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.
IMG_8134
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.
IMG_8137
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.
IMG_8119
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!
IMG_8188
…………………………………………………………………
Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
…………………………………………………………………
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).
IMG_8177
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)
IMG_8171

Apr 072014
 

Even though I’m not getting married for a little while (aka 14 months), obviously I am already starting to dream about honeymoon destinations. One of the top contenders right now is Southeast Asia–something like Thailand or Vietnam. Then, of course, I got distracted from the honeymoon planning, and started thinking about Thai and Vietanamese food (this is typical, as most trains of thought end in food for me). So I decided on a whim yesterday to make a veggie version of an amazing Vietnamese Sandwich- Banh Mi. If you’ve never tried it or even heard of it before, you’re welcome.
IMG_7907
I love this sandwich for a few reasons. One, it’s a sandwich, what’s not to love? Two, it has the best mix of flavors and textures–spicy jalapeno, herbal cilantro, crisp pickled veggies, refreshing cucumber, and a creamy (and hopefully spicy) sauce. OK I went a little overboard on the adjectives there, but this sandwich deserves it. Although the sandwich most typically is made with pork, I use a lemongrass marinated tofu. Like any recipe that has several components, it does take a little bit of time, organization, and multitasking to make it happen.
IMG_7894
Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is totally vegan but I would be shocked if meat eaters didn’t love it too. Tofu is a great source of protein and calcium and is a tasty way to make a meatless sandwich feel hearty. The toppings here are super healthy- cucumber, pickled carrots/onions/radish, cilantro, and jalapeno are the ones I used. Two of the healthiest swaps I made here are instead of using mayo, I made a quick avocado-sriracha sauce which was so much tastier. As for bread, go with a multigrain baguette or bread, or even make it a banh mi bowl if you’re not into the bread.
Still looks pretty good, huh?
IMG_7922
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi with Avocado-Sriracha “Mayo” and lotsa toppings
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 sandwiches
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What’s in it…
For the tofu:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemongrass (1 stalk with outer layer peeled off and finely minced)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the pickled veggies:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut peeled daikon radish (these look like big white carrots if you are like me and have never seen one!)
  • optional: 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion –  this is not traditionally in banh mi but I had one in the fridge so why not

For the avocado-sriracha “mayo”

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (or more)

Toppings/Bread:

  • 1 thinly sliced english cucumber
  • 2 thinly sliced jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Multigrain Baguette, toasted (or a bed of lettuce if you’re going the salad route)

How to make it…
1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut tofu crosswise into 8 thin slices. Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 15 minutes. Remove tofu from paper towels.

2. Combine lemongrass, water, soy sauce, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Let stand for 15 minutes or longer, turning once.

3. While tofu marinates, make the pickle.  Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, radish, and red onion; toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Drain excess liquid. You can make these a day in advance if you’d like.

4. Spray a small baking sheet well with oil spray (be sure to do this or tofu may stick). Lay tofu in even layer–don’t worry if some of the marinade/lemongrass is left in your marinading dish. Roast tofu for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Tofu should be brown and crisp–if you think they need a little more browning, you can turn on your broiler for a few minutes to finish it off.

5. While tofu is roasting and pickles are pickling, prepare the avocado-sriracha “mayo” by mashing the avocado well and mixing all the ingredients.

6. Get your bread and toppings ready by toasting bread, slicing cucumber, jalapeno, and picking off cilantro leaves.

7.  Now make the magic happen–slather baguette with avocado-sriracha mayo, top with cucumber slices, roasted lemongrass tofu, pickled veggies, and a few jalapeno slices and cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

IMG_7851
Meet my new favorite sandwich.
IMG_7915

Feb 092014
 

How can you let someone know that you love them this valentines day? Option A: Chocolate. Never fails. Option B: Make them something super healthy to let them know you want them to be around for a while. Well this granola bar recipe does both!
IMG_7478
I’ve had a few failed granola bar attempts–some were too crumbly and fell apart, others were too sweet, but these were really perfect to me. They were a great soft consistency but still held together really well. They are so much tastier and better for you than store bought granola bars, and you can make them with any variety of dried fruits and nuts you like or have on hand. These were not too sweet, but just sweet enough to satisfy my daily afternoon cravings.
IMG_7418
Nutritional Highlights: A lot of granola bars at the store seem healthy but really are packed with sugar, ingredients you can’t pronounce, and other things that you wouldn’t want in your “heathy” snack. These bars are sweetened only with dried fruit (dates and cherries), coconut, and dark chocolate. There is tons of fiber in here, from the chia seeds and oats, and lots of protein from the variety of nuts and seeds. Extra bonus…these are gluten free (as long as you use GF oats) and vegan.
IMG_7457
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dark Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars
makes about 12-15 granola bars
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What’s in it:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed pitted dates, quartered
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup creamy almond butter
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 (or maybe a little more :) cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (or use chips/chunks)
1/4 tspn sea salt

