Dec 172013

Tis the season…for potlucks. I’ve had three potluck events already this year, and I was getting a little tired of the kitchen (yep, even I feel that way sometimes). So here’s a simple and festive appetizer that looks a lot fancier than it is. This crostini is a twist on my favorite baked brie recipe and uses my favorite winter fruit: pears.


Nutritional Highlights: Baked brie can be a pretty deadly holiday appetizer, because it’s really tough to keep track of how much you’ve actually had. This recipe makes individual portioned bites. Plus, whole wheat baguette, pear slices, pomegranate seeds, and arugula add some vitamins and fiber. Vegetarian friendly.


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Brie, Pear, & Honey Crostini
makes about 20 crostini
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What’s in it:
Whole grain or multigrain baguette
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon herbs of your choosing (I used a mix of dried thyme and fresh rosemary since that’s what I had)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 large triangle of brie
2 ripe bartlett pears
Honey for drizzling
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Handful of arugula leaves

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Slice baguette on an angle into 1/4 inch slices.
3. Mix garlic, oil, herbs, and salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with the oil mixture.
4. Spread crostini on baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, about 15 minutes (turning once).
5. Meanwhile, remove brie rind and cut into 20 slices that will fit on the crostini. Slice the pear thinly.
6. Now you have two choices. If you want to serve these warm (recommended), top the warm toast with a slice of brie and return to the oven until the cheese melts. If serving cold, allow toast to cool and top with the brie slices.
7. Before serving, top each brie with a pear slice and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (they will stick to the honey) and top with a few arugula leaves. Enjoy!


Nov 082013

I have no time for a long post since I’m home in Chicago for my sister’s wedding, but I didn’t want to leave you guys hanging too long. Here’s an amazing and super easy appetizer that is as tasty as it is beautiful!
The topping is a simple mix of sauteed onions, mushrooms, balsamic, garlic, and herbs, and it sits on top a seared piece of premade polenta (the kind that come in those really appetizing tubes at the store). Of course it’s not quite as tasty as good homemade polenta, but with a flavorful topping it definitely does the trick and saves a ton of time.
Nutritional Highlights: This is a perfectly portioned appetizer with a lot of vegetables built in. Mushrooms, onions, and arugula, plus corn-based polenta (ok that one’s a stretch).
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Seared Polenta with Balsamic Mushrooms and Arugula
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What’s in it:
– 2 T olive oil
– 1 container portobello/cremini mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
– 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1 tube store bought polenta, cut into 1/4 inch slices
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 3 cups baby arugula
– Optional: shaved parmesan cheese

How to make it:
1. Start by making the mushroom mixture. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the garlic and onion. Saute for a minute and add mushrooms. Saute until onions have softened and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt/pepper, and thyme and allow vinegar to reduce for about 3 minutes or until much of the liquid has cooked off.
2. Meanwhile, slice your polenta and spray each side with olive oil cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Sear on a hot griddle or grill on each side for about 2 minutes one each side, or until browned. Set aside.
3. Spoon some of the mushroom mixture onto each polenta round, top with a few arugula leaves and shaved parmesan. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and vinegar and a few more fresh thyme leaves. Enjoy!

Sep 212013

Brussel Sprouts + Figs + Toasted Almonds + Manchego + Dijon Vinaigrette. Need I say more?
I’m pretty excited about this salad. It’s the perfect fall salad with just the right mix of textures and flavors (crunchy, soft, sweet, savory). It’s pretty easy to make too since there is no cooking involved. Only on disclaimer–if you’re like me and don’t have a mandolin to shred the sprouts, this may be slightly less fun of a process for you.
Nutritional Highlights: Since it looks like a teeny tiny cabbage, it’s not surprising that they’re in the same cruciferous veggie fam as cabbage. Within this powerful group, which also includes kale, cauliflower, mustard greens, and broccoli, brussel sprouts actually have THE MOST glucosinolates which are powerful cancer fighting antioxidants. By serving them raw in this salad, you preserve all these nutrients and ensure none of them are lost in the cooking process. Figs make this salad even healthier, by adding fiber and potassium. Almonds add some protein and healthy fat. And Manchego, oh well cheese is just delicious who cares if it’s healthy.
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Shaved Brussel Sprout and Fig Salad with Toasted Almonds and Manchego
serves about 4
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What’s in it:
4 cups Brussels sprouts (use larger sprouts if possible)
1/3 cup shaved or shredded manchego (can also substitute pecorino romano)
8-10 fresh figs, quartered
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds, toasted and salted

Juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil

How to make it:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
2. Trim the Brussels sprouts, cutting off the hard root end. Using a mandoline, shave the sprouts one at a time. If you don’t have a mandolin, halve them and slice as thinly as possible. When you’re done, use your fingers to separate the leaves so that the shredded sprouts are like a fine slaw.
3. Put the sprouts in a serving bowl toss gently with the dressing (you may not need it all). Fold in the shredded cheese and top with figs and almonds. Taste and adjust seasonings and dressing if necessary. Enjoy!

