After completely overdoing it at the office cookie swap in December, I decided to pull myself together and start eating mindfully. I’m feeling a lot better and have even lost 10 lbs without feeling like I’m trying that hard. I’m eating super healthy foods in quantities that my body needs to not feel full. I’ve cut down on caffeine too and rarely have dairy or refined sugar. But I don’t feel deprived. I’m going to see how far this approach can take me.
I’ve turned to Pinterest to find new inspiration for recipes and have started a board called “Getting Healthy in 2014” Come follow along!
Quinoa, Kale, Pomegranate seeds! It's a superfood extravaganza.
Recipe type: Appetizer
1 cup red quinoa
Sea salt to taste
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
¼ cup Maille Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Maille Old Style whole grain Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 10 oz bag of chopped Lacinato kale
About ¾ of a 10 oz bag of Trader Joe's shredded Brussels Sprouts
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup roasted, salted pecans
¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Bring 2 cups of water or vegetable stock to boil. Add quinoa and simmer on low for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl for cooling.
In a really large bowl (the largest bowl you have), zest the lemon and squeeze out the lemon juice. Add the oil, vinegar and both mustards. Whisk vigorously until completely emulsified and smooth.
Add the quinoa to the bowl (when it's cool) and toss to coat.
Now add the kale, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, pecans, and pomegranate seeds and toss to coat completely. Allow this mixture to sit for several hours (in the fridge would be ideal) to soften the kale leaves and Brussels sprouts.
Enjoy. Can be stored in a sealed contained and enjoyed the following day as well.
A savory salad courtesy of True Food Kitchen and the California Strawberry Commission. Used by permission.
Author: True Food Kitchen and the California Strawberry Commission
Recipe type: Appetiser
2 cups snap peas, cleaned
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
4 oz baby greens
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 cup goat cheese
1⁄2 cup toasted walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the snap peas in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Refresh in ice water immediately after cooking to lock in the bright green color and to keep from overcooking.
Lay out the fennel on a sheet pan. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast snap peas at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes.
Arrange strawberries, baby greens, blanched snap peas and roasted fennel in a large salad bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the agave nectar and balsamic vinegar with the olive oil to create the vinaigrette. Whisk until incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide on four plates and drizzle vinaigrette over the salad. Top the salad with equal parts goat cheese and walnuts.
I have 2 kids. A boy who is 7 and a girl who is 4. We’re lucky. They are not overweight. They are healthy. We work hard to put a variety of foods in front of them every day and to encourage fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and low-fat protein. We have meatless meals and Dad is a vegan. So what am I doing taking my kids to McDonald’s, you ask?
McDonald’s is on a mission. Just ask Scott Rodrick. He has spent more than 20 years building a franchise of more than a dozen McDonald’s locations in San Francisco. His father was one of Ray Kroc’s earliest franchisees, opening the first McDonald’s in South Florida in 1950. If anyone has witnessed firsthand the changes that have taken place at the McDonald’s corporation, it’s Scott Rodrick.
He was generous enough to give a few food bloggers/writers a tour of one of his San Francisco McDonald’s and to explain just what’s been going on over the past few years. The tour, and the menu sampling that occurred afterwards were eye-opening for me. Now when I’m on the run looking for a healthy snack, I actually think, McDonald’s. Crazy. Right?
Here’s why it’s not as crazy as it sounds:
1. McDonald’s sources its fresh ingredients from the same places my supermarket does. Bagged Greens? Yes. Blueberries from the Central Valley? Done. Major Brand Apple Slices? You got it.
I assume that the fresh blueberries they’re putting on top of the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal won’t be on the menu year-round, but they’re here now. These aren’t freeze-dried blueberries reanimated when hot water touches the oatmeal. These are true, fresh blueberries delivered almost daily to your local McDonald’s and sprinkled on top after the oatmeal is ready. See below for more about what the inside of a McDonald’s walk-in refrigerator is like and how the produce is stacked neatly in small packages. Just like home, but better.
2. Egg McMuffins are made with eggs that are cracked right onto the griddle.
I know. Right? The cooks crack the egg into a little nonstick fry ring like the kind you can buy at Williams-Sonoma. Want to cut down on the fat and calories in an egg McMuffin? Ask them to hold the cheese or hold the ham or both. Also, the English Muffin part has Margarine in it. You could ask about not using the Margarine, but I think it is literally in it, so remove one of the pieces of bread and eat it open top. Altogether, the one pictured here contains 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. No cheese brings it down to 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. I can live with that once in awhile.
