Broccoli, bison, macaroni casserole

I love making casseroles during the holidays because they’re something simple in the midst of December madness.

Between baking cookies, shopping, decorating and wrapping presents, there isn’t much time left for extravagant dinners. Unfortunately, lack of time leads to poor nutritional choices, so I want to share a nutritionally balanced casserole recipe that’s so easy you could even pass the chef duties off to the house novice.

In this casserole, I’ve opted to use bison as my lean meat because bison are grass-fed and their meat is very nutrient-dense in proportion to the caloric value.

Another healthy choice is using quinoa elbow noodles instead of regular pasta. Quinoa pasta is higher in protein, fiber, calcium, iron and amino acids than regular pasta, and it’s also lower in sodium.

Finally, although the casserole is topped with cheddar cheese (Cheddar makes everything beddar, right?), the cheesy, creaminess inside comes from a mixture of diced tomatoes (any variety is fine, as long as there is no added salt) and light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese.

The combination of ingredients in this recipe give you the most nutrient-dense bang for your buck, without skimping on flavor. You’ve got your grain, your greens, lean protein and calcium, all in one yummy package.

Broccoli, bison, macaroni casserole

  • 12 oz ground bison
  • 8 oz frozen or fresh broccoli (pulsed in the food processor)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (drained) (added ingredients like basil, garlic, etc. are fine, but look for cans that read “no salt added”)
  • 1/2 tsp season salt (such as Tony Chachere’s)
  • 5 wedges of light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese
  • 1/2 box of Quinoa elbow noodles
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 400F. Boil water for pasta and cook according to box instructions. Spray a skillet with oil and cook bison. Add broccoli, tomatoes, season salt and laughing cow wedges. Cook until wedges are melted and add pasta. Mix well and pour into glass casserole dish. Top with grated cheddar and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook for another 2 minutes. Enjoy!


5 Meals to get you back into your pre-holiday jeans

Over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time cooking, and even more time eating.

What’s more?  It’s only the beginning of our holiday season eating extravaganza that ends with New Year’s resolutions meant to undo the damage.

That rattling in your closet is all of your buttons shaking in fear of what you intend to consume over the next month. 

I’m not going to ask you not to eat at parties or enjoy the many holiday treats that will surely show up at your home or office this season. Instead, I’m going to suggest some meal options for the days in-between the butter, cream cheese, sugar, mayonnaise, icing, eggnog-laden gatherings.

Below are five meals you can feel good about. Not only are these dinner ideas healthy and tasty, they are also easy. You’ve already slaved over a turkey. Now you’re off the hook for the rest of the year.

After the holidays, I will absolutely help you get back in shape even if you break every rule in my book; but, success will come sooner and easier if we can temper the damage on the front-end.

What’s for dinner?

1) Meatloaf (using oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs) with cauliflower mash instead of taters

For the meatloaf, use 1 lb of lean ground meat, 2/3 cup of oatmeal, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 drained can of diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of worcestershire and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Mix and bake at 350 for 40 mins, top with Heinz 57 and bake for an additional 10 mins.

For the cauliflower mash, steam or boil fresh or frozen cauliflower until tender, then process with your favorite mashed potato ingredients.

2) Lentil sauce over quinoa

Cook 1/2 lb of sausage or ground meat in a pot with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once the meat cooks, add 1 can of lentil soup and 1 can of Rotel. Heat through so some of the liquid evaporates, and serve over quinoa.

3) Taco salad

Cook ground meat with 1 tsp each of the following: chili powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic salt, cumin and red pepper. Add 1/2 cup of diced onion and cook until translucent. Serve over torn up lettuce and top with grated cheddar, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, a dollop of plain yogurt (greek is best because the flavor mimics sour cream) and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips.

4) Steak and salad with blue cheese dressing

Marinate steak in 2 Tbsp worcestershire, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp of orange or apple juice and 2 tsp pepper for at least 30 mins. Grill to desired doneness, and serve with romaine, diced red onion and a dressing made of the following: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tsp chopped onion, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, splash of red wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp of blue cheese – process till smooth and salt & pepper to taste.

5) Roasted chicken and veggies

Heat oven to 400F. Mix juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary or sage will work) and 1 tsp minced garlic. Baste chicken breasts, and use the rest to toss with vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, onion, fennel, sweet potato chunks, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.). Bake chicken and vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until done.


