Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bean and Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Feta

I knew this week would be busy for me because I'm wrapping up some lab work, so I made a broccoli salad that could last in the fridge for several days for quick meals whenever I needed one. This is really a re-make of classic broccoli salad, which is laden with fatty mayo. Instead, I used a lighter balsamic vinaigrette and added beans for protein and healthy carbs. The walnuts add crunch and the feta is creamy and adds a little decadence to the salad. This is a good side dish, but also a really nice lunch.

Bean and Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Printable Recipe

4 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar or honey
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese crumbles
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the broccoli, beans, walnuts, and onion in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar or honey and some salt and pepper together. Pour over the beans and broccoli and toss.
2. Allow the salad to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, top the salad with the cheese.
  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 270
  • Fat: 11.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 5 mg
  • Sodium: 314 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 29.3 g
  • Fiber: 8.9 g
  • Sugar: 5.4 g
  • Protein: 14.8 g

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Breakfast Parfait

Sometimes I feel like I overlook the most simple recipes, no matter how delicious they are, just because they seem ordinary to me. Breakfast foods are one of those types of foods that I overlook because they're thrown together quickly in the morning with simple ingredients. One such breakfast that I eat multiple times a week is a simple breakfast parfait. The recipe originates from the Jillian Michaels' website. It's a really balanced meal that can be prepared the night before and sat in the fridge or can be put together quickly in the morning. This recipe showcases Greek yogurt, which in the last month or so I have acquired a taste for. Greek yogurt, is a tangy, creamy, dense yogurt and it blends perfectly with fruit, nuts, and honey. Another thing about this recipe I like is that is uses pumpkin seeds. I'm not sure if these types of seeds were used in this recipe for any particular nutritional boost, but they add a pretty color contrast against the fruit and have a slightly crunchy texture. This breakfast that seems so ordinary to me because I eat it so often, but it's actually quite spectacular.

 Strawberry and pumpkin seed layer

Honey-drenched blueberries

Last bite...

Breakfast Parfait
Printable Recipe

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup diced strawberries (about 2-3 medium strawberries)
1/4 cup blueberries
2 tsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp honey

1. Layer half the yogurt in the bottom of a dish or cup.
2. Place the strawberries on top of the yogurt, followed by 1 tsp of the pumpkin seeds.
3. Layer the last half of the yogurt on top of the strawberries, followed by the blueberries, the remaining pumpkin seeds, and the honey. Serve immediately or set in the fridge overnight to have for breakfast the next day.
  • Servings per recipe: 1
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 217
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 85 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 24 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 22 g

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Broiled Scallops with Honey-Lime Marinade and Sauteed Sesame Spinach

A few weeks ago, I found frozen scallops at the grocery store. They were reasonably priced and I thought they would be a nice change up from my usual proteins. The main reason I bought them was because I had a recipe from the National Honey Board for scallops with honey-lime marinade and I really wanted to try it. This recipe is low in calories, high in protein, and a really quick main course, which is perfect for me considering how stressful this semester is getting! With scallops having a fast cooking time and being accessible at the store, I will probably be adding more scallop recipes to my menus. This particular recipe was really easy. I actually threw the marinade together with the scallops late last night right before I went to bed, then gave the scallops a toss before I left for campus. The scallops and the spinach hit the table in about 10 minutes, which was also great. Just one note: like shrimp, I find scallops to have their own natural salty flavor (probably because they come from the sea, duh...) so I omitted the salt in the recipe and didn't miss it at all. I also left out the lime zest originally called for in the recipe because after kickboxing class and studying for hours for an exam last night I just didn't feel like fiddling with zesting a lime!

I served these scallops with sauteed spinach, which is fast becoming my favorite green vegetable. I started eating cooked spinach because it's so popular in Jillian Michaels' publications, which I refer to often for healthy recipes. Initially, I thought cooked spinach would be bitter and bland, but if you add delicious flavoring agents, how could it be boring? I kind of took a more Asian-inspired direction because I thought these flavors would pair well with the sweet scallops. Next time I prepare this meal, I will be sure to also add rice because it could absorb the soy-sauced juices from the spinach and honey-lime juices from the scallops.

Broiled Scallops with Honey-Lime Marinade
Printable Recipe 

12 oz small sea scallops
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp lime juice
hot sauce (to taste, optional)
salt (to taste, optional)

1. Whisk the honey, oil, lime juice, hot sauce, and salt together. Add the scallops and toss. Marinade for 1-24 hours in the refrigerator.
2. Heat your broiler. Add the scallops to a broiler-proof dish. Broil the scallops 4 inches from the heat source for 4-7 minutes or until the sugars from the honey brown and the scallops are opaque. Serve on a bed of spinach with some bread or rice to soak up the juices rendered from the scallops.

  • Servings per recipe: 2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 203
  • Fat: 3.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 56 mg
  • Sodium: 274 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13.1 g
  • Sugars: 8.7 g
  • Protein: 28.6 g

Sauteed Sesame Spinach
Printable Recipe 

2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
10 oz fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
dash natural rice wine vinegar or lime juice
garnish: more sesame seeds and sliced scallions

1. In a cold pan, add the oil, seeds, garlic, and ginger. Heat the pan over medium heat and stir the aromatics until they become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the spinach and immediately douse the leaves with the soy sauce and vinegar or lime juice. Saute until the leaves are wilted to your liking.

  • Servings per recipe: 2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 107
  • Fat: 7.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 260 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8 g
  • Fiber: 3.8 g
  • Sugars: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 5.3 g

Monday, February 15, 2010

Strawberry-Almond Bars

Because Valentine's Day fell on the weekend, I didn't get a chance to make anything sweet for my friends, which I really enjoy doing. I could have brought something in on Friday, but I didn't want to take up time on Thursday night, a week night, baking. I waited until Sunday, when I had the time, and brought my Valentine's treat in on Monday instead. I figured no one would care if they were a day late---it's not like they would taste less-good because they weren't given out on Valentine's Day.

Anyway, I made strawberry-almond bars. The recipe came from These are a favorite of mine because they are great for mailing to people since they hold up well. The bars consist of a shortbread-type dough studded with almonds and layered with jam; I chose strawberry (red for Valentine's Day). You could use any beautifully-colored jam you wish, such as cherry, plum, or raspberry.

Strawberry-Almond Bars
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup unbleached granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together in a medium bowl, then cream in the egg yolk.
3. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder together in a smaller bowl, then gradually add the flour into the butter mixture, beating with the hand mixer. Stir in the almonds.
4. Place the jam in a small bowl and with a fork or whisk, beat out any large lumps.
5. In a buttered (use the leftover butter from the butter wrapper) 8x8-inch (I used an odd size-7 1/2x11-inch) pan, press half of the dough. Spread the jam over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch margin. Sprinkle the rest of the dough on top of the jam and gently press into a flat layer all the way to the edge of the pan.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting with a serrated knife and serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 18
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 169
  • Fat: 7.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 25 mg
  • Sodium: 69 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23.9 g
  • Fiber: 0.9 g
  • Sugar: 6.9 g
  • Protein: 2.1 g

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fire Roasted Tomato Chili

Believe it or not, Friday night it snowed in the coastal plain of Georgia! My friends and I were so excited. We had dinner at one of our favorite haunts, Mellow Mushroom, but the whole time I felt a little distracted by the flurry coming down outside. After dinner, we had a massive snowball fight. Being from Indiana, this wasn't my first snowball fight, however I relished every moment of it. Afterwards, my friends and I were soaked with melting snow, but we went ahead back to my place for more snowball throwing and the building of a rather large snowman, whom we aptly named Febrero.

You aren't imagining things, he really did have tomatoes for eyes...

The next day, the snow was rapidly melting, but in the spirit of the cold weather I threw together a pot of chili in my crockpot (aka: slow cooker). I used one of my absolute favorite ingredients: fire roasted tomatoes. There are a couple of brands I know of, Hunt's and Muir Glen, so you'll have to look at your store and see what they have. The reason I love these tomatoes so much is because they add a complex flavor to whatever you are cooking with little effort and no addition of excess calories. I was kind of going in the direction of Cincinnati chili, which has a mystery blend of sweet spices such as the spices used in curry powder. To add some sweet spice, I used cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and coriander along with the usual chili powder to add sweet heat. This recipe is particularly lazy because I stirred the uncooked beef into the soup base, which sort of gives that authentic, cooked-down texture in Cincy chili. If you wanted to make this more of a Cincy dish, you could use a base of cooked spaghetti (use whole wheat for extra fiber!), lots of cheese and chopped fresh onion on top for extra kick.

Fire Roasted Tomato Chili

1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 13.5-oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1 lb extra lean ground beef (only 3-5% fat)
salt and lots of black pepper
Garnishes: cooked spaghetti, chopped fresh onion, grated low-fat cheddar cheese

1. Add all ingredients up to the ground beef into the crockpot base. Crumble the meat into the soup and stir it so it leaves small pieces.
2. Cook the chili on high 6-8 hours or low 8-10 hours, or until the meat is cooked and tender. Serve with any desired garnishes.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 387
  • Fat: 9.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 86 mg
  • Sodium: 302 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 35.3 g
  • Fiber: 9.1 g
  • Sugar: 8.6 g
  • Protein: 41.5 g

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

I hadn't cooked anything inspired by Italian cuisine for a while, so tonight I decided to make a vegetable-laden casserole. I first had the idea to grill the vegetables, but I took an easier route by roasting the vegetables to develop their sweet flavor and some caramelization. I also used one of my favorite proteins, which is lean turkey Italian sausage, which has all the flavor of pork sausage but a lot less fat. Because this casserole doesn't have pasta in it, this would be great for those on a low-carb diet. I especially think it would be great for those low-carbers who happen to have a pizza or pasta craving because it has all the flavor of those two dishes without the grains. If you have children, this would be a nice way to get them to eat vegetables because you have sausage (which I loved as a kid) and everything is covered with just enough cheese to give a nice salty bite. I think kids enjoy some stringy, melty mozzarella cheese, too (I'm an adult and I still love melty cheese!)

Kind of along the same lines of this topic, when I was picking out marinara sauce to use, I decided to read the labels and was really surprised at how many of them contain corn syrup. I really don't understand why corn syrup needs to be in something like marinara sauce (I saw it as an ingredient in my former favorite store-bought hummus and stopped buying just sounds gross to me for corn syrup to be in a bean dip)! I saw advertisements last year about how corn syrup is made from all-natural corn and it has just as many calories as sugar, but I find this information to be misleading. As I have read in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, the corn used in corn syrup it's even digestible by humans until it's processed into corn syrup. This topic relates to something I read in the magazine Woman's Heath (March 2010) where it talks about high-fructose corn syrup being an obesogen. I had never heard of obesogens until I read this article, but these are chemicals that act as fat-building catalysts in the body. This information was taken from the book The New American Diet by Stephen Perrine and Heather Hurlock. High-fructose corn syrup contains a lot of calories, so if you cut this ingredient from your diet, you will not only cut calories, but also be cutting a potential fat-building catalyst in the body. Yet another reason to read your labels when shopping!

The whole point of telling you about obesogens is basically to present another reason why eating as close to natural, whole foods is important. I used whole vegetables and pasta sauce with real, natural ingredients. As others have said before, if you can't pronounce and ingredient, don't buy it. I hope you enjoy this healthy, low-carb casserole as much as I did...keeping in mind how you're doing your body good by eating whole foods.

Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small eggplant (about 1 lb), cubed
2 small or 1 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cubed
1/2 medium onion or 1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 lb (sweet or spicy) lean turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup 2 % milk mozzarella cheese
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese
non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and spray the pan with cooking spray.
3. Toss the eggplant and zucchini with the olive oil and some salt and pepper and put them on the sheet.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing once in between the cooking time, until the vegetables are browned and tender.
5. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the onion, garlic, sausage, basil, and oregano and cook until the onion is soft and the meat is tender. Stir in the marinara and allow the mixture to heat through.
6. Spray a 2-qt casserole dish with cooking spray. Mix the sausage mixture with the roasted vegetables. Layer half of the vegetables in the dish, then half the cheese, then the rest of the vegetables and finish with the cheese.
7. Bake the casserole until the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Allow the casserole to rest 5 minutes before serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 383
  • Fat: 22 g
  • Saturated fat: 7.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 77 mg
  • Sodium: 1401 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21 mg
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sugar: 10.3 g
  • Proteins: 28.3 g

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Real French Onion Dip for the Superbowl

Today is the Superbowl, so I'm going to a watch the game with my friends. To be honest, I don't understand football at all. I've had so many people try to explain it to me, but I just don't get it. Actually, the reason I'm watching the game is because where there is a football game, there are snacks and opportunites to make new recipes. But before I get into describing the recipe I made for today, I have one thing to say:


Ok, now that that's taken care of, I'm going to describe my contribution to the party. The idea for this came from a mental run-down of all the good foods to have while watching the game. Of course, chips and dip always go over well, but I didn't want to make one of those dips where you open the packet and out comes dehydrated onions and a brown, powdery mix of spices. I wanted to take a dip and make it from scratch. This time, I gave the good old standby, French onion dip, a face lift. There was no brown powdery mix used in this project! Instead, I cooked onions as if I were making French onion soup (hence why I am calling it "real" French onion dip). I caramelized them and then added them to not just sour cream but cream cheese to make a much more rich dip. I've got celery, carrots, and pretzels for people who want to eat lighter, and then the best chips in the world---Kettle Chips---for those who want to indulge. This dip smells like the regular pre-fab French onion dip, but there are sweet, slightly crunchy onions instead of those reconstituted bits. Those pre-fab dips can also be really salty, so by making this dip yourself you can have control of your salt levels.

Real French Onion Dip

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/4 tsp sugar
1 8-oz package light cream cheese, softened
1 cup light sour cream
1 tbsp chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and season them with salt and pepper. Allow them to cook until they are translucent, then lower the heat to medium-low and add the sugar. Allow the onions to cook, stirring often, until they are deeply browned, which may take at least 10-15 minutes.
2. Once the onions are finished cooking, set them aside.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the cream cheese, sour cream, parsley, lemon juice, and Worchestershire sauce. Beat the mixture with a hand mixer until everything is well combined. Taste the dip for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
4. Serve chilled with crudite or chips.

  • Servings per recipe: 16
  • Per serving (about 2 tbsp):
  • Calories: 65
  • Fat: 5.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 18 mg
  • Sodium: 84 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2.7 g
  • Sugar: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 2 g

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parmesan Flounder

I'm not sure if I'm going to start a series on easy fish dishes, but it seems like there is a little trend here between last night's post and tonight! Here's another easy fish recipe that uses flounder, which is a really popular fish here in the southeastern U.S.I like using fish that can be found locally because it's more sustainable, so you really can use whatever firm, white fish you can find for this recipe.

To compare flounder with tilapia, if you've never had flounder before, the flavor is more strong than tilapia and after cooking it's even softer and more flaky. If you've never tried flounder and have easy access to it, you should try it! The Parmesan coating on this fish seeps into the flakes of the meat and makes it very tender and has a salty bite from the cheese and a bright citrus flavor from the lemon and mustard. This would be another great dish to have for Valentine's Day because it comes together so easily. I had this with a little Greek salad, but grilled vegetables seasoned with lemon and some rice pilaf would be really nice accompaniments too.

Parmesan Flounder

2 lbs flounder fillets cut into 3-4 oz fillets
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Blend the lemon juice, Parmesan, mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper together to make a paste. Lay the fish on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the fish with the Parmesan mixture, then sprinkle with paprika.
3. Place the fish in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 215
  • Fat: 5.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 108 mg
  • Sodium: 261 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.7 g
  • Protein: 38.2 g

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lemon, Garlic, and Herb Tilapia

I often hear people comment that they need to incorporate more fish in their diets. Some want it more for the fatty acids, which are found in tuna and salmon, while others want it as a low-calorie, low-fat source of protein, which characterizes many types of white fish. It also seems that people are timid to cook fish because they're afraid it will fall apart or not taste good or they just can't fathom cooking it in any other way besides frying. I avoided all those things tonight by making an inexpensive, flavorful fish dish that's ridiculously easy to prepare. For this recipe, I used tilapia because it's inexpensive and readily available in most areas of the U.S. It's a white-fleshed, mild-tasting fish that can carry the flavors of herbs and other aromatics well. Here, I've chosen to cook this fish en papillote, which just means it's cooked it in a paper (actually, aluminum foil because it's so easy, but you could use parchment paper) along with onions, herbs, garlic, and lemon. It's such an easy preparation method! I love cooking white fish this way because when it's finished cooking, the flesh is cloud soft and imbued with the flavors of the aromatics. You can make this fish for one person or many more; it all depends on how many packets of fish you want to cook. Actually, I think this would be the perfect meal for Valentine's Day, which is just around the corner. Just prepare two packets of fish along with some delicious sides and a bottle of white wine (I would suggest sauvignon blanc). Tonight I had this fish with a mashed sweet potato seasoned with cinnamon and spinach wilted down into extra virgin olive oil and garlic.

Lemon, Garlic, and Herb Tilapia

1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, cut into matchsticks
1 4-oz tilapia fillet
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper to be more than double the size of the fish fillet. If using foil, place the shiny side down on the work surface.
3. Lay the onion and then the garlic in the middle of one half of the foil. Lay the fillet on top of the vegetables, then place the thyme on top. Drizzle the fish with the lemon and oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold the remaining half of the foil or paper over the fish and fold the edges. Place the packets on a baking sheet for easy transportation to and from  the oven.
4. Bake the fish for 30 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven. Slit each packet open across the top, being careful to avoid the steam. Serve in the packet or remove from the packet before serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 1
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 127
  • Fat: 3.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 56 mg
  • Sodium: 189 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.1 g
  • Sugar: 0.9 g
  • Protein:  21.7 g
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