Thursday, January 28, 2010

Olive Hater No More

I didn’t start out as an olive lover like every self-respecting ½ Italian girl should. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Iavarone Brothers, I’ll introduce you. It’s the greatest Italian gourmet food shop on Long Island. The two of you will become fast friends. My step dad would take a trip to Iavarone on a Saturday and come home with a whole array of olives; black, green, oil cured, some with pimentos, some without. In true bratty little kid fashion, I’d stick my tongue out at the little plastic containers of salty treats and ask him to pass the prosciutto.

One day I woke up. Olives are fantastic. I was at home this weekend reveling in the return of the Food Network to Cablevision customers (crisis averted!) and caught Ellie Krieger’s show. I completely admire Ellie’s background as a Nutritionist and I do think some of her recipe ideas are stellar, but she’s a big-time geek. I was actually tempted to switch over to SportsCenter, the show was so drab. SportsCenter! But, I stuck it out and low and behold she was making an olive turkey burger. Granted, she calls it her Better Burger which is a lame-o name for an entrĂ©e. You can’t just slap the word “better” in front of a food item and trick people into trying your recipe. You got me Ellie, I tried it. It was delicious.

The recipe is very simple and doesn’t require that you buy a bunch of wacky ingredients. The only change I made was to melt a piece of provolone cheese over the top. With turkey burgers, I’m always concerned they will dry out and the cheese was a little insurance policy. Actually, the olives kept the burger nice and juicy and the cumin gives it a really interesting smoky taste that I haven’t encountered before in a burger. I thought the olive taste would be overpowering, but it was surprisingly subtle. I even went a little wild and topped with ketchup AND mustard. Crazy, I know. For someone trying to control their fat intake, turkey burgers are a really nice option. A whole wheat roll keeps carbs under control and you can sneak some veggies in there with lettuce and tomato on top. Overall, a great meal.

Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Grilled Turkey Burgers on Foodista

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crock Pot Junkie

The crock pot is a dear friend of mine. Any device that can prepare a slow-cooked meal for me while I’m out shopping for a new purse is a-ok in my book. I’ve been known to bust-out the crock pot fan talk at the most inappropriate venues; bars, parties, gatherings with friends. I’m sharing that little tidbit at the risk of sounding like a complete social pariah so, I’m pretty into it. My friend Beth asked for some crock pot ideas, so I’m here to deliver. I’m always open to requests (sorry, no Freebird) so please feel free to email me or post comments on the blog with your feedback.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. The person who posted the Crock Pot Chicken Enchiladas on Zaar has a pretty good thing going already. I do have a few Diet-It-Up suggestions. You may want to substitute the boneless chicken breast for bone-in if you feel it’s a little dry without the bones. I swapped the flour tortillas for whole wheat tortillas. I also used a part-skim Mexican cheese blend and reduced fat sour cream. I never go for the fat free stuff when it comes to dairy because quite frankly, it doesn’t taste very good. Fat free cheese that you attempt to melt has the consistency of that fake rubber food that came along with my Playschool kitchen set when I was five. No bueno. I think the few extra calories here are worth it. Part-skim is still better than its full-fat big brother.

I used two jars of the Frontera brand Chipotle Garlic Enchilada Sauce (you can score this at Whole Foods). It’s all natural and not as salty as some of the other brands. I tried to scrimp and use only one jar, but it was a little dry. Go for the two. Think you can’t eat Mexican food and still watch your calories? Think again.

Chicken Enchilada on Foodista

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kale-Basa Soup

Here’s the deal. When you work in Manhattan, lunch can be extremely expensive. I’m certainly not rolling change at home so I can spend fifteen bucks a day on some mediocre sandwich and a Poland Spring. I know it’s nerdy to brown bag it, but at least you know what you’re getting. You don’t have to play “guess the secret fattening ingredient” game with your lunch. Cafeterias and lunch spots always manage to take a seemingly non-threatening little lunch and douse it in hidden oil, salt or sugar and this girl does not appreciate being fooled!

When it’s warm out, I love a crisp, refreshing salad. For some reason it doesn’t taste like “healthy food” when you’re wearing short sleeves. But in the winter, salad just doesn’t cut it for me. I switch over to soups. Here’s a new one to try. The greatest thing about this Smoky Sausage and Kale Soup is that it comes together in about 20 minutes. You don’t have to kill a whole day waiting for stock to boil or vegetables to become tender. Most chowder-style soups call for potatoes. I’ve used chick peas instead. It mimics the same texture as a potato but without the added carbs. I also swap out pork sausage for turkey or lite kielbasa. It gives the soup a ton of smoky flavor but spares you the oily residue that clings to the side of your soup bowl.

