Monthly Archives: February 2014

High-protein Gluten-free Blender Waffles

High protein gluten free waffles. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside - just as they should be! For well over a week I have been obsessed.

Uhhhhhbbssesssedddd.

A woman on a mission, some might say.

High protein gluten free waffles

Never in my life have I tested a recipe so many times before arriving at a winner. The funny thing is, my very first shot at making high-protein gluten-free waffles was completely delicious. But I was determined to do better than delicious. I was after perfection. {Hello, type A.}

Whenever I sub out ingredients ({like flour, sugar, and butter in this case} it has to be worth it. Really really worth it. And I won’t settle for a sub-par outcome just because it’s a little healthier. No sir.

High protein gluten free waffles

For me, high-protein g-free waffles had to live up to everything I love about the original. While I nailed the flavor from the get-go I’ve literally made {and eaten} dozens and dozens of waffles since then. Hard work, but someone’s got to do it. I kept going until I finally arrived at the ideal combination and proportion of ingredients that delivered the texture I was after. You know what I’m talking about: That crispy exterior and fluffy interior that’s essentially the reason I crave waffles to begin with.

Let’s talk about some of those ingredients:

  • Rolled oats
  • Almond milk
  • Egg white
  • Fat-free cottage cheese {if you, like me, think this is one of the yuckiest foods known to man, I assure you that you can’t taste it at all–it really helps with the fluffy texture and high protein content, though}
  • Flaxseed {packing as much health into these babies as I can. Say hello to cancer-fighting lignans!}
  • Banana {I’ve made it with and without. Definitely use the banana. It also helps with the texture and since there’s only one there isn’t a strong banana flavor. It doesn’t need to be very ripe, but the riper it is the more you’ll taste it.}

Take all of those ingredients plus a few more {cinnamon, vanilla, and baking powder} and whirl them in a blender for about two minutes. Let it rest while you heat the waffle iron. And voila: Amazing waffles that can legitimately pass for a meal instead of eating dessert for breakfast {or lunch or dinner}.

Serve with a green juice and you’ve successfully consumed every food group. Waffles you can feel really, really good about? My work here is done.

High protein gluten free waffles

High-protein Gluten-free Blender Waffles

Makes 4 waffles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats {if you can’t eat gluten for health reasons make sure they’re gluten-free}
  • 3/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • Heaping 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

Blend all ingredients together in a blender on medium-high speed for 1.5 to 2 minutes. Heat waffle iron while batter rests {If you have a choice of heat settings on your waffle iron, I prefer a hotter setting (like a 4 on a 1 to 5 dial) to help with the crispy exterior}. Once heated, spray with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter or coconut oil. Pour batter onto iron and cook until finished {or leave on for another minute or two for extra crispiness}. Eat immediately with any toppings you like such as 100% maple syrup, fruit, or yogurt. Like regular waffles, they’ll get soggy the longer they sit.

Balanced Juicing: My thoughts, tips & favorite green juice recipe

Balanced Juicing: My thoughts, tips, and recipe for making juice a part of an overall healthy diet.

While I’m usually the last one to get on board with a trend {and usually it’s no longer trendy at that point} I am all about juicing. 

I’ll admit, I first learned about it because it’s so popular. As it turns out, I absolutely love juicing. Loooooooove it! I feel strongly that juicing will continue to be a part of my life long after health nuts are onto the next craze.

I’ve also found ways to make juicing a part of my overall way of eating. You’ll never hear me utter the words “cleanse” or “detox” around here. ::shudder:: If you’re considering juicing or wondering how to do it without forgoing solid foods, I hope my experience sheds some light on ways to do just that. Below, I did a little Q&A {yup, this journo interviewed herself} about all things juicing.

Why do you juice? 

There’s plenty of literature out there that talks about the health benefits of juicing, nutrient absorption in the absence of fiber, etc. But for me the reason is simple: It’s a way to consume lots of nutrients directly from plants.

What do you love about it?

