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USE IT OR LOSE IT: SOLUTIONS FOR LEFTOVER KITCHEN INGREDIENTS – Cucumbers

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It’s probably happened to you a million times. You’re making a lovely salad for lunch or dinner and you only really need half of that crunchy, refreshing cucumber. You put the rest in the fridge but forget about it until you find a soggy mess in your produce drawer. I hate wasting food, but the reality is that with cucumbers you have limitations. You can’t freeze them for future soups, stews and sauces. Their flavor is limited so they can’t really accent meals. So it takes a little more creativity and culinary know-how to figure out what to do with your leftovers. Here are a a few solutions for this leftover kitchen ingredient:

  1. Sleep deprived? The greatest natural remedy for eye puffiness: cucumbers!
  2. Keeping the at-home spa treatments theme add cucumber to Greek Yogurt for a rejuvenating, DIY face mask.
  3. Flavor your water with cucumbers and watermelon for refreshing summer beverage full of hydration.
  4. Make Pork Cucumber Pitas! Recipe: http://www.mealsonheelsbymindy.com/recipes/pork-pitas/
  5. Make Greek Horiatiki Salad! Recipe: http://www.mealsonheelsbymindy.com/menus/tasty-travels/greece-aegean-kiss/#salad
  6. Make Cucumber and Asian Cured Soba Noodles! Recipe below. Japanese noodles get a boost from powerful hot spices that get cooled by tangy cucumber relish in this easy dish perfect for summer entertaining or a quick family meal.

CUCUMBER AND ASIAN CURRIED SOBA NOODLES

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Prepared in 25 minutes or less plus 1 hour to chill.

Ingredients

  • 2 seedless cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs white sesame seeds
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 oz dried Soba noodles

Instructions

  1. Split cucumbers in half lengthwise. Cut into thin slices and place in a large bowl with salt. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Add rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy and sesame oil to the bowl. Gently toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour for flavors to macerate.
  3. Over medium high heat in a small heavy frying pan, add curry powder and cook for a minute to release flavors and is aromatic. Stir constantly.
  4. Pour heated curry into a large bow. Whisk in Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, sesame seeds and ground pepper. Set aside.
  5. Fill large stockpot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add Soba noodles and cook for 3 minutes or until just tender.
  6. Remove 1/3 cup of reserved cooking water before draining noodles over a colander.
  7. Add noodles and cooking water to curry yogurt sauce. Toss to combine.
  8. Serve in bowls. Top with chilled cucumber relish. This dish is yummy hot or cold.
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Food All-Stars: The Benefits of Cilantro

Cilantro is much more than a garnish on a plate or greenery atop a savory taco. This delicate but powerful herb is a nutritional powerhouse with beta carotene, chlorophyll, folic acid, iron, manganese and vitamins C and K. It’s also considered one of the best foods to fight disease.

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Cilantro boasts the following:

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory capacities that may help symptoms of arthritis
  • Acts to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • Overall digestive aid
  • Helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • Adds fiber to the digestive tract
  • Helps promote healthy liver function
  • Reduces minor swelling
  • Strong general antioxidant properties
  • Disinfects and helps detoxify the body
  • Helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar
  • Acts as a natural anti-septic and anti-fungal agent for skin disorders like fungal infections and eczema
  • Contains immune-boosting properties

And if you need more reasons to love cilantro, be sure to try these recipes:

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Don’t Worry, Eat Happy: A List of Common Lettuce Varieties

Afternoon or evening, whatever the season, a crisp, cold salad is always a satisfying meal. Pack your salad with protein (grilled chicken or beans) and you’ll have a lunch that’s not only hearty but energy boosting. Get creative by adding sweet seasonal produce like peaches or strawberries, and you’ll also satisfy your sweet tooth.

But let’s go back to salad basics here and talk about lettuce varieties. How well do you know the lettuce you’re eating? Here’s my guide to common lettuce varieties:

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1) Boston or Bibb. This soft and buttery cup-shaped lettuce is great to use as a bowl! Add a scoop of tuna or chicken salad and enjoy! Recipe for: Spring Pea Medley in Lettuce Cups.

