Summer Vegetable Tortellini

Ah, summer nights- how do you like to spend yours? When the sun goes down and, hopefully, the temperatures get cooler, heading out for dinner for with a loved one is a great way to spend a summer weekend. Yet, at the same time, with tasty summer produce in full swing, sometimes cooking a meal at home in the air conditioning and with your own half-priced bottle of wine is the way to go!

This past Saturday night Danny and I had date-night-in and made a seasonal vegetable pasta dish that I just had to share with you! Although we were cooking at home, that certainly did not mean that we made this the most elaborate meal. We still kept it simple with the prep time and it all came together in about 20 minutes. Pour your favorite white wine, light some candles, and enjoy a summer meal at home!

Summer Vegetable Tortellini- Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pre-made tortellini- we used a prosciutto and cheese variety, but feel free to use only cheese, or even a spinach and cheese one
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 3/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 large lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup skim ricotta
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. You know they are al dente when they begin to look soft and pillowy and float to the top of the boiling water. Just before fully cooked, add the frozen peas to the boiling water. Once finished, drain and set aside in a mixing bowl. Mix in ricotta cheese and reserve.
  2. Make the zucchini into ribbons by cutting off both ends of the squash, then using a vegetable peeler carefully slice the zucchini lengthways into long strips. When you reach the seeds on one side, turn it over and repeat making ribbons on the other side. Set aside while you prepare the remaining pieces.
  3. Slice garlic into thin discs and set aside. On a low heat, toast pine nuts until just turning golden brown- careful not to burn! Remove from heat and save for garnishing. In a small bowl, combine the zest of half of one lemon, the juice of the lemon, and 2 tbsp olive oil.
  4. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, then add a small amount of olive oil and the garlic slices. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the zucchini ribbons and cook until starting to soften, stirring constantly. Add the zucchini to the pasta and peas mixture. Drizzle lemon and oil mixture over mixture and gently fold everything together with tongs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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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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Lentil Fajitas with Charred Peppers

Are there certain foods your other half prefers not to eat, or even downright dislikes? For my husband, that would be most beans and legumes. Recently he had “accidentally, on purpose” eaten black beans in a dish out at a restaurant, which gave me hope that more beans would come into our rotation. Yet, I know it’s not something to push with him- all in good time! So, when I have a night making dinner for myself, I usually go for some kind of plant based protein.

With no cans of beans in the house, and no patience for soaking and boiling my dried pinto beans, I pulled out some red lentils from the cupboard and set to coming up with a quick, tasty dinner for one. Based on the other ingredients I already had at home, a Mexican dish with a plant focused twist came to mind- grab the shopping list and recipe steps below!

Lentil Fajitas with Charred Peppers- Serves 1

Ingredients

  • Lentil- 1 cup cooked
  • Red bell pepper- cut 1/2 of pepper into thin strips
  • Shaved brussels sprouts- 1 cup total, buy pre-shredded or cut your own
  • Tortillas- 2 small corn or Siete Foods cassava coconut
  • Small tomato- 1/2 chopped
  • Leftover tomato sauce or tomato paste- 1 tbsp or 1 tsp respectively, use only one depending on what you have on hand
  • Avocado- a quarter cubed
  • Limes- 1/2 juice
  • Oil- olive or avocado
  • Spices: cumin, chipotle, garlic powder- 1 tsp of each

Directions

  1. Cook lentils until soft. Strain excess water and return lentils back to small pot on stovetop. To lentils, add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce or paste, and spices. Cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes until ingredients are well mixed and tomato has broken down and softened. Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. In a saute pan, heat a small amount of oil and add sliced peppers. Cook peppers on high to medium heat until starting to char. The trick to getting them caramelized and browned is to not move them too much, so stir infrequently.
  3. While peppers cook, in a small bowl mix shaved brussels sprouts and juice of a half of one lime. I like to use my hands to massage the brussels and help soften them up. Taste and add a pinch of salt if desired.
  4. To assemble the fajitas, lay two warmed tortillas on a plate, add a base layer of the brussels, top with charred peppers and cooked lentils evenly, and finish with chunks of avocado.

 

 

Rotisserie Chicken 3 Ways

When the temperatures are running over 90 degrees, nobody should have to tun on their stove or oven to get a nutritious meal on the table. That’s where a store bought rotisserie chicken can come in to save the day! I’m sharing with you three different ways to use up a bird for two people and each of these “recipes’ are fast, simple, packed with nutrition and most importantly delicious!

Here’s your shopping list:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken- purchase one that is unseasoned or, at most, a lemon herb rub
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • spinach
  • pine nuts
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

No Cook Summer Salad

Directions

  1. Wash butter lettuce and tear apart using hands or roughly chop with a knife. In a large bowl, place 4 cups of prepped greens.
  2. Shred 6-8 ounces of chicken, or about 2 palm-sized portions worth, and add to greens bowl.
  3. Cut root ends off radishes, then cut in half starting from the green stem. Slice each half into half-moon pieces- the thickness is up to you. Use about 5 radishes total. Add radishes to salad.
  4. Cut half an avocado into cubes and add. Sprinkle 1/4 cup pine nuts over greens. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the salad. Mix with hands or salad tongs and serve.

 

Rotisserie Wraps Two Ways

 

Directions

  1. Shred 6-8 ounces of chicken, or enough to make about 2-2.5 cups of shredded chicken, place in mixing bowl. To chicken, add half an avocado and mix two ingredients well. The avocado should be creamy enough to create a “sauce” a la mayonnaise used in a traditional chicken salad. Add a small squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt once mixed well. Set aside.
  2. Finely dice 1/4 cup red onion- use more or less in wrap depending on tastes and reseve any extra (great to add into a guacamole!).  With the other onion half, cut into thin slices and place in glass jar. To quick pickle, bring 1.5 cups of white vinegar and a pinch of sugar to boil on the stove, then pour liquid over onion slices (the onions should be fully covered). Let sit as onions will start to turn pink and pickle. This quick pickle can be stored in the fridge for about 1 week.
  3. From the above salad recipe, separate and clean 3 butter lettuce leaves, and be sure to pat them dry well. Slice 1-2 radishes into half moon shapes.
  4. To assemble wheat wrap: start with 1 whole wheat tortilla, create base layer of a handful of pre-washed spinach, spoon 1 1/4 cup of chicken salad mixture on top, add diced red onions, then wrap and serve.
  5. To assemble lettuce wraps: lay out 3 lettuce leaves, divide 1 1/4 cup chicken salad into each leaf, top with pickled onion and radishes, and serve.

It Takes Two to Tofu

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally come around to tofu. Now, I know it’s not a requirement to incorporate tofu into a plant-based diet, but sometimes you just need to get creative, push your taste buds a bit, and try a few new ways to prepare an unfamiliar food.

I wanted to share two tofu recipes I’ve made recently and were shared on social media. Some of you expressed interest in the recipe so, ask and you shall receive!

Do you eat tofu? What are your tricks for preparing it?

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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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Anti-Inflammatory Chickpea Burgers

Here it is ladies and gents, another Meatless Monday recipe for the win! While I enjoy all varieties of beans tossed into salads and scooped into grain bowls I sometimes need to put a twist on them to keep things interesting.- enter chickpea burgers. These patties are inspired and slightly tweaked from the Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers found in the book The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, a cookbook I’d highly recommend for any RD working in oncology and for anyone with or caring for someone with cancer. 

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Kabocha Squash and Pinto Bean Soup

Want to know one of my secrets to conjuring up a delicious and nutritious meal? Always be prepared! Okay, so maybe it’s not that big of a secret, but having a stocked pantry and fridge makes healthy eating come together that much more seamlessly.

Being prepared especially comes in handy when it’s cold outside and a trip to the supermarket sounds far and frigid. This was the situation I was faced with about a week ago, but thankfully could pull together a few ingredients lying behind closed doors to create a dinner (and a few lunches). I encourage you to:

  1. Keep a running inventory of pantry, fridge, and freezer items- think dried and canned beans, canned fish, hearty winter squashes and potatoes, frozen veggies and fruit, and condiments and sauce ingredients
  2. Make a list of versatile fresh and perishable ingredients you need to pick up at the store at the start of the week- the magic word here is versatile (aka things you like and would eat in many forms)
  3. Become best friends with Google and Pinterest for recipe inspiration- type in a string of ingredients that may at first seem like a random assortment that could never turn out tasty and watch these sites turn out delicious recommendations

I ate this soup on what was also Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and Pi Day (March 14th for all you math neRDs out there), so the only photos I have of this creation are of the soup, plus pie. Try to focus on the soup here, even though there is a chocolate circle of heaven staring at you from the opposite corner!

Kabocha Squash and Pinto Bean Soup- Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium sized carrot, diced
  • 1/2 large kabocha squash, or about 3 cups, cubed (skin left on)
  • 3-4 cups low sodium broth- chicken or vegetable
  • Cilanto Walnut pesto for topping- 2 handfuls cilantro leaves, 1/2 cup walnut halves, olive oil
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper, and other dried herbs or spices, to taste

Directions

  1. Cook dried beans- place beans in a pot and cover with a few inches of water; cover and let sit in fridge overnight. Alternatively, use the quick soak method by placing beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat- let sit for 30 minutes, drain, and continue cooking. To continue cooking after initial soak using either method, drain beans from initial water, then place in pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a simmer and let cook 30-60 minutes. It’s okay if they don’t get totally tender after an hour, they’ll continue to soften in the soup. or skip this whole step and use low sodium canned beans if that’s what you have!
  2. Start to prepare the soup by heating a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. To pot add cubed kabocha squash. Saute for 2 minutes before adding broth. Once broth is added, toss in cooked beans. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the pesto by blending cilantro, walnuts, and olive oil (use your judgement on how much, depending on how thick or thin you desire the sauce) in a food processor. I prefered this sauce a bit more chunky, but feel free to blend until smooth while using more oil as needed.
  5. After 25-30 minutes the squash and beans should have softened. Taste the soup for flavor and add a pinch of salt, a crack of pepper, and I think I remember adding in a shake of ground coriander too- the flavors are up to you!

 

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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