Jun 292010
 
In my apartment, we receive the trifecta of cooking magazines.  My roommate gets Food and Wine and I get Bon Apetit and Cooking Light.  Now usually I just flip through to get ideas and so salivate a little over the beautiful food photos, but last month there was a recipe I saw in Cooking Light that I just had to try immediately for 3 reasons.  First, I knew I’d like the flavors.  Second, I was having an Asian cravin, not surprising.  And third and most importantly, I already had everything I needed in my pantry/fridge.  


Well I guess not everything…I had to run downstairs to grab some green onions and ginger but close enough.


I love stir fry meals during the week because it’s comes together really quickly, and sometimes I just want to be eating immediately.  This is about as quick as it gets.  Steps 1 through 4 below…saute garlic and ginger…add shrimp…add veggies…add sauce.  Anyone can handle that.  After it’s done cooking, you gently stir in the orange segments.  



Now it didn’t have a sticky take out sauce-goo, but it was incredibly light and fresh and full of flavor. I served it over some brown rice and with some sauteed baby bok choy.



Nutritional highlights: This meal has literally the entire food pyramid: whole grains, protein, veggies and fruit.  Shrimp is one of the lowest fat/calorie protein sources you can find.  Plus, the frozen variety is just as good as the fresh making it inexpensive and convenient for a week night meal.  


Garlic-Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry
adapted from Cooking Light


Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used frozen ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon minced peeled fresh Ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1 cup roughly chopped green onions
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry (I had dry white wine in my fridge so I just used that with a teaspoon of sugar mixed in)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 cup orange sections, from 2 large oranges
Directions:
1.  Wash and defrost shrimp (if frozen).  Sprinkle with salt and toss.  Let stand 10 minutes.
2.  Combine oil, ginger, and garlic in a wok.  Place over medium-high heat and cook for about 3 minutes or until ginger and garlic begin to brown.
3.  Add the shrimp and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add pepper, snap peas, and 3/4 of the green onions and stir fry another 2 minutes. 
4.  Add wine and vinegar and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 1 minute until wine mixture gets a little syrupy.  Turn off heat and gently stir in orange sections.  Serve over steamed brown rice and sprinkle with remaining green onions.  
5.  Feel good about yourself for eating such a healthy meal and happy you made that awesome meal in half an hour. 
Jun 252010
 
My last post touched on some of my food regrets.  Not regrets as in I regret eating that 4th cookie…Regret as in I waited way to long in life to discover this incredible food.  Two of the items on that list were mushrooms and goat cheese.  So this post is an ode to just those things.  And rather than calling it mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta, I make people think it’s fancy by calling it Wild-Mushroom-Chèvre Crostini.  French words make everything more legit.  

And some of you might recognize the bottle of wine below. It was the wine served at my sisters wedding that we, in a moment of stupidity, decided to transport back to New York in a garment bag with a custom suit.  Needless to say it made it in one piece…phew.


Although the name and flavor makes this dish seem incredibly fancy, it’s really pretty simple to make.  The key is getting a nice mixture of mushrooms.  At my grocery store there was a “gourmet” pack of shrooms that had cremini (baby bellos), oyster, and shitake mushrooms.  I got that and also a pack of basic sliced white mushrooms.  Slice them roughly…this is supposed to be wild looking.  Remove the stems from only the shitakes.  


Then we saute garlic in olive oil and a tiny bit o butter (because butter really brings out mushroom’s flavor).  Add the mushrooms, shallots, thyme and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add the wine, broth, and vinegar and cook for another 5.  Season at the end with salt and pepper.


Slice a baguette into 1/4 inch slices.  I would have gotten whole wheat but my Whole Foods didn’t have any that were the right size so I just went with a french baguette.  Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes baking the bread crusty and golden.


When you’re ready to serve, spread the crostini with a little bit of the goat cheese and top with the warm mushroom mixture.  Top with some parsley, just to add a pop of green/freshness.  And because it ups the fanciness factor again.


Nutritional highlights: Goat cheese is a great source of calcium and protein (specifically the amino acid tryptophan).  It is also lower in calories and fat than “hard” cheeses like cheddar and parmesan.  Also a fun fact, some people who are intolerant to cow’s milk are able to eat goat’s milk! 

Wild Mushroom-Chevre Crostini
adapted from myrecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms (I used common, shitake, oyster, and crimini, but you can also use porcini, morel, or chanterelle. Choose about 2-4 kinds)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cups minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz chevre (goat) cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 baguette (whole wheat or french)
Directions:

1.  Cut baguette into 1/4 inch slices.  Spread onto a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until golden.  
2.  Clean and roughly slice mushrooms (for shitakes remove entire stem, you can leave it on for the others).  You can leave really small mushrooms whole for a rustic, imperfect look.
3.  In a large frying pan over med-high heat, melt butter and olive oil and add garlic and stir frequently for about 30 seconds.  Add the mushrooms, shallots, and thyme.  Stir often for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are browned and the liquid the mushrooms released has been evaporated.  
4.  Add the wine, broth, and vinegar and stir.  Cook for about 4-6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Spread a little bit of chevre on the crostini and top with warm mushroom mixture (you can also make in advance and reheat in microwave).  Sprinkle some fresh parsley for an impressive but impressively simple app.
Jun 222010
 
There are a few things that I waited WAY to long in life to start eating.  

1) Goat Cheese: Until college I didn’t really know this creamy cheese existed, and if I had, I probably would have been grossed out by the idea of eating cheese from a goat.  But I would have been wrong.
2) Mushrooms:  Turns out what I once thought was fungus (although true) is one of my favorite foods.   
3) Fish: You’d never know from reading this blog, but believe it or not, up until about 3 years ago I ate NO fish.  
and 4) Falafel:  I had never heard the word until I studied abroad and found these “Kabob” places that sold these little delightful balls of chickpea joy.  


So I set out to create my own version…slightly healthier but equally falabulous.  To go with it, I made up a recipe for a greek quinoa salad.  First I roasted some peppers and zucchinis and cooked the quinoa.  


Then I mixed that together with thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, and some really good feta, all tossed in a homemade red wine vinaigrette.  This salad, out of no where, almost stole the show from my falafel. Almost.


Making the falafel was actually easier than I expected.  You just throw a bunch of stuff in the food processor (including soaked chick peas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, among others) and let it rip.  You let the mixture sit for a bit and then make it into balls.  If I did it again I’d make mine a little smaller.  Instead of deep frying, I pan fried  them to make them brown and crispy and then let them bake in the oven until they were cooked through.



Since I moved to New York, my favorite lunch is the Falafel and hummus platter from Crisp.  And even though I know all the ingredients are fundamentally healthy, their falafel is deep fried and kinda like healthy fast food.  Mine were very fresh and a lot less oily.  Make a big batch and freeze for whenever the craving strikes. 


Nutritional Highlights:  This falafel is totally animal product free (we call that vegan) and I’m all about cutting out some meat where we can.  It’s incredibly flavorful, packed with good protein (from the chickpeas) and way healthier than the deep fried versions you find at your favorite street cart.  Then for the salad.  Quinoa is one of those grains that’s really hot right now because it’s so good for you.  I combined it with a lot of veggies and a flavorful but healthy dressing (and of course some feta).  Another great way to get those who don’t love vegetables to eat them.

Falafel
recipe adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablesppons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Olive oil for pan frying
Directions:
1.  Put the chickpeas in a bowl and add water to cover the beans by 2 inches.  Let stand overnight (at minimum 12 hours) and then drain.  You can also use canned but it will be a mushier texture…but still tasty.
2.  In food processor, put chickpeas, onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper, garlic, and cumin.  Process the mixture until it’s well combine but not pureed.
3.  Sprinkle in baking powder and 4 tablespoons of flour and pulse the mixture. Keep adding flour until the dough can easily be formed into balls without sticking too your hands.  Let mixture sit in the fridge for a few hours.  
4.  Form falafel balls (about walnut size, not quite the golf balls I made).  Heat oil over medium high heat in an oven safe pan if you have it.  Let cook for about 3 minutes on each side  so they get brown and a little crusty mmm.  Then put the pan into a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.  If you don’t have an oven safe pan or if you can’t fit all in one pan, after browning transfer the falafel to a sprayed baking sheet and put that in the oven for the 8-10 minutes.
5.  Serve with tomatoes, cucumber, pita, tahini, or whatever you like with it!  I’d especially recommend serving it with my greek quinoa salad…

Which leads me too…Greek Quinoa Salad!
not really adapted from anything but ridiculously good.  just ask my friends.

  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa + 1.5 cups water (cook as directed)
  • 1 pepper and one zucchini (but feel free to use any veggies)
  • Diced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Block of feta, cut into small cubes
  • Red wine vinaigrette…bottled or homemade (mine had red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried oregano, garlic powder, lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper
Instructions:
1.  Cook quinoa as directed (2:1 water/broth:quinoa).  Roast pepper and zucchini at 425 for about 15 minutes (drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper).  You can also use raw veggies…I just like that roasting them first adds some sweetness and makes the veggies more tender.
2.  Mix cooled quinoa, pepper/zucchini, raw red onion, diced tomato, and feta.
3.  Red wine vinegar…can’t promise these measurements are exact but it was something like…1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tspn each garlic powder, oregano, pepper, salt, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey.  
4.  Add dressing to salad and enjoy!


Jun 182010
 
A few weeks ago I made another trip to my new favorite place in the world…the union square farmers market.  Twas a brisk, end-of-spring, evening and I saw some local asparagus and leeks so, as per usual, I bought them with little to no direction as to what to do with them.  As I was walking home, realizing that it was pretty chilly for June, I thought hey, why not try to squeeze one more soup in before it’s officially New York summer and I’m loitering in the freezer isle at Whole Foods just to cool off and save on my AC bill.  


This soup is possibly the springiest thing I’ve ever seen.  Just check out the 4 stars of this soup below: Asparagus, FRESH fava beans, leeks, and green beans.  


This soup starts as many soups do…with carrots and onions.  But special onions.  Springy onions.


Then we add broth, herbs, and vegetables.


Now here’s where things started to get real.  You might think that it’s all sunshine and daisies in my kitchen, but not always.  After following all the directions Bon Appetit gave me, I still felt like this soup was lacking a little in the flavor department.  Luckily, I had some fresh pesto on hand, and thought this might be the perfect way to jazz up this soup.  Oh it was.  As soon as I added the pesto, the flavors popped and I was happy with the soup.  Crisis averted.  


Nutritional highlights:  I mean, this soup is basically straight up vegetables so I don’t think I really have to go on about how healthy it is.  But part of what makes it so great is that most of these veggies are local, which not only means I’m supporting some awesome farmers, we’re also getting produce at the peak of their freshness (and peak of their nutritiousness) because they don’t have to travel from Cali to get to me.  The shorter the distance from field to belly the better.  

Fava Bean and Spring Vegetable Soup:
adapted from Bon Appetit
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only) thinly sliced…about 3 cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 4.5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth 
  • 2 cups shelled fava beans (from about 2 pounds unshelled)…note: shelling fava beans is NOT a quick task
  • 8 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed and cut diagonally in 1 inch pieces (I don’t know what 8 ounces means in terms of asparagus so I just used the small bunch I had)
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  • Prepared pesto…if you want to shake things up like me!
Instructions


1.  Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.  Add leeks and carrots and saute until they’re tender but not brown (8 min or so).  
2.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Add favas and green beans and simmer for about 8 minutes.  
3.  Add asparagus and 1/3 cup basil.  Simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.  I think I ended up cooking mine longer because my vegetables were not quite done so just taste test often.
4.  Season LIBERALLY with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve soup with a spoonful of pesto on top or mixed in and top with basil and shave Parmesan.  

Farewell to spring and soup…
Jun 142010
 
As much as I love healthy cooking, I have a serious soft spot for baking.  And I’m pretty sure I’d have far less friends if I didn’t.  Because there’s not better way to say, hey…let’s be best friends, than with a plate of warm cookies or gooey brownies.  They can also be used to suck up to your favorite boss on her birthday, like these beautiful cupcakes below.  


My lovely, intelligent, hardworking boss (gosh, I hope she’s reading) loves peanut butter and bananas, so I thought why not combine the two in an incredible, and minimally healthified cupcake.  First step was to bake the cupcakes.  There are 4 whole mashed bananas in here so the banana flavor is SO intense and fresh.  Also, you can justify eating a cupcake (or 2) when you know each one has a third of a banana in it, right?


Then, while they cooled I whipped up the frosting.  All it is is reduced fat cream cheese, peanut butter, and confectioners sugar.  At least there’s no butter, right?


Then it’s time to decorate these little bundles of perfection.  To keep these a little healthier than the kind of cupcake you’d buy in a bakery, take it easy on the frosting.  Let’s have a little restraint here.  And plus, it’s so rich and flavorful that a little bit does the trick.  Then right before you serve them top with a banana slice and some chocolate chips.  



Nutritional highlights (and lows):  At least these cupcakes have some whole wheat flour in them and a lot of bananas, which we all know have tons of potassium.  I’m not going to say that these are low cal or fat, but I’ve said it before…if you’re gonna have a dessert, at least make it one that has some nutritional value.   And although this has nothing to do with nutrition, people will like you if you make these.  And maybe your boss will give you a good one year review, which is coming up.  Subtlety was never my thing.    


So sometimes, instead of getting off your tush to cook, you just gotta get off your butt and bake.  


Ingredients:
Cupcakes- adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used 3/4 all purpose and 3/4 whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter…it happens
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 4)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Frosting- adapted from CBP gallery:
I’d recommend halving the recipe below because we’re going easy on the frosting, remember?
  • 8 oz cream cheese (reduced fat)
  • 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar 
  • 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
2.  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix the mashed bananas, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter.  Mix together and then mix into the flour mixture (don’t over mix…not sure why but Martha says not to so just don’t).  
4.  Divide evenly into the muffin tins.  I ended up having enough for 13 cupcakes.  Annoying, but allowed me to sample one that night without anyone being able to tell :)
5.  With electric mixer, combine all frosting ingredients and beat until creamy.  Frost cooled cupcakes with an appropriate amount of frosting.  I put it in a ziplock and cut off a corner so I could make this pretty looking pattern.  Right before you serve, top with a banana slice so it doesn’t get brown and add a few chocolate chips for flare.  Prepare to be loved.  
Jun 112010
 
I was in a chicken rut.  Boneless skinless chicken breasts are a definite go to because it’s healthy and easy and inexpensive.  But how many times a week can you really eat the same old, dried-out, overdone (figuratively and literally) grilled chicken breasts?  Lately I’ve been trying to mix up my chicken routine. First it was with Chicken Cacciatore, and now it’s these amazing saucy, mushroomy chicken breasts.


First I seasoned the chicken and lightly dredged the chicken with whole wheat flour and began to brown the chicken in some olive oil.  


Browning commences.  


Then I added garlic and mushrooms.  Then the balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, bay leaf, and thyme.  You cover and simmer the entire mixture until the chicken is done cooking.  Then remove the chicken and continue to simmer the sauce so it reduces and thickens.  


I served these chicken breasts with my cool potatoes and a strawberry, arugula, and goat cheese salad. Let me tell you, it was an amazing meal.  Guest worthy but also simple enough for every day.  Take that chicken rut.

Also, I didn’t include the recipe for this salad, but arugula+crumbled goat cheese+sliced strawberries+simple vinaigrette=perfect spring salad and accompaniment for this chicky or basically everything else.


Health benefits:  This meal is low in fat and calories, high protein, and high in flavor.  I used organic chicken (as always) so we can worry a little less about all the mysterious things that can be in chicken these days.  There’s a good amount of garlic in this recipe which is wonderful for your heart.  

Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Balsamic Sauce
adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (white mushrooms or baby bella/cremini would both work well)
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional…I left it out but if you’re serving guests maybe throw it in there 😉
Directions:
1.  Season chicken breasts well with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge the chicken for whole wheat flour.
2.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Once oil is hot, put in chicken breasts and do not touch for 3 minutes.  Messing with the chicken too early might make it stick to the pan.  Ok, now you can flip the chicken. 
3.  Add the minced garlic and sliced mushrooms and stir often for about 3 minutes (chicken can kind of stay put but move mushrooms and garlic so they don’t burn).  Add the vinegar, broth, bay leaf, and thyme.  Cover the pan and lower heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes (turning chicken occasionally and spooning some sauce over the breasts).  
4.  Transfer cooked chicken to a serving platter and cover.  Simmer the mushroom sauce, uncovered over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes until it thickens a bit.  If you’re adding butter, stir it in to the sauce now and remove the bay leaf.  Spoon sauce over the chicken breasts and serve.