I’m keeping this post simple because I feel it could easily get out of hand, fast!
Here’s the deal, like the rest of America, I am in love with pumpkin.
For some people, this is just a trendy type of love, but for me, it’s the real deal and it’s got roots, people, serious roots. You see my love of pumpkin stems from my love of Halloween. And that love story began a long, long time ago, back when I was embarking on my first trick-or-treating experience. Long before I knew that candy was just the beginning of my beautiful (and believe it or not, healthy) relationship with all things sugar. Now that I have such an advanced palate (uh huh, yep, I do. Ha!) and a degree in Nutrition, I can take what I love and put a de”light”full spin on it. Enter, my pumpkin spice granola.
Why I made this recipe: Because “soup season” has officially begun in my household and because I really enjoy a bold-flavored, hearty soup like this Red Curry Quinoa Soup.
Why I love this recipe: Well, for the reasons I made this soup and for a few more too. First, quinoa is one of my favorite grains, not only is it nutritious, but it cooks super fast. That means this soup comes together fast too! Why else, you ask? Because it’s totally satisfying. There’s nothing I dislike more than a weak, bland, watery soup. This one is none of those things!
How this recipe is healthy: Oh, that quinoa! Not only does it cook fast, but it is so nutritious! A perfect source of vegetarian protein and loaded with fiber and iron, it’s a delightful alternative to rice and other grains. And how about that red curry paste! Never heard of it? Well, let me introduce you to your new kitchen staple. This stuff is simply magical. Typically used in Thai cooking, it adds serious depth of flavor to any dish you make, plus a little heat. All of that flavor doesn’t even come at a caloric cost either! The ingredients, usually chili peppers, garlic, galangal (or Thai ginger), shallot, spices and kaffir lime are foods that are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients, that also happen to be amazingly flavorful. A true culinary and nutritional gem.
A hearty soup made with earthy, robust red curry paste, fresh vegetables and quinoa.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon red curry paste
2 teaspoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
1 cup quinoa
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
2 tablespoons lime juice
Sea or Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper and sweet potato and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, curry paste and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the quinoa and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and quinoa is cooked.
Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Season with salt to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
Cut the potatoes into half-inch cubes, this helps them to cook more quickly. And don’t worry if they’re not exactly a half-inch, just about that size is perfect! 🙂
Looking to “amp-up” your freezer-meal arsenal? Have no fear, because my Basic Black Beans are here!
Ok, so that was a little hokey, but it’s true! This month’s theme for the Recipe Redux was to share one of our favorite freezer meals. Immediately, I thought of my favorite recipe for basic black beans. How many times have they saved my life? More than I can count, let’s just say that.
What’s so great about these beans? EVERYTHING!
I’m not joking. They are just an all-around hero in my house and let me tell you why. First, they are made from scratch and that makes for some pretty perfect beans. Oh, I hear you mocking me about that, but hear me out. When you cook beans from scratch, you get to flavor them and control their firmness. Have you ever tried to eat a bean from a can, just by itself? It’s not that great, right? Generally flavorless and slightly on the mushy side, right? Well, those beans have their purpose, but not when I just want to sit down and eat a bowl full. Second, these beans are freezer champions. Meaning, you can stick these beauties in the freezer and then break off bits and pieces when you want them. It’s amazing and such a time saver!
Oh, I can almost hear you now…”Sara, this is great, but what the heck am I going to do with all of these beans?”
Don’t freak out! I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that! There’s sooooo much you can do with these. First, you can literally just eat them out of the pot like soup. Top a bowl of black beans with Greek yogurt, a little salsa and cheddar cheese and you’ve got an amazing meal. Or, drain them and add them to tacos or burritos. Still not buying it? Try mashing them up and putting them in a quesadilla or on top of a piece of whole grain toast along with some avocado. Sound good? Whew…now go make them and see for yourself!
With just a little planning, delicious black beans can be yours to be used in any meal. These beans freeze well, so enjoy some now and stick them in the freezer to have later.
1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
6 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
The night before
Place the rinsed black beans in one or two large, sealable container(s) and pour enough water over them to cover by a few inches (they’ll expand a little, so give them room!)
To cook the beans
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, stirring and cook an additional 1 minute.
Drain the beans from the soaking liquid (you can toss the soaking liquid) and place in the pot with the onions and cumin. Add the water, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover partially with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, Add the salt and cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until the beans are tender, but still holding their shape.
Remove beans from the heat and stir in the Mexican oregano.
Serve as is for the perfect side dish or drain and add to tacos or quesadillas. They can also be served as soup and topped with Greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
You love it so much that you insist on ordering it at least once a week from your favorite pizza place. While that’s fine and good, it’s um, actually not. Many pizza places load on the heavy toppings and leave you feeling like you just ate a vat of oil topped with a salt lick. Yuck. Ok, well, maybe it tastes good at the time, but it can leave you feeling pretty gross. But don’t worry, I have a solution! My famous (or soon-to-be-famous) Easy Pizza Toasts.
