Basil Walnut Pesto

Pesto  in its traditional form is made with pine nuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Costs for pine nuts have really increased dramatically over the years, so I just make mine with walnuts instead.  I actually think pesto tastes just as good, if not better, with walnuts, as opposed to pine nuts anyways, and some would argue walnuts are healthier  being so high on the antioxidant index.   Pesto with walnuts its also a very economical way to add some bold flavor on any budget.   The flavor is rich but filled with good fats from the olive oil and the walnuts.  It freezes well, defrosts quickly and is so versatile it can be used in sauces, on pizza and pastas, and as a big dollop of flavor on meat, seafood, poultry and veggies.   I usually will make a big recipe and then freeze in several small serving containers.  The recipe included below is a fairly generic version of the recipe.  You can blend the ingredients into a paste in a food processor, or in my case I use a high speed blender.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of packed fresh  basil leaves (found in the produce section by the fresh herbs)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 2 cloves of minced or crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (opt)

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leave, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor or blender
  2. Blend until thoroughly combined
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and blend 10 to 15 seconds or more
  4. Serve and enjoy, or store in freezer until ready to use

Nutrtion facts

Servings per container: 6

Calories: 213 calories per serving

Calories from fat (good fat): 188 per serving

Total carbs: 2.7

Total sugars: 1.1 g

Protein: 5.6

Total Fats: 20.9 g

 

 



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” A Healthier” Spaghetti Carbonara

 

 

I know, I know, there is no such thing as a truly “Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara”. And I answer with a  “Yes” and “No”.  Hear me out with this little story I tell below about how I came up with this recipe a couple of weeks ago.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago to a major “Spaghetti Carbonara” craving, which is really weird because this is a dish I think I have only had a couple of times in my whole life.    Now I am going to be honest, I had been drinking alcohol with some old friends the night before… and you know what that leads to: Waking up the next morning craving food that is full of bad fats and starchy carbohydrates!  Hence the only explanation for my very unusual  “Spaghetti Carbonara” craving.  So here I was stuck  with this insatiable craving and knowing I had  never even made this dish before.  So I did what any self respecting girl with a healthy food blog wanting to create a plate full of “bad”  would do:  Went online and did a google search for a recipe, hoping there would be something healthy amongst the bunch.  No such luck.  There it was, as I expected, a bunch of recipes that were not remotely healthy. Albeit there were LOTS of recipes filled with some very delicious sounding  starchy carbohydrates and fat creations with not an ounce of nutrition.  What I ended up making was  a “happy middle”…Something kind of in between the “delicious tasting yet starchy carbohydrate/ bad fat hell” recipe, and then the something “I will not be mortified to post on my blog” recipe.

 

In ending I will say : this is a MUCH  healthier version than the original, I got my “fix”, and it passed my boyfriend’s picky “I don’t care if its not healthy”  palate (he’s also  Italian).

Serves 2: Can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces organic uncured bacon (pork works best, but you can use turkey)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 12 ounces of Whole Wheat or Multi Grain Pasta cooked el dente (I would not at this time recommend any of the qunioa pasta with this because it would come out too mushy.)
  • 1 large organic free range egg, beaten and seasoned with salt
  • salt
  • 6 ounces shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or similar hard cheese
  • 6 to 8 ounces  fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon of organic butter or extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • In large saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, and drain on paper towels (or you can cook in microwave for quicker results)
  • In pan large enough to hold pasta, heat oil or melt butter, and add garlic and saute for 30 seconds
  • Add pasta and bacon, season with black pepper saute for 30 seconds
  • Remove from heat and add eggs, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken but do not scramble
  • Add the spinach and stir in until wilted
  • Add the cheese and re season with salt and pepper
  • Mound the pasta onto a plate and serve

I have only made this recipe twice now.  If you make this dish and have any suggestions on how to improve, or alternative ingredients one could use, please submit them,  and I will post in the comments section.  Thanks!



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Healthy Sante Fe Style Sweet Potato, Veggie and Chile Frittata

 

 


A frittata can be an incredibly healthy egg dish made mainly on the stove.  For starters I love eggs so much its kind of a joke with my friends and family.  I can come up with almost any excuse to eat eggs at almost any meal.  Cooking a frittata is much easier than an omelet, and can be used as a  vehicle for almost any kind of veggie, cheese, protein, herb or spice you happen to have around. Frittatas  are traditionally served in pie shaped wedges, kind of like a deep dish pizza, and are easily transportable – in Italy it’s common to take a wedge to work for lunch. I love their versatility, the endless number of ingredient combinations and the fact that a frittata  can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack.  Since its just my boyfriend and I here, I usually make one big deep dish style frittata, in an oven proof non stick pan. (usually a 12 inch  pan) I layer my favorite  ingredients of the day (usually with a lot of sauteed greens), aromatics/ herbs, and  spices and then pour the eggs on over them all and let it set. This size dish can provide several  meals and stores well covered in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days.

I almost always make my frittatas as flavorful and nutritious as possible, which is really easy to do by cranking up the veggie content, the aromatics, and by using less egg yolks and more whites if you choose.  This particular frittata’s flavor combination reflects my love of southwestern food.

The recipe, ingredients and directions below are exactly how I cooked my breakfast today.  I usually make all my frittatas with more  egg whites than whole egg .  I did include the directions for this recipe for the “regular” version of this dish, which is still extremely healthy on its own.  As a rule of thumb, I almost always add as many different veggies and ingredients as possible, for a more nutritionally dense and balanced meal.  I love potatoes for breakfast but but don’t eat them very often since they are a starchy carbohydrate with not much nutritional value, but sweet potatoes are a much more nutritionally complex version of their not so healthy cousin and play well off of the southwestern flavors in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled  and cut into 1/2 to 1/4 inch cubes
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion chopped
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper (I prefer yellow) chopped
  • 2  fresh serrano or 1 Anaheim chile, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, cored , seeded, and minced (Optional)
  • one small can (aprox 4 ounces) of diced roasted green chile peppers
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped or sliced white mushrooms (Optional)
  • 1 cups of yellow or green zucchini chopped (Optional)
  • 1 small any color tomato seeded and chopped ( Optional)
  • 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar,  pepper jack , Monterey jack  (optional: 1  cup of shredded cheese for much more flavor, yet more calories and fat)
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice or if desperate bottle lime juice
  • 5 whole eggs plus 5 additional  egg whites ( optional higher calorie version use 8 whole eggs)
  •  Optional adds:  8 to 12  ounces chopped organic spicy lean sausage
  • Optional serving suggestions: a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, healthy guacamole, or cilantro stems for garnish

Directions:

  • Adjust top oven rack – with a skillet (ovenproof!) on it, you want the top of the skillet to be 4-6 inches from the broiler. Turn on broiler
  • Cooked the diced sweet potato in salted boiling water for 3 minutes then drain them, or just nuke them in the microwave whole until tender and then dice them. (I’ll admit I totally did the fast “cheater” way in the the microwave.  Its much easier)
  • In a large, aprox 12 inch, non stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, and saute over medium heat the chopped onion, chopped peppers, diced fresh and canned chiles, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes until soft and onions are light brown. Then add the fresh minced garlic and chopped fresh Jalapenos, stir and set aside onto plate.
  • While chiles and onions are cooking take eggs and whites (or just whole eggs), crack them in a big bowl and whisk together until well mixed.  Set aside and return attention to stove.
  • Return non stick skillet to heat and add 1 more tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil until hot.  Add optional  chopped mushrooms and zucchini until barely soft and set aside on plate with chiles and onion
  •  Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil  to skillet over medium heat and add the sweet potatoes, stirring frequently and cook until the edges begin to turn light brown (7 to 10 minutes).

