Category Archives: Healthy

Stuffed Bell Peppers – SNAP meal

 

This is the first dinner I cooked during my week of the SNAP Challenge. I love stuffed bell peppers, and I usually make them with ground beef. Though I have had some success with vegetarian stuffed peppers in the past.

Given the already high and rising cost of meat, I knew I’d have to take a vegetarian route to keep these in budget. Swapping in lentils for the beef keeps this recipe high in protein content, and lowers the fat, while keeping the core tastes and hunger-crushing properties of the meal intact.

Ingredients:

  • 2 green bell peppers (use any color)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/3 cup lentils
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: If you have a rice cooker, you can cook the lentils and rice together in it. If not, simmer the rice and lentils in a sauce pot with 2 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes.

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Step 2: Mix the cooked rice and lentils with the can of tomato sauce.

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Step 3: Cut the top off the pepper and pull out the seeds. Stuff the mixture inside, adding as much garlic salt as you like.

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Step 4: Bake the peppers in an oven at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until soft. Alternatively you could microwave each pepper, covered, for 8-10 minutes to soften. Another option is to put the stuffed peppers in a crock pot on low for 1-2 hours.

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Serve as a meal, or with a baked potato or salad on the side.

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I ended up eating one pepper for dinner, and the other for lunch the next day. They are quite filling, and delicious! Pretty healthy for you as well. Vegan, vegetarian, and you can make it gluten-free if you substitute in quinoa or another gluten-free grain for the rice.

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For approximately $0.84 per serving, you can’t do much better!

 

 

**UPDATE: All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

Better than take-out Beef & Broccoli

 

Ever want the addictive taste of Chinese take-out, but not want the MSG, additives, preservatives, sugar, salt, and calories??

The answer of course is, duh! Yes!

Good news! Making your own Beef & Broccoli at home is super simple, cheap, and nearly as fast as dialing and waiting for delivery. Try this easy weeknight favorite for yourself, and save the tip for a treat for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef cubes (can use chicken or tofu too)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli cuts (or 1 head fresh broccoli chopped)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Dash garlic
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, or 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp sriracha, or to taste

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Step 1: Mix all but first three ingredients in a small bowl. If you have time, marinate the meat for 1-6 hours in refrigerator.

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Step 2: Cook the beef in a frying pan 5-10 minutes until browned but not completely chewy. Meanwhile, use a sauce pot to boil rice, or a rice cooker.

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Step 3: Add the sauce to the meat. Microwave the broccoli 3 minutes, or cook in the frying pan, covered, for 5-7 minutes.

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Step 4: Mix beef and broccoli, serve over rice with extra sauce.

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You can add cornstarch or a little flour if you like a thicker sauce, or add more water/fish sauce/vinegar for a thinner sauce. I added a little extra sriracha with servings because I like a little kick! Enjoy never having to stop for take-out again.

 

Vegan vegetable stew

 

This is a recipe born of necessity while house-sitting for a friend. I was feeding and playing with the puppy, and got hungry. She had said I can use anything in the house, so I took stock of the pantry and fridge and came up with this.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup orange lentils
  • 1/2 purple cabbage, shredded
  •  2 leaves kale, shredded
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 cup rice

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Step 1:Dice all the veggies. Put into a pot with 2 cups of water and the coconut milk. Stir in mustard.

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Step 2: Simmer, covered, for 60-90 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice in a separate pot.

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Step 3: When lentils are fully cooked, season as you like. Serve over rice.

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This curry is crazy healthy for you and you wouldn’t know by how delicious it is! There are infinite additions you could make too, such as using broth with the coconut milk, adding in shredded chicken or sausage, or varying the type of vegetable or bean. You could also make this in a small crock pot on low for 2-3 hours. Enjoy!

One-dish Enchilada Casserole

 

This recipe inspiration came from one of the several food magazines I regularly read. I absolutely love easy, one-dish recipes, especially if they look like you took hours to plan and create this masterpiece, but in reality all you had to do was creatively layer several ingredients and give it some time.

Mexican food is a great place to start for simple yet flavor-packed recipes. Pretty much anything involving beans, rice, and veggies will end up becoming a hit, and there are literally thousands of ways to get creative and make dishes your own. You can customize everything from the spices to the meat or lack thereof to the type and amount of vegetable and carb.

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For this recipe, I had chicken breast in the freezer, as well as some corn, and canned necessities (beans and diced tomatoes) coupled with a few fresh ingredients like avocado and shredded cheese, and we got ourselves a multi-layered chicken enchilada casserole!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies or 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup guacamole or 1 mashed avocado
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine
  • 2 tortillas (flour or corn, 10 or 12 inch)

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Step 1: In a skillet, cook the onion, corn, peppers, and cumin in butter until all vegetables are soft and corn is lightly charred, about 5 minutes.

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Step 2: In the same or a different skillet, cook the diced chicken until completely white and hot throughout.

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Step 3: In a large round pie pan, cover with aluminum foil and place a tortilla on the bottom of the pan. Spoon on half of the cooked chicken, and then half of the veggie mixture. It is super easy to make this vegetarian by leaving out the chicken, or you can switch it up with flank steak or chorizo.

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Step 4: Spread on half of the drained diced tomatoes with chili and/or salsa.

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Step 5: Sprinkle on half the can of drained beans.

 

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Step 6: Spread on half of the guacamole, or sprinkle around slices or chunks of avocado.

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Step 7: Put down another tortilla, and repeat the layers. Top it all off with a hearty sprinkle of shredded cheese.

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Step 8: Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and browned on top.

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Then simply slice up your casserole into as big a slice as you want, and enjoy!

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This is an amazing flavor combination, and the tortilla layers hold it together mostly well. You can add a third, top layer of tortilla, or just do one layer of filling like a pot pie. Feel free to layer it in whatever order you want, and change around the ingredients to suit your tastes. Hope you like it!

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It’s fragrant, delicious, brightly colored, and has SO many vegetables packed into one serving, yet even kids and picky eaters will likely go back for seconds!

Jambalaya

 

Jambalaya is a Creole dish originally from Louisiana. It’s creation was a combination of French and Spanish influences in the deep South of America, and is closely related to the Spanish paella.

The basis of any Jambalaya is meat(s), vegetables, and rice simmered in some sort of stock. Some versions of Jambalaya add tomatoes for “red Jambalaya”, while others do not and rely on meat drippings for a brownish color. The accepted classic version cooks meat, typically chicken, sausage, and/or shrimp with celery, onions, and bell peppers. Then tomatoes and possibly other vegetables are added, and finally equal parts rice and chicken stock, and simmered until cooked.

According to Wikipedia, “Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.”

This dish is absurdly simple to cook, you just need to have the right ingredients and the patience to let them cook slowly so the flavors can develop and meld. I had bought some chicken breast and shrimp on sale, and had two sausages in the freezer, so of course Jambalaya was just begging to be made. It is possible to make a vegetarian Jambalaya, and you can include only one or two of the meats, or any other kind you prefer; the basic recipe and method is the same.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sausages, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup shrimp, deveined
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 2 tbsp Cajun/creole spices if you have it
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

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Step 1: Dice up the celery, peppers, and onion and put in a pot with a few tbsp butter. Saute until soft.

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Step 2: Add in the meats, cover and let cook until the shrimp is fully pink, the sausage is browned, and the chicken is completely white.

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Step 3: Add in spices and canned tomatoes, simmer covered for 5-10 minutes.

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Step 4: Add 1 cup raw rice and 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. When the rice is cooked, it’s ready.

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Jambalaya is a filling, delicious meal with complex flavors from all the various vegetables and meats cooking together.

You can shorten cook time by cooking the rice separately and pouring the red jambalaya over the rice. This dish can also be made in a slow cooker to save you time. Just add all the ingredients, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The end result should be similar.

