Nutrition, Pregnancy, Recipes

Sauteed Scallops over Green Lentils

I whipped this up the other day and felt mighty accomplished.

Sauteed sea scallops served over a bed of green lentils mixed with tomatoes and wilted arugula.

So far so good, right?  🙂

I’m willing to pay a bit of premium for things that I consume (is there any more worthy investment than our health?), and I like my foods simply prepared, so that the taste and quality of the ingredients stand out.  If I’m making a salad and it’s summertime, I’m going to the farmer’s market and getting fresh greens, heirloom tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and maybe some fresh herbs.  Maybe I’ll even get all wild and crazy and toast some pine nuts to add to the mix.  Then I’m tossing it all together with nothing more than a bit of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to pull all the flavors together and really make them pop.  I can’t imagine, say, dumping a bunch of ranch dressing on that salad.  If I did that, I might as well just be eating ranch dressing because it’s all I’d taste.

This dish was no exception to that general rule.  When I took my first bite, I tasted only the medley of the fresh ingredients that comprised it.  The spicy arugula.  The sweetness of the tomatoes.  The robust and slightly peppery flavor of the lentils.  The sweet and rich taste of the scallops.

Technique was also important. Scallops are on the pricey side, and there’s nothing worse than splurging on them only to end up with a gross, rubbery mess!  I’ve found that two tricks are key to making sure they turn out just right:

  1. Placing them at room temperature 20-30 minutes before cooking to ensure even cooking.
  2. Ensuring a nice sear by patting them dry with a paper towel before adding them to the saute pan and making sure the oil and pan are nice and hot.

 

And did I mention how super healthy this is?!  I especially recommend the dish for moms-to-be because it has a lot of the goodies that pregnant women need in larger quantities, including omega-3’s, protein, folate, and iron.

Now that I’ve (hopefully!) sold you, let’s eat!

Sauteed Scallops over Green Lentilsscallops

Serves 2

  • 10 ounces sea scallops
  • 1/2 cup dried green lentils
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper


Place lentils in a small pot with 3 cups of water and set burner to high.  Reduce the heat when the water begins to boil and allow the lentils to simmer until desired tenderness, about 30-40 minutes.  Drain any remaining water.

Remove scallops from the refrigerator about ten minutes into cooking the lentils.  Set aside.

While the lentils cook, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan placed over medium heat.  Add arugula and garlic and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, basil, and lemon juice.  Add to drained lentils and stir to combine.

Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan (more if surface is NOT nonstick) and place pan over medium-high to high heat, depending on your stovetop.  After pan is hot but not smoking, add scallops.   Allow to cook undisturbed until the scallops have a caramel-colored sear, about 2 minutes.  Gently turn scallops over and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side.

Divide the lentil mixture evenly onto two plates and top with equal amounts of scallops.

Nutrition, Recipes

Lemon Chicken Roulade

It’s June and time to fire up the grill!  But instead of grilling up plain old burgers and dogs, do something different this week and try out my recipe for Lemon Chicken Roulade!

The fact that you roll up the chicken makes it look impressive, and anything with “roulade” in the name sounds super fancy.  But in fact it’s really pretty easy to make.  The most time consuming part was pitting the cherries.  If that sounds too daunting, feel free to swap them out with dried cherries or another dried fruit.  Though I have to say that I really did like the subtle sweetness of the fresh cherries (plus they’re Rainier – yum!).

I think I’ll skip the commentary today and go straight to the good stuff.  As always, try it out and let me know what you think!

Lemon Chicken Roulade

Serves 2

  • 1 T lemon juiceIMG_0442
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • 2 – 8 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened to ½ inch thickness
  • ½ cup rainier cherries (about 8 cherries), pitted and chopped
  • ⅓ cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 t garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups packed fresh spinach
  • 3 T Parmesan cheese, grated

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, 3 teaspoons of the olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Pour marinade over chicken and refrigerate for four hours, turning once.

Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for three minutes, until onions begin to soften.  Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts, another 1-2 minutes.  Add garlic, cherries, and pine nuts, stirring until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute more.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees.

Remove chicken from marinade. Divide the filling in half and spread evenly over each chicken breast.  Sprinkle 1 ½ tablespoons parmesan cheese over each breast.  Starting from a short end, roll each breast up and secure with toothpicks.

