Let’s talk about clean food, shall we? Specifically, let’s talk about selecting the cleanest of clean foods. The Environmental Working Group is a research and advocacy organization whose mission is dear to our hearts. The EWG provides public information on the health issues associated with toxic chemicals in consumer products. You may know them best for their invaluable cosmetics database, Skin Deep, which indexes and scores products based on their ingredients. (If we had a dime for every time one of us looked up a product or ingredient using Skin Deep…) But did you know that the EWG has been instrumental in bringing awareness to food safety issues as well?

While the EWG believes that the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risk of pesticide exposure, they are doing what they can to help consumers make the best, most informed choices. Maybe you’ve heard of  the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, which highlights the foods with the highest pesticide residue. Did you know that they also publish a Clean Fifteen list? Yep, this is the list of produce with the least pesticide residue.

You know we’re obsessed with clean beauty products, but the real secret to radiant skin is what goes into your belly. Try drinking green smoothies for a week and tell us you don’t see a difference when you look in the mirror. To that end, we are happy to have resources we trust to guide us. Life is busy, and simple tools like the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen help us make smart decisions quickly. So if you’re not already familiar with the EWG, take a look around, bookmark their site, and print out their lists for your shopping trips. Oh and by the way, we heard that a Skin Deep mobile app will be released this fall. Amazing!

Are you familiar with the Dirty Dozen or Clean Fifteen? What resources or tools do you love that we might not know about?


What’s Your Meatless Monday Inspiration?

Pssst. Want some Meatless Monday inspiration?

Head over to The First Mess, a funky little blog whose author is all about high-vibe food. These banana bread granola bars are vegan and gluten free, for those who care. They’ll be a fall staple, as will this Moroccan style vegetable + chickpea stew. Dates and lemon zest forever.

Where do you get your Meatless Monday inspiration? Spill the beans!

God bless Erin McKenna.

It’s CSA season and I’ve been saddled with more zucchini than I know what to do with. It’s a hardy veggie and it keeps for about 10 days when properly stored in the fridge, but when you’re getting a couple pounds of them every week as I am, a girl has to get creative.

I’ve known I was gluten allergic for about eight or nine years and since, with the exception of a fresh buttery croissant,* I was never much of a baked-goods person to begin with, I decided early that I wouldn’t bother experimenting with xantham gum and brown rice flour and ground flax seeds. As a general rule, I abstain from substitute foods like gluten-free crackers and treats and pasta, opting instead for whole foods with ingredients I can pronounce. Yesterday, though, I was reminded about how as a kid, I adored zucchini bread. It was one of my mom’s specialties, and when we were young, that was her idea of dessert. Worked for me! I loved the stuff.

So, stuck with three pounds of the things, I decided it was time to put on my apron and try my hand at some gluten-free baking. I cracked open Erin McKenna’s Babycakes cookbook and lo! There was a recipe for sugar-free, vegan zucchini muffins. Except that it called for spelt flour, which isn’t GF. According to their site, Babycakes doesn’t recommend substituting GF flour in their spelt recipes, but they helpfully offer a conversion for those who might want to try. I did, so I did.

Now, I know baking is a science as much as it is an art, and you’re not meant to mess around with the proportions. I’m a little rogue in the kitchen, though, so I took three carefully chosen liberties.

I hate dry anything, so where it called for 2 cups of grated zucchini, I went for 2 and a 1/2. Worst thing that could happen, I reasoned, is the things would be really moist. (If you’ve ever had a GF baked treat then you understand that this is a calculated and worth-it risk.) Second, where it called for 1 tbsp of vanilla, I went with 2 (I love vanilla). Finally, since I don’t love ginger in baked goods, I substituted the tbsp of ginger it called for and went with freshly crushed cloves.

The rest, I followed to the letter and—whoa. The extra zucchini meant the things had to cook a little longer than the recommended 22 minutes (about 25), but once they’d cooled slightly, I dug in to one, then another, then… Delicious, moist, healthy, incredible. (Thank you, Erin!)

