Saturday, September 24, 2011

Broccoli-Quinoa Bake

This is a different take on the usual cheesy broccoli-rice casserole that we all know and love. I got the idea/recipe from a great blog, Eating Well, Living Thin. I modified it a bit according to what I had and what might add more complex flavors. It is a great healthy side dish, but since quinoa is a complete protein it also makes for a wonderful main dish. You could add some shredded chicken, or use a different vegetable-based "Cream of..." soup if you wanted to make it completely vegetarian (I couldn't find a cream of broccoli soup at my grocery store). I used pretty much all fat-free products except the cheese and it turned out really well, but you can use low/full fat mayo and sour cream if desired.

Broccoli-Quinoa Bake
modified from here

1 10-oz can 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I did half mozzarella, half cheddar blend)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
dash of nutmeg
2 cups cooked broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking dish with cooking spray (9x13 or 8x8 pans work, depending on if you are using it as a side or main dish).

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (through nutmeg) and stir well. Add broccoli and cooked quinoa* and mix until combined. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and golden around the edges - check at about 30 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.

Makes 4 generous 1-cup servings, or 8 1/2-cup servings.

*To cook quinoa, measure out 3/4 cup uncooked and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear. Combine in a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and a helping of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 18-20 minutes until the white ring is visible and all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and use.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Turkey-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Another low-carb recipe that I love! I haven't had this for years, but my mom made these occasionally (with ground beef and lots more cheese) when I was a kid. Along with tuna boats and jello salad, these are a comfort food dish for me. 

I used the recipe from Skinny Taste as a guide, and it turned out absolutely delicious, although for this recipe I've decreased the cooking time so next go-around my zucchini won't be as soft.

Turkey-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
modified slightly from here

2 medium zucchini
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3-4 cloves garlic
10 oz lean ground turkey
1 large egg white, or 2 Tbsp Egg Beaters
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut zucchinis in half lengthwise and using a spoon, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4" thick. Arrange halves in a baking dish. Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini in small pieces. Set aside on a paper towel to absorb the moisture.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil
and add onion and garlic. Cook on a medium-low flame for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add chopped zucchini and season with a pinch of salt, cook about 2-3 minutes. Add ground turkey and season with salt and pepper, cooking until turkey is white, breaking up in smaller pieces. Add paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, marjoram and basil. Mix well and cook another minute.

turkey meat in a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool. When cooled, add parmesan cheese and egg white, mixing well. Using a spoon, fill hollowed zucchinis with stuffing, pressing firmly and top with shredded cheese. Pour chicken broth in bottom of the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Serves 2 (2 halves each).


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ugly Stuffed Chicken

Guess what? I don't even care that this turned out to be ugly. It was delicious. In the course of my low-carb meal search, I realized that stuffed chicken is a no-brainer. No, not extremely original (see this recipe), but I was proud of myself nonetheless. And it's super easy. I will be trying countless varieties with different sauces and veggies in the future.

Ugly Stuffed Chicken

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (About 4-5 oz each)
1/2 cup chopped cooked broccoli (or other vegetable)
2 Laughing Cow light swiss cheese wedges
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp alfredo sauce (I used Classico)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pound chicken breasts between wax paper until about a 1/2 inch thick, then salt and pepper both sides. Set aside.

In a small bowl, microwave cheese wedges with alfredo sauce in 20-second intervals, stirring until combined. Add garlic, salt and pepper, and chopped broccoli and mix well.

Spoon broccoli mixture evenly onto one side of chicken breasts, then wrap the breast around. Using toothpicks, secure the seams of the chicken together. Place stuffed chicken breasts on a prepared cooking sheet lined with foil and cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. 

Serves 4. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Low-carb Veggie and Beef Lasagna

So there are those of you out there who may think I'm crazy, since it's obvious from what I post that I LOVE carbs. But the past two weeks I've been on a low-carb kick, eliminating refined sugars and starches from my diet and focusing on lean protein and vegetable-based meals. I still get a reasonable amount of carbs from fruit and a bit of dairy each day, but overall I cut out pasta, breads, rice, and all treats. My go-to dessert was sugar-free Jello. The verdict? I feel great, and lost a few of those pesky pounds lingering from the cruise. I was rarely hungry and actually didn't crave junk food. Unless, of course, I got onto Pinterest and looked at all the desserts I want to make with the onslaught of pumpkin season. 

But back to low-carb. It was fun because it forced me to get creative again with my meal planning. This is just like most other lasagnas you might make, I just subbed the pasta with a layer of spinach and zucchini. With the richness of the ricotta and ground beef, I didn't even miss the pasta!

Low-carb Veggie Lasagna

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
6 oz lean ground beef
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh spinach
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/2 cup pasta sauce of choice
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook onions for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute before adding the ground beef. Cook until the pink is gone (drain the beef if desired to reduce fat content). Season with basil, oregano, parsley (or Italian seasoning), and salt and pepper to taste.

In a small baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, layer a spoonful of pasta sauce (just enough to lightly coat). Spread zucchini slices evenly on bottom, then layer the ground beef mixture, spinach, ricotta, and more pasta sauce. Top with sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese.

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Enjoy!

Serves 2 generously.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Food Fact Friday: 20 years ago...

The pictures below show servings sizes of 20 years ago on the left, compared to the serving sizes of today on the right. Can you believe the difference?

Every single one of these foods has doubled or almost tripled in the past two decades. Along with them, from 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children.

No wonder 1/3 of adult Americans are considered obese. In 2010, Utah had a percentage of 22.5% of obese people - and let's remember that these statistics don't include the huge number of people considered over healthy weights. 

