Pea Soup

 

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Recently, I realized that some of my favorite recipes have very few ingredients. I keep gravitating towards the whole “less is more” concept. Plus, this whole “peasant food” kick that I’ve been on has been good on my waistline and my credit card statement. I just looked at the percentage of my hard-earned money that goes towards my groceries and it ain’t pretty. I guess I am just the kind of girl who would rather buy morels and oyster mushrooms than a pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Here’s to hoping that recipes like this one will help my grocery store overspending issues.

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Spring started on Friday and the fresh peas that I have been lusting for are on their way. But, for now, I will be using frozen peas that were plucked off the vine during the peak of their season and I recommend for you to do the same if you are a mid-westerner or northeasterner. You people in nicer climates where the warm sun might be beaming on your face at this very moment, can go take a walk, and pick up some fresh peas while you’re at it.

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I’m not going to lie- I’m getting very sick of this weather. My love for my native land, New York, runs deep, but it’s getting harder and harder to picture myself here for all of my days when the winter drags on in this fashion. I guess it could be worse… I could have been living in Boston, and after this winter, that would have been my straight up nightmare.

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Anyway, this soup with keep you warm and skinny, which are two of my favorite things. I made it recently when I was having a girl’s night in with a bunch of my favorite gal pals and they all thought it was a hit. In fact, one of my friends who is a CrossFit junkie threatened me if I didn’t post this recipe ASAP. She’s a tough cookie now with her no-nonsense muscles, so I figured that I better listen to her and post my pea soup.

If you feel the early signs of a cold, you should make this soup tonight!

Health benefits of….

Onion: Onions improves blood circulation, disperse cold, damp, and mucus from the system, and help detoxify. Onions have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti viral properties. When buying, select firm onions that have a papery, dry skin with little or no neck and no soot. Avoid onions that are light for their weight or are beginning to sprout.

Olive Oil: Nearly three quarters of olive oil’s fat content is monosaturated fat, which lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol). Extra virgin olive oil is highly regarded for its ability to support the liver and gallbladder functions.

Peas: Green peas are high in vitamin A and B-complex and are a good source of calcium and potassium. While shopping, look for peas that have small, crisp, shiny pods that squeak when rubbed together. Refrigerate and use immediately.

Crushed Red Pepper: Crushed red pepper is a great addition to a meal and can help reduce inflammation. If you want more flavor in your food plus health benefits like weight loss and pain relief, try adding crushed red pepper to your meals. In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, a traditional form of Indian medicine, red peppers have been used to treat digestive problems, circulatory problems, infections and arthritis. Most crushed red pepper mixtures contain a variety of different peppers such as bell, jalapeno, ancho and cayenne peppers, which range from mild and peppery to hot and spicy. If you have pain or inflammation in your body, eating more crushed red pepper may help. Capsaicin is a compound in peppers that gives them a hot and spicy flavor and is also responsible for reducing pain.

 

Pea Soup
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the vegetable stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the salt, and pepper.
  2. Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Serve hot and top with crushed red pepper.

 

Ways to Cut Down on Sugar

Growing up, I was the kid with chocolate all over her face after inhaling Lindt truffles and to this day, you will be hard pressed to find someone who loves chocolate more than Michele Elyse Wolfson. Even though I grew up raised by two health-nut parents; a father who is a physician and wakes up with the birds to go to spin class, along with a mother who has a hotter body than most of my peers, my parents were not awesome at curbing the sugar intake that my brother and I consumed throughout our childhood.

Matt and Michele with candy!

Sugar is very addictive and I guess part of the reason that Matt and I got away with eating Oreo bars, chocolate chip cookies, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups all of the time is because we were both crazy skinny and active, so our parents kind of took our sugar binges for granted. I do not have the body of a baby egret anymore and I realize that even if I did, too much sugar is bad news for our health.

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My brilliant cousin, Eve Marson, is the producer of an amazing movie called Fed Up. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should and I am not just saying this because my relative happens to be one of the head honchos of this film. This is objectively an incredible food documentary about health and the effects that sugar has on our bodies, among many other interesting facts relating to the food industry in America.

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Let’s educate ourselves so we can not only look good, but also feel good.  I have clients who look fantastic, but they are constantly suffering with different ailments. Cut out the sugar and you will see a difference. You will have more energy, you will lose weight, you will go to the bathroom more regularly, your cravings for sugar will diminish, and your skin will look healthier. Below are 5 reasons to cut out sugar and a breakdown of a day in my life without added sugars.

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A DAY WITHOUT ADDED SUGARS:

8 am: Wake up and drink a cup of black coffee. I wasn’t always into black coffee, but I weaned myself off the additives and now I love it black.

8:15 am: Eat a small grapefruit with a tiny pinch of salt and drink a tall glass of water with a squirt of lemon.

9 am: Whole Greek yogurt with fresh berries, cinnamon, and walnuts or almonds. Tall glass of water with a squirt of lemon.

11 am: Half of an avocado with sprinkled sea salt. Tall glass of water.

1 pm: Sauteed tempeh, sliced peppers, cucumbers, spinach, onion, garlic, and avocado coconut wraps. Side of sautéed brussels sprouts. Tall glass of water.

4 pm: 1 cup steamed broccoli with lemon. Tall glass of water… see a theme here? Drink a lot of water!

7 pm: Cabbage soup. Barley with green beans in a basil pesto sauce.

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Need a little dessert? Have some banana “ice cream.” Put a frozen banana into a blender (I use my vitamix). It is so creamy and delicious.

Tips & Tricks to get you on your path to no sugar:

Avoid hidden sugars: There are hidden sugars practically everywhere and sometimes in places that are least expected. Dressings, sauces, and condiments add flavor to food, but they are typically loaded with sugar. I make my own dressings, sauces and condiments and guess what? They are very easy to make and not just for a trained chef, for anyone.

Eliminate sugary beverages: You can eat whole foods, but if you are putting sugary liquids into your body, it will make it very difficult to shed pounds and impossible to eliminate sugar. Avoid soft drinks, sweetened waters, sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and even apple juice. In fact, apple juice can be a combination of apple flavoring and 100% sweetener derived from concentrated fructose from the apple, so it can be called 100% apple juice. This is a tough one if you’re a big drinker of sugary beverages, so your best bet is to cut them out cold turkey. They are addictive and they are not a part of your new way of eating, and it’s not suggested that you allow even small amounts of them into your diet; they have no value. Make a list of all the sugary beverages you drink and create a plan for substitutes so you don’t feel tempted to cheat. Pour the ones you have at home down the sink, and take them off of your shopping list.

Reduce Refined Carbs: Ugh, this is the hardest one for me. Cutting back on white bread, white pasta, and white rice is tough. Too many carbohydrates affect your blood sugar in ways that can derail from your weight loss. If you eat them in excess, you will soon be craving other foods, often those that are high in sugar or largely consist of other carbohydrates. The process of cutting back on bread, pasta, rice, and so on will take more time than the previous two stages. This is largely because many people are heavily dependent on these types of complex carbohydrates as the primary constituents in many meals.

This is not a fad, this is a lifestyle: Once you cut out these sugary foods, the goal is to continue eating this way for the rest of your life. The moment you start to make cheats every day, the easier it is to get sucked back into the addiction. Knowledge is power, people! Learn what foods contain sugar and then avoid them. Try to identify why certain foods are more difficult than others. Invest the time and energy ion avoiding sugar, it will be so worth it in the long run.

Do you have any good advice on how to cut down on sugar? Comment below and let me know!

Check out my video on reasons to avoid sugar: Reasons to Cut Down on Sugar

Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms & Asparagus

I am a little bit obsessed with Israeli couscous. It combines a lot of my favorite qualities from both of my motherlands: Israel and Italy.  Why Italy? Well, Israeli couscous is sort of like pasta, but it’s a good transitional grain to its heartier relatives like quinoa, farro, barley, buckwheat, and sorghum. Israeli couscous is the grain that got my Italian mother out of the routine of making pasta multiple times a week and into a habit of exploring other grains. When I introduced it into my parents’ world my mother looked up and asked, “why didn’t I know about this until now?”

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Look, I am a health supportive chef, and I am aware that Israeli couscous is not a whole grain and it’s actually closer to a pasta than anything else since it is made from semolina flour. There are two main reasons why practically any dish that you see couscous:

1. It’s a good transition grain to get skeptics into trying carbs outside of bread & pasta. Israeli couscous can be replaced with a grain such as quinoa, bulgur or barley for added nutrients and fiber.

2. I can’t be perfect every. Single. Night. Israeli couscous is comforting and delicious. I load the veggies and the homemade slow roasted vegetables in this recipes and even kids LOVE the taste.

