Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Effortlessly Exotic: Curried Chicken Stir Fry with Basmati Rice

Anyone else suffer from Target Syndrome? You know, you go into Target to buy shampoo & deodorant and come out with shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, a scrapbooking kit, bbq grill, storage bins, bed sheets, dvds, teeth whitening strips, and adorable throw pillows for a couch you don't own? If you're unfamiliar with this phenomenon, then you 1) have insurmountable will power, OR 2) aren't human. I succumb to the 'Syndrome' almost every time I step foot into that wonder-store. Now, my neighborhood Target has introduced a full-on supermarket section.

While meandering down this section's isles, I stumbled across my newest obsession: Archer Farms Mango Curry Grilling Sauce. Archer Farms is an in-house brand of Target's, reasonably priced & pretty darn good across the board. They even have their own Organic line of products as well. Bottom line, this particular bottle looked yummy, wooed me with a pretty orange hue &, most importantly, it was on sale. So, off I went with my bag(s) full and my culinary imagination wheel spinning...

In my personal experience, discussions over the stereo-typically strong-smelling dishes of "Curry (anything)" have rivaled the most heated religious or political debates. The majority of people I know are vehement haters of the stuff, without ever having tasted it!   ::cough:: ignorant fools! ::cough::    Let me take a moment out to dispel your fears. Curry is actually a blend of spices. The word curry/curried is also used to refer to a type of dish where a protein (chicken, beef, goat, fish) is slow cooked in a thick pungent sauce flavored with the spice mix & served over rice or with a flatbread of some sort (think Indian naan, or Caribbean roti) to sop it all up. To make things even more confusing, another style of curry dish includes the spice mix used as a dry rub on meats, such as kebabs. Curry spice blends vary drastically in color, flavor, and heat level depending on their origin (Thai, Indian, Caribbean, Sri Lankan etc). By & large, most curry powders contain coriander, tumeric, cumin, fenugreek, & chile pepper. As a convert to curry myself, I suggest trying the different types from varying regions before you make a decision regarding loving or hating the dish. The recipe I'm sharing with you today is more of a quasi-curry, if that. Its not overly pungent in flavor or heat, but rather a warm, mild blend with a sweet note to it.

My first thought that came to mind was throwing a defrosted chicken breast in to a Ziploc with some of my new grilling sauce. Done & done. Okay, now what? Well, more often than not I have come across different versions of "curried chicken salad" but never dared to re-create them at home. With some left over roasted chicken (which seems to be a staple at my house) I tweaked my own chicken salad recipe by adding a few tablespoons of grilling sauce & 1/4 teaspoon of cumin to the dressing. Pretty darm delicious, I must say. (Sorry guys no pics of the altered chicken salad. Although deelicious, didn't think it was gonna make it to the blog as a post...)

Found these flatbreads at my local grocery store. They have the thinness and feel of roti, or a very thin wrap & completely satisfying

A couple busy days later, I realized my poor chicken breast was STILL marinating in the fridge! Thanks to some end-of-the-world-looking thunderstorms & torrential downpours, grilling was, once again, not a viable option. My eyes darted around the kitchen & took a quick survey of supplies: onions, garlic, celery, fresh (but wilting) dill, flatbreads, & leftover "sauce" from the previously made chicken salad. And look at that! A fresh, unopened bag of Basmati rice! Carms got all ethnic on me and I hadn't a clue. With a few more additions, I turned a bunch of rag-tag ingredients into a savory & mind-blowing Indian inspired meal!

Curried Chicken Stir-Fry
Yields 2 servings; 400 Calories per serving; 4.7g Fat per serving
(1 flat bread included in serving)

  • 1 lg boneless & skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips
  • 1 lg onion, sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup Basmati rice, uncooked
  • 1/4 C nonfat, Greek yogurt, plain
  • 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbs Mango-Curry grilling sauce
  • 1tsp mustard
  • 1tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt 
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
Directions: Marinate chicken breast in ziploc bag with mango-curry grilling sauce up to a day ahead. Cook Basmati rice per package directions. In a large skillet, saute onions, celery & garlic on medium-high heat, until slightly tender. Add chicken and sauce to pan. Continue to saute until sauce thickens & chicken is just cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Serve over rice and with flat bread.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pretty, Pretty Pasta Primavera

Hello loves! Once again my apologies for being a phantom around the
blogoshpere. My bosses were sweet enough to surprise me with a 5-day holiday weekend over the 4th. So naturally, I booked it out to Montauk for some sun, R&R, and culinary inspiration. In true Danielle fashion, 1/2 through my stay, I sprained my ankle & pretty much killed any plans other than roasting on the beach & moving around as little as possible.

