Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn Cabbage and Apples

Crisp, cool air; vibrant red, gold and orange leaves; the smell of fireplaces; apple cider that tastes like liquid apple. Yes.. Fall is in the air. 

I love it because it's a time to get back to our routine, to get warm and cozy, to watch football (sometimes!) and most of get back into the kitchen. It's all about comfort food, baking, roasting...and yes, the Farmers' Market.

I've always thought of Farmers' Markets as a summer thing, but have found this year, that I'm even more enamored with the Markets in fall.  Gone are the berries and peaches and plums, replaced by bushels of apples, brussel sprouts so fresh they barely need to be cooked, bouquets of stunning greens, pumpkins and squash of all shapes and sizes, and the biggest heads of cabbage I've ever seen!

Inspired by these fresh new ingredients, I can't wait to get them back to my kitchen. 
I spent a beautiful fall Sunday peeling and chopping and  roasting and sauteing. 
Kinda gives new meaning to the words "Veg out."

Autumn Cabbage and Apples

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large apple, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch wide strips
8 to 10 cups sliced cabbage
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Caraway seeds

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and salt and cook for about 6 minutes or until very tender and beginning to caramelize, stirring occasionally.  Add apple and cook for 1 minute.  Add cabbage and cook about 8 minutes or until cabbage is tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.

Combine brown sugar, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard and add to cabbage mixture.  Cook, stirring frequently about 3 minutes or until cabbage is desired tenderness.  Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, until melted, and caraway seeds. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burgers

3 cups cooked mashed sweet potato (about 2 large)
1-1/2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs, divided
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn, toasted
1 egg
1/4 cup pepitos (pumpkin seeds), toasted if desired
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
2 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT 1 cup panko bread crumbs.  Divide mixture into 6 balls, flatten and coat with breadcrumbs.   (The mixture will be very wet so you will need to handle gently: place 1 ball of mixture at a time into a bowl of panko bread crumbs.  Flatten slightly, then turn over with a spatula to coat the other side.)

Arrange burgers on lightly oiled baking sheet.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once halfway through cook time.  If you use a dark baking sheet, the burgers will brown nicely.

Serve with peach salsa (or your favorite salsa) and sauteed kale or serve on buns or sandwich thins with fresh spinach and peach salsa.

Pepitos add a nice crunch to the burgers, but can be left out if you don't have them.

These burgers can easily go vegan.  Simply leave out the egg and queso fresco and be sure to use vegan bread crumbs.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Pine Nuts

If you haven't started cooking with this super food yet, you should.  And now is the perfect time to start.  You'll find and abundance of this gorgeous, leafy green at your farmers' markets right now.  Kale is delicious, packed with nutrients, and so easy to prepare. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pound kale, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add kale, salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes or until kale is tender-crisp.  Sprinkle with pine nuts

Makes a nice side dish or serve with farro, wheat berries or pasta for a delicious meatless main.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sauteed Summer Fruits over Greens with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Although I never get tired of biting into a juicy farm-fresh peach, sometimes I like to take my fruit to the next level.   This simple and delicious salad, requires just a quick saute step for the fruit, which is then served over buttery lettuce.  If you don't want to make the balsamic reduction, a drizzle of balsamic will do as well.
And, if you've gone a bit overboard at the Farmers' Market and bought more produce than you think you can possible eat, this is a great way to use up that luscious fruit. 

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 plums, pitted and sliced
1 cup blueberries
1 head Bibb lettuce
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half.  Stir in 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon butter; set aside.

Melt remaining tablespoon butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add peaches and plums and cook about 1 minute, just until softened.  Add blueberries and brown sugar and cook about 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly saucy.

