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!

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!

Ladies Luv Lasagna (non-ladies do too!)

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Real women eat carbs, ladies. So load up on some ’sagn! This healthified version combines whole wheat noodles, low-fat cheeses and tons of veggies, making it a protein-, fiber– and vitamin-packed meal. It’s also the perfect meal to serve when you’re hostessing (just ask my buddy & fave dinner guest Pete, who asked for the recipe!)

Whole wheat lasagna noodles aren’t always as easy to find as the regular kind. Health food stores are your best bet, and if your supermarket has a natural foods aisle, you may find them there. I won’t lie, they’re more expensive—I generally pay about $4.50—but that’s one item I don’t mind splurging on. Simple carbs make your bod unhappy; they’re basically nutrient-less yuck create a spike in your blood sugar and make you hungry sooner. Whole grains, on the other hand (and I mean WHOLE grains, not products that mix “wheat flour” with “whole wheat flour”) are naturally full of nutrients, including a good deal of protein and fiber, which keep you full longer!

I like to make my lasagna with lots of creamy low-fat ricotta and cottage cheese, and just a sprinklin’ of shredded mozzarella. This way, I don’t feel deprived of the warm, cheesy gooiness I crave, but I can keep the fat content of my meal in check.

Finally, I encourage you to use your favourite veggies to make your lasagna just the way you like it. My faves combos are mushroom & spinach, and zucchini, squash & broccoli (or all of them together!) Eggplant can also be a yummy addition, but I seem to encounter a lot of peeps who don’t care for eggplant in their ’sagn. Omnivores can toss in chicken sausage to satisfy a meat craving.

A word to the wise: though this meal only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, allow plenty of time for baking. The taller you pile your lasagna pan, the longer it will take to cook through. If you’re having company or need to eat by a specific time, allow an hour and a half for to be safe; this should allow for cooling time as well.

Lasagna makes GREAT leftovers! I find that the flavour is even better the next day!

Ingredients (makes at least 8 servings):

1/2 package whole wheat lasagna noodles

1/2 jar tomato sauce, your favourite flavour

1 small container low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese

1 small container low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese

1 package shredded mozzarella*

2 10-oz packages spinach leaves

1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms

1 zucchini

1 squash

1 head of broccoli

2-3 cloves garlic

3 tsp. olive oil, separated

Italian seasoning or your favourite Italian herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme & marjoram)

Salt & pepper

optional toppings: 1-2 vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sliced black olives & shredded parmesan cheese

*I recommend using part-skim mozzarella, but NOT reduced-fat; it doesn’t melt well and tastes plasticy when it’s cooked.

1. Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350º and boiling a big pot of water (if your noodles require pre-cooking, that is; not all do).

2. Wash veggies dry them really well to prevent watery lasagna (spinach is the major culprit here.) Mince garlic and slice zucchini, squash and broccoli.

3. In a large frying pan, sautee garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil until lightly browned. Set aside and let the zucchini, squash and broccoli have a turn. Add another tsp. or two of oil if you need too. Add the mushrooms when zucchini and squash have begun to soften just a bit. Careful not to overcook—your veggies should have a bit of crunch to them.

4. While the veggies are cooking, combine cottage cheese & ricotta in a medium mixing bowl and stir well. Add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

5. When your veggies are cooked, and them to the garlic and sautee the spinach alone.

6. Your noodles should be done by now (you want them al dente—not too soft,) so you’re ready to assemble! Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan to prevent stickage. Next comes a layer of noodles; use only enough to cover the pan rather than piling them on. Begin your layer of veggies by spreading the spinach over the noodles, trying to get the layer as even as possible. Add the garlic & veggie mixture. Top with tomato sauce—the amount you use can depend on your taste. Next, add another layer of noodles and top with the creamy cheese mixture. You may not need all of it; this will depend on the size of your lasagna pan. Top with a light sprinkling of shredded mozzarella—you don’t need to use the whole package if you’re concerned about keeping the fat content down.

7. Toppings can really jazz up your ’sagn! I like to add thinly sliced tomato, black olives and fresh basil leaves.

8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. When time is up, slice into the middle to check for doneness. This can be difficult, because your lasagna will inevitably be a little runny, but some of that will set as it cools. If you’re using a larger or deeper pan, it may require another 10-15 minutes. If you like your cheese nice and brown, remove the foil before you return the pan to the oven.

9. Allow about 10 minutes for cooling. Approach with caution—tomato sauce is evil when it’s hot.

Serving suggestions: mixed greens with bell pepper and black olives; a slice of crusty whole grain bread (you don’t really need bread to go with your pasta, but I LOVE to mop up tomato & cheese with crusty bread!)

Healthy Girl Reunion!

