Dec 082014

As the weather’s been getting colder, I’ve started to crave warm, comforting foods to initiate my impending winter hibernation. I don’t know what got into me, but somehow I came home from grocery store with a bag of russet potatoes. I can’t remember the last time I bought a standard, non-sweet potato. I have to say, potatoes are pretty underrated both in taste and nutrition, and this healthier version of a comforting classic was even better than I imagined it would be. Watch out yams, spud’s making a comeback.
I’m not sure what it was that made these simple tots so freaking tasty. Maybe it was the perfectly baked potato, or the spicy garlic roasted broccoli and onions, the sharp cheddar, the creamy greek yogurt, or the quinoa, but whatever it was, a little magic happened inside these potatoes. The key is a perfectly seasoned filling, so don’t skimp on the salt and pepper. And a melty crusty cheesy top doesn’t hurt either.
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Here’s how it happened. Potato gets baked. Potato gets scooped. Potato gets stuffed. Potato gets baked again. Potato gets eaten. Fast.
Nutrition Highlights: Potatoes have gotten a little bit of a bad rep in all the low carb madness that has ensued in recent years. But the truth is, potatoes are super healthy in moderation. They are the world’s number one non-grain crop for a reason. They are packed with vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. One medium baked potato only has about 150 calories, not bad. Stuffed potatoes often ruin all these health benefits by smothering it in sour cream, butter, and tons of cheese. This recipe adds protein in the quinoa, lowers the calories and carbs by scooping out some of the potato, lowers the fat by using greek yogurt and just a little bit of cheese, and ups the fiber and vitamins with lots of broccoli. The potato is pretty stuffed but you won’t be (just comfortably full).
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broccoli, cheddar, & quinoa stuffed potatoes
makes about 3 medium potatoes
* vegetarian * gluten free *
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What’s in it:
3 small to medium russet potatoes
1.5-2 cups small broccoli florettes
1/4 white onion, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons shredded cheddar or mixed cheese
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

How to make it:
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Wash and dry your potatoes. Rub the exterior with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt and place on a baking sheet or in a cast iron skillet. Bake for about 1 hour or until you can easily pierce with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, spread the broccoli and onions on a small baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and plenty of salt and pepper.
3. When the potatoes are done, remove and turn the oven up to 425. Roast the broccoli-onion mixture for about 10-15 minutes until broccoli is beginning to brown on the edges.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your potatoes for stuffing. Using a paring knife on an angle, remove an oval shaped top from each potato. Scoop out the filling of the potatoes so only a 1/4 inch layer remains.
5. Make the mixture by combining 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of the remaining potato filling (the rest you can toss or save for another recipe), 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt, 1/4 cup cheese. When the veggies are done, add the roasted broccoli and onions and stir until well combined. Taste the mixture and season with additional salt, pepper, garlic powder, or chili flakes, as needed.
6. Stuff each potato with as much of the mixture as you can squeeze in there. It’s OK if the stuffing goes over the top a bit. Top each potato with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese and broil for about 2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
7. Enjoy these amazing potatoes right away or wrap individually in foil to enjoy throughout the week! I loved them topped with a little hot sauce, because why not.

Oct 052014

Spaghetti squash is one of those foods that I literally did not know existed until a few years ago. Odds are that I probably had seen it, and thought, what is this hard round thing doing in the produce aisle, as it is certainly not edible. Well, let me tell you, that me from a few years ago was very wrong and she has many regrets, because spaghetti squash is one of coolest veggies out there. So I’m making up for lost time by using it as much as possible–as the “pad” in a healthier pad thai I made last year, as the base for baked chicken parm and now in this Swiss-Chard and Parmesan Baked Spaghetti Squash.
Part of the beauty of the spaghetti squash is how deceptively easy it is to make. The quickest option is to stab it a bunch of times and microwave for about 10 minutes, or you can halve it and roast it (I like the flavor and texture a little better with this method). Once it’s cooked, you can just scrape out the flesh and it turns into thin, noodle-like pieces. One spaghetti squash gives you TONS of “spaghetti” and you can use it in any recipe instead of traditional noodles. For this recipe, while my squash was roasting, I sauteed some garlic, shallots, and rainbow swiss chard, added lemon, parmesan, and salt/pepper, mixed in the cooked squash and then baked it for a few more minutes in the squash with some
Nutrition Highlights: If you’re anything like me, when the weather starts to get cooler, you start to crave warm and comforting dishes. This recipe is a great alternative to your typical cheesey-noodley casserole. Spaghetti squash only has 30 calories per cup, where as spaghetti has 220. I’m not saying it’s the same as pasta, but it cuts a HUGE amount of calories and might be worth trying once in a while. It’s also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Swiss chard is an amazing green to incorporate into your diet when you’re getting a little bored of Kale and Spinach. It has a ton of different vitamins, but most notably, Vitamin K, which is important to help you clot blood properly in your body. It’s also one of only a few non-animal sources of calcium in the diet. I used just a hint of parmesan cheese which can be omitted if you’re trying to keep the recipe vegan (although the cheesey crust on the top is crucial in my opinion!).
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Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard & Parmesan
serves 4 as a side
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What’s in it:
1 large spaghetti squash (cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard (rinsed and cut or torn into pieces)
4 green onions (chopped)
1/2 cup good parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray or drizzle the cut side of the squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and lay the spaghetti squash halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, you can microwave it to cut the time to only about 10 minutes).
2. While squash is cooking, work on the rest of the filling. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add about tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute. Add the swiss chard (you may need to add it in batches so there’s enough space, but don’t worry, it cooks down very quickly).
4. Once swiss chard has wilted, squeeze in the juice from 1/2 a lemon and season with salt and pepper. Set mixture aside.
5. Once squash is done, use a fork to scrape out all of the “noodles”. Mix it into the swiss chard, and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Turn the oven to broil. Fill the empty spaghetti squash halves with the mixture and top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Whole wheat bread crumbs and/or any type of nut would be delicious in the topping as well for more texture.
7. Broil for a few minutes until the parmesan has melted and the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Notes: In my photos, I have some toasted squash seeds as part of the topping. I didn’t recommend this because they got pretty soggy and tough to eat in the left overs. But a different toasted nut (pine nuts or hazelnuts perhaps) would be amazing!

*Feel free to get creative with this and add any ingredients you like! To make this a main course, add some chicken, quinoa, or chickpeas to add a little protein. I added some sundried tomatoes in when I ate the leftovers and that was delicious too!

This is the perfect dish to welcome back fall!

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!!

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.
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.
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!

Jun 082014

It finally feels like summer is here and more and more fresh veggies are starting to appear in the farmers markets. To celebrate the start of summer, I wanted to make a super healthy and vegetable focused meal. I’ve stuffed a lot of vegetables before…bell peppers with southwestern turkey-quinoa filling, baby peppers with ricotta, peas, and pancetta, and mushrooms with sundried tomato, corn, and goat cheese. But never before had I stuffed a zucchini. Well this might have been the first but it will certainly not be the last.
I think ratatouille (and I’m talking about the food, not the animated mouse) is highly underrated. As the vegetables cook down with plenty of garlic, ratatouille gets a little bit sweet and is just pretty magical. In this recipe, while the scooped out zucchinis roast, you make the ratatouille and quinoa on the stove. Stuff the pre-cooked zucchinis with the quinoa-rata mixture and top with fresh goat cheese and panko break crumbs. I seriously can’t emphasize enough how ridiculously good these were.
Nutritional highlights: This recipe would make a great side dish or a vegetarian main course. The majority of the ingredients are vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions, and I truly believe that even those who aren’t huge vegetable fans would love it in ratatouille form. By mixing in some quinoa the protein and fiber content goes way up. The goat cheese can be left off if you want to keep it vegan, but the small amount of cheese adds calcium and protein, and an amazing tart-creaminess to bring the whole dish together.
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Zucchini Boats with Ratatouille, Quinoa, and Goat Cheese
makes 4-6 zucchini boats (serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)
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What’s in it:
2 large or 3 small zucchinis
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 eggplant, chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa (from about 1/4 cup dry)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, (half chopped and half left as whole leaves)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Prepare all your ingredients. Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside with a spoon (but save it for your ratatouille!). Mince the garlic, chop the onion, eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini filling.
3. Spray zucchini with olive oil spray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven cut side up for about 13-15 minutes or until slightly tender and beginning to brown.
4. Meanwhile cook quinoa according to directions and make the ratatouille. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add 1 more teaspoon olive oil and add the chopped eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-12 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Stir in the red wine vinegar and the chopped basil and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the 1 cup cooked quinoa into the ratatouille and stir to combine.
6. Stuff as much quinoa-ratatouille filling as possible into each of the zucchinis. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkling of panko. Bake for 8 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the cheese begins to brown.
7. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
If this doesn’t look like summer, than I don’t know what does.

