Jun 192013
 
I have a new theory:  The most dangerous time when you’re trying to be healthy is snack time.  Meals are more straightforward for me—am I eating a lot of produce, whole grains and protein?  Did it not come from a drive through window or a delivery man who remembers my name because I’ve been calling so much?  Then I’m probably doing pretty well.  But snack time is another story.  When you’re on the go or busy at work and you need a snack, it the options can be limited.  Most vending machines are filled with chips and cookies and even if you have a granola bar on hand, that may be secretly packed with sugar and processed ingredients.  So, one of my new favorite go-to snacks are roasted chickpeas.  You can make savory and spicy varieties or you can make sweet versions like these Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Chickpeas.  Either way, they are portable, healthy, easy to make, and won’t leave you with a guilty snack food hangover afterward. 



 I stole this recipe from my friend Kori at Paint and Tofu and it was such a yummy and easy one.  I’ve only tried savory roasted chickpeas in the past (because I am usually a salty over sweet craver, although I try not to discriminate).  It’s a great substitute if you love candied nuts, because it still gives you that sweet crunchiness but without all the fat and thick sugary coating that they often have.
Nutritional Highlights:  This is a great vegan and gluten free snack option.  As you all probably know, chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans) are packed with protein and fiber so this snack will keep you full longer.  I have to confess that there is still some sugar in this recipe, but only a small amount.  If you’re watching out for sugar, try a savory version like chili powder, lime, and garlic powder. 

 



Roasted Cinnamon-Sugar Chickpeas
Recipe Adapted from Paint and Tofu

Ingredients:

• 1 can (15oz) chickpeas

• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

• 2 teaspoons cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
Instructions:
• Drain the chick peas and dry them well on a paper towel. Drying is very important to crispify (it’s a word) the chickpeas properly so don’t ignore this step! You can peel the skins off if you’d like…I have found that it makes them crispier but it’s also a pain in the tush so I’ve given up on it.

• In a small bowl, whisk together oil, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Add chickpeas to bowl and stir until evenly coated.

• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake for 25-30 minutes on 375 degrees.

• Shake the chickpeas around, and drizzle with agave or honey.

• Bake for another 15 minutes and let cool.


Jun 112013
 

Please see above my new favorite word (and meal).  Enchilasagna.  Definition: a delicious hybrid between lasagna and enchiladas that will leave you feeling so freaking happy.  I can’t get over how good this meal was.  It was vegan, gluten free, super healthy, and will be providing me with lunch all week long.  


It takes some time to make (since you have to roast the veggies, assemble, then bake the whole thing), but a lot of this time is inactive.  So here is how you enchilasagna (see now it’s a verb):  1.  Roast veggies seasoned with taco or fajita seasoning and combine with beans, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro.  2.  Assemble in this order- Sauce, tortillas, veggie mix, cheese.  3.  Repeat two more times.  4. Put it in the oven and get ready to be amazed.  


Nutritional Highlights:  There are so many good things about this meal.  It is a complete meal with protein from the cheese, carbs from the tortillas, and plenty of veggies.  This was also my first time trying out soy cheese and I am shocked to say, I LOVED IT!  Because of this, the recipe is vegan (or vegetarian if you use regular cheese), and gluten free, and I think that meat eaters would still love it!


Roasted Enchilasagna, AKA  Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

Yield: Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

1 large red pepper, chopped, seeds removed
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon taco or fajita seasoning
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 cups red enchilada sauce (I used low sodium salsa instead since the enchilada sauce at my store had so much salt!)
8-10 small corn tortillas, halved
1.5 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used Trader Joe’s shredded Soy Cheese…so good I mean it!!)
Garnish:  Sliced avocado and tomato

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and onion on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until vegetables are coated. Season with taco seasnoing. Roast vegetables for 30 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool to room temperature (PS, I didn’t let my veggies cool cuz I was hungry and nothing terrible happened). 
2. Grease an 8×8 square baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine roasted vegetables, black beans, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro. Stir and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
3. Spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce or salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortillas, to completely cover the bottom of the pan. You might have to cut the tortillas to make them fit. Top with 1/3 of the vegetable/bean mixture and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, enchilada sauce, vegetables/beans, and cheese. Top with with a layer of tortillas, enchilada sauce, vegetables/beans, and cheese. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the pan.
4. Bake enchiladas for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are bubbling. Remove enchiladas from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.
Enjoy! (Promise you will!)
May 152013
 

There are a few things I always look forward to when I go home to Chicago.  First, seeing my family (duh) and especially it’s newest addition, my nephew Owen.  And second, cooking in my Mom’s amazing kitchen with my grill-master dad ready to assist.  This visit I was in charge of a Mother’s Day BBQ, but needed to come up with a few ideas that wouldn’t take too long as to maximize baby time.  So, I made this relatively easy but super impressive meal, Bruschetta Grilled Chicken Breasts with Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Pasta Salad.  A little more impressive than the usual burgers and dogs, right?


