Feb 292012

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’d find seasonal delicious produce.  There are tons of hearty root vegetables, healthy greens like kale, and my favorite of all-citrus.  I have a theory that grapefruit keeps me healthy in the winter.  I love um so much that I just peel them and eat them like oranges.  I had to come up with a creative way to use my favorite winter fruit, so I made this amazing salad with some spicy shrimp, avocado, and a sesame ginger dressing.

The flavors in this salad worked so well together–acidity and sweetness from the grapefruit, creaminess from the avocado, a little heat from the cayenne sprinkled shrimp, and crunch and nuttiness from the toasted sesame seeds.  It was incredibly quick to throw together and is the perfect light but satisfying lunch or dinner.

Nutritional Highlights:  Grapefruit (as I’m sure you all know) is a vitamin C powerhouse.  In addition to that, it’s deep pink color comes from the antioxidant lycopene, which is also found in tomatoes.  Avocados are also packed with vitamins (like K, C, B5), fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats.  Shrimp is a great protein source for this salad because it’s incredibly low in fat and calories (since we’re already getting some from the avocado).  It also is a great source of selenium which some studied have correlated with cancer preventative qualities.  Plus, with spring right around the corner, this salad can help you get out back in warm weather shape!

Spicy Shrimp, Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing

For the Salad (serves 2):

  • 4 cups fresh spinach or other greens
  • 12 large wild shrimp (frozen), salt and cayenne pepper for seasoning
  • segments from 1 grapefruit (squeeze the excess juice from the rind and reserve for the dressing)
  • 1 small avocdao, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • fresh cilantro to garnish
For the dressing (you can also use a store bought dressing)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare you ingredients: segment the grapefruit, slice the avocado, thaw the shrimp by running under cold water, and toast the sesame seeds.  Combine all ingredients for the dressing and set aside.  Sprinkle thawed shrimp with salt and cayenne pepper on both sides (or regular pepper if you can’t stand the heat). Heat small skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook shrimp for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until opaque and just cooked through.  

Toss the spinach leaves with some of the dressing and put in the center of your plate.  Surround the spinach with alternating grapefruit segment, avocado, and shrimp.  Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the top and garnish with fresh cilantro and an extra drizzle of dressing. Enjoy!
Feb 222012

I find that in the winter, I do a lot more sitting on my tush and ordering delivery than getting off my tush and cooking.  My latest takeout obsession has been this thai food, particularly this cashew chili sauce they make at my neighborhood spot.  So I decided to recreate it last week.  I was so excited about how close this came to the original that Bodhi Tree should be worried they might lose a customer.  Plus, in my kitchen, they don’t charge $2 extra for brown rice!

I was so shocked at how easy this recipe was.  Sure, I had to buy a few ingredients I don’t usually have in my pantry (dried chiles, oyster sauce, chili paste), but it was so worth it because I know I’ll make this one over and over.  I made it this time with tofu because I had a block with the expiration date ticking away in my fridge, but you could easily make this with chicken or shrimp too.  I broiled the tofu first in the oven just to get the edges crisp.  

Then you make the sauce in a hot walk and let the veggies simmer while the sauce reduces.  Add back in the tofu and finish off with the chiles, cashews, and scallions and there you have it.  

Nutritional Highlights: By making this at home, I had control over many things I don’t when I order take out.  The amount of oil used, the ability to add tons of extra veggies, and also confidence in the quality of the ingredients I’m using.  This meal served over brown rice is an incredibly healthy meal.  It’s especially great for vegetarians that are looking for a little extra protein and substance which comes from the cashews.

Thai Cashew Chili Sauce with Tofu or Chicken or Shrimp 

 Serves 4

2 tbs. canola oil, divided
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tbs. Thai chili paste
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Other vegetables I used: An extra yellow pepper, baby bok choy, mushrooms, zucchini
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tbs. sugar (I cut back to 2 tsp)
6 dried red chiles (such as chiles de arbol)
1/2 cup dry roasted, unsalted cashews
5 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
Steamed brown rice, for serving

Heat 1 tbs. oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, season with salt and pepper and stir fry until cooked through. Put the chicken in a bowl and set aside. Repeat with 1 tbs. of the oil and the rest of the chicken. (Or if using tofu, drain tofu of as much water as possible, spray lightly with canola oil, and broil for 10 minutes per side or until tofu is browned and crisp).

Add the remaining oil to the empty skillet and heat. Add the chili paste, stirring constantly to break it up for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, red bell pepper, onion, any other vegetables, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, return the chicken to the skillet and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and the vegetables are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add the chiles, cashews and scallions, stir to combine and serve immediately over rice.

Feb 142012

Happy Valentines Day!  Nothing says “I love you” like fiber, right?  Ok, fine, I admit it.  I had a total planning fail and didn’t get my act together to make a cute lovey dovey valentines treat.  So I’m posting these bran muffins instead.  Why eat something covered in hearts when you have something good for your heart instead?  But really, this post has absolutely nothing to do with Valentines day, but is just a delicious and incredibly healthy breakfast for any day of the year.

Nutritional highlights:  Did you know that there are many parts to a wheat kernel?  There’s the endosperm which makes up over 80% and is all that is left in white flour–pretty much nutritionally void.  Then there’s the germ, the inner layer that contains protein, unsaturated fat and vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant. And last but not least, the outer layer, the bran, is rich in magnesium, iron and B vitamins, and most of all- fiber.  These muffins give you all that whole wheat goodness.  Plus, oats, nuts, and seeds add even more protein and fiber.  Fresh pear and dried figs add natural sweetness and nutrients.  These are incredibly healthy and filling breakfast or snack muffins.  

