Often, the choice between eating healthy, and getting it fast can be a difficult one. Sacrifices have to be made, either of time and money or of the nutritional value of the food. In my view, this shouldn’t have to be the case. That’s why lately I’ve been finding ways to make my own convenience food.
Did you know you can make your own frozen burritos at home? You don’t have to pay for store-bought ones, nor do you need to suffer the degradation of putting something on your plate that you know has too many strange ingredients to count and is probably packed with sodium. Just take some time over the weekend to throw together a balance of whole, healthy ingredients, wrap them in healthy Flat Out flatbreads, and sequester them away in the freezer to be eaten during the busy week. You can make as few or as many as you want, and can really put anything in them at all: use up those leftovers from dinner, or pick up some inspiring veggies at the store and cook them up like I did.
This recipe makes three satisfying, nutritious and delicious vegetarian burritos with nourishing brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes broccoli and pepper morsels, spicy black beans and a touch of cheddar cheese. Feel free to use my recipe as it is, or change it to include whatever ingredients you already have in the fridge (you shouldn’t have to make a special trip to the market to make convenience food for yourself.) And if you like, double the recipe (because three of these delectable, hearty meals really isn’t enough!) Make, freeze, reheat and eat – and feel good while doing it. You’re giving yourself a convenient yet healthy meal lower in fat and sodium than what you’d find at the store, full of wholesome ingredients you can pronounce. Bon appetit!
Broccoli, Cheddar, & Black Bean Frozen Burritos
- 3 Flat Out brand light original flatbreads
- 3/4 to 1 medium orange skin sweet potato/yam
- splash of cinnamon
- pinch of thyme
- pinch of sage
- 2 cups raw broccoli florets
- pinch of sage
- 1 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup diced tri-color peppers
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/3 cup cooked black beans (I used Whole Foods 365 brand Spicy flavor)
- 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
First, roast the veggies: Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick spray.
Cut the sweet potato/yam (whatever you prefer to call it) into little pieces. Think really little, smaller than bite-sized. Place into a small bowl and toss with a splash of cinnamon, pinch each of thyme and sage, and 1/2 tsp olive oil.
Chop broccoli florets into small pieces. Place in a bowl. Toss with a pinch of sage and 1/2 tsp olive oil.
Spread just the potatoes on aluminum foil, leaving some area free for the other veggies.
Roast potatoes at 425 for ten minutes, then remove to add broccoli on another section of the baking sheet. Add the diced peppers to a third section of baking sheet.
Return baking sheet to oven for another 10 minutes, or until veggies are slightly soft.
Now you can assemble the wraps: Lay each Flat Out wrap flat on a flat surface. Place a few spoonfuls of brown rice in a vertical conglomeration in the center of the wrap. Top rice with roasted potato, broccoli, and peppers. Add a couple spoonfuls of black beans and sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Try to distribute ingredients evenly to each burrito.
Roll up each burrito and immediately wrap tightly with aluminum foil. If you’re one of those organized types, label the burritos with main ingredients and date so in a future age you remember what this unsightly ball of aluminum foil is doing in your freezer.
Place burritos in freezer until ready to eat.
To reheat: Remove aluminum foil. Wrap burrito loosely in paper towel. Place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for about one minute, then flip burrito over and microwave for another 30 seconds to one minute. (Note: microwaves vary; yours may need more or less time to fully warm burrito.)
When burrito has warmed through, remove from microwave, let cool slightly, and then dig in!
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Shakshuka is a traditional dish originating from North Africa and the Middle East, consisting of a spicy fresh-made tomato sauce and eggs which are cooked first in a skillet on the stovetop, then transferred to the oven. For ultimate flavor, sometimes the eggs are garnished with herbs, and soft cheese can be sprinkled in as well.
The version of Shakshuka you’ll see here diverges from the usual cooking method, since I didn’t bother with cooking the eggs over a stovetop first: they went straight into the oven and baked up beautifully in ramekins. While this may disqualify the recipe from being “authentic,” it is still yummy!
