Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Roasted Asparagus and Ricotta Crostini with Pea Pesto

       I've got another delicious appetizer for you that has spring written all over it! I am a huge fan of asparagus, and love that you can find it in just about any grocery store this time of year. Asparagus is packed with flavor and is a great source of vitamin K and folate. And at only 25 calories a serving, how can you say no?!
       Peas on the other hand, I could take them or leave them.  As a kid the only way I would eat peas was if they were frozen.  Today I am still picky when it comes to peas but have recently discovered pea pesto and may have been converted. I mean, add garlic and Parmesan cheese to anything and it will taste good! Peas are also a great source of protein, fiber and are packed with antioxidants.

    I used the pea pesto to make a quick crostini with ricotta and leftover roasted asparagus, and it was all done in 5 minutes or less!  The pea pesto was also great later used as a dressing mixed with roasted vegetables and to add color and flavor to a white pizza.

     Also, I have to thank my cousin Liz for giving me a food photography lesson and helping me take these awesome pictures. She is an extremely talented photographer and her work always amazes me! You should check her out at Purestyle Photography.

Roasted Asparagus and Ricotta Crostini with Pea Pesto

Makes about 4 servings ( 1 serving = 3 Crostini)

  • 12 asparagus stalks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 french baguette
  • 3/4 cup pea pesto (see recipe below)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
Pea Pesto:
  • 1 cup peas, thawed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1. For the pea pesto. Add all ingredients to a food processor. Blend on high until smooth. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto)
2. For the asparagus. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus in olive oil, salt, pepper then place on baking sheet. Roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool then cut each stalk into three equal pieces. 
3. Slice baguette into 1/2 inch pieces.  Lightly toast, then spread with 1 tablespoon of pea pesto, 1 tablespoon of ricotta, then top with asparagus. 

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dill Quinoa with Fava Beans

    This months recipe redux theme is "Spring Cleaning".  I'll admit I needed some motivation to get that done myself. School and work have takien over my life and cleaning has taken a back seat. My poor fridge and pantry have definitely taken a big hit. So disorganized! I was able to find some great odds and ends to use up and, with the addition of some seasonal ingredients and some inspiration from one of my favorite persian dishes, I came up with a recipe for Dill Quinoa with Fava Beans. That persian rice dish is "Baghali Polo", which literally translates to dill rice. Typically it uses basmati rice, fresh dill and lima beans. For a seasonal spin I used fava beans instead of lima beans and I used left over quinoa instead of rice. 


     Fava beans are a spring vegetable also known as broad beans. The beans come in pods, are edible once their waxy outer coating is removed, and are packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals. 

     To cook them remove the seeds from the pod, blanch in boiling water to soften, then remove the beans waxy outer skin. If you want to save yourself a step and some time, you can also find fava beans in the freezer aisle of most grocery stores already shelled. The beans go great in a salad, rice or quinoa dish, or can be mashed and used as a dip or spread.

       I added all the ingredients together then added on some left over shrimp for more color, texture, and flavor.  This dish is delicious warm, but is even better the next day cold!  Overall this was the perfect dish to use up some left over ingredients, and I was able to add in a little spring freshness by adding the fava beans.

Dill Quinoa with Fava Beans
servings: 4

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups fava beans
  • 1 1/2 cups of dill, diced finely 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste
1. Cook quinoa per package directions.
2. For fava beans. Remove beans from pod. Blanch beans in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and place in ice water to stop cooking. Then remove the outer wax coat from the beans. You can also used frozen shelled fava beans, just remove from package and thaw.
3. Combine dill, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt/pepper in a small bowl.
4. Once quinoa cooked add in fava beans and dill dressing and mix to combine.
5. Top with shrimp if desired. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spicy Shrimp Tacos

     I came up with this recipe last fall, but have been holding out until the weather got better to share it.  Now that it finally feels like spring in Boston, it's about time! I came up with these delicious tacos in an attempt to make it on the big screen again. The Today show was just not enough! 

      My big dream in life has always been to be on the Food Network. I'll admit it: I am obsessed! Last fall I thought it may finally come true when I got an e-mail from the Food Network looking for home cooks.  I created a video, put together a few recipes (this shrimp dish was one!), and hit submit! A week later I found out I had made it to the next round and went to NYC for a casting call. Ahhh! The casting call was one of the most nerve racking things I have done. There was well over 100 people there, all prepared with delicious looking dishes to share with the casting agency. I was intimiated to say the least!

Here I am with my wonderful hubby waiting in line for the casting call!

And here I am with my shrimp tacos waiting to be interviewed !

      Sadly I never heard back after the interview, and am pretty sure  "All Star Academy"  on the Food Network is the show I was trying out for. Even though I didn't make it was a great experience and I'm glad I took my shot! It's inspired me to continue to to what I love, which is create delicious and healthy dishes to share with you all. And of course, there is always next season, right?! :)

      So back to the Shrimp Tacos! I am a huge fan of fish tacos, but restaurants versions typically come fried. So for a lighter version I used sauteed shrimp instead. To add some fresh flavors I made a mango salsa with tomatos, cabbage, and avocado, and for some heat I whipped up a low fat chipotle sauce. The sweetness from the mango and the heat from the chipotle work really well together. A perfect light spring/summer dish that only takes 20 minutes to make! 

Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Mayo and Mango Salsa

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4


Creamy Chipotle Sauce
  • 1/3 cup light mayo
  • 1/2 cup 0% plain greek yogurt
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
Mango Salsa
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely dices
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • juice 1/2 lime
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. For sauce. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
2. For salsa. Combine all ingredients, mix together and set aside.
3. For shrimp. Mix together chili powder, cumin, paprika, pepper, and salt then toss in shrimp and mix to evenly coat. Heat medium saute pan on medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, add in shrimp. Cook shrimp for 3-5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from heat.
4. To make taco. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of chipotle mayo on half or corn tortilla, add on shrimp then mango salsa. Top with additional cilantro and lime for taste.


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Truth About Eggs + Egg Recipe Round Up

With Easter just around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about one of my favorite pantry staples: eggs!  Over the years eggs have gotten a bad wrap because of their cholesterol content. But studies indicate that cholesterol found in egg yolks and other animal products does not actually increase your blood cholesterol levels, saturated fat does.  Dietary recommendations have slowly changed to reflect these findings and the preliminary report for the 2015 dietary guidelines relaeased last month reported that "cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."  Previous 2010 dietary guidelines recommended limiting yolks to one a day, but this looks to be changing in the upcoming 2015 guidelines. Also, when you cut out the yolk, you are also cutting out 1/3 of the protein and most of the vitamins and minerals.

So next time you think about just eating the egg whites, think twice!  If you are trying to cut down your daily calorie and fat intake, cut the amount of yolk in half (for example 1 egg plus a second egg white). That way you are getting some of the nutrients without all of the calories.
Here are 10 easy and unique ways to enjoy eggs this easter and everyday, if you wish!

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