Dec 31, 2009

Updated Game Day App

We all love a good Chip Buffet, but if you're looking to add some culinary flare to your New Years Day, try these delicious stuffed dates.  People will pop them in their mouths like popcorn!

 
Stuffed & Wrapped Dates
Medjool Dates (the big ones--CA dates are too tedious to work with, even if already pitted)
Mascarpone Cheese
Blue cheese
Toasted Pecan Halves
Prosciutto di Parma (optional)

Leave cheeses at room temperature for 30 minutes so they're softer and easier to work with.  Scoop some Mascarpone cheese into a bowl, then crumble desired amount of blue cheese into the Mascarpone and mix together with a small spatula.  I usually use about 1-2 tbsp blue cheese for 1/4 cup Mascarpone (this amount stuffs at least 20 dates), but use however much you want depending on how strong of a blue cheese taste you like.  (If you're not a blue cheese fan, you can do half Mascarpone and half goat cheese),

Remove pits from dates by slicing one side open enough to pull the pit out.  Using a small spoon, small icing spatula, or butter knife, stuff a small amount of the cheese into each date.  Then stuff a pecan half into the cheese and set date aside.

Take a thin slice of prosciutto and cut it lengthwise into 3 long strips.  Place a date at one end of one of the strips and roll it up in the prosciutto.  Repeat with remaining dates & prosciutto slices.  (To make vegetarian, just omit the prosciutto.  Or, wrap date in a large basil leaf and stick a toothpick in it so it holds).

Enjoy!!

Dec 30, 2009

A Healthy & Enjoyable January

This is the time of year when we've all indulged a little too much, and have our sights set on January 1st as "the day" when we'll get our act together eating-wise (or maybe the Monday after, for those who want to eat nachos while watching bowl games).

While goals to eat less, drink less and work out more, etc, are good goals theoretically, they probably won't last, because temptation will pop up again before too long.  So instead of thinking of January as the time when you'll start being good to your body, I propose that you start NOW.  Not with a strict diet, a fast, a cleanse, or anything unpleasant.  Instead, with some small but specific goals that will eventually help you reach your larger goals.

Small, realistic, specific goals are great because you can start on them this very minute, without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated, and they're clear enough so you know exactly what to do.  Some examples:
  • When eating out, put half of your meal into a to-go box before you even start eating.  Save the leftovers for a future meal.
  • Put a post-it note on your refrigerator door that lists 3 activity ideas you can do when you're about to eat out of boredom.  (e.g. organize desk drawer, walk to drugstore to buy newest US Weekly, put on favorite song/sit down/close eyes/regain focus, read an interesting article on nytimes.com)
  • Stop buying ______ (insert your favorite junk food), so that the temptation is not within arms reach.
  • Make a grocery list and meal plan every Sunday, taking into account your schedule for the week, and how many times you'll realistically eat in.
  • Keep individually-portioned bags of nuts & dried fruits in your purse, glove compartment, gym bag, etc, for healthy snacks between meals.  (If you're ravenous at mealtime, you'll overeat). 
  • Order drip coffee at Starbucks, instead of the usual latte/mocha/frappuccino.  Add milk or sugar yourself, to save on calories.
  • Don't drink on weeknights.  Save a glass of wine or a beer for a weekend treat (big time calorie saver)
  • Replace one serving of bread/meat/cheese/sweets each day with a fruit or vegetable.
  • Weigh yourself once a week (on the same day) to keep yourself aware of how your habits are affecting your body.
  • Whatever goals are relevant to you & your lifestyle
These may seem like insignificant steps when you're desperate to shed your holiday pounds, but if you start with one, add another in a couple weeks, another a few weeks after that, and so on, you'll be losing weight and/or getting healthier faster than you think.  To boot, you won't be feeling deprived or depressed....which means you may actually stick with these.  And that would be an enormous feat, in the world of weight loss.

Dec 16, 2009

Find what you're looking for!

I just added a "search" feature to my blog, so that when you come looking for a specific recipe or idea you remember liking, but can't remember when it was posted, you can just put it in the search bar (appears on the right side) and boom!  There it is.  Hope it's helpful!

