Friday, April 27, 2012

Coconut Oatmeal

My baby sister is getting married tomorrow!  That definitely called for a few girls' nights, so I came out here to share in the pre-wedding festivities.

Every time I'm out at my parents' house, we have awesome breakfasts, courtesy of my mom.  My contribution today was a baked coconut oatmeal.  I concocted this recipe because we're all oatmeal, coconut and walnut fans.  Plus, we definitely need our energy with the upcoming weekend!

If you like oatmeal and coconut, this recipe is absolutely DELICIOUS.

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops coconut extract
(other additions could be mashed banana, which my brother-in-law vetoed, dried fruit, other types of nuts, almond extract)
Preheat oven to 360F
Spray oven-proof dish lightly with nonstick cooking spray
Mix all ingredients together and pour into baking dish
Bake 40 minutes until golden brown on top and edges
*Apologies for the bad quality blackberry pictures!
*After 20 minutes

*When finished cooking

You can even throw in a few dark chocolate chips to make it taste like a chocolate coconut candy bar...


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easy Vegetable Quinoa Soup

I wasn't feeling very well when I woke up this morning...which unfortunately continued throughout the day.  Whenever I'm feeling under the weather, I only want one thing: hot, homemade soup.

Now, when my mother and grandmother used to make soup, all of the ingredients, including the broth, were always from scratch.  However, I wasn't really up to making a homemade broth and prepping a million vegetables today, so I took a little help on this one.  Feel free to sub any vegetables, starch and/or meat that you like.  This one is light, healthy and has a few short cuts...because sometimes, you just don't have the energy for all of the details.

One ingredient I like to sneak into soups is quinoa, which is already a foreign ingredient to most.  It's probably even more so in a soup preparation.  However, I love the protein and substance that it adds in this recipe. It's a great alternative to pasta or rice.

Easy Vegetable Quinoa Soup *makes 6 servings

3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 medium yellow or vidalia onion, chopped
1 bag of frozen stir fry vegetables (this one had sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and water chestnuts, but I removed the water chestnuts), thawed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dry quinoa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (these really help clear your head but if you don't like spice, you can leave them out)
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 cups water (you might need more or less, depending on the how ripe and flavorful your veggies are)
2 tbsp low sodium vegetable base
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

- Heat oil in a medium-sized pot
- Add onion, celery and carrot; season with salt and pepper; saute until al dente
- Add garlic and cook for one more minute
- Add thawed vegetables, beans, poultry seasoning, and water; bring to a boil
- Add vegetable base and quinoa; boil for 15 minutes on medium until quinoa is translucent

I always garnish my vegetable soup with a spoon of parmesan cheese and serve with whole grain crackers or bread!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cod Cakes

I have some cod in the freezer that needs to be used.  Tired of making the same old sauteed/grilled fish recipes and since ‘tis the season for crab cakes in Baltimore, I wondered…

Could I use cod in place of crab?

Now, I’ve never made crab cakes before…nor, have I ever tried a fish cake other than a crab cake.  Does a fish stick count??

So, I began my internet journey of trying to find a crab cake recipe that I could adapt for my healthy blog; then insert cod.  I scoured the internet and was able to find enough recipes that I got the gist of what to do.  Haven't tried this one yet but I think the recipe is solid and plan to do so in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, feel free to try it out and post comments!

Cod Cakes (Serves 2)

- 2 pieces of cod, lightly seared in a pan and flaked (I used frozen, vacuum-sealed cod for this recipe)
- ½ egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs (plain would be best, but I used Italian because it was all I had in the house)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Few squeezes lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- Freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 400F
- Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a bowl, whisk together beaten egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, Old Bay, salt and pepper.
- Add onion, garlic and bread crumbs; stir
- Gently fold in the flaked cod so as not to break up chunks
- Form into 2 even patties
- Bake for about 10 minutes until bottom is golden brown
- Flip and do the same on the other side (less than 10 minutes on second side)

Top with hot sauce, ketchup, cocktail sauce or just plain lemon juice.


Apricot Dijon Chicken

Mmm, mustard.  Spicy, brown, grainy, or even neon yellow, I LOVE mustard.  During our holiday trip to France, I was delighted to see that mustard always had a place in the middle of every lunch and dinner table.  I had never really taken the time to sample all of the varieties of mustard to the extent that I did in France, and I was really excited to bring those flavors to my cooking in the US.

Random fact: I ate yellow mustard packets as a kid...all by themselves.  True story.  My mom used to joke and say "we don't feed her".  Thus began my love for all things mustard.

