Oct 012013
 

Summer seems to be taking one last stand in NYC this week, and with highs in the 80’s it’s going out with a bang. So I thought it was a great opportunity to get in one last cold sweet treat. But let’s be honest here…it doesn’t have to be warm for me to want a cold sweet treat (the fro yo place around the corner that knows me by name and topping preferences can verify this). But why spend $5 on frozen yogurt when you can make your own adorable, tasty, and natural pops.
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Money isn’t the only thing you’ll save on these. Instead of the processed who knows what that goes into your frozen yogurt, this has only a few (relatively) natural and (pretty) healthy components. I can count the ingredients in these babies (literal/figurative) on one hand- soy milk, nutella, bananas, dark chocolate. Hey, I even have a thumb to spare.
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Nutritional Highlights: These are gluten free and almostttt vegan (my chocolate-hazelnut spread has some skim milk in it, darn). The main component is banana, followed by soy milk (or milk of your choice), with just a hint of nutella and a thin chocolate layer. Plus, if you make these in small cups like I did they are a perfectly acceptable dessert portion (which I cannot say when I am left to my own devices at a do it yourself fro yo joint). As far as desserts go, these are a pretty good choice!
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Banana Nutella Popsicles
number varies based on the size of your cups/popsicle molds
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What’s in it:
3 ripe bananas (2 for the pops, 1 for the slices on top)
1/3 cup nutella or chocolate-hazelnut spread
2/3 cup vanilla soy milk
optional: 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

How to make it:
1. Arrange 6-8 plastic dixie cups on a plate or tray (make sure it’s one that will fit into your freezer). Slice one of the bananas into 1/2 inch slices and place one in the bottom of each cup. Put in the freezer while you make the pop mix.
2. In a blender, combine the remaining bananas, nutella and soy milk. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour mixture into the dixie cups and press a popsicle stick into each (it will stand upright if you push it partially into the banana at the bottom). Return to the freezer for about an hour so it begins to freeze.
4. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave. Spoon a thin layer of melted chocolate onto each popsicle. Return to the freezer until pops are completely frozen. Enjoy!
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Sep 112013
 

I cook so often, that it is relatively rare that I use an ingredient I never have used before. Well, this was an exception. This was my very first scallop endeavour, and I have to say it went pretty darn well. Not sure why I was scared of the little guys. Maybe it was the risk of overcooking, or the need to get the perfectly seared crust, but either way I discovered there’s nothing to be afraid of (except maybe the price tag).
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I also used this recipe as an excuse to get a last use of my favorite summer ingredients-corn and tomatoes. This succotash was incredibly flavorful and was the perfect base for my scallops. See you next year cute little cherry tomatoes from the farmers market…I’ll miss you more than you know.
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Nutritional Highlights: Scallops are really high in protein, selenium, phosphorus, and B12. This B12 is especially important because it helps protect our cardiovascular system from damage by converting this bad chemical (homocystine) into something harmless. Pretty impressive, huh? Corn and tomatoes are also packed with nutrients like vitamin C. Serve this dish along with a little salad and you have a super healthy summer meal.
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Seared Scallops with Tomato-Corn Succotash
adapted from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Serves 4
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What’s in it:

  • 2lb scallops (ask for dry scallops!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 5 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus 3 leaves julienned for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon butter

How to Make it:
1. Rinse the scallops under cold water and place between paper towels so they will dry completely. (Note: make sure you buy DRY scallops, because these will be the only kind to get a great sear).

2. Meanwhile, make your succotash. In large nonstick or cast iron skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame. Saute the onion slowly until translucent and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and corn and continue to saute until the corn is bright yellow and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for another few minutes until the corn is beginning to caramelize. Turn the heat down to low and add the tomatoes. Stir slowly until the tomatoes heated through, but have not begun to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon and the basil off the heat, and transfer to a platter.
NOTE: the corn can be served warm or at room temperature if you want to make it in advance.

3. Clean out skillet and heat one tablespoon of olive oil over a high flame. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the butter. Gently pat the scallops with a paper towel to make sure they are nice and dry and season them with salt on one side. When the butter is melted and the pan is smoking, add the scallops, making sure not to crowd the pan (you may need to do this in 2 or 3 batches). Turn the pan to keep the butter and oil evenly distributed, but DO NOT move the scallops until they have properly browned, about 2-3 minutes depending on the size of your scallops. When they have a good sear (dark brown crust), flip them and cook for another minute. The scallops should still be slightly translucent in the center–if they are opaque throughout, they will likely be overcooked by the time you serve them. Remove finished scallops to the corn platter, making sure to put the beautiful seared side facing up. Repeat with the remaining scallops.

4. Place scallops over the succotash, squeeze a little extra lemon juice over the scallops and garnish with julienned basil. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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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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Aug 252013
 

Happy Birthday to me! Yep, yesterday was the day that I officially became closer to 30 than I am to 20. Since 26 sounds like such an adult age to me, I thought what better way to celebrate than by making a delicious adult beverage?IMG_6651Like any good foodie’s birthday should be, mine was a weekend full of amazing food.  It began on Friday with a 20+ course meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (best meal of my life) where everything we ate came directly from the farm.  Then Saturday consisted of a blueberry mojito pregame followed by a great tapas dinner at ABC Cocina.  In case that wasn’t enough, Sunday included a brunch at Back Forty with all my girl friends, one of which being Erica of ericasweettooth.com.  Needless to say, she did not come empty handed, but brought a cake made of stacked peanut-butter-banana cookies with chocolate and toffee chips, caramel frosting, and caramelized banana topping.  Gotta say this might have been one of the best birthdays yet!  I am one lucky girl :)

ImageSo back to the mojitos.  They were AMAZING.  I’m not going to give nutritional highlights, because hey, we all know booze isn’t the best for you, but I will say that integrating fresh fruit into your cocktails (like blueberries and limes) and sticking with mostly soda water as the mixer does cut back on the sugar and calories significantly.  I definitely recommend trying these out for your labor day celebrations.

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Fresh Blueberry Mojitos
for 1 pitcher with about 6 servings
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What’s in it:

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 limes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups white rum (depending on how festive you’re feeling)
  • 3 to 4 cups soda water
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, plus a few extras to garnish each glass

How to make it:

  1. Start by making your blueberry simple syrup.  Do this earlier in the day so it has time to cool.  In a small saucepan, add sugar and water and bring to a simmer.  Stir until sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Transfer the syrup to a blender and add 1 cup of the fresh blueberries.  Pulse until blueberries are mostly blended but still a little chunky.  Transfer blueberry syrup to a jar or tupperware and refrigerate.
  3. When you’re ready to make the cocktails, juice 5 of the limes into the bottom of the pitcher.  Cut the 6th lime into wedges or rounds to garnish your glasses with.
  4. Add 1/2 cup mint leaves and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries and muddle using a pestle of another blunt object you can come up with.  This will release all that great mint flavor and crush the blueberries.
  5. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup of the blueberry simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it), the rum, and soda water.  Stir.
  6. In each glass, put a few ice cubes, mint leaves, and fresh blueberries in the bottom and a lime wedge on the rim.  Pour the mojito mixture into the glasses and enjoy!

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Aug 192013
 

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

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

How to make it:

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

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

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



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!