Saturday, January 28, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Bean Dip

Tonight a few friends of mine and I are getting together for a pot luck bonfire! Yeah, we're pretty cool. Since I wasn't sure if anyone would be making veggies tonight I opted to bring a huge vegetable tray with dip. Naturally, I checked out the fridge to see what was on hand then I came up with a great idea. I'd make a take on Spinach and Artichoke dip by making it into a bean dip. I used white beans because they make a creamier consistency when blended. This dip is backed with protein and fiber from the beans, healthy fats from the Tahini (sesame seed paste) and olive oil, as well as a healthy dosing of antioxidants from the spinach and artichoke hearts. Not sure what antioxidants are? Stay tuned, I'll be posting a handout under the FYI section soon!

Back to the dip...

Spinach and Artichoke Bean Dip:
1 can white beans (low sodium or no salt added)
2 Tbsp of tahini
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp garlic (chopped)
1 tsp salt
1 laughing cow light cheese wedge
4 canned artichoke hearts
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp water

-Start by pulsing the can of beans to get them going.

-Then add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend away to the desired consistency. Yup, it's that easy!

Looking back at this recipe a squeeze of lemon and a little lemon zest would have really livened this up. Sadly, I had no lemon in the house. Try adding in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest for an extra punch of flavor!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reusable ingredients = Relaxing Evenings

As promised, here is an idea for using up the leftover meat that we stuffed our acorn squash with yesterday.  It's so easy, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it yourself... pot pie!  But wait, this recipe is actually easier than pot pie- we will call this one 'pseudo pot pie' with beef and vegetables.

What makes this so easy?  We already have our meaty filling that we will just doctor up slightly to make it more suitable for pot pie.  Also, instead of a pie crust, we are going to use low-fat biscuit mix (I used Heart Smart Bisquick).  The prep work for this recipe is short and sweet.  The pot pie does take a bit of time to bake, 30-40 minutes depending on your recipe.  But this is the perfect amount of time to get dinner in the oven and fit in a quick workout or run :)

Pseudo Pot Pie with Beef and Vegetables

2 Tb olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced (or 1/2 medium)
4 cloves garlic
2 Tb flour
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
2 cups skim milk
1/2 beef mixture (leftover from stuffed squash- see previous post)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups low-fat biscuit mix (such as Heart Smart Bisquick)
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x9 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. 
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the carrot and onion and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5-6 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, reducing heat to medium-low and cook about 2 more minutes.  Stir in flour and cook about 2 minutes stirring continuously.  This combination of flour and fat (the oil) is called a roux*. 

Once flour is evenly coating the veggies, pour in the milk and Worcestershire; turn heat up to medium.  Add the beef mixture and stir until milk thickens (it should be slightly less thick then cream of chicken soup**).

Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Spread evenly in casserole dish. 
To make biscuit topping, stir milk into the biscuit mix.  Spread evenly over top of filling.  Place in preheated oven and cook until golden brown, 30-40 minutes.  Let pot pie rest for about 5 minutes before cutting so the filling can thicken up. 
 I served this with roasted veggies- just cut up broccoli and carrots into bite-sized pieces.  Sprinkle with olive oil and a little bit of salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Spread evenly on baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray.  Put the veggies in the oven for the same amount of time you cook the pot pie to make it extra easy!

* A roux is a mixture between flour and fat- it is typically used to thicken cream sauces.  Usually you use equal parts flour to fat.  The amount of thickness depends on the amount of liquids added.
**If sauce is too thin, mix 1 Tb flour with 1 Tb cold water and stir into the mixture. Alternately, if sauce is too thick, you can thin out by adding a bit more milk.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Squash in my belly, Smile on my face :)

Ok, here we go... confessions of a dietitian.  There are many common misconceptions people have of my profession, but for now, we'll focus on one...

"Oh wow you eat meat?  I thought all dietitians were vegetarians!" 

