Monthly Archives: January 2013

Avocado Chicken Salad – No Mayo!


In the last post I mentioned that I’ve made some of my favorite chicken salads with avocado as a substitute for mayo, so I thought I would post that recipe this time around.  This, again, is a super easy recipe – very light and flavorful, and really healthy too.  It’ll keep for a day or two, but it’ll probably be gone before then!

AVOCADO CHICKEN SALAD (makes approx. 2 servings)
– Shredded cooked chicken, approx. 2 cups
– 1 avocado, cubed
– juice of 1 lime (a Rosle Citrus Reamer works great for this)  
– 1 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
– 2 scallions, chopped

1. Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, and dice it.  Add to a bowl and mash roughly with a fork to break it up a bit.


2. Once the avocado is mashed, add the cilantro, lime juice, scallions, and kosher salt/pepper (a pinch of each to start – then add more to taste).  You want to kind of make a guacamole base, and then add the chicken to it. 



3. Add the shredded chicken to the mix, then stir to combine.


4. Taste, season, then taste again.  Delicious!

Chickpea, Avocado, & Feta “Smash”


I felt like Maria von Trapp making this, because: Chickpeas? Avocados? Feta? These are a few of my favorite things…

Avocado is a great substitute for mayo – I’ve made some of my favorite chicken salads with avocados as a base – but mashed with chickpeas, combined with a little feta, lemon/lime juice, and cilantro, this was beyond delicious.  The citrus keeps the avocado from browning, so you can keep this for a full day in the fridge for a healthy snack, or a sandwich filler, or a scoop on top of some salad greens.  You get the picture. It’s healthy, it’s filling, and it’s ready in no more than ten minutes, tops.  Enjoy.

CHICKPEA, AVOCADO, & FETA “SMASH” (serves 2-3)  
– 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I use Eden Organic beans, because they’re fully organic, their cans are BPA-free, and they’re only slightly more expensive but significantly better for you than the alternatives) 

– 1 avocado, cut into chunks
– 1/2 lemon, juiced
– 1/2 lime, juiced
– Approx. 3 tbsp. crumbled feta
– smallish handful of cilantro, chopped (approx. 2 tbsps)
– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Rinse the chickpeas well and drain them, then add to a mixing bowl.

2. Cut an avocado into chunks. The easiest way to do this is to cut an avocado in half, lengthwise:  

Then, carefully but firmly, thunk (that’s a made-up cooking term) the knife blade into the avocado pit, twist it a bit, and gently pull out the pit. 
those are some balancing skills, right there!




Then, in the avocado half itself, cut the avocado into a grid, run your knife around the perimeter of the avocado, and squeeze out the chunks into the bowl with the chickpeas:

2. Combine the chickpeas and the avocado, lemon/lime juice, and kosher salt & pepper, and smash it all together.  If you have a Potato Masher, this helps to get things started, but finishing smashing with a fork until you have the chickpea/avocado consistency that you want.  If you want more of a chunkier avocado texture, smash the chickpeas until they’re 75% to the texture you want, then add the avocado to finish. Say smash again.  Smash!!
pre-smash


smashed
3. Add cilantro to taste, then feta, then add salt/pepper/lemon juice or lime juice as needed.


Sandwich filler?  Salad topper? Solo?  Any way (or “S”) you serve it, it’s a winner.

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Homemade Pasta

There are few things I love more than pasta.  In an effort to eat more healthily, though, over the last year or two I’ve tried to limit myself to eating pasta in one of two instances: 1. at really great restaurants, and 2. when I make it myself.
 
I got an Imperia Home Pasta Machine for Christmas two years ago, and while the process takes a little while, the end result is SO MUCH BETTER than any pasta you’ll ever find in a box. The mixing of the dough was a production until we realized that the dough hook on our KitchenAid mixer would take care of this in no time flat.  You need two ingredients for this (and a little olive oil).  Ready?
 
HOMEMADE PASTA
– flour
– eggs
 
1. The basic mix goes like this: for every 3/4 C. flour, add an egg.  I used a combination of Semolina Flour and Whole Wheat flour this time, but honestly, all-purpose flour alone is probably your best bet. If you’re using the KitchenAid mixer, beat the eggs lightly and then add the flour little by little with the dough hook running.  Then let the dough hook work its magic for approx. 5 minutes, and you’ll come back to a ball of dough. It should pull cleanly off the dough hook – if it’s too sticky, add a little flour, too dry, add a little olive oil and mix some more. 

 — If you don’t have a KitchenAid Mixer, form a little volcano shape out of the flour, and crack the eggs into the volcano’s “crater”.  Working from the outside in, gently combine the eggs and flour together.  Then knead the dough, pressing it out and flipping it back up on itself, for probably 10 minutes or so.  

