Sugar-free

Arugula Mushroom Radish Salad with Roasted Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette

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arugula salad

I couldn’t think of a healthier way to mark my 400th blog entry other than with an easy arugula salad recipe. I also include a roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette recipe as well. From stacking up on all those carbs and calories from soups, meat dishes, and dairy to desserts, an a unique but easy arugula salad recipe is very necessary. I normally would be content with a fresh crisp garden salad but I always welcome new  and creative ideas to spruce a salad up by just a notch.  I live on cut-up veggies daily but I wanted to add an exotic twist to my salad.  Having not tried arugula in a long while, I wanted to incorporate my own variation in which I subsequently did.

Arugula, or salad/garden rocket, is a nutritious green-leafy vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family – cauliflower, kale, cabbage, mustard greens, etc.  Sometimes, arugula is referred to it’s scientific name Eruca sativa. Loaded with nutrients and minerals, this vegetable has no shortage of healing properties.  Arugula is also a great source of folic acid and vitamins A, C and K. As one of the best vegetable sources of Vitamin K,  this leafy vegetable provides a boost for bone and brain health. Arugula is not only great for maintaining a healthy weight but it’s also thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac 😉

Commonly used as a salad green, this aromatic spicy leaf is often mixed in with other vegetables with milder flavors. I sometimes like to counteract the peppery aftertaste of arugula with a roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette,  especially for this particularly easy arugula salad recipe. Other people like to sprinkle Parmesan cheese or mix in goat cheese. Or they sometimes throw in candied chopped pecans.  I would have used either option if I had access to any of these ingredients.  I also tossed in some mushrooms and radishes as well but you can use any vegetable of your choice. Arugula is not only limited to salads. I may use leftovers for an arugula pesto dressing, dip, or pasta sauce depending on how adventurous I am feeling.  I recently used some of them to make an arugula mushroom tortilla pizza for lunch. Scrumptious!

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 6 oz baby arugula
  2. 1 red onion sliced
  3. 1 cup of chopped or sliced mushrooms
  4. Handful of baby radishes sliced

For the roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette recipe, you will need

  1. 1 head of garlic roasted peels removed
  2. 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  4. Water
  5. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Place vegetables in a salad bowl. For the vinaigrette, place ingredients in a food processor. While processing, drizzle in some water till achieved the right consistency. Toss gently to coat and serve.

Yields 4 servings

 

 

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Black Bean Burgers

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black bean burgers

I am not a particular fan of beans. Beans don’t normally bode well for my digestive system (I will spare you the graphic details). I will avoid chili or any heavily beaned dishes for that matter. I know it seems rather ironic that I am sharing a black bean burgers recipe with you considering my aversion to beans. I made an exception with black beans after hubby made a black bean burrito many dinners ago. Of all beans, I found black beans to be more digestible to me. Other types of beans are like cement to my intestines. I had the least amount of digestive problems prior to eating black beans. Plus I needed a vegan dinner idea and I made black bean burgers on the whim.

After having tried  homemade black bean burgers, I found found them to have a satisfying flavor and a robustly meaty texture to them. Even devout carnivorous will appreciate these vegan black bean burgers. The seasoning makes all the difference in the world. Sauteed vegetable add depth to the patties without dominating them. I thought about using raw black beans but took a shortcut by using canned black beans instead. I normally would go for a beef burger but I can delight myself to a  vegan option every now and then. Having made veggie burgers/patties before, making these homemade black bean burgers were no challenge at all.

These black bean burgers are  simple to make and taste as good as they smell, if not better. Naturally allergy friendly, they can also be made gluten free and vegan too depending on what type of bread crumb or oats you use in this black bean burger recipe.  Unlike beef  burgers, which are best cooked over extremely high heat, these black bean burgers require a moderate heat so that they can cook through and firm up before the exterior burns.  Since the batter does not have any eggs in them, you can taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of cooked black beans or 2 15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed
  2. 1 green bell pepper chopped
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 3 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 1 flax egg (you can use a regular egg)
  6. 2 tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise
  7. 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, corn flakes, or oats
  8. 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  9. 1 teaspoon of cumin
  10. 1/2 teaspoon of ground  chipotle chili or smokey paprika
  11. 2 teaspoons of chopped cilantro or parsley
  12. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Saute vegetables in a large skillet over medium high heat till tender. Transfer vegetables and beans to a food processor. Add seasoning and process till smooth. Transfer black bean mixture to a bowl and add mayonnaise, flax egg and crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and form patties.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add patties but don’t overcrowd the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until browned and crisp. Serve immediately or freeze leftovers.

Yields 4-6 servings

 

Copycat Swiss Miss Chocolate Pudding

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raw chocolate pudding

My introduction to pudding was very cold and brief. It was not love at first sight. It’s slimy texture was far from appealing to me. Then I had a change of heart when pudding became my consolation after I had my braces slapped on to my teeth. I literally couldn’t eat solid food for nearly two weeks. My mother would stock up on pudding among other things. Swiss Miss pudding was my favorite brand. They were inevitably devoured shortly after they filled up the refrigerator. Only then did I regret having preconceived notions against pudding.

