Dinner in a Pot

17 Sep

This is the story of an easy, savory, nutritious one pot dinner. Why one pot? A simple reason: it was a busy weeknight and I did not want a lot of dishes. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer is key to quick easy meals. I also like to keep fresh produce on hand so I can pull meals together without those pesky after work visits to the grocery store.

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For this dinner, I started out with broccoli and cauliflower in a bowl. Then I tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I put it on a parchement lined baking sheet (remember…few dishes!) and roasted that for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Then I put some sweet little cherry and grape tomatoes into a pot, again with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then let that simmer a bit. These cook down to a creamy delight. I also added a clove of chopped garlic.

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As that was simmering, I chopped up some fresh spinach and arugula. When the tomatoes were thick and bubbly, I added the greens. I like to mix arugula into my spinach because of the sharp peppery flavor it adds. I gave all of that a good stir.

Now dinner was really smelling delicious. Savory fragrance was wafting through the house, and I was getting really hungry! I took the veggies out of the oven when they were a little brown on the edges, and let them rest not the counter (on a hot pad) for a few minutes. Next it was time to add the pasta.

Angel hair pasta was going to be my pasta of choice because of its short cook time. I wrapped the pasta up in a clean dish towel, then ran the towel over the edge of the counter. This broke the pasta up efficiently and neatly.

Then I added chicken broth to the tomato mixture. After that, in went the pasta. It was that simple. Again, a couple of quick stirs and I let this cook on medium heat. I then went to  pour a glass of wine to accompany this delicious dinner.

When the pasta was al dente (firm to the bite) I was ready to complete the meal. I added the roasted vegetables along with shrimp as the protein. The shrimp was raw, and it only took about 3 minutes for them to cook-any longer and they would become rubbery.

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And Voila! Dinner was ready. It was a complete meal in a bowl. I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top, grabbed my glass of wine, and enjoyed a healthy weeknight meal. And my one pot meal left me with very few after dinner dishes.

This meal is customizable. Don’t like cauliflower? Try zucchini. Shrimp isn’t your thing? Add some leftover cooked chicken. Want a more robust flavor? Add red pepper flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Want a vegetarian meal? Use vegetable broth and leave out the shrimp. Craving an italian twist? Toss in some fresh parsley and basil. The possibilities are endless-but the after dinner dishes aren’t!

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Superfoods!

3 Sep

Superfoods! First we covered cabbage, and now the avocado.

I am confident that you have embraced that superfood, and are ready to add another one into your diet. Ready? Here we go! Bonus…the next superfood is not a cruciferous vegetable, so no worries about the, ahem, gas issue. It is avocado. This is a fun one.

Avocados, like cabbage, are a flexible food and super easy to prepare. An avocado has about 4 grams of protein per fruit and is low in sugar. Plus, they are rich n vitamin k, b vitamins, and have more potassium than a banana. Still need convincing? Consider that an avocado also contains half of the daily recommended amount of fiber, about 11 grams. (Okay, so maybe the fiber may be a bit gas producing, but you gotta consider the benefits and not just the…uumm…possible farts). This is a nutrient dense food.

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This Florida avocado graced my kitchen (although not for long!). Ugly but delicious!

Some folks shy away from this powerhouse fruit because it contains fat. True, it does, so adding it in the diet needs to be in moderation. But the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated, the “good” kind of fat. This fat can actually lower cholesterol, some studies suggest. So indulge.

When shopping for avocados, do not be deterred by ugly fruit. I actually prefer ugly fruit because it is less processed or sprayed than pretty perfect fruit. Go with an organic avocado if you can afford it. And check for ripeness. The avocado is ripe when is gives slightly to pressure. It should be a bit soft. Choose a softer avocado if you want to use it right away. If it will be in your fruit bowl for a few days, then opt for a more firm fruit and give it time to ripen.
What to do with an avocado you ask? The easiest thing to do is cut it up and eat it. Or layer it on a sandwich. Or dice it up and toss it in a salad. Avocado’s are delicious any way you eat it.

