a taste of spring.

This is Part 21 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Well.

It’s still snowing outside.

And aside from walking around the craft store with my sister and a grande mocha au lait, I really didn’t do much today.

I didn’t feel like doing much either.

This included cooking (gasp!)

So instead I just bought some rice wrappers, bundled them all up–nice and tight–, threw on some comfy clothes and called it a day.

Just like sushi, spring rolls can serve up whatever flavors you fancy.

Shrimp?  Bean sprouts?  Steamed asparagus?  Tofu?

Really.

Whatever your heart so desires.

It makes for a quick, nutritious dinner when you’d rather be lounging around the house in your pj’s because it’s storming outside. 😉

(It also makes for a fun addition to a snacking plate…

…super bowl app’s, anyone?)

Shrimp Spring Rolls
(serves 2)

I’ve made countless variations on the spring roll over the years, but this is one of my most favorite.  It really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

I also like to ask people ahead of time what they want stuffed into their spring roll.  Variety is everything, and people like getting creative and personal.  Honey roasted peanuts, spinach and avocado was an exceptionally delicious choice from last time.  Have fun with putting these together!!

  • 6 spring roll wrappers (most often found in the international section)
  • mixed greens
  • 18 small shrimp
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • cilantro or mint
  • soy sauce or peanut sauce for dipping
  1. In a shallow dish, pour about an inch of hot water.  One at a time, place spring roll wrapper in hot water for 20-30 seconds until it is soft and pliable.  Carefully remove from water and place on damp paper towel.  Blot with another paper towel and precede to stuff it.
  2. Layer each wrapper with lettuce, 3 shrimp, 1 slice of avocado, bell pepper strips, carrot strips and a handful of cilantro or mint.  Tightly roll up ends towards middle and then roll from bottom to top, holding firmly.  Continue this with each wrap.
  3. ENJOY!

QUESTION: Do you like sushi and spring/summer rolls?  What are your favorite flavor combinations?

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a (healthier) bowl of chicken soup.

This is Part 20 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

You want to know what I’m loving right now?

Morning light.

There’s just something about it.

If I wake up with the sun falling on my face, the day has already proven itself to be a very, very good day.

This morning, I woke up to 3 inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground.

It was glorious.

My inner 6 year old peeked her head out, and I immediately threw on my down jacket, pulled on my Uggs and set out to claim the ground as mine.

(Although it looks like someone–something?–else may have had the same idea.)

Morning light.

Isn’t it beautiful?

You want to know what else I’m loving?

Making a healthy bowl of chicken soup even healthier…

…slicing big hunks of homemade wheat bread…

…and then enjoying a delicious lunch with Pepere.

When it’s cold and snowy outside, all I want is chicken soup.

This recipe carries the traditional bites of chicken, potato and carrot.  But then some other ingredients come along for the ride.

Like zucchini.

And spinach.

And tomatoes.

Even barley and beans joined in on the fun.

I finished lunch off with a cozy cup of chocolate mint tea.

And then watched “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in the den with Pepere.

With the morning sun still lingering on…

an ode to a lovely day.

   

Rustic Chicken Minestrone–modified from an original Martha Stewart Recipe

You could follow this recipe or you could just add plenty of extra veggies to your current favorite chicken soup recipe.  Adding vegetables to favorite dishes is one of the easiest ways to enhance your health on a daily basis.  Throw some steamed broccoli into your mac ‘n’ cheese.  Add some spinach to your omelette.  Keep things fresh, lively and fun!! 😀

Oh, and, as always, this soup will taste even more delicious the following day.  Enjoy!

  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, garlic (or regular)
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup barley
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch kale or spinach
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place cleaned chicken into a large dutch oven or kettle.  Add enough water to completely cover chicken and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer for 40-60 minutes or until chicken is registered at 165.  Remove chicken, strain and reserve liquid.  Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and place meat in a separate bowl for later.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat oil over medium high.  Add onion and cook until softened, 8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes with juice and cook until liquid is evaporated, 4 minutes.  Add reserved broth and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes, barley, carrots, and parmesan cheese, cooking for 5 minutes.  Add kale or spinach, zucchini and chickpeas, cooking until zucchini is crisp-tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in chicken and cook until warmed through, 1-2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: Are you a morning person or a night person?

time for tempeh.

This is Part XVII of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

So.

It’s Tuesday night.

You have 30 minutes to prepare dinner.

(And you don’t have time for those so called 30 minute recipes that actually take you 3 hours.)

(But you’d rather not resort to frozen pizza.)

Well.

Here you go.

Oh.

But a word of caution first.

Please don’t let the word “tempeh” make you run and hide under the dinner table.

Tempeh, unlike tofu, is meaty in texture and it mixes really well with a variety of tastes and personalities.

(Throw at it what you will!)

Just be sure to double the recipe if you plan on seeing any leftovers tomorrow.

Spicy Thai Tempeh w/ Cashews–modified from an original recipe appearing in the Clean Eating Cookbook
(Serves 4) 

I serve this not-too-spicy meal over a basic rice pilaf (purchased from Trader Joe’s,) with some sauteed collard greens on the side.

Don’t skimp on the cashews or the red onion, as they sweeten up the dish quite nicely.  You can add some crushed red pepper or extra spicy chili paste if you’re into that sort of thing!  Enjoy!

  • 1-8oz package tempeh
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup toasted cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted red chili paste
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
  1. Cut tempeh into large chunks and steam 8 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil for 10 minutes or until caramelized.  Crumble tempeh into skillet.  Add roasted red pepper and cashews.  Saute 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together chili paste through cilantro.  Pour over temp, saute another minute or so and serve.  ENJOY!

QUESTION: What is your favorite 30-minute (or less) dinner?

Focused on Fat.

This is Part 1 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Let’s talk fat.

“Fat”, in case you haven’t noticed, can be a very scary word.

This is, after all, the one single nutrient that sent the 1980’s food scientists, advertisers and marketers into a frenzy, as they thought up new ways to make their foods taste good while appealing to the newly popularized low-fat craze.

(This is before they went into a frenzy about carbohydrates, but that’s another tale for another day. )

But wait.  Did you know our body needs fat to survive?

Picture, for a moment, how fluid and slippery and smooth a drizzle of olive oil can be.  This is exactly what omega-3 fats can do to keep our arteries healthy and happy.  Fluid, flexible and smooth.  Omega-3 fats, when combined with other preventative measures, can prevent hardening and thickening of the arteries.

Found in things like fatty wild caught salmon, flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil, omega-3 fatty acids keep more than just our heart healthy.  They also protect our eyes and our brain.  As if that wasn’t enough, a small dose of fat also keeps us full after our meals, keeps our blood sugars stable, and they makes our hair and skin supple and healthy.

As a side note, it’s true that fat contains more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein.  However, weight loss studies have shown that a moderate fat intake can actually help in weight maintenance and/or weight loss.

In other words, it’s a good idea to eat more fatty fish.

It’s a good idea to add some walnuts to your morning dish of yogurt.

And it’s a good idea to cook your stir fry in a bit of olive oil.

It’s a new year.  It’s time to get over the fear of fat.

Grilled Orange Marmalade Salmon w/ roasted broccoli and potatoes
(serves 6-7)

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook salmon.  I’m even willing to keep an eye on it for dad in the middle of winter, as the taste just can’t be beat.  Although on those really cold New England days, I’ll use the broiler for pretty good results too. 😉

I like to use wild caught salmon for its heftier dose of omega 3 fatty acids.  Not to mention the very big taste difference which you’ll notice immediately.  Enjoy!

  • 2# wild caught salmon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.  Place salmon skin side down on a large plate.
  2. While preheating, combine orange marmalade, soy sauce and garlic.  Spread on top of salmon.
  3. When grill is heated, place salmon skin side down on grill.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Flip.  Continue cooking another 4-6 minutes.  Salmon is cooked when it flakes easily.  Try to avoid overcooking. 😉  Enjoy!
  4. Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes: Preheat oven to 425.  Combine 3 large heads of ch0pped broccoli, 1 chopped red onion, a sprinkle of sea salt and 2 Tbsp. olive oil on a large baking pan.  In another baking pan, combine 4 diced potatoes with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and cajun seasoning to taste.  Place both pans in heated oven, one on bottom sheet and one on top sheet.  Cook for 12 minutes.  Flip and rotate so that the other is on top and the other on bottom.  Continue cooking another 12-16 minutes or until browned and tender to liking.

QUESTION: What are you favorite “fat” sources?  I’m a big fan of walnuts.  I add them to my yogurt or oatmeal every morning, along with some flaxseed.  I also adore any kind of nut butter, wild caught salmon and olive oil. 😀

Egg Fight.

If you ever want to start a food fight conversation at the dinner table, bring up the conversation of “eggs.”  Instantly, you’ll watch the room divide into this cluster of ideas and opinions.

It’s quite an interesting experiment, but I only recommend it if you’re willing to spend an hour or so defending your stance on the issue. 😉

 

In case you haven’t noticed, eggs have a bad reputation.

“They’re high in cholesterol!!”

Which is true.  They are.  But the cholesterol found in foods has been shown to have very little effect on our blood’s cholesterol.  In other words, if you’re concerned with high cholesterol, your best bet is to limit the amount of saturated fats you eat, notably found in things like solid butters and high fat meat products.  It’s also a good idea to limit or avoid trans fats, found mostly in baked goods.

In other words?  Eggs are in.

When people study the bioavailability or protein (how much protein your body can actually use after breaking it all down into its useful form,) they compare the item to an egg.  Eggs are the gold standard when it comes to protein.

Recommendations on how much egg yolks the healthy adult should eat still vary.  Some health organizations recommend keeping it to 3-4 whole eggs/week.  Other studies have shown no negative effects with upwards of 7 eggs/week.  My personal thought is that balance is always key, and having eggs a couple times a week can fit into any plan.

Oh.  And don’t forget.  The tasty yolk is jam packed with healthy nutrients.  Specifically the ones that are good for our vision, like lutein and zeaxanthin.  To limit the amount of saturated fat/cholesterol, I like to use one whole egg with one extra egg white.

ezekiel bread, smashed avocado, 1 whole egg + 1 egg white, cilantro, salsa

That’s what I love about nutrition.

Proving that the delicious foods we love to eat are actually quite healthy after all.

Oh.

But I know what you’re thinking.

And no.

I don’t think Twinkies will be making this list any time soon. 😉

QUESTION: Did you ever avoid a food because you thought it was “bad” for you? 

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on the health effects of eggs?

a cold run and a bowl of soup.

You know those types of mornings when everything seems so still, so perfect?

You know those mornings when you feel like you’re flying, not running?

You know those mornings that remind you of life’s simple pleasures (like seeing your breath in the air, hearing the crunch of snow beneath your feet, feeling the wind tousle your hair)?

Yeah.

It was that kind of morning.

I went out for my third run this week.

As many of you know, I diagnosed myself with achilles tendonitis last month.  For the record, I don’t recommend diagnosing injuries.  But I’ve had this before and I know exactly what it feels like.  Thankfully, it seems to be on the upswing.

This morning I felt like an antsy thoroughbred after a long, cold winter.  I felt all bottled up with energy, ready to be set free at the sound of a gun.  *BAM* Annnnd, she’s off!

That all happened before I somehow managed to take control of myself.  It’s so easy to get ahead of myself on the “good days,” when my legs feel good and everything in me wants to bolt out the miles.  But my body isn’t quite at 100% yet.  It was just three days ago that I was feeling knee and heel pain, and the last thing I want is for this stuff to flare its ugly head.

It’s not easy, but I’m going to be smart about this.  My goal is to enter 2012, injury free.

No makeup? Check. Sweaty? Check. Feeling happy and healthy? Check, check. =)

I honestly can’t think of a better way to warm up from a chilly morning run, than plopping myself down in front of a bowl of steamy, homemade turkey noodle soup.

This soup was ridiculously easy to put together, thanks to the pre-chopped leftover turkey I had sitting in the freezer from Thanksgiving.

I wanted to sneak in some extra veggies and added about a cup’s worth of fresh baby spinach to the bottom of the bowl.  The warm broth wilted the tender spinach, which made for a lovely addition.

Turkey Noodle Soup–modified from a Cooking Light Magazine recipe
(Serves 4)

This is a soulful, comforting recipe.  Thanks to the noodles, vegetables and turkey, you can call this a complete meal.  But I recommend upping the vegetables by including a fresh side salad (and possibly a dish of fruit with a scoop of sorbet for dessert.)  Enjoy!

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I like “Kitchen Basic No Salt Added Chicken Broth”)
  • 2 cups (3 ounces) uncooked noodles
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups shredded turkey (about 8 ounces)
  1. Heat a large saucepan with olive oil over medium-high heat.   Add carrot, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned.   Add celery, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Add broth and next 2 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.   Add shredded turkey; cook 3 minutes. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite cold-weather soup?  I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but my all-time favorite soup is a thick and hearty split pea soup!  With or without ham, I find it to be simply irresistible.  Especially when there’s homemade bread on the side. 😀

a bowl of bow-ties.

It’s a good thing that I’m not a politician.

Why?

Because I have that unattractive tendency of being a flip-flopper.

For example.

I’ve told you time and time again how much I strongly dislike pasta.  Tonight, however, I found myself craving it.  So I just went with it, and ended up declaring my newly discovered love for farfalle pasta (aka, little bow-ties.)

Maybe this had something to do with my recent shopping finds at Trader Joe’s.

Maybe this had something to do with all the other delicious add-ins.

White Beans

Spinach

Garlic (lots of)

Fontina Cheese

One of the many things I love about Trader Joe’s is their very affordable gourmet cheese section.  In my experience, usually things are cheap for a reason.  Not so at Trader Joe’s.  Their cheese is delicious and (very) friendly to the wallet.

I don’t know what else I’ll end up falling in love with during this flip flopping period in my life.

Maybe I’ll wake up one morning craving rib eye for breakfast (wouldn’t Dad be happy?)  Maybe I’ll groan at the sight of oatmeal (really?)  Maybe I’ll suddenly discover that I’m really not that big a fan of chocolate after all (ha!riiight.)

Or.

Maybe not.

Maybe this is just a one time occurrence.

Because we all reserve the right to change our minds now and then.

Because, in the end, who doesn’t love a bowl of cheesy bow-ties?

Spinach, White Bean and Fontina Pasta–modified from an Eating Well recipe
(Serves 4)

I like to use the Barilla Plus Farfalle for this recipe instead of whole wheat, because I think it blends better with the cheese.  Thanks to the addition of things like legumes, oat fiber and flax, the pasta boasts a higher fiber and protein content than white pasta, but it doesn’t take on the hearty flavor of whole wheat.  It’s the perfect “transition pasta” as I like to call it, for people still on the border about trying whole wheat pasta over white.

Serve with a side of steamed vegetables or a crisp salad for a contrast of texture.  Any leftovers will heat up well for your next day’s lunch.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 8 ounces pasta (preferably whole wheat)
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (19 ounce) can white beans, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, according to package directions. Stir in spinach during the last 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Drain.  Dry the pot.
  4. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl until smooth.
  5. Heat oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the broth mixture and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until it thickens, 5-7 minutes.
  7. Add beans, vinegar, salt and pepper and the pasta and spinach.
  8. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is heated through, about 1 minute.
  9. Remove from the heat; add cheese, stirring until it melts. Serve immediately and enjoy!
    QUESTION: What are some foods you now like that you never did before?  Any foods that you’ve stopped liking that you used to like?  I’ve never been very picky, but I like even more vegetables than I did when I was small.  I stopped liking certain types of seafood like clams and scallops.  Unless they’re deep fried. 😉