May 212010
 
When I decided to start this blog, I also decided that I’d venture out side of my cooking bubble.  The bubble involved a lot of chicken, fish, and veggies, but not a whole lot else.  So for my first experience cooking tofu, I enlisted my friend Amanda, ex-roommate and tofu connoisseur.  We chose a whole foods recipe, and I have to admit, it was really good!

 

Well, I guess I should qualify that statement slightly.  Just the way I say Gossip Girl is good…for a CW show, and just the way I say that I’m athletic…for a girl, I’d say that this recipe was really really good…for tofu.  It had great flavor and a pretty good texture after a little finagling with the broiler, but in the end it was still tofu.  First step was to whip up the marinade: Balsamic, Olive Oil, Honey, and Herbs.


Then we tossed in the tofu cubes and let it marinate for about half an hour.  Next time I would maybe let it sit overnight or for a few hours.  We used extra firm tofu and thoroughly and carefully squeezed out all the excess liquid first, cuz apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do with tofu.


Then we spread the tofu out on a roasting pan with some red peppers and put it in the oven.  For the last 15 minutes we added the asparagus pieces because they don’t take as long to cook.  When the tofu wasn’t looking as crispy as we wanted at the end of the roasting process, we removed the veggies from the pan and broiled the tofu for an additional 5 minutes on each side and that was just perfect…for tofu.


Mixed with the asparagus and peppers, it looked pretty great in the end …for tofu. It was delicious hot but also good thrown in a salad the next day for lunch.  


Nutritional Highlights:  Tofu is a great source of protein for those of us (myself included) trying to cut back on their animal product intake.  And, it pretty much absorbs whatever flavor you add to it so it’s very versitle.  But for me, a non-profit-working-recent-grad-recently-financially-independent, the real benefit is that tofu is INSANELY cheap…and not just for tofu.  You can get about 3-4 meals out of one block of tofu, which at TJ’s (trader joe’s) what a whopping $2 and some-odd cents.  Do the math.  


Balsamic and Herb Roasted Tofu
adapted from Whole Foods Market

Ingredients

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey 
1 large clove minced garlic 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
Sea salt and ground pepper 
16 ounces extra firm tofu 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
2.  Combine the ingredients for the marinade: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, agave nectar/honey, garlic, oregano, thyme, sea salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. 
3.  Drain the tofu and gently press to remove as much liquid as possible. Cut tofu into cubes. Pierce the tofu in several places with a fork to allow the flavor to permeate the tofu. 
4.  Pour balsamic mixture over tofu and marinate for at least an hour. 
5.  Spread tofu on a shallow 9×13-inch baking pan.  Pour any left over marinade over the tofu.
6.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the tofu and continue to bake an additional 10 minutes. 
7.  Then, assess the crispness factor.  If it’s not brown enough for you (it wasn’t for us), then turn on your broiler and broil for 5 minutes, monitoring closely.  Then turn the tofu pieces and broil for another 5 minutes.  They should be lookin good and crunch by now!  Mix with whatever combo of roasted veggies you like and enjoy!


May 182010
 
There are few things better than a picnic.  To just lay around on the ground for hours with good food and good friends on a beautiful day is just about my favorite thing to do.  So I decided to kick off the picnic season (yeah, it’s a season) by making some awesome sandwiches and trying a new pasta salad recipe.  


Every good picnic needs some healthy fresh fruit, so I decided to cut up some kiwi, cantaloupe, and strawberries.  


Then for the sandwiches–a requirement for a good lunchtime picnic.  I thought of my two favorite sandwiches I’ve had so far in New York.  On the left is my version of the grilled chicken press (the #6) from Grey Dog’s: grilled chicken, pesto, tomato, fresh mozzarella, and spinach.  On the right is my personal favorite…my version of the brie, green apple, arugula and honey mustard sandwich from Penelope.  The key is this honeycup mustard which is super spicy and sweet.  Probably my favorite condiment in the world.  And I don’t say that lightly.

    

 

But the real star of this post is this healthy pasta salad.  Pasta salad is one of those things that can be a bit of a let down.  You think noodles and you think it’s gotta be delicious, but then it’s often lacking flavor and freshness.  Well not this one.  With zucchini, tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, chickpeas, Parmesan, fresh herbs, and a bomb homemade dressing, this pasta salad was by far the best one I’ve ever made/tasted.


It’s especially great for a picnic because the dressing won’t get narsty in the heat like most mayonnaise based dressings. Plus it’s a lot better for you. 


Put it all in a picnic basket or cooler and head to your favorite park: Central, Bryant, Madison Square, Prospect…you pick.  But the view from the Sheep’s Meadow in Central park really can’t be beat.  



