Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Chickpeas with Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

July 7, 2011
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This dish may not sound like much, but it is absolutely delicious and incredibly satisfying.  And it’s meat-free!

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed and leaves torn (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Twenty minutes before the rice is done, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, cut-side down, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and starting to soften, 3 to 5 minutes; turn and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add the chard, raisins, garlic, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, tossing, until the chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes.

Return the tomatoes to the skillet, add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and toss until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Serves: 4

Per serving: 357 calories, 9 grams of fat, 61 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein


Recipe: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

May 11, 2011

Wow, I cannot believe it’s been over a month since I posted anything.  Don’t worry – I haven’t been eating bad take-out.  In fact, the kitchen at TWT headquarters has been busy, and I have TONS of delicious new dishes to share with you.

My husband and I have been on a diet since late March.  Basically, even though we are good little exercisers, we weren’t feeling as healthy as we thought we could be.  We started using My Fitness Pal, a website/app that helps track calories (both consumed and burned), and we began paying a LOT more attention to the types and amounts of food we were putting into our bodies.  We also pledged to be more conscious of the calories we were drinking – so beer and wine consumption was significantly reduced.

The good news?  Not only am I down 10 pounds (and husband is down 12), but I have loads of healthy new recipes to talk about.  Not all of them were out-and-out successes, but I have found it amazing how satisfied I can be and still lose weight.  It’s all about planning, discipline, and understanding that while it’s okay to “cheat,” there are consequences to how you treat your temple, and if you can make good choices most of the time, you’ll really reap the benefits.

Let’s get to the food, shall we?

This recipe has now become one of my go-to dishes.  Empanadas are time consuming (especially when you make the dough from scratch), but you can make them ahead and freeze them for quick weeknight dinners or impressive party snacks.  This version shuns meat for (I think) equally filling beans and sweet potatoes, and baking rather than deep frying yields a golden brown result with all the extra fat and oil.

Note: Part of our lifestyle change involves watching portion sizes.  After all, who cares if something is only 100 calories if it’s only a bite!  In that vein, I am going to include key nutritional information in all future posts, to the extent that it is available.

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Knead lightly until smooth. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat broiler.

Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chile; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook the cumin seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted, stirring constantly. Place cumin in a clean spice or coffee grinder; process until ground. Combine cumin, poblano, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Roll each dough portion into a (5-inch) circle on a lightly floured surface. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 level tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle. Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling. Press edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serving: 1 empanada

Per serving: 209 calories, 8.4 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs, and 5.1 grams of protein

Recipe: Latin Baked Chicken

January 26, 2011

In the month in between travel to San Francisco (an awesome, delicious trip that we took over MLK weekend) and NYC (an awesome, delicious trip that we’ll be taking over Presidents’ Day weekend), the idea is to dial back the unhealthy eating and drinking and get back into a solid exercise routine.  The latter is always harder, not only due to time constraints but also due to the fact that I like cooking a heck of a lot more than I like working out.  Go figure.

This was one of the first new slimmed-down recipes I tried after the New Year, and it turned out to be really tasty.  The marinade doesn’t sound like much, but reducing it and then brushing it on the chicken a few times during cooking really intensified the flavors and allowed the sugars to caramelize a bit.  You really won’t miss the skin on the chicken – the meat is tender and flavorful – and as I’ve said a thousand times before, skinless thighs are no worse for you than skinless breasts (and since they are smaller in size, I find that they make portion control a little easier).  We enjoyed this chicken with saffron rice and steamed vegetables for an easy weeknight dinner.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

  • 1/4  cup  fresh lime juice
  • 3  tablespoons  less-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  honey
  • 2  tablespoons  minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 8  (4-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine lime juice, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, and chipotle in a large bowl. Add chicken, and toss well to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray, reserving marinade. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Place reserved marinade in a blender, and process until smooth. Place pureed marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Brush chicken with half of cooked sauce; return to oven and bake an additional for 10 minutes. Brush chicken with remaining sauce; bake an additional 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°.

