Archive | January 2013

BRAND NEW BROCCOLI

Happy Wednesday to all! This is my last week of “summer vacation” before I start in as a full-time student in Australia, so I’ve been trying to cook as much as possible this week. However, with temperatures consistently around 35 degrees Celsius (that is high 90’s Fahrenheit!), cooking has become somewhat of a challenge. I don’t particularly enjoy standing over a hot stove in those temperatures. It basically looks like I went for a run and can’t cool down…it isn’t pretty.  Thank the lord for air conditioning. It has been my savior this week for cooking because without it, I may have served up cereal bowls all week for dinner, with a dish of ice-cream on the side! Hmmm…that doesn’t sound so bad! Note to self…that goes on the dinner menu next week  : – )

Anyway, instead of succumbing to the heat, I sat in the AC and searched Pinterest for some meal inspiration incorporating broccoli. Broccoli was on sale this week, and while we had steamed broccoli one night, I wanted to mix it up later in the week. Mix-it up we did! Not surprisingly, I stumbled upon a Pinterest recipe that I fell in love with. I adapted it slightly from the original recipe found on this amazing blog: Smitten Kitchen.  I feel fortunate that, thanks to my Mom’s healthy habits, I’ve always been a vegetable lover.  I rarely get tired of eating vegetable options like carrot sticks and dip, steamed cauliflower, green beans, summer squash, etc. But sometimes, I want something a bit more exciting. Enter in: Broccoli Parmesan Fritter Cakes. All you’ll need is one bunch of broccoli, parmesan cheese, flour, one egg, and a few spices for this winning side dish. So much more exciting than plain old steamed broccoli!

Broccoli Parmesan Fritter Cakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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Ingredients
1 medium bunch of fresh broccoli (about 3 cups chopped)
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Several grinds of black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Cooking Spray

Directions
1) Prepare your broccoli by washing it under running water, and then chopping it into 1-inch chunks. Don’t throw out the stem, you can use it if you want (I did). To prepare the stems,  slice them into 1/2-inch lengths. You should have about 3 cups of chopped broccoli total once you’re finished.
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2) Now steam the broccoli until tender, but not mushy. I boiled water on the stove and steamed mine for 5-6 minutes. Once steamed, drain the broccoli and set it aside to cool slightly.

3) While the broccoli is steaming, grab a large mixing bowl and lightly beat the egg with a fork or whisk. Add in the flour,  parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and stir it together.
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4) Then, add the semi-cooled broccoli and use a potato masher to mash the broccoli just a bit. You don’t want to completely mash it up, but the chunks should be small enough  so that you can press a mound of the batter into a fritter formation in the pan. Once you’ve mashed the broccoli a bit, stir the ingredients together the rest of the way with a spoon. Add more salt/pepper if necessary.
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5) Now heat a large skillet over moderate heat on the stove. Spray with cooking spray, and add one TBSP of olive oil and swirl around. Once the oil is hot and your pan is greased, scoop up a mound of the batter (I used a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup to help me form the fritter cakes) and drop it into the pan.  Then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Each scoop of batter should be about 2-3 tablespoons in size (mine were a little too big, so it made less fritters. The smaller the mound of batter, the more fritters you’ll get!) Continue to repeat this method with the additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each mound in the pan. Let them cook on one side until they are browned underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip each fritter carefully and cook on the other side until equally cooked, for a few more minutes.
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6) Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain and cool, and then serve.
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We ate our fritters with ketchup as a dipping sauce, as a side dish with homemade pizza and salad, however, the sauce you use and whether you eat this as a side dish or main dish is up to you.  I bet a cheese sauce, ranch dressing, or even eating them plain would be delicious. The good news is, we had leftovers so I got to try these cold and on top of salad greens the next day. They were just as delicious. I hope you like this “brand new broccoli” as much as we did!

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Australia Loving…2013

I have to admit, I am not used to saying “2013” yet. Maybe once the semester starts and I’m writing the date down everyday, but until then, it just sounds funny.  Anyway, given that we’ve been back from the states for over three weeks now, I wanted to share some new things I’m loving so far “down under” this year.  All my friends and family back home, please don’t hate me for the beach pictures…I know how cold it is back there. I am thinking of you and hopefully sending warm weather your way!! Here’s some things I’m loving in Australia so far in 2013:

1) Beautiful sunsets. The pink sunset on this night in particular was extraordinary to look at. Check out the view from our balcony!
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2) Street markets on Sunday’s. There was a giant bouncy house in the middle of the street, and a refrigerator full of meat being sold on the sidewalk. Random, but funny!
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3) Freshly brewed American iced coffee. This my friends, is what two iced-coffee obsessed Americans brought back in our suitcases. Our freezer has room for only this, and we don’t mind at all. Thank you Dunkin’ Donuts!
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4)New work-out clothes. I swear, new clothing makes any workout better!
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5) Australian marketing. I am learning more and more Australian English each week, and some of the names, labels and/or packaging of particular products crack me up! Chocolate chips are “cooking buttons”, ketchup is “tomato or red sauce” , the paper towels are patriotic and well, the Nutri-Grain box is the star of the show in my opinion!
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6) A new favorite of mine: champagne-for-one bottles. I tried this on the flight back and fell in love.  I know my girls back home would love this, and at $5 a bottle, it’s quite affordable too!
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7)Healthy homemade meals. Crockpot chicken cacciatore, chicken noodle soup, stuffed peppers and zucchini fries are some dinner highlights from the last few weeks!
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8)Overnight oats. These are my new favorite breakfast. I mix 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup skim milk, 2 tbsp vanilla yogurt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and then stir and refrigerate it overnight. In the morning, I add my desired toppings, such as blueberries, a scoop of peanut butter, raisins, and almonds. This keeps me full for hours and I genuinely look forward to it every day. This will be my go-to breakfast before classes each day!
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9)Summer (in my  normal winter). I can’t get enough of summer in January. Still loving the palm trees and the beach!
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10) My health, friends, and family. After taking quite a fall at bootcamp and suffering an over-eye cut and black eye, I am grateful to be on the mend! Thanks to all my caretakers!
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What are you loving this week?

There’s a new favorite vegetable in this house

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve spent countless hours “pinning” recipes I’m dying to make. Seriously, that website is ridiculously addicting. Recently, after looking over my many boards, I decided I should probably start making some of these recipes. Otherwise, what’s the point?  So that was my goal this week; incorporate grocery store buys into pinterest-inspired meals.

Yesterday as I strolled through the produce department at the market, zucchini was a big sale item, going for $2 per kilogram. Any vegetable on sale over here is basically what I’ve been buying since I moved because it’s much easier to stick to a budget that way, and it’s also good because it forces me to mix-up the produce we eat each week. So zucchini it was, and thank goodness for that. I had stumbled upon a “zucchini fries” recipe on just last week that looked very intriguing, and have been itching to make it ever since.

These were super simple to make and extremely delicious to eat. My only wish was that I made more. Since they’re a vegetable and there’s no shame in seconds, next time, I’m doubling the batch! Brandon actually said he liked these more than potato-based baked french fries. That’s a win in my book!

This recipe is originally from this great website, but I made a few small changes to this, too. I actually doubled the amount of breadcrumbs the original recipe uses, which gave them more of a crunchy outer-layer, and I didn’t have garlic powder, so I used garlic salt. Make sure you cut the zucchini into carrot-stick like shapes(similar to french fries), and try to keep them around the same width for baking purposes. If you make these tonight, you just may have a new favorite vegetable in your house, too!

