Monday, January 27, 2014

Super Bowl My (husband's) Favorite Holiday

My wife hates football. Hates it. Always has, always will, no matter what I try to do to convince her to like it. Whether I’m trying to eloquently explain the subtle nuances of the game, or bribing her with free beer, football is just not a sport that she likes and over time I have learned to be okay with this. Our love for food has enabled us to enjoy football games together in a different way.  Now a days we cook together, entertain our guests, and I am still able to watch the game yelling and clapping extremely loud (which my "anti-football" wife doesn't seem to mind, sometimes).

Football has always meant a lot to me, whether it was playing in high school or watching my favorite professional team the San Francisco 49ers.  So when I think back to Super Bowls growing up I remember not only the football games, but my family getting together with all of our friends.  Super Bowl is not just a game but a wonderful reason for close friends to get together.  This is a tradition Rochelle and I have continued to share with our friends for the past few years.   

I could not think of a better way to get the bitter taste of the 49ers loss to the Seahawks out of my mouth than by creating something spicy to serve during this year’s Super Bowl.  I decided to feature two dishes, one that can be served as an appetizer, Panko Crusted Jalapeno Cheese Balls, and one right before kick off, Spicy Spanish Rice with Shrimp.  

We hope you all have a great time with your friends and family and enjoy this years Super Bowl!  And even though they are not playing in the Super bowl,  Go Niners!!!  

Panko Crusted Jalapeno Cheese Balls

1 - 11 ounce package of goat cheese, softened
2 Jalapenos, deseeded and minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3-1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
4 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground chipotle 
1 cup flour
4 eggs, beaten 
3/4 cup canola oil

In a large mixing bowl combine the jalapenos, goat cheese, cumin, 1-1/2 teaspoons ground pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Roll into one inch size balls and set on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate the cheese balls for 30 minutes until firm. 

In a shallow bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, ground chipotle, 2 teaspoons pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. In two separate shallow bowls place the flour and eggs. Remove the jalapeno cheese balls from the refrigerator.  Dredge the cheese balls into the flour, then the egg, followed by the panko seasoning.  Then re-dredge into the egg and panko seasoning.  This makes for a thicker, crispier crust.  

Heat the canola oil on a medium high heat in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet.  Add the panko crusted cheese balls to the skillet.  Cook until golden brown on all sides, gently turning them.  Serve immediately. Makes 20-22 cheese balls. 

Note: These jalapeno cheese balls are best served with a marinara sauce. 

Spicy Spanish Rice with Shrimp

1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups rice, cooked 
1-2 pounds shrimp, devained and tails removed
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons pepper
1 lime, juiced plus 2 limes cut into wedges
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the bell peppers, red onion and garlic.  Saute for about two minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper, saute for another two minutes.  Add rice and saute for about 2-4 minutes until the rice is evenly coated with tomato paste.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Finish with the juice of 1 whole lime.  Stir to combine, cover and set aside. 

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine shrimp, oregano, salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Carefully place the shrimp into the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on one side and another 1-2 minutes on the other side.  Remove shrimp from skillet.  Roughly chop the shrimp and add to the rice mixture.  Stir to combine.  Garnish with cilantro and remaining limes cut into wedges.  Serve immediately.  Makes about 8-10, 4 ounce individual servings.  

Note: This dish can be served in a large dish family style or distributed evenly into individual servings as pictured here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dancer's Nutrition: What's For Dinner?

I know that for many busy families, dinner time is often thought of way after it should be and or totally forgotten.  Both of which in many times leads to ordering in, or the "your on your own" method which can turn into cereal for dinner.  I have experienced both and the ordering in becomes expensive and often times not healthy and the cereal for dinner is just plain boring to me.  With all this in mind and as my last post specifically made for my dancers, I have come up with a dinner that only takes about 20 minutes to make.  It is so easy that I think a 12 year old can make this dish with confidence.  All that it requires is a bit of chopping up some vegetables, mixing a sauce and cooking some rice, which a rice cooker can do for you.  

Note: If you don't have a rice cooker, I highly recommend investing in one.  I promise it makes many more things than rice.  However, that may have to be another post.  

I have also found while I prefer the Asian version of this dish you could also go super simple and use whatever vegetables are in your refrigerator and garnish with a little salt, pepper and a squeeze of a lemon wedge.  I'm also in love with this dinner because it is easily made for on the go and is lovely eaten cold or at room temperature.  

Lastly, I wanted to say happy healthy eating to all my readers especially my dancers.  I hope that the last few post have inspired you all to cook and eat a little bit healthier.  With that said, next week you should look forward to indulging in some Super Bowl appetizers with my husband, Greg.  And then back to the healthy eating!

