GRILLED FISH WITH BLACK BEAN AND AVOCADO SALSA

1 lb tilapia or other light fish
2 tsp cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drain and rinse
1 medium avocado, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic and hot suace in a small bowl.  Prepare black beans and avocado in a medium mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 lime juice mixture.   Toss, cover and chill.  Prepare fish in foil wrap – add other 1/2 lime juice mixture.  Seal and grill 20 minutes (10 minutes/side).

Serve fish with a big salad and toasted whole wheat pita rounds cut into triangles.

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STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

THIS LOOKED SO GOOD I HAD TO TRY IT RIGHT AWAY!  THE ORIGINAL RECIPE CALLED FOR BAKING THE SPAGHETTI SQUASH IN THE OVEN FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF BUT I COOKED MINE IN THE MICROWAVE IN 9 MINUTES.  AND INSTEAD OF SAUTEING VEGETABLES, GARLIC AND SAUSAGE, I THREW EVERYTHING IN THE CROCK POT.  THIS MADE THE DISH QUICK AND EASY!

Ingredients

  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage (I USED HOT SAUSAGE LINKS and cut them up before adding spaghetti squash to Crock)
  • 2 C jarred marinara sauce – your favorite or your homemade
  • 16 oz fresh mozzarella (I USED A SHREDDED ITALIAN BLEND)
  • 1/4 C parsley, freshly chopped
  • 3 basil leaves, torn

Instructions

  1. Pierce the spaghetti squash several times with a sharp knife.  Place on microwave safe dish and cover loosely with waxed paper.  Microwave on HIGH 10 minutes – check if done (when skin can be pierced easily they’re done).  Microwave 3-5 minutes longer if needed.  Set aside to cool.
  2. While the squash is microwaving, cut up your vegetables and add to crock pot.  Add sausage, salt and pepper and marinara sauce to the crock pot and place on LOW setting for 4-5 hours.**
  3. When spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds (using a spoon is easiest). Scoop “spaghetti” strands into the Crock Pot in the last hour of cooking. Keep the squash shell intact.  Stir well.
  4. Spoon mixture into squash shells and top with thick slices of mozzarella.
  5. Place in 350 degree oven and bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted or place on a microwave safe plate, add toothpicks and lightly cover with waxed paper.  Then microwave on HIGH 2-3 minutes to melt cheese.
  6. Top each squash with parsley and basil.

**I used a 14.4 oz bag of Birds Eye frozen pepper stir fry – thawed – in place of the onion and red pepper and added in the last hour of cooking in the Crock Pot.  This made the recipe even easier!

THIS RECIPE IS GLUTEN FREE AND COULD EASILY BE MADE VEGETARIAN BY ELIMINATING THE SAUSAGE!

 

MOUSSAKA

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I USUALLY BAKE THIS IN THE OVEN BUT IT WAS A WARM DAY SO I TRIED IT IN THE CROCK POT AND IT CAME OUT REALLY WELL!  NO SAUTEING THE VEGGIES, NO BROWNING THE MEAT – JUST THROW IN THE LAYERS AND COOK ON LOW 6-8 HRS, THEN ADD THE “CREAM” SAUCE”.

2 potatoes, sliced lengthwise 1/4″ thick
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4″ thick
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4 – 1/2 ” thick
1 onion, chopped
1 lb 96% lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
salt and pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 Tbsp parsley
4 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk

Layer potatoes in bottom of crock. Lightly salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Layer zucchini over potatoes.  Lightly salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Layer eggplant over zucchini. Lightly salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  In a large mixing bowl combine onion, beef, garlic, diced tomatoes, and wine.  Layer over eggplant and lightly salt and pepper.  Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  In last hour of cooking add the flour mixed with milk and parsley.

SERVE WITH THE REST OF THE GRATED PARMESAN AND A LARGE SALAD.

THIS RECIPE CALLED FOR 1/2 CUP OIL TO SAUTE THE VEGETABLES AND 4 TBSP OF BUTTER FOR THE CREAM SAUCE WHICH I ELIMINATED SO YOU COULD SPLURGE AND TOP WITH FETA – IT WOULD BE DELICIOUS BUT WILL ADD A LOT OF FAT BACK INTO THE MEAL!

10 HEALTHY PICNIC FOODS

PICNIC 8
Try streamlining your picnic basket with the following ideas for healthier food alternatives.
EDAMAME

For a fun and healthy appetizer, skip the cheese and crackers and try edamame instead. The soybean, which East Asians have enjoyed as a source of protein for more than 2,000 years, has gained popularity in the United States and is a staple on most sushi restaurant menus. Though you can purchase edamame beans already shelled, for picnic purposes, it’s probably best to go with the variety still encased in their pods for portability. Bags of frozen edamame pods are available in the freezer section of most grocery stores near other vegetables, and cooking them is a breeze. Just drop the desired amount into boiling water for five minutes or so, drain, and cool. And the extra bonus? A half a cup of shucked beans comes in at just 100 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.

