Blizzard Food: Healthy and Delicious No-Cook, No-Refrigeration Meal Ideas

Blizzard Food: Healthy and Delicious No Cook No Refrigerator Meals

In preparation for the most recent blizzard (Juno), my mom called urging me to stock up on nonperishable and no-cook food, in case of a power outage. As I entered Whole Foods that Monday afternoon (the ultimate post-work/pre-blizzard grocery frenzy), my mind went blank. Food that doesn’t require cooking? What I am supposed to do? Eat packaged junk?

Not knowing what to buy (and feeling anxious to join the ever-growing checkout line), I grabbed apples and bananas, a can of lentils, a loaf of whole wheat bread, and a couple of KIND bars that I saw near the register (#impulsebuy). Luckily, our power never went out, so I spent my snow day enjoying warm, cozy meals, such as this spaghetti squash bowl.

Now that I’ve had some time to form a plan, I thought I would share some meal ideas that don’t require cooking, power, or any refrigerated items. Hopefully this will give you some ideas for what to stock up on before the next storm!

Healthy Granola

Breakfast: Granola with fresh berries. Shelf stable almond milk (or even shelf stable dairy milk) might be a welcome addition to this bowl, although most shelf-stable milks recommend refrigeration after opening, so it’s good to have more than one carton on hand. Also note, berries certainly keep much longer in the fridge, but they won’t spoil if you keep them on the counter for a day or two. After all, they’re outside for hours and hours at farmers markets and farm stands.

Blizzard Food: Healthy and Delicious No-Cook No-Refrigerator Meal Ideas

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich with strawberries and bananas, plus an apple. You can make this more exciting by trying different nut butter and fruit or jam combinations (almond butter + figs, cashew butter + raspberry jam, etc). Note that most natural nut butters (aka, the only nut butters worth buying) recommend refrigeration after opening. However, that is mainly to preserve freshness. Natural peanut butter won’t go rancid if you leave on the counter for a few days, it just won’t last quite as long.

Blizzard Food: Healthy and Delicious No-Cook No-Refrigerator Meal Ideas

Snack Ideas:

  • Apples with Peanut Butter
  • Rice Cakes with Almond Butter and Raisins
  • Dried Fruit and Nuts/Trail Mix (I like almonds, pistachios, dried cherries, and dried cranberries)
  • Nutrition Bars (such as KIND bars, Larabars, or Luna bars)
  • Fruit and granola
  • Popcorn (already popped, of course)
  • Shelf-stable, ready-to-serve hummus (like this one) with cut vegetables

Blizzard Food: Healthy and Delicious No-Cook No-Refrigerator Meal Ideas

Dinner: Mezze platter with bean dips, whole grain crackers, fruit, nuts, olives, chocolate, and & wine.

  • White bean dip: Drain (and rinse, if possible) a can of white beans. Mash with a fork and add olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, a pink of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with carrots and whole grain crackers, such as these Kashi Original 7-Grain Crackers.
  • Black Bean Dip: Drain (and rinse, if possible) a can of black beans. Mash with a fork and add a few spoonfuls of salsa, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with diced avocado and serve with whole grain crackers or baked tortilla chips.
  • Small bites: Jarred olives and nuts, such as almonds or cashews, make great finger food. For fruit, sliced apples and pears are always a popular choice, but berries are great too. Also, be sure to have a quality chocolate bar on hand to break apart and nibble at.
  • Wine: It’s a snow day! If you’re going to be stuck indoors, you might as well uncork a bottle and celebrate!

Tips: I recommend washing fruits and vegetables the night before you think you may lose power, just in case your water goes out as well. Also, be sure to fill up your water bottles and mason jars with water, or stock up on water bottles. For more information on food safety during power outages, check out this webpage from the USDA.

– Kelly

White Bean Soup

White Bean Soup + Whole Wheat Croutons

I was first introduced to white bean soup at Dean & Deluca in Soho, during a fun weekend trip to NYC with my mom. As with most products in that pristine, marble-clad food emporium, we were instantly smitten. No other white bean soup has lived up since, as most are either too bland or too bitter (from leafy green overload).

White Bean Soup (Delicious, Nutritious, and Super Simple!)

I’ve been wanting to try my own hand at this Tuscan classic, and the recent surge of snowstorms here in Boston proved to be just the perfect atmosphere to experiment with soup making. Canned beans make this an easy weeknight meal to throw together, which is not something you’ll often hear from me. I’m a weekend chef, but a weeknight microwaver. Leftovers are my favorite food group.

Reminiscent of potato soup, this hearty dish is the perfect meal to satisfy during these blustery, cold winter days. At the bottom of this post I also included a simple recipe for whole wheat croutons, as crusty bread is the ideal accompaniment (taste-wise and nutrition-wise) to bean soups.

White Bean Soup

White Bean Soup

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), sliced
  • 3  15-oz cans cannellini beans (or other white bean), rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups (32 oz) low sodium vegetable broth (more if you prefer a thinner, lighter soup)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced (see tutorial here)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: sliced green onions, whole wheat croutons (crouton recipe below)

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks and stir until onions are translucent, about 6-10 minutes.
  2. Add white beans and broth to the pot, and bring to a simmer.
  3. While your soup is heating up, use an immersion blender to puree the soup into a creamy texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can still enjoy the soup in its more rustic style, with whole beans. Alternatively, you can also let the soup cool, then transfer to a food processor or blender for pureeing. (Also, note that the 4 cups of broth makes this soup very thick and hearty. If you prefer a thinner, lighter soup, add more broth.)
  4. Stir the parmesan cheese into the soup. Then taste soup and adjust seasonings (salt & pepper) as necessary.
  5. Stir the spinach into the soup until just wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Spoon into individual bowls, and serve with optional toppings, such as sliced green onions or whole wheat croutons. If you don’t have croutons (see recipe below), serve alongside a hearty slice of whole grain toast.

White Bean Soup (Easy, Hearty, & Healthy)

How to Make Whole Wheat Croutons: Cut a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread into small (about 1/4 – 1/2 inch) cubes. Toss bread cubes with a light coating of olive oil (I used olive oil spray), then bake on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F for about 7 minutes.

Nutrition per serving: 260 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 42g carbohydrates (16g fiber, 3g sugar), 13g protein, 180mg sodium, 29% Vitamin A, 11% Vitamin C, 22% Iron, 16% Calcium

*Nutrition does not include optional ingredients

– Kelly

Bon Appétit Food Lover’s Cleanse

Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse 2015

Turkey Breast with Roasted Broccolini (image via Bon Appétit)

As a staunch proponent of whole, unprocessed foods and balanced meals, I’m certainly not a “cleanse” girl. But a two-week cleanse filled with foodie favorites like pork tenderloin, chia pudding, and chocolate bark? Now I’m listening!

Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse 2015

Morning Barley with Squash, Date, and Lemon Compote (image via Bon Appétit)

The Food Lover’s Cleanse, dreamed up by the folks at at Bon Appétit, isn’t really a cleanse so much as a boot camp for cooking regularly and getting familiar with some of the lesser-known “superfoods”. Now in it’s fifth year, this creative meal plan demonstrates the growing overlap between nutritious and delicious. I only can’t believe that I’m just now learning about it (thanks to Emily, and her intriguing healthy lunches)!

Even though the 2015 Food Lover’s Cleanse wrapped up in mid-January, you can still access all of the delicious recipes online. Here is a one-page overview of the menu for all two weeks, a printable PDF of all this year’s recipes, and printable shopping list. Prefer to do kitchen prep ahead of time? This is a link to big-batch recipes that are used throughout the cleanse.

Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse 2015

 images via Bon Appétit

While your grocery bill might suffer (superfoods don’t come cheap these days), it really does make sense to follow the menu plan to it’s fullest, as many ingredients are repurposed throughout the cleanse. For example, barley makes an appearance in a dinner pilaf with leeks and lemon, and then is prepared for breakfast the next morning with squash, date, and lemon compote. Similarly, chevre cheese is served alongside a sliced pear as a snack one day, and then shows up in an egg scramble with caramelized onions the next morning. With quality ingredients like these, the attention to waste reduction is much appreciated!

That being said,  if you’re simply looking for nuggets of inspiration to escape your culinary comfort zone, the recipes can also stand alone. Seeing as my grocery budget is pretty maxed out at 2-3 recipes per week, I probably won’t follow the cleanse to a T (at least not this year). However, browsing the menu plan certainly gave me ideas for recipes that I want to make and foods that I want to cook with. Have you tried any recipes from the Bon Appétit Food Lover’s Cleanse? Do tell!

– Kelly

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

How To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Once Valentine’s Day rolls around, my sweet tooth starts kicking hard. But I’m sure not gonna blow it on a tasteless box of candy hearts, or stale chocolate with mystery fillings. Chocolate dipped fruit, on the other hand, is something I can rarely pass up.

Fresh berries are an obvious health pick, but even with a coating of dark chocolate, these babies aren’t as sinful as they look. After all, with less sugar and more polyphenols than milky or white varieties, dark chocolate (in moderation – such as in this recipe) can even be good for the heart.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step).png

For this reason, chocolate covered strawberries are my go-to Valentine’s treat. (They are even the perfect ruby red color!) But at outrageous prices ($45 for one dozen?! No thank you!), I much prefer to make my own.

A pint of 24 organic strawberries (out of season) set me back $6.99 at Whole Foods, and then I spent an additional $4.29 on 67% dark chocolate baking chunks, and $3.99 on the white chocolate chips. So the grand total came to $15.27 for TWO DOZEN chocolate covered organic strawberries, with plenty of chocolate left over to make a second batch. Not only are homemade chocolate covered strawberries a bargain, they are actually quite simple to make! Here’s how it works…

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

  • Required ingredients: strawberries (I used one pint, or 24 strawberries), dark chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1.5 cups dark chocolate chunks)
  • Required equipment: paper towels, wax paper, baking sheet, small pot of water, small/medium glass bowl
  • Optional ingredients: sprinkles, crushed nuts, or white chocolate for drizzling (I used 0.5 cups white chocolate chips, a few sprinkles, and less than 0.25 cups hazelnuts, crushed)

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Wash all strawberries, then dry well with paper towels. If they’re the least bit wet, the chocolate won’t stick as easily.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then set a glass bowl on top (NOT touching the water) and fill with your dark chocolate chips. This will serve as a make-shift double boiler.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Stir your chocolate in the glass bowl over the stove until it melts, but doesn’t burn. Once your chocolate starts melting, feel free to remove the bowl from the heat (as pictured above) or turn the stove down to keep it from burning.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. One by one, dip the strawberries in the melted chocolate, then lay on wax paper to dry. If you wish to roll your strawberries in sprinkles, crushed nuts, or other toppings, do this immediately after dipping, before the chocolate hardens. You may also wish to drizzle white chocolate on top. Simply use the same system that you used to melt the dark chocolate, then dip a spoon in the white chocolate and drizzle back and forth across the strawberries.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Topping Ideas

Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator to harden the chocolate. Once the chocolate hardens (less than an hour), you may store the strawberries in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

How To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

– Kelly

 

 

Sofritas Monday – Give Tofu a Try Today!

For those of you that are hesitant to embrace Meatless Mondays, maybe Chipotle can help convince you. After all, they’ve got free burritos.

Sofritas Monday

Don’t let the word tofu scare you off. These are not the squishy, lifeless soy cubes from your aunt’s yoga café. The sofritas are made from shredded, organic tofu mixed with chipotle chilis, poblano peppers, and lots of fragrant spices. In fact, the final result is actually comparable to the taste and texture of ground beef.

Chipotle Sofritas

Sofritas Bowl (see the end of this post for my go-to Chipotle order)

The first time I tried the sofritas was actually prompted by a Chipotle coupon as well, because to be honest, tofu and I didn’t get off to a great start. My first attempt at cooking those jiggly soy bricks ended in a miserable failure. I was in college at the time, and a friend recommended that I cook the tofu like meat. So after letting it bathe in a delicious teriyaki marinade overnight, I pulled out the George Foreman Grill. To my dismay, the slippery tofu slid right off of the grill and splattered onto the floor. So much for that approach!

Fast forward a few years later… Slowly but surely, I am warming up to soy proteins. (I have also ditched the Foreman grill). For example, soy chorizo (okay, definitely not a health food) is absolutely delicious in this recipe. And soy crumbles are actually quite pleasant when used in vegetarian Sloppy Joes or Bolognese sauce.

Do you think you’re ready to give soy foods a try? Ease your way in with the carnivore-friendly sofritas! Also, if you’re curious about the safety of soyfoods, be sure to check out this handout from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!

– Kelly

P.S. Are you curious about what this RD gets in her Chipotle order? I go for the Sofritas Bowl (or sometimes a Vegetarian Bowl or Pork Carnitas bowl), Brown Rice, Black Beans, Bell Peppers & Onions, Pico de Gallo, Corn Salsa, Lettuce, and sometimes Guacamole. No cheese, no sour cream, no tortilla – no problem!

Weekend Reading – Food: A Love Story

My mom knew she was taking a risk when she bought Jim Gaffigan’s book, Food: A Love Story, for her dietitian daughter. I mean, the man’s no health nut. His career was launched on a Hot Pockets sketch, after all.

Food: A Love Story

That being said, the book had me in stitches! I have an advanced degree in food studies, so I suppose this would be logical airplane reading for people in my field. Nonetheless, Americans have a comical relationship with food, and Jim Gaffigan captures it perfectly. Below are a few funny snippets from the book:

  • And when we’re not eating, we’re chewing gum. We are literally practicing eating.
  • Tacos are one of the many beautiful gifts from Mexico, but the taco salad is filled with so much broken logic that it must be an American creation.
  • “Southern cooking” almost always seems to be code for “we are not counting calories.”
  • Chopsticks are fun, but I’d rather eat than play operation.
  • A muffin is just a bald cupcake, and we all know it.

Not often would I recommend a book by someone who writes, “I wouldn’t trust them skinnies with food advice.” Yet here I am. If you’re looking for an easy read that’s guaranteed to have you giggling, then give it try and let me know what you think!

– Kelly

Recipes on my Radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Winter tomatoes are forgettable at best, but oven roasting these greenhouse-grown rubies can help bring out the sweet flavor that we remember from sunny August days. And naturally, there is no better way to use roasted tomatoes in January than to make tomato soup.

To ease myself back into the Boston tundra (goodbye, 70 degree Houston weather), I made a Roasted Tomato Soup with Sole and Monkfish and paired it with Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

For the soup, I used the Roasted Tomato Soup with Halibut recipe from Giada’s Feel Good Food (this recipe, without the pasta) and replaced the halibut with sole and monkfish, which is what I had on hand. For the sandwich, I used this recipe from How Sweet Eats.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

A grilled cheese sandwich isn’t exactly a health food, but simple swaps in ingredients can make a HUGE difference in nutrition. Hear me out…

A study actually compared the metabolism of a cheese sandwich with whole grain bread and real cheese (Sargento medium Cheddar slices) to a cheese sandwich with white bread and a processed cheese product (Kraft Singles). Scientists found that people expended 50% more energy metabolizing the whole foods version, even though both sandwiches had the same amount of calories and the same ratio of bread to cheese.

Not only does this grilled cheese sandwich boast 100% whole grain bread and real, organic cheese, but it even has green vegetables on the inside! Paired with a nutritious tomato and fish soup, I’ll chalk that up as a sensible dinner.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

What are you cooking this week?

– Kelly

Two Healthy, No-Sugar Chocolate Milkshakes (PB & Mocha)

Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes (with NO added sugar)

The weather outside might be frightful (40 degrees and rainy – lovely), but inside I am peeling off layers and blending up cold beverages to stay cool in my cozy Boston apartment. Final exams are right around the corner for all of my loved ones in college and grad school, and that means snacks need to be quick, easy, and somewhat sinful tasting.

This Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake is energizing and filling, so you don’t have to worry about your stomach rumbling embarrassingly on the quiet floor of the library. For something rich and caffeinated to power you through a late-night study session, try the Dark Chocolate Mocha Milkshake recipe. It has the deep chocolaty taste of your favorite flavored coffee drink, without the stomach ache or sugar crash from those liquid calorie bombs.

Either way, both luscious milkshakes are made from nourishing whole foods and contain no added sugars, which means you won’t have to worry about the dreaded finals week bulge. So to my friends, sweating alongside me in their overheated apartments while churning out research papers, and to my brothers, making their way through the balmy 70 degree Texas weather to and from the campus library, this post is for you.

No Sugar Added Chocolate Milkshake Recipes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake (Serves 1)

  • 1 ripe banana, frozen
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used organic nonfat milk)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (no added sugars or oils!)

Method: Add all ingredients to blender, and blend to combine.

Nutrition: 270 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 43g carbohydrates (25g sugar*, 6g fiber), 12g protein, 9% Vitamin A, 17% Vitamin C, 24% Calcium, 8% Iron

*All sugars are naturally occurring – none are the dangerous added sugars

Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes -  No sugar

Dark Chocolate Mocha Milkshake (Serves 1)

  • 1 ripe banana, frozen
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used organic nonfat milk)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder

Method: Add all ingredients to blender, and blend to combine.

