Tag Archives: cooking

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

We all need them – quick, easy, delicious, healthy, (and YES, pretty!) meals.  I made this last night to go with my baked walleye with almonds.  It took very little active cooking time.  I love creating dishes when inspiration hits!

When the air gets crisp, I crave fall vegetables in hearty dishes with rich flavors.  This combo of butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and white beans really did the trick.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place cubes of butternut squash and halved Brussels sprouts in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary (adds such a nice flavor).  Roast 20 minutes and remove from oven.  Add a drained and rinsed can of white beans (navy or other), toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until squash and Brussels sprouts are tender.

Remove from oven.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top and add a bit more olive oil if desired.  Add more sea salt to taste.  Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and enjoy!  (I think I will try some toasted walnuts on top next time.)

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What’s for lunch? (or a quick snack?) I have no time (to cook or shop)!

One of the biggest problems with eating healthy is lack of planning.  I’m not talking about the kind of planning some people do:  make a list for a week of meals, go to the store and buy the ingredients, cook all afternoon on Sunday to prepare for the week, freeze some . . . .

No, no, no!  That is definitely not what I mean by planning.  Most people will not do that.  They don’t have time, or quite frankly, there are other things they wish to do with their precious spare time.

When I talk about planning, I mean the basics.  Just be prepared for those times when you are starving, creativity is limited, and there are very few options in the refrigerator and/or pantry.  That means you must go to the store sometime!  That also means you must keep a few staples on hand and have a few ideas for quick meals that can be made with these basics.

Some items I keep on hand for times like this, mostly non-perishables or foods that last a while before going bad:

canned salmon (I like the red, not the pink)

plain fat-free or 2% Greek yogurt

onions

celery

canned beans

whole grain tortillas

avocado

hummus

eggs

edamame

cottage cheese

Today was one of those days for me.   I was so glad I had at least attended to this level of planning.  I came home hungry and needed a hearty snack.  It was so nice to be able to open a can of salmon, add a chopped cucumber (from our little garden), a little onion and avocado, some plain Greek yogurt and a dash of seasoning to create this beautiful and satisfying mini-meal.  Now I think I will make it until dinner!

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The (Apparently!) Multi-Purpose Kitchen Gadget

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The purpose of a kitchen gadget may not always be obvious to everyone.  A recent consultation with a young man reminded me that if you don’t know what something is, you might assume it is designed for a different job altogether.

This charming young bachelor is working on improving his eating habits, and the basics of healthy cooking was a key topic of our discussion.  “Do you eat vegetables?”‘  I asked.

“Not that often,” he replied, “I don’t know how to cook them.”

I mentioned that roasting is a good, simple method, and I went through the basics with him.  He wanted to know how to steam vegetables, and I told him, “Oh, that’s super easy.  Do you have a vegetable steamer basket?”

The response:  “No, I don’t think so.”

I described the inexpensive gadget and recommended that he pick one up at Target or Kohl’s.  “It’ll cost you about $5,” I said.  I used my interlocking fingers to demonstrate how it opens up to accommodate any size saucepan.  “It opens like a flower from a bud,” I went on, “with little metal ‘feet’ that hold the vegetables above the water as they cook.”

His face lit up.  The lightbulb just went on.  “Ohhhh, . . . so that’s what that is!  We have one of those in the drawer.  My roommate and I thought that was for straining pasta!”

I’m Back. Oh the Adventures I Had!

It has been over 2 weeks since my last post, quite unusual for me!  My son got married in Seattle on Sunday, October 6, and I decided to give myself a break from technology during my 2 weeks on the West Coast.

Congratulations to Brent and Marina!  May they be this happy for the rest of their lives together.  Once I sort through pictures, I will post a few on my blog, but for now my readers will be saved from this over-enthusiastic mother’s public displays of affection.

Keep reading and I promise a reference to food and eating, but first let me tell you a little about Mt. Rainier!  I spent 3 days there as the third wheel with my brother and his girlfriend.  Despite rain every day and the government shutdown on our second day, we reminded each other how perfect everything was.  (This started as somewhat of a joke, but in reality it turned out to be true.)

From a personal standpoint, it was a nice quiet retreat before the wedding’s high energy excitement.  I have wanted to see the park for a long time, so this was a check mark on my bucket list.

The trails were actually perfect (really!) in the rain.  We had rain gear and there were almost no other hikers out.  With a little guidance from our cabin’s owners, we were able to identify and gather many chanterelle mushrooms along the way, placing them carefully in our jacket hoods for safe transport back.  The variety and beauty of mushrooms was astounding!

Of course, chanterelles are edible and tasty.  We spent a good amount of time between Yahtzee games planning just the right way to use them for a gourmet feast.

