Cranberry Couscous with Spinach

When the side dish becomes the star!  This couscous recipe is one that looks good and tastes even better if that’s possible.  I looked at a package of cranberries this weekend and thought “We have to make something with these.”   As I was perusing similar recipes, most I found were topped with green onion or cilantro but I decided to use spinach for and additional calcium punch.  Love those dark leafy greens.

The result is a light yet satisfying combination of tart and sweet.  We served it hot and Mediterranean style with hummus, homemade pita chips and bok choy.  After having it for lunch the following day I can’t decide if I prefer it hot or cold but I’ll let you decide.  The colors make it a perfect addition to any holiday meal!

“Couscous: The food so nice, they named it twice!” -Pineapple Express

Cranberry Couscous with Spinach
Serves 6

1 cup uncooked couscous
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup spinach cut into ribbons
¼ cup walnuts

Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Prepare couscous according to directions.  Add to serving bowl.  Gently combine cranberries, spinach, walnuts.  Top with dressing, stir and serve.  Can be served warm or cold. 

Nutrition Facts:   221 Calories, 12g Fat, 25g Carbohydrate, 5g Protein, 2g Fiber, 34mg Sodium, 92mg Potassium


Doggy Birthday Carrot Cake

Someone at Lemon Pantry turned two this weekend!  My basset hound mix Penny celebrated her second birthday with me in style.  I made her a doggy birthday cake both this year and last but I updated the recipe a bit and thought I would share incase any of you are as dog-lady crazy as I am.  You know this recipe is a keeper because it's always gone in under 60 seconds.
I cook the cake in a bread pan to get a rectangle that can be cut into a bone or other shape easily.  I usually do a Google Image search for a cartoon bone, print and then lay the shape on the cake and cut around it with a knife.  I then mix together some plain Greek yogurt and peanut butter for frosting and you can decorate with a Milkbone or cut a straw into a "candle".
I'll leave you with a peek at some of my favorite pictures of my rescue girl from this past year.  Happy 2nd Birthday, Penny!

Doggy Birthday Carrot Cake 

1 cup whole wheat or brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey

2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix flour and baking soda together.  Incorporate rest of ingredients and mix well.  Grease a bread pan with a small amount of oil.  Add batter to pan in an even layer.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Let cool for 20 minutes and flip pan upside down to remove.  Use stencil to cut out a bone or other shape if desired (discard the rest or serve to dog party guests).  Mix frosting in small bowl. Frost and serve!


Black Bean & Butternut Squash Quesadillas (Dairy Free!)

In the spirit of the holidays, I decided to feature butternut squash in a unique way this week, in one of my favorite foods, quesadillas!  It gives this meal a creamy, hearty base that's packed with vitamins and minerals.  The black beans add some extra protein and the spinach tops this meal off with 10% of your daily value of calcium (pretty impressive for a cheese-less quesadilla).  

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!  See you back here soon!

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Quesadillas
Makes 2 Servings

2/3 cup butternut squash
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 cup corn
1/2 cup fresh spinach
2-10 inch whole wheat tortillas
1/2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Sauté or microwave squash until soft.  Spread squash on half of each tortilla and mash with a fork.  Layer black bean and corn on top of squash.  Sauté spinach until wilted and place on tortilla.  Fold each tortilla in half and add butter to pan on medium heat.  Cook each tortilla until golden brown on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and let rest for 1-2 minutes.  Cut each tortilla into thirds and serve with salsa or other toppings.

Nutrition Facts: 369 Calories, 9g Fat, 60g Carbohydrates, 15g Protein, 12g Fiber, 194mg Sodium, 972mg Potassium


Black and White Chili

Football season is in full swing and, for many people, with that comes Sundays spent drinking beer, eating chips and dip and many batches of chili.  Chili can be a delicious, low stress meal made from basically whatever you happen to have in your pantry, all in one pot.  It kind of reminds me of those infomercials: "Just set it and forget it!".  Someone please give their marketing guy a raise!

This weekend I made what I call "Black and White Chili" because we had an abundance of black beans and white beans in the cupboard.  Insert pun about the referees' uniforms here.  Consider substituting garbanzo or kidney beans and adding ground beef or turkey for just a few variations to this game day staple.    

Black and White Chili
Makes 12 1-cup servings

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups onion, diced
1 cup orange bell pepper
2 16-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes, not drained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 15-ounce cans black beans
1 15-ounce cans small white beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, onion and peppers and sauté for 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse beans and add to pot.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and enough water to rinse the cans to the pot.  Stir in seasonings and reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. 

Nutrition Facts: 409 Calories, 3g Fat, 74g Carbohydrate, 25g Protein, 18.5g Fiber, 219mg Sodium, 2015mg Potassium


What is a Registered Dietitian and what can they do for me?

