Huevos Rancheros [Made Healthier]

Yesterday, I had the most irresistible craving for huevos rancheros. Weird, right? I mean, chocolate cravings make sense, so do chip/dip cravings, but huevos rancheros – who craves that?! This girl apparently. You see, when my best friend was visiting the other week, I did what any good New Yorker (yep, that’s right – I just called myself a New Yorker…more on that later) would do and took her to my favorite, guilty-pleasure brunch spot. The pancakes there are ridiculously good. Seriously, no joke. I’m not even a person who orders pancakes for breakfast/brunch. But they are THAT good. Ahh, the suspense is killing you, isn’t it? What is this magical place, you ask? It’s Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant, the (unofficial) brunch monarch of Alphabet City. Anyways, we did what any smart best friends would do and split two dishes rather than each getting our own – best of both worlds kind of thing. Now, I’ll be honest and admit that I was a little reluctant at first to share my precious pancakes, but truth be told, it was worth it.

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Our delicious, guilty-pleasure brunch!

My friend ordered the huevos rancheros and since I have never had it before, I didn’t know what to expect, but man was it good! I’m a fan of a smorgasbord of flavors and textures in my food, which is exactly what huevos rancheros delivers. If you don’t know, huevos rancheros (at least the one I devoured at Clinton St. Baking Co.) consists of sunny-side up eggs (which we substituted with scrambled eggs) with red beans, guacamole, jalapeno sour cream, salsa picante, and pepper jack cheese on a flour tortilla. Now you know why I was randomly craving it.

So, I vowed to recreate huevos rancheros in a healthier way.

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Huevos Rancheros [Made Healthier]

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

¼ red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, diced

½ green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

½ cup black beans, canned, drained (preferably no salt added or low sodium)

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp sriracha (optional)

2 6” whole wheat tortillas

2 large eggs (organic and cage-free, preferably)

½ half Haas avocado, sliced

1 lime wedge

1 Tbsp cilantro,diced.

2 Tbsp salsa (optional)

Directions:

In a pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes, or until they appear translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the green pepper and tomato and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the black beans and spices and cook for about 3 more minutes. Meanwhile, spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and cook the tortillas, one by one, for about 2 minutes. Afterwards, fry each egg as desired. Layer the vegetable and bean mixture onto the tortillas, dividing evenly and squeezing the lime on top, followed by the eggs, avocado and cilantro. And if you want more kick, add salsa on top. And voila, you have a (healthier) huevos ranchero dish!

This dish is great as a weekend breakfast or brunch, or if you’re like me, it’s also delicious as a light dinner. Hope you enjoy! Do you have a favorite huevos rancheros recipe?

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Thai Quinoa Salad with Homemade Peanut Ginger Sauce

Have you ever been bored with your typical cooking routine? I can tell you I have. I’ve found that when I’m uber-busy with work, school, working out, and just life in general, I stick to the same foods. I might alter my meals a little bit, but I don’t go out of my comfort zone and try a new recipe. Well, I’ve made a goal to change that. To find new recipes, adapt them, or simply create my own. And its going great so far! I have actually saved time by just cooking a large batch of food and eating portions of it throughout the week.

This dish has been on my radar for a while, but for some reason, it seemed like a time investment. Surprisingly not the case. Aside from chopping up the vegetables, it was pretty quick to prepare! With the combination of the quinoa and edamame beans, this is a pretty protein-packed meal, and the loads of vegetables make this an even more nutrient-dense dish. And did I mention it is gluten-free AND vegan?? IMG_20130623_111302

Thai Quinoa Salad with Homemade Peanut Ginger Sauce

Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Makes 6 servings

¾ cup uncooked quinoa

2-3 cups shredded red cabbage

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ medium red onion, diced

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup diced green onions  

1 cup edamame

Fresh lime, wedges

For the dressing:

¼ cup all natural peanut butter

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 Tbsp soy sauce*

1 Tbsp honey*

1 Tbsp apple vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

*To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce. To make it vegan, substitute agave for the honey. 
To cook the quinoa: Unless it is already pre-rinsed, rinse the quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium pot, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil before adding the quinoa. quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Bring it to a boil again and cover the pot, reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and fluff the quinoa with fork, then place it in large bowl and set aside to cool for about about 10 minutes.
To cook the edamame: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add edamame and bring back to a boil. Let the beans cook for 4-5 minutes. Using a colander, Drain the water and rinse the beans with cold water.
To make the dressing: Add peanut butter and honey (or agave) to a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, and ginger, and stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add as much dressing as you prefer to the quinoa. You can save the dressing for later, but the flavor absorbs better if soaks into the quinoa longer. Fold in the edamame, cabbage, red pepper, onion, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with and green onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, chilled or at room temperature.
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This is, hands down, one of the most flavorful salads I have ever made. Words can’t even describe how delicious this was. My taste buds were jumping for joy  (finally!).
 What’s your favorite recipe to get you out of a cooking rut?

Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes

You know that Jack Johnson song, “Banana Pancakes?” It’s one of my favorite rainy day songs, and always makes me want banana pancakes. No matter what time of the day it is. Heck, it makes me think that if I were eating banana pancakes, the rainy day wouldn’t be so bad. And today feels like a rainy day, in fact, I’m 60% sure (according to my phone) that it’s going to rain sometime later today, most likely at a time when I need to trek outside to get to my next destination, most likely in a way that will leave me absolutely drenched. And so, to keep from getting upset at the possibility of an unfortunate rain, I’m going to think about banana pancakes. And you should too. Why, you ask?

Well, what if I told you that I had a banana pancake recipe that wouldn’t break your calorie bank? And that it was high in protein, and [gasp] had no wheat (meaning gluten-free for all my gluten-sensitive friends)? And, as if you’re somehow not convinced yet, that it takes less than 10 minutes and 2 ingredients to make? Are you sold yet? I thought so.

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Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes:

Makes 1 serving of pancakes

1 ripe banana

2 eggs

*cinnamon, dash (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)

*Another optional add-in: crushed walnuts – to up the healthy fat content of these pancakes and keep you full longer.

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add the two eggs (and cinnamon, if you dare), and whisk the ingredients together with the fork. Spray a heated pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon a desired amount of the “batter” onto the pan and cook until golden brown. And try, just to make this little nutrition fanatic friend of yours happy, NOT to pour syrup or any sweetener on your pancakes. Your body will thank you for it!

What’s your favorite rainy day meal? Comment below and let me know!

The 5-Minute, Out-the-Door, Summer Salad

Think you don’t have time in the morning to prep your lunch for the day? Think again.

I must admit, I’ve been lacking in the “food-prep-the-night-before” department this week. Sure, on Sunday I had good intentions and cooked a large batch of wild rice meant to last an entire week, chopped up a few fresh vegetables, and bagged up pre-measured carrots and almonds to grab as hunger-striking snacks throughout the week. But alas, it is Thursday and and no, yesterday I neither prepped my breakfast OR my lunch for today. Yikes! Eating out for lunch today certainly didn’t fall into my [NYC-dwelling, NYU-student] budget so I had to think fast. And that I did. I grabbed the cutting board and the most accessible vegetables in my refrigerator and went in a chopping frenzy. All together, this salad literally took 5 minutes to throw together.

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The 5-Minute, Out-the-Door, Summer Salad:

Makes 1 salad
1 small cucumber, diced
2 radishes, sliced 
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1/2 cup spinach
1/4 cup light feta cheese, cubed
1 Tbsp Tessemae’s Lemonette Dressing*

Layer the ingredients in a to-go container as follows (from bottom to top): dressing, cucumber, radishes, tomato, feta cheese, spinach. When you’re ready to eat, shake the container with all your might (or just shake it normally…the end product is the same).

*Usually I make my own dressing, but Tessemae’s dressings are a great alternative to homemade dressings. They’re all vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free (READ: paleo-friendly), and can be found in select Whole Foods stores.

If you want to make your own lemon dressing, however, no need to fret. It’s simple and easy:

In a small dish, combine 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 lemon (juiced), 1 clove of garlic (diced), and a pinch of black peppercorn. Whip the ingredients with a fork, and you’re good to go. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

From start to finish, the salad took me less than 5 minutes to put together. And, might I add, it was delicious, filling, and healthy, just like lunch should be.

What are your favorite quick and healthy lunches? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Blizzard-Worthy Vegan Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili

So by now, many of you know of Nemo as not just a cute clownfish, but as a massive storm that hit the Northeast. Despite the build-up and the hype (and school closing),  I was not as personally affected by Nemo as anticipated. Yesterday, after braving the wind, freezing rain, and snow for a good 8-mile elliptical/treadmill workout at the gym, I planned on going to Trader Joe’s to gather the remaining ingredients I needed to create a vegan chili masterpiece in an attempt to survive the blizzard. Apparently, everyone else in Manhattan had the same thought – the line outside of Trader Joe’s was enough for me to change my mind, that and the fact that I didn’t even have an umbrella to shield me from the increasingly painful bursts of freezing rain/snow. Defeated, I bought some fresh produce from a street vendor and went home, hoping that my chili wouldn’t disappoint me as much as my attempted trip to Trader Joe’s did.

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A bundled up Alena slightly resembles Cheburashka, an old Russian cartoon character, don’t you think?

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Luckily, I had the main staples in my cupboard at home, and would only have to make a few substitutions for the chili.

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Quite the spread, huh?

