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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Curried Lentils with Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Now I must confess, I can't actually recall the last time I've had proper Indian cuisine. Which is odd considering I'm a vegetarian, and most of their culture is as well. Usually when I'm in the mood for Indian, I'll just throw in some curry and chili powder to whatever I'm making and call it a day. Tofu scrambles with curry powder count as Indian food, right? But lately I've been wanting to get a bit more authentic. I usually don't follow recipes when I'm cooking, but I did do some snooping around on the Internet to get a couple of ideas. I also wanted to keep it simple because I'm not one of the people that had red curry paste or garam masala on hand. I know, I'm such an awful foodie! 

So this weekend I finally put all of my ideas into a few pots and pans and hoped for the best. What I got may not have been completely authentic Indian, but it was absolutely delicious, and I can't wait to make it again! 

Curried Lentils with Toasted Sunflower Seeds
Serves 1-2 (1 larger meal, or two smaller meals)
  • 1/2c. lentils, dry (green are best, others will get too mushy)
  • 1/4c. red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2c. mushrooms, diced (buttons or crimini would work best)
  • 2t. olive oil
  • 3T. tomato paste
  • 1/2-1 1/12c. water (or low sodium vegetable broth)
  • 2-3 big handfuls of baby spinach, long stems removed
  • 1T. curry powder
  • 1t. ground cumin
  • 1-2t. sriracha or hot sauce (to taste)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2T. raw* or toasted sunflower seeds
1. Cook lentils according to package until they reach desired tenderness.
2. In a sauce sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Toss in onions and garlic and stir frequently until fragrant. Add in mushrooms and stir. 
3. Add cooked lentils and gently stir to combine ingredients. Begin seasoning by the ingredient list (I didn't actually measure out my seasonings, I just did everything to taste, but listed above is a rough estimate of what I used. Please accommodate to your own preferences).
4. Add in tomato paste and stir. Start adding water (or broth) in 1/2c. intervals. Stir after each addition of liquid and continue to add until desired viscosity (it shouldn't be like soup, but it should also not be thick and paste-like).
5. Add the spinach and stir until completely combined and leaves begin to wilt.
6. Adjust salt, pepper, hot sauce, and other spices to taste.
7. Serve hot over brown or basmati brown rice and top with toasted sunflower seeds.
*If you're weird like me and buy raw sunflower seeds in bulk, simply toast them in a dry pan or medium heat for 1-2 minutes, tossing frequently, being careful not to burn them. 

Authentic or not, I can tell you that my belly was very happy with this meal. The toasted sunflower seeds really made the dish, and I kind of added them to the recipe just to get some different texture, but the nutty flavor complemented the spicy, tomatoey lentils so well. They are absolutely essential! I loved this dish so much that I'm actually going to be making it again tonight for me and a friend. 

Something to think about: How often do you try cooking different cuisines?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Healthy Comfort Food

There's nothing more satisfying during the winter months than a hot bowl of creamy, cheesy, carb-y goodness! Unfortunately eating an entire box of macaroni and cheese isn't the healthiest choice. I remember when I could polish off and entire bag of Velveeta...the most processed kind of cheese you can find on mother Earth. Oy! Thankfully, for my body's sake, I've changed my ways. 

Cheesy Quinoa and Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  • 1/4c. quinoa, dry
  • 1/2c. chic peas, rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of brussel sprouts (about 5-10), halved and the brown ends cut off
  • 1oz. (about 1/4c.) crumbled goat cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested (optional)
  • thyme, salt, and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400*. In a separate bowl, toss the halved sprouts with a little olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Arrange sprouts, halved side up, on a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Begin cooking quinoa according to package instructions in a medium size pot.
3. After 5-10 minutes, put the brussel sprouts in the oven to roast. They should only take about 15 minutes, so keep checking them.
4. When quinoa is almost finished cooking, add the chic peas to the same pot. 
5. The sprouts and and quinoa should be done around the same time. The sprouts should just start to brown, but not be too crispy. Remove from the oven and add them to the quinoa pot. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to combined. Finally, add the cheese and stir until it has melted and become completely incorporated. Serve hot and enjoy the comforting goodness.

If the thought of eating brussel sprouts sends a shutter down your spine, I highly suggest giving them a shot with this recipe. When roasted, brussel sprouts no longer have that bitter taste and they won't be gross and mushy. Plus, everything is better with cheese, I mean, am I right, or am I right?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Faster, Easier, Healthier

So I've got a recipe that's more of a guideline. It can be made for lunch or dinner, as a sandwich or salad, and, excluding the base, the ingredients can be whatever you have on hand.

For many people, tuna salad becomes a dieting staple, but for the most part, it is usually made with way too much mayonnaise. Many also forget the high mercury content in tuna, so it really should be eaten in moderation. That being said, I made the switch a few months back to canned salmon. Canned salmon has a really mild flavor, so even if you aren't a big salmon fan, you probably wouldn't even notice a difference. Salmon is also a great source of omega-3s, so I highly recommend giving it a chance for a tuna alternative.

And when I make salmon salad, I prefer using half a mashed avocado for the condiment portion. It's not that I think mayo is the devil, it's just that an avocado is more nutritionally dense (meaning it provides more nutrients  per calorie).

The base for my Salmon Salad recipe is 1 can of salmon, drained and 1/2 an avocado, mashed. That's it. Obviously, salt and pepper to taste (I really don't think it needs salt though because the salmon has been salted), but everything else is totally up to you!

Possible add-ins:
  • salsa
  • tomato
  • red onion
  • peppers (sweet, hot, or roasted)
  • mixed greens
  • sprouts
  • sriracha
  • cucumber
  • carrots
  • anything else in your pantry or fridge!
The last time I made salmon salad I stuffed it in a whole wheat pita with onions, peppers, sriracha, and sprouts. I just love the creaminess an avocado gives as opposed to mayonnaise. Trust me, once you try it, you'll become a convert too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

One-Pot Wonders

If I could cook everything in one pot, I would. So much less to clean up. There are some days when I'm in the mood to make some extravagant that has a lot of steps and is very labor intensive. Then there are other days when a yogurt or a peanut butter sandwich sound good enough for me. Unfortunately, I know if I get too lazy my body won't be in its prime. It's all about compromise. Hence why I love dinners that can be cooked in one pot, in a short amount of time. 

This is what I like to call a quinoa bowl, specifically an Italian Quinoa Bowl. One pot, simple ingredients, no headaches. 

Serves 4 main dishes, 6-8 sides

  • 1c. dry quinoa, rinsed
  • 4c. water (low sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth can be used also)
  • 3c. chic peas, rinsed (2 cans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I use Hunt's No Salt Added with garlic, oregano, and basil
  • 4 big handfuls of kale, chopped*
  • 1c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (1/2c. mozz. + 1/2c. ricotta would also be tasty now that I'm thinking of it...)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt, pepper, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, all to taste
1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
2. Once the quinoa has absorbed about 90% of the water, add the chic peas, tomatoes, seasonings, and stir to combined. 
3. Add the kale and drizzle with a little bit of O.O., then stir until incorporated. 
4. Once the kale has turned a dark green, add the cheese and stir. Serve hot once cheese is melted.

*I found a big bag of chopped kale at a Stop and Shop by my house last week and I'm surprised how long it has stayed fresh and how many meals I've gotten out of it. Definitely easier and possibly less expensive then buying an entire bunch and then having to chop and de-stem yourself.

This makes a great vegetarian main, or it could easily be a side dish that accompanies a grilled or broiled chicken dish. Nevertheless, it's fast and easy, and so is the clean up!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back To Normal

Just a quick life update: This week I moved back into school, and I'm living in apartment that is equipped with a kitchen. Praise the heavens because I enjoy cooking too much, and I really didn't want to be forced to eat in a college dining hall. That being said, I plan on updating *le blog* more often so I can prove that it is possible to lead a healthy lifestyle while having a social life and cramming for exams. If you didn't already know, I am studying nutrition and plan on becoming a Registered Dietitian, and after the first few days of class, I can already tell that I made the right decision and I couldn't be happier about it! 

Now enough about me, let's get to some eats!

The day I moved into school, I wanted something special for breakfast that would keep me energized for lugging heavy boxes for the rest of the day. And even though I have a sick obsession with oatmeal, I knew that I needed something with a little more staying power. 

Cue omelette! I love making omelettes. I usually make one for my father every Sunday, but I always opt for my oatmeal. So when I make an omelette, it has to be special, and loaded with veggies. 

Mushroom and Kale Omelette
  • 1 egg (I use Eggland's Best)
  • 2 egg whites
  • splash of milk
  • 1 small handful of kale, chopped
  • 2 small mushrooms, diced (I used baby bellas)
  • 1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (feta or swiss would also work)
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Steam the kale for a minute or two, just until the leaves are tender and dark green. Remove from pot, pan, whatever you steamed them in, drain water and set aside (water bath isn't necessary)
2. Heat a small pan (sprayed with cooking oil), and add mushrooms. Cook, over medium heat, until they are tender and darken, but no not burn them. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, egg whites, and milk. Beat until incorporated. Add taste and pepper to taste.
4. Add the drained kale to the pan with the mushrooms and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Pour egg mixture over the veggies and make sure everything is coated. Let eggs sit, undisturbed for 30 seconds to a minute. Poke any air bubbles that form. Continue to cook the eggs by letting the rest that have not set slide to the side of the pan. If you don't like you're eggs a little runny, then flip your omelette, but if you're pan is very small you run the risk of making a huge mess (I prefer to just cook mine on one side). 
5. Sprinkle cheese on one half of the eggs and flip the other side over to create a half-moon shape. Allow 30 seconds to a minute for the cheese to melt. 