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This recipe is good for a dinner party or a Wednesday night at home. I tweak it for every time of year, but the asparagus was surprisingly amazing looking for this time of year, so I just couldn’t resist. This is my favorite go-to Israeli couscous recipe. Clients ask for it time and time again, so I think you’re gonna love it too.

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Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Fresh Mushrooms
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • • 10 oz. shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • • ½ cup fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • • ½ pound asparagus, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch sections. Remove thick ends
  • • 1 ½ cup vegetable stock (unless using the roasted tomato sauce. Then only use ½ cup)
  • • ¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • • 3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring 2 ½ cups of water (or vegetable broth if you have extra) to a rolling boil.
  2. Add 1½ tablespoons of salt and stir, then add the couscous. Let it boil rapidly for about 7 minutes, or until it is almost but not quite ready; it should have a hard core in its very center. Drain the couscous quickly and then rinse it thoroughly under cold running water, turning it over several times. Leave in a sieve or colander.
  3. Put the oil in a large sauté pan or large frying pan (preferably nonstick) and set over high heat. When hot, put in the shallot and garlic. Stir for 20 seconds and put in all the mushrooms. Stir rapidly for about 1 minute, or until the mushrooms look satiny.
  4. Now put in the asparagus. Stir for 30 seconds then add the stock, vermouth and about ⅛ teaspoon salt.
  5. Bring to a boil, cover, and keep cooking on high heat for 2½ minutes. Put in the partially cooked couscous and cook, uncovered for another 2½ minutes on high heat, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat. Check the salt. You will probably need about ¼ teaspoon more. Add the salt, pepper, cheese and parsley. Stir to mix and serve immediately.
  6. ***Sometimes I make this with a roasted tomato sauce instead of using 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock. When making the tomato sauce, I use ½ cup of vegetable broth and then use the 1 cup towards cooking the couscous with water.

 
Roasted Tomato Dressing
Adapted mostly from The Smitten Kitchen
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 pt red grape or cherry tomatoes (1½ lb)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
  • 3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Halve tomatoes through stem ends and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Add garlic to pan and roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes.
  3. Peel garlic and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and ½ cup roasted tomatoes in a food processor until dressing is very smooth. Pour over the couscous with the veggies.

 

Aunt Ginny’s French Onion Soup

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This recipe almost makes winter bearable because it is so delicious and arguably my favorite soup recipe of all time. I don’t understand why all restaurants can’t get on board with using veggie broth so that this soup can always be vegetarian! There are so many times when I want to order French Onion Soup when I am out at a restaurant, but often I am crushed when I find out that the establishment uses beef broth. My Aunt Ginny’s Vegetarian French Onion Soup recipe is top notch. It uses one of my favorite cheeses called Grueyer. Grueyer is a fancy version of Swiss cheese, but even people who hate Swiss usually still love the taste.

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Whenever I make this recipe, I somehow feel very connected to Julia Child as I am slicing the onions and I want my guests to feel like the goddess herself just made them a delicious recipe when they come over. Usually, I make this soup on a blistering cold night where you feel like you are in an old Campbell Soup commercial—you know the one—when the snowman comes inside to a hot bowl of soup and morphs into a little redheaded boy. Only this soup is homemade and very, very delicious. This soup is also a remedy for making a bad day into a good one.

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The version of French onion soup that I make is named after my Aunt Ginny because she is the one who taught me how to make this spectacular soup for supper. If you read my blog often, you will note that my aunts really kill it in the soup department since I posted about my Aunt Elena’s cabbage soup a few months ago. Aunt Ginny made this for me once when I was very little and I remember thinking that I had never tasted a soup quite this delicious. My mom makes this exact recipe as well and it’s a Wolfson family favorite. It freezes very well too, so make some extra!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and even though it goes against every rule (onion breath) as long as the two of you have onion breath together, you’ll barely even notice. Your taste buds will be so satisfied and that matters more when you are with the one you truly love!

Tips before making this recipe: Slicing onions makes for a tearing experience… In order to reduce crying in your kitchen, slice cold onions near a flame and use a sharp knife, as it cuts better and deteriorates less cells that cause tearing to happen.

