Wednesday, April 2, 2014

sweet potato + black bean enchiladas

Like most things I make, I'd say these are fairly healthy, but it's all about the ingredients you pick. If you choose high protein, whole wheat wraps instead of flour burritos, that's obviously much better for you. If you skimp on the chedda, you'll also save some fat. But I like everything in moderation. :) 

These veggie enchiladas are actually very filling with the sweet potato. Don't be afraid to try sweet potato in Mexican food, it's very common and very delicious! It goes great in savory dishes with corn, black beans and avocado! 

You'll Need: 
4 Sweet or Regular Potatoes, sliced to cook faster
Frozen Corn- 1 bag 
Black Beans- 1 can  (can also use refried or pinto beans) 
Large Burritos- 8 
Cheddar Cheese- as needed 
Enchilada Sauce- green or red, 1 can (I prefer red in this dish.. you can also use Taco Sauce)

Fill medium pot halfway with water- bring to boil, add sweet potatoes. Set timer for about 15 minutes. Stab with fork to make sure they're soft and cooked. When they're done, drain, put back in pot and mash up a little. 

While the potatoes boil- cook the corn in the microwave.

Drain and rinse the black beans. Place in a bowl with the corn and salt & pepper them. Add cilantro if you want to be fancy. 

Preheat oven to 350. 

Fill each burrito with: cooked sweet potatoes then corn, black beans, cheddar cheese, sprinkle with hot sauce if desired. 

Fold in burrito sides, then roll up from bottom to top, sort of tight. Line up in baking dish. 

Dump the green enchilada sauce over top, spreading so it's even and nothing gets dry. 
(You could top with a sprinkle more of cheese if you want).

Bake for 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

zucchini + potato hash

This zucchini and potato hash has a hearty taste without being too heavy. It's the perfect fresh summer breakfast to cook after a trip to the farmer's market!  

Serves 2

You'll Need
1 Large Zucchini- halved, quartered and sliced
3 Red Skin Potatoes- cubed 
1/2 Onion- chopped or sliced 
Eggs- 2 

I chop my potatoes first and throw them in a pan to start cooking while I chop the onion, then toss that in, followed by the zucchini. Seems to work out well with timing. 

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large (pre-sprayed) pan and cook potatoes & onion for about 7 minutes. Then add zucchini  and cook for about another 7 minutes- or do above and just guesstimate. 

Cook until everything is tender and slightly browned. Season with salt & pepper. Taste the potatoes to make sure they're cooked through. Keep an eye on the heat level, if things are browning to quickly, turn it lower. (You can always turn up higher once they're done to quickly brown them.) 

Once everything is cooked, crack 2 eggs over top and cook over-easy. The runny egg yolk makes a yummy sauce! (The first time I made this dish- I emptied the zucchini hash out of the pan and cooked the eggs alone so I could flip them. Then I added one egg to top each plate.) 

Also yummy with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or hot sauce! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

italian cream cheese poppers

These Italian Poppers are a delicious vegetarian party appetizer- with a blend of spicy and sweet with the banana peppers, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes and olives. They're easy and quick to make and always a favorite.

Makes 16

Filling Amounts Are Flexible
Reduced Fat Pillsbury Crescents- 1 roll of 8 dinner rolls
Cream Cheese
Sliced Banana Peppers (I use jarred)
Sliced Black Olives
Sliced Sundried Tomatoes or Sundried Tomato Pesto (I use jarred)

Preheat oven to 375 (or as package directs.)

Rip each crescent roll in half and spread out in sprayed muffin tin.

Place a slice of cream cheese in the bottom of the cup.

Then top each cup with banana peppers (2-4), a tiny spoonful of sundried tomatoes and a few olives. (The top 5 are a new variety I was trying out. Sauerkraut, Cream Cheese & Dijon Mustard... also delicious!)

Fold pieces over or pinch to close. It's okay if they're not totally covered.

Bake according to directions- about 11-13 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute & serve!

Monday, November 25, 2013

simply succulent braised asparagus

This braised asparagus is tender, full of flavor and doesn't require any butter or extra salt. It makes a perfect veggie side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. And it's so easy to make! 

You'll Need:
Fresh Asparagus Spears- one bunch (about 25 spears), rinsed
Vegetable Broth or Vegetable Bouillon dissolved in water- 1 cup
Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.

Coat pan in olive oil- heat to medium. Add asparagus spears and toss to coat with oil. Cook 1 minute. Add broth. (Cover optional.) Stir every so often-cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

10 tips for traveling abroad

Here are some helpful tips I find myself giving friends who ask about planning an international trip. These are things I have found to be true on my travels abroad to the UK and Europe. I've been to Ireland, England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and all over Italy. These are some of the things I've learned.

1. Arrive with local tender. 

Exchange some cash for some Euro, Pounds, whatever- before you leave. You might need some cash right away for things like a train or taxi in to town. On my first trip to London, I thought I would get some Pounds at the airport, only to find that Chase had turned my debit card off for security purposes. I didn't even have money to make a phone call to tell them to turn it on. Bad situation. 

2. But don't carry too much cash. 

Just in case. I used my Visa for as much as I could because they automatically converted it and at the bank's rate. ATMs over there can have high rates in addition to anything your bank charges. Check to see what exchange rate your bank charges- I believe Amex and CapitalOne don't charge any extra fees.

3. Get an international phone plan.
I have Verizon, and it was only $25 for an international data plan and then a small charge per text/photo on top of that. If you don't get a data plan, your phone will ring up huge charges even if you aren't online because it is finding the satellite in roaming... err something like that? 

4. Learn a few phrases of the native language (or more if you can). 

"Excuse me," and "Sorry" are great to have ready as you're making your way through a crowd. "Thank you" and "Can I have the bill?" are other useful lines to memorize. Even if the locals understand English, it's nice not to perpetuate the ignorant, arrogant American stereotype... a few key words can show that you're making an effort. 

5. Research what foods shouldn't be missed. And don't ask for American things, like ketchup, if they don't offer it. Enjoy the food and drink the way they do.

Me and my bestie eating Belgium Waffles in Belgium... probably one of the more obvious foods to try. :)

UK- Sticky Toffee Pudding 

6. Keep a travel journal. Write down where you stayed, what you ate, who you met, what you did, how people dressed, how you felt, what the weather was like... sketch the layout of the piazza... All things you will forget much sooner than you think. 

.  Also keep receipts, train tickets, pamphlets from tourist attractions, menus, napkins, coasters, beverage labels... as keepsakes.  They prove to be very useful when a friend asks for recommendations (and you can add up your total $ spent). 

7. Learn the names of cities in the local language.

For example, when you're on a train looking for your stop or reading street signs, you might need to know that Kilkenny is Cill Chainnnigh or that Vienna is Wien. Or London in French is Londres. Some are easier to recognize than others. 

8. Understand military time. Train schedules, etc. will be in it. (I subtract 2 from the second number, for example 16:00 is 4:00pm, 23:00 is 11:00pm) 

9. When to tip:

Taxi Drivers- they do not expect a large tip, simply round up to the next Euro (€13 bill would go to €14). If they drive you in circles, skip the tip. 

Dining- Check your bill to see if there is a Service Charge already included. If not, a tip of 10% is considered generous in most countries. Or some Europeans tip 1 or 2 Euro per person. 

Bartenders in most countries do not expect a tip (unless maybe you have a large party). Cheers to saving dinero!

10. Overall- talk to locals, immerse yourself in the culture and get a little lost. 

Don't forget:
  • Adapters 
  • Chargers & extra batteries 
  • A camera (besides the crappy one on your phone)
  • To give your bank a head's up about your travel plans so they don't block charges
  • Multiple debit/credit cards (when I was in Europe they didn't accept Discover)
  • Comfortable, cute walking shoes
  • Take pictures of your hotel (inside & out)- one thing I forget quickly
Did I forget something? Let me know! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

fettuccine with greek yogurt + pea pesto

This dish is way too delicious to be so healthy. I'm not sure if this totally counts as a pesto, but I'm not sure what else to call it. I wasn't sure if the Greek yogurt would be too tart, but a good amount of olive oil and cheese help balance it out and it works great.

You basically blend greek yogurt with peas, olive oil and lemon juice then toss it with more peas, spinach and toasted pine nuts. Mmmmmmm

I am obsessed with pine nuts and they are high in protein too. Some people say that they are too expensive, but I find good deals on pine nuts at Trader Joe's or visit the baking aisle for a little bag (like Fisher) for about $3. You only need a little bit in each recipe so your money will go a long way and totally be worth it. 

You'll Need:
Fettuccine or Linguine- 8 oz.
Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
Fresh Peas, cooked-2 cups
Fresh Spinach- 1-2 cups
Shredded or Shaved Parmesan Cheese- 1/2 cup optional
Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
Lemon Juice- 1/4 cup
Fresh Basil Leaves- 1/4 cup 
Pine Nuts- 1/3 cup
Garlic- 3 cloves (either use pre-cooked or saute with pine nuts)
Red Pepper Flakes

Boil fettuccine noodles according to package. Add spinach for last minute of boil.

Meanwhile, blend Greek yogurt, 1 cup peas, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and basil leaves in a food processor until creamy. Remove blade and stir in salt & pepper.

Saute pine nuts, garlic and red pepper flakes in a drizzle of oil oil over med-low heat for a few minutes (about 2-3) until fragrant.

Drain noodles & spinach. Place back in pot. Stir in rest of cooked peas, yogurt sauce, pine nuts, garlic and red pepper flakes. Mix all well. Serve immediately. 

Serve with a side of veggie meatballs or garlic bread.    

Monday, September 16, 2013

party food etiquette

With the holidays coming up, I thought it'd be nice to share some party food etiquette whether you're bringing food to a party or hosting.

1.  Be Prepared
Show up with your dish prepared and ready to go with any serving spoons or trivets needed. Think of details like a tiny plate to rest the spoon on if it's something in a crock pot.  You don't want to have to bother the host, dirty up the counters or make dirty dishes. 

2. Name/Label Your Dish
I suggest cutting a plain white (or ivory if you want to be fancy) sheet of paper, write the name of your dish, I use black Sharpie. Then cut above it and fold it in half so it stands up. Simple. 

Here's why you should label your food:
  • Guests don't have to poke around the dish and whisper to each other, "What is this?" Especially things with toppings like pies or casseroles. Or they might not know that those plain brown cookies are actually Pumpkin Cookies... so tell them! 
  • Glorify it! Someone might glance at it and that's just another stuffing dish, but sell it with details like "Southwestern Cornbread Stuffing with Pecans" or "Baked Polenta with Fontina Mushroom Sauce" Don't go overboard, but just a little bit of detail with anything that makes your dish different. 
  • They know what to expect. Edamame looks like lima beans. Lemon cake looks like cheesecake. Shredded chicken gets mistaken for shredded cheddar... the list goes on....
  • Spice levels. If it has spice in it, label it Spicy... or Hot or Southwestern or Smokin' or whatever you want. 
  • Allergies & Special Diets: 
           Nut allergies. 
           All these people will be so grateful to know ahead of time what is in the dish. 

3. When you make a dish, do not tell people...

A. How hard it was to make. 

Just smile and be glad people are enjoying the fruits of your labor. Just like you wouldn't give someone a gift then tell them the hell you went through to get it. 

B. How easy it was to make. 

Unless someone asks, you can keep that to yourself. Just like when someone compliments our shirt, we feel the need to tell them it was on sale so that we seem humble.

C. How fattening it is. 

I've heard people say they won't eat the dish they brought because it's too fattening. Why are you subjecting us to it then? It also makes it awkward for the people who still choose to eat it (and feel semi-judged) after you announce to the group that it has 2 sticks of butter and a cup of corn syrup in it. It's pretty easy to tell whether or not something is unhealthy, so there's no need to ruin your Pecan Pie with the dirty details.

Friday, September 6, 2013

italian pignoli cookies

Pignoli means "pine nuts" in Italian. And did you know pine nuts come from regular pine cones? Yep. Normally, animals get to the seeds the minute the cone opens, but if you bake an un-opened cone it will flower open and you can remove the seeds. 

I just buy them at the store, but I was shocked to know these delicious seeds could be found on the sidewalk outside my house. 

These flour-less cookies are a common Italian treat during the holidays and at special occasions like weddings. Here, Pignoli aren't too common, I've only seen them at my favorite bakery in Little Italy, which is why I like to bring them to parties. They're different. And I like to share "unusual" things that don't get overdone. Plus, I like to represent my 25% Italian heritage ;) 

You'll Need
Almond Paste- 12 oz. can, (not almond filling or marzipan)
(Note: you can make almond paste with 1.5 cups blanched almonds, 1.5 cups powdered sugar, 1 egg white and 1/2 tsp. almond extract in food processor)
White Sugar- 1/2 cup
Powdered Sugar- 1/2 cup
Salt- 1 tsp.
Egg Whites- 2, beaten
Pine Nuts- 2 cups (toasted in dry skillet, optional)
Honey 2 tbsp.
Cinnamon- pinch, optional
Lemon zest, optional

Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper and spray with non-stick spray.

Pre-crumble or slice almond paste. In Kitchen-Aid mixer or with hand-mixer, mix almond paste and granulated sugar until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar, salt, 2 beaten egg whites, honey, cinnamon and lemon zest; process just until smooth- do not over-mix.

Refrigerate dough 15-20 min. so it’s easier to work with.

Roll into balls a little bigger than a marble, (they expand a lot). Smush top of ball into pine nuts, slightly flattening top, and place on cookie sheet. 

Bake around 12-18 minutes on either on top rack or bottom rack or until lightly browned. Let stand on cookie sheet 3-5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. 

Some people also dust with powdered sugar but I hate the texture... it sticks to your fingers and the roof of your mouth and it's extra sugar that just isn't necessary. :)