Sunday, December 22, 2013

Chrismahannakwanzakah Cookies


Happy Chrismahannakwanzakah!

Cookies are a great holiday present for those on a budget - they require time and effort and most of the ingredients are cheap if you don't already have them at home. 

These cookies taste like the real deal, but have 75% less sugar because of the Stevia blend I used. I also chose a cookie icing from Betty Crocker that was really easy to use and had 0 g of fat.

Ingredients: 
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup baking Stevia
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional Garnishes: decorative candies and colored sugars

Directions:
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer in a medium mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually add baking Stevia, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to baking Stevia blend mixture, beating until blended. Do not over-mix.

Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half; pat each half into a circle and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill cookie dough for one hour or until slightly firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Work with one portion of dough at a time. Roll each portion to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a cookie cutter, and place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with decorative candies or colored sugars, if desired.

Bake in preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool slightly on cookie sheets; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Nutrition Info (1/20 mix, no icing): 220 calories, 15 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 92 mg sodium, 39 mg potassium, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein, 11% vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 7% iron, 12% folate, 12% selenium, 13% thiamine

Adapted from: http://recipes.splenda.com/recipes/1397045-Sweet-As-Sugar-Cookies

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You mean buttermilk doesn't go with everything? Said no one ever.

I didn't pick this recipe, but if you knew my friends, you would know who did. This one friend in particular is a HUGE fan of anything with sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, whole milk - you name a dairy product that would scare a dietitian and she keeps it in her fridge. The good thing is that otherwise she eats extremely healthy and is a normal weight. She also is a fan of "Colorante", a spice often used in Spain to give food the appearance that it has been seasoned with saffron, which explains the distinct yellow color of our fish. 

If I did it again, I would probably add some extra spice to the fish, it needed a little bit more kick. I could definitely see putting paprika, taco spice or Cajun seasonings, especially since I am not a big fan of jalapeno peppers.

HEALTHY FISH TACOS WITH BUTTERMILK AVOCADO PUREE - PUREE OPTIONAL

Start to finish: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
Guess which one was made by a chef, and which one I made?
1 large Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into eighths
1/3 cup buttermilk (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrot
1 cup coarsely grated radishes
1/4 cup white wine or cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 8 equal pieces
Whole-wheat flour, for coating the fish
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
Sliced fresh jalapeno peppers, to serve
Chopped fresh cilantro, to serve

Directions:
Heat the oven to 200 F.

In a food processor, combine the avocado, buttermilk, 1 clove of garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, then set aside. (I skipped this step)

In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage, remaining garlic, carrot, radishes, vinegar, sugar, lime zest and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet (such as cast-iron or stainless steel, but not nonstick) over medium heat. One at a time, place the tortillas in the skillet and toast for about 30 seconds per side. As the tortillas are toasted, stack them on a sheet of foil. Wrap the foil around the tortillas, then place them in the over to keep warm. Alternatively, the tortillas can be held with tongs and toasted directly over a gas burner for a few seconds per side.

In a pie plate or other wide, shallow bowl, combine about 1 cup of flour with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. One at a time, dredge each piece of fish through the flour until coated evenly. Shake off any excess.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high. Add half of the fish to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes a side. Transfer to an oven-safe plate and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and fish.

To serve, top each tortilla with a bit of the avocado puree (or avocado slices with lime, salt, and pepper to taste), then a piece of fish. Drain the cabbage mixture, then mound some of that over each portion. Serve with jalapeno slices and cilantro on the side.

Nutrition information (1/4 recipe): 500 calories, 190 calories from fat, 22 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats), 60 mg cholesterol, 51 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 31 g protein, 370 mg sodium

A Little Wine with Dinner

Didn't I just say I would cut back on the alcohol in my last post? Well, I guess I'll keep trying. These delicious clams and mussels were just too perfect with a few glasses of white wine. 

Maybe wine doesn't count... Anyways, I really lucked out with these little sea creatures because out of the 48 total clams and mussels I bought, only 1 was bad and didn't open up. It was probably because I bought them and cooked them on the same day and the lovely seafood lady at Whole Foods sent me with two heaping bags of ice to keep them cool. Although the mussel experts say you can store mussels in the fridge for several days, covered with a damp cloth.

