Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are You Ready for Some Football?!

This time of year, the only thing left to look forward to is football.  Unless you're one of those people looking forward to Valentine's day, but I'm not going to go there.  On a freezing Sunday what could be better than crowding around with a bunch of screaming fans and drinking a few beers? Oh that sounds pretty good.

Well kids, it's playoff season which means you have spent the whole regular season eating wings and pizza and drinking your fair share of bud light.  And I bet on most game days you have not given any thought to how many calories are in chicken wings or what blue cheese dressing is actually made of.  But let me tell you-it's not pretty. The spirit of the game should not prevent you from keeping your New Year's resolution or make you look like a line backer.

In honor of the playoffs and the much anticipated Super Bowl (which happens to fall on my birthday) why not snazz it up a bit?  Upgrade some of the snacks at your next party and you won't feel bad about having that extra beer.  Cut out the excess fat from fried foods and all that processed junk with these great recipes.  Plus, they are super quick and easy, so you can save all your energy for the game.

The chicken, spinach and feta meatballs will curb your craving for chicken bites and won't make you struggle with saucy fingers or meat in your teeth.  The chickpeas can replace greasy chips, salty peanuts and candy, providing the perfect pop-able snack you can munch on all game!

Chickpea Pops

1 15oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon of coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more for extra spice)

Toss the chickpeas in olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Spread evenly onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes tossing often.  Bake until the chickpeas are slightly crispy on the outside.  Remove and place in a bowl.  Add seasoning and toss well to coat.  Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Meatballs with Spinach and Feta
Makes approximately 18-20 

1 pound ground chicken
1 small onion, finely diced
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
1 egg
2-3 cups chopped spinach
1/2 cup Better Breadcrumbs
1/4-1/2 cup of crumbled feta (depending on how cheesy you want them to be)

Drizzle olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Clean about half a bunch of spinach, remove the stems and chop to yield 2-3 cups.  Add the onion to the pan and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and chopped spinach and cook until the spinach is fully cooked.  Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Form into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Soup's On!

It's freakin' freezin'.  There is no debating that.  So the thought of eating anything other than something warm and cozy is out of the question.  This is one of my favorite soups to make during the cold winter months.  It's a remix of the classic Italian stracciatella soup or even better, Chinese egg drop soup.  Everyone loves egg drop soup.  That iridescent yellow color and odd texture are so not natural yet you find it irresistible, especially when it comes with the crunchy noodles.  Why not try making the healthier version at home?!  It is super easy and adding spinach provides extra color, flavor and vitamins. Snuggle up with a mug of this and you'll be warm in no time!

Tip: Cleaning Spinach

Whenever you clean a leafy green, it is best not to use a strainer.  Use a large bowl and fill it with ice water.  Place the greens into the ice water and swish them around gently to remove all the dirt and sediment.  The greens will stay afloat on top and the dirt and sediment will shake off to the bottom. Lift them out of the water onto a towel or into a strainer. 

Egg Drop Soup with Spinach
Makes 8 cups

2 cups of chicken stock
6 cups of water
5-6 cups of fresh spinach
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons of parmigiano reggiano cheese plus more for finishing
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock and water to a slow boil.  In a bowl, combine the eggs and egg whites with 2 tablespoons of parmigiano reggiano cheese. Scramble the mixture well.  Then, add a bit of the warm broth to the egg mixture and continue to whip.  Add the egg mixture to the boiling water.  The egg mixture will immediately float to the top taking the appearance of strands of string.  If necessary, use a fork to break up the egg even more. Add the fresh spinach and allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and finish with additional parmigiano reggiano cheese.

What makes this bite better?

Whenever I use a pre-made broth, I always dilute it with water.  This reduces the amount of sodium, preventing the broth from being too salty or taking on a flavor that overpowers delicate vegetables or the eggs.  Also, instead of using 4 whole eggs I used 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites.  This not only reduces the amount of fat and cholesterol but also makes the egg more "stringy" and prevents too much clumping. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holiday Hang-On

The holidays are behind us and it is time to bid farewell to my daily indulgence of christmas cookies.  While the decadent dinners and mandatory desserts have to go, there are some holiday favorites that I will hang on to in the new year.  This fennel salad is one my holiday favorites and it is a great addition to any meal in these cold winter months. Not to mention, it is exceptionally easy to prepare.

I never tried fennel until I got to college.  One of my best friend's mothers told us we needed to eat it because it would help cleanse our livers from all our drinking.  True or not, fennel does have a crisp, cleansing appeal that makes it a wonderful compliment to most of the savory dishes served in the winter.  The fennel is paired with tart bites of pomegranate and sweet splashes of citrus.

In the winter months, you can find delicious varieties of citrus to choose from- satsuma, tangerine, blood orange and mandarin oranges will all work wonderfully.

Fennel with Pomegranate and Orange
Serves 6-8
1 bulb of fennel
1 orange (2 if using a smaller fruit like tangerines)
1/2-3/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt to taste 

Clean and slice the fennel.  Cut 1/4 of the orange and set aside for later use.  Peel the rest of the orange and slice into bite size pieces.  Add the pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle olive oil and squeeze the juice from the remaining orange slice (1-2 tablespoons).  Season with salt to taste. Toss well and allow the flavors to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Enjoy :)

What makes this bite better?
Pomegranates are known for their antioxidant power and are a great addition to any dish.  Citrus is an excellent dietary source of Vitamin C.  During winter months, when cold and flu season are at their peak, the extra burst of Vitamin C provided by this salad could come in quite handy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

This holiday season hit me like a whirl wind.  Amongst the craziness I enjoyed wonderful times with family and friends, celebrated with holiday traditions, ate delicious meals and cataloged lots of cherished memories. Not leaving much time for writing about all of it, I am excited to begin the new year on A Better Bite.

Now that we have unwrapped our presents, braved a blizzard and made it through the holiday madness we mark the beginning of a new year.  Along with the countdown, the party hats and the champagne, most of us have welcomed our new year with a resolution.  If you are like most people, you have made this year's resolution to lose weight.  And like most people, it will most likely last a week or two and then you will forget about it.

This year, my resolution is to keep my resolutions.  Rather than making a list of unrealistic goals, I have committed myself to figuring out how to actually achieve the goals I have set for myself in the new year.  Instead of setting a resolution to "lose weight" identify an approach that will lead to that result.  Saying you are going to lose weight doesn't define how you are going to create a healthier lifestyle. Resolutions that are focused on the process are much more likely to produce results.  You can't just say, you have to figure out how to do.  Activities that can lead to a healthier lifestyle and weight loss include learning to cook, creating a regular exercise schedule, cutting out processed foods or increasing fruits and vegetable consumption.

For 2011, sit down and evaluate your lifestyle.  What can you do to make this year a little bit healthier?  Pick one aspect of your life that you can realistically change-then do it.  Take this New Year as an opportunity to accomplish something you have been meaning to do to better yourself.

Wishing you a happy, healthier and better New Year :)