Category Archives: Healthy

Mock-Caprese Goat Cheese Bruschetta

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Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer or snack, consisting of bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper. Outside of Italy, bruschetta has become a word used for toast topped with just about anything. The most popular is diced tomato with olive oil and mozzarella or other cheese.

Caprese salad, or “insalata Caprese” is another Italian antipasto, or appetizer. Created to resemble the colors of the Italian flag, red, white and green, it consists of thick slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves. Normally topped with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Since these are two of my favorite Italian appetizers, I decided to combine them into one delicious bite. However,  at the time I had no fresh mozzarella. Nor basil. Hence, the “mock-caprese”. However, you could use realistically any white cheese, and any fresh herb, and I’m sure it would be tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 1 thick slice farmhouse bread (or other whole wheat slice)
  • 1 fat, fresh Roma or beefsteak tomato
  • 2 tbsp garlic & chive goat cheese (or 1 thick slice mozzarella)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Step 1: Spread the goat cheese over the slice of bread, either with or without toasting it first.
Step 2: Slice the tomato into thick rings and put on top of the cheese.
Step 3: Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. If using fresh herbs, layer them on top now.

You could easily scale this up for a lovely party appetizer, or make as few as will satisfy a snacking crave.

Ramen Broccoli Slaw

 

A quick search of the web brings up literally thousands of possibilities for using Ramen noodles. That classic salty cardboard noodle we all know and love can be elevated so far beyond fake chicken broth.

This Ramen Broccoli slaw is a delightful side dish for any reason. Take it to a picnic, a house party, the big game next Sunday, a birthday, a holiday celebration. It is tart yet sweet, borderline healthy (but I won’t tell if you won’t) and sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Best of all, it takes just a few minutes to whip together, so you can make it the day or a few hours ahead, stick it in the fridge, and forget about it until it’s time to run out the door or set the table.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 bag or box broccoli slaw mix
    • You could make your own by shredding 1 head broccoli minus the crowns, and 1 large carrot
  • 1 pack Ramen noodles (save the seasoning for something else)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins or craisins
  • 1/4 cup diced strips red bell pepper
  • 1/2 bunch green onions

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Step 1: In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, and vinegar together. Crush the Ramen noodles up a bit and put them in the bowl. Stir well to coat.

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Step 2: Add the broccoli slaw, pepper, green onion, and raisins. Mix well and refrigerate at least one hour and up to overnight. The longer you let it sit, the softer the noddles are.

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Step 3: Just before serving, toss in the chopped nuts. Obviously you can omit this if there are any nut allergies or you just don’t like them.

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Versatile and simple, this humble side is extremely cheap (depending on what you add into it) and not too bad health-wise. Of course you can use homemade cabbage slaw, or whatever other diced/shredded veggies you have on hand.

 

Home-canned peaches

 

When I was a kid growing up, I remember all-day-long canning sessions at my grandmother’s house. We would get the whole family together for steamy, tomato-scented days of carrying bushels of fresh tomatoes down from the giant overgrown garden, slicing and dicing, pushing them through the enormous, older-than-my-mom tabletop canning device, squeezing out seeds, stems, juice, skins, pulp.

Pouring thick red liquid into piping-hot Bell canning jars, just out of the rolling, boiling water, screwing on the lids and popping them back into that steamy water bath. Placing them in rows upon rows along the kitchen table, and listening for the “pop” “pop” “pop” of lids being sealed.

Lining those jars, still warm from the boiling water, along the shelves of the basement pantry. Knowing that meant months later, in the dead of winter, we could have huge platters of pasta with sauce that taste like summertime, and know that I helped make that happen.

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That may sound quaint and overly-dramatic, but canning has always stuck with me and is something I desperately hope to continue into my adult life. I think our American lives of over-abundance and convenience takes a lot of the charm, knowledge, and wisdom out of feeding ourselves. We know nothing of how “food” is created, we just go to the grocery, pick out the boxes and cans, put them in the microwave and sit down in front of the TV to “eat” it.

I love the feeling of looking at something I personally created, start-to-finish, especially if it involves food I myself grew, picked, or somehow preserved. There is nothing like it. Sometime when your store has a sale on produce you like, give it a try and see for yourself.

Not only is home preserving fun and good for the soul, it is also good for the waist and pocketbook! Canning or freezing your own food lets you control what is put into it and avoid massive amounts of sodium, preservatives, colorants, etc. in commercially preserved foods. And though canning supplies may be a healthy chunk of change to begin with, you can re-use jars and rings nearly forever, with only new lids to buy each season.

Now, there are some dangers to home canning. Always read up on proper methods on how to can or otherwise preserve food so you and yours don’t end up sick. Take a look at the CDC article on avoiding botulism,  the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning article with tips and tricks, or Foodsafety.gov Home Canning advice.

This is my most recent adventure, when Colorado Palisade Peaches were at their prime. They are legendary for good reason, with such perfectly firm yet soft flesh and oodles of juice to drip down your chin. I of course ended up over-buying, and rather than commit the mortal sin of wasting produce, decided to can the excess.

You can use the outline of this recipe for just about any fruit, homemade salsa, or pre-cooked vegetables (like carrots, green beans, or beets). For more recipes specific to fruit types, head over to PickYourOwn.com, a wealth of home preservation tips. For tips on individual types of veggies, SimplyCanning.com has a whole library.

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Ingredients:

  • About 2 pounds peaches
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-5 canning jars, lids, and rings
  • Large pot
  • Optional: Tongs, Funnel, Pressure canner

Step 1: Cut the peaches into slices. It is up to you if you want to peel them or can with peels on. To peel them, boil for 5 minutes, then submerge in ice water. The peels should slide off. I left the peels on cause I’m lazy and I like the extra nutrition.

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Step 2: Mix the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir in the peach slices, and simmer 5-10 minutes.

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Step 3: While peaches are cooking, bring a huge pot of water to a boil with your jars, lids and rings inside. This sterilizes the jars. You can also run them through the dishwasher.

Step 4: After boiling the jars, use the tongs to pour the water out of them. Fill the jars with the peaches, using a spatula to press them down and squish in the edges. Leave 1/4-1/2 inch space, and put the lids on.

Step 5: Put the jars back into the boiling water, and process for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the jars are fully submerged. This will help kill any microbes, and seal the jars.

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Step 6: Use the tongs to remove the jars, and place on a towel or hard surface to cool. Don’t disturb the jars for 6-12 hours, or until you hear the “pop” sound of the lid sealing. If after overnight cooling any jars have not sealed (the lid won’t be sucked in, and sort of springy when you push on it) put those jars in the refrigerator and use within one month.

It is normal for some canned fruit to change color slightly over time. But if you notice extreme discoloration, a bright red, or green color, get rid of that food immediately!

Jars processed this way should be stored in cool, dark, dry areas and are good for quite a long time. If properly processed, they are theoretically good forever. But I doubt they will last that long! 😉

Happy canning!

One pot chicken pasta

 

As any home cook knows, the best recipes are the ones that combine as many of the following characteristics as possible:

  • Delicious – the family will eat it
  • Fast – not too much prep or cook time
  • Cheap – won’t break the budget
  • Easy cleanup – because who likes dishes?
  • Healthy – because duh

Luckily for you, this recipe combines all those things! In one pan, in under 30 minutes, using frozen, canned, and pantry items, you can have a family-pleasing, heart-healthy, budget and waistline friendly meal on the table.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large frozen chicken breasts (or thawed)
  • 2/3 cup lentils (or other bean if canned)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 cup chopped veggies and/or fresh spinach
  • Seasonings of choice – I used garlic salt and some dried onion

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Step 1: In a pan, combine the lentils, water, tomatoes, and chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered. Cook for 10-15 minutes and turn chicken.

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Step 2: Add the pasta (and more water if you need it) and bring back to a boil. Simmer covered another 7-8 minutes.

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Step 3: Add in any fresh chopped veggies for the final 5 minutes or so of cooking.

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The spinach I threw in last. You could also make this in a crock pot on low for several hours. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked (cut into it and be sure there is no pink) before serving.