Giada, from the Food Network, is one of my favorite chefs. Every recipe I have made from her has been outstanding. This one was great because the crushed red peppers spice up the entire broth and give all of the seafood that little bit of kick. The recipe is supposed to serve 6, but the two of us ate all of the mussels and clams with a few shrimp left over. (Just in case your eyes are bigger than your stomach, cooked mussels stay good in the fridge 3-4 days, but you probably want to take them out of their shells before you store them.) 

I definitely recommend a crunchy french baguette to accompany your meal, and you get bonus points if it's fresh out of the oven. 

Mussels, Clams and Shrimp in Spicy Broth 
Courtesy of Giada & Food Network

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
24 small Littleneck clams (about 2 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed
24 mussels (about 1 1/2 pounds total), debearded
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined, butterflied
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Warm crusty bread


Directions
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Saute until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and the flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Stir in the clams. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the mussels. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels open, about 5 minutes longer.

Using a tongs, transfer the opened shellfish to serving bowls (discard any shellfish that do not open). Add the shrimp and basil to the simmering tomato broth. Simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide the shrimp and tomato broth among the bowls. Serve with the warm bread.

Nutrition (1/6 recipe, excluding bread): 276 calories, 14 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 127 mg cholesterol, 193 mg sodium, 539 mg potassium, 10 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 65 g protein,  5% vitamin A, 5% calcium, 12% iron, 4% vitamin C, 15% vitamin B-12, 29% vitamin D, 17% phosphorous, 42% selenium,

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/mussels-clams-and-shrimp-in-spicy-broth-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Back to Basics

Hey y'all, I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I'm done socializing and soul-searching for the time being and I'm ready to focus on health, wellness and exercise - hooray! After partying my way through the months of July, August and September (and gaining at least five pounds), I am exhausted and ready to refocus on my well-being in the winter months. Concerns about my health also play a factor, because with my condition, good nutrition is a big contributor to improved quality of life. 

So what does this refocusing involve? A lot more grocery shopping, upping the gym visits, less alcohol, more sleep. Pretty basic I think, but some how I had lost sight of these important basics when I was too busy having fun all summer in Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore, New York City and my hometown of Washington D.C. 
Atlantic City
I know exactly what people mean when they say, "I don't have time to cook" - I am one of the worst offenders - but I don't let that be an excuse to eat terrible food and when I realize I have dug myself a hole (like now), I try to pull myself out of it. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recipe Re-do: Caramelized Banana Cake

It's nurse's week this week, so on my day off, I decided to bake the nurses on my floor a cake. This banana cake is one of my favorite ways to use up overripe bananas, but it was also great with the fresh bananas I bought at the store today. I made it healthier by using Splenda in the cake and only using 2/3 of the recommended amount of oil. I also made cupcakes with the caramelized bananas on the bottom to keep for myself :)

Caramelized Banana Loaf Cake 
Rachel Ray Magazine, December 2009

Ingredients:
3 to 4 large bananas
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup baking splenda
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, in 1 piece
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 oz vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Grease a 5-by-9 loaf pan. Trim both ends off each of 3 bananas to fit crosswise in the pan; reserve the ends. Halve the long banana pieces lengthwise; peel and transfer to a plate
2. In a large, heavy skillet, bring 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil, without stirring. Cook until the water has evaporated and the mixture starts turning amber. Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter with a fork. Add the long banana pieces cut side down and cook over low heat for 1 minute; transfer to the prepared loaf pan, arranging them crosswise, cut side down. Drizzle the remaining caramel on top.
3. In a medium bowl, mash the banana end pieces to equal 1 cup (add more banana if necessary). Mash in the 1/2 cup Splenda. Beat in the whole egg, egg white and vanilla. 
4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the banana mixture and oil; whisk until blended. Scrape the batter over the bananas in the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool on rack for 10 minutes; invert the cake onto a platter and let cool completely.

Allergens: Wheat, gluten, eggs, milk
Nutrition: 202 calories, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 151 mg sodium, 220 mg potassium, 28 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 3 g protein, 3% vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 1% calcium, 6% iron, 17% vitamin B-6, 11% folate  

Monday, April 1, 2013

But is it Kosher for Passover?