I had it for breakfast one morning for a powerhouse post workout meal. How? I turned the oven to 375 degrees. I sliced an avocado in half and took the pit out. Then I added a raw egg to the “divet” where the pit was.  Yup. Sure did. Then I put it on a baking sheet into the oven while I showered.

After about 20 minutes the egg was cooked in the avocado to perfection. I pulled it out of the oven added some low fat cheese, then popped it back in the oven for a few minutes. Voila! A breakfast packed with nutrients, protein, and flavor. Treat avocados like a baked potato and load ’em up!

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My baked avocado breakfast. So flavorful and nutritious. A fantastic post workout breakfast.

Whats next? Predictable but never to be overlooked, the avocado is the star of guacamole. If you have the fixings, making guacamole is a must with any avocado. And it is so simple. Lime, tomatoes, cilantro, and maybe some hot peppers if you are adventurous . Thats all you need for great guacamole. One of the best things about making this is that it is totally customizable. You can make it as spicy, as creamy, or as chunky as you prefer.

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Stir in lime, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado. Nothing short of delicious!

If you want a quick guacamole, you can do that too. Mash up fresh avocados, add some salt and pepper, and squeeze a fresh lime over it. Since you are in a hurry, stir in your favorite salsa, and you are done.  Then load up your chip, your taco, or spread it on your sandwich.

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Fresh guacamole! Fabulous and flexible!

When making anything with avocado, keeping the pit in it, such as in the guacamole, keeps it from turning brown. So does adding a bit of lemon or lime juice to it. Either way, enjoy this fantastic nutrient packed superfood in many ways. Let me know what you do with your new superfood!

If you want to check out my blog on another superfood, go here. https://busymomswellness.com/2014/05/26/blast-into-super-foods/

 

 

Sweet Summer Salsa

16 Aug

Summer fruits are bursting with flavors and colors. This season gives us sweet treats with fresh aromatic melon, berries bursting with sweet juice, and gorgeous succulent ripe peaches. But we are rounding the corner to the summers end and need a new way to enjoy summer fruit. How about a yummy salsa?

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This fruit salsa is delicious with meat and seafood. Or try serving it along side a grilled pork tenderloin for a nice pop of flavor and color. Spoon it onto flavorful chicken thighs. Oh…you want it for an appetizer? You can do that too. This salsa is just as great with crisp yellow corn chips.  Or maybe try it alongside some brie cheese and crackers. The possibilities are endless!

As you will see there is so much flexibility with one simple recipe. It has bold flavor and is packed with nutrients.   It is a snap to make and easily customizable to suit your own personal preferences.  I make this fruit salsa with cilantro for a little kick, but I would use basil in place of cilantro it if my mom was going to eat it.  She doesn’t like cilantro.

That is the beauty of a recipe like this.  It is packed with flavor, has good nutrients, and is very colso easy to alter to please your crowd!  Here it is.  But remember…I consider recipes a “jumping off point” if you will.  Recipes that I develop, like this one, can be changed to suit changing taste, available ingredients,  or budgets as often as your like!

Fresh Summer Salsa:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup chopped honey dew melon
  • 2 freestone peaches, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 lime cut in half
  • 1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepperIMG_3399

Mix everything except the lime together. Stir. Squeeze the fresh lime over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Give the salsa another good stir and there you have it.  This is best if it sits for a few hours in the fridge before serving.  Go for it!  Grab up some fresh summer fruits and make a delicious salsa of your own!

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Grill Thrill

5 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I usually had it at wine dinners, restaurants, and even in Scotland. But it was not something that I ever cooked or prepared. Having lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it’s just not on my radar.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

Never having cooked lamb before, I had some homework to do. Finding a good butcher for top of the line lamb chops was a must. I found a local mediterranean market, and lucky me…they had a butcher. Not only did they have fresh lamb, they cut the chops to order. Score!

I decided to cook the chops outside on the grill. Like steak, I learned that lamb is delicious grilled.I also discovered that rosemary was perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard in abundance, so I zipped over there and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops.

I started by letting the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature, then I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled on the rosemary. Salt and pepper too. I placed the chops on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.

I pulled them off the grill, put a pat of butter on each chop, and tented them with tin foil. Meat is at its best after resting for a few minutes. After letting the wine breath a bit, it was poured and the lamb plated. Roasted asparagus accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  The bold full bodied wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  The chops were savory, the wine delish! It was a meal to enjoy at a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the food, wine, and dinner companions. The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a success.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the savory taste sensation of well paired food and wine is always a win in my book!

 

Lover of Leftovers

1 Aug

Time. There are 24 hours in every day, but sometimes it feels like less.  So when I cook, I have to make it count for more than one meal.  Cooking big is a time saver. If I have a little wiggle room during the weekend to cook, I try to fill the fridge for the upcoming week. But even quick week night meals can provide leftovers for another meal.

Okay, it’s no secret that I love leftovers.  You can enjoy them for a second meal as is, but they can also be used as inspiration for a new dish.  I use my leftovers both ways.  If I cook a couple of extra pieces of chicken, that goes to work with me for a quick lunch at the office.  Using that chicken as inspiration for another meal might mean a nice chicken casserole or chicken salad sandwich.  Need some ideas?  Let me outline my leftovers from the past few days.

Night #1.  Leftover: Quinoa.  Used the next morning as an addition to breakfast oatmeal to power it up. Quinoa is a plant based protein loaded with beneficial amino acids. It was a satisfying protein and grain breakfast following an early morning workout at the gym.

Leftover quinoa added a nice nutritionally punch to morning oatmeal.

Leftover quinoa added plant protein to morning oatmeal.

Night #2.  Leftover:  Goat cheese.  It was leftover from a beet salad.  The next day goat cheese was a wonderful addition to a “gourmet” sandwich, adding delicious creamy flavor to a weekday brown bag lunch.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Leftover goat cheese not used for this salad added flavor to a sandwich.

Night #3.  Leftover:  Home made vinaigrette.  I used this to drizzle over veggies going into the oven to roast.  Homemade vinaigrette is super flexible and great to have around. It is a delicious way to add a wonderful layer of flavor to most anything.

Leftover vinaigrette.  This isn't just salad dressing.  It has a zillion uses.

Leftover vinaigrette. This isn’t just salad dressing. It has a zillion uses.

Night #4.  Leftover: Roasted veggies.  These leftover roasted veggies made the most amazing salad. I also threw in some of that leftover quinoa so it was a complete meal.

Roasted veggies made an awesome sandwich, panini style!

Roasted veggies made an awesome salad! The added quinoa was the perfect protein for this dish.

Night #5.  Leftover:  Pesto, with a bonus of shredded chicken. (Nonleftover: frozen cauliflower). This made a quick pasta dinner.  Dinner was ready in the time it took for a pot of water to boil and pasta to cook.  The cauliflower cooked up quick in the microwave. It was tossed together with the chicken and pesto for a quick and easy one dish dinner for a busy night.

By now I am sure you get the picture.  Be creative.  When cooking, cook a larger portion than you need.  Toss leftovers in both the fridge and the freezer.  And start embracing the ease of the next meal using leftovers.  Let me know what ends up on your dinner table!

Saute the Squash

30 Jul

I am always looking for something new with my side dishes. At meals, I like to feature more protein, veggies, and fruits than starches. Oh sure, starches are super yummy,  but I tend to opt for fresher options. Since i enjoy cooking, I also like to keep up with food trends and techniques.

That said, I work full-time, am a mom, and have a pretty packed lifestyle. Time is my most valuable commodity. I usually save my big new cooking adventures for weekends when I have more time to tinker in the kitchen. Sometimes I luck out and trying something new can be added into my weeknight “quick cooking” repertoire. Which is exactly what happened recently.

