Tabbouleh with pearl barley

Tabbouleh

I mentioned yesterday that I was trying to reset my week with some healthy options for meals. For some reason I had been craving tabbouleh, but had never made it for myself. It was actually very easy because you just have to mix all the ingredients together and let it sit to improve its flavor. Just let it do its thing, and enjoy!

Also, I was also glad to find out that I could buy the barley at Kroger. I was worried it would only be at Central Market or something and I would have to make an extra stop. Who has time for that???

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook the pearl barley according the package directions. Once cooked, remove to a large bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the garlic, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours or over night.

The recipe would go great with baked or grilled chicken, fresh veggies and hummus.

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Veggie spring rolls with cucumber, carrots and avocado

Veggie spring rolls

July has been a nonstop month for me. For some reason, I booked myself full every single weekend. Last weekend I went to Austin to visit some college friends who planned a barge party. While we had so much fun, I also ate and drank more than I normally do (duh). Not to mention, I missed out on my weekend City Surf workouts. So I wanted to reset the week with a healthy meal and incorporate raw veggies. Spring rolls are so easy to make, and so delicious. The avocado adds a nice healthy fat element so it will leave you feeling full. The sauce is also easy to prepare, so you’ll be eating within 15 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (about 20) round rice paper wrappers (can be found in Asian section of grocery store; store in pantry until ready to use)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • 1 avocado, cut into thin strips (squeeze a little lemon or lime over this if you won’t serve it right away so it doesn’t brown)

Dipping sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (Asian chili sauce), more or less, to taste, depending on how spicy you like it

Instructions:

Set out all ingredients listed above. Just before serving, soak 1 rice paper at a time in water until it becomes oft and shake to drain. Lay rice paper out on a large plate or cutting board. Add ingredients of choice in a line across the lower quarter of the paper in the following order: peppers, carrot, cucumber, then avocado.

Close the rolls by folding the left and right sides of the paper towards the middle and rolling up tightly from the bottom of the roll.

Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

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Lasagna stew

Lasagna stew

Lasagna is one of those meals you can make again and again and it always tastes wonderful, but this is a great way to mix it up a bit. Also, lasagna is already pretty easy, but making it as a stew makes it even easier because everything goes into one pot, which eliminates some steps!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 carton (32oz) chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 8 whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken into bite sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions:

In a large soup pot, brown ground beef or turkey with onion, green pepper and garlic. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil 2 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally.

Add bite sized lasagna noodles to soup and cook until tender (about 15 minutes).
When ready to serve, mix in the grated parmesan cheese. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. We served our soup with crunchy sourdough bread crisps!

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Cilantro lime salmon with guacamole

Salmon and guac

Who said fish had to taste so fishy? If you’re looking to add more fish to your diet but are not a huge fan of the fishy flavor, especially with salmon, this recipe is your new best friend. Not to mention you’re getting all sorts of great fats with the omega threes from the fish and the good fats that are in avocados. This meal will leave you feeling satisfied and full.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs salmon, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tbs olive oil (I used light extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • juice from 2 limes (salmon)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ small red onion, sliced
  • Juice from 2 limes (for guacamole)
  • 1-2 tbs finely chopped cilantro (depending on how big of a cilantro lover you are)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

Mix the salt, cilantro, chili powder, onion and black pepper together, rub the salmon fillets with olive oil  and lime juice and this seasoning mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a bowl and mix well, chill until ready to use.

Remove salmon from the oven, top with avocado salsa and enjoy!

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Zucchini boats stuffed with tomatoes, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs

zucchini boats

This recipe is so easy and goes well with lots of meals. I like to pair it with tilapia or catfish. They are also really great to prepare for a dinner party since you can make a big batch very easily.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 zucchinis
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the edges off the zucchini, and cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and trim a little off the bottom so it sit still in a baking dish.

Scoop out the center where the seeds are with a spoon and set aside in a bowl. Brush the surface with a mixture of crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

In the bowl with the zucchini insides, mix in the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Spoon into the zucchini boats. Arrange halved grape tomatoes into the grooves.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

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Eggplant enchiladas with tomato cream sauce

eggplant enchiladas3

eggplant enchiladas1

 

eggplant enchiladas2I am starting to wonder how 2014 is flying by so quickly. May is one of those months that will be over before you know it. This weekend was Mother’s Day so of course I spent the weekend with my mom and traveled to Houston. The next few weekends will be busy with more trips, weddings and music festivals. Before I know it, it will be my birthday :)

In an effort to bring some stability to my crazy weeks, I like to spend a day where I cook all of my meals so I don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week. If I’m making one meal, I might as well make three or four meals.

I had used eggplant in a variety of ways, including in my eggplant Parmesan, but when I saw this recipe I know I wanted to try it out. It did take a little while to assemble, and it would have been made quite a bit harder without a mandolin, but it was well worth the process, I promise!

