Jul 272012
 

Nothing says summer to me like good tomatoes.  My mom grows the BEST tomatoes every summer and growing up I would eat them straight off the vine because they were that sweet.  Since I can’t be at home to enjoy them this year, I found a close second to mom’s…baby heirlooms at the farmers market.  I wanted to find a recipe that showcased the tomatoes without overpowering it and I found just that.  These Herbed Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Crostini with Balsamic Reduction will be my new go to summer appetizer…and trust me, they will impress your guests.


There’s a little bit of prep work involved in making these, but once you make your 4 components (toasted or grilled bread, herbed ricotta, chopped tomatoes, and balsamic reduction) building the crostini’s are super easy.  I can’t even pinpoint what it was that made these so ridiculously good…maybe the garlic and herbs in the ricotta, maybe the freshness of the tomatoes, the sweetness of the balsamic, or even just how beautiful and colorful they looked.  Well whatever it was made these one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in a while and I highly recommend it!

Nutritional highlights:  By using thinly sliced multigrain baguette in this recipe, I add fiber and healthy whole grains.  Tomatoes are an amazing source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and you get the most of it when they’re in their peak season (aka, now).  Ricotta is naturally one of the lower fat cheeses out there–only 50 calories and 4 g of fat per ounce compared with 116 calories and 10 g of fat in cheddar cheese.  By adding lots of fresh herbs and garlic, a little goes a long way on these crostini.  Overall this appetizer is a healthy addition to your summer party and you will not regret making them!





Herbed Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Crostini with Balsamic Reduction


adapted from Authentic Suburban Gourmet
Makes approximately 14 

Multigrain or whole wheat baguette, cut into 14 thin
1 C. Ricotta cheese
3 T. Chives, diced small
3 T. Basil, chiffonade 
2 T. Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced 
Salt and pepper
1 C. Small heirloom tomatoes cut in half
½ C. Balsamic vinegar

Brush or spary each slice of baguette with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake, broil, or grill until golden brown. Let cool.

In a bowl add the ricotta, chives, basil, olive oil and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and taste for additional seasonings.  Cut your tomatoes, place in another bowl, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

In a small sauté pan add the balsamic vinegar and heat over medium high heat. Reduce the mixture for about 10 minutes.  Be sure to watch carefully. You will want it to resemble a syrup consistency. Let cool. 

To assemble, add about one tablespoon of the ricotta mixture to the top of the toasted baguette slices. Top with about 5 to 6 of the tomato halves. Drizzle with a bit of the reduced balsamic and garnish with additional basil if you’d like. Serve and enjoy!



Jul 212012
 

Food has many purposes–to give us fuel, keep us healthy, make us happy, and the one I will focus on today, make people like you.  You might be saying…wait, you make friends by being kind and outgoing and friendly.  Wrong.  You make friends by feeding them delicious things.  Evidenced by this blueberry-lemon yogurt bread that I brought to work one morning which resulted in instant love from all my coworkers.  And a bonus of this post as you will see below…the truth about where I take most of my photos.  Yep, it’s a tiny windowsill in my apartment overlooking Broadway.  Oh the joys of living in New York City…





When I was looking for a recipe that involved one of my favorite flavor combos (blueberry and lemon) I found this recipe on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and then again on my friends blog, Erica Sweet Tooth.  She knows all there is to know about baking, so I knew it would be great.  Obviously I tweaked it a bit to make it slightly healthier but I promise nothing was sacrificed in the flavor.  


Nutritional Highlight:  Yeah, there’s still a pretty solid amount of sugar in this recipe, but, there’s also many redeeming qualities.  Fat free greek yogurt (calcium/protein), lots of blueberries (antioxidants), fresh lemon juice (vitamin C) to name a few.  This is obviously not something that the future dietitian in me would recommend to eat all the time, but if you’re going to have baked goods you could do a whole lot worse!  




Lemon Blueberry Bread


For the bread
3/4 cups + 1 tbsp all purpose flour, divided

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
1 cup sugar (I cut to 3/4 cup and it was still plenty sweet)
1 whole egg plus 3 egg whites
2 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or you could sub apple sauce to keep this extra low fat)
1-1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

For the lemon syrup
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the lemon glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ loaf pan, dust with flour, and tap out excess.
– In a medium bowl, whisk together flour (all but the 1 tablespoon), baking powder, and salt.
– In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil.
– Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.  In a separate bowl mix the blueberries with the 1 tbsp of flour and then gently fold them into the mixed batter.
– Pour the batter into the pan and bake 50-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
– Let bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
– While the loaf is cooling, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir continuously until sugar is dissolved, and then continue cooking for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
– Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf and brush with the lemon syrup.  Continue to brush the loaf until all of the syrup is added.
– To make the lemon glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice and pour over the top of the loaf.  Let the lemon glaze harden before serving. 




