Since moving in with The Boy two weeks ago, we’ve quickly become much more…domestic (well, at least in the kitchen). While I do enjoy cooking homemade meals, when I lived with my sister I frequently settled for salads, signature pasta dishes or breakfast for dinner. Since our schedules were so different, I would often cook for myself and therefore resorted to something easy.
However, living with a man is a completely different beast. Soups, salad, and what I consider “leftovers” simply don’t suffice for a Real Meal. Men need hearty, wholesome, grandiose dishes and thus we’ve become quite familiar with our teeny tiny Cambridge kitchen.
Thankfully, we both like to cook and we both enjoy eating well. I lucked out that my guy doesn’t eat processed food, soda, take-out pizza or boxed meals, but rather enjoys organic meats, high-quality cooking oils and most importantly: real food.
Here’s what’s been on our dinner menu lately:
-Homemade Gluten Free pizza with spinach, broccoli, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, mushroom, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning (crust mix from Bob’s Red Mill)
-Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers (inspired by Simply Life blog)
*Note: We added shiitake mushrooms and sweet peas, used brown rice pasta, and doubled the garlic
What are your favorite healthy meals to make with your roommate/family/significant other? Share your comments below.
I am a huge fan of experimenting with new recipes, and I’ll try anything at least once. I remember when I was a young girl, I would love joining my grandmother in the kitchen, carefully watching her every move. I was fascinated (and still am fascinated) by how quick she was with her hands, and by the incredible meals she’d create solely with fresh, simple ingredients.
I also remember what a picky little girl I once was! As my grandma would hand me a “taste test” of whatever she was cooking, be it glazed carrots, celery soup, or venison, I’d always shout out with a disgusted face, “But I don’t like that!” Her go-to response: “How do you know if you don’t like it if you don’t try it?” So I’d try it, and at least I’d learn if the taste suited me or not. And 99% of the time, guess what? I liked it.
That’s when I started to expand my taste buds, and experiment with food. My childhood years helped me overcome my fears of the “unknown” and programmed me to try everything…at least once. It transformed me into the woman I am today, and for that I am thankful. I can now say I’ve tried everything from my mom’s chopped liver to sweet bread, Thai cuisine to Indian, raw food to ultra hot spicy food, and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the journey.
Well today at lunch there was nothing crazy on the menu, but instead of going with my typical bland humus & veggie wrap, or my go-to salad toppings, I decided to think a little outside the box, and it was definitely worth it.
Organic Broccoli Feta Salad
- 1 c. organic broccoli, chopped
- cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 c. black beans, rinsed
- 2 TB crumbled feta cheese
- dash of chili powder
- dash of cumin
- 1 TB olive oil
- Spritz of fresh lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
Mix up in a big bowl and enjoy with a side of hummus and pita or fresh fruit!
Do you think outside the box when it comes to cooking, or do you stick to your usual daily menu? Are you a daredevil or do you tend to play it safe?
I went home to Connecticut for the day to celebrate my mom’s birthday. We headed to the grocery store after some fabulous apple-picking and what do you know: she was picking up ingredients to make one of my very own recipes. Wow I’m famous (or just let me think that for a day). My mom making one of my recipes? Wow, that feels good. Anyway, these stuffed peppers suffice for a meal on their own or can be served with a side salad or extra veggies. Enjoy…it’s definitely a fall favorite!
-2 red bell peppers
-6 oz. lean ground turkey
-1 c. cooked quinoa (may substitute brown rice)
-1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 c. black beans (optional)
-2 small Roma tomatoes, diced
-1 c. spinach
-1/2 c. organic Marinara sauce
-1 clove garlic, crushed
-1 tsp. basil
-1 tsp. parsley
-1/4 c fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
-2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for cooking)
1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a medium skillet with olive oil, and cook turkey burger until lightly browned. Add in your vegetables (aside from the peppers and black beans if you choose to use them), and cook on medium heat.
2. In the meantime, cook quinoa (or brown rice) according to directions.
3. Once veggies are cooked, add in the Marinara sauce, crushed garlic, parsley, basil and optional beans. Cook on low heat. Lastly, stir in the quinoa.
4. Cut the top off peppers, and remove seeds. Stuff with mixture, and top each with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake the peppers for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!
You asked for it, so here it is! I modified a fatty recipe my aunt had given me for eggplant lasagna, using eggplant instead of noodles. Nifty, huh? Anyway, after some big changes to the recipe (i.e. using tofu instead of ricotta cheese), this recipe turned out to be a winner! Note: it’s not the “prettiest” looking picture but boy does it taste amazing. Serve with a side salad.
-1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced very thin (think: substituting for lasagna noodles)
-8 oz. frozen organic spinach
-2 TB olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, crushed
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 block firm tofu, chopped and mashed
-4 to 6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
-1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
-2 TB dried basil
-1 c. of your favorite tomato sauce (with garlic and/or spices)
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Prepare eggplant, cutting extremely thin slices. Lightly saute on medium heat for a few minutes in a large pan with olive oil. Remove and set aside.
2. Once removed, saute spinach and garlic in same pan in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Combine egg, cheeses, and bail and mix together until blended. Note: the tofu should crumble up making a ricotta cheese-like texture. Shake in some salt and pepper to give the mixture a little more flavor.
3. Star layering! Begin with 1/2 c. tomato sauce. Then add half of your sliced eggplant. Top with half the cheese mixture. Then add another layer of eggplant, cheese mixture and finally top with an additional 1/2 c. tomato sauce. Sprinkle top with additional parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
4. Cover with tin foil and bake on 350 for 40 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes. Enjoy!
As of this week, I have officially been living in Boston for one year. ONE YEAR! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. I also can’t believe that while living in the exciting city on a budget (let’s just say I won’t be rolling in the dough for quite some time), I’m still able to manage my money. People ask me all of the time how I survive in this expensive city. “Dinner out, cafes everywhere, pricy bars…how do you possibly do it?”
While I talked about eating healthy on a budget in my interview with Lifestyler last fall here, I thought I’d share some new tricks of the trade now that I’m truly a savvy Bostonian (yay, I can finally call myself that, although I still don’t have the accent). Anyway, back to the point: now that I’ve lived in a city for more than a year and have been able to eat, live and sleep, I think I can offer some valuable advice to you fine folks looking to do the same.
1. Cook the Perfect Amount: Don’t let food go to waste! I know for me, if I cook too much food, I’ll save it for “leftovers” and half the time end up forgetting about it. There’s nothing tasty nor practical about rotten food! Instead, cook according to your party size. For me, it’s mostly cooking for one ’cause I’m a single girl in the city (unless I treat my roomies here and there). They say “one is the loneliest number” which is true to an extent, but when it comes to cooking on a budget the number one couldn’t be sweeter. Instead of making extravagant 8-serving size pasta dishes, I simply use 1/2 a cup of brown rice pasta just for me. I buy 4 oz. servings of salmon at the market, and sauté just one chicken breast when I’m making a chicken entree. If a recipe calls for 6 large chicken breasts, but you know you’re only cooking for one or two, change things up accordingly!
2. Make Use of What You Already Have! The biggest mistake people make when trying to save money is going on grocery shopping binges, and buying nearly everything in the store. Be sure to check what you have in your fridge before you buy, buy, buy! You’ll be surprised by what kind of ingredients you can find in your drawers, cabinets and freezer. Oooohh yea, I froze soup a few weeks ago! Seriously, whenever you think you have NO FOOD IN THE HOUSE, look a little deeper…I’m sure you do. On a larger note, be creative with what you have in the house as well. Yesterday was the perfect example of a savvy budgeting decision. I planned to make eggplant lasagna (you can find the recipe here) and was going to use a little ricotta cheese for the spinach filling. However, I didn’t have ricotta in the house and quite frankly it would be a waste to buy it because I’d never use it again. That’s when it hit me. I saw the leftover container of tofu from a few nights ago sitting in the fridge. A-ha! I then substituted crumbled tofu for ricotta cheese and honestly couldn’t taste the difference. My roommate even tried the finished product and absolutely loved it (I didn’t tell her there was tofu in it…shhh!). Anywho, I do this all of the time. No walnuts? Use slivered almonds. Ran out of oil and want to make muffins? Use applesauce. The possibilities are endless!