As you can probably tell by now, I make all my friends bake with me. Even when it's passover and the friend in question is observant. I do love a challenge after all.

Before we even started, we were grilled by her mother about what ingredients were in the cookies, just to be sure we weren't pulling a fast one on her. After some debate, we carefully combined two recipes from "Couldn't be Parve". They turned out awesome considering the restrictions we were under, but your patience will be rewarded if you can wait until the filling hardens up before you eat them. 

Ganache-Filled Almond Cookies
Makes approximately 20 cookies

For Cookies
1 cup almond butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Scoop out teaspoon sized balls of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Space the cookies at least two inches apart since the spread considerably. Flatten the cookies slightly. Bake until the cookies are set and golden, approximately eight minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before filling.

For Ganache
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate
3/4 cups (6 ounces) almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a food processor, coarsely chop the chocolate and then process it in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat the almond milk until just boiling (this can be done in the microwave). Pour it into the food processor while the motor is running. Process until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the vanilla and then process until smooth and glossy.

Pour the ganache into a shallow dish and let stand at room temperature until it has set, at least a few hours (the time it will take to set is determined by how warm the kitchen is). Once the ganache has set it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the refrigerator for up to a month.

To fill the cookies spread the flat side of half of the cookies with ganache. Top with the remaining cookies, flat side down.

Adapted from: http://www.couldntbeparve.com/2012/04/ganache-filled-pecan-cookies/

Allergens: Milk, egg, nuts

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Breakfast (or Lunch, or Dinner) Frittata

It was just a matter of time before Pinterest entered my life in food form, and this recipe was too easy to resist. It took 10 minutes to prepare after I got home from the gym, and 25 minutes to bake.

The original recipe had too many egg whites, and too few whole eggs for my taste, so the modified version below has twice as many whole eggs and half the egg whites. There are four servings after all, I think one egg yolk per person is okay. And that is my professional opinion ;)

Healthy Breakfast Frittata
Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:
1 Cup Eggwhites (I use eggwhites from a carton to make my life easier)
4 Whole Eggs
1/2 a Small White Onion Finely Chopped
2 Cups Spinach (not packed)
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
Black Pepper, to taste
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place all ingredients in an 8×8 previously oiled baking dish sprinkling your spices on top. Using a fork fold ingredients together. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Using a fork poke the middle of your frittata to make sure it is cooked the entire way through. Remove from oven and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Adapted from: http://www.damyhealth.com/2011/08/healthy-breakfast-frittata/

Allergies: Egg, milk
Nutrition (1/4 recipe): 137 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 191 mg cholesterol, 357 mg sodium, 271 mg potassium, 3 g carbohydrate, 16 g protein, 38% vitamin A, 9% vitamin C, 7% calcium, 7% iron, 10% vitamin D, 22% folate, 11% phosphorous, 27% riboflavin

Monday, March 25, 2013

Deliciousness from the Dirt - Leek & Potato Soup

I had a little soup mishap, and it didn't turn out quite as delicious-looking as this one.
But it was still pretty tasty, and I'm confident that if I could learn to follow directions, I could make some legit potato leek soup.
I made this recipe even shorter and quicker than it already is by not mashing the potatoes or pureeing the leeks. So it actually looked more like the soup pictured. But I would definitely have chopped up the potatoes and leeks into smaller pieces if I had known I was going to go the lazy route.

Potato Leek Soup
From Eatingwell.com
Makes 6 1-cup servings

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
3 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced (3 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 pounds all-purpose potatoes, (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation
Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan or stockpot over low heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; cook for 2 minutes more. Pour in broth, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Pour the soup through a strainer set over a large bowl. Puree the leeks in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding some the broth if necessary. Return the puree and broth to the saucepan. Add potatoes and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash the potatoes thoroughly with a potato masher.
Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. Return to low heat and heat until hot, but not boiling. Serve hot or chilled. 

