Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Zucchini Crab Cakes

The Delightful Zucchini Crab Cakes with Whipped CauliflowerI had been planning on making crab cakes this week, but when I realized I had a surplus of zucchini, a new idea was born. I usually make my crab cakes with tons of peppers, so the addition of plentiful vegetables wasn't all that radical. I also figured that zucchini cakes are delicious, and crab cakes are delicious; so it's not such a stretch that they would be delicious together! I served these over Whipped Cauliflower with a fresh Herb Salad on the side. I also drizzled them with a little garlic chive yogurt sauce for extra zip.

Zucchini Crab Cakes
Serves 4-6
  • cooking spray
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 1/2 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 lb lump crab meat, drained
  • 2 slices Ezekiel bread, toasted and crumbled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c Dijon mustard
Saute the onion, celery and zucchini in a large saute pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium high heat until soft. Add the parsley, thyme, capers, Worcestershire sauce and Old Bay. Stir for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

The Delightful Zucchini, Onion and Celery getting Sauteed

In a separate bowl, mix mayonaise, mustard, eggs and bread crumbs. Gently add the crab meat and zucchini mixture with hands, trying not to break apart the crab meat too much. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Spray large frying pan with cooking spray and heat to medium high heat. Form crab mixture into patties and cook patties for approximately 5 minutes per side, until golden brown and holding together. Work in batches to finish. Be careful as patties are very fragile.

Delightful Zucchini Crab Cakes

Easy Yogurt Sauce: Mix 1/4 c non fat Greek yogurt with juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh chives. Add salt to taste.

Delightful Zucchini Crab Cakes with Whipped Cauliflower and Yogurt Sauce

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

As part of our CSA Farm Box this week, we received slightly over one gallon of strawberries. They are gorgeous - unbelievably sweet and perfectly ripe. However, that means that I have slightly over one gallon of strawberries to cook this week because I have a feeling that more are coming in the box next week as well. Fortunately, our farmer was kind enough to pair the onslaught of strawberries with some fresh rhubarb so that I could make the always sublime Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

With my focus on my waistline, I wanted to cut back on the sugar just a bit, and I knew these strawberries were sweet enough to work with. I also omitted the common lemon or cinnamon because I wanted to let the fruit stand on its own. Here is my recipe for a delicious, though maybe not nutritious, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

  • 3 1/2 c fresh, ripe strawberries, halved or sliced
  • 3 c rhubarb sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour or cornstarch
  • 2 pie crusts (you can make your own, but frozen really works just as well)
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and flour in a large bowl. Pile into the bottom pie crust. Top with second pie crust. Crimp edges together. Slice holes in top pie crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350F. Bake for another 40 minutes or until top crust is golden brown. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving. Pie will last for up to 3 days at room temperature, but it likely won't stick around that long.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chicken with Pesto and Chives

Yesterday, I was looking for a lean, protein packed meal that didn't skimp on flavor. I wanted the idea of a burger without the bun. I landed on a patty that was super packed with flavor and served it with a side of minted couscous. Though I didn't include it this time, I would recommend serving this with a pesto mayo as well. Just mix 1 tsp pesto with 1 tbsp reduced fat mayo and drizzle over the top.

  • 1 lb organic ground chicken
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 oz fat free feta, sliced
Mix chicken, pesto, chives and garlic with hands until combined. Do not over-mix ( it makes the meat tough). Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Divide meat into four patties. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Cook patties over medium high heat until internal temperature reaches 165F, approximately 8 minutes per side. Lay slices of feta on patties and cover skillet with a lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking to allow cheese to soften. Serve over a bed of minted couscous.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fresh Herb Salad with Lettuce and Sorrel

Spring is a fabulous time of year for salads. The greens are plentiful and interesting. We are part of a CSA (community supported agriculture). This means that we pay a set amount for a share of the season's crops. Every week, from June through November, we receive a share of that week's harvest. In this week's farm box, we received, among other things, sorrel and mint. Sorrel is a long leaf with an arrow head shape. It gets its name from the French word for sour, and it has a surprisingly sour citrus flavor. It's a bit too sour for me to eat on its own, but it's really delicious mixed in to a salad with other lettuces and herbs. Because of the citrus flavor, I didn't add any vinegar or lemon. It just needs a touch of olive oil and salt. This salad is very light and surprisingly flavorful.
  • 4 c chopped red leaf lettuce (butter or romaine would also work)
  • 1 c arugula
  • 1 1/2 c chopped sorrel
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
Add all ingredients to the serving bowl. Toss until all of the lettuce is lightly coated with olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Layered Wood Monogram

