Zebra Print Frittatas

I am all about the breakfast lately.  I’ve written about this before, but when I get a good, healthy start to the day, it’s motivation for me to stay healthy all day.  Basically, I don’t want to have a great breakfast and then screw things up.  I normally eat yogurt with granola and nuts, oatmeal with a bunch of toppings, or those dandy little granola bars I made not too long ago.  But stepping away from the crunchy side of life for a minute, I’ve got another super quick and easy breakfast dish for you today: muffin frittatas.

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This doesn’t look easy, I know.  On early mornings, I can’t even mange to make oatmeal.  The trick to this breakfast, as with all great meals, is planning ahead.  And in this case, making ahead.  But even though there is work involved, they are pretty easy to put together.  I used eight eggs this time and got ten muffins.  I added in red pepper, red onion, scallions, mushrooms, and of course, cheese.

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This is already looking pretty good.

The first time I made these, I just diced, chopped, and stirred everything into the eggs.  They were good, but I started thinking about how much better they would be if I sautéed a few things first.  Now I’m convinced this is the only way to do it.  And what’s not to love about sautéed mushrooms and peppers?

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If you don’t make a mess, you’re not doing it right.

After I had my veggies prepped, I whisked up the eggs in a big bowl, added a tablespoon of baking powder (it makes all the difference – trust me), 1/4 cup of milk, a little salt and pepper, and the vegetables.  After lining the muffin tin with cupcake wrappers, I filled each one and topped with some shredded cheddar, making a fine mess of my tin in the process.  These went into the oven at 350 for about 25 minutes.

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Obviously, zebra print wrappers are a must.

And here they are – cute, delicious, nutritious, and ready to eat in the morning in no time.  All the qualifications of a brilliant breakfast!  They were really puffed up when they came out of the oven, but they deflated as they cooled; the final taste and texture is exactly what you want in eggs.  Try them out!

 

Muffin Frittatas

Ingredients

8 large eggs

4-5 scallions, diced (hint: use kitchen scissors)

1/2-1 red pepper, chopped

1/4-1/2 red onion, diced

1 8-ounce package sliced white mushrooms

1/4 cup milk

1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon baking powder

Salt and pepper

Cupcake wrappers

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees; line muffin tin with wrappers

2.  Sauté pepper and mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes

3. While the pepper and mushrooms cook, whisk eight eggs with milk

4. Stir in mushrooms, peppers, scallions, red onion, baking powder, and salt and pepper to taste

5. Spoon egg mixture into lined muffin tin; top with cheese

6. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes

7. Let cool completely before removing

Word to the wise: if you use a cupcake wrapper with any kind of metallic lining, be sure to take that off before microwaving in the morning!

I hope you enjoy these!  I’m looking forward to experimenting with all different kinds of veggies, but this combo is working pretty well for me right now.  Happy cooking!

Twofer Tuesday: Turkey Version

 

Until last night, I had never cooked turkey before, not even for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t even make a Tofurkey that year I was a vegetarian.  So instead of starting off with an entire bird, I figured I’d go a little smaller.  I bought some turkey breast fillets at Wegmans for around ten bucks and gave it a whirl!

It turns out cooking these fillets was much more like cooking fish than chicken.  They only needed to go into a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until they were white all the way through.  (I think I cooked them just a minute or two too long, but hey, you live and learn!)  I sprayed my cookie sheet with olive oil first, then lightly salted and peppered the fillets.  Then the kitchen muses descended and inspired me to top them off with some leftover Rosemary sprigs I had.

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Not too bad for my first try.  I served it with green beans and toasted Ezekiel bread, which I have recently discovered and will likely write about soon.  I didn’t eat the herb sprigs, but they were too pretty not to photograph.  I was surprised at how much flavor they gave the turkey!   All in all, a good meal!

I was going to have leftovers for lunch today, but I wanted something a little bit different, so I came up with this:

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I cut up the leftover turkey fillet and made a scrumptious salad!  There’s baby spinach, bean sprouts, the turkey of course, pecans, and craisins – because you can’t have turkey without cranberries, right?  I topped it off with a little balsamic vinegar and promptly devoured it.

I’m a huge fan of leftovers, but at the same time I get tired of eating the same thing over and over.  It would have been perfectly healthy to have the same meal for lunch, but mixing it up was a lot more fun!  New summer challenge: jazz up all the leftovers!

Till next time, happy cooking!

Sweet and Sassy Couscous

I’ve been thinking a lot about side dishes lately.  I’ve got some pretty good main dishes down (lemon chicken, tilaplia, pastas, etc.), but sometimes I get tired of making salads and steaming vegetables, healthy though they may be.

I didn’t necessarily want to find a recipe so much as I wanted to create something new.  After rummaging through the cabinets to see what I had in the kitchen (and don’t the best dishes start with that?), I found a box of couscous.  I’ve made it a hundred times before, but remembered a particular couscous recipe with saffron I’d made from my clean eating cookbook.  I had only made it once, and therefore had most of the spice still in my cabinet.  Since the saffron cost SEVENTEEN dollars, I knew I wanted to use it for something… anything.

 

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I almost left out the spice packet that came with this couscous, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I just cooked it according to the package directions with one very special addition at the end.

When I found the couscous, I  decided that I wanted to include a vegetable with it to give it a little more substance, and I had a few carrots in the fridge.  Bingo!  (They’re great, but they’re not the special addition – wait for it!)

Chop them up into coins or however you prefer.

Chop them up into coins or however you prefer.

 

Before I started on the couscous, I got the carrots going.  The couscous only takes about five minutes to cook, where the carrots take more like 15.  I melted about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan, added 1/3 cup of water and the carrots.  Then I added in the juice of half a lemon.  I’ve made carrots like this before and I really like it.  The lemon juice brings out a fantastic sweetness in the carrots.

Meanwhile,  I cooked the couscous and when it came time to take it off the heat and cover it, I added in the magic.

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Honey!  I have become a huge fan of honey ever since I read in eating clean books and blogs that it’s a great alternative to sugar for sweetening things.  I’ve made some marinades with honey and spices, so I thought “Hey, the couscous has garlic… why not sweeten it up?”  I added about a quarter of a cup.

When the carrots were finished, I mixed them into the couscous along with the saffron.  Done!  Verdict?  Fabulous.  If a quarter cup of honey is too much for you, use a little less.  This dish is so much more exciting than regular couscous (or regular carrots, for that matter), and I think it’s going to make a wonderful side dish.

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Yum. Seriously. Yum.

Sweet and Spicy Couscous with Carrots

Ingredients

1 box couscous (I used the garlic and olive oil kind)

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into coins

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon saffron threads

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the water, lemon juice, and carrots.  Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, approximately fifteen minutes.

2. Cook the couscous according to package directions.

3. When you remove the couscous from the heat, stir in 1/4 cup honey.  Cover and let sit for five minutes.

4.  Once carrots are finished, stir them into the couscous.

5. Stir in saffron and sprinkle a bit on top.

 

Enjoy!  And as always – get creative and make it your own!

Mushroom Moussaka

Last night I tried something completely new for dinner: mushroom moussaka.  I got the recipe from a cookbook called “Vegetarian: Tasty Recipes for Every Day” that I picked up on a whim a few years ago when I decided to be a vegetarian.  The vegetarian diet only lasted for about a year, but I’m happy to say the vegetarian recipes are still with me.  I recently watched “Forks over Knives,” and if you know the documentary, you know that it won’t leave you craving a steak any time soon.

So vegetarian dinner it was.

A moussaka is a Mediterranean sort of casserole, traditionally with eggplant or potato.  They are layered in a dish with a tomato mixture and topped with a cheesy crust.  The recipe I used called for both eggplant and potato layers, and the tomato mixture included onion and mushroom.  When I first looked over this recipe, I thought it would be really easy – a casserole!  How hard could that be?  Well, let’s just say I have learned the value of a prep bowl.  The recipe itself really was not very difficult.  You bake the eggplant and potato, saute the onion, tomato, and mushrooms, and make a bechemel.  Then you layer everything together and bake it for half an hour.  Not bad.