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant
  • kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for frying (I used canola oil)
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded or freshly grated Asiago cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano (I used parm)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Trim the stem end of each eggplant. Using a mandolin, cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should have about 12 slices. Sprinkle the eggplant on both sides with kosher salt, layer them on paper towels and let stand for 30 minutes to an hour. Press the moisture from the eggplant and blot them dry with paper towels after they have rested.

Pour olive (or canola) oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep, heavy saucepan or large skillet. Place 3 to 4 eggplant slices in the hot oil and cook until the slices take on some color, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the slices to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with remaining slices.

Meanwhile, make the stuffing. In a bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, ricotta, lemon zest, juice, thyme and salt.

In another bowl, mix the heavy cream and tomato sauce together.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce mixture to coat the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish (or individual gratin dishes) until bottom of dish is covered in a thin layer. Place a spoonful of filling at one end of each of the eggplant slices. Roll the slice around the filling and place it seam-side down in the dish on top of the tomato sauce. (I used a toothpick to hold the stubborn ones). When finished, spoon the rest of the tomato sauce mixture on top of the eggplant rolls to moisten them. Bake until the edges of sauce around the sides of the dish are dark and the rolls are nicely caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with the Asiago (or parm) before serving.

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Baked quinoa and oatmeal with mixed berries

quinoa berry oatmeal (1) quinoa berry oatmeal (2)

I’m a big breakfast believer, and always have been. I need a full, balanced breakfast that will hold me over until lunch so I’m not snacking. I do love yogurt and granola, but I wanted to look for other ways I could incorporate protein into my breakfast, so I turned to quinoa. There are so many options, and I will be testing more out in the coming weeks, but this recipe caught my eye since I had made a similar baked oatmeal, before, just without the quinoa. Turns out it was just as delicious! The other thing I love about this meal is that I can bake it on Sunday and have breakfast ready to go the rest of the week, perfect for my busy mornings!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/3 cup natural sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 bananas, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 and spray olive oil in your pan to prevent sticking.

Mix together oats, quinoa, half of walnuts, sugar (if using otherwise add maple syrup with wet ingredients), baking powder, cinnamon and salt. (Note: this can be done ahead of time.)

In a separate bowl lightly beat egg and add in milk, vanilla, maple syrup (if using) and half of the slightly cooled butter.

Place banana slices on the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with 2/3 of the berries and cover with oat mixture. Pour wet ingredients over and make sure the dry ingredients are covered. Top with remaining berries and walnuts.

Bake for 40 minutes. Drizzle with remaining melted butter and additional maple syrup or sugar if desired.

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My Mother’s Day weekend: recipe for pork tenderloin with apricot glaze, roasted potatoes and carrots + a trip to a local Texas winery

Mother's Day Meal

I had a wonderful, relaxing weekend at home with my mother. I wanted to do something special for her so I decided to make her favorite meal of pork and potatoes. Luckily I had Richard to help add his special touch to the recipes. The recipes made a lot of food, and it was a good thing we made a lot because a lot of the family ended up coming over, along with a few neighbors. I really think all the pieces of this meal went together perfectly, the apricot glaze went along well with the fruity salad, which were complemented by the savory potatoes. This is a meal I would definitely make again.

Also, what made the weekend so special was my visit to the Messina Hoff winery in Bryan. My mom went to a Mother’s Day lunch with my Mimi and aunt, along with a group of their friends, so Richard and I decided to explore the winery. I had always passed the sign on my way in from Dallas, but never could have imagined this little gem that was tucked way back there! Richard and I had talked about taking a tour of the Texas wineries near Fredericksburg, but thought this was a good introduction. We bought four of their wines because I had to get a bottle of white for my mom, and a spicy Zinfandel for my aunt since she just got a new grill. The red wine will go perfectly with some red meats she will cook up on there this summer. Richard also really enjoyed their Primitivo Zinfandel and bought a bottle of that. We tried three of their whites and six of their reds. I have to bring my mom back there some time!

Here are the recipes for the meal we made:

Pork tenderloin brine

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (we used red wine that had been open for a while and was no longer drinkable
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary

Instructions: Prepare the brine for the pork tenderloin by combining all of the above ingredients into a bowl with the pork, cover, and let sit overnight.

Pork tenderloin Pork tenderloin with bread crumbs and whole mustard seed

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (can make your own by toasting bread that has been out for a while and crumbling up into fine bread crumbs)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Instructions:

Coat pork tenderloins in more of the whole grain mustard then coat in bread crumb mixture with the remaining ingredients above (the mustard helps keep the bread crumbs on it).

Apricot glaze (for the pork) Apricot glaze

Ingredients:

  • 4 apricots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • juice of two limes

Instructions: Cook apricots in oil, then add a bit of white wine and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the lime juice and serve as a topping for the pork tenderloin.

Spring salad with grapes, melon, beets and candied pecans Grape beet and melon salad with candied pecans

Ingredients:

  • one package of spring mix lettuce
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced
  • 1 cup cooked beets, diced
  • 1 cup candied pecans

Instructions: To prepare the candied pecans, mix the following ingredients so the pecans are well coated.

  • 1/4 cup butter (or 2 oz) at room temperature so it’s soft enough to blend with ingredients
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • honey
  • 2 cups pecans

Then bake in oven at 400 degrees until caramelized brown, or about 20 minutes, so they look like this:Candied pecans

For the beets, bring a pot of water to a boil, add the beets and reduce to low and let simmer for 45 minutes or until beets are fully cooked. Let them cool off before peeling and chopping for the salad. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Salad dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Instructions: Blend the ingredients in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree, then serve over the salad.

Carrots Roasted carrots

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds carrots, peeled
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. Toss carrots with garlic, paprika, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add to the baking pan, cover tightly with foil, and roast for 30 minutes. Uncover the roast an additional 20 minutes longer or until carrots are tender.

Potatoes Roasted potatoes with thyme and rosemary

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

Instructions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (250 degrees C). Grease a pan and turn the stove on medium-high heat. Pan fry the potatoes to sear the edges, and cooke for about a minute. You may have to do this in batches. Place potatoes in a large roasting pan and toss with more oil, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary until evenly coated. Spread out potatoes in a single layer. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.

Here are some more photos of the flowers I got for my mom, and the Messina Hoff winery. Flowers Mother's Day Messina Hoff Wine Tasting Richard Messina Hoff Messina Hoff Vineyards Us at Messina Hoff Messina Hoff Zinfandel

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Caprese soup

Caprese soup

Whenever I eat tomato soup it always reminds me of growing up when my mom and I would eat tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. While this soup recipe is a little more “grown up,” it still takes me back. While I love a greasy grilled cheese sandwich, I can’t splurge as much as I could as a kid. However, the mozzarella drops along with a side of crunch toast or bread serve as a close alternative.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (28 0z.) Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 2-3 glugs extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-7 Sun dried tomatoes, chopped.
  • 2 small Shallots finely chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dry basil
  • 1 pinch dry thyme
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Toppings:

  • 6-8 hand fulls of spinach
  • 1 shallot
  • Extra virgin olive oil to saute
  • Salt and black pepper to taste (or about 1 teaspoon)
  • Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine (if you can not find the Ciliegine, you can cut the mozzarella into small cubes)
  • Toasted bread

Instructions:

In a medium soup pot over medium heat, warm up the extra virgin olive oil. Add in the chopped shallots, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, bay leaf saute for 3-4 minutes.

Add the dry basil, thyme salt and black pepper, saute for another minute.

Add the can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium.

Add the water, stir until well incorporated, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low, simmer for 6-8 minutes. With an immersion blender puree the soup. ( I love this gadget in the kitchen, it is so practical and easy to puree your soup on the same pot!)

Serve immediately with the toppings and enjoy.

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Stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and cheese

bell peppers

 

Stuffed bell peppers

It’s that time…. bikini season. I have been on a real health push, and even signed myself up for a City Surf Fitness membership. City Surf provides a variety of exercises that use The Ripsurfer X, which combines a “paddling element” with a balance board base that recreates the instability of a surfboard on water. My room mate has worked out there for a while, and they were running a promotion so I decided now would be a great time to join. I already have a good running routine, but when it comes to strength exercises, I really need someone to push me. I signed up for a different class every day last week to get a feel for which classes I would like. It was quite a challenge, but I have never felt better and am looking forward to what I will feel AND look like in the coming months!

To go along with this new health kick, I have been on the search for recipes that are high protein and low in fat and sugar. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am now obsessed with incorporating quinoa into at least one meal per week. I love the amount of protein I know I’m getting with the grain. We had been going through quinoa quite quickly and it’s not exactly the cheapest purchase on our grocery list. Thankfully, we found this four pound bag of quinoa on Amazon that is a great price point per ounce (yes, we did the math). Hopefully it will last us quite a while!

Now for the yummy part of the post….I saw a recipe that called for shredded chicken in stuffed bell peppers, so I adjusted it slightly to use quinoa instead. You can also tone down the spice if you’re not into spicy foods, but I really loved every part of these bell peppers personally. I hope you do to because they’re pretty easy to make and make great left overs.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces monterey jack, grated
  • 4 ounces cheddar, grated
  • 2 oz goat cheese (optional, I just love adding goat cheese to everything)
  • 1-3 seeded jalapeno peppers, finely diced
  • 4 ounces chopped green chiles from a can
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup panko
  • 4 red (or any color assortment) bell peppers

Instructions

Cook the quinoa according to directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, cream cheese, half of the monterey jack and cheddar, jalapenos, green chiles, cumin, salt and pepper, corn, and salsa. Stir to combine well.

Slice the bell peppers in half from top to bottom. Cut out the stem and remove the veins and seeds as best you can. Stuff with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese and the panko crumbs.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The peppers should be fairly tender and the filling heated through.

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