Grilled Apricot and Cherry Grain Salad

If someone asked you to bring a drupe salad to a summer picnic, would you know what that is? How about if they asked for a stone fruit salad? Throughout the months of July and August, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, and apricots, otherwise known as drupes or stone fruits, burst onto the scene at farmers markets and beyond. These are hands-down my FAVORITE fruits, so when The Recipe Redux challenged us to make a healthy recipe celebrating stone fruits, I was feeling peachy keen.

New York City has over one hundred farmers markets to pick up in-season goodies, however at the time of the redux I found myself at my family’s house in Eastern Pennsylvania, where luckily local farm stands aren’t few or far between. I love shopping at and supporting local farms and businesses whenever possible. Another fun adventure would be go to pick your own stone fruits if you find a farm nearby!

Peaches would have to be my most favorite of these fruits- the fuzz, the flesh, the juice, I could go on- but I figured most of the recipes entered for this month’s challenge would use this ripe beauty. I wanted to showcase two stones that maybe don’t get as much love- apricots and cherries- and I challenged myself to come up with a savory salad, rather than a sweet breakfast or dessert. What resulted was oh so delicious and is a dish I know I’ll be making for summers to come.

Apricots are fairly straightforward to prepare- simply slice down the “seam” that runs around the circumference of the fruit in order to get two halves, then remove the pit. Cherries, on the other hand, are a bit more tedious and staining, but I find them to be well worth the effort. To remove cherry pits, you can buy yourself a fancy pitter tool, I’ve seen others use a chopstick to poke out the stone, or do as I do and slice them in half, then dig your fingers in and rip out the pit, resulting in very red fingers and nails. Both of these fruits pair well with herbs and spices, but I played up another member of the drupe family- pistachios.

Before I run away singing about the other ingredients, here is the full recipe for you to make yourself! I hope you enjoy!

Grilled Apricot and Cherry Grain Salad- serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooks quinoa
  • 2 ears of corn- shucked and raw kernels cut from the cob
  • 6 apricots, halved and pitted
  • 10 cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Lime
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Start by cooking 1 cup quinoa according to package instructions. This will make 2 cups cooked. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Cut the kernels from two corn cobs and place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Prepare the fruit by first cutting both apricots and cherries in half and removing pits. Add cherries to bowl with corn. Drizzle apricot halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then take to the grill and set face down. Cook on the grill for about 3-4 minutes until inner flesh starts to caramelize and show grill marks. Remove apricot halves from the grill and let cool before slicing into quarter pieces. Then add to corn and cherries.
  4. To the corn and fruit, add the cooked quinoa, chopped pistachios, feta, and a squeeze of juice from half a lime. Serve as a side salad at your next gathering.

For more super stone fruit recipes, check out my fellow Recipe Reduxers below!


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Open Face Shakshuka Sandwich

I don’t think there is anything I love more than breakfast. And I especially love making or hunting down a great breakfast sandwich. So when this month’s Recipe Redux asked us to show off a sandwich creation, you can bet the gears of my breakfast brain got spinning!


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Picnic Chickpea Poppers

Quick! Your friends have invited you to a picnic in the park that starts in ONE hour- what on earth could one possibly whip up to contribute to the food festivities? This month’s Recipe Redux asked us to shake up our picnic game and create a dish to serve al fresco- so here we go!

When time is short and warm weather is calling allow Picnic Chickpea Poppers to come through to save the picnic day. I would bet that most everyone has a can of chickpeas in their cupboard and a selection of spices in their cabinet, so that even with last minute notice anyone can bring together a tasty snack for a day in the park or at the beach.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

I received free samples of Swerve mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsered by Swerve and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Are you celebrating National Nutrition Month and looking to go further with your food and health? Or are you anxiously awaiting the arrival of Girl Scout cookie order forms to purchase your favorite cookies? Maybe you’re observing the season of Lent and went down to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras celebration?

While these may seem like completely unrelated questions and themes, they actually come together in a sweet symphony for my latest recipe- Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies.

This March I am participating in a Recipe Redux Contest featuring Swerve Sweetener- a natural, preservative-free, and non-GMO sweetener product that hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. And since my husband and I always over order on Girl Scout cookies during the spring selling season, I figured I’d take this opportunity to create my own version of our favorite cookie- the Tagalong or Peanut Butter Patty- with a healthy twist for National Nutrition Month.

I discuss sweeteners with my patients often, but have never been a fan of the colorful packets myself, preferring to use a small amount of the real stuff and avoid the unpleasant aftertaste. Yet, when people I work with are working to manage their diabetes and weight in a more healthy, but still enjoyable way, I would like to put my money where my mouth is so to speak. This is why I love Swerve- it contains zero calories, does not affects blood sugar, and has quite a pleasant taste!

