Two last minute meals…

You are probably wondering what these two pictures have to do with this post. Nothing really.  The first is me, stepping wayyyy out of my comfort zone, on a zip line, up really high and I am terrified of heights!  The second is me, doing what I love, mountain biking. First ride of the year Sunday March 11, 2012. Still breathing. Heart rate up there. 🙂

So  this week I didn’t get my meal planning done so I was scrambling for ideas and it’s only Tuesday.  I usually do my grocery shopping once a week on Wednesdays, and by Monday it’s “slim pickins” and by Tuesday the fridge and the pantry are really bare.  I decided today to find a recipe in my new “Spilling the Beans” cookbook I mentioned a few weeks back and find something that would match the ingredients I had on hand. Lentils, a tin of diced tomatoes and a few large handfuls of fresh spinach, onion and garlic and voila, “Palak Dal” served on leftover brown rice from the stir fry last night that used up every vegetable I had except a bit of cabbage, a leek and a few asparagus stalks.  I steamed some frozen green peas (always handy to have), roasted the asparagus and pulled out the homemade unsweetened applesauce and dinner was served!  This recipe is a keeper.

Whenever I try a new recipe my family is allowed to rate it… it’s either a “keeper”, a “once in while”option , or a “never, ever make it again” yuk, screwed up faces kind of rating. 🙂 I usually make note right in the recipe book so I don’t forget.

The second recipe I made last minute  used up some diced tomatoes, a tin of cannellini beans (white kidney beans), onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, some olive oil and a splash of some red wine.  I served it over whole wheat pasta ( a staple I usually have in the cupboard).  That’s it.  Cheap. Quick , nutritious and I know what went in it.

The next time you are in a pinch, don’t order out , or start a recipe that you have to  run to the grocery store for.  You might be surprised what you can do with what you already have in the cupboard.

Palak Dal  adapted from (“Spilling the Beans” by Julie Van Rosendaal & Sue Duncan)

1 cup dry green lentils

5 cups water

1 tbsp fresh ginger grated

1/2 tsp turmeric

2-3 big handfuls of fresh spinach

1 cup canned low sodium diced tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes chopped

2 tbsp olive oil or butter

1 tsp whole cumin

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

pinch cayenne

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp lemon juice

Add lentils, water, ginger and turmeric to a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 25-30 minutes. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cover, cooking over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 10 more minutes. (will be soupy)

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil or butter, the cumin, paprika and cayenne. Stir and cook for 1-2 mintues and then add the onions and garlic. Saute until onions are soft. Remove from the heat, scrape the pan and add to the lentils and spinach trying to get every little bit out of the pan.  I added some of the liquid from the lentils into the pan to get all the bits of yummy flavors.  Stir it all together adding the lemon juice and garam masala. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 5-10min.  You could top this with a dollop of plain greek yogurt or sprinkle with cilantro.   Enjoy! This is a keeper.

Italian Tomatoes and Beans

1-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, chopped

pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

olive oil

1 540ml unsalted diced tomatoes

1 398ml tin cannellini beans

splash of red wine

grated parmesean cheese (optional)

fresh ground black pepper

Heat about 1-2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a skillet. Add onions, then garlic and saute until slightly softened. Add the red pepper flakes if using. Add the tomatoes and the red wine and simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat. Add the beans. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Serve over cooked pasta with a couple of steamed vegetables or a salad. Dinner served  in less than 30 minutes.

Delicious and filling. Now if we could only learn to eat slower like the Italians…that’s another topic. 🙂

Meal Plan Week Three

Okay, I need to admit that I am in a rut with meal planning. I am pretty sure it has something to do with the week we spent in Nuevo Vallarta eating the most amazing food ever and I did not have to plan it, shop for it  or cook it. I usually rebound fairly quickly after these kinds of wonderful trips, craving my own home cooking.  But this time was different because the food was delicious, with more than enough healthy options to enjoy all week long. The only way I will get back on track is to meal plan so here it is…Week  Three! 

Sunday           Spicy Thai Vegetable Stir Fry with Brown Rice

Monday           Leftover Spicy Thai Vegetable Stir Fry with Brown Rice 

Tuesday          Homemade Vegetarian Pizza on Spelt crust, spinach salad with almonds, strawberries and poppyseed dressing.

Wednesday     Vegetarian Chili with  1 thick slice alpine bread

Thursday        Garlic Pasta with roasted vegetables and Bean salad

Friday             Salmon Burgers with Baked Yam Fries and Coleslaw

Saturday         Nicoise Salad

Farewell Mexico…….

NICOISE  SALAD

16 small New potatoes halved steamed or roasted (4 small per person)

2 cups Green and/yellow beans steamed until still a little crunchy then dunked in cold water or ice bowl

3 med Beets, quartered steamed or roasted

1/2 cup Cherry tomatoes, raw or roasted

1/2 cup Nicoise olives or black pitted

2-3  tsp Capers

Assorted salad greens

Minced chives and dill

2 eggs hard boiled, cooled and sliced

1 cup chick peas (optional)

Nicoise Salad Dressing

(can half this – but keeps well in fridge for a couple of weeks)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 shallot, minced

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp grainydijonmustard or otherdijon

1 tsp honey or agave

¼ tsp salt

Pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp water

Arrange salad on plates starting with greens on the bottom. Set up buffet style and allow everyone to take a little of each OR divide up the rest of the ingredients evenly and top with 2 tbsp dressing each (approx.) * Really depends on how big the salad get. This is a meal! Enjoy. 🙂

VEGETARIAN CHILI

 1 tsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 med. Green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp chili powder, or to taste

2 14 oz. diced tomatoes ( 1 can pureed on processor or could buy 1 tin tomato sauce)

One 28 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

One 15 oz. can Heinz beans & tomato sauce

One 28 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup water

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Heat oil. Add onion, gr. Pepper and mushrooms, cook about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, chili pepper flakes, cook about 1 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, chili powder, and tomatoes until well blended.  Add all the beans, water, salt and pepper and simmer about 30-40 min. or put in slow cooker on low.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with a tossed salad and a slice of whole grain bread.

Snacks Matter….

Snacks are

an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Frequent small meals help to control appetite and cravings especially when the chosen snacks are nutritious. Sticking to a routine has helped keep us on track so we have pretty  much enjoyed the same snacks,  eaten at the same time of day (during the work week for sure)for the last 8 years. Boring you say, Not all!. At 10-1030 every morning we have a muffin. I bake a double batch every couple of weeks, recipes vary, and freeze them. At 3-330 every afternoon we  have granola, fruit with yogurt/almond milk or a homemade cookie and a piece of fruit.  This has helped eliminate the “2 in the afternoon, I need a nap” syndrome I suffered with for years and has cured the “I’m starving” syndrome after work which almost always led to overeating at supper. By eating these frequent small meals it keeps blood sugar levels more even throughout the day preventing spikes and drops in blood sugars which can lead to the above described syndromes as well as  irritability and mood swings.  Of course this only works when your snacks are chosen carefully and don’t include processed & packaged high fat, high sugar and high salt items.  Portions are important here, remembering that a SNACK is just that, a snack.  Take yogurt for instance. I don’t know about you but I go crazy everytime I stand in front of the yogurt shelves, overwhelmed by all the choices.  They all claim to be healthy. If you actually take the time to read the labels you will realize that many have too much sugar, too many artificial ingredients, too much fat, it’s all just too much! After trying all sorts of different brands I have decided on “Liberte 0% Plain Greek Yogurt”.  A snack serving size is usually 2 heaping tablespoons with 1/2 cup fruit (oranges or strawberries or blueberries or banana) and 1/8-1/4 cup of my homemade crunchy granola (recipe follows) and for those with a sweet tooth a drizzle of honey. Personally, I have never really been a fan of yogurt, a texture thing I think, but now and then I will indulge, but more often than not I would rather enjoy my granola with a cold 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk. However you eat it, I hope you enjoy this yummy crunchy granola. It’s not alot of work to make and best of all, you are in control of what is in it:)

Crunchy Granola

2 cups large flake oats

1 ½ cups barley flakes

½ oat bran

1 cup unsweetened coconut

¼ tsp salt

1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped OR

1 cup whole raw almonds

½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

½ cup raw sunflower seeds

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

¼ cup water

2/3 cup maple syrup or honey or combination

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup dried cranberries

1. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the cranberries. Mix well.

2. Whisk together the oil, water, honey, vanilla. Combine the wet and dry and stir thoroughly.

3. Spread the mixxture out onto parchment paper lined baking sheets (2). Bake at 325 degrees for 10 min. Stir then bake another 10 min. Then turn the oven off and combine two trays into one. Leave in the oven until mixture is dried out approx. 1-2 hours.  I usually stir one or two more times and add the cranberries when the oven is cooled off. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

BANANA/BRAN/DATE MUFFINS

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

½ cup coarsely chopped dates

3 cups natural bran

1 cup boiling water

1 cup raisins

2 ½ tsp baking soda

1 cup “buttermilk” (unsweetened soy milk with 1 tbsp vinegar)

3/4 cup liquid honey

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup oil

½ cup unsweetened applesauce with 1 tsp baking powder stirred in (let sit) or 1 egg

½ chopped walnuts (optional)

1. In a food processor combine 1 cup of flour with dates and process until finely chopped (mine looked more like oatmeal)

In a bowl combine this mixture with the bran, water and raisins. Let stand for 10 minutes

2. In another bowl combine remaining flour and baking soda and nuts

3. In another bowl combine buttermilk, honey, bananas, oil, applesauce and blend well. Add to flour mixture; combine well.  Add bran mixture; stir just until moist and blended

4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling ¾ full. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

HEALTHIER PEANUT BUTTER/OATMEAL/CHOCO CHIP  COOKIES

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1  tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup grapeseed oil + 1/4 cup  becel or butter

1  cup natural peanut butter

1/2 cup liquid honey

2 eggs  or (just 1 egg + egg substitute – ¼ cup applesauce + 1 tsp baking powder)

2 tsp vanilla

2  cup rolled oats

Optional :

1 cup mini or regular chocolate chips or 1 cup raisins or cranberries or karob chips

3/4 chopped nuts (any kind)

2/3 cup sunflower seeds (raw shelled or roasted unsalted) and/ or pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup freshly ground flax seeds

Preheat oven 350.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper

1. Stir together the flour, wheat germ, salt, baking powder and baking soda

2. In a large mixer bowl, beat together the oil, peanut butter and honey.

3. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture, mixing well.Then stir together optional ingredients with the oatmeal and mix in.

4. Drop onto cookie sheets. Flatten with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool on pan for 1 minutes then remove to wire rack.

I’m dreaming of Farro salad..balsamic vinegar…Italy

“The whiter the bread the sooner your dead”..  why whole grains matter

White flour, white bread, white pasta,  white rice and white sugar , were the first foods to go in our house 8 years ago when we started thinking about what we were eating. Besides being nutritionally bankrupt foods, these whites have a high glycemic index which means they break down into sugar quickly causing spikes in blood sugar levels and they don’t fill you up so … you eat more or at least you are hungry soon after.  Think “chinese food”.  Foods with a low glycemic index, notably  whole grains , break down into sugar more slowly, leaving you full longer,  blood sugar levels more even and they are great sources of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and antioxidants. How you decide to make the changeover will be up to you, but go they must:) The white flour, white bread and white sugar were all easily replaced.  Make sure you are reading your bread  labels. “Whole grain wheat flour or better yet, sprouted grains should be the first ingredient,  use whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour for  baking, and try  honey or pure maple syrup or chopped dates to sweeten things up. The pasta and rice were trickier, a texture thing for most people. I started with replacing spagetti with whole wheat spagetinni, it is really thin and was more acceptable than say penne to start with. Slowly everyone in our family is used to the new texture and in no time thought regular pasta was mushy. I eased the changeover with rice by mixing it half and half for awhile and eventually made a complete switch.

There are lots of other whole grains out there to try with different nutrient densities. Here is a summary from a great article found in the March/April Nature’s Fare Newsletter:

Spelt(Farro): is a good source of plant-based protein, 1 cup of cooked spelt=10.7 gms of protein. (Quinoa =8.1) I use whole spelt flour in a alot of baking. I also make a really good salad using whole spelt. See recipe below.

