Jul 042012
 

Happy 4th of July!! I’m celebrating with these festive jello shots.  No packaged jello here…just fresh fruit, juice, gelatin (and of course a hefty portion of vodka).  

I love jello shots for a party, but don’t love the regular jello options–either you have the one thats packed with sugar or the sugar-free one that is packed with a million fake ingredients.  I used pureed strawberries in the bottom half and lemonade, seltzer, and whole blueberries in the top half.  These are also infinitely adaptable…you can use any type of fruit, juice, and alcohol you like as long as you keep it in the right gelatin/liquid ratio. 



For the mold I used silicone ice cube trays to pop them out more easily (but this was till the most challenging part of the endeavor and there were a few casualties).  These are the perfect way to celebrate the 4th of July or really any event!





Red, White, and Booze Jello Shots!


Ingredients (this is will fill about 1 ice cube tray so double if you want more): 

  • 2/3 cup vodka (divided)
  • 2/3 cup lemonade (divided)
  • 1/3 cup pureed strawberries (I put about 2/3 cup of strawberries in my food processor and blended until smooth)
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup lemon-lime soda or seltzer
  • 2 packets plain gelatin
  • Optional: whipped cream and extra berries for garnish
Instructions.

Spray the ice cube tray with a little cooking spray and wipe with a paper towel (this will help get them out of the mold).

For the strawberry half:  Pour 1/3 cup of vodka and pureed strawberries in a bowl.  Sprinkle with one packet of gelatin.  Let this sit while you microwave 1/3 cup of lemonade until it is boiling (1 minute).  Pour into the other ingredients and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.  Fill ice cube trays halfway with this mixture and put into the fridge for an hour or freezer for about 20 minutes. 

For the blueberry lemonade half:  Pour 1/3 cup vodka and 1/3 cup seltzer or soda into a bowl.  Sprinkle with the second packet of gelatin.  Again, microwave the 1/3 cup of lemonade until boiling and stir into the mixture.  Take the mold out of the fridge or freezer and place 2-3 blueberries in each.  Then pour in the lemonade vodka mixture.  Put in fridge for about 2 hours or overnight.  

Carefully remove from mold using a knife.  You can top them with a little bit of whipped cream or just enjoy them as is.  Happy 4th!!
Jun 292012
 

Every food blogger has a running list of things they want to make.  Fish tacos has been on my list for, well, maybe a year.  I kept hesitating because I needed them to be totally perfect and I just couldn’t settle on the right recipe.  Finally I decided to take the plunge and I can honestly say these were everything I wanted them to be and more.  Spicy sauteed fish, a sweet and creamy mango-avocado salsa, a crisp red cabbage slaw and a chipotle lime greek yogurt crema.  I’m honestly getting hungry again just writing this post.   
This is the kind of dish that you could make for a summer dinner party and really impress your guests (hint hint…4th of July is right around the corner), or just something you could make any night of the week.  It takes a little bit of prep work to prepare each component, but overall this really didn’t take too long to make.  It’s worth the effort because each component comes together so perfectly to make a light and flavorful fish taco.

 

Nutritional Highlights:  This is an incredibly healthy meal as well.  The protein is a lean white fish (such as tilapia, red snapper, halibut, mahi mahi…really anything you like).  You get healthy fat from the avocado, fiber and vitamins from the mango, and cruciferous veggie magic from the red cabage.  Plus, while a lot of recipes use heavy sour cream or heavy cream to make the crema, I mixed lowfat sour cream with some fat free greek yogurt to give you the creamy tang without all the fat.  Corn tortillas are also much lower in calories than flour tortillas so always opt for corn if you can (plus, they’re just way better with this recipe). 

