Friday, May 30, 2014

Build Your Own Taco Salad

Apparently a week's worth of Mexican food in Atlanta was not enough to sate this gal. Inspired by my week of daily delicious Mexican food, I decided to treat myself to a "Build Your Own Taco Salad" night. This is such a great dinner for kids and a crowd pleaser for picky adults. You can still make sure that there are lots of healthy options on the table, but everyone gets some control over their own dish. There are also lots of other options that didn't make it on to my table, so feel free to add your own favorites. These portions made enough for 4 adults.

  • 1 lb Organic skinless, boneless chicken (breasts or thighs), chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 c vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning mix
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large Organic red pepper, sliced
  • 1 large Organic yellow pepper, sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 6 Organic jalapeno peppers
  • 3 Organic romaine hearts
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 c shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese blend
  • 1/2 c reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 can Organic black beans, rinsed
  • 2 limes
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Reduced fat tortilla chips (optional)

For Chicken:
Heat vegetable broth over medium high heat in large frying pan. Add chicken and taco seasoning mix. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 15 minutes until sauce thickens.

For Peppers and Onions:
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil over high heat in large griddle pan. Add sliced peppers and onions. Sear for 10 minutes stirring frequently to prevent burning. 

For Jalapenos:
Toss whole jalapenos with 1 tbsp olive oil on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Broil on high for 5 minutes. Turn, and continue broiling until peppers blister and char slightly.

For Toppings:
Chop lettuce. Place lettuce in a bowl. Slice avocado. Heat black beans in a saucepan or microwave safe bowl and serve. Place a sliced lime half on each plate. Serve with chips and bowls of cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Working from "Home"

For Memorial Day Weekend, I was lucky enough to get to travel to Atlanta for a whole week. I'm an Atlantan, born and raised, and my parents and exceptionally large extended family still live there. Every time I visit is another adventure and trip down memory lane.

This particular trip focused around wedding planning and seeing my friends from business school...and Mexican food. Though New York is filled with amazing authentic cuisine from all over the world, it is almost impossible to find really good Mexican food. I'm completely spoiled from my years living in LA, so whenever I'm out of New York, I go for Mexican food. I just love salty sweet margaritas and fresh taco salads with creamy avocados, not to mention the ever-popular chips and salsa. This time I went a little nuts. I managed to have this delicious cuisine every single day: two separate trips to Tin Lizzy's, No Mas Cantina for a friend's rehearsal dinner, Chuey's for lunch and Pure Taqueria for margaritas and tacos.

One major perk of working in Atlanta is the backyard of my parents' house. The live on a lake! While it is way to early in the season to go swimming, I was able to snag a few minutes sitting on the dock enjoying the view. And of course I took over my parents' dining room table for my temporary office. Though I love Astoria and the view of 21st Avenue at my normal work-from-home desk, the lake view is the clear winner.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Buffalo Chicken and Cauliflower Salad

This one is seriously more delicious than it sounds. It still qualifies as mostly healthy...or at least significantly healthier than the alternative. It is very easily scaled for individual portions or large groups. Even if you don't usually like cauliflower, I encourage you to try it at least once, and either this or the "mac" n cheese are the way to do it! This recipe totally hits the spot for me on nights when I really want wings but my waist line doesn't want the fried goodness of traditional wings.

  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs), chopped into 2 inch strips (1/4 lb per person)
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/2 bottle buffalo wing sauce
  • reduced fat blue cheese crumbles (2 tbsp per person)
  • celery stalks (3 per person), chopped
  • romaine hearts (1/2 per person), chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss cauliflower in buffalo sauce until coated on large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Toss chicken in buffalo sauce until coated on large baking sheet. Turn cauliflower and bake both chicken and cauliflower for an additional 15 minutes or so, turning chicken once. Remove chicken. Turn oven up to broil and broil cauliflower for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss celery stalks and romaine hearts in a bowl. Serve chicken and cauliflower over lettuce mixture. Top with blue cheese crumbes and serve.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Strawberry season is right around the corner. I can almost taste it! Well, actually, I can taste it since I bought some at the store. This breakfast is a great quick go-to when you're looking for something fresh and healthy (and a great way to go through some of those CSA strawberries when they come in by the gallon). We use local honey every day during allergy season to keep the sneezes at bay, and this is a nice way to work it in. I'm also just in love with the creamy texture the ricotta gives this little gem. It's a perfect substitution for peanut butter fatigue.

Strawberry Ricotta Toast
Serves 1

  • 2 slices Ezekiel bread
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 5 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tsp honey

Toast slices of bread. Spread each slice with 1 tbsp ricotta. Place strawberries on top in one even layer. Drizzle with honey and enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kale Pesto Pasta with Spinach Feta Sausage

Though Kale was the darling of yesteryear (replaced by the versatile cauliflower this year), kale will always have a special place in my heart and on my plate. In my attempt to continually make all luxuriously delicious dishes *slightly* healthier, I made a kale pesto. Next time, I think I'll throw in some basil as well, but this one came out pretty darn tasty.

  • 1/3 c toasted pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 10 oz baby kale
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated, plus more to for sprinkling
  • 2 servings penne pasta
  • 2 links spinach feta chicken sausage

Add pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice to a food processor or blender, and puree. Slowly add the kale and olive oil, alternating until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in the cheese.

Heat a grill pan to medium high heat and heat sausage until cooked through.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta reserving 2 tbsp of the starchy water. Add 1/2 c pesto to the pasta and toss. (You can add more or less depending on your taste.) Plate the pasta and top with the sliced sausage. Sprinkle with more cheese and serve.

