Eat Well, Don’t Settle for Junk

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Farm Fresh Veggie Pizza

This past weekend, two great gals, Sareena and Sara, and I ventured into Des Moines to check out the downtown farmers market. I’d heard great things–that it was huge, among the top 3 in the country, and high-quality produce was available for cheap!–and this market lived up to all those expectations and more.

The weather was surprisingly cool, so we took our time traipsing up and down Court Ave. trying dozens of free samples and searching for the biggest zucchini we could find at the best price. Why? Well, not only do I eat my way through a ton of this veggie, but I needed it for two recipes I’ve been aching to try: chocolate zucchini cake and farm fresh veggie pizza.

Eventually we found this huge one for only $1! We thought it was funny how I was cradling it like a baby. Sareena’s soon-to-be child will be named Lydia, so we named the infant-sized zucchini Zydia.

How did the pizza turn out?

Pause while I roll my eyes back in my head as I delight in the memory of it.

Seriously, after a long day of walking around and sampling fresh vegetables, nothing could have tasted better.

Find the recipe below (inspired by Better Homes & Gardens’ Roasted Vegetable Tart).

Ingredients

Dough

1 t honey or agave nectar

1/4 of a yeast packet

1/4 + 3 T whole wheat flour

1 T rolled oats

1 t cornmeal

pinch of salt

Seasonings: garlic, basil, oregano

Topping

1/2 ear of fresh sweet corn, kernels shaved off the cobb

1/3 of a medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise

4-5 cherry or heirloom tomatoes, sliced

2 T tomato sauce

1 T ricotta

1/4 cup fresh Mozzarella

Crushed red pepper and/ or fresh thyme

Directions

Dough:

-In a bowl, dissolve sweetener and yeast in 2.5 T hot water. Let stand for about five minutes.

-Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture and stir ’til a soft dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

-Place in bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Let rise ’til double in size, about 30 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

-Punch down and work in seasonings. Roll into a circle or square shape. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and begin topping process.

Topping:

-Rub sauce evenly over the dough, and then spread ricotta around. Begin layering veggies and mozzarella and seasonings as desired.

-Place back in oven for about 5 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Slice and serve warm.

Flower Power Eggs

Why can’t breakfast be cute?

Anti-creative curmudgeons may roll their eyes, but chefs and researchers alike confirm that the aesthetic presentation of food matters.

So after a long Saturday morning run, I decided my usual source of protein needed a visual pick-me-up. I can’t take responsibility for this easy egg recipe that some, such as Apron Strings, have dubbed “Flower-Power Eggs,” but I can say that it was very fun to make–the fact that I adore bell peppers of every color doesn’t hurt.

Ingredients

1 egg

1 pepper (sliced into a ring shape, or sideways)

Preferred seasonings

 

Directions

-Set burner to medium to medium-low, depending on how hot yours gets. Let warm.

-Spray the warm pan with a light layer of cooking oil. Place pepper ring in the pan, and then crack the egg and drop into the pepper.You may need to hold the pepper down a bit to ensure that the egg doesn’t creep out underneath. My burner is a bit uneven, so this was a problem. If yours starts to escape, press pepper ring down gently to stop the flow of liquids. Once the egg has solidified a bit, you should be able to let go. But if you’re worried about aesthetics, simply trim any excess egg from around the outer rim of the pepper ring once the egg has finished cooking.

That’s it! So easy, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You could also try using a metal cookie cutter like Cutest Food did in the picture below, but I’d recommend having a flat burner to work with. You wouldn’t want to burn your fingers on a hot cookie cutter.

Party Idea: Parfait Bar

 

So it was my new friend Sareena’s 23rd birthday.

Sareena’s a doll. She’s new to Ames, about to have a baby in less than a month (so no libations allowed), and loves fun-themed parties at home, just like yours truly.

What did Sareena choose to celebrate her birthday? A small breakfast-themed party at night.

We had a great time. Sareena brought homemade Belgian waffles and bacon. Our other friend, Miss Sara Parks, brought a delicious egg bake (served cold!) that I might have to snag soon, and I might add that she made it almost 100% from locally-grown produce. it was delicious. I should have taken a picture!

