Posts Tagged ‘cooking with a budget’

Uova al Piatto (Baked Eggs in a Tomato Sauce)

It feels like 2017 is the year of the egg. We are living in an egg-topped age, people. So my question is, how do you like yours? I can’t say that I am able to pick a favorite way, but one of my favorite dishes combines all of my general favorite ingredients.

Tomato sauce + Basil +Eggs = Heaven on the plate.

This healthy recipe is perfect any time of the day, but I first discovered it at one of my go-to neighborhood restaurants called Felice. It was during one of those epic meals with my girlfriends where we stayed for over three hours catching up while laughing hysterically over freshly baked breads, Bellini’s, and more… so much more.

Do you have a go-to person that you split everything with when you go out to eat? If you don’t, I highly recommend that you recruit one immediately. It’s a real game-changer. I saddled myself up with my split-buddy over 25 years ago, so you can imagine that we sort of have down a system at this point.

My wife for life… aka my splitsy buddy who has been doubling my menu options for so many years.

Been splitting meals since 1991.

When it comes to any breakfast-type options, I always order the savory dish and she orders the sweet and then we swap. It’s a tradition I love so much that I hope we will continue it well into our denture days when we have to tuck our boobs into our trousers, (wow, I am really painting you a picture there).

Aaaaanyway, we split “Uova al Piatto” on that fine Manhattan Sunday morning and we were blown away. It’s just a quick little tomato sauce with eggs cooked right in it, but I could not believe I hadn’t tried making baked eggs at home. Especially since it’s so ridiculously simple.

This recipe is sort of a hodgepodge of different ingredients in one oven-proof pan, so I suggest playing around with it and adding or swapping items based on your preference. Want to add spinach and garlic? Go for it! Thinking smoked or buffalo mozzarella would be a nice little addition? How could it NOT be?!

My version is simple, healthy, and I think it’s pretty perfect. I dip toasted Sprouted Grain Ezekiel English Muffins into this dish, but any kind of crusty bread will suffice!

 

Uova al Piatto (Baked Eggs in a Tomato Sauce)
Uova al Piatto Cuisine: Eggs, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Brunch Author: Michele Wolfson Serves: 3 Inspired by Felice Restaurant and food.com
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 6 eggs
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a shallow flameproof dish.
  2. Add the onion, and cook until soft and golden.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the onions, and cook for 5-10 mins., or until the tomatoes are very soft.
  5. Stir in the chopped basil.
  6. Break the eggs, one at a time, and slip them into the dish in one layer on top of the tomatoes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with butter.
  8. Cover the dish, and bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the egg whites have just set, but the yolks are still soft.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you wish. Serve!

 

Red Lentil Soup

How’s the weather where you are?

 

Is it still cold?

 

The beginning of March in NYC still has a little bite in the air even though the end of February gave us a nice glimpse into spring weather last week.

So if you’re still stuck in winter weather like me, I have just the thing. If not, just pretend you’re in your sleeping bag jacket and in desperate need of a recipe that will warm up what my dad calls “your kishkes” (or to the rest of us, your soul).

 

How does red lentil soup sound? My recipe is perfect for when you’re craving something hearty and comforting yet nutritious.

 

This soup has 6 ingredients and has convinced even the biggest lentil naysayers that these pink-hued legumes can taste so freaking good. Bonus? It takes less than an hour to make and requires minimal cleanup as it is a one-pot recipe.

The combination of simple ingredients that this soup calls for consists of things that are often hanging around in my fridge and pantry, allowing me to whip it up on a whim. Plus, this soup reheats up beautifully and the lentils provide plenty of plant-based protein and fiber, making it a perfect dish to have for lunch or a light dinner throughout the week.

Anything that is this delicious, super heart healthy, easy to make, and hits the spot on a cozy winter day gets an A+ in my book.

 

Red Lentil Soup
Red Lentil Soup Author: Michele Wolfson
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb red lentils, picked over and rinsed very well
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 8 cups stock or water
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils very well until the water runs clear.
  2. Heat oil in a medium pot and sauté onions and celery for 5 minutes until soft. Add a pinch of salt.
  3. Add tomato sauce then add vegetable stock and the lentils. Stir well.
  4. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
  5. Serve hot. Delicious!

 

Butternut Squash Lentil Tacos

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Happy 2017!

I don’t know about you, but I spent the holiday season indulging a bit more than usual.

It’s the time of year when I find it hardest to turn down perfectly baked Christmas cookies and red wine while I cozy up by a fireplace.