Raw Veggie Brown Rice Bowls

4-6 cups brown rice, cooked
2 whole carrots, shredded
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
1 cup edamame
1 cup red cabbage chopped
Sesame hoisin sauce (see recipe below)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Sesame Hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 lime, juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red peppers or Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and set aside.  Makes about a 1/2 cup.

Making the Rice bowl:

In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, carrots, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, edamame and red cabbage.  Pour the sesame hoisin sauce over top.  Stir to combine.  Distribute the rice and vegetable mix evenly between bowls and garnish with the cilantro.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container with the sauce separately for on the go.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Other vegetable add-ons or substitutes: green beans, cucumbers, bean sprouts, or zucchini.
Protein add-ons:  Chicken, shrimp, beef or pork.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dancer's Nutrition: Smoothies!

I admit I have never been a smoothie fan, but upon the request of my lovely dance students I have found a new love for them...sorta.  After perusing Pinterest and getting feed back and suggestions from my dancers, sister and husband I have come up with these two smoothies to share.  

The first is my antioxidant berry mint smoothie which not only contains fresh berries but also coconut water and tart cherry juice.  Coconut water is amazing for hydration and the tart cherry juice contains benefits that many of us can use.  Tart cherry juice contains properties to help with inflammation in joints and muscles and may also help you sleep better, making this smoothie the perfect snack for after a long day of dance classes (or a late night work out).  After the first week back to teaching dance after a long winter break, my body was feeling sore and this smoothie definitely helped.

My second smoothie contains two of my favorite things together, bananas and peanut butter.  At first I started thinking it would be more like a plain old milkshake but then my sister suggested to me to add some spinach for some extra nutrition.  I have to say I was a bit skeptical since I would much rather prefer to eat my veggies and not drink them.  However, the spinach didn't seem to alter the taste at all that much, although, I am still getting over staring at the green color as I taste bananas and peanut butter.   I also added rolled oats to my "green" smoothie making this a breakfast meal on the go.  So I guess we're all covered here on this smoothie, veggies, protein, potassium, fiber and whole grains.  Looks like drinking my breakfast won't be so bad after all and I might actually start liking smoothies.

Antioxidant Berry Mint Smoothie

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
6-8 mint leaves
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup tart cherry juice
1/2 cup coconut water

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 cup fresh spinach
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 large frozen banana, sliced into small pieces
1-1/4 cup almond milk

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Serve immediately.

Note:  Place the ingredients into the blender in the order that they are listed in the recipes.  This will ensure that your ingredients will blend together better. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dancer's Nutrition: Snack Time

As a dance teacher and dancer myself, I am always in need of a snack in between meals and in between classes.  My sister often says I eat like a two year old because I'm always hungry and ready for a snack.  And my response to her is, the more often you eat and in smaller portions has proven to keep your metabolism up (don't worry she agrees, she just likes to give me a hard time...I think).  Keeping my metabolism up is even more important to me as I get older.  While I am usually reaching for some granola, pretzels or a piece fruit I do love a little something more filling and easy to take with me.  

I have to say I am pretty picky when it comes to hummus, especially about the texture.  I like mine to be extra creamy and full of flavor.  So when creating this lovely snack I wanted to keep the ingredients fresh and bright.  I am a lover of basil (hence, my basil-almond pesto) and a fresh squeezed  Meyer lemon is the perfect pair to it.  I know most of the country is covered in snow while I sit her typing in a tank top so I thought some bright spring flavors would boost any ones mood.  Oh, and did I mention that this hummus is healthy?  It's packed with protein, low in calories and super tasty!   


Basil Hummus

1 - 15 ounce can organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and washed
1 cup fresh organic basil, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons sour cream (you can substitute Greek yogurt if preferred)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 red pepper flakes (optional)

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top with fresh veggies.  Makes about 2 cups. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dancer's Nutrition: Lunch Time

As I head back to work on Monday after a three week winter break, I will be adjusting back into my routine.  No more lazy days with late afternoon lunches (sometimes accompanied by a beautiful glass of wine) for me.  I will be returning to my home office to choreograph, peruse iTunes for new music and brainstorm for a new way to make shuffle ball change (that's a tap reference for you non-dancers) look amazing.  When I'm working at home I often am looking for an easy lunch option that I can quick throw together and keep on working.  Also, my lunch needs to be rather filling so that it will keep me fueled for my long nights at the studio, even though I am always carrying snacks in my bag  for my commute home.

