Garlic Lemon Artichoke Chicken

My family has had an “eventful” 2017. Don’t get me wrong it’s been full of blessings but it was also filled with multiple stomach bugs (one of which took out my younger son for over a month), learning how to handle very active twin boys (apparently this is not for the faint of heart!), my daughter starting kindergarten, and the passing of my beloved Grandmother. In this whirlwind, I lost sight of meal planning and my usual homecooked meals were comprised of quick fixes like sloppy joes, tacos, breakfast for dinner, leftovers (thanks Mom and Dad), and (full disclosure) fast food/takeout.

Look, this is life and seasons in life, but it doesn’t have to last forever (or for years on end). So this week I decided that I was going to plan meals (AND FOLLOW THROUGH). Sometimes though, you just need inspiration. I mean having the same thing over and over again is just not for me. Flipping through the millions of Pinterest ideas I came across one that uses garlic, lemons, artichokes, and caperberries along with spices I’ve never heard of before. So I decided to SIMPLIFY things without losing the flavor dimensions.

This is a slow cooker recipe but you could also brine this all day and then bake it before dinner. I made it with pasta but you could also serve it with rice, potatoes, quinoa or another grain/starch. Broccoli pairs well with the lemon flavor of the chicken but you could also serve this with a side salad or another vegetable of your choice.

Remeber I’m into EASY recipes that do not take a lot of prep time or purchasing power. This is one of those dump dump mix and set. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons capers plus the brine that is poured in with it
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 cloves garlic diced (larger chunks)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place zest, lemon juice, dijon, vinegar, capers/brine, and minced garlic in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place chopped onion and the rest of the garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Put drumsticks on top of onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour lemon mixture over top of chicken and let marinate for 3-12 hours.
  5. Cook chicken on high 4-6 hours or low 8-10 hours

Serve with whole grain (or gluten-free) pasta

Sauce for Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy spread (butter would work great too)
  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoons capers (with juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat and sautee onions and garlic.
  2. Add lemon juice and mix. Heat until simmering and add capers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes
  4. Toss with pasta

It was great and we have leftovers for lunch!

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

We were qualifying for a tricycle race…and having a blast as usual.

Have you ever met someone who not only becomes a person you want to be friends with forever but you also share so much in common in life that you become soul sisters? That’s Heather for me and this is the story of our Buffalo Turkey Burgers.

A few years ago my dear friend/fellow dietitian Heather and I decided to do a healthy spin on a burger. We love burgers and buffalo chicken so why not combine the two! You have to understand a few things about the both of us. Not only do we like burgers, buffalo chicken, ketchup (French fries are just the transportation to get ketchup in our mouths), and dessert…we like healthy foods too 😉 We’ve followed each other throughout our careers, working at the same places and usually at the same time. Surprisingly, both of us have identical twins and thankfully I had Heather to support me on the journey to being a new twin mom (I couldn’t have made it through the pregnancy without her encouragement). Oh yeah, we also really love nutrition, cooking/eating food, and we really really like helping people on their personal nutrition journeys. This dynamic duo is fly by the seat of our pants, outside the box, not-your-ordinary dietitians…that’s us and that’s how we roll.

Now that you know our back story here’s how these fantastic burgers came to be. We made up the recipe to be used for a public event. Although we love to fly by the seat of our pants, we definitely had to practice at least once before it was show time and what better audience than the honesty of a children. So we held a run-through with her kiddos. They filmed it, rated us, tried the burgers and…IT WAS A HIT! They loved it! If we could please a bunch of kids then we knew we had a winning recipe on our hands. She actually still makes it for her kids…it’s one of their favorite meals.

We added veggies to the meat and then served veggies on the side with a ranch hummus dip. Listen, we are moms and sometimes we need to fit in as many veggies that we can for our family. When I prepared this for mine the other night my daughter said “Mom, the shreddy carrots really make it good.” Sure does young squire, sure does. This is my spin on our Buffalo Turkey Burgers.

Shreddy carrots…and celery, garlic, and green onion.

