Nov 302010
 
After five consecutive days that started with bagels and ended in pie, I was craving something lighter.  This salad uses some of the left over ingredients that are around after Thanksgiving, and might help get you back on track. For me that’s a pretty distant track at this point…

This salad has roasted butternut squash, toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries and a homemade cider vinaigrette.  The version I made on Thanksgiving also had thinly sliced pears and goat cheese.  


Battling the squash was not easy, especially with my weak knives.  Cut off the top and bottom of your butternut squash, slice down the middle, scoop out the seeds, remove skin with a paring knife, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.  Toss with a tiny bit of good maple syrup and olive oil and roast until tender. 


This dressing was really perfect for any fall salad and will definitely be added to my repertoire.  Apple cider to sweeten it, and cider vinegar and dijon mustard to add some tang.


Nutritional Highlights: Butternut sqaush is an incredibly healthy veggie.  Way more benefits then the summer squash varieties like zucchini and summer squash.  It’s low in fat (good for the heart), high in fiber (good for your digestive system), high in potassium (good for bone health), rich in vitamin B6 (good for the immune and nervous systems).  The biggest health perk though, comes from the bright orange color–carotenoids which protect against heart disease, breast cancer, and age-related macular degeneration.  Plus, one serving has half your daily dose of vitamin C!  Combined with nuts for protein, arugula and dried cranberries, it’s a perfectly balanced meal or side.

Read more at Wholeliving.com: Power Foods: Butternut Squash


Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Apple Cider Vinaigrette

adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Nov 212010
 
Some people get excited to deck their halls for Christmas.  Some people count down the days until their birthday and make it last a full week plus both surrounding weekends.  But me, I like Thanksgiving.  It’s by far my favorite holiday.  It brings all the things I love together: good company and good food. The holidays are clearly a time to indulge, but what if it was possible to make a few traditional sides a little less gluttonous (without anyone noticing)?  These two recipes are incredibly nutritious, vegan (unintentionally), and still taste amazing.  You won’t miss the butter in these brussel sprouts or the added sugar in these sweet potatoes one bit.


Just look at some of these ingredients below:  Pomegranate, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, apples, fresh herbs, brussel sprouts and pecans.  How could a meal with all this amazing produce be bad for you??


I loved this sweet potato recipe because instead of adding brown sugar, or marshmallows, or butter, this recipe uses olive oil plus a little spicy kick to contrast against the naturally sweet yams.  Fresh thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and olive oil are all these needed to be transformed into a hearty and healthy side.  Cooking them at a high temperature makes the outside a little crispy and brown and the inside smooth and creamy.  I’m kind of obsessed with these potatoes and they fall into my favorite food group of all: the sweet and savory food group.   


Brussel sprouts can have a bad rep.  When they’re plain, they can be very cabbagy and unappetizing.  Something I hid in my napkin when I was a kid (sorry mom).  Then on the other hand, brussel sprouts can be amazingly tasty when cooking in butter with bacon/pancetta, but then you’ve taken an amazingly healthy vegetable and tainted it with bad fats.  So this recipe is the happy medium.  Simply roasted with olive oil, a tiny bit of maple syrup, salt and pepper so they get caramelized.  Then mix them with toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds to add texture, nuttiness, and a sweet/tart bite.  


Nutritional Highlights: Sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, AND pomegranate are all considered “super foods”.  The CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) ranked sweet potatoes number one in nutrition of all vegetables! They have lots of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Brussel sprouts are often high on these lists as they fall in the “cruciferous vegetable category” with kale and broccoli which all are big time cancer fighters.  Don’t over cook them or they lose some of their nutritional value and start to smell a little funky.  And those little beautiful pomegranate gems are full of antioxidants as well.

Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Epicurious 2005

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds (I did 1/2 to 1 in thick for a higher crustiness to potato ratio)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves, plus 6 thyme sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

And get ready for how easy it is:

Preheat oven to 450°F. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss. Arrange potato slices in single layer on heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in 13×9-inch baking dish. Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes (Note: Original recipe said 40 minutes but mine only took about 20 minutes since they were thinner.  Flip them half way too so both sides get brown). Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with thyme sprigs.


Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate and Pecans

Adapted from  Bobby Flay, Mesa Grill
Serves: 4

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seeds from 1 or 2 pomegranates
¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts


Also crazy easy to prepare…


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place Brussels sprouts on a large baking sheet, toss with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. (Shake the pan half way through so none burn).
2. Transfer sprouts to a large bowl and stir in the pomegranates seeds and walnuts.




Nov 172010
 
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a tomboy.  I’ve always been able to throw a ball (which is more than either of my sisters can say).  I can get ready, start to finish, in 20 minutes (which is a LOT more than my boyfriend can say).  But, one thing I have never been able to get my inner boy to embrace… football.  Fantasy drafts, Sunday night games, and even (gasp) the Super Bowl, I could honestly care less.  Give me an over-dramatized CW show with painfully bad acting over a football game any night.  So, instead of sitting on the couch watching the game, I got in the kitchen and mustered up as much football spirit as I could to make some Sunday Night Chili.   


Mine was obviously not going to be just meat and beans.  I added TONS of veggies, black beans, and a little bit of white meat ground turkey.



This recipe is especially great because you can use a few shortcuts to get great flavor in less time…like adding salsa and taco seasoning.  Does watching a boring football game result in 7 complete meals to put in your freezer?  Nope.  Just injuries, cold, and a bunch of hefty dudes who’s pants are too small.


Nutritional Highlights:  This is truly a balance meal.  Vegetables, fruit (tomatoes?), carbohydrates (beans), protein (ground turkey breast), and dairy (because chili needs to be garnished with cheese).  This recipe is infinitely adaptable.  Add whatever veggies you like, any variety of beans, and choose to add or leave out the meat.  Next time I’m going to try it with some tempeh.  It freezes really well for a healthy lunch to bring to work or for a dinner when you feel like sitting on your tush and not cooking.


Turkey, Vegetable, and Black Bean Chili
Adapted from allrecipes.com
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pounds ground turkey (try to get lean/white meat only)
  • 1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix (try to get one that is lower in sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can beef broth (I used vegetable)
  • 1 (7 ounce) can salsa
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or coarsely chopped tomatoes packed in puree
  • 1 (7 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (different colors ideally), diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (I did half zucchini half yellow squash for more color)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cans of black beans (depending on your bean preference)
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble turkey into the pot, stirring with a wooden spoon to break apart as much as possible. Season with taco seasoning mix, coriander, oregano, chili flakes, and tomato paste, and mix until meat is evenly coated with seasonings. Continue cooking, reducing heat if necessary, until turkey is well browned.
  2. Pour in beef broth, and simmer to reduce liquid slightly, about 5 minutes. Add salsa, tomatoes, and green chilies, and continue cooking at a moderate simmer for ten minutes. Adjust the thickness at any time you feel necessary by adding water.
  3. While chili is still cooking, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion and green bell pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and bell pepper is lightly browned. Add onion and bell pepper to the chili, and continue cooking at a very low simmer.
  4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, and cook stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the zucchini to the chili and the beans, reduce heat, and continue cooking 15 minutes more. Again, adjust the consistency with water as needed.
  5. Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top with green onion and cheddar cheese, and serve.
Nov 102010
 
After that last post, a brief derailment from the healthy cooking track, I decided I had to jump back on with something really healthy.  The last time I posted using this ingredient, in fact, it resulted in a text from my father saying “love your blog, but yuck!”.  Yep, you know it’s really healthy when most guys think it’s nasty.  I only started eating tofu about a year ago, and had always been pretty underenthused.  Even if the flavors are good, my tofu adventures had always ended up sponguey and textureless.  So this time, it was my mission to achieve crispy tofu.
 



Might be a little overdone to go the asian route with tofu, but a good stir fry was what I was craving so I went with it.  I used a ton of vegetables:  broccolini, yellow squash, carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, and snap peas.  You can use any varitey you like or just use this recipe to clean out your veggie drawer at the end of the weeek.



After mush research, I had a plan to make crispy tofu.  I cut the block into 9 thin rectangles.  I squeezed out all the liquid and then let it marinate in a delicious citrus/soy/ginger/garlic mixture.  The real secret to crispness came just before the cooking process.  A very light dredge in corn starch, a little big of peanut oil in a very hot wok, and cook the tofu without moving it on each side until crispy.    Then I removed the tofu and cooked the veggies, and finally added the sauce to bring it all together.  Mission crispy tofu accomplished.  I think you’d maybe even like this one, Dad.



Nutritional Highlights:  Tofu is very high in protein, specifically soy protein.  Recent research on soy protein has shown that it may be able to reduce bad cholesterol by over 30%.  Some people think you need meat to get adequate protein, but a 4oz serving of tofu has about 20% of your daily protein requirement, less than 1 gram of saturated fat, and about 86 calories.  Show me a meat that can do that.  Plus, tofu is crazy cheap so if you’re poor like me, learn to love it.



Crispy Tofu Stir Fry
adapted from The Daily Green


INGREDIENTS (serves 3-4)


1 16-oz package extra-firm, water-packed tofu
3 TBSP cornstarch, divided
4 cups fresh chopped veggies or a frozen stir fry veggie medley
2 TBSP canola or peanut oil (any light-tasting oil)
1/2 C vegetable stock/broth
1-1/2 TBSP water
Green Onions and Sesame Seeds to garnish


Marinade:
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C lime juice
1/2 C soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – less sodium!)
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
PREPARATION


1. Drain tofu; cut into 7-9 slices width-wise. Press tofu for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour. (I left it wrapped in paper towel between two heavy pans overnight).


2. Mix ingredients for marinade (excluding the sesame oil); microwave for 1 minute and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve approx 2/3 cup for sauce, 1/3 cup for actual marinade.  Place tofu in a dish or plastic zipper bag; pour the 1/3 cup of marinade over the tofu. Marinate for at least 1 hour; preferably 4-6.


3. Make sauce: Add reserved marinade to a saucepan, mix in sesame oil, along with the 1/2 cup vegetable stock/broth. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 2 minutes to reduce a bit and concentrate the flavors. Whisk together 1 TBSP cornstarch and 1-1/2 TBSP cool water in a small dish until smooth. Turn sauce down to medium-high; add cornstarch slurry, whisking continuously. Continue to stir until sauce starts to thicken; reduce to low heat. Set sauce aside.


4. Heat a wok or large pan.  While pan is heating, dredge tofu in 2 tablespoons of corn starch (I spread the cornstarch on a plate and dredged like I would chicken in flour, shaking off any excess).  Add a little peanut oil and then the tofu to the pan, being careful to not overcrowd. You’ll probably need to do it in 2 batches. Resist the urge to touch your tofu until they are golden brown on one side – then use tongs to flip. Once golden brown on both sides, remove from pan.


5.  Stir fry your veggies (you might need to add a bit more oil) and cook until bright and tender-crisp.  Add enough sauce so that everything is lightly coated, but not drowning in sauce. You can add the tofu back in at this point but I kept it separate as to not interfere with the crispness it had acheived.

Nov 092010
 

Disclaimer:  I really considered not posting this.  Healthy cooking is supposed to be my thing, but I decided it would be even more wrong NOT to share this.  Sure, I feel like an imposter…but a really happy, full, contently sugar-coma-ed kind of imposter.  No regrets.


It’s become kind of obscene when I join forces with my friend Erica of ericassweettooth to create some sort of birthday concoction for one of our friends.  Last time the result was the world’s most epic s’more.  This time we were inspired by a friend who loves apple pie.  So you think, easy, whip up an apple pie, throw some ice cream on it, and you’re good to go.  Way too obvious.  Instead, we made this…


Allow me to elaborate.  That beautiful specimen above is:  Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie + Homemade Salted Caramel Frozen Yogurt + Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie + Warm Apple Pie Topping.  Life changing.

And here is Erica making the photo magic happen.  Crossing my fingers that Santa/Hanukkah Harry brings me one of these fancy photo shooting machines for Christmukkuh this year!  Then my pictures can look like hers!


And then there were none…


Nutritional highlights:  You might think I would skip this section on a recipe that is clearly a tad bit gluttonous, but I think it’s important to remember that it’s ok to indulge every once in a while–especially around the holidays.  You don’t want to be that person sitting at Thanksgiving, stomach growling, staring at the pumpkin pie longingly…not even partaking in the conversation or the fun because you’re so focused on depriving your cravings.  It also doesn’t hurt that this recipe incorporates oats, low fat yogurt, and apples.  Just try to keep your portion moderate and really enjoy it without regret.  