  • Then add plate to the now slightly browned potatoes the set aside plate of  cooked chiles, onions, and veggies back to skillet along with fresh chopped tomato, and optional chopped sausage, cooking until all is warmed through.
  • Stir in cilantro, lime juice,  salt  and pepper to taste. (about 2 teaspoons each of salt and pepper)
  • Add 1/2 of the cheese mixture to the eggs before pouring  egg/cheese mixture over the cooked veggies in the skillet until its evenly distributed throughout.
  • Continuing at medium heat, cook eggs for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom with heat-resistant spatula. When eggs are mostly cooked but still very wet, stop stirring. You want to see cooked egg scattered throughout, but loose egg in between.
  • Continue cooking on stove for another minute so underside sets.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Put skillet under broiler. Watch carefully while top browns. This will take 2-4 minutes
  • Remove skillet from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes to finish cooking in center.
  • Cut in wedges and serve either directly from skillet
  •  Optional:  for a prettier family style service style, place a plate on top of the skillet about 15 minutes after egg has time to cool down, and flip the skillet and the plate over at the same time, so egg  holds it shape when you remove the skillet to serve at the dinner table.  Similar to how you would flip and serve an upside down cake.
  •  For serving suggestions,top each wedge sized serving with sliced avocado, guacamole, salsa, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and or cilantro sprigs.

Each large wedged size serving contains aprox 350 calories each,  is nutritionally dense and packed with about 12  grams of protein, lots of healthy carbohydrates and healthy fat.

 

 

 


 



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“Test Kitchen”: Low fat Spicy Tomato Arugula Angel Hair Pasta

 

This is my first in what I will call my “Test Kitchen” Series.  I’ll be trying out recently published recipes from blogs or magazines and following them exactly as they are printed.  Then I’ll post my notes and give it a “will try again” or “will not try again”.

I found this recipe on the Facebook scroll of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s blog last week.  A  link to the recipe here.   It sounded really good, healthy, loaded with veggies, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  And while the recipe was easy and it stored well, I really doubt I’ll make it again.  It tasted like any random pasta with tomato sauce made of canned tomatoes, and I never normally use canned tomatoes, and now I know why.  I don’t like the taste of canned tomatoes unless they are used in a  large pasta  sauce recipe and then simmered for several hours with a lot of other ingredients, herbs and spices.

I initially tried this dish with a new kind of quinoa angel hair pasta which after making it, I realized, it wasn’t very good.  I have another brand of quinoa pasta I use and like, but for whatever reason, this particular brand, or maybe just quinoa angel hair pasta, was not good this evening.  So I used my back up multi grain whole wheat pasta which I know to be good

Spicy Tomato-Arugula Angel Hair Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 yellow tomatoes, diced
  • 3 red tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 lb of dried angel hair pasta (I used multi grain pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 shallots chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of chopped arugula
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  •  Anaheim chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Place the yellow tomatoes and red tomatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with the sea salt and let sit for 40 minutes
  • Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes.  Strain and rinse.  Set aside
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallots and saute until the shallots are softened.  3 to 4 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 5 minutes
  • Toss the sauce with the pasta, the salted tomatoes, the arugula,pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes and chiles and heat until warmed through.  Season with salt and sprinkle with the Parmesan.  Serve immediately.

My notes if making this again: Use a lot more arugula or spinach, omit canned tomatoes, used more fresh tomatoes, use some chopped up yellow and orange bell peppers sauteed with the garlic and the shallots, use more herbs and spices, angel hair pasta does not taste good made with quinoa.

My conclusions: I have so many other tomato pasta sauce recipes I like that I would probably not make this again.

 

 



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“Kick up the Heat” Healthy Crunch Garbanzo Bean Snack

 

This is a spicy crunch healthy snack, made with everyday ingredients, easy to make and great to have on hand.  I love these and actually make them even spicier than the recipe allows.  Also this a recipe, where the added ingredients, can be played around with by your own taste.  Feel free to double or even triple this recipe if your having a large number of guests over for football, appetizers or whenever.  It seems like something I’d have in a bowl at a bar top in a nice restaurant.

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/8 cup of shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  4. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon or more of dried Italian herb mixture
  5. Cayenne or dried chili powder to taste
  6. Fresh ground seas salt and black pepper
  7. 1 can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and pat dry
  • Directions

1.  Preheat oven to about 415 , oil a cookie sheet

2.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, cheese, chili/cayenne pepper, salt , pepper, Italian herbs.

3.  Add the garbanzo beans to the spice and cheese mixture until evenly coated

4.  Spread bean on the baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes to and hour and 15 minutes, checking and stirring      every 10 or 25 minutes or so.  Remove when the beans are to your “crunchy” likeness.

5.  Serve in appetizer bowl is serving for guests for a snack, or just on your own.

 

Serves 3

Aproximate Calories: 150 per serving, 5 grams of fat

Variations: leave out the cheese for a vegetarian dish

 

 



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White Bean Kale Soup 2 Ways: Vegetarian or with Pancetta/Sausage

 

 

I got the idea for this recipe from the website “A Cozy Kitchen”, that posted some gorgeous succulent photos of this dish on their Facebook page.  They featured it “French Onion Style”, with croutons and melted cheese over it.  Neither my boyfriend nor I are gluten sensitive (yes, we were both tested), but for some reason I’ve never been into bread in my soup.  “A Cozy Kitchen’s” version was a knock off of  a recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter”, which I hadn’t really even thought of buying after seeing numerous articles circulating, making fun of some of the really unintentionally funny comments she had made in her book.  The basic premise of the recipe itself was pretty straightforward and simple, but after having made it, and then tooling around with it, there were some definite changes on my part.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 fennel bulbs (I love fennel so I use 2) stems and fronds removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • Generous  shake of red chile flakes (I like spice so I went with lots)
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano (Gwyneth’s recipe calls for this amount, but I say use generous serving of mixed Italian dried seasonings)
  • (2) 15 ounce cans cannellini beans rinsed and drained (use canned to save time)
  • 2 pints of non fat chicken or vegetable stock (I used more because I love lots of broth)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Optional:

  • 1/3 cup pancetta or organic spicy sausage, chopped added in at same time as the garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots added in about halfway through the onion/ fennel cooking process

Directions:

  1. Heat Olive Oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add the fennel and onion and saute for about 15 minutes until the moisture and sugar sweats out and is slightly caramelized.
  2. Optional: Add in chopped carrots at about 7 minutes in if you choose to use them… I like the color they add.
  3. Also Optional: When the fennel and onions are almost done cooking add in the chopped pancetta or sausage and stir until cooked
  4. Add the chile flakes, dried Italian herb mix, and pepper and cook for a minute or two
  5. Add the rinsed beans and stock, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer, add salt to taste.
  6. My recipe adjustment, after adding the beans and broth and allowing to boil then simmer, I added in the chopped head of kale around 25 minutes and allowed the kale to cook for it seemed like at least 10 minutes, but the desired result is really up to the chef.  More cooking, less crunchy kale.  I suggest tasting the kale’s crunchiness,  while its cooking until its to your desired liking.  Its a tough little plant so don’t be fearful you’ll accidentally over cook it really quickly, that takes a long time.  It also holds up surprisingly well stored as left overs in the fridge overnight or even for a couple days without getting soggy.  Like I said, it’s a tough little plant!
  7. Dish up and serve warm, sprinklingwith shredded Parmesan cheese.  The cheese really rounds out the flavor profile.

 


*Note: Originally, the recipe called for cooking it for an hour, but I was afraid the beans would be too mushy, as that they were already from a can.  Additionally it said to stir in the kale leaves at the end and let cook for 2 -3 minutes, but if you’re like me, I don’t like really crunchy kale in my soup, I prefer it more “al dente”.

*Additional Notes: Another suggestion, if you really want to make this a hearty soup, is to add in some cooked sausage or organic chorizo towards the end.  I had this both ways, vegetarian style (which was delish and super low fat) and with some added animal protein.  I really did prefer it with the chopped pancetta cooked in with the fennel and onion and with some added spicy sausage at the end.  Whichever you like is up to you.  Both are super healthy, and as long as you choose lower fat organic sausage, the meat version is low in fat and healthy as well.

“Manly eating” meat-eater guys even love this!  My boyfriend scarfed down a huge bowl of it day 2 in the fridge and said “This still tastes awesome”



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Fresh Heirloom Tomato “Carpaccio”

I love Heirloom tomatoes.  Whenever I see them coming back into the Farmer’s markets, I get really excited.  Today I’ll introduce a really easy “Tomato Carpaccio”.

This is  a fun, simple little snack that also has an air of sophistication to it.  It can be whipped up in just minutes. It tastes great, is low in calories, and packs a big punch in nutrition.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 yellow to yellow orange fresh Heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 chopped finely red onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Optional  1/4 organic goat cheese or feta
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Organic  Olive Oil oil for drizzling
  • Optional reduced  balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Cut the tomatoes thin with a sharp knife or mandolin and lay out on serving plate
  2. Begin by evenly distributing the red onions over the tops of the tomatoes, followed by the fresh chopped basil.
  3. Sprinkle on the goat or feta cheese crumbles and toasted pine nuts, then drizzle with just a small amount of olive oil.  You can serve like this, or serve with the balsamic reduction.
  4. For the optional balsamic reduction, which I really do recommend. Take 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, and heat it over the stove in a small saucepan and let it cook down to about 1/2 of that, or aprox 1/4 cup.  Then drizzle the reduced balsamic over the entire plate and then serve.



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Quinoa Pasta with Spinach, Rainbow Swiss Chard, and Tomatoes


Quinoa pasta is made with a combination of quinoa, a grain from the “Incan time” which is rich in protein, and corn flour instead of wheat. The pay off is that its gluten free, and in my opinion tastes just as good as regular pasta.

In this particular dish, I cranked up the nutrition and flavor with lots of veggies and fresh herbs I picked up at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend and then tossed the pasta together while it’s warm, saturating the pasta with all the yummy flavors. The result is a fun pasta dish with major flavor; a gorgeous, colorful appearance with nice texture, high flavor, and high nutrition. I make this sometimes in large batches ahead of time and keep in the fridge since it reheats well, and is a nice make-ahead, healthy snack to have on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 ounce package gluten free quinoa spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 12 ounce containers of yellow, red or multicolor cherry tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed
  • 1/4 cup diced red onions
  • 1 8 to 12 ounce package of baby spinach
  • 3 – 4 cups (approx) of Rainbow Swiss Chard, ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped or dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped or dried thyme
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh or dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Addtional: 6 tablespoons of finely grated or shredded Parmesan
  • Optional: 2 pieces of low fat organic uncured turkey bacon, chopped

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite , stirring occasionally to make sure pasta does not stick together during the cooking process.
  2. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta liquid.
  3. Heat oven to 425 degrees
  4. Mix the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with a dash of olive oil, and a pinch of the herbs
  5. Oil cookie sheet with olive oil and spread tomatoes out evenly over the pan
  6. Place in oven and set timer for 12 to 15 minutes; cook until the tomatoes have just softened, and remove
  7. In a large heavy skillet heat oil over medium heat, add the red onions, garlic and some fresh salt and pepper. If you’re using the turkey bacon you can add this now too.
  8. After a minute or two add pinch each of the each of the herbs. Continue to stir and infuse all the flavors together for about 30 seconds.
  9. Add the 1/4 cup pasta liquid and stir, scraping up browned bits
  10. Add about 1/2 cup of the roasted tomatoes (leave the rest for later), and the Spinach and Swiss Chard in small batches until just barely wilted and warmed
  11. Add in 2 tbsps of the cheese and the remainder of the herbs, and crushed red pepper
  12. Turn the heat off or down to warm
  13. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with tongs quickly until the spinach, the Swiss Chard and all the prior ingredients are evenly mixed through
  14. Transfer to larger family style serving bowl or dish and add tomatoes to the top of the final dish
  15. Sprinkle with the remaining part of the cheese and serve family style; along with additional cheese

Serving Info: Serves 4, 375 Calories per serving, 13 grams of “good fat, and 7 grams of fiber

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