Low-Fat Guacamole

There has been an article making the rounds on the internet recently from L.A. Taco that caught my eye. The story reveals how some taco joints are serving a “faux guacamole” made from squash to cut down of overhead costs. While I’m sure many readers’ first reactions were abject horror, mine instead was curiosity. Intrigued, and with no evening plans to speak of, I hit up the local Mexican grocery store after work and purchased the necessary ingredients.

L.A. Taco’s original recipe includes a quarter cup of oil, an ingredient I usually try to avoid when cooking at home, so I chose to replace it with an avocado. I know, I know. The whole point of the recipe is to not have avocados, but I was more interested in the low-fat aspect of the recipe, not necessarily cutting out all the avocados.

The recipe ended up turning out beautiful, in both appearance and taste! Vibrant green, the flavors featured were bright cilantro, spicy jalapeño, and creamy avocado. It was like a rich version of salsa verde. The texture was thinner than traditional guacamole, but perfect for spooning over any sort of Tex-Mex dish imaginable.

When it comes to the healthiness of this dip, it’s a real winner in comparison to traditional guacamole. The entire recipe (which serves eight) contains 381 calories and 24g of fat, while the same amount of traditional guac would instead have a whopping 679 calories and 52g of fat. This is the perfect solution for anyone wanting to stick with a low-fat diet, but still enjoy that creamy guacamole taste and texture on their dishes.

Low-Fat Guacamole

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Mexican squash, ends trimmed and chopped*
  • 6 medium tomatillos, husked and quartered
  • 1 medium jalapeño, sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the squash and tomatillos and cover. Bring back to a boil and cook until squash is tender and tomatillos are dark green, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside.
  2. In a small pan over medium-high heat, add the jalapeño, onion, salt, and a splash of water. Continue to cook, adding water as needed to prevent sticking, until the pepper and onion is soft.
  3. In a food processor or large blender, add the boiled vegetables, sautéed vegetables, and remaining ingredients. If the ingredients are still very warm, be sure to remove your blender or food processor’s vent piece to ensure no pressure is built up. Blend the ingredients together, scraping the sides down occasionally, until a smooth texture is achieved.
  4. Pour into a serving container and allow to cool. This recipe can be served room temperature or cold and I recommend dolloping it on top of tacos, salads, or sandwiches.

Recipe Notes:

  • Mexican squash (also known as calabacitas) can be found in your local Mexican grocery store and are similar in appearance to a short zucchini.

Nutrition per serving (1/8 recipe):
Calories: 48 Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 0.5g Protein: 1g Carbohydrates: 5g Sugars: 2.4g

Baked BBQ Tofu

bbq-tofu

I gotta be honest, now that I live in the ‘burbs I can smell about half of the neighborhood grilling on any given weekend and that has left me craving some smoky foods.

As someone who has zero skills at grilling, and also not enough time or patience to actually learn it, I’ve got to find some other way to get my fix with minimal effort. That’s where my oven comes into play.

Baking tofu leaves it chewy and gives it crispy caramelized edges when sauce is applied. Add extra layers of flavor thanks to a dry rub and pickle juice brine, and you’re set with a plate of BBQ tofu that would be welcome at any cookout.

Since I am a self-admitted BBQ novice, I drew inspiration for this recipe from Food Network’s Rib Dry Rub and the sauce is a riff off an oil-free recipe on Inside Kelly’s Kitchen. Both were great jumping off points for mixing and matching to my family’s tastes.

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Baked BBQ Tofu

Serves 4, 4 slices per serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 blocks firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 4 cups pickle juice (can be from store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut or brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon liquid smoke

Directions:

  1. Cut each block of tofu into 8 ½-inch thick slices. In a shallow casserole dish, layer tofu and pour pickle juice over. Marinate for at least 1 hour, flipping tofu as necessary for all sides to be well coated.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix together cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, sugar, black pepper, and white pepper.
  4. Drain tofu and roll each piece in the dry rub mixture. Place tofu on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, yellow mustard, and liquid smoke. Set aside.
  6. Once tofu has baked for 20 minutes, use a basting brush to coat one side of tofu pieces with sauce. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip tofu, baste the other side, and bake for 5 more minutes. Serve with any leftover BBQ sauce on the side.

