Monday, September 14, 2015

Vegetarian or Vegan Stuffed Peppers

I get a lot of requests for Meatless Monday recipes so this is one of my favorites that I love to share!  The meal pictured here is vegetarian because I included Parmesan cheese, but you could absolutely make it vegan by omitting the cheese, or make it with beef should you want to eat meat.  Any way you choose, this recipe is great to clear the fridge and pantry of leftover items! Below is a loose recipe I created hastily during a weeknight. Hope you enjoy!


Bell Peppers, seeded and sliced in half through the center (it's easier to stuff them this way)
Rice, or rice and beans combo, cooked
1 medium red onion or white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 bag of frozen spinach, thaw it by putting in colander and running warm water over it-then squeeze out water after thawed with your hands
1/4 to 1/2 cup of canned pureed tomatoes 
Parmesan cheese
ground mustard
chili powder


Cook your rice according to the package.  You could use this...

...which is what I used. This way you get the complete protein combo (not that you need it, but still) of the rice and the beans in addition to the seasonings.  If you are limiting your sodium, you could use just plain basmati rice and the seasonings I listed above.  Either way, cook this first. 

While the rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then, slice the peppers in half through the stem and take out the seeds.  After the peppers are emptied, put them in a large casserole dish and fill the dish with a little bit of veggie stock or carrot juice or tomato juice or anything that can impart flavor into the peppers.  Cover the dish with foil and pop the peppers into the oven for about 20 minutes.  This will make them softer and easier to fill. 

If the rice finishes before you've gotten the veggies cooked and ready just set it aside until you need it!  Same goes for the peppers.  Next, pour a little canola oil in a pan (or you can skip it if you want to avoid oil) and add the onions and carrots.  Saute them for about 5 minutes on medium high heat until they are softened a bit.    (Add beef here and cook until browned if you are making with meat.)  Then, add any seasonings you want, the spinach and the tomato puree.  Stir well and cook for a minute or two.  Then add rice and mix well.  The mixture should be the consistency you'd want it to be inside the peppers! If not, add wine or more tomato puree until it is.  Then add Parmesan cheese to taste.

Once you've pulled the empty peppers out of the oven it's time to stuff them.  Take your finished rice mixture and stuff it in there.  Then sprinkle a little more cheese on top (optional).  Throw the peppers back in the oven uncovered for about 30 mins, then serve! 

This is a great make-ahead meal as you could complete all the steps except the final one, ahead of time! Hope you enjoy :).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fabulous, Light and Healthy Fish for Your Family

Many people who are looking for a healthier, less fattening form of protein to incorporate into their diet (that is NOT chicken) will likely enjoy halibut.  It is a large flatfish that swims sideways with the largest halibut recorded at more than 8 feet in length and weighing in at more than 500 pounds.  The picture below is provided by the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game.  It is kind of scary looking but I figure if you're going to eat it, you should know what it is and where it comes from! 

It is sold in thick white filets or steaks and doesn't taste fishy at all.  It has a denser, flakier texture than say tilapia, but is not as fishy or rich as salmon.  I'd say it's a nice in between fish.  

More than likely if you are eating enough calories in your diet, you are getting enough protein.  Most people are commonly deceived by fad diets or fitness articles into believing they need more protein than they actually need.  Because there is no protein storage "warehouse" in the body, any excess that is consumed is stored as fat. FAT, not muscle.  So the key to a healthful diet, whether vegan or otherwise, is to maintain a balance of calories in to equal the amount of energy you are expending (or energy out). I'm not a fan of counting calories by any stretch so I'd never really advocate that.  Rather, what I'm trying to explain is where fish like halibut might fit into your diet.  If you are just trying to get more bang for each bite you take-ie the most nutrition with the least amount of negative stuff-choosing fish over steak might be a nice option for you.  Of course things like quinoa are always an option for vegans and vegetarians, but omnivores I'm talking to you! 

Here's the breakdown of what a 3 oz portion of halibut might look like nutrition-wise if prepared using the recipe I'll provide below (sorry it's blurry):

Note that it's about 178 calories with about 1 gram of saturated fat.  Steak cooked in a similar fashion would have about 284 calories with about 8 grams of saturated fat.  

These small changes, collectively, over the days, weeks and months, can add up to big differences in your health.  Fat is not bad! I actually am not a proponent of Fat Free products or alternative fats because of all the added preservatives, sugars and salts used to replace flavor in those products.  I also believe that minimizing saturated fats can help you maintain or lose weight and prevent many modern diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more (supported by scientific data not listed here-y'all are smart, you can find it everywhere!). In this meal alone, swapping red meat for fish saves you 7 grams of sat fat!!! Woah!

So with all that said I'm going to give you a recipe for Halibut Cacciatore that was used in my Food Production class at school, but with a few changes I've made to amp it up a bit.  Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients  Serves 2

8 oz Alaskan Halibut cut into 1 inch chunks
Flour for dredging
2 Tbsp canola oil (measure this out! it makes a difference calorie-wise)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 oz of mushrooms, chopped (or about a third of a 12 oz container)
1 8 oz can of organic canned tomatoes (with the juice)
1 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pkg of angel hair pasta


1. Dredge fish in flour and heat 1 tablespoon oil in sauté pan. When oil is hot, sauté fish in pan until browned (about 2 minutes max). I just flipped the pieces once or twice. Set aside. Don't worry if they cool, you will be reheating them to finish cooking in a few steps.

2. Get some water boiling for the pasta.

3. Add 1 more tablespoon of oil to the pan.  Saute onion, pepper, garlic and mushrooms in the pan for a minute or two. Then add oregano (and a few red chili flakes if you like!) and tomatoes and season on a low simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. After you start this simmering, drop your pasta and cook until al dente or for about 4-5 minutes. Drain and put on serving plate.

