Mar 292011

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana…but something about it was just better this morning…

Mar 262011

Heading out for a family vacation in Cabo so I will NOT be getting off my tush this week.  See you guys next Saturday!  Hopefully I will be a happier, tanner, calmer person by then….

(and no, I didn’t take this, but had to make you guys a little jealous…)

Mar 212011
Ever since I discovered that my favorite pizzeria near the hospital sells their amazing whole wheat dough, I’ve gotten a little pizza happy.  Now, I don’t think you can ever eat too much pizza (my best friend and I have a brilliant plan to make millions by creating a “pizza cleanse” but we’re still figuring out just how that will work).  Still, it can get kind of monotonous. Usually it’s just a standard veggie, mozzarella, tomato sauce type pizza with a simple salad on the side.  I ventured out a little when I tried BBQ chicken pizza a few weeks ago, and it was amazing but still pretty standard.  So when my friends and I decided to have yet another pizza night, I thought it was time to really switch things up.  The pizza: hummus, roasted eggplant, spinach, and feta. The salad: butternut squash and chickpea with lemon-tahini dressing.  (Yum).

The first step was roasting the vegetables involved in both of these.  I sliced the eggplant and seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  The butternut squash I cubed and simply roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Now on to the salad.  I know, it seems like a weird combo, but I was OBSESSED with this salad.  The ingredients are simple—squash, chickpeas, cilantro, and red onion—but something about the lemon tahini dressing really ties it all together into this amazing sweet/savory salad.

I know my pictures aren’t that pretty…I made this at night and while I usually try to save leftovers to photograph in the day light, there were no leftovers to be found.  But I swear this was awesome.  

Since I was using raw pizza dough, I rolled out the dough and let it start to cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Then I pulled it out of the oven, spread with hummus, and topped with the eggplant, spinach, and feta cheese and let cook another 5-7 minutes so the cheese could brown and the toppings could get warm.  This Mediterranean twist on pizza night might just be my favorite one yet. 

Nutritional Highlights:  Love another great vegetarian meal that meat eaters will love!  You still get plenty of protein from the hummus and feta on the pizza and the chickpeas in the salad.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but butternut squash is an AWESOME addition to your diet.  The bright orange color let’s you know that it’s full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, plus it’s low-fat, high-fiber, and has lots of vitamins and minerals like B6 and potassium.  If you don’t eat many foods this color, then you’re missing out on beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A) and has been associated with amazing health benefits like protection against heart disease and some cancers.  Eggplant also contains phytonutrients that give it it’s unique purple color.  Nasunin, found in the skin, is an antioxidant and free radical scavenger that is said to protect cells from some damage. 

Basically, the themes of this meal are:  try to eat as many colors as possible and try to find interesting twists on your favorite meals to add variety to your diet!!

Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
Adapted from
Smitten Kitchen, who Adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from Casa Moro
Yield: 4 servings
For salad:
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (I skipped this)
2 tablespoons olive oil
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (I like cilantro with this!)

For tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.
Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. You will probably need to add more water to thin it out.
To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro or parsley in a mixing bowl. Either add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully, or you could serve the salad with the dressing on the side. Serve immediately.  (Note: I served this salad at room temperature and made all the components in advance).

Roasted Eggplant, Hummus, and Feta Pizza


  • whole wheat pizza dough (could also use prepared crust but adjust cooking time)
  • 1 eggplant 
  • 1-2 clove garlic
  • Salt, Pepper, red pepper flakes, Olive oil
  • optional: wilted spinach
  • low fat feta cheese
  • homemade or store bought hummus
For the roasted eggplant (can be done in advance):  Preheat oven to 425 (note, this is the same temp as the squash above so you can do it in the same oven!).  Slice eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and toss with some olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.  Spread into one layer on a sprayed roasting pan and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until eggplant is tender and browned (will vary based on thickness).  

For the Pizza: preheat oven to 425 with pizza stone in the oven.  Roll out pizza dough as thin as possible and transfer to hot pizza stone.  Cook for 5-7 minutes so crust begins to cook.  Pull out stone and spread pizza with hummus, wilted (cooked) spinach, eggplant slices, and top with crumbled feta.  Return to the oven for about 5 more minutes or until crust is cooked through.  Enjoy!!

Mar 132011
Last week in my nutrition class we had a lecture on Fat.  Yep, we have whole weeks of class dedicated to one nutrient.  While we did talk about the “bad” kinds of fat–hydrogenated oils, trans fats, etc, what I found the most interesting was about the “good” fats.  We always hear obscure things about how great omega 3’s and omega 6’s are…but did you know that while most of us get enough omega 6 (lenoleic acid) from our diets, most people don’t get enough omega 3’s (lenolinic acid)?  The absolute best source of omega 3 fatty acids (more details on the health benefits to come) is fish.  Since I haven’t had a ton of fish lately (read: poverty) I decided this weekend I should get my fill.

Cooking fish “en papillote” (fancy for, in parchment paper) is a great method because it’s super easy and you can cook with very little added fats by just letting the fish steam it’s it’s little pouch-home.  

Start by folding a large parchment rectangle in half.  Open it up and put some veggies in the center.  Since mine was asian style, I used some bok choy, red pepper, shitake mushroom, and snap peas (but you can really use any mixture you like).  You drizzle that with a tasty mixture of soy, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, orange juice/zest, and red pepper flakes.

Then you place your wild (I repeat…wild, not farmed) salmon filet on top of the veggies and drizzle with more of the marinade.  Fold the top of the parchment over and roll the 3 open sides inward until the pouch stays closed (takes a little finesse).  Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes and… 

You have a perfect meal in a pouch.  If you’re thinking my salmon looks over cooked, you’re right.  I got a little distracted cleaning my room and let the salmon go for about 12 minutes which was too much.  But, the flavors were still delicious, fresh, and light, and despite overcooking the salmon a bit, this was an amazing meal.  On the side I served some black “forbidden” rice spiked with sesame oil, cilantro, and sesame seeds.  

Nutritional highlights:  So back to Omega 3’s.  EPA and DHA are the omega 3’s abundantly found in fish.  They appear to: lower blood pressure, prevent clot formation, protect against irregular heartbeats, reduce inflammation associated with heart disease, and lower blood triglycerides.  So basically, we need to eat more fish, STAT.  Fish oil supplements are NOT the same.  They don’t have the same nutrients as fish, may contain high levels of mercury and other toxins, can interfere with blood clotting, plus, they’re expensive and nasty tasting.  You should only take them if your doctor has specifically recommended them to you.  Ok, stepping off my soapbox now.  This recipe in particularly is great for you because there is very little added fat, and lots of healthy vegetables.  Instead of all the oil involved in sauteeing fish and veggies, this process steams the fish and veggies so they’re perfectly cooked and moist.  

Now for the black rice.  This was my first time trying it, and it has a great nutty flavor.  Not only does it have a lot of fiber, I also read that black rice has more antioxidants than the same quantity of blueberries, but with less sugar.  That’s kind of awesome.  It’s known as forbidden rice because in ancient china only the royalty was allowed to eat it.  So not only is it crazy good for you, it also makes you feel important and powerful when you eat it.  

Asian Salmon in Parchment

Ingredients (for 2 servings):
  • 2 wild salmon filets (about 6 oz each)
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • juice and zest from half of an orange
  • 1 teaspoon of peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Vegetables: red pepper, baby bok choy, sugar snap peas, shitake mushrooms (other options: broccoli, carrots, peapods, etc)
  • Chopped scallions for garnish
Directions:  Preheat the oven to 425.  Mix ingredients 2-8.  Take a large piece of parchment paper…about 16 inches long.  Fold it lengthwise.  Open up the parchment and put the vegetables in the center of one of the halves.  Drizzle with about a tablespoon of your sauce.  Top with your salmon filet and drizzle with another tablespoon of the sauce.  Fold over the top of the parchment and seal the open 3 edges by rolling free edges together inward.  Repeat for your second piece of fish.

Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Cut a lengthwise slit in the pouch and pull back the sides (being careful of the steam trapped inside), top with the scallions, and enjoy your one pouch meal!!

Sesame-Cilantro Forbidden Rice

Ingredients (for 4-5 servings, I halved it)
  • 1 cup black/forbidden rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  • sesame seeds and more cilantro for garnish
Directions:  Cook the rice according to the directions (takes about 30 minutes).  Mix in sesame oil and cilantro.  Top with more cilantro and sesame seeds and enjoy.

Mar 062011
I’ve had a tough week, and instead of being cryptic like in my last post, I’ll just tell you what’s been going on.  One of my closest friends, and quite possibly the most amazing person I’ve ever known, lost her two and half year battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma last Sunday.  During the past week I’ve had to try to accept this fact, study for my first two grad school exams, go to work each day like nothing was wrong, and prepare for a difficult trip to Ohio. Not surprisingly, my health (sleep and food included) were put on the back burner.  Even though I’m not sure I’ve found “closure” (if it even exists), I know that we have to keep moving forward and do our best to live lives that honor those we’ve lost.  One way we can do this is by being grateful for what we have and taking care of our bodies by eating well–hence, this Sweet Potato Falafel.  

If you’re looking for a traditional, “normal” falafel, you should probably  go with this one I made before, but if you’re looking to mix it up and try something different, try this!  They were pretty simple to make, soooo flavorful, and made a big batch that will feed me all week.  

Nutritional Highlights:  These are so great for you.  They’re baked instead of fried like most falafel, taking out the only guilty aspect of falafel.  The main ingredient in these is sweet potato, something we know if filled with beta carotene and has antioxidant effects.  Plus, it has bulgar wheat, whole wheat bread crumbs, and chickpea flour…all great complex carbohydrate sources that provide protein, fiber, and will keep us full.  Eat these on a whole wheat pita or on a salad for an amazingly healthy meal.  

Sweet Potato Falafel
Get the recipe at Happy Herbivore!