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.
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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!
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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
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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!!
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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!

Jul 102014
 

Ever get into a breakfast rutt? Are you a serial cereal eater? Do you wish your toast was toast? Looking to scramble your egg routine a bit? (Insert additional breakfast puns here). I find that more than any other meal, I am a creature of habit and often go months eating the exact same breakfast. For the past several months for me this has been cereal with almond milk, berries/banana, and cinnamon. A great breakfast, but I was looking for a change. I decided to go the savory route with these super healthy, protein-packed quinoa, veggie, and egg bites.
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A few great things about this recipe. 1) It’s the perfect refrigerator clean out recipe. You can pretty much throw in any type of vegetable or cheese and these will turn out great. 2) It’s easy to make and makes 6 servings so you’re set for the whole week. 3) These are SO healthy…stay tunes for more on that…
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Nutritional highlights: If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast you really can’t do much better than that. The bulk of these muffins are veggies and quiona, which provide tons of vitamins and protein. A few eggs to bind it together adds even more protein and some healthy fats. I used 2 egg whites and 2 whole eggs because the bulk of the nutrients in the egg are actually in the yolk (like B vitamin choline). Plus, contrary to popular belief, even though the yolk is high-ish in dietary cholesterol, it doesn’t actually seem to increase our blood cholesterol. So why not use all whole eggs? Of course you could, but to keep the calories in check I went with half and half. And two of these little cups are only 150 calories! That with a piece of fruit and a coffee (or two or three, oops) is the perfect breakfast.
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Mini Summer Vegetable & Quinoa Frittatas
makes 12 muffins (6, 2 muffin servings)
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What’s in it:
1/2 cup dry quinoa cooked in 3/4 cups water
1 leek, chopped
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (I used zucchini, yellow squash, and baby portobella mushrooms)
2 egg whites and 2 whole eggs
1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk but any type you have works)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with olive oil spray.
2. Get your quinoa cooking. Note: Your quinoa box/bag probably says to use a (1:2 ratio), ie 1 cup of water for a 1/2 cup quinoa, but I like it to have a little bite and not be too mushy. But prepare according to your preferences!
3. While quinoa is cooking, saute your vegetables. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat and add your chopped leeks. Saute for 1 minute and then add your other chopped vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5-8 minutes until the vegetables a softened and slightly browned. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, whole eggs, and milk. Add cooked quiona and vegetables and spoon into your prepared muffin tin. Top with three cherry tomato slices each and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for about 10 minutes or until frittatas are cooked through.
6. Enjoy hot or cold for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Notes:
1) This is more of a quiona-veggie muffin than it is a true frittata. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy and eggy, use more egg and less quinoa/veggies.
2) Feel free to swap any type of vegetable or cheese that you like.
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Here’s to switching up your breakfast routine this summer!
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Jun 302014
 

If you’re anything like me, there’s really no such thing as summer “vacation” anymore. If your summer has been as busy as mine has been, and you’re looking for literally the easiest possible festive 4th of July treat, here it is. There is no culinary skill needed here, just some delicious red and blue fruit, skewers, and if you want to get fancy, a drizzle of honeyed greek yogurt and a sprinkling of roasted coconut chips.
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Every 4th of July BBQ or picnic needs some fruit, and this recipe takes your average fruit salad or mundane watermelon wedges to the next level. You can get creative by cutting the fruit into different shapes and it could even be a fun activity for your kids (hey, if you have kids, why not put them to work, right?).
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Nutritional Highlights: Berries are in their peak season right now, which means they have the highest level of vitamins. Berries get their bright color from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which also decreases inflammation. Another antioxidant in berries, quercetin, may help slow age-related memory-loss and also reduces inflammation, especially in the joints. Vitamin C is another big highlight of berries powerhouse nutritional profile, which is also a strong antioxidant and has many powerful effects in the body. Basically, fruit is good for you! Crazy idea, I know. This is a great way to make fruit a little bit more fun, so everyone will enjoy it this 4th of July.
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Patriotic Fruit Kebabs with Honey-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
– Red and Blue fruit of your choice!
blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and watermelon all work well for this!
– Mini wooden skewers
– 6 oz plain greek yogurt
– 1 tablespoon honey or agave
– Toasted coconut or roasted coconut chips for garnish

