Hearty salads are just the ticket for lunch or light dinner these days. Lentils are a quick- cooking dried bean that’s not just for soup. This one includes red lentils, which are closer to orange in color, to be honest.
I made this salad recently for a Saturday, virtual demo for the Home – Cancer Support Community (mycancersupportcommunity.org). I’ve been doing cooking demos for them since I started my business 14 years ago! I’m grateful for the opportunity to cook and chat about nutrition while I do it.
This lentil quinoa salad is a good source of several nutrients, including protein, iron, vitamin C and fiber. If you’re trying to protect your immune system this thyme of year, this salad is your go-to.
Fiber from different food sources (beans, grains, fruits, veggies) helps to keep your gut microbiome (located in your large colon), thriving. Yes- poop has a function! This is why I’m a fan of eating a balanced diet that includes ALL food groups (and doesn’t diss dairy, gluten and the like).
That being said, the salad is gluten free, primarily because it’s made with quinoa. You can certainly sub other whole grains like bulgur, farro, sorghum or even brown rice.I love how quickly quinoa cooks and gives the salad a nutty taste and chewy texture.
The original salad was a recipe used in my Heart Healthy Meal Prep: 6 Weekly Plans for Low-Sodium, High-Flavor Grab-and-Go Meals – Kindle edition by Andrews MEd RD LD, Lisa Cicciarello . Cookbooks, Food & Wine Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. but I added greens to it to boost the volume, color and nutritional value of the salad. I think it’s even better with the addition of fresh spinach! The salad keeps for about 3 days after being dressed.
The dressing is a simple vinaigrette with lemon juice, corn oil and honey. Both the lemon juice and spinach are sources of vitamin C, which enhances the iron absorption from quinoa and lentils in the salad. If you’re going meat-free this year, this is an excellent way to obtain iron in your diet. Make it vegan by leaving out the cheese.
1 cup dry red lentils 3 Tablespoons canola oil
4 cups water, divided ½ cup pecans, chopped
1 cup quinoa ½ cup dried cherries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon honey 1 green onion (green & white parts), chopped
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar 3 cups ripped spinach leaves
- Boil the lentils in 2 cups of water for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer on low until the lentils are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off extra water and place in a large bowl to cool.
- While lentils are cooking, boil 2 cups of water with 1 cup of quinoa in a small pot for 3 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce heat and continue to simmer quinoa for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Allow quinoa to cool, then add it to the cooled lentils.
- In a measuring cup, mix the lemon juice, honey, vinegar and canola oil and whisk to make a dressing.
- Pour the lemon juice dressing over lentils and quinoa.
- Add the pecans, dried cherries, feta cheese, green onions and spinach to the lentils and quinoa. Toss the salad to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 400 calories, 15 g protein, 18 g fat, 47 g carbohydrates, 13 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 117 mg sodium
Yes, Thanksgiving is behind us, but some of the leftovers remain. If you’re like my family, you’ve probably enjoyed turkey soup, turkey tacos, ham and bean soup and Western omelets. Or maybe you froze some of the meat or other goodies?
But what about that delicious cranberry relish? Besides adding it as a condiment to your turkey sandwich, what else can you use it for?
If you’ve followed my blog before, you know I hate food waste. My parents grew up in the depression era (many moons ago), so we didn’t waste a pea on our plates. I fully recognize food insecurity in the US, and it kills me to toss out perfectly good food.
The mighty cranberry
Cranberry relish is popular at holiday time because cranberries are in season from September to November. Their festive crimson color also lends itself to beautiful dishes of sauce, compote and dessert. If you’ve never made homemade cranberry sauce, it’s ridiculously easy. Recipe to follow!
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C as well as antioxidants to help fight disease. Some research suggests they may reduce the risk of UTIs (urinary tract infections) as well. Cranberry Polyphenols and Prevention against Urinary Tract Infections: Relevant Considerations – PubMed (nih.gov)
Using leftover cranberry sauce
Leftover cranberry sauce should be used within 7 to 10 days or can be frozen and used within a month. I’m sure if you used the cranberry sauce a bit after 10 days (say 12 days), you’ll be OK. It’s acidic by nature and likely won’t mold quickly.
Note- you’ll still have some leftover cranberry sauce with this recipe. If you’ve never tried it in yogurt, now is a good ‘thyme’! It’s great in Greek yogurt or you can also add it to cooked oatmeal.
I enjoy using quinoa in various recipes because of its awesome nutritional profile (good source of fiber, iron and protein), ease of cooking and versatility. I had some mixed quinoa on hand and decided to cook some up for breakfast.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, making it a great grain for those with Celiac disease or anyone following a gluten-free diet. While it’s often used in grain bowls, salads or side dishes, it can also be used for breakfast. Why not?
Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove tannins that give the grain a metalic taste. A mesh strainer works well for this.
Fresh cranberry sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar or honey
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
1 Tbsp. ginger paste
1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, orange juice, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and ginger paste and boil for 3 minutes.
- Add the fresh or frozen cranberries and stir to combine.
