Tag Archives: vegetables

Find something healthy AND delicious!

One meal I really try to be conscious about what I’m eating is lunch. For me, lunch is an easy meal to just eat junk or graze through random leftovers. It is also an easy meal for me to get some servings of vegetables in, if I make a conscious effort.

I’ve found lots of easy ways of putting veggies in my lunch.

-Having carrot and celery sticks for dipping in peanut butter or ranch ready to go.
-Throwing leftovers on top of a bed of greens for a salad.
-Microwaving some spinach down and mixing that into whatever else I’m eating.
-Mixing some microwaved frozen mixed veggies into my noodles or soup.

However, over time, I’ve realized something very important. It has to taste good! If it doesn’t, I won’t eat it. Today, I mixed a random assortment of stuff from my fridge onto some lettuce. I was trying to clean out my fridge, so it was an odd mix. Usually that works out ok. Today, not so much. And guess what? I ate about half and threw the rest away.

My point is: don’t buy a bunch of food you don’t like just because it is healthy. Find the “healthy” foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains) that you enjoy and focus on those. Eating healthy should still be delicious and enjoyable!

Happy eating!

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An interesting listen

My apologies for my 2 week+ hiatus. I was traveling Thanksgiving week, and the week after was oddly a train wreck at my house. I hope you had a holiday that was delicious. Mine was.

Freakonomics published an extremely interesting podcast about food a few weeks ago. I highly recommend you listen to it if you get the chance. Or the transcript is also available at the link above. I will only share two of my favorite highlights here.

The first guest recently published a huge cookbook, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. I really liked his last statement on the show:

“Well, I’m one of these people who really thinks that it’s all about moderation. And from the way my book is written, you might think that I eat steak and potatoes every night, but the reality is actually really far from that. So, if I’m going to eat a hamburger, I want that to be the best damn hamburger I can make, right? So that’s where this idea that I’m going to try to perfect these foods, these comfort classics that people love — that you shouldn’t necessarily eat every day, but when you make them you want them to be really great. So, on a day-to-day basis, my wife and I stay mostly vegetarian; we eat a lot of fish, a lot of seafood. We both exercise. So, you know, food can be delicious, but it should also be sustaining at the end, and your health is not really worth that extra serving of burgers or extra serving of creamy potato casserole.”

Sums up so much of my philosophy in a really great way. You don’t have to give up the foods you love entirely. But when you do eat them, eat a good version to make it worth it.

The second guest talked more about nutrition. Jo Robinson is an investigative journalist that focuses on nutrition. As a side note, I find it very frustrating that many people get more of their nutrition advice from journalists, such as Robinson or Michael Pollan, than from dietitians.

However, I did agree with some of what she had to say. She especially highlighted the interesting fact that raw vegetables are not always better for you than cooked vegetables. She also mentioned that steaming vegetables in the microwave is a great way to cook vegetables and preserve their nutrients. Both of these are true and great tidbits to remember.

I hope you have a great, healthy week!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Crockpot Vegetable Pot Pie

Pot pie is not the recipe you expect to appear on a food blog right before Memorial Day. It should be burgers, fries, summery salads, fruity desserts, etc. But I’m sitting in my slippers and wearing a sweatshirt in my chilly house, since I refuse to turn on the heater this late in May. From my friends’ posts on Facebook, many others have a weekend ahead lacking in sunshine and summer.

While I fully intend to do my cookout on Monday (rain or shine), until then, I’m basking in some warm, hearty comfort food. This pot pie is on my list. I made this for company recently, and there were no leftovers with smiles all around on how delicious it was. Honestly, I think I even liked this better than most chicken pot pies I’ve had. So many more flavors with all the different vegetables. Enjoy!

Crockpot Vegetable Pot Pie (Serves 6-8)

Crockpot Vegetable Pot Pie

Filling:
1 ½ tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups diced baking potato
1 ½ cup diced carrot
1 ½ cup diced parsnip
1 cup chopped celery
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 (8-ounce) packages white mushrooms, sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced in half moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups skim milk
¾ cup low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 cups frozen green peas
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Biscuit topping:
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preparation

1. Spray a crockpot with cooking spray.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet with 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add potato, carrot, parsnips, and celery. Sauté 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to pan and return to heat. When oil is heated, add onion, mushrooms, and zucchini. Saute until beginning to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add to crockpot. Add salt and pepper to vegetable mixture, stirring to combine.

