Jul 252014
 

Sometimes the best dishes appear when I pick up a random ingredient with no plan in mind as to how to use it. This is one of those times. I’ve been noticing beautiful black figs at the grocery store lately, so I decided to pick up a box and think of a way to use them. I love the flavor of figs paired with the sweet/acidic flavor of balsamic vinegar, so I made two dishes using this combination.
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Both of these dishes could not be easier. All I did was halve the figs, brush with EVOO and a tiny pinch of salt, and grill for a few minutes. For the “sundae”, I used store bought greek frozen yogurt (of course you can make your own too) and topped with the grilled figs and the balsamic reduction. This is the perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts. If you’re like me and DO love overly sweet desserts very very much, no worries, you’ll still like it. It’s a perfect light summer dessert and putting balsamic reduction on frozen yogurt makes you feel like a grown up.
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The salad was delicious in it’s simplicity as well. To the same grilled figs, I added mixed greens, sliced peaches, roasted almonds, shaved manchego, and topped with balsamic reduction. It was sweet and savory and super fresh with just enough acidity.
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Nutritional Highlights: Figs are a great source of fiber and potassium, and even though most people eat them dried, they’re even more delicious and healthy when you eat them fresh. These grilled fig dishes are both incredibly healthy, and highlight the natural sweetness. This sundae is way better for you than your average chocolate whip cream covered vat of deliciousness. I used fat free greek frozen yogurt which is lower in sugar, fat, and higher in protein than ice cream. Balsamic reduction and figs are much lower calorie and sugar toppings, sadly, than hot fudge and sprinkles. The salad is also incredibly healthy, getting a little extra protein from the almonds and even though higher in fat, I shaved the manchego very thinly so you get the bold flavor without adding too much.
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Grilled Figs & Balsamic Reduction – Two Ways
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You really don’t even need recipes here, but I’ll give you the synopsis

For the grilled figs: Halve your fresh figs and spray or lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt. Grill on a medium-hot grill cut side down for about 3-4 minutes or until slightly charred and softened.

For the balsamic reduction/syrup: Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced significantly in volume (to 1/3 cup). Let cool completely.

To make a salad: Toss your favorite greens with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and top with grilled figs, fresh peach slices (I did this mostly for color, so you can just let the figs stand alone), a few roasted salted almonds, and shaved manchego. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction. You can also swap goat cheese for the manchego, or any nut for the almonds.

To make a sundae: Use store bought or homemade vanilla greek frozen yogurt (or ice cream if you musttt) and top with a few grilled figs, chopped toasted nuts, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Enjoy some figs outside of the newton for once!

Jan 212014
 

Kale Caesar is SO hot right now. It’s on the menu at every trendy restaurant, disguised as the healthy choice. Don’t get my wrong, kale is amazing for you, but drowning in heavy dressing and covered in cheese, it’s only slightly healthier than the original. My version is not only way healthier but equally flavorful.
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Nutritional highlights: There are a few key secrets that make my caesar healthier. 1) The dressing is animal product free–yep, no cheese, anchovies, or eggs which are the quintessential caesar ingredients. 2) It gets it’s creaminess/”cheesiness” from heart healthy ingredients like walnuts and roasted garlic. 3) Instead of greasy croutons, I made some crispy spiced roasted chickpeas, for extra fiber and protein. 4) And the one DUH swap here, kale instead of romaine adds tons of fiber, calcium, and other good stuff.

I served mine along with some simple spaghetti squash with spicy tomato sauce. I know, fake pasta + fake caesar doesn’t sound all that appealing, but this was literally one of the best meals I’ve had in a while!
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**Confession: Although the dressing is vegan, I did proceed to top it with shredded parm. I couldn’t help myself…
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Vegan(ish) Kale Caesar
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For the dressing:
1/2 head of garlic plus 1 small clove
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
2 Teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
One bunch or bag of kale
1 can of chickpeas, roasted (instructions below)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan (optional)

To make the dressing:
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Remove some of the papery outer layers of the garlic head half, and it in the center of a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap it up into a little bundle and place in oven for about 35-45 minutes, or until cloves are soft and brown.
2. Meanwhile, soak the walnuts in the water for at least 10 minutes to soften.
3. In a food processor, add the 1 raw garlic clove (peeled), mustard, soy, lemon juice, and the water/walnut mixture. Once roasted garlic is ready, pop out the soft cloves and add that to the mixture.
4. Pulse until all ingredients have combined. Drizzle the olive oil in slowly while food processor is running. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add additional garlic, lemon juice, or seasonings as needed.

Notes: If you want to skip the roasted garlic step, just add another clove or two of raw garlic instead. Likewise, if you don’t love the bite of raw garlic, skip the raw clove and use only the roasted garlic.

To make the roasted chickpeas: I cooked mine in the same 400 degree oven while I roasted the garlic. Just rinse chickpeas and dry with a few paper towels as well as you can. Toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and any spices you like (I used garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayene). Roast for about 30 minutes, shaking every 10 minutes until they are crispy and brown. Use instead of croutons in your salad!

To make the salad: Wash and roughly chop the kale, removing any large unruly stems. “Massage” the kale by just kind of squeezing it in your hands, this makes it a little bit more tender and less bitter. Also, kale salads are best when they sit in the dressing for a bit before serving, so toss it with the dressing an hour before serving (although if you don’t have time it will still be delicious). Top with grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, and parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Sep 212013
 

Brussel Sprouts + Figs + Toasted Almonds + Manchego + Dijon Vinaigrette. Need I say more?
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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.
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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:
Salad:
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

Dressing:
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.

