Contrary to popular belief, you CAN eat healthy without a regimen OR a recipe. They key is undergoing a kitchen makeover–and not the kind that involves new cabinets and upgraded appliances.
If you keep fresh, healthy foods in your refrigerator and pantry, you will have no choice but to concoct fresh, healthy meals. For example, with minimal creativity and ingredients I already had on hand, I threw together this roasted veggie and goat cheese fritatta.
First, I cut the beets, turnips, and onions into bite-sized pieces, and then I tossed them in a shallow baking dish with some olive oil and kosher salt. I put them in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, and then I threw them in a deep, nonstick skillet over medium heat. I poured almost an entire small carton of Egg Beaters (the equivalent of about 7-8 eggs) into the skillet and then scattered some chunks of goat cheese on top. I let the frittata cook until it was just about set, lifting up one side every so often to let uncooked portions touch the heat. Then, I placed the whole skillet (make sure it is oven-safe) under a broiler set to high. The result? A golden brown frittata with lots of wholesome, tasty goodness inside.
Shockingly, frittata leftovers reheat very well–just nuke them for about 30 seconds to take the chill off, then place them under a broiler until they just start to brown again.
What are your foolproof suggestions for eating healthy on the fly?
Before I came along, my fiance was a fairly unadventurous eater. He still hates mushrooms (I really don’t know how we make our relationship work), he only likes his eggs scrambled with cheese, and he doesn’t enjoy any food item that retains evidence that it was once alive. However, I have taught him to like rare beef, sweetbreads, and many other strange and wonderful food items that weren’t on his radar before.
Prime example: tofu. For a carnivore, tofu is pretty intimidating stuff. However, when prepared properly (which is very simple to do), it is a satisfying and healthy meat alternative. My inspiration came from a Biggest Loser recipe, which I adapted slightly. The possibilities are endless! You could add bell peppers, snap peas, baby corn, carrots, radishes, you name it. You could serve this over just about anything (or nothing), but I chose brown rice. As you can see, I also sauteed some mushrooms separately and added them to my stir-fry at the end.
Because as many horizons I have broadened for Jason, he draws the line at fungus.
Place a nonstick wok or skillet over high heat and mist with nonstick spray. When hot, add the tofu, green onions, garlic, ginger, olive oil, and sesame oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tofu is browned on all sides. Add the broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
Stir in the teriyaki sauce. Season with pepper flakes. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Spoon onto two serving plates. Serve your teriyaki tofu immediately.
One of the highlights of the weekend was spending Saturday morning browsing through area farmers markets. Here’s the take, from both Piedmont Park and Morningside:
That’s right–the first of summer’s tomatoes are coming in from South Georgia! I was a happy, happy girl when I saw those bright red spheres of goodness. The BLTs I made with them were quite tasty, even if I did have to use turkey bacon. There were also early-season cucumbers (which went straight into a container with some rice wine vinegar, pepper, and red onion bits), asparagus, squash, okra, red potatoes, and some carby goodies (all-natural granola and rosemary flatbreads).
I’m sure all of this beautiful produce will appear in blog recipes soon, but due to the NON-highlight of the weekend (which involved my fiance falling off his bike and breaking his scapula), this is gonna have to be it for today. Did you get anything special at YOUR weekend markets? Did you make a killer recipe for Memorial Day weekend? Share your long weekend trials and triumphs in the comments!
Because I am the master of my domain (read: I don’t allow my culinarily-challenged fiance in the kitchen), I not only make dinners and weekend breakfasts, but I also pack our weekday lunches. Jason is pretty darn agreeable and just thankful that he doesn’t have to think about that aspect of life, so turkey sandwiches are a common occurrence. But, (wo)man cannot live on turkey sandwiches alone.
This stuffed pita (once again adapted from the Biggest Loser website) is a good alternative to standard brown-bag fare. The chicken provides lean protein, the veggies add freshness and crunch, and the curry and lime provide the finishing kick. I will say, this chicken salad needed salt something FIERCE (probably because I went light on it when I actually grilled the chicken), so I will muck around with the seasonings next time and try to strike a better balance. I also could have tolerated more curry, but the amount stated below should be enough to get most folks started (you can add more if, like me, your taste buds prefer to be assaulted).
Of course, you could serve this on top of greens (if you’re watching your carbs) or on any sort of bread that you prefer. The point is just to get out of your turkey sandwich rut every once in a while! As Jason and I have learned recently, it’s much easier to stick to healthy eating habits when the dishes are tasty, varied, and simple to throw together.
More good and good-for-you recipes next week! Enjoy the holiday weekend…
Combine mayo, lime juice, and curry past in small bowl. Whisk together. Combine chicken and veggies in large bowl. Pour mayo mixture on top of chicken mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate; stir before serving.
Per pita half: 186 Calories, 20g Protein, 16g Carbohydrates, 5g Fat (1 g saturated), 48mg Cholesterol, 2g Fiber, 304mg Sodium
Jason absolutely LOVES Tex-Mex flavors, but the cheese and sour cream and tortillas (which are surprisingly fatty) and margaritas are hard to work into a diet. We do eat a lot of huevos rancheros, but even something yummy like that can get old after a while. So, I decided to try out this recipe, which is kind of a nacho-esque creation that I adapted from the Biggest Loser website.
All in all, these were pretty darn tasty and VERY filling. The red pepper hummus adds great flavor and kind of holds everything together, while the veggies give the dish a nice freshness and crunch. My one mistake was using fat free shredded cheddar, since it was what I had at the time–and that stuff just doesn’t melt properly. The amount of cheese in the recipe is small enough that you can use reduced-fat or even regular cheddar. You could certainly also use pepper jack or a Mexican cheese blend.
This dish made a very satisfying dinner, but it would also make a wonderful party appetizer–just slice the pita into smaller wedges, and tada! Instant football snack.
Preheat the oven to 450.
Grill the chicken over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until no longer pink and the juices run clear (timing will depend on thickness of chicken, of course). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Place the pitas on a nonstick baking sheet. Spread evenly with the hummus. Top evenly in layers with the beans, the reserved chicken, onion, red pepper, tomato, cilantro, and cheese.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate. Top with guacamole or sour cream, if desired.
Per pita: 356 Calories, 38g Protein, 38g Carbohydrates, 6g Fat (1g saturated), 68mg Cholesterol, 8g Fiber, 489mg Sodium
Summer is my favorite season, for a lot of reasons. I love the hot weather, I love going to the pool and the beach, and I DEFINITELY love the food. One tradition that always seems to taste better during the summer months is barbecue–which, here in Georgia at least, means pulled pork sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the fatty “Boston Butt” that usually appears in BBQ pork sandwiches isn’t the most diet-friendly thing around. So, when I saw this recipe (on the Biggest Loser website), I knew I had to attempt it. I mean, come on–if you could potentially recreate even a little bit of that yummy BBQ flavor and still stay healthy, wouldn’t you give it a go? That’s what I thought.
The main difference between this recipe and a “normal” barbecue pork is a) the time, and b) the cut of meat. In terms of the former, the liquid smoke allows you to obtain that nice hickory flavor without smoking the meat for hours on end. This dish still involves about an hour of actual cook time, though, so plan accordingly. As far as meat goes, this recipe calls for trimmed pork tenderloin, which is much leaner (and has the benefit of being available in smaller quantities).
The results? It ain’t gonna win any awards at Memphis in May, but it sure is a tasty weeknight treat. My fiance even commented, “This doesn’t taste like something I should be eating on my diet!” My apartment smelled like a smokehouse in the end, too, which was much appreciated by all (except perhaps the dog, who was mad that he didn’t get to partake in the goodness). Leftovers were even tastier than the first round, as they had time to soak up a bit more flavor. It just goes to show you that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste. Enjoy!
Note: I served my sandwiches with greens sauteed in olive oil. Very basic! But if you want a more creative take on greens, head on over to see Lemmonex. Tell her I sent you!
In a medium resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add the pork. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the cubes. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Scatter the pork cubes into the pan. Cook, turning as needed, for about 5 minutes, or until pork is browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the orange juice, vinegar, and smoke flavoring. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low so the mixture simmers. Cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour, or until the pork is very tender. Shred the pork pieces and mix in the barbecue sauce. Note: Don’t fret if there is cooking liquid left, and definitely don’t discard it! It’s yummy.
Five to ten minutes before serving, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet. Set over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.
Toast the buns (I use the broiler in my oven). Spoon half of the pork mixture onto each bun bottom. Top with onion and additional barbecue sauce if desired. Cover with the bun tops. Serve immediately.
Nutrition (per serving):316 calories, 28 g protein, 27 g carbs, 9 g fat (2 g saturated), 74 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 510 mg sodium
As many of you know (and those who don’t can educate themselves here), I am training for two triathlons this summer. In addition to hard-core physical training, I’ve also been preparing for the events by focusing on proper nutrition. It’s been even easier since my fiance decided to join a fitness boot camp and lose some of his extra poundage. We’re concentrating on protein-to-carb ratios, good fats, fresh fruits and veggies, and eating 5-6 small meals per day instead of 2-3 big binges.
Any former or current “dieter” knows that eating healthy can sometimes be…well, BORING. How many ways can you grill a chicken breast? How exciting can a salad truly be when it’s the sixth day in a row you’ve eaten one? Why do all protein shakes seem to taste like a mixture of sidewalk chalk and candy that you accidentally leave in your car on a hot summer day? It is with these burning questions in mind that I present to you…
Eating for Athletes: A Trouble With Toast Special Event!!!
Over the next week or two, I will focus on healthy recipes that are–gasp–actually tasty! They’ll also be relatively easy to prepare, since athletes, I’m finding (now that I technically am one), are always pressed for time.
To lead off the series, heeeeeeeeere’s breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day, kiddies, and these muffins will make it one of the yummiest, too. I adapted this from a Cooking Light magazine recipe for strawberry-orange muffins, and I couldn’t be happier with my changes. The strawberries, besides having great flavor, give the muffins a nice pinky hue and a punch of fiber. The lemon brightens things up and cuts the sweetness. As with most basic baked goods, you could certainly sub out Egg Beaters for the eggs and Splenda for Baking for the sugar. Either way, these are good, good for you, and good with coffee!
Preheat oven to 400.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender, and process just until blended. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pan immediately.
While one of my best gal pals was in town recently, we headed over to the Brick Store Pub in downtown Decatur to meet a friend of hers who worked nearby. As luck would have it, the friend turned out to be Warner Lawrence, the “Beer Buyer” (an official title that, in my estimation, doesn’t come CLOSE to describing his duties or expertise) for the Decatur Sherlock’s. Our initial conversation was so interesting that I asked him to sit down with me for an official interview; so, last Sunday, we chatted again at the Brick Store, the logical place to meet a beer aficionado.
Warner had come directly from work, so we started out by talking about his duties at Sherlock’s. While he does buy beer for the shop and help with the wine buying, serving the customer always takes first priority. “I strive to treat my customers the same way that the Ritz-Carlton treats theirs,” Warner explained. We discussed customer service for a long while, agreeing that finding the balance between catering to higher-end repeat customers and still treating occasional buyers like they are special (without patronizing them) is one of the toughest challenges in the retail and restaurant businesses.
Warner’s path to Sherlock’s began in North Carolina, where he is from and where he did a year of college before realizing, in no uncertain terms, “this sucks.” After some time to think, he decided to pursue a culinary education, so he attended both the Cooking School of the Rockies (a six month program) and the Culinary Institute of America. He has worked at some notable restaurants, including the Magnolia Grill in Durham and Bacchanalia right here in Atlanta. But he admitted to me that despite his impressive cooking chops, “I always hated the line. I’m too slow and too anal-retentive.” He liked the catering game a lot more than traditional kitchen work, and he enjoyed his time at Bold American Catering (a Fifth Group venture) largely because of all of the interaction with clients. But it was after his externship, when he went back to CIA and took his wine courses, that he really figured out what he wanted to do.
So how did he move from a food focus to a wine focus? Persistence! “It’s a sales job on every level,” Warner confessed. He got some phone numbers (including that of one Mr. Mondavi) from his wine professor at CIA and just started calling. Eventually, he ended up at Green’s, where he spent four years. Now he’s settled at Sherlock’s, and he’s comfortable being an unabashed Francophile, having staged in Avignon and identified strongly with what the French call “terroir,” or sense of place. “I’m strong in France and the U.S., but weak in Italy and Spain,” he mused. Warner is currently deciding whether or not to go for his “Certified Wine Educator” distinction. Certainly, he has the knowledge and the passion to succeed in such a venture—but Warner is also a devoted husband and a father, and there are only so many hours in the day.
Speaking of his home life, I asked if he does a lot of cooking when he’s off-duty, and the answer is yes! He claims to make a mean paella (the jury’s still out, my friend, until I get to come over and try it), and he enjoys baking breads. “I also really like smoking meats, fish, and veggies,” Warner said. He is a lover of history, so it’s no surprise that he finds comfort and pleasure in what’s traditional and cultural, “what’s been there for eons.” He despises food television, and the only two food-related publications he reads regularly are Cook’s Illustrated and Fine Cooking.
So what’s always in Warner’s kitchen? Besides Bordeaux (“my first love”), you’ll probably find dried mushrooms, lots of different kinds of flour, cinnamon and allspice (“I like using them in savory dishes”), clarified butter, and grapeseed oil (“for more intense sautéing”). While farm-to-table philosophy definitely resonates with Warner—in fact, when asked about food personalities, living or dead, that he’d invite to dinner, Alice Waters’ name came up—he agrees that it is a difficult and expensive standard to live by, and that he and his wife are simply trying to educate their son on where food comes from. To that end, the Lawrences own a number of chickens! Yes, real live chickens, in the middle of Atlanta. In addition, they buy organic milk, they limit their son’s sugar intake, and they avoid processed foods.
Warner is still pretty young, so where he will go and what he will do in the future is anyone’s guess. For the time being, I know that I am happy to have his passionate and approachable expertise available at my local Sherlock’s. Stop by and see him sometime!
Cooking for my mom is always challenging. She’s not a picky eater in the standard sense, but certain ingredients that are constants in my repertoire (most cheeses and beans/legumes come immediately to mind) are not her favorites. So, for her Mother’s Day dinner, I struggled to find a recipe that she would really like, AND that would be special enough for the holiday, AND that would be relatively healthy (since fiance and I are watching our weight).
Enter this Asian-inspired dish, from Cooking Light magazine. The sea scallops are big and luscious and have a decadent texture that just screams “special occasion.” The marinade/sauce is a good balance of salty (from the soy sauce) and sweet (from the honey), but it also has a nice kick, both from the OJ and from the chili garlic sauce. There’s a lot going on, but it all comes together really nicely. As for the accompanying veggies, they couldn’t be easier. I added some beautiful local carrots to the mix, and it amped up both the flavor and the nutrition.
The dish was a big hit, and it was actually quite simple and quick to prepare. I even used the same marinade on chicken last night, and it was super flavorful. So, even though scallops are a bit expensive and more of a once-in-a-while treat, I think the ideas behind this recipe will stay in my arsenal for a good long while. Enjoy!
Combine first 6 ingredients and 1 teaspoon oil in a shallow baking dish; add scallops to dish in a single layer. Marinate 4 minutes on each side.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove scallops from dish, reserving marinade. Add scallops to pan; sauté 1 minute on each side or until almost done. Remove scallops from pan; keep warm. Place remaining marinade in pan; bring to a boil. Return scallops to pan; cook 1 minute. Toss noodles with salt and green onions. Place 1 cup noodle mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 3 scallops, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon sauce.
Steamed peas vinaigrette: Steam 1 cup snow peas and 1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas, covered, 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Combine with 1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes. Combine 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons canola oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons mirin, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt; stir with a whisk. Pour over peas mixture; toss.
Last Friday was my birthday, which of course meant LOTS of celebratory eating. There was a free burger from the Vortex, some late-night drunk food at Taco Cabana (after the worst games of bowling I’ve ever had), and a delicious meal at my parents’ house that included fried shrimp, twice-baked potatoes, and pickled cucumbers. But before any of that, my fiance took me to a lovely dinner at 4th & Swift in the Old Fourth Ward.
The space is very similar to others in the area–in other words, it is a lofty/industrial look with lots of exposed brick and piping and high ceilings. There’s a fair amount of patio seating, which was definitely appealing, but we stuck with our usual M.O. and sat at the bar. The signature cocktails are really interesting, but the one I wanted involved house-infused pineapple vodka, and it wasn’t finished infusing quite yet. So, I had a nice glass of cava instead. Jason had a fruity cocktail that involved raspberry vodka and blackberry liqueur (he liked it, but I found it a little too sweet for an opening drink).
While we sipped, we muched on the fried pickles with red chile mayo. What a tasty treat! The pickles were piping hot and nicely fried, and the sauce provided a good kick. We were also presented with a bread basket, which contained delicious cheddar biscuits and a house-made lavash. They would have kept the bread coming all night long, but we finally had to ask them to stop–the carby goodies were excellent, but we wanted to save room.
There were two soups available, so rather than choose between them, we decided to try both. One, from the “Market” menu, was a Vidalia onion soup with pancetta and watercress oil. The other was a roasted garlic and cauliflower soup, with crawfish and braised celery. The former had a great texture, but unless you got a big chunk of the pancetta, the overall flavor was way too sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Vidalias are naturally sugary, but the soup needed a little spice or kick or something in order to counteract that aggressive sweetness. The cauliflower soup was absolutely fantastic, and held up surprisingly well to the strong flavor of the celery (which still added a nice crunch, even though it was braised and mellowed).
Next, Jason opted for the chicken livers, and I ordered “The Schnitzel” from the bar menu. I am not really a huge fan of livers, so I anticipated that I wouldn’t really enjoy the dish–and I didn’t. Brains and glands are great for me, but the liver/kidney/heart family just reminds me of sucking on a penny, and I have a high sensitivity level for that metallic, organy taste. Jason liked their flavor, but he wished they would have turned out crispier (though they were served with little toasts, so there was an element of crunch to the dish). The schnitzel, on the other hand, had lots of yummy elements. The veal was nice and thin, and the breading was tasty, but I did feel like that part of the dish needed more salt. The over-easy egg on top of the meat did add a bit of a saline punch, so when the bites overlapped, things tasted more balanced. The herb spaetzle was tender and well-seasoned, and the two different kinds of apples (one was a sweeter sauce, and the other was more of a spicy relish) added some really interesting layers of flavor.
I was pretty full, but I wanted to take a look at the dessert menu, just to see what was available. When I saw “doughnut holes,” it was all over–I had to have them. There were three light, fluffy, steaming hot puffs of dough that arrived in front of me, each sitting atop a different sauce. The Boston Cream was my definite favorite, causing me to abandon all class and use my finger to sop up what the pastry missed. The chocolate and raspberry sauces were also very good. I told the bartender that if they were open for breakfast, I’d eat a dozen of those doughnuts every morning and not think twice about it. Instead of eating dessert, Jason indulged in a port flight (three 2 oz. pours), which he had never seen at a restaurant before and which he very much enjoyed.
Service was very friendly and knowledgeable–we were helped by a number of people, including the bartender, the manager, and a couple of food runners, and they were all wonderful. We had a LOT of food (as you can clearly tell), and Jason had a beer in addition to the cocktail and port, and the total tab was right at $100. I really feel like 4th & Swift is an incredible value for that price, and we’ll definitely be back to see what else Chef Swift and his staff have up their sleeves.