What to Do When You Fail at Meal Prep

Confession: My idea of meal prep is making a double batch of chili. I know that I should prepare more food on Saturdays and Sundays for the week ahead, but I can’t get myself to devote the time to that task, however worthy.  I am good at stocking my kitchen with nutritious foods and making healthy meals and snacks, so I figure I’m doing something right. Still, getting advice from a meal-prep pro couldn’t hurt.

 

Searching for Inspiration

In my quest to improve my meal prep skills, I headed for Toby Amidor’s latest creation, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Not only does this registered dietitian and working single mother of three prepare delicious and nutritious food ahead of time, she found the energy to write about so that we can, too.

According to Toby, you (and I) should invest in meal prep because it saves time and money; it’s easier to control portions, which helps promote weight control; and you’ll avoid take-out food and processed products to get a meal on the table fast.

If you’ve never prepped meals before or want to be better at it, you can’t go wrong with The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.  There are more than 100 recipes to choose from, designed with simple-to-find ingredients, including Apple Walnut Loaf, Slow-Cooker Three Bean Chili, Arugula Salad with Salmon, and Mason Jar Key Lime Parfaits.

Have I mentioned the two-week meal plans for those interested in Clean Eating, Weight Loss, and Muscle Building? You’ll have no excuse not to shop for nutritious foods when you see Toby’s detailed ingredient lists to make following these plans a breeze.

Check out Toby Amidor’s blog! 

Now, that’s some kind of meal prep! Doesn’t this look delicious? Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

 

Better, Not Perfect

Even if don’t completely embrace meal prep, nobody’s stopping you from enjoying Toby’s delicious recipes. That’s what I do! I’ve read The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, nodding my head in agreement at what Toby recommends, but the fact remains that while I like the idea of having meals ready to eat at a moment’s notice, I prefer more flexibility at meal time. (Read: I am in no way as organized as Toby.)

I have been feeding a family of five for years, so I do have some kitchen skills, which I allude to at the beginning of this post. I mostly know what I’m making during the week, and I shop regularly for food so I always have nutritious ingredients on hand.

17 Meals in Under 15 Minutes

Here are some of my favorite “fast food” ideas.

Breakfast/Snack

• Top a 2-ounce whole-wheat bagel with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Serve with 8 ounces 1% low-fat milk or fortified soy milk, and fruit.

• Spread 2 slices whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, and top with 1 small banana, sliced, or 2 tablespoons raisins.

• Scramble 2 eggs and divide equally between a small whole-wheat pita pocket that’s been cut in half. Add salsa, a handful of spinach, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese, if desired. Pair with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk.

• Scramble 2 eggs with 1⁄4 cup diced mushrooms, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with 2 slices whole-wheat toast, and fruit.

• Pair 1 hard-cooked egg with 8 ounces low-fat yogurt, 1 slice whole-grain toast, and fruit.

• Halve a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, remove the seeds, and fill with 1 cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt. Serve with a whole wheat roll.

 

Lunch/Dinner

• Microwave a medium white potato. Scoop out the insides and mix with 1 cup cottage cheese. Return the filling to the potato skins and warm in the microwave. Add a green salad.

• Top 1 whole-wheat pita round covered with tomato sauce with sliced part-skim mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with 8 ounces 100% orange juice.

• Make a quick quesadilla using two whole-wheat 7-inch sandwich wraps, 2 ounces chopped leftover chicken, and 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese. Grill in a skillet. Enjoy with fruit.

• In a bowl, layer 1 cup cooked whole-grain couscous, 1 cup cooked vegetables, and 4 ounces cooked leftover salmon, or canned or pouched salmon.

• Arrange 4 ounces canned or pouched, drained tuna, 10 whole-grain crackers, and sliced red bell pepper, and enjoy.

My go-to fish meal: breaded haddock topped with a can of undrained chopped tomatoes and dried parsley with vegetables and whole grain bread. That’s dinner!

 

• Mix 1 cup canned reduced-sodium lentil soup and 1 cup cooked pasta or other leftover cooked grain such as farro, brown rice, freekeh, or quinoa. Serve with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk and fruit.

• Combine 1 cup canned white beans, drained, with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 ounces peeled and raw shrimp in a skillet. Cook until shrimp are pink. Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Saute 1⁄2 pound 100% ground skinless turkey breast meat or 95% lean ground beef with chopped onions and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin. Spoon cooked meat equally onto 2 whole-wheat tortillas along with chopped tomato, lettuce, and plain yogurt. (This dish serves two.) Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Coat 4 ounces thinly sliced chicken breasts or tenders with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken for about two minutes on each side. Place chicken on a whole-wheat sandwich bun and garnish with tomato and lettuce, and avocado, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk and a piece of fruit.

• Quick fried rice: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium skillet. Add 1 cup cold cooked white or brown rice, 1⁄4 cup chopped onion, 1⁄4 cup cooked peas or diced carrots or both, and 2 beaten eggs. Toss the entire mixture until the egg is cooked. Season with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. Serve with fresh fruit.

• Place 4 ounces cooked shrimp, canned or pouch tuna, cooked or pouch salmon, cottage cheese, or tofu, on top of 2 cups chopped leafy greens and 1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes. Top with a mixture of 2 teaspoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with  whole-grain bread or roll.

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

 

How to Shop for Must-Have Kitchen Staples 

Whether or not you plan your meals out to the last green bean, it’s a good idea to have nutritious foods on hand to rustle up healthy meals and snacks in minutes. Here’s a list that you can tailor to your needs.

A few must-have items from my refrigerator.

 

Refrigerator/Freezer Items

• Eggs

• Plain yogurt, Greek or regular

• Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• Grated hard cheese, such as cheddar and Monterey Jack

• 95% lean ground beef

• Ground 100% turkey breast meat

• Low-fat cottage cheese

• Milk

• Tofu

 

Frozen staples I keep on hand.

 

• Frozen fish fillets, frozen shrimp

• Frozen plain fruit and fruit canned in its own juice

• Frozen plain vegetables and no-salt added canned vegetables

 

How to take steps to get better at meal planning

 

Pantry Items

• Canned or pouched tuna or salmon

 

Recipe: Tuna Burgers with Smashed Avocado and Tomato are ready in 20 minutes!

 

• Canned beans, such as garbanzo, black beans, and cannelloni

• Whole grain cereal, bread (such as pita and Naan), and grains, such as pasta, quinoa, and freekeh

• Pasta (marinara) sauce and pizza sauce

• Peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews

 

Recipe: It takes just 5 minutes to make No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

 

• Dried fruit, such as California raisins

• Peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter

I couldn’t get by without foods from cans, jars, and pouches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Chocolate: How Cocoa Flavanols Support Health

This was written as part of my paid role in partnership with CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement. All opinions expressed are my own.

You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate has potential health benefits, but chocolate itself is not a health food.

 

The perks of eating chocolate on a regular basis – besides it’s great taste – has less to do with the darkness of the chocolate and more to do with the level of cocoa flavanols it provides.

The what?

Cocoa flavanols are beneficial phytonutrients found only in plants. Cocoa contains a unique blend of flavanols that’s unmatched by any other food on the planet. Cocoa flavanols work with your body to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide, which helps maintain the flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body, supporting overall health.

So, if you’re eating chocolate to improve your well-being, what you’re really after is the cocoa flavanols in great enough amounts to produce results. But in traditional cocoa processing, which includes fermenting, drying and roasting of beans, many of the flavanols that are naturally present in the cocoa bean are destroyed.

I was a bit surprised to find out that unsweetened cocoa powder, which I have been adding to yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal for years, actually has varying flavanol levels, and that flavanol levels are not listed on the food label so there is no guarantee that they are present in beneficial amounts.

How Many Flavanols For You?

The concentrated cocoa extract in CocoaVia® supplement is made using their patented Cocoapro® process, providing 375 milligrams of cocoa flavanols per serving, which is found in one CocoaVia® stick pack or three CocoaVia® capsules. CocoaVia® supplement supplies the greatest concentration of cocoa flavanols of any cocoa extract supplement today, and numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that these flavanols promote healthy blood flow from head to toe.*

CocoaVia® powdered stick packs can easily be added to milk, hot or cold coffee, juice, sports drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and iced tea, or used in a variety of recipes.

Right now, I am loving Chilled CocoaVia® Mocha!

Do you use CocoaVia® supplement? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts

I love coffee-shop donuts as much as the next guy, and maybe more. I don’t eat them often because while they taste good going down, donuts usually bother my stomach afterwards. When I crave a hunk of sugary fried dough, I turn to my Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts instead.  These baked treats offer way more – and far less – than typical coffee shop choices.

fullsizeoutput_1cc0

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts are baked, not fried, for less fat and fewer calories.

Donuts, including all the variations on pumpkin and maple that are populating coffee shops right now, offer little in the way of nutrition. Most store-bought donuts are fried, which jacks up the calorie and fat content.

Here’s how a Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donut stacks up to a glazed pumpkin donut from a national coffee shop chain. It has:

• 212 calories vs. 360 calories

• 1/3 the total fat, and only 1 gram saturated fat (vs. 10 grams of saturated fat found in the coffee shop donut)

• 3 times the dietary fiber, thanks to whole wheat flour and pumpkin puree

• 64% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, primarily from pumpkin. The commercial donut has just 2% of the DV for vitamin A, which tells me there is very little pumpkin puree in their recipe.

