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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Delicious ideas for zucchini!

Hi Everyone!  I am so sorry it has been so long since I have been on.  So much has happened and so many new recipes have been tried.  With this post, I want to play some “catch-up”!  Ok, so first, I have lost about 6 pounds in a little less than 3 weeks.  It could be more, but I have been going to the gym and may have gained some muscle weight.  I am trying so hard to keep it up!  I have to confess, I am not a big fan of working out, but I am a HUGE fan of losing weight!

Now on to my favorite topic....new healthy recipes!  So, a friend and fellow blogger, Roni Mayes (visit her blog at http://lastjobonearth.blogspot.com/), asked for a zucchini recipe.  Well, since zucchini is one of my favorite things to cook…I have more than one!  I even have sweets you can incorporate it in to.  Not only is zucchini delicious and easy to cook, it is rich in Vitamins A & C, and also a good source of Potassium.  It is about 95% water and low in calories, so a good choice for us healthy people!  It is very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked!

The easiest way to cook zucchini is to slice it and grill it.  You can slice it the long way or in “rounds” about ¼ to ½ in thick.  I leave the skin on.  Then brush with some olive oil on each side and sprinkle it with the spices of your choice.  I like garlic powder, onion powder, and some salt & pepper.  They do not take long to cook, so pay attention to them when you grill them.

Another great way to enjoy it, is to shred it with a cheese grater (I use the larger size grate) and put it in eggs.  Shred the zucchini into a colander.  Let it drain for a little while, patting with paper towels.  Then sauté it in a frying pan in a little olive oil.  It depends how much eggs you are making for the next step.  I am usually making a frittata, so I at this point I would spread the zucchini evenly in the pan and pour in about 8 eggs that I just whisked in a bowl with some milk.  Then let it partially set and if you want, add some cheese (shredded mozzarella is my favorite).  Then bake for about 10 minutes (or until fully set) in the oven at 400 degrees F. 

There are some sweets you can make too…that are healthy.  I just made a zucchini avocado muffin. Not only do you substitute some of the oil for avocado, you can get the zucchini too. They were also made with whole-wheat flour!  Here is the recipe: 


Here are some other recipes that I tried and approve of:

I hope that you enjoy these recipes.  If you need me to find more....please feel free to make a request!





Saturday, March 1, 2014

If you aren't a fan of salmon...you haven't tried my salmon cakes!

Salmon is one of those fish people either love it or hate it.  There is not usually an in-between.  We always hear how good salmon is for you and that you should eat it often.  Well, then you need to try this recipe.  I have blended several recipes I found on the internet, and perfected them to make my very own.  Some called for raw salmon....some for canned salmon....I have found the best is to broil a fillet with the skin.  I also have added crab meat and chopped shrimp to make them more of a seafood cake, rather than just salmon.  Now I am sorry this recipes is not exact...for me, when I make things, I don't always use exact measurements.  So, you may need to make adjustments.  

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 to 3/4 Lb. Fresh salmon fillet (with skin)
  • Olive Oil (see below)
  • Canola Oil (see below)
  • 1/2 onion - chopped 
  • 1 stalk celery - finely chopped
  • 1 -2 tsp of the following:
    • garlic powder
    • parsley
    • onion powder
    • dry dill
    • old bay seasoning (I would start with 1 tsp - depending on your taste)
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 cup (may need more) panko bread crumbs - whole wheat if possible
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 mayo - with olive oil if possible
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • A few splashes of Frank's Red Hot (optional)
  • Dill Sauce (for topping while eating)
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/4 cup mayo
    • 2 tsp lemon juice
    • Splash of milk
    • pinch of garlic and onion powders
    • tsp of dry dill

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the salmon on a cookie sheet, skin side down. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the rack on top rack closest to the broiler and broil for about 10 minutes, checking in 5 minute increments.  May need a few more minutes.  It should flake easy with a fork.  Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the onion, celery, parsley, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings in a large bowl.  Flake the cooled salmon and add to the same bowl.  If you want, you can add some chopped shrimp and/or crab meat.  Then, add the regular bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and egg(s).  Mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 


In the meantime, add the panko breadcrumbs to a small bowl.  Then, shape the salmon mixture into about 10 4-inch cakes.  You can make them bigger or smaller.  Then press each side into the panko bread crumbs to coat.  