Brush grill grates with oil.  Grill chicken at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes each side.

Nutrition, Recipes

Portobello Pizzas

Happy Monday!  I write with a recipe today: Portobello Pizzas!

It’s another of my gluten-free creations.  Even five years ago I don’t recall hearing much about problems that gluten can cause, and it turns out there’s a reason.  According to research by the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease (an immune reaction to eating gluten that can cause severe abdominal pain and diarrhea) is on the rise, now affecting one in every 100 people.  Even if you don’t have the full-fledged disease, you might still have a sensitivity to gluten, causing you to experience problems like loss of energy, acne, and various gastrointestinal problems.

No one in my family has a gluten problem, but I do try to reduce the amount of wheat in our diets where I can because I find that it’s just too easy to eat the stuff.  It seems to be in absolutely everything.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I can’t help but wonder: are more people suffering from gluten problems precisely BECAUSE our consumption is on the rise?  Consider it food for thought.

I must have had this in the back of my mind when I saw the portobello mushrooms because I immediately thought “pizza crust substitute”!   So I combined the mushrooms with caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella to create the recipe you see below.

If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, you’re going to need to bypass the caramelized onions.  But if you have some time on your hands, they are SO WORTH IT!  The key to making them properly is “low and slow.”  Like so many other good things in life, they can’t be rushed.  For this recipe, I sweated them out for 35 minutes, but truthfully they could have used another 10 minutes to develop the rich caramel color that gives them their name.  If you don’t have the time to invest in this adventure, DO NOT rush it by cranking up the heat.  You’re destined to brown or burn them.  Go low and slow, and you’ll be rewarded with the sweetest onions you’ve ever tasted.  Ones that are so soft they practically melt in your mouth.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.

If you don’t have the time or patience for this, just substitute the caramelized onions for another favorite pizza topping.

This recipe calls for fresh mozzarella cheese.  It does NOT call for reduced fat or – gasp – fat free cheese.  Like many things food-related, I have strong feelings on this subject:  if you enjoy cheese, you should eat cheese, by which I mean REAL, full fat cheese.  Yes, cheese does have a lot of fat, but we need fat in our diets.  Among other thing, it helps our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals in the foods that we eat.  That said, you shouldn’t go overboard on fat consumption, particularly if you suffer from heart disease or are looking to trim down.  This recipe calls for just 1.5 ounces of mozzarella per serving.  And a serving here is TWO rather large mushrooms.  You will be more satisfied with that 1.5 ounces than with three times the amount of yucky fat free Kraft singles.

I loved the way these turned out!  I had them for lunch, but they’d also be super for entertaining.  You could use baby bellas instead of the larger mushrooms and make fun party appetizers.  🙂

Portobello Pizzas

Serves 2IMG_0497

  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps
  • ⅔ cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella (get the good stuff, people!)
  • ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, packed
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and ½ teaspoon of salt, stirring to coat the onions in the olive oil.  After 2 minutes reduce heat to low.  Allow the onions to sweat for about 35 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to ensure they do not brown. The onions are done when they are quite soft and a light caramel color.

While the onions cook, set the broiler to high.  Gently remove the gills from the mushroom caps with a spoon.  Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry.  Brush the mushrooms with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the mushrooms on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan, lined with aluminum foil.  Broil the mushrooms for 6 minutes on each side.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan.

Turn off the broiler and set the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add the spinach, garlic, and a dash of salt and saute, stirring constantly, until the spinach wilts and the garlic is fragrant (about 2 minutes).

Line another cookie sheet or shallow baking pan with aluminum foil.  Transfer the mushrooms to the pan and layer them with equal amounts of the toppings:  tomatoes, spinach, onions, then cheese.  Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the top of the pizzas just begin to brown.

Nutrition, Recipes

Ingredient Combinations to Make Your Own Recipes

You’re in a cooking rut, making the same things over and over again.  You are bored.  You head to the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for dinner, hoping to make something different this time.  You find yourself in the middle of the produce section, overwhelmed by all the choices, thinking to yourself, “Where do I begin?”

spice drawer
Arial view of my spice drawer. Way more convenient than storing these in a pantry, btw.

Sound familiar?

Lately it seems several friends, family members, and clients keep telling me the same thing: I want to experiment with new foods, but I have no idea WHAT GOES TOGETHER.  I’m ok when I have a recipe that I can follow, but if I find myself in the store without that guidance, I’m at a loss for what to buy.

I used to be the same way.  When I first got into cooking, I was slave to the recipe, following everything to a T, afraid of deviating in the slightest way, lest I screw something up.  Gradually, I started taking a little creative license.  I still used recipes as a starting point but would swap one ingredient for another here, one cooking method for another there.  Now I’ve progressed to the point where I feel confident enough to create recipes on my own.

Today I’m sharing some of my “Go-To” flavor and ingredient combinations.  The lists are by no means exhaustive, but they provide a good starting point, and all of the items complement each other pretty well.  I’ve arranged them in what I like to call “Chipotle style,” where you pick your carbohydrate base, add the veggies you want, heft it up with your protein(s) and healthy fat(s) of choice, then flavor as you prefer.  The nice thing about organizing items this way is the flexibility it affords.  Feel free to omit categories as you like (maybe you’re watching your carb intake and want to skip this one, for instance), and choose as many or as few items from each category as suits you.

And if it STILL seems overwhelming, pick just one ingredient and go from there.  I do this all the time.  Have some avocados in your refrigerator that need to go?   Avocados always get me thinking Mexican, so pick up some black beans, tomatoes, onions, corn, bell peppers, lime, and cilantro.  Dice the veggies, chop the cilantro, and toss everything together in a bowl.  Stir in the lime, maybe a bit of olive oil, and salt and voila!  You have a fresh salad for lunch, with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow.   Looking for a heartier main dish?  How about combining all of the Mexican “flavors” below with some salt and olive oil and using it as a beef marinade?  You could then simply top the meat with sliced avocado or make a guacamole.  The “start with one ingredient” strategy works equally well if you find yourself hankering for something (“Gosh I am REALLY in the mood for some eggplant tonight, but what should I make?”) or want to experiment with a new ingredient (“How do you cook tofu anyway?”).  In the latter case, remember google is your friend.  And don’t be afraid to mess up.  If you destroy the tofu, you can always omit it from the dish.  Or feed it to the dog.  Assuming dogs can eat tofu.  I don’t have a dog, so I’m really not sure.  But you get the picture.

Oh and everything on the lists fits my definition of healthy.  I almost always opt for whole grains over refined ones, so you’ll see brown rice on the list but not white rice.  Fat is critical for good health, but not all fats are created equal.  My lists include those that I use and consider healthy.  I’m also not a vegetarian, so animal proteins make the cut.  I simply suggest that you opt for lean varieties.

Speaking of protein, look closely, and you’ll see that every list has the same protein choices.  This simply reflects my belief that proteins go with just about anything.

So go on!  Step outside your culinary box, and unchain yourself from the recipe!

Mexican

Carbohydrate: brown rice, black beans, pinto beans, corn, whole wheat or corn tortillas, plantains

Vegetable: bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, crispy lettuce (e.g. romaine)

Protein: tofu, lean animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork, etc), fish

Healthy fat: avocado

Flavor: cumin, coriander/cilantro, chili powder, paprika, oregano, lime

Asian

Carbohydrate: brown rice, brown rice noodles

Vegetable: snow peas, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, baby corn, green onions, bean sprouts

Protein: tofu, lean animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork, etc), fish

Healthy fat: peanuts or peanut butter, cashews, sesame seeds or oil, coconut oil or milk

Flavor: soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, red or green curry paste, lemon, lime, cilantro/coriander, ginger, rice vinegar

Indian

Carbohydrate: brown rice, potatoes, daal/lentils, whole what naan

Vegetable: tomato, okra, french or green beans, eggplant, zucchini, onion

Protein: tofu, lean animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork, etc), fish

Healthy fat: coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk

Flavor: Cilantro/coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chutney, curry powder, lime, ginger, mustard seed

 

 

 

 

Nutrition, Recipes

Banana Blueberry Muffins (Sugar- and Gluten-Free)

Whoever said that baking is a science wasn’t kidding.

I learned that the hard way in the process of creating the recipe I’m offering today.  It took me somewhere between six and nine tries (at some point I lost count) to get it right.