Most importantly, it makes me feel great. I always feel energized after a glass {part of that is from the natural sugars in some of the ingredients, but mostly it’s because of the flood of nutrients.} When I drink it in the morning, I love that I start my day on a great nutritional note. On days when I don’t eat as well as I should, I know that I did something good for myself if I juiced at some point. It’s also a great way to clean out the fridge when we have leftover fruits and vegetables from the week {who can ever make it through a whole bunch of parsley anyway? Juice it!}

How does juicing fit into your overall way of eating?

For the most part, juicing doesn’t take the place of anything, it’s just another way to get a heap of nutrients that make my body feel great. However, I recently cut way back on coffee so many mornings I start my day with green juice and hot tea instead of coffee. Occasionally I’ll have juice in the afternoon kind of like a snack.

Why do you prefer juice over smoothies?

Smoothies are awesome {Robert has them all the time}, but they don’t fill me up enough to actually count as a meal–though they contain as many calories as one. Instead, I’ll have a green juice and solid food. Most mornings I’ll have green juice followed by a bowl of Greek yogurt and my maple walnut granola.

What kind of juicer do you have?

I have the Breville Juice Fountain Crush Slow Juicer and I highly recommend it. From personal experience, I suggest buying a slow juicer instead of a centrifugal juicer. We started with a centrifugal juicer {this one}, a piece randomly broke, I did some research about whether to replace or upgrade the juicer and discovered that slow juicers are much better at extracting  juice from greens and that’s exactly what I’ve found to be true. I get significantly more juice from spinach, kale, swiss chard, romaine, and everything else with the slow juicer than I did with the other one. It also creates very little waste {meaning you get much more juice}. This is all of the waste that came from making the glass of green juice at the top of this post:

DSCN3483

Having said all that, centrifugal juicers are often more affordable and still do a great job at juicing.

What are some of your favorite tips for juicing?

  • Prepare all of your ingredients before juicing. Wash your fruits and vegetables, cut anything that needs to be cut, etc.
  • Place a plastic produce bag over the container that collects the waste. Afterward, you’ll just toss the bag and have to clean one less part.
  • Alternate ingredients. After a few pieces of a leafy green such as kale, for instance, juice something juicier like a piece of apple, orange, or cucumber, and then juice something green again. This helps push more of the green juice through.
  • Clean your juicer right after you juice. Most of the time, I only need to run the parts under warm water and everything comes right off.
  • Clean the glass your juice was in as soon as you’re done drinking it. Otherwise, the juice will stain the glass {speaking from experience…}

What’s your favorite juice recipe?

I love all kinds of juice, but green is my favorite and the one I make most often. It’s slightly different each time depending on what ingredients we have, but here’s a guide for making a delicious, nutrition-packed green juice:

Balanced Juicing Recipe

Makes 1 glass of juice

  • 4 handfuls of baby spinach {or: 4 to 6 stalks of kale, swiss chard, or other leafy green or one head of romaine lettuce}
  • 4 to 6 inch section of cucumber, unpeeled
  • 1 – 2 carrots, unpeeled
  • 1/2 apple, unpeeled
  • Sliver of ginger, unpeeled {about 1/2 inch thick}
  • 1 to 2 clementines, peeled {or: 1/2 orange, 1/4 grapefruit, 1/2 cup pineapple, peeled}
  • 1/4 lemon or lime, peeled
  • 2 celery stalks
  • Big handful of parsley or cilantro
  • 2 oz water

Send all ingredients except water through the juicer, alternating greens with juicier ingredients such as apple, orange, or cucumber. With the juicer still on, add the water to push any remaining juice through. Pour into glass and drink up.

I hope this is helpful! If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I’d be happy to answer them as best I can. Cheers!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sending a big, fat virtual hug to you all today.

Are you doing anything fun with your friends or sweetheart? Robert and I are planning a low-key night at home. I’m making this Greek Chicken and Potatoes {an absolute favorite} for dinner. Then we’ll catch up on DVR–maybe some Olympics, Bachelor, or House of Cards {!!!} A perfectly relaxing evening if you ask me. Robert’s working craaaaazy hours for months so any amount of time we get to spend together is special whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.

I was perfectly happy to stay in this year, but I was thinking back to this time just a few years ago. We’d only been dating for two months when Valentine’s rolled around. He sent me the most beautiful pink roses, which were completely unexpected, and took me on a date to a fabulous Chicago restaurant called Perennial Virant. I was smitten. Although I’m not one to typically give into the V-Day hype {see: sweatpants and DVR} I had never felt more special in my life.

It’s probably a little late to suggest something you can make for Valentine’s Day if you’re cooking tonight, but I hope you keep this soup in mind for some time soon.

I’ve tried to make the perfect beef barley soup for years and I have finally done it. Truly, this is the last beef barley recipe I ever need. Jackpot! It’s rich, a perfect balance of chunky and brothy, and I even snuck some spinach in there, too. I ate this throughout the week and was totally bummed when it was all gone. Time to make another pot!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Parsley for garnish

Preparation

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef stew meat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until cooked through. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery, saute about 5 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic cloves, and dried thyme. Cook 5 minutes more. Add beef broth, water, barley and meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is cooked and softened, about 25 minutes. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Serve soup with chopped fresh parsley for garnish.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping.

Well folks, it appears I am on a casseROLL. Get it? Oh, food humor.

We’re still freezing our faces off in Chicago so we need all of the comfort we can get.

Until recently, I wasn’t a big fan of “lighter” versions of more indulgent recipes. I didn’t see the point. My thinking was you could just have a reasonable-sized serving of the original and don’t have it every day. Recently, my thinking has shifted.

While there’s still a time and a place for those more indulgent recipes like special occasions and dinner parties, when you’re making something you’ll be eating throughout the week like we do, it needs to be nutritionally dense and, yes, lighter. So I see those richer recipes as templates or inspiration and then dream up ways to transform them.

How I did that here: Instead of ground beef I used a mixture of ground white and dark meat turkey. There are tons of veggies {though minimal chopping because I relied partly on frozen organic vegetables along with fresh mushrooms}. And instead of mashed potatoes I mashed sweet potatoes with only four ingredients: sweet potatoes, a tiny bit of butter {just 2 Tbsp}, salt and pepper.

In the end, the result is something completely different from traditional shepherd’s pie, but every bit as satisfying and better for you.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping. Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper

For the shepherd’s pie filling:

  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds ground turkey (I used 3/4 lb ground white meat and 3/4 lb ground dark meat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Preparation

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

Place sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, continue cooking until potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use an electric mixer/handheld masher). Add butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until light and fluffy.

For the filling:

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cooked until turkey is cooked through. Use a wooden spoon to break turkey up into smaller pieces. Remove turkey from pot, place in a bowl, and set aside.

To the pot, add onion. Saute 1 minute. Add celery. Saute until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Use wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Cook until mushrooms start to cook down, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add frozen mixed vegetables, 1 cup chicken broth, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and paprika. Add flour and stir until thoroughly combined. Add turkey back into the pot. Simmer about 10 minutes

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees while turkey filling simmers**

Prepare the casserole: Fill bottom of baking dish {I used 9 x 13in) with turkey filling. Top with mashed sweet potato and smooth across the top. Bake about 25 minutes until bubbly.

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

What in this world is more comforting than a casserole? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And this recipe is no exception. Where it is the exception: Unlike 99.999999 percent of casseroles out there, it’s actually good for you. Yes, indeed! At the same time, it is sooooo tasty.

I still can’t believe this recipe happened. I mean, cabbage rolls? Really? Does anyone eat that anymore? Maybe not, but they should! For those who aren’t familiar with cabbage rolls, they’re usually ground beef, white rice, seasonings and some other good stuff rolled into cabbage leaves and then simmered in a pot of tomato sauce on the stove for hours. {Keep reading, my recipe can be made in under an hour and contains many healthy upgrades.}

I honestly have no explanation for how it came about except a bizarre craving that happened one day even though I’d never had a cabbage roll in my life. Next thing I knew I was researching cabbage roll recipes like it was my job. I took one stab at developing a healthier version with ground turkey and brown rice and quickly learned how challenging it is to perfectly roll each of the cabbage leaves and then eat the leftover cabbage rolls at your desk without splattering tomato sauce over your keyboard while answering e-mails. Yeah, that wasn’t pretty. But they sure tasted great!

