The Healthiest Foods for Under $1

Sunday December 27, 2015

courtesy of glamourous-indie-rockandroll

Every first week of January is the time to make New Years’ resolutions. It’s just something that goes with the turning of the calendar year, the gateway of looking back at the old and looking forward to the new. As a child, my resolutions were things like I will be nicer to my sister, I will work harder to get better grades, and maybe we can get a puppy. As an adult, its more like I will lose weight, I will have more flowers in the garden, I will do more volunteer work, and I will eat better balanced meals. For all my good intentions, my commitment would be forgotten by the next week. But eating lean, clean, and green, well, its something I am focusing on every day.

Food prices are climbing, and some might be looking to fast foods and packaged foods for their cheap bites. But low cost doesn’t have to mean low quality. In fact, some of the most inexpensive things you can buy are the best things for you nutritionally. At the grocery store, getting the most nutrition for the least amount of money means hanging out around the outer edge of the store–near the fruits and veggies, the dairy, and the bulk grains (skip the bakery except for the pita and grissini)—while avoiding the expensive packaged interior. Fruits and vegetables in season are always the best buy. By doing so, not only will your kitchen be stocked with excellent foods, your wallet won’t be empty. Predictions are that twenty-sixteen is a year for lots more home cookin’ and that consumers are pushing for interesting, low-priced whole foods.

I cannot remember what website I originally found this list on, but I loved it so I built it up for my friends and added lots of info and recipes. It is a simple, to the point list with familiar foods that are easy to find in any grocery store. You can run down the list and next trip to the market pick up one or two items you haven’t been eating and give it a try. Its that simple.

1. Oats

High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap—a dollar will buy you more than a week’s worth of hearty breakfasts. Buy rolled oats or quick cooking rather than instant, which has a lot of added sugar. I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats and Silver Palate Extra Thick Rolled Oats, the Cadillac of oatmeals.

Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with nuts and fresh or dried fruit (or a myriad of add ins like pumpkin puree) in the morning, sprinkle with ground flaxseed, make oatmeal cookies for dessert.

Slow Cooker Overnight Steel Cut Oats Oatmeal

Machine:  Small Round

Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 8 to 9 hours

1 cup steel cut oats

4 cups water

Combine the oats and water in the cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, or overnight, until tender.  Stir well and scoop into serving bowls with an over sized spoon.  Serve with milk or cream, and brown sugar or maple syrup. Serves 2.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2005, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

2. Sardines

I am not a big tinned fish afficianado, since it is sort of an acquired taste or something you ate as a child in Norway so it is a comfort food, but along with tuna and anchovies, mineral-rich sardines are a power packed source of the right omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

Serving Suggestions: Sardine sandwich on toasted bagel with sliced onion, cream cheese, and black pepper or capers, sardines on crackers sprinkled with cayenne, topping a green salad vinaigrette, mashed like tuna salad with Dijon mustard or mayo and minced red onion on bread or stuffed in an avocado half. Heat in olive oil with tomato sauce, then pile into warm tortillas with cilantro and lime. Sardines love hot sauce and fresh lemon juice.

3. Kale

This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch. Kale is the darling of the food scene right now. Everything is greens greens greens for healthy eating. The problem is kale is much tougher than other leafy greens, like Swiss chard, collard greens and spinach. Hence, it isn’t as versatile for cooking. It doesn’t work as well in salads or sauces, for example, as with spinach or Swiss chard unless you massage it or blanch it.

Serving suggestions: Chop up some kale and add to your favorite stir-fry.

Kale with Pancetta or Bacon

2 tablespoons olive oil

One 1/4-inch slice pancetta, diced (about 1/4 cup), or 2 slices bacon, chopped

1/4 cup chopped onion

Pinch or two dried crushed red chile flakes

1 1/2 pounds kale, stemmed and main rib cut out, leaves roughly torn

1 1/2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onion, and red chile flakes; sauté until the onion is deep golden, about 5 min. Add the kale; toss with tongs to coat the leaves with oil. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the leaves are quite tender, about 10 min. (thicker-leaved varieties will need longer, so do check the pan, adding water or broth if needed, and taste a leaf). Uncover, increase heat, and cook until liquid is evaporated. Season with a few grinds of pepper (you probably won’t need salt) and serve. Serves 2 to 3.

