Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

I know the old quote goes "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade." However, life handed me lots and lots of strawberries from a local farm. When you've got an ingredient in abundance, you might as well experiment with some new recipes, so I decided to use some of them to make strawberry lemonade. It's the perfect thing to have on hand, now that it's getting hot outside! I used one of my favorite ingredients for this recipe, and it is my sweetener of choice when not baking (although I do think you can bake with it, I just haven't tried it yet). It's Truvia, which is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant. I prefer to use Truvia as opposed to artificial sweeteners because I think it's slightly more natural than, say, Sweet-n-Low and Equal. Also, I suggest you go the extra mile and juice your own lemons...fresh lemons taste so much better than the bottled stuff.

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

10 oz fresh strawberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (8-9 lemons)
18-24 packets Truvia
3 cups water

1 cup ice cubes
3 cups soda water

1. Add the chopped strawberries to a (approximately 2-qt) pitcher. Using a wooden spoon, muddle them until they become a course puree (optional: put them in a food processor to get a smoother texture).
2. Add your lemon juice, stevia, and non-carbonated water to the pitcher with the strawberries. Stir to combine. Store the lemonade in the refrigerator until serving.
3. To serve, divide the ice amongst serving glasses, then divide the lemonade. Top each glass with the soda water. Serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 6 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8.9 g
  • Fiber: 1.2 g
  • Sugar: 3.8 g
  • Protein: 0.6 g

Monday, May 24, 2010

Teriyaki-Mango Chicken Packets

As a featured publisher at, I was eligible to enter their Daily Special Posting Challenge. For this challenge, I have to make a post each week inspired by their Daily Specials, which are featured kitchen products. I was inspired by this grilling basket and tray. When I first saw it, I immediately thought of camping trips with my friends where we use aluminum foil to make packets for food. While I don't have this particular basket, using foil to cook food in the open fire, on the grill, or even in the oven would probably have the same effect. Another bonus is because the food is totally sealed in the foil, you won't lose juices that come from the roasting food. I'm sure this grilling basket is great, but foil has never disappointed me!

I typically cook fish in aluminum foil, but I thought I'd try something different and cook chicken breast fillets in the foil. When it comes to cooking meat in a packet, there is always the question of whether it's done or not, but by filleting the chicken breast, it helps you to get around that. I decided to cook the chicken with teriyaki sauce and one of my favorite fruits, mango. Mangoes have been on sale for about a month at the market for only about 75 cents a piece, so I have been getting my fill! Because I want this to be as authentic to camping as possible, I used more dried spices than I normally would, which are so much more convenient. This was an easy recipe to throw together with minimal clean-up since you're cooking the chicken in the foil. The chicken was perfectly cooked through and moist with the warm mango sauce. This is a great recipe for anyone who likes sweet-and-sour flavor.

Teriyaki-Mango Chicken Packets
Printable Recipe

2 chicken breasts, each cut into fillets (4 fillets total)
2 cups diced mango
1 red bell pepper, sliced
4 scallions, sliced
4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
black pepper, to taste
4 1'x1' squares heavy-duty aluminum foil or double layered foil (if cooking on grill or open flame) or regular foil for oven roasting

1. Place the chicken breasts on one side of each square of aluminum foil.
2. Toss the mango, bell pepper, scallion, teriyaki, oil, ginger, garlic, cayenne, and black pepper in a bowl. Divide the mixture on top of the chicken.
3. Fold the excess half of the foil over the chicken and fold the edges several times to secure the juices in the packet.
4. If roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 450 and cook for 18 minutes. If on the grill or open fire, cook 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is done (the grill lid should be closed, open fire should have a single, even layer of hot coals). Let the chicken rest in its closed packet for 5 minutes. Be careful when opening because there may be steam.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 211
  • Fat: 6.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 48 mg
  • Sodium: 949 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 18.4 g
  • Fiber: 2.7 g
  • Sugar: 14.1 g
  • Protein: 19.6 g

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

Recently to thank a friend for a favor, I made them some no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars. I know a dessert with chocolate and butter is probably...or definitely...not healthy. The thing is, these are made with old-fashioned oats and natural peanut butter, so you get some whole grain fiber and protein with each serving (some portion control will be necessary here). Therefore, I feel there is some good compromising going on. I'll sure eat my oatmeal if smooth, chocolatey peanut butter is involved! Not to mention the sticky, toffee-like mixture that coats the oatmeal. These were so easy to make and look impressive with those little chocolate swirls on top.

