Monthly Archives: November 2013

Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico

by
Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico

For my Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta, I was determined to find a wine with earthy and smoky characteristics to pair with it. I was immediately drawn to the idea of a Chianti Classico for this dish, as it is made to go with traditional Italian fare such as polenta, and is typically an easy drinking wine that doesn’t overpower the food.

So what exactly is a Chianti Classico and how does it differ from your run-of-the-mill Chianti? Well, let me tell you.

Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico

Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico hails from a tiny, very prestigious zone within the Chianti region in the Tuscany area of Italy. Sangiovese is the predominant grape in this region, and the focus of this area is on making a high-quality Chianti Classico from these particular grapes vs. blending it with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as many Chiantis are. In addition to being grown in this specific area, there are very strict regulations to meet for a winery to designate its wine as Chianti Classico DOCG.

The easiest way for you as a consumer to tell if a winery has met the regulations to be labeled a true Chianti Classico is to look for the black rooster on the label or neck of the bottle, this designates the bottle as meeting the very strict regulations of the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico. These regulations are set up for quality control purposes really. In addition to being grown in a specifically designated region of Tuscany in Italy, Chianti Classicos must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, be matured for at least 24 months including 3 months of bottle fining, be ruby red in color, and have a scent of violets in the bouquet, as well as a number of other regulations.

Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico

Look for the black rooster to tell if a wine has been certified as Chianti Classico DOCG

The Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico is very typical of a Chianti Classico DOCG wine. On the nose it impresses with notes of dark fruit and violets. And on the palate it boasts flavors of sweet cherry and leather that marry perfectly with the carmelized, earthy flavors of roasted vegetables and sage in my Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta. At less than than $13/bottle it’s a great buy as well.

Get the recipe here.

Buy a bottle of the Banfi 2010 Chianti Classico here.

Budget Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

by
Budget Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

For my fourth meal from that store-bought rotisserie chicken, I decided not to use any chicken at all. Instead, I’m using that rich, homemade chicken broth that we made last week. I had some sweet potatoes leftover from my grocery trip, so I set out to re-create one of my favorite soups, my Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup.

Only problem is I’m on a budget for this series and I’m limited to these groceries that we bought for just under $36. I don’t have a bottle of white wine and just forget about the shallots. But I do have half a red onion leftover – recall we only used half for those roasted root vegetables in my first meal of the series – and 22 cups of chicken broth stocked in the freezer. So what’s a girl to do?

I clipped some branches of rosemary from my garden, washed up some sweet potatoes, and set to work. I didn’t make any change to the roasting process for the sweet potatoes, frankly I think that’s the best part of this dish. Why change it? I did, however, add to the amount of sweet potatoes that I used. Instead of 1 1/2 pounds, I used 2 pounds and that was mostly to counteract the red onion, which has a much sharper flavor than shallots.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

Speaking of that red onion, I minced it up and sauteed it until it caramelized into nice gooey, brown pieces. Then, instead of deglazing the pan with white wine as I did in the original recipe, I deglazed it with that chicken broth, slowly scraping up every bit of browned onion coating the bottom of the pan. Finally, I finished the soup off with the roasted sweet potato, a bit of Greek yogurt for creaminess, and of course aromatic rosemary.

The resulting soup with thick, rich and satisfying. Plus, at 6 servings I have plenty of leftovers for lunch or future dinners. Want to make it vegetarian? Easy, peasy – just use a vegetable broth instead.

