Category Archives: Picky Cooks (Favorite Recipes)

Fav Recipes

Creamy, Healthy Corn and Quinoa Chowder!

Last night, in keeping with the weather theme of this whole week, it was FREEZING. Well, freezing for California which is still pretty cold (like 30-40 degrees)! So of course, I decided that soup would be the perfect thing to make for dinner and warm all of us up. Corn Chowder is something I’ve always enjoyed – but I never eat more than 2 bites of it because the traditional recipe is made with tons of butter and cream / whole milk – so the soup ends up being like 50% fat and tons of calories. Then I found this recipe on Vegetarian Times and I was super excited to try it because of all the healthy substitutions! The recipe and my modifications are below – enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed and drained (I used white just because it makes the soup look more creamy)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil (I probably used about 3/4 of a Tbsp)
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 large red potato, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 small shallots, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups plain soymilk (I used low fat soymilk)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 Tbs. chopped cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • Lime wedges, optional (I would actually recommend using the Lime because it adds a wonderful flavor to the soup!)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste – this is a MUST!

Directions

  1. Toast quinoa and cumin seeds in pot over medium-high heat, 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and fragrant, stirring constantly. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Heat oil in pot; add corn, potato and shallots. Sauté 5 minutes, or until shallots are translucent. Add broth and soymilk, and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in quinoa mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in bell pepper, cover and simmer 5 minutes, or until quinoa and vegetables are tender.
  5. Remove from heat; stir in chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and lime wedges.
  7. I served it with toasted pita wedges which were fun to use as little dippers in the soup!

The Nutritionals are also great: The recipe makes 6 servings; and one HUGE serving only has ~250 calories, 8g protein and 5g fiber!

The Ingredients…

The quinoa/cumin waiting to be toasted

And the rest of the ingredients – mostly from Trader Joe’s of course! 🙂

And the Finished Product!

I love the creaminess of the soup without adding tons of fat/calories! The red pepper and cilantro add a brightness of color to the dish, and the lime added a great brightness of flavor which was a nice surprise for our tastebuds 🙂

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Quinoa Vegetable Paella!

This weekend was SUPER rainy and wet… so rainy, in fact, that on Friday when I was driving home from SF, I sat in traffic for TWO HOURS! To put that in context, that’s two hours to travel 35 miles on the highway. Crazy huh? Needless to say, I was really annoyed when I got home and in no mood to cook. But – we had nothing to eat! And I was also in no mood to drive around in the rain to pick up food. So, I decided to suck it up and try out a recipe that I had all the ingredients for already at home – a recipe I found on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for Quinoa Veggie Paella! I figured if I powered through and made the recipe, that I’d end up being really happy when I was eating it – and I was right 🙂 I made a few modifications to the original recipe – so my modified version is below. This was a great, warming, flavorful meal – the perfect cure to a cold, rainy night!

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I used about 4 cloves of garlic)
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa (I only used 1 cup of quinoa and that was more than enough!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I probably used closer to 1-1.5 tsp)
  • dash cayenne (I used at least 1/8 tsp, or maybe even 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted diced tomatoes for some extra flavor)
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups vegetable broth (I only needed about 2.5 cups)
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and cut into quarters
  • 3 additional ingredients that I added: A few healthy splashes of lemon juice; salt to taste (you definitely need salt in this dish!), and sliced almonds. I felt like the dish was a little bland without the extra spices and salt. And I added the lemon juice to round out the Spanish flavor profile – which it totally did!

Getting the food prepped… first, the onions and garlic

Then the quinoa and saffron (both from Trader Joe’s – saffron can be a pricey ingredient but at Trader Joe’s it’s not that expensive)

Cutting up the remaining veggies – zucchini and a red pepper

And finally, the rest of the ingredients: veggie broth, artichoke hearts, kidney beans and the diced fire roasted tomatoes!

Now for the Directions

  1. Put the quinoa into a large bowl. Cover with water and stir well to wash the grain. Pour off the water and then repeat the washing process. You may also put the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little (2 tsp) extra virgin olive oil until soft.
  3. Add the quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, and cook covered for 15 minutes.
  5. Place the zucchini on top of the quinoa and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until quinoa is done.
  6. Remove the cover, stir in the peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes (mine actually took about 15 minutes).
  7. Season with a few splashes of lemon juice, salt and stir in a few Tbsp of sliced almonds
  8. Arrange the artichoke hearts on the top and serve with a sprinkling of sliced almonds on top

Enjoy! This recipe makes about 6 servings and one serving only has about 290 calories, with 10g Fiber and 13g protein! And now for the pictures. First – toasting the quinoa with the onions and garlic…

Paella is almost done, just simmering away…

Time to eat! This recipe was so good that I’m actually going to have the leftovers tonight for dinner 🙂 Thanks Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for a really creative veggie paella recipe!

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15 Minute Gourmet Dinner: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Parmesan Olive Oil Sauce!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking – Butternut Squash Ravioli in 15 minutes?? Impossible. Well, technically, from scratch – it is. But my husband recently found the most AMAZING fresh ravioli at Trader Joe’s that only takes 4 minutes to cook! Pair that with my quick and easy sauce and you’ve got a gourmet dinner in 15 minutes with only 4-5 ingredients!! 🙂 Amazing I know, right? And might I add, it was DELICIOUS. Probably one of the best pre-made raviolis I’ve had. And it all starts with…

The fresh ravioli! (Ok so this is just the package but at least you know what to look for at your local Trader Joe’s 🙂 ). The other great thing about this ravioli is that it’s relatively low in calories. You can eat 2/3 of this entire package (which is one HUGE serving – 2 cups of ravioli) for only 460 calories, and you get 8g fiber and 18g protein along with it!

So here’s my super easy 15 minute dinner recipe:

Ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Triangoli
  • High quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain & cool.
  2. In the same pot that you cooked the ravioli in, heat a few Tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over low heat until the cheese is melted in the olive oil
  3. Return the cooked ravioli to the pot and toss in the sauce. Serve and top with 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

How easy is that?? My husband totally cleaned his plate he liked the ravioli so much. Doesn’t it look good?

Next time, I’ll probably try my Gorgonzola cheese sauce with it to mix things up a bit 🙂 Oh and for those of you who are interested in making butternut squash ravioli from scratch – try my Pumpkin Ravioli Recipe (you can just substitute butternut squash for the pumpkin). Hope you enjoy this quick and easy dish!

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Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup! (and the Amazing Race..)

Sunday nights are always warm and cozy in our house. Usually we stay in (because I have dance class all day and come home super tired, and of course – it’s a “school night”) and I cook something we’ve never had before, and we watch The Amazing Race together!

Did I mention we’re, like, totally obsessed with The Amazing Race? We discovered it last season and totally got hooked on the show… not to mention the two coolest contestants of all the Amazing Race seasons – Jet and Cord (the Cowboys) who were so much fun to watch. Anyway – so after last season we rented most of the other seasons and watched them during our trip to Spain and Portugal.. yeah… that was like 10 seasons watched during one trip 😛 … and now we’re watching Season 17! (live of course). Yeah, we’re Amazing Race nerds, what can I say 😛

Anywayy, so tonight – I decided to try this recipe for Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup from Dave Liberman on the Cooking Channel. I was really excited about this recipe because it’s super healthy: chickpeas have tons of fiber and protein, and the tomatoes/spinach give you a healthy dose of veggies, fiber, and antioxidants! And it seemed like it would taste good. But, after an hour of cooking – it ended up being kind of bland. So I had to figure out a way to jazz it up a little… and I found one secret ingredient that totally did the trick! So here is the recipe (my modified version and notes are in purple) And I’ll tell you what my secret ingredient was at the end of this post!

