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!)

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!

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.

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.)

Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes


This recipe is my attempt to make eggplant parmesan (which I think we can all agree is super yummy, but not particularly good for you) into a healthier and more diverse dish. By removing the bread crumbs typical of eggplant parm, reducing the amount of cheese involved, and adding spinach, zucchini, peppers and onions (and quinoa, obvi) to the mix, this dish has been transformed into a lower-fat, proteinfiber– and vitamin-packed meal!

I have to level with you: this is not a super-quick meal to prepare. However, it’s easy to prepare with my Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad (recipe coming tomorrow,) so in 45 minutes, I’d made dinner with enough leftovers for tomorrow night (or my boyfriend’s lunch tomorrow…we’ll see who’s the sneakiest) AND I have tomorrow’s lunch waiting for me in the fridge. Not bad, not bad a’tall.

Ingredients (makes 3 servings):
1 eggplant, sliced into 1-inch thick rounds
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2-1/2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, or a few slices of soy cheese if you want to make the caesin-free version
1/2 TBSP olive oil
salt & pepper

Quinoa cakes:
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup diced red pepper (about 1/2 pepper)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 egg
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
salt, pepper, basil & oregano to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thaw spinach. Make quinoa cakes: mix quinoa, red pepper, onion, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and spices. Taste to make sure you’ve spiced the mixture to your liking, then add the egg and mix well.
2. Lightly oil a baking sheet with about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Shape the quinoa mixture into 6 little balls, each with a diameter of 2 inches or so (about the length of your thumb.) Don’t worry if they won’t stay together very well, mine didn’t either; they’ll take their shape as they bake. Brush the tops of the cakes with the remaining teaspoon of oil.
2. Slice eggplant and zucchini and add pieces to the baking sheet (you may need to employ the use of a second sheet.) Using a brush, lightly coat one side of each piece with 1/2 TBSP olive oil.
3. Put everything into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, pulling them out after 10 to flip everything over (be very gentle with the quinoa cakes–if they immediately start to fall apart, let them bake for a few minutes longer. Using a spatula is very helpful.)
4. When the contents of the roasting trays are ready, pull them out and turn on the broiler. On the baking sheet, assemble: each stack begins with a slice of eggplant and is topped with a spread of spinach, 3-4 zucchini rounds, a quinoa cake, and finally 2 TBSP of mozzarella/half a slice of soy cheese.
5. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for about 2 minutes. While the cheese is browning, heat the tomato sauce in the microwave and spread 1/3 cup onto each plate. Top each plate with two veggie stacks. Viola!

p.s. seth attack is back, bringing us beautiful pics.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers


This easy, delish dish can be adjusted to fit the needs of vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters. I diced up a chicken patty for mine, but you can also try it with a veggie burger patty or crumbled veggie sausage. I used a cup of cooked quinoa from the batch I made for the week and added a cup of black beans and a cup of frozen white corn, which I roasted first for about 10 minutes to give it a great flavour. Add your cherry tomatoes, slather in chili or hot sauce, and stuff those peppers! It’s a good idea to make a little hole in the bottom of each pepper first, though, to let excess liquid drain. Serve these peppers over a bed of sauteed spinach or kale for an extra vitamin A kick! These peppers are also great for lunch the next day!

Ingredients (serves four):
4 bell peppers, any color
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup beans
1 cup frozen white corn, thawed (and roasted if you wish)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
chicken or veggie patty, diced (also try veggie sausage or shrimp)
black pepper, chili powder or chili sauce (or hot sauce if you’re hard core)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and quarter the little guys. Rinse the beans (canned beans usually contain ALOT of sodium, and rinsing helps get rid of some of it.) Place corn on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes, ’til the kernels are nice and toasty lookin’.
2. Chop up your chicken or veggie patty or whatever protein you’re using (I’m assuming it’s pre-cooked, but if it’s not, follow directions on the package for cooking.) Mix the pieces together with quinoa, beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, chili powder, chili sauce or hot sauce to taste.
3. Cut the tops off the peppers and poke a little hole in the bottom of each one. When the corn is ready, add it to the quinoa and spoon the mixture into the peppers. Transfer peppers to the baking sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes, until they’re warm through.

Snack Like a Bunny


I know, I know, you’re probably thinking that brussels sprouts & sweet potatoes sound like a terrible idea for a snack, but I have news for you, ladies & gentlemen: you’re wrong, and I’m right–they’re delish, especially together! This combo became my snack of choice last summer, when I was babysitting for a couple of families and spending alot of time at the Brooklyn zoo. Snacktime by the sea lions’ pool became a regular routine, and I’m proud to say I actually got a couple of discerning two-year-olds to try a weird new vegetable! If you’re transporting them, I must warn you that cooked brussels sprouts smell a little…unpleasant after they’ve been confined to a baggie or a tupperware container. I found this out the hard way when I got some nasty looks on the subway.

Ingredients:
about 8 brussles sprouts
3 small, or 1 large sweet potato
1 TBSP olive oil
salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper if you like

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice veggies into whatever shape and size you prefer (I cut the brussels sprouts in half and the sweet potatoes into rounds or sticks,) and rub them with a little olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and grind salt & pepper over the pieces. Sprinkle with a little crushed red pepper if you’re feelin’ feisty. Roast for about 20 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven; you want to cook them until the potatoes are a little soft and the sprouts begin to brown just a bit.)