Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It is Nacho Time!

Just in time for the Sweet 16! We ate these nachos watching the games last weekend. They were really good and the best part is that I didn't feel "bad" after eating them. No greasy bar food for us! My husband enjoyed them with a Goose Island 312 (his fav Chicago beer) and I of course had water. Bailey had seconds so you know they were tasty!

I love the contrast of flavors, colors and textures here and the fact that these nachos were put together in roughly 10 minutes. Who doesn't have 10 minutes to make a healthy dinner or snack?

Game Day Veggie Nachos

Tortilla chips of your choosing, I used Guiltless Gourmet Black Bean
1 can of black beans, drained rinsed and microwaved for about 2 minutes
1 can of whole kernel corn, micro'd from about 2 minutes
1 avocado, chopped
1 head of romaine hearts chopped (or lettuce of choice)
1 lime cut in 8ths for squeezing on top and garnish
handful of cilantro, chopped for garnish

Pico de Gallo
2 tomatos, diced
1/2 small white onion
1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste
handful of cilantro, chopped

Cheese Sauce
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP flour (I used whole wheat)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar

1. Chop and get all ingredients ready. I serve them in bowls so everyone can make their own
2. For the pico--prep each ingredient as stated above and simply mix together in a bowl. This can be done ahead of time to let the flavors meld, but is also good straight away.
You could take help from the store and purchase pico for this.
3. To make the cheese sauce--Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and cayenne (leave out the cayenne if you want this sauce mild). After mixed well add in the milk all at once and keep stirring until thick and bubbly. Cook for one minute after mixed. Add in the cheese and stir until melted thoroughly. Cheese sauce will start to thicken as it cools so make right before serving. If it seems to thick, put back on the stove and slowly add small amounts of milk until desired consistency. You can definitely use a pre-made cheese sauce from the market but this is a healthier alternative.
4. Get ready to layer them up! I did chips, cheese sauce, black beans, corn, lettuce, avocado, pico and then I garnished with some left over cilantro and lime. Squeeze the lime over the top for some great citrus flavor!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I have been trying to find a way to make one of my favorite dishes healthier. I knew I needed to remove the breading and the frying for sure. I also wanted to make this a quick dish for dinner during the week so I took some advantages from the store.

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant sliced into rounds and then quartered
1 box of whole wheat rigatoni, cooked and drained
1 cup of shredded organic mozzarella
2 TBSP of olive oil
1 jar of store bought marinara
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 leaves of basil

  1. Place 2 TBSP of olive oil in a skillet. Heat and add in the eggplant. Turn eggplant quickly to lightly coat with olive oil. Eggplant acts like a sponge and soaks up the olive oil and gets mushy if you let it sit so make sure all pieces get coated as soon as they go in the pan.
    Cook until translucent and lightly browned.
  2. In a blender mix all of the ingredients for the sauce until garlic and basil are thoroughly mixed in.
  3. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Mix one ladle full of the sauce into the pasta to keep it moist. Place the pasta on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Layer with the eggplant and then the sauce.
  5. Top the dish with the shredded cheese.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes--making sure cheese is golden and bubbly.

Use cooked lasagna noodles. Cut the eggplant lengthwise to fit the noodles and layer the dish as follows: noodles, eggplant, sauce, noodles, eggplant, sauce, cheese. Same baking time. Enjoy!

Easy Entertaining with Caprese Salad Crostini

Need something fast to put together for company? Try this! It looks gourmet and takes a few minutes to toss together. My husband loves caprese salad and I am not a big fan. It is a texture thing--soft cheese, soft tomato--I need some crunch. Serving it on a crostini gives the texture and transforms it into finger food for your next party. Make sure to make these right before serving since the tomato is sitting right on the bread.

