Aug 292014

I have a lot of things to celebrate/mourn this week:
Labor day weekend! Yay! End of Summer. Boo.
My Birthday! Yay! Getting old and realizing these lines on my forehead are there for good. Boo.
Tiny Peanut Butter-Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches that are also healthy! Yay! Nope, no downside to that one.
The combination of flavors in this recipe simply cannot be beat. Peanut butter and banana on its own is something special. Add some salty pretzels and a dark chocolate drizzle and it’s just a whole new level. Best part about it is that the ice cream is vegan, has a whopping 2 ingredients, and takes about 2 minutes to make without requiring an ice cream maker. As I’ve mentioned approximately a thousand time on this blog, I love mini things (who doesn’t) so making these into tiny ice cream sandwiches using two pretzel thins was and pretty life changing discovery. You can make a big batch to store in the freezer for whenever your sweet too strikes—and believe me, it will strike.
More good news for the lazy chef—If you can’t handle waiting to make these into mini sandwiches (and I don’t blame you), you can simply make an epic sundae topped with crushed pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate.
Nutritional Highlights: I know, it’s hard to believe that I’m about to tell you this is healthy, since these pictures look like something a future dietitian should be staying clear of. But, like I mentioned before, this ice cream only has two ingredients- frozen bananas and natural peanut butter (and a splash of soy/almond milk if your blender needs a little help)- but is still super creamy and satisfying. Bananas are packed with potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber and the peanut butter adds protein and healthy, monounsaturated fats. By making these into mini pretzel ice cream sandwiches, it becomes the perfect little bite to satisfy your sweet tooth, because I’ve learned that if you totally deny your sweet tooth, it will lash out and bad things will happen. It’s OK to treat yourself in moderation, and especially with a (mostly) guilt free treat like this one.
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Mini Peanut-Butter & Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches
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What’s in it:

For the ice cream:
3 large ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
Optional: 1 tablespoon of soy or almond milk to make blending easier

For the sandwiches/sundaes:
Pretzel Thins
Roughly chopped peanuts
Dark chocolate, melted for drizzling

How to make it:
1) To make the banana ice cream, combine frozen bananas and peanut butter in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy and fully mixed. If you are having trouble blending, add a splash of soy or almond milk to thin it out slightly. Transfer ice cream to the freezer to firm up (at least an hour if you are making ice cream sandwiches).
2) For the Sundae eaters:
a. Top a few scoops of the banana peanut butter ice cream with broken pretzel thins, peanuts, and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.
b. Top with a banana slice to make it pretty and remind you that it’s really pretty darn healthy!
3) For the Sandwich makers:
a. After your ice cream has set for an hour, set up your sandwich making station. Lay out half of the pretzel thins top down.
b. Top each pretzel with about a tablespoon of ice cream and top with another pretzel thin, this time top up. Put the ice cream sandwiches back in the freezer so there isn’t too much melting.
c. Melt your dark chocolate by microwaving in 30 second intervals, being careful not to burn. I like to add a tiny bit of coconut oil to help it stay smooth.
d. Chop peanuts for topping and set aside.
e. Take the ice cream sandwiches back out of the freezer, quickly drizzle with melted chocolate and top with crushed peanuts. Return to the freezer and enjoy these little guys whenever you want!

Aug 172014

Something terrible happened today. I was walking down the streets of New York City, minding my own business, and something fell from the sky. It was a leaf. But not just any leaf–a brown leaf. I looked up, and spotted a whole tree full of leaves trading their vibrant greens for dull browns. Um, excuse me fall, it is August 17th, you are not welcome yet. In protest, I did the only thing I knew how to do–bought a watermelon, the epitome of summer in my mind. And then I cut it into adorable little cubes and stuffed it with burrata, because why not.
Other than highlighting this amazing watermelon, the other big plus to this recipe is that it is incredibly easy. Cube the watermelon, dig out a little burrata crevice, fill said crevice with burrata, and top with a tiny bit of lemon zest and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You can serve it just like that as a classy appetizer, or top mixed greens with the cubes and serve it as a salad.
Nutritional Highlights: You know that signature bright pink/red “watermelon color”? Well it’s not just pretty, it also is a sign of it’s high lycopene content–an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and prevent a number of chronic disease in the body. It is also high in vitamin C and low in calories due to it’s high water content (about 46 calories per cup). Another unusual fact about watermelon is that it has a good amount of citrulline, an amino acid that is converted into arginine in the body (another amino acid). Through a lot of boring sciencey steps, our body produces something called nitric oxide synthase (NOS) which may cause blood vessels to expand, reducing blood pressure. To up the protein/calcium and enjoyment factors of this dish, I added just a tiny bit of burrata to each watermelon cube–you won’t regret it.

