warm quinoa bowl with greens and mixed veggies

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Lunch is the meal I struggle with the most. Usually during lunch time, I’m at work or school and the easiest option is running to starbucks or au bon pain, or any similar option. In the mornings I’m not usually functioning enough to make myself something to bring along, so this week, I prepared a little something that I can grab and go with. This recipe is really just a base idea for something you can customize with whatever your favorite veggies are, or what ever you need to use up in your fridge!

Ingredients

1 lb of ground turkey (I use 93% lean)
1/2 lb italian sausage (I use sweet links and take them out of their casing because they are usually cheaper than the preground sausage)
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 onion
1 large clove of garlic or 2 small
your choice of greens and veggies (I used baby spinach, brussel sprouts, italian peppers, and leeks)

Instructions

Brown your ground turkey and sausage in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I also threw in a little bit of chili powder, paprika, basil, oregano, and parsley. While the meat is browning, follow the cooking instructions for your quinoa. When the meat is fully cooked, remove it from the pan, and add your onion, garlic, leeks, and peppers with some more olive oil. Once these have started to soften add your brussel sprouts and spinach. Add the crushed tomatoes and ground beef and mix it all together. When the quinoa is finished cooking, add that to the meat and veggie mixture. Once everything is mixed together, you can use this as stuffing in stuffed peppers or stuffed squash, or you can just eat it plain. I also like to add a slice of fresh mozzarella on top as an extra treat, and melt it for a couple minutes under the broiler. Serve and enjoy!

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oven baked spinach and kale felafel

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I love my veggies but sometimes eating them can be a chore. I wanted to whip up a fun new way to eat my greens today, so I modified the traditional felafel to to include spinach and kale in addition to the traditional chick peas! Also, here are some fun facts about the health benefits of the ingredients in this dish;

Kale
Kale is low in calories, has zero fat, and a ton of fiber. It is full of antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and K- these vitamins help your skin, you vision, your metabolism and you hydration… vitamin K is even thought to be a cancer fighter! It’s high in iron and calcium, is great for your liver, and is a perfect veggie for detoxing your body! 

Spinach
Similarly to kale, spinach contains many antioxidants and vitamins that are great for you liver, skin, and overall bodily function. It also contains beta-carotene which has been shown to prevent asthma.

Chick Peas/ Garbanzo Beans
A great source of protein, these beans also contain tons of fiber, iron, and manganese; a mineral that helps with energy production and antioxidant defenses. Chickpeas are also thought to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and because they contain folate and magnesium, they are thought to strengthen blood vessels and possibly lower the risk of heart attack.

CuminCumin is one of my favorite spices, not only for the taste, but for all of its great health benefits! Each teaspoon contains 22% of your daily Iron intake, it has been used for centuries as a bacteria blocker on certain foods, and a study showed it can help fight bacteria in wounds in humans.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil has been known to lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. It is high in monounsaturated fat which can help lower cholesterol and control insulin production. It is also full of antioxidant polyphenol which helps protect your cells from damage- certain polyphenols have also been said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ingredients

1 can of chickpeas
a few handfuls each of kale and spinach
2-3 tablespoons of flour (i used barley flour but you can use whatever you have laying around the house!)
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of parsley
a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
half a red onion
two cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
salt & pepper

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add your chickpeas (drained and rinsed!), spinach, and kale to your food processor. Give this a few pulses and then add your spices, onion, garlic, and lemon juice, and continue to mix until everything is combined- it won’t be perfectly smooth and that’s ok. Also, depending on how much spinach and kale you use, you may have to add more flour to help thicken your mixture up a bit more. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spoon a bit of your mixture onto it. I just dropped my mix and let it do its thing, but feel free to shape them into patties. Once they are laid out on the cookie sheet and put them in the oven. I wasn’t exactly timing mine, but I think it took about 20 minutes- when they are done, they will be starting to turn a nice golden brown and will be pretty firm to the touch.

To serve, I chopped up some mini heirloom tomatoes and made a bit of greek yogurt spread to go with the felafel, and threw everything onto a whole wheat pita. For the yogurt spread I added a handful of fresh basil to about a quarter of a cup of plain greek yogurt, some salt, pepper, and olive oil, as well as some garlic powder, and blended it until smooth. I also topped with crumbled goat cheese because, well, goat cheese makes everything better!

