Archive for Recipes/Food Stuff

Bacon Peanut Brittle

I have a new favorite sweet treat, courtesy of the Swift Half Pub at the Piazza in NoLibs. It’s sold as a bar snack, 3 pieces for $3 and it’s CRAZY GOOD. I’m so grateful I didn’t discover this treat while I was pregnant, it would’ve been ugly. Bacon Peanut Brittle. Excuse the poor photo quality, but I had to use my phone to capture the moment:The bacon was thick and smoky and there were large pieces dispersed throughout the treat. It wasn’t chock full of peanuts, there was lots of “brittle” – that caramel sugary crackle of sticky yummy molar-gumming goodness.

It struck just the right balance of salty, smoky & sweet – and I don’t usually care for smoke flavor. I don’t like smokehouse almonds, the smoked cheeses or fish. As a matter of fact my grandmother once said I wasn’t a “good Jew” because I don’t like lox. (Why take a perfectly lovely piece of salmon and torture it like that? What’s the matter with a nice poach or a lovely pan sear? Hell, give it to me raw with some rice and wasabi and I’m a happy camper.)

Bacon Peanut Brittle lives in my own personal nutritional no-man’s land. I even heard myself try to rationalize eating such a huge quantity of sugar with that old standard “but it has a good amount of protein in it” – peanuts AND bacon (as if those were great sources of protein – ha!). And peanuts have the “good fat”. It’s amazing the lies we can tell ourselves to justify poor choices.

Deep breath and let it go. I wanted it and I enjoyed it. It was one choice out of many that I made today, and my other choices were good. Kale and eggs for breakfast, a salad with grilled shrimp for lunch, a homemade dinner of brown rice pasta with fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. A plum, some cantaloupe, lots of water to drink…At least I know I ate the rainbow of fruits and vegetables I needed to get my nutrients. Obviously I’m still rationalizing. But it was delicious…and so worth it!

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Chocolate & PB Frozen ‘Nanas

I have a sweet tooth. I can walk away from potato chips without flinching, because salty snacks just don’t satisfy me the way sugar does… Creamy candied pleasure, luscious chocolate gooey-ness, and the pinnacle of my dessert desire –   birthday cake. I have great affection for that hyper-sweet yellow confection, thick with  buttercream icing…

But knowledge is both a blessing and a curse, and becoming a nutritionist has really ruined a lot of sweet treats for me.  Now I know that (at least commercially) my favorite frosting is made from cheap hydrogenated soybean oil. Hydrogenated oils are a deal-breaker. When I’m shopping, if I see High Fructose Corn Syrup on an ingredient list, that item goes back on the shelf. I’m watching my added sugar intake like my life depends on it (Because  it does, with the way diabetes runs in my family!) Add to this I don’t eat gluten or dairy and what’s a gal to do?

Check out this incredibly delicious and goof proof recipe!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Covered Frozen Bananas

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas
  • 1 cup dark chocolate-chips
  • 2   tablespoons organic peanut butter

Materials:

  • 9 wooden popsicle sticks
  • parchment paper
  1. Peel bananas and cut into three sections. Gently insert a popsicle stick into the center.
  2. Place on a parchment paper lined tray and place in the freezer while you melt your chocolate.
  3. Combine chocolate chips and peanut butter in a double boiler. I use a Pyrex mixing bowl over a pot of softly boiling water. If you must use a microwave, set it on medium (power 6-7) until melted. Stir with a spatula until smooth.
  4. Pour melted chocolate into a tall, narrow glass or container. Remove bananas from freezer. Dip, one by one, into the chocolate, letting it ooze up the sides of the glass and coat the banana.
  5. Place bananas on tray again and sprinkle with nuts, if desired. I think cashew pieces are ideal. For an extra hit of chocolate, go ahead and put more chips on top. Or mix them together…mmmm…yum!
  6. Freeze until solid.

To enjoy: remove from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for about five minutes.

