Brussels and Turkey Penne Ragu with Whipped Ricotta

pasta2Crispy brussels tossed in a rich turkey ragu with whole-wheat penne pasta topped off with whipped ricotta and a sprinkle of parmesan. Nutritious comfort food at its finest!

Being Italian, I used to polish off obscene amounts of pasta back in the day. Like, my high school days when I was either competitively swimming or running track and carbs were my life.

Growing up, my Mom would make homemade sauce, meatballs and italian sausage every Tuesday and Good Lord, there were some nights I think I ate my Dad under the table. These days, pasta is a treat I only like to enjoy once in a while. Though lately i’ve been having colossal cravings for rich, cheesy, saucy Italian food that I cannot seem to kick. Enter, this plate of glory.

pasta1These crispy Brussels paired with rich tomato sauce is an unexpected combination made in heaven. The rest of the pasta is studded with onions, garlic, oregano and basil. Then we have the whipped ricotta which just nestles in the pockets of the pasta like a pearl in a clam shell.

Little pillowy clouds of creamy goodness. Too cheesy? Am I getting carried away with the romantics of my food?

pasta3As an aside, I’m on a secret mission to make brussels work in any and all dishes. I’m now certain that pasta is actually where brussels belong. Next up is a brussels pizza.

Fifty shades of cray.

And this is not, by any means, destroying the sanctity of the sprout. My main goal (in life) is to make healthy eating appealing to all walks of life. For someone that doesn’t like brussels, or any greens for that matter, I challenge you to not enjoy this plate of pasta.

pasta4It’s like a glorious pile of comfort food and I’m into it. Really into it.

It may be deceiving, but I actually found this meal to be relatively light. A side salad, some crusty bread and glass of vino really fit the bill to complete this healthy Italian meal.

Let’s eat!

Brussels and Turkey Ragu Penne with Whipped Ricotta

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Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal for One

bakedoatmealSoft baked oatmeal that mimics the taste of a peanut butter cookie straight out of the oven. The best part about it? Every bite is yours.

The secret to making it take like a Reese’s is to go one step further and either add chocolate chips or slather some Jif Whips chocolate peanut butter on top after it bakes. Oh my. Straight from the peanut butter Gods, I tell you. For another Reese’s breakfast experience, check out my favorite protein pancake recipe of ALL time – Choco-Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes. <— these own my heart.

This breakfast is 100% conducive to a rushed morning. Just mix all ingredients, pour in a ramekin, place in the oven and carry on with morning to-dos while it bakes. Once your kitchen starts smelling like peanut butter cookies, that’s when you know it’s game time. After the oatmeal bakes, you can even pack it up and take it to-go once the ramekin cools.

bakedoatmeal2It’s fun to get experimental with baked oatmeal. Adding fruit, nuts, other nut butters and protein powders can transform this breakfast into something new and exciting. I topped mine with 1 tbsp of creamy peanut butter to really enhance the peanut butter cookie taste, however i’ve also topped baked oatmeal with Greek yogurt and berries, almond butter and banana slices, as well as whipped cream cheese and cinnamon. Each one more delicious than the next.

It almost tastes like you’re eating a guilt-free cake for breakfast. A peanut butter cookie cake that is low in fat, high in fiber and protein, and bursting with sweet decadence. Sold?? I know I am!

Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal for One

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Sweet Potato Chopped Kale Salad with Honey Goat Cheese

 

kalesaladDiced sweet potatoes sautéed with massaged kale, garlic and balsamic topped with rich honey goat cheese. The salad with enough OOMPH to serve as a meal, and enough flavor to swoon even the biggest kale opposer.

There are so many components that make this THEE salad for me. First, it’s chopped. If I could eat all salads chopped for the rest of my life, I’d be thrilled. Second, it has garlic, my favorite cheese and a kick of spice — flavor party. Third, it is LOADED with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, therefore I can keep my dietitian title another day.

It’s delicious served warm or cold. I know this because I ate it hot off the stove with a filet of Harissa-rubbed salmon for dinner, and then subsequently ate it again standing at my refrigerator at 9 PM. Late night cold Tupperware snacks are my life.

kalesalad2The key to really softening kale is to thoroughly massage the leaves. I typically massage the leaves using a little extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt to help tenderize the leaves. A nice little rubdown transforms this rough, somewhat bitter green into a sweet, silky salad base.

Massaging this green is super simple. Start by de-steming the leaves and tearing them into bite-sized pieces. Take bunches of kale pieces in both hands, rub them together and repeat for ~5 minutes. You’ll notice a visible change; the leaves will darken, shrink in size and become softer in texture. Once they’re tenderized, they only need be sautéed for maybe 5-7 minutes before they wilt down. So worth the extra step!

