September 2009


Do you love a good burger? I do, but I only try to eat the “real thing” when the burger is excellent. Some of my favorite burgers can be found at RF O’Sullivans in Somerville, Moonstones in Chelmsford and the Four Seasons in Boston (everything I’ve had at the Four Seasons in excellent but it’s a treat!)

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While I love a good burger every now and then, ground turkey is a great alternative to ground beef. Making the switch to ground turkey in recipes like burgers, meatballs and meatloaf has many nutritional benefits. For example, 3 oz. of 90% lean ground beef has 182 calories and 9 grams of fat including 4 grams of saturated fat while 3 oz. of ground turkey breast has 90 calories and 7 grams of fat with no saturated fat.

It is important, however, to select ground turkey breast rather than just ground turkey. Ground turkey includes dark meat which means it’s more caloric and fatty (3 oz. = 180 calories and 12.8 grams of fat including 3.8 grams saturated fat).

I’ve enjoyed stuffed burgers when dining out but recently made my first stuffed burger at home. I chose to create a Greek-themed burger made with ground turkey breast (I used Shady Brook Farms) and stuffed with spinach and feta. It was a quick and healthy meal that turned out moist and tasty. Sometimes I find turkey breast meat to be bland but I with some added spices it’s a great choice when making burgers.

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Stuffed Spinach & Feta Turkey Burgers

Servings: 2 (you can easily double the recipe)

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh spinach

1 Tbsp. olive oil

6 oz. ground turkey breast

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. rosemary

ground black pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp. reduced fat feta cheese

2 hamburger buns (I used the Fiber One brand – 110 calories/6 grams of fiber per bun and NO high fructose corn syrup)

 

Preparation:

1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat and add spinach to saute (spinach will wilt within a few minutes).

2. Set cooked spinach aside.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together ground turkey breast, oregano, rosemary and a few pinches of black pepper.

4. With the meat mixture, create four thin patties (about 3.5″ in diameter and a 1/2 inch thick).

5. Top patties 1 & 2 with feta cheese then spinach.

6. Top patty 1 with patty 3. Top patty 2 with patty 4. Pinch the edges of the patties so they are sealed together and the “stuffing” isn’t visible.

7.  Ensure the skillet is on medium heat and add the stuffed burgers. Cook burgers for five minutes on each side or until cook through.

8. Top buns with burger and serve warm.

9. Enjoy!

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This past weekend was a busy one! On Saturday, friends and I went to the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival in Boston. The Phantom Gourmet is a local TV and radio show that chronicles restaurants and other food “experiences” in New England. They always show so much food on every episode that I get hungry just watching it. In addition to the weekly show, the Phantom Gourmet hosts several food events each year. This is actually the first one that I’ve been to.

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The festival was located on Lansdowne and Ipswich Streets in Boston, right next to Fenway Park. The Red Sox were in NY this weekend so the area was open to festival-goers only. I’ve been to food festivals before but this one was one of the best. There were 80 vendors, music, beer tents and all the food you can imagine. The only downside of the festival was that I filled up so fast I didn’t get to try everything I would have liked.

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Here’s a list of my favorite vendors and their specialty (what they gave out as samples on Saturday):

Wholly Cannoli – Dynamite Bites (smooth cannoli filling dipped in caramel then chocolate)

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Black Cow– Creamy coffee oreo ice cream

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Sandbar Grille– Conch fritters (with a spicy aioli) – fresh and flavorful though the sauce was a little too spicy for me

Upper Crust – Thin crust pizza with the perfect amount of cheese and sauce

Spike’s Junkyard Dogs – Texas Ranger Dog (100% all natural beef hot dog with barbeque sauce, cheddar cheese and bacon on a freshly baked roll)

My friend Holly and I enjoying Spike's!

My friend Holly and I enjoying a perfect portion of Spike's!

Wicked Whoopie’s– Moist chocolate whoopie pies with sugary filling  

Next time, I would make it a point to try items I haven’t had before. For example, I’ve had Spike’s hot dogs and Upper Crust pizza before so I would not try those again (knowing I already like them) and save room for something new instead. I wish I had come up with that plan originally.

There was food for everyone at the festival, though limited options for vegetarians and those with food allergies. If you like Italian sausage, The Sausage Guy (yes, that’s the company’s name) was giving out full-size sausages. I’m glad I passed on that one – talk about filling!

Now back to normal eating patterns…but first…

Attention cookie lovers: Check out another Boston-area blog, Healthy & Sane run by Elina, for a chance to win a free cookie mix. They look really good!

As my friends and family know, I love random facts and trivia. I sometimes torture humor them on holidays with trivia about that specific holiday. For example, where are the most Thanksgiving turkeys raised? Answer: North Carolina.  

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So, with the start of fall this week, how about some apple facts? Did you know…

  • 40 varieties of apples are available in New England
  • Macintosh apples are the most commonly grown variety in the US
  • China produces more apples than the US (the US comes in #2)
  • An apple a day really does keep the doctor away (they are high in fiber, fat-free, a great source of vitamins A & C and have many cancer-fighting antioxidants)

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Last weekend, my friends and I hiked Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH then went apple picking. I’m not really a hiker but like to hike every now and then. It’s a great way to get out of the city and get some fresh air – nevermind that it’s great exercise. The entire hike took us about four hours roundtrip and the first half was a steep uphill climb. Mt. Monadnock is actually the #2 most hiked mountain in the world – after Mt. Fuji in Japan. I know, here we go with the facts again but how cool is that?! Hiking was a lot of fun but my legs were pretty sore for a few days afterwards – a good sore, of course.

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On the way back to Boston, we stopped to pick apples at Washburn’s Windy Hill Orchard in Greenville, NH. (We had a fall-filled day as you can tell.) Apple picking is a great fall activity in New England…it’s fun, easy and usually means candy apples or cider is involved.  This was our first visit to the particular orchard and it was fairly small but very cute.

Despite the size, we still took a (2 minute) tractor ride to the apple trees. We learned that apple season wasn’t going very well so only Macintosh apples were available at the time. I was happy because I love Macs but it was a little disappointing not have other options. Hopefully the rest of their season gets better. While the variety was limited, the apples that were available were beautiful. Large and crunchy!

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Once we filled our bags, we headed back to the country store. A few of us had our eyes on the caramel apples so we had a little snack. After the exercise we did earlier, there was no guilt in enjoying the gooey treat. Check out the chocolate drizzle…

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Once I had my fill of caramel apple goodness, I had to decide what to do with 10 lbs. of apples. Eating them would take me about a month so I decided to make Cooking Light’s Maple Walnut Apple Crisp. Sounds great, right? Well, it was pretty awesome and easy to make, too. My basis for choosing a recipe was to create something reasonably healthy that used up a lot of apples. This recipe used nine apples and is only about 200 calories per serving. Plus, there’s at least a serving of fruit in each scoop, too.

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The flavor of this apple crisp is very classic and it smells great while in the oven. While it uses less butter and sugar than traditional apple crisp, the flavor doesn’t suffer. The texture, soft apples with sweet and crunchy topping, was perfect – especially because of the walnuts.

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What’s your favorite apple treat?

I almost always order Eggplant Parmesan when I eat at an Italian restaurant. It’s just so delicious and a dish I always enjoy. I also like ordering eggplant when I’m dining out because I’ve never had much success cooking it at home…until now. Through a little research online I learned how to make tender eggplant and the trick is simply to make sure the eggplant cooked thoroughly (otherwise it will be tough).

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This Eggplant “Lasagna” is actually noodle-less and while I thought I’d miss the pasta (I love pasta!), I really didn’t. I call it lasagna because it’s built the same as the well-known Italian dish. Sauce, eggplant, cheese, spinach, onions…repeat. I got inspiration for this meal from one I saw in Real Simple. I was going to make that recipe but decided to add more veggies and switch out the cheese. This dish is made with cottage cheese in place of ricotta (I’m not a huge fan of ricotta and cottage cheese is a healthier alternative).

This is a quick dish to prepare and is especially tasty! It’s a great weeknight meal and it’s budget friendly, too.

Eggplant “Lasagna”

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ slices

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

2 c. tomato/marinara sauce (I used store bought to save time)

1 c. reduced fat cottage cheese

1/2 c. reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese

2 c. fresh spinach

1/2 c. sweet onion, chopped

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat over to 350*

2. Lay slices of eggplant flat on a plate or paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let stand 30 minutes or so. (This brings out the eggplant’s flavor)

3. Rinse eggplant with water and pat dry.

4. Using a pastry brush (if available), lightly coat each side of the eggplant with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes.

6. In the meantime, coat glass baking dish with marinara sauce.

7. When eggplant is done, remove from oven and place two (or so) sliced on top of the sauce in the baking dish.

8. Top with layer of 1/3 c. cottage cheese then sprinkle with mozzarella. 

9. Top the cheese with a handful of spinach and sprinkle with chopped onions.

10. Repeat steps 6-9 two more times. Top the final layer of spinach and onions with marinara then mozzarella.

11. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. The eggplant should be soft and tender.

12. Enjoy!  

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After my last post of sinful (yummy) cake pops, I figured I should come back to reality and post a normal healthy meal. I try to eat nutritious normally but definitely indulge on the occasional treat. Lately I have been trying to eat more vegetables so when I found a recipe for Quinoa with Mushrooms, Kale and Sweet Potatoes I knew I should give it a try. This recipe was in the September edition of Real Simple. This is a vegetarian meal that is also gluten-free.

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Have you cooked with quinoa before? I have a few times and the preparation is very similar to cooking rice (bring quinoa and water to a boil then simmer allowing quinoa to absorb the liquid). Quinoa is a whole grain that has been part of cuisines all over the world for thousands of years. Only recently has it become popular in North America. As a whole grain, quinoa is filling and is a great substitute for rice or barley. The texture of quinoa is light and almost airy.  I still like rice more but quinoa is a great alternative.

I was afraid this dish would be bland but the olive oil, white wine, garlic, parmesan and black pepper provided a nice flavor to the quinoa and veggies. This dish wasn’t totally bursting with flavor but wasn’t bland at all. I also liked the texture of all the vegetables together. I love sweet potatoes and kale but don’t normally care for mushrooms. In this dish, however, the mushrooms were a nice addition. For those of you who haven’t had kale, it’s a green leafy vegetable. It’s heartier and tougher than spinach – which is a good thing; it holds up well in a dish like this one.

This meal is served hot and makes a great dinner option for the fall. I also made plenty for leftovers and it was just as good the following day. Enjoy!   

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For months now, I’ve seen Bakerella create all kinds of cake pops (cake on a stick, coated in chocolate) on her blog. She is very talented and creative. Then I started seeing other bloggers try their hand at cake pops and finally, this past weekend, I made my own. I have to say these things are tougher to create than you’d think and a bit time consuming too. It was my first time making cake pops so I’m sure the process gets easier with practice. And, yes, I will be making them again because they are DELICIOUS.

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This past weekend, my family and I participated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Memory Walk. My grandfather passed away last December after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a terrible disease that not only takes a toll on the person suffering from Alzheimer’s but their caregiver, family and friends too. It’s very hard to see someone you know so well become incapable of caring for and expressing themself. On Sunday, I participated in the walk for the third time and the crowd of people walking seemed larger than ever. Our team alone had 45 people walking in memory of my grandfather as well as in honor and in memory of three other Alzheimer’s sufferers that my family came to know during my grandfather’s time in a nursing home.

My aunt is the leader of our team and does a lot to coordinate our walking team’s participation in the event including recruiting walkers and raising money. On top of that, she hosts a BBQ at her house after the walk. This year I made cake pops as dessert/favors. I followed Bakerella’s lead and they turned out great. I chose to purple candy melts to coat the pops because that’s the Alzheimer’s Association color. 

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The process is fairly simple but does take time. Believe me, the results are worth it! Check out Bakerella’s step-by-step instructions here. These are the directions I followed. I just used a different color of candy melts and used white sprinkles to decorate the pops – instead of an edible ink pen.

Here is the process in photos/captions…enjoy!

Ingredients/supplies needed: cake mix (may require oil and eggs), can of frosting, candy melts (1 pound bag), lolly pop sticks, styrofoam block. (Optional ingredients/supplies: sprinkles, cellophane bags, and ribbon)

1. Bake a cake using a mix. (I used a Devil’s Food flavor)

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  2. Let the cake cool completely before crumbling it into pieces. Once crumbled, add about 3/4 can of cake frosting (I used chocolate) to the cake and mix well.

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3. With the cake/frosting mix, create about 35-45 balls of cake and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

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4. Melt a small amount of candy in the microwave (for 30 seconds then stir and melt for additional time if needed).  Coat each lolly pop stick with a half inch of melted chocolate and place in cake ball.

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5. Place pops in freezer for 20-30 minutes, allowing them to set. Melt additional candy to coat the cake balls. Once you coat each cake ball, twirl and tap lightly to shake off additional chocolate. Top with sprinkles and set in styrofoam to harden.

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6. If you’re using the cake pops as favors, insert each one into a clear plastic bag and tie a ribbon to close it. Beautiful!

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I’m one of those people in the grocery store who will stand in front of a product for a good two or three minutes deciding if it should make it into my cart. I’m not like this with necessities (milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables) but one thing I always pick up and hold and read the label of (before putting it back on the shelf) is granola. I always want to buy it but then I think it’s too pricey or the ingredients aren’t that great or it has too many calories for a tiny serving.

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Well last week I was perusing Cooking Light’s website, I came across a recipe for Power Granola. Not only did the recipe seem pretty straightforward, I also had the majority of ingredients on hand. I love when that happens!

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The granola turned out really well and was extremely simple. It makes about five 1/2 cup servings and each serving is under 200 calories. The main tip I have for this recipe is the continue to toss/stir the granola every five minutes when it’s baking to ensure you don’t overcook it. At first it seemed a little too moist, even after cooking for the full-time, but I took it out of the oven anyway. I found that, once the granola dried out, it becomes crunchy. I portioned the granola out into five baggies so I could grab it all week to add to yogurt, eat as cereal with milk and put into pancakes.

That brings me to the second part of my post – Granola Pancakes. Back to impulse purchases that I mull over in the store, Fiber One pancake mix is one of these items. However, I did have a coupon so it made the decision time a bit shorter. The conversation in my head went something like: “Do I need this? Not really. But I have a coupon. Ok, fine.”  Anyway, the Fiber One pancake mix came home with me and one morning this week I came up with the idea to put granola in the pancakes to add a little crunch.

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When we’re on vacation in Maine, one of my mom’s favorite breakfasts is a “nutty waffle” at one of the local restaurants. It’s really just nuts mixed into waffle batter then made into a Belgian waffle. So, that’s probably where my idea sparked from. My pancakes were very flavorful and light. Three pancakes = 190 calories and 5 grams of fiber! (Add a 1/4 c. granola and your breakfast is still under 300 calories). The addition of granola added texture and a nice sweetness to the pancakes. I would recommend the Fiber One pancake mix. (You can get a free Fiber One sample and $5 in coupons on their website). 

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