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Fall Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash and Kale

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Fall flavors are so heartwarming.

It’s just now starting to get chilly here in NC. I love having a fire in the fireplace, apple cider on the stovetop, and pumpkins on my doorstep.

When the season of cozy sweaters and heavier blankets rolls in, so can the extra calories. It’s hard to avoid classic cool-weather recipes. Rich pastas, heavy sauces, creamy casseroles, and breads galore, Pinterest is filled with mouth-watering comfort classics that may satisfy your carb craving, but not your waistline. If you’re trying to stay fit for longer than just bikini season, have no fear. You can definitely enjoy the same comforting flavors and satisfying meals without the guilt.

I decided to experiment with this recipe a few nights ago when I knew the upcoming week was going to be a little hectic. I needed something that could hang out in my fridge, ready to eat and ready to go for a quick meal. A meal that wouldn’t feel like a “snack” – I wanted something hearty and delicious, and boy did I find it!

Just a brief recap on the supergrain that is quinoa:

- It’s one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat, containing all nine essential amino acids

- It contains almost twice the amount of fiber as most other grains

- It contains iron, which helps keep your blood cells healthy AND boosts your metabolism

SCORE!

Quinoa is also really delicious. It’s a fun ingredient because it will take on the flavor of whatever liquid you use to cook it in. This means quinoa can be savory, sweet, spicy, or citrusy. The options are endless! It’s good for side dishes, casserole bases, or even as a breakfast cereal. I like this particular recipe because it’s a quick and easy one-dish meal that doesn’t leave you feeling hungry an hour later. It’s also only 245 calories with 6 grams of protein per serving :)

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups of cubed butternut squash

Olive or canola oil spray

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon of course sea salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 cup of quinoa 

2 cups of organic low sodium vegetable broth

1/4 cup of chopped pecans

1/4 cup of dried cranberries 

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons of honey

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cup of raw kale, roughly chopped

1/3 cup of feta cheese crumbles

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

On a sheet pan, lightly spray the squash with oil making sure to coat all sides. I love using spray oil (olive or canola) instead of drizzling oil when roasting vegetables because I know I’ll use a lot less and still get what I need.

Make a seasoning salt by combining the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Rub the mix between your fingertips to release the oils and flavors of the rosemary into the salt.

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Coat the oiled squash with the salt mix and bake for 20 minutes, turning the squash over after ten minutes. Make sure the squash is in one layer.

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While the squash is roasting, bring the quinoa and broth to a boil, and then simmer covered on low for 15 minutes.

Toast the chopped pecans to intensify their flavor and to add a little extra crunch to the salad. In a dry skillet over medium heat, shake the nuts around until they become fragrant and slightly darker in color.

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, and cayenne pepper for about a minute to emulsify the oil. Add the dried cranberries allowing them sit in the liquid to plump them up a bit.

Let the squash, quinoa, and nuts cool slightly before tossing them together in the vinegar dressing. Once everything is combined, toss in the kale and feta cheese.

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This tasty salad is filled with warm flavors of fall from the smokey cayenne pepper, the caramelized undertones of the roasted butternut squash, the sweet tart cranberries, and the buttery toasted nuts. I added feta cheese for extra creaminess that really brings all the ingredients together.

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This salad contains about 6 generous servings and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Keep it stored in an airtight container in your fridge. It’ll last up to a week, but I can’t make any promises that it will stick around for more than a couple days.

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Sides and Salads

 

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Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

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I think shepherd’s pie gets a bad rap.

Often referred to as “the poor man’s meal” shepherd’s pie is definitely not a fine dining staple or sought after menu item. That’s perfectly fine, because some of my favorite foods can only be made in the comfort of a home kitchen. Shepherd’s pie is one of those cozy meals that reminds me of coming inside with rosy cheeks after playing in the yard on a cool fall day. A one-dish dinner that leaves the whole house smelling like a warm hug from grandma. I love it.

I also love taking dishes like this and replacing the not-so-great-for-you stuff with healthier alternatives. Let’s look at a traditional shepherd’s pie:

white potatoes + ground beef (or lamb) + butter + gravy + half and half or heavy cream

At least 360 calories and over 17 grams of fat per serving. Yikes. No wonder it’s so comforting and delicious!