Arrange lettuce on platter; pour fruit mixture over lettuce.  Top with goat cheese and walnuts. Pour Balsamic reduction over salad and serve immediately.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Coconut-Watermelon Vodka Lushie

Finding it hard get all of the necessary servings of fruit in your diet?  No worries, just drink you're fruit!  I somehow always feel a little better about my cocktails, when I know I'm getting a few servings of fruit in there.  What better time than summer to blend your favorite fruits with your favorite booze to create refreshing summer cocktail.  Fresh watermelon, blended with vodka, mint and the subtle taste of coconut....Cheers!

3 cups cubed watermelon
1 cup coconut water
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup vodka
2 to 3 sprigs mint

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into glasses and garnish with watermelon wedges and soak up the sun!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Watermelon & Tomato Salsa

Warm nights, cool cocktails, ocean breezes, crazy thunderstorms....Just a few of my favorite summer things.

One of my exceedingly favorite things about summer is the abundance of farmers markets and farm fresh produce.  After a long winter, I almost forget how delicious fruits and veggies taste when they haven't been picked weeks before they arrive at the supermarket.  Nothing inspires the cook in me more than a walk through the farmers' market.  I find that the hardest thing is reigning myself in, because I literally want to buy and cook everything!

For the rest of the summer, and even into the fall, expect to see many recipes inspired by Farmers' Markets.  This recipe combines fabulous Jersey yellow tomatoes, with sweet red watermelon.  Serve with chips, over greens, or use to top grilled fish, pork or chicken.

2 cups diced watermelon
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup diced, peeled and seeded, cucumber
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper (you can add more if you like, it depends on how hot the jalapeno is and how hot you like it!)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Serve with chips, or with grilled fish, pork or chicken.

I really love how colorful this salsa is.  You can also try using yellow watermelon and red tomatoes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bruschetta Omelet

There truly is nothing better than a Jersey tomato.  Whether you pick them fresh from your garden or buy them at the Farmers' Market, they're like a little piece of heaven.   My favorite way to eat them is all alone, with just a little sprinkle of salt.  But when they are so abundant during these summer months I like to use them when ever and where ever I can.

This bruschetta omelet is great for breakfast, brunch or a light dinner.  It's quick and easy to prepare, and when you bite into it, the flavor just screams summertime.

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil, divided
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 Jersey tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 ounce goat cheese

Beat eggs, water, 1-1/2 tablespoons basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until frothy.

Combine tomato, onion, remaining basil, garlic, vinegar, oil and salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

Heat butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat until melted.  Pour egg mixture into skillet.  Cook for about 6 minutes, as the edges set, lift the edges gently and tilt the pan, allowing the uncooked egg to run under the cooked egg mixture. Repeat as needed, until egg mixture is almost set. 

When the omelet is almost set, spoon half of the tomato mixture down the center of the omelet, top evenly with goat cheese.  Fold the omelet over the tomato mixture, cover and continue to cook until eggs are set and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Slide omelet onto plate and top with remaining tomato mixture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thai Mussels in Red Curry Sauce

Mussels have turned into one of my go-to foods of late, because believe it or not, they are ridiculously easy to cook and incredibly versatile.  They're a bit like a chameleon, taking cues from the sauce that surrounds them.  One of my favorite ways to prepare mussels is in a simple, white wine broth, served with lots of crusty bread for soaking up the sauce.  I'll save that recipe for another time.

I think people who have never prepared mussels at home are a bit scared off by them, probably because of  the whole "debearding" thing.  Truth is, most of the mussels that you buy these days are farm raised and very clean.  Many of them don't have beards (the fuzzy, wiry thing that keeps them attached to rocks and such) at all, and the ones that do, the beards are usually quite small and come away with a gentle pull.  I do keep a small pair of pliers in my kitchen, which can make this task easier, especially if you encounter a stubborn beard.

This recipe is probably my second favorite way to make mussels.  With the availability of great ethnic ingredients, like curry pastes and fish sauce, in the supermarket it's a lot easier than you think.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14 ounce can regular or light coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce* (optional)
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed gently and beards removed
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped Thai basil or Italian basil

Heat oil in a large 6 or 8 quart pot and saute onion over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Add red curry paste, stir and cook for about a minute.  Add coconut milk, vegetable broth and fish sauce and bring to a boil.  Add mussels, cover and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes minutes or just until mussels open, stirring gently once or twice to ensure even cooking.  Do NOT overcook.  As soon as the mussels open, they are done.  When they are just done, they are big and fat and succulent and absolutely delicious!   Stir in basil and serve with lime wedges if desired.

Tidbit:  If you have a pot with a see through lid, that is perfect for cooking mussels; this will help with cooking to perfection as the mussels opening is your visual clue to when they're done.

Red Curry Paste (as well as (green, yellow and massaman) are readily available in the ethnic section of your supermarket.  Curry paste typically comes in an envelope or jar.  Scoop out what you need and keep the rest in the refrigerator for later use.

*If you leave out the fish sauce, add about 1/2 teaspoon salt to the dish.

Good fish sauces are made from a mixture of fish and salt that has been allowed to ferment for 1 year to 18 months. Anchovies are typically used, although some fish sauces are also made from other types of fish or squid. The basic ingredients of a good fish sauce are: fish, water, and salt. Sugar may also be added, but isn't necessary.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cucumber, Lemon & Rosemary Water

Drinking at least 8 glasses of water seems like a pretty easy thing to do to take care of your body, but sometimes plain old water, well it gets a little boring.  There are plenty of alternatives out there, but buying flavored waters can drive up that already high grocery bill, not to  mention the artificial flavors that may be added.

Easy Solution: Make your own.  It couldn't be simpler.
Add some fruits, veggies and/or herbs to a pitcher.  Fill with water and put it in the fridge for a few hours.  Before you know it, you'll have a delicious, refreshing, no-cal thirst quencher.

I used lemon, rosemary and cucumber, but experiment and make your own.
Try one of these combo's:  Strawberries and Basil, Grapefruit and Sage, Mixed Berries and Mint, Lemon Thyme and Blackberries.  The combinations are endless.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Margarita Jello Shots

12 to 18 limes and/or lemons
1 large box lime jello ( or 2 small boxes)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups tequila
1/2 cup triple sec or Contreau

Cut limes and lemons in half lengthwise.

Using a spoon or a grape fruit knife, remove pulp from fruit.  (Squeeze juices from pulp and reserve for another use.)   Arrange hollowed out fruit halves on baking sheet or tray.

Bring water to a boil.  Add boiling water to jello in a large measuring cup; stir until jello mix is completely dissolve.  Add tequila and triple sec.

Pour into prepared lemon and and lime halves.

 Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  Slice into wedges and serve.

If you don't want to take the time to hollow out all of the lemons and limes, these taste just as good in traditional jello shot cups :).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Product Spotlight - Smart & Delicious Tortillas by La Tortilla Factory

Explore your supermarket for interesting, new (to you), healthy products.
I found these Smart & Delicious Tortillas by La Tortilla Factory.  They're low carb and high fiber.
Each tortilla has only 50 calories (15 from fat) and has a whopping 7 grams of fiber....oh, and they're delicious!

Product Spotlight - Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings

One of the go-to meals when trying to lose weight is always some type of salad.  Personally I love making salads into a meal by adding hearty ingredients like fruits, nuts, beans and an array of fresh veggies.  You do need to watch out for hidden calories, or that healthy salad that you thought you were having can turn into a calorie laden whopper of a meal.  Dressings are the biggest source of fat and calories, with the creamy varieties packing well over 100 calories per 2 tablespoon serving with most of those calories coming from fat.  You can save calories with reduced fat versions, but they typically make up for the fat with sugars.  Even vinaigrette dressing have about 70 calories per serving.

