Summer Salad Ideas

After a great week away at the beach for the 4th of July, I was happy to stumble upon this article from Buzzfeed about summer fruit salads. My favorite on this list is #6- grilling fruit, especially stone fruit, is the best thing about summer! The recipe in the Buzzfeed was taken from the Healthy Foodie and it looks absolutely delicious.

Something I did over the weekend to change things up a bit was the “grill” strawberries with balsamic and brown sugar. This was great to pick at and eat after our meal of burgers and sausage on the 4th but I think it would be even better over some vanilla ice cream. This is along the same idea as the compote I posted about a few days back but the grill imparts an intense flavor that cannot be matched in any other way.

Ingredients

12 strawberries

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 packet brown sugar in the raw

tin foil

Directions

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat

Cut the stems off of the strawberries and cut them in half length-wise

Make a small “bowl” out of tin foil and arrange the strawberries in a single layer

Sprinkle the strawberries with the brown sugar in the raw and drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar

Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes until the strawberries begin the break down but still hold their shape

WW Points: 1 point per serving 

(makes 2 servings)

 

Clarified Butter

First, I want to apologize for not posting all that often recently. As anyone who lives in NYC knows, using a stove top and oven during the summer in the LAST thing you want to do because it increases the temperature of your apartment by at least 10 degrees. Once it has been hot enough, long enough there is no way your apartment’s temperature will drop below 80 degrees (unless of course you have an air conditioning unit in your common areas- kitchen, living room and hallways). Knowing that I am always on a budget, I cannot afford to have AC anywhere but my bedroom and this is why my momentum with this blog and cooking in general has decreased significantly.

OK. Now that that is out there, I will share a fun and easy kitchen essential you can make with butter. Clarified butter is used in almost all professional kitchens because it is full of flavor and it has a higher burning point than normal butter. It is so easy to make and can take a dish to the next level. Here’s how to make it:

clarifiedbutterskimWhat you’ll need:

1 1/4 cup of butter

Saucepan

Spoon

Instructions*:

Place butter in a saucepan over a very low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, do not stir the butter while it is melting

As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers. The top layer is a thin layer of foam, the middle layer contains the bulk of the liquid (weighing in at about 80% of the total), and the bottom layer is where the water and most of the milk solids are. This natural separation is what makes clarifying possible

Skim the foam off the surface of the butter, discard the foam. Be cautious to avoid dipping the ladle into the butterfat while skimming, as the fat should remain intact

Use a ladle and skim the fat up and out of the pan, making sure not to let any of the water get into the ladle

Pour your newly clarified butter to a separate container, and discard the water and small amount of remaining milk fat

If the clarified butter sits for a moment, you might notice more foam float to the top; use a spoon to remove this last bit of foam

WW Points: 1 point per teaspoon

Use the clarified butter to get a nice sear on meats, seafood or even vegetables. I made some last week and used it to get a nice brown sear on both sides of some beautiful diver scallops I got at Whole Foods. I use small mason jars to store the clarified butter in the fridge. It will keep for months so it is worth making a big batch. You’ll be surprised how often you go into the fridge to use it!

*I used this “recipe” to help me along. Here’s Allrecipes.com’s step-by-step with pictures (which helped me a lot the first time I made clarified butter)

**Photo from www.asian-recipe.com

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I love ranch dressing! One of my favorite snacks growing up was carrot sticks and ranch. And, everyone also knows that I love Ina Garten. So you can imagine how much I LOVE Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Ranch Dressing? I have made this recipe twice before.  I always forget how easy it is so I’ll go months without making it! Nick and I bought some green tomatoes at a road side stand on Monday so I figured I would make this dressing to go along with some fried green tomatoes (I’ll post about them soon!) This is definitely not a low fat, WW recipe but you can alter it in a few ways to make it better. Give it a try with full fat first (it’s AMAZING and worth the splurge!) then alter as you see fit.

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Ingredients

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon good olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (maybe a little less)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup good mayonnaise (I used reduced-fat)

1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken (I used light buttermilk)

Directions

Place the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

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Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture.

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Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth.

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Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to develop.

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…or eat some right away… just to make sure it tastes good 😉

This is a great time to use mason jars. This recipe makes 3 cups so it will fill about 1 1/2 mason jars. Definitely let it sit in the fridge for a bit (at least one hour) before using it- the flavors develop so nicely!

WW Points: 1 point for 2 tbsp 

(with reduced fat mayo and light buttermilk)

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is one of those things that I have had on my radar for a while but never really understood. I’ve always been interested in seeing what it is all about so, when I was visiting my parents in Atlanta last June, I picked some up at the Dekalb Farmers Market. I have had the ground flaxseed in my pantry for almost a year and I am FINALLY using it.

flax seed

A few quick facts about flaxseed:

1. It has been cultivated since 3000 BC in Babylon!

2. There have been studies that show it may reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, stoke and diabetes.

3. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat). 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed (flax meal) contains 1.8 grams of omega-3s!

4. They contain 75-800 times more lignans (chemical compound found in plants) than other plant products. Lignans contain estrogen and antioxidant qualities.

5. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. This means it helps with digestion!

The most important thing is that you buy ground flaxseed because your body cannot absorb it otherwise. Just add a tablespoon of two to your morning smoothie, yogurt or oatmeal and you’re good to go. You will definitely notice a difference in your digestion and it can help you in the long run as well!

WW Points: 1 point per tbsp

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers- The Recipe

Lauren hosted a Cinco de Mayo party yesterday and I was in charge of bringing an appetizer. I wanted something delicious and different than guacamole, salsa or 7-layer dip. I also wanted to keep the cost down as much as possible because I just paid rent! When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The thing that caught my eye immediately was there are only 3 ingredients! I only changed a few things so here’s how I did it:

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

10 medium fresh jalapeno peppers

4 ounces light cream cheese, softened (original recipe calls for full-fat cream cheese)

10 bacon strips, halved

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise

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Remove seeds, stems and center membrane

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Stuff each half with about 2 teaspoons of cream cheese

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Wrap with bacon and secure with toothpick

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Place on a broiler rack that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is crisp (I put them under the broiler for an additional 2 minutes to get the bacon extra crispy). Remove toothpicks. Serve immediately. 

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Yields 20 appetizers

WW Points: 1 point per popper (whole recipe is 22 points)

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters part 2

I mentioned in my Easter post that I was going to try to make the broccoli parmesan fritters without using a ton of oil to fry them. Well, I tried and I think they turned out alright. I did a few things differently than the first time:

1. I decided to use a bag of broccoli from Trader Joe’s instead of fresh broccoli. Why? I can microwave it in the bag, it’s the perfect amount of broccoli, it is already prepped and its cheap!

2. I decided to chop the cooked broccoli before adding it to the egg/parmesan/flour mixture instead of using a potato masher to mix everything together.

3. I added a TON of crushed red pepper flakes (I love spicy food!).

4. I baked them in the oven instead of frying them in oil.

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All the ingredients

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All the dry ingredients with the egg

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After chopping and adding in the broccoli

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Formed into fritters

I knew the fritters would bake through but I wanted to try and achieve the same crisp outside. I decided to heat up my oven to 450 degrees with my pizza stone in the oven. I let the pizza stone sit at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, sprayed it with my PAM olive oil and added the fritters (which I also sprayed with the PAM). Once they were on the hot pizza stone (I could hear them sizzle when the went down), I flattened them out using the back side of my spatula.

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I let them cook on each side for 7 mins (14 mins total) and they turned out great! The inside is a little softer (but cooked) and the outside was able to crisp up a bit! I will definitely be cooking them this way from now on.

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And for a little humor…IMG_5115

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I spilled an entire container of baking soda all over my kitchen and all over myself while reaching for the flour. Oops?

Spring (?) at the Union Square Green Market

I went to the Union Square Green Market today in search of one thing: spring onions. I was at Esca this past weekend for dinner and had burrata with ramps as an appetizer. Then, when I went into work on Monday, we had spring onions on our new crab dish. Although it has been a cold spring so far, I figured that if both of these restaurants had spring onions on the menu, the green market must have them! I made the trek downtown (it takes about 35 minutes to get to Union Square) and could not find any spring produce!! I did find some beautiful flowers, a dwindling supply of winter root veggies, and a yummy jalapeno and cheddar scone from a bakery called Our Daily Bread from Chatham, NY.

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I love going to this green market because, if I strike out, I can walk across 14th St and check out Whole Foods. Low and behold, Whole Foods had spring onions! They weren’t local (from GA) and they were a little bigger than I expected but I bought a bunch for $2.49.

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Roasting spring onions is such an easy way to add an easy side dish to a meal. Make sure you wash the onions and cut off a few inches of the green to get rid of any not-so-pretty tops. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cut them length-wise and lay out on a roasting pan (I line mine with parchment to make clean up easier).

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Cover the spring onions with oil (I used my Pam Olive Oil spray to try and control the calories) and then sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. A great addition to this dish is fresh thyme- if you have some on hand. The last (and most important) step is to put a small slab of butter on top of each bulb- about 1/8 inch sliver cut off of the stick of butter.

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Once the oven is at 350 degrees, put the onions in and roast for about 35 minutes or until tender.

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WW Points: 1 point per onion (two halves)

3 points for the bunch of 3 onions

(The only real calories in this dish is the butter added unless, of course, you opted to use real olive oil)

Enjoy!

Weight Watchers Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

Anyone who has done WW has probably tried their 1 point vegetable soup. I remember my mom making it when we decided to do WW together when I was in the 8th grade. It was the perfect afternoon snack to get me through until dinner- chalk full of veggies (fiber) and it didn’t break the (WW point) bank. That was about 12 years ago and WW has changed. The program is no longer using calories as part of the point calculation (anyone else remember those point sliders where you had to match the calories with the fiber and fat?) and now almost all fruits and veggies are ZERO POINTS!

Since joining WW in July, I have seen a lot of changes on their website including some revamping of old WW favorites. I stumbled upon this Asian-inspired veggie soup and knew I had to try it. I lived in Southeast Asia for 5 months in college and I fell in love with the way the Vietnamese used veggies for extra texture and flavor so I knew this soup would be delicious! I was hesitant to make it at first because some of the vegetables in the recipe can be hard to find and I didn’t want to travel all over NYC or all the way down to Chinatown to find everything. Also, the whole “fresh herbs” debacle- is it really worth buying the fresh herbs when you only use 1/2 cup?

So I used my Fresh Direct account and everything was delivered the next day. Using this method might not have been the cheapest way to find everything but it was so convenient that I didn’t care that I spent about $35 on everything. For a $6 delivery, it was SO worth it. The soup is not labor intensive and it cooks up so quickly so, once it was finished, I simply put two cup portions of the finished soup into tupperware and threw it all in the freezer. It has been feeding me since mid-February! The only change I made to the recipe was adding in about 2 extra cups of Napa cabbage (Fresh Direct sent me a 4-lb cabbage…) and 1-2 tbsp of Sriracha for some extra heat! This recipe is so worth it! It has saved me on those days where I know it will be hard to stay on track. I just grab a tupperware from the freezer, throw it in my bag and have it for lunch while I’m babysitting or at the restaurant before family meal (helps fill me up so I eat less of the food made by the kitchen at work- I swear they add at least a cup of butter to anything they make!!)

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Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

2 cup(s) uncooked bok choy, chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked Chinese cabbage, chopped

3 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), minced

1/4 cup(s) ginger root, thinly sliced and julienned

4 small uncooked oyster mushroom(s), chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked scallion(s), chopped

1 cup(s) canned water chestnut(s), sliced (8 oz can)

1/2 cup(s) sweet red pepper(s), thinly sliced

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

6 cup(s) vegetable broth

2 cup(s) snow peas, stringed

2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup(s) cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions

Put bok choy, Chinese cabbage, garlic, ginger root, mushrooms, scallions, water chestnuts, red pepper, red pepper flakes and broth into a large soup pot; stir to combine. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes. Toss in snow peas during the last 3 to 4 minutes of simmering.

Stir in soy sauce and cilantro (and Sriracha, if you’re using it). Yields about 1 cup per serving.

WW Points: 1 point per cup

Easter Sunday

For Easter I wanted to try out a few new recipes. I love everything Ina Garten so when I stumbled upon this deviled eggs, I had to try it- I mean whats not to love? Eggs and smoked salmon!

The challenges I always face are budget/food cost, keeping with in my Weight Watchers points and making sure the recipe is easy enough that I will be willing to make it over and over again.

Although this recipe isn’t the healthiest, I switched out the heavier ingredients with reduced fat or low-fat options and they still tasted great! The egg yolks add so much flavor and creaminess that you don’t miss the full fat flavors of the sour cream, cream cheese and mayo.

I also modified this recipe by leaving off the salmon roe. The roe would add a great burst of flavor but at $18.99 for about 2 oz. it’s just a tad expensive to use as a garnish. I also saved some money by buying a small plant of chives ($1.99) instead of buying the pre-cut chives for $2.49 that would just go bad in a few days anyways. Now I have chives that will keep growing back!

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Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

8 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
4 ounces good smoked salmon, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces salmon roe (optional)

Directions

Place the eggs in a pot large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a full boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs stand for 15 minutes. Drain the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. Set aside until the eggs are cool.

Peel the eggs and then slice them in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks carefully. Place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and arrange the whites on a platter in a single layer with the cut sides up and sprinkle with salt.

To the egg yolks, add the sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, salmon, salt, and pepper. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. With a small spoon, fill the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (you don’t want to flatten the filling) and refrigerate for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.

When ready to serve, garnish with a dollop of salmon roe and some extra chopped chives. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

WW Points: 2 points for 1 deviled egg
I’ve also recently started following Smitten Kitchen after noticing both my roommate and another friend had the cookbook. I honestly don’t know what took me so long to pay attention to this amazing blog! There are so many great recipes and the are so easy! I stumbled upon this one the other day and figured it looked delicious and too easy to mess up. I had most of the ingredients in my kitchen so all I had to buy was the broccoli and parmesan.
I followed the recipe pretty closely but I think I will change it up the next time I try it. Although buying local and seasonal is always my first choice, it’s not always the most convenient or cheapest. Next time I plan on using Trader Joe’s Broccoli florets that microwave in the bag. It is the perfect amount of broccoli, it is cut to the right size and using the microwave makes it so much easier! I also think I might try spraying them with my Pam Olive Oil spray and putting them under the broiler to lower the amount of oil used.

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Broccoli Parmesan Fritters

8 ounces (1 small-to-medium bundle, 225 grams) fresh broccoli (3 cups chopped)
1 large egg
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) finely grated parmesan cheese
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
A pinch of red pepper flakes or several grinds of black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil for frying

 Directions

Prepare your broccoli: Separate the florets from the biggest stem(s). Cut the florets into 1-inch chunks. To prepare the stems, I like to peel them, as the skin can be thick and doesn’t cook quickly, then slice them into 1/2-inch lengths. You should have about 3 cups of chopped broccoli total.

Steam your broccoli until tender but not mushy: Use whatever method you prefer. My quickie, lazy method is to bring a 1/2-inch or so of water to a boil in a small saucepan, then add the broccoli, place a lid on it and simmer it for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the broccoli, then set it aside to cool slightly.

In the bottom of a large bowl, lightly beat your egg. Add the flour, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Then, add the somewhat cooled broccoli and, using a potato masher, mash the broccoli just a bit. You’re looking to keep the bits recognizable, but small enough (1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks) that you can press a mound of the batter into a fritter in the pan. Once mashed a bit, stir or fold the ingredients together the rest of the way with a spoon. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil (I usually use a mix of olive and vegetable oil), about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple of inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then to a serving plate if you’ll be eating them shortly or a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven if you’d like to keep them warm for a while until needed. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. Serve with some of the suggestions listed in the head notes, above.

WW Points: 1 point per fritter (without oil for frying)

I also made this yogurt sauce to serve with the Fritters as a last minute addition to our Easter menu. All I had to so was buy a lemon because I had everything else on hand. To lower the fat and make it a little more WW friendly, I used low-fat Fage Greek Yogurt as the base. I also used some garlic power to up the garlicy flavor.

Lemony Garlic Yogurt Sauce

1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Directions

Combine all ingredients, cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so the flavors can marry.

WW Points: 3 points for the entire sauce

(0 points for the amount you would put on 1 fritters)