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Lay the cakes out on the cookie sheet at least an inch apart.  Then spray the tops with more cooking spray.  I like to use the olive oil spray.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until browned underneath.  Then move the rack up close to the broiler.  Broil them for about 5 minutes, but pay close attention to them as they can burn very easily.  They should be browned and crispy.  Top with the dill sauce and pair with a nice salad.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What is quinoa?

I am sorry it has been awhile since I have been on. It was a busy week last week! However, I did still fit in some cooking which I will tell you about too. However, first, I wanted to talk to you about a delicious power food called: quinoa. Say it with me....it's pronounced keen-wah. Quinoa is a protein-packed grain (actually it is a seed) and contains every amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which promotes healthy tissue growth throughout the body. Quinoa is also a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. It looks a bit like couscous. You can pretty much use quinoa anywhere you would rice. It is very easy to cook and it has a rich, almost nutty flavor.






Quinoa seeds have a naturally bitter coating to deter birds.  This must be rinsed off before preparing. Packaged quinoa is usually pre-rinsed, but check before cooking. If it has not already been rinsed, put the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve, and wash with cold water until the water runs clear.   To cook, it is usually 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa.  It can also be cooked with milk (I like to use coconut milk) or chicken stock.  However, do not use the chicken stock if you plan to use it for baking or for "oatmeal".  A very basic way to cook the quinoa is:
  • Put the quinoa and water (milk or chicken stock) into a pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and serve.  It can also be chilled for a later use.

Quinoa can be eaten on its own as a side dish or chilled on top of a salad. It also makes a great breakfast dish mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. Paired with chili, stir-fries, beans or curries, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice, and it also makes a tasty pilaf. As a main course, use it to make meat-free burgers or mix it into stews.  Quinoa works as a baking grain as well, and makes for delicious and nutritious breads and muffins.


The first recipe I want to share is one I made very recently for breakfast.  It was a Spinach Egg Quinoa Bake.  It was pretty easy.  The recipe I found used raw quinoa and so the baking time was almost 50 minutes.  I shortened it up by using already cooked quinoa.  
It depends on how much you want to make.  What I made today was in an 8x8 baking dish. You can use a 9 inch pie plate too…and it would make a little more that way.  

Spinach Quinoa Egg Bake
Ingredients:
  • Fresh baby spinach 
  • Chopped or minced garlic 
  • Shredded Cheese (I used ½ cup part skim provolone and ½ cup asiago cheese) 
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa 
  • 8 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Oil (see instructions) 
Directions:
  1. Spray a 8x8 baking dish or 9 inch deep pie plate with non-fat cooking spray. I used the olive oil PAM. 
  2. In a small skillet, heat a Tbsp of the oil of your choice. I like coconut or olive oil. Then add chopped garlic (I used the jarred kind). Let that sauté a minute or so and then add 4 to 5 handfuls of fresh baby spinach. You can add as much or as little spinach as you want. Then sauté until it is cooked down and wilted. Set aside. 
  3. Add 8 eggs to a bowl. Whisk until blended and then add a ¼ milk. Whisk a bit more. Pour eggs into baking dish. 
  4. Then add the spinach and quinoa. I use a spoon and drop spoonfuls over it. Then top with cheese. I baked for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Its done when a toothpick comes out clean.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did.  I brought it to work to share with some co-workers and it was a hit!  I have one more for now I would like to share with you.  This one is a great snack.  I altered the recipe from the original a bit.

Chocolate Oatmeal Quinoa Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I used cashew butter)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup (I used 2 tbsp maple flavored agave nectar)
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
  • Optional: I added 3/4 dark chocolate chips

Preparation:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl just until well combined. Drop the mixture by a large spoonful onto the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until lightly firm.



Please be sure to come back for more!  Leave your comments if you have any questions!





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dairy....non-fat vs. full-fat

Dairy is a very controversial topic.  There are those who think we shouldn't have any dairy in our diets at all, there are those that only have non-fat dairy, those who can't stomach to drink a glass of milk, and then there are those, like me, who love a nice ice-cold glass of creamy milk.  I am not a nutritionist, and I don't know what the perfect answer is regarding dairy.  I know that I don't plan on giving it up any time soon.  I am a total cheese and milk lover.  

I used to think, like most people, that full-fat dairy was a no-no once you were not in elementary school any more.  So, I started drinking skim milk...or should I say "white water".  I wasn't enjoying milk anymore.  I would also go for non-fat yogurt and sour cream.  Those aren't too enjoyable either.

