New Year, New Recipes: Quick, Healthy, Hearty Dinners

Last week on the blog, we went over same basic nutrition guidelines to help you with your New Years resolutions. This week, it’s time to put those guidelines into practice with some healthy delicious recipes. All of these dishes are low in fat, high in protein, contain to added sugar, and are filled with nutrient packed veggies. But they’re so tasty and rich, you won’t even realize how good they are for you!

 

London Broil with Butternut Squash Mash, Arugula,  and Balsamic Vinaigrette

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1 lb of London Broil

3 tablespoons and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, divided

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided

½ large red onion, minced with a grater

2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped

1 garlic clove, smashed

½ cup olive oil, divided, plus 1 tablespoon,

1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk

½ cup arugula

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks

Salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Place the ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar in a gallon sized zip top bag with 1 tablespoon of mustard, half of the minced onion, the grated garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, and some black pepper, and mix together a bit in the bag. Add the steak. Allow the steak to marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

 

When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375. Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

 

While the oven is preheating, make the vinaigrette. Combine the last ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, the last of the minced onion, the last tablespoon of Dijon, in a bowl and whisk to mix together. Then slowly add the last ¼ cup of olive oil, whisking to fully incorporate the vinegar into the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

 

When the oven is at 350, place the squash on a baking sheet in the oven until browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, heat up a grill or a cast iron skillet, then add a tablespoon of olive oil and allow the oil to heat up. Cook the steak 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 5 on the other side. Set the steak aside to rest for a few minutes.

 

While the steak is resting, dress the arugula with a small amount of the balsamic dressing and season with salt and pepper.

 

Place the butternut squash in a bowl and add the almond milk. Mash together with a potato masher until it’s a thick, chunky mash.

 

After the steak has rested for a few minutes, slice on the grain. Serve with the arugula salad on top, drizzled with the vinaigrette, and with the mash on the side.

 

Portuguese Style Chicken and Kale Stew

1012820_10101434442283016_2015374257_n2 red bell peppers

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

3 large sweet potatoes, cut into small pieces

½ lb chorizo, sliced thin

½ lb Cremini mushrooms, halved

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon of smoked sweet paprika

1 bay leaf

1 15 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes

½ cup of dry sherry

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Use a flame or the broiler to char the peppers. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once they cool, remove the peel and seeds and dice.

 

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and a bit of the paprika. Add to the pot and brown the chicken for a few minutes, then remove from the pan. Put the chorizo in the pot and let it render and get crispy for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and potatoes and brown for 5 minutes. Add the bay leave, then the onion and garlic and allow them to soften for 5 minutes. Slowly wilt in the kale. Deglaze with the sherry, and give it 2-3 minutes for the alcohol to boil out. Then add the peppers, and tomatoes, along with the chicken. Pour in the chicken stock and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the soup has combined and thickened. Serve with grilled whole grain or Paleo bread and garnish with the chopped parsley.

New Year, New You!

Happy New Year! What’s your New Years resolution this year? If it’s to lose weight, you’re not alone- it has been the most common resolution in America for over a decade!

 

Now that you’ve made it your resolution, you’re probably wondering- where do I begin? There’s tons of information on the Internet about dieting and nutrition, and much of the research done out there in recent years has created a very different “food pyramid” from the one we remember from grade school.

 

You may have talked to a dietician at some point, or read some articles online about nutrtion out there, and the most common thing you’ll hear from any expert is that sustainable weight loss can only happen from a true change of your food lifestyle, not just from following a specific diet for a few weeks until you reach a certain weight.

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The first step in changing this lifestyle is to be honest with yourself about what you put in your body. Think about everything you’ve eaten for the week. Was it all the healthiest choices you could’ve made? You don’t need to feel guilty about what you’ve eaten in the past. Nor should you think that embracing a healthy lifestyle means depriving yourself of some your favorite less nutritious treats. It’s about making better choices when you eat, finding healthier alternatives, having things in moderation, and letting yourself indulge, just doing it a lot less often. Will it require some more time, effort, and commitment than the diet you’ve been eating in the past? Yes, especially at first as you adjust to your new lifestyle. But as soon as you see the results, the time and effort become worth it. Not to mention how much your overall health will improve with living the healthy lifestyle; proper nutrition and exercise has even been proven to cure some serious illnesses, like Type II diabetes.

 

So for the first blog entry of the year, we have put together a guide to help you make these healthier eating choices, and some other tips to make the transition to a healthier you in 2014 easier and even more fulfilling.

 

  • Having too much sugar is having the most detrimental affect on your health.
    • Sugar comes in many forms, from the white crystals poured into coffee and desserts, to what’s produced when white flour pasta passes through your digestive system. Starches turn into sugar in your body. Even some your favorite fruit and its juices are loaded with tons of sugar.
    • Avoid: anything with refined sugar in it and/or white flour in it, and Also, avoid fruit juice, and only consume high sugar fruits like bananas, grapes, pineapple, and oranges, cherries, mangos, and any dried fruits, including raisins and dried figs, in moderation. Omit any starchy vegetables, like corn and potatoes, or those with a naturally higher sugar content, like beets and carrots.
    • Craving something sweet? Go for low sugar fruit options, like papaya, guava, and cantaloupe. Your best option it to go for berries, which are not only low in sugar, but high in antioxidants and other healthy stuff.
    • There’s really no such thing as a good sweetener, but if you need to put something sweet in your coffee, go for a natural alternative sweetener, like whole leaf stevia extract. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal won’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar, but are filled with nasty chemicals. Honey and other non-sugar sweeteners, like molasses and agave, are only a little bit better for you than table sugar and may not raise your blood sugar quite as much, but usually have much more calories than its counterparts. All sweeteners should be avoided if possible, but a pack or two of Stevia in your coffee is perfectly ok.
  • Not all fat is bad for you. There is such a thing as bad fats and good fats and good fats can actually help you in your quest to keep healthy and lose weight.
    • Good fats: avocado, olives, olive oil, fatty fishes like wild salmon, trout, mackerel, and catfish, and nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. These should still be eaten in moderation
    • Bad fats: red meat cuts with high fat contents, poultry skin, full fat dairy products, lard, and coconut oil.
  • Protein + veggies are an unbeatable nutrition combination
    • A foolproof way to make a great meal is to have a healthy sized portion of a lean protein and some vegetables, either raw, steamed, or roasted lightly in a little bit of olive oil.
    • The best kinds of proteins are lean proteins like light meal poultry (dark is ok once in awhile, but it is a bit higher in fat than its light counterpart), all seafood, pork tenderloin, lowfat yogurt, beans, soy, eggs, and lean cuts of beef. Other proteins tend to be higher in fat and should only be eaten in moderation.
    • Vegetables are pretty much the best food out there for you: very low in carbohydrates and very high in nutrients. Just make sure you avoid the starchy and high sugar vegetables discussed before, and that you avoid preparing them with ingredients that have a high bad fat content.
  • The dairy debate
    • In terms of weight loss, most dairy is high in bad fat, and also contains some sugar. But you can enjoy low or non-fat dairy products in moderation, and it won’t hinder weight loss.
    • However, more and more studies in recent years have been verifying the connection between acne with diary and sugar products. So if you’re someone who experiences acne, you may want to consider avoiding dairy.
  • The grain predicament
    • Any grain made with white flour, like bread, pasta, and flour tortillas, as well as white rices, are very starchy and should rarely be eaten.
    • Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat bread, contain significantly less starches than white ones, but still have enough to be considered something that should be consumed in moderation.
    • Gluten-free products are often made with potato and corn, which are higher in starches. Your best bet here is to use a gluten free brown rice or tapioca product.
  • Always check your food labels!
    • You’d be surprised what’s in your food, so you MUST check ALL of your food labels, including the ingredients. Example: there are some brands of soups and stocks that add sugar to their vegetable, chicken, and beef stocks.
    • Sugar and sodium are the ingredients most often to be found snuck into food. The best way to avoid added sugar? Makes sure it says unsweetened, then check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t have sugar in it under it’s many pseudonyms. Here’s a great article from the Huffington Post that explains this in more details and provides a great list of “sugars” to avoid.
    • Foods labeled “low” and “no-fat” are usually loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, so be sure to get the whole picture of the real nutrition of the product before you buy it.
  • Limit your alcohol intake
    • It’s sad but true: alcohol is high in sugar.
    • Some alcohols have less sugar than others. Beer is made with grains and sugar is what helps those grains ferment into beer (and what helps it carbonate in the end), so it’s the worst on the list. Wine being made from fruit makes it a little better, but grapes are naturally high in sugar, and sugar is also the product of the fermentation process in wine, so it’s still pretty high sugar to be something that’s consumed often.
    • Your best bet is go with something distilled, rather than fermented, like vodka, whiskey, or gin, but these are all made from starches, so they should still only be enjoyed in moderation. And don’t mix it with anything except for some seltzer, since fruit juices and sodas will raise the sugar content even more.

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Following these basic guidelines will help you on your way to changing your lifestyle over to a healthy one; if you stick to them, only good things will happen, not just to your waistline, but in your overall wellbeing as well.  Healthy is often associated as not being as delicious but there are so many recipe resources out there that will help you eat the right foods and not the bad ones. Next week, we’ll help you get started with some of those tasty recipes and prove that healthy food can be even more appetizing!

Paleo desserts: all the tastiness, none of the refined sugar

Holiday spirit is in fully swing here in Austin! Light, trees, and decorations are up everywhere, from the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park to the garnishes on the lampposts on East Sixth Street. The shops are abuzz with holiday gift givers finding presents for their loved ones. And, of course, the markets have lined their aisles with the delicious array of Christmas goodies! With so many tasty treats available during Christmas time, it can be hard to balance a healthy lifestyle and get your fix of Christmas flavors. So here are links to some of our favorite dessert recipes to help you get through the holidays without splurging on the sugar. All of these recipes are Paleo; they contain no refined sugars, dairy, gluten, or grains, making them low in carbohydrates sugar, but full of goodness. It’s the perfect way to sneak in some holiday delights without all the bad stuff they’re usually made of! Click on the picture to go to the recipe.

 

These delicious chocolate cookies are also vegan!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almond Milk

These banana crumb muffins can be made with or without nuts for delicious breakfast treat!

Banana Crumb Muffins

Banana Crumb Muffins

PaleOMG.com is our favorite go-to site for Paleo desserts! For the holidays, check out this recipe for Eggnog Pumpkin Pie with a Gingerbread Crust. The picture below is from a recipe on their site: Blueberry Carrot Cake Parfait.

Blueberry Carrot Cake Parfait

Blueberry Carrot Cake Parfait

Another one of our favorite Paleo dessert recipes: Pumpkin Bread Pudding. We topped ours with some coconut shavings: just freeze a can of coconut milk, and use a grater to shave some of the white coconut cream on top.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

 

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Coconut Cream

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Coconut Cream

Curious about the Paleo diet? Check out this article about all things Paleo our sister company’s blog, Austin Veggie Chef!

 

Thanks for Thanksgiving Cocktails!

Thanksgiving is next week, and this cold front in Austin sure is making us hungry for our favorite Thanksgiving treats. But in order to get to the feast, it requires a lot of time in the kitchen and dealing with family mayhem! Make all that hard work in a little easier and lower your holiday stress level with these delicious Thanksgiving inspired cocktails.

 

Pumpkin Spice Nog Martini

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12 eggs, separated

1 bottle of spiced rum

½ pound sugar, divided

5 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup of pumpkin puree

Whipped cream

 

Keep the egg whites in the refrigerator for now. Beat the yolks with a hand mixer until thickened, then add the sugar and beat more, until much thicker and creamier. Carefully stir in the rum, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and pumpkin, then chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

 

After the pumpkin mixture has set, combine the egg whites and the rest of the sugar and beat with the hand mixer until soft peaks are formed. Fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mix. Serve with whipped cream and some cinnamon.

 

Cranberry and Apple Sangria

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1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

4 cloves

3 allspice berries

1 vanilla bean, opened

2 apples (we used Pink Lady and it was delicious!), sliced thickly

2 cups cranberries

One bottle of rose

1/3 cup ruby port

1/3 cup Cointreau

1/3 cup cranberry juice

 

Add the water, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves into a saucepan. Simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes, until a syrup is formed. Strain into a bowl, then add the apples and cranberries. Cover and allow to cool in the fridge overnight.

 

Combine about ¾ cup of the fruit syrup with the wine, port, Cointreau, and cranberry juice in a pitcher. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Chilly out? How about some chili!

The season of fall is the season of chili. After all, what do we think of when we think of chili? Tailgating at a football game on a chilly autumn afternoon, warming up with a delicious bowl of chili! Here in Texas, there is a very strong opinion on what’s a “true” chili and what isn’t. But one of the great things about chili is that it can be altered in so many ways to fit a variety of dietary needs! Vegetarian or vegan? There’s a chili for that. Trying to watch your sugar intake? There’s a chili for that! Here are some of our favorite chili recipes to get you warmed up for the remainder of the chilly chili season!

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Veggie Chili

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (for extra heat, include seeds and ribs. For less heat, leave them out.)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped or grated

2 chipotle in adobo peppers chopped, plus 1 teaspoon of the chipotle in adobo sauce

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (use entire can, including liquid)

1 ½ 15 oz cans of red kidney beans, drained

1 15 oz can black beans, drained

4 cups of water

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano (substitute regular oregano if you can’t find Mexican)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

salt and black pepper, to taste

 

Garnishes: green onion, cheddar jack cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro.

 

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrot, and the bell and jalapeno peppers to the pot. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook another 4 or 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomatoes, water, black pepper, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Stir together, bring to a boil and then lower heat and allow to simmer for 45 minutes. Add beans and cook for another 45 minutes. Add salt to taste. Garnish to your liking and serve.

 

Low Sugar Paleo Friendly Chili

1 pound of grass-fed ground beef

12 baby bella or 4 portabella mushrooms, halved and cut into thick slices (portabella) or quartered (baby bella)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped or grated

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (leave the seeds and ribs for more spice, remove them for less)

2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Cayenne pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnishes: Avocado, chives, green onions

 

Put your slow cooker on high. Add the two cans of tomatoes, with their juices, to the slow cooker.

 

Heat up a large pot separately. Once hot, add your cooking fat. Allow the fat to heat up for a minute, then add the ground beef. Cook the ground beef, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until you see very little pink left. Then add the onion, mushrooms, peppers, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Let the vegetables soften for 4 or 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add the meat and veggies to the tomatoes to the slow cooker. Once the mixture comes to simmer, switch the power to low on your slow cooker and let it simmer, covered, for 8 hours. Garnish and enjoy!

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