My motto is: when in doubt, make your own food. I try to make my own food whenever possible, to have complete control over and knowledge of what goes into my food, as well as to gather recipes to blog about and just because I find the process of cooking and baking enjoyable. However, it can be impossible to find the time in my busy schedule nowadays to cook my own dinners, so sometimes I find myself resorting to convenience food, like the highly overpriced prepared salads at the grocery store, or the frozen dinners that can contain a bazillion ingredients I’d rather not put into my body. What is the solution to the time vs. DIY dilemma? I say compromise.
This is a healthy, homemade recipe that only uses 3 ingredients and can take half an hour or less to make. I whipped it up at home while in the midst of studying for finals. The original recipe, found on the New York Times website, included a homemade vegetable sauce that would take at least an additional 20 active minutes to make, plus required a host of ingredients I didn’t have the time to shop for. So I made the baked eggs, but used a store-bought tomato sauce. Less healthy? Certainly a little. More boring? Possibly. But these are the sacrifices we have to make sometimes in order to maintain busy lives. And I would argue that a store-bought tomato sauce could be found that is just as healthy as one you’d make yourself at home – try searching through the organic section for one with a lot of vitamin A and C and maybe some fiber. And this alternative is less pricey that buying a ton of fresh ingredients to make your own sauce, definitely a plus for those on a budget who still want all the health benefits that can be reaped from cooked vegetables.
This recipe is simple, using ingredients you probably already have on hand. It is also healthy, with good protein and calcium from the whole eggs and feta cheese crumbles, and 2 servings of veggies in each 1/2 cup portion of tomato sauce. If you need fast, cheap and convenient, this is a great recipe for you. Serve atop whole wheat pita bread for a satisfying, balanced meal at any time of the day.
The ingredients listed here are portioned for 2 servings, but feel free to cut down or multiply up depending on how many people you’re feeding.
Shakshuka-Style Baked Egg Ramekins
based on recipe from nytimes.com
makes 2 ramekins
- 1 cup tomato sauce of choice (I used Ragu brand)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used Lucerne brand reduced fat)
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
Divide tomato sauce among ramekins.
Sprinkle feta cheese on top of tomato sauce.
Crack one egg into each ramekin, on top of tomato sauce and cheese.
Place ramekins on a cookie sheet in case of spillage.
Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are just set.
Enjoy on top of pita bread for maximum Middle-Eastern flavor!
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The most amazing things in the world are also often the most elusive. For instance, I was just watching the show Blue Planet with my little brother (we’re both biology nerds and I for one could watch echinoderms for hours), and the episode we watched was on the abyss, where many of the species are unknown to science. The abyss is home to the creatures that are the stuff of legend even today, such as the giant squid, which has never been seen alive. Most people – especially those who don’t habitually watch nature programs – are never really exposed to such fascinating creatures as the glittering bioluminescent firefly squid and the chambered nautilus. But as science and technology advance, even the distance of 4000 meters and the elusive nature of many of these creatures cannot keep them forever obscured from the lens of science and even the fascinated eyes of the everyday public.
I visited a nearby aquarium on a class field trip today, and discovered they had installed a new exhibit dedicated to the little-known, yet captivating world of abyssal life. Things that had previously only lived in textbooks and on the television screen for me were now available before my eyes (and at my fingertips as I got to touch a moon jelly.) Fantastical creatures such as spiny crabs and giant isopods (sea roaches) were brought up from the depths of their natural home to serve as ambassadors in educating us surface-dwellers about their elusive relatives deep in the sea. It was both sad and exciting for me to see this – shy creatures usually prefer to remain that way, but their presence likely served a noble purpose in helping to make the public care about them, and to make information about them less elusive to the scientific world.
This post deals with a smoothie-making technique that eluded me for some time, much like the giant squid continues to evade human capture. But I’m sure this smoothie tastes much sweeter that a 60-foot-long cephalopod!
