Apr 182014
 

Eastover is here again! For those of you that don’t know, it’s an official holiday that happens when you are half Jewish/half Catholic and Passover and Easter overlap. During Eastover, it is essential that you create hybrid Passover-Easter foods (think pastel-egg shaped matzo balls, etcetera). I decided to combine my favorite passover dessert with my favorite Easter dessert, and thus the Carrot-Cake Macaroon Nest was born. OK, I know it’s probably holiday hybrid overkill, but pretty cute, right?
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Macaroons are crazy easy to make—just mix some coconut into whipped egg whites. To make the “carrot cake” version, I added shredded carrots, chopped toasted pecans, raisins, and warm spices (cinnamon/nutmeg). Instead of the usual ball shaped macaroons, I pushed my thumb into the middle to make it nest like, and then added a tiny bit of creamcheese frosting and a few “eggs” which can be jelly beans, Jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, or any other egglike candy.
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Nutritional highlights: I’ll keep it short and sweet, since you know that when it comes to holidays I don’t think we need to be counting every calorie. But, as compared to other cookies, I would say these are a definite improvement. They have shredded carrots for beta carotene, pecans and coconut for protein, and no additional sweeteners beyond the coconut and raisins. Egg whites are the binder which are very low in fat and calories.  Plus, macaroons are a great gluten free dessert for the glutards of the world.
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Carrot Cake Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 16 cookies
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What’s in them:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted (walnuts or pecans are great)
  • Optional: ¼ cup raisins (if you like raisins in your carrot cake)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Notes: if you are keeping passover, double check that your ingredients are OK (vanilla extract is often made with grain alcohol).
Also, these macaroons are not super sweet—many other recipes add additional granulated sugar, but I left it out. Feel free to add a bit if you want a sweeter macaroon.

For nests:
Cream cheese frosting, optional (I mixed 4 oz cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar to create the glue to hold the “eggs” in place)
Something to serve as eggs—jelly beans, jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, etc

How to make them:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat with a whisk until mixture turns becomes frothy and begins to stiffen. Fold in remaining ingredients (coconut, carrots, nuts, raisins).  Try not stir too aggressively or the egg whites will lose their stiffness.
  3. With wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the coconut mixture into small balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Space them an inch or so apart on the baking sheet. I made balls first, then went back and pressed an indentation in to the center to make it a nest.
  4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (insides should be soft but outsides should be just firm). Cool completely before removing from cookie sheets.
  5. While macaroons are cooling, in medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese and powdered sugar with whisk until no longer lumpy, adding more powdered sugar or milk to reach drizzling consistency. If desired, pour glaze into decorating bag.
  6. Once completely cool, spoon a teaspoon of the frosting into the center of the nest and top with 3 jelly bean eggs. Enjoy this festive Eastover treat!

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I hope everyone has a healthy, happy Passover, Easter, or Eastover!
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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!



Jun 192013
 
I have a new theory:  The most dangerous time when you’re trying to be healthy is snack time.  Meals are more straightforward for me—am I eating a lot of produce, whole grains and protein?  Did it not come from a drive through window or a delivery man who remembers my name because I’ve been calling so much?  Then I’m probably doing pretty well.  But snack time is another story.  When you’re on the go or busy at work and you need a snack, it the options can be limited.  Most vending machines are filled with chips and cookies and even if you have a granola bar on hand, that may be secretly packed with sugar and processed ingredients.  So, one of my new favorite go-to snacks are roasted chickpeas.  You can make savory and spicy varieties or you can make sweet versions like these Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Chickpeas.  Either way, they are portable, healthy, easy to make, and won’t leave you with a guilty snack food hangover afterward. 



 I stole this recipe from my friend Kori at Paint and Tofu and it was such a yummy and easy one.  I’ve only tried savory roasted chickpeas in the past (because I am usually a salty over sweet craver, although I try not to discriminate).  It’s a great substitute if you love candied nuts, because it still gives you that sweet crunchiness but without all the fat and thick sugary coating that they often have.
Nutritional Highlights:  This is a great vegan and gluten free snack option.  As you all probably know, chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans) are packed with protein and fiber so this snack will keep you full longer.  I have to confess that there is still some sugar in this recipe, but only a small amount.  If you’re watching out for sugar, try a savory version like chili powder, lime, and garlic powder. 

