Friday, May 31, 2013

Lettuce Wrap Chicken Gyros with Green Tzatziki

I am writing this post minutes after finishing this meal. This was one of those nights when I tried a new recipe, it came out great and it was EXACTLY what I was in the mood to eat. This meal is not only very healthy for you, it is really easy! You can prepare everything ahead of time and just grill the chicken before you are ready to eat (you could even grill the chicken ahead of time too)

This recipe is a cross between a Greek salad and a chicken gyro. I thought this recipe came out so delicious that I would definitely make this for company or even a large quantity for a summer party. If you like the flavors of Greek food and want a healthy dinner...this is a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

**If you want to make this kid friendly, I would wrap the contents in a flour tortilla and maybe even add a little cheese.

** in most of the recipes I share, I like to omit raw garlic (which I did in this recipe) but I will add the full recipe below in case you would like to add it.

Chicken Gyro Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki (Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine)
Serves 4

2 lemons-juiced
2 cloves garlic (grated)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sumac or 1/2 tsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, combined
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin (1 tsp for marinade and 1/2 tsp for tzatziki)
4 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breast
Salt and pepper
1/2 seedless cucumber (shredded)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh herb blend (parsely, dill, mint) **I used parsely, dill and basil
2 large romaine heads, separated into 4 portions
Garnishes: Chopped tomatoes and pepperoncini

1. Combine half the lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 1/3 cup olive oil, sumac (or paprika combo), oregano, coriander and cumin. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in marinade for at least 15 minutes.

2. Salt the shredded cucumber and let rest in a colander for 10 minutes. Press out excess liquid. In a food processor, combine the cucumber, yogurt, remaining juice from lemon, 1 clove grated garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin and fresh herbs. Puree, then season the tzatziki. (This can be made in advance)

3. Heat a skillet, griddle or grill pan over medium-high heat. Shake excess marinade off the chicken and place in the skillet; cook, flipping once halfway through, for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Slice the chicken on an angle. (If you have time, let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing)

4. Serve the chicken with lettuce for wrapping and top with tzatziki, chopped tomatoes and pepperoncini.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Good Health: Healthy seeds to add to your diet.

Whenever I come across an article that I find interesting or helpful I like to share it with you. The information below comes from Bon Appetit Magazine. It breaks down information on different healthy seeds available to you and why you may want to add them into your diet.

Personally, I have recently added Chia seeds into my everyday diet. I add about 3/4 tsp to 1 tbsp into my oatmeal every morning. It doesn't change the flavor but give my oatmeal a little texture, which I enjoy.

Flax: These seeds reduce inflammation and have cancer fighting powers of Omega-3 fatty acids. To get the most out of flaxseeds, eat them ground rather than whole, but because omega-3s are so perishable, it is best to grind the seeds just before using (use a spice or coffee grinder) Try these seeds in oatmeal or toast spread with nut butter.

Chia: If you add just one food to your diet, make it chia seeds. Suddenly trendy, they provide complete protein (great for vegetarians), omega-3s, fiber and calcium. They're flavorless, so it's easy to stir them into yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies. Be warned; these seeds take on a gelled consistency when added to liquids. Learn to love it.

Pumpkin: These seeds are a solid source of zinc which supports immune function. They are great toasted and tossed in with salads or soups.

Sesame: Rich in iron and calcium, these seeds are a nice finishing touch on rice dishes, roasted veggies and avocado on toast (best toasted in a dry skillet before adding to dishes) For the highest nutritional content, look for unhulled sesame seeds-think brown rice vs. white rice. You can find these are health food stores or middle eastern markets.

Hemp: Ideal for making delicious, creamy, and pleasently grassy flavored milk that pacts essential fats and amino acids. It is easy to do at home: blend one part hulled hemp seeds with four parts water and a touch of honey, then (if desired) strain. Pour it on cereal, coffee or anywhere else you would use milk.

