Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites

Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites are one of my favorite fast and healthy recipes for breakfast. Make them the night before then pop them in the microwave or toast them in the oven in the morning for a nutritious breakfast on the go. Throw a few in a plastic bag and you’ll have a yummy post morning workout snack on the way to work. Merry Brandybuck and Hungry Athletes alike might also enjoy this as a second breakfast.

Resembling a mini quiche, they can be filled with your favorite vegetables. I like to fill mine with a combination of either spinach and red peppers or broccoli and red peppers. Cayenne pepper and nutmeg adds a nice flavor but be careful, a little of both goes a long way. I also recommend using freshly grated nutmeg. Nutmeg seeds last up to four years longer than powdered nutmeg.

Did you know that nutmeg and mace come from the same tree? Nutmeg is the seed while mace is the covering or aril of the seed.  Here’s some more interesting tidbits about nutmeg: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03474/Cooking-With-Spices-Nutmeg.html

Serving size: 16 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli or 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • canola or vegetable oil to brush muffin pan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook quinoa according to the package instructions. Make sure you rinse the quinoa thoroughly if the package indicates it has not been previously rinsed. Rinsing will remove the quinoa’s natural coating called saponin, which can have a bitter or soapy flavor.

Whisk together the eggs, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Then mix in the quinoa, vegetables and cheddar cheese.

Brush the inside and top of a mini muffin pan liberally with oil. Fill the muffin pan all the way to the top will the quinoa and egg mixture. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal in a Slow Cooker

It’s just another early morning workout and I’m starving for a fast and warm breakfast.  I happen to have a extra unopened can of pumpkin puree left over from Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin is a nutrient dense fruit so I decided to add it to my slow cooker oatmeal routine. Unfortunately, the first attempt resulted in some unsavory burned pumpkin oatmeal on the edges of the slow cooker. In my second attempt, I turned my slow cooker into a double boiler. This yielded perfectly cooked, unburned oatmeal. Before I share this recipe, allow me to entertain you with a little Hungry Athlete story.

I’ve been ramping up for another 50K but I cannot get on the trails early enough in the afternoons to complete my scheduled midweek 8 mile runs while it’s still daylight. I got caught in the dark twice. On one occasion I talked the park ranger out of giving me a $200 ticket for being on the trails after sunset. The other time I was almost kidnapped by Thelma and Louise. I had exited a trail I had been running on and ran a quick out and back on a paved road. By the time I arrived back at that trail head, the gate was chained up. Since I could not run on the highway (the only other way back to where my car was parked) I was given a ride by two ladies who I will refer to as Thelma and Louis.  It was dark.  I was getting cold.  The only thing I had on me was the key to my car.  While I’m sitting in the back of Thelma’s car and headed down the highway, I hear the following:

T: “You know those runners … they never have any money on them.”

L: “Hahahaha.”

T: “Yeh, who accepts rides from strangers? What would you do to protect yourself?”

L: “I’d poke them in the eyeballs. They say you should go for the eyes”

T: “She’s a runner. She’d outrun us.”

T: “Hahaha.  Oh, we should stop.  Look at her.  She’s all quiet back there.”

Clearly the ladies were having fun with me and I lived to write this recipe, however the moral to the story is to plan your trail runs better.  Don’t get caught on the trails before they close.  Carry ID and your cell phone so you don’t have to accept rides from strangers and live to enjoy Pumpkin Oatmeal in the morning.

Serving size: 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated)

Optional toppings:

  • Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts
  • Diced apple or sliced banana
  • Honey or maple syrup

* Note: Ideally, if you can do without the dark brown sugar, that is the healthiest option, but I personally prefer to have a small amount of it in my oatmeal. Since this recipe is a serving size for 4, one tablespoon isn’t so bad. I sometimes enjoy my pumpkin oatmeal with a diced raw apple or a sliced banana, which adds a natural sweetness to the oatmeal.  I found that by weening myself off of sugar, I can adapt to enjoying foods like oatmeal and coffee without sugar.

Directions:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and pour into an oven proof glass bowl that will fit inside the slow cooker. I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need.

Fill the slow cooker with water covering the pumpkin oatmeal bowl at least half way. Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours.  Start the slow cooker before you go to bed and wake up to perfectly cooked oatmeal.  Give the oatmeal a thorough stir before serving.

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Fill the slow cooker insert with enough water to cover the oven proof bowl half way. This is what the oatmeal will look when it’s finished cooking. Give it a thorough stir before serving.

If you prefer, serve with chopped nuts (i.e., walnuts or almonds) and / or with fresh fruit (i.e., diced apple or sliced banana). The leftover oatmeal and be stored in individual serving size containers in the refrigerator. Add a little almond milk to loosen up the oatmeal and warm it up in the microwave when you are ready to eat it. DSC_6905

Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon and Pomegranate

I love winter fruits and vegetables. Last week one of my ultra running pals brought me a big stalk of Brussels sprouts. I knew right away I wanted to make some sort of Brussels sprout salad and searched for a couple other winter vegetables or fruits that would brighten it up with some sweetness and acidity.  I found those bright notes in a pomegranate and some lemons plucked from a tree in the back yard.

