italian turkey + quinoa stuffed red peppers

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Last month, because she is the absolute best of moms, Jan sent A and I back to Chicago after a long weekend at the Lake House with a fridge worth of fresh produce. Other than a pomelo fruit (new addiction, friends) a 4-pack of bright, firm bell peppers was burning a hole in my apron. MUST MAKE STUFFED PEPPERS.

Now, one month is quite a while ago, and yes, that is exactly how long it has taken me to get this recipe up on the blog. But I promise you, it is worth the wait. Stuffed peppers were one of those dishes that my Grandmother and Mother both made, of so lovingly, during my childhood. And of course, as a bratty child I tended to turn my nose up at traditional dishes such as this. Fast forward 20 years and it’s a whole different ballgame, folks. Beef Stew, Sauerkraut Soup, Stuffed Peppers – these are exactly the sort of recipes I like to keep in rotation – healthy, hearty, and bound to last more than one meal.

Plus, these little peppers stuffed with warm seasoned quinoa, standing up tall in the baking dish – they’re sort of adorable. If food can be adorable? I’ve decided it can.

In terms of serving, these are a great main but they are even better when paired with a leafy mixed greens salad and some crusty bread. Or at least that’s how we dig it in our house.

italian stuffed red peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 14 oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 8 oz preferred marinara sauce [I use Prego Light Smart]
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp jalapenos, diced [optional]
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp worchestire sauce
  • Italian cheese [Optional. I use Sargento Ultra Thin Provolone]
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the Quinoa
  3. If using a rice cooker: Spray pot with cooking spray. Measure 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Combine in rice cooker. Set to white rice setting.
  4. If using stove top: Bring 2 cups water to boil in a small pot. Stir quinoa and a pinch of salt into water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-17 minutes until quinoa s tender and liquid is absorbed.
  5. Cook the Filler + Peppers
  6. Start with 6 bell peppers. Cut the top of the pepper off and set aside.
  7. Remove seeds from inside the pepper. Set whole peppers aside in a baking dish lined with foil.
  8. Dice the tops of the peppers (throw away stems) - this will be added to the filler mixture later.
  9. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium and saute the minced garlic.
  10. Add diced onions, bell pepper diced tops, and jalapenos. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add ground turkey, worchestire sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook until meat is browned.
  12. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and cook 5 more minutes.
  13. Remove filler mixture from heat.
  14. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa with filler mixture. Add more marinara sauce if preferred.
  15. Fill each pepper with the mixture. Place filled peppers in the baking dish.
  16. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Add cheese to tops, cook 5 more minutes.
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juice it: fresh beet + apple + carrot + cucumber + citrus juice

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I had some cool stuff to share here this week but it will have to wait. So for now, beet juice!

This tall glass of blood-red brightness hails from a monster batch of juice I whipped up over the weekend. Because that is what one does when trapped inside all day. I set myself on making a batch of fresh juice using produce we had kicking around in the fridge. Some of the veggies leftover from a week before and some holdovers from our CSA share that recently ended.

With juicing, I tend to just throw whatever seems right into the thing and hope it comes out ok. For more structured attempts, I follow recipes from The Juicing Bible, which I would recommend to anyone looking to learn more about the benefits of juicing and for killer recipes. Today’s recipe, however, is one that hails from the former state of mind, and I do declare that it works out quite well. Well enough to share with you!

More on our juicer here. Plus 30 Days of FREE recipes here. Do you juice?

fresh beet + apple + carrot + cucumber + citrus juice

Ingredients

  • 1 small beet, washed and trimmed
  • 1 medium cucumber, whole
  • 5 medium carrots, washed and trimmed
  • 3 small apples, whole
  • 3 juicing oranges, peeled
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and quartered

Instructions

  1. Peel/Wash/Trim all produce.
  2. Feed into the juicer.
  3. Pour yourself a fresh glass - top with sparkling water and lemon juice for extra sass.
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stir it up: asian style veggies all the time.

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You guys, I hit it out of the park for dinner last night.

While commuting home from work, pondering over how to maximize our freezer stock for an at least moderately-healthy dinner, my mind wandered over to my typical craving: Asian dishes. Hot and sweet and spicy and comforting. Hot Pepper Noodle (referred to as Crack Noodle in our home) from Penny’s or perhaps Crazy Noodles and Tom Yum soup from Thai Aroma.

I’ve been in the thick of it at work this week and between A’s absence on said vision quest and a recent bout of tendinitis that has running on hold until Tuesday, I’m going a tad stir-crazy. Rather than defaulting to take-out, I decided to hack an at-home version of a vegetarian Asian stir-fry that would lean more towards healthy than soaked-in-oil. The main goal: the creation of that hot and sweet and spicy taste-bud dance party I just can’t get enough of without all the soaked-in-oil situation that I certainly could do without.

Enter my stir-fry A-Team: Siracha + Cilantro + Garlic + Hoisin Sauce + Sesame Oil. Not photographed but very much encouraged: Ginger. 

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This recipe sort of feels like one of those “that’s really not a recipe” deals but I’m going to share it anyways since the combination is magic, the ingredients cheap, and the process easy. I used frozen broccoli, frozen Asian stir-fry blend, and a handful of fresh bean sprouts. And since this served as a side dish last night, I didn’t add anything in the way of protein or noodles or rice. But THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And I will be doing so promptly. I’m thinking egg + tofu + rice noodles.

Holler back for simple meals that make ya feel like a champ.

asian infused stir-fry

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

A quick and easy Asian stir-fry that turns "clean out the freezer" night into a dish full of bold flavor and spice.

Ingredients

    For the Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger (or 1 tsp ginger, minced)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp siracha hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden cilantro (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)
  • Cooking spray/oil (I like 1 tsp coconut oil)
  • For the Vegetables
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli
  • 2 cup frozen Asian Stir-Fry Blend
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • [any combination of vegetables works here. what matters is the sauce.]

Instructions

  1. Spray/oil a medium-large sized saucepan
  2. Heat over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger.
  3. Add vegetables (fresh and/or frozen) to the saucepan. Cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, siracha, and cilantro. Stir to combine.
  5. Cook 2-3 minutes to combine flavors.
  6. Serve as is or over rice or noodles.

Notes

Cooktime reflects veggie-only stir fry. Does not account for addition of meat and/or noodles or rice.

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mindful health: keep it up.

Mindful Health is an ongoing series dedicated to the education, discussion, and promotion of health and wellness in daily life.

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Is it too many days beyond New Years to post about resolutions or intentions or whatever you call them? I’m late to the party with it this year, probably because I was celebrating the end to what wound up a difficult year. When it came time for 2013 to pack her bags, I was front and center to see her out the front door, shot of whiskey in hand.

But for all my complaining 2013 had wins that have already made transitioning into a new year, and writing this very post, all the easier: HEALTH. Managing my health was a big, huge, hulking priority for me last year. I dedicated time and space on this little blog to talking about it, thinking about it, and sharing lifestyle changes. And for the first time in my adult life, exercising regularly, eating well, taking care of myself for myself, and quitting the fat talk aren’t a list of things I don’t do but know and wish I could. They are present and breathing and living. There’s still progress to be made and I’m surely still figuring it out. But heavens if I’m not leaps and bounds beyond where I stood 365 days ago. I cannot remember a year before this one when I didn’t guilt myself into listing exercise at the top of my goals, knowing that I would never make it a real daily priority.

So there’s that. In 2013 I learned how to take care of myself. Or, at the least, how to start.

All the bad days and tough nights that piled on at the end of the year can’t take that away. And health is what helps me deal with those occurrences now, too. Horrible day at work? Long run along the lake at sunset. Upset over something I can’t control? A healthy home-cooked meal. What I have learned, and what I could have only ever taught myself, is that healthy behaviors feed healthy behaviors. They are cyclical and exponential in my life. When I run more I sleep better, eat healthier, and have more energy. Above all else, I am happier. I am my best self. And too, when I eat better I find myself looking forward to my evening runs, taking the stairs more often at work, and embracing a generally lighter air to my body and mind.

I’m going to make my 2014 resolution easy this year: KEEP IT UP. 

Because happiness for me is born from happiness with myself. From being good to myself. And that is what health is – committing to taking care of myself for today and all the years to come.

Here’s to health, happiness, and a year of keeping it up.

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Join the discussion!

Mindful Health is an ongoing series dedicated to the education and discussion of health and wellness. Find recent posts in the series here.

Interested in talking about a specific health & wellness topic? Want to contribute as a guest poster? Questions or comments?

Reach out via this post’s comments section or e-mail me at leanerbythelake [at] gmail [dot] com.

mexican spaghetti squash bake.

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I swear this isn’t morphing into a food blog, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that cooking is one of the big things bringing joy and relaxation as of late. The weather here in Chicago is turning iffy at best and rather than many hours spent outdoors frolicking in the sun out and about in the city and parks, we’re finding ourselves staying cozy and warm in the apartment. Thank god for the yoga studio in our building and winter running gear, because if I didn’t have the ability to make use of these legs, I might go stir crazy. I’ll take all the cold jaunts along the lake I can get, thank you very much.

And like most anyone in a four seasons climate, each fall and winter as the temperatures cool, my pull towards warmer and often heartier dishes increases. Thus far this fall I’ve shared two soups – Roasted Butternut Squash and a Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho – but today’s dish is a baked casserole that spices up spaghetti squash, providing an option outside of topping with marinara sauce. Since we received four of these this fall in our CSA, it was clear that I needed a way to mix it up! Plus, this dish totally satisfies that “NEED TACOS NOW” craving that I get all too often.

Instead of following any hard and fast recipe, I sort of made this up as I went, throwing in what we had in the kitchen and spicing it up with chili powder and cayenne pepper. Below is what I came up with, but this dish can easily be tweaked based on what you have a taste for. After baking, I chose to top my serving with salsa, Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of lime juice. Basically, anything that you put on or in a burrito or tacos will work with this dish. Have at it!

mexican spaghetti squash bake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup diced green peppers
  • 1 cup diced red or orange pepper
  • 4.5 oz can diced green chilies (small can)
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes (or use fresh)
  • 14 oz low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp jalapenos, diced
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregeno
  • 1 tsp extra virigin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Optional Garnishes
  • Salsa
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded Mexican-Style Cheese
  • Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0% Non-Fat)
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh sliced lime

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 oven safe casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cook the Spaghetti Squash
  3. Slice the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.
  4. Scoop out the seeds & goop!
  5. Place squash slices face down in a microwave safe dish
  6. Add 1/3 cup water and cover dish tightly with cling wrap
  7. Cook in microwave for 12-14 minutes.
  8. Remove carefully and allow to cool 10 minutes before removing plastic wrap (watch the steam!).
  9. Using a fork, scoop out the cooked spaghetti squash from the shell. Careful! It will be hot.
  10. Spread cooked spaghetti squash "noodles" at the bottom of the casserole dish from Step 1.
  11. Prepare the ground turkey, onions, peppers
  12. While the spaghetti squash is cooking, heat 1 tsp olive olive over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  13. Add ground turkey and cook 10 minutes until thoroughly browned
  14. Add onions, garlic, green and red peppers along with cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Cook 1-2 minute, stirring.
  15. Assemble the casserole
  16. In a mixing bowl combine and mix corn, chilies, black beans, and diced tomatoes. Add in sauteed ground turkey, peppers, and onion mixture.
  17. With the spaghetti squash as the bottom layer, add the turkey and vegetable mixture to the casserole dish.
  18. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top (optional)
  19. Bake at 375 F uncovered for 30-35 minutes.
  20. Serve topped with cilantro, salsa, and Greek yogurt (optional)
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