For years I have dreamt of making some sort of swirled smoothie – a drinkable work of art with two different colors of flavorful libations swirled together in some sort of marbelized effect. But all my attempts at creating this mouthwatering masterpiece have failed, as the two flavors always wanted to just blend into one single-colored, homogenous mush. However, recently I was able to make a significant stride towards accomplishing my swirled-smoothie dream with this Tropical Fruit & Crème Swirl Smoothie. While the swirl was not perfect, the two different-colored smoothies did stay relatively separate:
In terms of taste this was a total success. The two flavors balanced one another in perfect harmony: the colorful swirl of tart tropical fruits tastes delicious when paired with smooth, sweet vanilla/banana crème. I added cream cheese to the crème smoothie, which added just a subtle, yet delightful, tang, as well as a smidge more protein and calcium.
Enjoy this artistic smoothie with your eyes for a moment before devouring it with your mouth! And feel good about eating this yummy work of art, for it contains several servings of fruit and is a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Beautiful inside and out!
Tropical Fruit & Crème Swirl Smoothie
for crème swirl
- 1 banana
- 1/4 cup plain almond milk
- 2 Laughing Cow brand Creamy Swiss cheese wedges
- 1/2 cup Greek vanilla frozen yogurt (I used Oikos)
for tropical fruit swirl
- 1 whole nectarine, cut into rough pieces
- 2-3 fresh strawberries, with leaves removed, halved
- 1 cup frozen fruit of choice (I used mango and pineapple, in keeping with the tropical theme)
- 1/4 cup plain almond milk
First, make the crème portion of the smoothie: Place 1/4 cup almond milk, banana, Laughing Cow, and frozen yogurt in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into desired serving glass. Place in freezer while you make the…
Tropical fruit portion: Place nectarine, strawberries, frozen fruit, and 1/4 cup almond milk in blender. (Reserve one strawberry for topping if desired.) Blend until smooth.
Remove crème portion of the smoothie from freezer. Pour tropical fruit portion gently onto crème portion and swirl in with a spoon. Top with additional strawberry slices if desired. Enjoy!
One of the most philosophical scenes from Disney’s “Shrek” is when Donkey insists upon trying to cajole an obdurate Shrek into explaining his intrinsic feelings and deepest thoughts. Exasperated, Shrek finally tells Donkey why he is the way he is: “Ogres are like onions.” The eternally dense Donkey thinks this is because both groups stink, or because they both bring tears to peoples’ eyes. An increasingly irritated Shrek grumbles that ogres have layers. And so do onions. You peel back one layer, and find something completely unexpected underneath. Donkey tells Shrek he might as well compare himself to a cake; cakes have layers. But Shrek rejects this comparison: “Ogres are NOT LIKE CAKES!!!” He roars. “Ogres are like onions.”
What layered food do you prefer? Much as I like Shrek, I have to say I’ll choose a layer cake over an onion any day. Especially when it’s a sinfully decadent and filling light cake stacked three layers high and paired with a generous proportion of tangy frosting bursting with lemon flavor. The topping of rainbow sprinkles takes these cakes to pure heaven.
When I took my first bite, I simply couldn’t believe it was healthy. (well, relatively healthy at least: I used all purpose flour just because it’s all we had in the house, but using whole wheat pastry would certainly make it healthier.) Even with the all purpose flour, this refreshingly tasty treat is healthier than your typical layer cake: each serving has a fair amount of calcium and protein, is sweetened by Truvia baking blend so it is lower in sugar, and contains very little fat. The cakes were baked in a Wilton brand coil cakes mini cakes pan (essentially a mini jelly roll pan) and assembled into individual-sized layer cakes, so each adorable mini cake is perfectly portioned down to a single serving under 300 calories! (If you don’t have a mini jelly roll pan, you can also bake in a 9″ pan, as is specified in the original recipe.)
Besides being delicious and healthy-(ish), these mini lemon layer cakes are also easy to make. Just mix up a little bit of batter, pour into the pan, and pop it in the oven! You’ll only get one bowl dirty. Assembling the cakes may seem time-consuming, but it only takes a few minutes, especially with my magic one-ingredient frosting.
What is that one ingredient, you might ask? Well, predictably for me, it’s a container of Greek lemon yogurt that is simple to slap on the cake layers and imparts a lovely lemon-y zing with literally no work at all. For extra flair, garnish with all the magic of the rainbow in the form of some lovely little nonpareils. This step is not optional.
When my mom tried this cake she instantly raved about the lemon flavor and how much she looooved lemon (I have never before heard her express such affections for lemon), then she commented on the frosting and asked how I made it. She was surprised to hear that it only contained one ingredient, especially since she never eats yogurt all by itself. But she liked it in the cake, and I’m sure you will too.
So what are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen and start whipping up this easy, small-batch recipe for portion-controlled lemon layer cakes. I hope every layer of your complex personality loves these sweet, scrumptious cakes.
Mini Lemon Layer Cakes
makes about 3 personal layer cakes
adapted from recipe from the Pancake Princess
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour (whole wheat pastry would work too, I just didn’t have any on hand)
- 1/4 cup Truvia baking blend
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbs plain almond milk
- 2 tbs lemon curd
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs warm water
- 1 Dannon brand Oikos Greek yogurt, lemon flavor
- 1 tbs rainbow nonpareils
First, bake the cake: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray a Wilton coil cakes mini cakes pan with cooking spray. (You could also use a 9″ pan, as in the original recipe, in which case you’d have to bake the cake longer and cut it into six triangles for stacking.)
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Mix.
Add wet ingredients and mix well.
Pour batter into 3 coil cake cavities, or into regular 9″ cake pan. It will form a very thin layer, but will rise a bit as it is baked.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cake cool in pan for about 20 minutes. Then use a knife to free edges of cake from pan, and carefully remove cake from pan.
To assemble cakes: If you baked in a 9″ pan, cut into 6ths. If you baked in a Wilton brand coil cakes pan, cut each of your three flat rectangles into thirds.
Spread Greek lemon yogurt on one layer (one third of a rectangular cake), place the next layer on top of it, spread icing on that, top with another layer and more icing, and finally a sprinkling of nonpareils to add some fun to these fantastic layer cakes.
I recommend serving cold.
In case my description of the cake-assembly procedure was a little confusing, here’s a visual:
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Credits: Shrek and Donkey image from http://puzzles-games.eu/puzzle-shrek-and-donkey-558.html
Ever hear that saying, “good things come to those who wait”? It’s an age-old saying that has at times been considered controversial, especially in today’s world of instant gratification. Google just launched a same-day delivery service so you can literally have that toy “right now.” But it would be wrong to blame today’s seemingly universal inability to wait on the current generation alone: people have been suffering from short attention spans and low patience levels since the dawn of time. Look at Romeo, who simply couldn’t wait another hour for his love Juliet to awaken from her false death before resolving to join her himself – imagine if he’d just let her siesta a few moments longer; they would both have lived long, happy lives together!
Dessert is one thing people have never liked to wait for. In ancient times, the first “ice cream” was invented when some king ordered his servants to go outside and gather ice deposited by a recent snowstorm, then infuse it with cream and serve it to his majesty at once. Surely the servants acted promptly, since they were under threat of beheading if they didn’t do as the impatient king wished. I characterize this king as impatient because why else would he insist upon eating ice cream in the dead of winter, rather than waiting for the summer when it would be warm enough that a cool treat would truly be welcome on the hot, parched lips? Clearly he had a royal problem with delaying gratification.
It is hard for some people to contemplate waiting months, or days, or even hours for a delicious ice cream treat, especially on a hot, dry day when every piercing ray of sunlight triggers another pang of intense craving for flavorful frozen sweetness dripping in a cool melty river down the grateful throat. Most people – at least in the booming urban area I call home – wouldn’t dream of hand-churning their own ice cream. They’d much rather drive to the supermarket and pick some up, even if this reduces their choice in the flavor and ingredients that go into that ice cream. Likewise, while many of us privileged American city-dwellers desperately crave ice cream cake on a hot day, most are more likely to order one online or buy one from the gleaming plastic case in the grocery store, rather than spend hours making cake layers from scratch, hand-crafting the cake into a layered masterpiece, and finally waiting all night for it to firm up in the freezer before frozen cake-y goodness reaches their lips.
While I understand the urgent need hot days impose on us to get our frozen treats right now this instant, I also assure you – even if you happen to be the most impatient foodie in the world – sometimes waiting is worth it. Especially when the extra time you put in to lovingly bake, layer and freeze a homemade cake results in a product so much better and healthier than what you’d find in the store. Make it with frozen yogurt. Make it low fat. Add a swirl of your favorite chocolate. Place it into deep freeze with a smile on your face, knowing that after eight or ten hours, when you can finally take that first bite, you’ll take it with the joy and pride of knowing that all the deliciousness tickling your taste buds is your own personal creation. Scrumptious vanilla frozen yogurt sandwiched between two thick layers of rich, moist, lower-fat and -calorie chocolate cake endowed with a subtle dark chocolate swirl. Now that is one homemade frozen dessert that’s worth the wait.
This recipe is basically amazing, but there are a few small things I would change. First, I used all-purpose flour because I was all out of whole wheat pastry, but I’m 99.999% certain it would work just as well with the latter. So try it out, and tell me how it goes!
Second, the frozen yogurt layer was pretty good, but a little thin. Maybe this could be remedied by making the cake in a smaller diameter pan, or making lots of little cakes using a muffin tin, or simply adding more frozen yogurt.
Thirdly, the chocolate swirl was a bit subtler than I’d hoped. I only used 1/4 of a chocolate bar, so if you want the chocolate swirl to really take center stage I’d say use 1/2 a bar or more. Otherwise, use 1/4 of the bar for just a moderate amount of dark chocolatey flair (the cake will still taste excellent either way.)
All right, you’ve been patient. So without further ado, here’s the recipe you’ve been waiting for!
Vanilla Chocolatey Swirl Frozen Yogurt Cake
layer cake based on One Bowl Chocolate Cake III Recipe from Allrecipes.com
for chocolate layer cake
- 1 cup Truvia Baking Blend
- 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (I intended to use whole wheat pastry but we were all out. I’m sure the recipe would work just as well with whole wheat pastry if you want to use it; try it and tell me how it goes!)
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s)
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbs Lucerne brand egg substitute (substitute for 2 eggs)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 oz Safeway Kitchens unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup plain almond milk (I used brand
- 3/4 cup near-boiling water
- for chocolate swirl
- 1/4-1/2 bar of Endangered Species brand dark chocolate with 88% cocoa
for frozen yogurt layer
- 2 cups Stonyfield Organic brand Oikos nonfat Greek frozen yogurt, vanilla flavor
For layer cake: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Generously spray two 9″ round pie pans with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the Truvia, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix.
Add egg substitute, applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat for 30 seconds to one minute on medium speed. Add boiling water. Beat for another minute or so, until well blended.
Pour an equal amount of the batter into each of the two prepared pans.
For chocolate swirl: Chop up 1/4 to 1/2 the chocolate bar (depending on how subtle you want the chocolate swirl to be.) Melt in the microwave.
Use a spoon to swirl melted chocolate across the surface of the batter for one of the cake layers. This will become the top layer later.
Now, bake in 350 Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the center of a layer comes out clean. Cake will be very dark.
Now, make it into a fro-yo cake! Here’s how:
Let the finished cake layers cool for ten minutes. Then place in the fridge to cool for several hours. (I let it chill for eight hours.)
Measure out your 2 cups of fro-yo. Scoop on top of the non-swirled cake layer, using a spoon to spread as evenly as possible over the entire cake. Work relatively quickly so the frozen yogurt doesn’t melt (it will get a little soft, which makes it easier to work with, but don’t let it melt completely or that will just be a mess!)
Use a butter knife to cut around the edges of the top, “swirled” layer. Now carefully insert spatula and/or knife under cake, and quickly place it swirl-side-up on top of frozen yogurt layer.
Place cake in the freezer for several hours or overnight (I gave mine more than 12 hours to freeze.)
Is it 12 hours later? Whew, at last it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor:
When ready to eat cake, remove from freezer. Let thaw for about 10 minutes. Then use a sharp knife to cut slices. Let individual slices thaw for an additional few minutes before eating so you aren’t biting into a chunk of frozen chocolatey rock.
Yes, I know this recipe must look daunting, especially the bits with all the waiting. But trust me on this: when you finally take that first bite of soft, decadent chocolatey cake and scrumptious vanilla fro-yo with a hint of yogurt tang, you’ll know all that waiting paid off!
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