Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten of Green and Lean '09

I love year end countdown lists! So, it’s only fair that I provide my own retrospective on my year-long blog challenge. Back in January, I started this blog as a diary that I could use for my own inspiration and motivation to eat healthier. I kept the web address “hidden” from search engines and didn’t tell anyone about it for quite awhile. But, I cracked and told Cassandra about it so we’d have things to share over the distance of MN to NY. She was so encouraging about this silly blog that I slowly started letting others read my posts. I was a little scared and embarrassed that my brainless musings would be available to the world on the Internet, but I’ve had such positive feedback that I’ve gotten over it.

Thank you to every one of you who has read any of these posts over the past year. Special thanks to those of you who have left a comment! You have no idea how energizing it is when there are comments on my posts! And a million zillion thank yous if you were inspired by any of my posts and went to your kitchen to make something green and lean of your own!

I will spare you a lot of talk about the benefits of eating real and unprocessed food (if you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ve heard it all before anyways!). I will, however, say that in the past year I have lost a significant amount of weight, lowered my glucose and blood pressure, and increased my “good” cholesterol. These improvements in my health have not come by depriving myself. In fact, I’ve eaten more delicious food in the past year than I ever have in my life.

I don’t know how much I will continue to blog in 2010. I do enjoy trying new recipes so there may be a new post from time to time. Perhaps the blog will evolve into something new. Who knows? All I know for sure is that I will continue the healthy habits I started in 2009.

To get 2010 started on an inspirational note, here are my top ten favorite posts of 2009:

10. Mustard Dill Fish – a simple and elegant main dish perfect for entertaining. Another great fish entrée is Salmon with Smashed Peas.

9. Hippie Chow – a complete meal made a million different ways. See also the Mexi-version.

8. Fish Tacos – my favorite summertime meal to serve to a crowd

7. Roasted Mushroom and Tomato Sandwich with Goat Cheese – I just discovered this incredible combination of ingredients and I can’t get enough. It’s also fabulous on pizza or salad.

6. Seared Tuna Salad with Spicy Asian Dressing – the dressing is amazing and would work on a simple cabbage salad, or with canned tuna, or even grilled chicken.

5. Split Pea Soup – probably the cheapest recipe on the blog and still one of my favorite winter lunches. Very filling and super healthy!

4. Egg Baked in a Tomato – one of my fancier posts. It’s deceptively simple but looks so impressive!

3. Olive Oil Granola – a great way to start your day with whole grains. I also recommend these other breakfast recipes: Yogurt, Larabars, Oatmeal, and Chocolate Peanut Granola.

2. Grilled Vegetable Frittata – I love frittatas so much, I posted about them three times! Check out versions 1 and 2 also.

1. Kale and Egg on Toast – it was my first post and continues to be my absolute favorite meal of all time (preferably accompanied by red wine and followed by dark chocolate). I could happily eat this a few times a week for the rest of my life.

Thanks again for following my 2009 real food challenge! I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Food Blogs

If you are like me then you enjoy reading food blogs. I just found a super cool website that lists hundreds of them! Bookmark this and surf away this weekend if you have some free time!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Yesterday I had the most fabulous two-hour lunch with the Jones girls and Angela at the French Meadow. We shared a crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the middle of a Monday afternoon and ate some delicious food. Libby ordered the BBQ Tempeh Wrap and it looked so good, I knew I wanted to try making it myself.

So I invited Alicia over for dinner tonight so I could experiment (she's always such a willing guinea pig!). I found a great homemade barbecue sauce recipe from the Smitten Kitchen (who originally got it from the Barefoot Contessa). The recipe makes SIX CUPS of sauce, which I thought was ridiculous so I only made 1/4 of a recipe.

Then I wanted to put in some yummy tempeh but can you believe that Kowalski's doesn't have tempeh? Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. So we had grilled chicken instead.

Also in the wrap: cooked quinoa, sliced red onion, cheddar cheese, fresh spinach, and pepperoncinis. All the same things on the French Meadow version (except they use brown rice instead of quinoa). On the side, sweet potatoes cut into matchsticks and roasted at 500 degrees in the oven.

