A Sweeter Stew

I’ve always looked at cooking as a creative outlet. When I first started many years ago I followed the recipes verbatim. Then I began to make notes in the margins and would try small changes the next time until I was happy with the final result.

Cooking is like that. Generally you begin with an idea — or a main ingredient — and go from there. Or you read someone’s recipe that sounds pretty good but tweak it a bit to make it taste even better. Confidence to experiment often comes after many years of experience, with lots of trial and error too. It’s fun watching and helping my 23-year-old daughter Emma hone her cooking skills. She asks tons of questions — how much of this or that should I put in? I tell her to do what feels right and encourage her to experiment.

Recently a recipe for stew arrived via email. I liked the idea of butternut squash (it’s so sweet and delicious) but wasn’t crazy about combining it with beef. Plus the ingredient list was way too long so I decided to simplify. The result was a 10!

If you know me you know I love one-pot meals, especially those with lots of veggies. This stew is pretty easy to make — although there’s always the necessary chopping — and I can pretty much guarantee that everyone will like it.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

6 carrots, cut into 1/4″ rounds

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (read how at end of recipe)

1 medium sweet potato cut into small chunks

1 russet, white or red potato, cut into chunks

8-10 mushrooms, stems removed and sliced

4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups chicken broth

2-3 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in large caste iron skillet. Put one tablespoon flour in a large plastic baggie; add cut pieces of chicken then seal and shake to coat. Add coated chicken to skillet and cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Remove chicken and set aside. Cook onions in skillet for about 3 minutes until soft. Add garlic and carrots then sprinkle mixture with one tablespoon flour to thicken the broth. Continue to cook for three or four minutes, stirring often. To vegetables in skillet add 4 cups of broth, the potatoes, squash, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. If you like your stew thick remove about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the skillet into a measuring cup or bowl. Wisk in one tablespoon of flour until mixture thickens then return to skillet and stir to combine.

Add chicken back to pot, cover and cook for another 30 minutes until all vegetables are soft. Enjoy!

Butternut squash can be tricky to handle because it’s so hard! One of the best kitchen investments I’ve made is my stainless steel vegetable peeler. It came with a handy julianne tool that I use all the time. I’d struggled with those light-weight peelers for years; even broke a few but this one works like a charm for the bigger vegetables and potatoes.

Once you peel the squash, the best way to cut it is to chop off the top, stand it up and use a sharp knife to cut down the center, using your body weight to guide the knife down the middle. Remove the seeds and chop away!

Start The Day The Whole Foods Way!

On day two of the Sandy Storm I rose early to check the roads and assess driving conditions. The plan was to make sure our exercisers could easily travel to our alternate location for a 7:00 am class.

When we were stopped on Washington Blvd. by a huge downed tree, then again on 15th street by a power line, the decision was made for me— no BbG classes today.

So instead of my usual rushing from place to place with my stainless steel container holding warmed oats and apples, I found myself looking around the kitchen for an alternate breakfast idea. I do love my oatmeal but change is good too!

One of the other things I eat for breakfast on a regular basis is eggs because they are a whole food, aren’t made in a factory, have only one ingredient and are a good source of protein. I had eggs on hand, now I just needed some veggies to make a complete meal.

I got to work chopping what I had: one half red onion, one-quarter white onion, 4 mushrooms, a yellow pepper, a small red pepper (last one from our garden), about 5 rounds of zucchini and a handful of cherry tomatoes (but use whatever you have). Here’s what I did:

Heat about a tablespoon of coconut oil (it’s good for the brain!) in a large skillet. Add all the vegetables, sprinkle with desired amount of garlic salt and cook over medium high heat until soft, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, crack 4-5 eggs into a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. When vegetables are soft flatten them with a wooden spoon or spatula, pushing the sides down until they’re evenly distributed and form sort of a crust in the pan. Turn on your broiler. Pour the eggs evenly over the vegetables in the skillet then sprinkle lightly with sea salt and ground pepper. Heat until mixture sets, about 3-4 minutes.

Place entire pan under broiler and heat until top of mixture is set, about 2 minutes but watch carefully!

Remove skillet from oven and let sit for a minute or so. Carefully cut your frittata into four pie-shaped sections. Serve with salsa, fruit or whole grain toast….and have a great day!

What’s In Your Cart?

