Friday, May 31, 2013

Lemony Chickpea Bake

If you have about an hour to make dinner, this is a sure-hit-recipe.  It takes less than 10 minutes of prep, which is about the time it takes for the oven to preheat, and then it cooks for 40 minutes and comes out tasting amazing!  I'm still trying to figure out how such simple ingredients produce such a lovely tasting dish, but it's true!

Thanks to the food processor, things are quite easy.

The lemon flavor in the dish is not over-powering at all.  If any one flavor is present, I'm not sure what I would say.  The wonderful herbs?  Combined with the lemon and chickpeas?  It really is a great pairing.

I think I've talked before about how it can be hard at times to not cook all-in-one dinners.  One-pot meals, if you will.  Stews and soups.  So this, in my mind, is like a delightfully seasoned chicken breast.  It's the "protein" on the plate.  It was originally supposed to be a loaf, but when I turned it out (even after letting it sit for the 20 minutes) it broke and was not pretty.  What I realized is that I didn't cook it long enough, but I'm glad I didn't or else it would have been dry.  So from now on, I'm just baking it as a bake, not a loaf.

I served this with Cider Glazed Carrots, green beans, and a salad.  I'm also going to try and bake it with some corn thrown in to see how that tastes and let you know. (Turns out it's really good!  Scot prefers it without the corn, but I really liked the complimenting flavors.)

Slightly adapted from this recipe.

Lemon Chickpea Bake
Serves 4-6
  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red onion, rough chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TBLS herbs de province
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen/thawed corn (opt)
-- Set aside in a mixing bowl 3/4 cup chickpeas, put the rest of the chickpeas in a food processor
-- Put onion, garlic and spices in the food processor and pulse until crumbly and bottom just starts to "cream".  Remove to the mixing bowl
-- Add oats (and corn if using) and mix well, smushing everything together
-- Put mixture into a greased loaf pan (or 8x8 if using the corn) and pat down firmly.
-- Bake, uncovered, 40 minutes at 400.  Let cool 10-15 minutes before scooping out (don't over bake or it will be dry!  You want it almost flaky, but still moist.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red Lentil Dal

Have I ever mentioned how much we enjoy Indian food in our house?  It may come as a surprise to those of you who follow this blog and know what I spice-wimp I am, but the beauty about cooking Indian food in your own kitchen is the control over those spices.  While I may have a hard time ordering something at an Indian restaurant, I have no problem whipping up simple dishes like this Red Lentil Dal.

Let me assure you that if it were lady-like to mmmmm through an entire dinner (and not just the first few bites) I would have.  I could have eaten another bowl of this creamy Indian goodness just to satisfy my taste-buds.   Even the little dudes told me they liked the meal "this-much"! (Envision arms spread super-wide)  It was incredibly easy to make.  I would like to try it in the rice cooker, but I just don't think it would work out.  So while you do have to monitor the stove for this one, it's well worth the little time it takes.

I served this over brown rice, but you could eat it with some naan, too.  Have a nice green veggie on the side with a salad and you're good to go.  This also keeps and freezes beautifully, with the rice mixed in or not.  Note: I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to chop some kale and put it on the rice before putting the dal on top to wilt it -- I think it'll be great!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and if you don't know what to make for dinner tonight, make this!  You probably have most everything in your pantry right now!

Slightly adapted from this recipe.

Red Lentil Dal
makes 5 cups of the Dal and with the rice yields 4 very filling main dishes
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 3.5 cups vegetable broth 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 1/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 TBLS dry basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 cups cooked brown rice (takes as long to cook as the meal does to come together)
-- In a medium sauce pan, heat a little oil and saute the onion 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent.  
-- Add the garlic and saute 1 minute
-- Add broth, tomatoes, lentils, and spices.
-- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent from burning, and take off heat once mixture is nice and thick
-- Season with salt and pepper if desired

Friday, May 24, 2013

Crunchy Thai Quinoa Salad

Do you know what you're bringing to that Memorial Day picnic this weekend?  Here's an idea for you!

This is our new favorite quinoa salad.  Don't get me wrong, I love quinoa in other salads -- and in soups -- but this is hands-down one of the best tasting, freshest quinoa salads I've ever had, and definitely the favorite that has come from my kitchen.

