Category Archives: whole wheat

Cinco de Mayo

Thanks to Olé, we can enjoy healthier Mexican fare as we celebrate today. Here is a hasty tasty chicken fajita recipe: 



Chicken Fajitas

Serves 2


  • 2 OLE brand High Fiber Low Carb tortillas
  • 8 oz. chicken breasts, cubed or shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. Chili or Fajita seasoning blend
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
  • 1 cup julienne-cut bell peppers (I mix green, red, and yellow)
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 2-3 Tbsp. prepared salsa
  • 1 spring cilantro (optional)


  1. Slowly simmer chicken with the seasoning blend in a dry, covered pan.
  2. Prepare peppers and onions.
  3. After chicken is fully cooked, remove from the skillet. Add oil and return skillet to medium heat.
  4. Saute onions over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add peppers and stir-fry together until peppers are firm-tender. Remove skillet from heat.
  5. Warm tortillas for 10 seconds in microwave oven. Add salsa to the center of each.
  6. Divide the chicken between the two tortillas. Cover each with half the peppers/onions. 
  7. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro if desired. Fold, eat, and enjoy!

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Filed under chicken, Cilantro, Healthful Eating, Mexican, whole wheat

Indulge in a Burger Day Without Overeating

We limit our consumption of red meat, yet once a week we enjoy burger day. It’s either beef or bison, never veggie or turkey burgers. This one day it’s all about indulgence. We keep to four-ounce servings, but we buy the best quality burgers we can.

You can get just as creative with a quarter-pound burger, and you control the ingredients and toppings. Serving the burger on a slider bun and luncheon plate creates the illusion of a larger steakhouse serving size because we eat with our eyes first. (Old Weight Watchers® trick–use smaller plates)

This week’s burger day coincided with my jalapeño pepper plant yielding four beautiful red peppers (plus a couple of green), so I’ve added jalapeños in many of this week’s menus–including burgers. Here is my scaled down version of a local steakhouse favorite.

These jalapeño-mushroom-onion-Swiss burgers are our new favorites. If you can’t take the heat of hot peppers, substitute sliced banana pepper.

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Filed under Burgers, whole wheat

Oklahoma Burger with a Georgia Twist

Have you ever eaten at Sid’s Diner in El Reno, Oklahoma? It’s part of historic Route 66 and famous for introducing the fried onion burger back in the 1920s. I’ll admit I haven’t because every time we get to El Reno, we have the bison burger. Love bison burgers! But my curiosity for the fried onion burger grew when my friend Chef Gary Straka made some for a cooking demo for the 360 Cookware skillet. He loves the onion burger, and so did his audience. So today I made fried onion burgers for lunch. Here’s how:

Finely chop Vidalia onion

Finely chop Vidalia onion


Press onion into the meat


Grill onion side over medium-low heat


Carefully turn burgers and increase heat.


Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun.


Oklahoma Burger with a Georgia Twist

Serves 2


  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking spray


  1. Preheat griddle or skillet over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Divide the beef in two equal portions and form thin patties.
  3. Thinly chop the onion.
  4. Salt and pepper one side of the patties. Press the onions into the meat.
  5. Carefully place each patty, onion side down, on the preheated griddle. Salt and pepper the second side of each patty.
  6. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes over medium-low heat. You want the onions to caramelize, not brown.
  7. Carefully turn each patty (you may need a second spatula as a “helper”) and increase the heat to medium.
  8. Cook burgers just until done, about 3 minutes or until juices run clear. Do not overcook.
  9. Serve on your favorite bun (we like whole wheat potato rolls).

If Vidalia onions aren’t available, substitute any sweet onion.

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Filed under Burgers, cooking, Healthful Eating, Recipes, whole wheat

Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

This recipe originated as part of my research for the romance novel I’m currently writing, Return to Drake Springs. The hero is on a tight budget but wants to impress the heroine by cooking her dinner. While shopping, I bought only sale items (the lengths we writers go in the name of research!) at my local supermarket, which included bags of fresh, ready-to-eat spinach and boxes of pasta (Both Buy-One-Get-One free), and a discount on fresh baby portabella mushrooms and red bell peppers. The result of my experiment is Mushroom Pasta Florentine.

This recipe is a hearty and delicious meal for meat free Monday or any day. Whole grain pasta bumps up the protein, and the spinach and mushrooms give two servings of vegetables per meal. It’s affordable, too. This has become one of our household’s favorite meals. A writer never knows where research will lead. ☺

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta



Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

Serves Two



  • 4 oz. dried thin spaghetti, whole grain or whole wheat
  • Water
  • Salt


  • 1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready to eat
  • 8 oz. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp. grated fresh nutmeg


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (i.e. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 – 5 quarts water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow instructions on the package).
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add spinach.
  3. Cook spinach until it wilts and leaves room to add mushrooms and red bell pepper.
  4. Using tongs, toss cooked mushrooms, spinach, and pepper with nutmeg and garlic. Cook another two minutes and remove from heat.
  5. In a large shallow bowl, pour extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
  6. Drain pasta and immediately add it to the bowl. Use tongs to toss hot pasta with the oil, garlic, and herbs until pasta is coated and fragrant.
  7. Add the spinach-mushroom mixture. Toss with the pasta.
  8. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Recipe can be doubled.

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Filed under cooking, Healthful Eating, pasta, Recipes, sauces, Vegetables, whole wheat

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Not only is pasta e fagioli hasty and tasty, it’s inexpensive and healthful.  Also known as pasta fazool, this dish provides plenty of protein and fiber because it contains beans, vegetables, and whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes and Italian seasonings give it great flavor. Try this dish for your next meat-free meal.



