Jul 302010
 
About 2 months ago, I was at Woodbury commons (a glorious outlet mall for those who aren’t fortunate enough to know).  After spending about half the day in the polo outlet with my boyfriend comparing seemingly identical t-shirts with pony’s on them, it was my turn.  I turned the corner and saw the William Sonoma outlet.  Music started playing somewhere.  After pacing the isles in awe, I settled upon an ice cream maker on major sale and headed to the checkout line.  Enter rain clouds and the most torrential downpour I’ve ever experienced.  I realized that the sprint to the car might be difficult carrying the ice cream maker, so defeated, I put it back on the shelf.  


So after that riveting story, you might wonder how I made this beautiful looking sorbet?  A food processor! It could really not have been easier.  I got the idea from my Rancho la Puerta spa cookbook but kind of improvised.  First step is to pick your fruit. Peaches are my ultimate favorite summer fruit so it was not a question.


Peel the peaches and cut into chunks.  Put the chunks into a ziplock back and let freeze overnight.  Pull them out about 10 minutes before you puree them.  My food processor couldn’t really conquer them until they thawed a bit.


Because I wanted to keep it healthy and pure tasting, I only added a tiny bit of sweetness.  I put about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar mixed with about 1 teaspoon of water in the microwave for a few seconds so the sugar dissolved.  I poured it into the food processor with the peach chunks and let it rip.  The texture was shockingly smooth and creamy.  Hit the spot on a hot summer night.  Take that ice cream maker owners!


Nutritional Value:  As far as dessert goes, you really can’t beat this.  It’s essentially straight up peaches with a tiny bit of brown sugar.  I’ve also heard that eating/drinking very cold things actually burns calories because your body ask to expend energy bringing it up to body temp.  Can’t promise it’s true, but if it’s another reason to make this sorbet I’ll take it.


No Ice Cream Maker Peach Sorbet

Ingredients:
  • 4 ripe peaches (can also use plums or berries)
  •  2 tablespoons brown sugar + 1 tspn water (can also use maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey to sweeten)…use more if you want a sweeter sorbet or use none if you really want to be a purist
Directions:

1.  Peel peaches, remove pit, and cut into chunks.  Put chunks in a  large ziplock bag and put in the freezer overnight.
2.  Remove from freezer and let sit 10 minutes.  Mix brown sugar and water and microwave for about 10 seconds so sugar dissolves. Pour mixture in with the peaches and puree in the food processor until smooth.  
3.  Transfer to container and return to the freezer.  Remove at least 10 minutes before eating or pop in the microwaver for a few seconds to thaw slightly.  Enjoy!!
Jul 252010
 
There are some things that I would never even consider making myself because it seems completely our of my league.  A few examples–Sushi, marshmallows (although I have a crazy friend who did), fresh pasta, and potstickers.  But, when I was loitering in the whole food’s freezer isle, my go to hang out spot on really hot days, something caught my eye.  Whole wheat dumpling wrappers.  So I thought what the heck, let’s do this.


I used Alton Brown’s recipe for two reasons…1, all the ingredients were appealing, and 2, Deb from Smitten Kitchen used it and she can do no wrong.


The filling consists of carrots, cabbage, tofu (you won’t even notice it if you’re not a tofu fan), red pepper, cilantro, green onions, and ginger.  You mix that together with a mixture of soy, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce.


Now here comes the fun part…and also the disclaimer for this recipe.  This is quite possibly the most labor intensive thing I’ve ever made.  The first few I made were a blast.  Figuring out how to pleat them just right so they look like they do in the restaurants.  But after about 10, and let me tell you this recipe fills A LOT of potstickers, it gets a little old.  


While they were the most labor intensive thing i’ve made in a while, they were also quite possibly the coolest.  The key to making these cute little pleats is using a paper towel to rub a little bit of water around the edge of the wrapper and then fold in half and press together while making small folds.  Ok, so that didn’t make much sense, but it’s kind of a trial and error thing.  You can also make them pleat-less which is way less cool but would cut the time substantially.


The recipe I used calls for steaming, but I don’t have a steamer.  Plus, I love when my dumplings are crispy on the bottom.  So, instead of steaming, I pan fried them for 3 minutes in a little bit of veg oil and then added a little bit of water so they could steam the rest of the way.  The result was perfect.


Nutritional highlights:  Because these are only slightly pan fried, they’re a lot better for you than the fried kind you get in many restaurants.  Also, there’s not mystery ball of pork mush inside like you sometimes find.  This has fresh veggies and tofu in a whole wheat wrapper.  Plus, you burn calories because they take so freakin long to make.  

Vegetarian Dumplings
adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
  • 35 to 40 small wonton wrappers

Directions

Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.
To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.
Option A (Alton’s way): Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer’s surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.
Option B (My way):  Let a large frying pan get hot.  Add 1 tablespoon each of vegetable oil and sesame oil.  Put dumplings in the pan, flat side down.  Let them cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes or until lightly browned.  Then add 2 tablespoons of water, reduce heat, and cover.  Cook for about 5 more minutes.  Enjoy!!
Jul 202010
 
I eat a lot of hummus.  I put it on sandwiches, dip carrots in it, and sometimes, when no one’s looking I eat it with a spoon.  I eat so much hummus, that I decided it was probably time to switch it up a little.  


The secret to my hummus version 2.0 is a whole roasted eggplant.  Roasted eggplant has an incredible sweet flavor that adds a lot of depth to your run of the mill hummus.


Other than the extra step of roasting the eggplant, putting hummus together is so quick and easy.  Anyone can do it.  Unless, of course, you don’t have a food processor.  In that case, go to whole foods and buy some.  Put it in a bowl so it looks more home-made.


The roasted eggplant give this hummus a creamier texture.  I also add a pinch of red pepper flakes to add a little kick to counter the sweetness of the eggplant.  I’ve made the recipe twice now, once with chickpeas and once with white beans and both were great.  I’d go with whichever’s getting dusty in the pantry.  Why eat baba ganoush or hummus, when you can eat both in one?



Nutritional Highlights: Protein from the beans, healthy fat from the olive oil, and vitamins and fiber from the eggplant make this a really healthy spread or dip.  Especially if you dip veggies in it.  I’d venture to say it’s even better for you than regular hummus because adding eggplant reduces the calories per serving by thinning out the beans a little.  By making it yourself, you get to see and control how much oil goes in so you can modify to suit your own tastes and diet.  


Roasted-Eggplant Hummus
adapted from Giada DeLaurentis

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) eggplant or 3 Japanese eggplants, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Olive oil, for drizzling, plus 1/3 cup
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (or Garbanzo), drained and rinsed 
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 1 clove garlic (I used 2 small ones cuz I like garlic)
  • Red pepper flakes–optional (to taste)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place an oven rack in the middle.
Place the eggplant on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cooled eggplant, beans, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes if you have it in you).
Place the hummus in a dipping bowl and serve with the vegetables and whole wheat pita.
Jul 162010
 
In the winter, summer seems like a distant dream, filled with sunshine and happiness.  Now that it’s here, it’s filled with sweaty nights, frizzy hair, and a lofty AC bill.  So, I try to remember the things that I love about summer, one of those things being burgers.  I’ve been wanting to make a black bean burger for a while now, and I’m pretty glad I did.  


This burger has some mexican flavors, so I decided to make a guacamole to top it off.  But this isn’t any guacamole…it’s the famous guac from Rancho La Puerta, a health spa in Mexico where my mom got me this cookbook.  They add pureed edamame or peas to their guac to cut the fat and increase the nutrients.  And it still tastes pretty awesome.    All the usual suspects below, plus some shelled edamame.  Edamole!


Pureed edamame.  Blends right in with mashed avocado.


Now onto the burgers.  Chopped pablano pepper, onion, cilantro, and garlic are combined with whole wheat bread crumbs, beans, corn, spices, and an egg.  Form burger patties.



Once you cook the burgers, you can freeze them individually just like the kind you buy in the freezer isle.  Except these taste better and you just saw everything that went into them.  


Top the burgers with the edamole and you’ve got an incredible summer burger, sans meat.


Nutritional highlights:  Guacamole is great for you…avocados have healthy fat.  That being said, they do still have a lot of fat.  By adding some pureed edamame, we increase the protein and nutrients and reduce (without eliminating) the good fat.  The burgers also have plenty of protein from the beans and are another great meatless option that meat eaters and avoiders will both love.  

Black Bean Burgers:

Ingredients:
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and strained
  • 1/2 cup corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, from about 2 slices stale or toasted bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tspn chili powder
  • 1/2 tspn cumin
  • 1/3 cup poblano pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper
Directions:
1.  In food processor, grind onion, garlic, cilantro and pulse until pieces are small and well combined combined but not completely pureed.  Add black beans and pulse a few more times, so some beans are still whole but others are broken up.  You can also mash with a fork if you prefer.
2.  Transfer to a bowl and add corn, bread crumbs, and spices.  Stir to combine.  Add egg and stir.  Form into patties (really press um together) and refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking.
3.  Cook burgers in non stick frying pan on medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until they are nicely browned.  They might fall apart a little so be gentle when flipping.  Eat immediately or freeze for future use.  

Rancho La Puerta “Aztec Guacamole”

Use to top burgers or as an appetizer with tortilla chips
Jul 132010
 
I absolutely love all breakfast bread products: banana bread, bagels, biscuits…can’t get enough.  Let’s be honest though, who doesn’t love those things?  Too bad they’re usually packed with refined flours and sugars and are just waiting to give you a terrible start to your day.  The kind of start that will make you crave sugar all day long.  This version is quite a bit healthier and didn’t taste “healthy” at all.  It’s not too sweet but just sweet enough.  Perfect for the summer when zucchini is out in full force. 


The beauty of “quick” breads like this is that they’re, as the name suggests, really quick to put together.  No mixer required.  You basically just mix all the wet ingredients with the shredded zucchini, and then add and mix in the dry ingredients.


The one problem with this recipe was that it left kind of an odd quantity.  For me it filled 3 mini loaf pans.  You could also make 2 full loaves but they’ll be pretty shallow so cut cooking time down.  You can also do muffins or mini muffins and change cooking time accordingly.  


Oven shot.  Looking good, zucchini.


I decided to make 2 loaves with nuts and raisins and one without, incase there’s some purist who doesn’t like extra texture and flavor added to their zucchini bread.  My personal opinion, and that of most of the taste testers, is pro nuts/raisins.  Adds nutritional value, flavor, and texture to the bread.  So put them in.  Unless you have a nut allergy.  Safety before flavor.

Nutritional value:  Using applesauce in place of some of the oil, and whole wheat flour instead of some of the flour, lowers the fat and bumps up nutritional value of this bread.  Then you add hidden vegetables, wheat germ, and healthy nuts and dried fruits and you’re set.  I cut the sugar down from the original recipe as well because I don’t think anyone should start their day with that much sugar.  Plus, it’s so tasty and flavorful that it doesn’t need it.  I wouldn’t say you should eat this every day, but it’s great for company and weekend brunch.  


Zucchini Bread
adapted from Allrecipes.com


Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar (orig recipe called for 1 1/2 so you can add a little more if you like a sweeter bread)
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat (pastry if you have it) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (some reviewers substituted oats but I used the germ)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
Instructions:
1.  In a large bowl, mix wet(ish) ingredients: eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce, vanilla, brown sugar and zucchini.  In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients: flours, baking powder and soda, wheat germ, salt, and cinnamon.  Use a fork to “sift” the ingredients…basically just adds a little air into the mixture to keep it from becoming too dense.
2.  Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture.  Add nuts and raisins as desired.
3.  Cook at 350 for: (and these are just estimates so please watch at check with a toothpick for doneness)
  • 30-40 minutes for mini loaves
  • 45-55 minutes for full loaves
  • 15 minutes for mini muffins
  • 20-25 minutes for minutes
4. Let cool and eat.  Feel good about yourself cuz there’s some vegetables in there.  But not good enough no to go to the gym today…
Jul 082010
 
Sorry for my week long haitus…I have been hard at work at the beach, far too busy laying around to post anything.  If you ask me where, I’d have to say “the Jersey Shore” which, sadly, has recently gained a new connotation thanks to MTV, fake tans, washboard abs, and bumpits.  But my version of the Jersey Shore had none of these things.  Just some good clean family fun…and lots of food.  Although this recipe isn’t actually from my 4th of July BBQ, we can pretend it was because it’d be the perfect, healthy summer dinner.  


As you’ve probably noticed from this blog, I don’t eat a lot of red meat.  Not necessarily cuz it’s bad for you, but mostly because I’d almost always choose a good piece of fish over a steak.  But, sometimes it’s good to get your iron fill (and to please your meat loving boyfriend).  So I decided to make a steak dinner.  But not the kind you’re probably used to with a fatty cut and buttery mashed potatoes.  This one is made with local beef and a salad of veggies fresh from the farmers market. 


This salad has all the flavors of summer. I use corn, and cherry tomatoes, and asparagus (green beans are great in this salad too depending on what’s in season and your preference).  


Because I like grilled veggies and because the grill was going anyway, I grilled the corn and asparagus to give it a little char.  You could also just broil the asparagus and corn if you’d rather. Don’t overcook the veggies because this is a salad…we want everything to still be crisp.


Then you cut your cherry tomatoes in half, cut the corn off the cob (but so there are still some chunks), and cut the asparagus into pieces.  Then prepare a quick vinagrette of oil, lime juice, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper and toss it all together.


I obviously forgot to take pictures of the steak-cooking process, but I kept it really simple.  A rub of olive oil, lots of salt and pepper, and a little italian dried herb mix on the grill for about 4-5 minutes per side.  This might change based on thickness of the meat and how you like it done.  I was able to find local, grass-fed sirloin steaks at Whole foods, but any lean cut of sirloin or fillet if you’re less poor than me would be perfect.  


Nutritional Highlights:  Red meat has kind of a bad rep, and some of it is justified.  Recent studies have shown that it might increase risk for cancer and cardiac disease so I try not to eat it very often.  But, it is still a great source of iron and protein so it’s OK in moderation.  And if you’re going to eat meat, if you can get grass fed it is WORLDS better than conventional grain fed beef.  Grass fed has shockingly less fat and calories, and way more omega 3’s and Vitamin E.  And by serving it with a healthy salad instead of greasy mashed potatoes you have a heart healthy meal to appease the meat lovers in your life.

Corn, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomato Salad

Ingredients:
  • One bunch of asparagus
  • 2-3 ears of corn
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Instructions:

1.  Cook the asparagus and corn in one of 2 ways.  For both methods, lightly coat in one tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Option A, grill corn for about 10 minutes and asparagus for 5, turning occasionally.  Option B, broil corn for 6-8 minutes and asparagus for 4-6, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
2.  Once cool, cut kernels from the cob so some “chunks” remain for a rustic look and interesting texture.  Mix with asparagus pieces, cut into about thirds and halved cherry tomatoes.  Mix vinagrette: remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and the rest of the ingredients.  Pour dressing over corn mixture (maybe not all at once in case there is too much) and toss.  If not serving immediately, wait to add the basil so it doesn’t brown.  

For the steak…

I used 2, 6 oz grass-fed sirloin steaks.  Take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking so the meat can come to room temperature.  Rub the steaks with a little olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  I also added a pinch of dried italian herbs.  Heat your grill and cook the steak for about 4-5 minutes on each side.  As steak cooks, it begins to feel firmer so touch the center of the steak.  The more it gives, the less done it is, so depending on how you like it, cook more or less.  Serve along side the corn salad and some simple roasted or small baked potato.  

Jul 012010
 
One of the ultimate comfort foods to me is lasagna.  My mom makes the most ridiculous lasagna-with italian sausage, lots of cheese, and a fresh sauce.  But, I’m not the chubby 8 year old I used to be, so meaty, cheesy lasagna, as heartbreaking as it is, isn’t really in my repertoire anymore.  I created this version to fill the void…and that it did.  For kids and grown ups alike, or those of us still caught somewhere in the middle, these vegetable lasagna rolls are the perfect mix of hearty and healthy.  


You can really use any vegetable combo you like.  I used eggplant, zucchini, and white mushrooms because it seemed very italiany to me.  You could also go with yellow squash, red pepper, portabellas, spinach, broccoli, etc, etc.  


I’ve seen some pretty cool lasagna recipes that use pureed beans instead of cheese, and as much as I respect the whole vegan thing, lasagna to me needs real cheese.  What’s the point of comfort food without cheese.  I used a cup of freshly shredded good mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta.  I mixed that with a lot of fresh basil, salt and pepper.  


Roast your vegetables for about half an hour at 400 degrees.  Let them cool and mix in with the cheese to complete your lasagna filling.


Now for the fun part.  While most people would probably prefer a meal with little to no assembly required, I like my meal to be a project.  Whether it’s building the perfect fajita or just constructing the perfect bite with just a little bit of every component on my plate, I’m very hands on when it comes to food.  So when I thought about rolling up little lasagna bundles of joy, you can only imagine my excitement.  


Once you’re done rolling you top with pasta sauce (I went store bought but you can do homemade if you’re really ambitious).  Top with some parmesan if you like bubbly brown cheese.  And if you don’t then what are you even doing reading this post??


Nutritional highlights:  This dish is based on lasagna, so there is still cheese and noodles, which makes you think carbs and fat.  BUT, by using whole wheat noodles and mixing a small amount of cheese with a large amount of vegetables, we decrease the fat and increase the nutritional value big time. This recipe is a big crowd pleaser and I’d venture to say you could even fool veggie haters into eating this.  

Vegetable lasagna roll-ups
makes 10 roll-ups

Ingredients:
  • 10 no-cook whole wheat lasagna noodles, softened
  • Vegetables to roast: 1 zucchini, 1 eggplant, 1 container mushrooms (or any combo you like)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce…look at labels and try to choose one without too much sugar or foreign ingredients
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I like shredding from a fresh mozzarella ball but pre-shredded is ok too)
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan for topping
Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Cut vegetables into small pieces (use my photo above as reference).  Spread onto baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are just tender (they’ll continue to cook when you bake the lasagna(s).
2.  Mix mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and a good amount of salt and pepper.  Once vegetables have cooled, stir them in to complete your filling.
3.  If using no cook noodles, soften them my submerging in boiling water for about 1 minute.  If using uncooked noodles, cook as directed until al dente.  
4.  To assemble:  pour half the sauce to cover the bottom of the pan.  Create rolls by putting some of the filling at one edge of the noodle and rolling.  Experiment to see what is a good amount to put in each roll.  Arrange roll-ups in the pan and cover with remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with shredded parmesan and bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees until sauce is bubbly.