How to Poach Your Eggs with Pride

I’ve been a little obsessed with poached eggs lately. They are so delicious & healthy and have a softer consistency than a fried egg. Whenever I fry my eggs, I always feel a little vulgar as well, even though I don’t actually fry them in fat. Eating a poached egg however, always leaves me feeling very refined.

Directions:

  • Bring about three inches of water close to a simmer in a large saucepan.
  • Drop a splash of vinegar in the water (this will help “tighten” up the egg- or at worst, give you a false sense of confidence). Crack one egg into a small bowl (this makes it easier).
  •  Carefully slide the egg into the water.
  • Using a spatula, help the egg keep its shape and allow the white of the egg to envelope the yolk.
  • Boil for about three minutes.
  • Use a slotted spoon to gently scoop up the egg, and set it in a bowl. Wait for about 30 seconds, and then using a paper towel, swirl the bowl around to drain the water “run-off” (sounds appetizing, huh?) and dab. Some people like to drain the egg on the paper towel, but I always worry that it’s going to stick to the paper!
I usually do about three-four at a time for the boyfriend and me, using a large, wide saucepan. I haven’t encountered any problems doing this. I just use a spatula to help the eggs stay in their place and fold over.

Goodbye little Poachie. I mean, you’re cute and all, but I can poach four eggs in three minutes on my own, and well…. you’re just holding me back.

Decadent, Creamy Chocolate Coconut Smoothie

Let me start by saying that I really wanted to make chocolate chip cookies instead of a smoothie for my post-lunch snack. I REALLY wanted to. While browsing Pintrest I found a recipe that looked amazing and different than my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. But then the angel on my right shoulder kicked in and told me not to. “Make yourself a healthy, filling and nutritious smoothie instead,” it whispered to me.

It wasn’t tough to change my mind. I walked 4 miles today and have been on-target all week with my points and nutrition. Why blow it the NIGHT before my weigh-in? The whole point of Weight Watchers in my eyes, is to learn how to make smarter choices. You don’t have to feel deprived, but it also doesn’t mean you should give in to every craving and whim on a weekday afternoon. So I’m saving the cookies for tomorrow night. 

Smoothies have a supernatural ability nonetheless, to convince my taste buds that what I am drinking is a dessert. So, it’s a win-win.

Here’s the recipe I made up, and I’ve included the Weight Watchers Points for those of you who might be on the plan. Most of you who know me know that I am a little coconut obsessed. If you don’t like coconut, you can replace it with regular milk, or even almond milk if you’re feeling snazzy. 

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk (3 points)
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk (1 point)
  • 1 cup ice (0 points)
  • 1 banana (0 points)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (3 points)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (0 points)
  • 1 tsp shredded coconut (0 points) *optional*

Combine everything in the blender & sprinkle with shredded coconut. Total count: 7 points. It’s extremely filling, and makes 2 large cups worth. More importantly it provides real nutrients instead of butter, sugar, flour and chocolate chips.

Granted, the 2 tbsp of sugar is… not ideal, but it tasted too chalky with only 1 tbsp, and I don’t like Splenda or artificial chemical sweeteners. I’d rather have a little of the real thing and feel satiated. Hope you enjoy this.

Sweet Crepes with Sautéed Cinnamon Bananas

This will be my last post until the weekend. I’ve been posting daily because I’m trying to catch-up on my long list of ideas and recipes that are standing by. I’m finding that blogging is taking up too much of my very limited time though. I have two auditions for grad school in t-minus three weeks, and so I need to be channeling all my creative efforts into that. I will be posting on weekends and scheduling posts to publish during weekdays, but I am banning myself from logging onto this blog or on Facebook on weekdays until February 18th.

Yesterday I woke up and thought that crepes with bananas sounded like a great idea. Crepes are easy to make, lighter than normal pancakes, and they make you feel oh-so-fancy. While in Paris in November we ate some amazing crepes, and some… not-so-amazing ones. The best one we tried was at the Sunday Market by the Bastille. It was delicious and stuffed with bananas and caramel sauce. I totally regret not buying a tub of $15 caramel from that stand. I also regret losing my camera which held pictures of it. 😦 (I still get sick thinking about how we left that camera on the plane…)

This was our favorite street performance we saw that day:

http://www.facebook.com/v/10100719818509791

I’ve tried lots of crepe recipes. Some require a blender, an hour of waiting time, etc. But then there are times when you’re in an “instant gratification” mood and in that case, this recipe works extremely well! I’ve been following Weight Watchers since September and so I’ve modified this a little to make it healthier (albeit, not as tasty). If you don’t care about caloric content, use butter and regular flour. Otherwise, you can stick with this recipe.

Ingredients for crepes (makes about five large crepes):

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose), sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but whole milk will make it tastier)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP light margarine, melted (or butter)

Whisk the eggs until frothy in a medium bowl. Add the milk, water and butter and whisk until combined. In a separate bowl combine salt, sugar and flour with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and fold in until just incorperated. Add the vanilla but take care not to over-mix.

Heat up a large skillet on medium-high heat, and when ready toss in a pat of margarine or butter.

This is the fun part. Working quickly, pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot skillet and quickly pick up the pan and rotate it in a circular motion so that all of the batter spreads out to fill the width of the pan.

Roll them, and keep them wrapped in foil.

Ingredients for Sautéed Bananas:

  • Two bananas
  • White sugar (about 1/4 c.)
  • Butter or margarine (about 2 TBSP)
  • Cinnamon (about 1 tsp)

Melt butter in a skillet set on high. Toss in the bananas, sugar and cinnamon and let them fry for about 2 minutes, constantly scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.

Arrange bananas inside the crepes, sprinkle with sugar, maple syrup, caramel sauce or nutella and enjoy!

 

Many thanks to Dhiren for helping me take photos on this post. Up next: Vegetarian Fiesta Burrito, Bread Pudding, Angelini Osteria Review & Homemade Ravioli & Pesto.

So-Simple Berry Vanilla Smoothie

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that makes me happier about eating healthy than smoothies. They are refreshing, filling AND they satisfy my sweet tooth. But, smoothies can be extremely unhealthy, especially when loaded with preservatives, sorbet and sherbet or worse: ice cream. I’ve tried some of the low-calorie smoothies at places like Jamba Juice and Juice It Up but they taste like chalk, and leave me $4 poorer.

This has become my favorite smoothie of all time.

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen blueberries or mixed berries
1 banana
1 cup 1% milk (you can use fat-free… but I just can’t do it… might as well use water)
1 tbsp vanilla

Blend them all in a blender until smooth & enjoy. It’s that simple. I probably drink this every other day in the morning or after a workout. It has 3 Weight Watcher Points because of the milk and it fills me up while helping me get in my dairy and 2-3 servings of fruit.

Pumpkin Pie Brûlée

This Thanksgiving I made 20 crème brûlées for my mom’s side of the family for our get-together. I normally just use the broiler to melt the sugar, but this time I decided to simplify it, give in and get the torch. I started going a little crazy that week with torching things and this recipe is one of those consequences.

I know it’s January and we should be putting the pie and pumpkin behind us, but I couldn’t help sharing this (very tasty) dessert. I hate to admit, but this was just a recipe on the back of an extra large vat of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix, neatly written out HERE. I won’t bore you with an exact replica of it on this blog. It’s a great recipe and a delicious pie.

BUT, now comes the fun part! Once you make the pie and are ready to serve, take out your brûlée torch, sprinkle your pie with a thick layer of sugar and let your inner pyro out!

Let the pie cool for a bit and then you have a crunchy, sugary crunch! Enjoy!

Cheesy Garlic & Mushroom Calzone

I’m trying to catch up on some of the recipes from 2011 that I left in the dust on my hard drive. This was a really fun recipe and a delicious dinner. It’s economical and easy to make, and you can make it into a healthier calzone by simply substituting lighter cheeses, whole wheat flour and putting more vegetables in it.

The first step is making the dough. This, for me personally, is a lot of fun, and easy to do. I think dough is always better when made a couple hours ahead of time. You definitely need at least one hour for it to rise, so this isn’t a fast dinner.

*Note: this recipe yields two large calzones!*

Ingredients for 

the dough:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp olive oil
I always combine the yeast, water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, sugar and salt for about ten minutes before adding in the flour. Then I mix it together, using a fork at first and once it clumps together, I knead it on a lightly floured chopping board. I knead the dough for about 10 minutes, turning it over, pressing in, and so on until it feels soft ( some people say it should feel like skin). I always do the poke test. Once the dough pops back after being poked, it’s ready. Then, set it in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Coat it in the oil, cover with plastic wrap, and then let it rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 375 when you are ready to roll out the dough. Separate the dough into two portions. Roll both of them into circles.

To make the filling for one calzone, simply combine 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese,  1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms and 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves. Now, you can fill it with anything you like. I personally love a four-cheese calzone, but you can fill it with more vegetables to make it healthier. I also used light ricotta in this one. Arrange the filling on half of the calzone.

Fold the calzones in half and secure with a fork. Using a baster brush, cover the whole thing with an egg wash (beat one egg in a bowl). This will give it that gorgeous color and crisp!

Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite sauce!

Dee’s take on Nana’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese

Since I date a vegetarian, macaroni and cheese has become one of my tastiest dishes and a guaranteed hit with the boyfriend. It’s quick, simple, delicious and I never need to reference a cookbook when assembling it. True, it’s not the healthiest option, but pair it with a salad and you can kind of justify it.

I made this for New Year’s Eve din-din at home, paired with some Trader Joe’s baby back ribs (for me), a salad and some cornbread. We had a fun time just hanging out at home, detonating poppers & banging on pots and pans.

My recipe comes from my Nana, who taught me how to make baked macaroni about a year ago.

Ingredients:

-butter, 4 TBSP
– half & half, 1 cup
-flour, 4 TBSP
– milk (1% – whole milk), 3 cups
-elbow macaroni (1 box)
-1 stick of cheddar cheese (or you can use different cheeses to make a more “gourmet-style” three or four-cheese macaroni)
-salt (to taste)
-breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup or so

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Immediately add the flour and begin stirring until it is incorporated into the butter.

2. Add the milk and the half & half and whisk until mixed together. As the milk heats up, grate the cheese into the milk mixture. You can also buy pre-shredded cheese or a four-cheese blend and slowly add it in, whisking every minute or so.

3. Meanwhile, boil the macaroni for about 6-7 minutes (or until al dente) and drain and pour into a Pyrex 13 x 9 baking dish or casserole pan.

4. Once the roux is thick and the cheese is melted, pour it directly over the pasta in the casserole dish.

5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and casually arrange small cubes of chopped butter over the bread crumbs.

6. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

7. Take your cholesterol medication.

YUM.

Let’s Get STEAMY

The New Year is a time for all of us to reflect on our lives, contemplate our achievements and failures, look into the future and pledge resolutions for making us better people, and to LOSE WEIGHT!

Just kidding! ( but not really…) On New Year’s Day the whole nation realizes that eating Halloween candy, stuffing, English toffee and buttered rums nonstop for three month’s causes some unflattering bulges and a serious case of lowered self-esteem due to ill-fitting pants. I personally did a decent job this Fall up until December 10th. Then, I just went crazy and ate star-shaped sugar cookies for breakfast. It was like Hansel and Gretel in my apartment for three weeks. But now the fairy tale is over, I’m 5 pounds heavier, and it’s time to shift back into a more veggie-centric eating plan.

This leads us to today’s dinner: “A boring, vegetable soup.”

At least, that’s what I thought as I lifelessly began chopping carrots. But, surprisingly enough, it wasn’t boring and turned out to be quite tasty and filling. Plus it is  worth 1 Weight Watcher’s point a cup.

To make a tasty soup, all you need to do is throw a mix of your favorite vegetables into a soup pot. I used broccoli, celery, spinach, carrots, zucchini, onion, garlic, red pepper and cauliflower. Pour in enough chicken stock so that the vegetables are covered and then bring it to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season with thyme, lemon juice, pepper and (lots of) sea salt. You can also add in some noodles or rice if you need your carb fix.

What is YOUR favorite low-calorie dinner? I’m taking suggestions for upcoming posts. In addition to the vegetables, I’m starting up Pilates again, which I’m really happy about! I’m so sore I can barely manage to do basic functions. No matter how much walking or running you do, nothing will leave you more sore than a Pilates class.

Now I’ll leave you with this hilarious, and kind of inappropriate, “morning warm-up” workout video. I had visions of myself making a video of me attempting this, but then I realized I would live a life of shame from then on… so I decided against it.

Italian Fig Cookie Day & A Very Happy New Year

Let me start by saying: 2011 was a fabulous year! It was full of family, food, travels, love and happiness. We got to go to New York, Connecticut, San Diego, Northern California on two occasions, Venice, Florence, Verona, Tuscany and Paris.  I acquired my first crock pot, pasta and ice cream maker in 2011, along with a wide range of smaller, nifty appliances. We moved into a bigger apartment with a bigger kitchen!  And there was generally a lot of cooking, new experiences, traveling, restaurants and fun. I hope 2012 treats us even half as well.