3. My kids eat the apple slices and don’t finish their fries.
In early 2012, McDonald’s modified the happy meal and reduced the french fry serving size to 1 oz (100 calories). They added a bag of apple slices to every meal too. In San Francisco, to comply with a “no free toys” law, they started charging 10 cents for the toy and donating the proceeds to build a new Ronald McDonald house at UCSF. Not a bad solution.
We usually substitute bottled water (for a modest surcharge) for the milk. And you can also request 2 bags of apple slices instead of the 1 bag each of apple slices and fries. My kids are normal “kid eaters”, but they have really turned on to apple slices and are happy to forgo the fries. Worried about salt? Ask for your fries salt-free. It takes a little longer to get the meal, but fries are made every 7 minutes at McDonald’s, so you can get yours fresh, hot and salt free and never wait longer than 7 minutes.
4. Sure the strawberry banana smoothie has a lot of sugar in it, but so do smoothies everywhere else and the ones at McDonald’s have the most vitamin C. For the record, my kids order the small strawberry-banana smoothie which is a 12 oz drink clocking in at 210 calories.
This is a special treat for my kids and one that replaces getting a milkshake or an ice cream cone (something we rarely, almost never do). Given that, the 44g of sugar 1g of fat and 210 calories don’t seem so bad.
Ever wonder just how much sugar there is in the fruit smoothies you’re out there consuming? Well, I decided to compare Jamba Juice, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Each offers a 16 oz strawberry banana smoothie. Here is how they compare:
16 oz Strawberry Smoothie
16 oz Strawberry Alive Smoothie
16 oz Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Calories: 300 cal
Total Fat: 2g
Total Carbs: 60 g
Dietart Fiber: 7g
Protein: 16 g
% DR Vitamin C: 35%
Calories: 250 cal
Total Fat: 0g
Total Carbs: 50 g
Dietart Fiber: 2g
Protein: 11 g
% DR Vitamin C: 60%
Calories: 260 cal
Total Fat: 1g
Total Carbs: 60g
Dietart Fiber: 3g
% DR Vitamin C: 90%
5. The signature salads totally rock, as long as you’re not going to try to eat one in the car while driving.
McDonald’s doesn’t use preservatives in the bagged salad greens and they are delivered in regular sized bags. When you order a salad, there is a cook in the back who assembles it then. They put greens into a bowl, then sprinkle tomatoes on top, the beans, the little tortilla strips and finally, they slice a freshly grilled piece of chicken and place it on top.
Looking to control calories and fat with your salad? Skip the croutons and drizzle half of the dressing packet over the salad instead of the whole thing. Make sure you get the grilled chicken, rather than the crispy chicken.
6. The fruit and walnut salad is a great snack for the kids. It is the most hidden item on the menu. Even most employees don’t realize it’s there, but if you ask for it by name, they can find it.
The vanilla yogurt is yummy and low fat and has helped my children get over their fear of plain yogurt. This snack demonstrates to them that fruit, nuts and yogurt are a satisfying snack. It’s easy to handle in the car too.
7. The Honey Mustard Snack Wrap with Grilled Chicken is only 6 Weight Watchers® Points Plus™. I can order that when I’m driving and can’t order a signature salad.
This was a standby emergency snack the last time I did Weight Watchers. I lost 18 lbs. It helped me get over my double quarter pounder with cheese obsession.
8. The Fruit & Yogurt Parfait is a great dessert or snack. At only 150 calories and 2g of fat, what’s the big deal? It tastes great.
Another item to help introduce your children to the concept of fruit and plain yogurt. You can transition them over to organic ones that are less sugary once you convince them it’s a yummy breakfast or snack item in the first place.
9. You can ask for stuff just how you like it. No salt? Check. No mayo? Check.
Want another option that really doesn’t set you back calories and fat-wise? Try the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich, but order it without the mayo and you’ll cut 5.5 grams of fat off of the total. Wonder how I know this? The McDonalds.com website features a nifty tool where you can deselect ingredients from any item on the menu and it will retally all of the nutritional information right in front of your eyes. See the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich Nutrition tool here. The tool is a little buried. You will have to click on a little red plus sign next to the word Nutrition to get the tool to slide out. Once you get access, you’ll be amazed at how effectively you can cut fat and calories by eliminating mayo-based sauces and cheese. I also recommend eliminating half of a bun whenever possible.
10. The kitchens and pantries at McDonald’s are immaculate.
I toured a downtown San Francisco location right after the lunch-hour rush and everything was clean as a whistle. I expected the walk-in refrigerators to be stacked floor to ceiling with product, but that’s just not the case. Their walk-in fridge was more orderly and clean than my fridge at home. McDonald’s receives almost daily shipments, so no one shipment has to be too large. Fresh produce is picked at the farm, triple washed and delivered to McDonald’s locations within just a couple of days.
In the walk-in, we saw eggs in cartons by the dozen. A few bags of fresh greens, Maybe 10-15 fresh packs of individual serving blueberries and so on. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I might not have believed it. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but a nice kid from Connecticut was allowed to photograph it. His photo looks exactly like what we saw.
I’m impressed that McDonald’s is making such a huge effort to improve nutritional quality of their foods and that they are willing to invite small groups of people into their kitchens to see their efforts firsthand. Not every fast food chain is cutting salt and fat. Go to Carl’s Junior and get a The Amazing Grilled Cheese Bacon Six Dollar Burger™ and it will set you back 80g of fat!! and over 1000 calories! And that’s just for the sandwich. On the McDonald’s menu, the most fat grams you’ll encounter are about 40g for many of the bigger cheeseburgers. That is more fat that you should have in a day, so if you’re going to go the cheeseburger route, you gotta do it sparingly. The Double Double I like at In-And-Out Burger has 41 grams of fat, so even though everyone praises In-And-Out, they’ve got the same fat content as a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder.
All this to say, you can make healthy choices at McDonald’s if you try and you’re aware. And I’m surprised to find that it’s easier than ever and easier than elsewhere to do that for myself and my kids at McDonald’s.
Food like this that keeps me feeling great. Full of flavor, protein, vitamins – this is the kind of food that keeps me “on track.”
The sauce is light. I’ve stuck with chicken stock, white wine and lime juice as its base. When I made it originally back in 2012, I also used an infused oil that was available at Mollie Stones. It was called Nona Luisa’s Blood Orange infused Olive Oil. With just a tad of it in the pan at the beginning, it gave the dish an extra zest. I’m not sure that it is still available.
To keep things light, grain-free, and low-carb in general, serve this over a bed of greens, or with a Cucumber and Avocado Ceviche piled on top. For today, lettuce with a little blood-orange olive oil vinaigrette did just fine.
2 green onions, chopped from the white part halfway up the green part
Another slug of Blood Orange Olive Oil
A bunch of fresh cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Coat the filets with garlic pepper on the flesh side. When pan is heated, add filet flesh side down to pan to sear that side. Allow to cook for about 30 seconds. Then flip filets over with tongs.
Add white wine to pan and cover to steam. After about 2 minutes, much of the wine will have evaporated. Add the chicken stock gradually. Allow the filets to steam for another couple of minutes. Then add the lime juice. When bubbling and both filets are opaque all the way through, add the green onions to the pan and swirl in the sauce for a moment.
Remove filets to beds of lettuce. Add a tsp of the Blood Orange Olive, swirl the green onions in the sauce one more time and then pour equal parts over the fish.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
I usually avoid vegetarian chili because I fear that it won’t be flavorful enough, but my husband has really laid off meat lately, and he likes his food to have a lot of kick, so I set about making a chili that would stand up to both of our flavor requirements and not include any ground meat. Sure enough, this chili delivers. In addition to chili powder, I’ve added a couple of dried red chilis (seeds and all) which manages to kick it up a notch. The other trick is to add all of the dried spices to the pot while there is hot oil in there to bring out all of the trapped flavors. While you are cooking, you should experience all of the fragrances. Adding dried spices to heated oil makes them truly fragrant.
A few weeks ago, I purchased whole wheat flour and oat bran at Trader Joe’s and since then, I’ve been remaking my favorite quick bread and muffin recipes to increase fiber and decrease fat. Zucchini Bread is my most recent target. Awhile ago, I posted the Zucchini Bread recipe handed down to me by my mother that I’ve been using since the early eighties. It’s great: sweet, moist, and flavorful. But it’s loaded with sugar and butter and calls for only bleached flour. If you’re in the mood for something a little healthier, try this version instead. It packs as much flavor but the pleasure comes without the guilt.