Plain vinegar or citrus juices are nice lo-cal options, but to satisfy that creamy craving check out Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings.  There are 7 varieties in all.  I've tried the 3 shown above and will never go back to traditional creamy dressings.  Flavor and texture are all quite delicious.  They're great for salads, to serve as dip or to use in recipes.  They have 35 to 45 calories per 2 tablespoon serving with about half of the calories coming from fat.  They definitely turn deprivation into guilt-free indulgence!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sauteed Kale with Butter Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch kale, rough chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 cups vegetable broth
1 15 ounce can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add kale and salt and cook for about 5 minutes or until kale is wilted.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil; cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until kale is wilted.

Stir in butter beans and crushed red  pepper and cook until heated through.

Makes a nice side dish or serve with farro, wheat berries or pasta for a delicious meatless main.

Kale 101

Kale 101

Tired of the same old boring veggies?  Looking for healthy and delicious alternatives?  Why not add kale to your vegetable repertoire...

Gaining in popularity, kale is an amazing vegetable being recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor.  This leafy green vegetable belongs to the Brassica family, a group of vegetables including cabbage, collards, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.

The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.  One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Although it can be found in markets throughout the year, it is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring when it has a sweeter taste and is more widely available.
Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. The leaves should look fresh, not wilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor than those with larger leaves.

Store kale in a plastic storage bag removing as much of the air from the bag as possible, in the refrigerator where it will keep for about 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Don't wash until ready to use.

When ready to cook, rinse leaves under cool running water. Chop leaf portion into 1/2" slices and the stems into 1/4" lengths for quick and even cooking.

This leafy vegetable, holds up really well to all cooking methods.  Unlike more fragile greens, like spinach and arugula, it retains bite and texture making it particularly versatile in the kitchen.

Sauteed Kale with Butter Beans

Friday, May 18, 2012

Super Skinny Margarita

A few months back I discovered Crystal Light's new Mocktails, the Margarita and Pomtini flavors.  They were good on their own, but on my quest for guilt free libations, I thought I would see how they stood up to cocktail hour.  I was pleasantly surprised. While not quite the same as the pure unadulterated Margarita that I prefer, these 'rita's definitely rival Skinny Girl.  Light, refreshing, not too sweet and a big calorie savings.  Margaritas from a typical mix are somewhere around 500 calories; Skinny Girl is 100 calories for a 4 ounce serving.  This one, made with Crystal Light, is just about 100 calories for a whopping 9-1/2  ounce margarita. I think I'll have two!

8 ounces Crystal Light Margarita, prepared according to package directions
1-1/2 ounces tequila
squeeze of fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Shake well and pour into salt rimmed margarita glasses.


Pretty in Pink

The sun is finally back out and spring is most definitely in the air.  Time to spruce up your pedicure and break out the sandals if you haven't already.  I'm just loving all the funky colors and patterns for this spring and summer season.  Especially interesting are how the colors and patterns continue right through to the heel, for an extra sexy and playful look peeking out from under those jeans.

Steve Madden - Xcess
Naughty Monkey - Saint Tropez
Jessica Simplson - Dany
Betsy Johnson - Mystifyy

Nine West - Poolside

Monday, May 14, 2012

Southwest Tuna Salad

When you are watching your calories, every meal really counts and  you want everything you eat to taste delicious and satisfying.  In this tuna salad, I've replaced the fat with flavorful ingredients, so you never miss the mayo and every bite is a flavor explosion!
Serve it over greens, or I like it wrapped in a whole grain tortilla.

1 5 ounce can solid white tuna, water packed, drained
1/2 cup low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
few dashes Chipotle Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients, serve over greens or in whole grain wraps or tortillas.

Makes 2 servings.

Explore your supermarket for interesting new (to you) healthy products.
I found these Smart & Delicious Tortillas by La Tortilla Factory.  They're low carb, high fiber.
Each tortilla has only 50 calories (15 from fat) and has a whopping 7 grams of fiber....oh, and they're delish!

Weight Loss Challenge - Week 3

It's already Week 3 of the weight loss challenge and I am happy to say that I am down 11.5 pounds.

