Category Archives: Vegetarian

Roasted red pepper soup

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First, let me say: I hate soup. You can dress it up however you like—put it in a bowl, add some toppings and a spoon—but it’s basically a chunky beverage. I have never eaten  a meal of soup—no matter how hearty—and thought, “I am so satisfied right now.” Nope, it’s usually like, “Interesting liquid pre-dinner. Now where’s the actual dinner?”

So, why the soup recipe? It all comes down to math. Grab your calculators, people—we’re ’bout to talk equations.

Complete the following: 1 miserable head cold  +  (23 inches of snowfall / 48 hours)   8 remaining WW Points  x  0 interest in cooking = roasted red pepper soup

It’s the “new math.” Learn it.

I put this one together on my own; it’s rich , smoky, flavorful, and very, very easy. It’s on the thin side, so if you want your soup to be hella thick , you should probably use cream or half & half instead of milk. That said, my version has a fraction of the Points, which you can then spend on a warm, toasty chunk of break for dipping… and doesn’t that sound like a better use of calories? I thought so.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, packed in water, drained, 16 oz.
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup low-fat or 1% milk
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 t. butter
  • Basil (to taste, about 1 t.)
  • Salt (to taste, about 1 t.)

Recipe

Heat butter in medium saucepan. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly.

Reduce heat. Add remaining ingredients except milk—peppers, broth, basil, and salt. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Pour mixture from pan into food processor or blender; process until smooth. Pour back into a saucepan or a crock pot, add milk, and stir to combine. Heat on low (stirring occasionally) until you’re ready to eat—I let mine go for about an hour.

Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some fresh basil. Add croutons, toasted pita, or bread for dipping, if desired.

 

 

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Grilled Salad, Y’all

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Yeah, it’s a thing, and it’s epic.

You know how sometimes you’re walking home from work, or maybe hanging laundry on the line, and you catch a whiff of someone’s grill, and you stop dead in your tracks because the heavenly aroma invades your brain and YOU. MUST. HAVE. GRILLED. MEAT. NOW?

The charcoal fever can be tough when you’re a pescetarian, and even tougher when you’re trying to eat healthily. And it’s darn-near impossible when you haven’t shopped for a week.

Then it occurred to me—some lettuces hold up nicely to pan heat… so why not try to grill it? Bam! The great experiment was on.

I took a big, hearty head of romaine and split it right down the center, vertically. Brushed both halves with olive oil and seasoned with a touch of cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Then I tossed them on a charcoal grill. They cooked for about two to three minutes, I turned them, and they cooked for about two minutes more. The end result produced a mix of softish pieces and crispier leaves. I did a rough chop of the lettuce while it was still hot.

Add to your lettuce:

  • one grilled (almost blackened) ear of corn, kernels removed
  • a heap of black beans
  • avocado, cut into cubes or chunks
  • a few tablespoons of some wonderful cheese (don’t mess with the shredded-from-the-bag stuff—I went with an aged goat’s milk feta and it was divine)
  • a few spritzes of lime juice

Here’s what happens: the olive oil (all warm and smoky from the grill) combines with the avocado and lime juice, creating an unctuous, creamy, decadent “dressing.” The tangy cheese warms ever-so-slightly, contrasting with the charred corn.

It is bliss, my friends. Sweet, summery, salad bliss.

 

 

Tarragon-Dijon quiche: A “fancy food” that is decidedly not

Too bad people don't say "bomb" anymore, because this is bomb-dot-com.
I hear the word quiche and immediately picture baby shower brunches: deplorable pin-the-safety-pin-on-the-diaper games and fussily-dressed women awkwardly sitting in cheap metal folding chairs. Ugh.

Now, strike those images from your mind. Let’s turn quiche into what it should be: a yummy, hearty-ass weeknight meal. I’m serious, guys—quiche is, like, the perfect food. It’s basically dinner pie.

The only downside of quiche is the health factor. When you bring eggs, heavy milk, pastry crust, and cheese to the party, shit’s bound to get caloric. But there’s something nobody tells you about—a secret ingredient that makes quiche healthy while also upping the deliciousness factor by 1,000%. Ready? It’s Greek yogurt.

Apart from the crust (we’ll talk about that later), the pie pictured above has no fat. None. Zero. 0.00 grams. Turns out, when you whip egg whites with Greek yogurt and a few other tasty things (like ground mustard and tarragon), the result is fluffy, souffle-like bliss.