 
2. When the dough has been kneaded, rub a tiny bit of olive oil onto your hands (my mom’s Sicilian mother used to swear that this was the secret to youthful-looking hands, but that’s just a bonus).  Work the dough into a more structured ball, then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

3. Now comes the fun part.  Get a helper, and assemble your Imperia Pasta Machine. Working with approx. 1/4 inch of a piece of the dough at a time, work it through the roller (usually until the second to last thickness setting). Then, lightly flour the pasta cutting attachment, and work the rolled out sheet of dough through the pasta cutter.  Arrange the freshly cut pasta on a Pasta-Drying Rack (or, ahem, an ironing board covered with paper towels and lightly dusted with flour) and let dry while you cut the rest of the pasta.

 

 
 
 
4. Bring a pot of water to boil.  When boiling, add salt, then add the pasta all at once.  It should be al dente at 3 minutes, so be careful not to overcook it.
 
5. Drain the pasta and top with your favorite sauce.  Fresh pasta is a game-changer; it’ll be tough for you to go back to the boxed stuff after this!

 

— On a side note, congratulations to President Obama on his Inauguration Day. Here’s hoping that both parties will be able to work together on bettering our country with the good of the people in mind.

Spinach, Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, & Toasted Walnut Salad with a Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I’ve been dying to try anything with Meyer Lemons for over a year now.  They only show up around here is in January – February, so when I saw a bag at Wegman’s the other day, I knew the time had come.  Meyer Lemons are kind of a cross between a clementine and a lemon (my friend Klob calls them “lemontines”), so they’re a little lighter and sweeter than traditional lemons.  The vinaigrette plays well against the roasted butternut squash, the feta adds a little saltiness, and the toasted walnuts add a little heartiness and crunch.  The spinach pulls this all together for a super satisfying, really easy salad.

SPINACH, ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, FETA, & TOASTED WALNUT SALAD WITH A MEYER LEMON VINAIGRETTE (makes 4 individual side salads)
– 1 9 oz. bag of spinach
– 1/4 – 1/2 Roasted Butternut Squash
– 1/4 C. crumbled Feta
– 1/4 C. toasted walnuts
MEYER LEMON VINAIGRETTE
– 2 Meyer Lemons, zested and juiced
– 1 tbsp. honey
– 1/2 – 3/4 C. EVOO (start with 1/2, then add more to taste)
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Roast the butternut squash. Basically, turn the oven to 400, throw in the squash for maybe 15 minutes, then remove to cut off the bottom and slice it in half easily.  Scoop out the seeds, rub a little olive oil on both sides, then place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  Remove from the oven, peel off the skin, and cut as needed. I has some leftover from the other night’s chicken, kale, roasted butternut squash, and black bean enchiladas, so I just used that.

2. Add the spinach leaves to a large bowl, then and add a little kosher salt or Herbamare (lettuce is a vegetable, and should be dressed like one). Stir to combine.


3. In a small pan, toast walnuts over medium-high heat.  This should take about 5 minutes – just watch the pan closely, and shake it around a lot to flip the walnuts evenly.  You’ll see (and smell) when the walnuts are toasted – just be careful not to burn them!

4. Add toasted walnuts, cubed butternut squash, and crumbled feta.  Mix gently to combine.


5. In a smaller mason jar (or similar), combine the ingredients for the Meyer Lemon vinaigrette. Put a lid on the jar, shake well to combine, then season to taste if necessary.


6. Pour about half the dressing over the salad, mix gently to coat. Add more dressing if you like, or refrigerate for up to 3-4 more days.  Yummo.

Chicken, Black Bean, Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash, & Avocado Enchiladas


Say you have friends over on Monday, and you make an enormous roasted chicken. Then let’s say you have a ton of leftovers, since apparently an 8 lb. roast chicken is way too much for 4 people. And let’s also say that you would like Mexican food, but not turkey tacos, since although they are delicious, you make them all the time.  

Enchiladas??  Okay.

These were so tasty, and so filling, and I was able to convince myself that the kale, squash, and avocado made them healthy (enough). I thought the roasted butternut squash might add too much sweetness, but it ended up acting as sort of a binder for the filling, and lending just a little bit of flavor. This recipe uses a  tomatillo sauce that I found in the store, so if anyone has a tomatillo recipe they love, I’m all ears. These keep, and reheat, really well. I think they might actually even be good cold.