4. Potatoes

Because we often see potatoes at their unhealthiest—as fries or chips—we don’t think of them as nutritious, but they definitely are. Eaten with the skin on, potatoes contain almost half a day’s worth of Vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. If you opt for sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll also get a good wallop of betacarotene. Plus, they’re dirt cheap, available year round and have almost endless culinary possibilities. Try different colors-Yukon Gold and Peruvian Purple Potatoes along with the familiar Red Bliss and white, and different sizes like Fingerlings. All have a slightly different flavor.

Serving suggestions: They can be steamed, mashed, made into salads, stuffed, and cooked whole, with or without the peel. Grated or cubed fried in olive oil for breakfast or lunch; sliced cold in a salad; creamy scalloped, for dinner, have them baked topped with cold sour cream, scalloped potatoes, potato leek soup, potato and pea samosas, or Cornish pasty.

Potato Salad for One

8-ounces new potatoes, whole if small, or halved or quartered, cooked and cooled to warm

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or cider vinegar

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 green onion, white and some green, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons mayonnaise or Vegenaise

1 tablespoon Dijon or whole-grain mustard

2 teaspoons dill pickle relish

If you are cooking the potatoes from scratch just for this recipe, use 8-ounces unpeeled potatoes and 2 tablespoons of water. Proceed to microcook as directed above for 5 to 7 minutes, until still firm. Let stand and proceed with the instructions below.

Cut the warm potatoes in half, thick slices, or quarters and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Add the celery and green onion. Season lightly.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and relish; stir to combine. Pour over the potatoes and stir with a spatula to coat the potatoes. Eat immediately, or cover and chill. Serves 1.

5. Apples

A good apple is  1-crisp   2-juicy   3-flavorful

I’m fond of apples because they’re inexpensive, easy to find, come in portion-controlled packaging, and taste crunchy good. I often cut a chilled apple in half and have it for dessert. They are a good source of pectin—a fiber that may help reduce cholesterol—and they have the antioxidant Vitamin C, which keeps your blood vessels healthy. Different seasons have different types of apples. My organic box showcases different apples, all with a slightly different flavor and texture. Always refrigerate firm, brightly colored apples until you use them.  They will stay crisp two to four weeks. Avoid apples that feel soft or have bruised areas. If I end up with a batch of old apples, I just make applesauce: Peel, slice, and place in a deep saucepan with a bit of water.  Partially cover and cook over low heat until soft.  Cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, then add a few tablespoons of butter and cinnamon to taste.  Mash if you like it chunky or use an immersion blender until the desired consistency. A fresh apple will really perk you up and have you appreciating this everyday fruit all over again just like the first time.

Serving suggestions: applesauce; as part of a fruit salad, in stuffings, cooked with pork and cabbage, baked apples, or in baked goods like quick breads, cakes, and muffins. APPLE CRISP. Or just cut in half and eat au naturale as dessert.

6. Nuts

Though nuts have a high fat content, they’re packed with the good-for-you fats—unsaturated and monounsaturated. So think superfood. They’re also good sources of essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, and protein. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, you only need to eat a little to get the nutritional benefits. Although some nuts, like pecans and macadamias, can be costly, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and almonds, especially when bought in the shell, are low in cost.

Serving suggestions: Raw; roasted and salted; sprinkled in salads, addition to baked goods. Nut butters are great in sandwiches or spread on apples. Ground nuts are used as a flour substitute. In the apple crisp streusel topping.

My Mom’s Apple Crisp

This is what I consider a basic crisp recipe, as well as being of of this world delicious and versatile. It has no extra sugar on the fruit. This is the only recipe my mother uses and she varies it with all different fruits, also with a mixture of fruits if she only has a small amount of one. It is varied by the addition of nuts to the streusel, which adds lots of flavor and texture.