So that’s how this happened: Deconstructed cabbage roll casserole. Easier to make and easier to eat. You’re looking at layers of ground turkey, brown rice, onion, garlic, shredded carrot, and herbs in a tomato sauce, along with layers of lightly seasoned sauteed chopped cabbage. If you’re a texture fiend like I am this dish delivers – the cabbage maintains a slight crunch amidst the softer turkey, rice, and tomato layers.

It’s totally weeknight doable. I chopped the onion, garlic, and cabbage, shredded the carrot, and cooked the brown rice the night before and then put it together the next day. It makes fantastic protein-packed leftovers and freezes beautifully.

I can’t guarantee it’ll be the most attractive thing you’ve ever made when you serve it from the dish {result below}, but if you adore a bowl of food where lots of components mingle together like I do, well, you’re in luck. Comforting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey (I used 1/2 lb ground turkey breast & 1/2 lb ground dark meat turkey)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot (or 2 smaller carrots), peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 head green cabbage, cut in half, remove & discard the core, roughly chop leaves
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Preparation

**See note below about when to preheat oven**

Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, remove from pot, and set aside.

To the pot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, if needed. Saute onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add shredded carrot, thyme, paprika, and cinnamon. Mix to coat everything in spices.

To the pot, add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth or water. Add ground turkey back to pot. Simmer about 15 minutes. Add brown rice to  turkey-tomato mixture and simmer 5 minutes more.

**While turkey-tomato mixture simmers, preheat oven to 350 degrees and saute cabbage (see next step below)** 

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Spray casserole dish {I used 9×13 in} with non-stick cooking spray. To make the casserole add half the sauteed cabbage to bottom of the pan, layer half the turkey-tomato-rice mixture on top, layer the remaining cabbage, and layer the remaining turkey-tomato-rice mixture.

Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more until sauce is bubbling.

Sausage Sweet Potato Soup

Sausage Sweet Potato SoupI kind of feel the need to start this post with an apology. We’ve been eating this soup all winter long and I’m just getting around to sharing it with you now. So guys, I’m sorry.

After making yet another pot of it this weekend, I’m finally here to tell you about it. It’s simple, extremely flavorful (especially for a broth-based soup that’s not even made with homemade broth), and totally healthy.

You start by browning a pound of spicy Italian chicken sausage (or any kind you like). Scoop that out and add some fresh onions, garlic, and leek to the pot to really boost the flavor. Dump in your carrots and celery. Add the sausage back to the pot along with sweet potato chunks, chicken broth, and a little water. Once you’ve reached a boil add your greens and parsley. I typically use swiss chard, but you can use anything that strikes your fancy–spinach, kale, and collard greens all work great, too. Keep things at a simmer for about 20 minutes and dig in!

I can confirm that this soup heals all. As much as I like to keep things happy around here I also like to stay honest. So I’ll admit I’ve been fighting a case of the winter blahs this year (it’s hard not to with the constant grey skies, snow, and cold). At the same time, I could feel a cold creeping in late last week that had me down for the count throughout this weekend. A few spoonfuls of this soup helped me keep in mind that despite my sniffles and sighs, you can always take a moment to savor the good stuff and remember that neither will last forever. Though I sure wish this soup would!

Sausage Sweet Potato Soup

Sausage  Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound raw spicy Italian chicken sausage (casings removed), or any kind of sausage you like
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (be sure to clean thoroughly, they collect a lot of sand/dirt)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato (about 1 lb), peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (or other green) stems removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. (Once it’s cooked, I like to take a wooden spoon and break it up into really little pieces.) Transfer sausage from pot to a bowl and set aside.

Add additional olive oil, about 1 Tbsp, to pot if needed. Add onion, garlic, and leek. Season with some salt and pepper. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add celery and carrot to pot. Saute until they start to soften, 5 to 8 minutes.

Return sausage to the pot. Add the sweet potato, chicken broth, and water. Raise heat and bring to a boil.

Add swiss chard and parsley to pot. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender about 20 minutes.