Category Archives: Weeknight Meals

Insta-Healthy Food Photos


Hey snap happy Instagrammers!  Looks like those food photos you stand on chairs to get just the right angle, add filters to enhance the drool factor and make your friends wait before digging in….are helping you stay healthier!

(Oatmeal cookies with dried berries, banana and peanut butter above, by the way.)

How so? Well, according to University of Washington researchers who studied Insta-food grams, keeping track of what you eat and how much acts as a online food journal.

PeachDish, home meal delivery kit fans, are ALL OVER Instagram sharing the beauty of their latest dish creations. As one of the registered dietitian nutritionists who works with PeachDish, I am happy to report that posting and sharing nutritious and delicious PeachDish meals on Instagram can be a great way to food journal.

I SEE WHAT YOU’RE EATING

And since you are sharing with the world, it’s not a secret note in your private diary. People are paying attention. Did YOU really eat that a whole bunch of donuts, cookies, nacho chips, fries ? Of course, you didn’t.

It was definitely a kale salad with a rhubarb infused vinaigrette.

 

MORE ON THAT INSTA-STUDY

This new study from University of Washington researchers  -presented at the 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems- describes how some people turn to Instagram to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals.

The online Instagram community uses #fooddiary  and #foodjournal hashtags. #goodidea

EVERYBODY’S DOING IT!

“It’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird,” said UW human centered design and engineering doctoral student Christina Chung.

The interviewees ( there were 16 by the way) said support from other Instagram users ( !LIKE!) helped them stick to their healthy eating goals. It also encouraged them to be more honest about what they were eating.

What’s on your Insta-Plate?

Tips for Food Journaling. Writing or Snapping

  • Be consistent. Try to capture all meals, snacks and beverages. Yes, fries from someone else’s plate do count!
  • Keep track of quantities. It’s OK to splurge but keep portions sensible. If you crave a glazed donut, have one. Food journaling helps you keep track of how often you ‘splurge’!
  • On Instagram, review your grid. The last 9 photos are called your ‘quilt’. Do you see a pattern? This is a snap shot to help you assess meal patterns.
  • Reach out to support others on Instagram who are also using the photo-app to keep a food journal. #foodjournal #fooddiary

Are you ready for your close up?

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Montana Meatloaf Recipe

Montana Meatloaf: best. meatloaf. ever.

img_7188 Sometimes the best souvenirs are memories of uniquely wonderful dishes that add a delicious dimension to travel experiences.

This veggie packed meatloaf recipe created by Executive Chef Josh Drage of The Ranch at Rock Creek is beautiful when sliced revealing jewel like pieces of carrot and celery.

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Take a bite, close your eyes and ‘taste travel’ to the ranch lands of western Montana.

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Thank you to Gena Berry of Culinary Works for translating chef’s measurements into home cook lingo.

 

The Ranch at Rock Creek Montana Meatloaf

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Ingredients:

1 teaspoon, olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 carrots, peeled, 1/2″ dice

3 stalks celery, 1/2″ dice

1 medium onion, peeled, 1/2″ dice

1 large egg

1/2 cup part skim ricotta

1 shake hot sauce

1 teaspoon, salt

1/2 teaspoon, black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped

¼ cup breadcrumbs

1 lb. lean ground beef

 

Directions:

In a large sauté’ pan, heat oil and sauté’ shallot until soft and starting to caramelize.   Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until just softened. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg with a large fork, stir in the ricotta, hot sauce, salt, pepper and sautéed vegetables to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and ground beef and gently stir until well mixed.

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Form the mixture into a slender loaf and bake on a sheet pan.

 

 

 

 

Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, until a meat thermometer reaches 160°, about an hour.

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Let the meat loaves rest a bit, then slice using a serrated knife into once inch thick slices. Serve with roasted new potatoes garnished with fresh thyme.

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More on the Ranch at Rock Creek.http://www.ranchatrockcreek.com  From trout fishing to taking a spin on the mountain bike parked outside your door, this getaway is the essence of ‘glamping’!

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Stay in the main house or tuck away into the tented suites complete with footed bathtubs and a fire pit to warm your feet next to the gurgling creek steps outside.

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This western Montana Relais & Chateau property is an outdoor lover’s western adventure and luxe lover’s fresh air pampering all under the same big sky.

 

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Easy Holiday Side Dishes

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It’s the holiday season with lots of festive get togethers. Hope you’re ready to put on your sparkle and get those parties!

But as an invited guest you may generously ask the host, “What can I bring?”

If their answer is “Why don’t you just bring a side dish?” I’ve got you covered.

Here are some great tasting crowd pleasing recipes that just so happen to be super easy to prepare. I created a buffet of EASY HOLIDAY SIDES for NBC Atlanta & Company.

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And if you shop at ALDI food markets, they’re super affordable too. Have you ever been to and ALDI? No frills, but all fabulous.

ALDI is a great place to buy holiday essentials like fresh seasonal produce and organics, dairy, gluten-free foods, USDA choice beef and bakery items, priced up to 50 percent less than at other traditional grocery stores.

Disclosure: I’m working with ALDI this holiday season to get the word out on their great food products, award winning wines and all you need for holiday bash. Find lots more tips, inspiration and recipe ideas at ALDI Holiday Hub. 

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Look at this Holiday haul! Everything including the wine!

First Side Up! Twice Baked Butternut Squash

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Cut a butternut squash in half, bake and then scoop out the insides leaving enough skin to create your ‘boat’. Mix mashed butternut squash with honey goat cheese, …well hold on…here’s the recipe from ALDI Holiday Hub website.

Twice-Baked Butternut Squash

SERVINGS: 8 | COST PER SERVING: $1.12† | PREP: 10 MIN | COOK: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 5 ounces Happy Farms Preferred Honey Goat Cheese Log, crumbled, divided
  • 1/4 cup Friendly Farms Half & Half
  • 2 tablespoons Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 5 ounces Southern Grove Dried Mixed Berries
  • 2 teaspoons Stonemill Pumpkin Pie Spice*
  • Stonemill Table Salt, to taste
  • Stonemill Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Southern Grove Chopped Pecans

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large baking dish, place butternut squash cut side up. Add hot water, cover with foil. Bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, discard water, allow to cool. Scoop out tender parts of squash leaving skin intact.

In a medium bowl, combine squash, 3 ounces of goat cheese, half & half, melted butter, mixed berries, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Scoop mixture back into squash skin, top with remaining goat cheese and chopped pecans. Bake until mixture is slightly firm, approximately 10-12 minutes.

Change oven setting to broil.

Broil until cheese is browned, approximately 5-8 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Morgan, ALDI Test Kitchen

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How about these Tomato and Goat Cheese Santas? Stuffed with garlic and herb goat cheese, they are an adorable addition to any holiday party and are pop-in-your-mouth easy to eat and delicious! Top a hollowed out cheery tomato with a grape tomato half as the hat! OK…it’s my secret holiday mission to get folks to eat more fruits and vegetables during the holidays…and all year long!

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If you’re going to build and bring a cheese and meat platter to a party don’t forget to add the fresh fruit to add good taste and good fresh seasonal nutrition. The gourmet cheeses including a white cheddar with cranberry and a beautiful brie cheese are from…you guessed it…ALDI.

Pears are in season right now and add a naturally fresh sweet taste to cheese platters. A included Anjou (brown) and Bartlett (green) pears to my platter on Atlanta & Company. Thank you USA Pears!

Oh, and to round things out….how about a little indulgence with teeny tiny bites of cheesecake and wonderful chocolate covered gingerbread cookies, too. The wines, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Italian Prosecco are wines from ALDI’s award winning and super affordable wine collection.

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Ok let’s get to the party!!!! Happy Holidays everyone! And THANK YOU Mallory for your fab food styling skills! You made everything look sooooo great! More plaid please. (:

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SLIM Healthy Holiday Hacks

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It’s the holiday season and time for you to sparkle too.

Enjoy yourself and know that weight loss is a rare bird during this season of indulgence. But you don’t have to gain any weight.

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In fact, maintaining your weight should be the goal so that you don’t wake up on January 1st with a bigger New Year’s diet resolution than you had anticipated.

SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK  There’s a reason it’s called SLIM!

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I have four tips and they spell out the word SLIM!

S- Savor the fresh flavors of the season (enjoy in season squash, apples, dark greens and citrus)
L- Linger longer ( take your time and be mindful of flavors )
I- Indulge a Little ( choose smart portions of splurge foods)
M- Make it Happen (go walking, say no to sugar sweetened beverages)

 

Please enjoy this video from NBC Atlanta & Company where I explain it all…plus an easy holiday appetizer. Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Mango.

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Happy National Sandwich Day

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BLT with Avocado from Liza’s Kitchen in Panama City Beach, FL

Every food has its day and November 3rd has been designated ( not sure by whom originally) as National Sandwich Day.

What’s your favorite?

From hero to gyros, sandwiches are easy to eat and even easier to love. History or legends that became history tell us that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in jolly old England ‘invented’ what became know as the sandwich in the 1700’s. The story goes that he was an avid gambler and rather than leaving the hot pursuit of winning cards to take a meal, he ordered meat between two slices of bread so he could use one hand to keep the cards going  and one hand to fend of hunger.

The most popular sandwich in the US, according to a number of polls, is the …drum roll……. turkey sandwich, followed by ham and chicken.  But, sandwich lovers and sandwich crafters know no bounds of creativity.

Here are a few ideas to add style and good nutrition to the great sandwich.

Add blueberries to a grilled cheese sandwich. Why not? the sweet pop of the blueberries warmed on the griddle and matched with a melty gouda or white cheddar is delicious.

We all know the BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato. But why not make a BLAT and add slices of ripe avocado to the stack. Avocados add a luscious creaminess and healthy fats to the mix.

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Pile your sandwich high with salads inside. The Chopped Chicken Sandwich with Crunchy Pecan and Apple Slaw is great way to enjoy veggies and fruit right between the bread.  Recipe is from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon.

 

 

Perhaps the Earl of Sandwich would have been even luckier at the tables with this healthy improvement over simply meat and bread.

 

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What’s your beef?

The story begins with the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. Yes, it’s chock fun of vegetables. The carrots look like jewels when it’s cooked. Thank you chef Josh Drage of the Ranch at Rock Creek in cowboy boot central Montana.

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Welcome to the Ranch at Rock Creek in the Big Sky Country of Montana.

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Yup, this is why they call it Big Sky Country.

The Ranch at Rock Creek is near the historically charming small town of Philipsburg, MT and one of the very special properties on the lux list of Relais & Chateau. 

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Let’s get this glamping party started. Surrounded by wildlife and luxury, it’s so quite that you can hear the creek babbling and the birds singing.

 

 

Activities include horseback riding, hiking, fishing and I loved getting around on my bicycle. The gravel crunches under your wheels and the wind whistles in the trees. Ahhhhhh.

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Finally caught a trout! My guide looks happier than me.

 

 

 

 

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Hiking with my friend Carol Anne Kelly to The Top of the World summit above the ranch. OK, now we’ve worked up a ranch hand appetite so back to that meatloaf!

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I added mushrooms to the mix to create a healthy blend of half pound ( 8 ounces) of fresh mushrooms mixed with one pound of ground meat ( I used ground chuck). The mushrooms add moisture, flavor and take the place of some of the beef, so the meatloaf is lower in total fat. Mushrooms are also a good source of many nutrients including vitamin D. Surprise!

Chef Josh Drage’s Montana Meatloaf features carrots, leeks, an egg, and breadcrumbs and was fabulous. I added the mushrooms for even more vegetable variety.

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The more you know, the more you can eat. That’s the food philosophy I believe in as a registered dietitian and healthy foodie. So if you thought you had to cut beef out of your diet to eat more healthfully, I have good news. You can enjoy beef and a healthy lifestyle.