Side note: this recipe featured here is not gluten or dairy free. I will show you how to make them both as at the end.

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

Burger Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (you can definitely use your own dry mix if you make it…this stuff has artificial flavors in it so it’s not my favorite but it’s delicious)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey (97/3 or 99% fat free)
  • 1/4 cup minced or finely shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup minced or finely shredded celery
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 minced green onion
  • 1/4-1/2 whole wheat bread crumbs (I usually don’t use these but have on hand if needed and this week I needed)
  • Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce (no amount here, use to your desired spiciness)
  • Whole grain buns
  • Lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, pickles, etc

Hummus Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 packet Bushes hummus starter (it’s got everything you need and no extra stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • Carrots and celery (to dip into the hummus)

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ranch, egg, turkey, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, and wing sauce. Add bread crumbs if the mixture seems too wet. You want the burgers to stick together!
  2. Split the meat mixture. For sliders, make 2-3 ounce patties. For burgers make 4 ounce patties.
  3. Grill, broil, or skillet fry the burgers. I used my cast iron skillet (I use this for just about everything).
  4. Ensure that the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees!
  5. While the burgers are cooking start making the hummus. Combine chickpeas, hummus starter, and dry ranch to a food processor. Blend until smooth. If you do not have a food processor use a zipper sealed bag! Seriously, it works just fine.
  6. Serve the burgers on whole wheat buns with hummus, carrots, and celery on the side.

NOTES:

  • To make dairy free simply add ranch style spices: dill, parsley, more garlic. For my sons I just omitted the ranch dressing mix all together (and the wing sauce).
  • To make gluten free omit the bread crumbs. If you need to use another dry binder use gluten free oats. Instead of serving it on a bun you can serve it on a salad with beans. I did for lunch and it was quite delicious! REMEMBER if you are eating gluten free you still need starches (carbohydrates). You can’t just eat the burger on lettuce and call it a day. Serve it with rice, fruit, beans, or a gluten free bun.
  • I omitted the wing sauce from this entire recipe for my family. Normally I wouldn’t because kids should try different foods even if they are spicy but I decided to let my family use the wing sauce instead of ketchup on the burger if they chose.
  • I put the wing sauce on the hummus…woah…delish! I recommend that!
Turkey burger on a salad. Delicious!

Lemon, Lime, Garlic Chicken

I love the Food Network. Of course I have my favorite shows and hosts that I watch. One of the coolest is Ina Garten. Right after the twins were born, my mom, husband, and I were getting our daily dose of the Food Network while trying to survive sleeplessness. She was preparing her Lemon Chicken and we all looked at each other and knew what to do…we had to get that in our bellies! My mom made it for us and we were blown away by the amazing flavor!

This recipe is inspired by Ina and my mom being a rock star and making her wonderful recipe. Mine is not quite Ina’s but it’s good…good enough to make again and again and again.

This recipe features chicken thighs. And you’re thinking “But why!? They aren’t as healthy as chicken breasts?” Well, they are much more budget friendly. Please do not think that you have to always choose chicken breast to be healthy. Chicken thighs are a better option than beef and if you buy boneless skinless they are surprisingly pretty lean!

 

Listen: I’d rather you eat healthy on a budget than eat poorly because you think you can’t afford it.

At any rate, I’m not sure if you like back stories and the narrative of how I cook it. Usually when a blogger posts a recipe and has soooo much to say I honestly flip right past and read the recipe. If you do like the narrative, comment and let me know but for now I’m going to limit that and just put up the recipe with notes.

Lemon, Lime, Garlic Chicken

Photo cred: Molly Statler Photography

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion diced (I actually used frozen green onions that I had saved)
  • 6 cloves of garlic…more if you love garlic
  • 1 lemon with zest
  • 1 lime with zest
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • dash of turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup water (in the crock pot)

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat combine oil, onion, garlic, lemon and lime zest, and the herbs and spices. Heat and then add the juice of the lemon and lime. Turn down to medium heat and add the honey when the mixture is simmering. Salt to taste (optional).
  2. Add chicken thighs to the sauce pan and allow the mixture to cover them. Cook for 1-2 minutes just enough for the coating to get on the chicken.
  3. Place chicken and all of the sauce in the crock pot and pour 1/2 cup of water over the chicken (if you are cooking it on low for 8-10 hours you may want to use 1 cup of water).
  4. Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 8-10 hours.