My sister is getting married! She's looking for fun ways to incorporate her wedding colors into decoration at the reception, so I decided to make her a monogram that she can hang at the reception and could keep in her home after the wedding. You can purchase all of the tools you need from your local crafts store. For this fun project, you'll need:

  • 3 sponge paint brushes
  • 1 large solid wood plaque
  • 1 laser wood cut-out, slightly smaller than the plaque
  • 2 small letters
  • 1 larger letter
  • 3 colors of paint
  • wood glue
  • Q-tip or small brush

First, paint each piece separately the color of your choosing. I chose two shades of blue for the larger wood pieces and white for the initials, but you can use any color you like. Wait for them to dry, and paint a second coat. The second coat might not be necessary if you're happy with the color after the first coat, but it helped even mine out.

Once the second layer is dry, place the laser wood cut-out where you'd like it to stay. Then, lift the top up so that the bottom is still touching the wood plaque and use a Q-tip or small brush to apply the wood glue to the cut-out. Press the cut-out back down on the plaque and ensure it's in the correct position. Allow to dry thoroughly. Finally, place the letters where you'd like them to go. Follow the same process of lifting the top of the letter up, with the bottom still touching the surface below and applying the wood glue to the letter. Replace the letters and allow them to dry completely. Display and revel in your handiwork!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Riff on Strawberry Shortcake

I absolutely love strawberry shortcake. I was having a dinner party last weekend, and I really wanted to serve strawberry shortcake for dessert. Strawberries, whipped cream and cake - what's not to love? Well, the calories for one. Both we and our dinner guest are watching our calorie intake, so I decided to create a spin on the old favorite. Instead of big fluffy slices of shortcake, I made mini shortbread biscuits. Theses mini treats were buttery and delicious, and their size made for a nice presentation. Instead of luscious and oh-so-sinful whipped cream, I made a ricotta cream blend with a bit of cream cheese, sour cream and honey. And, just to turn the dish on its head, I substituted blueberries and raspberries for the traditional strawberries. The result was dinner party-worthy!

For the shortbread cookies (makes 12 mini cookies)

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350F. Whip butter and sugar with beaters until combined. Add vanilla and flour. Whip until combined. Batter will be loose and crumbly. This is normal. Grease mini-muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between 12 spots, pressing into tin. Bake until they are light golden brown on top and a deeper brown around the edges (approximately 12 minutes). Flip muffin tin over onto cooling rack immediately after removing from oven and allow cookies to cool.

For the ricotta cream:
  • 5 tbsp reduced fat ricotta
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp honey
Whip all ingredients until smooth. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

To serve:
Plate 2-3 cookies. Add 2 tbsp ricotta cream. Sprinkle with fresh berries of your choosing. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint for garnish.

Raw Carrot Ginger Coconut Lime Soup

It sounds like a mouthful, but every time I leave one of the ingredients out, I know that doesn't really describe the flavor accurately. This soup is incredibly refreshing for a hot summer day, magically filling and low on calories. Did I mention that it is ready in mere moments and keeps well in the fridge for a few days? It's a great first course for entertaining, and the color is just gorgeous. Unfortunately, we ate it so quickly I didn't have time to snap a picture! I really can't stop gushing about this soup.

  • 6 large carrots, broken into pieces
  • 2 tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • salt to taste
Add all ingredients to blender (a Vitamix comes in handy here), and puree until smooth. Refrigerate at least 2 hours prior to serving and garnish with parsley if desired.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

This dish is one of my go-tos for entertaining. The complex flavors and colorful presentation are really impressive, but the dish is surprisingly easy to make. Made here with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and served with a whole wheat couscous, the dish qualifies in my mind as healthy as well. Though there are lots of interesting spices, it isn't actually spicy-hot, and even picky eaters can be swayed to try it. This recipe makes 4 servings, and it is great for leftovers the next day.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large or 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 3 lemons, quartered
  • 1/2 c green olives
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and ginger. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and chicken. Stir to coat and cover chicken with liquid and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. 

Meanwhile, juice 1 1/2 of the lemons to net 2 tbsp lemon juice.

Once chicken is cooked, transfer chicken out of liquid to platter. Add lemon juice, lemons, and olives to cooking liquid. Bring to a boil and boil until thickened slightly, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour over chicken and serve.

Serving notes: I love to serve this over
a honeyed couscous. Cook couscous in chicken broth instead of water and increase cooking liquid by a tablespoon or two. Add 1/4 c golden raisins when you add the couscous. Fluff and plate. Drizzle with honey prior to serving.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Peel-n-Eat Shrimp with Whipped Cauliflower and Greens

The low country boil - a truly epic event that just sings of early summer and lazy afternoons by the lake. I have wonderful memories of sipping sweet tea or lemonade, sitting in the shade anticipation of the meal to come growling in my belly.

Unfortunately, living in NYC, I don't exactly have a large yard in which to boil a giant pot of shrimp, craw fish, potatoes and corn. I'm also lacking the giant red and white table-cloth covered picnic table on which to dump the contents. Instead of missing out on the amazing flavors. I make do. I could do a giant indoor pot of the same, but since I'm still pursuing my goal of shaping up this year, I decided to sub in cauliflower for the potatoes and greens for the corn. This recipe for whipped cauliflower is one of my absolute favorites. I won't try to convince you that it tastes anything like mashed potatoes, but I actually believe it tastes equally as good and is just a fraction of the calories.

It's entirely possible to make your own crab boil seasoning from scratch, and if you have a great recipe, please use it here! However, I firmly believe that there are some things that have been perfected by professionals, and I just don't mess with the best. Old Bay seasoning is one of those things.

Peel-n-Eat Shrimp
Serves 2-4
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, EZ Peel Shell-on if possible
  • 2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c white vinegar
In a saucepan, combine Old Bay, water and white vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp, stirring gently. Cover and boil for approximately 3-5 minutes until shrimp is pink and curled into an open "C" shape. Drain and serve with the shells on.

Whipped Cauliflower
Serves 2-4
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/3 c reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, cover cauliflower with water. Add garlic salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until cauliflower is very tender and falls apart when pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly. (It is extremely important to make sure you drain all of the water out. Otherwise, you end up with a soupy result.) Return cauliflower to saucepan. Add butter and sour cream. Whip with a hand blender until smooth and creamy. (At this point, if the dish is too soupy, you can return the pan to low heat to reduce and thicken). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For Greens
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard or other dark, leafy greens, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Add olive oil and garlic to large saute pan over medium high heat. Once garlic has started to turn translucent but before it browns, add the greens in batches, turning so that each new batch is wilted. Once the greens are wilted. Add the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Deconstructed Gazpacho

What's my favorite no-cook summer meal? Gazpacho! First, it's fun to say. Second, it is super delicious. Also, packed with vegetables, it is both healthy and amazingly filling. With a little bit of crab, it's down right well-rounded.

The idea for a deconstructed version came from a restaurant on Amelia Island called PLaE. They have a deconstructed appetizer version that is really tasty. I immediately thought it would be just perfect for a dinner party. The presentation can be really dramatic and stunning, and the small dishes are decorative and fun. This style also gives picky dinner guests (or children) the opportunity to build their own dishes. I sure do love a "build your own" dinner.

  • 1 2-inch piece of french bread
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 lbs ripe, juicy tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 3 small cucumbers, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 can lump crab meat, drained (optional)
Soak bread in water quickly (less than 1 minute). Squeeze dry, discarding soaking water. Add bread, garlic cloves, salt, vinegar and sugar to blender. Blend until mixture is smooth. Add half of tomatoes to blender and puree. Add remaining tomatoes and puree until smooth. Gradually add oil in a slow stream with blender still running on low. Blend until incorporated. Transfer soup to a glass container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

To serve, chop avocado, squeeze lime over avocado and place in small bowl. Place remaining ingredients in separate small bowls arranged on around the larger soup bowl.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fennel, Prosciutto and Radicchio Pizza

I'm a total sucker for pizza. I love the way the crust crunches and the cheese oozes. I love the nostalgia of the childhood pizza night treat. Unfortunately, it can be one of the least healthy food options out there. Fortunately, with the right ingredients, it can be totally healthy and delicious.

