Friday, February 22, 2013

Cilantro-Lime Chickpea Salad

Fresh, tangy, and oh-so-tasty!
I don’t know what it is about cilantro but I’ve been obsessed with it lately. Its pungent, savory flavor is amazing—especially when combined with citrus—and I keep finding excuses to make recipes that call for this tasty herb.

Not everyone feels the same way. In fact, it’s quite a polarizing issue. People either love or hate cilantro...there doesn’t seem to be much in-between. My dad told me that cilantro actually tastes different to some people. Since he’s a rocket scientist (I’m not joking) I’ll defer to him on this one.
Anyhoo, when I ran across this salad that called for another of my favorites (chickpeas) along with fresh veggies all tossed in a yummy cilantro-lime vinaigrette, I knew I had to tweak it to make it my own.

I left out the corn and salt, decreased the amount of olive oil, added a little apple cider vinegar, and changed the portion of veggies a bit. Here’s what I came up with.

Cilantro-Lime Chickpea Salad

Serves 4
I (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
½ cup red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 limes, juiced (about 1 tablespoon lime juice)
2 garlic cloves
½-1 cup cilantro (I used 1 full cup)


In a medium bowl combine chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, and red onion.

Place olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

Pour cilantro-lime vinaigrette over chickpea/vegetable mixture and stir well to combine. Place in the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. Stir well just prior to serving.

I was surprised at how tangy—almost spicy—this salad turned out. The combo of red onion, bell pepper, and garlic gave it quite the punch. The acidity of the lime juice and apple cider vinegar kicked it up a notch as well.

The hubs said he enjoyed it but would have liked a little feta cheese. I’m sure that cheese would be a delightful addition (and I’ll probably try it at some point) but I kind of like the way this vegan/healthy dish turned out. It’s one of those things that not only tastes great but is good for you too.

I was eating leftovers for lunch the day after I made this and my 16-month-old son surprised the heck out of me by eating the cucumbers covered in the spicy cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Granted he is the adventurous eater (my three-year-old daughter is MUCH pickier) but I was I was thrilled that he seemed to like this salad as much as his mommy.  

The only thing I might do differently next time is to use an orange or yellow bell pepper instead of a green one. And the only reason would be to add another pop of color. Our foods should be as colorful and diverse as we can make them—it helps ensure we ingest a wider range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Bottom line: If you love cilantro even half as much as I do, give this tasty salad a try.
Until next time,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guilt-Free Loaded Cauliflower

A healthy, guilt-free alternative to loaded baked potatoes.
Bacon, sour cream, and cheese, Oh my!  Yup, loaded baked potatoes are pretty much the bomb. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly healthy fare.

Recently I stumbled upon a recipe that swapped out the carb-filled potato for cauliflower. It was a great start but I couldn’t resist the urge to make it healthier by cutting out more fat and calories.

I started by using turkey bacon instead of the real deal. I omitted the heavy cream. I used reduced-fat Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. And I cut back on the amount of cheese called for in the original recipe. Finally, I didn’t have chives on hand but I did have green onions so I went ahead and used those.

Yes, it still contains cheese and yummy, creamy yogurt. But given the healthy swaps above, I feel pretty good about calling it “guilt-free.”

Here’s what I came up with.

Guilt-Free Loaded Cauliflower
Serves 6

1 pound (about 3 cups) cooked cauliflower (steamed preferred)
1 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup reduced-fat Colby jack cheese, shredded *
1½ cups reduced-fat Greek yogurt
½ cup green onions, sliced (reserve a little for garnish)
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil spray

* You can use all cheddar or any cheese of your choice. I just had a little Colby jack left over so I decided to mix the two.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam or cook cauliflower until tender.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, green onions (reserve a little for garnish!), cooked turkey bacon crumbles (I did mine in the microwave for about 4-4.5 minutes), and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Fold in cooked cauliflower and stir gently until well coated.

Lightly spritz an 8x8 glass baking dish with olive oil spray. Spread cauliflower mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese and a little additional freshly ground pepper (if desired).

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees or until cheese is browned and bubbly. To get the crispy golden-brown look, place under the broiler on high for about 5 minutes.

Spoon onto serving plates, sprinkle with a little green onion for garnish, and serve immediately.

I had my doubts that this reduced-fat, reduced-calorie dish would taste as good as the original recipe sounded. After all, cutting out the fat sometimes diminishes flavor. Boy was I wrong. This dish turned out great. No, make that awesome. To quote the hubs, “This is seriously the best cauliflower is ever going to taste.” I have to concur. No joke, it really reminds me of a loaded baked potato. It’s cheesy, creamy, delicious…and then the smoky flavor of the turkey bacon seals the deal.

I had a bag of frozen cauliflower on hand but the next time I make this, I’m going to steam it fresh. I think it’ll turn out even better.

I served this as a side with Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops and steamed lemon-pepper asparagus. I think it would also pair nicely with a juicy steak and green salad. You could even file it away and serve it as a healthy side at Easter dinner.

However you choose to enjoy it, enjoy it you will. So, indulge away—guilt-free, of course—and let me know if you like this recipe as much as I do.

Until next time,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skinny Tomato Basil Bisque

High in taste, low in guilt. YUM!!!
Baby it’s cold outside again and you know what that means…more soup!

Now before the foodies out there get all riled up, I realize that a true “bisque” contains seafood, most commonly lobster or other shellfish. But I don’t like lobster and I figured that the creamy (yet still healthy!) base of this soup semi-justified the name. Plus, bisque just sounds fun and fancy so there you have it.

I was perusing Pinterest when this recipe jumped out at me. I had pretty much all of the ingredients on hand and it made my mouth water so I knew we had a winner. This one sounded pretty amazing too, so what I came up with is sort of a Frankenstein mix of both recipes.  

Since I can’t—in good conscience—call any dish “skinny” that’s dripping with cream and butter, I decided to make this recipe more waistline- and heart-friendly by using plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and leaving the butter out entirely. Yes, it still contains 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese. But it’s divided amongst several servings so it’s not too terrible. Both of the original recipes called for other veggies (celery, carrots, and onions) but I wanted to keep it simple so I stuck with the tomato-basil-garlic combo. I used chicken broth but if you want to make this soup vegetarian, swap the chicken broth for veggie broth and you’re good to go.  

I know I’ve been on a Crock Pot kick lately—I just can’t help it, it makes life SO simple!!!—but you can use a stock pot and simmer this on the stove just as easily. Take your pick. I’m sure both preparation methods are equally delicious.

Here’s what I came up with.

Skinny Tomato Basil Bisque
Serves 8

Olive oil spray

2 cups tomatoes, diced (divided use, I used Roma)
1 cup fresh basil, shredded (divided use)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (shaved or shredded)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf (optional)

Lightly spray a large stock pot or Crock Pot with olive oil spray.

Place 1 cup diced tomatoes, ½ cup basil, and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

Place tomato/basil puree in pot. Add all remaining 1 cup of tomatoes, ½ cup shredded basil, and all other ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook on low (Crock Pot) for a minimum of 2 hours or on the stovetop over medium-low for the same amount of time. I did about 4 hours in the Crock Pot on low and then switched it to warm until we were ready to eat. Remove bay leaf prior to serving. 
I just finished a bowl of this delicious bisque as leftovers for lunch and, dare I say, I like it even better today? Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful last night right out of the Crock Pot with the warm, crusty rosemary bread we enjoyed it with. But today, Wowza! For some reason, it tasted even better.

If you’re looking for a creamy, hearty, delicious soup—without the guilt!—this is the ideal recipe for you.
As always, your feedback is invaluable and I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment on the bottom of this page or share your thoughts on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram (@RyannGroseclose), or any other social media outlet you’d like.

Until next time,

Friday, February 1, 2013

Grilled Tilapia With Avocado-Lime Salsa

Fresh, healthy, and delicious!
One of my New Year’s Resolutions—and one that I’m still doing pretty well with—is healthy eating. This means different things to different people. At this very moment I have several friends on a variety of diets that range from gluten-free and paleo to low-carb and (gasp!) no alcohol.
I’m not an extremist. I don’t do well with completely cutting out any one food group or being extremely limited in my dietary choices. After all, variety is the spice of life, right? But I’m always on the lookout for recipes that utilize lean protein sources, fresh ingredients, and healthful spices and flavorings. This delectable dish ticks all the boxes.