And what better way to kick off summer? (Even though it doesn't officially start for another 3 weeks!)  This was easy to make.  It may not look it, but once the quinoa is cooked and cooled, it took about 15 minutes to put it all together.

This will be a summer favorite for sure -- I hope it's one of yours, too.

Original recipe is here.

Crunchy Thai Quinoa Salad
Serves 6 (more if using as a side dish)
  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well for a couple minutes, cooked with 2 cups water
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
  • 3 TBLS soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-2 TBLS lime juice
  • 1 TBLS honey or agave
  • 1 TBLS red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 cups shelled edamame or 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped/sliced carrots (can do this in the food processor to speed things up!)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced small
  • 1/2 cup cashew halves or peanuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
-- Cook the quinoa.  For an easy dinner, make sure this step is done earlier in the day!  When done, turn the quinoa out into a large bowl, fluff with a fork, and let cool.
-- Whisk the dressing ingredients together (peanut butter through ginger), warming in the microwave if necessary to allow ingredients to combine smoothly.  Pour onto the quinoa and mix in well.
-- Chop and shred the appropriate ingredients and add to the bowl when done.  Mix everything together and serve, OR, save back the green onions and cashews and use them as garnish!
-- Serve at room temperature or chilled!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Making Changes and Setting Goals

Making Changes and Setting Goals

The Process of Change
For some rare individuals, change can be radical.  For example, I know folks who have quit a habit cold turkey and never looked back, or who have made large, sweeping lifestyle changes and been successful.  

However, for the majority of us, change is more of a process...for me, often a slow process!

One of the most effective ways to approach change, including a change in eating habits, is to take small steps.  Over time, a series of small changes (which may have seemed fairly insignificant in and of themselves) can add up and become quite significant!

When change occurs over time and old habits are individually replaced with new habits, the new lifestyle is often more easily maintained.  

Let’s take the decision to “quit soda” for example, as this has come up frequently in counseling and can be quite a difficult change.  For an individual who drinks four cans a day of his/her favorite cola, simply deciding to quit cold-turkey is quite a large change.  Often times a few days into this new conquest, the craving and desire for a soda cloud the mind and make it easy to give-up and return to the old habit.  This can bring feelings of failure and frustration.  

If, instead, the soda dilemma is approached in a gradual manner, the likelihood of success increases.  Let’s say the soda drinker instead decides to start by decreasing soda intake.  She could think through the course of a day, and identify the times that soda is consumed and what events are connected with that habit, then choose the soda that she is least dependent on.  For example, let’s say she has a soda mid-morning while she runs errands, another with lunch, a soda to pick her up during the afternoon lull, and then a final soda with dinner.  Maybe she is least attached to the morning soda, since it is a busy time and her mind is occupied with other things.  

At this point, it would be wise to choose another beverage to replace that soda with and fill the void.  If our subject is willing to drink water, that would be a great replacement.  If she doesn’t care much for water, tea might be another option (preferably home-brewed, so it is not loaded with sugar and preservatives).  So now, while she is running errands, she might carry a water-bottle with her to sip on instead of her usual soda.  

Once this becomes habit, it is time to move onto the next easiest soda to replace.  The pattern is repeated, working from easiest to hardest feat, until she has met her larger goal and replaced soda with a new, healthier beverage.  Because the change has been gradual, it becomes more tolerable and maintainable than simply “giving up soda” from the get-go.  

Even if it takes several years for our soda-gal to completely give up soda, let’s look at the positive benefits from simply decreasing her intake:

One 12oz can of Coca-Cola Classic = 140 calories
1 pound of body fat = 3500 calories

3500/140 = 25

According to this calculation, reducing calorie intake by simply cutting back by a soda/day and replacing with water or unsweetened tea (which are both calorie-free), can result in a pound of weight loss in 25 days!

Benefits exist even with a small change, and are multiplied with each additional change!  

Some tips about goal setting
It is often helpful to set SMART goals, goals that are:

In our example of the soda drinker, here is how that first SMART goal might have read:

“I will decrease my soda intake to 3 sodas/day for the next month, by replacing my morning soda with either water or unsweetened tea.”

