Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chicken, Artichoke, Brown Rice and Spinach Bake

Had to post this recipe on here - it is a regular in my cooking rotation and probably the most popular recipe, at least from the reviews I've gotten from several friends who've made it. It is chock-full of super foods and has a great flavor. Definitely a friendly recipe, whether you're a novice or experienced cook.

Chicken Artichoke Brown Rice and Spinach Bake

2 cups instant brown rice  
8 oz spinach
16 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp black pepper  
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
14 oz (1 can) artichoke hearts, NOT packed in oil 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss wedges
1/2 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt  


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the rice according to package directions. In a large bowl, combine the hot rice and the spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts. 

In a separate bowl, mix Laughing Cow wedges, yogurt, and all but 1 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese until well blended. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well and add to rice and spinach mixture.

When combined, spread in a 9 x 12 pan prepared with cooking spray. Top with the remaining Tbsp of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Serves 6 - 8. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Black Bean Brownies

I know: weird. But in a good way. You can't really taste the black beans unless you're looking to...and these are way better for you than the packaged kind. Although I can't say I don't love me some Betty Crocker mixes occasionally. 

These aren't going to be your usual decadent, rich brownies. But they are surprisingly good and you really don't have to experience the guilt factor after eating 3 of them like you would with regular brownies. They're very fudgy. Take a chance - they're worth a try, at least! I cut these up into 36 so they were brownie "bites" to take to an outdoor concert and share. 

Black Bean Brownies

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 whole bananas, mashed
1/3 cup honey, pure maple syrup, or agave nectar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats 

Chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" pan and set aside. Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Stir in the oats and pour batter into the pan. Bake approx 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Wait until they have completely cooled before slicing into 9 pieces. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Linguine with Garlic Spinach and Broiled Tomatoes

This was really simple but so delicious and gourmet-looking. Sort of. I like to flatter myself sometimes. It seems like a lot of steps, but if you read the entire recipe through beforehand and time everything correctly, it will be done in no time at all. It's worth it, especially if you like tomatoes. And cheese. And garlic.

Linguine with Garlic Spinach and Broiled Tomatoes

2 oz whole-wheat linguine
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
3-4 cloves minced fresh garlic
Sprinkle red pepper flakes, to taste
1 large tomato, sliced
1-2 oz cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, or provolone work best
Salt and pepper

Boil a small pot of water and set your oven to broil. Chop your spinach and garlic, then slice your tomato and lay on a paper towel to collect some of the moisture. 

When water boils, cook your pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly covered in cooking spray. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper, top with cheese, and broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned on top (don't leave the oven while you do this, it will burn quickly if you're not watching!). 

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and red pepper, cooking for about 45 seconds until very fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted. When pasta is done cooking and drained, toss with spinach and garlic oil and put on serving dish. Layer the broiled tomatoes on top and voila! You've got a very healthy and delicious meal in front of you. 

Serves 2.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Fact Friday: the healthiest cheese...

 Low-fat cottage cheese is loaded with protein and calcium, and one of the most nutritionally dense cheeses ounce-for-ounce. It’s also extremely versatile, and can serve as a healthy cheese substitute in all kinds of recipes. Not to mention that it provides about 10% of your daily calcium requirements.

 Cottage cheese is basically milk that is curdled by adding an enzyme like rennet or by the addition of edible acids like vinegar or lemon juice.  The action of these enzymes and acids cause the milk to clump. After the enzyme or acid is added to the milk and curdling takes place, the liquid whey is drained off and the curds are left.  These curds are primarily made up of slow-digesting dairy proteins called casein, which are high in protein and low in fat.

 The only downside to cottage cheese is that it is fairly high in sodium. Depending on the brand, a single 113 gram serving has about 16% of your daily recommended intake of sodium, so if you are watching your sodium intake, you may want to opt for one of the lower sodium brands on the market or moderate your consumption.

 As mentioned, cottage cheese is a great sub for other cheeses in a lot of recipes. For example, instead of ricotta cheese in lasagna, try using cottage cheese between those layers of whole grain lasagna noodles. Cottage cheese has a very similar texture to ricotta cheese when melted, and you’ll never know the difference (although your abs will.) You can also make cottage cheese into a creamy veggie dip or sandwich spread by blending it in a blender with herbs and spices like cumin, thyme, dill or even a packet of ranch dip. Try mixing a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with chopped green onions, garlic and cumin and use it as a healthy cheese filling in wheat tortillas. Top it on baked potatoes, mix it with fruit and a bit of honey and cinnamon, use it in pancakes, or with chopped avocado and red pepper flakes on top of toast. The options are endless.