I had a gift card for a cookware store from my sweet sister in law Kathy. What fun! Going into a kitchen store, for me, is delightful and indulgant. But even with a gift card I look for the biggest bang for my buck. In a kitchen store, that means that I would not invest in a “single use” kitchen gadget. What I mean by that is if a kitchen tool only has one use, it has no place in my kitchen. Unitl now…..

I had seen the new trend with sprializing zucchini and squash. “Zucchetti” was the clever moniker, and this new technique for zucchini resembled pasta like spaghetti and lasagna noodles.  So naturally I was drawn to this cool new kitchen tool, and sought it out gift card in hand. Bingo! I found one and couldnt wait to get home and try it.

This gadget was a snap to work from the get go. I spiralized large and small width “Zucchetti”. I sauteed tomatoes to pair with it, and it turned out so well it is now on the dinner table (and lunch leftovers at the office!) quite often. Let me show you what I did.

 

I placed some freshly washed grape tomatoes into a small saucepan with a bit of olive oil, and let that simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes got saucy, fragrant, and creamy. After that,  I simply sautéed the spiraled squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then combined the two, and voila! I finished it off with some fresh parsley and basil from my summer garden. With a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese it was a complete, and completely delicious, side dish.

 

 

Zuchetti has become so much more than a simple side dish this summer. I have used this with marinara sauce, a bright lemony shrimp sauce, and other pasta sauces using zuchetti instead of pasta noodles. Whether using this as a side dish or a feature in the center of the plate item, this is a tasty replacement for starchy rice or pasta.

So even though I purchased a kitchen gadget that had basically one function, the flexibility of what can be done with the spriralized zucchini is endless.  Now my zuchetti is a mainstay for light and tasty meals. What can you do with it?

 

Breakfast Blunder

18 Feb

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what does that mean in terms of good health? Well, it means that having a healthy breakfast is critical to establishing a positive eating pattern for the rest of the day. So bring on the Frosted Flakes. Huh?

If you are watching the sugar intake, and we all need to, then try to choose something low in sugar for breakfast. A poor breakfast choice would be sugar coated cereal like Frosted Flakes, and a good choice to start our day would include yogurt. Right?

Well, not necessarily. Some breakfast cereal has long been considered nothing more than a sugar delivery system by professional nutritionists like myself. So recommending yogurt over Frosted Flakes makes sense. But surprise! Not if you are concerned about sugar.

Let’s start to deconstruct sugar in the diet. Sugar is one of three kinds of carbohydrate: starch, fiber and sugar. It can occur naturally or can be added to foods during processing. Naturally occurring sugars include lactose in milk and fructose in fruit.

Added sugars originate from many plants, including corn, beets, and sugar cane. Those sugars are processed before being added to foods. The body does not always know the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. But it adds up.

Okay…enough with the chemistry lesson. Back to the cereal and yogurt. We can compare one 8 ounce serving of yogurt and one  3/4 cup serving of Frosted Flakes. These are the serving sizes listed on the label. Which breakfast has less sugar? Lets take a look.

But first,  I am going to let you in on some nutritional math. When looking at grams of sugar on a nutritional panel, keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. Now let’s do some math.

This yogurt has 37 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. Soooooo…this “low fat” yogurt, a food generally thought to be a good choice, has a whopping 9.25 teaspoons of sugar. Whoa! Pretty surprising, right?

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The sugar coated breakfast cereal has less sugar than the yogurt. How much less? Back to that serving size of 3/4 cup. The breakfast cereal has 10 grams of sugar. Using our math, this equates to 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Quite a bit less than the yogurt. Milk has sugar in it too, so its fair to say that the cereal would increase in sugar if milk is added. Even with milk, though, the cereal is still lower in sugar than the yogurt.

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 It’s time to make smarter choices in the morning so we can set our day up for good nutrition from the start. How can you do that? Start reading labels. Take this math to the pantry and to the grocery store. By increasing your awareness of sugar in your food your decision about the most important meal of the day just may change.