As a registered dietitian, I love hosting healthy dinner parties. One of my favorite ingredients is shrimp, because it’s a lean protein and good source of vitamin D. However, it can be tricky to cook a large batch of shrimp just in time for your guests without overcooking it. The beauty of using a crock pot is that you can allow your dish to finish cooking while you greet your guests. The bell peppers in this dish provide more than aesthetic appeal as a good source of potassium and the antioxidants beta-carotene and capsaicin. Quinoa is an excellent plant-based source of protein that provides all the essential amino acids as well as plenty of fiber. Unlike other starchy vegetables, peas also provide protein and fiber which are nutrients beneficial for satiety and blood glucose control. Serve this colorful dish that requires little active preparation time and be assured that your guests will receive a delicious meal with a host of nutritional benefits.
Ingredients For the Quinoa:
1.5 cups quinoa, rinsed
½ cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup sweet peas
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
For the shrimp:
2 lbs. Blue Ribbon shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup each of red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
1 onion, cut into strips
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
1 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
5 fresh bay leaves
Salt and white pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
1. Bring vegetable broth and wine to a boil. Add quinoa and peas, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook 25-35 minutes, stirring often. Quinoa is done when it “pops” and looks like it has formed tails.
2. Sauté garlic, peppers, and onions with vegetable broth until slightly softened. Transfer to crock pot, add herbs, wine, and shrimp. Cook 30 minutes on low setting or until shrimp are pink and curled. Squeeze with fresh lemon juice and serve.
Nutrition information (per serving): 338 calories, 5 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 34 grams of protein
While paying attention to the ingredients used when cooking is crucial, the preparation method must also be considered. Baking, roasting, poaching, and boiling are ways to prepare foods without adding any cooking fat, which helps to avoid unnecessary calories. To satisfy the urge for something crisp and crunchy, try this recipe which uses pine nuts to add texture. Like other nuts, pine nuts are a good source of heart-healthy fats and magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that most Americans may not be getting enough of, and it has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. So exchange fried chicken, which is full of trans fat and refined carbohydrates, for this dish instead for fewer calories and greater nutritional value.
4 Blue Ribbon chicken breasts
16 fresh mozzarella pearls (or 4 ounces cubed mozzarella)
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup egg whites
1/2 cup diced plum tomatoes
½ cup diced green and yellow bell peppers
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 cloves minced garlic
4 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice chicken breasts down the middle to create a pocket and squeeze with juice from the lemons. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Use a food processor or spice grinder to blend pine nuts into a course powder.
4. Coat each chicken breast with egg whites followed by pine nuts and arrange in baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Combine tomatoes, diced bell peppers, salt, pepper, garlic, and balsamic vinegar.
6. Stuff each chicken breast with the tomato and pepper mixture, followed by 4 pearls (or 1 ounce) of mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve atop a bed of baby greens.
Nutritional information for one chicken breast: 328 calories, 31 grams of protein, 20 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber.
Makes 6 Servings
Often times, when we think of Italian food, rich, heavy, starchy dishes with pasta and cheese come to mind. Lasagna is a perfect example, and oftentimes is accompanied by garlic bread on the side. Many recipes reduce the meat or cheese in lasagna recipes to decrease calories, however these ingredients are full of valuable protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that has many important functions, most commonly known for being the building block of our muscles. It also helps to build antibodies to protect us against infections. In addition, protein is more effective than carbohydrates in decreasing hunger and providing satiety. It promotes stable blood sugar, so it is beneficial to include some protein at every mealtime. However, many protein rich foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, so be sure to choose low-fat varieties when available and avoid consuming too much protein overall. Speak with a registered dietitian to find out how much protein you need to reach your personal health goals.
1 lb. Blue Ribbon All-Natural Ground Beef
¼ cup jarred tomato sauce
2 bell peppers, assorted colors, cut into thins strips
½ yellow onion, cut into thin strips
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese
1 cup liquid egg whites
1 tsp. crushed fennel
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
12 cup muffin tin
Nonstick cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick skillet, sauté peppers, onions, and garlic. Add balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until onions become translucent. Set aside.
2. Cook ground beef in same skillet. To reduce fat, drain beef in a colander, and then move to a plate lined with paper towels. Let sit for one minute, and blot ground beef with paper towels.
3. Move ground beef back to skillet on low-heat, and add tomato sauce and spices. Cook 1 minute or until warm.
4. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Add a thin layer of egg whites to each cup. Top with a layer of ricotta cheese, followed by a sprinkle of mozzarella, and a spoonful of the ground beef. Repeat starting with the egg whites. Top with the sautéed pepper and onion mixture, followed by a sprinkle of mozzarella.
5. Baked for 20 minutes covered with aluminum foil, followed by 10 minutes uncovered.
6. Enjoy lasagna cups with a salad and a slice of garlic bread if desired.
Nutrition Information (per 2 cups): 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 35 grams of protein
This recipe is low in carbohydrates, gluten-free, and appropriate for people with diabetes. Avoiding excess carbohydrates and consuming protein and fiber can help to keep blood sugar stable, which is also beneficial for weight management. The daikon in this recipe provides fiber and the shrimp is a lean source of protein. Although this dish is low in calories, these nutrients promote satiety and can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. While cheese can be high in fat and cholesterol, feta and goat cheese have strong flavors, so you can enhance the flavor of the dish without having to use a lot.
2 large daikon radishes
10 ounces Blue Ribbon shrimp
4 Tbsp. goat cheese
½ cup fat-free feta cheese
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
2 tsp. minced garlic
¼ cup dry white wine
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. olive oil
1. Use spiral slicer to cut daikon into thin, noodle-like strands.
2. Cook daikon in a dry, non-stick skillet on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, to reduce moisture content.
3. Remove daikon from skillet and set aside. Coat skillet with olive oil and add minced garlic. Cook over medium-high heat for 1 minutes, then add shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then add lemon juice and wine. Cook until shrimp begin to turn opaque and curl. Add goat cheese, feta, crushed red pepper and basil.
4. Plate daikon “noodles” and top with shrimp. Enjoy!
One serving provides 347 calories, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, and 44 grams of protein
Tips and suggestions:
If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can use a vegetable peeler to cut the daikon into ribbon strips
If you want to include real pasta noodle, choose the whole wheat variety and replace half of it with the daikon
Use real white wine instead of cooking wine, which tends to be high in sodium
Bruschetta is known for rather simple ingredients: tomatoes, basil, and toasted bread. The ingredients in this recipe don’t vary too much from the classic; however the preparation method is different. Typically, the tomatoes are diced and flavored without cooking. In this version, the vegetables are roasted for a deeper, caramelized flavor. Additionally, tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is better absorbed by the body after cooking. Lycopene is also fat-soluble, so be sure not to skimp on the olive oil called for in this recipe.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place tomatoes and onion in a baking dish, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place head of garlic on baking rack. Cook until onions and tomatoes are caramelized, about 45 minutes.
2. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool. Preheat broiler. In the meantime, slice sourdough into 1” thick slices. Combine ¼ cup of olive oil with minced garlic, fennel, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil mixture. Place sliced bread under broiler and brown on each side, watching closely.
3. Remove bread and place aside. Dice roasted onion once cooled. Combine with tomatoes. Remove skin from garlic and cut off one end of head. Squeeze roasted garlic out into the tomato mixture. Add basil, balsamic vinegar, remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Top toasted bread with tomato mixture and enjoy!