Strawberry Banana Yogurt Smoothie

 

 

Strawberry Banana Yogurt Smoothie

1 banana

6 frozen strawberries

5.3 ounce Chobani less sugar Madagascar vanilla and cinnamon Greek Yogurt

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Blend in blender until smooth. Add milk or water to thin, if necessary.

1 serving, 250 calories

Hack #1: If you purchase fresh strawberries, the leftovers can be stored in the freezer. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer until solid. Place in sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for use in recipes that call for mashed or pureed strawberries.

Hack #2: If your bananas have reached maximum ripeness, remove peels and place on cookie sheet in freezer. Once solid, place in sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for use in recipes that call for mashed or pureed banana.

 

Hack #3: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it! Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Mini Tourtiere (Pork Pie)

Tourtiere (Pork Pie)

1 lb ground pork

2 ½ cups potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (2 medium)

½ sweet onion

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sage

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 tbls butter

3 rolled pie crusts (see note* below)

1 egg, beaten

Spicy brown mustard

 

Combine first 10 ingredients (pork through pepper) in skillet. Cook, covered, on medium-low for 4 hours until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. As mixture thickens, turn down heat in increments so it will continue to simmer. Begin to stir more frequently, scraping bottom of pan to avoid sticking.

Remove from heat and mash with a hand-held potato masher until all large lumps are gone. Allow cooling for easier handling.

Generously grease a 12 ct. standard sized muffin tin. Using glass or biscuit cutter, cut 12 4” pastry circles and line muffin cups, pressing to the sides and bottom. Fill with ¼ cup pie filling and cover with 2 ½ pastry circle. Run finger dipped in water around the seam and crimp edges to seal. Cut slit in the top of each pie.

Bake at 400͒ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow cooling for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edge of each cup and gently remove pie to cooling rack.

Serve warm with spicy brown mustard and pickles.

 

Servings: 12   300 calories per serving

 

*I do not make pie crust. I’ve tried to make it in the past (lots of times) and it’s been a dismal failure. Maybe I don’t have the patience or maybe I didn’t inherit the “pie crust gene” from my grandmother….I don’t know. But I must concede defeat. If anyone has a great pie crust recipe that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below!

Hack: Place cooled pork pies on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Store in freezer container. I don’t recommend using a freezer bag as the crust might break up as they are moved around the freezer.

To reheat: Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Bake in 350͒ for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160͒.  If desired (and for moister filling) pop off top crust and place pickle slice directly on meat filling.  Replace top and reheat.

Easy Eggs Florentine

Easy Eggs Florentine

 

½ English muffin

¼ cup Quick and Easy Creamed Spinach

1 tbls grated Parmesean cheese

1 egg

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

 

Toast English muffin. Spread creamed spinach over the top and place under broiler.  While muffin is cooking, fry egg to desired doneness. When spinach begins to brown, top with Parmesean cheese and continue broiling until melted.  Remove from broiler and top with fried egg. Add salt and pepper to taste.

1 Serving, 175 calories

Hack #1:  Slice English muffins in half horizontally and return to original packing.  Place in sealable bag and place in freezer for up to 3 months.

Hack #2:  Make more than one egg and store them for later use.  For the best quality, I suggest cooking scrambled eggs in an egg ring as this provides for uniform cooking and reheating.  Cook just until set. These eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To freeze eggs, place on cookie sheet and place in freezer until firm.  Seal in freezer bag or container and store in freezer. To reheat, thaw or remove from refrigerator and microwave at 20 second intervals just until heated through.

 

History of processed food

We live in a time when easy-to-eat food is everywhere. Yes, every grocery store (ahhh….duuuuh!) but also every department store, every dollar store, every gas station. Heck, you don’t even have to get out of your car. Did you ever think about how it came to this? Did you ever wonder about the history of processed foods

What is the definition for processed foods?

I could go into a long scientific explanation about changing chemical compounds and how that affects your food. The USDA has more than 15 different words to describe all the ways to make that happen. But who wants that? Not me, for one. I can feel my eyes glazing over just thinking about it.

I’m going to keep it simple. For what we’re talking about today, the definition for processed foods will be any food that has been modified from its original form to make it ready to eat or easier to prepare and/or store. As a matter of fact, I’m going to define convenience foods the same way. I’m going to lump ‘em all in together and we can use the terms interchangeably.