Bulgur: Best source of insoluble fiber per cup at 8.3 gms. (Spelt =7.6) Barley, has both soluble and insoluble fiber for 6gms per cup, Quinoa 5.2. See recipe below for vegetarian shepherd’s pie that uses bulgur.

Quinoa: Top of the list for magnesium, a mineral that is important for cardiovascular health. 118mg per cup, spelt 95mg per cooked 1 cup serving.

Quinoa: Tops all other grains for folate=78mg per cooked 1 cup serving. Wild rice at 43mg.

Quinoa: the most vitamin E (antioxidant) =,1.17mg with spelt =0.5mg and wild rice 0.39 second and third.

Looks like Quinoa takes the overall prize for best grain. It can be replace rice in many recipes. It makes great salads and it is quick to cook. See below for two recipes using Quinoa.

Farro(Spelt) Salad with roasted Veg (could also use Bulgur,  Quinoa or pearly barley)

1 cup cooked whole spelt or farro (available at health food stores and Springfield Bulk Foods)

3 small yellow squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise chopped into half moons

1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges

2 red bell peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks

2 eggplants, cut into chunks (optional)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

olive oil

fresh herbs; parsley, basil

squeeze of lemon juice

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh Arugula and cherry tomatoes (optional- seasonal best)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Soak spelt grain in cold water for 10 min or so, drain. Spread prepared vegetables and garlic  into large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Toss them with a splash of olive oil. Season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Roast for about 25-35 minutes, shaking them around now and then until vegetables are cooked through and crisp around the edges. Sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar over the vegetables as soon as they come out of the oven. Set aside to cool. Once cool chop into finer pieces.

Meanwhile, place the spelt or other grain into a large saucepan, cover with fresh cold water (about 1 cup spelt to 4 cups water) and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until just tender and drain well. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some ground pepper then toss with roasted vegetables, chopped fresh herbs and a drizzle more of balsamic vinegar.

While in Italy last May this was my most memorable salad. I bought balsamic vinegar from family farm where a wonderful Italian lady who couldn’t speak a word of english tried to explain how they made it.  The only addition to the salad they made was to serve it on a bed of arugula and topped it off  with fresh cherry tomato halves and more  torn fresh basil. It was amazing! You could substitute arugula with spinach or mixed greens.

QUINOA/GREENS/MANGO SALAD

Mixed greens  or Spinach or whatever greens you would like

1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks

1 mango or 1 orange or 1 cup fresh sliced strawberries (whichever is ripest and sweet)

Cook ½ cup quinoa in 1 cup water.  Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer for 12-15 min. Toss with fork.  Let cool.

Mix all above ingredients together and add dressing.

Dressing

¼ cup Salada (sweet vinegar) or apple cider vinegar

½ cup grapeseed oil

2 tbsp agave syrup or honey

¼ tsp salt

½ small red onion chopped or 1 med-lrg shallot

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tbsp water

Put all ingredients into a food processor, blender or “magic bullet”.  Process till smooth. Makes lots for leftovers. Store in refridgerator.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie ( GI recipe book- modified)

 1 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup bulgur

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

1 ½ cups vegetable broth

1  can (14.5 oz) low sodium  diced tomatoes with juices

2 red skinned potatoes

2 yams or sweet potatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

½ can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen peas

1 ½ cup frozen corn

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp paprika

Heat oil in skillet over med. Heat. Add onion, garlic, bulgar, oregano and basil and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 min.  Add broth, tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until the bulgur is just tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, scrub red potatoes, and prepare in chunks for boiling. (skins on). Peel yams or sweet potatoe, cut into similar sized chunks and add to red potato. Put in pot and just cover with water.  Add garlic. Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender and ready for mashing. (about 10 min)Set aside. Mash with soy or almond milk and 1 tsp olive oil.

Add chickpeas, peas and half each of salt and pepper to bulgur mixture and stir to combine.  Scrape into 8 inch casserole dish, smoothing top.  Spread kernel corn next.  Then scrape mashed potatoe/yam on top and smooth evenly. Sprinkle with remaining salt & pepper, paprika and parsley.

Cover and bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

This is a filling meal served with another steamed vegetable on the side as well as some applesauce.

6 servings.

