Curry Bonanza!

Last night’s craving for Indian food led me to finally pop my curry cherry. This is a very simple (and surprisingly delicious!) veggie dish that’s simple and doesn’t require a ton of ingredients. The prep time is no more than 10 minutes, and for the following half an hour you can go about your biz while this meal makes itself! I made a giant batch and had leftovers today for lunch, which were much more flavourful than last night’s dinner after the veggies and spices got all romantic in their tupperware. I definitely suggest allowing your curry to sit for as long as possible to increase the depth of flavour. If anyone has suggestions about how to bring out more flavour the first time around, lay ‘em on me! Perhaps the light coconut milk is responsible for the somewhat lacking depth of flavour in this recipe, but with such a drastically lower amount of saturated fat it provides, I think the trade-off is worth it!

This curry is extremely low in fat and fairly low-calorie as well. I love the variety of veggies; feel free to experiment with the combo! Chick peas provide some protein, but you can try adding chicken, shrimp or tofu for a big boost!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

3 cups sliced carrots

3 cups sliced white potatoes

4 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen

3 cups canned chick peas

2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground hot red pepper, if you like some heat

1 can light coconut milk

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine carrots, potatoes, onion and cauliflower. Mix spices with 2 cups of water and pour over veggies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and add peas, chick peas, and coconut milk. Simmer, covered, for about thirty minutes or until veggies are soft, but not falling apart. Stir occasionally to help flavours mingle.

Serve a big ol’ portion of this soupy goodness over brown rice. Shredded unsweetened coconut, golden raisins and slivered almonds make delicious additions!

Avocado Toast with Nutritional Yeast


If you don’t have a stash of nutritional yeast in your pantry, run to your local health food store and stock up on these flakes of gold. Nutritional yeast is a vegan’s dream, but non-vegans should know about its all-around loveliness too. It’s packed with protein- and has an interesting, slightly nutty flavour that goes a long way. When I was little, we’d sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on popcorn for a healthy alternative to butter.

For a yummy snack that’s high in protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats (healthy girl’s secret recipe for satiation,) sprinkle a tablespoon of yeast on whole-grain toast and add slices of 1/3 of an avocado. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. You’ll be in heaven!

Scrambled Tofu with Portabellas


This recipe comes from my lovely mom, who conceived of and photographed the dish. When I decided to become a vegetarian at age 11, both my parents were very obliging, and the whole family started eating a lot more tofu and veggie-centered dishes. My ever-inventive mom came up with a million different ways to nourish me. Scrambled tofu was my Sunday brunch favourite, but it’s great for dinner too! I’m a big fan of portabellas, which are really the star of this dish. A little sesame tahini goes a long way in giving this scramble its unique flavour, though can make this dish sans tahini if you wish; it will still work.

Last summer, I decided to get to the bottom of the decade of mysterious stomach problems I’d been dealing with. Having known a few people with an intolerance to dairy and/or wheat, I was worried that I’d discover that the same problem was at the root of my troubles. After an extensive project that involved removing possible offenders from my diet and documenting the experiment in a food journal, I discovered that neither dairy nor wheat was giving me my stomach aches; it was tofu! I now manage to stay away from anything that includes soy protein, but I often crave my fave tofu dishes, so you’ll have to enjoy this one for me!

Ingredients:
3 tsp olive oil, divided
½ c chopped onion (or more, to taste)
½ c chopped red & green bell pepper (or more, to taste)
1 clove garlic
½ lb sliced portabella mushrooms
1/3 c sesame tahini
2½ to 3 tsp low-sodium tamari to taste (sub soy sauce if you don’t have it)
1 lb light silken or firm tofu
Salt & fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat ½ tsp oil in non-stick frying pan. Add pepper & chopped onion and sauté, adding garlic after a few minutes, until the vegetables just begin to get tender. (Don’t overcook; they should still have a slight crunch.)Remove to bowl & set aside.

2. Heat 2 tsp oil in same pan without washing, add mushrooms. Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Sautée until tender, drizzling with a small amount of oil if necessary to keep them moist. Remove from heat & add to cooked vegetables.

3. Drain tofu, place between several layers of paper towel, and press to remove extra water.

4. Pour tahini into same pan without washing, stir in tamari. Add tofu and over medium heat, mix into tahini & tamari, chopping tofu into small pieces without mashing.