Aunt Ginny's French Onion Soup
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 6 bowls
Ingredients
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 big sweet onions or 3 medium, thinly sliced
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon table salt, plus additional to taste and pepper (optional, can use white pepper)
  • 3 TBS of all-purpose flour, (make sure this is a true 3 TBS and NOT heaping).
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • ½ loaf of French bread/Baguette, sliced (doesn't have to be day fresh bread).
  • ½ pound Gruyere Cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in the pot on medium-low heat. Then, sauté garlic and onions for 3 minutes.
  3. Add ¼ cup of red wine and increase the heat to medium.
  4. Add salt & pepper then continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Stir frequently and lower the heat if necessary to avoid burning the onions. They should be golden brown and soft. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (The onions should be fairly sweet at this point).
  5. Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly on medium-low, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add broth and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Ladle the soup into individual ovenproof bowls.
  8. Throw the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast under hard and crunchy. If you want, you can break these into smaller pieces. Then, top each bowl with a layer of bread so that it's enough to cover the whole surface. The bread acts as the floatation device for the cheese. Sprinkle grated Gruyere cheese and sprinkle on top of bread.
  9. Place to bowls in the oven and bake or heat under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and brown.

Slimming Spring Salad Rolls

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I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for a healthy snack with fresh ingredients. The trouble is that these kinds of quick bites aren’t always easy to come by and when I want to munch on something to get “over the hungry hump” I am usually about to hit starvation mode. Often, my final decision is to just quickly shove something down the hatch and run along to the next activity on my schedule. The truth is, when one is trying to eat a healthy, it’s easy to get off track by choosing an easy-to-open packaged snack that is filled with sugar and processed ingredients.

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I love this recipe because it goes back to the basics. It’s a sexier way to snack on raw veggies. If you’ve read my blog in the past you know my feeling about a lackluster boring vegetable crudité snack. That’s why I call these spring salad rolls, because it’s taking all of those raw salad ingredients and wrapping them up into a thin rice paper, so you can bring your healthy ingredients on the go!

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Rice paper wrappers (also sold as spring roll skins) can be found in the Asian section of many markets. Cut all the filling ingredients about 3 1/2 inches long. Cut crunchy ingredients, like carrots or bell peppers, the thinnest; slice softer ones, like cucumbers, thicker. If making ahead, place rolls in a plastic container, cover with a damp towel and seal tightly. They will keep at room temperature up to 3 hours. I like to prepare all of these ingredients ahead of time, so that when I want to make these wraps in a pinch, it only takes me 2 minutes!

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I truly fell in love with Thai food when I was traveling in Sydney, Australia. They got it going on with their food scene down under in Sydney. I had spring rolls similar to these with the most delicious black rice and tofu curry and I thought, “I wish I could eat here all the time.” To my delight, I found that spring rolls are surprisingly easy and fun to make, while also looking pretty fancy at the same time. I put a spinach leaf on the top of my rolls not only for health purposes, but also because it makes them look so pretty. These rolls are a fan favorite with my guests.

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This recipe lists what I typically put into my spring salad rolls, but you can fill them with whatever you have or buy things that you think might be good. I dip these in a low-sodium tamari sauce, but they are also so good with a spicy almond dressing. If you find brown rice paper wrappers, grab those because they are hard to find!

Slimming Spring Salad Rolls
Author:
Serves: 6-10 Spring Rolls (depending on how much filling you add)
Ingredients
  • 12 8-inch round rice paper wrappers
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 oz. Thai-style baked tofu, cut into 24 strips
  • ¼ seedless European cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • 2 carrots, cut into thin strips
  • 1 green onions, cut lengthwise into strips
  • 1 small, firm, ripe mango, seeded, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup basil leaves, sliced
  • ½ cup mint leaves, sliced
  • Low-sodium tamari sauce
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges for garnish
Instructions
  1. Fill bowl with hot water; immerse wrappers, 1 at a time, until soft and it becomes flexible enough to wrap, about 1 minute. I do not do the wrappers all at once, I dip one in the hot water and then proceed to fill it up. If you leave it in the water for too long it will get soggy and tear and if you don't leave it long enough it will be too dry and snap. Gently remove the wrapper with both hands and place it on the constructing plate.
  2. Now it's time to put together your spring rolls. Lay spinach leaf on the middle of the wrapping paper. Arrange 3 or 4 strips each of tofu, cucumber, carrot, green onion, mango, bell pepper and avocado in center of lettuce; top with sprinkling of basil and mint. Starting at closest edge, lift edges of wrapper and lettuce up and over filling, then fold in sides. Roll into tight cylinder like a burrito. Place roll, seam side down, on platter. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
  3. Garnish with lime wedges, and serve with low sodium tamari sauce or a spicy almond sauce.

Eggplant Balls: FOUR WAYS!

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One of the recipes that I have been fiddling around with is eggplant parmesan. My goal was to make an eggplant parm-type of dish without the tedious and unhealthy frying step of the process. Eggplant parmesan is DELISH, but if you’ve ever made it before, you know that it can be a bit labor intensive—hence, the birth of the eggplant balls. This dish is much easier to make because they are baked instead of fried, making it a healthier version of the classic dish.

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I have made four different versions of eggplant balls because I was obsessed with the original Italian version, but wanted to put an Indian-flavored spin on it one night when creating an Indian feast for four. I added spices like cumin, paprika, and garam masala to the eggplant balls and topped them with a homemade tikka masala sauce.  No shock here—they were a HUGE success. I mean, what’s not to like?

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A few days later, I had a vegan client and I wanted to make her the eggplant balls, but then realized “Oh shoot, there are eggs and cheese in this recipe.” My discouragement was fleeting when I decided to make the eggplant balls vegan by eliminating the egg and cheese and adding brown rice for the binder and miso for the cheesy flavor. The balls held together and still tasted fantastic!

photo taken by William Meng
The fourth version are Greek and they came into existence mainly because I had to use the rest of my feta in the fridge and I was in the process of doing research on honeymooning in the Greek Islands. I was fresh off scouring a site that featured luxurious hotel surrounded by the classic blue and white views, so I decided that night we would eat Greek and since the eggplant balls are always a hit, why not turn them into a Greek dish by adding feta and mint and dipping them in a tzatziki sauce?
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These eggplant balls are perfect as an appetizer or as a main dish. One day I was really craving a sandwich, so I bought fresh Italian bread and made an eggplant ball sub topped with homemade marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. It tasted heavenly. If you use any of these recipes, I think you’ll agree.

Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Serve with tomato sauce if serving with sauce.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: Makes about 16
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 1½ tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix cheese, parsley, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Vegan Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Can serve with tomato sauce, tikka masala, or tzatiki sauce.
Author:
Serves: Makes about 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon miso + 2 tablespoon warm water, mixed
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Cook brown rice according to package directions.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Mix miso mixture, parsley, brown rice, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  5. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Indian-Style Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls If serving with sauce, I use a tikka masala
Author:
Serves: About 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon tumeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup grated aged goat cheese cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup dried bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Dry heat spices for 1 minute over medium heat while stirring. Then pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix cheese, goat cheese, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Greek-Style Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Serve with either tomato or tzatiki sauce if serving with a sauce.
Author:
Serves: about 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup grated feta cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix feta, parsley, mint, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

New Years Detox & Resolutions

Who is ready to detox with me after the holiday season?

This is the time to kick your booty into high gear and sign up for my 3-Day Detox! You will LOVE the way you feel after 3 days and it will help you to get started on your road to a healthier lifestyle.

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Click here to learn more about the cleanse and read below for healthy tips and ways to keep your New Years Resolutions:

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Did you eat and drink too much yesterday? Who didn’t?! Just look at me… I definitely was enjoying my champagne last night… We know the holiday season is a time when we overlook overeating all in the name of good spirit and celebration. And although we can’t take back everything we ate yesterday, we can take a couple steps to help detox and bring our bodies back to normalcy after much indulgence.

Here are a few tips you can use today to help your body feel great. Feel free to use the same tips if you just so happen to overeat again during the next couple holidays as well.

Drinking plenty of water can help start your cleanse.

Drink ginger tea which helps to improve digestion and green tea which helps eliminate toxins from the body. Watching a show like Downton Abbey makes me crave a spot of tea. Whatever gets you in the mood… drink your detox tea!

Eat leafy greens which can help eliminate extra sugars in your body from that extra cocktail you had last night. Arugula, cabbage, kale, and other greens can help. This cabbage soup is my New Years Day detox dream meal.

Get some exercise! There’s no better way to burn off the extra calories you ate then by getting up and walking it off. So if you’re going shopping even to the gym, park a little farther so you walk a little more today.

Here are my New Year’s resolutions for 2015:

A bad habit I’m going to break:
Procrastinating! I need to put everything in my google calendar and THEN make sure that the task gets done when it’s supposed to get done!

A destination I’d like to visit:
Somewhere with beautiful, exotic animals.

I’m going to work harder at:
Making time for exercise.

A project I’d like to finish:
Decorating my apartment and planning my wedding (which feels like a very fun project).

A class I’d like to take:
Nutrition courses & hopefully food photography.

I’d like to spend more time doing:
Giving back to others and volunteering.

A food I want to eat more of:
Raw fruits and veggies. They’re nutritional gold!

I want to wear more:
Dresses and jewelry. I love getting dressed up!

What are your resolutions for 2015?

Fill out the questionnaire yourself in the comments, or print it out and keep it as a reminder.

And if you want some extra pointers on making your resolutions last, check out my list of tips.

 

 

Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara

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Thanks to meat-free bacon and other replacements, classic meat recipe favorites can come back to the table with a veggie vengeance. Lots of my readers are trying to eat less meat but still want to enjoy some of their favorite dishes, like a great carbonara sauce. This recipe lets you do just that and it will satisfy anyone of the vegetarian or omnivorous persuasion. The MorningStar brand veggie bacon strips are a great substitute for meat. Other than the bacon replacement, this recipe contains all of the usual ingredients of a great carbonara dish such as fresh herbs, garlic, and egg yolks. Also, the aromatic smell of rosemary-garlic oil that will take over your kitchen is quite a bonus.

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I made this dish on Christmas day on the good old isle of Staten amongst skeptical family members who consider French fries to be a vegetable and make my vegetarianism the butt of a joke that never gets old. I am a good sport though, but mainly because I want to convince my loved ones that maintaining a plant-based diet is health supportive AND delicious. This meal is not one of my healthiest, but I throw in some lacinato kale because I love to have some greens in my dishes. My family ended up loving my version of carbonara and they already requested that I make it again the next time we all see each other!

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This dish really takes no time to make and I even ate it for breakfast the next morning because it’s actually like eating breakfast since it has “bacon” and eggs! I throw some tiny chopped up pieces of the veggie bacon in with the olive oil to start this dish, along with the garlic and rosemary, all while my pasta is cooking in the boiling pot of water. Carbonara is a Roman dish, so I usually use a blend of Pecorino Romano & Parmesan cheeses at the end. I also add nice grassy parsley at the end because it breaks up the salt a little bit, so I throw in a generous handful. The eggs in this dish are also very important.

Tip: This dish calls for egg yolks, so I put the egg whites into a little plastic baggy and eat them for breakfast the next morning so that they don’t go to waste!

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The most important trick to make a carbonara is to temper the egg yolks. This is why I reserve some of my magic cooking liquid, around 1/2-1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and I take it over to my egg bowl. While I am whisking or stirring the eggs with a fork or a whisk, I slowly add the pasta water into the eggs and I keep mixing. If you don’t take the time to do this, all you will end up with is scrambled eggs… with spaghetti… and little bits of chopped up veggie bacon.

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For the brightest color, I use farm-fresh eggs, which are widely available at Whole Foods and farmers markets. The hens that lay them are often fed marigolds which make the egg yolks intensely bright yellow-orange. Many recipes for carbonara include cream—I never add cream. The creamy quality of the sauce should come from the tempered eggs emulsifying with the cheeses and pasta.

Another important tip for carbonara is that you want to cook your spaghetti al dente… you want it to be a minute away from being perfect because you have to drain it and then add all of the pasta to the pan with the sauce so that it will continue to cook. That process is called “carry-over cooking.” Then, you add all of the sauce to the pan and mix that up so that it turns into a slippery system for the garlic, olive oil, rosemary and bacon to combine all together. Let me tell you, the smell at that point is pretty heavenly!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 strips soy bacon, cut into "bits"
  • 1 TBS fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb pasta
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.
  2. Heat olive oil, 3 turns of the pan, in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add veggie bacon, garlic, rosemary and some red pepper, and stir 2 minutes more. Next, add the kale and cook that down for 1 minute.
  3. Add wine and reduce heat to low. In a separate bowl, whisk up egg yolks and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook to al dente.
  5. Whisk ½ cup of starchy cooking water to egg yolks in a slow stream to temper them. Reserve an extra half-cup starchy water in case the pasta gets too tight when you toss it. Drain pasta and add to pan with veggie bacon and garlic.
  6. Remove from heat and toss with egg yolks and grated cheeses as well as parsley, adjust salt and pepper to taste.

