Search Results for "black beans"

Easy Flourless Black Bean Brownies

Warning: Rave ahead. As in I can’t stop raving about these easy flourless black bean brownies that are also gluten-free!

Black bean brownie topped with raspberries and melted chocolate on a white plate.

The health benefits of beans

This might come as a surprise: beans are vegetables and they are bursting with nutrition. Beans supply several nutrients including protein and potassium, and they contain phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that protect your cells against damage.

Black beans, and other legumes, also contribute fiber to your eating plan. Fiber feeds the beneficial gut bacteria that support your immune system and help prevent you from getting sick from a virus or bacteria.


Fruits and vegetables can make indulgences like brownies, bars, and cookies better for you, even when the baked goods contain added sugar.


Why beans are a good ingredient substitute for baking

You can use beans to replace some of the fat and flour when baking, and enhance the texture of baked goods, like these brownies. I have nothing against fat or flour, however. I just like to bake with beans sometimes!

I love desserts that have more to offer more than calories, and these brownies are one of them. The black beans and the raspberries pump up the fiber content to 10 grams per serving, which is more than 25% of your daily fiber needs! Along with the eggs, beans also contribute protein, so that a serving has 7 grams, which, along with fiber, helps you to feel satisfied.

I top my brownies with raspberries because they are delicious, beautiful, and nutritious. Raspberries supply vitamin C, fiber, phytonutrients, and so much more. And, raspberries provide natural sweetness so you can use less added sugar in baked goods.

Flourless black bean brownies topped with raspberries and melted dark chocolate on a wire rack.


These easy flourless black bean brownies take less than 40 minutes to prepare from start to finish. While they look special enough for a celebration, they’re also easy enough to make any time.


Easy Flourless Black Bean Brownies

Delicious, easy, flourless black brownies topped with fresh raspberries.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: blackbeanbrownies, flourlessbrownies, glutenfreebrownies
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips*
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, washed and dried

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  • Place the beans and 3 tablespoons of oil in a food processor. Process on high until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.  
  • Add the eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract and blend well.  
  • Add the baking powder and salt and blend for 10 seconds more. 
  • Stir in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove the brownies and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
  • Top the brownies with the raspberries, forming a single layer.
  • Combine the remaining teaspoon of canola oil and the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave until chips are melted, about 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to stir once.  
  • Immediately drizzle the chocolate mixture on top of the raspberries. Allow the chocolate to harden for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 8 equal pieces.
    * You can also use white chocolate chips for the topping, if desired.

Notes

Per serving (1/8 of recipe): 
319 calories; 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated fat); 48 milligrams cholesterol; 324 milligrams sodium; 46 grams carbohydrate; 10 grams fiber; 8 grams protein

Flourless black bean brownies topped with raspberries and melted white chocolate

You can also substitute white chocolate chips for dark, if you like. Here’s a post about using the ingredients you have on hand.

Two black bean brownies topped with fresh raspberries on white plates on a gray background.

 

 

 

29 Ways to Use Up Holiday Leftovers

When you host holiday dinners, you have more than leftover turkey to deal with, and if you’re like me, you hate to waste cranberry sauce, vegetables, pie, and other festive food. Here are 29 ways to use up holiday leftovers and prevent food waste.

How to Use Up Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce in white bowl

Use cranberry sauce in place of jelly in a peanut butter sandwich, and add to turkey sandwiches as a spread.

• Stir cranberry sauce into warm oatmeal that’s been microwaved with milk (milk for extra protein, calcium, and other minerals, and vitamins). Top with chopped walnuts or pecans.

• Add a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce to fruit smoothies and eliminate sugar or other sweeteners.

• Combine cranberry sauce with plain Greek yogurt and make a parfait with whole grain ready-to-eat cereal.

• Warm 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce in the microwave for 10 seconds and put it on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

• Top French toast, waffles, and pancakes with warm cranberry sauce instead of maple syrup.


Reduce food waste, save money, and help the environment! 


How to Use Leftover Stuffing and Dressing

• Prepare stuffing “pancakes” and top with a fried egg.

• Stir stuffing or dressing into turkey soup.

• Use as a topping on turkey pot pie.

What to Make with Leftover Holiday Vegetables

quiche-2067686_1920

Prepare a vegetable strata from leftover bread, chopped vegetables, eggs, and cheese, or make a quiche.

• Puree cooked broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots and add milk or cream to make soup.

pumpkin-soup-2886322_1920

Mix butternut squash and sweet potato together for soup, and add coconut milk.

• Add cooked sweet potato or beets to smoothies.

• Stir plain pumpkin or mashed or sweet potatoes into turkey soup for a thicker, more flavorful soup.

• Stuff a cooked baked sweet or white potato with 1/4 cup cooked diced turkey or 1/4 cup black beans, and top with cranberry sauce or salsa.

• Top turkey pot pie with mashed sweet or white potatoes instead of pastry crust.

• Smash (gently!) whole cooked small potatoes, roast in 400˚F oven for 10 minutes, and top with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and fresh chives.

• Chop cooked veggies and add to omelettes along with leftover cheese or use on top of pizza.

• Puree cooked cauliflower and mix with milk or cream and grated Parmesan cheese to the desired consistency for a side dish.

• Whip up potato pancakes with white or sweet potatoes.

What to Make with Leftover Bread and Rolls

• Prepare French toast or pancakes with leftover cream or eggnog.

• Make croutons from cornbread, rolls, or other leftover bread. Cut into large pieces and roast in oven at 300˚F until dry, about 20 minutes.

Pancakes with powdered sugar, and fresh raspberries

Use leftover eggnog to whip up a quick batch of pancakes.

Simple Ways to Use Up Leftover Turkey

• Prepare turkey pot pie with leftover sweet potato, white potato, or stuffing for the topping.

• Make a white bean and turkey chili and include leftover vegetables.

• Prepare quick quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas, leftover cheese, and sliced turkey. Serve with cranberry sauce for dipping.

• Add chopped turkey to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.

Simple Recipes for Leftover Eggnog

• Use eggnog in place of milk when you prepare French toast, vanilla cake from a mix pancakes, waffles, and bread pudding.

• Combine eggnog and fruit for a delicious smoothie.

Pumpkin smoothie with whipped cream.

Scoop pumpkin pie out of the crust and combine with plain Greek yogurt for a creamy pudding, or add some milk and make a smoothie.

What to Do with Leftover Wine

• Freeze red wine in ice cube trays to use later in stews.


What are your favorite ways to use up holiday leftovers?


 

29 ways to use up holiday leftovers

How to Make Meat Go Further (Easy, Delicious Tips and Recipes)

If you have a family to feed every day, and you’re on a tight budget, you’re probably wondering how to stretch the meat you have on hand to make satisfying meals. Though you may not be able to purchase all the meat you’d like, or readily find your favorite cuts, it’s possible to extend meat with these easy, delicious recipes from my foodie friends, and simple tips for how to make meat go further.

Mexican Chicken & Rice Soup from The Nutrition Adventure

 Mexican Chicken & Rice Soup from The Nutrition Adventure

 

How to Make Meat go Further with Beans

Beans (legumes) bulk up meat dishes. They are a relatively low-cost alternative to some of the meat in your favorite recipes and a welcome, healthy addition even when meat is readily available.

You probably won’t even notice you’re eating less meat with beans in the mix. Legumes, such as black beans, garbanzos, and lentils, add interest and texture to meat-based dishes, and they provide eating satisfaction, too. Beans are rich in a variety of nutrients, and their protein and fiber help you feel fuller for longer. As plants, they contain phytonutrients, which help protect cells from damage.


Easy Beef and Bean Chili uses just 8 ounces of ground beef to make 6 servings!