Now let’s look at changing things up a bit:

sweet potatoes + lean turkey breast + olive oil + yogurt

Around 260 calories and only 3 grams of fat per serving – without sacrificing flavor! 

I had fun making this the other day before I left for my night classes. The schedule is tough getting used to, but I’m finding it nice having some time during the day to cook, blog…and study, of course! Meal prep is a really important part of eating well and living healthy. After a long day of work (or classes) it takes a lot of effort and self-control to avoid the convenience of ordering from a take-out menu or making a quick run through the nearby drive-thu. Prepping your meals will save you unnecessary calories, stress, and money – I promise!  It just takes a little time, patience, and creativity.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Potatoes

2 pounds of sweet potatoes

1/2 inch of grated fresh ginger (peeled)

1/4 cup of nonfat plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup of organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 egg

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

 For the Filling

Head of garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound of 99% fat free ground turkey breast

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks of celery (with leaves), chopped

1 cup of carrots, chopped

1/4 cup of red wine

2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour

1 cup of organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 cup of frozen peas

1 can of green beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon of dried sage

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce

In a large pot of salted water, boil the sweet potatoes until they are fork tender. Allow them to cool until they are safe to handle and peel.

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In the meantime, roast a whole head of garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. If you’ve never done this before, you are in for a HUGE treat. Roasting garlic removes the bitterness and intensifies the sweet flavor of garlic. Once it’s roasted, the cloves will turn into paste that is perfect stirred into soups, sauces, and shepherd’s pie :) 

Just cut off the top of the garlic head so all of the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with a little olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Wrap in a tin foil pouch and bake for 40 minutes.

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In a medium skillet, brown the ground turkey breast. I had to add a little olive oil since the 99% fat free turkey sometimes needs some extra (healthy) fat to brown nicely. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Set aside.

In a large oiled skillet over medium high heat, sweat the onion until it is semi-translucent (about 5-6 minutes) and then add the celery and carrots. Sautee until tender. I like adding the celery leaves because they have so much flavor that adds to this dish. 

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Deglaze the pan with any red wine you enjoy drinking.

Once the wine has reduced (after about a minute or so in the pan) stir in the flour until everything is evenly coated. Add the vegetable broth and mix well. Bring to a boil.

Add the peas, green beans, tomato paste, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cooked turkey. Squeeze in the entire head of roasted garlic. Stir well and remove from heat.

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In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked sweet potatoes (without skins) with grated ginger, greek yogurt, vegetable broth, salt, cumin, and egg. Blend for 3 minutes, or until smooth.

Transfer the turkey mixture into a large oven safe dish. Top with sweet potatoes and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

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Enjoy this delicious dish full of comfort and satisfying flavor – without all the guilt! This is a great meal to prepare the morning of, keep it in the fridge, and pop it in the oven right before dinner time.

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- Kelsey

 

 

 

 
 

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Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

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Tis the season for pumpkin everything!

Ever since Starbucks came out with an early release of the PSL (don’t get me started on those things!), fall has been in full swing – and pumpkin has taken over just about every menu item and grocery aisle. There’s just no escaping it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin. I tend to prefer warm apple and cinnamon flavors in the fall, but as I’ve said many times before, my tendency to hop on the fad ingredient bandwagon typically gets the best of me.

I did a little nutritional investigation and was very pleased to discover all of the great health benefits of pumpkin. It’s packed with tons of Vitamin A (helps with vision among other things) and Vitamin C (boosts immune system function), is full of fiber (keeps you feeling full for longer), and is a great source of beta-carotene (super antioxidant which can help prevent cancer). Love that!

If you want to make sure you’re getting all the great nutrients and health benefits from your pumpkin purée, take time to read the ingredient label. Skip out on any products that have added ingredients or preservatives. Great rule of thumb – if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. 