Note: I think it’s even better if you toss the sprouts only with the dressing about an hour before serving so they soften a bit. Then add in the other ingredients right before serving.

Aug 192013

Oh HEY there! I’m finally back from my blogcation. But really, it wasn’t quite as relaxing as you might think. I was busy working with Kristy from to move the blog over to wordpress and give it a spiffy new look. What do you think? And don’t worry, I was still cooking up a storm while I was away (a girl’s gotta eat) so I have some awesome recipes to share over the next few weeks. This first one highlights my absolute favorite summer ingredient: Peaches.
This appetizer is perfect because it’s easy to throw together (so you can focus your efforts on sweating outside in the sun rather than in your kitchen) but still incredibly tasty and even pretty fancy looking. It also uses a whopping 5 ingredients- multigrain baguette, peaches, burrata, honey, basil…ok, and also olive oil, salt and pepper, but those don’t really count.
Nutritional Highlights: The farmers markets are overflowing with peaches right now, which means you’re getting them at their peak nutritional level. That means you’ll be getting tons of vitamin A, C, E, K, fiber, and potassium. Quickly grilling the peaches develops the sweet flavor without losing any of those nutrients. Using multigrain baguettes for your crostini a great way to add in some fiber and whole grains and no one will notice the difference. Burrata, like most cheeses, may not be the healthiest food ever, but it is certainly one of the most delicious so a little goes a long way. It’s summer…you have to indulge a little.
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Peach, Burrata, & Basil Crostini
makes about 16 crostini
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What’s in it:

  • Whole grain baguette, cut into 1/4 inch slices on a diagonal
  • 3 ripe yellow peaches, halved, pitted, and cut into about 6 slices each
  • 6-8 oz burrata ball
  • 10 large basil leaves, julienned
  • honey
  • olive oil
  • salt & Pepper

How to make it:

1. Slice your crostini and lightly brush both sides with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toast in 2 batches in the toaster, flipping halfway through, until lightly browned and crispy.  You could also do this in the oven but you couldn’t pay me to turn on my oven right now.

2. Heat grill or grill-pan over medium high heat.  Spray your peach slices with olive oil spray and grill for about 2 minutes on each side, until there are nice grill lines and peach as softened slightly but is not mushy.  Set grilled peach slices aside.

3.  Construct your crostini by spreading 1-2 teaspoons burrata on the toasted baguette.  Season with a little salt and drizzle with honey.  Top with a grilled peach slice and julienned basil.  Enjoy!

Mar 162013

Twelve hours!  In twelve hours I will be in Cabo.  I cannot even express how excited I am for this much needed vacation. I can’t wait for a week free of work stress and grad school deadlines, and full of great food, sun, and family.  Only problem is that it’s tough to be bathing suit ready when it’s 30 degrees out and you’ve put on your winter hibernation suit.  So, to get ready for Cabo, I made an amazing csalad utilizing all the amazing citrus fruits that are great in the winter.    

When I saw blood oranges at the store, I knew I had to get a few.  I just love the color and sweet/tart flavor.  I grabbed a grapefruit and a navel orange too, as to not leave anyone out.  This salad  came together in minutes but is still impressive enough to serve to guests.  All I did was pare the skin off of the fruit, slice, and layer them on top of a bed of arugula.  I topped it with a little goat cheese, toasted pistachios, mint leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Sometimes the best meals are really simple ones like this, that highlight fresh ingredients without overpowering them with a thousand ingredients.  

Nutritional highlights:  Citrus fruit is a whole lot more than vitamin C.   It’s packed with other vitamins and minerals like Folate and Potassium and has antioxidant properties.  It’s also lower in calories and sugar than many other fruits and has high water content.  