 I used to hate cottage cheese – even the smell made me wrinkle my nose. Until this year, the absolute only way I’d eat it was in my mom’s special Jello and Cool Whip fruit salad. When I found out how low in calories and high in protein it was, I forced myself to try it on toast for breakfast a few mornings a week. It took awhile, but now it is one of my favorite snacks, and I’ve used it in countless combos, including my latest in the picture above. Loving that berries are starting to come back in season!

info here (*note: this guy is not a 
professional, just a healthy and 
articulate person. all his info is 
correct as far as I've researched)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Three Bean, Vegetable, and Turkey Chili

I posted this awhile ago on my personal blog as part of my 30 Healthiest Foods Challenge, but thought I'd do another re-post here because I'm eating the leftovers this week! Some work is being done in our building and for some reason it's super cold in the office this week (I'm currently wrapped up in a blanket, jacket, and scarf in my office, despite the hot weather outside) so I was really excited to defrost my lunch and dig in to a hot meal! I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chili freezes really well.

This recipe is time consuming at the beginning if you don't have pre-chopped veggies, but it's also full of a a lot of stuff that you probably already have in your pantry. I usually have ground turkey in the freezer and I always keep bell peppers on hand because I LOVE them. It is a nice, thick chili that is super filling, healthy, and delicious.

Three Bean, Vegetable, and Turkey Chili
Serves 8 with 1 1/2 cup serving

Cooking spray
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium bell peppers (colors of your choice - I used red and orange), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, undrained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, undrained
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, undrained
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce, no sodium added
1 3/4 cup chicken broth, fat-free and low sodium

Coat a large sauté pan with cooking spray; set over medium-high heat. Brown turkey, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks, about 10 minutes; drain and set aside.

Coat a large pot with cooking spray; set over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add bell peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano; stir for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, all beans and turkey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes, about 35 minutes total. Yields about 1 1/2 cups chili per serving.

Normally I'd add more tomatoes and omit the kidney beans because I'm not a huge fan, but they're on the 30 Healthiest Foods list so I figured they'd be the least offending in a big pot of chili. Ultimately, I was pretty happy with my creation!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Build a better breakfast...the Egg McDuffin.

To avoid any copyright infringement (as though they're really worried about it), I've dubbed my own version of a certain restaurant's breakfast sandwich the "Egg McDuffin." Because my last name is McDonald. And this is an egg on an English muffin. Get it?

I make this sandwich all the time, sometimes 3 times a week (now that I know eggs are not as bad for you as once thought) - super filling, and almost foolproof. A great breakfast for one, and easy to eat on the way to work in a paper towel if you have to (I know from experience). You can mix and match what you like, but keep it simple and you're automatically in for a tasty and MUCH healthier breakfast. It's so simple that I almost feel like I'm cheating by posting a recipe for it, but maybe you can use it as a jumping point. It's one of my favorites, along with the Oatmeal Breakfast Pancake.

You already know how I feel about breakfast - it's become my favorite meal of the day, and I can't go without it. Start your day off right!

Egg McDuffin

1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese, or any kind shredded cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
Sprinkle of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
Small handful of: 
chopped onion
chopped bell pepper
chopped fresh spinach
chopped fresh tomato
Whole-grain English muffin (I love the Thomas brand)
1 slice bacon (I use lean turkey bacon)

Heat a small nonstick skillet prepared with cooking spray over medium heat. Mix vegetables, spices, and eggs together and pour into pan. Cook on each side 2-3 minutes to desired doneness. While the omelette is cooking, toast the English muffin and cook your slice of bacon in the microwave. Using a large cup, cut out two circles from the omelette. Eat scraps straight from the pan to keep things nice and tidy. 

 Place two circles on each side of toasted muffin, break bacon in half and place on top of one side, then sandwich them together. Enjoy with a side of fruit!

This way you're getting a full serving (maybe even 2) of veggies into your breakfast, which is pretty hard to do if you don't want a side of carrots with your oatmeal and you're not in the mood to bake a broccoli frittata. Not my cup of tea first thing in the morning. To save time, a few nights a week, I chop up some veggies and keep them on hand to whip this up in the morning. It's worth the effort!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers

Yesterday was a long day - work, cycling class, temple, then grocery store. Picked up some ground turkey on sale, hence the spur-of-the-moment decision to make me some burgers out of it.

I have never in my life made my own hamburgers. They aren't something I eat often, since usually I prefer Garden or Boca burgers and rarely eat fast food. And it didn't particularly appeal to me to go to the effort. But I've been converted. Especially because when I make my own, I know they are fresh and I know exactly what is in them - these were also super low calorie!

I've seen several versions of these turkey burgers around, but this is just my own concoction. They were really easy to put together and extremely delicious. I made a whole batch and put some in the freezer. I really love putting cheese in the burger itself - makes it very flavorful!

Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers

16 oz lean ground turkey
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese (I use Athenos)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach, or a few ounces frozen spinach
1 large egg, or 1/4 cup egg substitute
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands (put on latex gloves if handling raw meat grosses you out), knead turkey and other ingredients together until well combined, but don't overmix. Shape mixture into patties and place on a baking sheet.

Heat a skillet (or grill pan, or George Foreman, or any grilling machine of your choice) prepared with cooking spray. On medium heat, cook 3-4 patties at a time, about 6-8 minutes on each side. Place on paper towel to blot excess grease. Serve as desired, and freeze extras to heat up later!

*I got 7 patties out of this recipe, but some people might like larger burgers, so it probably can serve 4-6. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jiaozi/Gyoza/Dumplings/Pot Stickers

Here is my recipe for jiaozi, otherwise known as "pot stickers" to all you who shop at Costco. They're also called gyoza in Japanese restaurants, and usually dumplings in English. These are one of my favorite Chinese foods, especially when they're steamed.

adapted from here

Jiaozi (Dumplings)

1 tsp. salt
3 cups well packed Napa Cabbage (leaves only), washed and chopped

Toss cabbage and salt in a bowl and let it stand for 20 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt. Squeeze excess moisture out of the cabbage.

1 Lb. ground Pork or ground Chicken
4 Green Onions, chopped using white and green parts
2 tsp fresh Ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic salt (or 1 clove garlic and 1/2 tsp salt)
Dash of Pepper
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

2 packages Gyoza wrappers (about 30 pieces per package)
Canola Oil, for cooking

Combine cabbage and all other filling ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is ready to use (up to 24 hours). Open wrapper packages and place 1 Tbsp of meat mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half and seal the edge with water. Gently press the edges together.

Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in a 10 – 12” nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Place pot stickers in the pan and cook until the bottoms are brown. Add ½ cup of water to the pan and put lid on tightly. Pot stickers are ready when all water is absorbed. The bottom of the pot stickers will be slightly brown. This will make them a little crispy. Repeat process with oil, water and remaining dumplings.

Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame or Olive Oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp Water

Mix all ingredients together and serve with dumplings. Makes about 8-10 servings.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nutella Fudge Brownie Bites

This is one of those recipes that I am totally amazed by.

I'm sorry, WHAT? Three ingredients? No. Impossible!

 I am here to tell you: it isn't impossible. It is highly edible.

Nutella Fudge Brownie Bites
modified from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread
5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

Put the Nutella and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and whisk until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full). Bake until a pick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes. Set on a rack to cool completely.

Serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Gnocchi Marinara

This is super yummy, and pretty easy. You can always make your own gnocchi (pronounced nyo-key), but that's a bit too time-intensive for me, so I just buy it in the pasta aisle.

Gnocchi Marinara

16 oz. dry potato gnocchi
3 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden - about 5 minutes. Use a garlic press to add garlic (or mince finely), then add tomatoes, basil, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down to form a thick sauce, about 20 minutes. Add the gnocchi and toss to coat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese.

Makes 4-6 servings.

It was very light, and tasted very...European, if that makes any sense. The fresh ingredients make all the difference, and I used Roma tomatoes so that added to the Italian flavor. If you've ever been to Italy and eaten the food there, you know what I mean! If not, go to Italy!

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

a little quote

"It's a shame to be caught up in something that does not absolutely make you tremble with joy." 

-Julia Child

photo from here

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mini Vegetarian Lasagnas

This dish is chock-full of really good things, but you can switch it out with whatever you like. You could replace the bell peppers with zucchini, and sub the tofu for ground beef or turkey. You could use ricotta instead of cottage cheese. Do it your way!

Mini Vegetarian Lasagna Cups

24 wonton wrappers
2/3 cup bell pepper
2/3 cup onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups Classico Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce   
3.5 oz Nasoya Extra Firm Tofu   
2 cups spinach  
3/4 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese   
1 tsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tsp shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, salt, and pepper. Crumble the tofu in and saute the mixture for about 5 minutes. Add chopped spinach and stir constantly for 30 seconds or until spinach wilts slightly. Add the pasta sauce, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor, puree cottage cheese with 1 tsp grated parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of oregano, and 1/2 tsp of basil. Stir to mix well. Set aside.

Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Place 1 wonton wrapper into each of the 12 cups, pressing firmly in the bottom of the cup and up the sides.

Using half of the cottage cheese mixture, divide it among the 12 muffin cups. Next, using half of the veggie tomato sauce, spoon it evenly over each of the ricotta filled cups. Sprinkle with 2 tsp of mozzarella each.

Gently press another wonton wrapper on top of the mozzarella layer. Repeat the process by distributing the remaining ricotta, then the remaining tomato sauce, and finally the rest of the shredded mozzarella and 1 tsp of shredded parmesan over each.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Let the cups cool, remove them from the pan, and serve!

Makes 6 servings, 2 lasagnas per serving.

You can usually find wonton wrappers in your local grocery store in the produce section, and the tofu will undoubtedly be nearby. You can't even taste it, but it replaces the protein that you would normally get from meat.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Foodie Blog Feature

This blog, Can You Stay For Dinner?, is a really interesting read. Besides the great recipes, the author has spent some time writing about her experience losing 135 pounds - how she exercises, how she maintains, how she sees herself, past and present. It's worth taking some time to look at her perspective on relationships with can tell she loves it, but now she loves her body just as much - and it's reflected in the way she chooses and cooks her food. Check it out!

Some of my favorite recipes:

Top row, from left:

Bottom row, from left:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Is Agave better?

Is Agave Nectar healthy?

Whole foods have fiber, vitamins, and nutrients that enrich the body and in some cases slow down the sugar hit that comes  from glucose and fructose. When a naturally sugary food like an apple or a generous hunk of agave cactus is processed into a syrup or nectar, everything good about the whole food is lost in the production vat.       
In the specific case of agave, the debate comes down to whether glucose or fructose is more harmful to the body. Natural agave, the plant from which tequila is derived, is approximately half and half glucose to fructose. The nectar or syrup appears primarily to be all fructose, according to published statistics from agave distributors.

Now, is fructose better for you than glucose or sucrose? If you listen to the fructose manufacturers and some diabetes experts, then yes, fructose is better for you. Fructose doesn’t raise glucose levels in the bloodstream, which means there is less of an insulin response and a consequent benefit to diabetics because insulin management is the name of the game.

But is spiking up on fructose any better for anyone whether diabetic or not? We say No! And we’re not alone. Fructose has been linked to raised triglycerides, fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and more belly fat, which can all be collected together as Metabolic Syndrome.
Agave Nectar

Agave seems to have other drawbacks as well. The first one that sets our teeth on edge is the fact that agave nectar you buy might not actually be agave nectar. According to the Chicago Tribune, products labeled as being from the blue agave plant ...may in fact be mostly corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup may, in fact, be mostly corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. Tequila manufacturers get first call on the expensive  blue agave cactus that grows in Mexico. There are strict requirements for tequila to come from the blue agave in the same way the German Beer Purity Law says beer must be made from wheat or barley, hops, water, and fermenting yeast. So, when supply did not meet demand, some nectar producers cut what agave they had with similar corn-based fructose.

“Agave is really chemically refined hydrolyzed high-fructose syrup and not from the blue agave plant, organic or raw, asclaimed,” says Russ Bianchi, a food and beverage formulator.

So far the Food and Drug Administration sees no reason to regulate agave for any safety concerns, but admits that agave products may have been “economically adulterated and misbranded by adding corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.”

Limit yourself to less than two teaspoons a day for any refined sweetener to avoid the many related health effects. We live in the same world you do, and we understand about occasionally falling off the wagon. But remember that any sweetener removed from its natural state is a refined sweetener that should be avoided as much as possible. Agave is no different. Now you know.