Now, let’s talk crust. Some renegades out there are like, “I go CRUSTLESS, I’m badass like that.” Rock on. But for me, the bread element is basically the most important part of any foodstuff. This time, I went with a puff pastry sheet versus traditional pie crust or dough. Thaw it for an hour, dust the counter top with flour, and roll the pastry out thin. You’ll make it go a lot further (I was able to stretch one sheet into two full-size quiches) and cut the fat and calories in half.

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. dried mustard
  • 2 T. tarragon Dijon (I like Edmond Fallot)
  • 1/2 puff pastry sheet
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Veggies of your choice (I went with asparagus and leeks)

Recipe

Roll the pastry sheet thin (see above) and press into a pie plate. Add pie weights or dried beans and pre-bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Slice veggies into short pieces or matchsticks. Steam or boil and blanch. Set aside.

Add eggs, yogurt, mustard, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whip with an electric beater until well combined and fluffy.

Add egg mixture to the pre-baked pie crust and top with veggies. You can arrange them into artful patterns or just throw them on, like I did; all tastes the same. Bake 25-30 additional minutes. Eggs should be cooked through but still moist. The yogurt creates a fluffier consistency than usual–think souffle.

1/6 of the pie is 5 Weight Watchers Points+; 1/4 is 7 P+.

 

 

 

#noodleporn

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If you’re anything like me, your love-hate relationships with noodles is profound. Noodles are majestic, epic, al dente little niblets of deliciousness. My love for them was always pure and uncomplicated. That is, until I recognized their propensity to make me very, very fat.

I’m not one of those people who can be like, “Noodles are carby y’all, so I’m just going to have a small little half-serving, kthx!” Nope. I don’t want little bird servings, I want man-sized bowls full’o noodley goodness. The masochist within me would rather eat none than enjoy a small amount, so I have learned to exist in a world without noodles—but I’ll tell you what, I’m not happy about it.

Enter the Paderno Spiralizer, aka Return to Noodle Nirvana. It allows you to turn pretty much any fruit or veggie into curls, shoestrings, strips, or slices. In seconds. Like, really.

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I know what you’re thinking—I thought it too. Allow me to dispel your doubts:

  • The end result tastes like noodles, not veggies. Yes, really. I don’t know why zucchini—a vegetable I have loathed since childhood—all of a sudden tastes amazing in noodle form. It just does. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • They’re also not too crunchy—when properly simmered in the sauce of your choosing, they soften nicely and take a slightly-more-biting-than-al-dente form.
  • The contraption itself is super easy to use. The unit suction-cups to the counter so nothing shifts during use, the slicing plates (comes with three in varying cuts and sizes) pop in and out easily, and everything is dishwasher safe.

As you can see from the photo below, the trial meal was deemed a success. I even finger-wiped my bowl clean of the sauce (a high-level culinary creation of Prego Veggie Smart mixed with fat-free cream cheese). Buy this thing and rediscover your love of Italian feasts. You won’t be sorry.

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The food item you need to have in your kitchen, always

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Yes, you. You need this. Go buy it. Now.

It’s FlatOut bread–specifically the Pinwheel party-sized variety.

It’s big–like, the size of a full cookie sheet–and it has just 5 PointsPlus. That means you can do just about anything with it.

  • Do what its name implies and cover it with sandwich fixin’s, roll it up, and cut it into pinwheel finger sandwiches.
  • Cut it in half (only 2 P+) and use as a bread or wrap for hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, spreads, or gyros.
  • Cut in halves or thirds and use in place of higher-Point tortillas for burritos.
  • Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and seasonings, and bake at 350 for five minutes for awesome pita chips. Dip in hummus, guacamole, salsa, or PB2.
  • Brush with olive oil, add garlic seasoning and Parmesan, and bake for a delicious (much healthier) alternative to garlic bread.
  • Top with fat-free ricotta cheese, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese for a ginormous and super-satisfying personal pizza. If you stick to 1/4-cup serving sizes for both cheeses, you’re looking at just 9 PointsPlus for the ENTIRE thing. That’s not to say you can’t share… but you can also say, “back off, bitches” and eat the whole damn thing. That was my strategy.

Here’s what the hell to do with portabella mushrooms

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Ugh, mushrooms.

