Month: December 2013

post-holiday healthy: brown rice with roasted broccolini, feta, and pine nuts + simple salad with green apple


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!  If you’re like me, you may have had a little too much to eat (or drink) around Christmas.  That’s ok–that time is valuable, memorable, and spent with friends and family you love.  However, you might also be feeling a little bloated or sluggish from all of the sweet, heavy holiday food.  When this happens to me, I ask myself what I’m really craving.  After my pure barre session yesterday at 5:30, I felt so much better, and I got this overwhelming urge for broccoli.  YES, broccoli.  I love the taste of roasted broccoli, but wasn’t sure how I should frame the rest of the meal.  When I went to the grocery, I saw some great looking broccolini, which is a long, skinny variety that has tender stems reminiscent of asparagus.  Then I saw a beautiful green apple and delicate greenleaf lettuce.  I remembered that we had some basmati brown rice, picked up some pine nuts for earthiness and feta for tang, and headed on home.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did–you’ll feel great about the fiber in the brown rice and broccoli and you’ll love the taste from the pine nuts and feta.  Yum!

Brown Rice with Roasted Broccolini, Feta, and Pine Nuts

Serves 2-4 entree portions or 4-6 side dish portions

1 cup uncooked basmati brown rice (or regular brown, if you have it on hand)

2 cups water

1 lb. broccolini (1 bundle at the grocery store)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (separated into 1 Tbsp. each)

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons

2 tsp. butter

1 sprig of rosemary, chopped (you could also use 1 tsp. dried rosemary)

2 Tbsp. pine nuts (you could also use slivered almonds if you have them on hand)

1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

First, cook the rice according to package directions, set aside, and keep warm.  Heat the oven to 450 F.  While the rice is cooking, chop the broccolini, including the stems, into 1-inch pieces.  In a medium bowl, toss the broccolini pieces, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper.  Place broccolini in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice during the cooking process.  The veggies will stick to the pan a little, but this is a good sign that flavor is coming!  While the broccolini is roasting, Heat the other Tbsp. of olive oil with the butter and rosemary in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced onions and cook until they become translucent and slightly browned on the edges.  Next, add the cooked rice and stir to combine.  You’ll hear a sizzle from the rice hitting the heat, but this is a good thing–some of the rice will crisp up slightly for a yummy texture and flavor.  Next, add the roasted broccolini and stir to combine.  Turn off the heat and add the pine nuts and feta.  Slightly stir, squeezing the lemon juice over the rice, then serve immediately.

Simple Salad with Green Apple

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side salad

1 bunch greenleaf lettuce, roughly chopped

1 green apple, diced

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. orange or peach marmalade

salt and pepper, to taste

Add the lettuce and diced apple to a large bowl.  Whisk together the other ingredients together and pour over the salad, toss, and serve.

lunchbox life: asian turkey meatballs with cilantro rice and veggies


It’s the last lunchbox life post of 2013!  This time next Sunday night, I’ll be doing the I-don’t-have-to-go-to-work-tomorrow happy dance, but we have one more week of review and final exams before we’re home free for Christmas.  Only FIVE more days…not that I’m counting.:-)

Tonight’s post is a super easy recipe that’s packed with flavor.  The meatball recipe is from Skinnytaste (my girl Gina never lets me down), but I used her recommended dipping sauce as the stir-fry sauce for my veggies.  I used brown basmati rice here, but you could certainly use regular white, regular brown, or white basmati if you wish.

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Cilantro Rice and Veggies


1/4 cup panko crumbs

1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey

1 egg

1 tbsp ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 green onions, chopped

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Stir-Fry Sauce:

4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp chopped fresh green onion

Stir Fry Veggies:

1 broccoli crown, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced into slivers

1 zucchini, small chopped

1 pkg. sliced white mushrooms

1 cup snow peas

Cilantro Rice:

1 cup brown basmati rice

2 cups water

1 green onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Mix ground turkey, panko, egg, salt, green onions, ginger, cilantro, 1 tbsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 1/8 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with remaining mixture. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce

Cook rice according to directions.  When it’s cooked, turn off the heat and add the cilantro and green onions; set aside.

For the stir-fry sauce, mix together lime juice, water, soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a bowl. Add green onions.

Stir fry the veggies in a large skillet (or a wok, if you have one) over high heat.  You can use oil if you like, but the veggies will release some moisture as you cook them.  Once the veggies begin to heat through, add the stir-fry sauce and stir through.  Serve the meatballs, rice, and veggies in any combination you like.

pappardelle with ground sirloin ragu, aka grown-up spaghetti


So, yesterday was full of social commitments–a lovely opening at Robinson Home, Macon’s own fine kitchen and interior goods store owned by some of our best friends, Will and Carrie Robinson (you HAVE to check out their store–you’ll want to buy everything, and you should), then a lovely holiday cocktail hour at Ned and Priscilla Esser’s house.  After a supper of cocktails and appetizers, we called it and early night, and I promised to make supper on Thursday night.  My voice started waning last night, but this morning, I woke up to discover that I hardly had a voice at all!

After a day full of telling my students “Yes, I’m ok…yes, my voice sounds bad…no, you’re not getting out of taking your test…,” I was exhausted.  I would have loved to have attended Historic Macon‘s membership mixer or the Macon Music Ambassadors concert, but unfortunately, I began to feel just about as bad as I sounded.  I left school, went to the grocery store, and came home to change into my pajamas…all before 5 PM.

While at the grocery, I knew I had a package of pappardelle pasta from a previous jaunt to Trader Joe’s, and a warm bowl of pasta sounded like exactly what the nonexistent-doctor ordered.  If you can’t tell from the photo, pappardelle is a wide egg noodle that’s perfect for hearty sauces.  I picked up some lean ground sirloin, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms, then decided to figure it out when I got home.

I combined inspiration from several recipes I found online, and I’m pretty happy with how tonight’s dish turned out.  This doesn’t take very long to cook, but the sauce will taste like it’s been simmering on the stove for a few hours.  While the first name, pappardelle with ground sirloin ragu, sounds fancy-schmancy, I qualified it with a more simplistic name: grown-up spaghetti.  Pasta, meat, and tomatoes–that’s spaghetti, right?  This version has a more complex flavor than spaghetti, but it still hits the spot if you’re craving comfort food.  Try and let me know what you think!

Pappardelle with Ground Sirloin Ragu, aka Grown-Up Spaghetti

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. dried mint

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

8 oz. ground sirloin

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 Tbsp. tomato jam or tomato paste

4 oz. sliced mushrooms (1 carton)

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper, to taste

8 oz. pappardelle pasta

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta, and warm the garlic and oil in a small, heavy-based pan that comes with a lid, stirring for a minute or so.

Sprinkle in the herbs and pepper flakes, stirring again before adding the meat. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, until it cooks through.

Add the tomatoes, tomato jam or paste, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, salt and pepper, then give a good stir and bring to a bubble. Cover with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes.

At the appropriate time, salt the boiling water and cook the pasta according to packet instructions (mine took 11 minutes).  Once cooked and drained, add the pasta to the meat sauce and, using tongs, dress the pasta with the sauce.  Turn the heat off of the eye on the stove.  Add the fresh parsley and parmesan, tossing with the tongs, then divide the pasta into 2 bowls for hungry people or 4 bowls for a pasta course.  Top with another dusting of parmesan and serve immediately.

tasty tuesday: spicy cajun shrimp and rice

I’m back in the kitchen again. It’s the first time I have cooked since Thanksgiving (which featured another great smoked bird and from scratch green bean casserole from me– I don’t think I can go back to canned!), and that is largely due to our being on the Historic Vineville Christmas Tour where I wasn’t allowed to cook because I like to cook with “chefless abandon”. If there is one thing I am great at making, its a mess.

Needless to say, our house looks amazing with all of the Christmas stuff. Eleta and her mom did a fine job making it look festive and classic. I helped with the heavy and high up stuff.

But anyway, on to the main event. Tonight’s supper is brought to you by not having enough time in the day. I had a meeting that went until 7 and I had one idea when I went to the store– Shrimp. The results were excellent!

Spicy Cajun Shrimp and Rice

1 lb gulf shrimp
1 1/2 cup dry rice
3 cups water
1/4 cup chopped okra, chopped
1/2 cup plum tomatoes, halved
1 green chile, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 can hot chili beans
Cajun seasoning (Cayenne, Paprika, Onion Powder, Chili P, Salt, Black and Red Pepper)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil

So, this is a lot easier if you happen to have a rice cooker. If you don’t have one, maybe you should look into one at Robinson Home, downtown Macon’s newest store selling excellent kitchen wares. If you have one, start your rice in it with the rice and water, otherwise cook the rice on the stovetop by boiling the water and simmering the rice for about 45 mins (I used brown rice which takes longer).

Next, pre-cook the okra with olive oil and salt and pepper. Sautee in a dutch oven for about five minutes while doing something else, so having a drink. Remove from pan.

Heat the rest of the oil and butter in the pan until the butter browns slightly. Add the cajun seasoning and the shrimp, peeled, for about a minute on medium heat. Lower heat and add the chile, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and okra to the pan and stir.

It actually fits with the decor.

It actually fits with the decor.

Cook about 3 minutes until flavors have combined. Stir in the beans and cooked rice and stir. Add parsley and cook for another minute. Serve in a bowl and garnish with parsley and a lemon wedge. Eat.

Quick, spicy, tasty.

Quick, spicy, tasty.


I can’t express how nice it was to be back in the kitchen and cooking. It is amazing how much you can grow to love it. It really is a joy, especially to cook something that is somewhat back to my roots (some may have noticed I was born in the Louisiana in this article). Enjoy, y’all.

lunchbox life: skinny broccoli mac and cheese


Skinny Mac and Cheese is an oxymoron, right?

Macaroni and cheese is, by its very name, not a “skinny” dish.  It’s pasta. It’s cheesy-ooey-gooey.  It’s so, so satisfying, but also so, so heavy.  You dream about it, then eat it, then have a tummyache and regret it.

No? Just me? 🙂

I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like mac and cheese.  Many vegans use vegan “cheese” for the sole purpose of baking this delicious dish.  Never fear, loyal readers: Gina over at Skinnytaste has come to the rescue!  I have slightly adapted her recipe to fit my preferences, but let me tell you: this lady is the queen of turning indulgent recipes into lightened-up, guilt-free, really tasty dishes.  If you’re a Weight Watcher, know that her recipes come with a full nutritional profile as well as PointsPlus values.  What a valuable resource!

The addition of broccoli is key here.  First, it functions as the green veggie component is the dish, but it’s so much more than that.  Secondly, it (along with the whole grain pasta) serves as a high fiber food that keeps you full throughout the afternoon.  If you’ve read my lunchbox life entries, you’ve already read about my obsession with fiber, but seriously: it’s important.  Thirdly, the broccoli takes up volume in the dish which lessens the amount of pasta in each serving, but you don’t realize it because visually, you have a warm,  substantialbowl of cheesy pasta (with some broccoli).  You’re going to love this, I just know it.  This recipe has 8 servings, so I saved the other three servings for Alex to have for a few lunches this week.  I’m having this every day for lunch this week with a side of sliced grapefruit.

Skinny Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Adapted (just barely) from Skinnytaste

  • 12 oz high fiber whole grain elbow pasta
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot (you can also use onion)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 8 oz (2 cups) reduced-fat sharp cheddar (buy a block and grate it–it melts better than the pre-shredded kind)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets (I used pre-cut bag)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions (probably about 7 minutes).  Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375F.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add minced shallot, thyme, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder and cook over low heat about 2 minutes, add flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the sauce is thick, remove from heat, add cheddar cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Top with grated parmesan and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.