Friday, June 29, 2012

Turkey Bacon & Avocado Summer Pasta

The perfect Summer pasta. Yum!

This recipe caught my eye on Pinterest a few weeks ago. I’d been on the lookout for yummy dinner ideas that didn’t require turning on the oven and this totally fit the bill. I had to do a little hunting to find the original source but it looks like it came from the
Better Homes and Gardens website.

Of course, I made a few minor swaps to make it a little healthier (added tomatoes and used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon). I also switched the Pecorino RomanoPecorino RomanoPecorino RomanoPecorino Romano for Parmesan cheese (because that’s what I had in the fridge).
Turkey Bacon & Avocado Summer Pasta


8 ounces of your favorite pasta (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Vegetable Radiatore)
6 slices reduced-sodium turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 Roma tomatoes, washed and chopped
2/3 cup fresh basil, washed and chopped
1 whole lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
2 medium avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Cook turkey bacon according to package directions until crispy and easy to crumble. (I used the microwave and it took about 5 minutes. I checked every 30 seconds after the two-minute mark in order to avoid burning.)

In a large bowl combine all ingredients except avocado and toss well. Add avocado right before serving, toss lightly, and garnish with a little extra Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Healthy “Swap”tion:
Trade the regular pasta for whole wheat and reduce the amount of extra-virgin olive oil from 2 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon.

The Result:
I thought this was going to be good…and it was actually great. The flavors complement each other so nicely and it’s a tasty, light way to enjoy pasta. I was going to serve this with garlic bread, but it worked out well as a stand-alone dish. Pasta, check. Veggies, check. Protein, check. It’s an all-around winner. The hubs really liked it too, which is always a bonus. This one will surely be making appearances on our dinner table throughout the summer.
Until next time,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taste the Rainbow

Variety is the spice of life!

When I was little, my mom swears I would only consume things that were orange. Being a child of the 80s, “foods” like Doritos, Tang, and Cheez-Its were all the rage, so I’m pretty sure my monochromatic diet left a lot to be desired.

To this day, I’m still partial to several orange foods. But as I began to expand my taste buds and think about ways to make healthier meals for myself and my family, Mother Nature’s colorful bounty—a.k.a. fresh vegetables and fruits—were an obvious starting point.
We all know that we’re supposed to eat 5-9 servings each day. However, knowing and doing aren’t the same thing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying the same items in the produce department each week then wondering why you’re bored eating them when you get home.

So what’s the easy fix? Change it up a little. Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables broken down by color. On your next shopping trip, why not grab one new thing from each of the groups? It’ll help you add some color variation to your weekly menu and hopefully stave off produce monotony.


Apples, tomatoes, radishes, red bell peppers, strawberries, red potatoes, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, papaya, pomegranates, raspberries, watermelon, red chili peppers, guava, rhubarb


Oranges, peaches, nectarines, orange bell peppers, carrots, grapefruit, mangoes, persimmons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tangerines, mandarins, cantaloupe


 Squash, lemons, yellow tomatoes, sweet corn, yellow beets, yellow potatoes, pears


Spinach, kale, green grapes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, peas, snap peas, okra, leafy greens, limes, leeks, kiwi fruit, honeydew melon, green bell peppers, green onions, cabbage, green apples, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, asparagus


Blueberries, eggplant, purple cauliflower, red/black grapes, beets, plums, red onions, purple carrots, purple cabbage, raisins, purple asparagus, prunes, blackberries, black currants, elderberries


These days, I buy most of my produce organic. Yes, it’s a little more expensive but can you really put a price on food that’s not laden with chemicals and pesticides? If you have to pick and choose, here’s a list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.” (Source: Environmental Working Group
.) But  at the end of the day, the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh the negative effects of NOT eating them so don’t beat yourself up if everything you buy isn’t organic.
The Dirty Dozen:
The following 12 items are notorious for containing the highest levels of pesticide residue. Several of them also have thin skins that allow the icky stuff to leach into the “flesh” of the fruit/veggie.
Grapes (imported)
Sweet bell peppers

The Clean Fifteen:
The fruits and veggies listed below typically have the lowest levels of pesticides and most have non-edible thicker skins that help keep the bad stuff out. You can probably skip the organic versions of the following 15 items.