Anyway, our obscene use of mustard got me wondering how I can incorporate it into actual recipes instead of just using it in its natural state.  Mustard and jam are a classic combination for marinades, so I thought apricot was a good place to start this journey.  Plus, it can be grilled…which is always a winning method of cooking in our house.  Planning to make this one soon and I think it's really going to be a hit in our house!

Apricot Dijon Chicken (Serves 2)

- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 cup apricot preserves (or any flavor you like)
- 1 cup Dijon mustard (we use the spicy French kind)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste

- Tenderize chicken with a poultry/meat tenderizer
- Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper
- In a bowl, mix ½ of the apricot preserves, ½ of the Dijon mustard, all of the canola oil and all of the minced garlic- this will be the marinade for the chicken
- In a separate bowl, mix just the other half of the apricot preserves and the Dijon mustard- this will be for dipping once the chicken is cooked
- In a large resealable freezer bag, put chicken, and preserve/mustard mixture
- Massage the marinade into the chicken really well (why else did we tenderize it?)
- Refrigerate for a few hours

When you’re ready to serve:
- Heat outdoor grill (this also works well on a grill pan indoors if the weather is bad)
- Take chicken out of bag but do not discard marinade- you will use it for basting
- Place chicken on grill; turn once when chicken releases easily from grill (about 6 minutes on each side)
- Baste chicken liberally with remaining marinade from bag on both sides while grilling
- Serve with the plain apricot/Dijon mixture that was set aside earlier for dipping

Maybe serve with rosemary potatoes?  I’ll have to make up a recipe for those soon!  Have to figure out some way to use the rosemary that’s overflowing out of the pot in my kitchen!

Salsa Chicken

Mexican food is one of my all-time favorites.  However, it doesn't always get high points in the health department.  Since chicken is so versatile and popular, I thought I would experiment with a few things I know go together.  I forgot to take pictures this time but will be sure to post some the next time I make it.

Salsa Chicken (Serves 4)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 1” strips
1 cup fresh salsa (I use the one in the produce section because it tastes fresher than jarred)
1 tsbp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste

- Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper
- Put 1/2 cup of the salsa in a small food processor
- In a large resealable freezer bag, put chicken, olive oil and the processed salsa
- Massage chicken so that it is covered with the salsa mixture; place in fridge for a few hours

When you’re ready to serve… beware, this recipe is quick, so grill the chicken last!
- Heat outdoor grill (this also works well on a grill pan indoors if the weather is bad)
- Place chicken on grill; turn once when chicken releases easily from grill
- Top with remainder of salsa on plate before serving

Serve with:
More salsa
Low-fat sour cream
Guacamole (good fat!)
Diced onions
Baked tortilla chips (I don't like them as much as regular ones, so you could opt for just a few multi-grain ones instead)

Side suggestions:
Grilled corn on the cob
Vegetarian or low-fat baked beans (Cowboy baked beans are one of my favorites; will post recipe soon!)
Three-bean salad (recipe to come!)

Monday, April 9, 2012

French Salad

Iceberg lettuce has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.  Seriously, one of my guilty pleasures is getting an Italian salad from one of those pizza joints with extra shredded pizza cheese on top.  Then I inhale the whole thing.  Don't judge.

Ordinarily, I can be found picking out all of the "goodies" from a salad, leaving a heap of healthy green lettuce behind.  That is, until I tried this delicious salad, consisting of only lettuce and a simple, tangy vinaigrette.

When visiting France over the holidays, I was introduced to this simple and delicious concoction.  It's been on the menu a lot since then and will be for a long time to come.

The ingredient list for the dressing calls for "soup spoons" as measurements.  That's what our French grandma uses.  It's basically a large tablespoon but as long as you keep the proportions similar to the ones below, it will be delicious.

1 package of washed baby romaine (you can use any leaf or mixed lettuce here, as well)
1 shallot, minced
1/2 soup spoon Dijon mustard
3 soup spoons white vinegar (they use "alcohol vinegar" in France but I can't find that here, so white works just fine)
1 1/2 soup spoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste

- Wash, dry and spin lettuce (hint: if the lettuce is wet at all, the dressing won't stick!); set aside

- Mince Shallot into the same bowl that you plan to use to serve the salad

- Add Dijon mustard; stir
- Whisk in vinegar, then olive oil
- Add salt and pepper to taste (do not skip this step; the seasoning is important!)
- Add lettuce to bowl and toss very well to incorporate dressing

Seriously, it's that easy.

I served the salad this particular night with a Spanish Frittata but it adds a refreshing balance to any brunch, lunch or dinner!

