Crazy About Kale

I know that the kale craze has been in full swing for a while now, but I must admit that I’m a relatively new convert to its virtues.   For the past several months I have been eating mostly vegetarian meals.  I’ve had three people very close to me diagnosed with various forms of cancer within the last year, so I’m really trying to up my healthy eating game.  Kale is high in vitamin K and iron, and overall has a great nutritional profile, so it’s a no brainer to add it to my diet.

 

Kale and Mushroom Sautee

Mushroom and Kale Saute

My massage therapist, Julie shared this super-easy and delicious recipe for Mushroom and Kale Saute.  It has only four ingredients: olive oil, red onion, mushrooms, and kale.  Rinse and chop the kale, then lightly coat it with a bit of olive oil and “massage” it.  Chop the red onion and slice the mushrooms.  Heat some olive oil in a skillet.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  If you like your kale on the softer side, add it with the onions and mushrooms.  If you prefer it a bit crunchier, add it for the last 2 or 3 minutes of cook time.  I served mine over quinoa.

 

Sweet Potato Kale Fried Rice

Caramelized Sweet Potato and Kale Fried Wild Rice 

I found this delightful recipe on Pinterest from Iowa Girl Eats.  She classifies it as a side dish, but this is also a perfect main dish for vegetarians.  I used Minute Rice’s Multi Grain Medley, which is a staple at my house.   Since I didn’t have pepitas (pumpkin seeds), I used chopped pecans instead.  This has become one of my new favorite dinner recipes!

 

kale-cucumber-and-pineapple-juice

Cucumber, Kale, & Pineapple Juice

Two months ago, I bought a juicer and many of the recipes I found on Pinterest had kale as an ingredient.  My favorite is super easy: juice one cucumber (peel it if you are not buying organic), 1 cup of pineapple chunks, and 2 cups of kale.  Even my hubby, who usually shuns my healthy juices, likes this one.

Do you have a favorite kale recipe?  If so, leave it for me in the comments!

 

Save Money on Meat

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

I know from personal experience that eating a diet rich in protein helps to keep me strong and slim.  However, you don’t have to be a “meat-atarian” to get the slimming results of protein.  According to Robert Ferguson, creator of Diet Free Life (the healthy eating plan that I’ve followed for over three years), if you’re getting 15 to 30 grams of protein with each meal, you’re on track.

With that being said, I’m going to give you some strategies to save money on your protein purchases.  The price of meat is definitely NOT getting any cheaper and eating grass-fed and organic is downright expensive!  Three things to keep in mind: buy on sale, eat less meat, and occasionally go meatless.

Buy on Sale

I have a tendency to create my monthly meal plans around what I’ve recently scored on sale at the grocery store.  I also check out what’s marked down in the meat department.  If it’s something that looks fine but has an imminent expiration date, I’ll either cook it up right away or freeze it.  The crock pot is definitely a good friend of mine because it makes cheaper cuts of meat taste delicious and fall right off the bone.  I purchase the vast majority of my chicken with the bone in because I get more for my money.  I frequently cook a whole chicken in the crock pot and make several meals out of it.  For example, tonight Nick and I are going to have rosemary chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy with broccoli.  I’ll shred the leftover dark meat and mix it with BBQ sauce and send Nick to work with BBQ sandwiches and sweet potato fries for lunch.  As for the remaining white meat, I’ll use it later in the week for my Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.  Also, ask if there’s a discount if you buy in bulk.  I recently bought chicken thighs from a local farm and they gave me a discount since I purchased 10 pounds (and froze most of it).

Eat Less Meat

Most Americans eat larger servings of meat than their bodies actually need.  You can painlessly cut the amount of meat in a dish without sacrificing taste or feeling hungry.  For example, when I make spaghetti and meat sauce, I can easily cut back on the amount of ground turkey (or beef) and add a package of fresh mushrooms (washed and sliced) to the meat while it’s cooking.  Mushrooms have a meaty taste and are rich in protein, so it’s not really noticeable that the amount of turkey has been decreased. If you don’t like mushrooms, you can sub in your choice of zucchini, onions, bell peppers, or eggplant.  You can also do this with black beans or leftover brown rice when making tacos or burritos.  This will allow you to stretch a pound of ground meat over two meals instead of just one.  Be creative!  You also add corn, pinto and other beans, quinoa, barley, and other grains or vegetables to stretch your meat.

