Category Archives: Protein

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers


Stuffed peppers are one of Husband’s favorites. It’s an American staple that can very easily be turned into something that’s vegetarian friendly, and healthy! I made these pretty protein-packed and substituted in quinoa for the traditional rice. Additionally, you can make this recipe very easily for the non-vegetarian set. One of the rules for when I gave up land animals was that Husband and Ben didn’t need to become vegetarians along with me. Therefore, I often have to make 1.5 meals for dinner. Generally, not a big deal. What makes this meal awesome is that it is very quick to make and can easily be a week-night meal (especially if you make the quinoa ahead of time). One of the keys to this recipe is that I brown the met first (for the non-vegetarian filling). By browning the meat first, you cut down on the wait time substantially.

 Stuffed Peppers

(Serves 4-5; Hands on time: 20 min; Baking time: 20 min)

6 large-ish bell peppers (whatever colors you like)

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese for topping

Vegetarian Filling

1 cup of dry quinoa

2 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

1 can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin

Dash cayenne pepper

Non-Vegetarian Filling

1 lb. ground turkey

Taco seasoning

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. In a 1 1/2 quart sauce pan, bring quinoa and stock to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until the quinoa becomes translucent (approximately 10-15 minutes). When the quinoa has about 5 minutes left to cook, add in the onion.
  3. As the quinoa cooks, brown the ground turkey. After the turkey is browned, add in the taco seasoning and a 1/4 of water. Cook until the water is absorbed/evaporated.
  4. When the quinoa is done cooking, divide it roughly evenly between two medium bowls. Add in the turkey to one bowl, and mix to combine. In the other bowl, add in the coarsely chopped black beans and spices and mix to combine.
  5. In preparing the peppers to be stuffed, cut off the stem and remove the seeds and ribs. Cut a small bit off of the bottom so that the pepper will stand on a jellyroll pan.
  6. Stuff the peppers to the brim. For my recipe, I had 4 non-vegetarian peppers and two vegetarian peppers. Top each of the peppers with shredded cheese.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes and serve!
Vegetarian stuffed peppers. Look at all that protein-y goodness!

Vegetarian stuffed peppers. Look at all that protein-y goodness!

At first, Ben was unconvinced about the whole thing. However, I added some garam masala, and he ate it right up. He is a weird, weird kid.


This is an action shot of Ben eating garam masala straight. I have an odd child.

This is an action shot of Ben eating garam masala straight. I have an odd child.


Maryland Sweet Potato Burgers


Recently, I decided to give up eating land animals (you can’t give up fish in Maryland!). I never really liked meat and I, genetically, have high cholesterol, so it made sense. Husband and Ben are thankful that I’m not going to give up cooking meat for them, but I decided to try my hand at a vegetarian dish. In perusing for sweet potato burger recipes, I came across a bunch. They weren’t too my liking, so I came up with this one. The word “burger” is a little bit generous. They’re a little more of a crab cake consistency than a burger consistency. Therefore, I found it fitting to dress this one up like we would in Maryland.

The awesome thing about this recipe is that it’s packed with good-for you foods. There are lean proteins in the form of the legumes and the nutritional power house:the sweet potato. If you serve it with avocado, you get the added benefit of the “good fats”. Enjoy, my friends!

Maryland Sweet Potato Burgers

Makes 7-8 patties


2 medium sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and mashed

2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 ½ Tb Old Bay Seasoning

½ tsp Ancho chili pepper

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp cumin

¼ coriander

2 Tb Greek yogurt

1 egg

1 cup panko breadcrumbs (more or less)

½ cup all-purpose flour (more or less)


2 Tb Greek yogurt

2 Tb Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash the sweet potatoes and cannellini beans together.

    Potatoes and beans, all mashed up

    Potatoes and beans, all mashed up

  2. Once they are sufficiently mashed, mix in the spices, yogurt, and egg. The mixture will be pretty sticky.
  3. Add in the breadcrumbs and flour a little at a time. You want to judge the consistency so they don’t become pancakes but aren’t blobs of goo. I used about a cup of each, but you might use more or less depending on how goopy your sweet potatoes and beans are.
  4. Form the mixture into patties of roughly equal size. Allow the patties to chill in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.

    These look a lot better than raw meat.

    These look a lot better than raw meat.

  5. As the patties are chilling, you can make your sauce. Simply mix together the yogurt and hot sauce and adjust the proportions to your heat-liking.

    While Ben is a big help, he won't quite make it onto Top Chef with his breaking down of green beans.

    While Ben is a big help, he won’t quite make it onto Top Chef with his breaking down of green beans.

  6. When the patties are done chilling, heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. Depending on how large your skillet is, place about 4 patties in at a time. Because the patties will be slightly sloppy, you should wait until you can easily flip them and they become golden brown. It will take about 5-6 minutes per side.
  8. Enjoy! I added a little avocado as nature’s butter and served it with roasted green beans that Ben picked. 🙂

    Sweet potato burger with Frank's Red Hot Sauce-Yogurt dressing and avocado

    Sweet potato burger with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce-Yogurt dressing and avocado

Inauguration Dinner


Well, none of us went to the Inauguration today. As DC-area residents, Inauguration Day means another day off. Despite not seeing the inauguration, it turned out to be a great day. I had a delightful lunch with some friends at the always wonderful Mandalay, a Burmese restaurant. Sadly for me, my boys still needed dinner even if I was full with Mango Salad and Veggie 6. (Yum!)

This meal is all-American, really tasty, and perfect for a winter’s inauguration day. Growing up in the Midwest, I should love me some meatloaf. Sadly, I usually hate everything  that comes in a “loaf” that isn’t bread. I always tease my mom that whenever there is a shower (baby or bridal), she suggests a sandwich loaf. I’m not a fan of the sandwich loaf, meatloaf, seafood loaf. Whatever. Husband loves meatloaf, but I’m weird about meat.  Until, I came across a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe for a Mediterranean Meatloaf that I altered for our purposes. Ben has been a sick and grumpy guy lately, but he also enjoyed this meal. Working moms, rejoice! This is an easy recipe and the baking time is great for clean-up and helping kids with homework. We really like this recipe, so I hope you do, too!

Mediterranean Meatloaf

Serves 4-6 (depending on the size of the person!)
15 minutes hands-on and 45 baking
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup Fat-Free feta
1/4 chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 and spray a 9X5 loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, but don’t over mix.
  3. Spread into the loaf pan and then bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven.
  4. When you remove the loaf from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
  5. Serve with your favorite sides!

In addition to the meatloaf, I made some garlic and lemon green beans. Simple, and delightful, made from this recipe. Sometimes I serve this meatloaf with a tzatziki sauce. It doesn’t really need it (it’s surprisingly moist even with the turkey), but it adds a nice cooling texture.

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Lemon Garlic Green Beans

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Lemon Garlic Green Beans

For dessert, I made Mexican Chocolate ice cream. This is Husband’s favorite ice cream to date. I will say that you can substitute higher fat dairy products to make this recipe richer and creamier. I like to keep the recipe lean, but the ice cream doesn’t come out as silky as if I were using high fat content. To each her own!

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes 14 1/2-cup servings
2 cups Nonfat Milk
2.5 cups Nonfat Half-and-Half
1 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt

Army of ingredients for Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

Army of ingredients for Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients until well-mixed.
  2. Pour in the milk, half-and-half, and vanilla, and mix in a hand mixer for 1-2 minutes until all of the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Turn on ice cream machine and pour in the liquid. Follow machine’s instructions.
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream....Sooooo good!

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream….Sooooo good!

Nutrition: 139 calories per serving, 4.1 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of saturated fat

Healthy Shepherd’s Pie

Healthy Shepherd’s Pie

Awhile back my mom complained that I was not sticking true to my British heritage and I was paying too much attention to the Irish heritage. I joked that when I found a good English recipe that I would make it. After much searching, I decided to make my own healthy spin on Shepherd’s Pie, a British classic. I decided to finally bust out a British recipe this weekend with the coming of Hurricane Sandy. The DC area has horrible “London weather”. It’s rainy and cold and gross. I apologize to all my British relatives, friends, and readers, but the Isles just aren’t as nice as le Midi or Tuscany. Thus, a filling warm meal is perfect for a night like tonight.

Traditionally, Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, which I don’t eat. Therefore, I substituted ground turkey. Additionally, I reduced the heaviness of the dish with a combination of mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower. It turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Without further ado, a Healthy Shepherd’s Pie:

Healthy Shepherd’s Pie


1 Medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets with as much stem removed as possible

1 Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes

¼ cup of Greek yogurt

1 Tb of unsalted butter

3 Tb of Parmesan cheese

½ tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp of salt

½ tsp of pepper

  1. Steam the cauliflower and potatoes over about 15 minutes. Drain them well and allow them to dry for 3 minutes.
  2. Return vegetables to the pot and over the burner that is now off, whip the vegetables with the yogurt, butter, and seasonings with an electric mixer to ensure that they are smooth. Set aside.


