Tag Archives: healthy recipes

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Mini Turkey Lasagnas & the Woes of Summertime

Summer has never been my favorite time of year (except for summer of 2008—yeah that was fun!).  Because I have crazy sensitive skin, summertime has become synonymous with sunburn. If that’s not bad enough…I’m allergic to sunscreen.

This year–in particular–has been especially difficult because of the high temperatures and terrible humidity. Not to mention the drought.  Okay…I mentioned it.  We need rain!

In my opinion, the only thing good about summer (as an adult) is the vegetables.  I love being able to just step outside my home and come back inside–into the air conditioning–with a basket full of peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs.

Some vegetables from the garden

I am especially proud of my shallots.   I am an amazing shallot grower, apparently.

beautiful shallots

In fact, I’m so proud of my shallots, I tear up.  Literally.  They make me cry!  I’m not sure what the reason is, but these tiny, purple-hued beauties make me bawl worse than a baby!

Their crying power is way stronger than that of any onion.  But, they taste incredible; so the crying is worth it.  I guess.

When I woke up today, I planned on going to the gym.  But those plans quickly changed.  The weather report said it was 71degrees outside, and I knew I better take advantage of that!  I decided to clean up my gardens and plant a few more cone flowers, mums and burning bushes.

When I finished, I came back inside with all this:

 

and had Lasagna on my mind.

You see, I love lasagna.  A lot.  In fact, I can’t be trusted around it.

Knowing this, I decided to make mini lasagnas instead of a giant pan full.  They’d be perfectly portioned and I wouldn’t have to worry about eating more than my share.

Instead of noodles, I used wonton wrappers.  This isn’t anything new, and I’ve seen tons of stuff made with the little dough squares–from raviolis to tacos…to pie crusts!  How versatile! 

I figured I’d use the wonton wrappers instead of traditional pasta for three reasons.

  1. There is no need to pre-cook the wonton wrappers, so I won’t burn my fingers.  I always burn my fingers on lasagna noodles!
  2. The wrappers fit perfectly into a muffin pan.
  3. Wonton wrappers are relatively low calorie.  They ring in at 20 calories/each.

I also decided to use ground turkey meat.  I cooked the meat with finely diced green bell peppers, basil, oregano, lots of garlic, and a bunch of finely diced mushrooms.

Because I’ve been scaling back the amount of meat I cook with, adding the mushrooms allowed me to use less turkey and also stretched the meat into multiple meals–instead of just the one.  In fact, I have made these lasagnas twice this week, and still have over half a pound of the cooked meat left over (frozen, for some other time).

I turned the tomatoes, garlic and basil into a simple–and flavorful–sauce (no real recipe, sorry!  I just tossed stuff together, blended it up and then let it cook for about 10 min. to reduce).

And made a mixture of basil, cottage cheese (3/4 c.) and Parmesan cheese (1/4 c.).  [Enough for 6 mini lasagnas]

I then layered everything together in a muffin pan which I sprayed with a little olive oil.  I started with a wonton wrapper, added a little sauce, cottage cheese mixture, meat, more sauce…and repeat.  I then topped the mini lasagnas with a little shredded cheese and some dried herbs.

The lasagnas were popped into a 375 degree F oven, and were baked for about 20 minutes–or until they started to get a little browned.

I let them cool in the pan for a good 10 minutes before I popped them out–simply using a fork.

 

Each mini lasagna was a little over 150 calories, so I had two.  And I’ve got to tell you…I enjoyed every single one of those delicious calories!

I plan on making another batch this weekend, but instead of baking them, I’m going to freeze them.  If all works out, I think they’d be a great way to preserve my garden’s bounty! :)

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Indian Spiced Hummus

I’ve never really been a huge fan of hummus.  In fact, I’ve bought it multiple times throughout the years, tried a tiny bit, and tossed the whole container in the garbage.  I wanted to like it, but I didn’t.   It just wasn’t my thing.

But, now it is!  

Once I made the commitment to myself to eat less meat (I still indulge once in awhile), I discovered just how good hummus could be.  It all started when I ordered a vegetarian pita wrap at our local Greek restaurant.

It looked like it was just a Greek salad stuffed in a pita; but once I bit into it, I tasted something smooth, nutty, and spectacular!

There was a giant glob of homemade hummus under that salad, and it tasted nothing like any hummus I’ve ever bought at the grocery store!  I was hooked.

I figured the only way I was going to get hummus that tasted like that was to make it myself.

I dug through all of my cookbooks, and finally found inspiration in “The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook” by Linda Fraser.  She had a recipe for Pan Fried Zucchini and Hummus.  It looked like such a weird combination, but it sounded amazing!

My version of zucchini with hummus

I didn’t follow her recipes at all.  I knew I wanted to make an Indian spiced hummus and zucchini with ghee, turmeric and cumin.  I read which ingredients she used to make hummus, and I got to work experimenting.

Hummus, in it’s most basic form, is simply made with garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice and olive oil.    Simple!

Because I wanted mine to be a little more than basic, I dry roasted a bunch of Indian spices in a pan and added in a little garlic towards the end of the roasting process (I think it makes the garlic taste a little more complex than just tossing in raw garlic).

I tossed the spices, along with the chickpeas, into the bowl of my food processor and blended everything until it was a smooth consistency.

I added the tahini, lemon juice and a little water to the mixture, and let it process again.  I tasted it; and added salt, black pepper and a little more lemon juice.  I tossed in some chopped coriander (cilantro).

I started the food processor back up (on low) and drizzled a little olive oil into the hummus–until it reached a perfectly smooth consistency.

Easy Spiced Hummus

For those that are interested, hummus has around 100 calories for a 2 tbsp. serving.

I garnished my hummus with some chopped cilantro, sliced red chilies (for Piyush) and a little bit of feta cheese.

I served it along with wedges of pita bread and zucchini.

Zucchini cooked in ghee, turmeric and cumin

The zucchini was really simple to prepare.  I put a little ghee (if you’re vegan, skip the ghee and increase the olive oil) mixed with a small amount of olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan. I turned the flame to medium and tossed in a good teaspoon of cumin seeds.

Once the cumin began to pop and sizzle I added 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric and 1 tsp. ground cumin.  I also added a few curry leaves (these can be omitted).

Once the spices no longer smelled raw (this is especially important for turmeric, in my personal opinion), I added about 3 (maybe 4) cups of diced zucchini to the pot, along with a little water (maybe a couple tablespoons).

I let this cook, uncovered, on medium heat for about 15 minutes.  I then seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

Cooking zucchini this way is so easy, and so flavorful!  Because it’s now zucchini season here, in Minnesota, Piyush and I eat this quite a lot!  In fact, Piyush loves it mixed with a little potato and served over some basmati rice.

Sometimes, I’ll even cook some dal (lentils) with the rice, and serve a sort of “dried” khichadi (the ULTIMATE Indian comfort food).

My delicious dinner. Doesn’t look like a lot, but it was incredibly filling!

Meatless Monday: Indian Chole Masala (Chickpea Curry)

Happy “Meatless Monday!”

Indian Chole Masala

Chickpeas are one of my favorite ingredients.  There are so many things you can do with this humble (and cheap!) ingredient, that I always have a stash on hand.

As I’m still not feeling all that well, I’m going to keep this post short. Continue reading

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad with Chevre

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad

I haven’t felt so good the past week.

In fact, I’ve felt completely crumby for the past week and a half.

4 days ago I noticed a few little red “bug bites” near my left eye.  I figured I got bit when I was out tending to my (struggling) garden, so I didn’t really think much of it.  I scrubbed my face with cleanser and put a bunch of hydrocortisone cream on the bites, but they only got itchier.

The next day, I had a headache and was incredibly tired.  Man, was I tired!  Actually, I’m still tired!

