Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grandma's Good Homemade Bread


I grew up on this fantastic recipe developed by my Grandma (that's us in the kitchen together--if only I could still fit into that outfit.) My family always referred to this bread by its full four-part name; anything less would be sacrilege! The recipe has trickled down the Hart family line (which just happens to be infused with culinary genius;) some, like my Uncle Charlie, have managed to successfully tweak it, but I'm not brave enough to mess with something so perfect. Hell, I'm still trying to get the kneading-and-rising thing figured out.

This bread gets its nutritive qualities from the combination of whole wheat flour and wheat germ, which join forces on the fiber and protein fronts. Wheat germ is also high in vitamin E and folic acid (a B vitamin.) Sweetened with molasses and honey, this bread's touch of sweetness is easier on your body to process than that of baked goods made with refined sugar.

Ingredients (makes one large and two regular-sized loaves; after filling two bread pans, I shape the remaining dough into a big round loaf and bake it on a baking sheet):
2 packets active dry yeast, disolved in
3 cups water, lukewarm
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey (or a mix of honey and molasses, depending on the contents of your pantry)
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
plenty of extra flour to dust your hands and kneading surface

1. Dissolve yeast in water (temperature-test the water by pouring it over your wrist the same way you'd test a baby bottle.)
2. Sift flours with salt into a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix gently but thoroughly--you don't want any remaining flour patches.
3. Now comes the kneading. I like to do this in two parts, both because the dough is easier to deal with that way, and because measuring the elasticity of the dough I'm kneading against the unkneaded batter gives me a sense of how much more kneading I have to go. Whether you knead the dough all together or in portions, it takes about 10 minutes per batch to achieve desired elasticity. I write off the time commitment as good upper-body exercise, so throw your shoulders into it!
4. Return dough to the bowl and cover it with a towel. Allow it to rise until it has doubled in size--this will probably take between 45 minutes and an hour. Make sure the bread is not rising in a drafty area; if your kitchen is cool, you can stick the bowl in the oven to protect it from drafts. In the meantime, lightly grease the bread pans with a little butter or non-stick spray.
5. Preheat oven to 350º. When the dough has risen sufficiently, punch it down to release the big air bubbles and knead it once or twice. Transfer dough to the bread pans (and baking sheet, if you're using my trick.) Allow the dough to rise again, ideally doubling in size again and rising to the tops of the pan centers. (
6. When the bread has finished its second rising stint, it's finally ready to bake. This will take about 40-45 minutes; bake the loaves until they've turned light brown, but don't let them dry out!

If you wrap your bread well in foil, it will keep for quite awhile without loosing moisture. You can also freeze part of your batch for later if you can't eat it all in about a week. Ideally served fresh out of the oven or toasted and spread with a little olive oil, pumpkin butter, or jam, this bread is also great for sandwiches or as a side with soup or salad!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sopa de Batata para Bretaña


That's Spanish for "Sweet Potato Soup for Brittany," y'all!

I recently discovered the surprisingly delicious combo of black beans and sweet potato, so I thought I'd experiment a bit with this beautiful (and super-nutritious) marriage. Cilantro, my friend Brittany's favourite herb (she and I share a love of Mexican culinary delights,) had to be involved, so I chopped up plenty of this amazing-smelling greenery and put my spice collection to work in search of the perfect complementary flavours. The result of my experiment is a filling, good-for-you soup that holds its own as a satisfying meal.

This is only my second attempt at homemade soup, and I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with myself! Once you get started, it's hard to stop throwing things into the food processor. I set out with the goal of making a vegan version, but if you're feelin' spunky, you might wanna experiment adding some dairy (1/2 of skim milk, perhaps?)

In an attempt to water down my very thick concoction, I got brave and threw a little wine into the mix. This would've been a better idea if the bottle I had in the fridge was NOT a fruity pinot grigio; if I were you, I'd use something super dry like savignon blanc. If you don't have any wine on hand, no worries; I'm sure it'll be great without the spiking!

Sweet potatoes pack an insanely high content of vitamin A. They're also high in vitamin C and fiber, and contain significant amounts of of iron and calcium, which makes them an important dietary component for vegans and vegetarians. Top the soup with 1/2 cup of black beans, and you've got yourself a protein party! Good luck with your soup-making endeavors, I think you'll have fun experimenting. I want to hear all about your adventures!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings--great the next day for lunch!):
6 cups peeled sweet potatoes, coursely chopped (I used almost a full bag)
1/2 cup water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup very dry white wine
1/2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

topping:
one can black beans, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP cilantro (I like to snip mine into little pieces with scissors)
juice of 1/2 lime

optional toppings: grilled chicken strips, fat-free sour cream, hot sauce, crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. Place them on a 1"-deep baking sheet and drizzle them with 1/2 cup of water (this keeps them from drying out without the added fat of oil.) Roast the potatoes until they're soft to the touch--20 minutes should do the trick.
2. Mince the garlic and cilantro and throw them into a bowl with the rinsed beans. Squeeze the lime over the beans and stir well.
3. When the sweet potatoes are done, throw all of the soup ingredients into your blender or food processor and give it a whirl (depending on the size and power of your machine, you might need to blend your ingredients in two batches.)
4. Dish everything up all pretty-like. Ole!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Treat Your Ticker: Almond-Encrusted Flounder with Pomegranate Sauce


This recipe is inspired by my dad's heart-healthy diet. Over the past few years, he has made pomegranate and unsweetened grape juices, red wine and oatmeal his everyday staples (the first three are known for being incredibly rich in antioxidants; oatmeal's high content of soluble fiber, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, help keep the heart in tip-top shape.)

As far as choosing seafood goes, wild-caught Alaskan salmon delivers the highest dose of omega-3's, an important inclusion in everyone's diet, but particularly necessary for those actively trying to prevent cardiovascular disease. Because salmon can have a high mercury content--particularly the farm-raised and Atlantic varieties--it's important to limit your consumption and supplement your omega-3 intake by eating things like ground flaxseed (add it to your oatmeal, Daddy!) and walnuts.

I had hoped to use halibut for this recipe because of its high potassium content (an essential nutrient for the cardiovascular system) but I wasn't able to find any. Halibut is easily interchangeable with other mild white fish like cod, tilapia and flounder, and we found a locally caught version of the latter (bonus points if you can tell me why it's important to buy local!!) Lean white fish like these varieties may not be as high in omega-3's as fatty fish, but you still receive some of the benefits.

Next up: pomegranate juice, the fruit world's biggest celebrity in recent years. Besides containing several times more antioxidants than green tea and other juices, pomegranate juice has been found to play a role in lengthening the time it takes for cancer to develop in those who already have it, and it also seems to increase blood flow to the heart, reduce arterial plaque and inhibit the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol.)*

Almonds add the finishing touch to this heart-tastic meal. The major heart-healthy nutritional component in almonds is their high level of monounsaturated fat, which is associated with cardiovascular health.* Have you heard of the Mediterranean diet? It's based on this type of fat, which, in addition to eating plenty of fiber and protein, helps keep you satiated so that you'll be less likely to overeat.

Though this recipe has a fancy-schmancy title, it's easy to make and can be done without breaking the bank; I spent $22 on ingredients and fed three people.

Sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups pomegranate juice
1-1/2 TBSP honey
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1/2 lime
dash of olive oil for sauteeing garlic

Fish (makes 3-4 servings):

1 lb. flounder, halibut, cod, tilapia, or orange roughy (you can find the latter in the frozen foods section)
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1 cup panko (use crushed rice crackers for a gluten-free version) **
salt & pepper to taste

**A box of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) runs between $2.50 and $3.50. Most brands keep their recipes simple, making panko a healthier option (as it contains a significant amount of fiber, some protein, and minimal sodium, sugar & additives) than other types of bread crumbs. Not to worry if you don't already have some in your pantry and don't want to spend the extra bucks; I made a few pieces of fish using only crushed almonds and they were still yummy.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large deep frying pan, sautee garlic in a drop of olive oil. When garlic begins to brown, add juice, honey, lime and lime zest (if you don't have a zester, you can use the fine side of a cheese grater to grate the lime over the pan.
2. Cook sauce over medium heat, letting it simmer but not boil. When it has been reduced to about half of its original quantity (10-15 minutes,) turn off the heat. Set aside about 1/4 cup of sauce and add the fish to the pan with the remaining sauce. Allow it to soak for a minute or two.
3. In a large bowl, combine crushed almonds, panko, salt and pepper. Arrange your dipping station; you'll need the pan of fish, the panko-almond mix, and a baking sheet spread with a large piece of aluminum foil.
4. Coat each piece of fish with the panko-almond mix and transfer it to the baking sheet. Spoon the remaining sauce over the fish (keep the 1/4 cup you reserved separate.) Spread a second piece of foil over the fish and pinch the sides of the foil pieces together (this prevents the fish from drying out in the oven.)
5. Baking time will vary depending on the thickness of your fish. My flounder filets--which were very thin--took 15 minutes. To test for doneness, slice into the center of a filet; the fish should be white and flake easily. Spoon a little bit of the reserved sauce over each piece if you want an extra pomegranatey kick!

Healthy Girl Says: Serve this yummy fish over a bed of rainbow chard sauteed in garlic and a drop of olive oil. Chard is a dark leafy green that deserves more attention than it often receives; it is absolutely PACKED with fiber, calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A & C.

*This information comes from Dr. Jonny Bowden's "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprisingly Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why," which is a great source of inspiration as well as a fantastic reference book. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Katie's Feel-good Applejack Quesadillas


Havin a bad day? Me too, girl. I have a whole routine dedicated to tackling this problem, and it involves a lot of Mariah Carey, an empowering inner monologue (which often becomes an outer monologue if I'm home alone) and quesadillas!

I was having a bad day for most of 2003. Luckily, my downstairs neighbor, Katie, served as a live-in shoulder to cry on and on-call snack-maker. Our routine would go a little something like this: I would let myself into Katie's house via the back door, we'd chitchat about our day, I'd mention that I was hungry and accept her offer to make us a snack as if the idea never would have occurred to me. I'd offer the contents of my kitchen cabinet--which was usually two or three kinds of hot sauce and some celery salt--but the magic of the bad day snack cure was all in Katie's creativity. She's especially good at inventing new twists on the classic quesadilla, so I asked her for her favourite combo to share with y'all. Try it with a side of guilty-pleasure pop music, and your day is guaranteed to get better!

Ingredients (serves one; screw everyone else):
1 whole wheat tortilla
1/4 onion, sliced as thin as possible
1 granny smith apple, coursely chopped
1/2 a 6-oz. bag of spinach
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or monteray jack
1 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp sugar

optional: diced chicken, light sour cream, and maybe a little guacamole? mmm!

1. Caramelize your onions. This is usually done with tons of butter and sugar, but Katie suggested using olive oil, and I found it worked well (and we all know olive oil is better for your heart.) Throw onions, oil and sugar into a pan and stir 'em up. The caramelization process takes at least 10 minutes and requires pretty frequent stirring, but you can leave 'em long enough to chop up your apple and wash your spinach.
2. When the onions have started to become translucent and the first sticky brown edges that characterize caramelization are beginning to form, throw your apples into the pan "just long enough to get them acquainted; they're not movin' in or nothin!" (says Katie.)
3. Set the apple-onion mixture aside and let the spinach have a turn. When it's wilted, add it to the apple and onion mixture.
4. Lay your quesadilla in the pan, sprinkle one half with cheese, add the veggie mix and fold the top over. Fry each side to your preferred melty crispness. Keep the music playing and sing away your troubles with your mouth full of quesadilla goodness!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baked Pasta for Amy


My friend Amy has some crazy stomach problems going on, and she has to be very careful what she eats to prevent a seriously painful episode. She's trying to stay healthy and put some variety into her diet, so I've been coming up with yummy things her sensitive tummy can handle. Bread, cheese and veggies with low acidity get the go-ahead, so I threw together a simplified version of lasagna that anyone can enjoy. Feel free to experiment with the content of this dish--try adding your favourite veggies and maybe some veggie sausage or ground turkey (got some left over from Turkey meatloaf?)

I can't talk about Amy during Homage Week without mentioning her fabulousness, so as a serving suggestion for this Amylicious meal, I recommend throwing on some bling and donning your 4" Louboutin booties.

Ingredients:
1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti*
1/2 large eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 bag frozen chopped spinach
1/2 bottle tomato sauce (omit if you're Amy)
1 bag shredded mozzarella (I used reduced fat, and it tasted alright but the consistency after baking was kinda weird)
1 tsp olive oil for cooking the veggies
salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to taste

*Go ahead and make the whole box of spaghetti if you like; in the next week, I'll feature 2 recipes you can make easily with pre-cooked spaghetti.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and boil water for the pasta. Cook the spaghetti until it just barely turns al dente; you don't want it to get overcooked in the oven.
2. Thaw the spinach & chop up your veggies. You can either sautee or roast them while you wait for the pasta to be ready (I prefer roasting, both because it gives the veggies a nice flavour and it doesn't require standing at the stove.) If you do roast them, drizzle no more than a teaspoon of olive oil over the baking sheet, then mix the veggie pieces around to coat them on both sides. If you sautee them, use a non-stick pan and 1 tsp or less of olive oil (in either case, it is possible to omit the olive oil completely.)
3. Drain pasta and return it to its pot. Add cooked veggies and spinach to the pot along with a little tomato sauce and all the spices, and mix everything well. Transfer your concoction to a lasagna pan and top with shredded cheese.
4. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and brown the cheese for another 5-10. Reapply your Chanel lipstick and enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Katyana's Salmon Salad


My friend Kat is famous for making amazing salads. In honour of her, I've thrown together a crudité-inspired feast that should please any seafood lover (instead of salmon, feel free to try shrimp, tuna, tofu, tempeh, chicken breast, or even 1/4 cup of hummus, depending on your dietary requirements and cravings.)

I like to top my veggie-rific salads with a tablespoon or two of thick, tangy scrumptiousness like Goddess dressing (mmm, tahini!) Yes, it adds a notable amount of fat, but when 5 servings of fat-free veggies topped with lean protein lies before you, a little fat ain't no thang, especially if it's coming from a dressing made from real food rather than chemicals (see my note about choosing healthy dressings at the bottom of the Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad entry.) Today, my lonely fridge shelf was very much without my favourite salad topper, but it DID boast a variety of this-and-thats from recent culinary experiments, so I decided to attempt a variation of Green Goddess Dressing (the tahini-less kind.) I was pretty impressed with myself, being a first-time dressing maker and all, but in the future, I think I'll make sure to stock up on my trusted Annie's version.

Salad (serves 2):
1 6-oz. bag mixed salad greens
1 small head broccoli, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
about 12 cherry tomatoes
8 ounces wild Alaskan salmon filet (boneless & skinless)
optional garnishes: jalepeños, olives, crumbled low-fat feta cheese

Garlicky Goddess Dressing (makes 2 servings):
1/4 cup light of fat-free sour cream (leftover from Turkey Meatloaf)
2 TBSP canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 TBSP chopped green onions (leftover from Orange Chicken a la Emma)
1 clove garlic, minced
squeeze of a lemon slice or two
black and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Place salmon in a non-stick pan and cook over low heat until salmon is cooked through. Meanwhile, wash, dry, and cut up your veggies. Assemble them on plates, all pretty-like.
2. Throw all of your dressing ingredients into a food processor (I tried it in my blender first, but it just wasn't doing the trick.) Whirl it up real good. Play with the ratio of ingredients, and if you have other fresh herbs, try throwing them into the mix! Don't add more oil, however, unless you're planning to feed more than 2 people.