The origin of this recipe is the recipe blog Buns In My Oven. Please check out the link to go to the original post and blog.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
Printable Recipe

3/4 cup unsalted butter (save the butter wrapper to butter the baking dish)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or chunky, I like Jif Natural)

1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Stir in brown sugar, vanilla, and oatmeal. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Press half of mixture in to the bottom of a buttered 8x8-inch dish, however I used an odd-shaped 7x9-inch dish.
2. Meanwhile, add the chocolate and peanut butter to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and blended. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture over the oats pressed into the pan. Reserve at least 3 tbsp to drizzle over the top (it would appear I did a lot more!).
3. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate and peanut butter layer.  Using a flat-bottomed measuring cup and/or your hands, gently press the top layer of oats until they are relatively smooth on top. Using a fork, drizzle the remaining chocolate and peanut butter over the top of the bars in a decorative pattern.
4. Refrigerate for 3 hours before cutting and serving. A thin-bladed sharp knife worked well to cut these. Clean the knife off on a towel in between cuts to make sure you get smooth edges.

  • Servings per recipe: 16
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 259
  • Fat: 16.7 g
  • Saturated fat: 8.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 25 mg
  • Sodium: 73 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22.6 g
  • Fiber: 2.4 g
  • Sugar: 10.5 g
  • Protein: 5.4 g

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole

A few weeks ago I went camping, and the bread I had was pulverized by the time I got back. The only thing to do with it was make it into cubes or crumbs for another application. Since it was also kind of stale (the whole description of this bread is less than appetizing, I imagine), I decided it was in the perfect condition to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight with some sort of liquid to soak up, such as with a casserole. I decided to make a breakfast casserole, with eggs and vegetables providing the moisture to puff the bread up and transform it into something delicious. I was really only cooking for me, so I didn't need a huge casserole; a loaf pan would do. This is the perfect size casserole if you are just making it for yourself---the leftovers keep well in the fridge. It's also great if you're just having a couple of friends over for breakfast.

This method really revitalized the bread. The casserole was fluffy and custard-like in the center. The vegetables soften as they sit overnight, so it's not necessary to bother with sauteing them (which only makes this easier). The cheese got melty and formed a light crust on the top. I used sharp cheddar to really add plenty of flavor. I think this is just as delicious as an omelet, but perhaps more filling and less nerve-wracking for the person having guests for breakfast. Just serve a fruit salad, some coffee and/or juice and you've got a impressive, low-hastle breakfast.

Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole
Printable Recipe

4 pieces day-old whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
1 cup egg whites
4 eggs
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Blend the eggs and egg whites with some salt and pepper. Blend in the cubes and vegetables into the eggs.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the loaf pan and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover the pan and set it in the fridge overnight.
4. The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring the pan to room temperature before putting it in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Bake until the casserole is puffy and the center no longer has liquid in it. Allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting into slices and serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 185
  • Fat: 6.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 191 mg
  • Sodium: 341 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13.1 g
  • Fiber: 2.1 g
  • Sugar: 2.6 g
  • Protein: 18.1 g

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Golden Lentil Soup

One vegetable that I'm seeing a lot more of in the grocery store and at the farmer's market is yellow summer squash, because it's in season now (at least for Georgia, it is). I bought a whole bunch of baby yellow summer squash because of its availability, and I needed something to do with it! I thought the yellow color would look beautiful pureed in a soup (call me crazy, preparing soup when it's already 90 degrees outside!). I recently bought red lentils, and I thought it would make the color of the soup even more fantastic. Red lentils have a psychadellic orange-red color before they cook, and once they cook they turn to a yellowy-orange color. Not only would this soup look beautiful, but it would be packed with vegetable fiber and protein from the lentils. I spiced this soup up with classic curry spices, which also added their own color punch. I garnished this soup with a swirl of fat free Greek yogurt to add some coolness.

Soup this good makes me not care that it's too hot outside to be eating soup...

Golden Lentil Soup
Printable Recipe

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 baby or 2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 cups water
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked through
salt and pepper, to taste
garnish (optional): plain non-fat yogurt

1. Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil, then add the onion, garlic, and squash. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent and the squash starts to get tender.
2. Sprinkle the curry powder, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and some salt and pepper over the vegetables and allow them to toast for a minute. Then, add the broth and water. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.
3. Add the lentils to the boiling soup, then reduce the heat to medium again and partially cover the pot. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
4. Add the solids of the soup to a blender, along with some broth. Remove the stopper from the center of the lid before attaching it to the blender pitcher to prevent a vacuum forming. Place a folded clean kitchen towel over the lid opening to protect yourself and puree the mixture. Return the puree to the soup pot and stir it with any soup that remained in the soup pot. You can also use an immersion blender for this step. Taste for seasoning and serve warm, with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

  • Servings per recipe: 2 main-course servings (can serve 4 for a first course)
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 286
  • Fat: 4.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 796 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 41.9 g
  • Fiber: 18 g
  • Sugar: 6.6 g
  • Protein: 20.5 g

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicken with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Feta

After such a hectic April and May, I'm so glad to be racking up some posts on here! It seems like my dinners have been simplified thanks to the busyness, and now I finally have time to post a dinner recipe that's a little more involved than a sandwich or a salad. This recipe is based off of my love for my two favorite spices (I like to call them the "spice twins" because I always use them together): cumin and coriander. They're so fragrant and add an instant exotic touch to whatever I am cooking.

This recipe is another way of preparing chicken breast, which I know can get really boring really quickly. If you're getting tired of the old grilled chicken breast, try an interesting sauce! Here, I've used brightly-flavored spices, salty feta, fresh vegetables, and one of my favorite ingredients: fire roasted tomatoes. You can get fire roasted tomatoes in the store where the regular canned tomatoes are located. The fire roasting adds smokiness without adding extra calories, so I think it's a great idea to use those types of tomatoes instead of standard canned tomatoes. Overall, this recipe comes together quickly and can even be served when company is coming.

Chicken with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Feta
Printable Recipe

4 chicken breast fillets (2 breasts, each split in half)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
8-oz canned fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then add 1 tsp oil to the pan. Place the chicken in the hot pan and sear on each side for 5-8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
2. Heat the remaining oil in the pan, then add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute until the vegetables are tender, then add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, oregano and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes.
3. Return the chicken to the pan and cover each piece with sauce and heat the broiler in the oven. Sprinkle over the feta cheese, then place the chicken under the broiler. Broil the chicken until the cheese softens and lightly browns.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 299
  • Fat: 13.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 106 mg
  • Sodium: 336 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.4 g
  • Fiber: 2.2 g
  • Sugar: 3.4 g
  • Protein: 37.4 g
Chicken With Tomatoes, Peppers, and Feta on FoodistaChicken With Tomatoes, Peppers, and Feta

Gingerbread Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Happy birthday, dad! Here's a special recipe I made for him. In our family, he's known as the cookie monster and can down cookies so fast you wouldn't believe it. For his birthday treat, I made him cookies, naturally, but I had trouble deciding which ones to make. His favorites have to be either molasses cookies or oatmeal raisin cookies. Both cookies share a similar flavor, so I thought, why not hybridize the recipes and see what happens? While making the cookies, I decided to take the spices a bit further than just cinnamon, which is what is in oatmeal raisin cookies. I added spices associated with gingerbread because molasses is in gingerbread. The final product is a soft, chewy cookie (thanks to the molasses), studded with oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts.

I like this cookie because it incorporates healthier ingredients, such as the unrefined flour and sugar, oats, nuts, and fruit. Some might perceive cookies as being unhealthful, but I know by adding certain ingredients I am making a healthier option than, say, a chocolate chip cookie (my neighbor/friend, whom I delivered some of these cookies to, thankfully backs me up on this idea).

I had to mail these cookies to my dad, and I hope when he opens the bag he can smell all the spices: vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. I know my kitchen was smelling like spices long after I finished baking these! If you like soft, tender cookies, these ones are for you!

Gingerbread Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups unbleached granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (I like the old-fashioned kind)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. With a stand mixer or hand mixer and large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light in texture.
2. Blend the molasses, eggs, and vanilla into the butter mixture until it becomes a uniform color.
3. Add all the ingredients except the raisins and nuts to the butter mixture and thoroughly combine. Fold in raisins and nuts. Be sure to thoroughly fold the bottom ingredients to the top to ensure a homogeneous dough.
4. Line your baking pan with parchment paper. Drop the dough in mounded teaspoonfuls onto the parchment paper. I like to use two spoons to help me shape the dough: one to pull the dough out of the bowl, the other to shape the top of the dough ball. Be sure to give each cookie plenty of space around (about 2 inches in between), because these do spread.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the cookies 11-12 minutes, or until the outer edges are slightly firm (however the center should be still soft).
6. Once the cookies are removed from the oven, allow them to rest 5 minutes on the pan before removing them. After the 5 minutes, simply slide the parchment with the cookies off the pan and onto the counter. Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature before packing them into air-tight containers. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

