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Posts Tagged ‘healthy’

Lentils have always been a staple for us. During Greg’s first year of graduate school, before we were married, his work week sustenance consisted almost entirely of brown rice and lentils. High in fiber and magnesium, and easy on the wallet, this was a quintessential “poor man’s food”, and delicious to top it all off.

Since then, our lentil repertoire has evolved quite a bit. We add red lentils to soups or stews for extra depth, creaminess, and nutrition without interfering with flavor. (Fun fact, red lentils somehow complement the flavor of roasted tomato soup!) Brown lentils, the cheapest option, are slightly meatier and, unlike their red cousins, hold their shape much better when cooked.  We often cook them up in soups and stews with a melange of vegetables — carrots, eggplant, kale.

Recently we saw French lentils on sale for roughly the price of standard brown lentils.  They are earthier and have a beautiful, delicate black and green color.  Technically, these lentils are called “green lentils” because true French lentils, or puy lentils, come from the region of Le Puy.  This below cooking method seemed most appropriate, whether the lentils were actually from France or not.

Red Wine Braised Lentils
4-6 large carrots
4-6 stalks celery
1 large onion
2-4 garlic cloves
1 quart chicken stock
~1 cup red wine
2 cups dry lentils (brown or green)
salt to taste

Soak lentils in advance.  They will plump to about 4 cups.  Dice vegetables.  In large pot or dutch oven, saute onion with salt over medium heat.  When translucent and beginning to brown, add garlic, celery, and carrot, salt again, and continue to cook (covered is fine) until soft.  Add wine and let alcohol burn away.  Add stock and lentils and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

You could add other sturdy vegetables as well, like fennel or potatoes.  Tomatoes would be another good addition.  We served ours topped with greek yogurt and paprika.  The yogurt was for creaminess and to cool it down.  The paprika was just for vanity.

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Chocolate avocado mousse is one of the hottest recipes to hit the raw foods, vegan, health foods circuit as of late. It’s a luscious, creamy, and remarkably guilt-free dessert, chock full of antioxidants from the chocolate and healthy fats from the avocado. And though it may sound a bit kooky and unconventional, trust us on this one…

And just in case you need some extra evidence to back up your chocolate habit — chocolate may lead to reduced risk of heart attack, lower blood pressure, and improved arterial blood flow, says WebMD. And, it keeps your wife happy, and you know what they say — happy wife, happy life!

Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Rich Version

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1/2 c dark chocolate

Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, until completely soft and no chunks remain. Tips for melting chocolate found here.

Combine avocado and melted dark chocolate in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Light Version

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1 T peanut butter
1 T vanilla extract
3 T cocoa powder
agave nectar to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Chill until  ready to serve. Garnish with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.

I can also envision this being delicious with a bit of coconut oil or a splash of coconut milk. The texture is infinitely forgiving, so try it out and let me know what you find!

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After baking these incredible carrot shortbread cookies over the weekend, we are a bit hooked on carrots in dessert. Partly due to our healthy diet kick, and partly due to a family-sized bag of Costco carrots in our fridge, we decided to try our hand at another carrot dessert.

Very rarely do we bake something that is a complete personal invention. Tonight, however, after scouring the Internet for a simple healthy recipe for carrot cake, we decided to resort to our own devices. The recipes we found online all required ingredients we don’t usually keep in stock — wheat germ, flax seed, etc. — or just seemed to involve too many steps for a weekday treat.

The result of our creative genius was blog-worthy. This carrot cake is light and fluffy, almost like a souffle, due to the separating of eggs in the first step. It is naturally sweetened with banana, and only had an additional 2 tablespoons of sugar. The next time I do this, I might play around with excluding the sugar altogether and adding the other half of the banana. I may also try adding a tablespoon or two of coconut oil or cocoa powder for a completely different twist. We used almonds in this recipe, but hazelnuts or walnuts would be delicious as well, especially if toasted for a few minutes prior to grinding.

Simple, Healthy Carrot Cake

3 eggs, separated
3/4 c nuts, ground finely
8 carrots, peeled, grated
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1 T vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Gently butter a 8″x8″ square cake pan.

Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine carrots and bananas and stir until well-mixed. Add egg yolks, vanilla, ground nuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar, mixing after each addition. Combine until well-mixed.

Fold egg whites gently into carrot batter, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes, watching carefully.

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Upon returning from our trip to China/Taiwan, we’ve turned over a new leaf and have decided to start eating healthier than ever. We’ve cut out processed sugar (fruit is fine), and have stuck to whole grains, lots of vegetables, and very limited sweets (save the very occasional baked treat with maple sugar or fruit as sweetener). Keeping to this new healthy lifestyle, we have collectively lost about ten pounds in the last six weeks!

