Easy dinner idea: Spicy black bean and chickpea stew

I love to cook, but, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t feel like doing it these days. As much as I’d like to pretend that I am superwoman and can juggle a full-time job, night classes, school work (as finals are approaching…), my personal life, as well as other little odds and ends, sometimes it gets to be a little much, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is make myself dinner (it has always been my least favorite meal to prepare…).

Despite my lack of motivation these days, it is still a priority for me to eat clean, real foods as much as possible.  Eating better makes me feel better, and I will always be a firm believer that “healthy” doesn’t have to equal time-consuming or boring.  Making something from scratch (or even sprucing up a premade veggie burger….) can often be just as easy (and often faster!) than relying on the more “convenient”  or fast foods out there.

So, I won’t lie, even though  I have been consisting mostly on veggie burgers, oatmeal concoctions,  random snack combinations and huge salads these days, I have also made some more notable meals as well. Last week, for example, my sister and I had the idea to make some sort of spicy bean-based soup/stew for dinner using a few simple ingredients we had on hand.  I am no chef and tend to make pretty low-key “recipes,” but, I must say, this turned out to be pretty delicious if I do say so myself.

The stew had a nice spice from the fire roasted tomatoes and chili powder, and the cumin gave it a nice smoky flavor as well.  Plus, all you need is a can opener, a few canned items, an onion/garlic, and some simple spices to whip this together…. it is basically impossible to screw up and works very well as leftovers (I am going to be eating a serving over some spinach for lunch today)…

Spicy black bean and chickpea stew

makes approximately 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime (optional)
  • hot sauce (optional)

Directions

  • spray bottom of pot with non-stick spray (can also use olive oil)
  • saute garlic and onion for 5-6 minutes
  • add fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, chickpeas, and seasonings to pot
  • simmer 30 minutes
  • top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some additional hot sauce (optional)

I initially ate mine on top of some sautéed kale and roasted acorn squash/brussel sprouts (random, but I was craving roasted vegetables and was on a roll in the kitchen that day…), but I imagine that this would work really well on top of some quinoa or with a nice crusty piece of bread on the side as well.  If you have a can opener and a few simple spices you are good to go with this recipe…. try it out!

What are your favorite simple dinner recipes?

What I’ve Been Reading….

Some posts I have enjoyed recently….

Helpful, honest and/or informative posts:

Sweet Tater: On Binge Eating – in this post, Katie lays down the facts about binge eating in such a clear and informative way and discusses how she personally deals with the issue. I love how blunt, honest, and hilarious she is in general (I always look forward to reading her posts), and I personally loved how she delved into this topic in such a relatable, open way.  Check it out if you haven’t already!

For the Love of Kale: Dissassociating my Veganism from my Eating Disorder: I have mentioned Heather/her blog on here a few times already, but I must say, her blog is one of my new favorites. I love when blogs are authentic and real and when you can tell that the person behind the page really has a passion for what they are writing about. Heather’s blog is just that, and I love the positive energy she exudes through her writing. She also  talks about topics in such a well-rounded and helpful way.  

Une Vie Saine: Lately: I have been reading Gabriela’s blog for quite a while now, and I have loved watching it evolve. I think our 20’s can be such a confusing time, and I appreciate how Gabriela has let her blog evolve with her life and how she is so open and real about her feelings.  I love how brutally honest she is in this post. It was very refreshing to read.   

You can’t fake authenticity and passion, and I love finding blogs (and posts) that are honest and real (these are the blogs  that keep me coming back for more!). It is not easy to whip out informative/thought-provoking/well-written content on a consistent basis, so I have huge respect for people who are able to write openly and honestly about their thoughts/experiences/feelings. Check out these blogs!

On the food/recipe front:

Accidentially Delish: Chocolate Banana Hummus – I have no words. This is such a good idea! I need to buy some chickpeas stat.

Healthy Happy Life: Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers –  I heard that these are delicious and I reallllly want to make them.

Gluten Free Goddess: Kale Salad with Quinoa, Tangerines and Roasted Almonds – I am always on the lookout for new uses for kale and this one seems right up my alley…

Recipe Success

Peanut Butter Fingers: Savory Salmon Oatmeal Hash – I made this for dinner the other week and LOVED it! While I have made savory oats before, this was a new spin on the concept. You couldn’t even tell that oatmeal was used as the grain! This was really easy to make and was sooooo delicious. I basically stuck to Julie’s recipe only making the following modifications:

  • I replaced the cauliflower with asparagus and broccoli 
  • I seasoned my oatmeal hash with some dijon mustard and pepper (that I mixed in at the end of cooking) and topped my bowl off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice  (instead of seasoning with dill)

Any posts you have loved recently?

