Category Archives: Recipes

Put Your Best Fork Forward!

It’s March which means it is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme:

nationalnutritionmonth2017-2

I love the idea of putting your best fork forward. It means doing what is best for yourself, every day. Make choices that count, make you feel good, and help you become the person you want to be. Here are 3 tips for putting your best fork forward this month and any time.

1) Plan ahead. Good nutrition and health doesn’t just happen. Make a menu, write a grocery list, prep veggies ahead of time, join a gym, buy workout equipment, etc. Think through what it takes to eat and feel the way you want, then take steps to doing that. Set yourself up to succeed.

2) Move on from a set back. Did today get the better of you? Not feeling like exercising this morning? A party at work led you in the path of a bunch of sweets? It is OK. I repeat, it is OK. But move on. Don’t let one side step from your plan turn into a complete new path. Step back on track with you next choices and move on.

3) Start your day out right. Try to start you day with a good for you breakfast or exercise. A good choice first thing in the morning can really help set the tone for your day. I’ll admit, I don’t LOVE exercising. It’s work, guys! But, I do love how I feel the rest of the day when I do exercise and get myself going on the right foot.

And in that mindset, here’s a delicious smoothie I tried this morning that helped set me up for success today.

Berry-Beet Smoothie (Serves 3-4)

Berry Beet Smoothie

¼ cup orange juice
1 cup plain or vanilla fat free Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries
1 medium raw beet, peeled chopped into chunks
1 bunch beet greens, large stems removed
1 banana, frozen
Water or skim milk, as needed

1. Layer ingredients in order in a blender. Start blender on low, then gradually increase speed as needed to get smooth consistency. Leave blender on each setting at least 30 seconds. Add water or skim milk if needed to thin out the smoothie. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 158
Protein: 12 gm
Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fat: less than 1 gm
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Carbohydrates: 28 gm
Fiber: 5 gm
Sodium: 114 mg

Recipe Notes: I just squeezed a fresh orange and pulled some of the pulp in too. Bottled orange juice would be fine. I used plain yogurt. It tasted fine to me, but the kiddos around me were a little less thrilled. The vanilla yogurt with its extra sweetness would have helped them. I just used the greens from my bunch of beets, then roasted the extra beets up for my lunch. You might not need extra liquid; it will depend on how thick your yogurt is and how strong your blender is.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition, Recipes

Peanut Butter Quinoa

Shortly after my husband and I got married, we put together a picnic dinner. I was so excited to make a delicious quinoa salad. We started eating, and I noticed my husband wasn’t eating any of my salad. I asked him, and he said he doesn’t care for salads like that. I had just bought a big package of quinoa, and I needed a new way to fix it. I found lots of recipes for casseroles or soups, but not many regular side dishes.

So, I finally took a salad recipe to make this side dish. And it turned out great. This is great with fish or chicken. Or stir in some chicken and make a meal out of it. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Quinoa (Serves 6-8)

Peanut Butter Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa or 2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rib celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
½ medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
¼ cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
dash sriracha
½ teaspoon ground ginger

1. If not already cooked, cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add celery, carrots, onion, and bell pepper. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables begin to be tender.

3. Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. It is not essential that they combine perfectly. You can heat it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds and they will combine better.

4. Add quinoa and peanut butter mixture to vegetables. Stir and cook until well combined and all is heated through. Serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 172
Protein: 6 gm
Fat: 8 gm
Saturated Fat: 1 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 gm
Fiber: 3 gm
Sodium: 253 mg

Recipe notes: You could substitute any vegetables you like. The “sauce” is pretty thick. You could add in some water or more soy sauce to thin it out more, if you like a saucier side. I liked mine fairly thick, almost like a fried rice.

Source: adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

I hope you’ve had a great 2016. Every year has its ups and downs. But hopefully the ups were high enough to offset the downs. I wish you all a Happy New Year this weekend.

