Batch Recipes · Big City Life · Easy recipe · International Cooking · Life Balance · Vegetarian · Veggies!

More than your average brunch

Before I moved to Brooklyn, I lived in the West Village in Manhattan for 5 years.  I absolutely loved living there.  Despite being in the heart of New York City, it really feels like a cute little neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and brownstones and families galore.  It was very similar to the neighborhood where I live now in Brooklyn, but the restaurant situation is on a whole different level.  Some of the best restaurants in NYC can be found in the West Village, and the variety of cuisines is incredible.  Italian?  Check.  Sushi?  Check.  Brazilian?  Check.  Ethiopian?  Check.  You get the picture.

Anyway, one of my favorite meals to eat out is brunch.  For me, there’s not much I would rather do on a weekend than get together with girlfriends at lunchtime to eat breakfast food and drink mimosas, especially on a patio on a nice day.  The only complaint I ever have with a girls’ brunch is that a lot of brunch menus look almost exactly alike.  You can pretty much predict there will be some sort of omelette, an eggs benedict or florentine, pancakes or waffles, potatoes, bacon, sausage.  You know, the classics.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, but I really appreciate it when a restaurant thinks outside the box a little with their brunch menu.  Variety is a good thing.  One of my favorite brunch spots in the West Village, Joseph Leonard, mixes it up with some pretty unique regular menu items, plus every weekend they have a different brunch special.

One weekend, I went to brunch at Joseph Leonard and their special that day was a Moroccan chickpea stew topped with a poached egg.  I was intrigued, so I had to try it.  It was the absolute best brunch I’ve ever had.  The spices in the stew created a flavor bomb, and I am always in love with a perfectly poached egg on anything.  I wanted to bathe in the meal in front of me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

MChkpeaStew1

In my quest to recreate that magical meal, I ended up with what has turned out to be my go-to batch recipe for busy weeks.  This Moroccan chickpea stew is so flavorful – you get complex Moroccan flavor with just a little spiciness, then there’s a little pop of sweetness from golden raisins.  Yum!  Not only do I eat it for breakfast or brunch with a poached egg and toast, but I also eat it for lunch with tomato & cucumber salad, tsatziki and pita bread, or for dinner I’ll eat it over basmati rice or couscous with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  You could also use it as a base for baked eggs.  It’s so versatile and happens to be really easy to make using your slow cooker, too.  Set it and forget it!

MChkpeaStew3

Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 180 calories, 6.1 g protein, 3 g fat, 772 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 large or 2 small potatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 large carrot, diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 (15 oz) can low sodium chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped, or 1 (8 oz) package frozen kale
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

Directions
1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, then add onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
2. Add garlic and all spices and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or 2, or until mixture becomes really fragrant.
3. Add onion and spice mixture to slow cooker (3.5 quarts or larger).
4. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and stir to mix well.
5. Cover and set to cook on high for 4 hours.
6. Come home from work to an amazing home-cooked meal that makes your house smell like heaven.
7. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro if you have it and enjoy!

Note: if in a hurry, you can skip steps 1 and 2 and just put everything in the slow cooker and go, but these extra 2 steps really open up the flavors in the spices and make them pop.

MChkpeaStew2

Easy recipe · Tex-Mex Recipe · Vegetarian

Learning to Love Tofu

March is National Nutrition Month!  We’re now more than halfway into it, so this is a good time to check in on my goals for the month.  At work, we’re using this month to encourage employees to try new foods with the goal of adding more variety to their diets. I had this grand goal of trying all kinds of new foods myself and, well, I haven’t done as well as I had hoped. I started out strong by purchasing a prickly pear at the fruit and vegetable market because I was curious and had heard they’re good. After it gave me several tiny yet surprisingly painful splinters, I was afraid to touch it, so it ended up going bad before I could clean and cut it. Turns out the name actually has meaning.  Oops!  I’ll have to give it another go before the month is over.  Next time I’ll be sure to wear gloves.

One new thing I actually have tried lately is cooking with tofu. Technically this is something I tried before March, but I did it while we were planning for National Nutrition Month at work.  I got a little excited about trying new things and got a jump start on the month…that still counts, right?  To be honest, I’ve had tofu before and never really liked it, so I never tried cooking it at home. I had some really tasty teriyaki tofu recently, though, and it made me want to try cooking with it myself. Naturally, this Texas girl chose to start with tacos.  In looking through the recipes I’ve posted to-date, I’m actually embarrassed I’ve never posted any taco recipes here before.  Better late than never, right?  And these tofu & mushroom tacos are so tasty that I’ve had them on repeat since the first time I made them…in fact I just had them last night.

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I am personally really big on texture and don’t like anything mushy, so for these tacos I stuck with extra firm tofu. The key really is in the marinade. Tofu and mushrooms are great for taking up the flavors they’re cooked in, and giving them a little time to soak up all of the amazing flavors and spices from this marinade makes the tacos extra mouth-watering. Bonus – they cook up really quickly after they’re marinated, making them great for a weeknight dinner.  Topped with the yogurt-based Cilantro Lime Crema (recipe follows taco recipe) and some avocado, they’re both delicious and nutritious.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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Spicy Tofu & Mushroom Tacos
Yield: 6 tacos
Nutrition per Taco: 176 calories, 21.7 g protein, 6.3 g fat, 19.3 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 173 mg sodium
Ingredients
1 (12 oz.) package of extra firm tofu
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 medium jalapeno, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s Corn & Wheat tortillas…best of both worlds!)

Directions
1. Drain tofu and remove excess moisture by pressing between 2 plates. Cut tofu into cubes.
2. In a bowl or plastic bag, combine all ingredients and let chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and mushroom mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned.
4. Serve in tortillas with Cilantro Lime Crema, avocado slices, and cilantro.

TofuMushrmTacos2Cilantro Lime Crema
Yield: 6 Tbsp
Nutrition per tablespoon:  33 calories, 3 g protein, 1.7 fat, 1.8 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g fiber, 206.2 mg sodium
Ingredients
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1/2 medium jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

TofuMushrmTacos3

Vegetarian · Veggies!

Eye Love

I’ve had to wear glasses since I was 5 years old.  The story of how my parents discovered that I needed glasses is quite amusing, actually.  I ran into walls.  A lot.  I’m not talking about just bumping the wall as I walked through the doorway.  No, I would walk right into a big solid wall with no hesitation and sometimes hit so hard that I would fall backward.  My parents just thought that I was “a little slow” (their words, not mine).  We won’t even talk about how disturbing it is that they thought I might be developmentally challenged yet they just shrugged it off…it was the ’70s and things were different then.  Anyway, when I was in kindergarten, my teacher noticed that I couldn’t see the chalkboard and relayed that information to my parents.  My life was changed forever.  Despite being teased incessantly as the only kid in class with “four eyes”, I flourished with my new-found ability to see.  As time went on, the huge bug-eyed frames of the ’80s gradually got smaller to fit my narrow face, and in my teens I began wearing contact lenses.   Finally, I could fit in with my peers!

I may have a strong visual impairment, but my eyes have always otherwise been healthy.  Today I went to the eye doctor, though, and he found a tiny hole in my retina.  It’s nothing to be alarmed about at the moment, but it could potentially grow and I would have to have laser surgery.  There was no traumatic event or infection that caused the hole, and according to the doctor this is something that can just happen spontaneously.  This, of course, got me thinking about eye health and what we can do to take care of our peepers on a daily basis.  Getting the proper nutrients is a good start.

The carrot is famous for being good for your eyes because it has beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, but there are plenty of other foods that offer eye-protective nutrients as well.

There are two other noteworthy precursors to vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, which give foods a yellow or red color.  Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include squash, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.

Anti-oxidants such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C protect the eyes from age-related damage.  We all know fish (especially fatty fish like salmon) have a lot of omega-3s, but they can also be found in walnuts, flax seeds, and soybeans.  Vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds, avocado, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.  Vitamin C is famously found in citrus fruits, but is also abundant in red peppers (raw), green leafy vegetables, squash, and sweet potatoes.

And zinc is important for delivering vitamin A to the retina so it can work its protective magic.  Zinc is found in meats like beef and chicken, eggs, and beans.

You may have noticed that some of the foods have more than one eye-protective nutrient, so they give your eyes extra love.  Eggs have the dynamic duo lutein and zeaxanthin as well as zinc.  Green leafy vegetables also have the dynamic duo and vitamins E and C.  Squash has vitamin C and, big surprise, the dynamic duo.  The list goes on.  With all of these options, we should all be able to easily eat for healthy eyes.

AcornSquash

This stuffed acorn squash recipe has several eye protective ingredients and it is filling and delicious.  I actually was inspired when I found a recipe from Molly Yeh that used walnut “sausage” crumbles.  I’m trying to eat less meat, so I felt the need to try it and see if it really tastes like sausage.  Her recipe called for cheddar cheese and I didn’t have any on hand, so rather than going on the short walk required to get to the grocery store, I used Parmesan cheese and I was very happy with the result.  The combination of spices really makes it taste like sausage, and the walnuts have a great meaty texture. The recipe makes more crumbles than you need for this squash, so I have been using the leftovers in grain bowls and salads.  Any Italian sausage can be substituted if you prefer meat, but if you try the walnut crumbles, you won’t miss the meat.  I also made my own pesto, but of course you can save time by using store-bought.  Regardless, I’ve included the recipes for the walnut “sausage” crumbles, pesto, and stuffed squash below.  Enjoy!!

acornsquash2.jpgPesto Stuffed Acorn Squash with Walnut Sausage Crumbles
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 379 calories, 10.9 g protein, 20.1 g fat, 43.7 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 acorn squashes, cut in half
1/2 c walnut sausage crumbles
1 c cooked farro
1 c mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c spinach, chopped
1/4 c pesto
1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Lay 2 halves of squashes cut side up on baking sheet and scoop seeds out with a spoon. Rub or brush flesh with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over cut sides of squash.
3. Bake squash for about 30 minutes, or until slightly tender.
4. Meanwhile, combine sausage crumbles, farro, mushrooms, onion, spinach, and pesto in a bowl and mix well.
5. Once squash is removed from oven, scoop 1/4 of the filling into the center of each squash half where the seeds were scooped out. Push the filling down with your spoon to pack it in.
6. Sprinkle parmesan evenly over each squash half.
7. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender.
8. Garnish with a little basil & serve.

AcornSquash3

Walnut Sausage Crumbles (adapted from Molly Yeh’s recipe)
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 155 calories, 4.2 g protein, 14.7 g fat, 2.2 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 c toasted walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor.
2. Pulse until you no longer see chunks of walnuts and the mixture begins to clump together in crumbles.
3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Basil Walnut Pesto
Yield: About 1 cup (8 servings)
Serving Nutrition: 98 calories, 1.4 g protein, 9.6 g fat, 2.6 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 oz fresh basil (about 2 cups)
1/2 c onion, roughly chopped
1/2 c spinach
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese)
1/4 c walnuts
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender.
2. Pulse until smooth.
3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Vegetarian

Breakfast, sweet breakfast

When I think of lunch and dinner, my mind automatically conjures up images of savory dishes. But breakfast is special. It can be sweet, savory, or anything in between. I’ll be honest, I generally don’t gravitate toward sweet breakfasts. I’ll choose an omelet over french toast on most days, and I won’t feel like I missed out on anything. That hasn’t always been the case, though. As a child, I remember loving the morning after a family birthday party because we inevitably had leftover birthday cake. I could usually either sneak a piece before my parents woke up or my siblings and I would convince them that it was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. Considering the alternative was usually a sugary cereal like Lucky Charms, it wasn’t really a huge difference, but somehow it felt like we were being allowed to get away with something bad. And now I’m working to become a registered dietitian…my how times have changed!

BBerryCardamomPancakes

Once in a blue moon, I have a craving for something sweet like pancakes.  If that happens on a day that neither my BF nor I have anywhere to be, I will indulge that craving. Of course, I try to make them as healthy as I can, and in my search for something nutritious yet fluffy and delicious, I came up with these little gems. I used whole wheat flour with a little almond flour to lighten them up a bit. A touch of Greek yogurt adds creaminess, and I went light on the butter. And the cardamom adds an unexpected warmth that perfectly compliments the sweet blueberries. Don’t be scared by the photos – I have yet to master the art of the perfect round pancake, but trust me when I say that what they lack in looks they make up for in deliciousness.

BBerryCardamomPancakes2
Topped with a little butter, some bananas & blueberries, and maple syrup. Yum!

Blueberry Cardamom Whole Wheat Pancakes
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition:  345 calories, 12 g protein, 15.3 g fat, 798 mg sodium, 6.4 g fiber, 42.3 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 heaping Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Directions
1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in one bowl.
2. Mix remaining ingredients (except blueberries) in a separate bowl.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until dry ingredients are all mixed in but small lumps remain in batter.
4. Fold blueberries into batter.
5. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat.
6. Scoop small amounts of batter onto skillet at a time and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the edges start to set, flip and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.
7. Serve with your choice of toppings and devour!

 

Easy recipe · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

If at first you don’t succeed…

I just heard a quote that really resonated with me – “Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of success.” ~ Arianna Huffington. Full disclosure, I actually heard it on the new Queer Eye season on Netflix, then had to look it up to find out who originally said it. Yes, I love the Fab 5. Judge me all you want; I don’t care.

Anyway, if I had heard this quote a long time ago, it might have saved me a lot of heartache. Nobody likes to fail, especially when it seems like everyone around you is doing so well. I personally have had my share of situations where I felt like a failure. For example, when I moved to New York after business school without a job. Admittedly, I had a bit of an ego thanks to my newly acquired MBA, and I felt certain that I would be able to find something relatively quickly. Well, that was in the summer of 2007, right as the sub-prime mortgage situation was beginning to unravel. I was looking for work in commercial real estate. You get where I’m going with this, right? The economy and the highly competitive job market in New York gave me a big heaping dose of reality. It took many months of networking like crazy, sending an uncountable number of resumes, and what seemed like endless interviews to finally land something. I ended up staying with that company up until the time I decided to go back to school for nutrition – over 7 years – so it all worked out and I was successful in landing a job in my career of choice (at the time) in one of the greatest cities in the world. It just took perseverance, hard work, and the extreme bullheadedness I was blessed with. This same mentality has helped me through many a difficult situation in my life, so I take it with me into every new challenge I face. [I should note that I had a pretty awesome support system, too. Without these people, I might not have made it.]

What does this all have to do with my current career path and/or food? Well, my latest challenge involves a dumpling. Specifically, one of the chicken & dumplings variety. One of my favorite meals my Grammy made when I was growing up in Texas was chicken & dumplings. Her dumplings were so light and fluffy and floated effortlessly over the stew beneath them. It was like they were made of air. Despite multiple attempts and even enlisting the guidance of my sister, who once got a tutorial from Grammy on how to make this coveted dish, my dumplings seem destined to sink and become a dense, doughy blob every single time. I am bound and determined to make the perfect chicken & dumplings, though, and when I do I promise to share them with you. We might have to eat chicken & dumplings every night for the next few weeks to get this right…it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

You know what I never fail at? Roasting vegetables. Fall is officially the season for roasting vegetables, and I kicked it off with some Brussels sprouts we had hanging out in the fridge. This recipe is sweet and tangy with a little spice from the mustard. It’s a great alternative to loading your sprouts with bacon.

BrusselsSprouts2

Honey Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Servings: 4 (side servings)
Serving Nutrition: 114 calories, 4 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 277 mg sodium, 4.7 g fiber, 26.8 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1/2 medium red onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
2. Trim then cut each sprout in half.
3. Combine all ingredients in bowl, making sure mustard seeds are evenly dispersed.
4. Spread sprouts cut side down on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (I lined mine with foil for easy clean-up).
5. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
6. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and stir.
7. Return to oven for about 5-10 more minutes, or until desired level of browning and cripiness is achieved.

BrusselsSprouts

Batch Recipes · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Pasta · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Easy is the Name of the Game

I’m not gonna lie, I have it pretty good here in my little world. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, and I can get a little overwhelmed at times, but thus far my BF and I have been able to help each other out when one of us has too much on our plate. That’s all about to change. Next week, my BF starts training for his new career and he is going to be gone most of the time. It’s all very exciting for him, but we are going to have to prepare big time. And by prepare, I am of course talking about the only thing that matters, which is food. Right now, on the days I don’t get home from class until almost 10 pm, he cooks dinner. Those days are over for a while. He is also going to need to take lunch every day. Basically, we’re going to have to do a lot of planning and batch cooking and we will need to expand our repertoire of super simple and quick dishes. Being the food nerd that I am, I’m getting really excited about it.

This past weekend, we went up to Connecticut to spend some time with his family, and his mom took us to LaRocca’s Country Market, which is like my kind of heaven. LaRocca’s is a gourmet market where you can get fresh produce, groceries, prepared foods, or made-to-order sandwiches. Their deli counter has a ton of salads that look amazing. I wanted to try everything, but I settled for just using some of it for inspiration.

orzosalad.jpg

One of the salads that looked particularly yummy was an orzo salad with artichokes, tomatoes, dill, feta cheese, and olives. I didn’t get a chance to taste it at LaRocca’s, so I have no idea how my version compares to theirs, but it sounded so good I had to give it a shot. I used basil instead of dill, and I have to say that it was so incredibly easy to make and we could not stop eating it. We had it as a side, but you could easily make it a main dish by adding some protein. In fact, for lunch today I ate leftovers with some spinach and chickpeas, plus a little extra lemon juice and cracked pepper to flavor the chickpeas. It was delicious.

orzosalad2.jpg

Easy Orzo Salad
Servings: 10 (side servings)
Serving Nutrition: 264 calories, 8.6 g protein, 9.6 g fat, 262 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrates, 2.3 g fiber
Ingredients
1 (16 oz.) box orzo, cooked al dente
1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Plenty of fresh cracked pepper

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well.
2. Taste & add pepper or lemon juice as needed.

OrzoSalad3
Orzo salad + spinach + chickpeas + lemon juice/cracked pepper = perfect lunch!
Big City Life · Easy recipe · Summer · Tasty Sides · Tex-Mex Recipe · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Welcome to today’s edition of “Only in New York”. Ok, so it’s not a series yet, I just made it up, but I think it should be a regular thing because I see crazy crap around here all the time. We’re going to kick this series off with the Justice Truck, a mobile legal consultation truck. My first reaction was, “WTF??? This looks like a ploy to lure unsuspecting people in and kidnap them.” Perhaps I’ve watched a few too many true crime dramas. After a little thought, though, it actually makes sense in cities where people can’t always get to the attorney’s office. Either way, the graphics on the truck are pretty ridiculous, so I had to share. I’m having visions of Jim Adler, “The Texas Hammer” driving this truck. If you’re not from Texas, I encourage you to watch one of his commercials on YouTube. I laugh every time I see one.

Justice Truck
Forget about food trucks, lawyer trucks are the wave of the mobile business future.

In other news, this holiday weekend marks the end of summer for many of us. Never fear, though, the official end of summer isn’t until September 22, so we still have a little time to take advantage of those delicious summer fruits and vegetables…hopefully while enjoying more moderate temperatures outside. I mentioned this mango & corn salsa in my last post and you must make it. It’s actually my BF’s recipe, but I’m stealing it from him. Don’t judge. It is sweet and tangy and spicy all at once, and it’s so beautifully colorful that you can’t help but smile (or at least I can’t), so you will be grateful for my act of theft.

MangoCornSalsa2

This recipe calls for roasted corn. Grilled corn has the same sweet flavor. You can just throw a few ears on the grill until you get a nice char then cut the kernels from the cob. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a grill readily available or simply want a quicker option, Trader Joe’s has an amazing frozen sweet roasted corn that I use for pretty much everything involving corn around here. You can adjust the spice level of this dish by using more or less jalapeno, or leaving the seeds in the jalapeno will kick up the spice a bit as well. Fun fact – technically it’s not the seeds that hold most of the spice, it’s the white ribs that connect the seeds to the outer part of the pepper, but if you don’t remove the seeds you don’t remove the ribs either and you get the added fiber from the seeds. Yay fiber!!

MangoCornSalsa1

Mango & Corn Salsa
Servings: 12
Serving Nutrition: 100 calories, 2.8 g protein, 1 g fat, 196 mg sodium, 3.6 g fiber, 22 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 mangoes, cored and cubed
2 bell peppers (any color…I do 2 different colors for variety), diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
5 cups roasted corn kernels
1 medium jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well.
2. Taste & add salt/pepper as needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big City Life · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you think nutritionists/dietitians only eat kale, salmon, quinoa, and organic artisanal almond butter, you would be wrong. First of all, nobody eats healthy all day every day. We all need to splurge once in a while, and every good health enthusiast does too, we just try not to overindulge most of the time. Secondly, eating the same things over and over again is not really healthy either. You need a lot of variety in your diet to get all of the vital nutrients. Did you know that the color of your food contains nutrients? The pigments found in food are made up of important chemicals and antioxidants that your body needs, so you really should be eating a rainbow of foods. Eating a mix of red, yellow, purple, orange, and white fruits and vegetables is just as important as eating lots of green.

vegfriedrice3.jpg
The red onion looks almost neon in this lighting. Sadly, I am not glow-in-the-dark purple today.

Beyond just a lack of nutrients, anyone who eats the same three or four things every day, no matter how clean or healthy those things are, is destined to go on an out-of-control binge at some point. Especially if they prepare the food without butter, oil, or salt like some athletes preparing for competitions do. Boredom + no flavor = no joy. And depriving yourself of joy eventually leads to a complete breakdown of self control…if it doesn’t, you are a saint. Food should taste good! I mean, God wouldn’t have given us taste buds if he/she didn’t want us to enjoy our food, am I right? That said, when trying to eat healthy, cutting back on things like butter, oil, and salt can be challenging because these things contribute so much flavor. Never fear, though! There are other great ways to add flavor to your food without adding calories. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Onions and garlic – I put these pungent vegetables from the allium family in almost everything. They have a lot of flavor and they’re packed with nutrients…and as a bonus they make your home smell like heaven when they’re cooking.
  • Citrus – squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over almost anything and you get instant flavor. You can also roast chicken, fish, or veggies with sliced lemon or orange on top to infuse them with citrusy goodness.
  • Herbs & spices – you may have to experiment a little with different herbs and spices because they all have a distinct flavor. Just be careful with spice mixes like adobo or chili powder as they can sometimes have a lot of salt. Something I’ve recently discovered is that a little cinnamon added to a spicy dish like spicy shrimp tacos adds a really unique flavor that I can’t resist. I always thought of cinnamon as a spice just for sweets…who knew it was so diverse?
  • Vinegar – my pantry currently holds at least 5 different types of vinegar. Like spices, each one has a unique flavor, but they all add a tangy pop of flavor to your food.

I still use butter, oil, and salt too, but I don’t have to use nearly as much when getting such great flavor from these things.

A standard go-to meal when we’re busy or we don’t really want to cook is a quick stir fry or fried rice. Below is a fried rice I made last night that is loaded with colorful veggies and has a ton of flavor without a lot of oil and much less sodium than you find in most other fried rice recipes. We ate it as a meal, but it would make a great side dish as well. I used whatever veggies I had in my fridge, but you can switch them out for other fresh or frozen veggies based on your preference or what you have at home. Frozen peas and carrots or a frozen stir fry veggie mix are always great time savers that we tend to keep in our freezer at all times.

VegFriedRice
I had some leftover sprouts, so I threw them on top as garnish. Pretty, but completely unnecessary. The fried rice is great without them.

Easy Veggie Fried Rice
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 296 calories, 9.1 g protein, 10.9 g fat, 40.7 g carbohydrates, 573 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber
Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 sprigs green onion, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust for your desired spice level)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cooked chilled brown rice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Directions
1. In large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add red onions and white parts of green onion and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add sugar snap peas and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often, then add bell pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Push veggies to one side of skillet and pour beaten eggs into other half. Let sit until edges of eggs are cooked, then with spatula or spoon push edges of eggs so that any uncooked egg liquid on top runs off onto skillet. Let cook until eggs are cooked through (it will look like a small omelet), then remove eggs from skillet and chop into small pieces.
5. When peppers and sugar snap peas begin to soften, add chopped eggs, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger to skillet and stir to mix well.
6. Add green parts of green onion, stir into mixture, remove from heat, and serve.

Bonus points if you can eat it with chopsticks. I have yet to master eating rice with chopsticks…I end up with more of it on the floor than in my mouth. Any pointers you can give me are welcome!