The reason I like this so much (besides the fact that it hits all my pleasure centers – sweet, cold, & creamy) is the added protein from the peanut butter and nuts. In choosing a healthy treat, I look for a complex carb, a “good” fat and protein.  The banana is my complex carb, and the nuts act as both healthy fat (monounsaturated or MUFA) and protein source. I use chocolate that’s at least 65% cocoa, rich and dark and full of antioxidants.

Delicious!!!

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I Have a Crush on Adam Richman

Oh Adam! He’s a self-proclaimed food fanatic with a serious appetite for life always looking for the “ultimate food challenge”.  In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Adam Richman is the host of a TV show “Man V. Food” on the Travel Channel. The show is all about everything that is wrong with our pop food culture, and yet I’m completely charmed. Each episode is set in a different city, but follows the same basic format. Two or three stops at local faves that typify food of the region, then a short “inter-mezzo” skit or dream sequence leading into the final segment, which is a “food challenge” that falls into one of two categories: Hotter than Hell or Consume Mass Quantities.

Thanks to Adam, I now know what a ghost chili is, and that it’s 100x hotter than a jalapeno. I get a kick out of watching him cry and sweat and plead for milk. The fact that I love watching him suffer only proves how much I care. I like my food well seasoned, but never so spicy that all I taste is burning This man has scorched his taste buds for my viewing pleasure and manages to maintain his witty banter through his tears.

But it’s the sheer quantity of food that he can consume in a single sitting that is truly awe-inspiring and completely frightening. Food is measured by the pound and in comparison to the size of Adam’s head. My favorite episode by far has him sitting at Katz’s deli (been there, ate that) with his MOTHER eating a pound of pastrami. His mom asks him if he really need to eat all that, to which he replies “I have to Ma, it’s my job”. Her response? “Yeah…but is it healthy?” Ummm…last week he drank a 6 pound milkshake served in a two foot tall glass vase – he lost sight of healthy a long time ago.

And yet…I want him. He’s adorable! It’s because I like him just the way he is, and yet I want to completely change him. I want to be his side-kick on this pig-out mission and I want to be his nutritionist and save him from himself. But the obvious pleasure he takes in eating is…well…sexy. It’s the lust in his lust for life that turns me on. I know food is not entertainment, but watching Adam eat is my guilty pleasure…when he speaks of food being “softened by hot butter” I feel myself melt a little. Just love me half as much as you love bacon, and I’ll be satisfied.

Hey Adam! The next time you’re in Philly (the first time he did Reading Terminal, Franklin Fountain and a 5 pound cheese steak at Tony Luke’s) and you want a dining companion..call me, please?!

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Mushrooms – My Favorite Meat Alternative

I like to eat meat.

I just needed to make that clear. I’m not currently a vegetarian, although I have been in the past. A couple of years in Seattle, a few months here or there…but I always cave in to my carnivorous cravings. That purely carnal pleasure, the mouth-feel of meat…there’s no substitute for a great steak. Or bacon. Bacon is good. Bacon was my friend when many others were not. Bacon knows how to keep a secret.

As much as I love bacon (and many other fine pork products) I know that eating meat at every meal, every day is not OK. I don’t even need to eat meat once a day to feel my best. But it’s so versatile and delicious that I am constantly tempted by it.

I’m always looking for a healthier alternative that still satisfies. Sometimes beans work (I don’t miss the meat in a spicy bean chili during the winter & I have a couple of good “lentil loaf” recipes that are hearty comfort food) but I’m less thrilled with beans in the summer. I get bored. I want variety.

In the summer I turn to the Mighty Magical Mushroom {no, not that kind of magic – silly rabbit}

The texture of a grilled portobello is surprisingly beef-like…dare I say “fleshy”? And there are so many different types of mushrooms, exotic mushrooms with deep woodsy flavors. Mushrooms are my summer “go-to” when I know I shouldn’t eat one more burger, even if it’s turkey this time, instead of beef. Oh – I love animal protein!

