Sep 032012
 

I’ve been a little delinquent lately in terms of bringing my own food to work.  Instead of bringing my own coffee like I used to, I’ve been throwing away lots of bucks at Starbucks daily.  Instead of packing my lunch I’ve been eating out, which sacrifices both dollars and nutrition most of the times.  So, I wanted to make something on my day off that would supply me with plenty of leftovers to bring to work for filling lunches.  So, I came up with these Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, filled with ground turkey, quinoa, black beans, corn, and plenty of spices.


There are 3 main steps to making these.  Cook the grain (in this case, quinoa) saute the veggies, turkey, and spices, and then cook and fill the peppers.  Although it might take you about an hour to make these, it will provide you with tons of hearty, healthy meals.  


Nutritional Highlights:  This is one of those meals that basically has every food group covered in one little pepper so it’s a balanced and complete meal.  You can also leave out the turkey if you want them to be vegetarian, and leave off the cheese if you want to keep um vegan (although cheeseless stuffed peppers would be sad).  Using a pepper as a vehicle for all these healthy fillings isn’t just for fun…the pepper itself is a nutrient powerhouse, packed with Vitamin C, A, and antioxidants.  


Southwestern Quinoa and Turkey Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Crepes of Wrath
Ingredients
  • Meat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Peppers
  • 4-5 bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups low fat mexican blend or pepperjack cheese (or any other cheese that you prefer)
  • Salsa for serving
Instructions
  1. Start by getting the quinoa cooking.  In a saucepan, add the quinoa, broth, and spices.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer covered for about 12 -15 minutes.  
  2. While quinoa is simmering, work on the meat. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or saute pan and saute the minced onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute or so over medium heat. Add in the ground turkey, then the spices. Cook for 8 minutes or so over medium heat, until cooked through (don’t over cook – it will continue cooking after being removed from the pot as well as when it is added to the rice).  Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn and simmer for 5 minutes.  
  3. Preheat your oven to 350.  While the meat simmers, you can prepare your bell peppers. Wash them and cut them in half.  Remove the seeds and rinse them out. Spray a baking sheet or any large pan with cooking spray, and cook peppers cut side up for 15 minutes, until just barely tender. Remove and set aside until ready to use.
  4. When the meat and quinoa are ready combine them in the large pot.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Stuff the bell peppers with the chicken and quinoa mixture. Top with enough grated cheese to cover the peppers. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is bubbling.  Serve with your favorite salsa and enjoy!

Aug 262012
 

It’s official…I’m 25! I officially feel like an adult, although I’ve been putting off admitting that for awhile. I had a wonderful weekend of festivities including lots of friends, delicious food, and probably a few too many drinks.  Last week, in preparation for the big 2-5, I made myself a little birthday treat.  This Roasted Banana and Brown Sugar Greek Fro Yo might have been the best frozen yogurt I have ever made, and the perfect way to celebrate my quarter century mark!



With only 4 ingredients, this frozen yogurt had a ton of banana flavor (I think roasting the bananas really helps with that).  It was incredibly creamy, and had just enough tartness from the greek yogurt.  I was a little sad that I made this on a night I had friends coming over, because that meant I had to share (something, as a youngest child, I’ve never really mastered).  



Nutritional Highlights:  Greek yogurt is SO hot right now, and for good reason.  Not only is it delicious, creamy, and tart, but it also has tons more protein than regular yogurt.  In this recipe I used 2% so it would be low fat but maintain some of it’s creaminess.  I used plenty of ripe bananas which are packed with potassium, fiber, and B6.  I used brown sugar, which might not be the healthiest thing ever but I still think it’s a lot less sugar than you’ll find at your local fro yo joint.  I topped it off (pun intended) with some healthy-ish toppings including dark chocolate chips, crushed graham crackers, and chopped nuts.  Definitely the healthiest dessert of my many desserts during this birthday weekend :)


