Friday, March 9, 2012

Super quick granola

Happy Friday Everyone!

This week I whipped up a quick batch of granola and thought I'd share it with you. Granola can be a great snack between meals or even breakfast. You could even sprinkle a little granola on top of a salad for some crunch! Another great thing about granola is that you really don't have to stick to a specific recipe, I just threw together a few things I had on hand.

For this recipe I used a bag of nuts/dried fruit mix (sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, raisins, dried apricots) and used very little sweetener. I also decided to through in some multigrain cheerios, those little round guys are delish!

Start by preheating your oven to 350F. You'll only need 1 bowl and 1 fork to get this recipe going!

Whisk together 1 egg, 2 tbsp of honey, 1 tsp almond extract, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract together. Add 1 cup of oats and 1 cup of multigrain cheerios to the mix. Let the egg mixture lightly coat the oats/cheerios. The oats will start to clump together, that's fine! Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray and spread out the mix. It'll look like this before you pop it in the oven.
While the oats/cheerios are baking away for about 20-30 minutes (you'll toss them half way through). Put 3/4-1 cup of the dried fruit/nut in a tupperware, then wait! Once the oats/cheerios are done and cooled add them to the nuts and shake, shake, shake!

It's as simple as that! Feel free to use dried apples, cranberries, hazelnuts, whatever you have on hand. You can even wish up some peanut butter into the wet ingredients to give it extra flavor and add some more protien to the mix. This granola is high in fiber and low in added sugar. Foods high in fiber help keep us full longer, they also help control our blood sugars over a longer period of time, that's a good thing! The nuts provided protein and heart healthy fats to the mix. This is lower calorie granola than most you'll find at the grocery store because it doesn't have excess sugar added for sweetness and it also wasn't roasted with oil. I like to eat it plain or over greek yogurt, but you can get creative!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Super Simple Shrimp Salad

This post is going to be short and sweet just like this recipe!  Get ready to have a nutritious meal on the table in fifteen minutes!  This salad is a hodge-podge of whatever veggies are on hand.  I like to make a homemade dressing, but a bottled Asian sesame dressing or a vinagrette works well with this salad too.

The trick is to always keep a well-stocked pantry, freezer and fridge- I like to always keep a big bag of frozen salad shrimp (already cooked and ready to go) for those nights when a quick meal is needed.  These defrost quickly under cold running water, or you can defrost in the refrigerator overnight.  Among the canned items I keep, I usually have those yummy little canned mandarin oranges- perfect for fruit salads, eating as a snack, or topping an Asian style salad.  Lastly, you KNOW this girl always has an assortment of fresh veggies on hand :)  I am always ready for quick salad nights!

You can check out my recipe, but feel free to sub in whatever veggies you like or have available.  Basically, this salad is providing you with tons of filling fiber from the fruit and veggies, lean protein from the shrimp, and healthy, mono-unsaturated fat from the peanuts and peanut butter- lot's of good stuff in very little time!  This recipe makes 2 large salads. 

Super Simple Shrimp Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup baby carrots, cut into strips
1/3 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1/8 red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tb peanuts, chopped
1.5 cups frozen salad shrimp, thawed
Peanut ginger dressing (recipe below)

Assemble your salads by layering ingredients between two plates.  Top with desired salad dressing.

Peanut-Ginger Dressing
1 Tb creamy peanut butter
1 tsp sesame, peanut or olive oil
3 Tb orange juice (or can use water)
2 Tb rice vinegar (or use white wine vinegar)
1/2 tsp dried ginger (or 2 tsp fresh, finely grated)
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (optional)

Whisk ingredients together and pour over salad.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nacho Recipe Makeover

The first week of National Nutrition Month has flown by! Did you make something nutritious and delicious? Morgan and I did! :)

Yesterday I had a craving for nachos but didn't want to go out and get greasy high fat nachos most restaurants sell. I decided to make a healthier version at home. I should note that typically I don't eat or serve up nachos like normal people, I end up making a bowl and crumbling chips on top or eating them on the side, so that's what my meal looked like. For this particular recipe I decided to keep the vegetables pretty chunky and only lightly seasoned so I could use them to make a fajita or omlete or pasta sauce later in the week if I got sick of nachos. I also used ground chicken breast instead of ground beef, note I've also made these using ground bison meat (very tasty). Using bison or ground chicken will cut the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat found in typical ground beef nachos while still uping the protein value. You could easily make these vegetarian by using texturixed vegetable protein (TVP), tofu crumbles, or beans. This is the kind of recipe you want to take with a grain of salt, adapt it as you'd like, it's very versatile!

The Breakdown of Nacho making:

The ground chicken:
-1 lb of ground chicken breast
-1 tsp of ground cumin
-1 tsp of garlic powder or fresh chopped garlic (I was out so I used the powdered stuff)
-salt to taste *I typically under salt so you'll want to adjust to your taste buds
-1/2 tsp of chili powder
-1/2  fresh lime squeezed

Spray your non stick pan with cooking spray or olive oil (I used my Misto) and let ground chicken cook up. This takes about 10 minutes. It will look something like this...

The Veggies:
-1 red bell pepper (go organic if you can, these are on the dirty dozen)
-1 green bell pepper (go organic if you can, these are on the dirty dozen)
-1/2 large red onion
-1 pint of baby bella mushrooms
-dash of salt
-1/2 tsp garlic
-1/2 fresh lime squeezed

Spray down your pan with pam or your misto to prevent veggies from sticking. Dice up all veggies, I kept my chunky, but you can make them smaller.Start by adding the onions and seasoning, stir until onions start to become translucent then add other vegetables (they cook more quickly).
Look at all those colors! We've got Red, Green, White, and Purple (since red onions are really purple)

The Toppings:
-Fat free greek yogurt (instead of sour cream)
-Reduced fat cheese (any kind you like)
-Fresh cilantro
-Hot sauce (I can't get enough of it)
-Diced jalapenos
-Salsa (my favorite is Frontera brand)
-Baked tortilla chips

When your nacho bowl is all done it'll look something like this!
This meal is quick and easy to prepare, you can also use the ingredients to make fajitas, burritos, a mexican style lasagna or even spicy omletes/frittatas. I know Morgan mentioned this before but we are both greek yogurt fans. I really don't think there's anything you can't top with greek yogurt. The tangy flavor is perfect as a substitute for sour cream and it packs a protein punch. Not to mention greek yogurt is a great source of calcium and probiotics (these are gut friendly bacteria that we all need). The avocado adds some heart healthy fats and wonderful flavor. Also use a little fresh lime juice to really bring the flavors to life! You could most definitely layer the chips and top them with low fat cheese along with the other ingredients to make a more traditional looking nacho dish but I love the bowl!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meal Makeover: Burger with a Side of Chips

In the spirit of National Nutrition Month, I decided for my first post of March 2012 to be a meal makeover.  Spring will be here soon, and folks will be firing up the outdoor grills.  Naturally, many burgers will be consumed.  If you go with your typical beef burger, you can have a lot of variance in calories and fat depending on which type of ground beef you choose.  If you go with a pre-made frozen patty, you are looking at around 420 calories and 35g fat per burger.  If you form your own patties from ground beef, you can control the ingredients, calories and fat- good choice!  If you select 70% lean ground beef, you are looking at around 315 calories and 20g fat in a 4oz cooked burger.  By forming your burgers with 95% lean ground beef you can cut the calories down to 200 and the fat down to 8g in a 4oz burger! 

This nutrition info does not cover burgers at fast food establishments or restaurants- in those cases burgers can reach unbelievable calorie counts.  Many restaurants post nutrition info online, so I encourage you to check out some of the meals at your favorite burger joints.
 Red Robin Nutrition Info
McDonalds Nutrition Info

Well, I threw all of that lovely info out the window when making this most recent burger- The Black Bean Burger.  Warning- this is a MEAT-FREE burger!  But, I can promise you that meat-eaters and veggie-heads alike, will LOVE this burger.  And, it is man-approved, having been tested at many cookouts over the years!  And what is the nutrition facts on this burger you ask?  My recipe leaves you with only 185 calories and 2.5g fat per burger.  And you are still getting a good amount of protein with 12g per burger.  Plus BONUS- you get about 7.5g fiber by using the black beans (women need AT LEAST 25g/day and men need 38g/day). 

That soluble fiber in black beans (and beans and legumes in general) is a great way to keep yourself feeling full after a meal.  The fiber also keeps your heart and colons healthy people!  And did you know that about 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract; so, by keeping a healthy digestive system, you are supporting your overall immune health!  Beans are also a source of iron for people avoiding meat.  And you get a nice dose of phytonutrients, folate and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals.  Let's hear it for beans!!!

To make these beany burgers super tasty- I added some bold flavors including garlic, onion, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cilantro.  Bread crumbs and a beaten egg help the burgers keep their shape.  I threw my bell pepper, onion, cilantro and garlic in a food processor and then used a paper towel to squeeze out as much excess water as possible (too much moisture can cause the burgers to break apart).  I would recommend mashing the beans with a fork instead of throwing them in a processor- this helps keep some bigger pieces of beans so there is some nice texture in the burgers!  I will admit that the burger mixture is not pretty, but man are these burgers tasty!!!

The mixture makes 4 patties (about 4oz each).  You can definitely double the recipe, make the patties and freeze them to be cooked at a later time.  The recipe freezes well and you can throw the frozen patties right on the grill or in the oven.  It was raining outside, so I cooked these burgers in the oven.  However, on a nice evening you can also throw these nutrient-packed patties on the grill.  I would recommend cooking them on a piece of foil over the grill grate since the patties are soft and you don't want them breaking apart!

There are some sides that naturally come to mind when you consider burgers- fries, potato salad, chips, pasta salad and coleslaw to name a few.  Since my black beans burgers have a soft texture, I wanted a side with a crisp texture to contrast.  Enter, KALE CHIPS!  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  Sonny absolutely loves these!  He said, and I'm quoting verbatim, "I think I actually like these better than potato chips."  Yes, that's right- these are that good!  And yes, super easy as well.

The trick is, after washing and tearing the kale into bite-sized pieces, you want to dry the leaves the best you can.  Then you want to make sure you don't overlap the leaves on your baking sheet- this ensures that each "chip" gets nice and crispy.  For one bunch kale, this may mean you need three baking sheets.  You end up with a nice crisp, lightly salted compliment to your burger.  Kale cooks down quite a bit while cooking so don't be alarmed when you see how may pieces one bunch of kale yields- the baking sheet on the left has the cooked kale, the one on the right is uncooked. 

And do I even have to mention that kale is a nutrient powerhouse?  Here's another great source of fiber!  You also get tons of vitamin K, as well as vitamins A, C and Iron (to name a few). 

The kale paired perfectly with our burgers.  I also chopped up a fresh pineapple and served the pineapple slices on the side.  I used an avocado and some cilantro and lime to make a tasty spread for the burger (recipe included below).  Here is one healthy meal that you will really impress your friends and family with!

Black Bean Burgers
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tb chopped fresh cilantro
1 can black beans (preferablly low-sodium)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 Tb chili powder
1 Tb cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 egg, slightly beaten

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick spray.
2- In a food processor, finely chop the bell pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro.  Use paper towels to squeeze out as much moisture as possible and set aside.
3- Drain and rinse black beans.  Mash with a fork.
4- Mix chopped veggie mixture into the black beans.  Stir in the bread crumbs, seasonings and corn kernels.  Stir in egg until well combined.  (You may want to taste the mixture before adding the egg to make sure it is seasoned to your liking).
5- Divide mixture into four patties.  Roll into a ball then flatten slightly to form even patties.  Cook in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes per side (Total 20-30 minutes), until burgers are slightly browned.

Crispy Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
Non-stick spray/olive oil

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick spray.
2- Wash kale thouroughly and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Dry with a paper towel.
3- Place leaves on baking sheet, taking care not to overlap.  I used my Misto to lightly spray with olive oil.  You could also use non-stick spray or just sprinkle with olive oil.  Lightly season with salt.
4- Cook in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the kale- you want to edges to lightly brown, but take care not to burn. 
5- Enjoy hot out of the oven!

Creamy Avocado Cilantro Spread
1 avocado
2 Tb non-fat plain greek yogurt
1 Tb fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tb lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.  Use as a topping for your black bean burger.