles, but you can absolutely find them in your local specialty Asian grocer. The noodles have a springy texture and are made using sweet potato starch. That doesn’t make them “healthy” but it does make them fun! Kids may be intrigued by them. Alternatively, you could use kelp noodles, rice noodles, lo mein noodles or even spaghetti in a pinch.

For the veg in this recipe, we like Bird’s Eye Asian Medley because it has baby corn, snap peas, carrots and broccoli in it. But you can use any frozen vegetable medley that you prefer. There’s a lot of leeway here to make this your own.

A brief word about gochujang: this is a Korean chili paste. It’s delicious. And not just in this dish. We use it to add flavor and depth to a whole host of dishes…anywhere you want some subtle heat. It lasts for a long time in the refrigerator so consider it an investment in delicious meals.

This recipe is a low-calorie meal. It’s high in protein, dietary fiber and is a good source of Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Iron

Cold Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Tuna

1 pound tuna steaks (cut into 2-2.5 ounce medallions)Cold Asian Noodle Salad with Tuna - Nutrition Label
1 package (12 ounces) Korean Glass Noodles
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon Ponzu
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 packages Bird’s Eye Asian Medley frozen vegetables, cooked according to package
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

For the Tuna:
1) Marinate the tuna steaks in a little lime juice and soy sauce for at least thirty minutes.
2) Remove steaks from marinade and preheat your grill.
3) Place steaks on grill and cook until medium (145 F).
4) Remove from grill and allow to cool while you prepare the salad.

For the Noodles:
1) Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
2) Put noodles in water and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the noodle texture is springy and no longer crunchy.
3) Drain noodles and rinse under cool running water until the noodles are cold. Set aside.

For the Salad Dressing:
1) In a small bowl, combine oil, ponzu, oyster sauce, gochujang, garlic, lime juice and ginger.
2) Stir until well combined.

For the Salad:
1) Combine noodles, vegetables and sesame seeds with salad dressing and toss to combine.
2) Portion out the noodles and vegetables and top with two tuna steaks.

Options:
-Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the dressing for a sweeter taste.
-Instead of oyster sauce, use teriyaki or another sauce.

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When the days are long…


It started with a smack to the face at 5 AM. The baby was clearly annoyed that I wasn’t awake yet. And, really, I’m pretty sure that it just went downhill from there. 

Have you ever dealt with a 14 month old who is frustrated by his big emotions, is stubbornly independent and is also hopelessly clingy, is slooooooowly getting his molars and….there is an and…refuses to nap for more than 30 minutes? If you answer yes, you’re probably a parent. 

Chasing around a mobile toddler who has no sense of danger is exhausting, back breaking work. Doing it on less than adequate sleep is like pulling an all-nighter in college and then taking a huge exam after running a marathon. That’s hyperbole. But also true. 

As we carried the sleeping hellion…err, baby…up to bed, I said to my husband, “I think this is the most tired that I’ve been since I gave birth to him.” Also probably hyperbole. But in recent memory, it seemed true. 

Maybe it’s the whining. It’s pretty much constant right now. Keegan knows what he wants. But he can’t verbalize it. So he whines. When he gets frustrated, he winds up his pitching arm and launches whatever is closest to him across the room. Someday that arm might play in the major leagues. For now, it slings a fork laden with King Ranch Chicken Casserole across the carpeted dining room. It doesn’t help that he’s teething and that pain makes him irritable and crotchety. Like the old man whose body is riddled with arthritis who refuses to give the kids back their “damn balls” when they errantly cross his property line. Erupting molars are causing epic levels of grouchy curmudgeoness in my sweet baby. And boy, does that ever make the day seem impossibly long. 

As I was driving down the road to deliver something to a friend this evening, I realized that I really probably should not have been driving at all. It’s a DWIS: Driving While Insanely Sleepy. It’s also known as parenting. But while my husband took the kiddo on a run, I enjoyed the absolute peace of the car. Free of whining. Free of screaming. Free of the Velcro effect of a clingy baby. It was glorious. As I sat at the stop light considering the incredibly absent state of my brain, I realized how impossibly long the day had felt. How overwhelming it had been. How it had used up every last ounce of energy that I had to give. I was exhausted. 

That exhaustion is hard. It’s even harder knowing that tomorrow may be just as bad. And maybe even the next day. And who knows how many days after that. These molars are killer, friends. They’re just below the surface. I felt them in the quick second it took before Keegan decided to chomp down on my finger. But  here’s the thing: one day, they’ll come through. And one day, this grouchy curmudgeon will be replaced by the awesome little kid that we all know and love. 

This too will pass. It really will. And when it does, the second half of the cliche will be even more true. The days are long. But those years? The years are short. Today was tough. Excruciating. But it’s just one day out of so many. 

Are you having a tough day? Sleep “regression”getting you down? Colic rocking your world? Teething? Teenage angst? This too will pass.

