Tag Archives: lunch

Featured Ingredient: Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter

Today I’m going to share a great product, the reasons I highly recommend it, and a recipe to use it creatively rather than just guzzling it by the spoonful out of the jar! I have not been paid or in any way incentivized to write this review, I just really love this product. Said product, in case you haven’t guessed from the title, is Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter.

Almond butter is a healthier alternative to peanut butter, providing healthy fats without so much saturated fat. It also naturally packs more Vitamin E and magnesium. Vitamin E can help raise immunity and reduce risk of disease from high cholesterol, according to Newsmax.com. As for magnesium, Medical News Today explains that it aids in metabolizing food and synthesizing proteins and fatty acids, and so it is a necessary nutrient. Magnesium deficiency can lead to diseases.

170px-PikiWiki_Israel_7025_Amond_blossom-1

Are you ready to try replacing your peanut butter with almond butter? To some hard-core peanut butter fans, this may sound dire. But really, the first time I tried Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter I was kind of surprised it wasn’t peanut butter. That isn’t to say it tastes exactly like peanut butter. It is delicious in its own right: rich and creamy like the best aspects of peanut butter, but with its own nutty flavor that blends well with a variety of different ingredients. The texture is incredibly smooth (as can be expected, given the name) and it is easy to spread.

Mandel_Gr_99

I like to support the company of Barney Butter because it hopes to move to 100% sustainable palm oil soon, according to the Assistant to the CEO. If you read this blog post, you know how Barney Butter is working to help save the orangutans! I hope to see a label soon on Barney Butter products advertising the amazing achievement this would be.

I have been using Barney butter in sandwiches and swirled into yogurt parfaits. Today, I tried a different use that was a bit more unique. It’s a sweet breakfast burrito, made with almond butter, fresh fruit, and jam. Feel free to switch up the type(s) of fruit and flavor of jam used. I hope you enjoy!

The ABJ Wrap – Featuring Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter

serves one

sweet breakfast burrito with almond butter, banana, jam

Ingredients:

  • one whole wheat tortilla
  • 0.6 oz Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter (about a generous spoonful)
  • one extra large banana
  • a spoonful of your favorite flavor jam (I used cherry)

Directions:

Warm the tortilla slightly in the microwave. Spread Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter across the center. Add banana slices mostly to the middle of the tortilla, on top of the almond butter. Spoon jam on top. Roll up wrap. Bon appetit!

almond butter banana cherry jam whole wheat wrapAlmond images from Wikipedia

Mediterranean Style Matzo Farfel

Matzo farfel is basically like French toast, but with the bread replaced by matzo (the “bread of poverty and persecution,” eaten by observant Jews for eight days during Passover.) It seems like the kind of dish you’d only eat for lack of the opportunity to eat anything better, like those fake Cheerio-type cereals made with who-knows-what that are kosher for Passover but deserve the title of “the cereal of styrofoam and indigestion.” However, in its bland quirkiness, matzo farfel has garnered a certain corner of my heart. I used to love it so much as a kid my mom would make it for me throughout the year, and eating it evokes for me the memory of childhood.

matzo farfel goat cheese vegetables olives

Out of pure lack of inspiration, I made plain matzo farfel for my breakfast the other day, expecting its childhood appeal to have worn off, leaving it tasteless and unappealing. However, taking that first bite transported me back to a simpler time. Instantly, my food-blogger’s brain began buzzing with ideas in response to the vital question: how can I make this dish blog-worthy? I knew I wanted to make it again, but this time with more to recommend it nutritionally, and with some more interesting flavors.

A few days later, I threw together the ingredients currently in our Passover-ified pantry to make this more interesting matzo farfel. Cooked veggies add flavor, antioxidants, and fiber, while crumbled goat cheese melts magnificently into the matzo mass for a smooth richness complemented by the Mediterranean feel of the pimiento stuffed olives. I added some sage to spice things up – it would have been even better with some more interesting spices, so feel free to elaborate on that front.

Mediterranean Style Matzo Farfel

serves one

mediterranean style matzo farfel goat cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets matzo (I used egg; try whole wheat or gluten free if you’re feeling adventurous)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (I used plain almond milk)
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sage
  • 1 cup fresh, cooked or frozen vegetable mix (I used frozen Green Giant brand Steamers Antioxidant Blend, which is a mixture of broccoli, carrots, red and yellow bell peppers cooked in an olive oil seasoning; found in the frozen aisle)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 4 pimiento stuffed manzanilla olives

Directions:

Spray a medium to large pan with nonstick spray.

Prepare vegetables if frozen. (I microwaved them while cooking matzo farfel for convenience.)

In a medium to small bowl, beat egg, milk, and salt. Break matzo into pieces and add, coating each piece with egg mixture.

Pour matzo-egg mixture onto prepared pan. Heat to medium. Cook until one side of matzo pieces is browned, then flip. (You might get some omelette-y bits if you pour all the egg in there – that’s all right, it adds taste and protein and can help indicate when you’re ready to flip!) When both sides of matzo pieces are cooked and there is no more runny egg, remove from heat.

Place on serving plate. Mix in veggies, cheese and olives. Enjoy!

Yogurt Parfaits: A Healthy Back to School Meal

With the back to school season in full swing, finding the time and motivation to prepare healthy meals can begin to fall by the wayside. It’s hard to come up with a sensible, quick and healthy meal that both tastes good and can be prepared in the hectic mornings before school. But if you let yourself get a little creative and experiment with new, interesting ingredients and incorporate your favorite flavors, you may find healthy food a little less mundane. Here are three easy recipes for fun yogurt parfaits that will brighten your day! Throw one together in a few minutes in the morning and call it breakfast. Alternately, prep the ingredients and take it to school for a refreshing midday meal. Just keep the crunchy stuff in separate containers from the creamy stuff, and mix it all together when you’re ready for it! See? Healthy food can be convenient.

There are tons of possibilities when it comes to yogurt parfaits. Feel free to stray from my recipe suggestions and try them with granola, Grape-Nuts, frozen yogurt, fruit crumble layered with yogurt…the possibilities are endless. Or, if you need some inspiration, here are three kid-friendly, yummy recipes anyone can enjoy, to get you started.

Loopy Tropical Parfait

Go fruity as a toucan for this flavorful and exciting breakfast parfait featuring Kellogg’s Froot Loops cereal.

Froot Loops coconut tropical yogurt parfait

Ingredients:

  • one container Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt, Tropical Fruit flavor (includes pineapple, mango, and passionfruit)
  • one serving Kellogg’s Froot Loops cereal
  • one medium-large red plum
  • 4-6 strawberries
  • 1 tbs sweetened flaked coconut

Directions:

Prep the fruit: slice plum and remove pit. Remove stems and leaves from strawberries, and slice them, then halve the slices if desired.

Layer cereal, fruit and yogurt in a bowl. Top with coconut.

Awesome Apple Crisp Creation

Be awesome all day with this healthy allusion to apple crisp made with tart Greek yogurt, sweet pudding, real apple chunks, graham cracker pieces, nuts and cranberries that’s packed with nutrients as well as deliciousness! (This one I took to school in reusable, portable containers.)

apple crisp yogurt parfait take along lunch

Ingredients:

  • one container Chobani plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • one container Snack Pack brand Apple Pie A La Mode flavor pudding
  • 1/2 large Gala apple
  • 2 Honey Mead brand Honey flavor graham crackers
  • handful mixed nuts of choice (I used an Emerald brand Natural Walnuts and Almonds 100 calorie pack)
  • 1-2 tbs dried cranberries

Directions:

Break graham crackers into bite-sized pieces. Chop apple into chunks. Now, combine all ingredients in desired serving bowl. Mix well so yogurt and pudding are blended together. Then, enjoy! (Note: if taking along to school, place apples in separate container from graham crackers and nuts so ingredients stay fresh. Mix together when ready to enjoy!)