It tasted like bar food or fast food, but was totally healthy!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Colors Casserole

I know it's a dumb title, and it's not even really a casserole! But what else do you title a one-skillet meal like this other than just listing all the ingredients? I could have called it Sausage, Kale, Beans, and Tomatoes. But that's so boring you'd fall asleep before you get through the whole title.

I used vegetarian sausage (Tofurky brand Italian style) but you can use real meat or omit it totally. There's plenty of protein with the beans so the sausage is really not necessary - but this week who cares about what is necessary? This tastes really good, and it's quite healthy so that's all that matters. And what a great way to remind yourself that you don't have to wait until next week to begin your healthy can start now and not feel like you are giving up anything delicious!

Christmas Colors Casserole
Vegetarian sausage, sliced
1 bunch tuscan kale, stems removed and chopped
1 can white beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes (I used leftover spicy tomatoes from yesterday's baked shrimp and tomatoes, or you could totally use leftover frozen roasted tomatoes from last fall)

In a nonstick skillet, heat the sausage until it browns, add the kale, beans, and tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook for a few minutes until kale wilts.

Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Well, this was an interesting Christmas! I expect many of you also had your plans changed at the last minute due to the horrible and terrifying storm that was predicted. While we got lots of snow "up north" near Fergus Falls, we certainly didn't get the storm of the century. Nevertheless, we cancelled our traditional Christmas plans and had a makeshift Christmas.

Instead of my grandma's usual spare ribs (ick!) and lutefisk (double ick!) we feasted on leftover chicken enchiladas on Christmas Eve. Dinner was followed by a rousing few hours of Beatles Rockband. While not technically the night we had planned, it was a lot of fun!

Now it's back to regular life in Minneapolis and Sunday night dinner. Tonight's theme is "Going Greek!" This recipe was originally from Ellie Krieger but I spiced it up considerably.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta (adapted from Ellie Krieger)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
1 big handful kalamata olives, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes with basil and garlic
1 pound raw shrimp, thawed
feta cheese, crumbled
orzo, cooked

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil and add the onion, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add a splash of good red wine. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes with the juices. Cook 5-10 minutes or until liquid dissolves. Add olives and shrimp. Top with crumbled feta and put skillet in 425 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Serve over cooked orzo.

On the side, I had a romaine salad with raw red onions and craisins. The dressing was red wine vinegar, olive oil, and dried oregano.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Creamed Mushroom and Artichoke Pasta

Dear Macy's Department Store:
It's not you, it's me. We've had a special 5 weeks together. I really like my new wardrobe that was purchased over 50% off with all the sales and my employee discount. But I need some space to focus on myself and have a little more "me" time. So, it's time to say goodbye. I hope you find happiness with another seasonal employee soon.

Sorry for the serious drought of posts this month. As you can tell, my free time has been non-existent. When I have worked my day job, then gone to Macy's for a closing shift, I've been packing 2 lunches (note: leftover Green and Lean Loaf on wheat bread with ketchup is excellent!). It's certainly a healthy way to eat, but I miss cooking and hot food!

Hot, comforting, tasty food accompanied by a glass of red wine is exactly what I made tonight. And it was good, like lick your plate good (of course I would NEVER do that, and even if I did I wouldn't admit it). The recipe contains cream, butter, and cheese so I'm sure the calorie and fat count is higher than the normal recipe on this blog....however (!) everything is OK in moderation and with a big pile of greens on the side this is a great dinner.

Smitten Kitchen came through again with a killer recipe and I tried to copy it with just a few tweaks. Here is how I did it.

Creamed Mushroom and Artichoke Pasta
Olive oil and butter
3 large shallots, diced
1 package crimini mushrooms, chopped fine
1/2 cup Marsala wine
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream
1 can artichokes, drained and chopped
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pat of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped shallot and cook until soft, 2-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1 tsp salt and cook until moisture evaporates. Add Marsala wine and cook until moisture evaporates. (Cook your pasta to al dente in the meantime).

Add cooked pasta to skillet, add artichokes, parmesan cheese, cream, balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until heated through - sauce will thicken upon standing.