Chanterelles We Collected

Chanterelles We Collected

The result?  Butter and garlic sauteed chanterelles over fried eggs.  Delicious!  We lightly fried patties of leftover mashed sweet potatoes to create a nice slightly sweet bottom layer for our masterpiece.  A simple salad and a glass of white wine on the side.  Beautiful!

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As if this getaway was not peaceful enough without cell phone reception, we had the perfect “yoga studio” – the upstairs bedroom of our cabin.  I gave daily yoga classes to my two companions, complete with lavender oil neck massages, which made my status as third wheel all the more tolerable!

Namaste!

Namaste!

I Forgot the Balsamic: Imperfection is a Gift to Ourselves and Each Other

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Oh, so that’s where I left it . . . on the kitchen counter!

The demonstration table was ready.  I had the single burner ready.  Two bags containing everything I could imagine I would need to cook an asparagus side dish was there:  saute pan . . . check, wooden spoon . . . check . . . . asparagus, goat cheese, grape tomatoes . . . check, check, check.

“Ok, everyone, today I’m going to show you how quick and easy it is to make a side dish to go with your grilled entrees.  I’m going to be making Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes”.  As the words came out of my mouth, my brain focused on the work “balsamic”, the very balsamic that I HAD FORGOTTEN TO PACK!

A small shot of adrenaline (panic) later, I came to my senses.  A little honesty and humor always helps, and my honesty here is that I am working on laughing at my imperfections more.  With each year that passes by, I am realizing how very few mistakes are serious.  This one certainly fell immediately into the  category I call “not important”.  No one was hurt, either emotionally or physically to my knowledge, and the show did go on.

I kept the mood light and was even able to convince everyone that they should be using balsamic vinegar on all kinds of foods – all without a single drop of it with me!  Good balsamic vinegar can transform any vegetable into a sweet and tasty side dish.  With olive oil, it is a fresh and healthy salad dressing.

As I drove away afterward, I did not feel embarrassed or stupid for my little lapse.  In fact I have to say that the whole group relaxed more quickly and we had a lighter mood as a result of it.

Note to self:  My comfort level with imperfection seemed to be a gift to all of us.

The same principle applies to eating for weight loss and health.  Eating “imperfectly” seems to be a big barrier for changing eating habits, but I think it is a lack of comfort with the inevitable imperfection that is more often  to blame for overeating.

If someone eats a brownie and feels terribly shameful about it, the lack of comfort can lead to many more.  Although it may not make immediate sense, acceptance of imperfection works so much better, yet it is so hard for so many dieters.  It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

Meeting the In-Laws: The Pleasure of Sharing Good Food

photoI have two points I want to make in this post:

1.  Cooking healthy, delicious food is such a lovely way to say “I love you,” or “I value you,” or in this case, “Welcome to the family!”

2.  I am so lucky to have a future daughter-in-law and future in-laws (my son’s) that clearly want to have a relationship with me.

This photo is from the past winter, when I traveled to Seattle to meet my son’s future in-laws.  They are from Russia.  I was invited as the guest of honor – really I felt like Royalty – for a home-cooked dinner that included all of their ethnic family favorites.

On the menu:  A wonderful chicken and vegetable medley that was baked in the oven, a very unusual potato salad with eggs, ham, and interesting seasonings, and my future daughter-in-law’s favorite . . . pierogis, delicious little pastries with different fillings.  We all had several of those.

And do you see the little San Pellegrino bottles?!  That was a nice little touch, along with the orange juice.  Those who know me well know that my signature drink – now called “the Kim Flannery” by members of my family – is a mixture of sparkling water and orange juice.

There was plenty to eat – what a feast!  I was not allowed to have an empty plate.  Every time I turned my head, there was more on it!  At one point, I had what looked like an entire plateful of grapes.  I cannot express how warm and welcoming this dinner was.  Lucky me!

People devote a lot of energy trying to keep from overeating, but there is a positive side to the pleasure of eating.  It is a wonderful way to welcome and connect with others.

Living to eat is clearly not a healthy lifestyle, but eating to live is not ideal either.  Eating is one of the great pleasures of life, and the sharing of good food accompanies many of life’s most joyful moments.

Music Video and Easter Recipe

Best music video ever . . . has nothing to do with the fact that the bass player is my son.  It will be appearing on VH1 soon.  I thought the theme was in line with Easter celebrations – the name of the song is “Celebrate Tonight”.

In order to make this post NOT all about me and my family (!), here is a great recipe I will be making along with my leg of lamb tomorrow.  With a side of mashed potatoes and some steamed asparagus, the meal will be completely well-rounded, healthy, and delicious.