I was inspired by this blog post. Since I don’t like salmon, I opted for tilapia. However, just about any firm fish that will stand up to grilling would be fine. I altered the dry rub ingredients a bit to fit the spices I had on hand and my taste preferences. I also cut back on the amount of olive oil used in the salsa and added a dash of apple cider vinegar instead. Finally, I diced some jalapeño and tossed it in the mix for just a little more heat.

Here’s what I came up with.

Grilled Tilapia With Avocado-Lime Salsa
Serves 2-3

2-3 boneless, skinless tilapia fillets
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ -1 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground preferred)
1 teaspoon no-salt seasoning (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
½ jalapeño pepper, seeded, deveined, and finely diced
½-1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼-½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Rinse tilapia filets and pat dry. Lightly spray with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine cumin, paprika, onion powder, black pepper, no-salt seasoning, and chili powder and stir well to combine. Use this dry “rub” to thoroughly coat the fish. Place fillets in the fridge and allow rub to “soak in” for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in a medium bowl, combine avocados, jalapeño, onion, bell pepper, lime juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and cilantro. Stir to combine and refrigerate salsa until ready to use. (I suggest chilling a minimum of 30 minutes.)

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. If using a grilling basket (recommended), place fish inside prior to grilling. You can also put fillets directly on the grill or on a bed of thinly sliced lemons if you’re worried about them sticking or falling through the grates. Cook fish for about 4-5 minutes on each side. (Fish should flake easily when cooked through.)

Top cooked fillets with Avocado-Lime Salsa and serve immediately. If you like, you can round out the meal by serving the fish on a bed of brown rice or shred it and add it to spinach or field greens using the salsa as a dressing for an amazing salad.

The low-carb salad route.
Fun fact:
Google apple cider vinegar and you’ll find quite the eclectic list of purported health benefits from weight loss and clear skin to heart health and cancer prevention. The most promising studies have focused on people with diabetes. This tasty condiment appears to lower blood sugar when taken on a regular basis. If you’re not inclined to consume it, apple cider vinegar (or any type of vinegar) can be used as a fruit and veggie soak to remove pesticide residue or you can dilute it with water and use it in kitchens and bathrooms to kill germs. Personally, I think regular old apple cider vinegar adds a tasty kick to all sorts of recipes and that’s why I use it.
The reason I have two pictures of this dish prepared two ways is because I fell in LOVE with the way it turned out and I made it twice in one week. The Avocado-Lime Salsa is delicious and versatile. Vegetarian? Forgo the fish and use it as a dip for chips or pita bread.  A fan of low-carb meals? Have the salad version. Don’t like fish? Use it on top of chicken. The possibilities are endless!

This dish is fresh, easy to make, and delicious. Give it a try this weekend and let me know if you feel the same.

Until next time,

P.S. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before in this blog but I’m a HUGE Baltimore Raven’s Fan. The hubs went to high school and college in Maryland and I realized early on in our relationship that if I ever wanted to see him on Sundays, I’d need to A) start watching football and B) jump on the B-more bandwagon. Initially, it wasn’t pretty. The first year I really started watching was 2005 and I believe our record was a dismal 6-10. But I stayed loyal, learned a lot about the game over the years, and now I’m beyond proud to say we are playing in the Super Bowl this weekend.

Which—finally—brings me around to my point. I’d like to say that I’ve pre-tested a bunch of healthy, delicious, game-time snacks…but I haven’t. My kids have been sick all week and they’ve been gracious enough to share it with me. I’ll be lucky if I get my act together to make chips and guac. However, there are a handful of not-necessarily-healthy-but-fun snacks I’ve run across on Pinterest recently. Here are a few that I may attempt this weekend if I feel up to it.

Crescent Sausage Bites (I’m not a huge sausage fan so I may switch out the meat and add a veggie or two.)
Crock Pot Grape Jelly Meatballs
(I may have to swap jelly flavors based on whatever TJs has in the low-sugar organic variety but these have the potential to be amazing.)
Broccoli Bites
(I would tweak this recipe a bit but it looks pretty yummy as is.)

If not, I’ll just be ordering pizza with the rest of America. We’ll see how it goes. May the best Harbaugh brother win. GOOOOOOOO RAVENS!!!!!!!!!