Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash

Hey everybody! I hope you've all had a wonderful spring break, or if your spring break is just starting, that you have a relaxing week off. I spent my break doing a fair amount of cooking, and I'm so excited to share my recipes with you guys during the rest of the month!

As you saw last week, this month is all about healthy breakfasts. The recipe I'm posting today isn't ideal for a quick breakfast before running off to school, but it's great for when you've got company over for brunch or if you want to have a nice breakfast with your family on the weekend. One classic brunch item is anything with potatoes: hash browns, potato hash, you name it! My hash that I'm sharing today is a Sweet Potato Hash. I chose sweet potatoes because they are high in vitamin A and beta-carotene, so you can feel good about start off your day with this dish! Plus, I didn't have any actual potatoes on hand... so I used these. It turned out to be a really good thing, though. Serve this alongside your favorite healthy protein. These could be protein pancakes, a protein shake, lean turkey sausage, scrambled tofu, etc. The list goes on! Enjoy!


Sweet Potato Hash
Serves 4 - 6 

Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ of a large yellow onion, diced
3 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2½ loosely packed cups pre-washed baby spinach 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Preparation
1. Put the sweet potato cubes in a large pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and then let cook for about 3 minutes. The potatoes should be almost done cooking, but still not quite fork-tender. Remove from heat and drain into a colander.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir until the onions are coated in oil and then let sit for about 3 - 4 minutes, until the onions are somewhat translucent. It is crucial that you don't stir until this point; the onions will caramelize more rapidly if you don't stir them. 

3. Add the celery and red bell peppers. Saute for about 3 minutes, until somewhat soft. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are soft all the way through and they are beginning to brown. Adjust the seasonings if needed. 

4. Add the spinach and parsley. Stir well and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, until spinach is just wilted. Serve. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please share your recreations with me using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram and Twitter so I can see what you guys think! This could be a great recipe for an Easter brunch next weekend. Make sure you are following Teens Can Cook, Too on all the social media sites below so you can see what I'm up to: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ

Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Homemade Cherry Vanilla Granola and Lemon Yogurt Parfaits

Hey, everybody! This month's theme is healthy breakfasts, so to kick off the new theme, I have a recipe for a breakfast essential: granola! Making your granola is so much better than buying it at the store because it's lower in sugar and free of nasty preservatives. Plus, you can make a big batch on Sunday and save it for a super quick breakfast for every day of the school week after! Remember that you can take this recipe and tailor it to your preferences. For example, swap out the dried cherries and orange zest for dried blueberries and lemon zest. Please share your recreations using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram and Twitter!


Homemade Cherry Vanilla Granola
Makes about 5 cups 

Ingredients
1½ cups rolled oats 
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
1/4 cup chia seeds
½ tsp cinnamon 
The zest of one small orange
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries (sweetened or unsweetened - you choose!) 

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, orange zest and salt in a large bowl. 

2. Put the coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract in a bowl. Microwave it for 30 seconds, stir, and then microwave until the coconut oil is completely melted. Stir thoroughly and pour the mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Thoroughly incorporate.

3. Put the granola on a baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. 

4. Once cooled, add the dried cherries and mix. Pour into a container or jar to save for later. Serve as cereal with some almond milk, eat plain, or use in Lemon Yogurt Parfaits (recipe below).

The next recipe is a great way to use the granola. It could also make a great breakfast, but you probably want to save it for the weekend since it takes a bit of time to make. Use any kind of plain yogurt you like ( hormone-free non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, soy yogurt, etc.). I recommend using a non-dairy yogurt, but you can choose whatever you like. This parfait serves 1, but it's a big serving, so you could also make two parfaits out of this. Enjoy!
Lemon Yogurt Parfaits
Serves 1

Ingredients
1½ cups plain yogurt of your choice
½ tsp vanilla extract 
The zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp Homemade Cherry Vanilla Granola (recipe above) 
3 strawberries, thinly sliced
½ of a small banana, thinly sliced
6 raspberries 

Preparation
1. Mix the yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest together. 