Roasted Banana and Brown Sugar Greek Frozen Yogurt:
adapted from pinkbites
makes about 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 32 oz plain Greek yogurt (2% is what I used but you can also use non-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Toppings of your choice (dark chocolate chips, walnuts, peanuts, graham crackers, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil. Peel the bananas and cut lengthwise. Place bananas in the pan and cover with the brown sugar. Bake it until the sugar melts and the banana is soft and roasted, about 15 minutes.
Reserve 1 banana and transfer the others along with the melted sugar to a large bowl. Mash the banans and then mix in the yogurt and the vanilla. Pour yogurt in the ice cream maker and freeze it according to the manufacture’s instructions. Add the reserved banana just before you turn off the ice cream maker, this will ensure you have some chunks of banana in the frozen yogurt.
Since my frozen yogurt usually isn’t firm enough when it first comes out of the ice cream maker, I put it in a container in the freezer for a few hours to let it harden.  It does get pretty solid in the freezer, so pull it out a little while before you want to eat it.  Serve  with your favorite toppings and enjoy!!
Aug 192012
 

Sorry for my lack of posts this week.  I wish I could say I had a good excuse but I’ve just been enjoying the end of the summer and a rare opportunity to be totally lazy.  Keeping with the lazy theme, I made this mediterranean vegetable salad that was super easy, flavorful, and light for the summer.  


There’s also another significant part of this post–my official change in my olive status.  I used to despise them, then gradually started tolerating them in small pieces on a pizza, and now here we are, my very first olive containing recipe.  I still don’t think I’ll be snacking on them any time soon, but they do add a savory richness to this salad that gives it an extra punch.  



Nutritional highlights:  This recipe is basically all vegetables with a light olive oil based dressing.  Chickpeas add a little protein and fiber and make this a filling salad which would be a perfect side to any meal or a complete lunch (maybe throw in a little low fat feta too).  This recipe is completely vegan and gluten free as well.



Mediterranean Eggplant Salad
adapted (quite a bit) from Gourmet

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (I omitted because I don’t like mint)
  • optional: crumbled low fat feta cheese

Roast eggplant and zucchini:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss eggplant, peppers, and zucchini with 3 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, cumin and coriander then spread in large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Allow vegetables to cool.


Make dressing and assemble salad:
Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well. Serve along side chicken or fish or as a vegetarian main.  

Aug 102012
 

Whether you believe it or not, I love taking shortcuts in the kitchen whenever possible.  I buy pre-steamed lentils, pre-roasted beets, and even pre-grilled chicken sometimes.  Well today I took the craziest shortcut yet…and you won’t believe where it happened–the microwave.  Yep, this sandwich was almost entirely microwave made, and it was awesome.  

So the inspiration behind the microwave meal–I’ve started to get a little tired of my same daily yogurt/fruit breakfast and have been craving eggs.  The problem is that an egg sandwich at most restaurants is not so healthy, and you have no idea what really went into it.  So I figured I’d see how fast I can throw together a breakfast sandwich in the morning, and the answer is 5 minutes!  All you do is use a microwave safe bowl (as close to the size of your english muffin/sandwich flat as possible) and fill it with 3 egg whites, salt, pepper, and your choice of vegetables.  Microwave for 2 minutes and you have a perfectly cooked omlette with no added fat.  Place a slice of lowfat cheese on top and return to the microwave for another 20 seconds, throw it onto your bread, and there you have it.  A perfect, healthy hot breakfast any time.  Honestly, I was shocked how perfectly cooked and tasty this was.



Nutritional highlights: It’s tough to find a healthy breakfast outside of your own home.  Even if you find one that’s relatively low in calories like DD’s flatbread sandwich, you have no clue what’s actually in it (and this one has a massive paragraph worth of ingredients).  My sandwich just has a few natural, healthy ingredients.  The microwave method is not only fast, but it also allows you to cook the eggs with no added fat at all.  By using egg whites, plenty of veggies, whole grain bread, and low fat cheese, I’ve created a well rounded, healthy breakfast in almost no time.  



