Welcome to Cook Me Healthy!

On this blog, you will find delicious recipes and fun fitness tips to lead a healthy, yummy life!
All the recipes follow the same philosophy:
*I use real food, whose ingredients I can pronounce, and cook them in the healthiest, tastiest ways possible
*I use herbs and spices to liven your taste buds in order to rely less on added sugar, salt, and fat
*Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, and sucanat are used- white sugar is used sparingly, if at all
*I cook as seasonally and locally as possible for utmost freshness and flavor
*Several recipes are vegetarian and vegan friendly
*I never deny a sweet tooth: the key to eating well is 90% healthy and 10% indulgence!
*All my food is prepared lovingly and mindfully

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Super Simple Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Okay, say that five times fast!!
I LOVE when the farmer's market goes from carrying winter produce to spring produce. Not only is it an official invitation for me to start wearing bright pops of color and retire my heavy coat, but it's also an incredibly verdant, bountiful time in the market. The tall stalks of asparagus standing side by side in bunches, the overflowing pints of local strawberries, the piles of tomatoes can have one (me) practically running to the stands! And let's not forget the vegetable that brought us here in the first place- the sugar snap pea. Bright green, crunchy, and oh so sweet, it just screams to be eaten raw, by the handful, with the merest suggestion of seasoning.
My husband got me into eating sugar snap peas. They're one of his favorite snacks. So when I saw them at the market, I had to buy some. In this recipe, I turned them into an Asian-influenced salad. Very simple, very few ingredients, but with flavors that truly pop.

Makes 4 side servings

1/2 lb sugar snap peas, fibrous stem and strings removed, sliced diagonally into thirds
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce (more or less depending on taste)
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
sesame seeds to sprinkle

Set aside a mixing bowl of ice water. Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil. Add the sliced sugar snap peas and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove the snap peas from the boiling water and place in the ice water. This will stop the cooking and maintain the bright green color. Strain the snap peas out, pat dry, and place in a dry mixing bowl (you can use the same one with the ice water, just make sure it's nice and dry). Add the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and toss together. Just before serving, sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the salad for added crunch and color contrast.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

7 Tips to Getting Dinner Done Faster

I recently read a statistic that households in India and Turkey spend the most time preparing dinner- clocking in at 74 minutes! 74 minutes! That’s well over an hour! I have firsthand seen this lengthy meal preparation, being Indian myself, and being my mother’s right hand woman in the kitchen. All the scrubbing, chopping, sautéing, steaming is certainly time well spent; I just don’t know who has that kind of time anymore!
Below is my list of tips that will cut down on meal prep time and help you get dinner on the table, well, hopefully in less than 74 minutes!
1. Make a meal plan ahead of time and go shopping accordingly: This has saved me and my husband! When we first got married, meal planning was on the fly, ending up in a mad dash to the grocery store, feeling hungry during meal prep, and then, quite often, ordering in. Now, we’ll sit down on Sunday morning and make a day-by-day list of what we’re going to eat, delegate who’s going to cook on which day, and what we need from the market. We then mosey along to the farmer’s market or grocery store and shop for whatever we need. If we’re including chicken or fish that week, we’ll buy that the day-of. Same goes for highly perishable produce. But even that gets delegated so there’s no last-minute confusion or shortage of anything. This way, we don’t have to waste time trying to come up with dinner ideas, and we have all the ingredients on hand, which makes for much speedier meal prep.
2. Have a list of go-to recipes: This goes along with my first tip. If you’re crunched for time, having a list of simple things your family loves is a real time saver. This way, you spend less time racking your brain for what to cook and more time getting dinner done. Even better, keep a folder of cut-out recipes or even a printed list of favorite foods that you can whip out when the need arises.
3. Pre-cut items that you commonly use, or buy pre-cut veggies: I always put kale in my breakfast omelet, so I cut up a whole bunch and store it in the fridge so that on rushed mornings, I can just take out a handful as opposed to going through the whole routine of washing, cutting, and cleaning up. Similarly, if you know you’re going to need carrots on Monday and Wednesday, cut them all up on Monday so they’re ready to go on Wednesday. Generally, produce loses nutrients with any kind of processing, including chopping. But if you know you’re going to use the produce up in a matter of days, go ahead and pre-cut. And remember, if saving time is your priority, you can always buy pre-cut items in the store. They may cost a bit more, but may save you time. 
4. Delegate: If you have a significant other or kids, give them tasks to do. Whether it’s preparing salad while you work on the main course, helping you wash and cut food, or even cleaning up while the food is being prepared, get more hands on deck! Not only do you get to spend time with your loved ones by doing this, but you can also check more tasks off your list in a shorter amount of time. I also recommend delegating one or two cooking days to your significant other or kids (if they’re old enough). That way, you get time to reboot.
5. Cook once, eat twice: My husband and I always designate one day of the week as leftover day. We generally end up cooking way more food than we need anyway, so this works out just fine. Dinner is on the table in less than 10 minutes, and clean up is a minimum.
6. Let meals do double duty: Along the lines of cooking once, eating twice, let meals take on various incarnations during the week. With a little tweaking, those veggies you roasted on Tuesday can star in a stir fry on Wednesday. That pasta you made on Sunday can be tossed into a soup for Monday. Leftovers can be boring, but with a little modification, can be made into brand new dishes. And when most of the dish is already made, you will have significantly cut down kitchen time.
7. Sometimes, semi-homemade is just fine! I’m the crazy girl that insisted on making pasta sauce from scratch. And salsa from scratch. And chicken stock from scratch. Every time I needed these items. So do you know how much time I would spend in the kitchen?!?! 74 minutes, probably. Or even more. And then I’d be so exhausted I didn’t even want to eat. It was crazy, really. Then I unclenched and realized a healthy jar of tomato sauce is just fine. As is salad dressing once in a while. Just check the label to make sure the sodium, sugar, and fat content on these items isn’t astronomical! When I have the time, I absolutely make whatever I can from scratch. But when I’d rather be chatting up my friends or husband, I don’t need to be slaving over things in the kitchen.