Recipe: Mixed vegetable and farro soup

November 29, 2010

Even though the temperatures in Atlanta have only just recently started to dip down to seasonal levels, I was eyeing this recipe in F&W magazine (it’s from Mario Batali’s NYC market/restaurant Eataly).  The photograph of the dish alone looked like it could comfort and warm my tummy on a chilly day.  Unfortunately, the end result didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The soup is easy enough to make, and most of the ingredients could easily be hanging around your house.  However, even after sitting for a day (I never eat soups on the day I cook them), the flavors were just…meh.  My husband joked that the problem was that the soup was vegan, and that a smidge of pork fat would surely solve the problem.  But doesn’t there have to be a way to spruce up a bland vegetarian dish?  I mean, I’ve eaten plenty of meatless meals that had more pizazz than this one.  I refuse to believe that lack of meat necessarily equals lack of flavor.

Take a look at the recipe and let me know what YOU would do to kick it up a notch.  I’d love to move this into the regular rotation, but it’s gonna need some work.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

Recipe: Seared Scallops with Farmers’ Market Salad

October 21, 2010
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Now that we are nearing the end of October, it seems a little silly to post a summery recipe like this one.  However, this dish was so fresh and tasty and simple, and it’s not the recipe’s fault that I’ve been behind on my blogging.  So, keep this one in the vaults for next summer!

There’s really not much to this meal besides good quality ingredients prepared simply – which, to me, is what summer is all about.  The briny scallops, the acidic tomatoes, and the sweet corn all play together nicely for a satisfying and healthy hot-weather dinner.  Again, no photo, so apologies – sometimes I am just so gung-ho about eating my creations that the camera doesn’t even come out.

  • 2  cups  chopped tomato (about 1 pound)
  • 1  cup  chopped fresh basil
  • 1  tablespoon  canola oil
  • 1 1/2  pounds  sea scallops
  • 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)

Combine tomato, basil, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; toss gently. Heat a large cast-iron or heavy skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Pat scallops dry with paper towels; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add scallops to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Turn scallops; cook 2 minutes or until done. Remove scallops from pan; keep warm. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add corn to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add to tomato mixture; toss gently. Serve salad with scallops.

Recipe: Roast Chicken with Pasta Gratin

October 4, 2010
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Whoops, things got a little crazy at the end of last week (wrapping up the fiscal year and what not), so I didn’ t get to post the last recipe from The Athlete’s Palate.  So, here it is!  The recipe was contributed to the book by Chef Kevin Crawley of the Coriander Bistro (located in the Boston suburbs).

As with all three dishes from this cookbook, this meal had highs and lows.  The chicken was just fine, and the roasted vegetables were absolutely delicious, but the gratin was a big disappointment.  It was dry, bland, and not comforting at all – in other words, it was the polar opposite of what a gratin should be.  Looking back at the recipe, I realize that it doesn’t call for nearly enough cheese for the amount of pasta, and the fact that the listed cheese are low fat/low moisture doesn’t help, either.  The other problem with the dish as a whole is its lack of presentation points – as you can probably imagine by looking at the ingredient list, all three components are pretty beige and earth toney.  Perhaps serving the chicken and veg with the previously posted pesto orzo would be a good way to get some carbs AND some green on the plate?

I suppose the lesson to learn here is that watching what you eat is all fine and good, but some foods just can’t be made any healthier without losing what makes them great in the first place – and if you love those foods, there is no shame in enjoying them (in moderation, of course).


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 onion, diced
    2 carrots, 1/2-inch dice
    2 parsnips, 1/2-inch dice
    1 celery root, 1/2-inch dice

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear one side for five minutes over medium-high heat in a nonstick, oven-proof saute grill pan. Turn the chicken over and add the vegetables. As the vegetables begin to brown (about six minutes), turn them over and place the pan in a preheated 400 degree oven until the chicken is cooked (seven to 10 minutes). Remove chicken and let it rest while the vegetables finish cooking in the oven (about five minutes more). Serves four.


  • 12 ounces farfalle noodles
    2 tablespoons part-skim ricotta
    1 tablespoon Mascarpone (or use 2 tablespoons cream cheese total)
    1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese
    1 ounce goat cheese
    2 tablespoons half and half (optional)
    3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
    Salt and Pepper to taste

Follow package directions to cook pasta al dente. Mix together cheeses; thin with half and half if desired. Toss cooked pasta with the cheese mixture and pour into a two-quart casserole dish and top with Parmesan. Place under the broiler (450 degrees) until the cheese has browned, about five to eight minutes. Serves four.

Recipe: Orange-Cumin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

September 29, 2010
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Here’s another recipe I tried from The Athlete’s Palate – this one courtesy of Ivy Stark, executive chef at New York’s Dos Caminos restaurant.  Apparently, Chef Stark was a competitive figure skater in her youth, and that fuels her desire to create healthy, delicious dishes.

Pork tenderloin, of course, is another great source of lean protein (and a lovely alternative when you just can’t eat any more chicken).  Everyone knows the nutritional benefits of oranges, but did you also know that cumin is a good source of iron AND an excellent digestive aid?  We’re all about education here at TWT.

The pork in this dish was really tender and flavorful, and I wished I had some rice or bread to soak up the extra sauce.  In terms of side dishes, the table was split on the onion-orange salad – I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great foil to the spicy meat, but my companions felt that it was way too strong (neither of them are huge cilantro fans, which is probably the issue).  Whatever you serve with it, this pork is easy enough to throw together on a busy weeknight, especially if you marinate it in advance.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1-2 canned chilis in adobo
  • Peel from one orange
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pork tenderloins (1.5 pounds)
  • 2 oranges, segmented (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine orange juice, chipotles, orange peel, cumin seeds, and salt in a blender.  Puree until smooth.

Place the pork tenderloins in a shallow dish and pour the orange mixture over them.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge at least one hour or up to overnight.  Take the tenderloins out of the marinade, and reserve the remaining marinade.

Put the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 10-12 minutes.  Keep warm.

Place the meat in a shallow baking dish.  Brush with a little of the reserved marinade after 15 minutes.  Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees in the center of the meat.  Remove the meat from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Toss the orange segments, red onion, and cilantro in a small bowl with a little salt.

Slice the pork and drizzle with reduced marinade.  Serve with orange-onion mixture.

Recipe: Pancetta-Wrapped Chicken Breast with Pesto Orzo

September 27, 2010

Happy Monday!  As some of you may know, I am less than two weeks away from running my first marathon – the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10.  Woo hoo!  In honor of what will hopefully be my greatest athletic achievement to date, this week I’m going to share some recipes from The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook, a compilation effort from the editors of Runner’s World magazine.

The first recipe I tried was this pancetta-wrapped chicken, which was contributed by Matt Connors, a multiple marathoner and the chef and owner of the Lake House in Bay Shore, New York.  I tweaked the recipe a little – as written, it called for grilled zucchini, and I just don’t care for that particular ingredient (as you can see from the photo, I opted for peas instead).  An unintentional tweak, however, involved me completely forgetting the thyme.  I think that would have made the difference – without the herb, the chicken was tasty but a little flat.  It stayed nice and moist, though, thanks to the pancetta cover.  The pesto orzo was absolutely delicious – I wish I had tripled the recipe so I could serve it with all of my dinners that week.

Obviously, chicken is a great source of lean protein, so this is an excellent recovery meal.  Enjoy!


  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 16 thin slices pancetta


  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For pesto: Place all of the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.

For chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season the chicken with the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Lay the slices of pancetta overlapping each other on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Place the chicken on top at one end and roll it up in the pancetta, like a burrito.  Remove the plastic and place the roll in a lightly oiled pan.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160 degrees and the juices run clear.  Flip the roll halfway through the cooking time.  Remove from the oven and slice.

For orzo: Cook the orzo according to package directions.  Drain; toss with tomatoes and pesto.  Serve with chicken.

Recipe: Shrimp, Pink Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad

March 24, 2010

I was pretty excited to post about this salad, but then on Monday night in Salt Lake City, I had the best salad of recent memory (at Bambara, recently voted the best restaurant and best chef of SLC).  It was a roasted beet salad, which isn’t really noteworthy on its own – I mean, come on, everyone and their brother has a beet salad on the menu these days – but the dish was striking in that each and every element was perfectly executed.  The red and yellow beets were impeccably roasted, the goat cheese was beyond creamy and decadent, the greens were fresh, the blood orange vinaigrette was really nicely seasoned (and the salad wasn’t dripping with it), the orange supremes were a delicious citrusy touch, and the toasted hazelnuts on top delivered a much-appreciated crunch and nuttiness.  The salad was also beautifully plated, which I’ve come to appreciate even more after attending a recent food styling workshop.  Anyway, it was quite impressive, especially since I don’t normally get excited about restaurant salads.

Back to MY salad…I made this a couple of weeks ago, when I saw avocados on sale and was determined to find a way to use them.  The dish isn’t a culinary inspiration like my salad at Bambara, but it’s a satisfying and healthy meal (and definitely substantial enough to serve as a main-course dinner, as it did for me).  The crunch of the hearts of palm balances out the soft avocados and grapefruit, and the flavors are nice and balanced (though my hubs said he wanted some sort of spicy element in the dish).  It’s easy to make and tasty to eat, so give it a go!

  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon grated zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 orange
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, skinned, and sliced thin
  • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated

Cut ends from grapefruit.  Slice off rind and white pith by cutting from top to bottom of fruit.  Holding grapefruit over bowl to catch juices, cut between membrane and pulp of each segment.  Set aside segments and transfer 3 tablespoons juice to large bowl.

Add orange zest, orange juice, shallots, and cumin to large bowl with grapefruit juice.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and saute in olive oil over medium high heat.  They cook quickly, so pay attention!

Add shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit sections, and lettuce to bowl with dressing and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange salad on individual plates and top with remaining ingredients.

Recipe: Crispy Fish Fingers

February 3, 2010

As you can probably tell, many of my recent meal ideas have come from lazy Saturday mornings in front of the boob tube.  A couple of weekends ago, we were watching the Food Network, and we got sucked into an episode of Ellie Krieger’s “Healthy Appetite” show.  She was making a slimmed down version of fish sticks, which happen to be one of Jason’s favorite foods (the shame, I know).  He was intrigued.

Since I am the best wifey ever, I attempted the dish that very night.  The verdict?  Jason the fish stick lover, naturally, loved this meal.  On the other hand, I wasn’t the biggest fan.  I found the wheat breadcrumbs to be heavy and dry, and they were a gigantic pain in the tush to make.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe that regular, store-bought breadcrumbs are SO bad for you that you have to swap them out for this lesser version.

The sauce was quite tasty, and I liked it about a zillion times better than a traditional tartar sauce.  However, with all of the steps involved in this dish, the sauce just wasn’t enough to justify making it again.  From now on, I think I’ll just stick to one of my tried-and-true fish recipes…and frozen fish sticks for Jason.

  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread (1-ounce each)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound flounder fillets
  • 2 eggs, beaten to mix
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

Put the bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until bread crumbs form. Toast the crumbs in a large, dry nonstick skillet over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the crumbs with a spoon if they begin to stick together, until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes (note: for me, this took MUCH longer, and the crumbs never really got crisp or golden). Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. On a plate, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Cut the fillets into 4 by 1-inch strips. A few pieces at a time, dip the fish into the flour mixture, dusting off the excess. Dip the fish in the egg and then the bread crumbs. Arrange on the baking sheet and continue until all of the fish is breaded. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chives and cayenne, if using. Season, to taste, with freshly ground black pepper.

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