Posts Tagged ‘eat healthy’

Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini

Hello! I am so excited to be posting my first recipe for 2018.


Sharing recipes with my readers brings me tons of joy, but sadly my blog has been taking a back seat to work, school, travel, etc.

 

Setting goals is something that I do for myself all year long. 

When the calendar goes from one year to the next, it is popular to say “New Year, new me.” While that can feel lofty or dramatic, I find value in that January feeling to take some inventory of life and see where there is room for positive change and improvement. Usually, the list is health related, like, “OK, I’m going to take my vitamins and supplements EVERY DAY” (instead of for two weeks straight and then forgetting about them for the next two months).


Connecting with you guys and sharing my plant-based recipes was also on my list. So, to kick off my 2018 blog posts, I thought I would share this amazing dish that I created out of food that was in my fridge that had to be used ASAP.

 

Some of my favorite recipes come from those moments.

My friends say that those are sometimes my best meals. Maybe it’s because I hear Ted Allen, the host of Chopped, in my head as I figure out how to plate something delicious out of the random basket that is my refrigerator, or maybe it’s because it allows me to be more creative than usual, but it also feels good to make something tasty out of what I can find.

 

If you know me but at all, you know that I think pesto is the besto.

The recipe for this sauce that I share with you guys on my website is the one that I grew up on and was created by my momma.  People have told her that she should jar it up and sell it because it’s so good. Making it from scratch with impress yours and your loved ones taste buds.

 

Usually, I have batches of this green gold in my fridge that I made over the summer with fresh basil from my dad’s garden. I am running really low though, so I decided to use the rest of the basil in my fridge that felt like a ticking time bomb- ready to turn black at any given moment. I HATE when that happens! Whenever I am stomping and yelling “NO!” in front of my open refrigerator, the hubster figures it’s most likely because the basil turned bad on a dime.

 

 

I love this dish.

It’s warm, fresh, loaded with plants, and answers the question that I so often get which is “how do I cook with farro?” This is a perfect weeknight meal. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
5.0 from 1 reviews
Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini
Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini Author: Michele Wolfson Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 30 mins Total time: 50 mins Serves: 4 Nutritious and quick weeknight meal
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced half moons
  • 1 smallish Italian eggplant (about 6 inches), diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups farro, uncooked
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Recipe for pesto sauce: http://www.thedirtonvegetables.com/2014/07/basil-pesto-sauce/
Instructions
  1. Cook farro according to package (see notes) and then prepare your pesto sauce.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium/high heat. Then add diced onion and saute until translucent (3-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the eggplant and 3 TBS of olive oil and toss around, making sure it is covered with oil, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Put zucchini in the pan with eggplant mixture, add the last tablespoon of olive oil, and saute until eggplant is slightly browning and zucchini is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When finished cooking, drain farro and add to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put your vegetables in the mixing bowl with farro and toss well.
  7. Add your pesto to the mixing bowl and continue to toss well until all of your vegetables are covered.
Notes
1. If there is just no time in your week to make pesto (it's pretty easy to make, but stuff happens, so don't beat yourself up over it too much), I have heard that Whole Foods makes a good fresh pesto.
2. If you can't find pine nuts that are toasted, I toast my pine nuts on parchment paper in the oven for 375 for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing often. OR, I toast them in a dry skillet for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing often.
3. Whole Foods and Trader Joes have bags of 10-minute farro if you are looking to make this a quick weeknight dinner.
4. I buy the "Italian Eggplant" as they tend to be smaller and firmer.
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Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Linguine*

Summer pasta dreams do come true… this recipe is proof.

Ripe tomatoes lined my windowsill this morning and they looked like summer’s precious jewels. Either raw or cooked, heirlooms tomatoes have the most incredible burst of sweet flavor. After coming up with about 20 different ideas for my ‘maters, I landed on making this perfect summer garden linguine dish since I was really keen on twirling pasta around my fork in that moment. If you are Italian, you can especially understand what it means to be in a particular mood to twirl your past. A sentence my mother has often uttered in her true Brooklyn form, “No, I don’t feel like rigatoni today, I am really in the mood to twirl.”

My future self six months from now in the dead of winter will look back on this meal and try to remember a time when we could eat tomatoes that looked and tasted this good every single night. I’ll wonder, “Did I eat this outside?”  “In a tank top and shorts?” I will be so jealous of the lucky bitch duck that I am today. But for now, I am obsessed with myself for whipping up such a SIMPLE and incredibly DELICIOUS recipe that I can now share with my readers.

 

Banza makes linguine out of chickpeas and I think if I blindfolded you and put a bowl of regular linguine and a bowl of chickpea linguine in front of you– it would be hard to tell the difference. I can just feel my skeptical brother rolling his eyes at this last sentence, as he tends to do towards me more than anyone I know… but I will keep you guys posted on his reaction when I serve him a bowl with chickpea spaghetti. Spoiler alert: He’s gonna love it.

