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. 

Rigatoni with Pesto and Roasted Vegetables

rigatoni-with-pesto

Today, in our country, very few people eat the right amount of vegetables each day. Even for the most health-conscious person, eating the recommended minimum of 3-4 cups a day can be a great challenge. That challenge can become even more perplexing for those in the category of vegetable hater.

In my opinion, the best way to cook vegetables is by roasting them. It has often been my secret (and only) weapon in swaying those that are passionately dedicated to vegetable abstinence. When vegetables are roasted, they become crisp and caramelized with their sweetness concentrated. People who have often been repulsed by certain vegetables their whole life can find themselves not only tolerating them, but also truly enjoying them for the first time.

This month’s recipe covers all the bases. It’s light, filling, easy to prepare, nutritious, and delicious. The recipe can go a long way, feeding numerous people at multiple meal times. To move this dish down a couple of notches on the glycemic index, simply cut back on the pasta. I find that a little goes a long way. The big pieces of pasta can be a nice filler to a large serving of roasted vegetables, rather than being the calorie-dense focus of the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, diced large
  • 1 small eggplant, diced large
  • 1 large zucchini, diced large
  • 1 yellow squash, diced large
  • 1 red pepper, diced large
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat Rigatoni
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 2 cups spinach or arugula

Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pesto Preparation:

  1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor.
  2. Add the garlic and pulse a few more times.
  3. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup

Note: Spinach and arugula both work well either in addition to, or in place of, the basil. It is also a great way to slip some extra nutrients into your pesto. Just make sure to adjust the rest of the ingredients depending on how much you add.

Vegetable Preparation:

  1. If preparing pesto from scratch using the above recipe, do so ahead of time to cut down on total prep time. It can be done up to 3 days in advance.
  2. Preheat oven to 425-degrees
  3. Take the first 11 ingredients (down to the black pepper) and toss thoroughly in a bowl. Spray a large sheet pan or other baking sheet with non-stick spray. Spread vegetables out evenly on the pan, use two pans if necessary.
  4. Put into the 425-degree oven and roast for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Stir, rotate pan and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown (Note: Cooking times vary depending on the oven and the size of the vegetables. It is important to watch closely).
  6. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Strain, and return to the pot (off the heat) with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  7. Stir in pesto, spinach/arugula, and roasted vegetables. Season with salt and pepper if needed and garnish with Parmesan cheese and herbs such as chopped parsley or basil.

The recipe serves 12.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 253 / Fat: 9g / Saturated Fat: 2g / Carbohydrates: 36g / Fiber: 6g / Protein: 7g

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.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

This month’s recipe may sound familiar, yet many people do not know what ratatouille is other than a French culinary term, and a popular children’s movie. Ratatouille is really nothing more than a stewed vegetable dish that originated in the Provencal region of France. It has been regarded as a go-to summer meal throughout the Mediterranean coast. Traditionally, ratatouille is prepared by sautéing each item separately before being layered in a dish and baked. However, recipes have evolved so that it can be prepared faster and easier with less cooking time that in turn retains more of the nutrients in some of the vegetables. This recipe is an excellent side dish with any meal. It is also ideal to have in the fridge as a leftover to be mixed in with pasta, quinoa or soup. It can even make for a nice topper or garnish for your favorite protein dish.

The recipe makes about 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium-large diced
  • 1 eggplant, medium-large dice
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, medium-large diced
  • 1-2 zucchini, medium-large dice
  • 1-2 yellow squash, medium-large diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 (28oz) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Preparation:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot at medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add eggplant and bell peppers and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add zucchini, squash and garlic and more olive oil at this point, if needed. Continue stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add thyme, salt, pepper and tomato paste and stir together thoroughly.
  5. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add canned tomatoes and the bay leaf, then reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. The vegetables should be soft, but not mushy.
  7. Turn off the heat or set to very low and add the balsamic, basil and parsley. Stir together.

This can be served immediately, but letting it sit for longer allows the flavors to develop more intensely. Remove (or just avoid eating) the bay leaf.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 136 / Fat: 8g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 13g / 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. 

Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho

Nearly every country has at least one national dish recognized worldwide. Just as Thailand has pad thai, India is known for curry, and Spain is renowned for its paella, Vietnam has pho noodle soup. Traditional pho is a popular street food consisting of a meat-based broth cooked for hours or even days. This vegetarian version can be prepared at home in under an hour. The ingredients can be as extensive or as simplified as desired. Most recipes call for whole cloves and star anise in the broth, however, I find it unnecessary to purchase a whole jar of each just to prepare this variety.

This recipe is light but filling, and offers an assortment of nutritional benefits. It is low in calories and fat, and the herbs and spices give the soup many cleansing and detoxifying properties. There is room to add any desired vegetables to increase the nutrient density, and the flavor can be tweaked to be either subtle or bursting with the spice and heat of your preference. The recipe serves 8.

Ingredients:

Broth:

  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 large onion, diced large into about 8 chunks
  • 1 medium stick fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves (optional)
  • 3 star anise (optional)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 bunch of basil stems (reserve leaves for pho)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro stems (reserve leaves for pho)

Pho:

  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 1 8oz package baked tofu
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • sliced green onions
  • bean sprouts
  • shredded carrot
  • lightly sautéed or roasted mushrooms, sliced
  • lightly sautéed or roasted bok choy
  • thinly sliced hot peppers, such as Thai chili
  • crushed peanuts
  • lime wedges
  • fish sauce, dash
  • soy sauce, dash
  • hot sauce, dash

Preparation:

  1. Combine all of the broth ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil at high heat, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Strain broth, return to the pot, cover and keep hot at low heat. Discard solids.
  2. Meanwhile, start prepping your pho ingredients. Any combination of the above ingredients may be used and anything else desired may be added.
  3. Cook noodles according to package directions. Run under cold water to keep from overcooking.
  4. If using raw tofu, mushrooms or bok choy, I find it best to make a quick stir-fry or roast them before adding to the soup. If stir-frying, heat a large pan or wok until hot, add a tablespoon of oil (coconut is recommended for stir-frying) and add ingredients to be sautéed. Season with a bit of salt and pepper or soy sauce. If roasting, toss all ingredients in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a roasting or sheet pan (greased or sprayed) and roast for about 7-8 minutes at 400 degrees.
  5. Ladle about 1-2 cups of broth into a bowl. Add noodles and any other desired ingredients. Season to perfection.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 220 / Fat: 5g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 35g / Fiber: 5g / 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. 

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Beet Salad

Recreating restaurant meals can be a challenge for anyone, even the seasoned cook. However salads, such as this one with beets and goat cheese, are a good place to start when trying to compete with the pros in imitating items on an upscale menu. Anyone can prepare this salad; even the greenest of cooks. Its flavor and visual appeal is guaranteed to impress those served.

Just the short list of ingredients in this recipe offers a contrast of intricate flavors, while also providing copious nutritional benefits. Beets and greens are two of the world’s healthiest foods that thankfully pair well together. The tender roasted beets get enhanced with the tanginess of the goat cheese and the sweetness of the balsamic vinaigrette. This recipe is a great side salad, but it can easily be turned into a full meal with the addition of some hearty ingredients such as nuts, beans, or avocado. For added color, I like to do a mix of red and yellow beets. This salad serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium fresh beets
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5-8 ounces spring mix or arugula
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • ¼ cup (2oz) goat cheese

Dressing

  • ½ shallot finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Thoroughly wash the beets then separate them from their leaves. Discard the stems and leaves (the leaves can be saved and eaten).
  2. Toss the beets with the 3 tbsp. of salt and then put them in a pan and into a 375-degree oven.
  3. Check them after 30 minutes by piercing one with a pairing knife. If they do not feel soft enough for the knife to easily penetrate to the middle of the beet, put them back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Note: A very large beet can take over an hour to cook while a small one can be done in 20-30 minutes. The size of your beets will determine your cook time.
  4. Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, then peel the skin off with a knife and slice them into 4-6 pieces (again, depending on the size of the beet). Cool completely in the refrigerator.
  5. Prep the rest of the salad while the beets are cooling off and layer in a large bowl. Sprinkle with goat cheese and top with the roasted & cooled beets.
  6. Drizzle with dressing after serving.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 147 / Fat: 7g / Saturated Fat: 3g / Carbohydrates: 9g / 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.

Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Soft Serve Ice Cream

I was recently reading Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die, a hardcover written by the founder of nutritionfacts.org that discusses many of the foods that have been scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. The book is very informative, while also being an interesting read for those who are curious about a plant-based diet. While I learned an abundance of scientific facts from Dr. Greger’s latest book, most of his culinary advice simply helped reiterate what I have often practiced in my own cooking, both personally and professionally. However, the beauty of a career in foods and nutrition is that you are constantly learning, and even the most seasoned expert will never come close to knowing it all.

In one of the chapters on the antioxidant power of frozen berries Dr. Greger explains how he makes his favorite dessert, soft-serve ice cream, by simply blending fruit in a blender. While I have made ice cream many times in my life in an ice cream maker with plenty of cream and eggs, this simplified and healthier version was completely new to me. After trying it, I was pleasantly surprised how delicious it turned out to be.

One of Dr. Greger’s simplest recipes is just blending up frozen, very ripe (the riper/browner the better) bananas. The banana puree is great by itself, but I have found it to be a great base for other ice creams. There are really no rules to the recipes. It is a matter of playing and having a bit of fun making ice cream to your preference. I found that adding a bit of almond milk one splash at a time helps to get the mixture going while putting less stress on the blender. A squirt of honey and vanilla extract, a drop of coconut oil or a tablespoon of almond butter can easily enhance the flavor of a tart berry. The nutrition can always be enhanced a bit with some chia seeds, a handful of nuts or a scoop of protein powder. If you drop a bit too much liquid into the blender and end up with a milkshake, so be it. Grab a straw and enjoy!

This recipe is for a chocolate berry-banana ice cream taken from the book, but I tweaked it a bit; any ingredients can be omitted and/or replaced quite easily. I do recommend having a pretty strong blender or adding enough liquid, as a cheap blender will burn out quickly with dry ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe frozen banana, sliced in to 3 or 4 chunks
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 capful vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (optional)
  • handful pitted dates (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Pulse all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. If you have trouble blending everything thoroughly, add more almond milk. If it is too thin and you do not want a milkshake then add more fruit.

The recipe makes about 2 servings.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 150 / Fat: 6g / Saturated Fat: 2g /Carbohydrates: 24g / Fiber: 5g / Protein 4g

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.