Easy Recipes

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas and Cottage Cheese

 

Pasta salad with cottage cheese and chickpeas.

Whole wheat pasta and chickpeas provide fiber and other nutrients that support health.

 

Macaroni salad is a staple at summertime picnics and BBQs across America. While this perennial favorite gets gobbled up by the ton every year, I can’t say that I’m a fan of the typical recipe. Pasta salad with chickpeas and cottage cheese is a better, more satisfying twist on this American favorite.

 


Read: Dozens of recipes for pasta salad with all kinds of interesting ingredients.


Meat and vegetables on skewers on a charcoal grill.

Pasta salad can be served as a side dish with meat or fish.

Pasta Salad is Good for You

Pasta salad with chickpeas and cottage cheese isn’t only for the warmer months; it can be a healthy option year-round, too. Here’s why.

Cooked and cooled pasta (any kind) is a source of resistant starch, a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut that help prevent colon cancer and support overall health. Legumes, such as chickpeas, and cooked and cooled potatoes, also provide resistant starch. Foods rich in fiber can help prevent, and manage, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Meatless Vegetarian Pasta Salad Recipe

I like a hearty pasta salad that’s more than a side dish.  Here’s how I build a better pasta salad to enjoy as a meatless meal or as a side dish.

Whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is a great way to include whole grains. I like the slightly nutty taste of whole wheat pasta, which is higher in fiber than the regular kind. I favor shapes such as rotini because the ridges hold onto the dressing.

Overhead shot of uncooked whole wheat pasta.

Whole wheat pasta is brimming with manganese, a mineral you need for strong bones and cartilage, and for many other bodily functions.


Read: Why carbohydrates are good for you


Legumes. Chickpeas, a type of legume, and pasta are a satisfying combo that you can really sink your teeth into.  Legumes provide protein, and fiber, which helps to better regulate your energy levels, and they supply iron, folate, and phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that protect cells from damage.

Cottage cheese. I like cheese in my pasta salad for the taste, as well as the protein and calcium. Using low fat cottage cheese in place of some of the feta cheese cuts down on calories and saturated fat.

Bowl of cottage cheese with a wooden spoon.

Low fat cottage cheese has 11 times less saturated fat than feta cheese, but is lower in calcium.

 

Plate of Pasta Salad with Cottage Cheese and Chickpeas.

Pasta Salad with Cottage Cheese and Chickpeas can be a side dish or a main meal.

 

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas and Cottage Cheese

Delicious pasta salad that's good for you, too!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chickpeas, cottagecheese, cottagecheeserecipe, macaronisalad, pastasalad
Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta, uncooked
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta until just about done (al dente). Drain well and place pasta in a large serving bowl.
  • Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley, onion, cottage cheese, and feta cheese. Combine well.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the pasta mixture and toss until well combined. Serve chilled.

Notes

Per serving: 253 calories; 10 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 284 milligrams sodium; 80 milligrams calcium.

Pasta salad with chickpeas and cottage cheese

 

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!

     

    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 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.

     

     

     

    Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato

     

    tuna burger topped with smashed avocado and tomato on a whole grain bun on plate with baby carrots

    Tuna burgers are ready in less than 30 minutes!

    We make tuna burgers with smashed avocado and tomato a lot at our house.  I love the recipe so much that I included it in my book, Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy. 

    If you’re looking for an affordable, meatless meal, or you want a break from regular hamburgers, give these burgers a try.

    Canned tuna helps you include seafood at least twice a week

    Experts suggest that adults eat at least two fish meals weekly, and that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume two to three meals a week. However, you don’t need to be pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive to enjoy the benefits of these burgers!

    My burgers are made with canned tuna, an inexpensive, convenient source of several nutrients, including protein, iodine, and omega-3 fats necessary for an adult’s heart health, and for a baby’s brain development and vision.

     

    empty tuna can to form tuna burgers

    Use an empty tuna can to form the burgers so that they are uniform in size and fit on the buns or English muffins.

     

     

    golden brown tuna burgers in skillet

    The tuna burgers should be cooked until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.  


