Sweet Potato Home Fries

IMG_1386
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!)

Omelet Mexicana

IMG_1307

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!

Two-Minute Berry Banana Smoothie


If I was a lady who embroiders, I would make a plaque to hang in my kitchen that says “Smoothies are made from angel’s kisses and god’s love.”There are plenty of imposters out there masquerading as your best smoothie friend; if you read between the lines at any smoothie joint, you’ll realize that the primary ingredient in these jokers is sugar, and synthetic ingredients often make a guest appearance. Making your own smoothie at home is so simple, and you can control exactly what goes into the mix. This is one of my favourite combos. It’s great with fresh berries, but I like to use frozen because they’re so easy to keep around and they make my smoothie nice and cold.

This is my go-to breakfast or post-workout snack when I’m in a hurry. I’m always running late no matter how much time I leave myself, so having this smoothie ready to go is a big help. I like to fill the blender with the ingredients and leave it in the fridge–you can even do this the night before–that way, all I need to do is give it a whirl, and I have something sustaining to sip on while I get ready!

Protein powders have become a popular smoothie addition since I was a kid, but I’m wary of them; the ingredient list is too long and complicated for my comfort level. Besides, unless you’re training to be Miss Muscles USA, you don’t need to eat 100 grams of protein a day; 50-60 is just fine for most people (check with your doctor to confirm your personal nutritional needs.) One of these giant smoothies, which packs two servings of fruit, also contains about 20 grams of protein from the yogurt and milk–natural sources that I feel confident feeding my body!

One final note: when choosing yogurt, always check the sugar content. An unassuming, single serving container can pack as many as 30 GRAMS! I always use fat-free plain or Greek yogurt, which contain the lowest amount of sugar; if these are too bitter for you, try adding a squeeze of honey!

Ingredients (one giant smoothie):
1 banana
3/4 cup fresh or frozen berries*
1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk

*If you’re using fresh berries, you may want to start off this recipe by crushing some ice cubes in the blender to make your smoothie nice and cold!

Combine all ingredients and blend. Voila!

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.

Breakfast for Superwoman


I’ve always been a big oatmeal person; I love how it “sticks to my ribs,” as my mother would say, keeping me satiated til lunch. Experimenting with toppings is fun, but lately I’ve found a combo that I love so much, I eat it every single morning. Redundant, perhaps, but hey. I’m a woman who knows what she likes. I wanted to share my current breakfast obsession with you because besides being delicious, it is a nutritionally perfect way to start the day. Packing tons of fiber, protein, and calcium, as well as a healthy dose of omega-3‘s and two servings of fruit, this dolled-up oatmeal kicks ass and takes names. I rarely take the time to include nutrition facts in my recipe posts because computing them is time-consuming, but I’ve calculated them for this recipe (to the best of my knowledge) because I want you to see just how great this oatmeal is for your bod! The fat comes almost entirely from the walnuts, so don’t be put off–a reasonable dose of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat like that in walnuts is great for your heart!

P.S. When it comes to choosing oatmeal, always buy a canister rather than individual packets. Steel-cut, plain oats and multigrain hot cereal are all great choices; just make sure that grains are the only ingredients. Flavoured oatmeals are the equivilant of a bowl of lucky charms or a cinnamon roll–the abundance of sugar and chemicals means that the bad outweighs the good. The sugar in this recipe, on the other hand, comes entirely from the fruit and yogurt (plain yogurt contains less sugar than flavoured, which can be outrageously sugary.)

Ingredients (one serving):
1/2 cup oats (dry)
1/2 cup fat-free yogurt, plain or greek
1 banana
1 small apple, chopped
2 TBSP walnut pieces
cinnamon to taste
optional: a drizzle of honey or agave if you have a sweet tooth

1. I like to cook a banana into my oatmeal to make it creamy and sweet. To do so, mix small pieces of banana with 1/2 cup oats and 1 cup of water. Heat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.
2. Top oatmeal with 1/2 cup of yogurt, apple and walnut pieces. Dust with cinnamon, and add a drop of honey if you wish!