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup … with a kick!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish (Ok people, you totally do NOT need this much oil. I used 1 heaping Tbsp and it was more than enough!)
  • 1 large onion, medium diced (I used a red onion)
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, pressed (I used 8 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I probably ended up using closer to 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (5-ounce) package pre-washed baby spinach (I actually used a 10 oz bag of organic frozen spinach)
  • My Secret Ingredient! (to be used upon serving – and you can click on the link to find it if you can’t wait until the end 🙂 )

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent; lower heat if browning starts to occur.
  2. Add spices and saute a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and sugar. Season with a couple pinches of salt and 10 grinds fresh pepper. Stir well. Chickpeas should be just covered with liquid. If level is shy, add some water so the chickpeas are just covered.
  3. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. (I actually used a hand blender to make the soup a nice chunky consistency). Stir in the spinach and let heat through until wilted, just a couple minutes.
  5. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle into bowls. The Secret Part: Add 1 Tbsp of Masala Lentil Dip to the bowl and stir into soup until combined through. The dip gives the soup an amazing flavor and really adds a kick to it! It totally amped up the flavor of what was otherwise a pretty average tasting soup. You can add a drizzle of EVOO on top if desired. I also served the soup with toasted pita chips which tasted great. You can also serve it with Greek Yogurt or a creamy cheese – I think both would taste good. Enjoy!

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Thursday Night Dinners with my Dad!

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than eating food with family in the house you grew up in. 🙂 A lot of people don’t get the luxury of doing this very often (because they don’t live close to their families, etc.) And most of the time, I sort of take my Thursday night dinners for granted, because they’re such a routine part of my life. Every Thursday night since I got married, my husband and I go to my dad’s house and he cooks dinner for us! It’s always an amazing home-cooked Indian meal and is such a nice end to the week. Every Thursday, I walk into this kitchen…

… which is the same kitchen I walked into for 23 YEARS before I got married and moved out of my dad’s house. Crazy huh? And we always have a warm meal waiting for us – this week, my dad cooked us moong daal and cauliflower sabji – sooo good!

Moong Daal Ingredients: EVOO, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, curry leaves, salt, 1/2 green mirchi (green chili pepper), pinch of goor (which is like Indian brown sugar), cilantro, moong daal

And the cauliflower…

Cauliflower Sabji Ingredients: EVOO, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, cumin powder, salt, cilantro, cauliflower, potatos & peas, 1/2 green mirchi

We serve ourselves in the plates I used to eat in when I was a kid… how funny is it that I still eat Indian food out of compartment plates?? 😛

And it’s so cute how my dad buys us special treats that he knows we’ll enjoy but won’t buy for ourselves – like these ice cream cookie sandwiches from Trader Joe’s that he bought for my husband…

If you haven’t tried these they really are super yummy – and perfectly portioned so eating one won’t ruin your diet!

For the next few hours, we eat together, chat, catch up on the week and sometimes watch Larry King or a movie or whatever happens to be on TV at the time. It’s seriously one of my favorite parts of the week – totally relaxing (because my dad is like the most relaxed, calming person on the planet – and we have an amazing relationship which I am so grateful for!) and it’s nice to not have to cook at the end of a long week too 🙂 I’m so lucky to have an awesome father (who also happens to be a great cook) who lives only 30 min away from my husband and me. Thursday night dinners will definitely be a tradition for many years to come.

Do you have any special traditions you do every week or month? I’d love to hear about them from you! 🙂

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The Perfect Bowl of Oatmeal :)

I can sometimes be a creature of habit. When I was growing up, I pretty much had the same things for breakfast and lunch for like 15 YEARS. How crazy is that? It was always oatmeal in the morning and some sort of sandwich for lunch (usually PB&J!).

These days, I do like to mix it up a bit more – but I still LOVE my oatmeal 🙂 And honestly, I think sometimes oatmeal gets a bad rap for being boring, or tasting bland or whatever – but the key is to just dress it up with your favorite fruits, nuts, granola, milk, etc – and it ends up being an amazing and wholesome meal! So here’s my take on the PERFECT bowl of oatmeal!

So first, of course – you need the Oats… There are tons of options out there for Oatmeal – there’s the instant kind, the Quaker (e.g. filled with sugar) kind, there’s the slow cooking kind, the multi-grain kind, etc. I really like to get the whole grain / multi-grain variety that has oats, wheat, rye and barley with no sugar added.

