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Balsamic Bruschetta

Bruschetta

This month’s recipe is a simple procedure for preparing the classic bruschetta. It’s slightly heavy on the balsamic, which adds a bit of sweetness and acidity to contrast the pungency of the garlic and onions. This bruschetta is perfect as a traditional appetizer topped on a toasted baguette or crostini. This low-calorie, nutrient-dense bruschetta also makes for a flawless and flavorful garnish to beans, pastas, salads and more. The recipe makes about 8 half-cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl. Allow sitting in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.
  2. Adjust seasoning as needed. Strain any excess juice from the bowl and serve.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 66 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 6g / Protein: 1g

The Tomato’s Long Strange Trip

Perhaps because of our love of pizza and pasta most Americans think of the tomato as something quintessentially Italian. But, the tomato actually originated in South America, where a wild form of it grew in what is now Peru. How and when cultivation of the fruit started is not really known but, generally believed that farming of tomatoes had spread north to what is now Mexico by about 500 B.C. As passionate as we are about tomatoes here in the U.S., it’s ironic that the tomato was not introduced by our next door neighbor to the South but, from Europe. It’s true! To get to the U.S., the tomato took a long circuitous route from Mexico to the Caribbean to Europe in the 1500’s, either by Christopher Columbus or Hernan Cortes after he captured Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). The tomato thrived in the Mediterranean climate but, it wasn’t widely adopted as a food until the 1700’s. The tomato itself probably arrived in the U.S. via Caribbean immigrants or possibly earlier on 16th and 17th century on Spanish, but was generally thought to be poisonous. Thomas Jefferson discovered a taste for tomatoes in Paris in the 1700’s brought them back to the U.S. to grow as food. It wasn’t for almost another hundred years, however, when Alexander Livingston, a farmer and scientist, bred larger sweeter tomatoes, that the tomato took hold in the North American diet. In the end, it took nearly 500 years for the tomato to cross the Mexican border to arrive in American cuisine.

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This month’s recipe is a play on traditional tabbouleh, but instead of using the conventional bulgur, it calls for tender, nutty quinoa instead. The flavor and the nutritional value are very similar, but the quinoa turns this classic Middle Eastern dish into a complete protein. This tabbouleh is a filling and energizing meal on its own, but also a great side dish when paired with most entrees. The make-ahead salad is perfect for backyard barbecues, and stays good for up to one week after preparation. The recipe makes 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 English cucumber, diced into ¼ – inch pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil at high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat, stir quinoa well and transfer to a shallow baking dish for cooling. Cool in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes.
  3. Put the garlic and lemon juice in a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  4. Mix together all ingredients thoroughly and check the seasoning. More salt, pepper or lemon juice may be needed.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 224 / Fat: 12g / Saturated Fat: 2g / Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 5g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

roasted-cauliflower

Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family that has many uses in cooking. It is often a great low-glycemic substitute for potatoes in purees and gratins, and it is a nice addition to stir-fries and vegetable medleys. It is often overlooked on its own as a key vegetable to be paired with a meal, but when roasted with a little oil and salt, it turns succulently sweet and caramel brown.

This month’s recipe turns the dial on the flavor profile of roasted cauliflower up several notches. The sweetness of the coconut oil and the maple syrup paired with the soy sauce and the spice of the curry gives it a contrast of flavors that makes the cauliflower tantalizing. It is so easy to prepare that even the most novice cook can pull it off, and it is likely that you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. The fact that the recipe costs under a couple of dollars to prepare is a nice bonus as well. The recipe makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a small sauce pan.
  3. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Spread cauliflower out on a greased/sprayed sheet pan. Leave any remaining juices in the bowl and discard.
  4. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 119 / Fat: 7g / Saturated Fat: 6g / Carbohydrates: 11g / Fiber: 3g / Protein: 3g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Southwest Black Bean Soup

black-bean-soup

This month’s recipe is an easy to prepare black bean soup with hints of spicy southwestern flavors. It is very filling, but is low in calories and fat, and high in protein and fiber. This can be a great first-course or can be the center of the meal by itself. There is the option to blend part or all of the soup after it is finished cooking, but it is not a requirement. Blending half of the soup gives it a nice consistency, and is less work on the digestive system, however the flavors remain evident regardless. The recipe makes about 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 14oz cans black beans
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • dash of hot sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and jalapeño and stir often for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the next three spices. Cook down, stirring continuously for about another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the black beans and the vegetable stock/broth. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from the heat. Season liberally with salt, pepper, hot sauce, lime juice and taste. If needed, add more seasoning and thin the soup with more stock/broth.
  6. Blend half of the soup in the blender or with an immersion blender and return to the pot (optional). Garnish with the cilantro before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 168 / Fat: 3.5g / Saturated Fat: .5g / Carbohydrates: 26g / Fiber: 6g / Protein: 8g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.

Sweet Potato Salad

sweet-potato-salad

Sweet potatoes usually show up as the star of one of these recipes at least once or twice a year. They are not only very versatile for cooking (their uses and preparation methods are endless), but they are consistently ranked by various food and nutrition publications as one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. As a complex carbohydrate, they fall low on the glycemic index, making them beneficial for controlling blood sugar.

This month’s recipe is a lighter take on the classic potato salad. The sugariness of the sweet potato adds some extra, unique flavor often lacking in the traditional version, and the added nutrition turns a guilty pleasure into a wholesome side dish. There is always plenty of room to play around with this recipe. It can be prepared with a mix of red and/or yellow potatoes to allow for more flavor contrast, and more mayo and sour cream can be added for a richer and denser final product. The recipe makes about 10-12 half-cup servings.

Ingredients:

5 large sweet potatoes

1 small to medium-sized onion, diced

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

Pinch of salt and pepper

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

½ teaspoon of onion powder

½ teaspoon of dried dill

Shot of hot sauce

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. Dice sweet potatoes into medium-sized chunks.
  2. Boil a pot of water and drop your potatoes into the boiling water. Cooking time will vary depending on the potato, but let them boil for 5-10 minutes until cooked all the way through, but not to the point of mashed potatoes.
  3. Strain the potatoes and lay them on a sheet pan to cool. They can go in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool faster.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet at medium heat and cook the onion for about 5-10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.
  5. Add it along with the rest of the ingredients to a bowl. Mix everything together.
  6. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust it accordingly to your preference.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 116 / Fat: 4g / Saturated Fat: 1.5g / Carbohydrates: 17g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 3g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Stuffed Peppers

stuffed-peppers

This month’s recipe is a quick and easy meal that can be prepared with ingredients that you likely already have in your kitchen. Stuffed peppers are a filling and nutritious meal on their own when served with vegetables or a salad, but they also make for a healthy and satisfying side dish. There are many variations of stuffed peppers found across the world in the cuisines of Spain, Mexico, India, and the Middle East, to name a few.

This recipe is a classic vegetarian version with southwestern and Mexican flavors.  It is meant to be light, but there is always room for more cheese to add to the density, and additional spice and seasonings are welcome. I advise using a hot salsa and/or adding a few shots of hot sauce to the mix if you prefer a little heat. Brown rice can be used to increase the amount of fiber, and chopped cilantro as a garnish adds a bit of flair to the finished product. A little extra salsa, picante sauce or hot sauce also makes for a nice condiment when serving. The recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on the size of your pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 large red or green bell peppers – tops, seeds and membranes removed
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16oz can salsa
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ingredients together.
  3. Stuff each pepper with the rice and bean mix.
  4. Place them in a sprayed/greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove foil, top the peppers with extra cheese, if desired, and return to the oven uncovered for another 5-10 minutes or until the tops start to brown and the peppers are soft.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 175 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 3g / Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 5g / Protein: 5g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, http://www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica. 

Thai Curry Noodle Soup

curry-noodle-soup

This month’s recipe is a classic Thai curry soup that is very quick and easy to prepare. I have been a big fan of Thai food since my teens, but my true love affair with it commenced during my travels in Southeast Asia a few years ago.  After sampling as many different dishes as possible while touring that section of the continent, I have spent many days and nights trying to recreate authentic versions of all of my favorites. I have had mixed luck competing with the authenticity of the pros in Thailand, but this red curry soup comes pretty close to one you might find on the street in Bangkok.

This recipe makes for a very satiating meal that provides numerous health benefits. The herbs and spices, along with the onion, garlic and ginger provide an abundance of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying elements to the dish. While coconut oil and coconut milk have gotten a bad rap in the past for their high amount of saturated fats, recent studies have shown them both to actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good cholesterol), while reducing arterial damage and providing minerals such as manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.  Using light coconut milk in this recipe helps to cut back on the total calories and fat in the dish.

This curry soup can be prepared in well under an hour even with the lengthy prep work involved. However, when time is on your side, more flavor will develop the longer it sits at low heat. There is always room for any additional vegetables, such as the optional mushrooms and kale, and you won’t go wrong adding in another protein such as chicken or shrimp. The recipe makes about 8-12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 3 cups light coconut milk
  • 2 cups kale, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 package thin rice noodles
  • 1-2 limes cut up into wedges
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced scallions
  • fresh basil
  • bean sprouts
  • thinly sliced fresh red chili peppers (optional)
  • thinly sliced bell pepper (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Heat a large stockpot to medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the coconut oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and red curry paste and stir continuously for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable stock or broth and stir thoroughly, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add any desired (optional) vegetables of your choice at this point, such as mushrooms and/or kale.
  4. Add the tofu at the last 2 minutes of cooking to heat through.
  5. Taste the broth and season to preference with kosher salt and/or a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce if needed.
  6. You can either cook the noodles according to the package directions and cool them by running under cold water, or you can break a chunk off and put them in a bowl dry and ladle the hot soup over top and allow to sit for a couple of minutes until they soften.
  7. Squeeze a couple of wedges of lime into the soup bowl and garnish with the rest of the desired ingredients.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 235 / Fat: 11g / Saturated Fat: 5g / Carbohydrates: 26g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 11g

Brandon McDearis is the owner of Your Way Cuisine, www.yourwaycuisine.com, a personal chef and nutrition consulting business. He is also a professional wanderer that spends much of his year trotting the globe and working in places such as Alaska, Australia, and Antarctica.