“Cheezy” Vegan Kale Chips

Blog_January 13, 2013

So, this is the conversation that went down in the kitchen when I pulled these out of the oven:

husband: What the hell are those?

me: Kale chips. They’re good – cheese flavored.

husband: (takes one and eats it) Whoa. Those are good. Weird.

me: Told you so. (and we proceeded to eat the entire pan while we watched t.v.)

I can certainly appreciate his skepticism. I’ve seen these at the store, but never bought them because I thought they looked weird. Plus, I wonder how they can keep the kale crunchy and fresh. Nonetheless, when I saw a Wholefoods recipe that called for a yummy, nutritious paste that would create a cheese flavor I thought, what the heck? Let’s try it.

And I’m glad I did. These taste amazing, especially hot out of the oven. They are crispy and very, very flavorful. Plus, because the “chip” is actually a kale leaf, they are filling but feel light on the tummy, as opposed to a cracker or actual potato chip. You might even get your kids to partake, if they can get over the leafy look. I certainly would have never expected my meat and potato man to be snacking on kale chips. 🙂

Recipe notes: You can use any variety of kale – I used a purple curly kale, although it lost most of its color in the oven. Look for big, hearty leafs with few holes or blemishes. You can store in an airtight container on the counter for a few days. But … I found my chips definitely started to lose their “crunch” after the first day. I’d suggest baking them when you want to eat them because they are amazing fresh out of the oven!

Also, you may have to visit a Wholefoods, or other local health food store, where you can find bulk ingredients like raw cashews and nutritional yeast. They are sometimes difficult to find at a normal grocer. Roasted red peppers you can usually find in glass jars near the pickle section in your grocer.

If you don’t want the “cheezy” paste, you can always follow the basic recipe and season with olive oil and S/P instead. But, oh, the coating is so yummy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2 bunches kale, washed, stems removed, and torn into large pieces
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or rice milk (or water) (I used almond)
  • 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. onion granules
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Instructions

Soak cashews in enough water to cover for a couple of hours. Drain.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine cashews, milk, peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion, lemon juice, and salt. Process until a smooth paste forms. Pour into a large bowl.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Take your kale pieces and dip into the bowl with the cashew coating, lightly coating each piece. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just get a nice, clumpy coating. Spread the coated kale pieces out on the parchment lined sheets in a single layer. Take care not to touch or stack the pieces, so they all dry and bake evenly.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until crispy, gently turning each piece over halfway through cooking. Remove from sheets and repeat with remaining kale leaves if necessary. I was able to fit all of my kale chips on 2 large baking sheets, but depending on how big your bunches of kale are, you may need to bake two batches.

Serves: 8 (for snacking)

Recipe source: Wholefoods Market

Time: ~ 1 hour (plus, more for additional batches)

Advertisements

S’mores Brownies

Blog_June 13, 2012

Brownies + S’mores. Enough said.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all purpose-flour
  • 9 honey graham cracker squares, broken up into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup tiny marshmallows

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour.

Spread half the batter in the prepared pan. Top with the graham cracker pieces. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top, but keep away from the sides of the pan. Carefully spread the remaining batter on top (I spray a spatula with Pam because it keeps everything from sticking together as you spread the batter).

Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes: 1 dozen

Recipe source: Adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe

Time: 40 minutes

Light Chicken & Poblano Enchiladas

Blog_December 07, 2012

Enchiladas get a makeover …

low-fat, healthy, delicious enchiladas complete with the creamy interior and flavorful sauce you love.

Start by substituting greasy chicken with tender poached chicken and fresh poblano peppers. Instead of a creamy filling made with sour cream and cheese, I’ve used 98% fat free soup and 2% Greek yogurt. For the enchilada sauce, I chose Frontera Red Chile Enchilada Sauce – it’s fat-free and made from whole ingredients. I can find it at my local grocer. If you can’t find this, look for an enchilada sauce that is similarly all natural (you can recognize & pronounce the ingredients!) and low-fat. Finally, wrap the goodness into low-cal tortillas and you have a filling and delicious low-fat dinner. Serve with a green salad to round it out.