Fish Tacos with Mango-Acovado relish, Red Cabbage Slaw, and Chipotle Lime “Crema”

Tip: prepare the 3 toppings first and prepare the fish immediately prior to eating
For the fish tacos (adapted from Chris Santos )

  • Grapeseed oil for sautéing
  • 1 pound red snapper, tilapia, catfish or wild striped bass fillets, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (I just used regular chili powder)
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced (not a whole can…just one pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • corn tortillas for serving

Preparation of the fish: Place sautée pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil for sautéing. Add the fish, then the remaining ingredients one at a time. Remove from heat when cooked through.
For the Avocado-Mango Relish: combine all below ingredients and set aside (can be done a few hours early)

  • 1 avocados, diced
  • ½ jalapeño, minced  
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 mango, diced

Red Cabbage Slaw: combine all below ingredients and set aside (can be done a few hours early)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Chipotle-Lime Yogurt Crema: combine all below ingredients and set aside (can be done a few hours early)

  • 2 Tablespoons low fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fat free greek yogurt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle in adobo sauce 
 

Assembly:  Warm your corn tortillas (I did this by placing between two damp paper towels and microwaving for 15-20 seconds).  Construct your perfect taco by placing some fish in first, topping with avocado-mago relish, then slaw, and then a drizzle of the crema.  Enjoy these amazing tacos and be seriously impressed with yourself! 

Jun 212012
 
Things that I really really love:  sandwiches and pizza.  So why not make a sandwich out of pizza (aka, a calzone)? And why not try to make it semi-healthy by using whole wheat dough, healthy fillings, and low fat cheeses?  Well I couldn’t think of a single reason, so I went ahead and did it.  Not only were they super fun to make, they also have infinite filling options to please any one.  You can make mini calzones as an impressive app or full sizers for a healthy and filling dinner.  For mine, I used broccoli rabe, turkey sausage, and white beans, and a creamy lowfat cheese mixture.   You will not regret entering the calzone zone, I promise.
 

It wasn’t the quickest meal I’ve ever made, have to be up front about that.  You have to first cook your filling ingredients, mix the cheese, roll out the dough, and construct these cute little pockets.  But to me it was so worth it.  Here’s a close-up of the filling.  I could have stopped right there and just eaten the filling it was that good.  But I was on a mission.

And here’s the best part…the construction.  I love crafting more than the average person, so this put me right in my happy place.  Once you top your pizza dough rounds, you fold over half and seal it either by making little pleats in the dough or going around the edges and pressing together with a fork.  Add slits for ventilation and pop um in a super hot oven to get golden brown.  Enjoy your healtified pizza-wich (or what a normal person might call a calzone).

Nutritional Highlights:  This is a perfectly balanced meal in a cute little pocket.  The filling has lean protein from the turkey sausage, more protein/fiber/healthy carbs from the white beans, and all the powerhouse vitamins from the broccoli rabe.  By using lowfat cheeses and using a small amount, I didn’t add too much fat to the dish.  The whole wheat dough, rolled out thinly, is full of fiber and healthy whole grains.  Serve with a salad and you’ve got yourself a healthy and satisfying meal that even the pickiest people will enjoy. 


Broccoli Rabe, White Bean, and Turkey Sausage Calzones


Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat pizza dough (I buy from my favorite pizzaria but many grocery stores sell it too)
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 12 oz), stalks trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz turkey italian sausage (I used the spicy kind!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
  • 1 cup skim or part skim ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • marinara sauce for serving
Directions:

For the filling:  In a large sautee pan over medium high heat, remove turkey sausage from casings, break up, and cook until browned.  Set turkey sausage aside.  In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat and add the sliced garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant and add in the broccoli rabe.  Cook down the broccoli rabe for about 5 minutes, or until tender.  Add the white beans and season the mixture with salt and pepper.  Add your browned sausage back in.  

For the cheese mixture:  In a separate bowl, mix the shredded mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, and egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 500 with the pizza stone inside if you have one.  Cut your dough into about 6 even portions.  Sprinkle a large flat surface with flour and roll out each dough piece into a very thin round, about 9 inch diameter.  Spread on the cheese onto each round, leaving about an inch around the edge without any cheese.  Then top half of the cheese with a scoop of the sausage/broccoli/white bean mixture.  Fold half of the round over the filling and pleat the edges to seal the calzone shut.  Repeat with the rest of the calzones.  Brush the top of the calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Cut a few slits in the top of the calzone. 