We’ve recently received a cookbook written by one of my favorite bloggers — Super Natural Every Day. This book emphasizes whole grains and vegetables, keeping pantries stocked with whole, natural foods made with as little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives as possible. It’s really a fabulous read, and the blog is one of my long-standing favorites. The salad featured here is largely based on her kale salad with toasted coconut.

We made this for lunch with a bit of leftover short grain brown rice, but really any grain will do (quinoa, wheat berries, etc.). For a more substantial meal, you may want to consider adding some protein (tofu, any kind of white bean, or chicken) or a sprinkle of toasted nuts.

One important note — do be sure to wash your kale carefully. Though kale is not one of the dirty dozen, it is a “special mention” on the list of vegetables that are commonly contaminated with toxic insecticides. Also, it drives us crazy when people tell recommend discarding the ribs of kale! Yes, they are tougher than the leaves are, but full of fiber and should not pose a problem to young healthy teeth. If you’re an 80-year old with dentures, you may want to be a bit more careful, but otherwise, keep the ribs.

Coconut Kale and Caramelized Leek Salad

1/2 bunch of kale, finely chopped
1 leek
1/4 c coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 c cooked brown rice
a few sprigs of fresh herbs (we used basil)
sesame oil to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the kale and coconut flakes evenly on two cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Do check on these and toss a few times during baking, as they are prone to burning.

On low heat, saute chopped leeks until soft and caramelized (brown). Alternatively, you can slice these lengthwise into halves and grill, then chop after grilling, as we did.

Once the kale and coconut are finished, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with a bit of sesame oil or good olive oil, add some chopped herbs (basil, in our case), and a grinding or two of black pepper.

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This may not come as much of a surprise given the Manhattan-centrism of this blog, but I have a bit of a complex relationship with most of the U.S. See, with the exception of the Northeast, I have no real desire to live anywhere else. Now though this preference may seem fairly simple, it is significantly complicated when faced with the job market for econ PhD graduates. The U.S. has quite a concentration of top tier schools in the Northeast, but quite a few other schools decidedly not in the Northeast. It’s a rather large country, you see.

So in the process of converting me one state at a time, Greg recently brought home a large, delicately packaged box of fresh California calimyrna figs. In doing so, he planted the tantalizing fantasy in my mind of a mystical fig tree in our backyard that could produce figs at our . California figs are “succulent, aromatic and naturally sweet”, “environmentally friendly”, “the perfect fruit choice for summertime noshing”, and “a virtual powerhouse of nutrition”. (Additional propaganda found here.)

We’ve been savoring these figs a few at a time, since “sweet, savory, fresh or dried, sliced, diced, baked, puréed or sautéed – there are a lot of ways to enjoy simply beautiful, simply delicious California Figs.” If you find yourself with some fresh figs on hand, one of our favorite preparations of figs so far is halved with a drizzle of honey or balsamic creme. Another favorite preparation is chopped figs with maple-nut granola and Greek yogurt for a low-fat, heart-healthy breakfast.

Maple-Nut Granola

3 c rolled oats
1 c nuts (chopped hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
1/4 c maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine oats, nuts, and maple syrup. Mix thoroughly to combine maple syrup with other ingredients. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until granola is browned.

Additional modifications:

Maple syrup can be replaced with honey, agave nectar, molasses, or other liquid sweetener.

Dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, coconut flakes can be added with no modifications to the other ingredients.

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So here’s a small confession: I have not yet revealed to the husband that his opinion that this banana “ice cream” is just as good as true ice cream is wrong. It’s not. I’ve had more ice cream than you’d probably dare to imagine in my twenty-something years of life, and a frozen banana substitute doesn’t quite cut it.

WHAT???? (Husband cutting in here.)  This is news to me.  Okay, if by “not as good” you mean “doesn’t taste like heavy, fatty, cream and sugar,” then, yeah, it doesn’t.  But frappe-ed frozen banana is silky and sweet and light and smooth, and an excellent canvass for subtle and not-so-subtle flavors.  It’s taking gelato one step further.  Because, honestly, who ever had a rich butter-cream ice cream that tasted like mint or basil?

Controversy aside, frozen banana is a delightful dessert.  And after our summer roll party, we had plenty of basil and mint to go through.  So why not mint-basil ice cream?

Banana “ice cream”
2-3 frozen bananas (broken into smaller pieces if possible)
1/4-1/2 cup of milk (add as you go)
splash vanilla
flavorings as desired

You’ll need a food processor or a blender (former preferred).  If you are using leaves that you want blended down, add these first.  Add frozen banana and blend until broken down.  Turn off, add a splash of milk (and any other ingredients you want), continue blending.  Repeat, slowly adding milk, until you get the desired consistency.  Other good flavors would be cinnamon or nutmeg; stirring chocolate (melted or in chip form) at the end is nice, too.

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