dinner

Eggplant, Spinach & Tomato Pizza

If someone asked me to make a list of 5 foods I could never give up, pizza would definitely be on it. I mean come on! It’s cheese on bread. You throw some meat and/or vegetables on there and I’m basically yours forever. No really, a friend once made me homemade pizza (crust and all from scratch) and I gave him my social security number as a thank you. Identity theft be damned! That pizza was delicious.

Now I do not have the prowess to make my own pizza crust at this point in my culinary life, but this pizza was still the bomb.com. I purchased the whole-wheat crust from Trader Joe’s. I’ve also used Whole Foods crusts before – both are incredibly easy to work with. If you’re thinking you can cheat with a Boboli crust, put it down and back away from its vacuum packed sealing. Trust me. The extra 15 minutes required for preparing the raw dough will be well worth it.

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Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

 

Broiled Eggplant & Tomato Pizza

Serves: 6

1 raw (16oz) whole-wheat pizza crust dough, refrigerated
1 small eggplant, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces part-skim buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced*
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon fresh, diced chives

Directions:
Preheat broiler. Combine prepared eggplant and tomatoes on a broiling pan lined with aluminum foil. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, toss to coat and season with salt and pepper. Place pan in broiler, broil for 6-8 minutes until eggplant has browned and tomatoes are lightly charred – turn halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add minced garlic and simmer until fragrant, but not burned – 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare crust according to directions. I took mine out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before starting to work with it to help the dough warm up and become a little more pliable.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and stretch dough onto it. Drizzle crust with garlic infused olive oil, top with sliced mozzarella, spinach, broiled eggplant/tomato mixture and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for ~ 15 minutes until pizza is cooked through and crust is golden brown. Top with parsley and chives, cut and enjoy!

*Recipe Note:

Buffalo Mozzarella – I recommend using a serrated knife to slice, it helps create thinner slices and prevent slices from falling apart.

Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman 

Kale and Quinoa Patties

It’s time for THR’s highly anticipated quinoa blend recipe! This one does not disappoint, but then again, when do they? These little patties got rave reviews from my test kitchen rats. Five stars across the board and the prep was a breeze. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Kale and Quinoa Patties

Serves: 6 (2 patties per serving)
*See recipe notes below

Ingredients:
½ cup dry tri-blend quinoa (I use Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa Harmony)
1 cup water
1 cup steamed kale*
3 eggs, beaten
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Salt/Pepper (to taste)
Olive oil

Rinse quinoa and place in a medium size sauce pan with water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for ~20 minutes until the quinoa is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed.

Mix together steamed kale, cooked quinoa, garlic, green onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mixture should be moist, but not runny. Form into  12 patties and set aside.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4-6 patties (depending on the size of the pan) at one time. Cook for 8-10 minutes per side or until browned. Remove cooked patties from pan and finish remaining batches.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Serving Recommendation

Feel free to eat these patties atop mixed greens or a roasted vegetable. I chose to get a little fancier when I made them the first time around with a mixed toasted+raw kale salad, homemade Parmesan Lemon Dressing and a runny poached egg. See below for all the pretentious details!

Kale and Quinoa Patties with Toasted Kale Salad and Poached Egg

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 Kale and Quinoa Patties
4 poached eggs
4 cups chopped, fresh kale
Cooking spray

Parmesan Lemon Dressing:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 1/2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
1-2 teaspoons honey
Salt/Pepper

Whisk together Parmesan Lemon Dressing ingredients*. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place 2 cups chopped, fresh kale on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray, toss. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy.

In a large bowl, combine remaining raw and toasted kale with the Parmesan Lemon dressing. Divide between 2 plates, top with quinoa patty and a poached egg. Finish with some fresh cracked black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Happy eating!

Recipe Notes:
Dressing: the dressing was thrown together by myself a little haphazardly. Take that as a warning, but the measurements are close. Feel free to play around with it!