May 042014

Mexican food is probably my all time favorite genre of food. I know it is a bold statement, but Mexican food has so much going for it. First of all, avocados can be involved in just about every dish, and this is a great thing. Plus, there’s always a great mix of bold flavors, colors, textures, and ideally an aggressive kick. Obviously, with Cinco de Mayo approaching, I was not going to miss an opportunity to make something fiesta-worthy. After wandering the isles of whole foods with absolutely no game plan, somehow I ended up making these absurdly delicious spicy baked plantain chips with tropical fruit and avocado salsa.
The plantain chips were very simple, seasoned with olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. The salsa was also simple and fresh–a mix of avocado, mango, strawberries, serrano chile, red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is the perfect appetizer for your Cinco de Mayo party. Or really any of the days of Mayo. Or Junio or Julio o Agosto. You get it.
I had never worked with plantains before, but you should know that even though they look like a green banana, they are really more like a potato in flavor and texture. They have a slight sweetness but are very starchy, which is why they make an excellent and super crunchy chip. They don’t peel as easily as a banana, but if you just run a knife down one side through just the skin, you can peel it off relatively easily.
Nutritional Highlights: This app is definitely a big health improvement from your regular chips and guac. Instead of fried tortilla chips, these are baked with only a little bit of oil. Plantains are high in fiber, vitamin B, A, and C, and potassium. The salsa is also super healthy–with tons of vitamins and antioxidants from mango and salsa, and healthy fat from the avocado. Your favorite guac and salsa at a mexican restaurant may be loaded with salt and leave you bloated and thirsty, but I didn’t even have to add any salt to this salsa, since it was so flavorful on it’s own! Added bonus–this recipe is gluten free and vegan!
Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
For the chips:
2 green plantains
2 T olive oil
1 T chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the salsa:
1/2 large mango, chopped
6 strawberries, chopped
1/2 avocado, cubed (or the whole avocado if it’s small)
1 small serrano chile, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped cilantro
Juice from 1/2 lime (or more to taste)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using a paring knife, cut a slit down one side of the plantain, just through the skin. Use your fingers to peel off the skin. Slice as thinly as possible on a diagonal, or use a mandolin to make thin chips.
2. Toss the sliced plantains with olive oil and spices. Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and spread the plantains in a single layer. Spray a little additional oil spray on top to help them get crispy and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the chips after 8 minutes and watching carefully toward the end as they can easily burn. Once they are browned and crispy, you are good to go!
3. While the chips are baking, make the salsa by simply combining all the ingredients. You can also make this in advance and refrigerate.
4. Let the chips cool and serve along with the salsa. Enjoy!

Note: these are best eaten right away but can be saved a day or two (although they will lose some of their crispiness).
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)

Apr 262014

Oh hey, Spring! So nice to see you again. I wasn’t even sure you’d ever come back after that miserable winter, but alas, here you are. So I thought I’d celebrate your return with a dish that screams spring–Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto. PS, never leave me again.
Roasted carrots are one of my recent obsessions. Even just on their own with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, they are amazing. To be completely honest, this rainbow mixture I got doesn’t really taste any different, but it sure looks cool and rustic, right? So hip.
I could have just stopped there, but the return of spring deserves something special. I decided to up the dish with a fresh arugula and walnut pesto to add a savory bite to the sweet carrots. It was a super quick pesto, made with arugula, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and parmesan. The combination was pretty flawless.
And just when you think a dish can’t get any better, put a poached egg on top. It almost never fails. Runny yolks are magical. This is great if you want the carrots/pesto to stand on their own as a meal rather than a side dish.
Nutritional Highlights: It’s hard to beat carrots in terms of nutrition. They give you about 200% of your daily vitamin A needs (via beta carotene), plus fiber, biotin, and and vitamin K to name a few. Carrots may help maintain eye health, and may prevent against cancer and heart disease. Also, if you buy organic carrots, you don’t even have to peel them, just wash and scrub off any stringy parts, which is awesome for the lazy chef like I am these days. Argugula is the other big nutritional star here. It is super low cal like most greens, but has a delicious peppery flavor and is packed with phytochemicals and folate. Walnuts in the pesto add healthy fat and a delicious nutty flavor.
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto

For the Roasted Carrots:
2 pounds organic rainbow carrots (or the regular orange guys)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pesto:
3 cups packed arugula leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, a few reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, plus a little extra for garnish
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Wash and scrub carrots but no need to peel if they are organic. Dry them off and lay out onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2T olive oil and rub so all the carrots are coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
3. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your carrots are, until slightly soft and browned.
4. While carrots are roasting, make your pesto. Combine the first 6 ingredients and pulse to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil and water, adding a litte extra if you think it is too thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. When carrots have finished roasting, lay them on on a serving dish and top with a scoop of the pesto across the center. Garnish with additional toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Enjoy this amazing side and the return of Spring (finally!!).

**You’ll probably have extra pesto. I assure you this is a great thing. You can spread it on toast, top fish or chicken with it, toss pasta in it, or eat it with a spoon. Trust me, you’ll find a way to use it!