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An abundance of lemons this winter. I absolutely love not having to buy lemons.

The whole lemon is used in this recipe. Blanching the lemons, then roasting them, helps to eliminate the bitterness from the rind. You may be hesitant to bite into the lemon, rind and all, but you’ll be pleased to find the rind quite tender. You will want to try this because the peel of a lemon contains more vitamins than it’s juice. Lemon peels are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate, beta carotene and vitamin C.

The lemons, pomegranate anvils and Brussels sprouts are tossed together with red onion and tomatoes to create a side salad that was not only visually bright but is also cheerful with each bite.

This salad was accompanied by a hearty bowl of my Minestrone Soup and served on a very rainy winter weekend.  The ingredients in this salad made for the perfect light and sunny Sunday night dinner

Serving size: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 heads or 3/4 pounds of Brussels sprouts*
  • 2 large lemons (1 sliced lemon and juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup small assorted tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup of pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt & pepper

* Brussels sprouts can be replaced with mixed greens

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and place onto 2/3 of a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Leave the other 1/3 of the baking sheet empty. Lemon slices will be added to this space later. Toss the Brussels sprouts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then season well with salt and pepper. Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 20-25 minutes until tender and the edges are brown. Turn over the Brussels sprouts a few times while roasting to ensure even browning.

While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, wash the lemons well then slice one lemon into thin rounds. Place the lemon slices into a pot of boiling water. Blanch the lemon slices for 2 minutes. This will help to eliminate the bitterness from the rind. Remove the lemon slices from the boiling water and add it to the baking sheet with the Brussels sprouts. Coat the lemon slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil then roast with the Brussels sprouts. Roast the lemon slices for about 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize a little. Watch the Brussels sprouts and lemon slices carefully. The lemon slices may need to be removed from the baking sheet before the Brussels sprouts have finished roasting.

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Allow the Brussels sprouts and lemon slices to cool slightly, then cut both Brussels sprouts and lemon slices in half.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of the remaining lemon (about 1/4 cup), balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and red onion slices in the dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl. Slice the lemon rounds in half and add to the top of the Brussels sprout salad. Top with the pomegranate arils.

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Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.
Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.

Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt

The alluring pink scoops of my Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt may win the heart of your Valentine. This light and refreshing dessert is easy to prepare, naturally sweet and contains only four ingredients.

The key to a simple and delicious recipe is to use good quality fresh ingredients. I happen to have lots of fresh strawberries from the Carralitos Farmers Market given to me by an ultra runner friend who came over last weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Knowing I would not be able to consume all those fresh strawberries before they perished, I decided to freeze most of them. Since my friend ran a 100K the day before delivering the strawberries, I felt it was only appropriate to use them to make something special and healthy.

Serving size: 6-8

Tools: Food processor or blender and ice cream maker

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of whole strawberries, hulled & frozen (about 2 pints)
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup juice of Meyer lemons*
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • Sprig of mint (optional)

Note: Standard supermarket lemons may be substituted however I recommend using Meyer lemons if you can find them. Meyer lemons are sweeter which helps to cut the tartness of the yogurt. Otherwise, you may want to add more honey when using other varieties of lemons.

Directions:

Freeze the ice cream container according to instructions.

In a food processor or blender, puree the frozen strawberries. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Continue to process or blend the strawberry mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Taste the yogurt. If you find it too tart, you can add more honey or lemon.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and use as instructed. It should take only 15 minutes or less for the yogurt to start to freeze up.

Transfer into freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Scoop out and add a fresh sprig of mint if you like.  Alternatively, this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt can be poured into popsicle molds and enjoyed frozen on a stick.

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Asian Pasta Salad

My Asian Pasta Salad is one of my go-to recipes when I need a dish that can be prepared in advance and left sitting at room temperature for a few hours without refrigeration. I make this dish for picnics, to bring to work for lunch and most recently at this weekend’s Super Bowl party.

This recipe includes one of my favorite vegetables, the sugar snap pea. Developed in 1979, the sugar snap pea is a relatively new food, and a hybrid of green peas and snow peas. They are sweet, crunchy, easy to chew, and a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces whole wheat angel hair or spaghetti noodles, cooked (optional gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups sugar snap peas
  • 5 scallion (green onion) stalks, green and white parts finely diced
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili oil (add more if you like it spicier)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (can substitute with white vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 3 cups of grilled chicken (optional)

Cook the pasta noodles in salted boiling water, stirring frequently during the first couple of minutes, then occasionally to ensure the noodles do not stick together. Cook it until it is “al dente”. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in large mixing bowl.