¾ pound of ground turkey

2 Tb vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 Tb flour

½ cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 Tb Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp Rosemary

1 tsp Thyme

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (I used a carrot, pea, corn, green bean medley)

  1.  Heat a 12” skillet over medium-high heat and preheat the oven to 400.
  2. After the oil is hot enough that it shimmers, add in the onions and carrots and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until they start to get some color and then stir in the garlic.
  3. Add in the ground turkey, salt, and pepper and brown all the way through (roughly 3 minutes).
  4. Toss in the flour and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in the wine, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and allow to reduce slightly (approximately 10 minutes).
  6. Meanwhile, cook the vegetables in the microwave.
  7. Once the gravy of the meat mixture has reduced, combine with the vegetables and spread evenly in a 1 ½ quart glass baking dish.
  8. Spread mashed “potatoes” evenly over the top and cook for 25 minutes, or until the “crust” starts to brown.
  9. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    I used a cupcake decorating set to put the mashed “potatoes” on top. It turned our really well.

Back on the Bandwagon Day 2: Warm Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad

Back on the Bandwagon Day 2: Warm Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad

Day 2 of getting back on the bandwagon involved a very yummy salad. Ever since Husband discovered a love for Brussels sprouts last Thanksgiving via a Bobby Flay recipe that involved pancetta (what isn’t good with pancetta?), we usually have fresh or frozen Brussels Sprouts somewhere in our house. Additionally, I recently learned that beets are magnificent. The forces of beets and Brussels sprouts combined to make this healthy dish. For the ENTIRE meal, it is roughly 1,000 calories, including the optional dressing. Without the dressing, you’re looking at a much lower calorie count. Thus, on the high end, split between 2 people, this filling salad is only 500 calories per serving.

Chicken, Beet, and Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 2-3 (depending on how hungry you are!)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 medium-sized beets
1.5 cups sliced Brussels Sprouts (fresh or frozen)
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 Olive oil
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
Dressing (Optional. The cooked off marinade and juices from beets and sprouts are pretty good.)
1 Tb lemon zest
juice from one lemon
3 Tb olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Either the night before or a couple of hours before you cook the chicken, pour the Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper into a tightly sealing plastic bag. Marinate the chicken for at least one hour prior to cooking.
  2. While the chicken is marinading, preheat the oven to 425 and peel the beets. Place them on a cookie sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. I highly recommend using aluminum foil as it will make clean up 1,000 times easier.
  3. Roast the beets for approximately 1 hour or until fork-tender.
  4. Meanwhile, you can slice the Brussels sprouts and prepare the optional dressing. The dressing is nice because it adds a little more acidity to the dish and brings out some nice flavors. To make the dressing, add the lemon zest and lemon to a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Add spices to taste.
  5. When the beets have 20-25 minutes remaining to cook, add the chicken and the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Poor the marinade over the meat and vegetables and add some more salt and pepper (to taste). Return the tray to the oven and continue roast for the remaining 20-25 minutes.
  6. After everything has finished, take the pan out of the oven and let the chicken rest for a tick as you chop up the beets and add them to a giant salad bowl filled with your Romaine lettuce. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and throw them into the bowl as well. The tricky part comes next. Remove the aluminum foil from the cookie sheet and pour the contents (Brussels sprouts, remaining marinade, and beet juices) into the bowl. Toss and serve with the dressing on the side.

Voilà! If you add in everything while it’s warm, you get a nice contrast between the crisp lettuce leaves and the roasted vegetables. It is a lovely salad for dinner. If you want, you can add some goat cheese. This will up the calorie count, but it will also be awesome.

Healthy Fathers Day Dinner

Healthy Fathers Day Dinner

After a week of YOLO-eating while on vacation (for those who don’t deal with teenagers all day, YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once”), our family was hurting. What is YOLO-eating? YOLO-eating is indulging with reckless abandon. It’s not necessarily eating bad things all the time, it’s eating a lot of them. Some example conversations from vacation include:  Person 1 asks, “Should I have another brownie?” Person 2 responds, “YOLO.” Person 2 states, “How about a chip sampler for lunch?” Person 3 exclaims, “YOLO!” Person 4 announces, “Beer before noon…YOLO!”  Thus, when we got home, neither Husband nor I was super stoked for more cholesterol, which is usually how we indulge for holiday meals. I asked Husband what he wanted for his Father’s Day Dinner. We had been so decadent (and loved every second of it), but it was time to pull it together. His response was, “Maybe scallops and spinach and sweet potatoes.” Done, my love.

Seared Scallops, Sauteed Spinach, and Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2.5 (baby approved!)

