What’s For Dinner? Meatless Monday Edition

I’ve been craving something a little lighter around here.  During the move, I fell into a pattern of the quick and easy staple recipes to get by.  But now that we are settled (and it’s officially summer!) I wanted something for dinner that tasted fresh, seasonal, and light.

For me, those requirements mean something meatless.  But Zach is a dyed in the wool meat eater.  I have tried to convert him to meatless but he’s having none of it.  And while I do enjoy a good burger or steak on occasion, I also like to give our feathered and four legged friends the night off every now and then.

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Enter these Greek Quinoa Bowls.  Or, as the three year old called them, “Grape King Lob Os.”  They were So. Super. Delicious.  There aren’t any leftovers, which is saying something around here.  I cooked up some cubed chicken on the side so that I could eat my meatless Monday dinner, Zach could get his animal protein fix, and Jillian could refuse to eat at all (ahhh….Threenagers).  At least that way we are eating LESS meat than we would have if I’d done burgers.

I changed the veggies around a bit to include what we had on hand.  I added some green onions from our garden, some cucumbers, and some extra red pepper.  I served it with some toasted tortilla chips (recipe below).

While they were so tasty, I didn’t get a distinctly “Greek” vibe from them…WHICH IS FINE.  But I’m jus’ sayin’.  If you are looking for Mediterranean add some olives, some cucumber, maybe some artichoke hearts and tomatoes.  Season with oregano and basil.  Otherwise, they should just be called “Really Tasty Quinoa Bowls.”

quinoa

Never tried quinoa before?  What are you waiting for?  It is just as easy as rice to make (I actually find it easier).  It is a complete protein, whereas rice needs to be paired with another source of protein for your body to get all of the essential amino acids.  It is relatively equal in calorie content to rice but packs more fiber and nutrients per bite.  All in all, I prefer quinoa to brown rice and you should try it, too!

Toasted Tortilla Chip recipe:

  • 4 whole wheat tortilla chips (check your labels for a brand without too many added chemicals)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  1.  Preheat oven to 315.  Cut tortillas into triangles (how many depends on the size of chip you want). Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Brush tortilla triangles lightly with mixture.
  3. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until they reached your desired done-ness (they will be soft to the touch while in the oven.  They will crisp up when you take them out).
  4. Let them cool and then try not to eat them all at once.

Define “Healthy”

“Doctor Oz’s Diet Breakthrough!” “Lose 25 Pounds!  The 5 most slimming foods!” “The Healthy Mediterranean Turbo Crash Diet!” “Instant Willpower!”

The headlines scream as I stand in line at the grocery store (note:  these are all actual headlines.  I didn’t make any of them up).  How is the average person supposed to cut through the noise?  What exactly is “healthy”?

As I work on this post, I’m sitting in Panera eating their delicious strawberry poppy seed salad.  Delicious?  Yes.  Healthy?….well, it’s a salad.  And it’s probably better than the double quarter pounder with cheese and an extra large fry that I could have gotten down the street.  

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But is it “healthy”?

I’m not claiming to be the definitive expert on what constitutes “healthy.”  But here’s MY take:

Healthy is different for everyone.

Everybody and Every Body responds differently to a stimuli.  One person might find they feel great on a low carb-high protein diet.  Another person might need a few more carbs in their daily diet, but has digestive trouble when they eat too much fat.  One person has the willpower to eat only one cookie in a sitting.  Someone else can’t have cookies in the house because they are too much of a temptation.  Figure out what is healthy for you, and you do you.  (But be honest with yourself, too.  Eating two donuts every morning for breakfast might taste good, but if you reeeaaallly listened to your body you might hear a different opinion on the habit.)

Healthy is a spectrum.

Too often we look at food (and habits) as either “healthy” or “unhealthy.”  Black or white, good or bad, yes or no.  But it’s not that simple.  If someone is used to drinking a six pack of diet coke every day, can you really say that drinking only three cans is not improving their health?  3 cans of diet coke is absolutely a healthier habit than drinking 6.

All natural peanut butter > Jif Natural > Reese’s peanut butter (do you know how you make regular peanut butter taste like Reese’s?  Mix in a bunch of powdered sugar).  All natural peanut butter costs at least $2.00 more a jar and that can be cost prohibitive for some families.  So should they just throw in the towel on healthy habits?  Obviously not.

Which brings me to my point:  you have to make the healthiest choices from what is available to you.  And you can’t beat yourself up over the rest.

Healthy is a journey, not a destination.

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Let’s return to our diet coke drinker.  Most people who drink a six pack of diet coke a day will probably find the idea of cutting it out cold turkey intimidating (and unpleasant).  Obviously, the ideal is zero diet cokes a day.  But if that person starts out by replacing one diet coke with a glass of water this week, and two next week, and so on, that person is steadily improving their health.

I started becoming interested in the way our diets affect our bodies SEVEN years ago.  As I learn more, I do more.  As I learn different things, I reevaluate what I thought I knew about being healthy.  Don’t let the fear of how far you perceive you have to go to get to “healthy” be something that prevents you from starting the journey.

Healthy is balance.

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Sometimes healthy is hot dogs and s’mores.

Two quick stories:

  1. A woman goes to an amusement park with her family, but she has spent the last two months on a diet.  At lunch time, knowing there is nothing on her diet available at any of the food stands, the woman leaves her family to return to the car where she has packed a “healthy” lunch that fits into her diet.  She eats her lunch alone in the hot car, returning to the amusement park to find her family already 3/4ths of the way through the line for the roller coaster.  She sits on the bench outside the exit, alone, waiting for them to get off and tell her all about how much fun they had.
  2. A young woman and her fiance are intense fitness fanatics.  They count every gram of protein, fat, and carbohydrate that passes their lips.  Inevitably, Thanksgiving rolls around.  Grandma is hosting, as usual, and has spent the days leading up to the holiday in the kitchen lovingly creating the dishes that she knows will make her family happy.  When the young woman and her fiance arrive at Grandma’s house, they let her know that they have brought their own fish and will be using the grill on the porch to prepare it.  Grandma notices that the young woman does not eat any of the coconut cream pie that was always the young woman’s favorite when she was growing up.

Both of these are true stories, told to me by the husband and the grandmother respectively.  And neither of these, I would argue, are healthy.

Should you eat funnel cakes and cotton candy and hot dogs and deep fried Oreos, coconut cream pie and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and (probably) deep fried turkey every day of your life?  No.  But if you choose the healthier options 364 days of the year, you can afford to enjoy your time with your family.  Sometimes seeing the sheer joy/terror on your kids’ faces as they go over the top of the roller coaster, or allowing your grandmother the pleasure of seeing you enjoy your favorite pie, is worth a day of imperfectly portioned macros.  Find the balance.

To revisit my salad: It had (according to this website) 11g of sugar, which is kind of a lot.  But it also had some fruit and some veggies and some protein from the chicken.  So we could argue it’s health value in terms of nutrients but as far as I’m concerned: it was one of the better choices available to me and I enjoyed it.

So yeah…it was healthy.

 

Stupid Easy Granola

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I’ve had a few (and by few, I mean two) people asking me for my granola “recipe” recently, so I thought I’d whip together a batch and make it a post.

 

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I put “recipe” in quotes because it really is one of those things that you can’t mess up (except for the time that I put dried cumin in by accident.  Oops.  So be careful what you grab out of the spice cabinet).  I tried to measure it out this time, but I make it slightly different every time. Really.  You can’t mess it up (just avoid cumin).  It also comes together really quickly.  I was ready to put mine in the oven before my oven had finished preheating.

Also, please note that I am not a professional food photographer and nor do I have aspirations to be.

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Here’s the recipe with rough estimates, and a few notes at the bottom:

3 cups whole oats

1/4 cup coconut**

1/4 cup nuts (walnuts and pecans are great, but any other nut that you have around would be fine)

1/4 cup seeds (again, any type are fine just make sure they are unsalted)

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup of dried fruit**

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, coconut, nuts, seeds, and spices.
  3. In a separate microwave safe bowl, combine honey and maple syrup.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Add to oat mixture.  Stir to combine.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread oat mixture as evenly as possible on baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 in 15 minute increments.  Every 15 minutes, stir and redistribute so everything browns evenly.  Take it out when you think it has reached the appropriate brown-ness (I usually go about 30ish minutes).
  6. Let cool.  Add dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

** Store bought shredded coconut and dried fruit often have a lot of extra sugar, anti-sticking chemicals, and anti-browning preservatives coating them.  But who has time to shred their own coconut and dry their own fruit?  So go ahead and buy the stuff from the store, but rinse it before you use it.  It doesn’t get rid of everything extra but it does cut down on the added sugar and chemicals (you’ll be amazed at the oily water that comes off of dried cranberries when you rinse them).

Some notes:

  1. With this recipe, you’re shooting for about four cups total of granola at the end.  So adjust the amounts of oats, seeds, nuts, and coconut to your tastes.
  2. Same with the sugars; you are going for about a cup of sugars.  So adjust to your taste.  Use all maple syrup (the real stuff…not Aunt Jemima) if you want it more maple-y.  Add in some brown sugar for a deeper flavor.  It’s all about what you like.
  3.  And the spices.  Adjust to your taste.  If you don’t like ginger, take it out and add something else.  Increase the cinnamon or add nutmeg.  Just avoid cumin.
  4. I never claimed this to be a low-sugar recipe.  If you are looking to reduce the sugar…then reduce the sugar.  More power to you.  I will still argue that it is better for you (and cheaper…and tastier) than most store bought granola.

Let me know if you try it and how it goes!  Did you make any substitutions?  Were they absolutely delicious?  I can’t wait to hear about it!

 

Pin-Valuating Pinterest

Pinterest_logo-3“Losing 5 pounds of bloat (in a healthy way)”

“Lose 30 pounds in 15 days with the incredible “Shock Diet”

“The Diet That Helped Everyone Lose Weight:  Lose 20 Pounds in 2 weeks
“Only 1 Cup A Day of This Drink Will Shrink Your Waist and Melt Belly Fat”
All of these are recommended pins on my Pinterest feed, based on my history of pinning health and fitness related content.  But Pinterest can’t tell the difference between the real health advice and the bunk.
Pinterest’s target demographic is the coveted 18-35 (primarily white) female population.  This makes it fertile ground for weight loss and health advice.  So how is the average pinner supposed to wade through the trustworthy advice from the snake oil sellers?
On this blog I’ll be starting a new feature where I “Pin-valuate” the truthfulness of some of these pins that come across my feed.
First up;  “Healthy Flourless Cinnamon Bun Breakfast Doughnuts,” complete with a mouthwatering picture of a glazed doughnut the size of your head.  Spoiler alert:  if it sounds (or looks) to good to be true, it probably is.