Artificial sugars can be scary to consumers for many reasons, but at the end of the day the most common concerns I hear are about what’s really in the product and what are the side effects to my health? Swerve answers these questions clearly; all of the ingredients for Swerve can be found naturally in select fruits and starchy root vegetables, and are sourced in North America and Europe from non-GMO crops. In terms of side effects, Swerve has another leg up on the competition here. Since it’s main ingredients is erythritol- a common sugar alcohol- Swerve has a high GI tolerance and does not cause tummy troubles like other sugars that end in “ol” and often send people running to the bathroom.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t one to use artificial sugars much- not in my coffee and certainly not in my baked goods- so this baking project was going to be a new challenge for me. Luckily, Swerve measures cup-for-cup like regular table sugar, and so it was with only the normal amount of baking trepidation that I set out to recreate a low-sugar version of a beloved cookie.

Sugar-free baking fears be gone- this recipe turned out to be a winner! The shortbread has a nice crumbly consistency, which I would expect from using the Swerve granulated sugar, and the peanut butter filling was just the right amount of smooth sweetness thanks to the confectioners sugar. To add to the healthy factor, I used whole wheat flour, and only a drizzle of dark chocolate instead of a dunking.

I can see many more uses for Swerve in my future and encourage you to satisfy your sweet tooth with Swerve Sweetner!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies- makes 36 cookies

Ingredients for the shortbread

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Swerve granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk

Ingredients for the topping

  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter or your favorite smooth nut butter (almond, sunflower, walnut, cashew)
  • 1/2 cup Swerve confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, either morsels or coarsely chopped (I used Enjoy Life chunks)

Directions

  1. Prepare the cookie base. Using electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar in a glass mixing bowl until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. In 2-3 increments, stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the milk and vanilla; stir only until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (separate it into two balls of dough if it is easier to handle that way) and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until it is very firm.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pinch off pieces of dough, and roll into approximately 1-inch circles. Lightly flatten each ball with your hand, trying to ensure that the edges don’t crack too much- I was very challenged by this, so my advice is to press gently. Place the rounds of dough on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about an inch between (they will spread a little, but not too much).
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they have a dull finish on top and are just golden on the edges. They will not look fully cooked, but they will continue to harden into the perfect shortbread while cooling.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet. As soon as they are not too hot, using a thumb or the back of a small spoon, make an indent in each cookie (they should still be fairly soft, so it should be easy to indent them without breaking them). Leave them right where they are for the moment.
  5. In a medium saucepan, melt the nut butter on low heat until it is a thick, easily stirred liquid. Add the Swerve confectioners sugar and stir until incorporated. Add the vanilla last, stirring in until incorporated. Remove from heat. Let it sit for about 10 minutes; the mixture will start to thicken a bit.
  6. Place a teaspoon (a little more or less, upon your taste) of the nut butter mixture in the indent on each cookie.
  7. Melt the chocolate by using the double boiler method (if you have one) or by melting directly in a saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning the chocolate.
  8. Rather than dipping the cookie completely in chocolate as traditional Tagalongs are, use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over the top surface in a zebra-stripe fashion. Place the chocolate coated cookies on a sheet of waxed paper, nonstick silicone, or even aluminum foil, and let set for 2-3 hours before enjoying.

Stay Sweet!

Want to see more recipes using Swerve? Find them at the Recipe Redux page below!


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Cast Iron Spaghetti Squash Bake

If you’re a dietitian who loves to cook, and lives in an “average” sized NYC apartment (we’re talkin’ no more than 600 square feet), I’m sure you feel my pain when it comes to kitchen space. When you only have 4 cabinets and 2 drawers, with about a 3 feet long by 1 foot wide counter work space, you learn how to minimize and become quite efficient. Many of my kitchen tools are collapsible (strainers, prep bowls, and yes, even my salad spinner folds into itself), it takes me about 3 minutes to pull out pans and cookie sheets before getting to the crockpot, and my larger appliances don’t even get to live in the kitchen- the large Cuisinart food processor sits in its box in the dining area. Let’s just say, of gadgets I have few. Rather my kitchen serves a practical purpose, and there’s some tools I just can’t do without.

It’s not much, but it’s my home kitchen.

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Kefir Pumpkin Bread with Miso Nut Butter Spread

When it’s 70 degrees and sunny in October, flu and cold season seems farther away than ever; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t start playing defense by boosting your immune system now. Truthfully, I believe that a whole foods, well-rounded diet, combined with a healthy dose of physical activity is the best year-long medicine, but there is a group of foods that can help to fortify your most crucial defensive player during the winter months. I’m talking about probiotic foods and your gut.
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