1/2 cup nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or pecans, coarsely chopped

2 pounds (5 to 6 large) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced 3/4-inch thick

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Toast the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet in a 350º oven for about 5 minutes; just enough to take off the raw edge and the nuts slightly begin to color.  Cool and coarsely chop.  This can be done the day before.

Preheat the oven to 375º (350º if using Pyrex).  Place the sliced apples in an even layer into a shallow, unbuttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 12-inch ceramic oval gratin dish.

Place the flour, sugars, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Cut in the butter pieces with your fingers, a pastry blender, or pulse in a food processor until the mixture just holds together and looks crumbly.  Toss in the cooled nuts.  Set aside. (Can be made the day ahead and refrigerated in a covered container.) Sprinkle the fruit evenly with all of the topping.  Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown and the fruit is bubbling and tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

7. Bananas

At a local Trader Joe’s, I found bananas for about 19¢ apiece; a dollar gets you a banana a day for the work week. High in potassium and fiber (9 grams for one), bananas are a no-brainer when it comes to eating one of your five a day quotient of fruits and veggies.

Image Courtesy of Church of the Banana

Serving suggestions: In smoothies (toss them in the freezer and use frozen), by themselves, sliced in cereal and coated with yogurt, banana bread, muffins, or cake, sauteed in butter for dessert over ice cream.

Banana Date Smoothie for 1

5 dates

1/2 cup water

1 firm-just ripe banana

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove the pits from the dates and place them in a bowl. Cover them with 1/2 cup of water, cover and leave for 10 minutes to overnight. The longer you leave them to soak the easier they will be to blend. Add the dates and water to a blender or food processor and blend for two minutes until you have a smooth, milky looking mixture. A few small chunks are okay. Add the banana and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

8. Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzos are reportedly the most eaten bean in the world. Garbanzos really met the fame with the wide popularity of hummus bean dip. With beans, you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but ’bonzos are also high in fiber, iron, folate, and manganese, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And if you don’t like one type, try another—black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless. Though they require soaking and cooking, the most inexpensive way to purchase these beans is in dried form; a precooked can will still only run you around a buck.

Serving suggestions: In salads, curries, soups, chili, and hummus.

Chickpea Balsamic Salad

1 (15 1/2 ounce) can chickpeas
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium cucumber, de-seeded and diced, or 1/2 hot house cucumber
1/4 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch sea salt
Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional) and/or shredded cooked chicken, poached eggs, or cooked grains

Drain and rinse the canned chickpeas. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the cheese and mix to combine. Top with the cheese, if you want, or shredded chicken, a poached egg, or grains like cooked leftover rice, quinoa, or farro. Serves 2.

9. Broccoli

Broccoli contains tons of nice nutrients—calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. As if that isn’t enough, broccoli is also packed with phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Plus, it’s low in calories and cost. Although we see broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts year ‘round in most supermarkets, now is the peak season to discover how they are meant to taste. In addition to the best flavor, buying these sturdy vegetables from the farmers’ market ensures the highest nutritional value (broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as riboflavin, calcium, and iron), for they have been freshly harvested instead of held in cold storage for an indeterminate length of time. I went out to dinner and the veggie was plain steamed broccoli and it was so perfectly cooked, I swore I would eat more broccoli.

Serving Suggestion: Steamed, roasted, deep fried as tempura, pureed, and sautéed. Don’t forget the stems, peel them and stir fry—outrageously delish. Steam half and half with cauliflower.

Basic Oven-Roasted Broccoli

1 large bunch farm-fresh broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut away and discard the tough broccoli ends. Peel the thick stems and cut crosswise into diagonal slices about 1/4-inch thick. Where the stems start to branch out, split the florets through the stem so each piece is 1 1/2- to 2-inches wide.