Basic Frittata Recipe

Aahhh, the incredible, versatile egg....

In my opinion, eggs have gotten a bap rep for far too long.  As long as you don't gorge yourself on yolks, they're actually really good for you.  Packed with protein and basically a blank canvas for both savory and sweet dishes, eggs are a staple in my diet.

I call this a cheater recipe because you don't have to babysit it and it's basically always delicious.  Seems to be a theme running through my blog but hey, it works for me.

Frittatas are Spanish by origin, but they're a perfect way to turn just about any leftover veggies, meats and cheeses you have lying around into a delicious and healthy meal option.  It's kind of like using up leftovers to make soup: never quite the same twice but always delicious.

For this particular frittata, I added some torn bits of munster cheese and my brocolli slaw recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 5 eggs, beaten
- Entire broccoli slaw recipe, prepared (can be warm or cold out of the fridge; just  be sure to temper the eggs)
- 1/3 cup shredded/torn/grated cheese (reduced-fat if you have it)

*I also threw in a little bit of leftover chopped spinach that I had sitting in the fridge...which my honey hates, but I absolutely love.  Here I am sneaking it into things like he's a little kid but luckily, he doesn't mind it in this recipe

- Preheat oven to 360F
- Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray (I used a 9" pie pan but you can use any oven-safe dish, or even make individual dishes for each person)
- Beat eggs with a whisk or fork until fully incorporated
- Mix broccoli slaw and cheese into eggs
- Pour into pan and put into oven
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the eggs are set in the middle

The crust on the outside of this frittata is out of this world.  It almost tastes buttery, although there is no butter in the recipe.

This is a perfect item for any meal period, served with a simple French green salad.  We have certainly eaten this for dinner a time or two.  Experiment with this recipe and make it your own!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Broccoli Slaw...the untapped veggie wonder

The idea to use broccoli slaw came from when I was watching Hungry Girl on the Cooking Channel.  I honestly had never even heard of it before but Lisa was talking about what a vitamin-packed, low-cal and super healthy swap it was for other veggies, so I thought I would try it out.

This is my go-to recipe for Broccoli Slaw and it only takes about 7 minutes from start to finish!  Could not be easier.

1 small package broccoli slaw (about 2 large servings)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 loves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

- Heat your pan on the high end of medium-high heat (you want some browning here!)
- Add oil and entire package of broccoli slaw

- Cook for about 4 minutes and add garlic

- Cook for 3 more minutes and add cheese

So healthy and delicious, and can be added to all sorts of other dishes like pasta sauce, frittatas and much more.  Enjoy!

Baby Bellas Stuffed with Ricotta and Broccoli


Really, I love any type of mushroom and I'm always looking for clever ways to incorporate them into sauces, soups. apps...just about anywhere.  Add some cheese?  Even better.

My friend Annie invited a bunch of us over for a cookout...and of course, the weather decided not to cooperate at the last minute.  As luck would have it, we decided to have a fondue night.  Cheese might be my favorite food, so I was pretty excited about mother nature's decision to rain all over our fun night.  She asked me to bring a side, naturally, stuffed mushrooms go with fondue, right?  Well, I figured I should at least attempt something healthy since the rest of the night would feature everyone stuffing their faces with melted cheese.  Not that I can think of any better way to spend a night...

I've made greek stuffed mushrooms (feta, spinach, ground turkey) a million times, so this was my attempt to change up the standard recipe.

Ingredients (this will make WAY more stuffing than you actually need for the quantity of mushrooms.  I make extra on purpose because it is delicious with pasta either by itself or stirred together with an equal part of fresh marinara sauce):
- 24 stuffing mushrooms (I used baby portabellas but you can use stuffing button mushrooms, whole portabellas, or just about any mushroom you can stuff)
- 1 large container of lowfat or part-skim ricotta
- 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 broccoli crowns, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
- Chopped mushroom stems from the stuffing mushrooms (just add them all)
Freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste

- Combine ricotta, both cheeses and egg until well mixed; set aside
- Saute onion and garlic on medium-low heat until translucent and cooked through; add broccoli
- Cook for a few minutes until broccoli is about halfway cooked
- Add broccoli mixture to ricotta mixture; stir until everything is evenly coated

- Wash dirt off of mushrooms
- Remove stems; chop and add to ricotta mixture

- Generously stuff mushrooms with ricotta/broccoli mixture...and by "stuff", I mean "overload".

- Cook mushrooms in a 425F preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until desired level of cooking

These were a different and healthy spin on traditional stuffed mushrooms and disappeared pretty quickly!