Dec 172013
 

Tis the season…for potlucks. I’ve had three potluck events already this year, and I was getting a little tired of the kitchen (yep, even I feel that way sometimes). So here’s a simple and festive appetizer that looks a lot fancier than it is. This crostini is a twist on my favorite baked brie recipe and uses my favorite winter fruit: pears.

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Nutritional Highlights: Baked brie can be a pretty deadly holiday appetizer, because it’s really tough to keep track of how much you’ve actually had. This recipe makes individual portioned bites. Plus, whole wheat baguette, pear slices, pomegranate seeds, and arugula add some vitamins and fiber. Vegetarian friendly.

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Brie, Pear, & Honey Crostini
makes about 20 crostini
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What’s in it:
Whole grain or multigrain baguette
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon herbs of your choosing (I used a mix of dried thyme and fresh rosemary since that’s what I had)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 large triangle of brie
2 ripe bartlett pears
Honey for drizzling
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Handful of arugula leaves

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Slice baguette on an angle into 1/4 inch slices.
3. Mix garlic, oil, herbs, and salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with the oil mixture.
4. Spread crostini on baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, about 15 minutes (turning once).
5. Meanwhile, remove brie rind and cut into 20 slices that will fit on the crostini. Slice the pear thinly.
6. Now you have two choices. If you want to serve these warm (recommended), top the warm toast with a slice of brie and return to the oven until the cheese melts. If serving cold, allow toast to cool and top with the brie slices.
7. Before serving, top each brie with a pear slice and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (they will stick to the honey) and top with a few arugula leaves. Enjoy!

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Nov 172013
 

Gnocchi has been on my things-to-make list for a while now but I’ve always been a little intimidated. Well, I’m pretty glad I finally gave it a shot, because this is by far one of the best things I’ve made in a while. This fall-inspired sweet potato version is both healthier and way cooler than your standard potato gnocchi. This is guaranteed to blow your thanksgiving guest’s minds.
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Not only was I seriously impressed with the gnocchi quality on my first ever attempt, I was also really impressed with the simplicity. The gnocchi only has 6 ingredients (sweet potato, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and whole wheat flour) and it came together pretty quickly. You roll out the dough, cut it into little dumplings, add some fork indentations if you want to get fancy, and boil them for 4 minutes or so. And then you are left with the most delicious, tender, sweet potato gnocchi–I’m actually getting sad writing this because there are not leftovers.
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Nutritional Highlights: By swapping regular potato and white flour for sweet potato and whole wheat flour, you up the fiber and nutrients in a big way. Sure, there is parmesan and ricotta all up in there, but they are necessary. The key is also keeping the sauce light–I just used a simple mix of olive oil, garlic, and a tiny tiny bit of butter. I also added baby spinach, toasted pecans, and pomegranate seeds to add a little extra color, texture, and nutrients.
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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pomegranate, Pecans, and Spinach
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What’s in it:

For the Gnocchi:
– 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (from about 2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes)
– 8-ounces fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve or wrapped in paper towel to remove liquid
– 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1 1/2 – 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

For the sauce:
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon butter (it’s OK, I swear)
– 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
– 3 cups baby spinach
– 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
– 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

How to make it:

1. Cook sweet potatoes. You can use any method you like, but I punctured them several times with a fork and microwaved for about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Baked potatoes work fine as well. Scoop out the flesh of the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl and mash.
2. To drain the ricotta, I wrapped it in several paper towels and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. Add the ricotta to the mashed sweet potato and mix well.
3. Add the Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg and mash to blend.
4. Mix in the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. I ended up using 1 1/2 cups.
5. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and cut into 6 pieces. Roll the dough in your hands to form long thin ropes that are about 1 inch in diameter. If it gets too sticky, sprinkle with additional flour or coat your hands in flour. Cut the ropes into about 1 inch pieces and indent each one with a fork. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. (You can stop at this point and refrigerate the gnocchi until you’re ready to cook them.)
6. When ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to boil and add about a tablespoon of salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
7. When ready to serve, heat a large saute pan over medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. Once melted, add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the gnocchi and toss occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 more minutes. Season with an extra pinch of salt.
8. Transfer to serving dish and top with pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, and a little extra shaved parmesan for garnish. 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!



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.


Jun 012013
 

Guys, I know what you’re thinking.  That looks very vegan and healthy.  Well you’re right.  It does and it is.  BUT it’s also one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a while.  The peanut sauce on this kale salad is seriously addictive and the marinade for the tofu is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy.  And all foods are better with grill marks, it’s a fact.  This is the perfect summer meal and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.  


I’ve been trying this new thing where I’m almost completely vegan on weekdays (unless of course someone brings baked goods to work, then all deals are off), but eat whatever I want on the weekends.  That way I’m lowering my animal product consumption a lot but not being that girl at restaurants who can’t eat anything…win win.  I’ve been surprised how easy (and tasty) it has been to cut out meat and dairy during the week.  You start to really appreciate other things like great produce, creating flavor with spices and sauces, and for me, peanut butter.  I eat it every day.  I was excited about this recipe because it used it in a savory dish, and I gotta say I would put this sauce on everything if I could.  


Nutritional Highlights:  If you’re wondering what’s the big deal with being vegan, watch this “meatless monday” video  .  It just give a little insight into the impact meat farming has on the world.  Plus, chronic disease risk is lower for those who eat less animal products.  Interesting huh?  I’m not saying cut it out entirely, cuz I certainly would not want to live a life without cheese in it, but moderation and portion control with animal products is something we should all try.  This recipe has tons of fresh veggies like kale (total super food), carrots, cucumber, onions, healthy fats like peanuts and sesame oil, and plenty of protein from the grilled tofu.  This would be just as tasty without the tofu as well.  This recipe is gluten free as well as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce!


Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad
adapted from Happy.Healthy.Life

Makes about 3-4 servings

For the salad:
2 large bunches of kale (or 3 small)
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned cucumber
1/3 cup peanuts for garnish

Spicy Ginger Peanut Sauce:
2 Tbsp creamy salted peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled/chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar 
2 tsp agave syrup
5 dashes cayenne
fine black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Place a large soup pot over med-high heat on your stove top. Add all the sauce ingredients and stir briskly until they melt and blend together. Reduce heat to medium and simmer/stir for about two minutes. Turn heat to low.

2. Pull the leaves in bits from the thick stalks of your kale. Wash if needed. Add the kale leaves (toss thick stems) – add kale to the pot until filled to the brim. Fold the kale into the hot sauce. Fold well. The hot sauce will wilt the kale.

3. Turn off heat and add the remaining amount of kale. Also add in the carrots, red onion, peanuts, and cucumber and combine. Eat warm or, my preference, chill and eat cold.  Kale salads are great because they can last a few days without getting wilted like other greens.

4. Serve warm or place in fridge – covered – to chill and serve cold. Will keep well for up to a few days.


Spicy Grilled Tofu
adapted from Food.com

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 8 slices
    • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1/3 cup agave nectar
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced ( about 1 tablespoon)
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the tofu slices on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally with your hands to squeeze out the water.
  2. Place the tofu in a single layer in the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup, tamari, chile paste, garlic, and pepper.
  4. Pour mixture over the tofu, stirring to coat all the slices.
  5. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. When the tofu is marinated and ready to cook: Spray grill rack or pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat.
  7. Place tofu slices on the grill. Reserve the marinade.
  8. Grill tofu 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until the outside is browned and crisp.
  9. Return tofu to the baking dish and toss the slices with the reserved marinade.
  10. Serve immediately on it’s own or with the Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad!
Apr 072013
 

Whenever I look at recipe websites, the top searches are always for chicken recipes.  Chicken breasts are healthy, relatively inexpensive, and very versatile, but I’m just gonna come out there and say it…they can also be pretty LAME.  Sure, plain grilled chicken is healthy, but it gets boring fast, so I try to mix up my chicken recipes as much as possible.  I love chicken piccata at italian restaurants, but it can be really unhealthy and is often breaded and fried in a thick sauce.  This version isn’t breaded at all, and is sauteed quickly with a light sauce of lemon, capers, white wine, and garlic.  Very simple and quick but very tasty.  

