Aug 302015
 

Summer produce is at it’s absolute best right now. I think you would have to actually try hard to make something bad when you’re working with such great produce. This meal was the result of a trip to the farmers market, a random assortment of veggies that ended up in my kitchen, and then magically turned into something incredibly tasty. Not only were the zucchini/squash noodles, tomatoes, and corn insanely fresh, I would also happily bathe in this avocado pesto. It was actually shocking there was any left after all of the taste testing, I mean “quality control” I was doing while I made it.
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I was looking for an excuse to use my awesome new spiralizer and vitamix (I swear I didn’t get married just for the appliances…) and making veggie noodles and a sauce seemed like the perfect option. This sauce is sort of a mix, or should I say beautiful union, between pesto and guacamole, made with garlic, basil, lemon juice, jalapeno, and avocado. You could call it pestamole. Or maybe guacapesto. Whatever you call it, it was the perfect topping for raw summer squash noodles and plenty of fresh toppings.
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Nutrition Highlights: Summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash) make the perfect low cal low carb base (only about 20 cal per cup) for a veggie noodle bowl. No problem if you don’t have a fancy spiralizer, you can just use a vegetable peeler or box grater for a similar effect with a little more elbow grease. The sauce, which is vegan and gluten free, has healthy fat from avocado and vitamin/mineral packed basil (especially vitamin K which helps keep the blood clot properly). You can top this summer bowl with any thing you like, but I kept this version vegetarian, adding some leftover grilled corn for healthy carbs, chickpeas for fiber/protein, spicy sunflower seeds for protein/fat, and some heirloom tomatoes. Because it’s August and there should be heirloom tomatoes in EVERYTHING. You could top this bowl with some grilled chicken or shrimp, grated parmesan, or any other vegetables you have. The possibilities are endless!
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Summer “Noodle” Bowls with Spicy Avocado Pesto
makes 3-4 servings
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For the avocado pesto:
1 ripe avocado
Juice from 1-2 lemons
2 small or 1 large garlic clove
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water (more as needed to thin sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the noodle bowls:
3-4 summer squash (yellow squash or zucchini work well)
Toppings that I used: toasted sunflower seeds, chickpeas, heirloom tomatoes, grilled corn
Other topping ideas: grilled portobello mushrooms/eggplant/peppers, grilled shrimp or chicken, fresh mozzarella or shave parmesan, quinoa or farro, the list is endless!

How to make it:
1. To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until smooth. Add additional water as needed to thin the sauce slightly. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add extra lemon or garlic if it needs an extra punch!
2. Prepare your “noodles” by using your spiralizer or box grater to noodleize (yes, that’s the techinical term) the squash.
3. Prepare your toppings. I toasted my sunflower seeds in a small frying pan with a spray of olive oil, sprinkle of chili powder, and salt to add a little extra pizzaz but already toasted/salted seeds are fine too! This is the perfect “clean out your fridge dish”, so top the bowl with any leftovers you have. Grilled corn and tomatoes are a great sweet compliment to the spicy, herbal, smooth pesto.
4. Toss the noodles in the sauce and top with rows of toppings. Enjoy this bowl of summa goodness while it’s hot (outside, not in the bowl).
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I mean does it get any better than that?
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Dec 152014
 

So you’ve been invited to a thousand holiday parties and you’ve resigned yourself to looking a little more “jolly” this holiday season. Sadly, that ugly christmas sweater doesn’t hide quite as much as you would like. Luckily, holiday parties don’t have to mean the end of your diet. A few tips:
1. Focus on dishes with fruits, veggies, and whole grains as the main ingredients.
2. Make one plate to enjoy rather than grazing the whole party.
3. Scope out the spread before digging in, so you can be selective. Indulge on the things you really love, but skip the ones your’e not dying for.