Good thing I'm feeling MUCH better & have whipped up yet another childhood favorite of mine, tweaked ever so slightly. This week's re-creation is my mom's Pasta Primavera. The word Primavera is Italian for "Spring". Italians are in love with life & all the natural beauty and pleasure it may bring our way. Famed Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli expressed his love of nature's beauty in his renowned masterpiece entitled, "Primavera". Naturally, an homage to the season of "new life" from these amorous people in the form of food seems perfectly fitting. 

There are as many variations of this dish as there are spring days in a lifetime. 
However, in keeping with the dish's namesake, each variation usually includes a combination of fresh vegetables. My mom made hers with farfalle pasta, yellow zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, and broccoli florets. She also made this killer pink cream sauce, which was decadent yet unusually light at the same time.  Of course, heavy cream was the notorious player that made this sauce come together.

My version of Pasta Primavera uses whole wheat fusilli pasta, zucchini, baby bella mushrooms, grape tomatoes & my own spin on mommy's salivating pink "cream" sauce. I combine some simple marinara sauce, chicken broth, some low fat soft cheese, and....yep, you guessed it, a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt (non-fat, as always). As with my other recipes, feel free to be creative and use any vegetable combination you like. I have a trick on how to cook the veggies that I will reveal in the recipe directions below. Again, I cannot take credit for this ingenious idea, that all belongs to mamma Carms! You can also use any shaped pasta you are partial to. I highly suggest you stick with whole wheat or spelt pasta, though. I'm a fan of fusilli, not only cuz it looks cool, but the spiral shape holds onto sauce (and therefore, flavor) much better than a smooth, flat pasta. For the sauce the "fresh is best" motto holds true here, as in most of my recipes. Although, I totally cheated & used some of  my Nonna's sauce. If you must, used a good jarred marinara or, just open up a can of crushed tomatoes & flavor it with some salt, pepper, dried oregano, garlic & a touch of good extra virgin olive oil.

Dee's Pasta Primavera
Yields 4 servings; 257 Calories/serving; 2.8g Fat/serving

  • 2-Cups (dry) Whole Wheat Fusilli pasta 
  • 2- small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" half-moon shapes
  • 1- 8 oz package Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
  • 1-Cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 5-7 basil leaves, torn or cut chiffonade
  • 1-Cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4-Cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2- wedges Laughing Cow Light Swiss (can substitute any soft, melt-able cheese, ex: fat free cream cheese)
  • 1-Tbs plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • salt & pepper to taste

Boil water for pasta. Once water comes to a boil, liberally salt, add pasta & cook per manufacturer's directions. While pasta is cooking, combine marinara sauce, chicken stock, cheese & yogurt in a small saucepan. Bring to low-medium heat, whisking until sauce is smooth and pink in color (Add more or less chicken stock to reach desired consistency). Add salt and pepper to taste. Right before pasta is ready (about 2-3 minutes before done) add zucchini and mushrooms to pot. Bring back to a boil, then quickly remove from heat & drain. Return back to pot, add sauce and grape tomatoes. Right before serving, finish with fresh basil. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Satisfying Salads (NOT the Green Kind)

Told ya I'd make up for my week of silence! Here we meet again, along with my 2 favorites of late: chicken & Greek yogurt. I'd apologize for the over use of these ingredients, but you know what? Sorry I'm NOT sorry! With such versatile staples constantly at hand, plus a little creativity, the combination is a busy girl's dream come true!

Throughout high school & almost all of college, I worked at a bagel store during the school year. Coming from a typically old-school Italian family, the bagel store experience exposed me to things I'd only seen from afar & dreamed of trying. Chicken salad was one of those in particular. (American) tuna salad was another. Our shop's versions were just so darn good! And then I learned how to make it....with ingredients like ground up stale croissants (used to give it "body") & an ENTIRE industrial-sized jug of Hellmann's mayo! No wonder they were addictively good. Anything with that much butter & fat cannot be anything less that awesome.

Craving those deli salads (but not the artery-clogging fat & cholesterol), I moseyed on into the kitchen & started playing around with ingredients I had on hand. Greek yogurt, mustard and lemon juice give these salads just the right amount of zing, and the addition of herbs like parsley & dill lends a freshness that is irresistible! Put it on low calorie wheat bread, or eat it by the cupful. But don't take my word for it...try it for yourself and tell us what YOU think!

Slimming Chicken Salad
yields 4 servings; 193 Calories/ serving; 2.2g fat/ serving

  • 12-oz shredded chicken (I used left over roasted chicken)
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 large scallion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 C nonfat, Greek yogurt, plain
  • 1Tbs lemon juice
  • 1tsp mustard (I used stone ground brown deli mustard)
  • 1tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt (I recommend using pure ground celery seed & salt separately, but this is what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper   
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Combine shredded (or chopped) chicken, celery, scallion, and parsley in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, celery salt, garlic powder, dill & black pepper. Spoon dressing mixture into chicken mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.

*to make tuna salad, replace shredded chicken with 2 7oz cans of your favorite tuna. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Viva La Fajita!

Hey Kids! Sorry for the mini hiatus, but life kind of got in the way of things for a bit. Don't ya hate when that happens? I know I sure do! Thankfully, I've been using this time wisely & taking notes of what yummy creations I'd want to share with you next....

First up, delicious & guilt-free chicken fajitas! I had a lonely boneless, skinless chicken breast hanging out in the fridge yesterday that had to be cooked. The propane tank for our BBQ is dangerously low, and while I don't mind running to the garden center & picking up a full one, I'm not too keen on connecting it myself. Also, it's been so warm lately that turning the oven on wasn't an option either. So, why not chicken fajitas?! They're quick and easy to prepare, packed full of flavor, and surprisingly low in calories & fat (as long as you make a few minor alterations). In the time it takes you to go to the store & buy a fajita spice packet (that's LOADED with sodium, MSG, & countless other preservatives) you can make your own spice mix & marinade.

1 serving includes 2 of those huge-looking overstuffed wrap halves! 

In lieu of flour or corn tortillas, I opted for a flax seed roll-up bread. These things are great! They are about the size of a large flour tortilla wrap, but rectangle in shape. I cut one in half so I was able to make 2 over-stuffed roll-ups with a single serving. Not only do they taste good, but every 2-oz. size roll-up has: 110 calories, 3g of fat, 15g carbs, 9 grams of fiber& 12g of protein! That's some serious nutrition jammed into one delicious wrap!

*Attention Weight Watcher Devotees* I know with the WW point system, especially regarding bread/carbs of any kind, a high fiber content greatly decreases the point value. I'm interested in how many points one of these wraps would be.

And what fun are fajitas without the condiments?! I used 2% plain Greek yogurt as opposed to reduced fat or fat free sour cream. Oddly enough, the Greek yogurt tastes more like good ol' fattening sour cream than actual fat-free sour cream! Plus, it was in my fridge & I'm about convenience if nothing else. Shred some lettuce, wedge a few limes, throw in your favorite jarred salsa & you have yourself a fajita fiesta!

Not feeling the whole messy eat-with-your-hands idea? Try serving this yummy & saucy fajita mixture over my cilantro lime brown rice. Keep the condiments to give it that same special kick. I even made a wrap with the leftovers using 1 whole roll-up, a spoonful of rice, a small saucy helping of fajita mixture, shredded lettuce, salsa & a dollop of yogurt. Seriously impressive.

Chicken Fajitas
Makes 4 servings; 237 Calories; 4.2g fat
(calories & fat includes 1 whole roll-up, 2tbs of yogurt, lettuce & salsa)

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1-Cup button mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 2 large jalapenos, thinly sliced (seeds & ribs removed)
  • 1-2 limes, juiced
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Spice Mix/Marinade

  • 1-tsp chili powder
  • 1-tsp sea salt
  • 1/2-tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-tsp onion powder
  • 1/2-tsp garlic powder
  • 1-tsp dried oregano
  • 1-Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/3-Cup water

Combine spice mix/marinade ingredients in large Ziploc bag. Add chicken, red bell pepper, onions, mushrooms & jalapenos. Coat evenly & let marinate for at least 15-20 minutes. Coat a large saute pan with cooking spray & bring to high heat. Add contents from Ziploc bag, stirring often. Saute until veggies slightly  soften & chicken is cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in lime juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with tortillas or brown rice, crispy cold shredded lettuce, salsa & low-fat Greek yogurt (or fat free sour cream).