 
The key to making this an especially quick meal is to pound your chicken breasts out very thin or cut them in half lengthwise.  I didn’t do a great job with this because I got a little lazy with my pounding, but when I make this again I’ll be sure to do it!  The process is really easy…just brown the chicken, set aside, and make the sauce quickly in the same pan. You can serve this with almost any sides you like, but I made whole wheat pasta with artichokes hearts, spinach,   red onion and fresh tomatoes to go with the mediterranean theme of the meal.  
 
Nutritional Highlights:  Although I don’t eat a ton of meat these days, when I do it’s usually chicken. Chicken breasts (try to get organic if you can) are incredibly lean and high in protein.  If you serve this recipe with a whole grain and a vegetable (like my veggie pasta here) you have a perfectly balance meal!
 
Chicken Piccata
adapted from Closet Kitchen

Ingredients
  • – 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • – 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • – 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • – 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • – 1 lemon, juice and 1 lemon, sliced
  • – 1 teaspoon honey
  • – 2 tablespoons capers
  • – 1 tablespoon butter
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side and set aside.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  4. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze it.
  5. Add the broth, lemon juice, honey and capers in the pan and simmer until the liquids have reduce by half, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper, mix in the parsley, return chicken to pan and toss to coat.  Top with thin lemon slices and additional chopped parsley and serve.  
Enjoy!
Mar 162013
 

Twelve hours!  In twelve hours I will be in Cabo.  I cannot even express how excited I am for this much needed vacation. I can’t wait for a week free of work stress and grad school deadlines, and full of great food, sun, and family.  Only problem is that it’s tough to be bathing suit ready when it’s 30 degrees out and you’ve put on your winter hibernation suit.  So, to get ready for Cabo, I made an amazing csalad utilizing all the amazing citrus fruits that are great in the winter.    

When I saw blood oranges at the store, I knew I had to get a few.  I just love the color and sweet/tart flavor.  I grabbed a grapefruit and a navel orange too, as to not leave anyone out.  This salad  came together in minutes but is still impressive enough to serve to guests.  All I did was pare the skin off of the fruit, slice, and layer them on top of a bed of arugula.  I topped it with a little goat cheese, toasted pistachios, mint leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Sometimes the best meals are really simple ones like this, that highlight fresh ingredients without overpowering them with a thousand ingredients.  


Nutritional highlights:  Citrus fruit is a whole lot more than vitamin C.   It’s packed with other vitamins and minerals like Folate and Potassium and has antioxidant properties.  It’s also lower in calories and sugar than many other fruits and has high water content.  

Enough about Vitamin C…I’m off to get my Vitamin D on!!! See you all in a week :)


Winter Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Mint
adapted from Small Kitchen Chronicles

Makes 2 servings
For Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or other vinegar of choice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
For Salad
  • 1 blood orange cut into 1/4 – inch slices.  I did this by cutting about a 1/4 inch of each end, removing skin with a paring knife, and then slicing the orange
  • 1 large navel orange, same proccess as above
  • 1 grapefruit, same process as above
  • 3 cups of greens (I used arugula but spinach, kale, or any green would work)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion (optional…I forgot to add it to mine but would like to next time for texture)
  • 1 ounce goat’s milk cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, julienned, plus a few extra for garnishing
  • extra sea salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:  In a small mixing bowl combine dressing ingredients–red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together until well combined.  Set aside.
Place arugula or other greens on a platter and arrange the blood orange,navel orange, and grapefruit slices in a pretty pattern.
Sprinkle chopped red onion, goat cheese, and pistachios evenly over top of the citrus slices.  Drizzle dressing on top and garnish with the julienned mint leaves. Serve immediately with extra salt and black pepper . Enjoy!