3. Heat remaining 1 ½ tablespoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 ½ tablespoons flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually whisk in milk and broth. Cook 3-5 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Pour sauce into slow cooker. Add peas and thyme. Stir contents of crockpot to combine.

4. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 3 ½ hours.

5. When vegetable mixture is almost done, make biscuit topping, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese. Add buttermilk, stirring just until moist.

6. Increase heat to high. Drop biscuits onto filling in 8 equal mounds. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until biscuits are done. Uncover and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 365
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 25 mg
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 555 mg

Recipe Notes: I normally don’t like recipes that require any cooking before you put things in the crockpot. But it is nice to get a little bit of color on the veggies first. I’m sure it would still turn out if you skipped that step. Feel free to adjust the vegetable amounts or types. I was probably a little under on the mushrooms – a few were bad in my packages and my husband doesn’t love them anyway – and a little over on the potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. I never have buttermilk; I just make it with skim milk and lemon juice.

Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

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Minimizing food waste

Perfection is in taste, not appearance

I admit to not being the most “green” person. While I try to recycle and take other small steps to be environmentally friendly, it isn’t my highest priority. However, I recently saw some alarming statistics: about 40% of all food produced in the Unites States is thrown away and that the average American throws out 20% of their vegetables and 15% of their fruit. Unlike the two articles reporting these, my first thought wasn’t related to how much that adds to the landfills and greenhouse gas production.

My first thought was in the wasted money. Much of that discarded produce was purchased and then thrown away without eating it, often due to spoilage. If you think you can’t afford fruits and vegetables, you definitely can’t afford to just throw them away. I hate when something spoils before I use it, because all I see is money going into the trash can. Here are some tips to reduce how much produce you throw away:

1. Take inventory at home before you go to the store. This reduces double-buying an item.

2. Make a detailed list and stick to it. Know how much you need of a particular item so you don’t overbuy. For example, I needed tomatoes this last week for a few recipes. I forgot to right down how many I needed, so I purchased several extra tomatoes that I need to quickly find a use for. Also, don’t buy an item just because it is on sale. I often get excited to see berries or melons on sale, but if you don’t have a plan for how it will get eaten, it will just go bad.

3. Rotate your produce. Make sure if you buy new items, they go behind or below the older ones already at home. That way the produce most likely to spoil is getting used first.

4. Store your produce wisely. Here is a handy graphic with some great tips on where to store different types of produce as well as foods to keep separated. Another great tip: separate your bananas when you get home. They will ripen more slowly this way.

While I have admitted to not be very “green”, I do agree with the article talking about the ugly vegetables. Don’t be afraid of a vegetable just because it doesn’t look perfect. Remember, you don’t look perfect either, but the vegetable is willing to take a chance on you. Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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How to eat more vegetables? Grow your own!

Spring has arrived. Garden centers and plant stands are opening everywhere. While buying fresh, seasonal produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market is great, growing your own can be very rewarding. If you don’t have space for a traditional garden, try a container garden. Here are some tips on getting started with a traditional or container garden.

– Starting from seeds can be more cost effective than buying plants but definitely takes more time, planning, and work. If you haven’t already started your seeds, you may be too late for the year. Just go for plants this time around.

– Pick a few starter plants. You don’t need to try and replace the entire produce section at the grocery store. Think of what you use the most or what you find the most cumbersome to buy. Herbs are a great place to start. I hate how much it costs to buy fresh basil, so I made sure to include that in my plants this year. I buy a lot of tomatoes and especially enjoy the special varieties of cherry tomatoes, although they can be a bit pricey. So I planted my own, as well as a traditional plant.

– Read up! There are a lot of gardening resources out there, in print or online. Find a good reference source to help you know timing, feeding, watering, etc. for each of your plants.

– Get everyone involved. If you have kids, let them help you plant, water, or harvest as is age appropriate. If they feel some ownership in the vegetables, they might be more willing to eat them.

