Black Bean Quesadillas

Black Bean Quesadillas
Can Be Doubled| Can Be Halved| Makes Great Leftovers (the filling only)
Serves 4

This creation was borne out of my love for Mexican food. I’m a fan of the punchy flavors and spices which are similar to Indian cuisine, but I don’t like the oil and cheese laden dishes many Mexican restaurants serve. Was it possible to capture the same delicious taste without all the fat? Our staple Mexican restaurant is a wonderful place called El Parador Cafe– which also happens to the oldest Mexican eatery in NYC-, and while the fajitas, tacos and quesadillas on the menu are crave worthy, they’re not exactly light. Mahir, as usual, was the skeptic between us that I could duplicate something similar at home, but these quesadillas hit the spot- so much so that he couldn’t believe they fit into the Tablespoon of Oil philosophy. Depending on how many tortillas you use, you’ll most likely have extra filling. For a different flavor and texture, eat the leftovers with brown rice for lunch or dinner the next day.     ~Shivani


1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 cups of diced zucchini
1 cup of finely chopped red onion
2 to 3 cups of diced crimini or white mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin
up to 1 teaspoon of red chili powder (optional)
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
4 to 6 whole wheat tortillas
salt and pepper, to taste
your favorite salsa


Heat a large non-stick pan on low to medium heat and spray with cooking spray

In a Ziploc bag or bowl, toss veggies with part of the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, coat black beans with the same spices.

Cook vegetables covered on low to medium heat until tender (anywhere between 7 to 10 minutes).

Add black beans, and cook another 3 to 5 minutes .

Turn off heat and stir in cilantro.

Warm another nonstick pan on medium.

Put on one tortilla and place a few spoonfuls of mixture on one half (make sure to pour out any excess liquid from the spoon so the quesadillas don’t get too soggy.

Top the half with a tablespoon of cheese.

When cheese melts, fold the empty half of tortilla over the half with the mixture and press together with your spatula.

Remove from heat, let cool for one minute and cut into half.

Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas.

Serve with salsa and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions:

You’re in good shape with this meal because you get in your protein, carbs and vegetables, but I always like to bump up my veggie intake and usually eat my quesadilla with a large mixed vegetable salad or spinach sauteed in garlic and a little olive oil.


If you want a heartier main course, use diced chicken breast instead of the beans. If you do, you will have to cook the chicken for a few minutes first until it is a few minutes from being done and then add the vegetables. Or, omit the beans and just use the veggies for a nice appetizer that’s not overly heavy.

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Creamy Dreamy Broccoli Soup

no oil, no dairy, fat free broccoli soup

Creamy Dreamy Broccoli Soup
Approximately 6 servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well

I’m going to tell you a secret to which some culinary professionals might never ‘fess up… Occasionally I use frozen vegetables. Gasp! Sometimes they’re from my own summer stash, or from the farmers markets when the peak of produce season makes it too tempting not to freeze some of the bounty for those long winter months ahead. Then, as the months go by and we’ve gone through everything we tucked away, I’ll hit up my local grocer. Aside from the classic staples such as frozen peas and sweet corn, I find that having bags of broccoli, spinach, pepper strips, cut green beans and maybe some chopped collard greens in the freezer helps keep my kitchen creativity running at full speed, even in the dead of winter.

This recipe is a perfect example of how to make quick, nourishing use of frozen vegetables. And, here’s a bonus – it’s a no-oil recipe, and it’s vegan! You’ll never miss the fat in this comforting, satisfying soup.     ~ Susan


1 medium onion – very thinly sliced
8 cups frozen broccoli florettes or broccoli cuts
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 cup rolled oats*
water as needed
sea salt to taste

* if you eat a gluten-free diet make sure to use certified gluten-free oats


Put the sliced onion in a soup pot and add 2 cups of water.

Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 7-8 minutes or until onion is very tender.

Add frozen broccoli, granulated garlic, rolled oats and just enough water to reach the top of the broccoli.

Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer another 5 – 7 minutes or just until you can easily pierce the broccoli with a sharp knife. Be sure not to overcook so it retains its beautiful bright green color.

Add a sprinkle of sea salt and puree the soup, using an immersion blender, until soup is velvety smooth. Or, use a counter top blender and puree in smaller batches. Taste and add more salt if you like. Voila, soup’s on!

Serving Suggestions:

This is delicious just as it is. If you want a garnish, try a few grinds of black pepper, a dash of cayenne, or some chopped parsley.

I usually enjoy this soup on its own, for lunch or an afternoon snack, but it also pairs nicely with a sandwich on whole grain bread or a salad with your favorite toppings.

When reheating leftovers, only heat up as much as you need, instead of reheating the whole pot of soup, this keeps the nice bright green color and helps prevent overcooking.

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“Fried” Chicken Cutlets

“Fried” Chicken Cutlets
4 Servings
Can be doubled| Can be halved| Makes great leftovers

Just about every non-vegetarian I know loves chicken tenders. In fact, for most of Meenakshi’s toddler friends, frozen tenders are on the menu at least a few times a week. I have never even been tempted to give her these since many brands use hormone injected chicken mixed with fillers and call them a meal. She had them once while on a playdate and enthusiastically ate a large portion, but at home, I was having a hard time getting her to eat chicken at all. Since Mahir and I enjoy it for dinner, and I’m adamant about cooking one meal for all of us, I started experimenting with recipes that I thought we would all like. The following is what I came up with, and I happy to say it was a hit with all three of us. I’ve made it several times now, and I always cook up a few extra cutlets so Mahir and I can eat for lunch the following day over salad greens.  The parsley, garlic, lemon zest and chili flakes add a nice punch to the standard breaded recipes out there, but if you like your chicken plain, feel free to omit them.     ~Shivani


4 chicken breast cutlets
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 handful chopped parsley
2 minced garlic cloves (optional)
Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (use store bought or make your own by pulsing a slice of whole wheat bread in the food processor until crumbs form)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat olive oil in non-stick pan.

Mix together crumbs, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, chili flakes and salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Place egg white in shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in egg white and dredge in crumbs.

Cook in pan until done.

Serving Suggestions:

A crusty whole wheat roll is always a fail proof starch with this dish. Just about any vegetable will work as a side, but my favorite is shredded brussels sprouts: use a cheese grater to shred brussel sprouts, toss with a little oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven until crispy and slightly golden- about 15 minutes.

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Chicken & Broccoli in Ginger Orange Sauce

Low Fat Chicken & Broccoli in Ginger Orange Sauce Recipe

Chicken & Broccoli in Ginger Orange Sauce
2 Servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well
Vegetarian substitutes

This quick little recipe was literally tossed together on a whim one night, and now makes regular appearances in our kitchen. The combination of orange and ginger gives the sauce a special lift, while the garlic and tamari help round out the flavors. The vegetables keep a bit of crunch, the chicken stays tender and moist.

This also makes a great vegetarian dish when made with firm cubed tofu or sliced seitan, which you don’t even need to sautee first, just toss it in with the vegetables. We’ve used leftover sliced grilled chicken breast in this recipe which was over-the-top delicious (the chicken had been simply seasoned with salt and pepper). No need to pre-cook the leftover grilled chicken either, just toss it in with the veggies. Remember this option as we head into grilling season!     ~ Susan


2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts – thinly sliced into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon unrefined peanut oil – divided into 2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon
2 large garlic cloves – minced
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger (or 2 tablespoons jarred ginger puree)
juice of and zest of one good sized orange (or 2 small tangerines)
3 cups chopped broccoli florettes and stems
1 cup snow peas or chopped green beans
1 green, yellow or red pepper – cut into 1 inch squares
2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon corn starch or arrowroot mixed with 1/2 cup water

optional garnish – fresh ground black pepper or hot chile flakes


Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Use a wooden spatula or other non-scratching utensil to stir fry the chicken just until cooked throughout, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium, return skillet to the stove, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and sautee the garlic for a few seconds, just until it’s fragrant but not browning.