Occasionally Go Meatless

Yes, you can get enough protein from non-meat sources!  It seems there’s been a surge in the popularity of “Meatless Mondays.”  Don’t believe me?  Just search “Meatless Monday” on Pinterest and see the thousands upon thousands of recipes that pop up!  With delicious sounding recipes like Lentil Chili, Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas, Mushroom Fajitas, and Spinach & Ricotta Pasta, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything at all!  Some of my personal vegetarian favorites are Black Bean Chili and Easy Cheesy Casserole.  I also can’t wait to try this Sweet Potato Salad recipe!

If you have any other tips for saving money on your meat purchases, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Vegetarian Options for Holiday Gatherings

This week’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggies & Glitter.

I’ll never forget my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian.

While my family heaped their plates with smoked ham and oven-roasted turkey, my holiday meal consisted of pumpkin pie, brown sugar sweet potatoes, and several yeast rolls. Ironically, I had become a vegetarian for purely nutritional reasons, yet my feast was anything but nourishing. I knew that something had to change if I was going to successfully stick with this new lifestyle through the holiday season each year.

Since then, I have collected an arsenal of recipes that I can make and tote along to social gatherings from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Not only do I now have healthy options at holiday parties, but my friends and family have grown to look forward to these dishes as much as the meat-laden ones they have been devouring for years.

These five plates will brighten any holiday potluck spread, but they can also be served up as main entrees at home on busy weeknights. Whether you’re accommodating a strict vegetarian or just looking to lighten up on the amount of meat you consume yourself, these easy recipes will leave you feeling satisfied this season.

Monday: Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of The Vegetarian Times

Yes, planning a holiday meal is stressful, but I would argue that generating healthy meals during a busy week of school or work is just as taxing. Because half of this vitamin-rich recipe is prepared ahead of time, this salad is the perfect meal for a particularly manic Monday when ordering pizza seems like the only viable option.

Preparing the rice mixture on a leisurely Sunday and chilling it in the fridge overnight will make it possible for you to have an antioxidant-loaded meal on the table in less than a half an hour. To save yourself even more weekday work, also dice up the butternut squash and store it in the fridge one day prior to devouring this salad with your family!

Access the full recipe here: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/butternut-squash-and-wild-rice-salad

Tuesday: Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market

I’ll be the first to admit that I only thought of the sweet potato as a dessert component until I had reached adulthood. After all, I had only ever tasted it when it was topped with marshmallows, smothered with brown sugar and butter, or incorporated into a pie. It never struck me that it was also a savory root vegetable packed with a slew of vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, as well as iron and potassium.

Sweet potatoes are combined with fresh baby arugula and naturally sweetened with honey in this recipe, which is full of flavor without all of the processed junk that is often included in sweet potato dishes.

Access the full recipe: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/roasted-sweet-potato-salad

Wednesday: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Image and recipe courtesy of Sayyes.com

Vegetarians obviously won’t be indulging in the main protein source (turkey, of course!) in which most people indulge on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean that “tofurkey” has to be at the heart of a meatless feast. Even as someone who is enthusiastic about sampling a wide array of meat alternatives, I’ll be quite honest that the idea of faux turkey sounds revolting to me.

This delicious recipe will undoubtedly appeal to both vegetarians and meat lovers alike, and it will save you from having to resort to noshing on “tofurkey” this Thanksgiving.  Quinoa is often thought to be a grain because it’s frequently used as a replacement for rice, but it’s actually a seed that can sprout into a leafy vegetable if harvested in a certain way. Like leafy greens, it’s also packed with protein. Served in half of a roasted acorn squash and topped with pumpkin seeds, it will leave you feeling more satisfied than turkey ever could.

Access full recipe: http://sayyes.com/2013/11/quinoa-stuffed-acorn-squash.html

Thursday: Spinach and Cheese Strata

Image and recipe courtesy of Annies-eats.com

A vegetarian strata recipe is ideal to have on hand over the holidays due to its versatility. Not only would you be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t love to indulge in such a decadently rich dish, but it can also be served virtually any time of day. While this dish was a hit when I served it to my family at a Thanksgiving weekend brunch, I also enjoy making it on cool fall evenings when it’s just my husband and me together at home.