To slightly switch gears, let’s talk about another use of leftovers…. Read More →

Sweet Potato and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

mushroomsSweet potato and spinach stuffed baby bella mushrooms topped with melted Parmesan Reggiano and balsamic reduction. A romantic appetizer or side-dish that is sure to satisfy!

Anyone else go nutso over stuffed vegetables? Stuffed bell peppers, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed sweet potatoes – no discrimination here. Seriously, one of my favorite go-to meals is a potato (any potato) stuffed with whatever I have on hand. I’ve gotten a little overzealous at times. Breakfast sweet potato stuffed with turkey bacon, eggs, roasted red pepper, chives and Sriracha – HEAVEN. Beef enchilada stuffed sweet potato – holy comfort food. You get it.

mushrooms3But speaking of comfort…. these juicy bella mushrooms topped with a blanket of bubbly cheese and a drizzle of rich, decadent balsamic. They’re the kind of appetizer you wind up uncontrollably popping in your mouth because each mouthful tastes better than the last. You can serve them on a pretty platter and eat them with toothpicks while feeling so refined, or you can have a contest to see who can fit the most in their mouth at one time. It was me against myself. Victory tastes so sweet.

The contrast of the sweet potato with sharp parmesan cheese is my new favorite thing. If you’re looking for a little extra texture, pine nuts would be an excellent addition to the filling. Since I just now thought of that, I’m going to have to remake these stat. Anyone fixing a steak dinner tonight that needs an appetizer (and a guest)?? ;)

mushrooms2The prep work is also very short and simple, especially if your sweet potato is roasted in advance. I usually take the time to roast a couple at a time over the weekend to have on hand during the week. Because, let me be honest, waiting an hour for something to roast while I’m starving only leads to one thing: too many Dove chocolates. The magic roasting regimen for sweet potatoes is to wrap them in foil and bake at 500 degrees F for one hour. Just trust me on this.

The world would be a much happier place if everyone would just stuff their face with stuffed mushrooms.

Sweet Potato and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

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Chicken Burgers with Lemon Basil Hummus

IMG_7655This hunk of burning love gives any beef burger a run for its money. Inside this toasted bun I give you a chicken burger patty seasoned with peppers, Dijon mustard and herbs… topped with lemon basil hummus and arugula… finished off with a drizzle of balsamic. Light and nutritious, yet full of flavor. Tell that sexy bacon cheeseburger to take a hike.

These just became my second favorite hand-held delight, next to my beloved Apple & Feta Chicken Burgers. So nice I had to do it twice.

This has surely become my staple chicken burger recipe. It pairs nicely with just about any topping your heart desires to throw on. Which, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know how dramatic I can get with toppings.

Limitless. Anything goes. Go big or big home. Exhibit A….

In fact, I would usually say this burger is TOO lightly dressed, however the toppings all complimented each other so nicely and I was far too gluttonous this weekend anyway. But let’s switch gears and talk about this lovely hummus….

IMG_7633You guys. If you haven’t tried making homemade hummus, please let me send you a years supply of Tahini so you can get started immediately. You will be ruined for the greater good and start thinking the store-bought tastes too processed while becoming smitten with the ease and tastiness of making of your own. Try this Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with only four ingredients and you will see what I mean!

This lemon basil hummus is light and refreshing and tastes equally great on raw veggies as it does on pita chips (#dietitiantalk,. Though, I must say, it tastes best on these chicken burgers. It just really does them justice. Let the hummus take the place of other higher fat, sodium-laden condiments and you have yourself a delicious meal filled with protein, healthy fat and fiber.

IMG_7657If you’re not burger-obsessed like yours truly, you could serve these in lettuce wraps, on top of a salad or crumbled up in a wrap or taco shell. You could also make the hummus into a salad dressing by just whisking in a little extra virgin olive oil. A whole new meal transformed!

Let’s hug it out in burger form.

Chicken Burgers with Lemon Basil Hummus

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Teriyaki Beef Rice Noodle Bowls

bowlsWhat is better than take-out style Thai food at home? How about take-out style Thai food that is ready and prepared in less than 15 minutes? How’s that for a weeknight dinner?!

I’ve recently started experimenting with brown rice noodles and absolutely love them. They’re a great, healthful alternative to ordinary pasta and cook in less than FOUR minutes. Four minutes! This pasta was undoubtedly created for inpatient people with ravenous appetites. Thanks for thinking of me, y’all! ;)

They’re also gluten-free, an excellent source of fiber and have a nice mild flavor that allows for a wide array of sauce pairings.

As much as I love Thai food, my one issue is how heavily sauced a lot of entrees are. Not that I don’t love a good sauce, but this cranks up the sodium content to astronomical amounts. An order of Pad Thai, for example, can average anywhere from 1,000-1,600 mg of sodium at your traditional Thai restaurant. I’ll wake up the next morning feeling like a damn blow fish. This dish, however, has HALF that amount.

bowl2With a few simple ingredients at home, you can create your own versions of your favorite Thai dishes and have full control over the sodium content. The best thing about dishes like this is they are SO versatile. I used thinly cut sirloin steak, however chicken, shrimp or tofu would all be excellent substitutes. You can also play around with your favorite vegetables and herbs and create an entirely different taste experience.

I opted for snow peas, mushrooms, carrots and shallots, however I’d also recommend sautéed spinach, broccoli, red peppers and edamame. Believe it or not, this dish is actually great served either hot or cold. Leftovers would be great served over a bed of spring mix for a hearty salad!

Ditch the take-out and give this tasty bowl a shot!

Teriyaki Beef Rice Noodle Bowls

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Thai Turkey Burgers

thaiThai-inspired turkey burgers topped with roasted red peppers, Asian slaw and refreshing cilantro. This hunk of burning love is a complete flavor party.

Is anyone else completely obsessed with burgers right now? I cannot get enough. Literally living in my own burger-palooza right now. And how about this craze of smearing peanut butter on burgers? Usually in combination with bacon, melted cheese and some kind of fruity spread. It’s like the Hulk version of a PB&J and probably most dietitians’ nightmare but uhhh…. I don’t hate it. I’m actually on a mission to create a somewhat healthified version of the before-mentioned artery clogger. Wish me luck….

thai2But back to the star of the hour. This burger packs the perfect amount of flavor, sweetness and heat. The best way to do turkey burgers, in my opinion, is to get wild and throw in a TON of seasoning and pile them high with toppings. This is also when texture-enthusiasts get to really exercise their creativity. I loved the sweet, yet smoky flavor of charred red peppers combined with a crunchy, umami Asian slaw. You could also top them with avocado, spicy peanut butter, peanut sauce OR some Sriracha aioli. Options are endless.

thai1These burgers could also be turned into fabulous lettuce wraps. Option three is to chop up the burger patties, mix them with the slaw, red peppers, cilantro and brown rice and make a Turkey Thai Bowl. Whatever their destiny may be, as long as they end up in your mouth, all is right in the world.

Ditch the Thai takeout and add this burgers to your agenda this week.

Thai Turkey Burgers

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Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potato Waffles

IMG_6386Sweet potato waffles sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and spiced with a dash of cayenne pepper. These waffles are a total taste-bud party and make for one delicious breakfast experience.

These waffles solve the all-so-familiar breakfast conundrum of sweet vs. savory. I kid you not, my drive home from the gym every morning involves this little debate. Do protein pancakes sound good? Always. But a breakfast sandwich with eggs, avocado and Sriracha also sounds mighty tasty.

This conundrum turns into a full-blown mental debacle when I actually go out for breakfast or brunch. I usually just say forget it and order an omelet or fancy Benedict with a side of red velvet pancakes and call it a day. Some decisions are just too difficult to make. And let’s face it, those red velvet pancakes alone will send you face first into the hardest food coma ever.

But back to WAFFLES! If you don’t currently own a waffle maker, please add one to your Christmas list. Heck, I’ll even gift you with one myself. The one I’m currently using was made around the same time the automobile was. Not kidding. I actually think it was a wedding gift my parents received?? haha sorry, mom & dad ;). Still works like a charm, though!

These waffles are sooooo soft and moist, they almost melt in your mouth. It can be hard to find “healthified” waffles that still give you the Belgium-waffle experience, but these babies fit the bill. I LOVED topping them with a soft boiled egg and a drizzle of maple syrup. I actually had them for breakfast and dinner the same day. And now I want them right now as a snack.

In other exciting news (!!) — I was recently gifted with a Lowel Digital Imaging Light to enhance the aesthetics of my food photos. It’s especially hard during winter months to work around optimal sun lighting so I was super excited to try it out. This is the first photo I have taken with it so far (at ~7 AM). I’m still playing around with it trying to figure out what angles and reflections work best, but I love the results so far!IMG_6460This breakfast was a toasted English muffin with a slice of grilled honey ham, grilled pineapple and a fried egg topped with avocado and Sriracha. If you’re a fan of the spicy/sweet combo like yours truly, I would definitely give this Hawaiian-inspired breakfast a shot!

…So, let’s have brunch ;)

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Waffles

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Turkey Meatloaf with Red Wine Ketchup

meatloaf3A grown-up version of a childhood classic. Turkey meatloaf with a sweet and savory red wine ketchup that will turn even the avid meatloaf despisers into fans.

..I know because I used to be part of the meatloaf-haters club. I was actually president of the club for a good portion of my childhood. Until I had an epiphany… HELLO, a meatloaf is just a giant-sized meatball and meatballs are quite possibly my favorite food in all the land. So one Saturday afternoon (aka, yesterday), as I was in my obnoxious fluffy pink bathrobe dancing around the kitchen to the N*Sync Christmas album, I had ANOTHER meatloaf epiphany. The one ingredient that I knew would bring my liking of meatloaf from a 4 to maybe an 8 or 9 was the very thing that I was currently drinking out of my Christmas mug: red wine.

And just like that, this happend:

meatloafThe bad news is meatloaf is quite possibly one of the least photogenic foods in the universe. Right up there with anything drenched in gravy. I tried, guys. I really tried.

So what makes this version of meatloaf better than the usual (besides the vino)? It’s incredibly moist (ugh, hate that word), full of flavor and has an extra kick of fiber. The loaf is made out of lean ground turkey, old-fashioned oats, italian seasoning, sautéed onions, low-sodium chicken broth and of course, ketchup. I know some people sub the ketchup for tomato paste in their loafs, but I will forever be a fan of good ol’ ketchup.

This meatloaf is perfect for a weeknight dinner and even BETTER the next day made into a meatloaf sandwich. I would’ve slapped myself for saying that as a kid. But seriously, place a slice in a roll or between two slices of bread, top it with parmesan and let it sit under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts and morphs into a glorious blanket of goodness over your loaf-wich. Ugh, SO good.

meatloaf2If ground turkey isn’t your thing, you could substitute it with lean ground beef. The fat content is honestly pretty comparable. Though I wouldn’t recommend using ground turkey breast because it may come out too dry.

The taste brings that comforting feeling of home-cooking to your palette, yet the sauce gives that extra little punch that will make you want to dance around to N*Sync music. Don’t fight it. Just join me. ;)

Turkey Meatloaf with Red Wine Ketchup

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A Full Day of Dietitian Eats

Questions I am asked most often when I tell people I am a dietitian:

  1. “So, are you like, the food police?” — Yes, as a matter of fact. Now excuse me while I rummage through your pantry and give you a written citation for those Hostess cakes.
  2. “What should I eat?”
  3. “What do YOU eat?”

Since #2 is very personalized, I decided to expand on #3 and go through an entire day of what I eat. I’m going to lay out every meal and every snack, include information on meal timing and portion sizes, and provide calorie and macro-nutrient information.

I always eat at least three meals and three snacks per day. My meals and snacks are never more than 2-3 hours apart or my appetite will overpower me and I’ll start gnawing on my lower extremities. Ha.. ha… but really.

I always like to give the analogy of your metabolism being like a log fire. If you don’t put anything “on” it, it’s going to be measly flame burning very little calories and giving you very little energy throughout the day. Your body is a machine that runs on the fuel that nutrients provide it with. By refueling your body every few hours, you’re providing it with the resources and energy it needs to function optimally.

So let’s get to it!

5:00 AM – Pre-workout:

1/2 banana and ~1/3 scoop of protein powder mixed with ~3 ounces of coconut water. My two go-to protein powders are Perfect Fit in chocolate and Select Protein in Snickerdoodle. This particular day I went for chocolate. This has been the magic combination for me for early morning workouts.

Bananas are an ideal source of quick-digesting carbohydrates and are packed with potassium, aiding in the maintenance of nerve and muscle function. The small amount of protein powder provides some essential branched-chain amino acids to promote muscle-protein synthesis. Pairing a quick-digesting carb (such as a banana) with a source of protein helps slow down the digestion of the banana while keeping me satiated and energized throughout my workout.

Not pictured: 1/2 cup of black coffee….. or else I’m a walking zombie.

Calories: 85; Fat: 0 gms; Carbohydrates: 17 gms;  Protein: 5 gms

IMG_4076

7:30 AM – Breakfast:

The most important (and my favorite) meal of the day! Breakfast is inhaled ~30-45 minutes after I complete my morning workout. At this point, I’ve entered my “anabolic window” and it’s time to refuel those depleted glycogen stores. Including carbohydrates post-workout is crucial to replenish the muscle glycogen that you burned during your workout.

I try to keep my breakfasts/post-workout meals relatively low in fat, high in protein and relatively high in carbs. This day I toasted a Thomas Double Protein English Muffin and topped one half with 2 egg whites, 1/4 of an avocado and Sriracha. The only half was topped with 1/2 tbsp of Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar Peanut Butter, half of a banana and a drizzle of sugar-free maple syrup.

Calories: 340; Fat: 9 gm; Carbohydrates: 42 gm; Protein: 19 gm

breakfast

10:00 AM – Mid-morning Snack:

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