Healthy Girl Says: This recipe kicks off Homage Week, during which I'll be honouring people I love who tear it up in the kitchen all healthy-style, and in some cases, whose dietary needs or interests have inspired me to experiment with something new. Stay tuned for upcoming recipe-story combos!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Healthy Choices for the Chinese Takeout Lover

Ellen recently requested tips for making healthy choices when ordering Chinese food. As a general rule, I suggest sticking to vegetable dishes, but if you're really craving meat, choose a combination like beef and broccoli; some veggies are better than none! Here are some other tips for navigating a takeout menu:

1. Always ask for steamed brown rice. White rice has the same food value as white bread. Simple carbohydrates never did nothin' good for NOBODY.
2. Ask for your sauce on the side, and only use as much as it takes to add some flavour to your dish. In some cases, you can cut the fat, calorie and sodium content of your meal in half by doing this (and by the way, always ask for reduced-sodium soy sauce.)
3. Don't be afraid to request cooking specifications; as long as you're polite, restaurant staff shouldn't mind if you ask that your meal be cooked in little or no oil or in broth. You should definitely consider making such a request if you're ordering a noodle dish; these are usually served dripping with oil.
4. If you're getting an appetizer, soup is probably the healthiest choice. Eating a cup of miso or chicken soup before your meal will help curb your appetite (steer clear of those devilish crunchy noodles, though!)
5. If you're ordering spring rolls or dumplings, make sure you do not order a crispy (read: deep-fried) version. Avoid egg rolls; if you're really craving one, split it with your dining buddy.
6. If your dish comes with nuts, ask for them on the side. Using a couple of tablespoons of nuts is fine, but more than that makes your meal excessively fatty.
7. Most menus have a section devoted to lighter options, but I suggest maintaining an investigatory attitude. Just because a dish is listed under this heading doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you, or that it couldn't be prepared in a more healthful manner.

Terms to look for (if you can't find them, you can always make a request!): steamed, roasted, boiled.

The following terms are NOT your friends: crispy, crunchy, creamy, fried, coconut (often included in curry sauce; make sure you ask for the sauce on the side) sweet & sour, General Tso's, Kung Pao.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Turkey Meatloaf


My boyfriend's return from a week in California definitely called for a celebration, so I asked myself, "What would Noah want as a welcome-home gift?" One word came to mind: Meat.

Relationships are based on trust, right? So would it be terrible if I DIDN'T tell him that the saturated fat-fest he was looking forward to was not made of beef, but ground turkey breast? The psychology student in me began to wonder: will the role of expectation work in my favour, or will it backfire? Will he be put off by a taste he's not expecting, or will he be pleasantly surprised? I only had one shot at testing my theory in the meatloaf lab, and tension was running high.

In the end, it didn't matter; turns out turkey meatloaf has a whitish color after it's cooked, making it difficult to disguise (which I tried to do anyway with a layer of mashed potatoes spread like frosting atop the loaf-o-meat.) Though he saw right through me, ("Is that...turkey meatloaf?") I needn't have worried, cause it turned out to be a delicious experiment!

I also had an experiment going on the mashed potato front. I wanted to come up with a butter substitute that would add flavour and creaminess without all the fat, so I tried mashing them with light sour cream. Not a bad idea, if I do say so myself. Alone, these potatoes are not my proudest invention, but as a topping for the meatloaf, they really shine! I definitely suggest serving them together.

A couple of notes for other first-time turkey meatloaf makers: make sure you buy ground turkey BREAST rather than plain ol' ground turkey. I almost made this mistake before I realized that ground turkey actually has MORE fat--including the saturated kind--than lean ground beef (presumably because all the fatty parts that you'd pick over at Thanksgiving are thrown into the mix.) Also, when your meatloaf looks ready, cut into the center to test for doneness. The ends of my meatloaf were ready before the center was cooked through, and it's more difficult to tell if turkey is cooked sufficiently than it is to tell if beef is done. You want it to be white rather than pink, and the center should be about as firm as the edges.

Finally, a note about the time commitment involved: though you'll probably only spend about 15 minutes actively preparing this meal, the meatloaf will require about an hour in the oven. This is a great meal to make if you're able to start early; the bake time will give you plenty of time to mark things off your to-do list, play with the kids, browse Healthy Girl for tomorrow's dinner, whatever. This meatloaf is great reheated for lunch, or served with a gooey egg overeasy on a weekend morning!

Meatloaf:
1.25-1.5 lbs ground turkey breast
1 cup crushed whole wheat crackers (put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin--it's extremely satisfying)
2 TBSP worcestershire or A-1
2 TBSP ketchup
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 TBSP parsley flakes, if you have them
2 eggs
a few grinds of kosher salt & fresh pepper

Potatoes:
Approximately 1 lb. of red potatoes
1/2 cup light or fat-free sour cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika, if you have it
salt, pepper, & crushed red pepper flakes to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the meatloaf ingredients together using your hands (this will get messy!) and transfer your concoction to a bread pan. I used a glass pan, which requires a longer baking time and I think may have contributed to the middle of my meatloaf taking so long to be done. If you're using a metal pan, the baking time should be about 50 minutes to an hour; for a glass pan, allow an hour and 15 minutes.
2. Peel your potatoes if you wish (I usually leave the skins on mine.) Chop them up, throw them into a big pot and cover them with about 1" of water. Cook until they're easily mashable with the back of a spoon.
3. Mash up your potatoes and add sour cream and spices. Cover the pot to keep your potatoes warm until the meatloaf is done.
4. If kitsch really lights your fire like it does mine, spread your mashed potatoes over your meatloaf like you're frosting a cake. Decorate the top with ketchup swirlies and serve it to your loved ones.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Creamsicle Juice


If you buy a juicer and use it once to make a glass of this juice, it would totally be worth the investment (you'd also be crazy, but hey, I'm not here to judge.) When Santa delighted me with my new favourite appliance last Christmas, I totally went overboard, spending a fortune on produce and juicing everything I could get my hands on like a madwoman. Alas, the honeymoon couldn't last; I've scaled down my fresh juice addiction to accommodate my budget by treating myself on the weekends.

Juicing extracts the fibery pulp from produce. Fiber is the part of fruits and vegetables that fills you up; because you're not consuming the fiber, it's easy to put away 4 or 5 servings of fruits or vegetables by drinking one glass of juice (you still have to eat whole fruits and veggies, though, or your heart and digestive tract will be very sad.) Your body can process the high concentration of nutrients in fresh juice very quickly because of the absence of fiber, so it's kind of like freebasing vitamins--a perfect thing to do first thing in the morning; it'll wake you right up and your body will be ready to start the day!

Orange fruits & veggies are high in vitamin C, so this is a great tonic to make if you feel a cold coming on. Ginger is a great tummy-settler and makes this juice taste amazing. If you're very sensitive to sugar, this recipe might not be for you, as both carrots and oranges are pretty high in sugar. Low-sugar veggies like spinach help counteract the high content in other produce, so sugar-sensitive people might want to consider my other favourite juice concoction: 3 cored granny smith apples and 1/2 a 6-oz. bag of fresh spinach leaves. MMMM!

Ingredients (serves 2):
3 valencia oranges, peeled & halved
6-8 carrots, peeled, ends cut off
1-1/2" piece fresh ginger, peeled

...juice it up, y'all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leftover Orange Chicken Salad



Leftover entree matter is prime next-day salad material, and I always keep this in mind when I make dinner. Changing up the way you use last night's dinner keeps things interesting! I always keep a bag or two of mixed greens in the fridge, plus a few other salad staples like a bell pepper, a cucumber and a pint of cherry tomatoes (actually, I suggest keeping your tomatoes OUT of the fridge; they maintain their nutritious qualities much better that way!) I also LOVE raw broccoli in salads and wraps; the flavour is great and the crunchiness is so satisfying!
For this salad, I added my (cold) leftover orange chicken to a big bowl of greens and tossed in orange pepper slices, tomatoes, bean sprouts, green onions, jalepenos, and a handful of slivered almonds. I drizzled a generous portion of the orange-soy sauce mixture over my salad, which served perfectly as a light, delicious dressing! If you'd prefer to use something a little thicker, I'd suggest a soy-ginger vinaigrette or maybe a citrus vinagrette (though some dressings with similar flavours might clash with the flavour of the chicken rather than complementing it.)