Meal prep can be really relaxing for some, but for others, there is so much going on that the priority is to just get food on the table. With some of the above tips, I hope you can find ways to decrease the time you spend over the stove and increase the time you spend around the table. 

Check out this article on MindBodyGreen too!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Slimmed Down Cinco De Mayo Treats- Baked Tortilla Chips and Guacamole

My cousins have an annual tradition of coming in for a fun weekend in NYC during spring break with their kids, and we go all out with yummy treats, games, climbing rocks in the park, and other fun activities. We usually end the night with some ice cream sundaes and a game of charades (girls vs. guys- girls always win!), and then everyone huddles together in my tiny little apartment to sleep. About a week or so before the designated weekend, I tell everyone to send over some requests of what they want to eat. This year, everyone seemed to want guacamole. Overwhelmingly.
So I made guacamole. Which is super delicious and so incredibly healthy it's unreal! The only problem is those little chippy's that come with the guacamole. They're deep fried. Problem number one. They're way over salted. Problem number two. And they're completely irresistible. Problem number three. Which means you can eat a whole bag of them without the slightest hesitation, and then realize you've consumed a LOT of calories.
My solution? Homemade baked corn tortilla chips. Super simple. Very tasty. And the best part is..no one will know they're not deep fried. Everyone was delightfully shocked when I told them I made them at home in the oven. So take your baked chip with some delicious guac and raise your margarita to a slimmed down but ever-so-tasty Cinco De Mayo!!

Makes a lot of guac and a lot of chips!!

For the chips
12 corn tortillas, cut up into 12 wedges
Olive oil for drizzling
1/2 tsp sea salt

For the Guacamole

3 ripe avocados
½ large red onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 jalapeno (check for heat), finely minced
Juice of 3 limes
¼ cup finely minced cilantro
Salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 350degrees. Spread the corn tortilla wedges on 2 baking sheets lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Give the wedges a little toss with your hands to make sure they're evenly coated and seasoned, then spread them back out. Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool. You probably won't even get to the part of storing these, but if you need to, store in a ziplock bag with as much air pushed out as possible. You can re-toast them before serving another time.
For the guacamole, in a medium bowl, mash the avocados to your desired consistency. Add the onion, tomato, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro and salt, and let sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Take to a corner and eat with a lot of chips!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spicy-Minty Watermelon Cucumber Salad

I've been on this kick of pairing 'opposing' flavors in the food and drink I've been having. Take for example a recent spicy-sweet cucumber cocktail I had that blew my socks off! Or a margarita cupcake I made for my friend Robin's birthday, topped with large flakes of gray sea salt. There's something so scrumptious in an unexpected flavor profile!
So for a recent potluck, I decided to take a very simple watermelon salad to the next-next level. I paired the sweet watermelon with salt, some cool mint with a hit of jalapeno, and some kind-of-bland cucumber with some zesty lime...and then tossed it all together to meld. I never thought watermelon could be made better, but these flavor combos really elevated it!

Makes 6-8 servings

2-3 lbs of watermelon (about 1/8 of a whole watermelon), cut into bite-sized chunks
1 small kirby cucumber (or 1/2 of a large cucumber), seeds scooped out, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 jalapeno (more or less depending on what you like), sliced super-thin
2-3 tbsp fresh chopped mint
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine the cucumber, lime zest, lime juice, and jalapeno together in a bowl and refrigerate for about 15-20min. Remove from fridge and add salt. Let stand for a few minutes. Toss the watermelon and mint together, then toss in the cucmber-lime-jalapeno mixture, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and then serve. (If you're not a fan of spicy things, feel free to remove the jalapeno before adding it to the watermelon.)