Category Archives: Recipes and Meal Ideas

Greek Salad Skewers

Most kebabs come in the form of meat, chicken, or shrimp skewered on bamboo sticks; sometimes a few grilled vegetables are thrown into the mix to break up the monotony of color. But how often do you see a skewer devoted completely to vegetables? And raw vegetables, at that? Salad on a stick is a fun, colorful way to eat your vegetables–and it’s perfect for the upcoming barbecue season!

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Ingredients

6 small romaine bunchesSalad Skewers Ingredients-3 bell peppers, red and yellow, cut into 1 inch squares
1 cucumber, cut into rounds
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup kalamata olives
Whole wheat ciabatta, toasted, torn into 1 inch squares
1/4 cup Pesto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice
Bamboo/wooden skewers

Method 

1. Thread vegetables, olives and bread onto skewers
2. Mix pesto with olive oil and lemon juice; drizzle over skewers
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper

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Why Should You Eat This?

The USDA recommends that you eat 2 1/2 to 4 cups of veggies per day, depending on your age, gender, and activity level (calculate your needs here). But many Americans fall short on this recommendation. Whether you’re not meeting these recommendations because you’re getting tired of the same old spinach salad or you tend to fill up on packaged foods, salad skewers are a fun and novel way of eating vegetables. They’re a perfect side to your summer picnic or barbecue, but they’re also a great on-the-go snack–just grab a skewer and head out the door.

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Stop Relying on Carbs: New Ideas for Low-Carb Snacks and Meals

When it comes to dieting, weight maintenance, and general nutrition, carbs are not the devil–despite what the Atkins and Paleo diets would have us believe. Carbs supply our bodies with the energy to perform everyday Carb-Centric Mealstasks and to work out; they supply glucose to fuel our brain; they even stimulate the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Luckily, carbs are widely available today–but they’re almost too available. Processed carbs seem to dominate the tablescape no matter what meal you’re serving: French toast (bread), grilled cheese (more bread), pizza (dough), sandwiches (more bread), spaghetti and meatballs (pasta). They’re also the backbone of most snacks: think hummus and pita bread, bruschetta, a bowl of cereal, granola bars, cheese and crackers. The main problem with this reliance on carbs is that processed carbs, compared to vegetables, are higher in calories and offer fewer nutrients. And in most cases, the carb-of-choice is simply a bland vehicle to showcase the true flavor-makers of the meal: a toasted baguette delivers the delicious combination of tomato, basil, and olive oil; pita bread scoops savory hummus right into your mouth.

So how can you use this information to maximize your nutrient intake? Keep eating enough carbs (keeping them as unprocessed and whole as possible) to sustain your everyday activities and workouts (that amount is different for everyone; athletes will need more) but replace bread, pasta, tortillas, pita, crackers, and cereal for fruits and vegetables every now and then. You’ll end up cutting out a few hundred calories per day and adding in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and valuable antioxidants! Try these substitutions:

Instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (432 calories, 59g carbs, 12g protein, 3g fiber, 18 g fat), try…

Apple Sandwiches with Granola and Peanut Butter
Apple peanut butter sandwiches (300 calories, 36g carbs, 8g protein, 6g fiber, 16g fat)

Instead of a turkey wrap (540 calories, 76g carbs, 24g protein, 16g fat, 6g fiber), try…Lettuce Turkey Sandwich Wrap

Lettuce turkey wraps (295 calories, 17g carbs, 32g protein, 11g fat, 6g fiber)

Instead of a spaghetti (221 calories, 43g carbs, 8g protein, 1.3g fat, 2.5g fiber), try…

Baked Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash (42 calories, 10g carbs, 1g protein, <0.5g fat, 2g fiber)

Instead of one egg roll (222 calories, 24g carbs, 7g protein, 11g fat), try…

Summer and Vegetable Rolls
Vegetable Chard Wraps with Spicy Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce (87 calories, 7.1g carbs, 2.4g protein, 6.1g fat) or Summer Rolls (64 calories, 12g carbs, 1 g protein, 2g fat, 2g fiber)

Instead of pizza (237 calories, 26g carbs, 11g protein, 10g fat, 1.6g fiber per slice), try…

Portobello Pizza

Portobello pizza (150 calories, 15g carbs, 10g protein, 7g fat, 3g fiber)

Instead of cheese and crackers (185 calories, 9g carbs, 8g protein, 14g fat, 0g fiber per 4 crackers), try…

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Rolls
Ricotta-stuffed zucchini rolls (103 calories, 7g carbs, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber per two rolls)

Note: You don’t have to replace all of your dry carbs (bread, pasta, cereal) with fruits and vegetables; depending on your activity level, those are essential for fueling workouts and maintaining steady energy levels and mood. But being aware of your carb intake–and reducing the amount of processed carbs you consume–can help cut out empty calories  from your diet and add in valuable nutrients.

