Aug 302011

There’s something really perfect about the combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella. One of those perfect trios like the Three Musketeers, Rock-Paper-Scissors, or Destiny’s Child.  So you may think, why add another ingredient–4’s a crowd. But in this case, it’s just making a classic combo even better. Roasted eggplant stacks with tomato, mozzarella, and pesto.  Sometimes more is more.

The best part about this was it’s simplicity. The only somewhat involved step is roasting or grilling the eggplant, but then you simply stack with tomato, mozzarella, and (gasp!) store-bought pesto. Homemade is obviously better, but my meek little basil plant wasn’t quite up to that endeavor.  Serve as an app, salad, or double the stack for a meal!

Nutritional Highlights: Tomatoes are filled with a powerful antioxidant–lycopene, plus tons of vitamin C. Basil has “flavonoids” that help protect cells from damage (like radiation) and has also been shown to have anti-bacterial properties, and this helps prevent unwanted bacterial growth. Nasunin in the skin of eggplant is an antioxidant that has been shown to protect the lipids in brain cells. Fresh mozzarella provides calcium and has less calories and fat than many other cheeses (in general, soft cheeses are better than hard cheeses). Basically, this is a healthy, seasonal, delicious appetizer or salad that will impress without leaving you exhausted!


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 tablespoon each Balsamic Vinegar and Oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • Fresh basil and parmesan for garnish
Instructions:  Preheat oven to 425.  Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch slices.  Now an optional step: Sprinkle the eggplant with kosher salt and let it sit for about a half hour.  This pulls out moisture and will help the eggplant hold its shape when cooked (but I don’t think skipping this step would be terrible).  Wipe off the salt and spread slices onto a sprayed baking sheet. Mix the oil, vinegar, and garlic and brush it on both sides of the eggplant slices.  Roast for 10 minutes, flip eggplant slices, and roast for another 10 minutes.  

While eggplant cools, slice your mozzarella and tomato.  Create your stacks by starting with one piece of eggplant, top with tomato and mozzarella, and then another piece of eggplant.  Top with pesto, fresh basil, and parmesan.  Drizzle plate with more oil and vinegar to get extra fancy.  Enjoy!
Aug 242011

This weekend I went home to celebrate my birthday (early) with my family.  Like any normal person, I insisted on cooking my own birthday dinner on Saturday night.  I absolutely love cooking at home–spacious kitchen, every appliance I could need, and best of all, free groceries magically fill the pantry and fridge (free for me at least)!  I’ve been on a burger kick this summer, so I decided to fancy-it-up with “slider night”.

Another benefit of cooking at my parents’ house, is access to my mom’s incredible tomato garden.  They’re so far out of the league of any grocery store tomato I’ve ever had.  I forgot to photograph it, but I made a simple salad of sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, and basil and it was completely perfect.  Attempt at artistic shot of my mom picking tomatoes below.  

And attempt at capturing how pretty   the yard is.    I guess all this city living is making me a little home sick and nature sick.  Sidewalks and smelly piles of garbage just don’t cut it, I guess.  

OK, focus.  Back to slider night.  So the 3 burgers I made were  1) an open faced italian chicken burger on a toasted whole wheat baguette slice with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and pesto, 2) a spicy crab cake (not really a burger) with guacamole and 3) a traditional sirloin burger with swiss cheese, BBQ sauce, and caramelized onions.  Slider night can be a great way to get creative, impress your guests, and hey, everything is healthy when it’s tiny, right?

recipes to be added later…tomorrow’s my birthday and I’ll be lazy if I want to!

Aug 172011

A few weeks ago, when I posted my Balsamic Chicken with Caprese cous cous, you might have noticed a yummy looking asparagus salad hiding in the corner, and probably longed to know more about it.  Or maybe you didn’t even notice it and don’t really care, but here it is anyway.  A light, fresh salad, with only 4 ingredients and no cooking required.  

After going way to long with out a mandolin or even a grater, once I got one, I had to find an appropriate way to use it.  After seeing this recipe on smitten kitchen a few months back, I had to make it.  It’s really a recipe that screams “spring” but hey, it’s America, you can get good asparagus all year round so I said what the heck.  After ribboning my asparagus, I tossed with toasted pine nuts, shave parmesan, fresh lemon juice, olive oil (and salt and pepper, so I guess it’s technically 6 ingredients).  I’m not going to say this was the most mind blowingly flavorful dish I’ve ever made, but it was so fresh and light and the perfect pairing with a bold main dish.  

Nutritional highlights:People love to talk about how great it is to eat raw foods, and while I’m not going to stop cooking food any time soon, I do know that for certain vegetables, you loose some of the nutritional value in the cooking process.  This recipe keeps the integrity of the asparagus, a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamin K, folate, and Vitamin C.  Toasted pine nuts and parmesan do add a little fat, but also protein and dairy.  Olive oil and lemon juice add some healthy fat and a nice acidic kick to make the dish even fresher.  