Ingredients:
leftover Orange Chicken a la Emma with sauce
salad greens
your favourite veggies!

...I think you get the idea!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Orange Chicken a la Emma


To my delight, my darling friend Emma joined me for a midnight dinner party last night to break up the monotony of my exam week. We agreed to experiment with orange chicken, which neither of us had made before, and it turned out WONDERFULLY! I attribute this dish's utter deliciousness to her wise and calming presence in the kitchen, so if you have an Emma (or someone like her) I would definitely recommend throwing her into the mix.

Now, we firmly believe in making recipes accessible to everyone, no matter how stocked your pantry may be. There have been plenty of times that I've found a good-lookin' recipe that gets me all excited, only to realize I'm either gonna have to shell out $50 for random stuff I'll never use again, or make a half-assed version that can't possibly compete. To prevent this from happening here, we've marked the use-if-you-have, but don't-worry-if-you-don't ingredients with an *. Let us know how your version turns out, what was awesome and/or what may have been lacking...our final product was thrilling, and I hope yours is too!

P.S. This recipe allows for plenty of leftovers. I'll let you know what I did with mine tomorrow!
P.P.S. Try this dish with tofu instead of chicken for a vegan delight!

Ingredients (serves 4, plus extra chicken):
2 pounds, 8 oz. frozen chicken tenderloins (boneless & skinless)
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized trees
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)

sauce
2 cloves garlic
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled (you can substitute 1 tsp ground ginger if you have it)
2 green onions, chopped (the white parts are for sauteeing and the green parts are a garnish)*
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar*
1/4 tsp white pepper*
1/2 tsp garlic chili paste or siracha hot sauce (this addition depends on your threshold for heat)*
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP canola oil
1 TBSP light brown sugar
1 11-oz can mandarin oranges in light syrup (don't drain--you want the syrup too!)
juice of 1-1/2 oranges (or about 3/4 to 1 cup of store-bought orange juice, depending on how sweet you want your sauce)
zest of 1/2 orange*

garnishes: bean sprouts, crushed red pepper,green onion, orange slices (you can use the remaining 1/2 of an orange that you didn't juice)


1. Thaw chicken. You can do this by placing it in the fridge for about 6 hours, or submerge the package in a sink full of water for 30-45 minutes. When the tenderloins are thaw, slice them into one-inch cubes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat water for rice and follow directions according to package. It will take about 40 minutes to cook the rice, giving you plenty of time to prepare the rest of the meal.
3. Gather your ingredients, wash & dry your produce, and chop up your garlic & veggies. Steam the broccoli and peppers in a steaming basket, or covered in a frying pan with about 1/2'' water.
4. Sautee garlic, green onions & grated ginger (if you're using powder, add it at the end) in a BIG POT with 2 TBSP canola oil til garlic is slightly browned and everything smells AMAZING. Turn off heat.
5. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pot. Add the chicken and coat well.
6. Transfer the chicken to a baking pan at least one inch deep, and pour all the extra sauce over the pieces. Bake for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
7. Create a base of rice and veggies on each plate. Add chicken and drizzle with extra sauce. Garnish with crushed red pepper, green onion, orange slices, and bean sprouts if you have them. MMMMMMM!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Challenge Healthy Girl to Give Your Favourite Meal a Makeover!

Got a favourite food or meal that's full of cream? Deep-fried? Super sweet? Really rich? Loaded with simple carbs (like sugar and white flour?) Wish you could eat it more often without feeling unhealthy? Bring your recipes or concepts to me, and I'll do my best to create a healthier version that you can make in your own kitchen without spending too much time or money, and that you can feel great about feeding yourself and your family!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be collecting submissions here, through our Facebook group, and via email (healthygirlcooking@gmail.com.) When I have enough submissions, HGC will feature a series of your favourite meals, healthified. I can't do this without your help, though, so start thinkin', tell your friends, and lay 'em on me, y'all!

Mami Nature's Corn Chips


I love savory dipping devices, but I cringe when I read the labels of my favourite crunchy snacks. Health-minded brands may omit most of the yucky preservatives and trans fats, but even when you're browsing the natural foods section, it's difficult to find a low-fat treat that's worth eating.

When I decided to substitute corn chips for pita bread for a new spin on my Pita Chip recipe, I was surprised by how difficult it is to find healthy corn tortillas. I was on my third grocery store before I found tortillas that contained--hallelujah!--nothing but corn, water and lime (thank you, Trader Joe's.) This recipe takes less than 5 minutes to prepare (plus about 20 minutes to bake) and you can make a big batch to eat all week. Try them with Dilly Cottage Cheese Dip or your favourite salsa. I can't wait for avocados to be in season again so that I can try them with homemade guacamole!

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 natural corn tortillas (with about a 5-1/2" diameter)
1 TBSP olive oil
a sprinklin' of garlic powder, salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice tortillas into quarters and lay them on a baking sheet. Brush each side with just a smidge of olive oil--you can really make 1 Tablespoon go a long way! Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (you can try different spice variations if you wish.)
3. Bake chips for about 20 minutes, taste-testing them for crunchiness (don't burn your tongue!) You may want to check on them after 10 minutes or so, flipping them over if they're getting too dark on top.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bowl-o-Burrito


We bid a stylish adieu to Quinoa Week with this super healthy twist on your favourite and mine, the burrito. The beans and quinoa provide a great deal of both protein and fiber, and when you add all your fave veggies (you can easily get 5 servings into this power meal) you'll be full and happy for days. For those of you who eat dairy, topping your bowl with a little shredded cheese adds calcium and even more protein, but a little salsa and hot sauce is all you need for great flavour!

Ingredients (serves 2):
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
1-1/3 cups frozen or canned corn kernels
1 cup beans (I like refried, though they're generally the most sodium-y)
1 6-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves

for extra yumminess: avocado slices, grated cheddar, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, and your favourite salsa (i LOVE peach!)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice up your broccoli, zucchini and squash. Roast veggies for about 20 minutes, pulling them out after 10 minutes to add your corn to the baking sheet and stir the other veggies with a spatula to allow them to roast evenly. (If you like, you can brush them with a bit of olive oil; I omitted the oil this time cause I've had a very decadent weekend.)
2. Wash & dry spinach and sautee it in a non-stick pan. When it's nice and wilty, add the beans and quinoa and stir until everything is nice and warm.
3. Add roasted veggies and all your favourite toppings!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Spinach


This experiment produced a delish result that can be served all sorts of ways--even as a saucy base for a pasta dish. Though I seasoned it mostly with Italian herbs, the black beans made a yummy addition and spiked the protein content.

Of course, I added a big scoop of quinoa as well (this being Quinoa Week and all.) You don't have to make your soup from scratch to use this trick; adding the versatile grain (which, I remind you, is a complete protein!) to any healthy soup turns your side into a meal--try it with a butternut squash or chicken & vegetable base, too.

So far this soup has kept nicely for 3 days, and I'm expecting it to last through the weekend. If you're feeling crafty, play with the spices and let me know what you come up with!

Note: I used my food processor to whirl everything up, but you should be able to get away with using a blender if you don't have one.

