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Try This Healthy Lunch Dip

23 May
soybean hummus

Using different veggies to make dips similar to hummus is a great way to enjoy eating healthy food more than usual.

I love creating new veggie dip combinations. Getting creative in the kitchen helps me to have fun when trying to lose weight and eat healthier. It also helps me use up stuff that is in the fridge before it goes bad. I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of letting lots of perfectly good veggies go to waste because I just let them sit there. Weight loss can be made easier if you like the health food you need to eat. For example, I didn’t want to eat the rest of the edamame in the fridge, so I found a soybean hummus recipe online. Then I added my own twist to that recipe idea. The result was a really yummy, healthy veggie dip that made for a great lunch!

Easy Healthy Lunch: Carrots and soybean-veggie dip sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and served with a few Alphonso (Kalamata) olives.

Ingredients and Directions:

  • 1 package of soybeans (out of the pod)
  • half a can of green beans
  • 1 small Roma tomato
  • 1 small, thin slice of butter (about a tsp)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tbsp Italian vinaigrette dressing

Bring to boil and reduce eat to simmer altogether until everything is tender. Puree til smooth as hummus. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired, and enjoy as a super yummy, healthy dip!

–Michelle

Related post: When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

3 Ways to Eat Barley

22 May

Barley is an excellent source of fiber and essential amino acids (Google it or read the package it comes in). In addition to loving its taste and texture, I’ve noticed that it really has helped improve my digestive system. This fact is not only good news for my general health, but it also seems to have helped boost my metabolism. I feel like eating more yummy sources of fiber, like barley, is helping me lose weight in a really healthy way. Plus, barley is such a versatile grain. Below are just three ways I have incorporated it into our meals. I look forward to hearing more ideas from you readers! [Note: Barley does contain gluten.]

fried egg on barley

For a breakfast high in protein and fiber, throw a fried egg on some boiled barley and enjoy the yumminess!

Breakfast

By itself, boiled barley has a hearty grain taste. I like to cook it for a long time, stirring frequently (and occasionally adding extra water) so that the barley is soft and tender and the starch water thickens to a yummy consistency. Add a bit of salt while cooking. A bowl of this plain barley as a porridge can be a terrific alternative to oatmeal. Or, for extra protein and variety, throw a fried egg on top. It makes for a great-tasting, super healthy breakfast. By the way, in my experience, barley always takes longer to fully cook than the package indicates, so allow for extra boiling time.

Side Dish

The other day, I mixed boiled pearled barley with choclo cut off the cob. (Peruvian corn; for image and other uses, see this recipe). I boiled both separately first, then mixed them together and boiled them for an additional 30 minutes with some butter and salt (stirring every few minutes). The resulting side dish was one of the yummiest things I’ve made in a while. The texture of the corn perfectly complimented the barley. The taste of the extra soft barley with the potato-like corn and butter blended so well! I took some over to Vita’s apartment and we gobbled it all up. We started calling it kasha, which she taught me is a Russian word for a savory, hearty side dish like this turned out to be.

Main Course

I always cook enough dinner so that there are leftovers for lunch the next day. Sometimes there’s even more than that so I try to get creative and use the leftovers in new ways so that we’re not eating the same thing for three or four days in a row. For example, back in April, I made a giant batch of pea soup. There is still one small container of it in the freezer. Once defrosted, it will be enough for one big lunch or two small sides for dinner. However, I’ve also got some plain boiled barley left in the fridge, which can be an excellent ingredient in soup. So, I’m going to combine the leftover soup and the barley as a base for a stew. I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I plan to add some carrots and maybe also some choclo. It’ll be one of the heartiest vegetable stews I’ve ever made. We also have some leftover pulled pork roast, which could be added since the soup was originally ham stock-based, but I’m not sure about that yet.

pearled barley

Barley is a great source of fiber and amino acids. This tasty grain can be used in many types of hot and cold dishes.