You don’t have to prepare beans from dried. It’s perfectly fine to use canned beans and lentils for the sake of convenience, but it’s less expensive to cook the dried versions.  Here are some delicious recipes that pair beans with meat or poultry:

Spanish Brown Rice and Beans from Juggling with Julia

One Pot Taco Soup from The Cheesy RD

Chicken Dhansak

Chicken Dhansak from Desilicious RD

 

Spiced Chicken Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice and Lentils from Tasty Balance Nutrition

How to Make Meat Go Further with Mushrooms

Though mushrooms don’t supply as much protein and fiber as beans, they can be an excellent or good source of certain minerals, such selenium and copper, and vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin D, a nutrient that is often in short supply in our diets and may play a role in supporting the immune system. Like beans, mushrooms supply phytonutrients, and are a lower-cost filler that adds interest to meat dishes while contributing zero cholesterol or saturated fat.

whole mushrooms

Some brands of mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D, which helps support the immune system.

 

Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light are richest in vitamin D. It’s the same for humans: strong summer sunlight, in the form of ultraviolet rays, prompts vitamin D production in the body.  However, not all mushrooms are high in vitamin D, so check package labels to make sure.

Mushrooms have a firm, meat-like texture that pairs particularly well with ground meat. A beef and mushroom blend lends itself to burger, taco, meatloaf, lasagna, pasta sauce, and meatball recipes.

I typically use 1 cup cooked, diced mushrooms per pound of ground meat (although sometimes I add even more mushrooms!)  So, if you’re working with 8 ounces of lean ground beef, add 1/2 cup of cooked mushrooms. For 1/2 cup cooked mushrooms, start with 4 ounces raw.


Try these delicious, juicy Beef and Mushroom Burgers!


It’s easy enough to buy fresh mushrooms, but you are probably limiting trips to the store right now. In that case, considered dried mushrooms, which can be reconstituted and used like fresh on a moment’s notice.

In addition to ground beef, mushrooms go well with chicken, pork, and shrimp, too! Here are some easy, delicious recipes that pair mushrooms with high-protein foods:

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from Snacking in Sneakers

 

creamy mushroom and shrimp pasta

Creamy Mushroom and Shrimp Pasta from Fad Free Nutrition 

 

Ground Beef and Mushroom Lettuce-Wrap Tacos from Craving Something Healthy

Blended Al Pastor Tacos with Pineapple Jalapeño Slaw from the Mushroom Council

Other vegetables help you go further with meat, too. Here’s an example of how to “beef up” pasta sauce:

 

bowl of pasta sauce with carrots and tomatoes

Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce from It’s a Veg World After All

How to Make Meat Go Further with Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese may not come to mind as a meat extender, but it’s rich in protein and offers calcium, too. In fact, one cup of low-fat cottage cheese has more protein than the same amount of plain, fat-free Greek yogurt. (However, the cottage cheese has about 25% less calcium.)

You may be put off by the curds in cottage cheese. I have a solution for that!

Place as much cottage cheese as you need at the time in a small food processor or blender and blend for about 45 seconds to 1 minute to produce creamy cottage cheese.

cottage cheese in a bowl

Don’t like the curds? Blend cottage cheese for a creamy consistency.

 

I use creamy cottage cheese in meatballs or burgers made with lean ground beef or 100% ground turkey breast. Cottage cheese extends the ground meat, and it also produces lighter and juicier meatballs and burgers.

How to Make Meals With Less Meat

Almost Lasagna is one of my favorite recipes that pairs meat with cottage cheese. If you don’t want to bother with a recipe, simply stir creamy cottage cheese into warm marinara sauce or mix cottage cheese with warm pesto sauce and serve over cooked pasta.  If you have some cooked chicken, beef, or other meat, add that, too.

spaghetti topped with meat sauce and shredded cheese

Almost Lasagna

This deconstructed lasagna uses cottage cheese for some of the meat in traditional recipes.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: cottagecheese
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces long fusilli pasta, linguine or other pasta  Or any type of pasta you have, including whole wheat.
  • 8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground turkey breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth or stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed no salt-added tomatoes, not drained Diced tomatoes work well, too.
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup plain lowfat cottage cheese

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beef, breaking it into large pieces and continuing to break into small bits. Cook until lightly browned, about 4 to 5  minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer meat to a medium bowl, and set aside.
  • Return the skillet to the burner, add the olive oil, and heat over medium heat.  Add the carrot, onion, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Season with fresh ground black pepper.
  • Add the meat back to the pan.  Stir in the beef broth, tomatoes and their juices, and basil, and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  
  • In a small bowl, mix the cottage cheese and parsley.  
  • Toss the pasta with the butter, transfer to the skillet and combine with the meat sauce. To serve, place equal amounts of the cottage cheese/parsley mixture in shallow soup bowls, and top with the pasta mixture. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.    

Notes

Per serving (with ground beef): 504 calories; 67 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 27 grams protein; 239 milligrams sodium; 41 milligrams cholesterol; 97 milligrams calcium.

simple tips to make meat go further when preparing meals

 

Why Carbohydrates Are Important

small chocolate cream cookies with smiling faces

Is it me, or do those cookies look slightly evil?

Confused about carbs? Before you go cutting them out of your life, read on to find out why carbohydrates are important to your immune system and overall health. 

Do carbohydrates cause weight gain? 

A 2018 survey found that Americans blame carbohydrates for weight gain, which is probably why low-carb diets are so attractive. Yet, eating a more plant-based diet is linked to better weight control and other health benefits.

What’s more, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat. It’s rich in vegetables and whole grains, and is anything but low in carbohydrates.


It’s time we stopped loving to hate carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates give you energy 

The body prefers carbohydrates as an energy source because they are easily converted to glucose, the fuel that cells use.

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans), bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and in cookies, cakes, and other sweets.

With the exception of fiber, carbs provide four calories per gram. Fiber is mostly indigestible, but more on that later.

Carbohydrates are classified as “simple,” and “complex.”

Simple carbohydrates, found in foods including maple syrup, honey, table sugar, and white bread, pasta, and rice, and milk, are digested quickly.

The starch and other complex carbohydrates found in foods such as whole grain bread, vegetables, and legumes (beans), take longer for the body to digest, making for a slower and steadier energy release into the bloodstream.

When levels of glucose dip in the bloodstream, your mental and physical energy drops, too.


Feeling “hangry?” Hanger is a real thing! Read about it here


What happens when you eat a low-carbohydrate diet 

A very low-carbohydrate intake forces the body to use protein and fat for energy, which isn’t ideal. That’s because protein is meant to help build and maintain lean tissue, including muscle, and to make enzymes, hormones, and cells to support life. When protein is used for energy, it cannot do its job to the fullest.

When the body breaks down fat for energy, it produces ketones. Blood levels of ketones remain elevated on a very low-carb diet.  Experts aren’t sure about the effects of high ketones on health, but they do know that excessive ketones can be life-threatening in people with diabetes.


Read about why a low-carb diet may shorten your life


scale with a tape measure on it

Cut carbs and you cut calories, which may be the reason for weight loss.

Why low-carb diets work for weight loss

You will probably lose weight on a very low-carb eating plan, such as the ketogenic diet.

It’s no mystery why, though. Cutting carbs typically results in consuming fewer calories, which encourages weight loss.

If you don’t want to drastically reduce carbs to shed pounds, take heart. Research shows that reducing fat works just as well for weight loss as lower carb diets.

maple syrup in a bottle

Maple syrup and honey may be “natural,” but they are sources of added sugar.

Carbohydrates are good for your immune system

Fiber, found only in plant foods, including whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, protects against diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer, and infection. Your gut cannot fully digest fiber, so how is it beneficial to you? 