Ingredients (makes 2 big bowls or about 4 cups) :
4 ripe vine tomatoes (romas work well)
2 red bell peppers
2-1/2 cups chopped frozen spinach
6 big, fresh basil leaves
1 TBSP olive oil
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried or fresh minced thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
salt & pepper
1/3 cup cooked quinoa for each serving

other additions: crumbled feta or a few shavings of mozzarella or parmesan; zucchini & squash slices roasted or sauteed in a teaspoon of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the peppers and tomatoes. Cut the tops off of the peppers--trying not to waste too much of your veggies--and scoop out the seeds (not to worry if you don't get them all; I didn't even bother to de-seed mine, and having a few seeds in my soup didn't bother me a'tall.)
2. Place peppers & tomatoes on a baking sheet. If you have one that is at least half an inch deep, use it; you'll want to preserve the juices that start to drain while the veggies are roasting. Let them hang out in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they're nice and soft. Meanwhile, thaw your spinach.
3. When the roasted veggies are ready, let them cool to a temperature comfortable for handling. If you're using a blender, you'll want to slice them into smaller pieces; if your food processor has super-sharp blades, you should be able to get away with big pieces.
4. Throw everything into your whirling device and liquify, adding the juices from the baking sheet. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Get creative with your toppings!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brie-zy Bellas with Spicy Spinach & Quinoa


I'm afraid I can only take credit for adding the spinach and quinoa to this yummy, wholesome meal. The brilliant brie-melting idea came from Becca (of Becca's Cranberry-Almond Kale) via her brother (my dude,) who grilled briezy 'bellas and served them with lobster on our last anniversary (needless to say, he knows how to romance a girl.) This is less exciting meal, I must admit, but it's super easy to make and spans the food pyramid rather nicely. The combination of cheese and quinoa makes it plentifully proteiny; the veggies add to the substantial fiber content of the quinoa, and the spinach packs a powerful punch vitamins A & C.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 nice big portabella caps
3 ounces of brie (about 3 square inch-cubes)
10 ounces (one bag) of spinach leaves, washed & dried
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
4 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, and plenty of crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush each of the bellas with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, coating each side with a very thin layer.
2. When the oven is hot, place the mushrooms on a baking sheet with the stems facing down. Bake for about 5 minutes, then pull them out, flip them over and top with brie.
3. Pop the mushrooms back into the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and brown the cheese for 2-3 more minutes.
4. Wash and dry spinach. Sautee until it's mostly wilted, then add the quinoa and stir until everything is nicely mixed and heated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and plenty of crushed red pepper (if you like heat, this is an essential addition.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Note About My Labels

Hey Y'all,

I just want to make it clear that I take tagging my recipes (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) very seriously. If I've catalogued a recipe in a way that you feel is incorrect, please let me know. I've had my share of experiences with misleading titles (finding out that the "Vegetarian" dishes I'd been eating at certain restaurants were made with chicken broth and whatnot) and it's important to me that this website is a trustworthy tool from the get-go.

I try to feature recipes that can easily be altered to fit your needs. This is not always evident in my photographs; for example, I sprinkled my Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes with mozzarella but tagged the recipe as Vegan and Dairy-Free because I made a notation in the recipe that either cheese or soy cheese can be used as a topping. If the substitutions are any more complicated than that, I don't place them in a category that would involve changing multiple ingredients to avoid confusing you. If you find a recipe to be misleading (or just plain wrong!) please let me know by commenting on the recipe or by e-mailing me at healthygirlcooking@gmail.com.

Also, if you have a dietary restriction you'd like to see represented on this website, please let me know! I'm always up for trying new things, and I love to experiment in the kitchen!

Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad


You can pretty much take whatever you have in the fridge and on the shelf and come up with a combo of veggies that works for this salad. The beauty of using quinoa to hold it all together is that you get a healthy dose of both fiber and protein, which work together to fill you up and keep you satiated. This time, I used eggplant, zucchini and squash because that's what I was using for my Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes. I roasted all the veggies at the same time to keep things simple, and I had leftover salad for 2 days! On the second day, I added a grilled chicken breast slathered in chili sauce for an absolutely delish early dinner that kept me full all night (which is pretty phenomenal, 'cause The Midnight Snack has long been my favourite meal.)

My other favourite way to serve this salad is with roasted broccoli, roasted cherry tomatoes, black beans and corn (the last three appear in my recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers; you can easily make both meals in one batch for easy reheating later.)

Ingredients:
A bunch of your favourite veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces
a plate full of dark leafy greens or spinach
1/2 to 2/3 cup cooked quinoa, depending on how hungry you are
2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 TBSP of your favourite dressing

additions: chicken, tofu or tempeh for extra protein; avocado, if it complements your veggie selections

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while you chop up your veggies. Spread them out on a baking sheet and dot them with 1-2 tsp of olive oil to prevent them from drying out in the oven, and sprinkle 'em with a little s&p.
2. Pop the veggies in the oven and roast 'em for about 20 minutes, stirring with a spatula after 10.
3. Wash and dry greens and top them with quinoa. When veggies are ready, add them to your salad and drizzle with your favourite dressing (I like something thick and zesty like Goddess or Ranch.)

Healthy Girl Says: I'm always tempted to reach for low-, reduced-, or the ever so seductive FAT-FREE dressing on the shelf of the condiment aisle. I know this may be hard to believe, but those are not the healthiest choices. Read the labels; they're packed with glycerblahblahblah and dextrohulabaloo. The healthiest way to dress your salad is with a dressing made from actual food, not chemicals. I know the 11 grams of fat might look scary, but isn't that just because widening hips are easier to visualize than synthetic chemicals attacking your cells? Also, the healthy oils (like olive oil) found in better-for-you dressings actually coat your stomach, making you feel more satiated, so it's easier to prevent overeating. So start reading the labels on your salad dressing, girls and boys. Be nice to your bod.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes


This recipe is my attempt to make eggplant parmesan (which I think we can all agree is super yummy, but not particularly good for you) into a healthier and more diverse dish. By removing the bread crumbs typical of eggplant parm, reducing the amount of cheese involved, and adding spinach, zucchini, peppers and onions (and quinoa, obvi) to the mix, this dish has been transformed into a lower-fat, protein- fiber- and vitamin-packed meal!

I have to level with you: this is not a super-quick meal to prepare. However, it's easy to prepare with my Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad (recipe coming tomorrow,) so in 45 minutes, I'd made dinner with enough leftovers for tomorrow night (or my boyfriend's lunch tomorrow...we'll see who's the sneakiest) AND I have tomorrow's lunch waiting for me in the fridge. Not bad, not bad a'tall.

Ingredients (makes 3 servings):
1 eggplant, sliced into 1-inch thick rounds
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2-1/2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, or a few slices of soy cheese if you want to make the caesin-free version
1/2 TBSP olive oil
salt & pepper

Quinoa cakes:
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup diced red pepper (about 1/2 pepper)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 egg
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
salt, pepper, basil & oregano to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thaw spinach. Make quinoa cakes: mix quinoa, red pepper, onion, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and spices. Taste to make sure you've spiced the mixture to your liking, then add the egg and mix well.
2. Lightly oil a baking sheet with about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Shape the quinoa mixture into 6 little balls, each with a diameter of 2 inches or so (about the length of your thumb.) Don't worry if they won't stay together very well, mine didn't either; they'll take their shape as they bake. Brush the tops of the cakes with the remaining teaspoon of oil.
2. Slice eggplant and zucchini and add pieces to the baking sheet (you may need to employ the use of a second sheet.) Using a brush, lightly coat one side of each piece with 1/2 TBSP olive oil.
3. Put everything into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, pulling them out after 10 to flip everything over (be very gentle with the quinoa cakes--if they immediately start to fall apart, let them bake for a few minutes longer. Using a spatula is very helpful.)
4. When the contents of the roasting trays are ready, pull them out and turn on the broiler. On the baking sheet, assemble: each stack begins with a slice of eggplant and is topped with a spread of spinach, 3-4 zucchini rounds, a quinoa cake, and finally 2 TBSP of mozzarella/half a slice of soy cheese.
5. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for about 2 minutes. While the cheese is browning, heat the tomato sauce in the microwave and spread 1/3 cup onto each plate. Top each plate with two veggie stacks. Viola!

p.s. seth attack is back, bringing us beautiful pics.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers


This easy, delish dish can be adjusted to fit the needs of vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters. I diced up a chicken patty for mine, but you can also try it with a veggie burger patty or crumbled veggie sausage. I used a cup of cooked quinoa from the batch I made for the week and added a cup of black beans and a cup of frozen white corn, which I roasted first for about 10 minutes to give it a great flavour. Add your cherry tomatoes, slather in chili or hot sauce, and stuff those peppers! It's a good idea to make a little hole in the bottom of each pepper first, though, to let excess liquid drain. Serve these peppers over a bed of sauteed spinach or kale for an extra vitamin A kick! These peppers are also great for lunch the next day!