This chicken recipe will definitely be a new go to.  I marinated it in a simple balsamic/garlic/oil mixture but you can also just use a bottled balsamic dressing.  Grill the chicken, and top with a mixture of fresh mozzarella, diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic, with a drizzle of oil and vinegar.  For the pasta salad, just throw any veggies you like into the oven to roast, and meanwhile, boil some whole wheat pasta.  Toss it all together with store bought or homemade pesto and chill til you’re ready to eat it. 


Check out the grill master at work…



And now the final product.  You want that.



Nutritional Highlights:  BBQs can be a deadly thing…most of the traditional items, burgers, hotdogs, pasta salad, are not the best for you.  This is a great recipe that will satisfy all bbq-goers and not be detrimental to your plans to wear a bathing suit come memorial day.  We all know that chicken is a lean protein source, but go organic if you can afford it.  The topping  has tons of antioxidant rich tomatoes.  For pasta salad, always choose whole grain pasta and load it up with veggies so you eat less of the actual pasta part of it.  I’d also add a salad to this meal, but I just needed to get back to my adorable nephew.  See below…you get why I don’t want to be trapped in the kitchen now.


Bruschetta Chicken


Serves 4



For Chicken:

• 4 chicken breasts (if they are very unevenly thick, you may want to pound them out a bit for easier cooking)

• 1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing (or make your own by mixing balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper)

For Bruschetta Topping

• 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

• 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

• 4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

• ½ small garlic clove, finely minced (could also sub garlic powder)

• Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar

 

• salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:


1. Marinade chicken breasts in balsamic vinaigrette for at least 1 hour (but more is even better). I like to poke a few holes in my chicken breasts with a fork so the flavor can really penetrate.

2. While chicken is marinating, combine brushcetta topping and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

3. Grill chicken until it is cooked through (about 15-20 minutes but varies depending on thickness of your chicken)

4. Top chicken with bruschetta topping and enjoy.


Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Pasta Salad

For 4-6 servings



Ingredients:

• 2 cups whole wheat penne (or other whole wheat pasta of your choosing)

• 4 cups mixed vegetables, cut into pieces for roasting (I used red pepper, mushroom, zucchini, and asparagus)

• ½ cup pesto (store bought or homemade)

• Olive oil, salt, and pepper



Instructions:

• Preheat oven to 400 and put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta

• Put vegetables in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt pepper (I also added red pepper flakes and garlic powder here). Spread veggies on a large baking sheet.

• Roast for about 20-25 minutes or until vegetables have softened and browned.

• Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions.

• Combined pasta, roasted vegetables, and toss with pesto sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve for a bbq but this would also be delish as a hot meal as well!


May 052013
 

Feliz Cinco de Mayo everyone!  Hopefully you’re spending your day drinking margaritas and eating lots of guacamole, and not working on final papers like I am (or at least, like I should be…what is really happening is a lot of staring at the computer screen).  To keep things a little festive, I made these cute mexican inspired shrimp salads with mango, avocado, red peppers, cilantro, black beans, and onion.  These made an awesome lunch but would also be an impressive appetizer for your upcoming summer fiestas.


Start to finish these took about 30 minutes to make.  Not bad huh?  I used frozen shrimp so while they were thawing under cold water, I chopped the mango, cilantro, red onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and mixed it with black beans and lots of lime juice.  Then I seasoned the shrimpies and sauteed them quickly until just cooked through.  After letting them cool for a few, they got chopped and tossed in with the rest of the salad.  Then, scoop out the center of the avocado, chop it, and add it to the salad, leaving you with cute little avocado bowls for your salads.   Fill the bowls with the salad and prepare to impress people with your creative presentation.  