 



Roasted Cinnamon-Sugar Chickpeas
Recipe Adapted from Paint and Tofu

Ingredients:

• 1 can (15oz) chickpeas

• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

• 2 teaspoons cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
Instructions:
• Drain the chick peas and dry them well on a paper towel. Drying is very important to crispify (it’s a word) the chickpeas properly so don’t ignore this step! You can peel the skins off if you’d like…I have found that it makes them crispier but it’s also a pain in the tush so I’ve given up on it.

• In a small bowl, whisk together oil, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Add chickpeas to bowl and stir until evenly coated.

• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake for 25-30 minutes on 375 degrees.

• Shake the chickpeas around, and drizzle with agave or honey.

• Bake for another 15 minutes and let cool.


Jun 112013
 

Please see above my new favorite word (and meal).  Enchilasagna.  Definition: a delicious hybrid between lasagna and enchiladas that will leave you feeling so freaking happy.  I can’t get over how good this meal was.  It was vegan, gluten free, super healthy, and will be providing me with lunch all week long.  


It takes some time to make (since you have to roast the veggies, assemble, then bake the whole thing), but a lot of this time is inactive.  So here is how you enchilasagna (see now it’s a verb):  1.  Roast veggies seasoned with taco or fajita seasoning and combine with beans, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro.  2.  Assemble in this order- Sauce, tortillas, veggie mix, cheese.  3.  Repeat two more times.  4. Put it in the oven and get ready to be amazed.  


Nutritional Highlights:  There are so many good things about this meal.  It is a complete meal with protein from the cheese, carbs from the tortillas, and plenty of veggies.  This was also my first time trying out soy cheese and I am shocked to say, I LOVED IT!  Because of this, the recipe is vegan (or vegetarian if you use regular cheese), and gluten free, and I think that meat eaters would still love it!


Roasted Enchilasagna, AKA  Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

Yield: Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

1 large red pepper, chopped, seeds removed
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon taco or fajita seasoning
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 cups red enchilada sauce (I used low sodium salsa instead since the enchilada sauce at my store had so much salt!)
8-10 small corn tortillas, halved
1.5 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used Trader Joe’s shredded Soy Cheese…so good I mean it!!)
Garnish:  Sliced avocado and tomato

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and onion on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until vegetables are coated. Season with taco seasnoing. Roast vegetables for 30 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool to room temperature (PS, I didn’t let my veggies cool cuz I was hungry and nothing terrible happened). 
2. Grease an 8×8 square baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine roasted vegetables, black beans, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro. Stir and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
3. Spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce or salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortillas, to completely cover the bottom of the pan. You might have to cut the tortillas to make them fit. Top with 1/3 of the vegetable/bean mixture and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, enchilada sauce, vegetables/beans, and cheese. Top with with a layer of tortillas, enchilada sauce, vegetables/beans, and cheese. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the pan.
4. Bake enchiladas for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are bubbling. Remove enchiladas from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.
Enjoy! (Promise you will!)
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!
Apr 202013
 

Spring has sprung, and so has my annual spring cold (womp womp).  Apparently “spring fever” isn’t just a phrase?  Instead of enjoying the blossoming flowers and frolicking in the sunshine, I’ve been laying in bed coughing my brains out.  But today it was so great out that I loaded up on cough syrup and took a walk to the farmers market and grabbed some amazing spring produce for a spring minestrone.  


My favorite of these ingredients is this–green garlic.  So gorgeous and so much garlicy flavor.  In addition to the garlic, this soup has asparagus, peas, artichoke hearts, purple potatoes, carrots, swiss chard, green onions, and chickpeas.  You can honestly use any combo of veggies you want, that’s what I like so much about minestrone.  The soup came together in less than an hour, and was so fresh and flavorful. 