Cantaloupe (domestic)



Kiwi fruit





Sweet corn

Sweet peas

Sweet potatoes


I hope this post inspires you to put a few new, colorful items in your basket during your next trip down the produce aisle.
Until next time,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unbelievably Simple Honey-Mustard Chicken

Juicy, tangy, and sweet, Oh My!
My friend Lindsay had me over for dinner last week. She wanted to make a dish that had been passed around her circle of friends that was easy, tasty, and super family friendly. (Her two-year-old twins love it!) I’m all for anything that requires minimal ingredients and prep time so I was excited to try it. She baked it in the oven and that’s how you’ll find the recipe below. But we also thought it might be good in the Crock Pot. And it was! I’ll share both ways to cook the chicken in this post.

Unbelievably Simple Honey-Mustard Chicken


2-3 boneless chicken breast fillets
¼ cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup honey
Dash of pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breast fillets in an 8x8 glass baking dish. Melt butter in microwave for about 30 seconds. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, mustard, and honey. Stir well. Pour honey-mustard mixture over chicken breasts and add a dash of pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove chicken from oven, turn the breasts over, and spoon juices from the baking dish over them. Add another dash of pepper (if desired). Return to the oven and bake an additional 30 minutes uncovered.
Serving Suggestion:
This chicken is great with wild or brown rice and a nice green vegetable. (We had steamed lemon-pepper green beans.) Try drizzling a little of the leftover honey-mustard sauce over the rice to add a little pizazz.
Crock Pot Honey Mustard Chicken

This one turns out great in the Crock Pot too!
If you love your Crock Pot as much as I do, this may be the preparation method you prefer. Here’s how you make this one in the slow cooker. (The only additional ingredient is chicken broth.)
2-3 boneless chicken breast fillets
¼ cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup honey
1 cup chicken broth
Dash pepper

Melt butter in microwave. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, mustard, honey, and chicken broth and stir to mix. Place chicken in Crock Pot and pour honey-mustard mixture over the fillets. Cook on low for about 6 hours or until chicken shreds easily.

Serving Ideas:
We spooned our shredded chicken (with lots of yummy honey-mustard juice) over some brown rice and paired it with parmesan baked veggies on the side. (I’ll share the veggie recipe in a future post once I’ve perfected it!)

The Result:
Presentation-wise, the baked chicken looks prettier, but both are equally simple and tasty. Whichever way you choose to make it, this chicken is sure to please.
Until next time,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops With Garlic Mashed “Potatoes”

Sweet and sour? Check. Low-Carb? Check. Delicious? Check.

If you’re tired of chicken, steaks, and fish, pork chops are a nice alternative. My favorites are the lean, boneless cuts that are on the medium-thick side. (These are harder to dry out than the really thinly sliced ones.)

When I started looking for pork chop recipes, most of the glazes and marinades called for honey. I wanted to swap out the honey for something a little healthier so agave nectar seemed an appropriate choice. Without getting too technical, agave has a lower glycemic index than honey so it doesn’t have a drastic effect on the blood sugar/insulin balance making it safe for people with diabetes. Though it’s sweeter than sugar, it’s fairly mild so it doesn’t mask other flavors. Also, it’s less viscous than honey and  easier to combine into many foods.

Marinades are an easy and tasty way to perk up meats. They also seal in moisture preventing meat and poultry from drying out in the oven or on the grill. The minimum time you want to marinate these pork chops is about an hour. (I did mine all day.)

The mashed “potato” recipe below is in quotes because it’s actually made with cauliflower. Don’t knock it until you try it, folks. It’s DELISH and a lot better for you than traditional mashed potatoes.

Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops
Serves 3-4


1/3 cup agave nectar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave)
1/3 cup citrus juice (I combined lime and lemon)
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper (if desired)
3-4 boneless lean pork chops
Olive oil spray

In a Ziplock freezer bag, combine agave, citrus juice, minced garlic, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Rinse pork chops and add to bag, squishing liquid around to thoroughly coat meat. Squeeze excess air from bag and seal. Marinate pork chops in fridge for a minimum of one hour. (Again, mine were in there from about 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spritz the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil spray. Remove pork chops from Ziplock bag and place in the baking dish. Pour marinade mixture over the top of the pork chops, evenly coating them. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and  flip the chops over. Use a spoon or baster to coat the tops of the meat one more time, then return to the oven and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees.

