Jul 252013
 
When I was a little kid (a chubby little kid, to be specific), I used to think a burger was just a greasy beef patty between a smushy white bun that usually came out of a little box with a toy and some french fries. Sometimes it even had a yellow piece of “cheese” (I use that word lightly) and some ketchup if you were lucky.Oh, how much I have learned since then. Burgers are now one of my favorite meals because they are so versatile and allow you to play with flavors, ingredients and toppings. Plus, they can be pretty healthy if you stick with veggie, chicken, or turkey burgers. This one was a great twist on buffalo chicken, with plenty of hot sauce, cool yogurt-blue cheese sauce, and a crisp carrot-celery slaw all on a whole grain bun. That’s a happier meal if I do say so myself.

There were a few different components to prepare for this meal, but they come together so well that the effort was worth it.  First I made the slaw with carrots, onion, celery, cilantro, vinegar, and honey and let that slawify for a while.  Then I put together the burgers, which got their flavor and moisture from grated carrot, celery, onion, and hot sauce.  Then I whipped up the blue cheese dressing, which was just greek yogurt with blue cheese chunks, lemon juice, and spices.  Once you put it all together is when the magic happens…the slaw is crunch and slightly sweet, the blue-cheese sauce is tangy and cool, and the burgers are spicy and hearty. 

Instead of fries or chips, I served the burgers with a big summer chopped salad, packed with awesome ingredients like tomatoes, chickpeas, basil, avocado, and charred corn.  The key is the charred corn. So good.

Nutritional Highlights:  Buffalo chicken can get a bad rep…usually fried chicken, a creamy high-fat dressing, and a sauce that’s actually butter with a splash of hot sauce.  This version preserves the flavors but without all that fat.  I used lean ground chicken breast, non-fat greek yogurt as the base for the sauce, and a butter free buffalo sauce.  Since a serving of meat is only 3 ounces, try to keep the burgers to about 1/4 (4 oz) to 1/3 (5 oz) pound each to keep the portion in control.  Also, always choose a whole wheat bun or just go naked if you’re watching your carbs (the burger, not you).  Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot-Celery Slaw

For the Burgers (makes 3-4):


Ingredients

• 1 pounds ground chicken breast (turkey would work too, no one will know)

• 2 tablespoons finely grated carrots

• 1 tablespoon finely grated celery

• 2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced

• 1/8 to 1/4 cup buffalo hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it), plus a little on the side to baste with

• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

• salt and pepper to taste

• 3 or 4 whole wheat buns

• Serve with carrot-celery slaw and yogurt-blue cheese sauce (recipe to follow)

Directions

1. Mix the chicken, grated carrot, celery, onion, hot sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper and form into 4 patties.

2. Heat your grill to medium high, and oil or spray the grill. Grill your patties, about 4-5 minutes per side, painting with more hot sauce when they’re almost done. Serve the buffalo chicken burgers in the buns along with the slaw and blue cheese sauce.

For the Carrot-Celery Slaw:

Ingredients

• 3 large carrots, roughly grated or cut into matchsticks

• 3 celery stalks cut into matchsticks

• ¼ red onion, thinly sliced

• 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

• 3 tablespoons vinegar (I used rice vinegar but other types should work too, but not balsamic)

• 2 teaspoons honey

• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine vinegar and honey. Add the rest of the ingredients and taste (add more vinegar if it needs more acidity, more honey if it needs sweetness). Refrigerate, stirring occasionally for a few hours. Serve on top of your buffalo chicken burgers.



For the Yogurt Blue-Cheese Sauce:

Ingredients:

½ cup non-fat Greek Yogurt

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (very fine crumbles so the flavor is dispersed)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil (to thin it slightly)

Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste


Directions: Combine all ingredients. Stir. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Put it on your burgers and enjoy!



Jul 152013
 

One of my favorite features of my new apartment is the little herb garden I’ve started in the windowsill. Well, it’s actually a bit generous to even call it a garden, really it’s just three little pots.  And while we’re being honest, I should probably confess that I’ve already killed 2 of the 3 plants (rest in peace thyme and oregano).  Clearly I don’t have much of a green thumb, at least not yet, but what I do have is a surprisingly healthy basil plant despite my repeated attempts at negligence, so I’ve been trying to use her as much as possible.  Last week it was in this amazing summer “pasta” dish, Spicy Shrimp Fra Diavolo served over Zucchini Linguine.


