Big City Life · Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Chicken Recipe · Easy recipe · Mid-Life Career Change · Snacks · Summer · Tasty Sides

Sunset Picnic, Take 2

Last weekend, my cousin and her boyfriend came down from Vermont to visit. This cousin and I grew up thousands of miles apart so we didn’t really know each other well as kids, but as adults we connected and realized we have a lot in common and we became great friends. I don’t get to see her nearly enough, so I was ecstatic to see her and finally meet the man in her life. We had an awesome weekend – we went to a concert in Queens, checked out the World Trade Center memorial, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, imbibed at a couple of breweries, and just enjoyed catching up. On Saturday, after walking around all day, we had the grand plan of making some salads and a meat & cheese plate to take down to the waterfront and have ourselves a nice little relaxing sunset picnic. We went all out. We made this potato salad, a simple green salad with strawberries and balsamic, and a curried chicken salad. After getting everything ready and packed up, we went outside to find that it was raining…pretty hard. I don’t know how we failed to notice that before leaving the apartment. I guess we were just having too much fun catching up. We are a bunch of talkers, after all. Anyway, we hiked back upstairs, put pillows on the floor, and had our picnic around the coffee table. (We ate everything too quickly to get pics…sorry!) My BF and I had really talked up the sunset views on our waterfront, so I’m sad that our guests didn’t have the beautiful backdrop of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty while they ate, but we had a blast chatting and playing ’80s and ’90s trivia. I kicked all of their butts. No regrets.

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Yep, this is basically our backyard. We’re pretty lucky. Lady Liberty is covered up by the ship on the left, but she’s over there.

Today, I start classes for the Fall semester, so last night I wanted to do something fun with my BF before the craziness begins. We decided to try the whole waterfront picnic again, and this time the weather gods cooperated. We took some meat, cheese, crackers, and grapes and made another green salad, a yummy mango & corn salsa (recipe coming in the next post), and more curried chicken salad. The chicken salad was at the request of my BF, and he proceeded to eat it straight out of the bowl. I guess he liked it. When I originally made it for the first picnic, I just kind of threw together things that I thought would taste good and didn’t really have high expectations, but it was really tasty so I will share it with you. Enjoy!

 

CurriedChickenSalad_edited

Curried Chicken Salad
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 97 calories, 12.6g protein, 3.9g fat, 1.4 g fiber, 2.7g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 cup finely chopped cooked skinless chicken breast
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup shredded carrots
½ avocado, diced
2 tsp curry powder
1 handful roughly chopped cilantro
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix until curry powder is fully integrated.
2. Taste & add more curry powder or salt/pepper if needed.
3. Eat with crackers, over greens, in a wrap, or straight from the bowl.

Easy recipe · Lamb recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Texas Cuisine to Brooklyn Greens

I just got back from a weekend trip down to Texas to visit the family. Visiting Texas in the summer is always a dreaded endeavor for me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love spending time with my family, but the heat is a bit overwhelming. When my brother texted me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that it was 110 degrees, the fear immediately set in. But, by some amazing stroke of luck, we had cooler weather in Dallas this past weekend. They got a little of the rain that was pounding the East coast and it cooled everything down to the point that I found myself actually wearing a light sweater a couple of times. It was awesome.

Whenever we visit Texas, we have our list of things that we absolutely must do. As you can imagine, most of them are food related. We must have Tex-Mex at least once. That one is pretty self-explanatory if you’ve ever had Tex-Mex. If you haven’t, I just have one word: queso. It’s hard to find good Tex-Mex queso in New York, so we eat as much as we can when we’re visiting Texas. We also must eat at Ballard Street Cafe, which is this little diner-style cafe in downtown Wylie, TX. Downtown Wylie is your typical small-town Texas downtown. It spans about 3 blocks on one street that is lined with a variety of shops. It even has an opry house, which we have yet to check out, but it definitely adds character to the town. Ballard Street Cafe serves your standard home-style Texas food. Their menu includes chicken fried steak or chicken, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and even tamales, just to name a few. You know, health food. We always walk away feeling a little sick from overeating, but we still do it every single time we’re in town. Finally, we must always have a BBQ. My brother has a big backyard with a nice grill and, since we don’t have that at our fingertips here in Brooklyn without throwing some elbows at the public grills down by the waterfront, we like to take advantage of that luxury when we’re visiting the fam.

While we eat really tasty food in Texas, it is very meat and cheese heavy and I always come back to NY craving every vegetable I can get my hands on. I’m currently craving this amazing lamb flatbread drizzled with tzatziki sauce. It is really light and refreshing, but it’s packed with flavor, and it is so easy to make and comes together pretty quickly once you get the lamb trimmed. As a bonus, you will have plenty of leftover lamb and tzatziki to make more flatbreads or a salad.

