smushed up lentils.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re granted the beauty of natural lighting or if you’re stuck with nothing but orange infused incandescent.

It doesn’t matter.

Smashed up lentils will never look pretty.

HOWEVER!!!

Smashed up lentils can (and should!) taste delicious.

Especially when they’re mixed with Indian spices, caramelized onions and crunchy walnuts (yes, you heard me right!)

I’m obsessed with these tasty burgers.

I love how quick they are to throw together.

And they freeze really nice too, which means you can have lunch or dinner within seconds for those times when time is not an option.

(Warning: some carnivorous cats may try to eat them, unaware that tonight’s dinner is completely vegan…sorry, Humphrey!)

 Indian Spiced Lentil Walnut Burgers

This recipe was adapted from Mollie Katzen’s lentil burgers in her Moosewood Cookbook.  I like making them with the addition of some common Indian spices, which are tasty as well as beneficial.  Spices such as turmeric are known for their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

For leftovers, freeze each patty individually and take out when you want a quick ‘n’ easy meal.  Enjoy!

  • 3/4 cup dry lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup very finely minced walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crushed flax seed
  • optional: serve with avocado, sweet vidalia onion slices, spicy salsa, and/or sliced tomatoes
  1. Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is mostly gone.  Drain any remaining liquid.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add vinegar.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the flax seed, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the sautéed mixture and flax seed to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour before forming patties.
  3. Form 4-inch diameter patties by grabbing a handful and gently forming into a round ball; smush lightly into a patty (patty will be fragile.)  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet or spray with cooking spray, and sauté the patties on both sides until heated through and crispy. You can also just broil them for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.  Enjoy!
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lunch break.

You know what I love about lunch?

It gives me the chance to break away from the day’s routine.  No matter how dull, unorganized, crazy busy, boring, exciting, routine, ________ (fill in the blank) the day is, lunch is that pivotal point that can instantly turn the day around.

It takes just one hunk of dark chocolate.  Or a yogurt parfait.  Or a hunk of your favorite bread.

And there you go.  You’ve just turned the day around.

Just like a day old bologna sandwich with half melted cheese can ruin a perfectly fine day…

…a bowl of vegetable soup, a hunk of whole grain bread smeared in avocado, and freshly cracked black pepper (here, there, everywhere) can instantly put a smile on your face.

(FYI, I still have nightmares of that bologna sandwich from long ago…true story.)

I like to make lunch all about the vegetables.

So that at the end of the day, if there’s a sudden shift in plans (to the pizza barn we go!) or I randomly don’t feel like cooking (cold cereal!), I already have a nice big bundle of fiber-rich vegetables under my belt.  Already consumed.  Fueling me through the afternoon.  Filling me up with all kinds of nutrients.

It just feels good.

Sometimes (most times) that means a really large salad.  Never made the same way twice because there are so many options to be had!

Some days, this means a nice big bowl of leftover vegetable soup.

Or an open faced sandwich with hummus and plenty of shredded veggies on top.

Really.  However you look at it.  Lunch has the full potential to completely turn your day around.

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Garden Minestrone Soup–slightly modified from the original version seen previously on The Flying Onion.

(serves 8)

Serve hot in the winter and chilled in the summer!

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, garlic (or plain)
  • 3 (14 oz) cans vegetable broth
  • 2 (15.5 oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (12oz) package frozen spinach
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 3 minutes or until softened.  Add oregano and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot and corn; saute 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and broth; bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add beans and spinach to pan.  Season with pepper and salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

 QUESTION: What are your favorite lunches for work/school or when you’re at home?

dressed up pollock.

I went for a nice long walk around the nearby lake today, and I experienced this vivid flashback of when I used to go fishing with my dad.

Floating on trusty ol’ Rita–our big green canoe–we would paddle our way to the middle of some lake and then we’d just sit there.  We’d sit there for hours and hours with our fishing rods, waiting patiently until we felt the gentle tug of a fish.

(or a floating piece of seaweedoops!)

We’d spend the day swatting at pesky mosquitoes and talking about nothing and everything all at once.  We’d watch dragon flies skim above the mirrored sheets of water, the sun reflecting colorful sparkles off of their shimmery wings.

As a 10 year old girl hanging out with her dad, I was convinced that each delicious moment was just a tiny speck of what heaven would someday feel like.  The perfect time of day.  Feeling nothing but happiness.  And, probably, spending time talking to God about nothing and everything all at once.

Heaven.

And really, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter if dad and I went home with trout or without.  

It was the experience.

It was delicious.

And it had (absolutely) nothing to do with the fish.

Fast forward 14 years.  I became a dietitian, promoting fish and all of its health benefits and how delicious it can be and so on and so forth.

But, well, here’s the clinker…

I don’t really like fish very much.

Wild caught salmon, yes.  I could eat that every single day of my life and never grow tired of it.*

*this is not at all an exaggeration

But all the other fish, like halibut and haddock and cod and pollock?

Meh…

(unless it’s fried, but what *doesn’t* taste good when it’s been batter dipped and deep fried?  Honestly?)

Maybe you’re like me.  You could take fish or leave it, but you’d still like to make it a bigger part of your diet.

Or maybe you love all fish.  Any fish.

Whatever the case may be, let’s all admit that salsa makes everything better. 😉

You could just douse your fish in butter and breadcrumbs, but that sort of negates the whole “heart healthy” point of eating more fish.  Better saved for those special occasions, “once in a whiles,” or eating out.

Salsa and avocado, however, add flavor AND health benefits.  An easy way to sneak in that extra dose of veggies and some heart healthy fats.

I really do find most white fish to be lacking in flavor, which is just one of the reasons why I lean more towards cooking with salmon.

Add a zing of fresh salsa and avocado (and maybe a splash of lime!), however, and tada! 

Dinner becomes delicious.

Most grocery stores carry the fresh salsas like this one in the refrigerated cases of the produce department.  Nestled deep somewhere between the tofu and the alfalfa sprouts, and sometimes near the refrigerated salad dressings.

And since you can recreate almost any meal with nothing but a scoop of fresh salsa, I’d say it’s worth seeking out.

Salsa and Avocado 
(Serves 2) 

Pollock fillets were on sale this past week, and it just so happens that I had a tub of salsa to use up.  Perfecto!

This super simple salsa, however, also goes well on marinated tofu steaks, grilled chicken breasts and thin slices of lean steak.  Or, you could just serve it with some black beans and tortilla chips for a tasty afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

  • 1/3 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • fresh lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • cilantro (optional)
  1. Combine ingredients together.  Serve immediately.
QUESTION: Do you eat much fish on a regular basis?  What are you favorite kinds/recipes?  I’m not a big fish person, but I do love fish tacos, wild caught salmon and manhattan styled fish chowders. 😀

chocolate truffles.

You guys sure know your coconut!!!!

Coconut pancakes.

Coconut macaroons.

Coconut bread.

Coconut rice.

I’m going to be cooking with a lot of coconut this month. 😉

Many people wonder if coconut is okay to eat or not, so here’s my gist of it all…

More and more studies are showing that not all saturated fats are created equal, and when it comes to coconut, the fats appear to be on the good side.

Although the studies are still in their infancy stages, and although I would still recommend moderation when it comes to eating coconut, coconut is made up mostly of what’s called “medium chain fatty acids.”  That is, the fat is small enough that it can be absorbed directly into our body and it can be used as energy, without the need to be further broken down or carried through the lymphatic system in our bodies.

The theory, then, is that coconut is good for us in moderation, just like all fats.  Some studies have even shown a rise in women’s good cholesterol when they used coconut oil over sunflower oil.

That’s good news for us coconut lovers. 😉

When I asked what I should do with the big bag of coconut that’s fallen into my lap, someone mentioned that I should make coconut macaroons.

And.  Well.

That’s how this recipe started out.

But then the melted chocolate didn’t really melt all the way, and after my initial gruff reaction, this kind of left me excited.

Because there were big chunks of chocolate and I thought it might be good to just put the coconut on the outside as a garnish and leave the chocolaty chunks well enough alone.

This left me with two chocolate bites for after dinner tonight…

…a couple more frozen ones for tomorrow night…

…and lots (lots, lots, lots!!) of coconut left to play with for next week’s breakfasts and dinners and everything else in between.

Sigh.  Here’s to coconut and all its possibilities. 

Chocolate Truffles–idea from Cinch Diet Plan by Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD

These taste even better chilled/frozen!

I used salted almond butter, but if you have an unsalted variety, just add a pinch of sea salt if desired.  These are so rich that one or two will satisfy.  Save the leftovers for the next night (provided you manage to keep other family members away!) 😉

  • 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tsp almond butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon + pinch of ginger if desired
  • shredded, unsweetened coconut
  1. Rinse a glass bowl with water and place on table without wiping dry.  Add chocolate chips and place in microwave for 15 seconds.  Stir and return for another 5-10 seconds if needed.
  2. Add oil, almond butter and spices, stirring well until smooth and it begins to form a ball.  Dough will be very soft!
  3. Scoop onto waxed paper, sprinkle with coconut and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.  Store on waxed paper in sealed container, in fridge or freezer.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: When it comes to chocolate, are you more attracted to dark and rich or milky and sweet?  I tend to mostly go for the dark, but occasionally I like a bit of something milky!

A Day of Good Eats.

The dietitian side of me is always curious to see what other people are eating on a daily basis, so I figured that it might be fun to have a day of showing what I’m eating from morning till night.

Some days are different (i.e., I like ice cream and french fries too!) but for the most part, this is a pretty typical pattern.

Especially the night time chocolate snack, which is an absolute MUST.  Chocolate has heart health benefits and it keeps my cravings at bay.  So yes.  That makes chocolate a must, must, must in my life. 😉

7:00am Breakfast

Breakfast this morning was 1/4 cup oatmeal cooked with 1 cup water and lots of spice, in the form of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.   I cooked the oats for about 3 minutes in the microwave, with 1/2 a banana.  The other half was served on top, along with 2 Tbsp. almond butter.

Plus a glass of vanilla soy milk on the side for some extra protein and a calcium boost.

8:00am Break
Gotta get my daily coffee fix!
I used to only drink sweetened coffee until discovering that the sweetness of soy milk was enough to satisfy me.  And now I’m turned on to unsweetened almond milk, which gives the coffee a nice nutty flavor (without any added sweeteners.)
10:30am Break
A cup of apple spiced tea after a brisk 45 minute morning walk.
11:00am Lunch
Grocery shopping came later in the afternoon, which meant I had to (literally) scrounge around the fridge to make today’s lunch.
Thankfully, there were plenty of mixed greens left, so I had a large plate of that with a diced carrot, about 1/4 cup salsa, 1/2 cup beans, 2 Tbsp walnut pieces and 2 Wasa Sourdough crackers crumbled on top.  Lemon juice and fresh black pepper completed the deal for a surprisingly satisfying (and filling!) lunch.
3:00pm Snack
There’s something about a parfait that makes everything seem so special.  Something about spooning crunchy sweet bits of berries, granola and yogurt out of a large jar that is just so irresistibly fun!
Today’s parfait included layers of about 1 cup plain, fat free yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon, 1 cup of strawberries and 1/4 cup homemade granola.  
Layers of goodness.
5:30pm Break
Drinking licorice tea while making dinner!
6:15pm Dinner
Thursdays can be a bit insane around here, so I made dinner simple tonight.
In a 400 degree oven, I roasted 1 chopped kabocha squash, 10 brusses sprouts (halved,) 1 large fennel bulb (sliced thin), 5 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced,) 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 pinches of crushed red pepper in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping half way through the cooking time.
Once that was ready, I simply scooped about 2 cups worth of veggies on top of about 1/2 cup cooked rice.  The finishing touch was 1/4 cup 50% reduced fat cheddar cheese and 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds.
You can’t go wrong with any combination of roasted veggies, healthy fats, protein and a whole grain underneath.
Sometimes simple really is best!
8:00pm Snack
Daily chocolate fix = handful of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered almonds.
Yummy finish.
QUESTION: Do your days seem to follow a pretty “set” pattern as far as your eating habits go?  I don’t follow any hard and fast rules but I will almost always (1) have some form of produce with each snack/meal, (2) have a piece of some form of dark chocolate and (3) eat every 3-4 hours to keep my metabolism humming and to keep feelings of starvation away.  These simple three guidelines keep me happy. 😀

Fitness Friday

I always tell people that I’m not competitive.

At all.

In fact, if someone is racing me up a hill (even in an actual race,) I simply let them pass.  There is absolutely no rise in my inner, deep-down, somewhere-hiding competitive spirit.

But then again.

This isn’t entirely true.

I am  competitive.

Just not with other people.

I’m competitive with me.  I want my fitness to continuously grow stronger each year.  I want to increase my strength.  Increase my endurance.

Last year, I ran my first half marathon.

I was practicing yoga twice a week, running on average 20 miles a week.

I was on.top.of.the.world.

Now?

Now I’m just getting back into the groove after a lay off due to injuries.

And honestly, it’s not easy seeing a weaker version of myself out on the roads.  My speed has dropped.  I’m heaving on hills.  During yoga, I enter child’s pose more often than I care to admit.

(I imagine this must be what the competitive person feels when their arch nemesis beats them by a mile. 😉 )

Fast forward to this morning.

I was out for a testy 6-mile run, something I haven’t done before achilles tendonitis flared its ugly head.

I started to warm up.

I felt slow but I felt good.  And mile after mile, none of that other seemingly silly self-competitive stuff seemed to matter.

My shoulders relaxed.

Tension escaped with one strong, windy breeze.

The sand crunched like glass beneath my feet.

I could almost taste the fragrant smells of pine and dirt and rainy day puddles.

The world appeared to be asleep.

But I wasn’t.  Not today.

It was one step.  One step at a time.

I was becoming the very best of me.

Polenta Casserole with Winter Squash and Greens–modified from a Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking For Health Cookbook

After a run or a tough workout, it’s nice to fill up with something warm, satisfying, and deeply nutritious.

I have been completely sold on the casserole bandwagon lately.  I like that once all the prep work is done, I have time to clean up, do dishes and set the table while dinner just cooks itself.  The prep work takes some time, but the recipe is worth the effort now and then.

I used kabocha squash for this recipe, but feel free to use butternut, acorn or another form of winter squash.  Also feel free to use whatever green you have on hand in place of the kale and/or another favorite type of cheese in place of cheddar.  Enjoy!

Polenta Layer

  • 2-1/3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup whole grain cornmeal (not instant polenta)
  • 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Greens Layer
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium/large bunches of stemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup water
Squash Layer
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed winter squash (about 6 cups of cubed squash that has been steamed will create this)
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  1. For the polenta layer: Bring the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan and whisk in cornmeal.  Add tomatoes, thyme, basil and salt to taste.  Cook on low heat, stirring frequently until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cheese.  Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. For the greens layer: In a medium pot, cook garlic in oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add greens and water.  Cover, cook, stirring occasionally until greens are tender, about 10 minutes.  Salt to taste.  Spread greens over polenta.
  3. For the squash layer: In a bowl, stir together the squash, egg, pepper and half the cheese.  Spread the squash mixture over the greens and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  4. In a preheated 350 oven, bake covered for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Enjoy!!

QUESTION: Are you a competitive person?  In what ways? 

lentil edamame stew.

This is Part 30 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

If there was one food group that I wish I could sneak onto every single American’s dinner plate, it would be, quite simply, the legume.

Yes.  The legume.

(And not just because I love rolling the word “legume” off the tip of my tongue with an over-the-top, horrendous French accent, either.)

Any legume will do, really.

Black beans.  Split peas.  Kidney beans.  The lovely garbanzo.

Legumes are chock full of fiber, protein, iron and the really good-for-you complex carbohydrates.

Yep.  Legumes are worth getting to know.  They’ve got lots to offer.

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My favorite legume happens to be the lentil.

They don’t require the soaking time of most beans.  They’re ready in under 20 minutes.  They’re $0.99 a pound.  What’s not to love about that?

Tonight I made a nice ‘n’ spicy lentil edamame stew.

 

Well.

Spicy from my standpoint, anyways.  I’m the girl who could do without the taste of chili powder or tabasco sauce on my tongue.

(Of course, if you like to live on the spicy side of life, go all out with a heavy hand of crushed red pepper!)

Oh.
And if you’re still on the fence about eating a big bowl of lentils for dinner, serve this as a side dish with your main meal or eat a smaller sized bowl as an afternoon snack.
Incorporating more legumes on a daily/weekly basis is a smart move for each and every one of us.

From a health, economic and taste standpoint, legumes are really and truly a wonderful thing.

After finding your favorites, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before they become a regular in your house.  Right next to those other pantry essentials.

Enjoy!

Lentil Edamame Stew–as seen in Cooking Light Magazine
(Serves 4-6 as a main)

  • 2 cup dried lentils
  • 1-1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups minced red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  1. Place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside.
  2. Place edamame in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until edamame are tender. Remove from heat; drain well.
  3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and tomatoes to pan; sauté 6-10 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring often. Stir in lentils, edamame, juice, and remaining ingredients. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.
QUESTION: What is one of your favorite (affordable!!) healthy foods that you consume on a regular basis?  Lentils and oatmeal are two of my favorite cheap-o health foods!  They’re very versatile in the kitchen.