Saturday, May 17, 2014

Time To Lighten Up For Spring!

I thought the day would never come when I would feel spoiled by good weather!  Well, today is not one of those days but the past couple of weeks have been quite nice.  A nice dramatic shift in the weather gets me fired up for a dramatic shift in food.  We've had some 70 and 80 degree days which of course is perfect for grilling, salads and cold dishes.  I recently tried out a Citrus Rice Salad that was quite good.  I'm always looking for new tasty ways to eat brown rice because I'm just not nuts about plain o'll brown rice.  This would make a lovely dish to pass at a cookout, all fresh and springy.  This recipe is by Giada DeLaurentis.
Start by cooking your brown rice in some chicken stock.  This is always my preferred way to cook brown rice.
While the rice is cooking, toast up some sliced almonds.  I like to do mine in the toaster oven.  Keep an eye on them though, you don't want to burn them.
Also while the rice is cooking (you've got about 40 min, brown rice takes a while) make a nice vinaigrette in the blender.  This is made with fresh lemon juice, fresh OJ, soy sauce, honey, cumin, and olive oil.
When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and transfer to a serving dish. Now you're ready to fancy it up.
You'll need some zest from the lemon and the orange that you use to make the dressing.
You need to slice up some scallions.
Chop up some fresh flat leaf parsley.
And add it all to the brown rice.  This just screams spring don't you think?
Give it a good mix and toss with the dressing and toasted almonds (reserving a few for garnish).
I served this with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.  The next day I had it for lunch with my grilled chicken shredded and mixed into to it which was really good.  You can serve this warm or at room temp. This would go great with grilled fish too.

Citrus Rice Salad with Chicken (salad by Giada DeLaurentis)

Rice Salad:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups brown rice, rinsed
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 medium orange, zested
1 lemon, zested
1 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or place on a tray in the toaster oven at 250 for 4-5 min). Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely, about 15 minutes

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, salt and oil to a boil over medium-high heat Stir in the rice. Cover the saucepan, reduce the heat, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a fork, fluff the rice and place in a large serving bowl. Add the parsley, orange zest, half of the lemon zest, green onions, and 1/4 cup of the almonds. Toss well.

In a blender, combine the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, honey, and cumin. Blend until smooth. with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice mixture and stir well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with the remaining lemon zest and almonds.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Big Salad? Get Real!

One of my favorite things to eat for lunch lately is a salad.  If this sounds boring to you or you think you might be really hungry if all you have is a salad for lunch, I'd say, you just need to make a better salad.  The effort it takes to throw one together is minimal.  I suggest that if you don't buy the triple washed spring mixes or something of that variety, wash your lettuce when you get it home from the store so it's clean and ready to go when you want it.  I'm definitely guilty of forgoing a salad because I didn't feel like dealing with washing lettuce and it being all wet or getting out the salad spinner and blah blah blah.  Do it when you have the time and its done. Simple.  If your salad is going to be your whole meal, make it substantial.
Add leftover steak or chicken, you don't need much when you're tossing it with all kinds of veggies, nuts, seeds, fruit and or cheese.  What you don't want to do is go out and buy a big salad loaded with sodium and calories like those sited in this article 20 Salads worse than a Whopper from Men's Health.  Holy cow! If you think you're eating smart when you order one of these big salads you're in for a big surprise.  Applebee's has a Grilled Shrimp and Spinach salad that has 1010 calories and 2650mg of sodium! Whaaaat?  The Oriental Chicken salad has less sodium but even more calories.  I'm not going to list them all, you can see them for yourself in the link but I do feel the need to mention the Cheesecake Factory has a Santa Fe salad with 1720 calories and the worst on the list was the Santa Fe salad at T.G..I Friday's with 1830 calories!!! That's pretty much what I eat in a day...and I eat quite a bit of food!
You want something Santa Fe ish? Lettuce, tomato, avocado, fresh cilantro, a little cheddar cheese will be fantastic.  Add a couple of ounces of chicken dress it with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lime and you've got one fantastic salad at around 400 calories and no added sodium.
Add a couple of slices of deli turkey and some almonds to a salad mix things up a bit.  Fresh dill or basil go a long way in creating big flavor in a big salad and far less damaging than a fatty, MSG ridden salad dressing.
Having fresh herbs is a great way to flavor all kinds of food not just salads.  Again, wash them when you get them home and then store in the fridge in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.  These are good for a week and a half easily.  Here I have dill, cilantro and parsley.
I made this one last week, 3 cups of spring mix, 2 oz ham off the bone, a carrot, half of a tomato, 3 scallions, a tablespoon of sunflower seeds, a tablespoon of crumbled bleu cheese, fresh dill and dressed with a teaspoon of olive oil and some red wine vinegar.  Delish, and coming in around 300 calories.  A hard boiled egg would have been a nice addition for 70 more calories.
I'm not normally a calorie counter but I wanted to show you the difference between those crazy restaurant salads and my super yummy also very big salads.  I have a hearty appetite and I am perfectly satisfied with this lunch.  There are so many combinations to make, add chick peas, cucumbers, strawberries or oranges.  Add meat, skip the meat, either way you can make a nice, healthy quality lunch to keep you fueled through the day.
Feta and bleu cheese are great choices because a little bit goes a long way. Add spicy peppers to keep it interesting.
It only takes a few minutes to whip one up.  Your body will thank you for staying out of the drive through!