August 2009


I know, I know. I’ve been missing for several days. I blame technology. My computer was under the weather last week so I wasn’t able to blog. But, I now have my buddy back and it’s as good as new!

So I’m a bit bummed because the summer has completely flown by. I had so many ideas for summer activities and places I wanted to see but really, where did the time go? A lot of kids are back in school already and it’s even cooled down here a bit in New England. You really can’t get bored with the weather around here. We started the summer with about 27 days of straight rain in June, followed by lower than normal temperatures mixed with nice days in July, and an August that started out beautiful and ended very (very!) humid. I don’t know how I would do living in San Diego or somewhere where the weather is nice and sunny all the time. What would we talk about?

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As a result of the not-so-perfect summer weather, tomatoes aren’t having the best year. They are favorite of mine because they are tasty and are so versatile, especially in the summer. There are so many varieties of tomatoes (plum tomatoes are my all time favorite) and they work well in salads, as side dishes and even as entrees.

I recently saw a recipe on RealSimple.com for Herbed Tuna in Tomatoes. I always used to make tuna with a little light mayo, celery and ground pepper. It’s a classic way to prepare tuna but I know, Y-A-W-N. I’ve always read that tuna can be mixed with olive oil instead of mayo but I thought it would lack moistness (is that a word?). This recipe from Real Simple is a nice change from my typical tuna and it’s delicious. I used large heirloom tomatoes for this dish and had it for dinner last week. It was very flavorful and very filling. This recipe is quick to prepare – just like the magazine, it’s Real(ly) Simple.

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Battered seafood is popular in New England, especially in the summer. I have been tempted by fried haddock, fried shrimp, fried clam strips – never mind onion rings and french fries. While it’s okay to give into cravings every now and then, I think a better option is recreating your favorite dish in a healthier fashion. Over the weekend, I made these Baked Fish Nuggets and they were seriously just as good as any fried fish I’ve eaten. Plus, I don’t feel guilty or gross after eating this dish.

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Making this meal is pretty quick and simple. Once baked, the breadcrumb mixture becomes a crunchy outer coating for the fish. Be sure not to overcook the fish, it should be flaky not rubbery.

On the side, I sauteed fresh green beans with olive oil then added a little red onion, garlic and black pepper. It took about five minutes and was a great addition to the fish nuggets.

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Baked Fish Nuggets

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

3/4 lb. filet of white fish (I used cod)

1 egg white, beaten

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 tsp. ground black pepper

cooking spray

Preparation: 

1. Preheat oven to 400*

2. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside

3. Cut the filet of fish into 2″ x 1″ nuggets (this should yeild about 8 nuggets)

4. Put egg whites in a bowl and beat well

5. Pour whole wheat flour and whole wheat breadcrumbs into two separate bowls

6. Line up the bowls in this order: flour, egg whites, breadcrumbs

7. One nugget at a time, dip fish in flour then egg whites then breadcrumbs (coat well) and place on baking sheet

8. Bake fish for 25 minutes, turning once halfway through

9. Enjoy! (sprinkle cooked fish with lemon juice or serve with homemade tartar sauce – a tablespoon of light mayo mixed with a teaspoon of relish mixed well)   

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Now that I’m back to my healthy ways, I made dinner at home last night for my roommate and I. When I went grocery shopping last Sunday, I bought the ingredients for last night’s dinner so I would be prepared to cook when I had a free night this week. I made Red Lentil-Rice Cakes with Simple Tomato Salsa from Cooking Light.   This was a recipe I ripped out of the October 2008 edition and it’s been in my recipe binder ever since.

I generally followed the recipe ingredients-wise but to speed up the cooking process, I used canned kidney beans  and just rinsed them off before use. Canned beans are preserved with sodium so as long as you rinse them well beforehand, the health benefits are the same as when cooking with fresh beans. I also used brown rice instead of basmati, for more whole grains. Beans and brown rice are an excellent source of fiber and fiber keeps you full!

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Ok, the results. I thought this meal was good, but not great. I think it lacked a little flavor and those who also reviewed the recipe online seemed to think so too (too bad I didn’t see those reviews before last night). These bean and rice cakes do have a nice mix of flavors but next time I think I’ll use a bolder cheese instead of mozzarella and maybe add some cumin or a dash of cayenne pepper. This recipe is definitely worth making with a few simple additions. On the positive side, this meal was filling and healthy (with about 300 calories for two cakes and the salsa).

Happy weekend everyone! I have some excercise, cleaning, shopping, eating, cooking and relaxation planned. How about you?

BLOG NOTE: I’ve added a new tab, “Recipes,” to the blog. All my recipes are now listed in alphabetical order by meal for your reference and mine!

If you’re familiar with Glamour Magazine, you know they are famous for their Dos and Don’ts section which normally features fashion faux pas (and pretty outrageous ones at that!). Well, I like fashion but this isn’t that kind of blog. Instead, I bring you the Dos and Don’ts of Mexican Food. You’re on the edge of your seat, right?

Sometimes I struggle with choosing a meal when I’m eating out. I normally browse the menu and multiple items look appetizing to me. I have the angel on my shoulder telling me to order the healthy option and the devil on my other shoulder pushing me to splurge. Well, last night the devil won when I went out for Mexican food. I have read so much on healthy eating that I know what a should order but I usually order what I want instead. I’m working on that balance. 😉

But, I’m giving myself a break because last night was my roommate’s birthday celebration and we were in a bit of party mode for a Wednesday. A group of us met at the Border Cafe in Harvard Square for dinner and drinks. The Border Cafe is a Mexican restaurant with Cajun flare. It’s unique, always packed and the food is awesome. Plus, the decor is rustic with Christmas lights added for charm(?).

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Anyway, I ordered Frozen Sangria for a drink (as did five other people). It was huge (for under $5) and a great drink for a hot Boston night. For dinner, the Shrimp and Crawfish Quesadilla just jumped out at me. I wish it had more vegetables and less cheese but it was amazing. I mean, can there ever be too much cheese? The cheese had a great flavor to it and it was gooey and just perfect in the quesadillas. Oh, and let’s not forget that Border Cafe gave us an abundant supply of warm, homemade tortilla chips with salsa to start. Mmm.

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While I greatly enjoyed my meal and last night as a whole, I am going to make myself feel better (and maybe offer some education) on what smart choices are all about when ordering Mexican. If you’d rather not know, look away now.

 

DO indulge on salsa but limit your intake of tortilla chips

DON’T order margaritas or other fruity drinks if you’re watching your calories

DO order a light beer or a glass of wine if water isn’t doing the trick

DON’T forget your veggies; find something on the menu where vegetables are a central ingredient

DO order fajitas – veggie, shrimp and chicken are your best bet

DON’T eat the flour tortillas that come with the fajitas – if you can help it

DO limit your intake of sour cream and cheese

DON’T forget that guacamole is a relatively healthy alternative to sour cream (yay for avocados!)

DO order corn tortillas if you can skip the flour ones – you’ll save some calories and add grains

DON’T feel the need to finish everything on your plate

DO enjoy your meal and time with friends

DON’T stress about meal choice, just eat something healthier for your next meal

DO splurge every so often – we only live once!

We are in the middle of a serious heat wave here in Boston. It’s supposed to be 95* and humid today! Of course, I’ve been in the AC at my office all day so I can’t complain (plus it’s better than snow!). However, this past weekend was the same way. I felt like cooking on Sunday but dreaded putting my oven on for too long since my apartment was as HOT as it was. I started flipping through my cooking magazines for a “cool” recipe and, voila, I bring you Cuisine at Home’s Garden Gazpacho.

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This recipe comes from the August 2008 edition of the magazine. I love Cuisine at Home for a number of reasons but especially for the unique recipes and tons of photos. The recipes are always interesting, with a mix of simple and more complicated ones, and the photos are colorful and include the process as well as the final product. I like to know I’m on the right track when I’m cooking so I always go for cookbooks and magazines with photos.

The gazpacho was very simple to prepare (you’ll need a food processor) and now I have enough for the whole week. It has a nice classic flavor with a hint of each vegetable in every bite! If you’d prefer a spicier soup, just add more Tobasco until the flavor is right.

Cuisine at Home doesn’t post their recipes online so here it is.

Garden Gazpacho

Source: Cuisine at Home

Servings: 5 cups

Ingredients:

1/3 c. red onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. capers

2 c. tomatoes, chopped

1/2 c. cucumber, chopped

1/2 c. celery, chopped

1/2 c. red bell pepper, chopped

2 cans V-8 juice (5.5 oz. each)

1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. Tobasco

2 c. ice cubes

 

Preparation:

1. Mince onion and capers in food processor.

2. Add tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, and bell pepper and pulse to mince. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Stir in V-8, parsley, vinegar, Worcestershire, paprika, salt, and Tobasco.

4. Add ice cubes and let stand until ready to serve. Remove any remaining ice cubes before serving.

5. Enjoy!

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Note: Cuisine at Home suggests serving this soup with its olive-pesto grilled cheese but it’s also great topped with cheese with a few bagel chips on the side.

Most recipes with chocolate and peanut butter are a must try for me. This weekend, I found a recipe in one of the Taste of Home baking cookbooks that had six ingredients – a quick and easy chocolate fix! These bars game out gooey instead of cookie-like but they were very tasty – with the right mix of sweet flavors. They’re a little messier than I would have liked but it was worth it!

Double Chip Bars

Source: Taste of Home

Servings: 24

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. crushed graham crackers

2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. peanut butter chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

Preparation:

1. Pour butter evenly in a 9×13 pan

2. Top with crushed graham crackers

3. Top graham crackers with chocolate chips and peanut butter chips and press down

4. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the mixture, as evenly as possible

5. Bake at 350* for 25 minutes.

6. Cool before cutting into bars

7. Enjoy!

These sweet bars are a quick and easy treat for any occasion. In order to not eat the entire pan, my co-workers are enjoying them today!

Before:

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After:

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While in Maine over the weekend, my family and I went to have breakfast at a place we’ve been going for years, Merriland Farm in Wells, Maine. It’s off the beaten path so it’s not quite as touristy as the other breakfast spots in the area but the food is always delicious. The breakfast menu is focused on berry dishes (from berries grown on-site) but also has quite a few other options as well. My family has always been a fan of Merriland Farm’s tea breads and crepes – and they seem to grow bigger every time we visit.

Merriland Farm is a family-owned business which includes a cafe and par-3 golf course. The golf course is unique because it was designed among the family’s berry fields. We also made time for golf last week and as we were making our way around the course we passed multiple patches of blueberry bushes. The family grows and picks the berries for the cafe and even make their own jams and pies.

Growing up, I remember Merriland Farm as a small cafe for breakfast but over the years they have grown and done renovations and now serve lunch (as well as dinner on the weekend). Check out more about the cafe here.

Over the weekend my mom and I shared a Mixed Berry Tea Bread, as a little appetizer of course. 🙂 The bread was extremely moist and full of berries!

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My mom chose the Crepes for breakfast, which was actually one big crepe stuffed with berries and topped with whipped cream. Check out the berry goodness!

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I chose the  Baked Blueberry French Toast which was described on the menu as “baked bread in a maple custard stuffed with cream cheese and blueberries then topped with a warm blueberry compote & whip cream.” I was actually a little skeptical because I’m not normally a fan of custard-type fillings but mixed the the cream cheese and berries, it was great combination of flavors and I really enjoyed it.

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My dad chose to go the egg route and had the Sausage Confetti Omelet which was described as “sweet Italian sausage sautéed with sweet bell peppers, onions and filled with mozzarella cheese.” It was deliciously huge and overstuffed with fillings! His omelet came with a side of Russett Potato Gaufrettes, which are unique but fantastic. Think of a thin (almost chip-like), mostly crunchy waffle fry and you get gaufrettes! They are a nice alternative to homefries.  

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 I would have included photos from our golf adventure but I didn’t want to horrify you with my terrible golfing skills! Maybe next year 😉

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