Jun 262011
 
I’m all about healthy eating most of the time, but when it’s your best friend’s birthday, you’re not going to make a her a nice salad with a candle in it to show her you care.  So for Katie’s birthday, I made the tastiest, moisest carrot cupcakes EVER.



There’s nothing I can really say in health-defense of the maple cream cheese frosting on these babies, but I can say that in the 24 cupcakes I made, in went an entire pound of shredded carrots, a cup of chopped pineapple, and some chopped pecans.  So they basically count as a serving of fruits and veggies, right?  Maybe not quite, but at least you’re not eating something totally and completely nutritionally void.  But if you are, who cares, it’s your birthday.  



Anyway, I dwelled on which recipe to choose for a while, and in the end went with Ina Garten’s recipe and it did not disappoint.  I included a few easy healthy substitutions that you can try or just follow the recipe as is.  Enjoy!

My new favorite Carrot Cake recipe

adapted from Ina Garten


Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar)
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil (I used 2/3 cup oil, 2/3 cup apple sauce for secret healthy swap)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup raisins (optional…I left them out because I think it makes them seem like more of a muffin than a cupcake…personal preference)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans and only added to half of the batter to please nutters and non-nutters alike)
  • 1 pound carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.  (Or as I did, fill 2 cupcake trays with liners)

For the cake:

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts (if using) with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (about 25 minutes for cupcakes), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.


And don’t think I forgot about the frosting!
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious

  • 10 ounces cream cheese (such as Philadelphia), room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup


  • Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 30 minutes.

    Jun 172011
     
    Apparently, summer official starts next week–June 21st to be exact.  Oh really?  So you’re telling me that 90 degree day last week wasn’t summer?  Ha.  Anyway, summer to me is all about the food (duh)…and I can’t get enough of things like watermelon, corn, peaches, and tomatoes.  Good summer food has to be fresh, colorful, and light, which is exactly what I was going for with this flatbread.  So what if I’m cheating and making it a week early…I’m in a summer in New York state of mind.    


    What makes this flatbread unique is the spread.  It’s made of roasted eggplant and roasted garlic.  I simply sliced the eggplant and spread on a baking sheet with two halved garlic cloves and roasted away. Took it for a spin in the food processor (along with some chickpeas for protein) and you’re good to go.


    I used some of the raw whole wheat pizza dough from my favorite NY pizzaria, but you could really make this on anything, including precooked flatbread or pita (obviously adjusting the cooking time accordingly.  After spreading on the garlicy eggplant, I topped with thinly sliced orange pepper, red onion, grape tomato, asparagus, corn, and some goat cheese.  


    To serve, I added a few sprouts on top to give it even more freshness and texture.  Plus, I drizzled with oil and vinegar just for kicks.  This is a ridiculously tasty flat bread…who am I kidding, it’s a pizza in disguise.  Whatever it is, you should make it this summer, or some variation, and seriously impress your bbq guests.


    Nutritional highlights:  Color, color, color.  I say it a lot, but the best way to tell if you’re getting good variety in your diet is to assess the color palette you eat.  And the more variety, the more likely you’ll be getting all the amazing health benefits and vitamins that different foods have to offer.  This flatbread for example, has corn (gives you a few very important B vitamins + fiber), asparagus (vitamin K and folate + an interesting surprise when you go to the bathroom), bell pepper (Vitamin C and A + antioxidant effects), etc etc etc.  I could go on for days.  As long as you take it easy on the cheese and do a very thin whole grain base for your flatbread, then this is an incredibly healthy meal or appetizer.  

    Summer Vegetable Flatbread with Eggplant Spread and Goat Cheese
    adapted from…my mind

    Ingredients:

    For the Spread:
    • 1 eggplant
    • 1/2 can chickpeas (optional…I had them in my fridge so I needed to use them up but just eggplant spread would be just as yummy and a bit smoother)
    • 2 large garlic cloves
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • salt and pepper to taste
    For the flatbread:
    • Fresh vegetables! I used: red onion, orange pepper, asparagus, grape tomatoes, and frozen roasted corn (trader joe’s sells a pre roasted frozen corn…so fun)
    • Sprouts or greens for garnish
    • Olive oil and vinegar
    • Whole wheat pizza dough or pre-made flatbread or pita
    • Goat cheese (recipe can also be easily made vegan by leaving out the cheese)
    Directions:

    Slice the eggplant in 1 inch thick rounds and then halve.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray and spread eggplant pieces evenly.  Peel two large garlic cloves and cut in half and disperse on the sheet.  Roast at 425 for 20 minutes, then turn pieces, and then another 20 minutes (so 40 minutes total).  Eggplant should be browned and soft.  Put roasted eggplant into food processor and pulse.  If using chickpeas, add and pulse.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water to thin out the mixture.  Season with salt and pepper (and maybe some red pepper flakes if you’re crazy like me).  

    If using raw pizza dough, preaheat oven to 425 with pizza stone in the oven.  Roll out your dough on the counter and then transfer to hot stone.  Top with eggplant spread and all your cut veggies.  Crumble goat cheese on top and bake for 15-20 minutes.  If using an already cooked crust or flatbread, reduce cooking time to about 10 minutes.

    When the flatbread is done, you can top with some fresh greens (sprouts or arugula would be great) and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and vinegar to make it especially fancy.  Enjoy!!!

    HAPPY START OF SUMMER!



    Jun 092011
     
    My friend/cooking partner Amanda and I recently bought a groupon for an organic produce box.  We were thrilled with the bountiful produce in front of us, and we used most of it to make some vegetarian “meat” balls a few weeks ago.   The meal was amazing, but then we were left with an odd mixture of fruit, not quite sure what to do with it.  We were making guacamole a few night later, and said, what the heck…throw it in.  So in with all the usual guac ingredients, went an apple, mango, some grapefruit and an orange.  Kinda weird? Perhaps. Really delicious? Oh yeah.   


    And you can’t just use a regular old tortilla chip with fruit-a-mole, it’s a rule.  So, we made our own baked chili lime tortilla chips.  Sorry Tostitos, you will be getting a lot less business from me from now on.  Not only were they practically fat free, they were totally crispy, had great flavor, and are super cheap and easy to make.  Be warned that these are a little firmer than a store bought chip, but I loved the extra crunch.  


    Nutritional Highlights:  We know avocados are a great healthy fat source, and I use them A LOT (maybe borderline too much).  This recipe mixes in plenty of fruit for extra vitamins and to “thin out” the fat content of the avocado, cuz you’re gonna eat a lot of this whether you like it or not.  Regular tortilla chips are deep fried but mine start with simple corn tortillas (only about 50 cal for a whole tortilla which will make like 10 chips) and are baked only with a tiny bit of olive oil and lots of chili powder and lime.  


    Fruit-a-mole:

    Now this recipe is not an exact science.  And i’m not trying to say its ground breaking, I know i’m not the first to put a mango in guacamole.  But I’m just saying, whatever fruit you have chillin in the fridge, just throw it in there and see what happens!

    Ingredients:
    • 2-3 avocados
    • 1 chili, seeded and diced (we used a red chili this time but jalapeno is good/less scary)
    • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
    • juice from 1 lime
    • about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1 cup diced fruit: choose between apple, orange, grapefruit, mango, pear, peach, nectarine….anything you can think of!
    • Salt/pepper to taste
    Instructions: mix it all together! 

    Homemade Tortilla Chips with Chili and Lime

    Note: I’m leaving out quantities because it depends how many chips you want to make, and how much lime/spicy flavor you want.  So just experiment and adjust to your tastes!

    Ingredients:
    • Corn tortillas
    • Lime juice and zest
    • Chili powder
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
    Instructions:  Preheat oven to 400.  In a bowl, mix a little olive oil with lime juice, zest, and chili powder (I probably used a tablespoon of olive oil, teaspoon of chili powder, and juice and zest from 1 lime for 5 tortillas worth of chips).  Cut your corn tortillas into chip size (I tried for triangles but any shape works).  Toss the tortilla pieces in your oil/lime/chili mixture.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with some sea salt and an extra hit of chili powder for color.  Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  I flipped mine half way through and sprinkled salt/chili powder on the other side too.  They’re done when they’re crispy and browned but not burnt (I lost a few to this).  

    Paired with fruitamole, it’s the perfect healthy summer app.   

    Jun 022011
     








    There’s nothing better than a good bar-be-que.  When the weather finally starts to cooperate, the first thing I want to do is get outside and get grillin (or at least watch someone more grill-capable cook the food the I prepared).  But sadly, my NYC apartment does not have a spacious back yard for a grill.  So, when I was home in Chicago last weekend and my family requested a tush cook dinner, I had to take advantage of access to a great grill and an even greater griller (I call him Dad).  So, I made some flavorful and colorful yogurt-marinated chicken skewers.

    The marinade was simple but added so much flavor and kept the chicken incredibly moist.  Perfect way to mix up your run-of-the-grill (get it??) bbq and impress your guests (or family, in my case).

    Nutritional Highlights:  Skewers are a great way to keep your bbq tasty AND healthy.  Burgers and dogs are tasty, but chicken or shrimp skewered with lots of veggies is way better.  I paired mine with my favorite mustard roasted potatoes and a strawberry, feta, and toasted pine nut salad.  General rule of thumb–the more colorful plate you have, the better…you can’t really beat this!


    Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Skewers
    adapted from Baked Bree

    For the chicken and marinade:
    • 1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 minced garlic cloves
    • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used a little extra cuz I’m crazy like that)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • Veggies for skewering (red onion, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms…)
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into one inch cubes

    For the lemon dressing (I didn’t make this because I lost track of time and forgot, but I think it would be yummy so I’m including the recipe):
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 minced garlic cloves
    • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice

    Directions:  Mix all the marinade ingredients.  Cut chicken into cubes and marinate for 3-6 hours (no longer or the yogurt will start breaking down the chicken).  Mix your lemon dressing, if using.  Soak your skewers in water for 30 minutes so they don’t burn on the grill.  When it’s done marinating, skewer your chicken with vegetables in between and grill over high heat for about 4 minutes per side (this may vary based on the size of your chick chunks).  When they chicken is done, remove for the grill, brush with the lemon dressing and serve!