Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quinoa Veggie Salad

The first time I had Quinoa (keen-whaa) it was a side dish someone had brought to a party, and it wasa chore to eat it.  It was bland, clumpy and visually unappealing.  My mind was racing to find ways to pep this grain up to taste better.

Quinoa is prepared the same way you would cook rice and when cooked properly has an underlying crunchy texture to it.  It's the perfect creative canvas.  I like to chop then add whatever crispy veggies are in the fridge and then splash everything with a light vinaigrette.

One of the main reason I like Quinoa so much is that it's a supergrain, it's highly nutritious and can supply us with all of the body's requirements: carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Heck it's not just a snack it's a meal!

Here's a loose outline for my Quinoa Veggie Salad:

2 C quinoa
4 C water

1 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C chopped cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil
  • I use the rice cooker to prepare my quinoa, that way I can prep my veggies without worrying about burning it. Just add the water and quinoa and the cooker steams it perfectly.  If you don't have a rice cooker then bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Fluff with a fork and scrape the cooked quinoa into a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the vinegar, salt, pepper, and the oil. 
  • Add the cucumbers, bell pepper, red onion, tomato, and garlic to the bowl with the quinoa. Pour the dressing over top and gently fold until evenly mixed. Serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!

As far as the veggies go you can add whatever suites your pallet or whatever is in your keeper at the time.  I like to add fresh basil sometimes instead of the cilantro, or add chopped spinach ribbons & roasted red peppers or feta cheese and kalamata olives.  The combination of flavor adds is endless. 

Here's the rice cooker I use and recommend for both your rice and quinoa.  You'll love its ease of use and your food will come out perfect every single time. You can even steam fresh veggies in this thing! I Love it! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crisp Spicy Okra Pickles

This is a snack I was introduced to in Texas at a friends home warming party. I'm not a big fan of 'the okra' there's just something about that slimy mucus, yuck gag me! It's good fried of course, but with my goal to make better dietary choices fried is not an option.

I was so fascinated with this pickled okra as I'd never heard of them before a few months ago.  So, I took a little nibble and was shocked at how good they really are. They are crunchy and spicy, better than a dill pickled cucumber in my opinion (okay maybe not).

You've got to try them and they're not just a Texas thing.  You can get them in any grocery store y'all.  Enjoy! 

Just in case they're not at your local grocer here's a recipe to make your own homemade Crispy Spicy Okra Pickles. 

Crispy Spicy Pickled Okra:

2 pounds okra, stems trimmed
8 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh dill
4 Serrano peppers-seeded, membrane and stem removed
2 teaspoons  red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cumin seed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar

4-pint sized mason jars

  • Evenly divide between the four jars the okra, dill, Serrano chiles and garlic cloves.

  • Bring the vinegar and spices to a boil and pour into the jars. Fill up the rest of the jar with water.

  • Let them cool for about half hour then cover and refrigerate.

Allow your jars of pickles to sit in the refrigerator to marinate in the brine for a day, they'll be ready tomorrow.  After that they will keep in the refrigerator for a few months.  Note: These cannot be stored in the pantry.

I really do enjoy pickled veggies like Red Cauliflower Pickles, I can hardly wait to try those too.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thai Chicken Sausage Salad

 I am starting to like my new job.  It has been decades since I last worked retail.  At first I hated it and had a daily mantra of "Deborah Do Not Walk Out The Door You Need A Paycheck!".

But as the days there grow in number the aching in my feet is starting to subside.  Plus, I remind myself of all the calories I am burning in each eight our shift of standing, walking, lifting and reaching, bending and squatting.

During my breaks I make sure I am eating healthy snacks and drinking plenty of water all to ignite the metabolism furnace in an effort to create fat burn.  Unfortunately once home I lose momentum and have succumb to many-a-late night junk food binge of corn-dogs and hot pockets and the likes.  Luckily though I have steered clear of the Pop-tarts in the pantry that have been calling my name, loud and clear. 

Now, before leaving for work I throw together a salad and leave in the fridge ready and waiting for me.  The crunchy crispy lettuce and succulent chicken sausage, mixed with the spicy nutty dressing, satiate that need to much.  Plus it's filling enough to hold me over until morning.

Thai Chicken Sausage Salad:

2-3 Chicken Sausage Links- browned, cooked to done and sliced into 1/4 inch coins
1 head of Romain Lettuce-washed, dried and ripped to bite size pieces
1/2 red onion-sliced into rings
1/2 C Cherry or Grape Tomatoes-washed
1 carrot- shredded

Toss all ingredients together, once prepped as directed above, in a large salad bowl and serve drizzled with Thai Peanut Dressing.  Recipe below. Enjoy!  

Thai Peanut Dressing:
1/2 C peanut butter
1 lime, juiced and zested
2 1/2 t sesame oil
1 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 T low sodium soy sauce
3 T honey
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 T minced ginger
1/2 C chopped cilantro 
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 t or to taste kosher salt
2-3 t or to taste sriracha chili sauce*
2-4 T water

Place all dressing ingredients except the water in the blender and process till smooth, drizzle in the water during processing until it reaches your desired consistency.  Yields 2 cups of dressing.  Store in refrigerator.

* Sriracha is a type of Thai hot sauce, it's a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. 

Image: Piyachok Thawornmat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brussel Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic

As my Brussel Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic were roasting in the oven I had about 30 minutes or so to surf the web.  During that time I stumbled upon an eye opening story about how our culture views eating habits today as opposed to yesteryear. 

I remember back in the day when we ate produce that we either harvested from the garden on the front yard bank or from berry bushes in the woods.

Vegetables were a primary staple in our families diet.  Heck my mom fed a family of seven on one chicken, and trust me the chickens back in the day weren't hopped up on steroids which meant they were normal size, small.  One chicken thigh and the gizzard was designated for me.  If we were still hungry, which we were not, then the reply would be "have more salad or veggies".

Lent season started earlier this week and I have decided to give up red meat and pork.  So veggies will be my main focus for the next 40 days.  I love veggies as long as they are prepared correctly.  Correctly meaning roasted or raw, I'm not a big fan of steamed veggies though.

Whoops! I rambled on a bit there, here's the article I was referring to titled “Tastes Worth Dying For,”

By now many of us are familiar with the infamous news of the man who suffered a heart attack last week while eating a Triple Bypass Burger at the Heat Attack Grill in Las Vegas. The very sad part is that onlookers thought it was a stunt and were actually taking pictures of the man’s suffering. Thankfully, as of today, he has survived, but this incident brings up the question, “How did we, as a culture, get to this point?” How did we go from my parents’ generation of surviving the Great Depression by eating dandelion greens and growing gardens out of necessity ~ to today’s Heart Attack Grill slogan that touts, “Tastes Worth Dying For,” and having their 575 lb spokesman die last year at the age of twenty nine? ....Read More

Brussel Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic
Tossed together some brussel sprouts, butternut squash, a couple of heads of garlic, an onion and any other root veggies you have in the fridge or pantry, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and some dried basil.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  

I've never been a champion of the brussel spout, but when roasted they have a chance to caramelize and end up tasting like nature's candy.  Enjoy!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

White Bean & Pesto Dip with Pita Chips

End of the week and time to clean the pantry and fridge.  I love making meals or snacks from ingredients only found in the pantry at the time.  Turns out we had quite a few items fixen' (Texan for getting ready to y'all) to expire.Fresh herbs on their last leg? Well ours were so rather than throw them away I whipped up this quick White Bean & Pesto Dip and served it with pita chips (the pita bread was about to expire too).

The pesto is made of:

  • 1 bunch of Spinach
  • 1/2 bunch of Cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch of Parsley
  • Several sprigs of Basil
  • 1/4 C Pine Nuts
  • 2Tbsp chopped Garlic
  • 3Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
  • 4-5Tbsp Olive Oil
  • S&P to taste

Wizz it all up in a food processor set it aside about 3Tbsp of the pesto and refrigerate the rest for another day. 