I spent a week in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with my sister-in-law’s family the week before Christmas and Chanukah. To say it was delightful would be an understatement.

FullSizeRender.jpg I cooked almost every meal for 11 adults and 2 children and I didn’t hold back on the heavy cream or decadent cheeses.

While I’m not big on skiing, I love the culture around the sport. Meaning I thrive at sipping on hot cocoa or coming in from the cold for a big bowl of chili, and if I am very lucky, taking a dip in the hot tub to help relax the muscles.

I skied a total of one half day the entire trip, but partook in all the other activities like a boss.

FullSizeRender.jpg-6 The holidays are now over and reality has set in, which isn’t a bad thing.

I am not going to come at you with any New Year’s Eve clichés, but I thought it would be wise to post a recipe that you may want to make when you’re feeling kind of lazy, looking to stay on a budget, and want to eat a delicious, healthy dish. 

Here’s a little tip from me to you: MEAL PREPPING AHEAD OF TIME IS WHERE IT IS AT MY FRIEND! Planning what I am going to eat for the week and chopping ingredients in advance has saved me SO much time, money and stress in the long run. It’s simple- Meal planning makes cooking more enjoyable.

FullSizeRender.jpg-4 Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love going to restaurants, but it’s usually not cost effective. The urge to dine out is tempting since I live in Manhattan which is arguably the food capital of the world.

IMG_6477 Not only is eating at a restaurant expensive, there is a good chance that there are hidden calories laced into every scrumptious bite.

Also, when I spent that week in December with my two adorable nephews who are 2.5 and 8 months old, I realized that eating at home is much preferable for many families because… have you ever been at a restaurant with a toddler and a baby? Suddenly the idea of cooking even for 13 people for the week became tremendously more appealing.

I love the results that staying home and cooking new dishes has had on my skillz. The more I cook, the more I enjoy figuring out which meals scale easily and can be prepped in advance to accommodate various diets and food allergies.

FullSizeRender.jpg-7 FullSizeRender.jpg-5 The recipe I am sharing today is the perfect meal post-holidays when it’s time to put down the hollandaise, renew your gym membership, and make healthier choices. Aside from being vegan, this dish is easy to make and Sam and I LOVE the way it tastes! It is so versatile that it started off as a dish on it’s own, but then one day I had corn tortillas on hand, so I turned this meal into lentil tacos. Hello new taco Tuesday recipe!

IMG_6460 I am also going to give you another little tip to make this recipe 100 x easier: If you don’t have the time to do your prep work in advance, buy your butternut squash pre-cubed at the grocery store. You will kiss yourself later for spending the few extra shekels and ultimately saving yourself a little time and effort.

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Eating the filling on it’s own with baked tofu + cabbage soup is another great dinner option!

Butternut Squash Lentil Tacos
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs medium butternut squash (I used pre-sliced butternut from Whole Foods), peeled and sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • ¾ cup black lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
  • 8 corn tortillas (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • Optional garnishes: shredded lettuce and guacamole
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line one large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
  2. To roast the squash: On your prepared baking sheet, toss the cubed butternut in enough olive oil to lightly coat all sides, about 2 tablespoons. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chili powder and a pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange the butternut in a single layer. Bake until the butternut is tender throughout and caramelized on the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway.
  3. Meanwhile, soak lentils for 10 minutes in a small bowl, then drain. Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water, then drain and cool.
  4. Combine lentils, butternut squash, goat cheese, if using.
  5. To warm the tortillas: In a small skillet over medium heat, warm each tortilla on both sides before transferring to a plate and covering with a lint-free towel to keep warm. Repeat with each tortilla, stacking each warmed tortilla on the last.
  6. To assemble the tacos, spoon an ample amount of filling down the center of your taco, top a spoonful of guacamole down the side. Top with garnishes of your choice and serve immediately.

Simple guacamole (double if you love guac!)
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup diced tomatoes (optional)
  • Pinch of salt, more to taste
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine the diced avocado, lime juice, tomatoes and salt. Mash with a fork until the mixture is blended and no longer chunky. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan: The Easy and Healthier Version

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I am thirty years old.

I officially start my Master’s in Nutrition program this month at the University of Bridgeport.

Also this month, my brother turns twenty-six, which makes me feel like I am ancient since he is still a baby in my head.

Summer is my favorite time of year and it’s not even close.

There are more days than I would like to admit when I don’t make my bed in the morning.

I love living in New York City, but it leaves me having a love/hate relationship with owning a car. I often spend at least 3+ hours dealing with it on a weekly basis.

Life is still good. I pinch myself every day over how fortunate I am to live in our apartment.

My husband is the best. 

I wish I can be in my gardens every day. I also wish I can see my parents every day.

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The recipe I am posting today is the bees knees. It is a total game-changer. Why, you ask? I make this dish on the reg because this version saves so much time and cuts a lot of calories from the typical recipe. I have a strong feeling that you will love this dish.

FullSizeRender-4 Every time I make a tray of classic Eggplant Parmesan, it is so labor intensive that when all is said and done, I usually wind up calling my mother or one of my aunts and I say, “As delicious as this meal is, I am not making this again for a LONG time!” They are the ones who originally taught me how to make this recipe, so they can completely relate.

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It makes me sad though because I really love eggplant parmesan. That is why I created this recipe: It is not intimating. It reduces a hefty amount of oil. There is no egg, bread, and frying the eggplant. Best of all… It is still so. freaking. delicious. NO FRYING. Music to my ears.

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This recipe is vegetarian, but can easily be adapted to becoming vegan by omitting the cheeses and using vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast instead.

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There are less than 10 ingredients in this recipe. Sometimes when I am having company, I make a pound of linguine and extra tomato sauce to serve with this entree. Linguine is my favorite with eggplant parm, but any kind of pasta works. When it’s just me and the hubster though, we usually skip the pasta and opt for something like a shaved brussels sprout salad or sautéed mushrooms and kale on the side.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan: The Easy Version
Adapted from Mario Batali: Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggplant, about 2 pounds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • ¾ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced ⅛-inch thick
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Using some extra-virgin olive oil, oil a baking sheet. Slice each eggplant about 1 to 1½ inches thick.Place on the oiled sheet. Bake the eggplant until the slices begin turning deep brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Remove the slices from the baking sheet and place them on a plate to cool.
  3. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In an 8 by 12-inch brownie pan, spread ¼ cup sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Then, place the largest eggplant slice evenly spaced apart. Over each slice, spread 3 TBS of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a teaspoon of basil. Place one slice of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano. Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the disks and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses. Repeat the layering again until all the ingredients are used.
  5. Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese is melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick.
  4. Season with salt and serve.
  5. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

 

 

Berry Cherry Energy Bars

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It’s 1:38 pm and you are schlepping to the next activity in your jam packed day. All you’ve had is a cup of coffee and a banana and you’ve been on the run since 6:30am. At this point of the day, if you are anything like me, you are going to be VERY hangry. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, hangry was coined for those of us who get angry when hungry. If you can relate, then you’ve experienced what it’s like to be a “hangry” person. See below.

When my husband agreed to love me for better or worse while reciting our vows on our wedding day, it meant that he was promising to love me through my rare dark states in which I never mean what I do or say while in the heat of a hanger attack, but like The Hulk, my barbs can sting nevertheless. If you are familiar with Tina Fey from 30 Rock, you will have a better understanding for what I am like when I am hangry.

I have the perfect solution to cure a hanger attack and they are my Berry Cherry Bars. They are energy bars and they require very little work to create in your own kitchen. Let’s get back to discussing those times when you are running out of the house and you are on-the-go all day… Those are some of the hardest moments to eat healthy and keeping our metabolisms going. One reason I think Berry Cherry Bars are great is because I can eat something homemade and the ingredient list doesn’t sound like a science project.

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I love having control over knowing what exactly is going into my food, especially in this case because energy bars that are sold at the grocery store can be deceiving. The store-brand bars are often labeled “healthy” but in actuality, they are loaded with refined sugars, low-quality fats, preservatives and artificial ingredients. Have you ever checked the first ingredient in a commonly sold energy bar? I can guarantee that some sort of sweetener will be the first ingredient listed.

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Making your own nutrition bars takes a short amount of time and this recipe is loaded with whole grains and protein. I only wish I knew how to make these back in college when I was eating “South Beach Diet” bars practically every single day in an effort to obtain a svelte figure and curb my hanger. I think I carried more of those bars around with me in my backpack than actual textbooks. I consumed them on the regular, and as a result, I put on an extra 10+ lbs (the daily pasta intake while studying abroad in Florence didn’t help matters).

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I tried to create my protein bar recipe with the idea of keeping it simple, affordable, and containing some of the most nutritionally packed foods you could possibly eat. I love eating nuts and seeds because they are a delicious source of protein. Sunflower seeds are also loaded in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Individuals who consume them on a regular basis have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. I opt to use sunflower seeds instead of peanuts in some of my recipes because these power seeds are full of vitamin E, which has anti-aging effects! Anything natural that prevents wrinkles is top-notch in my book. They are also full of iron and potassium.

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I make sure to add both dry and fresh fruit to these bars. They give these energy nom noms (another name we use for these guys) their soft, chewy texture. I often swap out the raspberries for blueberries and the dried cherries for dates, whole dried cranberries or apricots. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use pretty much whatever you have on hand. Dried fruit is so easy to store, making it simple to whip up these bars on a whim if you wish.

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You can even add 2 TBS of a plant based protein powder to my bars because it helps keep the belly fuller for longer. This has been a new trick of mine because one of my favorite times to eat these power bars is after a killer workout, so it’s important for me to eat plenty of protein to restore my fatigued muscles. Most of the time though, I leave this step out when I am making these bars for a large group.

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I brought some Berry Cherry Bars and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad to Pure Barre Financial District (aka my second home) so that my fellow barre babes can be inspired to make healthy food choices after an intense workout.

Berry Cherry Bars will last a few days at room temperature and for up to a week in the refrigerator. I like to freeze them as well because they defrost beautifully.

Note: Make sure you buy your nuts raw and unsalted for this recipe

Berry Cherry Energy Bars
Berry Cherry Energy Bars Author: Michele Wolfson Berry Cherry Energy Bars Author: Michele Wolfson Berry Cherry Energy Bars Author: Michele Wolfson Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 35 mins Total time: 55 mins Serves: 12 bars Adapted from Ellie Kreiger's Walnut and Dried Cherry Bar http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/walnut-and-dried-cherry-bars-recipe.html
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup honey (agave for vegan version)
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 eggs (I use ½ finely blended walnuts until they make a paste as a binder for a vegan version to replace the egg)
  • ¾ cup chopped dried tart cherries
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup of blueberries or raspberries
  • ¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes (optional)
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt.
  2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the honey (agave for vegan version), applesauce, oil, and egg (or walnut paste if making vegan until well combined.
  3. Stir in the dry mixture with the wet until well combined. Add the dried cherries, pecans, blueberries, chocolate and coconut flakes.
  4. Coat an 8½ inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Cool completely and cut into 12 bars, about 4 by 1½ inches each.

Spinflower Soup

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I have been craving a soup that seems creamy, but doesn’t actually have any cream. You know what I mean? Like when you want to fit into your skinny jeans, but you don’t actually want to put in the effort of going outside, heading over to the gym, and then getting on the treadmill for 45 minutes. I was starting to think that my desire for a healthy soup that would taste unhealthy wasn’t going to be possible. My husband often tells me that I am a skinny girl on the outside with the thoughts of a very large (and in charge) person on the inside.

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Whenever my refrigerator is filled with produce that will go bad in a few days, my mind goes to combining all of these extra ingredients and making a scrumptious soup. This dish is easy to make a delicious lunch or light dinner. You can replace the cauliflower with broccoli rabe if you want a super green soup. I added the superfood spinach at the end to wilt.

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If you have an immersion blender, you are going to want to cook this soup in a nice, deep pot. Turn your heat way down, put your immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the pot, and stand back a little so you don’t get splattered. Then, just start whizzing that up and you have your healthy, vegan, no-cream creamy soup all ready to roll! If you do not have an immersion blender, you can just blend this soup in batches. I used my vitamix (a chef’s best friend) and the soup came to a perfect texture. My husband likes to add some grated parmesan cheese on top, which is over-the-top delicious, but I keep mine vegan and I love it just the same.

Spinflower Soup
Adapted mostly from Rachael Ray's Spinoccoli Soup
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter (omit butter and use more olive oil if vegan)
  • 2 leeks, whites and light green tops, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, small cubed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 10 ounces spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful basil, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add butter and melt; when it foams, add leeks and garlic, and stir 2 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower, sweet potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Raise heat to medium-high and cover to sweat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add stock and bring to boil. Wilt in the spinach, then throw in the shredded basil and then blend with an immersion blender or purée in batches in a vitamix, blender, or food processor. You can add a cup of water if soup is too thick. Adjust seasoning.

 

Tomato Series, Part 2: Lentil Caprese Salad

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Mozzarella and tomatoes arguably make for the most perfect food pairing of all time. I am sure when people think of two items that go best together, the first things that come to mind are pairings like peanut butter and jelly or ketchup on fries. Both are excellent food pairings, but a forkful of pillowy chunks of fresh mozzarella mixed with a ruby red tomato, especially on a hot summer day, cannot be beat. One bite and you’ll get a sweet blast followed by a wonderful tomato flavor.

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My recipe is not a typical caprese because I have added things like lentils and vinegar. Truth be told, I like it even better this way because the lentils turn a classic appetizer into a main dish. Sometimes I even add in a dollop of pesto and mix that in if I have some sauce sitting in my fridge (as homemade pesto tends to be a main staple in my house). If I REALLY want to make it an entree, I add farro, barley, sorghum, or another health supportive grain and my work is done! I typically make it the way that I am posting below, but if you have any other ideas to make it delicious, let me know!

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The tomato crop from my dad’s garden this summer has been the best in years! I hope all of you fellow green thumbs are having a great tomato season as well. We have picked HUNDREDS of tomatoes this August, which was the inspiration for my tomato series. I have bags of tomatoes covering all of my countertops and a freezer filled with jars of tomato sauce that we will delve into with delight on a cold wintery night many months from now.

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This salad holds up well in the fridge for several days and makes a great lunch to pack for work!

 

Lentil Caprese Salad
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils well, discarding any rocks or discolored lentils.
  2. Place lentils and 2 cups salted water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Turn to low heat and cover the pot. Cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water if they are drying out.
  3. Drain cooked lentils of any leftover water and let cool in a large bowl. Gently stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Tomato Series, Part 1: Barley & Lentil Stuffed Eggplant

Hello, readers! I bet you are wondering where the heck have I been… And if you weren’t, I will tell you anyway. On Sunday, August 9th I married my fella of seven years. Tying the knot was everything I pictured it to be and even more. It truly was the best day of my life.

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All the planning and prepping was pretty time consuming, but I am back and better than ever with some new and awesome stuff.

Wedding planning and working to get slim and trim inspired me to prepare healthy meals ahead of time on Sundays or Mondays so I didn’t have to think about what I was going to eat when I would come home starving after a long day of work. It’s just so lovely when everything is all planned out for me by the earlier-in-the-week version of myself. She is typically a gal who starts her week off really well organized, goal oriented, and she’s very proactive about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I love when I get all of my ducks in a row on a Sunday or a Monday so that come Wednesday, when the week is in full swing and I become the “if my head wasn’t attached to my neck, I’d probably misplace it” version of myself, AT LEAST I don’t have to think of what I am going to eat because it’s already done! Pretty cool.

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Now my trick has been to think of healthy options that are also economical. Is this the year of weddings for anyone else? I have more than a handful of weddings this year (including my own) and that means bridal showers and bachelorette parties as well. If my bank account could talk it would already be saying things like “Excuse you??? Girl, you better take it easy.” That’s why I need to start coming up with recipes on a budget. I REALLY love perusing the produce department of a grocery store probably more than a healthy, normal amount, so I am trying to reel it in or at least buy just a LITTLE bit of this and that.

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This recipe essentially gives me everything I want from the stipulations that I already mentioned. It is really healthy, super delicious, affordable, and easy to make. Does it get better than that? No. It does not. That’s why I knew right away that I had to share it with my beloved readers. This is going to be our new end-of-summer go-to recipe. I am so excited for all of us because we are going to keep healthy AND have a scrumptious recipe at our fingertips at the same time. YAY VEGGIES AND HEALTHY GRAINS!

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*IMPORTANT TIP: Make the barley and lentils ahead of time so you can make this dish in a pinch when you’re hungry! I usually make about 1.5 times the amount of lentils and barley that this recipe calls for and then use the leftover grains and legumes in other recipes for the week. 

Barley and Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with a Fresh Tomato Sauce
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Roasted Eggplant, Barley and Lentils
  • 3 TBS olive oil, plus ⅛ cup
  • 3 small eggplant, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups barley, cooked
  • 1 cup green lentils, cooked
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Roasting Eggplant: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve eggplants lengthwise. Drizzle each half with ½ Tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.Place the eggplant in the oven for 50 minutes to one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and then add cooked lentils and cooked barley, cooking for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Take eggplant out of oven after fully roasted and scoop out the insides of the eggplant. You can cook up the eggplant insides in the pan that you cooked the garlic and lentils in and add that to the barley mix or you can save the eggplant to use at another time.

  4. To make tomato sauce:
  5. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add the fresh tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally.
  8. Once it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer.

  10. Assembly:
  11. Add barley and cooked lentils mixture to the pot of tomato sauce. Throw in the arugula and mix.
  12. Stuff eggplant with barley, lentil, arugula and tomato mixture.
  13. Enjoy!

 

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.

 

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.

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