Serve with a field green salad and red wine.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Green and Lean Loaf

I wasn't kidding about being uninspired in the kitchen - I've been begging everyone I meet to tell me what they've been eating lately. It's fascinating for me to ask people what they had for dinner last night! If they answer honestly, you get a peek into their lives. And aside from that, I'm hoping to find an answer that will give me that good old excited feeling that makes me want to cook new recipes.

I should have known to ask one of my 3 ultra creative friends (Cass, Colin, or Terrin) for inspiration. This time it was T who (over a bottle of fabulous pink prosecco at Barbette) said, "You should make a really good veggie loaf." How had I never ever considered this? Pure genius! It's PERFECT for Green and Lean...healthy and unfussy.

Only problem? None of the veggie loaf recipes I could find online were veggie enough for me. Most contained only lentils, brown rice, mushrooms, or all three. That sounded awfully brown and ugly. I want green in my Green and Lean Loaf! So this recipe is entirely made up by me with lots of added veggies and it turned out AMAZING, if I do say so myself.

Although it's been over 12 years since I've eaten red meat, one bite instantly reminded me of eating my mom's meatloaf because my version has all the same good qualities. It's comforting, earthy, and filling - but without the animal fat. I kept the flavors mostly Italian, with dried basil and a parmesan cheese crust on top.

I'm sure this would be good with traditional ketchup or barbecue sauce but I didn't need it. Maybe that will be added to leftover Green and Lean Loaf sandwiches (although I think mayo mixed with sriracha sauce would also be great on this!). I ate it tonight plain with roasted parsnips.

As usual, I didn't measure so the recipe below contains approximations. It's difficult to screw up if you add good-tasting ingredients though. Just make sure there is enough egg to make it bind together.

Green and Lean Loaf
Cooked veggies (I had leftover roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms), chopped finely
Cooked greens (I had leftover sauteed kale)
1/4 yellow onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
Cooked lentils (boil 1 cup French lentils in 4 cups water for 45 minutes)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa (or brown rice, if you prefer)
1/2 cup oats (or breadcrumbs, but I didn't have any)
1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
4 eggs
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried (or even better, fresh) basil
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a big bowl and pack into a greased loaf pan. Top with a layer of parmesan cheese, cover with tinfoil and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes or until top is browned. Let cool at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Vegetable Than Egg Frittata

Eleven months of blogging down, one to go! And this one is proving to be tough. There isn't a whole lot of culinary inspiration in fresh local veggies right now, and all the food magazines, tv shows, and websites are focusing on holiday cookies.

So, I have been eating a bunch of frozen leftovers - soups, squash, roasted tomatoes, etc. Tonight I roasted a bunch of veggies including beets to make Beet and Goat Cheese Salads for lunches this week. And I'll be making Split Pea Soup again tomorrow to satisfy a craving. These are not blog-worthy meals anymore...been there, done that! So I'm apologizing in advance if December is a bit light on blog posts. If any readers out there have inspiration for me, please send ideas my way! Either I'm winding down on this blog, or it's just another temporary dip on the ups and downs of cooking ideas.

I had my mom in town this weekend for our annual holiday show. We saw In The Heights and enjoyed it! And we ate out a lot. At non-healthy "restaurants" (using that term loosely here) where it is impossible to get anything green other than a wilty piece of lettuce on a burger. So tonight it was time to pack in the veggies and I took a page out of Mark Bittman's book for the More Vegetable Than Egg Frittata.

Usually when I make frittatas, I use 4-6 eggs for a pan this size. This one has only 2 eggs plus 1 egg white and a splash of water. And I think it would serve 3-4 hungry people.

First I roasted broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, and mushrooms in a 450 degree oven until browned. Then I sauteed a half a yellow onion and a bunch of kale in a nonstick skillet. Add a TON of the roasted veggies to the skillet with the kale and onion. Then add your egg and water mixture, salt and pepper. Then I topped it with a little bit of finely shredded sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese. Cook on stovetop until the eggs start to set then put in a hot oven to finish cooking and brown the cheese.

Shown here with the frittata is that effing delicious and amazing White Salad that is quickly becoming my favorite side dish.