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swiss chard, fennel, goat cheese & ricotta pizza

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swiss chard, fennel, goat cheese & ricotta pizza

I’m a fan of any and all types of pizza… why wouldn’t you want tomatoes and bread and cheese, all in one? At least that’s how I originally looked at it. Now I still love my classic New York cheese pizza, but I love pies that use fresh and healthy ingredients as well! So, when I was scavenging for food in my fridge today, this is what I came up with! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Pizza Dough
2 packets of active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup of olive oil
4 cups of flour (1/2 AP, 1/2 whole wheat)

Topping
a medium fennel bulb, sliced thinly
one onion, sliced
one bunch of swiss chard
bacon
goat cheese
home made ricotta

Ricotta
4 cups of whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tbsp of lemon juice

Instructions

In a large pot, add your whole milk and your heavy cream. While you are waiting for this to boil, add 2 packets of active dry yeast to the cup and a half of warm (about 110 degrees) water. This will need to sit for about five minutes before you do anything else. Once you see your milk start to develop foam on the top, watch carefully because it will begin to boil soon. As the milk begins to boil, add in two tablespoons of lemon juice and give one quick stir. Let rest for about two minutes. You will see curds have formed and at this point you can strain through cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer. Let your curds separate from the whey and you will soon have ricotta! Depending on how stiff or moist you’d like your cheese, draining times will vary.

Now you can finish your dough. The water and yeast should have developed a slight foam on top, and at this point you can whisk in the olive oil, salt, and sugar. Once they are combined being to stir in your flour. If it gets to difficult to do with a spoon, feel free to get in there with your hands! You don’t want to overwork the dough at this point though, so once everything is combined, coat a new bowl with a touch of olive oil and put your dough in there to rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep somewhere warm to rise and double in size.

At this point you can begin all of your chopping and rinsing. Slice your fennel thinly and caramelize- this will take a while, fennel is a strong veggie and needs time and patience to break down. Once they are soft and brown you can add in your sliced onion (I also added a splash of white wine!), and begin to cook it. Put the fennel and onion into a dish, and start to wilt your swiss chard- don’t even worry about washing the pan! While the chard is cooking down, throw a few pieces of bacon in a skillet and cook until crispy.

Once all of your toppings are ready, your dough should be good to go! There will be enough dough for a couple pizza’s- cut in half and save half the dough for later. Gently knead the dough on a floured surface and start to stretch to whatever shape pizza you’d like to make. For really thin crust I flatten out the dough even more with my rolling pin. Transfer your dough to a cookie sheet or pizza stone and throw on your toppings (for a vegetarian option, omit bacon)! I cooked my pizza at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes and then bumped the temperature up to 500 to finish off and get a nice crispy crust. I knew mine was ready when I could smell the pizza and when I looked in the oven, my crust was a golden brown!

I topped my pizza with some garlic powder, fresh parmesan, and salt and pepper. Divide up and enjoy!

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sunday dinner

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Milk Poached Chicken with Fennel on Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta

I eat a lot of chicken. And I feel like I always make it the same way- as chicken cutlets or in stir fry. I decided to experiment and play with my chicken this week after reading about a few different techniques to get the most tender and delicious chicken around. When I was deciding what to serve it with, I wanted something besides pasta or bread, so I made polenta for the first time and mixed in my favorite cheese. I was a little scared to see if it would actually turn out, but after a lot of vigorous stirring and sweating over the stove, I had a creamy pot of goodness. Check out the recipes below!

Ingredients

For the Chicken:
Either a whole chicken or a few chicken breasts with rib meat
olive oil
salt + pepper
1 bulb of fennel
1 shallot
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
a few cups of milk
a few sprigs of thyme
a cinnamon stick
whole star anise
lemon zest

For the Polenta:
1 cup of cornmeal or polenta
4 cups of milk
goat cheese
parmesan rinds
salt + pepper

Instructions

Brown your chicken on all sides- it doesn’t have to cook the chicken significantly, it just has to turn it a nice golden brown. As you’re browning the chicken, start sauteing your shallots, garlic, and fennel in the bottom of a dutch oven (I diced my shallots, crushed my garlic, and sliced my fennel thinly). Once your chicken is done browning, add it to the dutch oven, and pour a few cups of milk over the top of the chicken- you can use part milk and part water as well if you do not have enough milk. Add your spices and lemon zest and bring to a boil. Cooking times will change depending on what type of chicken meat you go with- I used chicken breast and it was finished in 20-30 minutes. If you are using a whole chicken, you can finish by baking off in the oven. 

While your chicken is poaching, bring four cups of water to a boil. Begin to stir the water to create a whirlpool effect, and slowly add one cup of cornmeal/polenta, stirring vigorously. Once the polenta is combined with the water and you don’t see it separate when you stop stirring, you can take a break. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then stir for a few minutes- it’s almost like risotto! You’ll want to cook the polenta until it is very thick- about 25-30 minutes. Once it is thick, add as much or as little goat cheese as you’d like, a parmesan rind or fresh grated parmesan, and salt and pepper. Stir all of this in well, and let the polenta rest for a few minutes before serving.

To go along with this dish, I also sauteed up some spinach and mushrooms. When serving, I scooped the polenta into a bowl, added a layer of spinach, and topped with the chicken and some fennel.

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breakfast is key!

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It’s amazing what a difference thirty minutes can make in the morning. Personally, I’ve never been an early riser, and breakfast generally means a cup of coffee. If you want the best start to your day though, breakfast is key. It jump starts your metabolism and literally turns your body on. I just finished reading The Body Book by Cameron Diaz, and she did a great job explaining why this meal was so important. Your body needs its nutrients to work properly, and if you try to start your day without giving your body fuel, you’ll just lag until your next meal and will probably end up overeating when you finally do sit down for lunch!

So, I decided to take on this challenge and throw myself out of bed at 7am instead of 7:30. First I drank a huge glass of water- your body becomes dehydrated during sleep so replenishing is key! Almost immediately I felt more awake and motivated to actually make breakfast. After a quick gander in the fridge, I grabbed some eggs, spinach, and cream- that counts for protein, protein, and more protein! Instead of just a regular omelet, I wanted something a little fluffier and different so I whipped up this fusion of a quiche and a fritatta… This kept me full all morning and into the afternoon at work!

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penne with brown butter, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli

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ingredients:

1/2 box of penne
1/4 c. olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
3 or 4 heirloom tomatoes
one small head of broccoli
a few handfuls of spinach
half a stick of butter
a handful of pine nuts
salt and pepper

this recipe is a take on one of giada di laurentiis’ recipes which consists of penne with brown butter, arugula, and tomatoes. i took what i had in the fridge and made my version! i started out by boiling half a box of penne for 8 minutes (al dente), and toasting a handful of pine nuts for about 5 minutes. then i mixed up a little dressing, consisting of 1/4 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil and the zest and juice of one lemon. whisk this together with some salt and pepper and set aside. when the pasta is about half way done, brown half a stick of butter- once it is melted down completely it will only take a few more minutes until it is the right ‘caramel’ color. also steam cook some broccoli to throw in with the pasta. once the pasta is done cooking throw it in with the browned butter, a few handfuls of spinach, chopped heirloom tomatoes, and your steamed broccoli. once the spinach is wilted down, add the dressing and toasted pine nuts. serve up and enjoy!

pesto crusted salmon on a bed of quinoa and spinach, with a side of roasted potatoes and mushrooms

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this week i decided to be adventurous and try something new- salmon. although i’ve eaten it before, i had never cooked it by myself and thought, ‘it’s time…’. I browsed through a ton of recipes regarding salmon and they all seemed too complicated and over powering so i did some inventing of my own. this is what i came up with!

Ingredients:
-Pesto (basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, parsley- optional)
-Salmon (filets of steaks will work for this!)
-A bag of small rainbow potatoes
-Sliced mushrooms
-Fresh Spinach
-Quinoa or Mixed Grains

Step One:
Mix up your pesto- for this you don’t need a ton, so grab a few good handfulls of basil, two or three clove of garlic, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of pine nuts, salt and pepper, and if you have any, a bit of fresh parsley. Blend this up so everything is mixed into a paste like consistency. 

Step Two:
Prepare your potatoes and mushrooms- make sure they are rinsed! The potatoes can be roasted whole or cut in half. I coated the potatoes and mushrooms in a couple spoonfuls of the pesto and a bit more olive oil. Throw this in the oven at about 400 degrees.

Step Three:
Prepare your grain- quinoa takes about twenty minutes so you’ll want to get it up to a simmer and cooking while the potatoes are cooking.

Step Four:
The salmon- I coated this in the pesto and a few slices of lemon and grapefruit. I made a little foil pouch/packet to cook it in for the oven and threw it in with the roasting potatoes. Salmon cooking time varies so i checked mine after about eight minutes and then let it cook for another five to eight minutes until it was light pink and flaky all the way through. 

Step Five:
While everything else is cooking, you’re going to want to sauté your spinach. this goes pretty quick so thats why i saved it for last! once all the leaves were wilted down i put some garlic salt and pepper on it for flavor.

i was lucky and managed to time everything just about right so it was done at about the same  time. i served the salmon on the bed of spinach and quinoa, with the potatoes and mushrooms on the side. i also topped the salmon with some avocado slices!