After making these pancakes, I went back to the store and bought a few more cans of purée to satisfy my pumpkin fix until Thanksgiving. Maybe one day soon I’ll be ambitious enough to make my own. If that happens, you’ll be the first to know!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or non-stick cooking spray)

2 eggs

1 ripe banana

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Warrior Blend raw vegan protein)

2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin purée

1 sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine all of the ingredients until very smooth.

Spoon batter onto the hot skillet and flip with a spatula once bubbles have formed on the surface. Cook for an additional minute, or until both sides are golden brown and firm to touch.

This recipe will make 3 generous pancakes.

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Each pumpkiny pancake has about 100 calories and 10 grams of protein. You’ll be happy you started your morning off with something this delicious and nutritious :)

What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Morning Glories

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain-Free)

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I’m not one to settle for a healthy cookie. 

There’s a pretty clear distinction between indulging in a warm, gooey, buttery, chocolate chip cookie and “treating yourself” to a sugar-free, negative calorie, “made with fruits and veggies” impostor cookie.

When I want a cookie, I want to really enjoy it.

And typically, I really want to enjoy more than just one.

I was ecstatic when I found this killer recipe from The Detoxinista. I was even more pleased when I discovered how decadent and truly delicious these cookies turned out to be, even without the grains and all the sugar.

How could it be? A guilt-free cookie that actually tastes like heaven? Yup. 

Lately I’ve been baking here and there with coconut flour. Like I said, I quickly latch on to fad ingredients. Here are a few reasons why I love coconut flour:

- It’s ground from dried, defatted coconut meat (no chemicals! no additives!) 

- It’s naturally gluten-free

- It’s super high in fiber

- It’s low in carbohydrates 

- It’s really delicious, and a tiny little bit makes a lot of good eats

I promise you’ll find plenty of your own reasons to love these cookies. Give them a try and see for yourself.

(Adapted from The Detoxinista)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/3 cup of coconut flour

1/4 cup of virgin coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup of agave nectar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 eggs

1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. I love coconut oil cooking spray from Trader Joe’s! 

In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut flour, coconut oil, agave, vanilla, salt, and eggs until a smooth batter is formed. Stir for a couple minutes – the batter will thicken to cookie dough consistency. 

Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are evenly distributed.

Use a cookie scoop or a large tablespoon to scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. With the back of a spoon or your clean hands, slightly press the dough down to flatten. These cookies will not spread on their own so shape them the way you want them to look! 

Bake for 12-14 minutes until the cookies just start to turn golden brown. Allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.

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Don’t fret if you’re not a coconut lover! These cookies, surprisingly enough, do not have a coconut flavor. They’re light, fluffy, and melt in your mouth like any good gooey chocolatey freshly baked cookie should. With only 100 little calories and 7 grams of sugar per cookie, I think I’ll have two…or three more.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Sweet Treats

 

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Heirloom Tomato Salad

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This recipe is an oldie but goodie. 

I first made this dish last fall after a very successful trip to Trader Joe’s. Who am I kidding? Every trip to TJ’s is nothing but success. I found some beautiful baby heirloom tomatoes that I just couldn’t resist. I’m always immediately drawn to the vibrant colors of these gems – they remind me of cooler weather and changing leaves. I love fall.

Golden yellows, rich greens, deep rubys, and vibrant purples. I could stare at them forever.

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One of my favorite scenes of any weekend farmer’s market is the tomato table. This was definitely the case when I had the opportunity of visiting Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. about a month ago. Ever been? It’s awesome. Shout out to my sweet friends Mary Scott and Tim Brady!!

What a sight. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of these beauties.

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Aside from being easy on the eyes, tomatoes are packed full of antioxidants and vitamins that benefit your heart, skin, and bones. I’m down with that.

This super flavorful salad is really simple to put together and perfect with a big hunk of crusty bread. It’s great for entertaining, and pretty darn good for you, too!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 pint of baby heirloom tomatoes, halved

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the oil and vinegar with a whisk.

Add the tomato halves and toss with a spatula or spoon to evenly coat each tomato.

Fold in the feta cheese, basil, salt, and pepper.

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Enjoy, and Happy Fall!

- Kelsey

 
 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Life is better with muffins.

I am all about breakfast. It’s necessary, and yet is always the meal that just doesn’t get enough credit. I understand early morning food prep is not a top priority for most. I also understand that the idea of sitting at the kitchen table with the newspaper, a hot cup of coffee, the sun shining through the window, and a full plate of hearty pancakes/eggs/sausage etc. pretty much only exists in the movies, or maybe on the occasional Saturday. Realistically speaking, breakfast is eaten on the go, or skipped all together.

Big mistake because skipping breakfast means…

- You’ll more than likely snack on high calorie foods before your next meal

- You’ll eat more food than usual for lunch

- You’ll restrict your metabolism from running at full capacity for the rest of the day

I love having muffins (even stock-piled in the freezer!) for a quick breakfast that I know will fuel my body with healthy energy. These particular muffins are made with almond flour. I love experimenting with “fad” ingredients, and this one did not fail to impress. Almond flour keeps baked goods super moist and is extremely nutritious. Not only is almond flour gluten-free, but it’s also high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and low in sugar. I definitely recommend it.

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(Adapted from Paleo Newbie)

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 ripe bananas

2 eggs, whisked

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/4 cup of sugar-free organic apple sauce 

1-2 tablespoons of agave nectar 

1 1/2 cups of almond flour (or almond meal – same thing)

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 cup of chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mash bananas in a small bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla, apple sauce and agave to the bananas. Stir until combined.

In a larger mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a whisk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, folding together with a spatula until combined into a smooth batter. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill a lined muffin tin with each cup about 3/4 full.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

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This recipe will make about 12 muffins. Keep them stored in a zip-top bag or sealed container in the fridge. They also freeze well and will keep for 2-3 months.

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Chocolate chips add the perfect amount of sweetness, and I LOVE the texture from the almond flour. These muffins are super moist and light. They’re great for a nutritious breakfast in the car, or even a late night snack that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth without the guilt. 

Do you have a favorite almond flour recipe?

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Morning Glories

 

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Watermelon Margarita

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Margaritas are my favorite way to bring in the weekend.

I have a habit of experimenting with margaritas. I’m such a snob when I order them in public – they’re either too sweet, too sour, or entirely too weak. Even the thought of sour mix makes me wince! It’s full of sugar and calories that are not necessary to make a drink taste good. This particular watermelon margarita has almost HALF the calories compared to the same drink made with sour mix at most chain restaurants. That’s a big difference!

Margaritas are so simple, and yet they’re often done the wrong way. All it takes is a little citrus, a little sweetness, and good tequila. Now don’t me wrong, not all of my margarita escapades have resulted in a drinkable product. I’m still working on perfecting my grapefruit and blackberry margaritas – I’ll be sure to keep you updated. In the meantime, you should try out this one.

I know summer is officially over, but if you can still find watermelons wherever you are, grab them while you can! The other weekend I had the incredible opportunity of visiting the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh, NC. Here’s the link if you’re curious. As any foodie would be, I was in heaven. Surrounded by fresh and local produce, gorgeous bouquets of flowers, countless jars of golden honey, and warm flakey baked goods – I could have stayed there forever. My prized purchase was a $2 watermelon that felt about five times heavier than it looked. I could not wait to put this baby in my blender and introduce it to my friend Jose.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups of cubed watermelon, frozen

1 cup of good tequila

1/2 cup of fresh lime juice

1/2 cup of fresh orange juice

1-2 tablespoons of agave nectar

Ice

Sugar (or salt) and lime zest for garnish

Make sure your watermelon is nice and frozen. Be sure to cube it and then freeze it (for at least 3-4 hours).

In a blender, combine the frozen watermelon, tequila, lime and orange juice, and agave. Add between 2-3 cups of ice if you want your margaritas more frozen.

Rim your glasses with lime or orange juice and dip in a shallow bowl of sugar or salt mixed with the zest of one lime. I prefer sugar for this particular drink. 

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Serve with a wedge of melon and enjoy :)

This recipe yields about 4 generous margaritas. Each has only 180 calories and 10 grams of sugar.

What’s your favorite kind of margarita?

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Starters

 

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