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Category Archives: Lighter Fare

Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

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This is one of the “meals” (it’s really a side dish but I like to eat it as a meal) I’ve been making for years and usually resurrect come fall/winter.  My family absolutely loves it too, even my little nephew (or at least he did at 4 years old, the last time he ate it)!  I appreciate delicious vegetarian meals that satisfy me and this one fits the bill fo sho. The combination of the creamy squash, chewy barley, crisp red pepper & apple, and the contrasting savories and sweetness–it’s all just magic to me.  And I guess if a four year old boy will relish something that only contains unrecognizable healthy ingredients, it is pretty magical.

Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

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3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups butternut squash, peeled & diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup fat-free chicken or vegetable broth

Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan; add barley. Cover saucepan and simmer barley until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add squash and cook, stirring often, until it’s starting to soften–about five minutes. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Stir in apple, garlic, thyme, black pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until apple is almost tender, about 2 minutes; stir in broth, scraping bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Stir in cooked barley; toss over low heat to mix and coat. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 4, about 1 cup per serving.

Per serving: 192 calories; 4.2 g fat; 0 g cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 5 g protein; 5 Points Plus

Recipe source: WeightWatchers.com

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Quick Veggie Quesadillas

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Secret Recipe Club

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to Itzy’s Kitchen.  Erica lives a healthier lifestyle than I’m living now (she’s a fitness instructor and has lots of yummy, healthy eats on her blog), so browsing her blog got me back into the “healthy thinking mode.”  I wish I didn’t have a switch that was either turned to “healthy” or “totally heart-clogging, butt dimple-building unhealthy,” but unfortunately, this is my history.  I have decided to ease myself back into healthier eating as I need to lose the fifteen or twenty pounds I’ve gained since going off the rails in March, and Erica helped me do that.

I have been making quick stove top meals often this summer, and I was happy to find her recipe for veggie quesadillas because they were 1) healthy, 2) quick, ad 3) easy.  Perfect summer eating.

We really enjoyed these, especially dipped in salsa.  They come together so fast and easy and I know I’ll be making this again.  FYI, if you have leftover filling, it’s great as a hot dip mixed with salsa with cheddar melting on top. But maybe not as healthy if you use as many tortilla chips as I did. >:)

Quick Veggie Quesadillas

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1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained well
1 (11 oz) can Mexican style corn (or 14.5 oz regular corn), drained well
1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
¼ teaspoon cumin
Optional: 1 cup additional vegetables
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
8 flour tortillas (soft-taco size)
Salsa & sour cream for serving

Mix the black beans, corn, chili powder & cumin. If you’d like to add any other vegetables (I added onions), cook them in a skillet until softened and stir into the bean & corn mixture. Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat (you can oil the skillet if you like, but I didn’t) and sprinkle no more than ½ cup cheese over it, then scatter no more than ½ cup of the bean mixture over the cheese. Top with another tortilla. Once the cheese is melted on the bottom, about two minutes, carefully flip the quesadilla over and cook for an additional two minutes to heat through and crisp up the other tortilla. Remove to a plate and cook the remaining three quesadillas. Cut each into 6 triangles and serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Recipe source: adapted from Itzy’s Kitchen



A special thank you to my friends Kriss and Nicole for generously giving me the Japanese steak plates pictured in this post, along with  many other dishes that will be gracing my blog in the future.  They are moving their family to Japan this week and not taking much with them, so I was the happy recepient of much of their dishware. It’s hard to say goodbye and feel like I have to do it too often (Japan has already stolen one of my friends!), but I wish you guys the best!

Greek Chicken with Tzatziki

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I took the above photo on a cold day in February, when there was only about five minutes of daylight left.  I’m sorry if it looks  a little unappealing, it seems somehow off to me but since I started with this:

I can’t be sure. It was just so bad to begin with that I’m really happy I got it to come this far! lol

If the photo doesn’t entice you to try this, maybe it will help to know how delicious it is.  I love the tangy yogurt sauce with the tender, flavorful chicken–it’s just perfect.  And it goes great with the Greek Salad I posted yesterday!  If you don’t want to heat up your kitchen, just slide the pieces of meat onto skewers and grill them. (If using wooden skewers, please soak them in water for half an hour so they don’t catch on fire during grilling.)  Bet they’d taste even better off the grill!

Greek Chicken with Tzatziki

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Chicken:
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon coriander
Salt and pepper

Tzatziki:
1 medium cucumber
1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix the oil, juice, vinegar, and seasonings together and marinate the chicken for 30 minutes but no longer or the texture of the chicken will change and won’t be as good.

While the chicken marinates, prepare the Tzatziki. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard. Shred the cucumber (you should get about 1 cup of cucumber), then wrap in several layers of paper towel and squeeze it dry. Mix with the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then place a cooling rack on top of it. Spray the rack with oil, then remove the chicken from marinade and place on the rack. Dab the remaining marinade over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with tzatziki and Greek Salad.

Recipe source: Eat Little, Eat Big

Greek Salad

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Since this is my first blog of the week, I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping Thankful Thursday in favor of a recipe for Greek salad.  I made it months ago and kept forgetting to share it, but now that the weather is heating up and cool, crunchy salads are especially appealing, I knew it was now or never.

I’ve eaten a lot of Greek salads at restaurants and they are always lettuce salads with kalamata olives, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese.  This salad has the same elements but the lettuce is replaced with chopped peppers and cucumber.  The result is a crunchy, more fulfilling salad–it really feels like you’re eating something other than air with some toppings.  And it’s so delicious!  My husband’s favorite salad is a Greek salad and he really went wild for this, somehow managing to eat all but the little bit I managed to grab for myself before he basically confiscated the whole bowl and started murmuring, “My preeeecious.”

It makes a wonderful side dish for a Mediterranean meal and I’ll be sharing the recipe for the chicken I served it with tomorrow.

Greek Salad

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Dressing:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic (from a jar is fine)
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Salad:
1 large cucumber, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed then chopped
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
12 large kalamata olives, quartered
1 cup diced green pepper
¾ cup thinly sliced red onion
3.5 oz good quality feta cheese, diced

Mix the dressing together and store at room temperature until ready to serve, preferably overnight to allow the flavors to develop. Combine salad ingredients, shake the dressing and add half of it, then gently stir everything together. Add more dressing to taste.

Recipe source: Eat Little, Eat Big

***

P.S. As you can see from the video ad below, I’ve been approved for participation in WordPress’s WordAds program.  I’ve been blogging with WordPress for more than two years without having any affiliates or any other monetary support.  I never thought I would want ads on my blog, but I applied for this program on a whim since applying doesn’t mean you’ll get accepted or that you even have to do it if you get accepted.  I was approved and I decided to try it out on a trial basis.  The two commercials I have watched were tasteful and well done, one was actually really informative, comparing our country’s standard of living to other countries with statistics, and I do like that it is optional to my readers to watch them, so I hope you enjoy the ads you do choose to watch.

My reason for not having ads until now has been a fear of turning my blog into work instead of something I do for fun, turning my concentration from creativity to money.  So far there’s no difference in my thinking, so maybe I can make a few cents while I’m having fun without it spoiling my fun. :)

Watermelon Black Bean Salsa

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For the Holiday Recipe Club‘s Memorial Day blog hop, the secret ingredients to choose from were watermelon, beer, and pork.  I think I’m on a salsa kick because my last recipe for the HRC on Cinco de Mayo was for Fresh Mild Salsa, and the first thing I thought of when I saw that watermelon was one of the ingredients for Memorial Day was the salsa recipe my hair dresser gave me back in February.  I have been craving it ever since I read the recipe, imagining how wonderful it must taste, and I was trying to wait until watermelon were truly in season here in Wichita to try it (that happens in August for us), but with the added incentive of the Holiday Recipe Club blog hop, I knew the time had come.

This stuff is the bomb, yo!  The only change I made was to add in some lime juice, which I feel was essential to achieve the salsa flavor and balance the sweetness of the watermelon.  The beans, which may seem strange, are somehow a perfect fit with the flavors & textures.  I could eat this as a meal, it is so good!  It is juicy, and seriously addictive.  It is, however, best if eaten within four hours of making it as the watermelon leaks more and more water and becomes mushy after a while.  To serve this at your Memorial day barbecue or another gathering,  just have the watermelon prepped in a separate container than the other ingredients, then stir them all together and refrigerate an hour before serving and you’ll have a bowl of salsa perfection ready to wow your guests.

Watermelon Black Bean Salsa

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2 cups diced seedless watermelon
3/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Juice from 1/2 a lime
2 teaspoons brown sugar, packed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Tortilla chips

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients but the chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Drain if necessary before serving. Serve with chips within 2-3 hours of making.

Yield: 3-1/2 cups.

Veronica’s Note: I advise wearing latex gloves when handling and dicing the jalapenos, as the oils can burn your skin.

Recipe source: Jennifer L.

A big thank you to Erin for creating this club!  I’m having a lot of fun with it.  If you’d like to join or find out more, check out the Holiday Recipe Club website.  And don’t forget to check out the other Memorial Day recipes by clicking the linky frog below.



Asian Lettuce Wraps

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I’m still on vacation but, SURPRISE!  I had another blog scheduled.  :)

This is one of the fabulous recipes I made on the first cycle of the 17 Day Diet, one that I would eat whether I was on a diet or not, and one I intend to eat again soon.  I doubt it is any sort of copycat PF Changs recipe, but it is good, nonetheless, and doesn’t use any pre-made, packaged sauces for flavoring, which is the main reason I chose this recipe over others.  I didn’t want the sugar you find in those sauces!  I did think it needed a hint of sweet to compliment the other flavors, so I added some stevia, but that’s totally optional.

This recipe makes a large family-sized batch, and I took it for lunch a couple days.  Eating lettuce wraps with a dipping sauce is a bit messier than I’d like for a work lunch, so I just put a bunch of lettuce in a bowl then heated the filling at work and dumped it on top, then drizzled the sauce over.  And voila!  Asian Lettuce Wrap salad.  The easier way to eat lettuce wraps!

Asian Lettuce Wraps

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2 teaspoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh shredded ginger
20 oz 97% lean ground turkey (or ground chicken breasts)
5 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups bagged coleslaw mix or finely shredded cabbage
1 (8 oz) can water chestnuts, drained, and finely minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 packet NuNaturals stevia powder, or other sweetener to taste
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ to 1 teaspoon sriracha (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 heads iceberg lettuce

Dipping/Drizzling Sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 packet NuNaturals stevia powder, or 2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoons fresh shredded ginger

Heat an extra-large skillet to medium-high heat on the stovetop. When hot, add oil and then garlic and ginger. Saute for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the turkey, mushrooms, and salt. Cook for about five minutes, breaking the turkey up and stirring often until it is cooked through. Drain off the broth, and add the cabbage, water chestnuts, and green onions. Cook until the cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes, then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, stevia, lemon zest and juice, and sriracha if desired. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

To prepare the dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients and whisk to combine.

To serve, carefully remove each individual leaf from the head(s) of lettuce, place chicken mixture on the leaves and serve with sauce.

Recipe source: adapted from Our Best Bites

Secret Recipe Club

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

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You may have noticed I’m no longer posting regularly.  I have a feeling that’s how VC will be from now on, with periodic posts when I have the time.  While I hope my sporadic posting doesn’t bother any of my readers, I likely wouldn’t begin to post regularly for your sake at the expense of my own, so it would help my conscience out a lot if you would just be OK with it.  Thanks. :)

Onto the pudding.  I know it sounds weird, but you just have to try this to believe it how good it is.  Even my avocado-hating husband loves this pudding!  Basically it’s just avocado blended up with cocoa powder and agave nectar to create a sweet, silky, perfectly chocolate-y pudding.  No dairy, no refined sugar, no gluten, no cooking, just blending and eating of the most delicious & wholesome dessert ever…refrigeration totally optional.  We couldn’t wait and ate ours as soon as it was blended and it was fabulous.  But I bet it would be even better cold.

Chovocado Pudding

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1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and quarter the avocado. Put all the ingredients in a Magic Bullet or food processor and blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe source: Forgiving Martha

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