How to make it:
1. Cut your strawberries and watermelon into the shapes of your choosing. Leave small berries whole. Skewer in different patterns onto your wooden skewers.
2. Mix the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon or tiny bit of vanilla extra if you’d like.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the yogurt into a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny tiny piece off of the bottom corner. Use this to squeeze a drizzle of the yogurt over the fruit kebabs.
4. Sprinkle with coconut chips and serve along side the remaining yogurt dip.
5. Oh say can you see…how easy that recipe is?
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Here’s to a happy and healthy 4th!
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Jun 202014
 

OK so maybe I’m not quite Jiro (yet), but I did finally learn how to make sushi! Sushi making has been on the “things I want to learn how to do” list for quite some time, so I decided to sign Jeff and me up for a class with Sushi by Simon. Not only was the class hands on and super fun (the drink tickets didn’t hurt either), but I also walked away feeling confident that good sushi is something I can do at home. Andddd so can you! (PS pardon the low lighting photos in this post).
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There are only a few special tools/ingredients you need for sushi making. The first is a sushi mat, which are very cheap and easy to find. We were told to cover it in plastic wrap to save the trouble of picking out rice from in between the grates later–great call. Second is not required, but encouraged–a rice cooker. Perfectly cooked and seasoned rice is the key to sushi success, so it might be worth buying a small one, although you can get away with stove top rice if need be. Third, and almost as important and amazing fresh ingredients and sushi grade fish. Most super markets probably won’t have sushi grade fish, so you may want to find a specialty market in your are. Be sure to ask your fish counter for sushi grade fish and tell them your sushi making plans–they will cut it differently than if you were going to sear a tuna steak. In addition to the tuna and salmon, we also used avocado, cucumber, pickled daikon (it’s a type of radish that looks kind of like a white carrot), masago (the orange fish eggs), and black sesame seeds.
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Now check out this rolling technique. I need you all to know that this is literally the first time I have seen Jeff cook in our six years together (no, easy mac does not count). I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed.
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A brief overview on rolling techniques here but you’ve really just got to try it out yourself. For standard maki (seaweed on the outside), line your HALF piece of seaweed long ways along the bottom edge of the mat (closest to you). Spread a layer of rice (using wetted fingers so it doesn’t stick to much) on the bottom 3/4 of the sheet of seaweed. You leave about 1 inch along the top with no rice to help in the rolling process. You then lay your ingredients long ways in the middle of the rice. As tough as it will be, don’t put too much in there or you will have a rolling disaster. Then put your thumbs under the mat and your other fingers on top of the ingredients to hold them in place. Roll the mat up, over, and down over the ingredients, creating a little rectangular box and applying some pressure to make sure it is tight. Then do it again to finish the roll. Here’s the first one we made–a simple cucumber roll which was great to get the technique down.
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For inside out rolls (rice on outside) the process is similar. Start by putting the same amount of rice on the seaweed and put on anything else you want on the outside like sesame seeds/masago. Then flip the sheet so the seaweed is on top and the riceless portion is at the bottom of your mat closest to you. Put your ingredients on this riceless portion and then roll the same way as before. Serve it along with soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi, and, if you must, spicy mayo. A little etiquette I didn’t know about sushi condiments. You’re not really supposed to mix your wasabi into your soy, but rather just put a little bit right on the roll. Ginger isn’t supposed to be eaten with the sushi but between pieces as a palate cleanser. Last, spicy mayo is just something Americans made up (duh), and it’s essentially mayo + srirarcha. Sounds like a lot of rules, but I say if you’re making sushi at home, screw it and do what you want!
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Nutritional highlights: Making sushi at home can be super healthy because you have control over the ingredients. You can use mostly veggies and healthy fish–no shrimp tempura here! You can also use a thin layer of rice rather than a ton, and substitute brown rice for standard white rice. The fish used are high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids (especially the salmon). Sushi is gluten free (as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce) and can easily be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the fish and loading up on veggies. Feel free to get creative and use a variety of raw and cooked ingredients and see what you can come up with!
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And here’s the required awkward selfie from sushi class. And guess who made which hand roll?
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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.
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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.
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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!
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If this doesn’t look like summer, than I don’t know what does.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
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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).
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Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)
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