Bacteria in the colon ferment, or feed on, the fiber in food, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA protect the lining of your gut and defend it against colon cancer, help to control blood glucose, reduce inflammation, and strengthen your immune system.

Fiber helps to keep you fuller longer, which is beneficial when trying to control your weight. It also plays a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels and keeping them in a normal range, and preventing constipation.

It’s next to impossible to get the fiber you need on a very low-carbohydrate eating plan. As a result, you will starve the beneficial bacteria in your gut that support your overall health.

Some carbohydrate choices are better than others, but you can still have treats! 

 

How to Eat More Good Carbohydrates 

When it comes to choosing carbs, quality counts. It’s a good idea to consider the company that carbohydrates keep rather than taking them off your menu.

Foods rich in added sugars, such as regular soft drinks, granola bars, and candy, typically offer little besides calories. Limit your intake of foods with added sugars, but know that you don’t have to completely avoid them. Find out what your daily added sugar allowance is here.


Read about why it’s OK to eat refined grains


yogurt topped with berries and a fresh fig

Choose high-carb, nutrient-rich foods more often to support your health.

 

Fruits and vegetables, and plain milk and yogurt, contain naturally-occurring simple sugars. They are not on the list of sweeter foods experts advise us to limit, however.

Foods with naturally-occurring sugar, as well as starchy foods such as whole and enriched grains, potatoes, and rice, are desirable because they supply vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, and phytonutrients, beneficial plant compounds that protect your cells.

Fortified grains supply additional nutrients, such as iron and folic acid, which are often in short supply in women of childbearing age.


Read about the downsides of going gluten-free


 

bread and grains

Bread made with enriched grains provides vitamins and minerals that often go missing in our diets.

 

How much carbohydrate should you eat?

Suggested daily carbohydrate and fiber intakes are based on calorie requirements.

Experts recommend consuming 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories as carbohydrate. That amounts to:

  • 248 to 358 grams on a 2,200-calorie eating plan
  • 225 and 325 grams on a 2,000-calorie eating plan
  • 202 to 293 grams on an 1,800-calorie eating plan

Of course, you can choose to eat less carbohydrate. Popular low-carb diets suggest far less carbohydrate than nutrition experts.  For example, the ketogenic way of eating recommends no more than 50 grams daily, about the amount found in a three-ounce egg bagel.

basket of a variety of fresh fruit

Fruit is full of water, and can help you meet your daily fluid needs.

 

How much fiber should I eat every day? 

• For every 1,000 calories consumed, eat at least 14 grams of fiber from food.

• For example, on a 2,000-calorie eating plan, include a minimum of 28 grams of food fiber daily.

chickpea salad is loaded with fiber and other "good" carbs

Beans supply a type of fiber that help beneficial gut bacteria thrive!

 

Foods high in fiber to eat every day

It’s easier to include enough fiber and other carbohydrates when you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (which includes beans) and at least three servings a day of whole grains.

Don’t be concerned about eating refined grains. As long as they are fortified, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, they can be part of a balanced diet.

For packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for fiber content.

Here are some common fiber sources, with fiber listed in grams:

Navy beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 10

Lentils, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Black beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Garbanzo beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Whole wheat bread, 2 ounces: 6

White beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 6

Pear, 1 medium: 6

Avocado, 1⁄2 cup: 5

Soybeans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked or roasted: 5

Peas, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 4

Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon: 4

Apple, medium, with skin:  4

Raspberries, 1⁄2 cup: 4

Potato, medium, with skin, baked: 4

Sweet potato, medium, flesh only, baked: 4

Almonds, 1 ounce: 4

Broccoli, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Orange, 1 medium: 3

Banana, 1 medium: 3

Quinoa, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Fiber fights high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol 

The Truth about Carbohydrates 

Most foods rich in carbohydrate also contain important nutrients that are not found in other foods.

Like any calorie-containing component of food, including protein, fat, and alcohol, too much carbohydrate may end up as stored body fat because of the excess calories it provides.

Eating much less than the recommended amount of carbohydrate is not a good idea, either, because it may have many negative effects on your health.

Including more plant foods and plain dairy products in a balanced eating plan is your best bet for getting enough “good” carbs.  Added sugar can also be part of a healthy diet for most people, including those with diabetes. (Check with your dietitian about your daily carbohydrate “budget.”)

 

why carbohydrates are important

Delicious Mini Dessert Recipes



They say good things come in small packages, and for me that means mini desserts. There is no way that I’m going to skip sweets, yet I don’t want a huge piece of pie or cake, either.  The first few bites of any food are the most satisfying, so why eat more than you need? Here are three delicious mini dessert recipes suitable for entertaining, and for every day!

Brownie Bites with Raspberry Chia Jam

Brownie Bites with Raspberry Chia Jam

Brownie Bites with Raspberry Chia Jam

Makes 24 brownies.

1 cup fresh or frozen plain raspberries

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips

2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

Place berries in small saucepan and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the fruit breaks down. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the berries. Take the berries off the heat. Add the sugar and chia seeds, and let the mixture stand until thickened.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Place the beans and the oil in a food processor. Process on high until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract and blend well. Add the baking powder and salt and blend for 10 seconds more. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter by rounded tablespoons into each muffin cup. Bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a brownie bite comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

Top each brownie with 1 teaspoon jam and a few coconut flakes.

mini pumpkin mousse

Mini Pumpkin Mousse

Mini Pumpkin Mousse 

Makes 12 servings.

2 cups plain canned pumpkin

1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

8 ounces frozen, thawed light whipped cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream that’s been whipped, or cashew cream)

2-3 medium gingersnaps, crumbed (optional)

Place pumpkin, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed for 1 minute. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the whipped topping or cream, and fold what remains into the pumpkin mixture. Spoon the mousse into 12 small serving dishes. Chill until ready to serve. Top each with a teaspoon of whipped topping and crumbled gingersnap cookies, if desired.

peanut butter chocolate cups

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups

Makes 24 cups.

12 ounces dark chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup Greek-style cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

mini chocolate chips or chocolate for shaving, if desired

Cut two clean, one-dozen empty foam egg cartons into separate egg cups to make 24 cups.

Melt the dark chocolate.  Place a heaping teaspoon of melted chocolate in each egg cup and tilt to evenly coat. Put egg cups on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.

Place cream in a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until cream forms stiff peaks, about one or two minutes. Do not overbeat.  Transfer cream to a medium bowl and set aside.

Add cream cheese, sugar, and peanut butter to the large mixing bowl.  Beat on high speed until smooth. Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until completely combined and the mixture is uniform in color and texture. Refrigerate.

Take egg cups out of the freezer. Carefully peel the egg carton from the chocolate, keeping your fingers near the bottom.

To assemble, place a tablespoon or so of the peanut mixture into each chocolate cup and top with shaved chocolate.

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 pro about what to do when you fail at meal prep couldn’t hurt.

HealthyMealPrep_FINALCOVER

Why Should I Meal-Prep?

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/nutritionist and working single mother of three prepare delicious and nutritious food ahead of time, she found the energy to write about it 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! 


meal prep with healthy foods

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


Don’t let these meal prep myths hold you back from trying to do better!


Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Recipes 

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 You Can Make in Less Than 5 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.

haddock topped with chopped tomatoes on plate

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.

cottage cheese, eggs, greek yogurt, beets, tofu

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

 

edamame, frozen shrimp, frozen wild blueberries, frozen channa masala

Frozen staples to keep on hand for healthy meals.


How to take steps to get better at meal planning


• Frozen fish fillets, frozen shrimp

• Frozen plain fruit and fruit canned in its own juice

• Frozen plain vegetables and no-salt added canned vegetables


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


Pantry Items

• Canned or pouched tuna or salmon

• Canned diced tomatoes

• Canned pineapple

• 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

• Dried fruit, such as California raisins

• Peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter


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


canned tomatoes, beans, tuna fish, peanut butter, tomato sauce, pouched salmon

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

bowl of chili with beans, beef, yellow and red bell pepper

Using beans in chili cuts down on the meat in this hearty dish.

Chili is the perfect meal for cooler days, and you can put it together fast with canned goods, such as beans and tomatoes. Easy beef and bean chili is is lighter on beef than most recipes, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish.

It’s a good idea to make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish, especially when you have lots of mouths to feed. Freeze what you don’t use for later.

Why canned beans are good for you

Canned beans are a godsend. Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals. And, as part of a balanced diet, beans can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.

In addition, beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.  Most of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why it’s helpful to eat foods that promote the beneficial bacteria that help prevent you from getting sick.

two hands holding uncooked legumes (beans)

It’s OK to used canned beans, which are already cooked!

I choose canned beans for the sake of convenience and because I usually forget to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.

How to make vegetarian chili 

This recipe is flexible.  Skip the meat and add more beans and tomatoes to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans.

Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. You can add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!

bowl of cocoa powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder intensifies the flavors in chili and other savory dishes.

 

How to Use Cocoa Powder in Chili

You may be used to cocoa powder in brownies, cake, and smoothies. While cocoa powder is often associated with desserts, I also use it in this chili recipe. Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades easy beef and bean chili by intensifying the flavor, and you won’t even know it’s there.

Cocoa powder is also good for you.

Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.

Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa, which has lower flavonoid levels.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

Delicious and nutritious chili that's easy to make from pantry staples and is ready in about 30 minutes.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, chili, easydinnerrecipe, groundbeef
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained

Instructions

  • Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up into very small pieces.  
  • Season meat with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat.  
  • Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until soft. 
  • Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  
  • Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. 
  • Cover, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes

Nutrition facts per serving: 291 calories, 21 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 9 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 586 milligrams sodium 

bowl of easy beef and bean chili pinterest

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  I’m a big fan of eating together, but I also know that even the thought of making that happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s a good idea to have 5 stress-free family meals on repeat!

young boy eating spaghetti at a table

Why Family Meals Matter

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, 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. But we know that rarely happens.

Still, as the mother of three, it’s important to try.

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, your partner turns up late, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Do you really need to eat together as a family?

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.

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 at other times.


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


5 No-Fuss Family Dinners

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home as often as you can, and don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but do 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.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili from www.betteristhenewperfect.com

  • 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.

Kids love breakfast for dinner like these pancakes with blueberries.

  • 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:

 

 

Simple, Healthy Thai Peanut Chicken

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a new family dinner recipe, and by that I mean an easy and delicious dish that everyone likes and is quick enough to make for a weeknight meal. This Simple, Healthy Thai Peanut Chicken recipe fits the bill, and there’s a bonus: You only have to clean one pan!

Thai peanut chicken breast on a bed of white rice served with cooked broccoli.

How to Cook Simple, Healthy Thai Peanut Chicken

This recipe originally appeared in my book, Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, and it was called Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken. I made it a slow cooker recipe so that it could be ready at the end of a busy day. When I was pregnant and the mother of young children, knowing that dinner was already in the works was such a relief!

I thought it might be helpful to also include directions for stovetop cooking for when you want to make a quick meal with very little clean up, so I’ve included both cooking methods for the recipe in this post.

Also, feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast meat. Thighs are less expensive than chicken breast, and some people prefer their flavor.

I think peanuts make everything taste better, but If someone in your family has a peanut allergy, it’s good to know that the recipe also works with sunflower seed butter.

The level of spiciness is up to you.  The sauce gets its warmth from the ginger and the salsa, but you can also add cayenne pepper to take it up a notch.  The original recipe doesn’t call for cayenne, as it can aggravate the heartburn that pregnant women often experience.

Simple, Healthy Thai Peanut Chicken

This easy recipe can be ready in less than 30 minutes or cooked in a slow cooker.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken, easydinnerrecipe, peanutbutter
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup tomato salsa
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger, and more if desired
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 4 lime wedges (optional)

Instructions

  • Slice chicken breasts into ½-inch thick pieces and season with the black pepper. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  
  • Add chicken and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned, turning each piece once.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper, if using, with a whisk. Add the salsa mixture to the skillet. 
  • Cover, and cook for another 10 minutes on medium heat or until chicken is fully cooked. 
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the skillet, and place on a serving platter. Spoon the sauce from pan over the chicken. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro, and lime wedges, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving (without optional ingredients):

  • Calories: 274, Total fat: 15 grams, Saturated fat: 3 grams, Cholesterol: 93 milligrams, Sodium: 619 milligrams, Carbohydrate: 8 grams, Dietary fiber: 2 grams, Protein: 28 grams, Calcium: 34 milligrams, Iron: 2 milligrams

Notes

Slow cooker instructions: 
Season both sides of chicken with black pepper. Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper, if using, with a whisk. Add the salsa mixture to the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the slow cooker and place on a serving platter. Spoon the sauce from the slow cooker over the chicken. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro, and lime wedges, if desired.

What to Serve with Simple, Healthy Thai Peanut Chicken

I serve this meal with a variety of side dishes.  Any type of rice, or rice or soba noodles, pairs well with the chicken.  Green beans, broccoli, and asparagus are also good choices to complement the flavors in the recipe, but use whatever vegetables you have on hand.

You can swap cooked, riced cauliflower for the rice or noodles for a lower carbohydrate meal.

If you choose to make this chicken dish spicier, fruit, such as honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon will help balance the heat, and they are also a good source of fluid.

 

Thai peanut chicken, white rice, and broccoli on plate.

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats

As a dietitian, and lover of all things sweet, this no-bake vegan bean and peanut butter treats recipe checks all the boxes for me!

Vegan peanut butter and peanut heart-shaped dessert on Love napkin.

Nothing says “love” like a healthy, delicious dessert.

Healthy, no-bake dessert recipe 

The best thing about vegan recipes is that you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy them. (Also, you can eat the raw dough!)

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats are perfect for everyone because they’re delicious, energizing, and heart-healthy.  And, if made with certified gluten-free oats, this vegan treat is gluten-free, too.

Children can help form the dough into hearts. Or, if it’s easier for them, they can form the dough into balls and dunk them into the chocolate.


Click here for a flourless Easy Black Bean Brownie recipe!

Small bowls of white beans, uncooked oats, peanuts

White beans, oats, and peanuts are the basis of these treats.

 

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats

Peanut butter, white beans, and oatmeal combine to make a delicious sweet vegan treat that can be gluten-free, too. 
Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, glutenfree, peanutbutter, ValentinesDay, vegan
Servings: 18
Calories: 124kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1 15-oz. can white beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (vegan and gluten-free, if desired)
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped peanuts

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients except the chocolate chips and peanuts in a food processor.  Blend until the mixture is well-combined, about 3 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the processor.  Leave the dough in the food processor and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
    Place the dough on a large cutting board and press into a 9-inch square that’s about 1/2-inch thick. Use a medium heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough into hearts.*  
    Combine the remaining dough and press into a 1/2-inch thick piece. Cut dough into hearts until you have 18, and place hearts on a wire cooling rack on top of a cutting board.
    To decorate, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler and  drizzle on the hearts. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and allow the chocolate to harden before eating. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 124 calories; 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 82 milligrams sodium; 16 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 4 grams protein.

    Notes

    *Note: You can also shape the dough into 18 balls. Dip half of each ball into the melted chocolate and coat with peanuts. Place on wax paper to harden.
    Plate of vegan bean and peanut butter no-bake treats

    They’re vegan, so you can pick at the batter without worries!

     

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