Jul 122012
 

Summer is in full force which means not only that I’m craving light and fresh meals, but also my summer wardrobe requires it.  But, we all know it’s not easy to be healthy in the summer…there’s always some sort of party or bar-b-que or happy hour (or several hours).  But next time you’re making something for a party, instead of heavy potato or pasta salad, try this light but flavorful salad of roasted green beans, beets, nectarines, and marinated goat cheese.  





This salad is perfect as either a side dish or a light main.  I took a few short cuts to make this a really quick fix. Instead of roasting my own beets, I bought already cooked fresh beets (most grocery stores have these now in the produce section).  All I had to do to put this together was wisk the dressing, roast the green beans, and slice the beets and nectarines.  Even though this salad seems simple, the flavors are anything but.  The sweet and savory aspects of this salad come together perfectly and the marinated goat cheese is truly the star.  





Nutritional highlights:  Not only is this salad low cal to help you stay in beach condition for the summer, more importantly it’s packed with a variety of awesome nutrients.  Nectarines have beta carotene (a form of Vitamin A), Vitamin C (with magical antioxidant powers), and lutein (for healthy eyes and skin).  Beets are a great natural source of folate (hope you’re reading this pregnant sister of mine!) and the phytochemical betalain.  Green beans, spinach, and arugula are also powerhouses here.  The variety in this salad is key…any time you see a meal as colorful as this one you know it’s going to be good for you!





Roasted Green Bean, Beet, and Nectarine Salad with Marinated Goat Cheese
adapted from Giada on Food Network


Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed (I used a teaspoon of honey instead since I didn’t have this)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Salad:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, chilled, broken into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Four 2-inch-diameter red or golden beets, tops trimmed (or buy the pre cooked ones from the produce aisle and save yourself an hour!)
  • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 3 packed cups baby arugula
  • 2 nectarines, cut into thin slices 

Directions

For the dressing: Combine the oil, vinegar, apple juice (or honey), thyme, pepper, salt and garlic in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Season with additional salt and pepper.
For the salad: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl. Drizzle with just enough dressing to moisten. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
(Skip this next step if you have already cooked beets): Wrap each beet in foil. Place the beets directly onto the oven rack and roast until tender, about 50 minutes. 
Eight minutes before the beets are tender, place the green beans in a pie dish. Add the oil and a pinch each salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast the green beans alongside the beets until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Remove the foil from the beets and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut each beet into 6 to 8 wedges.
Combine the lettuces in a large bowl. Add the green beans and nectarine slices and top with the beet wedges. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss until coated.
Jul 042012
 

Happy 4th of July!! I’m celebrating with these festive jello shots.  No packaged jello here…just fresh fruit, juice, gelatin (and of course a hefty portion of vodka).  

I love jello shots for a party, but don’t love the regular jello options–either you have the one thats packed with sugar or the sugar-free one that is packed with a million fake ingredients.  I used pureed strawberries in the bottom half and lemonade, seltzer, and whole blueberries in the top half.  These are also infinitely adaptable…you can use any type of fruit, juice, and alcohol you like as long as you keep it in the right gelatin/liquid ratio. 



For the mold I used silicone ice cube trays to pop them out more easily (but this was till the most challenging part of the endeavor and there were a few casualties).  These are the perfect way to celebrate the 4th of July or really any event!





Red, White, and Booze Jello Shots!


Ingredients (this is will fill about 1 ice cube tray so double if you want more): 

  • 2/3 cup vodka (divided)
  • 2/3 cup lemonade (divided)
  • 1/3 cup pureed strawberries (I put about 2/3 cup of strawberries in my food processor and blended until smooth)
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup lemon-lime soda or seltzer
  • 2 packets plain gelatin
  • Optional: whipped cream and extra berries for garnish
Instructions.

Spray the ice cube tray with a little cooking spray and wipe with a paper towel (this will help get them out of the mold).

For the strawberry half:  Pour 1/3 cup of vodka and pureed strawberries in a bowl.  Sprinkle with one packet of gelatin.  Let this sit while you microwave 1/3 cup of lemonade until it is boiling (1 minute).  Pour into the other ingredients and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.  Fill ice cube trays halfway with this mixture and put into the fridge for an hour or freezer for about 20 minutes. 

For the blueberry lemonade half:  Pour 1/3 cup vodka and 1/3 cup seltzer or soda into a bowl.  Sprinkle with the second packet of gelatin.  Again, microwave the 1/3 cup of lemonade until boiling and stir into the mixture.  Take the mold out of the fridge or freezer and place 2-3 blueberries in each.  Then pour in the lemonade vodka mixture.  Put in fridge for about 2 hours or overnight.  

Carefully remove from mold using a knife.  You can top them with a little bit of whipped cream or just enjoy them as is.  Happy 4th!!