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!

Presto! Pesto

Everything’s better with pesto, y’all. In 5 minutes flat, you can make a big batch that will add pizzazz to your cooking all week. Or you can take a tip from the fabulous Amy Sedaris and freeze individual portions in an ice cube tray for later use.

Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but if I don’t have any in my pantry, I throw in whatever kind of nuts I DO have rather than spending an extra six bucks at the store. Experimenting is fun–walnuts are my favourite, and almonds are good too. Next on my list to try is cashews! Your pesto will have a slightly different taste depending on the type of nut you use.

Depending on the size of the basil bunches sold at your grocery store, you may need to tweak the amount of the other ingredients listed below to obtain the flavour and consistency you want. Most recipes call for a lot of olive oil, but I use only a drizzle, which makes my pesto super thick and chunky. Pesto-making is not an exact science, so go crazy with the taste tests and come up with your own custom concoction. If you don’t eat dairy, you can omit the parmesan; it will still be delish sans cheese!

Stay tuned for a variety of pestoy meal ideas…in the mean time, try your fresh pesto in my latest addiction, Zoe & Zane’s Spinach Brownies…MMM!

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup of pesto):
2 large bunches fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.
1-1/2 to 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 shredded parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash & dry the basil leaves. Throw everything into the food processor and give it a whirl!

Spinach-Artichoke Dip


What in life is better than warm, creamy spinach-artichoke dip? Not much, that’s for damn sure. Gooey, cheesy, mayonnaisey–yes, you heard me; I, President of the Mayonnaise-Haters club, can get over my burning revulsion for this treat! I’m all for indulging in the traditional version of this dip now and then, but I had a powerful craving the other day that I knew couldn’t be satisfied by a 2-tablespoon serving size (!) From this craving, a healthified (albeit less cheesy) version of spinach-artichoke dip was born, and I ate a whole bowlful without feeling yucky afterwards! Not only is this dip super low-fat, it’s packed with vitamins A and C from the abundance of veggies and protein and calcium from the greek yogurt, so you can actually feel good about eating it!

This dip don’t quit, so don’t limit its serving power to hors d’oeuvres hour. Spread it on a warm whole wheat roll and add grilled chicken breast, a slice of provolone and some vine-ripened tomato for an ecstatic sandwich experience. Add a dollop to scrambled eggs and serve with whole grain toast. Toss it with whole wheat pasta, leftover chicken and olives for a super quick dinner. If you’re enjoying it in dip form, make your own healthy and delish dipping devices using my recipes for Pita Chips or Mami Nature’s Corn Chips!

Ingredients (makes a big ol’ batch for multiple serving purposes):
2 16-oz. bags frozen spinach, thawed
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
1 cup fat-free greek yogurt (you can alter the quantity to obtain the consistency you want)
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
additions: chopped tomatoes, crushed red pepper and paprika to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Thaw spinach in the microwave or by running water over the bag. Drain & chop artichoke hearts.
2. Throw minced garlic & chopped onions into a big pot with the olive oil and cook sautee over medium heat until the onions become translucent. Turn off heat.
3. Add the rest of your ingredients to the pot and stir well. Taste-test for flavor, and add more yogurt if you want a creamier (and proteinier!) dip.
4. Spread dip into a pie pan and bake. I used a glass pan, which requires a longer baking period, so it took about 45 minutes for mine to warm through. I recommend testing the center after about 30 minutes; if it’s nice and warm, it’s ready to eat!

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!

Katyana’s Salmon Salad


My friend Kat is famous for making amazing salads. In honour of her, I’ve thrown together a crudité-inspired feast that should please any seafood lover (instead of salmon, feel free to try shrimp, tuna, tofu, tempeh, chicken breast, or even 1/4 cup of hummus, depending on your dietary requirements and cravings.)

I like to top my veggie-rific salads with a tablespoon or two of thick, tangy scrumptiousness like Goddess dressing (mmm, tahini!) Yes, it adds a notable amount of fat, but when 5 servings of fat-free veggies topped with lean protein lies before you, a little fat ain’t no thang, especially if it’s coming from a dressing made from real food rather than chemicals (see my note about choosing healthy dressings at the bottom of the Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad entry.) Today, my lonely fridge shelf was very much without my favourite salad topper, but it DID boast a variety of this-and-thats from recent culinary experiments, so I decided to attempt a variation of Green Goddess Dressing (the tahini-less kind.) I was pretty impressed with myself, being a first-time dressing maker and all, but in the future, I think I’ll make sure to stock up on my trusted Annie’s version.

Salad (serves 2):
1 6-oz. bag mixed salad greens
1 small head broccoli, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
about 12 cherry tomatoes
8 ounces wild Alaskan salmon filet (boneless & skinless)
optional garnishes: jalepeños, olives, crumbled low-fat feta cheese

Garlicky Goddess Dressing (makes 2 servings):
1/4 cup light of fat-free sour cream (leftover from Turkey Meatloaf)
2 TBSP canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 TBSP chopped green onions (leftover from Orange Chicken a la Emma)
1 clove garlic, minced
squeeze of a lemon slice or two
black and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Place salmon in a non-stick pan and cook over low heat until salmon is cooked through. Meanwhile, wash, dry, and cut up your veggies. Assemble them on plates, all pretty-like.
2. Throw all of your dressing ingredients into a food processor (I tried it in my blender first, but it just wasn’t doing the trick.) Whirl it up real good. Play with the ratio of ingredients, and if you have other fresh herbs, try throwing them into the mix! Don’t add more oil, however, unless you’re planning to feed more than 2 people.

Healthy Girl Says: This recipe kicks off Homage Week, during which I’ll be honouring people I love who tear it up in the kitchen all healthy-style, and in some cases, whose dietary needs or interests have inspired me to experiment with something new. Stay tuned for upcoming recipe-story combos!

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!

Brie-zy Bellas with Spicy Spinach & Quinoa


I’m afraid I can only take credit for adding the spinach and quinoa to this yummy, wholesome meal. The brilliant brie-melting idea came from Becca (of Becca’s Cranberry-Almond Kale) via her brother (my dude,) who grilled briezy ‘bellas and served them with lobster on our last anniversary (needless to say, he knows how to romance a girl.) This is less exciting meal, I must admit, but it’s super easy to make and spans the food pyramid rather nicely. The combination of cheese and quinoa makes it plentifully proteiny; the veggies add to the substantial fiber content of the quinoa, and the spinach packs a powerful punch vitamins A & C.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 nice big portabella caps
3 ounces of brie (about 3 square inch-cubes)
10 ounces (one bag) of spinach leaves, washed & dried
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
4 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, and plenty of crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush each of the bellas with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, coating each side with a very thin layer.
2. When the oven is hot, place the mushrooms on a baking sheet with the stems facing down. Bake for about 5 minutes, then pull them out, flip them over and top with brie.
3. Pop the mushrooms back into the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and brown the cheese for 2-3 more minutes.
4. Wash and dry spinach. Sautee until it’s mostly wilted, then add the quinoa and stir until everything is nicely mixed and heated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and plenty of crushed red pepper (if you like heat, this is an essential addition.)

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.