Monday, June 20, 2011

Kale, Basil and Walnut Pesto

I'm not the kind of gal who gives up things I like.  And I love a good burger.  Embarrassingly enough, I actually ate two burgers on Saturday after not having had a burger for months.  After scratching my itch, I think it's safe to say that I have had enough meat to hold me off for a few days.  I will definitely be joining the meatless monday trend this week, and it might even stick for the whole week.

The meatless monday idea is simple-do not eat meat on mondays.  It's sort of like Fridays during Lent, but instead of ordering a pizza out of religious obligation, it is a challenge to incorporate healthy, meat free options into your diet.  I'm not a biggest fan of extreme diets and believe in moderation.  In order for a diet to have an effective impact on your health, it needs to be realistic.  That is why I love the idea of Meatless Mondays.  It's simple approach to making small changes to your diet that can have a large impact on your health.  It's also a great way to incorporate new foods into your diet and experiment with new ingredients and flavors.

What makes this bite better?
I limit the amount of meat in my diet not only for health benefits, but also because of the negative impact meat production has on the environment and because I can't always afford organic, free-range, or local meats. Cutting back on meat reduces dietary intake of saturated fats and reduces risk of related diseases such as heart disease.  Additionally, vegetarian cooking isn't always about avoiding meat as much as it is reaping the benefits of what you replace meat with.  Vegetarian dishes are loaded with vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts or other healthy components that create balanced, delicious meals. Sometimes, instead of thinking about what you can't eat, it's exciting to think about what you can eat instead.

Kale, Basil and Walnut Pesto
1 bunch of Kale
1 bunch of basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Clean kale and basil and add in equal parts to a food processor.  Add cloves of garlic based on preference.  I added about 3.  Add a handful of walnuts.  Add 2 parts olive oil to 1 part water.  This will create an ideal texture while cutting out some of the fat.  Salt to taste.  Toss with pasta and finish with grated cheese and walnuts. Serve and enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Arugula with Radish Sprouts and Chive Blossoms

I love going to the Union Square Greenmarket.  It's truly one of my favorite places in the world.  Whether I am searching for new finds, stocking up on basics or just wandering, I always find myself enamored.  The other day, I was just moseying along, excited by all the new signs of summer I noticed popping up, when one stand shook me from my daze.  This one stand always coaxes me into buying something. They are always pushing amazing organic micro-greens, edible flowers and other exotic, seasonal finds that would be impossible to get anywhere else.  They have signs boasting the health benefits of each product and "farmers" that are there to assist you just so happen to be far more attractive than any of the other farmers.  They must be reaping the health benefits of all their goods.  $12.00 for 1/4 pound sounds reasonable.  I'll take it.

I decided to try the chive blossoms and purple radish sprouts.  I thought a little purple would brighten up an otherwise boring arugula salad.  I didn't even know that chives had flower blossoms.  That's another reason why I love the Greenmarket.  I always discover or learn something new every time I go and exploring new foods is certainly one way to make your bite better.

What makes this bite better?
Sprouts are a super food.  Grab whatever kind of sprouts you can find-radish, pea, alfalfa, broccoli, bean- and throw them on anything.  They are a dense source of nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals.  A recent study in the Journal of Food Science showed that radish sprouts have a greater concentration of glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, anthocyanins and phenolics than a mature radish taproot.  They produce a much greater antioxidant response, indicating that sprouts may be more beneficial than the mature vegetable.  Sprouts are not only known for the their strong antioxidant capacity but also for their curative effects, especially as it relates to cancer and disease.  Sprouts are currently a focus in nutrition research for their efficacy as chemopreventive agents and anti-tumor agents as well as their impact on osteoporosis progression, menopause and heart disease.

Arugula with Radish Sprouts and Chive Blossoms
Chives with blossoms
Purple Radish Sprouts
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Clean flowers, sprouts and arugula.  Chop chive and keep the flower blossoms.  Combine chopped chive with 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil based on how large your salad is.  Add all ingredients to a large bowl, toss salad with dressing and salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy :) 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Portobello Burger

I can not say I am sad to see May go and June arrive.  May was one of the craziest, yet fun filled, months! Celebrating birthdays and weddings made studying for finals quite a challenge, and moving out of my apartment was icing on the cake.  However, Memorial Day came and went, marking the official start of summer.  And the weather has confirmed it-summer is here!  Now it's time to slow things down and enjoy the summer months.  Hopefully they will go by much more slowly than May.

Unlike most Memorial Days past, I did not spend the weekend at the beach or drinking my way from barbeque to barbeque.  Instead, I spent the weekend moving.  Boo hiss.  However, I'm not one to let manual labor and tedious packing prevent me from celebrating the kick off of summer.  Inspired by the thought of the charcoal grills and the first delicious burgers of summer, I whipped up one last meal in my apartment to celebrate as best as I could.   I put my grill pan to use one last time before boxing it away and thought about how great this would have tasted if I made on a real grill...

What makes this bite better?
Now, I'm not saying I don't appreciate a good burger.  I do.  However, I do think there is some room at the summer picnic table for healthier options.  Most people do not buy the highest grade hamburger meat (if they even make their own burgers at all) and the processed buns and cheese could use a quality substitute.  Meatless options are better for your health and better for the earth.  Swapping a hamburger patty for a mushroom burger greatly reduces saturated fat intake and consequently reduces calories.  Using rye bread instead of a high-fructose corn syrup filled bun adds nutrients and cuts back on the sugar and processed carbohydrates.  Using sun-dried tomatoes and basil as a substitute for ketchup not only adds an exciting zing but tons of vitamins and minerals.  The saved calories are better spent on dessert and drinks.  It is a party after all!

Portobello Burgers with Feta, Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

Portobello Mushrooms
1 loaf fresh Rye bread
Crumbled Feta
Sun-dried tomatoes
Fresh basil
Olive oil

Clean the portobello mushrooms, removing the bottoms and then lightly brush with olive oil.  Grill on both sides until tender, about 5 minutes per side.  Cut rye bread about 3/4 inch thick and lightly brush with olive oil and grill on both sides.  In a food processor combine fresh basil, sun-dried tomato, garlic cloves and feta in portions to taste.  Add a small amount of olive oil and salt and blend.  Spread tapenade onto the rye bread and add the portobello mushroom.  Serve and enjoy :)