Add the ginger, orange juice and orange zest and stir everything together. Let it simmer for about 30 seconds.

Add vegetables and sautee for about 1 minute.

Add pre-cooked chicken and tamari.

Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir and add it to the skillet. Stir everything well to coat evenly with the sauce as it thickens.

When sauce has thickened the dish is done!

Serving Suggestions:

We always put the bottle of tamari, along with the pepper grinder and hot chile flakes on the table so everyone can season their own as they like.

Our favorite way to eat this dish is over a bed of brown rice, but any whole grain would be a nice accompaniment.

It’s also delicious served over a nest of udon noodles or brown rice pasta.

Not into grains? A baked sweet potato is great with this dish.


Tofu and seitan are great vegetarian options, just omit the first step since there’s no need to pre-cook them before adding to the skillet along with the vegetables. You can also use thinly sliced beef, pork or fresh whole shrimp or scallops (adjust cooking time as needed).

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Spicy Indian Scallop Curry

Spicy Indian Scallop Curry
Serves 2 to 3
Can be doubled| Can be halved| Freezes well (curry base only)

During our first year of marriage while Mahir was still in business school, and I quit my consulting job to move to Philadelphia to be with him, we spent hours making time consuming Indian curries. The recipes we used- a mix from Web sites and cookbooks- weren’t only  elaborate in their preparation but also in their calorie and fat content. The dishes called for 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup oil and copious amounts of either coconut milk or fresh coconut. I remember buying the whole fruit from the local Whole Foods, spreading newspapers on our kitchen floor, cracking the shell open and going through the laborious process of scraping the meat from the inside.

Though I loved how they tasted, I wasn’t thrilled at what the curries did to my figure, and I begged him to come up with a tablespoon of oil worthy version. The following recipe is what he turned out. It satisfies not only my picky palate but is also a winner with everyone from my old-fashioned Indian grandparents to non-Indians who like Indian food. They think they’re eating some decadent Indian curry, and are always surprised when we tell them an entire generous batch uses less than one tablespoon of oil. We usually make a triple batch without the seafood and freeze what we aren’t using so whenever that Indian food craving strikes, we defrost the curry, warm it in a shallow pan with some water, add some seafood and are ready to tuck in within minutes .    ~Shivani


1 pound of fresh scallops
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1 14.5 ounce can of unsalted diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (a pungent spice mixture sold at specialty food stores and available online at (
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
2 teaspoons of oil
1 handful of chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste


Heat the oil on medium heat in a large non-stick pan.

Add onions, mix with oil and set heat to medium-low. This lets the onions cook without burning.

After 5 to 6 minutes or when onions are soft, set heat to medium and let onions slightly brown.

Add in ginger and garlic and fry for one minute, stirring frequently.

Add coriander powder and fry for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Add the remaining spices and mix well.

Add one cup of water.

When water is almost evaporated, add in tomatoes, salt, mix well and cook for 10 minutes, covered

Add in scallops and cook until done.

If too much of the water has evaporated, and you want a more soup like curry, add 1/4 cup at a time until you get your desired consistency.

Top with cilantro.

Serving Suggestions:

Brown or white rice absorbs up the flavorful curry juice beautifully. Onion slivers squeezed with lime juice adds a nice crunch. Spicy cauliflower, steamed spinach or a salad with your favorite lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers and a lemon and olive oil dressing are great vegetable sides.


Scallops are only type of seafood you can use in this curry. Any mild fish including shrimp, tilapia fillets and halibut make for an equally tasty end result!

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Red Cabbage, Kale and Carrot Salad

Red Cabbage, Carrot & Kale Salad Recipe

Red Cabbage, Kale and Carrot Salad
Serves 2 – 3
Can be doubled | Can be halved

This really is a perfect little winter salad. All three of these hearty vegetables are easy to find during cold weather. They also keep well when stored in the fridge. In fact, that’s how this recipe came to be created in our own kitchen. We were roasting a chicken for dinner one Sunday afternoon and I was looking for something salad-y to go with it. We had no lettuce, so I dug around in the vegetable crisper. Within minutes a nutritious, delicious, seasonal salad was born. The colors are gorgeous. The flavors are earthy and fresh. The dressing – so simple, yet it really brings the whole dish to life! You can easily turn this into an entree salad by tossing in some protein such as cubed tofu or shredded chicken. Try experimenting with different oils, too. Each offers its own nuance to the flavor of the finished dish.     ~ Susan


1 1/2 cups julienned red cabbage
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups julienned kale
juice of 1 large lemon (about a quarter cup)
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari (soy sauce)
2 teaspoons oil of your choice – I’ve used extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed walnut oil, unrefined peanut oil and toasted sesame oil, all with delicious results


Place the prepped veggies in a mixing bowl.

Drizzle in the lemon, tamari and oil.

Toss well.

Taste and add a bit more tamari if you like. The small amount of oil is just enough to tie everything together.

Serving Suggestions

This salad is great with grilled chicken cutlets or a whole roasted chicken. Add a side of quinoa or boiled new potatoes and dinner is served.

Try this salad with pan seared tofu, broiled fish or grilled steak and a side of brown rice.

Add some cubed tofu or shredded chicken into the salad and serve over a small nest of whole wheat angel hair or buckwheat soba noodles (add more tamari and lemon as needed to keep the flavors lively).

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Broccoli Brown Rice

Broccoli Brown Rice
4 servings
Can be doubled| Can be halved| Makes great leftovers

I love the chewy texture and slightly nutty taste of brown rice, but it’s been a challenge to get Mahir to eat it. He claims it has no taste, but it was this dish which changed his very strong opinion.  One day, we were having grilled halibut for dinner garnished only with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, and I wanted an interesting side to balance out the simple entree. I asked Tess to help out, and she invented his tasty dish. We were out of white rice so I was planning on giving Mahir a roll as his starch, but when he looked at what I was about to eat and what Meenakshi had already enjoyed, he was tempted enough to give it a try. He’s glad he did because he liked it enough to request it again and again- brown rice and all. He still won’t eat it plain, but as long as I can keep feeding him this version, I won’t complain!     ~Shivani


1 cup of uncooked brown rice
1 to 2 heads of broccoli
1 bunch of thinly sliced scallions
1 small red pepper cut into thin slices
1 small orange pepper cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon of oil
1 tablespoon of finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of chopped cilantro (optional)


Prepare rice according to package instructions

Cook broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one to two minutes (it should still be a little crunchy)

Head oil in a large pan on medium heat and fry garlic and scallion for two minutes or until the scallions are just soft

Add in rice and paprika

Add in peppers and cook for two to three minutes or until they are slightly soft but still crunchy

Add in broccoli, and season with salt and pepper.

Mix in cilantro with all the other ingredients and enjoy

Serving Suggestions:

This rice is a perfect side dish for just about any entree including grilled or broiled fish and tofu or chicken marinated with ginger, low sodium soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes. Or, make it a one dish meal by adding in tofu or chicken cubes or topping with a fried egg.

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Italian Chicken Sausage & Vegetables in Tomato Sauce

low fat chicken sausage and peppers recipe

Italian Chicken Sausage & Vegetables in Tomato Sauce
4 servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well
Vegetarian substitutes

To me, the classic aroma of sausage and peppers from an Italian street vendor cart is hard to beat (funny, my mom craved that dish when she was pregnant with me). But, while I love the flavors, traditional “old school” sausage can be so fatty. Often I find it’s too heavy, especially for people who have trouble digesting rich foods. Lucky for anyone looking for a lighter alternative, all-natural chicken sausages (usually sold pre-cooked in packages of 4 or 5) are low in fat and packed with flavor.  We’ve used a variety of Italian style chicken sausages in this recipe, they all work very well and don’t leave you feeling like you’re swimming in grease. If you like saucy tomato dishes and crave sausage once in a while, this is one of those recipes you’ll come back to again and again. It’s a hearty and satisfying dinner choice, while light enough to feel good about eating both before and after your meal!     ~ Susan