Nutritional Highlights:  By adding chickpeas, lots of veggies, and a mayonnaise free dressing to whole wheat pasta, pasta salad is no longer something you need to avoid.  This one is high in fiber and vitamins.  For the sandwiches, try to use whole wheat bread and fresh ingredients.  Plus, you can bring a Frisbee or a mitt and softball and get some exercise after your picnic to make it even healthier!


Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Chickpeas and Vegetables:


Ingredients:

2 cups (before cooking) whole wheat pasta (fusilli works great)
1 can Chickpeas
1 large zucchini
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Fresh herbs: I used about 3 tablespoons chopped basil and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 shallot, finely chopped 


Directions:


1.  Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as directed, until al dente (this is important! no one likes mushy pasta salad).
2.  While it’s cooking, cut zucchini into quarters and then slice.  I sauteed it in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat to soften and brown it slightly and to bring out the flavor.  You can also just throw it in raw if you prefer.
3.  For the dressing, simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  
4.  Strain pasta and put in a bowl.  Let it cool for a few minutes.
5.  To the pasta, add cooked zucchini, raw halved grape tomatoes, can of chickpeas (drained), fresh herbs, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.
6.  Pour dressing on gradually, mixing pasta salad and tasting until it is coated to your liking with the dressing.  
7. Pack everything up and go have a picnic!! This would also be great to serve at a BBQ or as a side dish with dinner.  Enjoy!

May 102010
 
I have a resolution for this spring and summer, and so I’m professing it here to all of you so I’ll be forced to stick to it.  At least once every 2 weeks, I vow to go to the farmers market in union square, and pick out some sort of local, organic produce that I have never cooked with before.  So far on my list are: fresh artichokes, rhubarb, beans in the pod, beets…and the list will continue to grow.  My first trip to the farmers market was a little overwhelming and it’s also early in the season so I played it a safe and bought some really cool potatoes.   By really cool potatoes, I mean a bag of mini heirloom potatoes of all different shapes, sizes and colors.  Hence, cool potatoes.


So instead of finding a recipe and then getting the ingredients like a normal person, I had an ingredient and just needed to find a recipe to do it justice.  I went to the two sites I usually check first: my favorite cooking blog, smittenkitchen.com, and epicurious (website with the recipes from bon apetit and gourmet magazines).  Soon after I began my recipe search, I found this recipe on BOTH my favorite sites so I knew had to make it.  And this recipe, turned my cool potatoes, into quite possibly the worlds tastiest potatoes.  Also, can we talk about the fact that these colors exist in nature????



This impressive side dish is SO easy to throw together.  All you do is mix together whole grain dijon mustard, olive oil, the tiniest bit of butter (deep breath—it’s ok),  lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and salt.  You toss your washed and cut potatoes in the mixture and spread them on a roasting pan. 


After about 40 minutes and a few turns, these potatoes get crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  And the mustard mixture gives them flavor that was unlike anything I expected.  Make these.  Even if you use normal, less cool potatoes, I bet this recipe will be just as tasty.  


Nutritional Highlights:  Unfortuantely for our friend Mr. Potato head, he got a pretty bad rep due to the low carb/Adkins/south beach diet fads (lameee).  It didn’t help Mr. Potato, that people usually consume him in the form of fries, chips, or even baked but drowning in butter, sour cream, or cheese.  I’m here to say that even though potatoes do have carbs, they are also a natural, low calorie, high fiber food that can help protect against heart disease and cancer.  When prepared properly, and eaten in moderation, potatoes can be a healthy, inexpensive, and delicious part of your diet.  


Mustard-Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2007
Supposed to make 5 servings, but 3 of had no problem cleaning the plate…


Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons (1/4 stick or 1/2 ounce) butter, melted
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used 1 big, one small)
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel (I left this out by accident so it’s your call)
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, pepper to taste
1.5 pounds of small mixed potatoes, cut in half

Instructions:


1.  Preheat to 425°F and spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. 
2.  Mix mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel (optional), and salt in bowl.
3.  Add potatoes and toss in the mustard mixture. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and toss the potatoes until they’re evenly coated. 
4.  Spread potatoes in single layer on the roasting pan. 
5.  Roast for 20 minutes, turn potatoes (actual potatoes, not the pan), and roast for another 20 minutes.  
6.  Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy.  Double the recipe for big groups.  

May 022010
 
I have a problem.  It haunts me almost every day.  If you know me well, you’ve certainly encountered and been frustrated by said problem.  Recently, I decided to consult Google to find out if it was, in fact, a real thing. Low and behold: Decidophobia.  It means “an irrational fear of making decisions”. After reading on and realizing that, luckily, I don’t experience the panic attack symptoms that accompany this phobia, I diagnosed myself with a mild case that often presents when making food related decisions. I stand in front of the pasta sauce display for minutes, unable to choose and I usually look at 50+ recipes before choosing one (and even then, rarely follow it exactly).  And for this recipe, although I had made up my mind on making individual frittatas, I just couldn’t choose the ingredients to put in them.


So, I came up with two finalists for my mini frittatas and decided just to make both…I know, I’m only exacerbating the problem.  And so it became the battle of the portabella, spinach, and tomato vs. the asparagus, onion, red pepper combo. 


First step was to quickly saute the ingredients for about 5 minutes.  Even though the veggies will keep cooking in the frittatas, sauteing them first really helps bring out the flavors.


Spray the muffin tin with Pam and then fill each cup with some of the veggies.  Then I topped with some crumbled goat cheese but you could use any cheese you have/prefer (see…I’m so decidophobic that I can’t even tell you what kind of cheese to use!)


In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 whole eggs and 8 egg whites, half a cup of skim milk, and season with a good amount of salt and pepper.   Then pour over the veggies and cheese in the muffin tins.  I took a fork and stirred the ingredients around at this point so the ingredients were nicely distributed in the frittatas.

 


Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 and that’s it.  Although you’re probably expecting me to say that I liked both frittatas equally, surprisingly enough, I have an opinion!  The asparagus, red pepper, and onion combo was SO flavorful and for some reason they came out of the pan much more easily (maybe the spinach/mushroom mixture was too wet??).  I also preferred the asparagus version because it was very springy, and since spring has officially sprung here in New York, they were perfect. 


Nutritional Highlights:  A lot of breakfast food options can be pretty nutritionally blah.  Sugary cereal with milk,   highly processed granola bars masquerading as healthy food, bagels with cream cheese (mmm). These individual frittatas have tons of protein from the eggs, vitamins and fiber from the veggies, calcium from the cheese but still only have about 100 calories each!  Plus, they’re really easy for on the go work breakfasts or for a brunch with all your friends.  If you’re in a breakfast rut and looking for a healthy way to start your day, make these little babies with your favorite vegetables…I’m sure making the decision will be much easier for you.

Mini Goat Cheese and Vegetable Frittatas:
– Vegetables of your choice (I used asparagus, onion, and red pepper)
– Cheese of your choice (I used goat)
– 10 eggs (2 whole eggs and 8 whites only)
– 1/2 cup skim milk
– Salt and Pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 375
1.  Chop your veggies and saute for about 5 minutes.  If you’re using tomatoes, I’d recommend not sauteing those because they’ll get mushy.
2.  Spray the inside of a 12 tin muffin tray.  Fill with 1-2 tablespoons of your sauteed veggies.  Top with crumbled goat cheese, or shredded mozzarella, or …
3.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.
4.  Pour over the veggies so the muffin tin’s are not all the way full (maybe 4/5 full).  Use a fork to mix contents of each muffin tin.
5.  Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes or until frittatas have set and are golden.  
6.  Eat immediately or save for the week.  You can eat them cold or reheat for 20 seconds in the microwave.  
Apr 222010
 
I really love a good burger.  Half because of the burger, and half because of the French fries that tend to accompany it.  Who are we kidding, it’s more like 30/70.  I’ve made a lot of burger variations that will probably eventually make a cameo on this site,  but when I recently decided to cut back my meat intake a bit, I decided it was time to try a portabella burger.  And I’m not saying it’s going to replace my other burger recipes, but it has definitely earned a place in the rotation.


These were SO easy to make and would be a simple addition to your summer bbq’s to please your vegetarian friends.  First create the marinade with herbs, garlic, balsamic, and olive oil.  Put the mushrooms in a zip lock container and let them soak up the marinade for a good 30 minutes.


While that is working, get going on your sweet potato “fries”…I use the word fries lightly because these ones are baked…but still amazingly fry-like.  Cutting sweet potatoes is a process and a workout.  Cut them into what ever shape you prefer your fries.  I like them on the thin side but wedges would work too if that’s your thing.


Drizzle the fries with olive oil, then sprinkles with salt and chili powder.  I’m not into the whole putting sugar/cinnamon on your sweet potatoes because they’re already so amazingly sweet.  That’s why I try to pick something with a kick to get the sweet/savory flavor contrast going.  Toss the fries around so they’re evenly coated and spread out on your baking sheet.  Try to make it so the fries don’t touch.   The more you spread them out, the crispier they get.


Alright, 30 minutes has passed and your fries just went in the oven.  Time to cook those burgers.  I used my George Foreman because it wasn’t really outdoor grilling weather yet and because I hate cleaning grill pans, but either of those could work just as well.  Please ignore the meat burger on the left.  Fine, I admit it…my name is Marissa, and I have a carnivorous boyfriend.  