Recipe: Love fried rice? Try stir-fry quinoa

I love fried rice, but the sodium content and fat to carbohydrate ratio work against my waistline, so I’ve become the girl who always asks for steamed rice and then sneaks bites of fried goodness from my husband’s plate. Healthy attempt = Epic fail

Yesterday afternoon found me more tired than usual, and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I rummaged through our fridge and pantry for dinner options only to find we had a little of this and a little of that, but not a lot of anything. Such a predicament always means one of three things in our house: we’re having 1) omelets (throw everything in with eggs), 2) soup (throw everything in with broth) or, 3) stir-fry (just throw everything in).

Lo and behold (an idiom best said with a British accent), my evening mix-up turned into a healthier replacement for my long-lost indulgence, fried rice.

The nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture of quinoa in this recipe act more like fried rice without the need for a ton of oil – whereas sometimes rice gets too soft without it.

Feel free to play with this recipe in terms of what veggies you like (carrots, snow pea pods, and red peppers would be delicious, too). Keep in mind that I was working off of what I had on hand. The main things you’ll want to keep the same are the amount of quinoa, oil and soy sauce.

DO NOT add any salt or pepper to this recipe. Remember, we are trying to keep the sodium count as low as possible with respect to the fact that we are using some soy sauce. You don’t want to wake up all swollen and bloated wondering why you can’t get your rings on.

Quinoa Stir-Fry Recipe

  • 2 cups quinoa (cooked – so, 1 cup dry + 2 cups water, or according to package)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups of frozen peas
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro
  • Optional: sprinkle or red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds

In a large skillet/wok, cook chicken in oil over medium heat. Once you can no longer see any pink, throw in garlic, beans and onion. Cook for 3 mins, stirring frequently so as not to burn garlic. Add in frozen peas and cook for another 3 mins. Scoot ingredients to one side of the pan and add egg to the other side. Scramble egg and mix the ingredients together in the skillet. Stir in sesame oil and ginger. Next, add in quinoa and mix well. Add soy sauce and cilantro, and any other remaining ingredients (red pepper, seeds), stir well and serve hot.

I like to eat asian dishes with chopsticks because it forces me to eat more slowly, and because we own really cute chopsticks.


Recipe: You say potato, I say frittata

Man, do I love the incredible, edible egg?!

Eggs are nutritious, delicious, and cheap to buy. They are also easy to make in a bunch of different ways. The only suggestions I have are 1) don’t go crazy and start drinking raw eggs, and 2) use mostly whites to keep the cholesterol low.

If I have eggs in the fridge, I can make a meal.

When I was single, I had omelets for dinner all the time because they were fast and easy to make into whatever size meal I wanted. I still make them often for myself when my husband is deployed.

I’m not just cooking for me now, but I still use eggs as a main dinner ingredient often. I made a frittata last night, which was amazingly easy and yummy, and my husband’s response was, “Wow! This is fancy!” He doesn’t need to know I didn’t have to slave away in the kitchen.

“Yes, honey. It was hard, but it means so much to me to feed you a great dinner after you’ve worked so hard all day. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Oh, and could you please get me a glass of vino, do the dishes and rub my shoulders when you’re done eating?”

Throw some flour on your face and milk it!

Frittata Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices lean bacon cut into small pieces
  • 2 small red potatoes or one small sweet potato (diced, skin on)
  • Half small onion (sweet if you can get it) (diced)
  • Half a bag of arugula
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
  • s&p to taste

Heat oven to 350.

In an oven safe skillet, start to cook your bacon. Cook for 5 mins over medium heat, then add in potato and onion. Cook for about 8 mins (or until potatoes start to get soft) and add arugula.

You might notice that I didn’t mention oil, butter, or draining of bacon grease. The three slices of bacon should make a small enough amount of grease that 1) you shouldn’t have to drain it, and 2) you can use it instead of adding other oil/butter.

In a bowl, whisk 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites. Add cottage cheese, parmesan and agave to egg mixture.

Once all arugula has wilted, turn off the burner and pour the egg mixture over the skillet ingredients. Move skillet to the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until firm. If your dish will allow the heat, you can turn the oven to broil for the last 5 minutes to make the top toasty, but you don’t have to, and it’s not worth ruining a skillet just to make it a little prettier.

Serve next to toasted english muffins or a side salad and you’ve got a nutritious, high protein, low-fat meal!