Sunflower: These are great for baking. Use them to add antioxidents, which in sunflower seeds may help protect against cardiovascular disease. These also add wonderful texture to breads, granola, and cookies.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Worlds Most Dangerous Banana Bread

I was SO excited to see this recipe for banana bread in an issue of Bon Appetite Magazine. (see recipe below) Tom and I risked our lives to try this delicious bread on our honeymoon in Hawaii. We started off our vacation to Hawaii on the island of Kauai and ended in Maui.

While in Kauai, we met this nice couple who told us all about places to go when we visited Maui. One thing they mentioned was NEVER attempt to drive on the dangerous Kahekili Highway on the Northwest shore of Maui. Little did we know that on our exploration of the island that is exactly where we ended up.

We took a drive exploring the island and when we ended up on the beginning of this dangerous road we decided to give it a try. The road is VERY narrow with really steep drops. Only one car and fit by at a time on this highway, which allows cars to go both ways. If you ran into a car coming the opposite way, you would have to reverse into a small crevasse and let the other car pass before continuing on.

We continued down the road at about 5-10 MPH, experiencing the most beautiful views of untouched land. It took us hours but we came to a VERY small town called Kahakuloa. This town is home to about 100 native Hawaiians. It has no shops, except for one small road side stand called Julies Banana Bread. I remembered reading about this place in one of my guide books so we had to stop and give it a try.

You can only get a minimum of 2 loaves of bread so we bought them and headed back to the car for our long and dangerous drive back to the hotel. We each ate a slice of the moist and delicious banana bread and wanted to save the rest for later. We ended up finishing the first loaf before we started the car. The second loaf was devoured soon after. It was definitely an adventure worth risking our lives over. If we had ended up going over the edge, at least our last meal was Julie's famous banana bread. Thankfully, we made it back to the hotel just in time to enjoy the best pineapple we ever ate, which we picked up on the side of the very scary road. It was so ripe, you could cut it with a plastic knife or rip it open with your hands.....just like Tom.

Thanks to Bon Appetite Magazine for sharing this recipe so you can give this banana bread a try without the risk of falling off a cliff.

Kaheliki Highway 

Julie's Famous Banana Bread Stand
Recipe made at home: 3 mini loaves 

Best Pineapple in the world: Side of the road..Payment of honor system 

Layla enjoying Julie's homemade banana bread recipe 

Julie's Best Banana Bread
Makes One 9 x 5 x 3" loaf or Three 5 3/4 x 3 1/4" mini loaves

Non stick vegetable oil spray (or Crisco) for greasing pan
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat baking pan (One 9 x 5 x 3" loaf or Three 5 3/4 x 3 1/4" mini loaves) with non stick spray or Crisco. (I like to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper for easy release) 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 

3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mashed bananas and vegetable oil. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. 

4. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes (or 40-50 minutes for mini loaves) Transfer to wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife along the inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto wire rack and let cool completely. 

5. This bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Caramelized Onion Greek Yogurt Dip

I found this recipe online the other day when I was trying to find a quick dip to bring to my husbands birthday dinner that my sister-in-law Katie prepared. I really did not want to run to the store again that day so I found a recipe that included all the ingredients I already had on hand.

If there is one thing I always have in my refrigerator it is plain Greek yogurt. I decided to try a caramelized onion yogurt dip to go along with Katie's appetizers of roasted potatoes, spicy sausage and chips. Everyone really enjoyed this dip and I was really happy with how it came out.  I can see this being a new favorite recipe for parties and entertaining.. A major plus is that it is healthy and easy to make. This is definitely a recipe worth trying.

** A tip for this recipe: Make sure your onions are nicely caramelized and do not burn. My onions took less time than the 45 minutes the recipe call for. Use you judgement, they should be really soft, and golden brown and very sweet.

