Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Vegetarian Crowd Pleasers

With Hurricane Sandy behind us, and power restored (for some), I thought that some of you would actually like to make and serve something that doesn't come out of a can!  I have had some requests for some vegetarian options, and these are two of my favorite recipes.  The first, is a main dish that my family loves.  The second, is a side dish that my dad made for Thanksgiving last year.  Why not try it at your next family get together?

Roasted Eggplant Rolls

from Chef Matthew Franklin
Prevention Magazine

2 tb olive oil

1 eggplant (1.5 lb), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/4" thick.  
1/2 c chopped onion
***16oz diced tomatoes ***see note at bottom
1 cup reduced fat ricotta (don't use fat doesn't taste that good!)
1 cup coarsely chopped spinach
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella 
1 tb dried basil
1 tb dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup tomato sauce

***I like to use tomatoes that come in glass or a tetra-pak.  Tomatoes are very acidic and can absorb the toxins in a standard can.  Cento and Pomi make great brands of diced tomatoes and you can find them in most grocery stores.  

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Brush 1 tb of the olive oil onto the eggplant and roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

2.  Saute the onion in the remaining 1 tb of olive oil until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with juice), and simmer for 15 minutes.  

3.  In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, basil, oregano, garlic, nutmeg, and black pepper.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Spoon the cheese mixture on each slice of the eggplant, and roll up like a jelly roll.  Place the eggplant in the dish and continue until all of the eggplant is used.  

5.  Top with tomato sauce and bake for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Apricots and Bourbon

~from Karen Christie and modified by my dad, Richard Wylie :)

This is a great alternative to the standard sweet potato casseroles that we see during the holidays.  This dish has much less sugar and fat, but still tastes amazing!  

1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
3 pounds red garnet or jewel sweet potatoes (or yams)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla

1.  In a small bowl, pour bourbon over dried apricots.

2. Scrub the sweet potatoes and pierce in several places with a fork.  Place potatoes on an oven rack and bake at 350, until potatoes are soft when pierced (about 1.5 hours).  Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 min.

3.  Peel the sweet potatoes and place into a large bowl.  Add brown sugar, butter, and vanilla to the bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork until the mixture is only slightly chunky.  Stir in the apricots and bourbon.  Spoon into a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish and spread level.

4.  Bake, uncovered, until hot in the center, about 30 minutes.  Serve warm.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chew on This

Sometimes I feel like the majority of my week is spent in the grocery store.  I can never find exactly what I am looking for in just one store, so it leaves me driving around the county in search of the best prices and products.  Price has become even more of a concern now that I am a stay at home mom and we are down to one income.  Often I am faced with the decision of whether to buy organic or just skip it and save money.  In terms of products like organic crackers, or cereals, I usually skip it, but it is a little more confusing when I get to the produce department.  It is hard to pay $4.99 for a half pint of organic raspberries when the conventional ones are only $2.50, but if it makes a health difference maybe it is worth the cost.

This weekend I stumbled across the September issue of Whole Living magazine, and there I found a list of 12 fruits and veggies that according to the Environmental Working Group, have the highest levels of pesticides.  So, the next time you are in the produce section, try to buy organic for the following items.

Note:  (1= best-10 = worst on the contamination scale)

1. Potatoes
2. Blueberries (domestic)
3. Cucumbers
4. Lettuce
5. Spinach
6. Grapes
7. Nectaries (imported)
8. Strawberries
9. Peaches
10. Red Peppers
11. Celery
12. Apples

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe #2: Mexican Chicken Loaf

This recipe is another staple in our house.  It allows you to have the flavors of a Mexican dish, but changes things up a bit if you are bored with the same old taco or fajita recipe.  I found this recipe from Linda Larsen in Your Guide to Busy Cooks.

*The recipe calls for ground chicken, but if you prefer, ground turkey would also work.

Mexican Chicken Loaf


2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup tortilla crumbs (I just put some in a bag and smash them by hand)

3 tbs salsa

2 tb ranch dressing (again, use the real thing...less chemicals and more natural ingredients)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix together eggs, tortilla chip crumbs, salsa, ranch dressing, chili powder, and cumin.  Add chicken and mix gently, but thoroughly.  Place mixture into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 1 hour or until the temperature reaches 175 F.  Top with shredded cheese and cover with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with your favorite toppings (sour cream, salsa, guacamole).

I usually serve this with a salad and a side of steamed vegetables.  Enjoy!!

Balance: A Word With Multiple Meanings

Earlier today I was in a power yoga class, sitting in a puddle of my own sweat (and probably others), and I was thinking about how important the word balance is.  In yoga, it is important to have balance in the poses, so that you don't fall into the person next to you.  In life, it is important to have balance between work/friends/family. Balance even shows up when it comes to our diets.  Many times people get caught up in the world of food and take things to an extreme.  Whether you are an over-eater, or someone who does not eat enough, you are out of balance.

So, how do we become more balanced when it comes to our food choices?  One way is to keep a food journal and be accountable for everything that goes into your mouth.  I like to think that I am a healthy eater, but I must admit there are days where I find myself eating the leftover peanut butter sandwich that my son left on his highchair tray (gross, right?).  Ultimately, finding balance in terms of food is going to be different for everyone.  Take time and think about what you are eating.  Are you really hungry, or are you eating for other reasons?  Is the food you are about to eat made from quality ingredients?  Will it give you energy, or make you tired and sluggish?  Can you pronounce everything in the label?  When we really start to think about what we are eating we tend to make better choices.  A balanced diet is not a diet, it is not an extreme, it allows you to enjoy the things that you love, and it leaves you feeling satisfied and centered.

Goal for the day:  Think about what the word balance means to you.  How can you work on finding your perfect balance?  Start small...even the smallest of changes can lead to big results.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Healthy Recipe # 1 Salmon Cakes

I make this recipe at least once a week and my family loves it (especially the little guy!)  This is a great recipe to make when you haven't been to the store, and need to make something quick in a jam.

Salmon Cakes- Serves 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 cans Wild Alaskan Salmon drained (skinless and boneless)

1/4 cup diced onion

2 even tbsp of mayo (use the real stuff...the light is filled with chemicals)

1 tbsp spicy mustard

A few dashes of hot sauce (to taste)

Black pepper

Parsley (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs divided

Combine all ingredients and form into a cake.  Coat the cake on both sides in the panko.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

I like to serve these with a small side of macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli~ Enjoy!!!

Journey #1: Overcoming Life's Obstacles

In order to get a clear picture of who I am and what I want to do, I think that it is important to share some details of my own journey.  In 2006, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.  Many people struggle with this disease and its symptoms for years, and for me it was a true life changer.  In just two short years, I tried almost every drug on the market, including Remicade, which was my last chance for remission.  Lucky me, I failed that miserably.  So, in May of 2008, weighing just 100 lbs, I was admitted into the hospital for high doses of steroids.  Ten days later I was still not any better, so I had to consider other options.  My surgeon told me that he was going to remove my colon.  I can't even explain what was going through my head at this point.  I was scared, but I knew that I couldn't continue to live in pain like I was doing for the past two years.  I made the decision to go through with it and ultimately got my life back!  Five surgeries later, I am as "normal" as I will ever be...I can enjoy life again!  My recovery was LONG, but with the help of family and friends, I made it through.

I have always been interested in health and fitness, but this experience put everything into perspective for me.  If we don't have our health, what do we have?  It is my goal to take my passion for teaching (I taught high school for 7 years), my love of cooking, and my desire to be healthy and strong, and make it readily available to others.

My plan is to include weekly (maybe even daily) recipe ideas, exercise tips, and just general thoughts that may help to lead someone in a healthier direction.

I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you!