home.health.love

A balanced and easy approach to healthy living.


Leave a comment

Sneaky Little Greens

 

Even when I don’t have the time or energy to put together a healthy home-cooked meal, I still try to find ways to “health-ify” the food I am serving. One great trick my mom taught me is to use herbs for instant health-ification!

Fresh herbs contain lots of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. They promote heart health, and protect against cancer and arthritis with their anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, they are cheap, easy to use, and easy to hide in a variety of foods because they are so small. Even if you are using a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, you will be making a difference in a your family’s health.  Over the course of the week(s) the amounts will add up.  

The best way to use herbs is without cooking them first, for maximum nutritional value. If your family is not used to eating herbs, starting with parsley and/or dill is a good idea because flavor is more mild than other types, and their leaves are nice and soft–easy to eat in raw form. Other herbs to try with stronger flavors are basil, oregano, and sage. Herbs like thyme and rosemary have strong flavors and tough leaves–these are great for cooking and roasting.

Here are some ideas of how to add fresh, raw herbs to a variety of common foods, both health and not-so-healthy:

  • Making sandwiches? Add herbs to egg, tuna, or chicken salad. Stick some into a grilled cheese sandwich or into any meat sandwich. Dill and parsley are great for this. Chop them finely or just stick whole leaves right into the sandwich. This is a great way to add a nutritional punch to your kids’ lunches.
  • Garnish pizza or chicken or eggplant parmesan with basil, oregano, or other herb of your choice
  • Taco night? When I make tacos for my family, I stick herbs into the middle of the taco. They get lost in the guacamole and other fillings, so my daughter doesn’t even realize she’s eating them.
  • Garnish any soup you make with herbs. Stick them right on on top or mix it in. It’s best to garnish right before you serve the soup so the greens don’t cook in the heat.
  • Sprinkle minced basil or oregano onto any pasta. Mix it into sauce or cheese to hide.
  • Mix fresh herbs into a starchy side dish, like rice, quinoa, or potatoes, right before serving.

Try buying one bunch of herbs and using it up over the course of the week…then try out a different herb the next week. You will get into the habit in no time.

Happy sneaking!


Leave a comment

Quick & Healthy Eggplant Parmesan (Gluten-free, too!)

A friend of mine was telling me recently that eggplant parmesan is one of her favorite foods…but she only makes it once a year. Why? Too much work! Slicing, breading, frying…it’s quite a labor intensive dish. (And usually not the healthiest one, either.)

But, no need to fear! Eggplant parmesan can be really quickly, easily…and, yes, healthfully prepared. The secret is not to fry the eggplant and to leave out the breadcrumbs…instead, just broil the eggplant! Another time saver: slice the eggplant lengthwise instead of into circles. Finally, I don’t bother to salt the eggplant in advance–this doesn’t seem to add to the flavor. Bottom line: no smell, no standing over the frying pan, no burning oil, no scrubbing caked-on greasy bits when you are done. Not only is it easier, but healthier to avoid frying. I also love how broiling eggplant brings out a smoky eggplant taste (it reminds me of baba ganoush).

Here’s a healthy, easy eggplant parm’ recipe for you, with a bunch of variations to make it interesting.

No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

2 eggplants

1 jar tomato sauce

1 16 oz. package shredded mozzarella

1-2 handfuls of minced basil for flavor and garnish (optional)

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

(Feel free to halve the ingredients if you only have one eggplant.)

Preparation:

1. Turn on your broiler (I put it on the high setting).

2. Cut eggplant lengthwise, in half. Slice each of the halves lengthwise, into approx. 1/4-1/8″ slices. (No need to make these slices too thin: I like them thick because I love the taste of roasted eggplant, I don’t want to hide it in cheese and sauce!). If you prefer slicing the eggplant into circles, then go ahead!

2013-08-14 19.15.26

2013-08-14 19.16.08

3. Drizzle baking pan(s) or cookie sheet(s) with olive oil. Place eggplant slices in one layer in pan or on sheet. Drizzle eggplants with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Put into oven and broil for 10-12 minutes. Take eggplants out when they are tender and browning, but not dried (then you left them in for too long).

4. Spray/drizzle bottom of lasagna dish with olive oil. (If you used a baking pan in the previous step, then you can now use it to make the lasagna!) Layer eggplant, tomato sauce, cheese and basil; repeat for 2-3 layers or until ingredients are used. End with garnish on top.

Variations:

1. Mediterranean style: instead of basil, used parsley and/or dill. Instead of mozzarella, used feta.

2. Zucchini parmesan: use zucchini or summer squash instead of eggplant. Follow directions, exactly. Yummy variety.

3. Zucchini-eggplant parmesan: use zucchini and eggplant!

4. Use fresh, diced tomatoes in addition to or instead of tomato sauce.

5. Use fresh, sliced mozzarella instead of shredded.

Photo Credit (1st photo): seriouseats. Silly me, when I made this last I forgot to take a photo of the finished product…by which I really mean, my family devoured the dish before I could think twice. But, my parm looked almost as nice as this one. 🙂


Leave a comment

For Summer’s Sake, Stop Cooking!

Many of us are in the habit of cooking dinner for our families. But, dinner doesn’t need to be a cooked meal, and summer’s the best time to avoid heating up the kitchen in already-high temperatures! Besides for the hot weather, here are other reasons not to slave over a hot stove: 1) it can be quicker and easier to prepare a meal, and 2) when you don’t cook, your food maintains most of its nutritional content.

So, here are some no-cook or (low-cook) ideas for filling and nutritious summer dinners:

Entree salad:

I often like to base my non-cook meals around a hearty salad. Salads can be tasting and filling when they have a protein included, like canned beans. (I always buy the organic kind from a company that does not use BPA in their cans, such as Trader Joe’s and Eden Organic.) Other ideas for an easy protein to add to your salad: sprouts (you can grow your own!), baked tofu, tuna, canned salmon, nuts (slivered almonds, crushed walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), and cheese (goat, feta). Some easy-cook protein options are hard-boiled eggs and quinoa (it’s a grain, but it’s also a complete protein!). To fill out the meal, you can always add a side: a piece of whole-grain bread, a chilled soup. Easy and super healthy!

Summer Slaw:

An alternative to salad is making a slaw! When people think of “slaw,” they usually think “cole slaw,” or shredded cabbage with a mayo- or buttermilk-based dressing. Cabbage is super healthy, but slaws can also be made from all sorts of other shredded veggies and fruits, including broccoli, carrots, and kale. Further, the dressing does not have to be a heavy, dairy-based sort. Actually, lots of Asian dressings based on soy or peanuts work really well with slaws, as do tahini-based ones and different kinds of vinaigrettes. Like an entree salad, a slaw can be a meal in and of itself, or add some soup and another side if you desire.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, then I will now: slaws are super easy because you can already buy the ingredients shredded. Shredded cabbage, carrots, and broccoli are available in most supermarkets, and I’ve seen shredded kale, too.

Here’s a quick and easy slaw primer: combine shredded vegetable of your choice, with favorite nut or seed (pumpkin, sunflower, slivered almonds, and/or sesame), with favorite dried or fresh fruit (craisins, raisins, dried apricots, grapes, etc.), and an optional pungent (like scallions). Top with your favorite dressing.

Below is a dressing I found in a Moosewood cookbook (Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day) that I like to use to make a tasty broccoli slaw (gets compliments every time).

Ingredients:

1 bag broccoli slaw (store-bought, approx. 12 oz)

Seed or nut of choice (sunflower seeds, slivered almonds)

1-2 cups Craisins, raisins, or fresh grapes

Optional: sesame seeds, scallions

2 tbs toasted sesame oil

2 tbs soy sauce

4 tsp honey

6 tbs lime juice (fresh, about 2 limes; or use store-bought)

salt, pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and lime juice in a container with lid; add salt and pepper. Close lid and shake to mix ingredients.

2. Put shredded broccoli in bowl. Add ingredients from step 1 to shredded broccoli.

3. Top with chosen dried or fresh fruit, nuts, sesame seeds and scallions, to your taste. Mix together. Preferably, let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Need more inspiration? I found  a bunch of yummy slaw recipes on the kitchn.

Chilled soup:

Yum. Summer is the season for my favorite soups. I love gazpacho (there are so many kinds!), and other chilled soups, like chilled strawberry soup, cucumber, or pea. Some soups you usually eat hot can be tasty when chilled, such as a corn-based, zucchini, or butternut-squash soup. Serve with a side of multi-grain bread with a spread of chumus or canned salmon salad and you are on your way to a filling meal!

Fresh Veggies and dips:

Why not? Cut up carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, and/or pepper and offer it all up with a variety of dips: chumus, guacamole, tahini, nut butter (I like almond and cashew), or whatever floats your boat. Such dips are high in protein and very filling. Offering up a variety of dips makes it more fun and will likely increase the amount of veggies your kids/partner will consume.

Squash:

Ok, this one involves cooking, but you can plan ahead. Bake a few butternut squash halves drizzled in olive oil  in advance (say, on a Sunday evening), and then serve squash for a couple of dinners over the next few days. Basically, I love butternut squash topped with a protein. Top with tuna/salmon salad or egg salad; sprinkle with some feta or goat cheese; and/or add some nuts/seeds and dried fruit. You can eat it cold or heat it up a little before serving.

I hope these ideas can get you started on the no-cook bandwagon. What are some of your favorite no-cook dinners?