Allergens: Milk
Nutrition (1 cup): 162 calories; 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 25 g carbohydrates, 0 g added sugars, 7 g protein, 2 g fiber, 206 mg sodium, 507 mg potassium, 15% vitamin A, 40% vitamin C

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Irish know their Cheddar, and their Butter


It's a tradition in my family to celebrate holidays at our convenience. Jewish holidays? Ehh, Saturday works better with my schedule. Christmas? I can wait til the weekend to see that side of the family. Valentine's Day? As long as it's in the same week...  
I feel the same way about St. Patrick's Day. So although it was on Sunday this year, we made Irish food Friday night and ate green bagels Saturday before going on a mini pub crawl :) 
Looking at traditional Irish recipes got me pretty discouraged, since I wasn't going to take 4 hours to make corn beef and cabbage, Irish stew, or shepherd's pie. But some how this equally long-winded recipe did not have the same effect, probably because of the beer :)
But seriously, it did take four hours to make.  In fact, we had to break out the extra Irish cheddar and crackers to balance out the wine we were drinking. I kept telling myself that it was only about 45 minutes per serving - and that sounds reasonable right?

Beef Pot Pies with Cheddar Stout Crust
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
For the dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
6 to 7 tablespoons stout beer
1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
2 1/4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup stout beer
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces


Directions
Make the dough: Pulse the flour and fine salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and cheese and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some pea-size bits of butter. Drizzle in 6 tablespoons beer and pulse to combine. Squeeze the dough between your fingers; if it does not hold its shape, pulse in up to 1 more tablespoon beer. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Toss the beef, flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 7 minutes. Add the beer and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then cover, transfer to the oven and braise, 30 minutes. Add the leeks, carrots and celery to the pot and continue braising, 1 more hour.

Meanwhile, put six 10-ounce ramekins on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out the dough between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; cut into six 5-inch squares. Make a few slits in the middle of each square to let steam escape.

Remove the filling from the oven and increase the temperature to 375 degrees F. Season the filling with salt and pepper and divide among the ramekins (there may be some filling left over). Top each with a square of dough, pressing the edges into the ramekin. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/beef-potpies-with-cheddar-stout-crust-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback


Allergens: Wheat, gluten, milk
Nutrition(1 10 oz pie): 885 calories, 59 g fat, 34 g saturated fat, 260 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 930 mg potassium, 47 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 40 g protein, 234% vitamin A, 18% vitamin C, 39% iron, 20% calcium,  101% vitamin B-12, 43% vitamin B-6, 10% vitamin E, 35% folate, 17% magnesium, 35% niacin, 11% pantothenic acid, 47% phosphorous, 39% riboflavin, 61% selenium, 39% thiamin, 67% zinc

Friday, March 1, 2013

Easy, Healthy, Quick Meals Part VII

Monday night, after the gym, I was inspired to pick up some sliced almonds and nonfat Greek yogurt, and make myself a fruit parfait for dinner. It took about 10 minutes to assemble, and it made for a healthy, satisfying dinner. A few Google searches later, I found this recipe for a Chicken, Pesto, Celery, Walnut, and Spinach Wrap. It's just as easy to assemble, and made for plenty of leftovers!

Ingredients:
6 Fiber One garden vegetable wraps
1 1/2 pounds rotisserie chicken 
4 stalks celery, diced
2 Tbsp pesto
3 cups spinach, fresh
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions:
1) Pull the meat off the rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, and divide it into smaller pieces. 
2) Mix the pesto, walnuts, and celery in with the chicken.
3) Sprinkle 1/2 cup spinach on a vegetable wrap and cover with approximately 3 oz chicken
4) Roll it up like a burrito and enjoy!

Adapted from: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/quick-recipes/dinner/quick-meals/

Allergens: Wheat, gluten, soy, nuts, milk
Nutrition: 319 calories, 18 g fat, 2 sat fat, 54 mg cholesterol, 403 mg sodium, 385 mg potassium, 19 g carbohydrates, 11 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 30 g protein, 30% vitamin A, 32% vitamin C, 11% calcium, 13% iron, 14% folate, 50% niacin, 23% phosphorous

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The wonderful thing about chocolate is...


... you can dip almost anything into it, including coconut macaroons. 

In an effort to use up my shredded coconut leftover from Valentine's Day, one of my good friends from college proposed baking up some coconut macaroons. Right as I was walking out the door on my way to her house, I sent a quick text, "anything else you need before I head over?".
"A double boiler," she replied, "I want to dip the macaroons in chocolate."
It was like music to my ears.

Ingredients

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using your hands until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted.

Allergens: wheat, gluten, milk, tree nuts
Nutrition (1/12 recipe): 287 calories, 12 g fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 187 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g fiber, 4 g protein 
Recipe Note: The nutrition info does not include the chocolate for dipping, I recommend adding a small amount of butter when melting chocolate (see previous post). I also used a smaller ice cream scoop, so I made closer to 30 macaroons, which would be about 115 calories, and 5 g fat.
Recipe from AllRecipes.com

The frustrating thing about chocolate is...

... it's delicious. And difficult to do well. Here's what I've learned:

1) Add butter to the melted chocolate to improve the consistency for dipping. 
2) Toppings are delicious and add variety (ever seen Shari's Berries? Good source of inspiration). Also use different types of chocolate, like dark and white chocolate. 
3) Keep your chocolate-dipped creations in the fridge, especially when you are OCD, like me. Just try to keep the moisture level down in the fridge, and wipe off any condensation that appears. 
4) Buy twice as many wrappers as you think you need, some will get messed up. 
5) White chocolate does not like to cooperate. My white chocolate would not stay melted for more than 15 seconds, and then I had to stir it again vigorously. From all the forums I read, there is a small consensus that Trader Joe's makes the most meltable white chocolate. Also see rule #1. 
6) Keep the double boiler dry and free of excess water - any extra water or moisture can affect the chocolate's melted consistency.



I learned all this after spending almost three hours on my Valentine's Day making chocolate-covered strawberries. I thought I couldn't go wrong with a recipe from Martha Stewart, but even she could not save me from chocolate peril.

Most advice on the subject said that chocolate-covered strawberries should be eaten within the first 24 hours, and are best when eaten the same day. Martha Stewart added the caveat that strawberries should not be left in the refrigerator for more than an hour, or they will collect "condensation drops". I diligently timed my strawberries for 15 minutes in the fridge, and I still ended up with condensation. 

The next question was where to store the strawberries. My house runs around 78 to 80 degrees in the winter, which did not seem like the ideal temperature. Someone suggested I leave them in my car, where it might be cold but not too cold. It would have been a great idea, except that I parked on the roof of the parking garage, and my car became a winter greenhouse. 

Here's how it went down. It was 3:30 PM. I was eager to drive home and get ready for my Valentine's Day dinner. I stole a peak at my lovingly-made strawberries in the back seat of my car, and I smelled ripe fruit. The strawberries had leaked juice into their wrappers and the white chocolate had melted completely off. In a panic, I drove home, trying to come up with an action plan. At home, I carefully replaced the soiled wrappers, threw out the hopeless causes, replaced them with some of the less attractive leftovers, and chilled the strawberries for the next two hours. They looked better, but still very sad compared to their former glory. 

The good part is there was still a happy ending - my boyfriend gobbled them up the following night, proclaiming them "delicious". I guess it was worth the effort after all :)

Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Ingredients

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces dark chocolate chips
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 quarts large strawberries, washed and dried well
Unsweetened shredded coconut
Sprinkles

Directions

1) Place chocolate in a double boiler. Stir occasionally, until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Add in 1-2 teaspoons of butter and mix to desired consistency. Between each type of chocolate, carefully wash the double boiler and wipe dry in between uses.
2) Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. One at a time, dip each strawberry in chocolate, twirling to coat; then sprinkle chocolate-covered portion with toppings, if using, and place on waxed paper.
3) Chill chocolate-dipped strawberries at least 15 minutes to set chocolate. 

