Monday, January 31, 2011

Loaded, Sweet Potato Mash

Sweet potatoes are often relegated to one day a year - Thanksgiving.  Even then, they're usually loaded with brown sugar, butter, and topped with a layer of marshmallows. Now, far be it from me to knock this American classic but, the health benefits, along with it's satisfying texture and taste, should make this a more regularly relished spud.

Why it's so sweet:
- high levels of beta-carotene
- rich source of vitamin A
- unique anti-oxidant properties
- contains anti-inflammatory nutrients
- contains:  vitamin C, manganese, copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, iron… as well as many other health-promoting benefits.

I myself have "feared" simple starches because of how some get converted into simple sugars by our digestive tract. However, research shows that sweet potatoes actually improve blood sugar regulation.  Now, I don't pretend to fully understand all the ins and outs of this point but, suffice it to say, this is one stellar tuber that I enjoy incorporating into my family's diet.

Most recently, we enjoyed it in the form of this Loaded, Sweet Potato Mash.  A combination of baked sweet potatoes, fresh green onions and a few black beans comes together in a side that is filling, nutritious and delicious.  What more could a hungry girl ask for?

Shopping List:
2 med./lg. sweet potatoes (often labeled as "yams" in the grocery store)
about 4 sprigs, green onions
1 c. black beans
milk alternative
salt & pepper

mixing bowl
microwave (or you could bake them in the oven)
hand held, electric mixer

Preparation:  Wash sweet potatoes well but don't peel.  Prick skin with fork 6-8 times all around before placing in microwave.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Turn over.  Cook for 5 more minutes.  While potatoes bake, chop up about 1/3 to 1/2 c. green onions and drain and rinse black beans.  Once potatoes are soft all the way through, cut off and discard ends.  Cut remaining potatoes into about 1/2 inch rounds and place in mixing bowl.  Pour in a splash of milk alternative (measurement not exact here; kind of depends on your texture preference).  With electric mixer on low, slowly begin to mix potatoes, gradually increasing speed as potatoes mash.  Once you've achieved a desirable texture (I personally like mine a little chunky), blend in black beans and green onions.  Sprinkle with salt and crushed black pepper to taste.  Then, enjoy.

You may lose a lot of heat in the mixing process, so you might need to zap your sweet potato mash or stick in in the oven to come out warm with the rest of your dinner.

This recipe also lends itself really well to a healthy, lunchtime option.  Granted, it does take about 10 minutes in the microwave which might be a little bit awkward in the office lunch line but, if you grabbed a sweet po'tater', a handful of green onions and black beans on your way out the door, this would be a tasty, filling lunch time meal.

You may also prefer this dish with the potato skins peeled.  I don't know!!!

What I do know, is that if you want to eat healthy but you're scared that being healthy = being annoyingly hungry, then this might be a nice, new addition to your healthy, tasty, hunger-squelching food arsenal.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Treasured Heirlooms

As promised in the previous post, I'm excited about sharing the recipe for this dish which is totally a cele-veggie-bration of a few of my favorite flavors.  (think garlic, shallots, rosemary… ahhhhh je t'adore)

This is a dish that is just a combination of a bunch of delicious ingredients.  So, I can't really take any credit for the fact that the final product is the bombdiggity! (Thank you Urban; "bombdiggity - a description of something that is better then excellent, great, good, amazing, et cetera.")

This dish combines:  heirloom tomatoes, shallots, garlic, green beans, fresh cilantro and rosemary, squash, zucchini, crushed black pepper, and a little bit of olive oil.  As the vegetables bake, all the flavors begin to mingle into a cornucopia of aroma and taste that is sincerely sensational.