– Don’t give up. If one type of plant fails, keep trying with other plants. Gardening is a trial and error process. My dad had a garden when I was a kid. He wasn’t very good at growing peas or tomatoes, but squash he could grow really well.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle – Lunch

I find lunch is the hardest meal to make healthy choices. We frequently eat out for lunch, which can limit healthy choices. Or if you are at home or packing a lunch, you want something that is quick and easy. I know many people have a “no cook” lunch rule, which I admire and find too limiting at the same time. When I worked full time, many of my coworkers relied on frozen meals for their lunches. It’s the time of day when we are hungry, but not in the mood or mode to spend a lot of time or energy.

One of my goals for the past several years has been to get at least two servings of vegetables in at lunch most days of the week. That way I know I have gotten something good in me, even if dinner ends up being an “I only have energy for pancakes” affair. But that goal hasn’t been as easy as it would sound. I’ve documented here several of my lunches and some of my tips for getting more veggies in at lunch. All of these take 5 minutes or less and can be done very affordably.

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-Have cut up veggies ready to go. I cut up a big bunch of carrots and celery every week. Then, if all else fails, I can grab a handful of each and go.

-Along with those veggies, have some dips for yourself:  hummus, baba ganoush, ranch dressing, peanut butter, or whatever your poison is. Make sure to keep the dip portion in control, as you don’t want to eat a ton of fat. But do what it takes to get those veggies down!

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-Be creative. You don’t have to eat something the way it was “intended”. I had some leftover marinara sauce, which I had packed full of extra carrots and chunky tomatoes, but nothing to eat it with. Ramen noodles minus the seasoning packet to the rescue. Or a leftover naan bread with a little barbecue sauce, tomatoes, and some cheese becomes a pizza.

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-Stock your kitchen with easy “add-ins”. Here, I added frozen broccoli, a few spears of broken up asparagus, and chopped tomato to some leftover pasta. A little jarred pesto stirred in made it a yummy lunch.

-Mix veggies into other things. I love having frozen broccoli or fresh spinach on hand. A quick microwave and they mix in to whatever else I’m making, be it soup or macaroni or whatever.

-Embrace salads. I’m sorry if you don’t like salad. I like salad, but can easily get sick of it. Here are a few tips I’ve found for making salads more palatable and still a quick option.

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-Pick your green and your dressing. For me, I can eat a pretty simple salad of just spinach and poppyseed dressing. Give me lettuce or any other dressing, I need a lot more toppings to enjoy it. Find what works for you and stick with it.

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-Add fruit. Grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, and many other fruits lend themselves very well to being a salad mix-in. The sweetness and the juiciness can help tone down the bitter, crunchy veggies.

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-Use your salad as a base for something else. This salad was one of my favorites. I had some leftover filling from quesadillas the night before. I just put that on top of a small bed of spinach. It was so yummy, and I almost forgot I was eating salad.

-Don’t eat only salad. As you can see in the picture above, I had a quesadilla with that salad. I often have a sandwich or something else with the salad. But I always eat my salad first. Then I can savor and enjoy my other items, knowing I got the healthy things in first.

I hope some of these ideas help you. Lunch is a tough meal to conquer. I’d love to hear your lunch go-to ideas in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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White Chicken Chili

I have a confession to make: I don’t make chili very often. I make soup all the time. But not really traditional chili. Why? Because I always find myself somewhat underwhelmed no matter what recipe I try and resort to adding all sorts of mix-ins. If you have to add a million ingredients at the table, why bother. I’m always game for a veggie chili, turkey chili, or something like that.

This white chicken chili is my favorite though. Even though there are no tomatoes, it still manages to hit all the right notes to satisfy a “chili” craving. And you can adjust the seasonings to be as spicy as you would like.

Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili (Serves 8 or more)

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1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 ¼ cups chopped red bell pepper
1 minced jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed to your preference
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (boneless, skinless chicken breast)
2 cans of great northern beans, drained and rinsed well
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 small can chopped green chiles
1 cup frozen corn
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup skim milk
½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Melt butter in large stock pot over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes or until beginning to soften.

2. Add chicken, beans, broth, chiles, corn, cumin, chili powder, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Stir in milk. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until beginning to thicken, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 243
Protein: 25 g
Fat: 4 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 45 mg
Carbohydrates: 27 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 139 mg

Recipe Notes: This doesn’t become as thick as a traditional chili. Just cook it until it thickens a little beyond a brothy soup. You really do need to stir it to keep the milk from forming a skin on top, which isn’t the best.

Source: Adapted from a friend’s recipe

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