Here are a few of my favorite festive recipes for your holiday parties this year. Here’s to not having to make a new years resolution this year :)

Check out Healthy (http://www.foodie.com/6721684/collections/healthy-holiday-entertaining%22%3EHealthy) Holiday Entertaining

by Marissa (http://www.foodie.com/6172048/profiles/marissa-lubin%22%3EMarissa) Lubin at Foodie.com

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*this is a sponsored opportunity with foodie.com

Sep 112014
 

Nasu Dengaku. No, I didn’t just sneeze. It’s just the japanese name of the amazing eggplant dish I made last week. I’m saying goodbye to summer (it pains me to say those words) by having as much eggplant, tomatoes, corn and other summer delicacies as humanly possible. I never thought an eggplant dish could beat the eggplant fries I made last year, but I have to say this might have done it. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory, tender with just enough texture, and most importantly, easy.
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The one disclaimer I have to give about this recipe, is that it does require a few ingredients that you probably don’t have just lying around (unless you are a master japanese chef). I personally had never even seen miso before, and wandered aimlessly in the asian market before finally sucking up my pride and asking for guidance. Turns out it sort of looks like a paste and is often in the refrigerated section, who would have guessed? Other than a few odd ingredients, this recipe is super quick, healthy, and delicious.
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Nutritional Highlights: This dish is vegan and gluten free, and is the perfect meal for your next meatless monday (or tuesday, or wednesday, etc!). Eggplant is high in fiber, packed with several vitamins and minerals, and you can have a whole cup for only 35 calories. Eggplant also boasts high levels of phytochemicals which have antioxidant activity (aka, lower inflammation in the body and help fight off free radicals trying to wreak havock on your cells. Take that, sneaky radicals). Now what about that miso stuff? It’s actually made from fermented beans and has fiber and protein because of the legumes it is made from. Be cautious about sodium though, and buy the low sodium version if you can!
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Miso-Glazed Eggplant (Nasu Dengaku)
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What’s in it:

2 Japanese eggplants (or any type you can get your hands on!)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt
sliced scallions/green onions
sesame seeds (black or white)

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons miso
1 teaspoon agave or sugar (you can omit this for a slightly less sweet glaze)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

How to make it:

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

2. Slice your eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal lines about 1 inch apart through the flesh of the eggplant but not the skin. Do the same thing on the other angle to create a little checker board–this will allow the glaze to really get into the eggplant.

3. Lightly salt the eggplant and let it sit for a few minutes if you can (the salt helps make it tender and keeps it from getting soggy and bitter). Rub with the sesame oil and cook, cut side down on an oiled baking sheet or heavy oven safe skillet for about 15 minutes until soft and skin begins to shrivel (may less for small eggplants, more for huge ones).

4. Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a microwave save dish, mix the mirin and agave and microwave for 1-2 minutes to reduce it slightly (you can also do this in a saucepan). Mix in the miso and sesame oil.

5. Remove the eggplants from the oven and turn your oven to broil. Flip the eggplants and spread each with a hefty spoonful of the glaze. Broil for about 2-3 minutes or until glaze is browned and bubbly.

6. Top with scallions, sesame seeds, and enjoy!

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Mar 212014
 

I’m enjoying an amazingly relaxing (much needed) vacation with my family in Cabo this week! I’ll be back next week with new posts, but just wanted you to know that I’m still getting off my tush on vacation. I’ve made some great healthy lunches this week, but this one was probably the best- whole wheat quesadillas with sauteed veggies, and a side salad of corn, beans, avocado, cilantro, red pepper, and lime. So tasty!
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Nutritional Highlights: Vacation is by no means a healthy time for me (nor should it be) but you can still try to stay somewhat on track. For me, this means making breakfast and lunch in the room, and trying to sneak in a game of tennis or walk on the beach. That way I can indulge with one (or two or three) margs at dinner.

OK, back to work :)
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Dec 072013
 

You’re probably thinking that Challah French Toast isn’t the most “cook-tush” approved meal, but some occasions just warrant a little french toast. For example, if your boyfriend coordinates with your entire family, flies to Chicago the day after Thanksgiving, completely shocks you, and PROPOSES, I would say he probably deserves some french toast. Yep, that actually happened and I am so excited to say that I am engaged! So, a little Challah French Toast with Bananas and Blackberries was definitely in order.
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This is the perfect way to use up your leftover Hannukah challah…and of course, even though it was for my sweets loving fiance, I still took a few cook tush liberties to lighten it up a bit. I used mostly egg whites and vanilla soy milk, and served it with plenty of fruit. Let’s just say this morning after eating this, Jeff new he made a good decision.
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The other great thing about french toast is that it’s super easy and only takes about 20-30 minutes total. Perfect for a lazy Saturday breakfast in bed.
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Challah French Toast with Fresh Fruit 
adapted from Ina Garten (makes 8 large slices)
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What’s in it:
6 large or extra large eggs, 3 whole, 3 whites only
1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk (almond milk or regular milk will work too) *I recommend using the sweetened almond milk or soy milk because that way you don’t need to add any additional sweeteners
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large loaf challah or brioche bread (or if you want to be even more health concious, choose a whole grain loaf)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Nonstick cooking spray

To serve:
Pure maple syrup
Sliced bananas and blackberries (or other fruit of choice)
Toasted pecans or walnuts
cinnamon for dusting

How to make it:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

2. In a large shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, soy milk, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.