If we lost you at the headline because you don’t like zucchini but your skimming eye has been trained to stop on fuchsia pull quotes, start here. Zucchini is worth learning to love. Here’s why:

Zucchini is about 90%-plus water, which makes it a great way to eat your H2O. The rest is a little fiber (about 3 grams per large guy), vitamins C, B6, and A, as well as potassium. Like avocados and bananas, it’s high in that mineral, which is great for heart health and stress reduction. (If you’re like me and you eat too much of it, the mineral is also great at giving you foot cramps in the middle of pigeon pose, which might be something to keep in mind.)

My muffins used up two of them for a batch of 12. Here’s how I plan to eat the other 8 in my fridge. Note: These are all simple dishes I’ve made and swear by. (The only thing I’ve tried that I hated was putting a whole zucchini into a smoothie with a bunch of fruit.) I don’t think exact recipes are necessary but if you want more detail, ask in the comments! Here’s how I love to eat zucchini:

1. As a delicious zucchini fritter. (Note: You could easily make these vegan if you wanted to.) I recommend topping these with greek yogurt and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika.

2. As an ABC Kitchen rip-off. This is raw zucchini shaved into wide strips with a mandoline, then topped with parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, crushed pistachios, and a simple lime-olive oil vinaigrette (just improvise).

3. Where you pretend it’s spaghetti. Sliced into tiny noodle-shaped strips. Sprinkle them with salt and let them sweat a bit so your not-pasta isn’t too wet. Blot them with a paper towel then top with a liberal amount of olive oil, a little lemon zest and the juice of a half lemon. Garnish with some chopped up roasted hazelnuts and thinly sliced baby tomatoes and parsley. (It’s nice to heat up the post-sweat zucchini, or you can eat it at room temperature.)

4. As a Mexican version of that ABC Kitchen rip-off. Do the wide strips again from recipe 2, but add a chopped up seeded Jalapeño to the dressing, and then toss with cut off kernels from one ear of sweet corn. If you are feeling creative, toss it with some red plums and a few sprigs of basil, too.••

5. Grilled. Cut them into angled disks and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put them on a lined baking tray or, if you have one, a stove-top grill. I have a super old Creuset one that I inherited, and I use about three times a week. Heat the pan on medium, then fork the zucchini disks onto the grill. Turn after about 4 minutes, once those nice lines have formed. Repeat on the second side. If you do this in the oven, use a wire rack so the moisture can escape. Remember that 90% stat above! You don’t want to eat soggy zucchini.

6. As a vehicle for other delicious things. Chop it up like you would a cucumber and eat it with whatever you have in your fridge: salsa, greek yogurt, hummus, whatever. It’s a sturdy way to get whatever you want into your mouth, and raw, it’s very mild in flavor so it won’t compete with stronger flavors.

Your turn! What’s your favorite way to prepare the green guys?

* I’m a Montreal girl at heart and we love us our buttery French things.

•• Our friend Anna and I feel strongly that fruit doesn’t belong in salad, and I stand by that, but I think tart red plums are an exception. They function like tomatoes, basically, but with a nicer, less wet texture.


My MM: Hannah’s Meatless Monday

This is not your typical MM menu, and we’re kinda loving it. Because Hannah hails from Alaska—and not  NY or LA, where kale is practically sold at convenience stores—this is not a vegan-friendly, so-crunchy-it’s-probably-raw menu. Hey, we love those too! But our mouths are watering at the sound of locally baked cinnamon bagels, the neighbor’s eggs, and last fall’s fresh-picked blueberries, frozen in their state of perfection. And don’t even get us started on that pie.

Name: Hannah

Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska

My dietary leanings: I’m a picky pescetarian (meaning I only eat wild caught, Alaskan fish – I’m from a fishing family), and so I love to indulge in fresh veggies and fruits with yummy fish fillets for dinner every now and again.