Keegan finally fell asleep at 10 PM tonight. I don’t know how he did it. I didn’t last the day without caffeine and I was ready for bed at, well, an embarrassingly early hour.  He was curled up into me, one hand in his hair, the other hand on my chest. He looked so angelic. Like a little doll. This beautiful child of mine that gave me such a run of it today was, as he gently slept, reminding me why I had fallen so madly in love with this tow-headed little baby. 

Truthfully, I can’t wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we get to try again. We get to blow bubbles, look for worms, listen for birds and eat strawberries. We may run into that crotchety old man too. But he’s a fleeting character in our lives. Because this will pass. Tomorrow or the next day might seem long, but the years will only ever grow shorter. 

May you find hope in that to push on. Parenting is difficult. Be kind to yourself and to each other. 

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Making Nutritious Delicious: Pad Thai Salad

Some evenings, turning on the oven seems like a massive chore. That’s why we have delicious recipes that are easy to fix and require minimal cooking. This one is a family favorite and you can assemble it in just about 20 minutes. There are also a lot of shortcuts that you can take too by using pre-cut produce. Great food does not have to be complicated.

Pad Thai Noodle Salad

This is a vegetarian dish, but you should feel free to add chicken, shrimp, pork or any other protein that interests you. It’s extremely versatile. The only “fancy” ingredient that we use here are the pancit noodles. If you can’t find them in your grocery stores “asian” section, you could use chow mein noodles, lo mein noodles, soba or udon. In a pinch, you could even use spaghetti noodles. Just be sure to cook them according to the package directions.

This IS a higher sodium dish. To lower the sodium impact, you can use a low-sodium soy sauce, a no salt added peanut butter or cut the amount of soy sauce used in the recipe by half. It is, however, a GREAT source of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron and other vitamins and minerals. It’s also a good source of fiber. Want to up the fiber ante for this recipe? Use whole-wheat spaghetti noodles. It’s also not a low-fat dish. The majority of the fat here is coming from the peanut butter and, well, you know the drill…peanut butter also has lots of good stuff in it too which makes the fat calories more than an “empty” calories. We do use some sugar in this recipe to help off-set the bitterness of the lime juice. You could omit it, but you’ll only save a measly 16 calories per serving so it’s really not that big of a deal here. Remember, we want recipes that are nutritious AND delicious! And moderation helps.

Pad Thai Noodle SaladPad Thai Noodle Salad - Nutrition Label

Yields 6 1.5 cup servings

For the salad:
1/4 head of cabbage, thinly sliced OR 2 packages of cole slaw mix
3 medium carrots, julienned OR 1 package of pre-cut matchstick carrots
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 package (8 oz) pancit noodles, cooked and drained
1 package (14 oz) extra firm tofu. diced

For the dressing:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce

  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage and carrots.
  2. Pour soy sauce and lime juice over cabbage mixture and, using your hands, vigorously massage the juice and soy sauce into the cabbage and carrots. Let sit.
  3. Make the dressing by combine all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mixing until the dressing is smooth.
  4. Add the green onions and pancit noodles to the cabbage mixture.
  5. Pour the dressing over the noodles and gently toss until the dressing thoroughly coats all of the ingredients.
  6. Add the diced tofu to and gently toss the salad.
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate until service.

Options:
-Top with thinly sliced green onions and crushed peanuts.
-Finely mince 1 bunch of cilantro and add to the salad before adding the dressing.
-Add 1 head of chiffonaded romaine lettuce to the salad before adding the dressing.

 

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Making Nutritious Delicious: Khoresh Fesenjan

khoresh fesenjan

I love Persian food. There’s something really incredible about the combination of flavors that tastes like home to me. One of my favorite meals is Khoresh Fesenjan. It’s a chicken stew that is thickened with walnuts and made into this deeply complex dish with the addition of pomegranate molasses. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out. And the best part? It’s insanely easy to make!

This recipe is going to ask you to go outside of your comfort zone. The ingredients are a little bit different. You can find the pomegranate molasses in most Asian grocery stores or you can even order it on Amazon (where it’s expensive). We’ve actually found it in normal grocery stores in the “Asian” section and sometimes the “Kosher” section. Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you don’t use it in more delicious dishes.

Once again, this is NOT a low-fat or a low-calorie dish. It’s just not. It’s chock full of nuts. But I want you to get out of the habit of thinking nutritious meals are only low-fat, low-calorie foods. They’re not. As a fact, Haribo Gummi Bears are fat-free, but I wouldn’t suggest that they’re a prime example of a good nutrition, would you? So don’t let the calories or fat on this dish shock you. Instead look at what ELSE you are getting with all of those calories. This dish is an excellent source of fiber and protein and it’s also a good source of Vitamin C and Iron. It’s low in cholesterol and low in sodium too so it’s a heart-healthy dish. And look at those trace elements. Manganese, Selenium, Copper, Magnesium! When we’re looking at a high-fat, high-calorie dish, this is what we want to see. We want to see that if a food is calorie-dense then it’s also nutrient-dense. And is this stew ever nutrient-dense!

