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 disabled 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.

Big City Life · Chicken Recipe · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Veggies!

Hunkering Down for the Weekend

Oh, hello there! It’s been a bit since I last posted and I was starting to miss this little blog thing here. As you may know from my previous post, I went on a road trip after Christmas that lasted into the new year and it was so much fun!  I am working on a post recapping the whole adventure, so stay tuned.  Since I got back, though, I’ve been in over my head with applying for dietetic internships.  It’s hard to believe the time has finally come to put what I’ve learned into practice and I have to say that, even with all of the excitement of finally reaching this milestone, it’s a wee bit overwhelming.

First, before I can even think about hitting “submit” on that application, I had to put together a professional portfolio so that my program director can give the official thumbs up that I completed all of the required courses.  I’ve also been attending internship fairs and open houses for the programs I’m interested in.  The application itself is a lot of work, too.  You have to request letters of recommendation and transcripts, make sure your resume is beyond impressive, and write an amazing personal statement that not only speaks to your character and capabilities, but also provides insight into what motivates you to pursue dietetics in general and, more particularly, what makes the program to which you’re applying the right fit…all in less than 1,000 words.  That’s not a lot of words, y’all!!  And apparently, “I want to help people and I love food, soooo…” isn’t gonna cut it. If applying to more than one program (and with only 50% of students getting into programs each year, applying to more than one is a good idea), then you’re writing multiple statements.  Needless to say, things are a little crazy around here.  That said, I wanted to pop in and say hi and share a nice, hearty slow cooker recipe that might come in handy when trying to avoid stepping foot outside in this wintry mess we have headed our way this weekend.

This Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken recipe has been in the works for a while and I think I finally got it right.  Good thing citrus is still in season!  It’s a complete balanced meal in one, with lean chicken, brown rice, and loads of colorful veggies.  With a little spice from the ginger and crushed red pepper, some bright sweetness from the orange, and a little savory from soy sauce, this dish hits all the right notes.  It smells really good while it’s cooking, too.  So, throw everything into your slow cooker and let the aromas fill the air while you bundle up on the couch with a good book or a little binge watching (I highly recommend the Netflix series You…loved the show despite the fact that I will never see Dan Humphrey the same way again).  Stay warm, y’all!

gingerorangechicken2_edited

Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 298 calories, 32.8 g protein, 4.5 g fat, 32.5 g carbohydrates, 4.1 g fiber
Ingredients
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
1/2 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into slices
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup carrots, sliced on a diagonal
3 cups kale, deveined and roughly chopped
Zest of 1 navel orange
1 navel orange, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds

Directions
1. Salt & pepper chicken and heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, or about 3 minutes on each side.
2. Combine ingredients 3 through 9 in slow cooker and mix well.
3. Add veggies and stir.
4. Nestle chicken into veggie mixture. The kale will be really bulky – that’s ok as long as it fits well enough to put the lid on. The kale will wilt as it cooks.
5. Lay orange slices across the top of the chicken.
6. Cover, and set slow cooker to high temperature for 3 hours*
7. Str veggies to coat with sauce and serve with orange slice as garnish.

* Note: cooking time may vary for different slow cookers, so check to make sure rice is cooked before serving. If not, add a little cooking time.

Tell me, have any of you watched You yet?  Did it creep you out as badly as it did me?  Any other binge-worthy recs?

 

 

 

Breakfast Recipes · Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Travel · Veggies!

Happy Holidays!

I hope you are all surviv…errr…enjoying this holiday season!  I haven’t yet been able to get in the spirit over here with final projects and exams, but I am happy to say that the semester is now officially over and I AM DONE WITH MY DPD CLASSES!!!!!!!!  If you’re getting the impression that I’m really freakin’ excited, you are very perceptive. For those who aren’t familiar with DPD classes, they are the series of courses that are required before you can apply to a dietetic internship and sit for the registered dietitian exam.  This has been 3.5 years in the making and, while it doesn’t mean that I’m done with school and stress, it is a major hurdle in this career-changing journey.  The next step is to apply to dietetic internships in February and continue to take classes for my master’s program.  If all works out and I get matched with an internship program, that will begin in late August and will take 9-12 months to complete.  In summary, I’m not done, but I’m making progress and I’ll take it.

Other big news in Buttercup-land is that my BF is moving away temporarily to complete training for his career, so we are going on a road trip!  While I’m not excited to have to live thousands of miles apart for any amount of time, I am excited to have some good quality time on the road, checking out parts of the country neither of us has ever seen.  If you follow me on Instagram (@eatupbuttercup.blog), I’ll be sure to post some pics along the way.  They will probably include food.  Oh, who am I kidding? They will definitely include food.