Apple Mango Muffins

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Muffins are an awesome breakfast and snack food, when you make them yourself. The problem with most store-bought muffins is that they add in preservatives to keep them fresh far longer than is normal, tons of sugar to make them tasty and your body crave it, and other crappy additives and chemicals to fool your brain and tongue into loving them and wanting more.
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As I wrote in my vegetable scraps article and all about juicing, fruit and vegetables peels and scraps can sometimes be worked into muffin recipes to make them more nutritious and fiber-full, as well as help reduce food waste. This does depend on the type of scraps you have, so use common sense. If you juice a cucumber, grapefruit, tomato, and celery, that would likely make some weird-tasting muffins. But if you juice all fruit, save that pulp for this recipe.
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Ingredients:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavor
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup fruit pulp – (in this case apple and mangoes which I juiced)

Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients (milk, eggs, vanilla, butter, fruit) and mix. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder). Pour the wet into the dry and mix well.

Step 2: Line 2 muffin pans with paper or spray with cooking oil. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup. You can see I also sprinkled a little extra brown sugar on top.
Step 3: Bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until fully fluffed and golden brown.
Step 4: Remove and let cool.
Now you have fresh baked muffins to enjoy! You can freeze these for easy on-the-go breakfasts and snacks throughout the week. The flavor can be whatever you want to add, get creative and try different combinations of fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

Lean Green Guacamole

 

Not going to lie, I absolutely LOVE avocados. I think they make just about anything better, including all kinds of Mexican food, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and dips. Never would I turn down guacamole. Especially Chipotle’s… there’s magic in there, and maybe some crack.

So when I read a recipe on Sparkpeople for guacamole involving extra healthy green stuff, I had to try it out!

This recipe adds in the goodness of greens and cucumber to add extra vitamins and bulk. It also decreases how much fat you eat per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: Dice up your veggies, peel and pit the avocado. Use a knife to cut all the way around it, then twist to separate halves. Pull out the pit by running a spoon along it and then pop it out.

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Step 2: Combine in a blender all ingredients. Save 1/2 of one avocado if you like extra chunks, and wait to add diced onion if you like the crunch bites. I just blended all of it together into one creamy mess.

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Step 3: Try really hard to keep yourself from eating the whole bowl!

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This stuff is so delicious. I found it a little bit watery, probably because the cucumber I used was getting old. The cucumber does give it a bit of a fresher taste, so don’t be alarmed. Add as much lemon or lime juice as you like. You could use fresh garlic cloves in place of garlic salt if you have it.

If you follow the recipe from Sparkpeople exactly, here’s the Nutrition Info breakdown:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 76.4
  • Total Fat: 6.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 143.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 4.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
  • Protein: 1.0 g

Creative leftovers: Cottage cheese & broccoli pasta

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We all know the feeling: it’s time for dinner or you need to pack a lunch, but you don’t know what to make and have little to no time. Rather than caving and just buying a pizza or going through the drive-through, try this simple recipe. With less than 5 ingredients (3, in fact) and requiring little time (as long as it takes for pasta to boil) it is a tasty time-saver.
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The ingredients are also something you are likely to have. Especially if you make pasta, make just a little more than you need for that meal, and keep the rest in the refrigerator. Pasta is very versatile in terms of just adding in a few other ingredients for a different, complete meal later.
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Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
Step 1: Boil 3/4 cup pasta in 1 1/2 cups water, lightly salted if you want. Add the broccoli after 5 minutes, and let boil another 5 minutes. Drain.
Step 2: Mix the drained pasta and broccoli in with the cottage cheese. And that’s it!
This shows you how very simple eating vegetarian can be. It is extremely frugal as well. Frozen broccoli often is on sale for $1 per bag or less, and you only need 1 cup. Pasta is a cheap staple, and the cottage cheese is an affordable protein. This meal is all-around healthy, frugal, and tasty.
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You can of course add to it, such as cooked shredded chicken, ham cubes, shredded cheddar cheese, or drained and rinsed canned beans. Make it your own and save a few bucks a day by not going out for lunches or save hassle with this quick dinner.

