Tag Archives: vegetables

Chicken Vegetable Marinara with Spaghetti Squash

22 Dec
Serve the sauce blended, partially blended or chunky (like mine) for a healthy and fresh dinner.

Serve the sauce blended, partially blended or chunky (like mine) for a healthy and fresh dinner.

I’ll be honest, this dish does include some time in the kitchen (60-80 minutes) for prepping and cooking, but your health and taste buds will be justly rewarded! It is also a great dish for hiding vegetables from picky eaters and boosting everyone’s’ health. Either blend part or all of the vegetables with an immersion blender to make a thick spaghetti sauce or leave the vegetables whole. No matter what you choose, you’ll create a nutritious, preservative-free homemade spaghetti sauce.

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken breast

1 spaghetti squash

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets

6 carrots, chopped

2 red bell peppers, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

1 24 oz jar of tomato sauce, low sodium

3 Tbsp dried oregano

3 Tbsp dried basil

1 bay leaf

1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt

20 turns black pepper

 

Directions:

1. In a dutch oven or glass baking dish, add a 1/4 cup of water and chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt. Cover with the lid (or foil) and slow roast on 325° for 45-60 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes before cutting it into chunks. Set aside.

2. While chicken is roasting, chop the spaghetti squash in half, remove the seeds and place cut side up on a baking sheet with a little olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until finished. Allow to cool before using a fork to remove the spaghetti squash from the skin.

3. While chicken and spaghetti squash are cooking, chop the vegetables (acorn squash, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, garlic). When the chicken is finished baking, remove it from the dutch oven, pour out the water and add the olive oil. Then add the vegetables and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. (If you do not have a dutch oven, a large stock pot will work too).

4. Next add the tomato sauce, herbs and chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. If you want to blend the sauce, simmer first without the chicken, then blend it and add the chicken at the end.

5. Serve chicken marinara over the spaghetti squash and enjoy!

Options: additional vegetables (onion, zucchini, eggplant) or top with chopped green onions, olives and/or goat cheese–just have fun with it!

Serves 4-5

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Food Play: Back to School Snacks For All Ages

12 Aug
It ain't easy being green, but it sure is tasty! Use apple slices, a hard boiled egg and black olives for this healthy fun snack.

It ain’t easy being green, but it sure is tasty! Use apple slices, a hard boiled egg and black olives for this healthy fun snack.

One of my favorite memories is the snack my mom fixed me when I came home from school. It was just enough food, love and thoughtfulness to get me through the homework (or after school sport) crunch before dinner. I can still taste the homemade cinnamon applesauce I dug into as my little feet dangled from the kitchen table chair–a fitting thrown to share my elementary adventures of the day.

Here are some healthy snack ideas to munch on and share while you listen to your own little (or older) trooper’s woes and adventures.

Frozen Yogurt Pops: mix plain greek yogurt with chopped fresh fruit, place in a paper cup or popsicle mold with a popsicle stick, cover it, toss it in the freezer for 3 hours (or until frozen) and take it out for snack time. Add in vanilla, raw cacao or cinnamon.

Hummus and Veggie Sticks: yes, kids will eat hummus especially if you tout its yumminess. Serve it with your kids favorite veggie like carrots, celery or red bell peppers. Play Bonus: use the hummus as the center of a flower and the veggies as the stems and petals.

Guacamole and Veggie Sticks: Serve it with your kids favorite veggies, but watch the spiciness, unless, of course, your kiddos like spice. Play Bonus: use the guacamole as a monster face and the veggies for eyes, nose and mouth.

Awesome Sauce: mix almond/cashew/sunflower seed butter with plain (no sugar added) applause and cinnamon. You can add a couple of whole nuts for extra fun crunch.

Nuttin’ But Fruit: grab your kids favorite fruit and serve it with some nuts or nut butter a la apple with almond butter. Play Bonus: use the almond butter as the center of a flower and the veggies as the stems and petals.

Ants on a Log: An oldie, but a goodie… put almond or sunflower seed butter on celery and line it with a few raisins or currents.

Baked Apple Nutty Goodness: serve it with a little almond or coconut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

 

Basil Walnut Pesto (pine nut and dairy-free)

23 Jun
Pesto!

Pesto!

Basil. Honestly, what’s not to love? Now is the perfect time to enjoy this beautifully blooming herb. I love it chopped fresh on sautéed vegetable salads and I love it in pesto. Since I’m allergic to pine nuts and dairy gives me a less-than-desired pubescent complexion, I opt for my own rendition–skipping the dairy, lessening the oil (most pestos are too oily for my taste) and adding in walnuts. Enjoy it drizzled on fresh vegetables, in place of salad dressing and topped on grilled chicken or scrambled eggs.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup walnut pieces

1/4 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves finely minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 1/2 cups fresh basil

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

 

Directions:

1. Place walnuts, garlic, sea salt and 1/2 of the olive oil in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

2. Add basil, the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice to the walnut mixture. Blend until smooth. Add more olive oil, salt and garlic powder if you need to reach your desired taste and consistency.

 

For more ways to eat healthfully and deliciously, visit my recipe page.