• Nearly 900 milligrams of potassium, about 20% of the DV, again, mostly from the pumpkin.

fullsizeoutput_1cf6

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts use whole wheat flour.

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts*
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin puree (I used canned.)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat two standard donut pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, and add the pumpkin, 1/2 cup maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, and oil. Mix until well combined.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t overmix.

Spoon the batter into the donut pans, filling to about 1/4″ shy of the rim, and making sure the center post is clear.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove donuts from oven and allow to cool, in the pan, for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan.

fullsizeoutput_1cfe

Make the glaze. Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and the milk, and stir until smooth. Frost each donut and top with walnuts.

fullsizeoutput_1cfa

Per donut: 212 calories; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 36 milligrams cholesterol; 220 milligrams sodium; 35 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams protein

*For less added sugar, omit the glaze, and add the walnuts to the batter. If desired, coat warm donuts in maple sugar or a sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Want more pumpkin? Try this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie!

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

eat-1583954_1920

Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards.

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home more often. Don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but try to make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

dsc_0522

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

pancake-2604822

  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

Wild Blueberries: Small, But Fierce

Last week, I went wild. Really wild. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I’m talking about going to Maine and getting better acquainted with wild blueberries. I knew they were delicious, but I didn’t know just how special wild blueberries really were until I got to see for myself how they are grown, harvested, and packaged. Here’s what I learned, thanks to the Wild Blueberry Commission, who sponsored my trip, plus two easy recipes so you can go wild, too!

Wild Blueberry and Banana Oatmeal Cups

If wild blueberries had a theme song it would be “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. That’s not actually the name of the song, but you get the idea.

As plants go, wild blueberries are among the toughest on earth. Anything that’s been thriving for 10,000 years in a desolate location called The Barrens of Maine, and in Eastern Canada and Quebec, is hardy stock.  Wild blueberries actually love the thin, acidic soil found in this cold, harsh climate. Go figure!

Tough conditions make for delicious and nutritious wild blueberries! (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Unlike the cultivated blueberries you buy fresh and frozen, it’s not possible to plant wild blueberries.  Wild blueberries spread naturally, and they have never been modified by man.

Wild blueberries are smaller than the cultivated kind, so you get more of the skin in a serving.  That’s good, because the skin is packed with plant compounds called phytonutrients. Eating foods rich in phytonutrients, such as wild blueberries, helps support brain health, and is linked to  a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions.

Wild blueberries ripe for harvesting. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Once they are picked, wild blueberries are frozen individually within about 24 hours of harvest, preserving taste and nutrition. Frozen wild blueberries are available year-round.

These frozen wild blueberries are ready to be packaged. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

A cup of wild blueberries, which qualifies as a serving of fruit, supplies 20% of your daily need for fiber and is a good or excellent source of several minerals, including iron, all for just 80 calories.

I snack on plain wild blueberries topped with sliced almonds or a bit of granola to add some crunch, and I like to cook with them, too (if you can call making a smoothie cooking!)

These baked oatmeal goodies are a riff on my No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups.

Baked oatmeal cups brimming with wild blueberries and whole grain goodness.

Wild Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Cups

Makes 18 servings.

3 cups oats, uncooked

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

3 ripe medium bananas, mashed well

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.  Whisk in the milk.

Pour the banana mixture into the oats mixture. Stir well to combine. Gently add the wild blueberries.  The batter may be a little soupy. That’s OK.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with batter (a scant 1/4-cup full).

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes, with the muffins still in the pan. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

 

The Wild Blueberry Commission challenged us to smoothie contest, and this was my entry.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

You’re probably wondering: beans in a smoothie? I wanted a smoothie that was different than what I usually make and was a mixture of wild blueberries and vegetables (beans are vegetables). You can leave the beans out if you think they are too weird, but you can’t taste them.

Beans, beets, and wild blueberries combine to make a delicious and nutritious drink.

I rimmed the glasses with a mixture of sugar and a teaspoon or so of beet juice. You don’t have to rim the glasses, but it makes the drink fancy, especially if you’re serving it as a mocktail.

Invert the glass into a thick mixture of sugar and beet juice and allow it to set for a few minutes.

 

Rimming the glasses with sugar and beet juice is simple and makes the drink fancy.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

Makes 1 serving.

2 tablespoons sugar

1 small cooked peeled packaged beet, plus 1-2 teaspoons beet juice from the package

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

1/4 cup white beans, drained if canned

1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Prepare the glass. Combine the sugar with the beet juice in a small bowl. Invert the rim of the glass into the sugar mixture, rotating to cover the rim. Shake off the excess sugar, and set aside.

Place the beet, wild blueberries, beans, yogurt, and maple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared glass. Top with a few frozen wild blueberries and enjoy!

 

Nobody has to know there are beans in their wild blueberry smoothie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

I adore big, juicy burgers, but honestly, I don’t want, or need, all that food. If you feel the same way, there are easy swaps you can make for a more nutritious burger meal, such as adding mushrooms for some of the meat, that don’t skimp on taste, and are also good for the planet. Here’s how I build a better burger, and how you can, too.

Mushrooms Matter

Recently, the Mushroom Council invited me to lunch at Alden & Harlow restaurant to learn more about The Blended Burger Project, a program that encourages chefs nationwide to create burgers using at least 25% mushrooms. (Please note that I did not write this post on behalf of the Mushroom Council and I did not receive anything from them other than lunch.)

I was particularly fascinated with some new research about mushroom sustainability, which found that it’s possible to grow up to one million pounds of mushrooms on a single acre of land, and that producing a pound of mushrooms requires less than two gallons of water. That’s good news for the environment.

Mushrooms are tan and white, and they often get disregarded for their lack of color, which is taken to mean that they’re not worth much nutritionally. Wrong! Mushrooms supply B vitamins, selenium and other protective compounds, and when producers expose them to ultraviolet rays, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D. In fact, they are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle!

Mushrooms may be better for you than you realize!

Become a Blenditarian

Mushroom sustainability and nutrition is only part of what I wanted to share with you. The meeting inspired me to create an appealing blended burger recipe that’s easy to make at home, especially since it’s National Burger Month.

Blending mushrooms with meat is not new to me. Mushrooms have a meaty texture and a savory taste called umami which pairs well with meat. My Beef and Mushroom Stew recipe forgoes some meat for mushrooms.  I also use mushrooms to replace meat in marinara sauce and on pizza.

Lean ground beef, ground skinless turkey breast, and other lean animal foods, such as bison, are full of valuable nutrients, including protein, zinc, and iron.  Too many large, fatty burgers on white buns can spell trouble for your health, however.

Substituting mushrooms for some meat, no matter how fatty, increases vegetable intake – always a good idea – and naturally decreases the calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in a typical burger.

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

In my blended recipe, each burger uses just two ounces of lean beef.  When I serve the burgers, I skip the chips (well, I may have one or two), opt for whole wheat hamburger buns, and enjoy a large fresh green salad topped with olive oil and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for extra crunch and nutrition.  I like to garnish my burger with a horseradish/mayonnaise mixture, sliced tomato, and lettuce.

Preparation tip: Make a double batch and freeze raw burgers individually for future use.

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

Makes 4.

12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, or any mushroom

2 teaspoons olive oil

8 ounces 93% lean ground beef

fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 2-ounce whole wheat buns, toasted or grilled, if desired

 

Chop mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil to the pan and heat.  Add mushrooms to pan and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.  Season with ground black pepper.

Place mushrooms in a food processor or blender and pulse until they take on a paste-like consistency, about 10-15 seconds.

In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms, beef, eggs, bread crumbs, basil, and Worcestershire sauce.  Form mixture into 4 patties of equal size.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Cook burgers for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until they reach an internal temperature of 160˚F.

To serve, place patties on buns with desired toppings.

Per serving (burger and bun): 
360 calories; 11 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 141 milligrams cholesterol; 771 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 27 grams protein

 

Whole Wheat Broccoli Cheese Hand Pies

Broccoli cheese calzone is a regular on the dinner menu in my house because it’s easy to make, takes just three ingredients, and everyone likes it. Check, check and check! In fact, I make the large calzone so often that I thought it was high time to shake it up. The result: Whole Wheat Broccoli Cheese Hand Pies. More fun, and even better for you.  They’re perfect for a Meatless Monday meal, and are fun the next day for lunch, too!

DSC_0686

The recipe is really not a recipe at all.

All you need is 10 cups chopped, cooked 1-inch broccoli florets, 1 pound of whole wheat pizza dough, 16 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese (you can use pre-shredded cheese, block cheese cut into thin slices, or a mixture), and 3 teaspoons olive oil, which is optional.

That’s it!

Heat the oven to 400˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 8, 7-inch circles.  I use an inverted bowl to do this. You may need to gather up the dough and roll it out again to make eight circles.

Place half the cheese on the rounds to within a half inch of the edge of the dough. The cheese forms a barrier between the dough and the broccoli to keep the hand pie from getting soggy.

Don’t worry about the cheese. Use whatever type you have on hand.

Top with the remaining cheese.

Fold the dough in half over the broccoli and cheese filling, and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. They’re messy, so no need to be super neat about the filling!

fullsizeoutput_1cb7

Get your kids involved in assembling the hand pies. 

Gently place the hand pies on to the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil for a more golden glow, if desired.

Whole Wheat Broccoli Cheese Hand Pies are cute, a bit messy, and delicious!

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Pair the hand pies with fruit and milk for an easy lunch for kids and adults!

1 2 7
%d bloggers like this: