Vegetables

I totally forgot to add this link to my post yesterday and it’s probably my favorite. I feel like I am constantly trying to eat for veggies and, why not, most of them are zero point on Weight Watchers! I have been utilizing all of these ideas recently and they really work. Veggies can bulk up anything you are eating quickly and easy!

#1: Shop for veggies one day a week. This one is easy to follow if you visit a farmer’s market once a week. Set aside $20 each week and wander around the market and ask what is best that week. Fruits and Vegetables can have short seasons, so this will ensure that you can try the best of each season’s bounty! Right now, load up on squash (butternut, acorn, kombucha), apples, beets, brussels sprouts, and root vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi, celery root). A good rule of thumb is try to and make your plate look like a rainbow.

#2: Prep your veggies. I don’t usually cut up my veggies but I do remove them from the bags/containers and organize them nicely in a colander or two. I wash them all and then put them in the fridge still in the colander. It makes them look pretty (almost on display) and it’s easy to see what you have to use. I find I waste a lot less by doing this.

#3: Breakfast. Adding peppers, onions, broccoli or even brussels sprouts to an omelette or scrambled eggs. Or try…

#4: Blendtastic. Try making a fruit and veggie smoothie in the morning. If you have a lot of dark, leafy greens that might go bad before dinner time, try my kale smoothie. This is a great way to sneak in a serving or two of vegetables.

#5: Snack time. I always have cucumbers, bell peppers and baby carrots in my fridge. Always. I also always keep some sort of healthy dip in there- baba ganoush, hummus and tzatziki are my favorites. It takes about 3 minutes to chop up the peppers and cucumber and these snacks are guilt free!

#6: Lunch. Salad in a mason jar. Enough said.

#7: Dinner. Cooking veggies in a crock pot is a great but not everyone has one sitting on their counter. I love roasting vegetables, especially all the fall/winter root veggies. Just cut them into bite size pieces, spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (lining with foil or parchment will make clean up a breeze), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. It will probably take a bit longer than 20 minutes, so check them at that time and then check them every 5 minutes until they are done to your liking (it will probably take more like 30-45 minutes).

#8: Dessert. I haven’t personally tried using vegetables in dessert but think zucchini bread, banana bread, etc. Or anything pumpkin- just try using another type of squash!

I hope this helps some of you eat more vegetables. Let me know any tips or tricks you might have!

Quinoa Veggie Burgers

I just spent an amazing, life-changing two weeks in Spain and France. I spent three days Madrid, a weekend outside of Montpellier in southern France, five days in Barcelona and a weekend in San Sebastian. The food was different in every location and it is impossible to decide which was my favorite. Everything was just that good. I ate my way through every town we visited and I am now paying the price.

I made the decision to eat vegetarian for this first week back in order to get my diet and body back on track. I don’t usually consume dairy- cheese is really the only thing I eat on a somewhat regular basis- or meat – rarely more than two or 3 times a week. I’m pretty sure my typical diet would survive living in Spain… cafe con leche at least twice a day, frequent visits to a museo de jamon, pintxos in San Sebastian with thick slices of goat cheese, etc., etc., etc.

My first attempt at a filling and delicious vegetarian meal is a version of a veggie burger my friend, Lauren, introduced to me a few weeks before my vacation. She had me over for dinner and we made veggie burgers using quinoa and black beans (both for protein) and colorful vegetables to brighten and bulk it up a bit. Here’s a look at the version I created:

IMG_7265

Ingredients

1 cup white quinoa, cooked according to the packages instructions

1 cup black beans, rinsed*

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/3 of a medium red bell pepper, minced

1/2 of a red onion, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 egg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine

IMG_7266

IMG_7267

Form into 4 “patties” using your hands. It might help to wash your hands in between each patty

IMG_7271

Warm a frying pan over medium heat and cook each patty in about a teaspoon of oil for 3 minutes per side

WW Points: 3 points/patty

*I used vegetarian chili because, in my fog of jet lag, I bought chili instead of normal black beans. Don’t do this- it made the patties wetter than necessary and they didn’t hold their form that well!