  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning spice
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 15½ oz. can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup frozen seasoning blend (Chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley)
  • ½ cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • (Optional: ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn, for garnish)

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat. Stir in garlic, seasoning blend, Italian spices, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a low boil.
Add beans, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 7 additional minutes.
Remove pan from heat, stir, and check macaroni. Should be cooked al dente.
Sprinkle each serving generously with the Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Yield: 3 servings

©2011 Cheryl Norman, Recipes for Recovery

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Filed under Basil, beans, Healthful Eating, pasta, Soups & Stews, tomatoes, Vegetables, whole wheat

Creative Leftovers

Those who know me, know I’m all about cooking ahead.  I have at least two meals (often three!) in mind when I cook one.  This is a great creative outlet for me, but it also saves money.  Times are as tight as they’ve been in years and years, so read on even if you don’t like to cook.

Leftovers don’t have to be last night’s dinner warmed in the microwave oven, or what I call cuisine deja vu. 😉 My favorite leftover recipes are burritos.  I don’t limit us to Mexican burritos, either.  (The difference between a burrito and a wrap–as I see it–is hot and cold.  A wrap is like a sandwich rolled in a tortilla; a burrito is like a hot casserole rolled in a tortilla.)  One of my favorite recipes is the Hoppin’ John Burrito.  It’s Cajun, and here’s the sequence.

Meal One: I make a Cajun dinner.  I cook lots of brown rice and black-eyed peas, about twice the number of servings I need for this meal, along with some greens, cornbread, and blackened catfish.  If you don’t mind a little spice, season the catfish with lots of Cajun spices.

Meal Two: I make dinner the next day with green beans, steamed kernel corn, grilled chicken breasts, and Hoppin’ John.  After dinner, stir the leftover corn into the Hoppin’ John and refrigerate.

Meal Three:  Two or three days later–you don’t want to wear out the Cajun cuisine’s welcome by having this meal on the heels of the first two–mix the Hoppin’ John and corn with a cup of salsa (or a can of green chilies and diced tomatoes) in a two-quart saucepan.  Add a cup of diced onion.  Bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium-low heat until heated through.  Meanwhile, warm eight whole wheat tortillas in the microwave oven.  Remove Hoppin’ John mixture from heat.   Divide the mixture into eight equal portions.  Spoon one portion into each of eight whole wheat tortillas, add 1 ounce of shredded Monterrey Jack (or any cheese you like) to each,  fold tortilla over, and serve.

I have many variations of the burrito theme, but let’s move on to another cuisine: Italian-American.

Meal One: Make veal Parmesan with breaded veal cutlets covered with your favorite recipe pasta sauce (I usually make my own) and serve over whole wheat spaghetti cooked al dente. Make at least a cup more of the pasta sauce than you’ll need and refrigerate.

Meal Two: Place four whole wheat tortillas on cookie sheets.  Brush on two ounces of the leftover pasta sauce.  Add toppings of your choice, including shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake in a 400° oven just until cheese melts, approximately ten minutes, depending on the type of pan used.  Voilá!  You have four individual pizzas.

You’ll notice I use whole grains, but that’s my choice. I like the taste of brown rice over white, and whole wheat pasta over semolina, but use whatever you like. Also, don’t forget the more obvious leftover dishes, like stir-fry, stew, and vegetable soup. My husband and I once brought back leftover steak from a restaurant dinner. The next night, I cubed the steak and made fajitas, another dish using the tortilla wraps.

Regardless of who does the “cooking ahead,” use your imagination and develop dishes for leftovers. Your family won’t know, or if they do, they won’t mind!

(originally appeared June 22, 2009, as a post for the Clever Divas)

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Filed under black-eye peas, Burritos, cooking, Healthful Eating, Recipes, salsa, whole wheat

Make Your Own Taco Shells…or Not

We should strive to consume more whole grains in our diet, so I try to choose whole grain products over refined flour products. That’s why I wanted to try those Tortilla bowls. (see previous post)

I wanted to make tacos but with whole wheat taco shells, not the traditional corn taco shells.  As far as I know, whole-wheat taco shells aren’t marketed.  After this experiment, I suspect I know why.


Drape tortillas over the oven rack

 I took whole-wheat tortillas and arranged them in a preheated 400°F oven by draping each one over two of the grids on the baking rack. (See photo)  I baked them for ten minutes, at which time they were crispy and hard.  Success!  I had whole wheat taco shells.

Baked 10 minutes @ 400°

Buoyed with confidence, I proceded to cook my meat filling (ground turkey breast seasoned with chili powder), shred my iceberg lettuce, and dice my tomatoes and sweet onion.  I shredded reduced fat Colby and Monterrey Jack cheese then assembled my tacos as follows: 2-3 ounces ground meat, 1 – 2 ounces cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.  (The Vitamix makes quick work of shredding cheese and chopping onions)

The whole wheat tortillas yielded slightly larger taco shells than the standard shells, so I was generous with my fillings.  My presentation was impressive, and I served them alongside my homemade salsa.

Fill with meat, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese

The end result = delicious tacos in crunchy shells . . . crunchy, crumbly shells.  Very messy eating.  But we enjoyed them.  Were they worth the extra effort of baking my own shells?  No way, José!  Next time, I’ll buy already baked corn taco shells.  Or make taco salad.  Or maybe we’ll eat tacos at our local Mexican restaurant.


Filed under Healthful Eating, Mexican, Recipes, Turkey Recipes, whole wheat