Spicy Brown Rice or Quinoa with Carrots and Cashews 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 small hot chili pepper seeded and minced or ¼ tsp dried chili flakes

1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 large carrot grated

2 scallion, minced

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

½ tsp raw sugar, honey or agave syrup

3 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa

½ cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews

1 cup frozen green peas

Heat peanut oil in large skillet over med-high heat.  Add onion and scallions and  stir-fry until soft, about 2 min.

Add the soy sauce, br. Sugar and rice and stir-fry until rice is heated through and ingredients are well blended,

about 10 minutes. Add frozen peas and steam another 5 minutes. To serve, top with chopped cashews and enjoy!

I am craving vegetables……….

Rachel is home from Africa and after 7 weeks of cooking with limited resources is craving vegetables!:)  I love hearing that. If only we all craved vegetables more often.  We love stir frying a variety of vegetables, not too long so they are still a little crunchy.  We have our 3 favorite sauces.. peanut, spicy thai and a simple soy sauce and ginger. (recipes below) You can serve them with either brown rice or noodles and can add a protein of choice, our favorites are eggs or tofu.  I finally invested in a really good Wok and it really does make a difference. I have also been using coconut oil for stir frying.  Stir frys are  a great way to add or sneak in some greens that you may not have ever tried like swiss chard, collard greens, kale, bok choy, cabbage. Just chop them up and add them in at the end so they wilt enough and get hard to pick out.:) Enjoy!

Peanut sauce with ginger & lime ( adpated from “rebar” modern food cookbook)

¼ c natural smooth peanut butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp minced ginger

1-2 tbsp honey or agave syrup

¼ cup minced cilantro leaves or

Basil leaves

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp sambal oelek

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

Chopped peanuts (optional as garnish on top)

In a food processor or blender , add all of the ingredients from the peanut butter through to the sambal oelek. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend.

This could also be made by hand using a bowl and a whisk or wooden spoon. It might help to warm the peanut butter a little to make blending it with the other ingredients a little easier.

Stir Fry a variety of vegetables separately.  Try onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, peppers, celery, green beans, savoy cabbage. Serve over rice or whole wheat linguini and top with peanut sauce, about 1-2 tbsp per serving.  Use sparingly. The flavor is amazing… a little goes along way. Also tastes great with a cold noodle salad with vegetables.

THAI VEGETABLE CURRY spicy!

 1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp red Thai curry paste (can use any colour, green, red or yellow)

1 onion sliced

1 each red and green bell peppers, thinly sliced

Handful of snow or snap peas (optional)

1 cup small  cauliflower pieces

½ cup chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup light coconut milk

2 tbsp lite soy sauce

¼ cup chopped fresh basil or coriander

Thicken with about 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water.

In large skillet or wok, heat oil over med-high heat.  Add curry paste and cook for  30 seconds.  Add cauliflower, onions,      peppers, peas.  Cook stirring for  about 10 minutes.  Add stock, coconut milk  and soy sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in basil.

Makes 4 servings. Serve with brown basamati rice, or whole wheat linguini or brown rice noodles or buckwheat noodles, try more vegetables (usually steamed greens) or a fruit salad. It is spicy! I change up the veggees in the recipe depending on what I have or what’s in season.

RICE FRIED VEGETABLES STIR FRY(VEGETARIAN TIMES( Jan/Feb 2008 issue)

 1 tbs. coconut oil

3 green onions, chopped (1/4 cup)

4 tbs. minced fresh ginger

4 cups chopped fresh broccoli

½ lb. chopped asparagus or green beans

1 medium carrot, cut in thin slices on the diagonal (1/2 cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chopped kale, collards, spinach or swiss chard

3 cups cooked brown rice

2 tbs low-sodium soya sauce

1 ½ cup frozen peas, thawed

2/3 cups toasted sliced almonds

1-2 eggs cooked in pan separately- sliced (optional)

Heat large, deep skillet or wok over med. heat 1 min.  Add  oil and swirl to coat pan. Add green onions and ginger and sauté 5 min. Stir in broccoli, asparagus , carrot  and garlic and stir-fry 8-10 min. or until vegees are crisp-tender.  Fold in Spinach. Cook 2 more minutes.  Stir in rice, soy sauce.  Serve topped with peas and almonds.