One quick recipe to end the year – vegetable chowder. Hopefully it will be helpful in clearing out your fridge of any remaining holiday foods. And keeping you warm, as I see the forecast for many early next week is rather cold.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for awhile, and I’ve made most of my batches with leftovers from holiday veggie trays, cheese trays, etc. It is great for just cleaning out the fridge and pantry, which is great any time of year. Enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Serves about 8)

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

4 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock
4 cups vegetables, chopped (broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, etc)
1-2 cups small diced potatoes
2 tablespoons no salt added butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk (preferably skim)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (something more flavorful than mozzarella)

1. Heat stock to a boil in a large stockpot. Add potatoes and other long cooking vegetables (carrots, celery). Add other vegetables sporadically so they all finish cooking about the same time (total time, 15ish minutes).

2. When the vegetables are almost done, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add in flour. Stir for 1 minute. Add in milk, pepper, and thyme, stirring frequently. Cook for a couple minutes, until beginning to thicken.

3. Add milk mixture to vegetable pot. Cook until desired consistency (about 5 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted throughout.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 236
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 491 mg

Recipe Notes: Sorry the recipe is a bit vague in places. It really depends on what vegetables you have, how big you cut them, and how crunchy/soft you like your veggies in the soup. If you have leftover cheese slices from a cheese tray, just crumble them up or dice them up small. They’ll melt faster that way than in slices.

Source: adapted from my mom’s broccoli cheese soup recipe

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Meaty Lasagna

A few days after Thanksgiving, we had some people over for dinner. We had a still untouched pumpkin pie, so we served it for dessert. They commented they had never eaten homemade pumpkin pie before. I was astonished! Imagine my surprise when I told this story to someone else who admitted the same thing.

It reminded me of a time in college when one of my roommates was making lasagna for dinner. Another roommate walked in and said, “You can make lasagna? I didn’t know that. I thought you only bought it frozen.” Upon questioning her, her mom had never made lasagna which she attributed to picky eaters.

All of these experiences plus the holidays (when I know many people seem to eat lasagna) inspired me to make my lasagna recipe and share it with you. Everyone (including myself) thinks lasagna is hard. It’s really quite easy. It is a “little” time consuming. Only in that you need to plan ahead. But it is pretty hands off for most of that time. And it can easily be made ahead of time. Enjoy!

Meaty Lasagna (Serves 8-10)

Meaty Lasagna

1 lb Italian sausage
½ large onion, diced
½ cup diced carrots
2 cloves minced garlic
2 (15.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
2 (8 ounce) cans no salt added tomato sauce
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 bay leaves
½ tablespoon dried basil leaves
½ tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
10 (or so) lasagna noodles (not the no boil)
1 (10 ounce or so) package frozen spinach
1 (approximately 24 oz) container ricotta or low fat cottage cheese
1 egg
⅔ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup mozzarella cheese

1. Brown sausage. Add onion and carrots. Sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes through black pepper. Stir to distribute seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until thickened to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove bay leaves before serving or blending.

3. While sauce cooks, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Before cooking, see how many noodles fit in your 9×13 pan (or lasagna pan). You will have 3 layers, so cook that many noodles.

4. Thaw spinach and squeeze out water. Mix spinach, ricotta/cottage cheese, egg, ⅓ cup Parmesan, and ¼ cup mozzarella. Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 350.

6. Spread a very thin layer of red sauce in the bottom of your pan (9×13 or lasagna). Top with a layer of noodles. Top with a layer of red sauce. Another layer of noodles. Now a layer of the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture. Another layer of noodles. Top with a layer of red sauce. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

7. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until heated through and beginning to brown slightly.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 355
Protein: 16 gm
Fat: 19 gm
Saturated Fat: 2 gm
Cholesterol: 29 mg
Carbohydrates: 30 gm
Fiber: 3 gm
Sodium: 264 mg

Recipe notes: You could use lean ground beef or turkey instead of sausage. I prefer the flavor of sausage. You could easily leave out the meat too for a vegetarian lasagna. You could also throw in a bell pepper to the sauce. This sauce is my basic marinara sauce recipe halved. I usually make the full recipe and just have leftover marinara to freeze. I think I slightly prefer cottage cheese, but that is because that is what I was raised on. Ricotta is yummy too.

