Quinoa Veggie Burgers

I just spent an amazing, life-changing two weeks in Spain and France. I spent three days Madrid, a weekend outside of Montpellier in southern France, five days in Barcelona and a weekend in San Sebastian. The food was different in every location and it is impossible to decide which was my favorite. Everything was just that good. I ate my way through every town we visited and I am now paying the price.

I made the decision to eat vegetarian for this first week back in order to get my diet and body back on track. I don’t usually consume dairy- cheese is really the only thing I eat on a somewhat regular basis- or meat – rarely more than two or 3 times a week. I’m pretty sure my typical diet would survive living in Spain… cafe con leche at least twice a day, frequent visits to a museo de jamon, pintxos in San Sebastian with thick slices of goat cheese, etc., etc., etc.

My first attempt at a filling and delicious vegetarian meal is a version of a veggie burger my friend, Lauren, introduced to me a few weeks before my vacation. She had me over for dinner and we made veggie burgers using quinoa and black beans (both for protein) and colorful vegetables to brighten and bulk it up a bit. Here’s a look at the version I created:

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Ingredients

1 cup white quinoa, cooked according to the packages instructions

1 cup black beans, rinsed*

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/3 of a medium red bell pepper, minced

1/2 of a red onion, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 egg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine

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Form into 4 “patties” using your hands. It might help to wash your hands in between each patty

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Warm a frying pan over medium heat and cook each patty in about a teaspoon of oil for 3 minutes per side

WW Points: 3 points/patty

*I used vegetarian chili because, in my fog of jet lag, I bought chili instead of normal black beans. Don’t do this- it made the patties wetter than necessary and they didn’t hold their form that well!

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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”

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!

Easy Wednesday Night Lamb

A few weeks ago I posted a link from Buzzfeed (which was taken from the New York Times) about an easy lamb dish. I mentioned that I have only cooked lamb once in my life because messing up lamb, which is easy to do, can be an expensive mistake. This recipe seemed almost too easy to mess up so I decided to give it a try last night. I must say, it turned out really well. I may have over cooked it by a minute or so but I will know for next time. I also changed it up a bit with spices and made a 2 person portion. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1/2 rack of lamb– frenched (about 1/2 a pound)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic cloves

1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat (I trimmed a little too much but I was trying to make it a little healthier).

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Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.

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Put the oil, garlic, chipotle and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a food processor and purée; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs

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Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper

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Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 15 to 18 minutes*. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them.

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I made a quick salad with cherry tomatoes and feta with a balsamic vinaigrette and some Alexia chipotle sweet potato fries to finish off the meal. It ended up being a 16 point dinner but it was completely worth it!

WW Points: 3 points for one serving of rub and 9 points for 3 oz of lamb
*I adjusted the original cook time from 18-20 minutes stated in the Buzzfeed and New York Times articles because I used 1/2 a rack of lamb instead of the full rack. I also adjusted the amounts used in the rub.

Picnic in Central Park

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My picnic was a success (well still is because I am still sitting here in the sun)! The egg salad is delicious and the salad in a mason jar kept my dressing away from greens on the trip down to the park! I packed a seltzer water, small plate and fork into my left over Organic Avenue insulated bag along with the egg salad (securely in a tupperware), toasted rolls, and my mason jar. All I had to do was toss in an ice pack and I was on my way. It’s just too beautiful to be inside!

WW Egg Salad

It is a beautiful day in New York so I decided I wanted to make a picnic and hang out in Central Park. I have never done this in the 3 years I’ve lived in New York and I’m not sure why I haven’t! This week has turned into a week where all my meals are coming from previously frozen soup, extra eggs and canned beans so I needed to get creative when putting together my Central Park lunch. I had a few things on hand (extra eggs from making the Ina Garten brownies, rolls in the freezer from making burgers over the weekend, garlic chives from the Goi Cuon and the fixings for a salad in a mason jar) so I decided to throw together a WW-friendly egg salad- I know, not the best thing for a picnic in the sun but whatever!

First off, I had to hard boil the eggs. Ina Garten has the hands-down best technique for hard boiling eggs. Here’s what to do:

Place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover.

Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the pan for 15 minutes.

Remove the eggs to a bowl and allow to rest for at least 2 minutes. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack the eggs on each side and then roll them back and forth with your hand, breaking up the shell. Remove and discard the shell.