Pear, Dried Figs, and Walnut Bran Muffins
adapted from The Healthy Foodie(yelds 12 muffins)
  • 1½ cup all natural wheat bran
  • 1 cup pastry whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat groats (I didn’t know what this was/couldn’t find it so I used 1/2 cup of oats instead)
  • ¼ cup black chia seeds (couldn’t find this either, so I used 1/4 cup flax seed)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 large pear, diced
  • 5-6 dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F and line your muffin pan with liners or coat with cooking spray
  2. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients and whisk until well incorporated. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mash banana with a fork, until almost frothy in consistency. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk until well blended. Pour into dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until well combined, then delicately fold in pears and figs.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until tops look nice and crunchy and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan and then place on on a wire rack until they reach room temperature.
  7. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Feb 072012

I know I’m supposed to care that the Giants won the Super Bowl yesterday, and I guess I do, but what I REALLY care about is how awesome our game day snacks were.  When I heard that the Meatball Shop (one of my favorite spots in NYC) had a recipe for Mini Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, I knew that I had to have them.  They turned out to be the highlight of our spread, and had all the kick of buff chick wings without all the mess.  Pretty sure you could stay it was a touchdown.  

And what do you do if your boyfriend’s birthday falls on the Super Bowl?  You make a giant football shaped oatmeal chocolate chip cookie cake with sugar cookie letters on top.  

Nutritional highlights: The super bowl is about a lot of things–sports, friends, commercials, food–but not so much about being healthy.  We sit for 4 hours straight (5 if you count the Voice afterward) and eat constantly for that entire time.  But these meatballs were at least made with lean  ground chicken, and were served with plenty of carrots and celery to fill you up without all the calories.  Great addition to your game day spread if you’re looking for a change from your run of the mill wings.  

Mini Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
adapted from The Meatball Shop Cookbook

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter (I used half butter half olive oil to cut saturated fat)
1/3 cup Frank’s RedHot Sauce or any other favorite hot sauce (extra if you like it hot!)
1 pound ground chicken
1 large egg
½ celery stalk, minced
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt

Low fat blue cheese dressing, carrots, and celery for serving

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the vegetable oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
  • Combine the butter/oil and hot sauce in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
    Combine the hot sauce mixture, ground chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
    Roll the mixture into round, ¾ -inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
    Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
    Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.  Drizzle on more Redhot sauce if you’re crazy like me.  Serve with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.  
  • Feb 022012

    I try to represent a good variety of food genres at tush cook.  I’ve done plenty of asian, mexican, italian, american…but never Indian.  It’s always intimidated me–partially because I don’t own most of the spices required in the recipes.  So I decided to start with something very simple and mainstream (and also something my sister Brea’s been nagging me to healthify for months.  So here it is–healthy Chicken Tikka Masala.  

    I have to confess that I’ve only even eaten at Indian restaurants a few times (I never even really know what to order), so I don’t have a HUGE source of comparison for how authentic this recipe was, but it was so delicious and shockingly simple.  Plus, I only had to buy 2 new spices!  Something about this sauce was just so addictive–so warming from the garam masala and just enough heat from the ginger and pepper.  This is the perfect kind of recipe to make at home…it has so many bold flavors on it’s own that it doesn’t even need all the cream!

    Nutritional Highlights:  This dish has a bad health rep, as some of the standard ingredients include heavy cream and butter.  In this version, instead of those I used fat free greek yogurt and low fat milk to make the sauce creamy.  Instead of serving it over white basmati rice, I used a brown basmati and wild rice blend that was perfect.  The sauce also is filled with healthy ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, ginger, and onion.  Next time I may even try to make some whole wheat naan to go with! 

    Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala
    recipe adapted from Skinny Taste and Allrecipes

    For the chicken marinade: 

    • 3 oz plain greek yogurt (just get one standard 6 oz container)
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon garam masala
    • 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
    • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

    For the sauce:
    • 2 tsp canola oil 
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 2 tspn fresh ginger, grated
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
    • 3 oz fat free greek yogurt (the other half of the 6 oz container)
    • 1/2 cup 1% milk
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • salt to taste (and cayenne pepper if you want it hotter)
    • 4 tbsp fresh cilantro
    • Brown Basmati rice (or other rice to serve it over)
    Directions:  Cut the chicken breast into cubes and combine with all the marinade ingredients.  Refrigerate for 30 mintues to an hour.  

    While chicken is marinating, work on the sauce.  Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden (about 5 minutes). Add the crushed ginger, stir for one minute then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt; mix well until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, yogurt and milk. Let sauce simmer on low heat until sauce thickens.

    While sauce is simmering, cook your chicken.  In traditional tikka masala, the chicken is skewered and grilled, but I was lazy and just threw the chunks right into my hot grill pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through and a bit charred.  Add chicken back into the simmering sauce.  Add a chopped cilantro and serve with Brown Bamati Rice or Naan.  Enjoy!

    (Note: I combined two recipes here because I liked how one marinated and grilled the chicken separately, but liked the sauce from the other.  If you want to skip the marinating step, just follow the recipe from Skinny Taste as is–the sauce was delicious and it would be even easier to put together that way :)