Joyful Rainbow Salad

26 May

IMG_1028I know… it’s hard to say “eat the rainbow” and NOT think of those tiny sugar pellet candies. This would be the healthy non-food coloring version, hence the word “rainbow” sandwiched between “joyful” and “salad.” Hit up your own garden or favorite farmer’s stand to create this quick burst of delicious energy.

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 bunch carrots, chopped

1/3 small red onion, coarsely chopped

1 jar green olives (pitted and stuffed with garlic)

1 jar kalamata black olives (pitted)

fresh basil and oregano to taste

1 tsp olive oil to coat

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients and enjoy!

2. May also add: radishes, broccoli, sugar snap peas, kale or other greens, feta cheese, balsamic or red wine vinegar–whatever inspires you!

For more food inspiration, check out these recipes. Yum!

Homemade Produce Wash: How to Get the Funk Off Your Fruit (and Veggies)

19 May
This pear is about to get a spa treatment.

This pear is about to get a spa treatment.

Obvious statement: I dig gardening and Farmers’ Markets. Always have, always will. I remember many instances eating strawberries and chives straight from my parents’ garden as a little girl. No rinsing or checking for bugs… maybe just a little air to blow the dirt off if I noticed any. Probably not my finest moment in food hygiene, but I definitely excelled at the Farm to Table experience in my younger years.

 

Now that I am a gardening adult, fully aware of the amount of manure I use in my garden, I like to make sure my food is actually clean before I eat it. The secret weapon: apple cider vinegar. Not only can it make your hair shine and improve your digestion, but this little wonder can clean your produce of dirt, bugs and bacteria. Woot, woot!

 

Here’s how…

 

Mix 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar (I prefer Bragg’s) for every 1 cup of filtered water you use. Place the produce in a bowl or your kitchen sink (make sure the sink is clean) and soak it in this mixture for at least 5 minutes. Scrub (with a designated produce scrub brush or your hands), rinse with water, pat dry and savor!

Organic or Bust?

17 Feb
Farmer's Markets are great places to purchase organically grown produce inexpensively (or grow your own for the best produce available).

Farmer’s Markets are great places to purchase organically grown produce inexpensively (or grow your own for the best produce available).

Eating organically grown fresh vegetables and fruits is the bee’s knees, no question. But does your produce always have to be organic? Eating conventional broccoli always beats eating a brownie any day of the week. If eating organic produce doesn’t fit your budget or isn’t available to you, here is a handy-dandy list for what fruits and vegetables are the cleanest (least amount of pesticide residue) and which are the dirtiest (most contaminated produce) and worth the extra organic cost.

 

Clean:

asparagus

avocados

cabbage

cantaloupe

eggplant

grapefruit

kiwi

mangos

onions

papayas

pineapples

sweet peas

sweet potatoes

 

Dirty:

apples

celery

cherry tomatoes

cucumbers

grapes

hot peppers

nectarines

peaches

potatoes

spinach

strawberries

sweet bell peppers

kale/collard greens

summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash)

 

Information adapted from EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

Spring Garden Guide

3 Feb
Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds in case there was any confusion.

Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds… in case there was any confusion.

Let the gardening season begin! Yippee! I know it is hard to think about your garden plot when the ground is covered with snow and the temps are sub-zero, but the thought of a freshly picked juicy ripe tomato on a BLT puts a smile on anyone’s face and a song in my heart. *sigh* While it is far too early to start planting outdoors in Nebraska, it is never too early to order seeds and create your gardening guide for rows of tasty (and might I add super inexpensive and healthy) produce come spring and summer. I can smell the bacon cooking…

 

February

Preparation: Now is the time to start ordering/purchasing seeds or attend seed swaps in your community. Seeds are good for 3-4 years, so share the good lovin’ if you have plenty left over. This is also the time to consider your gardening space (community, backyard, raised beds, containers, etc) and your chemical-free means for controlling pesky pests while keeping your produce–and all of the big and little people who eat it–safe.

 

March

Preparation: Time to play in the dirt and by dirt, I mean manure that will add nutrients to your soil for the best possible growing conditions. That poo is the holy grail for hearty, healthy produce. Also, plant seeds for transplant plants such as cabbage, celery, eggplant, leeks, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Depending on the variety, you will want to start the process 6-8 weeks before they are to be transplanted outdoors in the garden. If you plan on buying the plants, then no worries darling.

Outdoor Planting: Plant asparagus crowns, collard green seeds, onions, pea seeds, radish seeds, spinach seeds and turnip seeds.

 

April

Outdoor Planting: Plant leek plants, swiss chard seeds, broccoli plants, cabbage plants, cauliflower plants, lettuce seeds, kale seeds and beet seeds.

 

May

Outdoor Planting: Plant carrot seeds, potato plants, cucumber seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggplant plants, pepper plants, tomato plants and summer squash seeds.

 

Truth be told, I am not a master gardener by any means. My experience comes from trial and error through my own garden and through gardening advice from my parents who have organically gardened for over 30 years. Yes… they are the cat’s meow.

 

For more regional gardening information, check out the UNL Extension program, your local nursery and community garden, and organizations such as City Sprouts, North Omaha Tool Library and Common Soil Seed Library at the Benson Public Library.