Enough about Vitamin C…I’m off to get my Vitamin D on!!! See you all in a week :)

Winter Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Mint
adapted from Small Kitchen Chronicles

Makes 2 servings
For Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or other vinegar of choice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
For Salad
  • 1 blood orange cut into 1/4 – inch slices.  I did this by cutting about a 1/4 inch of each end, removing skin with a paring knife, and then slicing the orange
  • 1 large navel orange, same proccess as above
  • 1 grapefruit, same process as above
  • 3 cups of greens (I used arugula but spinach, kale, or any green would work)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion (optional…I forgot to add it to mine but would like to next time for texture)
  • 1 ounce goat’s milk cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, julienned, plus a few extra for garnishing
  • extra sea salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:  In a small mixing bowl combine dressing ingredients–red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together until well combined.  Set aside.
Place arugula or other greens on a platter and arrange the blood orange,navel orange, and grapefruit slices in a pretty pattern.
Sprinkle chopped red onion, goat cheese, and pistachios evenly over top of the citrus slices.  Drizzle dressing on top and garnish with the julienned mint leaves. Serve immediately with extra salt and black pepper . Enjoy!
Feb 102013

If I had to sustain on one food all winter long, without any doubt, it would be chili.  I love every variety out there- veggie, chicken, turkey, beef, you name it.  It’s spicy, hearty, filling, warming, and can actually be super healthy.  I decided to make a vegetarian version using lentils, which I decided would mirror the texture of ground meat.  And to add a little extra pizazz, a whole bottle of beer went into this recipe…so you can have your beer and eat it too (or something like that).  It’s a perfect meal to stay warm during a blizzard named after a cute animated fish, for example.  

Another reason I love chili so much is because it’s really quick and easy to make–an hour in the kitchen will leave you with at least 6 meals that you can eat immediately or freeze for a rainy (or snowy) day you want a quick meal.  Another huge benefit–it’s very budget friendly.   This is especially great, because I’m starting a school project that involves eating for a week on the budget of someone on SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program…formerly known as food stamps).  Stay tuned for a post next week to see how it went and if I stayed within my $46 budget for the week!

Nutritional Highlights:  This recipe proves that you don’t have to eat meat to get plenty of protein and iron.  The lentils and two types of beans in this recipe give you all that and more–and the more part is tons of fiber.  This recipe also has other healthy vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, corn.  With a little low fat cheese, avocado, and cilantro on top, it’s an amazing well balanced vegetarian meal that will keep you full for hours.  It’s also gluten free, and can be vegan if you leave off the cheesy topping (but that’s not something I’m willing to do right now).  

Vegetarian Lentil and Bean Chili (with beer!)

1 cups dried lentils (or 2 cups already cooked lentils)
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons chipotle hot sauce (can substitute chopped chipotle in adobo)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 orange or red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 cans of beans- I used black and kidney but any are fine!
1 cup frozen corn
1 bottle of beer

option toppings:
shredded cheese 
avocado, sliced 
tortilla chips
scallions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
lime wedges

If using dried lentils, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.  If using already steamed lentils (my favorite shortcut) skip to the next part.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and satue for 3 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and jalapeno and sauté until the peppers are tender, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the spices (chili powder, cumin, salt, and chipotle hot sauce) and cook for 3 minutes.  Pour in the beer, crushed tomatoes, cooked lentils, beans and corn. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Eat chili immediately or refrigerate and eat the next day–I think it’s even better on day 2 because the flavors have more time to intensify.  

Serve with any of your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Feb 052013

If you know me at all, I walk the fine line between having it all together and being a total mess.  I’m a diagnosed procrastinator, and have been known to write entire papers not the night before they’re due, but the morning that they’re due.  That’s why it’s not surprising that I’m posting a super bowl recipe the day after the game.  Obviously, I was not organized enough to make this in advance and post it earlier, but I was pretty excited about the idea so I wanted to share it anyway.  Hey, there’s always next year, right?

This is a traditional mexican 7 layer dip with a few healthier swaps:  fat free refried black beans, then low fat sour cream (or you could even use greek yogurt) mixed with taco seasoning, then chopped black olives and green onions, then low fat shredded cheese, then salsa, and finally guacamole with football field lines.  Pretty cute, huh? It also takes about 10 minutes to make (a few more if you make your own guac which I did an highly recommend) and is super impressive for your guests.  

Also, did you hear that there was a football game during the Beyonce concert last night?