Allergens: milk, soy, tree nuts
Nutrition (1/45 recipe, ~1 strawberry): 69 calories, 4 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 4 mg sodium, 53 mg potassium, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 1 g protein, 0% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C, 1% calcium, 3% iron

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

For the past couple of years, I have always stayed in and cooked for Valentine's Day. I never wanted to face the crowds or the extra expense, and in college these things just don't seem as important. When I would go to the grocery store on February 14th, I always laughed at the poor husbands and boyfriends struggling to find that last ingredient, or agonizing in front of the spice rack for 20 minutes before finding what they need. I love grocery stores, and learning how to cook new foods. 
It will be nice to take a year off and go out to dinner tomorrow night to celebrate, but since I can no longer pretend that my gift is the dinner, I actually had to think of a gift. Luckily, I had an extra night to plan and prepare. I ended up making mostly milk chocolate and dark chocolate strawberries because the white chocolate was not cooperating. I had no idea white chocolate was so difficult to work with! 
I'll be sure to post the recipe after I've been thoroughly romanced!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Poppyseed Cake Showdown or "How Butter can do you in"

I count myself lucky that I don't have any allergies, don't have to "count carbs" or "watch my salt". And even though I will try anything once, there are a handful of foods I won't be trying twice. For whatever reason they just don't agree with me. 
During my internship, the hospital where I worked had an Au Bon Pain, and my partner and I would often split a pastry after a long day. It was so interesting to me how both of us would have GI symptoms with the same certain pastries. I have noticed that processed foods, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils in particular, are more likely to cause problems. Just one more reason to eat healthy, fresh foods
Unfortunately, these lemon poppy seed bars are in the second category of "never again", however delicious they might be. My friend actually used the wrong recipe when she went grocery shopping, and I thought we could go ahead and make it since we had the ingredients. But now that I sit down and compare the "Lemon poppy seed bars" to the "Banana poppy seed cake" we were planning to make, I see what did me in - the butter. The lemon cake has an entire cup of butter, 8 times as much butter as the banana cake. That's an extra 103 g of saturated fat per recipe because of butter. So although these lemon poppy seed bars are pretty darn tasty, I won't be making them again any time soon.


Lemon Poppy Seed Squares 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 


1 2.2 oz bottle of poppy seeds (approx 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
juice and zest of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup lemon juice) 
1/2 tsp lemon extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Mix the above ingredients together and set aside 1 cup of flour.


1 cup almond flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1/8 tsp salt

Mix the above dry ingredients together and set aside. 

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup sugar
3 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar till fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix just until completely blended. Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and then put a thick layer of lemon glaze over the entire cake.

Lemon Glaze

2 cups confectioner's sugar
juice of 1 1/2 to 2 lemons

Mix the sugar and lemon together until you get a spreadable glaze. Add more lemon or more sugar to get the right consistency. 


Recipe from: http://theviewfromthegreatisland.blogspot.com/2012/09/lemon-poppy-seed-squares.html

Allergens: Milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, nuts
Nutrition (1/12 pan): 431 calories, 24 g fat, 11 g sat fat, 89 mg cholesterol, 198 mg sodium, 86 mg potassium, 50 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 38 g sugar, 7 g protein, 13% vitamin A, 5% vitamin C, 7% iron, 13% calcium, 10% phosphorous, 24% manganese

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Easy, Healthy, Quick Meals Part VI

There is a lot to be said for a recipe that cooks up quick and requires minimal prep time. Even more so if it is also healthy, cheap, and uses nonperishable ingredients. So even though this is not my favorite Giada recipe, it is definitely worth keeping the ingredients around in case I ever need to cook up  a good amount of food in a short amount of time. I promise you, it will grow on you as you eat, especially if you are generous with red pepper flakes and the parmesan ;)

Ingredients:
1 pound farfalle pasta - I had gemelli so that's what I used
2 heads broccoli, trimmed to florets (about 4 cups) - I used frozen
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
5 anchovy fillets, diced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan - I used Romano cheese

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook the broccoli according to the package directions. Drain pasta and broccoli together in a collander, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, pasta, salt and pepper and toss. Add some of the reserved pasta water, if necessary, to make a light sauce. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Allergens: Fish, milk, wheat, gluten
Nutrition (1/6 recipe): 476 calories, 16 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 327 mg sodium, 444 mg potassium, 64 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 1.5 g sugar, 22 g protein, 43% vitamin A, 113% vitamin C, 26% calcium, 14% iron, 42% vitamin B-12, 17% vitamin D, 15% vitamin E, 41% folate, 13% magnesium, 14% niacin, 31% phosphorous, 20% riboflavin, 17% thiamin, 10% zinc

