Sunday, April 18, 2010

Money Rice Salad

It’s green and it’s awesome, what else would I call it?

Like I said, I have a new obsession with herby vinaigrettes.  I just throw things in my mini Cuisinart and hope for the best. So far, so good!

I was thinking about a summery orzo salad my dad makes, and I wanted to put my own spin on it. His is full of cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, parsley, and lemon and it is one of my favorite things about sitting out on my parents’ deck in the summer.

I have looking for whole wheat orzo for years to no avail, so time for an alternative. Brown rice seemed like the perfect solution. Trader Joe’s sells a box of three packets of organic brown rice (two servings per packet) in the freezer section. This is perfect for me because while rice seems like it would be easy to cook, brown rice is my kryptonite. I stand over and stir it constantly and still end up with a pot of rubber. Once again, Trader Joe’s to the rescue! If you don’t share this problem, by all means, make your rice the old fashioned way.

Since this is inspired by my dad, I encourage you to follow his advice. “A recipe is only a guide”. You could use any combination of herbs, veggies, and protein and I’m sure it would turn out great.

First I made the parsley vinaigrette so it was ready and waiting for me.

Parsley Vinaigrette
1 to 1-1/2 Cups fresh parsley
2 Lemons – zest and juice
4 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (chopped or microplaned)
Splash of white balsamic vinegar

Just drop it all in the food processor and let it rip! If it’s a little tart (like mine was) add a splash of agave nector or honey.

Money Rice Salad (4 servings)
2 packets of Trader Joe’s frozen organic brown rice
Parsley Vinaigrette (see above)
1 cucumber seeded and diced
1 box grape tomatoes
24 shrimp
4 Tbs fat free feta cheese, crumbled

Microwave each packet of rice for 3 minutes and mix with the parsley vinaigrette while it’s still warm. Add in the cucumbers, tomatoes, and shrimp and stir. I portioned mine into four containers and then sprinkled on the feta, but you could add it all at once. Put it in the fridge to chill and once again, cook once eat all week.

Another tip, I buy crumbled fat free feta at Trader Joe’s and store it in the freezer. It keeps longer, and it thaws so quick that it’s never a problem when I need it.

I am so excited to eat this for lunch this week that I almost look forward to going to work. Almost.

Faux-Stada with Black Beans and Tilapia

I was having withdrawals from the amazing tostadas at the Taco Bus in Tampa, and I had to find a way to lighten it up and still get the same effect.

Since the best thing about a tostada is the crunchy fried shell, I knew my version wouldn’t be exactly the same, but whatevs! I took whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and stretched it out as thin as possible and put it in to bake at 400. One of my pizza dough tricks is Reynolds Wrap Non Stick Foil.  This stuff is amazing! Nothing sticks to it, and no oil needed. I baked the shell and put it to the side.

Onto the fish. Tilapia was on sale at Whole Foods, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I rubbed it with a little olive oil, and adobo powder, and baked it until it was flaky. Next I took a can of black beans, mashed them with a fork, and added some salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder.

I smeared some mashed black beans on the shell, sprinkled with Colby jack and flaked tilapia, and popped it in the oven. Now I start getting a little whacky!

Since my curried tuna salad, I have been obsessed with herbed vinagrettes (more to come). I had just made another bunch of cilantro dressing so I thought that would make a perfect condiment. I also took some frozen and thawed mango, and diced it up. Threw it in some jarred salsa and voila… mango salsa.

So after a few minutes the faux-stada shell with beans, cheese, and tilapia was out of the oven. I drizzled a little cilantro vinaigrette, and dolloped mango salsa and dinner was served! It turned out pretty well. Not quite Taco Bus quality, but it hit the spot for a fraction of the calories.

Follow Up: I baked all of the dough last night so I had left over shells. I made this again tonight the same way but added avocado. There isn’t much that isn’t improved by avocado. Yummmmmm!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Sassy Salad (And Dressing)

I just got back from an amazing week in Tampa with my best friends. After an overload of Taco Bus, Jelly Bellys, and wine by the pool, it’s time for some serious clean eating.

Soon after touching down in Boston I headed for my favorite local farm stand, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s to get some good for you food. Against my normal strategy I wandered around and bought whatever looked good to me with no real idea of what I was going to make. However, if you only buy good stuff you can only eat good stuff, right? 
After such a glutinous weekend a workout was desperately needed as well. Any time I am working out in the after work time slot I like to make my dinner in advance so it is 100% ready to go when I come home stahhhvin to death. With just over 20 minutes to Zumba the gears in my tiny little brain started moving. Somehow I came up with a masterpiece!  It worked out like it was in the plans all along.

I started with the protein, a can of tuna. I decided to sass it up with some curry powder. Then I started chopping veggies and realized I had cilantro and then the wheels really started turning. I swear to you, I made this in less than 30 minutes, homemade dressing included. And bonus, I chopped enough for two portions so I have lunch for tomorrow too! 

Curry Tuna Salad
1 Can Tuna (mash the holy heck out of it with a fork)
2 Tbs Mayonnaise
2 Tsp curry Powder
½ Cup frozen mango (thawed and diced)

Red Bell Pepper
Diced Fresh Pineapple

Dressing - I measured nothing, but it turned out OK!  Just whizzed it all in my mini Cuisinart.
Fresh Pineapple
White Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

If I had actually planned this, I would have done it just a little differently. A lime in the dressing would be amazing, as would crab instead of tuna. I also thought black beans would be great for some added protein. Anywho, after sweating my buns off at Zumba, it was nice to come home to such a fresh sassy salad. Definitely a new summer staple!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eat My Dust Rachel Ray!

I have never understood why people think Rachel Ray’s philosophy is so magical. If I had to invest more than 30 minutes into making dinner each night, I would be one skinny broad.

With a vacation coming up next week (Yayyy!) I have been stingy with the grocery shopping. Time to do fridge clean out and creative cooking. The result? Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted asparagus, cannellini beans, and “cream” sauce. The recipe for 4 portions is as follows.

8 oz Whole Foods organic whole wheat spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus
2 cans cannellini beans
6 Laughing Cow cheese wedges
Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

While I put a pot of water on for the spaghetti, I chopped the asparagus into bite size pieces, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and popped them into a 400 degree oven. I cooked the spaghetti, drained it (but saved about a cup of the cooking water), and threw it back in the pot. I took the asparagus out of the oven at the same time the pasta was done.

Here is where my wackadoo idea with the cheese wedges comes into play. I dropped in the wedges and stirred them around with the spaghetti but they weren’t really melting. I started mashing them into the bottom of the pot with a spatula, and voila! Melty goodness. I added in a little bit of the reserved cooking water to thin it out, and added in the asparagus, beans, and a little parm.

I have to say, this came out pretty amazing. It satisfies that craving for bad food like fettuccini alfredo and there really is nothing bad in it. I have been eating it for lunch all week. And the fact that it was done in about 20 minutes is even better! Take that Rachel Ray!