2. Place the broccoli on a large baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat well. Spread the broccoli in an even layer and bake until the edges of the florets begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir gently and continue baking until the stem pieces are just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve at once, maybe with a wedge of lemon. Serves 2 to 4.

10. Watermelon

Though you may not be able to buy an entire watermelon for a dollar, your per serving cost isn’t more than a few dimes. This summertime fruit is over 90 percent water, making it an easy way to hydrate, and gives a healthy does of Vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant that may ward off cancer. Scientists indicate that watermelon contains high levels of lycopene-an antioxidant that may help the body fight cancer and prevent disease. Found only in select fruits and vegetables, lycopene is very effective at trapping cancer-promoting agents called free-oxygen radicals. I often buy a wedge or a small container off the salad bar if I want just a small portion. Seedless watermelon is one of the glories of nature—you don’t have to stop eating to spit out the seeds.

Serving suggestions: Freeze chunks for popsicles; eat straight from the rind; squeeze to make watermelon juice, in a fruit salad, in a green salad with feta cheese (one of the top flavor combinations).

11. Wild Rice

Once wild rice was reserved for locals and gourmet foodies, now it has become more mainstream and available in most markets. It won’t cost you much more than white rice, but wild rice is much better for you. Low in fat and high in protein and fiber, this gluten-free rice is a great source of complex carbohydrates. It packs a powerful potassium punch and is loaded with B vitamins. Plus, it has a nutty, robust flavor.

Serving suggestions: Mix with nuts and veggies for a cold rice salad; use as a stuffing; pilaf; blend with brown rice or basmati for a side dish.

Warm Wild Rice Salad with Mushrooms

1 cup wild rice
2 cups water or vegetable stock
Sea salt
1 pound fresh brown cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or basil

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
About 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Put the wild rice, broth, and a healthy pinch of salt into a small pot and bring to a boil. When it boils, drop the heat back to a simmer and cook until the wild rice is tender, between 25 minutes and 50 minutes, depending on whether you have truly wild or cultivated wild rice. Can be made in a rice cooker. Drain and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F. Slice the mushrooms into largish pieces you’d want to eat. Toss the mushrooms with the shallots, half the sage or basil and a little of the oil. Arrange in 1 layer on a baking sheet and salt well. Roast in the oven until the mushrooms are browning, about 20 minutes. If the mushrooms are done before the rice, move everything to the center of the baking sheet and cover with foil. Turn off the oven and set inside until the rice is done.

To serve, mix everything but the cheese in a bowl and season with black pepper and the oil, soy sauce, and vinegar. Sprinkle the cheese on top and serve at once. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

12. Beets

Beets are my kind of vegetable—their natural sugars make them sweet to the palate while their rich flavor and color make them nutritious for the body. They’re powerhouses of folate, iron, and antioxidants. Trader Joe’s sells already cooked and peeled beets, ready to go. How great is that? Buy a bunch of beets rather than loose beets as they are fresher and cook faster. Beets come in many varieties, each with its particular color and subtly different flavor.  I like them all.  The classic deep purplish-red beet does stain, which can make other ingredients look unattractive, but won’t spoil the taste.  I understand in Sweden this beet juice is the only red coloring allowed by law to dye manufactured foods. Dont forget the greens!

Serving suggestions: Shred raw into salads or dice cooked, slice with goat cheese or feta, roast or steam whole, add a vinaigrette for pickled, Borscht beet and roots soup. If you buy your beets with the greens on, you can braise them separately in olive oil or add to soup like you would other greens.


4 medium beets, 3″ to 4″ in diameter, any variety
8 cups loosely packed mixed baby greens and butter lettuce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher (coarse) salt
3 ounces firm blue cheese, shredded on the large holes of a grater
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
3 limes, cut into quarters

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Trim tops and tails of beets.Wrap beets in one layer in heavy foil or double regular foil.  Place on a baking sheet to catch possible drips. Roast until a fork easily pierces the beets, about an hour; cool.

When ready to serve salad, toss greens with olive oil, a couple of large pinches of salt, several grinds of pepper.  Divide greens among 4 plates; reserve.