Blog_December 07, 2012-3

Recipe notes: I use a 9.5 x 13.5 x 2 inch baking dish – anything around this size will fit 8 enchiladas. If you don’t like poblano peppers, or can’t find them, substitute with green bell peppers.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. poached chicken breast
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz) can of 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Olive oil
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 poblano peppers, stem & seeds removed, halved & sliced thinly
  • S/P
  • 1 package of 8 large, low-cal tortillas
  • 2 (8 oz.) pouches of Frontera Red Chile Enchilada Sauce
  • Garnish ideas: scallions, cilantro, queso fresco, chopped tomatoes, lime
Look for poblano peppers that are dark green and firm.
Look for poblano peppers that are dark green, firm, and smooth with no blemishes or soft spots.

Instructions

Poach your chicken breast.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken soup, yogurt, cumin, and chili powder.

When the chicken has cooled, shred and place in a large bowl.

In a skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the onions and saute for another minute. Add the poblano pepper.  Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add more olive oil as needed and season with S/P. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. When cool, use a slotted spoon and place in the bowl with the chicken.

Combine about 1/2 of the soup mixture with the chicken and vegetables and stir to combine.

Divide chicken mixture among tortillas, roll up, and place seam side down in the baking dish.

Spread remaining soup mixture over the tortillas. Pour the enchilada sauce over that. Bake until hot and bubbly around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, plate, and garnish with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Serves: 8

Recipe source: Original

Time: ~45 minutes

How-to: Poached Chicken

Poached chicken is an easy way to prepare chicken fat-free that actually tastes good. I’ve never been a big fan of chicken breast in general because it is usually cooked to the point of dryness with very little flavor. Poaching chicken breasts in liquid, however, produces tender and moist chicken that you can then add to soups, salads, sandwiches, and recipes galore. My husband loves it on salads so I make a few on the weekend and pack salad lunches for him to take to work. I’ll leave you with some quick lunch ideas below 🙂

All you need is boneless, skinless chicken breasts and water. You can also add aromatics as noted below.

Blog_December 07, 2012-7

Place rinsed & trimmed chicken breasts in a large, straight-sided skillet or pot (for which you have a cover).

Add any aromatics you may want to use – I like fresh herbs, onion, and lemon. You can add any variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Ginger and soy sauce is nice if you plan on making an Asian dish. Season with fresh ground S/P – or use whole peppercorns.

Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chicken breast.

Heat the skillet on medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes at a gentle boil. Cover the skillet and remove from heat. Let stand in the hot water until cooked through, flipping halfway through.

*2 lbs. of chicken generally takes about 15 minutes.

Remove from the water immediately, drain on paper towels. Shred or slice.

Quick lunch ideas:

*Serve shredded over greens with dried cranberries, goat cheese, chopped walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.

*Serve sliced on wheat bread with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese.

*Toss shredded chicken with Greek yogurt, fresh tarragon or basil, golden raisins, and scallions. Serve over greens or on bread.

*I use poached chicken in a number of casserole and Mexican dishes like enchiladas. I will post examples of both shortly!

 

The best dietary change I ever made (green smoothies, anyone?) … and how to start your 2013 with healthy habits!

3 servings of fresh fruit

5 servings of fresh vegetables

Daily

This is the recommendation you will get from most health institutes, such as the United States Cancer Institute, regarding how much fresh produce you should consume per day. And for good reason – you don’t have to look far to find positive links between a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and good health.  Despite plenty of contradictory nutrition information out there, I’ve never heard a recommendation to cut down on fruits and vegetables.

But even for the most disciplined of eaters, getting the recommended amount of fresh fruits and vegetables can be difficult.