Sep 022013
 

Labor day has come and gone, which to me signals the end of summer. As much as I’m excited for the return of sweaters, boots, and brussel sprouts, I’m still feeling like summer has gone way too quickly. So, I made this super healthy farro dish, with tons of grilled summer vegetables and those last heirloom tomatoes of the season mixed in.
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The recipe is simple, as it always should be when you are working with really great, fresh, produce. Cook some farro, grill some veggies (with a garlic-herb-oil rub), toss it all together, and top with some fresh herbs. That’s all it takes. Veggies Before:
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Veggies After:
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Nutritional Highlights: Farro is a pretty underrated grain in my opinion. It’s sort of similar to rice or barely, but with a nuttier flavor and texture. It has tons of fiber (more than brown rice), magnesium, and also vitamins A, B, C, and E. Although it’s not gluten free, it is lower in gluten than a lot of other grains, making it easier to digest for those with an intolerance. You know how to make it even healthier? Mix it with a ton of freshly grilled summer veggies packed with nutrients and enjoy!
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Farro with Grilled Summer Vegetables
4-6 servings
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What’s in it:
8 oz quick cooking farro (I suppose you can use the non quick kind as well)
2 cups roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes
Vegetables for grilling (I used eggplant, summer squash, scallions, corn, and peppers)
2 large cloves garlic
Fresh basil
Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper (and maybe some chili flakes)
Optional: cheese of your choosing (goat, parmesan, or feta would all be great)

How to make it:
1. Cook the farro according to directions (quick cooking kind only takes 10 minutes but full length farro takes a bit longer).
2. Meanwhile, focus on grilling your veggies. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 2 cloves minced garlic and season generously with salt, pepper, and optional chili flakes for heat. Brush your grilled veggies with the garlic oil and grill over medium-high heat. Grilling time varies for different veggies and depending on if you’re using a grill pan or real grill. Just watch them and take them off when they have nice grill lines and are softened but not mushy. Sorry, no exact science here!
3. Allow vegetables to cool and cut them into bite sized chunks.
4. Combine the farro, grilled vegetables, and heirloom tomatoes. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with lots of fresh julienned basil and cheese if you’re using it. Enjoy this fresh summer dish as a side or vegetarian main!
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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!

Jun 012013
 

Guys, I know what you’re thinking.  That looks very vegan and healthy.  Well you’re right.  It does and it is.  BUT it’s also one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a while.  The peanut sauce on this kale salad is seriously addictive and the marinade for the tofu is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy.  And all foods are better with grill marks, it’s a fact.  This is the perfect summer meal and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.  


I’ve been trying this new thing where I’m almost completely vegan on weekdays (unless of course someone brings baked goods to work, then all deals are off), but eat whatever I want on the weekends.  That way I’m lowering my animal product consumption a lot but not being that girl at restaurants who can’t eat anything…win win.  I’ve been surprised how easy (and tasty) it has been to cut out meat and dairy during the week.  You start to really appreciate other things like great produce, creating flavor with spices and sauces, and for me, peanut butter.  I eat it every day.  I was excited about this recipe because it used it in a savory dish, and I gotta say I would put this sauce on everything if I could.  


Nutritional Highlights:  If you’re wondering what’s the big deal with being vegan, watch this “meatless monday” video  .  It just give a little insight into the impact meat farming has on the world.  Plus, chronic disease risk is lower for those who eat less animal products.  Interesting huh?  I’m not saying cut it out entirely, cuz I certainly would not want to live a life without cheese in it, but moderation and portion control with animal products is something we should all try.  This recipe has tons of fresh veggies like kale (total super food), carrots, cucumber, onions, healthy fats like peanuts and sesame oil, and plenty of protein from the grilled tofu.  This would be just as tasty without the tofu as well.  This recipe is gluten free as well as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce!


Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad
adapted from Happy.Healthy.Life

Makes about 3-4 servings

For the salad:
2 large bunches of kale (or 3 small)
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned cucumber
1/3 cup peanuts for garnish

Spicy Ginger Peanut Sauce:
2 Tbsp creamy salted peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled/chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar 
2 tsp agave syrup
5 dashes cayenne
fine black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Place a large soup pot over med-high heat on your stove top. Add all the sauce ingredients and stir briskly until they melt and blend together. Reduce heat to medium and simmer/stir for about two minutes. Turn heat to low.

2. Pull the leaves in bits from the thick stalks of your kale. Wash if needed. Add the kale leaves (toss thick stems) – add kale to the pot until filled to the brim. Fold the kale into the hot sauce. Fold well. The hot sauce will wilt the kale.

3. Turn off heat and add the remaining amount of kale. Also add in the carrots, red onion, peanuts, and cucumber and combine. Eat warm or, my preference, chill and eat cold.  Kale salads are great because they can last a few days without getting wilted like other greens.

4. Serve warm or place in fridge – covered – to chill and serve cold. Will keep well for up to a few days.


Spicy Grilled Tofu
adapted from Food.com

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 8 slices
    • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1/3 cup agave nectar
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced ( about 1 tablespoon)
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the tofu slices on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally with your hands to squeeze out the water.
  2. Place the tofu in a single layer in the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup, tamari, chile paste, garlic, and pepper.
  4. Pour mixture over the tofu, stirring to coat all the slices.
  5. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. When the tofu is marinated and ready to cook: Spray grill rack or pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat.
  7. Place tofu slices on the grill. Reserve the marinade.
  8. Grill tofu 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until the outside is browned and crisp.
  9. Return tofu to the baking dish and toss the slices with the reserved marinade.
  10. Serve immediately on it’s own or with the Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad!
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!