I served my eggs with Cinnamon-Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds, which are simply a sweet potato, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch rounds, tossed with a little coconut oil (or other neutral tasting oil) and cinnamon, then baked for about 30 minutes at 400*. 

Filling, satisfying, and delicious. What else could you ask for in the morning?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Beginning

Hello, all! Since it is the New Year, I figured I would share a new recipe. 

Most New Year's resolutions revolve around weight loss, getting active, or eating better. I think it's pretty safe to say that most people who made these resolutions get discouraged or lose track of their goals after the first few weeks. The only reason I don't like declaring resolutions is because there's no reason to wait until the first of January to get healthy. Nevertheless, I do think it is a good idea to make your resolutions known, this way you become accountable for the decisions you make around friends and family. 

Weight loss is all about commitment and patience. Slipping up, or enjoying a favorite food doesn't mean you have to toss your goals aside and hop on the guilt train. Realizing that your diet won't be perfect is the first step. During the holidays I indulged in my fair share of sweets and delicious baked goods, but I don't feel at all guilty about it and even though I may have gained a few pounds, I would do it all again in a heart beat. It's never too late to turn over a new leaf. 

That being said, I have fallen head over heels for this new smoothie I have concocted. Enter the Creamy Green Protein Smoothie

Taken with Instagram

  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder (I used Vanilla Sunwarrior
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 c. unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of your choice)
  • 1 handful of blueberries (or other fruit)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 2 BIG handfuls of spinach
  • 1 Tbsp. chia or hemp seeds (optional)
  • Splashes of water to preferred consistency (I eyeball to about a 1/3-1/2 c.)
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Yields about two glasses, but serves one. 

This has become my new obsession post-gym. It truly is a meal in a glass that will fill you up, keep you full, and leave you feeling energized to conquer the day. It's funny, I use to laugh at people who drank protein shakes, but now I don't know how I would survive without them. If you don't use protein powder but still want to make this a protein smoothie, then you can add about a half a cup to a cup of Greek yogurt. But if you're planning on making this for post-work out fuel, I wouldn't recommend using dairy for your source of protein because it takes longer to digest and your muscles will need to be revived as soon as possible. 

My mother still thinks I'm nuts for adding things like avocado and spinach to smoothies, but their flavors are so mild that the sweetness from the fruit make you feel like you're drinking a super healthy milk shake. Not only is this great after a visit to the gym, but it even makes a great snack in between meals if you're trying to stick to a diet plan. Protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables...need I say more? 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Breakfast Tongue Twister

Hello, blog world, long time no see! I've been really busy with school and work, so I've mostly just been posting my photos on Instagram because it's just much more convenient. It's been sort of same old, same old for me these days, but I have been lucky enough to have the time to try out some new recipes! Those of which have included soups, pastas, salads, and, my favorite, breakfast recipes.

Since today is Sunday and I usually like to relax and get work done today, I enough a nice breakfast, preferably one that I can share with my whole family. I should note that certain members of my family are, how shall I say it, stuck in their unhealthy ways? *Cough cough* DAD! But I do try and expand as many food horizons as I can.

All weekend I have been dying to make pancakes, and today was the prefect occasion to take my time and try out a new recipe I had been working on. I got inspired by a recipe I found and decided to combine it with another recipe from one of my favorite food blogs. Then I put my own spin on it and viola! Whole Wheat-Oatmeal Pumpkin Pancakes (say that ten times fast!):

(I topped mine with coconut butter :) )
Serves 1 (can easily be doubled or multiplied to any amount)
  • 1/4 c. Whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. Old fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Brown sugar, packed, but broken up after measuring
  • 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice (I just did a few good dashes)
  • 2 Egg whites (or one whole egg)
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk (I just used a little splash of almond milk)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbsp. Pumpkin pure (4 Tbsp= 1/4c. I just did it to eye)
1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and sift together.
2. Add wet ingredients and whisk with a fork until smooth.
3. Spray your griddle or skillet with oil and put on medium heat. 
4. Spoon batter onto heated griddle and let cook until bubbles have formed in the batter (about 1-2 minutes), then flip. 
5. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for an addition minute or two. DO NOT FLIP PANCAKES MORE THAN ONCE! Doing so will flatten your pancakes, and your want them to be light and fluffy. 
6. Once fully cooked, place pancakes in a stack and top with your favorites (butter, syrup, PB, fruit, anything!) and enjoy!

The oats in the batter give the pancakes a chewy texture, which I enjoyed. But If you would rather a more traditional version, you can use 1/2c. of whole wheat flour instead of adding the rolled oats. That's actually what I did when I made a new batch for my parents this morning. As I mentioned earlier, my father can be a toughie when it comes to try new things, ESPECIALLY health foods. But he really enjoyed the pancakes! He even asked for seconds! Small wins, people, it's all about the small wins.