I wanted to make a sugar- and gluten-free version of an old favorite: the banana muffin.  I took as my starting point a traditional recipe (read: one with wheat flour and lots of sugar) and brainstormed ways to adapt it.  The problem is, when you change one thing, you risk throwing off the entire recipe.  It’s not like cooking where you can take a lot of creative license with little risk.

The first thing I knew I wanted to do was substitute almond flour for the white wheat flour.  Google told me I could substitute these 1:1 if I increased the leavening agents, but it failed to offer details.  My recipe called for three leavening agents – eggs, baking soda, and baking powder.  Was I to increase one, two, or all three of them?  And by how much?

There were other unanswered questions too.  I planned to entirely remove the sugar, but should I replace it with something?  If so, what, and how much of it?

So I guessed.  And I guessed again, and again, and again. I’ll spare you the gory details of my various attempts and instead illustrate why I went to all the trouble with a side-by-side comparison of calories, macronutrients, and sugars in the revised and original versions of these muffins:

Gluten & Sugar-Free Muffin      Traditional Muffin
Energy 206 cal 293 cal
Total Fat 17.2 grams 26 % DV 14.6 grams 23% DV
Saturated Fat 1.3 grams 6% DV 2.2 grams 11% DV
Protein 5.8 grams 12% DV 3.0 grams 6% DV
Carbohydrates 11.7 grams 4% DV 39.9 grams 13% DV
Fiber 3. 0 grams 12% DV 0.9 grams 4% DV
Sugar 5.3 grams 26.6 grams

If you’re watching your calories, you’re saving almost 100 of them with the sugar- and gluten-free muffin.  Thanks to the almonds, the new muffin offers twice the amount of protein, half the amount of saturated fat, and three times the amount of fiber as the old one.  And while the old muffin has 27 grams of sugar, the new one has only 5 grams, all of which are natural sugars that come from the fruit.

The chart above doesn’t say anything about vitamins and minerals.  If it did, the new muffins would again be the clear winner.  The almond flour is loaded with ‘em, including vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, and copper.  The white flour used in the old muffins is essentially void of all these goodies.

There you have it!  Give the recipe a shot and tell me what you think!

Sugar- and Gluten-free Banana Blueberry Muffins

Makes 8 muffins

  • 1 cup ripe bananas (about 2 medium-sized bananas)muffin
  • 1 egg, divided
  • 3 T canola oil
  • ½ t vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup almond flour, sifted
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 ¼ t baking powder
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • ½ t salt
  • 2/3 cup blueberries
  • 8 baking cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a muffin tin with the baking cups and set aside.

Mash bananas in a medium-sized bowl, using a fork or potato masher.  Mix in egg yolk, oil, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, blend almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just to combine.  Fold in blueberries and egg whites, again stirring just to combine.

Divide batter evenly among the lined muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes.

Nutrition, Recipes

Ode to the Mango: Part II (The Recipe!)

Last Monday I said a yummy mango recipe was headed your way today.  Have you been unable to sleep since then?  Been like a kid counting down the days til Christmas? Okay, so maybe “waiting with bated breath” is an exaggeration, but I do write today with the recipe!  It’s is a little on the fancy side but not terribly challenging to prepare.  I’d say it has an elegant simplicity that is worthy of a special occasion.  Even the name sounds a little fancy: Pepita-crusted Turbot with Avocado Mango Salsa Another Nutritious Meal (and what the heck is a pepita anyway?) If you think you’re unfamiliar with pepitas, you’re probably wrong.  It’s just a fancy (or Mexican) way of saying “pumpkin seeds.”  Pepitas have a lot to offer nutritionally.  One-quarter cup provides 3 grams of fiber (12% DV), 2.7 mg of iron (15% DV), and 9 grams of protein.  If you’re watching your saturated fat intake, keep in mind that pepitas do have a relatively high amount of this.  A serving contains 20% of your saturated fat intake for the day (4 grams), twice as much as peanuts.  But pepitas are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which peanuts lack.  Among other things, omega-3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides, decrease blood pressure, and lower your risk of heart disease. Omega-3’s are actually a theme in this recipe.  Not only do the pepitas have them, but so does the avocado, along with vitamins A, C, B6, and E; folate; potassium; and magnesium. Turbot is a mild white fish.  It packs a protein punch while being relatively low in fat and calories.  Each six-ounce serving in this recipe has 162 calories, 27 grams of protein, and five grams of fat, very little of which is saturated. Taken together, this dish provides an excellent balance of micronutrients and explodes with essential vitamins.  It was quick and easy to prepare.  I really liked it, and I hope you do too!

