Baked Pasta for Amy


My friend Amy has some crazy stomach problems going on, and she has to be very careful what she eats to prevent a seriously painful episode. She’s trying to stay healthy and put some variety into her diet, so I’ve been coming up with yummy things her sensitive tummy can handle. Bread, cheese and veggies with low acidity get the go-ahead, so I threw together a simplified version of lasagna that anyone can enjoy. Feel free to experiment with the content of this dish–try adding your favourite veggies and maybe some veggie sausage or ground turkey (got some left over from Turkey meatloaf?)

I can’t talk about Amy during Homage Week without mentioning her fabulousness, so as a serving suggestion for this Amylicious meal, I recommend throwing on some bling and donning your 4″ Louboutin booties.

Ingredients:
1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti*
1/2 large eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 bag frozen chopped spinach
1/2 bottle tomato sauce (omit if you’re Amy)
1 bag shredded mozzarella (I used reduced fat, and it tasted alright but the consistency after baking was kinda weird)
1 tsp olive oil for cooking the veggies
salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to taste

*Go ahead and make the whole box of spaghetti if you like; in the next week, I’ll feature 2 recipes you can make easily with pre-cooked spaghetti.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and boil water for the pasta. Cook the spaghetti until it just barely turns al dente; you don’t want it to get overcooked in the oven.
2. Thaw the spinach & chop up your veggies. You can either sautee or roast them while you wait for the pasta to be ready (I prefer roasting, both because it gives the veggies a nice flavour and it doesn’t require standing at the stove.) If you do roast them, drizzle no more than a teaspoon of olive oil over the baking sheet, then mix the veggie pieces around to coat them on both sides. If you sautee them, use a non-stick pan and 1 tsp or less of olive oil (in either case, it is possible to omit the olive oil completely.)
3. Drain pasta and return it to its pot. Add cooked veggies and spinach to the pot along with a little tomato sauce and all the spices, and mix everything well. Transfer your concoction to a lasagna pan and top with shredded cheese.
4. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and brown the cheese for another 5-10. Reapply your Chanel lipstick and enjoy!

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.

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.

Betta Bruschetta


Having people over and feeding them is fun. It’s also a good social activity for lazy people who don’t like to leave their house, like me. You can make this bruschetta pretty quickly while you’re hanging out in the kitchen with your guests, and you only need to buy a couple of ingredients. Best of all, it creates feelings of warmth and makes people like you.

Ingredients:
1 loaf whole grain bread, sliced thin
1 pint cherry tomatoes, or 4-5 roma tomatoes, diced
1 bunch basil, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
optional: grated parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sautee minced garlic in a few drops of olive oil until it’s barely brown (you can use raw garlic, but it will be POTENT.)
2. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil (I like to pour a tablespoon or two into a dish and dip my brush into it. That way, I don’t end up accidently soaking the bread.) Top with garlic.
3. Heat the bread in the oven until it’s nice and toasty. Meanwhile, chop up your tomatoes and basil and flavour them to your liking with salt & pepper.
4. When the bread’s ready, top them with a pinch of grated parmesan (if your crowd doesn’t include any vegans,) add a spoonful of the tomato-basil mixture, and drizzle about 1/8 tsp. of balsamic vinegar over each. Let your guests toast you and take a bow.

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.)