Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Berry and Salmon Salad

Today I went to the grocery store and stocked up on more fresh produce. I seem to be eating so many more fresh vegetables lately because it's just too hot to eat warm meals. I shopped at a store I don't normally go to and was actually inspired to make a new recipe for tonight's dinner because of the various items they had on sale. The berries were on sale---which are normally so expensive, right? Normally I will get strawberries because they're pretty cheap right now, but I also got blueberries and raspberries. Next was fresh salmon, which was also on sale. I need to eat more fish in general, so I took the opportunity to buy a couple fillets. I prepared a simple salad with those four ingredients. It wasn't too complicated to do, but it didn't really need to be complex because I used ingredients at their peak of flavor. The red and blue berries, baby spinach, baby red lettuce, and coral salmon made a really pretty color combination. I tried something different with the dressing by adding maple syrup instead of my usual honey. I liked the subtle maple flavor against the salmon, and it was a nice change from floral honey.

Summer Berry and Salmon Salad
Printable Recipe

2 approximately 4-5 oz salmon fillets
1 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups mixed greens (I used baby spinach and baby red lettuce)
1 1/2 cups mixed seasonal berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, etc...)
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tsp of oil and allow it to heat completely.
2. Sprinkle the salmon with some salt and pepper and add it to the hot skillet. Cook until the salmon is browned on the first side and flip it over. Then, drop the heat to medium and allow the salmon to cook through. Remove the cooked salmon to a plate on the side to allow it to cool slightly.
3. Blend the vinegar, remaining oil, and maple syrup together. Season with salt and pepper and toss in a medium bowl with the lettuces, saving a little dressing to drizzle over the fish.
4. Divide the lettuce between two plates. Arrange half the berries and place 1 fillet on each plate and drizzle with reserved dressing. Serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe:2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:368.6
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 80.5 mg
  • Sodium: 221.7 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21.6 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Sugar: 11.9 g
  • Protein: 29.6 g

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pistachio-Pear Spinach Salad

While reading an old Women's Health magazine article the other day, I saw an advertisement for Kashi cereals. It was a big 2-page ad that also showed "surprising ways" to get more fiber into your diet. On the top of this list was pears, followed by pistachios. This inspired me to find a way to combine both of those in a recipe. Salad was the first choice that came to mind because you can toss anything fresh into a salad and it usually tastes pretty good. The nut and fruit combo with salad is something that has been popular for quite some time now, however I get tired of the usual apple, blue cheese, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and greens salads. It's good, don't get me wrong, but it's getting a bit standardized. I think pistachios are an under-appreciated nut, and pears have a different texture from apples because they're soft and perhaps a little sweeter. I was thinking about all the shades of green this salad would have, I figured it would be a stunner on the plate: dark green spinach, bright yellow-green skin of the pear, and the really bright pastel green of the pistachios. I wanted to add something different to the dressing, so I added celery seed, which is an ingredient I love in pickles and vinegar-based cole slaw but I never use! I love the hit of herbaceousness you get when you bite into them. When I told my mom about my idea for this salad, she suggested red pear for color contrast. I was thinking green on green on green, but I do love some good contrast. Plus pistachios have a blushing pink skin on the outside, so the red and pink would really pop against the green. Alas, mama's always right, but that doesn't bother me. Especially when it comes to making good food even better.

I had this salad with a piece of sirloin steak. The acidity of the dressing went well with the steak. I cooked it on my trusty grill pan and seasoned it with World Market Argentinian Steak Rub. It's one of my favorite spice blends.

Pistachio-Pear Spinach Salad

Printable Recipe

1 medium green pear, thinly sliced
1 medium red pear, thinly sliced
6 cups baby spinach
1 oz unsalted shelled pistachios (about 45-50 kernels)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp honey
1/4 tsp celery seeds
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine pears, spinach, and pistachios (save some to garnish) in a bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, celery seeds, and some salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve immediately, garnished with reserved pistachios.
The whole delicious meal!
  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 185.3
  • Fat: 10.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 194.8 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21.6 g
  • Fiber: 3.7 g
  • Sugar: 6.1 g
  • Protein: 3.1 g

Also, if you have been following the Facebook feed, I have been tossing around the idea of the Paleolithic Diet (aka: Paleo Diet). Basically, you get back to eating what our ancestors ate, which is mainly meat and vegetables, some fruits and oils, no sugar or grains. It seems strict, but of the resources I've been looking at I find it a pretty healthful diet. I just personally feel like I want to get back to a more natural way of eating. Sometimes you just get derailed, and my derailment has been eating sandwiches every day for lunch because they're easy! It's just too much bread and I feel sluggish after I eat them. As an experiment I haven't eaten bread in about half a week now and I actually have more energy. I am pretty busy most days because I am in the vineyard at least 4 hours (in 100+ temperatures) and I am also 1 month into P90X. I need all the energy I can get!