I just love the way it looks in the bowl 🙂 Oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse – with tons of soluble fiber & antioxidants. This variety is super hearty, filling, has only 130 calories per serving and 5g of fiber & protein each!

This version is also really easy to make – you just add 1 cup of water to 1/2 cup of oatmeal, microwave it for about 3-4 min and it turns out like this!

I just love how the oats get all fluffy and warm once they’re cooked! Now for the mix-ins – here are some of my favorites. First up – Blueberries!

Frozen blueberries are great because 1) They’re fresh year-round 2) They become all melty and warm in the oatmeal and 3) They never go bad! You can see them already defrosting just minutes after I put them on the oatmeal…

With a wonderful sweetness, antioxidants and fiber – you really can’t go wrong with this superfood! Once the blueberries are mixed in, I love adding in walnuts (another super food with omega 3s!)

Now – oatmeal has to be creamy and flavorful, and slightly sweet. The final three mix-ins are: Honey (yum!), Almond Milk (I like unsweetened almond breeze – see pic below), and Cinnamon (this adds a wonderful nutty flavor and goes soo well with the honey!)

Stir it all together, and your perfect bowl of oatmeal is complete! When it’s all done, it adds up to about 250-300 calories – the perfect breakfast!

Tada! We are ready to eat! I love how the oatmeal turns a bluish color as the blueberries melt into it 🙂 I totally had this for breakfast today.. and yesterday… and the day before … haha – looks like I’m still a creature of habit! What does your perfect bowl of oatmeal look like? I’d love to hear from you!

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Indian Inspired Dinner: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” with Lentil Stew!

Last night, I was really in the mood to COOK. Normally, I’m more of a 30 minute meal kind of girl (not to be channeling Rachael Ray) – but I really like to be efficient in the kitchen and have a one pot meal ready to eat soon after I’ve started cooking. But with the weather changing, and the days becoming a bit shorter, I just felt like taking some time to make a warming, spicy meal for our Sunday night dinner. I came across two recipes – one from VegetarianTimes.com and one from Cookingchannel.com, and thought they would go great together. Here are the links: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” and Lentil Pilaf Stew. Both of them turned out super flavorful and ended up being a really balanced meal (sweet potatoes have tons of antioxidants and fiber, and the lentils/rice combination made a complete protein!) My modifications to the recipes are below, enjoy!

Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (Note: I just used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil – honestly you don’t need 2 Tbsp for this recipe! Omitting 1 Tbsp saves 120 calories 🙂 )
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (Note: This adds great flavor, but this is a LOT of coriander seeds – I think it was a bit much for me and my husband. Next time I’ll probably use half the amount)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

Directions

  1. Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and salt and toast for 15 seconds and then add the tomatoes and sweet potatoes, and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir well to combine. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and cook until the cauliflower is crisp- tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Lentil Pilaf Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted (Note: I used the already cooked/steamed brown lentils from Trader Joe’s – cut down on the cooking time and still tasted great!)
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil (Again, I only used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups) (I used red onion)
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I actually used 1/4 cup of brown rice. The reason was – I wanted to make this more like a stew or “dal” so I wanted some of the liquid to remain in the pot instead of getting absorbed by the rice)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • cilantro for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. [If you are using dry lentils, follow this step. Otherwise start at step 2]. Bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil in large pot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until lentils are firm-tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water (only reserve the water if you are planning on making a pilaf instead of the stew), and transfer lentils to bowl.
  2. Wipe out pot; heat oil over medium high. Sauté onion in oil 4 minutes, or until just golden.
  3. Add carrots and rice, and cook 3 minutes, or until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and garam masala, and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, broth, reserved lentil cooking water (omit this ingredient if you are making the stew) and lentils, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed and rice is tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper (mine didn’t need any additional salt or pepper). Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
  7. [This step only applies if you’re making a pilaf] Fluff with fork , then spoon pilaf into shallow bowls, and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.

Pictures!


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