Check out Erica’s Sweet Tooth for the oatmeal cookie recipe! (and for pictures that are FAR superior to mine)

Salted Caramel Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:
1 cup 2% milk
1 packet plain gelatin (** see my note in the instructions!!)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 quart (about 31/2 cups) lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup half-and-half (can use fat-free)
1 tspn vanilla
Caramel Sauce: Either premade or salted caramels+half and half

Place milk in a 2-quart saucepan; sprinkle with gelatin and let stand 1 minute.
Heat milk and gelatin and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar and vanilla extract; cook for a minute until sugar is dissolved.Transfer to a medium bowl and cool for a few minutes.  Add yogurt and half-and-half, stir until completely blended. Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. The frozen yogurt will have a soft, creamy texture. 

While the frozen yogurt is brewing, make your caramel by melting 1/2 cup chopped salted caramels (or regular caramels + some salt) in 1/2 cup half and half over a double boiler.  Add more caramels if it isn’t thick enough (it’s not an exact science).  Let the caramel sauce cool.

Transfer frozen yogurt to a bowl and drizzle in some of the caramel.  Mix only a few times if you want it “swirled” or mix thoroughly if you want it to be caramely throughout.  

Sauteed Apple Pie Topping:

Peel, core, and slice 4 apples (I used granny smith).  Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non stick pan.  Stir apples for about 7 minutes or until softened.  Mix 2 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water.  Stir in the water mixture, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.   Continue cooking until sauce has thickened and sugar has dissolved.   Serve warm over the Fro Yo Cookie Sandwich and be so happy you did.

Nov 032010
 
Fall has officially fallen.  And although I’m quite dissappointed that I’ve already had to fish my gloves out of hibernation, I am very happy with some of my favorite fall produce that is suddenly available.  Pomegranate, Sweet Potato, Beets, Pears (3 for $1 at my fruit man!), and Butternut Squash to name a few.  But as much as I love fresh produce, this post salutes one of our canned friends.  Yes, I love canned pumpkin.  I act like it isn’t sitting on the shelf all year round and only appears before halloween and stays until new years.  But really, who would make pumpkin pie in July?  So, because canned pumpkin is “in season” at my super market, I knew I had to pick a ripe can and make a halloween treat.



So I made some healthy (ish) pumpkin spice muffins with a touch of cinnamon creamcheese frosting in the form of spooky decorations.  Terrifying, right?


I added some chopped dates and pecans for a little textures and depth of flavor but they can be left out if you’re a purist.  These were perfectly moist, not too sweet (but still satisfies your sweet tooth), and there’s just enough of the tart/sweet creamcheese frosting to give it the flavor without the giant dense mound of calories/fat/sugar. 
 

Nutritional highlights: I made these with all whole wheat pastry flour. I substituted applesauce for 1/2 of the oil and cut back on the sugar in the original recipe. Using frosting as a decoration rather than a heavy coating makes these substatially better for you than the alternative but doesn’t completely deprive us of the frosting we crave and expect. And making these as minis really gives us the portion control we need. Plus, these cupcake/muffins are not completely nutrient void. Pumpkin (even the canned kind), like most orange veggies, is a great source of vitamin A and K and is also really low in calories and high in fiber. The pecans add a little protein and healthy fat, and dates are naturally very high in fiber and have a prune like effect if you know what I mean. So as far as holiday sweet treats go, these are pretty good!

Dry Ingredients:


1 + 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Wet Ingredients:
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup oil (ie canola)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce


Add these to the above micture:
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)


Directions:  Mix dry ingredients.  Combine with a fork or whisk to try to add air to the mixture for a light muffin.  Mix wet ingredients separately and then add them to the dry and stir to combine (do not over mix).  Add the dates, nuts, and water.  Fill mini muffin tin (For me it made 36 mini muffins).  Bake at 325 degress for 15-20 minutes (just watch them closely and test with toothpick so you do not over cook..these are so nice and moist!).    


For creamcheese frosting:  I mixed 4 oz creamcheese (at room temp) with about 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar and a good sprinkle of cinnamon.  I mixed with a fork because I didn’t want to get out the hand mixer and it turned out fine.  Taste to see if it needs more sugar/cinnamon to your tastes.  Put in a ziplock sandwich bag and cut a tiny corner off and decorate as you please.  Or you could you an actual frosting bag but I don’t have such luxuries.  Enjoy!!!!