    Pro Tip

    Make a double batch of this recipe and freeze half. They are easy to reheat for a quick lunch or dinner.


    cooked tuna burgers wrapped to freeze for later use

    Wrap cooked, cooled tuna burgers well and date the package. They will last for several months in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave and make the avocado/tomato topping just before serving.

    tuna burger on bun topped with avocado-tomato mixture

    Delicious and nutritious Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato pack omega-3 fats, fiber, protein, and much more!

     

    Tuna Burgers with Smashed Avocado and Tomato

    A budget-friendly, meatless option for lunch or dinner.
    Prep Time10 mins
    Cook Time10 mins
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: easydinnerrecipe, fishmeal, tunaburger
    Servings: 4

    Ingredients

    • 4 5 1/2-ounce cans or pouches of tuna, drained
    • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onion
    • 2 teaspoons dried dill
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1 pitted ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 small tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 4 2-ounce whole wheat: sandwich buns, sandwich thins, or English muffins, toasted if desired

    Instructions

    • Place the tuna in a medium mixing bowl and break into small pieces with a fork.  
    • Add the bread crumbs, eggs, shallots, and dill, and stir until combine well.  
    • Form the mixture into four burgers of equal size.
    • In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook burgers for about four minutes on each side.
    • In a small bowl, combine the avocado and tomato until just mixed, mashing lightly while stirring.  
    • To serve, place burgers on sandwich buns and top with the avocado-tomato mixture. 

    Notes

    Per serving: 
    430 calories; 14 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 139 milligrams cholesterol; 810 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fiber; 39 grams protein

    tuna burgers with avocado and tomato pinterest

    No Added Sugar Shamrock Shake (vegan)

    vegan matcha green smoothie shake

    Fast food green drinks are fun to sip, especially around St. Patrick’s day, but they are usually overly sweet and low on nutrition. If you’re looking for a healthier beverage, this no added sugar shamrock shake is for you.

    This delicious drink supplies one and a half servings of fruits and vegetables, nine grams of fiber, calcium, heart-healthy fat, and much more, and it gets some of its vibrant color from matcha. 

    What is matcha? 

    Matcha is ground green tea that’s typically used to make a hot beverage. As a powder, matcha is potent and a little goes a long way in terms of flavor and color.

    Does matcha have health benefits? 

    Matcha and other green tea contains antioxidants that may fight cancer.  Drinking green tea on a regular basis is linked to lower blood pressure and lower levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol in the blood.

    However, there’s not much research on matcha itself. Even though matcha is a type of green tea, experts aren’t sure that it has the same effects as other green tea on health.

    Does matcha have caffeine? 

    Matcha contains caffeine, but relatively low levels. As a result, this no added sugar shamrock shake provides a gentle energy lift, rather than a jolt.

    different kinds of matcha green tea powder

    I use McCormick Gourmet Organic Matcha Green Tea with Ginger Seasonings*.  It supplies about 4 milligrams of caffeine per serving, which is the same amount of caffeine as 12 ounces of decaffeinated coffee.

    vegan matcha green smoothie with a bowl of matcha powder

    When you make the smoothie with regular matcha, the caffeine content is about 50 milligrams, which is still far less than coffee. For example, 16 ounces of Starbucks coffee has 330 milligrams caffeine.

    I hope you enjoy this better-for-you drink that you can make with a soy beverage so that it’s vegan, or with dairy milk. It’s your choice!

    No Added Sugar Shamrock Shake

    A delicious and nutritious version of sugary fast food milkshakes.
    Prep Time5 mins
    Cook Time0 mins
    Course: Snack
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: banana, greensmoothie, milkshake, shamrockshake, vegansmoothie
    Servings: 1

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup baby spinach or kale
    • 1/2 medium frozen banana, sliced
    • 1/2 pitted ripe avocado, sliced
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened fortified soy beverage or 1% low fat milk
    • 1/2 tsp. matcha

    Instructions

    • Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. 
    • Blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.
    • Pour into a glass and drink immediately.