Starting off the New Year, I wanted to tell you how I significantly increased the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables I consume by making one easy dietary change (creating a new habit, really) and hopefully I can provide some ideas for a fresh and healthy start to 2013!

IMG_0444

Most of us start the New Year thinking about what we want in the future and reflecting upon the past. For a lot of us, food and diet top that list. I love food (obviously), but not just for the sake of eating food, or cooking, even.

I love food because I like knowing the connection it has to my body and spirit. I feel good when I eat well. I am happy when I spend time preparing and eating food with loved ones. I want to know about the connection between food, environment, and culture. Food has so much more to do with my life than simply being something to sustain my existence.

Being healthy (physically and emotionally) are my priorities. But I’m not a dieter (as in, cut out a bunch of stuff completely). I live my life namely under the mantra of moderation – moderation in just about everything I do, and this blog is a reflection of that philosophy. I eat sugar, butter, cheese, and on and on. I enjoy wine. I also exercise regularly and eat primarily whole, non-processed foods. It’s a balance and I’m convinced it is the best “diet” solution for the majority of people that don’t suffer from health issues that require more strict dietary regiments.

After trying to become “healthier” by cutting out meat entirely, or cutting sugar and bread, or a myriad of other things that are touted as “bad,” I finally realized that I felt the best when my entire life encompassed moderation. This blog is a reflection of the food lifestyle that works for me: cooking with whole foods and eating a variety of foods in moderation (cookies one day, tofu and salad the next).

I’m writing today, though, for anyone out there that wants to start some new healthy habits that last; because I’ve gone through this process, of really thinking about how I want to live my life in relation to food. I’ve seen a fair share of people that have a love-hate relationship with food: restrict themselves, then gorge, then guilt, then restrict … it’s a horrible cycle.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

First, I’m going to tell you about the biggest, best dietary change I ever made and how it led to many healthy habits down the road.

About a year or so ago, I was thinking about how I could improve my morning routine. I leave the house really early and I’ve never been hungry enough to eat a good breakfast. For years I basically had coffee and maybe granola or a fruit bar. To make matters worse, I was working at a school that required a stressful, loud, and what amounted to about a 15 minute lunch “break.”  I didn’t feel good, had low energy, and spent my mornings hungry.

Then I stumbled upon a book called Crazy Sexy Diet written by Kris Carr. She wrote it after surviving cancer and changing her lifestyle as a result. Again, the “diet” that works for me is moderation, and although this book promotes a vegetarian lifestyle, I read a lot of books that focus on a particular diet and take pieces from each. I really think that’s the key in building healthy habits – find what works for you, from a variety of sources, and build your own happy, healthy habits!

Okay, back to Carr’s book – she really promotes juicing and “green smoothies.” I had heard about green smoothies – those made with fruits and vegetables – but I had never tried them.

I decided to give it a shot. I had a blender, so I didn’t need to buy any expensive equipment.  I experimented … figured out what types I liked and how to make them at the right consistency.

Now I enjoy a green smoothie every day on my ride to work.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Not only does it require very little in terms of change, particularly if you already eat a fair amount of fresh foods, but you don’t need special equipment (as opposed to juicing), clean-up and prep is easy, and just like coffee, your breakfast is portable.

Smoothies are created in blenders so you are basically pulping fresh produce, which means you are getting a ton of fiber, not to mention all the nutrients found in fresh produce. Not only is it an incredibly easy way to get in extra fruits and vegetables, but the fiber cleanses and provides satisfaction you won’t get in the average cereal or toast breakfast.

I love knowing I basically had a small salad first thing in the morning. But, that’s the thing … these don’t have to taste like salad through a straw (which I know some of you are thinking right about now)! Once you experiment a little with consistency and taste, you will see just how delicious they can be.

Blog_August 01, 2012

Here’s how to get started:

  • You need a blender, preferably a high-powered one (that can crush ice, etc). A lot of smoothie folks and books will recommend blenders that cost more than a car payment. I have an Oster (less than $100) that I’ve used for several years and it works just fine!
  • If possible, buy organic produce. You definitely want to try to buy organic for the produce listed as the “dirty dozen” because they have the largest amount of pesticide residue. You can get this list as an app for your phone to help with shopping! If this becomes a habit (yay!) you may want to look into local farmers’ markets or a CSA to get more affordable produce.
  • Experiment with consistency by choosing how much frozen v. fresh produce you want. I don’t like smoothies made with all fresh ingredients. I like a mix of fresh and frozen because I like mine cold and a bit thicker. The recipes below will give you an idea of how I mix fresh and frozen produce.  Besides the consistency, using frozen produce lets me keep a lot of produce I may otherwise toss. If I know I can’t get to it before it spoils, I simply freeze it. I freeze tomatoes, greens … just about anything and I put them in individual serving Ziploc bags or wrap in foil to pull out for smoothies.
  •  If you’re new to this, start with mild greens like spinach and romaine. Spinach is my favorite and is usually the main green in my smoothies. It is mild, sweet, and blends well. If you choose hardy greens, like kale or chard, remove the tough stems before blending and chop well. Cucumber is another great vegetable – the juice is refreshing and the taste is extremely mild.
  • Experiment with fruit to vegetable ratios to find the taste you prefer. If you’re just starting out, or trying to get kids into smoothies, you probably will need at least a 1:1 vegetable to fruit ratio.  I aim for a 3:1 vegetable to fruit ratio in most of my smoothies, but even if you have more fruit at first you can make nutritious smoothies nonetheless.  Next time you see “green smoothies” at the store, check the ingredients and you’ll see the main ingredients are high-glycemic, sugary fruits that aren’t being balanced properly with good greens. To get the most from your smoothies, aim to balance fruits to vegetables and mix up your fruits so you don’t only use high-glycemic fruits. For example, I love frozen bananas in my smoothies (creamy potassium!), but I try to balance that with plenty of low-glycemic, non-sugary fruits & vegetables so I don’t have a sugar overload in the morning.

Best Low-Glycemic, Nutritionally Dense Fruits (GI 55 or lower)

Berries, Apples, Pears, Cherries, Figs, Peaches, Grapefruit, Plums, Orange, Kiwi, Pomegranate, Lemon, Apricots

Moderate to High Glycemic Fruits (GI 55+)

Mango, Banana, Papaya, Pineapple, Watermelon, Raisins, Dates, Cranberries, Melons, Grapes

For more information about the glycemic index, see: The Montignac Method and University of Sydney’s Glycemic Index.                                                      

  • You have a much better chance of sticking to a new habit if you make it easy – I wash and cut my produce on the weekend and every night before bed I set out my cutting board, cup, straw, and anything else I need to make it easier in the early morning hours. Keep your blender on the counter if you can. If you can’t wash your blender right away, make sure to soak it or you will have a heck of a time getting it clean!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blog_April 07, 2012

Some of my favorite “morning salad” smoothie recipes:

*These usually make enough for 1 large (32 oz.) or 2 small (16 oz.) servings. You will have to experiment to find your perfect portion and ingredients are approximate. If you want more spinach, more blueberries, whatever your heart desires … add it! I tend to go a little crazy with kiwi.

*I use a mix of frozen and fresh produce to get a chilly, creamy consistency. If you do the same, put the fresh produce at the bottom so the heavier frozen produce weighs it down and helps blend evenly.

Instructions

All smoothies have two essential ingredients: fresh/frozen produce and a liquid base. You can also add nut butters, fresh herbs, spices, flax seed/oil, protein powder, etc. as nutritional flavor bonuses!

Wash and chop all ingredients.  Peel any inedible skins. I also suggest peeling skins from non-organic produce, especially if it’s listed on the dirty dozen.  All of the frozen fruit I list below I can buy organic from Wholefoods or other local natural foods stores. Cranberries I buy fresh in season and freeze – one of my favorite  ingredients! I don’t use dried fruit in my smoothies.

Blend all ingredients until smooth, using your favorite liquid to mix. Start with about ½ cup of the liquid you want to use and add more if needed to create the consistency you desire.  Some recipes have a liquid included in the ingredients or suggestions. Otherwise, use whatever liquid you prefer.

As far as liquids go, some people just use water. I’ve found I like almond or coconut milk the best. Some of my recommendations:  coconut water, almond/rice/coconut milk, filtered water, 100% organic juice blends. I don’t recommend dairy products in green smoothies.

Green Supreme Smoothie

½ peeled cucumber

1 green apple

1 kiwi

1 small bunch spinach

*Coconut water is great in this one and provides electrolytes for a post-workout smoothie, but any liquid will do.

Red Punch Smoothie

½ peeled cucumber

½ red pepper

1 small bunch spinach

¼ cup frozen cranberries and/or cherries

¼ cup frozen mango

100% organic cherry juice to blend

Banana-C Smoothie

1 frozen banana

2 carrots

*Almond milk is great in this  … chilly and creamy!

Rainbow Smoothie

½ peeled cucumber

½ red pepper

1 carrot

½ green apple

¼ cup frozen strawberries

¼ cup frozen peaches

Basil Lemon Bomb

Couple bunches basil

1 small bunch spinach

1 lemon (peeled and white pith removed)

6-8 ice cubes

Blend with purified water

Cranberry Orange Dream

¼ cup frozen cranberries

1 orange (peeled and white pith removed)

¼ cup frozen mango

1 red pepper

Peachy-Pear Green Smoothie

½ cup frozen peaches

1 pear

1 small bunch spinach or romaine

½ peeled cucumber

Berry-dise

½ cup frozen mixed berries

¼ cup frozen pineapple or mango

1 small bunch spinach or romaine

½ peeled cucumber

*I like this with coconut water.

Blue Watermelon

½ cup watermelon chunks

¼ cup frozen blueberries

1 small tomato, or ¼ cup cherry tomatoes (frozen or fresh)

1 small bunch spinach or romaine

½ peeled cucumber

Green Machine

1 kiwi

½ avocado

½ cup frozen mango

1 frozen banana

1 small bunch spinach or romaine

½ peeled cucumber

Kale Berry Super Smoothie

1 frozen banana

½ cup frozen strawberries

4 kale leaves, stems removed

½ peeled cucumber

I hope you enjoy your green smoothies! If you have any combinations you love, please share.

Building Healthy Habits

Are you making New Year’s Resolutions? I do every year. I’m one of those people that really likes needs goals. When I started drinking green smoothies, after a lot of reading and thinking about the dietary habits I wanted to focus on, I created goals for myself. I wrote them down so I could remember them when I created my recipe lists and when I prepared food for the work week. For some people, this really helps.

If you’re interested, I’ve attached a chart to help you out. (Healthy Habits Goal Chart) It’s in Microsoft Word so you should be able to open it up, paste it to a new document, and edit it. You’ll see the goals I have for each meal, snacks, and for general physical and emotional health. I list goals and then ideas for meals (helps with shopping). I keep this chart in the same area I write my recipes and grocery lists. It helps. If you’re so inclined, take a look at mine and then work on creating your own. Hang it on the fridge, stick it in your purse, near your grocery lists … whatever works for you.

I obviously eat much more variety than what’s listed, especially for dinner, but the lunch and breakfast ideas are really important for me during the work week. They remind me of what I aspire to prepare to have a super healthy breakfast/lunch during my work week. At night I allow much more variety and on the weekend I get to splurge. It’s the balance I love and it works for me.

Remember, you don’t create healthy habits in a matter of days. It’s a journey to finding the lifestyle that makes you the happiest and the healthiest. I certainly don’t always eat according to my written goals, but they guide me in my decisions and as a result I’m creating healthy habits I hope to have for life … a long, healthy, happy life. You can do the same. Here’s to your best year yet!