Ingredients (serves four):
4 bell peppers, any color
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup beans
1 cup frozen white corn, thawed (and roasted if you wish)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
chicken or veggie patty, diced (also try veggie sausage or shrimp)
black pepper, chili powder or chili sauce (or hot sauce if you're hard core)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and quarter the little guys. Rinse the beans (canned beans usually contain ALOT of sodium, and rinsing helps get rid of some of it.) Place corn on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes, 'til the kernels are nice and toasty lookin'.
2. Chop up your chicken or veggie patty or whatever protein you're using (I'm assuming it's pre-cooked, but if it's not, follow directions on the package for cooking.) Mix the pieces together with quinoa, beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, chili powder, chili sauce or hot sauce to taste.
3. Cut the tops off the peppers and poke a little hole in the bottom of each one. When the corn is ready, add it to the quinoa and spoon the mixture into the peppers. Transfer peppers to the baking sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes, until they're warm through.

The Tale of Princess Quinoa


Once upon a time, about five thousand years ago, there lived a beautiful Incan princess. Everyone called her Princess Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) because she would eat nothing but her namesake, also referred to by her people as the Mother Grain. This ancient grain is considered by many to be the perfect food as it is a complete protein, very low in fat, and loaded with fiber, iron and riboflavin (aka vitamin B2) Princess Quinoa's love affair with the delicious grain made her strong, smart and beautiful (and if only she had supplemented her diet with some fruit, veggies and dairy, she just might have lived forever!)

Quinoa often slips under our radar, but no more, ladies and gentlemen! This wheat- and gluten-free grain makes it friendly for those with celiac disease and those who chose not to eat gluten for other reasons. Quinoa's high content of iron and protein make it an invaluable staple for vegans and vegetarians. Its shape is similar to that of couscous, but it sprouts when cooked, giving it just a bit of a crunch.

This week, we'll be paying homage to this glorious grain by posting a different recipe each day involving quinoa. If you have some time this evening, stock up on quinoa, beans (any kind you like; I prefer black,) corn, and veggies and make a big ol' pot of quinoa to dip into all week long for quick lunch-packing and easy post-work dinner-making. And check back every day for the quinoa recipe du jour! Tonight, try quinoa-stuffed peppers They come with my carnivorous boyfriend's stamp of approval!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Betta Bruschetta


Having people over and feeding them is fun. It's also a good social activity for lazy people who don't like to leave their house, like me. You can make this bruschetta pretty quickly while you're hanging out in the kitchen with your guests, and you only need to buy a couple of ingredients. Best of all, it creates feelings of warmth and makes people like you.

Ingredients:
1 loaf whole grain bread, sliced thin
1 pint cherry tomatoes, or 4-5 roma tomatoes, diced
1 bunch basil, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
optional: grated parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sautee minced garlic in a few drops of olive oil until it's barely brown (you can use raw garlic, but it will be POTENT.)
2. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil (I like to pour a tablespoon or two into a dish and dip my brush into it. That way, I don't end up accidently soaking the bread.) Top with garlic.
3. Heat the bread in the oven until it's nice and toasty. Meanwhile, chop up your tomatoes and basil and flavour them to your liking with salt & pepper.
4. When the bread's ready, top them with a pinch of grated parmesan (if your crowd doesn't include any vegans,) add a spoonful of the tomato-basil mixture, and drizzle about 1/8 tsp. of balsamic vinegar over each. Let your guests toast you and take a bow.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Note About Healing & Healthy Eating

In the last week, I've gotten e-mails from several women who have struggled or are still struggling with eating disorders. I'm thrilled that Healthy Girl Cooking is beginning to foster a dialogue about the meaning of healing and reimagining our relationship with food.

The stories I've heard this week have gotten me thinking about the process of overcoming an eating disorder. Everyone's experiences are different, of course, but the thing we all have in common is that we've learned to channel our anxiety into the act of over- or under-nourishing ourselves. Eating disorders are such private things; often, we even keep secrets from ourselves by burying the original sources of our anxiety and displacing them onto our relationship with food. There is alot to understand on a personal level before healing can begin, and my hope is that communicating in an online setting, which allows for as little or as much anonymity as you care for, can serve a therapeutic purpose.

I think the second step in overcoming an eating disorder, after deciding that you want to get better, is becoming mindful of your stressors and the things that trigger your behaviour. Therapy has been instrumental in helping me change my relationship with those stressors, which made working on the eating disorder stuff easier. I happen to think that most of the problems in the world would be solved if everyone just had a good therapist, but therapy is especially important if you're dealing with an eating disorder. It's important to find someone you feel comfortable with who will gently push you to do the work at hand, but who also respects your boundaries and is sensitve to them. Therapist shopping is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and good therapists know this--it's perfectly fine to agree on a trial period (3 sessions, for example) after your initial session to determine whether you have a good match. If you don't feel that the dynamic is right, you needn't feel bad about saying so; part of a therapist's job is to help you find a match that will enable you to get as much out of the experience as possible. He or she can probably even refer you to a practitioner who may be a better match for you.

Becoming mindful of my destructive habits has helped me to develop a different relationship with food; understanding nutrition and the benefits of eating well has helped me turn my old fixations and rituals, like the never-resting calorie calculator in my head, and the slow, methodic consumption of a single carrot stick in which I used to take such comfort, into positive habits. I think the transfer of this energy was significant; I don't know how to eat without knowing exactly what I'm ingesting, so I needed to find a non-destructive way to do that. I think it's important to listen to yourself as you heal. Find healthy new habits, no matter how small, that comfort you without being destructive.

Please keep your comments and e-mails coming. Understanding your experiences can help me make this blog the most helpful and supportive tool possible. Feel free to post using your name or remain anonymous. You can also e-mail me at healthygirlcooking@gmail.com if you'd like. Respecting your privacy is important to me, and anything you e-mail me will always be referenced anonymously unless you specify otherwise. If you don't want me to reference your comments on this blog at all, let me know.

Thanks, healthy girls. You can do it! :)

Snack Like a Bunny


I know, I know, you're probably thinking that brussels sprouts & sweet potatoes sound like a terrible idea for a snack, but I have news for you, ladies & gentlemen: you're wrong, and I'm right--they're delish, especially together! This combo became my snack of choice last summer, when I was babysitting for a couple of families and spending alot of time at the Brooklyn zoo. Snacktime by the sea lions' pool became a regular routine, and I'm proud to say I actually got a couple of discerning two-year-olds to try a weird new vegetable! If you're transporting them, I must warn you that cooked brussels sprouts smell a little...unpleasant after they've been confined to a baggie or a tupperware container. I found this out the hard way when I got some nasty looks on the subway.

Ingredients:
about 8 brussles sprouts
3 small, or 1 large sweet potato
1 TBSP olive oil
salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper if you like

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice veggies into whatever shape and size you prefer (I cut the brussels sprouts in half and the sweet potatoes into rounds or sticks,) and rub them with a little olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and grind salt & pepper over the pieces. Sprinkle with a little crushed red pepper if you're feelin' feisty. Roast for about 20 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven; you want to cook them until the potatoes are a little soft and the sprouts begin to brown just a bit.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Banana-Walnut Cinnamon Toast


The idea for this came from a muffin recipe I found in Women's Health magazine awhile ago. I've made it a couple times, and was craving those muffins this morning, but who has time to make muffins on a Wednesday morning, fah crahin aht lawhd? So I took all my favourite muffin innerds and threw 'em on some toast! Voila, no-bake banana bread! To be honest, I totally impressed myself, cause this is definitely the most bangin' cinnamon toast I've ever tasted. And although I'm usually famished in the morning, and my desire to enjoy chewing consistently wins out over satiation in the stomach region, I actually couldn't finish both pieces of toast along with my yogurt (pictured above, for a nice round meal) so I saved the second piece for a mid-morning snack!

Something to note: Women's Health boasts that the combo of walnuts' magnesium, bananas' potassium (to sooth muscles,) and the vitamin D & calcium found in yogurt (supposedly "mood stabilizing," though as far as I know, the effects of the latter have only been observed in patients with severe mood disorders, not just cranky PMSers) are sure to relieve the backlash of Auntie Flo's lil' visit. Let me know if it works for you...mad props for the muffins, Women's Health, but I think the blaring BEEP BEEP BEEP of my bullshit radar actually GAVE me cramps.

Ingredients:
2 slices whole-wheat or multi-grain toast
1 medium or large banana
2 TBSP walnut pieces (crush them up for optimal spreadage)
a drizzle of honey or agave
a sprinklin' of cinnamon
a side of yogurt if you like, for a calcium & protein boost!

I think this one's pretty self-explanatory...toast bread (you can make one super-stacked slice if you'd like,) slice banana over toast; sprinkle with walnuts & cinnamon and add a drizzle of honey. You won't believe how delish this is, i promise!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sesame Kale Stir-fry


Scanning my fridge today for a quick post-workout lunch, I found some leftover shrimp from last night's pasta dish, and the kale remaining after I made Becca's Cranberry-Almond Kale on Sunday. I liked what we had going here...(plenty of protein from the shrimp & some fiber from the kale--the two major things your bod craves after a workout--plus iron & tons of vitamins A & C.) ...basics, check; now I just needed to accessorize. In came the reduced-sodium soy sauce (a classic with a modern twist,) the sesame seeds (for a nod to asian style,) a shaved carrot (slim lines are always chic,) and of course, a little Siracha hot sauce to turn heads. Start this off with a little garlic & olive oil--the underpinnings of any good meal--and you've got one stylin' stirfry.

Ingredients (serves one as a meal or 2 as a side or snack):
1 small bunch or 1/2 a large bunch kale
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 TBSP sesame seeds (if you don't have 'em, don't fret; this stir-fry's still delish sans seeds)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
all the Siracha hot sauce you can handle
a handful of frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, thawed, OR 1 veggie burger pattie or 1 cup tofu, diced (you can also leave the protein out and just make this a side for a meal)
...if you want to make this a heartier meal, try adding a little brown rice!

1. Wash kale & tear into bite-sized pieces. Heat garlic in olive oil in a large non-stick pan. If you're using uncooked tofu, sautee it now.
2. When garlic become barely brown, throw in the kale. Let it start to wilt, then shave the carrot over the kale leaves & mix in.
3. If you're using pre-cooked shrimp, add 'em now; they only take about 1 minute to warm through. Sprinkle in sesame seeds, soy sauce and hot sauce, and stir everything around reeeeal good. Enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shrimp, Goat Cheese, Spinach & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Walnut-Stuffed Zucchini Boats


This pasta's great if you prefer a variety of textures and flavours to sauce-smothered noodles. Roasting cherry tomatoes makes them absolutely burst with flavour, and when you split them open over the pasta, they subtly infuse the dish with that nice roasty taste. I like to overload pasta with veggies and whatever protein source I'm feeling; this way, you're getting a well-rounded, vitamin-packed meal rather than several servings of carbs (don't get me wrong--ain't nothin wrong with carbs!)

For a really fantastic veggie-filled meal, try this dish with 1/4 of a walnut-stuffed roasted zucchini--you won't believe how filling it is, (I couldn't eat the whole half pictured above) and it takes about 3 extra minutes of work. If you feel like making extras, try 1/2 a stuffed zucchini for lunch tomorrow with a side of yogurt & fruit! They're easy to reheat in the microwave (FYI: you'll need a food processor to whirl up the walnuts.)

A note to the chef: this meal took me 40 minutes to prepare, including cook time. Not the fastest recipe, I know, but it's still pretty simple to throw together, considering all the ingredients involved.

Pasta Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
1/2 box whole wheat pasta, any shape you like
1 package frozen large tail-off shrimp, precooked (you can use uncooked shrimp too, of course; I find heating precooked shrimp faster & easier)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 10-oz. package spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP goat cheese for each serving (feta's delish in this recipe too)
kalamata or california olives to garnish
1 tsp. each of olive oil & balsamic vinegar to drizzle over each serving
salt, pepper, italian seasoning & crushed red pepper to taste

Stuffed Zucchini (makes 4 servings):
2 large zucchinis
1/4 cup walnuts
a drizzle of olive oil
s&p

1. Start by getting everything ready: preheat oven to 400 degrees; bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta; wash spinach & tomatoes. Slice zucchinis in half length-wise and place them on a baking sheet with the tomatoes.
2. Pop the zucchini & tomatoes into the oven. Place shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them for about 5 minutes until thaw, pressing with a paper towel to release excess water.
3. Mince the garlic. When pasta is almost ready, place the garlic in a frying pan & drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. When it juuuust begins to brown, add spinach and stir. When spinach starts to wilt, add shrimp. Heat over medium-low heat just until shrimp is warm (it can be overcooked very easily!) Throw the contents of the frying pan in with the drained pasta and cover to keep warm while you finish prepping.
4. The zucchinis are ready when the middles are a bit soft. Scoop the middles from two of the halves and place them in your food processor. Chop the other two halves up and add them to the processor, along with the walnuts and a teeny drizzle (1 teaspoon or less) of olive oil. Grind a little salt & pepper over the mix, and whirl it up. Spoon the mixture back into the zucchini shells, and cut the pieces in half to make four small servings.
5. The tomatoes are ready when they've begun to shriveled a bit and leak some of their juice. Dish up the pasta and add some tomatoes to each serving. Drizzle a teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic over each dish, and flavour to taste with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, basil & oregano to taste. Happy eatin!

You Decided to Dip, and Now You Wanna Trip


For those of you who are NOT Beyonce fans: you may refer to this dish by its alternate name, "Dilly Cottage Cheese Dip" (but you should also note: we're not friends anymore.) 

I remember the first time I ever tasted this dip. Here's how it went down: It was a dark and stormy night. I was in 5th grade. I really, REALLY didn't want to take a shower before I went to bed, so my mom promised me that when I got out of the shower, I could have a special snack. Obviously, that changed everything, and I made a mad dash for the bathroom. To my grave dismay, however, THIS DIP was waiting from me when I got out. Hello, are you crazy?? Cottage cheese? Thanks, mom, but I'm in 5th grade; I'd rather die than stand here in my towel eating cottage cheese. See you.

Anyway, I remembered this creative creation when I was at the store a few days ago. I picked up a tub of cottage cheese (normally, I'm all for the fat-free dairy, but in the case of cottage cheese, I recommend 2%) and a package of fresh dill, and decided I'd experiment when I got home. Lo and behold, all I had to do was combine the herbs and cottage cheese, sprinkle a little s&p and paprika on top, and I finally understood what my mom was thinking when she tried to serve cottage cheese to her 10-year-old. Mmmm, folks.

Ingredients:
1 16-oz. container 2% cottage cheese (fat-free is too yucky)
1/2 cup fresh dill, minced
salt & pepper
your favourite spice(s) for a personal touch

Dice up the dill and toss it into the cottage cheese. Season to taste. Dip homemade pita chips, carrot sticks, or slices of your favourite veggie into this fab dip.


UPDATE: this post has been edited, and offensive language has been removed, following a dual scolding by my parents via text & email. guess not much has changed since 5th grade.

