Sep 282011
 

I really really love lentils.  I’m not really sure why–they’re pretty boring when you think about it.  But something about the texture and the fillingness and the fact that they’re awesome for you has got me to thinking what you can do with them aside from the usual lentil soup.  So when I stumbled across this lentil salad recipe, I knew I had to try it.  





Amazing discover of the week–trader joe’s sells pre cooked plain lentils.  That made this recipe SO easy (not that cooking lentils are all that hard, but still, saves a step).  I combined the lentils with grapes, toasted walnuts, fresh thyme, celery, feta, and an olive oil/red wine vinegar/honey/lemon dressing.  So simple but so tasty!  I plan on bringing it for lunch all week.  And shout out to my jewish half–would be a perfect vegetarian side dish for Rosh Hashanah.





Nutritional highlights: Lentils are packed with protein and fiber and are a great staple when you’re trying to create a filling vegetarian dish.  It can also be easily be made vegan without the feta.  The lentils aren’t the only powerhouse here–walnuts are a great healthy fat,  low fat feta gives us calcium, celery gives us fiber, and grapes are a great source of manganese.  The fresh thyme, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice, and olive oil gives this dish so much fresh flavor without adding much fat or sodium.  Enjoy this as a side or a vegetarian main.


Lentil Salad with Walnuts, Feta, and Grapes
adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup French or brown lentils
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 ounces feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add lentils, reduce to a simmer, and cover; cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water. (Or buy precooked lentils! my new favorite thing!)
    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together red-wine vinegar, lemon juice, and honey. Whisk in olive oil. Stir in lentils, walnuts, grapes, celery, and thyme. Add feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

   

Sep 212011
 

Once upon a time, in a hypothetical dream diet world, you wish to your fairy bod-mother that you’ll give up all sweets–for good.  You stick to that plan for the rest of your life, marry the prince, and live skinnily ever after.  Blah blah blah, yeah right.  The second you make a promise to cut out something out of your diet completely, especially something addictive (and awesomeeee) like sugar, it’ll only be a matter of time before you crack and go backwards ten steps.  That’s why coming up with a few lower guilt dessert ideas can keep you happy and on track.  





These frozen dark chocolate bananas are simple enough for anyone but are impressive enough to share (although you may not want to).  The process involves freezing banana halves on sticks,  melting dark chocolate, dipping, and coating with the toppings of your choice.  My topping choices were cinnamon graham crackers, chopped walnuts, and coconut, but the options are endless.  Crushed pretzels, virtually any nut or candy will work too.  



Nutritional Highlights:  Everyone knows that bananas give you potassium (which contributes to our electrolyte balance and smooth muscle function), but you might not have known that potassium rich foods have been shown to prevent atherosclerosis (artery hardening) and hypertension (high blood pressure).  I also didn’t realize until now that bananas have about 30% of the B6 you need in a day.  They’re also a great source of dietary fiber.  Now on to what really matters–the dark chocolate.  Some awesome scientists figured out that dark chocolate (and not other varieties) offer potential cardiovascular benefits and cancer fighting antioxidants.  Plus, you can keep the toppings appetizing and healthy–nuts for protein and healthy fat, or graham crackers for a low fat crunch.  





Dark Chocolate Frozen Bananas


Ingredients: 

  • 4 ripe but firm bananas
  • 12 oz dark chocolate 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Topping of your choice: graham cracker, walnuts, peanuts, pretzels, coconut, granola, m&m’s, etc
Directions: 

1. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2. Cut the bananas in half (with peel still on) and insert a Popsicle stick into each half, as shown. Unpeel the bananas and place them on the baking sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
3. Once they bananas have frozen, melt the chocolate with the oil in a large glass measuring cup in the microwave (check it every 30 seconds) or in a double boiler over a half-full pan of simmering water (about 2 minutes). Stir until smooth.
4. Roll each banana half in the chocolate, then quickly sprinkle with your topping
5. Freeze until the chocolate sets, 30 minutes. Serve or freeze in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sep 152011
 


I have no idea what prompted it, but I had a really odd craving the other day.  Nothing normal like a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of pizza or a burger and fries.  This one was for a cobb salad, something I probably haven’t eaten in 5+ years.  I get so caught up trying to cook and eat all the cool, trendy health foods–things like spaghetti squash, quinoa, and beets–that I forget about some really solid classics.  Hence, this beautiful classic cobb salad.





Cobbs salads are half about taste and half about presentation…you definitely eat with your eyes first.  The ingredients are what you would expect: crumbled gorgonzola, tomatoes, grilled chicken, avocado, (turkey) bacon, and hard boiled egg over a bed of lettuce.  It’s so basic and un-unique, but the combination is just really satisfying.  





Nutrition highlights:  I’m usually a proponent of limiting animal protein intake as much of possible, which this salad DOES NOT accomplish whatsoever…. but in moderation everything is OK.   I’m also not completely in favor of those atkins-esque “low-carb” diets…but if you’re trying to cut your carbs for whatever reason, this salad is a very filling, satisfying way to do it.  You can also make a few swaps to lower the fat like use turkey bacon instead of regular bacon, egg whites instead of the whole egg (I left the yolk in for color, though…and it won’t kill ya), or mixing in some spinach with the classic romaine to up the vitamins.  Take it easy on the cheese (a little goes a long way) and keep your portion in check and you can enjoy it without guilt!




Classic Cobb Salad
adapted from Saveur (serves about 4)


FOR THE DRESSING:
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 tsp. dry mustard (I used dijon mustard because  I don’t have dry)
1⁄2 tsp. Worcestershire
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

FOR THE SALAD:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups chopped spinach
2 oz. blue cheese, preferably Roquefort, crumbled (I used gorgonzola)
6 strips cooked turkey bacon, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes (whites only if you’re trying to lower fat)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes (I used grape tomatoes)
1 or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. minced chives

1. Make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, sugar, and garlic in a blender. Purée the ingredients to make a smooth dressing and season with salt and pepper (I skipped this step). Set the dressing aside (or refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 week).

2. Make the salad: On a large platter, combine the spinach and romaine lettuces. Arrange the blue cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado on top of the greens in neat rows. To serve, drizzle salad with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and top with chives. Alternatively, toss everything together in a bowl.
Sep 062011
 

These have been on my recipes-to-try list for some time.  Since last summer to be exact.  I had planned on making them, but then suddenly it was October and I hadn’t made them so “summer” rolls weren’t so relevant any more.  And with today being labor, I knew I had to sneak them in while there’s still time.  While I’m not excited about the impending end of summer, I AM excited about these little rolls!






These rolls were bright, fresh, and light.  You can be creative with your filling ingredients, but I used poached shrimp, rice noodles, cilantro, julienned red pepper, cucumber, mango, and scallion.  





I can’t promise every one of you will share this next sentiment, but making these was SO SO fun. Clearly I’m a little crazy, but I seriously enjoyed the wrapping and arranging of these guys.  It’s definitely a little process:  poaching the shrimp, cooking and dressing the noodles, soaking the rice paper, and then arranging all the ingredients–but once you get all the prep done it’s so easy.  I made these start to finish in less than an hour and I think they look pretty darn impressive if  I do say so myself. 





Nutritional Highlights:  Compared to their seasonal counterpart (the spring roll), these are SO much healthier.  Mainly, because they are not deep fried.  They are filled with poached shrimp for protein (meaning boiled in water so no fat added in the cooking process).  They also have fresh veggies like cucumber and red pepper, and this version even has some fruit.  They also have a few essentially calorie free flavor adders: cilantro and scallions.  The rice noodles and rice wrappers are also gluten free, hooray (shout out to one of my favorite msk followers)!  You can enjoy these as a guilt free appetizer or main course.





Mango Shrimp Summer Rolls with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce
Rolls from Epicurious and dipping sauce from Health


For rolls

  • 12 large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per pound), peeled
  • 3 ounces vermicelli rice-stick noodles*
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (8-inch) rice-paper rounds plus additional in case some tear*
  • 48 fresh cilantro leaves (from about 1 bunch)
  • 48 fresh mint leaves (from about 1 bunch)…I omitted this because I don’t like fresh mint
  • 1 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; 1 lb), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
  • 3 scallions, cut into 3-inch-long julienne strips
  • 1 pound firm-ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

Dipipng Sauce:
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha suace (I used more cuz I like it hot)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion

  • Make dipping sauce:  Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat the rolls.

Make rolls:
Add shrimp to a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water then reduce heat and poach shrimp at a bare simmer, uncovered, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then return shrimp cooking water to a boil. Chill shrimp in ice water 2 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise, deveining if necessary.
Add noodles to boiling water and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, then rinse under cold running water and drain well. Stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved, then add noodles and toss to coat.
Put a double thickness of paper towel on a work surface and fill a shallow baking pan with warm water. Check rice-paper rounds and use only those that have no holes. Soak 1 round in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then carefully transfer to paper towels.
Arrange 3 shrimp halves (cut sides up) in a row across bottom third (part nearest you) of soaked rice paper. Spread 1/4 cup noodles on top of shrimp and arrange 3 cilantro leaves, 3 mint leaves, 8 cucumber matchsticks, 6 scallion strips, and 10 mango matchsticks horizontally on top of noodles. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and begin rolling up tightly, stopping at halfway point. Arrange 3 more mint leaves and 3 more cilantro leaves along crease, then fold in ends and continue rolling. Transfer summer roll, seam side down, to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels. Make 7 more rolls in same manner and serve, whole or halved diagonally, with dipping sauce.

I’m not sure how well these would save, so I’d recommend eating these up right after preparing them.  Don’t think you’ll have any trouble with that though!