Monday, March 21, 2011

Greek Yogurt & Granola Snack

Here is a perfect snack (or try it for breakfast)!!  My kids all love this and so do I!
Greek yogurt is so good for us.  Here are a couple of reasons why:

"Greek yogurt promotes intestinal and vaginal health, improves lactose intolerance, builds stronger bones, enhances immunity, lowers blood pressure, and may even have anticancer and weight-loss effects. In a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that obese adults who ate three servings of fat-free yogurt a day as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat than those who just cut calories. A plus for Greek yogurt, in particular, is that it doesn’t give you the sugar overload of what you usually find in U.S. grocery stores. To save on fat and calories, reach for a low-fat version."

I buy this pack at Costco.  Make sure you stir it up because the fresh fruit is on the bottom.  You can find greek yogurt at most stores now.  It has twice the protein and excellent cultures for our intestinal health. 

Top it with a granola (my kids love the three berry from Trader Joe's or try my Cinnamon Coconut Granola- it's divine!!).  You can use whatever your family likes.  Just check the labels to make sure it's not loaded with any high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.  You are safe if you buy it at a health food store.  Then top it with fresh or freeze-dried fruit.  That's what makes it extra sweet and delicious.  Greek yogurt is not as sweet as regular yogurt, so your kids will eat it if you put these sweet things on top!!
You can also top the plain kind with honey and walnuts for an extra healthy version!
Bon Appetit

Extra health reasons if you would like to read about greek yogurt:

Health benefits of Greek yogurt include substitution of milk for people suffering from lactose intolerance. The process of culturing in which fermentation takes place to produce yogurt also produces the lactase enzyme which is otherwise lacking in lactose intolerant people.

Greek yogurt benefits also include the absorption of calcium and B complex vitamins and itself contains vitamins B2, B12, potassium, calcium and magnesium. B complex vitamins play an important role in energy metabolism and strengthening of the immune system while calcium is an important component in bone and teeth formation and maintenance.

Other Greek yogurt health benefits include: – prevention of diarrhea resulting from antibiotics use by providing and promoting the growth of good bacteria within the digestive system while destroying pathogenic ones.
Candida and thrush infections of the vagina and mouth can be cleared by using yogurt internally and topically. The infection causing yeast is destroyed by the good bacteria in yogurt. Sweetened varieties, sugary foods and complex carbohydrates should be avoided to starve the sugar loving yeasts.
Colon cancer risk reduction as the lacto bacteria in yogurt cleans and destroys dangerous carcinogenic wastes within the colon.
Good for diabetics because of its low sugar, carbohydrates and salt content.
These are only some of the known benefits of Greek yogurt, a gift bequeathed to the world by the hands of the Greek.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mexican Casserole

For all you Mexican food lovers out there, this is a great recipe for you!  My boys absolutely love this dish and especially if I let them eat it with chips!  I love the Target brand blue corn tortilla chips with flax seeds.  They are thick and crunchy with a delicious flavor.  Try them out next time you're there!

Mexican Casserole

¼ cup water
1 onion (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 c. chopped spinach (optional)
15 oz. kidney beans (canned, drained, rinsed)
15 oz. black beans (canned, drained, rinsed)
1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels (or fresh if available)
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
4 oz. chopped green chilies
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
4 cups enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas (soft)
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 green onions (finely chopped)

Place the water in a large pan with the onion, green pepper, and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped spinach and continue cooking until wilted for another minute or two. Add the beans, corn, rice, tomato sauce, chilies, chili powder, and cumin.  Stir to mix, then cook over low heat until warmed through, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour about 1 cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish and spread evenly over the bottom.  Place a layer of corn tortillas on top of the sauce. Spread half of the bean mixture over the tortillas.  Repeat with the next 4 tortillas, one cup of sauce, and the remaining mixture.  Finish with the last 4 tortillas.  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top and spread evenly. Top with the shredded cheese and sprinkle with the chopped green onion. 

Cover and bake for 30 minutes, uncover and cook for 10 more.  Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole over the top, if desired.

Bon Appetit

Just a tip: When you make brown rice, since it takes 45 minutes to cook, make a large batch and freeze the rest in 2 c. portion sizes in Ziploc bags or containers.  Then you can take them out to thaw for any recipe or side dish.  This is also an easy meal to double and make two, one to freeze and one to eat (or one to give away to someone who needs a meal).  If you want to make one and freeze it, just assemble and double wrap it with foil.  When ready to use it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 4-5 hrs, then bake as usual.  I love to make double of my recipes if possible, then you have an easy dinner for next week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some days you just CRAVE some chocolate!  I have the perfect fix for you!!  I am going to give you the recipe as I found it, but in the parenthesis I will add a healthier option if you would like to try it.  I suggest making one change at a time.  That way you know if you like what that particular ingredient is doing to your cookie.  If you don't like it, then you don't have to change that one thing and move on to the next.  It's all about taking things one step at a time.  Enjoy!!

This makes a large batch, so I usually bake as many as we'll eat in the next day or two (and always a couple to give away - that is the fun in baking) and then I'll freeze them into logs wrapped in saran wrap and then foil.  Just like you see in the grocery store.  That way, when you need that quick fix or you are having friends over unexpectedly, you can pull out your frozen dough, let it sit out 30 minutes, cut, and bake as usual.  Walla, you look like a genius!  Always prepared :)
Or you can even bake them, then freeze them in Ziploc's and use them for ice cream cookie sandwiches.  Heat them in the microwave for about 10 sec. each and they're just right!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c. granulated sugar (or 1 c. organic evaporated cane sugar & 1/2 c. agave syrup)-see pic below
2 c. brown sugar (organic)
2 c. butter, softened (1 c. butter and 1 c. coconut oil)
4 eggs
2 T.vanilla

2 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (fine sea salt)
5 c. flour (½ white and 1/2 wheat or wonder flour-see recipe below)
5 c. quick oats (rolled oats)

ADD:  chocolate chips (1 to 2-12 oz pkg.) I prefer 1 pkg. semi-sweet and 1 pkg. milk chocolate
          chopped walnuts or pecans (1 ½ c. optional)

1.  Cream butter & sugar for a couple minutes, then mix all ingredients together adding flour slowly.
2.  Bake 350 degrees  10-12 minutes or until done
     (don't over bake - want them to be soft)
NOTE:  You can bake some of the batch plain then add chocolate
chips to some and bake and then add nuts to rest -
this makes a variety of cookies.

Don’t flatten them.  The key is to not overbake them.

Wonder Flour (Chef Brad’s combination - He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to grains if you are interested in learning more. 

Grind equal parts of pearled barley, brown rice, and spelt. 

This flour mixture is amazing for you and adds a great texture to any cookie, waffle, muffin, or banana bread recipe, etc..  If you can get use to having some of this on hand, you can experiment with it and I know you will love it because you can make all of your common recipes a lot more nutritious!!  Try it in my blueberry bran muffins that I posted last week (1/2 Wonder and 1/2 White or Wheat). 
The only thing you can’t use it in is yeasted breads.  It does not work well with yeast.  You also have to add a little more of this mixture to recipes compared to white flour for a good raise.
I recommend using half white and half wonder flour. 
After you grind these grains together, put them in a container or Ziploc and freeze it to retain all the nutrients. 

You can find this sugar in bulk at Costco.  It's a lot more affordable that way.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spaghetti Sauce

This is definitely a family friendly dish that you can amp up with good nutrition very easily!  It's another one of those dinners that can help you use up your veggie tray leftovers.  Chop it all up and throw it in!!  I hope you all enjoy it because it's an easy standby dinner. 

Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. ground turkey meat
1 onion chopped
3 celery stalks diced
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
salt and pepper
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tiny can tomato paste
1 can crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
1 large can tomato sauce (28 oz)
2 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 T dried basil
Sprinkle a little bit of oregano

Chop onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper (or any other veggies you desire). In a large pot saute the chopped vegetables in about 1-2 T. of olive oil until starting to become tender (3-5 minutes).  Then add  the meat and cook until done.  Then add chopped garlic, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and cook for 1 more minute.  Add tomato paste, crushed tomato, and tomato sauce.  Add brown sugar, basil, and oregano.  Stir well and let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Serve over brown rice or wheat spaghetti.

I like the brown rice noodles instead of the traditional semolina noodles.  Wheat noodles are also a great option, but I just prefer the brown rice over the wheat.  It's a texture and a taste preference that you have to find for your family.  You can get a great variety of noodles at all health food stores and in some local grocery stores as well. 

Bon Appetit

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stir-Fry Anything

I have always loved a good stir-fry.  I think it's a great way to get in a lot of vegetables and it's an easy one dish meal.  My husband on the other hand thinks that I made it too often when we were first married, so I haven't made it a lot since.  I just re-entered the stir-fry world and it's been wonderful!  My husband now says it's OK in small doses, but not a couple times a week :)

Stir-Fry Anything

1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
3-4 c. of fresh vegetables

(variation of bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, peas, etc)
1 head of cabbage

1 c. of teriyaki sauce or any flavored sauce you prefer (just make sure it doesn't have MSG)
fresh ginger, if desired

10 oz. noodles, cooked (I buy buckwheat noodles precooked, but you can use anything.  You could also just serve it over brown rice)
1/2 c. nutritional yeast (this can be used as a meat replacement- or use meat, chicken, shrimp,etc..)

Sauté onions in oil until onions are soft over high heat. Add the garlic for another minute, and then the vegetables.  Sauté 4 more minutes or until soft.  Add cabbage, sauce, & fresh ginger if desired. Reduce heat to low. Continue stirring and cook until cabbage is soft. Stir in noodles and nutritional yeast, mixing well. Continue heating until the noodles are warm.  Pour into serving bowl. If you are going to use meat instead of the nutritional yeast, cook it in the pan first, remove, and cover to keep warm.  When the vegetables are done, add the meat back in. 

Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast.
It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium. Some brands of nutritional yeast, though not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. The vitamin B12 is produced separately from bacteria and then added to the yeast.
Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of parmesan cheese. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn. It can also be used in mashed and fried potatoes, as well as putting it into scrambled tofu or eggs. Some movie theaters offer it along with salt or cayenne pepper as a popcorn condiment.  Interesting, huh?  You can find it at most health food stores in the bulk aisle. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blueberry Bran Muffins

These are a nutritious and delicious breakfast or after school snack.  They are definitely best right out of the oven.  If your family is just starting to use wheat flour, maybe you should try using white flour at first and then gradually increase to all wheat flour. 

Blueberry Bran Muffins

1 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. coconut oil (or butter, less healthy option)
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1/4-1/2 c. water (depending on how dry it is)
1 c. wheat bran, unprocessed
2 c. flour (I use wheat, but you can do half white and half wheat)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. flax seed meal (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 c. blueberries  (if you don't have fresh, rehydrate some freeze dried ones)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a seperate bowl, let bran and buttermilk soak together.  Cream sugar and coconut (or butter) together in mixer for a couple minutes.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add bran mixture, then the rest of the ingredients.  If dough is too thick, add some more water.  Then mix in blueberries.  

Scoop batter into muffin tins.  I like to use a cookie scoop and put a heaping scoop in each cup.  It should make 18-24 muffins.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through in the middle. 
Let cool on cooling rack for a couple of minutes, then serve.  They are delicious right out of the oven without anything on them or drizzle with a little honey :)
Bon Appetit

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Triple Gingersnap Cookies

Enough with the healthy stuff already, right? :) OK, I will be the first to admit, that as much as I love whole grains and foods, I LOVE desserts just as much!  Any of my friends will testify to that one.  However, I almost must admit that as I have been eating healthier, my food palette has changed a bit.  I no longer crave a HUGE bowl of ice cream or dessert.  I am totally satisfied with a small portion or a couple bites of ice cream.  It's amazing!  I never thought that would happen, but it has.  So, when the sweet tooth needs to be satisfied, this is a wonderful recipe to do the trick!  (Ginger has wonderful health benefits as well, so we can't feel too guilty!)

Triple Gingersnap Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light (mild-flavored) molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup (about) sugar
Preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy and light, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in both brown sugars. Beat on medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed just to blend between additions.
Place 1/3 cup sugar in small bowl. Measure 1 tablespoon dough. Roll into ball between palms of hands, then roll in sugar in bowl to coat; place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, spacing cookies 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until surfaces crack and cookies are firm around edges but still slightly soft in center, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on rack. DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made up to 4 days ahead. Store in airtight containers at room temperature.

Bon Appetit

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tomato Artichoke Soup

If you like tomato soup, you will love this little twist on the original.  This is a great soup for the whole family that will fill your belly and warm your soul, especially on a cold winter day :)  I have some guy friends who say that soup is not a main dish, but with this soup, it can qualify.  I added barley to it for some extra protein, fiber, and carbs! You could really add any grain you would like though.
 I absolutely love this soup and I hope you will too!  Just cook your barley as you are preparing the soup, and it should all be ready at the same time.  Don't be afraid of the barley because it's delicious!  It tastes similar to a big grain of brown rice.  You can find it in your grocery store usually by the rice.

Tomato Artichoke Soup with Barley
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lg. Onion, finely chopped
1 TBS. Minced garlic
1 tsp. Dried thyme or basil
15 oz. Can artichoke hearts, drained & coarsely chopped
28 oz. Can chopped tomatoes with juices
4 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 c. sour cream or cream
1-2 c. barley

Boil 2 ½ c. water, then add 1 c. dry barley.  Bring to a boil again and then cover and reduce heat to low.  It usually takes around 45 minutes to cook. If you have pearled barley, that will only take about 30 minutes.  Try to buy regular barley though because it's a whole grain when it has the hull on. Cook until barley is soft. Drain any excess water.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté the onion for 5 min. until soft.  Add the garlic and thyme and sauté another minute.  Add the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, chicken broth, salt & pepper.  Cover; simmer for 20 minutes. If you would like, you can use an immersion blender to make a smoother soup.  Do this before you add the barley.  Add the sour cream and barley, stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes.  Then taste for more seasoning. 
(Serves 8)