Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Butternut-Black Bean Tacos

Why butternut and black bean tacos? Why not? Butternut squashes are fabulous. Anything inside a taco is fabulous. So butternut squash in a taco is…well…doubly fabulous.

Butternut squash is my favorite squash because it’s so versatile, and its flavor is so delicately sweet. It’s not fun to peel, but once you get past that part, you can do pretty much anything with it. So for this recipe, I’ve paired it with black beans, not just for the protein but because the two ingredients make such a beautiful contrast. Throw in some red bell pepper and it’s a sight to behold.

So, yeah, tacos. What’s not to love?

Butternut-Black Bean Tacos

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots or chopped red onion
3 large garlic cloves
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chili powder
6 (6-inch) tortillas

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes for shallots, 5 minutes for onions.Add red pepper and sauté until softened, another 5 minutes.Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add squash and salt and sauté until softened and squash starts to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is soft.

Add beans and chili powder. Stir and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. If there’s any liquid left in the pan, let it evaporate. Adjust seasoning if needed.Heat the tortillas over a flame or in a pan. Top the tortillas with the vegetables. Enjoy!

 

 

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Asparagus-Cheddar Open-Faced Sandwiches

Asparagus and cheese go beautifully together, and in this recipe I pair asparagus with cheddar for an open-faced sandwich.

The nice thing about open-faced sandwiches is that if you’re using fresh, flavorful ingredients—in this case, asparagus and shiitake mushrooms—their flavors won’t be crowded out or buried by all the bread. Yet you can still have the easy, quick convenience of a sandwich. It’s also easier on the carb intake. But it still satisfies your hunger.

Give it a try when you want a quick but delicious meal. Enjoy!

Asparagus-Cheddar Open-Faced Sandwiches

½ lb. asparagus
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 slices whole grain bread
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Garnish: 1 or 2 tablespoon finely diced red bell pepper

Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and broil, turning over once, until browned on both sides, about 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus.Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt,  and sauté about 3 or 4 minutes, or until nicely browned.Toast the bread until medium brown. On each slice, place half the asparagus, half the mushrooms, and top with half the cheese. Place I toaster oven or oven or broiler until the cheese melts.Sprinkle with red pepper, if using. Serve hot.

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Sprouted Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Garlic Dressing

I love cooking with quinoa. It’s not only one of the most nutritious grains—a so-called “superfood”—it’s also deliciously nutty and the texture is slightly crunchy, even while it’s tender.

If you’re already cooking with quinoa, and other nutritious grains, such as amaranth and millet, you’re doing a good deed for your body. Quinoa is one of the only grains that has protein and, of course, it’s gluten free. But if you want to take your healthy ways a step further you might want to incorporate sprouted grains into your diet. You may or may not have heard about sprouted grains, but they are now available as uncooked grains, in dried pastas, and breads, as well as other products.

So what’s the deal with sprouted grains?

Grains contain phytic acid, which is also referred to as an “antinutrient” because of its tendency to block absorption of certain minerals. Phytic acid binds to such nutrients as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. So, while quinoa is a good source of these nutrients, the phytic acid can block them from being aborbed into your system.

Sprouting neutralizes phytic acids, as well as enzyme inhibitors, making the grains’ nutrients more bioavailable. Essential amino acids, such as lysine, also get blocked. Quinoa is one of the few grains on earth that contains lysine, so sprouting quinoa, in particular, is advantageous. Plus, germination produces vitamin C and increases the grain’s (or bean’s or seed’s) B vitamins. Sprouted quinoa looks and tastes just like regular quinoa, except with the added benefits.

You can find packages of sprouted quinoa in health food stores, but considering how much standard supermarkets’ shelves have expanded to include products for health-conscious consumers, who knows, you might be able to find sprouted quinoa in your neighborhood supermarket—if not now, then in the near future.

Sprouted Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Makes 6 servings.

1½ cups diced eggplant
3 cups diced zucchini
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon + a pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large plum tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, skin on
1 cup sprouted quinoa
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet, or line it with foil or parchment paper. Do the same with a small baking sheet.

Combine the eggplant and zucchini in a bowl. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, grind in some black pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables out on the large baking sheet. (You can line the sheet with aluminum foil or parchment, if you like.)Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 20 to 30 minutes.Cut the tomatoes in half and removed the seeds. Dice the tomatoes and place in a medium bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Lay the tomatoes out on the small baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally until tender and browned, about 30 minutes.Place the garlic cloves on a piece of aluminum foil. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil on them, and wrap the foil. Place on a small baking sheet (you can place the packet on one of the baking sheets the other vegetables are on).Roast until soft, about 20 minutes.While the vegetables are roasting, combine the quinoa with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, half covered, until the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Unwrap the garlic. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of the skin into a small bowl. Add the extra virgin olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and sea salt. Whisk until well blended.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and quinoa. Add the dressing and mix well. Mix in the parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

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Peanut Butter & Cranberry Sandwich

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A while back, while scrolling through photos of food on Instagram,  I came across a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was enticing.

Let me just say that while I love peanut butter, I’m not fond of jelly. So, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches, sans jelly.

But the PB&J in this photo was so delicious looking, so scrumptious, that it made me think for a moment that maybe I’d been wrong. Maybe I’d judged jelly too harshly. Maybe I should give it another try.

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Mmm, no. I’m old enough to know what I like and don’t like. Honey, yes. Jelly, no.

Then, a thought hit me. What if…now, hear me out…what if I made a peanut butter and cranberry sandwich? I had a jar of homemade cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve used cranberry sauce for many things—why not a sandwich?

And, so, I did. And it was crazy good. I mean crazy AND good.

No, I was right the first time. Crazy good.

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Soy-Mirin Glaze and Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

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Leave the zucchini and other fair-weather vegetables to summer. Winter calls for thick-skinned squashes. img_6321

My favorite is butternut squash. In my opinion, it not only has the best flavor, but the best texture as well. When cooked down, it’s creamy and smooth, and incredibly diverse. 

Roasting brings out the sweetness and beauty in most vegetables, but this is especially true of squash. My mother wanted me to roast squash for Thanksgiving and I wanted to come up with something that was familiar, that I knew would be liked, but something every-so-slightly different. I came up with an easy, delicious honey-soy-mirin glaze and honey-pomegranate sauce…because, you know, pomegranates. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard how healthful pomegranates are. Here’s a quick rundown of their health benefits:

Based on US RDA, one cup of pomegranate seeds contains 7 grams fiber, 3 img_6349grams protein, 30% vitamin C, 36% vitamin K, 16% folate, and 12% potassium. They have antiinflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.They help fight cancer, especially prostate and breast, and heart disease, and have been known to improve memory function.

Delicious AND healthy. Do you need anything more? Give this a try on a cold winter day…or even a warm one. Enjoy!img_6356

Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Soy-Mirin Glaze and Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

2-3 pound butternut squash
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

1 pomegranate
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine or ginger ale

Grease a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place them in a large bowl.img_6324In a small bowl, mix together the honey, olive oil, soy sauce, mirin. pour over the squash.img_6325

Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Use your hands to spread the mixture over both sides of the squash. Lay the slices neatly on the baking sheet in a single layer.

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Roast until almost tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the slices over and continue roasting until fully tender and golden brown at the edges.img_6348Meanwhile, make the Honey-Pomegranate Sauce. Cut open the pomegranate and place the pieces in a large bowl of cool water. Separate the seeds from the membrane and discard the skin. Let the membranes rise to the top and scoop them out.img_6353Drain in a mesh strainer and rinse.img_6355Measure out ½ cup seeds and place in a small pot. Reserve the remaining seeds for the top or another purpose. Mix together the honey and wine and add to pomegranate seeds. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.img_6358Transfer cooked squash to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over top, sprinkle on some fresh pomegranate seeds, and serve.img_6371

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Ah, The Cranberry Sauce

Still looking at the bowl of leftover cranberry sauce in the fridge? The nice img_0020thing about cranberry sauce is that it has a pretty long shelf life (the sugar acts as a preservative). But the question is always, what do I do with it all?

Well, I’m here to help. Once again, here is my list of 12 things to do with leftover cranberry sauce.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of it into chicken or tuna salad.
  2. Make a salad dressing. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a homemade vinaigrette.
  3. Use it as a sauce for meats, vegetables, fish, and (my favorite) vegetarian “chicken” patties.
  4. Mix about ½ cup to 1 cup of it into cheesecake before placing it in the oven. (Just swirl it in; don’t overmix.)
  5. Dollop some on top of slices of pound or angel cake.
  6. Stir about 1 cup of it into a big pot of chili.
  7. Make ketchup out of it—add it to a traditional homemade ketchup recipe.
  8. Turn it into salsa by adding some minced jalapeno or some chili powder and cumin to it, or a chutney by adding other dried or fresh fruits, such as raisins, chopped dates, or chopped apple.
  9. Use it as jam for toast, muffins, or bagels.
  10. Mix about ¼ cup into muffin batter (these will be the best cranberry muffins ever!).
  11. Use it as an ingredient in homemade ice cream.
  12. Add it to a breakfast bread.img_5650

This recipe is a healthy loaf (which many people appreciate after Thanksgiving), using whole wheat flour and flax seeds. You can have a healthy post-Thanksgiving breakfast or snack while still enjoying holiday flavors. You don’t need a lot of sugar, either, because there are sweeteners already in the sauce. As for the flax seeds, use a clean coffee grinder to grind it until you get a coarse powder. Enjoy!

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Cranberry Sauce-Walnut Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
2 tablespoons sugar or maple crystals
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
½ cup cranberry sauce
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that parchment sticks out of the sides (or grease it very well).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, flax seeds, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.img_5633In a small bowl, mix together eggs and buttermilk.img_5634Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened.img_5635Stir in the walnuts. Swirl in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—you just want it to run through the batter.img_5638Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the toothpick is okay.

Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.

If you have any cranberry sauce left, dollop a spoonful on each slice.img_5654

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Amaranth Pilaf and Red Onions

Roasted Spaghetti SquashMore spaghetti squash? Why not? It’s squash season, after all. Squash is synonymous with autumn. img_6232

Although spaghetti squash can be found from fall through the spring, there’s something comforting and pleasurable about roasting vegetables in the fall, especially squash. And since many people aren’t sure what to do with spaghetti squash, I’ve been offering some recipes. Last week, I offered Easy Spaghetti Squash Chili. This week, I have for you Roasted Maple-Bourbon Spaghetti Squash with Amaranth Pilaf.

Cultivated by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago, amaranth is a tiny little grain that is surprisingly high in protein, as well as other nutrients. One cup of raw amaranth contains 28 grams of protein, 15 milligrams of iron, and 18 milligrams of fiber, which makes it one of the most nutrient-rich grains on earth. img_6256

Amaranth is also a great source of lysine, a protein-rich amino acid. This is good news for those of us who suffer from canker and cold sores. L-lysine has been shown to shorten the life span of canker sores. I can personally attest to this because when one of those little monsters starts making itself known, I start digging into the giant bottle of lysine, and believe me, it works.

So this dish makes the perfect side dish to any autumn meal, but because of the amaranth and almonds, it also is a satisfying entree on its own. And spaghetti squash is low in calories, low in carbs, and almost fat free, so whatever diet you may be on, you can’t go wrong with this squash. You can serve it in lovely slices, or you can scrape out the spaghetti-like flesh and eat it like a pasta dish. Continue reading