Vegan Carrot Green Pesto with Walnuts

pesto

What up! Long time no see, darling readers. I’m back…with pesto!

I hope you’ve all been visiting your local farmers markets now that it’s that time of year! If you pick up fresh, whole carrots, pesto-izing the greens is a fantastic way to use all of your precious veggies (not to mention minimize waste and whip up dinner in no time!)

When I make pesto, I like to keep the greens to nut & oil ratio higher than usual in order to maximize the vitamin content and keep things moving through those arteries. Carrot greens provide a nutritious base for this yummy and versatile dip/sauce/sandwich spread, as the greens contain cancer-fighting chlorophyll. They also have antiseptic properties, which may help counter the effects of all that garlic on yo’ breath :)

Walnuts infuse this pesto with omega-3s, those heart-healthy fats that are all too absent in Americans’ diets. A little lemon adds the antioxidant vitamin C. This version contains nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese, making it friendly for vegans and the anti-lactose crowd alike. Nutritional yeast is chock full of B vitamins, iron, fiber, and minerals like zinc and selenium. You can find this magical powder in the bulk section of your health food store and get creative with it–try sprinkling the yeast on popcorn, or have it on avocado toast.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

1 large bunch carrot greens
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP walnut pieces
1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 TBSP nutritional yeast
1/2 TBSP lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. FYI, if you leave your stems on, your pesto have a slightly stringy quality. Spread the finished product on crackers or pita chips, toss with whole wheat pasta, use as a base for a veggie wrap, or brush over a chicken breast, then serve atop mixed greens. Enjoy!

Robby’s Butternut Squash Cassoulet

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My friends Robby and Brittany had me over for a veggie-based feast last week when I got home from Spain to help ease three weeks of ham overload. Robby, who is known for freestyling gourmet recipes like a rapper spits rhymes, did his usual throw-a-few-things-in-the-oven dance and produced this incredible cassoulet, which I couldn’t get enough of. He used pancetta, which I replaced with ham to lower the fat content of this dish (goodbye, crispy morsels of heaven). A splash of dry white wine like Pinot Grigio adds flavour without fat.

The availability of butternut squash is one of the upsides of winter. Packed with Vitamins A and C and boasting significant values of potassium and fiber, this veggie is a prime candidate for your weekly recipe rotations. Here, it’s made decadent by my favourite cheese, gorgonzola. Caramelized onions add a gourmet twist, and the white wine makes for a deep and rich flavour. I suggest serving the cassoulet as a main course alongside a green salad and a small dish of Whole Wheat Cranberry-Walnut Couscous to boost the fiber and protein content!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course):

5 cups cubed butternut squash, brushed with 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/4 cups thinly sliced yellow onion, sauteed in 1 TBSP sugar and 1 TBSP olive oil

1 cup chopped ham (cold cuts work fine)

1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP crumbled gorgonzola

2 TBSP dry white wine

black pepper

olive oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop butternut squash and brush (or dot, if you don’t have a brush) with olive oil. Roast for thirty minutes, until squash is soft.

2. The roasting time gives you plenty of time to prepare the rest of your meal. Start by slicing your onions, and caramelize them by adding equal parts olive oil and sugar to a small frying pan and stirring constantly until sticky and slightly brown. Set aside.

3. Chop ham into small cubes. Prepare a medium-large glass baking dish by coating it lightly with cooking spray (I like to use one made with olive oil). When the squash is done roasting, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and transfer to the baking dish. Add ham, 1/4 cup gorgonzola and onions. Drizzle with white wine, add freshly ground pepper and stir well. Top with the remaining 2 TBSP gorgonzola and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then finish under the broiler for 5 minutes to brown the cheese.

Whole Wheat Cranberry-Walnut Couscous

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This is a super-quick side dish that adds fiber, protein and omega-3’s to any savory meal. Have a small serving for a filling afternoon snack to keep you going through those hours that drag. Look for whole wheat couscous at any store, or find it at Trader Joe’s on the cheap! Couscous is actually a pasta, not a grain, which it’s sometimes mistaken for, but the whole wheat kind can pack even more fiber and protein than quinoa!

For each serving, mix:

1/3 cup whole wheat couscous

1/4 dried cranberries*

2 TBSP chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon olive oil

sprinkle of cinnamon

1. Prepare couscous according to package (this takes 5-10 minutes). Add oil, walnuts and cranberries and stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve!

*Always read the labels on dried fruits. While it’s difficult to find unsweetened dried cranberries, it’s easy to avoid buying brands that throw in extras like hydrogenated oil!

HGC + Glamour Magazine 4eva


Check it out y’all! Glamour’s February issue features a one-week gentle dietary cleanse that is nearly identical to the one HGC featured last summer. Props to Glamour for rejecting post-holiday guilt trips and unhealthy quick fix schems (ahem, Master Cleanse) in favour of body-friendly ways of getting back on track.

Also in this month’s issue, Glamour makes good on its promise to feature more models with real bodies in its fashion spreads. Way to go, Glam!

What I did on my Winter Vacation

Sup yiz’all! HGC is back from Spain, where I chilled mad hard with mi familia for the last three weeks. I was hoping to bring some ideas back with me for the kitchen–you know, some healthified Spanish eats to share with my dear readers–but it turns out that Spain didn’t work with me much to that end. “Ensalada” seems to be Spanish for “ham and cheese drenched in olive oil”. We did manage to find a few vegetarian restaurants in Madrid and Toledo, which were the only spots where we found our holy grail, the Leafy Green Vegetable. In fact, at Madre Tierra in Toledo (where we ate two nights in a row cause we couldn’t get enough!), I had an incredible spinach salad topped with–are you ready?–artesanal goat cheese ICE CREAM!

Anyway, happy new year everybody! I’m looking forward to catching up with my bad self in the kitchen, and excited to share some new recipes with you, so stay tuned!

Sweet Potato Home Fries

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Nothin does this southern girl right like a good ol’ fashioned brunch-time heart attackfest. Biscuits and gravy? Don’t mind if I do. Country fried steak? Yer darn tootin. Being health-conscious, of course, I try to find ways to eat my favourite things sans heart attack. Case in point: sweet potato homefries, a vitamined-up, lower-fat version of one of my fave greasy dishes.

Sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A and potassium, and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turkey (or veggie) dogs add some protein to this dish without all the saturated fat of bacon or sausage. By minimizing the oil content (and adhering to the heart-healthy, extra virgin olive-only rule) we cut out tons of fat. I suggest topping a big ol pile of these potaters with a gooey poached egg for maximum satisfaction.

Note: I used my cast iron pan to give my home fries a nice charred taste. If you don’t have one, try baking your fries at 350 for about 15-20 minutes before finishing them off in a non-stick pan.

Ingredients (makes 4 sides or 3 main course servings):

4 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup coarsely chopped red onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 turkey or veggie hot dogs

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 tsp old bay seasoning

salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Peel and chop sweet potato and red onion. Mince garlic. Drizzle 1/2 TBSP of olive oil into the pan and spread it around before adding the sweet potatoes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

2. When sweet potatoes have begun to soften a bit, add the onions to the pan. When the veggies begin to stick, drizzle a bit more olive oil over them and stir.

3. Chop turkey or veggie dogs. If you’re using raw meat, add it to the pan when you add the onions. If your meat or meat substitute is already cooked and just needs to be heated, wait until the sweet potatoes are almost as soft as you want them to get. Then add them with the garlic and spices, stirring well.

4. Your home fries are done when the sweet potatoes are soft (some like their potatoes to maintain a little bit of the crunch–you be the judge!)

Just Say No to the Swizine!


If there’s anything that screams last season, it’s a hospital mask and the oh-so-feminine fragrance
of eau de vom. Let’s discuss staying healthy for dummies, shall we?

EAT:

*Garlic, which not only neutralizes many strains of bacteria, it also helps your bod get rid of heavy metal contamination and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Get over your fear of garlic breath and add it to omelets, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. Sautee a clove or two in a teaspoon of olive oil and drizzle it over steamed veggies!

*Cumin, an antimicrobial that adds a complex, mildly spicy flavour to hummus, scrambled tofu, ground beef or savory mashed sweet potatoes. Try it in Curry Bonanza! (Though the research I’m familiar with suggests that cumin’s antimicrobial properties are more effective on fungal and yeast cultures than bacteria, loading up on the yummy spice can’t hurt!)

*Broccoli, which is high in antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory properties. Steamed broccoli makes the perfect addition to any meal; try something new and sprinkle your broc with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast.

*Mushrooms–particularly shiitake, which are packed with beta-glucans, a fungal property that kicks the immune system into superhero mode. Throw some chopped mushrooms into any salad or pasta dish or try them with spinach in an egg white omelet.

*Shrimp! The phytonutrient astaxanthin that gives shrimp its color stimulates the immune system and provides you with heightened protection from the harmful effects of UV rays (but don’t forget, you should still slather that pretty face with sunscreen all winter long!)

DRINK:

*Wheatgrass juice, a super-concentrated source of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which acts as a natural energizer and cleanser of the lymph system. Juicing this badass plant requires special machinery, so most of us have to hit the coffee shop or smoothie stand to get our fix, shelling out several bucks a shot. The other downside is that the straight-up grass taste isn’t for everyone…but I love it! Mmm, lawn.

*Green tea, the goddess of the immune system. Start with a strong cup in the morning (I double-bag it) and guzzle a decaf version all day long. You can never have too much green tea!

*Creamsicle Juice, which combines your immune system’s BFFs, Vitamin C and ginger (which also settles an upset tummy.)

*and of course, Water. Aim for two liters a day, but stop drinking at least two hours before bedtime. If you get really thirsty pre-beddie bye, allow yourself just a sip.

AVOID (as always)…

*factory-farmed animal products. cruelty tastes yucky. hit up local farms and farmers markets whenever possible!
*tuna and other large fish, which can contain high levels of toxic heavy metals like mercury.
*processed foods, white flour, and sugar (indulge in small amounts, and use alternatives like raw honey whenever possible)

and finally

*Get plenty of sleep! At least 7 1/2 hours a night is optimal. Resolve to shave 30 minutes off your evening routine (turn the TV off! step away from the Facebook!) and turn in early, and your rested bod will thank you tomorrow!

* This should go without saying, but do like yo mama said and KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF! Wash ‘em frequently, regardless of whether you think you’ve touched anything germy. When my job required me to take a food safety course a couple of years ago, I learned this fun fact: getting your hands squeaky clean requires washing with warm water and plenty of soap while you sing TWO rounds of “happy birthday”. Fun times for everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone’s having a marvelous holiday! I’m not sharing any big day-specific recipes because here at the Healthy Girl house, we decided to go a new route–one of decadence and UNhealth! Well, that’s not entirely true…I’m hoping my veggie side dishes will be a success!

Let’s all be thankful for the amazing machines that are our bodies, and all the wonderful things they do for us!

Omelet Mexicana

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I am a big fan of breakfast for dinner. And breakfast for lunch. Breakfast for breakfast is always a winner, too! Anytime you eat it, this omelet is an easy way to power up with a lot of protein and hardly any fat. I like to squeeze as many veggies into mine as possible. If I have time, I roast some zucchini and squash to give my omelet an extra boost of yum. Fresh or frozen spinach is this meal’s bff if you’re facing a time crunch, and will make your bod purr with Vitamin A and hum with a lil Vitamin C and Calcium, too. For a heavier meal, add a slice of cheese or some shrimp or chicken. I think you’ll be surprised, though, at how skillfully egg whites, beans and veggies fill you up! Add a slice of whole grain toast, and you boost the essential component of fiber found in your beans and veggies. Skip the butter–use your toast to mop up your overflowing omelet, and you’ll never miss the extra fat!

Ingredients (1 omelet):

4 egg whites

1 TBSP skim milk

2 tsp olive oil

3 cups fresh spinach leaves, or 1 cup frozen spinach

1/2 Zucchini or squash, and/or 1/2 head broccoli (any of your favourite veggies will do!)

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 cup reduced-sodium refried beans

salt & pepper to taste

optional stuffing: a slice of cheddar or pepper jack, shrimp, or grilled chicken
optional toppings: salsa, avocado slices, hot sauce, a dollop of fat-free sour cream

1. Assess your veggie situation. Fresh and frozen spinach are both quick-cooking ingredients. If you’re also using heftier veggies like broccoli, sautee them first with 1 tsp. olive oil. When they begin to soften, add the garlic. Transfer them to a plate when they’re done and cover to keep them warm. Then let your spinach have a turn.

2. If you have a microwave, give your beans a quick zap. If not (I know, I know–I’m old fashioned girl) warm them with the spinach when it’s nearly cooked through.

2. While your veggies are cooking, whisk egg whites and milk with a pinch of salt and pepper. Really put some elbow grease into your whisking–it’s good for the ol’ biceps, and makes your omelet super fluffy!

3. I find it easiest to cook my omelets on both sides, making a pancake-like disc, and fold everything in afterward. Coat your smallest frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil (this isn’t necessary in a non-stick pan, but makes it easier to keep your omelet in one piece when you flip.) Cook over the lowest heat possible. Gently loosen the sides of the omelet when it begins to look firm; your uncanny female intuition will tell you when it’s time to flip! I like to double up on spatulas, which makes it easier to get my omelets flipped completely over.

4. After the omelet has cooked through on both sides, transfer it to your plate. Spread one side with beans and fold in your veggies. Don’t worry if your omelet won’t stay closed–I always end up making a mess of mine. Try a strategically-placed toothpick to keep yours neat, or serve it over a bed of your left-over veggies!

Carrot Ginger Soup

carrot ginger soupIt took me a couple of times to get this recipe right, and hoooo, boy, it was worth the work! This soup is perfect for a chilly fall day–hearty, warming and with a big healthy kick of ginger to soothe tummies and clear out those stuffy sinuses! Carrots are a good source of calcium, potassium, fiber, and your immune system’s BFFs, vitamins A and C, which make them an important part of your flu-season diet. This soup is virtually fat-free; its small fat content comes from just a tad of heart-healthy olive oil. A lot of soups get their satisfying qualities from cream, butter and oil, but the carrots and potatoes in this dish provide such a thick texture that you’ll never miss the fat.

This recipe requires little labor, and you can whip up your soup in a blender if you don’t have a food processor. Double or triple the recipe to make leftovers for the whole week; warm a bowlful in the microwave at work for a quick lunch or enjoy a chilled dish if you’re yearning for summer.

I must warn you, this recipe yields a VERY gingery soup, so if you’re sensitive to its spicy quality or looking for something a little milder, cut the ginger quantity in half. I recommend topping your soup with snipped chives, or, for a decadent treat, a sprinkle of shredded coconut. Incredible!!

Carrot Ginger Soup (makes 2 servings)

1 1/2 cups baby carrots

1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed yukon gold potatoes (about one medium potato)

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons (for mild flavor) to 1/4 cup (for spice!) chopped fresh ginger

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups veggie stock

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash carrots and peel and chop potatoes. Place them in a steaming basket and crank the heat up to high, cooking until the veggies are soft.

2. Chop onions, garlic and ginger. Sautee them with a drizzle of olive oil until they’ve just begun to turn brown.

3. When veggies are soft and cool enough to transport to the blender or food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and give it a whirl. Your soup may need a minute or two of reheating if you’ve added cold veggie broth. Cozy up by the fireplace (or your candle collection) and enjoy!