Baked Zucchini Fries
Adapted from Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes at SkinnyTaste
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Ingredients
2-3 medium zucchini, sliced into 3’’ by 1/2’’ sticks ( I used 2)
1 large egg white (I used 2 small egg whites)
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs ( I used what we had (white bread crumbs) and doubled this amount)
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese (I doubled this)
1/4 tsp garlic salt (or garlic powder—I doubled this)
salt and pepper
cooking spray
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Directions
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F(or 218 C).
2)Next, chop the zucchini and set aside on your cutting board.
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3)Now set up what I like to call your “dipping station”.  You’ll need a small bowl for your egg whites and a larger bowl for your breadcrumbs. In the small bowl, beat the egg whites and season them with a dash of salt and pepper. Then in a ziplock bag, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic salt(or garlic powder), and parmesan cheese and shake well. Place in bowl.
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4) Line your cookie sheet with tinfoil and  spray with cooking spray. Then set it aside at the end of your dipping station.
5) Now, dip the zucchini pieces into the egg whites, coating them, and then into the bread crumb and cheese mixture a few at a time, shaking them to coat. I used a spoon to help me roll them around in the breadcrumbs. Then place the breaded zucchini in single layers on the sheet and spray more cooking spray on top. Bake at 425° for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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We used ketchup as our dipping sauce, but really it’s up to you to choose. With or without sauce, these are bound to be a household favorite. Hope you enjoy these!

Lets make (healthy) Macaroni & Cheese

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m living with a cheese addict. He admits to it, so I don’t feel too bad writing it! I’m being serious when I say I’ve never seen cheese go so quickly.  We are talking 6-8 ounce blocks gone in 2 days people!  Lucky for me, this means I get to taste, try, and buy all the different kinds of cheeses,  and Australia has some REALLY good cheese, even good “light” cheese!
IMG_0942 I’d say 9 times out of 10, cheese makes it onto the grocery list. It made the list this week too, and with all these thoughts of cheese bombarding my brain and senses, I’ve been craving one thing…homemade macaroni and cheese.  Since I’ve been in Australia, more often then not I’ll do meal-planning on Sunday, followed by a big grocery shop mid-day to get ingredients and necessities for the week.  Sometimes though, life gets in the way and this just doesn’t happen.  Life happened this past weekend (thank you Sunday-Funday…whoops) so neither the meal planning nor the grocery shopping happened over the weekend. Thankfully, it did happen on Monday, and with a recipe in hand  I jotted down what else we’d need for this new-to-me “healthified” macaroni and cheese recipe. I was hoping to make my Mom’s version, but I had misplaced the recipe.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  I stumbled upon a recipe  very similar to my Mom’s, but it makes a larger batch and uses 1% milk instead of skim milk. I altered this recipe a bit, specifically omitting the nutmeg and frozen vegetables, along with opting for a rotini pasta instead of cavatelli, and I baked it with breadcrumbs on top. To me, breadcumbs are an essential mac ‘n cheese ingredient.

The verdict? Cheese addict had four servings and yours truly had two. I’d say it was a success! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Healthier Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Delish.com):

Ingredients

  • 1 package  (16 ounces) rotini pasta
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups 1 % milk
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • breadcrumbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Boil large pot of water; then add pasta and cook for the time directed.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt margarine over medium heat in another medium-sized pot. With a wire whisk, stir in the flour, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk a little bit at a time and stir constantly, continuing to cook over medium-high heat until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. (This will take a while, but it’s worth it for a better consistency of sauce!) Boil this for 1 minute once all of the milk has been added, continuing to stir.
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  3. Remove your saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheeses (cheddar and parmesan) just until melted(it won’t take more than 30-45 seconds!) Now, blend mixture in saucepan until smooth. (I used a hand blender to save on dirty dishes, but you could use a blender, too.)
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  4. Drain pasta and then return the pasta to the pot and stir in cheese sauce.
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  5. Place in a sprayed casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 F (or 176 Celsius) for about 20 minutes, or until browned.
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You could serve this as a side-dish or as a main course, it’s up to you. We had ours on the side of veggie burgers, green beans, and a side-salad. A healthier cheesy accompaniment to a nutritious dinner? I’ll take it!  Either way, I hope it fulfills your cheese cravings…I know it did in our house (for one day anyway!)

What is your favorite “cheesy” recipe? Please share!

There’s no place like home

My two weeks home in America has come and gone…insert sad face here. As much as I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, the one thing I didn’t mind leaving was the snow.  After just two months in this tropical climate, my body did not have the easiest time adjusting to the cold weather. After two snow storms in two weeks, by the time we boarded our flight home I was more than ready for warm weather!

Weather aside, I’ve quickly  learned that the hardest part about going home is going to be leaving. Really, what’s better than home? Familiar faces, places, people, smells, stories, and best of all…family. Here’s some pictures from our special Christmas:

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Best cupcakes ever

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035My twin and me <3

 

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068 In Boston with my best girls <3

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Of course, while I was home, I also baked…. a lot. Although most of it went undocumented, I did snap a few pictures of my personal favorite baked good over the holiday: Peppermint Oreo Truffles. I found this recipe through Pinterest, and immediately bookmarked it as a MUST-make! I blogged about regular Oreo Truffles last Christmas, which are always a hit recipe in our family, but these added a “Christmas” feel to the simple treat. Plus, if you’re like me and love anything with a mint flavor, you will love these!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles (Recipe from Kraft)

  • 36 reduced-fat Oreos
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 2-3 crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (for decorating)

Directions

  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside. Place the Oreos in a food processor and blend until finely crushed.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cream cheese and peppermint extract. Add about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture to the crushed Oreos in the food processor, blend, and then continue to add in the cream cheese until the cream cheese and Oreos are thoroughly combined, so it looks like the picture below.

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  • Now, scoop the mixture out with a spoon (or your hands) and form into 1 inch balls. I lined my hands with plastic sandwich bags to do this, because the mixture is a bit sticky!  Place the truffles on the prepared cookie sheet, and put them in freezer for 10-15 minutes.

 

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  • Crush your candy canes at this point, and set aside. Then melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler while the truffles are hardening in the freezer. Once melted, remove the truffles from the freezer and dip them in the melted chocolate, evenly coating them. You’ll have to do this pretty quickly, because the chocolate hardens in minutes! To do this,  I used a toothpick to pick up each truffle and roll it in the chocolate. Return the truffles to the baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes. I dipped about 3 truffles at a time, and then sprinkled each with the candy canes, so that the candy would stick to the chocolate! Once you’ve completed this process, store your truffles in the refrigerator.

 

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These looked adorable on the dessert table and tasted delicious, too. Now I miss Christmas…What was your favorite holiday recipe this year?

Pizza…A twist on traditional

As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed how much my love of pizza has grown, too. It’s not that I never liked it, but growing up, pizza was considered a “treat”, since it can be a not-so-healthy option at restaurants. Funny that during my four years at Bryant University, this treat became a twice-to-three times a week meal I’d choose to eat. I’d like to blame that on the fact that pizza is a fairly inexpensive option and when you’re a “starving college student” it seems like a smart choice, but it’s also due to the fact that it tastes 100 times better after a night of too many drinks!

Anyway, fast forward to five years later, and today my love of pizza is at an all-time-high. I tend to make and re-make my favorites, such as sautéed vegetables with tomato sauce and roasted corn, or white pizza with ricotta, feta, and mozzarella on a whole grain crust. And when I go out for pizza, I usually stick with those favorites. Also, the crust of pizza is my favorite part of all. I must admit, I’ve enjoyed a range of white, whole-grain, thin, and even the occasional deep-dish crust over the years, and it’s truly the part of the pizza I look forward to most.  So you can imagine I was quite skeptical when I began to read about “cauliflower pizza crust”.  No bread? I almost didn’t try it, but I’m so glad I did!

I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand last night, so I gave it a go. To my surprise, it was delicious. Chewy and cheesy, almost like pizza. I won’t say it tastes like your traditional pizza crust, because it doesn’t…it’s not bread. But as a no-carb, low-fat, healthy option, this will certainly please your waistline and trick your taste-buds.

Cauliflower Crusted  Pizza with Chicken and Veggies   (adapted from Paula Deen)

Ingredients (for crust)
Non-stick cooking spray
2 ½ cups grated cauliflower (about ½ a large head)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese 
salt and black pepper to taste(about 1/2 tsp each)

For pizza toppings(add any toppings you’d like, this is just what I did!)
1/4 cup  tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Sautéed onions, mushrooms, and more cauliflower
Roasted shredded chicken breast (about 1/2 cup)

Directions
1) Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Grate the 1/2 head cauliflower using a box grater until you have 2.5 cups of cauliflower crumbles. Place in a large bowl and microwave for 7-8 minutes, or until softened. Remove and let cool for a few minutes.
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3) While the cauliflower is cooking, chop desired vegetables and/or other toppings, and sauté on stove in 1 tsp olive oil and/or cooking spray. Remove from heat once sautéed.
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4) Once the cauliflower has cooled off, mix in the egg, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Once combined, pat into a 10-inch round on the parchment-paper prepared pizza pan. Spray lightly with non-stick spray and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
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5) Top the pizza crust with the sauce, mozzarella cheese, and in my case, the chicken and vegetables. Bake in the oven until melted and bubbly, about another 10 minutes. Cool, and serve.
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Looks like pizza, right? I was very surprised how much this tasted like pizza and Brandon was too, so I will certainly be making this again.  Serve yours with a side salad to round-out this healthy meal.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Appetizer obsession

Appetizers (or entrees as they say in Australia) tend to be my favorite food choices at dinner parties, holiday gatherings, and sometimes even restaurants. I think it’s because most appetizers, at least in my opinion, tend to be unique compared to the main meal options, come in smaller portions so it’s perfectly acceptable to order more than one, and you’re able to pick-and-choose as you please. Is anyone else out there guilty of over-eating appetizers during the holidays?  I know I am, but I’m not dwelling on it simply because I over-ate my favorites. These were the things that were worth the splurge to me, and since I was only home for two weeks, I sort-of had the  “I live in Australia and miss my Mom’s cooking more than anything, so I’m eating whatever I want”  mentality.  A few appetizers I splurged on included my Mom’s mushroom spread, Kenyon dip(a family recipe),  broccoli slaw, kielbasa casserole, oyster crackers and last but not least, cowboy crack dip. It.was.glorious.

While the majority of our appetizers are family recipes made around the holidays and remain the same year after year, the cowboy crack dip listed above is an exception. The recipe was given to my Mom and me last year by one of my dearest friends Julia after we tried it at her house, and now we don’t throw a party without it. It’s that good. Don’t ask me the story behind the name but it fits. This dip is addicting. SO addicting. So take it from me, you’ve been warned. If you’re looking for a quick dip that’s nutritious and delicious, make this now. The best part is, there’s no baking required. Chop chop, lets go!

Julia’s Cowboy Crack Dip
Ingredients
-1 can black beans
-1 can white shoe peg corn
-1 ripe avocado
-½ red onion
-2 plum tomatoes
Ingredients for dressing
-1/4c. olive oil
-1/2c. red wine vinegar
-½ tsp. Cumin
-½ tsp. Black pepper
-½ tsp. Salt
-3 T sugar

Directions:
1. Drain beans & corn and place in large mixing bowl.  Chop onion, tomatoes, & avocado into small pieces. Mix all together in bowl.

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2. Now whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, cumin, pepper, salt, and sugar in a separate bowl until well blended. Then, pour dressing over mixture.

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For an appetizer, serve this with chips, crackers, vegetables, or eat it straight from a spoon(that’s how I like it best!). It’s even delicious on top of fresh greens. This can take the place of a salad dressing and is a great topping choice thanks to the protein from the black beans and the healthy fats from the avocado and olive oil. Plus, the longer it sits and soaks in the dressing, the better it tastes. I wish you luck on making it last in your house…it lasts two days at most in this one!

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What’s your favorite appetizer?