So I was super excited when I stumbled upon this recipe for Veggie Burgers that are a combination of mushrooms, lentils & walnuts – YUMMY!! They even have spinach in them (I love the hidden green veggies) My only complaint is that they don’t hold up well to BBQ grilling. Broiling works ok, but honestly, they taste best pan fried.
3/4 cup dry lentils
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil or olive oil
1 cup onion, finely minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
10 large mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, very finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound fresh spinach, finely minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
fresh black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is gone.
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, add vinegar, and mash well. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onions and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and saute 5 to 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the saute to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about an hour before forming patties. Form 4-inch-diameter burgers. Fry in a small amount of hot oil on both sides until heated through and crispy on the outside, or broil for 5 to 8 minutes on each side.

FYI : You can saute the vegetables while the lentils cook. The burgers can be made up to several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until just before cooking. Uncooked burgers can be individually wrapped and frozen. Defrost before cooking.

I love all different kinds of veggie burgers. You can use so many different ingredient combinations, it’s hard to become bored with them. The only ones I don’t eat anymore are the frozen “fake meat” products (like Boca Burgers) that are made with soy isolates like SPI [soy protein isolate] or TVP [textured vegetable protein] SPI & TVP are called “soy isolates” because the soy protein has been isolated from the rest of the soybean. I’m not anti-soy, but I am anti-over processing that takes place in industrial factories.  First, a slurry of soy beans is mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution. Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP). Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray-drying, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is formed during alkaline processing.
Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong “beany” taste and to impart the flavor of meat.

I’d much rather eat veggie burgers made from, say…VEGETABLES, that taste like vegetables, than eat that fake crap. When I want to eat something that tastes like beef, I eat {gasp} BEEF. Real grass-fed, grass-finished, free-range pastured beef. “Beef..It’s Whats For Dinner…Every Once In A While”

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Grillin’ & Chillin’ (Portobello Mushroom Style)

I’ve decided that tomorrow’s the day – I’m going to give MJ real food! OK – so just rice cereal mixed with a little breast milk (organic brown rice cereal, of course!) But I’m just so excited for him. FOOD! Glorious food on Independence Day. And what delightful things will I be eating? We went to the farmer’s market today, so I have fresh raspberries and blueberries – they are ridiculously sweet. I also purchased kale, bok choy, a lemon cucumber (tastes like a cucumber but is a summery yellow color inside and out), a sweet green pepper and “dragon tongue” beans (something new to me). I’m also going to make potato salad (my rustic “German-style”recipe from a previous blog post) For the main course I think I might try an alternative to meat on the grill and go with Portobello Mushroom Caps – they grill up juicy and instead of eating them on a bun, I can slice them up and use them as a salad topper. (the average hamburger bun has 150 calories, and the gluten-free varieties have even more. I’m not wasting 250 calories on a bun!)

Ingredients:
4 large Portobello mushroom caps
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the mushroom caps, smooth side up, in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over the mushrooms. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or so, turning twice.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat. Brush grate with oil. Place mushrooms on the grill, reserving marinade for basting. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until tender. Brush with marinade frequently.

The same marinade works well for baby bellos, which I like to grill on skewers (with some onions – yummy!) and I just put the mushrooms and the marinade in a plastic ziplock bag and let them sit til I’m ready to skewer and grill. Remember to pre-soak bamboo skewers. I actually use (and re-use) thicker metal skewers for grilling. They were more expensive than the wooden ones, but they’re not disposable, and they’re really sturdy – so they hold more weight. And I never worry about them breaking or burning!