Boston Cream Pie Parfait

Dig into decadent dreamland with this chocolatey concoction featuring Yoplait’s new Boston Cream Pie Greek yogurt and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal!

Boston Cream Pie yogurt parfait frosted flakes

Ingredients:

  • one container Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt, Boston Cream Pie flavor
  • one serving Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 tbs dried cranberries
  • 10-15 semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbs chocolate nut butter (I used chocolate hazelnut butter)

Directions:

Use a spoon to paint the lower insides of a tall glass with graceful lines of chocolate hazelnut butter (or other chocolate nut butter.) Slice 1/2 banana thinly. Then, layer cereal, yogurt, banana, cranberries, and chocolate chips in glass.

What other yogurt parfait ideas can you dream up?

Back-to-School Breakfast: Mediterr-Asian Tofu Scramble Freezer Wraps

pita wrap tofu scramble hummus veggie freezer

As soon as we discovered Amy’s frozen foods, my mom and I were both hooked: the wide selection of microwaveable vegetarian foods from a variety of cultural backgrounds, each of them tasty and many catering to specific health concerns, was the answer to our prayers as our lives were only becoming busier and busier. Whenever we’re at the market, we often stop by the frozen section to stock up on these healthy, edible convenience foods. I always like to get new products I haven’t yet tried. My mom’s approach has been to choose one or two go-to Amy’s products, so even when she isn’t at the market I can always guess what she’d want: the Breakfast Scramble Wrap, a loaded tofu scramble that brightens up her morning – or evening – with a healthy dose of Tabasco on the side.

Amy's breakfast scramble wrap

(image source: http://www.examiner.com/review/amy-s-tofu-scramble-meals-wraps-a-superb-way-to-start-each-morning)

We try to always have at least one of these in the freezer, stowed away for that busy moment when one of us needs to just grab something for a quick meal before rushing off to school or some other chore. The problem is determining when is the right time to use up the reserve scramble wrap. Is this 15 minutes before choir practice emergency enough? Or does mom need it more for tomorrow morning in between taking me and my brother to school? Sometimes I ask, but every once in a while I will simply pop the wrap in the microwave on the sly and plan to get another one in the freezer before anyone notices – the convenience of an instant, nutrition-packed and delicious meal is just too hard to resist!

Last weekend, noticing we had no breakfast scrambles left in the freezer, I was faced with a choice: I could re-stock with the same old thing again… or I could go DIY and make something new and different! I went with the latter option – and that’s what I’m here to tell you about today.

Asian Mediterranean pita wrap tofu scramble wrap frozen

These tofu scramble wraps are a delicious compact meal that can be warmed up in minutes. They’re great for busy mornings or evenings, and since the recipe makes eight individual wraps there won’t be any bickering over who gets that one Amy’s wrap lurking in the freezer! Besides the convenience factor, the recipe also makes for a delicious taste experience that is a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean flavors, harmoniously mingling inside a hearty, whole wheat pita wrap.

freezer tofu scramble pita wrap

 

If you choose a vegan pita and vegan hummus, this recipe can easily be made vegan-friendly! Furthermore, it is much lower in calories than the Amy’s Breakfast Scramble Wrap, and low in sodium compared to many of the frozen foods you’ll find at the market. Feel free to play around and change up the sauce I used (soy sauce) or use fresh veggies instead of frozen, or mix up the types of vegetables. That’s the great thing about making your own frozen wraps: the ingredients are up to you. So set aside some time this weekend to save yourself time and stress during the week, with these Mediterr-Asian Tofu Scramble Freezer Wraps!

Click here for full recipe.

Mexi-Terranean Tacos: My Daily Contribution to Globalization

Globalization, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the “Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world.” I certainly saw evidence of this in Israel: you walk into a mall and there are snazzy British clothing stores, American fast food, outlets with cutting-edge Israeli technology, and a stationary store selling Hebrew translations of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

mall in Israel

 

At this mall there were touristy shops right next to authentic Israeli ones.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid books translated into Hebrew

Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Hebrew!

