Monthly Archives: February 2011

meatless mondays: veggie appetizers

Sometimes I like to have appetizers for dinner or make a spread of snacks for guests to graze upon. I’ll make an array of hummus with veggies and pita bread, 7 layer tex-mex dip with tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa for even more tortilla chip dipping, and a variety of cheeses with crackers and bread.

Put out a few olives, a dish of almonds or candied pecans, some grapes and apple slices, and Voila! Food for the masses.

Recipe: 7-Layer Tex-Mex Dip
(photographed before the last layer of cheese)

1st layer:
Large can refried beans (or 2 small cans)
1 tsp chopped jalapeños
Spread on a large platter or a 9×11 rectangular glass casserole dish.
(halve the recipe if you use a regular size plate or smaller dish)
2nd layer:
4 Avocados mashed with 2 Tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, onion salt (or garlic)
Spread on top of beans.
3rd layer:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo (optional-makes it a better spreadable consistency)
1 package taco seasoning
Mix above 3 ingredients together in a separate bowl. Spread on top of avocado mix.
4th layer:
1 cup chopped green onions
5th layer:
1 cup chopped black olives
6th layer:
1 cup chopped tomatoes
7th layer:
Lots of grated cheddar cheese (at least an 8 oz package or more if you’d like)
Refrigerate and let mingle! Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe: Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups freshly cooked chick peas)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs tahini (optional-the sesame paste gives it a nuttier flavor)
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 clove chopped garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Drain garbanzos, keeping 1/2 the liquid reserved to the side. Put all ingredients in food processor and blend for about 2 minutes. You can thin the mixture with water, the liquid reserve from the beans, or additional olive oil. Adjust salt, garlic and lemon to your taste. Serve with pita bread and chopped veggies.

Optional additions for flavors are: roasted or fresh red peppers, chili powder, black beans, feta cheese, pine nuts, walnuts, cucumbers, etc.


happy (healthy) heart day…

Ah, Valentine’s Day. That joyous day of the year where people in relationships have to prove their love and single people feel dejected. What a great holiday… Ok, I’m not that cynical. I just don’t like Hallmark queuing me to express my love to my husband. I do however enjoy a nice meal prepared with a little love. And I don’t mind being the person who cooks it!

Instead of my regular Meatless Monday post, today I’d like to talk about heart healthy foods and help you put together a delicious, balanced meal with them. Below are recipes for Roasted Beets, Kale Crisps, Salmon, and Molten Chocolate Cake. They are all pretty simple items that need very little preparation. When you put them all together, you end up with a colorful and flavorful plate full of heart healthy food!

I personally love a simple dinner of roasted fish, brown rice, side of veggies, and a salad. It leaves me satisfied and feeling good about what I just put into my body. Basic vegetables are inexpensive, leaving you a little extra to spend on good quality fish.

Wild Alaskan Salmon is an excellent choice. Skip the farm raised salmon! I don’t care if big chain stores claim it is sustainable, most of it is not, and the taste doesn’t even compare. There is something about having to swim upstream that makes wild salmon better than its farmed kin.

A major environmental issue with farmed salmon is that their waste is often released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms, and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. Yes, there are inland tank based farms that are more safe. If you have a fish monger or a place you trust, farmed salmon can be acceptable. Just be sure to do the research!

Wild salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids which help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.

Choose a few heart healthy vegetables to go with your fish. Kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes are both full of beta carotene and Vitamins C and E. Asparagus and spinach are good sources for beta-carotene as well as lutein and b-complex vitamins. Beets are rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium and also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. All of these vegetables are high in fiber.

Beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids. Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.

Round out your healthy meal with a glass of red wine and dark chocolate, chock full of catechins and reservatrol, which help improve your good HDL cholesterol. Happy Valentine’s Day, from my happy healthy heart to yours!

Recipe: Roasted Beets

4 beets
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/4 cup shelled walnuts (optional)
1/4 crumbled goat cheese (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400. Scrub beets and cut off root and greens. If beets are larger than baseball size, you can cut them in half again. Score them with a knife or fork, wrap in tin foil, place on a cookie sheet (to catch any beet juice that might otherwise leak out into your oven), and roast for 60-75 minutes. Let cool. Skins should easily peel off of fully cooked beets. Use a spoon if needed to help push back the peel. Yes, your hands are going to turn pink 🙂 Wash frequently to avoid staining. (side note: your hands aren’t the only thing that could become discolored when eating beets… )

Dice or slice beets, drizzle with oil and vinegar, crumble nuts and cheese over the top, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy! I think beets are delicious plain too. The above accoutrements are for your pallet’s extra pleasure.

Recipe: Kale Crisps
1-2 bunches of kale
1 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to season

Pre-heat oven to 400. Wash kale and remove stem (fold the leaf like a book with the stem as the book end and make one long cut to remove it). Chop into large bite size pieces (it will shrink as you roast it) and place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, spread out evenly. Lightly toss in olive oil or spray with olive oil spray. Season and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning leaves/tossing on pan every 10 minutes until most of the kale is crisp and paper-like. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Easy Roasted Salmon for 2

1 pound Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 tsp olive oil
1 lemon
salt, pepper, seasoning, herbs per your preference (herbs de provence is nice on salmon or seasoned sea salt adds a nice flavor too)

Pre-heat an oven safe skillet (preferably cast iron) in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Rub oil on salmon and season. Wait to squeeze half the lemon juice onto the fish until just before cooking (as the acid will start to “cook” it). Reserve the remaining half of the lemon to squeeze on afterwards.

Put fish into hot pan, skin side down and roast for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Broil on high for an additional 2 minutes to crisp up the top. Remove from pan and serve. (The skin will most likely stick to the bottom of the pan, which is fine.)

Recipe: Molten Chocolate Cake

5 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work just fine!)
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
Ice cream, to serve

Pre-heat oven to 450. Spray 6 4oz ramekins with non-stick spray (you could use a cup cake pan and reduce the cooking time to about 9 minutes and make smaller cakes or use disposible mini pie tins).

Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to slightly cool.

Beat eggs and egg yolks with sugar using an electric mixer. When the mixture thickens into “ribbons”, add the chocolate mixture and flour until just combined.

Pour batter into dishes, dividing equally. Bake cakes until sides are set but center remains soft and runny, about 11 minutes. Run a knife around the cakes to loosen them from their ramekins. Immediately turn cakes out of ramekins onto a plate or bowl, top with ice cream, and serve. Eat, enjoy, and revel in how easy that was to make something soooo delicious!

meatless mondays: chili for a chilly day…

Hello from snowy Chicago! As you may have heard, we had a blizzard here, complete with a snow day off of work. I found myself not wanting to leave the house. Full hibernation mode kicked in. Its fun when you can stay home and do nothing without being able to run errands. Forced relaxation!

In the city, most of us don’t have the luxury of a garage or a driveway, much less a designated parking spot. When you are under 2 feet of heavy snow and you spend 3 hours digging your car out, you feel rather entitled to “your spot”. The marking of territory is respected for about 2 days. After that, you are on your own again.

I have a brilliant idea for a decoy parking place marker. I have a use for leftover styrofoam now. I’m going to collect it and create what appears to be a large mound of icy snow. This mound could then be easily set into your parking space or used to block the entry, mimicking what happens when the snow plow comes down the middle of the street. What do you think? Would it work? The worst that could happen is that someone would run over it or dispose of it, just like they do to the broken lawn furniture left in those spots.

Fear of losing my carefully shoveled out parking space deterred me from grocery shopping this week. I can’t bring myself to mark my territory. I think its rude after the initial dig out day. Luckily I keep some staple items in my pantry for such an occassion. I whipped up some veggie chili and called it dinner. Here is my easy recipe for a hearty, meatless chili dish. It will keep you warm on chilly day!

Recipe: Veggie Chili

1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 can black or pinto beans (or any variety you prefer)
1 cup water
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs cumin
2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add diced peppers for an additional 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and seasonings. Adjust seasoning for your taste, adding more if needed. Bring to a light boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with your choice of cheese, sour cream, chives, and/or saltine crackers.

For extra flavor and fiber, you can also add a can of pumpkin. Optional protein additions are: meatless soy crumbles, shredded tempeh, or ground quorn.