For me, pasta has always been more about the sauce and the toppings than the noodles itself.   That’s why I’m so excited when I come up with a noodle like alternative, like spaghetti squash in the fall or shredded zucchini in the summer.  For noodle enthusiasts out there (hey, sis) this substitution may not cut it, but for me it’s a perfect way to lighten up a heavy italian dish.  Next time I may get a julienne peeler, which makes the zucchini a little thicker and sturdier, but I just used a wide cheese grater for this “linguine”.  The sauce was a spicy mix of tomatoes, white wine, garlic, herbs, and of course, chili flakes.  Simply sauteed shrimp topped it off and this meal took well under an hour start to finish.


Nutritional Highlights:  A cup of cooked linguine would have 220 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates, whereas a cup of zucchini has only about 20 calories and 4 carbohydrates. Just a tiny difference there, right?  By making your own sauce, you know that there isn’t a ton of added salt and sugar like a lot of store bought sauces have.  Shrimp is a great low cal protein source as well, but be careful with shellfish if you have high cholesterol (but as long and you’re careful with portion size, you should be OK).  Overall this meal is incredibly healthy and well balanced, and perfect for a quick summer meal.


Shrimp Fra Diavolo
serves 4

adapated from Giada DeLaurentis

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined (I used wild frozen shrimp)
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

4 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside. Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, until fragrant.  Then add tomatoes with their juices, wine, oregano, and half of the basil. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

For Zucchini Pasta:  Use about 1 large Zucchini per person.  Shred the zucchini into pasta strands, it seems like a julienne peeler gets the best results, but you can also use a cheese grater. Right before serving, heat a saute pan over medium, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and add your zucchini.  Saute for 2 minutes just until it has softened slightly, season with salt and pepper, and top with your favorite sauce and toppings (like this shrimp fra diavolo!  Enjoy!

 

Jul 072013
 

It’s that season again.  No, I don’t mean summer.  I mean oven hibernation season.  When you live in a 500 square foot apartment in New York City, 90 degree temperatures and oven use just don’t mix (unless, of course, you’re trying to do bikram yoga in your living room).  So, I rely on easy recipes that require minimal heat usage, like this amazing summer salad recipe with fresh apricots, kale, quinoa, red onion, and almonds.  Not only is it delicious and refreshing, but it just might help counteract the 4th of July beer and BBQ overload.  


The only cooking required here is  simmering the quinoa and toasting the almonds.  Other than that, it’s just some simple assembly.  Whip up a vinaigrette with whole grain mustard, apricot preserves, garlic, oil, and vinegar, and toss in you cooked quinoa, chopped kale, sliced apricots, toasted almonds, and sliced red onions.  It’s so easy to put together and I happily ate this 4 consecutive days for lunch at work and not only didn’t get sick of it, but was disappointed when it ran out.  


Nutritional Highlights:  This recipe is a lot of those scary healthy words- vegan, vegetarian, gluten free- but I swear it’s incredibly tasty (even my meat and potato loving boyfriend liked it).   You get protein from the quinoa (8 gram in a cup) and also some extra from the almonds.   The kale has tons of antioxidants, fiber, iron, calcium, and also vitamin K (which is great but be careful if you’re taking any blood thinning medication).  I chose apricots for this recipe because they are one of the first stone fruits to ripen in the summer and they are rich in vitamin A and C, but you could substitute peaches, nectarines, or plum if you’d rather.  Basically there’s nothing bad I can say about this recipe, health or flavor wise, so if you’re looking for a healthy summer side salad or lunch.


Apricot, Kale, and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups water
2 small or 1 large  clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon course-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apricot preserves 
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups finely chopped, washed kale
4-6 pitted and sliced fresh apricots
1/4 red onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup roughly chopped or whole almonds, toasted

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions
1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add quinoa and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 12 minutes. Allow quinoa to cool. (Note: most quinoa packages will tell you to use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa but I have found that leads to mushy quinoa, so I think 1.5 water to 1 cup quinoa is much better).

2.  In a large bowl (this can be the bowl you plan to serve the salad in, whisk mustard, garlic, apricot preserves, oil, and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper).  

3.  Once dressing is complete, add all you other ingredients right into the dressing bowl- kale,onion, apricots, toasted almonds, and cooled quinoa.  Toss the salad and enjoy!

Note:  the beauty of kale salads is they can last with dressing on them without getting soggy like other greens.  That’s why this salad will last a few days in the fridge!