When these just about done, put some crumbled goat cheese into the cap so it will begin to melt.  And then assemble your burgers.  I put spinach, tomato, and a little avocado on mine, but feel free to use your favorite toppings.  And guess what…the carnivorous boyfriend I speak of tasted my burger and thought it was great!  Let the conversion begin…

Nutritional highlights:  Portabella mushrooms might not be as vitamin rich as say, spinach, but they are definitely good for you…full of fiber, iron, protein, and potassium.  The real highlight of this dish though is that between that bun is a low calorie, low fat mushroom rather than a greasy patty of who knows what kind of ground meat.  For comparison sake…one portabella mushroom is 30 calories, where a 3 oz (pretty small) hamburger has about 250.  And that’s without the bun and the toppings.  And then for the sweet potato fries.  The center for science in the public interest ranked sweet potatoes as the NUMBER 1 best food for you.  They have carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber and they taste amazing so it wont be difficult to incorporate these into your diet.
Portabella Burgers with Goat Cheese and Sweet Potato “fries”
Ingredients:

For the burger (adapted from allrecipes.com):
3 large Portobello mushroom caps
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Goat cheese
For the fries:
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into fries
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and chili powder to taste (I’m sorry I just always forget to measure spices)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Create marinade for the mushrooms by mixing all ingredients except goat cheese.  Put mushrooms and marinade in a bag and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
3.  Prepare sweet potato fries.  Toss in oil and seasonings and spread out onto a baking sheet/shallow roasting pan.  Don’t crowd the potatoes or they won’t get crispy.  Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning fries after 10.  (Longer for thicker fries)
4.  Heat up grill/george foreman/grill pan.
5.  Grill for about 5 minutes on each side.  Add goat cheese and grill for another 2 minutes.
6.  Assemble your burgers, and pull out those fries and enjoy!

Mar 252010
 
If you’ve been around me in the past, oh, year, then you know I’ve been talking big game about starting a healthy cooking blog. And just when I was about to cross that thin line between building suspense and everyone completely losing interest, here it is! As a food lover and a nutrition enthusiast (and hopefully someday a nutrition professional), I’m going to share healthy and delicious recipes straight out of my bite-sized New York City kitchen. I decided for my first post, I’d use one of my go to meals that is the epitome of healthy meets delicious: Minestrone Soup.

This is a pretty magical soup. It’s comforting and hearty but doesn’t make your hips more comfortable and hearty. It’ll simultaneously satisfy the health freaks and the vegetable averse. And my favorite part: one pot of soup + individual Tupperware bowls = frozen dinners for weeks! Warning: This recipe is NOT for those who hate chopping. I personally think taking out your aggression on some helpless veggies at the end of a long day is pretty therapeutic. Ok, time to get started. Step 1: Set up your ipod speakers and turn on some tunes. Step 2: Start chopping.

Once you’ve gotten some of the chopping done, pull out your soup pot and sauté the garlic in some olive oil. This is when your apartment starts to smell unreal.

Then go the onions. Then carrots and celery.

After those work for a while, you add the liquid ingredients—tomatoes, broth, and wine. Reserve the rest of the wine.

Now that it’s starting to look soup-like, we’re going to add the rest of the fresh ingredients. So I took a trip to my garden to pick some fresh basil.

Ok, made it back. Now you add the zucchini, green beans, spinach, basil, and oregano. I usually use this veggie combo because it’s pretty traditional to minestrone, but you don’t have to adhere to these…this is a great clean out your veggie drawer recipe so throw in whatever you have. You’ll want to let the soup simmer for at least an hour, so now is when you’ll grab the rest of the bottle of wine and a glass. About 20 minutes before you serve, throw in the beans (you don’t want them to fall apart too much) and boil some whole wheat macaroni or ditalini in a separate pot if you like noodles in your soup. I like to garnish with parmesan and fresh basil and serve it with garlic bread baked with fresh mozzarella on top. Writing this is making me hungry…good thing I have a freezer full!!

Nutritional highlights: We can all probably stand to mix a meatless meal into our repertoire. You’ll still get protein from the beans and veggies, calcium from the spinach and cheese, and your heart will be loving the garlicy-tomato goodness. Plus you’ll tone your arms chopping. Make this on the next cold rainy, miserable day and I promise it’ll be less miserable.

Minestrone Soup
Adapted from allrecipes.com

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 small onions (or 1 big one)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach
2 zucchini’s (or one zucchini, one yellow squash for color)
1.5 cups of cut green beans or 1 14.5 oz can
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans
salt and pepper to taste
whole wheat ditalini pasta (optional)
grated parmesan for garnish

Directions:
1. In large stock pot over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 minutes.
2. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes or until translucent
3. Add celery and carrots and saute for 4 minutes
4. Add broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add wine.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and add green beans, spinach , zucchini, oregano, and basil. Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If soup is too thick for your liking, add 1 cup water. Add beans and start to boil ditalini. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until you’re ready to eat.
7. To serve, put about 2 tablespoons cooked pasta in the bowl and top with soup. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!!!