Friday, March 25, 2011

Slim Stir Fry

This time next week I will be on a beach in Aruba!  Now, now, don't be jealous....

This means I have only two considerations when planning my meals for the next week.  First, my meals need to be inexpensive because I'm saving all my money to spend at the spa.  Secondly, they have to be light and healthy because my winter body needs to be in a bikini in less than one week. That is why I am making a slim stir fry.  This dish has lots of healthy veggies, organic tofu and low-sodium soy sauce so I don't bloat like a tick.  Low-sodium soy sauce is great because you can add extra flavor without it being too salty.  If you don't have low-sodium soy sauce simply dilute regular soy sauce with water.  This is also an ideal dish for anyone celebrating Lent and looking for a tasty meatless option on Fridays.  I make a large portion and eat it for multiple meals over the week.

Slim Stir Fry

1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
3-5 carrots, thinly sliced (you can do this by hand, use a mandolin or buy shredded carrots)
1 pack organic extra firm tofu
1 pack white button mushrooms
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
extra virgin olive oil

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil in to a wok and heat over medium.  Dice the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the minced garlic, sugar snap peas and carrots and saute gently for about 5 minutes.  In a separate pan, spray cooking spray and heat to high.  Rinse and dry the tofu and cut into cubes about 1/2-1 inch large.  Place in the pan, turning every 2-3 minutes until the tofu is golden brown and slightly crispy on all sides.  Add the mushrooms and the soy sauce to the veggie mixture and saute. Finally, add the tofu and allow the flavors to blend for 3-5 minutes.  Serve over steamed brown rice and enjoy :)

What makes this bite better?
Carrots and onions are some of the most inexpensive vegetables you can buy. They make great bases for dishes, especially when you are on a budget.  Also, organic tofu is one of the least expensive sources of organic protein.  Whenever you are on a budget but want to reap maximum health benefits, remember two guidelines.  First, prioritize the 3 components for a balanced meal- healthy protein, veggies and whole grains. Second- have a variety of colors!  So what if you can't afford 15 varieties of mushrooms.  Try to get as much variety as you can while staying in your budget and keeping your meals balanced.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lentil and Barley "Spring Cleaning" Soup

The past week has been marked with lots of events- erratic weather, the equinox and the first official day of spring- that have all indicated the seasons are changing and spring is coming.  That means it's time for spring cleaning! And your fridge should be no exception. Like any spring cleaning act, it's time to get rid of everything to start fresh for spring.  I always find myself frustrated with what to do with a few leftover carrots, greens that are about to wilt or a half used container of mushrooms.  The spring cleaning solution? Put it all in a soup!

Soups are a great way to use up all your winter veggies before they expire.  For my soup, I added lentils as a source of protein and fiber as well as barley to add whole grains (but also because they had to go!). Carrots, mushrooms and butternut squash made up a bulk of the veggie content and I had fresh dill lying around that I used to season.   Choose your own beans and grains and add any additional veggies you need to get rid of.  You will create a balanced, healthy meal that prevents waste.  In addition, you will be satisfied by that amazingly freeing "spring cleaning" feeling and you will have an easy, hearty soup to help get you through the last of the rainy days.

You can add anything to this soup that you need to get rid of. Based on the vegetables you use, experiment with some spices or seasoning.  Also, while your in your fridge, take the opportunity to get rid of anything that has been lurking there all winter.  Check expiration dates, get rid of that old jar of capers and for god's sake throw away the desserts you've been hoarding since the holidays.  Once the old is out, it's in with the new and soon I will be posting the must have's to stock your kitchen for spring.

Lentil and Barley Spring Cleaning Soup

1 small onion
2 cups of lentils
2 cups of barley (already cooked)
Butternut squash

Begin with a large pot.  Drizzle olive oil and heat over medium.  Dice the onion and saute until translucent.  Soak the lentils in cold water and remove anything that floats, then rinse again to make sure you have removed any debris.  Add the lentils and saute for a few minutes.  Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Add the vegetables and spices and reduce to a simmer.  Allow the lentils to become tender.  Then, add additional water until you reach your desired thickness.  Remember to account for the barley that will be added at the end.  I added 8 cups total.  Once the lentils and vegetables have fully cooked, add the barley.   Simmer for 15 more minutes then serve and enjoy :)

Note: If you are using a grain that is not cooked, add it at the same time as the lentils and add the required amount of water it will absorb during cooking, in addition to the 4 cups for the lentils.