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stop The Insanity!!! Why Diets Won't (EVER) Work

80's babies (and those before us) surely remember the slightly crazed platinum blonde with the buzz-cut screaming at you through your TV to Stop The Insanity!!!! Back in the 90's I had no interest in why this woman was yelling or what she was yelling about. But now, at almost 30, I finally get it.I got the message & I stopped my insane thought process & old habits that were seemingly the 'norm'. This post isn't a plug for whatever Susan Powter was/is selling (in fact I've never read her book, watched her short-lived talk show, or heard her motivate the masses). About a year ago, things sort of clicked in my head, and I started on a journey that has forever changed me. Now, I'm excited to share my epiphanies with you!

Thanks to innovation & technology (combined with a degree of laziness that is exclusively a 1st world problem), we live in a society of convenience and instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it NOW (actually we wanted it 5 minutes ago)! Nothing wrong with creating the next-best-thing in the shortest time possible. However, that leads fundamental characteristics such as discipline, commitment, and patience to fall by the waist-side. Who wants to do something the hard way when surely there HAS to be an easier, faster, totally convenient way to replace it, right? Enter, THE FAD DIET...The cabbage soup diet...The grapefruit diet...The apple cider vinegar diet...The...tapeworm diet?! (I kid you not, look it up. And YES, it's exactly what you think it is!) And lets not forget the wide array of diet pills, shakes, cleanses, etc.

For these diet plans and products to gain so much notoriety, there has to be some truth to them, right? Yes, the majority of them will let you shed those pesky 5, 10, 15 lbs in 30 minutes, or whatever their ridiculous claims are. But what happens after that? I mean you can't live on cabbage soup the rest of your life. Grapefruit is wonderful, but I'm pretty sure you need more nutrients than vitamin C to live, and ummm, the whole tapeworm thing? That's just all sorts of gross.
It's a proven statistic that 41% of those who go on diets gain back more than what they originally lost. And yet, the majority of us keep going back for more! Why? What gives? And most importantly, what can we do to stop the insanity of this vicious cycle?

This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the whole weight loss journey; changing the way we THINK. Awareness is key to change. We must start thinking about the term diet for what it really is: an eating program, and one that is individualized & specific to each of us. There are a few basic guidelines that everyone can benefit from: 5-6 helpings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, at least 30 grams of fiber a day, no more than 20% of our calorie intake should be allotted to fat, around 20% of protein and LOTS of water. Don't try to tackle everything at once. I'm an overachiever by nature, so naturally I attempted to change everything immediately. I repeat, don't do it! YOU WILL FAIL. Instead, take small, purposeful steps. For instance, addicted to soda, iced tea, juices, & everything else that isn't water? Try switching to flavored seltzer water, or make your own unsweetened herbal iced tea at home. Still too drastic? Replace every other glass of soda, juice, iced tea with a bottle of water. Find yourself snacking mid morning or mid-afternoon on unhealthy empty calories? Try replacing your usual snack with a serving of almonds or cup of fruit salad. You will be so surprised at how much "insignificant" changes like these make a difference. And always remember, no matter how small the change, it's still a change for the better you weren't doing yesterday. Before you know it, you will be conquering the small  goals in no-time and be pushing yourself to tackle larger ones.

You should be taking these small steps in other areas as well. No amount of calorie counting will be completely effective without incorporating exercise. Almost anyone has 30 minutes to spare sometime throughout the day. Figure out when that time is, and make it part of your routine. Start small (a brisk walking pace for 30 min a day), and gradually increase when you feel like tackling a more challenging goal. Also, find clever ways to make mundane chores work-out friendly. Park all the way in the back of the lot when you go to the shopping center.  Hold your stomach muscles while you are blow drying/ flat ironing your hair. Do some leg lifts while you're watching your favorite TV show. It sounds silly, but it all adds up.

I may hear some flack for this next part, but I am a true believer in this. STEP AWAY FROM THE SCALE. Numbers are relative. Our bodies are proportioned differently, we retain different amounts of water, we carry ourselves in a different manner. Also, if you start any type of work out program, you will begin to lose fat & build muscle. My strong opinion is to measure yourself. Take a measurement of your bicep, thigh, waist, hips, and any other area u see fit. Keep a journal & maintain consistency in your measurements (ex- measure in the same spot on the same body part every time). To be honest, I couldn't even bring myself to look at those numbers at first. So I got a pair of old jeans that hadn't fit me in a good 6 yrs. every week I'd try them on. Pretty soon not only was a wearing them, but they got the "baggy butt" syndrome & it was time for a new measuring gauge. It may have not been the most scientific way, or even the most accurate way of going about documenting my weight-loss, but it kept me positively motivated.


