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: 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: Apple, Coconut Curry

My mother and I just finished eating our way from Naples, Italy up into Paris, France over the course of the past two weeks. Although I loved every bite of my chocolate filled croissants, crepes, pizza, pasta, foie gras, escargot, creme brulee, etc., I was itching to get back into my kitchen by the end of it.

Any neighboring passengers on my flight home could have seen me napping with a dreamy grin on my face. Perhaps they thought I was dreaming of romance and unicorns, but I was actually imagining what I would cook first – that and getting to see and feed my husband.

I show love by feeding people, I really love my husband, and he and I both love curry dishes with coconut milk. While soaring high above the clouds, I decided I would make our favorite curry dish recipe to welcome us both back home.

As with most of our favorite dishes (hello, pancakes), the first time was not the charm for curry. I tried using the little melting blocks you can get at the store, but they have a ridiculous amount of sodium in them, so I moved on to playing around mixing different flavors and seasoning blends. Try; try again, and eventually you taste what you know wins the ribbon.

The recipe below uses chicken broth and coconut milk rather than oil or butter. It’s low in sodium with a little spice to kick up your metabolism, and it incorporates fruit, veggies and protein, so it will fill you up and hold you for a long time.

I like a bit of sweet mixed in with my savory dishes. The apple, basil and coconut milk give an aromatic sweetness to the entire dish, while the golden raisins give a sweet surprise when you bite into them.

I mentioned the dish having spice, but it is not hot. Other ingredients cool it down, so I would only call it “warm.” If you aren’t into spice, omit the creole seasoning. Although the madras curry powder is labeled as being hot, it is not the spicy culprit in this dish.

The trip with my mom was priceless, but it’s good to be home.

Just as the flavors of this dish intermingle, we intermingle, and it all combines so that even Goldilocks would call it “just right.”

Apple, Coconut Curry

Serves 2 football players, or 3 normal adults – to get to 4 servings, add another chicken breast and up everything else by 1/4

  • 3/4 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 Chicken breasts – cut into strips/diced/cubed, depending on your preference
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
  • Couple handfuls of spinach (can also use about 1/3 bag of frozen)
  • 1 tsp of creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s)
  • 1 Tbsp of dried basil (fresh would be even better)
  • 1 tsp of ginger
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 2 tsps of regular curry powder
  • 2 Tbsps of hot madras curry powder
  • 1/2 can coconut milk

Partially cook the chicken in the broth, then add everything except for the coconut milk. Stir frequently over medium heat until there is almost no liquid remaining. Add the coconut milk and serve over quinoa or brown rice.

Buon appetito; Bon appetit; and welcome home.


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.