My favorite vegetable: Anything out of my container garden and, when I can get them fresh (Alaskan supermarkets aren’t usually very fresh and are expensive!), artichokes!

This morning I ate…

Crepes, made with a family recipe.  3 eggs, 2 cups of milk, one cup of flour (can you believe they’re called 3-2-1’s?) beaten together and cooked like pancakes on medium heat.  I love to load mine with Nancy’s Organic plain yogurt, frozen blueberries I picked last fall, and agave syrup.

Then for lunch it was…

A second breakfast. Farm fresh eggs from my neighbor fried solid (I hate runny eggs) on a locally made cinnamon-raisin bagel with local mustard, mayo, fresh lettuce from the garden, sharp cheddar, and avocado slices.  Delicious, quick, and covers most of the food groups for long-lasting energy through my day.

Finally for dinner I had…

My very first attempt at home-made quiche!  Asparagus, tomatoes, red pepper, sweet onions, green onions from my garden, and lots of yummy cheese (feta and cheddar) baked into farm fresh eggs (I owe that neighbor big time), all in a pastry crust. My boyfriend and I invited the neighbors over for dinner, and they brought amazing feta-ricotta-dill-parsley spread for some fresh bagettes as an appetizer.

Last but not least, dessert…

Alaskan berry ice cream pie.  The neighbors made an incredible pie made by crushing Alaska berries (blueberry, cranberry, raspberry) into local vanilla ice cream, then freezing it into a home-made ginger-snap shell.  They topped it with home-made whipped cream (non-sweetened, and it was a perfect compliment to the already sweet ice cream), candied ginger pieces, and some remaining berries. It was beautiful while it lasted. I may or may not have had three slices…

A final note
Being a vegetarian or pescetarian is not only good for you, it’s awesome for the planet.  I love bacon, red meat, etc., but I can’t abide eating it knowing how many resources are depleted simply to provide a pound of meat for people. I think some people are intimidated by vegetarianism (something about green veggies being scary?), but it’s made me a more creative chef (I use that word liberally) and it’s light(er) on my wallet.  Go Meatless Mondays (and everyday)!

Amen Hannah! Thanks for sharing. (And don’t forget to share you MM.)

I’m on a big green smoothie kick, which is something I have a weirdly hard time admitting in public. I’ve already gone on the record saying I’m not into cleanses, and as a food lover who adores cooking, I prefer to get my nutrients from whole foods—not ones pulverized into a convenient melange from the blender. I’ve had many green juices in my time, and I like them fine, but I know plenty of people who go gaga for smoothies and juices of all kind.

Me, I like water, tea and coffee. (Oh, and wine.) Those are basically the only things I enjoy drinking on a regular basis.

And yet! A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly sluggish morning, I wandered into a smoothie spot on the way to work. Looking at the assortment of fruit and veggies in front of me, I picked what I like best, not really thinking about whether or not those things would taste good together. “Kale, blueberry, and half a banana please,” I said. They asked if I wanted almond milk or yogurt, soy or apple juice as the base. “Um, could you just do those three things and see what happens?” They agreed, and the resulting “drink” (cutesy quotes because the stuff barely comes up the straw) was incredible. I’ve had some version of the same every day since. It’s my breakfast along with a handful of nuts, and sometimes some toast. It’s been two weeks and I feel good. Also, my skin is sort of glowing. Nothing crazy or dramatic, but there’s a slight difference, I think, and people have said as much to me. This is not something I would have believed if I’d heard someone else say it.

I guess seeing is believing.

Yesterday I made my first one at home, knowing if I keep up the $10 a day habit I’ll be kicking myself. I was inspired by this recipe, which is where I borrowed the picture up top from, but I also had some raspberries on hand, some new raw honey from Stone Barns and a bit of rice milk that I wanted to use up. I blended it all together in my old-school Cuisinart. The consensus? So tasty!

So do you go the green smoothie thing? And if so, have you noticed any changes in how you feel or look?

Image via this awesome site you should bookmark