Add carrots, peppers and sugar snap peas to the pasta bowl. Reserve a tablespoon of scallions to use for garnish later and add the rest of the scallions to the pasta bowl.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, chili oil, vinegar, grated ginger, canola oil and sesame oil. Reserve 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds to use for garnish later and add the rest to the soy sauce dressing.

Add the dressing to the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly to ensure all the pasta and vegetables are coated with the dressing. Sometimes it’s easier to use clean hands to toss the pasta. The pasta can be served immediately, however I like to cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours to give the pasta a chance to absorb the dressing. Toss the pasta after removing it from the refrigerator. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and sesame seeds before serving.

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Curry Spiced Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup

My Curry Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup, with a little heat from cayenne pepper, warms the soul on cold winter days. This soup is made with two nutrient dense vegetables, which are low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber.  Winning!

Technically a fruit, the butternut squash has a particularly high level of vitamin A and also has a high level of vitamin C. It has more potassium than a banana and its color indicates an abundance of carotenoids, which is believed to protect against heart disease.

When buying butternut squash, select the fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte and unblemished skin. A glossy skin indicates that the squash was picked too early and will not be as sweet. Stored in a cool dry place with ventilation, not in the refrigerator, this fruit has a storage life of up to three months!

In an effort to increase the nutritional value of my recipes, I like to incorporate a variety of vegetables.  For this soup, I paired the butternut squash with cauliflower.  Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C and contains folate. It is also a good source of minerals, including iron, calcium and potassium.

I prefer to roast the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple rather than boiling them to make this soup.  Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables and allows the flavors to develop and intensify.

I used a Dutch oven and an immersion blender to make this soup however you can use a blender too. I do recommend investing in an inexpensive immersion blender.  They are easy to clean up and you can use it while the soup is still in the pot.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet onion (half of a large onion)
  • 1 Granny smith apple, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves or 1 large clove)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a pinch of cayenne to start if you do not like it spicy)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons crème fraiche (optional)
  • fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

When preparing the butternut squash, use a very sharp knife. Cut a thin layer off the top and bottom to create a level surface. Then remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and scrape the seeds out with a spoon.

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When cutting the squash, cauliflower and apple, try to create even pieces. This will ensure even roasting.

Toss butternut squash, cauliflower and apple in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in 400F oven for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Turn the fruits and vegetable over at least once to ensure even roasting.

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You may need to remove the apple cubes before the butternut squash or cauliflower is finished roasting.

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In a Dutch oven, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender and translucent.

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Add garlic cloves, rosemary, curry powder, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper and sauté for another couple of minutes. Remove the onion mixture from heat if the fruits and vegetables are not done roasting to avoid burning the onion and garlic.

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Minced garlic and rosemary.

Once the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple are done roasting, add them to the onion mixture. Add vegetable broth and honey.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. You can also use a blender. If using a blender, add only a couple ladles full of soup at a time. Place a kitchen towel over the lid and hold down with your hand. This is to prevent the hot liquid from pushing out of the lid and burning your hand. Gently pulse to start, then blend until smooth.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and garnish with fresh parsley.

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Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Pesto

Leftover roasted vegetables are great ingredients to have in the refrigerator when you need to cook a fast and healthy weeknight meal. I had extra roasted zucchini and bell peppers left over after making my Vegetable Lasagna. The day after I made the lasagna, I used some of the roasted vegetables as a topping for homemade pizza. A couple days later, I used the remaining roasted vegetables in this Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Pesto. The basil pesto used in this recipe can also be made in advance and stored frozen up to 3 months. I am not ashamed to admit that I used store bought basil pesto; in addition, I used store bought garlic paste since I like my pesto garlicky. This healthy and delicious dinner was ready in 20 minutes.

Serving size: 2

Ingredients for Basil Pesto:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I like mine garlicky)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for Pasta:

  • 2 cups of cooked pasta (use your favorite pasta; gluten-free if you pefer; I used whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic paste (optional and used only because the store bought pesto was not garlicky enough)
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup roasted bell peppers, sliced*
  • 1/2 cup roasted zucchini slices*
  • 1 cup miniature heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

* Note: For directions on how to roast bell peppers and zucchini, follow the instructions on the Vegetable Lasagna recipe.

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse basil, garlic and pine nuts a few times until just combined. Then, while the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. It’s important to do this slowly to ensure it will emulsify. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. If you are using the pesto immediately, stir in the cheese. Otherwise, store and freeze without the cheese. You can add freshly grated cheese once you are ready to thaw out and use the pesto.

Cook pasta in salted water and drain. Add the pasta back to the same pot. On medium heat, add the garlic paste, red chili pepper flakes, roasted peppers, roasted zucchini and tomatoes. Stir together and heat until vegetables are warmed through. Combine pesto and heat for 2 additional minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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Left over roasted zucchini and bell peppers were also used  to make pizza.
Left over roasted zucchini and bell peppers were also used to make pizza.