As a kid, I loved the fish sandwich from a certain fast-food chain that shall remain nameless. There was something about it that I just really enjoyed…and I’m quite convinced it was the tartar sauce. For some reason, I always felt that tartar sauce was something special, reserved for fast-food meals or vacation fish joints. We never had it at my house, making it even more alluring.
My fascination with tartar sauce continues. To me, there’s nothing better than a little dab of it on a grilled piece of tilapia or smeared on a hearty bun along with a piece of blackened perch and lots of lettuce. It’s the perfect complement to so many great fish dishes.
That’s why I’ve created my own, simplified, healthier tartar sauce recipe. The ingredients are mostly staples in the pantry, and I’ve used granulated and powdered versions of onion and garlic, respectively, for even quicker and easier preparation. Of course I swapped out most of the mayo for low-fat, plain Greek yogurt, saving calories and adding protein and calcium!
Try it as is, or add a splash of hot sauce or sriracha to spice it up. Experiment with fresh herbs like dill and thyme. It’s the perfect condiment compliment to your favorite fish dish!
When did a sandwich become a wrap and who had that brilliant idea? More importantly, why didn’t I come up with it? Joking aside, I love the idea of wraps. How many times have you picked up a sandwich only to have all the ingredients fall out of it? Or the mustard or pickle juice ends up all over your hands? With a wrap, you never have to worry about those things.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Somewhere, hidden deep in the recesses of my pantry is my special stash of chocolate. It’s a secret because, well, I don’t feel like sharing it. No offense to other members of the household, but I just don’t think they would appreciate this little treasure like I do. I hold that stash near and dear to my heart. And thinking about it now, it seems rather ironic that I store it in an old trick-or-treating bucket that looks like a jack-o-lantern…totally classy and mature, I know.
I love chocolate and I have since I was little. Lots of good food memories come to mind when I think of chocolate. Because I love it so much, I suppose that could mean trouble for my waistline. But the good news is, I can control myself because I appreciate chocolate. I see chocolate as a fun indulgence or as a very lovely treat. Because of that, I try to enjoy it and savor it. That means I need less of it!
The ladies over at the Recipe Redux must have channeled my inner choco-holic when they came up with this month’s theme – our favorite pairing for chocolate. My mind of course went crazy with ideas. How about a mole? Or what about a twist on a ‘smore? When it came down to it, I decided upon a recipe that I felt would honor both the dietitian as well as the chocolate-lover in me. Reaching for almonds and my secret stash of chocolate, I bee-lined to the kitchen and got to work. I came up with a recipe that is the perfect snack or treat and one that highlights one of my favorite pairings: nuts and chocolate! Yum!
These roasted almonds are a delightful blend of sweet and savory.
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
3 cups whole almonds
2 ounces 60% dark chocolate
Kosher salt for finishing
Preheat the oven to 300’F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl whisk together the cayenne, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white and water together just until foamy. Add the almonds and toss to coat. Spread the almonds out onto the sheet pan and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Stir and toss to coat.
Place nuts in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool on the sheet pan.
To a small sauce pot add the chocolate and set over low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is completely melted. Using a small spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the almonds. Sprinkle with additional salt as desired (Kosher or sea salt).
Allow chocolate to cool and harden before serving.
As a newly minted member of the Recipe Redux, I was overjoyed that my first recipe theme was “spooky” spices. “Great!” I thought, “I love Halloween and I love spices!” I had a million ideas, that was until I saw the complete description of the October theme. As I read on, it became clear that they were going with a different angle. It turns out that I had to find a spice that I was afraid of or one that I had used that turned out to be a total failure.
Embarrassingly, I have had plenty of total disasters involving spices. Let’s see, there was the curried chicken dish that I served my husband that tasted like glue. Or the pot of 9 bean soup that had a flavor profile that likely resembled fresh dirt. How could I choose? I settled on cumin seed. Years ago I had made a recipe that called for toasting cumin seed. I was young and just out of college, trying to impress my friends. Thinking that I knew what I was doing, I set the cumin seed in the pan, turned the heat to high and walked away. Anyone who has toasted spices knows this is a huge mistake. Those cumin seeds went from smelling wonderful to smelling like a 5-alarm fire. It was a mess and without any back-up seeds, I had to serve a sub-par dish. So here I am, many years later, ready and willing to tackle the cumin seed again. This time, I would make soup and being older and wiser, I would stand-by, keeping an eye on those precious seeds so that they wouldn’t burn.
Ironically, I now love toasting spices. It adds so much complexity and warmth to a dish. In this recipe I decided to use red lentils as a hearty neutral base because they accept spices so well. I included a trimmed and lightly macerated stalk of lemongrass to the cooking liquid to provide a refreshing hint of citrus. And to finish, I added light coconut milk which gives the soup a delightful creamy sweetness.
Fearful no more of toasting spices, I am instead grateful for the learning experience I got from those cooking disasters. I will continue to make mistakes, but from mistakes sometimes come the best results! Bon Appetit!
Earthy red lentils cooked with toasted spices and lemongrass-infused broth then finished with a touch of light coconut milk.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped onion)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed*
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Set a pot over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the celery, onion and carrots and cook vegetables until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the cumin seed, coriander and cayenne to the pot and cook, stirring frequently to toast the spices, about 1-2 minutes. Add lentils, broth and lemongrass and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until lentils are cooked and tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and cook 5 minutes more. Add lemon juice, then remove pot from the heat.