A big thank you to Kelli over Hungry Hobby for the great cookbooks and FNCE swag I received in the mail this week! 

If any of you have ever been to FNCE or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (you can see why we call it FNCE) you know all about the great resources, presentations, networking and FREE STUFF!  Last month it was held in Atlanta, Georgia and it is the largest conference for nutrition professionals in the world.  It will be coming back to Boston, Massachusetts in 2016 and you can bet I’ll be there.

So what exactly is a nutrition professional?  What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? 

A dietitian is a nutritionist but not all nutritionists are dietitians.  Make sense?  If not then let me explain.

Nutritionists usually have a degree or course in nutrition and focus on wellness, working with the general public.  Registered Dietitians (RD’s) are food and nutrition experts who use research-based evidence to improve health and fight disease.  All complete an approved internship program, pass a registration exam and many seek advanced degrees.  Also, some states such as Maine require Registered Dietitians to be licensed in order to practice under state guidelines.   RD’s now have the options to refer to themselves as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) as a way to reflect to the public what we do.

Where do Registered Dietitians work?

Registered Dietitians may work in hospitals, grocery stores, private practice, community and public health, food industry, journalism, sports nutrition or corporate wellness programs.  The list goes on and on! 

As a clinical dietitian, I work with the healthcare team to provide optimal nutrition for those with acute and chronic diseases.  This can include conducting assessments, providing education or making recommendations for enteral (nutrition administered to the GI tract) or parenteral nutrition (nutrition administered to the bloodstream). 

What can a Registered Dietitian do for you?

Provide individualized nutrition counselling for weight management, food allergies and intolerances, healthful eating and prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

Many insurance companies will cover a visit to a Registered Dietitian at the recommendation of your doctor so be sure to ask!


#WIAW | October

Welcome to another What I Ate Wednesday! Let's jump right in!
6:15 AM Peanut butter and banana quesadilla, almond milk and strawberries
11:45 AM Salad with hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese, side of broccoli and honey roasted peanuts
2:00 PM Hummus and hummus chips
6:30 PM Grilled swordfish steak, grilled asparagus and two slices of whole wheat bread with garlic olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Not Pictured:
7:15 PM Little Lad’s Herbal Popcorn

8 PM 1 Reese’s peanut butter cup

Beverages: Almond milk, coffee w/ skim milk, water, seltzer water
See you all back here soon!


Lemon Pasta

Lemon lovers gather round! When a coworker shared this recipe with me I couldn't believe how delicious it looked and liked the originality of something so simple.  She shares and understands my love of lemon, hence the name of my blog.  I recreated this at home one night and found the flavors fresh, yet comforting.  I think this lemon pasta could be served as an entree or topped with grilled chicken, fish or shrimp and would be great to prepare for guests at a dinner party.  I will definitely be making this one again! 

3 lemons
1/2 pound of thin spaghetti
2 shallots, thinly sliced 
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese (optional)
Dill (or other herb) to taste (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large soup pot of water to a boil.  

Zest one lemon and set zest aside. Slice lemons into rounds then cut into quarters.  Place in pot of water to blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove lemons from water with slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towel or a dish towel and pat dry.

Place pasta in boiling water until al dente.  Do not discard pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the lemons and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar.  After a few minutes, add shallots and cook for minutes or until browned and caramelized.  Transfer lemons back to a plate.

In the skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add lemon zest and about 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water.  Add pasta, additional lemon juice and pepper to taste to skillet.

Toss in lemons and stir gently to coat pasta with sauce.  Place on serving dish and top with cheese, dill and a sprinkle of sea salt if using.

Nutrition Facts: 198 Calories, 10g Fat, 28g Carbohydrates, 4g Protein, 6g Fiber, 24mg Sodium, 51mg Potassium


30 Minute Pumpkin Seeds

I don't know how, but every year I manage to forget that pumpkin seeds take next to forever to cook. So this week while carving pumpkins it was 10PM before I said, "I'll make the pumpkin seeds!  Wait, they take AN HOUR?!"  Who has that kind of time?  Certainly not me and my hungry tummy.

I was so happy to come across the Oh She Glows blog post on boiling pumpkin seeds first to speed up the process (and to avoid just increasing the oven temperature because those babies will burn.)  I had so much success with this method I will definitely be doing it again and thought I would share how I made quick, easy pumpkin seeds by 10:30PM. As you can see we had a crazy amount of pumpkins and therefore seeds which means there were some left for the next day or two.  I reheated them up in the toaster oven for a few minutes to enjoy a crunchy, salty protein, fiber and vitamin packed snack.  Truly, is there anything better?

Let me know what you think of this method and I'd love to hear how it works for you! Thanks for reading!

Pumpkin seeds
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rinse and clean pumpkin seeds.  Add seeds to a medium size soup pot filled half-way with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour seeds into a strainer and pat dry with a paper towel.