Peppermint Brownies

Before I give you this recipe, I'll give a disclaimer: Make these when you're going somewhere and need to bring something, NOT when you're bored at home and want a treat around the house. They are too good to stop, so you should arrange sharing them asap.


Peppermint Brownies -- Shortcut Version
1 package Ghiradelli Chocolate Brownie Mix
Eggs -- however many it says on the box
Oil -- however much it says on the box
Peppermint Schnapps -- replace half the water it calls for with Peppermint Schnapps
2 oz mint chocolate chips or chunks, melted (Trader Joe's has good mint dark chocolate chips)
2 (approx) Tbsp milk, half & half, or cream
1/2 cup Candy Canes pieces (smashed into little bits)

Prepare brownies according to package directions, only sub Peppermint Schnapps for 1/2 the water.  (To make without alcohol, just add 1 tsp peppermint extract and do everything else the package instructions say).  Grease a baking pan, pour in batter, and bake for 1/2 the baking time.  

Meanwhile, melt mint chocolate with 1-2 Tbsp milk in microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between.  Every 20 seconds, add a little more milk, half & half, or cream if necessary, and gently stir in until smooth.  Chocolate should become a sauce consistency: runny enough so you can pour it, but still thick like hot fudge.  After the brownies have baked for 1/2 the time, pull them out, drizzle the chocolate sauce over them, then sprinkle them with the candy cane shavings.  Return to oven for the remaining bake time.  (They may take a bit longer to cook, so put them in for more time if necessary but check often so they don't overcook).

If you want the non-shortcut version of this recipe, email me and I'll be happy to provide.
Enjoy!

Dec 12, 2009

Christmas Party Idea

A client of mine has these porcelain gingerbread houses that light up, so for her Christmas party last night we built a plot of "snow" with icing and coconut, and created a village of gingerbread figures.  It turned out so cute!

Dec 9, 2009

Quinoa with Latin Flavors



Super tasty side dish from Eating Well magazine.  Turn this into a complete meal by adding 1 can black beans, 2 cups thawed frozen corn, 1 diced avocado, and 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes.

Dec 6, 2009

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Making your own bread sounds hard, but it's not.  In fact, it's the perfect activity for a weekend when you're catching up on stuff around the house.  This is my favorite bread recipe of the moment, given to me by my friend Kathy, and based on the recipe by the Hell's Backbone Grill in Utah.

Oatmeal Molasses Bread
1 cup organic rolled oats
2 cups hot water
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups bread flour

Pour the hot water over the oats and in a large bread bowl and let stand for 15 min.  Add melted butter, salt and molasses (1/2 cup).  In separate bowl, add 1 tablespoon yeast to 1/2 cup lukewarm water with the tsp of sugar.  Let the yeast get foamy and then add to the oats mixture.  Mix in flour until tacky but not sticky texture.  Knead dough well for about 10 minutes or so.  If on the dry side, knead on oiled surface.  If too sticky, add more flour.

Oil the bowl and top of dough, cover with damp kitchen towel.  Let rise in warm place for two hours or until doubled in size.  Punch down and shape into loaves (2 regular size) and place in buttered pan.  Let rest for at least another 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 

Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook another 35 minutes or so until done - sound hollow when tapped (although I use 350 degree oven and it is just fine).  Remove from pan and cool on rack or towel.

Enjoy!

Dec 3, 2009

Mushroom Barley Soup

A hearty, healthy go-to -- this soup will warm you from the inside out and keep you satisfied!


Dec 1, 2009

Weight Loss Secret: Get Enough Sleep!

Lack of sleep may be sabotaging your healthy eating efforts, since people who sleep less seem to snack more...probably because they're reaching for a boost of energy that they didn't get from a good night's sleep.

If you find yourself reaching for food during the late afternoon slump or when watching TV at night, make a plan to give yourself more nighttime hours for sleep.  It could be as simple as turning off the TV a 1/2 hour earlier, skipping a weekday social event, or just making a pact with yourself to be in bed by a certain time every night when you know you have to wake up early.

Feeling rested is not only good for your waistline - it's also good for your mood, your relationships, and for staying well during flu season.  So stop reading this blog post, and head off for a snooze!

Nov 30, 2009

Recipe for Relaxation

Already feeling the stress of the holiday season?!  Here's a treat you can enjoy while kicking back in front of a cozy fire (or for those of us in Southern CA, in front of the fan, so you don't start sweating):


Cocktail:  The Naughty Girl Scout
1 packet Light Hot Chocolate (click here for the tastiest low-cal options)
2 Tbsp Peppermint Schnapps
1 tsp Candy Cane Shavings (smash a peppermint of piece of candy cane)
5 mini marshmallows

Prepare hot chocolate according to package directions.  Stir in Schnapps, then top with marshmallows and candy cane shavings.  Make an easy non-alcoholic version of this cocktail by skipping the Schnapps and adding 1/4 tsp peppermint extract.


Enjoy!

Nov 23, 2009

Surviving the Holiday Season

Oh, the holidays.  Such trouble for our waistlines!

But instead of telling you to avoid parties with buffets, drink water not egg nog, maintain your usual workout routine, and load your Thanksgiving plate with green beans instead of stuffing, I'm going to be realistic.  Because who are we kidding?  We all indulge during the holiday season (even nutritionists).  So rather than telling you to stave off indulgence (only to make you feel guilty when you don't take the advice), let's just focus on how to recover quickly so you can go back to feeling and looking your best.

The day after you've overeaten: 
Make a point to be active, and return to a normal eating routine.  Do not skip meals!  Instead, focus on eating especially light foods, like fruits & vegetables and lean proteins, so that you don't end up starving at the end of the day, only to find yourself overeating again.

The day after you've had too many spiked egg nogs:  
Unfortunately, a hangover is like a broken heart in that the only thing that cures it is time.  Caffeine, greasy food, Vitamin B powders are not going to help.  So rehydrate with plenty of water and diluted juice/diluted Gatorade, get some fresh air, and rest up. 

The day after you've lounged on the couch for 16 hours straight: 
Go for a few short walks, restore your inner peace with a yoga class, do some stretching at home, or hit the gym.  Just get moving, in whatever way is most enjoyable for you.

And that's it.  Remember, one day of bad eating or laziness isn't going to kill you.  But a week's worth of days like this will take a toll on how you feel...and also how your pants feel when you're trying to button them up.  So try to balance indulgent days with normal days, because come January, you'll want to look back on the holiday season as a time when you ate your share of fudge, but didn't go up 3 sizes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas

Are you in charge of bringing dessert to Thanksgiving dinner, but tired of the usual pumpkin pie? Try one of these fall desserts, which will please your recipients' palettes but serve as a nice change of pace.

My favorite of the moment is this one which I turned into
an apple cake by replacing the nectarines with one thinly sliced Fuji apple (I also reduced the butter to 1/2 a stick, added 1/4 cup plain yogurt, and reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup). Serve with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Here are some other ideas:

1) Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie -- the ginger snap crust is exquisite...and the ice cream makes this treat slide down easily, even when you're really full. (I know you're asking yourself "what kind of nutritionist says that?" --but it's Thanksgiving after all).













2) Cranberry Chocolate Tart -- tangy 'n sweet, this is a fab choice. Use only 3 Tbsp of butter in the crust, and when making the filling, replace the whipping cream with chilled evaporated fat free milk.












3) Maple Walnut Cake -- dates make this cake incredibly moist and sweet. I used 100% whole wheat pastry flour, instead of part all-purpose flour -- it's still divine.












Let me know what you try out, and
Enjoy the holiday!

Nov 20, 2009

Recipes from Women in Business event

Two kinds of pizza you can make at home!

