Mar 292010
 
There’s something so craveable about Chinese take-out. Who doesn’t love eating out of little white cardboard boxes? But with Chinese food, as with many other delicious delivery jems, ignorance is bliss. Well, get ready to be brought into the light. One egg roll packs about 20 grams of fat, an order or orange chicken has 1,500 calories (3/4 of your daily recommended calorie intake, and even tofu with mixed vegetables, a seemingly healthy choice, can have 900 calories and over 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

This recipe satisfies my craving for Asian flavors without the guilt. The key is in the sauce, which is where most of those calories in the takeout are hiding. This sauce is sweet, spicy, and salty but also very light.

First step is to mix all the ingredients for the sauce: Soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, orange juice, and red pepper flakes for a kick.

Then you can chop up whatever fresh veggies you like OR you can just use one of those pre-fab bags of frozen stir fry veggies. Little known fun fact: frozen veggies have been shown to be just as healthy as fresh…maybe even more so because they are frozen at the peak of their ripeness which is when they are most nutrient packed. (But I just think fresh are tastier).

Heat your wok or large frying pan over high heat. The key is to let the pan get hot before adding anything. Add a tablespoon of oil (canola is my go to for this…NOT olive). Saute the meat until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces. I cut up 2 chicken breasts into pieces but you can also buy already cut pieces in most supermarkets if you’re tight on time or raw-meat-aphobic (like a former roommate of mine). Set the chicken pieces aside and add another bit of oil and begin to sauté the vegetables.

Once the vegetables are starting to get tender but still crisp, add the chicken back in and pour in the sauce. Continue to sauté for a few more minutes while the sauce thickens slightly.

It’s as easy as that! I like to serve with some brown rice and edamame and sprinkle with sesame seeds for a little flair.

Nutritional Highlights: Stir frying uses very little oil to quickly sear the food but still allows for plenty of flavor. Most stir fry you make at home will have mostly veggies and lean protein so you can’t really go wrong. If you want to use a store bought sauce, try to pick a low sodium option and the one that you understand the most words in the ingredients list.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts cut into pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons orange juice (fresh squeezed or tropicana-esque are fine)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
Fresh chopped veggies or frozen stir fry vegetables


Directions:


1. Mix soy, vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and orange juice
2. Cut chicken into strips and season with salt and pepper. Heat wok or frying pan over high heat.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry the chicken for about 5 minutes, until just cooked through.
4. Set aside chicken. Heat second tablespoon of oil in wok and add vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes, or until veggies are just getting tender.
5. Add chicken back into wok and pour sauce in. Stir fry for about 3 more minutes.
6. Serve over brown rice and enjoy!

Mar 262010
 

There are two important things this post is going to accomplish. 1) share my recipe for a healthier homemade granola, and 2) serve as the birthday card I forgot to send my mom. So happy birthday mom, from you responsible, thoughtful daughter. But this really is a perfect post to dedicate to my beautiful mother on her 39th birthday (see, I’m winning points back already). Like me, my mom starts the day with yogurt, fruit, and granola…breakfast of champions.

addendum: for those of you who didn’t pick up on my web-sarcasm, my mother is not, in fact, 39 years old (which would have made her eligible for MTV’s 16 and pregnant). We have been celebrating her 39th birthday for quite some time now…


So why go to the trouble to make your own granola? Let’s say you’re at the grocery store thinking it’s time to get healthy. What better place to start than with breakfast. You pass right by the sugary cereal even though Captain Crunch and that jolly leprechaun are calling your name. Good work. You see some granola and you think…now that must be healthy…and throw it in the cart. Although granola can be packed with nutrients, the store bought varieties can also be loaded with sugar and fat (yeah, even granola is made with partially hydrogenated oil). That’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands.

So I went to the store and picked up some dried fruit (I went with dried apples and blueberries), some nuts (pecans, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds were my go to), and wheat germ. I already had the other ingredients in the pantry: flax seed meal, oats of course, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, canola oil, and apple juice. There are a lot of ingredients that go into this recipe, but once you buy them once you’ll see how easy and quick it is to throw this recipe together.

Step 1: mix the dry ingredients: Oats, nuts, flax seed, wheat germ, and cinnamon.

Step 2: mix the “wet” ingredients separately…that’s your honey, vanilla extract, apple juice, canola oil, and brown sugar (even though that’s not really wet). Pour this into the dry mixture and stir. Stir again.

Oh wait…step -1: preheat your oven to 300.

Step 3: Pour mixture onto a baking sheet. Don’t make the same mistake as I did and use a pan with no edges. Some of the oats will dive off the side of the pan and burn at the bottom of your oven. Doesn’t smell so hot.

Step 4-6: Cook for 10 minutes, stir…Cook for 10 minutes, stir…and finally, cook for 10 minutes and take it out of the oven.

Step 7. While the granola is cooling, get the dried fruits you’re using ready. I used dried blueberries and chopped dried apples which was scrumptious. Next time I will try cranberries and apricots. What ever makes you happy. Or if you’re a traditionalist like my mom, you could go fruitless.

Step 8: Once the granola is cool, mix in the dried fruit.

Step 9: Put the granola on your kitchen windowsill and watch the beautiful sunset over the east river. Or is that just me?

Nutritional highlights: This homemade granola is very low in fat and sugar which is the fatal flaw of most store bought varieties. The rolled oats are a great source of fiber, almonds can help lower cholesterol and give you protein, and the dried blueberries have tons of antioxidants. Another key thing with granola is portion control (not one of my strengths). Although this recipe is incredibly nutrient rich, it still has a decent amount of calories so try to eat 1/3 cup servings. I also sometimes mix 1/4 cup granola with 1/4 cup fiber cereal to “thin it out” if you will.


Happy birthday mom!!!!


Granola:


3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (depending on your preference)
1/2 cup apple juice
1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit


Directions:


Preheat oven to 300
1. Mix first 7 ingredients (dry ingredients)
2. Separately mix wet ingredients (everything else except the dried fruit)
3. Stir wet mixture into dry. Spread onto a baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes and checking often.
5. Let granola cool and then mix in the dried fruit. Enjoy!!





Mar 252010
 
If you’ve been around me in the past, oh, year, then you know I’ve been talking big game about starting a healthy cooking blog. And just when I was about to cross that thin line between building suspense and everyone completely losing interest, here it is! As a food lover and a nutrition enthusiast (and hopefully someday a nutrition professional), I’m going to share healthy and delicious recipes straight out of my bite-sized New York City kitchen. I decided for my first post, I’d use one of my go to meals that is the epitome of healthy meets delicious: Minestrone Soup.

This is a pretty magical soup. It’s comforting and hearty but doesn’t make your hips more comfortable and hearty. It’ll simultaneously satisfy the health freaks and the vegetable averse. And my favorite part: one pot of soup + individual Tupperware bowls = frozen dinners for weeks! Warning: This recipe is NOT for those who hate chopping. I personally think taking out your aggression on some helpless veggies at the end of a long day is pretty therapeutic. Ok, time to get started. Step 1: Set up your ipod speakers and turn on some tunes. Step 2: Start chopping.

Once you’ve gotten some of the chopping done, pull out your soup pot and sauté the garlic in some olive oil. This is when your apartment starts to smell unreal.

Then go the onions. Then carrots and celery.

After those work for a while, you add the liquid ingredients—tomatoes, broth, and wine. Reserve the rest of the wine.

Now that it’s starting to look soup-like, we’re going to add the rest of the fresh ingredients. So I took a trip to my garden to pick some fresh basil.

Ok, made it back. Now you add the zucchini, green beans, spinach, basil, and oregano. I usually use this veggie combo because it’s pretty traditional to minestrone, but you don’t have to adhere to these…this is a great clean out your veggie drawer recipe so throw in whatever you have. You’ll want to let the soup simmer for at least an hour, so now is when you’ll grab the rest of the bottle of wine and a glass. About 20 minutes before you serve, throw in the beans (you don’t want them to fall apart too much) and boil some whole wheat macaroni or ditalini in a separate pot if you like noodles in your soup. I like to garnish with parmesan and fresh basil and serve it with garlic bread baked with fresh mozzarella on top. Writing this is making me hungry…good thing I have a freezer full!!

Nutritional highlights: We can all probably stand to mix a meatless meal into our repertoire. You’ll still get protein from the beans and veggies, calcium from the spinach and cheese, and your heart will be loving the garlicy-tomato goodness. Plus you’ll tone your arms chopping. Make this on the next cold rainy, miserable day and I promise it’ll be less miserable.

Minestrone Soup
Adapted from allrecipes.com

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 small onions (or 1 big one)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach
2 zucchini’s (or one zucchini, one yellow squash for color)
1.5 cups of cut green beans or 1 14.5 oz can
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans
salt and pepper to taste
whole wheat ditalini pasta (optional)
grated parmesan for garnish

Directions:
1. In large stock pot over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 minutes.
2. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes or until translucent
3. Add celery and carrots and saute for 4 minutes
4. Add broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add wine.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and add green beans, spinach , zucchini, oregano, and basil. Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If soup is too thick for your liking, add 1 cup water. Add beans and start to boil ditalini. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until you’re ready to eat.
7. To serve, put about 2 tablespoons cooked pasta in the bowl and top with soup. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!!!