Caprese "Salad" Crostini

Ingredients (makes six crostinis)
1 red vine ripe tomato, sliced
1 fresh mozzarella ball, sliced length wise
6 basil leaves, ribbon sliced
6 small ciabatta slices
olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper

  1. Brush both sides of the ciabatta bread with olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper. Rub the garlic clove over each slice. Photobucket Grill in frying pan until toasted on each side. (as if you were making grilled cheese) Photobucket
  2. Prepare your toppings so that assembly is quick and easy when you are ready. Photobucket
  3. Top in this order--crostini, tomato slice, mozzarella slice, salt and pepper to taste preference, basil ribbons and a drizzle of olive oil. Photobucket

Saturday, March 21, 2009

PRODUCT RAVE--Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme


YUM! If you remember marshmallow fluff from your childhood, you will love this as much as my family does. It is vegan and gluten free made from brown rice syrup. I could eat this on everything! My husbands favorite way to eat it is a peanut butter fluff sandwich. I have been enjoying it as a topping for fruit. It was delicious on those Vegan Banana Muffins I posted yesterday!

I found it at my local South Loop Whole Foods in the Baking section--with the pie crusts and regular marshmallows. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

mmm...smell the banana goodness

I am not a baker. I do not have a ton of patience for measuring. I love muffins though and wanted a version that was not as big as my head--like store bought. I am also dabbling a little bit into the vegan world with this one. I took several vegan muffin recipes and tweaked them until I came up with this version. Not too sweet, lots of whole grain and tons of banana taste.

I am serving these with some fresh fruit and my favorite vegan topping--Suzanne's Ricemellow creme. Man this stuff is delish! Tastes just like marshmallow fluff but it is made with brown rice syrup.

Vegan Banana Muffins
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar (could definitely use organic cane juice sugar)
3 TBPS applesauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon (liberal)
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas

  1. Fork mash the bananas and set aside. Photobucket
  2. Put all other ingredients in mixing bowl and mix by hand or hand mixer until blended. Batter will be thick. Photobucket
  3. Carefully fold in bananas to retain pieces in the muffin. The batter will be lumpy.
  4. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with vegetable cooking spray. Evenly distribute batter--I use an icecream scoop to make sure all are the same size.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Edges should have some golden brown to them and a toothpick should come out pretty clean.
Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tonight's Dinner Artichoke Asparagus Pasta

The inspiration for this recipe was a delicious cold asparagus salad from one of my favorite deli counters. I decided to make it warm as a main dish and add in artichoke hearts and tofu to make it more of a meal.

Hope you enjoy! My family all had clean plates tonight. Bailey even said he liked the asparagus and the artichokes so that is a big kid win for me! A special thanks to the clerk at Whole Foods today. My pregnancy brain got the best of me and I could not find the canned artichokes. :-)

Artichoke Asparagus Pasta


1/2 package extra firm tofu, diced
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 can of artichoke hearts in water, chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 12 oz. package of whole wheat pasta of your choice, cooked and drained
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
basil for garnish

  1. Heat skillet and go once around the pan with olive oil. Add in tofu, asparagus, artichoke hearts and garlic. Saute for about 5-7 minutes--until asparagus is cooked to desired firmness. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. To drained pasta--I used mostacolli because I had it on hand--add the butter and parmesan and toss to coat.
  3. Toss the veggie mixture with the pasta mixture and top with basil ribbons and additional parmesan cheese.

My all time favorite salad--Cranberry Pecan Salad on Baby Greens

This salad is one of my favorites so I thought it was fitting for it to start this blog off right. I was so excited to find blue cheese with pasteurized milk at Whole Foods--a requirement for pregnancy. I have had variations of this salad in many restaurants but I have tweaked it to include all my favorites. It has a great mix of salty and sweet. The best thing about this salad is that it makes me feel like I am having lunch "out" at a restaurant while saving money and time at home.

This salad is traditionally served with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette when I have had it. I love the taste of pecans and the unexpected delicious flavor the blueberry vinaigrette adds. You could definitely go traditional on this one and have a great alternative.

Cranberry Pecan Salad on Baby Greens
2 large handfuls of baby greens
1/2 of a fresh pear--peeled, cored and diced
2 TBSP dried cranberries
2 TBSP crumbled blue cheese
2 TBSP chopped pecans
2 TBSP Blueberry Vinaigrette dressing

  1. Lay out baby greens on your serving dish. I like bite size pieces so I tear them to make them smaller.
  2. Layer the greens with the pear, blue cheese, dried cranberries and pecans. I like this order to make sure the salty flavor of the blue cheese mixes into the pear and cranberries.
  3. Top with Blueberry Vinaigrette dressing. I use the 365 Brand from Whole Foods. It is organic and only 45 calories per serving! You can't beat that.

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