Slip skins off beets with fingers; they should peel away easily.  Trim a bit more if necessary. Slice beets, arranging slices of each beet on top of each plate of greens.  Sprinkle each with 1/4 of the blue cheese and 2 tablespoons walnuts.  Garnish each plate with 3 lime wedges. (I offer more at the table, because I like things quite tart.) Makes 4 servings

13. Butternut Squash

This beautiful buff-colored gourd with a long neck and fat round base swings both ways: the orange flesh can sometimes be savory, sometimes sweet. However you prepare the butternut, it will not only add color and texture, but also five grams of fiber per half cup and lots of betacarotene, an antioxidant. When in season, butternut squash and related gourds are usually less than a dollar a pound. Select a squash that is nice and hard and no bad spots. All winter squashes need to be cooked to be edible.

Serving suggestions: add to soups and chili; cook, mash, and dot with butter.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Red Curry Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large white onion, diced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds frozen, cubed butternut squash, thawed
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
10 grinds of freshly ground cracked black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 handful chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a large pot or saucepan heat oil and butter over a medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the squash, stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes.

Whisk the coconut milk along with the red curry paste into the soup. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool for about 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into a food processor in batches and puree, or use a handheld immersion blender. Return the smooth soup to the pot, re-heat over medium-low heat and serve warm in bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Serves 6

14. Whole Grain Pasta

In the days of high protein diets, pasta was wrongly convicted, for there is nothing harmful about a complex carbohydrate source that is high in protein and B vitamins. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest staples you can buy. Pasta is a great child favorite and one that you can feel good about serving. There are many shapes, brands, and types of pastas to buy. Pasta is not the same as bread–unlike bread, pasta is made from semolina flour, which comes from durum wheat. When eating pasta, blood glucose absorption is much slower than when eating whole grain bread. Also look for non-gluten pasta, such as brown rice, corn, or quinoa pasta, which is excellent. The shape will determine how you serve it.

Serving suggestions: with a simple marinara with oregano and cracked red pepper flakes and topped with Parmesan, pasta salad, pasta frittata, with pureed vegetable sauce, tossed with roasted veggies, oh just plain with butter.

Easiest Tomato Sauce for Pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic peeled and lightly smashed, or 1 large shallot, minced

1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Zest of 1 lemon

Few pinches fine sea salt and few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and garlic or shallot in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden, 2 minutes. Drain the tomatoes (don’t drain if packed in puree) and with your hands squeeze them one by one over the skillet as you add them. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the basil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Keep warm on low simmer, covered, while pasta finishes cooking. With plenty of Parmesan, of course. If you want to get crazy, add a cup of heavy cream for a tomato cream sauce and pour over tortellini. Makes enough for 12-ounces of cooked pasta.

15. Garlic

Garlic has a tough reputation. Either you love it or you hate it. The lovers outnumber the haters and there is no dish that has not been enhanced with garlic. Its food. Its medicine. Its a tonic. While raw garlic is spicy-hot and smelly, roasted garlic is mellow, sweeter than cane sugar, even sometimes called nutty and buttery. The roasting in the skins is a lot like roasting in parchment paper; the peeled cloves don’t work the same at all. The roasting softens the cloves, hence they become much milder than one could imagine. Each head will yield about one to 3 heaping tablespoons of puree. There is a special microwave garlic roaster made in terra cotta for the microwave, but the measuring cup works just fine.

Serving suggestions: A great way to serve roasted garlic cloves is as an accompaniment to toasted rustic or French bread and some unsalted butter as an appetizer (try an herb bread or olive bread) or accompaniment to scrambled eggs or vegetable dishes. Just mash it on the bread and top with roasted red pepper, fresh tomato slices, or spread on top of some melted brie or soft goat cheese.

Microwave Roasted Garlic

Cookware: 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Cook Time: 4 to 6 minutes

Standing Time: 10 minutes

2 whole firm heads garlic with large, plump cloves

1/4 cup vegetable broth or water

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a paring knife, cut off 1/4- to a 1/2-inch of the top of cloves on the stem end, exposing the cross section of individual cloves of garlic.