I'm going to have to think about this diet and research a little more. I hate the idea of the world "diet." I just want to think of it as a healthy eating style. The word diet has guilt attached to it...such as if you stray from your list of approved foods you're going to really mess up your day of eating. It also imposes limitations. I like to choose to eat a healthy diet most of the time, but allow myself those foods that are less healthy in moderation. The fact that foods that are traditionally considered healthy (beans, whole grains, cheese) are not eaten on the Paleo diet means there is a long list  of "cheat" foods. Like, if I have beans, then I am cheating. They're beans! How can that be a cheat food! And cheese....don't get me started on that one. The idea of not having Parmesan anymore makes me sad (though some less-traditional Paleo dieters include cheese...). See what I mean? I have a lot to think about. I will keep you all posted on what I decide. Maybe I will give it a one-week trial and see if it makes me feel like Wonder Woman (or a cave woman....Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble had great figures, now that I think of it...).

Please comment below if you have had experience with the Paleo Diet. I would love to hear your stories and opinions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lemongrass Chicken Curry

When I am tired of working on my writing at home, I often go to Barnes and Noble for a change of scene. After working a while and having my coffee at the cafe there, I reward my efforts by taking a long stroll through the books. I seldom buy books. I usually go to the library or I love, both of which are virtually free. However, a few weeks ago I was checking out the reduced price books and one caught my eye. It's called New Curries by Pamela Clark, and it shows recipes from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I love Indian and Thai curries, but I haven't tried a lot of the curries in this book.

The first curry I decided to prepare was adapted from her lemongrass chicken curry. I wanted to reduce the fat and calories from the original recipe. Changes I made include using less oil and the cut of meat. Originally, the recipe calls for chicken drumettes, which have a lot of fat in their skin. I used skinless chicken legs not only to reduce the fat but also because I thought they would make a better dinner portion because they're meatier. It was kind of a feat to remove the skin on the chicken. I found using chicken shears I could cut down the skin, then I covered my hands with a paper towel and used it to grip the skin as I pulled it off from the end of the bone. If you use kitchen shears, be careful not to cut the tendons of the chicken leg because they hold the meat to the bone; the meat will splay as it is braised in the sauce and not look as attractive in the end result. These methods cut the calorie count almost in half and reduce the fat by 30 grams!

For curry paste, I used Thai Kitchen red curry, which from previous usage I determined to be rather mild. Red curry paste is usually medium in heat, so when you choose a paste you just have to use your best judgement and choose one that you like. Panang curry is my utmost favorite Thai curry, so I would like to try this recipe with that paste. I couldn't find it in the store, unfortunately. I also think it's really important to thoroughly brown the chicken. It's an opportunity to add another layer of flavor so you don't miss the fat in this recipe.

Lemongrass Chicken Curry
Printable Recipe

2 tsp canola oil
2 1/2 lbs chicken legs (about 8 legs), skin removed
1 medium onion sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 4-inch stalk lemongrass, minced
1 green chili, such as jalapeno, minced (or to taste)
1/4 cup mild curry paste (ie: korma, tikka, panang, or yellow or your favorite mild paste)
1 1/2 tbsp turbinado or grated palm sugar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
2 carrots, julienned
4 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
salt and pepper

1. Heat half of oil in the large saucepan or medium Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken to the side.
2. Add the remaining oil. Saute the onion, garlic, lemongrass, and jalapeno until translucent and fragrant. Lower the heat to medium immediately after adding the ingredients to keep them from burning. Add curry paste and stir it into the vegetables.
3. Add the sugar and broth; bring to boil and return chicken to the pan. Partially cover and cook 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and add the peppers and carrots. Cook for 5 more minutes. Garnish with the green onions.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:256
  • Fat: 6.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 82 mg
  • Sodium: 860 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17.7 g
  • Fiber: 2.9 g
  • Sugar: 3.1 g
  • Protein: 26.9 g

Monday, July 4, 2011

Braised Chicken with White Wine and Apricots

Even though its so hot outside I have been craving braised chicken. Considering the heat has also been killing my appetite, I was glad to actually have something in mind that I wanted to eat. I work outside all day in the vineyard so at the end of the day I'm usually 1) too tired to put a lot of effort into dinner and 2) too hot to want to eat a lot. I wanted some chicken cooked in white wine, however, so I summoned the energy to prepare it. I kept this braised chicken light and summery by the addition of dried apricots and some fresh spices like coriander and cumin, which gave the chicken a Moroccan tajine sort of flavor, so I served it with couscous. Plus to chop up all the apricots, onion, and garlic I just used a mini chopper which is even more simple.

For the wine in this dish, choose a dry white wine. Good ones would be sauvignon blanc (which is what I used) or chardonnay. Sauvignon blanc is probably my favorite white wine, and it's characteristic citrus flavors really shine through in the final product. Just be sure to choose a wine that is worthy of drinking. If it tastes bad in the glass, it will really taste bad once reduced in the sauce.

Braised Chicken with White Wine and Apricots
Printable Recipe

1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried pitted apricots
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 lb bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (about 4-6 chicken thighs)
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, to garnish

1. Chop the onion, garlic, and apricots in a mini food processor.
2. Heat half of oil in Dutch oven. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika and sear on both sides; remove to a plate. Drain excess rendered fat from pan and place back on burner.
3. Add remaining oil, then add apricot mixture and saute until onions are translucent. Add wine, broth, coriander, cumin, and some salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and return the chicken to the pan, covering with the sauce.
4. Cook chicken, partially covered, 20 min. Remove lid and allow sauce to evaporate and thicken for 5 more minutes. Serve with couscous and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 307
  • Fat: 12.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 1.9 mg
  • Sodium: 404.5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.4 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Sugar: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 23 g
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