Using a stick blender or regular blender, puree the soup to a smooth consistency. (Note: If using a regular blender, stay safe and prevent unwanted burns by blending in batches and allowing soup to cool slightly before pureeing.
Serve warm topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
To prepare the lemongrass for the soup, first remove the outer leaves from the stalk. Take off a few layers until you get to the more tender inner leaves. Trim off the root end and also cut off the top of the stalk, leaving about 5 inches of lemongrass. Gently smash the stalk using a meat mallet, the back of a large knife or rolling pin to release the oils and then add to the soup pot.
It’s Monday! That means it’s time for a new recipe, one designed to be used for the whole week. Last week I started the Series off with Roasted Garlic. I hope that you were able to enjoy those yummy sweet cloves in all of your dishes.
This week I would like to introduce you to balsamic reduction. You’ve used balsamic vinegar countless times, but did you know that when you cook it down it becomes a rich, thick syrup? It’s a delicious, low-calorie treat with endless possibilities. I like to use mine as a dressing for mixed greens or drizzled over a bowl of hearty grains. It’s also fantastic spooned over frozen yogurt or sliced strawberries.
The recipe is simple and you can keep it in the fridge to use all week. Just be sure to cover with a tight-fitting lid and keep below 40’F.
A grilled salad recipe that easily serves a crowd.
For the dressing
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese
For the grilled vegetables and croutons
1 large whole wheat baguette, sliced in half length-wise
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 “ slices
2 large assorted bell peppers, seeded, cut into large planks
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the salad
5 roma tomatoes, cored and diced
3/4 cup Spanish olives, chopped
To prepare the dressing: whisk together the lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the chopped parsley, garlic and Manchego.
Pre-heat the grill to medium. Lightly brush the bread halves, red onion slices and bell peppers with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the grill is hot, add the vegetables and grill until tender, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
Place the bread on the grill cut side down and cook until light brown in color and slightly crunchy, about 4-5 minutes. Turn occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle. Chop the bread into large bite-sized pieces. Place the chopped bread, onions and peppers into a large bowl.
Toss the bread and vegetables with the dressing, tomatoes and olives. Let stand at least 10-15 minutes before serving.
Add a can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans or cannellini beans to make this salad a complete meal!
Raining or snowing? No problem, just make the recipe inside using a grill pan. Instead of cutting the bread lengthwise, cut horizontally into 12 pieces, slicing on the bias, brush with olive oil, then grill.
Cooking is all about building flavor. And when you’re cooking healthfully, putting that into practice is even more important. Because by layering flavor, you can turn a boring dish into an amazing one. One simple way to do that is to start your dish with a blend of herbs, spices and peppers known as a sofrito. Sofritos are commonly used in Latin American cooking, and vary greatly depending on culture. That’s why there are so many unique variations for one seemingly simple recipe. The version I have created here is based loosely on the Puerto Rican interpretation. Puerto Rican sofritos don’t typically call for tomatoes, so you’ll notice there aren’t any in my recipe. I also roasted my vegetables first, which adds a level of sweetness to the sofrito. Cubanelles are one of the main ingredients, but if you can’t find them at your grocery, you can substitute another sweet bell pepper.
What do you do with the sofrito once you make it? There are several fun ways to incorporate sofrito into the dishes you are already making. If rice is on the menu, saute up the sofrito in a little olive oil first, then add the rice and water, cover and cook until done. Or if you are making a soup, sweat some onion, celery and carrot in a pot in a little olive oil, add the sofrito and cook until fragrant, then add your broth and remaining ingredients. What else can you do? Stir sofrito into sauteed vegetable dishes, beans or stews. Or use it as a spread for sandwiches or tortas. The options are truly endless. So enjoy this amazingly healthy recipe to add bold flavors to your next meal.
A simply healthy and delicious recipe that can add flavor to anything from rice dishes to beans.
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and cut into 2-inch planks
3 cubanelle peppers, seeded, stemmed and cut into 2-inch planks
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head garlic, loose, papery leaves removed
1 cup cilantro, washed
Preheat the oven to 425’F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Toss the red bell pepper, cubanelle peppers and onion with half of the olive oil in a large bowl. Spread out in an even layer onto the baking sheet.
Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Place the garlic with the cut end up on a piece of foil then drizzle with the remaining oil. Fold up the sides of the foil and loosely close at the top. Place on the sheet pan or directly on the rack in the oven.
Roast vegetables for 30minutes or until tender, stirring the pepper and onion mixture halfway through cooking time.
Allow the vegetables to cool slightly. Transfer the peppers and onions to a blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the blender and add the cilantro. Blend for about 1 minute, processing until slightly smooth, preserving some of the texture.
If you head down the condiment aisle in the grocery store you’ll notice that the salad dressing industry is booming. It used to be that there were just a handful of varieties and more often than not, you were reaching for the Ranch or Italian version from the brand of your choice. Now it can take 5 minutes to just narrow down the choices. While I appreciate the convenience of pre-made salad dressing, I still choose to make my own. Why? Well, because like most of the other food I make, I know what’s going in it. It’s also almost always cheaper and it doesn’t even take that long to make. One of my favorites it’s a creamy, spicy chipotle dressing. Not only is it great on salad, but it’s also delicious tossed with cold pasta and veggies for a Southwest pasta salad. You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches or wraps. It can be a fun swap for sour cream in tacos or other Mexican dishes. It’s worth a shot and who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself skipping that condiment aisle at your next trip to the grocery!