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast the oats for about 10-15 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant. Let cool. Reduce oven temp to 325.
2. Soak dates in water for about 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
3. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients excluding the oats (seeds, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, sea salt).
4. In a small food processor, blend half of the oats (3/4 cup) into flour. Add the oat flour and remaining whole oats into the dry mixture.
5. Add the dates/water and almond butter into the food processor and blend until smooth. Mix into the dry mixture.
6. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment. Press the granola bar mixture in the pan into a 1/4 to 1/2 in thick, even layer. Press it in very firmly for a few minutes, this will help keep them from falling apart. My batch only filled half of my sheet pan.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and slightly brown. Allow to cool completely and then cut them into bars (or other fun shapes).
8. Enjoy and share with someone you love!

You can wrap these individually and keep them in the freezer if you have left overs…although I doubt they will last that long!
IMG_7431
These will definitely make you and your valentine a little bit happier and healthier this year. Valentineless this year? Lucky you…you don’t have to share :)

Jan 212014
 

Kale Caesar is SO hot right now. It’s on the menu at every trendy restaurant, disguised as the healthy choice. Don’t get my wrong, kale is amazing for you, but drowning in heavy dressing and covered in cheese, it’s only slightly healthier than the original. My version is not only way healthier but equally flavorful.
IMG_7323
Nutritional highlights: There are a few key secrets that make my caesar healthier. 1) The dressing is animal product free–yep, no cheese, anchovies, or eggs which are the quintessential caesar ingredients. 2) It gets it’s creaminess/”cheesiness” from heart healthy ingredients like walnuts and roasted garlic. 3) Instead of greasy croutons, I made some crispy spiced roasted chickpeas, for extra fiber and protein. 4) And the one DUH swap here, kale instead of romaine adds tons of fiber, calcium, and other good stuff.

I served mine along with some simple spaghetti squash with spicy tomato sauce. I know, fake pasta + fake caesar doesn’t sound all that appealing, but this was literally one of the best meals I’ve had in a while!
IMG_7350
**Confession: Although the dressing is vegan, I did proceed to top it with shredded parm. I couldn’t help myself…
IMG_7354
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vegan(ish) Kale Caesar
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For the dressing:
1/2 head of garlic plus 1 small clove
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
2 Teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
One bunch or bag of kale
1 can of chickpeas, roasted (instructions below)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan (optional)

To make the dressing:
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Remove some of the papery outer layers of the garlic head half, and it in the center of a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap it up into a little bundle and place in oven for about 35-45 minutes, or until cloves are soft and brown.
2. Meanwhile, soak the walnuts in the water for at least 10 minutes to soften.
3. In a food processor, add the 1 raw garlic clove (peeled), mustard, soy, lemon juice, and the water/walnut mixture. Once roasted garlic is ready, pop out the soft cloves and add that to the mixture.
4. Pulse until all ingredients have combined. Drizzle the olive oil in slowly while food processor is running. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add additional garlic, lemon juice, or seasonings as needed.

Notes: If you want to skip the roasted garlic step, just add another clove or two of raw garlic instead. Likewise, if you don’t love the bite of raw garlic, skip the raw clove and use only the roasted garlic.

To make the roasted chickpeas: I cooked mine in the same 400 degree oven while I roasted the garlic. Just rinse chickpeas and dry with a few paper towels as well as you can. Toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and any spices you like (I used garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayene). Roast for about 30 minutes, shaking every 10 minutes until they are crispy and brown. Use instead of croutons in your salad!

To make the salad: Wash and roughly chop the kale, removing any large unruly stems. “Massage” the kale by just kind of squeezing it in your hands, this makes it a little bit more tender and less bitter. Also, kale salads are best when they sit in the dressing for a bit before serving, so toss it with the dressing an hour before serving (although if you don’t have time it will still be delicious). Top with grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, and parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

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.
IMG_6472
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:
IMG_6437
Veggies After:
IMG_6456
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!
IMG_6480
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Farro with Grilled Summer Vegetables
4-6 servings
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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!
IMG_6466

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!

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.