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Recipes for the busy and healthy

18 Feb

This post is in response to a recipe search thread I read on one of my online parent networks and as was typing it, I thought it would be helpful to share this with a larger audience:

Easy Peasy Recipes:

I have two words for you, “Slow Cooker”. I got mine (IMG_0369 IMG_0370 IMG_0373 IMG_0375 IMG_0376 IMG_0377 IMG_0380 IMG_0383 IMG_0384 IMG_0385 IMG_0389 IMG_0390Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart) less than a month ago for $49.99 and it is such a lifesaver.  My girls giggled as I exclaimed, “I feel like I just discovered fire! ”  My 9-year-old who is enthralled with Greek Mythology calls me Prometheus as I want to share this wonderful new device with parents everywhere.

Learning has been slow as I am an ex-vegetarian (having shunned meat for 7+ years) and have only recently experimented with meat recipes – translation = you can eat a lot of meat if you’re not careful.  It’s so easy to throw in chicken/red meat, veggies, garlic and other herbs and arrive home after work to an aromatic dinner but after a few days of this, I was starting to feel the heft of too much meat in my system.  All in moderation I say.

But  digress, here are a few of my recipes (sides, additions to instantly brighten a meal and main dishes):

My trinity: bell peppers, onions and garlic. Sauteing this three together make everything better and bonus points for being able to chop up a lot of it beforehand and save in ziplock bags for grilling/sauteing/boiling (soups) during the week.

Avocado with sliced tomatoes sprinkled with lemon juice, black pepper and sea salt: again this is always a yummy refreshing and healthy addition to almost any meal.  Also aesthetically pleasing, toss it over a taco or on top of a side of quinoa.

Canned black beans (unsalted) = great source of protein, sprinkle dried oregano, dash of cumin powder, garlic powder and salt to taste. If you eat dairy, the “quezo fresco” from Los Altos is a welcome tasty addition for Mexican food night.  You can find it at El Rancho Supermarket on Willow in Menlo Park, CA. I buy all of my Hispanic food items there. (Any Mexican supermarket / mercado will have this)

Quinoa = you can pre-soak on Sunday and let it dry out or buy a brand that has been pre-rinsed.
Family of 4: 2 cups of quinoa, a third of a capful of virgin oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, salt to taste or chicken boullangaise.
1. Heat pan to mid heat (5), add olive oil, angling pan to cover as much of your surface area
2. Add quinoa and shake pan to make sure that the quinoa gets equal access to bottom of pan.
3. Add seasonings (enough to coat a layer over surface area).
4. Add 4 cups of water.
5. Once it boils, reduce heat to low simmer (2) and cover. 20 minutes later = fluffy yummy nutritious quinoa. We eat quinoa almost daily and it keeps really well for packed lunches for our girls who attend Laurel Elementary.

For “main sides”, I alternate from tofu, Morningstar crumbles, shrimp, carne arrachera asada (grilled skirt steak), chicken breast and whole chicken (with innards and extremities removed).

Tofu: cut into length wise into 1 inch wide blocks.  Season with curry, sesame seeds, garlic powder and tamari.  Coat the seasonings on and add tamari to taste (don’t douse it).
Grill (heat level 6 – 7) on your Cast Iron Skillet ($29.99 at Crate & Barrel) over enough olive oil to lightly coat the surface. Serve on top of quinoa, noodles (soba/udon) with side of steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

Morningstar Crumbles (Mexican food recipes) - I love this product, it takes the guilt out of eating actual ground beef (Morningstar products can be found at your local Target frozen groceries aisle)
Taco Night:
Heat your pan with olive oil (always just enough to coat surface, don’t over do it, it shouldn’t be creating a puddle on your pan)
Add chopped onions, bell peppers (red/green/yellow/orange = interchangeable but add some variety so the color pops)
Add garlic powder (or if you have oodles of time, chop some fresh garlic cloves and brown for a minute as your stir)
Once onion and bell peppers have softened (~ 2 minutes), add your bag or crumbles
Stir, mix and add oregano, basil and more garlic powder (Can you tell I love garlic?)
Add chopped tomatoes, mix, add half a cup of vegetable broth and cover.
Less than 5 minutes later = Voila
Serve in tacos topped with fresh avocado/tomato mix (see side dishes above), quezo fesco (if you love dairy), and your salsa of choice
Side of your canned beans recipe and quinoa to make it a full dish

To turn the above into nachos:
Same steps above but after you add vegetable broth, sprinkle with lactose-free Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds which can be found at your local Whole Foods or  It’s healthier (plant-based), easier on sensitive tummies and lower on the calories but note that they do not market themselves as vegan s there may be traces of animal protein.
Cover and you will have gooey delicious cheese mixed in with your “meat” to enjoy as your very own healthier nachos.  Top it off with guacamole if you really want to go wild. :)

“Home-made” Corn Chips – Notice the quotations, this is a partial DIY chips
1. Package of corn tortillas (without lime or added flavor as flavor additives will cause the same reaction as adding water to hot oil = not fun, trust me – any my burn scars)
2. Cut tortillas length-wise along the lines of the tortillas into thirds, turn 90 degrees and cut width side three times.
3. Use your trusty cast iron skillet and heat at mid-high heat (6), add enough olive oil (1/3 inch) to allow for frying
4. Once oil is hot (test it with one tortilla strip, if it doesn’t start bubbling and rising to the top, have some patience ;) )
- Once heat is high enough, add a layer of cut corn tortillas, flip over with your tongs as soon as your done adding tortillas, starting with the ones you added first
5. Once light golden brown, remove and place on a colander lined with a paper towel and lightly add sea salt to taste
6. Repeat until you have desired amount
7. Serve immediately or place in microwave oven (uncovered – you don’t want them to sweat and get soggy)
These are fantastic for your nachos (above), guacamole and/or salsa as your guests/family wait for the main dish to be done.  Also great as a side-addition (6-8 chips next to beans).

Carne Asada – Easy recipe
Use Chef Merito Steak & Meat Seasoning, 1 (mid to large size) lemon, oregano, garlic,  half an orange, (Mexican beer optional)
I like using the higher grade Carne Arrachera (skirt steak) found at any Mexican/Hispanic supermarket
In a small mixing bowl, add your Chef Merito seasoning, oregano, light amount of garlic and mix well
In a large mixing bowl add one piece of steak at a time and sprinkle seasoning over entire surface area, front and back
Repeat until you have all meat in large bowl
Squeeze half of an orange on top of mix, squeeze 1/4 lemon on top, if desired add 1/4 of Mexican beer and mix all meet well, rubbing in seasoning into the meat
Let sit while you prepare your beans, quinoa, avocado mix or guacamole
Heat cast iron skillet, brush on olive oil (mid to high heat 6 – 7)
Add meat to skillet and flip with tongs after 30 seconds.  Squeeze a little lemon juice on each piece to keep from sticking to pan as you progress in your cooking. You can either keep flipping until a nice deep brow coloring to serve whole or cook until light brown and separate onto other bowl (if you want tacos and have more time on hand)
In a clean cutting board, slice meat length wise, turn and cut into small pieces width size.  Toss back into cast iron skillet and cook until deep brown.  This is perfect for tacos.

And now I must really get back to my studying as I have a history midterm this Thursday!  I will add recipes for shrimp, chicken, soups and slow cookers soon!

I’m a mom of two (2nd and 3rd grader), pack their and my lunches M-F, cook dinner, work full-time as a business development professional in an international law firm and am taking 9 units of classes at our local community college.  It helps vastly that I have a supportive partner but you can imagine that time flies in our home!

BBQ Burgers, Collard Greens, and Beet Arugula Salad

17 Aug

Seared Ahi Tuna

10 Jan

Seared Ahi Tuna


Best part of cooking is leftovers!


 Seared Ahi Tuna  

Ingredients: 3 steaks of Ahi tuna, 1/2 cup of soysauce, 1/2 tea-spoon Chinese five-spice (I found it at Ralphs), 3/4 tea-spoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning (great for all types of sea food), 1 table-spoon wasabi (depending on how spicy you like your food you can add less), 1 tea-spoon olive oil  

In a large container pour soy sauce, 1/2 tea-spoon of chinese five-spice, 3/4 tea-spoon of Chesapeake bay seasoning, wasabi, and olive oil.  Use a whisk to mix well until it’s slightly foamy.  After you rinse your steaks and pat them dry place in the marinade and close container.  Refrigerate for 1 hour (you can do 1/2 hour but the longer you marinade the juicier your steak will be).  

Heat skillet to medium-high heat and spray a light layer of cooking oil.  You can use avocado oil, canola or olive oil.  Place your steak on skillet and turn over 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side. (I like my steaks seared and raw on the inside so you can do less or more based on preferences but you should do no longer than 2 1/2 minutes of your steak will be dry and fully cooked.)  

Remove from skillet and serve to your soon to be happy guests! :)

Golden Brown Brussels Sprouts

10 Jan

This easy recipe will have your kids asking for seconds! Tender, juicy and crispy on the outside Brussels sprouts.

15-20 small Brussels sprouts (choose closed-leafed, tightly wound- it will prevent them from falling apart)
Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tea-spoon in a small dish) and 1 tea-spoon for pan
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tea-spoon of grated parmesan cheese

Rinse Brussels sprouts really well making sure to peel loose or brown leafs.  Cut off stems.

Cut Brussels sprouts in half (from top to bottom).  Rub the inside of the Brussels sprouts with olive oil.

Heat sautéing pan to low-medium heat and add a tea-spoon of extra virgin oil.  Place Brussels sprouts facing up on pan (single layer not touching), sprinkle sea salt and cover for 5 minutes.

Turn Brussels sprouts over, sprinkle parmesan cheese (very lightly to flavor and not overwhelm taste), sprinkle sea salt (again) and black pepper and cover. Turn off heat after 5-7 minutes.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Healthy Recipes

7 Jan

Every time I show up at work with a healthy dish I get inquiries for the recipes; some of these inquiries are so basic such as cooking beans that it worries me as to the future of Food.

Food as in the comida your mother made you growing up whether it was tortillas, bread, or naan on the side.  More and more households rely heavily on eating out every night and also purchase their lunch at work!  The bottom line is that no one will care as much as you should about what is going down your throat and into your body- or your child or partner’s body. 

We all have grueling schedules that keep us away from doing a lot of the things we wish we had time for but I feel that cooking your own food and exercising are two fundamental necessities that you should never give up.

My mother used to drive me crazy growing up when I would wake up at 3:45 A.M. to the sound of pots and pans banging in the kitchen.  She would set her buzzer (I can still hear the EEEEH EEEEEH in my ear) and start cooking while my father was in the shower.  She already had her veggies chopped the night before so it was mostly mixing and cooking the ingredients together. 

I used to hate her for being so good.  Why couldn’t she steal some extra minutes of sleep for herself instead of making sure my father would have dinner waiting when he came home? Now I admire her and thank her for teaching me the valuable lesson in stretching a day to work to your advantage.

Anyway sleeping is for the dead as my father used to say. 

Now I wake up at 4:30 in the morning when I was lazy the night before and didn’t prepare lunch alongside dinner.  I drag my body, heavy with sleep, to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face.  I go to the kitchen and open the fridge, make a visual inventory of what I have and decide what to make. Here’s a few tips to making it easier.

Always make a pot of beans (or other type of filler/side dish that you eat every day) on the weekend to last you through most of the week.  I usually soak pinto or black beans (depending on my mood) overnight to get them nice and tender.  If I am running low on beans mid-week I do this on the night that I notice an imminent bean shortage. :) The next morning the first thing I do is rinse the beans again until the water is clear and fill it with the appropriate amount of water and place them on mid-low heat by 5 a.m.

I get my running clothes on and go downstairs to run 20 minutes on the treadmill.  That’s all- 20 minutes every day.  You probably stare at the wall longer than that.

I head back upstairs and check on my beans and turn down the heat to low.  I prep my veggies and half an hour later I have breakfast and lunch ready.

I wake up the kiddos at 6 a.m. and they fold their blankets and change into the clothes I have laid out for them.  Bella makes our bed and Iza puts their things (blankets/toys) away.  Once they have their chores done they sit at the counter and eat the breakfast that I have served for them.

I hop in the shower by 6:10 and out in 10 minutes.  I get dressed and check on my beans. I season them with oregano, cumin, garlic and salt (minimal) and keep the heat on. 

I comb the girls’ hair and make sure they brush their teeth while I dry my hair and finish getting ready. By 6:45 I get our lunches ready in our containers, turn off the stove and walk out of my the door by 6:55.  A ten minute walk later and we are catching the dash off to start our day.

Some people might say that they think it’s ridiculous to be waking up early to do this but I feel great when I get to work with the knowledge that I have a yummy lunch waiting for me and that I went for a run- so if I want to reach for a piece of dark chocolate as a snack- that’s okay.  You can always make time- always.

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