It came out deliciously! I served it with cilantro lime rice and baby carrots.

Cilantro Lime Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (I love the frozen steamer bags in a pinch)
  • 1 lime zest and juice
  • 1/8 cup cilantro (or more if you love cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon Earths Balance spread (you can use butter or another type of trans-fat free spread)
  • salt and pepper to taste

I hope you enjoy this as much as my family and I did. It was easy, simple, and pairs well with a lot of side dishes. Enjoy!

Week 4 Plant Based Meal Plan

Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones. If you’re the meat and potato kind of person I want to challenge you to try some of these recipes. Check out the *. You can find them in the recipe section or linked below.

 BreakfastSnackLunchSnackDinnerSnack
SundayVeggie omelet with mushrooms, onion, tomato, spinach, and peppers - served with whole grain breadOrangeMYO burrito bowl (black beans, brown rice, and corn - no meat)AlmondsMinestrone soup* Greek yogurt
MondayOvernight oats*Apple and cheeseEgg salad sandwich on whole grain bread with red and green pepper stripsGrapefruitVegetarian lasagna*Veggies with Greek yogurt dip
TuesdayFruit and Greek yogurt parfait with granolaOrangeLeftover lasagnaHummus and veggiesVeggie burgers on whole grainGrapefruit
WednesdayKind bar and bananaGreek yogurtHummus with whole grain crackers and veggiesString cheeseLEFTOVER NIGHTPopcorn
ThursdayOvernight oatsApple with cheeseEgg salad on whole grain bread with veggiesAlmonds and cranberriesTofu stir fry (extra firm tofu, stir fry veggies in your favorite Asian inspired sauce [watch sodium & sugar])Veggies with Greek yogurt dip
FridayKind bar and bananaOrangeGrilled chicken on salad with black beansPopcornMYO pizza nightPopcorn
SaturdayVeggie omelet with cubed sweet potatoesAppleOUT TO LUNCHAlmondsLeftover soups with 1/2 sandwichGrapefruit

Minestrone Soup

Overnight Oats

Lasagna

 

Christmas Quinoa

In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.

At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.

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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.

This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.

One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.

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The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!

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Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
  • 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
  • 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons

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Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
  2. Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
  3. Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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NOTES:

  • This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
  • You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
  • Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
  • Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!

FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.

Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!

Smokey Chicken

This week my family (all 5 of us) were sick. We got a bad head cold and it ran through us like the plague! I hadn’t cooked all week because we were just surviving and who feels like cooking when you can’t taste it anyway, am I right? Finally last night I could kind of breathe again so I decided to make this delicious dish.

I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good a few months ago. What happens when I find recipes though, is I look for ways to “Amanda-fy” them…make them more of something that I’d like to eat, cook, or try out. This is one of those recipes that went from a Pinterest idea to something different.

Nutrition Lesson

Everyone talks about chicken breast and it being super lean source of protein. It really is BUT it can be more expensive than chicken thighs or drumsticks. Not everyone in the world has an unlimited budget that they can just willy nilly spend on food. I will be the first to tell you eating well does not have to be more expensive but there are certain tips and tricks I have in order to be able to say that with confidence. Like this chicken for instance. Although boneless skinless chicken breast is lean, chicken thighs and drumsticks aren’t as high in fat as most red meats.

I want us to be clear on what LEAN really means. When dietitians talk “lean meats” we are talking about the amount of fat in meats. For instance, haddock (the fish) is in the running for the leanest meat because it has a verrrrry tiny amount of fat in a 3 ounce serving (like about 1 gram of fat naturally). So when we say “lean” we are talking fat grams per 3 ounce serving. The leaner the meat the less fat it has, the less fat it has the less saturated fat (not so good for your heart fats) it has, the less saturated fat it has usually the less cholesterol it has (the stuff that can clog up your arteries), the less cholesterol it has usually the better it is for your heart and overall health.