Specific - she was very clear about her goal and how she would approach it
Measurable - did she drink 3 sodas rather than 4 today?
Attainable - her mind is on other things when she drinks her morning soda, so replacing this soda with another should be do-able
Realistic - she started with the goal of decreasing soda rather than cutting it out completely
Time-oriented - she made a commitment by specifying that she would do this for one month

At the end of the month, if she has been successful, she might set another goal.  If she found that her goal was not met, she might identify what went wrong and revise her goal for the next month.  

I encourage you to think about your own life, is there something you’d like to change?  Possibly to eat more vegetables, dine out less often, or drink more water?  If so, try to think of a small step that can get you started towards the direction you’d like to head, and set a goal! 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ginger Black Beans with Kale

Oh wow! was what the hubs said after his second bite of this dinner.  So simple and so easy, I was especially glad he liked it that much.  I'm a sucker for black beans and cornbread in almost any combination.  Especially when I use my cornbread recipe.  Oh wow is right!  The flavor combination in this was a little different for us.  I don't usually cook with Cuban influences, so we liked the change.  It was also a great way to get some healthy greens in our dinner.

This is so quick to put together you can make it while your cornbread is cooking.  We crumbled a hunk of the bread in a bowl and just spooned the mixture on top, but you could serve them separately, too, or over brown rice, millet, or quinoa (note: I've made it over rice, and while still a great dinner, there's just something about the flavor combination with the cornbread that makes it great!).  I steamed some sweet peas to go on the side along with a salad and we were set for a very filling dinner!

Adapted from this recipe.

Ginger Black Beans with Kale
serves 4

  • little oil (olive, canola, etc)
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 TBLS minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 TBLS grated ginger OR 1/2 tsp ground
  • 1 TBLS chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 cups packed finely chopped kale
  • 2 TBLS lemon or lime juice
  • A pan of cornbread or 3 cups cooked brown rice
-- Heat oil in large/deep skillet and saute onion 8-10 minutes until translucent
-- Add garlic and ginger and saute 2 minutes
-- Add spices and stir for a minute
-- Add beans, broth and mash with a potato masher or large spoon until 80% of beans are mashed
-- Add kale and cook for 5-10 minutes until kale is completely wilted and dish is heated through
-- Add lemon or lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Veggie Lo Mein + WINNER

This is a family favorite in our house and we have Brittany to thank for it!  There is something about this sauce that is out of this world.  Add in vegetables you love and cashews, and you have a much healthier version of your favorite Chinese take-out dish ready in your own kitchen. 

This meal is easy to put together, but after making is several times, here are some pointers!  Break the pasta in half before adding it to the water.  It's nearly impossible to evenly distribute the vegetables and sauce in the pasta if it's left long.  Also, play around with the vegetables!  I use a simple 1 lb frozen bag of stirfry veggies and I always throw in an extra cup or so of frozen peas or broccoli.  If you don't have edamame on hand, feel free to sub in chickpeas or chunks of broiled tofu. It's very versatile and flexible, like I said, it's the sauce that makes this dinner super amazing.

Veggie Lo Mein
Serves 6 (or 12 as a side)
Active time: 35 min
Cook Time: 35 min
Total time: 35 min
Serving Suggestions: This meal stands alone as a main dish, but could also be used as a side to chicken or beef

What you'll need:

  • 2 TBLS cornstarch
  • 1 TBLS vegetable base + 1 cup cold water  OR 3 bouillon cubes (or powdered version) dissolved in 1 cup water OR 3 cups vegetable broth (please note that using broth will lengthen the reduction time)
  • 1 TBLS sesame oil
  • 2  tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TBLS brown sugar
  • 2 TBLS rice vinegar
  • 2 TBLS molasses
  • 2 TBLS honey OR agave
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce OR tamari
  • 1 lb spaghetti OR GF brown rice spaghetti
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 lb bag frozen stir fry vegetables OR 3-4 packed cups of your favorite stir fry vegetables (ideas: red bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, snow peas)  
  • 1 16oz bag shelled edamame
  • 1 cup unsalted cashew halves (rinse with warm water if you only have salted cashews)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts

What you'll do:
  • Fill a large saucepan or stockpot with water, bring to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together vegetable base, cold water, and cornstarch (or broth, if using) - set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, heat sesame oil and garlic over medium heat.  Once garlic is fragrant, add broth mixture & stir.
  • Add the following to the sauce: black pepper, brown sugar, rice vinegar, molasses, honey, and soy sauce.  Leave heat on medium, stir well.
  • Once the water starts boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions.  
  • Stir sauce occasionally and allow it to reduce as pasta cooks.  
  • Meanwhile, if using frozen veggies, rinse them with warm water.
  • To a large skillet add canola oil, stir fry veggies, edamame and cashews - sauté until they reach desired tenderness, adding green onions in the last few minutes of cooking.  
  • When pasta is done cooking, drain & rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
  • Add pasta and sauce to skillet with veggies, stir well to coat.  
  • Serve now, or refrigerate for later - may be eaten warm or cold.

And the random GIVEAWAY winner is: Darcy -- who loves her food processor. I'll be contacting you with your shipping information.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chickpea Ratatouille

This was one of the easiest meals I've put together in a while.  Most likely due to the "dump in the crockpot" aspect of the dish.  With meals this easy, I'm always nervous they'll be lacking in taste.  As I'm beginning to find with all of Dreena Burton's recipes, I don't need to fear.

I adapted this recipe to what I had on hand.  I served it over rice, but you could spoon it over quinoa, millet, or even barley.  Heck, you could even use this as a type of pasta sauce!  All you really need to make this a complete meal is something hearty and green to go along side!

Original recipe here by Dreena Burton.

******And don't forget about the GIVEAWAY!  Only 2 days left to enter!******

Chickpea Ratatouille 
Serves 4
  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lg red onion, finely diced
  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice (I've used one regular and one Italian.  For some heat, use fire roasted!)
  • 2 TBLS apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBLS brown sugar
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 3-4 cups cooked brown rice or other grain
-- Combine everything in a crockpot, cover, and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 3 hours) until the onions are soft
-- Stir mid way through, and when done, spoon over rice

OVEN OPTION: Combine all ingredients in a lightly greased baking dish.  Cover and cook 1 hour at 400, stirring once in the middle. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Revised Recipes + Lily-pad GIVEAWAY

When gathering recipes for the cookbook, it was only natural for me to think of some of my favorite recipes. Some of those recipes were already on the blog.  Through the recipe testing process, though, these recipes were made even better, so here is a list of recipes that were cookbook-intended that have been updated to their "even better-ness" on the blog!  Enjoy!

Vegetable Enchiladas

For a completed list of our recipes, please visit our recipe index!

...Now to the GIVEAWAY

We all have our favorite kitchen gadgets we gravitate toward. One of my all-time favorties is this Silicon Lily-pad. It's microwave, oven, and freezer safe (although I've never tried it in the freezer!). I love that it creates a perfect seal on any smooth rim, and is an instant lid to all my glass mixing/serving bowls as well as pots or skillets on the stove. I've used it to cover dishes in the microwave or oven, and also to just keep a dish warm at the dinner table! It is so versatile and I think everyone needs one!

I can't provide everyone with one of these beauties, but I will GIVEAWAY one, medium sized (9.5in) Lily Pad to the winner of this giveaway!

To help promote the blog with all it's wonderful new changes, please help us spread the word, and help yourself potentially WIN a medium Lily-pad!


Here are the rules:
  • To enter: leave a comment here on the blog (or facebook if you can't comment here) telling me what your favorite kitchen gadget is and why
  • You may up your chances of winning if you post about the blog/giveaway on facebook and leave a second comment telling me about it
  • You can up your chances even more if you blog about the giveaway and leave a second or third comment  telling me you did so.

Giveaway is closed -- I will announce the giveaway winner (which will be randomly selected) Tuesday morning.
I will ship anywhere in the US and will contact you for mailing info

If you're new here and just popping in, welcome!  I hope if you like what you see you'll consider following or subscribing via email to receive notifications when new recipes are posted.
Or, simply like the facebook page.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Exciting changes are coming!

