The Quick Dinner Series, Episode 1: Brown Rice Stir Fry with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, and Chopped Beets

When I get home from ten exhausting hours of sitting behind a desk, sometimes the last thing I want to do is come home and prepare a nutritious and flavorful meal. I think many can agree with me that in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We get home from our jobs and other commitments, and we don’t necessarily have the time or energy to cook – we want something that requires minimal effort but can still make us feel good. With that said, I introduce to you The Quick Dinner Series.

The Quick Dinner Series will feature various meals that are easy to prepare, take minimal time to cook, and are a breeze to clean up. The recipes I share will not compromise nutritional value or flavor for the sake of simplicity. What you’ll find are recipes that have become healthy and delicious staples in my kitchen.

The first feature for the Series is something I threw together when my refrigerator was looking pretty bare. With no interest in heading to the store, and the only delivery service in my relatively rural area of New Jersey being pizza or Chinese food, I thought I was going to have to get very inventive (and I was a bit worried about that.) Turns out, I got pretty lucky – this recipe isn’t too “out of the box,” and it’s now one I shop specifically for.

Brown Rice Stir Fry with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, and Chopped Beets

Serves 2 (with left overs)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • Chicken sausage of your choice (I like to use a full package of Al Fresco® Roasted Pepper and Asiago flavor. It gives your dish a nice kick)
  • 3 cups shaved Brussels sprouts
  • 2 heads broccoli, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped beets
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook your rice in a medium saucepan until desired results. Let sit.
  2. Heat up the olive oil in a large pan. Add Brussels sprouts and broccoli and let cook until slightly tender, but not fully cooked.
  3. Add in chopped beets and chicken sausage. *If your sausage is pre-cooked, this is the time to add it in. If it’s not pre-cooked, I advise adding it to the pan first, and cooking for 10 minutes or so before adding the Brussels.
  4. Mix everything together and add more olive oil, salt, or pepper if necessary. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in brown rice, mixing everything together and letting the flavors meld.
  6. Remove from the pan and enjoy!

Health Benefits

When I was younger, my mom used to take drastic measures to get me to eat vegetables like Brussels sprouts. They’re one of those vegetables that as a child, you just have to dislike. As a result, I pretty much avoided them until my 20’s, and now I eat them regularly. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of nutrition. They are rich in vitamin K, which helps blood clot (which is necessary when you puncture your skin), and it helps bones grow and stay healthy. In addition, a serving of Brussels sprouts has more vitamin C than a glass of orange juice. As you probably know, vitamin C promotes a healthy immune system. It also helps with brain health (no wonder my mom made me eat it).

As a child, it was probably even more difficult to get me to eat beets, but now I eat them almost daily. Beets have a high concentration of folate, a complex B-vitamin. Beets are detoxifying, and thanks to folate, they also promote brain and nervous system health. They’re also good for your heart. Studies have also shown that an increase in folate decreases the risk of different types of cancers in the body.

This meal has quickly become a favorite in my household and one I would highly recommend. I live with a picky eater of a boyfriend, yet it’s something he specifically requests at least once a week. And I am happy to oblige – it only involves two pans to cook and clean. I recommend topping this with my favorite spicy sauce, Sriracha, as well as some fresh avocado.

Hope you enjoyed the first installment of The Quick Dinner Series! Did you get to try this recipe? Let me know how you liked it in the comments!

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Chia Seeds: They’re “Supernatural”

This week’s special ingredient is the chia seed. You may or may not have heard of these tiny quinoa lookalikes, as they’re still growing in popularity (though at a fast pace) in the US. As I’ll explain, chia seeds are little nutritional powerhouses which will add great health benefits to your yogurts, your drinks, or your baking.

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History of chia seeds

Chia seeds go way back. They were grown as early as 3500 B.C. by the Aztec Empire, and were a major cash crop in Mexico. They were said to have been used by the Mayan and Aztec cultures for their “supernatural powers.” Today, they’re grown in Mexico, South America, and Australia, imported to the U.S., and find their way to healthy kitchens across the country.

the-word-chia-spelled-with-chia-seedsYou may have seen chia seed items on menus of healthy restaurants, either in smoothie blends, yogurt parfaits, or baked goods. Though they look like quinoa, chia seeds aren’t meant to be cooked like quinoa. Instead, they’re usually a topping or an extra ingredient included for nutritional purposes only, as they don’t have a remarkable (or even noticeable) taste. The flavor is somewhat nutty but rather mild, perhaps mild enough to be an ingredient that’s sneaked into a meal that needs a nutritional boost.

Benefits of chia

Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that chia is up there with quinoa in terms of health benefits, I think it’s worth writing about as such a small amount of the superfood provides so much  nutritional value. These little seeds are 40% fiber by weight, and 14% protein by weight.

One 1oz (about 2tbsp) serving will provide you with the following:

  • 11g Fiber
  • 4g Protein
  • 9g Fat (5g of which are omega-3s)
  • 18% RDA of Calcium
  • 30% RDA of Manganese
  • 30% RDA of Magnesium
  • 27% RDA of Phosphorus

It also has decent amounts of Zinc, Potassium, and B Vitamins.