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recipe Re-do: Spinach Artichoke Dip

Look Familiar? I last posted about this recipe in March 2010.
This Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe from Juan Carlos Cruz has served me well over the past few years, so it is too bad that they took down the recipe from the Food Network website. Luckily, one of my fellow bloggers shared her version of the recipe, and I tend to agree with most of her revisions. Thanks, "Tiny Kitchen Cooking"

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Recipe courtesy Juan-Carlos Cruz & the Food Network

Ingredients:
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more as needed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
Carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips, for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in a food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce. (I just mixed them together in a bowl, and crushed the garlic in a garlic press).

Process until just blended but still slightly lumpy. Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture (I just made sure the artichokes were chopped small and mixed them in. Pour into an 8"x 8" dish). Top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes (~45 minutes to achieve a nicely browned top). Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips.

Allergens: milk
Nutrition (1/8 recipe): 189 calories, 12 g fat, 39 mg cholesterol, 415 mg sodium, 178 mg potassium, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 11 g protein, 52% vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 24% calcium, 5% iron, 11% phosphorus, 11% riboflavin

Roasted Winter Vegetable Lasagna

 This week was my turn to work the weekend, which meant I had Thursday off, so I spent the day grocery shopping, prepping veggies, making dip and baking lasagna. With the thermometer stuck below 20 degrees, it was too cold to do much else. 
I was inspired by a roasted root vegetable lasagna that I had at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle a few years ago. You wouldn't think that radishes, squash and leeks would make for delicious lasagna, but it did. So I had high hopes for this recipe from "The view from great island" blog.

Ingredients:
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and sliced (I used the pre-cut squash)
1 leek, sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
a couple of handfuls of Brussels sprouts, quartered
about a cup and a half of thickly sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves,whole with skin on
olive oil
1 package of no cook lasagna noodles (I used a little more than half the box)
1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce, or tomato puree
1 1/2 lb of whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
large handful of fresh sage leaves, chopped
salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 -3 8 oz balls of fresh mozzerella, thinly sliced (I used ~20 oz)

Directions:
1) Set the oven to 400 degrees for the roasted veggies. Spread the vegetables out on baking pans in one layer. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast them in the hot oven just until they brown a bit and are almost tender. This will only take 10 or 15 minutes. Stir or shake the pan once or twice during roasting. 
2) After you take the vegetables out of the oven, turn down the heat to 375. Squeeze out the roasted garlic from its peel and chop it up.
3) Mix the ricotta with the eggs and sage. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
4) Ladle some of the tomato sauce to cover the bottom of your 9x12 lasagna pan and lay a first layer of noodles down. Try to cover most of the space, breaking noodles to fit, if necessary. Put down 1/2 of the veggies, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, and 1/3 of the mozzerella.
5) Make 1 more layer the same way. Press down on the noodles lightly as you layer and season with salt and pepper.
6) For the last layer put down the noodles, top with sauce, and mozzerella. Make sure all exposed noodles are covered in sauce. No-cook noodles need extra sauce to cook in and absorb.
7) Cover loosely with non-stick foil and bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes, and run under the broiler to brown if necessary. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting. Cool completely before freezing.

From: http://theviewfromthegreatisland.blogspot.com/2011/12/roasted-winter-vegetable-lasagna.html#

Allergens: Eggs, milk, wheat, gluten
Nutrition (1/12 lasagna): 367 calories, 22 g fat, 11 g sat fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 677 mg sodium, 561 mg potassium, 23 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 21 g protein, 69% vitamin A, 37% vitamin C, 12% iron, 39% calcium, 22% vitamin B-12, 11% vitamin B-6, 17% folate, 11% magnesium, 32% phosphorous, 24% riboflavin, 13% thiamin, 16% zinc

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Taste of Hawaii


"Waking up too early
Maybe we can sleep in
I'll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it's the weekend now
And we could pretend it all the time
- Jack Johnson