Holy crap, y’all. It’s been awhile! This healthy girl has been getting a serious lesson in time management. Between school, two jobs and a long-ass commute (upside: tons of QT with NPR,) I’ve become way too familiar with my local take-out spots. This, of course, has taken quite a toll on the ol’ budgeroo. As we speak, I’ve got tomorrow’s lunch a-roasting, and it’s good to know I won’t be shelling out another 10 bucks for my mid-day satiation (ok, 5 of those bucks go to the gallon-sized latte I need to get me through the day…but everyone’s gotta be in denial about SOMEthing.)

So, let’s get back on track together, shall we? Cause let’s face it, you could always be a little healthier, a little more frugal, and a little plan ahead-ier when it comes to eating. Over the past couple months I’ve been compiling new recipes, so get excited for hummus and other Mediterranean-inspired delights, healthified lasagna, and snacks galore—all perfect fresh or as leftovers! But now, we turn to tomorrow’s lunch: lentil & veggie salad, which is easily transported and munchable all day long. Lentils are a great source of lean protein for omnivores and herbivoures alike, and they are absolutely packed with fiber to keep you feeling full and, er, regular (albeit a little gassy.) Add your own personal touches to this dish–I just used the veggies I had in the fridge, but any combo will work!

Sorry there are no pics for this dish. Just picture fairies and hearts and stars and flowers doing a little dance in your tummy…

Lentil & Veggie Salad for Busybodies

1 package steamed black lentils*

1 zucchini

1 head broccoli

½ head cauliflower

½ bag baby carrots

diced red onion to taste

a bit of olive oil

salt, black pepper, & crushed red pepper or your fave hot sauce

additions: for a protein boost, add tofu or chicken.

*you can buy these in the produce aisle at trader joe’s. using precooked lentils saves a step and at least 15 minutes, and as long as the package is unopened, they stay fresh in the fridge for ages!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower and transfer pieces to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop ‘em in the oven til they’re lightly browned—about 15 minutes. You can also dab olive oil on your veggies, but I find this is unnecessary; I like to drizzle a little over the whole salad when it’s done.

Throw carrots into your steaming pan and cook until soft. Meanwhile, dice the onion and sautee with a drop of olive oil.

When everything’s nice and soft and fragrant, throw it all into a big bowl with the lentils. Add seasoning and a dab of olive oil to taste, mix well, and enjoy hot or cold. Tupperware that shite and eat it all week long!

PS y’all: I’m engaged!!!

Curry Bonanza!

curryLast 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!

Lentil Burgers

Discouraged after many attempts at veg-friendly mushroom meatballs, I turned my attention to a similar goal of making a substantial meal out of meat- and soy-free ingredients. I worked on these lentil burgers during my 5-day cleanse (full meal plan and tips coming soon, I promise!) so they had to be gluten- and dairy-free as well, and made from easy-on-the-bod ingredients.

This is still a work in progress; like the meatballs, I think my lentil burgers would incite more lip-smackin’ if I were more generous with the oil. Feel free to tweak the following recipe at your leisure–but only if you share your thoughts and suggestions!

Ingredients (makes 6 smallish burgers):

1 small white onion, chopped

2 cups finely chopped carrots (or about 1-1/2 cups shredded)

3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

1-1/2 cups cooked black lentils*

1 egg

1/4 tsp. cumin

salt and pepper to taste

olive or canola oil for cooking

*Check your local Trader Joe’s; I bought a package of pre-cooked black lentils at mine that were perfect for this recipe!

1. Combine all ingredients in your food processor (if your machine is small, you may need to do this in two batches.)

2. On a cutting board, form balls with the batter. You’ll want them to be small enough that when you flatten them in the pan, they’ll be smaller than hamburger patties.

3. Warm a few drops of oil in the frying pan over medium heat. Add the first batch of lentil burgers and flatten them a bit with the back of your spatula. Cook the same way you’d cook pancakes–until each side is lightly browned.

4. Serve your burgers with slices of avocado and tomato and a side of sauteed veggies. I ate mine with garlicky kale–yummy!

Chilled Melon Soup for Summer


I’m proud to bring you another recipe from my mom–radical babe, inventress, and maker of fantastic eats (like Scrambled Tofu with Portabellas.) This refreshing summer soup is perfect for a leisurely outdoor brunch or as a quick meal on a hot day. I love the simplicity of the dish–it’s a breeze to make and to transport, but can also make an elegant addition to a dinner party or luncheon. Mama says:

“This soup can only be as good as the melons–they must be very ripe! Tap on the melon with your fingertips; it should sound like a hollow thump. Honeydew should be very pale green with hints of yellow.”

Ingredients
Yield: about 5 1/2 cups; 5 (or 6 small) servings.

1 large honeydew or cantaloupe melon, peeled & cut into small chunks*

Grated rind of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tblsp finely chopped mint leaves

*My preference is to use 1 ½ recipe, using a whole honeydew & ½ cantaloupe.