If you want to make this ahead, assemble the lasagna. It can be covered and refrigerated for 1 day before baking. I’d increase the baking time to 45 minutes-1 hour then. Or, you could assemble it and freeze it. Then you’d bake it covered for about 1 hour, then uncovered for 30 minutes-1 hour, or until it is cooked through.

This might be a bit full for a standard 9×13 pan. Just keep your layers thin. I have a lasagna pan, which is a bit bigger. I love it. If you have a bigger casserole dish than a 9×13, use it.

Source: adapted from a family recipe

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Fresh versus Canned Pumpkin

Over the last few years, I’ve met several people who SWEAR by fresh pumpkin. They tell me I should never use canned pumpkin because you can really tell the difference between fresh roasted pumpkin and canned pumpkin. Well, this year, I decided to test it out.

First, I used a “pie pumpkin”. This is a much smaller pumpkin. Prior to roasting it, I used it as a table centerpiece. I have heard mixed responses in person and online as to whether you have to use a pie pumpkin or can just use a regular jack-o-latern pumpkin. From my experiences with my baked pumpkin dinner, I think you’d be safer using a pie pumpkin. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins sometimes have smooth, creamy interiors and sometimes are more stringy like a spaghetti squash. You wouldn’t want the stringy texture.

Here is a comparison of the purees. I roasted my pie pumpkin at 400 for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until it was fork tender. (I cut it in half and seeded it first). Fresh is on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Puree

You can see the canned is a much deeper orange color. And a slightly more watery, smoother texture. I could have added some water to mine to puree it to a similar consistency. I didn’t think it was necessary.

Here is the cookie dough. This is flipped from above – canned on the right, fresh on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookie Dough

This one is harder to tell a difference. The dough is a bit darker with the canned, but not too much. The doughs mixed up and baked pretty much the same.

And of course, the final product. Back to fresh on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookies

Any difference you see is in the lighting. There was not visible difference in the two cookies.

Taste? Well, I tried out both cookies on 18 people, not telling them what the difference was, asking if they had a preference. Most said they really couldn’t taste much of a difference. If they HAD to choose, maybe they liked canned better (although they didn’t know it was the canned one).

So my verdict: I’ll be buying canned pumpkin. To me, there wasn’t a big enough difference to justify the work and money of making my own.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition, Recipes

Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Hummus Pasta

Today is a quick post about a quick, delicious lunch I discovered last week. I was looking at a fridge full of random leftovers and needed something new to eat. I gave this random idea a try, after some googling to make sure I wasn’t insane, and it was crazy good. And it got tons of veggies in me, which always makes me happy at lunch.

Hummus may sound like an odd “sauce” for pasta, but it works really well. It gives flavor and creaminess with no added work. This is more of an idea recipe than exact instructions. And as the idea was for lunch, I’m giving a single serving. Feel free to scale up each portion for more people.

Please pardon the slightly blurry picture. Apparently I was in a hurry to eat!

Hummus Pasta

Hummus Pasta

1 ½ cups chopped vegetables (broccoli, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, grated carrots, zucchini, etc)
1 cup tortellini pasta
2 tablespoons hummus (I used roasted red pepper, but use whatever flavor you like)
2-3 ounces shredded meat, optional
handful of cherry/grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons feta cheese

1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add vegetables and cook for 3-5 minutes or until basically as tender as you want them.

2. Add in pasta and meat. Cook according to pasta package directions.

3. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Mix hummus into pasta and vegetables. Add cooking water a teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the hummus to coat everything. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. A frozen blend would work well here as well. Just make sure it isn’t something that will cook for a long time, like big hunks of carrots. You could also use regular pasta, rather than tortellini. I’d just put the noodles in at the same time as the vegetables then. You want everything to finish cooking at about the same time.

Source: original recipe

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes