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

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?

Tessemae’s All Natural Salad Dressings

I’m not sure about everyone else but I have an odd aversion to making salads at home. They just never taste as good as one I can get at a bodega, deli or restaurant. There are two problems with those options: I have no idea where the lettuce, veggies and meat came from and a simple salad always ends up costing at least $8. I always try to get over this and buy salad fixings but they never taste right or I’ll have one salad and the rest of the food goes bad.

One solution was to start making my own salad dressings. Salad dressing is so easy to make but I always end up making some sort of vinaigrette with oil, balsamic and dijon mustard and then I can never decide what to put on the salad. The issue here is that it makes about a half cup of dressing which I store in left over mason jars but I always forget about it in the back of my fridge. The dressing will separate and then it is really annoying to clean out the mason jar. Basically, its a mess I like to avoid unless I am making a huge salad for a ton of friends.

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So when I stumbled upon this product at Whole Foods, I decided to give it a try. I am really picky when it comes to salad dressings because, if it is like most store-bought dressings, most of the ingredients are artificial and I can taste that. This dressing caught my eye because it was separated (fat solids were separated from the rest of the dressing) which means there is no artificial ingredient holding it all together (much like hydrogenated fat in peanut butter). I also noticed that the ingredient list was short and sweet: olive oil, organic lemons, organic garlic, mustard and sea salt. I also loved that it is advertised as a salad dressing, marinade and dip and it was only $5.49!

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I grabbed the Lemonette dressing and I have loved it! For some reason, I keep grabbing for it in my fridge (I have actually surprised myself that it hasn’t just sat in the back the way most of my homemade dressings do). First, I was using it more for a marinade for chicken or fish but then I threw it on a salad I made with marinated olives, feta and cherry tomatoes and it completely transformed the salad. Just make sure you take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you need to use it and shake it well once it’s room temp! I can’t wait to go back to Whole Foods and trying some of the other flavors!

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)