5. Add vegetables and mushrooms, turn gently with spatula until heated through. Serve at once with crusty whole grain bread and a favorite green vegetable.

Variations: try adding any lightly-cooked vegetables, chopped nuts or pine nuts- but portabellas are the key ingredient, adding a full, deep flavor that can’t be beat.

Vegetable Fried Bulgar


Hello gorgeous, I’m bulgar. Have we met? No? Oh honey, are YOU in for a treat! I may be wholesome, but I’m also known for my exotic streak (like when I strut my stuff Lebanese-style in tabouli.) I’m adventurous, and I’ll try anything once…

Listen, I know you’re tired of plain old rice; besides, she hasn’t got half the protein and fiber I have! Couscous? Puh-lease, why would you waste your time (she’s not even a whole grain, you know-she’s a PASTA!) And sure, my sister quinoa is my nutritional rival, but she’s old news! Why don’t you put a little bulgar in your bowl, and I’ll show you what it’s all about. Winkie face!

Ok, I see you’re being shy; why don’t we get to know each other a little bit? Call me if you’re in the mood for a little stir-fry, and I’ll show you a good time!

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgar, dry*
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
1 head broccoli
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ piece fresh ginger, finely grated (or 1/8 tsp. dried ground ginger)
1 tsp. olive oil
soy sauce & siracha (Asian hot sauce) to taste
optional: sliced grilled or pan-fried chicken, tofu or tempeh

*Using two parts water for each part bulgar, fill a pan with both and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, cooking until bulgar has absorbed water and has a soft texture with a hint of crunch.

1. Cook bulgar; this takes 20 minutes or less depending on the quantity. I recommend making a big batch; you can set some bulgar aside to use in salads, soups and other recipes all week long!
2. Chop up your veggies and throw them in a large frying pan with a little water. Cover and steam (this is my favourite way to cook veggies on the stove top-it’s a super quick and fat-free method!)
3. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger. When veggies are soft, pour them into a colander and give the garlic & ginger a turn in the pan, sauteeing them with the olive oil until they become aromatic.
4. Return the veggies to the frying pan and add bulgar. Mix well, adding soy and hot sauce. Throw in some chicken or soy protein if you wish. Voila, y’all!

Sopa de Batata para Bretaña


That’s Spanish for “Sweet Potato Soup for Brittany,” y’all!

I recently discovered the surprisingly delicious combo of black beans and sweet potato, so I thought I’d experiment a bit with this beautiful (and super-nutritious) marriage. Cilantro, my friend Brittany’s favourite herb (she and I share a love of Mexican culinary delights,) had to be involved, so I chopped up plenty of this amazing-smelling greenery and put my spice collection to work in search of the perfect complementary flavours. The result of my experiment is a filling, good-for-you soup that holds its own as a satisfying meal.

This is only my second attempt at homemade soup, and I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with myself! Once you get started, it’s hard to stop throwing things into the food processor. I set out with the goal of making a vegan version, but if you’re feelin’ spunky, you might wanna experiment adding some dairy (1/2 of skim milk, perhaps?)

In an attempt to water down my very thick concoction, I got brave and threw a little wine into the mix. This would’ve been a better idea if the bottle I had in the fridge was NOT a fruity pinot grigio; if I were you, I’d use something super dry like savignon blanc. If you don’t have any wine on hand, no worries; I’m sure it’ll be great without the spiking!

Sweet potatoes pack an insanely high content of vitamin A. They’re also high in vitamin C and fiber, and contain significant amounts of of iron and calcium, which makes them an important dietary component for vegans and vegetarians. Top the soup with 1/2 cup of black beans, and you’ve got yourself a protein party! Good luck with your soup-making endeavors, I think you’ll have fun experimenting. I want to hear all about your adventures!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings-great the next day for lunch!):
6 cups peeled sweet potatoes, coursely chopped (I used almost a full bag)
1/2 cup water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup very dry white wine
1/2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

topping:
one can black beans, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP cilantro (I like to snip mine into little pieces with scissors)
juice of 1/2 lime

optional toppings: grilled chicken strips, fat-free sour cream, hot sauce, crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. Place them on a 1″-deep baking sheet and drizzle them with 1/2 cup of water (this keeps them from drying out without the added fat of oil.) Roast the potatoes until they’re soft to the touch-20 minutes should do the trick.
2. Mince the garlic and cilantro and throw them into a bowl with the rinsed beans. Squeeze the lime over the beans and stir well.
3. When the sweet potatoes are done, throw all of the soup ingredients into your blender or food processor and give it a whirl (depending on the size and power of your machine, you might need to blend your ingredients in two batches.)
4. Dish everything up all pretty-like. Ole!