Scary, huh? It might be a good idea to consider this the next time you go out to eat - it certainly changed the way I look at a bagel...

Split your muffins! Or better yet, make them yourself!

pictures and specific calorie counts for above foods can be found here
read more about America's obesity rates here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dessert of Death

Don't freak out. I'm not suicidal.

I only planned on making this once in my lifetime.

And then I tasted it. And realized that it was love in a pan. So I very well may be making this again at some point, but only when I can pawn it off to enough people so I only eat one bar. I actually cheated and used a cookie mix and a low-fat brownie mix, and made it without the hot fudge. I also topped it all with chocolate chips. Next time (because now I know I'll live after eating it) I might just add a scant layer of chopped Reeses' peanut butter cups so I have absolutely everything I love in there.

Prepare yourself...

Dessert of Death (and goodness)
also known as the "Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar" from here

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 pkg Double Stuffed Oreos
1 Family Size (9×13) Brownie mix
1/4 cup hot fudge topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and both sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well to thoroughly combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, then slowly incorporate into the mixer until the flour is just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish that’s been lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Top with a layer of Oreos. Mix together brownie mix, adding an optional 1/4 cup of hot fudge topping to the mix. Pour the brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

To halve this recipe for an 8×8 brownie mix, just halve the chocolate chip cookie dough ingredients. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

Build a better salad...fruit with healthy greens

This is super simple, but I've found lately that I really love adding fruit to my salads. And I used to HATE fruit in salads before. Luckily I saw the light when I first had my sister's strawberry spinach salad. 

Last week I threw together a very easy salad which filled me right up, and hit the spot for a sweet and savory lunch!

2 cups fresh spinach/spring salad mix
2 Tbsp reduced-fat feta cheese
1/2 thinly-sliced apple of choice (I love Fuji the best)
1/4 cup halved grapes
4 oz cooked chicken breast (I seasoned mine with a lemon pepper rub and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil)
Dressing of choice

Toss ingredients together. Enjoy!

Serves 1.

The wonderful thing about salads like this is that there are endless combinations, and they will fill you up pretty easily while getting a lot of nutrients. Many times I'll use different kinds of berries, and I almost always use feta because it adds a lot of flavor and goes well with fruit. Make sure you have a protein component, but keep dressing to a minimum and you've got a wonderful, quick, and healthy lunch.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ok, if you have expectations that this is going to taste like a dish from the Bombay House, you'll be disappointed. It is much healthier - no butter or cream - and therefore not quite as delicious. However, when you're trying to take off some lingering cruise weight and craving Indian food, this will probably hit the spot for much fewer calories.

This recipe is supposed to only serve 2, but I came out of it with 4 servings when I added brown rice and steamed vegetables on the side. It will fill you up pretty quickly, and the taste of the spices is strong. I'm glad I took the leap and bought some Garam Masala at the store a few weeks ago. It's always fun to try something totally new.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted slightly from here

1 tsp canola oil or butter
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup milk
1/4-1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt, to taste
8 oz uncooked boneless skinless chicken, cubed

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the crushed ginger, stir for a few minutes then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt; mix well until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, yogurt and milk. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice or with naan.

Serves 2-4.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Whole Grains

September is Whole Grains Month! Obviously whole grains are good for you – you’ve heard it all before. But I know from experience that it’s not easy to transition when refined grains are more convenient, readily available, and simply more familiar.

Nevertheless, there are tons of really wonderful grains that it won’t hurt to try, and it will give you the opportunity to branch out with recipes.

For more information on whole grains, you can look through the Whole Grains Council website.

What exactly are whole grains?

Whole grains contain three parts -- the germ, endosperm and bran. When grains are processed, the germ and bran are stripped away, leaving just the endosperm. The germ is packed with protein, iron, vitamins and antioxidants, and the bran contains valuable minerals and vitamins, as well as insoluble fiber. The endosperm is the least nutrient dense part of the grain. When you eat whole grains, you are consuming all three parts of the grain, including the most nutritious parts.

What are some whole grains?
  • Wheat (including spelt, farro, bulgur, cracked wheat, wheatberries)
  • Corn *
  • Rice (brown and colored)*
  • Oats **
  • Barley
  • Quinoa *
  • Sorghum *
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Amaranth *
  • Buckwheat *
  • Millet *
  • Montina *
  • Teff *
  • Wild Rice *
* Gluten Free Grains

Amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat are not true whole grains, but their nutritional profile, preparation and use are similar.
Q&A session with Karen Mansur, Program Manager for Oldways and the Whole Grains Council.
·      What are the biggest benefits of including whole grains in your everyday diet?
By adding whole grains to your diet, you can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, such as stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

·      What would you suggest as the easiest way to start introducing whole grains into the daily diet?
Start by looking in your pantry.  You might be pleasantly surprised to see just how many whole grains you already eat, like popcorn, whole corn tortilla chips and oatmeal-based granola bars.  When you’re ready to go to the next step, look for versions of your favorite foods that are made with a mix of whole and refined grains, to start your tastebuds enjoying the fuller, nuttier taste of whole grains.

·      What is the recommended daily consumption of whole grains for adults and children?
The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend all of us make half or more of our grains whole, with adults getting at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains every day. A serving size is about an ounce, which is one slice of bread or a bowl of cereal.

·      When buying whole grain breads and pastas, what’s the best way to tell which products are the best for you?
Food labels can be very confusing and that’s why we developed the Whole Grain Stamp program. If there isn’t a stamp, check the ingredients list and make sure you see “whole [name of grain)” – such as whole wheat four – near the top of the ingredient list.

 Q&A and list from here

some of my favorite recipes that include whole grains, 
not including whole-wheat flour and pasta: