Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers

Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers 1

They always say you want what you can’t have, right?

Well, I’d kill for a cold IPA in this muggy August weather. And sushi? Oh lord, does some sushi sound phenomenal right about now. And don’t get me started on luncheon meat. I never had any desire to touch the stuff before pregnancy and now, I wish it were a staple in my diet. You know, without it being heated and all that jazz…but I make it work. Turkey sandwiches have been my one and only true pregnancy craving, after all.

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But who wants just a plain’ol sandwich? Not I. And of course I try to stay away from too much of the “good” stuff — cheese, mayonnaise…you know what I mean. I try to pile my sandwiches high with lots of good-for-you stuff like veggies that provide not only texture and nutrition, but big flavor. Even bigger flavor when you think outside the box and can incorporate something garlicy, spicy, or pickled.

NOW we’re talkin’.

Pickles are a great option, but I wanted to take things further…

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…and appease that spicy-lovin’ husband of mine…along with using up some of the MANY jalapenos and banana peppers our garden is turning out now that summer is actually…well, summer.

I used a basic refrigerator pickling concoction of salt, sugar, and vinegar but added to it McCormick Whole Peppercorns, McCormick Crushed Red Pepper, and McCormick Minced Onion. I was also happy with the variety of the cucumber and pepper combo — something mild, medium, and hot to balance the other ingredients out perfectly. Now, I just need to make more to last through the winter and to keep my sandwiches from being anything but boring.

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp kosher salt
  • ½ Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups white vinegar
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 6 banana peppers, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a wide mouth one quart mason jar with lid, combine the sugar, salt, peppercorns, minced onion, crushed red pepper, garlic, and vinegar; shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds or until sugar and salt are well-dissolved.
  2. Add the cucumber, jalapeno, and banana pepper slices to the jar and top off with water that fills the jar nearly full to the brim. Fasten the lid and gently shake the jar to mix contents. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 days and up to 6 months before consuming.
Notes
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post as a contribution to the 2014 McCormick Health & Wellness Blogger Program. All opinions are my own.

If you’re new to pickling, rest assured that unlike canning, it’s incredibly simple and can incorporate ingredients you already have on hand – everything from spices to fruit to herbs. Get creative – there’s no right or wrong! McCormick has some great quick pickling recipes to try. Of special interest to me are the Easy Kimchi Slaw and the Asian-Style Pickled Vegetables, which show off the versatility of pickling, going beyond toppers and venturing into slaws and salads. Yum!

And, now I want pickled anything for breakfast ;)

Be well,

sig4

Easy Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles + Weekly Menu

Easy Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles 1

No, this won’t be some diatribe about how the pregnant woman NEEEEEEEEDED pickles stat.

But the pickles I made (8 quarts for anyone curious :-D ) a few weeks ago are…safe. Power has been restored to my humble abode after a full 3 1/2 days without. I’ve never been so glad for Mr. Prevention’s thinking on his toes as he ran out to Home Depot at the crack of dawn last Tuesday morning for a generator. We were without power from late Monday evening until Thursday afternoon. As the days passed, areas around us…all areas around us, it seemed, had power restored and it was as if we were the lone rangers left to battle the elements and live like cavemen. It is kind of nice not having spent time straightening my hair in the past 5 days…

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My in-laws were planning to head up to Michigan for the weekend, but my father-in-law had an unfortunate freak accident which included breaking his elbow (OW!) and having surgery on Thursday (Owww). So instead, we packed up the Sentra and headed their way on Thursday after work. With leftovers (since we had no way of heating them all week long). And with pickles. And with all of the other 4th of July travelers (ugh).

My father-in-law and I not only share a love for really great IPA’s (let’s not talk about those, though…such a tease), but also know a darn good pickle when we taste one.

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The weekend in central Illinois was spent eating at all of Mr. Prevention’s favorite local dining establishments, watching a hot dog eating contest (not kidding), lounging around, watching the dogs tolerate one another, reading (good book!), Pinterest-ing, shopping for baby stuff til I could drop and finalizing our registry…and watching fireworks.

And then last night, enjoying a cookout…with pickles. Burgers, corn, potatoes, veggies…and pickles. Perfection!

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Easy Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Simply the best! My summer isn't complete without these pickles (no, I'm not exaggerating). I do not know the exact nutrition or sodium content, but the calories are very low (<10 calories/spear). Enjoy!
Ingredients
  • 1 quart wide mouth mason jar with lid
  • 4 pickling cucumbers ("cukes")
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water + more, as needed
Instructions
  1. Quarter the cucumbers into four slices each, lengthwise, or cut into ¼-inch chips. Cut the garlic cloves in quarters.
  2. In an extra mason jar or covered container, combine coriander seeds, sugar, kosher salt and vinegar. Tightly close the lid and shake vigorously until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add 1 cup water to the mixture.
  3. In the clean mason jar, tightly pack the sliced cucumbers, sliced garlic, and sprigs of fresh dill.
  4. Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers. Tap the jar on the counter to release any air bubbles and top off the jar with extra water if any cucumbers are exposed.
  5. Place the lid on the jar and screw on the ring until it is tight. Leave the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours before tasting (best after at least 1-2 weeks, however). The pickles last up to 12 months refrigerated.
Notes
Recipe from A Couple Cooks

 My weekly menu isn’t much as I’ll be mostly fending for myself this week…

Weekly Menu: July 6th – July 10th

Not sure what’s on the agenda today, but I’m just glad it’s not Monday yet :-D

Be well,

sig4

Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos {vegan}

Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos 1

Yesterday was such an off day – eating wise and just in general.

I was beyond exhausted by the time I got home from work. I held down the couch for 30 minutes or so to gain a second wind for the evening. Where’s this second trimester bliss I hear pregnant women raving about? I was also starving all day and all I wanted was sugar. This is all the more ironic because it was also my once monthly diabetes cooking class where we whipped together a beautiful spinach salad and a potato salad made with avocado instead of mayonnaise. Healthy samples, followed by French onion soup (with cheese and croutons…mmm) and a scoop of blueberry cobbler. Why does the cook torture me so? Sometimes working in a kitchen is such a curse…

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When I got home, Mr. Prevention was starved. He wolfed down SIX tacos while I munched on 2 of them, wishing all the while that I could be slurping up some soft serve. I even considered baking off just a few break and bake cookies straight from the freezer. I talked myself out of it, but before long, I was asking Mr. Prevention to run out and get me soft serve as I was already in my jammies.

Having talked myself out of soft serve and letting him off the hook (mental note: husbands will sometimes do really nice things for their pregnant wife…), I went to the pantry to find what was available that was sweet. There was the Almond Joy frosting my friend Kristen got me for Christmas. I know that’s trouble waiting to happen. There was M&M’s but those weren’t sounding appealing. There was all of Mr. P’s favorites that don’t interest me – Twizzlers, Reese’s Pieces, etc.

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 I ended up with Teddy Grahams…dipped in Biscoff cookie spread. I should’ve ended up with the bing cherries that are oh so fabulous right now, but…ugh. I guess we all have those days…pregnant dietitians or otherwise. I vow to make today a healthier day!

One recent meal we enjoyed that was extremely healthy and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber were these Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos. They were met with some resistance from husband, of course, but as with most things Mexican-esque, they were enjoyed by all. This type of meal is perfect for the abundant summer produce that will be consuming us all in the coming weeks – squash, zucchini, onion, and so much more. This time of year should be chock full of fruits and vegetables, Nicole.

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Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 (2 tacos each)
 
Next time, I may use a white potato vs sweet potato so the sweet flavor doesn't overpower the spice, but that's just personal preference! These were great!
Ingredients
  • 1 yellow squash, ¾-inch diced
  • 1 zucchini, ¾-inch diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, ¾-inch diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and ¾-inch diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10 oz) can original Ro-Tel (tomatoes + chiles)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set side.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the squash, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, potato, and olive oil; toss to coat. Arrange veggies in an even layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes, stir, roast another 15 minutes, stir again, and roast one more time for 15 minutes (45 minutes total).
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the black beans and Ro-Tel tomatoes over low heat to heat through. Add cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano, mix well.
  4. Once through roasting, stir the roasted veggies into the skillet with the beans and Rotel, stir to combine. Serve the hot vegetable and bean mixture in corn tortillas with desired toppings.
Notes
Recipe from Recipe Girl
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 tacos Calories: 281 Fat: 6.7 Carbohydrates: 47.7 Sugar: 7.7 Sodium: 526 Fiber: 10.0 Protein: 7.7 Cholesterol: 0

 Ready for the sun again…where’d it go? :)

Be well,

sig4

Meatless Monay: General Tso’s Tofu

General Tso's Tofu 1

Last week I had the honor of speaking at the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic Annual Meeting in Bay City (if you were there, make my day and say hi in a comment!). The whole 2 days was amazing — meeting RD’s from around the state, learning (because let’s face it, I’m a total nerd), and truthfully, getting away from the daily grind…if only for a few days. Who knew I could be presentable and on time with a mere 20 minutes in the morning? I factor in at least an hour of “other” time in my mornings and somehow, I don’t see how that could be less with the duties of home life.

