IMG_5940That is the question. Well, not really, but I need a loose recipe goal in mind sometimes, so that’s where I’m at today. Found myself hungry, but also motivated…Leftover whole wheat couscous at my disposal, which in all honesty is dry as sh*t. Had a pretty good set of veggies also, so when all else fails I’m going to make a salad. In this case, a grain salad, which is way more nutritionally complete than just some greens and tomatoes.

I didn’t feel like chopping so I threw every ingredient in the mini food processor separately, which made the salad nice and uniform.

Ingredients:

Whole Wheat Couscous (cooked) – 1 1/2 cups (? more/less)

1/2 red onion

1/2 an orange pepper

1 carrot

Handful of cherry tomatoes

Sunflower seeds

Dried Cranberries

For the dressing:

Red wine vinegar

Toasted sesame oil

Maille mustard

Mint, Chives

Berbere, Ras el Hanout

Method:

In a medium to large bowl, throw in your cooked couscous. Then add in each vegetable one at a time, incorporating them into the salad. Once everything is mixed, mix the dressing into the salad (Yes, I also made the dressing in the food processor). You can pulverize the seeds and berries or throw them in whole, it’s really your preference. I chose to use some chopped Romaine for the base of the salad, but you could use it as a side dish or on its own it’s pretty good and very satisfying.

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The less is more approach to kale...

The less is more approach to kale…

The influx of kale chips, quinoa chips and chia chips is kind of getting me depressed. All I can think to myself while I take them down off the shelf to look at the label is, “Just eat the flipping food! It’s not that bad actually.” Why does it have to be a chip?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like chips of all shapes, vegetables, legumes and sizes. But, it seems like food manufacturers get a little crazy with taking a hot “new” health food and pretty much turning it into a healthy junk food before anyone gets a chance to actually see if they liked the whole food in the first place.

I continue to buy kale despite it’s becoming a bit of a diva around town. I honestly really enjoy it in the easiest way possible, sauteed.

Ingredients:

1 10 ounce bag of pre-cut Kale

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp peanut oil

1/4 cup chopped cashews (optional)

1 tsp rice vinegar

Pinch of pyramid salt

Preparation:

  1. Heat a large pot until water beads up when thrown in the pot (sizzle)
  2. Add peanut oil and coat bottom of pan
  3. Add garlic and sautee for a minute or so until fragrant
  4. Add kale to pot in bunches, 1/3 at a time. Use tongs to keep turning the kale over making sure each bunch gets some coating with oil. Throw in a pinch of the pyramid salt and distribute evenly.
  5. Once all the kale is in the pot and evenly coated, turn the heat down to low and cover for about 5-7 minutes
  6. Taste the kale, make sure the texture is not too crunchy
  7. Add the rice vinegar and evenly coat
  8. Once kale is plated, add cashews for garnish

This preparation can make anywhere from 2-4 servings, I like a lot of kale so I split it in 2. One serving in this preparation packs:

Over 100% daily RDA for both Vitamins A & C

Not to mention tons of fiber, iron, copper. The list goes on and on. Guarantee you can’t get those kinds of statistics from a kale chip…

 

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Crunchy, a little salty and excellent

I LOVE hummus. It’s a staple in my house. I also love chickpeas in general, so when I came across these roasted chick peas in various flavors, I had to give it a go. Such a great idea to roast a chickpea and then add flavoring! I wish I had though of it. The nutrition stats are awesome, 5 grams of protein and fiber!!!

Packing 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, you can't go wrong!I have used them on top of salads, as part of a crunchy trail mix and as a late night snack.

Definitely check out the Thai Coconut Lemongrass, Sweet Cinnamon and Smoky Chili and Lime flavors. You won’t be disappointed!

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Feeling kinda uneasy after watching a lot of food porn at work today (don’t ask), so thought I would post my own version of food porn and also declare the hot new food trend of 2014 to be:

BRUSSELS SPROUTS!

Okay, so maybe I’m not he first person to declare this, but, I’ve seen this one coming for awhile now. Brussels Sprouts ARE THE NEW/OLD “IT” vegetable. (mark my flippin words)

Ingredients:

1 turn of peanut oil

Butter (optional)

1-2 crushed cloves of garlic

1 package of Brussels sprouts (ends cut off and cut in half)

Low sodium broth (< 300 mg per serving minimum!)