In a way, it’s kind of sad to find McDonald’s and Cinnabon halfway across the world: I wanted a different experience, reassurance that there is still something interesting in the world for me to discover, that we still have something to learn from each other. At the same time, it was at times convenient and comforting to have access to some of the same brands I already know and trust from home.

There were some more traditional and apparently authentic shopping options, such as the shuk and flea markets. But even these were often subtly affected by international influence.

Israel Jerusalem shuk market

Above: a Jerusalem shuk, or market, just before Shabbat evening, is a busy place. Here appears to be an authentic scene of a merchant selling his produce to a tourist (but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that fruit was either imported or non-native to the land. Israel is known for its fresh produce, however at the markets I did see apples imported from all over the world.)

shuk market Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem shuk

Whether we like it or not, globalization is happening. And one of the major causes is the internet: this omnipresent, constant, universal source of information that allows billions of people from all over the world to vent about their problems as if everyone else cares, see what problems someone a thousand miles away might be having, etc… in short, an infinite encyclopedia of shared information is at our fingertips instantly.

How is it that we can even know what Mediterranean food is made of, what dishes are popular in Mexico, without leaving our desk in the USA? The internet. Recipes and cuisine tastes did travel long before the internet existed, but today it connects us much more closely and as a result an exponentially more massive quantity of information travels more instantly around the globe. Fusion food is rising in popularity as the big jumble of delicious Pins and mouthwatering Insta pics become a mishmosh of creative juices swirling and scrambling in the mind of any innovative foodie. And with free, instant venues to publish their new creations, one need not be a royal chef or a worldly spice trader on the silk road to influence the global perspective on taste.

spinach feta tacos black bean hummus

Today I’m making my humble contribution to the great globalization movement with yet another blog post on fusion food. These tacos are a Mexican-style favorite, infused with both the flavors of (So-Cal’s idea of) Mexico and some of the taste of the Mediterranean that I observed on my recent trip to Israel. Really, above all this is American food, because only in the states can you find something as confused (and creative!) as black bean and chipotle hummus.

black bean hummus taco feta spinach tomato

Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to try these tacos. Mixed up and proud of it, they are a healthy and flavorful combination of some of the best the world has to offer in terms of fun and delicious food. If you like, add some more of your own unique flavor elements, and post your creation on the internet for the world to see!

Here’s my recipe:

Mexi-Terranean Tacos

makes two tacos

tacos feta spinach tomato bean dip corn tortilla

Ingredients:

  • 2 small corn tortillas
  • 2-3 cups of fresh washed baby spinach
  • a handful of Cherubs grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used Lucerne brand Reduced Fat Feta Cheese)
  • 2-4 tbs Open Nature brand Chipotle Black Bean Dip (I found this with the hummus at my grocery store)

Directions: Warm tortillas to your liking (I did this using the microwave.) Then place a handful of spinach in the center of each tortilla. Top with grape tomatoes and sprinkle with feta cheese. Spoon hummus evenly over the other fillings.

Enjoy!

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Amateur Taco Salad

no beans taco salad

Summer Veggie Lasagna

What do you do to celebrate summer? My family always makes a list at the beginning of the vacation of all the quintessential summer activities our family must do to fully enjoy the summer: swimming, movies, museums, zoos, and aquariums are typically on the list. Yesterday we checked off one of our favorite semi-local aquariums by making the treacherous journey through extreme traffic to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. The trip was definitely worth it as we learned a lot of amazing things. My brother was particularly fascinated by their new exhibit, “Wonders of the Deep,” where a selection of midnight-zone marine monsters lurk. He urged me to do a blog post about it, and I happen to be interested in sea creatures myself, so here we are.

fish at aquarium of the pacific

The deep-ocean exhibit contains the first jellyfish touch tank I have ever seen, in which visitors can gently feel the bells of harmless moon jellies (They’re so delicate I was more afraid of hurting the creatures than of their weak stinging cells!) Another highlight is a model whale carcass being scavenged by real abyssal scavengers (which are fed real meat and just hang out on their grotesque playground.) There is also a tank that includes giant deep sea isopods, which basically look like pill bugs or lice except the size of your forearm. Does this exhibit sound enchanting to you yet?

One of the cutest things in the exhibit, and the one my brother insisted upon returning to twice and stared at with a greater attention span than I thought he had in him, is a cylindrical tank full of chambered nautiluses. They gape out with their primitive eyes and pump their siphons to swim in whimsical backwards circles, often bumping into one another on the way but never seeming to be too phased by the collision.

When we visited the nautilus tank for the second time, an aquarium staff member was poking around in there with a long grasping stick. At first we were afraid she had to remove one of the animals, but it turned out she was feeding them shrimps. When her work was done, we asked her some of the questions that had been sparked in our minds by the sight of the alien creatures. She was more than happy to chat and the conversation kept expanding, elaborating on more of nautilus biology than I’d ever dreamed I’d learn by visiting the aquarium. For instance, it turns out the chambered nautilus is pretty easy to sex: if it has three long, curling tentacles on the left side, it is a male. Otherwise, it is female. The friendly staff member even took us behind the scenes to the mating tank where serious couples were given some space to be lovers. Here I had the opportunity to feed a dead shrimp to a diffident marine cephalopod. Unfortunately, the creatures didn’t seem to be hungry – or maybe they were trying not to spoil their appetites for their dates later that evening, because my crustacean offering was ignored. Even so, it was neat to catch a glimpse both of how the aquarium is run and how life is 2,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface.

Aquarium of the Pacific abalone

above: abalone, an unrelated, non-deep-sea gastropod

I’ve always been interested in the ocean, but somehow visiting the aquarium feels especially appropriate in the summertime. I guess summer = beaches = ocean = marine biology? Anyway, there’s lots of things I find just aren’t as fun to do when not done in summer. Eating fresh veggies is obviously one of them: there’s just so much variety and so much better quality of everything available right now. So I decided to take advantage of all the fresh produce while it lasts with a lasagna that’s as quintessentially summer as the beach.

IMG_6334

This lasagna is truly a celebration of summer: it is bursting with the fresh produce that abounds this season, from vitamin-rich sweet mini peppers to zucchini, high in vitamin C as well as potassium and with some nourishing fiber. To make it more satisfying and less sinful, I used whole wheat lasagna noodles, which taste just as good as the refined carb-laden regular noodles but provide more fiber and a slightly heartier, nuttier taste.  If you are a cheese lover, (and don’t mind upping the calories and fat content a bit), I might suggest doubling the amount of feta cheese I used in this recipe as it provided only a slight hint of cheese. Overall, this lasagna turned out wonderfully and made for a great light, yet satisfying midday meal to enjoy in the July sunshine. And I didn’t have to try and feed it to any uncooperative invertebrates either! (Do nautiluses eat vegetables?)

Gotta get your summer veggies and fruits while you can, because before you know it it’ll be all pumpkins and apples! Here’s one way to enjoy them:

Summer Veggie Lasagna

based on recipe from myrecipes.com

 makes 4-8 servings (one 8″ square pan)

IMG_6335

Ingredients:

  • 4 uncooked lasagna noodles (I used Eating Right brand Whole Grain Pasta lasagna noodles)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (I used Ragu brand)
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (I used Lucerne brand reduced fat)
  • 1 whole large zucchini
  • 1/2 orange skin yam or sweet potato
  • 5 large sweet mini peppers
  • 1 whole shallot onion
  • about 1/2 cup hot water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

Prep the veggies: first wash everything. Rip the spinach into little bits. Then microwave the potato until it is warm enough to slice in rounds and cut each round in halves or quarters. Slice the zucchini into halved rounds as well. Cut off stems of mini peppers and dice them. Peel and chop shallot onion.

