Simply Nutritious Living-Salad Mix

Shortly after I finished up my series on goal setting/motivation last month, a friend rolled into town from the cold and gray north ready to vacation Florida Gulf Coast-style. I took the opportunity to repost an older post, Strong Backs/Flexible Spines, last Monday while I attended to other important duties as a Tampa Bay area tour guide. It’s a good gig.

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sunset Florida style

After a week of fun with my pal, with all the extra food, drink, and general relaxation that vacation demands, I am certainly feeling the need to get some serious clean eating habits back into my lifestyle.

Serious clean eating begins with a base of plant foods. Bright, colorful plants foods that add all the magnificent vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other things our bodies naturally crave to maintain good health.

We live in a 240 sq. ft. RV and consume a lot of produce. In order to get it all to fit in my tiny fridge in my tiny home, it must be prepped on grocery day.

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my tiny fridge

Prepping on grocery day is a great habit to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle, and one I will carry with me when (?) we become stationary at some point in the future. It’s just nice to have the prep work done and ready on those days it feels hard to eat healthy due to time constraints or even plain laziness. And it really helps save on waste.

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time to prep

Although pre-prepped bagged greens are certainly an option, they are pricey, and not so fresh sometimes.

I prefer to buy mine fresh, and then chop and bag them at home. No special type of greens are needed, they are all healthful. Even the lowly iceburg head lettuce can be dressed up and made more nutritious by all the colorful add ins. I buy whatever looks good and is on sale. This week’s selection was romaine lettuce hearts. Get yourself a salad spinner to keep those greens dry after washing.

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get your tools ready

Green is pretty, but not enough color for me. We eat with our eyes first. I like to shred some red cabbage and carrots to add brightness. This will create your basic salad mix. And can all be bagged together. A full large bag makes about 6 large salads.

Next chop up your extra veggies; cukes, tomatoes and, radishes are rounding our salad veggies this week. Store the chopped veggies in separate containers.

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veggies prepped for the week

(Excuse the hideous decorative wallpaper. Apparently it is a requirement in a RV of any sort. No one knows why…kinda looks like lettuce)

 

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Lunch is just about ready

From here you could enjoy the salad as is for a side dish, or as I like to do, simply make a meal out of it by adding some protein. Leftover chicken, fish, pork, beef, eggs, cottage cheese are all good protein options.

Do beware once you get beyond the veggies and protein the calories can add up quickly. Use very small amounts of any extra toppings. I also like to add some blue cheese (it has a very strong flavor so you don’t need much), a few seeds or nuts, raisins or craisins, and croutons for added crunch.

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salad as a meal

I have nothing against pre-bottled dressings. Whatever will get people to eat their veggies is fine by me. I use and enjoy them when time-crunched (or feeling lazy). But if I have time I whip up a quick vinaigrette. Really, it only takes a couple minutes, and tastes so fresh. The one I used today is a lemon vinaigrette which is great bright taste for salads and doubles as a dandy marinade for fish or chicken. The recipe will be listed below.

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a little Florida citrus flavor

Of course, every good meal deserves a good drink to go along with it. I am feeling cocktailed out at the moment after my week of tour-guiding, so I opted to make mocktails instead. I call this one a Pom Spritzer. Recipe also below.

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a tasty mocktail with lots of potassium

With a few advance preparations it becomes somewhat easier to eat healthfully and reach the recommended 7-10 servings of produce per day.

Cheers!

Recipes:

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Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 c white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Combine in a container with a lid and shake. Makes about a cup of dressing and keeps for a week.

Pom Spritzer

  • Fill glass 1/2 way with ice
  • 4 oz pomegranate juice
  • Top with sparkling water
  • Garnish with a lime

Salad Mix

  • a big head of romaine, or a 3 pack of romaine hearts chopped, rinsed, and spun
  • 1/3 red cabbage shredded
  • 2-3 carrots shredded

mix into a large size baggie

Veggie mix

  • whatever you have lying around, left over, or are craving. Anything goes.

No calorie counts gang. I gave that up a few years back. Too time consuming and militant for me. A definite DE-motivator.

All of the recipes (minus the croutons) happen to be gluten-free, although I am not. I tried it for a year or so, but found it cumbersome, the results were minimal for me, but many others have found it works for them.

This girl’s motto:

eat healthy most of the time, and then thoroughly enjoy your pizza.

 

What’s Cookin’ in Florida?

I love it when I can work outside...

I love it when I can work outside…

Well hi there! Checking in from sunny Florida. After leaving the deserts of California, we began to head eastward to our next destination Dade City, Florida. After a mere trek of 2500 miles over the course of 5 days, we arrived at our original destination of Zephyrhills, FL. Upon inspection of the so-called RV park we had booked, (wasn’t a RV park, but an extremely unkempt trailer park which had definitely seen better days!) we traveled for Dade City to our plan B park, a nice little park called Many Mansions. Lesson learned, always have a plan B when living the RV lifestyle.

Many Mansions RV Park

Many Mansions RV Park

So now we are settled in for the next couple of months, and ready to enjoy some fun Florida-style. Part of enjoying Florida is finding ways to use the abundant fresh produce. Fresh produce in February, I’ll take it. In Michigan, at this time of the year, all the produce labels read from California, Mexico, or Florida. Particularly plentiful here are the peppers, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. I thought I would share some recipes I have created or adapted from various websites that feature these items. If you follow this blog, you know I have certain criteria I follow for my culinary creations. They must taste good, be nutritious, not have hard to find or pricey items, and not be overly complicated to prepare. Well, there is one that is a bit time intensive, but worth the effort!

Even though it is warm here most of the time, I still crave those hearty, homemade winter meals. So today’s recipes fit the ticket including Breakfast Stuffed Peppers, Zucchini Lasagna, and Sweet Potato Chili. Enough said, let’s get cookin’!

Breakfast Stuffed Peppers. So, so good...

Breakfast Stuffed Peppers. So, so good…

Breakfast Stuffed Peppers-I love this dish because it combines 2 of my favorites, stuffed peppers, and ANYTHING with eggs! Recipe:

4 bell peppers sliced in half, core and seeds removed/8 eggs beaten/1 cup mushrooms sliced/1 onion diced/1 tomato diced/3 cups baby spinach/one-half tsp. garlic powder/2 links hot Italian sausage.

Preheat oven to 375/drizzle some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat/saute the onion and sausage til sausage is browned, add mushrooms and tomatoes, and cook about 2 minutes, add spinach, cook til wilted/season mixture with salt, pepper and garlic powder/divide mixture equally between the pepper halves, top each with some of the beaten eggs/Place peppers on a cookie sheet and bake 40 minutes.

A bit time-consuming, but worth it!

Zucchini Lasagna. A bit time-consuming, but worth it!

Zucchini Lasagna-I love Italian food, who doesn’t? But I don’t like all the carbs. So I replace the noodles with thin slices of zucchini. I replace the ricotta cheese with cottage cheese for no reason other than it is easier to work with. Delish. First time I made this I painstakingly sliced the zucchini with a knife. Never again! Get yourself a device (if you do not already have one in your kitchen arsenal) that slices veggies. I believe it is called a mandolin. Costs about $10. After you slice the zucchinis (lengthwise), spread them out on some paper towels and salt both sides lightly, then cover with more paper towels. Go check your Facebook, clean your house, or do any other task that takes about an hour, while you let the zucchinis dehydrate a bit. You need to get some of the water out otherwise you will have a soggy mess on your hands. Afterward wipe the salt off. They should have a somewhat rubbery consistency. No doubt, this is a time-intensive recipe just like any lasagna, so save it for the weekend. It freezes nicely, so do a double batch while you are expending all the effort!

3 or 4 zucchinis thinly sliced and prepare as stated above/1 onion diced/1 green pepper diced/12 oz mushrooms sliced/3 Italian sausage links/a jar of your favorite pasta sauce (thick is best!)/4 cups spinach (or a box of frozen; thawed and squeezed free of liquid)/cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan cheese-how much? Depends on how much you like!

Sauté sausage, green pepper, and onion over medium heat til sausage is browned/ add mushrooms, cook 3-4 minutes/add spinach cook til wilted (or just add your squeezed boxed spinach), add pasta sauce/spread about a quarter cup of the sauce mixture on the bottom of a greased 9×13 glass pan/add a layer of “noodles”/ add some more sauce mixture/spread about 2 tablespoons of cottage cheese over the top/add mozz cheese and parm/continue layers til out of noodles./Cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 40 minutes. It may seem as if the lasagna is too liquidy, but let the lasagna sit for 10-15 minutes and the liquid will absorb. If it still seems excessive, spoon some off.

A hearty vegetarian dish. You won't miss the meat. Inexpensive too.

Sweet Potato Chili. A hearty vegetarian dish. You won’t miss the meat. Inexpensive too.

Crockpot Sweet Potato Chili-I came up with this recipe while in California visiting our kids who live there and are vegetarians. I love to cook for my kids when I have the chance. We enjoyed this meal on our daughter-in-law’s birthday when her hubby was out of town. I made a double batch so he could test it out when he returned. Turns out he caught a bad cold, so a nice spicy chili was great to return home to. Recipe:

1 medium red onion diced/2 green peppers diced/4 cloves garlic chopped/2 medium sweet potatoes cut into bite-sized chunks/28 oz can of crushed tomatoes/1 can each black beans-kidney beans drained/1 cup broth either chicken or veggie/1 tbsp. chili powder/2 tbsp. cumin/1 tsp cayenne pepper/one-quarter tsp cinnamon/2 tsp dark cocoa powder (I know you may think this is crazy, but it gives any chili a richer taste and a deeper color)

Sauté the onions, peppers, sweet potatoes in some olive oil for about 5 minutes, add the garlic cook about 1 more minute/while this is sautéing drain your beans and throw everything else in the crockpot/add the veggie mix/cook on low 7-8 hrs or high 4-5. I like to top mine with avocado and have tortilla chips to crumble in. Cornbread would be great also!

We had this chili again last night with enough leftover for lunch today. I can’t wait, but first I think I will work up an appetite with a walk in this glorious Florida sunshine…

Florida Sunshine at it's finest!

Florida Sunshine at it’s finest!

Welcome to my RV Kitchen

My RV Kitchen!

My RV Kitchen!

Along with several other passions/hobbies I have developed to keep me amused, cooking is high on my list. So when searching for the perfect RV home for us, a functional kitchen was a must have. And I confess, it was the kitchen in this model which first caught my eye.  Although it looks quite large due to my photography skills, it is, in reality, a small portion of my home. It is located in the front quadrant which allows extra space, and is much more stable when changing locations than other rv styles which may locate the kitchen in the middle or back of the unit. Thus there is not a ton of movement in the cupboards or pantry when traveling.  And the pantry. Did I mention pantry? Full-size to boot. Holds all the goodies I need to make my magic and a decently stocked bar as well. I tend to cook using the Julia Child method. I always cook with wine, and sometimes I add it to my food.

A well-stocked pantry is a must in any cook's kitchen

A well-stocked pantry is a must in any cook’s kitchen

Fall has arrived here in North Carolina, and my cooking is tending more toward the hearty-style over the  meat/vegetable on the fire-grill which is my summer mode of cooking. A recipe, for me, must contain certain elements to make it into the permanent file. I begin with an internet search for something new and tasty. I hastily scribble the ingredients and method onto scrap paper. File it away for next week’s menu. Prepare it according to the directions, modifying to my tastes and bumping up the nutritional value if possible. If it turns out yummy, I neatly write it out on an index card, and into the file it goes. If less than yummy or just ridiculous to prepare, it goes in the circular file. I have had some epic fails!

Cauliflower crust. Low carb/looks good/tasted ok/VERY time intensive=epic fail.

Cauliflower crust. Low carb/looks good/tasted ok/VERY time intensive=epic fail.

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The permanent file.

The elements I judge on: first of all, taste. It has to taste good. I don’t care how healthy the dish is, if it tastes nasty, I am not going to eat it. Example, kale-I have prepared it every way to Sunday, and it still tastes awful to me. There is no kale recipe in the permanent file.

Second, it must be healthy, I am not going to waste money or calories or time spent cooking to create junk food. This is why nature created McDonald’s (I love those fries; on occasion of course.)

Third it must not contain any hard to find or over-pricey items. Frugality is another of my hobbies.

And fourth it must not take a Herculean effort to prepare. I don’t mind spending a decent amount of time to prepare food, but I don’t want to cook Sunday dinner everyday either! So on most recipes, I note the time spent to prepare and cook. Real time, not the fake times they give you in the magazines or online; whatever time they say in the recipe to prep-double it and it will be just about accurate. I spent many years in the food business, and one of my duties was veggie prep. I know my way around a kitchen, and I have yet to find one those timetables to be correct.

So here are a few good fall favorites of mine. Recipes follow at end of post.

My all-time favorite food is mashed potatoes. I love them, my waistline does not. Too carbalicious. So in an effort to still eat my fair share of this divine creation, I make a potato-cauliflower mash, allowing for some of the starchy goodness of the potato for mouth-feel, and adding amazing nutritional value from the cauliflower to boot. Because the cauliflower adds moisture to the dish, no butter or milk is necessary. I do add some parmesan cheese, cause I like the flavor it adds. And please, no peeling of the potatoes! It is a huge waste of time, AND it takes away nearly all the nutrition, leaving one with a straight shot of carbs guaranteed to spike your blood sugar levels.

Shepard's Pie topped with the same mash

Shepard’s Pie topped with the potato/cauliflower mash

Hungarian Beef Goulash served over mashed potatoes/cauliflowe

Hungarian Beef Goulash served over the same mash

While the mash is fantastic all on it’s own, resting next to some baked chicken or a meatloaf, it can be downright tasty when included in a hearty main dish.  Two of my favorites are Hungarian Beef Goulash and Shepard’s Pie. Make extra, seconds are inevitable.

Another fall specialty of mine is Jambalaya. I prepare mine low-carb (another of my considerations, not that I am a lady of a certain age!) by replacing most of the rice with zucchini. Again the rice is high carb/low nutrition, and using zucchini sends the nutritional value to a whole new level.

Jambalaya; low-carb Cajun style. yum yum!

Jambalaya; low-carb Cajun style. yum yum!

And just for fun I am including the Pepper Steak I prepared one evening. I was feeling a bit blue, homesick a little, so I served it with straight brown rice to let those carbs work their soothing magic. I will adjust my workout just a bit more today to burn them off. Weight management is all about balance. Calories/carbs in; Calories/carbs burned. That’s the whole key. Forget all the other nonsense, it just sells magazines. Oh yeah, I am a Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, as well as a wanna-be chef and writer.

Pepper Steak and beefy rice. Comfort food...

Pepper Steak and beefy rice. Comfort food…

I hope you find these to your liking. They are all husband-tested and approved!

RECIPES (sorry for the layout, hey I am a creative type, not a computer whiz!)

CAULIFLOWER MASH (for two people): 1/2 hour (times are total prep and cook time)

1/2 head cauliflower cut up/1 large potato or 2 medium diced/garlic clove or two (if you like)/parmesan cheese-boil the first 3 ingredients til soft and mash. Add a bit of butter or milk if you like them thinner.

SHEPARD’S PIE: 1.25 hours (maybe less, I was watching The Golden Girls while creating this yummy recipe)

1 large onion/2 carrots diced/1 lb ground beef/4 cloves garlic chopped/8 oz mushrooms sliced/1/3 cup red wine/3 tbsp tomato paste/1.25 cup chicken broth/1 cup frozen peas/one-half tsp thyme/1 tsp oregano/salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté onions/carrots in 1 tbsp olive oil/add meat and brown/add mushroom and garlic/add wine, stock, tomato paste/stir in herbs/simmer til slightly thickened/pour mixture into baking dish/top with cauliflower mash/cover with foil and bake @ 400 for 20 minutes/remove foil and bake 10 more.

HUNGARIAN BEEF GOULASH: Crockpot recipe 30-45 minutes prep-4 hours in crock pot

1 lb beef (I use whatever is on sale generally chuck-steak) cut while partially frozen into small chunks/2 medium onions sliced/3 garlic cloves chopped/1 bell pepper sliced/2 tbsp smoked paprika (regular will work too)/1 tsp caraway seeds/1 can tomatoes/1.5 cup beef broth.

Sauté beef in 1 tbsp olive oil-place in crockpot/ sauté onions, peppers, garlic-place in crockpot/Add remaining ingredients/cook on high 2 hours-cook on low 2 hrs . Serve over cauliflower mash.

LOW CARB JAMBALAYA:  30-45 min prep/30 cook

2 Andouille sausage cut into half moons/1 cup cooked chicken chopped/1 large onion chopped/6 cloves of garlic chopped/2 green pepper chopped/2 zucchinis diced (no need to peel)/ big can of crushed tomatoes/1 cup chicken broth/2 tbsp Cajun seasoning/1 tsp hot sauce/ .75 cup brown minute rice

Sauté onion and sausage in 1 tbsp olive oil about 10 minutes/add garlic/ mix in peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, seasonings, and broth/bring to boil, reduce to simmer 10 minutes/add rice and chicken/simmer (covered) for 5 minutes/let sit 5 minutes. If still not thickened simmer uncovered to desired consistency (should be pretty thick.)

PEPPER STEAK: 20 min prep/20 min cook/ again save yourself some grief and slice meat while mostly frozen.

1 lb sirloin sliced into strips/8 oz mushrooms sliced/2 peppers sliced (any color)/1 onion sliced/2 cloves garlic/.25 cup soy sauce/.75 cup beef broth/ 1.5 tbsp water/1 tbsp cornstarch.

Stir fry veggies in 1 tbsp olive oil-set aside/stir fry meat (I like to use my dutch oven to stir fry in, no slopping stuff over the side)/add veggies back in/combine soy sauce and broth-add in/combine water and cornstarch-stir in/heat til boiling-simmer til thick/serve over brown rice OR that lovely mash.

Please leave me a reply if there is any questions you have; and if you make any of these happy, healthy recipes please let me know what you think.

Enjoy the colder months and cozy up with some hearty dishes; from my RV test kitchen to yours….Happy Autumn IMG_1926