Grace Derocha has been a registered dietitian for 12 years and has been the on-staff dietician, health coach and health expert under Wellness Care Management, Health Promotion and Program Development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the last 4 years. I had the pleasure of watching her cook, tasting her recipes and laughing with her and her crew during a recent video shoot for their site: www.ahealthiermichigan.org.
Grace and the entire staff at A Healthier Michigan have pooled their healthy recipes together and are in the process of creating a cookbook, which will serve as a giveaway at BCBS sponsored events. The cookbook will also promote their mission; which is to lead Michigan to a healthier future. They want to inspire everyone to make healthier meal choices and lead healthier lives overall. After tasting a sampling of their recipes I can guarantee that making healthier meals is way easier and more delicious that you can imagine!
The first tasty dish we sampled was Colorful Chopped Salad with Garbanzo Beans. This salad is light and refreshing – perfect for a summer picnic!
1 14oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 English cucumber, diced
2-3 green onions (scallions), diced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Combine the first nine ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in feta cheese and basil. This salad is best made the day before serving or at least six hours in advance so the flavors meld together. Enjoy!
Then Grace made us a very yummy salad. If you hear yourself saying ‘I’m so tired of the same old salad’, you will love this flavor packed recipe for Arugula Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola. This salad is again, very light, and full of sweet and creamy flavors. Adding a little pear juice to the dressing really pulls everything together!
1 15oz. can pear halves, drained and sliced, reserve 2 tbsp. juice
2 tbsp. olive oil and vinegar dressing
2 cups baby arugula
2 tbsp. Gorgonzola, crumbled
2 tbsp. dried cranberries or dried cherries
4 tbsp. glazed pecans
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp. reserved pear juice with the olive pile and vinegar dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add arugula and toss to coat (or don’t toss, if you prefer to serve the dressing on the side)
Divide dressed (or undressed) arugula among two salad plates. Top each salad with four pear slices, Gorgonzola, dried cranberries or dried cherries and pecans. Serve immediately.
For the main course Grace prepared this super simple Chili-Garlic Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice. 5-7 minutes of prep, 5-7 minutes of cooking and dinner is served!! The salmon and brown rice combo is very, very satisfying – and so easy!
3 tbsp. chili sauce with garlic
3 tbsp. minced green onions (about three)
1 1/2 tbsp. low-sugar orange marmalade
3/4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 4-6oz. salmon filets
Preheat broiler. Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and brush half of the chili sauce mixture over the salmon filets.
Place filets, skin side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil fish for five minutes. Remove from over, brush with remaining chili sauce mixture and broil for 2 more minutes until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until cooked to your liking. Serve over brown rice and enjoy!
For the final sampling, we enjoyed Layered Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Casserole. I’m a big fan of the veggies in this recipe, trust me, you will not be disappointed by it’s flavors! (see bottom of post for recipe)
Did you know that it takes 20-30 times of tasting a new food before you may acquire a taste for it? And that it takes 21 days to build a habit? I asked Grace how she would respond to anyone hesitating to make a healthy lifestyle change and here is her response:
“I would totally agree with them. It is tough to lead a healthy lifestyle and cook healthy food, especially if you are not used to it. My recommendation is to plan and organize. It seems like this might take longer, but in the long run it actually saves you time, money and allows one to take control and really focus on putting good nutrition in their body. Many times, I see people just avoiding “bad” foods, but we have to remember we also want to put good food in the body for better nutrition and better health. Once you start, you can really feel the difference. My other recommendation is to be realistic and know yourself. But remember to try a variety of different foods. It takes 20-30 times to try a food before you acquire a taste for it. So prepare foods in different ways and allow recipes to be your guide to inspire you.”
Living a healthy lifestyle could mean different things for all of us. But the team at A Healthier Michigan live by their motto and urge everyone to realize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle for yourselves and to also inspire and be a great example to those you love. All you have to do is figure out what will work best for you and just try to do better everyday.
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
- 3 medium zucchini (1½ pounds), sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick
- 2 long, narrow eggplants (1½ pounds), peeled and sliced lengthwise ⅓ inch thick
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into ½ inch dice
- 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)
- ¼ c. chopped basil
- ⅓ c. panko or coarse dry break crumbs
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Put the zucchini slices on one sheet and the eggplant on the other. Brush the slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on each sheet in a slightly overlapping layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until tender. If you have a grill, you can also grill the zucchini and eggplant instead of baking them.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until slightly softened and bubbling, 1 minute. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Brush a little of the olive oil in a large, shallow baking dish (about 10×15 inches). Lay half of the eggplant in the dish and spread ¼ of the tomatoes on the top. Scatter with half of the get and basil. Layer half of the zucchini on top, followed by another ¼ of the tomato and the remaining basil, eggplant and zucchini. Top with the remaining tomato and feta.
- Mix the panko with the remaining 1 tbsp. of oil and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake in the upper third of the over for 20 minutes, until bubbling and crisp. Let stand for five minutes, then serve hot.