    Notes

    Nutrition information: 281 calories; 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 76 milligrams sodium; 32 grams carbohydrate; 9 grams fiber; 8 grams protein

    *I did not receive compensation or product from McCormick or Organic Living Superfoods and they are not my clients.

    green match smoothie drink

    Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

    Eating a more plant-based diet doesn’t mean ditching dessert.  Indulge in this Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream.” It’s satisfying, heart-healthy, vegan, and it’s even gluten-free!

    Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" with frozen bananas is vegan

    Frozen bananas and peanut butter make this “ice cream” vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!

    Is Ice Cream Bad for You?

    I’m not a big believer in “good and bad foods” because it takes away from the importance of an overall healthy eating pattern.  Healthy eating patterns can include all types of foods.

    I didn’t set out to make this ice cream vegan or gluten-free; it just happened that way! I just looking for a dessert that would satisfy me as much as real ice cream. While ice cream has more fat and added sugar than this homemade creamy chocolate peanut butter concoction, I still eat it. Choosing this vegan alternative provides a delicious way to include more plant foods.

    How to Make Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Vegan Nice Cream

    Bananas are the silent ingredient in this healthy frozen delight, and they make it unnecessary to add dairy products and sugary sweeteners. The ripest bananas are the sweetest and make the creamiest “nice cream.”

    Bananas also offer fiber and potassium, and are responsible for the smooth, rich texture of this creamy chocolate peanut butter treat. One portion of “nice cream” also supplies a serving of fruit.

    I keep chunks of frozen banana in the freezer to use on a moment’s notice. You can also freeze chopped bananas for at least two hours before making this, or other recipes, such as smoothies. You can also buy bags of sliced, frozen bananas to have on hand.

    frozen sliced bananas in resealable plastic bag

    Keep frozen bananas on hand to make “ice cream” fast.

    The Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder

    You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is good for you.  Milk and dark chocolate are a mixture of ingredients, including sugar, and cocoa butter, the fat that is removed from cocoa beans during processing.  Cocoa powder is the dried solids that result from that processing and it is ground up, packaged, and found in grocery stores.

    Unsweetened cocoa powder contains flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds. An eating plan rich in flavonoids is linked to  less inflammation in the body, proper blood flow, and reducing blood pressure. Cocoa powder that is not “Dutch-process” is richer in flavonoids.

    I use unsweetened cocoa powder in my “ice cream” because it delivers deep chocolate flavor without any added sugar. You can also add cocoa powder to savory dishes, such as chili, to amp up flavor and nutrition.

     

    Bowl of unsweetened cocoa powder.

    Cocoa powder provides intense chocolate flavor without the fat.

     

    Why Peanut Butter is Good For You

    “Is peanut butter bad for you?” is a question that I get a lot. My answer: only if you are allergic to peanuts!

    Peanut butter is a source of several nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fats, and potassium. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter provides an excellent source of manganese (not to be confused with magnesium!).  Manganese is a mineral that your body needs to make energy, protect cells from damage, and support a healthy immune system, among other functions.

    Natural peanut butter is often free of added sugar. If you’re want  to limit sugar, check the package to be sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain added sugars.  Learn how to make homemade peanut butter with no added sugar from Sally Kuzemchak over at Real Mom Nutrition. (Hint: It’s easy!)

    creamy peanut butter adds healthy fats to vegan ice cream with frozen bananas

     

    Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" (Vegan)

    This dairy-free vegan "ice cream" is delicious and offers a serving of fruit, too!
    Prep Time2 hrs
    Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: chocolatepeanutbutter, dairyfree, peanutbutterdessert, vegan, vegandessert, veganicecream
    Servings: 2

    Ingredients

    • 2 medium ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen (Freeze for at least 2 hours.)
    • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (with no added sugar, if desired)
    • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts

    Instructions

    • Place bananas in a large food processor. 
    • Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  
    • Blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
    • Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with peanuts. Serve immediately.