2) Arugula. What flavor! This peppery leafy green packs a punch and is popular in Mediterranean diets. Try it on its own or mix it with other lettuce varieties. Recipe for: Grilled Peach, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad.

3) Romaine hearts. Perfect for Caesar Salad. If you’re watching your waistline, roll a slice of turkey meat with diced tomatoes and a bit of hummus for a low-cal sandwich! During summer’s grill season, heat things up with this zesty salad. Recipe for: Grilled Caesar Salad.

4) Red Leaf. High in vitamin A and antioxidants. Don’t buy this colorful variety if you see the leaf tips are browning.

5) Green Leaf. Crispy, crunchy, sweet and mild, Green Leaf Lettuce is a good source of folate.

6) Iceberg. Likely the most popular variety in the U.S., Iceberg lettuce isn’t big on nutritional value but has a long shelf-life. It’s also got a great crunch!

7) Radicchio. Did you know that radicchio has only been grown in America since the late 80′s? This popular Italian lettuce with the bitter taste makes for a great side dish. Recipe for: Grilled Radicchio.

8) Frisee. A cross between Green Leaf and Chicory, Frisee is high in vitamins A and C. Recipe for: Frisee, Watercress and Toasted Pine Nut Salad.

9) Mesclun. Usually found in packages, mesclun is a mix of tender baby lettuce varieties bitter greens, and other like mizuna, oak leaf and arugula.

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Don’t Worry, Eat Happy: The Benefits of Blackberries

Ever been blackberry picking?

There are few things better than picking and eating a sun-ripened blackberry that’s plump yet delicate and packed with dripping sweetness. Let the angels sing!

When you can have a delicious food that’s also loaded with health benefits, that’s what I call a major Don’t Worry, Eat Happy moment!

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Why blackberries are food all-stars

  • A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that antioxidant content of 5.75 millimoles per serving was  above that of other foods. That means that regular consumption of blackberries may have a positive impact on health, athletic performance and disease risk.
  • Anthocyanins, a powerful phytonutrient, gives blackberries their dark color. These phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • Blackberries have high nutritional content including fiber, vitamins C, vitamin K and manganese.
  • Blackberries have also been shown to help in the fight against cancers of the GI tract.

Pssst…Have you entered our Smoothie Giveaway yet? Just click here.

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Poolside Bites: Summer Entertaining Recipes (+ A #Giveaway!!!)

If you’re looking for quick summer entertaining recipes to enjoy in between cannonballs and swan dives, look no further. Below is round-up of some of my favorite poolside bites to enjoy all summer long.

AND – if you make it past the recipes, you’re in for a special surprise…GIVEAWAY!!!!

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HEIRLOOM PANZANELLA

Yield: 4-6

Sweet and tangy, this colorful market fresh Italian salad defines summer on a plate!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces
  • 2/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 2 oz can anchovy fillets
  • 1 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, or vine-ripe plum tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup caperberries
  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 5 Basil leaves, torn into pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place Ciabatta pieces in a bowl and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil. Gently toss until coated. Bake in oven on a baking sheet until golden. Remove and set aside.
  3. Place bell peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until skins begin to char. Remove from oven, cover with kitchen towel and allow to slightly cool.
  4. Gently pull charred skins off the peppers. Cut peppers into quarters. Discard seeds and stems.
  5. Drain anchovies and coarsely chop. Set aside.
  6. Peel and half tomatoes. Gently scoop seeds over a strainer set atop a bowl to catch juices. Press tomato pulp with the back of a spoon to extract juices. Discard pulp.
  7. Add remaining olive oil, crushed garlic and red wine vinegar to tomato juices. Season tomato dressing with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  8. Layer toasted Ciabatta pieces, peppers, tomatoes, anchovies, caperberries and black olives in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes to soak up dressing. Garnish with basil.
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CLASSIC TOMATO BRUSCHETTA

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 8

This bruschetta is a perfect addition to any antipasti platter and is simply divine when served with full-bodied red wine and good friends.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced paper thin or minced
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, rinsed, patted dry and finely chopped
  • Fresh pepper and salt to taste
  • 8 slices of crusty country bread cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces
  • 1/4 lbs Parmigiano-Reggiano

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler or grill. Combine in a medium bowl, sliced tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, ground pepper and sliced garlic. Set aside.
  2. Grill or toast the bread slices for 2 – 3 minutes being careful not to burn. Remove toasted bread from the oven and rub the garlic halve across the top of each slice. Drizzle with olive oil then set atop a platter.
  3. Gently spoon tomato mixture over each slice of bread. Shave, using a vegetable peeler, the cheese over each piece of bread. Serve immediately.
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PREPPY PAPAYA, MANGO AND AVOCADO SUMMER SALAD

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 papayas peeled, halved and seeded
  • 2 mangoes, peeled, halved and cubed off seed
  • 2 avocados peeled, halved and pitted
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 cup Extra-Virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Slice the papayas width-wise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Slice the mangoes width-wise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Slice the avocados lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange overlapping slices on a serving platter, alternating slices of papaya, mango and avocado.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon the dressing over the papaya, mango and avocado slices. Serve immediately.

Notes

Option: Substitute mango with cherry tomatoes and add prosciutto slices to the platter for a savory Mediterranean flare.

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WATERMELON CUCUMBER COOLER

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cubed seedless watermelon (2 cups liquid after pureeing)
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbs agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup coconut water
  • Crushed ice cubes
  • Cucumber rounds for garnish
  • 3 cups or 24oz of Prosecco

Instructions

  1. Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Blend or puree the watermelon, then pour it through the sieve (pressing on solids with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula).
  2. Repeat the process with the cucumber. Add it to the watermelon juice. Stir together the lime juice and agave with the coconut water. Adjust sweetness if desired by adding more agave.
  3. To serve, fill glasses with crushed ice and top each with the watermelon-cucumber cooler and a splash of chilled Prosecco. Garnish with the cucumber slices.

Notes

**For kid-friendly recipe, omit Prosecco.

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GARDEN SHIRAZI SALAD

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 lbs seedless cucumbers, cut into discs
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, divided into 2 portions
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided into 2 portions
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 bunch of chives, cut into match-stick size pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 bunch fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine sliced onion with red wine vinegar in a small bowl.Set aside for 15-20 minutes. Drain.
  2. Gently toss with your hands the marinated onions, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to a serving platter. Add fresh herbs and remaining half of lime juice and olive oil to the large bowl. Season to taste. Toss. Pile the herb mixture atop salad. Serve immediately.
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Don’t Worry, Eat Happy: The Benefits of Beans

Say the word beans and you may hear a loud, “ewwww.” Hang out with Paleo dieters and be prepared to enter a discussion on why beans are not an accepted part of their diet. Step into any household that loves beans and expect to see a great big pot where batches are frozen and used later for soups and stews. Also, a household like this will eat beans with any meal of the day. (They taste great with eggs and tortillas!) Take ‘em or leave ‘em, beans are an excellent source of protein and generally good for the waistline.

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The Benefits of Beans

  • They’re cheap and versatile. As I mentioned, beans can be eaten for any meal of the day, and they’re one of the few truly healthy foods that you can pick up for under a buck–dried or canned! In fact, I just put a scoop of cannellini beans (my favorite bean!) in my superfood salad for lunch. Talk about an energy boost!
  • USDA guidelines suggest we triple our bean intake each week! That means we move from 1 to 3 cups.
  • They make you feel fuller. While beans are comparable to meat in terms of calories, they are loaded with fiber and water, which will make you feel satisfyingly full.
  • They’re low in sugar, staving off hunger for a longer period of time.
  • And they’re high in antioxidants. According to WebMD, “in a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. And three others — black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas — achieved top-40 status.”

More bean recipes:

 

 

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July 4th Dessert Recipe with Fresh Fruit

This simple yet exquisite summer dessert will have you running back to the farmers market for more seasonal yum! You can make this truly unforgettable July 4th dessert recipe with fresh fruit one day in advance–just cover and refrigerate. We’re talking foodie fireworks!!

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MACERATED MARKET FRUIT WITH MINT AND ORANGE BLOSSOM WHIPPED CREAM

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1 cup mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup Cabernet or Pinot Noir red wine
  • 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped mint or tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3 drops orange blossom extract

Instructions

  1. Combine all fresh fruits in a large bowl.
  2. Pour in the red wine.
  3. Sprinkle fine granulated sugar over fruit.
  4. Gently toss to combine. Chill inside refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Before serving, whip heavy cream. Add 3 tablespoons sugar to cream and drops of extract. Whip until soft and fluffy.
  6. Serve fruit in clear glasses or soup bowls. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs.
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P.S. This recipe is super versatile, too. Any market fruit or seasonal berry can be used!

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Don’t Worry, Eat Happy: Ultimate Fresh Summer Produce Guide

You’re going to want to BOOKMARK THIS!

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Keep this fresh summer produce list handy if you want the most delicious and seasonal fruits and vegetables for easy and budget-friendly recipes. With the abundance of all these rainbow color choices at-hand, eating your way to better health is as tasty and easy as a snap:

Cooking with Kids TIP: To keep the kiddos occupied this summer, have them draw a summer produce chart and keep it right in your kitchen. When you’re at the market for the weekly run, tell your kids to pick out the seasonal eats in the produce section.

My FAVE:  I simply can’t get enough Heirloom Tomatoes in the summer. The funkier the color and shape, the better the taste! Mix them with torn fresh basil, Extra Virgin olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic and cracked black pepper.  For dessert, throw some firm white peach segments on the grill (brush with a touch of grapeseed oil to prevent sticking). Once done, add the grilled peaches atop vanilla bean ice cream or peach sorbet with some chopped walnuts. Drizzle a little agave honey over all that luscious yum and you have an instant hit!

 

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Cooking With Kids: Simple and Refreshing Summer Ice Pops!

As a kid there is nothing better than taking a break with a sticky sweet ice pop from a long day of sunny play at the beach. As I write, the memories of red and blue stained lips become so vivid…and happy.

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There are many names for this delicious frozen treat: ice pops, popsicles, freezer pop, ice lolly….the list goes on. Whatever you prefer to call them, know that they are easy to whip up at home with the kids at even the youngest of ages. In fact, with the kids out of school making ice pops is a great summer activity that also educates about food choices, taste and sugar content. It’s a great opportunity to get those creative juices flowing and test out different ingredients and textures.

I like to believe that making ice pops is the perfect opportunity to EAT THE RAINBOW….

That’s right, don’t be afraid to use veggies as ice pop ingredients. Don’t be afraid to go wild with fruits and zest. Don’t be afraid to finally try that coconut milk or water that you see people drinking.

See that chubby little finger? That’s my friend’s 2-year-old son, Jackson, making ice pops with me.

He can't wait!

He can’t wait!

And here he is eating the fruits of his labor…or should we say–veggies of his labor–as it’s a Carrot-Ginger Ice Pop.

Brain freeze, Mom!

Brain freeze, Mom!

When cooking with your kids, work on your ingredient list together. Have your kids write out flavors that they love. Then ask them what flavors they think would work well together. Fortunately for me (and for his mom!), Jackson loves his veggies so pureeing carrots was a no-brainer. His mom told me that he loves salmon with ginger. So it was easy for me to come up with a flavor profile.

When it came down to fruits, this toddler had no fear. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango…. You name it, he ate it. As I always keep frozen fruits on hand for smoothies, we combined frozen mango with coconut milk (unsweetened) and coconut flakes. For additional sweetness, we added a tablespoon of agave (do measure to keep sugar content and calorie count low).

Frozen mango, coconut milk (unsweetened), coconut flakes

Frozen mango, coconut milk (unsweetened), coconut flakes

Jackson’s mom mentioned that she really liked smoothies so we made extra so mom had some yummy breakfast options for her work week. All in all, when cooking with Jackson, we came up with these great ingredients for simple and refreshing summer ice pops:

  • Frozen Mango
  • Frozen Cherries
  • Frozen Mixed Berries
  • Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
  • Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)
  • Vanilla Almond Milk (Sweetened)
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Fresh Ginger, grated
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Agave
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Lemon, Orange or Lime zest
  • *Fave Combos: Shaved Coconut and Banana Pop
  • *Fave Combo: Mixed Berries and  Citrus Zest Pop

Red, White and Blueberry Pops with Greek Yogurt

Ingredients

  • **Fruit Layers:
  • 1 cup hulled strawberries, puréed for RED layer
  • 1 pint blueberries, puréed for BLUE layer
  • 1/4 cup Agave honey for each fruit layer
  • Zest of half a lemon for each fruit layer
  • **1/4 cup water plus 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin for each of the 3 flavored layers
  • **WHITE Greek Yogurt layer:
  • 6 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup agave honey

Instructions

  1. For each of the 3 flavored layers use 1/4 cup hot water and 1/2 tsp powered gelatin in 3 separate bowls. Once layered mixtures are puréed, use each gelatin bowl for each flavor. Purée each flavor in a rinsed food processor to ensure clean layers of color.
  2. Place partially filled pops into freezer for 20 minutes while you prepare the next flavored layer.
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DON’T WORRY, EAT HAPPY: The Benefits of Carrots

Carrots are a versatile veggie! Crunchy, colorful, flavorful and aromatic, I haven’t heard of a kid or a canine (!) that doesn’t love to snack on these natural treats. So why is this vegetable so versatile? And what are the benefits of carrots?

You can buy carrots at your supermarket year round, but locally grown, they are best in the Spring and Fall. Incorporating carrots into your diet is easy because you can eat them in many ways: raw, boiled, steamed, sauteed, baked and roasted.

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Additionally, carrots are:

  • Wonderful for juicing because of their sweet, but gentile flavor. My favorite super fresh juice has carrots along with apple, beet, ginger and ginseng.
  • A nutritious and fulfilling on-the-go snack anytime of the day. Since carrots can be eaten raw, and many people prefer them this way, they are literally the perfect low-calorie snack. For some added punch, munch on them with hummus or tzatziki.
  • Easy to shred for multiple uses. Shredded carrots provide texture so you can add them to cole slaw and on top of your salads for crunch. You can also add shredded carrots to baked goods like muffins and cakes.
  • Perfect for popsicles. Because of their sweet flavor, carrots are a good ingredient for refreshing Summer popsicles. In our Cooking With Kids blog post next week, we’ll have some recipes for you.
  • OK to freeze. Carrots can last a very long time in your refrigerator, and it’s also safe to freeze for future soups and stews. Recipe: Ribollita Stew.

With carrots you get an excellent source of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Some of the health benefits include:

  • Improved vision
  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-aging
  • Glowing skin
  • Heart disease prevention
  • Dental care
  • Stroke prevention
  • Body cleanse
  • Natural antiseptic remedy

EAT WELL. FEEL WELL. ENTERTAIN WELL.
LOVE your life!
CELEBRATE your culinary creativity!
PLAY with a renewed vitality!

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About Mindy
 
For lifestyle and entertaining expert Mindy Kobrin, cooking, wellness and celebrating are a family affair. Her lifestyle philosophy can be distilled to a single, luscious concept: Don't Worry, Eat Happy. Fusing culinary expertise with international flair, Mindy aims to create nothing short of a movement: to arm children, moms and dads with the information and inspiration to shop for nutritious, seasonal foods and transform them into chic, memorable, family-friendly experiences – and have a great time doing it...together. As founder of the acclaimed cooking and entertaining website mealsonheelsbymindy.com, Mindy's mission is twofold: to teach parents to feed their families with style... see more
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