Garlic Mashed “Potatoes”
Serves 2-3

1 (12-ounce bag) cauliflower florets
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon sour cream

Cut corner off the bag of cauliflower florets and steam in microwave for 3-4 minutes. Remove carefully from microwave and use a rolling pin to “mush” the cauliflower (while it’s still in the bag). Open bag and pour cauliflower into a food processor. Add the peeled garlic clove and sour cream and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tip:
The fastest and easiest way to get that tough outer shell off a garlic clove is this: Use the broad side of a large knife and press it down flat against the clove on a cutting board until it cracks. Then just peel off the “shell.” Voilà!

The Result:
The hubs is usually wary when he sees pork chops cooking in the oven. I’m notorious for drying them out to the consistency of jerky. Two things went right this time. 1) I did a little research and realized that the cooking temperature for cuts of pork have officially been reduced to 145 degrees—I’d been cooking it to 165 before, and 2) I turned the pork chops over half-way through baking and basted them which really helped to keep them moist and juicy.

These were hands down the best pork chops I’ve had in a long time. The sweet and tangy marinade was a nice complement to the meat (it would also be great on chicken!) and the garlic mashed “potatoes” along with a green salad were perfect sides.  It was a low-carb, healthy, and very tasty meal. We’ll definitely be eating this one again soon.

Until next time,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rosemary and Leek Roasted Red Potatoes

A delicious side for any meat, poultry, or fish!

Happy Wednesday, Friends! I asked on Facebook the other day what types of recipes you’d like me to post in the weeks to come. Fast, easy, meals and side dishes with minimal ingredients topped the list. These Rosemary and Leek Roasted Red Potatoes are super simple to make and they are a wonderful side to chicken, steak, fish, or whatever you’re having for dinner. (Not big on potatoes? Note the health “swap”tion below!)

Rosemary and Leek Roasted Red Potatoes

Serves 3-4
Olive oil spray
5-6 medium red potatoes, organic preferred (cubed into bite-size pieces)
¼ cup leeks (sliced)
Olive oil spray
Pinch dried rosemary
Dash pepper
Dash sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use olive oil spray to coat the bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking dish. Spread raw, cubed potatoes in an even layer in the bottom of the dish. Place sliced leeks (if you don’t have leeks, you can use green or white onion) evenly on top of potatoes. Sprinkle a liberal amount of rosemary and a little salt and pepper on top. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Oven cooking times may vary, and larger chunks of potatoes will take longer to cook through.
Healthy “Swap”tion:
If you’re trying to cut carbs or just incorporate more healthy veggies in your diet, use quartered zucchini and squash pieces in place of the potatoes. Just wash and peel the veggies and then follow the rest of the directions above. You’ll want to bring oven temp down to 400 degrees, and reduce cooking time to about 25-30 minutes.
The Result:
Not only is this dish delicious, it makes the house smell divine while it’s cooking. This is one of my favorite side dishes to have with a nice steak. We pair it with a spinach salad, artichokes, or asparagus depending on what’s in the fridge.
Sometimes I double the batch, use a larger baking dish, and save the leftovers to have as breakfast potatoes the next morning. YUM!

Until next time,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Meatless Mondays: Herbed Feta Chickpea Salad

Fresh, zesty, and healthy--what more can you ask for?

 A few weeks ago, I attended an awesome workshop hosted by my friend Rachelle. It was called Food to Love, and in a nutshell the focus was on ways to feed your family healthier, better foods. I learned several valuable pieces of information that afternoon, and I’ll be sharing a few of them in the weeks and months to come. But one of the first changes implemented in my house was Meatless Mondays. The hubs, who has rarely met a meat he hasn’t liked, was surprisingly open to this idea. I was prepared to whip out the scary statistics, but it proved unnecessary. He was totally on board with cleaning up our diet.