1 package pre-cooked Italian style chicken sausages – diagonally sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion – quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper – quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium green pepper – quartered and thinly sliced
1 large zucchini – halved lengthwise and diagonally sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds – coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes – crushed with your fingers
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional – hot chile flakes


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add onions and sautee until lightly browned.

Add peppers, fennel seeds, granulated garlic, oregano, basil, and the can of tomatoes (crushed through your fingers).

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until peppers are very tender.

Add zucchini, sliced sausage, and a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer another 5 minutes, just until zucchini is tender, but not too mushy. Serve garnished with hot chile flakes if you like the spice!

Serving Suggestions:

Great over brown rice or whole grain pasta with a side of steamed kale.

Try a baked potato, cut in half, topped with the sausage mixture and a side of steamed broccoli.

Get a whole grain baguette, hollow out some of the inside, wrap it in foil and warm it in the oven,  then fill it with this mixture for a ridiculously tasty hot sandwich.


A firm style vegetarian Italian “sausage” works well in this dish, as would a good, firm cubed tofu.

I also like using tempeh in this recipe. Use one whole package (my favorite kind is one with flax seeds in it, there are two popular brands which make it that way). Cut tempeh into to 3/4 inch cubes and simmer them in the tomato-pepper mixture for a good 20-30 minutes before adding the zucchini.

Cubed chicken breast or whole shrimp would also work very well.

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Asian Style Flank Steak

Asian Style Flank Steak
Serves 3 to 4
Can be doubled| Can be halved| Makes great leftovers

Being Hindu, beef was never a part of my diet. While my parents didn’t forbid my sister and I from trying it outside the house, I had eaten it only a handful of times and in small doses like a bite of a McDonald’s hamburger or in a lasagna and never really took to the taste. My impression of beef as a high-calorie food with a sub par taste changed when I became pregnant with my daughter.  I was looking for ways to bump up my iron intake- a key nutrient when you’re expecting- and turned to my good friend and amazing nutritionist Allison who suggested that I try flank steak. She explained that the calories are on par with chicken breast, it’s low in fat and that few foods can match its iron content.

I’ve always heard that your child ends up liking what you ate frequently during pregnancy, and maybe flank steak is one of Meenakshi’s favorite foods because I ended up enjoying this meat often thanks to Allison’s introduction. Now, it’s on the menu in our house at least once a month, and we prepare it in several different ways. Our latest creation is this Asian marinade which infuses the meat with a deep ginger and garlic taste. We love these flavors  and tend to go heavy on them, but you can adjust the amount you use to your liking. Remember when you slice the cooked steak, cut it against the grain, which makes for an absolutely succulent texture.


1 pound flank steak
1 bunch of scallions thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of minced garlic (you can use less or more)
1 tablespoon of minced ginger (you can use less or more)
2 teaspoons sesame oil (canola is a fine substitute)
1/4 to 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey or agave
Red chili flakes to taste
Salt and black pepper if needed, to taste.


Marinate the flank steak in all the ingredients for at least an hour and for up to 2 hours.

Preheat a non-stick grill pan or regular pan on medium-high.

Cook steak to liking. The amount of time will depend on the thickness of the meat. My steaks tend to be medium-thick and average four minutes a side.

Serving Suggestions:

Sliced shiitake mushrooms and thin slices of red pepper sauteed in a touch of oil or any steamed vegetable like green beans topped with lightly sauteed garlic slices are great veggie sides with this dish.

To get in your whole grains, try brown rice or soba noodles mixed with chopped scallions, ginger, a little soy sauce and some red pepper flakes.


Use this marinade for cubed tofu, seitan, salmon, chicken breast or tuna steaks.

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