By Paul McCullough
Mostly homemade chicken soup:
Chicken soup is good for your soul, right? It’s also a cost-effective and hearty lunch you can make in minutes. Choose a low-sodium store-bought rotisserie chicken and chicken broth. This will save so much time … and time is something we all could use a little more of, especially during the holidays.
1 large can or 4 small cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
½ lb white mushrooms, cut into pieces
2 zucchini, cut into pieces
2 yellow squash, cut into pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
1 small can white beans, drained
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 fully cooked rotisserie chicken, meat taken off the bone and shredded into bite size pieces.
Grab a large pot and place over medium high heat with broth, vegetables, beans, garlic, pepper and parsley, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes until vegetables are softened but not falling apart.
Add the shredded chicken and simmer another 5-7 minutes till warmed through. Let the soup cool and portion out into containers (that have an excellent seal) for your lunch or your kid’s lunch, or send some to work with your significant other. Be sure to pack some crackers or a hunk of bread to round out the meal nicely. This can also serve as dinner if you like. Just buy a big loaf of crusty bread and make a night of it!
Chef’s note: If you would like your broth a little thicker, place the larger bones from the chicken into the broth at the start and let the bones simmer with the vegetables. The collagen will release from the bones and give more body and flavor to the soup. Just remember to fish out the bones before serving.
Healthy wraps with seared tofu or chicken:
Wraps are all the rage, at least in my house. There are endless combinations you can make, they travel well, don’t get soggy like bread, and are easy to eat. Plus they come in great flavors like spinach, sundried tomato, whole grain; did I mention there are low-fat varieties too? So get creative and fill a wrap with your favorite ingredients. What’s not to love? If you are not a fan of tofu, try it with chicken or tuna salad.
1 block of tofu cut into ½ inch thick pieces
Dash of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon blackening spice
Shredded rotisserie chicken
1 spinach tortilla
Smoked Gouda, grated
Place tofu between paper towels and press out some of the moisture. Season with salt, pepper and blackening spice. Tofu is full of water; to get it nice and crisp, it takes some time in the pan, so be patient. Place a skillet over medium heat, with a bit of oil. Place tofu in and sear about 4-5 minutes on each side. You may have to lower the heat a bit so the tofu will not burn. Remove from heat and let cool. Cut into strips.
When building your wrap, place your ingredients a little more on one side of the tortilla. I suggest this because as you roll up the wrap the ingredients will migrate a little, and if they are placed too close to the edge they can fall out and get messy.
Place your tortilla on the work surface and spread on some hummus. Add carrots, cucumber and scallions and Gouda. Add your tofu and let’s roll it up. Place the seam side down on a large piece of waxed paper. Crimp in ends of paper and roll it up to keep it fresh till the lunch bell.
A crustless quiche:
Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare sausage, spinach and tomatoes as above. Then crack a dozen eggs into a bowl and beat well. Spray a pie pan or individual baking dishes with cooking spray. Place sausage into baking dish or divide mixture between individual dishes. Pour over eggs and finish with cheese. Bake about 20-30 minutes, depending on size of dish, until center has no movement when jiggled. Serve with an arugula salad.
Prepare the spinach and tomatoes as above. Place in a bowl with the feta cheese. Remove the sausage from the casing and mix with the spinach mixture. Form into patties. You can bake these off in a 375° oven till cooked through (about 15 minutes) or sauté them in a pan over medium heat. Cook about 5-7 minutes each side.
Place on a bun. Top with sliced tomato and pesto.
The Incas held quinoa (keen-wah) sacred and referred to it as the “mother of all grains,” and the seeds were even sown by the king using “golden implements.” Quinoa was incredibly valuable in the culture and was used as currency in trading. It also served as a main staple in their diet.
And it’s no wonder; quinoa has very high protein content (14 percent by mass) and is considered a complete protein. It’s a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It’s also a source of calcium, is gluten-free and easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration occupied space flight. Wow, that’s a lot about quinoa! But what about us, the hard-working hungry people here on earth in 2012? Try adding your favorite grilled vegetables for a super-healthy dish.
Prepare quinoa according to directions on package. Slice up some carrots, zucchini, squash about ¼ inch thick and place in a bowl and pour over your favorite vinaigrette. Toss to evenly coat. Let the vegetables sit in the marinade for about one hour. Then place your grill pan on the stove over high heat and grill the veggies a few minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and slice into bite-sized pieces and toss with quinoa, add some fresh parsley and a splash more vinaigrette when ready to eat. Will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Superfood: Food with high nutrient content that may confer health benefits.
Some if these foods are a little pricey. So ask a fellow teacher to go in on a Hump-day superfood salad with you.
Start with a bed of spinach, add pomegranates, blueberries, broccoli, mushrooms, almonds and tricolor peppers. Add olive oil and a splash of vinegar.
Oooh, I feel healthy just writing about it!
Whether you just cut them in half, sprinkle them with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon, make some guacamole, or add them to a sandwich, avocados add a healthy and creamy deliciousness to your diet. One small avocado has 5 grams of protein and about 22 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which may help lower LDL and increase HDL.
Dried fruit and nuts:
Keep these in your desk for a quick nosh in between classes. Trader Joe’s sells individual packs that are convenient and sealed to keep fresh.
Nonfat Greek yogurt with agave and oats:
So what makes Greek yogurt Greek? It’s pretty simple, actually. Greek yogurt is strained to remove some of the moisture (whey), which thickens it to a consistency something between yogurt and cheese. The most healthful is unsweetened. If you find it a little tart, try drizzling some sweet organic raw agave nectar over the top. Finish it off with some oats and walnuts to balance it out. Then, presto! You’ve got a healthy alternative to that candy bar or double Frappuccino, which are filled with empty calories and will leave you unsatisfied.
Sliced apples and almond butter:
One medium apple has about 95 calories and 4 grams of fiber. And 3 tablespoons of almond butter have about 25 grams of protein.
Slice your apples in the morning and squeeze lemon juice over them to prevent browning. Spread almond butter over the apples.
Roasted Romas filled with hummus:
When you have some extra tomatoes around, try roasting them with some salt, pepper and olive oil for a super-healthy and delicious treat.
3 lbs Roma tomatoes cut in half
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons cracked pepper
½ cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°. Slice the tomatoes in half and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Place in center of the oven and bake about 40 minutes until slightly brown and wrinkled. Once cool, top with your favorite hummus and enjoy!
Paul’s first book, “Roma-Therapy,” is for sale this holiday season. Go to amazon.com and search for “Roma-Therapy.” Also, visit paulskitchen.com for more info on Paul McCullough.
Shopping list for a week:
4 large carrots
½ lb white mushrooms
2 yellow squash
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch scallions
2 bags fresh spinach
10 Roma tomatoes
1 pint heirloom tomatoes or fresh cherry and yellow pear tomatoes
1 pint blueberries
1 small crown of broccoli
½ lb mushrooms
Red, yellow and orange peppers
A few apples
Small bunch fresh parsley
1 jar blackening spice
1 pkg low-fat tortillas
2 containers Sabra hummus
2 lbs turkey sausage
1 fully cooked rotisserie chicken
1 8 oz container feta cheese
Small container nonfat Greek yogurt
Small container grated parmesan
Small wedge smoked Gouda, grated
1 block firm tofu
1 lb whole-grain pasta
1 large can or 4 small cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 small can white beans
Small loaf French bread
1 dozen eggs
Favorite hamburger buns or ciabatta
1 small container store-bought pesto
Almonds and walnuts
Raw agave nectar
Items you may already have in your pantry:
Dry minced onion
Salt and pepper