May 312012
 

In typical New York fashion, the weather has been completely unpredictable.  Pouring one day, beautiful the next, and it’s latest mood–way way too hot for the end of May.  When it gets hot, I crave salads.  I wanted to make a refreshing side for my memorial day cook-out in, and  I actually could smell the strawberries in the produce section before I even saw them, so I had to get them.  With Strawberries, Farro (or your favorite grain), Feta, Spinach, and Balsamic vinaigrette, this salad takes almost no time to prepare and is still impressive enough for your cook-out/in.





Nutritional Highlights:  As you’ve probably noticed, I LOVE putting fruit in my salads.  It’s kind of my thing.  And for good reason!  This salad for example, has almost every food group–fruits (strawberry), veggies (spinach), whole grains (farro), dairy (low fat feta), and a little healthy fat from olive oil.  Variety is the key to a healthy diet, and this salad definitely has it.  Plus, it’s super easy and leaves you plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather!





Strawberry-Farro Salad with Feta and Balsamic


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry farro (other options include wheat berries, barley, or any other grain you have) 
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach or arugula
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 oz low fat feta cheese, crumbled (or sub goat cheese if you prefer)
  • your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or good olive oil and balsamic vinegar 
Directions:

Cook the farro according to the directions (1 cup farro to 3 cups water, simmered for 15 minutes).  While farro is cooking, prepare the other ingredients–slice the strawberries, crumble the cheese, have a glass of wine, etc.  Once the farro is done, strain and rinse under cold water to cool.  Put all the salad ingredients together and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, or your favorite balsamic vinaigrette.  Enjoy the simple, fresh, and healthy salad!
May 232012
 

I’m not proud of it, but every so often after a late night out on the weekend, judgment slightly clouded, I stop by an amazing place that is dangerously close to my apartment–pomme frites.  What do they make there?  You guessed it–french fries and only french fries.  With about 50 dipping sauce options.  At the time it is the best idea I’ve ever had, but the next morning, not so much.  So here is a guilt-free french fry recipe…without the pomme (potato) or the frite (fried) parts.  These baked zucchini fries will satisfy your cravings without the junk food hangover.  Hooray!





Second bonus…start to finish this recipe only took me about half an hour, only 10 minutes of which were active.  All you do is slice zucchini into sticks, dredge in egg white, and toss into a tasty breadcrumb, cheese, and spice mixture.  Spread onto a baking sheet and watch them get crispy and delicious.  Then you eat every single only.  Oh wait, that’s just what I did.  That part is not recommended.  





Nutritional Highlights:  A small order of pomme frites can have almost 300 calories, 14 grams of fat, lots of carbs and almost 0 nutritional benefit.  This recipe has a lot of things going for it.  First, it uses zucchini instead of potato.  Zucchini is very low in calories, carbohydrates, and is high in dietary fiber.  Second, instead of deep frying, these are baked which means way less fat.  Plus, these still have the crispy outside you look for in a fry from the breadcrumb/spice/cheese crust, and are soft in the center.  If you’re having trouble getting your kids or husbands or boyfriends (or yourself) to eat veggies, this is a great way to do it!





Spicy Baked Zucchini Fries with Marinara Dip


adapted from Skinny Taste 


For about 3 servingsIngredients: 

  • 3 medium zucchini sliced into 3″ x 1/2″ sticks
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/3 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs (I used plain ww breadcrumbs and added my own dried herbs)
  • 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese (can sub paremsan)
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • salt
  • fresh pepper


Directions

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and season with salt and pepper. In a ziplock bag, place breadcrumbs, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cheese, salt/pepper and shake well. Spray cookie sheet with olive oil spray (or rub with olive oil) and set aside.Toss the zucchini sticks in the egg white, then transfer into bread crumb and cheese mixture and shake to coat. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer and spray more olive oil spray on top. Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes, turn, and bake fro another 5-10 or until golden brown.  Serve with 1/2 cup marinara sauce or pesto for dipping. 






May 162012
 

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know by now that pizza is my favorite food.  It’s not even a contest.  You’d think that a future nutritionist would try to pick something a little more vegetabely as a favorite food, but then I’d be lying.  Reasons I love pizza include but are not limited to:
1) Most varieties involve cheese.  And I love cheese.
2) There are endless possible combinations…veggies, meats, cheeses, crusts, sauces.  
3) Even though it can be considered a junk food, with whole wheat crust, low fat cheese, and healthy toppings, you don’t even have to feel guilty eating it.  
So I never miss an opportunity to try and interesting pizza recipe, so when I saw this Fig and Arugula pizza in bon apetit last month, I knew I had to try it.  





This one is a perfect appetizer to impress guests.  It has a fig/marsala reduction sauce, goat cheese, and is topped with a light salad of arugula and pear slices.  It’s a great sweet/savory combo and has so many great textural elements between the crisp crust, soft figs, creamy goat cheese, juicy pears, and crunch arugula (woahhh adjectives). 





Nutritional Highlights:  As far as pizza’s go, this one is moderately healthy.  The crust is whole wheat (yay fiber and whole grains) and I rolled it out as thin as possible so we’re not carbo loading here.  The sauce is made up of dried figs and marsala, and although dried figs have a pretty high sugar content, they’re also high in fiber, Vitamins ( K, B6, and thiamin) and minerals (copper and manganese).  The salad on top is super healthy too.  When compared to iceberg, Arugula contains about eight times the calcium, fives times the vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, and four times the iron as the same amount of iceberg lettuce.  Pears have lots of fiber, and vitamin C and K.  As far as cheese goes, goat cheese is lower in fat and calories than many other hard cheeses, and on this pizza we only use a small amount.  So overall, this pizza is pretty darn good for you!





Fig and Goat Cheese Pizza with Arugula
adapted from bon apetit

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup dried figs, stemmed, quartered
  • 1/2 cup Marsala
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 pear, cored, thinly sliced
  • whole wheat pizza dough (I used trader joe’s brand, but you can also make your own if you’re less lazy than I am!)
Preparation
  • Heat 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot; stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add figs, Marsala, and rosemary. Increase heat. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring often and adding water by tablespoonfuls if too thick, until figs are soft and jam measures 1 1/4 cups, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Preheat oven to 450°. Roll out dough on a floured surface to a very thin 10″ rounds. Cover with a kitchen towel. 
  • Place 1 dough round on each of 2 baking sheets (or use your pre heated pizza stone if you have one). Bake for 3–4 minutes to partially cook. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Spread 3–4 Tbsp. fig jam over each crust; scatter 2 oz. goat cheese over each. Bake in batches until crust is crisp, 4–5 minutes. 
  • Toss arugula, pear, and remaining 1 tsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Top pizzas with salad.

May 102012
 

As much as I love eating at cozy, local restaurants, I have a weakness for a few chains.  Number one, my favorite of all which I am actually currently digesting, is Chipotle.  The second, which was a regular hang-out destination for my friends and I in high school, is Cheesecake Factory.  Now, at both of these places, it’s very possible to get a healthy meal if you order carefully, but it’s also possible to see the word “salad”, assume it means healthy, and not realize that you could have saved calories by eating a cheeseburger.  So I took one of the popular salads at Cheesecake Factory, and made a healthier (but still crave worthy) version at home.  





Nutrition Highlights:  The lunch size version of this salad at Cheesecake has over 700 calories.  A lot of this comes from the heavy ranch dressing and the crispy fried onions on top.  But there’s still a lot of healthy ingredients in it, so with a few swaps this salad can be a healthy meal.  Grilled chicken provides lean protein, avocado gives healthy fat, black beans give fiber, and plenty of lettuce, tomato, green onions, and corn will help fill you up.  Instead of fried onions, I crushed a few baked tortilla chips on top.  Instead of fattening ranch dressing, I found a low fat yogurt ranch dressing in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, and just used a drizzle of that to finish the salad.  