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I love BBQ & the Y

Just back from my Pilates class and feeling good! I’ve been trying lots of different classes at the Y, to see what I like and what works best in my schedule. Last Monday I worked out in the gym; Tuesday I took a “BodyStep” class – a crazy hour-long step class that only proved something I already knew – choreography is not my friend! Wednesday I took a deep-water aerobics class (love the pool – I do feel graceful under water. Not under pressure, but at least under water) . I took Thursday & Friday off, because my baby boy came down with his first cold (which I have a sneaking suspicion he got from being around so many other kids at the Y child care center. Oh the mommy guilt!) Saturday I went back to the Y for another aquatic class called “T-n-T” (Tummy & Thighs). meh. Not as good of a workout as the deep-water aerobics…

And eating? Well, I’m still gluten and dairy free. One whole month! I’m starting to get a little bored with my own cooking, so I think I’m going to make more of an effort to step out of my comfort zone. I’m teaching a class about healthy summer eating and I’m trying to find good BBQ/cook-out recipes that are so delicious no-one will realize they’re good for you too!

I’m working on a hamburger (that won’t fall apart on the grill) that is 1/2 beef & 1/2 bean – using less meat = less saturated fat and calories; but I still want some meat in there for flavor. I’m having texture issues with it. I think maybe I need to try lentils instead of black beans, and I’d love to slide some chopped spinach in there, too. Every BBQ needs more green veggies! I have my healthy “Rustic German-Style Potato Salad” and my gluten-free “Vegan Black Bean Brownies” (maybe it’s good I don’t stick black beans in the burger too). I buy organic turkey dogs from Whole Foods (made by Applegate Farms and only 50 calories each – very tasty!) A fresh green salad (dressed with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar – no oil, light and flavorful), fresh fruit (grilled watermelon with fresh rosemary – a treat my friend Marnie turned me onto last summer. Grilling the watermelon concentrates the flavor and gives it a firmer texture – amazing!)

OK, I’m making myself hungry and I obviously need to get into the kitchen. and do some prep work. Who’s coming over for dinner?

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Guilt-Free Potato Salad

For me, potato salad is quintessential summer BBQ food. Cold, creamy carb-y goodness. I don’t usually care for mayo (and a mayonnaise based dish sitting outside in the sun is not ok from a food safety perspective) but I make an exception for potato salad. Well, let’s just say I USED to make an exception for potato salad…but now I’ve seen the light and come up with a healthier alternative. (A cup of mayo has more than 750 calories, with about 700 of them coming from fat!)

I call this a Rustic “German-Style” Potato Salad because it uses mustard instead mayo and it has sauerkraut in it (and rustic because I leave the skins on the potatoes). I didn’t write down the exact amounts of what I used, so we’ll have to wing it…

Ingredients:

red-skinned potatoes

veggie stock

mustard (smooth texture, NOT stone ground)

sauerkraut

garlic scape pesto (optional — see my earlier blog entry)

I cut up the raw potatoes into home fry sized cubes and baked them in the veggie stock in a 350 degree oven until soft. I didn’t bother to let them cool down, I just went ahead and added the other ingredients. Mix in enough mustard to lightly coat all the pieces. Then add in about a cup of sauerkraut. This adds so much texture and flavor. PLUS, since it’s a fermented vegetable it naturally has probiotics, which help us digest meat. {Traditional food cultures always pair a hard-to-digest animal protein with a fermented food. German brats & sauerkraut, Middle Eastern lamb & yogurt, Korean beef & kim chi, Japanese sushi & pickled ginger, etc}

Ok, after the potatoes, mustard & sauerkraut are mixed in, it’s time to add the scape pesto. This pesto has a very strong garlic flavor and a little goes a long way. You can omit it entirely, and just season with salt & pepper. Because the pesto has avocado in it, it does add creaminess; to get that same  creamy feeling, separate a small portion of the potato salad and put it in the food processor. Blend until very smooth and then fold back into the rest of the salad. {That “separating, then blending a small amount, then putting it back in” is a great trick for making dairy-free “cream” soups. Know what has a very mild flavor and “creams up” like a champ? Slightly over-cooked cauliflower. Blend it with a little tahini and put it on a baked sweet potato – HEAVEN!} But I digress…

So – that’s my very simple, very delicious potato salad recipe. Without the mayo, it’s vegan and less than 1/2 the calories of regular potato salad. It’s tangy (mustard & sauerkraut) and goes great with burgers & dogs. And for dessert – black bean brownies! hahahaha

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