DIY Raw Cleanse

Every once in a while I can tell that my body needs to be rebooted. This is when I turn to cleansing. I have done a few different kinds (Organic Avenue and Isagenix to name two) but they can get very expensive, very quickly. When I got home from the beach after the 4th of July, I knew I needed to cleanse. 6 days of beer, wine and all those American favorites- burgers, steaks, hot dogs, chips, bagels, etc- had put me over the edge. I did some research and found this easy-to-follow DIY raw cleanse on a blog called Small Kitchen College.

The thing I like about this cleanse is it can be 100% tailored to your needs. We decided to do it for just one day to do a quick reboot but we’ve committed to doing this once a week. You can also try cleansing for 3 days a week every once in a while or, if you have the will power that I definitely do not, you can cleanse for a week every month or for one month every year!

Here’s what to do:

1. Begin the day with a large glass of filtered water with the juice of half a lemon. This aids digestion and stimulates the liver to begin the day’s detoxification process. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to balance out your blood sugar.

2. Only consume liquids (smoothies, fresh juices, herbal tea, water) until noon. Snack on raw fruits and veggies if necessary.

3. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs. you should drink at least 60 oz. of water. This is a good rule of thumb for overall health!

4. Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. Go for organic, especially for the dirty dozen.

5. Enjoy 1/2 cup raw nuts and and seeds per day.

6. Fill up on 2 cups of cooked whole grains throughout the afternoon and evening. But! Avoid gluten (whole wheat, barley, rye).

7. Follow the 80/20 Rule: at least 80% of your cleanse should include raw foods, and 20% can be cooked vegetables, grains, and beans.

8. Take a daily multivitamin.

9. Eliminate: dairy, eggs, meat, fish, sugar, gluten, and alcohol. Cut out caffeine if you can, but this is where I cheat. A small cup of coffee or tea in the morning is actually good for you!

I decided to easiest way to shop for this cleanse was to order from Fresh Direct.

Here’s What I got:

Almond Milk- Blue Almond Unsweetened Vanilla

Naked 100% Fuit Smoothie Blue Machine

Kale Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie ingredients

6 Organic Lemons

Organic Strawberries

Organic Red Grapes

Arugula

Organic Red Bell Pepper

Avocado

Cucumber

Organic Shelled Sunflower Seeds

Organic Raw Almonds

Fresh Direct Super Salads*

Chamomile Herbal Tea

We loosely followed the above guidelines and kind of did our own thing. Although we only did this for one day, I felt a huge difference. I lost 2 pounds (most of which, I understand, was water weight) and felt thinner and full of energy. Our groceries cost about $120 (we originally planned on doing the cleanse longer so we bought groceries for 3 days- $20/person/day) but we have added many of the ingredients into other healthy meals on non-cleanse days. This is by far the cheapest and most flexible plan I have ever found for cleansing and I plan on doing it at least once a week to keep myself on track!

I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!

* I bought these instead of doing grains on my own- I was not happy with them because they lacked flavor and texture.

 

Summer Salad Ideas

After a great week away at the beach for the 4th of July, I was happy to stumble upon this article from Buzzfeed about summer fruit salads. My favorite on this list is #6- grilling fruit, especially stone fruit, is the best thing about summer! The recipe in the Buzzfeed was taken from the Healthy Foodie and it looks absolutely delicious.

Something I did over the weekend to change things up a bit was the “grill” strawberries with balsamic and brown sugar. This was great to pick at and eat after our meal of burgers and sausage on the 4th but I think it would be even better over some vanilla ice cream. This is along the same idea as the compote I posted about a few days back but the grill imparts an intense flavor that cannot be matched in any other way.

Ingredients

12 strawberries

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 packet brown sugar in the raw

tin foil

Directions

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat

Cut the stems off of the strawberries and cut them in half length-wise

Make a small “bowl” out of tin foil and arrange the strawberries in a single layer

Sprinkle the strawberries with the brown sugar in the raw and drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar

Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes until the strawberries begin the break down but still hold their shape

WW Points: 1 point per serving 

(makes 2 servings)

 

Easy Lentils

IMG_6246I’ve had lentils sitting in my pantry for a long time. Last week, I need a quick, easy and nutritious meal to take to work with me so I decided to give them a try. Lentils are a great source of protein- about 30% of their calories come from protein which makes them the third highest legume in protein content. Adding some fresh veggies is the perfect way to get a well-rounded meal that keeps in the fridge for a few days!

I had some vegetable broth left over from making the WW Asian-Inspired soup a while back that I was able to pull out of the freezer and use instead of water while cooking the lentils. This is also a great way to use up extra veggies you have in the fridge!

Ingredients

1 cup dried lentils

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, or other seasonings (optional)

1/4 – 3/4 teaspoon salt

Vegetables, chopped (I used asparagus and red bell peppers so there would be a few different colors)

Directions

IMG_6241

Measure the lentils into a strainer or colander. Pick over and remove any shriveled lentils, debris, or rocks. Thoroughly rinse under running water

IMG_6242

Transfer the rinsed lentils to a saucepan and pour in the vegetable or chicken stock. When I am making a dish with a vegetarian protein, I like to keep it all vegetarian. If you want another layer of flavor, use a chicken stock. Add any seasonings being used, reserving the salt

IMG_6244

Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Do not stir- this will make them turn to mush! Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy

IMG_6243

Strain the lentils over a bowl so you can use the reserved stock to cook any vegetables you may want to add. Remove any seasonings. Add the stock back into the saucepan and bring back to a boil

IMG_6245

Boil the asparagus in the vegetable stock for 8-10 minutes (or until it is at your desired tenderness- I like mine a little crunchy). Strain the asparagus and add cooked lentils, asparagus and raw chopped bell pepper back into the pot to combine

WW Points: 6 points for half the recipe

Van’s Waffles

IMG_6320

Whenever I’m in a cooking rut, I tend to move towards more prepared and frozen food (and often processed) because it is just easier sometimes. I, obviously, love to cook and very rarely do I look at it as a chore, but these past few weeks have been hard! With frozen meals you don’t have to think about what you’re going to cook and it doesn’t seem like a chore at all. Just pop it in the microwave, toaster oven, etc and a few minutes later you have a meal!

That said, if I do buy frozen food, I try to buy low-sodium, when possible, and to buy the products with the shortest (and most easily understood) ingredients list. I thought I’d share one of my freezer staples for when I am feeling uninspired, tired and really hungry first thing in the morning- Van’s Waffles!

I first tried Van’s Waffles about two years ago. I have been trying different varieties (there are 17) but mostly sticking to the “lite” or gluten free options. I have the lite waffles (pictured above) in my freezer right now and, although, they aren’t my favorite, they are only 2 points per waffle! My absolute favorite are the gluten free, blueberry waffles. They are 3 points a waffle but they are exponentially better in my opinion- you wouldn’t think that they were gluten free!

If you’re like me and need some help in the mornings on occasion, give Van’s a try. Now off to the store to get ingredients to make some (WW friendly) Mac n’ Cheese!

Fried Green Tomatoes

I mentioned yesterday that Nick and I bought green tomatoes on Monday so I decided to tackle making fried green tomatoes for the first time ever! I did some research (as always) before choosing a simple recipe from a blog called “Pretty Tasty Things.” I pretty much left this recipe alone other than adding in a little cayenne to the flour for some extra heat.

Whenever I batter and fry anything (which isn’t all that often), I look for a batter that uses flour and buttermilk as part of the dredging process. The flour is a perfect first step because it helps coat whatever you are frying so you get a true batter around everything. The buttermilk helps create the next step of the barrier and gives the outside layer some moisture to adhere to. The cornmeal and bread crumb outer layer creates a crunchy bite. So when I saw these in this recipe, I had to try it!

This recipe is relatively easy but the dredging can be a little tricky. I found using a fork to flip, cover and move the tomato slices from bowl to bowl was the easiest way. You can use your fingers but be careful to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients so you don’t end up with a gloppy mess!

IMG_6092

Ingredients

3 green tomatoes

1 cup of flour

1 cup of plain bread crumbs

1 cup of yellow cornmeal

1 cup of buttermilk

salt and pepper

cayenne

vegetable oil

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the green tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt.

(pictured above)

In three separate bowls, add flour to the first one with some salt and pepper, buttermilk to the second, and combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal in the third.

