Whole Wheat Cranberry-Walnut Couscous

IMG_2359

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!

Sweet Potato Home Fries

IMG_1386
Nothin does this southern girl right like a good ol’ fashioned brunch-time heart attackfest. Biscuits and gravy? Don’t mind if I do. Country fried steak? Yer darn tootin. Being health-conscious, of course, I try to find ways to eat my favourite things sans heart attack. Case in point: sweet potato homefries, a vitamined-up, lower-fat version of one of my fave greasy dishes.

Sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A and potassium, and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turkey (or veggie) dogs add some protein to this dish without all the saturated fat of bacon or sausage. By minimizing the oil content (and adhering to the heart-healthy, extra virgin olive-only rule) we cut out tons of fat. I suggest topping a big ol pile of these potaters with a gooey poached egg for maximum satisfaction.

Note: I used my cast iron pan to give my home fries a nice charred taste. If you don’t have one, try baking your fries at 350 for about 15-20 minutes before finishing them off in a non-stick pan.

Ingredients (makes 4 sides or 3 main course servings):

4 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup coarsely chopped red onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 turkey or veggie hot dogs

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 tsp old bay seasoning

salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Peel and chop sweet potato and red onion. Mince garlic. Drizzle 1/2 TBSP of olive oil into the pan and spread it around before adding the sweet potatoes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

2. When sweet potatoes have begun to soften a bit, add the onions to the pan. When the veggies begin to stick, drizzle a bit more olive oil over them and stir.

3. Chop turkey or veggie dogs. If you’re using raw meat, add it to the pan when you add the onions. If your meat or meat substitute is already cooked and just needs to be heated, wait until the sweet potatoes are almost as soft as you want them to get. Then add them with the garlic and spices, stirring well.

4. Your home fries are done when the sweet potatoes are soft (some like their potatoes to maintain a little bit of the crunch–you be the judge!)

Carrot Ginger Soup

carrot ginger soupIt took me a couple of times to get this recipe right, and hoooo, boy, it was worth the work! This soup is perfect for a chilly fall day–hearty, warming and with a big healthy kick of ginger to soothe tummies and clear out those stuffy sinuses! Carrots are a good source of calcium, potassium, fiber, and your immune system’s BFFs, vitamins A and C, which make them an important part of your flu-season diet. This soup is virtually fat-free; its small fat content comes from just a tad of heart-healthy olive oil. A lot of soups get their satisfying qualities from cream, butter and oil, but the carrots and potatoes in this dish provide such a thick texture that you’ll never miss the fat.

This recipe requires little labor, and you can whip up your soup in a blender if you don’t have a food processor. Double or triple the recipe to make leftovers for the whole week; warm a bowlful in the microwave at work for a quick lunch or enjoy a chilled dish if you’re yearning for summer.

I must warn you, this recipe yields a VERY gingery soup, so if you’re sensitive to its spicy quality or looking for something a little milder, cut the ginger quantity in half. I recommend topping your soup with snipped chives, or, for a decadent treat, a sprinkle of shredded coconut. Incredible!!

Carrot Ginger Soup (makes 2 servings)

1 1/2 cups baby carrots

1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed yukon gold potatoes (about one medium potato)

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons (for mild flavor) to 1/4 cup (for spice!) chopped fresh ginger

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups veggie stock

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash carrots and peel and chop potatoes. Place them in a steaming basket and crank the heat up to high, cooking until the veggies are soft.

2. Chop onions, garlic and ginger. Sautee them with a drizzle of olive oil until they’ve just begun to turn brown.

3. When veggies are soft and cool enough to transport to the blender or food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and give it a whirl. Your soup may need a minute or two of reheating if you’ve added cold veggie broth. Cozy up by the fireplace (or your candle collection) and enjoy!

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!

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!

Sopa de Batata para Bretaña


That’s Spanish for “Sweet Potato Soup for Brittany,” y’all!

I recently discovered the surprisingly delicious combo of black beans and sweet potato, so I thought I’d experiment a bit with this beautiful (and super-nutritious) marriage. Cilantro, my friend Brittany’s favourite herb (she and I share a love of Mexican culinary delights,) had to be involved, so I chopped up plenty of this amazing-smelling greenery and put my spice collection to work in search of the perfect complementary flavours. The result of my experiment is a filling, good-for-you soup that holds its own as a satisfying meal.

This is only my second attempt at homemade soup, and I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with myself! Once you get started, it’s hard to stop throwing things into the food processor. I set out with the goal of making a vegan version, but if you’re feelin’ spunky, you might wanna experiment adding some dairy (1/2 of skim milk, perhaps?)

In an attempt to water down my very thick concoction, I got brave and threw a little wine into the mix. This would’ve been a better idea if the bottle I had in the fridge was NOT a fruity pinot grigio; if I were you, I’d use something super dry like savignon blanc. If you don’t have any wine on hand, no worries; I’m sure it’ll be great without the spiking!

Sweet potatoes pack an insanely high content of vitamin A. They’re also high in vitamin C and fiber, and contain significant amounts of of iron and calcium, which makes them an important dietary component for vegans and vegetarians. Top the soup with 1/2 cup of black beans, and you’ve got yourself a protein party! Good luck with your soup-making endeavors, I think you’ll have fun experimenting. I want to hear all about your adventures!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings–great the next day for lunch!):
6 cups peeled sweet potatoes, coursely chopped (I used almost a full bag)
1/2 cup water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup very dry white wine
1/2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

topping:
one can black beans, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP cilantro (I like to snip mine into little pieces with scissors)
juice of 1/2 lime

optional toppings: grilled chicken strips, fat-free sour cream, hot sauce, crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. Place them on a 1″-deep baking sheet and drizzle them with 1/2 cup of water (this keeps them from drying out without the added fat of oil.) Roast the potatoes until they’re soft to the touch–20 minutes should do the trick.
2. Mince the garlic and cilantro and throw them into a bowl with the rinsed beans. Squeeze the lime over the beans and stir well.
3. When the sweet potatoes are done, throw all of the soup ingredients into your blender or food processor and give it a whirl (depending on the size and power of your machine, you might need to blend your ingredients in two batches.)
4. Dish everything up all pretty-like. Ole!

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.