While I enjoyed eating pudding, making pudding seemed intimidating and painstaking. Only this one time did I bother to make pudding from scratch following a recipe, of course. It was my final time. Never did I struggle to temper the egg mixture. It was a scrambled epic failure. I ended up making what I can best describe as scrambled eggs in chocolate. Yummy. Subsequently, I had to toss it in the bin along with the illusions of mastering in making pudding. Even this incident would make Amelia Bedilia seem less catastrophic.  Luckily, I only made one serving worth of pudding before it was qualified as a waste. I then stuck to just eating pudding and not causing further damage to my pots and pans.

My hankering for pudding returned after being dormant for a while. Swiss Miss pudding is not available where I live and I find the brand that my local store carries to be too sweet. Then the idea of learning how to make vegan chocolate pudding crossed my mind. I am very eager to share this healthy chocolate pudding recipe with you because it’s rich, silky, decadent and most importantly, super easy to make. Plus, I added my own twist.  Only this time I did not encounter a kitchen disaster when making this vegan chocolate pudding. This healthier version has everything you can expect from a Swiss Miss chocolate pudding but without the eggs, cream, and sugar. All it takes is blending all the ingredients in a food processor and voilà! No more burnt pots. No more scrambled puddings. While this healthy chocolate pudding may seem like child’s play, the verdict is worth the lack of effort. And I am all about damage control in the kitchen. Thankfully, my kitchen disasters have been minimal.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 ripe avocado, skin and seed removed
  2. 1 large ripe banana peeled
  3. 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
  4. 1 teaspoon if vanilla extract
  5. 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup or agave nectar (you can add a bit more for desired sweetness)
  6. 1/2  plus more of cup of freshly squeezed orange juice or low fat milk of your choice
  7. 1 teaspoon or orange zest (optional)
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso powder (optional)
  9. 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  10. Pinch of salt

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend till smooth. Add a bit more liquid as needed for desired consistency. Spoon the pudding into ramekins or bowls, cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with chopped walnuts if you like.

Yields  1 1/2 – 2 cups

 

 

 

Oven Baked Chicken Fire Poppers

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fire poppers

As the weather gets hotter, so does my appetite for spicy food. The craving for spicy chicken nuggets or any chicken with a spicy ingredient has been tormenting me for weeks until I finally capitualted when I decided that fighting my hankerings is a losing battle. Only this one time have I decided not to cry over this big defeat. Who can resist these bite sized yumminess? The tingling flavors from the hot sauce always have me in a headlock. I grew up on chicken nuggets. They were a favorite as well as one of the most popularly ordered appetizer on the menu. The piquant flavors from the hot sauce and honey is what makes these chicken nuggets popping – that is how they were dubbed chicken fire poppers.  Each bite is explosive but not overwhelming. You couldn’t expect a more perfect balance of flavors. I made sure to make and pack extras for our journey through Europe to America.

This chicken nugget recipe is inspired by a similar recipe using chicken wings. Since chicken breasts are a healthier option, I went with them instead. I also oven baked these nuggets rather than deep frying them. You can achieve the crispy exterior without using copious amounts of oil. A greasy mess is the last thing I need. The only danger factor that lies within these chicken fire poppers is that they are extremely addictive – once you start, it’s hard to finish. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe these chicken fire poppers. Forget the main course. A basketfull of these spicy chicken nuggets is a meal unto itself but not complete without a salad.  I normally have my limits but I bear no shame for my addiction to chicken fire poppers. I suppose it’s a good thing that I show enough restraint not to make them very often. These chicken fire poppers are a new favorite appetizer in my household and that is why I save this chicken nugget recipe for special occasions.  I nearly forgot to mentionthat these tender chicken nuggets are easy to make.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs of chicken breasts cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  2. 1/2 cup of hot sauce
  3. 1/4 cup of honey
  4. 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  5. 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour or corn starch
  6. 1 cup of panko bread crumbs or cornflakes
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  9. 1/3 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  10. 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk hot sauce, honey, and soy sauce. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs/cornflakes with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in cornstarch/flour. Then dunk them in hot sauce mixture. Coat them with breadcrumbs/cornflakes. Line nuggets evenly on a greased baking sheet. To get a crunchy topping, spray nuggets with cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Yields 4-6 servings

 

 

 

Stone Fruit Slaw

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fruit salad

Tis the season to be overheated, sunburned, lounging at the beach, vacationing, and barbecuing. While my tolerance for intense humidity is very low, the summertime does offer many advantages.  Although the 4th of July may have passed through, it’s never too late for a barbecue.  And by that, I mean bbq salad ideas among other things. A lot of my neighbors tend to hold barbecues on a regular basis for no particular reason. Of all the barbeques I’ve attended in the past, I very seldom see fruit salad being served. When I was searching for bbq fruit salad ideas, a stone fruit slaw recipe lit up on my radar screen.