Steamed Kale: I placed a steaming basket in a large saucepan, filled it with water to just below steaming basket. Place kale in steaming basket, bring water to a boil and steam until kale is tender; about 10-15 minutes.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

(Money Shot)

Recipe adapted from Yummy Supper

 

Shameless Product Placement of April: Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmomy

Some say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. When it comes to quinoa, I beg to differ. Quinoa is the ‘moving on up’ of whole-freaking-grains so get ready to be amazed by what THR is about to throw at your noggin!

Whole grains are obviously a hot topic of discussion here on THR. This post isn’t about to stray far from that very subject today. Quinoa is one such example of a whole grain, despite it actually being a pseudo-cereal (we’re getting to that). And for those swearing off gluten, for medical or fad purposes, it also happens to be gluten-free!

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Quinoa is a ‘pseudo-cereal’ meaning it’s a food similar to grains in how it’s cooked and eaten, as well as it’s nutrient profile. Having been harvested back nearly 4,000 years ago in the Andes region is what gives this seed its ‘ancient grain’ moniker. Us late-blooming Americans must be pretty late to the game because this protein-rich seed seems to be just now making its way into the forefront of the dietary world and current grain research. Such newbs. How late? Well, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Yeah, that late. Sure America doesn’t make up the United Nations, but you get my point. 

Grains (and their look-a-like counterparts) are often thought of as mainly carbohydrate, but quinoa bucks the traditional views of the grain world with its high protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Whole grains contain three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran and germ make up 25% of the grain’s protein content. Keeping that in mind, the germ of a quinoa seed takes up 60% of the grain’s real estate. To put this in perspective, the germ of a kernel of wheat makes up a measly 3% of the grain. Psh! What’s that wheat? I can’t hear you over quinoa’s awesomeness. 

Letmegeekoutforaminute. To dig a little deeper on this protein point for one hot second, those in the nutrition world look at protein in two categories: complete and incomplete. Sometimes it’s not just about quantity, but rather quality. The distinction between these two forms of protein lies in the number of essential amino acids the protein contains. Essential amino acids are deemed ‘essential’ because our stupid human bodies cannot make them, but are necessary for survival. Animal proteins are complete. Plant proteins? Not so much. But I’ll give you one guess as to which plant contains all nine essential amino acids. You guess it! I hope. Quinoa!

Now that you know why quinoa is so great, we are FINALLY to the Shameless Product Placement of April:

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend

Image from ancientharvest.com

Image from ancientharvest.com

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is a combination of traditional, black and red quinoa. While I enjoy traditional quinoa, the blend is a fun way to jazz up salads, serve in place of rice or pasta and works well when manipulated into burger form. The blend retains the natural nutty flavor of traditional quinoa that pairs well with a variety of ingredients. Do not be afraid to experiment with this beautiful product.

One rule to keep in mind prior to preparing: rinse the quinoa. Yeah, I know it says it’s ‘pre washed’, but quinoa develops a natural bitter coating called saponin that fends off pests and helps it grow without the necessity of chemical pesticides. I agree with the Whole Grain Council on this one, the extra rinse may help remove any residue left on the grain. Hey, a little extra water aint’ never hurt nobody (my words, not theirs).

One quarter cup of this tri-blend quinoa (dry) contains 170 calories, 2.5 g fat, 30g carbohydrate, 5g of protein. Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is certified USDA Organic and is a non-GMO food, if you’re into that stuff. Sold in most natural foods stores, click this link to find your nearest retailer.

Come back next week for a Harmony Blend quinoa recipe!

Resources:
wholegrainscouncil.org
http://www.whfoods.com

Red Lentil Cashew Burgers

This recipe gets a mad shout out to Eating Well Magazine. I stumbled upon this recipe a few years back and while it may be a touch labor intensive, I promise you the efforts involved will be rewarded. As I mentioned in last week’s lentil post, cooking lentils can be a bit dicey. This recipe should put your mind at ease if it turns out to be your first lentil cooking experience. Why? You cook the red lentils until the point of mush – failure approved! These burgers are packed with flavor. If you don’t like curry, please select another post to read from the archive (to the right) because that little spice is a big player in this recipe. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short, but full 26 years of life it’s to never force feed people curry…or demand fortune cookies from a BBQ food truck…or start a football tailgate in the parking lot of a zoo. I suppose that’s more than one thing.

Red Lentil and Cashew Burgers are easy to prepare in advance. Frozen in patty form prior to pan searing makes them an excellent freezer staple with no pre-thawing required. I lay out how to make them in advance below the recipe in the notes section. Don’t let that little sweet heart of yours think I am leading you on.

Enjoy these burgers any time of year because no grill is required. Just fresh, honest, whole ingredients are combined to make your diet and kitchen more simplified. Got other lentil ideas? Please leave them in the comment section below.

Happy cooking!

Red Lentil Cashew Burgers

Adapted from Eating Well

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup peeled and diced carrots, about 3 medium carrots
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
6 whole wheat pitas
6 cups baby spinach
1 red pepper
1/2  English cucumber, sliced into 1/4 inch half-moons
Olive oil
Hummus*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 2 cups water, carrots and lentils in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Partially cover saucepan and simmer until the lentils are tender and falling apart, 12 to 14 minutes. Drain through mesh strainer pressing out any extra liquid with a spatula. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place cashews on prepared cookie sheet and bake until toasted, about 15 minutes or until golden brown. If you can remember, shake pan halfway through baking to get a good toast on the nuts. Set aside and let cool.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons water; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pulse the cashews in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the lentils and the onion mixture; pulse until mixture is combined. Transfer to a bowl and stir in breadcrumbs. *See below for blending note.

Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form the mixture into six 1/2-inch-thick patties, using about 1/2 cup for each. Cook 2 to 4 patties at a time until evenly browned and heated through, about 4 minutes per side.

Cut tops of whole wheat pitas off; put a good healthy layer of hummus inside, followed by a cup of spinach, the red lentil cashew burger and slide in english cucumber slices and red pepper strips.

Enjoy!

Recipe notes:

Make Ahead: Prepare burgers as directed, stop before pan searing. Wrap ‘raw’ burgers in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and store in freezer up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat them, remove from freezer and once unwrapped, these little guys can go straight into the searing pan! Cooking time will increase by a minute or two per side.

Blending: I only have a small food processor. To accommodate the space issue, I blend the cashews, lentil mixture and onions all separately – I place the three blended parts in a medium-size mixing bowl, add breadcrumbs and stir to combine.

Hummus: I prefer the roasted red pepper flavor for this recipe, but feel free to experiment as you like

 

Lentils Are The New Beans

I hope we all enjoyed the Mini Turkey Parmesan Meatloaves. I know you all made them over the past week. Don’t lie, it’s unbecoming. As Spring settles in and beach season approaches, if you’re like me, there’s one thing on that fine mind of yours: How can I eat more lentils? No? Oh that’s just me then. Let me put it to you this way, if lentils were ingestible self-tanner, I’d be Snooki.

Clearly lentils have nothing to do with beach season, but rather everything to do with finding an alternative, non-meat protein. I will not lie to you. I love a good piece of steak or salmon just as much as the next red-blooded American, but damn, can we ease up on the animal flesh? I don’t boast being a vegetarian, but I do try to limit animal proteins to one meal per day (excluding eggs, those things are absolutely delicious).

Lentils are one such example of a solid vegetarian protein source. They house themselves in the legume family along with their sister, beans. Little known fact, lentils are actually seeds originally harvested in central Asia. Grown in pods, you can find these little guys in either the whole or split variety. I prefer the whole lentils; I find them to be a bit meatier. Lentils are also available in a range of colors, but the green and brown varieties tend to hold their shape best during the cooking process. Readers take note: lentils can deteriorate under heat. Choosing the proper form and cooking technique are essential to avoid eating colored mush for dinner. Prepare as directed and trial and error are my two best recommendations when it comes to cooking lentils. Alas, I am not a cooking expert on everything.

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Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron. You menstruating or pregnant? You’re going to love these little suckers! Sorry boys. Lentils also carry a sizable fiber punch – one half cup serving contains 8 grams of dietary fiber. I’m talking the good stuff, the fiber that helps lower your cholesterol. Just dare me to take care of my heart! I’ll do it too, don’t test me dude! Lastly, as mentioned above, they are well endowed in the protein department with 9 grams (a little over 1 ounce) per half cup.

While lentils are loaded with nutrients, one to not ignore is their carbohydrate content. Lentils are what we dietitians call a ‘dual food’. Yes they pack the protein, but they also carry carbohydrate. Not a bad thing, but something to be conscious of nonetheless. If we return to the half cup portion example, lentils have about 20 grams of carb (equal to an average slice of bread). This doesn’t make them off-limits. Just don’t fool yourself eating them with a load of brown rice, a few potatoes and peas smothered in yellow curry sauce. Easy does it young grasshopper.

I have a few lentil tricks in my wheelhouse. Throw them onto salad or into a broth based soup. A favorite post-run snack of mine is lentils atop steamed broccoli and a little marinara. See below for picture-based knowledge.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada

In closing, if you want to get a little fancier, I really enjoy lentils in vegetable marinara. Free (hidden) recipe alert! Oh wait, this is all free for you. For 4 people, I’ll sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 chopped yellow pepper, 8 ounces of chopped button mushrooms, a few minced cloves of garlic and some chopped fresh herbs. Stir in marinara and precooked lentils. Serve over some whole-wheat pasta, top with a little shaved Parmesan cheese and BAMB! You got a mighty tasty din-din at your fingertips.

Come back next week for my all-time favorite lentil recipe. Clue – they are delivered in patty form and incorporate cashews. Get so freaking excited. I mean it, right now!

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Part Six

Seared Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Asparagus and Creamy Polenta

Serves 4

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Ingredients:

1 pound marinated pork tenderloin*
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 medium-large yellow onions, sliced
HR’s Creamy Polenta
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pan over high heat, heat ~2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear pork on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, place pork in a 9×13 baking dish, place in preheated oven and bake until internal temperature reaches 140. Let pork sit for 10 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 145 through carry over heat. Slice and set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Meanwhile in a separate medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil over low-medium heat. Add sliced onions and cooked until caramelized, stirring frequently – 30 minutes. Set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add prepared asparagus to pan. Sautee asparagus until tender and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Prepare polenta as directed – see link above for directions

Plate polenta on serving plates, top with caramelized onions, sliced pork and asparagus. Serve and Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

Pork Tenderloin – I used a cracked black pepper corn and garlic marinade with an olive oil base. Marinade pork for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

 

Happy Cooking!

Creamy Polenta

Here we are! It’s time for my whole corn recipe. As mentioned last week, polenta (or corn grits) is a source of whole grain corn. I love making this recipe during the week when looking for an alternative starchy side dish. In terms of labor intensity, it’s similar to mashed potatoes and much less work than the carpal-tunnel-inducing risotto. Polenta pairs well with the likes of chicken, pork, lamb, steak or seafood. It also serves as a wonderful bed for roasted garlic tomatoes with sautéed greens like kale, spinach or swiss chard.  HR’s creamy polenta is a simple quick fix for impressing your dinner guests or enjoying solo on a mundane weeknight.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

 

Creamy Polenta

Serves: 4-6
*See bottom of post for recipe notes

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Ingredients
1 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal/grits)*
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1 TBS unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt
Pepper

Directions
In a medium size sauce pan, bring broth to a boil. Whisk polenta slowly into broth, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir polenta frequently to prevent clumping. Remove from heat, stir in milk, butter, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy! Yep, it’s that simple.

Recipe Notes:
Polenta: I use Bob’s Red Mill Polenta (corn grits)
Polenta Variation: Fold in caramelized onions or roasted garlic for an added level of savory flavor.

Come back next week for another one of HR’s Easy Weeknight Dinner!

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Happy Cooking!