Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year!

I can't believe yet another year has come and gone already! Along with all the New Year's resolutions and returning to the daily grind, I hope you all had a joyous holiday season and can approach this year with an optimal outlook for the future.

After spending Christmas with my dad, step mom and cute kiddies, I went to Mooresville, NC to visit with my family there and had a really great time. There's is nothing like going to the comforts of home and family to make a person feel calm, content and back on track. When it seems like everything may be crumbling around us, family is always there, no matter the circumstance. I know that I am truly blessed to have the family that I have.



If we must speak of resolutions, I myself have a few to keep in my back pocket and hopefully they will stay there as a reminder. Resolutions should really be lifestyle changes, because quick fixes don't really stand strong in the long term. And then we get frustrated with ourselves when we make such unrealistic ambitions that don't really work in real life. Really look at things that need changing in your life and try to come up with doable strategies that will work for you. Then make a commitment to gradually adjust and become aware of the triggers that may bring you back to your old habits. Simply recognizing they are there is the first big step to change.

For me, of course I need to get back on my usual gym schedule since I didn't get a chance to go when I was out of town. I would also like to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. I do eat them of course, but I want to try new ones and experiment with them in new unconventional ways. Chris got me a cookbook titled "The Splendid Table," which highlights the cuisine of northern Italy. I would like to try some of these interesting, regional recipes and try new Italian wines. I want to get away from the traditional wines from California that are most commonly known, and understand the regions and names of international wines. Fish is another great health food that I don't eat enough of. Too many resolutions can also be detrimental to sticking with them, so I am going to stop now! But, just one more thought . . .

I also saw the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" while I was out of town and really enjoyed this movie. The essence of the message behind it was very humbling. I would like to center this message around my life by not worrying so much about everything and just simply being. One's habits and thinking patterns are hard to break, but I'm going to try! We are truly the creators of our world and we can choose how we react to any situation. I always like my dad's saying to not have a good day . . . MAKE it a great day!

In light of New Year's and all the weight loss/health related resolutions out there, I decided to post a recipe that utilizes a grain that most people don't use or haven't heard about. Quinoa is a higher protein grain that is a lot like couscous, but with more protein and fiber and is not made from semolina flour. This is great mixed with low-fat cheese, chicken sausage, walnuts and then stuffed into a bell pepper to bake. There is also a great salad that can be used for a refreshing lunch and stuffed into some green leaf lettuce. Hope you have a healthy and happy 2009!

CousCous Salad with Chicken and Vegetables

(adapted from CookingLight)



4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous or any grain like quinoa or bulgar (just watch the ratio of water because these grains tend to need more and take longer to cook)
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 cup (1/8-inch-thick) diagonally cut carrot
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • Fresh lemon juice and zest from 2 medium lemons
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar


To prepare salad, bring water, 1 teaspoon oil, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Place in a large bowl; cool to room temperature.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining oil to pan. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes or until bell pepper is tender. Add bell pepper mixture, chicken, carrot, onions, currants or raisins, mint, and black pepper to couscous; toss gently to combine.

To prepare dressing, combine yogurt and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over couscous mixture, tossing gently to combine and refrigerate. Serve salad in green leaf lettuce cups.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 368 (20% from fat)
Fat: 8g (sat 2.1g,mono 4g,poly 1.2g)
Protein: 24.1g
Carbohydrate: 49.4g
Fiber: 6g
Cholesterol: 46mg
Iron: 1.8mg
Sodium: 540mg
Calcium: 148mg

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
(adapted from everyday food)


4 servings as a filling main, or 6-8 as a lighter dish with a nice salad

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 chicken sausage links (any flavor and removed from casings)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander or any blend like Mrs. Dash or Italian seasoning would work
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup grated Fontina cheese (great nutty flavor), or your favorite type


Preheat oven to 450, with rack in upper third. Slice a very thin layer from the base of a pepper so it sits upright. Slice off top, just below stem, and remove ribs and seeds from the pepper, Repeat with remaining peppers. Discard stems; chop tops and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion, sausage (remove meat from casings), coriander, and chopped tops; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is soft and sausage is cooked through with browning.

Add quinoa and garlic, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11-13 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley, walnuts, and 3/4 cup cheese; season with salt and pepper.

Divide evenly and stuff peppers with the quinoa mixture; place in a 2-quart baking dish. Place 1 cup water in the dish, cover with foil and bake until peppers are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover, and top with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts and gets bubbly. Yummy and fillling!

Other great whole grains to try include: Bulgar, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, whole grain pasta, kamut, kasha, wild rice, millet, popcorn, rye and good ol' oatmeal to name a few. I like to peruse the bins at whole foods market for new grains to try along with their preparation instructions.

I hope you like them! Get out there and try new recipes and ingredients! And remember to make half your grains whole for better health.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are
tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 comment:

Thinspired said...

Thanks for the link to the stuffed peppers..they sound like a great way to cook with quinoa!