Just before my senior year in high school, I went on an exchange program to Germany.  I noticed something right away...the only dairy available was full-fat.  If you asked for skim milk, they looked at you like you were asking to buy crack!  I fell in love with dairy again.  All the delicious yogurts, cheeses, and yes, milk!  It was creamy and delicious.  I have heard this is a trend all over Europe....and I didn't see too many overweight people.  They may have eaten foods with a lot of fat in Germany, but they kept the carbs and processed foods at a minimum.

I found a wonderful website that had an article about the topic.  Diagnosis Diet: Are High Fat Dairy Products Better for you?  It is very simple article to read, and it has me convinced that I shouldn't feel bad for enjoying my full fat cheeses and other dairy!

Here are some delicious recipes for dairy:


  • Chia seed yogurt blend:
    • Blend a 6oz container of plain Greek yogurt, 1 Tbsp chia seeds, and 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a bowl.  Then add your favorite sweeteners to taste.  I put about 1 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar, and a pinch of cinnamon.  Let sit overnight and enjoy for breakfast the next morning.  Feel free to top with your favorite fruit.  **Chia seeds are a wonderful food that is considered a "power food".  They are full of fiber and Omega-3's. They are also known to keep you hydrated, fuller longer, and help to control blood sugar.
  • Ricotta Cremes:
    • Mocha Ricotta Creme: Blend 1 cup part-skim or full fat ricotta cheese,21 packets Splenda (or your favorite sugar substitute), 1 heaping tsp cocoa, 1 t instant coffee, 1 T chocolate syrup (I use dark chocolate syrup), 1 T vanilla extract, and 1 T half & half (milk or coconut milk can be used also) in a bowl.  Top with some dark chocolate chips.  Chill for at least an hour.  Makes 2 servings.
    • Lemon Zest Ricotta Creme1 cup part-skim or full fat ricotta cheese, 2 packets Splenda (or your favorite sugar substitute), 1/2 t vanilla extract, and 1/2 t lemon zest in a bowl.  I also like to add a squeeze of lemon juice.  Chill for at least an hour. Makes 2 servings.
I hope that you enjoyed this post and I hope you enjoy the recipes.  I will definitely have more dairy recipes...next will be hot meals...with plenty of cheese!

A delicious way to serve cod...and quinoa!

Before I post my main topic for the night, I wanted to share my dinner.  There are a lot of people out there that are not crazy about fish.  I love making cod as it is an easy fish to make and not very "fishy".  It is very versatile and goes well in any recipe that calls for a white fish.  My new favorite way to cook it has been to broil for about 5 minutes on each side, and then pair it with a dill sauce.  

Tonight I had broiled cod with dill sauce, sauteed kale, and a brown rice quinoa blend.  I hope that you didn't make a face when I said "brown rice"! haha

So here's the recipe:

Broiled Cod:
  • 1.5 pounds cod
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs (or regular if you can't find wheat)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • DILL SAUCE: 
    • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (or sour cream)
    • 2 Tbsp mayo (preferably Hellman's with olive oil)
    • 1 tsp dry dill (or to taste)
    • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice (depending on your thickness preference)
    • 1-2 Tbsp milk (depending on your thickness preference)
    • 1 tsp each of garlic & onion powder
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat the broiler.  Spray a broiler pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Blend milk and eggs in a bowl.  In another bowl mix all the remaining ingredients, except for the fish.
  3. Dip the fish in the eggs, and then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.  Lay the fish on the broiler pan rack, and spray with some non-stick spray.  
  4. Broil for about 5 minutes or until fish is lightly brown and starting to flake.  Remove from oven and flip over fish.  Broil for another 5-7 minutes.
  5. DILL SAUCE: mix all ingredients together with a whisk and chill while the fish is cooking.
I just saute the kale leaves (remove most stems) with some olive oil, garlic, chicken stock, and white wine in my wok.


The quinoa blend was a frozen mix from Whole Foods.  If you have never had quinoa, it is delicious.  It is a whole food and good for gluten free diets.  The dry (not frozen) cooks pretty much like rice.  I will be posting an article about this amazing food.  Sorry my final plate is not all that pretty!  I forgot to take a pic before starting to eat! 








Sunday, February 9, 2014

The recipe that started it all...

This is a short post.  I just wanted to post the recipe that inspired me to start this blog.  I posted pictures and the recipe on Facebook, and so many people commented on it.  My co-worker, Roni, even made it at home and she said it was good.  That day, Derek Friday, gave me the idea to start a blog.

Those who know me well, know I LOVE pizza.  I could eat pizza at least a few times per week.  I am trying to be low-card, so what is the best way to enjoy pizza, but with the least amount of carbs?  The answer is to use eggplant slices as the crust!

Here is what you do:

1.  Slice an eggplant into rounds about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle with salt on both sides and let sit for about 30 minutes.

2.  Rinse the eggplant and pat dry.  Brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the slices on a cooling rack and then put the cooling rack on a cookie sheet.  Roast for about 5 - 8 minutes at 425 degrees.  They should be a bit soft and a little browned.

3.  Take out of the oven and top with your favorite tomato sauce (I use Hunt's brand and "doctor" it up with my favorite spices.  Then sprinkle with cheese (I like mozzarella and asiago).  You can then add any pizza toppings you like.  I like turkey pepperoni and mushrooms.

4.  Roast for another 5 - 8 minutes.  You might also want to put them under the broiler for a minute.

5.  ENJOY!!


Get a flat belly the Italian way!

When I was growing up, every time I went to the doctor, he told me "stay away from bread, pasta, and potatoes". Ok, the potatoes I can handle, but bread and pasta! Are you crazy? I am Italian! And my whole life up until a few years ago, I thought that these foods were "evil" and were what was making me fat. However, I learned that if you eat the right kinds of pasta and bread, and pair it with the right things, you can enjoy both and still lose weight.

I came across a book called "Fat Belly Diet" by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass, MPH RD. First, I want to say that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, this is based on research I did in books and on the internet. Everyone's body is different, so of course you may want to consult with your doctor before trying any new kind of diet. I just know what works for me. So with that said I introduce you to Monounsaturated Fatty Acids! Sounds yummy right? Well when we break them down as the following:

1. Oils

2. Olives


3. Nuts and Seeds

4. Avocados


5. Dark Chocolate

In the book, they are referred to as MUFAs. These delicious plant-based foods are powerful foods that are very healthful. At one time, all fats were put in the same category and we were told they were all bad. Research has shown this is not true. I can see it in my very own family. As a matter of fact, it is seen all over Europe, especially in the Mediterranean, that these foods do wonders for your health. I don't want to draw this out and make this post too boring...you can google the why and how of how good MUFAs are for you. If you want, feel free to ask me questions, and I can post excerpts from the book. My goal is to help you find a way to enjoy these foods and find a way to get them in your diet every day.

As far as oils go, I love of course olive oil...but I also like to use safflower, sunflower, and canola oils too. I actually got really into coconut oil, which can be used in baking in place of butter, and is so good for you. Pair olive oil with some Italian bread, drizzled on a salad, or along with garlic on your favorite macaroni; and you have a delicious meal that is heart healthy! The main key to picking the right macaroni, is to look at the ingredients and make sure it says "durum wheat" or "semolina". That is REAL Italian macaroni, and that is the good stuff that is good for you. As for the other oils, you can use in recipes that call for vegetable oil, in salad dressing, for sauteing, or in a stir fry.

I think that getting olives in your diet is pretty self-explanatory LOL. You can put them on salads, eat them plain, on pizza, or on a sandwich. There are all kinds of olives; stuffed and not stuffed.

As for nuts and seeds, I personally love to eat roasted almonds and pistachios. But again, this seems to be pretty self-explanatory. One nut that I found that is very good for you are cashews. I have been really enjoying cashew milk. I know it sounds funny, but give it a try! It is a creamy, delicious way to get cashews in your diet. Use it in coffee, cereal, or anything you would use milk for. It is also good for people that are lactose intolerant. Here is a recipe:

Cashew Milk
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup cashews 4 cups of water (divided)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional) 
Directions:
1. Soak the cashews in water at least 4 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the cashews and rinse until the water runs clear. Add the cashews and two cups water to a blender. Start on a low setting and increase the speed until the cashews are totally pulverized. This could take 2 minutes in a high-powered blender or longer in a regular blender.

2.Blend in 2 cups more water*, your sweetener of choice, vanilla extract, sea salt and cinnamon (optional). If your blender can’t totally break down the cashews, strain the milk through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. Store the milk in a covered container in the refrigerator. It should keep for 3 to 4 days.

*I like it thicker so I only add 1 cup more water

Now on to avocados. There are a lot of people that turn their nose up to avocados. You might be making a twisted face right now! These are so delicious on salad or on a taco, but if you aren't crazy about them...I know it's a consistency thing LOL...throw them in a smoothie! You won't even though they're there. Try this:

Avocado smoothie:
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 of a large avocado
  • 1 1/2 cups cold milk of choice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch pure stevia or 2 tbsp pure maple syrup or sugar of choice
  • 1/8 tsp salt (optional)
  • 4 ice cubes
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth, then serve. Makes about 2 cups (1-2 servings).

So I saved the best for last...chocolate! I am talking dark chocolate. There are those that turn their noses up to dark chocolate too...but try different brands to find your favorite. I love Godiva's almond bark...dark chocolate and nuts! I will have a recipe coming up in another post that will give you an idea for dark chocolate.

Well, that is it for MUFAs for now. Please come back for more!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My First Post

A Foodinista's Journey to getting healthy...

So it took me awhile to think about what I wanted to write. This is the first time I ever had a blog. So what would I talk about? What could I write that would keep people wanting to come back? Well, I love to eat, cook, and travel. I also love feeding people good food. So, I figured, why not try a way to combine all of those things I love into one, and get myself and others to want to be healthy? And that is where the journey beings…

I grew up in an Italian family. Everyone who grew up in an Italian family, especially with parents or grandparents that still spoke Italian and didn’t completely “Americanize” themselves, knows that food is life. Everything revolves around food. Even if you’re not Italian, just watching a show like the Sopranos or a movie like Goodfellas, and you can see everyone gathered at the dining room table, and what are they doing? Eating. As a kid, I remember sitting with my grandmother at the kitchen table while she cooked. I would watch, listen, and learn. I think that is where I got my love for cooking….and eating of course! Every Saturday we would gather at her house and share a big meal. My mom is one of 4 kids and there are 6 of us grandkids. Some how we all managed to fit at one table. We would share our week with each other…we’d laugh, we’d yell (a.k.a discuss loudly), and of course we’d EAT! No matter who would stop by, my grandmother just had to feed them. It didn’t matter if they were family or someone doing work at the house. They had to eat something. If they didn't she either would be offended or think something was wrong with them. Food was also the cure to everything. If you didn't feel well, some kind of food was the cure.

When I was growing up, you had to be home for dinner...bring a friend if you want, but your "culo" better be at the table when it was dinner time to mangia...no excuses. I am so glad I had that though. When I have kids, I plan to do the same. It was such an important part of my growing up. We could talk about our day and spend time together. I still have my parents over for dinner a couple times a week to this day. I would go to my friends' house...who my grandmother would refer to as the "Ameri-cons" (her accent LOL) and hardly any of them would sit and eat together. They thought it was weird that my family had dinner together...and I thought it was just as weird that they didn't. A lot of them would sit in front of the TV eating cereal, waffles, or some other quick meal they just threw together. Though most of my Italian friends...or friends of other backgrounds that weren't so Americanized...would sit and eat togehter like my family. Please don't take that as insult...I am not judging or saying one way is right or wrong...it is just what I observed growing up, and I am glad we did it the way we did.

Then I met my husband's family. They are Dominican...and then I realized that Italians are not the only ones who's lives revolve around food. It turns out Latinos are the same way! So now started "the 2 dinner Saturdays and holidays", because if I didn't eat at my grandmother's house, something was wrong, and if I turned down food at my in-law's, something was wrong. As my husband and I dated, and even after we got married, we did a decent amount of travelling. We went to Punta Cana, on a few cruises, and back to Punta Cana. Yes, I love the beach and I love exploring...but one of my favorite things about travelling is trying all the delicious new foods!

However, I made a decision to get back to eating foods that are better for my body, after looking at the pictures of my vacation. I wasn't happy with what I was looking at. If it makes sense, I love myself and I have a husband who thinks I am beautiful, but I started to see the weight gain in my face and I didn't like what I was seeing. I am tired of losing and gaining...losing and gaining...I want to make some changes to lose the weight and KEEP IT OFF. But I don't want to do some crazy diet...I want to change my lifestyle. I also do not want to be a size 0...let me make it clear that I want to be a "thick" girl, but I want to ditch the muffin top LOL. I want to be able to put a healthy twist on the foods I love, and of course control portions. I also realized I need to stop ruining my good meals. For instance, I would eat a delicious, healthy dinner, and then ruin it by eating McDonald's french fries at 10 o'clock at night! That is not good! I know how hard it is to stay on track...and so I want to try to inspire others to get healthy too! If I can do it, anyone can. Well that gives you just a piece of my background. Please keep reading my posts and I will tell you more about myself and take you on "my journey to healthy"!