Since legumes are one of the main non-meat protein sources out there,
this recipe caught my eye on Pinterest. However, being a native Californian, I firmly believe that almost everything is better with avocado. I also swapped the parsley for fresh basil then added some yellow bell peppers and flavored feta for a little extra kick. Here’s what I came up with. (Note: I use organic ingredients whenever possible. More on that in a future post.)

Herbed Feta Chickpea Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small-to-medium cucumber, peeled and quartered
¼ cup white onion, minced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, washed and chopped (or torn)
½ cup yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 medium lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2-4 ounces herbed feta cheese (I used 1/2 package (2 ounces) Athenos Garlic & Herb)
1 medium avocado, cubed
Dash pepper (to taste)

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, basil, and bell peppers. Add lemon juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and feta cheese. Toss well. Add cubed avocado, fold ingredients together gently, and let sit for 10-15 minutes allowing the flavors to mingle. If desired, add a dash of pepper just prior to serving.

Time-Saving Tip
This recipe takes a little while to put together since it involves chopping up a bunch of veggies. If you want to try this dish on Meatless Monday, consider cutting up your vegetables on Sunday when you have more time and bagging them separately to store in the fridge. That way, all you need to do for dinner on Monday is toss them in a bowl, whip up the wet ingredients, and combine them. The only thing you should wait to cut would be the avocado since it browns quickly.
This is one of my favorite new recipes. It’s tangy and delicious and it’s nice to know you’re using lots of wholesome and healthy beans and veggies. Plus, with summer almost here, it’s great to have a light meal that doesn’t require turning on the oven and heating up the kitchen.

I served this as a main dish with garlic bread and it was totally filling. Better yet, my husband loved it. If you’re serving it as a side, it could easily feed four people. 

I thought that this might be one of those recipes that would be good the next day after “marinating” in the fridge overnight. I was wrong. I don’t know why, but the flavors fell flat and it wasn’t as good cold. Eat this one while it’s fresh.  It’s SOOOOO much better!
Until next time,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tomato Basil Tilapia

Better than a restaurant meal, honest!
Anyone who has hung around me for a while knows that I pretty much hate all seafood. My dislike of our little ocean-dwelling friends started at an early age. The rents took me to a Red Lobster and told me to try the cod since it was the “least fishy” tasting thing on the menu. WARNING BELLS!!!  I was gingerly picking my way through my meal when I turned over the fillet and found a bunch of scaly skin. That sealed the deal. I was DONE with fish.

Fast forward 25-plus years. I meet my husband who LOVES all things seafood. It was probably him who force fed me my first bite of macadamia-nut encrusted halibut—and to him, I am eternally grateful. (As we all know, macadamia-encrusted anything is DELISH.)

So, long story short, it’s taken me a really long time but I’m finally venturing into the world of mild, white fish. Recently, I received an email from the Betty Crocker website featuring TilapiaTomato Basil Fillets. The looked great, but my need to tinker with recipes and the fact that I didn’t have any fresh basil on hand prompted me to modify the recipe a bit. Here’s what I came up with.  

Tomato Basil Tilapia

2-3 tilapia fillets (I buy the frozen ones in bulk at Costco), thawed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-6 tablespoons of lemon juice, or 1-2 lemons juiced (I really like lemon so I use a lot)
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes flavored with basil, garlic, and oregano (I use Hunts)
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Defrost tilapia and rinse. In a small- to medium-sized glass baking dish (mine’s a rectangular 2.2 QT), combine olive oil and lemon juice. Place tilapia fillets in lemon juice/oil mixture, turning over several times to coat the fish. Sprinkle coated fillets with dried basil. (Use as much or as little as you like. I’m pretty heavy-handed with my spices.) Spoon diced tomatoes and all the juices in the can evenly over the fillets. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a little more dried basil. Bake uncovered for approximately 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Fish is done when it flakes easily.

Serving Suggestion:

Tomato Basil Tilapia pairs nicely with asparagus and either brown rice or quinoa.