I have broadened my veggie palate considerably in the last year or two. But I just can’t get on board the mushroom train. They’re slimy, they’re mushy, and they smell like unwashed feet. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I decided to try them again for the same reason I try half the things I do: because someone on Pinterest told me I just had to. Apparently they’re amazing in fajitas. I was skeptical but game for the challenge.

I bought a single portabella cap–no five-count value packs for this shopper. I cut the little stump from the bottom, plugged my nose (crusty feet smell; oh the humanity!), and sliced the ‘shroom into strips. I threw them into a pan with 2 t. heated olive oil, then added slices of fresh yellow bell pepper and onion. Stirred ’em all around and let them brown up a bit, then added a liberal splash of water and a T. of dry fajita seasoning spice mix. They simmered down for about ten minutes.

I piled them on charred tortillas with fresh salsa, tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and shredded lettuce. The result? Magic. Pure magic, I tell you. Turns out, portabella mushrooms are like amazing little sponges. They absorb the spices and flavors around them and come out looking and tasting like meaty little steak strips (except better because they’re good for your body and no animals had to die to make your dinner dreams come true).

So now you know.

Kitchen must-keep: pizza crust

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People often tell me they don’t have time to cook. I hear that; I work 50-hour weeks and often arrive home starved and cranky. The secret is prep.

Not every meal needs to be a production. Just say no to your next takeout fat bomb or mac ‘n cheese binge by stocking your freezer with Golden Home Ultra Crispy & Thin Pizza Crusts. Each serving (a third of a crust) is just 130 calories, 1.5 g fat, 26 carbs, and 3 WW Points+. That means if you top wisely, you can eat the whole thing. Cue singing angels and hallelujah chorus.

The possibilities are literally endless:

Rub with olive oil and garlic and top with reduced-fat mozzarella for a crispy take on garlic bread.

Top with sliced Roma tomatoes, garlic, spinach leaves, basil, and fresh mozzarella for a healthy margherita pizza.

Pile high with seasoned taco meat (use veggie crumbles for cruelty-free and low-fat yum!), Rotel canned tomatoes/chilies, avocado slices, black olives, green onions, shredded lettuce, and Greek yogurt for a feast of a Mexican pizza.

Cover with homemade sauce of puréed fat-free ricotta, garlic, and fresh spinach and basil, then add mozzarella and bake for a bright, flavorful “green goddess” pizza.

Add scrambled egg whites, peppers, onions, fresh snipped chives, and smoked salmon or sausage crumbles for a breakfast omelet’za.

No matter which option you go for, it’ll take you from freezer to dinner in like ten minutes or less. It’s a huge leap up from greasy drive-through, but (shhh!) you don’t actually have to cook.

Today I learned how to make knock-your-socks-off Simple Start pasta sauce

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“Pasta sauce” might be a bit of a misnomer; this stuff would be good on pretty much anything—quinoa, eggs, veggies, and tofu, off the top of my head.

There are recipes born from high-minded culinary inquisition; this is not one of those recipes. This bad boy came from sheer desperation—an incurable desire for a bangin’-good sauce to heap atop my whole wheat pasta. I consulted my Simple Start food list and started tossing things into the food processor. Voila, a new dinner favorite was created.

The result is a sauce that’s low in fat, calories, and carbs; high in protein; and seriously yummy. It tastes kind of naughty and creamy, but the fresh spinach makes it bright and beautiful and good for your body. Loosely translated, that means no guilt when ladling it into your bowl in epic quantities.

Ingredients

  • Fresh spinach, 1 bag/container (I used about 5 cups)
  • Fresh basil, 10 leaves
  • Garlic, as much as desired (I used about 3 T. minced)
  • Lemon juice, 1 T.
  • Olive oil, 2 t.
  • Fat-free cottage cheese or ricotta, 1 cup (I used cottage cheese because I already had it)

Recipe

Pack the first two ingredients in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add last three ingredients and blend for about 30 seconds, until mixture is well mixed (lightly chunky is okay). Store in refrigerator until ready to use, then heat through until bubbling and serve atop whatever your heart desires.

Note: If you have the time, let your sauce hang out in the fridge and chill for 12-24 hours before serving. I ate mine a few hours after preparing and it was perfectly fine; the next day, however, it was truly delish.

Another note: this recipe was made to be Simple Start friendly. It’s delicious as it is, but if you want sauce with more flavor body I would recommend adding a half of an avocado, pureed walnuts or pine nuts, or parmesan.

Holiday leftovers = dinner deliciousness

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‘Tis the season for office festivities, holiday get-togethers, dinner parties—and lots of leftovers. And if you’re anything like me, it’s also the season of penny pinching. (Christmas is pricey, yo.)

This weekend, I found myself with three high-level leftovers: a giant half-tray of day-old crudites (broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, carrots, and cherry tomatoes), a ginormous bowlful of quinoa, and a partial block of parmesan cheese. All too awesome to pitch, and yet the work involved in recipe-creating seemed daunting.

So, I took to my kitchen. Dug through cupboards. Raided the fridge. Investigated the spice drawer. Without buying a single new ingredient, I whipped up two fun new recipes that utilized all of my leftover foods. And they were good.

Half-eaten crudites party tray becomes… coconut curry vegetables

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Ingredients

  • Fresh veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, cherry tomatoes (halved), and 1 large onion, all rough chopped (about 6 cups total)
  • Garlic, 1 T. diced
  • Ginger, fresh, 1 T. grated
  • 1 can Thai Kitchen light coconut milk
  • 2 T. madras curry powder
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Recipe

Heat 2 T. olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add veggies and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Veggies should be tender and starting to brown.

Add coconut milk, curry powder, ginger, and salt. Stir well and continue to cook at medium another 6-7 minutes, until veggies are soft and liquid is beginning to reduce. Serve in a bowl topped with some fresh chopped Thai basil. Season with soy sauce if desired.

The veggies are all Weight Watchers freebies, so the only Points are the coconut milk and olive oil. I ate a quarter of the batch, which yielded a heaping bowl, for a grand total of 4 Points+.


Bowl of leftover cold quinoa becomes… crispy cheesy quinoa balls

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These little guys are the ones I’m really excited about. I cannot state this with greater emphasis: They. Are. So. Good. If you have a yen for tater tots or mozzarella cheese sticks, these will totally satisfy the craving. Guaranteed.

Ingredients

  • Quinoa, cooked and cooled/chilled, 2 cups (mine was three days old and did beautifully)
  • Egg whites, 3 large or 1/3 cup
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • Shredded carrot, 1 cup
  • Reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, 1/2 cup
  • Garlic, 1 T. minced
  • Flour, 2 T.
  • Season salt, 1 t.

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Add all ingredient to a bowl and mix well. Form into balls using about 1 T. mixture each. Add to baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes, until the balls are crispy browned at the bottoms.

Makes 24 balls, 1 Point+ each. I ate six with a side of curry veggies and I was stuffed. They look relatively small, but they’re cheesy, crispy, gooey, and DELICIOUS… and they stick to the ribs. If you’re not worried about calories, they would also be amazing served with ranch dipping sauce.

Crunchy flat-bread chik’n salad

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My office held a going-away brunch for a departing coworker this morning, and the spread was legendary: fresh fruit, lemon pound cake, apple tart, granola, eggs, and stacks of breakfast pizzas.

Breakfast pizza is a unique thing around these parts. The Midwesterners at my workplace don’t just like breakfast pizza, or even love it—they view it as a religion. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a fluffy crust topped with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, veggies, and assorted melted cheeses. I had never heard of it before I moved here, but my coworkers quickly taught me. We can’t hold an event before the hour of 12:00 noon without the first question asked being, “Will there be breakfast pizza?”

So we had the event today, I ate my fresh fruit, a few hours passed, lunchtime rolled around, and the leftovers started calling my name. I don’t even care for the stuff (scrambled eggs on pizza crust? Only in northern Michigan.) But it’s junky, bready, easy-to-grab comfort food, and I WANTED it.

So I drove home to make myself something healthy. (I know, this is turning into a ramble—stick with me.) I haven’t grocery shopped and I’m not exactly flush with cash right now, so I decided to experiment. I’m pleased to say that the result rocked.

Here’s my crunchy flat-bread chik’n salad sandwich:

Start with two Wasa multigrain crackers—super crunchy, thick, and hearty, they make a great crust/base.

Add a big piece of curly-leaf or romaine lettuce to each cracker.

Top with a “chicken salad” mixture: 4 Morningstar Farms Chik’n Nuggets, broiled and chopped; 1 T. fat-free mayo; 1 T. nonfat plain Greek yogurt; 8-10 firm grapes, rough chopped; a dash each black pepper and Old Bay seasoning.

Simple, easily prepared, hearty, filling, and yummy. And no freebasing cold pizza crust from the office fridge. Win win!