    Nutrition per serving:
    Calories: 181 Fat: 7.5g Saturated Fat: 1.4g Protein: 17g Carbohydrates: 16g Sugars: 7.8g

Easiest Ever Kimchi

bowl-of-kimchi

I often hesitate to use the word “ever” in a recipe. Descriptions like “The most decadent pie ever,” or “The best breakfast you’ll ever eat,” are just a little bit too over the top because these statements hardly ever turn out to be true. But I kid you not, this recipe for kimchi is the easiest you’ll ever find. You mix up some brine, stir in chopped veggies, and then let it sit out for a while. You’ll be rewarded with salty, funky, and crunchy kimchi that is addictive.

Now this isn’t by any means a traditional recipe. Honestly, your Korean grandmother might be rolling in her grave right now because of the ingredients list. But even with it taking a different avenue from other versions, the results are a delicious ferment. As with most recipes, feel free to play around with the ingredient ratios to make it as spicy, sweet, or tangy as you’d like.

kimchi-bowl

Easiest Ever Kimchi

Makes about 4 pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 napa cabbages or large bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions (green parts only), chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sweet soy sauce
  • 1 cup gochujang paste

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, onions, and salt. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to sweat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
  2. Once the cabbage and onions have wilted slightly, add enough water to the bowl to cover the vegetables. Roughly mix the cabbage and onions in the water with your hands (to remove any excess salt that’s left) and then drain well.
  3. Add the drained cabbage and onions to the gochujang mix. Toss with either gloved hands or tongs until everything is well coated. Put the kimchi mixture into 4 clean pint jars, leaving headspace of about 2 inches. Use a fermentation weight to weigh down the top of each jar, ensuring that the cabbage stays underneath the brine. Now you can either cover each of your jars with a regular lid (and ‘burp’ them daily to release excess pressure) or choose airlock lids for less hassle.
  4. Store in a cool place away from sunlight for 3 to 5 days and start checking the taste of the kimchi on the third day. It’s ready once it’s bubbly and tastes delicious. Store in the fridge for up to a year (but I promise it won’t last that long).

Nutrition per serving (1/4 cup):

Calories: 33 Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 1g Carbohydrates: 6g Sugars: 4g

Seitan Shepherd’s Pie

seitan shepherds pie in a casserole dish

While I’m all about fancy foods and impressive dishes, sometimes it’s hard to beat a good casserole. When I’m craving comfort food and want something that’s easy to make, I turn to a classic: shepherd’s pie.

Although it’s usually made with lamb or beef (hence the name), my favorite filling to make a ‘meaty’ dish is seitan (say-tan). This wheat gluten-based food is packed with protein (actually more than tofu) and touts a short, recognizable ingredients list that you can feel good about. Best part? By making a vegan version of this often over-indulgent dish, each serving comes in at just above 200 calories.

I was lucky enough to have Sweet Earth reach out and send me a goodie bag packed to the brim with their multiple seitan products. Their varieties come in different cuts (strips, slices, or grounds) and there are even flavored versions, all of which are delicious. For this recipe I used their ground seitan, which holds up well in the rich gravy and gives a savory boost to the dish.

seitan shepherds pie in a glass casserole dish

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, green beans, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 (8-oz.) packages white mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. ground seitan (like Sweet Earth Traditional Seitan)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk 
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups prepared mashed potatoes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Steam the frozen vegetables and and pour into a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
  3. In a large pan, bring the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in mushrooms and seitan, cooking until the mushrooms have become tender. Add the seitan mixture into the casserole dish.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, milk, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, pepper, and cornstarch. Add the sauce mix to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until thickened.
  5. Pour the gravy over the vegetable and seitan mixture and stir together. Spread prepared mashed potatoes on top and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, remove foil, and bake for 15 more minutes. Sprinkle more nutritional yeast on top, if desired. 