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Blizzard-Worthy Vegan Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili:

Adapted from http://www.milkfreemom.com/vegan-quinoa-sweet-potato-chili/

Makes 6 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

one 6 oz can organic tomato paste

1 Tbsp oregano

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp chili powder

one 15 oz can black beans(low-sodium), rinsed and drained

one 15 oz can Great Northern white beans (low-sodium), rinsed and drained

32 oz vegetable stock (I used “Better than Bouillon” – try to find low-sodium version if possible)

2 large tomatoes, chopped in thick chunks

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 cup dry quinoa

salt and pepper to taste

cilantro (for garnish)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for 8-10 minutes until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, oregano, paprika, and chili powder, then cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the beans, vegetable stock, tomatoes, and sweet potato chunks and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and then season with salt and pepper. Stir, stir, stir, and keep cooking the fragrant mixture about 25-30 minutes, until the quinoa and sweet potato chunks are cooked thoroughly (the quinoa should form rings around the seeds and the sweet potato should be soft), and the chili has thickened (as chili should). Garnish with the cilantro and enjoy!

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A few tips to make this chili-making experience (and most any cooking experiences) exciting and not stressful:

  1. Read the recipe thoroughly before you start cooking.
  2. Gather all the ingredients and cooking utensils/pots/pans that you will need for the recipe. This saves you from panicking later when you’re frantically searching for the oregano.
  3. Put the ingredients in the order that the recipe calls for.
  4. Chop/dice/slice all the vegetables/produce that your recipe calls for before you even heat the oil. Also, open any cans and drain if necessary. TRUST ME.
  5. Create rhythm. If you’ve followed the steps/tips I’ve listed, the process should be fun and rhythmical, almost like dancing!

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Now, although I hope you don’t have a blizzard to worry about, I do hope that you’ll have a reason to make this delicious chili. Not only is it vegan, but it is PACKED with protein, fiber, vitamins, and FLAVOR.

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Bon appetit!

Lean Green Omelette

Let me start this off by saying…my boyfriend makes the BEST omelettes. I’m not kidding, they are to die for. We went to the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago on vacation and ate omelettes EVERY SINGLE DAY. Probably not the healthiest choice either of us have made, but man were they delicious. And we were on vacation. The same man made them every morning and it was fascinating to watch – he made it seem as if were an art form. Omelette making an art form? You probably think I’m crazy, if you didn’t already. 

P1020846Beach bums in the D.R. – watch out!

Well, anyways Chase adopted these omelette-making skills and perfected them…and now he is the best omelette-maker I know. I know, I know, you’re probably jealous of me now (and you should be).

So today, after my 90 minute cardio workout (insane!), I was, to say the least, STARVING. And not only was I hungry, but I wanted to refuel myself. I’m usually not the one to eat more than one egg in a sitting but I felt it was necessary.

And I missed Chase. So I whipped up an omelette (literally). And yes, it was the right choice.

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In order to incorporate all of these delicious vegetables (and to satisfy my grumbling stomach), I decided to make a 2-egg omelette. Yes, I know there has been much debate on the unhealthiness of eggs, and their contributing role in raising cholesterol levels…however, there has been more recent research done on how dietary cholesterol actually does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels, and that only a small amount of the cholesterol you consume passes into the bloodstream. Blood cholesterol levels are impacted much more by consuming saturated fats and trans fats. That being said, those with heart disease or cholesterol problems should still limit their intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 200mg/day. If you don’t believe me, check out this awesome article by the Harvard Medical School: www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition. If you still don’t believe me or if you do have high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease, use egg whites instead of whole eggs. I promise it will be just as delicious.

Anyways, nutrition facts aside, back to the omelette-making business. The key is to cook the vegetables first, then combine them with the egg(s), whip, and cook.

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Lean Green Omelette:

Makes 1 omelette

1/4 medium red onion

1/2 large green bell pepper

1 cup spinach leaves

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

2 eggs (or 2 egg whites for the cholesterol-friendly version)

sea salt (to taste)

black peppercorn (to taste)

garlic pepper (to taste)

Chop the onion, bell pepper, and place in a bowl with spinach. Heat 1/4 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in the vegetables, and let them cook for about a minute or two (until the spinach has wilted). In a bowl, combine the cooked vegetables with 2 eggs, whip with a fork, put the remainder of the oil (1/4 Tbsp) on the pan, and pour the vegetable/egg mixture in until it covers the entire pan. When the bottom is golden in color, flip it over onto the other side (bonus points if you get it flipped over in one piece!). Let the other side cook until it too is golden, fold the omelette and transfer to your plate.

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Talk about green!

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If you’re enjoying this for breakfast, you could accompany your omelette with a small piece of toast. However, if you’re like me and want to make it a full meal (and have a Trader Joe’s conveniently located within walking distance to your home), I suggest you pair it with a piece of whole wheat bread smothered with Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic. 

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It is absolutely delicious. And addicting. And pairs great with this fabulous omelette.

What’s your opinion on the egg/cholesterol debate?