Stone fruit consists of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. There can be more than one variety from each fruit on the one tree; each variety ripens at different times depending on the season. There are trees with varieties of fruit that are more suited for warm climates with other varieties for colder weather. Stone fruit tends to be at their peak during the summertime. That is what prompted me to make a stone fruit salad.  Not only was I in need of something to balance out my intake of meat but a stone fruit salad seemed like a very refreshing idea to me.  With a tangy orange ginger honey vinaigrette and chopped toasted almonds, this stone fruit slaw recipe offers some added elegance to the everyday fruit salad. While it nornally makes a nice light lunch or dinner appetizer on its own, you can top this slaw with sliced chicken breast to make it more substantial. You can even toss in some goat cheese if you like.

While this fruit salad may seem gourmet, it is not labor intensive in the slightest.  Although the thought of grilling fruit did cross my mind but my laziness interfered with the execution of the idea. No need to fire up a grill to gussy up some fruit salad – just orange ginger honey vinaigrette (which takes seconds to make) tossed in with julienned stone fruit and you are all set.  Plus it’s a great way to encourage kids to include more fruit in their diet. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme or chopped fresh basil with a pinch of salt and chill for a bit before serving and you are ready to kick off your barbeque.

 

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 1/2 lbs of assorted ston fruit julienned
  2. 2 scallions thinly sliced diagonally
  3. Juice from a small orange
  4. 1 tablespoon of grated peeled fresh ginger
  5. 2 tablespoons of honey
  6. 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil
  7. 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder
  9. Toasted chopped almonds or peanuts (optional)
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Place fruit in a salad bowl and scallions. Whisk orange juice, ginger, honey, oil, and spices in a small bowl till well combined. Toss in with fruit and lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in nuts before serving if you like.

Yields 4-6 servings

 

 

Cherry Mango Smoothie

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cherry mango smoothie

I would like to begin this post with an apology for my long absence. A lot has transpired over the past two weeks – thankfully for better reasons than worse. From a family wedding to a recent engagement of a friend, 4th of July and a family reunion plus more. I haven’t had much time for blogging.  Despite the political and regional tensions where I live, nothing can stop me from delighting yourselves with my recipes. I thank you for your support and patience. I hope this healthy smoothie recipe I am about to share with you was worth the wait. I promise that more recipes will follow shortly.

Fresh cherries and mango happen to be at their peak this season. I stocked up on a bunch of fresh cherries and mango. I normally prefer to munch on cherries as they are but occasionally explore other creative options that I can use with them. I had many ideas in terms of treats that I can make using these fruits but I was stalling for too long and they were beginning to rot. It’s hard for me to dispose of fresh fruit, so smoothies were a simple, quick yet delicious solution to my dilemna.

What other healthy and exotic way to cool an overheated palate other than learning how to make smoothies using cherries and fruit? I could never tire of smoothies; the combination of possibilities never end.  I never incorporated cherries into my smoothies before but didn’t think of it as a risk factor. Adding cherries introduces a sweet yet tangy flavor this red mango smoothie. The mango merely heightens the taste of this smoothie.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 fresh or frozen mango cubed
  2. 1 cup of fresh or frozen cherries seeded
  3. 1/3 cup of fresh or canned pineapple chunks
  4. 1/2 cup of low fat plain yogurt of your choice

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth. Add more water or milk if the smoothie is too thick for your liking. Use leftovers for popsicles if you like.

Yields 2 servings

 

 

 

Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

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oven roasted asparagus

I initially intended to make roasted asparagus to be served as a side dish along with wheat berries. I won’t go into the gross details as to why I aborted that idea. Let’s just say I had a disgusting awakening by some intruders who already claimed the wheat berries for themselves. What a shame and a waste of wheat berries. Anyhow, grossing you out while trying to enamor my oven roasted asparagus recipe seems counterproductive so I shall proceed to share the more appetizing aspect of it 🙂

Roasting is my favorite method of cooking vegetables, not the least which is the oh so glorious, green asparagus. For starters, roasting asparagus is a lot easier than steaming them. Asparagus takes minutes to cook and therefore is more vulnerable to being overcooked. Secondly, roasting asparagus deepens the flavor and brings out the vegetables’ inherited sweetness. Moreover, if you have been notified about last minute company, this side dish only takes 12 minutes to prepare therefore minimizing the stress factor. Lastly, it can be served on its own or used in a number of side dishes.

Due to the wheat berry incident, I threw in some mushrooms and cherry tomatoes to the mix. The more, the merrier. But the key to mastering the culinary art of cooking asparagus is not to overthink it. Preparation is not taxing in the least.  The thicker the asparagus is, the better is it for roasting – it won’t dissolve into a pile of mush.  My choices for seasonings are salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, olive oil, and a bit of lemon juice. This lovely platter of oven roasted asparagus makes a delicious addition to any holiday table.  Leftovers can be tossed in with pasta, salad, or in any grains. You can throw in some chicken or cheese and create a meal out if it.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 lbs of asparagus rinsed thoroughly and ends trimmed
  2. 1 lbs of mushrooms washed and rinsed
  3. 1 lbs of cherry tomatoes stems removed
  4. 1 onion thinly sliced
  5. 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
  6. 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  7. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay vegetables out in a single layer in a baking dish or cookie sheet. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil , garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle evenly over vegetables.  Roast for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your asparagus until lightly browned and tender. Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

Yields 4 servings