Carefully transfer to your hot pizza stone and cook for about 12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes and serve along with some marinara sauce.  Enjoy calzones at home!

Jun 032012
 

The benefit to having the worlds best baking blogger, Erica Sweet Tooth, as your best friend–she makes something absurdly delicious for every important occasion (see: my giant s’more birthday cake).  But that means, that when something huge happens to her, such as, oh I don’t know, getting engaged, someone has to step up and bake for her.  And although homemade sugar cookies with royal icing aren’t a standard cook-tush activity, to celebrate this great couple’s engagement, I made one of Erica’s own recipes, and decorated them in a lovey engagement theme in her signature colors.  Congratulations Erica and Ryan!!!





I’m not going to tell you this was a quick and easy process,  but it was worth it for the beautiful results.  And when you have a friend as amazing and thoughtful as Erica, it’s not hard to take a little extra time to make something special for her.





And here they are, the happy couple.  Or maybe not 100% happy, because I’m forcing Ryan to put one of my cookie rings on Erica’s hand while I take a picture.





Check out the recipe I used over on Erica’s blog: http://www.ericasweettooth.com/2009/12/snowflake-sugar-cookies.html.  I can’t exactly endorse any health benefits of this recipe, but who cares, it’s a special occasion and we’re going to celebrate with lots of sugar and butter!  Congratulations to Erica and Ryan!!



May 312012
 

In typical New York fashion, the weather has been completely unpredictable.  Pouring one day, beautiful the next, and it’s latest mood–way way too hot for the end of May.  When it gets hot, I crave salads.  I wanted to make a refreshing side for my memorial day cook-out in, and  I actually could smell the strawberries in the produce section before I even saw them, so I had to get them.  With Strawberries, Farro (or your favorite grain), Feta, Spinach, and Balsamic vinaigrette, this salad takes almost no time to prepare and is still impressive enough for your cook-out/in.





Nutritional Highlights:  As you’ve probably noticed, I LOVE putting fruit in my salads.  It’s kind of my thing.  And for good reason!  This salad for example, has almost every food group–fruits (strawberry), veggies (spinach), whole grains (farro), dairy (low fat feta), and a little healthy fat from olive oil.  Variety is the key to a healthy diet, and this salad definitely has it.  Plus, it’s super easy and leaves you plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather!





Strawberry-Farro Salad with Feta and Balsamic


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry farro (other options include wheat berries, barley, or any other grain you have) 
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach or arugula
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 oz low fat feta cheese, crumbled (or sub goat cheese if you prefer)
  • your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or good olive oil and balsamic vinegar 
Directions:

Cook the farro according to the directions (1 cup farro to 3 cups water, simmered for 15 minutes).  While farro is cooking, prepare the other ingredients–slice the strawberries, crumble the cheese, have a glass of wine, etc.  Once the farro is done, strain and rinse under cold water to cool.  Put all the salad ingredients together and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, or your favorite balsamic vinaigrette.  Enjoy the simple, fresh, and healthy salad!
May 232012
 

I’m not proud of it, but every so often after a late night out on the weekend, judgment slightly clouded, I stop by an amazing place that is dangerously close to my apartment–pomme frites.  What do they make there?  You guessed it–french fries and only french fries.  With about 50 dipping sauce options.  At the time it is the best idea I’ve ever had, but the next morning, not so much.  So here is a guilt-free french fry recipe…without the pomme (potato) or the frite (fried) parts.  These baked zucchini fries will satisfy your cravings without the junk food hangover.  Hooray!





Second bonus…start to finish this recipe only took me about half an hour, only 10 minutes of which were active.  All you do is slice zucchini into sticks, dredge in egg white, and toss into a tasty breadcrumb, cheese, and spice mixture.  Spread onto a baking sheet and watch them get crispy and delicious.  Then you eat every single only.  Oh wait, that’s just what I did.  That part is not recommended.  





