Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Salad That Warms Your Palate!

A great way to increase your vegetable intake is to have a salad. In the winter salads can sound cold and unappetizing, but if you add some heat to your favorite greens you might be surprised at the warmth your tongue tastes!
Warm Winter Salad
Serves 2 side dishes or 1 main dish
4 cups Baby lettuce or spinach
1 cup Portobello mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1/2 Red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Goat cheese, crumbled
2 Tb Sunflower seeds or other favorite nut
1 Tb Olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
In a skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté for 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for an additional 4 minutes. Add vinegar to the pan and allow the mixture to reduce. Mix greens, goat cheese, and nuts in a bowl. Top salad with warmed mushroom mixture. Toss and serve with whole wheat pita bread!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Southwestern Quinoa & Roasted Sweet Potatoes--WOW!

Excuse me for tooting my own horn here, but WOW! This dish is fabulous! I'll be honest...I was craving pizza, but went to my pantry instead. Tonight I decided that I should cook up some quinoa with roasted sweet potatoes. I really hope you give this meal a try! Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa) is a popular grain in South America, and is just beginning to gain popularity here in the U.S. Quinoa is gluten free, and loaded with nutrition. A simple 1/4 cup of quinoa packs in 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein! Plus, it cooks in 15 minutes! This delicious grain is similar in taste to rice or cous cous, but far more superior in nutrition. Give quinoa a taste! Check out Bob's Red Mill at for more information. Many grocery stores are carrying quinoa now, but if not--ask! It never hurts to ask them to start purchasing items you are interested in buying. Enjoy!

Southwestern Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 1 with Leftovers
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 ts cumin
1/2 cup cilantro
2 sweet potatoes, peel & slice into 1/2" rounds
2 Tb olive oil
1 lime
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400*F. On a baking sheet spread out sweet potatoes. Coat them with oil and toss. Bake for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Place water and cumin in a soup pot and bring to a
boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add cilantro (reserving a couple for the top), 1/2 lime juiced, and season with salt. Place on a plate and top with roasted sweet potatoes. Squeeze remaining lime over top and add a splash of color with remaining cumin. Enjoy!
Suggested Additions:
1 can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 chicken breast, grilled and sliced over top
1 Mexican Beer to sip & enjoy life with!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CSA Goodies--What's Cookin' this Week?

For me, meal ideas abound when I pick up my CSA "goodie box" from Be Wise Ranch ( This week's box was filled with 3 different varieties of lettuce, bags of oranges and apples, green onions, strawberries, cilantro, parsley, potatoes, cabbage, baby bok choy, and colorful bell peppers! My involvement with a CSA ensures that I eat my fruits & vegetables. As a bonus, I feel good that I am supporting local agriculture! So, here some meal ideas that come to my mind:
  • Veggie Pasta: cook onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil, add sliced bell peppers and zucchini. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, add white wine (the kind you would drink) and simmer for 4-5 more minutes. (Optional: You could add shrimp at this point.) Serve over angel hair pasta and top with fresh Parmesan and chopped parsley.
  • Grilled salmon & bok choy: slice bok choy in half. Drizzle with sesame or canola oil and season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper-just enough to add heat. Grill cut side down for 3-5 minutes, flip and grill until sear marks appear. Squeeze a lime over it to finish the flavor!
  • Strawberry Salad, of course--see previous post for recipe, but I may add orange wedges in it for a little color and a complimentary flavor.
  • Fish Tacos: In California, fish tacos are very popular, and absolutely delicious! You serve these scrumptious tacos in soft corn tortillas and piled high with a cabbage slaw! Check out Tyler Florence's recipe, You can even bake these or just opt for a grilled white fish.
  • Baked French fries: Cut potatoes into steak fries. Toss with a vegetable oil (not olive oil, because olive oil has a lower smoking point), and salt & pepper. You can add any variety of herbs or seasonings (rosemary, garlic powder, thyme, sage, etc.) Bake at 450*F for 15-20 minutes, flip at 10 minutes. Be sure your oven is preheated for at least 10 minutes to get the crispy texture!
  • Chopped apple salad: You have to check out Bobby Flay's recipe This would taste fabulous on it's own or with grilled chicken.
What are your creative ideas for this week?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Inverted Shepherd's Pie--Quick & Easy!

As a military spouse I often find myself dining alone; thus, I am always trying to muster up the excitement to eat alone. I know it's easier to pick something up, but it's definitely not healthier in the long run nor kind on a bank account. With that said, I often break out my Crockpot (aka Slow Cooker). Today, I had to work and then head out the door to grad class; so, I opened up all of my cabinets and created the following:
Inverted Shepherd Pie
Serves 2 (or 1 with leftovers! and yes, this can be doubled to meet your family size)
1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef (or soy crumbles for my vegetarian readers)
2 Lg carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups frozen green beans or peas
1/2 onion
1/2 pkg McCormick's Beef Stew Mix
2 cups water
1 russet potato--leave the skin on!
2-3 Tb. skim milk
1 Tb. butter
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (or 2 ts. dry)
In a skillet cook ground beef. In Crockpot add cooked ground beef, carrots, green beans, onion, season mix, and water. Cook for 4-8 hours on low.
When you get home you have three choices: 1)make mashed potatoes from scratch (which may take 20 minutes), 2)break out the refrigerator kind, or 3) use instant--your choice! To make them from scratch: cut potato into 2 inch chunks (large pieces). Place chunks into a soup pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and turn down the heat to a medium-low for 10-15 minutes (or until fork pierces the skin easily). Meanwhile heat milk in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds to a minute and then add butter. Once the potato is done, drain, and return to pan. Mash with milk mixture and add parsley to finish. Wait on adding salt until you taste it with the meat mixture. In a bowl, scoop mashed potatoes and ladle meat & vegetables over top. Add cheese if you desire, but it tasted delicious without! Enjoy! I did!!!

Skinny Café--Easy Way to Cut Calories & Keep the Taste!

Are you a coffee drinker? Every morning I wake up to the fresh smell of brewed coffee, winding its way to my bedroom. Ahhh...I love my coffee. Generally, I drink 2 cups each morning, and occasionally have an espresso in the afternoon. I used to drink my coffee with flavored creamer or half & half--such a treat. If you are trying to cut calories, one trick is to look at your habits. Any area where you can shave 25-100 calories "here and there" makes a huge difference on the scale. So, one area I often work with is coffee. How do you enjoy your coffee each morning? Here are some numbers for you to consider:
Coffee-Mate Creamers (flavored), 1 Tb 35 Calories
Half & Half, 1 Tb 17.5 Calories
Whole Milk, 1 Tb 9 Calories
Skim or Fat-Free Milk, 1 Tb 5 Calories
Sugar, 1 ts 15 Calories
Now, have you ever measured how much creamer you add to your coffee? It's surprising what an actual tablespoon looks like versus what you think it looks like. (smile) Oh, how we underestimate!
One of my favorite ways to enjoy coffee in the morning is to make a "latté." Here's how I cut back on my traditional 2-3 Tb Coffee-Mate Creamer morning "cup of Joe" (100 Calorie) habit:

Start with a mug, fat-free milk, and a frothing wand.

Heat 1/4 cup milk for 30 seconds in the microwave.

Add 1 ts. sugar, and froth with wand for 10-15 seconds or until frothy.

Add coffee and enjoy! Perhaps top it off with cinnamon or nutmeg!