Even though this dish is not for those who are counting carbs, it’s also loaded with protein-rich eggs and fiber-filled spinach. It’s certainly a healthier “comfort food” option than most others you will find this holiday season!

Access the full recipe: http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/03/15/spinach-and-cheese-strata/

Friday: Roasted Apple Pumpkin Soup

Image and recipe courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

 One of my favorite things to do during the fall months is to go apple picking with loved ones. Regardless of how many times I tell myself to take it easy, I always come home with more apples than I can physically consume before they rot! This recipe is one of my personal favorites because it combines tart apples straight from the orchard with pumpkin, one of my other favorite seasonal flavors.

Because it makes a large batch of leftovers that will last for up to three days in your refrigerator, this recipe is ideal for a busy holiday weekend when you want to have an easy, healthy option on hand. Just remember that in order for this to be a truly vegetarian dish, you must use vegetable stock rather than that made with chicken.

Access the full recipe: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pumpkin_apple_soup.html

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Meatless Alternatives to Backyard Burgers and Dogs

Today’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill.

Summer is the season of baseball games, beach vacations, and of course, backyard barbecues. Even though sharing a meal with close friends and family on a warm summer evening is something that any of us would enjoy, it can be an incredibly stressful experience for those who have removed meat from their diets.

While most people wouldn’t think twice about tossing a pack of hot dogs or a few hamburgers onto the grill for a quick meal, vegetarians are often left stuffing their faces with baked beans, potato chips, or other unhealthy sides because there simply isn’t anything else available for them to eat.

Vegetarians, there’s no need to starve or stay at home during the dog days of summer. This week’s Meal-Planning Monday consists of cookout-appropriate meals that are big on nutrition and that are easy to whip up on a whim. With just a little bit of forethought, you can indulge in a savory and mouthwatering meal alongside your meat-eating friends at your next summer social gathering.

 

Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers

Photo Credit: Jen of Peas and Crayons

If you’re anything like me, there’s no time that you despise frozen meatless patties more than during the summer months. When I first embraced a meatless diet, I would sneak a little frozen soy disc onto the grill and choke it down while my friends munched on flavorful burgers and hot dogs. I don’t mean to show disdain for frozen veggie burgers, but let’s face it: Any meal begins to taste absolutely terrible when you have it three times a week.

If I’m craving a burger or know that they will be served at a summer party, I now whip up a batch of homemade veggie burgers, which are much more satisfying than any store-bought variety I’ve ever sampled. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because of its unique blend of spices and the fact that it packs tons of protein and essential nutrients.

My meat-loving husband actually begs for these on occasion, so you may find that your non-vegetarian friends will love them as much as you do!

 

Grilled Veggie Banh Mi Sandwiches

 Photo Credit: Kiersten of Oh My Veggies

I tasted my first Banh Mi sandwich when I decided to order one on a whim from a vendor at last year’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept, a Banh Mi sandwich has Vietnamese origins and typically consists of veggies, tofu, or cold cuts soaked in a vinegar-based marinade and served on a baguette.

While I personally loved the tofu-filled concoction I devoured in Charleston, this vegetarian version is more likely to sound appealing to those who would typically load up their sandwiches with meat, making it a great recipe to share with friends who unexpectedly show up on your doorstep. Because the veggies can be prepared on an outdoor grill, it would also be incredibly easy to serve this dish up as a vegetarian-friendly alternative to burgers or hot dugs at any backyard shindig this summer.

 

Three-Bean Salad with Quinoa

Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market

 A pile of fresh fruit, a leafy salad, or a handful of chips may be enough to get you through a cookout at a friend’s house, but it will leave you feeling starved and protein-deprived by the time you leave for the evening.

The next time you’re invited to a backyard burger party, bring along this chilled salad. Because it’s filled with protein, whole grains, and delicious veggies, you can enjoy it as a main entrée, while your buddies can enjoy it as a side.

To add even more essential nutrients to the dish, try cooking your quinoa in low-sodium vegetable stock instead of water and toss in any extra veggies you may have on hand!

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Photo Credit: Marie of Proud Italian Cook

 This recipe is the ideal solution when you’re in the mood for a weekend grilling party but you’re also having a hankering for pizza. Perfect for using up veggies from the farmer’s market that you may not have used throughout the week, this fresh summer meal takes only a couple of minutes to cook on your backyard grill.

Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Vegetarian Adventure

 

This week’s blog post is by Leah Kelley. 

Last month I decided to become a vegetarian. Why, you ask? For one my husband has begged me for years to give it a try but I always shot him down and two, I watched the documentary “Vegucated.” It changed the way I thought about food. If you have the time, I definitely recommend watching it. Three people took a six-week challenge to be vegans. It was interesting to see their journey and if they continued to be vegan after the challenge or go back to eating meat. I also recommend watching “Food Matters,” even if you’re not on a vegetarian journey. It will open your eyes to how food is processed and how our body processes food.

After watching Vegucated, I wanted to throw away every last bit of food in my house! That wasn’t realistic since I have a family of five to feed on one income, so we finished up all the meat in the fridge and freezer. My next grocery shopping trip, I planned for all meatless meals. How easy is that, right? Wrong. I’ve been so used to basing my meals around meat, so now it’s a whole new ballgame. What do I serve as a main dish? What do I serve as a side dish? What the heck is a turnip and how the heck do you cook it?! After my initial freak out moment, I calmed down and picked a few meatless meals I already knew my family liked and few that looked fun and easy to make.

For the first week we had homemade black bean burgers, spinach, potato, and feta gratin, kale lasagna, enchilada bake, and shepherd’s pie made with Boca crumbles. The lasagna was amazing. The other four dishes were horrible.  I could taste the difference in the non-meat crumbles (versus ground beef) and was not a fan.  My burgers didn’t stick together and the potato gratin was just inedible. I started to get discouraged, but fortunately I have a friend going through the process with me and she started a Facebook Veggie Group for support. That meant the world to me to know that other people were facing the same challenges as me. I was able to get a lot of great recipes ideas there, too.

I’m not perfect, and I did have a few slip ups the past few weeks. I ate a piece of chicken that was on my pizza from Mellow Mushroom. Their Mellowteranean pizza is just so hard to pass up! I also had a chicken tender at Chuy’s, because I wasn’t feeling my veggie enchilada.

         I thought I would share a few recipes I’ve found – on Pinterest, of course – that were hits with my family.  (I’ve also created a Vegetarian Dishes Pinterest board, if you want to check it out.)

 

Classic Cheese Lasagna from www.marthastewart.com ~ I used cottage cheese and ricotta in this recipe and it turned out fantastic! A friend of mine recommended using half tofu and half ricotta.

Veggie Enchiladas from www.recipegirl.com~ These were awesome!

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup from www.thecurvycarrot.com~ This was great with a little extra salt and red chili pepper flakes.

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms and Kale from www.savoringthethyme.com.  This was by far our favorite meal so far.  Here’s the recipe.

 

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms & Kale (Yield = 6-8 servings)


Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces from a 32 oz. container part-skim ricotta
4-5 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 cup coarsely chopped Kale leaves
6 oz. mushroom caps, stems removed, roughly minced
3 1/2 cups or so (maybe 30 ounces) of high quality marinara sauce (low sugar, low salt)
15 lasagna noodles (whole-wheat preferred), uncooked
1 cup shredded parmesan or reduced-fat cheddar
Coarse salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. In a skillet (I used the ninja cooking system so I cooked in it on stove-top function), heat the oil over medium heat. Begin sautéing the onion and green pepper, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Turn of the heat, toss in the garlic, stir and allow to cook 30 seconds or so.

2. Meanwhile combine ricotta, cottage cheese, egg, kale and mushrooms in a large bowl. Mix the sauté mixture into the ricotta mixture and mix well.

3. Unless nonstick, coat a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray and spread 1 cup or so of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place 4-5 noodles over the sauce, overlapping them slightly and breaking into pieces as necessary to fill up the space.

4. Spread some of the ricotta-vegetable mixture over the noodles followed by some marinara sauce. Repeat until you have used up all of the luscious ingredients.

5. Sprinkle the Parmesan or cheddar on top and set the slow-cooker on high for 2 hours (or 4 hours on low). I found mine was done at about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Special Orders Don’t Upset Us!

This week’s post is by Sherry Nehl, a fellow member of the Facebook recipe group and Leah and I belong to.  I’ve asked her to share how she overcomes the challenge of having several people in her family on special or restricted diets.

            This is my very first post and I’m grateful to Christine for allowing me the opportunity.  I’ve always loved being in the kitchen and cooking for my family and friends.  As our family has grown, our needs have become more and more diverse.  Within our family of six, you’ll find a peanut allergy, a vegetarian, and an amateur vegan.

            Here is what works for us.  I clean out our refrigerator and pantry on Fridays, and then make the shopping list and menu plan for the following week.  Any fruits that are past their prime go into snack-sized freezer bags for smoothies and veggies go into a large freezer bag to make vegetable stock.

            Saturdays are my shopping day.  I like to set out breakfast and leave before anyone wakes up!  I usually go to Aldi, Sam’s Club, and Kroger every 2-3 weeks.  During the summer I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market first (and, to be honest, every garage sale I pass).  I keep a cooler in my trunk since I make multiple stops.

            Sundays are for meal prep, which saves me time during the rest of the week.  I usually peel and mince three whole heads of garlic to keep in the fridge for the next few weeks.  I wash the veggies and fruits in a vinegar/salt solution and let them dry thoroughly.  For this meal plan, I make up the BBQ rub, BBQ sauce, a big batch of spaghetti sauces (vegan and meat-based, but store-bought is also fine) and assemble and freeze the lasagnas in loaf pans.  On the days when I have chicken scheduled, our vegetarians will omit it and eat just the side dishes.  Here’s our plan for this week.

Monday ~ Spaghetti with Meat Sauce or Vegan Bolognese (see recipe below), served with rolls and green salad.

Tuesday ~ Lemon Roasted Chicken, Pesto Pasta Salad (see recipe below), and Oven Roasted Corn.

Wednesday ~ Pulled chicken sandwiches with, black beans, rice, corn, and caramelized onion (aka BBRC).

Thursday ~ Meat Lasagna and Vegan, Gluten-Free Lasagna with rolls and green salad.

Friday ~  BBQ drumsticks, cheese quesadillas, and leftover BBRC.

Sherry Nehl is a brand-new blogger and full-time mother of four boys.  She loves to entertain, bake delicious desserts, and trade recipes with friends.

 

Pesto Pasta Salad

  • One box of bow-tie pasta
  • One jar of pesto sauce (or homemade)
  • One pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • One (8-oz) container of Sun-dried Tomato Feta Cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions and rinse well with cool water.  Add pesto and toss.  Add tomatoes and feta and serve.  For vegans, omit the feta.

 

Vegan Bolognese Sauce/Meat & Veggie Sauce

This will make enough sauce for 8 dinners total (4 vegan, 4 meat-based) and freezes beautifully.  You can easily omit the mushrooms and double the meat, or vice versa.  If there aren’t any good coupon match-ups for canned tomatoes, I buy the restaurant-sized cans of crushed tomatoes at Sam’s Club for less than $3.00.

  • 102 oz. of crushed tomatoes
  • 4-6 oz. of tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of red wine or vegetable stock.
  • 4 yellow or white onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 packages (8-10 links) of hot or sweet Italian sausage
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 16 oz. of mushrooms (any variety, Port0bello are recommended)
  • One large bunch of parsley, washed and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of dried basil and oregano (can substitute fresh)
  • 4 T. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

 

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  In a food processor, chop onion, carrot, and celery until fine.  Add to hot skillet and cook until onions are starting to turn golden brown.  Add a splash of red wine or stock as needed to deglaze the pan.  Turn heat to medium and add garlic.  Cook until fragrant, continuing to deglaze the pan as necessary.  Turn off fire and remove pan from heat.  Remove vegetable mixture from pan and set aside.

Heat skillet to medium-high again.  Add mushrooms and bell peppers, continuing to deglaze when necessary.  Cook until the mushrooms have released their moisture, and that moisture has been cooked off.

Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 cups of water.  Slice open the sausages and remove from their casings.  Crumble meat as it cooks until the sausage is no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

With skillet and Dutch oven both over medium heat, divide onion/carrot/celery mixture into pans.  Add equal amount of tomato paste to both pans and stir into the vegetables.  Once combined, add mushrooms mix back into skillet and cooked sausage back into Dutch oven.  Add crushed or diced tomatoes, dividing equally and bring to a slow simmer.  Reduce heat to low and add all of the herbs and spices, dividing equally.  Simmer for 30-60 minutes and serve or freeze.

For pasta, top with parmesan cheese.