Pepita-crusted Turbot with Avocado Mango Salsa

pepita final
So pretty!

Serves 4

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 ataulfo mangos, diced
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup toasted pepitas, coarsely ground
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 – 6 oz turbot fillets
  • 2 T olive oil

Remove turbot from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently combine salsa ingredients (mango through “dash of salt”) in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Combine petitas, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a wide, shallow bowl.  Pat turbot fillets dry with a paper towel.  Brush the olive oil on both sides of the fillets, using a pastry brush. Gently roll the fillets in the pepita crust to coat. Transfer the fillets to a shallow baking pan, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway through, until the turbot flakes easily with a fork.  Top the fillets with the salsa.

 I simply can't help but throw pictures of Siyona into the blog whenever I have an excuse to do so.  Here's a pic from back in the day.  Avocado was her first food, and she's taking one of her first bites!
I love making excuses to throw pictures of Siyona into the blog. What can I say? I’m her mom. Here’s a pic from back in the day. Avocado was her first food, and she’s taking one of her first bites!

Nutritional Information (per serving)*

  • Energy: 379 calories
  • Total Fat: 21.7 grams (36% DV)
  • Saturated Fat: 4.25 grams (17% DV)
  • Protein: 31.2 grams (62% DV)
  • Carbohydrates: 15.8 grams (5% DV)
  • Fiber: 4.9 grams (20% DV)

*Daily values (DV) are for the general population.  Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need additional energy, particularly in the form of protein, than non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women.

Kids, Recipes

Banana Almond “Cookies”

I have a confession:  I brainwash my child.

Don’t report me to CPS.  Please.  I do it because I love her.

I don’t serve Siyona, my toddler, sugary snacks.  No ice cream, no cake, no doughnuts, no cookies.  Or at least not in traditional varieties.  This is not the brainwashing part, but we are getting there.

Around my house we eat “cookies,” not cookies.  They have just three ingredients, and they are very healthy.  Now before you hang up with CPS and start dialing the Fun Police on me, let me also note that they are very tasty.  At least I think so, and Siyona seems to agree.

The recipe is an adaption of a recipe I received a while back from a client (thank you, Jill).  It was so long ago that I’ve since misplaced the link to the recipe, or I would give credit where due.  Whoever you are, genius recipe maker, kudos to you.

All you do is mash some banana, stir in almond flour/meal, add a dash of cinnamon, and voila!  You have “cookie” dough!

These are so easy that I tend to make them in small batches, but you could increase the quantities to make more cookies.  I’ve never tried to freeze them, but I suspect they would freeze quite well.

I can’t begin to describe how excited Siyona gets when I pull these out!  Instead I’ll let the pictures below tell the tale.  I know they won’t have this allure forever, but I’m riding this wave for as long as I can.

Eyes on cookie...
Eyes on cookie…
...contact made...
…contact made…
...and it's a winner!
…and it’s a winner!

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’re wondering if she’s ever had a REAL cookie, the answer is yes.  And cake, yes, REAL cake too.  Occasionally she’ll eat treats like this at school or on special occasions.  I admit I don’t like it, but I don’t want her to feel ostracized from her peers.  And really it’s not that I NEVER want her eat these things.  Life would seem less fun if she never enjoyed, say, an ice cream cone on a hot sunny day.

But I also believe tastes and preferences are shaped at a young age, so I’m doing my best to instill good eating habits now.  It seems to be working.  Would she choose ice cream over carrots if both choices were placed in front of her?  Absolutely!  Seriously, who wouldn’t?  But does she like carrots?  Yes.  Broccoli?  Yes (especially if it has cheese.  Again, duh).  Brussels sprouts?  Yes.  And the list goes on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I should really probably buy some stock in Trader Joe’s.

Banana Almond “Cookies”

Makes 4 small cookies

  • ¼ cup banana, mashed (about ½ medium banana)
  • ⅓ cup almond meal/flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.  Form into small disks on a lightly buttered baking sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 13-15 minutes.