Caramelized Onion Greek Yogurt Dip (Original recipe from How Sweet It Is)
Makes 2 cups

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salted butter
16 oz plain green yogurt (0% or 2% works)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley-optional

1. In a large pot, add olive oil and butter and melt over low heat. Once melted, add in chopped onions with 1/4 tsp salt, and stir until onions are all coated in oil. Cover pot and cook for approx. 45 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes (I found this step to go a little fasted than 45 minutes) After 45 minutes or when the onions are very soft and nicely golden brown, add in 1 tsp brown sugar and cook 5 minutes more. Remove onions from heat (as long as they are caramelized) and stir in remaining brown sugar. 
In a large bowl, mix together yogurt and onions, stirring in salt, pepper, fresh parsley and garlic powder. Taste and add more seasoning if desired. Serve with chips, pretzels or veggies. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ceasar Salad with Parmesan Crisps

A classic Ceasar Salad is always a great addition to any meal. Adding grilled chicken can easily make it a main dish any night of the week. In my version below, you will find the addition of Parmesan crisps, as well as, no garlic or egg Ceasar inspired dressing. My husband and I aren't the biggest fans of raw garlic, mainly because of the lingering after taste for the next 3 days, so I always omit raw garlic in dressings and keep it simple with oil, lemon, cheese, Dijon, salt and pepper.

Ceasar Salad and Parmesan Crisps
4 servings

1 head chopped Romaine Lettuce- washed and dried
1 head chopped green or red leaf lettuce-washed and dried
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes-sliced in half
6-8 oz Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Roman Cheese
1 baguette, preferably day old or store bought croutons (I left these out to make my salad GF)
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Balsamic Glaze (you can make this by reducing balsamic vinegar into a syrup or you can find it at the grocery store)
8 thin sliced grilled chicken cutlets seasoned with salt and pepper (You can use an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan) -optional

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dice day old bread into 1 inch cubes and place on baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the oven and bake 8-12 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. Leave oven at 400 degrees F to make Parmesan Crisps. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a sil-mat. Grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese. Pour a heaping tablespoon of the cheese onto lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Repeat with remaining cheese, making 8-10 crisps. Space the spoonfuls 1/2 inch apart.. Bake 3-5 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. In a large serving bowl, combine the lettuces and tomatoes. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

4. To make the dressing combine 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper and 1 tsp Dijon mustard, slowly whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil until well blended.

5. To assemble the salad: add croutons into the lettuce and toss salad with dressing. Distribute salad among 4 plates and top with Parmesan crisps, sliced grilled chicken and drizzle with balsamic glaze. I also like to shave a few more slices of cheese using a vegetable peeler on top of salad. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chocolate Buttermilk Bread

This is my go to recipe when I have extra buttermilk in the refrigerator. I have been making this recipe for years as a quick and easy bread for breakfast or a snack. This bread comes out moist and the top is cracked, crunchy and glossy (my husbands favorite part) almost like the top of a brownie. Lately I have been replacing some of the fat in the recipe, in this case butter, with flax seed oil. In this particular bread, I replaced 3 tbsp of butter with equal amounts flax seed oil.

Chocolate Buttermilk Bread
Yields 1 loaf (12 slices) 220 calories per slice

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter-softened (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (or 1/4 cup of each)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 4 or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. I like to line the bottom with parchment paper for easy release.

2. In a bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand held mixer, combine softened butter and sugar; blend well. Add in eggs; beat well. Stir in buttermilk.

3. Add in flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips. Pour into greased pan.

4. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan and cool on wire rack for 1 hour or until completely cool. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables in MAY and JUNE

I haven't been posting as often as usual these days. Mostly because I don't have the time to experiment with new recipes right now, and the recipes I have tried recently haven't been good enough to post on the blog. I am hoping to catch up and try some new delicious and healthy meals soon.

In the meantime, take a look below at all the great fruits and vegetables available in the month of May and June. Visit your local farmers market, or farm stand for organic varieties of these springtime treats.

Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that are at their peak for the month of MAY:
Fava beans
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Edible pea pods
English Peas

Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that are at their peak for the month of JUNE:
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Zucchini blossoms