Posts Tagged ‘healthy’

Spring is here which means that bikini season is only 8 short weeks away. I know, that’s awful to say, but working in an industry filled with women, I here all kinds of things about the need for dieting or the need to “lose a few” before the summer. I myself will not be sporting a new bikini this year – the children would certainly be afraid – but I am always up for substituting the unhealthy with something equally tasty and 100X healthier.

Kale is a winter vegetable, but thanks to the age of modern farming, we have access to beautiful kale leaves year round. I mentioned in my braised kale post the vast health benefits fresh kale greens can have. Perhaps the idea of braising greens scared some people away because that post did not receive much attention. But ever the vigilant writer, I wanted to post a second way to use kale that I hope more people will try and embrace. Don’t let the name fool you, there is no frying involved in this recipe. Do take the gamble on this one and pick up a small bunch of kale the next time you are roaming through the grocery store. It’ll cost very little to experiment with and the results are simply unbelievable.

Ingredients (serves 4 happily)

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1. Rip the kale leaves off the stem and into chip size pieces. Some will be big, some will be smaller, but none should come close to being the size of your hand. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil to it. Toss to coat the leaves in oil.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a silicone mat on two large baking sheets (alternatively, you can grease a baking sheet, but I haven’t tried this). Arrange the leaves on the may so no two are overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and other spices as you desire.

Note: You can change the flavor of the kale chips by sprinkling any other spice mix on. This is your chance to experiment, just remember to use spices sparingly.

3. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until the tips begin to turn brown. Your looking for baked through and no floppy. Check your biggest leaves first to see if they are done.

Note: Other recipes out there change the temperature and cooking times. This version dehydrates the entire leaf leaving a crispy, crumbling edges with an in fast center. If you prefer more chip like, increase the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 20 – 30 minutes.

4. Serve without any dipping sauce. These are great on their own.



You have probably seen summer rolls before but with beautiful halved shrimp displayed on top. This recipe utilizes ground turkey to change the flavor profile a bit and be a bit more cost effective. This dish is full of Asian flavors and utilizes some ingredients people tend to be afraid of. Fish sauce is not something to fear, but something to embrace. The key is to use it sparingly in your Asian dishes. One bottle will probably last the typical household more than a year unless you tend to cook with it weekly.

Summer rolls may appear labor intensive, but once you get an assembly line going, they come together in no time and the results are beautiful and delicious. These would make a fantastic appetizer at your next dinner party or something you can put together with the kids.


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1″ fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • rice paper skins (I used 6″, but 9″ would be much easier)

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over high heat. When heated, add the onion and ginger and continuously stir until the onions begin to be translucent. Then add the turkey to the pan and cook until the turkey has browned. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated.

2. Turn off the heat and allow the turkey to cool until easily handled. Add 1 tbsp parsley if you wish for some extra color. Cut the bell peppers and seeded cucumber into 2 inch matchsticks.

3. To wrap the summer rolls, dip the rice paper in warm water as indicated on the packaging. Lay on on a flat surface and pat dry with a paper towel lightly. Place 1 – 2 tbsp turkey mixture, and 2 – 3 matchsticks each of the vegetables. Wrap like a burrito.

Note: If the rice paper is tearing, you are either leaving it in the water too long or are being just way to rough with it. Rice paper is delicate, so be gentle. A little tear here or there is no big deal, but do not try to salvage one with a large tear in it. They are cheap enough to play around with until you get the hang of it. And don’t forget to replace your water frequently when it gets cold.

4. Serve the summer rolls with one or all of my trio of vietnamese dipping sauces.

I love Jiffy corn bread. It costs around 60 cents per box and it consistently cooks to beautiful, golden perfection. But this past weekend, I wanted to see what it would be like to make my own cornbread mix and attempt to make a healthier version. Sure, it may be a sacrilege to mess with cornbread given that it is usually associated with Southern cuisine which is anything but healthy. But isn’t that the point?

I came across this basic corn bread recipe and stuffed it full of vegetables and beans to give it a little extra flavor and some much needed protein. I replaced the typical white flour with nutritious whole wheat flour. But I’m not crazy, I kept the buttermilk in the recipe to give it some much needed fat. If buttermilk is not available, you can substitute 1 cup of buttermilk with 1 cup of regular milk and 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity will match the pH of buttermilk which helps your cornbread rise.


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 c cannelini beans (substitute black eyed peas, black beans, or anything you want)
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Begin by placing the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk ingredients together to combine.

Note: Whole wheat flour typically yields a more dense cornbread. You can easily replace this with white flour which will yield a fluffier cornbread.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, sugar, and egg and whisk to combine.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture to make the cornbread dough. With a wooden spoon, stir until until just combined. Place the tomatoes, beans, and red peppers in the middle of the dough and cut in so as to not break up the vegetables. Place the dough mixture in a greased baking dish. Cook for 25 minutes or until the top of golden brown.

5. Allow cornbread to cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

I think bacon makes nearly anything taste better and with Thanksgiving shortly coming, I wanted to inspire people to make one last attempt to enjoy Brussels sprouts as an accompanying side dish. Brussels sprouts are incredibly healthy and contains sulforaphane which is believed to have tremendous anticancer properties as well as indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells.

If you’ve tried Brussels sprouts before in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy the flavor (or lack thereof), I encourage you to try this recipe as a last-ditch effort.


  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 4 or 5 rashers of thick sliced bacon
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set four or five pieces of bacon on a sheet pan and cook until crispy. Remove and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Crumble the bacon in pieces and set aside.


2. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and add to a large mixing bowl. Tilt the sheet pan slightly and collect  2 tbsp bacon fat. Add it to a bowl with the Brussels sprouts.


3. Toss the brussel sprouts with the bacon fat until well coated.  Spread the brussels sprouts out on a clean sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the Brussels sprouts over. Some will have begun to caramelize and others may just begin to show signs of wilting greens. Cook for another 15 minutes.

5. Serve the Brussels sprouts hot with the crumbled bacon pieces on top.

I love meatballs. And according to Wikipedia, the rest of the world does too. For me, they remind me of my childhood. My mom would make large batches of red sauce that would simmer all day, filling the house with a wonderful aroma. While the sauce was cooking, we’d spend a couple of hours making meatballs and dumping them into the sauce for added flavor. Our efforts were rewarded with a large spaghetti and meatball dinner and the remaining sauce and meatballs were frozen, leaving us with a supply of red sauce for at least 6 months.

I developed this recipe as a test for future invites to summer barbecues and parties (of which my phone has been silent – weird) and liked it so much that it became a regular staple to our dinner rotation. Much of the flavor is developed by combining ground pork and turkey together (you could easily substitute beef, lamb, or chicken as well).  With a little bit of prep, this meal will finish in the slow cooker to finish the product leaving you to enjoy the warm summer nights.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 20oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4c Vidalia onion, minced
  • 1/4c + 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot, your choice)
  • Rustic bread (for serving)

1. Plug in your slow cooker. In a bowl, combine turkey, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, cumin, paprika, parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4c of the minced onion. Used a wooden spoon to combine mixture.


2. Shape approximately 20 meatballs and set aside. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides. In between batches, add 1 tbsp of olive oil.


Note: I used a medium ice cream scoop to portion out meatballs. It’s quick and easy and you are guaranteed to have the same sized meatballs every time.

3. When the meatballs are completed, add the onion to the pan and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes (with juices) and scrape up all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste (it should not require much, if any).


4. Add the tomato mixture and meatballs to a slow cooker. Turn to low and cook for 5 hours until the meatballs are tender.

5. Serve hot with rustic bread.

Unfortunately, kale comes from a family of unwanted, unliked, and generally detested vegetables. Its brothers and sisters include broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Texturally, when raw, kale is not appealing like the popular lettuce brothers – romaine and iceberg.  At a restaurant I worked for, we used kale exclusively for garnish. It never occurred to me that it was edible. Only years later did I find out that kale is a superfood. It contains intensely high levels of vitamin K (helps with blood clotting) and antioxidants. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know we all need more antioxidants – even if we have no idea why. With a little love and a whole lot of injected flavor during the cooking process, I’m confident you will see kale in a new light and adopt it into your menu plans.

I developed this recipe to add a bit of sweetness without adding any fat. Many greens are cooked in pork fat, but this dish knows bikini season is coming and relies of onions and apples to supply additional flavor.


  • 1 bunch of kale, crisp
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4c chicken stock

1. Kale stems are edible, but I find the stems tough. You can cut them off by folding the kale leaves in half and running your knife down the stem. Rough chop the leaves.

Note: If you choose to cook the stems, you will want to put them in the pan for a few minutes before the leaves. As they are thicker, they require a little additional time to cook. If you’ve never had kale before, you should give the stems a try.

2. Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and bring up to temperature over medium high heat. Place the onion and apple into the pan. You can peel the apple before dicing. I prefer the skin on, but it’s a personal preference. Season lightly with salt. Saute until onions begin to become translucent.

3. Place the kale leaves into the skillet and wilt. Stir to combine with the apple and the onion. When the kale has wilted to half the size, add the chicken stock to the pan and cover. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 10 minutes and don’t peek! The chicken stock will boil and create steam to cook through the leaves. If you lift the cover, it all goes away and you will have tough, bitter greens.

4. Place kale in a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Making your own salad dressing is rather easy and much more healthy than buying it off the supermarket shelves. You control the quality of the ingredients, as well as the quantity so each batch is custom to your personal taste and lifestyle preferences.

This recipe has been posted on the internet for several years now. I can only imagine that a disgruntled line cook posted the recipe after being laid off. It’s also possible that this is just someone’s guess at what would be in the dressing. If the latter is true, then I must say ‘Bravo’. I’ve cut the original recipe is half and modified slightly to my own liking. This recipe will make approximately 4 cups which is enough to fill 2 salad dressing bottles.


  • 2c canola oil
  • 1/2c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2c white vinegar
  • 1/3c water
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground mustard
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

1. In a large measuring cup with a spout, measure out oils. If you do not have a measuring cup big enough, pour into a mixing bowl with a spout. This will make the emulsifying process much easier. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix garlic, sugar, ground mustard, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, thyme, and oregano. Pour water, white and red wine vinegar into the same bowl. Whisk until sugar has dissolved.

3. With one hand, drizzle oil mixture into large mixing bowl steadily while whisking vigorously with the other hand. This will emulsify the oil and thicken the dressing.

4. Using a funnel, pour salad dressing into 2 clean salad dressing containers. Refrigerate. Shake before using. Will keep for 3 months.

If you have not had the experience of dining at Maggiano’s Little Italy (, let me take a minute to highly recommend you make a reservation. The portion sizes are enormous, the wine list has something special for every budget, and the environment is friendly to large groups or enjoyable dinners for two.