Nope, not this dietitian!  While there may be  some vegetarian dietitians out there, and I do LOOOOVE my veggies, I also include meat... in moderation of course :)  My 'favorite food' varies by the season, but in the summer I can always go for some good ol' BBQ... nothing will beat my dad's beer butt chicken, my #2 dad's (that's my father in-law) pulled pork BBQ, my Texas dad's (Gary French y'all) brisket, or last but definitely not least, Sonny's grilled fish (that he of course caught himself). 

When it comes to meat, I do like to choose carefully.  While Sonny and I don't have red meat often, we do have prime selection when we do.  That's because we happen to be friends with the Stovers... shout out!  Ryan Stover's dad happens to raise cattle on his farm, and we were lucky enough to be able to buy 1/4 of a fresh, organic and locally-raised cow.  Now we have a freezer full of awesome steaks, roasts and ground beef (along with the venison and trout that Sonny has brought home after his fishing and hunting endeavors). 

Personally, I believe that you can taste the difference between fresh, locally raised meats and that other stuff you buy from the grocery stores.  Visit your local farmer's market and try some!

Back to the recipe now... with my delicious ground beef, I made a savory, mouth-watering stuffing for some yummy, locally-grown acorn squash.  Winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.)  is a great source of vitamin A and also a good source of vitamin C, fiber and manganese.  You can get the squash roasting and then prepare the filling.  I used some quinoa, but feel free to substitute with leftover rice (brown rice instead of white to get more nutrition) or barley or wheat berries or any other nutrient-rich whole grain you like.  The recipe will make quite a bit of filling, so here's my tip-   before you mix in the quinoa, or grain of choice, split your beef mixture in half and refrigerate or freeze half for later use (if you refrigerate, make sure you use within 3-4 days).  Stay tuned and I will post another recipe for using the other half of the meat mixture... PROMISE!

Savory Stuffed Squash
1 cup dried quinoa
2 acorn squash
1 lb ground beef (may substitute ground chicken or turkey)
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced (or any color pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb dried thyme
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 large handfuls fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook quinoa according to package instructions- set aside.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut squash in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and pulp (if desired, you can save the seeds and roast like you would pumpkin seeds).  Trim the bottoms of each half so the squash can stand upright.  Coat 2 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place 2 squash, cut side down, in each baking dish.  Pour water in each dish, to fill up about 1/2 in high.  Roast the squash in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender
While the squash is roasting, get started on your beef.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook ground beef until no longer pink.  Place the beef in a colander and run under hot water (this will help remove some of the fat in ground beef- this is not necessary if you are using lean ground turkey that already has very little fat).

Once again, heat skillet over medium, and spray with non-stick spray.  Add pepper and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, thyme, sage, cayenne and nutmeg- cook about 2 more minutes.  Add meat back to the mixture, along with chopped spinach, and cook about 2-3 more minutes to let the flavors blend.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  Divide mixture in half and refrigerate or freeze one half for later use- I will post another recipe for this (or you could use 4 acorn squashes instead of 2, and divide mixture among 8 halves).  Mix the quinoa into the second half of the meat mixture. 

Remove squash from the oven and pour out the water (careful, it will be hot!)  Flip the squash over so the cut-side is facing up and fill the hole with the stuffing.  Sprinkle each squash with parmesan.  Put squash back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until parmesan starts to brown. 

I served mine with a dallop of fat-free greek yogurt and a simple side salad.  AMAZING!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pizza Monday

Sometimes I think we all need a little something to look forward to on Monday. Last night I was looking forward to a great workout with Morgan and then baking up a pizza! Once Morgan and I finished up our workout (in our matching clothes-somehow we keep doing this unintentionally) we headed back to my place to start dinner. While I rolled out whole wheat pizza crust, Morgan chopped up veggies for our salad and pizza toppings. Typically we like to make pizza crust from scratch but I didn't do the prep work on Sunday so Trader Joe's pre-made whole wheat pizza dough it was! Preheating your oven to say, 450F would be a great thing to do before your hands get covered in flour. After looking around the fridge to see what I had on had we decided on basil chicken pizza. I had a tube of EarthBound pureed basil that I picked up from Whole foods this weekend and needed to use up, hence the inspiration for basil!

Since I didn't have cornmeal on hand I used flour to make sure the dough didn't stick to the counter top and also dusted my pizza stone with flour before baking. Next step, the base! I started by using my olive oil mister to lightly coat the dough, followed by a sprinkling of powdered garlic. Then mixed the pureed basil with 2 laughing cow light original cheese wedges to serve as the "sauce". I had every intention of adding spinach to this pizza but I completely forgot until it was in the oven. So if you'd like to, add the spinach BEFORE you add the cheese and other toppings, this prevents the spinach from burning while baking. Now add the cheese (I used low fat mozzarella). Finally, put your toppings on. I went with sundried tomatoes, red peppers, and roasted basil chicken. I had made the roasted basil chicken Satuday afternoon using the same tube of basil, a touch of cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pop this bad boy in the oven for about 25 minutes and out comes a delicious pizza! Both Morgan and I happen to be a little obsessed with red sauce so we made sure to heat up a jar and use it for dipping the pizza.

While all this pizza baking was going up we started devouring our salads!
In the Mix:
-Organic Baby Spinach*
-Organic yellow Peppers*
-Roasted parsnips,carrots, and sweet potato
-English Cucumber

*These foods are part of the Dirty Dozen, 12 foods that have the most pesticides. So if you can, go Organic to avoid all those nasty chemicals!

And about 25 minutes later we had pizza!

Basil Chicken Pizza:
1 Whole wheat dough (store bought)
    The Base
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Powdered Garlic
2 Tbsp basil puree
2 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges
   The Toppings
2 cups low fat mozzarella cheese
5 chopped sundried tomatoes
1 Organic red bell pepper sliced
1 large basil chicken breast (or any chicken)

-Preheat the oven to 450F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and dust the pizza stone with flour. Transer dough to stone and build your pizza on the stone (it's a lot easier to transer the dough without toppings on it!). Spread base on dough. Then add cheese. Place toppings evenly around pizza and bake for about 25 minutes!

This dinner took about 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on your oven baking time) from start to finish. Not too bad considering the leftovers will feed me a few more nights. If you don't have an extra set of hands to expedite the chopping and cooking process, try buying pre-cut veggies. They are a bit more expensive but it saves you on prep time. Another way to cut back on prep time during the work week is to wash and chop your veggies when you buy them, store them in tupperwares, and they are ready to go during the week. I do this all the time. It makes for quick salad assembly and veggie stir fry during the week.

Last night I also experimented with making a cinnamon raisin mixed nut butter. Let's just say my mini food processor wasn't up for the challenge and started smoking about half way through. More on this later :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

45 Minute Sunday Dinner

After making this, you're going to need an easy button, because you can practically make these recipes while half asleep.  I'm saying this because yesterday I was feeling blah and didn't really get off the couch all that much... to those of you who know me well, you know this is not my style, I usually have a much more difficult time sitting still!   But after watching a disappointing playoff loss by the Ravens, my real self came alive, I peeled myself off the couch and soon found myself in the kitchen trying to decide what to make.

I teach a cooking class at work and wanted to test out a recipe for roasted eggplant rolls- I also had a ton of spinach that I needed to use up, so I made a quick pasta to go with my yummy eggplants.  Italiano it is!  Also, in addition to all my spinach, I had a nice bunch of basil that stayed fresh and green in this cool little doodad my Aunt Marcia gave me...
It's a fresh herb keeper by Progressive, and it kept my basil nice and vibrant for my eggplant rolls.   If you decide to make both of these recipes together, get the eggplant rolls started first and then work on the pasta while the cheese in those little morsels gets all hot, bubbly and tasty in the oven!

Roasted Eggplant Rolls
2 Medium eggplants
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
1Tb dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 jar marinara

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Cut the eggplant lengthwise in 1/4 inch thick slices and lay evenly on the baking sheet (I actually had to use 2 baking sheets to get all the eggplant on there).  Spray the tops of the eggplant evenly with non-stick spray.  Roast in the oven until tender and bendable, abot 8-10 minutes.  Then remove from oven and let cool slightly.

While eggplant is roasting, make the filling.  Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, oregano, garlic powder and black pepper.  Stir in the spinach and basil.  Coat a 9x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.  When eggplant is cool enough to handle, place about 2 Tb filling on one end.  Roll filled end in tightly and place with folded end down in baking dish.  When all eggplant rolls are in the dish, pour the marinara sauce over top.  Bake in 375 degree oven until cheese is hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
Now while the eggplant is cooking, you can make the pasta!

Spinach and Tomato Penne with Goat Cheese
 1/2 box whole wheat penne pasta
3 Tb olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
A lot of fresh spinach (a 6-7oz bag, minus the amount used for eggplant rolls)
2 oz goat cheese

Prepare pasta per instructions on the box.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over low heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Stir often, taking care not to burn garlic, and cook about 3-4 minutes or until garlic is tender.  Add tomatoes and pepper- cook until skin of tomatoes start to crinkle, about 3 more minutes.  Add the spinach- it will look like a lot, but it will cook down significantly!  Cook until spinach just starts to wilt and turn heat off- the spinach will continue cooking after adding hot pasta. 
When pasta is done, drain and pour hot pasta on top of spinach.  Crumple goat cheese on top and stir to combine.  Give everything a hit of grated parmesan and go get it!  Nom nom nom...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

German Apple Pancake

Zeina and I both made pancakes for breakfast this morning... I'll admit, my recipe is a little more like a 'breakfast apple pie.'  This would be a great addition to a Sunday brunch, just a little sweet and packed with flavor from the warm spices.  Instead of a pie crust, we have an denser, eggy pancake- a perfect base for the belly-warming apple filling. 
My kitchen smells great with the lingering aromas of spicy nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.  I revised a recipe for German apple pancake that I received from a co-worker last year.  To punch up the nutrition, I used whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour.  I also seriously scaled back on the butter, but still left a little in for a bit of buttery flavor.  Sonny helped me this morning- peeled, cored and diced the apples.  Buddy also helped by taking care of the pesky apply peels... nothing is wasted in our kitchen!

So, now for the recipe...

German Apple Pancake

1 Tb butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup skim milk
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tb butter
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Prepare the pancake- melt 1 Tb butter in a pie dish or ovenproof skillet (I just put the butter in the pie dish and stuck it in the oven while I prepare the batter).  Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, salt and cinnamon- pour over the melted butter in the pie dish.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Melt the 2Tb butter in a large skillet.  Add the apples and saute in the butter until tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and spices and stir to combine.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until pancake is done baking. 
Remove the pancake from the oven and slide out onto a large plate.  Pile the apple filling on top.  Dust with sifted powdered surgar and a dallop of vanilla yogurt (I use greek for extra protein).  Enjoy!

Protein Pancakes

During the work week I usually prep breakfast the night before and eat it while sitting at my desk in the morning. Naturally, when the weekends role around I'm excited to have time to make breakfast and enjoy it with a cup of coffee on my couch. This morning I made protein pancakes. I've seen this recipe all over the blog world and adapted this one from (Julie Fagan's blog). This recipe is packed with protein and fiber to keep you satiated for hours! I added a healthy dose of cinnamon and vanilla extract for extra flavor. Cinnamon has been proven to help regulate blood sugar values and adds no extra calories to your meal. I also doubled the recipe (single serve recipe below) to make a few extra pancakes that I can top with peanut butter in the morning and walk out the door with for breakfast tomorrow. The cottage cheese and egg whites serve as your protein source while the oats act as the fiber, adding "bulk" to your meal keeping you full. I topped mine with a little agave nectar and 1 chopped banana. I try to start every morning with a banana, packed with potassium since I workout regularly and need to keep my potassium levels up to prevent cramping. Also, it adds fiber and takes care of 1-2 servings of fruit for the day (depending on the size).

The recipe:
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup 1% cottage cheese
2 egg whites or 1/3 cup egg whites (you could use 1 whole egg)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a lage bowl and blend (I used an immersion blender). The batter will end up looking like thick, lumpy pancake batter.

Then plate and dice up a banana and add agave nectar if you'd like to complete the meal!