What makes this bite better?
Lentils are loaded with fiber, protein and important nutrients.  The high fiber content helps regulate blood sugar levels to keep you fuller longer and they also have cholesterol lowering effects. At about 230 calories per cup, they are a dietary gold mine! They make an amazing base for any soup because they blend well with lots of different flavors.  If you are experimenting in the kitchen this is the perfect base to begin with.  Plus, unlike other legumes, lentils do not require a long pre-soak period so they can be made quickly and easily!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Red Cabbage and Brussels Sprout Slaw

I am over winter.  The rain has started and I am welcoming it as a sign that spring is on its way.  However, there are a few foods I will miss as winter slowly passes.  Brussels sprouts and cabbage are two of them.  In what will hopefully be a final homage to these winter veggies, I decided to combine the two to create a unique, crispy salad.  Quick and easy, this recipes takes very little preparation and is perfect to serve alongside a veggie burger, a piece of grilled chicken or fish.  This recipe would also be great raw!

Red Cabbage and Brussels Sprout Slaw

1 head red cabbage
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon brown mustard
Olive oil

Remove any wilted or damaged outer leaves from the red cabbage and the brussels sprouts.  Cut off the bottoms of the sprouts and the cabbage.  Peel the leaves and rinse under cold water.  Stack the leaves of the brussels sprouts and thinly slice the leaves to create strips, then repeat with the cabbage.  Slice the core as thinly as you can or discard.  Toss the thinly sliced pieces together.  Drizzle a very small amount of olive oil to coat.  Lightly sprinkle salt and arrange the slaw on a baking sheet.  Broil on high for approximately 5-8 minutes.  Be sure to keep an eye on the slaw.  The cooking time will vary greatly depending on your oven.  As soon as the slaw begins to cook, toss gently and allow to cook for 3-5 more minutes.  Remove once the pieces turn slightly brown.  The slaw should be crisp with some browning but not burnt.  Combine the mustard and vinegar to create a dressing.  Drizzle over the crisp slaw.  Depending on the size of your cabbage, you may need more dressing.  If this is the case, simply double the recipe until you have enough dressing for your liking. Serve and enjoy :)

What makes this bite better?

Red cabbage has additional health benefits not present in green or savoy cabbage (It's a different color!  Different color= different nutrients).  Red cabbage is an excellent source of polyphenols and anthocyanins which provide tons of antioxidant protection against inflammation and disease.  Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber and certain studies have shown brussels sprouts aid in protecting DNA from damage. In addition, brussels sprouts are high in glucosinolates which are shown to protect against cancer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blueberry Breakfast Smoothie

I heart my immersion blender.  Seriously, if you don't have one, put it on your shopping list for this week.  You can use it for oh so many things, but it has particularly made my mornings better, brighter and healthier.  For me, healthy breakfast has always been a challenge.  I am not a morning person so egg white omelets are out of the question as well as pretty much anything that requires preparation or doing dishes.  But being health conscious, bagels, donuts and fast food are also not an option.  And let's be honest, there is only so much oatmeal a gal can eat.  Enter immersion blender.  The result?  Smoothie heaven!

Everyone loves smoothies.  They are packed with fruit (and veggies if you like!), delicious, and fast. All you need is an immersion blender, fresh or frozen fruit and a to-go cup, and you can have a perfectly healthy breakfast and be out the door.   I will feature new smoothies as I make them, but there are a few staples that I always have on hand.  First, organic vanilla almond milk.  I use this to make all my smoothies (and my oatmeal).  It adds a delicious flavor and leaves out the dairy so you won't have to worry about lactose.  My second staple is flax seed.  It is pretty hard to get flax seed into most foods but you can't even notice once it is blended into a smoothie.  Since I'm not quite ready to fully part with my oatmeal and I appreciate a dose of healthy grains in the morning, I decided to throw that into this week's smoothie creation.

Blueberry Breakfast Smoothie

2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup of oats
3/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon flaxseed
about 1/2 cup of ice (less if blueberries are frozen)

Add all ingredients and blend well until smooth.  Enjoy :)

What makes this bite better?
Flaxseed is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.  Omega-3's are necessary for overall health but they can not be made by the body, they must be obtained through the diet.  People often do not get enough of major dietary sources containing omega-3's such as fish, nuts and seeds, so flaxseed is an excellent addition to up your intake.  In addition, blueberries provide antioxidants and oats reduce cholesterol.  Oats in a smoothie?!  Try's a perfect balanced breakfast in a cup.