Spread seeds in a thin layer on a baking sheet and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of oil over the top and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake for 10 minutes and toss seeds.  Bake for about another 10 minutes although time may vary depending on your oven. Allow to cool slightly and enjoy.

If you have any remaining seeds left over the next day, place them in a toaster oven for a few minutes or microwave for 20-30 seconds.

Nutrition Facts for 1/2 cup serving plain pumpkin seeds: 142 Calories, 6g Fat, 17g Carbohydrates, 6g Protein, 6g Fiber, 6mg Sodium.  Also, a good source of Potassium and an excellent source of Magnesium.


#WIAW | My Dinners This Week

I am not a person who likes leftovers but I also hate wasting food.  I like when I can make something totally different with what I have in the fridge to trick my picky taste buds into thinking their eating something new.  This post isn't a great example of that (I've seen Rachel Ray work some serious leftover magic) but for me it's fun to see what ideas other people have for quick easy dinners so I thought some of you might, too.  This is a somewhat modified What I Ate Wednesday (#WIAW) and just lets me explain my somewhat ordinary, repetitive, yet satisfying dinners I have eaten so far this week.  The struggle is real, people.  Dietitians have to eat, too and we don't always want to cook.

On Sunday I made a salad with the remains of my fridge and pantry. This included the last bits of lettuce, a few fresh berries I had bought for smoothies on their last legs, grilled shrimp from the freezer (yes, the last 5 of them), canned black beans and I made a small cheese quesadilla with the last two tortillas I keep in the freezer and a little shredded cheese.  It was seriously delicious!

Reusing an old photo of a similar salad, forgive me, I was hungry.
I had literally wiped out my stock for dinner on Tuesday so before going to get groceries I ate a bowl of brown rice, beans and grilled corn topped with a little salsa and ranch.  I'll admit it was a somewhat sad little meal and I originally had higher hopes for that dinner but turned out I had no cheese, no tomatoes or lettuce left!  What's a girl to do besides immediately head to the grocery store and go a teensy bit crazy in the produce isle.  No photo necessary, trust me.

Keeping the Mexican theme alive this week, Tuesday I used the remaining rice and beans to make a sort of "burrito bowl on a plate."  I grilled up a piece of salmon and layered it on top of the brown rice, beans and some chopped greens.  I like to keep frozen mango on hand which always makes it easy to whip up my Mango Salsa (see here for the recipe).  

It's amazing how much better I eat the day after food shopping.
 Hope you all enjoyed reading and see you back here soon!


Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Hope you all had a nice weekend!  It was my birthday this past week so I took a few days off from blogging, glad to see you back here!
Enjoy this slow cooker oatmeal recipe which is perfect for busy weekday mornings or relaxing weekends at home.  You can make this with water or milk, or almond milk just be sure to adjust the calories accordingly.  Keep the peel on the apples for added fiber, color and texture.  The smell alone will make sure no one sleeps in too late!

Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal 
Serves 4-6

3 small cored and diced apples
1 1/2 cup steel cut or old fashioned oats
4 cups water (or 4 cups unsweetened almond milk)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir.  Cook on low heat for 6 hours or on high for about 3 hours.

Nutrition Facts: 165 Calories, 1g Fat, 38g Carbohydrates, 2g Protein, 4g Fiber, 11mg Sodium, 120mg Potassium


Pumpkin French Toast

I was feeling festive last weekend before heading to the Common Ground Fair and decided to whip up a new (to me) recipe for my roommate and me.  If you haven’t already OD’d on pumpkin spice everything, I highly recommend this recipe.  The pumpkin flavor is subtle but gives this breakfast classic a seasonal twist.  I served mine with an egg while Kelly (and the puppies) had a side of bacon for some extra protein. 

I typically keep my loaf of bread in the freezer (simply because I can never finish it before it goes bad) which I find especially helpful when making French toast.  The frozen slices give you a few extra seconds to saturate them with the batter, remove excess and transfer to the pan.  I just love the pretty color and the smell was even better than any pumpkin candle.  I definitely got the stamp of approval from Kelly but I can’t say the same for the puppies.  She is now their favorite bacon provider.

Pumpkin French Toast
Serves 4

8 slices of whole wheat bread (frozen works best)
2 eggs
¼ cup almond milk (or other milk)
¼ cup pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon sugar

Heat pan over medium heat and spread a small amount of butter or non-stick spray over the surface.  Combine eggs, milk, pumpkin and spices in a small bowl with a somewhat flat bottom.  Dip each piece of bread in the batter, being sure both sides are covered with a thin layer.  Cook on each side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.  Top with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup or enjoy plain.

Nutrition Facts: 212 Calories, 8g Fat, 26g Carbohydrates, 11g Protein, 5g Fiber, 298mg Sodium, 241mg Potassium