I hope you all had a wonderful and tasty December. I ate so many rich and delicious things. I’m definitely ready to shift to the obligatory post-New Year’s healthy eating and Weight Watchers counting. But for now, let’s reminisce:

 

Last month I did a lot of cooking for the end of the year celebrations: I made a nifty beef stew, my first calzone, lots of cookies, lemon bars, crepes among other things. In the middle of the month I went to my Aunt Marie’s in Huntington Beach, to join her, my Nana, Papa, Uncle Ron and cousin Keith in making our families’  annual fig cookies, also known as cuccidati. Growing up I remember my Nana making these every year! I didn’t like them as a kid (how many kids truly love dried figs?) but now I love them and the nostalgia they conjure up. The fig filling, which consists of nuts, spices and dried figs (or apricots in some cases), is made well in advance- I remember my Nana making it in November long before Christmas. This is not a “I-feel-like-a-cookie-in-30-minutes” kind of cookie.

My Aunt Marie gave me the recipe but insisted that I keep it secret. Normally I would go ahead and share any recipe I stumble upon on here, but I’m going to honor her wish and keep it in the family.

A simple google search led me to quite a few good recipes that are pretty similar though, just in case one of you wants to try them:

Food Network’s Recipe

Anna Maria Volpi’s Recipe

My Nana and Aunt Marie both made their own dough and filling, and in the spirit of friendly competition they kept their ingredients and tools segregated. Aunt Marie’s filling was denser, less sweet and chunkier, but her dough was a little easier to work with. Nana’s filling was sweeter (and thus, as a sugar addict I liked it more), but the dough was a little heartier and tougher to roll.

Both of their cookies turned out fabulous though and nearly indistinguishable.

Me, Papa and my mom’s cousin, Keith, joined in and helped roll, fill and sprinkle  (and of course, we ate a few cookies in the process). Aunt Marie also made a big spread for us, consisting of a pomegranate and persimmon salad, some pizzas and an eggplant and zucchini caponata. You gotta be well fed before working a cookie assembly line.

They blasted Frank Sinatra for a while and we had a great time. This will definitely be a tradition I pass down to my kids and grandchildren someday, and these photos and memories will be cherished for a long time! Next year I am going to start ahead of time and make my own batch to bring to the party!

What I personally love about assembling these is the creativity you can employ! You can make them bite-sized, larger, and roll them into different shapes and styles. Some people also drizzle icing on theirs, which I plan to do next year with mine. 

Aunt Marie & Nana

Hope you all had a very happy December, a Merry Christmas and a beautiful New Year!

Salmon, Fusilli & Homemade Pesto

I am so behind on posts, it’s border-line ridiculous. I have dozens of great recipes and posts to publish and I am devoting tonight towards writing  a few entries.

This morning Dhiren and I were talking about the impending New Year and 2012. I was complaining expressing how overwhelmed I feel with all my “projects.” I love photography, cooking, teaching and singing equally, but finding time for all of those things in one day is close to impossible. On top of this, I’m also committed to getting fit and losing weight (down 10lbs since September!) and that takes tons of time and a wholelotta commitment as well. Days when I’m able to sing, get some photography work done, cook, eat well, practice, work out and teach come about once a month. Most days I’m left feeling… frazzled.

BUT, Dhiren reminded me that the beauty of this food blog is that it helps to keep me sane. It’s nice having a hobby where you don’t feel a pressure make money with. It’s a total labor of love. And since I need to eat  on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) it’s easy to incorporate it in my life. So here’s a toast to this food blog, for keeping me sane in 2011 and giving me the chance to test out a LOT of different recipes and ideas in the kitchen.

Today I’m highlighting one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in a long time– oh, and it’s healthy too! Salmon on a bed of fusilli topped with homemade pesto. Dhiren made the pesto, and since it’s his recipe, I’m going to ask him to write a guest post on it soon. This doesn’t even warrant a recipe, since I didn’t season the fish myself either.

I simply bought a package of Wild Pacific Chimichuri salmon at TJ’s, boiled the pasta, let Dhiren make the pesto and threw it all together. This was literally ready in 15 minutes! I LOVE easy, filling meals that keep you full for a long time.

The next couple posts will be much more detailed. Stay tuned for Sicilian Fig Cookies, Homemade Calzone and Bread Pudding! MMM. ‘Tis the season to break your diets.