Mami Nature’s Corn Chips


I love savory dipping devices, but I cringe when I read the labels of my favourite crunchy snacks. Health-minded brands may omit most of the yucky preservatives and trans fats, but even when you’re browsing the natural foods section, it’s difficult to find a low-fat treat that’s worth eating.

When I decided to substitute corn chips for pita bread for a new spin on my Pita Chip recipe, I was surprised by how difficult it is to find healthy corn tortillas. I was on my third grocery store before I found tortillas that contained-hallelujah!-nothing but corn, water and lime (thank you, Trader Joe’s.) This recipe takes less than 5 minutes to prepare (plus about 20 minutes to bake) and you can make a big batch to eat all week. Try them with Dilly Cottage Cheese Dip or your favourite salsa. I can’t wait for avocados to be in season again so that I can try them with homemade guacamole!

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 natural corn tortillas (with about a 5-1/2″ diameter)
1 TBSP olive oil
a sprinklin’ of garlic powder, salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice tortillas into quarters and lay them on a baking sheet. Brush each side with just a smidge of olive oil-you can really make 1 Tablespoon go a long way! Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (you can try different spice variations if you wish.)
3. Bake chips for about 20 minutes, taste-testing them for crunchiness (don’t burn your tongue!) You may want to check on them after 10 minutes or so, flipping them over if they’re getting too dark on top.

Bowl-o-Burrito


We bid a stylish adieu to Quinoa Week with this super healthy twist on your favourite and mine, the burrito. The beans and quinoa provide a great deal of both protein and fiber, and when you add all your fave veggies (you can easily get 5 servings into this power meal) you’ll be full and happy for days. For those of you who eat dairy, topping your bowl with a little shredded cheese adds calcium and even more protein, but a little salsa and hot sauce is all you need for great flavour!

Ingredients (serves 2):
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
1-1/3 cups frozen or canned corn kernels
1 cup beans (I like refried, though they’re generally the most sodium-y)
1 6-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves

for extra yumminess: avocado slices, grated cheddar, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, and your favourite salsa (i LOVE peach!)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice up your broccoli, zucchini and squash. Roast veggies for about 20 minutes, pulling them out after 10 minutes to add your corn to the baking sheet and stir the other veggies with a spatula to allow them to roast evenly. (If you like, you can brush them with a bit of olive oil; I omitted the oil this time cause I’ve had a very decadent weekend.)
2. Wash & dry spinach and sautee it in a non-stick pan. When it’s nice and wilty, add the beans and quinoa and stir until everything is nice and warm.
3. Add roasted veggies and all your favourite toppings!

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Spinach


This experiment produced a delish result that can be served all sorts of ways-even as a saucy base for a pasta dish. Though I seasoned it mostly with Italian herbs, the black beans made a yummy addition and spiked the protein content.

Of course, I added a big scoop of quinoa as well (this being Quinoa Week and all.) You don’t have to make your soup from scratch to use this trick; adding the versatile grain (which, I remind you, is a complete protein!) to any healthy soup turns your side into a meal-try it with a butternut squash or chicken & vegetable base, too.

So far this soup has kept nicely for 3 days, and I’m expecting it to last through the weekend. If you’re feeling crafty, play with the spices and let me know what you come up with!

Note: I used my food processor to whirl everything up, but you should be able to get away with using a blender if you don’t have one.

Ingredients (makes 2 big bowls or about 4 cups) :
4 ripe vine tomatoes (romas work well)
2 red bell peppers
2-1/2 cups chopped frozen spinach
6 big, fresh basil leaves
1 TBSP olive oil
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried or fresh minced thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
salt & pepper
1/3 cup cooked quinoa for each serving

other additions: crumbled feta or a few shavings of mozzarella or parmesan; zucchini & squash slices roasted or sauteed in a teaspoon of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the peppers and tomatoes. Cut the tops off of the peppers-trying not to waste too much of your veggies-and scoop out the seeds (not to worry if you don’t get them all; I didn’t even bother to de-seed mine, and having a few seeds in my soup didn’t bother me a’tall.)
2. Place peppers & tomatoes on a baking sheet. If you have one that is at least half an inch deep, use it; you’ll want to preserve the juices that start to drain while the veggies are roasting. Let them hang out in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Meanwhile, thaw your spinach.
3. When the roasted veggies are ready, let them cool to a temperature comfortable for handling. If you’re using a blender, you’ll want to slice them into smaller pieces; if your food processor has super-sharp blades, you should be able to get away with big pieces.
4. Throw everything into your whirling device and liquify, adding the juices from the baking sheet. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Get creative with your toppings!

Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad


You can pretty much take whatever you have in the fridge and on the shelf and come up with a combo of veggies that works for this salad. The beauty of using quinoa to hold it all together is that you get a healthy dose of both fiber and protein, which work together to fill you up and keep you satiated. This time, I used eggplant, zucchini and squash because that’s what I was using for my Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes. I roasted all the veggies at the same time to keep things simple, and I had leftover salad for 2 days! On the second day, I added a grilled chicken breast slathered in chili sauce for an absolutely delish early dinner that kept me full all night (which is pretty phenomenal, ’cause The Midnight Snack has long been my favourite meal.)

My other favourite way to serve this salad is with roasted broccoli, roasted cherry tomatoes, black beans and corn (the last three appear in my recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers; you can easily make both meals in one batch for easy reheating later.)

Ingredients:
A bunch of your favourite veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces
a plate full of dark leafy greens or spinach
1/2 to 2/3 cup cooked quinoa, depending on how hungry you are
2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 TBSP of your favourite dressing

additions: chicken, tofu or tempeh for extra protein; avocado, if it complements your veggie selections

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while you chop up your veggies. Spread them out on a baking sheet and dot them with 1-2 tsp of olive oil to prevent them from drying out in the oven, and sprinkle ‘em with a little s&p.
2. Pop the veggies in the oven and roast ‘em for about 20 minutes, stirring with a spatula after 10.
3. Wash and dry greens and top them with quinoa. When veggies are ready, add them to your salad and drizzle with your favourite dressing (I like something thick and zesty like Goddess or Ranch.)

Healthy Girl Says: I’m always tempted to reach for low-, reduced-, or the ever so seductive FAT-FREE dressing on the shelf of the condiment aisle. I know this may be hard to believe, but those are not the healthiest choices. Read the labels; they’re packed with glycerblahblahblah and dextrohulabaloo. The healthiest way to dress your salad is with a dressing made from actual food, not chemicals. I know the 11 grams of fat might look scary, but isn’t that just because widening hips are easier to visualize than synthetic chemicals attacking your cells? Also, the healthy oils (like olive oil) found in better-for-you dressings actually coat your stomach, making you feel more satiated, so it’s easier to prevent overeating. So start reading the labels on your salad dressing, girls and boys. Be nice to your bod.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers


This easy, delish dish can be adjusted to fit the needs of vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters. I diced up a chicken patty for mine, but you can also try it with a veggie burger patty or crumbled veggie sausage. I used a cup of cooked quinoa from the batch I made for the week and added a cup of black beans and a cup of frozen white corn, which I roasted first for about 10 minutes to give it a great flavour. Add your cherry tomatoes, slather in chili or hot sauce, and stuff those peppers! It’s a good idea to make a little hole in the bottom of each pepper first, though, to let excess liquid drain. Serve these peppers over a bed of sauteed spinach or kale for an extra vitamin A kick! These peppers are also great for lunch the next day!

Ingredients (serves four):
4 bell peppers, any color
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup beans
1 cup frozen white corn, thawed (and roasted if you wish)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
chicken or veggie patty, diced (also try veggie sausage or shrimp)
black pepper, chili powder or chili sauce (or hot sauce if you’re hard core)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and quarter the little guys. Rinse the beans (canned beans usually contain ALOT of sodium, and rinsing helps get rid of some of it.) Place corn on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes, ’til the kernels are nice and toasty lookin’.
2. Chop up your chicken or veggie patty or whatever protein you’re using (I’m assuming it’s pre-cooked, but if it’s not, follow directions on the package for cooking.) Mix the pieces together with quinoa, beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, chili powder, chili sauce or hot sauce to taste.
3. Cut the tops off the peppers and poke a little hole in the bottom of each one. When the corn is ready, add it to the quinoa and spoon the mixture into the peppers. Transfer peppers to the baking sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes, until they’re warm through.