LOADED SPINACH SALAD

CREAMY BLUE CHEESE DRESSING

1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/3 cup buttermilk or nonfat milk

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or white vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

SALAD

8 large eggs

6 cups baby spinach

4 tablespoons Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing, divided

1 8-ounce can beets, rinsed and sliced

1 cup shredded carrots

2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

To prepare dressing: Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk (or milk), yogurt, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Add cheese and stir, mashing with a spoon until the cheese is incorporated.

To prepare salad: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at the lowest simmer for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water and run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cooled. Peel the eggs; discard 6 of the yolks. Chop the remaining yolks and whites.

Toss spinach and 2 tablespoons of the dressing in a large bowl. Divide between 2 plates. Top with the chopped eggs, beets, carrots and pecans. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons dressing. (Refrigerate the extra dressing for up to 1 week.)  Serves 2 (about 4 cups per serving).

           

Per serving: 270 calories; 12 g fat ( 3 g sat); 189 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 6 g fiber; 803 mg sodium

From EatingWell 

 

 

 

 

Herbs and Spices for Wellness

I presented this topic in my groups this week, and several participants requested the link to the article I referenced (“10 Healing Herbs and Spices” from Reader’s Digest).  There are probably no miracles here, but many helpful tips for supplementing healthy eating naturally.

My Moderate New Year’s Cleanse

I have been reading a lot about cleanses since we entered 2013.  I know lots of you are feeling the payback for celebratory indulgences and the pull of comfort food in the presence of dark – and cold! – winter days.

I am not in favor of typical juice cleanses that do not provide enough calories to live a normal life.  I fear for those who try to go about their usual routine – working, exercising, and God forbid driving – while poorly fueled.  I also do not see the point.  It will never be anything but a quick departure from normal eating before returning to a previous weight and health status.

However, I have read about several other “cleanses” recently that are really just aggressive jump starts to re-focus on healthy habits.  This type provides enough calories, and in most cases allows unlimited amounts of foods that are more satisfying than mere vegetables and fruits.  I even thought about trying one myself, just as an experience, to see what is involved and if it would make me feel any different.

On further consideration, I realized that this is really not a good time for me to be that disciplined.  If I ever try one, I think it will have to be during a period of time when I can devote more time to food preparation.  But, as I said, I thought about it.

Then, while waiting under a heat lamp at the hair salon, I picked up a Bon Appetit magazine that was wedged between multiple accounts of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy and Katie Holmes’ divorce.  Inside was the most interesting “cleanse” that can only be described as forgiving and moderate.  Hmmm, I thought.

No coffee. . . but if you must . . . a little won’t hurt.  Ditto for wine and added sugar.  All of a sudden, a cleanse sounded more doable, and more like what I am always encouraging others to do – IMPROVE!  That’s all, keep moving in a positive direction, and keep at it.

I have been having a little less coffee, a smaller glass of wine (Peter teases me about my 2-3 ounce shot glass of wine), and slightly less added sugar (usually in the form of a tiny dessert).  I also added my own cleansing drink, hot lemon water, in the morning.  I am beginning to really enjoy it.

Again, I want to say that I understand and support more of an abstinence approach for some people – with certain foods, at certain times.  If nothing else, even if it is short-term, if you know that from the start and it re-sets your motivation and commitment, I’m all for it!  I’m just saying that the moderators among us may do better by looking at their eating with more of an attitude of “I wonder what would happen if . . . I had just a little less coffee (alcohol, sugar, . . . ) every day.”  If you are like me, you just might find that it really isn’t so hard, and you will feel so good about those sustainable changes.

The abstainer/moderator distinction is something Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project has talked about at length.  She apparently is more of an abstainer, while I am sure I am more of a moderator myself.  I think we all exhibit a little of each.  Like so many character traits, it is probably a continuum, and we almost certainly feel different levels of control with different foods, in different settings, and in different moods.

Abstaining from foods we like can become a problem if it doesn’t feel like a choice, as in “I know this food is hard for me to control, so I choose not to eat it,” or “I feel terrible when I eat this, so I choose not to.”  In the absence of this type of buy-in, abstinence is often offset by binges.  It comes back to knowing yourself and your tendencies at any particular time.  I also believe that what you face today may not be what you face in the future.  It’s always a good idea to leave the door open to change your approach as your attitudes change.  You can change the way you think!

Fresh, Light, Delicious

Try this simple tabbouleh recipe.   I enjoyed it with baked whitefish with almond slices, and roasted baby bok choy and green onions. (Just roast with olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 degrees – about 20 minutes.)  The fish can be baked at the same temperature during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking time.   Continue reading