CHIPS AND DIPS

Skip the chips entirely and replace them with whole-wheat pita rounds, each of which has as few as 80 calories and 1 gram of fat. A fun way to serve these is to toast and cut them into small triangles. Raw veggies, including carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, also make a great crunchy chip alternative. For healthier dips, choose hummus, salsa or black bean varieties over queso, refried beans, or creamy, fatty dressings such as ranch.

GREAT GRILLING

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If you have access to a grill at your picnic site, burgers are both easy to transport and quick to prepare and turn out to hungry companions.  Consider alternate protein sources such as ground turkey, chicken or even veggie burgers. If you must use ground beef, look for a lean mix with 7 percent fat or less.  I also add a can of lentils to a pound of ground beef when making the burgers – increases protein and fiber while further decreases fat.  Great toppings include black bean and corn salsa, roasted peppers, grilled mushrooms.

ROAST CHICKEN

picnic 6

When you’re picnicking in an area where there’s no grill on site, try picking up a roast chicken from your local grocery store to serve as a main dish. It’s just as convenient as picking up a bucket of fried chicken, but much healthier.  Discard the skin and the roast chicken will pull off the bone easily!

SANDWICHES

PICNIC 7

Create a heart-smart, on-the-go deli for your picnic by packing lean proteins such turkey and chicken, low-fat cheeses, whole grain bread, and healthy fixings such as lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and bell peppers. Another option is to ditch the bread entirely and use the protein as an outer layer to create carb-free roll-ups, which can be secured with a toothpick or two. Try dressing sandwiches with mustard or salsa.  Many deli counters offer healthier alternatives to prepackaged lunch meats.

SALADS

Tossed Salad and Salad Dressings

Turn a tossed salad into a main dish by adding proteins such as beans — pinto, black or white — or a boneless, skinless chicken breast that you’ve baked and diced prior to leaving the house.  If you prefer slaws, try swapping out cole slaw made with high-calorie mayonnaise for a broccoli slaw flavored with light vinaigrette instead.

PASTA AND POTATO SALADS

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You can lighten up traditional recipes by replacing the starch with whole-wheat pasta, or healthy, alternative grains such as quinoa couscous or bulgur. To give your new dish some substance, steam and dice vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and squash, and add them in generous amounts to create a 3-to-1 veggie-to-pasta (or grain) ratio. Flavor your side dish with light vinaigrettes instead. If potato salad is a must, look for a recipe that ditches regular potatoes and uses sweet potatoes instead for a boost of vitamin A.  Substitute 1/2 of the mayonnaise with plain nonfat yogurt.

GRILLED VEGGIES

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Complex carbohydrates such as grilled vegetables can make for a filling and healthy side dish. Try preparing a mix of grillable favorites, including summer squash, zucchini, peppers, onions and mushrooms, brushing them lightly with olive oil and seasoning them with pepper to taste. Slice up the veggies ahead of time for simplicity, and make clean-up a breeze by wrapping them up in foil before grilling. (I saw these ready-made at WalMart for a good deal too!)  If you’re headed to a picnic destination that does not have grilling capabilities on site, no worries: Just roast the veggies in the oven beforehand and wrap them up to go. They’ll taste good cold, too.

DESSERT

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For a refreshing summer treat, add some sliced strawberries along with fat-free whipped topping (keep the latter in the freezer, then transfer to the cooler as you’re leaving to give it time to defrost). Though you’ll need a cooler for this dessert to make sure the toppings stay fresh, keep the angel food cake stored separately so it doesn’t get wet and soggy before you’re ready to serve and enjoy.

FRUIT KABOBS

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Create a sweet and healthy kabob by cutting up a variety of fresh fruit, such as pineapple, apples, peaches, strawberries and bananas. Keep the chunks around cubic inch or less in size, and stack them on skewers, alternating among the different types of fruit as you go.

Creating a healthy picnic menu requires some advance planning, a few adjustments and maybe even a little creativity, but you and your guests can still enjoy a full and satisfying picnic experience without all the extra calories and fat. Your waistline and arteries will thank you.

AFTER THE PICNIC A NICE BRISK HIKE TO EXPLORE THE AREA IS A GREAT IDEA TOO!!

VEGETARIAN CHICK PEA SOUP

vegetarian chick pea soup

2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 (15 oz.) can vegetable broth
1 medium cooking onion, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander/cilantro
1 tsp. dried mint
1/4 tsp. salt, if needed

Sauté onion and potato in a large Dutch oven or saucepan on medium-high heat until onions are translucent, then add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add all other ingredients and stir. Simmer on low heat for 25 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and stew begins to thicken. Adjust spices to taste. When cool, portion amounts in freezer-proof dishes and freeze for up to one month. When reheating, thaw and heat in a Dutch oven on the stove until hot and bubbly, or in the oven on 300 degrees until heated through. Serve with flat bread or rice!

I LOVE USING THE CROCK POT FOR SOUPS!  THROW EVERYTHING IN AND COOK ON LOW 5-6 HOURS – JUST REMEMBER TO ADD THE SPICES IN THE LAST HOUR OF COOKING TO KEEP THEIR FLAVORS INTACT.