*Note: this recipe serves two but makes enough for 4+ servings of pesto.*

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Container Garden Update

They're alive! Believe it or not, my indoor potted plants have actually lasted several weeks now. This is truly a feat for me. They usually die almost instantly. In fact, the parsley (towards the top of the image) got so big it was taking over its shared container and had to be moved to a separate one. The true accomplishment, however, are the tiny little buds in the bottom of the frame. Those, my friends, are basil plants grown sprouted from seeds. Now let's see if they last another few weeks...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Zucchini Carpaccio

When the zucchini surplus occurs around mid-Summer, I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to eat them. One of my favorites is the super-simple zucchini carpaccio. Sliced super thin with just a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and a few strips of high quality Parmesan cheese, the zucchini really shines. 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1/2 lemon (approximately 1 1/2 tsp juice)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese (Asiago will work as well)
  • Salt and Pepper

Use a mandoline slicer to thinly slice zucchini into discs in a medium sized bowl with a lid. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the zucchini. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the bowl with the lid and shake the heck out of it until all of the slices are well coated. Plate the zucchini and dress with a few strips of thinly sliced cheese.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Italian Style Turkey Burger with Baked "Fries"

This weekend I attempted a healthier spin on a burger. These really delicious Organic turkey burger patties were on sale, so instead of my usual turkey burger which includes lots of yummy ingredients mashed in, I left the patties in their current state and dressed them up. With a side of baked fries and a zucchini salad, it gave me just a hint of summer on a plate.

  • 2 turkey burger patties
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 oz asiago cheese, sliced
  • 3 Idaho potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • artichoke spread (I used Trader Joe's, but any kind will do.)
  • 2 hamburger buns

Heat oven to 375F. Slice potatoes into long strips to achieve a french fry shape. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet so that they are not stacked on top of each other. Season with 1 tsp of oregano, salt and pepper and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, tossing halfway through for even color.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Season the burger patties with 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of basil, salt and pepper. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the burgers in the pan and cook for approximately 7 minutes per side. Add the sliced cheese to the top and cover the pan, allowing steam to escape, for the last 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the burger buns. Spread the artichoke spread on the bottom half of the buns. Top with the cooked burger patties and serve with fries.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cauliflower "Mac" n Cheese Casserole

I finally got around to making another one of those amazing recipes I saw on Pinterest, and this one hit it out of the park! In this low-carb version, cauliflower is subbed in for the macaroni in a traditional mac n cheese. Though the texture is definitely different, I didn't miss the noodles a bit! I also lightened up the Pinterest version and used organic ingredients to try to attempt to make it "healthier." It was so rich and creamy that I didn't miss the calories at all. I served mine with a spicy Italian Chicken Sausage topped with Dijon mustard, which complemented the Dijon flavor in the casserole beautifully.

  • 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp + 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 c half & half
  • 2 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 c  + 1/2 c reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season the water with salt and 1 tbsp garlic powder. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water about 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander for several minutes.

Meanwhile, spray an 8 by 8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. In a small pot, bring the half & half to a simmer, and whisk in the cream cheese and mustard until smooth. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 c of the cheddar cheese until combined and smooth. Stir in salt, pepper and 1/4 tsp garlic powder.

Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Toss the cauliflower gently in the cheese sauce until coated. Top with remaining 1/2 c cheddar and bread crumbs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Minted Watermelon

Spring and Summer bring such a wonderful abundance of fruits and vegetables. One of my favorites is juicy, sweet watermelon. With it's bright pink color and amazing ability to fill me up and satisfy my sweet tooth, it's a summer go-to. Here's a super easy way to jazz it up.

  • 1/2 large watermelon
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Chop the watermelon into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Add the chopped fresh mint and toss together. That's it. Really. It's that easy and  SO delicious!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Barbecue Chicken Pizza-Salad

Though it probably doesn't qualify as a "healthy" meal, pizza is one of my go-to dishes for casual entertaining when I don't want to over-indulge. It's certainly possible to make a truly unhealthy pizza, loaded with greasy meats and extra cheese, but made with lean, Organic chicken breasts and part-skim mozzarella cheese and piled high with lettuce, tomatoes and a yogurt-based dressing, this one won't break your daily calorie budget. Also, the best BBQ sauce is a sure bone of contention with any southerner, but Bone Suckin' Sauce is my absolute favorite. The balance of sweet, vinegar and spice just can't be beat, and for a little more heat, I prefer the "Hot" version.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza-Salad

  • 2 boneless, skinless Organic chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 jar Hot Bone Suckin' Sauce 
  • 2 tbsps Olive Oil
  • Refrigerated pizza dough (I recommend Trader Joe's refrigerated garlic-herb dough)
  • 1 package shredded Organic part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Organic romaine hearts
  • 1/2 pint Organic grape tomatoes
  • 4 slices Organic bacon, cooked
  • 1/4 c Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Preheat oven to 425F. Pre-heat skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsps Bone Suckin' Sauce to pan. Add chicken breast strips to pan and cook through, turning occasionally, approximately 10 minutes. Remove strips from pan and set aside on cutting board.

Grease baking sheet with olive oil or add olive oil directly to pizza dough if using pizza stone. Stretch dough to desired thinness and size over baking sheet. Pour 1/2 jar Bone Suckin' Sauce on dough and spread over dough evenly. Top dough and sauce with mozzarella cheese and diced onion. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop romaine hearts and place in large bowl. Slice tomatoes in half and add to lettuce. Chop bacon into bits and add to lettuce mixture. Add ranch dressing and toss.

Chop cooked chicken strips into small bites and spread over pizza. Cook pizza for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until cheese and crust begin to brown. Allow pizza to cool slightly before slicing.

To serve, slice and plate pizza. Pile high with salad and drizzle with additional Bone Suckin' Sauce to taste. Enjoy!