  • Servings per recipe: 60 (1 cookie per serving)
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 128
  • Fat: 6.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 18 mg
  • Sodium: 77 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Sugar: 9.7 g
  • Protein: 1.7 g
Gingerbread Oatmeal Raisin Cookies on FoodistaGingerbread Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Favorite Snack: Greek Yogurt with Blackberries, Honey, and Almonds

I've finally wrapped up another semester, only to immediately take not one, but two trips to my field site in northeastern Georgia. One trip combined work and pleasure because I did a plant census and camped with friends. I am no expert camper, but I believe this trip helped me to go from rookie camper to novice because I was able to start the campfire myself for the first time. Lucky for me, I have friends who are good cook and love to eat a variety of foods, which translates to good meals over the open fire. Dinner on the last night was memorable: a chicken roasted in a pan that was sat next to the fire, vegetables (asparagus, grape tomatoes, whole mushrooms, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and basil) wrapped in aluminum and roasted, and roasted potatoes, also cooked in aluminum foil. For dessert, I employed the foil again because I wrapped sliced apples with butter, raw sugar, and cinnamon and roasted those in the fire. They tasted like the center of an apple pie! So delicious. Here are some pictures of where we were camping:

It seems like it's been so long since I posted a recipe, so I thought about posting one of my favorite things to eat, even though it's incredibly simple. It's a snack that I eat multiple times a week, and now that blackberries are in season, it's even more delicious. It's Greek yogurt, which has more protein than regular yogurt, along with almonds and honey. During winter, I was preparing this recipe with thawed frozen blackberries, which are delicious but don't really compare to fresh. I love blackberries because they're full of antioxidants and their flavor reminds me of my childhood in Indiana, where we often picked fresh blackberries in the summer.

Greek Yogurt with Blackberries, Honey, and Almonds
Printable Recipe

1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
2/3 cup fresh or thawed frozen blackberries
2 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tsp honey

1. Place the yogurt in a bowl, then top with the berries, almonds, and drizzle with honey. Can be made several hours ahead of time.

  • Servings per recipe: 1
  • Calories: 251
  • Fat: 6.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 86 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Fiber: 6.6 g
  • Sugar: 19.9 g
  • Protein: 24 g

Monday, May 3, 2010

Zucchini and Potato Torta

It's officially taken me weeks to finish up with posting my recipes for my latest get together with the neighbors. I've been so busy with school. This past week was our last week of classes, and now next week is finals week. Then it's more work until August! Yeah,'s thesis writing time for me!

This is the final recipe that I made for my friends. It's derived from Giada de Laurentiis' Crispy Zucchini and Potato Pancake. What I love about this is that zucchini are used to add a light flavor to what might otherwise be a hefty appetizer. Shredded zucchini and potatoes are combined and then browned into a pancake. I took some creative liberties on the name because it sounded much more elegant than the original. I used thyme instead of rosemary just because it was what I had on hand, and I also nixed the mascarpone cheese. I couldn't find it at the store, and I can't imagine it being necessary because these were good on their own. In retrospect, I think I would have served this cut but kept in its original shape instead of spreading out each piece as Giada did. I just think it looks more impressive to see the whole pancake (or torta, whatever you want to call it) together.

Zucchini and Potato Torta
Printable Recipe

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and grated (use a food processor so it's quick)
2 medium zucchini, grated (again, food processor)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 c + 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
non-stick cooking spray

1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet or pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside
2. Lay the grated potatoes and zucchini on 2 clean kitchen towels. Bring the corners of the towels together and squeeze out the moisture from the vegetables. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the garlic, thyme, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, egg whites, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture to the pan. Using a spatula, press the mixture evenly into the pan. Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Cook for 8 minutes or until the edges of the mixture begin to brown. Shake the pan to make sure the pancake is loose, then slide the pancake, cooked side down, onto the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top of the pancake starts to brown and the edges are crispy.
5. Cut the pancake into 1 1/2-inch squares and arrange on a serving platter.Or, place the whole thing on a cutting board and then cut without arranging. Garnish with fresh herbs, such as parsley.

  • Servings per recipe: 16 
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 91
  • Fat: 4.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 2 mg
  • Sodium: 947 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 11.4 g
  • Fiber: 1.8 g
  • Sugar: 1.2 g
  • Protein: 2.7 g
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