If you take anything away from my endless rant, please let it be this; Find what works for YOU. Find what makes YOU feel GOOD. It is well worth the extra effort in searching and in taking small steps. It may take a little longer than a week, or a month, but you will see results. And if you are true to yourself and committed to your goal, these results will be LASTING ones.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Taste of Summer: Black Bean Mango Salsa, Cilantro Lime Brown Rice & a Little Bruschetta for Good Measure

Ready or not, summer is HERE kids! I dunno about you, but for me that means weekends beach-bumming it in MTK, bonfires, bbqs, and light & refreshing summer meals! Last week lifelong friend Andrea & I decided to whip up a quick meal with ingredients we both happen to have lying around. I was planning on preparing my black bean mango salsa and cilantro lime brown rice for a post. Andrea was craving her mom's addicting bruschetta & happen to come across some great all-natural chicken sausage at the market. Add in a glass of Mionetto Il Spr!z (yes that's how it's spelled) blood orange apertivo, and life really can't get any better. The combination was delightfully refreshing and equally satisfying. It was SO successful in fact, that for a solid 5 minutes, our ENTIRE conversation consisted of "WOW, that was REALLY good." "Like REALLY, REALLY good." "I can't believe how GOOD that was." Hahaha! But don't take our word for it. Try it for yourself to see how great it REALLY is!

Our impromptu dinner party started with a quick and easy appetizer. Bruschetta is basically a delicious tomato salad, crusty bread for dipping included, made bite-size. Now usually I would research my nerdy butt off to find a delicious, satisfying & healthier alternative to whatever original ingredients are called for. But in this case I'm pulling out the Ginzo card. I'm a sucker for Italian bread of any kind, in particular a seeded and/or semolina loaf. So, we just cut the portion size a bit. 2 small pieces per person was more than enough, especially with all the yumminess to come in the next course. Also, the leftover bruschetta mixture is a great salad on its own, and even better as a topping to grilled chicken or a firm, white fish. Andrea made a ginormous size batch because she was preparing to give some to friends and family & to save some for herself for the week. I've attempted to cut it down to a 5 person recipe. Tweak as desired.

Yields 5 servings; 70 calories per serving; 2.3g fat per serving
  • 10 - 1/2" thick slices of good Italian bread
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato, diced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 5 basil leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
Slice bread and set aside*. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil (make sure to save any juices from tomatoes & add in as well). Add oil, vinegar, oregano, salt & pepper and mix thoroughly. Spoon a small amount of juices from bottom of bowl onto bread. Top with about 2 tablespoons of tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

* We didn't do it this night, but I suggest toasting the bread before hand. It adds texture and gives all those yummy juices somewhere to hang.

Once again, I cannot take credit for the creative genius that is this Black Bean Mango Salsa. More of a salad than a salsa, it too has become a summer staple of the Montauk Moms. Loosely based on a recipe one of them came across many moons ago, it is a great side dish to any protein: chicken, fish, steak or pork (trust me, we've literally tried it ALL). The combination of sweet, salty, sour & spice makes it addicting. Make it ahead of time to let the flavors marry, and try some add-ins like roasted corn left over from last night's dinner (my personal favorite).

Yields 5 servings; 155 Calories per serving; 3.3g of Fat per serving

  • 2 Cups cooked & drained black beans (or 1-16 oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained)
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers finely minced (ribs & seeds removed)
  • 2Tbs cilantro, finely minced
  • 1-2 limes, juiced (depending on juiciness)
  • 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt to taste
Combine beans, mango, onion, jalapeno, & cilantro in bowl. Add lime juice, EVOO and salt. Incorporate well & set aside at least 15 minutes for flavors to marry.

Next at bat is my mind-blowingly simple Cilantro Lime Brown Rice. Its 3 simple ingredients, but it makes a boring side dish into something to crave & look forward to. You can really substitute any herb and/or citrus in this dish. Lemon & parsley...orange juice, sesame oil & some lemongrass or Thai basil...coconut milk (or coconut water if you're watching the fat), coriander & some fresh mint...whatever, GO NUTS! I do use organic low sodium broth to cook my brown rice. If you are cooking with water, you may want to season your rice a bit more aggressively. I've also found that using a little less liquid creates a drier rice, which is what you want in this dish, as too moist of a rice + lime juice added after can make a gummy mess if you over-saturate & over-mix.

Yields 5 servings; 117 Calories per serving; 1g of Fat per serving
  • 2.5 Cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 limes, juiced 
  • 2tbs cilantro, chopped fine
Cook rice per package directions. While rice is still warm, add lime juice & cilantro. Lightly toss & fluff with fork. Serve immediately.

check out those ingredients, every one of them is pronounceable!
We could have surely made an entire meal of just the above dishes, but Andrea had wanted to try out the new Cajun andouille chicken sausage she had picked up at Fairway. And let me tell you, what a spiffy and spicy addition it was! Bilinski's Cajun Andouille Chicken Sausage is all-natural & made from antibiotic-free raised chicken, with skinless casings, as well as being preservative-free, as well as gluten & wheat free. They're fully cooked - just brown & serve! At 90 calories & 4.5g of fat per link, they are a wonderful go-to item when you're in a time crunch, or just having a lazy day.

And what summer dinner party would be complete without a light and refreshing beverage? Andrea introduced me to a wonderfully light & crisp aperitivo by popular prosecco brand, Mionetto called IL SPR!Z. As sparkling wines go, Il Spri!z has a lovely & natural orange aroma & taste, slighlty sweet with a hint of a bitter finish. At under 100 calories a glass and 8% alcohol content, it truly is a delightful accompaniment to pretty much anything!

Notes: Not sure if you've been calorie counting all the way down this post. If not, let me give you the shockingly manageable grand total. For an appetizer, main dish AND drink, this entire meal came out to be 532 calories and 11 grams of fat. Not too shabby, considering what you absent-mindedly put away during a lunch at some mediocre chain restaurant or, a night out with friends for a meal & a few drinks! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Heart HUMMUS!

Hummus. It's been a long-time favorite of mine, and a summer snack staple with the Montauk Moms.
 For those of you who don't know much about me: I've spent every summer of my life in the hamlet of Montauk, NY with my family and our summer friends, who have become endearingly known as the "Montauk Family". We've pretty much done it all & been through it all together. And our collectively favorite pastime? Cooking & eating together! But, that's a whole other topic for a whole other post. 
Anyway, why are you reading this thing again? Oh right, HUMMUS. What's there not to love? It's a quick, portable & delicious. It's also a healthy & nutritious snack, in moderation. And that's where the biggest problem with hummus comes into play; SERVING SIZE. I can't tell you how quickly I can go through an entire container of hummus with another person just shooting the breeze and scooping away. I was horrified to find that a standard 10 oz size container of hummus had about 10 servings, 1 oz (or 2 tablespoons) per serving. And those puny 2 tablespoons came with 80 calories and over 6 grams of fat! Granted, that fat comes from olive oil & tahini paste, which both contain heart healthy unsaturated fats. But fat is still fat when it comes to your waistline.

So, off I went. I was determined to create my own version, lower in fat but just as flavorful & nutritious as the original. It took a few trys and alot of eager taste testers, but I believe that I've finally created a fabulous hummus! The recipe I'm sharing today is pretty standard, with a little extra lemony kick from the zest. The best part of all is that a dip like hummus is so versatile, you can really let your imagination run wild! Feel free to try these add-ins: Roasted garlic, pureed roasted red pepper, pine nuts, chili powder, red pepper flakes...the list is endless!

Yields:16 servings; 2tbs per serving; 50 calories per serving; 1.7g fat per serving
  • 1 - 16 oz. can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested**
  • 1tbs tahini* paste
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 3tbs warm to hot water 
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
Combine all ingredients except water in a food processor or blender (I've recently discovered my blender give the hummus a smoother texture, so that's my new vessel of choice). Blend ingredients, adding one tablespoon of hot water at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Pour into container & chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set and for flavors to marry. Best when made the morning (or day) ahead. This will allow full flavor to emerge. Serve with cut up raw veggies, whole wheat pita, or your favorite whole grain crackers. Also great as a spread on sandwiches or wraps.

*Tahini paste may be the only unfamiliar ingredient on this list. Its basically pureed sesame seeds. Tahini is readily available at most major supermarket chains in ethnic food isle. 

**I need to share one of my favorite kitchen utensils with you: the MICROPLANE. It's so quick and easy to use. U can grate hard cheese & zest citrus in seconds. But my all time favorite use for the microplane is to grate smaller items like ginger and garlic. I love the flavor of garlic, but hate biting into chunks, especially in something like a dip, where the consistency should be smooth ans creamy.