1. For optimal presentation, choose individual serving bowls that can be chilled in the freezer, & store them there for a couple hours before serving.

2. In a food processor or blender, process melon chunks until smooth; use a low setting to avoid building up froth.

3. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well mixed.

4. Chill thoroughly and scoop into frozen bowls, garnished with sliced blueberries and mint sprigs if desired; serve immediately while bowls are frozen. Best served within 24 hours.

Latest Obsession: Egg in a Quinoa Nest


This concoction is the result of my search for easy-to-digest, wheat-, dairy-, soy- and meat-free sources of protein to eat during my cleanse. The best thing about this dish is that it’s easy to assemble quickly if you have a batch of cooked quinoa in the fridge. On second thought, the best thing about this dish is its TOTAL DELICIOUSNESS. When I fall in love with a food, I want to eat it all the time, and that’s exactly what’s been happening with this bowl-o-goodness–I’ve had to force myself to eat anything else! It’s easy to transport sans egg, which makes this concoction a perfect weekday lunch.

For a lighter breakfast or a super-energizing afternoon snack, follow the recipe below. For a heavier meal, increase the amounts of quinoa and black beans and add a second egg. I prefer to use poached or over-easy eggs; the gooeyness really pulls everything together! If you’re trying to cut fat and calories, scrambled egg whites make a good substitute.

I’ve included the nutrition facts below (calculated to the best of my knowledge using product labels and internet sources) to give you an idea of how well-rounded this dish is! Besides being super high in protein and fiber, quinoa is also a great source of B vitamins, iron and zinc.


Ingredients (one serving):

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup black beans, drained
1/4 cup hummus
1/2 cup thawed frozen spinach or steamed fresh spinach
1 egg, poached or over-easy
black and crushed red pepper to taste
additions: roasted corn, chopped avocado and tomato

1. Stir quinoa, spinach, black beans and hummus together in a bowl. Create a nest in the center of the mixture for your egg.
2. Heat water in a small saucepan. When water begins to boil, stir from the center to create a whirlpool. Drop eggg into the whirlpool and allow it to cook for about one and a half minutes.
3. Drop egg into the center and marvel at how cute your breakfast is. Add seasoning to taste. Mix everything together and enjoy!

Nutrition facts:
Calories 364; Fat 16.5 g; Saturated fat 1.5 g; Cholesterol 215 mg (71% RDV); Carbohydrates 45 mg (13.5%); Fiber 10.6 g (41%); Protein 21 g; Vitamin A 21%; Vitamin C 9%; Calcium 17%; Iron 27%

Baked Halibut with Pineapple-Black Bean Salsa


I have a fish-crush on halibut. Its lower-mercury content and potatssiumy goodness on top of its versatility makes me <3 it. I had hoped to use halibut in my dad-inspired recipe for Pomegranate Almond-Encrusted Flounder, but alas, the fish counters were bare. When I stumbled upon some steaks in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe’s last week, you can only imagine my delight! (I later learned that “steak” means “you will have to pick bones out of me,” so I suggest you use fillets if possible!) This dish is not only yummy and super easy to make, components also make it absolutely fantastic for you! Black beans add to the very lean protein in the halibut and provide a solid dose of your heart’s best friend, fiber. An extra exciting nutritional tidbit: a cup of this salsa contains about half of your daily allowance of manganese, a mineral in pineapple that is essential for healthy skin.

This salsa is very easy to make. Feel free to make adjustments; I used some ingredients from my pantry and fridge that were handy. Avocado would make an interesting and heart-healthy substitute for black beans, and mango could easily replace (or add to?) the pineapple component. If you don’t have any shallots, you can use red onion for a more pungent kick. And finally, a fresh jalepeno would work just fine (if not better!) as a substitute for the canned green chilis I grabbed from the pantry.

I served my halibut absolutely smothered in salsa; I couldn’t get enough! A side salad rounded out the meal nicely, but a little brown rice would make a nice addition too!

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 halibut steaks, or about 2/3 lb. filets
1/2 a fresh pineapple, or an 8-oz. can
1 cup black beans
1 red or orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2-3 TBSP canned green chilis or minced jalepenos
juice of one lime
1-2 tsp olive oil & lemon slices for baking
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Place fish on a baking sheet and dot with olive oil. Place a lemon slice on top of each piece, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The baking time will depend on the thickness of your fish; 20 minutes worked well for my steaks, but you’ll need 15 or so for fillets.
2. While the fish bakes, mix pineapple, black beans, shallot, pepper, and jalepenos. Squeeze lime over your salsa and mix well.
3. Top fish with a big ol’ serving of salsa and enjoy! If you have leftover salsa, cover the bowl and refrigerate–the flavors will be even better tomorrow, and you can add it to a salad or turkey sandwich!