Late to the Spinach Party - But Let's Celebrate Anyway!

What? National Spinach Day and no one told me? Hop on the spinach bandwagon and get yourself some goodies!

Citrusy Chicken Quinoa Salad

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Today's recipe is a simple, hearty  and healthy dinner salad that boasts high protein and high fiber.  If you skip the added chicken, you could serve this as a pretty and creative side dish.  Or sub tofu for chicken, and create a vegan one-dish meal.  In any case, this'll cost you only 30 minutes of your time, counter to table.

Orange Chicken Quinoa

1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt
1 bunch scallions (approximately 12 scallions)
1 large navel orange
Juice of 1 lemon
3 T. plus 1 t. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 c. baby lettuce
1/4 c. unsalted pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped

Boil 1 1/4 c. water in a small saucepan.  Add rinsed quinoa, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed by the quinoa.  Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes and then fluff.

While the quinoa is cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Trim the scallions and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Saute the chicken and scallions in a skillet with 1 t. of olive oil, until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Cut 1 inch off each end of the orange.  Squeeze the orange ends into a small bowl, to get about 2 T. of juice.  Whisk together the orange juice, the lemon juice, 3 T. olive oil, salt and pepper.  Peel the remainder of the orange and slice it very thinly.

Add the chicken mixture, the dressing, sliced orange and the pistachios to the quinoa and toss.  Taste for seasoning - add more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper if desired.  Arrange 1 c. of salad greens on each of four plates, garnish each with 1/4 of the chicken mixture.

Serves 4.

Adapted from the Nutrition Action Healthletter, April 2009

Tip: Are you using non-stick cookware?  It's more than suspect from a health-standpoint, it could be downright dangerous.  Did you know that a properly seasoned cast iron frying pan is virtually non-stick?  The secret is to heat it up before you begin cooking your food.  The 1 teaspoon of oil in this recipe more than coated my cast iron frying pan and created a non-stick surface for my chicken - all for only 10 extra calories per serving.  And bonus!  If you use cast iron cookware, you'll get a little extra iron in your diet.

Quinoa on Foodista

Expandable Side Dish: Kale & Chard with Tomato and Garlic

A yummy side veg dish that can be made into a meal - a Thursday twofer!

Quickie Side: Broccoli With Toasted Cashews

I'm back on the healthy - finally got rid of the myriad viruses I was fighting, finally rid the house of buttery, sugary treats and now I'm back to clean, sensible eating. And you know what? Despite the pang of longing I still get for my old friend, Sugary Dessert, after dinner, I feel so much better.  I always tell people, and I'll say it to you here - if you can get yourself off the hooch for a week or two, you'll stop craving the hooch, and the uptick in energy and sheer pleasure of feeling your body run more smoothly will start to reinforce your healthy eating habits.  Really.  Trust me.  Don't even get me started on how you can be addicted (in a healthy way) to exercise as well. I was smiling as I ran on the Arc trainer the other day at the gym. It's great to be back.

Anyway. "Back on the healthy" means LOTS of veg.  2 veg for dinner most nights - a tossed salad with a low-calorie dressing (homemade please) and a cooked vegetable as well.  I have to admit that after dreaming up a meal and preparing it, plus a salad, my cooked veg side often gets short-shrift.  So a goal for 2011 is to jazz up the steamed vegetables around here, and this recipe's moving that ball forward.  It's fast, fresh, and would be a great compliment to any sort of Asian-inspired meal, or with a plain piece of protein when you just don't have the energy for razzle-dazzle.

Broccoli with Toasted Cashews (originally from Everyday Food Magazine)

2 heads broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
4 t. fresh lime juice
1 t. sugar
2 t. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt

Steam the broccoli until tender - either by using a steamer basket in a saucepan or in a covered glass container in the microwave.  Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, sugar and soy sauce until the sugar dissolves.  Add the broccoli and toss lightly.  Season with salt to taste and top with the cashews.

Serves 4.

*Photo courtesy of

Thinking . . . Spring? Honey-Mustard Chicken, Barley Pilaf and Fruity Baby Spinach Salad With Oranges

Welcome to March! Better weather, lighter food, and the promise of true spring are around the corner . . . .

Leftover Magic


I grew up in a ruthlessly frugal household.  My parents were the economizers-in-chief of all things, and food was no exception.  Apple 3/4 of the way rotten?  Still 1/4 left to eat!  Limp veggies? Perk 'em up in ice water!  Don't know what to make for dinner and don't have much in the house?  Get take-out?  Nooo!  We'll raid the fridge staples for green peppers and eggs (I'm sure that my almost pathological dislike of cooked green peppers comes from having been fed this meal one too many times).

I am admittedly far less of a tightwad, but I do hate to waste food.  Sometimes, I find that all it takes to whip up a quick, cheap meal is a moment or two of opening my mind and foraging in my pantry.

Case in point:  I had a lot of leftover cooked whole wheat linguine (I'd say around 4 cups), which L. spontaneously decided she "hates."  I had frozen peas that were gettin' a little iced-over.  I had some whole milk ricotta that didn't get used for a recipe.  And I had some shredded Italian 4-cheese blend threatening to mold.  Here's what I did. 

I cut the pasta into bite-sized lengths.  In a large cast-iron skillet, I heated 2 T. of extra-virgin olive oil.  To that I added some bottled minced garlic and sauteed the garlic just until it was fragrant - about a minute.  I added the linguine and started heating it through - stirring frequently.  Meanwhile, I thawed some frozen peas - probably a cup of them.  After my linguine was warm, I added the peas, and stirred those together.  Then I added about 1/2 c. of the ricotta and stirred that in.  I needed a little moisture, so I used a little chicken stock I had sitting in the fridge (a couple tablespoons) and stirred that, creating a sauce.  Then I hit the whole thing with a generous sprinkling of Kosher salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and mixed it all up.  I made sure it was seasoned to my liking, then sprinkled the top of the whole deal with the 4-cheese blend, took it off the heat, and threw a lid on the pan .  .  . voila!  Add a side of protein (simple grilled chicken breast maybe?) or not, and you have a tasty, easy easy and cheap meal.  Sub in whatever pasta you have lying around, other fresh or frozen veg. (spinach or other greens would be nice here too), and of course, get creative with your cheese additions.

Next - Brussels sprouts.  Raise your hand if you like them.  Have you had the fresh ones?  If you've never had fresh ones and you say you don't like Brussels sprouts, then you need to try the fresh ones and reevaluate.  Until I was a grownup, I'd only ever had frozen Brussels sprouts, and I swore I hated Brussels sprouts.  Having tried them, I actually consider the fresh ones to be an entirely different food.

In any case, this would be a good way to try Brussels sprouts if you've never had the fresh ones, because it's so luscious and flavorful, you might forget they're [shhhhh] Brussels sprouts.

I cleaned and sliced the sprouts into thin slices - you can do this with however many Brussels sprouts you have on hand - I probably had 20 left over from my CSA share.  In a large skillet, I melted approximately 1/2 T. of unsalted butter and about 1 T. of extra-virgin olive oil - I let it get nice and warm and frothy.  I threw the sprouts in there and sauteed them for a minute.  To this, I added low-sodium chicken broth from the fridge, enough so that the sprouts were submerged about 1/2-way.  I let this cook for about 10 minutes total - stirring often, so that the sprouts could cook and the liquid could cook down.  Once there was a small amount of broth left, I added a few sprinkles of the leftover 4-cheese blend, some Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, removed the pan from the heat, and stirred . . . the cheese melted and created a lovely sauce with the remaining broth.  Adjust seasonings, and that's it.  They were tender, mild-tasting, and creamy good thanks to the butter/oil/cheese mixture.

Do you like leftovers?  Do you remix them or tend to reheat 'n' eat?  What's the most creative thing you've done with food sitting around in your pantry and fridge?

For Your Health: Kimchi


L. was sick for 5 days straight - some dumbed-down version of the swine flu, maybe, or maybe just some other pesky virus. She recovered Monday night, but I felt like I was going down. So I reluctantly cancelled plans to see "Precious" with "the girls," and went foraging in the fridge for dinner. In my mish-mash-hodge-podge of items was a favorite: Kimchi.  'Cause as you may remember, when the chips are down for me health-wise, I like to treat my body as best I can . . . and kimchi is pretty much as healthy as it gets.

So . . . what is it?  Kimchi is Korea’s most representative food - served at pretty much every meal.  Essentially, it's fermented vegetables - often made with cabbage, radishes, garlic, scallions and leeks, each with its own health benefits.  But because it's fermented, kimchi provides the health benefits of the veggies, plus, it can lower cholesterol, improve digestion, provide essential vitamins and minerals and provide a great, non-dairy source of live probiotics.  

You've probably heard about probiotics - they've been in the news a lot lately.  You mostly hear about supplements and yogurt.  Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that aid in maintaining the balance of microorganisms in your body's intestinal tract. On average, the human digestive system contains more than 400 types of probiotic bacteria. These all serve to inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria by promoting the health of the digestive system.  And did you know that kimchi has more lactic acid bacteria than yogurt?  It does! 

What can kimchi do for you?

  • Kimchi helps reduce indigestion and gas. Excess bad bacteria causes irritation leading to indigestion, gas and fluid retention.
  • Kimchi may help you feel less hungry. Lactobacillus, one common strain of good bacteria, has been linked to appetite control. Good bacteria helps stabilize blood-sugar levels which means less frequent and less intense hunger.
  • Some studies have shown that kimchi can shorten the duration of a cold.
  • The juice and salt from kimchi helps to keep the intestines clean.
  • The chili peppers and garlic help to lower blood cholesterol and are an aid in blood-clotting.

How do you eat kimchi?  Really, any way you like.  The other night, I had it with chicken tenders and roasted root veggies.  But in addition to eating kimchi as a side dish, it's also served as kimchi stew, kimchi soup, kimchi dumplings, kimchi stir fried rice, etc. etc. etc.

You can make your own kimchi, but I'm lazy.  I get my everyday kimchi at Whole Foods, but if you're in the area and want an adventure, the new HMart in Burlington has an entire wall of kimchi . . . so you can sample different varieties, with absolutely NO health-downside to your nibbling.  What could be better?

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes

Mmmmm, mashed potatoes and gravy!  Can you tell that for me, Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes?  Turkey's OK, but what really gets me fired up are all of the once-a-year traditional foods we eat along with the bird.

These are not light.  Not great for you, but they're a rich, creamy, easy and indulgent holiday side-dish that you can make several days ahead and store in your fridge.

Sarah's Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 stick salted butter
1/2 c. whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Combine the mashed potatoes, butter, cream cheese, sour cream and milk.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Mix well and place in a large, oven-proof casserole.  Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

If you do make these ahead and put them in the fridge, removed them from the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to bake them.

Yields 12 servings. 

Divine Make - Ahead Potatoes on Foodista