You can make this dish in the oven, crockpot or Instant Pot so it’s versatile. I’ve include
d directions for each cooking method. I’ve also used pecans instead of walnuts because we use them more and often have them on hand. I’ve also added eggplant to this dish, but you really could add any vegetables that you have on hand. One recipe online suggests adding butternut squash…yum!

Give this a try. It’s a little different, but it’s really, really delicious.

Khoresh Fesenjan (variation)

Yields: 6 1-cup servingsKhoresh Fesenjan - Nutrition Label

2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, diced
3 chicken breasts, diced
1 cup pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon safflower flowers (or 1/2 teaspoon saffron)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground orange peel (or 2 teaspoons grated orange zest)
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. On an ungreased baking sheet, arrange pecans in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. When pecans are cool, place in a zip-loc bag and crush or use a food processor to accomplish the same. Set aside.
4. In a saute pan or Instant Pot, heat oil. When hot, add onions and saute until lightly caramelized.
5. Place onions and all remaining ingredients into a deep casserole dish OR into a Crockpot OR Instant Pot. Stir to combine.
6. Cover and place casserole dish into oven and stew for 2-3 hours or until chicken is tender OR cover and set Crockpot to high and cook for 4-6 hours until chicken is tender OR set Instant Pot to Meat/Stew setting and cook under pressure for 35 minutes.
7. Serve hot over rice, quinoa or farro.

Option:
– Top with fresh pomegranate arils for a bright pop of color and flavor.

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Making Nutritious Delicious: Vegetarian Curry

We love curries in this house. We especially love that they can be made in the Crockpot for a no-fuss dinner on hectic nights when a home-cooked meal might otherwise be a pipe dream. We rely on our Crockpot on those nights and this is one of our Crockpot go-to recipes. It’s a family favorite, even the littlest one loves it.

Curries are great. Like many of our other recipes, you can load this recipe up with vegetables and make sure that you’re getting a rainbow in just one dish. We tend to focus on red/orange vegetables, green vegetables and that ubiquitous Other Vegetable category when we make this one. In this rendition, you’ll find acorn squash, potatoes, onions and spinach, but you could easily use pretty much anything else. Sweet potato? Sure. Carrots? You bet! Kale? Why not? The sky’s the limit and you should feel free to add whatever you fancy (or have in the pantry).

You’ll notice that we use extra-firm tofu in this recipe. Interestingly, some years ago, we realized that tofu could easily replace Indian paneer cheese in our favorite Saag Paneer dish. Since then, we toss it in with most of our curries, making them heart-healthy and meat-free! Try it and see what you think!

You’ll also notice there’s no picture here! We love curry, but it never photographs well.

Now let’s talk sauce for a moment. In this recipe, we’re using a specific brand of pre-made curry sauce. Don’t feel like you have to run out and buy this brand. Instead, use it as a jumping off point to try out some new flavors. If you don’t want to use a liquid sauce, you could also use a package of Vermont Curry or another similar brand. Additionally, you could just use yellow curry powder, but really, we ask, where’s the fun in that? If you do use a non-liquid sauce, you’ll need to add another can of coconut milk to make up for the liquid. It’ll change the nutritionals here, adding more fat and sugar, but you’ll still be enjoying a dish that’s high in all sorts of great things like protein, iron, fiber and Vitamin A.

This is a low-sodium dish. If you’re not used to low-sodium dishes, you may think that this needs more salt. Try to avoid adding any as you’re actually getting plenty.

Vegetarian CurryVegetarian Curry - Nutrition Label
Yields 5 2-cup servings

3 medium potatoes, cubed
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 acorn squash, cubed
1 block extra firm tofu, cubed
1 can coconut milk
1 jar Mr. Kooks Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
1 8 ounce package of fresh baby spinach

  1. Combine all ingredients except for spinach into Crockpot and stir to combine.
  2. Cover and turn Crockpot onto high and cook for approximately five hours.
  3. Add spinach and continue to cook for approximately 2 more hours.
  4. Serve hot over rice.

That’s as easy as it gets.

Options
-Instead of fresh spinach, use 4 ounces of frozen spinach.
-Instead of coconut milk, use 20 ounces of vegetable stock and stir fat-free greek yogurt in at the every end (don’t cook it very long or the yogurt will break).
-Instead of rice, serve this over farro, quinoa or wheat berries.

Other Vegetables That Taste Great in This Curry

Red/Orange
Butternut Squash
Pumpkin
Kabocha Squash
Carrots

Dark Green
Mustard Greens
Kale
Swiss Chard
Broccoli
Arugula

Beans/Peas/Legumes
Chickpeas
Kidney Beans

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