3. Learn to Shop Smart: I have to be honest: when I first moved to Boston I wasn’t the smartest shopper. Of course, I ate healthy, but I’d spend tons of money on healthy meals to go, organic veggies, and pricy fruit. I actually bought a bundle of grapes for $7 once. RIDICULOUS. Never again. Now I like to think I’m much smarter when it comes to grocery shopping. In fact, I keep my weekly grocery budget around $25 to $40 a week, quite impressive considering I rarely eat out. The trick? First, never go shopping when you’re starving or in a “weird” mood. You’ll end up buying things you don’t need or even worse…buying the whole store! My roommate once went to the grocery store with me after a long night out and ended up buying gummy fruit snacks. The next day, she was like “What the hell was I thinking?” The thing is: she wasn’t. On another note, look for SALES. If grapes are $7, obviously go without grapes that day and buy the bag of apples that’s $2.99 for a dozen. If cucumbers are 2 for $1, skip the carrots and use cucs for your hummus dipping this week. Play it by year day.
4. Check Out Local Farmer’s Markets: I swear by Farmer’s Markets (or any kind of market in fact as you can see)! They are my absolute favorite thing to do. The browsing and sampling alone get me every time. But even better: many of them have sweet sales. I bought my eggplant for my yummy lasagna at yesterday’s Farmers Market and it simply tasted soooooo much better than usual. You can also find cheap, locally grown veggies, fruit, herbs and baked goods galore! The best part about the markets is you can talk to the local farmers and find out exactly where your food is from, what’s put into it, and how it’s made. A guy I met yesterday explained to me that locally grown carrots, for instance, are much healthier than those grown in California because when baby carrots are packaged they add tons of sugar to keep them fresh. Makes sense. Buy what’s local and you’ll not only enjoy the fresh taste, but you’ll also hopefully save a few bucks.
5. Try to Cook For Yourself As Much as Possible: I actually adore cooking, so this step is easy for me. But for those of you not so fond of putting on the apron and cranking up the stove, start slow. Maybe have a Potluck dinner with your friends in the area, or make homemade healthy pizza with your boyfriend. Once you start cooking a few nights a week, you’ll realize how enjoyable it is. I love cooking for myself especially because I know exactly what’s going into my food (no hidden surprises or fatty cream sauces snuck in). If you’re not ready to cook a whole meal (or simply don’t have the time) cook half of it. Buy some fresh bread or cheese from your local market, and make a yummy homemade salad with field greens, veggies and olive oil. This way you’re at least saving money on the salad. To be honest: restaurant and pre-made salads just aren’t worth it. They taste old and I usually find them boring. To go with this point, it’s also practical to make your own coffee and tea, etc. I had a major Starbuck’s addiction when I first moved to Boston, which costed me lotsssss of money. Now, I make a few cups of freshly brewed coffee in the morning with breakfast. Best part? My most recent coffee (a cinnamon hazelnut blend) costed only $5.99, and I’ll probably get a good 20+ cups out of it. 29 cents a cup? Not too shabby and beats a $3 cup of coffee any day.
6. But do Treat Yourself Too! I’m not trying to suck all the fun out of you! If you’re invited to a fun dinner out, of course go and enjoy. Get take out from your favorite cafe when you’re craving it. Have that special drink only your bartender knows how to make! Just make sure to keep in check with your budget when doing so! I loveeee sushi, so allow myself to have it every so often. Better yet? I just found out that the sushi place down the street from me does 15% off Tuesdays. I’M IN! Tomorrow, I’m also treating myself to a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte as I catch up with a friend. It’s almost fall and they’re back. How can I resist?
Hope you found these tips useful! Please share your personal advice for eating healthy on a budget…What are your money-saving secrets?
Usually, I season my tofu with herbs and garlic, but last night I chose to change it up a bit. I just purchased some sesame seeds, sesame oil, and a brand new bottle of Agave syrup, so decided to experiment. Let’s just say my little experiment was a huge success. I hope you enjoy!
*makes 2 servings
-1 Package Trader Joe’s Thai-style Lime Rice* (or other brand of choice) *Next time I’m going to make my own!
-1/2 package extra firm tofu
-2 TB sesame oil
-2 TB agave syrup
-few shakes of garlic salt (according to taste)
-2 TB olive oil
-1 TB lemon juice
-2 TB sesame seeds
-1/2 TB nutmeg
-1 tsp. ginger
-s & p to taste
1. Preheat oven on 350. Blot the tofu with a paper towel to remove excess water, then chop into edible square pieces.
2. Add tofu into a zip lock bag with oils, herbs, spices and lemon juice (hold off on lime juice). Shake up thoroughly being sure to coat each piece of tofu.
3. Arrange tofu on a coated baking sheet (I like to line with tin foil) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tofu is crisp and slightly browned.
4. In the meantime, cook the rice according to directions, using stovetop or microwave. When the rice is finished, add in the juice of 1/2 lime and stir in.
5. Add in tofu, and top with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a pretty bowl with lime wedge to garnish. Eat with chopsticks or a simple ol’ fork!
A while back, one of my reader’s asked for a recipe for homemade hummus. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t attempted making it until last night. And boy did it turn out delicious…so delicious that I’m actually thinking of never buying store-bought hummus again (well unless I’m realllllyyy craving it and have no chickpeas on hand). Anyway, I used some of the basic hummus ingredients, with a little extra flare to spice it up. I enjoyed my hummus as a side with cucumbers, salad, and baked pita with feta!
-1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
-2 TB olive oil
-1 TB sesame seed oil (tahini)*
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-2 cloves garlic, crushed
-1 TB dried oregano
-1 TB dried parsley
-1 to 2 TB fresh chives, chopped
-salt and pepper to taste
*start with 1 TB and add more to taste
1. Drain the chickpeas and place into a large bowl. Mash up with a fork to soften.
2. Add chickpeas into a blender or Cuisinart and start to blend, slowly creating a hummus-like texture. Add in lemon juice, tahini, and olive oil and blend well.
3. Once mixture is well blended and smooth, add in the herbs, salt and pepper and blend on low for another 30 seconds.
4. Serve with chopped veggies or pita chips and enjoy : )
This classic BBQ burger makeover pairs wonderfully with my sinless sweet potato fries, or a small side salad! While everyone else is downing multiple double decker beef patties, enjoy your healthy remake with a smirk . . .
-1 container lean ground turkey
-1/2 c. red onion, minced
-2 TB olive oil
-2 TB oregano
-2 TB basil
-1 TB garlic powder
-1 TB Old Bay seasoning
-1 tsp. salt
-1 TB pepper
-2 whole wheat buns*, separated into 4 slices
*Use brown rice wraps or gluten free bread if you follow a gluten free diet, or just skip the bun completely!
1. Mash up turkey with your hands as if you were making meatballs, and combine all other ingredients. Mix well.
2. Separate into 4 generous burger shaped patties.
3. Heat your BBQ grill or George Foreman, and grill for 6 to 7 minutes on each side!
*Hot Tip: If you’d like, top your burger with a thin slice of mozzarella cheese and a sauce made up of plain low fat yogurt, dill and lemon as a substitute for fatty mayo!