Category Archives: Healthy Living

What’s for Dinner?

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For some of you, I know that’s a dreaded question – especially in the middle of the week. And, that’s totally understandable! Sometimes you simply find yourself in a lets-just-order-takeout rut. When you come home after a long day, the last thing you want to do is cook!

Never fear. You can make life easier by doing a little prep on the weekends to figure out a couple of healthy meals that will give you a delicious and well-planned answer throughout the week to the question: what’s for dinner?

Here are five steps to help you answer the question: What’s for dinner

1. Make sure you have some basic ingredients on hand for dinner.

Check out my post about pantry essentials to help you cook more at home. Keep those items stocked in your kitchen so that weekdays are spent cooking rather than shopping (followed by cooking).

2. Choose two “compass” ingredients for dinner.

These two ingredients you will use to set the direction for your meal planning. There are a couple of ways to decide on your compass ingredients:
• Take a quick look at your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Which ingredients would you like to incorporate into your meals this week? For example, this week I found a couple of cans of garbanzo beans that became one of my two compass ingredients.
•If you head to the grocery store, try to find what’s on sale. For example, chicken thighs were on sale this week, so they became my second compass ingredient.

3. Choose two different dinner recipes that will stem from your compass ingredients.

You can do this a number of ways:
•Look ahead to your schedule for the week and figure out if there’s an evening that gives you 30-40 minutes to cook. If you have that time, find a recipe with your compass ingredient that takes that time. If you DON’T have the time, choose a slow cooker recipe to have ready when you walk in the door instead. For example, I made chicken thighs in the slow cooker for my mid-week meal this week.
• Identify other ingredients you might have on hand that could complement your compass ingredients. Do a web search for both of those ingredients. For example, I had extra carrots on hand as well as garbanzo beans. So, I found a recipe for garbanzo beans and greens that included both of those ingredients.

4. Next, determine how you will use the dinner leftovers from each recipe.

If you can transform one meal into another with minimal effort, you can get two meals out of one original recipe! For example, I served the chickpea recipe with farro one night, and then the chickpea recipe with whole grain tortillas the next night. AND for my chicken thighs, I served chicken with roasted zucchini on the side one night, and then the next night I served it with a green salad.

5. Pick one night to take it easy at dinner.

Now that you have four meals planned, take it easy for your fifth meal. You can keep it simple by serving whole grain pasta with jarred sauce (make it low sodium and no sugar), cooking breakfast for dinner, making sandwiches, or simply warming up a bulk meal you have in your freezer.

How do you answer the question: What’s for dinner? Let me know in the comments!

What's for dinner?

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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How to cook healthier comfort food: seven tips

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February is the perfect month for comfort food. The days are short, cold, and (at times) gray. All you’d like to do is curl up with a warm blanket and a big bowl of comfort food. In this post, you will learn how to cook healthier comfort food. I will talk about seven tips you can use when you are trying to make your comfort food recipe a little healthier. Continue reading How to cook healthier comfort food: seven tips

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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How to Grow Sprouts

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Have you ever had sprouts? You know, those green, stringy, crispy things that come on top of a sandwich… or the white, thin, birthday-candle-like things that come with your pad thai? Well, today I am going to teach you how to grow sprouts, right in you own kitchen. Continue reading How to Grow Sprouts

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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Slow Cooker Bean with Bacon Soup (plus a vegan option!)

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These last few weeks have been oh-so-cold all across the country (even here in Texas). So, I figured it’s time to break out my recipe for warm, comforting bean soup. This humble bean soup is anything but boring. In this post, I include one recipe for vegans and another for bacon lovers. Both are hearty, filling and flavorful. And, because this soup is made in the slow cooker, this soup is super easy to make. Continue reading Slow Cooker Bean with Bacon Soup (plus a vegan option!)

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

Healthy gifts for food lovers

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Giving food is a great way to show you are thinking about friends, neighbors, coworkers and family. But, many food gifts are full of sugar, salt and saturated fat. In this post, I’m going to talk about two food items I made this year for friends that had less sugar, less saturated fat, less salt, more whole grains, and more veggies.
Continue reading Healthy gifts for food lovers

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

Homegrown vs. Store-Bought Eggs

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The difference between homegrown and store-bought eggs is amazing. This week, Antoinette layer her first egg! The yolk is such a deep yellow, and the taste is amazingly rich and flavorful. Here, see for yourself: Continue reading Homegrown vs. Store-Bought Eggs

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

What can you do with extra basil? Make dairy-free pesto!

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If you can believe it, November 12 was the final basil harvest of the season from my Texas garden. This was a great year for basil – the summer was hot, and the basil loved its place near the tomatoes and bell peppers (yep, companion planting does work!).

This harvest yielded about 20 cups of basil leaves. Isn’t it gorgeous? The smell in the kitchen was so fresh and liquorish-y. There’s nothing like fresh herbs.

basil harvest

Here’s how to maximize your basil harvest (or, anytime you have some extra basil on hand:

Here’s what you can do with a big basil harvest:
• You can make basil cubes, two ways. Chop up the basil and freeze the basil in water OR freeze the basil in olive oil.
• You can do something slightly more complicated but only requires five ingredients. You can make a dairy-free pesto!

How to make basil cubes

For basil ice, you need the following equipment:
• Food processor (or a good, sharp knife)
• Two ice cube trays
• One measuring cup

And, it only requires three ingredients:
1. Basil (of course)
2. 1/2 cup water
3. 1/2 cup olive oil

Here’s how to do it:
• Chop your basil in the food processor (or with your knife).
• Spoon a teaspoon of chopped basil into each ice cube well.
• Fill your measuring cup with water.
• For the first ice cube tray, pour water over the basil in each ice cube well, making sure the basil is submerged.
• Then, empty your measuring cup and fill it with ½ cup of olive oil.
• For the second ice cube tray, fill each well with oil, again ensuring that the basil is covered by the oil.
• Pop trays in the freezer until hardened.

basilcubes

These can be stored over the winter and used in sauces, soups, or even in omelets! Just pop a cube out of your tray and its ready to use. I add the water-based basil in stews and steamed veggies. The olive oil basil cubes I melt as a base for eggs, marinara sauce, or even as a dip for crusty, whole grain bread.

How to make dairy-free pesto

Why dairy-free pesto? It’s delicious, for one. And, it is creamy with an amazing depth of flavor, even without the cheese. It’s helpful to have a dairy-free pesto on hand in case you (or anyone you know) is sensitive to dairy. You can first mix this dairy-free pesto sauce with pasta, rice, or any other grain. Then, if you’d like to add Parmesan to your dish, you can sprinkle your meal with the cheese after you’ve served the dairy sensitive folks. Also, if you are vegan or have vegan friends, this recipe is perfect!

basil pesto

For the dairy-free pesto, you need the following equipment:
• Food processor
• Zester
• Hand juicer
• Two measuring cups

And, it only requires five ingredients:
• 5 cups of washed basil leaves
• 1 cup olive oil
• Lemon zest from ½ lemon
• Lemon juice from ½ lemon
• ½ cup pine nuts

Here’s how to do it:
• Lightly toast your pine nuts at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. You’ll know when the nuts are done when they have turned a very light golden color.
• While the nuts are toasting, zest your lemon and set aside.
• Next, juice the lemon into a measuring cup.
• Then, add ½ cup of olive oil into your other measuring cup.
• By this time, the pine nuts should be toasted. Take them out and set aside to cool.
• Put half your basil (about 2½ cups) in the bottom of the food processor, and add your lemon zest on top.
• Begin pulsing your basil, and add lemon juice while the leaves are being chopped.
• Add ¼ cup of pine nuts to your mix.
• Add ½ cup olive oil.
• Next, add the rest of your basil (by now, there should be room in the processor).
• Finish by adding the rest of your pine nuts and olive oil.
• Then, taste your pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste, as you like (I don’t salt mine at all, actually).

Troubleshooting tip: Pesto should be a spreadable consistency and have a balance of flavor with the tang from the lemon, the creaminess from the nuts and olive oil, and fresh flavor from the basil. If the pesto is too thick, add oil or lemon juice. If it’s too watery, add pine nuts and basil leaves. If it tastes like it has too much lemon, add some basil leaves and olive oil. If it’s too creamy, add a bit more lemon juice. And, if it’s not fresh enough, add more leaves. Pesto is an art rather than a science. Play with the ratio of ingredients to fit your taste.

dairy free basil pesto

I store my pesto in a quart size freezer bag. This way, when I want to make pesto pasta, a pesto rice casserole, or if I want to have a pesto dip for bread, I can simply break off a bit of the pesto in the bag and save the rest. The good news is that a little pesto goes a long way – it is so flavorful and rich!

…and an observation (just for fun). I’ve found that lemon juice really brightens the color and flavor of pesto. You can see the differences in the batches when lemon wasn’t used as much. Just look at the difference in the color!

dairy free pesto with lemon

How do you like to use basil in your cooking? Let me know in the comments.

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
Manners matter here! Not sure whether your comment is irrelevant, impolite, or disrespectful? Read my commenting rules Commenting Rules

The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

Vegetarian (or Vegan!) Indian Okra

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This time of year in Texas, okra is in abundance. Okra is an early fall/end-of-summer veggie, and I love it. The texture is my favorite – those lovely little seeds in okra are like little pearls! So, I felt incredibly lucky the other the other weekend when my mom gave me some farm-fresh okra from her CSA.

The funny thing was, I had been craving Bhindi Do Pyaza (okra with onion and spices) from my local Indian restaurant. Instead of placing an order, I decided to cook a dish like it myself. So, I found a recipe for bhindi masala. After reading it, I decided to go for it! However, I did change up the ingredients a bit. I love lots of spices, especially if yogurt is in the dish to cool it down. So, in my recipe, I added cashew milk yogurt. And, I wanted my dinner to make a complete protein, so I also added garbanzo beans. The results were delicious, and I was able to bring the leftovers to lunch the next day.

Here’s the recipe for Indian Okra:

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp mustard seed
2 small onions, chopped (I enjoy a mix of purple and white)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ginger
2 cups chopped okra
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans
1/4 cup yogurt

Spice mix:
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Directions:

1. Add olive oil to a medium pot. When the oil is hot (it shimmers), lower the heat add the cumin and mustard seeds. Stir them around the pot until they become golden brown.

2. Then, add the chopped onions and stir.

indian okra onions

3. Once the onion becomes translucent, add the garlic and ginger.

4. Next, add the okra. Let the okra brown before moving on the the next ingredient (this prevents it from becoming too slimy).

indian okra onion and okra

5. Add chopped tomato and tomato paste until well incorporated.

indian okra tomatoes

6. Then, add the garbanzo beans. NOTE: Make sure you rinse your garbanzo beans so that the icky, salty liquid goes down the drain.

7. Let all your ingredient marry together before adding the ground spice mixture (turmeric thru cardamom, above). The dish will become dry. That’s perfect!

8. Take everything off of the heat, and stir in the cashew yogurt.

indian okra incorporated

9. Serve over brown rice. The meal is complemented well by garlic naan and a crisp, fresh green salad.

indian okra final dish

The dish is deliciously spicy, and has the perfect balance of acidity from the tomatoes, smokiness from the roasted okra, creaminess from the garbanzos, and coolness from the yogurt. Yum!

Do you enjoy okra? Let me know what you like to make in the comments!

Vegan Indian Okra

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
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The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

How to adopt a healthy habit

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Want to adopt a healthy habit? You aren’t alone. Continue reading How to adopt a healthy habit

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
Manners matter here! Not sure whether your comment is irrelevant, impolite, or disrespectful? Read my commenting rules Commenting Rules

The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!

Herbs and Spices from Seven Cuisines from around the World

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Do you like spices and herbs? I certainly do! I love to combine herbs and spices to diversify the flavors of a dish. There are so many combinations that celebrate cuisines from around the world. You can use these blends with the same base ingredient to get a variety of dishes. Continue reading Herbs and Spices from Seven Cuisines from around the World

© 2017 Caitlin W Howe, LLC
Manners matter here! Not sure whether your comment is irrelevant, impolite, or disrespectful? Read my commenting rules Commenting Rules

The postings on this site are my own (unless otherwise stated) and don't necessarily represent any other organization's positions, strategies or opinions. Thanks!