Jan 292014

As a person who is pretty ambivalent about the sport of football, you might be surprised to hear that I LOVE the Super Bowl. It’s not because of the commercials or even the halftime show (although these both beat the main attraction in my eyes). It’s about the excuse to eat as much junk food as you want to for approximately 5 hours straight. I know, I know, this is not what a future nutritionist should be saying, but you have to admit it’s pretty fun. Still, even more fun is making healthier versions that feel like junk food, like these UNREAL Buffalo Quinoa Bites. Approved by football and non-football fans alike.
Nutritional Highlights: Americans consume more calories on the Superbowl than any other day, INCLUDING Thanksgiving. I guess it makes sense, since at least on Thanksgiving you might eat A vegetable. One superbowl staple, buffalo wings, has over 200 calories in just 3 little wings (and let’s be honest you’re going to eat a lot more than 3). This version is not only vegetarian, and packs a ton of protein and fiber from the quinoa and white beans to make you too full to eat the rest of the bad stuff. Instead of blue cheese dressing which usually has a high fat mayo or sour cream base, mine is mostly greek yogurt. Best of all, I found these totally addictive and didn’t miss the chicken or deep fried-ness at all…and neither did my initially very skeptical finance.
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Buffalo Quinoa Bites with Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce
makes 24 quinoa bites
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For the bites:
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cannellini bean mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, finley chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hot sauce (ie franks), + a bit more for topping
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup low fat shredded cheese, + a bit more for topping
Serve with: additional chopped scallions, blue cheese yogurt dressing, and carrot/celery sticks

How to make them:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients
3. Add a spoonful of the buffalo quinoa to each mini muffin cup and press down firmly.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, adding the extra cheese for the last 5 minutes. Remove and cool for a few minutes before removing.
5. Top with a few extra scallions and an extra hit of hot sauce if you’re crazy like me. Serve warm with the blue cheese dressing and enjoy!
*Any leftovers? I have been putting these in salads all week for lunch at work and it’s pretty life changing. Just saying.

For the Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce:
1 6oz container nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely crumbled blue cheese (I actually used gorgonzola because I prefer it and it was great)
½ tspn garlic powder
½ tspn onion powder
salt and black pepper to taste

How to make it: Mix all those things. The end.
Here’s to Super Bowling without Super Sizing 😀

Jan 212014

Kale Caesar is SO hot right now. It’s on the menu at every trendy restaurant, disguised as the healthy choice. Don’t get my wrong, kale is amazing for you, but drowning in heavy dressing and covered in cheese, it’s only slightly healthier than the original. My version is not only way healthier but equally flavorful.
Nutritional highlights: There are a few key secrets that make my caesar healthier. 1) The dressing is animal product free–yep, no cheese, anchovies, or eggs which are the quintessential caesar ingredients. 2) It gets it’s creaminess/”cheesiness” from heart healthy ingredients like walnuts and roasted garlic. 3) Instead of greasy croutons, I made some crispy spiced roasted chickpeas, for extra fiber and protein. 4) And the one DUH swap here, kale instead of romaine adds tons of fiber, calcium, and other good stuff.

I served mine along with some simple spaghetti squash with spicy tomato sauce. I know, fake pasta + fake caesar doesn’t sound all that appealing, but this was literally one of the best meals I’ve had in a while!
**Confession: Although the dressing is vegan, I did proceed to top it with shredded parm. I couldn’t help myself…
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Vegan(ish) Kale Caesar
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For the dressing:
1/2 head of garlic plus 1 small clove
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
2 Teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
One bunch or bag of kale
1 can of chickpeas, roasted (instructions below)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan (optional)

To make the dressing:
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Remove some of the papery outer layers of the garlic head half, and it in the center of a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap it up into a little bundle and place in oven for about 35-45 minutes, or until cloves are soft and brown.
2. Meanwhile, soak the walnuts in the water for at least 10 minutes to soften.
3. In a food processor, add the 1 raw garlic clove (peeled), mustard, soy, lemon juice, and the water/walnut mixture. Once roasted garlic is ready, pop out the soft cloves and add that to the mixture.
4. Pulse until all ingredients have combined. Drizzle the olive oil in slowly while food processor is running. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add additional garlic, lemon juice, or seasonings as needed.

Notes: If you want to skip the roasted garlic step, just add another clove or two of raw garlic instead. Likewise, if you don’t love the bite of raw garlic, skip the raw clove and use only the roasted garlic.

To make the roasted chickpeas: I cooked mine in the same 400 degree oven while I roasted the garlic. Just rinse chickpeas and dry with a few paper towels as well as you can. Toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and any spices you like (I used garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayene). Roast for about 30 minutes, shaking every 10 minutes until they are crispy and brown. Use instead of croutons in your salad!

To make the salad: Wash and roughly chop the kale, removing any large unruly stems. “Massage” the kale by just kind of squeezing it in your hands, this makes it a little bit more tender and less bitter. Also, kale salads are best when they sit in the dressing for a bit before serving, so toss it with the dressing an hour before serving (although if you don’t have time it will still be delicious). Top with grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, and parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Jan 112014

This is definitely one of the craziest winters I’ve seen in a while. In New York it has gone from 10 to 60 degrees over the course of the week. When I checked on the weather in Chicago earlier in the week to see how my family was doing , it said the “real feel” was -41. How does one even feel that? Anyway, it was a perfect week to try out my new slow cooker. I came up with this Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Turkey Sausage soup, and it was the perfect thing to get me through this crazy week.
Nutritional Highlights: This soup is pretty nutrient packed. Kale is an amazing source of fiber and calcium, white beans have more fiber and protein, and the turkey sausage give you a little extra lean protein. You could leave out the sausage for a vegetarian soup, but if you do that’d I’d up the seasonings a bit. Best part about it is it’s almost completely hands off…just brown the turkey and throw everything else as is into the slow cooker and let it rip. This soup will definitely keep you full, warm, and happy this winter.
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Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Turkey Sausage Soup
makes 5-6 servings
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What’s in it:
1 lb hot turkey (or chicken) italian sausage
1 small sweet onion (or 1/2 large), finely chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon italian herbs
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 14.5 oz cans white beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (more or less according to desired thickness)
6 cups roughly chopped kale
optional (but encouraged): 1 parmesan rind (I always save the ends of my parmesan to use in soups. Adds such great flavor!)

How to make it:
1. Remove turkey sausage from casings and brown in a skillet over medium high heat. Break it up into small pieces as it cooks. Once brown, drain off excess fat and transfer cooked meat into your slow cooker.
2. Add the remaining ingredients except the kale and stir to combine.
3. Turn on your slow cooker to the 6 or 8 hour setting depending on how much time you have.
4. An hour before it’s done, add in the kale. Also, taste and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper as needed (I didn’t think this needed salt since it got plenty from the canned ingredients and sausage).
5. Serve topped with parmesan and with crusty whole grain bread. Enjoy!