 

Broccoli & Navy Bean Salad

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I have always had a very good relationship with broccoli, but I would be lying if I told you that broccoli prepared all ways are equally delicious—that would be crazy talk. I am not a vegetarian who loves to dip raw broccoli into ranch dressing. In fact, if I go to another affair where vegetable crudité is the only vegetarian appetizer… I am going to scream. I don’t really care if that sounds snobby because I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. It’s not that I dislike raw vegetables; I’m just not excited to eat them cut up into strips and accompanied by a mediocre-at-best ranch dressing… Blah! Life is too short for that nonsense.

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There are much better ways to enjoy broccoli and my favorite happens to be when it’s roasted. I love how it takes on a whole new element of flavor when it gets all crispy in the oven. Roasting balances out any bitterness that broccoli might contain and brings out its natural sugars. For this salad, I roast the broccoli at 425 degrees, but it won’t be in there for long. I chop the florets into bite size pieces and if they are still looking large, I just cut them down more until they are modest mouth size bites. Then, I chop the stalks into 8-inch thick slices. I used to only eat the heads of broccoli as a kid, but my dad would try to coax me into eating the whole vegetable before leaving the dinner table, so now I feel that ingesting the whole vegetables is a must.

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The last time I made this, I added some toasted panko breadcrumbs and I thought it was a nice little addition. I toast the breadcrumbs in a separate baking sheet for two minutes so they get nice and brown and then I add them to my bowl of broccoli and roast away! You can also drizzle a little truffle oil on top or serve this with a grain. You know how I love it when you play around with one of my recipes and then get back to me on your amazing creation.

Broccoli & Kidney Bean Salad
Adapted loosely from Smitten Kitchen
Author:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, trimmed, cut into small florets (about 3 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed drained
  • 2 large heads of Belgian endive, trimmed, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds, sliced and toasted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast just until the broccoli is tender and roast until edges are dark and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  2. While broccoli is roasting, combine remaining ¼ cup olive oil and rosemary in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Cool.
  3. Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Combine roasted broccoli, nutritional yeast, beans, endive, chives, parsley, almonds and rosemary oil in medium bowl; toss. Add lemon juice & vinegar mixture and toss to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper.

 

 

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

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Holiday festivities are upon us and it’s time to whip out the best appetizer and party snack recipes. I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party this weekend (who knew Christmas sweaters would become hip someday) and later on this week I will be making edible gifts for many of the people in my life who make it so much sweeter. I just love this time of year. It’s what makes the harsh, cold weather actually bearable because many of us are feeling festive and jolly.

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Last year I posted 4 Perfect Christmas Hors D’oeuvres that were vegan, but they are actually great 365 days of the year. The recipe I am posting today is no exception. I grew up on stuffed mushrooms and I bet anyone who I was good friends with in high school would say that they grew up on stuffed mushrooms at the Wolfson house as well. They are one of the dishes that I hardly ever order out at a restaurant because they usually aren’t as good as the way that my family makes them (bragging, I know… but c’mon, I bet you have family recipes that you feel snobby about as well). To be honest, I also rarely order stuffed mushrooms at an establishment because many times they are not vegetarian and are stuffed with ingredients like bacon.

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I have mentioned previously that I am trying to be more vegan-ish and have been cutting down on my cheese intake. I can say with certainty that there is no one in the world that loves cheese more than I do- I’ve never met a cheese that I didn’t like… but it’s time for me to cut down. That’s why I tweaked my beloved family stuffed mushroom recipe from vegetarian to VEGAN. Guess what? They are just as delicious as they were before and I’ll tell you why in two words: nutritional yeast.

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If you don’t know what nutritional yeast is then you’ve been missing out, and it’s time that you become informed about this excellent vegan cheesy tasting substitute. Nutritional yeast is much tastier than the name makes it sound. It is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate.” Since it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability.

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Not only is it tasty, but it also lives up to its name because it’s loaded with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It’s low in fat, is gluten-free, and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Because vitamin B12 is absent from plant foods unless it’s added as a supplement, look for nutritional yeast brands that contain B12.

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I have performed several taste tests to see if critics can differentiate between my vegetarian & vegan stuffed mushrooms (the only difference being that one has parmesan cheese and one has nutritional yeast), and no one knew which was which! YAY! A win for veganism where no one feels like they are sacrificing. If you are a stuffed mushroom fan, you’ll love this recipe. They are SO easy to make while maintaining an impressiveness that your guests will appreciate.

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 28 large (2½-inch-diameter) cremini mushrooms, stemmed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Stir the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, to taste, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.
  3. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 20 minutes. Serve.

 

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