Perfect Summer Dish: Tuscan Italian Tomato Basil Salad

This delicious salad takes just minutes to throw together and adds color and fun flavors to any meal! It is perfect for a light dinner or as a side salad to any lunch or dinner entrée. It should be noted that it holds for approximately 3 days—but it’s so delicious that it’s usually gone by then anyway! Image

(This recipe makes approximately 1 meal-sized serving or 2 side servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of heirloom tomatoes, organic (the more colorful—the better!) (this is approximately 3 cups of a variety of heirloom tomatoes)
  • 1 small red onion (you’ll only need about ¼)
  • 1 tbsp.  crumbled feta or your desired amount of fresh mozzarella or –if you don’t do cheese products, skip this step! The salad is delicious without the additioImageImagen of cheese.
  • ½ tbsp. fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp. organic Italian dressing (I use the creamy Italian from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • just a pinch of Himalayan salt or sea salt

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and halve all tomatoes. Place them in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a small dish, combine the balsamic vinegar and Italian dressing (of your choice). Once mixed, pour over tomatoes. Stir this mixture gently. (Do this first so that the tomatoes can “marinate” while you prepare the other ingredients.)
  3. Chop approximately ¼ of a red onion (or your desired amount) into thin pieces. Add the mixture to your tomatoes.
  4. Add basil and feta or mozzarella to the mixture.
  5. Mix thoroughly albeit gently, so you do not crush the tomatoes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Creative Ways to Increase Your Green Intake: Spinach & Kale

One of you asked me to write about more ways to incorporate greens into food (aside from smoothies). It seems that kale and spinach are all the rage these days (and as a nutrition-junkie, I just LOVE that). Below are a few practical ways to incorporate more greens into your meals!Image

Breakfast:

  • Any egg or egg-substitute scramble is delicious with chopped spinach. Throw it into a scramble or in an omelet to add Imagegreat color variety and fiber!
  • An Actually Good Spinach and Kale Smoothie: Okay, so my boyfriend jokes and calls this my “Garden smoothie”—and he isn’t too far off. I like to sneak spinach and/or kale (or chard, celery, carrots…you get the picture) into as much as possible. Most “spinach smoothies” taste like, um, spinach. This one is actually pretty good. It has a Caribbean feel. Ingredients: ½ mango, ½ green apple, ½ banana, 1 small spear of pineapple (or about ½ c. chopped), ½ c. water,  1 large organic carrot (or 3 baby carrots), a small handful of spinach and a small handful of kale. (I PROMISE you’ll like this one!)

Lunch/Dinner/Linner:

  • Spinach Salads:  I literally have a spinach, kale, and other-veggie salad every single day. I don’t get sick of the stuff, however, because I always decorate my salad differently. Find low-calorie, all organic, low-sugar and low-sodium dressings and STOCK UP. (I know these are hard to come by, so I’ll be blogging about great ways to MAKE salad dressing soon!) Some of my favorites are Trader Joe’s (or Trader Darwin’s depending on if you’re in the US or elsewhere) Cilantro-Lime vinaigrette and homemade balsamic vinaigrette (light on honey).
  • Protein wraps: I often make these when I really need some sustained energy. Simply lay out whole spinach leaves (buy the large, organic heads of spinach; kale works great here as well!) and place turkey on top. Add in some homemade pesto or just a dab of hummus and roll the wrap (so the spinach is on the outside). These tasty little treats pack the protein for a power punch! Note: you can also do these with the meat on the outside and the green stuff on the inside! Do what works for you!
  • Actual Wraps: If you’d like, you can buy a healthy tortilla and make a crap with spinach, meat of your choice, hummus, and chopped veggies for a complete meal!
  • Pasta N’ Greens: I don’t eat a ton of pasta, but because I run long distances, I have to eat the stuff sometimes. (I’m acting as if I don’t like it—I love Pasta, I just try to watch the carb intake.) Before my race a week ago, I made some whole wheat pasta with shredded spinach and just a tad of organic tomato/marinara sauce. The result? Amazing!
  • Quinoa! For those of you who aren’t yet on the Quinoa train, you ought to hop on! For summer barbeques, I usually throw together something that looks a little like this: ImageQuinoa, black beans, chopped tomatoes (organic, of course), some cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a dash of cumin, and a whole lot of chopped spinach. Not only do the varying colors look enticing, but they all compliment each other in the taste-department too!
  • Casseroles: I don’t know of many super healthy casserole options, but I have heard of people laying out leafy greens in each layer of casseroles. This is one of the meals I am currently working up ideas for, so more on this one later!
  • Soups: I have yet to meet a soup that does not look better with spinach. If you are cooking a water or broth-based soup, spinach is great in the soup (for instance, I made taco soup, and just before serving I added in a handful of chopped spinach to add to the great colors). If you are serving a cream-based soup (because desperate times call for desperate measures…) the soup can be garnished with/topped with spinach.
  • Dips: Spinach yogurt dip, or yogurt Kale dip (available at Trader Joes is a great way to increase veggie intake. Say no to crackers and dip carrots into this dip, and you’re Imagedoing double the good! Note: I’ll be blogging about homemade spinach and kale dips in upcoming weeks!
  • Chips!: What? Chips on a healthfood blog? YES! Kale chips are delicious, and if done correctly, they replace your craving for potato chips. I’ll be posting a friend’s recipe, but the general idea is that she braises fresh spinach with EVOO, sprinkles with Imagenutritional yeast (gives the cheese flavor without the fat and calories, plus it’s full of Vitamin B!). The chips smell amazing and they’re always gone quickly!

Lastly, understand that eating greens, like everything else, is just a part of complete health. While kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens are full of great vitamins—I recommend consulting your doctor about your diet before drastically increasing your intake. If you have heart problems, blood problems, or general health issues, these particular foods may not be the best for you (because they can be blood thinners). In general, it is wise to just focus on a holistically healthy diet, full of all sorts of varying vegetables.

Keep those questions coming!
Also, feel free to submit questions via ‘Tiff’s Tips’ facebook page!

Light & Filling (+ Delicious) Springtime Lime-Cilantro-Quinoa Salad (Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Heart-healthy)

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Quinoa has been dubbed the “Supergrain of the future” by nutritionists—and I totally agree. It was first discovered around 3,000 years ago by the Incas—who realized the seed (yes, it’s a seed) was safe for human consumption. So, though it seems relatively “new” to modern day Americans (many thanks to the pasta that has hogged the grocery shelves for so long), quinoa has ancient roots—and it is extremely healthy.

Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat, it contains nearly twice the fiber as other grains, it contains high iron, it’s rich in magnesium, and it’s high in Riboflavin (vitamin B2)—which improves energy and metabolism.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, as a runner with a big race coming up, it is crucial to “carb up”—and quinoa is one of the best carbs out there.

This recipe is light, fresh, and definitely one of my “go-to” meals before a big event. I’ll post more recipes with quinoa in the future (seriously, the seed is so versatile that it can be eaten as oatmeal or baked in a casserole—there are no limits to quinoa’s reach!).

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of Himalayan salt
    2 cups halved cherry tomatoesImage
    ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 3 finely chopped geren onions
  • ½ cup chopped spinach
  • 2 teaspoons organic garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Boil quinoa as per directions (different brands very slightly on length of time). Drain quinoa after boiling, then set aside in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and lime juice. Once whisked, pour over quinoa and mix thoroughly. Image
  3. Combine finely chopped green onions, halved cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and chopped spinach. Mix with quinoa.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients on quinoa (cumin, salt, and garlic).
  5. Once quinoa is thoroughly mixed, serve and enjoy!

    Note: Though the Quinoa seed is gluten-free, it is sometimes processed in places that also process foods that contain gluten.

    Quinoa

Basil, Chicken, Lemon, Pesto Pasta (Gluten Free with Vegan Option) made with Spaghetti Squash

Whether you are gluten free because of a sensitivity or Celiac, or perhaps because of something else (like a child who has a learning disability—which many doctors say  going gluten-free can help with), or even if you are a pasta loving wheat-a-holic: this recipe is hands down, five stars (or five mason jars—because this is Tiff’s Tips and not the Oscars)!

It is so good, in fact, that if you do not tell your kids that this “pasta” comes from a vegetable, they will never know. (Now, I am not advocating lying because I think that’s immoral—but sometimes what they don’t know, won’t hurt ‘em)!
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Basil Pesto Lemon Chicken Spaghetti (Squash)
Note: the following ingredients make 2-4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Spaghetti Squash (these make a surprising amount of spaghetti)
  • Olive oil
  • Himalayan Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder (organic, of course)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (or tomatoes of any kind)
  • 2 chicken breasts (ideally—organic, unprocessed, locally-sourced)* for vegan option, simply omit the chicken
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Pine nuts
  • 2 lemons
  • Spinach

 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F

2. Very carefully (I mean very carefully, and with a large knife—or axe) cut the spaghetti squash in two. (This is the hardest part of the whole recipe…you can do it!). (Note: I was kidding about the axe.)Image

3. Once cut in half, brush both interior sides with olive oil (just a pinch), and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

4. Put the squash onto a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes (I would ere on the side of 40; the longer you bake it, the more squash it will make—just make sure the squash is not mushy when prodded with a fork).

5. While squash is cooking, make pesto with a food processor, Vitamix, or Blentec by combining 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1-2 squeezed lemons, garlic powder (I used about ½ tsp.), some pepper, a dash of salt, basil, and spinach. (Note: you can buy pesto if you’d like; I had difficulty finding Pesto without cheese, hence why I made it.) Play with the flavors until you like the taste! Set pesto aside.

6. Sauté chicken over stove; add in chopped tomatoes, and spoon in about half of your pesto mixture.

7. Once spaghetti is finished take sheet out and set aside; let cool for 3-5 minutes (until you can safely touch the squash without being harmed). With a fork, scrape out squash (length-wise).Image

7a. (Yes, I was a bit of a nerd growing up, so there is a ‘7a’.) Spaghetti will come out easily. Have a bowl ready to put spaghetti strings in. If clumps gather, separate them. Scrape the entire squash with your trustee fork.

8. Mix the remaining pesto with the pasta, any additional lemon juice, and chicken (if you’re going the chicken route); serve warm and enjoy!

 

 

Super Scrumptious Sweet Potato Fries

Super Scrumptious Sweet Potato Fries
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I don’t know any child (or adult, for that matter) who doesn’t like fries. Unfortunately, consuming deep-fried french fries (often pumped with not-so-good additives and preservatives to keep them ‘fresh’ at restaurants and fast food joints) is terrible for your health.

To find a viable cure–and to help you all get your ‘fry fix’ I decided to turn to my good friends, Sweet Potatoes. They are complex carbohydrates, and you can buy them organic (read: without all of the preservatives). Not to mention, these are made with olive oil, which is good for your digestive system and contributes to heart health.

Of course, my favorite part of these fries is that you can sneakily give them to kids (or your boyfriend, as in my case!) and actually nourish them (when they think they are eating a ‘treat’).

I made three types of sweet potato fries; please read and decide which you (or your guests) would prefer! Then, whip them up and enjoy!

Options: Cinnamon (Sweet) Sweet Potato Fries; Cumin-Paprika-Italian Seasoned Fries; Garlic-Sea Salt Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:
Note: Please read the ingredients for the fries you would like to make! Follow the directions to step 3, then use the spices required for your fries of choice!

For All of the Fries:

  • Olive oil (1/2 tbsp. per potato)
  • Himalayan Pink salt, Kosher salt, or organic sea salt (which ever you prefer…for the record, Himalayan Pink salt gives you the benefit of iodine without the drawbacks and sodium of the other stuff!)
  • Organic corn starch (1/4 tsp. per potato)
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet

For the Sweet, Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Pepper

For the Cumin-Paprika-Italian Seasoned Fries:

  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (optional)
  • 1 tsp. fresh organic Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. organic Garlic Powder

For the Garlic-Sea Salt Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1/2 tbsp. organic Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. minced Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

 

Directions:

1. Wash, peel, and cut 3 large (or 5 small) sweet potatoes. (Cut into ‘fry’ shapes.) Put fry wedges into a large plastic bag (a simple Ziploc should do).

2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and corn starch. (I use a ratio of 1/2 tbsp. olive oil per potato and 1/4 tsp. organic corn starch per potato.) Once mixed together, pour mixture (it will be somewhat paste-like) into the plastic bag. Toss the bag (your kids can help with this!) to assure that all fries are covered in a light layer of olive oil.

3. Once fries are covered in olive oil mixture, place in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet. (This part is the most time consuming…but I promise it’s worth it!) Once fries are all laid out, sprinkle half of the spice-mixture over the fries.

4. Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes, turn the fries over and sprinkle the remaining spices over the fries. Bake an additional 15 minutes, or until crisp to your liking.

5. Enjoy with your favorite organic ketchup (recipe for ketchup coming soon)!
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