Below is a nice little chart that shows how lean each meat is (I put them in order from least lean to leanest).

Meat Serving Calories Fat Grams

Saturated Fat

4 chicken wings 3 oz 426 35.9 14.1
Sausage links 3 oz 331 27 9.6
Prime rib 3 oz 276 21.6 8.7
Ground beef (80/20) 3 oz 230 15.2 5.7
Sirloin 3 oz 207 12.0 4.8
Bacon 3 slices 138 10.7 3.5
Ground beef (90/10) 3 oz 184 10.0 3.9
Chicken thigh (no skin) 3 oz 178 9.3 2.6
Ground turkey (93/7) 3 oz 128 7.1 1.8
Chicken breast (skin) 3 oz 156 7.0 1.8
Salmon 3 oz 144 5.7 1.2
Chicken drumstick (no skin) 3 oz 146 4.8 1.3
Pork loin or chop 3 oz 122 3.0 1.0
Chicken breast (no skin) 3 oz 122 3.0 0.7
Haddock 3 oz 95 0.8 0.1
Tuna 3 oz 99 0.7 0.2

Table information gathered from RD411, Calorie King, and Calorie Counter.

Yes. You read that right. Four wings. Not 6, not 12 but just 4. Regardless, the point of this blog is that skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breast are all better choices than beef. Venison, grass-fed beef, buffalo, bison, and other wild game are in an awesome category of their own.

When eating well and eating on a budget needs to go hand in hand, stick with me and this blog. I won’t lead you astray!

Smoked paprika is the star of the show for this recipe. It’s not something I use often but it is good too have on hand, especially when you want to throw in a subtle hint of smoke and beautiful red color!

So here’s the recipe you voted for and were waiting so long to get your hands on!

Smokey Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 5 drumsticks (you can also use 2-3 breasts)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your love of spice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic, and all of the spices into an iron skillet (or oven safe pan). Heat until simmering.
  2. Place drumsticks with the skin removed or pulled down into the skillet. Cook on the stove top for 5 minutes on each side of the drumstick.
  3. Place skillet into the oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

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NOTES:

  • For more drumsticks just double the recipe on the vinegar, oil, spices. Extra isn’t a bad thing!
  • For breasts make sure you don’t dry them out.
  • INTERNAL TEMPERATURE IS SUPER IMPORTANT! Get yourself a food thermometer ($5 at walmart) or a more fancy version (I have one that goes into the oven with the meat and tells me when it’s done).
  • For more smoke add more smoked paprika
  • I served my smokey chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli…it was delicious!

How do you use smoked paprika?

Souper Easy Wellness Soup

Lame title, I know but it truly is super easy!

It’s fall and where I live, the leaves are gorgeous! Vivid colors that pop out of the green landscape and the cool weather that makes you want to eat warm soup. Here’s a picture taken on a walk last week. Simply beautiful.

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Listen, eating well and homemade cooking does not have to be hard, time consuming, or tasteless. That’s the theme of this blog. I want to show you how to eat well, simply; without having to buy rare ingredients at a specialty store, recipes that take minutes, and taste delicious! This recipe is what I call a “dump” recipe. I dump all of the ingredients into the pot with very little prep time. Easy peasy!

I have spun this soup recipe many ways but I must admit this one may be my favorite. It’s vegan which means it is entirely animal product free! I wanted to do it in October because you could also call this anti-cancer soup or anti-inflammatory soup but wellness soup fits more peoples wants/needs.

You cannot get too many veggies. If I’m missing a vegetable that you usually use in a soup or stew, add it. If there are leftover veggies in your freezer or refrigerator and you want to use them, throw those kids into the pool! Same thing with herbs and spices…use what you have and what you think will taste good together. You can’t go wrong with veggie soup, add what moves you!

To quote my dear friend and fellow dietitian Heather Tressler “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” meaning that when you bake something you probably should follow the recipe or it may not turn out well. Cooking however, is an art meaning that it is up to interpretation. Add, subtract, make it your own piece of art!

Let’s get down to it because I know you want the recipe!

Amanda’s Wellness Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or more up to you)
  • 1 medium chopped onion (shortcut: use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you want to really spice it up)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (surprise ingredient)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 32 oz frozen soup vegetables (microwave for 5 minutes in a glass bowl)
  • 7 oz frozen corn
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage (you can shred yourself (about 3 cups) or use already shredded
  • 7 oz can of mushrooms (or any type of mushroom you like)
  • 5 oz frozen chopped kale
  • 1, 32 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat, pour canola oil in and follow it up with garlic and onion. Allow the onion to cook until for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar and allow the vinegar to cook down slightly (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add bay leaves, basil, oregano, lentils, and quinoa. The pan will be fairly dry but that is ok! Allow the lentils and quinoa to toast for about 1 minute before pouring the veggie broth.
  4. Place the soup veggies, corn, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and diced tomatoes into the pot.
  5. Allow soup to cook down (I had mine in the pot all day on low/simmer) or put in a crock pot on low all day.
  6. It’s ready to go right after all of the veggies warm up but I like to let the flavors marry for a few hours.

5 Quick Nutrition Lessons (from this recipe)

  1. Frozen veggies are just as awesome as fresh. In fact when vegetables are not local/seasonal then frozen is actually better than fresh. After veggies are picked they begin losing antioxidants within hours. Frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen soon after harvesting which saves those amazing antioxidants. So this winter go for frozen vegetables!
  2. Turmeric is amazing (as you notice I have it in almost all of my recipes). It doesn’t work as well by itself so you need to make sure that you are pairing it with black pepper, garlic, and/or ginger for the anti-inflammatory properties to come alive. It’s also not as effective in supplement form. Cook with it! Enjoy that subtle smoky flavor in most of your cooking!
  3. Herbs and spices help improve the flavor of food without having to add a ton of salt. I do add some salt (not a lot by most standards) and let people shake it on if they prefer. We use way too much salt as a society so sometimes it takes a while to get used to the flavor without a ton of it in our food. If you (or someone you cook for) has high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and some other diseases you may have to cut back. Reduce the salt and increase those delicious herbs and spices!
  4. Lentils, quinoa, peas, and corn are used as protein in this dish. You don’t need meat in order to eat protein…at all. All of these are actually less expensive than meat but more nutrient rich. So eating well doesn’t have to cost more, especially when you use these plant sources as protein. This soup is a meal in itself…protein, starches/carbohydrates, and vegetables all wrapped up into one delicious dish!
  5. This is a great soup for cold and flu season as well. It has been shown that garlic and onions are natural antibacterial and antiviral foods. They can help your body fight off these nasty viruses and bacteria! Remember when mom made chicken soup for a cold? There’s something to be said about that especially if she used garlic and onion. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is a building block for your immune system and cayenne pepper has also been shown to ward off illness.

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Basically you cannot go wrong with this soup! From chronic disease prevention to common colds this soup has you covered!

I had leftovers that I wasn’t able to eat so there will be delicious leftovers in a few week!

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I’d like to hear from you! What would you add to this soup to make it even more healthy and delicious?

 

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

When I was younger my grandmother made these incredible pork chops. They were breaded, pan fried, and then baked with tomatoes and onions. I still remember how they tasted. She hasn’t made them in a long time but my parents have taken this recipe and made it better for you. To get the recipe, I called my dad because he is the one who usually makes the dish and apparently this started the “pork chop recipe battle of 2016” between my parents as they fervently discussed who’s recipe it is. Honestly, whoever’s recipe it is, it is a keeper! This is a dish that my husband and I ask for quite often because it is so delicious!

When I’m cooking I like to take a recipe that I’ve found and put a spin on it so that’s exactly what I’ve done to this one. From my grandmothers original breaded pork chops to my parents unbreaded baked pork chops I took it one step further with a pork loin and I think you’ll really enjoy it…I know we did!

When you buy pork loins at the store they usually come in packs of 2 (about 2 pounds each loin). I used both in this recipe but you can certainly cut it in half and do pork barbecue or cut your own chops (pork chops come from the loin) from the other one. Look for the leanest one…the one without a huge fat layer and marbling. Pork loin is the leanest cut from the pork but it still can have a layer of fat and some marbling.

NUTRITION SIDE NOTE: Marbling is the white swirls in pork, beef, and lamb. This is fat…saturated fat. It carries a lot of cholesterol (it also carries a lot of flavor). Look for meat without a lot of marbling and add flavor through oils, herbs, and spices.

In every recipe I make there’s an ingredient that many people do not think of adding. I like to be creative yet practical and invent recipes that people would actually make at home but also push you out of your comfort zone a little. My secret weapon in this recipe are capers. If you’ve never used/eaten a caper before I promise you are missing out! The are relatively inexpensive (for a jar that will last me months it cost $1.50) and have a taste that will knock your socks off! They are salty and briny…but not strong like olives. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

There’s another catch to this recipe. I add tons of vegetables because a diet that is 2/3 vegetable based has been shown to reduce your risk of many diseases like heart disease and cancer. THAT is why a healthy diet is important. Weight management is important but that is a side note…health, now that’s where it is at kids!

The steps are simple…

Chop:

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Season

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Layer

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Smother

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Cook it!

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OK the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 whole carrots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 medium onions (2 large)
  • Pork loin (I used 2, 2 pound loins)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if watching your sodium intake)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Chop celery, carrots, peppers, and half of the onions (larger pieces about 1 inch). Put them in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  2. Place pork loins in a large bowl and rub capers, garlic, oregano, turmeric, salt, and pepper over the loin to get the flavors surrounding it. I cut small slits into the loin and stuffed them with the garlic and capers.
  3. Put the loins over the vegetables and pour the balsamic vinegar over the loin and veggies.
  4. Place the can of crushed tomatoes around the pork loin and layer the rest of the onions on top. Top it off with the can of diced tomatoes. I also put another teaspoon of capers on top of the diced tomatoes but this is optional…I really like capers!
  5. Cook on high 6 hours or low 8-10 hours.

I served the pork loin with parsley and lemon red skin potatoes and a side salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Parsley and Lemon Red Skin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red skin potatoes cut in 1 inch cubes (skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives
  • 1/3 lemon (about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a glass dish. Using a steamer lid (or a glass plate on top) microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste (can also use more herbs and spices)

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Recipe Notes: this slow cooker recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare. You can sear the tenderloin in a pan first but it is not necessary. The meat is fall apart tender without the sear. It is so quick, easy, and delicious.

Pork loin recipe cost: about $15 for  8 servings (4 oz of meat). That is $1.87 per serving!

Layered Taco Dip

Football season has officially begun. That means baseball playoff time is about to start and hockey season is on its way. My husband and I enjoy fun game-day food and this 6+ layered taco dip is no exception. Don’t get scared it seems like a lot of ingredients when it’s 6 layers but believe me, it takes about 15 minutes to throw together. The layers are super easy and packed with tons of nutrients like heart healthy fats, protein, fiber, calcium, and a whole lot of vitamins.

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Here’s the deal, not everything that is low in calories is healthy and not everything that is higher in calories is unhealthy. Calories are not the measure of health. This recipe does not use fat free anything except the salsa, tomatoes, and lettuce that are naturally fat free. 🙂 The recipe uses real ingredients that provide your body essential nutrients it needs to improve your health.

I first took the cream cheese out of the frig and let it warm up a bit just so it was easier to incorporate into the Greek yogurt and taco seasoning. I added a touch of sour cream but you certainly don’t have to because the Greek yogurt does the job. Mixing in the taco seasoning, I whipped all of those ingredients together.