2. Put 1/5 of the yogurt in the bottom of a jar or glass. Top this layer with 3 tbsp of granola. Add another 1/5 of the yogurt and top with 1/3 of the banana slices and 1/3 of the strawberry slices. Make another layer with 1/5 of the yogurt and top with the rest of the granola, and make another layer with 1/5 of the layer topped with 1/3 of the the bananas and 1/3 of the strawberries. Make another layer of yogurt and top it with the remaining bananas, strawberries and raspberries. Enjoy!

Please give these recipes a try! They're delicious and I know you'll enjoy them! Eating a healthy breakfast every morning is so important. When you don't eat breakfast, your body holds onto all of the fats and nutrients it already has in order to stay surviving, and this causes you to hold onto weight. Eating an unhealthy breakfast is also bad, because an unhealthy meal at any time of the day is never good! Keep following Teens Can Cook, Too at all of the social media handles below to see all of the coming healthy breakfast recipes:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ 

Stay healthy!
- Madeline



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Black Bean Burgers and Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado Aioli

Hey everybody! The last transformed classic dish I have to finish off this month is one you're all really going to love. I have been entertaining the thought of transforming a burger, but I didn't really know what to do, so I figured I could make a black bean burger and really experiment with the flavor profiles. There's a restaurant in Madison Valley called Cafe Flora that makes the best sweet potato fries with cayenne aioli, and I knew I wanted to incorporate those kinds of flavors into my meal. And thus, this miraculous creation was born. My mom says that this was her favorite vegetarian burger that she has ever tasted. You could choose just to make the burger, or just the fries, but regardless, you have got to try this. I even made extra aioli the next day and put it on my toast (is that weird...?). Please remember to share your recreations with me on Instagram and Twitter using #teenscancooktoo! 
The full meal
Avocado Aioli 

Ingredients
1 ripe avocado
The juice of 1 large lime 
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 2 tbsp water (eyeball it as you go) 
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper (use less if you can't tolerate spice) 
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation
Combine all the ingredients in a Vita-Mix or blender. Start on a low speed, and gradually increase to medium speed. If it doesn't blend well enough or you want it thinner, add a bit more water.The consistency should be slightly thinner than mayonnaise. Serve with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Black Bean Burgers. 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4 

Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
3 - 4 tbsp corn starch 
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp garlic powder 
½ tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the peeled potatoes into fries that are about ½-inch wide and 4 - 5 inches long. If they are larger, the cooking time will be much longer and you will run into problems. Soak the cut potatoes in water for at least 2 - 3 hours. If you're short on time, try to let them soak for at least an hour. Drain the potatoes and pat them fairly dry, but leave enough residual moisture so that the corn starch will stick to them in the next step.
Fries soaking

2. Combine the corn starch, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and mix well. Dump the potatoes in the bag. Seal the bag tightly, leaving some air in the bag so that the fries have room to move around. Shake vigorously so that all the fries are covered in a light coating of corn starch. Transfer to a large bowl and coat with olive oil. 

3. Lay the fries out on large baking sheets, making sure that they do not overlap and are not extremely close. You may need to split them onto two sheets and make two batches in order to ensure that they cook well. Bake for 15 minutes, flip them, and then let them bake for another 7 - 10 minutes. 

4. Use ½ of a recipe of Avocado Aioli (above) and spoon into 4 individual ramekins for each person. Serve with fries.

Black Bean Burgers
Serves 4

Ingredients
For burger:
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp canned Hatch green chiles
3/4 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
1/4 of a red onion, roughly chopped 
2 tbsp chipotle salsa (or your favorite salsa) 
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs* 
1 egg white 
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Remaining ingredients:
4 extra-large leaves romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup of chipotle salsa (or your favorite salsa, but chipotle salsa lends itself very well to this recipe) 
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ of a recipe of Avocado Aioli 

* I used gluten-free bread crumbs that are slightly denser than Panko crumbs, which I liked better. If you don't have any of these, don't worry - using Panko will work too! 