There are so many other ways to cook barley. I even saw some recipes for salads that mix barley with soybeans and other veggies, which sounds really yummy. For a salad, I would stop cooking the barley once it reached a sort of “al dente” texture so that it would blend well with other cold veggies because you wouldn’t want mushy barley in a salad.

I hope you enjoy trying it out in new ways in your life!

–Michelle

Avoiding Emotional Eating: How to Distract Yourself from Unhealthy Snacking

10 May
loco at computer

Just me and my cat today, hard at work at my desk. As long as he lays on my arm, I can’t use it to snack. ;)

Today isn’t easy for me. I’m stressed about my freelance work, I’m applying for full-time work with no call-backs yet, I’m still too sore to exercise much, and my friends are busy so it’s just me and the cat. I’m so tempted to gorge on candy, Pop Tarts, nachos, ice cream, or chili-cheese fries. Fortunately, we don’t have any of that in the house right now. I’m about to go run some errands and I know I’m going to want to stop at a fast food drive-thru, which I also know I don’t really want to do (see this post: Dropping the Drive-Thru). To help myself not eat my way through this stressful day, I’m making this list of distractions and reasons to avoid temptation. I hope it helps you too. Continue reading

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip!

27 Apr
Freak Nasty's Da Dip

Freak Nasty's "Da Dip" was a hit in the '90s (I remember dancing to it at my 8th grade dance!) and it's one of those catchy one-hit wonders that pops into my head every once in a while.

Happy Friday! It’s a sunny day, I’m hungry for a light lunch, and I’ve got Freak Nasty’s “Da Dip” stuck in my head! So, the only thing to do is make a dip for lunch (while grooving to the song, of course). I love making dips at home, especially since you control the amount of oil and salt in them compared with store-bought, preservative-filled dips. It’s a great way to have fun with health food when you’re trying to lose weight without getting bored.

My favorite kind of dip to make is hummus, but what I really love to do is use hummus as a base for a veggie dip. It’s super healthy, fun, and you can eat it with carrot sticks (or any other veggie stick), home-baked tortilla chips, pita, crackers, pretzels…pretty much whatever you want. Sometimes, I even use it as a spread on a sandwich.

Here’s my typical dip-making method (takes about 10 minutes):

1. What’s in the fridge and cupboard? I like to get creative with what we have around the kitchen, especially since we’re on a pretty strict budget. Today, for example, I have a can of garbanzo beans, one Roma tomato left, half a can of black olives, half a bag of baby spinach, feta, carrots, garlic, and balsamic vinaigrette. Other ingredients that can work great, which I don’t have right now, are bell pepper, cilantro, cream cheese, Parmesan, onion, various types of beans (bean dip is so yummy!), avocado, artichoke. The recipe changes depending on what you’re in the mood for and what you have to use. The point is to look at what’s available and concoct a flavor that will suit your personal tastes and cravings.

2. Making the dip.

  • In a small frying pan, simmer the sliced tomato, garlic, and spinach (or bell pepper and onion, if you’re using those) with just a teaspoon of canola oil (or olive oil) and a dash of salt and pepper. Sometimes I’ll add a different type of pepper or some cumin and thyme to further enhance the flavor. You just want to soften these ingredients so that the flavors mix well. You can also do this in the oven, but that can take longer than on the stove. [You also can add sesame seeds at this stage, which adds a subtle, earthy flavor that is so good.]
  • In a blender, combine the can of garbanzo beans (drained), black olives, and about a cup of spinach with two tablespoons of the vinaigrette and blend. Then add the heated mixture of tomato and garlic, etc., and blend again. Keep blending until you have a smooth hummus-veggie dip. Adjust the blending consistency and amount of ingredients to suit your taste (you may want to thin it a bit with water or vinaigrette, or add a little salt, or thicken it with some saltine crackers).

3. Serve. Eat it hot or cold, depending on your preference, with whatever you want to dip in it. I’m having mine with carrot sticks today. Enjoy knowing that it’s a super healthy snack that tastes great and is totally customized for you!

Have a great weekend!

–Michelle :)

“The Best Ever!” Russian Borsch Soup Recipe

25 Apr

If you were to ask me to name three traditional Russian dishes I would say, without any hesitation, they are pelmeni, blini (blintz), and borsch. Pelmeni are a variation of dumplings and usually made with a meat inside; blintz are very thin pancakes and are exactly like french crepes or Brazilian panquecas. So  even though any Russian person would say that these two dishes are truly from Russian cuisine, there are still variations of it that can be found throughout the world. However no matter how hard you try to find any dish resembling borsch, I bet you, your search would give no results. Therefore, I can definitely say that borsch truly has a Russian origin and actually is made in Russia very often on an everyday basis.

So what is borsch? Continue reading

Spicing Up a Classic English Recipe

18 Apr

…or, When “Toad in the Hole” Becomes “Great Horny Toads Pie” 

Great Horny Toads Pie by Michelle

A twist on "Toad in the Hole," Michelle's "Great Horny Toads Pie" uses spicy sausages and is served with gravy, sweet red yam, and an artichoke.

I came across this “Toad in the Hole” recipe when I was reading photographer Julia Segura’s food photography blog. This sounded like a great and different way to use up the last few sausages I had in the fridge. I had used the sausages with eggs and potatoes but I was getting tired of that and I had unfortunately succumbed to a sale price on a huge box of these super spicy, large links (and I gave half to my mom and her husband; lesson learned). It’s because of the spicy twist on this English standard that I borrow Yosemite Sam’s catchphrase to rename this recipe, “Great Horny Toads Pie!” It’s got quite a kick to it, which I hope will kick-start my metabolism as much as it did my taste buds. The pudding batter–called Yorkshire pudding–which produces a consistency slightly similar to quiche–serves as a nice balance for the hot sausage flavor. To further compliment that balance, I served the main dish with an artichoke and a slice of red yam on the side. Both of these vegetables have subtle, mild, but distinct flavors that offer a sweet relief to the spiciness. (And artichokes are in season–and on sale–right now!)

Great Horny Toads Pie

Total prep time: about 15-20 minutes

Total cook time: about one hour

Ingredients:

– Yorkshire Pudding: 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon salt

– 5 large hot and spicy sausage links, sliced

– 1 roma tomato, chopped

– 1/4 onion, chopped

– artichokes (one per person)

– red yams (1/2 yam per person)

– two tablespoons canola oil

– two tablespoons butter

– 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, thyme, and cumin

Continue reading

Awesome Brazilian Panquecas Recipe In Pictures

16 Apr

Last Friday we had lots of fun visiting our good friends for another round of playing Kinect golf game. The game took a few hours to play and enough exercise for all five of us to get pretty hungry in the evening. That’s when our friend Victor decided to cook panquecas for us. As you can see from the name, panquecas are very much like thin pancakes; I would compare them exactly to french crepes or Russian blintz, rolled with stuffing inside. It was funny to see this type of food prepared since it’s just like a traditional Russian blintz and very close to my heart. But I guess every culture has some sort of variation of this dish. For example, we have this either with meat or it could be sweet, stuffed with mix of cottage cheese and fruit preserves. It’s a very simple dish to make, and I would say the most time-consuming part is probably the panquecas making. It’s very tasty and great either for lunch or dinner. Total making time: around 30-40 minutes.

Ingredients (for 5 people):

Dough

– 2 cups of milk

– 2 cups of flour

– 4 eggs

– pinch of salt

Stuffing

– 1 large onion

– 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef

– 1 can (15 oz) of crushed tomatoes

– 1 small can of tomato paste

– 1 can (15 oz) of whole kernel corn

– 1 can (3.8 oz) of sliced black olives

– 1 pack of shredded cheese

Rice (side dish)

– 1 cup of rice Continue reading

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