Saturday, April 30, 2011

Restraining the Ninja

Well, in an attempt to go Ninja on my flab, I have embarked on a new, challenging, and controversial endeavor. The hCG diet. It's a protocol utilizing homeopathic hCG drops and following a very strict regimen of 500 calories a day for 21 days. Of course, you can't consume 500 calories worth of pasta and cream sauce, either. So, for the next few weeks, I am attempting to make lemonade out of this lemon by creatively using herbs and spices along with unique combination of foods from the very short list of approved foods. No fats or oils are allowed, nor are any starches. So this is a challenge for someone with EVOO coursing through her veins and pasta always on the brain.

If you know me at all, you know I will quickly bore of an apple and boneless skinless chicken breast for dinner. Actually if you know me at all, you'll realize I would never make myself eat a boneless skinless chicken matter how fat I am! So in an effort to keep things tasty, satisfying, and interesting... here we go!

Ground Turkey with Curry and Curly Mustard Greens
The pungent flavors of the curry and greens help satisfy your taste buds without using oil or fatty sauces. Plus the nutritional value of this, thanks to the greens, is through the roof! Another bonus-utilizing spices like cinnamon and cayenne boost your metabolism naturally.

1 pound extra lean all natural ground turkey
1 small diced white onion
1 lime
curry powder
cayenne pepper
sea or kosher salt and pepper
1 cup organic low sodium chicken stock
3 cups organic curly mustard greens (take a minute to chop them a bit smaller than they come, rinse, and wring out with your hands)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add turkey and onions. Break up the turkey and keep mixing, to avoid any scorching. There is little to no fat in the turkey and you are not adding any to the pan, so you have to keep it moving. Season with salt, pepper, 2-3 tablespoons of curry power, a dash of cinnamon and cayenne. Mix. Slowly add the chicken stock and then the greens. Mix until the greens wilt down, then top with juice of half a lime. Mix, cover, reduce to medium heat, and allow to simmer for a few minutes- turkey should be fully cooked and greens wilted and soften a bit. Serve hot with a lime wedge.

A great side to this is a cucumber salad. Peel and slice cucumber. Add thinly sliced onion. Allow to marinate in red wine vinegar, salt and pepper (add dill if you like) for 10-15 minutes in the fridge before serving.
If you are not limiting carbs, whole wheat couscous would be a wonderful addition to the meal.

*Well wishers are welcome, but don't comment negatively on my choice of diet plan. I really don't need it. Thank you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Current Obsession

Once in a while I come up with a recipe that I love so much, I'll eat it every day for weeks. I recently threw together a salad that has become my obsession this month. It is ridiculously simple, yet astoundingly delicious. It's not your ordinary iceberg lettuce salad with ranch dressing, and makes a wonderful side dish with a beautifully grilled rib eye steak. It's easy to make a large quantity to serve at dinner parties, and has an elegance about it.

Baby Arugula with Spicy Cappacola and Lemon Vinaigrette 

What you need:
  • 1 bag of pre-washed organic baby arugula
  • spicy cappacola ham
  • freshly shaved imported parmigiano reggiano cheese (blue or Gorgonzola cheese crumbles can substitute)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • dried thyme
  • handful of sweet grape tomatoes, halved

Place arugula in large bowl.  Roll up several slices of cappacola and slice into strips. Add ham, halved tomatoes, and cheese to the greens and gently toss.

Splurge for the actual Italian (aged and imported) Parmigiano Reggiano- it's worth it's weight in gold. There is just nothing that comes close. If you don't want to spend the ten bucks for a wedge, or don't care for it, you can do the crumbled gogonzola, blue, or feta cheese. I strongly advise against the substitution of American Parmesan. It has no taste and the consistency is like wax. 
Lemon Vinaigrette:
I don't measure, but there are some general proportions you can follow in order to adjust the quantity to your needs. Obviously you can adjust to your taste. (Word of warning, you can't judge it alone by dipping a finger in it. Dip a leaf and sample a bite to get a true assessment.)

Use one part fresh squeezed lemon juice to 2 parts extra virgin olive oil. Season generously with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Add a dash of dried thyme, and two spashes of balsamic vinegar. The sweetness of the balsamic balances the sour of the lemon and it ends up with such a fresh, light, yet lively flavor. You'll want to whisk or shake to blend well, then drizzle onto salad and toss.

To make this into an entree, simply add sliced chicken breast (see my post Cheater Cheater Chicken Eater) and toasted walnuts. See if it becomes your lunch break obsession, too!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wasssuuuuppp? Wasabi!

Looking for inspiration? Craving something different? Sometimes it's hard to break out of the routine. But here is an easy and delicious way to do it! Kick it island style with a little Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Dipping Sauce.

I got my inspiration for this dish from one of my favorite places on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. While a nanny for a family on the island, I used to cherish my Sundays "off duty" and hit Iggy's Beach Bar at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort. The skewered tuna with wasabi sauce was my favorite thing to snack on while sitting on the deck and marveling at the clear waters and powdery white sands.