Ribboned Asparagus Salad
recipe at Smitten Kitchen

Aug 102011

As you probably already know if you read this blog, I loveeee burgers.  I don’t eat a ton of red meat, so I especially love turkey, chicken, and veggie burgers.  While a piece of marinated chicken seems to loose most of it’s flavor by the time you’ve cooked it, leaving you with a dry bland hunk-o-meat, a chicken burger has all the flavor mixed throughout.  There are so many creative spins you can take on a classic burger, and this is just one of many on my list to try–Greek inspired Spinach and Feta Chicken burgers.  

These may look complicated, but they’re really easy enough for dinner any night of the week.  Just mix ground turkey or chicken with low fat crumbled feta, frozen spinach, garlic, some spices, and an egg.  Form your patties and throw um on the grill for quick, meditteranean twist on a burger.  I bought some store bought roasted red pepper spread to garnish the burgers (gasp, I know, something that’s not homemade, how shameful…but I’m just so busy these days!).

Nutritional Highlights:  A quick word on the turkey and chicken burgers of the world–a lot of people think they’re automatically making a good choice by selecting the turkey burger on a menu at a restaurant.  The problem is, that many restaurant turkey burgers are made with dark meat, making it almost as high in fat as a regular beef burger.  But when you make it yourself, you can use ground white meat chicken or turkey breast making it incredibly lean.  These burgers have spinach, one of the most nutrient rich vegetables out there (Vitamin A, K, C, folate, iron, and calcium to name a few), mixed right into the burger.  These burgers are low fat and full of lean protein.  Make them!!

Spinach and Feta Chicken Burgers

  • 1 lb ground turkey or chicken breast (white meat only!!)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional…but I like garlic in everything)
  • 4 oz crumbled low fat feta
  • 5 oz frozen spinach (about half of a bag)
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (and I threw in some oregano for extra greekness)
  • whole wheat pita or buns
  • garnishes: red onion, red pepper spread or hummus, sliced tomato, lettuce

Mix the first 6 ingredients together.  Form into 4 patties (trick of the trade: put a little olive oil on your hands to keep the meat from sticking to your hands).  If you have time, let them sit in the fridge, covered, for a half hour.  Cook burgers on the grill or in a skillet for about 5-6 minutes per side or until it’s cooked through.  

Serve on whole wheat pita with red onion, tomato, and roasted red pepper spread.

Aug 032011

I moved to a new apartment a few months ago that’s amazing for so many reasons.  High ceilings with tons of windows, all new kitchen appliances including a fridge with water/ice maker on the outside, and best of all, laundry IN my apartment.  Oh, the simple joys of New York City living.   Down fall:  the kitchen has absolutely no ventilation.  No air conditioning unit in site, and the windows are as far as possible.  Whenever I cook it gets pretty steamy, so the theme of my summer menu planning has been “what can I make that uses as little heat as possible?”.  So that’s what inspired this asian noodle salad.  

This salad is kind of a cross between cold peanut noodles and an asian cole slaw.  The only thing that needed to be cooked were the noodles, which boil in 5 minutes.  Mix in any vegetables, slaw mixture, and an easy peanuty vinaigrette and you’re all done. This can be a meal or a side (I had it as a meal for lunch, and for dinner along with a nice piece of grilled salmon a few nights later).  This is incredibly flavorful, healthy, but still with a little richness from the creamy sauce.  Awesome idea to bring to the next bbq you’re invited too.  Or a great idea if you are sweating in your kitchen and are boycotting oven use for the rest of the summer like me.  

Nutritional Highlights:   I’ve found that asian food is a great way to get a lot of flavor without adding a ton of calories.  Things like ginger, garlic, green onion, and cilantro are SO full of flavor but almost calorie free.     Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are a great source of B vitamins, fiber, and have more than twice the protein in rice.  I combined these noodles with raw veggies (with the exception of the edamame which I guess was cooked).  Raw vegetables at the proper ripeness usually have their maximum possible amount of nurients.  Also, by mixing in a ton of vegetables like I did, you end up eating less noodles and and still feel full.  So the dressing might not be the healthiest thing ever, but it was so tasty I don’t even care!  Also, it’s vegan! And it can be gluten free if you make sure the soba noodles you get are truly gluten free!

You know what’s hard? Eating with chopsticks.  You know what’s even harder? Eating with chopsticks while attempting to take a picture of it using your one remaining hand…

Asian Soba Noodle Salad/Slaw

Ingredients (for a really large batch…cut in half if you aren’t feeding a crowd):

  • 1, 12oz package of soba noodles, cooked according to directions
  • 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw mix (or any cole slaw mix with cabbage, broccoli, or carrots)
  • Additional Veggies: I used red pepper, pea pods, yellow squash, green onion, and cilantro (those last two are especially important for flavor!).  Any vegetables would work in this salad…try for as many colors as possible.
Peanuty Dressing: 
  • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 table spoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
Instructions:  Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl.  In a large bowl, combine all your vegetables, slaw, and cooked soba noodles.  Toss with the dressing and serve.  Enjoy and stay cool!!