- 6 heirloom tomatoes of various shapes, colors, and size
- 6 medium shallots
- handfull of green beans
- 6 garlic cloves
- about 3/4 c. each of fresh cilantro and rosemary
- medium squash
- medium zucchini
- crushed black pepper
- olive oil cooking spray

- 9 x 13" baking dish
- cutting board & knife

Preparation:  Start by coating bottom of baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.  Rinse and dice tomatoes into 6-8 wedges each, depending on the size of the tomato.  Peel and chop shallots into about 1/4 to 1/2 inch chunks.  Mince garlic cloves.  Rinse and snip tips of green beans, then cut into bite size pieces.  Chop up cilantro and rosemary (once removed from the stick).  Cut zucchini and squash into bite size pieces.  Combine all ingredients in baking dish, spray with olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh crushed, black pepper.  Bake on 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.  Veggies are done when they are tender but still retain a little crunch.  When you remove the dish, as you stir the vegetables to help combine all the cooked-down ingredients, you should have a generous amount of liquid.  That is good stuff!

Okay.  You see how the vegetables still retain their shape?  They are firm enough so that you still hear a nice "Crunch, Crunch, Crunch" between your ears when enjoying the dish; they're tender but none of the vegetables should be mush.

I did not eat that sprig/chunk of rosemary by the way… I just thought it would look pretty in the picture.  This photo was taken about a day after I baked it so, the flavors had even more time to soak each other up.  This is one of those dishes that, as he's eating it, my husband always lets out an affirmation of approval, usually in the form of an, "Uh… SO good…"  
Man approved veggies?  Check!

Try this recipe, minus the green beans, as a soup.  Once the dish has finished baking, empty all contents (juices, seasonings, veggies… the whole shebang) into a blender and purée until it reaches desired consistency.  I think it makes a pretty yummy soup whether you leave it a little chunky or blend it until it's pretty much smooth.  Served hot or cold, this one is a tasty treat.

XO & All that Jazz,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Super Satisfying Simple Salmon

When I eat meat it is almost always this - Salmon.

I love this dish because it's fast, it's simple, and it's so complementary with so many things.  This salmon is spectacular on top of a spinach salad garnished with toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and black beans. Sprinkle with a little crushed black pepper and a drizzling of balsamic vinegar, and that salad + this salmon = love at first bite.

I usually purchase about a 10 oz. salmon steak.  My grocer offers a wild option and a farm raised option.  The wild salmon has a much darker, pinky-red hue from eating all the yummy wonderful things that salmon naturally eat out in the wild I guess.  When set side-by-side in the case, the difference in color is really quite remarkable.  The farm raised salmon is fed some kind of corn derived meal which, just can't be as good for them, and therefore me, as the wild stuff.  So, all that is just to say, I like to go "wild" as often as I can.

4.25 oz. can chopped black olives
half the contents of 2-1/2 oz. jar capers
boneless, skin removed, salmon fillet(s)
olive oil cooking spray

large skillet
small food processor

Preparation:  Drain and place half the caper jar's contents of and chopped black olives into food processor and pulse until completely diced and well combined.  Cut salmon fillet into three equal parts.  Spray pan with olive oil and turn to medium heat.  With spoon, spread caper/black olive mixture on top of each fillet and then set that side down onto the pan.  While first side is cooking (about 5-7 minutes) spoon mixture onto other side of fillet.  Turn meat and allow to cook another 5-7 minutes or until fish has turned from dark coral to light pink color and shreds with a fork.  Remove from heat and serve.

This fish is delicious right out of the pan but it also keeps well if you want to enjoy it on top of a salad for the next days lunch.  This week, my husband and I enjoyed our fish along side a baked Heirloom Tomato dish that I'll soon share the recipe for here too.

Salmon is one of those lucky foods that has gradually crept it's way into the American consciousness as a "health food."  It's loaded with those good-for-you, omega-3 fatty acids.  It's a great source of vitamin D (which we all need to make sure we get plenty of for its uber important mood boosting benefits... especially this time of year!).  There is a lot more evidence and information on the health benefits of this pretty, pink fish.  Regardless of whether you care about the health facts, the all important TASTE factor is off the charts with this one!  Like I said, its simple and sometimes, that's the food that's simply the best.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Salad Snapshot

I have not been upholding my blogging duties.  But, you need to know, I think about it every day!

Somehow, it's just always the thing that gets pushed down the "To Do" list.

But not today.  Today, although this is not up to the usual, visual-standards I like to maintain, I give you…

Ehem.  Drumroll please……………

my lunch time salad.

She's a beaute ain't she? (that picture didn't turn out so bad after all) Well, it was delicious whether your mouth is watering or not.

