Saturday, February 25, 2012

Quinoa Fruit Salad

Morgan has posted about quinoa before but just incase you forgot, it's AMAZING. Quinoa is a grain, full of fiber and protein. Quinoa is safe for those following a gluten free diet and it's also a must-have for vegetarians. It's also one of those very versatile ingredients that you can make so many different dishes out of. I went ahead and used all of the batch I made for this fruit salad but feel free to make extra and use it with beans (instead of rice) or for breakfast (in place of oats).

I wanted to make a quick dish that would make a perfect side to baked fish or even served on top of spinach with a piece of grilled chicken for a well rounded meal. So quinoa fruit salad is what I came up with. To make this you don't necessarily have to have the same fruit I used, be creative. This salad would be great with berries and pecans or even citrus fruit and walnuts. I'm sure I'll make it again with a few different players ;).

In the mix:
-1 cup dry quinoa (3 cups cooked)
-6 pitted dates
-6 unsweetened, unsulpherized turkish apricots
-2 plums
-1/4 cup pine nuts
-1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
-1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
-drizzle of honey (make it as sweet as you'd like)

Start by making the quinoa per bag directions. Once I had the quinoa going I started to chop up my fruit. I must confess I think only 1.75 plums made it into the mix, I got hungry! I choose to use organic ingredients but you don't have to. I also choose unsweetened dried fruit, simply because we don't need all that extra sugar, fruit is sweet enough! Toss all the fruit in a bowl and squeeze lemon over the bowl, add the cinnamon and honey. I would guess I used 2 tbsp of honey for the entire batch. Toss the fruit together. It will look something like this...

Then add the nuts...
Finally, add the quinoa and toss together. I recommend you serve this cold, so once the quinoa cools toss it in the refrigerator and enjoy!

Not Feeling Well... Sonny's Soup to the Rescue

Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of a yucky sinus infection.  Feeling sluggish and congested, and the worst part is I'm not feeling like standing in the kitchen and expirimenting- this is sad, because usually Saturday is a great day to take some time and create something delicious!!!

Last night I wanted some soup, but didn't want to get out from under the blanket on the couch.  So, my dear husband came to the rescue!  He was able to use the random ingredients that we had in the fridge/cabinet, and make a delicious soup!  I helped a bit when he asked about which spices and veggies to throw in, but overall I was super impressed with my hubby's yummy creation!  Buddy even tried to help by staying close to Sonny, in case any veggies dropped to the ground.  This soup was definitely worthy of a post.

We learned about the holy trinity of vegetables when I posted about jambalaya- onion, celery and bell peppers is the classic cajun combo.  Now, here is another term for you- a mirepoix is the combination of onion, celery and carrots that is found in many french dishes.  A mirepoix is also a good start to many soups. 

We had the fixings for a mirepoix, as well as some leftover turkey sausage from when we made the jambalaya.  Other soup making ingredients I always keep on hand (these ingredients are useful for many other things as well) are beans, rice and low-sodium broth.  Voila- a soup is born!!!

Most canned soups are WAY high in sodium, so it is beneficial to make your own.  Since we used turkey sausage (a processed meat which is fairly high in sodium), no additional salt is needed.  We used low sodium broth and kicked up the flavor profile with dried herbs and spices.  NOTE- you can easily make this a vegetarian soup by leaving out the sausage- the beans supply plenty of protein.  If you'd like to leave out the sausage, you can even add some extra beans to make up the volume.

We had some redbor kale from South Mountain Veggies- all varieties of kale are a great super food to eat when you are sick, or if you are just trying to stay healthy.  Sonny threw the fiber-rich leafy greens in the soup pot so I could stock up on some sickness-fighting anti-oxidants!  Get ready to try this soup which will warm you up and fix whatever ails you!

Sonny's Beany Kale Soup
2 Tb canola or olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8oz turkey sausage, diced (totally optional!)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice (can also use barley)
1 can roman beans, drained and rinsed (can also use any variety of white bean)
64 oz low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or use 32oz broth and 32oz water)
1 bunch kale (any variety)

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy pot. 
2. Throw in your mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot), along with the garlic and sausage.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to turn translucent, veggies become tender and sausage starts to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

3.  Add dried spices and rice- stir and cook another 1-2 minutes. 
4. Add beans and broth and bring to a rolling boil.  Turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. 
5. Wash kale leaves well to remove any sandiness/grit.  Remove the rough stalks and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. 
6. When rice is tender, add the kale and cook at low heat just until kale is wilted, about 3 minutes.
7. Enjoy hot!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ode to the Fritatta

Fritatta is a go-to last minute dish in the Davis household- it is super easy to grab some leftover veggies, or even roast some fresh veggies, then top with the egg mixture and throw in your oven.  This is a dish that even Sonny knows how to make!  And, it is super versatile.  You can substitute the seasonings, veggies, type of cheese used, and even throw in some meat if you like. 

Traditionally, fritattas are started in an oven-proof pan on the burner- you can saute your ingredients (whether they be veggies, potatoes or meat) then add your egg mixture over top.  Let the egg start to set just like you would when making an omelet.  Then, you pop that bad boy right in the oven to finish it off. 

So, that's how it's usually done... BUT, fritatta nights for me typically mean I don't have a lot of time.  Therefore, I keep it easy on myself.  I just throw my veggies in a pie plate or 9x9 casserole dish, throw my eggy mix on top and pop it in the oven.  Super easy... and while it cooks in the oven you have time to clean up the kitchen, walk the dog or fit in a quick workout!

Tonight, I had a head of cauliflower and a red bell pepper that needed to be used up.  So, I chopped my veggies into bite-sized pieces, tossed them in some olive oil, pepper and garlic powder, then roasted my veggies.  While they roast, mix up the egg mixture and cut up some fresh veggies for a side salad.

I cut the fat and cholesterol in this recipe by using only 4 whole eggs and the rest are the egg whites only.  There is roughly 5g fat and 200mg of cholesterol found in an egg.  All of the cholesterol is found in the egg yolk, so this brings you pretty close to the recommended limit of 300mg dietary cholesterol per day.  HOWEVER, egg yolks are also a source of many nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, K, and your B vitamins.  That's why I recommend including egg yolks in a healthy meal plan, but trying to limit to no more than one a day on average.  I whisked low-fat cottage cheese into my eggs to get a nice, light product.  Since cottage cheese is pretty high in sodium, I did not add any extra salt to my fritatta, but added in some extra flavor with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.

I topped my fritatta with a dollop of fat-free, plain Greek yogurt and a dash of hot sauce.  You have probably noticed that I top A LOT of stuff with Greek yogurt- the main reason for this is because I love it!!  Secondly, Greek yogurt is a great source of protein.  Thirdly, what a great way to fit in some extra dairy (a food group I admit I sometimes fall short) and stock up on that good ol' calcium.  Check out my recipe!

Roasted Cauliflower Fritatta
1 head cauliflower, chopped in bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped in bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tb olive oil
4 whole eggs
6 egg whites
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or use 1Tb dried parsley)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Additional Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss the cauliflower and red pepper in the black pepper, garlic and olive oil.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender and cauliflower has started to brown.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg whites, cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley and black pepper. 

Evenly coat a pie dish or 9x9 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Layer your roasted veggies evenly in the dish.  Pour your egg mixture over the veggies.  Sprinkle with the additional Parmesan cheese.  Pop your fritatta in the preheated oven and cook until egg is set and top is slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Celebrate Fat Tuesday with Jambalaya

Mardi Gras is all about parades, bright colors and drinking.  But it's also about the delicious foods that are quintessential for all the splurging of Fat Tuesday that comes before Lent begins.  Jambalaya is a staple meal in New Orleans- this is a one-pot meal which is quite easy to make low in fat and high in nutrition. 

I think Jambalaya and Gumbo are sometimes confused, so here are some big differences: A very important attribute of Gumbo is a dark, coppery-colored roux.  Jambalaya is not made with a roux.   Okra is a classic component of Gumbos, but is not usually found in Jambalaya.  Jambalaya is made with rice as part of the dish, whereas Gumbo is a soup and can be served over top a bed of rice. 

When making Jambalaya, the rice is typically uncooked when added to the ingredients, so that it can absorb the flavors as it cooks. While traditionally, white rice is used, I would recommend using brown rice for the added fiber and antioxidants found in whole grains. You can even use a different whole grain such as barley- I used a blend of long grain barley and red and brown rice.

Jambalaya, like many New Orleans style cuisines, is made starting with bell peppers, onions and celery.  This combination is referred to as the 'Holy Trinity' and is the base of many Louisiana recipes.  Meat, poultry or shellfish is another componenet of Jambalaya.  I chose a combination of turkey sausage and shrimp for mine.   Once everything is in the pot and simmering, you have about 40 minutes to fit in a quick workout before dinner!

Here's my recipe for Jambalaya... feel free to substitute different meat, seafood or whole grains in yours!

2 Tb oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (can choose any color pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8oz turkey sausage, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)
1 can diced tomatoes (no added sodium)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1.  Heat oil in a large, heavy pot (I used a dutch oven) over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, pepper, garlic and turkey sausage.  Cook until onions are translucent, vegetables are tender, and sausage starts to brown (about 5-8 minutes).

2.  Stir in thyme, basil, cayenne, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Add rice, stir and cook for one minute.  Add diced tomatoes and broth.  Bring to a rolling boil, then turn heat to a low, cover and let simmer until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
3. When rice is tender, add shrimp and let simmer until shrimp is cooked through and opaque, about 5 minutes. 
4.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Homemade pasta sauce and meatballs

First of all, I'd like to apologize for our lack of posting. We got busy and I got lazy. I'd love to say that this won't ever happen again, but we're only human, so it might. Bear with me, this will be a long post!

Now for the post! Apparently after my no noodle lasagna dinner, I wasn't sufficiently full of pasta sauce so the next dish I made was homemade pasta sauce with chicken meatballs. I think I mentioned that I LOVE red sauce, so just in case you thought I was kidding, this proves I wasn't! I'll also add, I did a WAY better job of taking pictures throughout the cooking process this time. I got so carried away with it that I actually forgot to take a pic of the dish completed and put together-OOPS! Sorry! I started with the marinara sauce but reserved a few of the ingredients I chopped for the chicken meatballs. Typically people cook meatballs in the sauce but I wanted to keep the sauce vegetarian for my lovely sister so I baked my meatballs in the oven.

To get the sauce started I chopped up onions, garlic, basil, and thyme. I added a little oil to the pan and cooked the garlic and onions until the onions looked clear. Then I added the 2 cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (i would have deglazed the pan with red wine but I was all out). I added a pinch of salt and pepper, the basil and thyme then let it simmer away!

Now for the chicken meatballs. Preheat the oven to 375F. I used ground chicken breast, whole wheat panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, part skim mozzarella cheese, basil, thyme, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and onions. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Then roll into small (1 inch) balls and place in baking dish (sprayed with non stick cooking spray). Place baking dish in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. *If you opt to make spaghetti squash then go ahead and put that in the oven now, it will take about 30 minutes more to bake.

I served my pasta sauce and meatballs over the spaghetti squash and topped it with a sprinkle of cheese. I also added a side salad for some extra volume and veggies! All the recipes are below.

bring to a boil then let simmer for a few hours
Marinara Sauce:
-2 large cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes (these aren't no salt added, so make sure you taste before you add salt)
-2 tbsp of chopped thyme
-3 tbsp of chopped basil
-1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
-2 tbsp chopped garlic
-pinch of salt (you can add more if you'd like)
-pinch of pepper

before baking
Chicken Meatballs:
-1 lb of ground chicken breast
-2 tbsp chopped thyme
-2 tbsp chopped basil
-1/8 cup chopped onion
-1 tbsp chopped garlic
-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
-1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
-1/8 cup parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

all done!