Life is full of changes, isn't it?  Expected and unexpected alike, change is inevitable.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes we don't see the good until we've passed through the change.

This blog is about the undergo some changes.  The look.  The tags.  It will still be simple, but there are some exciting additions coming, too, and I want you all to be aware.

For starters, I should give you all a little background.

About eighteen months ago, my dear and very close friend, Brittany, who also happens to be a Registered Dietitian (RD) with a passion for feeding her family healthy meals, came to me with the fabulous idea to write a cookbook. We both wanted to share our love of cooking healthy and delicious meals on a budget with people.  With her added nutritional knowledge, the cookbook was going to be unique, and we hoped most of all, helpful.

Well, life happened, and we have recently decided to shelve the pursuit of the cookbook.  The only thing is, we have all these amazing recipes that have been taste-tested and, according to our taste-testers, need to be out there. 

So one of the changes on the blog will be an influx of recipes over the next year as we post them, seasonably appropriate, along with whatever else I'm cooking up that seems "blog-worthy".  The recipes that were intended for the cookbook are very similar to what's on the blog already.  Mostly all plant-based/vegan with the occasional vegetarian or just plain "healthy" meal.  You'll be able to tell the "cookbook intended" recipes because the ingredients will be underlined, there will be times noted on how long things take to prep/cook, and some of the recipes even have nutritional information.  Think of the blog as a living cookbook, if you will.

Another change on the blog with be the addition of posts addressing nutritional concerns.  Brittany will periodically share her vast nutritional knowledge with us (as well as some recipes), writing about general nutrition as well as specific nutritional tid-bits honing in on ingredients.  All these posts will be categorized and tagged for easy access at any time under the new tab at the top of the blog titled: "Nutrition".  I will also be writing non-recipe posts addressing issues such as what to stock your pantry with, how to meal plan, how to not let food you have in your fridge go to waste, etc, and these will be found under the "Helpful Hints" tab at the top of the blog.  I also want to eventually have 3-4 week meal plans available for all 4 seasons!

Our hope is to have a well-rounded blog with not only recipes, but also resources for you to utilize as you feed your family.  If you'd like, please like or "share us" from our facebook page, give people you know who would benefit from this blog the web address, and in general just help us reach those who might be aided by the information we have to offer.

The last change will be to the look of the blog.  Tags on the recipes will be more specific, I'm going to look into having the recipes be "printable" and "pinnable", and just in general make the blog more streamline and simple.

You can read more about us here.

Stay tuned for a GIVEAWAY!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Southwest Quinoa Bake

When Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, our food gets colorful!  Bell peppers, beans, corn.  Red, green, and yellow.  Flavors to pay homage to the "holiday".

If you don't have a recipe for Cinco de Mayo, consider this one.  It's easy to throw together, would be a great side at a potluck, or for the party I know you're having.  I got the recipe here, but, like always, made it according to our tastes and what I had on hand.  Like more zucchini than was called for.  (Can you really have too much zucchini?)

We all really liked this meal.  I didn't use cheese, so baking it to get it "crispy" wasn't really necessary, but the mixture's flavors really melded during the baking process, so I'm glad I went ahead with it.  You wouldn't have to, though, if you were short on time. (As a side note, if you're into vegan cheese, or regular cheese for that matter, this dish would be amazing with it!)

Southwest Quinoa Bake
serves 6 main dishes
  • 1 cup dry quinoa + 2 cups broth
  • 1-2 TBLS olive oil, if desired
  • 1 lg onion, diced well
  • 1 red, orange, or green pepper, diced
  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 4 cups chopped zucchini
  • 2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1 can drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinse and drain
  • 1 1/2 cup corn
  • 4 oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 tsp each: cumin, chili powder, oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
-- Cook quinoa.  When done, transfer to a large mixing bowl.
-- Saute onion, pepper, garlic and zucchini 15 minutes until the zucchini is soft
-- Stir spices, tomatoes, beans, corn, green chiles into the quinoa.
-- Add the sauteed mixture into the quinoa as well and mix well.
-- Transfer mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 375

OR -- transfer to a crockpot instead of the baking dish, and keep on warm for up to 4 hours