Not bad if you have everything measured and ready to go.

I know – I KNOW – how important prep bowls are.  But last night, I got cocky and thought I didn’t need to pre-measure everything.  Wrong!  If you learn nothing else from me, learn this: use prep bowls.  Pre-measuring all of your ingredients and having them ready to go is essential to cooking well, especially when you need to add an ingredient as soon as you take something off of the heat, for instance.  Pre-measuring ingredients will also make the cooking process much less stressful for you.  Seriously.  Put it on a bumper sticker.  Practice it.  Prep.

My lack of adequate prepping aside, the dish turned out pretty well.  The only problem was that it was a bit soupier than I thought it should be, even after it had baked.  Given the ingredients, I knew there would be some juice, but I found myself draining a bit off even at the end.  (Any insight on this?  Should it be soupy?)  The only really unhealthy ingredients were the flour, sugar, and – debatable – Parmesan.  In an effort to clean up the recipe a bit, I used multigrain flour and organic sugar.   Pretty much everything else was a vegetable.

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Sliced up and ready to bake

 

One thing I would really like to do is try a moussaka at a restaurant, just to experience what it’s really supposed to be like.  Luckily, we have a great little Greek restaurant at home (Hi, Alexander’s!) that my mom said serves this.  Having a perfected moussaka might help me perfect mine.

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Mushrooms, tomato, and onion – and their juices

 
 
 
 

As always, my ultimate test for new recipes is Steve.  He took all of the leftovers to work today for lunch, so I guess, despite the little hiccups along the way, I can officially call this a success.

 
 
 
 
 
 
This is definitely a dish I’ll be making again. I look forward to that blog post:
“Mushroom Moussaka: Mastered.”

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Pretty Little Pizzas

As you read in my last post, I’ve been a little off track with this healthy eating thing lately.  But sitting here now, sipping on a peach and honey smoothie and looking back over the last few days, I think I’m making my way back.  Last night, I was craving pizza, but rather than call up Papa John, I decided to take matters into my own kitchen.

Enter the homemade pita naan pizza.

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I’ve never used naan before and have probably only eaten it a handful of times.  But I can tell you this: it makes for a truly tasty pizza.  I cheated a little on this recipe by using a jar of marinara sauce – oh, the horror! – but I dressed it up with some fresh diced heirloom tomatoes.  Heirloom tomatoes, have I told you lately that I love you?

Naan, fresh basil, grated mozzarella, marinara sauce, heirloom tomato

Naan, fresh basil, grated mozzarella, marinara sauce, heirloom tomato

 

These are so tasty and so easy to make.  You turn on your broiler and while that’s heating up, spread the sauce on your naan, top with some of the diced tomatoes, and cover with cheese and any other toppings you like.  Steve added mushrooms, while I stuck with basil.  Once the broiler is hot, these go in the oven on cookie sheets for five minutes.

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And just how did I get the basil to stay so green and pretty?  I actually didn’t put it in the oven!  I’ve made eggplant parmigiana with fresh basil before, and while it still tastes good cooked, it turns brown and isn’t as pretty.  But cooked or not, the stuff is delicious!  I used some of my little basil plant that’s been hanging out in my kitchen all summer in a Mason jar.  It feels so good to use fresh ingredients when I can!

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Gorgeous, isn’t it?

 

These little pizzas are fun to make, easy to make, QUICK to make, and so yummy.

Naan, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Goat Cheese Heaven

A couple of month ago, my neighborhood Uno’s closed.  That’s probably a good thing, because it means I’ll have one less opportunity to eat greasy pizza, right?  I suppose.  But any tears I shed over this loss were not for the pizza… they were for the goat cheese salad.

I first discovered the goat cheese salad about two years ago at Sweetwater Tavern.  When I rediscovered it at Uno’s, which was much closer to me, I was thrilled!  Stop laughing – you would be too.  Picture it: walnut-encrusted, browned goat cheese surrounded by blueberries on a bed of arugula covered in a blueberry vinaigrette.  Like I said: heaven.

There is a recipe for a goat cheese salad with roasted beets and Brussels sprouts in my new favorite cookbook, The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno, and when I made that, it turned out great.  I was seriously surprised at how much I liked Brussels sprouts – and beets, for that matter!  It was light and filling at the same time – the point of healthy eating, right?

But the other day I got a real hankering for that blueberry salad.  One quick grocery trip later, and I was making this:

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It was so good I made another one the next night… and the night after that.  I promise I’ll take a night off tonight.

I decided to go ahead and slice/crumble the goat cheese up right from the start because that’s how it turns out anyway, and I was making a smaller portion than I’d have eaten in a restaurant.  I was missing the blueberry vinaigrette (Has anyone ever seen one in a store?  Tell me!), but my old reliable balsamic worked well.

Blueberry Goat Cheese Salad

– 1 cup baby arugula

– 3/4 – 1 cup blueberries

– 1/3 round goat cheese

– 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

– Balsamic vinaigrette (blueberry if you can find it or make it!)

Very simple: toss the ingredients together and savor.

I bought a small round of goat cheese at Wegmans and used about a third of it – maybe not even that much – and it was enough for two small salads.  Feel free to indulge in a little more, though. 😉  As you can see above, I used Newman’s Own dressing – I love the flavor.  To go with it, I cooked two chicken breast cutlets (my new favorite form of chicken to buy) with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.  Then I had the sudden inspiration to “summer it up” and add some lemon.

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Let me tell you: good idea.  I’ve seen recipes for lemon chicken before, but all I did this time was juice a lemon and split the juice between the two pieces once they were cooked.  It was SO good.

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So, another great summery dinner created!  I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. 🙂

And on that note, happy first day of summer!  Get out there and enjoy it!

Snack Attack

Often, when people try to eat healthy, they focus on making big changes – after all, big changes yield big results, right?  Eating smaller, more natural portions can go a long way in helping you lose weight and get in shape, but what about the things you eat between those healthy meals?

Avoiding unhealthy meals is a really significant way to get healthier and lose weight.  But unhealthy meals aren’t the only things working against us.  The real danger, in my opinion, is snacking.  Candy bars, bags of chips, and sodas wait around like little traps for us every day.  One false move and we’ve consumed 1,000 empty calories.

In my effort to eat better, I’ve been cooking a lot more.  It can be time-consuming and tedious, but the results are always worth it.  But what do I do when I get really hungry and the chicken I’m cooking for dinner hasn’t even started marinating yet?  Like anyone else, I snack.  But I snack well.

For whatever reason, it’s easier for me to turn down a candy bar than, say, a pizza.  Even before I began consciously trying to eat clean, I usually ate pretty good snacks.  A typical post-workout or grading-papers snack for me is an apple, a wedge of cheese, and some nuts.  And no sodas – just a nice, hot cup of tea.

Since I have started intentionally eating clean, I’ve discovered that trail mix is an excellent snack to add to this mix.  In fact, I tossed some together just last night.

I went to Wegmans yesterday and picked up a few things to mix up. (Have I mentioned how in love I am with that place?  Wherever I end up putting down roots had better have one.)  There’s this great “bulk foods” section of the store where you can buy 814 varieties of candy by the pound and just as many varieties of nuts and healthy things too.

Enter ingredients.

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Chopped walnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, and craisins.

Yes, I put chocolate chips in my trail mix.  These are basic milk chocolate, but you could include some dark chocolate instead – good for the heart, right?  I already had the bag of craisins, but they were also available in the bins.  Most of the nuts in this department are roasted, and there’s an option of salted or not.  I chose not.  When I got home, the only real work I had was shelling the pistachios… and Steve did that for me.

And now for a recipe so easy it hardly qualifies as a recipe: gather ingredients, put in bowl.

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It’s a yummy, healthy snack and also very portable.  Since being on the go can lead to things like French fries, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a bag of it with me when I’m out working or running errands.   I also always have a Tervis full of iced water with me – but that’s a post for another day!