Next, I made the White Bean Dip, which was just:

  • 2 Cans of White Navy Beans drained and rinsed
  • 1-2Tbsp of Olive Oil
  • S&P to taste

Wizz this up in a food processor and pour it into a serving dish. Spoon the reserved pesto on top and swirl with a chopstick or skewer to mix the two colorful flavors together.  Garnish with pine nuts and paprika. 

Cut the pita bread into small triangle, and place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, too half way through.  Remove from the oven when golden brown and crunchy.  Serve with dip. 


This is also great when served with fresh crudités (French for fresh veggies y'all!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato with Herb Pesto & Black Truffle Topping

I heard back in the day, they used to put hot potatoes in their pockets on cold days well....
It is cold and sleeting just as the weather man predicted.  We're suppose to get 3-5 inches of the fluffy white stuff.  Snow! I haven't really seen any snow this Winter season, which is fine by me.

There's a sweet potato in the panty and some fresh herbs in the fridge...ahh fresh herbs and thoughts of Spring will turn this dreary day around.

But, before I could get started an urgent errand had to be taken care.  So, before dashing out the door (burr) I threw my medium size sweet potato in the oven, on 350 degrees since it takes about and hour to fully cook a sweet potato.

Once back home I gathered up all the other ingredients needed:
  •  1Tbsp chopped Fresh Basil
  • 1Tbsp chopped Cilantro
  • 1Tbsp chopped Parsley
  • 1 minced clove of Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese 
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Coarsely ground Black Pepper
The first topping for the sweet potato is a herb basil pesto- without the pine nuts.

Once the herbs are chopped and the garlic is peeled and minced, it gets tossed into the mortar & pestle.  Drizzle in the EVOO and grind away making sure to pulverize those garlic bits.  Grind! Smash! Grind!

Okay you should have a nice paste in the bottom of your mortar at this point and you can stir in the Parmesan cheese. Set it aside. 

Lastly, in a small bowl we'll throw together the second topping; a dollop of Truffle Yogurt.  Nothing could be easier, all you need is:

  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Fat Free Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp Black Truffle Olive Oil
  • Paprika (optional)

Mix together all the ingredients and set them aside.  Check on your potato, if it's been an hour than it should be done.  Put it on a plate, split it open and smear on the herb basil pesto followed by the truffle yogurt. 

It's that simple! I could have just nuked the potato and put a pat of butter on it and called it a day-but taking just a few extra minutes to make the pesto and dollop turns this into an indulgant meal. The aroma of the basil and truffle oil mingling together is out of this world.  Enjoy!

Yup, it's snowing and that's why I am cuddling up to a very warm lunch.

Nutritional Report via MyFitnessPal: Calories:147  Servings:2  Protein:6  Fat:20  Iron:5  Sodium:159  Fiber:4  Sugar:11  Cholesterol:3  Carbohydrates:25  Potassium:567

Monday, February 6, 2012

Low Calorie Chocolate Soufflé

Just in time for Valentine's Day!                      

This Low Calorie Chocolate Soufflé says I Love You in a ooey-gooey way he'll never forget! 

Believe it or not I didn't have any ramekins, so I headed off to the Salvation Army to see what they had. Imagine my delight when I found this cute cupcake design.  I'll go to a department store later to buy a full set, but for now this will do just fine.  

Low Calorie Chocolate Soufflé has a delicate crust on the outside and a smooth rich creamy center.  It has to be served immediately from the oven so it is warm and still inflated, it deflates as it cools, but trust me there will be no time for it to cool.  You will want to gobble it up quickly!  

This recipe make two perfectly sized Low Calorie Chocolate Soufflés, ideal for Valentines Day, or a just because desert or snack.   

These airy chocolate cakes puff up nicely in mini soufflé dishes (ramekins). To serve four, use five teaspoons flour and double the remaining ingredients. (Doubling the flour would make the base too heavy.)

  • Cooking spray 4 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided*
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa*
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350°

Coat 2 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray; sprinkle each with 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar.
Combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Cook 2 minutes, stirring until smooth. Spoon chocolate mixture into a medium bowl; cool 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla. 
Place egg white in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.
Gently stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture.
Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times to level.
Place dishes on a baking sheet; bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until puffy and set. 
Sprinkle each soufflé with 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar. 

Serve immediately.  152 calories per serving. ENJOY!


  • When whipping these up be sure your mixing bowl and whisk are very cold. I store my whipping tools in the fridge a few hours until I'm ready to use them.  

  • Your egg white needs to be room temperature, so let your egg set on the counter for a few hours as well.    

  • Use a folding technique when bringing the chocolate mixture and egg white together, you don't want to deflate all your efforts. 

These  steps will get your whites to whip up into stiff peaks making for a very fluffy soufflé.

*Sugar in the Raw

*If you don't have Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder visit Joy of Baking.com for substitution tip for Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top 20 Super Foods

With all things great there has to be a solid foundation, otherwise what is created will crumble before long. 

In order to continue to bring you uniquely deliciously and healthy snacks I needs a base from which to work. I stumbled upon this fantastic list of the Top 20 Super-Foods, from which I can begin creating and cooking my own recipes. These super-foods are a nutritional road-map of ingredients if you will.  

First let's discuss what a super-food is:
a common definition is that a superfood is one which has high concentrations of essential nutrients with proven health benefits, with few properties generally considered to be negative (such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants). An often-cited example of a superfood (or superfruit) is blueberries. They contain high concentrations of various antioxidants, anthocyanins, vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber, they have a compound, pterostilbene, which acts to protect the heart in the same way as cholesterol-lowering drugs, are low in calories and are most often organically grown.[1]
With all that said, not all claims of a food being super are true or even recognized by the scientific community! The term SuperFood has become a marketing tool and the name simply slapped on a label.  You'll have to use caution and know what foods are actually verified as a superfood.

Examples of these "well verified" superfoods would be:
 Berries, nuts and seeds in general, dark green leafy & flower vegetables (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, brussel sprouts and broccoli), apples, citrus fruits, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, vegetables with bright, dark or intense colors (such as beets and their greens, and sweet potatoes), many legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans (with some beans being significantly higher in certain nutrients than others)), and whole grains as a group (gluten and other allergies notwithstanding). Dark (ie, over 70% pure) chocolate is also included in many superfood lists, although many of its claimed merits are still the subject of heated debate in scientific circles.[2]
Top 20 Superfoods: 
  1. Beans & Lentils
  2. Black Rice
  3. Blueberries
  4. Cherries
  5. Coffee
  6. Concord Grapes
  7. Dark Chocolate
  8. Dried Plums
  9. Eddamame
  10. Figs
  11. Green Tea
  12. Kale
  13. Kiwi
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Quinoa
  16. Salmon
  17. Squash
  18. Strawberries
  19. Sunflower Seeds
  20. Walnuts

As you can see from the list we have quite a foundation to work with! We already consume most; if not all, of these in our daily diets. So, for some of us the next step would be to bite-the-bullet on the expense and upgrade to 100% Organic. Which is a whole other topic of discussion!

So, what do you think? Are you eating enough of these superfoods?

Resources: [1],[2], Image:HealthCastle.com

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crunchy Golden Roasted Chick Peas

Chickpeas aren't just for Hummus anymore!

When roasted these little protein packed nuggets turn into a golden crunchy snacker's delights.  They remind me of those prepackaged 'corn-nuts' because the crunch on these roasted chickpeas is incredible!

I'm sure everyone has a can or two of Chick Peas also known as Garbonzo Beans stuffed away on the back shelf in the pantry. Go get them & let's do this!


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1- 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
10-15 drops of Tabasco sauce-or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Drain and rinse beans under cold water.  Spread on paper towel and dry thoroughly.  Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Spread chick peas in a single layer on your cookie sheet. Bake,shaking the tray every 10 minutes, until golden and crunchy for about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before serving.  They hold the heat so please use caution.  Store your Roasted Chick Peas in an airtight container. Enjoy!

The World's Healthiest Foods website says: There's now direct evidence about garbanzo beans and appetite! Participants in a recent study reported more satisfaction with their diet when garbanzo beans were included, and they consumed fewer processed food snacks during test weeks in the study when garbanzo beans were consumed. They also consumed less food overall when the diet was supplemented with garbanzo beans. 

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Deborah :D
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