I’ve been really into Make-Your-Own food bar parties, like the one Sareena hosted a few weeks ago (a pizza bar! details to come…). So I wanted to try a cute little parfait bar.

My friends really liked it. They said it was a nice, light dessert to top off a very filling meal.

Sareena blowing out the candle on her birthday parfait.

Plus, I’m convinced that everyone loves customizing what they eat. It’s one thing to put a lot of work into preparing and presenting a delicious food, but for some reason people seem to get a kick out of making their own more than anything.

We had organic yogurt, honey, cinnamon, blueberries from our favorite berry farm in Nevada, IA, strawberries, granola, and much more.

Pretty fun, right?

And to top it all off, we managed to get a sweet little candle on top of Sareena’s parfait. She loved it.

What did we do with the rest of the evening? Crafted adorable sun catchers. They’re called “Makit Bakits,” and making them brought me back to the good old days when I used to craft a lot during childhood.

And we got to watch the beads used to make the colors melt, which was pretty neat, too.

 

 

 

All in all, the breakfast party was a blast and a nice break from the more common, go-out-and-drink-heavily-to-deny-age-reality approach to birthdays that I loath.

More healthy recipes to come out tomorrow!

-Jackie

 

 

Sunrise Banana-Oat Muffin

Muffins. Banana bread. Oats. Delicious comforts of the morning.

I love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day, and probably the only one for which I slow down and savor every bite because I want it to last (and I’m not ready for work). So these warm banana muffins hold a special place in my heart.

I make everything whole grain, of course, but if you wanted a less brown muffin–one that’s more yellow in color–you could make this recipe with all-purpose flour (although it won’t sustain you through the day like whole grains and oats will!).

Makes 1 big or 2 medium-sized muffins.

Ingredients
3.3 T oats (old fashioned kind, not quick cooking)

1 T vanilla, low-fat Greek yogurt

1/6 of a beaten egg (can omit, but muffins won’t rise well)

1 t stevia

pinch of baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and a hefty dash of cinnamon

1/2 banana

Note: I sprayed the muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray because paper liners usually don’t stick well to non-flour doughs. You could flour the oats, though, in a food processor for a less oaty finish.

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Mix all dry ingredients in a small- or medium-sized bowl. Push to one side.

-On the other side, combine all wet ingredients, including banana, which will need to be smashed or pureed in a food processor.

-Blend wet and try together, but be careful not to overmix.

-Spoon the dough into lightly greased muffin tin. Bake for about 10-14 minutes. I like mine softer, so I usually opt for less time.

-Let cool a bit and remove gently from pan.

These taste so good with a dab of vegan butter. If you really want a melt-in-your-mouth experience, sprinkle on a cinnamon-stevia mixture or warm bananas, berries, or toasted nuts.

Hmm…

What’s that you see in my grocery bag? More bananas? Fresh-picked raspberries? Kale? Eggplant?!!?

I have a to-die-for involtini recipe coming out soon and a raspberry breakfast cake you won’t want to miss!

Paella Party for One

Paella isn’t meant to be eaten alone. It’s meant to be shared, usually served family style.

But darn it. Some week nights, after a long day’s work, you just want to dig your fork into a hearty paella.

This speedy recipe was adapted from Fitness Magazine. The scallops were omitted, but in hindsight, I think they would have been a nice addition.

Then again, this single-serving recipe yields so much, omitting the scallops wasn’t truly a loss. The picture does not do the portion size justice.

Don’t you just love healthy recipes that yield big portion sizes that are packed with healthful foods, but aren’t calorically damning? I sure do 🙂

Ingredients

1 t olive oil

a few T chopped onion, pepper, or tomato

1 t crushed garlic

1 t tomato paste

pinch of saffron

1 T dry white wine

2 oz. mushrooms

2 oz. artichoke hearts

2 oz. shrimp (peeled, deveined, tails removed)

1/2 turkey or chicken sausage link, sliced into rounds (I made my own from ground turkey and spices)

1/2 cup brown rice

3.5 T reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 t paprika

1 t chopped parsley

Directions

-Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; then reduce to medium low and add onion and garlic. Stir occasionally until seared and golden brown.

-Mix in tomato paste and saffron; cook for about 2 minutes.

-Add wine, mushrooms, artichoke, shrimp, and sausage. Stir.

-Then mix in rice and broth. Cover and let simmer until liquid is mostly dissolved (about 10 minutes).

-Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve warm.

Frosty Banana-Cream Pie Cup

Like banana cream pie? Like chocolate pie crust? Like fitting into your skinny jeans, too?

Eating well doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Take this healthy dessert, for example. A little healthy banana, medium-chain fatty acids from coconut (yes, those are good fats), digestive benefits of pitted dates, and a little cocoa powder for antioxidant power.

It shouts, “You can have it all!”

So try it. If you like banana and coconut and pie, you’ll love it.

Ingredients

Chocolate base

  • 1 T milled flax seed
  • 3 T rolled oats
  • 2 T raisins soaked in 2 T water for 40 minutes or 2 pitted dates
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Banana cream

  • 1 banana
  • 2 T full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 t pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions

In a small bowl, mix the flax, oats, salt, and cocoa powder.

-In food processor, process softened raisins or dates. Mix in with dry base mix. Add in vanilla and press ’til wet. Remove and press into the bottom of your custard cup to form a chocolate crust. Set aside.

-Clean the food processor or use a clean blender to mix the four cream ingredients. Blend ’til smooth–it should be liquidly.

-Neatly pour cream mixture over the top of the crust. Chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours. For faster chilling or for a thicker, more ice-cream-like texture, freeze for an hour or so.

-Garnish as you like. I topped mine with Soyatoo whipped cream and some chocolate chips, but walnuts, banana slices, or shredded coconut flakes would also be very tasty mix-ins.

Note: the outer edges of the banana cream may start to turn in color. This is normal. The banana is just ripening. It will still taste fabulous!

Mexican Pizza Pie with Flourless Cornbread Crust

If you know me, you know I love Tex-Mex and I love cornbread. So as I was pondering all the different grilled flatbread pizza recipes that seem to be circulating everywhere right now, I had a moment of creative insight: cornbread pizza crust!

The cornbread is sweet, the toppings are spicy. If you don’t mind me saying so, could this recipe be any smarter?

It’s easier and quicker to make than it looks, too. Just 5 minutes pre-baking time and a few minutes of broiling is all it takes to bake.

Directions:

Step 1. To make the pizza crust, follow my flourless cornbread recipe. Once you’ve made that dough, press into a circular pizza crust on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2. Remove crust from oven. Set oven to broil. Meanwhile, spread on a generous layer of sauce. I used my Uncle Ray’s homegrown & homemade jalapeno salsa, but if you’re not crazy about salsa, you could also try a barbeque style spread like this Smoky Corn and Black Bean pizza recipe from Everyday Health. I added a secret layer of fresh spinach, too, and then layered with all the fixings: black beans, corn kernels, tomato slices, chopped onion, crushed cilantro seasoning, and 1/4 cup cheese of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3. Let broil for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and slice into four wedges. Ojala que tienes hambre!

Easy Creamy Macaroni

So a fellow foodie blogger, a Miss Macaroni and Cheesecake, called this recipe “revolutionary.” It’s been rumored that it might be Panera‘s secret to delicious mac-and-cheese.

I don’t know if all that’s true, but it was good!

I made a single-serving just for you, but with a ricotta twist for extra creaminess.

Ingredients

1/2 cups dried elbow or shell pasta

1/2 cup + 2 T milk

3 T shredded white cheddar

1 T skim ricotta

pinch of salt, pepper, dijon (or even nutmeg or cayenne pepper for a little spice, but probably not together)

Directions

-In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.

-Turn heat off, add cheese and stir ’til cream forms.

-Stir in the mustard or nutmeg & cayenne a little at a time, to taste.

-Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir.

You could also bake this in a dish with some breadcrumbs on top (try 375 degrees for about 4-5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly).

I opted instead for a healthy mix-in: fresh kale. I paired the creamy mac with baked tilapia, and needless to say, I dined well on a poor girl’s dime.