When did processed food start to appear in our lives?

When did processed food start? Who invented it? Many minds go to the Industrial Revolution and how it streamlined mass production. But I think it’s safe to assume convenience/processed foods have been around since humans have walked the earth. It’s always been kind of a “thing” to gather food when in one can and find a way to preserve it for later use. Think of smoke drying meat, root cellars, canning fresh produce and burying ice in the spring to keep it for later in the year.

All of that sounds good and actually quite healthy. So just when did processed foods go awry? When did they go afoul of good nutrition?

Modern Day Comforts – The First Convenience Food

I’m not pointing fingers but C. A. Swanson & Sons successfully rolled out something they called TV Brand Frozen Dinners in 1957. While they didn’t invent the concept, the meals were hugely successful and forever changed the landscape of mealtime. They have been considered to be the first convenience food that was widely used in American homes. There’s some debate as to who, exactly, at the Swanson factory came up with the plan to market these frosty nuggets of ease but I’m willing to let it go. After all, it would be wrong to blame one overachieving employee for starting America’s Health Crisis, right? Like, I AM right, right?

I think it’s no coincidence that the success of these dinners (and other processed foods) coincided with the fact that the number of supermarkets in this country had doubled in the previous decade. A wide variety of mass-produced, processed food was available in your very own neighborhood. Modern electrical appliances such as stoves and refrigerator/freezer combos were now commonplace and easy to use. It’s unlikely that the young housewives of the late 50s grew up with such wonderful modern conveniences so you can imagine why they would embrace this shiny new world of easily prepared meals. You can almost hear it, can’t you? “No more chicken plucking for THIS GIRL!!”

Housewives were not the only ones with an eye on the new trends. Manufacturers were quick (and happy I would imagine) to jump on the bandwagon. They were anxious to cash in on this new food craze, to invent and market new lines of food to fill the need, sometimes to ridiculous lengths. Who remembers Tang and Space Food Sticks? It’s what the astronauts eat! (Insert wide eyed amazement here!

What Are The Effects Of Processed Foods?

We are now in the 3rd generation since the fateful introduction of TV dinners. What are the effects of processed foods? What have we learned? While we are now well aware of the physical affects that processed convenience food cause, I don’t think we take enough time to consider the REAL reason we’re in the mess we’re in. The social aspects of it.

We are, of course, are a product of our upbringing. It’s Complicated. So much so that even we, as individuals, often don’t know why we do the things we do. But there’s one thing that’s certain. Much of what we know (and do) we learned from our parents. And our parents learned from their parents. So Mom grew up eating the Supermarket Food that her mom embraced so enthusiastically. You know, the pre-plucked chickens and store bought eggs. Maybe the occasional TV dinner when she begged her mom for a treat. Then Mom raised you and guess what? She had even more exciting and easy-to-make foods available to her. Spaghetti-O’s and Hot Pockets, Hostess Fruit Pies, Kid Cuisine Meals, Campbell’s Chunky Soup and Drive thrus.

Stop. The. Madness.

It’s no wonder, then, that preparing whole foods has become a foreign concept in our culture. But we’re not doomed! We can take back our lives and consciously decide to make better choices. Just remember to be kind to yourself in the process and keep in mind that the next generation will learn from YOU.

Please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts. I look forward to your contributions to this conversation!

 

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Sausage and Butternut Squash Skillet

Sausage and Butternut Squash Skillet

 

8 ounces Chinese sausage, casings removed

2 teaspoons ground sage

1 teaspoon crushed rosemary leaves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (more or less, to taste)

1 5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups)

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic

½ cup Swanson chicken stock

Parmesan cheese

 

In a large skillet (that has a lid), cook sausage and over medium high until browned, while breaking into large pieces (about 6-7 minutes).

Add all remaining ingredients (except for cheese) and stir gently to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes (while stirring occasionally), or until squash is tender. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

 

4 servings, 300 calories per serving

 

Hack: Freeze leftovers in portion sized freezer container for a quick “grab and go” meals.

Hack:   Fresh peeled and cubed butternut squash can be purchased in the produce department of the grocery store.  Frozen butternut squash can also be used (one 16 oz bag equals 4 cups).

Shopping For One Person

It seems like it should be easy to shop for one person. After all, it’s just you, right? You know what foods you like to eat. You know how to make them. You know your schedule for the week so you know how many lunches you’ll be packing, how many nights you’ll be eating at home and whether you’ll be entertaining. Why, then, do you always end up throwing away all that limp produce and a-few-too-many-days-old chicken? And, yup. The bread is stale. Again.

 

There are a number of factors at play here, but typically the problem starts at the grocery store. Because it seems so easy. You know what you’re out of and you may even have a vague idea of what you’d like to prepare for dinner. So you get to the store and begin to shop but soon enough things go awry.

You see that tomatoes are on sale so you decide to get a few extra. There wasn’t a plan to get bananas but they’re perfectly ripe and certainly look tasty. And what’s that over there on the day old bakery rack? By the time you get to the checkout, you’ve purchased waaaaayyyyyyyyy more than you had intended. And guess what? Some of that surplus is not going to make it anywhere but the trash can.

Now, don’t beat yourself up too badly because it’s not entirely your fault. Grocery stores are in the business of selling you groceries. They pay people to devise a plan to entice you to buy as much as they can possibly entice you to buy. What you need is a plan of your very own.

Make a Healthy Meal Plan

The first step in conquering the grocery store is to make a healthy meal plan. It may sound complicated but it’s really not.

Remember how you sort of knew what you wanted to eat the last time you went shopping? Well, write it down. BOOM! Meal plan. At least for one meal, anyway.

And you don’t need to make 21 separate meal plans for the week. What are you having for dinner? You could make double and nuke the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Or even triple if it’s something you really think you’d eat three times this week. Maybe you could make this Basic Overnight Oats Recipe for a few of your breakfasts. You get the idea.

Keep in mind that whole foods meal plans don’t need to be fancy. You don’t have to buy expensive food, have gourmet cooking skills or large blocks of time. Throw a piece of chicken and a potato in the oven while you microwave a bowl of frozen carrots. There you have it. Whole. Foods. Meal. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Organize a Shopping List

Now that you have your meal plan created, it’s time to organize a shopping list. Yes, I do mean organize.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with the set up of your preferred grocery store so make the list in the order that you’ll be walking the store.

For example, list all your fresh produce items together, followed by seafood, meat and dairy. As you get to the “aisle items” part of your list, think about what items might be in the same aisle and list them accordingly. If you have to keep backtracking to get the items you forgot to get while you were there, you might decide it’s just easier to just get a can of spaghetti and a bag of chips for dinner.

Size Matters

If you take the time to read the shelf tags at the store (that list the items price per pound, ounce or piece) you know that size matters.

Generally, the larger the package, the lower the unit price. So, you might ask, does ever make sense for a single person to buy food in bulk in order to save money? The answer is a resounding…maybe.

The questions to ask yourself are these: How can this be stored and for how long? Do you have the space to store it? Will you use it all before it’s “time is up”?

One thing to consider is whether the items can be frozen. Things like meats/poultry and bread products can easily be broken down into serving sized packages and frozen.

Many meats and poultry can be frozen for up to a year while bread products are best used within 3 months. Fish and Shellfish are trickier as items in the showcase are likely to have been previously frozen so refreezing might compromise the quality. The safer bet in this case would be to buy these items in the freezer section of the seafood department.

Many fresh fruits, vegetables and berries can be prepped (seeded/peeled and sliced/chopped) then spread in a single layer and placed in the freezer. When solid, they can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for 12-18 months. While they will not retain the crisp texture they had when fresh, they will work perfectly well for cooking and pureeing.

This leaves the vast number of shelf stable and refrigerated items that are available in larger “family size” portions but would not hold up to being frozen. This is where the expiration or sell by date comes in. Look at the date and ask yourself if you will realistically use it all before then. If the answer is no, it’s better to opt for smaller or single serve portions. You’re not saving money if you end up throwing the food away.

Frozen Foods Are Your Friend (or Buying Whole Foods Frozen)

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What’s the first thing you think of when you think of the frozen food aisle? Pizza? Corn dogs? Ice cream?

A large portion of that part of the store is dedicated to processed foods. But if you look a little closer, you’ll find plenty of healthy choices there.

For a single person, buying whole foods frozen might be the answer to your prayers. Think vegetables, fruits, berries and breads. No prep. No waste. No muss. No fuss.

Be aware that there are pitfalls even in the healthy section of the deep freeze (who knew?). Avoid vegetables with added ingredients such as sauces or cheese. And don’t bother with the more expensive “steam in” bags as you probably won’t be cooking an entire 12-16 oz bag to eat in one sitting. Make sure fruits are packaged without added sugar or syrups. When in doubt, read the ingredient label. The only item listed there should match the picture on the front of the container.

On Your Mark…Get Set…Go!!!!!!

It’s time to take a deep breath, get out there and shop. You’ve got this.

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Basic Overnight Oats Recipe

Basic Overnight Oats Recipe

 

⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup rolled oats

⅔ cup milk (dairy or unsweetened non-dairy)

½ tsp vanilla

1 pinch salt

1-2 tbls honey or preferred sweetener

 

Stir-ins:

Peanut butter and sliced strawberries

Chopped apples, pecans and cinnamon (⅛ tsp). Use maple syrup as your sweetener, if desired

Mashed banana, sliced strawberries and Nutella

Pitted cherries and shredded coconut

Dried cranberries and fresh grated ginger

Peppermint extract (⅛ tsp) and mini chocolate chips

Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless!

 

Mix first 6 ingredients (yogurt through sweetener) together until well blended. Add desired stir-ins. Separate into two containers with tightly fitting lids.

Refrigerate overnight. Stir before serving.

 

2 servings, 175 calories per serving (before stir-ins)

 

Hack #1: The basic overnight oats recipe can be stored, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The overnight oats with stir-ins can be stored for up to 3 days.

Hack #2: Take advantage of the wide variety of fruits and berries that can be found in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. If the pieces are too large for your liking, simply let a few thaw so you can mash them or puree the desired amount in a blender.

Hack #3: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it!  Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack #4: If your bananas have reached maximum ripeness, remove peels and place on cookie sheet in freezer. Once solid, place in sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for use in recipes that call for mashed or pureed banana.

Hack #5: Use any leftover Greek yogurt to make this versatile Dill Greek Yogurt Dip!

Quick and Easy Creamed Spinach

Quick and Easy Creamed Spinach

 

16 oz bag frozen spinach, thawed with liquid squeezed out

⅓ cup butter

1 onion, chopped

3 tsp minced fresh garlic

4 tbls all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 pinch ground nutmeg

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbls of grated Parmesan cheese

 

Melt butter in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until transparent (about 2-3 minutes), then add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Whisk in the flour and cook until thickened.

 

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the white sauce thickens (about 5 minutes). Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. If the sauce is too thick, add another 1/4 cup of milk to the sauce, whisking it through until reaching your desired thickness.

 

Season the cream sauce with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Add spinach to the cream sauce, stirring gently until heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

4 servings. 240 calories per serving

Hack: Freeze leftovers in servings sized portions for later use.  Consider freezing a few ¼ cups servings for the recipe below.

Hack #2:  Use leftovers to make this delicious Easy Eggs Florentine!

 

Cooking for one person – Creating Healthy Whole Foods Meals

As I mentioned before, I love to cook but cooking for one person seems like a lot of work. You have to haul out the bowls and the pans. The utensils, the cutting board, and the dishes. Not to mention the shopping and clean up! All for that one meal. But the good news is that I’ve been experimenting in my kitchen. I’ve been creating some tasty and healthy whole foods meals to share with you. I’ve also come up with some easy cooking hacks, tips and ideas to make meal preparation a little bit easier and more efficient.

What Is A Whole Foods Diet?

So what is a whole foods diet, exactly?  Well, that’s sort of a loaded question. The first thing I would like to point out is that what I’m referring to when I say “diet” is not what is commonly thought of a traditional dieting (i.e. weight loss diet plan). What I’m talking about is a healthier way of eating. (And if you do lose a little weight then all the better, right?!?) The second thing I’ll say is that there are a number of definitions out there. Many vegetarians see their choices as being the true whole foods diet, while vegans (including raw vegans, fruitarians, juicearians, sproutairians, etc) feel that THEIR choices are the correct ones. These are all great options and I have deep respect for those who desire, for whatever reason, to remove meat or animals products from their diets but what I’m referring to is a more general description. More of a goal, really, as opposed to a specific plan. I’m concentrating on avoiding processed foods in favor of using fresh foods, or foods in their natural state if you prefer.

Fresh Foods vs Processed Foods

The term fresh food means, once again, different things to different people. If we wanted to be literal about this, we would go to the hen house every morning to gather eggs. Then we would head to the barn to milk Bessy so we could churn the butter for bread made from the flour we milled after harvesting the wheat in our own back yard. I, personally, don’t want to wait that long for breakfast so I’m in favor of using a meter, of sorts, that rates food from red to green. From Very Bad (Is there anything in this that isn’t chemicals?) to Sainthood (Why, yes, I do maintain an organic, totally self-sufficient, plant based household). I simply aim for something in the green(ish) section.

In all seriousness, acquiring fresh food is easier than ever. Most of us are no longer at the mercy of growing seasons, weather or the proximity to others who are willing to barter foodstuffs. In regard to fresh foods vs processed foods, I am simply referring to foods that are in their natural state vs foods that have been modified in some way to make them ready to eat or easier to prepare. Think a fresh potato instead of boxed potato flakes. Really it’s that simple.

If you do want to take things a step further (and sometimes I do), the movement to purchase locally grown or raised products is gaining serious traction. You could google local farms (or farmers markets), check in your local newspaper or peruse the community bulletin board. I have discovered that most local merchants are happy to direct you to another one if they don’t have what you need. And think of all the cool people you’ll meet.

Is Eating Meat Healthy?

Is eating meat bad? Is eating meat healthy? The debate is never ending and certainly not one that I could possibly settle. There is one thing that I DO know…many experts agree that meat can be a part of a whole foods meal plan. Keep in mind that this not a specific eating plan but more of a guideline. Fresh and unprocessed is the key (sorry chicken nuggets). Based on that train of thought, some will even argue that fresh meat is more compatible to a whole foods diet than the processed vegan alternatives.

Shopping For Whole Foods

Now that we’ve had this chat, you’re ready to jump right in and work up a healthy eating plan, right? Unfortunately, creating healthy meals is a “no-go” if you don’t have the proper ingredients. The first thing you’re going to want to do is go shopping for whole foods. I’m not going to tell you what to buy because I think we’ve already covered that. And we all have different tastes. I love Brussels sprouts, for example, but my best friend gags at the mere sight of them. No, my advice is simple.  Shop the perimeter of the store because that’s were all the good stuff is. Close your eyes and picture taking a walk around the (inside) outer limits of your local supermarket. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, seafood, meat and dairy.

Shopping for one person is trickier than shopping for a group so the first thing you’re going to want to do is decide what you’re going to cook in the upcoming week and use that to make a list. If you’re feeling stuck, I have posted some of my favorite recipes in the Let’s Get Cooking! tab on my home page. There are a few aisles you may want to hit but if you have a plan you won’t waste your time wandering aimlessly and (probably) buying things you didn’t intend to buy.

Ready?

I’ll be adding a few recipes each week under the Let’s Get Cooking! tab on my homepage. I’ll do my best to categorize them but my idea of evening food might be different from yours (breakfast for supper, anyone?) so feel free to look around to see what’s there.

I’ll also be including those aforementioned cooking hacks, tips and ideas. Any that pertain to a particular recipe will be included in that post but I will also be writing posts about some ideas I’ve come up with. Please come back often to see what’s new!

This is a journey and I hope you’ll join me. I look forward to seeing your ideas and recipes, either in the comment section below or by email.

So, are we ready?

Let’s Get Cooking!

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Scrambled Egg with Spinach, Tomato and Onion

Scrambled Egg with Spinach, Tomato and Onion

 

½ sweet onion, chopped

¾ cups vegetable broth

8 ounces frozen spinach

1 tomato, chopped

Balsamic Vinegar to taste

Salt to taste

2 eggs

Splash of milk

Cooking spray

Place onion in saute pan with ¼ cup broth. Cook over medium low heat until onions are soft and golden. Add vegetable broth as needed, ¼ cup at a time. Add spinach and tomato. Turn up heat to medium and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Add balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Remove to plate.

Add eggs and milk to small bowl and scramble with fork. Spray saute pan with cooking spray. Add eggs and cook to desired doneness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to plate with spinach mixture and enjoy!

One serving, 297 calories