Nutrition Highlights:  This recipe uses tons of great ingredients- high fiber black beans, vitamin packed mango and red pepper, and shrimp which has lots of tryptophan, selenium, and protein.  You can also make this without the shrimp to keep it vegan.  


Mango-Black Bean Shrimp Salad in Avocado Bowls

Makes 4 Avocado halves

Ingredients:

  • 2 Avocados
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped mango
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 6 shrimp, fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1.  If using frozen shrimp, run under cold water to allow it to thaw
2.  Meanwhile, chop all of the other ingredients: red onion, mango, cilantro, red pepper, and jalapeno.
3.  Add the black beans to the other ingredients. 
4.  Halve the avocados and scoop out the centers using a spoon, leaving a little bit of avocado inside so there is a nice green border for your bowls.  I also cut a very small amount off the bottom of the bowl so it would lay flat without rolling.
5.  Season your shrimp (I used salt, pepper, and chili powder) and saute in a tiny bit of oil oil for 2-4 minutes over medium-high heat.   Once cooked through, set shrimp aside to cool.  
6.  Chop 4 of the shrimp and add to the salad.  Cut the other two shrimp in half lengthwise to lay on top of the salad at the end.
7.  Dress your salad with juice from one lime and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
8.  Fill your avocado bowls, top with shrimp half and cilantro leave.  Serve along with some tortilla chips and enjoy!

 

Apr 072013
 

Whenever I look at recipe websites, the top searches are always for chicken recipes.  Chicken breasts are healthy, relatively inexpensive, and very versatile, but I’m just gonna come out there and say it…they can also be pretty LAME.  Sure, plain grilled chicken is healthy, but it gets boring fast, so I try to mix up my chicken recipes as much as possible.  I love chicken piccata at italian restaurants, but it can be really unhealthy and is often breaded and fried in a thick sauce.  This version isn’t breaded at all, and is sauteed quickly with a light sauce of lemon, capers, white wine, and garlic.  Very simple and quick but very tasty.  

 
The key to making this an especially quick meal is to pound your chicken breasts out very thin or cut them in half lengthwise.  I didn’t do a great job with this because I got a little lazy with my pounding, but when I make this again I’ll be sure to do it!  The process is really easy…just brown the chicken, set aside, and make the sauce quickly in the same pan. You can serve this with almost any sides you like, but I made whole wheat pasta with artichokes hearts, spinach,   red onion and fresh tomatoes to go with the mediterranean theme of the meal.  
 
Nutritional Highlights:  Although I don’t eat a ton of meat these days, when I do it’s usually chicken. Chicken breasts (try to get organic if you can) are incredibly lean and high in protein.  If you serve this recipe with a whole grain and a vegetable (like my veggie pasta here) you have a perfectly balance meal!
 
Chicken Piccata
adapted from Closet Kitchen

Ingredients
  • – 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • – 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • – 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • – 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • – 1 lemon, juice and 1 lemon, sliced
  • – 1 teaspoon honey
  • – 2 tablespoons capers
  • – 1 tablespoon butter
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side and set aside.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  4. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze it.
  5. Add the broth, lemon juice, honey and capers in the pan and simmer until the liquids have reduce by half, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper, mix in the parsley, return chicken to pan and toss to coat.  Top with thin lemon slices and additional chopped parsley and serve.  
Enjoy!
Mar 102013
 

A glorious discovery was made in my kitchen this morning.  Potentially earth shattering, ground breaking, and other dramatic things like that.  Drum roll please…Quinoa for breakfast.  OK maybe some of you don’t find that quite as exciting as I do, but I was SO excited to see how great quinoa was as part of this baked oatmeal.  You can’t go wrong with the  combination of blueberries, bananas, walnuts, and cinnamon and added to super foods like quinoa, oats, and chia seeds, this is an amazingly healthy and delicious breakfast, brunch, or even healthy dessert.  


The other benefit of this dish (beyond the nutritional and flavor aspects) is that it makes about 6-8 servings making it perfect for a family or group, or for filling tupperware for a weeks worth of breakfasts (if you are me- party of 1).  It’s also super easy to put together.  You just layer sliced bananas and blueberries on the bottom of the pan, top with the dry ingredients, pour over the wet ingredients, and then top with a few extra banana slices, blueberries, and walnuts for a lil extra flair.  


Nutritional Highlights:  This is a crazy healthy meal.  Here are a few of the highlights: 

  • Quinoa: Apparently the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”  Who in the world knows what that means, but it’s packed with protein and fiber.  
  • Blueberries and Bananas:  antioxidants, potassium, deliciousness.
  • Walnuts: omega-6 fatty acids
  • Chia seeds:  No relation to our grass covered pets of the 90’s…They’re so hot right now so I decided to throw in a few tablespoons.   They have omega 3’s, protein, and fiber, and they soak up a ton of liquid so they keep you full for a while
And I didn’t even mention the fiber filled oats or the skim or soy milk to get a little calcium in there.  There is really nothing bad I can say about this recipe, and I can’t wait to eat it at work every single day this week.  
 


Quinoa-Oatmeal Bake with Blueberries, Bananas, and Walnuts
adapted from Milk and Honey Living

 
Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 T chia seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/4 cups milk (skim or soy/almond if you want non-dairy)
1 large egg
1 T butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 bananas, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups blueberries plus a few extra for the top
Preheat oven to 375 and grease 9×13 pan
  1. Mix together oats, quinoa, most of the walnuts (save a few for the top), baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl lightly beat egg and add in milk, vanilla, melted butter (let cool slightly).
  3. Cut bananas into slices covering the bottom of pan (reserve a few slices for the top).  Top with the berries (again, saving a few for the top) and cover with oat mixture.
  4. Pour wet ingredients to cover dry ingredients and top with remaining berries, banana slices, and walnuts.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup if you like it a little bit sweet like I do!  Enjoy!

Note:  If you like your oatmeal a little sweeter, feel free to add some maple syrup or honey into the bake (my version only has fruit to give sweetness).  Also, if you’re going to save the leftovers and reheat, I recommend adding a little milk or water for reheating as it dries out a bit.

 

Jul 272012
 

Nothing says summer to me like good tomatoes.  My mom grows the BEST tomatoes every summer and growing up I would eat them straight off the vine because they were that sweet.  Since I can’t be at home to enjoy them this year, I found a close second to mom’s…baby heirlooms at the farmers market.  I wanted to find a recipe that showcased the tomatoes without overpowering it and I found just that.  These Herbed Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Crostini with Balsamic Reduction will be my new go to summer appetizer…and trust me, they will impress your guests.


There’s a little bit of prep work involved in making these, but once you make your 4 components (toasted or grilled bread, herbed ricotta, chopped tomatoes, and balsamic reduction) building the crostini’s are super easy.  I can’t even pinpoint what it was that made these so ridiculously good…maybe the garlic and herbs in the ricotta, maybe the freshness of the tomatoes, the sweetness of the balsamic, or even just how beautiful and colorful they looked.  Well whatever it was made these one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in a while and I highly recommend it!

Nutritional highlights:  By using thinly sliced multigrain baguette in this recipe, I add fiber and healthy whole grains.  Tomatoes are an amazing source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and you get the most of it when they’re in their peak season (aka, now).  Ricotta is naturally one of the lower fat cheeses out there–only 50 calories and 4 g of fat per ounce compared with 116 calories and 10 g of fat in cheddar cheese.  By adding lots of fresh herbs and garlic, a little goes a long way on these crostini.  Overall this appetizer is a healthy addition to your summer party and you will not regret making them!





Herbed Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Crostini with Balsamic Reduction


adapted from Authentic Suburban Gourmet
Makes approximately 14 

Multigrain or whole wheat baguette, cut into 14 thin
1 C. Ricotta cheese
3 T. Chives, diced small
3 T. Basil, chiffonade 
2 T. Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced 
Salt and pepper
1 C. Small heirloom tomatoes cut in half
½ C. Balsamic vinegar

Brush or spary each slice of baguette with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake, broil, or grill until golden brown. Let cool.

In a bowl add the ricotta, chives, basil, olive oil and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and taste for additional seasonings.  Cut your tomatoes, place in another bowl, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

In a small sauté pan add the balsamic vinegar and heat over medium high heat. Reduce the mixture for about 10 minutes.  Be sure to watch carefully. You will want it to resemble a syrup consistency. Let cool. 

To assemble, add about one tablespoon of the ricotta mixture to the top of the toasted baguette slices. Top with about 5 to 6 of the tomato halves. Drizzle with a bit of the reduced balsamic and garnish with additional basil if you’d like. Serve and enjoy!