Full Belly Sisters: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cantaloupe Peach Chia Fresca

Check out my guest post over at Lauren Kelly, Nutritionist's blog: a Cantaloupe Peach Chia Fresca. It's a simple, refreshing drink, packed to the brim with fiber, beta carotene, potassium and omega-3s—and, of course, great fruit flavor! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 Things You Can Do TODAY to Start Eating Healthier

I'm thrilled to have had a chance to guest post over at Home Life Simplified. It's a fantastic blog run by my dear high school friend, Deb, who is a mom, a life coach, and an organizer extraordinaire! Check out her blog and Facebook page for loads of helpful hints on streamlining your daily routines and simplifying your life.

Deb asked me to write a post on steps people can take to eat healthier. So I came up with five simple things that I think will put you on a road to better health. Check out the post for more details—and start eating better right now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Make-Ahead Mango Almond Quinoa Smoothie

We're so pleased to have another guest post from our friend Ann at The Fountain Avenue Kitchen! When she told me about this recipe, I was totally intrigued—I'd never heard of putting quinoa in a smoothie! But when I thought about it, I realized it was pretty genius and not actually that weird. After all, quinoa is super nutritious: it is a complete protein and provides loads of manganese, fiber and folate (crucial for you pregnant gals!). Also, although we usually treat and prepare it as a grain, it is actually a nutty-tasting seed that is a member of the same food family as spinach, beets and Swiss chard. Cool, huh?

So, check out Ann's post below and try out this unique, delicious recipe!

A number of months ago, I came across a smoothie recipe including oatmeal.  Although I had often seen smoothie recipes with oatmeal blended in, I had never before tried one (even though I am a huge oatmeal fan).  

What spurred me to try it was both the make-ahead concept and the promise of a thick smoothie without relying on ice or frozen fruit.  So, I went about experimenting and came up with a strawberry pecan and a sweet green smoothie that I truly adore.
Then, one night, I had a crazy thought as I was lying in bed.  I could try the smoothie with a similar ingredient!  I often make quinoa for breakfast as an option to oatmeal.  Not only is quinoa a nutritional powerhouse, it also soaks up a lot of liquid.  I figured that, like the oats, the quinoa would go a long way towards creating a thick make-ahead smoothie.
The result was as I had hoped.  Combined with the mango, the texture was smooth and pleasing. The flavor of quinoa is present, so if you are not a quinoa fan, simply substitute a quarter cup of old-fashioned oats. Two tablespoons of quinoa is the same net weight as a quarter cup of oats, and the varied amounts do, in fact, achieve similar results.  The oatmeal flavor, however, goes almost unnoticed.
I really like these smoothies as a ready-made breakfast or lunch, and they are especially perfect as a meal on the go.  Mason jars are the perfect storage and drinking vessel.  Now...what combination to make next?
To easily cube the mango, slice all the way down the mango along the flat part of the seed. Then, slice in a checkerboard pattern without going through the skin. Invert the piece, then carefully slice off the little squares.  (At this point, my kids just bite the little cubes off.  It’s what we call “fun food!” Great to pack in a lunchbox, too.) There will be a little more fruit clinging to the pit which you can slice off as well.
Make-Ahead Mango Almond Quinoa Smoothie:
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked quinoa (or substitute 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat yogurt (I used vanilla 2% Greek yogurt)
  • 1 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • a scoop of vanilla protein powder, optional (I use a half scoop)
  • agave or honey, or to taste

Add quinoa (or oats) and chia seeds to the blender, and blend on high until you have the texture of fine flour.  Add the milk, yogurt, mango, and all remaining ingredients except the sweetener.  At this point, I give everything a little stir so the dry ingredients don't poof up all over the blender.  Blend on high until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides and blending again, as necessary.  It is helpful to stir down to the bottom to make sure everything has been mixed in. Taste and sweeten to your liking. Blend again to distribute.
Transfer the smoothie to a 2-cup Mason jar or other container. Refrigerate overnight and shake or stir before drinking.  Will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
If you want to freeze, first allow the mixture to soak for at least four hours in the refrigerator.
Note:  With regard to sweetening, this will depend on how sweet your fruit is to begin with (fresh, seasonal fruit is typically sweeter than frozen, but frozen works just fine), which type of milk and yogurt you use, as well as personal preference.  Protein powder can be a source of sweetness, too.  Adjust to your taste preference.  Keep in mind the flavors will develop as the smoothie sits in the refrigerator.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grilled Veggies, Pesto & Ricotta Sandwich: Real Convenience Food

One of the things I always suggest to my health coaching clients is that they always make extras when they're grilling veggies. After all, it's not much more work to grill three zucchinis than it is to grill one. And, when you have them on hand, they are great for snacking (as is), drizzling with a balsamic syrup, or simply adding to everything from salads to sauces to soups to...sandwiches! And, that's what I've got for you today.

As with some of my other posts, this isn't a recipe as much as it is an easy, nutritious and tasty idea. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, which is why I've had this for lunch a couple of times this week. For the record, I'd argue that having good ingredients on hand is a huge part of what makes good eating possible on a regular basis. If you don't have easy-to-assemble, yummy, good foods around, you're much more likely to run out to a fast food joint for a quick meal.

This sandwich is simple, but provides lots of nutritional benefits: calcium and protein from the ricotta; vitamin K, folate, and omega-3s from the chive-wanut pesto I used; and carotenoids, Vitamin C, and manganese from the squash. Squash also offers a significant amount of lutein, which is key for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as it helps protect babies' eyes and has also been found in infants' brains in the regions associated with memory and learning.

So, without further ado, here's how to build this sandwich: Toast a slice of bread and spread with some ricotta (try my easy, creamy homemade ricotta!) and pesto (use your favorite kind). Now, you could stop here and still have a nice little meal.

Then, top with some chopped, grilled squash; I used a combo of zucchini and yellow squash. (If you have different grilled veggies—maybe peppers and mushrooms—go ahead and use them; whatever you like and have in the fridge is fine to use.) Again, it's perfectly yummy at this point.

But then I topped it with some thin slices of red onion and a bit of shaved parmesan and threw it in the toaster oven on broil, for just a minute or two. The cheese melts, the ricotta gets warm. It all comes together really nicely.

And, yes, I am aware that I've been posting lots of ricotta recipes lately. But, after I realized I'd been blogging for a year and had never included a ricotta recipe, I feel like I've got a lot of catching up to do!

UPDATE: Culture Magazine: The Word On Cheese featured our sandwich on their website!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Raspberry Ricotta Grilled Cheese Sandwich

For those who saw my Cannoli Ice Cream, you know I've been a bit obsessed with ricotta lately. Well, not just lately: when I was a kid I went through a loooong phase in which I wouldn't eat any tomato sauce, so I would just have ricotta and parmesan on my pasta (which is delish, FYI). Even now, there's nothing I love more than a dollop of ricotta on top of some pasta; now I eat the sauce, too! 

So, when Robin at Knead to Cook asked me to guest post for her fabulous blog, I just had to do another ricotta recipe! This Raspberry Ricotta Grilled Cheese Sandwich is not your typical sammie—but who the heck wants typical, anyway? Head on over to Knead to Cook for the recipe.

Fresh raspberries, ricotta, and some shaved parmesan—you know you want some!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cannoli Ice Cream w. Pistachios & Dark Chocolate

I'm not a huge fan of pastries, but I adore cannoli. They are creamy, crunchy and not-too-sweet; I probably only have a cannoli a couple of times a year but, man, do I enjoy them! My friend Robin over at Knead to Cook has a great recipe for cannoli filling that I Pinned a while back; that simple but fabulous recipe prompted me to develop my own for an ice cream version. Because the only thing I love more than cannoli is ice cream!

This frozen dessert is super easy; you don't even have to make a custard since it's mostly ricotta. And if you've only ever had ricotta in lasagna, you are in for a treat: it makes for a wonderful dessert, whether in cannoli or Italian cheesecake! Ricotta is also a fantastic source of calcium, protein, and B vitamins.

For the record, I used both whole milk and whole milk ricotta; I always use whole dairy products. I do this for a number of reasons, including taste (holy cannoli, it tastes so much better!), satisfaction (fat is very satiating, so you'll be satisfied with a smaller serving), and nutrition. Now, that last one might sound counterintuitive to a lot of you; after all, we've been told for decades now that we should be cutting fat. But it's simply not the case. Just one reason that whole milk dairy makes sense nutritionally: vitamins A and D are fat-soluble, so your body needs that fat to actually absorb them.

yield: about a pint
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 cups good-quality ricotta (try my easy, creamy homemade ricotta!)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, raw
  • about 2 ounces dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
  • additional chopped pistachios and chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Place sugar, vanilla, salt and milk in blender and blend until sugar is dissolved. Add ricotta and puree until very smooth; it should be a similar consistency to cake batter. If you taste it, be careful not to just sit down with a spoon and eat the whole thing. Yeah, it's that yummy.

Pour in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions to freeze.

In the meantime, roughly chop your pistachios and chocolate—both traditional additions to cannoli filling—into small chunks. About five minutes before the ice cream is done, add these.

Pistachios add protein, calcium, and even folate!

Once the ice cream is finished it will be a thick, soft-serve consistency. You can fill some organic cones, dip into additional chopped nuts and chocolate, and freeze to make "ice cream cannoli."

"Cone-oli" — much better than a junky King Cone!

Or you can further freeze it (just spoon it into a freezer-safe container) for at least a couple hours, till it's very firm. Then you can scoop and serve on cones or in bowls. Garnish with additional chopped nuts and chocolate!

UPDATE: Donika at Mom What's For Dinner tried out our recipe and loved it! Check out her review here.

UPDATE: Culture Magazine: The Word On Cheese featured our ice cream on their website!
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