5 Minute Eggwhite and Vegetable Flatbread Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • raw or cooked vegetables that you like, chopped (I used leftover cooked veggies since I like softer veggies in my eggs)
  • 1 slice of low fat cheese (or shredded cheese)
  • 1 whole grain english muffin, sandwich thin, or bread




In a small microwave safe bowl, crack 3 egg whites.  Whisk with a fork.  Drop in your chopped veggies (I used mushrooms, zucchini, and tomato), season with salt and pepper, and stir.  Put in the microwave for 2 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.  Top with cheese and return to the microwave for another 20 seconds until the cheese is melted.  Remove eggs and place onto your bread (toasted or not is fine).  Enjoy your healthy fastest breakfast ever and get your tush to work!!

Aug 042012
 

What do you think the top 5 sources of calories are for Americans?  Drum roll please:
     1. Grain based desserts (cookies, cakes, etc)
     2. Yeast breads
     3.  Chicken and chicken mixed dishes
     4.  Soda/energy/sports drinks
     5.  Pizza
And number 6, just for fun…Alcohol.  Doesn’t look so good for America does it?  Well,  I wanted to make a recipe that involved the only truly healthy item on this list–chicken.  Everyone is always looking for a new simple chicken recipe, and this one is incredibly simple, flavorful, and perfect for a summer bar-b-que.  



The marinade is sort of a twist on a margarita (without the tequila).  It uses agave nectar for sweetness, plenty of lime juice and zest, and soy sauce for a savory flavor.  It’s delicious with or without the cherry salsa.





Nutritional Highlights:  As you read above, chicken is one of the most popular foods in America.  And while some of our choices are clearly not the best, this is one we got right…as long as it’s not deep fried or drowning is sauce.  Chicken breast is a great lean source of protein, B vitamins, and selenium.  This recipe uses a marinade to add tons of flavor and then it is simply grilled, not adding too much fat or calories.  A fresh fruit salsa is a great way to fancy up your grilled chicken without adding anything unhealthy.  This one has cherries that are known for having tons of antioxidants.  This is a light, fresh, summer dish and is totally guilt free. 





Agave-Lime Grille Chicken with Fresh Cherry Salsa Ingredients for the chicken:

  • 1.5 – 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

If chicken isn’t an even thickness (which it rarely is) then place chicken in a large ziploc bag or between two pieces of saran wrap and pound chicken with the flat side of a meat mallet to an even thickness.  This will help the chicken cook evenly and not be over or under cooked in any part.


In a bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour remaining mixture over the chicken (in a dish or ziplock bag) and allow to marinate at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. 


Preheat grill to medium high heat. Once preheated, brush grill lightly with olive oil. Place chicken on grill and cook (with lid closed) 5-8 minutes per side until juices run clear (depending on thickness).  If you’re like me and don’t have an outdoor grill, your grill pan will work almost as well. 


For the Salsa (can be done well in advance):

  • 1 cup pitted cherries, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • salt to taste
Mix above ingredients and set aside.  Serve over or along side the chicken for extra summer flavor.
Boy am I excited for these leftovers….


Jul 212012
 

Food has many purposes–to give us fuel, keep us healthy, make us happy, and the one I will focus on today, make people like you.  You might be saying…wait, you make friends by being kind and outgoing and friendly.  Wrong.  You make friends by feeding them delicious things.  Evidenced by this blueberry-lemon yogurt bread that I brought to work one morning which resulted in instant love from all my coworkers.  And a bonus of this post as you will see below…the truth about where I take most of my photos.  Yep, it’s a tiny windowsill in my apartment overlooking Broadway.  Oh the joys of living in New York City…





When I was looking for a recipe that involved one of my favorite flavor combos (blueberry and lemon) I found this recipe on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and then again on my friends blog, Erica Sweet Tooth.  She knows all there is to know about baking, so I knew it would be great.  Obviously I tweaked it a bit to make it slightly healthier but I promise nothing was sacrificed in the flavor.  