CHICKEN APRICOT PIZZA

1 ball pizza dough (either purchased or homemade)
½ cup (approx) reduced-sugar apricot preserves
2 cooked chicken breasts, diced into cubes
1-2 cups dried apricots, chopped
4 oz Gorgonzola cheese
1-2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

If using refrigerated dough, let sit out at room temp for at least 20 min so it’s
easier to work with. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a skillet over medium heat,
sauté the onions with 1 tbsp olive oil plus a sprinkling of salt & sugar until they
begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir every couple minutes. Set aside.

Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray (or rub with olive oil) and work
dough out with your palms so that it fits the sheet (you can also roll out with a
rolling pin, and if you have a pizza stone, you can use that in place of baking
sheet). Poke a few holes in the dough with a fork, then bake for 2-3 min or until
crust begins to form. Remove from oven & let cool a couple minutes.

Spread the preserves like you would pizza sauce all over the crust. Distribute the
remaining ingredients, including the caramelized onion slices, around the whole
pizza, ending with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the
cheese is golden brown. Let cool 5 min, the slice & serve.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO PIZZA WITH FRESH HERB PESTO

1 ball pizza dough
½ cup pesto (store-bought or homemade)
¼ cup olive tapenade (optional)
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella
2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Follow same dough instructions as above,
including baking the dough for 2-3 minutes to form a crust.

With a spatula, spread the pesto and olive tapenade (if using) evenly over the
dough. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the pesto, then arrange the basil leaves (chop
if desired) and tomato slices around the pizza, finishing with the mozzarella and a
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Bake for 10-14 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and pizza is heated
through. Let sit 5 min before slicing and serving.

Women in Business Event

Check out my wine tasting, pizza demo, and catered dinner at the Women in Business event hosted by Tadpole Marketing (http://www.tadpolemarketing.com/services.html) in Venice Beach. It was a great evening--so many amazing women with amazing businesses. Thanks Tadpole, for letting Eating Made Easy provide healthy & inspiring food!

Nov 5, 2009

Yummy Couscous

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with side dishes. This is a couscous that can be served with just about anything -- salmon, chicken, pork, or even roasted vegetables. It's quick and easy.

Yummy Couscous Recipe

3 3 / 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 1 / 2 cups couscous (try to find whole wheat couscous!)

1 1 / 2 cups golden raisins

1 1 / 2 cups pine nuts toasted*

1/4 cup roasted red and yellow bell pepper (roast your own, or buy the jarred kind)

handful of chopped fresh parsley

1 / 4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Fresh-ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the couscous and raisins. Cover and let stand about 15 minutes or until the broth has been absorbed and the couscous is tender. Fluff the couscous with a fork and mix in the nuts and roasted bell peppers. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Add to the couscous and mix well. Taste for seasoning adding pepper, if desired. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

*To toast pine nuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned. Careful -- they burn easily!

Nov 1, 2009

Warm squash salad

As much as I love tradition, this may be the perfect alternative to the yam-marshmallow-butter mixture that everyone serves on Thanksgiving...which is controversial at most family tables. If you don't already love squash and sweet potatoes...you will after tasting this salad!

Here's the rough recipe:
Cube some butternut squash and sweet potatoes (both peeled), and place on a nonstick baking sheet with an onion, cut into half moon slices. Toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and cinnamon, then roast at 450 until fork-tender and browned on the edges.

In a large bowl, toss some baby spinach with a vinaigrette made from 2 parts apple cider vinegar, 1 part maple syrup, 1 part olive oil, and a small dollop of Dijon mustard. Lay coated spinach leaves on a large platter, then top with the squash mixture (while its still warm, so the spinach wilts a little) and sprinkle with toasted pecans and golden raisins. Yum!

Oct 29, 2009

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds



As a tradition I have always saved my seeds when I carve pumpkins for Halloween. They are such a nutritious and tasty snack. Pumpkin seeds provide zinc, which helps to build your immune system, and they contain heart healthy fatty acids...plus they taste great!

Here's how:

Separate seeds from string core.

Lay them out on a baking sheet in a warm dry area, for about an hour.

Toss with a little olive oil and seasoning salt.

Preheat oven to 350 F* and bake for 20-25 minutes.

*If you like them extra crispy, toward the end of baking turn on the broiler for 1-2 min.

