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!

Treat Your Ticker: Almond-Encrusted Flounder with Pomegranate Sauce


This recipe is inspired by my dad’s heart-healthy diet. Over the past few years, he has made pomegranate and unsweetened grape juices, red wine and oatmeal his everyday staples (the first three are known for being incredibly rich in antioxidants; oatmeal’s high content of soluble fiber, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, help keep the heart in tip-top shape.)

As far as choosing seafood goes, wild-caught Alaskan salmon delivers the highest dose of omega-3’s, an important inclusion in everyone’s diet, but particularly necessary for those actively trying to prevent cardiovascular disease. Because salmon can have a high mercury content–particularly the farm-raised and Atlantic varieties–it’s important to limit your consumption and supplement your omega-3 intake by eating things like ground flaxseed (add it to your oatmeal, Daddy!) and walnuts.

I had hoped to use halibut for this recipe because of its high potassium content (an essential nutrient for the cardiovascular system) but I wasn’t able to find any. Halibut is easily interchangeable with other mild white fish like cod, tilapia and flounder, and we found a locally caught version of the latter (bonus points if you can tell me why it’s important to buy local!!) Lean white fish like these varieties may not be as high in omega-3‘s as fatty fish, but you still receive some of the benefits.

Next up: pomegranate juice, the fruit world’s biggest celebrity in recent years. Besides containing several times more antioxidants than green tea and other juices, pomegranate juice has been found to play a role in lengthening the time it takes for cancer to develop in those who already have it, and it also seems to increase blood flow to the heart, reduce arterial plaque and inhibit the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol.)*

Almonds add the finishing touch to this heart-tastic meal. The major heart-healthy nutritional component in almonds is their high level of monounsaturated fat, which is associated with cardiovascular health.* Have you heard of the Mediterranean diet? It’s based on this type of fat, which, in addition to eating plenty of fiber and protein, helps keep you satiated so that you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Though this recipe has a fancy-schmancy title, it’s easy to make and can be done without breaking the bank; I spent $22 on ingredients and fed three people.

Sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups pomegranate juice
1-1/2 TBSP honey
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1/2 lime
dash of olive oil for sauteeing garlic

Fish (makes 3-4 servings):

1 lb. flounder, halibut, cod, tilapia, or orange roughy (you can find the latter in the frozen foods section)
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1 cup panko (use crushed rice crackers for a gluten-free version) **
salt & pepper to taste

**A box of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) runs between $2.50 and $3.50. Most brands keep their recipes simple, making panko a healthier option (as it contains a significant amount of fiber, some protein, and minimal sodium, sugar & additives) than other types of bread crumbs. Not to worry if you don’t already have some in your pantry and don’t want to spend the extra bucks; I made a few pieces of fish using only crushed almonds and they were still yummy.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large deep frying pan, sautee garlic in a drop of olive oil. When garlic begins to brown, add juice, honey, lime and lime zest (if you don’t have a zester, you can use the fine side of a cheese grater to grate the lime over the pan.
2. Cook sauce over medium heat, letting it simmer but not boil. When it has been reduced to about half of its original quantity (10-15 minutes,) turn off the heat. Set aside about 1/4 cup of sauce and add the fish to the pan with the remaining sauce. Allow it to soak for a minute or two.
3. In a large bowl, combine crushed almonds, panko, salt and pepper. Arrange your dipping station; you’ll need the pan of fish, the panko-almond mix, and a baking sheet spread with a large piece of aluminum foil.
4. Coat each piece of fish with the panko-almond mix and transfer it to the baking sheet. Spoon the remaining sauce over the fish (keep the 1/4 cup you reserved separate.) Spread a second piece of foil over the fish and pinch the sides of the foil pieces together (this prevents the fish from drying out in the oven.)
5. Baking time will vary depending on the thickness of your fish. My flounder filets–which were very thin–took 15 minutes. To test for doneness, slice into the center of a filet; the fish should be white and flake easily. Spoon a little bit of the reserved sauce over each piece if you want an extra pomegranatey kick!

Healthy Girl Says: Serve this yummy fish over a bed of rainbow chard sauteed in garlic and a drop of olive oil. Chard is a dark leafy green that deserves more attention than it often receives; it is absolutely PACKED with fiber, calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A & C.

*This information comes from Dr. Jonny Bowden’s “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprisingly Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why,” which is a great source of inspiration as well as a fantastic reference book. I highly recommend it!