Himalayan Sea Salt (to taste)

Method:

  1. Preheat pan to medium high heat
  2. Pour one turn of peanut oil in the pan and allow to heat up to medium high heat (throw some H2O molecules in the pan to test for “hotness”),  simultaneously throw garlic smashed into pan (remove within a minute of cooking to prevent  spread of “bitter” flavor)
  3. Place Brussels sprouts cut-side down onto heated pan
  4. After halves are placed face down, pour a small amount of low sodium broth into pan, wait for “SIZZLE” and then lower heat and cover for 17 minutes over medium low heat.
  5. Sprinkle some Himalayan sea salt to taste over sprouts
  6. Enjoy!

Here’s the nutritional information for Brussels sprouts in case you are doubting the serious nutritional benefits from these MOFOs:

Brussels Sprouts Nutrient Extraaganza

Delicious snack or preworkout boost

I am always on the lookout for the next great energy/protein bar with as few ingredients as possible. I like bars with ingredients that my 9-year old would easily recognize and at least 3 grams of fiber (of the non-“franken” fiber type, i.e inulin, soluble corn fiber).

I found the Rise bar at Whole Foods, and I am so impressed by the flavor. With just about 7 ingredients per bar, and about 3 grams of fiber each, they are surprisingly moist and delicious and would make an awesome snack or pre-workout energy boost. As a bonus, they are also gluten free.

I have tried the Crunchy Cashew Almond, Crunchy Macadamia Pineapple, Apricot Goji and Blueberry Coconut. There are several other flavors I’ve yet to try, you can check them out on their website.

While these bars may not be quite substantial enough to replace an entire meal, they are definitely perfect to throw in your gym bag or purse as a sweet healthy snack throughout the day.

Black lentils provide a crunchy, high fiber base for sauteed portobellos

I have been waiting with bated breath to cook up this package of black lentils from Whole Foods. They are smaller than the average red or green lentil and look almost like caviar when they are cooked. I also had some “Ginormous” Portobello mushrooms and a lonely jalapeno that needed to be used.

Basically, I cut up 1/2 a Vidalia onion, 1/2 a jalapeno (no seeds) and 2 cloves of garlic. I sauteed these with some fresh herbs from my garden (chives, savory, thyme, basil) and olive oil for 3-4 minutes. I then added the thinly sliced portobello mushroom and allowed them to cook together for a few more minutes. A little balsamic, sherry and red wine vinegar at the last minute. A dash of salt to finish it off.

The black lentils can be cooked in around 20 minutes, but, I used the slow cooker because I wasn’t sure when I started what I would ultimately do with the lentils, I just knew I wanted to use them.

This type of lentil really keeps its crunchiness and would make a great base for a salad. Since I made an entire bag, which yields at least 11 servings dry, I plan to try the salad option next.

Each serving offers a whopping 9 grams of fiber and almost a days worth of folate.

High in fiber and satisfaction, low in salt and calories

The problem with most processed dips is that they pack a lot of salt into a small serving size. For example, Frito Lay Black Bean Dip has 200 mg sodium per 2 tablespoons and Desert Pepper Black Bean Dip has 300 mg for the same amount. I don’t know about you, but, I am not likely to stop at 2 tablespoons, so, I try to make my own whenever possible.

For this recipe, I started with a 1/2 bag of uncooked black beans (8 oz). The beans have no sodium whatsoever, so I am able to add my own salt and seasonings to taste. It does take some time to bring the beans to the desired consistency (follow package directions), but at less than $1.50 a bag, it’s well worth a little extra time. (I did set aside some of the black beans to make black bean burgers at another time)

In my Cuisinart, I combined the pre-cooked black beans, 1/2 an onion, several fresh herbs (especially cilantro), a turn of olive oil, juice of one lime, some cumin, garlic powder and smoked paprika.

I pulsed the mixture maybe 7-8 times. At that point, I tasted the dip, and while the texture was good, it clearly needed a bit of salt to bring the flavors together. I threw in a couple of dashes of salt, but, definitely no more than 1/8 teaspoon for the entire recipe.

According to my calculations, the recipe yields 12 servings of 2 tbsp each. Each serving is ~45 calories, 27 mg sodium. If you want to make this dip even lower in calorie, you could decrease the olive oil or omit it altogether.

What’s your favorite homemade dip to make this summer?