When I was creating this recipe I was trying to come up with something creative and not your typical turkey sandwich.  However, I did want it simple enough to make so that busy families and my young dancers could prepare it without feeling overwhelmed.  This chicken guacamole sandwich is not only super healthy, easy to make but it can also be made one day ahead making it perfect to pack for a school lunch, or for me to enjoy at my computer desk in between choreographing dance steps.

Chicken Guacamole Sandwich

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
2 lemon slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
5-8 dashes Tabasco Pepper Sauce (optional)
1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
4 pieces sliced bread, toasted
2 small tomato, sliced
2-4 leaves of lettuce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breast in a piece of foil.  Drizzle the olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper.  Place the two lemon slices on top of the chicken breast.  Wrap the foil around the chicken breast and place it on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled discard the lemon slices and chop the chicken.  Note: This can be done a day or two ahead of time and stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

In a medium mixing bowl place the avocado.  Using a fork or potato masher, smash the avocado.  Add the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, red onion, cilantro, Tabasco and garlic.  Stir to combine all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooked, chopped chicken breast and stir well to combine.

Spread about half of the chicken avocado salad onto one slice of the bread.  Top it with the lettuce, tomato and finally the other slice of bread.  Repeat this for the second sandwich. Cut in half and enjoy.  Makes 2 sandwiches.

Note: If you want to make the chicken avocado salad ahead of time, use plastic wrap to cover it pushing the plastic all the way down onto the salad to keep the avocado from browning.

Need to make this vegetarian?
Substitute the chicken for tofu, tempeh or make it crunchy by using a cucumber.

Need to make it gluten free?
Place the guacamole chicken into the leaves of lettuce, top with the tomatoes and enjoy it as a lettuce wrap.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dancer's Nutrition: Good Morning Granola

Originally I wanted to name this post "A Dancer's Diet," however I didn't want my young dancers to think I was creating these recipes because I think they need to "diet."  What I do want for them, besides getting good technique, take more ballet classes, stretch not because I said so, pointe their toes, smile and have fun, is to take care of their body.  You really only get one shot at this dance thing or life thing, so why not make it worth while.  

As a dance teacher I get to spend a lot of time with other peoples children.  I consider myself sometimes not just the woman in the front of the room shouting out dance steps but also their leader and role model.  Being in this position I feel like while I can't personally feed each and every one of them, I can set a good example and share these recipes in hopes that I will see less processed junk food in their dance bags.  Also, I would like to point out that the studio I work for provides healthy snack options for our dancers, however they don't always take advantage.  So, for my students reading this, you know who you are with the Cheetos, french fries, rocky road ice cream (yes, this one is for real) and chips, chips and more chips, let's get healthy and fuel your body with the right nutrients it needs to make it through those long days at dance!

The next few posts I will be sharing are meant to be simple and easy enough for a family on the go to make and enjoy.  I'm starting off with breakfast.  Just like everyone says, this is the most important meal of the day.  If you are skipping it you are already setting yourself up for failure.  How can you function without fueling your body? Cars don't run without gas, you shouldn't run or dance without food.  So here is an easy way to get in a ton of protein to start your day off right.  

Good Morning Granola

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup almond slivers
1 cup unsweetened large coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons agave nectar (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, quinoa, pecans, almonds, coconut flakes, sea salt and cinnamon.  Pour in the coconut oil, honey and agave nectar.  Stir until all ingredients are well combined.  Pour the granola mixture onto a parchment paper lined large rimmed baking sheet.  Make sure the granola is spread evenly on the baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes stirring halfway through.  Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Remove the granola from the parchment paper and break into pieces.  The Granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Makes about 4 cups.

Note:  This granola can be eaten as a cereal, with yogurt and fruit, or plain and on the go.  It is also a great snack.

Almond Butter and Date Granola Bars

1-3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup almond slivers
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
8-10 medjool dates, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the rolled oats, almonds, pecans, coconut, dates, cinnamon and sea salt.  Set aside.

In a small sauce pan over medium low heat, melt the coconut oil, almond butter and honey.  Pour the almond butter mixture over the oats mixture and stir until well combined.

Pour the granola mixture into a parchment paper lined 8x8 baking dish.  Using your hands or a wooden spoons press the granola evenly into the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled place the granola, still inside the baking dish, into the refrigerator for 2 hours to form.  Once cold and formed remove the granola from the refrigerator and cut into bars.  The granola bars may crumble a bit and be more of irregular shaped bars like mine.  Store in an airtight container or in separate small snack baggies for on the go.  Makes about 16 bars.