Recap of a week of meals from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, all for a total of just $35.75 in groceries:

 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 6
  • Serving size: 1.5 cups
  • Calories: 258.9
  • Fat: 4.1
  • Saturated fat: 0.7
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5
  • Carbohydrates: 48.6
  • Sugar: 11.0
  • Sodium: 203.7
  • Fiber: 7.2
  • Protein: 7.7
  • Cholesterol: 134.5
Recipe type: Soup or Stew
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Sweet potatoes are roasted for a smoky, caramelized flavor then combined with aromatic rosemary for a creamy bowl of pure deliciousness.
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs raw sweet potatoes
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • Pinch coarse sea salt
  • ¼ cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups homemade, salt-free chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and lay cut-side up on a baking sheet. Use 2 tsp of the olive oil to brush the cut sides of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion, rosemary and sea salt and cook until the onion is brown and gooey, about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the bits of onion and rosemary stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Meanwhile, remove the cooked sweet potatoes from their skins and place them in a food processor. Add the Greek yogurt and the remaining chicken broth. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  7. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan with the onion and rosemary.
  8. Cook over low heat for another 10 minutes or until the soup warmed through. Serve each bowl topped with a pinch of the remaining rosemary.
Notes
If you have an immersion blender, you can add the sweet potatoes, yogurt and broth directly to the onion and rosemary and puree right in the pot. Note that using this method will make for a very smooth soup since the onion and rosemary will also be pureed, whereas with the food processor method you will still have some texture in the soup since the onion and rosemary are not pureed.

 

Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

by
Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

The death of summer is made a little gentler by the delicious vegetables that come with fall. As much as I love plucking ripe tomatoes and other fresh bounty from my garden in the summer months, I also love the hearty fall fare that fills the produce shelves in the autumn. From sweet potatoes to all sorts of squash to brussel sprouts and more, there is no excuse to not continue to eat healthy as the air turns cooler and the leaves begin to fall.

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

I got the idea for this dish from posts on a couple of other blogs. First, I happened across this Creamy Rosemary Polenta + Maple Sea Salt Roasted Winter Vegetables from Mountain Mama Cooks. The dish sounds amazing, and I’m betting it’s delicious, but it’s heavy on butter which makes for a more calorie-laden dish than I can afford. Shortly after that, another blog I subscribe to, Naturally Ella, published this Creamy Polenta with Roasted Root Vegetables. I thought the polenta recipe here was a little too far on the other side with no milk and too little fat to make for a truly creamy polenta. So I set out to create something in between the two.

For the vegetables, I chose to use butternut squash, parsnip, brussel sprouts, and red onion. Besides making for a delicious dish, I love the rainbow of colors that they produce on the plate. There are so many vegetables out there that could be subbed in, though, including the cauliflower that Mountain Mama uses in her dish or the beets and rutabaga that Naturally Ella uses in hers. I think sweet potatoes or carrots would also be delicious in this.

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

I used only 1 tablespoon of olive oil to roast the vegetables in. I know this will seem like heresy to some, I see so many cooks pouring on the oil when roasting anything. In testing this recipe, though, I started with a larger amount of oil and found it was unnecessary. A little goes a long way, and I wanted the sweet sugars from the vegetables, released during the roasting process, to really shine through, not the oil. For a bit of a different twist, I added some ground coriander and nutmeg to the vegetables, as well as my usual sea salt. I love nutmeg with roasted squash in the fall, it just enhances the sweet earthiness.

While the veggies are roasting in the oven, I start the polenta. When reducing the fat on anything, you are always in danger of losing essential flavor. So I chose to use broth instead of water to cook the polenta in. I used a homemade, salt free chicken broth – get the recipe here – but if you want to make this truly vegetarian you can also use a vegetable broth.

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

Fall Roasted Veggies with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta

I mixed the broth with equal parts skim milk. I wanted the flavor of the milk without the fat so this was a good swap. I also add chopped fresh sage at the beginning to increase the flavor in the finished product. Once the polenta is cooked, I then remove it from the heat and stir in gorgonzola cheese. The cheese adds just the right amount of creaminess that the polenta needs.

What is your favorite fall vegetable?

 

 

Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sage Gorgonzola Polenta
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 408.9
  • Fat: 12.2
  • Saturated fat: 3.7
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6
  • Carbohydrates: 58.9
  • Sugar: 7.8
  • Sodium: 557.2
  • Fiber: 11.3
  • Protein: 15.2
  • Cholesterol: 17.5
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Low fat with all the flavor, this creamy polenta is infused with sage and gorgonzola cheese, then topped with a melange of roasted seasonal vegetables.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • ¾ cup chopped parsnip
  • ½ lb. fresh brussel sprouts, quartered
  • ½ red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup homemade, salt free chicken broth
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • ½ cup polenta (yellow cornmeal)
  • 1 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. On a baking sheet, combine butternut squash, parsnip, brussel sprouts, and red onion. Toss with the olive oil, coriander, nutmeg and sea salt.
  3. Spread the vegetables in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing half way through the cooking time to ensure an even roast.
  4. In a medium pan, bring broth, milk, and sage to a gentle boil.
  5. Once liquid starts to boil, slowly whisk in polenta in a steady stream. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes more, stirring frequently. Polenta should be the consistency of a thick oatmeal when cooked.
  6. Remove polenta from the heat and stir in the gorgonzola cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

Seven Falls 2010 Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon

by
Seven Falls 2010 Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon

I am in love with this wine. I first tasted the Seven Falls 2010 Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon at a wine tasting at Vie de Boheme, one of my favorite local wine bars, where we compared it to cabs from other regions. This one so won me over that we decided to stay for the band and I bought a bottle for the table. And one to take home, of course.

Then I was thrilled to discover, a couple of weeks later, that this same wine was included in that month’s wine club pickup from another favorite local wine bar, WineUp on Williams. Another bottle for the cellar!

Seven Falls 2010 Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon

This cab was created by renowned winemaker Doug Gore, of Columbia Crest and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates fame, from fruit grown on a hillside above the Columbia River in the far south-central Washington state. Cabernet Sauvignon thrives here in the loamy, sandy soil and dry, sunny climate. The weather also made for an excellent vintage in 2010, creating this rich, complex wine.

On the nose the Seven Falls 2010 Cab is delicate with soft aromas of raspberry and chocolate. It comes alive on the palate with a long, silky, structure of dark berries and fruit, pepper and dark chocolate. It is no wonder that Wine Spectator gave it an outstanding 90 points.

And I haven’t even told you the best part: this amazing wine is less than $15 a bottle. That’s right, this is a serious bargain for a an outstanding wine.

Seven Falls 2010 Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon

I chose this wine to pair with my Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara because the chocolate notes complement the sweetness of the butternut squash and cherry tomatoes while adding a depth and complexity of flavor in the dish itself. It is as if the two were made to go together. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try!

Get the recipe here.

Buy the wine here.

As with any part of a healthy lifestyle, enjoy wine in moderation!

Homemade Chicken Broth

by
Homemade Chicken Broth

Never, ever just toss the leftover carcass from a store bought rotisserie chicken. This is a great source for homemade broth that can be used in a variety of future dishes. It’s easy to make and better for you than store bought broth, and will save you a ton of money.  I was able to turn this one chicken into 22 cups of broth, which would easily cost me upwards of $10 to purchase at a store.

Homemade Chicken Broth

A store bought rotisserie chicken becomes the base for a rich, simple broth

I like to use my big stockpot for this task and get as much stock as I can out of one chicken carcass. I simply layer in some vegetables like celery, carrots, onions, and a bit of mild parsley, then cover the whole thing with water and let it cook.

The secret to a good broth is to let it simmer and soak for a long time. After first bringing the pot to a boil, I reduce the heat, cover it, and let it cook for 5-6 hours. The aroma wafting from the kitchen always leaves me itching to make soup right away.

Homemade Chicken Broth

Don’t rush your broth! Letting is simmer and soak for a long period of time is the secret to a rich, flavorful broth.

Once the broth is cooked, then storage becomes the challenge. I pour the broth through a fine mesh sieve first to remove any impurities, and then into a large measuring cup. The broth is then sealed into resealable containers in 2 and 4 cup increments that I can easily pop into the freezer.

Another trick I like to use is to fill an ice cube tray with broth, freeze it, and then pop the cubes out and store them in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Each cube is about 3 tablespoons so it gives me a convenient way of storing small amounts of broth in a minimal amount of space.

Homemade Chicken Broth

Freeze the chicken broth in pre-measured amounts and it will keep for 6 months.

For those of you looking for something meatless, vegetable broth is just as easy to make. Simply eliminate the chicken carcass, double the amount of veggies, and add in about a half pound of fresh mushrooms.

Whatever you do, don’t add salt or strong herbs to the broth. It’s much better to add those to the dish you’ll eventually be making in order to get the exact flavor you want. Leaving the broth somewhat bland makes it much more versatile.

Tune in next week when I will show you how to make a delicious budget version of my Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup from this broth!

Recap of a week of meals from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, all for a total of just $35.75 in groceries:

 

Homemade Chicken Broth
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 22
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 38.0
  • Fat: 1.4
  • Saturated fat: 0.4
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3
  • Carbohydrates: 0.9
  • Sugar: 0.2
  • Sodium: 0.0
  • Fiber: 0.0
  • Protein: 4.8
  • Cholesterol: 200.0
Recipe type: Soup or Stew
Cuisine: Poultry
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Rich, healthy chicken broth is easy to make at home from an inexpensive store-bought rotisserie chicken.
Ingredients
  • 1 carcass from a rotisserie chicken, picked clean of all meat
  • 2 medium stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 24 cups of water
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a large stockpot.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 5 hours and up to 6 hours.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove any impurities and globs of fat.
  5. Store in resealable containers in the freezer for up to 6 months.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

by
Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

You can thank my aunt for inspiring this dish. After she sampled my Butternut Squash Lasagna, which doesn’t use any tomatoes, she said that it could also be great with a marinara sauce. I crinkled my nose at her suggestion. Tomatoes with butternut squash? I didn’t like the idea of that flavor combination. “Why not?” My aunt said. And that made me wonder. Why not?

So I started thinking about how I would combine the two together and my busy mind quickly latched onto the idea of a marinara. Something roasted, thick and sweet that blanketed a dish in heavenly goodness. In my first attempts, I tried to keep the marinara fairly traditional by roasting the squash and tomatoes then folding them into a mixture of sauteed onion, garlic and herbs. It just had too much going on, though, and the texture wasn’t right.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

The marinara starts with chunks of butternut squash and sweet cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt. I like to add a bay leaf for additional depth of flavor.

So I ended up simplifying the marinara, no stovetop cooking required. I roasted the squash and cherry tomatoes in a bath of olive oil, rosemary and a pinch of coarse sea salt. I chose to use rosemary in this dish because the sharp, woody, aromatic flavor really brings the earthy butternut squash and sweet cherry tomatoes together. I like to do a slow roast on the vegetables, with a bay leaf for added flavor, to bring out all of the sweet sugars.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

A slow roast brings out the sweet, smoky, caramelized flavors of the tomatoes and squash.

Once roasted, I use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes and blend them together. It makes for a thicker, chunkier texture than if I pureed it, and I have less dirty dishes to contend with. I then add in some dry red wine, a bit of tomato paste to deepen the tomato flavor, a pinch of crushed red pepper to offset the sweetness of the squash and tomatoes, and some garlic. Admittedly, I will often roast the garlic with the vegetables for a slightly different flavor.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

The penne pasta tubes fill up with delicious marinara.

The result is a marinara that is delicious and versatile. I like to layer it over whole wheat penne pasta because the tubular penne fills up with the delicious marinara. However, it would also be delicious used as the marinara in a traditional lasagna. Lesson learned, Aunt Paula. Thank you for continuing to inspire me!

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara over Whole Wheat Penne
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 334.8
  • Fat: 9.8
  • Saturated fat: 1.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9
  • Carbohydrates: 57.8
  • Sugar: 2.1
  • Sodium: 237.8
  • Fiber: 10.1
  • Protein: 9.7
  • Cholesterol: 3.6
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Sweet butternut squash and cherry tomatoes are roasted for a caramel, smoky flavor addition to a creamy marinara that is out of this world. Try it over some whole wheat penne pasta for your next #MeatlessMonday.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash (about 1" pieces)
  • 2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes (aka crushed red pepper)
  • 8 oz. dry whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a covered baking dish, toss the squash and tomatoes with the oil, rosemary, and half of the salt.
  3. Add the bay leaf, cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes.
  5. Stir in the red wine, garlic, tomato paste, red chili pepper flakes, and remaining salt.
  6. Serve over the cooked pasta. Top each serving with 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese.
Notes
Nutritional information for just the marinara, without the penne and parmesan:

 

What to Look for In A Personal Trainer

by

If you’re only goal is six-pack abs and getting swimsuit ready, you can probably go with any trainer. But if you’re looking to get fit so you can stay fit and injury free throughout the years, then working with the right personal trainer is essential. So here’s what to look for in a personal trainer:

  1. No Crunches
    Crunches are outdated,harmful for the back, and create over-dominance of the wrong muscles putting you at higher risk for injury. The right trainer will use newer and more effective exercises that strengthen your core.
  2. Assessments
    As the saying goes, if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing. The right trainer will want to track your progress and make sure that the program you’re following is working for you. If you can’t quantify the results, then you’re just guessing.
  3. Quality Over Quantity
    A trainer’s first priority should be making sure the exercises are being performed correctly. If you aren’t doing the exercise correctly, you’ll actually be making parts of your body weaker, which puts you at a much higher risk for injury. A good trainer will stop you in the middle of your reps to make sure you’re moving correctly. And NOBODY moves correctly 100% of the time. So if your trainer never corrects your movement or goes an entire session without correcting you, get a new trainer. Fast.
  4. No Pain
    No pain, no gain is a myth. The truth is pain=injury and injuries impede progress. If you have consistent pain, your trainer should refer you to a physical therapist or at the very least consult with a PT before working with you.
  5. Engagement
    Look for a trainer that engages with their clients. Your trainer should be invested in your goals and progress. He or she should be focused on you and excited to see your progress. Avoid those trainers who look bored or checked out when they’re with a client.
  6. Certification
    The top three certifications are NSCA, ACSM, and NASM. There are too many other certifications to list, but at the very least, the certifying organization should be NCCA qualified.
  7. Nutrition
    If your goal is weight-loss or muscle gain, your trainer should be telling you that nutrition plays a bigger role than exercise. Your trainer should either have a nutrition certification or refer you to a nutrition coach. And beware of trainers who try to encourage you to follow rigid diets.
  8. Be Prepared
    Your trainer should show up to every session with a written plan and he or she should be documenting your workout as you go. If they aren’t documenting your workout, they can’t track your improvement. And if he or she doesn’t have a plan, your workouts will be random preventing you from achieving long-term adaptive response. What does that mean? Well, imagine you wanted to learn how to skateboard, so I took you out for an hour to skateboard. And then the next week we spent an hour playing football. And the week after that we spent an hour riding a unicycle. And then the fourth week we went back to skateboarding. How much progress would you have made with your skateboarding? Probably none at all, right? That’s exactly what happens to your muscles with random workouts. They never get a chance to progress because you’re always focusing on something different.

 

Strength and Conditioning Coach - Doug Barsanti

Strength and Conditioning Coach – Doug Barsanti

Hiring a personal trainer requires a financial investment and an investment of your time. The right trainer will lead you down the road to success. The wrong trainer will waste your time, money, and put you at risk for injury. So take your time, do some research, and invest in the trainer that is right for you.

Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

by
Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

I love the Sauvignon Blancs coming out of New Zealand. Where California wine of this variety tends to be grassy, and the European variety is often very mineral in flavor, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs typically boast flavors of citrus and other tropical influences.

This Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is no exception. Matua was founded by brothers Bill and Ross Spence in the 1970s, and was the first winery in New Zealand to plant Sauvignon Blanc vines. So you could say that this is the granddaddy of all New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Is it any wonder, then, that this wine continues to win award after prestigious award?