Soup on Foodista

French Fried Diet Disaster

“Trish, do you guys have an oven that works?” is a statement that can only end with a meal that looks like THIS. A couple of my guy friends came up with the invention of a French Fry Pie. Yep, that’s right, a double crust with roast beef, scallions, steak fries, mozzarella cheese and gravy layered inside. Basically, an order of disco fries meets an open face roast beef sandwich in an epic battle for superiority. A short trip to the supermarket and this dream became a reality right in my own kitchen. I thought this was worth sharing as an example of how some things will never adhere to the Diet It Up philosophy. Sometimes, you just have to embrace a sliver of something as fattening and silly as a French Fry Pie. Life’s too short to miss out on these culinary experiments. Kudos to Sty and Mike for their bar food invention.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Drury Lane Meatloaf

Rachael, Rachael, Rachael. I’ll agree that Ms. Ray is a nagging personality to listen to for even a 30-minute meal. If she says E-V-O-O one more time I just might reach through the TV and slap her silly. But, the gal sure can cook. I find myself doctoring up a lot of her recipes. I thought her Meatloaf Muffin idea was genius. I’m a self-proclaimed Sliver Queen. “Oh, don’t mind me; I’m just having another little SLIVER.” Well that sliver turns into five more slivers and before I know it, I’ve eaten an entire second portion. Then, I plop down on the couch grumpy and defeated. Meatloaf, you won’t get me this time! This recipe is a perfect way to control portion size. Just have two mini loaves with a veggie on the side and you’ve got yourself a comfort food feast that won’t leave you feeling plump.

I’m calling my spin on Rachael’s creation Mini Turkey Meatloaves with Barbecue Sauce. I’m using ground turkey instead of ground beef. This cuts some of the fat and believe it or not, I actually prefer the turkey. It has a much softer texture. Just be careful to avoid ground turkey breast. Ground white meat has the texture of rubbery marbles. Yick! Having some dark meat in the mix really does help to keep the loaves nice and juicy. I also cut the amount of BBQ sauce in half. BBQ is jam packed with sugar, but it’s also full of flavor. Half the amount delivers the same taste without the unnecessary sugar spike.

I know you’re tempted to serve meatloaf with a side of creamy mashed potatoes. Who wouldn’t be? Mashed potatoes are actually one of my top 3 favorite foods in the universe. The universe! That’s huge. But, in the spirit of cutting carbs, I paired the meatloaf with some roasted brussels sprouts. OK, wipe that disgusted look off your face. Brussels sprouts are delicious if you treat them with respect! Toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. The outsides will brown and crisp up nicely. You won’t be sorry you gave them a chance.

Turkey Meatloaf on Foodista

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Red Zone Veggie Burgers

Let’s talk football. The Jets finally clawed their way into the post-season and Saturday was all about screaming wildly at the TV and rooting for my boys to pull through for New York. I always whip up some pretty tasty football snacks to enjoy during the game. What’s the point of football without something to munch on? That’s half the reason I decided to like the sport!

This week I really craved a burger. I bought Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar cookbook a few months ago and decided to skip right past the fattening yet delicious beef recipes to try a garden variety. I decided on a ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH-QUINOA VEGGIE BURGER with CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS and PIQUILLO PEPPER KETCHUP served with a side of GARLIC THYME OVEN FRIES. Alright, it sounds a little fancy dancy. But, if you’re going to forego the juicy deliciousness that is beef, the veggie counterpart better pack a big punch.

I hit up Whole Foods, which is quickly becoming my favorite place on earth, for some inspiration. I made a few slight adjustments to the original directions substituting whole wheat breadcrumbs for the potato flakes it originally called for. If your supermarket carries whole wheat ciabatta rolls, I would highly recommend it. The dish could use the extra crunch. The end result? A delicious veggie patty with a slight hint of sweetness.

The caramelized shallots add a “meaty” richness without any actual meat. The patty is topped with Greyere cheese. I’m a supporter of one big “splurge” ingredient per dish, but keep it to one. There’s a time and place for light cheese, but go for the real stuff here. It melts nicely and adds a creaminess that’s reminiscent of a real cheeseburger. The Piquillo Pepper Ketchup is tangy and acidic and made with a small amount of honey rather than the sugar-packed, store-bought Heinz 57. A burger is never complete without fries. Oven roasting allows you the luxury of a crunchy potato without the fried calories. Just keep those white starches to a minimum. These were so tasty; I didn't even miss the moo.

Quinoa on Foodista

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who am I?

I’m a twenty something, alright, late twenty something woman living on Long Island and working at a publishing company in the ever stressful NYC. Food makes me happy. What’s not to love about a cheeseburger and fries with a huge chocolate shake on the side? Come on, it’s a match made in heaven that would put a smile on even the grumpiest face. Unfortunately, I’ve been battling a pesky weight problem for what feels like an eternity. To make matters worse, I recently found out I have a blood sugar condition that will likely lead to diabetes. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for disaster? So, I desperately needed to find a way to still love food, but also squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans. The solution, you ask? That’s a little tricky. I don’t believe in surviving off the frozen food aisle’s never-ending supply of frostbitten chemical concoctions. And the thought of eating a strict lettuce and water diet makes me want to throw myself off a building.

So, what’s a gal to do? I learned to Diet-It-Up. I love to cook and I’m always finding ways to take my favorite recipes and shave off a few calories, eliminate some of the processed ingredients and overhaul it in a way that makes it healthier. I’ve mastered every diet under the sun and while Weight Watchers© and The South Beach Diet© can be very successful, they’re tough to stick with when you just want to eat something that tastes good. I don’t have any fancy formal credentials and I’m not going to preach to you about carbs or fat grams. I just want you to enjoy tasty, delicious meals without the next-day calorie guilt. Mix in a jog or two at the gym and you’re on your way to a healthier life. I’m beginning to collect some of my recipes here. I invite you to Diet-It-Up with me. If we’re good all week, maybe we can even sneak in a few sips of that chocolate shake, wink wink.