Preparation 
1. For burgers: Combine half of the beans, Hatch green chiles, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic, cilantro, onion, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Add the remaining beans and pulse for just a few seconds. By doing so, you will have slightly larger chunks of beans throughout, adding an interesting and meatier texture. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

2. Add the corn, salsa, egg white and Panko bread crumbs. Mix until well combined. Form the mixture into four patties. If you can, try to refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes. This will help them stick together better. If not, don't worry. 
Burger mixture 
3. Using a large non-stick skillet or griddle, heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook for about 2-4 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Flip them and cook them for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. To assemble the burgers, lay a black bean burger patty in the middle of a large lettuce leaf. Spread with a generous amount of aioli, and top with onion and tomato slices. Using a small spoon, scatter 2 tbsp of chipotle salsa over the patty and on the lettuce leaf. Repeat this process with the other burgers. Wrap up and enjoy with Baked Sweet Potato Fries!

Thank you so much for reading all my transformed classic recipes this month! It means a lot to have people interested in what I do and how I want to change the world. Please share your recreations, tell a friend about Teens Can Cook, Too, and follow me on all the social media sites below: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ 

Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Healthy Vegetarian Enchiladas

Hey, everyone! Sorry this post is late - I was super busy yesterday and just didn't have enough time to type up my recipe. I hope it was worth the wait!

Everyone loves Mexican food. Seriously, I don't think it's humanly possible to dislike Mexican food. I make fractured tacos at my house at least once a week and I never get tired of them because I love Mexican food that much. However, one Mexican dish that I've never liked is enchiladas. It's a mouthful of carbs and gooey cheese and meat and ew. I know some people like that, but I am not a fan. I figured creating a healthier enchilada that I actually enjoy eating would be a good challenge, so I created this recipe! It's much lighter, but still has those classic Mexican flavors we all love. Instead of a tortilla, I used giant leaves of collard greens. If this sounds nasty to you, well, I don't blame you for your initial reaction. However, it's actually quite tasty! The entire time I was making this, I was so scared that I was wasting food and that it would be disgusting. But it wasn't. Even my family members, who believed it was going to be gross, loved it. I didn't use a whole-grain tortilla (like Ezekiel's) because they aren't as pliable as collard greens. Plus, it gives the dish an innovative spin. Try it out and share your recreations with me using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram and Twitter! 

Healthy Vegetarian Enchiladas
Serves 4 (2 enchiladas per serving) 

Ingredients and Materials
8 extra-large leaves collard greens, washed
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
1 cup rBST-free shredded Mexican cheese blend
2 avocados, diced
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped 
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Toothpicks

Filling: 
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ of a large yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp cumin 
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp canned Hatch green chiles, diced (if they did not come diced in the can already)
1 (15 oz) can black beans
1½ cups frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce: 
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 - 1½ cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp your favorite tomato salsa (I like chipotle garlic salsa) 
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
½ chili powder
1 tbsp canned Hatch green chiles, diced 
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the filling, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, cayenne, cilantro, Hatch chiles, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and let sit for about 3 - 5 minutes, until translucent and beginning to caramelize. It is important to leave the onions alone once all the spices have been evenly incorporated - stirring too frequently slows the browning process. Add the thawed corn, beans, bell peppers and lime juice. Incorporate the ingredients and saute for about 5 - 7 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the corn is heated through. Remove from heat.

2. Cut the long ends of the stems off of the collard greens, but be sure to keep the stem that runs through the leaves in tact. Make sure the washed leaves are dry. To assemble each enchilada, turn the leaves so that the back side faces up (the side that isn't as shiny, and the side where the stem protrudes out). Fill the center of the leaf with about 3/4 cup of the filling (eyeball it - just make sure you use 1/8 of the filling) and tightly wrap the sides over the filling to create an enchilada. Don't worry about the ends. Secure the enchiladas shut with three toothpicks that run vertically along the enchilada. Repeat this step with all enchiladas.

3. As soon as you are finished assembling the enchiladas, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet with tall walls (my skillet's walls are about 3 inches tall). Add as many enchiladas as will fit (I suggest 3 - 4) and cover the skillet with a lid. Let the enchiladas steam for about 3 - 5 minutes, until the collard greens are steamed and bright green. If the green loses its vibrancy or the bottoms of the enchiladas are burning, you will have cooked them for too long. To remove a cooked enchilada from the skillet, grab two large spoons and put one in each hand. Place the spoons at opposite ends of the enchilada (vertically). Scoop each spoon under the base of the enchilada as far as they will go, and carefully transfer the enchiladas to a 10x13 baking dish. 

4. To make the sauce, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Add the garlic and Hatch chiles and saute for 30 seconds. Then, add the tomato paste and salsa. Add a few tablespoons of the vegetable broth and stir the tomato paste into it to thin it. Continue incorporating the tomato paste into the garlic, salsa and chiles, adding small amounts of broth as you go. Add as much broth as you need until the sauce is fairly thin, but not liquidy. Slightly thinner than spaghetti sauce is perfect. Then, add the remaining sauce ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the top of the enchiladas in the baking dish. Be sure to distribute the sauce evenly over all enchiladas. 

5. Sprinkle the cheese atop the enchiladas and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly golden brown. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and top with avocado and cilantro. Serve each plate with two lime wedges so everyone can squeeze lime juice on top. Remember to remove the toothpicks before eating, and enjoy! 

I hope you liked this recipe! Please remember to follow Teens Can Cook, Too on all the social media handles below: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ 

Stay healthy!
- Madeline

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chicken Shepherd's Pie

You know what sounds really good on a rainy day? Chicken Pot Pie. You know what else sounds good? Shepherd's Pie. However, our inner health freaks tell us to steer clear from those dishes, which are notorious for high calories and fat quantities. Today's recipe is a combination between a Chicken Pot Pie and a Shepherd's Pie that is also really good for you! I call it a Chicken Shepherd's Pie, but you could also call it a Shepherd's Pot Pie or something like that. 

This dish is loaded with veggies, so you won't feel too guilty (even though its flavors are super rich and indulgent). The filling is essentially that of a Chicken Pot Pie, except I used mashed potatoes on the bottom and top to tie in the Shepherd's Pie part. And get this: the mashed potatoes aren't even completely made of potatoes! Made of steamed cauliflower and boiled potatoes that are put in the food processor, you get an extra creamy and nutritious layer on your Chicken Shepherd's Pie. I wouldn't suggest eating these mashed potatoes plain though; they're a little strange on their own, but once you add them to the dish, it adds to the creamy overall flavor and texture that I was looking for. My mom hated the plain potatoes (so did I) before I put them in the oven with the remaining ingredients, so she got a little scared of the final product (honestly, I did too!). But when she tried the finished dish, she LOVED it and went back for seconds. If you try this recipe, please share your recreation with me using #teenscancooktoo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! 


Chicken Shepherd's Pie
Serves 8

Ingredients
Mashed potatoes:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1½ inch pieces (peeling is optional)
1 quart chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Water

Filling:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces 
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup green beans, ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, diced
1½ cups frozen peas (do not thaw beforehand)
½ of a large white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small leek
A large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup almond milk
2 tbsp flour (you can use gluten-free if necessary)
Water
Salt and pepper, to taste

*You may also choose to add 1 small carrot, peeled and diced, in with the celery, asparagus and green beans. I didn't due to my carrot allergy, but I realize that carrots are a classic Chicken Pot Pie ingredient, so feel free to add them!

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the cauliflower florets and potatoes in a large pot. Fill with chicken broth. If the broth doesn't completely cover the contents of the pot, add water until completely covered. Bring to a boil and boil until the potatoes are soft (test using a fork) and the cauliflower is tender, which should take about 7 - 10 minutes after it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and ladle 1 cup of hot chicken broth out of the pot. Then, drain the contents of the pot. Rinse out the pot and be prepared to use it in a later step. 

2. Add about half of the cauliflower and potatoes to a food processor along with half of the reserved broth. Take the plastic plug out of the lid and lightly rest a hand over the hole in the top. This way, the steam can escape, but you can prevent the contents of the food processor from flying out of the top and destroying your kitchen. Quickly process for a few seconds, and then add the remaining cauliflower, potatoes, and chicken broth. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to finish them off. The "mashed potatoes" should be fairly smooth. If your mixture looks or tastes somewhat gluey or runny, that's okay! It will add to the overall texture of the dish. 

3. Using the pot that you used for the potatoes, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil on medium heat. Add the chicken and half of the garlic. Cook for about 3 - 5 minutes, until almost no pink is showing. Then, add the asparagus, green beans, and celery. Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the frozen peas. Then, add a few cups of water until the contents of the pot are completely covered. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the contents of the pot in a colander. Set aside.

4. While the chicken and veggies are boiling, cut the leek in half lengthwise. Lay the flat part on the cutting board and slice very thinly. Put the slices in a colander and loosen the dirt from the leeks. Use some produce wash to aid in this process. Once all the bubbles from the produe wash are gone and all the dirt has been washed down the drain, pat the leeks dry and set aside. 

5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic, the onion, the parsley and the leeks. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Saute until the onions are somewhat translucent and the leeks are softer, which should take around 3 - 5 minutes. Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the flour. Pour in the almond milk. Mix the almond milk and flour together to thicken it, and then slowly incorporate this mixture into the rest of the veggies. If you want it thinner, thicker or need more creaminess in general, you can add more almond milk and/or flour. Remove from heat. Combine this mixture with the chicken and veggies.

6. In a large casserole dish (make sure its walls are very tall), lay down half of the potatoes and smooth with a spatula. Add all of the filling, and then top with a final layer of the remaining potatoes. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the mashed potatoes are slightly golden brown on top. Serve. 

This recipe is pretty lengthy, but it is so worth it! Make sure you give this innovated classic a try. Follow Teens Can Cook, Too on all the social media handles below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ 

Stay healthy!

- Madeline


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Garden Tomato Soup

Hey, everyone! To start off, I just wanted to let you all know that the Newcastle News recently published a news article about Teens Can Cook, Too. Please take a moment to check it out! I'm so honored to have an article about the blog in the news, and it would mean so much if you read it: http://www.newcastle-news.com/2014/03/05/teen-shares-love-of-cooking-and-healthy-eating-through-blog#more-11540

Today, I have two recipes for you that go together very well: Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Garden Tomato Soup! Talk about a classic combination. Grilled cheese sandwiches are an American classic that gets a bad rap for its lack of nutritional content. I wanted to make a delicious sandwich that expanded on the classic flavors without taking anything away. Most sandwiches use two slices in order to get that gooey, cheesiness that everyone loves. I took away one of those slices and added slices of avocado so that you still get the gooey cheese, but with a much lower saturated fat content. The avocado makes up for the creaminess we lost, and it just tastes good. I had a grilled cheese sandwich at the Farmers' Market once with avocado on it, and it was incredible, so trust me on this one if you think this sounds weird! The tomato soup was a lot easier considering that most homemade tomato soups are pretty healthy. However, if you're the type that only knows how to heat up a can of Campbell's tomato soup, this will be a big change that I hope you love. My tomato soup doesn't taste like Campbell's because I used so many vegetables, but my family still loved it. Each recipe yields a different serving size, so you can cut one in half or double the other in order to suit your needs. You could also make the four full sandwiches and cut them into eight halves for eight people. Enjoy!


Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Makes 4 full sandwiches

Ingredients
8 slices all-natural, whole-grain bread (I recommend Dave's Killer Bread) 
4 slices rBST-free cheese of choice (cheddar, white cheddar, pepper jack, etc.) 
1 large avocado, cut into thin slices
2 medium-sized beefsteak tomatoes on-the-vine
12 large basil leaves, washed
Extra-virgin olive oil cooking spray

Preparation
1. Remove the stem from the tomatoes and cut out the place where it attached to the tomato. Think of that area of the tomato as the top, and the side touching the cutting board as the bottom. Using a serrated knife, cut the tomato in half from the top to the bottom. Turn each half on its flat side and slice thinly. Repeat with the other tomato.

2. Assemble a sandwich by putting a few tomato slices, a few avocado slices, and three basil leaves on the bottom slice of bread. Put the slice of cheese on the top slice of bread and place on the sandwich so the cheese touches the rest of the ingredients. Repeat this process with the other sandwiches.

3. Plug in your panini maker or George Forman grill. Once it is hot, spray a little bit of olive oil on both sides of the panini maker/George Forman grill. Place one sandwich on the grill and put the top down. Place a paper towel underneath the base of the grill to catch any drips. Grill for about three minutes, and check frequently to make sure it is grilled to your liking. Preferably, your sandwich should have golden-brown grill marks and the cheese should be melted. Remove from the grill using a spatula and transfer to a plate. Cut on a diagonal to make two triangles. Repeat this process with the remaining sandwiches. Serve with Garden Tomato Soup. 





Garden Tomato Soup
Serves 8 

Ingredients
1/2 of a medium-sized yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp fresh thyme (substitute 3/4 tsp dried if you don't have fresh on hand)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 of a small red bell pepper, diced OR 1 small carrot, peeled and diced* 
3 beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes (preferably low sodium or unsalted)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, etc.)
1/2 cup basil leaves
A handful of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

*I highly recommend that you use carrots for a more classic tomato soup taste. I used bell peppers due to my carrot allergy, and the pepper taste was definitely prominent. I liked the way it tasted for sure, but using carrots will bring out the flavors of the tomatoes more. Choose whichever veggie you like best!

Preparation
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme and Italian seasoning. Stir to coat with the oil and let sit for about three to five minutes, until the onions are somewhat translucent and are just beginning to caramelize. Add the fresh tomatoes, bell pepper/carrot, zucchini, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high, mix well and saute for about five to seven minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and cook for another two minutes.

2. Add the vegetable broth and almond milk. Stir well. Cover and let boil for about ten minutes. Remove from heat. 

3. Using a ladle, transfer the contents of the pot to a Vita-Mix, blender or food processor. Add the fresh basil and parsley. Put the lid on the blender, but be sure to take the plastic plug out of the lid. This way, the steam can escape. Start off at a low speed and gradually increase the speed to medium-high. Keep a hand lightly resting over the hole in the lid to keep the soup from flying out of the blender and splattering all over your kitchen! Blend for about a minute until you reach the desired consistency. Some like it chunkier, and others like it very smooth and creamy. Once you're happy with the consistency of the soup, stop blending and ladle it into eight individual bowls. Serve with Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. 

There you go! I hope you enjoy these healthy twists on two classic American dishes. I normally hate tomato soup, but I absolutely love this one, so you know it's got to be good! The sandwiches are also amazing. My dad came home from a business trip the other night and had a hot Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwich waiting for him, and he told me it was an outstanding sandwich. I don't normally get praise that high from my dad, so this is pretty legit! Please try these recipes out and share your recreations with me using #teenscancooktoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Don't forget to follow Teens Can Cook, Too at all the social media sites below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832


Stay healthy!
- Madeline 


Monday, March 3, 2014

Healthier Baked Potatoes

Hey, everyone! Sorry this post was late - I had a super busy weekend and couldn't create my recipe until really late last night, but at least you guys still get a recipe this week. This month's theme is healthy twists on classic dishes, which was the most popular choice on the vote on Instagram. I think making healthy versions of classics is really important because it gets us to compare and contrast nutritional benefits. Plus, whenever you have a craving for an unhealthy comfort food, you can make the healthy version instead to satisfy your craving without sacrificing nutrition. 

Today's recipe is Healthier Baked Potatoes! I'll admit that I love a classic baked potato. Butter, cheese, and green onions are just so good inside a gigantic potato. Whenever we have traditional baked potatoes at my house (which happens a little too often...), I load mine up with a ton of cheese and butter. Seriously, it's bad. I have wanted to find a way to make a delicious, cheesy potato that is also nutritious, but I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. Some of my ideas included making a cashew cream sauce to replace the cheese, but honestly, that sounds disgusting. I went on Pinterest the other day and discovered baked potatoes filled with roasted veggies. That gave me a starting point to create a recipe off of, but of course, I didn't know what to do with the cheese. I just decided that a little cheese in moderation won't kill me, and I think it's absolutely necessary for a good baked potato. I also added a small amount of butter for some creaminess. If you're the type who likes sour cream in their potato (that's not me, but a lot of people love it), just use the same amount of sour cream instead of the butter. Enjoy this take off of a classic baked potato that you and your whole family will enjoy!

Healthier Baked Potatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 medium-large russet potatoes
½ of a small leek
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
½ cup small broccoli florets
½ cup small cauliflower florets
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to coat potatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried parsley
1 tbsp rBST-free butter or sour cream
3/4 cup rBST-free medium cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
3 green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly wash the potatoes with produce wash and a scrub brush so the skins are free of any dirt. Remove any eyes (if necessary). Pierce the potatoes with a fork a couple times on each side. Rub the potatoes with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place potatoes directly onto the top oven rack and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning halfway through the cooking process. 

2. While the potatoes are roasting, slice the leek very thinly and transfer the slices to a bowl. Fill the bowl with water and produce wash. Loosen up the leeks letting all the dirt in between the layers sink to the bottom of the bowl. Using your hands, remove the leeks from the bowl and set them into a colander. If you miss any slices, use a slotted spoon to remove them. Dump the dirty water down the drain and then rinse the leeks in the colander.

3. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil on medium-high heat in a medium-sized skillet. Add the leeks, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Let cook for about three minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining olive oil, and then add the broccoli and cauliflower florets. Stir until just combined, and then immediately cover the skillet with a large lid. Let the veggies steam until the broccoli is a vibrant, dark green. If you aren't sure if it's done, taste-test it. The veggies should be tender, but not mushy. Remove from heat and transfer the cooked veggies to a large bowl.

4. Once the potatoes are slightly cool, cut a large plus sign (or X - however you want to think of it!) in the middle of the potato. Push up on the side of the potato to open it up (you may want to wear oven mitts for this part). Using a spoon, scoop out the insides of the potatoes and put them in the large bowl with the veggies. Get as much out as you can, but leave just enough stuck to the potato skins so that it stays intact. Add the butter/sour cream, cheese, green onions, and more salt and pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined and until the cheese has melted. 

5. Fill each empty potato skin with a generous amount of filling. It should be practically overflowing! Pack the filling in tightly to use as much filling as possible per potato. Serve with your favorite main dish and salad. Enjoy! 

That's it! I hope you enjoy this recipe! It's a bit more time-consuming than my other recipes, but it's totally worth it. I think these would be perfect for a family night, a snow day, or when you've got company over. Please share your recreations of this recipe with me using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I love it when you guys get involved! Make sure you keep up with Teens Can Cook, Too on all the social media handles below: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ 

Stay healthy!
- Madeline






Sunday, February 23, 2014

Penne with Lemony Greens

Hey, everyone! Today is the last post about getting your greens, so I want to make sure I give you a really good recipe and some really good tips about keeping greens in your diet. Today's recipe serves one to two, so it's perfect when you're home alone and you can only use what you have to make dinner. 

Keeping greens in your diet can be a big challenge. My parents struggle with it a lot for sure. It's not the fact that we dislike greens (we LOVE them!), but it's that we just don't know exactly how to use them. Green smoothies are always a great option, but what else can you do? Cooking with vegetables generally takes at least a little bit of effort, so using your greens can be daunting.

So what do you do? First of all, you need to actually have a variety of green veggies in your fridge. Kale, spinach and lettuce are the most common, and should probably always be in your fridge. Lettuce is great for salads, sandwiches, wraps, cold dishes, lettuce wraps, and more. Kale and spinach work for all of the previously listed items, plus I like them in a stir-fry, soup, pasta dish, pesto sauce, green smoothies, and more. Then, think about how you're going to use the veggies you have. Pick a different method every time; it inspires you to keep using your greens, keeps things interesting, and gives you some creativity. For example, I made Penne with Lemony Greens (recipe below) a few days ago, and then made a pesto with kale and mint the next day. My kale was useful for both of those dishes, and since it had a different use for each dish, I didn't get tired of it at all! 

Look at what you have and how it can make a dish. Remember that you can do any combination of spices to mimic flavors from around the world. Try to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some basic staples, like spices, whole-wheat pasta, whole grains, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemons, nuts, cans of beans, and more. Combine those simple ingredients with some of your greens and your special spices to create an amazing dish! Honestly, some of my best dishes have been created on use-what-you-have days. You just add as you go. It's a very free style of cooking that may take some practice, but you'll get the hang of it!

Want an example? Let's say you have a can of white beans, some kale, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, and other sorts of simple staples in your house. You have NO IDEA what to do with it. My suggestion would be to turn it into a soup! Saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the spices and the beans, then pour in some vegetable/chicken broth. Simmer it for awhile and then add the kale until it wilts. If you so desire, you could add pasta or rice to this too. It's super easy, and the only ingredient that isn't in your food supply every day was the kale. You could also turn this into a pasta sauce (take out the broth). 

Onto the recipe. I came up with this recipe a few nights ago when I was told to fend for myself for dinner. My dad was eating leftovers that were about to go bad, and since they only served one, I had to get creative. We have a ton of green veggies sitting and rotting in our fridge (like kale, chard, broccolini, broccoli, spring mix and heads of lettuce), so I knew I had to make use of what I could salvage. The night before, my dad brought home some mint for me so I could make a Mediterranean dish. How was I going to use the mint and all my green veggies? I solved my problem with this recipe. This was made with things I just happened to have at home, but you may not happen to have them at your house, and that's okay. Every fridge is different. Remember that you can always substitute the ingredients. Use whatever leafy green veggie you like, and supplement any other veggie for the broccolini if you don't have any. Broccoli works too, as do green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, or whatever else you like. You can use basil or parsley instead of mint, or omit the herbs completely. It's all up to you! That's the great thing about cooking. It's an expression of who you are and what you like. The recipe is just a framework for you to cook around, so be creative! 


Penne with Lemony Greens 
Serves 1 - 2 (I ate all of it, but it's a BIG serving!) 

Ingredients
3 oz whole-wheat penne pasta 
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 - 4 large leaves of kale 
1 cup broccolini/broccoli florets
1/2 of a small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 extra-small lemon 
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint 
Salt and pepper, to taste
(Optional) A couple tablespoons of pine nuts (for garnish) 

Preparation
1. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package (until al dente). Drain in a colander and briefly rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Add it back to the pot. Cover the pot and set it aside on the stove.

2. While the water is boiling, wash the leaves of kale. Using a large knife, remove the thick areas of the stem. Chop the kale as finely or coarsely as you like. I prefer mine on the smaller side. 

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Stir well and let sit until they start to brown slightly. DO NOT TOUCH THEM: this is very important in making them semi-caramelized! Add the garbanzo beans, kale, broccolini/broccoli, salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let steam for about three to five minutes, until the kale and broccolini/broccoli are a vibrant, dark green. Taste-test a veggie if you're unsure. Quickly add the lemon juice and stir well. Remove from heat. 

4. Combine the sauteed veggies with the cooked pasta in the pot. Add the feta and mint and mix well. To serve, if desired, sprinkle with pine nuts. 

There you go! I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you can make a variation of it when you're home alone with nothing to eat. You could also double/triple it and serve it to your family on a weeknight. It may seem like it takes awhile, but if you prep and saute the veggies while the pasta is cooking, you can get it done in 20 - 30 minutes. It only took me about 25 minutes to create this off the top of my head. If you try this out, please share it with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #teenscancooktoo. Make sure you're keeping track of Teens Can Cook, Too by following us on all the social media sites below: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Instagram: http://instagram.com/teenscancooktoo (@teenscancooktoo)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teens-Can-Cook-Too/113579778813832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdiKFPsBoLhYw2W42P7LvKQ  

Also, on the Instagram page, I will be asking followers to vote for the theme next month. Please log in and vote for the theme. I want to make sure you guys are seeing what you want to see so I can help you on your journey to being healthier!

Stay healthy!
- Madeline