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Ingredients*

4 large egg(s)

2 large egg white(s), you’ll have to boil these as whole eggs and discard the yolks

2 Tbsp chives, fresh, chopped

1 Tbsp reduced-calorie mayonnaise

1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I used an herbed mustard from Stonewall Kitchen)

1/2 tsp table salt

1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Instructions

Hard boil eggs (see above)

Discard yolks from two of the eggs. Chop remaining whole eggs and whites into bite-size pieces.

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Transfer eggs to a medium bowl. Add chives, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper; mix until blended.

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Yields about 1/2 cup per serving (4 servings total)
WW Points: 3 per serving

*This recipe is loosely based on a WW recipe for an egg salad

Goi Cuon- Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Summer Rolls

I mentioned last week that I ventured down to Chinatown to get some groceries to make Vietnamese food. Well here is the post (finally!). I apologize for not getting it up sooner- I need a little break from the computer but I have lots of fun stuff to post this week from my culinary adventures this weekend.

Lauren and Colleen are my two closest girlfriends in New York. I see Lauren regularly (it’s not unusual to see her more than I see my boyfriend in a week) but it had been a while since the three of us had had a girls night together. I invited them over to teach them how to make an easy Vietnamese appetizer and to enjoy some wine and dragon fruit. All I did was prep everything before they got there and had it all set up on the table for whenever they wanted to sit down and eat.

I made Goi Cuon from this cookbook once in college and it can be kind of labor intensive because you have to be patient with each and every roll. Honestly, after that first time I felt kind of defeated until I tasted them. The work is worth it! I also noticed what a difference the proper ingredients make. I know it can be hard to find garlic chives (very different flavor than a regular chive), Asian mint (it’s a lot spicier than regular mint) and perilla (also called shiso). You will definitely need to find an Asian market for the vermicelli and rice paper (unless your grocery store has an extensive international foods section) but the herbs can still be hard to find. If you are in a bind, just grab regular chives and mint and skip the shiso (I didn’t add any in when I made them). The flavors will be a little different but still delicious!

I’m happy I thought of having Lauren and Colleen make their own rolls for a few reasons:

1. I didn’t have to stress out about making 12 of these ahead of time

2. It was kind of like a cooking class and they both learned how to assemble them on their own

3. They both agreed that it was pretty easy and I think they enjoyed them a little more because they appreciated the work that goes into making them

I hope you will try to make these at home. They are beautiful to set out for a dinner party and will be sure to impress everyone! And, I promise, once you’ve made them twice, you will have the process memorized and it will feel like a breeze every time after that!

Secrets of the Red Lantern; stories and Vietnamese recipes from the heart

Pauline Nguyen with recipes by Mark Jensen and Luke Nguyen

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Goi Cuon– Vietnamese Summer Rols

2 3/4 ounces dried vermicelli

18 sheets of 8 1/2 inch rice paper

18 cooked small shrimp, peeled and sliced in half

4 1/4 ounces cooked pork neck, finely sliced*

1 cup firmly packed shredded iceberg lettuce

1 bunch perilla (shiso)

1 bunch mint

1 bunch garlic chives

Hoisin dipping sauce (recipe below)

Add noodles to boiling water and bring back to a boil. Cooke for 5 minutes. Turn off the hear and allow the noodles to stand in the water for an additional 5 minutes. Strain and rinse under cold water, then leave to dry. For this recipe, it is best to have cooked and strained the vermicelli at least 30 minutes prior to rolling. This allows the noodles to dry off a little and stick together.

To assemble the rolls, cut six sheets of rice paper in half. Fill a large bowl with warm water and dip one whole sheet of rice paper in the water until it softens, then lay it flat on a plate. Dip a half sheet of rice paper in the water and lay it vertically in the middle of the round sheet. This will help strengthen the roll and keep the filling from breaking through. In the middle of the rice paper, place three pieces of shrimp in a horizontal line approximately 1 1/2 inches from the top.

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Below the shrimp, add some pork, lettuce, perilla, mint, and vermicelli.

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To form the goi cuon, first fold the sides into the center over the filling, then the bottom of the paper up and over. Roll from bottom to top to form a tight roll, and just before you complete the roll add two pieces of garlic chive so that they stick out at one end.

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The final product

WW Points: 3 points per roll (no pork)

*I do not use the pork neck. I find that they are just as delicious (just not as authentic) without it and it saves some points!