I still remember being twenty something and living on a very limited budget. After rent, clothes, gas and partying there wasn’t much left for food! OK, so my priorities were a little different back then…

Recently I spent a Saturday evening in Baltimore with a dear old friend (old = we’ve known each other a long time) and her  adorable twenty-something daughter. It may not surprise you to learn that before too long our conversation turned to the subjects of food and nutrition. When I was that age food was something that came in a can (soup, tuna) and I think I remember eating a lot of popcorn! I just didn’t know any better; nobody really talked about food and health in those days.

We all agree that yes, it is definitely more expensive to eat healthfully and it surely takes more time and planning. I suggested that it’s a good idea to take some time on a Sunday afternoon to think about your schedule for the upcoming week and make a plan of what you’ll cook and what ingredients you’ll need. That way you’ll be armed with a shopping list and will avoid aimlessly strolling the grocery store aisles throwing random items into your cart, especially after work when you’re tired and hungry. Believe it or not, you’ll also save time and money!

Ninety percent of most grocery stores are filled with junk and chemicalized food so if you enter those doors unprepared chances are pretty good you’ll leave the store with mostly bags and boxes of pretend food or food-like items.

Here’s a list of staples to fill your cart and stock your healthy kitchen:

8 15 oz. cans beans: black, pinto, garbanzo, etc.

3 cans tuna packed in water

4 15oz cans diced tomatoes

2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes

2 32-oz boxes vegetable or chicken broth, preferably organic (they are often close in price)

2 lbs. rolled or steel cut oats

1 dozen eggs

1 jar no-sugar added peanut or almond butter

Frozen corn

Frozen fruit for shakes (bluberries, strawberries)

Lettuce (large bin pre-washed, organic)

Fresh or frozen spinach

2 onions, whatever’s least expensive

Garlic

Bag of carrots

Avocados, especially if on sale (good fat!)

Bag of apples (for oatmeal and snacking)

Bananas

Other seasonal fruit

Raisins

Sweet potatoes (easy lunch topped with salsa or steamed veggies)

Regular potatoes (great for stews and other dishes)

Salsa

Bag of brown rice or quinoa

Bag of almonds or walnuts (expensive but shouldn’t be eaten by the handfuls!)

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Dijon Mustard

Sea salt /pepper

Cumin

Chili powder

Garlic powder

Cinnamon

Box of almond or other milk alternative

Trader Joe’s has pretty good prices on most of the above items but your local grocery store would be just fine too. With these basic staples I can think of lots of healthy meals and snacks to make:

Breakfast oatmeal with chopped apple, raisins & cinnamon

Mid morning snack of banana and 10-12 almonds

A large lunch salad with tuna, veggies and balsamic vinaigrette

Afternoon shake with almond milk, frozen blueberries and spinach (yum!)

Dinner of chili or bean soup

There are tons of resources available on the web. You can do a search for ” healthy bean soup recipe” and at least six websites will pop up. And if you’re interested in my new Good Food Recipe Book you can pre-order it here! It has 35 delicious and healthful recipes including beans; vegetables and grains; soups; animal proteins; and smoothies! I’m excited to announce it will be ready by next month and would also make a great holiday gift.

Stay tuned for more great recipes and health tips. Please comment below if you have specific questions.

Here’s to your health!

Ginny

‘Tis The Season For Squash

Yesterday while I was making soup Andrew walked through the door and asked “Didn’t we just have squash last night?” Well, in fact, yes we did have squash last night….but it was different squash. That was acorn, this is butternut!

One of the best things about Fall is squash!  You’ll see lots of it when you visit your local farmers market. When you buy local, seasonal food you can usually be assured that the food will be fresh and taste good and you’ll be strengthening the economic base of your local community!

The other day I had a vision. I’m not sure where it came from but suddenly I began to picture acorn squash stuffed with turkey.  I jotted down some ingredients, stopped at Whole Foods and picked up another acorn squash (had one at home already), a red bell pepper, a sweet onion, 5 large white mushrooms and a  pound of lean ground turkey.

When I got home I got right to work; I wanted to take full advantage of my creative juices. First I preheated the oven to 350 then punctured both acorn squash and microwaved them for 3 minutes so they’d be easier to cut (but you can skip this step). When the  squash was cool enough I cut them in half and placed them skin side down on a cookie sheet. After lightly brushing the tops with olive oil I put them in the oven and baked them for about an hour.  Later I prepared the rest of the entrée.

Ingredients

2 Acorn Squash

1/2 cup cooked wild rice (brown is ok too)

1 Tablespoon olive oil + a little for brushing

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 sweet onion, minced

5-6 large white mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 pound lean ground turkey

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste

2-3 twists of the pepper mill

What to Do:

Heat the oil in a large skillet then add onion and bell pepper. Saute for 3 minutes until soft. Add garlic, mushrooms, ginger, salt and pepper and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Cook ground turkey in skillet with vegetables until no longer pink, about 5 minutes then add the cooked rice. Meanwhile carefully remove the squash from the shell to avoid ripping the skin.

Add the squash to the turkey mixture in the skillet and cook for a few minutes on low heat to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Divide mixture evenly between 4 shells. Place shells on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until heated through.


We served our stuffed squash with a big fresh salad because we all know how good those leafy greens are for us! I think this meal scored a 9 or 10 with my audience. If you make it plesase let me know what your judges think!

The Night Before A Race

It wasn’t a long race but we wanted to lay low and eat healthfully in order to be at our best the next morning. I usually take the weekends off from preparing meals so I wasn’t in the mood to make anything elaborate -not that I ever make complicated meals but I was looking for something particularly easy!

We usually have at least one package of the flavored chicken sausages from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s on hand. This time I used the Sweet Basil Pesto Smoked Chicken and Turkey sausages from TJ’s.  I was in the mood for some type of stew (another word for one-pot meal). The result was not only really easy but also really delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the ingredients I used:

3 Sausages, sliced into 1/4″ pieces

4 carrots

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 small white potatoes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon flour

Fresh basil leaves

1 Tablespoon olive oil

6 cups Chicken Stock (Whole Foods Organic)

What to do:

Heat oil over medium heat in large sauce pan (always be careful not to burn olive oil). Saute onions, carrots, celery and potatoes  for about 3 minutes until soft. Add garlic to vegetables and saute until golden; about 2 minutes. Then add sausage and cook until lightly browned.

Sprinkle flour over entire mixture and stir until coated. Pour in stock  and bring to a boil stirring until slightly thickened. Cut basil leaves into smaller pieces and add to pot. Reduce heat to medium low; cook for at least 15 minutes on a low boil.

That’s it!  No other seasoning required.  As with most soups and stews the flavor comes out  more overnight so this tastes even better the next day.

Even though my bib number didn’t show up on the results (so disappointing!) I ran a great race and felt really good so I highly recommend this pre-race recipe!

My Favorite Go-To Recipe

I’m not a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or any philosophical type of eater. If there was such a thing as a wholefoodarian I guess that’s what I’d be! Don’t get me wrong; I believe that everyone should eat the way that feels good for their body and life….as long as you avoid chemicalized junk food at least most of the time. I’ve tried going vegan and being a strict vegetarian but neither worked for me.

I love (crave) foods from the earth and am always trying to come up with new ways to prepare them. I am not into complicated (Martha Stewart-like) recipes with a zillion ingredients that require over -night preparation and hours of cooking. Even if I did make something with those requirements I would never pass them along because I am fully aware that most of us have limited time to spend on food preparation.

On days that I am not feeling particularly creative and want something easy, tasty, quick and ,of course, healthy I turn to what I call “sloppy beans”. I made this one day when I had just found out we were heading to Nationals Stadium for the first time and I was unsure about what my food options would be (now I know…very limited!)

I quickly looked around the kitchen to see what I had available and threw this meal together. The result was really good and since then I’ve perfected it even more!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion diced

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 cup corn

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

2 teaspoons cumin

1-2 teaspoon chili powder

1 small 8 ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Vegetables stock for thinning

Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffins or brown rice

Avocado slices

Heat oil in large pot or skillet. Saute the corn on medium high heat until  golden brown, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add onion and peppers and saute 3 more minutes until soft.

Sprinkle cumin, chili powder and  salt over the mixture and stir to combine. To vegetables in the pot add tomato sauce and beans;bring to a boil then cover and cook on medium heat for at least 10 minutes. If mixture is too thick add a little broth.

Spoon bean mixture over toasted muffins or brown rice. Garnish with slices of avocado (I didn’t have any for this photo). Serve with a big ,colorful salad for a perfect meal!

How about sloppy beans over a baked sweet potato?!

This entire process only takes about 20 minutes. Remember if you’re serving brown rice to allow about 50 extra minutes for it to cook.  Better yet, make the rice the day before so it’s ready when you are!  Hope you like your sloppy beans!

Something For Your Sweet Cravings

I’ll admit that often times after dinner I crave a little something sweet. Usually a bowl of strawberries with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and just a pinch of brown sugar will do the trick. But during our sugar detox I was trying to come up with something else to mix things up a bit.

I overheard Kathy M talking in class about her frozen banana dessert and decided to give it a try. The result was absolutely delicious! Really, I think this is restaurant quality (although the quantity is small so most people who are dining out might be disappointed!)

Here’s what you need:

A food processor- You can probably get away with a mini one. Mine has a smaller bowl that fits inside the large one for small jobs like this. A blender works in a pinch but it requires much more work.

2 frozen bananas

2 Tablespoons almond butter (peanut butter would be fine too)

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Break the bananas into two-inch pieces and put in processor bowl. Add nut butter and cocoa powder. Turn on processor and blend until creamy smooth.  That’s it! This makes two servings so double up if you’re feeding the family.  This nature’s candy dessert only has about 200 calories per serving; not that I believe in calorie counting….if you eat whole foods you shouldn’t have to worry about that!

A Colorful ,Healthy Fall Dinner (that’s also gluten-free)

This week many of our BbG Exercisers are going gluten-free to detoxify and to see if they feel any different. Lots of folks don’t have a choice when it comes to eating wheat and wheat products; most people who have some level of gluten intolerance experience all kinds of adverse reactions including weight loss or weight gain, gastro-intestinal problems, aching joints, depression, eczema, exhaustion, irritability and behavioural changes.

Maybe you’ve noticed some changes these past weeks when you eliminated sugar and dairy. It’s always a good idea  to pay close attention to how our food effects our mood and how we feel. One BbGer wrote in to say that since giving up sugar she has a lot more energy!  How do you feel?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

Most of us have gotten very used to eating wheat because it’s in practically everything. New studies have shown that today’s wheat (and the  gluten which is the protein found in wheat) bears little resemblance to the grain by the same name that our ancestors ate. Apparently we’re unable to digest this new genetically modified stuff and it might be making us overweight and sick.

One of our challenges then in avoiding wheat is to come up with other foods to eat! If we can’t eat pasta, crackers, bread, bagels and pizza what the heck are we supposed to eat? One group of foods you should not eat is the relatively new “gluten-free” snacks and foods. In place of gluten, manufacturers have used  ingredients that actually raise your blood sugar higher and faster than wheat (i.e. they have a higher glycemic index): cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch and tapioca starch. Foods with a very high glycemic index cause high blood sugar, higher insulin, more visceral fat deposits….and a bigger belly!

Our goal is to stick to whole foods that do not come in bags or boxes and are not made in a factory.  Eat lots of vegetables, some fruit, lean animal proteins, some nuts and seeds and small quantities of whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Here’s what we had for dinner last night. Originally I made the turkey burgers with bread crumbs but since we’re going wheat free this time I substituted chia seeds for the bread and the end result was very tasty! Hope you like them.

First I made the sweet potato fries. OK, I admit to being slightly obsessed with my vegetable spiraler but it makes food so much more fun to eat! You can also just chop up the sweet potato  and saute with a little olive or coconut oil in a large pan until soft.  Add a teaspoon each of cumin, cinnamon and sea salt.

To make the turkey burgers:

Combine the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1 pound lean ground turkey ( highest quality you can afford)

1 cup minced sweet onions

1 cup diced mushrooms

1/2 cup diced sweet red bell pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 -1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons chia seeds

about 4-5 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Use a fork or your hands (usually what I use) to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Form into patties. Heat small amount olive or coconut oil( just enough to lightly coat bottom of pan to avoid sticking) in large skillet over medium heat. Cook burgers about 4 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Serve with dijon mustard if desired.

I know this picture isn’t all that appetizing but I wanted to give you an idea of what my burgers looked like! Vegetables are prettier anyway.  See the salad below…

While the burgers are cooking I put together my favorite salad

Combine these ingredients for a delicious, sweet salad:

Leafy greens (I use the pre-mixed kind from Whole Foods)

Cherry tomatoes,halved

organic red grapes, halved

3-4 really thin slices of red onion

1/2  avocado, sliced

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Drizzle with home-made balsamic vinaigrette.

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder in a pinch)

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired.

What are you having for dinner?