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 208 Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 15g Carbohydrates: 32g Sugars: 7g

Sugar Free Aquafaba Cappuccino

sugar-free-aquafaba-cappuccino

The magic of this recipe is that it results in a rich airy drink with no fat or sugar involved. The trick is that aquafaba (cooking liquid for beans) easily turns into a light foam that mimics the texture of finely frothed milk. Combine that with the flavor of vanilla extract and a dash of stevia for natural sweetness, and you’ve got yourself a fine drink to start the morning with.

There’s no need to just stick with vanilla though. I’ve experimented also with lavender and almond extracts, both of which work well in this recipe.

I’ll be the first one to say that I’m by no means a coffee expert, so bear with me using “cappucino” as this recipe title. Does it results in a creamy, sweet, caffeine-filled drink? You betcha. Is it done in a professional manner with a milk frother that will satisfy all the coffee nerds? Not at all. But for those of us without decked-out kitchens you should already have all the required equipment, a stand mixer and microwave, on hand.

sugar-free-aquafaba-cappuccino-vegan

Sugar Free Aquafaba Cappuccino

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 double-shots of espresso (or two small cups of strong coffee)
  • 1/4 cup of plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup aquafaba (if using canned be sure to purchase unsalted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia (or two packs of stevia)
  • Cinnamon, optional

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the aquafaba on high until it becomes white and stiff, about 8-12 minutes.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and stevia, beating until well combined.
  3. In a small bowl, microwave the non-dairy milk for 30 seconds.
  4. In two small mugs combine the espresso or strong coffee with the warmed milk.
  5. Spoon the aquafaba topping over, sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 24 Fat: 1g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 1g Carbohydrates: 1g Sugars: 0g

Land of Ooo Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite television shows, Adventure Time is a wacky ride of funny characters, sometimes heart-wrenching storyline, and food. Lots of food. It’s hard to go through an episode without watching a character make a sandwich, share some spaghetti, or feed their loved one a bowl of soup.

My latest recipe inspiration takes place in “Ocarina” episode 12 of season 6. Jake the dog is celebrating his pups’ birthdays, but they’re all disappointed when arrives with no presents and a small amount of macaroni salad.

Although the pups were disappointed with Jake’s beige take on this carb-centric dish, I’m sure they would have been thrilled with this recipe. I pepped it up a bit by adding heavy-hitters when it comes to flavor like salty olives, sweet roasted red peppers, and tangy pickles. The dressing, although vegan-mayo based, isn’t too heavy and allows the whole dish to be cohesive instead of a gloopy mess.

macaroni salad.jpg

Although it’s tempting to eat it straight out of the mixing bowl, this recipe really shines when you let it fully sit overnight. Everything melds together to create a dish that you’d be proud to bring to your next birthday party.

Adventure Time Macaroni Salad

Serves 10 as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs. macaroni pasta
  • 1 15.5 oz. can black olives, drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions (both white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Cook macaroni according to package’s directions.
  2. Once cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cool.
  3. Combine in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Set in the fridge to chill and for flavors to meld for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.  

Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 283 Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 0.5g Protein: 5g Carbohydrates: 30g Sugars: 2.5g

Tex Mex Stew

My in-laws gave me the awesome birthday gift of a spice grinder. This gave me the perfect excuse to use Aldi’s whole dried guajillo chiles that I’ve been eyeing for a while now. As soon as I got that spice grinder I knew what I wanted to make, chili!

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I ground up the whole chile (minus the stem) and some cumin seeds I bought at the Asian grocery store. Nothing quite compares to the smell of freshly ground cumin.The base of fresh vegetables makes a fairly light “stew” and the mild flavor of the chile blend makes it safe for the non-spice lovers in our household. Feel free to change it up with different pepper varieties or vegetables (I bet corn would be good in this). This is a very basic dish that’s waiting for some creative additions!

Tex Mex Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes)
  • 3 jalapeños, deseeded and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans pinto beans
  • 1 whole guajillo chile, ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent and tender.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve with a side of cornbread or crackers.

Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 247 Fat: 8.4g Saturated Fat: 1g Protein: 11g Carbohydrates: 35g Sugars: 5.5g