Enjoy!

Oct 21, 2009

Lemon Orzo with Chicken


Make this dish in an oven-proof pot, for easy preparation & clean up. I mixed everything in my dutch oven, baked for 35 min, and it was done. Easiest dinner ever. Thank you Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine, for the idea!

Lemon Orzo with Chicken
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
1 tbsp butter
1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-in pieces
1 lb orzo
8 oz pkg sliced mushrooms
8 oz pkg feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp dried dill (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/4 cup juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. In a large oven-proof pot (like a Dutch oven), bring broth, 3/4 cup water, butter, salt, and pepper to a boil, then turn off heat. In a separate large bowl, mix together the orzo, chicken, feta, dill, lemon zest/juice, parsley, and mushrooms. Add to pot and stir once, then place whole pot in oven until orzo is tender and cooking liquid is creamy; about 35 min. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and let stand 5-10 min before serving.

*adapted from Everyday Food magazine, November 2009

Oct 15, 2009

Gjelina

Excited to try Gjelina, an Abbott Kinney restaurant in Venice, on Saturday! Everything on their menu looks so good, I can already tell ordering will be a big decision-making crisis for me. Yum!!

Oct 14, 2009

Ginger & Root Veggie Soup


I have a cold & feel crummy so I made this soup last night. It helped.

Ginger & Root Veggie Soup
1 large onion
1 lb carrots, chopped into 1-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic
1-2 inch piece ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 large white potato, cut into cubes
4 cups veggie broth
3 cups water
1 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot. Chop onion and toss into pot. Sprinkle with salt & saute until translucent, about 5 min. Add all the veggies, ginger, and garlic and season again with salt & pepper. Add spices, broth, and water. Let boil for about 20-30 minutes or until veggies are all very soft. Blend with an immersion (hand) blender until smooth. Add orange juice, stir, and season to taste with salt & pepper. Enjoy with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt or on its own.
Note: if the soup is very thick (like a puree) just add some water so it's a soup consistency.

Oct 13, 2009

Maple Pecan Granola


Maple Pecan Granola

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp maple extract

4 cups rolled oats

1 cup shredded coconut flakes

2 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup raisins

1 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried fruit of choice


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together first 8 ingredients (through almond extract). Add oats, coconut, cereal, and nuts and toss together so dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread out onto a large cookie sheet (sprayed lightly with non-stick spray), and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and toss/mix granola around with a spatula. Return to oven for an additional 15 minutes, or until granola looks golden brown and toasted (may need an extra 5-10 minutes). Let cool for a few minutes, then add dried fruit and toss together. Let cool completely before putting granola in a bag or airtight container to store. May be stored up to 2 weeks in the cupboard, or a month in the refrigerator/freezer. Serve with low-fat Greek yogurt, over fruit, or sprinkled on ice cream for dessert.


Sep 24, 2009

Easy Way to Eat More Fruit




In the latest issue of the Nutrition Action newsletter (click here to subscribe -- it is fascinating), I learned how a diet rich in fruits & vegetables is the main way to achieve heart health. And although I've been obsessed with F&V for a long time, I now see even more reason to increase the amount in my diet. If you eat 2000 calories per day, you should aim for 11 servings...which sounds like a lot, but it's the equivalent of this:

a fruit with breakfast (1/2 cup)
a large serving of fruit for a snack (1 cup)
an entree salad for lunch (3-4 cups)
veggie-based stir fry, fajitas, ratatouille, tacos, etc. for dinner (2 cups)

And there you have it -- 11 servings!

Here's how I'm getting closer to my servings goal today --
pineapple & nectarines dipped in this:

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp limeade concentrate
1 cup Cool Whip Lite
(Mix yogurt & limeade together, then gently fold in Cool Whip with a spatula. Add lime zest if you'd like.)

Email me at healthymeels@gmail.com to sign up for my newsletter if you'd like other variations on this dip!

Sep 21, 2009

Don't reach for chips, reach for these!


I'm always scouring grocery shelves on the lookout for new products that will satisfy my crunchy-salty craving but also provide some fiber...and with any luck, some other nutrients too. With 130 calories, 4 grams fiber (unheard of for a chip), and only 4.5 grams fat (about 6 grams less than potato chips) in a 30-curl serving, these are my latest favorite. If you have Trader Joe's in your area, give them a try!

*photo taken from davesworkout.com

Sep 14, 2009

Nectarine Cake


Going to someone's house for dinner & don't know what to bring? Impress them by bringing a homemade cake from this month's Gourmet Magazine -- it's easy as can be, but they'll never know.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Nectarine-Golden-Cake-354960

Email me at healthymeels@gmail.com to find out how to make this cake healthier...or to get ideas on how to alter it with other fruits & flavors.

Enjoy!

Sep 10, 2009

A Sweet Splurge



In Boston a few weeks ago, we went to one of my favorite bakeries, Flour, to try their famed Sticky Buns. And let me tell you, these buns really lived up to the hype! I could have one of these every morning for the rest of my life (if they were only calorie-free). I highly recommend stopping by next time you're in the South End.

Jul 31, 2009

Stone Fruit Salsa



Looking for something different to with fruit besides just eating it? Try this unique take on salsa, not only does it utilize the best of summer's in-season fruits, it's a great dip for chips or topping for tacos & meats!

Amelia's Stone Fruit Salsa

3 nectarines or peaches, or a combo, finely chopped
2 plums, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
juice of 1 large lime
small handful cilantro leaves, chopped
small handful mint leaves, chopped
pinch each of salt & pepper

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and gently combine with a rubber spatula. Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy with tortilla chips, over grilled chicken or fish, or on top of fish/shrimp tacos.

YUM!


Jul 27, 2009

Last Chance



Not much time left in fig season -- eat up! Here's the platter I featured in my last newsletter: halved figs, soft goat cheese, basil, prosciutto, and a drizzle of balsamic....YUM.

Healthy Meels on Twitter!

For quick recipes & tips, follow me on Twitter! @healthymeels

Jul 2, 2009

Delicious Side Dish






Looking for a way to utilize the pile of tomatoes you picked up at the farmer's market? Or, have no idea what to bring to a summer potluck? Here's a quick, easy side dish (which you can alter depending on what ingredients you have lying around) that's beautifully presented, healthy, and delicious!


Sauteed Tomatoes

1 lb cherry tomatoes (2 pints)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (garlic press works best here)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (a mild Mexican cheese that crumbles like feta)
1/4 tsp salt & dash of pepper

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet for 2-3 min over med-high heat. Add tomatoes, salt, & pepper and let cook for about 5-7 minutes or until tomatoes start to brown a little, wrinkle, and/or pop. Then add garlic, stir to distribute, cook an additional minute, then add the cilantro. Again stir to distribute, then pour tomatoes into a serving bowl and top with the crumbled Cotija cheese. Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating...the inside of the tomatoes will be very hot. Enjoy!

Other versions you can try:
  • replace cilantro with basil, use feta cheese instead of Cotija
  • replace cilantro with 1/4 cup fresh baby dill, use feta instead of Cotija
  • replace cilantro with fresh parsley, use goat cheese instead of Cotija

Trip to Ubuntu


Last weekend I dined with my dear friends at Ubuntu, a vegetarian restaurant in the Napa Valley. In addition to being absolutely beautiful, our meal was delicious, hearty, and made from locally-grown produce. I had the carrot gnocchi (picture above), which came with a pesto made from the carrot tops -- who knew you could do this?!

Next time you're in wine country, I highly recommend this place!

Jun 25, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad



Looking for an alternative to the traditional calorie-laden potato salad that's so popular during the summer months? Try this Sweet Potato Salad -- it has fewer calories, less fat, and more nutrients -- not to mention it's flavor-packed and delicious!


Ingredients
3 lbs sweet potatoes
2 poblano peppers
4 scallions (aka green onions)
Big handful of Italian parsley
3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, or white wine vinegar
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks (size is up to you, just make sure the pieces are about equal sized so they cook evenly). Cover a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place potatoes on baking sheet and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bake for about 30 min, or until potatoes are fork tender and edges have browned (toss potatoes 1/2 way through baking).

Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, remaining oil, lemon, mustard, & honey in a large bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Finely chop the scallions & Italian parsley and add to bowl. Then chop poblano peppers into 1/4 inch pieces and add.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then add them to the bowl with the veggies & vinaigrette and gently toss together. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

*adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit magazine, July 2009

Jun 16, 2009

More on Alcohol

If you read my latest newsletter and are hungry for more info on the pros & cons of drinking alcohol as part of your healthy diet, check out this New York Times article:

Published: June 15, 2009

By now, it is a familiar litany. Study after study suggests that alcohol in moderation may promote heart health and even ward off diabetes and dementia. The evidence is so plentiful that some experts consider moderate drinking — about one drink a day for women, about two for men — a central component of a healthy lifestyle.

But what if it’s all a big mistake? .............

For the full article, click here.

If you didn't get my newsletter about alcohol yet, email me at healthymeels@gmail.com

Jun 11, 2009

Fresh Figs



Figs are the BEST summertime treat. Never prepared them before? Here are a few ideas (you'll wow your friends...and your tastebuds):

  1. Slice figs in half and roast on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven, crumble some fresh goat cheese over them, then top with thinly sliced ribbons of prosciutto and drizzle with thick balsamic vinegar. You won't know whether this is dinner or dessert!
  2. Prepare a platter with some halved fresh figs (the inside is too pretty not to display), a big wedge of good blue cheese (I like Point Reyes Blue), and some crusty bread. YUM.
  3. Toss some baby greens -- any sort -- with a light balsamic vinaigrette. Top the dressed greens with sliced figs & chopped walnuts.
Enjoy! And remember, figs aren't available for very long, so take advantage while you can!

Jun 5, 2009

Summertime snack

When it's hot out and you need a hearty breakfast or an afternoon snack to last you until dinner, try my new favorite smoothie, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe I saw on TV. So delicious!

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

1/2 cup soymilk, plain or vanilla
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 frozen banana, broken into a few chunks
1/4 cup rolled oats, or uncooked oat bran
A squirt of honey
A few drops of vanilla extract
ice cubes

In a blender, combine milk, yogurt, oats, honey, and vanilla. Then add banana and some ice cubes and blend until smooth. Add more or less ice cubes, depending on the consistency you desire. Enjoy! (Serves 1).

Apr 13, 2009

Be an Eco-Friendly Cook

As you know I am a big proponent of eco-friendly cooking & eating! Here are a few tips to help make your food prep routines more sustainable.

1) Make at least a few vegetarian meals per week. Meat production requires 8X the fossil fuel energy of plant production, so you be use fewer resources when you eat meat-free meals.

2) Enjoy foods in season. I can't say this enough. In-season foods taste light years better in addition to being better for the earth.

3) Buy organic dairy products and sustainably-raised meats. Sure it's tempting to buy the $3.50 gallon of milk instead of the $6 gallon, but the difference in product quality -- as well as toll taken on the earth's resources -- is astounding. Same goes for meat. You might find chicken breasts on sale for $2.50/lb, but the way these chickens were raised would make you cringe (at best) and the farming practice is totally unsustainable. Plus this meat is lower in nutrients and higher in things you don't want in your body. So spring for that more expensive meat -- be it organic, grass-fed, or sustainably-raised -- it's healthier for both you and the earth. [And if you follow Tip #1, you won't even be spending more money in the end.]

4) Be efficient with your appliances & cooking routines. For example, don't bake and grill foods in the same meal -- choose either the grill, oven, or stove for your meal prep and stick with that cooking method. And plan ahead -- if you can grill 6 chicken breasts instead of 2 and use the remaining chicken later in the week for salads, sandwiches, wraps, or other cold entrees, you'll save on both energy and time.