Healthier Zucchini Bread 2 medium loaves
2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose (bleached) flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray 2 9′ x 5′ baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar, zucchini, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Mix lightly but well (with a spoon).
2. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
3. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture (in batches) until blended. Don’t over mix.
4. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.
With the intention of creating heart-healthy, low-sodium, nutritious dishes, I bring you a white bean soup with kale. I’ve described it as creamy, but there is no cream. The creaminess comes from puréeing the beans themselves. To make this a vegan dish, simply swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock. This recipe is also gluten-free (as long as the stock you use is gluten free). I’m eating it right now and it is totally hitting the spot. The heartiness of the puréed beans makes bread an unnecessary companion, which is good, since I’m trying to avoid that too.
You can garnish this soup with grated Parmesan cheese and certainly season it with additional salt, but since we’re cutting back on salt and fat, I’ve left out both.
Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale
1 lb of dried Great Northern Beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped or diced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
5-6 cups low-salt chicken stock
3/4 of a bunch of kale (I used curly kale)
Freshly ground pepper
1. Rinse and sort beans. In a large stockpot, cover with water (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 1 hour. This is the quick replacement for soaking overnight. Once they are soaked, drain the water.
2. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and carrots and sautée gently until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. (Watch heat carefully to ensure onions don’t brown too much).
3. Add rosemary and sauée 1 minute. Add beans, then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes (unless your beans were really tender, in which case, you may be able to simmer for as little as 10 minutes).
4. While soup is simmering, blanch the kale. Here’s how. Trim stems off of the kale leaves by folding them in half and slicing along the spine of the stem. Bring a small amount of water to a boil. Add kale and boil for 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Pat dry on paper towels and cut kale into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.
5. Once the beans have simmered long enough to be fork tender, purée the soup in batches in a blender and then return it to the pot. Reheat and add most of the kale. Save a few pieces of kale for garnish. Pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat later.
Recently, I’ve been enjoying the blueberry bran muffins at Peet’s Coffee I’ve noticed how I don’t have my normal mid-morning hunger pangs as a result. So that set me to thinking it’s time to add bran muffins to my cooking repertoire. I purchased whole wheat flour and oat bran at Trader Joe’s as well as some dried fruits, like apricots, dates and… figs. So today, I tried a fig and oat bran muffin and it came out great.
I really tried to make this a healthy, low-fat recipe, so instead of my normal “stick of melted butter,” this recipe has a mixture of applesauce and canola oil for the fat. It has a bit of brown sugar, but not too much and no white sugar. And, of course, it has whole wheat flour and oat bran. The orange peel and spices make it a nice holiday (healthy) treat.
Spiced Fig & Pecan Oat Bran Muffins Makes 14 Muffins
1 cup all-purpose (bleached) flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped dried Black Mission Figs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp apple sauce
2 large eggs
1 cup Stonyfield Farms Oikos Yogurt (or other Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Grated peel of 2 clementines (about 2 tsp)
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line muffin tins with papers and spray inside of papers lightly with nonstick cooking spray (optional).
2. Mix together the first 9 ingredients (all dry) in a medium bowl. Stir in figs and pecans. Set aside.
3. Mix together the brown sugar, oil and applesauce. Whisk in the 2 eggs until well blended. Stir in the yogurt and the milk. Whisk in the vanilla and stir in the grated peel.
4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Don’t overmix. Drop batter into paper cups, dividing evenly.
5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
The recipe is super easy. In short, you brown the salmon in some olive oil for about 4 minutes (depending on the thickness). Then after you flip it, pour in a prepared sauce that has minced garlic, minced ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, chili sauce and water. It bubbles up and starts to evaporate. Sprinkle on the basil, and then as the sauce cooks down, it thickens just as the fish is ready. I enjoyed sautéed Brussels sprouts with mine. I spooned some of the sauce over the Brussels sprouts while they were cooking too.
It’s moving day for friends of mine and since they have four children aged 8 and under, I thought it would be nice to bring them dinner at the end of this stressful day. For a family of six plus a grandmother and an au pair, I knew that it would impossible to cook too much, so I decided to make a giant lasagna (and salad and bread). Raquel is health conscious and her children happily eat vegetables, so I decided to pull all of the health levers I could with this recipe: whole wheat pasta, lots of spinach, low-fat cheeses and of course, 99% fat free ground turkey. I made an extra one for my family and I can tell you, it tastes great. Even my picky 4-year old said, “Mommy. I like it.”