I recently had the honor and pleasure of sharing a recipe on a wonderful blog called Full Belly Sisters. The sisters are Justine and Flannery, two women who are passionate about women's health. According to their site, "The Full Belly Sisters blog offers useful tools so that you can be healthy and informed while you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or just striving for balance in your life." Check them out, you won't be disappointed!
The dish I created is called Moroccan Spiced Salmon with Harissa Yogurt and Pearl Couscous. Salmon is one of my favorite things to cook because it is so easy to prepare and it has so many wonderful health benefits. This dish uses many of the spices commonly found in Moroccan cuisine to add tons of flavor without adding calories. To read more about the wonders of salmon and to see this recipe, head on over to Full Belly Sisters by clicking here.
It's been a busy, busy week! In addition to the usual "physician" stuff, I had several different "foodie" things that I was working on. First, I wrapped up two different recipe development jobs for national food magazines- I'll keep you posted about their upcoming publication. For now I’ll just say that my husband Pete didn’t mind all the burger tastings that took place in our kitchen! Then I spent all day Wednesday filming a commercial that will be run on the Food Network! I had the honor of being a judge on Chopped: Open Your Basket, a mini version of the show Chopped, which airs as a commercial during the show. I had never done anything like this before and it was so interesting to see how much work goes into filming a one-minute commercial! Overall it was a great day and the entire crew couldn’t have been nicer. I can’t wait to see it when it airs! During the last few days I completed a guest post for the wonderful Full Belly Sisters- stay tuned for more about this later in the week. And I also shared a post with a great site called Nutri-Savvy. Finally, I'm now working on a spicy and sweet tropical shrimp salad that I’ll be sharing with you soon.
Phew! So with all that said, today's a perfect day to highlight a few of the wonderful recipes that have been posted by some great blogging friends of mine.
Cupcakes & Kale Chips- Grilled Chicken & Berry Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans and Blueberry Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
I hope all of these delicious dishes satisfy your cravings! Bon appétit!
There’s a reason why chefs love the arrival of spring. After a long winter season, the markets are suddenly brimming with a wide array of fresh, vibrant spring vegetables. Many vegetables are at their peak in the spring- fresh peas, fava beans, artichokes, asparagus, and radishes to name a few common ones. There are also many not-so-common vegetables like fiddlehead ferns, ramps, morel mushrooms and garlic scapes, which only make a brief appearance at this time of year. My Spring Vegetable Spaghetti Carbonara was inspired by this wonderful time of year.
I chose to perform a Recipe Resuscitation on Spaghetti Carbonara because it is one of my favorite Italian dishes. It’s traditionally a decadent pasta dish featuring spaghetti that’s coated in a creamy sauce and studded with pieces of salty bacon or pancetta. The sauce is made with raw egg and grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese. Some American versions also use heavy cream in the sauce to make it richer, but classic carbonara does not. As the egg and cheese mixture is stirred into the hot pasta, the egg cooks and forms a creamy sauce. The key is to constantly swirl the pasta around with the egg mixture so that the eggs from a smooth sauce rather than scramble. A small amount of the pasta water is usually stirred in at the end to complete the sauce.
My version of the dish is full of fresh spring vegetables that I toss with the pasta and flavor with tarragon, a perfect spring herb. I used vegetables that I found at my local farmer’s market - asparagus, fresh sweet peas and pea shoots. These vegetables are low in calories and high in protein and fiber so they help keep you feeling full. They are also packed with several important vitamins and minerals that have many health benefits. If you’ve never seen pea shoots, they are delightful greens that come from the pea plant. Their leaves and tendrils are edible and have a delicate texture and mild pea flavor. They can be eaten raw or cooked and are a great addition to salads, stir-fries and pasta. They also make a lovely edible garnish. So if you see them at the market, pick up a package- you won’t regret it.
Whereas traditional carbonara uses pancetta or bacon, my version uses Canadian bacon. Despite its name, Canadian bacon is not a true cut of bacon, which is traditionally taken from the side region of the pig. Canadian bacon is a smoked cut of pork taken from the loin region (a leaner region) and thus has significantly less calories and fat. To give you some numbers, Canadian bacon has 44 calories and 2 grams of fat (1 grams saturated) in a 1 ounce portion while traditional bacon has 151 calories and 12 grams of fat (4 grams saturated). It still has a great smoked flavor and it comes fully cooked so you simply need to heat it up.
To make the dish even more nutritious, I like to use quinoa spaghetti instead of traditional spaghetti. Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse so I try to incorporate it into my diet whenever I can. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute your favorite type of spaghetti.
And finally, to finish the dish, I use a small amount of freshly grated pecorino cheese in the sauce- just enough to add great flavor. This dish uses few ingredients so you want to use good quality ingredients to let them shine. In general, hard cheeses like pecorino and parmigiano are healthy choices when it comes to cheese because they are packed with flavor so a little goes a long way.
Spring Vegetable Spaghetti Carbonara
Makes 4 servings
1 cup fresh spring peas
½ bunch asparagus (about 12 stalks), cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces quinoa spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces Canadian bacon (2-3 slices), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pea shoots plus a few extra for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to cook the vegetables another 3-4 minutes until crisp tender. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook until browned- the bacon is already cooked so you are just trying to get some color and crispiness with this step. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Cook another minute until fragrant. Remove the vegetables from the ice water and add them to the pan along with the pea shoots. Sauté the vegetables until they are heated through and the green start to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. When the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the vegetables, and stir to combine all ingredients well. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.
