Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spinach Feta Penne Pasta

Some of the best meals are the simplest ones. Back when I was doing my dietetic internship and living by myself, I would always resort to affordable, quick meals - especially pasta. Customers are always asking me if pasta is a good meal choice and I always tell them it can be, as long as you're pairing it with the right ingredients and watching the portion. This recipe in particular is veggie-loaded with just the right amount of feta to give it that nice, salty "bite". The crushed red pepper adds a good kick, but not to the point where it's overwhelming. If you love spicy food like I do, this is also delicious with some pickled jalapeños. If you can find pasta with added protein and omega-3 fatty acids like this one, that's even better!


This meal cost me $10.20 and took me 15 minutes to prepare.

1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until slightly golden, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.



4. Add baby spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Then, add chopped tomatoes and feta cheese and stir to combine.



5. Add sundried tomato, crushed red pepper and cooked penne and toss. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve.

Spinach Feta Penne Pasta
Serves 4

All you need:
7 oz. whole grain penne, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 oz.) package baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (10 oz.) bag baby spinach
2 roma tomatoes, diced small
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

All you do:
1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until slightly golden, 3-4 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add baby spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Then, add chopped tomatoes and feta cheese and stir to combine.
5. Add sundried tomato, crushed red pepper and cooked penne and toss. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Toasty Ham and Fontina Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Apricot Jam

Have a weak spot for anything sweet and salty, and this sandwich is the perfect balance of both. With April (aka national grilled cheese month) right around the corner, I figured I would experiment with different flavors. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good ol' fashioned American cheese sandwich with a side of hot tomato soup. However, grilled cheese is something that can be made in so many delicious ways (including this one!).


This meal cost me $13.75 and took me about 20 minutes (thanks to baking soda method of making caramelized onions - so much faster!)


1. In a large skillet, add onions, olive oil and baking soda and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in salt and transfer onions to a bowl. Set aside.


2. Spread 1 teaspoon apricot preserves onto each slice of bread. Top with fontina cheese.

3. Top 4 slices with ham and caramelized onion. Top the other half with arugula and put pieces together to make 4 sandwiches.

4. Coat a non-stick griddle (or large non-stick skillet) with cooking spray and turn heat to medium. Add sandwiches and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely golden brown.

5. Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board and slice in half. Serve immediately.

Toasty Ham and Fontina Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Apricot Jam
Serves 4

All you need:
2 yellow onions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons olive oil
Pinch baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 slices bakery bread of your choice
8 teaspoons apricot preserves
8 oz. fontina cheese, grated
1/2 pound thinly sliced black forest ham
1 oz. arugula
Non-stick cooking spray

All you do:
1. In a large skillet, add onions, olive oil and baking soda and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in salt and transfer onions to a bowl. Set aside.
2. Spread 1 teaspoon apricot preserves onto each slice of bread. Top with fontina cheese.
3. Top 4 slices with ham and caramelized onion. Top the other half with arugula and put pieces together to make 4 sandwiches.
4. Coat a non-stick griddle (or large non-stick skillet) with cooking spray and turn heat to medium. Add sandwiches and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely golden brown.
5. Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board and slice in half. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chipotle, Black Bean and Kale Burritos

Lately I have had several customers ask me what a vegan eats. Quite simply, I tell them that it's a plant-based diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. At my previous job I was helping to develop a lot of amazing vegan recipes, so from time-to-time I crave them again. This recipe is a perfect lunch option because it's so veggie loaded that one small burrito will sustain you the remainder of the afternoon. 

The base for the dressing is miso, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting rice, barley or soybeans. It adds such good flavor (if you've ever had miso soup, you know what I'm talking about). This combo of sweet and salty kale with creamy black beans and avocado will make you want to make these burritos over and over (and you should - this recipe has so many nutritional benefits!). 


This meal cost me $11.34 and took me 10 minutes to prepare (cheap and simple, I like it). 

1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil plus the remaining dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust seasonings as needed.

2. Add kale and cilantro and massage the salad with your (clean!) hands for 2 minutes to break the kale down slightly. Set aside.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, of until peppers are slightly softened. 

4. Meanwhile, place beans in a medium bowl and mash with your hands (you could also do this in a blender, but I like getting my hands dirty once in a while). Transfer to the skillet, add water and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the beans are heated through, and remove from heat. 


5. Place a small amount of the kale mixture, diced avocado and bean mixture onto each tortilla. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top. Roll up, cut in half and serve. 




Chipotle, Black Bean and Kale Burritos
Serves 6

All you need:
Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons miso
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced (or more if you like)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup water
6 (8-inch) whole grain tortillas, warmed (I used La Tortilla Factory low carb tortillas, but if you can't handle that much fiber, I completely understand...choose your favorite wrap!)
1 avocado, diced small
Juice of 1 lemon

All you do:
1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil plus the remaining dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust seasonings as needed.
2. Add kale and cilantro and massage the salad with your (clean!) hands for 2 minutes to break the kale down slightly. Set aside.
3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, of until peppers are slightly softened. 
4. Meanwhile, place beans in a medium bowl and mash with your hands (you could also do this in a blender, but I like getting my hands dirty once in a while). Transfer to the skillet, add water and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the beans are heated through, and remove from heat. 
5. Place a small amount of the kale mixture, diced avocado and bean mixture onto each tortilla. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top. Roll up, cut in half and serve. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick Fruit Sorbet: 2 Ways

Even as a dietitian, there are some days (ok, most days) when I need dessert. It's doesn't have to be anything extravagant or heavy, just something sweet to end my meal. I know it's not quite ice cream weather yet, but I love a cold treat any time of the year.

I made sorbet back when I was in culinary school and it was delicious, but I also remember it being a long process because we boiled the fruit, strained the seeds and had to wait a whole day for it to set. I'm not that patient, so I decided to think of ways to make this dessert fast (yet still as flavorful). This sorbet comes together in less than 30 minutes and will keep in your freezer for up to 3 weeks...yet I doubt it will last that long.

These recipes are my favorite flavor combinations, but you could easily substitute your favorite frozen fruit and make a bunch of fun flavors!


Quick Fruit Sorbet: 2 Ways
Each recipe serves 8

Recipe 1: Blueberry Peach Sorbet

All you need:
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 cups frozen peaches
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk




Recipe 2: Mango Sorbet
2 cups frozen mangoes
2 ripe bananas
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup agave nectar




All you do:
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, pressing down ingredients with a wooden spoon as needed. Transfer to a metal bowl or pan, cover with plastic and place in the freezer until set, about 30 minutes.




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Sriracha and Soy

Brussels sprouts (aka America's most hated vegetable) are in season right now and they also happen to be the dietitian pick of the month. But what exactly do you do with these to make them edible? I have clear memories of sitting at the dinner table with boiled Brussels in front me that I had to finish or else I didn't get dessert (such torture!). I think I ended up covering them in cheese...

Nowadays, I love cooking vegetables because I have discovered different ways to make them delectable. By roasting the Brussels, they become super crispy and nutty. With the addition of the spicy sriracha, sweet honey and soy sauce to give it that "umami" flavor, you have one amazing side dish. I served mine with grilled salmon, but it would also be a perfect vegetarian entree served over brown rice.


This meal cost me $25.45 (including the 4 salmon filets) and took me 30 minutes to prepare.

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Place Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet in a single layer, cut side up. Spray tops with cooking spray and season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once.


3. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sriracha, honey and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Add cilantro and fresh lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside.


4. When the Brussels have 5 minutes left to cook, remove them from the oven. Sprinkle slivered almonds over and complete the roasting process.

5. Place the crispy sprouts and toasty almonds into the sauce bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Sriracha and Soy
Serves 4

All you need:
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved
Nonstick cooking spray
Salt and pepper

1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha (or more if you like)
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup slivered almonds

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Place Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet in a single layer, cut side up. Spray tops with cooking spray and season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once.
3. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sriracha, honey and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Add cilantro and fresh lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside.
4. When the Brussels have 5 minutes left to cook, remove them from the oven. sprinkle slivered almonds over and complete the roasting process.
5. Place the crispy sprouts and toasty almonds into the sauce bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Spinach and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken

The words "better-for-you" and "comfort food" don't seem like two things that would go together but this dish will make you think otherwise. The spinach mixture is super creamy thanks to the small amount of tangy goat cheese and fat free cream cheese. The extra special "bite" comes from the sweet sundried tomatoes that become plump and juicy when sautéed. Served over a bed of couscous, quinoa or rice, this meal will definitely become a family favorite!

Note: If you plan you making it during the week, it may be easier to stuff the chicken the night before and just pop it in the oven when you get home from work as it does take at least 45 minutes to cook.


This meal cost me $16.30 and took me about 1 hour to prepare.

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

3. Add sundried tomato and cook for 1 minute.

4. Add baby spinach and chicken broth and cook until wilted. Transfer to a bowl.

5. Add goat cheese and cream cheese to the spinach mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.


6. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and salt both sides with salt and pepper. Stuff each with 2-3 scoops of filling.

7. Spread any extra filling onto the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish and top with chicken breasts. Bake for 45 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165 is reached. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing (I sliced mine in half).


8. To serve, place a small amount of the spinach mixture from the bottom of the pan onto each plate. Top with couscous and chicken.


Spinach and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken
Serves 4

All you need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3.5 oz.) bag sundried tomatoes
1 (10 oz.) bag baby spinach
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
4 oz. fat free cream cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Couscous, for serving (optional)

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.
3. Add sundried tomato and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add baby spinach and chicken broth and cook until wilted. Transfer to a bowl.
5. Add goat cheese and cream cheese to the spinach mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.
6. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and salt both sides with salt and pepper. Stuff each with 2-3 scoops of filling.
7. Spread any extra filling onto the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish and top with chicken breasts. Bake for 45 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165 is reached. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing (I sliced mine in half).
8. To serve, place a small amount of the spinach mixture from the bottom of the pan onto each plate. Top with couscous and chicken.