Homemade Pita Chips


Now, I'm sure ya'll have tried pita chips (I won't mention brand names; I don't know what it takes to get a girl sued 'round here...) but my issue with anything you buy at the store, no matter how healthy, is that you can't control what's in 'em. Making things from scratch is often out of the question, but pita chips are a glorious exception to that rule. You can buy 100% whole wheat pita at pretty much any grocery store (read the ingredients to make sure they're not full of preservatives and other long-named ingredients,) and as long as you have a little olive oil, s&p, and your favourite spice handy, you're good to go! 

Ingredients:
1 package whole wheat pita bread (4 whole pitas; 8 servings)
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil (both good for your heart)
fresh-ground salt & pepper
your favourite spices for a-shakin' (my fave combos: smoked paprika & garlic powder or basil, oregano & parmesan cheese)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice pitas in half, then gently pull apart the two sides. Slice or tear the bread into bite-size pieces.
2. Spread the pita pieces out on baking sheets (you'll probably need more than one; you can also do multiple batches.) Measure 2 Tbsp. oil (FYI: 2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup.) Despite what you may think by the time you're through oiling the pita, you DON'T need more than this; keep it heart-and waist-line healthy, ya'll.
3. Brush oil onto pita pieces, using a pastry brush or your finger. You really only need a dot on each side of the pita pieces. I have an awesome brush with rubber bristles, which comes in handy with this project, because I can really get all the hiding oil out when I mash the bristles down onto the bread surface.
4. Grind salt & pepper, and add whatever other spices you like. Bake for 10 minutes. Voila!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Becca's Cranberry Almond Kale


My boyfriend's sister, Becca, is a long-time vegetarian with great intuition when it comes to cooking. She also knows a lot about nutrition. I tried this kale recipe she sent me today and it was absolutely fabulous. Becca says: "This is a good recipe for veggies because kale is high in iron. Iron needs vitamin C for absorption--hence the cranberries. Almonds add a little protein kick without the saturated fat." A little iron, a little vitamin C, a little protein--giiiirl, could you be any more fabulous? Please.

UPDATE: New photo by Chip Joffe-Halpern, who added some fresh mozz to increase protein, calcium and deliciousness! Thanks, Chip!

Ingredients (makes 2 big sides):
1 small, or 1/2 large bunch kale (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the kale and tear it into bite-size pieces. 
2. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and pop it into the oven (they only need to be in there for a couple minutes, until they start to become brown & aromatic.) Mince the garlic and toss it into a pan with the olive oil and cranberries. Stir the mix 'round until the garlic juuuust starts to brown. 
3. Add the kale, mixing all the ingredients around together. Toss the almonds in. When the kale looks nice and wilty, you're ready to eat! 

Healthy Girl says: I didn't have an orange on hand, but citrus and dark leafy greens are best of friends, as are cranberry & orange. Try squeezing an orange slice over the kale and let me know how it turns out!

Welcome to Healthy Girl Cooking!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Healthy Girl Cooking! 
I created this blog because I love inventing healthy ways to eat that work with my busy schedule. I also wanted to make my ideas accessible and get YOUR ideas about improving my recipes! This is just the beginning for Healthy Girl Cooking; I have big plans for the future, and you're a big part of that! HGC can't go anywhere without your input.
     I often find recipes in books and magazines that are quick and cheap but not healthy, and sometimes healthy and budget-friendly but not quick or easy. Like most of my friends, I'm on a tight budget, but I don't have time to waste on a recipe that's super complicated, might not turn out right, or requires a bunch of ingredients I don't have in my pantry (one element of this website that's still in development is the Weekly Meal Planner, which will match up recipes that share ingredients, helping you to buy minimal items for maximum quick, delish cooking. 
My goal is to have that in place by the end of this weekend.)
     I'm committed to making Healthy Girl Cooking a resource that's easy to use, as well as one that fits your needs. Your feedback is very important, both in terms of the technical aspects of the website, and the recipes themselves. As i learn more about web design, i plan to expand the capacities of Healthy Girl Cooking's domain to maximize this site's abilities.

Where I'm coming from...
I'm an omnivore with 11 years of vegetarianism and almost 2 years of veganism behind me. Last summer, after a grueling trial-and-error project that involved obsessive food journaling, I discovered that an intolerance to soy was at the root of my many years of stomach problems. I sympathize with anyone who must always check the labels of anything they eat, because believe me, I've been there.
I also had the opportunity to become familiar with the gluten- and caesin-free diet when the lovely family I used to babysit for changed their lifestyle. With two kids under the age of 5, they really have their work cut out for them, and I admire them for all the challenges they successfully conquer each day (pureeing veggies to sneak them onto dinner plates and whatnot.) Their challenges have inspired me to include both gluten-free recipes and, as this website expands, a section entirely devoted to kids' interests (this is an area in which I'll need ALOT of help, especially from all you parents!)

...what healthy eating means to me:
I spent my teenage years battling an eating disorder. I realized, eventually, that in addition to changing some elemental aspects of the way I dealt with stress, I needed to change my relationship with food. That's a very tricky concept, I've discovered, especially when we live in a culture that simultaneously values the sensual experience of eating and encourages women to blame food for all our problems. I know this sounds like an infomercial from the 80's, but I have to say it: Listen up, ladies, FOOD IS NOT YOUR ENEMY. I'm here to encourage you to question the stealthily coded messages you see in commercials, on TV, in magazines, on billboards, and in conversation. We've been conditioned to speak a certain way about our bodies, eating, and GUILT (hello, we associate the word GUILT with eating!)  and I'm going to do my part to change that. The fact of the matter is, eating is necessary for survival. Eating is also a wonderful experience that engages our senses, and we have every right to enjoy it. We live in a culture that milks the concept of excess for all it's worth, so unfortunately, we have to work a little harder to learn what moderation really is, and to implement the concept in our daily lives.
Healthy Girl Cooking aims to foster a dialogue about everything I've mentioned in this entry, and anything else you might be interested in discussing. Please don't be shy about bringing your comments to the table; that's what we're here for!

Mom's Sunday Morning Pancakes All Week Long!


This is the pancake recipe we ate at my house when I was little. My mom would make us a plate of pancakes in whatever shapes or letters we requested, and then finish off the batter with one large pancake for herself. I learned her pancake-dressing ritual by heart: a smear of warm apple sauce, a big scoop non-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese, a handful of berries and almond slivers, a couple of spoonfuls of wheat germ, and finally, a little drizzle of real maple syrup. By the time she was done, you couldn't even see the pancake under the mountain of healthy toppings. 

I have two tips for making pancakes an easy, healthy breakfast (or dinner, if you're so inclined!) all week long. First, load them up like my mom does. This recipe is pretty healthy as far as pancakes go: it's made with half whole wheat flour, and calls for a pretty minimal amount of oil. If you make low-fat dairy and fruit toppings the main affair, the pancakes will just be an added bonus!

Here's how to enjoy these pancakes on a busy weekday morning: on Sunday, mix up a big batch of dry ingredients and a couple servings of wet ingredients (keep them separate!!) Store the buttermilk mixture in a jar in the fridge (if you haven't used it by Tuesday, make a new batch; it doesn't take long,) and the flour mixture in an airtight container in your pantry. To make, mix a little of each together until the batter has the consistency of a very thick smoothie (try not to overmix.) Fry up a couple pancakes in your non-stick, throw on your toppings (berries are my go-to topping when I'm in a rush since they don't need to be sliced) and nosh on your power-breakfast treat while you get ready for work.

When you have more time and want to enjoy a leisurely meal, scramble up a couple of eggs or egg whites with mushrooms and peppers and serve it on the side. Boom: the food pyramid is your bitch.

Dry Ingredients (makes a big batch you can store forever in an airtight container):
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Sift together well (ok, I don't actually have a sifter, and mine came out alright.) 

Wet Ingredients (mix the following for every 2 eaters; store leftovers in a sealed jar in fridge for up to 2 days):
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp canola oil

Measure buttermilk in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl. Add eggs and oil, and whisk until eggs are worked in.

To make pancakes:
Heat lightly oiled griddle or non-stick pan until a drop of water sizzles & dances. 
Reduce heat & spoon pancake batter into pan.