Rice is Nice: 15 Recipes for Rice

 

According to Wikipedia (which we all know is the single most accurate and respected source of information in this era) “Genetic evidence has shown that rice originates from a single domestication 8,200–13,500 years ago[4] in the Pearl River valley region of China.[5] ” So rice has been around, domesticated by people, for at LEAST 8000 years! Rice was spread to Europe through West Asia, then to the Americas by European colonization.

Today, rice is the most important grain in regards to human nutrition, beating out both wheat and corn, as it supplies nearly 1/5 the calorie intake worldwide. One-fifth of all calories eaten anywhere in the world comes from rice. Wow.

And I can certainly see why. Rice is delicious as a side dish and endlessly versatile. It is able to grow in many different climates, in large amounts. Literally any vegetable cooked up and mixed with rice is great, it complements all meats, and you can pour nearly any sauce over it with great results.

It’s awesome in soup, burritos, as a side or main dish, sushi, dessert (rice pudding anyone?), heck on its own with some soy sauce as a snack. Rice can also be ground into flour and used in bread, baking, or as a thickener. Rice paper, noodles, and wrappers are staples in Asian cuisines as well.

Ways to prepare rice

To cook rice, it is typically boiled or steamed to cause it to absorb water. This can be done rapidly in a large amount of water which is then drained off, or more slowly in an amount of water similar to the amount of rice. Once cooked, the rice can be further processed by frying in oil to make fried rice.

Soaking rice before cooking may improve cooked texture, decrease cooking time, conserve fuel, minimize exposure to high temperature, and reduce stickiness.

Electric rice cookers are also very popular in Asian countries and increasingly so in the US. This is one of my favorite ways to make rice; you simply add 2x the amount of water (ex: 1 cup rice + 2 cups water) and flip the switch. You can do whatever else you need to do, and 40 minutes later your rice is ready!

Rice Cooker

White vs. Brown rice

Rice grains with the chaff removed is what we know as brown rice, and it has the bran and germ still attached. When you remove the germ, you get white rice. If you remove every layer, you have “Musenmai”, a Japanese style of rice, ready to boil.

According to the USA Rice Federation, rice contains no trans fats or saturated fats, no sodium or cholesterol. It is also a staple for those with celiac disease because of the lack of gluten. In 2004 the U.N. declared the International Year of Rice, in an effort to promote awareness of how important a crop rice is and its role in alleviating poverty and malnutrition worldwide.

Vitamin A deficiency is a very real health concern in nations which get the majority of their calories from rice. Research into how to make rice more nutritious led to “Golden Rice“. This rice is genetically engineered to contain the precursor for Vitamin A, beta-carotene. The beta-carotene turns the rice yellowish gold, hence the name.

I recently had a friend tell me that she wished she knew more things to make with rice, because she knows rice is delicious and good for you. So this post is inspired by her, to inspire all you home cooks out there with some Jasmine, wild, or brown rice, and confusion as to what to do with it tonight.

 

SIDE DISHES

Rice is an excellent side dish, and I’m sure you know many more possibilities than this list, but here are some rice sides ideas.

cream of mushroom soup over rice

1. Cream of Mushroom rice: Boil a batch of rice. For extra oomph, use half milk when preparing the rice. Open a can of cream of mushroom soup, and pour over, mix into rice, season with salt & pepper, and serve.

2. Mexican Rice: Prepare 1-2 cups rice, mixing in 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies in place of 1 cup water. Add 1/2 cup corn, and/or 1/2 cup black beans. Serve.

3. Burritos: Rice is a perfect addition to most Mexican dishes. Take a tortilla, fill it with meat (if you want), beans of any kind, cooked veggies, and warm fresh rice. Wrap up and scarf down.

4. Risotto: In a pan, melt 4 tbsp butter. Add 1 cup raw rice, and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Heat to medium, just a simmer, and stir. As stock evaporates, continue adding more in 1/4 cup increments, until you add 1 1/2 cups. After 30-40 minutes, the rice will be soft and risotto-like. Add vegetables while cooking if desired. You can also use cream.

5. Cilantro-Lime Rice: Prepare 1-2 cups rice. When fully cooked, add in 2 tbsp sea salt, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 3 tbsp chopped cilantro. Mix well and serve.

cilantro lime rice

Or, whip up a batch of plain white rice as a base for:

MAIN DISHES

Rice can be included with other items to make a hearty, nutrient-dense main dish. Here are some ideas.

6. Chicken & Rice Soup: in a large pot, combine a few pounds of chicken (bone-in is best for the flavor), a cup or two of diced veggies, a can of beans, and a cup of rice with just enough water to cover with an inch or two. Simmer 30-60 minutes and enjoy.

7. Fried rice: Fried rice is super simple, and you can make it into anything. Add veggies & an egg for a vegetarian version, or mix in some chicken, pork, or steak strips.

8. Red Beans & Rice: Cook up a batch of white rice, add Cajun seasonings and sausage if you like, and one can of red beans. Frugal, filling, and delicious.

9. Bean & rice burgers: In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cooked rice (any kind) with 1 can of beans (any kind) and mash together. Add 2-3 tbsp oil, and flour until it sticks together. Shape into patties and cook in an oiled frying pan on both sides.

10. Broccoli cheddar rice: In a slow cooker or pot, combine 1 cup rice, 1 cup milk, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 cup frozen broccoli. Simmer 30-50 minutes, mix well and enjoy. You can add cooked shredded chicken for a meat eater one pot meal.

slow cooker broccoli cheddar rice


11. Porcupine meatballs
: a Slovak classic; mix 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, and spices (garlic salt, Mrs. Dash, black pepper…) in a bowl. Shape into meatballs, and cook on a cookie pan at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Serve with extra tomato sauce and mashed potatoes.

12. Stuffed peppers: (or zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage rolls,  grape leaves…) for this recipe, you take the above recipe for porcupine meatballs, and stuff it into a vegetable. Wrap it in cooked cabbage leaves, pile it onto portobellos, or stuff hollow bell peppers. Bake at 350 for 30-50 minutes, until the outer veggie is tender.

13. Chicken & Rice casserole: the absolute easiest way is to take 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, dice into chunks, and put into a 8×8 oven-safe pan. Mix in 1 cup uncooked rice, 1 cup milk or chicken stock, and 1 cup diced vegetables. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncover and sprinkle with cheese and bake another 5 minutes until crisp.

14. Sushi: as my salmon nigiri post shows, even an unskilled cook can manage an attempt at sushi. Prepare the white rice with vinegar and spices, and cover with fish of your choice. Seaweed optional.

cooked white rice and salmon for nigiri

DESSERT

15. Rice pudding: a classic dessert with endless variations, you can make this stove-top or in the oven. The basics are: simmer rice in milk 30-60 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cinnamon, sugar, any other sweeteners or flavorings (like almond extract, vanilla, maple syrup) and possibly eggs, chill and serve sprinkled with cinnamon.

 

And there you have it, one of the most versatile grains in the known world, with over 15 ideas of how to cook with it tonight. If you have unique ideas not mentioned here, please feel free to share!

 

Smart snacking: Peanut Butter & Nutella Rice Cake

 

When you get a snack attack, sometimes you just gotta satisfy it. Sometimes you crave sweet, sometimes salty, sometimes crunchy. What happens when you want all three but don’t want to break the calorie bank?

You combine a classic “boring” dieter snack (rice cakes) with a wonderful and delicious thing (Nutella) and a tasty-but-also-good-for-you something (peanut butter). Genius.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large rice cakes (any flavor, I used cinnamon apple here)
  • 1 tbsp Nutella or other chocolate spread
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
Step 1: Spread peanut butter on one rice cake. Spread Nutella on the other.
Step 2: Mash the two cakes together to make a delightful, guilt-free sandwich snack.
Enjoy!