Place the garlic heads in a 1-quart measuring cup. Add the broth or water and drizzle the oil into the top of the garlic heads. Partially cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Microcook on HIGH for 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the size of the heads, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. Let stand on the counter, still covered, for 10 minutes. The garlic will cool enough for you to handle it.

To serve, separate the head into individual cloves. Allow your guest to squeeze out by pinching the root end (the garlic will run like toothpaste when squeezed), the warm or room temperature softened garlic as needed with baguette or country bread toast. Or use a cocktail fork and eat the cloves au naturale with some fresh French bread. Or squeeze out the cloves into a small serving dish. Or use as a paste in vinaigrettes and marinades, in marinara sauce, in mashed potatoes, mixed with sour cream as a topping for baked potatoes or vegetables, spread on grilled cheese, tossed with pasta, spread on pizza, spread under the skin for a roast chicken, in stuffings, or in dips like hummus. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the half heads and collect the garlic paste in a small container; cover with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. People adore this recipe.

Makes about 1/4 cup paste or an appetizer for 2 to 3.

Roasted Garlic Butter for Garlic Bread

Makes 1 cup garlic butter

1 head roasted garlic, cooled

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

Squeeze out the garlic into a small bowl. Add the butter and olive oil; mash with a fork until combined and smooth. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Chill the butter until needed, but allow it to come to room temperature before using. Spread on French or Italian bread halves and place under the broiler until browned.

16. Spinach

Greens, greens, greens are the name of the vegetable game these days. From collards, mustard, turnip, beet, kale and chard to spinach, greens are one of the premium good for you veggies due to the concentration of vitamins and minerals. And they taste good too. Spinach is a tender leaf and one of the first you might cook in the microwave since it is so familiar. What starts out as a massive pile of raw shopped that can barely fit the casserole, will collapse into a flat pile. I never seem to do anything fancy with spinach past putting it in lasagne or a fritatta. I love it in a wilted hot pile, that proverbial mess of greens. Spinach is perhaps one of the best green leafy-s out there—it has lots of Vitamin C, iron, and trace minerals. Plus, you can usually find it year round for less than a dollar. Baby spinach comes in bags or clam shells and you can have spinach salad without the tears of washing away a pile of grit.

Serving suggestions: Steamed with lemon juices squeezed over, frittatas or souffles, nice raw spinach salad with dried cranberries and Gorgonzola cheese.

Micro-steamed Spinach

Cookware: 2- or 3-quart casserole

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Cook Time: 2 1/2 minutes

Standing Time: 1 minute

2 bunches (about 1 1/2 pounds) fresh spinach

2 tablespoons butter

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Sea salt, optional

1. Wash spinach well and remove any bruised leaves or thick stems. Shake excess water off leaves. Place wet spinach in a 2-or 3-quart casserole. Cover with the lid or partially cover with plastic wrap.

2. Microcook on HIGH for 2 minutes, until wilted and bright  dark green. Drain off excess water and add the butter to melt into the leaves. Portion and squeeze with plenty of lemon juice. Season to taste, if you like. Eat immediately. Serves 4.

17. Tofu

Not just for vegetarians anymore, the food world has totally embraced the versatility of tofu. It is an inexpensive protein source that can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. It’s high in B vitamins and iron, but low in fat and sodium, making it a healthful addition to many dishes. Since it is neutral in taste, it will absorb every manner of flavors and spices.

Serving suggestions: Use silken varieties in cheesecake, mousses, or to make salad dressings; add to smoothies for a protein boost; cube and marinate for barbecue kebobs; marinate slabs and roast in the oven; pan fry and sauce with peanut sauce or teriyaki. Add to stir frys and floating in miso soup.

Crisp Tofu with Peanut Sauce

1 pound block extra-firm tofu (such as Trader Joe’s Organic)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons butter or oil

Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium shallot, minced

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup peanut butter (natural, no sugar added)

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Cube the tofu or slice tofu into 1/4 inch slices.  Wrap them in a towel or paper towels in a single layer.  Put flat item on top of the towel to cover.  Weight this down with cans, or something else from the pantry for about on hour. Put tofu and cornstarch into a quart sized zip lock bag.  Shake until tofu is evenly coated with cornstarch.   Heat skillet with oil or butter over medium high heat.  Fry tofu until each side is nicely brown.  This will take some time, about 10 to 20 minutes to brown both sides. Do not turn the tofu until each side is well browned.

To make the peanut sauce, add oil to a saucepan on medium heat. Once it’s warm. add the chili, garlic, and shallot. Sauté until everything’s translucent. Add the turmeric and coconut milk. Let it come to a boil. Turn the heat down and add your peanut butter, soy sauce, and brown sugar and stir to combine. If the mixture is too thick add a bit more coconut milk or water to it, and stir until it is loose and pourable. Taste it to see if it needs more salt or sweet. Once you are happy with the flavor pour it over the tofu. Garnish with chopped cilantro and crushed peanuts. Serves 2.

18. Whole Milk

Whole milk is back in after decades of drinking the watered down version that is now realized to be devoid of the nutritional stuff we crave for overall health. Yes, the price of a gallon of milk is rising, but per serving, it’s still under a dollar; single serving milk products, like yogurt, are usually less than a dollar, too. Plus, you’ll get a lot of benefit for a small investment. Milk is rich in protein, vitamins A and D, potassium, and niacin, and is one of the easiest ways to get bone-strengthening calcium. If there is one item you buy organic, milk is it. It even tastes better.

Serving suggestions: In smoothies, hot chocolate; scalloped vegetables, soup ingredient, milk products like low fat cottage cheese and yogurt.

19. Pumpkin Seeds

When it’s time to carve your pumpkin this October, don’t shovel those seeds into the trash—they’re a goldmine of magnesium, protein, and trace minerals. Plus, they come free with the purchase of a pumpkin. Known as pepitas in Spanish. If you are using a fresh pumpkin, you will have pumpkin seeds, which can be roasted and salted for some good nibbling, used in baking, or for a topping on salads. Cut your pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and strings with an over sized spoon. Place all of the pumpkin seeds in a strainer. Rinse with cold water and wash pumpkin seeds thoroughly. Pick the pulp and strings out. Clean off the seeds and place on a clean baking sheet. Sprinkle the seeds with chili powder, smoked paprika, curry powder, or another favorite spice if you want to flavor them before roasting. Or for a sweet treat, toss with cinnamon-sugar after roasting.

Serving suggestions: Salt, roast, and eat plain; add to pilafs and breads, toss in salads.

Roasted Pepitas

2 cups unhulled pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil
About 1 teaspoon kosher salt or fine sea salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, stir together the pepitas and grapeseed oil. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a large baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Roast until golden, 8 to 12 minutes, stirring once. Alternately you can slow-roast at 250º for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

20. Green tea

Contains beneficial antioxidants that protect against free radicals and may actually help thwart heart disease and cancer. You can buy as fancy or humble as you like, like Lipton’s, it is so easy to find now. While it’s not going to fill you up like the other items on this list, it sure is nice. I like decaffenated. I make a liter every morning: fill the pitcher with filtered water and add 2 tea bags, place in the fridge for a few hours and drink like water throughout the day.

Serving suggestions: Just drink it, hot or iced. Use as a poaching liquid for fresh fruit.

Ginger Green Tea

1 cup water

1/2 inch ginger, fresh, with skin, sliced
1 bag tea, green, or 1 tbsp loose green tea leaves in a tea ball, regular or decaffinated
2 tablespoon milk (optional)
1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Bring 1 cup water to a boil, stove top or microwave. Add the ginger slices and boil for 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat, and add the tea bag or tea ball. Steep for 1 to 2 minutes and remove and discard. Stir in the milk and sugar, if using.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipes and make them your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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