With these high numbers of vitamins and nutrients comes a variety of health benefits. Here are a few:

  1. Chia seedsBeing that chia seeds are 40% fiber by weight and 14% protein by weight, they can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Fiber and protein help make you feel full, and keep your digestive organs working properly. It’s sounds silly or hard to believe that these little seeds can actually make you feel full, but the numbers don’t lie!
  2. Chia seeds are great for bone health. They say milk helps build strong bones, because of its high percentage of calcium. Chia seeds contain 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Try putting chia seeds in your yogurt and you’ll have a calcium-packed meal. Magnesium, phosphorus, and of course protein are great for bone health too; and are all abundant in chia seeds.
  3. Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants which can help protect your body from damaging and/or life threatening diseases, such as some cancers. They can also help fight aging.
How to eat chia seeds

Cant-choose-between-chia-pudding-Greek-yogurt-breakfastAs I’ve mentioned, chia seeds are a very versatile addition to your diet, because they don’t have much taste. You can add them to your oats in the morning, to your yogurt, to your smoothies or juices, or to your baked goods. Additionally, you can combine your seeds with water to make “chia gel”, which can be used to thicken sauces, or even act as a binding agent for veggie patties.

For my next recipe, I’ll make a morning meal with chia seeds that is sure to leave you with sufficient energy throughout the day. Stay tuned for my next creation!

The Avocado

After almost 10 years of healthy eating, I have acquired a taste for many different healthy foods. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. But I do feel it’s very important that I make at least one post for perhaps my favorite healthy food of all: the avocado.

Who doesn’t like avocado? You know a food is important when it’s compared to Oprah. There’s avocado toast, guacamole, ceviche, or just plain old avocado with salt and pepper (and for me at least, a little Sriracha). Most people know that avocado is packed with healthy fats which is reason enough to make sure you incorporate it into your diet. But what some of us might not know is that it has a number of other great health benefits. Bring on the guac.

So what is avocado?avo1

Avocado is a pear shaped fruit that is native to Central America and Mexico. It’s also known as the “alligator pear” due to its scaly skin. However, the inside is so delicious that I suspect even Donald Trump would allow this Mexican immigrant to pass the border (too soon?).

Benefits of avocado

Avocado contains around 20 different vitamins and minerals; Vitamin K, Folate, and Vitamin C being the most abundant.

  • Vitamin K is essential for healthy bones and blood flow. It also aids in blood clotting which is important when it comes to injuries, and also greatly strengthens heart health. Avocados have 26% of the RDA of Vitamin K in a single 3.5oz serving.
  • Folate is another vitamin that promotes heart health. It is also an essential prenatal vitamin; as it supports normal fetal development. It also benefits your psychological and emotional health. Avocados have 20% of the RDA of Folate in a single 3.5oz serving.avo2
  • Vitamin C, as we all know, is a vital ingredient for a healthy immune system. And we know a healthier immune system equals a longer, fuller life. It also protects against cardiovascular diseases, eye disease and prenatal health diseases as well. Avocados have 17% of the RDA of Vitamin C in a single 3.5oz serving.

Aside from these primarily abundant vitamins, there are a number of other beneficial properties the avocado contains.

  • When we think potassium, most of us think bananas. Avocado actually has more potassium than bananas. Potassium supports healthy blood pressure levels, which can help prevent stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
  • Healthy fats: this is probably the benefit most are aware of. Though 77% of calories in avocado are from fat, which shouldn’t alarm you – most of the fat is oleic acid. Oleic acid reduces inflammation and supports a healthy digestive system. If you’re following a plant-based diet, for example, avocado is a healthy way to ensure you incorporate necessary fats into your diet.
  • Fiber: while we’re on the topic of a healthy digestive system, it’s worth it to note the large amounts of fiber in avocado. An unhealthy digestive system is more trouble than you would imagine – so incorporate fiber into your diet whenever you can.
  • Low cholesterol: avocados don’t contain any cholesterol or sodium, which are things we need to limit in our diets. It’s full of flavor without the added salt.
  • It makes healthier food healthier. Avocado increases the absorption of important vitamins and minerals found in other foods (i.e. veggies). So not only will you be getting nutrients from the avocado itself, but you will be getting prime benefits of the foods that you’re consuming avocado with.

avo3As we’ve seen, avocado is a superfood that should be on-hand in your kitchen at all times. These are just a few of the health benefits it offers. The only guilt we should be feeling about eating avocado is the ridiculous up-charge Chipotle requires to add guacamole to your burrito (Dear Chipotle: take all of my money).

Welcome!

To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. – Buddha

Hello everyone and welcome to The Pursuit of Healthiness – my new healthy eating blog!

My name is Liz and I’m 24 years old, a full-time student working towards my Masters Degree in Professional writing, with a concentration on Web Content Development. I also work full-time as a marketing coordinator for an engineering company here in New York.

For many years now, healthy eating has been a passion of mine. I have suffered in the past from stomach issues that kept me feeling tired and miserable almost all of the time. I attributed this constant discomfort to my unhealthy eating habits, and made it a point to change what I eat. Though I admit I “fall off the wagon” more than I probably should, overall I am committed to healthy eating, and taking care of my body.

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I have come across some great recipes in the past which have become regular appearances in my kitchen, and I want to use this blog to show some of my favorites, and discover some new recipes with my followers. My plan is to showcase one or two special ingredients per week, and talk about the health benefits to them. Then, for my second weekly post, I plan to make a dish (or two) which the “ingredients of the week” will be a part of. I think it will be a fun idea to motivate myself and others, and hopefully we can learn something new!

I hope you will join me in my Pursuit of Healthiness! Any and all recommendations are welcome. Looking forward to cooking with you all!