Nutrition facts
calories 485; fat 11g; cholesterol 5mg; potassium 270mg; carbs 88g (30%); fiber 12g (47%); sugars 35g; protein 16g; vitamin A 3%; vitamin C 28%; calcium 27%; iron 16%

Banana-Walnut Cinnamon Toast


The idea for this came from a muffin recipe I found in Women’s Health magazine awhile ago. I’ve made it a couple times, and was craving those muffins this morning, but who has time to make muffins on a Wednesday morning, fah crahin aht lawhd? So I took all my favourite muffin innerds and threw ’em on some toast! Voila, no-bake banana bread! To be honest, I totally impressed myself, cause this is definitely the most bangin’ cinnamon toast I’ve ever tasted. And although I’m usually famished in the morning, and my desire to enjoy chewing consistently wins out over satiation in the stomach region, I actually couldn’t finish both pieces of toast along with my yogurt (pictured above, for a nice round meal) so I saved the second piece for a mid-morning snack!

Something to note: Women’s Health boasts that the combo of walnuts’ magnesium, bananas’ potassium (to sooth muscles,) and the vitamin D & calcium found in yogurt (supposedly “mood stabilizing,” though as far as I know, the effects of the latter have only been observed in patients with severe mood disorders, not just cranky PMSers) are sure to relieve the backlash of Auntie Flo’s lil’ visit. Let me know if it works for you…mad props for the muffins, Women’s Health, but I think the blaring BEEP BEEP BEEP of my bullshit radar actually GAVE me cramps.

Ingredients:
2 slices whole-wheat or multi-grain toast
1 medium or large banana
2 TBSP walnut pieces (crush them up for optimal spreadage)
a drizzle of honey or agave
a sprinklin’ of cinnamon
a side of yogurt if you like, for a calcium & protein boost!

I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory…toast bread (you can make one super-stacked slice if you’d like,) slice banana over toast; sprinkle with walnuts & cinnamon and add a drizzle of honey. You won’t believe how delish this is, i promise!

Mom’s Sunday Morning Pancakes All Week Long!


This is the pancake recipe we ate at my house when I was little. My mom would make us a plate of pancakes in whatever shapes or letters we requested, and then finish off the batter with one large pancake for herself. I learned her pancake-dressing ritual by heart: a smear of warm apple sauce, a big scoop non-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese, a handful of berries and almond slivers, a couple of spoonfuls of wheat germ, and finally, a little drizzle of real maple syrup. By the time she was done, you couldn’t even see the pancake under the mountain of healthy toppings. 

I have two tips for making pancakes an easy, healthy breakfast (or dinner, if you’re so inclined!) all week long. First, load them up like my mom does. This recipe is pretty healthy as far as pancakes go: it’s made with half whole wheat flour, and calls for a pretty minimal amount of oil. If you make low-fat dairy and fruit toppings the main affair, the pancakes will just be an added bonus!
Here’s how to enjoy these pancakes on a busy weekday morning: on Sunday, mix up a big batch of dry ingredients and a couple servings of wet ingredients (keep them separate!!) Store the buttermilk mixture in a jar in the fridge (if you haven’t used it by Tuesday, make a new batch; it doesn’t take long,) and the flour mixture in an airtight container in your pantry. To make, mix a little of each together until the batter has the consistency of a very thick smoothie (try not to overmix.) Fry up a couple pancakes in your non-stick, throw on your toppings (berries are my go-to topping when I’m in a rush since they don’t need to be sliced) and nosh on your power-breakfast treat while you get ready for work.
When you have more time and want to enjoy a leisurely meal, scramble up a couple of eggs or egg whites with mushrooms and peppers and serve it on the side. Boom: the food pyramid is your bitch.
Dry Ingredients (makes a big batch you can store forever in an airtight container):
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Sift together well (ok, I don’t actually have a sifter, and mine came out alright.) 
Wet Ingredients (mix the following for every 2 eaters; store leftovers in a sealed jar in fridge for up to 2 days):
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp canola oil
Measure buttermilk in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl. Add eggs and oil, and whisk until eggs are worked in.
To make pancakes:
Heat lightly oiled griddle or non-stick pan until a drop of water sizzles & dances. 
Reduce heat & spoon pancake batter into pan. 

Greek Yogurt Dressed to the Nines


Ok, so this isn’t a recipe so much as a serving suggestion. Greek yogurt is very high in protein and calcium and makes a spectacular breakfast, snack, or light lunch (make sure to buy fat free or 2%) Adding flax seed gives you a nice healthy dose of omega-3‘s, and fruit adds fibervitamins, and antioxidants. A squeeze of honey or agave adds a touch of sweetness, since greek yogurt is pretty tart. Experiment with toppings and find your favourite combo. Blueberries and strawberries are great, and a sliced fuji apple, a handful of walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon is also fabulous!