Any recipes you want to make/have made and want to share?

….feel free to link!

My favorite ways to eat kale

Good morning! Happy National Peanut Lover’s day (I love having random “holidays” to celebrate and this blog gives me many new food-related things to look forward to….). I made some pb&j oats to celebrate (since it’s  also National Fruit Compote day)…. if you were curious.

Anyway, today I want to discuss something that I could go on and on about for hours: vegetables.  I love vegetables. Before you start thinking I’m crazy, hear me out…..

So, like I said, I love vegetables. I love them raw, steamed, roasted, sautéed and baked.  I love kale chips, baked sweet potatoes, big salads full of raw and crunchy veggies, and stir frys. When someone tells me they don’t like vegetables, I have an intense desire to force feed them roasted brussel sprouts with maple syrup, sautéed green beans with garlic or roasted sweet potatoes to change their minds.Vegetables are delicious! They are good for you! They are fun! What’s not to love?

Now before I start coming across as a crazy vegetable fan, I’ll admit that I wasn’t always such a lover of all things that are green and come from the ground. Most of my veggie consumption when I was younger came from a can or from the freezer.  I knew of corn on the cob in the summer and of mixed green salads before dinner, but I usually stuck to the carrots and celery in the produce aisle when it came to any sort of veggie consumption. The rows and rows of greens were intimidating and looked more like rabbit food than of something I should be consuming. I didn’t even know kale existed until a couple of years ago (the horror!).  It was not until I started to delve headfirst into the world of health that I realized the deliciousness that exists in the world of vegetables.

So, where do you stand? Are you a fan of vegetables (maybe certain ones?) or do you avoid them like the plague? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Any you don’t like?

I honestly believe we can all like to eat our vegetables, it just takes a little experimentation and fearlessness to make it happen. I understand that a bunch of kale can be intimating when you’ve never prepared it or that a rutabaga or acorn squash may not even look edible at first glance, but I am here to help you! I want us all to discover the deliciousness that comes from consuming these good-for-us foods.

Top reasons I love veggies:

  1. They are delicious
  2. There is sooo much variety (you can never get bored…there is always something new to try!)
  3. They are filling (full of fiber)
  4. You never have to worry about portion control (the more you eat, the better)
  5. They are colorful and make meals look more appealing
  6. They make you feel good (they contain essential vitamins and minerals)
  7. Cost effective (if you buy what’s in season, veggies can be very cheap!) – I just bought a HUGE bag of kale for $2(!)…..this isn’t the case if you’re trying to buy summer squash and red peppers in the dead of winter…..

So, I hope I am getting my point across that vegetables are worth eating. If I haven’t convinced you yet, maybe I can spotlight some of my favorites and my favorite (easy) ways of preparing them? Maybe I can convince you to buy/try something new next time you are at the grocery store?

If you already are on the veggie bandwagon, maybe we can use this space to share our favorite veggie-focused recipes?

To start things off I thought I would talk about one of my favorite vegetables: Kale.

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Kale is so good for you (here is some info if you’re curious), and it is also so delicious if you prepare it correctly. Some of my favorite ways to eat kale:

1. Kale chips

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These are so easy to make…. if you haven’t done this yet, DO IT! All you need is a baking sheet, cooking spray(or olive oil), kale, and whatever seasonings you’d like (salt and pepper are perfect if that’s all you have on hand)…. I swear they are delicious (I am talking to you, Lindsay)!

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash and dry kale (make sure it’s completely dry so it will get crispy!)
  • Break the kale into little bite-sized pieces (tearing away from the stalk)
  • Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray, layer kale into one even layer and spray the top of the kale with nonstick spray
  • Add seasonings (i love s+p, nutritional yeast, or adding spicy seasonings, like red pepper flakes)
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (checking to make sure they don’t burn!)

When done, they will be crispy and crunchy and very addicting. They are the perfect snack or side to dinner and taste amazing dipped in ketchup (this may just be a personal preference though….)

2. Massaged kale

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Kale can be kind of rough/tough on its own, so massaging it is a great way to wilt it down a little and make it extra delicious.

  • Break kale into bite sized pieces (as stated above)
  • Put kale in bowl and add in any dressing/marinade of your choice (any garlicy/cheesy dressing is a good choice if you’ve never done this, but I also like to use vinegar-based dressings as well)
  • Use you hands (make sure they’re washed!) or a fork/spoon/mixing utensil to distribute the dressing into the kale – hands work best!
  • Add in some veggies, a grain, some sort of protein (beans, tofu, chicken, etc.) and fat (nuts, seeds) to make it a meal

3. Sautéed kale

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I love sautéing kale and like to use it as an easy green addition to my dinners.  All I do is rip the kale into bite sized pieces, coat a pan with a little bit of olive oil, and saute the kale until it begins to wilt and turn a deep green color (usually takes about 3-5 minutes). I then just season with a little salt and pepper and call it a day! It’s so easy. (You can also add other seasonings as well depending on taste/what else you are preparing).

So, those are the top 3 ways I prepare kale, and, as you can probably tell, I am all about easy meal preparation. I never do anything that takes much time and most of my meals come together in 20 minutes or less (so there is no excuse not to eat your veggies!).

If you do want a more “pulled together” or complete meal idea using kale check out these recipes (I have them bookmarked to make soon… they look so good!):

and some more kale recipes/ideas:

Let me know if you eat some kale (or if you have any questions)!

What is your favorite vegetable? What are you favorite ways to eat kale?

Easy Lunch Idea: Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

I always make myself grain and veggie-based salads for lunch. They are filling, delicious, and so versatile. They also guarantee a complete meal with the components of :

  • whole grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta…)
  • protein (beans, tofu/tempeh, tuna/salmon, chicken, etc.)
  • fat (olive oil-based dressings, nuts/seeds)
  • veggies (spinach, carrots, mushrooms, whatever you have on hand….)

With the switching up of different grains, protein options, vegetables and dressings, the options are really endless when it comes to this easy meal concept.

To make these, I usually just tend to throw whatever ingredients I have on hand(veggies, protein source, grain, etc.) in a Tupperware container, pack some dressing on the side, and call it a day. While this is easy, effortless, and always results in a filling, healthy meal, I thought I could streamline the process even more by making and pre-portioning a big batch of a grain salad over the weekend to grab and go as  an easy meal option during the week.

I did just that this weekend by making a big batch of a barley and kale salad. This particular combination ended up tasting so delicious that I thought I’d share (in case anyone is looking to switch up their lunch routine or try out a grain-based salad for lunch). I especially liked how the  massaged kale and broccoli soaked up the lemon dijon dressing, and how the addition of the sunflower seed kernels  gave the salad additional crunch and texture. Overall, this was a very  enjoyable combination.

If you are looking for a simple, healthy, filling lunch idea, try this out!

Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

makes 2 lunch-sized servings

Ingredients:

  • barley (1 cup dry)
  • kale (approx 1/2 of a large bunch or 2 cups when torn into pieces)
  • carrots (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • broccoli (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • celery (2 stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • chickpeas (1 cup, rinsed and drained)
  • sunflower seed kernels (2-3 tbsp – optional)

Dressing:

  • olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • lemon juice (4 tbsp or about the juice of 1 lemon)
  • dijon mustard (4 tsp)
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  •  bring 1 cup barley and 3 cups water to a boil, turn heat to medium and let barley simmer for 25-35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally (will make about 2 cups once cooked)
  • while barley cooks, prep your veggies!
  • rinse and tear kale into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl
  • chop broccoli, carrots and celery  into bite sized pieces and place on top of kale
  • add chickpeas on top of veggie mixture

To make the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard, add pepper to taste (you might want to add more olive oil or lemon juice or dijon depending on taste preference)

  • massage about 1/2 of the dressing into the kale, veggie and bean mixture, using your hands (or a stirring utensil) to evenly distribute the mixture. (Massage/mix until kale begins to wilt down a little and turn a bright green color)
  • once barley is cooked and somewhat cool, add 1 cup (you will have about 1 cup leftover) of the cooked barley into the veggie mixture and add the remaining dressing . Mix until well-distributed
  • separate salad into Tupperware containers, add about a tbsp of sunflower seed kernels on top of each salad and refrigerate until you are ready to eat!

Options:

  1. replace barley with another grain of your choice (brown rice, quinoa…)
  2. substitute the veggies with whatever you have on hand (cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, etc. would all work well) – you could also use spinach or another type of green in place of the kale
  3. substitute the sunflower seed kernels with some chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans…) or other type of seed

The options and possibilities are really endless with this. Let me know if you try it out!

Best thing I packed this week: week 2 (February 10, 2012)

Happy Friday! Anyone doing anything exciting this weekend?

So the time has come again for “The best thing I packed this week” (here is week 1 in case you missed it)!

Best lunch: Roasted brussel sprout, sweet potato and black bean salad (with BBQ hummus dressing)

I can’t take credit for this delicious combination (my sister made it for me), but it was definitely the best thing I ate for lunch this week. Sami (my twin sister who is a busy grad student and lover of healthy packed lunches as well) and I tend to help each other out during the week and make each others lunches on certain days (she usually packs my lunch for Thursday, since I don’t get home until 9:30ish, and I tend to help her out Tuesdays or Fridays). It definitely makes my life a little easier, and I appreciate her SO much for helping me out. Thanks Sam!

This salad contained so many delicious things, I didn’t want it to end. My favorite salads tend be (1) ones with a lot of various ingredients to pick at and taste, or (2) ones that contain different or “less typical” ingredients than the standard salad (think carrot, cucumber, tomato, etc.), This salad definitely fell into the second category with the addition of brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. I am a BIG fan of both (I love roasted brussel sprouts!), and while I typically eat these types of veggies for dinner, it was fun to enjoy them in the middle of the day. 

 I ate around the spinach first (I usually always save the best parts for last in salads) and left all the brussel sprouts, beans and sweet potatoes for last. This salad contained:

  • spinach
  • sweet potato cubes
  • roasted brussel sprouts
  • black beans
  • quinoa

Dressing: Homemade BBQ dressing made with:

  • BBQ sauce (approx 1 tbsp)… I never really measure these things
  • apple cider vinegar (approx 1-2 tsp)
  • a drop or two of water – to thin it out

I love making my own dressings, since I typically don’t tend like many bottled options, and I like to be in control of how much of certain ingredients I use.  Sami is actually a pretty talented dressing maker and is always whipping up some delicious combinations. My favorites of hers include:

  • BBQ (and BBQ Hummus)
  • Honey Balsamic 
  • Honey Mustard-esque dressing

Making your own dressing is really easy, and I find that they taste just as good (if not better!) than many bottled kinds (I HATE that artificial taste in certain types of dressing). Since a dressing can make or break a salad, they are definitely an important feature of my daily meals. What are your favorite kinds of dressing?

Other notable meals of the week….

kale, goat cheese, kidney bean and veggie "pasta" salad

olive tapenade, hummus and kale on whole wheat

So that concludes the “Best thing I packed this week.” I hope you have a great Friday/weekend!

What was the best thing you packed this week?

WIAW #2 (February 1, 2012)

Hi there! Happy Wednesday! Can someone please explain to me,

  • How the is high for today is 50 degrees? It is so odd (but I am not complaining)….
  • How it is February 1 today (I swear it was just December)?

I always get excited for new months. I like to plan things to accomplish and ways to make the month fun. February already has some fun things built into it…. my boyfriend and I are celebrating our anniversary this month, it is his birthday month…. so I have a few things to look forward to and to plan (which I need to get on quickly, typing this out is making me realize that these things aren’t too far away!).

Anyway, I enjoyed doing this last week, so I thought I’d join the What I Ate Wednesday party again. Thanks Jenn for letting me participate!

Breakfast – 6:15 am

Yesterday for breakfast I had an odd craving for eggs. I usually never want savory things for breakfast (I am all about eating peanut butter and banana in some form), so I was a little surprised. I am not one to ignore a craving, so I just went with it. I had an omelette with:

  • egg whites
  •  peppers
  • mushrooms
  • zucchini
  • goat cheese

I always get a little excited when chopping vegetables, so I had an extra pile of extra omelette filling on the side, as well as a slice of whole wheat toast.

Snack 1: 9:15 am

For my mid-morning snack I had a handful of pistachios and a few pieces of chili dried mango (from Trader Joes). Both were pretty delicious and kept me quite content until lunch.

Lunch: 12:00 pm

For lunch I had a “pasta salad” – heavier on the veggies than the pasta, with some balsamic vinegar + honey on top. My salad contained:

  • spinach/kale (base)
  • peppers
  • zucchini
  • carrot
  • whole grain pasta
  • white beans
  • goat cheese

I also had a Fugi apple on the side as well. I am usually a big Pink Lady/Honeycrisp fan because they have the perfect tart/sweet balance and  the right amount of crunch that is necessary in an apple.  I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have been liking my Fugi apples this week.  (I have a slight obsession with apples if you can’t tell….).

Snack: 3:30 pm

As my afternoon snack I had a (brand new!) Uber Larabar in the Bananas Foster flavor. I was pretty excited when I spotted these in Whole Foods last Friday, since I have a definite love of  bars (Larabar, Clif Bars, Kind Bars…) and I’ve never seen these (anyone else have one yet?)!

I must say, it was rather delicious. It tastes like the normal banana bread flavor, but has a good amount of crunch and texture from the addition of whole walnuts, almonds, and pecans. I would definitely recommend it. I also tried my sister’s Cherry Cobbler on Sunday, and it was equally as good. There are a few more ingredients in these than the normal Larabar flavors:

but it was soooo good. I am a new fan of the Uber bar. Now I just need to try the Roasted Nut Roll and Apple Turnover flavors…

Dinner: 5:45 pm

I ate dinner before going to the gym, so I tried to keep it rather light. Its weird, I can eat before going to the gym in the morning and have no problem at all, but, for some reason, at night I have issues. Maybe it’s what I’m eating vs. when I’m eating? Who knows. I’m working on finding a good balance.

I had a veggie burger on a piece of whole grain toast with romaine, broccoli sprouts,and hummus and also had some sautéed broccoli and cauliflower on the side.

Snack/Dessert: 9:00 pm

I almost always have to have something sweet at the end of the day. It is like my day is not complete without it. Last night I had some cottage cheese (4% – which is really good, by the way – its so creamy!) with pumpkin, peanut butter and some crushed Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal on top.

I haven’t had pumpkin in a while and was a little “pumpkin-ed” out in the fall, but this was really good. I think I may need to bring it back for a while longer. The pumpkin + peanut butter combo never seems to fail me.

So that concludes WIAW. I kind of love seeing what other people eat (it’s why I became so interested/fascinated by blogs), so I’m glad that this little tradition exists and that I can take part. Thanks again Peas and Crayons!

Have a great day everyone!

What’s the best thing you ate yesterday?

Things I’m Loving Right Now (Take 2)

In case you missed my first installment: Things I’m Loving Right Now (Part 1)

1.Clif Mojo bars (Mountain Mix flavor)

I usually don’t eat a lot of granola bars, but given my busier schedule these days, they have become quite a convenient snack. I was just talking about how much I enjoy the sweet/salty combo… and this flavor is the PERFECT mix. so.good.

  • salty = peanuts, almonds pretzels
  • sweet = raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips

2. Belting out Taylor in the car

Since starting night classes, I have a 20-30 minute commute to and from school every week, 3x a week (sometimes longer with traffic). I thought I would hate these drives, but I have actually been enjoying the extra thinking time and more so, the ability to belt out some Taylor Swift and dance like a complete  idiot in my car (thank god its dark outside when I drive home….). I have been especially liking Mean, Ours, and Mine (if you were curious).

3. My new Pilot G2 07 pens

I recently got an assorted pack of these pens and I love them. They make me want to write things down and take notes, and I swear they make me write neater. They are slightly gelly (I think I just made that word up?), but don’t bleed/smear like other gel-type pens I’ve tried. I hope I don’t sound like a loser for getting so excited over pens… but I can’t help it. When you do a lot of writing every day, a good pen is completely necessary.

4. Bethenny is getting her own talk show!

This is not exactly a “thing” I’ve been loving, but I had to share this. I just heard about it on Tuesday (from Twitter… which I am very new at and very confused about, by the way), and I am so excited. I am a HUGE Bethenny fan. I find her very inspiring and motivating, and I love how blunt/real she is. I also love Skinnygirl Margaritas, Bethenny Ever After, and I am a big supporter of Bethenny’s views on health/fitness/wellness in general (her book Naturally Thin is actually what initially got me interested in living a more healthy/balanced lifestyle).

I know a lot of people hate on Bethenny, but I am a big supporter and will always be a  fan.

I hear her show will be on FOX this summer and I.am.so.excited…. anyone else a Bethenny fan?

5. Kale

Well, I usually always am a big kale fan, but I recently bought it at the grocery store and have been enjoying it in many  lunches and dinners this past week. I have been loving it raw in salads and sandwiches, as well as steamed/sautéed in various stir-frys. Not only is it super cheap (I think its  .99 cents/lb. at my local grocery store which can get you A LOT of kale and, it’s SO light!), but it is so good for you! I always love it when foods that are good (as in delicious) are also good for me. It’s a win-win.

If you’ve never had it, I recommend making kale chips (tear the kale into pieces and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes (approx.), flipping once). They are really addicting and especially good with ketchup.

Anything you’ve been loving recently?