3 things have been key for me as I have continued to shed those unwanted pounds:

Daily Exercise
Meal Planning
Smart Choices

And I've managed to stick with the program despite the busy weekends that come along with the Spring season.  I spent this last weekend in a hotel in Pittsburgh packing Hannah up to bring her home for the summer, not exactly conducive to sticking with diet and exercise, but here are some tips to how I stuck with it.

I  took a lovely run through the neighborhood that I've pretty much only explored by car.  I have always found that it's much more interesting exploring new neighborhoods on foot than by car.   I didn't feel like running both days, so I checked out the "On Demand" section on cable and was able to find quite a few nice workouts, so I opted for a core workout right in my room, and I have to say, it was pretty challenging.  So, you see, there really is no excuse to miss a day.

Meal Planning:
Decide what you are going to make ahead of time for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Look for new recipes or try to find ways to lighten up your old favorites.  Little things can help.  Try reduced fat salad dressings or make the switch to balsamic vinegar or lemon or lime juice.  If you drink 2% milk, change to skim, you can even make a nice creamy dish when you thicken skim milk.  Half and Half in your coffee? Try Skim Plus Half and Half, much less fat and calories.  All of these little things will add up. Explore your grocery store, read labels, see what's out there and remember to include lots of fruit, veggies and whole grains.

Smart Choices:
Again, spending the weekend in a hotel can be tough.  I made sure to pack some containers of yogurt for a breakfast as well as some fruit for snacking.  When choosing restaurants I scoped out the menus ahead of time, so I knew there would be healthy, yet still satisfying and delicious choices.  I made smart choices, didn't stuff myself and even had a few cocktails.  So no feelings of deprivation for me!

(The unexpected stop at Bob Evans on the drive home was challenging, especially for a non meat eater.  But a vegetable filled breakfast omelet with a side of fruit was not all bad.  I have now made a mental note to always eat before leaving Pittsburgh for the ride home, as the choices along the way leave much to be desired.)

As of last week I was tied for 4th place out of about 300 people...not to shabby!  Let's see what tomorrow brings when this weeks results are posted!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Avocado Deviled Eggs

Cinco De Mayo and Kentucky Derby...not sure what too serve?
This recipe fits the bill for either party you may be having.

Not so typical ingredients put a healthy spin on an iconic party appetizer.  Creamy avocado and Greek yogurt replace the saturated fat that typically comes from mayonnaise.   Chipotle and cumin kick up the flavor, while cilantro and a splash of lime keep it fresh.  Invest in a pastry bag and star tip and pipe the mixture into the egg whites for a gorgeous addition to your party menu.

12 large eggs
2 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons nonfat greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 green onions, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
smoked paprika

Place eggs in a singe layer in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.  Drain water; run under cold water to cool.  Peel eggs and chill in refrigerator for about an hour.

Halve eggs lengthwise and remove yolks.  Arrange egg white halves on a platter.  Place yolks in a large bowl.  Add avocado and mash well.  Add green onion, cilantro, yogurt, chipotle chili powder and cumin.

Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into eggs whites.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika and additional chopped fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Potato and Avocado Salad

Classic Potato salad gets an update when potatoes are combined with creamy avocado, lime and chipotle.  A great addition to your Cinco de Mayo menu but this side dish will also take center stage at any barbecue!

3 pounds red skinned potatoes
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
2 avocados, cut into chunks
2 eggs, hard boiled and coarsely chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Place unpeeled whole potatoes in a large sauce pot and cover with water.  Add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the water if desired.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer potatoes, partially covered, about 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain potatoes and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Cut potatoes into bite sized pieces.

While potatoes are cooking, combine mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotle chili powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, add potatoes, avocado, eggs, green onions and cilantro.  Toss gently with mayonnaise mixture until evenly coated.  Chill until ready to serve.

A great addition to your Cinco De Mayo menu and a perfect accompaniment to

Cinco De Mayo isn't complete without Homemade Guacamole and Margaritas!
Classic Margarita