Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mom's Chili Non Carne

I like to make something very different for dinner the night before Thanksgiving. My mom has been making this very simple vegetarian chili for many years and it's just delicious. What I like the most about this recipe is all the fixin's on top. It gives it some added crunch and freshness. If you don't want lettuce as a fixin', I totally understand. It might seem a little strange but I grew up with it that way so I love it!

1 large onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs chili powder
½ tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp cumin
1 small can chopped green chilis
2 cups finely chopped zucchini
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 large can tomatoes
1 small can tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, undrained
1 can of black beans, drained
1 8oz can tomato sauce

 I used 2 cans of black beans and 1 can of kidney beans this time

1)In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. 2) Mix chili powder, basil, oregano, and cumin 3) Stir in zucchini and carrots until well blended. Cook for about a minute over low heat, stirring occasionally. 4)Stir in tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, and chilis. 5)Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until thick. Stir occasionally.  
Garnish Chopped scallions, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, red and/or green pepper, and grated cheddar cheese. Add sour cream if you wish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beth's Granola Bites

1 tsp of cinamon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
3 tbs of agave nectar
3 tbs of honey
3 tbs of light brown sugar
3 tbs of butter (I used Smart Balance)
2 tbs of almond or peanut butter
2 egg whites
2 cups of oats (it should be fairly dry but coated nicely-add more if needed)
1/4 cup of coconut flakes
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
a cup of dried cherries
a cup of dark chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan on medium to low heat, mix the cinamon, vanilla extract, agave nectar, honey, light brown sugar and butter and heat through so that it’s all melted. Add almond butter and mix to melt through.
Pour liquid mixture in a mixing bowl. Add 2 egg whites, oats, coconut flakes, walnuts, a cup of dried cherries, and dark chocolate morsels. You may need to add more oats if the mixture is too moist but don’t add too many. The mixture should be lightly coated but loose. In a brownie size pan, lay parchment paper down and spread mixture throughout in a layer. Don’t use wax paper! It will melt! Flatten it out nicely with your fingers if you would like.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown on top and on the edges. Remove from the pan onto a cooling rack. Let sit for 2 hours. If you try to eat them before they are cool, they are likely to fall apart. Be patient!

These are great to eat on the go. Just wrap them up individually and either store them in the fridge for a week or freeze them for up to a month or so. They are really super easy and so much better than the store bought bars.  If you want to cut down on the sugar, I think you could use Splenda for baking. I just haven't tried it because Marty is anti-fake sugar. Of course, you don't need to use chocolate chips either. Put whatever you want in them! Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, or any small sized dried fruit such as dried blueberries and cranberries. You could also add flax seed and wheat germ. And leave out the coconut flakes and almond butter if you'd like. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Personal Paella

When I decided on a paella for dinner, I noticed that I was missing a key ingredient: rice.  Going to the grocery store was not something that I was interested in doing considering my time to prepare dinner was very limited. I noticed about a 3/4 cup of basmati rice and about a cup of quinoa. Looking at the cooking directions on the packages, I quickly realized that I could combine the two. 
Once I discovered  that, the creative juices continued to flow and I decided to turn my South American dish into a Latin American dish-or maybe a combination of the two. 
I didn’t measure the rice precisely so you may have to eyeball the liquids, being careful not to add too much liquid.
3/4 cup of basmati rice
1 cup of quinoa
1 tbs of olive oil
1 carton of unsalted chicken broth
3 cloves of garlic
teaspoon of achiote seeds
1/4 teaspoon of chiplote pepper flakes (I bought mine from TJMaxx/Home Goods)
1 can of Rotele tomatoes
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup of capers
1/4 cup of green olives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup of kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, and sliced in half
juice of one lime
1 cup of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot on medium heat, add olive oil and achiote seeds. Remove the seeds and discard after 5 minutes.
To the oil, add red peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, and chipotle pepper flakes. Saute until soft, for about 5-7 minutes. Mix in the rice and quinoa and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and Rotele tomatoes. Mix and bring to a boil. Then return to low/simmer and cover.
Once most of the liquid is absorbed, add the capers, green and kalamata olives,  and shrimp. Throughly mix  them through the rice mixture and cover until shrimp is cooked, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimp.
Add lime juice and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn stove off and let sit for five minutes, covered. 
Granish with a lime and more fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Low Fat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I had some bananas to use up and decided to whip up some banana bread. I found this recipe on Joy the Baker and decided that I wanted to try it with chocolate chips and flax seed. So I followed the recipe precisely except before folding in the egg whites, I added a cup of mini chocolate chips and a tablespoon of milled flax seed.

I think the bread turned out delicious and will make this recipe again, maybe next time with nuts instead of chocolate chips.

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
 1/2 tsp  salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
 1/4 tsp baking powder
 1/2 tsp cinnamon
 3 tsp canola or walnut  oil
 1 large egg, beaten
 2 medium egg whites, beaten
 3 large bananas, ripe
 1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients including the oats and cinnamon.
In a smaller bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add oil and whole egg and mix thoroughly.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.  Batter will be fairly thick.
In a medium sized bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.
Pour batter into pan and bake until top of loaf is firm to touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Flip out and cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes. Slice loaf into 10 equally sized slices.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Pepper, Bean, and Potato Soup

"Use what you have" night tonight and what possessed me to use great northern beans with potatoes? I have no idea. Soups are so much fun because you can do whatever you want. You don't like spinach? Leave it out. You prefer escarole or kale? Add that in. You don't like red peppers? Well...I wouldn't leave those out. But you can if you want. Honestly, the crucial ingredients that make this soup extra special are the red peppers, potatoes, beans, scallions, red pepper flakes, and half and half. Oh, and of course the cheese. I used gruyere cheese but since it's so darn expensive, parmesan or romano will be just fine. I used parmesan for soup leftovers and it was delicious.

1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
2 cans of great northern beans (cannelini) rinsed and drained
1 small onion, diced
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pre-washed bag of spinach leaves
2 bay leaves
a pinch of red pepper flakes
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (not the powdered stuff)
1 carton of unsalted chicken broth
1 cup of water
3/4 cup of half and half (don't use non-fat)
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 potatoes, diced, skin on-Yukon Gold potatoes
1 stalk of green onions (scallions), diced
gruyere cheese, shredded

In a large pot on medium heat, saute the onion, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, carrots, bay leaves, and olive oil. Saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken broth, water and bring to a boil.

Add the beans, spinach leaves and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are nearly cooked. Add half and half, grated nutmeg and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.

Serve with gruyere cheese and green onions on top.

This soup is great for leftovers the next day. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Healthy Snacks and Lunches for the Busy Runner

One of the biggest struggles for people who are trying to change bad habits and eat healthier, either to lose weight or simply for overall well being and improve running performance, is getting caught up in the trap of heading straight for the vending machine or fast food joint and picking up something nasty to eat. With some alterations in your routine, you can be on your way to a healthier, happier, and stronger runner.
“Eat and drink before you get hungry or thirsty” in ultra marathons is encouraged to stay well hydrated and fueled in order keep going. The same applies with everyday life. Don’t wait until you are starving before you eat something. Plan out what you are going to eat that day early in the day. If you are going to be in meetings all morning, make sure you eat a substantial breakfast and bring a snack.  If you are going to be on the road all day traveling, pack a lunch. Lisa Martin, personal trainer(, 3:29 marathon finisher, two time ironman, and recent ultra marathoner says that she tries never to have big swings in energy levels during the day and tries to eat every 2-3 hours, but with well balanced healthy options-nothing too heavy. “My go-to snacks include apple slices with peanut butter, an ounce of cheese with rice crackers, baby carrots with hummus, or greek yogurt with berries. Lunches might be a tuna sandwich, a big salad with avocado and nuts, or even left-overs from the night before. The secret is always balancing carbs (especially any simple ones)with protein and a little fat".
Sometimes you will know ahead of time when you are going to have a particularly busy day. This is when it’s important to plan out what you will eat the night before the busy day. Save some leftovers from dinner or pack a lunch the night before just in case you are too rushed in the morning. Dena Cyr, franchise owner of  Operation Boot Camp and a veteran marathon runner tells her clients, “Do you plan for your food the way you plan for your busy day?” She says that most people answer,  “no”.  She never leaves her house without her cooler. She loves yogurt with almonds and berries, string cheese with Wasa crackers and a pear, and rice cakes with Naturally More peanut butter.
Not everyone has access to a microwave but with a little thought, this does not have to be an issue. Sometimes, leftovers can be eaten cold.  If you don’t have leftovers, a sandwich or salad is easy to make. If you don’t mind eating the same lunch for a few days, make a pasta salad in advance.
Stock up your pantry and refrigerator with healthy snacks. I advise against eating frozen dinners such as Lean Cuisine. Frozen dinners have an exorbitant amount of salt and not enough calories leaving you hungry. The more you cook from scratch, the less that frozen meals will be appealing to you. The only reason that frozen dinners have any taste at all is because of the high sodium content. Using garlic, lemon juice, and herbs and spices, add a lot of flavor to home cooked meals. It’s not the salt that makes the dish delicious.
If you are extremely rushed or caught off guard with a busy day, reach for some healthy snacks before you walk out the door such as individual size hummus dip with carrots, sliced bell peppers, or cucumbers, individual size peanut butter with carrots or celery, “Tuna to Go,”, healthy bars, granola clusters, homemade trail mix, and any kind of fruit. Be careful with granola bars or energy bars. Some of them are no healthier than eating a Snickers Bar. 
Speaking of Snickers bars, if you crave a little chocolate in the middle of the day, no worries. Buy a bag of bite size dark chocolates such as Hershey Kisses or Dove chocolates. Be sure to buy dark chocolate, not milk chocolate,  and keep it in the freezer. You are less likely to snack on them at home if they are in a freezer (especially a freezer in the garage or basement) and you will eat the piece slower if it’s a little frozen. Eating slower can translate into enjoying that one piece and not reaching for a second piece.  Bring one or two chocolates with you for the day and pull one out when you get the urge to go through the drivethru of Steak and Shake for that 700 calorie milkshake. 
If a day pops up and you are completely unprepared foodwise, finding it necessary to eat out, think carefully about what types of restaurants are in the vicinity of where you are that day. Picking up a salad at a fast food joint is not the worst thing in the world-just don’t make it a habit. When you eat out regularly, it’s a lot easier to slip back into bad patterns of eating. If you are required to eat in a restaurant for lunch, request condiments and salad dressing on the side. Usually, the calorie intake jumps way up when you are not in charge of the amount that you use on sandwiches and salads.
Just like running and exercising almost everyday is a habit, making healthy food choices can become a habit as well, and it doesn’t have to be given a ton of thought. As you plan out your run for the following day regarding how many miles, what type of run (speedwork, hill repeats, tempo workout, easy paced run) and about what time you plan on running, the same can happen with your eating. Your running routine is a part of who you are each day. Make your eating routine a part of who you are as well and you will be surprised by how simple it can be. Mary Klingman, runner, fitness instructor, and nutrition consultant, says, “Making healthy choices comes down to two things: planning and purpose. I know I will be successful when I consciously decide, in advance, when, what, and why I will eat and train on any given day” . Ashley Walsh, owner of Primitive Training, ultra marathoner and 2 time 100 miler finisher, and blogger(, says that she genuinely views food as fuel to get her to (and through) her next workout. “I am keenly aware of the fact that an unwise choice in food consumption can make or break a training session”.
Ami Roach, finisher of 29 marathons with a 3:32 PR and a weight loss of 130 lbs six years ago, sums it up quite well by saying, “For a healthy lunch or snack I always keep it simple with three rules in mind. One, always have protein -it helps you run stronger,  harder, and longer. Two, have something crunchy-it always seems to satisfy hunger . Third, have a little something sweet to keep you happy”. Ami is proof that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Veggie Panini with Sun Dried Tomato Mayo

When Grant was very young and dinner time was busier, I made paninis all the time. If you don’t have a grill pan, get one. I’m on my third grill pan in 10 years (over time the nonstick surface wears down) and can’t live without it. One night, Marty was grilling some chicken and suddenly the outdoor grill ran out of propane. No problem. I threw those suckers on the grill pan and they were perfect.
Grilled paninis are so versatile. Use any veggie or meat that you wish. There are a ton of different combinations depending on what you are in the mood for. Also, custom making them based on your family members preferences is simple too since they can be made to order.
  • baby bella mushrooms
  • red bell pepper,  sliced
  • green bell pepper, sliced
  • tomato,, sliced
  • baby spinach leaves
  • sliced havarti cheese
  • crusty bread, (I used french baguette and dug the insides out to use as bread crumbs later for other recipes-use food processor and freeze them for up to 1 month)
  • Olive oil spray
  • medium sweet onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sun dried tomato mayo (**recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Turn double burner grill pan on medium to high heat. Spray pan with olive oil spray to coat or brush on up to a tablespoon of olive oil. When grill pan is hot, add onion and red and green bell peppers. Grill for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to grill until all the veggies are soft and grilled. Turn stove off and veggies can sit until you are ready to assemble the panini
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place crusty bread, sliced and open faced, on the foil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove and assemble the panini how ever you would like. I added havarti cheese and sliced tomato on one side, and spinach leaves and grilled veggies on the other side. Bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove and add the sundried tomato mayo. Close panini and serve.
Sun Dried Tomato Mayo
  • 1 cup of fat free or low fat sour cream
  • 3 tbs of low fat mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup of feta cheese
  • 1 tbs of fresh mint
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes (soaked in hot water and drained)
First add garlic in food processor and process for 20 seconds. Then, add rest of the ingredients. Be sure to taste it and make sure you like the flavor. For example, if it’s too heavy in the sun dried tomatoes for you, feel free to add more mayo or sour cream. Keep refridgerated for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Endive and Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Served with Grilled Salmon and Roasted Rosemary Red, White and Purple Potatoes

Endive and Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
I threw this salad together after using some leftover endive and arugula from a party that I was hosting. I believe it came out very nicely and only required a little bit of salad dressing. Use any ingredients that you would like.
2-3 cups of pre-washed arugula
3 stalks of endive, thinly sliced
1 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
1 container of crumbled goat cheese
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cucumbers, sliced lengthwise and chopped
1 small vidalia union, thinly sliced
juice of one lemon
3 tbs of white vinegar
1/4 cup (or less if you’d like) of extra virgin olive oil.
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk in a small bowl the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the vinaigrette with all of the other ingredients and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Coventry Neighborhood Ladies Lunch

It was my turn to host the ladies neighborhood event that we hold every other month and as always, it was a lot of fun and great to catch up with everyone. All of the dishes that I made were cold with the exception of Diana's Corn Dip. My photos are not very good, as I was preparing for 14 women to come over and didn't really have time to stage properly. This blog post includes savory dishes only. I had desserts as well.

Chicken Salad With Walnuts and Grapes
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 3-pound roasted chicken, skin removed, meat roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup halved red seedless grapes
  • * cup roughly chopped walnuts, lightly toasted Mesclun, optional
  • Crusty bread, optional

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper. Add the chives, parsley and tarragon and mix gently.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, onion, celery, grapes and walnuts. Add the mayonnaise mixture and fold together to combine. Season to taste. If desired, serve over mesclun or with bread.
Serves 4 to 6

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Pine Nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 lbs medium zucchini, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup coursely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • small wedge of parmesan cheese
Whisk oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper in small bowl to blend. Set dressing aside.
Using vegetable peeler or V-slicer and working from top to bottom of each zucchini, slice zucchini into ribbons (about 1/16 inch thick). Place ribbons in a large bowl. Add basil and nuts; then dressing. Toss to coat and season to taste. 

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad
  • 6 cups coarsely chopped cucumbers (about 2 lbs)
  • 2 large tomatoes (1 lb), coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup of assorted pitted olives (such as Kalamata or Gaelta), halved
  • 1 7 oz package feta, crumbled, divided
  • 1/2 cup coursely chopped fresh mint
  • 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, olives, half of feta, and mint in a large bowl. Whisk oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad, toss and coat. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle remaining half of feta over and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad
  • vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus wedges for garnish
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbs finely chopped garlic
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced orange or red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 4 cups baby arugula
Heat oven to 375. On a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, place potatoes in a layer; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Bake until tender. 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cool. 
In a bowl, whisk juice, vinegar, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper. Add potatoes, beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions and mint. Toss and serve over arugula.
Garnish with lime wedges

Diana's Corn Dip is a favorite at neighborhood functions. A while back, I invented a pasta dish based on Diana's Corn Dip. Warning: This is fattening! Diana's Corn DIp. Scroll down for the Dip recipe.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Family Favorite: Chicken Picatta

Ever since I bought Giada De Laurentis's cookbook several years ago, Everyday Italian, I've been making her Chicken Picatta on a regular basis. I just think her recipe is perfect and have never deviated from it in any way. I like to serve it with steamed asparagus but a side salad would be a nice accompaniment.

To make it a little easier, I buy my chicken breasts already butterflied (chicken cutlets). Most supermarkets have chicken cutlets and if they don't, the butcher can butterfly them for you. I also prefer to buy the premium or organic chicken. I believe that it tastes better and is better for you.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley

Red wine doesn't go with this dish but Marty won't drink white!