IMG_6093

Taking a slice of tomato, lightly coat it in the flour, coat both sides with the buttermilk and then dredge into the breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture. Repeat process for all the slices.

IMG_6094

IMG_6095

IMG_6096

Heat a large skillet on medium heat with vegetable oil about 1/4-inch high. Once the oil is hot, gently place 5-6 slices into the pan. Let one side turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, before turning it over.

IMG_6097

Remove and place on a baking rake to drip the excess oil. I kept mine in the oven until all the slices were fried (at 170 degrees).

IMG_6098

WW Points: 5 points for 2 slices

Don’t forget to try them with the buttermilk ranch dressing from yesterday’s post!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I love ranch dressing! One of my favorite snacks growing up was carrot sticks and ranch. And, everyone also knows that I love Ina Garten. So you can imagine how much I LOVE Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Ranch Dressing? I have made this recipe twice before.  I always forget how easy it is so I’ll go months without making it! Nick and I bought some green tomatoes at a road side stand on Monday so I figured I would make this dressing to go along with some fried green tomatoes (I’ll post about them soon!) This is definitely not a low fat, WW recipe but you can alter it in a few ways to make it better. Give it a try with full fat first (it’s AMAZING and worth the splurge!) then alter as you see fit.

IMG_6084

Ingredients

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon good olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (maybe a little less)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup good mayonnaise (I used reduced-fat)

1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken (I used light buttermilk)

Directions

Place the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

IMG_6086

Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture.

IMG_6087

Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth.

IMG_6089

Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to develop.

IMG_6090

…or eat some right away… just to make sure it tastes good 😉

This is a great time to use mason jars. This recipe makes 3 cups so it will fill about 1 1/2 mason jars. Definitely let it sit in the fridge for a bit (at least one hour) before using it- the flavors develop so nicely!

WW Points: 1 point for 2 tbsp 

(with reduced fat mayo and light buttermilk)

Grilled Caesar Salad

20130528-153505.jpg

One of my favorites things to make during grilling season is a grilled Caesar Salad. It is so simple to prepare yet grilling the romaine completely elevates this “recipe.” I honestly hesitate calling it a recipe! The first time I tried this was at my friend’s house in high school. Her mom used to cook for us all the time and this is one of the recipes I have taken on as my own!

Grilled Caesar Salad

1 head of romaine lettuce (try to get one that holds it shape- no leaves falling off)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Caesar dressing (store bought or homemade)

Croutons (store bought or homemade)

Directions

Start your grill (propane, charcoal or grill pan) and bring to a moderate heat. You want to grill and heat the lettuce slowly but you want it warm enough to leave grill marks.

Cut the romaine lettuce in half lengthwise then cut each half in half again. Make sure you take care to keep all the leaves in tack!

Brush each 1/4 of romaine on all sides with 1-2 tsp of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat ) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place on the grill turning every 2-4 minutes until the outside of the lettuce is warmed through and has grill marks.

Drizzle with dressing and top with croutons. Serve immediately.

IMG_5981

This is by far the worst “recipe” I have written on this blog but that is mainly because grilling lettuce is all about trial and error. I have made this salad a number of times and it turns out differently every time. Just wing it and I promise it will turn out well!

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is one of those things that I have had on my radar for a while but never really understood. I’ve always been interested in seeing what it is all about so, when I was visiting my parents in Atlanta last June, I picked some up at the Dekalb Farmers Market. I have had the ground flaxseed in my pantry for almost a year and I am FINALLY using it.

flax seed

A few quick facts about flaxseed:

1. It has been cultivated since 3000 BC in Babylon!

2. There have been studies that show it may reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, stoke and diabetes.

3. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat). 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed (flax meal) contains 1.8 grams of omega-3s!

4. They contain 75-800 times more lignans (chemical compound found in plants) than other plant products. Lignans contain estrogen and antioxidant qualities.

5. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. This means it helps with digestion!

The most important thing is that you buy ground flaxseed because your body cannot absorb it otherwise. Just add a tablespoon of two to your morning smoothie, yogurt or oatmeal and you’re good to go. You will definitely notice a difference in your digestion and it can help you in the long run as well!

WW Points: 1 point per tbsp