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Watch the TV Segment here

The secret is learning how to prepare leaner cuts of beef and knowing that three ounces provides 25 grams of protein and 10 other nutrients including iron, B vitamins and zinc. These nutrients help build and repair muscles, maintain brain function, protect cells from damage and help convert food into fuel giving us energy. For lots more on beef and good nutrition as well as a list of leaner cuts and how to prepare them I like this website: www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com 

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Meanwhile…..back at the Ranch………a little sunset wine time with freshly baked tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa.  I love camping!!!

 

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Personal Chef for Busy Weeknights (in your freezer!)

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Weeknights are often busy nights with after school activities, late hours at the office and let’s face it America….the stress of fighting rush hour traffic just to get home.  The dream scene of a home cooked meal made from scratch every night is just that…a dream scene…so why not rely on your freezer as your personal chef a few nights a week?

Whether you’ve batch cooked and frozen entrees on the weekend, when you had a little extra time….or you simply reach in and find a frozen entree prepared by chefs in their professional kitchens…the freezer really is your best friend.  I’m happy to be a spokesperson for Stouffer’s where dietitians and chefs work together to come up with recipes that really are the win-win for taste and health. Their meals are freshly made and simply frozen.

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Stouffer’s Lasagna Meat and Sauce

Stouffer’s Lasagna with meat and sauce is certainly a family favorite and guess what? One serving contains 18 grams of protein and only 300 calories.

There are no preservatives because the freezer does the preserving!

Oh and now the ingredient label reads like a recipe with vine ripened tomatoes, freshly made pasta and real mozzarella listed on the package. It’s Stouffer’s new “Kitchen Cupboard” commitment to simplify recipes to include ingredients we all can recognize (and immediately start getting hungry!).

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Farmers Market Fall Salad

OK, you’ve dashed in the door. The lasagna is baking in the oven. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, hug the kids, get them started on their homework and toss a salad. Don’t want another boring salad? Then, I say, don’t make one. I have two recipes for easy to make and easy to love weeknight salads from my Slim Down South Cookbook that help you balance your plate.

I work with the good folks at Stouffer’s on their #balanceyourplate nutrition campaign.  Did you know that the majority of American families don’t eat the number of fruits, vegetables and whole grains they should for a balanced diet?

So let’s fix that by fixing a well balanced dinner.

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It’s fall y’all! So toss in some of fall’s deliciously crisp apples into a salad. Apples are a good source of vitamin C , potassium and fiber.

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Arugula, grapefruit, grapes and avocado salad

Or if you like grapes, cut them in half and toss into a salad with avocado and grapefruit segments. I like to top with crunchy sunflower seeds for even more good nutrition.

 

 

Here’s another way to #balanceyourplate. While the Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat and Cheese is baking and starting to fill the kitchen with ‘I can’t wait for dinner’ aromas…..go back to your freezer and find frozen green peas to make a great sweet pea hummus.

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The kids ..and you…can dip carrot chips or whole grain crackers into the pea hummus ( another great source of fiber, potassium and protein) for a healthy snack to tide them over before you serve the lasagna and salad. Recipe: green peas in blender, a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Whirr, stir and serve. Smile.

 

So, using your freezer as a personal chef not only helps balance your plate, it helps balance your life because you’ll have more time to talk to the. kids, relax and enjoy those family meals on busy weeknights.

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Now, this is the way to celebrate good nutrition and great taste on any night!

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RECIPES FROM THE SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK by registered dietitian, healthy foodie, Carolyn O’Neil

Farmers’ Market Fall Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing  

Hit the farmers market or your super market produce section for delicious seasonal vegetables. Can’t decide what to toss in a salad, toss it all in to celebrate your fresh finds.

Makes 8 servings

1 green apple, diced

1 red apple, diced

½ cup thinly sliced green onion

1 cup chopped baby kale

1 cup sliced Napa cabbage

1 cup sliced red cabbage

½ cup golden raisins

Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing

Makes 12 servings

Hands-On 5 min.

Total 5 min.

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup honey

2 Tbsp. hot sauce

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. celery salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Serving size 1 Tbsp. CALORIES 43; FAT 2.4g (sat 0.2g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CARB 6.1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 146mg; CALC 1mg

 

 

 

 

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Endless Summer Produce

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It may be time for back to school for lots of families nationwide, but summer is still in full swing in farmer’s markets and the supermarket produce section.  Peaches, berries, summer squash and melons – all kinds of melons are ripe for the picking and deliciously nutritious.  I’ve shared a couple of recipes from The Slim Down South Cookbook below.

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Back to work after summer vacation often means busy weeknights. But that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the fresh tastes of summer produce. Why not celebrate the fabulously fresh with the wonderfully easy to prepare microwavable frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef? It comes with brown rice and vegetables and I added a cup of snow peas to balance the plate. The Lean Cuisine website is beautiful with lots of nutrition information to explore. “Freshly made, simply frozen” is a great way to describe the variety of entrees inspired by global cuisines and close to home comfort foods.

Nestle’s Balance Your Plate campaign provides great information on nutrition, portion control and creative combos for satisfying meals.  I added a parfait of fresh berries and a cup of steamed summer squash and zucchini with onions to a plate starring Lean Cuisine Roasted Turkey and Vegetables.

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You can add your own creativity to the table too. Lean Cuisine’s Vermont Cheddar Mac n Cheese is beautiful when you add broccoli florets. Or even if it’s a weeknight why not enjoy Lobster Mac n Cheese?  I bought a lobster tail for $6.99, boiled it in water (with some lemon juice added) for about six minutes until the shell turns bright red and the meat is translucent. Plunge the lobster tail in ice water to cool. Remove the meat from the tail by slicing through the center of the shell longwise and pull out the meat. Chop it up and add to the mac n cheese! Fancy but soooo easy.

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SUMMER PRODUCE RECIPES from The Slim Down South Cookbook: As seen on NBC Atlanta & Company with host Christine Pulara! 

Here’s the link to the TV Segment: CLICK HERE

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Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Glaze

Adding a bit of savory blue cheese and salty prosciutto (optional) to sweet watermelon makes for a wonderful combination. Brush the watermelon wedges with a bit of oil to keep them from sticking to the grill.

Makes 12 servings

Hands-On 20 min.

Total 20 min.

3 (½-inch-thick) watermelon rounds, quartered

1 Tbsp. olive oil

⅛ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

2 tsp. bottled balsamic glaze

  1. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Brush both sides of each watermelon quarter with olive oil, and season with desired amount of salt and pepper. Cut prosciutto into thin strips.2. Grill watermelon quarters, without grill lid, 1 minute on each side or until grill marks appear.3. Transfer watermelon to a serving plate; top with blue cheese, prosciutto strips, and fresh basil. Drizzle watermelon with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.Serving size 1 wedge CALORIES 44; FAT 3g (sat 1.2g, mono 1.2g, poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 7g; CARB 2g; FIBER 0.1g; CHOL 7mg; IRON 0.2mg; SODIUM 213mg; CALC 28mg

 

Tipsy Melon Salad

Cantaloupe is packed with vitamins A & C for eye and skin healthy, plus it’s is a good source of the B vitamin folate, which is critical for pregnant women. It’s high water content also makes it super hydrating for hot summer months.

Raspberry liqueur and vodka give this colorful spiked fruit salad its lighthearted moniker. Liven up a weeknight dinner party, or skip the booze if it’s a ‘school night’.

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 16 min.

Total 1 hour, 16 min.

2 cups cubed honeydew

2 cups cubed cantaloupe

1.3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

⅔ cup sugar

½ cup vodka ( optional)

⅓ cup black raspberry liqueur (optional)

¹/₁₆ tsp. fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Place melon cubes in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together lemon juice and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Pour lemon juice mixture over watermelon balls; stir gently to coat. Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours.

3. Gently toss melon. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint. Serve immediately with a slotted spoon.

Serving size about 1 cup CALORIES 228; FAT 0.1g (sat 0g, mono 0g, poly 0g); PROTEIN 0.7g; CARB 41.5g; FIBER 0.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.5mg; SODIUM 25mg; CALC 14m

Many thanks to Nestle and Lean Cuisine. It’s a pleasure working with you to help happy, healthy folks learn to Balance Your Plate!

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