    Notes

     
    Per serving: 
    252 calories; 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 132 milligrams sodium; 29 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 7 grams protein

    bowl of creamy chocolate peanut butter vegan ice cream with no added sugar

    8 Easy to Make, Better Than Store-bought Foods

    There are a few everyday foods I don’t buy anymore, including cranberry sauce, salad dressing, and almond butter, because they are easy to make at home, and they taste better.  On the flip side, there are several so-called convenience foods I can’t do without. I asked a few of my foodie friends about what they absolutely must make from scratch, as well as their “processed food” picks that get healthy meals on the table fast, and they served up these eight easy to make, better than store-bought foods!

    Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Nutritioulicious

    Must-have homemade food: Peanut sauce

    Why: “Most packaged peanut sauces are really high in sodium and sugar, so I’d rather make my own using natural, unsweetened peanut butter and adding my own amount of sweetener. I also add other flavor boosters like freshly grated ginger and sriracha, which packaged peanut sauces don’t have. Give it a whirl in the blender or food processor and it’s easy as can be!”

    thai-chicken-satay-001-e1421890042788

    Favorite convenience food: Canned beans

    Why: “I love adding beans to salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and grain side dishes, but I would not use them as frequently as I do if I had to soak and cook them on my own. Time is of the essence when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in my house! A lot of people are hesitant to buy canned beans because of the sodium content, so I recommend buying the no-salt-added canned beans if you can find them and always drain and rinse the beans before adding to a dish.”

    Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, JaniceCooks

    Must-have homemade food: Sweet and Hearty Beef Stew

    Why: “It tastes better than the canned kind, and it’s better for you. My beef stew has half the sodium, twice the protein, and four times the fiber and vitamin A as the canned variety. It takes just minutes to toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and a hearty, tasty dinner is ready to serve a few hours later.”

    10444937865_2f019444f1

    Favorite convenience food: Canned pumpkin.

    Why: “I tried cooking and mashing fresh pumpkin once and decided that it would be the last time. Canned pure pumpkin is so convenient and nutritious that I stock up every fall to be sure I can use it year round. I use it in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, even chili  and enchiladas! ”

    Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Nutrition Starring You

    Must-have homemade food: Vegan ice cream

    Why: “I don’t like the taste of store-bought vegan ice cream. It’s always high in added sugar and not nearly as high in protein as my version.”

    banana-fudge-vegan-ice-cream-e1454809912675

    Favorite convenience food: Bagged salad.

    Why: “I couldn’t live without pre-washed greens, especially the cabbage blends because they are super filling and don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for several meals. (Close second: rotisserie chicken for fast, easy lunches and dinners.)”

    Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, Real Mom Nutrition

    Must-have homemade food: Salad dressing

    Why: “Once I started making my own salad dressing, it was impossible to go back to the gloppy bottled kind–especially the ones with preservatives and artificial dyes.”

    quickvinaigrette

    Need more salad dressing ideas? Here’s 50 of them.

    Favorite convenience food: Jarred pasta sauce

    Why: “You can’t beat the convenience of it, and jarred sauce plus frozen ravioli is a last resort meal that saves us from ordering pizza or getting other take-out food. Pair that combination with prewashed greens and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!”

    Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, Amy Gorin Nutrition

    Must-have homemade food: Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites

    Why: “Unlike a lot of store-bought versions of energy bites, balls, and bars, my recipe contains no added sugar. Plus, they’re delicious!”

    almond-pistachio-cocoa-bites

    Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruit

    Why: “Unsweetened frozen fruit is great for when I don’t have fresh in the house. It’s also sometimes preferable. When I use it in smoothies, I don’t need to add ice. And when I heat it up and use it as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal or French toast, it creates a nice liquid that can replace other toppings like syrup or brown sugar.”

    Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, Shaw’s Simple Swaps

    Must-have homemade food: Jam

    Why: “I love to make homemade jam not only because I can control the added sugar content, but also because I load it with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients, like omega-3 chia seeds, fiber-filled figs and other seasonal fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!”

    20160807_083056

    Favorite convenience food: Whole grain bread

    Why: “I can’t live without whole grain bread! Sure, I can make my own, but there’s nothing like a nice, fresh loaf of 100% whole grain bread with seeds from the store that you can simply take out of the bag and place in the toaster for a quick avocado toast lunch!”

    Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

    Must-have homemade food: Chocolate syrup

    Why: “This beautifully glossy chocolate syrup is a tasty alternative to what you’ll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients.”

    img_7964

    Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruits and vegetables (among so many others!).

    Why: “A bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from stews to smoothies, and frozen spinach is great in smoothies along with frozen fruit. The nutrient values of frozen fruits and vegetables stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze.”

    Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN 

    Must-have homemade food: Granola

    Why: “Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar and fat. My version has sugar and fat, too, but the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind from nuts, and I add just enough pure maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

    Allspice or Chinese five spice powder provides added sweetness without sugar. For variety, I add 1/4 cup dried wild blueberries or unsweetened coconut during the last few minutes of baking. Add whatever you like to make it your own recipe.”

    img_7833

    Kathleen Zelman’s Granola

    3 ½ cups old fashioned oats
    2 cups finely chopped nuts of your choice (I love to mix pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    ½ cup pure maple syrup
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder

    Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, stirring well to combine.
    Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Transfer the granola to the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown. Higher heat burns the nuts.

    Favorite convenience food: Canned petite diced tomatoes.

    Why: “These little gems are the perfect addition to so many recipes. They add color, flavor, texture, fiber, and other nutrients. I put them in egg dishes, soups, sauces, stews, guacamole, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce and anything with a red sauce. You can purchase them fire-roasted, with herbs and spices, and with no added salt.”

    8 Easy to Make, Better Than Store-Bought Foods pinterest image

    Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

    pumpkin spice smoothie with whipped cream and garnished with nutmeg from betteristhenewperfect.com

    Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

     

    I’m a pumpkin fanatic. I stock up on plain canned pumpkin puree the second it hits the shelves at the end of the summer because I use it year-round in these muffins, these donuts, and in this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. To be honest, my children think I have a “pumpkin problem.” I wonder if that’s because I get nervous if I have any less than 10 cans in the house at a time? Oh well, I suppose I could have bigger things to worry about!


    Did you know?

    Technically, pumpkins are a fruit!


    Health Benefits of Pumpkin Spice Smoothie 

    I love the taste of pumpkin, but I also love the nutrition it offers, including the following:

    • Beta carotene, a plant compound that protects cells, gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and supports eye and skin health.

     

    • Potassium, a mineral that helps to keep blood pressure in check and regulate heart beat, among other functions. 

     

    • Fiber, which supports gut health and helps to stabilize blood glucose levels. You’d have to eat a entire cup of raw kale to get the fiber found in 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin puree, the amount used in Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. 

    Pumpkin isn’t the only wonderful ingredient in this smoothie. When paired with milk, this delicious drink supplies 8 grams of protein, 4 grams fiber, vitamin D, and about one-third of the calcium you need in a day, and all for under 200 calories.


    Did you know? 

    Eating more fruits and veggies helps lower breast cancer risk


    Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

    Delicious and nutritious pumpkin spice smoothie with fewer than 200 calories!
    Prep Time5 mins
    Cook Time0 mins
    Course: Snack
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: pumpkinsmoothie, pumpkinspice, smoothie
    Servings: 1

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup 1% low fat milk
    • 1/2 cup plain canned pumpkin
    • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • pinch ground nutmeg, if desired
    • 4 teaspoons instant whipped cream, if desired

    Instructions

    • Place all the ingredients except the whipped cream in a blender and blend until smooth on high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Top with whipped cream and enjoy immediately.

    Notes

    Per serving (with whipped cream): 192 calories; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 8 grams protein; 21 milligrams cholesterol; 90 milligrams sodium; 30 milligrams carbohydrate; 9 grams added sugar; 4 grams fiber; 2.3 micrograms vitamin D (90 International Units); 283 milligrams calcium; 2 milligrams iron.  

    pinterest graphic for pumpkin spice smoothie with whipped cream and garnished with nutmeg from betteristhenewperfect.com

     

     
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