Mexican-Style Couscous Salad

OMG!  I’m sitting here drooling while I’m thinking about this lunch I made! I cannot wait to share this recipe with you, it will for sure be a lunch staple in our house from now on.

The best part about this recipe is that it’s so easily modifiable for your own tastes and pantry supplies.  I got the idea for this lunch from my dietitian, John.  His original recipe calls for Quinoa (which would be more protein, so use it if you have it!) but I had already made Couscous for a different recipe so I simply substituted this time around.

Mexican-Style Couscous Salad

Recipe for 1 Serving

Ingredients:

1/3 cup Couscous (or quinoa), cooked

1/3 cup Black Beans, rinsed

1/2 cup Chopped Broccoli, frozen

1/2 cup Mixed Vegetables, frozen (I used the “baby” vegetable mix with corn, peas, carrots, and green beans)

handful of Chopped Tomatoes

1/8 cup Shredded Cheese

2oz Cooked Chicken Breast, cubed (optional)

1/4 cup Salsa*

Directions:

Microwave the frozen veggies and then put everything in a tupperware for the following day.  Reheat if you want, it will also taste delicious room-temp.

Recipe adapted from John the Dietitian

*I HAVE to share this recipe for homemade salsa with you.  It was ridiculous how simple it was to make, how much it makes, and how amazing it tastes.  Shoutout to Dave, he actually made this himself!

This recipe came up because both Dave and I wanted to try something new for our lunch this week.  We pretty much bring all of our meals with us to work, to stay healthy and save money.  I love this recipe because I could use whatever I wanted and had on hand.  The chicken and couscous had already been made for a dinner, so I was able to use that without cooking anything extra.

I love this recipe for lunch, give it a try!

photo (3)

Dark Chocolate Cherry-Berry Oatmeal Cookies

This Holiday Season, I participated in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  The Cookie Swap is a seriously delicious Food Blogger’s version of Pen Pals.  I cooked up 3 dozen cookies, sent them out to 3 different food bloggers, and 3 other food bloggers sent me cookies!!

As if getting 3-dozen cookies isn’t reason enough to participate, the Cookie Swap raises money for the charity “Cookies for Kids’ Cancer” which OXO (the company that makes my absolute favorite coffee to-go mug ever btw) will match up to $100,000!  I loved hearing this so I was signed up right away!

fbcookieswap_wood

The cookies I baked up were based on this yummy Heart-Healthy recipe from Cooking Light.  The funny thing about baking these cookies were that I totally forgot I had to make THREE dozen for the swap, not TWO.  I baked JUST over 3 dozen, so instead of having a leftover 15-ish cookies… I only had 4!  I guess it was for the best though, because these cookies are really really good… I would have eaten too many 🙂

Dark Chocolate Cherry-Berry Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup) 
  • 1.5 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup) 
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips
  • cooking spray 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spoon flours into dry measuring cups and level. Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. It will completely combine well with only a small layer of melted butter ontop.  
  4. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add cherries and cranberries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop dough by Tablespoonfulls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat.
  6. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.
Whisk your dry ingredients to mix the flours and the oats together

Whisk your dry ingredients to mix the flours and the oats together

I loved the combination of the sweet cherries and the sour cranberries with dark chocolate

I loved the combination of the sweet cherries and the sour cranberries with dark chocolate

You can see how crumbly these are!

You can see how crumbly these are!

Stelly is a kitchen pup!  She waited patiently with me while the cookies baked in the oven.

Stelly is a kitchen pup! She waited patiently with me while the cookies baked in the oven.

Yummmmm!  I LOVE my Silpat.  If you don't have any, pick two sheets up ASAP!  Nothing sticks to them.  The best.

Yummmmm! I LOVE my Silpat. If you don’t have any, pick two sheets up ASAP! Nothing sticks to them. The best.

A few notes I have to share with you… these cookies might be on the healthier side, but they are REALLY tasty!  I found the batter to be very crumbly, to the point where I had trouble at times making the cookies into scoops to drop.  I was worried they would fall apart, but they DO NOT.  So, it’s okay if yours turn out a little crumbly!  Also, I did try a few cookies where I rolled them into a ball (when they were super-fally-aparty) and they did not turn out as pretty as the drop.

I will certainly whip these up again, next time making more leftovers for us 🙂

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

The cookies I received for the swap were so yummy!  I wanted to give these awesome bloggers a little shout-out because their cookies really made my day.

I would have loved to say I had a picture of these really interesting Vanilla Cardamom Cookies but between myself and all of our moving crew/family ate them all!  They were so good!  I never would have thought to put Cardamom (do I even have Cardamom??  Probably  not!) into crisp vanilla cookies, but I’m glad Molly did!  You can find more of her recipes and blog posts on Bytes and Bites.  Good luck on your finals, Molly!

White Chocolate Chunkies were from Katheryn @ The Baker’s Sheet.  How cute is her blog name?  She has plenty of other recipes on her blog that I’m dying to try (especially those Pumpkin Bars!)

*Unfortunately (or luckily for my diet, I can’t decide which), I only received two of my three batches of cookies for the swap so far! *

Heart-Healthy Menu

It’s time to take care of your heart!  With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, I figured the end of January was the perfect time to create an entire heart healthy menu for you. If your family has a history of Heart Disease or high blood pressure, it might be a good idea to start paying attention to what you’re eating.

How to eat “Heart Healthy:

Avoid:  Saturated Fat, Trans Fats, Sodium, Cholesterol, and Caffeine.

Eat More:  Healthy Fats (Raw Nuts, Olive Oil, Fish Oils, Avocadoes), Omega 3 & Protein (Fish, Shellfish, Poultry), Low-Fat Dairy (Skim Milk, Yogurt), Potassium (Avocados, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Bananas)

Today’s Heart-Healthy Menu:

Red Pepper & Bean Dip w/ Toasted Pita

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

Pan-Grilled Strawberry Balsamic Chicken & Sautéed Spinach

Apricot, Banana, & BerrySmush over Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Everything in this menu creates a well-rounded, low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber and potassium loaded heart-healthy meal.  You may also even be able to find most of the ingredients already in your kitchen!

First, start with the Bean Dip.  When my family cooks, we like to have a healthy snack available for us to munch on, instead of taking snitches of what we’re making.  It’s probably the only way I can make dinner after work without starving myself to death!

This bean dip makes 8-1/4 Cup Servings, with one serving totaling only 63 calories,3.5 gramsof fat, 272mg of sodium, and1.5 gramsof fiber.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip

(Cooking Light, January 2007)

¼ cup Fresh Basil, chopped

1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar

1 (16oz) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

1 (7oz) bottle Roasted Red Peppers, rinsed and drained

1 Garlic Clove

2 Tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Whole Wheat Pita, sliced & toasted

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor and let it rip!  Process until smooth.  Slowly add the oil through the chute with the processor still on.  Once well combined, stop the processor and stir in the salt and pepper.  Serve with toasted Whole Wheat Pita (I recommendSahara’s small Whole Wheat Pitas, they are 70 calories/piece) or carrots & celery.

What a simple appetizer! The roasted Red Pepper & Basil flavors really stood out in this amazing dip!

Since I was going to have the oven going for the veggies already, Roasted Potatoes seemed like a wonderful addition to this meal.  The Red Potato has such a high level of Vitamin C and Potassium!  They also are a great source of fiber & protein, with 4g of protein in just one medium potato.  Pretty impressive!

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

1lb Baby Red Potatoes

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

These babies are ready for some roastin'

Preheat the oven to 400.  Scrub the potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.  If you have an Olive Oil sprayer, place the potatoes in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray and thoroughly spray the potatoes with the Olive Oil.  If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets, you can just toss the potatoes in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO.  Evenly sprinkle the potatoes in the baking dish with garlic, rosemary, pepper, and sea salt.  Mix well.  Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can easily remove a fork from one of the larger potatoes.

I chose Zucchini for this meal, not only because it’s one of my favorite veggies, but because of its’ high nutritional value.  Zukes & Squash provide a great source of Vitamin C & Potassium- a key word for heart-healthy cooking!

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

2 Zucchini

2 Yellow Squash

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Paprika

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Sea Salt

Your oven should already be heated to 400 to be roasting your potatoes.  You should put the veggies in after the potatoes have been cooking for about 20 minutes.  Slice the veggies in ½ inch thick circles.  I cut the larger circles of Yellow Squash in half circles too.  Toss in a bowl with Olive Oil and seasonings.  Place veggies in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray.  Bake in the oven for around until they are fully cooked and the potatoes are done, stirring occasionally.

Now that you have your potatoes and squash in the oven, it’s time to start making the chicken.  I like to buy thinly sliced chicken because the fat is already cut off and it cooks much faster than normal chicken breasts.  If you have normal large chicken breasts, I would slice them thinner if possible.

Once the potatoes have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, you can start the sauce for the chicken.  This recipe can also be made with plain Balsamic Vinegar or add some cut Strawberries into plain Balsamic.

Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

½ cup Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar

½ cup Ketchup

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon HoneyDijonMustard

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Pepper

Put all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir often with a whisk while the sauce simmers.  Simmer and stir for about 15-20 minutes or until it becomes thicker and about 1/3 of the original size.  Keep the sauce on low, stirring occasionally. (and don’t forget to check your roasting potatoes and veggies!!)

Next, you’re going to start to heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Take one piece of chicken and slather just a little bit of the Balsamic on one side with a silicone pastry brush, then place the sauce side down on the grill pan.  Brush a little of the sauce on the top side of the chicken and repeat.  Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes or until cooked all the way through.  Now, pour a ladel-full of sauce ontop of the chicken and let it cook for a minute.  The chicken is done!

Remove the chicken and place in aluminum foil to keep warm.  Dump an entire bag of fresh spinach into the same grill pan with the leftover balsamic in it.  Stir after about 2 minutes, and the spinach will be done a minute after that.  Spinach is one of the best foods you can eat!  Click here to read about this antioxidant rich food!

Here, I plated the chicken over the sautéed spinach, with potatoes and roasted zucchini & squash on the side.  Everything was unbelievable.  I cooked the potatoes for about an hour and the veggies for about 45 minutes total.  They were perfect!  The Balsamic sauce on the chicken was unbelievable, it was tangy and sweet and so different than anything else I have ever cooked.

The finished products:

No amazing meal would be complete without dessert, right?  Well here is your super heart-healthy dessert!  Complete with 3 Potassium rich fruits!

Banana Frozen Yogurt Smush

1 Cup (or a little more) Fat Free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1 Banana, sliced thin

¼ Cup Polaner’s All Fruit with Fiber – Blackberry

6 Dried Apricots, sliced/diced

1 pinch Cinnamon

In a glass dish, microwave the banana and All Fruit for 2 minutes, stirring/smushing the banana after one minute.  When it’s finished, spoon over the Frozen Yogurt and top with Apricots and a little sprinkle of cinnamon.  MMM!!

Tastes so good! I love smashing it all together and making the Fro-Yo melt.

I found a ton of information on Heart-Healthy eating and dieting on the CDC’s website for Heart Disease Info, as well as Livestrong’s Food & Drink Website.  You can find them here!

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/243231-what-are-the-benefits-of-squash-zucchini/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/385187-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-red-potatoes/