This recipe makes me think of Jack Johnson playing in the background on a quiet Sunday morning, the early morning light poring into the still dark kitchen, as I meditatively combine ingredients and wait for my macadamia sauce to thicken. It is a nice thought, but very far from the reality. 
In reality, it was 12:45 in the afternoon, and the football game was going to start soon We were starving hungry and popping turkey sausage links, waiting anxiously for the macadamia nut sauce to thicken. Pretty soon, he was splitting his time between watching the pancakes and watching the game for the most part, but once the sauce started to thicken up and fill the air with delicious smells, neither of us could stay away from the stove, and we stood arms around each other, proud of our success.
You can't get that kind of moment at IHOP, ladies and gentleman.

Banana Pancakes
Makes enough to serve 4 people

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil and bananas.
2. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy.
3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot.

Macadamia Nut Sauce
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Grind macadamia nuts in a food processor until fine. Place nuts into a medium saucepan and fry over medium high heat for 5 min or until fragrant. Remove from pan, and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and add the butter, stirring until melted. Stir in flour and cook 1 min. Slowly pour in milk and cream, constantly whisking the whole time. Add sugar, salt, vanilla to the pan. Cook 5 min or until thickened, stirring constantly (I ended up adding an additional 1/2 Tbsp of flour out of impatience at this point). Stir in lemon juice and half of the ground macadamias.

Pour sauce into a serving dish. Serve warm and sprinkle remaining ground macadamia nuts on top of each serving.

Allergens: Wheat, gluten, egg, milk, tree nuts
Nutrition (1/4 pancake recipe): 300 calories, 11 g fat, 7 g sat fat, 53 mg cholesterol, 435 mg sodium, 373 mg potassium, 44 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 7 g protein, 4% vitamin A, 9% vitamin C, 22% calcium, 12% iron, 20% vitamin B-6, 19% folate, 11% niacin, 18% phosphorous, 22% riboflavin, 20% thiamin, 19% selenium, 15% manganese (1/8 sauce recipe): 235 calories, 21 g fat, 7 g sat fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 326 mg sodium, 146 mg potassium, 10 g carbs, 1.5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein, 5% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C, 8% calcium, 4% iron, 15% thiamin, 35% manganese

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Giada's Roman Chicken


I'm a fan of just about every thing Giada makes, and I had my eye on this recipe for quite some time. A perfect healthy date night meal.

Ingredients
4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions
Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Allergens: none
Nutrition (1/6 recipe): 266 calories, 13 g fat, 2 g sat fat; 28 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 1.5 g fiber, 76 mg cholesterol, 1,307 mg sodium


Food making Memories


I took a bit of a break from blogging while looking for a job, but I am excited to jump back into it now that I am gainfully employed. When I don't have time to cook every day, or every week, cooking is a special treat to share with those I care about - and can be a lot of fun. Plus, it's healthier and cheaper than going out. 


This simple combination of pasta, sauteed onions, grape tomatoes, basil, feta, olive oil, garlic and Italian herbs was a great success when my old college roommate and I wanted a quick lunch to share on the patio on one of the last warm days in September.  


Giada's Roman Chicken recipe made for a delicious date night with the new boyfriend. After a long, busy week full of not the best food choices, it feels good to sit down and enjoy a homemade meal for a change. Just remember to leave plenty of time to prepare the meal, so you're not stressed out or tempted to snack while you wait.


I don't how I got it into my head that I wanted to make a Smorgastorta - aka "Savory Sandwich Cake" - a traditional Swedish cake that is supposed to be a great appetizer and look beautiful too. Mine looks less than beautiful, but constructing this 4 layer cake and deciding on what each layer should be and how to decorate was great fun on a cold winter night. The fillings included cream cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon, tomato and more cream cheese. Definitely not for the faint of heart.... or those with a heart condition. 


When my boyfriend and I first started dating, he mentioned a trip to Hawaii, and some particularly delicious banana pancakes with macadamia nut sauce. Of course, I was intrigued. I came to find out that he is not the only one craving pancakes from Boots and Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen in Kailua, HI - this recipe has the same inspiration. Now these pancakes will remind me of lazy Sundays, watching football. 

Recipes and nutrition coming soon!