Yes, pizza can be yours and it can taste good and leave you feeling awesome!
What’s the trick? There isn’t one! Yup, it really is easy. Let me explain. Start with some yummy whole wheat bread then slice it thinly. Cook up some yummy veggies (this toast I made with onions and squash) – hint, cut them up small so that they cook fast (this also makes them look super cute on your toasts). Spread a little marinara on top of those bread slices, top with a little cheese (a good, flavorful sharp cheddar is my favorite), then add the veggies. Slide them into the oven for about 10 minutes and you’ve got Easy Pizza Toasts!
So, no more heavy pizza for you (ok, have it every once in awhile), instead enjoy the crispy, crunchy, veggie-goodness of these Pizza Toasts!
Quickly sautéed veggies piled high on whole grain bread topped with cheddar cheese then toasted in the oven.
1/2 loaf, 15-ounce whole wheat baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the bias
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion (about 2 1/2 ounces), diced small
1/2 medium zucchini (about 5 ounces), diced small
1/2 medium yellow squash (about 5 ounces), diced small
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup canned or jarred marinara sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400’F. Line a 9×13-inch sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
Heat the oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. (You may need to adjust the heat to prevent burning.) Stir in the zucchini, squash and salt and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and oregano and cook one more minute. Remove pan from the heat.
Spread marinara sauce evenly over bread slices, then sprinkle with cheese. Top each slice with some of the squash mixture. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until bread is toasted and cheese has melted.
Garnish with fresh basil before serving.
This recipe makes 20 pizza toasts. A great appetizer or main dish!
It’s time for another recipe for the Short and Sweet Series:
Let’s talk blueberry muffins!!!
Why I made this recipe: Because I wanted muffins. 🙂 Oh, and I wanted to try and make them healthier by using Greek yogurt.
Why I love this recipe: Because they are loaded with blueberries and I adore blueberries (see below). Plus, I like that they are a little heartier and denser than your average muffin, thanks to the Greek yogurt.
I love jam. I am not kidding. It’s just my thing…jam is my jam. There really is something special about it. In fact, there was a Christmas a few years back where my mother-in-law bought me jam, and it just about brought me to tears! Bless her, because it was and still is, a very happy and memorable moment. Jam-of-the-month club? Sign me up!
But here’s the deal, sometimes those jams are loaded with sugar. I know, a lot of people dig that extra shot of carbohydrate-crazy in the morning, but not me. I like the fruit and I want to taste the fruit, not the sugar. So, when I’m itching for some seriously tasty, fruity jam, I make my own. It’s completely simple to do and I love that I control what goes in it, that means less sugar, more fruit. Yay!
This triple berry jam is a great way to enjoy the rest of your summer produce. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are all delicious and amazingly nutritious, so why not make a jam out of them!? If you don’t have fresh, use frozen, just know that you may need to cook it a little longer than the recipe below states.
What else can you use this delicious jam for besides toast? How about swirling it in yogurt? Or adding it to your bowl of oatmeal? I also think it’s pretty amazing on top of frozen yogurt or a piece of angel food cake. Yum!
Ps-Don’t skip the zest! It’s such a refreshing addition. Just be sure to wait to add it until the jam has cooled off a bit, otherwise it’ll just taste bitter.
A simple homemade jam made with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, orange and a touch of honey.
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 orange, zested and juiced
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quarted (or cut into eighths if large)
Combine the honey and orange juice in the bottom of a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the fruit, stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat, transfer the jam to a bowl or jar and allow to cool.
Once cooled, stir in the orange zest then cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to enjoy.
Why I made this recipe: Because I need things to be simple sometimes, yet I also want them to taste good and be relatively healthy. I mean, who doesn’t want that? Or, should I say, why wouldn’t we all want that!?
Why I love this recipe: It requires no cooking which means my kitchen (and all of those in it) stay cool. It’s quick and easy to put together, something your kids could definitely help you do. It’s loaded with flavor, especially if you use a delicious hummus that’s loaded with good things like veggies or garlic. I also love it because I utilized a simple restaurant trick of dressing the greens before putting them in this sandwich. Yum, it’s a step you shouldn’t skip!
How this recipe is healthy: It seems I am turning into a bit of a vegetarian these days. Or maybe I am just having a summer love affair with vegetables? I can’t help it, they are so good. So, this recipe is loaded with healthy, nutrient-rich vegetables and accented with a tiny bit of full-flavored feta cheese. The dressing on the greens is made from olive oil (yay to unsaturated fat!) and the hummus is a great spread that adds flavor without adding excessive calories and fat. Pile it all on some seriously delicious, whole-grain bread, and you’ve got yourself a winning dish that would make any dietitian (or mom) proud!
1 cup hummus (plain, roasted red pepper, garlic, whatever!)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced tomato
In the bottom of a mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar and garlic. Whisk in the olive oil and season with black pepper. Add the spinach or arugula and toss to coat.
If desired, lightly toast the bread slices. Lay out the bread slices on a clean surface and spread 1 tablespoon of hummus onto each slice. On half of the slices, add the feta, cucumber, spinach and tomatoes. Top with other bread slice and serve.
Well, it’s officially September and it’s blazing saddles here in Chicago. That means it’s time to be creative in the kitchen. Read, “how can I cook without cooking?” Luckily, Mother Nature is on our side during the warmer months, providing us with a wealth of fresh produce that requires very little preparation. How kind of Her! So, to keep the sweat at bay, I created this hearty bean salad that’s both refreshing and satisfying.
If you’ve got a can opener and a knife, you’re all set for this recipe. Just pop open a couple of cans of beans, then chop up some fresh veggies and you’ve pretty much got this dish made. Lots of beans and veggies means you know it’s good for you, which is just an added bonus, really. Then, to jazz it all up a bit, I’ve created a tangy, yet sweet vinaigrette made from fresh lime juice and zest as well as honey, mustard and olive oil. That’s it! So easy, just like I promised.
Serve up a big bowl of this tonight for dinner and save the rest to munch on during the week. This salad tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge.
P.S. – If you’re not in the mood to cook an ear of fresh corn, you can substitute thawed corn or canned corn. See, so easy!
This delightfully healthy dish comes together fast and it not only looks beautiful, but tastes great too.
For the salad
1 ear of fresh corn, shucked and cleaned (or about 1 cup corn kernels)
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean will work here too)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
For the dressing
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt, to taste
To prepare the salad
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and return to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse the corn under cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and when cool enough to touch, cut kernels from the cob and add to a large serving or mixing bowl.
To the same bowl with the corn, add the beans, peppers, onion, cilantro and jalapeño, if you’re using it. Toss to combine.
For the dressing
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, lime zest, lime juice and honey. Whisk in the olive oil.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to evenly coat the beans and vegetables. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Toss again before serving.
This recipe makes between 7 1/2 and 8 cups salad.
You don’t have to let this salad sit in the fridge before digging in, but it does taste so much better when you do!
Why I made this recipe: Because I love trying new smoothie recipes and mango is one of my favorite fruits.
Why I love this recipe: This one is super creamy, and the touch of coconut makes it feel indulgent and tropical, like you’re on vacation, laying on a beach, reading a good book, under the shade of a palm tree…you get the picture.
How this recipe is healthy: Oh, it’s healthy alright. If you read the ingredient list, you’ll know that this smoothie is jam-packed with good nutrients. It’s loaded with healthy fats from the avocado and flax seed and it’s bursting with powerful vitamins like A and C and important minerals like potassium. And don’t forget the calcium, it’s in there too, thanks to that healthy dose of low-fat milk.
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (or other non-dairy milk alternative)
1/2 avocado, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
2 tablespoons grated or flaked dried coconut
2 teaspoons honey
Spread the sliced banana and mango cubes evenly out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. (If desired, this step can be done advance, just be sure to transfer partially frozen fruit to a re-sealable freezer bag to prevent it from sticking to the paper).
Pour the milk into the bottom of a blender and add the frozen fruit, avocado, ground flax seed, coconut and honey. Puree until smooth. Pour into cups and serve immediately.
Makes 3 cups.
This smoothie isn’t mind-numbingly sweet. But if you’re looking for some additional sweetness, add a little more honey.
The theme of this month’s redux is “back to the dinner table” and I love this theme because I am a huge advocate of sitting down at the table and eating and enjoying meals as a family. When I grew up, this was something we did, maybe not for every meal, but as often as we could. Sure, it was a little crazy at times and there were definitely instances where foods was pushed around on plates or tossed across the table, but it was great and I have many fond memories of sitting and eating with my family.
The tradition of sitting down and eating dinner as a family continues at my house. And to honor the family dinner, I thought pancakes were in order since they happen to be one of our favorite foods. And hey, breakfast for dinner is always fun, right?
My husband happens to really like carrot cake, so he inspired these little Carrot Cake Pancakes. It’s totally like having your cake and eating it too. The great thing about them is that these little cakes are loaded with nutrition instead of fat and calories.
To top off the theme of family, I have to include a special thanks to two very special people who helped me with this recipe and blog post, my mom and her husband Stan. Notice how awesome these pics look? Yup, that’s their handiwork! My mom created those amazing vignettes and Stan was an expert at holding the makeshift paper “screen” to help create/block light. They also happily obliged to taste-testing, and judging by the looks of the empty plate, I’m assuming they liked them.
So, from my family to yours, we wish you many happy meals at the table!
P.S. – These little cuties are super delicious with a little drizzle of maple syrup and a light dusting with powdered sugar. 🙂
The tasty goodness of carrot cake without all of the fat and calories!
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup low fat milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 cups finely grated carrot
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and brown sugar. Stir in the nuts and carrots. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir gently until combined.
Heat non-stick pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Once hot, spray with non-stick cooking spray and drop pancakes onto hot pan using a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Cook on the first side until batter begins to bubble, then flip and cook the other side an additional 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned.
This recipe serves 8, which gives each person two delicious pancakes apiece.