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Hoisin Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup of hoisin sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon roasted peanuts

1 red bird eye chili

In a saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce and the rice vinegar, place over medium heat and stir in the milk. Continue to stir until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. To serve, chop the roasted peanuts and finely slice the chili to garnish the sauce.

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The dipping sauce will last up to one week stored in the refridgator.

WW Points: 2 points/serving (makes 6 servings and this is using fat free milk)

Total WW Points for suggested serving: 11 points (3 rolls and one serving of dipping sauce)

And here are pictures of the dragon fruit stand in Chinatown and it all cut up for dessert. I ate dragon fruit almost every day for breakfast when we lived in Vietnam. Think kiwi meets pear meets watermelon. It’s mild, not too sweet and very hydrating and refreshing! The biggest difference between dragon fruit in NYC and Vietnam? Price. I got one fruit for $6 in Chinatown whereas the same fruit would have cost about 45 cents on the streets in Saigon!

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Coffee Milkshake

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I came home from my run a few minutes ago and realized I had poured myself a cup of coffee and completely forgot about it. Needless to say, it was cold and bitter but I didn’t want to throw it down the drain. I thought I’d try to make a WW-friendly milkshake using some things from my fridge and freezer. I LOVE Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Ice Cream Sandwiches so I figured I would use one in the shake. Here’s what I did:

IMG_5524Soy Creamy Coffee Milkshake

1 cup of old coffee

1 Soy Creamy

1 cup of ice

1/2 cup of almond milk (or regular milk if you prefer)

Directions

Put ice in the blender and top with the cold coffee. Add the Soy Creamy and pulse to combine. With the blender on a “smoothie” setting, blend while adding in the milk slowly. Blend until smooth!

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WW Points: 3 points/smoothie*

*Soy Creamy is 2 points per sandwich and 1/2 cup of almond milk is 1 point. This could change based on the type of milk you choose to use.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are very sought after in the culinary world. They are not usually cultivated but rather harvested by individuals. They have a very short season of only a few weeks in the early spring. I have had them a few times before but had never cooked them before yesterday! Like most fresh, seasonal produce, you don’t have to do a whole lot to make them taste delicious.

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1 cup of fiddlehead ferns

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Wash the fiddleheads by putting them in a colander and dunking it into a bowl of cold water. Swish them around a little bit to make sure you get rid of any dirt that may be caught in the spiral. Remove the colander from the water.

Fill a pot with cold water and pour the fiddleheads into the cold water. Bring to a boil and cook the fiddleheads until they all raise to the surface (about 5 minutes).

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Mince your garlic while the fiddleheads are boiling

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Heat the 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan and add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes

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Add the cooked fiddleheads and saute until they brown on the edges

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Serve with your protein of choice!

WW Points: 3 points for the entire serving*

*the only points come from the oil so you can eliminate this by using a PAM spray if needed.

Sriracha Lime Popcorn

Keeping with the buzzfeed theme of today, I stumbled upon this recipe around Oscar time (there are 4 other not-so-WW-friendly popcorn recipes as well). It is a great an easy way to take your ordinary popcorn and step it up a notch.

I absolutely love sriracha! This love for sriracha stems from the time I spent studying abroad in Vietnam and I have countless great memories adding it to dishes while sitting in a “kindergarten- furniture kitchen” on the streets of Saigon and Hanoi. It adds so much flavor to dishes without making them too spicy and without adding any extra WW points. Just remember- a lot goes a long way! I like to use Orville Redenbacher’s 94% Fat-Free SmartPop! Popcorn to keep it WW friendly. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

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Srircha Lime Popcorn*

3 cups of popped popcorn

1 tbsp. of unsalted butter

1 tsp. of Srircha (or to taste)

Zest of one lime

Salt to taste

Directions:

Pop the popcorn and set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, added in the Srircaha and lime zest and whisk until emulsified. Remove from heat and slowly pour over the popcorn while tossing the popcorn to make sure it gets an even coat (if you pour the butter/Sriracha/lime  sauce too quickly it will make clumps of popcorn soggy and you won’t be able to cover all the popcorn evenly). Salt to taste.

This recipe is so simple and it really easy! It is a great snack to have while watching tv or to put out for a dinner party for guests to snack on. It will impress anyone who tries it!

WW Points: 3 points for a 3 cup serving

*This recipe is slightly altered from the one in the link above.