Blueberry and Raspberry Compote

This is an easy way to use fresh berries that are just past their prime. I have found that, although berries are a little pricey, berries are a great snack to keep in my fridge- I mentioned this in my Anthropologie Farmers Market Basket post back in April. Whenever I need something a little sweet, I just open the fridge and grab a handful for ZERO points!

I bought some blueberries and raspberries a few days ago but haven’t been eating them as quickly as usual. So, this morning, I decided I would make a quick compote to put on top of the last two Van’s Waffle I had in the freezer!

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Ingredients

1 cup of berries

1 tsp of agave nectar

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat a small frying pan over low to moderate heat

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Add all the berries to the warm pan and smash them gently as they being to heat up (using the back of a fork or potato masher will work well)

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Cook for 4-5 minutes. Continue to break down the berries with your fork or masher. Once most of the berries have burst (this should be right around the 5 minute mark), add in the agave nectar and balsamic and stir to combine

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Increase the heat slightly (to a moderate heat) and stir often for 8-10 minutes

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Continue to stir until the sauce has reduced by half (above: before being reduced; below: after being reduced by 1/2)

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All done! Remove from heat and serve immediately over waffles, pancakes or even vanilla ice cream! Reserve any unused compote in a small Ball jar or tupperware and use within 2-3 days.

WW Points: 3 points for the whole “recipe”

Easy Lentils

IMG_6246I’ve had lentils sitting in my pantry for a long time. Last week, I need a quick, easy and nutritious meal to take to work with me so I decided to give them a try. Lentils are a great source of protein- about 30% of their calories come from protein which makes them the third highest legume in protein content. Adding some fresh veggies is the perfect way to get a well-rounded meal that keeps in the fridge for a few days!

I had some vegetable broth left over from making the WW Asian-Inspired soup a while back that I was able to pull out of the freezer and use instead of water while cooking the lentils. This is also a great way to use up extra veggies you have in the fridge!

Ingredients

1 cup dried lentils

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, or other seasonings (optional)

1/4 – 3/4 teaspoon salt

Vegetables, chopped (I used asparagus and red bell peppers so there would be a few different colors)

Directions

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Measure the lentils into a strainer or colander. Pick over and remove any shriveled lentils, debris, or rocks. Thoroughly rinse under running water

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Transfer the rinsed lentils to a saucepan and pour in the vegetable or chicken stock. When I am making a dish with a vegetarian protein, I like to keep it all vegetarian. If you want another layer of flavor, use a chicken stock. Add any seasonings being used, reserving the salt

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Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Do not stir- this will make them turn to mush! Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy

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Strain the lentils over a bowl so you can use the reserved stock to cook any vegetables you may want to add. Remove any seasonings. Add the stock back into the saucepan and bring back to a boil

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Boil the asparagus in the vegetable stock for 8-10 minutes (or until it is at your desired tenderness- I like mine a little crunchy). Strain the asparagus and add cooked lentils, asparagus and raw chopped bell pepper back into the pot to combine

WW Points: 6 points for half the recipe

Creamy WW-Friendly Mac n’ Cheese

Everyone knows that I love anything that Mark Bittman does. So when I ran across this recipe two years ago, I absolutely had to try it. Bittman’s article, “Creamy Cauliflower Mac“, is genius- use pureed cauliflower in place of a bechamel! Not only does the recipe call for an entire head of cauliflower, it cuts out all butter and flour from the recipe! Oh the calories you save.

Apparently, Kraft sneaks freeze-dried cauliflower powder into its mac n’ cheese so Bittman figured he would make a vegetable-heavy, less caloric, unprocessed version of this popular American dish. When I made this recipe for the first time a while back, I followed it to a tee. It was good but the dijon mustard flavor over-powered everything so, this time, I decided to tweak it a bit.

I had a busy afternoon of cooking yesterday. In addition to this delectable mac n’ cheese, I made some homemade tortilla chips (post to follow) and another batch of the Ina Garten Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. It was a good day in the kitchen- something I have definitely been missing these past two weeks or so! Give this recipe a try and tweak as needed for your family. This is by far one of the sneakiest ways to slip in a big serving of vegetables without the kids knowing! You could even amp it up a bit more by adding broccoli florets in place of some of the pasta…

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Creamy Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese*

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish (I used Pam)

Salt

2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 2 cups water (I used the stock I had in my freezer)

1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces

8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat (I used gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta**)

1 ⁄2 cup grated fontina cheese

3/4 cup grated cheddar

6 scallions chopped, white and pale green only

1/2 tbsp- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste

1 ⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

Black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, separated

Bread crumbs to cover casserole

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with a little Pam.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and salt it (unless your stock is already pretty salty)

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(I cooked the cauliflower in just the stock before adding 2 cups of water for the last 10 minutes of cooking. This is was because the liquid level got too low. Just add the 2 cups of water at the beginning to avoid having to do this)

Cook the cauliflower in the boiling stock/water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes

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Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor

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Add the pasta to the boiling stock/water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes

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Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, fontina cheese, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan, scallions, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (I had to do this in two batches because I only have a 7-cup food processor)

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If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning

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Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the partially cooked pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish

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Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and bread crumbs if you’re using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes (check every 2-3 minutes after the 15 minute mark). Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

WW Points: 9 points per serving

I made this batch yesterday and enjoyed a piece for lunch today. The fontina cheese is tangy and different and is nicely balanced out by the salty parmesan and creamy Cabot cheddar. I will definitely be making this more in the future!

*This is adapted from Mark Bittman’s version.

** Using the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta and eliminating the bread crumbs on top make this a gluten free dish!

Van’s Waffles

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Whenever I’m in a cooking rut, I tend to move towards more prepared and frozen food (and often processed) because it is just easier sometimes. I, obviously, love to cook and very rarely do I look at it as a chore, but these past few weeks have been hard! With frozen meals you don’t have to think about what you’re going to cook and it doesn’t seem like a chore at all. Just pop it in the microwave, toaster oven, etc and a few minutes later you have a meal!

That said, if I do buy frozen food, I try to buy low-sodium, when possible, and to buy the products with the shortest (and most easily understood) ingredients list. I thought I’d share one of my freezer staples for when I am feeling uninspired, tired and really hungry first thing in the morning- Van’s Waffles!

I first tried Van’s Waffles about two years ago. I have been trying different varieties (there are 17) but mostly sticking to the “lite” or gluten free options. I have the lite waffles (pictured above) in my freezer right now and, although, they aren’t my favorite, they are only 2 points per waffle! My absolute favorite are the gluten free, blueberry waffles. They are 3 points a waffle but they are exponentially better in my opinion- you wouldn’t think that they were gluten free!

If you’re like me and need some help in the mornings on occasion, give Van’s a try. Now off to the store to get ingredients to make some (WW friendly) Mac n’ Cheese!

Great Father’s Day Idea

While I try to work my way out of this rut, I am going to stick to great things to read, try or buy! I was wandering my way around Facebook this morning and stumbled upon a great company based in Brooklyn called Mantry. Mantry is a food-of-the-month club that sends members a wooden box (made in Brooklyn) full of artisanal products from all over the United States.

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If you are still struggling with a gift idea for the father(s) in your life, check them out! For $75/month this is a great way to try some new and unusual products while supporting local producers!

I NEED HELP!

I’m in the middle of a “writer’s” block and I can’t find my way out! I’m not sure if other cooks out there ever experience a string of a few weeks where you feel like you are cooking and eating the same thing over and over again but you can’t find the inspiration to try something new! That’s where I am. I have been reading cookbooks and doing online searches and I can’t find the one recipe to get me going. It doesn’t help that I am in the middle of 10 days of work (!) without a day off- all I want to do it relax and watch TV during the day before I head into a long night at the restaurant. This is how my bad habits formed in the first place!

So here is where you can help. Do you have any recipes that you’ve always wanted to try but have never taken the plunge? Or how about a recipe that you make all the time but want to try and cut some calories? SEND THEM MY WAY! I need the inspiration to get out of this rut!

Please leave comments with links to recipes, a list of ingredients or just the name of a dish! I’ll figure it out and post about it! I would love to have some dinner options but I am open to desserts, appetizers, snacks, etc. 

Thanks everyone for your continued support and for reading my blog! Your comments and “likes” on facebook are what keep me going! I promise to try every recipe at some point this summer and I’ll blog about making it and how it turns out! Thanks!!

Restaurant Review and Some “Scary” Reading

I haven’t posted any of the New York Times Restaurant Reviews yet- I’m not sure why! When I was working at Esca, we had to read the restaurant review in print every Wednesday because we were quizzed on it during our pre-shift meeting. At first this was really annoying and daunting because you never knew what aspect of the review the chef was going to question you on. However, I quickly learned that reading the review kept me in the loop in the restaurant world and it educated me on all the best restaurants in New York.

This week, Pete Wells, the New York Times food critic, reviewed Carbone in Greenwich Village. Nowadays, I will read the review if industry friends post about it on facebook (usually because they work there) because I am not “forced” to read it every week. A chef I worked with at Eataly is now working at Carbone so when his post about the review popped up I wanted to read it. It also caught my eye because Nick and I ate at their sister restaurant, Torrisi, two weeks ago (where I know the GM through a co-worker at Gwynnett St.).

You should definitely check out the review here!

If you are interested in some other light reading, check out this link from Buzzfeed. Just another reason to make your own food and stay away the processed “food” in grocery stores!