5) Don't dismiss the toaster oven. If you're cooking for one or two, the toaster oven is a great tool, because it's small size means it heats quickly and uses less energy than the traditional oven. You can use it for baking pretty much anything, and your dinner will be ready faster too.

6) Utilize your microwave. A microwave effectively uses 57.5% of its energy to heat food, compared with a gas cooktop, which uses only 7.1%. So next time you go to make tea, pop that water in the microwave instead of boiling a whole kettle full of water.

7) Keep the refrigerator (and oven) door closed. Every time you open the fridge, warm air rushes in and the fridge starts to work overtime to reduce it's temperature. Get as much food out at once as you can. Same is true for the oven -- use the oven light instead of opening the oven every few minutes to check on your food -- you'll not only save energy, but you'll get a better baking result. [Note: it's also important not to put piping hot food in the fridge -- it will warm up the other food in the fridge which is not only a waste of energy, it can also cause harmful bacteria to grow making foodborne illness more of a risk.]

Email me with questions or for more tips!

* Some of these tips adapted from Cooking Light magazine, April 2009

Mar 5, 2009

Buget-Friendly Cooking

Eating healthy on a budget doesn't have to be a big challenge. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

BBQ Black Bean Quesadillas

4 whole wheat tortillas (I like La Fe or Guerrero brands)
1 cup shredded low fat cheddar or jack cheese
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, cut into strips (or 1 cup frozen bell pepper strips)
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks, drained & chopped
1 medium sweet potato
1/4 to 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (to your taste)
Light sour cream or Low-fat greek yogurt, for topping

1 -- Poke some holes in the skin of the sweet potato and microwave for 4-5 min or until soft. Peel & chop into small cubes.
2 --Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium sized skillet. When pan is hot, saute onions & bell pepper strips for 5-7 minutes or until softened.
3 -- Add frozen corn to skillet and saute another minute until corn is heated through. Add pineapple chunks & BBQ sauce and stir mixture until coated. Remove from heat and add can of black beans.
4 -- In another skillet, grill pan, or griddle, heat tortilla over medium heat until slightly warm. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese all over tortilla. Place a generous portion of the bean mixture over half of the tortilla, and when cheese has melted slightly, fold the tortilla in half to make the quesadilla. Cook for 1-2 min or until cheese is fully melted and bean mixture is hot.
5 -- Let sit for a few minutes, then cut into triangles. Serve with dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
(Note: you may have extra bean mixture. If so you can make some extra quesadillas and refrigerate them for later -- they are great reheated in a skillet or in the microwave).

Serves 4 (or more)

Baked Spinach & Eggs

2 10-oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
6 large eggs
1 can evaporated fat-free milk
1/2 cup regular milk (1% or 2% is best)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine (if you have it on hand)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere or sharp white cheddar cheese (reduced fat if possible)
pinch of nutmeg

1 -- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a glass pie plate or similar-sized baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2 -- Drain spinach well by pressing into a strainer or wrapping tightly in a paper towel.
3 -- In a medium sized skillet, heat 1 tsp oil over medium heat. Saute the onion with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper, until onion is softened, about 7 min. Add wine and simmer until mostly evaporated.
4 -- Add spinach to the skillet and stir into the onion & wine mixture. Remove from heat.
5 -- In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milks, nutmeg, and most of the cheese (reserve a small handful).
6 --Add spinach mixture into the egg mixture, sprinkle with a pinch of salt & pepper, and pour into the baking dish. Top with the remaining handful of cheese.
7 -- Bake until top is golden brown and mixture is solid when you shake the pan a little, about 40-45 minutes.
8 -- Let sit at least 5 min before serving. Serve with a small green salad for a complete meal. I recommend 1 cup of mixed greens per person, tossed with a little olive oil & lemon juice.
(Note: this dish can burn easily, so start checking it right at 40 minutes to see if it's done).

Serves 5-6 people as a main dish.

Jan 31, 2009

Cooking Show audition!

video

My dream is to have my own nutrition-focused cooking show, so I audition for anything I come across. Here is my latest audition video for a new healthy cooking show. I'm not a star yet....but I'm hoping one of these days that changes ;)