Cooking Tip:
Want delicious steamed asparagus in 3 minutes? Rinse and break off the fibrous ends of the asparagus stalks. Place asparagus in a microwave safe baking dish. Add ¼ cup of water. If desired, squeeze the juice of one lemon evenly over the stalks. Sprinkle with your favorite seasonings (I like Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute), add a spritz of olive oil spray, and microwave uncovered for 2.5-3.5 minutes. (Times may vary with different microwaves.)

Delicious steamed asparagus--in just 3 minutes!
The Results:
Tomato Basil Tilapia has become a weekly staple in my house. Not only is the hubs elated that I’m finally cooking AND eating fish, he actually said that this dish is just as good—if not better—than anything he’s had at a restaurant. Even if you’re not a big fan of our fishy friends, try this recipe. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cilantro-Lime Crock Pot Chicken

Tangy, delicious, and oh-so-easy to make!

Let me start by saying, I’m completely obsessed with my Crock Pot. It’s seriously the best invention ever.  I use it year-round and at least once a week. I can’t believe how many delicious meals you can make with only a handful of ingredients and minimal effort. Okay, I’ll stop…but I really do love my Crock Pot.
I saw this recipe yesterday on Pinterest (from a Pip & Ebby blog post). It sounded yummy, but since I can’t resist the urge to modify recipes to suit my palate and use ingredients I already have in my cupboard, I thought I’d share my “reinvention.”

Cilantro-Lime Crock Pot Chicken
2 chicken breast fillets (5-6 ounces each)
1 12-ounce jar of salsa verde (green salsa)
½ cup water
1 lime (juiced)
¼ packet of reduced-sodium taco seasoning (if desired)
½ cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped (divided use)
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream (optional)
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

Place chicken breasts in crock pot. In a small bowl, mix salsa, water, lime juice (see Fun Food Fact below), taco seasoning, and most of the cilantro together. Set a little of the cilantro aside for garnish. Dump the mixture over the chicken breasts, covering them completely. Cover and cook on low for approximately 6 hours. You 'll know the chicken is done when it shreds very easily. Place cooked chicken on top of any salad greens (healthy!), or add brown rice and black beans to create a “bowl.” Another option is to stuff it in a tortilla as taco filling. However you decide to serve it, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and/or a little shredded cheddar cheese.
Fun Food Fact:
Microwaving citrus fruits for 10-15 seconds prior to juicing yields considerably more juice. Try it! You won’t be disappointed.
I tried this last night and it was DELISH. In fact, the hubs said it was one of his all-time favorite chicken dishes I’ve ever made. And I make chicken A LOT so that’s really saying something. I had some fresh spinach in the fridge so I threw that, brown rice, and black beans in a bowl and put the Cilantro-Lime Chicken on top. The chicken was so juicy that this “salad” didn’t even need any dressing. I just mixed in a little sour cream and cheddar cheese and stirred it all together.
The chicken breasts I used were a little on the thin/small side so they were done cooking at just under 6 hours. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the breast fillets you use.

In short, this was easy, healthy, and delicious. Mission accomplished.
Until next time,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Hello, Everyone,

Welcome to Recipes by Ryann. I wanted to post a quick welcome note and tell you a little bit about myself and why I decided to start this blog.
My interest in health and nutrition started about eight years ago when I went to work as a writer and editor for a prominent alternative medicine doctor (Julian Whitaker, MD) in Newport Beach, California. New to the world of vitamins, supplements, and nutritious eating, I quickly learned that food can truly be medicine and what we put into our bodies has a huge impact on our health.
A few years back, I had the amazing opportunity to help edit and test recipes for a diet and weight loss book and it was then that I realized how much I enjoyed cooking and tinkering with recipes. Now that I have children of my own, it’s more important to me than ever to find tasty, fun, and—most important—healthy dishes to feed my family.

Because I’m a stay-at-home mom with two crazy kids under the age of two and a half, I’m always on the lookout for simple recipes that require minimal prep time and ingredients that I actually have on hand in the cupboard or fridge. If you’re expecting fancy pants entrees such as Duck a l'Orange or Liver Pâté, you have come to the wrong place. However, if you like good food that is good for you, stick around and see what I have to say.

I look forward to sharing all sorts of recipes, cooking tips, fun food facts, and more with you.
Until next time,