Nutritional Highlights:  A small order of pomme frites can have almost 300 calories, 14 grams of fat, lots of carbs and almost 0 nutritional benefit.  This recipe has a lot of things going for it.  First, it uses zucchini instead of potato.  Zucchini is very low in calories, carbohydrates, and is high in dietary fiber.  Second, instead of deep frying, these are baked which means way less fat.  Plus, these still have the crispy outside you look for in a fry from the breadcrumb/spice/cheese crust, and are soft in the center.  If you’re having trouble getting your kids or husbands or boyfriends (or yourself) to eat veggies, this is a great way to do it!





Spicy Baked Zucchini Fries with Marinara Dip


adapted from Skinny Taste 


For about 3 servingsIngredients: 

  • 3 medium zucchini sliced into 3″ x 1/2″ sticks
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/3 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs (I used plain ww breadcrumbs and added my own dried herbs)
  • 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese (can sub paremsan)
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • salt
  • fresh pepper


Directions

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and season with salt and pepper. In a ziplock bag, place breadcrumbs, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cheese, salt/pepper and shake well. Spray cookie sheet with olive oil spray (or rub with olive oil) and set aside.Toss the zucchini sticks in the egg white, then transfer into bread crumb and cheese mixture and shake to coat. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer and spray more olive oil spray on top. Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes, turn, and bake fro another 5-10 or until golden brown.  Serve with 1/2 cup marinara sauce or pesto for dipping. 






May 102012
 

As much as I love eating at cozy, local restaurants, I have a weakness for a few chains.  Number one, my favorite of all which I am actually currently digesting, is Chipotle.  The second, which was a regular hang-out destination for my friends and I in high school, is Cheesecake Factory.  Now, at both of these places, it’s very possible to get a healthy meal if you order carefully, but it’s also possible to see the word “salad”, assume it means healthy, and not realize that you could have saved calories by eating a cheeseburger.  So I took one of the popular salads at Cheesecake Factory, and made a healthier (but still crave worthy) version at home.  





Nutrition Highlights:  The lunch size version of this salad at Cheesecake has over 700 calories.  A lot of this comes from the heavy ranch dressing and the crispy fried onions on top.  But there’s still a lot of healthy ingredients in it, so with a few swaps this salad can be a healthy meal.  Grilled chicken provides lean protein, avocado gives healthy fat, black beans give fiber, and plenty of lettuce, tomato, green onions, and corn will help fill you up.  Instead of fried onions, I crushed a few baked tortilla chips on top.  Instead of fattening ranch dressing, I found a low fat yogurt ranch dressing in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, and just used a drizzle of that to finish the salad.  


My male roommates weren’t all that excited when I told them I was making “salad” for dinner that night, but once I put this in front of them and the tasted it, there were absolutely no complaints.  Who needs cheesecake factory when you have the tush cook factory?





Healthified BBQ “Ranch” Chicken Salad
for 4 large servings


Ingredients: 

  • 3 grilled chicken breasts, diced and tossed in 1/4 cup bbq sauce
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 scallions (green onions), cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lime
  • chopped romaine lettuce or mixed greens
  • lowfat yogurt ranch dressing (or another light ranch)
  • optional (but delicious)garnishes: low fat cheese (like pepper jack), chopped cilantro, and a handful of baked tortilla chips to crumble on top

Directions:  In a saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat and add the frozen corn. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until corn is slightly charred.  You can also skip this step and just thaw the frozen corn, but the toasted flavor adds a lot.  Set charred corn aside.


Prepare the rest of the ingredients as described above.  Assemble the salad.  Start by tossing the lettuce in the juice from half of the lime.  Save the other half for wedges to garnish.  Add all your other ingredients, the diced bbq chicken, avocado, black beans, charred corn, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and tortilla chips.  Drizzle with the yogurt ranch dressing and enjoy!