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: Aromatic Pork Loin, Northern Beans, and… Jello

What could be better than a great meal of protein and fiber, followed by a dessert you won’t regret eating?
I ran across a rub recently that called for zest and fennel seed and, because I normally reach for garlic and herbs, I was excited to try out something different. You can never go wrong with a pork loin – they’ll always come out tender, and leftovers make for great sandwiches, so I decided it would be my test subject. I’m also on a bean kick right now, and I wanted a meal that would all end up in one dish, thus the beans going in with the loin.
The dessert portion of this recipe came to me after I made the rub. I was staring at a juicy orange that had just been stripped, but I wasn’t hungry enough at the time to chow down. Not wanting to waste it, I looked for another way to use it. I had a box of lemon jello mix in the pantry and 1/2 cup of leftover coconut milk in the fridge, so I decided to put them altogether. I like cream and citrus together, so I liked my odds.
In the end, the meal turned out great, and I felt great after eating it. What more could a person ask for?
Ideally, you should marinate your pork and make the jello at the same time. That way, they’re both ready to go when you’re ready to put together your meal.
Pork Loin with Zest-Fennel Rub and White Beans
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seed
  • 3 garlic cloves – minced
  • zest of one orange (save the insides for your jello)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pork loin (the one I used was just under 2 lbs)
  • 2 cans of northern beans
  • juice of one lemon
Rub your pork loin with salt and pepper. Work the first 5 ingredients into a paste and rub all over the pork loin. Cover and marinate for at least 3-5 hours. Preheat oven to 400. Combine beans and lemon juice, and set aside. Bake pork for 30 minutes, remove from oven, add beans to the same pan/dish and stir around so that some of the juices mingle with the beans. Return to oven for another 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes once done. Serve hot and enjoy!
Alternatively, you could cook the pork loin in a crockpot and add the beans just before serving.
Not Bill Cosby’s Jello
  • Pulp from orange you zested for the pork (I used blood orange, but they’re more easy to come by in Italy)
  • 1 package of sugar-free lemon jello mix
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups of cold water
Combine coconut milk with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add jello mix and stir until dissolved. Add 1 cup of cold water. Spread pulp in jello mold dish. Pour jello mixture over the pulp. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours so it has plenty of time to solidify.

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!

 


Recipe: When life gives you lemons, pick up some chicken and broccoli

When life gives you lemons, I definitely want you to make them into something yummy that isn’t sour, but lemonade is a bit high in sugar. Can we compromise on your optimistic response to the lemons with a delicious, healthy dinner instead?

Lemons actually have a lot to offer, so technically, if life gives you lemons, you should say “thank you”, because they’re a positive in their own right.

Lemons are great for normalizing blood pressure, body temperature and tissue inflammation, regulating the body’s water balance, cleansing your other organs (including your epidermis), easing digestion, boosting immunity, repelling insects, and they are also a nondairy source of calcium.

Below is a recipe I made over the weekend after picking up some fresh lemons at a market. As convenient as it is that seasoning companies make lemon flavored blends, the blends are nothing compared to the taste fresh lemon juice and zest add to a dish.

Ain’t nothin like the real thing baby. Ain’t nothin like the real thing. Turn on some groovy music (yes, it’s 2011 and I say “groovy”) and get to cooking.

Lemon-Garlic-Herb Chicken and Broccoli Recipe

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian herbs
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • s&p to taste

Instructions:

Marinate chicken in juice and zest of one lemon, 2 tsp minced garlic, 1Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp Italian herbs for at least 2 hours. Grill 10-12 mins on each side at med-low heat.

Cook quinoa in water as instructed on the package.

Heat butter, remaining 1 tsp of garlic and juice of one lemon in a skillet. Add broccoli and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until liquid evaporates. Add quinoa, feta and a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Serve with chicken.

Enjoy your dinner knowing that you’re getting your greens, grains, protein, fiber, vitamin C and calcium in a delicious, low fat meal you can feel good about.