You can find individually frozen ahi tuna "steaks" in packages in your grocer's freezer section. Or, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere you can get the fresh stuff, well then I am jealous. If it's the frozen variety you'll be using, you really only need to partially thaw it according to the package directions. This is a fish that really should be prepared rare to medium-rare, otherwise it quickly resembles tuna from a can and is extremely dry. Fresh, or completely thawed fish will require very little cook time.

Marinade the tuna (10-20 minutes) in a glass dish or plastic bag in a mixture of a little sesame oil, low sodium soy sauce, honey, salt, pepper, and fresh lime juice. Heat a pan to medium-high with about a tablespoon of sesame oil. While it heats, remove the tuna from the marinade and roll in sesame seeds (white and black) until it is covered in a nice crust. Sear the fish for approximately 2 minutes on first side, 1 on the other. The sesame seeds should brown, and the fish will be medium rare. If you just can't stand the thought of medium rare, cook additional 2 minutes on the flip side to bring it to medium. If it rests for any amount of time, residual heat will cook it slightly more.

Dipping sauce: Whip up plain Greek yogurt or mayo, wasabi, a dash of soy sauce, drop of sesame oil, squeeze of lime, and garnish with sesame seeds .

Serve with simple sides like a micro green salad dressed with a little oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper; and bed of whole wheat couscous. Now kick back and imagine the sound of the waves crashing and sip on a fruity drink!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cheater Cheater Chicken Eater

If you've read previous posts, then you may be aware that I have a poultry aversion. Particularly to chicken. But I have made huge strides to overcome this, thanks to a few amazing recipes and one super-fantastic-too-good-to-pass-up item... the store prepared rotisserie chicken!

I mean, seriously. How can you not love this? They are all natural whole chickens seasoned and cooked rotisserie style right in the deli section of the supermarket. They're hot, juicy and ready to go! Plus, they range in price from $4.99 to $6.99 depending on when you buy them. The later in the evening you shop, the lower the price!

These babies are so delicious and so versatile. And it's the greatest shortcut for those nights when you need a good meal fast. It's like cheating! Only guilt-free and harmless.

There are so many ways to utilize the ready to eat rotisserie chicken. Here are my favorites.

Chicken dinner: The most obvious option is to eat it hot right off the bone. Whip up a fresh green salad, some rice pilaf, and steamed asparagus, and you've got a healthy meal in less than 30 minutes.

Chicken salad: Just stick it directly into the refrigerator and the next day remove the breast meat (ditch the skin), and cube into small pieces. Add some diced celery, crumbled bacon (use turkey bacon if you prefer), chopped scallions and a little bit of plain Greek yogurt and dollop of mayo for that familiar flavor. Season with a little salt, pepper, and feel free to throw in some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley or dill. This makes a delicious lunch on a whole grain role. Add sprouts or spinach leves and sliced tomatoes to the sandwich to really jazz it up.

Entree Salad: This is filling and satisfying enough to eat as your main entree. Remove the and breast meat from refrigerated chicken. Slice or shred. Serve on top of arugula, add halved grape tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and toss with lemon vinaigrette. Some diced cappcola ham is a fabulous addition. (Dressing: juice of half lemon, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, dash of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, fresh black pepper and a pinch of thyme)

Enchiladas: Remove skin, cut out the breast and leg meat, etc, and shred. Combine with sliced black olives, diced onion, a little sour cream (optional), drained can of green chilies, and shredded cheese.  Add 1/3 of a can of enchilada sauce and mix. Fill tortillas and place in glass baking dish (lightly coat bottom of dish with the enchilada sauce to prevent sticking). Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake until hot and cheese is melted. Serve topped with diced tomato, chopped lettuce, onion, sour cream, black olives, and jalapenos. A side of beans and avocado salad round out this meal. (Avocado salad: sliced avocados, fresh lime juice, salt, halved grape tomatoes.)

What are your favorite ways to go ninja on these types of convenience items from the deli?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pinkies Out!

Shown served on crostini.
Ooh la la! This is a simple but elegant appetizer contributed by Concetta, our Party Ninja. It's the simplest things that are most divine!  

Pear and Prosciutto with Honey
1 pear, 1/4 inch sliced (bosc pears are best)
4 oz goat cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 package of prosciutto

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, spray baking sheet and lay prosciutto on sheet. Bake until crispy about 15 to 25 minutes, keep your eye on it.
Spread goat cheese on sliced pear, drizzle a touch of honey. Once prosciutto is cooled put on sliced pear and serve.

It's tough to improve upon perfection, but there are some variations you could make to accommodate your preferences or availability of ingredients. Blue cheese or Gorgonzola baked onto crostini, then topped with prosciutto, pear and honey is also absolutely deish! 

Crostini: slice a baguette into 1/2 inch slices, spread out laying flat on baking sheet, lightly drizzle with olive oil, then top with crumbles of cheese and bake until lightly toasted.

For more of a first course than appetizer, make it into a salad! I love arugula for greens with this, then break the prosciutto crisps into bits, add thinly sliced pear, and top with crumbled cheese (blue cheese, gorgonzola, or goat cheese). 

Keep it simple when it comes to dressing: fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt, pepper. Wisk or shake then drizzle on top! Walnuts add some more crunch and flavor if you are so inclined.

Your friends will definitely be impressed with this sophisticated yet simple treat!