I know, I know…that will be 2+ hours of “other” time once baby comes!

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I presented with Colleen of Nutrition Rendition – she’s a Michigan State grad and going on to complete her dietetic internship. Our breakout session was very well-attended and there were people even lining the back wall. We were expecting 80, but it sure seemed like more! I don’t normally get overly nervous with presentations, but I was. Very much so.

But, the presentation went great. Attendees asked great questions. And best of all, I got to share with other nutrition professionals something I’m so passionate about: being a credible online voice for nutrition in the way of blogging and communicating nutrition messages online in general. It’s hard to believe I’ve been contributing to this little blog of mine for nearly FIVE YEARS. Time really does fly.

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As I transition back into the work groove, you know, by the way of returning 241 voicemails and emails today (that was supposed to be an exaggeration, but…it very well may not be), I also transitioned back into this thing called cooking (sadly, the dishes, too). And with that, the endless questions regarding, “What’s for dinner?”

Per the usual, I was able to win over Mr. Prevention with the protein he “hates” most: tofu. With as much flavor (and sadly, sodium) that this dish encompasses, it’s hard to not love this one. Next time, I’m throwing some edamame in with the sauce mixture – I think it’d be the perfect, healthy touch to up the protein, stretch the calories, and add some color, too.

General Tso's Tofu 4

5.0 from 1 reviews
General Tso's Tofu
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • 1 brick extra firm tofu
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drain and soak excess moisture from the tofu by placing it between several layers of paper towel and gently applying pressure. Repeat as needed. Once dry, cut tofu into ¾-inch cubes. Mist a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange tofu in a single layer on the baking sheet and mist tofu with remaining olive oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning tofu once. Tofu should be slightly golden.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients, sugar through ginger in a sauce pan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, whisking regularly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add baked tofu to the sauce pan and carefully stir to coat. Serve over rice and top with green onions, if desired.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Domestic Superhero

The amount of sauce in this recipe is adequate for serving over rice and adding flavor. As stated above, next time I'll add some edamame to up the protein and nutrition.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ⅓ tofu and sauce Calories: 340 Fat: 12.3 Carbohydrates: 44.0 Sugar: 38.0 Sodium: 943 Fiber: 1.7 Protein: 14.7 Cholesterol: 0

 Tomorrow looks to be much kinder than this Monday shaped up to be.

Be well,

sig4

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

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I had a patient yesterday that was absolutely hilarious. Somehow, he wandered onto the topic of what Mr. Prevention likes to eat. People are often curious, I think, as to whether or not I have a lot of say over what Mr. P eats and/or if he eats junk.

The short answer to those questions is that he eats whatever he wants and yes, he eats plenty of junk.

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If you open my pantry you will find: plenty of fun-size candy bars, spicy tortilla chips, Twizzlers, spiced nuts and a few other sodium-packed snacks, cereals such as Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes (both which so happen to be some of my guilty pleasures), in addition to some highly processed skillet dinners that come in boxes. I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea. The man brings plenty of junk into the house and he most definitely consumes it. Regularly. Daily.

Obviously, I love to cook and do so most nights. Lucky for me, Mr. Prevention will eat just about anything I put in front of him…and like it. At least to some extent. He did flat-out refuse the cold avocado soup I once whipped up, but if I’m being honest, that rejection was warranted. Big, big ew.

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So while my husband consumes my home-cooked meals, the truth is he’d be happier with a frozen pizza more nights than not (followed up with about 71 scoops of ice cream). The man could easily live off pizza alone. I never knew I’d have Tombstone to compete with, but in fact, it’s my stiffest competition. What can I say?

Sometimes, though, I get pleasantly surprised. I threw this smoothie in front of hubby not knowing what he’d think. He normally rejects anything made with non-dairy milks, but much to my pleasant surprise, he loved this smoothie. I made it again just to be sure and yep…he sucked it right down again. Must be good…and it’s definitely good for you ;)

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Chocolate Banana Smoothie
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Mildly sweet with a richness from the chocolate. I love that this is naturally sweetened with no guilt!
Ingredients
  • 2 bananas (frozen)
  • 1½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ recipe Calories: 208 Fat: 7.0 Carbohydrates: 38.2 Sugar: 14.5 Sodium: 137 Fiber: 4.5 Protein: 3.0 Cholesterol: 0

 I can almost taste Friday :-D

Be well,

sig4