Nutritional:  I may have potentially discovered the cure for the common cold with this one.  It’s so packed with nutrients that you body will be all like “bring it on cold, I got this”.  This recipe (before I added the pesto crostini) is also gluten free and vegan.        


Spring Minestrone 
adapted from Simply Recipes
(Serves 4-6)

Feel free to add or remove any vegetables per your preferences!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 green onions
  • 3 green garlic stalks, or 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound baby potatoes, or Yukon gold potatoes cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound artichoke hearts (fresh or frozen), chopped roughly
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups greens (dandelion, chard, spinach, kale, arugula, etc), sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • Optional garnishes:  grated parmesan cheese and pesto (or make whole wheat pesto crostini like I did, general instructions below)

METHOD

1 Chop the green onions and green garlic and separate the white and light green parts from the green tops. If you are using regular garlic cloves, put them with the white parts of the green onions. Slice the potatoes and artichoke hearts into chunks you would want to eat with a spoon.
2 In a large pot set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil for 1 minute. Add the white parts of the green onions as well as the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, stir to combine and cook 1 minute.  Add the carrots, stir to combine and cook 1 minute.  
3 Add the diced tomatoes with their liquid and the quart of vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, add salt to taste, then cover and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
4 Add the artichoke hearts and cook another 5 minutes, then add the chickpeas and green peas and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the cover from the soup and add the asparagus. Cook 2 minutes. Add the greens, basil, and the green parts from the green onions and green garlic, if using. Stir well to combine and cook 1 minute.
5 Turn off the heat and serve topped with grated cheese (and along side pesto crostini!).
 
For the pesto crostini, preheat oven to 400.  Bake whole grain baguette slices for about 10 minutes until crispy, turning once.  Spread each piece with pesto and sprinkle with parmesan (and red pepper flakes if you want).  Switch oven to broil and return to the oven for 2 minutes so parmesan melts.  Serve along with the soup.  
 
Happy Spring!



Apr 072013
 

Whenever I look at recipe websites, the top searches are always for chicken recipes.  Chicken breasts are healthy, relatively inexpensive, and very versatile, but I’m just gonna come out there and say it…they can also be pretty LAME.  Sure, plain grilled chicken is healthy, but it gets boring fast, so I try to mix up my chicken recipes as much as possible.  I love chicken piccata at italian restaurants, but it can be really unhealthy and is often breaded and fried in a thick sauce.  This version isn’t breaded at all, and is sauteed quickly with a light sauce of lemon, capers, white wine, and garlic.  Very simple and quick but very tasty.  

 
The key to making this an especially quick meal is to pound your chicken breasts out very thin or cut them in half lengthwise.  I didn’t do a great job with this because I got a little lazy with my pounding, but when I make this again I’ll be sure to do it!  The process is really easy…just brown the chicken, set aside, and make the sauce quickly in the same pan. You can serve this with almost any sides you like, but I made whole wheat pasta with artichokes hearts, spinach,   red onion and fresh tomatoes to go with the mediterranean theme of the meal.  
 
Nutritional Highlights:  Although I don’t eat a ton of meat these days, when I do it’s usually chicken. Chicken breasts (try to get organic if you can) are incredibly lean and high in protein.  If you serve this recipe with a whole grain and a vegetable (like my veggie pasta here) you have a perfectly balance meal!
 
Chicken Piccata
adapted from Closet Kitchen

Ingredients
  • – 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • – 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • – 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • – 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • – 1 lemon, juice and 1 lemon, sliced
  • – 1 teaspoon honey
  • – 2 tablespoons capers
  • – 1 tablespoon butter
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side and set aside.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  4. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze it.
  5. Add the broth, lemon juice, honey and capers in the pan and simmer until the liquids have reduce by half, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper, mix in the parsley, return chicken to pan and toss to coat.  Top with thin lemon slices and additional chopped parsley and serve.  
Enjoy!