Savory Salmon with Spaghetti Squash

IMG 0957 1 Savory Salmon with Spaghetti Squash

I’ll admit that I have not always been a fan of salmon.

About 10 years ago, I ordered a salmon dish that was on a menu at a ranch in Colorado, since it was basically my only option besides steak (not a surprise, considering the setting.) Without going into detail, let’s just say that I couldn’t even look at salmon for years, much less think about eating it.

Finally, I got up the nerve to prepare the heart-healthy fish for myself after reading so much about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, and now I’m a huge fan! This recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon, but it’s also good on a simple bed of whole grains with a side of steamed veggies.

Just a note: Wild-caught salmon has higher levels of usable omega-3s than their farm-raised counterparts. In addition, most farmed salmon has artificial “pink” coloring added to it, and are their feed often contains pesticides and other nasty synthetic (often toxic) ingredients.  Wild salmon is the way to go!

Now, let’s get on with the recipe, which serves 2 people:

Ingredients:

2  5-oz. salmon filets

1/3 C  Zero % fat Greek yogurt

3 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (use less if you don’t like a little spice!)

1 med. spaghetti squash (makes about 4 cups)

1 med. red onion, sliced thinly

4 Tbsp. Bragg Liquid Amino Acids (you can substitute low-sodium soy sauce, but the calories will be a bit higher.)

Dash of granulated garlic

Spaghetti Squash:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse squash, the cut in half lengthwise and scrape out all seeds.

Sprinkle the inside of the squash with garlic salt and pepper, the place (cut side down) in  a 9×13  baking dish with about 1/4″ of water on the bottom. Cover.

Bake 45 min. or until you can easily pull the strands apart with a fork.

Going in the same direction as the strands, pull them apart and place on a plate. (You might need to microwave this for a few seconds before serving with the salmon; it cools quickly.)

Greek Yogurt Topping:

Mix together Greek yogurt, 1 tsp. lemon juice, dried basil, and cayenne.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Onion:

Cut each onion slice in half.

Spray a small pan with ze0-calorie cooking spray, and cook onion over medium heat, spraying again (if necessary) to prevent sticking.

Cook until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 10 min.

Salmon:

First, mix marinade ingredients (Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce, 2 tsp. lemon juice, granulated garlic) in a small bowl.

Place salmon (thawed, if using frozen) skin-side down on a deep plate and brush with 1/3 of the marinade.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

Spray heated pan with zero-calorie cooking spray (like canola).

Place salmon in the pan and pour remaining marinade over the top to coat.

Cook over medium heat, 4-5 min. per side, or until cooked through.

Remove skin, if necessary.

Assembly:

On a dinner plate, layer spaghetti squash, then onion, then salmon, and top with Greek yogurt mixture.

Nutrition Information:

(Per serving, serves 2)

Calories: 286

Fat: 8.5 g (1.5 g saturated)

Fiber: 5 g

Protein: 26.5 g

 

 

 

Savory Spicy Tofu

IMG 0657 1 Savory Spicy Tofu

Tofu is a great low-calorie protein, and a food that I use to help me maintain my desired weight. Alot of people have an aversion to tofu, but that’s mainly because they don’t know how to prepare it or have had a bad experience. I’ve had people tell me, “I’ve tried tofu and didn’t like it.” Come to find out, they tried a bite of plain tofu straight from the package. No wonder they didn’t like it! Tofu is wonderfully versatile, it just takes a little experimentation to find what works for your individual taste.

It took me awhile to develop tofu recipes that I would actually look forward to eating and wanted to share with the world. I finally learned some tricks of the tofu trade and this spicy tofu recipe is one of my all-time favorites.

I do recommend using the Bragg liquid aminos (found in most health food stores and some regular grocery stores) in this recipe because it has zero calories and tastes great. Also, I always use organic tofu, or at least non-GMO tofu to be sure that the soybeans were not genetically modified.

This dish can be served warm or cold (I prefer it warm, but it depends how you want to serve it.)

Ingredients:

14 oz. block low-fat extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

2 T Bragg liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce

1 ½ T Sriracha hot chili sauce

1 T brown rice vinegar

½ T agave nectar

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 ½ T vegan mayonnaise

Directions:

  1. Cut tofu into ¼” to ½” cubes.
  2. Preheat large nonstick skillet, spray with zero-cal cooking spray. Cook tofu over medium-high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  3. While tofu is cooking, combine liquid aminos (or soy sauce), Sriracha, vinegar, agave nectar, sesame oil and 1 T water in a small bowl.
  4. When tofu is golden, add mixture to the skillet and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat, then toss the tofu with mayonnaise and serve.

Serves 2

(Per Serving) Calories: 153, Fat: 7g, Fiber: .5g, Protein: 14g

Serving Suggestions:

-       As a green salad topping

-       Over a bed of brown rice and steamed veggies

-       In a pita with lettuce

-       With stir-fried rice noodles and veggies

-       As spring roll filling

In the featured photo, I served the tofu on a bed of romaine leaves with raw orange bell pepper, tomatoes, and pine nuts.

Mediterranean Kale Quinoa

This is a really healthy dish, and a great way to include some kale in your diet. My husband, who is not a big fan of kale, even likes this meal. I left out the exact ingredient measurements so that you can adapt to your personal preference, but the ingredient combination really works. I always keep some quinoa, veggie stock, and garbanzo beans on hand, so I don’t really have to buy much at the store when I decide to whip this up.Mediterranean Kale Quinoa Mediterranean Kale Quinoa

1.Cook quinoa according to directions on the box or bag, using low-sodium vegetable stock instead of water.

2. Sautee some chopped onion, garlic and orange (or yellow) bell pepper until soft, using olive oil or cooking spray. I like to season the veggies with some cayenne and/or black pepper when they are almost finished cooking.

3.Sautee some kale (see my recipe below).*

4. Warm some garbanzo beans.

5.In a large bowl, combine vegetables and garbanzo beans, spoon mixture over the  quinoa.

6. Top with either plain Greek yogurt (mixed with a little lemon juice) or some Tzatziki sauce.

I like to serve this dish with a mini pita or two. You can also add a little crumbled feta cheese to the recipe, if desired.

*My favorite way to make sautéed kale:

1 lb. fresh kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or finely sliced

½ cup low-sodium vegetable stock

1Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Warm olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add garlic and cook until just softened. Increase to high heat, add kale and vegetable stock, cover, cook 5-7 minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Toss with red wine vinegar and lightly season with garlic salt, pepper, or your choice of seasonings to taste.

My Favorite Flatbread Pizza

      Flatbread pizzas are one of my favorite things to make for lunch. They are low-calorie, taste amazing, and are packed with healthy veggies. Here’s how I usually make them, but there are lots of different flavor options that are fun to experiment with:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Spray baking sheet with zero-cal cooking spray.

-Place the flatbread on the baking sheet. I use FlatOut brand (90-120 cal. My Favorite Flatbread1 My Favorite Flatbread Pizzaper flatbread).

-Spread one wedge of Laughing Cow light cheese (35 cal.) to evenly cover the flatbread.

-Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a pan and sautee a mixture of your favorite vegetables until soft, adding some seasoning as you go. I typically use fresh garlic, onion, spinach, broccoli, mushroom, and bell pepper with a vegetable seasoning blend. Hint: If the pan gets dry, use a little of your zero-cal cooking spray.

-Spread the veggies around the flatbread, then top with some low-calorie cheese. I also like to top mine with flaxseeds and halved grape tomatoes before baking.

-Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until flatbread is crispy around the edges.

-Using a pizza cutter, slice into 4 pieces and enjoy!

Other Ideas:  Spoon a little marinara over the flatbread for a more authentic “pizza” flavor. Or, try making a Mexican pizza using jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, vegetarian refried beans, chunky salsa, green chilis, etc. The possibilities are endless!

That’s How I Roll (Sushi)

 

Mango Tuna Roll Resize Thats How I Roll (Sushi)

Living in a small town in Colorado has its’ advantages. Sushi availability is not one of them. After one too many encounters with questionable fish (I’m not a fan of gambling with the freshness of my seafood), I decided it was time to take sushi making into my own hands…literally.

     The learning process was not without a few mishaps. It looked like a rice cooker exploded in my kitchen on the first attempt, and I there was definitely a backup food plan for “just in case it doesn’t turn out.” I watched an instructional DVD, which was much like a Sushi 101 class, which was actually very helpful. What I wish my virtual professor would have told me about, however, is the existence of pre-rinsed sushi rice.  I learned of this magical product after I had made sushi a few times, and tried not to think about the moments of my life that were wasted on the mind-numbing task of rice washing.

      Having eaten sushi in different parts of the world really opened my eyes to more creative ingredient combinations. Apple, for instance, is one of my favorite ingredients. It adds an incredible sweet crunchiness, but you do have to be open to the idea of unconventional flavor and texture.  I even use a soft, low-calorie cheese (like Laughing Cow wedges) instead of cream cheese in some rolls because it gives a nice creaminess without being too rich.

    My latest roll combos:

1. (Pictured) Mango Tuna Roll – Inside: spicy tuna and lobster mix*, red bell pepper and mango. Outside: Mango, Ahi tuna, crunch and Sriracha.

2. Spicy Crab Roll – Inside: Spicy crab, roasted red pepper, cucumber. That’s it.

3. Random Roll – Inside: Spicy crab, apple, carrot, red bell pepper. Outside: lightly seared  Ahi tuna with a dot of hot sauce on each piece.

* I make a really easy spicy mixture by combining Sriracha (the red sauce with the rooster on the bottle) and vegan mayo…much healthier than regular mayo, and I think the flavor is better. Then, I mix that combo with chopped seafood or veggies.

       I get the majority of my ingredients at the local Natural Foods store, but most grocery stores carry the basic ingredients you will need. I’ve never found packaged real crab that doesn’t taste “fishy”….let me know if you have. FYI, I went to buy some ginger the other day from the Oriental Foods store and saw Aspartame and Saccharin on the ingredient list, so beware of that!

If you’ve never made sushi before, I recommend giving it a try. It takes a little time, but designing your own ingredient combinations is really fun. If nothing else, you will appreciate the work that goes into the sushi you eat at a restaurant!

The What’s Big Deal About Organic Produce?

I’ve heard stories of people who refuse to eat a food if it’s touched something non-organic. I am not one of those people! I do, however, make an effort to include many organic fruits and veggies into my diet. I want to have the least amount of unnecessary, unhealthy chemicals in my body as possible, without being too freaked out about it.

I pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists put out by the Environmental Working Group. The “Dirty Dozen” items contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving AFTER being washed with a high-pressure washer. Yes, I like to avoid eating random pesticides, call me crazy. The “Dirty Dozen” foods are believed to absorb more pesticides because they have soft skin as opposed to the “Clean 15” which have a tougher outer layer. Here’s the EWG’s 2010 list:

THE DIRTY DOZEN THE CLEAN 15
1. Celery 1. Onions
2. Peaches 2. Avocados
3. Strawberries 3. Sweet Corn
4. Apples 4. Pineapples
5. Domestic blueberries 5. Mangoes
6. Nectarines 6.  Sweet Peas
7. Sweet bell peppers 7. Asparagus
8. Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens 8.  Kiwi fruit
9. Cherries 9. Cabbage
10. Potatoes 10. Eggplant
11. Imported grapes 11. Cantaloupe
12. Lettuce 12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potatoes
  15. Sweet Onions

(This list comes in especially handy since organic produce can be more expensive. If you’re budgeting grocery dollars, it’s pretty safe to buy the “Clean 15” in their conventional form.)

What types of pesticides are used?

It really depends on the type of produce, (and I can’t pronounce most of the pesticide names) but what we do know is that many chemicals that have been banned in other countries are still being used in the U.S., which is pretty scary.  Even if the chemical isn’t as dangerous by itself, when you start creating a ‘chemical cocktail’ and combining substances, often the reaction in your body is not a good one. Take celery (it looks so innocent) for instance…..The USDA Pesticide Data Program reported 64 (!) pesticides, with carcinogens, neurotoxins and and developmental toxins present.   Whatsonmyfood.org  is a great resource for finding out what chemicals are used on specific types of food.

Why do we want to avoid pesticide overload?

Pesticide buildup has been linked to many health problems, from Parkinson’s Disease to headaches, and

  • Immune system weakness
  • Breast and other types of cancer
  • Reproductive damage
  • Disruption of hormonal systems

Conventional vs. Organic Farming

Conventional farmers Organic farmers
Use chemical fertilizers to make plants grow faster. Use natural fertilizers like manure or compost to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to get rid of pests and disease. Use ‘helpful’ insects and birds, mating disruption and/or traps to get rid of pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to keep weeds from growing. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to keep weeds under control.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s good to be informed about what is being used in your food’s production, especially when it can have a negative impact on your health. I don’t buy organic ALL the time, but I try to avoid chemical buildup in my body.  I just want everyone to know this stuff because then you can make smart choices about your food and your health.

Your New Weight Loss BFFs

I wanted to share with you a list of foods that will REALLY help you lose weight (I know they really helped me) because they are more filling than other foods. Therefore….you won’t be tempted to eat too much because you are full, and for longer!

Here is a list of:

  1. Foods that are high in fiber. They stay in your stomach longer after you eat them…and
  2. High Protein, low-calorie foods. Lean proteins also pack a lot of substance and help keep you from overeating.  Low-calorie is an important factor because some high-protein foods (like red meat) can contain lots of calories and fat.  Fine in moderation, but not your best weight loss ‘friend.’

HIGH FIBER FOODS:

Apple with skin- 4.4g/ 1 medium

Pear with skin-    5.1g/ 1 medium

Raspberries-       8g/ 1 Cup

Artichoke-            6g/ 1 medium

Broccoli-               3g/ 1 Cup

Peas, cooked-     6g/ 1 Cup

Potato, baked-    4g/ 1 medium

(with skin)

Edamame-           8g/ 1 Cup

(Soy Beans)

Black Beans-        10g/ 1 Cup

Lentils-                  16g/ 1 Cup

Chick Peas-           8g/ 1 Cup

(Garbanzo Beans)

Quinoa-                 24g/ 1 Cup (*)

Oatmeal-               4g/ 1 Cup

(*) If you don’t have much fiber in your diet right now, work your way up to larger amounts and drink water with your fiber.

HIGH PROTEIN, LOW-CALORIE FOODS:

Low-Fat Greek yogurt               6 oz.               6g protein, 60 calories

Low-fat cottage cheese           1 Cup              28g protein, 163 calories

Light/Low-fat cheese              1 oz.                6g protein, 60 calories

Egg whites                                  2 lg. Eggs       8g protein, 32 calories

Black Beans, whole                   ½ Cup             6g protein, 100 calories

Refried Beans, no lard            ½ Cup             8g protein, 100 calories

Portabella mushrooms         1 Cup sliced   5g protein, 42 calories

Salmon                                        3 oz.                23g protein, 184 calories

Tilapia, whitefish                      3 oz.                18g protein, 81 calories

Note: Nutrition info. varies by brand, so check labels to know what you’re eating

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

It can be extremely frustrating to feel like you are doing the right things, eating well, and not losing any weight. I used to practically kill myself at the gym 5 days per week and I wasn’t trimming down…I didn’t understand it. The problem was that I was still eating more calories than I was burning. The answer to “why can’t I lose weight?” is  slightly different for everyone, but there are a few factors that are much more common than others:

-Not knowing how many calories you need to eat/how many calories you burn during the day.  Each person burns a unique amount of calories throughout the day, and most have NO IDEA what their number is. I didn’t know until a few years ago My number is 1323 as I am writing this, meaning that I can eat about 1323 calories per day and maintain my weight. I talk more about weight loss in other articles, but knowing your BMR is a great place to start. Finding the BMR (not BMI, which it’s often confused with) formula basically changed my life because it gave me an approximate number of calories that I burn each day.  It’s not an exact science, but it’s the best tool that I’ve ever found to help me understand how much I need to eat in order maintain my weight (or lose some of it after a really good vacation!) Go to www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator to find your number!

-Not knowing how many calories are in the food that you are eating. You do your best to make choices based on what you think are smart food options, but if you’re not absolutely sure what’s in your food, you could be totally sabotaging your weight loss efforts.  The day that I found out how many calories were in a Caesar salad, I practically fell out of my chair. I thought I was being SO healthy and I was SO proud of myself for having a salad for lunch. I wanted to cry when I found out that a Caesar salad at Chili’s had over 1,000 calories and 70 + grams of fat.  Hmmm…I wonder why I wasn’t losing weight?!?? http://www.dietfacts.com/ is a good resource for looking up restaurant information, and there are lots of great resources for finding out what’s in your food, including apps.

-Overestimating the number of calories burned exercising. We all do this at some point. It’s also easy to justify eating way too much after a workout. “Oh, I can have two more slices of pizza, a side of fries and some nachos because I worked out today.” Sound familiar? I know I’ve done it! I usually check a site like http://calories-burned.findthebest.com/ to find out what I really burned during my workout.  OH YES, and don’t believe the calorie counters on exercise equipment.  Really, they are pretty useless.

-Dehydration. When you get too thirsty, your body can confuse the sensations of thirst and hunger. You might feel ‘hungry’ when you are actually ‘thirsty.’ Strange but true.  Try drinking some water when you start to feel hungry, wait about 10 or 15 minutes, and reevaluate whether you are truly hungry.

Also, if you do not drink enough water, sometimes your body tries to save it, creating ‘water weight’ (which can also be triggered by too much sodium or starchy carbohydrates.)

-Restricting calories TOO MUCH. Severe calorie restriction isn’t healthy.  It can actually confuse your body into storing unnecessary food and slowing your metabolism…neither of which will help you lose weight in the long run. Plus, severe restriction can also lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which keeps your body from operating at maximum efficiency. “Slow and steady” is the way to go when trying to lose weight or change your lifestyle.