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!

DIY Raw Cleanse

Every once in a while I can tell that my body needs to be rebooted. This is when I turn to cleansing. I have done a few different kinds (Organic Avenue and Isagenix to name two) but they can get very expensive, very quickly. When I got home from the beach after the 4th of July, I knew I needed to cleanse. 6 days of beer, wine and all those American favorites- burgers, steaks, hot dogs, chips, bagels, etc- had put me over the edge. I did some research and found this easy-to-follow DIY raw cleanse on a blog called Small Kitchen College.

The thing I like about this cleanse is it can be 100% tailored to your needs. We decided to do it for just one day to do a quick reboot but we’ve committed to doing this once a week. You can also try cleansing for 3 days a week every once in a while or, if you have the will power that I definitely do not, you can cleanse for a week every month or for one month every year!

Here’s what to do:

1. Begin the day with a large glass of filtered water with the juice of half a lemon. This aids digestion and stimulates the liver to begin the day’s detoxification process. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to balance out your blood sugar.

2. Only consume liquids (smoothies, fresh juices, herbal tea, water) until noon. Snack on raw fruits and veggies if necessary.

3. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs. you should drink at least 60 oz. of water. This is a good rule of thumb for overall health!

4. Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. Go for organic, especially for the dirty dozen.

5. Enjoy 1/2 cup raw nuts and and seeds per day.

6. Fill up on 2 cups of cooked whole grains throughout the afternoon and evening. But! Avoid gluten (whole wheat, barley, rye).

7. Follow the 80/20 Rule: at least 80% of your cleanse should include raw foods, and 20% can be cooked vegetables, grains, and beans.

8. Take a daily multivitamin.

9. Eliminate: dairy, eggs, meat, fish, sugar, gluten, and alcohol. Cut out caffeine if you can, but this is where I cheat. A small cup of coffee or tea in the morning is actually good for you!

I decided to easiest way to shop for this cleanse was to order from Fresh Direct.

Here’s What I got:

Almond Milk- Blue Almond Unsweetened Vanilla

Naked 100% Fuit Smoothie Blue Machine

Kale Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie ingredients

6 Organic Lemons

Organic Strawberries

Organic Red Grapes

Arugula

Organic Red Bell Pepper

Avocado

Cucumber

Organic Shelled Sunflower Seeds

Organic Raw Almonds

Fresh Direct Super Salads*

Chamomile Herbal Tea

We loosely followed the above guidelines and kind of did our own thing. Although we only did this for one day, I felt a huge difference. I lost 2 pounds (most of which, I understand, was water weight) and felt thinner and full of energy. Our groceries cost about $120 (we originally planned on doing the cleanse longer so we bought groceries for 3 days- $20/person/day) but we have added many of the ingredients into other healthy meals on non-cleanse days. This is by far the cheapest and most flexible plan I have ever found for cleansing and I plan on doing it at least once a week to keep myself on track!

I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!

* I bought these instead of doing grains on my own- I was not happy with them because they lacked flavor and texture.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

I mentioned yesterday that Nick and I bought green tomatoes on Monday so I decided to tackle making fried green tomatoes for the first time ever! I did some research (as always) before choosing a simple recipe from a blog called “Pretty Tasty Things.” I pretty much left this recipe alone other than adding in a little cayenne to the flour for some extra heat.

Whenever I batter and fry anything (which isn’t all that often), I look for a batter that uses flour and buttermilk as part of the dredging process. The flour is a perfect first step because it helps coat whatever you are frying so you get a true batter around everything. The buttermilk helps create the next step of the barrier and gives the outside layer some moisture to adhere to. The cornmeal and bread crumb outer layer creates a crunchy bite. So when I saw these in this recipe, I had to try it!

This recipe is relatively easy but the dredging can be a little tricky. I found using a fork to flip, cover and move the tomato slices from bowl to bowl was the easiest way. You can use your fingers but be careful to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients so you don’t end up with a gloppy mess!

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Ingredients

3 green tomatoes

1 cup of flour

1 cup of plain bread crumbs

1 cup of yellow cornmeal

1 cup of buttermilk

salt and pepper

cayenne

vegetable oil

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the green tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt.

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In three separate bowls, add flour to the first one with some salt and pepper, buttermilk to the second, and combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal in the third.

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Taking a slice of tomato, lightly coat it in the flour, coat both sides with the buttermilk and then dredge into the breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture. Repeat process for all the slices.

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Heat a large skillet on medium heat with vegetable oil about 1/4-inch high. Once the oil is hot, gently place 5-6 slices into the pan. Let one side turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, before turning it over.

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Remove and place on a baking rake to drip the excess oil. I kept mine in the oven until all the slices were fried (at 170 degrees).

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WW Points: 5 points for 2 slices

Don’t forget to try them with the buttermilk ranch dressing from yesterday’s post!

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)

Pantry Pasta

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One of my roommates moved out today so while she was finishing up her packing, I decided to clean out the fridge and my pantry. In the process, I found 3 different types of dry pasta and, in the fridge, some random produce left over from other recipes that was about to go bad. I figured I would throw it all together and see how it turned out! Here’s what I did:

First I put a large pot of water on so it could come to a boil while I started on the “sauce”

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I used garlic oil (mince a clove of garlic per 2 tbsp of olive oil and let the flavor meld together) that I had left over from when I made homemade pizza a while back. I put that in my wok (a large frying pan will work too) over moderate heat

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 I then thinly sliced the left over green onions from the stir-fry I made yesterday. I let the garlic and onion sweat out for about 3-4 minutes

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Next I added in left over sliced mushrooms from the Slow Cooker Lasagna I made on Monday and let them cook for about 7-10 minutes (I didn’t really time everything so these times are all estimates)

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Next I threw in halved cherry tomatoes that I’ve had in the fridge for salads. I let them cook for about 3 minutes and then covered the wok.

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I left the wok covered for 2 minutes so the cherry tomatoes and mushrooms could steam and cook through more quickly

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I let the “sauce” go for another few minutes (maybe 2 or 3) until the tomatoes started to burst and let out some of their juices

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(This is what it should look like)

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Next, I drained the pasta and dumped it on top of everything. I took the pasta out a minute before the recommended time (so after 7 minutes of cooking) because it continues to cook once added to the “sauce”

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The last step was throwing in a few handfuls of arugula for a little green and spiciness

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All done! I was able to make about 4 (larger) servings with what I had on hand. This is by no means a recipe to follow step-by-step but more of a guideline for making sure you aren’t throwing out any food! Now I have lunch for Nick and I for the next two days!

WW Points: 9 points per serving*

*Remember- this is for this pantry pasta so yours will probably have a different points value. I used about 4 cups of pasta, 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, 2 cups of arugula, 2 cups of mushrooms, 4 tbsp of oil (I added a little extra to my garlic oil), 2 cloves of garlic and 4 green onions (whites and pale green only).

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.

WW Pancakes

I have been enjoying my kale and pineapple smoothie for most breakfasts recently but today I wanted something different. Instead of waking up to my room flooded with sunlight (yay for east-facing windows), I woke up to the sound of rain falling and I, like most people, love to indulge in comfort food when the weather is less than stellar. All I wanted was a big, fluffy pancake.

I have made healthier versions of pancakes before but I have never been able to get the points value low enough to really justify removing most, if not all, of the fat. Today I set out to make a 2 point pancake! I made a few key changes to get the points value down while trying not sacrifice the flavor or fluffiness.

First, I cut out the milk. I think I have mentioned that I try to keep an eye on the amount of dairy I consume so I don’t even keep it in the fridge. Instead, I had almond milk on hand so I gave it a try. Baking is science and fluffiness depends purely on the amount of carbon dioxide that is released in the batter. This is why buttermilk is popular in pancakes. Not only does it give the pancakes a great flavor, it has a higher acid content than regular milk (and definitely almond milk) so it has the ability to release more carbon dioxide.

Second, in order to make up for the absence of an acidic liquid in the batter, I used baking powder instead of baking soda, which is also a popular ingredient in fluffy pancakes. I did this because baking powder has a higher acid content than baking soda.

Lastly, I added seltzer water to amp up the carbon dioxide even more (and cut out some more calories/points). You have to be careful with all this though- you don’t want to mess with this too much because too much acid will increase the gluten development and create a tough and chewier pancake. In order to get the fluffiness without the chewiness, I refrigerated the batter for about 15 minutes (you can leave it up to over night if you want to) to slow the gluten development before cooking.

The pancakes turned out better than I could have imagined! I will probably continue to tweak this recipe until it’s absolutely perfect but, for now, it’s amazingly delicious. The best part? You could eat this ENTIRE batch and it’s only 14 points! I went with 3 pancakes and a tbsp of maple syrup for a decadent 7 point breakfast!

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Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 large egg

1/2 unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup of seltzer water or club soda

1 tsp vanilla

cooking spray

Directions

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the mixed wet ingredients and mix well with a spoon until there are no more dry spots; don’t over-mix

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Put the mixed batter in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (you can leave it in there over night if you’d like)

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Lightly spray oil to coat and pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter. When the pancake starts to bubble, you may add your fruit if you wish

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When the bubbles settle and the edges begin to set, flip the pancakes. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.

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Yields 7 pancakes

WW Points: 2 points per pancake