My male roommates weren’t all that excited when I told them I was making “salad” for dinner that night, but once I put this in front of them and the tasted it, there were absolutely no complaints.  Who needs cheesecake factory when you have the tush cook factory?





Healthified BBQ “Ranch” Chicken Salad
for 4 large servings


Ingredients: 

  • 3 grilled chicken breasts, diced and tossed in 1/4 cup bbq sauce
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 scallions (green onions), cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lime
  • chopped romaine lettuce or mixed greens
  • lowfat yogurt ranch dressing (or another light ranch)
  • optional (but delicious)garnishes: low fat cheese (like pepper jack), chopped cilantro, and a handful of baked tortilla chips to crumble on top

Directions:  In a saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat and add the frozen corn. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until corn is slightly charred.  You can also skip this step and just thaw the frozen corn, but the toasted flavor adds a lot.  Set charred corn aside.


Prepare the rest of the ingredients as described above.  Assemble the salad.  Start by tossing the lettuce in the juice from half of the lime.  Save the other half for wedges to garnish.  Add all your other ingredients, the diced bbq chicken, avocado, black beans, charred corn, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and tortilla chips.  Drizzle with the yogurt ranch dressing and enjoy!



May 032012
 

I was walking through Whole Foods today with absolutely no idea what I wanted to blog about this week.  Then, in front of me, appeared a massive display asparagus.  Not just any asparagus…local asparagus.  That’s when you know it’s officially spring…when the local produce starts popping up all around you.  Then right next to it I saw some fresh peas, so I knew I had to make something bright, fresh, and spring inspired.  In addition to the asparagus and peas, I decided to add a mediterranean twist by adding sun-dried tomatoes, feta, whole wheat orzo and another springtime favorite, artichokes (although I have to admit I used canned ones).   Even though it was a spur of the moment, not-so-planned out recipe, it turned out to be incredibly flavorful, beautiful, and satisfying.  







This type of dish is so versatile. It can stand along as a lunch or dinner, it can be served cold as a pasta salad or hot as a pasta, or it can be used as a side dish to fish (the the salmon I had below) or chicken.  The process was pretty simple too.  I just quickly cooked the orzo and blanched the asparagus and peas (a step you could skip but it really helps preserve that bright green color).  Then I sauteed some olive oil and garlic, and added the sundried tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus and peas one at a time and let it all simmer in some chicken broth and lemon juice.  Then I finished it off with salt, pepper, feta cheese and an assortment of fresh herbs.  Trust me, you want to eat this.  





Nutritional Highlights:  You might wonder why I think local produce is so darn great.  Well there are a few reasons.  Not only do you support the local farms, but you’re also ensuring that your food doesn’t have to travel around the world three times before it gets to you, ensuring that it’s at it’s peak freshness and therefore it’s peak nutritional value.  I’m going to highlight the asparagus because it had a starring role in this dish.  It has many anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, tons of vitamin K, C, E and plenty of fiber.  Combined with whole wheat pasta and tons of other vegetables, this meal or side is incredibly healthy and will help you get ready to pull out the spring and summer wardrobes again!





Springtime Mediterranean Orzo


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried whole wheat orzo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus, stems removed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into 2 inch slices
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (frozen are fine too)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz low fat feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • A variety of fresh herbs: I used parsley, thyme, and chives (you can use any herbs you like, but I think these especially paired well with the spring vegetables and the lemony flavor).
Directions:  Cook the orzo according to the directions on the box and set aside.  Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus and peas by bringing a small pot of water to a simmer, dropping in the vegetables for 2 minutes, and then running under cold water or submerge in an ice bath to bring out the bright green color.  Set the green vegetables and the orzo aside

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the yellow pepper and cook for 1 minute, then add the sundried tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, then the artichokes for 1 minute and then the blanched peas and asparagus.  Add the chicken broth, orzo, lemon juice, and plenty of salt and pepper and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes to bring all the flavors together.  Remove from the heat and add the feta and fresh herbs and additional salt and pepper.  Enjoy as a stand alone or as a pairing to fish or chicken.  Happy spring :)