When you heat the milk it reduces, leaving a thicker, creamier consistency. It's worth a shot and saves you 65 Calories!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Asian Inspired Veggie Burgers & Slaw

Now let me start off with the fact that not all "Veggie burgers" are created equal, and to be honest, there are few that I like from a box. BUT--Gardenburger has come out with Bistro Steaks. The "steak-style" burgers come in Baja, Hawaiian, Tuscan, and Asian flavors. For my Vegan followers, try the Hula Steak! I decided to try these "steaks" because their ingredient list looked really clean (real food), and they are packed with fiber. I really like them! Here are a couple meal ideas in case you find yourself in a jam at night or lack the "umph" to cook:
1. Baja Burger--Serve over greens with baby corn, tomato, avocado, and a citrus vinaigrette
2. Tuscan Burger--Serve with tomato, cucumber, red onion, and black olive salad with balsamic vinaigrette
3. Hula Burger--Serve with grilled pineapple and brown rice
4. Asian Burger--Serve with a coleslaw (see recipe)
Asian Slaw
1/2 head cabbage
2 ts. soy sauce, lite
1 Tb. sesame or olive oil
1-2 Tb. rice wine vinegar
1/2 red bell pepper
4 green onions
1 Tb. sesame seeds, toasted
Thinly slice cabbage, bell pepper, and green onions. In a bowl whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar. Toss dressing and sliced vegetables together. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds and serve.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Red, White, & Green--Cabbage I Mean!

Oh, the many colors that abound in cabbage. Actually, in many cases the color lies beneath, and is actually hidden. Cabbageis a cruciferous vegetable, which is in the same family as broccoli and kale. Cabbage is packed with nutrients. In one cup of cabbage you get over 90% of the recommended intake of Vitamin K and over 50% from Vitamin C. Indole and sulforaphane are just a couple of examples of the phytochemicals that are found in cabbage. Research continues to explore the cancer-fighting aspects of phytochemicals.

Cabbage tends to get a bad reputation for a gas-producing food. The bacteria in your colon need to be nourished to stay healthy, and keep your digestive tract in good shape. The higher your diet is in fiber, and the more consistent you are at maintaining a high-fiber diet, the more your system will grow used to this; thus, helping you be less gassy. The goal general rule of thumb is to aim for at least 30 grams of fiber per day for a healthy digestive tract. If you are still gassy, consider trying a product like Bean-O to help. You will be in better shape, and so will your gut, if you eat foods that are high in fiber, such as cabbage!
So, what brought on my cabbage kick?? My beautiful head of cabbage that I got in my CSA box this past week. A head of cabbage can yield a lot for a someone eating alone or a small family. Here are some ideas to put your cabbage to good use!

1. Braised cabbage: simply quarter your cabbage and add to a soup pot with 1 1/2cps of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover for 5 minutes, and add 1 Tb. butter right before serving. Season with salt or garlic salt.
2. Shredded, oh the possibilities! My favorite is on fish tacos, but you can also add shredded cabbage to salads, tacos, or stir-fry vegetables.
3. Not just any coleslaw--be creative! There are so many fun recipes to explore that go beyond the boring mayo-based coleslaw. I plan on using half of my cabbage to make an Asian slaw to accompany Asian kebabs!
4. Cabbage soup--beyond the diet! Yes, the infamous cabbage soup diet is still out there, and people still go on it. Cabbage is tasty in soup, so I won't complain!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Splash a Bit of Love Into Your Salads this February

What words come to mind when you hear, "February?" Love...hearts...chocolate...Aquarius...Valentines
Long ago I realized that Valentine's dinner really should not be a heavy meal. Who wants to go out to a romantic dinner only to come home and feel so full that you go right to sleep? Not me! So, try this menu this Valentine's Day or any other day of the year!
Love the "Lite" Menu
Grilled Shrimp Kebabs with Lemon Zest
Strawberry Salad (see recipe below)
Warm Pita Bread
Dark Chocolate Squares
Strawberry Salad
4 cups Baby Greens
1/2 cup Walnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, or Macadamia nuts, chopped
1/8 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Strawberries, sliced or quartered
1 oz Goat cheese of Feta, crumbled
3 Tb. Brianna's Blush Vinaigrette (the bottle has a strawberry on it)
Assemble, toss, and enjoy!