LambFlatbread

Lamb Flatbread with Tzatziki Sauce
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition (without tzatziki): 418 calories, 33.2 g protein, 21.6 g fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 502 mg sodium, 4.5 g fiber
Ingredients
For Lamb
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb boneless leg of lamb (fat trimmed)
1/2 small red onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Flatbread Toppings
2 whole wheat flatbreads (I used lavash)
1/2 cup loosely packed spinach, chiffonade or roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
Tzatziki Sauce (see below)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Once you’ve trimmed the fat from the leg of lamb, cut lamb into bite sized cubes.
3. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add minced onions and saute until translucent.
4. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
5. Add lamb, lemon zest, and all spices and cook, stirring often, until lamb is browned. I like my lamb a nice dark pink on the inside, so I stopped cooking when it was all browned on the outside. If you like your meat well done, keep going a few more minutes until it is cooked through. You may need to cut a chunk in half to check for doneness.
6. While lamb cooks, place flatbreads on a baking sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes.
7. Place each warm flatbread on a large plate and evenly top with spinach, onion, lamb, then tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and mint.
8. Generously drizzle tzatziki over everything.

Tzatziki
Nutrition per tablespoon: 9 calories, 1.1 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 0.6 g carbohydrates, 40 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. Use a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture from cucumber.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
3. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed.

LambFlatbread2
Yum!
Big City Life · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you think nutritionists/dietitians only eat kale, salmon, quinoa, and organic artisanal almond butter, you would be wrong. First of all, nobody eats healthy all day every day. We all need to splurge once in a while, and every good health enthusiast does too, we just try not to overindulge most of the time. Secondly, eating the same things over and over again is not really healthy either. You need a lot of variety in your diet to get all of the vital nutrients. Did you know that the color of your food contains nutrients? The pigments found in food are made up of important chemicals and antioxidants that your body needs, so you really should be eating a rainbow of foods. Eating a mix of red, yellow, purple, orange, and white fruits and vegetables is just as important as eating lots of green.

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The red onion looks almost neon in this lighting. Sadly, I am not glow-in-the-dark purple today.

Beyond just a lack of nutrients, anyone who eats the same three or four things every day, no matter how clean or healthy those things are, is destined to go on an out-of-control binge at some point. Especially if they prepare the food without butter, oil, or salt like some athletes preparing for competitions do. Boredom + no flavor = no joy. And depriving yourself of joy eventually leads to a complete breakdown of self control…if it doesn’t, you are a saint. Food should taste good! I mean, God wouldn’t have given us taste buds if he/she didn’t want us to enjoy our food, am I right? That said, when trying to eat healthy, cutting back on things like butter, oil, and salt can be challenging because these things contribute so much flavor. Never fear, though! There are other great ways to add flavor to your food without adding calories. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Onions and garlic – I put these pungent vegetables from the allium family in almost everything. They have a lot of flavor and they’re packed with nutrients…and as a bonus they make your home smell like heaven when they’re cooking.
  • Citrus – squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over almost anything and you get instant flavor. You can also roast chicken, fish, or veggies with sliced lemon or orange on top to infuse them with citrusy goodness.
  • Herbs & spices – you may have to experiment a little with different herbs and spices because they all have a distinct flavor. Just be careful with spice mixes like adobo or chili powder as they can sometimes have a lot of salt. Something I’ve recently discovered is that a little cinnamon added to a spicy dish like spicy shrimp tacos adds a really unique flavor that I can’t resist. I always thought of cinnamon as a spice just for sweets…who knew it was so diverse?
  • Vinegar – my pantry currently holds at least 5 different types of vinegar. Like spices, each one has a unique flavor, but they all add a tangy pop of flavor to your food.

I still use butter, oil, and salt too, but I don’t have to use nearly as much when getting such great flavor from these things.

A standard go-to meal when we’re busy or we don’t really want to cook is a quick stir fry or fried rice. Below is a fried rice I made last night that is loaded with colorful veggies and has a ton of flavor without a lot of oil and much less sodium than you find in most other fried rice recipes. We ate it as a meal, but it would make a great side dish as well. I used whatever veggies I had in my fridge, but you can switch them out for other fresh or frozen veggies based on your preference or what you have at home. Frozen peas and carrots or a frozen stir fry veggie mix are always great time savers that we tend to keep in our freezer at all times.

VegFriedRice
I had some leftover sprouts, so I threw them on top as garnish. Pretty, but completely unnecessary. The fried rice is great without them.

Easy Veggie Fried Rice
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 296 calories, 9.1 g protein, 10.9 g fat, 40.7 g carbohydrates, 573 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber
Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 sprigs green onion, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust for your desired spice level)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cooked chilled brown rice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Directions
1. In large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add red onions and white parts of green onion and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add sugar snap peas and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often, then add bell pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Push veggies to one side of skillet and pour beaten eggs into other half. Let sit until edges of eggs are cooked, then with spatula or spoon push edges of eggs so that any uncooked egg liquid on top runs off onto skillet. Let cook until eggs are cooked through (it will look like a small omelet), then remove eggs from skillet and chop into small pieces.
5. When peppers and sugar snap peas begin to soften, add chopped eggs, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger to skillet and stir to mix well.
6. Add green parts of green onion, stir into mixture, remove from heat, and serve.

Bonus points if you can eat it with chopsticks. I have yet to master eating rice with chopsticks…I end up with more of it on the floor than in my mouth. Any pointers you can give me are welcome!