Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Boost Your Budget with Meatless Mondays - Susan Yoo-Lee

As you may be aware, meat prices are at an all-time high. With meat becoming increasingly expensive, more and more people are adopting Meatless Mondays as part of their weekly menu plan. By integrating more grains and vegetables into your diet, you'll start to notice some changes to your pocketbook as well as your waistline.

If you're wondering where you should start, there are plenty of staples you'll want to stock up on your next shopping trip to get things moving. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they're also healthy and delicious. Here are some must-have items and a few recipes to get you started:

Beans: Beans are my go-to protein source for anyone looking to slowly transition out of their meat-eating diets. You can often find a variety of beans on sale for less than $1. Not only do they have a long-shelf life and are good for your emergency kit, but they also contain fiber, which is great way to feel less hungry.

Tomato Sauce: First off, you can get a can of tomato paste or sauce for less than $1. Since it's so versatile, I always have at least 10 to 15 cans in my pantry ready to be used. Like beans, sauce has a long shelf life so you have the peace of mind that it won't go bad quickly.

Grains: Whether you choose brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta or gluten-free pasta, it's good to have these grains readily available to make fried rice or sushi. When you eliminate meat, you want to substitute it with fiber rich grains and vegetables that will keep you fulfilled. When grains go on sale, pastas can be under $1 and for rice, try to shop at Asian markets to maximize your savings.

Veggies: On every shopping trip, I usually buy a week's worth of cucumbers, pre-packaged carrots, romaine lettuce and kale. Whether I make a salad or a side dish, you'll see some sort of veggie creation at every meal. Not only are they good for you, but they are very filling and fiber-rich. To stay on budget, look to see what veggies are in season and if your local grocery store is running any specials.

Nut Butters: Nut butters includes peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter and more. Nuts are also a healthy source of protein. You can put them on almost anything and the best part is that kids love them. We usually put nut butters in our almond milkshakes, on top of waffles, on toast and even in tortillas with a little bit of maple syrup. Because they have a good shelf life, you can always stock up on them when they go on sale.

I asked my husband, Chef Hansen Lee at the dusitD2 Constance Pasadena, to offer some of his more unique and delicious recipes for your Meatless Mondays:

Curry Cauliflower Steak with Avocado Pesto:

1 head cauliflower

1 tablespoon curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 avocado

3 tablespoons chopped basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon roasted pine nut

Chop the cauliflower into two-inch pieces and blanch them. Season with curry powder, salt and pepper. Place the cauliflower in a sauce pan on medium heat and caramelize both sides.

In a food processor, add avocado, basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and pine nuts. Blend together to smooth and serve with the cauliflower.

Butternut squash on Puff Pastry:

1/2 cup diced butternut squash

1/2 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/3 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/3 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 puff pastry per person

On medium heat, sauté all the ingredients except for the puff pastry. Bake the puff pastry in the oven per the box directions and then serve the vegetable mixture on top.

Tofu Bolognese with Spaghetti:

1 cup tofu

1/3 cup diced onion

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup carrot

1/2 cup diced tomato

1 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon ground oregano

1 box spaghetti

With your hand, mash up the tofu. On medium heat, sauté onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Let them sweat, then add tomato paste. Add broth and the remaining ingredients. Season to taste and then pour sauce over the spaghetti.

Susan Yoo-Lee is the editor of personal finance blog and founder of Mommas in the House blog.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stir Fried Pasta - Kevin

This dish must be made with 5 organic ingredients from local foods for Kevin to bring in school. Friends and teachers in Kevin’s class loved it so much and it was voted to be the best dish on that day. Kevin’s mom would like to share it with everybody.




  • 16 ounces organic penne pasta
  • 1 medium organic leek, julienned
  • 1 medium organic carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large head organic broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup organic sugar snap peas or snow peas ends trimmed
  • Organic Celery trimmed and cut into pieces, sliced or julienned
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fried Tofu, Vegetarian Shrimp
  • Soy sauce, salt and vegetarian seasoning, vegetarian stir fry sauce
  • Black pepper to taste


- Cook pasta according to package directions. 

-  Heat oil in a large  nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the leek in and wait until lightly browned, add carrots, and broccoli, adding water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Stir fry for four minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and cook for two minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the garlic, ginger, cooked pasta with vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the  salt, soy sauce and vegetarian seasoning. Pour over pasta mixture. Gently stir and cook another minute. Remove from the heat.

- In the separate pan, heat over medium high heat. Add the oil and add the tofu and vegetarian shrimp. Add little vegetarian stir fry sauce. Stir often about 3-5 minutes, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil, stir and turn off the heat. Remove the tofu, vegetarian shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon.

- Return the tofu, vegetarian shrimp to the pan (already have vegetable and pasta above). Mix well. Season with black pepper.


Happy cooking!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Roasted Potatoes, Done Right - ADAM RAPOPORT

roasted potatoes

You’d think that roasting potatoes would be like baking them. You turn on the oven, open the door, throw them in, done deal. Except if you did that, you’d end up with half the potatoes stuck to the pan. And if you didn’t first consider temperature and seasoning and the type of potato to use, you might get the kind of wilted, soggy ones you find at a hotel brunch buffet. This recipe takes its cue from cooks in Italy, who typically opt for yellow-fleshed potatoes (like buttery-textured Yukon Golds), peel them, cut them into cubes, toss them in lots of olive oil and salt, and submit them to a well-heated oven. I add fresh rosemary and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves for flavoring—and intoxicating aromas—but it’s not imperative. What’s critical is that you tend to the potatoes. You’ll need to vigorously shake the pan every ten minutes or so and occasionally scrape it with a metal spatula to prevent the potatoes from latching on. Eventually, they’ll form an even, golden crust. They’ll be crunchy on the outside, fluffy within. Serve them immediately and they’ll disappear just as quickly.

Serves four
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
2 big splashes extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
Whole garlic cloves, unpeeled

Step 1
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2
Peel potatoes and cut into evenly sized cubes. In a large bowl, toss cubes with olive oil until coated and season with salt. Add rosemary and as many garlic cloves as you want.

Step 3
Place potatoes on two rimmed cookie sheets so they’re not too crowded. Place in oven. After ten minutes, scrape sheets with a metal spatula and flip potatoes. Repeat step in another 10 minutes. Then shake sheets aggressively every 10 minutes till potatoes are done, which should take about 40 minutes total, depending on how big you cut them. They’ll be golden brown and smell really, really good. Serve.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Coconut: Healthy food or over-hyped fad?


All things coconut have become quite the buzz over the past year and they continue to trend. From skin care to cleaning products, nutrition claims and recipes; it seems we can use coconut for just about everything!

I tend to be quite the skeptic when any product — food or not — seems to claim too much. So, what is the hype all about? Should you buy a gallon of coconut oil and use it for everything? Should you ditch water for coconut water? Milk for coconut milk? What about coconut sugar, shreds and manna? The list goes on.

Think of this as your coconut cheat sheet — I’ll lay out all of the facts and you can decide for yourself whether coconut is worth the hype. Let’s start with the basics.

Is coconut good for you?  With all the hype surrounding this fruit, (actually considered a drupe or a fleshy fruit, having a single hard stone that encloses a seed) scientists are busy researching its benefits and risks. Preliminary studies have shown some health benefits such as increases in HDL (good) cholesterol, and anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.

Doesn’t coconut have saturated fat?  Yes, coconut contains saturated fat but it is plant based and your body uses the fat in coconut oil differently than it uses the saturated fats found in animal products. So unlike animal-based fats, coconut oil is cholesterol-free. Additionally, the primary saturated fatty acid found in coconut oil — lauric acid — is a medium-chained fatty acid, compared to the long-chain fatty acids found in animal products. Medium-chained fatty acids are easier to digest, absorb and use for energy. Other studies have found consumption of coconut oil may improve HDL cholesterol levels, the “good” cholesterol.

What types of coconut products are available?  There are a variety of coconut products available including coconut oil, coconut manna (pureed coconut meat), coconut sugar, coconut water, coconut milk and even coconut yogurt and ice creams.

Do the health benefits of coconut oil apply to all of the manufactured forms of coconut available?  No. Most of the preliminary research has been surrounding coconut oil and coconut water.  Minimally processed, unsweetened coconut products like shreds and manna will contain coconut oil in lesser quantities than the oil itself but are still considered to have some health benefits.  Often, when an ingredient is highly processed we lose some of the health benefits, especially when a good amount of sugar is added to the final product.  This is important to remember before diving into a bowl of sugar laden coconut ice cream or yogurt.

Is coconut milk a suitable milk alternative? Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the coconut meat and can be a dairy substitute as it has a similar texture, flavor and does not contain lactose or dairy proteins, which makes it suitable for people with dairy allergies and intolerances.  Most coconut milk alternatives are fortified with calcium, as coconut does not contain as much calcium as diary on its own. Coconut (especially the meat) is also rich in several nutrients like copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and the B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine.


What is the difference between canned and boxed coconut milk?  Both contain “coconut milk” but the boxed versions contain more water and are consequently lower in fat and calories.  Canned coconut milk is often a clear liquid — while the thicker, white liquid is often referred to as coconut cream.

What is coconut water?  Coconut water is the liquid found in young coconuts.  It is rich in disease fighting antioxidants and a good source of potassium.  Due to the high potassium content, coconut water can be used for rehydration and electrolyte repletion but should not replace water.


Why do people cook with coconut oil?  Coconut oil has a high smoke point, which is the temperature at which it begins to produce smoke. The smoke indicates that the oil is beginning to degrade and produce free radicals, which can be damaging to the body. For high heat cooking, you should use cooking oil with a higher smoke point.

Can I use coconut oil instead of butter in baking?  Like butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and thus can easily replace butter in baked goods. It is recommended to us a 3:4 ration of coconut oil to butter when using it as a baking substitute.

Is coconut sugar a healthier alternative to cane sugar?  Coconut sugar is less refined and contains more nutrients than cane sugar. It is also thought to have a lower glycemic index which means better blood sugar control comparatively. Calorie for calorie, coconut sugar and cane sugar are very similar, clocking in at around 15 calories per teaspoon. However, all added sugars are discretionary calories and should be consumed in moderation.

So, should I buy into the coconut craze?  A healthy diet is a diet rich in a variety of whole foods including fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Coconut, as a fruit and oil has health benefits and can be included in a balanced diet. Coconut oil is a good, high heat cooking oil. It is also a good skin moisturizer when used topically. Because all fats, including coconut oil, are high in calories, you should include them in your diet only in moderation.


Katie Cavuto MS, RD is a registered dietitian and trained chef. She is the president of Healthy Bites, a company offering local and national culinary nutrition services. Katie is also the consulting dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies, and a regular contributor on local and national TV and radio as an expert in her field. To learn more about Katie, check her website at

Katie Cavuto MS, RD For