10 Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipes

By now, most everyone knows about the virtues of quinoa: a seed known to the Incas as “the mother of all grains,” it’s high in muscle-building protein and hunger-quashing fiber. And containing all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine, it’s a smart addition to vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets alike. Vitamin E, which plays a role in keeping inflammation at bay, as well as calcium, the phytonutrient betacyanin and antioxidants ferulic and coumaric acids, quercetin and kaempferol round out its nutritional profile. It’s even been recognized by the UN as a potential key player in worldwide nutrition: it has named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa,” calling for foodies and non-foodies alike to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition in the eradication of poverty.”

On its own, quinoa has a nutty taste and chewy texture — but it can be somewhat boring. But dressing it up with vegetables, herbs, spices and dressings makes it not only tasty and filling, but a satisfying and complete meal. These ten recipes have different flavor profiles; but they have in common clean, whole ingredients offering plenty of nutrients. To add more bulk to your meal, double the vegetables in the recipe.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Ingredients
Half a bunch of kale, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 package mint, finely chopped (about ½ cup packed)
2 grapefruits
¼ cup toasted coconut
Salt and pepper

Method
Cook quinoa: bring to a boil with two cups water or vegetable stock; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Massage kale with olive oil; let sit.

Add quinoa, chopped mint, grapefruit segments and their juice, and toasted coconut; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9 Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing from Two Peas and Their Pod

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad from The Talking Kitchen

Layered Quinoa Salad with Beet Vinaigrette from Family Fresh Cooking

Mexican Quinoa Salad from Recipe Girl

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad from Bon Appetit

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Pepper, and Cilantro from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans from Gluten Free Goddess

Spicy Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing from The Year in Food

Tomato Basil Quinoa Salad from The Diva-Dish

Baked Butternut Squash Fries

After last week’s post, I received a lot of questions regarding how to make butternut squash fries. If you missed the post (check it out here), butternut squash is a great substitute for regular and sweet potatoes in the event of an unstoppable French fry craving.



Ingredients

1 Butternut squash
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
Ketchup or your choice of dip

Method
Preheat oven to 400°.


1. Begin by cutting the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and flesh and peel.

2. Cut each half in half, and slice into even sticks, about one-half inch thick.

3. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil around a bowl (this will allow for an even distribution of oil and prevent the top pieces from absorbing too much oil); add butternut squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

4. To prevent burning and uneven cooking, bake the squash fries on a wire cooking rack place of a pan. Bake for 20 minutes; flip, and continue baking for another 20 minutes.

Why Should You Eat These?

Butternut squash fries are a healthy and easy substitution for French fries made with either regular or sweet potatoes. While the average order of French fries carries around 430 calories (although most will have much more!), butternut squash only has 63 calories (one 1.5 pound butternut squash will yield 3-4 cups of squash). Calories aside, butternut squash is packed with fiber, which boosts satiety; it’s also high in potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and folate. Its rich orange or yellow hue comes from carotenoids, antioxidants that have been shown to protect against heart disease, boost the immune system, and maintain proper cell functioning.

Meatless Monday: Forbidden Rice Salad

Grain-based salads are a great option for on-the-go meals: they combine all the essentials of a meal into a neat, pretty and transportable package. Plus, the longer the salad sits in the refrigerator, the more the ingredients marinate, giving the dish more flavor. Make this salad for Meatless Monday, and then save the leftovers for small snacks and side dishes throughout the week. Forbidden rice — the backdrop for this colorful salad — offers a stickier, nuttier texture than white rice, plus extra fiber, protein and nutrients.

Ingredients

1 cup forbidden rice
1 ½ cups water 1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup edamame, shelled
1 mango, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 T lime juice
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Bring rice and water to a boil; cover, lower heat, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add more water as needed.

Combine vegetables, mango, cilantro, and mint in a bowl. Add rice; mix.

Add olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Chill for 30 minutes and serve.

Why Should You Eat This?

Forbidden rice, an heirloom variety once reserved for emperors and nobles, owes its black or dark purple hue to anthocyanins — the same antioxidant found in blackberries and blueberries. In fact, a spoonful of forbidden rice contains more anthocyanins than a spoonful of blueberries, making it a powerful fighter against cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline. Forbidden rice is also rich in iron and vitamin E, and because the bran is left intact, it boasts a considerable amount of fiber.

Even though this is a grain-based salad, vegetables are still the main component. In fact, there’s about a 5:1 ratio of vegetables to grains! And because 75% of Americans fall short on the recommended intake of five daily servings of produce, planning your meals around vegetables — as opposed to a carb or protein — is an easy way to boost your intake. Adding vegetables and fruits to your meals (and not just a salad with dinner) not only adds vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; it may also help you drop pounds. According to a study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who added two servings of produce a day lost three pounds without adjusting anything else in their diet or exercise routines. Grain-based salads are an easy way to add those two servings with the added benefit of satiating fiber- and protein-rich grains.

Shrimp Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are spring rolls’ much healthier cousin. Spring rolls are fried in oil; summer rolls are fresh. And while spring rolls are filled with a mixed vegetable and cabbage, summer rolls contain bright, fresh vegetables, herbs, and lean protein — in this case, shrimp. So on hot, end-of-the-summer days, summer rolls are the perfect choice: they’re packed with fragrant, in-season vegetables, offer lean protein, and best of all: don’t involve cooking!

Ingredients:

Rice Paper (found in Asian section of grocery store)
Shrimp, precooked, split in half lengthwise
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 head butter lettuce, washed and separated
1 cup mung bean sprouts
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
¼ cup peanuts

Peanut-Hoisin Dipping Sauce (same as from Chicken Lettuce Cups)
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin
1 minced shallot
1 T soy sauce
2 T lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil

Method:

To make the sauce, heat sesame oil over a small skillet. Add minced shallot; saute for 1-2 minutes. Add peanut butter, hoisin, and soy sauce; stir. Bring to a boil; let cool and add lime juice.

To assemble the spring rolls, prepare a clean working space: arrange carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro, basil, and mint in small bowls. Keep shrimp over ice to keep it cool.

Fill a lipped plate or large bowl with water; add rice paper sheet and let soften for about 30 seconds.

Remove from water and lay flat on work surface. Place four shrimp halves (color-side down) on bottom third of rice paper. Lay cucumber and carrot sticks on either side of shrimp; layer lettuce, cilantro, basil, mint, mung bean sprouts, and peanut on top.

Fold bottom of rice paper over filling, fold in the ends, and roll into a tight wrap.Continue with the rest of the ingredients, placing finished rolls in refrigerator as you work.

Serve with peanut-hoisin dipping sauce.

Why Should You Eat This?

Similar to the Chicken Lettuce Cups, these are another low-carb version of a wrap. Each rice paper sheet has just 20 calories, and their taste is virtually non-existent, which allows the bright flavors to take center stage (using a tortilla, for example, would add around 200 calories — plus it would completely transform the flavor!). Essentially, summer rolls are handheld salads — a good option for lunch, dinner, or an on-the-go snack.

Shrimp are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, making the crustacean a good alternative for those who don’t like fish. Foods high in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have been found to protect against cognitive decline. A study published in the Archives of Neurology found that those with the highest blood levels of DHA were at a 47% decreased risk of developing dementia than those with the lowest levels; according to the Zutphen Elderly Study, this correlation is linear. Omega-3s have also been found to boost mood, reduce depression, and boost heart health.

Meatless Monday: Hummus and Tabbouleh Salad

How do you ensure that your Meatless Monday-inspired salad — without chicken or salmon, of course — provides enough protein to rebuild tired muscles? Add two protein-rich vegetarian (and in this case, vegan) foods: hummus and quinoa. The refreshing flavors from tabbouleh and the creamy taste of hummus combine for a truly flavorful meal — with no need for extra salad dressings.

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped parsley
½ – 1 cup chopped mint
1 ½ cups chopped seedless cucumber
½ – 1 cup chopped tomato
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
Hummus
Mixed Greens

Method:

1. Rinse the quinoa to remove any saponin, which can make it taste bitter. Add quinoa and two cups of water to a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add salt; reduce heat and cover for about 15 minutes.

2. Turn off heat; let quinoa stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Let cool.

3. Add quinoa, parsley, mint, cucumber, and tomato to a mixing bowl; mix until combined.

4. Add olive oil and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Chill until serving.

5. Toss mixed greens with olive oil, if using. Top with tabbouleh and hummus.

Why Should You Eat This?

Going meatless – even if it’s just once a week — has major health and environmental payoffs (it can reduce your saturated fat intake by 15%, enough to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and obesity; in terms of the environment, it greatly reduces our carbon footprint).

By replacing the typical bulgur used in traditional tabbouleh recipes with quinoa, the protein content is boosted dramatically: quinoa contains 8 grams per serving, compared to bulgur’s 4 grams. Quinoa also contains more copper, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, and iron; it’s also gluten-free. (But don’t discount bulgur: it contains about half the calories of quinoa, cup for cup, and boasts more fiber).

What quinoa lacks in fiber, hummus makes up for: chickpeas are rich in slow-digesting complex carbohydrates that help maintain steady blood sugar levels, reduce hunger, and promote satiety. And even with its rich, creamy taste, almost all of the fat it contains come from healthy sources, like olive oil and tahini, that provide omega-3 fatty acids.