Today's salad consisted of:
- red tipped romaine lettuce
- kidney beans
- garbonzo beans
- goat cheese crumbles
- chopped walnuts
- dried cranberries
- pickled jalapeños
- fresh cracked, black pepper
- and about a tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette

The final product had a nice, lingering heat (thanks to the jalapeños) and the balsamic vinegar,  though a permeating flavor, was very complementary with the other sweet and savory flavors; plus, at 10 calories per tablespoon, its such a great way to add a ton of flavor without sacrificing a ton of calories in just the dressing alone.

Note:  goat cheese definitely doesn't fall under the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet category.  Strictly speaking, that diet consists of no meat or dairy products of any kind.  But, as mentioned in an earlier post, I have backed off from a strict, w.f.p.b. diet to one that includes fish and dairy, from time to time.  When I do eat dairy, it is usually this, goat cheese.  It's incredibly creamy texture and smooth, I wanna say, almost warm taste is especially complementary with toasted nuts and dried cranberries.  It was a little odd to add the peppers.  Ordinarily, I have a few cherry tomatoes or peppadew peppers (bright red, surprisingly sweet, and super good) on hand to help beef up my dish.  Today though I thought, "Yeah.  I could do with a little heat."

So there you have it.

Delightful.  Delicious.  and Quite Nutritious.

In addition to this, I had some fresh cut veggies and some fresh made spicy, black bean dip.  (Ya' think I was hankerin' for some heat today?  I guess so…)

Lovingly Yours,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Check out "Video" Below

Okay sorry class!!!  If you subscribe to this blog, I got a little antsy and hit "Publish" before finishing the post below (since deleted).  Soooooo, you may have a couple, "Mangiez Vos Verts" in your inbox today.

This video was created by Daily Candy, a really great resource for what's going on in food, fashion, travel and fun!  I get an e-mail just about every day on topics ranging from how to make a jello mold for your New Years Eve Party to great, insider deals on fashion sites.

The video is a really great sort of "How To" video providing simple information on how you can shop to get the most health promoting foods for your grocery dollars.

In the video, the Doctor promotes a list of the best and worst foods effected by pesticides which can be found at  Notice that you don't have to sign up to get the guide.  Click where it says, "Get the guide here," in bold, underlined, blue text.  Click on the image of the green and white list and a handy little printable version should pop right up on your screen.  Handy… very handy...

This will be very helpful in maneuvering through the produce section of the grocery store.  I really like this list because I think one of the things people tend to get hung up on when they start thinking about "Going Organic" is that, they just don't know where to start and, to completely buy organic seems cost prohibitive. That list is great because it tells you exactly which things you should opt organic on.

To briefly touch on the cost issue of eating healthy, a lot of people ask me if the way I eat is really expensive.  My thinking is - Yes, it may be more costly on a weekly basis to go and shop the way I do.  However, I purchase food for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for almost every day of the week.  So, in the short term, we save in that we don't spend $7- $10 dollars each, every day on lunches and $15 - $30 on dinners out during the week.  If you really look at your family budget and see how much you spend, TOTAL, on eating out, you may be surprised at just how many of your dollars are going right down your gullet.  So, I take this into consideration when I think about how much it costs me to purchase what I KNOW are healthy ingredients to make meals with from the grocery store versus spending X amount of dollars on lunches and dinners getting Who Knows What nutritionally.  In the long run, I also seriously consider the fact that I will save on medical bills.  I truly believe that working (and it does take a committed effort) at living a healthy lifestyle, from how I shop at the grocery store to how much I exercise, socialize, and rest during the week, will make me healthier in my latter years.  There is ample evidence from various  other cultures (Japan, China) to support this belief.  I've no doubt that, at least as far as my mental and physical health is concerned, eating healthy NOW will benefit me in less medical costs LATER in life.

That's my two cents anyway.

XO & all that Jazz,

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Haven't Heard

Okay sooooo... unfortunately, since I'm completely reliant on a Facebook message to get the recipe for the best thing I ate this Christmas (and as of yet I haven't heard back from the chef) I will just have to wish you all a,

"Happy New Year!"

May your year by blessed,