If you want to turn this into a soup, you could do so easily by adding more water. If you want a thicker sauce, let boil uncovered a few minutes to thicken.

Less than 5: Quick Miso Soup

 

I am a huge fan of most all Japanese foods, especially sushi. As evidenced from my ill-fated attempts at Salmon Nigiri and Lazy Won-Ton Soup, I am by no means a Japanese chef. But I do try, so I feel like I get some credit for that.

This is my super fast and easy imitation miso soup. Keep in mind I had no miso paste, which kinda makes the soup… so if you do, add that! If not, this is sort of close. You will need some specialized ingredients, but honestly most common grocery stores like King Soopers are now carrying similar items in their “ethnic” section.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 tbsp duck paste (you can use chicken bouillon too)
  • 2-3 sheets seaweed
  • 1/2 block tofu
  • Optional: 1 pack ramen noodles

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Step 1: Slice the tofu into small squares. Cut the seaweed into strips. Slice all the green part of the scallions diagonally.

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Step 2: Bring the water to a boil and stir in the duck paste or chicken bouillon. Add the scallions, seaweed, and tofu. And that’s it!

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This soup is delightfully salty and packs a heavy umami punch.

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Add some glass or ramen noodles for extra filling power. You can have this soup as an appetizer, part of a light lunch, or as a whole meal. Quite healthy, if you’re ok with a high-ish sodium content… you can omit the bouillon but the taste will suffer.

Acorn Squash Mac-n-cheese

This is a recipe similar to one I have shared earlier on how to make Butternut Squash Mac-n-cheese. You could probably substitute in any winter squash you have on hand for the sauce. The acorn squash here gives it a subtly sweet flavor, and packs in TONS of fiber and extra vitamins. Try adding some squash to your mac n cheese, I bet the kids won’t even know!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 acorn squash
  • 1 box macaroni and cheese
  • 1 cup spinach

Step 1: Cut the acorn squash in half and roast, cut sides down, on a pan with 1 inch of water at 350 for 1-1.5 hours. Or you can microwave, cut side down, on high for 10 minutes, flip and 10 more minutes.

Step 2: Use a fork or spoon to pull the flesh out of the cooked sqash and mash it or put through a blender.

Step 3: Make your macaroni, and in the last minute of boiling add the spinach. Drain and add the cheese sauce.

Step 4: Stir in the squash, top with an extra sprinkle of cheese or breadcrumbs if you like, and serve!

Barley & Kale Veggie Salad

 

Fall is the time for bumper crops of kale. As the current “It” vegetable, we know all about how healthy kale is for you. But even though kale chips are amazing, sauteed kale in greens makes a great side dish, and Zuppa Toscana is a definite crowd-pleasing soup, sometimes you need a new way to enjoy this power green. If you like light, fresh, great-cold-or-room-temp dishes, this baby’s a winner!

I’ve been meaning to try more grain and veggie salads, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Kale is on sale for 0.99 per bunch, organic! You can’t pass up that kind of deal. So with a fridge full of kale and a hankering for something new, I made up this recipe. It turned out fabulous! The combination of tomato and cucumber and onion crunch with the soft cooked barley and fresh kale leaves is really addicting.

The best part about it? It makes a crap-ton, and per 2 cups is under 100 calories! So you can stuff yourself on this all you like and feel good about it. Have it for lunch, as an afternoon snack, before dinner to dull the appetite. There really isn’t a bad time for this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, torn and stems removed
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cucumber, rinsed, skin-on, diced
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

Step 1: Cook the barley in 1 1/2 cups water by bringing to a boil, then lowering to a simmer. Cover, and cook 20-30 minutes, until all water is absorbed and barley is soft. Add more water if needed during cooking. Let cool.

 

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Step 2: Chop all your veggies and place in a large bowl. Mix the oil and vinegars, and salt & pepper if using. Pour over the veggies.

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Step 3: Combine the cooled barley with the veggies and mix well. Now you have a giant side dish, snacks all week, or a super healthy and vegetarian main course.