1 lb wild “caught” sea scallops
1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 Tb butter, divided
juice from one lemon, divided
1.25 lb sweet potatoes
1/2 cup natural applesauce
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1 lb spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb olive oil

  1. Chop sweet potatoes into roughly the same-sized pieces. Steam for 15 minutes then drain. Steaming works better than boiling because you don’t lose all of the nutrients.
  2. In the same pot you cooked the sweet potatoes in, add in the applesauce, cinnamon, chili powder and 1 Tb of butter. Mash together. It’s better to mash in the same pot because it’s still warm which allows everything to combine better. Set aside. You can reheat if the rest of the meal takes longer than expected.
  3. Meanwhile, rinse and pat dry the scallops. You need to make sure that the scallops are fairly dry because they won’t sear properly if you don’t. Season the scallops on both sides with lemon pepper and garlic seasoning.
  4. In a stainless steel skillet (you don’t want to use non-stick here), heat over medium-high heat. Melt the butter. If it starts to burn, start over.
  5. Add the scallops to the pan while it is hot and the butter has melted. Cook for three minutes or until golden brown (time varies based on the thickness of the scallop) on the first side. Squeeze in the juice of half of a lemon and flip. Cook for three minutes on the other side.
  6. Heat another large-ish pan over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and heat. Add in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds to release the flavor. Add in the spinach. As it starts to wilt, add the juice of the other half of the lemon.

This whole meal (NOT per serving) is roughly 1200 calories. Divided among 2-3 people, you’re looking at about 400-600 calories for a filling meal. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Chard Quiche

Italian Sausage and Chard Quiche

On my drive home from work today I got it into my brain that I would finally get around to throwing together the quiche I’ve been threatening to make. My friend Helen made one recently and it looked divine, so I decided that we needed some of the eggy-pastry-veggie goodness. Quiches aren’t inherently very difficult; they’re just time-consuming, especially if you make your own crust. Sadly, I think my great-grandmother would roll over in her grave if I ever used a store-bought crust. Being a good Midwestern pie baker, I had to make my own crust. Unfortunately, that adds a minimum of 1 hour to your cook time. On the plus side, while the dough is resting, it gives you time to make the rest of the ingredients.

Added bonus of this evening’s dinner: Baby approved! At Ben’s 9 month check-up the doctor gave us the go-ahead to give Ben anything we wanted except honey (due to botulism). Because this recipe is pretty healthy (minus the stick of butter in the crust), I figured it would be a good one to start Ben on eggs. It was a big hit. Even the chard didn’t seem to bother him. Granted, this is a kid who slurps up spinach, so I wasn’t terribly shocked. But it’s good to know that Ben is on his way to becoming un garçon français.

Quiche Crust
(Pâte brisée)
Makes one 9″ pie crust
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
8 Tb (1 stick) unsalted, MEGA COLD butter cut into 1/2″ cubes (put it in the freezer for a while)
5-6 Tb ice water

  • In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar to combine.
  • Add in half of the butter and pulse 6-8 times. Repeat with the other half of the butter until the mixture looks like a course meal.
  • Gradually add in the water 1-2 Tb at a time until the mixture is just coming together and you are able to crunch it together and it stays.
  • Turn the mixture onto a floured surface. Knead into a ball then smoosh it to form a small disc.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Ideally, you should let it rest over night, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
  • Take the dough and place it on a floured surface. I like to roll out pie crusts on wax paper (my grandmother’s trick). By rolling it out onto wax paper, this eases the transport into the pie tin.
  • Roll the dough until it is about 14″ in circumference.
  • Push the dough into the pie tin/dish so that there is a little over an 1″ overhang. Wrap the overhang over the lip of the dish. This will help prevent shrinkage.
  • Poke holes in the bottom and add pie weights/dried beans. Cook in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Take out and add filling. (see below)

3 spicy Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
4 cups chard sliced into 1″ ribbons
1 Tb olive oil
5 eggs
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup water
2 cups cheese (I used 1 cup of Gruyère and 1 cup of cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a large skillet, break-up and brown the sausage.
  • When sausage is nearly done browning, add in the chard and a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wilt the chard.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined.
  • Add in the Greek yogurt and 3/4 cup of water. If the mixture looks to thick (chunks of yogurt), add a little water until the mixture looks like thick scrambled eggs.
  • Add in the cheese and chard-sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust.
  • Place a jelly roll pan underneath the pie dish (to avoid spillage) and bake for 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. The quiche should not jiggle when you bump it and should have a slightly golden brown top. If you cut into it and it’s a little runny, pop that sucker back in the oven for a few. We don’t want salmonella!

Quiche….it’s what’s for dinner.