3. Heat griddle pan or large saute pan over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray and melt half the butter. Add the soaked bread and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven. Cook the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it’s all cooked.

4. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, sprinkle of cinnamon, and maple syrup. Enjoy!

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And here’s sneak peak at the happy couple and the lucky recipient of the french toast. But really I’m the lucky one :)
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Oct 082013
 

Pad Thai. Potentially one of the most craveable dishes in existence. But, as craveable as it is, most restaurant versions run at about 1000 calories. Is a heaping pile of noodles really worth that? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could majorly cut the calories just by swapping one ingredient? Oh yeah, I did that.
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This isn’t my first trip down spaghetti squash lane. I use it repeatedly as a noodle sub, but this has to be my favorite creation yet. Although this recipe did take a bit of time to put together due to all the components, it was well worth it. Plus, I cut out a lot of time (and about $20 in random ingredient I’ll never use again) by buying a premade sauce rather than going homemade. In addition to the noodle swap, I also loaded my version with vegetables and tofu and took it easy on the sauce. There was still all the flavor and texture I look for in pad thai and I didn’t miss the noodles at all. OK maybe a little, but definitely worth it for the extra gym time I saved.
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Nutritional Highlights: 1 serving of rice noodles (what you typically find in pad thai) has 190 calories, and let’s be honest, you’re probably eating 2 servings so let’s call that 380. Two cups of spaghetti squash is about 60 calories. I’m no math expert, but that’s a pretty big difference. You can add any vegetables and lean protein you’d like (tofu, chicken, or shrimp are great), but I kept my version veg. [Insert my typical cutting back on animal products rant here.]
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Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai with Tofu and Vegetables
makes 4 servings
adapted from Shared Appetite
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What’s in it:
1 medium-sized spaghetti squash (about 3-4 pounds)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, I used half peanut half canola
Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs (optional, I omitted this to keep mine vegan)
1 (15-ounce) package firm or extra firm tofu, water pressed out and diced*
1 red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cups bean sprouts
6 scallions, sliced
Other optional veggies: I added a cup of sliced white mushrooms, but broccoli, peapods, or any others you like would work as well
4 tablespoons Pad Thai sauce, more to taste**
1/3 cup peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
*you could alternatively use chicken or shrimp if you’re not a tofu fan
**I used a jarred pad thai sauce to save some time but check out the original recipe link above to see the full sauce recipe if you want to go homemade

How to make it:

1. Cook the spaghetti squash: Preheat your oven to 375 F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half with a large, sharp knife. Remove seeds and stringy guts, and brush the cut sides of the squash with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place spaghetti squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 45-60 minutes. While the squash is cooking, you can prep all your other ingredients.

To test if your squash is done, scrap the flesh with a fork. If the strands come off easily, it’s done. Let the cooked spaghetti squash cool for about 5 minutes, then scrape all the flesh into a beautiful pile of spaghetti strands. Set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil (I did 1T peanut oil 1T canola oil) in a wok or large skillet over high/medium-high heat. Once oil is nice and hot, add tofu and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until tofu is lightly browned on all sides. Remove tofu and set aside.

3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Once hot, add red onions and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions (and any other veggies) to pan and cook for about 3 minutes.

3.5 (If using eggs, the original recipe says this: Move the mixture to one side of the pan, crack the eggs and add them to the other side. Scramble the egg with a wooden spoon and cook until just set, about 30 seconds. Combine into the Pad Thai mixture.)

4. Return the cooked tofu to the pan with 4 tablespoons of the Pad Thai sauce and stir.

5. Add cooked spaghetti squash and gently toss everything together and cook for 1-2 minutes. Taste and if Pad Thai needs more flavor, stir in a little extra sauce.

6. Serve Pad Thai immediately with lime wedges, chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

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I reiterate, make this.
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