I've certainly read a heck of a lot of articles telling me that pizza can be healthy as long as it is piled high with vegetables, has a super thin crust and is almost meatless. My goal is to create a pizza (or a wide variety of pizzas) that meet those criteria and taste absolutely delicious. Last night's dinner made the list! It has just enough cheese and meat to really taste like pizza.  It is piled high with vegetables that just sing when they're caramelized under the broiler. If you have a pizza stone, this would be a great time to use it!

  • 16 oz refrigerated pizza dough (I recommend Trader Joe's garlic herb dough)
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 tbsp pesto
  • 12 oz reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/8 lb prosciutto, thinly sliced and torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium radicchio, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425F. Bring pizza dough to room temperature to allow for easier stretching (about 20 minutes). Divide pizza dough into 2/3 and 1/3 segments (or in 1/2 if you're using a pizza stone and want to make 2 pizzas on the stone). Spray large cookie sheet and 9 x 12 baking pan with cooking spray. Lightly spray your fingers with cooking spray. Stretch the larger dough segment over the large cookie sheet and the smaller dough segment over the smaller pan until dough reaches the edges. (Be patient with this part. You're trying to get the dough very thin, so it may occasionally tear. Just patch it back up and keep at it!)

Spread 2 1/2 tbsp of pesto on the larger pizza and 1 1/2 tbsp of pesto on the smaller pizza. Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over both pizzas. Layer the pieces of prosciutto over the cheese. Spread the sliced fennel over the prosciutto evenly. Bake pizzas for about 10 minutes until fennel begins to turn translucent.

Meanwhile, toss radicchio with olive oil, salt and pepper. Take pizzas out of the oven and spread radicchio over the fennel. Bake pizzas for an additional 5 minutes. Turn oven to high broil. Broil each pizza for 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is golden and fennel and radicchio are caramelized. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Provencal Style Chicken and Asparagus Casserole

Sunday was just a gorgeous day here in New York. It was sunny and warm with a constant breeze and no humidity - a rare day here! For dinner, I needed to use up some chicken and saw a recipe for chicken and asparagus casserole that looked delicious but did not look like it would help me on my quest for pre-wedding "waist management." I also had some tomatoes that I really needed to use, and I had been flirting with the idea of a tomato basil salad using some of the fresh basil from my window box herb garden. Instead, I decided to mix them all together to make the casserole healthier. I threw in some olives for a Provencal kick and was quite happy with the result!

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 12 oz asparagus, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/3 c chicken stock
  • 1 pt cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 tbsp kalamata olives, sliced into thirds
  • 2 tbsp green olives, sliced into thirds
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
  • 3 servings whole wheat fusilli
  • 3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. 

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute until onion is translucent but neither garlic nor onion is brown. Add chicken and sear. Add asparagus, chicken stock and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add oregano, olives and cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is incorporated. 

Meanwhile, boil water and cook pasta to al dente. Pour pasta into casserole dish. Add chicken mixture and 1/2 c Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Top with remaining 1/4 c Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day Trip to Wine Country

One of my favorite things about summer is vacation. Every summer since finishing school, I have pined for a summer break. Unfortunately, the world of adulthood and responsibility doesn't allow me two to three months off work. So, even without an actual day off work, I like to create mini weekend vacations. Day trips can be such a great cost savings, and I still get the full effect of an escape from the city without the hassle of a flight or packing. 

No matter where you are, there are so many great day trip options just a short drive away. One of our favorite trips out of New York City is to the wine country on the North Fork of Long Island. It's absolutely amazing that such a gorgeous setting is just a couple of hours outside of this major metropolis. This past weekend, we went to pick up our wine club shipment from Sparkling Pointe, one of my favorite North Fork Wineries. Sparkling Pointe specializes in, no surprise, sparkling wines. They have delicious tastings in a really beautiful tasting room, but when the weather is nice, you can sit outside and enjoy views of the vineyards. We were blessed with just such a weekend.

Instead of packing a lunch for this trip, we decided to explore once we got there. The area is filled with small organic farms with road side stands, so we figured we could find something delicious to eat. We stumbled on award winning goat cheese. The goat cheese at Catapano Dairy Farm won the award for best fresh goat cheese from the American Cheese Society, and it truly lived up to its reputation. It was smooth and creamy, almost like a cream cheese. They give free samples of the cheese, and, of course, once we tried it, we had to buy some. We snacked on cheese and crackers and watched the goats watch us.

It was such a great escape from the city. We started planning our next trip back when we were on the car ride home.