Channeling my inner “Barefoot Contessa” as I was making dinner this evening, I put up a large pot of boiling water and added “lots of salt”. She also always advises her viewers to use “good olive oil.” She is my goddess.

The pasta took 10 minutes to cook and I find that the trickiest part about getting chickpea pasta to taste amazing is making sure that it gets cooked the right amount. Too short or too long of cook time can make it go from “YUM” to “MEH” and that’s just not acceptable.

The creation of this dish was actually inspired by a tomato pasta dish I usually make in the WINTER by Giada DeLaurentiis. Canned cherry tomatoes are what make it more of a winter meal.

Can this dish be made vegan?

Yes.

 

Can you use regular pasta instead of chickpea?

Of course.

 

Either version will be delish, but this version was what my heart was calling for on the day of creation. I even had burrata in the house that I put right on top, but if you don’t have that, you can alternatively add cubed mozzarella, ricotta, or omit the soft cheese all together.

One day soon, hopefully, I will have videos of these recipes in my very own kitchen!

Tips for this dish:

1. I used kosher salt because it really draws out the juices of the tomatoes.

2. I save my Parmesan rinds in the freezer and then whip them out and add them into sauces, but you can always buy parmesan rinds at a reasonable price at many grocery stores. I know Whole Foods has them since I am there pretty much every day.

3. If you want this to be vegan, my advice is to blend half of the sauce so that it isn’t too dry.

4. I have made this kind of dish with macaroni (like penne rigate and rigatoni) as well and it is fantastic.

How beautiful is this pasta dish?

 

It just looks like summer. Mangia! Let me know what you think of this tomato recipe and please enjoy these precious days of summer.

 

Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Linguine*
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 nice pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 medium to large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • the rinds of 2-3 parmesan wedges
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt (plus more for pasta water)
  • 1 pound Banza chickpea linguine pasta (Can use regular pasta as well, even penne)
  • 1 cup fresh basil, ribboned (leave a little extra for the end).
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese or 4 oz mozzarella, cubed or burrata (optional)
  • black pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté on medium, high hear for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is lightly caramelized, golden, and fragrant. Slowly add the tomatoes and any juices left on your cutting board. Add the parmesan rind. Adjust the heat to medium to keep the sauce at a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Stir often to avoid sticking. Stir in the salt.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.
  3. Once the sauce has thickened, you can either puree the sauce in a blender or leave it in this chunky form. Remove from the heat, remove the parmesan rinds from the sauce. Stir in the pasta, basil, parmesan cheese and butter. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt, and pepper. If needed, thin the sauce with pasta cooking water.
  4. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with ricotta cheese (or mozzarella or burrata, black pepper, cherry tomatoes and basil. EAT!

 

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.

X’s and Oats Granola Recipe

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The Gift of Gourmet Granola + Engagement Party Pictures

This past weekend, my future in-laws hosted our engagement party in Sam’s hometown of Newton, MA and they invited some family and many of their friends to the celebration. I had very little responsibilities when it came to organizing this shindig until I volunteered to make the party favors. Even though I host my fair share of gatherings, the only party favor that I usually send my guests home with is a hangover, so coming up with an edible, cute, healthy, and fairly easy concept, was a bit of a challenge. I figured that as a personal chef, it would be a nice touch to make something for the guests that came straight from my kitchen.

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My future in-laws really admire my attempts to be health conscious, even mentioning it in their speech on Sunday. So in an effort to stick to my health-supportive ways, I wanted to make sure that the edible favor wasn’t cookies, pies, or any sort of treat loaded with white sugar.

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I was brainstorming with my business partner and we came up with making granola and having a tag made up that said “x’s and oats! Love Michele & Sam.” This recipe is AWESOME! I want to sprinkle it on my yogurt every single day. It is simple, but full of flavor and it’s super easy to make one batch (making enough for almost 100 people is another story, but it was worth the effort)! There are hints of vanilla, coconut, and cinnamon as well as chunks of crunchy almonds that balance the flavor of this yummy snack.

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There is no comparison… homemade granola tastes WAY better than the store bought brands and it’s way more economical to make at home. I went to the bulk section of Whole Foods and got all of my organic ingredients, which cut down the cost as apposed to buying each individual ingredient in packaged form. Make sure that you buy the big coconut flakes and pick the ones that are unsweetened. This will help keep down the sugar content and if you are using this recipe as a present like I did, you can still feel like you are giving the gift of healthy inspiration.

Your friends will thank you. So will your in laws. And your doormen.

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X's and Oats Granola
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes (the big ones)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. finely ground sea salt
  • ⅓ cup agave
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, whisk agave, oil, and vanilla together.
  3. In a large bowl combine oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon and sea salt.
  4. Pour oil and agave mixture over dry ingredients and stir very well to coat. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and stir. Place back in oven but remove and stir every 5 minutes or so until the oats are golden brown ( total time is approx. 20-25 minutes).

 

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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.