Nutrition: 200 calories, 2g fat (1g saturated fat), 43g carbohydrates (24g sugar*, 7g fiber), 10g protein, 9% Vitamin A, 17% Vitamin C, 25% Calcium, 11% Iron

*All sugars are naturally occurring – none are the dangerous added sugars

–  Kelly

The Best Cookbook Organization Trick

Cookbooks are an underutilized treasure trove of culinary expertise, recipe ideas, and winning flavor combinations. But as the printed word gives way to Pinterest and recipe blogs, cookbooks have been pushed to “coffee table book status,” collected as much for the pictures as the recipes within.

Cookbook Organization Tips

Not one to let a book go to waste, I devised a simple tactic to make sure that I get the most out of my ever-growing cookbook collection. In fact, until I make at least 5 recipes from every cookbook I own, I don’t plan on buying another. Here’s how it works…

Cookbook Organization Tips

When I first get a new cookbook, I curl up in a cozy chair and flip through it like a magazine, marking the recipes that I want to make with a flag on the side of the page. Once I actually make one of these recipes, I move the flag up to the top of the page.

Cookbook Organization Tips

With just a quick glance at the top of my shelf (see above), I can tell which cookbooks I’ve used the most, and which need a little more love. When I want to try a new recipe (which I aim to do once or twice a week), I look for a sparsely flagged book top, then start flipping to some of the recipes that I marked. With this system, it’s easy to track my progress towards my 5-recipes-per-cookbook goal.

So far, my favorite, most used cookbooks are:

We’ll see how this list changes as I get closer to reaching my goal…

Cookbook Organization

What is your favorite cookbook?

– Kelly

Detox Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Vegetables and Marinara

Detox Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Veggies and Marinara

For many, the ultimate detox meal is a huge raw salad or a bottomless green smoothie. But it’s too cold for that business. I’ll take my veggies cooked, thank you very much!

With the winter holidays upon us, where rich, heavy foods lurk around every corner, it’s great to have a comforting, healthy recipe at the ready to offset any indulgences. Looking for a way to feel clean and nourished after one too many helpings of mashed potatoes and holiday pie? Let this delicious detox dinner be your reset button for a healthy holiday season.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Veggies

This meal couldn’t be simpler. Just cut a spaghetti squash in half, remove the seeds, then place flesh side down onto a lightly oiled baking tray. On a separate baking tray, pile on all of the chopped veggies that you please (I use mushrooms, broccoli, onions, bell pepper, and zucchini), with a little bit of olive oil and Italian seasoning. Put both trays in the oven, and cook at 400 degrees F. Pull the veggies out after 30 minutes, but continue cooking the squash until it is tender when pierced with a knife. (The squash will take about 30-50 minutes total, depending on size.)

Spaghetti Squash

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, run a fork back and forth across the flesh of the squash. This will separate the flesh into spaghetti-like strings. Transfer the strands of squash to a plate, and top with roasted veggies and marinara sauce. If you’re looking for a protein boost, feel free to add lentils or chickpeas.

Spaghetti Squash with Veggies and Marinara

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Vegetables and Marinara

Serves 2-4 (depending on size of squash)

Ingredients:

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • 1-2 pounds of raw vegetables, chopped (I had zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, onion, and bell peppers)
  • Marinara Sauce (look for one that has no added sugars and a minimal amount of oil – it should be about 50 calories per 1/2 cup serving)
  • Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, sage)
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional: lentils or chickpeas

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lenghthwise, remove the seeds, then place flesh side down onto a lightly oiled baking tray.
  2. Place the chopped vegetables on a separate baking tray, and toss with a little bit of olive oil and Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, sage).
  3. Put both trays in the oven to cook, and pull the veggies out after 30 minutes.
  4. Continue cooking the squash until it is tender when pierced with a knife. This could take anywhere from 30-50 minutes of total cooking time.
  5. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, run a fork back and forth across the flesh of the squash. This will separate the flesh into spaghetti-like strings.
  6. Transfer the strands of squash to a plate, and top with roasted veggies and marinara sauce. If you’re looking for a protein boost, feel free to add lentils or chickpeas.

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Veggies

There is no nutrition data for this recipe, as it really depends on how much of each ingredient you use and which vegetables you choose. However, with a dinner this healthy (it’s only veggies, after all!) there is no need to count calories or grams of this and that. So grab a fork and dig in to this nutritious and delicious detox dinner!

– Kelly