Category: Healthy

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!

Have you tried chia seeds? Yes, those things we smear on clay figures then water and watch sprout. If you haven’t, you should. Blueberry Chia Coconut Pudding

Not only are they fun for entertaining us, but they’re good for eating, too! They pack a pretty good nutritional wallop for just a small amount of seeds. Chia seeds were an important part in ancient Aztec and Mayan diets because of their richness in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, high fiber content, and benefits of several other nutrients. They can be eaten as-is, no processing or cooking required. I put them in yogurt and smoothies and sneak them into muffins, oatmeal cookies, and most anything that doesn’t require a silky texture.

I found this recipe online at a site called skinnytaste. The original recipe uses mango, but I don’t like mango so I substituted frozen blueberries. Use whatever fruit you like, but be cautious about using something that browns when exposed to air, like apples or bananas. You’d need to toss those in a bit of citrus juice before stirring them in. Click for recipe.

Blueberry Chia Coconut Pudding - ready to mix up!It takes no time to mix this up, but it needs to sit in the frig for 5-6 hours or overnight, so plan ahead. The finished pudding is light and refreshing, and I really liked it! The chia seeds mimic tapioca, absorbing about 4 times their volume in liquid, so if you like tapioca you’ll probably like this. Mine didn’t set up as thick as a regular pudding or tapioca, but that might be from all the moisture the frozen blueberries added. Overall I’d say it’s fairly healthy if you keep the sugar down or don’t add it at all (I didn’t use any).

Give it a try and see what you think. It’ll make a nice snack by itself or be a good component in a healthy breakfast. I’ll definitely be making this again, and stirring in whatever fruit I have handy!

I’ve been staring at my The Best of Clean Eating cookbook for a bit now, and while several recipes looked good, I hadn’t made anything from it. Paging through, a simple-looking Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry caught my eye.

Easy Orange Stir-Fry

Because I don’t care for broccoli (I hear that makes me a weirdo), I swapped out fresh green beans which I love! And because I already had tenderized pork steaks in the freezer, I swapped those for the steak. I made a few other tweaks to the original recipe to accommodate what I had on hand, but I don’t think they affected the flavor.

Because I didn’t think to look for reviews online, I didn’t know how good the dish would be. I cut back the meat to 1/2 pound, but used the called-for amounts of the rest of the ingredients. I really liked the flavor of the sauce, and The Pretty One and I ate it up! I wonder, though, how it would have been if I’d used the whole pound of meat, the soba noodles, and added the flour to the sauce. I don’t think it would have been a very successful dish because there was very little extra sauce even without those ingredients. That might be OK with you, but I like a lot of sauce to flavor the rice or noodles.

Next time I will use the whole pound of meat, quadruple the sauce, and maybe squeeze a fresh orange on top. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect that, so keep that in mind when you try this out. Click for recipe.

Happy & healthy eating!

Easy Orange Stir-FryEasy Orange Stir-Fry

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine’s Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry (Original Recipe & Reviews)

Minutes to Prepare: 30

Minutes to Cook: 15

Number of Servings: 4

Stuff you need:

Olive oil cooking spray

1 pound pork steak or pork tenderloin, lean round steak, or boneless chicken, pounded to 1/4 inch thick and sliced thin in strips

1/2 cup white onion, diced

2 cups fresh green beans, broccoli florets, cauliflower, or a combination, separated/cut into bite size pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, julienne cut

¾ cup low sodium tamari soy sauce

3/4 cup orange juice or juice of 4 medium oranges

¼ cup dried orange zest or zest from 4 medium oranges. [If using dried zest, rub between hands while dropping it into the bowl to bring out the oils.]

8 cloves garlic, minced or 1 Tablespoon minced garlic from the jar [You can find this in the produce section.]

3 Tablespoons honey

3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour (optional) [Use some or all if you want a thicker sauce. You can use all purpose flour instead of whole wheat flour.]

1 fresh orange [Optional]

Prepared rice or noodles

Now what?

Heat large nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 min. Reduce heat to medium-high, mist pan with cooking spray and saute meat for about 2-3 minutes to desired doneness. Remove meat, leaving juices in the pan.

Mist same pan again with cooking spray. Add onion, green beans and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through. [Green beans may not take 5 minutes, so keep an eye on them.]

In a medium bowl whisk together soy sauce, orange juice, zest, garlic and honey.

Add meat back into vegetable mixture and pour in soy sauce mixture. Sauté over medium high heat for about 2 minutes then whisk in flour to thicken [if using], about 4-6 min. squeeze fresh orange over mixture, remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.

I made this soup in response to cravings for a hearty vegetable soup. I know I’m not usually a veggie advocate, but I do like a good vegetable-based soup.

The flavor of this soup was just what I was looking for – hearty, tomato based, and well-balanced with the spices in it. I made this while I was trying to cut my meat consumption, so I cut the meat in half and doubled the beans. You could easily add more vegetables such as green beans for even more veggie goodness. Click for recipe.

A sprinkling of parmesan cheese tops this off nicely. Serve it with some crusty bread from the bakery department at the grocery store, and it’s a nice, hearty meal on a chilly day!

Here’s a quick dish I threw together last night. I wanted sweet potatoes but I don’t like plain sweet potatoes all that much. I considered a mashed sweet potato, then decided to try something new. As much as I hate to admit good things come out of those frozen meals, one of my favorite things from the frozen diet dinners is a sweet potato and apple mixture with craisins. It’s slightly sweet, the apples and craisins hide the sweet potatoes just enough for me to eat them, and it’s a good flavor alongside turkey, ham, pork or whatever that frozen stuff is next to it. 

You’ll be surprised how easy this is! It’s a very versatile dish. There are no exact measurements to it, so don’t stress about that. Instead, follow the guidelines in the recipe and adjust for what you have available and what you like. It can be scaled up or down by changing the amount of sweet potatoes and apples. It’s fairly healthy as I made it, but you can make it healthier by reducing the sugar and the butter, although I really didn’t use too much. Click for recipe.

This dish put out a wonderful smell while it was baking, the type that is particularly enjoyable on a cold evening. I’m sure I’ll make this again, and will probably make a few adjustments. For instance, I’ll probably throw some chopped pecans on top during the final baking period. I think the contrast of the crunchy nuts with the smooth sweet potatoes would make this even better. Adding craisins to the mix could add some good flavor as well. I may add a dash of salt or a bit of pepper, depending on what I serve it with. I’ll kick up the spice a bit if I’m eating it with something that’s not very spicy; and on the flip side of that, I’ll keep it somewhat sweet if I’m serving it with something that’s highly seasoned.  

I’m already looking forward to the next time!

It’s been a long time since I made homemade bread that wasn’t made in a bread machine. It seems to take forEVER, and there is too much waiting time involved. I’m impatient and busy. I’m not very good at waiting, and some days I just can’t afford to be unproductive.

I remember the smell of the house during my childhood when Mom would make dinner rolls. It was so tantalizing it made my stomach growl! When I saw Kelli’s post for Honey Oatmeal Bread on her blog Can Cook, Will Travel, I could just imagine the wonderful smells that would fill my house.

Baking bread requires time and attention, which is one of the reasons I don’t make it often. It’s not like popping something in the crock pot and turning it on or putting brownies in the oven for 25 minutes. Bread is a commitment. It’s a hurry-up-and-wait project that requires you to be available when the bread calls.

I'm the Queen of Everything in my kitchen!

Christmas morning I planned to be home, and it would be a guilt-free day if I didn’t get anything done, so what better time to bake bread? I put on my “Queen of Everything” apron and got started! (Click for recipe.) Kelli’s got the baking step-by-step covered on her blog. Below is how MY step-by-step went!

Mix up the bread dough, put it in a greased bowl on the stove for an hour to rise. [Run downstairs and jump on the elliptical for an episode of The Big Bang Theory, then do some heavy bag work for a couple of commercials. Run back upstairs and finish wrapping Christmas presents.]

Punch the dough down, flip it out on a floured surface, cover it with the bowl and let it rise another 15 minutes. [Do a little clean-up in the kitchen, run downstairs and move the laundry from washer to dryer, come back up and check email.]

Divide the dough into two loaves, cover and place on the stove for another hour for final rising. [Pull some shrimp out of the freezer for dinner, take a shower, try once again to decide on a shade of blue paint for the bathroom, read over tonight’s Fettuccine Alfredo recipe.]

Bake the bread for 35 minutes. [Open Christmas presents with The Pretty One. Admire the delightful pink shoes he gave me, take silly pictures by the tree.]

Pull bread from oven and let cool. [Mix up Cinnamon Honey Butter, make the Fettuccine Alfredo, broil the blackened shrimp.]

It’s true, baking bread is time consuming; it takes 3 – 4 hours. But as I discovered, with a little focus and coordination those can be very productive hours. And the payoff? Besides the workout and small tasks I completed during the waiting period? Two loaves of slightly sweet oatmeal bread with a dense texture and a makes-you-drool smell! You can’t get bread like this in the bakery unless you get it straight out of the oven, and how often does that happen? Slice into a warm loaf, slather on a little butter and savor the goodness. If you have leftovers, slice it up in the morning for toast or dip it in a cinnamon egg mixture for a hearty French toast. Top with fresh fruit, and you have a delicious (and healthy) start to your day! 

Steam rises from a freshly baked loaf.

Quinoa for dinner!

Orange Ginger Chicken, Quinoa, Stir Fry Veggies.  See? I CAN cook healthy food!

I was craving chicken over rice with some type of sauce, but couldn’t quite put my finger on the type of sauce I wanted. Quinoa sounded good too, and it’s so versatile I knew I could make a pot to use for several meals. So I grabbed a bottle of sauce from the pantry, pulled out some fresh ginger, garlic, onions, celery, carrots & cabbage, and cooked up some deliciousness!

Normally I season quinoa when I cook it, but this time I wanted to use it for both sweet and savory dishes, so I cooked it up plain.  I let the sauce from the chicken and veggies season it. Later this week I’ll make a sweeter version by adding almond milk, fruit and warm spices.

If you’re not familiar with quinoa, you should give it a try. It’s considered a super food — a complete protein source, good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus, gluten-free, and considered easy to digest. For only 220 calories for 1 cup, it provides essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa’s versatility makes it ideal for salads, pilafs, porridges, breads, or just about anything else where you’d use a grain. There are all kinds of recipes online, so pick one and try it — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!