CasserolesRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Quinoa Lasagna

heartysmarty

It is impossible to fail at the dinner table when the main entrée includes tomato sauce, cheese and sausage. The kids love this, and I approve! This dish is loaded with fiber and protein from the quinoa and essential vitamins and minerals from the tomato sauce and shredded carrots. Enjoy!

 

Quinoa Lasagna

3 Cups cooked Quinoa
32 oz. Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 Cups finely shredded Carrots
2 Tablespoons Basil (dry)
1 Tablespoon Parsley (dry)
1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
3/4 Cup cooked Mild Italian Sausage
1 1/2 Cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese (divided)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole pan.
2. Combine quinoa, tomato sauce, shredded carrots, and seasonings and mix until fully incorporated. (I usually mix it all together right in the sauce pan I used to cook the quinoa.)
3. Pour one-third of the tomato/quinoa mixture into the greased pan. Use the back of your mixing spoon to level out the mixture.
4. Sprinkle cooked sausage and half of the cheese evenly along the mixture. Pour remaining mixture over the sausage and cheese and smooth out with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.
*Optional: Top with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil if you just can’t get enough of the  tomato/basil combo.*
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes longer or until top is lightly brown.
6. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 (1 Cup) Servings

 

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RecipesSoups

Vegetable Beef Stew

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This is the most delicious stew you will eat this winter. It’s full of vegetables that supply you with vitamin C, carotene, and antioxidants; and a little beef that offers zinc, protein and iron. This hearty stew will keep you nourished and healthy during the cold months. Enjoy!

 

Vegetable Beef Stew

3 Cups Bone Broth
3 Cups Chicken Broth
2 1/2 Cups Potatoes, cubed
1 Cup Celery, diced
1 1/2 Cup Carrots, diced
1/2 Cup Yellow Onion, minced
1 1/2 Cups Beef Roast, cooked and shredded
1 15 oz.  Can Diced Tomatoes
1 15 oz. Can Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 Cups Frozen Corn
1 Cup Frozen Green Beans, 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Parsley dry
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Directions:
1. Depending on how you do your bone broth, prepare according to package directions, or use what you have previously made. I use the method found here.
2. Combine all ingredients except corn, green beans, garlic and parsley. Bring to boil and then reduce to a low boil.
3. Boil until vegetables are still slightly firm, about 20 minutes.
4. Add all remaining ingredients and cook at a low boil until green beans are tender, about 15 additional minutes.
5. Add shredded beef for last 5 minutes of simmering. Note: Sometimes I have used a can of shredded roast beef. Most often I use beef reserved from making bone broth. Both options work, but I prefer the latter.
6. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

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Fad Diet Myth BustingFeaturedNutrition Education

Health Benefits of Bone Broth

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One night this Fall, I caught myself watching an infomercial with a doctor preaching her diet plan for good skin, hair, and digestion. Usually I can see the fake claims and move on. But, this time I got sucked in.  The doctor was promoting bone broth. She promoted drinking bone broth daily as part of a balanced diet full of anti-cancer/anti-aging foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and limited animal products. That’s probably where she snagged me—the anti-aging. Like most women, I sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to look 21 again. I had some grass-fed neck bones on hand in the freezer so I made my first batch of bone broth some time later. I used the broth and some of the meat scraps to make the most delicious beef stew. It felt nourishing going down my sore throat from yet another head cold this fall. After all that fuss, I am curious what peer-reviewed science says about bone broth. Is all the hype really valid?

What is bone broth?

Bone broth is a soup base also known as stock. It is made by boiling bones with vinegar and aromatic vegetables like onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. It simmers about 48 hours before straining out the vegetables, meat, and bones. The long simmer extracts collagen from the bones, giving the broth a gelatinous texture.

What are the health claims?

Most of the information I found claiming major benefits of bone broth were personal blogs laden with testimonials, anecdotes (not data) and advertisements. Here are some of the supposed health claims for bone broth floating around the internet:

  • improves digestion
  • minimizes allergies
  • boosts immunity
  • improves brain health
  • supports joints
  • strengthens hair and nails
  • eliminates cellulite
  • strengthens bones and teeth

What does peer-reviewed science say?

The earliest peer-reviewed research I found on bone broth was conducted at Kings College in London in 1934. (Read the full article here.) The scientists found that bone broth is not nearly as nutritious as breast milk and cows milk. The only protein provided by bone broth is gelatin. After several controlled tests, it was discovered that bones, even when simmered in acid, do not release a greater quantity of minerals into the broth than milk naturally contains. The data showed that there is over 20 times more calcium in cow’s milk and over 4 times more calcium in human milk than bone broth. Cows milk contains 16 times more phosphorus than bone broth, and human milk contains 2 times more phosphorus than bone broth. There is about 3 times more potassium in cow’s milk and about 1.5 times more potassium in human milk than bone broth. There is 6 times the magnesium in cow’s milk and 2 times the magnesium in human milk compared to bone broth. The iron content was not significantly different between milks and bone broth. Cow and human milk also have far greater fat and calorie content than bone broth.

In an article written by the Harvard Medical School, health claims for bone broth were debunked with the following physiological explanations:

Bone broths don’t relieve joint pain. Arthritis is a result of the loss of collagen, which cushions joints. Although bone broth contains collagen, dietary collagen isn’t absorbed as is and sent straight into your joints. Like other proteins, collagen is broken down into amino acids, which become building blocks for body tissues. It won’t be transported directly to your knees, hips, or other joints.

Bone broths don’t make skin firmer and smoother. This claim is also based on collagen, which forms a layer of tissue that supports the skin. Just as dietary collagen isn’t transported directly to your joints, it isn’t taken into your skin, either.

Bone broths don’t improve digestion. Bone broths contain gelatin, which is claimed to be a digestive aid, although there is little evidence of its effectiveness.

Bone broths don’t strengthen bone. Just because a soup is derived from bone doesn’t mean it will build bone or prevent osteoporosis. Even when simmered for 48 hours, bones release very little calcium into the broth.”

Is it safe?

Testing for toxic metals in animal bone broths was performed in China and published in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Research in July 2017. It was discovered that the calcium and magnesium levels in home-made or commercial broth/soup were found not to exceed less than 5% of the daily recommended levels. The risks that are associated with the consuming heavy metals like lead and cadmium in broth are minimal because the levels were in the ranges of a few micrograms per serving.

CONCLUSION

So, when you stop for coffee at your favorite joint and see bone broth on the menu and wonder what I might think of it, here goes: I think bone broth is a neat alternative to morning coffee. I don’t drink coffee because of its addictive nature, and caffeine and sugar content. I don’t drink plain bone broth either.  Bone broth is low in sugar and does have some nutrition. However, bone broth is NOT the fountain of youth which will make you age backwards. It is NOT the cure to cancer, and it is NOT going to prevent osteoporosis. My best advice with bone broth is to make sure you don’t get bamboozled into paying too much for your drink. Like most fad food products, manufacturers make a very large profit off of basic ingredients you can use to make it yourself at home.

I include bone broth as part of a balanced diet for my family. It is a key ingredient in my beef stew because it is hard to beat the flavor of a stew made from homemade bone broth. Creating stews and soups from bone broth has been done anciently. Of course, in order for me to claim a dish to be nutritious on my table, it’s got to be loaded with vegetables. That’s why my beef stew has a bit of bone broth, a bit of chicken soup base, a bit of beef, and LOTS of veggies–starchy, green, orange, red, yellow. We ate this stew with my homemade hearty corn bread, butter and honey. This meal has a great balance of carbs, proteins, and fats from healthy, whole food sources. This is what a balanced meal looks like! No one food is a cure-all, but together with a variety of colored plants and grains, dairy and proteins, food is nourishing at the highest level.

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CasserolesGluten-FreeRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Hearty Tuna Bake

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This is a classic casserole that I grew up loving. As usual, I souped it up on vegetables and “healthified” the recipe without sacrificing flavor and texture. We eat this casserole almost once per month. I hope your family loves it as much as we do. Enjoy!

 

Hearty Tuna Bake

3 Cups Dry Egg Noodles
2 5-oz. Cans Tuna in water, drained
1 1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Cup Celery, chopped
1 Cup Zucchini, chopped (optional)
1/4 Cup Green Onions, minced
3/4 Cup Greek Yogurt
3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Recipe Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley (1 Tablespoon Dry)
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Make 1 Recipe Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup

2. Cook Egg Noodles according to package directions just until soft. Do not overcook.

3. Mix all remaining ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

5. Increase heat to a high broil and bake for an additional 60 to 90 seconds. Watch it closely!

6. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 Servings

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RecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Pesto Pasta

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Oftentimes as I’m cooking in the kitchen, someone comes along and snitches a bite of whatever I am making. This time it was my husband taste-testing this Pesto Pasta. He took one bite, rolled his eyes back in his head and exclaimed, “Mmmmm!” He may have even done a fist-pump in the air. With a reaction like that, I had to document this one. I served it with a Caesar Salad made of romaine lettuce and homemade garlic croutons to make it a complete meal. I hope you get a similar reaction from your family or dinner guests when you make it for them.

 

 

Pesto Pasta

2 Cups Basil, packed fresh leaves
2 Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
2/3 Cup Olive Oil, divided (California Olive Ranch is my favorite)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Parmesan, shredded fresh + 1/4 Cup for topping
12 oz. Penne Pasta (6 oz. white and 6 oz. whole wheat)
2 Cups Frozen Peas

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Follow directions on package to cook your pasta of choice. I like to use Penne, but Farfalle or Rotini works well too. During the last 5 minutes of boiling, add frozen peas to the pasta. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, combine basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor. Pulse a few times until chopped.
3. Add 1/2 Cup Olive Oil and process until smooth. Continue adding remaining Olive Oil until desired consistency is reached. Season with Salt and Pepper.
4. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add the Parmesan cheese. Pour pesto over cooked pasta and stir until well-coated. Top with extra Parmesan. Serve warm.

Serves 6. 

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California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

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Baked GoodsBreakfastMeals for OneRecipesTreats

Healthy Two-Minute Peach Cobbler

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During peach season, one of my favorite treats to make is a quick, single-serving of peach cobbler. I should put this “treat” in quotation marks because it’s actually not very calorific, but it tastes awesome and satisfies a mild sweet tooth. Here’s how I make it:

Step 1: Thinly slice a fresh peach into about 10-12 slices.

Step 2: In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the peaches for 2 minutes.

Step 3: Top with 1/2 Cup of my Hearty Granola. (Search “Hearty Granola” in the bar at the top right of the homepage).

Step 4: Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons Vanilla Almond Milk.

Viola! Peach cobbler with next to no effort. You’re welcome.

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Baked GoodsBreakfastRecipes

Hearty Granola

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My favorite mid-night snack also doubles as one of my favorite breakfast cereals. I love making my own Granola because I can alter the sugar content, assuring a healthy combination of whole grains, nuts, dried fruit and other grains. Unlike most store bought granola, this version contains only whole ingredients and has LESS sugar than a cookie.  Something so delicious as this needs to be shared. Enjoy!

 

Hearty Granola

16 Cups Old-Fashioned Oats
2 Cups Raw Nuts, chopped
1 Cup Coconut, shredded
1/2 Cup Ground Flaxseed
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
1 Cup Dried Fruit (Raisins, Craisins, Mango, Pineapple, etc.)

Syrup:
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1 1/2 Cups Honey
1/2 Cup Molasses
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 Degrees F. Lightly grease 3 cookie sheets and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, flaxseed, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
3. In a large saucepan, combine syrup ingredients. Heat on low until sugars are dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
4. Pour syrup over dry ingredients and stir until completely coated. Spread mixture onto cookie sheets.
5. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Bake an extra 15 minutes for crunchier texture.
6. Immediately after removing from oven, stir in dried fruit and let cool on the counter.
7. Store in a cool, dry place in airtight containers. Use within 2 months.

Makes: 22 Cups

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BreakfastGluten-FreeRecipesSmoothies

Mango Blueberry Smoothie

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Another reason to love late summer is because the Kent Mangoes at Costco are in season. The mangoes were the size of my toddler’s head and so flavorful and juicy.  They made our morning smoothie taste so good that I had to make another batch to satisfy everyone’s craving. It is so wonderful when nature’s candy is so healthy for you too! Mangoes contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, the most of which are vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and B6.

 

Mango Blueberry Smoothie

2 Cups Water
1 Cup Kefir or Plain Greek Yogurt
2 Handfuls of fresh spinach or 1 Spinach Puck
2 Cups Mango chunks, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 Cups Frozen Blueberries

Place all ingredients into blender in order listed. Blend on highest setting until smooth. Enjoy!

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Cooking Tips & TricksFeaturedGluten-FreeRecipes

Frozen Spinach Pucks for Smoothies

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One of my goals in the kitchen is to waste as little food as possible. I also try to waste as little time in the kitchen as possible too. When food starts going bad in the fridge, my challenge is to re-purpose it or preserve it before it is too late. Years ago, I overheard some ladies in the grocery store checkout line talking about how they freeze spinach for smoothies. They called them “spinach pucks.” I gave it a try, and it worked like a charm! The best part is, because the spinach is blended once into a puck and then again into your smoothie, the spinach goes undetected for the picky eaters.

Have you ever been guilty of buying Costco’s huge, 2.5 pound bag of spinach totally intending to eat salads all week, but your plans didn’t quite come to fruition? Or maybe your garden is producing way more spinach that your family can eat. I’ve been there. Here’s how I ensure that this super nutritious food doesn’t go to waste:

Making Spinach Pucks

1. Pick out any wilted leaves and pack the good ones into a blender. I’ve been using the same ‘ol Osterizer for over 5 years now and it works just fine for this. Tightly pack the spinach to the 2 cup line.

2. Add just enough water to get the spinach to start blending. Start with about 2 tablespoons.

3. Continue to add spinach until it becomes too pulpy (is that a word?) to blend.

4. Blend until smooth.

5. Fill muffin tin cups with the blended spinach.

6. Freeze spinach 8 hours or overnight.

7. Pop the pucks of spinach out of the tins and store in an air-tight freezer container for up to 3 months.

8. Use a spinach puck or two in your favorite smoothies.

 

Why freeze?

In the process of freezing food, very little to no nutrition is lost. However, other forms of preservation such as canning kills off many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (antioxidants) in fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce won’t last as long as canned produce, but you will receive much more nutrition from it. So, just remember to label your frozen foods and eat them up within three month’s time.

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Oster Simple Blender

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Gluten-FreeRecipesSaladsVeggie-Lover Dinners

Garlic Sauteed Vegetable Medley

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It’s easy to get in a rut with vegetable dishes. We all know we should be eating more of them, but the same ol’ recipes get boring on repeat. Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat up the veggies (particularly squash) in our garden. You’ll love the variety in flavor and texture. Enjoy!

Garlic Sautéed Vegetable Medley

1 1/2 Cup Fresh Green Beans
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 Small Yellow Squash
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/3 Cup Parmesan, shredded
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Pepper

Directions:
1.  Snap the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Dice the bell peppers and cut the squash crosswise in 3/4-inch rounds.
2. Heat 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil over medium high heat in a large non-stick skillet.
3. Add vegetables and sauté about 10 minutes until the veggies are crisp-tender.
4. Move the veggies to the outside of the pan and pour the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil into the middle of the skillet. Cook the minced garlic in the olive oil for about 90 seconds before mixing it into the vegetable medley.
5. Sprinkle fresh-grated parmesan over the vegetables and cover skillet with a lid for about 1 minute until the cheese melts.
6. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes about 6 side dish servings.

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