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: Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

This recipe combines sweet-heat with some cool lime yogurt and peppery greens. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Although, unlike some parties, this one won’t leave you with a hangover. Low fat, low carb, high fiber, high protein, lots of vitamins and even some calcium means you can feel good enjoying every bite.

 

Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pineapple chunks in 100% juice
  • 1 can crushed pineapple in 100% juice
  • 2 stalks of scallions chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 de-seeded habanero / 1 de-seeded jalapeno / 1/2 tsp cayenne (choose your heat)
  • 4 bone in pork chops
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt
  • bag/bunch of arugula
Instructions:
In food processor, pulse crushed pineapple, scallions, thyme, garlic, allspice, and habanero/jalapeno/cayenne. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour canned pineapple chunks (with juice) into a 9×13 glass baking dish, add pork chops and top with mixture from processor. Cover and marinate for 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 375/190. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Turn off oven, but don’t remove for 5-10 minutes. Use that time to finish your plate prep as directed below, then take it out.
In a small bowl, mix yogurt, lime juice and agave/honey.
To each large salad/pasta bowl (or on a dinner plate) add a handful of arugula, 1/4 of the black beans and 1/4 of the yogurt mixture. Top with one pork chop and some pineapple chunks. Enjoy!

Recipe: Tropical Summer Salad, Grilled Chicken and Veggies, and Spicy Chocolate Cake

What’s great about this meal? Aside from perfectly highlighting the amazing flavors of the season, your body gets tons of fruit, veggies, protein and fiber, it’s really tough to screw up, and the marinade adds enough flavor that you don’t need any sauce (read “added calories”) to enhance the flavor.

The portions below are for a 4 person meal, although the cake should stretch farther ;-). The entire meal takes about 45 mins; 15 to prep, 30 to cook – not counting the time the chicken is marinating.

Recipe #1: Chicken + Marinade

  • Gallon-size ziploc
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Blood orange juice – about 2 cups/enough to cover chicken when combined with other marinade ingredients
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 tsps Chipotle Tabasco.

Combine liquid ingredients and add to ziploc with chicken breasts. Marinate for at least 1 hour. We also marinated two portabello mushrooms since my sister-in-law is a vegetarian, and they came out yummy, too.

To cook: Preheat grill and cook chicken for about 12-15 minutes (depending on how large your breasts are…hee hee) on each side over medium heat. Let sit for 5 minutes after you take it off the grill.

Recipe #2: Grill Wok Vegetables

  • Grill wok
  • 2 large red peppers quartered
  • 1 pineapple halved and sliced
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • 1 Tbsp EVOO

Toss fruit and vegetables with olive oil and grill at medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently so everything is exposed to the grill flame.

Recipe #3: Tropical Summer Salad

  • Head of Romaine Lettuce chopped/torn
  • 1/2 English Cucumber chopped
  • 1 Mango chopped
  • 2 Tbsps EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 1/2 tsps chili powder
  • Juice of 2 limes.

Combine oil, honey, lime juice and chili powder. Toss with lettuce, cucumber and mango, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

I recommend eating all of your grilled ingredients together (hello, party in your mouth) alongside the salad.

Recipe #4: Spicy Chocolate Cake

  • I pkg Gluten-free chocolate cake mix (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2/3 cup of natural, no-sugar added applesauce
  • one egg
  • 1/4 cup of vanilla soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Mix cake mix, applesauce, egg and soy milk and pour into lightly greased brownie/cake pan. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp cayenne and 1/2 tsp chili powder on top, drizzle with 1 Tbsp of honey. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

*If you can get your hands on a can of pumpkin – not the pie filling kind – you can mix that with the cake mix instead of the applesauce, egg and soy milk. It’s harder to find out of season, but it’s a great way to add fiber and serve up a really moist dessert.