Nutritional Highlight:  Yeah, there’s still a pretty solid amount of sugar in this recipe, but, there’s also many redeeming qualities.  Fat free greek yogurt (calcium/protein), lots of blueberries (antioxidants), fresh lemon juice (vitamin C) to name a few.  This is obviously not something that the future dietitian in me would recommend to eat all the time, but if you’re going to have baked goods you could do a whole lot worse!  




Lemon Blueberry Bread


For the bread
3/4 cups + 1 tbsp all purpose flour, divided

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
1 cup sugar (I cut to 3/4 cup and it was still plenty sweet)
1 whole egg plus 3 egg whites
2 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or you could sub apple sauce to keep this extra low fat)
1-1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

For the lemon syrup
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the lemon glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ loaf pan, dust with flour, and tap out excess.
– In a medium bowl, whisk together flour (all but the 1 tablespoon), baking powder, and salt.
– In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil.
– Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.  In a separate bowl mix the blueberries with the 1 tbsp of flour and then gently fold them into the mixed batter.
– Pour the batter into the pan and bake 50-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
– Let bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
– While the loaf is cooling, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir continuously until sugar is dissolved, and then continue cooking for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
– Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf and brush with the lemon syrup.  Continue to brush the loaf until all of the syrup is added.
– To make the lemon glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice and pour over the top of the loaf.  Let the lemon glaze harden before serving. 




Jul 122012
 

Summer is in full force which means not only that I’m craving light and fresh meals, but also my summer wardrobe requires it.  But, we all know it’s not easy to be healthy in the summer…there’s always some sort of party or bar-b-que or happy hour (or several hours).  But next time you’re making something for a party, instead of heavy potato or pasta salad, try this light but flavorful salad of roasted green beans, beets, nectarines, and marinated goat cheese.  





This salad is perfect as either a side dish or a light main.  I took a few short cuts to make this a really quick fix. Instead of roasting my own beets, I bought already cooked fresh beets (most grocery stores have these now in the produce section).  All I had to do to put this together was wisk the dressing, roast the green beans, and slice the beets and nectarines.  Even though this salad seems simple, the flavors are anything but.  The sweet and savory aspects of this salad come together perfectly and the marinated goat cheese is truly the star.  





Nutritional highlights:  Not only is this salad low cal to help you stay in beach condition for the summer, more importantly it’s packed with a variety of awesome nutrients.  Nectarines have beta carotene (a form of Vitamin A), Vitamin C (with magical antioxidant powers), and lutein (for healthy eyes and skin).  Beets are a great natural source of folate (hope you’re reading this pregnant sister of mine!) and the phytochemical betalain.  Green beans, spinach, and arugula are also powerhouses here.  The variety in this salad is key…any time you see a meal as colorful as this one you know it’s going to be good for you!





Roasted Green Bean, Beet, and Nectarine Salad with Marinated Goat Cheese
adapted from Giada on Food Network


Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed (I used a teaspoon of honey instead since I didn’t have this)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Salad:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, chilled, broken into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Four 2-inch-diameter red or golden beets, tops trimmed (or buy the pre cooked ones from the produce aisle and save yourself an hour!)
  • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 3 packed cups baby arugula
  • 2 nectarines, cut into thin slices 

Directions

For the dressing: Combine the oil, vinegar, apple juice (or honey), thyme, pepper, salt and garlic in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Season with additional salt and pepper.
For the salad: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl. Drizzle with just enough dressing to moisten. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
(Skip this next step if you have already cooked beets): Wrap each beet in foil. Place the beets directly onto the oven rack and roast until tender, about 50 minutes. 
Eight minutes before the beets are tender, place the green beans in a pie dish. Add the oil and a pinch each salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast the green beans alongside the beets until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Remove the foil from the beets and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut each beet into 6 to 8 wedges.
Combine the lettuces in a large bowl. Add the green beans and nectarine slices and top with the beet wedges. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss until coated.