CHICKEN, BLACK BEAN, KALE, ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & AVOCADO ENCHILADAS (makes 7 enormous enchiladas)

– 1 lb. shredded chicken
– 2 cups kale, “ribs” removed and roughly chopped
– 1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
– 1/2 roasted butternut squash
– 1 small avocado, diced
– Mexican cheese – I was able to find a small wheel of “quesadilla cheese” in the grocery store which was perfect
– 2 cups tomatillo sauce
– Smaller-size flour tortillas
– 1 small onion, diced
– 2 tbsp. EVOO
– kosher salt or Herbamare
– Fresh-squeezed lime juice
– Sour cream, for topping

1. Roast your butternut squash. This is really easy but takes a little time. First, heat the oven to 400. The just take the whole squash, with a couple of holes poked into it, into the oven for about 15 minutes.  The squash will soften, and make cutting it a slightly less terrifying experience.
2. After 15 minutes, cut off the bottom of the squash, then cut it down the middle and scoop out all of the seeds.


3. Rub a little olive oil on the cut side of each half of the squash, then place cut-side down on an ungreased baking sheet.

4. Cook at 400 for approx. 30 – 45 minutes (depending on the size of the squash). Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  The skin of the squash will peel right off, and you can then cut the squash into chunks for this recipe, or salads, or soup, or whatever.

5. While the squash is roasting, dice an onion.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the onion in half, then make vertical cuts along the onion’s natural lines.  When you then cut the onion, it will dice itself naturally.


6. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tsbp EVOO, and when hot, cook the onion until soft. 

7. Add the rinsed and drained black beans, chopped kale, and chicken. Stir to combine.
8. Add about 1/2 C. of the tomatillo sauce to the bean/kale/chicken/onion mixture for some flavor. Taste and adjust seasoning.

9. When the mixture is cooked, add the roasted squash and the avocado. Stir gently to combine.

10 Lower oven heat to 375.  In a microwave, heat the tortillas (4 at a time) in paper towels, for approx. 45 seconds.

11. Spread approx. 1/2 C. of the tomatillo sauce over the bottom of a large baking pan.


12. Assemble your enchiladas – spoon filling into the middle of a warm enchilada, grate some mexican cheese over the filling, and squeeze a little lime juice over it as well.  Roll up the enchilada and place in the baking pan seam-side down.

13. Step and repeat.

14. When all the enchiladas are in the baking pan, pour the remaining cup of tomatillo sauce over the top of them, then top with approx. 1/2 C. of shredded Mexican cheese.

15. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for approx. 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

16. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, salsa, etc. Ole.

Apple, Banana, Avocado & Honey Smoothie

Not only does this smoothie give you, most likely, your total potassium values for the day, it’s also incredibly tasty. The avocado gives it a smoothness (a smoothness smoothie – ha), and the honey adds a lift of delicate sweetness. I had it for breakfast this morning and wasn’t hungry until hours later.

APPLE, BANANA, AVOCADO & HONEY SMOOTHIE (Makes 2 large smoothies)
– 1 red apple (I used Cortland), washed, and cut into chunks. Leave the skin on to retain the nutrients
– 1 banana, peeled and cut into chunks
– 1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
– 2/3 C. milk
– 1 C. ice
– 1 tbsp honey – local and organic, if you can find it (this, bizarrely, will help with allergies)

1. Cut up the apple, banana, and avocado.


2. Add ice, milk, fruit, and honey to the blender.


3. Blend until smooth. Add milk to thin to taste.

 

Roasted Lemon Cauliflower

I would eat this every day, if it didn’t kind of make your kitchen smell like you were roasting tupperware.  That said, please open a window and try this, because it’s one of the healthiest, simplest, tastiest snacks you’ll ever have. 

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LEMON (serves 4 as a snack or side)
– 1 large head cauliflower
– 2 lemons, zest of 1
– 1-2 tbsp EVOO
– 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the cauliflower, then cut into florets.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the cauliflower into quarters, then cut out the middle “stem” part.  The florets should fall away naturally, and you won’t end up with teeny pieces of cauliflower all over your kitchen.

 


3. In a small bowl, combine the juice of 1/2 a lemon and the salt, mixing to combine. Then, using a Microplane, add the zest of two lemons (just the yellow – zesting the white part, or the “pith”will make this really bitter) and the EVOO, and mix that together as well.


4.  Pour this lemon/EVOO mixture over the cauliflower florets, and toss to combine.  Arrange the florets in a single layer on an ungreased roasting sheet and put in the oven.


5. Every 10 minutes or so, take the cauliflower out of the oven, squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over them, and flip them with a spatula. Repeat until the edges of the cauliflower are deep brown and caramelized – this should take approx. 30 minutes.

Cauliflower, after the first flip.

6. When roasted, remove the florets from the oven, squeeze the juice of another lemon half over them, then serve. This is fantastic either hot or cold.