Compound Butter

Making a compound butter is so simple and such an easy way to elevate any meals that calls for butter. I love making roasted garlic compound butter and using when sauteing vegetables- it adds so much flavor! Whenever you have some time on your hands, use a few sticks of butter and try out one of these recipes. They keep for a long time and you can just leave it in the fridge and pull it out anytime you want to add in some extra flavor!

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!

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

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)

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

Home-Grown Fresh Herbs

Home-Grown Fresh Herbs

Growing your own herbs is a great way to save money. If you’re like me, seeing fresh herbs as a garnish to a recipe basically means I leave them off. Who wants to pay $3-5 for fresh herbs when all you need is a few basil leaves or sprigs of thyme? I do know that fresh herbs make a huge difference so my solution is to ditch the recipe.

As I mentioned in my Easter post, I found these plants at Whole Foods for $1.99 (cheaper than buying pre-cut herbs) and figured I would try to grow them at home. To start, I picked out chives and cilantro but I hope to get a few more plants soon (probably dill and basil). I needed chives for the deviled eggs so that was a no brainer (also why the plant is cut down so much) and I’ve heard cilantro grows like weeds so it will be hard for me to mess it up (I tend to kill anything green…). I also cook a lot of Asian and Latin American-inspired food so cilantro will be good to have on hand.

Fresh herbs are a great way to brighten up a boring meal and a low-calorie way to add flavor (or no calorie?). As far as I’m concerned, growing herbs at home is a way to eat healthfully, locally, and inexpensively- all GREAT things in my book!