Category Archives: homemade meals

Sweet and Savory Saturday

This dip tastes great with veggies and whole-grain pita bread and chips.

Welcome to Sweet and Savory Saturday!  Today’s featured recipe is White Bean Dip.  I got the original recipe in 2002 from  At that time, I had 3 children ages 3 years and younger and needed a simple recipe to follow for a family get-together.  I have made some changes over the years by adding pimento and another can of beans.  This bean dip has fiber, soy protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants.  It tastes great served with whole-grain breads and chips and veggies.

White Bean Dip


2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed

1 (12.3 ounce) container firm tofu (drained if packaged in water)

1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained

1 (4 ounce) jar sliced pimentos, reserve 1 TBS for garnish

2 TBS lime juice

1 TBS olive oil

3 small garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste (use red pepper flakes for an added kick)


In a blender add beans, roasted red peppers, pimentos, tofu, garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper, olive oil, and lime juice.  Blend on medium until smooth.  Place in serving dish. Garnish with reserved sliced pimento.


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Filed under appetizers, dip recipes, healthy food, healthy picnic ideas, homemade meals, picnic recipes, side dish, snacks

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA – Summer Fiesta Black Bean Salad

The Summer Fiesta Black Bean Salad is great on its own or as a topping for a baked potato!

Welcome to Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA.  Today’s featured recipe is Summer Fiesta Black Bean Salad.  I decided to use my “Shop to Lose” app for the iPhone to choose the ingredients for this dish.  The Shop to Lose app contains a “smart shopping list” which analyzes and screens grocery store foods based on my weight and health objectives, as well as those of other family members.  It’s a great way to ensure that my pantry items are healthy for me and my family.

I am glad I chose to use “Shop to Lose”* because I discovered something new that I would not have considered otherwise.  My recipe calls for black beans – not a product that I would consider to have many variances between brands.  But, my “Shop to Lose” app brought to my attention that the sugar content between my choices differed slightly.  One had no sugar and the other had 1 gram.  What is nice about the “Shop to Lose” app is that it highlights why a product is a good choice or a bad choice under the nutrition label displayed on the app.  It will tell you if the product is low in sugar or high in fat, for instance.  That is how I discovered the sugar difference – and I thought I was pretty savvy at deciphering nutrition labels.

I think you will find today’s recipe to be very easy to pull together at the last minute because many of the items are pantry staples.  It is also very versatile.  You can serve it as a side dish, use it to top baked potatoes (as I did), or add it to a bed of whole-grain rice for a healthy meal.  It it a great dish to pass at potlucks, barbecues, and picnics too!

Summer Fiesta Black Bean Salad


1 (15.5 ounce) can of whole kernel corn, drained

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small green bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 small red bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

3/4 tsp ground cumin

2 TBS lime juice

2 TBS olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


In a medium bowl add corn, black beans, bell peppers, onion, and garlic.  Drizzle olive oil and lime juice over mixture.  Sprinkle with ground cumin.  Stir until mixture is coated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

*Click here to download the “Shop to Lose” app.

Try this recipe and come back and tell us how you served it, we want to know!

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Filed under barbecue, easy meals, healthy food, homemade meals, iPhone apps, PICKKA, picnic, picnic recipes, Recipes, Shop to Lose, side dish

Simply Sunday – Healthy Cooking

Welcome to Simply Sunday here at the Health and Food Forum’s Blog.  Today’s topic of discussion is healthy cooking.  A quality diet isn’t just characterized by the type of foods that you eat, but how you prepare and cook them.  Using proper tecnniques will lessen the chances of decreasing the vitamin and mineral content of foods and adding unnecessary amounts of fat and sodium to meals.  Here are a few tips to follow when in the kitchen:

  • Do not peel away the edible skin of fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, peaches, potatoes, etc.,).  Most of the vitamins and minerals are not found in the middle, rather they are present in the skin and just below the skin.  By removing the peel you are stripping away vital nutrients.
  • Steam rather than boil vegetables.  There is very little or no contact with water during the steaming process; therefore, most of the vegetable’s nutrients can be retained.  Because some of the vitamins can be dissolved in water, boiling vegetables can lead to a loss of nutrients.  If you need to boil your produce, save and freeze the cooking water to be used at a later date for soup stock, sauces, etc.,.  This way, you can still obtain the water-soluble nutrients that were dissolved in the water during the boiling process. 
  • Roast vegetables using nonstick cooking spray to enhance flavor while cutting down on fat content.
  • Do not overcook vegetables.  Overcooking destroys vitamins and minerals.
  • Rinse canned fish and meat before consuming to lower sodium and fat content.
  • To lower the fat content of your meal, trim the fat from cuts of poultry and meats before cooking and remove the skin from cooked poultry before eating.
  • Microwave meats and produce.  The fast-cooking process of microwaving decreases the time that the heat-sensitive nutrients of food are exposed to high temperatures.  Also, you do not need to add any fat to your meal to cook it in the microwave.
  • Baste using low-fat or fat-free liquids such as lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, tomato juice, fat-skimmed stock, and wine.
  • When sauteing, use wine, lemon juice, or fat-skimmed stock and/or broth instead of oil or butter to lower fat content.
  • When roasting, grilling, and broiling use a rack so that fat drippings fall away from meat and poultry.

What techniques do you use for healthy cooking?  Share with us, we want to know!



Filed under health, healthy eating tips, healthy food, homemade meals, nutrition

Sweet and Savory Saturday – Chicken Barley Soup

Homemade seasoned whole-grain croutons are the perfect compliment to this from-scratch chicken barley soup.

Welcome to Sweet and Savory Saturday!  What do you get when you add a pinch of friendship to a dash of family and a fistful of love?  One fine bowl of Chicken Barley Soup!  Today’s featured recipe comes from a compilation of cooking tips and secrets from various friends and extended family members.  The substitution of barley for pasta noodles increases the fiber content of this soup.  And, using a store-bought, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken cuts down on cooking time, provides tender pieces of chicken, and adds a rich flavor to the stock.  Serve this soup along with homemade seasoned whole-grain croutons as a healthy alternative to starchy crackers.

Chicken Barley Soup


4 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth

1 cup carrots, sliced

1 cup peas

3/4 cup celery, chopped

2 leeks, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 TBS trans fat-free margarine

1 store-bought, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (about 3 lbs)

1/3 cup pearl barley

salt and pepper to taste (optional)


Put broth, barley, and bay leaf  in a heavy sauce pan.  Cover and simmer until barley is tender (about an hour).  On medium-low heat melt margarine and sautee garlic.  Remove garlic-butter mixture from heat and set aside.  Remove skin from rotisserie chicken.  Then, pull chicken meat from bone into bite-sized pieces.  Once barley is tender, add chicken and carrots.  Continue to simmer for 20 minutes.  Then, add remaining ingredients and cook for another 20-30 minutes.  Serve with homemade seasoned whole-grain croutons (recipe below).

Homemade Seasoned Whole-Grain Croutons:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Cut day-old loaf of whole-grain bread into cubes.  Place bread cubes on cookiesheet and spray bread with cooking spray.  Sprinkle favorite seasoning blend onto bread pieces.  Top with a light sprinkling of shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese.  Cook in oven for 5-8 minutes or until bread cubes are golden brown.

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Filed under family meals, healthy food, homemade meals, Recipes, soup

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA: Oven-Baked Oatmeal-Blueberry Pancakes

Oven-baking pancakes can cut down on the fat.

Traditionally prepared and cooked pancakes can mean consuming a lot of extra calories from fat and carbs.  But, there are a few tricks that can make this comfort food healthier.  To cut down on the fat, try oven-baking the pancakes.  You can reduce the sugar content by lightly dusting the cooked pancakes with powdered sugar, rather than dousing them with maple syrup.  The fiber content can be increased by using pancake mix made of whole-grain flour.  And, use your “Eat What?” app for the iPhone to find a pancake mix that fits into your diet plan.

The “Eat What?” app provides you with a list of recommended products in the food category that you are interested.  A great feature of this app is that it allows you to modify the search criteria for the saturated fat, sugar, carbohydrate, and fiber content of the product (e.g., choose from “no saturated fat,” “low saturated fat,” “reduced saturated fat,” or “ignore” categories).  By modifying my search, I reduced the number of options from which I had to choose and increased my chances of getting the right product for me.

I chose an oatmeal pancake mix to make oven-baked oatmeal-blueberry pancakes for my family.  Here is what I did to make them.  First, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then, I sprayed a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set it aside. Next, I followed the pancake package directions for the number of pancakes I wanted to make (14-18 pancakes).  I added 1 tsp of baking powder to the batter and combined it.  Then, I folded in fresh blueberries (about 1/4 cup per 1 cup of dry mix).  Using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, I poured the mixture onto the baking sheet – separating pancakes by about 3 inches.**   Then, I baked them for approximately 8 minutes.  The pancakes will resemble large cookies when done.

Oven-baked pancakes will resemble large cookies when done.

**Note, my family likes pancakes from thick batter which holds its form on a cold baking sheet.  If you like thin batter, preheat the baking sheet prior to pouring the mixture onto it to prevent it from spreading out too much prior to cooking.

What is your favorite way to make pancakes?  Share with us, we want to know!


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Filed under baked goods, breakfast, Eat What?, healthy food, homemade meals, iPhone apps, PICKKA, Recipes, Uncategorized

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA – Lemon-Olive Oil Tuna Noodle Casserole

This healthier version of tuna noodle casserole relies on a lemon-olive oil dressing rather than a heavy cream base for flavor.

I came across the idea for this healthier version of tuna noodle casserole a few years back and, after a few tweaks here and there, have used it ever since as one of my “go-to” recipes when I’m in a pinch.  Most of the ingredients are staples found in the pantry and ice box so it is easy to throw together when you are short for time. 

By replacing the heavy cream base of the traditional tuna noodle casserole with a lemon juice-olive oil dressing, the saturated fat content of this meal can be reduced.  Although I am an advocate for using whole-grain pasta, for this particular dish I wanted a milder tasting noodle that would not compete with the other flavors.  Therefore, I used my Evincii/PICKKA’s “Eat This?” app for the iPhone to help me find a satisfactory alternative.  After entering my health objectives, I started scanning pasta products.  To my suprise, my choice for a milder tasting pasta fell into the “Good Choice” category as did its whole-grain counterpart.  I was content with my choice and felt reassured that it was a healthy alternative.

Lemon-Olive Oil Tuna Noodle Casserole


1 (14.4 ounce) box of farfalle pasta, cooked according to package directions

2 green onions, chopped

1 small yellow pepper, chopped

3/4 cup frozen peas, cooked according to package directions

1 (12 ounce) can of solid white albacore tuna packed in water, drained and broken into pieces

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Lemon-olive oil dressing (recipe below)*


Rinse cooked pasta in cold water and drain.  Place pasta into a large bowl.  Add yellow pepper, green onion, peas, and tuna fish.  Mix to combine the ingredients.  Pour lemon-olive oil dressing over pasta mixture and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Serve with whole-grain bread.

*Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing:  In a small bowl wisk together 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 3 TBS lemon juice; 3 crushed cloves of garlic; 1 tsp white vinegar; 1/2 tsp of sea salt; 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

What is your favorite way to eat tuna fish?  Share with us, we want to know!



Filed under easy meals, Eat This?, healthy food, healthy pantry staples, homemade meals, PICKKA, Recipes

Sweet and Savory Saturday – Broiled Salmon with Raspberry-Apricot Glaze

Broiled Salmon with Raspberry-Apricot Glaze served on a bed of mixed-greens is a great way to show the dad in your life you care on Father's Day.

Are you looking for a healthy Father’s Day meal to serve?  If so, try this recipe for Broiled Salmon with Raspberry-Apricot Glaze.  Salmon is a good source of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium, Vitamin B12, and potassium.  Pair it with Grilled Garlic Bread (recipe from Seared Food Blog*) and serve it on a bed of mixed-greens tossed with dried apricots and aged gouda cheese and you have a meal that lets the dad in your life know you care about him this Father’s Day.



  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed fresh garlic
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Place salmon on large plate.  Rub garlic and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over salmon fillets. Cover and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the broiler and prepare the Raspberry-Apricot Glaze.

Raspberry-Apricot Glaze

  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 TBS dark amber honey
  • 1/2 -3/4 TBS steak sauce (amount based on taste preference)
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed

In a small sauce pan, combine first four ingredients and cook on medium-low heat until it just begins to boil.  Reduce heat, add garlic, and simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Set aside.


Coat broiling pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Place salmon fillets on broiling pan.  Broil for 2-3 minutes.  Spoon Raspberry-Apricot Glaze over the fillets.  Broil for 4-5 more minutes or until salmon flakes when tested with a fork.  Serve with Grilled Garlic Bread over a bed of mixed-greens tossed with pieces of dried apricots and aged gouda cheese. Note: I used an indoor grill set at a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit to make my grilled garlic bread.

What are you serving for dinner this Father’s Day?  Share with us, we want to know!

*Seared Food Blog has switched sites.  If you cannot access recipe from link above try this link Seared.


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Filed under Father's Day, Father's Day Meal, healthy food, homemade meals, men, omega-3 fatty acids, Recipes, salmon