But, now that school is out and we’ve mapped our trip, I can focus on getting jolly.  For starters, we put lights on Milo the Moose (the papier mache moose head on our living room wall), and I made Christmas cookies for co-workers. And today at around 4:30 pm, a light bulb went off in my head and I finally realized that Christmas is just a few days away.  Yikes! So this is as good a time as any to talk about holiday eating strategies.  Some people think they have to fast all day until the big dinner.  Admittedly, I have done that in the past (before I began studying nutrition, of course).  You really should eat a good breakfast, and lunch or a snack or two if your holiday meal is on the later side, for at least a couple of reasons.  First, you’re going to be starving by the time dinner rolls around, and you’re likely to eat 5 times as much as you normally would.  While I don’t think a holiday is the time to count calories, nobody wants to eat so much that they are in pain from overeating.  Second, eating at regular intervals is necessary to maintain stable blood sugar, which helps with both weight management and mood.  I don’t know about you, but I get HANGRY, y’all!  You will be eating for the sake of those around you, and they will thank you.

SausageVeggieStrata1

I made this breakfast strata for Thanksgiving and it was just what we needed to start the day off on the right foot.  Lots of veggies and protein to fuel a full day of festivities.  I assembled it the night before so that the bread had a chance to soak up the egg mixture, then in the morning I threw it in the oven without having to even think about it.  We also had enough left over to eat for lunch and dinner the next day.  And it was delicious.  Win, win!  This would be great for Christmas morning, New Year’s Day hangover breakfast, or hosting weekend brunch.  Enjoy!

SausageVeggieStrata2.jpg

Italian Sausage & Veggie Strata
Servings: 6
Serving Nutrition: 282 calories, 19.7 g protein, 12.9 g fat, 24.7 g carbohydrate
Ingredients
1/2 loaf sourdough bread
1/2 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno, minced
2 bell peppers, diced (I used one red and one yellow)
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cooked Sweet Italian chicken sausages, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1-1/2 cups low fat milk
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions
1. Cut or tear bread into 1-inch pieces and place in a 9” square baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Add ingredients 2 through 8 (onion through sausage) plus 1/2 of cheese and stir.
3. Whisk eggs with milk, oregano, salt, and pepper.
4. Pour egg mixture evenly over top of bread mixture.
5. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
6. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour; overnight is preferable.
7. When ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 350°.
8. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a fork poked into the center of the casserole comes out clean.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy recipe · Lamb recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Texas Cuisine to Brooklyn Greens

I just got back from a weekend trip down to Texas to visit the family. Visiting Texas in the summer is always a dreaded endeavor for me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love spending time with my family, but the heat is a bit overwhelming. When my brother texted me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that it was 110 degrees, the fear immediately set in. But, by some amazing stroke of luck, we had cooler weather in Dallas this past weekend. They got a little of the rain that was pounding the East coast and it cooled everything down to the point that I found myself actually wearing a light sweater a couple of times. It was awesome.

Whenever we visit Texas, we have our list of things that we absolutely must do. As you can imagine, most of them are food related. We must have Tex-Mex at least once. That one is pretty self-explanatory if you’ve ever had Tex-Mex. If you haven’t, I just have one word: queso. It’s hard to find good Tex-Mex queso in New York, so we eat as much as we can when we’re visiting Texas. We also must eat at Ballard Street Cafe, which is this little diner-style cafe in downtown Wylie, TX. Downtown Wylie is your typical small-town Texas downtown. It spans about 3 blocks on one street that is lined with a variety of shops. It even has an opry house, which we have yet to check out, but it definitely adds character to the town. Ballard Street Cafe serves your standard home-style Texas food. Their menu includes chicken fried steak or chicken, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and even tamales, just to name a few. You know, health food. We always walk away feeling a little sick from overeating, but we still do it every single time we’re in town. Finally, we must always have a BBQ. My brother has a big backyard with a nice grill and, since we don’t have that at our fingertips here in Brooklyn without throwing some elbows at the public grills down by the waterfront, we like to take advantage of that luxury when we’re visiting the fam.

While we eat really tasty food in Texas, it is very meat and cheese heavy and I always come back to NY craving every vegetable I can get my hands on. I’m currently craving this amazing lamb flatbread drizzled with tzatziki sauce. It is really light and refreshing, but it’s packed with flavor, and it is so easy to make and comes together pretty quickly once you get the lamb trimmed. As a bonus, you will have plenty of leftover lamb and tzatziki to make more flatbreads or a salad.

LambFlatbread

Lamb Flatbread with Tzatziki Sauce
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition (without tzatziki): 418 calories, 33.2 g protein, 21.6 g fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 502 mg sodium, 4.5 g fiber
Ingredients
For Lamb
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb boneless leg of lamb (fat trimmed)
1/2 small red onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Flatbread Toppings
2 whole wheat flatbreads (I used lavash)
1/2 cup loosely packed spinach, chiffonade or roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
Tzatziki Sauce (see below)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Once you’ve trimmed the fat from the leg of lamb, cut lamb into bite sized cubes.
3. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add minced onions and saute until translucent.
4. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
5. Add lamb, lemon zest, and all spices and cook, stirring often, until lamb is browned. I like my lamb a nice dark pink on the inside, so I stopped cooking when it was all browned on the outside. If you like your meat well done, keep going a few more minutes until it is cooked through. You may need to cut a chunk in half to check for doneness.
6. While lamb cooks, place flatbreads on a baking sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes.
7. Place each warm flatbread on a large plate and evenly top with spinach, onion, lamb, then tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and mint.
8. Generously drizzle tzatziki over everything.

Tzatziki
Nutrition per tablespoon: 9 calories, 1.1 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 0.6 g carbohydrates, 40 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. Use a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture from cucumber.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
3. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed.

LambFlatbread2
Yum!
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!

Chicken Recipe · Summer · Veggies!

No Soggy Lettuce Here

Salads have come a long way over the years. I can’t pinpoint when exactly I noticed the shift, but over time restaurant menus have offered more and more tasty, unique salads that could easily be the main course for a meal. That said, the mere mention of a salad still conjures up visions of sad, soggy lettuce with many people. At work, we do salad events from time-to-time where we offer a spread of a lot of different ingredients, along with sample recipes, and let attendees assemble their own lunch salads. We still sometimes get comments like, “this is rabbit food”, but by and large the attendees to these events leave excited to make more creative salads at home. If you include plenty of protein and make sure the flavors complement each other with some sort of flavor profile, a salad can be a truly satisfying meal…especially in hot weather. And nothing says summer like peaches and basil! Never had them together? You’re in for a treat!

A couple of weeks ago, I had some peaches at home and wanted to whip up a quick lunch, so I threw together a salad that ended up being one of my all-time favorites. I used pre-cooked chicken breast strips from Trader Joe’s to cut down on cooking time, but any cooked chicken you have would work well. For this particular meal, I wanted a light lunch so I stuck to fruit, veggies, and protein, but if I were to make this for dinner I would probably toss in a little quinoa or brown rice to get some whole grains. You really have to make this while peaches are still in season. The sweetness of the peaches and balsamic combined with the salty parmesan is great, and the basil gives it an unexpected pop of flavor. The picture here doesn’t do it justice at all…it is so simple and tasty!

BalsamicPeachBasilSalad

Balsamic Peach & Basil Salad
Servings: 2
Ingredients
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
6 ounces cooked chicken
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh basil, chiffonade or roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. In skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until translucent
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add peaches, chicken, and balsamic vinegar and cook until peaches soften.
4. Mix 1/4 cup of basil into peach mixture and remove from heat.
5. In large bowl, toss spinach, remaining basil, carrots, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and remaining olive oil.
6. Divide spinach mixture between two bowls or plates and top each with half of peach mixture.

Enjoy!

Batch Recipes · Pasta · Shrimp Recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Who are you calling shrimp??

I may be short, but big things sometimes come in small packages, right?!?!? Much like the little crustaceans we so love to use as a derogatory reference for people of small stature. One 3-ounce portion of shrimp packs about 15 grams of protein! That’s more than a quarter of the daily protein needs of your average 150 pound person. Shrimp contain omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, which are important for cardiovascular health. They also contain the antioxidants selenium and astaxanthin (the pigment that gives shrimp a pink color when cooked). Additionally, shrimp is low in saturated fat.

I don’t know about you, but I crave light, citrusy seafood dishes during the summer. I had a craving several weeks ago for shrimp scampi. Typically a very buttery dish, I used a fraction of the butter called for in most recipes and really amped up the lemon flavor. It has become a favorite around here and I’ve made it at least 3 times since the summer began. This recipe makes a pretty big batch, and we eat the leftovers for a couple of days. I think it’s just as good eaten as leftovers…so good that I only got one photo before we devoured it. Oops!shrimpscampi1_li.jpg

Lightened Up Shrimp Scampi
Servings: 6
Ingredients
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot (or 2 small), minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails off
2 medium lemons – zest & juice
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much spice you like)
1 box (13-16 oz) whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, angel hair pasta, or linguine work well)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of cooking water.
2. In large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallots in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add white wine and shrimp, cooking shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until just pink.
4. Add lemon zest and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Add pasta to skillet with shrimp, then add parsley, spinach, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the pasta water, and toss all ingredients together until well combined. Remove from heat. If pasta still seems dry, add more pasta water until sauce distributes easily. Salt & pepper to taste.
6. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!