Layer ingredients in your baking dish. Mine was a bit messy because I don’t really know the proper way to layer lasagna, but here’s what I did in order from bottom of the baking dish to the top: about 1/3 of total tomato sauce spread evenly on bottom, covered by 2 noodles broken to fit in dish, sprinkled with cheese and spinach pieces. Over this I added rows of zucchini and yam slices, broken up by handfuls of peppers and onions. I spooned some more tomato sauce over this. Then I covered that mess with the other two noodles, again broken to fit in the dish, sprinkled with the rest of the cheese and spinach, which in turn was covered by the rest of the veggies and the last of the sauce. Here’s a basic visual of my sloppy attempt at layering lasagna if you wish to give it a go:

TOP: sauce

           veggies

          spinach/feta

         2 lasagna noodles

         sauce

        veggies

        spinach/feta

       2 lasagna noodles

BOTTOM: sauce

Anyway, once you’ve figured that out, pour 1/4 cup hot water around inside edge of baking dish. Then cover dish with two layers of aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Then add another 1/4 cup or so of hot water around inside edge of baking dish, just to make sure lasagna noodles soften. Cover and return to oven for another ten minutes. Then, remove aluminum foil cover and bake for another ten minutes, uncovered.

Remove from oven and allow lasagna to cool for ten minutes before serving.

Serve with a sunny smile!

IMG_6333

Triple Fusion Food: Shakshuka Pizza Wrap

pizza restaurant in Israel

Cat sleeping outside a pizza restaurant in Israel – I guess the waiters were taking too long to bring his pizza!

Before going to Israel, I was told one food I would see everywhere would be shakshuka, an egg dish with tomato sauce and sometimes feta, herbs, and/or chickpeas. I was told it would be served all day, every day, from the fanciest restaurants to the seediest hostels… I prepared myself to be mopping up a lot of tomato sauce with pita bread. And I went to Israel and… we saw shakshuka once. Maybe twice in the same hostel. And it didn’t look all that inspiring, so I did’t try any. I knew I could make something better at home than anything the cheap hostel kitchen came up with.

Rather than going the classic egg-on-top-of-tomato-sauce-on-top-of-pita-bread route, I got it in my head to try something a little more original: a shakshuka pizza. The pizza idea evolved even further and I decided to make a shakshuka pizza burrito. You can’t get more American than Mexi-Israeli-talian fusion food!

shakshuka pizza wrap on flat out flatbread

I swear this idea is really going to take off. They’re going to be serving it in food trucks across the country. It’s the perfect combination of all three of the multicultural dishes it encompasses: the protein and succulent tomato sauce found in shakshuka mesh well with the fresh veggies that are common pizza toppings, and the whole thing is conveniently rolled up in wrap format, courtesy of a Flat Out flatbread, that makes it fun and easy to eat. With the wholesome protein of an egg, the vitamins and fiber from numerous veggies, and the whole grains and balanced nutrition provided by the Flat Out flatbread, this recipe makes a mighty meal for any time of day.

Here’s my recipe, but feel free to get creative and elaborate on it – make it a fusion of all the cultural flavors you find most delicious! If you have a cool idea for how to infuse even more tasteful elements into this wrap, please do comment!

Shakshuka Pizza Wrap

serves one

flat out wrap shakshuka pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 Flat Out brand light original flatbread
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce of choice (I used Ragu brand)
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used Lucerne brand fat free cheese)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup raw kale
  • 3 white mushrooms

Directions:

Spread tomato sauce across Flat Out flatbread, leaving only a little plain space around the edges. Sprinkle cheese on top. Quarter and add mushrooms. Heat this in microwave until cheese is melted.

Cook egg sunny side up. Remove from heat and place in center of flatbread.

Arrange kale across middle section of flatbread.

Roll flatbread around egg and kale to create a wrap.

Enjoy! Bon appetit, l’chaim, olé, etc.

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flat out mediterranean pizza flatbread with hummus

3-Ingredient Shakshuka-Style Baked Eggs

baked egg shakshuka on pita

 

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.

IMG_5357

 

 

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

3 ingredient baked egg shakshuka ramekin

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup tomato sauce of choice (I used Ragu brand)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used Lucerne brand reduced fat)
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

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!

pita bread with baked egg shakshuka 3 ingredient

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breakfast bowl with plantain kale egg passover gorgonzola

 

The Almighty Apple

No, I’m not talking about the computer company – don’t even get me started on whether that company is really “almighty” or not! I’m talking about something that was invented by Mother Nature, long before we had computers or even rotary telephones, something that grows from a tree out of the earth virtually all year round, something that conked Sir Isaac Newton in the head one day and spurned much of our modern knowledge about gravity and physics, something that has been enjoyed by fruit-loving creatures before human beings even entered the scene of life on earth. Something that should be eaten once a day to keep the doctor away. I’m talking about the almighty, crisp, crunchy, juicy fruit known as the apple!

Apples are nutritious for a multitude of reasons. For one, they contain nearly 20% of the recommended daily value of fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient because it, err, keeps the digestive system running smoothly, and has been shown time and time again to aid in weight control as high-fiber foods are slower to be broken down by the body, so people feel fuller longer after consuming high-fiber foods.

Apples are also high in Vitamin C, a vital antioxidant the body can only obtain through food. This vitamin helps the body build important proteins and keep bones and teeth in good shape. And while we’re on the subject of teeth, did you know that eating an apple a day is actually a good way to keep the dentist away as well as the doctor? Since apples are so crunchy, as they are chewed they help scrub plaque off the surfaces of teeth. Of course, this isn’t to say you should always eat apples rather than brush your teeth, but if you’re at school and have a snack attack, grab an apple. This way you’ll end up with fresher teeth without having to worry about bringing a toothbrush to school and brushing in the bathroom (seriously, who does that???)

Apples aren’t exactly a food fad, or the hottest new thing everyone’s rushing to buy at the grocery store. I’m sure apple recipes have been written and blogged about since the first apple was harvested thousands of years ago. But that doesn’t mean they’re boring, or should be overlooked when shopping for healthy foods to stock your kitchen. They’re a great go-to snack with cheese or peanut butter, can easily be part of a balanced breakfast, and of course they taste lovely incorporated into all sorts of recipes, cooked in a wide variety of ways. While good old-fashioned apple pie will most likely always remain in a special place in our cookbooks and our hearts, sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a little too. So here I have compiled a selection of the best techniques I’ve ever tried for innovative and healthy ways to serve up apples.

Breakfast:

Apple Honey Granola

apple honey walnut granola

Big Ol’ Cinnamon Roll  

slice of giant apple dried fruit cinnamon roll

Lunch:

Cheddar Swiss Apple Quesadilla

   swiss cheddar and apple quesadilla

Sweet & Savory Bliss Sandwich

tofurkey sandwich apple cream cheese fig jam

Sweets & Treats:

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Smoothie

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Smoothie

Caramel Apple Cookie Butter Cookie Cake

caramel apple cookie butter cookie cake with Reece's peanut butter chips

I hope you enjoy checking out these recipes, and maybe get inspired to make something with apples! What is your favorite way to eat an apple? Nutrition Info Sources: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2 http://www.medicinenet.com/fiber/article.htm http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290.php http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-c-ascorbic-acid http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Video-Library/Apples-And-Oral-Health.cvsp

The Kale Platter™: Two Ways

 

kale platter tomato almond

My family recently discovered Veggie Grill, a 100% plant-matter burger place. That’s right – burgers made from plants. While my little brother remains loyal to MacDonald’s, the rest of us have come to quite like the interesting, healthy, and guilt-free offerings served in pretty good depth of selection at our local Veggie Grill. Besides the veggie burgers, they also serve items such as a quinoa salad (my dad saw this on the menu and wondered, “what’s quinoa?”), soups, and several “Kale Style™” options that are basically a hot vegetarian patty on a bed of kale and lettuce, garnished with some tomato slices and artfully applied condiments for flavor. I’ve had the “Kale Style™ Bayou Chick’n” several times now, and I find the plate full of kale and vegetarian protein quite satisfying and a great lighter, yet still filling alternative to the sandwiches. For those who’d prefer to avoid all the carbs of a huge bun, “Kale Style™” is a good way to go.