I did a whole lot of nothing, thinking my body just needed some rest.  Then, I noticed the side of my face hurt.  Like, really hurt.  I also  had a giant, swollen lump in front of my ear.  I knew it was my lymph node; so I figured those bug bites were maybe a spider bite and my body was trying to fight off infection–or something.

I didn’t want to think about a spider crawling on my face (that gives me the heebie jeebies!)…so I didn’t.  Instead, I took ibuprofen and went to bed.

When I finally crawled out of bed the next day, my eye felt funny.  It was really swollen and itchy; and my lymph node was huge (as big as an egg!).  I decided I better see the doc.

She walked in the room, looked at my face, and said “I think it’s shingles.”

What?!  Shingles?!  But…I’m only 27!

I’m young.  I’m healthy.  I shouldn’t have shingles!

Unfortunately, I do.  Apparently they are becoming more common among younger people; and they’re often related to stress.

Stress about what?  I have no idea.  I don’t feel stressed. There is absolutely no reason why I should be stressed; but I guess I am.  Hmphf.

The worst part about having shingles is that I can’t wear my contacts and have to wear my glasses (does that make me vain?).  …Also, I can’t be around my niece, my nephew, or my grandparents.  I’ve been told I can’t go to work either (sorry co-workers!).

Having shingles is unattractive, inconvenient, unpleasant, and BORING! I’m going stir-crazy being stuck in the house!  You’d think I’d have a good time…you know, maybe get caught up on blogging and do some experimental cooking.  But the truth is, I just now opened the computer (4 days into this ordeal)…and haven’t had the energy (or motivation) to cook.

I couldn’t stomach the thought that I’d have to eat takeout for another day.  I’m sick of takeout.  So this afternoon I rummaged through the refrigerator and found a bunch of random ingredients.  I had arugula,  lots of mint and a bunch of chopped shallots hanging out in my produce drawer.  I also had some cut up cantaloupe.

Salad, it was!

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad with Chevre

I had no idea how this salad would taste, or if my husband would even eat it, but it turned out to be a success!  The arugula added a little bitterness to what would otherwise be a very sweet salad.  It balanced really nicely.

I think it would make an incredibly beautiful fruit salad as well.  I can imagine less arugula and more cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.  Maybe add a little more mint and a smidgen of honey drizzled over everything.  Yum!

 

As for a recipe, I simply tossed my greens (I used baby arugula), chopped mint, and chunks of cantaloupe together.  I then drizzled with a little homemade dressing, and garnished with some chevre.

The dressing was quite simple, and used things I had on hand.  If you decide to try this recipe, feel free to substitute whatever you think would taste good.  You could even make a simple balsamic vinaigrette with some olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

In fact, a flavored olive oil or balsamic vinegar would really enhance the dressing.  I didn’t have any flavored oil or vinegar that would work, so I used a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil.  I also used apple cider vinegar–for a little flavor.

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad Dressing

This recipe makes quite a bit of dressing.  I only use about 2 tbsp to dress my salad, so I’d say this makes enough for 6-10  salads (depending how much dressing you use).

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil (use all olive oil, if you prefer)
  • Honey, to taste (I used a few tbsp.)
  • 3 tbsp. mustard (I used Blueberry mustard, but any Dijon or dark mustard would be great–steer clear of the yellow stuff in the Heinz bottle).
  • 2 medium-large shallots, diced
  • salt-to taste
  • pepper- to taste

I toss all the ingredients in a mason jar (the medium sized one) and shake it until everything is mixed really well.  Drizzle it over the salads, and store the remainder in the jar.  It’ll stay good for a week (even longer…) if kept in the fridge.

Fresh salad of Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint

Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging more regularly soon!  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this salad!

 

 

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

When Driscoll’s Berries contacts you and asks if you’d like to try their raspberries, you tell them yes; and then make a risotto!

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

The truth is, I’ve been buying Driscoll’s berries for years.  Even when the berries aren’t in season, they’re usually pretty good.  But during the summer, when the raspberries are at their peak, they are out-of-this-world-amazing!

I was sent some coupons for $2.00 off a package of berries–which is a good deal, but I was sort of sad that I still had to pay a little over $2 out of pocket per package–especially when they’re in season.  Berries are expensive!

I brought the berries home and devoured a small handful!  They were plump and sweet.  Just how I like them! :)

I knew I had a really busy week ahead, and wouldn’t have a chance to get to the berries before they lost their freshness, so I decided to freeze them.  Freezing the fruit at it’s peak ripeness is a great way to enjoy the berries all winter long.

In my opinion, frozen berries picked in-season always trump fresh berries out-of-season.  Always.

Driscoll’s sweet red raspberries

I had all sorts of sweet ideas about how to use the raspberries.  Pies, tarts, jams, jellies, quick breads…and they would all be equally delicious; but I wanted something savory.  And I didn’t want a sauce.

I found this recipe on Driscoll’s website that looked pretty good, and I’m probably going to give it a try eventually (probably during the holidays…yum!):

But it wasn’t what I wanted tonight.

I did a lot of searching, and had a hard time finding inspiration.  There’s not really many savory raspberry recipes–aside from salads or sauces–that I’m aware of, and that’s quite unfortunate.

So I ventured a little outside of the box and decided to try the raspberries in a risotto.  I was pretty sure it’d taste good, but I was also pretty sure Piyush would hate it.

I was right; the risotto tasted amazing.  But I was also wrong.  Luckily, Piyush didn’t hate my risotto.  Quite the opposite, actually.

In fact, Piyush loved it; and that means something.  He’s such a food critic.

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

Serves 4

If you are bothered by the seeds in the raspberries or would like a pink colored risotto, you can puree the berries and run them through a fine sieve before adding to the risotto.

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. uncooked arborio rice
  • 5-6 c. veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large shallots – chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves- smashed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. herbes de provence
  • 3 tbsp. dry white wine (I used a dry Marsala)
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 oz. chevre (goat cheese)
  • 1 c. frozen Driscoll’s raspberries
  • salt- to taste
  • cracked black pepper- to taste
Directions:
  • Bring Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • Pour 2 tbsp. olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan (I used my dutch oven) and heat over medium-high flame.  Once the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic–stirring constantly.  You don’t want the shallot to take on a brown color, but you want it to be cooked through and semi-translucent –approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Once the shallot and garlic are cooked, add the Herbes de Provence.  Stir to combine.
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pot and cook (stirring constantly) for about a minute.  Add 3 tbsp. wine to deglaze. Keep stirring the rice until all the wine seems to be absorbed and the pan is looking dry.
  • Add one ladle of stock (approximately 1/2 c.) and stir until nearly all of it is absorbed by the rice.  Keep stirring and adding stock 1/2 c. at a time as the rice absorbs it.  I ended up using about 5 cups of stock, but it will really depend on how long your rice takes to cook (you want the rice to be al dente –it should have a little bite to it) and how creamy you like your risotto. This process will take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Add the goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking and stirring until the cheese is completely melted.  The risotto should have a nice thick, creamy consistency at this point. Fold in the frozen raspberries. Cook 1 or 2 minutes longer, until the raspberries are no longer frozen. Remove from heat.
  • Serve as soon as possible for best flavor.  Garnish with extra chevre.

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Goat Cheese

Herbes de Provence is a fantastic French dried-herb blend.  It usually includes herbs such as: lavender, rosemary, tarragon, basil and thyme.  Aside from this risotto, it’s also wonderful to use when roasting a chicken.  It smells so fragrant and floral!

Raspberry Risotto garnished with a sprig of lavender from my garden!

This was a perfect meal on a hot, summer day.  Nothing beats a bowl of risotto and a nice, chilled glass of wine!  :)

Well….almost nothing!  You see, I also made a batch of Kala Jamuns.  Kala Jumuns–blackened gulab jamuns– are amazing Indian sweets, and I finally recreated them perfectly (thanks Maa, Baba, and everyone else that helped with the sweet-making advice)!

Homemade Kala Jamun

You can read about kala jamuns and gulab jamuns HERE, and see my first attempt to master this sweet.  …and if you’re interested, check back.  I’ll have the basic recipe posted soon!

Pakistani-style Chapli Kabab

Chicken Chapli Kabab: Pakistani Style

We, Americans, eat a lot of burgers.  Hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers…they’re all an important part of our culture.   We love pretty much anything if it’s formed into a patty, placed on a bun, and slathered with toppings.  …and who can blame us?  Burgers are good!

We also love kababs.  Meat, veggies, fruit–it doesn’t matter.  If it’s been skewered or is served on a stick, we’ll eat it, and we’ll savor every last bite.

Now, things are really going to get interesting.  I’d like to introduce you all to the spicy, tender chapli kabab!

Chicken Chapli Kabab

It’s a kabab, but it’s not served on a stick.  It’s also a burger, yet it’s not on a bun.

The first time I tried traditional kababs, I’ve got to admit, I was confused.  They weren’t hunks of meat or vegetables threaded onto a skewer.  Heck, they weren’t even grilled!  Instead they were made of ground meat, studded with spices and little bits of vegetables.  They were tender, juicy, and quite unlike anything I’d had before.  I was hooked.

This version of kabab, the chapli kabab, is very popular in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  They’re usually made with minced beef or lamb, but can also be made with chicken. The kababs get their name because of the way they’re shaped.  Piyush tried to convince me that they were called chapli kababs because they were flat like chappals (sandals), which is sort of true.

A pair of Piyush’s chappals

In actuality, they’re not named after the chappals, although it was a good guess.  They’re actually called chapli kababs simply because they’re flat.  The word chapli is derived from a Pashto (spoken in Pakistan and Afghanistan) word, chaprikh, also meaning flat.

Piyush and I first tasted the incredible chapli kababs at a Pakistani restaurant here, in Rochester.  The restaurant is called Kababs (if anyone is interested), and serves fabulous home-style food.  The food is very, very similar to authentic Indian dishes–especially dishes served in West Bengal (although the spices are a little milder, and the curries are definitely not as hot).  It’s cheap, and it’s good.

My chapli kababs were an even match, taste-wise, to what we ate at the restaurant.  The only difference is that I made mine a little thicker than they should be.

Pakistani-style Chapli Kabab topped with raw onion, tomato slice and mint/corriander chutney

I plan on making these again and again.  I can’t wait to grill these and serve them as alternatives to hamburgers at our next bbq.  Not only do they pack some incredible flavor, but they’re also pretty healthy.  Each kabab is around 140 calories, and it’s full of veggies.

I made the kababs using a pound of skinless, boneless chicken thighs.  I tossed the meat in my food processor and processed it until it was a smooth, paste-like consistency.  I then chopped a whole bunch of veggies: tomatoes, onion, green onion, serrano chilies, garlic, ginger, corriander…and tossed them all in with the meat.

I mixed everything really well, making sure to squeeze the juices from the tomatoes as I mixed–this helped keep the meat juicy and flavorful (I think…).  I added freshly ground corriander seeds (not ground to a powder), ground cumin seeds, dried pomegranate seeds, a little besan flour (chickpea) and even some crushed red pepper.  I seasoned the meat with salt and black pepper, and then formed into patties.

I used a pastry cutter to make the patties, mostly because I wanted them to be the same shape and size.  Also because I didn’t want to get my hands dirty after I had just washed them.  …What kind of cook am I?!

After the patties were formed, I tossed them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  You don’t have to do this, I just find it helps hold the patties together a little better.  In fact, it seemed to work so well, I didn’t have a single patty fall apart on me.  Surprising, considering how much other stuff I had tossed in with the meat.

When I was ready to cook the patties, I put a little oil in a non-stick pan–just enough to coat the bottom.

If you’re trying to avoid oil, you could just use a non-stick cooking spray.  It should do a similar job, although you might not get that beautiful golden sear on the patties.

Chapli Kababs, ready to serve!

These patties were so juicy!  Chicken tends to get really dry, really fast; but I really think all the water from the veggies helped keep everything tender and moist.  This photo isn’t the best shot, but I think you can really see how juicy the kabab is.

Chicken Chapli Kababs (Pakistani Style)

Makes 9 medium-sized patties

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. skinless and boneless chicken thighs (alternatively, you can use a combo of thigh/breast meat)- minced or ground in food processor
  • 1/2 medium white onion- diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes- diced
  • 2 large green onions- chopped
  • 3 serrano chilies (may use jalapenos)- seeded and chopped
  • handful corriander leaves (cilantro)- chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp. ginger paste
  • 1 tsp. corriander seeds – ground, but not into a powder*
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds- ground, but not into a powder*
  • 1 dried red chile- ground to a powder (optional.  This will make the patties very spicy)*
  • 1 tsp. dried pomegranate seeds- ground*
  • 2 tsp. besan flour (chickpea flour–alternatively all-purpose flour would work too)- more if needed to hold the patties together
  • salt- to taste
  • pepper-to taste
  • oil- for frying (I think I used about 4 tbsp. total)
* Note: Any ingredient with a * after it could be substituted by using a pre-made chapli masala mix.  This mix may be hard to find, but many Pakistani grocers (and even some Indian grocers) will carry it.
Directions:
  • If your meat is not minced, grind it in a food processor until it is broken down and is paste-like in consistency.
  • Add all chopped veggies and spices to the meat, and mix together using your hands.  Squeeze the tomatoes as you mix everything together, releasing their juices.  Mix until everything is well combined.
  • Form the meat mixture into patties.  Either roll the meat into balls and flatten with your hands or use a burger press/mold.
  • Freeze patties on parchment paper for about 15 minutes.  They don’t need to be frozen through, just cold enough that the meat sticks together better.
  • Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Once the oil gets hot, add the patties.  Cook in batches so they are not over-crowded in the pan.
  • Cook each side for about 2 or 3 minutes, until you notice a nice golden color on the outside.  Watch the sides of the patties, once they are no longer pink or raw, your kabab should be nearly done cooking.  Total time, about 5 minutes a patty.
  • Remove cooked patties from pan and lay on a plate lined with paper towels.  Serve immediately, garnished with corriander leaves, tomatoes, raw onion, and lemon wedges.  Serve the kababs along with chutney and rice or naan.  Enjoy!

And now, because I shared Piyush’s pretty chappals, I wanted to share some of my own Indian-style footwear! …I mean, what girl doesn’t love shoes?!

These were bought in Kolkata.  I love them, but have not worn them yet.  I’m putting it off because I know it’ll be painful (at first…).

These are my favorite, and were purchased in Amritsar, India–near Pakistan.

Yes, I really am that white. It’s sad, really. I wish I could tan…  I also have hideous feet.  They’re ugly, but they’re mine. :)

These shoes aren’t called chappals.  I can’t remember what they are called, actually.  They took about a month to break in (after struggling though some bad shoe bite!  They even made my feet swell HUGE), but are now my most comfortable pair of shoes.

…and since I was mentioning Pakistan, I thought I’d share a photo from the India Pakistan boarder.  This is as close as I got…You see that big white structure in the back of the photo?  That’s the entry to Pakistan.

It was incredible to see all the patriotism–from both India and Pakistan.  There were tons and tons of people, lots of dancing and music, and even a peace ceremony between both countries.  It’s something I feel blessed to have attended, and I hope to attend again (although we’ll get there earlier next time.  It fills up fast, and can be really hard to see anything).

If you’d like to see the ceremony, here is a video that explains it pretty good:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeSX6AZ5xEI