Whisk the eggs and cheese together in a bowl. Slowly pour about ¼ cup of the pasta water to the mixture, whisking constantly. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the egg mixture on top of the pasta and vegetables. Using tongs, stir the sauce into the pasta, swirling it constantly. The residual heat will cook the eggs and it will form a creamy sauce. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to form a creamy sauce. Stir in the tarragon and season the pasta with salt and pepper. Garnish with reserved pea shoots. Serve right away.
One serving:Calories 355; Fat 9.2g (Sat 2.4g); Protein 15g; Carb 54.5g; Fiber 7.1g
What are your favorite spring vegetables? How do you like to prepare them? Leave a comment and let me know!
Biscotti are traditional centuries-old Italian cookies that are baked twice to make them dry and crispy. The word biscotti is derived from “bis” meaning “twice” in Italian and “cotto” meaning baked or cooked. When making biscotti, the dough is typically shaped into a log and baked. Then the cooked dough is sliced diagonally into cookies and baked a second time to produce a crispy, hard texture. The process of baking twice draws out any moisture, giving the biscotti a long shelf life. Because of their good storage ability, when they were created many centuries ago, they were a common staple for sailors and soldiers who were often away for months at a time.
In Italy, biscotti are traditionally served after dinner with vin santo, a sweet dessert wine, but they are also commonly served with cappuccinos and other coffee drinks. Their long shape makes them ideal for dunking.
I’m so excited about this recipe because I often find it difficult to create desserts that are nutritious and not packed with sugar. Traditional biscotti are a naturally healthy dessert compared to most cookies because they don’t contain any fat in the form of butter or oil. In fact, the moisture comes solely from eggs. Some American versions of biscotti do use butter in the dough to produce a more tender cookie. However, my recipe sticks with tradition, which makes it a much healthier option.
My Dark Chocolate Almond Biscotti are crispy, lightly sweetened and studded with nutritious ingredients like dark chocolate and almonds. To incorporate whole grains into the recipe, I use a 50:50 mix of white whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. To learn more about white whole wheat flour and it’s nutritional benefits, click here. To make the dough nice and chocolaty, I add good quality unsweetened cocoa powder along with some instant espresso powder. The addition of espresso powder is something I’ve learned from watching countless episodes of Barefoot Contessa. It doesn’t really add a strong coffee flavor but rather serves to intensify the chocolate. I also like to add a secret ingredient to my biscotti, which is cinnamon (I guess the secret's out now!). I love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate and it produces the most heavenly smell while it’s baking.
For a touch of sweetness, I use a combination of brown and granulated sugar. But remember, this is not an overly sweet cookie. To add texture, I stir in slivered almonds and chunks of dark chocolate, both of which have some impressive health benefits. Almonds are packed with unsaturated fats and other nutrients that have been shown to have a beneficial effect on heart health. To read more about the health benefits of almonds and other nuts, click here.
And finally, there’s the dark chocolate. Who would have thought that something so decadent could be good for you? It turns out that chocolate, which is made from the cocoa bean, is filled with a type of plant nutrient called flavonoids. These flavonoids have antioxidant properties that help the body resist damage from normal bodily processes and environmental contaminants. In addition to antioxidant properties, the flavonoids found in chocolate (called flavanols) also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health such as lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart. These compounds are not unique to chocolate- they’re also found in other food and beverages like cranberries, apples, tea and red wine.
Because pure cocoa has a very naturally strong, bitter taste, chocolate goes through a lot of processing to create the sweet treats that we all love. The more the chocolate is processed, the more flavanols are lost. The good news is that most chocolate manufacturers are now trying to find ways to preserve the number of flavanols in their chocolate. If you have a choice, choose dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher, over other varieties like milk chocolate or white chocolate, which are loaded with other fats and sugar. The cacao content of chocolate refers to the percentage of components derived from the cocoa bean. The remainder is made up of sugar, flavorings and other ingredients. The higher the percentage cacao, the greater the number of healthy flavanols. When using cocoa powder, go for the natural unsweetened cocoa powder rather than the Dutch processed variety (cocoa powder that’s treated with an alkali to reduce its acidity). And no matter what variety you choose, remember to enjoy chocolate in moderation, about 1 ounce a few times a week.
So go ahead and enjoy one or two of my delicious biscotti. You can satisfy your chocolate craving without any of the guilt. In the words of Ina Garten, "How bad can that be?!"
Dark Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Makes 2 dozen biscotti
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the flours, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.
Place the eggs, sugars and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and continue to mix until a stiff dough forms. Add the dark chocolate and almonds and mix until they are incorporated into the dough.
Divide the dough in half and place the balls of dough on a cutting board dusted lightly with flour or cocoa powder. Roll each ball out into a log roughly 9 inches long by 2 inches wide. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a nonstick silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Press down on the top of the logs to flatten them slightly.
Bake 26-30 minutes until firm to touch. As they cook, the logs will spread out slightly.
Remove from the oven and cool them on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then transfer the logs to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut them on a diagonal into ½-inch slices. Arrange the slices upright on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook an additional 15-20 minutes (cook longer for extra crispy biscotti). Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving. For an extra chocolaty treat, dip the ends of the biscotti into melted chocolate and let harden before serving.
One Biscotto: Calories 110; Fat 3.6g (Sat 1.3g); Protein 3.1g; Carb 17.6g; Fiber 2g
1 Taubert, D. The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 4, 2007; vol 298: pp 49-60.
2 Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled. Cleveland Clinic website: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx