February-March: Spring into healthy habits
Tip for the month: Do you have trouble eating at least 2 cups of veggies every day like I do? Try eating them as snacks and salads! Crunch on carrot and celery sticks, green pepper slices, or even broccoli and cauliflower florets. Don’t like them plain? Mix some onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder, and parsley in ½ a cup of plain yogurt for a homemade “ranch” flavored dip that is healthy and tasty.
Recommended Website: http://www.pickyourown.org/ lets you know where you can pick your own produce, as well as giving tips on what to do with it. This is a great way to teach kids about their food sources, and you get maximum nutrition from fruits and veggies when they go from the field to the table in such a short time.
Time-saver: both the meatball and Chinese slow-cooker pork make large recipes – so do not be scared off by the large amount of meat! If you freeze the extra meatballs and pork in quart-sized packages you can have at least another 3-4 meals ready to go…with minimal mess and prep time! For the meatballs, add them frozen to your next round of spaghetti sauce as it is heating up and you are boiling the pasta. Just add a bag of store-bought whole-wheat buns, some BBQ sauce, and pickles to the reheated pork for a clean, quick meal…and serve with carrot sticks for a fresh, healthy crunch.
One-week meal plan:
Pecan-crusted chicken salad
Venison-black bean meatballs with penne pasta
Halibut and lentils
Slow-cooker Chinese pork tenderloin
14 ¾ oz can salmon
Mixed greens (for multiple salads)
Whole wheat hamburger buns
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 box barilla plus penne pasta
1.5 pounds ground venison, sirloin, or turkey
Black beans (dried are cheaper, but you will need to soak and cook them)
Chicken broth (or base or boullion)
Tarragon (an herb in the produce department)
Dry white wine
Chinese 5-spice mixture
Raspberry preserves or 100% fruit spread
4 green onions
Canola or olive-oil based cooking spray
Parsley (dry or fresh)
McCormick Montreal Steak seasoning
Red pepper, dried and crushed
Salmon burgers and salad (4 servings)
This is not a lowfat recipe, but it does provide a hefty dose of protein and a full day’s supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutrition per salmon burger with bread, relish, and mustard: Calories 536; Fat 17g; Carbs 60g; Fiber 7g; protein 38g
1 large egg
2 tbsps milk
1 14 ¾ oz can salmon
2 Tbsps fresh chives, chopped (or 2 tsps dried chives)
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tbsp canola oil
Mix all ingredients. Form into 4 patties. Grill on George Foreman type grill, or pan-fry in a nonstick skillet for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve on whole-wheat rolls with relish, mustard, and fat-free mayonnaise and a green salad on the side.
Pecan-crusted chicken salad with sweet potato wedges (6 servings)
For a lower-calorie meal choose less chicken and more salad; for more protein and healthy fats add an extra piece or two of chicken.
Nutrition information for 1/6 of chicken recipe: Calories 271; Fat 13g; Carbs 9g; Fiber 2g; Pro 30g.
Nutrition information for 1 cup mixed greens with 1 Tbsp dressing: Calories 57; Fat 5g; Carbs 4g; Fiber 0.5g; Pro 1g.
Nutrition information for one medium sweet potato: Calories 158; Fat 0g; Carbs 37g; Fiber 5g; Pro 2g.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sweet potato wedges
Slice medium 3 sweet potatoes into ½ inch thick wedges and place on a baking sheet sprayed with canola-based cooking spray. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes while preparing chicken.
1 ½ lbs chicken tenders or breast pieces, chopped into bite-size pieces
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (use your blender to grind toasted whole wheat bread if you cannot find these pre-made)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped fine
Mix mustard, honey, and cheese. Add chicken and coat well. Mix bread crumbs and pecans. Coat chicken with dry ingredients. Place on a second baking tray greased with a generous coating of canola-based cooking spray.
Turn sweet potatoes, and add tray of chicken. Bake chicken and potatoes for an additional 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender. Sprinkle potatoes with a little sea salt before serving.
¼ cup raspberry preserves
¼ cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Mix all ingredients well. Add salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.
Serve chicken hot over mixed greens, and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve with sweet potato wedges.
Venison-black bean meatballs with penne pasta and marinara sauce (10 servings of meatballs, 5 servings of noodles and sauce)
Nutrition information for one serving of meatballs: Calories 214; Fat 12g; Carbs 6g; Fiber 2g; Pro 20g
(Please see box and jar respectively for nutrition information on pasta and marinara sauce, as they differ based upon serving size and brand)
1 jar spaghetti sauce, any flavor
1/2 box Barilla Plus penne pasta
Meatballs (makes 10 servings – freeze and save half the meatballs for another day)
1.5 pounds ground venison (chicken, turkey, or sirloin can also be used)
1 cup cooked black beans, pureed
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I use a blender to grind toasted whole wheat bread)
1 Tbsp McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning (or Mrs. Dash if you are limiting sodium)
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons diced garlic
2 Tbsps dry parsley (or a handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely)
1 Tbsp onion powder
3 Tbsps olive oil
Preheat oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
Combine all meatball ingredients. Shape into ping-pong sized balls and place on parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown and firm.
Boil water and prepare penne pasta according to directions.
Heat marinara sauce.
Place penne in the bottom of a large serving dish, top with cooked meatballs, and pour marinara over the top. Garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley if desired.
Halibut and lentils (4 servings)
Every once in a while I come across a recipe that doesn’t need any improvement to make it healthier or more flavorful…and this is one of those! Check it out at the website above and enjoy! I froze my leftover tarragon for another day and another recipe.
Chinese Slow-Cooked Pork with brown rice (12 servings)
Nutrition information for 3oz (size of a deck of cards) cooked pork: Calories 159; Fat 5g; Carbs 0g; Fiber 0g; Pro 26g
Nutrition information for 1 cup brown rice: Calories 216; Fat 2g; Carbs 45g; Fiber 4g; Pro 5g
Pork shoulder has twice the fat and only two-thirds as much protein as tenderloin; if you can find the tenderloin on sale it is worth the extra money to make this recipe substitution!)
3 pounds trimmed pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic head, halved
1 (2-inch) knob unpeeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
Rub the pork all over with the five-spice powder and salt. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper to the slow cooker. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, and the meat, turning it a few times to coat. Cover the cooker, set it on HIGH, and cook for 4 hours. Set the cooker on LOW and cook until the meat is very tender, at least another 2 hours (6 hours total).
Brown rice can take up to 45 minutes to cook – check the package ahead of time and follow directions.
Transfer the pork to a platter, cover lightly, and let rest 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the cooking liquid into a measuring cup and skim off and discard the vegetables and fat that rise to the surface. Shred the meat and serve alongside brown rice and a fresh salad. You can freeze leftovers and serve as pulled-pork sandwiches on whole wheat bread on your next time-crunched day.