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.

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!)

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!

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!

Healthy Girl Grilling




It’s summertime, y’all! I don’t know where you live, but here in Boston I’ve seen enough rain to last me a lifetime. I finally got the chance to do some grilling last weekend (or, rather, to be a marinade-making 50’s housewife while my boyfriend manned the grill.) Below are a few of our successes: Shrimp Kabobs with Red Pepper and Pineapple; Asian-inspired Eggplant, Juicy ‘Bella Burgers, Mustardy ‘Gus, and Magnum Grilled Cheese.


Shrimp Kabobs with Red Pepper and Pineapple

file under: Seafood; Dairy-free; Gluten-free

for each person, use: 1/3 lb. raw shrimp, 1/2 red pepper, 1 1/2 cups chopped pineapple
olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Wash, peel and de-vein shrimp. On skewers, alternate shrimp, pepper and pineapple pieces.

2. Using a brush, dab shrimp and pepper pieces with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

3. Grill kabobs until shrimp are bright pink.

Asian-Inspired Eggplant
file under: Vegetables; Dairy-free; Vegetarian; Vegan

1 large eggplant
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cloves pressed garlic
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced

Mix marinade ingredients. Brush over eggplant pieces. Allow to sit for 30 minutes

To grill, wrap eggplant pieces in foil and cook until soft.


Juicy ‘Bella Burgers

file under: Vegetables; Vegetarian; Vegan; Dairy-free; Gluten-free

This sauce is my boyfriend Noah’s burger marinade. It makes meat and mushrooms incredibly juicy. Noah refuses to violate his creative process by measuring specific quantities of any ingredient. I finally convinced him to use a vague “part” scale, so good luck recreating the recipe…just trust your intuition! Serve these bad boys alone or on a bun with your favourite burger fixins.

4 Portabella caps
4 parts A-1 sauce
2 parts Balsamic vinegar
2 parts Dijon mustard
1 part Olive Oil
“Abuncha sprinkles” Thyme
“Ditto” Rosemary and Black pepper

Brush mushrooms generously on both sides with marinade. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. To grill, wrap in foil to maintain moisture and cook until soft.


Mustardy ‘Gus

file under: Vegetables; Vegetarian; Vegan; Dairy-free; Gluten-free

2 large bunches asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dijon mustard

Lay asparagus pieces in a baking dish, layering if need be. Mix marinade and pour over asparagus. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Grill, unwrapped, until asparagus in nicely charred.

Magnum Grilled Cheese
file under: Vegetarian

I made this sandwich for my vegetarian friend Sam. For the ultimate veg delight, construct the sandwich using generous portions of the ingredients listed below and place it directly on the grill. You can also toast the bread for an indoor treat on a rainy day, or if you don’t have time to get the grill going.

For each sandwich: 2 slices whole wheat bread; 2 slices sharp white cheddar; 3 thick slices ripe tomato; 1/3 avocado; 5 spears Mustardy ‘Gus.

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%

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!