And here’s a photo of the whole meal–spicy sriracha-lime grilled shrimp, panko crusted zucchini-corn saute, and of course the watermelon-burrata salad. Not a bad dinner, if I do say so myself.
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Watermelon-Burrata Cubes with Lemon Zest
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What’s in it:

  • 1/2 watermelon, cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
  • 8 oz burrata (or another soft cheese like goat cheese)
  • zest from one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • balsamic glaze/reduction

How to make it:
1. Prepare your watermelon by cutting into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. Using a small spoon or knife, scoop out a small hole in the center of the cube to make it a cup. Be careful not to scoop all the way through to the bottom.
2. Fill each watermelon cube with a small scoop of the soft center of the burrata or goat cheese.
3. Top each cube with a piece or two of lemon zest and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. If serving as an appetizer on their own, arrange the cubes on a platter and drizzle with balsamic reduction or glaze. If serving as a salad, arrange cubes on a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
5. Enjoy this refreshing summer appetizer/salad while you still can!!

Aug 072014

Does anyone else find that when you’re super busy you are the most productive, and when you have plenty of free time your lazy alterego comes out? I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. By “not busy”, I mean I ONLY have a full time job and am not in any classes. The concept of going home after work is pretty foreign to me, but with all this freedom to do anything I want, I’ve found that what I really want to do is nothing at all. I have plenty of time to clean, but yet there’s a pile of clothes growing in the corner of my closet that my neat-freak fiance can’t see. Plenty of time to pick up a good book, but yet I’m watching marathons of Chopped and Say Yes to the Dress (yes, the bridezilla is growing stronger). So that’s why my posting has been a little sparce this summer, but don’t worry I’ll be making a comeback soon. And I have to say these summer corn and zucchini fritters are a pretty good way to start.
Good corn is one of the best parts of summer. These corn “fritters” (and I use quotes because they are far from fried) are the perfect combo of sweet, spicy, herbal, crunchy, and tender. They can be served as an appetizer with a little avocado or crema on top, or over a salad, or just straight out of the pan because you can’t wait to pop a few. Good news is they are also super easy to make and start to finish only take about 30 minutes. Hooray for lazy summer Marissa having more time to watch bad TV!
Nutritional Highlights: Corn sometimes gets a bad reputation. If you’ve read any of Michael Pollen’s books, you were probably surprised to learn that almost everything we eat is somehow made of corn–our farm animals are fed it and almost all our processed foods and drinks are made out of it. But yet we don’t eat nearly enough of the really great kind…fresh corn right off the cob. Although some carb averse people see this as a scary starchy food (which it is to some extent), it’s a healthy carbohydrate that provides a good amount of fiber which benefits the GI tract and helps control blood sugar spikes. It also has several antioxidant phytochemicals, which help reduce inflammation and help protect us from many chronic diseases. This recipe highlights this ingredient in both a healthy and craveable way. While typical fritters are deep fried, these are crisped up in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil spray. They also have added veggies and herbs such as shredded zucchini, scallions, and cilantro which add to it’s nutrients. They can easily be made gluten free by choosing a GF flour. This is a healthy summer app or side that will please both your overachieving and lazy sides.
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Sweet Corn & Zucchini “Fritters”
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What’s in it:
2 cups fresh corn cut from the kernels (about 2-3 kernels)
1 zucchini, shredded
2 green onions/scallions
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
optional: 1/2 – 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour of choice (whole wheat or gluten free types encouraged)
2 eggs (1 whole egg and 1 white only)
Juice from one lime plus 1/4 teaspoon zest
Olive oil or canola oil spray, for frying
How to make it:
1. Shred the zucchini and put it in the center of a few layers of paper towel. Squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid and set aside.
2. Combine the first 8 ingredients (through the pepper) in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, flour, beaten eggs, and lime juice/zest and stir gently until just combined.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over medium/high heat. Spray the pan with oil and add the corn mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons per fritter). Using a spoon, flatten the fritters a bit so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cook for about 3 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Spray the uncooked side of the fritter with a little oil, flip, and cook for another 3 minutes.
4. Set the cooked fritters aside and cook the remaining batter in as many batches as you need.
5. Enjoy these amazing little summer un-fritters in any way you like!
– topped with a slice of avocado and extra cilantro or pico de gallo
– drizzled with lime crema (light sour cream or greek yogurt mixed with lime juice and zest)
– in a salad with your favorite summer veggies
– or straight out of the pan because they’re so good!!