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.

The Tale of Princess Quinoa


Once upon a time, about five thousand years ago, there lived a beautiful Incan princess. Everyone called her Princess Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) because she would eat nothing but her namesake, also referred to by her people as the Mother Grain. This ancient grain is considered by many to be the perfect food as it is a complete protein, very low in fat, and loaded with fiber, iron and riboflavin (aka vitamin B2) Princess Quinoa’s love affair with the delicious grain made her strong, smart and beautiful (and if only she had supplemented her diet with some fruit, veggies and dairy, she just might have lived forever!)

Quinoa often slips under our radar, but no more, ladies and gentlemen! This wheat- and gluten-free grain makes it friendly for those with celiac disease and those who chose not to eat gluten for other reasons. Quinoa’s high content of iron and protein make it an invaluable staple for vegans and vegetarians. Its shape is similar to that of couscous, but it sprouts when cooked, giving it just a bit of a crunch.

This week, we’ll be paying homage to this glorious grain by posting a different recipe each day involving quinoa. If you have some time this evening, stock up on quinoa, beans (any kind you like; I prefer black,) corn, and veggies and make a big ol’ pot of quinoa to dip into all week long for quick lunch-packing and easy post-work dinner-making. And check back every day for the quinoa recipe du jour! Tonight, try quinoa-stuffed peppers They come with my carnivorous boyfriend’s stamp of approval!

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.

A Note About Healing & Healthy Eating

In the last week, I’ve gotten e-mails from several women who have struggled or are still struggling with eating disorders. I’m thrilled that Healthy Girl Cooking is beginning to foster a dialogue about the meaning of healing and reimagining our relationship with food.

The stories I’ve heard this week have gotten me thinking about the process of overcoming an eating disorder. Everyone’s experiences are different, of course, but the thing we all have in common is that we’ve learned to channel our anxiety into the act of over- or under-nourishing ourselves. Eating disorders are such private things; often, we even keep secrets from ourselves by burying the original sources of our anxiety and displacing them onto our relationship with food. There is alot to understand on a personal level before healing can begin, and my hope is that communicating in an online setting, which allows for as little or as much anonymity as you care for, can serve a therapeutic purpose.

I think the second step in overcoming an eating disorder, after deciding that you want to get better, is becoming mindful of your stressors and the things that trigger your behaviour. Therapy has been instrumental in helping me change my relationship with those stressors, which made working on the eating disorder stuff easier. I happen to think that most of the problems in the world would be solved if everyone just had a good therapist, but therapy is especially important if you’re dealing with an eating disorder. It’s important to find someone you feel comfortable with who will gently push you to do the work at hand, but who also respects your boundaries and is sensitve to them. Therapist shopping is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and good therapists know this–it’s perfectly fine to agree on a trial period (3 sessions, for example) after your initial session to determine whether you have a good match. If you don’t feel that the dynamic is right, you needn’t feel bad about saying so; part of a therapist’s job is to help you find a match that will enable you to get as much out of the experience as possible. He or she can probably even refer you to a practitioner who may be a better match for you.

Becoming mindful of my destructive habits has helped me to develop a different relationship with food; understanding nutrition and the benefits of eating well has helped me turn my old fixations and rituals, like the never-resting calorie calculator in my head, and the slow, methodic consumption of a single carrot stick in which I used to take such comfort, into positive habits. I think the transfer of this energy was significant; I don’t know how to eat without knowing exactly what I’m ingesting, so I needed to find a non-destructive way to do that. I think it’s important to listen to yourself as you heal. Find healthy new habits, no matter how small, that comfort you without being destructive.

Please keep your comments and e-mails coming. Understanding your experiences can help me make this blog the most helpful and supportive tool possible. Feel free to post using your name or remain anonymous. You can also e-mail me at healthygirlcooking@gmail.com if you’d like. Respecting your privacy is important to me, and anything you e-mail me will always be referenced anonymously unless you specify otherwise. If you don’t want me to reference your comments on this blog at all, let me know.

Thanks, healthy girls. You can do it! :)

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.)

Banana-Walnut Cinnamon Toast


The idea for this came from a muffin recipe I found in Women’s Health magazine awhile ago. I’ve made it a couple times, and was craving those muffins this morning, but who has time to make muffins on a Wednesday morning, fah crahin aht lawhd? So I took all my favourite muffin innerds and threw ’em on some toast! Voila, no-bake banana bread! To be honest, I totally impressed myself, cause this is definitely the most bangin’ cinnamon toast I’ve ever tasted. And although I’m usually famished in the morning, and my desire to enjoy chewing consistently wins out over satiation in the stomach region, I actually couldn’t finish both pieces of toast along with my yogurt (pictured above, for a nice round meal) so I saved the second piece for a mid-morning snack!

Something to note: Women’s Health boasts that the combo of walnuts’ magnesium, bananas’ potassium (to sooth muscles,) and the vitamin D & calcium found in yogurt (supposedly “mood stabilizing,” though as far as I know, the effects of the latter have only been observed in patients with severe mood disorders, not just cranky PMSers) are sure to relieve the backlash of Auntie Flo’s lil’ visit. Let me know if it works for you…mad props for the muffins, Women’s Health, but I think the blaring BEEP BEEP BEEP of my bullshit radar actually GAVE me cramps.

Ingredients:
2 slices whole-wheat or multi-grain toast
1 medium or large banana
2 TBSP walnut pieces (crush them up for optimal spreadage)
a drizzle of honey or agave
a sprinklin’ of cinnamon
a side of yogurt if you like, for a calcium & protein boost!

I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory…toast bread (you can make one super-stacked slice if you’d like,) slice banana over toast; sprinkle with walnuts & cinnamon and add a drizzle of honey. You won’t believe how delish this is, i promise!

Sesame Kale Stir-fry


Scanning my fridge today for a quick post-workout lunch, I found some leftover shrimp from last night’s pasta dish, and the kale remaining after I made Becca’s Cranberry-Almond Kale on Sunday. I liked what we had going here…(plenty of protein from the shrimp & some fiber from the kale–the two major things your bod craves after a workout–plus iron & tons of vitamins A & C.) …basics, check; now I just needed to accessorize. In came the reduced-sodium soy sauce (a classic with a modern twist,) the sesame seeds (for a nod to asian style,) a shaved carrot (slim lines are always chic,) and of course, a little Siracha hot sauce to turn heads. Start this off with a little garlic & olive oil–the underpinnings of any good meal–and you’ve got one stylin’ stirfry.

Ingredients (serves one as a meal or 2 as a side or snack):
1 small bunch or 1/2 a large bunch kale
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 TBSP sesame seeds (if you don’t have ’em, don’t fret; this stir-fry’s still delish sans seeds)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
all the Siracha hot sauce you can handle
a handful of frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, thawed, OR 1 veggie burger pattie or 1 cup tofu, diced (you can also leave the protein out and just make this a side for a meal)
…if you want to make this a heartier meal, try adding a little brown rice!

1. Wash kale & tear into bite-sized pieces. Heat garlic in olive oil in a large non-stick pan. If you’re using uncooked tofu, sautee it now.
2. When garlic become barely brown, throw in the kale. Let it start to wilt, then shave the carrot over the kale leaves & mix in.
3. If you’re using pre-cooked shrimp, add ’em now; they only take about 1 minute to warm through. Sprinkle in sesame seeds, soy sauce and hot sauce, and stir everything around reeeeal good. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shrimp, Goat Cheese, Spinach & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Walnut-Stuffed Zucchini Boats


This pasta’s great if you prefer a variety of textures and flavours to sauce-smothered noodles. Roasting cherry tomatoes makes them absolutely burst with flavour, and when you split them open over the pasta, they subtly infuse the dish with that nice roasty taste. I like to overload pasta with veggies and whatever protein source I’m feeling; this way, you’re getting a well-rounded, vitamin-packed meal rather than several servings of carbs (don’t get me wrong–ain’t nothin wrong with carbs!)

For a really fantastic veggie-filled meal, try this dish with 1/4 of a walnut-stuffed roasted zucchini–you won’t believe how filling it is, (I couldn’t eat the whole half pictured above) and it takes about 3 extra minutes of work. If you feel like making extras, try 1/2 a stuffed zucchini for lunch tomorrow with a side of yogurt & fruit! They’re easy to reheat in the microwave (FYI: you’ll need a food processor to whirl up the walnuts.)

A note to the chef: this meal took me 40 minutes to prepare, including cook time. Not the fastest recipe, I know, but it’s still pretty simple to throw together, considering all the ingredients involved.

Pasta Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
1/2 box whole wheat pasta, any shape you like
1 package frozen large tail-off shrimp, precooked (you can use uncooked shrimp too, of course; I find heating precooked shrimp faster & easier)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 10-oz. package spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP goat cheese for each serving (feta’s delish in this recipe too)
kalamata or california olives to garnish
1 tsp. each of olive oil & balsamic vinegar to drizzle over each serving
salt, pepper, italian seasoning & crushed red pepper to taste

Stuffed Zucchini (makes 4 servings):
2 large zucchinis
1/4 cup walnuts
a drizzle of olive oil
s&p

1. Start by getting everything ready: preheat oven to 400 degrees; bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta; wash spinach & tomatoes. Slice zucchinis in half length-wise and place them on a baking sheet with the tomatoes.
2. Pop the zucchini & tomatoes into the oven. Place shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them for about 5 minutes until thaw, pressing with a paper towel to release excess water.
3. Mince the garlic. When pasta is almost ready, place the garlic in a frying pan & drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. When it juuuust begins to brown, add spinach and stir. When spinach starts to wilt, add shrimp. Heat over medium-low heat just until shrimp is warm (it can be overcooked very easily!) Throw the contents of the frying pan in with the drained pasta and cover to keep warm while you finish prepping.
4. The zucchinis are ready when the middles are a bit soft. Scoop the middles from two of the halves and place them in your food processor. Chop the other two halves up and add them to the processor, along with the walnuts and a teeny drizzle (1 teaspoon or less) of olive oil. Grind a little salt & pepper over the mix, and whirl it up. Spoon the mixture back into the zucchini shells, and cut the pieces in half to make four small servings.
5. The tomatoes are ready when they’ve begun to shriveled a bit and leak some of their juice. Dish up the pasta and add some tomatoes to each serving. Drizzle a teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic over each dish, and flavour to taste with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, basil & oregano to taste. Happy eatin!

You Decided to Dip, and Now You Wanna Trip


For those of you who are NOT Beyonce fans: you may refer to this dish by its alternate name, “Dilly Cottage Cheese Dip” (but you should also note: we’re not friends anymore.) 

I remember the first time I ever tasted this dip. Here’s how it went down: It was a dark and stormy night. I was in 5th grade. I really, REALLY didn’t want to take a shower before I went to bed, so my mom promised me that when I got out of the shower, I could have a special snack. Obviously, that changed everything, and I made a mad dash for the bathroom. To my grave dismay, however, THIS DIP was waiting from me when I got out. Hello, are you crazy?? Cottage cheese? Thanks, mom, but I’m in 5th grade; I’d rather die than stand here in my towel eating cottage cheese. See you.
Anyway, I remembered this creative creation when I was at the store a few days ago. I picked up a tub of cottage cheese (normally, I’m all for the fat-free dairy, but in the case of cottage cheese, I recommend 2%) and a package of fresh dill, and decided I’d experiment when I got home. Lo and behold, all I had to do was combine the herbs and cottage cheese, sprinkle a little s&p and paprika on top, and I finally understood what my mom was thinking when she tried to serve cottage cheese to her 10-year-old. Mmmm, folks.
Ingredients:
1 16-oz. container 2% cottage cheese (fat-free is too yucky)
1/2 cup fresh dill, minced
salt & pepper
your favourite spice(s) for a personal touch
Dice up the dill and toss it into the cottage cheese. Season to taste. Dip homemade pita chips, carrot sticks, or slices of your favourite veggie into this fab dip.

UPDATE: this post has been edited, and offensive language has been removed, following a dual scolding by my parents via text & email. guess not much has changed since 5th grade.

Homemade Pita Chips


Now, I’m sure ya’ll have tried pita chips (I won’t mention brand names; I don’t know what it takes to get a girl sued ’round here…) but my issue with anything you buy at the store, no matter how healthy, is that you can’t control what’s in ’em. Making things from scratch is often out of the question, but pita chips are a glorious exception to that rule. You can buy 100% whole wheat pita at pretty much any grocery store (read the ingredients to make sure they’re not full of preservatives and other long-named ingredients,) and as long as you have a little olive oil, s&p, and your favourite spice handy, you’re good to go! 

Ingredients:
1 package whole wheat pita bread (4 whole pitas; 8 servings)
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil (both good for your heart)
fresh-ground salt & pepper
your favourite spices for a-shakin’ (my fave combos: smoked paprika & garlic powder or basil, oregano & parmesan cheese)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice pitas in half, then gently pull apart the two sides. Slice or tear the bread into bite-size pieces.
2. Spread the pita pieces out on baking sheets (you’ll probably need more than one; you can also do multiple batches.) Measure 2 Tbsp. oil (FYI: 2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup.) Despite what you may think by the time you’re through oiling the pita, you DON’T need more than this; keep it heart-and waist-line healthy, ya’ll.
3. Brush oil onto pita pieces, using a pastry brush or your finger. You really only need a dot on each side of the pita pieces. I have an awesome brush with rubber bristles, which comes in handy with this project, because I can really get all the hiding oil out when I mash the bristles down onto the bread surface.
4. Grind salt & pepper, and add whatever other spices you like. Bake for 10 minutes. Voila!