Category: Healthy


I always forget how simple it is to make pesto. Stuff everything into the food processor, turn it on, and presto – Pesto!

Basil-Walnut PestoThe hardest part for me is taking the food processor out of the box and fitting it back into the box when I’m done with it. I keep quite a few kitchen toys in their boxes in the garage – the ones I don’t use often enough to justify keeping them in my kitchen, because I don’t have much storage. So far I’m impressed with my skill at pulling out a multi-piece appliance that’s packed in 3 rows of Styrofoam and getting it all back into the box like it was never taken out. I’m good! Haha!

The second hardest part is not killing the basil plant. I’ve killed 3 or 4 or 6 – and that includes those that “just need water.” *sigh* Recently I bought a large basil plant for $3.99. I couldn’t pass it up, even though I expect it also to die. I’m trying something different this year. Instead of baking the plant in my western-facing kitchen window, I’ve got it outside my front door to catch the morning sun. So far, so good!

 

So Pesto. What do you do with it?

  • Toss it with some hot pasta for an easy dinner,
  • smear it on crostini for an appetizer,
  • bake it into a chicken dish,
  • or do what my boss does and put it on your freshly cooked corn on the cob.

Doesn’t that sound good??

Pesto is a nice, forgiving recipe. If you don’t make it exactly like the recipe, it will most likely still be good! In fact, I used a little less oil than recommended and a little more cheese than called for. I switched out the nuts, the oil and the cheese from the recipe I was using for inspiration. And you know what? It’s fantastic! You should try this. You’ll be pleased with how simple it is. If you don’t burn up you basil plant. And if you can get your food processor out of the box.  ;)

Walnut-Basil Pesto

Inspired by Food Network Kitchen

Stuff you need
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic [I used minced garlic in a jar.]
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or a combination of walnut oil and olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 grated Romano cheese [Or Pecorino, Parmesan, or a combination.]

Now what?
Combine basil, garlic and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Add 1/2 cup oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.

If using immediately, add remaining oil and pulse until smooth.
Add the cheese and pulse until just mixed.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw and stir in cheese.

Edamame Quinoa Salad

In my quest to eat better, I started a Pinterest board with a few friends so we could pin healthy stuff. One of my friends and I LOVE quinoa, and she posted this recipe.

Edamame Quinoa SaladShe had great timing! I had an empty frig since we had been on vacation last week, and I was looking for something healthy to make for the coming week. I already had the main ingredients – edamame and corn in the freezer, and quinoa in the pantry – and this looked nice and fresh. So off to the store I went to get the few remaining ingredients, and I mixed this up tonight.

I made a couple of modifications to the original recipe. My edamame was in the shell, so after I cooked it I had to pull out the beans. Peas. Those things inside the shell, whatever they are.  :)

I used walnut oil since the olive oil I had in the pantry was just a bit expired. One bottle was from 2012, and the other was from 2008. Apparently I don’t use olive oil very much! The walnut oil works, though, since the edamame has a nutty flavor.

I used bottled lemon juice, but fresh lime juice since I’d had to buy limes for my daughter’s birthday cheesecake. I highly recommend using fresh lime juice. It gives the dressing a nice pop that I’m not sure you’d get from the bottle. I needed the juice of just over 1/2 of a lime.

For the cilantro, I didn’t see any fresh in the store (probably walked right past it), but I found some in a tube. It’s the equivalent of 3 bunches of cilantro, chopped and mixed with some stuff, and it’s supposed to hold in the freezer 3 months without freezing. Sounded good to me, since I never use the whole cilantro bunch anyway. Turns out it’s pretty good stuff!

The recipe itself doesn’t take long, but you do need to plan for cooling the quinoa, edamame and corn before mixing it all up. This works as both a side to your meal or as a stand-alone dish. Both the quinoa and edamame provide protein, so if you’re going for a meatless meal, this is a great option!

I thought this looked tasty in the pictures, but in real life it was even better than I hoped! I’m excited to add this to my menus and hope you like it!

Edamame Quinoa Salad

adapted from Real Housemoms

Stuff you need:
16 ounces frozen, shelled, edamame
1 1/4 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cup cooked, cooled quinoa
2 green onions, sliced
1 red sweet bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne

Now what?
Follow package directions and cook the edamame. Drain and cool.
Microwave the frozen corn for about 3 minutes or boil according to package directions. Drain and cool completely.
In a large bowl combine the edamame, corn, quinoa, green onion, red pepper, and cilantro.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive or walnut oil, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, chili powder, black pepper, thyme and cayenne until well combined.
Add dressing to quinoa mixture and stir to mix well.
Cover and chill for at least two hours.

Sweet Potato Hummus? I couldn’t decide if that sounded good to me or not. I only like sweet potatoes once in a while, and only in small quantities. And I’m picky about my hummus. So I’m not sure why I had to try this recipe.

Sweet Potato HummusIn fact, when I tried it the first time, I wasn’t sure I liked it and I gave away probably 2/3 of it. And then a couple of weeks later I had to make it again. But this time, I only gave away a little bit and kept the rest for myself. I think my body was screaming for beta carotene, and this was a good way to get it.

The recipe calls for using a food processor but since I killed mine last year making peanut butter balls for Sensei Peterbilt and haven’t replaced it yet, I used my mixer. The second time I made it, I put the chick peas in a zipperbag and smooshed them with my hands before I put them in the mixer with the rest of the ingredients. This method doesn’t produce the super-silky, smooth version but I didn’t mind!

You can use your choice of oils for this. I used walnut oil and I think it adds a slightly nutty flavor. The original blogger suggests replacing the oil with OJ or a splash of soy milk if you want to reduce the fat.

In terms of spices, I used a couple teaspoons of blackened Cajun spice and maybe 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. I like sweet & spicy combinations, and I think the combination of these spices plus the sweet potato and maple syrup work well together. Adjust the spice if you like more or less seasoning.

Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Slightly adapted from Lunchboxbunch.com

Makes about 3 cups

Stuff you need:

1 cup oven-baked sweet potato, skin removed [I won’t tell if you microwave your potato!]
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons tahini
4 Tablespoons oil (olive oil, walnut oil, etc.)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup or 1-2 tsp agave [I used maple syrup -pure, not the fake stuff]
Optional: 1/4 cup orange juice – for a zesty sweet accent of flavor!
Salt and spice to taste*

* I used about 2 teaspoons blackened Cajun seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and a pinch of salt
* Add more oil/vinegar for silkier hummus – if desired.
Now what?

1. Add all the ingredients to a Vitamix or Food Processor.
2. Pulse or blend until smooth. For chunkier hummus – pulse the mixture and keep a few of the beans half-chopped instead of pureed. I went with a full on puree for creamier hummus.

Mixer Method:

If you don’t have a food processor, smoosh the beans in a zipperbag, then beat them with an electric mixer until they’re fairly smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.

Scoop up with sliced apples, carrots, bagel chips, jicama, or whatever appeals to you.

Quinoa Pancakes

These Quinoa Pancakes are part of my attempt to get myself back on track. I’ve gotten into a bad habit lately — picking up breakfast sandwiches on the way into work.

Quinoa PancakesI’ve been too tired (aka lazy) to plan my meals ahead of time so I gravitate towards what’s easy – fast food. I love breakfast sandwiches – don’t get me wrong! It’s not the eggs that are the problem, it’s the bacon or sausage, coupled with the croissant / muffin / biscuit that holds all that goodness together. Too much fat, too many carbs, not so many health benefits.

I’ve made oatmeal pancakes before and I really like them, so quinoa pancakes seemed like a no-brainer. Don’t expect light and airy pancakes. The quinoa gives these some body.

Most pancakes, including these, can be made in advance, packaged in portions, and put in the frig or even frozen. In the morning when I’m tired I can just grab my food and stumble out the door. I can heat them up at work, top them with some fruit (fresh or frozen), and it’s a nutritious, low-fat start to my day!

I made a few tweaks to the original recipe. I didn’t have wheat bran so I crushed up some bran flakes and used those. I used 2 whole eggs instead of 1 egg + 1 T oil because I didn’t want to waste the yolk. I also added more spice because I love spices! The batter is thick, similar to muffin batter, so I used an ice cream scoop to drop it onto the skillet. I patted the batter down on the skillet to make them about 1/4 inch thick.

These are delish and I’ll be making them again. I hope you enjoy them too!

Quinoa Pancakes

Adapted from Rachel Cooks

Stuff you need:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons ground flax-seed (flax meal)
1/4 cup wheat bran or crushed wheat bran cereal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup almond milk or skim milk
2  tablespoons pure maple syrup

Now what?

In medium bowl, whisk together quinoa, flour, ground flax-seed, wheat bran, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and syrup until smooth.
Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Do not overmix!
Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter or non-stick spray and heat over medium-high.
Drop batter by ice cream scoop onto skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, 2-3 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes.
Serve with maple syrup or top with fruit.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers with QuinoaThis is my first try at making stuffed peppers, and if I do say so myself… I nailed it!!

I think I’ve only had them one time before today, and my impression was of a bunch of ground beef and rice stuffed into a pepper. I don’t remember much flavor, but I do remember I didn’t care to have them again.

The Pretty One’s friend made stuffed peppers for dinner one evening and he told me how good they were. I was surprised, and started thinking there must be more to them than beef and rice. When I found a couple of recipes this summer, I bookmarked them so I could try them when TPO went back to school.Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa

After looking at a few recipes, I chose a vegetarian quinoa and black bean stuffed pepper recipe for the base. We like a little heat in our food so I added a jalapeno and pepper jack cheese, and we eat meat so I added ground turkey.  Basically, I made a filling that I thought was tasty, filled the peppers, and voila! Delish Mexican Stuffed Peppers that are high in protein. I’d say they’re low fat, but that would just be wishful thinking because I used a lot of cheese. I love cheese!

If you want to cut the fat, use 2% cheese or a smaller quantity of cheese – or even eliminate it altogether. Skip the meat, add extra peppers, whatever sounds good to you. This is a very forgiving recipe, and doesn’t require you to make it exactly like I did. With some experimenting, you’ll find the perfect combination for your taste!

I made these up and put them in the frig for a couple of hours before I baked them. The only adjustment needed if you want to do that is to bake them longer since you’ll be starting with cold food in a chilled dish.

These stuffed peppers have rewritten what I thought I knew about the dish, and I know I’ll make them again!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Stuff you need:

6 bell peppers [any color, but multi-colors are more fun!], sliced in half stem-to-tip, seeds removed
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1 packet taco seasoning for 1# meat
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
1 (4oz) can diced green chiles (do not drain)
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, minced [optional]
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup picante sauce – whatever heat level you prefer
6 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated or diced into small cubes
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated, divided
15 ounce can red enchilada sauce

Now what?

Add quinoa to a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes, cover, turn off heat and let steam 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

In the meantime, microwave pepper halves 2-3 minutes to soften slightly. Set aside. (Prepared this way, the peppers should come out crisp-tender. If you want them crisper, you can omit this step.)

In a skillet, brown ground turkey and diced onion. Add taco seasoning and cook as directed.

Add quinoa, black beans, tomato, green chiles and their juices, jalapeno, cilantro, 1/4 tsp pepper and picante sauce to the meat/onions in the skillet. Stir in pepper jack cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.

Pour enchilada sauce into a 9×13″ baking dish. [Depending on the size of your peppers, you may need an additional 8×8″ baking dish. If so, divide your enchilada sauce accordingly.]

Divide filling among peppers and set stuffed peppers into the enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and cook about 5 minutes longer. Serve peppers drizzled with enchilada sauce.

Note: If you want to make this vegetarian, use 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Cook the onion with the quinoa. Omit the meat. Follow the rest of the steps.

Yesterday the temperature was in the 70s. This afternoon? 31 very damp, chilly degrees. I know it’s November, but I was really enjoying the warm sunshine!

Steak Soup

Steak Soup – Kansas City Style!

Since the temperature isn’t working in my favor, it seemed like a good day to make a pot of soup. Plaza III The Steakhouse in Kansas City is known for their Steak Soup. When the natives talk about steak soup, it’s this one. This copycat recipe from my friend Jennifer’s family cookbook is delicious and perfect for a chilly day! The recipe makes about a gallon of soup, so if you don’t have a big family or a party of people to feed, freeze some or share with friends!

The soup is surprisingly simple and uses few ingredients. The original recipe calls for Accent but I don’t use it because it contains – or is – MSG, which makes me wheeze. Instead, I substituted some salt and burger seasoning to add richness.

It’s easy to see why this is a Kansas City favorite!

Plaza III Steak Soup

This recipe makes about a gallon of soup so make sure you are using a BIG stock pot! If you don’t want that much, the recipe should halve easily.

Stuff you need:

1 pound ground chuck / ground beef [The Pretty One likes thicker soup so I used 1 1/2 pounds.]

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)

1 cup flour

8 cups water [Original recipe said 1/2 gallon but I had to look up how many cups that was!]

2 Tablespoons beef base / beef concentrate [This is the stuff in the jars in the soup aisle, probably on the top shelf. Restaurants use this – that’s why their soups are so good!]

1 package frozen mixed veggies (about 1 pound)

1 can (2 pounds) tomatoes, UNdrained [I used 2 14-oz cans petite diced tomatoes.]

1 Tablespoon pepper

1 Tablespoon Accent OR 1 teaspoon salt + 1 Tablespoon Weber Grill Creations Gourmet Burger Seasoning OR other beef seasoning

Now what?

Put the ground beef, chopped onion, celery and carrots in large stock pot and cook until beef is browned.

Drain off fat and transfer beef and veggie mixture to bowl. Set aside.

Melt margarine in stock pot then stir in flour to make a paste. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add cold water. Cook until thickened, stirring to keep it smooth, about 5 minutes. [Mine didn’t get thick, more like a cloudy water.]

Add in the beef concentrate and stir to mix.

Add in the meat & veggie mix, frozen veggies, tomatoes and seasonings. [I didn’t drain the tomatoes. If you think the soup is too watery, simmer with the lid for another 30-45 minutes.]

Simmer for 45 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat CookiesHere’s a quickie cookie recipe for you to try. I adapted them from a healthy blogger and added chocolate chips so they wouldn’t be so shocking to my system!  :)

As far as chocolate chip cookies go, there aren’t too many ingredients. They mix up quickly and make a somewhat small batch. I used a regular sized ice cream scoop to portion the cookies and got 11 big, soft cookies. You’ll get about that many — more or less — depending on how much fun stuff you add to the batter, such as chocolate chips, nuts, craisins, etc.

Like most oatmeal cookies, you can choose whichever add-ins and spices you enjoy to customize the flavor of the cookie. Oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon are a natural combination. Craisins, orange zest and extract plus dark or white chocolate chips is another good combination. Use what you like and try different combinations for variety. Click for recipe.

For this batch, I used craisins, orange zest, a splash of orange extract and another of vanilla extract, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Orange and cranberry are a great combo, and the chips add an extra flavor layer. I think dark chocolate chunks would be great in these. White chocolate would be tasty too, if you like white chocolate (it’s not my favorite, but I’d eat it in this combo).

And if you’re reading all the whole wheat recipes on my blog and worrying that my sugar addiction is waning and I’m eating too many healthy things, don’t worry. I’m still here and planning more indulgent desserts.  I have to admit, though, that I’m enjoying finding recipes that are a bit healthier but in a stealthy way. I feel just a pinch less guilty eating them. And if you don’t tell there is whole wheat flour in these, nobody will ever guess!

Whole Wheat Apple MuffinsWow – these are good!

I was excited to find this recipe at The Goodie Plate that uses whole wheat flour and fresh apples. The blogger raved about the smell and the flavor of these muffins and I needed to see for myself just how good they are!

I’m glad I tried them – they’re delish! And my house smelled wonderful! Even though they use some whole wheat flour, they were incredibly moist muffins and not as heavy as I expected them to be. 

Of course I made a few adjustments to the recipe, because that’s how I bake, but they were simple tweaks. I added some chopped walnuts and some finely chopped candied ginger. If you’ve never tried candied ginger, it’s a sweet / hot thing that’s best eaten in small pieces, so chop it well. If you like the heat of ginger, like I do, make sure to add some to your muffins! If you’re not quite sure, stick with a small amount (maybe 1 Tablespoon) and adjust the amount in your next batch.Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I used light brown sugar because my box of dark brown sugar was hard as a rock! I didn’t realize I could soften the brown sugar in the microwave by putting the brown sugar in with a small bowl of water near it, zapping for 1 minute, then checking every 30 seconds until it was soft. Dark brown would give the muffins a richer flavor, but the light brown was delicious.

I used two large apples, so I had very chunky muffins that made a batch of 18. I think they’d freeze very well. I didn’t think to throw a couple in the freezer before they all disappeared, but next time I will.

These are great for a healthier breakfast or snack alternative, and almost sweet enough for a dessert. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

I associate crock pot cooking with cold, winter days, but recently it occurred to me that summer is an even better time for using the crock pot. Kansas City was expected to be in the triple digits for several more days. I didn’t want to turn on the oven or stand over the stove for long, and I surely didn’t want to stand on my west-facing deck next to a hot grill in the late afternoon sun! Yet we need to eat.

For the most part I’m happy with picking at bits from the frig, but The Pretty One really needs a meal to keep him going. Between 40-50 hours a week at his internship and 9 hours of online summer classes, he needs “real” food.White Bean Chicken Chili

The Pretty One eats at the golf course when he’s working, but golf course food typically isn’t very healthy. Menus are designed for speed, not nutrition. Once he’s home, he heads to his laptop to study and take his tests for his online courses, so I like to have something healthy ready for him.

It seems weird to make chili in the summer, but I guess it shouldn’t since we eat hot foods all year round. I found this recipe on Taste of Home. It’s not a thick and creamy white chicken chili, so don’t expect that. I followed the recipe closely, but added a bit more pepper since I wasn’t feeding anyone who is spice-challenged. The flavor is great! It had just enough pop without being too much. The consistency, though, wasn’t what I expected. It’s more like a soup than a chili, so I took one of the reviewers’ suggestions and add a cup or so of cooked brown rice to it. I think the rice made it a more filling dish that was still somewhat light. Click for recipe.

I’m happy with this recipe and think it’s a nicely-spiced, healthy meal that didn’t heat up the house. The crock pot may become one of my go-to kitchen tools this summer. In fact, I’m already looking for more recipes to try!

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies!I have no idea how I came across this recipe, but I guess it doesn’t really matter! I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and ran across it yesterday when I was looking for something to bake today. Who wouldn’t want to bake on the 4th of July? It’s only 99 degrees here, and cooler than it’s supposed to be the rest of the week. Perfect time to turn on the oven, right? My concession to the heat was to bake this morning, before it was too hot outside.

I cook with quinoa frequently and like its versatility. I can use it for sweet or savory dishes, and it goes with most anything. In this case, quinoa replaces flour to give substance to the brownies. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, but the reviews were good so I thought they were worth the try. I’m glad I made them – they’re really quite good!! Click for recipe.

These are very moist, more similar to the texture of a flourless chocolate torte than a brownie. The rich, chocolate goodness satisfied my chocolate craving, and so far I’ve managed not to eat the whole pan. (I’m so proud!) With proper blending, the quinoa isn’t noticeable, so if you’re looking for a healthy sneak or need something flourless, this is a good choice. The only change I made to the recipe was to add ¼ cup of walnuts to the top before baking. I think nuts accent the chocolate flavor and I like the crunch factor. If you don’t like nuts, leave them off and sprinkle powdered sugar on top after they cool.Mixing up Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

If these were cut into squares, I think they’d be OK to handle and transport, but they’re very soft and will need some support. For some weird reason I don’t own square pans, so I used a 9” round pan. (My birthday’s coming up, so there’s a gift idea for someone!) Anyway, the wedges would be great for plating up with some fresh whipped cream and berries!

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies are really easy to make – you put everything in a food processor and turn it on until your mixture is smooth, then bake! But I think I burned out the motor in my processor making Nutter Butter Truffles awhile back, and even if I didn’t, it’s boxed up in the garage and I was too lazy to get it out. Instead, I tried to use my stick blender. That didn’t work well; I think the mixture might have been too thick/dry. So it was on to my blender, which is quite sturdy and has a “Puree” function. That worked splendidly, and after a couple of minutes of whirling blades, the brownies were ready to go into the oven.

I wrapped a brownie and threw it into the freezer to see how they hold up. Hopefully, they’ll freeze well and I’ll have a stash ready for one of those times when I “need” a brownie!

 Chocolate Quinoa Brownies - Out of the blender, into the oven!Note: The quinoa used in this recipe is cooked with more water than normal for a smoother texture. If you’re making a larger batch of quinoa and measuring out some to make the brownies, mine measured about 2 1/3 cups of cooked quinoa, but you might want to use a little less. If you’re using quinoa cooked with the normal amount of water, yours may be a bit crunchier. That’s probably OK – just something to be aware of!

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