5. Add fish to sauce mixture, cover and simmer for about 5 more minutes until fish is cooked through (145 degrees) and flaky.

6. Once fish is done, toss pasta in sauce and pour into serving dish. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thinking of Eating More Veggies or Ditching Dairy Altogether? Here's how to start!

Ways to Jump-Start Your Vegetarian or Vegan Eating Habits

Eating healthy doesn't always have to involve cutting out FLAVOR from your diet, while cutting out meat and/or dairy.  The above dishes are completely vegan (no meat or dairy/eggs) and no oil!  We were able to make those cheaply, quickly and most of all tastefully using some great tips I'd like to share.  

There are a million books on the subject, so if you'd like to take the time I'd read any written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Rip Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  
Rip Esselstyn and I at my "Forks Over Knives" pre-screen
All are amazing inspirations with backgrounds and science to support their health claims.  If you don't have the time to read those books, or want to supplement their info, this blog post is for you.  I get countless requests for help on how to transition a family's diet over to one that minimizes or eliminates meat and/or dairy.  So I've put together a "starter kit" to help you all navigate through the first few weeks.  They are undoubtedly the hardest, but you can do it, and it is absolutely worth it.

On a side note-if you are wanting to know more about why we are cutting meat and/or dairy out of our diets for health, that is in a different blog post and also in my "Basics…" section, along with a book called "The China Study."  Please see any of those places to get a better understanding of why making these changes will optimize your health.

Revamp Your Kitchen and Pantry

Changing foods means changing gears, literally sometimes.  If you don't have the proper tools to help you cut or prep veggies and execute recipes, you are going to be one miserable and HUNGRY person.  So let's make sure you have the essentials.  And PS, this may sound like it will cost you a fortune, but you will actually SAVE MONEY once you transition into your new lifestyle because you'll be buying in bulk and eating lots of yummy leftovers.

For actual appliances and cookware you'll need the following:

-Blender, preferably a really great one like a Vitamix
-Food processor, or food chopper
-Sharp knives
-Good pots and pans

Now let's tackle your pantry. I spent countless hours developing this stuff for Whole Foods Market when I worked there as a Healthy Eating Specialist.  I'd be silly not to utilize those amazing resources we created.  So here is a link to an amazing website with a lot of the info I'm giving you below, and much more.

Pantry/Freezer Staples:

-A variety of cans of no-salt-added, BPA-free beans.  I love Eden Organic and usually stock pinto, garbanzo, kidney, black and navy beans.
-Whole grains stored in glass jars.  So buy a package of each of the following: old fashioned oats, quinoa, brown rice and barley.
-Whole wheat pasta. Always just keep a pound or two on hand.
-Whole wheat tortillas.
-Ground flaxseed. Store in fridge so they stay good longer.
-Canned Tomatoes. It sucks because these are a necessity but it's hard to find them without BPA in the can and tomatoes are particularly susceptible for absorption.  Go organic and do the best you can here, but I usually buy at least two big cans.
-Low-sodium vegetable broth. You really can't have enough. I usually get a package of the little 1-cup containers as well as a few bit containers.
-Almond milk.  A couple of boxes of unsweetened almond milk will work wonders for you and is better than soy and rice milk nutritionally because it has more absorbable calcium and won't contain arsenic (rice) or nutrients that turn into estrogen in your body (soy).
-Tahini. This is just ground sesame seeds and is amazing for making homemade hummus and adding flavor to things.
-Peanut Butter. Unsalted. A few jars kept in the pantry, not fridge please.
-Nutritional yeast.  They are yellow flakes that are made from yeast and they taste and look like cheese when cooked! Yum! Find them in the bulk section or the organic section of your supermarket.
-Raw nuts. Unsalted, roasted if you want.  I usually get cashews, almonds, pistachios and macadamia nuts.
-Dried apricots, dates and raisins. Un-sulfered and unsweetened.
-Dijon mustard.
-Salsa. A great, flavorful one.
-Soy sauce. Low sodium.
-Frozen hash browns. Unsalted.
-Frozen fruit. Unsweetened organic. Get whatever you like!
-Frozen spinach.
-Spices. Freshen up those spices that have been sitting in your kitchen for a decade. Seriously.  Get some new ones like ground mustard, paprika, cayenne, cumin, black pepper, rosemary, thyme…you get the picture.

Ok I'm sure I probably left out some things but these are items you always want to have on hand in addition to the fresh veggies and fruits you'll be buying regularly.  Now you may need to shop more to keep fresh produce in your house, but you'll be spending less because you'll only be buying a few items each time, rather than doing big shops. Make sense?

Now that we've got your kitchen set up it's time to change out those same seven recipes you cycle through (you are not alone!) each week to healthier options.  I'm posting a few go-to breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I use that will make your new eating habits not only healthy, but quick and easy. Most of the recipes are linked below but if not, I'll post them in future blogs! All recipes are vegan because I figure if you are not vegan, you will just add cheese or meat to the recipe where you want to.

Basic Breakfast Recipes-Click here for a week-long guide I posted a while ago

Breakfast Burrito
Vegan French Toast
Cereal with Fruit
Whole Wheat Toast with Nut Butter

Lunch Recipes

Tomato/Avocado Sandwich
Soup and Salad
Veggie Sushi

Dinner Recipes

Veggie Stir-fry
Pasta with Veggies
Vegan Stuffed Shells
Veggie Paella
Quinoa Tacos
Vegan Lentil Burgers 

I gave quite a few links and recipes to try above.  Please let me know your thoughts, questions and challenges. I hope this helps!