Leftover Orange Chicken Salad

Leftover entree matter is prime next-day salad material, and I always keep this in mind when I make dinner. Changing up the way you use last night’s dinner keeps things interesting! I always keep a bag or two of mixed greens in the fridge, plus a few other salad staples like a bell pepper, a cucumber and a pint of cherry tomatoes (actually, I suggest keeping your tomatoes OUT of the fridge; they maintain their nutritious qualities much better that way!) I also LOVE raw broccoli in salads and wraps; the flavour is great and the crunchiness is so satisfying!
For this salad, I added my (cold) leftover orange chicken to a big bowl of greens and tossed in orange pepper slices, tomatoes, bean sprouts, green onions, jalepenos, and a handful of slivered almonds. I drizzled a generous portion of the orange-soy sauce mixture over my salad, which served perfectly as a light, delicious dressing! If you’d prefer to use something a little thicker, I’d suggest a soy-ginger vinaigrette or maybe a citrus vinagrette (though some dressings with similar flavours might clash with the flavour of the chicken rather than complementing it.)

Ingredients:
leftover Orange Chicken a la Emma with sauce
salad greens
your favourite veggies!

…I think you get the idea!

Orange Chicken a la Emma


To my delight, my darling friend Emma joined me for a midnight dinner party last night to break up the monotony of my exam week. We agreed to experiment with orange chicken, which neither of us had made before, and it turned out WONDERFULLY! I attribute this dish’s utter deliciousness to her wise and calming presence in the kitchen, so if you have an Emma (or someone like her) I would definitely recommend throwing her into the mix.

Now, we firmly believe in making recipes accessible to everyone, no matter how stocked your pantry may be. There have been plenty of times that I’ve found a good-lookin’ recipe that gets me all excited, only to realize I’m either gonna have to shell out $50 for random stuff I’ll never use again, or make a half-assed version that can’t possibly compete. To prevent this from happening here, we’ve marked the use-if-you-have, but don’t-worry-if-you-don’t ingredients with an *. Let us know how your version turns out, what was awesome and/or what may have been lacking…our final product was thrilling, and I hope yours is too!

P.S. This recipe allows for plenty of leftovers. I’ll let you know what I did with mine tomorrow!
P.P.S. Try this dish with tofu instead of chicken for a vegan delight!

Ingredients (serves 4, plus extra chicken):
2 pounds, 8 oz. frozen chicken tenderloins (boneless & skinless)
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized trees
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)

sauce
2 cloves garlic
1″ piece fresh ginger, peeled (you can substitute 1 tsp ground ginger if you have it)
2 green onions, chopped (the white parts are for sauteeing and the green parts are a garnish)*
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar*
1/4 tsp white pepper*
1/2 tsp garlic chili paste or siracha hot sauce (this addition depends on your threshold for heat)*
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP canola oil
1 TBSP light brown sugar
1 11-oz can mandarin oranges in light syrup (don’t drain–you want the syrup too!)
juice of 1-1/2 oranges (or about 3/4 to 1 cup of store-bought orange juice, depending on how sweet you want your sauce)
zest of 1/2 orange*

garnishes: bean sprouts, crushed red pepper,green onion, orange slices (you can use the remaining 1/2 of an orange that you didn’t juice)

1. Thaw chicken. You can do this by placing it in the fridge for about 6 hours, or submerge the package in a sink full of water for 30-45 minutes. When the tenderloins are thaw, slice them into one-inch cubes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat water for rice and follow directions according to package. It will take about 40 minutes to cook the rice, giving you plenty of time to prepare the rest of the meal.
3. Gather your ingredients, wash & dry your produce, and chop up your garlic & veggies. Steam the broccoli and peppers in a steaming basket, or covered in a frying pan with about 1/2” water.
4. Sautee garlic, green onions & grated ginger (if you’re using powder, add it at the end) in a BIG POT with 2 TBSP canola oil til garlic is slightly browned and everything smells AMAZING. Turn off heat.
5. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pot. Add the chicken and coat well.
6. Transfer the chicken to a baking pan at least one inch deep, and pour all the extra sauce over the pieces. Bake for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
7. Create a base of rice and veggies on each plate. Add chicken and drizzle with extra sauce. Garnish with crushed red pepper, green onion, orange slices, and bean sprouts if you have them. MMMMMMM!

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.