Being the DIY kind of girl I am, it wasn’t too long before I was itching to try making a sort of “Kale Style™” entree myself at home. Not to infringe on any copyright of Veggie Grill, I have dubbed my homemade kale platters, “Kale Platters™.” Copyright 2014 True Healthy Me, all rights to mixing up a bunch of veggies on a plate reserved. In preparation for the recipe, I bought a massive package of kale at the grocery store, so I had enough to make two different plates of kale and other wholesome things. And I STILL have an army of leafy greens occupying my fridge…guess I’ll be eating kale platters for the next week or two…or seven…

kale for kale platter

Really, kale is a great vegetable to incorporate into your diet in copious quantities. It’s low in calories and sugar, but high in vitamin A and C. As it has a low glycemic load, it keeps you full long after eating it. Unfortunately, this saintly vegetable is a bit hard for most people to stomach all by itself. So in these Kale Platter™ recipes, I’ve paired it with healthy and delicious ingredients to add flavor flair and make a plate full of greens into a balanced, filling, and nutritious meal! Try both fantastic flavors: Italian Breakfast Bonanza Kale Platter™ and Mexican Meatless Bliss Kale Platter™. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own! (Just be sure to call them something else; you wouldn’t want to infringe my copyright. 🙂 )

Kale Platter Recipe #1: Italian Breakfast Bonanza

Italian kale platter pesto egg cheese

 A breakfast salad that deserves a “bravo!” Made with the perfect balance of protein and fiber for fuel and fullness, vitamins and minerals from the veggies, and a splash of flavor from the pesto, this recipe is a super start to your busy day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, washed baby kale
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbs almond slices
  • 1 slice Muenster cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs pesto

Directions: Place kale on desired serving plate. Add cherry tomatoes in whatever arrangement you choose, and sprinkle almond slices over kale. Place one slice of Muenster cheese in the center of the plate, on top of the kale.

Spray a small pan generously with nonstick cooking spray. Cook one egg over-easy style in the pan. When egg is done cooking, place it on top of Muenster cheese. Garnish with pesto.

Kale Platter Recipe #2: Mexican Meatless Bliss

kale platter Mexican style vegan

This recipe stays truer to the form of its inspiration, Veggie Grill, as it is made with no animal products. However, flavor is not absent from this plate packed with plant-based protein crumbles, fresh and sautéed veggies, and sultry salsa! I enjoyed mine with spinach tortilla strips like a taco salad. Except it was clearly far superior to a taco salad, being a Kale Platter™. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, washed baby kale
  • 1/4 of an avocado, sliced
  • 1 Rudi Bakery brand gluten-free spinach tortilla
  • 1/3 cup Lightlife brand Smart Ground Mexican Style Seasoned Veggie Protein Crumbles
  • 1 cup Mexican-style vegetables (I used a mix of sliced red and green peppers and onions)
  • 2 tbs salsa of choice (I used Salsa Lisa brand medium homemade recipe salsa)

Directions: Place kale on desired serving plate. Distribute avocado slices evenly across bed of kale. Warm the tortilla in the microwave and tear it into strips. Place strips to the side of kale and avocado.

Begin to sauté your veggies (I used the technique from this helpful video on Youtube by Wellness Forum Foods about how to sauté vegetables without a drop of oil.) Once the veggies have cooked a few minutes, add the protein crumbles. Cook until veggies have browned a bit and protein crumbles have been cooking for a few minutes.

When veggies and protein crumbles are done cooking, remove from heat and place on top of kale and avocado. Drizzle with salsa of your choice. Olé!

kale platter smart ground avocado salsa peppers onions tortilla

kale platter pesto egg Muenster tomato almond

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