Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Put the "Pea" in Potato Salad

Memoooooorial Day is coming up! (That was my Oprah voice, FYI).

You know what that means for me? Food, parties, more food, and ice cold beers.

Kidding. I don't drink beer. At least not until the 28th of June. Oh, the trials of a 20-and-11-month-year-old.

But since it is a holiday, technically, it means we're obliged to celebrate. We wouldn't want to disappoint the vets, now would we?

It should come as no surprise to you that I've already planned the complete menu for our Memorial Day Cook Out...for which I have yet to get an official parental go-ahead... I should probably do that soon...

In any case, here's an incredible summer salad that will compel you to throw a party no matter what the occasion. Woke up before 9 a.m.? Celebrate! Kept your bank account above -$1.14 this week? Celebrate! Got dressed in your workout gear with full intention to hit the gym? Mhmm, you bet.

If you had any doubts, I put the "P" in party, too.

Not only is this potato salad recipe light and healthy, it uses NO dairy, so it's 100% picnic-approved. The magic? It tastes so creamy and decadent! The starch from the potatoes combined with the olive oil vinaigrette combine to make a rich dressing that only feels like a splurge.

In reality, each serving is less than 170 calories! Compare that to your average mayo-based potato salad that can rack in a whopping 400 calories or more, with over 30 grams of fat! Tell me, would you want to slip into your American flag bikini after that? don't have an American flag bikini? Right, no, me neither...

Whether you've got big party plans this weekend or you're in search of a great, go-to summer recipe, you simply must try this. I swear, you'll never reach for the Hellmann's again.

Summer Potato & Pea Salad 
Makes 6 servings

[1 1/2 to 2] lbs variety small potatoes (baby dutch, red bliss, new, etc.)
[1/2] lb or [10] oz english peas
[2] tbsp chopped basil
[1] tbsp chopped mint
[1/2] cup pea shoots
[2] tbsp olive oil
[1/2] tsp dijon mustard
[1] tsp lemon zest
[1] tbsp lemon juice
[1] garlic clove

First, give all your little potatoes a good scrub until they're squeaky clean. If some are much larger than others (which will most likely be the case), cut the larger ones down so that they're all relatively equal in size. This will ensure even cooking.

Drop them in a large saucepan so that they spread into one even layer, then fill with cold water until the potatoes are just covered. Heavily salt the water using a heaping tablespoon and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for about 15 minutes until all the potatoes are fork tender. The potatoes will be done when you can easily pierce them with a fork. If you have some especially small ones, remove them from the boiling water at around 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Salt the water and slowly add the peas. Allow the water to return to a boil, then cook for about 2 minutes.

Drain both the potatoes and the peas, and immediately shock both in a bowl of ice water. Let them cool completely in the ice bath, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Cut the potatoes into quarters, so that (again) they're all the same size. Transfer to a large mixing bowl along with the blanched peas and pea shoots.

For the dressing, whisk olive oil, dijon, garlic, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl. I used a 2:1 ratio of pepper to salt for the dressing, but season to your liking.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes and add the chopped mint and basil. Gently combine with a big wooden spoon, being careful not to break any of the potatoes. Finish with another couple cracks of black pepper and a sprinkling of salt, if needed.

The crisp and springy english peas and pea shoots coupled with a touch of mint make it the perfect, fresh side dish, (not to mention, effortlessly elegant).

Perfect for your next garden party...

or backyard BBQ party,

and, yes, even the party with guest count: Y-o-u. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Breakfast Club

Typically, when someone is labeled a "fruit," or worse... a "nut," your natural tendency would be to avoid them like that neighbor-you-only-know-because-of-that-one-terribly-awkward-encounter-last-year. 

However. If that fruity, nutty someone happens to be your breakfast, the tendency should be to get as chummy as you can.  

Strangely enough, it took me about 18 years to master the all-important a.m. ritual of a good breakfast.  

Ever since I was five, I can remember being repelled by it. I'd get up for a serious day of kindergarten, but my little belly wouldn't hear the wake up call until at least three hours later. 

The mere thought of scarfing down milk or orange juice right after rolling out of bed literally made me sick. At such an hour, the most I could tolerate was a Toaster Pastry Strudel... but I could've made room for one of those babies no matter what the clock read. Back then, snack time officially prevailed as the most important meal of the day. 

Throughout my glorious tweens, when I spent summers at Spirit Sports Camp for Girls (it was badass, I swear), the six hours of back-to-back sports practice meant fueling up early on.

Eh, eh-- not me. How could anyone possibly run laps with a pile of scrambled eggs in their stomach? 

Come breakfast time, my concerned fellow campers unanimously confirmed that I must have a problem. Despite my best efforts to explain that I just don't do breakfast, the remaining morning mealtimes were awkwardly spent on the defense. 

It wasn't until high school that I realized the perks of breakfast. Screw an alarm, there's nothing more delightful than waking up to warm slice of buttery cinnamon raison toast. Luckily, my dad understood the power of breakfast in bed. At 7:00 a.m., he'd rest a plate of that intoxicating treat square in my face, knowing that the moment the cinnamon-y aroma wafted past my nose, all bets were off. And ultimately, I'd get my ass out of bed. Crafty, but I couldn't hate his strategy. 

It's almost funny, now, that I never go a morning without breakfast. After finding something new that I love, I'll literally hop out of bed before my alarm to make it. Weird, I know. 

Whether it's a tofu scramble or oatmeal with fruit, a proper breakfast can wake you up faster and more efficiently than any Trenta Turbo BS. And since breakfast foods can range from sugary to cheesy to a mapley-bacon combination of the two, it really is the perfect meal.

Although I still avoid orange juice and milk in the wee hours of the morning (I think I'm scarred), breakfast has rightfully become my favorite meal of the day. 

Hearty Multigrain Oatmeal
Serves 1

[1] cup water
[1/3] cup Hodgson Mill Multigrain Oatmeal with Flaxseed & Soy
[1/2] tsp cinnamon
[1/4] tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Top it with:
[4] fresh strawberries (or any other fruit, like blueberries or banana)
[1] tbsp chopped raw almonds
[1] tsp agave nectar
dash of cinnamon

Combine the water, oatmeal, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking often. Once boiling, immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer until your cereal has reached desired thickness. You can also add more/less water depending on how thick you like it. To ensure that the oatmeal doesn't clump up, it really helps to use a non-stick saucepan and whisk continuously (with either a wire whisk or metal fork).

Meanwhile, chop the almonds and strawberries. Try hard not to snack while your oatmeal cooks. 

Transfer the hot cereal to a bowl and top with the almonds, strawberries, agave, and another dash or two of cinnamon. Eat slowly alongside an iced tea and your tank will be full for hours... wish I could say the same for my car. 

It's strawberry season! Bonus points if you buy them local (or organic)!

This recipe is so simple and fast, you could definitely make it with eyes half closed. Additionally, the oats act as a great canvas for any number of flavors. Experiment with different combinations of fruits, nuts and extracts, and you'll never tire of waking and baking. I recently made mine with almond extract, cinnamon, and blueberries!

The nutritional breakdown on this breakfast is even more impressive:

Calories: 240
Fat: 7 g
Protein: 9 g
Fiber: 8 g

The protein will give you a super boost of energy and the fiber will keep you full until lunch. Both the fiber and (good) fats take longer for our bodies to process, so a high-fiber breakfast means we're satisfied and energized all day long. It's also proven that a hearty, healthy breakfast will help keep mindless snacking at bay later on.  

So if you're not already a member, consider this recipe to be your official invitation to join The Breakfast Club. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quinoa Cakes, Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Sprout Salad

Sometimes, a single picture can write a thousand words.

And other times, it's the week before finals and I don't have time to write more than three sentences. Oof. 

That said, enjoy these awesome photos (and the temporary recess from academic responsibility). If you're like me, you have enough reading to do as it is... and wouldn't it be nice if they were picture books. Hey, I can dream.

The recipe for the cakes was inspired by the Carrot-Quinoa cakes found on A Fresh Squeeze. All photography on this post was done by Amanda Johnson. 

Quinoa Cakes, Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Sprout Salad
Serves 4-6

[5] large carrots, peeled and chopped into 3 inch long sticks
[2] tsp salt
[1] cup dry quinoa
[1/3] cup chopped onion
[1] garlic clove
[1] tsp olive oil
[1/4] tsp cayenne pepper
[1/2] tsp cumin
[1/2] tsp smoked paprika (Thanks, Dad!)
[1/4] cup whole wheat Japanese panko
cracked pepper

[2] large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch slices
[2] tsp olive oil
[3] tsp balsamic vinegar
[1/2] tsp dijon

[1] cup fresh sprouts (I used clover sprouts)
[2] tbsp chopped green onions

For the cakes:
Start by preheating your oven to 375 ° F

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop in carrot sticks plus 1 teaspoon of salt, return to a boil, and cook until the carrots are soft, but not mushy. Reserve 2 cups of the hot carrot water, then drain the rest. Add the carrots to a food processor.

Return the reserved water to the pot and add the quinoa. It should take about 10-15 minutes to cook, or until all of the liquid has absorbed.

Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan to medium. Once hot, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for about five minutes, or until both the onions and garlic are translucent and aromatic. Add it to the food processor with the carrots, along with 1 teaspoon of salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, and smoked paprika. Purée until the mixture starts to resemble baby food (an unappetizing way to describe it, but trust me).

Transfer the quinoa and carrot purée to a medium mixing bowl, then add the whole wheat panko and cracked black pepper. Use a metal fork to combine until everything is well incorporated. Spray a large muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and distribute the mixture evenly. Bake for 15 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Because the cakes are delicate, I flipped the muffin tin over onto a sheet pan of equal size (rather than removing them directly from the mold).

For the toppings:

Heat a grill pan to high.

While it's preheating, whisk together the balsamic, olive oil, dijon, salt and pepper. This will be the marinade for the tomatoes as well as the dressing for the sprouts. 

Once the grill is hot, spray with nonstick cooking spray, brush the tomatoes with the dressing, and place on the grill. (It's easiest to brush just one side, putting that side down first, then coat the top side). Cook only for 2 minutes, flip and cook for another couple minutes, then immediately remove from grill.

In a small bowl, dress the sprouts and green onions with the remaining marinade.

Top each quinoa cake with a slice of grilled tomato and a small portion of the sprout salad. Drizzle the top with a healthy tablespoon of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and serve with your favorite crisp white wine.

Oo la la