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The vegetarian refried beans went down into the dish first. It is a nice firm base and one of those power houses to this dish with tons of fiber and protein. I chose vegetarian because it has no saturated fat.

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The Greek yogurt mixture went on top of the beans. Salsa came next and is packed with lycopene, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals. You can certainly use homemade salsa but I used canned for this recipe. Shredded romaine lettuce is one of the stars of the show and I put this on top of the salsa. It’s crunchy with a bold color, mild flavor, and a great source of vitamin A. Next came shredded cheddar cheese. If you wanted to lower the saturated fat in the recipe you can certainly leave it out. I personally don’t think it added much to the dish except a fun yellow color and a little bit of protein. After the cheese you can use your imagination. I used tomatoes, minced black olives, and avocado. You’ll see in the picture that half of it had all three and the other half didn’t have tomatoes or olives. My taste vs my husbands.

This is a fun dish that you can get creative with. If you wanted to go vegan you could omit the Greek yogurt and cream cheese and just use silken tofu with the taco seasoning likewise omitting the cheddar cheese and use dairy alternatives. If you wanted to add more veggies consider adding scallions, peppers, shredded carrots, or shredded zucchini. Go wild! Instead of refried beans you could do crushed black beans or hummus. Make as many layers as you want and try your own layered dip!

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Layered Taco Dip
Ingredients:
1, 16 oz can vegetarian refried beans
8 oz package of 1/3 fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
5 oz container of 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 packet of taco seasoning (without trans fats)
1/3 cup sour cream
8 oz jarred salsa (you can also use pico de gallo or  homemade salsa)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato or 2-3 small tomatoes diced
2-3 tablespoons black olives (I used minced but use whatever you like)
1/2 diced avocado (if you are keeping this dip out all day mix the diced avocado with lime juice

Directions:
1. Spread refried beans on the bottom of a square or rectangle glass dish.
2. Mix cream cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and taco seasoning in a medium bowl and spread over refried beans.
3. Place salsa over the yogurt mixture and sprinkle lettuce over the salsa.
4. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the lettuce.
5. Add the toppings.

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Serve immediately with flour, corn, whole grain, or your choice of tortilla chips. You can also keep this refrigerated until service. Remember to keep it on ice during your party!

This recipe is gluten free (check taco seasoning), nut free, egg free

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

My aunt has huge gardens. She’s on vacation this week so my mom and I harvested tons of cucumbers and green beans. Thank you Aunt Nancy! In any regard we’ve been having a lot of cooked green beans and my daughter’s favorite, creamy cucumbers. Tonight for dinner I decided to try out something else.

Who doesn’t like a good green bean almandine? It reminds me of a fancy dinner but you know me, simple is the way to go! So here it is:

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I buy whole almonds and just cut them with a knife – its cheaper)
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Steam green beans until slightly crunchy
  2. While green beans are steaming, melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  3. Cook garlic and onions until onions are transparent
  4. Add the slivered almonds to the skillet
  5. Place green beans over the butter, garlic, onions, and almonds
  6. Cook beans until desired texture and then season with salt to taste

NOTES:

  • If you don’t have fresh green beans, frozen works just fine
  • You can use canola oil or olive oil blend for cooking instead of butter

They came out fantastically! Crunchy yet tender. The almonds gave it a nutty flavor without being too over powering and the lemon and garlic gave it a zesty undertone. Refreshing!

Crunch, zesty, flavorful
Crunch, zesty, flavorful

Final thoughts: I love taking typical foods and putting a twist on them. Sometimes my recipes are trial and error. I dream of a delicious BBQ sauce recipe that I don’t have to dump. It’s been a few years in the making. These green beans came out delicious in the first try and sometimes that’s the luck! Once you get the hang of cooking, making up recipes gets easier because you can go with the flow! My wonderful friend and dietitian side-kick Heather once said “baking is a science but cooking is an art” and it is so true! Cooking doesn’t require the exact amounts of anything for it to turn out delicious!

Challenge: make up your own recipe!