Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More fall recipes!

A few recipes to add to the list. I developed these over the weekend, and I've gotta say, they're damn tasty. Enjoy!

Chicken with Mushrooms & Red Wine Sauce
Makes 2-4 servings

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thinner cutlets and then into pieces
2-3 Tbsp minced shallot
1 heaping tsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth *(or water)
6-8 mushrooms, mix of button and cremini, or whatever suits your fancy; wash, trim and slice mushrooms
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a medium to large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium to high heat. Add chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Brown chicken, about 4-5 minutes, and add in shallots during final minute. Remove pan from heat and set aside. In separate saucepan, melt butter and add flour to make a roux. Add wine, chicken broth and chicken. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. In pan used to cook chicken, add in mushrooms and cook with remaining oil left in pan, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms to saucepan along with fresh thyme. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Allow sauce to thicken and simmer on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
Nutrition Facts: 240 calories, 11g fat, 4.5g sat fat, 0g fiber, 24g protein

Heirloom Tomato & Zucchini Gratin
Makes 8 servings

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 large heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced in thin rounds
1-2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, sliced in thin round
3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tsp thyme leaves
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium frying pan and add sliced onions. Brown onions and transfer to a 13x9” glass baking dish. Layer tomato slices and zucchini rounds into 4 alternating rows. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with thyme. Drizzle additional olive oil over vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove dish from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese evenly over vegetables and bake, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes until cheese is slightly golden-brown. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.
*For a comfort-food twist, replace 1 zucchini with 1 medium yellow potato, sliced thinly.
Nutrition Facts: 90 calories, 6g fat, 2.5g sat fat, 1g fiber, 4g protein

Banana-Walnut Bread
Makes 12-16 slices

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 ripened small-medium bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp almond or vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼-1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Mash bananas in a medium mixing bowl and mix in baking soda. Let stand while creaming butter and sugar with an electric beater. Add eggs, flour, nuts, almond/vanilla extract and bananas to the butter-sugar mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly on top of batter. Bake at 350 for about one hour, or until done. Cool for ten minutes and remove from pan, or cut into 14 thin slices. Served best when warm.

Nutrition Facts: (per slice) 150 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 2g fiber, 4g protein

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ditching the 'diet' drinks

This post is purely a big, huge shout-out to a good friend and old colleague who called me last week with earth-shattering news (and I'm dead serious here). "I've been Diet Coke free for 3 days and counting," she tells me. We're now going on 8 days but who's counting. This is an incredible feat for someone who formerly drank the stuff like water. We're talking starting the day off, definitely not coffee or a grande latte, but with a nice 32 ouncer of DC. Something clicked a few years ago and every time I would touch base with her, the consumption of this bubbly, sweet, calorie-free beverage was whittling it's way down little by little. Congrats my friend, you've officially broken a habit - some might go as far as calling it an addiction. That's an incredible accomplishment!

What's honestly so vile about diet sodas though? I mean, come on, they're calorie-free, bubbly, give you that little afternoon 'sugar' boost. Call them what you will -- satan or a god-send -- the bottom line is that diet sodas are artificially sweetened. The research is still out on the long-term affects of sweeteners, though some studies are now showing that consumption of them in large quantities may impact weight gain. I know, crazy to think because they don't have calories. But they do have an extremely sweet taste, which in my experience with many, many clients I've worked with, may heighten your flavor palette for sweet things (calorie-laden or not) and can urge you to crave more sweets, more frequently. Not such a great pattern to get into. Check out this Purdue study that came out earlier this year, citing that articifically-sweetened (sugar-free, 'diet', no sugar added) foods may trick our brain and stomach in not feeling a sense of satiety, and thus, eating more than we really need to. In essence, the sweeteners don't register.
If you're a frequent sipper, ditch the DC and my guess is you'll feel drastically different. Much less tired, much more energized, fewer sweet/carbohydrate cravings, more satisfied at mealtimes...the list could go on.

So what's my friend drinking instead of darling DC these days? She's found a new love for green tea mixed with raspberry zinger over, delish and a nice little shot of antioxidants too boot. Lastly, a small plug for my good friend's amazing artwork (yup, that gorgeous painting above is hers!). Checkout her paintings and website here.
Cheers LL!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The newest dieting trend

Well, it appears to be official, "eating for pleasure" is on track to become the hottest new diet trend. GREAT article in the New York Times yesterday by Tara Parker Pope entitled "Instead of Eating to Diet, They're Eating to Enjoy," definitely worth reading. The article sites a shift toward “positive eating” — people are shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods to their plates. Finally! Apparently the number of dieters is down-shifting. According to market research, 39% of women and 29% of men were dieting in 1990. Today, stats have dropped to 26% and 16% respectively.
Check it out...are you on the bandwagon?

A few other smart reads in the news this week:

A Dozen Ways for Kids to Eat Better

Deciphering the Good Old Egg

Update on Weight Loss Surgery

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Last call for summer eats

I admit, I'm back-tracking here, but I thought it might be useful to do a post with all the seasonal recipes that were featured in this summer's Nourish Newsbites newsletter. (If you're not receiving it, you're missing out! Sign up here).
So bear with me as I catch up to speed and post a string of refreshing recipes great for hot weather (keep scrolling down for additional recipes).
Here's a recipe I developed that's turned into one of my favorite 5-minute weeknight dinners (yes, 5 mintues and it's insanely good!):
Egg Scramble with Mozzarella w. Fresh Chives
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons part-skim grated mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon unsalted butter (or olive oil cooking spray)
salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, salt and pepper with a wire whisk or fork until blended and sort-of "fluffy". In a small/medium saute pan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add in eggs and let cook for about 30-45 seconds until they start to set on the bottom. Use a good spatula to scramble lightly, moving eggs around pan to cook evenly. Add in cheese and chives and cook for another 30-60 seconds until fully cooked, turn heat off before eggs brown. Serve with mixed greens drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil and a slice of whole grain toast.
Makes 1 serving.
Nutrition Facts: 145 calories, 11 grams fat

Watermelon-Feta Salad w.Olives, Mint & Arugula
1 cup seedless watermelon chunks
1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained *(optional, great for a heartier salad, chickpeas add a punch of protein!)
1/4 cup chopped kalamata or Greek black olives
1/4 cup Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese
1 tablespoons fresh mint, shredded
4 cups arugula, rinsed
Basic balsamic vinaigrette
1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
Makes 2 servings
Toss first 5 ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Divide and arrange arugula leaves on plates, top with watermelon-feta mixture. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and serve.
Nutrition Facts: 270 calories, 17g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 4g dietary fiber, 9g protein

Seared Scallops with Fresh Corn & Tomato Relish
8 oz fresh caught scallops
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 ear of fresh corn, schucked and cooked
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, extra leaves for garnish
1 teaspoon butter
salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
Makes 2 servings

Cook ear of corn in boiling water, about 8-10 minutes. Allow corn to cool and cut kernels off of cob. Place in bowl with diced tomatoes. In a small Cuisinart mixer, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and basil and blend until smooth. Pour 3/4 of mixture into corn and tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper.
Season scallops with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat butter and cook scallops 3-4 minutes on each side. Divide corn-tomato mixture onto 2 plates and place scallops atop mixture. Drizzle plates with remaining basil oil and sprinkle extra basil pieces (torn into small pieces or cut into a chiffonade) on top of scallops. *Serve with steamed green beans or sauteed asparagus or a simple mixed greens salad.

Nutrition Facts: 320 calories, 18g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 2g dietary fiber, 22g protein

Market Fresh Tomato & Basil Summer Pasta Salad
1-15 oz box regular or whole wheat penne pasta (can substitute bowtie pasta if desired)
6-8 ripe plum, vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes, diced 1 cup fresh basil, rinsed, torn in small pieces
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar (enough to evenly coat pasta)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oilsalt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ - 1 cup fresh shredded pecorino romano cheese
Boil water for pasta. Once water boils, cook pasta 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Once pasta is cooked, drain and allow to cool. Combine pasta, tomato, basil, oil & vinegar in large bowl or tupperware container, mix thoroughly to evenly distribute. Season with salt & pepper, top with pecorino romano and mix lightly again. Serve at room temperature or cold. Toss in some grilled chicken breast or chickpeas for a quick punch of protein!
Makes about 10-12 servings (1/2 cup per serving)
Nutrition Facts: 220 calories, 8g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 8g protein

Spinach Salad w. Balsamic Berries, Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts
1-6oz bag organic baby spinach
1 ½ cups strawberries, hulled & quartered
½ pint blueberries
¼ cup walnuts, toasted & chopped
2 oz goat cheese

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp shallots, minced
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Assemble salad ingredients in large serving bowl and mix together. Combine ingredients for salad dressing in separate container and shake well, may be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time. Drizzle dressing over salad, mix well and serve.
Serves 6
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
Calories 130; Total Fat 9g; Saturated Fat 1.5g; Carbohydrate 12g; Fiber 3g; Protein 3g

Artichoke & White Bean Bruschetta w. Lemon & Garlic
1-14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed & quartered
1-15 oz can cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest, additional zest for garnish (zest from 2 lemons)
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 18-inch wholegrain baguette, sliced into 16-18 1/2 -inch pieces
extra virgin olive oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place ingredients, artichoke hearts through lemon juice into a food processor and puree, mixing well until desired consistency is reached, may be smooth or slightly chunky. Season with salt, pepper and lemon zest.
Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake baguette slices for 8-10 minutes until toasted and slightly browned. Spread 1-2 tablespoons dip on top of bread and arrange on serving platter. Garnish each bruschetta toast with extra lemon zest if desired.

Makes 16-18 servings (2 Tbsp dip per serving)
Nutrition Facts (per serving, 1 bruschetta)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall recipe series!

I'm kicking off the season with a smattering of delicious recipe posts. Keep your eye out each week for new delectable dishes. Look on the right-hand side bar for an archived list of recipes.
First up: One of my all time favorite salads, the blend of flavors is absolutley perfect for the fall. This has become a staple request at my family's Thanksgiving table (read: I'm not allowed at the table if I don't make it!) .

Pear & Gorgonzola Salad w. Shallot Vinaigrette
Serves 4
- 1 bag mixed greens or baby spinach
-2 red pears thinly sliced
-1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
-1/4 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-1/3 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (can substitute w. fresh goat cheese for a milder flavor)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic or Champagne vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons shallot, minced; salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
Combine ingredients, make dressing 3-4 hours prior to use, to allow flavors to intensify.

Nutrition facts: 280 calories, 18g fat, 4g saturated fat, 7g fiber, 5g protein.

Euro-eating...yes, bring on the bread, cheese and wine PLEASE!

Sounds somewhat funny, but I figured the term "Euro-eating" (and more likely 'bread, cheese, and wine') would surely grab your all's attention! So as I mentioned in last Friday's post, I thought it'd be worthwhile to dish a little on what European, in this case French, eating means and why it can be both MORE pleasurable and more healthful than the typical Western/Americanized style of stuffing our faces. In this case, less really is more.
In reading the latest issue of Gourmet magazine over the weekend, I came across a wonderful account of an American writer, who eases the reins a bit and eats her way through Paris...happily. She writes, "I realized for the first time that pleasure makes moderation possible."
Halle-freaking-lujah! I love this quote (I also love Ruth Riechl, the masterful culinary editrix behind Gourmet). Anyway, the quote holds alot of truth. When we let go of eating for every reason under the sun aside from simple goodness and enjoyment (whether it's out of stress, a never-ending string of crazy diet fads, or out of extremely harried convenience), all the pleasure and fun is sucked right out of food. And then we end up eating wayyy more than our waistlines bargained for.
Consuming small amounts of really flavorful, fresh, well-prepared food allows you to savor it...and not need seconds, or thirds. That's taking the clutch and putting our 'super-size' culture in reverse.
To highlight a personal example, I'll throw it back to my recent vacation. I was lucky enough to spend some time in St. Barts, a French island in the Caribbean. I indulged in lounging on gorgeous beaches, swimming in water so blue it was piercing, and taking in a week of plain old relaxing. I also indulged in exploring the French-influenced groceries, markets and bakeries around town. And yes, I whole-heartedly got on the bandwagon of having small amounts of fresh-baked bread, incredible cheese, and refreshing rose` wine on a frequent, if not daily basis. I balanced things out with lots of fresh fruits, veggies and fresh-caught seafood as well as some ridiculously tasty plain "naturale" yogurt -- European yogurt tends to only be sold in 4oz opposed to our 6oz servings here in the US (which confirms my point that less is often more). And you know what, I felt fantastic and rocked a bikini all week long.
Longing for something a little more European and seasonal when I returned home, I decided to make the trip to Fort Greene in Brooklyn this past Sunday to check out iCi, an adorable French-style bistro with a killer outdoor garden that serves up seasonal, local fare. I'd been wanting to go for a while and it was well worth the trip. One last nod to my summertime fave, I shared a watermelon-feta salad and poached eggs and grits with a teensy bit of truffle sauce (amazing!).
So what's your take on Euro-eating? What foods do you find the most pleasure in?

lunch at iCi in Brooklyn!

Friday, September 5, 2008

FALLing back into your groove

After a nice little hiatus and a much needed escape from everything work-related for a week or two (see left), I'm back, as is el blogo, and I'm ready to jump into fall. Before delving into all the glory of fall...and fall-food-finds, I think it's important to comment on the necessity of taking a break from things -- from the stress of daily life, from your gym routine and your die-hard, uber healthy eating mantra (if you have know I'm a big believer in balance).
Today's post was inspired by my good friend Margarita, who has been blogging for Glamour magazine about her weight-loss journey for the past 6 months...and is kicking some serious as*! She just returned from vaca as well and writes about letting go a little and eating foods that truly satisfy, taking in everything about a culture and their culinary-fare (she had the pleasure of discovering all the goodness of Croatia's cuisine and sites recently). Check out her blog, super cool and incredibly inspiring!
Ok, so why are vacations so damn beneficial? Why is it that we often return home a little lighter on the scale?

1. You finally are able to let your guard down and relax. Your stress hormones are shot to the point of no return for a few days (or hopefully weeks) and thus, your body actually sheds a few lbs that it was holding on to. Consistently high levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, can often cause our bodies to hold on to weight for dear matter how impeccable your eating habits are. Yeah, not so fun.
2. You are likely more active on vacation than you think and hence, burning through those calories at a steady clip.
3. Thanks to your carefree 'do-it-up' vacation mindset, you're likely eating foods you normally wouldn't...possibly foods that are actually satisfying -- which typically means we end up eating less of them because they're satisfying. And shocker, you end up consuming fewer calories in the long run! I've termed this "Euro-eating". More to come in my next blog post on what the hell "Euro-eating" is and why Europeans tend to eat more 'indulgent' foods but are still slimmer and healthier than Americans.

So there you have it. Makes me want to plan my next vacation asap!
How can we now take this period of recharging and restoring and head into the fall season that's upon us? Get back into your groove with a new outlook, fresh for fall. Think back to high-school (scary as it may be) -- a new school year, a new fall sports season. Get psyched and get going! (I can't believe I just used the word psyched on a professional blog site). Make a mini goal list and post it on your fridge, at your computer, wherever you'll actually see it and stay mindful of whatever it is you've set out to accomplish -- whether it's incorporating more fresh produce into the picture, tackling the grocery store and your kitchen, losing (or gaining) a few lbs., or running a race (that's my personal goal, I've signed up for a 1/2 marathon in October...don't ask me why). Keep reading in upcoming weeks for the low-down on fall fruits and vegetables (and how to get them onto your plate) along with some delish autumn-inspired recipes.
More to come next week on my own vacation (that's me above in St. Barts) and my thoughts on "Euro-eating"!