Ingredients:
1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (like Fage)
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 medium banana, sliced
1 handful raspberries
1 Tbsp honey or agave
Throw everything into a bowl and enjoy!
nutrition facts:
calories 387;  calories from fat 57;  fat 6g;  saturated fat .5 g;  cholesterol 0mg; sodium 86 mg; carbohydrates 35 g;  fiber 9 g;  sugars 27g;  protein 23g;  vitamin A 2%;  vitamin C 27%;  calcium 29%;  iron 5%

Breakfast Quesadilla with Egg Whites, Cheese, Spinach & Tomato


When I’m craving something savory in the morning, this is my go-to recipe. It’s packed with protein, calcium, and fiber; it constitutes two servings of veggies, and it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare–what more could you ask for in a breakfast?

Make no mistake: I’m no LA chick, and I am not afraid of egg yolks. The nineties are over, folks, and whole eggs are back. In a recipe like this, however, there’s enough flavour going on that you don’t miss the yolks, so why not save the fat & calories and enjoy some super-lean protein? Adding a little skim or 1% milk to your eggs makes them nice and creamy, too.
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed & dried
3 egg whites
1 tsp milk
1 slice of your favourite reduced-fat cheese
1 whole grain tortilla
1 roma or 4 grape tomatoes, sliced
salt, pepper, & hot sauce if you wish
1. Sautee the spinach in a non-stick pan and set aside. 
2. Whisk together egg whites, milk, salt and pepper. Pour them into the pan and scramble (you can toss in a tsp. of butter first if you wish; I prefer not to use butter in my non-stick to avoid extra fat, though it means I have to be more attentive to keep the eggs from sticking too much and making a big mess.)
3. When the eggs are almost finished scrambling, push them over to one side of the pan, making room to warm the bottom half of the tortilla on the other side (you’ll be folding the top half over the fillings in a minute; for now it can just hang over the side of the pan.)
4. Place cheese, spinach, and tomatoes inside the tortilla. Add eggs when they’re finished scrambling and fold the top half over the fillings. When the cheese has melted a bit, flip the quesadilla over to brown it a bit on the other side. 
5. Slice the quesadilla into four points for easier eatin’, and smother with hot sauce. MMM!
nutrition facts:
calories 265;  calories from fat 70;  total fat 7 g;  saturated fat 3 g;  cholesterol 15 mg;  carbohydrates 31 g;  fiber 7 g;  protein 25 g;  vitamin A 152% RDV;  vitamin C 42%;  calcium 30%;  iron 15%

Banana Almond Smoothies


Good morning! 

This smoothie is a great way to start the day. It’s full of potassium (good for your heart & other muscles,) vitamin B6, and healthy fats–the kind that keep your heart healthy and your skin beautiful! For an extra boost of sustainable energy, enjoy it with a slice of whole grain toast topped with 1 tsp. of butter or olive oil, or 1/2 cup of oatmeal with fresh berries. 
I love the flavour that almond milk brings to this smoothie, but feel free to use your favourite milk instead. Though most almond milks you buy have been enriched, they still lack calcium. Be wary of the sugar content in non-dairy milks, especially flavoured ones; they can pack ALOT of unnecessary sugar!
p.s. My smoothie was nice and sweet, thanks to my very ripe banana; if yours isn’t so ripe and you’re craving more sweetness, add a little squeeze of honey or agave!
Ingredients:
1 cup low-fat, reduced-sugar vanilla almond milk (like Pacific Organic)
1 Tbsp raw, unsalted almond butter (i like creamy!)
1 medium banana
Combine ingredients in your blender and give it a whirl! 
Tip: For great texture and a nice cold drink, try freezing sliced banana for your all smoothie needs.
nutrition facts
calories: 270;  calories from fat: 103;  total fat: 11g;  saturated fat 1 g;  polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 g;  monounsaturated 5.5 g;  Cholesterol 0mg;  Sodium 140 mg;  Carbs 41 g;  Dietary fiber 4.5 g (18% RDV); Sugars 24 g;  Protein 5 g
Vitamin A 12% RDV; Vitamin C 17%;  Calcium 11%;  Iron 8%;  Vitamin D 25%;  Riboflavin 30%