Posts tagged vegetables

a salad a day keeps the doctor away!

for the past couple of months, i’ve been eating a salad every single day for lunch. i pack up my shoebox sized tupperware container, load it up with bright veggies and filling protein and go on my merry way. it always takes me tons of time to eat, packs in the nutrients and leaves me feeling full for hours until it’s time for my afternoon snack.

instead of store-bought dressing, i keep olive oil and balsamic vinegar at my desk and shake a little on every day. easy, peasy!

you might think i’d get bored eating a salad every day for lunch, but they’re so versatile, it feels like an entirely different meal each time i eat it! also, instead of woofing it down, i’m able to take longer to eat and stay fuller longer, as well. try it for a week, you won’t be disappointed!

eliz’s tips for a great salad:

1. not to sound like the barefoot contessa, but start with good lettuce. my favorite kinds are romaine and butter lettuce. you might prefer arugula, spinach, spring mix, kale or iceberg. find out what works with you and go with it.

2. load it up with basic veggies - i aim for all different colors and textures in my staples. bell pepper, cucumber, celery and tomato always find their way into my lunch, but maybe carrots, sprouts, radishes, olives or onions are your cup of tea! if you think having 5-7 servings of vegetables a day seems daunting, recognize that you could easily have one serving with breakfast (think veggie omelette or green smoothie!), two servings with dinner and a big salad could easily take care of another four servings of vegetables! wham, bam.

3. don’t forget the protein! protein is what will keep you full, rather than feeling like you just ate a bowl of rabbit food. whether it’s chicken, deli meat, shrimp, salmon beans, hummus, a veggie burger, tofu or tempeh, just get that protein in the mix!

4. change it up & give your salad a theme. although i eat a salad a day, i don’t eat the SAME salad every day. that would get really old really fast. some days it’s greek, others it’s mexican. sometimes it’s mediterranean, others it’s roasted vegetables. keep yourself interested!

5. don’t be afraid of leftovers! instead of letting leftovers in your fridge go to waste, incorporate them into your salad. just the other day, i cut up a leftover turkey burger, sweet potato slices and roasted zucchini from the grill. traditional salad fixins? no. delicious? yes. the next day, i had leftover chicken, peppers and onions from fajitas - i threw that in with some avocado and i had an instant mexican fiesta!

6. don’t go overboard with the “goodies” - you could have an amazingly nutritious salad and throw it all down the drain if you load on lots of croutons, cheese, creamy dressings, etc. some of those treats, in moderation, are fine - let’s be honest, i wouldn’t DREAM of having a greek salad sans feta cheese! just be smart about it so you’re not burying all the benefits that drew you to a salad in the first place. (also, unsuspecting culprit… watch out for low fat/fat free dressings. when they take out the fat, they replace it with SUGAR and that’s not helping anyone. make your own dressing with olive oil or make sure you read in the ingredients carefully.)

7. most importantly, make it your own. maybe you hate celery - then don’t include it. maybe your favorite food is strawberries - include those! whatever you do, make it appealing to YOU or else you’ll never enjoy it.

salad combo ideas:

greek salad: romaine, bell peppers, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, grilled chicken

roasted veggie salad: romaine, roasted zucchini, squash, onion, bell pepper, brussels sprouts, kidney beans

mexican salad: romaine, sauteed onions and bell peppers, grilled shrimp, avocado, black beans, tomatoes

summery salad: butter lettuce, strawberries, peaches, goat cheese, walnuts

asian salad: shredded lettuce, orange segments, baked salmon, sesame seeds, water chesnuts

everything but the kitchen sink salad: also known as a clean-out-the-fridge salad. literally… your dinner from the night before on a big bed of lettuce!

**QUESTION: what are your must-have salad ingredients?**

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#healthy

#vegetables

#food

healthier mac and cheese (with cauliflower!)

i was hesitant to put my secret ingredient in the title of this post because i bet you’d never be able to guess that butter, cream and flour were replaced with cauliflower in this healthified comfort food recipe! but the secret’s out, so try  it soon :)

one of my favorite recipes is my nona’s baked macaroni and cheese. although nothing can compare to this, a few replacements in my recipe make it a much, much healthier option and let’s face it - that’s the goal with my recipes! although hers is a great treat, i find this was a perfectly suitable alternative to have more frequently.

ingredients:

2 cups dry whole wheat pasta (i picked elbows!)

6 oz. plain, nonfat greek yogurt

1/4. c. skim milk

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 c. + 1 T. grated parmesan cheese

1 c. cauliflower florets

1/2 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3 T panko breadcrumbs

1 T dried parsley

salt & pepper to taste

now that you’re done with the collecting, it’s time for the doing!

first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and break out two pots. one to boil your pasta (i salted the water lightly) - follow the directions on the box and lean toward the al dente side of things. since it’ll still cook a bit longer in the oven, you don’t want the pasta to be mushy and overdone. once the pasta is done, drain it and put the cooked pasta in a 9x9 baking dish.

in the other pot, boil your cauliflower until it’s tender. this is going to get blended up, so don’t stress if it gets a little overdone.

now here’s the fun part - where we substitute cream, butter and flour for cauliflower and skim milk! either back in the empty pot or on top of a double boiler, let the chopped onion and garlic sweat for about five minutes. add the skim milk and cauliflower and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. (if you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer everything to a regular blender, puree and return to the stove)

once everything is smooth, return to the stove over a low heat.

stir in the cheese (save for 1 T of the parmesan, which you’ll need later) and greek yogurt and keep stirring until it’s all melty and smooth together. taste and sprinkle with salt and pepper to your preference. (side note: i tasted this and wanted a mug full! it tasted like baked potato soup!)

pour the cheese sauce over the pasta in the baking dish and toss it all together so the pasta is all evenly coated throughout.

now, in a dish, combine the panko, remaining 1 T parmesan and parsley. mix it together and sprinkle on the top of the baking dish.

now, pop it in the 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. for the final 1-2 minutes, turn the broiler on high so the top gets golden brown.

take it out and let it cool/set for about 5 minutes before serving. scoop out and enjoy! i served ours with a spinach/romaine salad with walnuts, strawberries and chicken. even this dish is warm, it’s not super heavy, so i think it’d be great in the summer OR the winter. year-round deliciousness :)

yum yum - nothing wrong with putting a healthy spin on some comfort food, right? nothing will top nona’s version, but this one was not to shabby and made GREAT leftovers to bring to work.

click here for a printable version of the recipe!

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#recipes

#vegetarian

#meat-free monday

#macaroni and cheese

#vegetables

#comfort food

one of my goals for the next couple of weeks is to incorporate more leafy greens into my everyday meals. some that i’m already a big fan of are spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce, but i’m also trying kale (hopefully chips, soon!) and i’m even counting brussels sprouts as a sort-of-leafy green vegetable.

one super suggestion from health coach and cook jennifer moore is to blend some of these babies into a smoothie. can you imagine having this for breakfast and already getting 2-3 servings of fruits/vegetables before 10am?! it’s brilliant! and for those of you that are scared, i promise the sweetness of the vanilla, banana, pineapple and agave mask any signs of veggies in your beverage.

well, here’s my adaptation of her recipe for a green smoothie (so much easier for me to make than green juice, since i’ve already got a blender and had all the ingredients on hand!). feel free to make this your own, but as you sip, be proud of all the vitamins and nutrients you’re packing in with every gulp :)

green smoothie

ingredients:

1/2 ripe avocado

1/2 large, ripe banana, sliced (freeze slices ahead of time for even colder smoothies!)

1/2 cup pineapple chunks (i used frozen to keep it cold)

3/4 cup de-stemmed kale

3/4 cup baby spinach

1 cup vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup water

1 Tablespoon agave nectar (you could also use honey or another sweetener)

directions (so easy):

1. throw all the ingredients into your blender.

2. blend until everything is smooth (especially those leafy greens!)

3. pour, sip & enjoy :)

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#green smoothie

#vegetables

#fruits

#superfoods

#healthy

#recipes

#smoothie

pea pesto

i feel like this recipe (yeah, yeah, originally giada) has been following me around for a year. every healthy food blog, recipe blog and friend has whipped this up and told me about it. i’ve seen pictures of the BRIGHT green appetizer, heard rave reviews and finally got around to making it. let me tell you… it lives up to the hype, too!

it’s really, really simple to make and you can get so creative with the leftovers. i used it as a spread on a sandwich with grilled chicken, spinach and tomato. i’ve seen it used in chicken salad, i bet it’d be good on top of a salad or even in an omelet. go crazy!

also, the easiest thing about this is you probably have most of the ingredients on hand, so it can be made pretty last minute and for not much money. i think the only thing i really had to buy was the baguette. how easy!

my dad - the daring eater of my family - for some reason doesn’t like pesto very much. he struggles with why, considering he likes all the ingredients (pine nuts, basil, olive oil, garlic), but there’s just something about it he doesn’t love. on the other hand, my mom will always push peas to the side of her plate if they’re in a dish. considering both these things… they both really liked the pea pesto! there’s just something about it, you can’t help but enjoy it. it’s sweet, flavorful and the texture is perfect on the crunchy baguette. just try it, you’ll thank me.

1 1/2 cups frozen peas (completely defrosted, but not cooked)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons for crostini

pinch kosher salt

pinch black pepper

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus an additional Tablespoon for crostini

baguette, sliced into 1/2” thick slices

pinch garlic powder

grape tomatoes, halved

first, let the peas defrost/thaw completely. you don’t want to cook them, but too-cold peas lead to a frosty mess in the food processor. learn from my mistake! just leave the bag of peas out on the counter for a while before you start cooking.

next, pour them into a food processor and pulse them a little bit til they’re broken down.

add the garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper and add in 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil. pulse it for a good 1-2 minutes and add a little more olive oil if it needs some help moving around the food processor.

when everything is well blended and mixed into one bright green spread, take it out of the food processor and put in a bowl to set aside.

meanwhile, slice your grape tomatoes, lengthwise, in half. they’re the perfect sweet little garnish. as to how many you’ll need… however many slices of baguette you’re prepping, you need that many tomato slices (so half the number of whole tomatoes as bread slices).

to make the crostini, slice a baguette into 1/2”  discs. drizzle very lightly with olive oil, a pinch of parmesan and a light dusting of garlic powder. bake in a 250 degree oven for about five minutes or until lightly golden and crisped.

finish by layering 2-3 Tablespoons of the pesto on top of the baguette and laying the tomato, seed side down, on top. so pretty!

click here for a printable version of the recipe!

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#appetizer

#meat free

#vegetables

#peas

#pesto

orzo stuffed peppers

as most of you know, i’ve moved back to connecticut because of a new job opportunity. it’s been a much smoother transition than i thought it’d be, it feels great to be home and although my new job is pretty overwhelming right now, it’s still fun and i’m really grateful for the opportunity.

so, if you’re reading this and you’re in glastonbury, LET’S HANG OUT! i need a social life and things are a lot different than when i last lived here in oh… 2004. (is there anything fun to do or anywhere cool to go…? no?) on the other hand, if you’re reading this and you’re in massachusetts, I MISS YOU. boston and the surrounding area will always own a very, very large piece of my heart and i’ll have it be known that i wear my “bean” necklace for my beantown pride every. single. day.

anywhozlebees… i know i’ve been seriously lacking in the recipe department and now that i’m more or less settled in, in the nutmeg state, i’m determined to be back on track! keep kicking my butt and remind me if you see me slacking again. in the meantime, i’ve got three new recipes all saved up and ready to share. i’ll go in chronological order, beginning with the first dinner i cooked for mom & dad when i moved back: orzo and chicken stuffed peppers.

i had a variation of this dish a few nights before my friends janelle and dustin’s wedding last summer when janelle invited all of the girls in her bridal party over before the hectic wedding weekend began. i added chicken to the recipe to make it more of a one-pot meal, but you can certainly make it meat-free! the original recipe came from our favorite bobblehead, giada. per usual, though, i made my own adaptations!

14 oz. diced tomatoes (one can)

1 zucchini, grated

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about three cloves)

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

pinch of black pepper

pinch of kosher salt

2 cups low sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1 cup orzo (measure before you cook it)

2 chicken breasts, baked and shredded

5-6 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

[this recipe serves 5-6]

 

first, i’d suggest getting some prep work out of the way to make the rest of the assembly go quickly…

place the chicken in a baking dish with a little bit of nonstick spray and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes or until it’s cooked all the way through. once it’s slightly cooled, dice or shred it until it’s in small pieces rather than large chunks. keep the oven on at 400 degrees once you’re done with the chicken.

also, bring the 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil and add the cup of uncooked orzo.  cook it until it’s al dente, about 5-6 minutes. it’ll cook more later. IMPORTANT: rather than straining the liquid into the sink, you want to put it into the bottom of the baking dish you’ll be cooking the peppers in. then, take the drained pasta and put it in a large bowl. (i recommend using a wire/mesh strainer if you’ve got one, because the orzo is tiny and will get all stick in the holes of a regular colander/strainer!)

add into the bowl with the orzo: drained can of diced tomatoes, grated zucchini, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. toss everything together to make sure it’s well-mixed and then set aside while you prep your peppers.

carefully slice the tops off the peppers and using a knife or spoon, scoop out the seeds and ribs that are left behind. be gentle so you don’t puncture the peppers, since they’ll become your cups. once you’re done cleaning them out, stand them up in the baking dish with chicken broth in the bottom.

scoop the contents of the orzo bowl and distribute evenly into all the peppers. if you have a little extra, then POOF! you’ve got a delicious orzo salad that’s perfectly acceptable on its own.

cover the baking dish with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes in the 400 degree oven. then, remove the foil, sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese on the top and bake, uncovered, for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

i like my peppers to have a little crunch to them, still, but the more “well-done” you prefer the peppers, feel free to leave them in a bit longer.

click here for a printable version of the recipe!

ahhh, it feels good to say that and to be back :)

xxoo,

eliz

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#meat-free

caprese towers & top chef: signature appetizer

my friend brian (you’ve probably heard about him here or have read his nearly daily comments) has a wildly successful television, film & pop culture blog called please welcome your judges. i say it’s wildly successful not only because i enjoy reading it but also because blogger picked him as the blog of note yesterday! neither of us knew what that was, but come to find out, out of EVERYONE on blogspot, brian was selected as the recommended reading for the day. his readership increased tenfold and he’s going to be super popular, important and quoted all the time now.

anyways, we’ve been thinking for a while about guest-blogging with/for one another but we were trying to think of a smart way to marry the topics of food (my blog) and tv/movies/etc (his blog). like a bolt of lightning, it came to me: as he writes his top chef midseason review, we would have our own top chef-inspired night.

pairing this idea and dinner with our friend lilla, we decided to have a top chef quickfire challenge: signature appetizers. all three of us would make our go-to appetizer, share everything and make a big, delicious dinner out of it. there was no judging, though, because let’s be honest - getting a plate full of tasty apps means everyone is a winner.

i made my summer favorite, caprese towers, while brian took a page from his roommate arestia's book and went for an onion, garlic, parmesan and gorgonzola flatbread. lilla was an overachiever and made TWO dishes! she whipped up kielbasa with a brown sugar glaze and a taco dip. normally i don't eat gorgonzola OR kielbasa but as keri always tells me, BIG GIRLS TRY NEW THINGS! i ate them both and was so glad i did. they were great and i was so full and happy after our creative dinner.

by the way, before i can even begin… can we just look at how fantastic, fun, colorful, bright and happy brian’s kitchen is? his other roommate, drea, painted the design on the wall and i just love everything about it. until i can be a grown up with a big ol’ house and expansive kitchen (if this is ever going to happen, i need to start thinking of a more lucrative career), this is the kind of apartment kitchen i dream about. well done, berkeley penthouse. well. done.

anyways, first here are the caprese towers:

three large tomatoes

16 oz. fresh mozzarella

3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil (appx. 8-10 leaves)

done collecting? time for some doing! (i’ll only say that once even though we’ve got FOUR recipes today!)

in a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. then, chiffonade (thanks for the fancy term, anne burrell!) your basil.

do this by making a pile of the leaves, all facing the same way. then roll them lengthwise and gently slice horizontally to make pretty little ribbons and avoid bruising the basil. (another side note/basil tip i learned from the produce man at the grocery store: don’t put your basil in the fridge or it will turn black! yuck!).

mix the majority of the basil into the bowl and let all the flavors marinate together. save a few little ribbons for garnish.

slice off the very bottom of the tomatoes and the top parts with the stem. then, cut the tomato in 3-4 even, horizontal slices. then cut the mozzarella into similarly-sized slices, about 1/4 inch thick. put a flat tomato slice on the plate and then reassemble the tomato, layering mozzarella in between each tomato slice.

when your tower is on the plate, drizzle 2-3 generous spoonfuls of the dressing on top and sprinkle the remaining basil garnish on top.

click here for a printable version of the recipe!

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garlic, onion, parmesan and gorgonzola flatbread by brian

now onto brian’s flatbread. it didn’t get very stretched out because the yeast was insanely stubborn and wanted to all stay together, but the result was more of a scrumptious bread, instead, and i would leave it just as it is if i made it again!

premade pizza dough

1/4 cup roasted garlic onion jam (stonewall kitchen’s was AMAZING!)

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola

copious amounts of red wine for enjoyment while cooking (he said it was a vital step)

first, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

lightly flour your parchment paper and roll out the pizza dough. since brian’s dough wasn’t rolling out very well, we ended up with a dough pillow that was fantastic. if you’d like a more flatbread consistency, roll it out thinner.

bake in the 400 degree oven for about seven minutes. while it’s baking, shred the parmesan if you didn’t buy it pre-shredded.

take the dough out of the oven, spread on the garlic and onion jam, sprinkle the parmesan evenly and then crumble the gorgonzola. put it back in the oven for another 12-15 or until everything is melty, golden brown and carmelized.

slice it up into squares and serve away!

mmm! i just loved how sweet the onions were and how doughy and delicious it was. i need to get a jar of that jam ASAP and i was thinking after that this would be amazing sliced up with the tomato and mozzarella inside like a sandwich!

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brown sugar glazed kielbasa by lilla

i had never tried kielbasa before last night and i was surprised at how much i liked it. i think if you put brown sugar on anything, it automatically makes it delicious! poor lilla had to carry her bag of groceries to class before coming to brian’s and apparently by the time she left, her whole classroom smelled like kielbasa.

2 cups kielbasa, sliced

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

barbecue sauce (optional for dipping, but the dish was so flavorful we didn’t even need it!)

in a large sautee pan, combine the brown sugar and water, stirring over a medium heat until the sugar melts and carmelizes. then, pour the kielbasa into the pan, stirring to coat the discs evenly and brown the pieces.

and just like that you have sweet, smoky, delicious kielbasa! i loved how the three of us never consulted one another on what we were making and we sort of ended up with a perfectly balanced meal. i covered the vegetables (or fruit, depending on how you classify your tomatoes) and dairy, brian also got some dairy and the carbs and lilla gave us the protein. perfecto!

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taco dip by lilla

lilla didn’t have enough faith in herself with the kielbasa dish, so as a backup, she brought the ingredients for a quick and easy taco tip. even though her main appetizer hit it out of the park, we decided the more dishes the merrier, so she whipped this one up, too.

8 oz. cream cheese

1 small jar of taco sauce (we went with mild)

1 cup cheddar cheese

tortilla chips for dipping

spread the cream cheese to cover the bottom of your microwave-safe dish, followed by pouring the taco sauce on top. sprinkle all the cheese as the final layer and then pop it into the microwave. nuke it on high for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

you could also bake this, or even broil it to get the cheese brown and bubbly on top. brian mentioned his famous layered dip that he usually spruces up with festive sliced olives on top. and by festive i mean he spells out whatever is appropriate for the shindig he’s attending. the possibilities are endless!

wasn’t the presentation with the chip so artistic?!

______

 

and there are our finished products, plus our storemade and leftover super bowl desserts (thanks, chris!). it was such a fun night and honestly, as i drove home, i was thinking about how it was SO MUCH BETTER than going out to dinner. cooking together is a far better way to spend a night and much more about the experience you have with your friends. like i said before, i’m already brainstorming our next top chef challenge :) the only thing that would have made it better is if that guy on speaker phone on the bottom right had been there.

other than that, all i can say is eat your heart out padma, chef tom and gail!

xxoo,

eliz

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#recipes

#appetizers

#top chef

#vegetables

#kielbasa

#dip

#flatbread

#caprese