NOTE: IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN, CHICK PEAS ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN FREE BUT MOST BEANS MAY HAVE TRACES OF WHEAT INGREDIENTS ADDED IN PROCESSING SO BE AWARE, DRAIN AND RINSE WELL AND WATCH FOR SYMPTOMS OF INTOLERANCE.

QUICK AND EASY VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP

GOT A GREAT DEAL ON SOME SUPER TRIM BEEF STEW MEAT AND DECIDED ON VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP IN THE CROCK POTONLY 7 INGREDIENTS, THROW EVERYTHING IN THE CROCK AND COOK ON LOW 6 HOUR.

 

VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP

1 lb super trim beef stew meat**
8 oz pearled barley
4-6 cups beef broth
2 (28 oz) cans of diced tomato (with basil and garlic if desired)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16 oz) pkg soup mix vegetables
1 onion, diced

I FOUND THAT THE BARLEY SOAKED UP MOST OF THE LIQUID SO I WOULD COOK IT FIRST AND ADD IN THE LAST HOUR OF COOKING.  I ADDED VEGETABLE JUICE AND A FEW TBSP OF SUGAR – WORKED WELL!

**YOU COULD USE 96% LEAN GROUND BEEF TO CUT THE FAT CALORIES FROM FAT IN HALF

IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER VEGGIES ON HAND YOU CAN ALWAYS DICE THEM UP AND THROW THEM IN!

NOTE:  BARLEY DOES CONTAIN GLUTEN SO IF YOU NEED A GLUTEN FREE RECIPE TRY QUINOA IN PLACE OF THE BARLEY.  (I WOULD COOK IT ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS FIRST AND THEN ADD TO CROCK LAST HOUR OF COOKING.)

EASY AND DELICIOUS – A MEAL IN ITSELF!

7 BASIC NUTRITION TIPS

 

AVOID OVEREATING

nutrition tip 1

Focus on finding a balance of hunger and fullness as you eat. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not just when you are full. While I still get snide looks from my Italian relatives when I refuse second helpings and dessert at Thanksgiving, I’m not complaining about being stuffed or having heartburn afterward!

THINK BEFORE YOU EAT

Food is energy for your body. Nothing more, nothing less. Think about your food before you eat: “Why am I eating this?” “Do I really need this?” This will help you focus on eating enough to keep you moving, and choosing foods that will give you prolonged energy.

EAT NATURALLY

nutrition tip 3

Focus on things that come from the earth, not a factory. The best advice is, when shopping at the grocery store, stay along the outside walls where you find fruits, vegetables, beans and lean sources of meat. All of these occur naturally. This helps keep those processed foods and sugar-packed snacks, all of which will kill your metabolism, out of the cart.

GO ORGANIC

NUTRITION TIP 4

Grow your own when possible or try some organic foods.  If you must purchase other produce wash well to remove pesticides and other toxins.

AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

NUTRITION TIP 5

Avoid artificial sweeteners. These are most often consumed in Crystal Light, diet sodas and “sugar-free” products. Think of them as toxins, because they are! Drink plenty of water.

CONTROL PORTION SIZES

Use small coffee mugs to eat your cereal in the morning. Get rid of all the large plates and cups in your house and only eat with the smaller or children’s sizes. Eat slowly, being certain to chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Try to eat slower than the slowest eater at the table. If you go to a restaurant, split a meal with your partner, or once your portion is delivered, cut it in half and have the waiter box up half of the dish for another meal.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES TAKE TIME

HEALTHY LIFESTYLE 2

Good nutrition is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t make the mistake of trying to change everything overnight. It took your entire life to adopt your current nutrition habits, expect it to take some time to change them. After two weeks of a consistent change, you have made it a habit. Pick two or three of these tips to start. Each week review how you have done and evaluate the areas that need improvement. During this review, plan on making an additional change to your nutrition.

 

WORKING ON MY VERY OWN COOKBOOK

cookbook cover 2

Do not expect this to be your usual run-of-the-mill cookbook.

I will share what is tried and true: some good recipes yes, some sound nutrition advice and some fitness tips that have worked for me. It will be a potpourri of recipes and life’s lessons. Please join me in this adventure!

My recipes are easy with ingredients you will generally have on hand.  They are kid friendly because my husband has finicky taste like a child and is hard to please.  They are tasty and nutritiousI have also included some vegetarian recipes and gluten free recipes.

My fitness tips and ideas are for a healthy lifestyle.  They may encourage activities for families or for individuals just beginning to change their lifestyle.  There are even ideas for those who are more advanced in their routines. I do not use fancy equipment or machines.

Lastly, my nutrition tips are simple ideas that can make a big difference.  I don’t recommend any special dietary supplements, protein powders or meal replacements.  I don’t use a lot of low-fat products but prefer to use just a little of the real thing.  I often offer tips on how to make a recipe healthier.

THINK OF THIS AS A MANUAL FOR A HEALTHIER YOU!