On the nose, the Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc has herb, citrus and tropical fruit aromas speaking to the tropical island nation it hails from. On the palate, it is clean and crisp with notes of lemon and passionfruit and a long, structured finish. At about $13 per bottle, it’s also a real bargain for a quality wine.

Matua 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are a good bet for any seafood dish, after all the fruits of the sea are found on many tables there. I decided to pair this with my Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad to complement the citrus notes between the two. And boy was I right! The lemon brings the two together while the influence of tropical fruit in the wine enhances the sweetness of the roasted brussel sprouts, cherry tomatoes, and zante currants in the salad.

Click here for the recipe.

Find the wine online here.

As with any healthy lifestyle, always enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Black and Blue Chicken Tostadas

by
Black and Blue Chicken Tostadas

Your grocery store’s bulk bins are a treasure trove if you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget. Not only is it a great place to find spices and herbs for pennies on the dollar compared to their packaged counterparts, but you can also find things like nuts, grains, and beans for much less. The latter are one of my personal bulk bin staples.

Dried beans are not only less expensive than their canned cousins, but they are also better for you because they don’t come packaged in salt and preservatives. Cheaper and better for you? Score!

I must admit, dried beans do take a bit of forethought to include in a meal, but a small amount of meal planning fixes that quickly. Also, I like to keep a container of cooked beans, typically black beans, on hand in the fridge regularly as I will frequently throw them in a salad, toss them with pasta, or whatever I might be in the mood for, such as these tostadas. So I typically will cook up 1/2 cup or more black beans each week and store them in my fridge.

Black and Blue Chicken Tostadas

For this recipe, I started the night before by bringing 1/4 cup of dried black beans to a boil in 1 cup of water. I covered the pot and let it cook on medium-low for 45 minutes. Then I drained the beans, transferred them to a container, covered them with new water, covered the container and put it in the fridge overnight.

Recall that for just under $36, I bought a rotisserie chicken and ingredients to make enough meals for one for a week. For my third meal, I went south of the border, mixing the chicken with the cooked black beans, tomatoes and spices then layering them on corn tortillas with some lettuce and blue cheese leftover from the Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps and topping them with half of that avocado I bought.

This entire meal takes maybe 15 minutes with prep, so it makes for a great weeknight meal. Plus, the recipe makes enough for 2 very generous and filling tostadas. Since I am now cooking for just one, I was able to eat one for dinner and have the other for lunch the next day.

What is your favorite bulk bin buy?

Recap of a week of meals from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, all for a total of just $35.75 in groceries:

 

Black and Blue Chicken Tostadas
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 1 tostada
  • Calories: 304.7
  • Fat: 12.7
  • Saturated fat: 3.1
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.6
  • Carbohydrates: 30.7
  • Sugar: 2.9
  • Sodium: 250.2
  • Fiber: 12.7
  • Protein: 21.8
  • Cholesterol: 45.6
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Poultry
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Chicken tostadas, baked to reduce fat and calories, get a twist with the addition of black beans, blue cheese and a kick of buffalo sauce. Healthy eating never tasted so good!
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup dried black beans
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded chicken, loosely packed
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes, no salt added, with juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¾ cup shredded butter lettuce
  • ½ California avocado, sliced
  • ½ oz. crumbled blue cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring the beans to a boil in the water. Reduce to medium-low, cover and let cook for 45 minutes. Drain, put the beans in a container, cover them with "new" water, cover the container and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425.
  3. In a small pan on medium heat, combine the cooked black beans (drained), chicken, tomatoes, garlic, buffalo sauce and cumin. Let cook for 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  4. Place the tortillas on a baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes on each side until crispy.
  5. Top each tortilla with the lettuce followed by the chicken-bean mixture, avocado slices, and blue cheese crumbles. Serve immediately.

 

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad

by
Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad

I have never been a fan of brussel sprouts. My exposure to them as a child was mostly at our holiday family dinners where my grandmother would steam them to death then smother them in butter. During the cooking process, they would permeate the kitchen with this old gym sock odor, even overpowering the delicious roasted turkey smells wafting from the oven. On the table, the brussel sprouts were globs of pale green in a bowl that had difficulty getting past my gag reflex.

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad

Steaming the brussel sprouts for just 5 minutes first helps them to roast up better.

Then this past year everything changed. At a family gathering, my sister brought a dish of brussel sprouts and leeks roasted in balsamic vinegar. They had this amazing, caramelized flavor, enhanced by the sweet balsamic vinegar. I even went back for seconds. My entire opinion of these tender little buds was altered.

So it was with excitement a few weeks ago that I spied the salad of the day at a tasty local bake shop in my neighborhood, Bushel and Peck: roasted brussel sprout salad. They had combined roasted brussel sprouts with orzo, cherry tomatoes, and feta in a poppyseed vinaigrette for a salad that was unexpectedly light and absolutely delicious. I had to recreate it, with my own twist of course.

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad

Roasted brussel sprouts have a beautiful golden glow and a delicious, caramelized flavor.

I wanted to make the salad a little heartier for a dinner entree and my mind immediately turned to farro. I discovered farro a few months ago from Bob’s Red Mill. Farro is a grain, hailing from the Mediterranean, that has been around for centuries – estimates are as early as 8000 B.C. – and is common in cooking in that region, history suggests that farro was a staple of the ancient Romans diet. Raw, it closely resembles barley. Cooked, it retains a slightly crunchy exterior for a nutty taste. Farro is hearty and filling, so a little goes along way, and it’s a great source of fiber. I especially love the farro from Bob’s Red Mill because it’s a quality, organic product, and I get to support a great local, employee-owned business that has a national presence.

I changed the dish up even more by bringing in a citrus flavor. First, I roasted the brussel sprouts in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Then, I used lemon juice in the dressing, with a bit of thyme to play off the lemon and a teaspoon of honey to offset the tartness of the lemon. I also swapped the feta out for goat cheese, which is a bit milder and lets the flavor of the other ingredients shine through. The cherry tomatoes bring a sweet burst of fresh flavor to the salad, but the cherry on top is really the zante currants.

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad

The finished product is as pretty on the plate as it is delicious in the mouth. I love the mix of colors in this Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad.

Make sure to use zante currants for this dish and not black or red currants. Zante currants are dried berries of the small, sweet, seedless grape cultivar Black Corinth. Whereas black, red and white currants are dried berries from woody shrubs that are completely unrelated. Zante currants are more flavorful and add just the right sweetness to this dish.

Needless to say, I have become a brussel sprout convert. They are in season now, so don’t miss out on these little gems of autumn. I, for one, am already working on additional recipes while I can still get my hands on them. How do you prepare brussel sprouts in your kitchen?

 

 

Citrus Roasted Brussel Sprout and Farro Salad
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: ½ of salad
  • Calories: 511.4
  • Fat: 18.8
  • Saturated fat: 3.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.7
  • Carbohydrates: 72.1
  • Sugar: 21.0
  • Sodium: 203.9
  • Fiber: 13.4
  • Protein: 13.7
  • Cholesterol: 5.0
Recipe type: Salad
Tender brussel sprouts are roasted to smoky, sweet perfection and tossed with nutty farro in a lemon-honey-poppy seed vinaigrette for an easy, healthy entree salad.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup dry farro
  • ½ lb. fresh brussel sprouts, halved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup zante currants
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp poppy seeds
Instructions
  1. Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. Place the brussel sprouts in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil, juice of ½ of the lemon, and a pinch of coarse sea salt.
  5. Toss the steamed brussel sprouts with the oil-lemon mixture and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes on each side, a total of 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
  6. In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of the remaining ½ lemon, honey, thyme and poppy seeds.
  7. Add in the cooked farro, roasted brussel sprouts, tomatoes, currants, goat cheese and parsley. Toss so that everything is well combined and serve.
Notes
The majority of fat and calories in this recipe comes from the olive oil, which is a healthy fat. If you want to reduce the amount of oil used, eliminate the 1 tbsp olive oil from the dressing.