- Reduce the heat and stir the mixture occasionally. Allow it to simmer for 15 minutes. Cranberries will split open as they cook, and the mixture will thicken.
- Cool the sauce for 20 to 30 minutes before storing in the fridge or freezer.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving 111 calories, 0 gm fat, .3 gm protein, 27 carbs, 1.7 fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium
1 cup dried quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup almonds or other nuts, chopped
- Rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer before using.
- Place quinoa and water in a medium pan and boil for 1 minute.
- Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Cook quinoa for 13 to 14 minutes until all the water is soaked up.
- Serve 1/2 cup warm quinoa with 1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce.
- Top with 1 Tbsp. chopped almonds or other nuts.
Quiona and cranberry sauce with almonds
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 300 calories, 6.3 gm fat, 6.3 gm protein, 50 grams carbs,4.5 gm fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 217 mg sodium
Whether you need a fancy salad for Thanksgiving or just something deliciously different this time of year, you’ll love this seasonal salad. It’s colorful, sweet and savory all at once.
I made this salad over the weekend for Homepage | Cancer Support Community in a live cooking demo. I’ve been doing demos for them for about 13 years and love the community.
All about that base:
Spinach makes a great base in this salad and provides beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C to your diet. Arugula or kale could also be used if you’re out of spinach.
If you use kale as your base, be sure to “massage it” to wilt the texture a bit. The salad can be made a day or two ahead of time when using kale.
I used honey crisp apples in my salad, but Granny Smith apples or even Barlett pears would go well. Apples or pears add soluble fiber to your salad; the type that lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. They also improve the color and texture of the salad.
Dates are technically not a “dried” fruit, but because of their wrinkly texture, people think they are. They paired nicely with the tart apples and tangy balsamic dressing. These Medjool dates were provided by https://www.naturaldelights.com. I’m a paid partner for the brand and stand by its quality. Medjool dates provide potassium and fiber and have a chewy, sweet texture.
Including some form of dried fruit will add a chewy texture to your salads in addition to more color. Raisins, dried cherries, chopped apricots or prunes would go well.
I typically add a small amount of some type of cheese to my salads. This adds a little more dimension to the salad and savory cheese goes well with fruit. You can use blue cheese crumbles, feta cheese or shredded Parmesan. Or, keep the salad vegan and leave the cheese out!
Dress it up:
Making your own dressing is super simple and so much tastier than bottled dressing. I love the richness of balsamic vinegar, but apple cider vinegar would go well, too. This recipe makes 1/3 cup dressing, which is the perfect amount to dress your salad. Don’t drown your salad in dressing!
If you want to add a different twist, substitute ginger paste for Dijon mustard. This may make the dressing a little spicy and less tangy. A few red onion rings would add another layer of flavor to the salad if you have them on hand. Drizzle the dressing right before serving. Enjoy!
1 (10 oz) bag fresh spinach
2 honey crisp or another firm apple
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 Medjool dates, chopped
2 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Place the fresh spinach (or other greens) in a large salad bowl.
- Add the chopped apples, dates, pecans and feta cheese.
- In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the canola oil, vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard.
- Drizzle the dressing and toss to coat the salad right before serving.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 227 calories, 16.6 grams fat, 18.4 grams carbs, 3.3 grams protein, 4.4 grams fiber, 4.6 mg cholesterol, 97 mg sodium
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I love when the recipe stars align and I have all the ingredients in my kitchen to whip up something new. And this was great timing as I’m always trying to get my teenage daughter to eat something (anything) for breakfast. I also get requests for “grab and go” types of items from clients.
These gluten-free, nut-free grape oatmeal cups from cookbook author and RD, Toby Amidor Nutrition fit the bill. This recipe was taken with permission from her upcoming book The Family Immunity Cookbook- set to release at the end of October. Pre-order yours here: The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health: Amidor, Toby: 9780778806806: Amazon.com: Books
The beauty of this recipe is its simple ingredient combination as well as nutritional profile. Rolled oats are a whole grain that’s a good source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Sunflower seeds provide polyunsaturated fat, fiber and a bit of protein. Grapes are a source of pectin; a type of fiber that also helps reduce cholesterol.
Make them vegan
To make the recipe vegan or egg-free, you can substitute a flaxseed egg by whisking 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to your favorite recipe. In this case, you’d need twice as much. Canola, avocado or olive oil could be used in place of butter in the recipe as well.
Not surprising, my teenage daughter liked the grape oatmeal cups because they weren’t overly sweet and had a chewy texture. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t care for them for the exact reasons. He prefers things a little sweeter and with a firmer texture.
I cut the recipe in half as there’s one less mouth to feed since my daughter left for college. The recipe made 9 muffins, but I could probably fill the muffin cups up a bit. A full recipe could yield a dozen and a half depending on high you fill the muffin cups. *
The recipe could be used for breakfast or a post-workout snack given its high complex carb content. Pair them with a glass of cold milk, hot coffee or your beverage of choice!
Below is the recipe and ingredients. Enjoy!
12-cup muffin pans lined with paper cups and coated with non-stick cooking spray. * (may need 2 pans)
3 cups gluten-free, large flake (old-fashioned) rolled oats 2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds ¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. baking powder 2 Tbsp. unalted butter, melted
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups skim milk
1 ½ cups red or green seedless grapes, quartered
- Preheat oven to 350°
- In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup, butter and vanilla extract.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined. Fold in one cup of the grapes until evenly distributed.
- Using a ½ cup, scoop the batter into each of the 12 muffin cups. Tap the muffin pans a few times on the counter to release and air bubbles. Divide the remaining ½ cup grapes among the 12 cups.
- Bake until the edges of the oat cups are slightly browned and a tester inserted into one or two of the muffin cups comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before transferring the muffin cups to a wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Serves 6-9, 2 muffins each *
Did you know that grits may have been named by Native Americans? The word grytt means “coarse meal” or in this case, “ground corn meal”. Grits are a Southern porridge made from ground corn meal that’s often used in place of rice or potatoes.
I don’t remember the first time I tried shrimp and grits, but I have been a fan ever since. Grits are often used for breakfast, which is why you’ll often seen this dish on the breakfast or brunch menu. But you can enjoy this dish any time of the day.
Grits are a versatile, gluten-free grain with a creamy texture and savory taste. You can buy them in instant or slow cooking form. I like the instant grits when I want something delicious and fast.
Shrimp cooks up very quickly, too. I tend to buy frozen shrimp and thaw it out the day I’m going to use it. I rinse it in cold water for a few minutes then let it sit for about 20 minutes before removing the shell and deveining the shrimp.
Shrimp is a good source of protein as well as iodine, magnesium, zinc and other minerals. While it is a source of dietary cholesterol, it is relatively low in total and saturated fat.
I love the combination of creamy grits with savory shrimp and veggies. Most shrimp and grits recipes use bacon or some form of sausage as well as cheese. I left out the cheese and added more veggies to mine for more color and texture. My recipe used garlic chicken sausage from Trader Joes, which was plenty salty and garlicy. The recipe didn’t need more of either.
Unfortunately, I am the lone shrimp consumer in my house. Consequently, my recipe makes 2 servings- both for me! You can certainly double or triple the recipe if you’ve got a crowd to feed.
1 Tablespoon canola oil
¼ white or yellow onion, diced
1 of each: yellow, red and orange mini bell pepper OR 1 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon dried oregano
8 large shrimp (fresh or frozen), peeled and deveined
1 garlic chicken sausage or other chicken sausage link, quartered
½ cup instant grits
1 green onion, diced
- Prepare the instant grits according to the directions and set aside. While they are cooking, prepare the shrimp and vegetables.
- In a large skillet, heat the canola oil on medium heat. Add the diced onions and peppers and sautee for 3 minutes.
- Add the Cajun seasoning and dried oregano to coat the vegetables then add the shrimp.
- Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes until slightly firm. Add the garlic sausage and cook along with the shrimp and vegetables for 1 minute.
- Serve the cooked shrimp and vegetables over the warm grits. Top with chopped green onions.
Makes 2 servings- can be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd.
Now that September is here, most kids are back to school- leaving their parents or guardians scratching their heads about quick ideas for breakfast and snacks. Adults also benefit from breakfast to fuel their brains and bodies for a long day ahead.
I cringe when my daughter runs out the door empty handed. We try to keep bananas, dry cereal, string cheese and other quick food on hand when time is tight, but there are days when breakfast is simply skipped.
Granola bars are fast, but don’t offer much in the way of decent nutrition. Even the ones dubbed “high protein” can be high in saturated fat and sugar. If you buy them, look for ones that are nut or seed based with 5 to 7 grams of sugar per serving max. Ideally, the bars should have less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving as well.
A recent client that frequents fast food restaurants asked if there’s “anything else out there” for breakfast that’s quick and healthy. There’s LOTS of things that fit that criteria including:
- String cheese and whole grain crackers
- Greek yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit
- Peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Hard cooked egg and toast
- Trail mix with cold cereal, nuts and dried fruit
If you need another idea, try this quick breakfast or snack recipe. Chances are, you have most of the ingredients on hand and if you don’t- there is always room for improvisation.
When possible, include foods containing protein (nuts, seeds, eggs, low-fat dairy products) as well as fiber (rolled oats, whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, whole grain pasta and rice) when possible. These help manage blood sugar and appetite and maintain long term energy.
If you’ve got someone with a nut allergy in your family, substitute sunflower butter for peanut butter. You can also use almond butter (not allergen free) if you prefer that over peanut butter. Raisins or chopped dried cherries can be used in place of chocolate chips.
I serve these with milk, but you can enjoy them with coffee, tea, water or whatever suits your fancy. I don’t advise alcohol, of course!
2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter with the oil on the top)
2 Tablespoons soy, almond or cow’s milk
¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or raisins
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats with the chia or flax seeds.
- In a small, microwave safe bowl, combine the vanilla extract and peanut butter and heat for 30 seconds until sunflower butter is melted.
- Add the peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture, then stir in the soy milk and combine.
- Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to cool before adding the mini chocolate chips in.
- Form the mixture into 1” balls and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Makes 18 energy bites