Tag Archives: healthy

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

A Caprese Salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled summer meats: chicken, steaks, pork, even hamburgers. Made with summer fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and a reduced balsamic glaze, it just screams summer and healthy eating.

Caprese Salad 1

I like to make a “chopped” version of the salad with various cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella pearls. I drizzle this with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve the balsamic reduction on the side so that the tomatoes and cheese don’t soak up too much vinegar before serving.

I love these little “mozzarella pearls”. They are perfectly bite-sized:

Image result for mozzarella pearls   Pearls

If you are short on time, you can serve this with straight balsamic vinegar, but it is so worth the little time it takes to reduce the vinegar to a stronger syrupy consistency. I usually reduce an entire bottle of vinegar and then store the left-overs  in the refrigerator. You can also infuse some delicious flavors into your reduction while you are at it, things like fresh herbs and garlic. Some people add additional honey or sweetener to the reduction, but I find balsamic vinegar to be plenty sweet without additional sweetener.

If you don’t want to do the chopped version of this salad, you can also make it in the more traditional format with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella:

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Tomorrow we officially begin our summer break (after a final half-day of school). This salad will be a frequent side dish on our table.

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RECIPE:

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

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2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mozzarella pearls
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced in thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about ¼ cup  Balsamic Reduction

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve Balsamic Reduction on the side to be drizzled over salad just before eating.

Balsamic Reduction

1 (16 oz) bottle balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs honey, optional (I DO NOT add honey)
2 whole cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vinegar reduces by about half and thickens to a thin syrup. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove garlic, bay leaf, and herbs (strain if necessary). Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup glaze

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Ratatouille

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The transition from summer to fall is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

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This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.

RECIPE:

Ratatouille

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½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs

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Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken

102411 007-1 There are certain people, when they share a recipe with you, that you know you can trust. My friend Alyce is such a person. I have never been disappointed by any of her recipes. We have been making this soup for a number of years, and it is always a favorite with everyone here. Even the self-professed bean haters. Because the beans have been pureed to create a thick and delicious base, there are no longer any objections. With kids, I really think that most disliked foods are more of a texture dislike than a taste dislike.

Alyce’s original recipe was a delicious pureed black bean soup. I usually doctor it up a little by adding shredded chicken, corn, olives and pimentos to the pureed bean base, and serving it with fun and delicious toppings. If you are trying to please kids- it is all about the toppings. Crispy tortilla strips are their favorite. They are fast and easy to make (baked in the oven for 5 minutes) and can be made with either flour or corn tortillas. In the soup shown, I used a multi-grain flour tortilla.

The spiciness of the soup is completely up to you. Alyce’s recipe uses Spicy V-8 juice, but I don’t usually have that around here, so I use a can of spicy Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes with onions, garlic and green chilies). If you want a milder soup, just use a can of regular tomatoes and go easy on the cayenne pepper (Ancho chili pepper has a nice flavor without the heat of cayenne).

RECIPE:

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cans beef broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes (or 1 cup Spicy V-8)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (or 2 cans undrained canned chicken)
1 can corn
1 small can sliced olives
1 small jar diced pimentos

Garnishes:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Crispy Tortilla Strips (see below)

Heat olive oil in large stockpot. Cook onion, carrot, garlic, jalapeno, and celery until onions are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, seasonings, and black beans. Cover and simmer for one hour. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Cook 15 minutes longer. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

To cook in crockpot: Sauté vegetables in oil and place in crock pot with broth, tomatoes, seasonings and black beans. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Turn crock pot to high and cook 15-30 minutes longer, or until heated through. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

 

Crispy Tortilla Strips

about 4 corn or flour tortillas
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Kosher (or other coarse) salt

Spread olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cut tortillas into thin strips (a pizza cutter works nicely). Place on the baking sheet and use a spatula to toss the strips with the oil to lightly coat. Bake at 350°F for 5-7 minutes or until strips just begin to brown. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.

 

adapted from my friend Alyce

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

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Looking for a great tasting soup that doesn’t have to cook all day? A healthy, flavorful soup chock full of chicken and fresh vegetables?

This Thai curry is more like a soup than a thick curry that you would eat in small amounts over rice. You can still eat it over rice, if you prefer, but it is light enough that it can be eaten on its own. The vegetables and chicken are quickly stir-fried and then simmered for just a few minutes in a red curry coconut milk sauce. I like to marinate the chicken for a little while in some of the curry paste before cooking, but if you need a really fast meal you can skip that step and have this soup on the table in under 30 minutes.

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RECIPE:

Thai Red Chicken Curry

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1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar (or low-carb golden sweetener)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs lime juice (or 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped)
2 Tbs Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to personal taste)

1 cup fresh spinach or other greens (I used beet greens)
1/3 cup fresh basil (Thai basil preferably), coarsely chopped

Combine cubed chicken, 1 Tbs curry paste and soy sauce in Ziploc bag. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, or several hours in refrigerator.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or large saucepan. Add onion, red pepper, carrot, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring, over high heat until cooked through.

Add coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and remaining 2 Tbs curry paste to the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in spinach, basil and cooked vegetables. Heat until spinach wilts. Serve in bowls with or without rice.

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Waffle Week: Whole Grain Waffles

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Looking for a healthier waffle that is also great tasting? These whole grain waffles are made with whole wheat flour, oat flour (ground oats) and wheat germ. After making the Buttermilk Waffles (with no separated eggs), I used some of the same techniques to try and make these as light as possible. Replacing some of the flour with cornstarch and letting the batter sit for a little while before cooking really helped make these waffles great.

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With the heavier whole grains, they will never be quite as light as all-white-flour waffles, but they make up for in flavor what they lack in airiness.

For Waffle Tips & Suggestions, click HERE.

RECIPE:

Whole Grain Waffles

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1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup oat flour*
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs wheat germ
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk or sourmilk (or 1 cup kefir + 1 cup milk)**
2 eggs
¼ cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry; mix well. Let batter sit for 30 minutes before cooking. Do not stir batter after letting it sit.

Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour batter evenly into hot waffle maker (about 2 scant cups for the 4 small Belgian waffles in my waffle maker). Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or according to directions on your waffle maker. Remove waffles from waffle maker and place on a wire rack (not a plate). Serve immediately or keep warm in a warm oven (very low heat).

Makes about 3 large Belgian waffles (12 small squares)

* To make oat flour: Place rolled oats in a blender or food processor and blend until fine.

**To make sour milk: add 2 Tbs lemon juice to a 2 cup measuring cup, fill to 2 cup line with milk (whole milk works best). Stir; let sit 5 minutes before using. If using sour milk, add an additional 1-2 Tbs flour to batter.

To freeze: Cool waffles on a wire rack. Place in Ziploc bags and freeze. Reheat individual frozen waffles in a toaster (for crispier edges) or microwave (for a soft waffle).

 

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Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

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This recipe comes from my good friend Alyce, whose tastes I have great respect for. I have made a few changes here and there to adapt it to my family’s size and preferences, but it is pretty close to Alyce’s version. It has been so long that I have been making it that I no longer even have her original recipe, so if I have gone too far astray Alyce, sorry!

A traditional tapenade has an olive and olive oil base, but usually includes capers and anchovies and not tomatoes. It is also more finely chopped, made into almost a paste with a mortar and pestle. I love the contrast that the slightly tart sun-dried tomatoes add, and I like the texture of a fine dice instead of a paste. You can also use a food processor to mix the ingredients, but add your tomatoes first (and chop separately) as they will take longer than the olives to chop (and you don’t want olive goo with big chunks of tomato). Kalamata olives provide a stronger taste to the olive mixture: you can adjust the ratio of regular black olives to kalamata as your family prefers. Over time we have gravitated to more Kalamata vs regular black olives, but I still have a couple of little ones who don’t appreciate too much of the stronger Kalamata flavor.

This is a great meal that takes very little time to put together (under 30 minutes if your chicken is thaw). If prepared “properly” it can also appeal to a wide variety of tastes (ie pickiness). Almost all of my family will now eat this as shown above, but that hasn’t always been the case. And I do still have one that won’t eat the cheese. The “proper” preparation/presentation for picky eaters: Serve the chicken, the olive tapenade and the feta separately. The pickiest eater should still eat the plain chicken breast. Those who object to the olive “mush” can just sprinkle cheese on theirs, and those who will never let cheese pass their lips can just add the olive mixture.

I like this served with couscous or brown rice. The olive tapenade is really great mixed into that as well! Or as a dip with toasted pita wedges. Or eaten straight with a spoon. Or . . .

RECIPE:

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

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10 sun-dried tomato halves (packed in oil or packaged dry)
½ cup boiling water (if using dry tomatoes)
1 cup black olives, finely chopped
15 Kalamata olives (use more for a stronger flavor or additional black olives for a milder flavor), finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup finely snipped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano (or ½ tsp dried)
1/8 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/8 – 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4-6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (short on time? – cut into two thin halves instead of pounding)
2 Tbs olive oil
oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper

Snip sun dried tomatoes with scissors into small pieces. If you are using dry (not oil packed) sun dried tomatoes: combine chopped tomatoes and boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes. Drain. (Oil packed tomatoes do not need to be soaked) Combine drained tomatoes, chopped olives, 2 Tbs olive oil (reduce to 1 Tbs if using oil packed tomatoes), feta cheese**, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thin chicken pieces in a single layer to the hot skillet (you may need to cook the chicken in batches: keep cooked chicken warm on a foil-covered plate while cooking remaining chicken breasts). Sprinkle lightly with oregano, garlic powder and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Serve chicken topped with tomato/olive mixture.

Side dish suggestion: couscous or steamed brown rice

**I do not mix the feta into the tomato olive tapenade. I serve it separately on the side, because I have some who object to the cheese.

 

Recipe adapted from my good friend Alyce

 

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