 

Fresh garden salsa

 

Salsa is a beloved condiment in many cultures. The ingredients can vary widely, but basically always contains tomatoes and chilies of some sort. “Salsa” is the Spanish word for sauce, and may come in many forms such as pureed until smooth, a combination of smooth and chunky, or the uniformly diced pico de gallo.

Salsa can be wickedly spicy to light and fruity. See Wikipedia for a long list of salsa types. Basically any fresh fruit and/or vegetable, diced or blended, with or without fresh herbs, can be called a salsa.

Fresh salsa right out of the garden, just lightly diced, is my favorite kind. I like to see the chunks of what I’m eating in bright technicolor on my tortilla chip. This salsa is amazing on its own, or you could spoon it over fresh white fish fillets, onto tacos, or into a soup with rice, beans & diced chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry or pear tomatoes
  • 2-10 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Handful fresh chives, chopped
  • 4-5 tbsp lime juice, or juice of 2 fresh limes
  • Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Dice up all your tomatoes and onions. This part takes a little time, but is well worth it. It is up to you how big to dice, or you can puree part of the tomatoes or all of them. Totally up to you.

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Step 2: In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, herbs, and lime juice. That’s really all there is to it!

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This salsa is wonderfully fresh and vibrantly colored. It is super healthy for you, so throw it into everything, or just eat spoonfuls!

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Rainbow burrito

 

Burritos are one of my favorite ways to sneak in extra vegetables. Because you can’t really see them, you can put all kinds of rainbow goodies in there and help your heart and health with little effort.

Obviously, sub in 1 cup of whatever veggies you have on hand. This is what I had, and it made a pretty breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 strips red bell pepper
  • 1 slice turkey bacon
  • 1-2 strips orange bell pepper
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1-2 strips green bell pepper
  • 2 med purple cauliflower florets
  • 1 10 inch tortilla

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Step 1: In a frying pan, saute the veggies until soft when poked with a fork.

Step 2: Add the eggs, and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring every so often, until everything is cooked.

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Step 3: Pour it onto a warm tortilla and wrap it up, tucking in the ends. You can add in sriracha or other sauces if you like. Enjoy!

Stuffed cabbage casserole – SNAP meal

 

This is the last of my posts of meals I made while doing the SNAP Challenge. You can look back to see recipes for Vegan Stuffed Green Bell Peppers, Turkey BLT, Turkey Frittata, and many more meal ideas. All these meals were made with about $28 for one week.

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time. One grandmother is Slovak & Hungarian and my other is Slovak & Polish, so this is a classic in my family. Usually made with ground beef, they can also be stuffed. I am usually too lazy to take the large amount of time to boil the cabbage until the leaves are soft, cool them down, carefully roll each little package, then cook.

I figure you’re just gonna cut them up into mush anyways. And I have still never figured out just what makes my grandmother’s cabbage rolls so mind-blowingly addicting. Maybe with a few decades more practice…

This recipe substitutes lentils for the ground beef, because let’s face it lentils are about $3 cheaper per pound. Everything else is pretty much the same. I also used turkey bacon rather than regular pork bacon because 1. it was on sale, and 2. it is healthier for your heart. All around, this meal is super cheap and also very healthy.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils, cooked
  • 1 cup rice, cooked
  • 1/2 small head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 1-2 cans tomato sauce (some people use 1 sauce and 1 paste)
  • 5 slices turkey bacon
  • Garlic salt to taste

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I made this in a crock pot on low for 6 hours, you can use a baking pan in the oven for 1 1/2 hours if you prefer.

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Step 1: Layer the sliced cabbage, lentils, rice, bacon and sauce. Sprinkle in as much garlic salt as you like. Top with some extra sauce and/or water and remaining cabbage.

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Step 2: Bake on low in a slow cooker for 4-6 hours, or at 350 in an oven for 90 minutes.

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This makes a HUGE batch, so be prepared to either freeze individual portions for later or feed a lot of people at once. Or just eat it five days in a row…

This entire pot of casserole, cost $1.76. I kid you not. I ended up with about six servings, making each serving $0.29.  Can’t really beat that.

 

 

**UPDATE: The SNAP Challenge is complete, with many lessons learned! All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below: